Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Grace Like Rain

"I do not understand the mystery of grace, it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us." -Anne Lamott

When I first created this blog, I wanted the address to be "running for change" rather than "running to change." Unfortunately, the "for" was already being used by someone else, so I settled for the address that I thought what was less fitting for the endeavour that we were about to embark on. How humbled I have been and how wrong I was in thinking that our main purpose was to run for others, to change the lives of others.

It is true, we have been blessed by hearing stories of those who have stepped up and sponsored children, we have been surprised by the impact this decision has had on the lives of our friends and family. We are also so grateful that the lives of twenty children are being changed because of sponsorships, that there is a renewed hope in their lives.

However, we feel that what we were most surprised by was the way that God worked in our own hearts, the way that He changed our own perspectives and hearts through His grace. Ultimately, through our marathon training experience, God most definitely had a hand in changing the lives of others, but we were humbled to see that He used this experience to point out what needs to be changed in our own hearts and lives. I am truly in awe of the way that He works.

The marathon was awesome and terrible. I constantly found myself overcome with emotion- joy and pain, gladness and grief. I was overcome with joy by the crowds that cheered us on the entire way. We had written our names on our world vision shirts in permanent marker... the whole twenty-six miles consisted of strangers yelling, "Jeff... Natasha... keep going! You can do it!" I was overwhelmed by the way that strangers became the family that could physically be there to support us.

Although my injury came out in full force at mile ten, as expected, with Jeff's support and presence and with God's grace we were able to keep going. While we had to walk for a period of time, once we reached mile 15, the pain subsided and I was able to jog slowly the remaining ten miles! When we reached Central Park, the last two miles of our race, I was overcome with complete joy. It was a beautiful fall day, the sun was shining behind the tinted gold, red, orange and yellow leaves. I heard God's voice in that moment of complete beauty and joy saying, "I'm so proud of you, my daughter."

Once we crossed the finish line, we were completely spent but so grateful. If you look closely at the picture of us crossing the finish line, you can see how crazy we look. I was simply astounded that God had given us the strength to do it, and that we were both healthy and able to stand. Throughout this entire experience, these last four months, God has shown me how His grace works. He's started to change my heart, he is stripping away my pride, my desire to be self-sufficient, to control my circumstances and leaving me amazed by showing me how much better His plan for my life is. Jeff and I are learning how to let go of our own desires, and surrender our hopes for our lives to Him- this race was such a tangible example of what that truly means.

I read this quote in an e-mail that my supervisor sent me, it is a reading based on the advent season that is upon us. "This is often the way God loves us: with gifts we thought we didn't need, which transform us into people we don't necessarily want to be. With our advanced degrees, armies, material comforts, and self-fulfillment techniques, we assume that religion is about giving a little of our power in order to confirm to ourselves that we are indeed self-sufficient as we think we are.
Then this stranger comes, blesses us with a gift, and calls us to see ourselves as we truly are. Empty-handed recipients of a gracious God, who rather than leave us to our own devices, gave us a baby."

May God bless each of you during this season of Advent, this season of waiting for our Lord and Savior. May He work in your lives to prepare you for the gift of love and grace that He extends to each of us, every day, no matter where we are in life.