Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,--Hebrews 12:1

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Surviving Life's Storms

On January 15, 2011, our family was struck with the worst kind of tragedy when we received a phone call that something had happened to Amanda. About an hour later, we entered the closest thing to Hell on Earth when a policeman knocked on our door, entered our home, and stood in our living room to tell us that Amanda had "passed away."

The following scriptures are found in the book of Acts, chapter 27, which describes the first part of the apostle Paul's journey to Rome as a prisoner. As soon as I read this chapter this morning, I knew I had to write this study.

"13 When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. 14 Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster, swept down from the island."--Acts 27:13-14

That night, that cold January night, caught us unawares. Life was drifting along as normal as could be, the winds seemed gentle. We had long established a routine where my mother comes to our home on Saturday nights and we have dinner. Sometimes she cooks, sometimes we do, but this is pretty much what we do every Saturday night. January 15th was a Saturday night, and my mother was here for her weekly visit. Mom usually stays late, she and Janice stay up talking while I fall asleep on the couch. January 15th was no different. They were sitting up talking and I was sound asleep on the couch when the call came in, when that very long, hurricane force wind swept down upon us. All of a sudden, we found ourselves enveloped in this storm.

"15 The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along."--Acts 27:15

Fully caught up in this new storm of life, we desperately hoped it was all a bad dream. I didn't eat or sleep for the first three days as I tried to figure out how to deal with life in the wake of our tragedy. Now I can hardly remember anything about those first three days. Looking back, it seems I was staggering in a thick fog. Unable to fix what was broken, unable straighten things out, unable to bring Amanda back, I gave way to the storm and began to drift with it, to let it carry me along.

"16 As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure,"--Acts 27:16

Few, if any, would have ever identified me as a religious man before Amanda's murder. I believed in Jesus Christ and considered myself a Christian. I went to church and Sunday school pretty regularly too. But I didn't really work to build a relationship with God. I didn't regularly read the Bible. I did nothing to fulfill my obligation as a Christian to share the Gospel with others. But I did believe.

Now I see that I treated Jesus like a lifeboat. I always knew He was there if I needed Him, but I hardly considered Him as long as the sailing was smooth. Suddenly, I needed that lifeboat desperately. However, for so long I had ignored Him, had failed to nurture my relationship with Jesus, that immediately following Amanda's death I found it difficult to take comfort in His presence.

"17 so the men hoisted it aboard. Then they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Because they were afraid they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along."--Acts 27:17

Though His presence didn't seem enough to comfort me in the early days of this terrible storm, nothing else provided any sense of security either. I recognized that, just like a lifeboat, He was the only means available to survive the storm. So I hauled Him aboard. I began reading the Bible, and developed a plan to read it regularly and systematically. And for the first time in my life, God's word began to make sense to me. I began to understand the parables and see parallels between the verses I read and life here on Earth.

Reading the Bible, studying the Word of God, became a part of my daily routine. Specific verses like Romans 8:28, John 16:33, and Philippians 4:13 quickly became the ropes that I wrapped myself in to hold myself together. The storm didn't slacken, the downpour didn't stop and the winds didn't cease, but I began binding myself in the word of God and building my relationship with Jesus. For the first time in my life, I began to turn my life over to Him, to recognize that I wasn't really in control, and that my only hope to survive was to trust Him. I had finally lowered my sea anchor, the anchor that would not keep me from being buffeted by tempests, but that would keep the storms from smashing me against the rocks.

"18 We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. 19 On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands."--Acts 27:18-19

The storm continued to rage, in fact it still continues to pound away at us, even nearly 11 months later. Amanda is still gone. Every day I am haunted by visions of what her last moments must have been like. Every day I'm reminded of her in ways I didn't expect. Just this morning I saw a South Dakota license plate on the way to work. It brought back memories of our trip out west, through the Black Hills and to Mount Rushmore. Every day I see the closed door to her room and I'm reminded that room is empty when it should be occupied. The winds are still battering, the rain continues to fall. For us, it's a storm that will never end.

But even amidst the torrent, as I dove into the Word of God, as I worked harder than ever before to build my relationship with Jesus Christ, my faith grew to a level I'd never previously known. Things that I had previously placed great value on--money, possessions, the approval of men--became unimportant. I found myself throwing my cargo, my baggage, overboard. I even began to understand, after 40 years of living, that I didn't have the ability to successfully navigate life's journey. It finally dawned on me that only God's grace and mercy keep us afloat and keep us from running aground. Always before, I depended on my abilities to fix problems that arose, but Amanda's death was a catastrophe I couldn't fix. I finally realized my abilities weren't enough. I had cast off the ship's tackle and finally clung only to my faith in Jesus Christ to save me from this storm.

"When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved. "--Acts 27:20

As the days turned into weeks and the weeks to months, the "storm continued raging." Life will never be the same for us since Amanda was killed. Every day is a continuation of the nightmare of knowing we'll never hold her, never kiss her, never even talk with her again as long as we walk this Earth. I had to come to the realization that it's a storm I'll never escape. I have no hope of being rescued from long as I'm sailing this ship. This earthly life will be one, long continuous journey through this storm.

"But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed."--Acts 27:22

But just because life will be one big storm, I need not give up hope. A better life awaits, a life where I'll be reunited with Amanda in a place that knows no suffering, no pain, and no death. My faith in Jesus Christ, trusting in His promise that when this earthly life is over, when my physical body is destroyed, I will not be lost. "Only the ship will be destroyed." I'll leave this body and be transformed to a spiritual being that cannot be destroyed, one that will spend eternity with our Lord and Savior, and with Amanda.

That's what gives me the courage to keep going through this storm. Once you have that faith in the promise of eternal life, it brings the hope that one day suffering in this life will be replaced with an eternal existence that knows no pain. Jesus Christ--the Way, the Truth, the Light--died on the cross so that we can have all of that. He is the light that will guide me through this lifelong storm. Without Him, the wind and the waves would toss me against the rocks and all would be lost. There would be no hope.

So even though the tempest continues to rage, I will have courage. I will draw strength in the knowledge that "not one will be lost." Not Amanda, not me, not one who believes in Jesus, who trusts in Him will be lost. No, not one.

I will survive this storm, and you can survive whatever tempest blows into your life. Not because of our own abilities, but because of our faith in Jesus Christ. If you have that faith, work to grow your relationship with Him. If you don't have that faith, get it. You won't regret it, and you'll be able to weather any storm.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Training Log: 11/21--11/27

This Thanksgiving week was a blessing in more ways than one. Every day Amanda was on my mind as we approached our first Thanksgiving without her. Even though those thoughts brought with them many tears, they were good thoughts of great memories, memories I'm blessed to have. Sadness is a part of every day now, and always will be. She was sorely missed, but the holiday carried me back to so many of the good times I was extremely grateful.

Our school is out the entire week of Thanksgiving, so that was really nice too. We don't take a fall break, and we stay in school for three days earlier in the month that most districts take off so we can have this entire week. That allowed me to start my runs a little later and get caught up on some sleep, definitely a blessing.

And this week I was able to run with friends from the Cabot Country Cruisers for the first time since before the Marine Corps Marathon. Though I was strictly a solo runner for a long time, I've really come to enjoy running with these folks, especially the long runs. The picture here is the group that ran together for a 5 mile fun run on Thanksgiving morning. It was a nice, easy pace and a great time to enjoy some great company.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."--Philippians 4:13

Training Week: Nov 21 - Nov 27

Monday5 miles
Tuesday0 miles
Wednesday6 miles
Thursday5 miles
Friday0 miles
Saturday15 miles
Total31 miles

Last week I missed my long run when we went to Hot Springs where I ran the Spa 10K, but this week I got back on track. Saturday the Lord carried me through a good 15 mile run. I started at 6 am and did the first five by myself. My plan was to run three 5 mile loops from the school where the Cruisers usually depart. After I finished the first 5 miles, I met several others arriving to run 10 miles, but they were planning to run one big loop instead of two shorter ones. I decided to go with them. Everything worked well and I got my 15 in, with some great company.

Next Saturday I'm planning on doing a 14 mile run with the Little Rock Marathon training group, so I'll miss running with the Cruisers. But, a lot of them will be running the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis anyway. The following week, I'll be running the Fayetteville Half Marathon in Fayetteville, Arkansas. So it looks like it will be several weeks before I get to run with these ladies and gentlemen again.

I'm starting to get used to running four days a week instead of the six I was doing before the marathon, but plan to kick it back up after the first of the year. By January 31st, I want to be back to averaging 40 miles per week to get ready for Little Rock. As long as I can still get out and do a good, strong, long run, I'll take it my training plan is working.

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. "--Colossians 3:17

Thank You Jesus for giving me the strength, the motivation, and the discipline to keep hitting the road. Without Him, I could not keep up with the training, couldn't keep racking up the mileage, couldn't keep finishing the races. Jesus is the reason I can get out of bed each day and the reason for anything I can accomplish. Though there will be times I fail, I'll keep trying to allow Him to lead me and guide me to be a tool in His hands.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving: Giving Thanks in All Circumstances

Tomorrow's the day, the day we all gather at my sister's house to have Thanksgiving dinner. Then Friday, we'll do it all again at my Dad's. But things won't be the same this year, because we won't ALL be there. I can't say for the others, but for me, my wife, and my surviving daughter, there won't be a moment that goes by these next two days when we're not thinking about who's missing. Still, even though we'll carry thoughts of who we've lost all through the festivities, I count my blessings because I have much to be thankful for.

I am thankful for a God who loved me enough to send His one and only Son to die for my sins, so that I might be saved.I am thankful God gave me my wonderful wife and surviving daughter, Courtney. I am thankful that He gave me the years I shared with Amanda before she died. I am thankful that He gave me a calling and direction that enabled me to keep going after the most tragic of tragedies. I am thankful for the support of family and friends. I am thankful He placed me in a good job with wonderful colleagues and students.

"give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." -- 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Just this week a parent told me how fortunate the kids are to have me as a teacher. I replied that I was the lucky one, lucky to have the opportunity to work with such great students. Before I began teaching, it seemed like all I ever heard was how awful kids are today, to the point that I believed it. But what I found when I entered the classroom is that today's kids are hardly different than we were at their age. They have the same wants, needs, and desires for the most part. I also consider myself fortunate to work with so many great colleagues who love kids and teach for the right reasons. After Amanda was killed, the love and support shown by these students, colleagues, and others in the Vilonia community were amazing! I firmly believe that God placed us in this community so that we would be wrapped in its arms of compassion when our tragedy struck. I will always be grateful for the students, my colleagues, and the Vilonia community.

"If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" -- Ecclesiastes 4:10

The days following Amanda's murder are a blur. I remember a lot of people coming and going, but not much of the particulars of what was going on those days. I'm not even sure I could put the events I do remember in chronological order. But I remember family and friends who dropped everything and came to do anything they could. Family members flew in from as far away as North Carolina and were there the next day. Friends I hadn't seen in 16 years traveled across the country and spent several days doing anything they could to help. I honestly don't know how we could have navigated all the things to be done without their help. I'll be forever thankful for all they did in the days following Amanda's murder.

"in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." -- Proverbs 3:6

I have no doubt this organization, Running with Amanda, is a gift from God. I started running again about two years before Amanda was killed and for several months felt God calling me to use my running to glorify Him. I had no real clue how to do that. Then, soon after Amanda died, God gave me the vision for this ministry. I call it a gift because I had to find a way to make something good come from her death in order to honor her memory. When He placed the idea for Running with Amanda in my head, things began to fall into place and I was quickly able to see His hand at work, see good coming from the bad, and see Amanda's memory honored. It gave me a productive focus for my energy, energy that would certainly have been channeled in an unproductive direction otherwise. Yes, we suffered a terrible tragedy, but I am so thankful Jesus placed His hand on my shoulder and guided me in the right direction.

Amanda is gone now and I miss her every day. It's hard. Every day is hard. But they are hard because of the memories. Had we never known Amanda, had we never created those memories, we would certainly not be suffering from her loss. But as awful as the pain is, it would be worse if we had never known her. I look upon the pictures and see her smile. They remind me of the happy times we spent together. I loved her as much as a man can love anything or anyone, and as deep as the hole is that was left from her death, it's better than the barren patch of ground it would be if I had never known her. Even as I write this, I can hear her laugh, hear her voice, and see her standing right here beside me the morning before she died. I wouldn't trade those memories, or all the rest, for anything. As bad as it hurts to have lost her, I will always be grateful for the years we had together.

"4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." -- 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

We have good days and bad days now. Each of us grieves in our own way and each of us follow a different path to navigate that grief, but I can't imagine passing through this plane without Janice and Courtney. Sometimes we talk about what happened, other times we don't. Sometimes we talk about Amanda, and sometimes we don't, but we all share that common bond of losing her. None of us is perfect, but none of us expect each other to be perfect either. I've heard of many families in our shoes that fall apart. Parents divorce, kids and parents turn to destructive behaviors, anger and bitterness become the dominant personality traits for the survivors. That hasn't happened to us and I credit Janice and Courtney for their love and strength that keep us together. I am so thankful for the love of my family, Janice and Courtney.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." -- John 16:33

A woman I met at a workshop last summer, upon learning of Amanda's death, asked me, "Are you turning toward God, or away from Him?" I honestly don't know how anyone could move forward after suffering the loss of a child, or any serious tragedy, without the peace that comes from knowing Jesus. Without His mercy and grace that offer me salvation and eternal life, there would be no hope of seeing Amanda when my time on this Earth is over. If I did not have that peace, if I did not know that after this life I will be rejoined with Amanda, if I thought this life was it and there was nothing more, I don't know where I would be right now. But I can promise I wouldn't be here, doing what I'm doing. I would truly be a miserable creature if I didn't know that Amanda is in a place where there is no pain and no suffering and that I will see her again. That is what I am most thankful for, that blessed assurance that comes from knowing Jesus, assurance that this life is not the end, that eternity awaits, an eternity to spend with Amanda in a place where she will never again be taken from me.

I hope and pray that everyone who reads this finds reason to be thankful tomorrow and everyday. For even in the midst of suffering on this Earth, we have much to be grateful for.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Monday, November 21, 2011

New Balance Comes Through Again!

We have been extremely blessed to have New Balance, Inc. as sponsors since April. The company has kept us in high quality running shoes, saving us hundreds of dollars already! Last week, they sent me three new pairs of their model 1260 shoes to carry me through my next marathon!

I was really impressed when I read the "Made in the USA" tag on the shoe tongue. Go into any sporting goods store and look at where other shoes are made. You'll see shoes made in China and Vietnam, but you won't find any other brand made in the USA. I'm proud to be running in New Balance shoes made right here at home!

The 1260 is a new model for me and I'm still breaking in the first new pair, but I'm really pleased. Last week I made two 5 mile training runs in them before running a 10K on Saturday. I can't say it was all due to the new shoes I was wearing, but I did PR Saturday, beating my time last year on the same course by nearly six and a half minutes and beating my previous best 10K time by a little more than three and a half minutes.

I feel really blessed to have an international company like New Balance, Inc. sponsor a small organization like ours. Their willingness to supply our shoes allows us to enter more races and helps us accomplish our mission.

So we want to give a great big THANK YOU to New Balance, Inc. for their support of Running with Amanda!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Looking for 2012 Sponsors

Running with Amanda is currently looking for 2012 sponsors to help us continue our work and accomplish our four-part mission: 1) to Reveal the dangers of teen substance abuse, 2) to Reach people for Jesus, 3) to Raise money for children's charities, and 4) to Remember our beautiful daughter, Amanda Marie Allison.

We started in March, only two months after Amanda's murder, and God has accomplished quite a bit through our efforts in these first few months. We've heard from numerous readers who've been touched by our story and turned their lives around. Though we started with a goal to raise $1000 for each of the three charities we support, we actually raised more than $4500 this year, blowing past our initial goal. And, we've been able to keep Amanda's memory alive, bringing good from the horrible tragedy of her death.

This year, we were blessed to have New Balance, Inc. step up and offer to sponsor us with running shoes. Just this week I received three new pair of New Balance 1260s that will carry me through my next marathon in March. Their generosity will save us about $1000 per year. If we can get sponsors to put up another $3000, we can cover all our entry fees, lodging, and transportation costs to get to the races we run.

We're in the process of designing our 2012 racing shirts now and would like to put sponsors' logos on the shirt. These are the pictures featured in this post. These shirts will be worn in races at least once per month. Sponsors' logos will also be placed conspicuously on our website and Facebook page with links to their own websites. I will also write a blog post individually acknowledging each sponsor for their support of our mission.

The following levels of sponsorships are available:

LevelMinimum DonationRecognition
Marathon$1000Logo on shirt front & back, on website, on Facebook page, acknowledgement post on blog w/ link
Half Marathon$500Logo on shirt back, on website w/ link, on Facebook page w/ link, acknowledgement post on blog w/ link
10K$250Business name on shirt back, logo on on website w/ link, on Facebook page w/ link, acknowledgement post on blog w/ link
5K$100Logo on website w/ link, on Facebook page w/ link, acknowledgement post on blog w/ link

Just to be clear, we are not trying to make money from Running with Amanda. In the event we collect more in sponsorship monies than it costs us to participate in these events, all remaining funds will be split between Arkansas Children's Hospital, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and Soaring Wings Christian Home and Ranch in December of 2012. We will also be happy to provide a detailed accounting of all sponsorship monies collected and expenses to participate in the events for the year.

We look forward to working with those interested in helping us accomplish our mission to Reveal, Reach, Raise, and Remember.* Feel free to contact us for more information.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

*Running with Amanda will not accept sponsorships from any company deemed incompatible with our mission. Such companies include, but are not limited to any that openly oppose Christianity or its teachings, any that promote pornography or other illicit products, any that advocate violence, insurrection, or anarchy, etc. All proposals will be reviewed before any agreement to accept sponsorship will be accepted. If your company is determined to be ineligible to act as a sponsor, our decision is final and your money will not be accepted.

Training Log: 11/14--11/20

Thank you Jesus for a great week! It still feels kind of weird running only four days per week, but I think I'll get used to it. Every once in a while I may have to throw in an extra run on one of the off days though.

This was our last week before Thanksgiving break at school, and I am so thankful the break finally arrived. It's time for a little time off so I can catch up on some things around the house. Besides, kids are getting antsy this time of year and not much learning occurs. Most of them seemed more interested in some new video game that came out last week than in learning anything I had to teach. So work was a little stressful, making me glad to see the break arrive.

The running, on the other hand, went great last week. Regular readers are aware that I've cut back to four days per week since the Marine Corps Marathon. Before that I was running six days a week, averaging 40 miles in those six days. With this new schedule, it looks like I'll be able to average 25-30 miles per week. I'm going to try it for a while, then ramp back up after the first of the year to prepare for Little Rock in March. Not sure if it's a good plan, but it's a plan!

Anyway, here's what my runs looked like this week.

Training Week: Nov 14 - Nov 20

Monday5 miles
Tuesday0 miles
Wednesday5 miles
Thursday5 miles
Friday0 miles
Saturday6.2 miles
Total21.2 miles

I didn't get my long run in this week because we ran the Spa 10K in Hot Springs, AR on Saturday. After last week's 28 mile week, culminating in last Saturday's 20 miles on the school track, I don't feel so bad having a 21 mile week. I feel great and even reached a PR (personal record) on the 10K yesterday. The 54:32.50 time was almost 6.5 minutes faster than I ran the same course a year ago, and more than 3.5 minutes faster than my previous best at the 10K distance. But I don't deserve credit for the improvement, I owe it all to the One who saved me!

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."--Philippians 4:13

That's right! Without Jesus Christ, my risen Lord and Savior, there's not much telling where I'd be right now, but odds are I wouldn't be here. After Amanda was killed, He laid this mission on my heart. He gave me the goal of running marathons. He gave me the strength, motivation, and discipline to drag myself out of bed at 4 AM all those days to train. I owe it all to Him, and any glory that comes my way belongs to Him. I could do none of this without Jesus.

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."--Colossians 3:17

With that kind of support, with Jesus as my sponsor, I'll keep running until the day I meet my beautiful Amanda again. I hope you continue to join me and help spread the word. God bless you all.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Great Day at the Spa 10K/5K

Today was an awesome day, a day I definitely felt God's presence throughout the entire 6.2 mile distance! Janice ran the 5K and I ran the 10K. We did this race last year, and we'll more than likely be back again next year.

The course is challenging and beautiful. Much of the first four miles is uphill, including the steep climb up West Mountain beginning around mile 2.5 and ending just past mile 4. Runners start close to the convention center and run through beautiful downtown Hot Springs before arriving at Whittington Park. The course runs around about 3/4 of the park before participants make a hard right and begin the ascent up the mountain. Runners are treated to beautiful vistas of the town below as they make their way to the top. The road then drops down the mountain into an old but beautiful neighborhood before making its way back to the convention center.

Last year I finished the course in 1:01:00, walking almost all the way up the mountain. Trying to make up time, I sprinted down the other side and ended up walking a couple more times the last two miles of the race. This year I was a little more prepared for the course and approached it with a change in strategy. I pushed hard the first two miles, then backed off when I started up the mountain. I still walked about a quarter of a mile on the steepest part, but ran the rest. Then on the downhill side I let gravity do the bulk of the work as I pretty much coasted down. This allowed me to make good time and rest after the hard climb. Therefore, I was able to finish the last 1.5 miles at a good strong pace. (for me)

The weather was much better than last year's cold punctuated by a stiff, biting wind. This morning at the start temperatures hovered around 500 with a slight overcast and a fair breeze. After the race, it seemed colder inside the convention center than it did outside.

After the race, we sat through the awards ceremony hoping to win one of the door prizes, a two night stay at Mountain Harbor Resort. We didn't win but did get to fellowship with friends from Conway and Cabot. When the ceremony was over, Janice and I went to eat with several friends from the Cabot Country Cruisers (our local running club.)

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."--Philippians 4:13

The Lord and Amanda were with me today. I finished the race in 54:32.50, a new PR (personal record) for the 10K distance. That's nearly 6.5 minutes faster than my time a year ago on the same course. There's no way I could have run so strong without help from above! The Lord Jesus Christ gave me the strength, will, and determination to start and to finish strong.

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."--Colossians 3:17

Today was a great day to serve Him!

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Spa 10K Tomorrow

Janice and I will be Running with Amanda in Hot Springs tomorrow. I'll be running the 10K and she will run the 5K. We ran this race last year and it was great. It's a beautiful route with quite a bit of spectator participation. But for us it will be much different than it was a year ago.

Last November, our family was whole. Amanda was still alive. This will be the first race we will participate in after her death that we also ran when she was alive. That's something that had not crossed my mind until I sat down to write this.

Now I'm not sure how it will affect me tomorrow. Will it inspire me to run harder than ever? Will sadness overcome me and weigh me down? Or will it just be an omnipresent feeling that has no net effect on my pace at all? I just don't know.

It's strange these thoughts have never come up before. So many visions, thoughts, and dreams have haunted me these past 10 months that I thought all the bases had been covered. The day Amanda was murdered we ran a race, and we've both had thoughts that we'll never run that one again. But that's a different case altogether.

To have coincided with the date of our daughter's death makes the connection in our mind between that race and our tragedy not surprising at all. But tomorrow's race had no connection with Amanda or her murder, so I never expected it to bring these thoughts. I thought it would be just another race.

But a year ago, we could talk to Amanda after the race. We could hug her, kiss her, and converse with her. This year, she's gone and a hole in our hearts occupies the space that she vacated. It's a vast empty, gaping wound that never ceases to ache, but a wound that we have largely learned to keep hidden from the outside world most of the time. Ten months later, many think we're over it, that we're healed.

But sometimes...some things come out of nowhere like a big easterly wind gust that rips the cover off and exposes the entire ugly sore. Yes. It's still there, never healing, always hurting. And tomorrow it will be heavy on my mind.

"37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day."--John 6:37-40

Thank God I have the knowledge, and the peace that come with it, that I will one day see my beautiful Amanda again. The promise that there will be no more grief, and no more sorrow in that place allows me to keep going. In this life, that peace and knowledge doesn't take away the pain of losing my daughter, but it assures me that when I'm called home there will be no more pain, that we'll be together again for eternity.

The world is full of evil and none of us are guaranteed another day on this side of the veil. If you don't have the peace of which I write, if the pain in this life often seems too much to bear, you too can find the hope that a better life exists, a life without pain and suffering, trials and troubles. If you want that, if you need that, or if you just want to learn more about it, read below and follow the link.

I promise you won't regret it when you make the decision to allow Jesus Christ into your heart as Lord of your life.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Catching Up the Mileage Log

Training for my first marathon was great motivation to keep an updated mileage log, but I haven't updated it for several weeks. Luckily, I post the miles I run each day on Facebook so I can pull the last several weeks up and catch up from there. So here goes!

This first week was the week of the Marine Corps Marathon, a nice easy week until the big day when I went the entire 26.2 mile distance.

Training Week: Oct 24 - Oct 30

Monday4 miles
Tuesday5 miles
Wednesday0 miles
Thursday0 miles
Friday0 miles
Saturday0 miles
Total35.2 miles

Since the marathon, I've cut back to running four days a week instead of the six I was running the weeks prior. Still doing a long run or a race on Saturdays, but I am taking it a little easier than I was. The Saturday after MCM I ran 10 miles with the Little Rock Marathon training group.

Training Week: Oct 31 - Nov 6

Monday0 miles
Tuesday0 miles
Wednesday5 miles
Thursday0 miles
Friday5 miles
Saturday10 miles
Total20 miles

The next week was a little crazy by most people's standards. I was still sticking to my plan to run only four days, but decided to go for 20 on Saturday, only two weeks after MCM.

Training Week: Nov 7 - Nov 13

Monday5 miles
Tuesday0 miles
Wednesday3 miles
Thursday0 miles
Friday0 miles
Saturday20 miles
Total28 miles

That 20 miles didn't come at a race, but a walk-a-thon at our school to benefit Arkansas Children's Hospital and Angels for Angela Pillowcase Ministry in honor of a young lady who suffers from cancer. The charity event was a huge success, raising more than $3800 and putting a big smile on the young lady's face only days before she started her latest round of chemo. You can read more about the event here.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How could they know?

As the holidays approach, it becomes increasingly obvious that most people have no clue what we're going through. From making Thanksgiving and Christmas plans to expectations of just performing everyday, routine tasks, it's hard for others to understand when we're angry, sad, distracted, or act disinterested. Tonight, it will have been 10 months since our beautiful Amanda was murdered. The pain is just as bad, the wound is just as open, as it was then.

How Could They Know?

The months keep passing by
And the distance becomes great,
But our wounds will never heal
No matter how long they wait.

Their lives were interrupted,
For a moment, oh so brief.
Our lives were stopped forever,
Stopped in a state of grief.

Understand, how can they?
And we don't wish them to.
For that would require
They walk in our same shoes.

Some days normal we appear,
They think we're doing well.
Those days we've drawn a curtain
To shield them from our Hell.

Our torment manifests itself
In several different ways.
Anger, tears, or dreaminess
Depending on the day.

They should not try to understand
Or try to intercede.
They cannot feel the pain we feel
Or see the sights we see.

The pain we cannot always hide
That reignites each day,
As we pass by the empty room
Where Amanda used to stay.

They cannot see the visions
That daily haunt our sight,
Visions of her last moments
On that horrific night.

They cannot know. How could they?
What we're going through.
We pray they never will.
We don't want them to.

" 13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words."-- 2 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Though most days we hide it well, it's always there. The pain, the memories, the wishes for things that will never be, and reliving the events of that horrific night 10 months ago. The only thing that keeps us going is the knowledge that one day we will see Amanda again. God promises us that. That's our hope for peace, a peace that we'll never again know here on Earth.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I saw God today... the Walk for Payne.

His presence was obvious with the stunning sunrise that greeted me when I was putting out signs for the event. He showed himself through the terrific turnout on a cold day made tougher by a driving wind. But most noticeably, He was visible in the smile on the face of 16-year-old Angela Payne.

I arrived early, before daylight, at the Vilonia High School campus to unlock gates and unload a few supplies in preparation for the Walk for Payne, a walk-a-thon held in honor of Angela with proceeds going to Arkansas Children's Hospital and Angels for Angela Pillowcase Ministry. When I went to the highway to put up signs, I turned and saw this sunrise and knew that God was with us this day.

Today was not only cold and windy, but also the first day of the modern gun deer season in Arkansas. It's generally not a good day to schedule anything because many would likely miss their own wedding to go hunting on this day. But we had a great turnout. Approximately 200 participants, donors, and volunteers chose to be absent from the deer stand and present to show their support for Angela. So far, we raised around $3,500 for the two charities with more donations promised to come in next week. All one had to do was open his eyes to see that Jesus had worked on the hearts of students, teachers, and others in the community to bring them here today.

And the smile that stood out on Angela's face...AMAZING. On Tuesday, she begins a new round of chemotherapy to treat the cancer growing in her body. Angela's already familiar with chemo, because she's battled the big C since she was 13 years old. After being declared cancer free earlier this year, the disease returned. So now she begins a new battle in her war with the illness.

Most people would expect a 16-year-old in Angela's shoes to be angry, bitter, and depressed only a couple of days before beginning chemotherapy, especially if they had previously thought they had it beat. But today, Angela was beaming! Only God could make that possible. I and two other VHS faculty members, Cindy Stage and Jana Sisson, ran 20 miles at the event, several people ran or walked 10 miles, and dozens went 5 miles. Still more ran or walked various other distances. So many runners and walkers out to show their support brought that beautiful smile out on the face of a truly wonderful young lady.

Angela and her family have been a huge inspiration to me, especially since Amanda died. Even before I knew her, before Amanda died, I was amazed that they suffered through the battle with cancer, with all the pain and sickness, and continued to have a positive outlook. Their Christian faith was always obvious. Two weeks after Amanda was murdered, Angela sent me the title of a song that she believed would help me deal with the loss. Even after all she had suffered, she was reaching out to help pick me up when I was down. In my darkest moments, when I wondered if it was worth going on, she always came to mind to remind me that, yes, it is worth it.

Yes, I saw God today, in a sunrise, in an encouraging and enthusiastic crowd, and on the face of a beautiful 16-year-old girl.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Friday, November 11, 2011

20 Miles Tomorrow at the Walk for Payne

It's not a race, not your typical running event, but it's where I'll be running tomorrow. Just a stone's throw from the building where I work and still on the same campus. I've pledged to run 20 miles at the Walk for Payne walk-a-thon.

This event will be held at the Vilonia High School stadium, and every mile will be run on the school track. I haven't run laps around a track in 25 years, since high school, but this is a great cause that's worth running a few hours round and round the old oval.

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship."--Romans 12:1

Proceeds from the event will go to benefit Arkansas Children's Hospital and Angels for Angela Pillowcase Ministry in honor of VHS junior Angela Payne. Regular readers will already be familiar with ACH, because it's one of the three charities we raise money for. Angels for Angela is a cause created by Angela that sews and provides brightly colored pillowcases for young children beginning chemotherapy.

Angela is an amazing young lady, a shining example of faith, strength and love. She has been one of the major inspirations to me throughout the trial of losing Amanda. In fact, only a couple of weeks after Amanda was murdered, Angela sent me a Facebook message directing me to a song she thought might help, "Angel by your side" by Francesca Battestelli. The song was fantastic, and definitely inspiring, but it was Angela and her story that really helped me look for a way to keep going.

"38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."--Romans 8:38-39

Though only 16, she has already overcome more than many people will ever encounter in their entire lives. She was diagnosed with cancer in junior high school and fought through the surgeries, the chemotherapy, and sickness that comes with the dreaded disease. Throughout her ordeal, she and her family remained steadfast in their faith in our Lord and Savior. Watching from the outside, I was amazed that any child or any family could endure that pain and suffering and continue to be such strong, positive, Christian role models.

" 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope."--Romans 5:3-4

Early in this school year, Angela was declared "cancer-free" after a routine scan. She, her family, and even the entire community rejoiced at the news. It appeared her war against cancer was won.

Only a few weeks later, however, we learned the cancer had been lurking in the shadows all along, gathering its strength for its next big offensive with Angela. Another scan performed when Angela became ill revealed two 1.5 inch diameter tumors. Surgery was quickly scheduled and dozens of smaller tumors were spotted when the doctors went to remove the two.

Next week, Angela begins the chemotherapy all over again. She has several rounds of treatments scheduled over the next several weeks, and the Vilonia community is rallying to support her and her family.

That's what the Walk for Payne is intended to do. Her classmates, teachers, and others in the community want Angela to know just how much she is loved, how important she is to this community, and how big of an impact she has had on all of us.

If you're in the area, we'd love to have you join us tomorrow. If you can't be there, you can donate to Arkansas Children's Hospital through the Walk for Payne fundraising page. Please donate if you can.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

What comes next? After that first marathon...

Another of course! We're going to keep running, keep raising money for charity, keep reaching people for Jesus, and keep Amanda's memory alive through all of the above.

I was told I'd get hooked if I ever ran a marathon and it was true. I'm hooked. Even though I remember telling myself, just after my first half-marathon and many times since, that I would never run a full, now it's done! That first one is under my belt. was the Marine Corps Marathon no less!

Even before the big day arrived, my mind was already racing ahead to decide how to proceed after MCM. I don't have the funds to travel the country running 26.2 mile races every week, and I don't think my body could handle it if I did. But the energy and enthusiasm generated by the rigorous training these past months was already becoming an addiction, so much of an addiction that plans began forming for my second and subsequent marathons even before I ran the first.

Janice and I will continue our race-a-month program we've been doing since the beginning. As for future marathons, I've decided to run two a year, one in the spring and one in the fall. There may arise special circumstances that convince me to run a third, and maybe a fourth from time to time, but for the most part, I'll stick with two a year.

That's why, the day after MCM, I registered to run the Little Rock Marathon on March 4, 2012. This race won't cost me much more than the entry fee. The starting line is only about 20 miles from home. No plane tickets, hotel rooms, or eating out required! This one was a natural choice for marathon #2.

Besides, I ran my first half-marathon on the same course in 2010. So the first 10 miles of the race will be familiar territory. Today I ran with the LR Marathon training group for the first time. Ten miles through the biggest of the hills on the course. I had a great run and enjoyed meeting some of the people I'll be running with next March.

After Little Rock, I'm planning to run St. Jude in December 2012. Then, who knows which one will be next? It's a little too far out to plan.

Running two marathons every year will give us great opportunities to raise even more money for the charities we support. Our fundraising page for St. Jude expires on the first of December, so I plan to reset the pages for Arkansas Children's Hospital and Soaring Wings Christian Home & Ranch too on that day. That's when I'll create new pages for our 2012 fundraising year, new pages for all three charities.

"For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. " -- Ephesians 2:10

In March, we started with a goal to raise $1000 for each of the three charities, a total of $3000. We cleared each $1000 hurdle, collecting a total of more than $4600 between the three. This year, I'll set the bar higher. I plan to start with a goal of $2500 for St. Jude, $2000 for ACH, and $1500 for Soaring Wings, for a total of $6000. With a full year to work at it, and running two marathons next year, I am completely confident we can achieve that goal!

After Amanda was murdered, I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to keep going. When I ran that first half-marathon, I was convinced I'd never be able to run a full. Things will never be the same again, and I can't say I'll ever get over Amanda's death. But I can say I have been able to keep going, and last week I ran that 26.2 miles for the first time.

Not long after Amanda was killed, and throughout these past months, I've realized that none of that was of my own doing. Though many have been there to help me through these difficult times--those helping us with things after Amanda was murdered and those helping me get through the long runs as I worked to get ready for MCM, I could never have made it without the help from one in particular.

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," -- Matthew 28:19

If I hadn't known Jesus, if I hadn't turned to Him, if I had tried to make it without Him, I can't say where I'd be right now. But I can guarantee it wouldn't be where I am right now. Knowing that through Him I am guaranteed salvation and eternal life gives me the peace of knowing that one day, when I'm called up yonder, I will be reunited with my beautiful daughter. Without that confidence, without Him, His grace, and His mercy, my journey after my beautiful Amanda was killed would have been much different.

Honestly, I cannot imagine how anyone could survive such a tragedy without knowing Christ and having that peace. I don't know how anyone could go on. That's the reason I am compelled to tell everyone and encourage them to seek Him, find Him, and know Him! So I will continue to tell the world how Jesus gives me strength, courage, and motivation to keep moving forward.

Last, but not least, we're going to continue to bring attention to Amanda, her life, and her senseless death at the hands of a drunken, stoned 19-year-old fool. Teen alcohol and drug abuse is deadly! It killed my daughter, and it can be the death of other children too.

The last thing I would ever wish on anyone is to suffer the same fate that befell us the night of January 15. I don't want another child to fall under the sword of teen substance abuse. Amanda's death was avoidable and senseless, a tragedy that did not have to be. I want people to remember how she lived, who she was, and how she died so that, hopefully, the lives of others will be saved.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." -- Romans 8:28

I hope and pray that some parent will hear Amanda's story and intervene before their child falls prey. I hope and pray that some young person will read about Amanda and choose to avoid alcohol and drugs and those who abuse them.

Yes. We will continue running to Reveal the dangers of teen substance abuse, Reaching people for Jesus, Raising money for charity, and Remembering Amanda Marie Allison.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.