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

Sunday, October 30, 2011

My Marine Corps Marathon Experience

Today I ran my first full marathon. Not in the time I was hoping for, but still, by the grace of God I finished. It took me 5 hours and 22 minutes to cover the 26.2 miles. I had dreams of a 4:30 finish, but set out this morning with a goal to finish under 5 hours. Even though it took 22 minutes longer than I'd hoped, today was a great day.

The Marine Corps Marathon, aka the People's Marathon, is the 5th largest in the United States and 9th largest in the world with 30,000 registered runners. Starting just north of the Pentagon, and ending at the Marine Corps Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery, the race winds through Arlington and Georgetown before leading runners by the major monuments of our nation's capitol. Those who finished the race numbered 20,985 and my finish time placed me 16,107th to cross the line. Janice said to look at it from another perspective, I beat almost 4,000 other runners.

No matter which way I look at it, it feels great to have crossed that finish line and have that Marine hang the medal on my neck. Throughout the race, but especially as I climbed that hill to the finish, the primary event that brought me here weighed heavy on my mind. My friend and USMC brother Jesse, with whom I'd served 20 years ago, challenged me to run this race the day before my daughter Amanda's funeral, a little over 9 months ago. As I charged up that last hill, I wondered if and I hoped that my performance today had made her proud.

"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 was also overwhelmed by the awesomeness of God and His ability to bring good from the most evil of human acts. In the days immediately following Amanda's death I staggered around in a thick fog, unable to see or think clearly. Many thoughts came to mind, few of them rational and many of them would have sent me to prison if I'd acted on them. But Jesus Christ laid it on the hearts of two very good friends from the Corps, Pat and Jesse, to travel across the country to join me in my grief, to help in whatever way they could. It had been 16 years since any of us had seen each other, and not much less than that since any of us had spoken with each other. But they dropped everything to be with me in my hour of need. This weekend we held a reunion for our platoon that deployed together in 1992 and I got to see several of those guys for the first time since we left the Corps. We scheduled the reunion to coincide with the marathon, and either one would have made for a great weekend. But combined, they made a fantastic one.

The weather was beautiful for the race, a little cold at the start, but beautiful nonetheless. Saturday was cold, windy, and wet. If that weather had persisted into Sunday, it would have made the race much less enjoyable. But God pushed the precipitation out of the area and left the skies clear for race day. Even with the temperatures in the low 30's at the start, I shed my sweat pants before the gun went off and shed my sweatshirt before mile 5. Temps had warmed enough by then that I didn't feel cold again until after the race.

"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

We weren't pushing real hard, trying to maintain an 11 minute 20 second pace per mile. That proved easy for a big part of the race. At the 10K mark, I told Jesse I hadn't felt that good after running six miles in a long time. The usual pain in my ankles and the occasional pain in my knees was noticeably absent. After 10 miles, I recalled the way I felt at that point in my first half-marathon a year and a half ago. In that race I was suffering terribly by then, but today I felt as if we'd just begun the race. We passed the halfway point and I was still amazed at how great I felt.

But I've heard it said that a runner should never expect feelings to remain constant over the course of 26.2 miles. The saying goes that if you feel bad at some point, you'll feel good later and if you're feeling good, expect things to go South before the end. That proved true for me today.

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

It was around mile 17 that I felt the first twinge in my right calf, a warning that it was trying to cramp. It wasn't long before I felt it in my left calf, my right hamstring, and my left thigh. I started praying and concentrating to try and keep them at bay, but they were the initial signs that feeling good wasn't going to last through mile 26.2. By this time, Jesse's knee had started to bother him a little too. Still, we kept pushing onward.

By mile 20, our pace had fallen off quite a bit as we hobbled, running as much as we could and walking for a minute or so every once in a while. Right about then, my wife, daughter, friend Pat and his son, greeted us on the course and cheered us on. That gave us a much needed boost at a point when we were struggling to maintain motivation.

But after we crossed the bridge back into Arlington after mile 21, things got even worse. A lot of friends who run marathons had told me miles 21-26 held a lot of misery, and today I learned how right they were. Before mile 22, we were walking more and more, and walking every incline, even the slightest. We kept telling each other we were close enough there was no way we wouldn't finish, but doubts were creeping into my mind.

We crossed 23 miles and I was feeling even worse. I passed by the Dunkin Donuts offered by the Marine volunteers because I felt like I'd throw up if I ate them. Only 3.2 miles to go, a distance that I thought I could have crawled if necessary...before today. Right about then, I was thinking it seemed like 32 miles to go. But still, Jesse and I kept telling each other we had it made.

Somehow we made it to mile 24 and I started again to think that reaching the finish might actually be possible, not certain but possible. By now we were walking more and more. When we were running, it couldn't have been at a pace much faster than our walk. Though I'd successfully fought off the cramps to this point, the twinges that warned of their attempts to take control of my muscles had become almost constant. Keeping them at bay required constant effort and almost all of my focus by now.

We hit mile 25 at the off ramp to the Pentagon, at the top of a pretty good downhill stretch. Even on the downhill, our pace was severely retarded because by now our legs were screaming in pain. When we reached the bottom, we started walking again and I suggested we walk until we reached the turn into Arlington National Cemetery. That turn began the last good hill, 2/10 of a mile uphill to the finish line. I honestly didn't know if I would be able to keep running all the way up it, even after our prolonged walk just prior.

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

But we stepped into the climb at a run...a very slow run and maintained it all the way across the line. Jesus had breathed the strength we needed to mount our final charge to close out the race. We crossed the line, accepted our medals, and had our pictures made at the foot of the Iwo Jima Memorial. It was over.

"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

I owe many thanks to a lot of people for getting me to this point, and getting me through this race. First, I thank God for giving me the desire to run this race, the motivation to keep training for it, and the determination to finish it. I also have to give thanks to my wife and daughter who encouraged me and understood the long hours of training and recovery time over these past 9 months. I thank my friends and USMC brother Jesse for challenging me to run this race and for running it with me step for step. I also want to thank my other friends and brothers who came this weekend for our reunion, making this trip even more memorable than the MCM could have. I owe many thanks to all who donated to our supported charities. This was a great source of motivation and inspiration through the hardest training periods. I'd like to thank New Balance, Inc. for sponsoring us with shoes and donating $5000 to help us start a chapter of K-Life Ministries in Vilonia. And I'd like to thank all the volunteers, organizers, spectators, and runners who made this race so memorable and such a wonderful experience!

This race I ran in memory of my beautiful daughter, Amanda Marie Allison, who was stolen from us way too early in January of this year. Nothing will ever erase the pain of losing her, but I have the peace that comes from knowing I will see her again one day. Until then, I'll keep running marathons and shorter races to keep her memory alive.

Yes, today was a good day to run a great race.



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, October 29, 2011

The night before the Marine Corps Marathon

It's the night before my first marathon and I'm not nervous...not even a little. Should I be? I guess tomorrow will tell.

The weekend got off to a rough start, but quickly smoothed out once we arrived in DC. A couple of issues with the airline delayed us out of Little Rock, then again out of Atlanta. We finally arrived in Reagan National Airport 7 hours after we planned, but we did get here.

Thing got better really fast when we arrived at the hotel and found my old buddies from the Marine Corps in the lobby watching a video made from recordings during our deployment 19 years earlier. It didn't take long to get squared away and head down the street to eat. Several hours of reminiscing and catching up made the day's earlier aggravations seem years distant. It was a great, but long day.

After a few hours of sleep, we rose and readied ourselves for a trip to the National Museum of the Marine Corps at Quantico. The 60 mile round trip was unplanned until the night before, but proved to be a perfect and fantastic fit for our small reunion. We passed about three hours perusing the exhibits that chronicle the history and elaborate on the traditions of the Corps. I can't say how it affects those who never served, but several times it brought lumps to the throat of this old Marine.

We left Quantico and arrived at the Capitol Visitors Center about 15 minutes before our planned rendezvous with Bridget Nutt, Staff/Press Assistant to Arkansas 1st District Congressman Rick Crawford, to tour the Capitol. Congressman Crawford's office had been kind enough to arrange this tour and a tour that would have taken us up to the Capitol dome yesterday. As much as we would have loved to make the tour yesterday, today's was still fantastic.

When our two-hour tour of the Capitol ended, we split with my friends and headed to the Metro station so I could make my way to pick up my race packet for tomorrow. Learning to navigate the DC mass transit system took a little time, but we finally found our way through the rain and snow to the DC Armory. There, I picked up my race bib, t-shirt, and a few freebies being given away at the Expo before we made our way back to the train station to finally head back to the hotel.

"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. " -- Proverbs 17:17

Finally, we joined a couple of friends and their families for supper just a block away from the hotel. These friends are Pat and Jesse, the two who dropped everything and traveled across the country to help us when Amanda was killed. It was an extremely enjoyable way to end the day.

Now, all there is left to do is rest for tomorrow. I'm not nervous, even a little. That might change tomorrow, or it might not. Regardless how long it takes me to cross that finish line tomorrow, this has been a great trip.

God has given me an opportunity to spend time with great friends I hadn't seen for almost 20 years. These are friends I once spent more time with, lived in closer quarters with, and came to know better, than most people do their own family. These were my brothers, not by blood, but by a bond stronger than blood.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." -- Philippians 4:6

No, I'm not nervous about tomorrow. Because no matter what happens tomorrow, this trip has already been a great success. Jesus got me here, through the heat and humidity and every other tough challenge during training. Not just me, but so many others have prayed for me throughout, and I am so grateful that God has answered those prayers. I have complete and total faith that He will get me across that finish line. He has already blessed me beyond belief.

Tomorrow I run in thanks and praise to Him, and pray that my effort brings glory to Him. For I know, it's by His grace and mercy that I will start this race tomorrow, and that it will be only by His grace and mercy that I finish. Any strength I have, I get from Him. Any ability I have is a gift from Him. Any redeeming quality people attribute to me should only be attributed to Him.

And just as Jesus is the reason I'm running, the reason I'm writing this, He will be the reason I'll finish tomorrow, and the reason you'll be reading my race recap soon after!

"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

Thanks for reading. Now please say a prayer for all the runners at the Marine Corps Marathon tomorrow, that they will run the race God has marked out for them and do it for His glory!



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, October 25, 2011

Jesus brought me to it, He will bring me through it

In less than a week, I'll run my first marathon. At 8 AM I'll be standing in front of Arlington National Cemetery with 30,000 other runners when the cannon fires. I'll cross the starting line with one goal in mind. It's a goal that once seemed unattainable, but now lies within my grasp. To run 26.2 miles.

Only 5 days now from the high point of a journey that began more than nine months ago, when my oldest daughter was gunned down at a party on a cold January night.

When the police officer stood in our living room and confirmed what I feared since I received the call that she was shot, I had no idea what my future held. Many thoughts ran through my mind, most of which would have landed me in prison if I'd acted on them. EVERYTHING seemed impossible for the next few days.

"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

Two friends from the Marine Corps, neither of whom had I seen in more than 15 years, dropped everything and traveled across the country to stand beside me and help any way they could. That is where my journey to the Marine Corps Marathon began.

In the wake of such a terrible loss, a loss so tragic it's impossible to contemplate how you would ever react to it, your mind races in so many different directions it's impossible to accomplish anything. You don't know which way to turn. You question every decision. Is it right? Is it wrong? Is it best? Does it really matter? In the days following Amanda's death, I was unable to focus on anything and felt as if I had lost control of everything.

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

In that fog that followed Amanda's murder, it soon became clear that I had lost control of everything, or that I never really had control in the first place. It was then I realized I had to turn everything over to God, to let Him take control if I wanted any chance to keep going, to keep living. And God hatched the plan that put me on the road to the Marine Corps Marathon.

I have never, and will never, believe that it was His plan for Amanda to die the way she did, when she did. I believe that Satan works in the world, and evil acts such as this are his doing and not God's. But I know now that Jesus really can make all things work for good, even the most evil of things. He started immediately after Amanda died.

"Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification." -- Romans 14:19

One of my Marine buddies, Jesse, who came to help after Amanda's murder challenged me to run MCM with him. His challenge came before Amanda's memorial service. Though I didn't commit or accept it then, the seed that would eventually sprout and bloom was planted. I didn't yet know it, but I was on the road to Arlington, VA.

A month and a week after Amanda died the registration opened for MCM. I was one of the 30,000 who logged in and signed up before it closed after only 28 hours. MCM had been on my mind since Jesse first mentioned it the week after Amanda died. Before she died, I had no plans and no desire to run a marathon. But after she was killed, I needed something to focus on, something productive to channel my energy into.

God started working so quickly after Amanda was murdered. He sent my friends to stand with me and He laid it on Jesse's heart to challenge me to run this marathon. There is no doubt in my mind He is the only reason I can continue to get up each morning, go to work each day, and sleep through each night.

"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

You can probably imagine some of the destructive thoughts that ran through my mind and the destructive ways I could have turned to in response to our tragedy. But God, through Jesse, turned me away from the path that would have certainly destroyed my life, my family, and my future. Training for the Marine Corps Marathon provided me a productive way to expend my energy, a productive goal onto which my thoughts became focused.

"but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." -- Isaiah 40:31

Jesus turned me toward this. Now the day approaches and on Sunday the howitzer will blast to announce the start of the 36th Marine Corps Marathon. I can say I am truly blessed to have, and am only here because of, such wonderful friends and Jesus Christ my Savior. I am extremely grateful for His grace and mercy that rescued me from the pit of doom and despair into which I would have otherwise fallen.

"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

Jesus used this race as a vehicle to bring me back from the brink. I hope and pray that, on Sunday, He is glorified by my performance, that others see His light shine through me.



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, October 23, 2011

Training for MCM: 1 Week to Go!


One week to go and I can't sleep. I wonder if it will be the same the night before the big race?

It's so hard to believe it's finally here. Eight months ago, when I registered for the Marine Corps Marathon, it seemed so far away. Now the eight months have passed and I'm standing on the threshold of the greatest physical challenge I've ever faced...and I feel...ready.

I'm not nervous in the least. That may change in the upcoming week, but for now I have complete and total faith in my ability to finish. Or...more accurately...in God's ability to get me to the finish line. For I have no doubt that my success in training for this marathon is all due to Him.

I have no doubt it is Jesus who has kept me on the road, for all the many miles, safe and without injury. It was Him who motivated me to climb out of bed at 4 AM every morning so I could get my runs in before work. He is the one who linked me to my running friends who accompanied me, pushed me, pulled me, and helped me through those long runs in the heat and humidity all summer.

"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

It wasn't so long ago that I was telling people I would never run a marathon. I still remember telling myself that during my first half marathon when, just after mile 10, we split with those running the full 26.2. "I'm so glad I don't have 16 miles left to run," said the voice inside my head as I watched them turn left while I went straight.

But while I was training for that race, I began to hear a calling that I knew was from God. He began to tell me that I needed to use my running for His glory. It confused me for a long time, not really understanding how. I did give it a half-hearted effort after an injury when I decided to try to choose races that benefited charities. Deep down though, I knew that wasn't what He wanted.

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." -- Romans 12:2

After a second injury, shortly before my second half-marathon, I knew God was telling me I hadn't answered His call. When my knee blew up at the end of a 5K race, it was clear as day to me that I was not in His will. I still wasn't sure how to answer that call, but I became a little more serious in trying to find the way, His way.

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

"In all your ways submit to Him." Eventually I realized that had been my problem all along. That was why I couldn't seem to find a way to glorify Jesus through my running, because I had not submitted to Him. That didn't happen until after Amanda died.

I've heard it said that "you don't know God is all you need until you reach the point where He's all you have." When Amanda was murdered, I reached that point. Though I had my friends and family around me, they weren't enough to keep me going, or to keep me from doing something really stupid. I had landed in a place so dark that I had to seek His light, so deep that I had to reach for His hand, so frightening that I had to ask for His protection.

That's when I truly submitted to Him, and that's when the idea for this ministry came to me.

And now I'm one week from running my first marathon, feeling ready, willing, and able. Without a doubt, I know I wouldn't be at this point in my life or in my training had I not turned to Jesus and asked for His help. Forty miles a week seemed impossible before, now it's routine. A ten mile run seemed agonizing back then, now I'm just getting warmed up at 10.

Training Week: Oct 17 - Oct 23

Monday6 miles
Tuesday6 miles
Wednesday6 miles
Thursday6 miles
Friday6 miles
Saturday10 miles
SundayRest
Total40 miles

If you're struggling in life, or even just feeling like you're treading water and not going anywhere, try to fully submit to God. Turn to Him when you're angry, confused, or depressed. He can, and will, do amazing things in your life.

"Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'" -- Matthew 19:26

About this time last year I ran my second half marathon and told people I would never run a full. Now, one year later, I'm one week away from doing what I then thought was impossible.

Nothing's impossible with Jesus! MCM, here we come!



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, October 16, 2011

Training for MCM: 2 Weeks to Go!


It's almost here! Only two weeks away! After all the grueling training runs in all sorts of weather, we're now within 14 days of tackling one of the biggest challenges, maybe THE biggest, I've ever accepted.

We're now at the point where the really long runs are over until the marathon. Yesterday I ran 10 miles and didn't really even feel good and loose, ready to run, until after 8 miles. Most people look at me crazy when I tell them 10 miles seems like a short run now, but it does.

"...Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you." -- Joshua 3:5

The Lord has already done amazing things in my life and I have no doubt that He will again on 30 October. I am blessed to have a wonderful family, fantastic friends, a great job working with great colleagues and students, and the promise that one day I will see my daughter, Amanda, again in Heaven. I don't deserve any of it, but His grace and mercy have blessed me in amazing ways.

God is even using Amanda's death to make fantastic things happen. As terrible as her murder is, and as much as I wish she were still with us, it's impossible to deny that He is using it to accomplish great things. Our ministry has grown larger, faster than I ever thought possible. Just this week we topped our fundraising goal for Soaring Wings Christian Home & Ranch, the last of the three charities we support to reach our goal. Readers have told us stories about Amanda's death changing their lives, turning them around, and Amanda's memory lives on. All because God is using evil to bring about good.

"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

When she learned of Amanda's death this summer, a woman asked me, "Are you turning toward God, or away from Him?" She told me that her father had hit her brother with a car and killed him. He never got over it, and he turned away. It made things hard on him and his family. Fortunately, I can say I turned toward God, relying on Him for the strength and guidance to keep me going.

Doing so allowed me, maybe even forced me to channel my energy into productive things. Ministering to kids and pushing myself harder and farther than I ever had in running garnered the focus of energy that would have certainly been channeled to negative, destructive things otherwise. The running even gives me an opening sometimes to minister to kids.

Training Week: Oct 10 - Oct 16

Monday6 miles
Tuesday6 miles
Wednesday6 miles
Thursday6 miles
Friday6 miles
Saturday10 miles
SundayRest
Total40 miles

So here I am, two weeks away from running my first marathon. I feel ready, and I feel blessed. I'll never understand why Amanda died so young and in such a violent manner, but the only way I know to keep going is to try to make good things come from it. That is something that might be too big for me, but it's not too big for God.

"Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." -- Matthew 19:26

So I'll keep going, keep doing what I'm doing as long as God continues to lead me to it. I know that if He does, He'll lead me through it.



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, October 15, 2011

Thank You! We Did It!

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Today you, our generous supporters, put us over the top of our fundraising goal for Soaring Wings Christian Home & Ranch! We had already passed our goals for St. Jude and Arkansas Children's Hospital, but were struggling to achieve the $1000 goal we'd set for Soaring Wings.

With two weeks until the Marine Corps Marathon, you put us over the top! We can't thank you enough!

If you've read our mission statement, you already know that raising money for children's charities is a major part of our overall goal. We started with a goal of $1000 each for St. Jude, Arkansas Children's Hospital, and Soaring Wings. We topped our goal for St. Jude early, with months to go before our biggest race of the year. Not long ago we wondered if we'd even make the goal for ACH, but went over about two weeks ago. Soaring Wings was the last one we needed to fill, and it didn't look likely just a little while back.

But today it's more than likely, it's done! We couldn't have done it without you. Whether you gave large or little, big or little, or if you did no more than help us spread the word, we're grateful!

We couldn't have done this without all our great supporters. You have helped us to honor Amanda and I know she's sitting in Heaven beaming right now with the biggest smile. :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Almost there!

And you can help put us over the top!

Less than 3 weeks until the Marine Corps Marathon, our deadline to meet our fundraising goals for the charities we support: St. Jude, Arkansas Children's Hospital (ACH), and Soaring Wings Christian Home & Ranch. We're almost there!

We started with a goal to raise $1000 for each of the three charities and we've already surpassed that goal for St. Jude and ACH. But we're still short for Soaring Wings, about $420 short. Doable in 18 days, but it's going to take a concerted effort!

CLICK HERE TO GIVE KIDS A CHANCE!


We can do this! We'll reach that goal if only 21 people donate $20 each, or if 42 people give $10 each. Even if 85 people give $5 each, we'll have reached our fundraising goals. All of them!

If you can be one of the 21 who donate $20, or the 42 giving $10, or even one of the 85 who can part with $5, you'll be giving kids a chance who would otherwise have none. SWR takes abused and neglected kids and offers them a chance to grow in a loving, Christian home.

Won't you be one of the 21, the 42, or even the 85 who help us reach our goal of $1000 for Soaring Wings?

CLICK HERE TO GIVE TO SWR NOW!




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, October 9, 2011

Training for MCM: 3 Weeks to Go!


Unbelievable! Only 3 weeks to go! I still remember when my friend Jesse challenged me to run this. It was the week after Amanda was killed, in January. It's been almost nine months since she was killed and about eight months since I decided to register for my first full marathon.

"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

If it had not been for Jesse's challenge all those months ago, the idea to run MCM would never have crossed my mind. But I am so grateful now to have this opportunity. I'm running this race for all the reasons listed in our mission statement, but preparing for it has done more for me than I ever could have imagined.

Training to run this marathon, something I swore I'd never do after my first half-marathon, has allowed me to turn all of my energy into something productive after the death of my daughter. I have to say, in the days following her murder, there were no positive thoughts, no productive thoughts. I was wandering around in some sort of trance, filled with ideas of vengeance, despair, rage, and every other emotion usually leading to devastation and destruction.

"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

Nothing could convince me that Amanda's death was a good thing, nor that it was God's plan for her to be gunned down, but this is how He has made good things come from our terrible tragedy. Through our running, our website, and our outreach, God has used us to help others and that has helped us keep going as we navigate the dark paths that one must follow after the loss of a child.

I completed 45 miles this week, but a 15-miler on Saturday was my longest. I'm finished with the longer distances now until race day. Finishing two 20 mile runs in the past month convinced me I can go the distance. Next weekend my long will be ten miles, then the following week I'll cut back to six on Saturday.

This week's training log:

Training Week: Oct 3 - Oct 9

Monday6 miles
Tuesday6 miles
Wednesday6 miles
Thursday6 miles
Friday6 miles
Saturday15 miles
SundayRest
Total45 miles

It's funny how just a few short weeks ago, even 15 miles seemed to nearly kill me. But Saturday, afterwards, I felt fine. Even after the two 20-milers I felt fine. I'm ready for 30 October.

God has truly blessed me. By giving me this vision along with the patience, the endurance, and the strength to push through the months of training, He gave me what I needed to keep going when all I wanted to do was quit.

I'm not over Amanda's death, and never will be. I have no doubt her murder will haunt me the rest of my life. But He has given me the will and the way to keep living in spite of such a devastating blow. For as long as I remain here on this Earth, as long as I am physically able, I'll keep running this race He has set before me.

"1 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, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. " -- Hebrews 12:1-3



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, October 5, 2011

You're Still with Me

I sat down and wrote this tonight. Missing Amanda so very much.

You’re with me every day.
All I have to do is…close my eyes and pray.
And you’re there, you’re there…
I can see you plain as day.

I can see the little girl you were,
All those years ago…
When you first came to live with us.
The little girl who crawled up in my lap,
The little girl crawling in our bed each night,
The little girl who made me laugh,
Who made me cry, who made me smile…
I can see the little girl you were,
The little girl who brightened up my life.

Though you no longer walk this Earth,

You’re still with me every day.
All I have to do is…close my eyes and pray.
And you’re here, you’re here with me.
I still see you plain as day.

That girl entering her teens,
You’re the one that I still see,
Struggling to find yourself and who you were.
Moving through each teenage phase,
Searching for your unique way.
Sometimes you thought I didn’t understand,
Other times you thought I did not know,
But all the things you were going through
Were things I’d seen and things I knew.

Though I could not protect you…

You’re here with me every day.
All I have to do is…close my eyes and pray.
That’s when you’re here, when you’re here with me,
When I see you plain as day.

The young woman you’d become,
Who you were in your last days.
The one who’d made me so very proud
Of the beautiful lady that you were.
Strong and stubborn, that was you…
So much like me, so much like me.
I hope you know how much I loved you,
How proud you made your Mom and Dad.
I wish I’d told you much more often,
I certainly would have if I’d known.

Now I can no longer hold or touch you…

But you’re still with me every day.
All I have to do is…close my eyes and pray.
That’s when you’re here with me, here with me,
And I still see you plain as day, plain as day...

You’ll always be here with me every day…



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, October 4, 2011

Only one more fundraising hurdle to clear!


Yesterday, with less than four weeks to go before I run the Marine Corps Marathon, our charity fundraising efforts reached a major milestone! Thanks to our generous donors, we exceeded our $1000 goal for Arkansas Children's Hospital!

Raising money for charity--for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Arkansas Children's Hospital, and Soaring Wings Christian Home & Ranch--is a primary component of our mission here at Running with Amanda. We focus on raising money for these particular charities for several reasons.

The first is to save children's lives. Amanda was murdered, gunned down in the prime of her life. It is extremely important to us to prevent as many child deaths as we possibly can to honor her memory, and to prevent other families from suffering the pain and heartache we endure even now. The two hospitals we support focus on physically saving children's lives, while Soaring Wings is more focused on spiritually saving their lives.

The second reason we chose these three charities has to do with geography. We wanted a ministry with a broad reach, a reach beyond our town or even our state. St. Jude is recognized nationally for its devotion to fighting childhood cancer and other diseases. In Arkansas, no other hospital can match the reputation of ACH for its quality of care for children in the state, regardless of their families' ability to pay. Finally, Soaring Wings is a local home for troubled youth that provides a stable, loving, Christian home to children whose lives lacked any of these qualities before. We believe our support for these particular charities provides appeal to all who find our web sites, read our articles, or meet us at a race, without regard to their location on a map.

We began this ministry a couple of months after Amanda was killed with a goal to raise $1000 for each of the three charities we support. Earlier this year, we blew through that goal for St. Jude. To date, we've raised almost $2500 for that great institution. Yesterday we crossed the $1000 goal for ACH, so now we're left with one more hurdle to clear--$1000 for Soaring Wings.

We've got a great start, more than $400 raised so far. All we need is a little less than $600 to meet our final fundraising objective for this season! Please help us get there before 30 October, the day we run the Marine Corps Marathon.

Your help with this part of our mission gives us a huge boost with the other three parts too! The more money we raise, the more attention we'll get, the more people will listen to what we have to say about the dangers of teen substance abuse. The more people who are drawn to our pages because we raise substantial sums for these charities, the more who will hear our message of hope and endurance through the greatest of trials here on earth. And finally, the more attention we get by raising money, the more people will hear of Amanda and see the great things that are happening as a result of her life and death.

So please help with whatever gift you can, large or small. Any gift of $5, $10, $20, $50, or $100 will carry us closer to reaching our goal and help us accomplish our mission.

And remember! We don't get one penny of your money! Firstgiving.org takes their small processing fee and the rest goes directly to Soaring Wings! You can feel great knowing more of your donation goes to the charity you're supporting than it does almost anywhere else you choose to give.

Thank you so much to all who have given and helped us get this far! And thank you to all who will give in the coming weeks to help carry us across the finish line!



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, October 2, 2011

Training for MCM: 4 Weeks to Go!


Time is passing rapidly now, the weeks are disappearing like smoke in the wind. Only 28 days, 4 weeks, before I run my first full marathon! The Marine Corps Marathon, in Washington, DC no less!

It's absolutely amazing what God can do in our lives, what He will do in our lives, if we only turn to Him and give Him the opportunity. A little more than eight months ago, I was a total wreck. My daughter had just been murdered and I was wandering around in a daze. I didn't know what to do, didn't really care what had to be done, and made it through each day wondering, "How are we going to get through this?"

"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

Friends and family came to spend time with us the week after we lost Amanda, looking to help any way they could. They brought food, cleaned up, helped us make arrangements, and just spent time with us as we struggled to come to terms with our new world. Two of those friends, Jesse and Pat, traveled across the country to be there. One drove from North Carolina, the other flew in from Utah. I had seen neither of these since 1995, almost sixteen years earlier.

They were friends from my days in the Marine Corps and that's where this journey, this journey to the MCM, started. The three of us were part of a platoon that deployed to the Mediterranean in 1992. Jesse and I had both been running before Amanda's death, and he suggested a reunion of our old platoon to coincide with the marathon in DC.

So here I am, only four weeks away.

This week was a pretty easy one as far as training goes. I've been averaging 40 miles a week and only made 33 this week. I have 40 a week planned for each of the next three weeks, then a really easy week for the seven days prior to MCM. Last Saturday I finished my second 20-mile training run, and I now feel I'm trained and ready. For the next four weeks, I just want to maintain what I've built without injuring myself.

This week I ran six miles a day during the week, then ran a 5K with Janice on Saturday. The race was on a fast course, and I completed it in my best time since I started running again a couple of years ago. Official results aren't yet posted, but they called out 26:28 as I crossed the finish line. The best part...I felt really good at the end of the race, as if I hadn't strained at all.

Here is this week's training log:

Training Week: Sept 26 - Oct 2

Monday6 miles
Tuesday6 miles
Wednesday6 miles
Thursday6 miles
Friday6 miles
Saturday3.1 miles
SundayRest
Total33.1 miles

"but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." -- Isaiah 40:31

While I'm looking forward to running the MCM, this challenge has grown into much more, that will last much longer than this single race. Our mission to Reveal the dangers of teen substance abuse, Reach people for Jesus, Raise money for charity, and Remember Amanda will continue beyond 30 October. Afterward, my goal is to run at least two marathons each year and a shorter race in each of the intervening months to pursue that mission.

"Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification." -- Romans 14:19

Since Amanda's death, I've been asked to speak at a couple of churches and at our school's baccalaureate. I hope to continue to expand the audience who hears me explain how Amanda would likely be alive today if her killer had stayed sober that night, or if she had chosen to leave because alcohol and marijuana were present at the party. Even if a minor believes he or she can handle alcohol or drugs, they never know if the people they're with can. Teen substance abuse kills, and I want to tell that to everyone I can!

" 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." -- Colossians 4:3-6

Though I now feel prepared for the MCM, I know all too well I could never have reached this point without Jesus! Knowing that He has my beautiful daughter in a safer, better place is the only thing thing that motivated me to channel my energy into something productive instead of destructive after her death. I don't know how anyone can make it through such a terrible tragedy without the peace that comes from knowing the love of Jesus. That's why part of my mission is to spread that Good News through this ministry. I hope and pray that He is glorified in everything we do.

" 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?" -- James 2:15-16

When we achieve our fundraising goals for St. Jude, Arkansas Children's Hospital, and Soaring Wings Christian Home & Ranch, we will raise the bar for next year. I hope we can continue to raise more and more money for these wonderful organizations every year from now on. Each of these organizations is dedicated to saving lives, physically, spiritually, or both. These are the primary goals of our organization as well. Raising money for these great causes will save children's lives, and that's what we're all about.

"Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy." -- John 16:20

Finally, we will continue to run long after the MCM because it will help keep Amanda's memory alive. I never want her forgotten, never. Every day and every night I think about her, how beautiful she was, how wonderful she was, and how much potential she had. Now that she's gone, I want to do all I can to keep her memory with us, serving God and helping children.

" 1 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, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." -- Hebrews 12:1-3

One day, I will be reunited with Amanda, and my grief will be turned to joy. Until then, I'll keep running.



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.