Tag Archives: Charlotte

A Deacon’s First Sermon

On Saturday, I was ordained a deacon at the Church of The Good Shepherd in Raleigh.  It was good to be in my home diocese.  On Sunday, I “deaconed” and preached at Christ Church in Charlotte, with all the sweet smells, visions, faces, and sounds of my home parish.  While I had preached at Christ Church before, this was my first time preaching in “big church” with some extra pieces of clothing befitting a deacon.  So it was a touch foreign and abundantly homey at the same time.  I remain filled with gratitude.
Proper 7, Christ Episcopal Church, Charlotte, North Carolina
Genesis 21:8-21, Matthew 10:24-39

In the name of the One, Holy and Everliving God, Amen.

Even the hairs of your head are all counted…
I have not come to bring peace, but a sword…
You are of more value than many sparrows…
I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother…

Goodness, today’s Gospel message is full of paradox. One moment we are told how special and cared for we are. The next we are told of certain struggle and pain. Three times we are told not to fear, and then we are given some scary predictions of what to expect as followers of Jesus.

This is not an easy passage to preach.

And our first reading from Genesis isn’t any easier. Abraham sends his slave and mistress Hagar along with his firstborn Ishmael into the wilderness with nothing but some bread and water. And he does so with God’s blessing!

What are we to make of God’s word to us today? What is the good news?

I have a friend. He could be your friend too. He’s a member of this parish and he’s a doctor and most of his patients happen to be children. This friend often has to give children shots. And when he does, parents will attempt to prepare a child saying, “Now don’t worry honey—this isn’t going to hurt.” At which point my friend must turn to the child and say, “Actually, this is going to hurt. But only for a moment. And you are going to be OK.”

Now which of these statements is most likely to engender trust in the child?

Truth can be hard to hear sometimes, but truth doesn’t let us down. Truth grounds us. Truth gives us the sure foundation we need so that we can weather whatever lies ahead.

This Gospel passage is a shorter snippet of a longer conversation Jesus is having with his disciples about what to expect as followers. Some scholars call it the “missionary discourse” because Jesus is preparing his friends for a mission. He has summoned the twelve apostles, he has commissioned them to go out into the world preaching and healing, and he has warned them of persecution. Then comes this bit of comfort… and of swords. And then Jesus finishes the conversation by telling them that those who welcome the disciples–these missionaries–welcomes Jesus himself and the God and Father of all.

Are you a follower of Jesus? Then you, too, are a missionary. Listen to these hopeful and hard truths—they are yours.

“It is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher.” In other words, remember Jesus? Always stirring up trouble with statements like, “love your enemy” and “it is better to give than to receive?”[1] The Jesus who came to “proclaim good news to the poor” and “freedom for the prisoners?”[2] Well, Jesus followers, if the disciple is like the teacher, we ought to expect more than a few raised eyebrows about our lives and actions.

And listen when Jesus says, “What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.” As Jesus followers, we’re not just called to know that God is Love and rest in that truth. We have to be and do that truth. We can’t just sing at Christmas “Go tell it on the mountain,” rather we must live lives and make decisions that truly tell-it-on-the-mountain every day.

Think back to the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus tells us, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Do you recall the very next sentence? “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”[3]

When peace is not the way of this world, peacemaking is not peaceful work.

And so Jesus, like the doctor about to give a child a shot, tells it to us straight: “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

Again and again in the Gospels we see Jesus portrayed as one who contradicts the social norms and introduces chaos. Indeed, Jesus can be divisive. So the life of a disciple, a Jesus follower, a missionary–of you and me–could and perhaps should demonstrate the same. When the Gospel proclaims a counter cultural message, and we are the voices that proclaim it, we are going to come up against traditional power structures and even against one another. We see evidence of this division in our homes and in our churches as we all seek truth and then live out the difficulties of the truth we seek.

And as a result of being truth seekers, truth proclaimers and truth doers, we may feel deserted. Like Hagar and Ishmael, we can count on wilderness moments of thirst for living water and hunger for the bread of life. And like Hagar and Ishmael we can count on God showing up, hearing our cries, staying with us—even in the wilderness.

Today’s Bible passages tell it like it is. They tell us, “This is going to hurt, and you are going to be OK.” Truth like this may be hard to swallow, but it’ll stick to your ribs.

It’ll stick to your ribs when you take a big risk to make what could be just a small change in a broken world. And you’ll remember: do not fear…even the hairs of your head are all counted.

It’ll stick to your ribs when you speak up for a cause or a person who has been beat down. And you’ll remember: have no fear…nothing is secret that will not become known.

It’ll stick to your ribs when you keep quiet at a time you’d really like to speak up – so that someone else can be heard. And you’ll remember: do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

The truths that give us comfort and hope mean what they do and ground our faith because we’ve heard the hard truths too. Jesus’ statement, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword,” is uncomfortable to hear. It makes us squirm a little. We might want to gloss over these words to focus instead on words like, “I have come that they would have life and have it to the fullest.”[4] But Jesus’ promise of the Kingdom of God and life eternal and “life to the fullest” are promises we believe because Jesus tells the truth about all things—persecution and peace, division and reconciliation, oppression and salvation.

Jesus tells the disciples, “do not be afraid,” because Jesus knows how scary proclaiming the Gospel can be. Jesus anticipates us making unpopular decisions and speaking uncomfortable truths. AND Jesus tells the disciples, “do not be afraid,” because Jesus knows that God will show up and stay with us and sustain us until the fullness of the kingdom is known and the peace of God reigns supreme.

And so I’ll end with a prayer by William Sloan Coffin, taught to me by my dear mentor John Porter-Acee:

May God give you grace never to sell yourself short,
Grace to risk something big for something good,
Grace to remember that the world is too dangerous for anything but truth
And too small for anything but love.



[1] Matthew 5:44 and Acts 20:35

[2] Luke 4:18

[3] Matthew 5:9-10

[4] John 10:10

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Marathon Run-down (and up and down and up)

If you want to skip the full race recap, here’s the story: we finished the race (I say “we” because I had a lot of help) in 3:51:50 after raising $6,207 to fight colon cancer in Aimee’s honor.  In other words–WE WON!

And now, for the longer version…

I flew down to Charlotte Thursday night so that I could have Friday to rest up, carb up, and visit friends.  I was especially excited to be staying with my friends Sloan and Jamie and their baby girl Ruthie.  Babies change so fast!  So I spent a lot of time just watching Ruthie play, sleep, eat, and grow.

One day Ruthie will use this picture to argue her way into blue hair, I'm sure.

One day Ruthie will use this picture to argue her way into blue hair.

Friday morning Sloan and I were out the door at 9am, but the expo didn’t open until 10am, so we decided to drive the last 18 miles of the marathon course.  The first thing we noticed was a sign near mile 8 for some girl named “Lauren” to “kick butt.”  I decided to pretend it was for me–even if it wasn’t.

Driving the second half of the course was good because I was only familiar with the first half (which I ran in 2010), but it was a little overwhelming too.  Are we there yet?

Finally, at the expo, we picked up our gear.  Sloan stood in line for the half, I stood in line for the full.  My first full.  Sloan is the girl who got me to sign up for my first 10k after I insisted I could never run 6+ miles, so this was a bit of a role reversal.  I can tell you that Sloan will be running her own full marathon one day, and I hope to be there with her.

It’s no secret that the Thunder Road expo has been going down hill in a town where every race ends up hill.  What used to take up the whole of the convention center now takes up a conference room at a hotel.  It’s sad.  Charlotte has a great running community and beautiful streets to run on, but not much corporate backing or city support.  I bought a shirt that said “flat is for sissies” and we moved on… only to be charged $5 for parking as we left.  Seems the Queen City needs to work on her charm!

I hit up the weekly runners’ lunch at Burger Co. next.  Like I said, Charlotte has a great running community.  And the fact that I can show up at noon on any given Friday and find a table full of runners chowing down is proof of that.  It was good to catch up with some old faces and meet some new ones.

Next I dropped off “Team LAUREN & Aimee” t-shirts with Aimee’s husband John and daughter Katie.  John and Katie flew up to NYC two weeks ago for the marathon-that-wasn’t.  They caught 4 shows in 3 days, so it was a successful weekend despite the lack of marathoning.  It was a special treat to see them twice in 2 weeks.  Back in the day I would see Aimee every day at work, John every week at church, and the girls 1-2 times a week between church and weekly coffee dates.  You could say I miss them a lot.

Back at Sloan’s I finished off a muffin and took a little nap.  We played with Ruthie until it was time for her dinner, followed by bath time–babies love bath time!  Jay called while Ruth was bathing to see if I had eaten properly and to check on how I was feeling.  He said he was meeting up with a teammate at 6:15 the next morning to get his run in before the race start so he could track me online.  We were both pretty upset he couldn’t follow me in person.  Stupid work.

Once Ruthie was down, it was time to feast on fresh spinach pasta from my favorite local pasta spot.  I ate two servings.  Sloan and I decided we’d be safe drinking one glass of red wine.  I’m glad we did because it cut through the nerves and sent me straight to sleep.

I woke up 10 minutes before my 5:45am alarm went off.  I walked downstairs to see Sloan was already making coffee.  We ate some breakfast, took turns going to the bathroom “one more time,” put on our race duds, and hit the road.  Jay called, but was hurried on the phone, “Got to go run!  I’ll be back before you start!”  I turned to Sloan and said, “This is so hard on him.”

Sloan parked 1/2 mile from the start and we jogged over.  We spotted the Westin on the way and decided it would be much warmer to wait in there (not to mention real bathrooms!) until bag check.  Yes–NYRR–even our little marathon down in Charlotte has a bag check.

Then we huddled at the start and I kept seeing people I knew, hugging them, clapping, bouncing, checking to see if my garmin was ready, praying, thinking of Jay, talking to Sloan, finally: BANG.  Or maybe it was a BEEP.  I don’t remember, but we were off.  Sloan had said she wanted to run 9 minute pace, but I thought she could run faster.  I didn’t say so because I didn’t want to pressure her.  I was aiming for 8:47 pace to hit a 3:50 finish.  We knew the first mile was downhill.  We knew we needed to reign it in.  We felt like we were reigning it in.  We ran the first mile in 8:03.  Oops!  The next few miles were also fast: 8:29, 8:20, 8:24–Sloan stayed with me the whole time.  We saw Lori and Ashley at mile 2.  Miss Anne at 3.25, followed by Liza and her family.  At mile 3.5 we turned left onto Providence Road, right in front of Christ Church.  There we saw a crowd of people cheering, some holding posters that my kids at St. Matthew & St. Timothy had made.  I saw John and Katie, waved and “YAYed” at everyone, felt the love, and kept moving.  I heard John yell after me, “Kick butt Lauren!”  I gave a thumbs up.

Feeling pretty chipper at mile 2 with Sloanie!

Feeling pretty chipper at mile 2 with Sloanie!

Climbing the long gradual hill up Providence, we slowed to 8:52.  We saw Paul, Lisa, Emily and Sophie at the top before hanging a right.  We winded through Foxcroft, running 8:35, 8:49, 8:48.  During that stretch we saw Tom  and Anne Carol cheering and we crossed the 10k mat together.  Every time I saw a familiar face or heard my name being yelled out, I would turn, smile and wave.  Unbeknownst to Jay, I had sent out a plea to all our friends in Charlotte to send pictures, videos, and updates to Jay.  I wanted him to be inundated with images and words so that he would feel like he was right there.  When I crossed the 10k mat, I thought of Jay at home, looking at his computer, seeing that first split pop up.  I thought, ‘He’s either going to think I’m going too fast, or he’s going to hope I went out with the 3:45 pace group.’

As we exited Foxcroft, Sloan said she was going to hang back, and for me to go on.  She’d run over half her race under her pace, and I was pretty confident she’d finish faster than she thought–but I gave her a challenging nudge to make sure she didn’t lose steam.  She yelled out after me, “Special treat at mile 18!!”  I figured she was talking about the extra Gu’s she’d have to hand me at that point.  I also knew our friend Emily was going to hop in to keep me company at mile 18.  Next 10 miles were just me.

Or so I thought.  At mile 9 (8:31) I saw Jamie and Ruthie, taking pictures, cheering, eager to see their wife/mom Sloan.  I said, “She’s right behind me, she’s running great!” Next I saw Dexter, Eden, Carolyn, I can’t remember everyone.  Love all those friendly Charlotte faces.  Heading down Queens Road to mile 10 (8:38) I was taking in how beautiful the trees are on that familiar stretch… when I noticed a familiar figure wearing familiar orange shorts and a familiar orange hat, sporting a “Team Lauren & Aimee” shirt.  Jay.  All at once I thought, ‘What the HECK??’ and, ‘Well, of course he’s here.’  The crowds were going wild (at least it sounded that way to me) as Jay jumped into the race with me, matching my strides with a huge grin on his face.  Our friends Farrell, Lori, Ashley, Liza, Skye and others were all jumping up and down. The pictures are priceless (thanks to Lori).

Surprise!  Jay jumps in at mile 10.

Surprise! Jay jumps in at mile 10.

Jay said, “How are you doing?”

“Okay, a little ahead of pace.  How did you get here?”

“Tara is covering.”

And then Jay told me the whole story of how he and Tara were chatting Friday night while he was working.  She essentially said it’s ridiculous that he couldn’t be in Charlotte to cheer me on (Tara is a marathoner as well) and offered to take his Saturday shift.  So at 7pm Friday night, Jay booked a plane ticket for 6:15 the next morning.  It was a welcome surprise to us both–and most of Charlotte, for that matter, as people who had intended to snag pictures to send to Jay were instead yelling out, “Hey Jay!  You made it!!”  When it comes to the running community in Charlotte, I sometimes feel like I married a local celebrity.

My next few miles with Jay slowed to 8:39, 853, 8:53, 8:40.  At the time I figured I gave myself some slack for the climb up Morehead.  But I think I was also pulling back, worried that I would speed up with Jay (as I often do) and regret it later.  Just before the half-marathon mat, the 3:45 pace group came up from behind us.

Jay said, “You’re in front of the 3:45 pace group!”

“I know.”

“Listen–I want you to run with them Lauren.  If you feel like you can, I want you to match their pace…” and then he started listing off familiar names of people in the group.

“I’m going to stick to my own pace, Jay.  If it were mile 18, maybe.  But 13 is too early for me to chase after them and find I’ve got no gas in the tank later.”

“Ok.  That’s totally fine.”

At this point the group was surrounding us and Jay was chatting it up with everyone.  I hung back, which I think slowed my pace a bit that mile too–my deliberateness.  We saw my dad and Annabelle, waved and smiled, and then Jay dropped out at mile 14 so he could watch some friends finish and make it to various points on the course.

Miles 14-18 were on my own.  They were marked by several things.  First, the half-marthoners were no longer running with us, so the crowd thinned out considerably.  Second, I was actually relieved to have some time to myself since I had barely had two moments to think about what we were actually doing–running a race to honor Aimee’s memory and to fight the disease that killed her.  Third, it started getting really windy.  Like blow-you-over-sideways windy.  I thought, oh, this will pass.  But it didn’t.  The wind kept on coming and coming and coming.  At one point, my Get Your Rear In Gear hat blew off.  I turned to grab it, but it blew further away.  I kept on running.  Seconds later a teenage boy ran up beside me, “Is this your hat?”  I was glad to have it back.  I saw Jay with Tyler and Denise at mile 15 (8:36), Lori and Ashley at mile 16 (8:57), met another New York runner at mile 17 (8:43), and was met with loud cheers at mile 18 (8:48) where Sloan, Jamie, Ruthie, Jocelyn, Liza, and I don’t even know who else were cheering.  Sloan gave me the extra Gu’s I needed to finish the course.  This was apparently where she thought Jay would surprise me (hence her clue that I’d be getting a special treat at mile 18), but he had jumped the gun on that!

My friend Emily jumped in with me at this point, and I would have been lost without her.  Emily and I used to run together every Tuesday.  We have shared joys, sorrows, drama and life lessons over the years.  And I don’t mean that in a “she’s one of my closest friends” kind of way.  Emily and I don’t call each other up and share this stuff.  We only share it when running.  Emily is a running buddy–a special class of friends that all runners have.  Running buddies are people you probably wouldn’t know if you didn’t run together.  They are not just a matter of convenience, things are shared on runs that aren’t shared in other spaces.  There’s something to it, and it’s special.  But the low-maintenance nature of a running buddy relationship lends itself to picking up where you left off, even if you left off 3 months ago.  Emily is dating a really special guy now, one who has been in the picture for a while, so I was eager to hear all her updates while barely having the breath to respond as we fought the headwind on the back course.  We clicked off a 9:03, 8:53, but it was at mile 21 when we clicked a 9:24 that I knew I would not break 3:50.  And I was totally ok with it.  I turned to Em and said, “I feel like we’re running 8:30’s, but we’re at almost 9:30!”  She said, “I know.  You’ve got this.”  And I knew I would finish, even though I didn’t feel like I would finish, in part because Emily said so.

And this is where the marathon is a mental exercise.  This is where you have to be tough.  Because you’re not sure how you’re going to make it to the finish, but you know that you must.  I had some “do it for Aimee” moments in my head, but I otherwise found it hard to think about anything other than putting one foot in front of the other.  I handed off my arm warmers to Liza at mile 22 (9:15), Jay joined us on a bike at mile 23 (9:04).  I said, “Monkey, I’m not going to break 3:50.”  “It’s ok, you’re doing great.”  We ran up Hawthorn hill at mile 24 (9:17), which isn’t as bad as it looks.  At this point I was sick of Gu’s and was craving Gatorade instead–something I never drink on long runs.  We saw Lori and Ashley at mile 25 (9:16), “You’re there!  You did it!  You ran a marathon!”  (They were closer to mile 26 than I’m letting on, and they had also seen me at my worst around mile 22).  I smiled, but didn’t have the energy to wave or cheer, despite what we were about to accomplish.

Emily ducked out at mile 26 (8:13… I always speed up at the end) “It’s all you now.”  And I ran uphill to the finish, since every race in Charlotte must end on an incline, hearing my name, hearing so many voices I couldn’t pick them out… I did see Larry and even managed to give Kathy a weak “high five” as I passed.  But all I remember in those last few steps was watching the yellow leaves pass beneath my feet, thinking I just wanted to get to the finish as fast as I could, realizing why Jay never sees me cheering for him near the end of a marathon (total tunnel vision sets in), and at the last second remembering to throw my hands up as I crossed the mat.

TR finish

Finished! 3:51:50 chip time.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to do or how I was going to feel after I finished, but I didn’t even have time to give it a thought.  As soon as I crossed my friend Caitlin was right beside me, “I just walked in through the barricade!  I just let myself in!  You can’t do that in New York!!” I leaned on her whether I needed to or not.  I just leaned, grateful she was right there in my moment of “what now?”

And then we all got together.  Jay, my dad and Annabelle, Sloan, Jamie and Ruthie, Caitlin and Garrett, and countless Charlotte Runners that have made the Queen City our home.  Jay put my pants on my legs the way I do when he finishes a marathon–the tables had turned.  We walked back toward the car half a mile away.  I called my mom as I walked.  Jay and Sloan kept looking back at my slow-going-wobble and laughed.

I have to say, as grand as finishing my first marathon was, I wasn’t overcome with emotion as I thought I would be.  I had visions of collapsing on the ground in tears.  Maybe that would have happened someplace else, but it was impossible in Charlotte.  I had people like Lori, who was always two weeks ahead of me in training for her first marathon, blazing the way, and then right there on the course (all over the course!) on my race day.  People like Farrell, who picked Jay up from the airport at the last moment, and then ran with her two little kids across the street to cheer me on in the last mile (thank goodness a cop was there stopping traffic!)  People of Christ Church, especially John and Katie, who will always have an Aimee-shaped void in their hearts, even as she continues to live through each of us.  People like Sloan, who are the personification of the ever-cheesy Bette Midler song “Wind Beneath My Wings” because she is always there without making any show of it.  And it wasn’t until I was soaking in Epsom salt after the race, a quiet moment to myself, that this wave of gratitude–for our friends in New York and our friends in Charlotte, my family and my coaches, my husband especially, the cloud of witnesses that brought me across the finish–finally washed over me.

We did it.

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Come Hell or High Water

What a week this has been.  This time last week, the winds of Sandy were just starting to really pick up, causing a branch the size of a tree to fall right next to the chapel.  I was lamenting the fact that I had missed my pre-marathon massage–something that had been on my training plan for months.  I had no idea how trivial and selfish my lament would seem just a few hours later, as I watched the Hudson River creep up past the West Side Highway, past 11th and 10th Avenues, nearing the gates of the seminary.  Oh.  Right.  This is big.  The lights went out in Chelsea (and all of Lower Manhattan) around 9pm.  They didn’t come back on for 4 days.  Some are still waiting in the dark.

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Meanwhile, Jay was working “wall-to-wall” as they say in the newsroom.  Because his work needed him to be accessible at all times, they reserved a block of rooms at a hotel across the street from the station.  We never knew what to expect from one day to the next, but I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude again and again for a warm bed, a hot shower, a charged phone, a meal shared with a friend, and an occasional siting of my sweet husband.  Not to mention our community back at the seminary caring for our dog–she is a warm snuggler when you’re living without heat!

Tuesday afternoon, we were waiting for a decision about the NYC Marathon.  Being all too aware of the devastation around us, Jay didn’t see how it could go on–but he seemed to think it would anyway.  Sure enough, the mayor announced that the marathon was a GO.  Alrighty then.  We’ll stick to the plan.

As days went on, it became abundantly clear that the marathon was pissing a good deal of people off.  I was unhealthily glued to facebook, taking every negative comment to heart.  I knew we were doing something good–heck, we raised over $6,000 to fight colon cancer!  But how was I supposed to feel good about starting a race with my back to the war zone of Staten Island?  And why were people taking out their anger on the runners?  Why weren’t they upset with the mayor for making a bad call?  People who think this sport is a narcissistic one should come to one of my speed workouts.  If anything, my experience of training for this marathon (and shorter races before it) has been a) humbling, and b) camaraderie building.  Narcissism is judging others for doing something you know nothing about.

Friday morning, John and Katie (the husband and youngest daughter of my friend Aimee who died of colon cancer in March) arrived to their hotel–ready to catch some shows and cheer me on.  Friday afternoon, my mom arrived with encouraging words, knowing I’d had nightmares about people protesting the race.  Friday night, NYRR announced the marathon was cancelled.  As much as I have have looked forward to running the legendary NYC Marathon, I breathed a sigh of relief when I received Jay’s text saying, “it’s cancelled.”  He knew I was on my way to church and would not be watching the announcement on TV.  He was steps away from Mary Wittenburg as she told the world that this race was meant to bring people together, not to divide them–and given the divisive nature of the controversy the marathon posed, it could not go on.

While I was in church with my mom for an All Saints service, remembering departed saints in our own lives as well as all who had lost their lives in Sandy’s wreckage, my husband and friends were already thinking of ways to support me, coming up with Plan B.  Jay emailed his contact at the Philly Marathon to see if he could switch his elite entry over to me–he was told no.  Our friends Tanya and Josh (the same two who ran in men’s underwear with me back in June to raise awareness for colon cancer) had found a marathon in PA set to take place on Nov. 4–same day NYC had been scheduled.  Jay immediately registered me for the race, worried it would fill up before I got out of church (it did).  He, Josh and Tanya were ready to drive me to PA and take turns running with me through the whole race.  I was touched when I met Jay for dinner and he told me the news.  But my heart had already decided on another race: Charlotte’s Thunder Road.

I’ve got to say, I never would have thought to sign up for Thunder Road as my “one” marathon to run.  (It’s looking less and less likely that I’ll only run one).  I’ve run the TR half-marathon, and loved it!  And I love Charlotte!  But I only started this journey after getting into NYC via the lottery.  Pure chance.  It’s like the decision wasn’t even mine.  Once it was made, I was stoked because of the cause that fueled me and the opportunity to run in the world’s largest (?) marathon.  2 million spectators are no small potatoes!  But now that my registration for TR is in the mail, and my plane ticket to CLT is purchased, I can honestly say I am as excited if not MORE excited to be running in Charlotte Nov. 17.

Our goal going into this race was to finish, have fun, and honor Aimee.  My training has been such that I’m a little faster than we anticipated, and it was fun to go into the NYC Marathon with a possibility of running 3:50 or faster.  My teammates thought I should be shooting for 3:45 or 3:40.  And maybe if everything on race day had been picture-perfect, I could have.  It won’t be the case in Charlotte.  I’m ready for the hills (thank God for all those Harlem hill workouts!!) but tapering, picking up my mileage, and then tapering again just isn’t ideal.  Jay’s concerned I’ll be more prone to injury.  So running TR brings my original goals back into focus–finish, have fun, honor Aimee.  We toasted Aimee Friday night after making the decision, shedding a few tears.

And that’s it!  I can’t imagine a more perfect place to finish this race than in Aimee’s town, surrounded by people who miss her as much as I do.  To run on the very streets she and I used to drive together–it was Aimee who first drove me around Charlotte, picking me up from the hotel when I interviewed at Christ Church.

There is a good chance Jay won’t be there since he is scheduled to work that weekend (and every weekend).  But Jay’s closest friends will be there, and I know I’ll feel him with me every step of the way.  Julie, Brian and Mom won’t be there, but their presence this weekend cheered Jay and I up (Pepper too) after a long and difficult week.

And as for NYC (and many other areas hit so hard), send us your prayers and your donations.  It’s a long road to recovery.  If Sunday is any indication, the running community will be a significant presence in restoration.  Thousands of runners went to Staten Island, Breezy Point, Rockaway, and Lower Manhattan to lend a hand.  Thousands of runners met in Central Park to donate goods and “Run Anyway” for the various causes they’d been supporting all along.  And thousands of non-running New Yorkers also met in Central Park to support those running–cheering for people, handing out water and Gatorade.

Despite the marathon being cancelled, or because of the marathon being cancelled, or because it just needed to happen, people are coming together.  “I sing a song of the saints of God… God help me to be one too.”

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learning endurance

I’ve had some interesting runs of late–none of them alike.  I keep meaning to blog about the highs and lows of my training, but I only ever write things in my head.  So–a brief recap of some notable runs:

Sunday Aug 19: I was pumped about running 16 miles at McAlpine with two Charlotte ladies.  One of the women coaches novice runners like myself, the other was a regular running mate from my CLT days. Running flat/wide trails for my longest distance yet was also appealing.  But Sunday morning came, and with it rain, thunder, lightening… both ladies had to bail.  Having never run McAlpine before, I bailed too.  No use in getting lost while running 16 solo.  The rest of the day was beautiful!  And every time I saw a runner, I felt a tinge of failure.  Jay reminded me I was on vacation and could run Monday instead.

Monday, Aug 20: Redemption day!  Met up with my friend Shenna at 5:30am for a 6 mile loop, did that same loop back on my own, and finished up the last 4 miles with my friend Sloan.  It was perfect because a) Shenna gave me the best excuse to get up early, b) it rained so I didn’t feel like a wuss for not running in the rain the day before, c) the in-between miles alone were especially inspiring as I considered the meaning of running along the same roads/sidewalks I used to share with my dear friend Aimee (in whose memory I am training for), d) Sloan helped me with a strong finish–the same girl that convince me to run my first 10k a few years back.

Thursday, Aug 23: Glad to be back at UA for a workout in Central Park.  We were slated for a 4.3 mile tempo, with splits given every 1387.5 meters.  My splits were 6:20, 6:25, 6:15 and 6:22.  This means my pace was pretty consistent… my last split was supposed to be the fastest, but I was trucking it up Cat Hill as fast as I could go.  The odd thing is that the per-mile pace for the workout was 7:20.  Wah?  I’ve never run 7:20’s in a 4-miler or even a 5k.  What the heck.  Part of me was like, wahoo!  Improvement!  But the other part of me was like, uh-oh… I pushed to hard.  Needless to say I was pretty sore the next couple of days.

Sunday, Aug 26: I was hugely relieved that UA scheduled a supported long-run the day I had to do 18.  Runners were supposed to run at “marathon pace” as opposed to “training pace.”  When I explained to Jerry (team coach) that my marathon pace was my training pace, he said, “That’s ok for today, but we need to change it.  The marathon is a race.”  “Not for me, it’s not!” I responded, “My goal is to have fun and finish comfortably.”  “Ok then,” he said hesitatingly.  One of the benefits to my husband coaching me through this race is that we’re on the same page.  Jerry is an awesome coach–he’s perfect for competitive runners like my husband… but not me, not this race!  I went out with the 9-min pace group, and we kept it just under 9’s.  My legs were still a little tired from Thursday’s tempo, but I was feeling good.  We split at mile 16 so everyone could finish their own mileage (16-20) at their own pace.  I knew my last miles were supposed to be the fastest, so I pushed through mile 17, feeling good, and then BAM.  Pain.  My left ankle hurt so badly, I thought maybe I had broken it.  But I was 90% sure it was muscular, so I ran through to 18.5.  The pain never stopped that last 1.5 miles.  Oh no.  Crap.  What’s going on.

Long story short–I rolled my ankle slightly at mile 5, and the gradual swelling from that combined with swelling from a unfortunately placed mosquito bite (smack dab on my tendon) resulted in substantial pain.  I limped through half of Monday until the bite subsided–and all was well!  I was relieved and embarrassed.  Stupid mosquito.

And that brings me up today.  I my legs are aching.  I know I did 18 on Sunday and a tough workout on Tuesday, but I did nothing but ice, rest, compress, soak and elevate on Monday!  And I ran easy on Wednesday and Thursday!  And I’m taking today off!  Most of my friends are suffering from soreness or sudden cramps/strains/pulls… I guess maybe we’re to the point in our training where the idea of “endurance” really comes to life.  It’s not just getting through the long runs, it’s getting through the days, weeks, months of training.  It’s getting through every-day tasks when you’re sore from last night’s workout.  Getting through the mental games you play with yourself over every hint of pain.  Getting through the weeks you feel awesome, and the weeks you feel like a hot mess.  It’s being surprised to find a spring in your step despite your aching muscles.  It’s new territory for me.

Tonight Jay and I will be carb-loading and going to bed early to gear up for an early half-marathon at Rockaway Beach.  Earlier in my training, we had this down as a race.  But with my hamstring injury last month, all my long runs got pushed back a week, making this a recovery week rather than a race week.  It’s still a race, and my goal is to PR.  But Jay reminds me that this is just a step toward the real goal, and not to go all-out.  The same goes for my hubby–tomorrow will be only the 2nd time he’s run 13 miles since April.  It’s a small field, and I know he’ll be tempted to push it.  But the goal is to recover from 4 months of injury, and this is just a step along the way for him.

So much learning, so much to endure, and one heck of a good reason to run through it all.

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this is my solemn vow

well, we did it.  we got married.  though i did get a call from the register of deeds saying they are missing a witness signature on our marriage license, so i guess we’re not legit yet? but our hands have been joined and our vows have been exchanged, and two have become one.

every time i talk to one of my parents or to my friends, everyone says (even if they’ve said it before) that our wedding was perfect.  and it really was.  it’s amazing it went as smoothly as it did, given i moved up to NYC the week before for orientation… and truly thought about wedding stuff very little.  no time to!  let me tell you why the wedding was perfect.

a LOT of friends and family made it so.

sloan and jamie let me (and pepper!) stay with them the month leading up to the wedding.  sloan helped me put together programs.  lois ann carted me all around town to pick up stuff for hospitality bags (when i had no car) and then helped me put them together, and then dropped them off, and then hosted my pakifam.  boriana made our slideshow.  jenny and michael set up the projector for our slide show.  alice helped us figure out our wine and beer list.  molly gave us a 20% coupon to use on our mac’s bbq catering bill.  aaron picked up the kegs and paid off our wine vender.  eric managed the kitchen and bussed the tables during the reception while his daughter washed dishes.  nikki ran the whole reception and sweat buckets putting up and breaking down tables.  lilian helped me wash all the pint glasses we gave as favors.  john tended our bar.  anne and stark helped out with flowers.  lori lent me her veil and earrings.  colleen lent me her fastenator (flowers for my hair).  chris worked his magic on the organ, allie and katie sang beautifully, and aaron’s rendition of “shenandoah” on the mandolin was awesome.  my dad and wade totally transformed the blue room into a true reception hall. donna and greg threw an awesome rehearsal dinner.  my mom bought me the most beautiful wedding gown.  my aunts threw me a lovely bride’s lunch, complete with vases and tea cups they flew up from TX that belonged to my great grandmother.  farhan did a wonderful job reading, as if he were speaking directly to us.  verdery and john celebrated a beautiful marriage blessing and eucharist.  chip blessed us and the reception.  jamie brought pepper to us before the wedding so we could take pictures with her.  meggan and channing and my brothers picked up my dress.  mary brooks made took care of anna and baby stella.  john acolyted.  eden made yummy desserts.  aaron, dick, nate, jesse, pete, paul, stephen and pierce all stood by jay and kept him sane and made us feel SO special for being there–no matter the distance.  sloan, caitlin, erin and julie kept me sane as well as entertained, making sure i ate and drank, and just made me feel so loved.  steve and farrell let us crash their cabin for our 2-day minimoon.  and that doesn’t even include the people we paid to do stuff (our wonderful photographers, etc)…. are you getting the drift?  our wedding was perfect because we had A LOT of HELP!!!!  and from FRIENDS, all of them!

things that i thought were perfect:

jay’s grandpa’s blessing at the rehearsal dinner.  the toasts (and roasts).  the girls’ dresses/flowers/necklaces–they just looked perfect!  they boys’ suits/ties/pocket squares–it all looked so sharp!  my dress–it really was stunning, and i felt like the most beautiful girl i’ve ever been.  our moms–they were so beautiful, and we love them.  our dads–they both kept their cool and kept us cool too.  our granddads–how blessed are we that we each had a grandparent come all the way to charlotte.  the order of service–every hymn, reading and prayer was handpicked especially for us.  our food–who doesn’t love bbg?  our friends–they would have partied all night long if they could have.  even things that didn’t seem perfect at first were perfect after all–like our first dance that we thought went too long, but enjoyed it anyway because we realized it was probably the only time we’d get to talk until the reception was over.  and when it was over, we came back to the hotel and sat on the bed, still in our wedding clothes, going through the amazing photo-guestbook our guests help put together, reading cards to each other from friends and family, and laughing at the sheer beauty and blessedness of the day and our memory of it.

not to mention jay–the perfect partner for life for me–who loves so sacrificially and supports me so fully. 

i titled this blog “this is my solemn vow” because i said those words with so much intention and deliberateness at our wedding–every phrase of our vows i said as emphatically as i possibly could to jay, because i know how blessed i am to be bound to him.  like, ‘hey, monkey, i REALLY mean EVERY word of this!  i want you to know i mean this as much as i can possibly mean anything ever.’  i (like every bride, i would hope) am completely convinced i am the luckiest girl in the world for marrying jay.

so anyway, that’s a very long description of a very special day, made perfect by the people we love!  and while it may not be the most interesting blog post ever, i just can’t say thank you enough.  thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone that made our day perfect.  we will carry the memory of that day and your role in it with us forever.  thank you.

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you should start a blog!

the past 2 days, while saying goodbye to the charm city and preparing for life in the big apple, several people have told me i should start a blog. little did they know…

it’s true that “lauren laughs” was a great way to let everyone what was up back in africa… and it’s true that manhattan is like a foreign country… so here we are. day one. blogging in nyc.

sloanie dropped me off at the airport this morning. we both fought back tears. “this is no big deal! i’ll see you next week!!” and i will see her and a host of friends next week at jay’s and my wedding (holy moses), but i still shed a few tears waiting at security, and again as my plane descended to jfk. oh, the life changes! so many.

made it to my apartment. my first thought was, ‘wow. this is even smaller than i expected.’ my second thought was, ‘aww, jay bought me roses!’ and the rest of the day has been filled with similar paradoxical statements.

‘ugh, i’m back in a dorm!!!’

‘wow, everyone is so super friendly.’

‘there’s no way i’ll be able to study in our apartment.’

‘ooh, i like the library.’

‘i’m not cut out for this much cement.’

‘i love the super green campus!’

‘this is home.’

‘i miss home!’

i’m sure the tug-of-war will continue for a while.

in the mean time, hurricane irene is making her way to nyc. mandatory evacuations have begun, but i’m sitting pretty in chelsea. the campus is raised and cloistered, so we’re not too worried. jay has been at work since 6am, and he doesn’t yet know when he’ll get to come home. he knows he’ll be spending the night at the station tomorrow night. needless to say i haven’t done any nesting yet, as i imagine there will be plenty of time for that in the next two days.

i’m kinda looking forward to it.

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13.1 thank you’s

a while back i got this wild idea to run a half marathon (i think it started on the cruise with my girlfriends this summer, when i read an article about endurance training, and thought, huh… i’ve been training for things all year… but endurance… that’s something new…) everyone kept telling me it’s a mental challenge as much as a physical one. my girlfriend jocelita said, “maybe just think of a different person at every mile…” so i filed that little nugget away.

a month before the race, i made a list. i was going to run 13.1 miles, so i chose 13 people that had made the biggest impact on my first year in town. here’s the run-down…

From 2009 Fall

mile 1: aimeesita. 7.48. this was my fastest mile (downhill and pumped up). aimeesita is so many things to me, but she is always my designated hug for the day. without her, i could go a whole week hugless!

mile 2: anniebananie. 8:47. anniebananie shares my office and therefore my craziness. she listens to me whether she wants to or not. sometimes she acts like my mom, but she never gets upset with me. love!

mile 3: chip dinero. 8:42. chip dinero is my mentor. he’s been there for lots of up’s and down’s this year. i look up to him muchisimo.

mile 4: danimal. 9:12 (pace is slowing… uphill). not only did danimal introduce me to sweet pepper bear, but he also taught me to rake leaves and he manages my fantasy football team… which is winning. most generous guy i know!

mile 5: farrellita. 8:40. farrellita intimidated me when i first met her because she is so cool. now she, her hubby and her baby are like family to me. her back porch (with a glass of wine in my hand) is probably my favorite place in town.

mile 6: hi-mey. 9:24. i met hi-mey up at farrellita’s cabin last spring. we hit it off immediately. i love him so much, i introduced him to the best girl i know. and he asked her to marry him. she said yes. and there was much rejoicing.

mile 7: jocelita. 9:13. jocelita is one of the biggest cheer leaders i know. she was biking all over the course on her stylin’ yellow wheels, cheering peeps on left and right. she inspires me!

mile 8: juan. 9:12. juan is my boss. i often say i want to be like all the priests i work for when i grow up, but i especially want to be like juan. he’s got more wisdom and insight than peeps twice his age. and he’s a tree hugger.

mile 9: julia. 9:37. julia was one of my first real girlfriends here. she taught me to ride with clipless pedals, and was there for my first fall. she later told me she was hoping to be the mile that includes the toughest hill on the course, and she was… well… half way…

mile 10: latissimus. 9:55. my slowest mile on the course. in part because it included the other half of the toughest hill, but also because i had to stop and hug hi-mey and wave to anniebananie, who were waiting on the course, cheering for me. YES! latissimus introduced me to 1/3 of the peeps i know here, drove me around the first 3 car-less months i lived here, and then taught me to drive stick when i finally did buy a car. other than dating, he’s pretty much awesome

mile 11: lindensita. 9:37. lindensita’s stretch of the race was actually perfect, as it’s the same stretch we “speed walked” the day i told her i wanted to be a priest. she was the first friend i told… the guinea pig. and she didn’t freak out! linden gets the mountain girl in me.

mile 12: maria carolina. 9:52. mi amor, mc! this chica started the monday night girls’ group that has become my sacred space each week. we have some crazy similarities, meaning she makes me feel understood in a way few people can.

mile 13: sloandawg. i don’t know that i actually stopped my watch when i crossed the finish. sloandawg, i think, has put up with my very worst, and she’s been there for some of my best moments too. she ran my first 10k and my first triathlon with me. she lets me repeat stories over and over, and she put up with the bulk of my culture shock when i moved here. i love her. she’s also engaged to hi-mey.

From 2009 Fall

in the end, i finished the race in 2:00:11. my goal was to get as close to 2 hours as possible, so 11 seconds over is pretty stinkin’ close! i was very pleased. and dad was standing at the finish line waiting for me with a great big hug. as were jocelita and jota.

jota is someone else i need to thank. he has made running fun, as has the whole running club.

sarita also gets a shout-out for biking all over the course to cheer me (and others) on!

lorita too, who could not be there, as she was cheering on her hubby in his first ironman race, but who coached me through every one of my long runs leading up to the race… she’s one of my new favorite people. and her watch, which usually beeps at us when we run uphills, was beeping in my head, reminding me to slow up a little on those uphill stretches.

all in all, it was an epic day, i finally earned a real medal (YAY!!!), and we closed out the festivities with a dinner party for the 13 and their dates. thanks to chef dad.

thank you, thank you, thank you for all who encouraged me along the way, and especially for all who have made this town HOME to me.

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zip-code aristocrazy

i went shopping monday (something i loathe, but it’s a must 2 or 3 times a year). as i was checking out at one store the sales clerk asked for my zip-code. i was a little surprised at how sheepish i felt when responding “55522”… why?

it just so happens that i live in my fair city’s most “aristocratic” zip-code. in fact, one particular cotillion group will only let your kids attend if you live in my zip-code. ridiculous.

so when giving out my zip-code, it’s hard not to follow up with, “but i promise i’m not a snob… please don’t judge me!”

which is funny… because for some, to be in a homeowner in my zip is to have arrived.

and then some could care less, i suppose.

me, i get a little embarrassed. not embarrassed enough to move.


that settles it

in the past week, i have come to realize… i’ve settled. i’ve been here less than a year, but this is definitely my town, my house is definitely my home, and my friends are true friends… not just on loan.

i think hosting the 5th annual (1st one here) wine and cheese party last friday sealed the deal. i had to (finally) unpack the last few boxes that had been living in various corners for months. i (finally) took all the empty boxes lying around up to the attic. i finished hanging pictures, many from once familiar, now distant, sites in africa. i even hung up my “mali mud cloth” that i’d been waiting to collect from rhett in dc, but finally caved and asked him to send it to me. my house looks like a museum of artifacts from all over. add to that the very grown up grass rug, leather dining chairs and real (versus hand-me-down) sofa i just obtained (it’s my new form of investments… buy furniture i’ll keep forever while the stock market struggles). it’s all very adult and not temporary and slightly contrary to my nature.

and it’s becoming my town too. i know people everywhere… the movie theater, grocery store, waiters recognize me and say hello. it’s a little different from knowing all the bouncers and bar tenders in baltimore. 30 people were crammed in my kitchen friday night (the living and dining rooms were much less popular), and 30 more couldn’t make it (out of town for the long weekend). how did this happen? in 8 months? less than 4 seasons?

makes me look forward to what this next season, spring, will bring.

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i have moved to a city that knows NOTHING about snow.

they are paralyzed by it.

they get all up in a tizzy just THINKING about it!

i woke up this morning… didn’t even notice the snow outside my window. why? because there wasn’t much! when i finally did notice a dusting on the ground, i walked out to turn on my car and let the little bit of snow on the windshield melt off while i changed into my gym clothes.

i didn’t even have to get out the windshield scraper. i don’t even know where my handy scraper is… because it’s NOT NECESSARY here!

i drove to the gym, walked into spin class, and was immediately asked if i was teaching. apparently all instructors are told not to come in any day that the county schools close for snow. my face contorted in shock as i screamed, “they canceled school today?!?!?!” oh yes. they did.

so spin class was canceled.

lucky for me, i brought my trusty swimsuit along… so i hit the pool. 1000 yards into my swim, a life guard pelted me with a foam thingy in the head. “pool is closing. you have to leave.” what? seems the next lifeguard on duty couldn’t brave the 3 snowflakes in his driveway to come to work.

i went home. i fixed a protein shake. i got a call from my boss… the church had canceled all activities scheduled for wednesday, including youth group tonight. never mind that the sun is shining brightly, melting even imaginary snow away.

the up-side to all this is that i get a night off. i haven’t had a free night in… 3 weeks? and though i’m dogsitting, and won’t actually be staying in my home, i’m looking forward to a very chill night of addressing valentines, watching tv, and cuddling with spike and stella (the dogs).