Happy belated Thanksgiving! What a privilege we have in this country to take a day away from the normal routine of life to just be thankful - pure and simple. It is just a little small thing, only one day out of the year, but we are blessed to have it set apart. Ideally we would all approach each and every day with a heart overflowing with thanksgiving. But let's be honest, that isn't always the case. So, at least we have one day where we set aside our gripes, complaints and wish-lists to just focus on the things we do have: family, faith, and - oh yea - food.
This Thanksgiving was extra special. The day was bursting with people and blessings to praise God for. Not least of which was the long awaited addition of my brother from Virginia and his family. It has been over 6 years since they have been able to spend Thanksgiving with us. The house was full - just the way we like it! Andrew brought his wife and 2 kids and Danny, who lives right here in town, had his wife and 8 kids plus the oldest brought along his girlfriend. Add in my parents and Pippy and the kitchen was packed full with good food and good company. The celebration was perfect.
Before we all even made it to the table for our 3 PM dinner, the day had already hit extra-special status. That morning my Dad and I headed out bright and early for the annual Erie Turkey Trot. This was our first foray into the event and my first ever 5K.
A brief 6 weeks ago my Dad decided he wanted to run this race with me. He knew that was quite an undertaking for him personally. In the last 20 years he's packed on the pounds and he needed to drop some weight before he could tackle any kind of run without putting his body in danger. He made the commitment to change his eating habits and start a training program to prepare. Since that day he has lost over 20 pounds and is excited to continue with his program. He has set more goals for long distance bike rides and future 5K races. The Turkey Trot was a celebration of the life style change he decided to make and the progress he has made thus far. The journey is far from over but he is well on his way. What a wonderful reason to give thanks.
The Turkey Trot was also a celebration for me personally. Six months ago I became fed up with the limitations my health had on my life. I wasn't allowed to vacuum, lift anything whatsoever and certainly not run. I was confined and restrained from living life to the fullest. Finally I decided enough was enough. God did not create this body to be treated like a fragile porcelain doll. He created it for full health: vibrant, thrilling, exciting health.
I determined to break through the limitations that doctors, naturopaths and chiropractors had put on me for years. I determined to stop searching for "a cure" and start living life believing I was cured already. Since that day I haven't looked back.
Instead I started looked forward and running forward. The distances were brief at first. I hadn't run in years - I had been told I simply wasn't allowed to. Now I was disregarding and disobeying the advice of "experts" and listening to the true expert: God. In my heart of hearts I knew He was calling me to take a risk, take on a challenge and run.
It took months, but finally I reached my goal of running a 5K. The Turkey Trot, on Thanksgiving morning, was the perfect place to start my launch into road races. This first race was an act of praise to God for this journey and the strength He has restored to my physical body.
Running has broken all the rules for me. When you're under weight you're told not to do anything that burns too many calories and just sit down and eat, eat, eat. Running isn't part of the program. But when I listened to God I knew that He was empowering me to do big things with this little body and let Him do the work of restoring it to health. Every run has been a surrender of my right to myself and my self-reliance. Each and every run is a calling out to God, renewing my hope in His healing power and thanking Him for the work He is doing in me, both physically and spiritually.
From that day 6 months ago my weight has gone up. My muscle in my leg rarely flares and, amazingly enough, when it does get grumpy the best way to relieve its death grip is to go for a run. The rest of my body has been touched by the healing hand of God over the past 6 months, too. My body isn't cold like it used to be and my hands no longer crack and bleed when the temperature falls below 60 degrees. I have energy that I was desperately missing. And it is all thanks to God's power to heal.
As I ran through the finish line at yesterday's Turkey Trot I was overcome by the amazing work God has done in my life. The glory is His and His alone. When I crossed that finish line I didn't have any family there with signs or my own personal cheering section. There was no one running along beside me (Dad was further back in the crowd running at his own pace). But as I reached the end I realized that alone, without fanfare was the perfect way to celebrate the victory of completion.
Making it to the finish line wasn't about anyone else. It wasn't about getting applause or recognition. It was my own testimony to the power of Christ and His ability to restore. It was fitting that at the end, the line was crossed by myself, running with only my Savior.
Throughout the last 4 years I have been carried along, safe in the arms of Christ. Through the pain and suffering, joys and triumphs, God has been my faithful provider. This Thanksgiving I celebrated the love and sustaining power of my Savior. His love has never failed me. His hand has never left me. And yesterday it carried me over a finish line in celebration of the grace He has shed on my life.
Where will the run of life take me next? Only God knows. One thing is for sure, Christ will be with me through many more races, carrying me over many more finish lines. What a wonderful reason to celebrate Thanksgiving today, yesterday and every day of the year.