my shoes, a compass pointing towards heaven

Heading over the St. John's Bridge at sunrise on race day.

Heading over the St. John’s Bridge at sunrise on race day. My favorite bridge.

I laid under the comforter, submerged between the

shore and waves of sleep.

When my eyes opened and I peeled back my

coverings, I only remembered one sentence:

Heaven will be full of strangers.

How odd, I thought and unsure of what it could mean.

I brushed the thought aside.

I don’t think of heaven nearly enough, I suppose.

Sometimes I find my casual sentiments are akin with

Audio Adrenaline’s song Big House.

Not familiar with the song go here.

The chorus says in regards to heaven:

***

It’s a big big house
with lots and lots a room
A big big table
with lots and lots of food
A big big yard
where we can play football
A big big house
Its my Fathers house

***

But I do know that we will go from

strength to strength until we see His face.

I left my dream sentence regarding strangers

behind and laced up my shoes on the 4th for

the half marathon with my friend Cynthia.

A collection of runners and walkers all with

the shared aim of finishing.

Yes, some wanted to achieve a certain time and

some were trying to qualify for Boston.

The majority knew they wouldn’t break the tape first,

finishing was the goal.

The first miles feel easy and light.

Your muscles begin to warm up and the chatter is free-flowing.

About every mile there are volunteers with water, electrolyte

drinks and energy bars and smiles and cheers of encouragement.

People on bikes would ride past us and inquire if

we were doing alright and sometimes ring cowbells.

Very fitting as we passed quite a few grazing cows along the route.

Everyone’s walk or jog is different.

Some people glide along the pavement like gazelles.

Some grunt and groan.

Some run with a limp.

Others I wanted to pull to the side so I could massage their shoulders,

so tense.

The breaths of others reached my ears long before our shoulders passed

one another.

Some are focused on the road ahead and we were invisible.

Many exchanged  “good job” and “keep it up”  with us.

There are no Jews or Gentiles, no slave or free, no walker or runner,

there are only fellow travelers on the path with a common destination.

A mile is a mile is a mile regardless of who you are.

At mile 10, the remaining steps are fewer but the end seems out of reach.

This is when you must remember your training.

Trust the training.

Trust the Trainer.

I noticed a walker ahead of us.

She had stopped to stretch and I could tell when she started to walk again,

she was slowing down.

Once Cynthia and I reached her, I asked her how she was doing.

She said she had a bad cold.

Cynthia and I both moaned our displeasure with summer colds and told her how

amazed we were that she came out to walk.

She said she was just about ready to stop and give up.

We told her not to give up.

We only had a few miles left.

We proclaimed that she could do it.

We reached the next pit stop for replenishment and

Cynthia excused herself.

I encouraged Mary to drink the electrolyte drink even though

it tasted less than stellar.

It would help, I fibbed declared.

As we were reaching to grab our cups of refreshment from two volunteers,

the younger of the two said,

“Oh Mary and Helen. ( our names were on our race bibs)

“We are Mary and Helen too.”

We laughed at how wild that was.

Cynthia rejoined us and I raided the energy bar table.

As we three were leaving I heard Helen say,

“So how do you know Helen?”

Volunteer Mary answered,

“Oh no, we just met here on the course.”

We walked for a few more minutes and Mary saw a van of her

friends coming to bring her some Robitussin so we parted ways but

not before we told her she could do it and we hoped to see her at the end.

At mile 12, we came upon a mother and daughter duo.

The mother asked us,

“So, what is your next marathon?”

We laughed because we had talked about this all during mile 11.

Life is made up of sprints, 5K’s, 10K’s, half marathons, marathons and even 

ultramarathons.

All of these varied distances with their own terrains will funnel into our glorious life marathon

with the most sought after finish line of them all.

Keep going.

You can do it.

Mile 12 just like mile 25 in a marathon, it is the longest mile.

It is more mental than physical I believe.

The mind leads and the body follows.

Once you let the thought creep into your head that it is impossible to take another

step, your toes start to listen and then your feet  entertain the notion and then those aching thighs

begin to chant “no more”.

Finally, I see the mile marker showing my favorite number 13,

I stop and take a picture.

People are lining the shoulders of the road.

We start to smile.

We hear clapping and cheering, our assembled witnesses.

We hear more cowbells.

We see the finish.

We step over the line.

We each hear our names.

We knew we might hear them but when we do,

we don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

We do a little of both.

He knows your name.

He has seen every step you have walked, run, crawled or prayed over.

He has inhabited every footfall with His abiding presence.

He calls you His own.

We keep walking and then medals are tossed like lassoes over our necks

and people look us in the eyes and say they are proud of us and

confirm we most definitely did it.

We look in the distance and there are still people clapping and cheering and

there are more people finishing.

Just like us.

We hug each other in amazement of an idea birthed only 42 days before.

We bypass the hot dogs and head for the strawberry shortcake.

These victors were spoiled.

We laugh as people lounge in kiddie pools of water and ice.

We take pictures of happy finishers and we have ours taken as well.

We head to a barn wall and stretch our weary legs enough so that we

can even consider sitting down in a car to drive home.

As we are pressing our hands against the barn we hear a voice.

It’s Mary holding two strawberry shortcakes.

(How did she get two?)

Patience Helen,

A big big table with lots and lots of food.

We lay our eyes upon her and raise our arms towards the blue sky

and shout,

“You finished!”

She tells us how glad she is to see us.

She wanted to thank us for helping her finish.

She knows she would have quit if we hadn’t encouraged her to keep going.

Heaven will be full of strangers.

Some we may meet along the course of life.

Hopefully we will greet them and not pretend they are invisible.

Others we won’t see until we stand shoulder to shoulder with them in eternity.

Our length of days will be enough.

Our times won’t matter.

We all bear the  same credentials upon our bodies and souls.

Finisher.

I hope to see Mary there too.

In the meanwhile, I will keep using my shoes as my

compass directing me towards heaven.

I hope to wear out many pairs but never tire of

encouraging weary travelers.

Especially if they are a stranger.

Actually, they are my neighbor.

One day, we might live in that

big big house together.

These shoes. Simply love them. The end.

These shoes. Simply love them. The end.

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10 thoughts on “my shoes, a compass pointing towards heaven

  1. Barb says:

    Helen, I love the way you pull so many spiritual lessons from everyday life…though for most of us a half-marathon is not really “everyday” stuff…but this is so encouraging. Thought of Hebrews 12:1,2 as I was reading. 🙂

    Like

  2. kim zywicki says:

    Helen, sure make me cry on a sunny day!! I feel like I am running several half marathons at the same time. Your word today encouraged at least one weary walker. I am so proud of you!
    kimz

    Like

  3. kim zywicki says:

    oops forgot to say, big house is what I think heaven will be like too! always loved that song.
    kimz

    Like

  4. ci says:

    I love love love this! Beautifully discerned and written! Congrats on finishing and finishing so well by bringing others along with you. Love you!

    Like

  5. Oh Kim,
    Praying for you as you continue to walk the long miles of
    your marathons.
    Keep going.
    You can do it.
    I am with you.
    Thanks so much Kim.

    Like

  6. Cynthia says:

    Beautiful my friend. You would have held her hand and walked side by side if needed to ensure her finishing . It was one of those moments, one observing and receiving will never forget. God bless you my Sister.

    Like

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