Sunday, February 27, 2011

Small Beginnings

For several years now, every time I've heard about the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk to benefit breast cancer research, I've thought, "I really want to do that someday." But this year is different. Now I know Laura, a beautiful, brave young mother who's battling breast cancer. (I hope to share more of her story with you soon.)
Laura and Her 4-Year-Old Son, Allyson's Friend Samuel
For weeks, the commercials for the November event have been tugging hard at my heart. But all of the obstacles have been tugging just as hard in the opposite direction--like the 60 miles, and raising $2300 for the event, and walking for hours each week to prepare myself physically.

Back in January, my friend Gentle sent me a message inviting me to join her 3-Day team, the Tutu Warriors. She wants to do it for the same reason I do; she's been so inspired by Laura, and she wants to do something to honor her. Oh, I was tempted to join Gentle's team just like that. "I'll pray about it," I said. And I did. But I just didn't hear anything one way or the other.

A few weeks back, I had lunch with Laura, and she poured out her heart to me. After I talked with her and prayed with her, I phoned Gentle in tears. We talked about Gentle's plans for the 3-Day Walk, how it's such as small thing to do compared to what our friend is going through, yet how it feels good to do something to honor her--and maybe something that will help other women avoid the suffering she's endured.

While I was talking on the phone in the Walmart line--rude, I know!--I had an epiphany. "I know a way that this walk can really benefit her," I said. "Gentle! What if every time we train, every time we walk, we pray for Laura? We can pray alone and pray together. All of those hours of prayer--surely they will make a difference."

A tear slid down my cheek as I laid out my produce on the counter. "Gotta go," I said. "It's time to pay."

Can you guess what happened next? Do you know me that well? Yes, of course you do. After that talk with Gentle, I thought and thought and thought some more. And I still felt like I just couldn't commit to all that training time. I felt overwhelmed and ill equipped and rickety. And so disappointed in myself. "God, do you want me to do this?" I asked. "I'd really like to do this. But I need you to direct me. I need to know it's your will for me to take on one more commitment."

I heard nothing. 

Gentle's Sign
Around the middle of February, Gentle's household went through a string of illnesses that knocked her flat. She began to wonder whether she'd be able to stay well long enough to complete her training and do the walk. She almost decided to withdraw from the event, but then she asked God to give her a sign if she should continue. I believe it was that same day that she heard a friend of ours on the radio, sharing part of her testimony on her birthday. Gentle logged on to Caroline's blog to leave her a comment. Guess what the word verification was?

Yep, "comen." Not quite Komen, but close enough. Gentle was in! She snapped a picture with her phone and emailed it to me. Here was my response:

Wow! I've asked God to give me a sign about the walk, one way or the other. There is a huge part of me that wants to do it so much, but there is another part of me that feels stressed whenever I think about all that training, about adding MORE stuff to my already overloaded schedule. I told God tonight after I talked to you that I am not making a move until I feel a positive confirmation from him that it's what he wants me to do, and if it's not that he would give me a sign about that. Pray for me!

My Sign -- A Smile!
For the next couple of weeks, I just let it go. I was disappointed, but I figured maybe this wasn't the year for me. And then my sign came this morning, when I wasn't even watching for it. Laura came and sat next to me in church, and my heart leapt because I hadn't seen her since that lunch weeks ago. We sat around talking for a few minutes after church, and then she walked out to the parking lot with me and my family. She was having a rough morning, but I saw her face light up just one time: when she told me she heard from Gentle this morning. "Gentle's doing the 3-Day Walk!" she said. "I'm so excited. I told her I'd help her in any way I can."

"I've been teetering on the brink," I admitted. "I want to do the walk with Gentle, but I don't know how I can fit in all that training. I've wanted to do this for years."

"Oh, me too!" she said. "But my doctor said I couldn't do all that walking."

As I hugged her goodbye, I fought to hold back my tears. She wants to do the walk, but she CAN'T. It's not that she can't find the time in her busy schedule, but that she physically can't. And here I was with an able body, hemming and hawing.

Back at home, I asked Bill if he would help me get some family walks in, and if he could support me in this effort. "I know you can do it," he said. I wanted to tell him all I was feeling after talking with Laura, but I couldn't speak. I just stood in the kitchen and melted into my husband, enjoying his strong arms. When Allyson tried to get between us, he pushed her away gently. "This is a Mama hug," he explained, squeezing me even tighter.

Getting Started
Once I finally made up my mind, I was so excited to get started. I signed up as part of Gentle's team, and I went on my first training walk--a 3-mile round trip to the grocery store. As he watched me load up a backpack with the grocery list, a lady bug cooler insert from Allyson's lunch box, some cloth grocery bags, Kleenexes, some cash, and a water bottle, Bill couldn't resist teasing me a little.

"It looks like you're setting off on a huge expedition," he said.

I laughed at myself right along with him. "I've got to have a place to put the groceries," I said.

My walk was mostly glorious, on this 80-degree (27 Celsius), breezy afternoon--except that the top of my left foot started hurting about halfway there. (I'll be needing new shoes, I think.) The hardest part wasn't the walking, but the praying. I realize this will be as much about spiritual training as physical training.

Once I figured out that I could turn most of my memory passages into prayers for Laura, it was fun. "Praise the Lord, O my soul," I said to the wind. "All my inmost being praise His holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits--who forgives all Laura's sins and heals all her diseases, who redeems her life from the pit and crowns her with love and compassion, who satisfies Laura's desires with good things, so that her youth is renewed like the eagle's." (From Psalm 103)

Before long I was downright rejoicing, and the throbbing in my left foot seemed to fade away.

I know it's just the first step in a big journey, but it feels momentous. It reminds me of a verse our pastor read this morning: "Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin." (Zechariah 4:10).

[Draws deep breath here...]

Would you consider partnering with me in this small beginning? You can visit my participant page HERE to make a donation or to join our team. I'd love to have company on my training walks, and another buddy to walk with our team when the big day arrives.

One more request: Could you please pray that God will help me reach my fundraising goals? And please pray for Laura and her family!


Mindy said...

What a wonderful thing you're doing Sarah! I just donated, it's not a lot but it's a start. Good luck on your training and the race!

Sarah said...

Mindy - Thank you so much! I can't tell you how much this means to me. You make me proud, niece!

k and c's mom said...

Yea, Sarah! I donated a little...but if we all give a little, it will add up to a lot! Update us on your progress.

Sarah said...

K and C's Mom - Thank you SO much! Yes, I am hoping for lots of little donations so many people can share in the blessing. I will definitely share my experiences on the blog.


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