I threw my old long sleeve t-shirt on the ground next to some tree I hoped to remember later and ran towards the starting line.
My feet crossed the timing mat with about a minute to spare as I heard the announcer say, “It’s a beautiful day for the tenth anniversary of this race! We have over 5000 runners joining us this morning.”
I think about 4732 of those runners were in front of me.
Those who know me, know that I typically like to get to a race with plenty of time to spare. The same holds true for the airport, but that is a whole different post for another day.
I like to make sure I have plenty of time to park, stretch and use the Spot-a-Pot at least three times.
I also like to be closer to the front of the line in a race, even if it means “breaking the rules” and joining a pace group that is most likely a lot faster than me.
In short, I admit I am a little bit of a control freak in moments like this, but this race challenged all of that.
I am not even sure how the morning got away from me. I left my home a little later than planned, but for some reason, got stuck in major race traffic and it took me about 35 minutes to travel a half a mile.
When I finally parked in some random field nowhere close to the start, it was 7:27am.
The race started at 7:30am.
I managed to find a Spot-a-Pot because even when forced to give up my Type A behavior, I do have my limits.
I made it just in time as I ran to the starting line and actually ran better than I have in while and even enjoyed it, in spite of the hills.
As I ran, I thought about my middle daughter who had just spent ten days in Malawi. She had texted me that morning that her plane had landed in New York and would let me know when she was on the final leg of the flight.
My heart felt great joy knowing that she would be home safely and soon.
I thought about all of the questions I wanted to ask her about her trip, but I also thought about how this trip even happened. I still shake my head thinking about it.
Since my daughter was little, she has told me that she wanted to travel to Africa. I would always nod and say ok and listen to her talk about her dreams, but to be honest I think I thought all of this would happen later in her life. I didn’t discourage her, but probably didn’t fully encourage her either.
Our dear friend Cricket has traveled to Africa many times, so when my daughter was in middle school, she shared her dream with Cricket. She asked Cricket to take her to Africa some day and without hesitation, Cricket told her she would love that and encouraged Hannah to pray and to dream.
Fast forward four years later. I was meeting Cricket for dinner and as I left, Hannah called from her room, “Will you ask Cricket if I can go to Africa for my senior project?”
I chuckled a bit and called back as if in response to a joke, “Oh sure!”
Half way through dinner, I laughed and said, “Oh! Hannah wanted me to ask you if she could go to Africa for her senior project.”
Cricket said, “Why not? And why are you laughing?”
Cricket gave me a list of some things she wanted Hannah to do and suggested that three of us meet for lunch soon.
A couple of weeks later, she looked at Hannah and said, “Hannah, I know how much you want to go on this trip. I want to go too, but remember this. I want you to be as open to God’s no as you would be to His yes.”
Hannah nodded as I sat in the wisdom of that advice.
Hannah did worry at times that the trip might not happen, but trusted more that it might. She took each step necessary to prepare for the trip. She raised support, read books, did research, bought things from her packing list and never lost the excitement that her dream might actually happen. The day before she was supposed to leave, the flight was cancelled. Hannah looked at me and said, “I can’t believe after all of this, I might not get to go.” Even so, she still seemed settled…and hopeful.
In spite of that last-minute obstacle, Hannah and Cricket traveled to Africa and had an incredible trip. As she sits across from me at the table as I write, I find myself shaking my head thinking, “That trip really happened! She went to Africa! Amazing!”
Sometimes I think we stop dreaming. Some of that is due to the busyness and pain of life and work and kids and circumstances beyond our control. But sometimes it is because we might be afraid that the dream is too big or too much work or too ridiculous to even consider. Sometimes I think we forget what we even wanted to dream about.
What have you always wanted to do, but have dismissed it so many times that it doesn’t even qualify as one of your dreams anymore?
Africa is a big dream, but I wonder if some of us, myself included, don’t even let ourselves have smaller dreams.
So often, life becomes about getting through the work day or making it to the weekend or scrambling to get dinner on the table and looking forward to vegging in front of Netflix more than anything else.
Fatigue, disappointment, life.
But what if dreaming isn’t just about planning the trip to Africa.
Could dreaming be connected to being awake and present wherever we find ourselves?
Which takes me back to the race I almost missed.
I had trained for that race for months and felt ready to run. I would have been sad if I had missed it.
As I crossed the first mile marker and realized that my time was what I had hoped, I heard a voice in my head that said, “It doesn’t matter that there was only a minute left before they closed the start. You still made it. You still joined the race.”
Let’s not miss the chance to run this race of life well. Even if you feel like it is too late for you to dream, it’s not.
And I am not just talking about the bigger dreams like traveling to Africa.
What about the little ones? Dreams and hopes come in every size. And sometimes they might just feel like nudges. That class you have always wanted to take, but just don’t think there is time.
The conversation you keep telling yourself you want to have with your child, but it feels awkward to start.
That friend you miss because of something that happened between you, but now it feels like too much time has passed.
The new neighbor that you wanted to meet, but there just wasn’t time to bake those cookies.
Start small if that is what it takes to help you start the race.
The starting line is still open.
**Thanks to Cricket Barrazotto for the beautiful photo.