May 28, 2012

The Longest Day

I started this post about 8 hours ago.  I wrote about 500 words talking about how horrible my week was last week and how everything hit the fan on Thursday, which felt like the longest day ever.
I was almost finished with the post when I got distracted by fighting children and had to run upstairs for a few minutes.  When I came back down, Matt was on the computer and talking to his brother.
It is now 10pm and in the hours that I was away, it become abundantly clear to me that the things that seemed so stressful last week are a mere drop in the bucket compared to the trials that lay ahead for a soldier I just returned from visiting.
His name is Matthew and he survived an IED blast in Afghanistan a few days ago.  He lost his foot and sustained injuries to his other leg.  He was flown to Landstuhl for surgery and he will continue on to Texas tomorrow to begin his recovery process at a military hospital there.  He is a Wounded Warrior.  A hero.  A survivor.  And it was a complete honor to meet him today.
Matthew is a friend of Matt's brother, and when Gray heard he was going to be treated here in Germany he asked if we could visit him.  We were prepared for the worse and so relieved that Matthew is doing so well.  
Words cannot describe our time with Matthew.  It was humbling.  In the time we had with him he talked about staying in the Army, going back to Afghanistan, and he was worried about where his platoon was and how they were doing.  He was still a little bloody and dirty from the blast and he was already thinking about how to get back with his team.
Self-less service.  Duty.  Honor.  Sacrifice.
We had a chance to pray with him, for his recovery and thanking God for protecting him and we were so happy to learn that he is stationed in Fort Lewis.  After he finishes his recovery in Texas he will return to Fort Lewis for at least a short period of time.  He said he would come over for dinner.  I do hope to see him there in a few months.
Praying for his recovery, physically, emotionally, and mentally.

May 19, 2012

Farewell: Round 1

Boat Round
Tonight is the first of a few farewell events that Matt and I will be attending.  
The Battalion will be farewelling us tonight during a four hour boat trip along the Rhine.  I hate boat events.  Unless I am willing to go "man overboard" we are stuck on the boat for the duration of the event regardless of how things are going.  I really prefer organized events like this to be held on dry ground but nobody asked me.
This one won't be too personal, as it is a large organization that will be bidding us bon voyage, but it will be the last time that we see a lot of great people we have had the pleasure of knowing.  It is the first step of saying our goodbyes and no matter how fun the event is, saying goodbye is so hard.



May 13, 2012

Finished!

May 12th was the Mannheim Halb-Marathon.
A 6:30 PM start time sounded like a great idea when I first signed up.  However, when I woke up on Saturday and realized I had a full 10 hours to wait before the race started, I was wishing for a noon start!
It was a lazy morning for me, followed by a quick stop at a friend's baby shower and by 5pm we were on the train headed downtown for the race start.
I was in the company of some friends who had all run a half before, and a few of them ran the Mannheim half last year.  It was comforting to be with some race veterans. I made one last pit stop around 6pm and next thing I know we were pushing our way through the crowd to get to our starting block.
Just before the race started I realized my headphones were not working.  Well, maybe that was operator error not faulty headphones. They are Matt's fancy schmancy headphones and even though he gave me two tutorials on using them, as the countdown to start began I couldn't get them working.  I decided to give up the technical battle and tossed them to Matt as I passed him at the start.  I took one last deep breath and settled into the idea that I was running without music.
The race start was hectic.  There were so many people trying to funnel out of the to pick up the pace.  This was all new to me.  I have never participated in a race before, so this idea of jockeying for position and really just staking a claim to the asphalt your feet were running on was a challenge.  
My friend Allison and I run a similar pace so we aimed to stay together, unless one of us felt a burst of energy and wanted to haul.   Neither of us did!  I'm so glad we were able to stay together because in the moments of weakness, when I thought about slowing down, I knew I didn't want to lose her, and I kept going.
I got a cramp by the second kilometer and started to panic.  I just kept telling myself to keep going and it would eventually go away.  Thankfully, it did.  After the second water station I drank too much water and my stomach actually started to hurt from all the slish-sloshing going on in there.  At this point I actually asked God to help my body absorb that water so I didn't have to stop at a toi toi.  The things you pray for in a half....
Since I didn't have headphones or any music to occupy my thoughts I was left to watch and listen to my environment.  As I ran along in this crowd of thousands I was shocked by how quiet it was.  The quiet shuffling of feet was the only sound in some areas of the race.  When there was noise it was the joyous excitement of fans.  The fans were awesome.  As we ran through a small village it seemed as though the entire town was on the street.  Kids were lining the route with their hands out hoping to catch a high-five. Elderly people were sitting in chairs, families were hanging out their window, and there was a lot of cheering.  A very sweet blessing of my technical problem with my headphones was that I could hear all this cheering.  Our names were on our race bib and as I ran past crowds I heard people calling my name (which sounds much cooler when pronounced by Germans) and cheering me on.  "Laufen Laufen Laufen Clarissa".  The first time I heard my name, I got a little choked up.  It was so encouraging to hear people, even if they were strangers, cheering me on.
The last 4 kilometers were really tough.  I knew where the finish line was and it seemed so far away.  It was the hardest part of the race.  Out of the blue I heard some familiar voices to my left and there I saw Matt, the boys, Tom, Mika, and their kids.  They were yelling for me and I heard Tom say "you are almost done!"  The boys ran along side me for a few minutes and I felt my feet quicken beneath me.  Almost done!  The next kilometer felt so long but when I finally got a glimpse of the finish line, I sprinted to the end and celebrated a 2:18 time with Allison.  We did it.
Hebrews 12:1 states "Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us".  When things were tough, it was the cloud of witnesses, the fans, the cheering that helped push me on in my race.  When I took off my headphones, I heard my cloud of witnesses.  I realized that people were cheering for me!  I encourage you friends to listen to your cheering fans, and to be in a cloud of witnesses for those you love and for those you don't even know.  Cheer on each other to finish the race you are in.