13 People for 13 Miles

Running the Illinois Half last year with Running Buddy. (She was ready to hand off her gloves to our fans, while I was hamming it up for the camera. Oops).

One month from today, I will run the Illinois Half-Marathon in Champaign-Urbana, IL. No big deal, right? I ran the same race last year, I ran a marathon the year before that. I’ve run other halfs. No biggie.

On one hand, yes, no big deal.*

On the other hand… false.

This year, I’m running the race for Team Taller (pronounced “Thai-yair”, none of this Gringo “Tall-er” crap), the fundraising team of Taller de Jose, a social service agency in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago where the Running Buddy works. They do great work, connecting resources to people, and people to resources. So this Half is different than other Halfs (Halves? Does it plural in the same way when you’re referring to a type of race, not necessary a typical “half”??) because I’m running for the people whom Taller serves!

I’m actually hoping to run a marathon in the Fall (cross your fingers I get into the Chicago Marathon through the lottery), so this is actually the start of my friendraising and fundraising that will accompany my journey to Marathon v. 2.0. I like for my running to have purpose to it. If I’m going to run 26.2 miles, let alone the 600 miles of training that will lead up to those 26, I want to have a damn, err darn, good reason to run them, several damn darn good reasons in fact.

I’ve known of Taller de Jose for three years, ever since I did Amate House and Taller was Running Buddy’s service site for the year.  I’ve watched their running team for as long as that and have journeyed with them while Running Buddy was running for them these past two years. They do good work and they’re good people.

I will be sharing more about them and their work in the weeks and months to come, but today, I just want to share my goal for this Half:

13 People for 13 Miles.

Will you be one of the 13 people to donate?? One donation sought for each mile of the race!

The Team goal for the Half Marathon is $3000 and there are 11 runners, but just like in any team, sometimes the roles aren’t identical, so I wouldn’t mind raising more than my $272.72 share! So for the Half, I don’t have a monetary goal, just a people goal! 13 people for 13 miles.

I only have a month to find all 13 of you. Will you help me today??

Click here, to donate now! 

Thanks for considering, friends. More posts on both Taller de Jose and on my running journey in general await in the future! For now though, maybe just click on over to their site to learn more, or dive right in to donate?

Peace and gratitude,
Melissa

*Important point of clarification: Running a Half in general is definitely a big deal and so many people on Team Taller will be running their FIRST HALF MARATHONS. This is a very big deal in and of itself. I’m just trying to make the point that since I’ve run a few half marathons (slowly), the blog post announcement might seem unnecessary, that’s all! I am not trying to diminish it’s significance because running 13 miles should not be considered small potatoes, especially for all those who will be doing it for the first time on April 26th with us!!
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Another Medium

Melted Crayon Rainbow-JKCreate
This is a poem I wrote originally for my internship as a hospital chaplain in place of a “verbatim” with my supervisor last week. Two things to note before reading that will help the references in it make sense:
– I had a minor health scare recently that turned out to be anemia. Easily remedied! 
– I had another type of scare a few weeks ago in an incident with a patient on a behavioral floor where I was concerned for my safety and felt trapped in the room. Thankfully, nothing “actually happened.” 
 
Last thing to note, this is a poem in the “Spoken Word” genre I suppose, so maybe consider reading it aloud for its full effect?
 
 

Another Medium.

I got a B- in art in the 4th grade.
I didn’t get another B for 10 years
And I gave up any hope of being an artist for more years than that.
I had tried and been found wanting,
So I would leave the art to the artists
And I would stick with numbers and then eventually with words.
Words could be my medium.
They can be inserted passionately into space
And their absence can adopt as much meaning as their presence
They can speak life or indict injustice
They can explain, and qualify, and be understood.
Unlike my 4th grade art that couldn’t explain itself.
That couldn’t cry out in self defense–
I was trying.
Words. Words. Words could be my medium of choice
While I pondered the possibility of me
An artist.

An artist
I pondered another medium too.
Alongside my precious words, I found another art form that awakened my soul.
That worked with words but also with silence
And that used the 64 colors of the Crayola box
With the 65th color of the breaking of a heart
And the 66th color of the vulnerability of a hospital bed
I feel my words get jealous as I get acquainted with this new medium
But don’t you see, words?
I still love you.
I’m using you right now.
Together we’ll create our art, with this medium of words and silence
And color and breath and heartache and joy.
Our medium is life itself.

I tried out this medium recently.
Furtively, like an imposter, I painted and composed and mixed words.
I stood silently at hospital beds in utter confusion
And in awe of the vulnerability of our human condition
Masked more easily for some.
I entered into the pain of rejection with our sisters and brothers with mental illness.
I crossed myself with fellow Catholics
And waxed rather nonpoeticly when asked deep theological questions.
And I fumbled words of español and uttered honest prayers for our searching.
My heart swelled in the swirling of the graced mystery
I thrived on the poetry of it all.
Or so I thought.

Then I couldn’t leave the room
I felt trapped by his presence
And then trapped by my mistake.
And my iron ran low
And my frustration ran high
And suddenly, my new medium appeared as a fraud.
I was kidding myself.
There’s nothing poetic about ministry, about life.
He was tired of life
And I was just tired.
And my iron ran low
And my frustration ran high.
And my new medium appeared as a fraud.

I wasn’t an artist
And life wasn’t a poem.
I was bumbling and tired and life was a mess.
But outside my own willing
I’ve felt the beauty amidst the mess
The graced mystery swirls and I’m not strong enough to resist
Love has captured me.
So sooner rather than later
The romantic in me can’t deny the canvas being painted
And I want to be a brush.
Coaxed back to art with empathy and concern,
Iron and friends, the trust of my patients and the brushstroke of the Artist.

Maybe I am an artist after all.
In my art with a patient
I thank God aloud that God has created her in God’s image.
So she can consider her dignity and worth.
And since art is meant to stir in us
Is it lacking in humility to say
It stirs me to consider that I am created in the that image
Of our artist-God too?
I am a brush and a pencil, a painting and a poem.
Art and artist.
Words and image and life and pain and beauty.
Our medium is life.
Maybe I am an artist after all.

Transfiguration Moments

 
I was privileged to write a reflection for this Sunday’s readings for Charis ministries. I’m happy to share it here: 

This gospel passage about the Transfiguration has always seemed confusing to me, or maybe, just a bit out of place. It feels too removed from Jesus’ day-to-day life with his disciples. Right before this passage, we hear that Jesus will suffer greatly (Mt16:21) and that the conditions for discipleship are not easy. They require us to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses (Mt 16:24). Immediately after this passage, we hear of healings, more passion predictions, and questions about… taxes (Mt 17:14-27). These are all stories and challenges relating to the physical world. The Transfiguration, on the other hand, is a quintessential transcendent experience. Despite my initial feeling that this is otherworldly and thus unable to speak to our lives today, the Transfiguration nonetheless can be seen as a needed revealing of Jesus’ glorious nature, and a needed revealing of strength for our own lives.

Yes, our world is a mess and our lives are often burdensome. We may feel this especially in this Lenten season when we are trying to clean our own houses and become more free to love others. We feel burdened by recurring sin, chronic illness, or broken relationships. But the Transfiguration can show us the glory of God amidst the mess. The Transfiguration is a revealing of Jesus’ true nature, a sign that he came not only to be in the mess, but to redeem it. The significance of the moment is evident as the words of Jesus’ baptism are echoed: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 17:5b/Mt 3:17b).

If we pay attention, the glorious moments amidst the mess of our own lives can be a bit more evident. We might hear those same words echoed in our hearts and in the hearts of others. We are reminded in Whom we trust and of the beauty that is actually all around us. These are our Transfiguration moments.

When life seems too difficult, maybe our Transfiguration moments can be “the strength that comes from God” that we hear of in today’s 2nd reading (2Tim 1:8b). They are reminders to trust in God’s beloved Son and to remember how God is at work all around us, even when we cannot see it. These moments can be footholds to steady ourselves when it seems too hard to carry our crosses. They are the events, people, and ideas that let us choose hope one more time, that give us strength to see the this-worldly burdens and challenges through from the pain of Good Friday to the joy of Easter Sunday.