It was the Friday before I was scheduled to run my 9th half marathon. The half marathon - that's my race. Never was I more aware of that than on November 12, 2016 when I ran my first full marathon. Immediately after crossing the finish line of that race I decided 26.2 miles was indeed NOT my race. Too far. Too much training involved. I decided then and there the marathon was the perfect race to do once, check it off and escape as fast as I could still run back to the starting line of the race I love.
The half marathon.
This 9th half marathon was going to be particularly meaningful. I'd partnered with St. Andrews Church in Pearland, Texas to run the race to raise money for their hurricane relief efforts. (Running My 9th Half Marathon - The Hokie Half for Texas). What God had put so strongly on my heart I was now prepared to fully pursue. Only, until this particular moment, I wasn't fully aware of what pursuing entailed.
The first connection I made at St. Andrews Church was Tom Lusk - a dear friend of a long time dear friend of mine. I'd already been considering how I would get the bib I would wear at the Hokie Half for Texas to St. Andrews church after I completed the race when Tom reached out to me with this message:
I listened to your podcast today. Great work! As the Minister of Fun of St. Andrews church, (which I find hilarious that you discovered that little tidbit of information) I wish you good luck in your upcoming half marathon. I will also throw out another idea I had, if you are so inspired. I would like to invite you and your family to come to Pearland to come and witness our outreach in action for yourself, perhaps even get a chance to participate , if you so desire. I would also invite your family to attend a service at our church and get the full experience. We honestly are a no frills church where the emphasis is put on the message "love everyone, perform service, and understand we are all people...in progress, and where a t-shirt, shorts and flip flops are part of the dress code for Sunday service. This would be an open invitation and no strings attached (unless you want to run a race down here) and absolutely no pressure. Father nor Debbie know I'm extended this invitation, but as my title suggests, wouldn't it be fun to put faces to names, be able to participate first hand and be my family's special guest at one of the church services.
You see what Tom put in parentheses don't you - (unless you want to run a race down here). So you know want the runner in me always looking for the next running challenged did - I went to the Houston area race calendar to check out available races in early 2018. The first one I came to was the Houston Marathon. But, as luck would have it, a no go. My race, the half marathon, was sold out.
I was not long finished with exploring that race and making the unfortunate sold out discovery when I got this message from my friend Robyn Larkin.
So as I finished listening to your podcast, I realized that running the Houston half in January would be a GREAT way for you to go there and meet people from St Andrew's in person...and to continue raising money for them...🤔
To which I responded:
Already checked, the Houston Half is sold out. I'm NOT running the marathon. But there are other halfs down there early next year. Would love to get a group of us to go. Maybe do a day of working with the church and then run. Something to explore for sure. But yes, I'm with you.
Followed - after a brief bit of thought - by this message:
And now after listening to myself I'm rethinking - if those folks can do all they are doing, the least I can do is run another marathon. The perfect place to do my second one maybe? Ugh. Why do you put these things in my head.
Robyn responded with this:
So I just got a few chills. I originally registered to run Houston in 2017. Then Chris had to go to Bermuda and it was at race weekend time...so I deferred my entry until 2018. Coincidence? You need to go there and run this. It's a flat area, so the course is going to be pretty flat.
You know what happened next. I signed up for the Houston Marathon. The flat -(famous last words) - 26.2 mile Houston Marathon.
I'm going where I've never been : Texas.
I'm going where I thought I'd never go again: the marathon.
I'm going to Houston not by my design but through wide eyed obedience to God's call. Any questions about that were put to rest last night in an email from Father Jim at St. Andrews Church. He emailed me a report of the contributions made to St. Andrews Church for hurricane relief as part of my Hokie Half for Texas run. My original goal was $500. His report said $2,000.
And then there was this. Before I'd received that total - one that spoke to the financial contribution - I received an email from a dear friend that spoke to the heart contribution that was blossoming from this effort. My friend Nicole Williams has been a long time supporter of my TwoTim.com ministry. Still, I was a bit surprised when I received this email from her:
Congrats on the hokie half finish and even more so, the reason you did it. I am so proud of you and the efforts by all of the amazing people who have come together to support the hurricane Harvey efforts. I have been so moved by your podcasts, the pictures and the people there.
Flash back a little earlier in the year. I had decided to run another full (in addition to rva this year). I found one within a couple hours of me, in September. Perfect timing and close. I never actually signed up, but I've been training. Here we are two weeks from this full and I still have never signed up. Honestly, I've been asking myself for a couple months now, why haven't you pushed the button. Today, it became clear. God has plans for me to be doing something else. After talking with Jason today, who is also on board, I wanted to message you. I want to be a part of this Houston marathon journey and meet this Pearland Texas community. My heart has forever been moved because of this story you have shared.
Excited for this journey and hope I can join you on such an important visit to Texas and meet this community and tackle 26.2 miles.
I say it all the time. As I grow closer to God I'm no better than I've ever been at predicting what He will unfold in front of me next. I could never have predicted all that he's doing through one simple idea that was hatched during one of my routine runs. But if we point our thoughts and desires toward him, if we act with faith on the simple ideas he plants in us, he'll reflect them back to us and to those around us in miracles.
My friend Nicole and her family joining me in Houston is a miracle I never saw coming. But looking in the rear view mirror I can clearly see God orchestrating it. I can see God arranging Robyn's race schedule so we'll be running this race together. I can see God forming my friendship with Janice nearly 20 years ago so she'd be able to arrange my friendship with St. Andrews Church at precisely the right moment in time.
I'm reminded nothing in our lives is small. No moment. No thought. No race. God is constantly at work in all we do and all He does is bigger than our minds can dream or imagine. Like Texas big. The anatomy of this trip to run the Houston Marathon is mind boggling to me, but to God, it's just the way he rolls.
The lesson for me, and maybe for you, is to start the ball rolling. We can't go for a run and dream of a ball and then come home and set it in a corner. We have to push it. Run behind it and give it a couple of extra shoves full of momentum for good measure. Then watch what God does with it.
When I dreamed of this TwoTim47.com ministry I dreamed of running to dark with light. The mistake I made was in grabbing a flashlight when God had a stadium full of spotlights in mind.
Thanks for the extra light God. That's why I like to run with you.
I was a few miles into a run last week when I felt a pull to head to Blacksburg on September 17th and run my 9th Half Marathon. It was more than a pull to run, though. The call to this race came with images of the tragic flooding scenes I'd seen playing out in Texas. There was only one reason I could be feeling the urge to run while at the same time being overcome with the heartbreak of seeing so many people suffering in such a big way. I was supposed to run this race for Texas.
The first thing I did when I finished my run was reach out to my TwoTim47.com Patreon supporters who support me at the marathon level. When partners sponsor me at this level I agree to run a race for their cause. If I was going to run the Hokie Half for a cause I came up with, I needed to know they supported it. When I reached out to them, not only did every one of them support the idea, they all agreed to contribute to whatever support I decided to offer Texas.
(You can learn more about my TwoTim47.com Patreon platform here.)
That's when I decided what I was going to do. I used $85 of my August Patreon support to register for the Hokie Half. The remaining $108 I will donate to the Harvey Hurricane relief efforts in Texas.
Then came the next challenge. I didn't want to make a generic donation. I wanted to know something about where the money was going. It wasn't just about trusting it would go to a good cause. If I'm going to feel my heart pounding through my chest for 13.1 miles in Blacksburg next week, I'd like my heart to pound when I send off my donation. That can't happen without knowing something about the story on the other end of the donation.
So I reached out to friends on social media. I asked if anyone had any personal stories related to the suffering in Texas. My friend Janice, whom I worked with several years ago in North Carolina, put me in touch with her friend Tom in Texas. He was doing recovery work with his church. Then Tom put me in touch with the pastors at his church.
I was only on the phone with them for a few minutes when I knew their church, St. Andrews, was a story I needed to be a part of. I was sure they were part of the call I felt running last week.
St. Andrews is located in Pearland, Texas, a community within the Houston metropolitan area. They were hard hit by Harvey and are now leaning on churches like St. Andrews to help them rebuild. A rebuild that could take a decade or more.
What drew me to St. Andrews is they've been spending years getting ready for a moment just like this one. They've been building a loving partnership with the Pearland citizens for over 20 years. Father Jim Liberatore said this about his church's relationship with the community:
"Many churches establish themselves by looking inward and taking care of the family but don't necessarily look outward. My understanding of reading scripture and from some people like John Wesley see that we have a mission to the community and I've basically encouraged the congregation over the years to see the walls collapse of the church and that the parish, the church walls, actually become the community, so that we are the pastors of the community, we are lovers of the community."
That's long been the struggle I've had with many churches - their obsession with looking inward. When I decided I wanted to partner with someone to help with hurricane relief in Texas I knew I wanted to partner with an organization that would respond in love and not out of a sense of media fueled obligation. Don't get me wrong, I think we all have an obligation here - that's precisely what led me to look for a way to help - I just think obligations are best and most helpfully met in love.
As you'll see in some of the photos below, St. Andrews has already been hard at work in their community.
How can you help me partner with St. Andrews?
What St. Andrews needs most right now is prayer and money. There will be so much to do in the early stages of the relief - stages which might last years - gutting and repairing homes, helping replace essential items and simply helping people get back to a place where they can get to and from their work.
I want to give a special thank you to my marathon level Patreon supporters who gave me their blessing to use this race for this hurricane relief effort:
Robyn Larkin, Tiffany Eisentrout, Nicole Williams and Rachel Wood - Thank you!
And to the rest of my Patreon supporters who make it possible to enter races and find extra time to write stories and create podcasts and videos - I could do none of it without you all. So thank you Kristie Allen, Lashell Head, Solomon Whitfield, Kelly Anderson, Kimberly Yenser, Kimberly Caldwell, Missy Blacker-Hepp, Jenny Reynolds, Shannon Sala, Donna Shultz-Shegana and Angela Marini.
I ask for everyone's prayers as I tackle my half marathon next weekend and for all the people struggling in Texas, especially those in the St. Andrews community.
Like I said, I will be donating to St. Andrews as part of my Hokie Half Marathon run. If you would like to join me I know they'd be grateful. Maybe you could donate $13 for the 13.1 miles I'll be running in Blacksburg on September 16th. Every dollar will go a long way towards the healing and relief the St. Andrews community will be searching for.
If you donate at the link below, when you enter the giving type enter hurricane relief. In the memo section please enter TwoTim47. This will help us track our TwoTim47 Hokie Half Contributions.
Life is like running.