Running For Water (Shattered Magazine)

So it’s confirmed, then: I can run and I can write. Now I’m writing about running! This year, I’m running the Detroit Half-Marathon again, but this time for a much bigger purpose: Hope Water Project! This story first appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Shattered Magazine.

An 82-year-old woman finishing the Detroit Free Press 5k.

A Chattanooga Ironman triathlon finisher.
A woman battling breast cancer.
All running for the same purpose and wearing the same thing: blue Hope Water Project Jerseys.

The Mosaic

In the early chill and darkness of October 18, I found myself one of 27,000 runners and walkers at the Detroit Half-marathon and marathon. Me running a half-marathon is amazing in and of itself due to my inherent  aversion to running, but that’s a story for another magazine.

After the shotgun sounded, and I got my pre-race jitters out within the first few miles, I began looking around— at something other than my own feet—and I saw blue.

Hope Water Project jerseys. Everywhere.

I’d heard about Hope Water Project only a short time before the race. I knew one or two people involved in it, but I had not imagined so may were running or walking for the Pokot who have little or no access to clean water.

It might have been the cold air or the burn in my lungs or the ache of my legs. Maybe it was the sheer emotion of running a half-marathon, but I could hardly keep the lump in my throat from growing. The sight of those blue jerseys, worn by hundreds of local church and non-church people joining for a mission greater than themselves; the friends and families lining the route with Hope Water Project signs; the groups of half-and full- marathoners inspiring each other with songs of worship. They all made a stunning blue mosaic for my 13.1 miles.

A thousand stories for one story—the story of the Pokot.

The Hope Water Project Story

The Pokot—which represents nearly one million people—is an impoverished people group in western Kenya. Hope Water Project, part of Kensington Church in Troy, Michigan, assembles teams of runners, walkers and bicyclers to participate in events in Michigan and Florida, raising money for clean water for the Pokot. Kensington Church has partnered with the Pokot since 2004, working to provide health and hope in their communities.

Current water sources are shared with animals (and who knows what else) and are riddled with disease. The Pokot suffer from illnesses—some known and some unknown— due to dirty and dangerous water. Often sickness is visible on their very faces.

Community wells help solve basic needs plaguing the Pokot communities. Clean water aids in healing and preventing diseases, allowing them to survive and thrive.

But it’s more than just water. Hope Water Project uses clean water wells to provide the Pokot with health and opportunity.

And Jesus…[continue reading]

Or just go straight to the punchline and donate to Emily’s 2016 run for Hope Water Project! 

Hope Water Project, running, Shattered Magazine

Hope Water Project, running, half marathon

Reuben Meriakol, the first Pokot to run in Detroit for HWP

 

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Because If I Can Run I Can Write

I never thought I’d ever be more afraid to write than to run.

But I laid in bed two Fridays ago thinking that exact thing. I was to run the CRIM—a ten-mile race downtown Flint—the very next morning and literally felt less anxiety about running than writing.

Huh? 

Running has never been something I ever thought I’d do—or really wanted to do. There’s nothing fun about it. It hurts. It’s boring. It’s hot. Every step I take I want to be done. The only good thing about running is being done running. Running, to me, should only be a skill for a purpose—touching the bag before the baseman, reaping a layup from a fast break, escaping a bear (or spider, let’s be real). Running, to me, should never be a sport. (My apologies to Olympians, particularly Eric Liddell. I like that guy. Plus he comes with a great sound track.) (Sorry/not sorry, for getting that song stuck in your head.)

(I'm sure this is what I look like at the start line. So fierce.)

(I’m sure this is what I look like at the start line. So fierce.)

But writing—now there was something to be done for sport. It’s the perfect activity. You don’t have to wear special clothes, buy fancy shoes, wait for the sun to come up or even break a sweat. Writing is much more fun than running. Obviously.

But there I was, saying crazy things like, “Hey, let’s run ten miles,” and “The CRIM is a fun race,” and “I’m scared to write.”

Really, Emily? I don’t even know you anymore.

I’ve been avoiding the keyboard. Why? I have no idea. Okay, that’s a lie. I’m terrified.

Every writer has the Ecclesiastes-esque though (i.e., “there’s nothing new under the sun”) they will never write anything new. That demon will always be there, so I have a reply for it (it goes: “but it hasn’t been written by me!”). But that’s not why I’m stuck. I’m terrified. I’m scared to say the wrong things and the right things. I don’t want to burn bridges instead of building them without realizing it, because that’s what I’ve done in my grace-less past. In short, I fear my own brokenness.

Grace. Now there’s a conundrum, huh? Because if I was on the opposite side of this conversation—if you were saying these things to me, I would tell you this: “You can have grace for yourself too, you know. Besides, we’re all in the middle of our own story.”

Grace For My Story 

Grace for myself—for not having grace. Go figure.

Grace is a beautiful, ridiculous, awesome, messy, marvelous thing. And I’m learning more and more of it everyday. And, even better, I’m learning how to use it, which hasn’t been a thing for a lot of my life. But I am weeding out grace-less-ness from my voice, and instead I want grace to permeate everything I say, both written and spoken. That won’t always happen. There will be times when I don’t use the right words and I don’t employ grace as I should. Herein lies the beauty (and mess) of grace—for myself, and for the millions of others who speak every day (in both the written and spoken word).

So it’s time to break the silence. It’s time to do this hard thing I’ve been avoiding. This thing I’ve been created for. This thing I’ve loved all my life. This thing I’m terrified of. This thing that matters. It’s time to be brave. To name the fear and put it in its place. Time to come back to the keyboard. It might not always be pretty. I can’t promise it will be without fear. And it probably won’t always be graceful—though I will try—as I figure out how grace sounds and looks and feels in real life.

Because if I can run ten miles, I can write a blog post.

 

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The Church And Singles: Please Don’t Pity Me On Valentine’s Day

The Valentine’s Day confession you’ve all been waiting for: It’s hard being single.

The real confession I’ve been waiting to make: What’s harder than simply being single is being single in the Church.

There, I said it.

I mean, I get it. Biblical marriage is good and it’s wonderful and it’s ordained by God and it should be celebrated at church. For sure—I’m a fan of celebrating marriage and family. BUT there are some in-between-the-lines messages about the unmarried (single or single again) that get sent alongside that celebration if you’re not careful.

Somehow it feels as though marriage is the standard of maturity and viability of an adult. But adulthood is changing. People aren’t getting married until late twenties or early thirties, for a variety of reasons.* This is not necessarily a bad thing—in many cases it is very, very good. But when the Church fails to recognize cultural trends, it fails to meet and love people wherever they are.

Somehow, when you’re single in the Church (and particularly when you’re a single woman in the Church) you’re approached with a downcast, mournful, I’m-sorry-your-life-hasn’t-started-yet tone. Whenever someone asks me if “there’s anybody in my life yet,” I want to respond with another question:

“Am I Not Enough?”

I know, I know. They’re only asking because they care and they want me to be happy.**  But they don’t realize the message that gets sent in the question: You’re missing something. You’re incomplete. You need a husband. You’re not enough. 

Can I just say—there are plenty of other voices in our lives telling us we’re not enough: we’re not thin enough, we’re not pretty enough, we’re not smart enough, we’re not competent enough, we’re not sweet enough, we’re not enough of this or enough of that.

Shouldn’t the Church—of all places and of all people—be affirming our value? Our completeness? Our enough-ness?

Fact: God says I am enough. God made me in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). God has called me His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). God values my sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). God does not require marriage (I Corinthians 7). God uses me as a living room for the Holy Spirit, married or not (I Corinthians 6:19). God loves me no matter what (Romans 8:38-39). God sent Jesus to die for me whether I’m married or single (John 1:12).

Valentine's Day Single Unmarried Church

Fact: I want to get married someday. But that’s not happening right now, and it would be wrong to make an idol out of marriage in my life. So for now I’m just doing the next right thing—whatever it is God puts before me, that’s what I’ll do. Right now, it’s being single, being the coolest aunt ever to 7 kiddos, and changing the world through stories with Shattered Magazine. I’m okay with that.

Fact: Here’s the thing—I may never get married. It’s very possible God does not have someone for me. I might never get married and eventually I’m going to have to be okay with that. And I need you to be okay with that. Because you not being okay with that is not helping me be okay with that. Okay? Okay. Thanks.🙂

Hang On 

Let me be clear about two things. First, I am not alone in this plight. I’ve talked with unmarried women all over the country—literally—who are experiencing the same things I am. This not just an off-kilter perception in my own head. It’s a problem in churches everywhere.

Second, I’m very thankful for the people in my church who always respect and treat me like I am a real person, regardless of my marital status. Thank you—you know who you are, because I’ve thanked you for this before.

The Solution? Affirmation. 

What the unmarried need from you is love and affirmation. Affirm our significance and value apart from our marital status. Ask us what we’re doing for work—what we love about our jobs, or what we hate about our jobs (work is a love-hate relationship for everyone, isn’t it?), or how to pray for us in our jobs. Ask us what we’re excited about in the next few months—a road trip? A new ministry? The beach? Don’t avoid the topic of marriage entirely, but be aware of the tone and frequency of your comments.

Tangible affirmation is also a huge encouragement: Invite us to dinner at your house or out after church. Invite us to sit with you at the church dinner.*** Drop a Starbucks card in the mail. Send us your favorite recipe that can be frozen. Maybe, if you know someone who lives alone, give them something you might take to a wedding shower. Or pick up one of those small crockpots for that single guy who’s probably eating Ramen four days a week. Pick out some favorite slow cooker recipes or pick up the ingredients for an easy meal.

Whatever you do, whether tangibly or not—be you. Do something you would do—but be the you who intentionally cares for and loves and values and affirms people regardless of what’s on or not on their left hand.

Sunday is Valentine’s Day. Please don’t pity me because I’m single on Valentine’s Day. (Or any day.) It’s not a curse. It’s not a disease. I’m not miserable because I’m single, so please don’t assume I am. Don’t feel sorry for me about something I don’t even feel sorry for. Instead, just love me for who I am, and don’t pity me for what I’m not. Affirm my personhood and love me no matter what’s on—or not on—my left hand. And I’ll do the same for you.

*Reasons like: Unemployment, fear of making the marriage mistakes of the generation before us, prolonged adolescence, difficult/morphing dating social norms—to name a few.
**What if I am happy? What if it’s possible to be content and happy as a single person?
***Church dinners/potlucks are way up there on the list of most awkward moments for the unmarried at church.
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