Which is why when we had lived in our hometown for several years, attending the church where RRL was on staff, I was incredibly discouraged that we still felt like we were swimming alone. We had people, mentors, who took such good care of us during that time. Seriously, we were spoiled rotten. But it didn’t equate to people we were really doing life with. I can’t quite explain it. I just know that like a huger pain, there was something deep within me crying out for COMMUNITY.
All those years ago- nearly 10 now- I prayed and prayed and prayed that The Lord would direct us into a group of friends. I won’t lie, I tried desperately to try to answer my own prayer. You know, just in case the King of the Universe was a little too busy or something. And let me tell you- my plans were top notch.
Like the time I walked up to a family I’d never met (but always sat behind in church) and asked them if they’d consider volunteering with us in the Youth Group. Just because I thought they looked young and fun. Yep. Good one.
But not nearly as good as the one where I tried to find community in a singing group. Which isn’t nearly as hilarious if you haven’t heard me sing. Or if you don’t know I just went because a sweet older gentleman mentioned the word “community” when he invited me. Or if I left out the part about it being a weekly visit to a nursing home. The cool thing is, I did actually meet some people there, but shockingly I didn’t last long. Fish out of water.
At a youth retreat, a sweet friend mentioned that she was training for a half marathon. Sounded liked fun, I invited a college roomie to join us and a running group was born. I loved those Saturday mornings. Running followed by CFA chicken biscuits. And community. Mostly with people from the singles group (I’ll omit the part of the story where happily married RRL and I actually tried to infiltrate the singles group because we loved hanging out with these people so much).
And then when I was pregnant with KJ, bemoaning that I couldn’t continue marathon training with those friends, I decided to give water aerobics a try. And an awesome mentor nearly forced me to invite a girl I knew from ACU. I knew her, but we were about as different as could be. I was super hesitant, knowing she’d be way too cool for me (I’m not exaggerating, she really was/is), but shockingly she said yes. And somehow, despite my insecurities it worked. We worked. We had our first two babies each within weeks of each other both times, and then a third each just six months apart. My how The Lord knew I’d need her.
And over the years all of these friends became people I love to run with but more importantly that I’d run to the ends of the earth for. They’ve not only done life with us, but on occasion they’ve done life for us, holding us up when we couldn’t go alone. They were some of the primary answers to our trumpet call.
And years later when I think back to my feeble attempts to create something on my own, I can almost see Him with a grin and a whisper. “Wait for it. Wait for it… Just be patient. When you are ready to release it to me, you’ll be amazed to see what I’ve already done. What thrills I have. For you. Like breath and water and a roof over your head. I have for you a community.”
In a way only someone who made me could know- The Lord knew my deepest needs. He knew I woulf find him when I was exercising. He knew that I would open my heart most when I was moving and testing and strengthening what my body could do. When I run, I find Him. I hear Him.
And today, ya’ll. Years later. That community and exercise are one. A group of women meeting together once every week. We meet to exercise, but more always happens. The chatter and laughter and prayers and encouragement that fill the halls and parking lot each week says so much. Not just “I love to run” but “I do not run alone”.
In this post are pictures of some of those sweet ones from that group. The one I’ve run literal races with for more than 10 years and life for many more. Who challenges me on the clock, but way more in my heart. And the one who is always my “wingman”, taking my most hare-brained ideas and encouraging me to not give up. She supports me in ways that want me to be that for others. She runs WITH me. And the ones who grew up in our youth group and into beautiful women who bless me and encourage me (and help raise my children). And the one I want to “be like when I grow up” because of how she lives her “my kids are grown” years. And the amazing home-from-the-field-but-still-a-missionary missionary. And a couple of my very favorite hero single moms. And the ones leaving soon to minister in another part of the world. And the awesome minister. And. And.And. They are “mine” in community. And they make me better. So.Much.Better.
We call the group “Running on Empty” because we know that sometimes you do. Just like sometimes you don’t want to run, but know you’ll feel better after; sometime in life you come weary and empty, having poured out everything you have. Some days you just don’t feel like going forward ANOTHER STEP. But when you step into a community, hopefully you’ll find someone to encourage you to run anyway. Pressing forward, knowing you’ll be filled. That you’ll meet Him. And hear Him.
So maybe now, when I blow up your Facebook feed each week with invitations to join us. Or when you see pictures like the ones in this post- from races completed together- maybe you’ll understand. You’ll know why exercising in a group is more than just fitness to me. It’s a passion. Because it is community.
There’s nothing about His promises that say “walk with me and I’ll make it easy.” But this was that time when The Lord said “would you quit trying so hard and just do what you love- what I created you to love”. And I took off running.
Running to community.
If you are looking for a place in our area to join a group of women in exercise and community, I hope you’ll consider joining “Running on Empty”. We have a variety of exercise experiences and stages in life- everyone is welcome! This Thursday night would be a PERFECT first-time opportunity. We are having a “summer kick-off” complete with prizes, snacks, and an amazing trainer teaching us about summer exercise! Send me a message to get more info.
And, if you don’t live in my area, considering following our lead. Let me know if you’d like help getting started. Pick a night of the week, invite some friends to join you and start exercising together. More importantly, start living together.