• Kristen Cole

Keep Going


It was sprinkling when I set out on my daily run Sunday morning. The cool crisp fall air bit my lip just a smidge, enough to make me pull my long sleeves over my hands for that added warmth. I adjusted my flipbelt to make sure my earbuds were plugged into my phone and right ear comfortably. Left ear bud went beneath my sports bra strap to ensure safety on the increasingly busy-since-the-pandemic-started-trail adjacent to my home. The number of times I hear (or don't hear) bikers call out "on your left" has made me more of a Ninja type runner than a regular mama runner. I dodge, lean right and garner all my strength to hyper-stand for a potential near side swipe on the RIGHT side on a trail where left passing is the rule.


Prepared for the usual battle with a wee bit of rain, I turned on my podcast and set out for the trail. In the past 7 months, podcasts have been one of the spaces I have come to consume insight, wisdom and perspective - all while running, pounding one foot in front of the next. I have listened to all kinds - faith based, funny boy mom, political - on both sides, racial issues, youth sports, learning disabilities, you name it...I've been all over the map. There have been a very few times I have aborted certain messages. But for the most part, I hear the speaker out and consider their perspective. I have felt a certain resolve to "just keep listening" even just within myself, in order to better develop my own convictions and opinions.


Sunday, I also chose to keep going even when I heard the rain drop speed quickening. I didn't adjust my ear bud for fear that water would get into the crevice left from my fidgeting. Head down, right ear bud in, hands covered for warmth, rain pouring, I kept going and as I did, I saw a man running towards me out of the corner of my eye. He had a "2020" race bib on. He was not in an actual race - it was just he and I on the trail. He gave me a nod and in solidarity our eyes met, something runners get.


I thought about him for a second and in my ADHD-like brain of late (read pandemic multitasking) I tuned back into the podcast I was listening to and dodged the next puddle, Spartan mom style. Back to my podcast, I tried to re-engage. But I couldn't stop thinking about that man. Why did he have that 2020 bib on? Was he in an actual race and just far behind or ahead? Was he trying to tell other runners something? Was God using him to get my attention?


As an unaffiliated voter, Christian, nurse practitioner-turned-remote-schooling-teacher-mother, wife and all the other roles I play, a little run in the rain had nothing on the sideways unrelenting rain storm of 2020. I have tried so fervently to put my head down, my right ear bud in so I can listen out with the left, hopping puddles, dodging sticks and storms so I can meet fellow sojourners with a gaze of solidarity who like me, are trying to wear the "race bib 2020" and communicate a spirit of resiliency, determination and while in the thickest of the thick - JOY - for our kids. But it is so hard. What starts as a sprinkle scares many away. We are so tempted to (and often do) wipe that mist off our faces and do an "about face"... Willingly heading into a storm? Nope. Count me the heck out. Been there, done that, been there all year long, threw away that old nasty t-shirt and certainly don't want another.


And what a mess that attitude has created. Never have I ever considered moving far away from people. Until now. Never have I ever been called names vehemently against my spirit. Completely unprovoked. Until now. Never have I ever felt unappreciated as a healthcare provider. Until now. Never have I ever read the Parents Handbook of Rights cover to cover. Until now. Never have I ever felt the sting of the realities of youth sports' impact on my own kids. Until now. Never have I ever felt more hesitant to share a blog post. Until now. The "never have I evers" of my life right now have been nothing short of crippling. But, I consider them mere blips in the big picture of my faith - also something that has been challenged and misunderstood during this time.


My faith is honestly what makes me keep going. It is so hard for me to express what faith really is. It is something that is truly not able to be taught, passed down from older generations or intimidated into due to oppressive notions of power within the church. It is only something that can be accepted with a true resolve of such peace and hope for a present and future that I am not in control of but fully trust that God is. It may sound weird. It may sound like a "cop out". But I assure you, the reality of living without fear of tomorrow, no matter who wins the election is well worth the risk of everything I believe being a farce. This is a reality that challenges me to live in the present and trust God for tomorrow. This is a reality that has felt the trickle in of the unbelievable onslaught of the storm that is 2020 and has still got me believing to stand firm and keep going. And that matters. I can try to convince you with so much history and evidence in the Bible, but without the key element of faith, it will not matter.


Faith is what helps me get up in the morning, dig into my bible for encouragement and hope, put one foot in front of the other and pound out a business plan for my job while checking in on my patients while emailing 800 teachers about my child's IEP needs not being met while fixing technology for my 2nd grader, allowing my preteen to express his vast word emotions, encouraging the dog to be walked, the dishes to be put away, the laundry to be folded, dinner to be prepped, baseball to happen, Halloween to happen in at least some form...and to plan to let the kids toss it all to the wind today and play in leaf piles their dad will make because he has election day off.


My daughter recently asked what I would want if I had three wishes. I really didn't skip a beat. I told her that I did not have wishes, that I only had hopes that all three of my kids would know the love of Jesus and understand how dearly they were all created. I told her I wanted them all three to rely on Him for strength and to believe the promises in the Bible that He has good plans for our future. Why do bad things happen? I don't know. And I am grateful I don't know or understand all of the details that lead to God's bigger purpose. I am also grateful to live with a posture of trust in God and that is what I want for my children. How do I get through 2020? With faith that cannot be taught and only deeply felt. I believe there is a bigger purpose to everything we are experiencing in this pandemic.


I kept running Sunday and even thought about calling my husband to come get me but I wanted to finish. I knew I would be better positioned for the day mentally, if I pressed on and weathered the downpour. I wanted to get my daily dose of communion with nature. I wanted to breathe fresh air in and to feel the rain on my face, rain turned tears. Release. Exhale...Faith in every tomorrow.


And then I saw him again. My "2020" race bib guy. We had the same goal in mind as I passed him on my way home and he, apparently on his way home, in the opposite direction. Soaking wet from head to toe, he and I smiled at one another and he said, "Keep Going." I was speechless. What I had said in my head after seeing him at the start of my run was confirmed in those words, "Keep Going." And I will do that every day. Because I have faith and hope in every today and tomorrow.


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