Christian in Crisis: Reflecting on the 2017 National Leaders’ Gathering

As I later told my friend Sinéad, I had no idea what I was getting into when I signed up to run with this team.

My sweet mama recently challenged me to dress up as Rosie the Riveter to give clean water to a child. I took that challenge head-on and loved it! I gave myself a great pep-talk that morning, knowing I was sure to attract some attention since I carried all the belongings I needed in a bright pink tool bag and my nursing class was scheduled to take a computerized licensure-exam-prep test. What I had failed to account for in planning my day was the follow-up appointment with a provider at a large, well-attended mental health clinic in the Twin Cities; I walked into to a building full of people psychiatrists, counselors and psychologists in head-to-toe denim with a retro hairdo and pulled my insurance card out at the check-in desk from the aforementioned pink tool bag. I felt like I was back in middle school with everyone staring at me and wondering what kind of crazy I was (psychology people call this the ‘imaginary audience,’ an experience common to young adolescents).

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We Can Do [Therapy]!

I’ve been a pretty anxious person for as long as I can remember, and at the ripe old age of 13 was diagnosed with something called generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD. Along with about 3.1 million other adults in the United States, I experience ‘persistent, excessive and unrealistic’ worry on a daily basis and it doesn’t have any particular cause or trigger. I also have something called ‘Panic Disorder,’ which basically means that I sometimes experience sudden panic attacks which may or may not be related to an identifiable cause. All things considered, I’m sure you can imagine that I was a little nervous about road-tripping to Chicago for the weekend with a bunch of people I’d mostly met only in passing (if at all)! I could feel my heart racing as I pulled into the parking lot to meet up with three vans’ worth of my fellow TWV captains: when I looked down at my FitBit, my heart rate was in the 130’s- even though I’d been sitting for at least half an hour as I drove from home (my resting heart rate is usually somewhere in the 70’s these days). Here’s a few examples of thoughts that ran through my head that morning as we gathered in the mist:

  • What if I get car-sick? I hate throwing up. I hope there’s a bag in the van. What if the bag leaks? That’d be so gross! (I had already taken Dramamine and was well on my way to roadtrip-nap-land by the time we got into the vans to head out).
  • What if I get diarrhea and we have to suddenly get off the highway and I make us late? That would be so embarrassing!
  • What if I get diarrhea, and it really really hurts? I hate that feelings. It always makes me nauseous.
  • What if I say something stupid? I don’t want to be stupid.
  • I hope we don’t get in an accident on the way- I haven’t accrued enough PTO [in my new job as of January 9th] to cover me and keep up my income! How will I pay my bills?

As I later told my friend/our Team World Vision Twin Cities staff lead Sinéad that weekend, I had no idea what I was getting into when I signed up to run with this team for the first time in 2015. Team World Vision is good at many things (and the Twin Cities team per-runner fundraising average is twice the national per-runner average) but what I think we do best is welcome teammates into the family, loving unconditionally and without reservation. Having a pizza party at the Team World Vision national headquarters in Chicago with many of the 300+ leaders from all over the US & Canada was a lot like my first Team World Vision event in the Twin Cities: loud, definitely overwhelming and way more fun for me than I ever anticipated (anxiety, rearing its head again).

Our sessions on Saturday were excellent; I definitely felt a bit like a Justin Bieber fan when Steve Spear, Team World Vision Legend and clean water hero extraordinaire, first spoke in front of the group to welcome us all. What really got me was our closing meditation and prayer on long obedience in the same direction, led by Tim Hoekstra. Tim prayed over us all, preaching from Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia and ending with this reminder: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9 NIV) Leaving NLG, I was feeling more fired up about advocating for the kids we serve than ever before. You might have even gotten a text message from me during our return trip, inviting you to give clean drinking water. God has set a huge fundraising goal on my heart this season, and I was feeling pretty good about that calling on Saturday evening. Fast forward to Thursday afternoon, though, and the scene looks a little different.

I had to leave a clinical rotation today because (for the second week in a row) I was crying and couldn’t get it under control. Last week the tears came at the end of the day- today, they came just before lunch in a routine mid-semester evaluation  with my instructor and wouldn’t stop. My instructor clearly felt sorrowful that I was crying yet again, wondering if it was something they had said. Truthfully, it wasn’t the instructor at all (as I made sure to emphasize in between hiccup-sobs). In attempting to understand and explain the reason for my tears, I realized that my instructor’s reassurances (that I am smart and compassionate) had hit on some of my ancient, most deeply seated insecurities. The most insidious one, perhaps, is the heartfelt struggle to fully accept my humanity and to believe that I am enough. Compassion, empathy and justice for others has been a central facet of my faith journey in my life so far; it is clear to me through reading the narrative story of God’s work in the world as told through the Holy Bible and the longings of my heart that God cares for the forgotten, the outcast, the marginalized, the downtrodden. It is that same compassion and gut-wrenching, heart-shredding love which I am freed and empowered to claim for myself.

Sometimes, my friends, participating in the work of God requires of you and I to do some serious work at taking care of ourselves too. Steve Spear and John Huddle both spoke about to reality of running for Team World Vision: while this is not about me, it WILL change me. I’ve taken to telling people I’m training the third time for my first marathon. When I finally acknowledged the call to return with Team World Vision this season, I noticed that it was different from years past. This year God has again called me not only to run the Twin Cities Marathon, but specifically to train for the marathon. As a seasoned(ish) runner, lifelong athlete and someone living with chronic illness I know that my body can do crazy things when called upon: I ran my first half marathon less than a week after sustaining a concussion (ill-advised, but fun nonetheless) and finished my most recent half after 4 miles of mild, dehydration-induced delirium (side note: If you ever run past a rail yard and find yourself thinking, “Wow, I want to be a train when I grow up. That would be SO COOL!” You are dehydrated). I am entering a season of training my spirit (some would say my heart & head here) as well as my body. It’s going to be a long road to the start line- I am so thankful to never walk alone. Will you join us?

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Twin Cities captains may get older- thankfully, we’ll NEVER grow up!

 

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