Monday, October 12, 2009

Nick's Thoughts

Approximately 1 year ago I sat at a round table with an inspired man who had just completed year 3 of Men’s Fraternity. I had been on a transformation journey with this man and when he announced that he was going to run across the state for an orphanage in South Africa, I was caught in the moment. I blurted out, “I’ll go with you!”

That moment quickly wore off which changed my thoughts to “What was I thinking?” As the day quickly approached my attitude about being in a bouncy RV with 4 ripe runners that I didn’t know very well, running across the state didn’t exactly change. Again, “What was I thinking?”

As with everything in my life I should have stepped back and realized how many times I was using the word “I”. Every time I begin to focus on me God is getting ready to teach me something. It’s never about me its about HIM.

Bouncing my way to Council Bluffs from Des Moines I was scared. I was afraid my legs wouldn’t hold up. I was afraid I wouldn’t have anything to talk about with the other runners. I was afraid my wife would want to kill me for dragging her into this. I was afraid we would fail. Any one ever read Philippians 4:13?

My attitude quickly changed. I started this journey with strangers, who quickly turned to friends, which rapidly evolved into family. I will forever hold a special place in my heart for the 4 of you that shared those 5 days in an RV that crept across the state of Iowa changing African children’s lives. As I reflect on our journey I miss everyone of you and look forward to doing more life with all of you.

These are a few of my thoughts from my 5 day journey across the state.

Council Bluffs, Oakland, Atlantic, Wiota, Anita, Adair, Casey, Menlo, Stuart, Dexter, Redfield, Adel, Waukee, Clive, Windsor Heights, Des Moines, Pleasant Hill, Prairie City, Colfax, Lambs Grove, Newton, Kellog, Oakland Acres, Grinnel, Brookland, Ladora, Marengo, Oxford, Tiffin, Coralville, Iowa City, West Liberty, Atilissa, Muscatine. Amazing food in Council Bluffs with a great family and a drummer named Kyle. A Godly family with a farmhouse that had an entire room dedicated to Africa. This family really reminded me of my own. I wonder if they are adopting a family of 4? Brads family’s fantastic hospitality and life changing lasagna. Andrew and the Linen coat. Still trying to make up for that one! God meeting us exactly where we are. Brads planning. (Except for his Saturday Frito snack) My new love for RV’s. I will never forget the bathroom I had for 5 days. Bottles of water will never be the same. Our Boston qualifier. Yes I raised sheep! Cows running to or from us. Dogs. Wind. Rain. Sunshine. Farmers blows. Sharing God. Growing closer to God. Sharing life. Running helpers. The running stick. Leg wraps. Ice. Ibuprofen. Ipod’s. Compression shorts. Cleaning out the RV. The “you know what is full”. Physical challenges overcome. Love of health. Love of this life. Love of new friends. Love of family. Love of children. Love of God. Thank you Pines. Thank you Point of Grace. Thank you Brad. Thank you God. Another great memory created with my awesome wife and best friend.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Aubrey’s thoughts…

Well, I am not quite the blogger or writer like Brad, but I certainly have some thoughts to share with others.

First of all, I am grateful for the experience! I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know each unique member of our team. We had so much in common, yet learned so much from each other. The power of a human fellowship is immeasurable!

Second of all, I am grateful for the ability to make a difference! Although, I don’t yet know our final fundraising amount, I do know that desperate children will be given an opportunity. Whether it is an opportunity for a warm meal, preventative health care or literature teaching God’s word, I’ve contributed to an opportunity.

Third of all, I am grateful for my health! To be a part of such a physically demanding event leaves me feeling quite fortunate. Each runner was blessed with the strength and endurance to defeat each day’s challenge. Of course, tired legs, fatigued bodies and cold weather headaches, but never the ideation of forfeit.

Brad, I thank you for the invitation to participate in Run for the Pines.

I look forward, with great compassion, to pursuing more of life’s Great Adventures!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Brad's Thoughts

As I have been the one blogging this entire time, I wanted to take some time and give you my thoughts on what we have just accomplished.

A year ago, I was challenged to use my time, talents, gifts and abilities to help our church, our community and the world. If you know me, you know that my wife and I don't make a lot of money but I was being called to do something to help. During an incredible class of Men's Fraternity "The Great Adventure" we were also challenged to find our adventures that make our heart explode with love and fullness and that is where the idea came from. I was going to take something that truly love to do (weird I know) and use it to help others. This was going to be an avenue for me to spread God's love in a way that 5 years ago I could never have imagined that I would be doing. This was going to be a way for me to give back to my community to spread the love of Jesus Christ to nations beyond our own borders.

I am just as guilty as most of getting too comfortable at what we do everyday and never learn that in order to get better at anything we have to challenge ourselves. I knew that this was going to be a challenge, but one that I was being called to do. I truly feel that God made me start to run and enjoy running for this exact purpose. I was too comfortable what I was doing.

Starting out this journey I thought that people would be banging on the door to give me money to help support our cause, but this was before the financial meltdowns. Sure there were times when I thought that with the news of the economy taking over everyones attention that maybe it could be something to delay, but I knew that I had a duty to help out the kids that have little.

As the date approached I became increasingly nervous and anxious about the lack of money that was coming in the door until I realized that no matter how much money we raised, it was more money to put towards the orphanage than they had before. Now the anxiousness was not so much about the money but about our safety and what I had gotten myself into.

The week before I barely slept. There were mornings that I was waking up at 3:00 am because I just kept thinking of things that I needed to do before we left. The major problems that I was having leading up to it were, my knee hurt, I was just getting over an illness, I had a sore back, I hadn't really slept in 5 days or so and I was freaking out about logistics. I kept praying for calming to come over me and Thursday it finally happened.

All of the people I have known on very different levels. Andrew, I have known for many years and consider him a great friend. Nick, I have known for a little over a year and look to follow the lead that he has taken with his family and his business life. Aubrey, I know basically through Nick and had learned really what a great person she is. Mandy, I have probably known just as long as Nick and have heard from many people how great she is as well. A lot of us knew each other on kind of a surface level, but not real in depth. This trip would change that.

On our way to Council Bluffs, everyone was already laughing and sharing life stories. I knew instantly when we got on to the RV that I was going to have a great time and had assembled a great team.

The first night was great, even though I don't think any of us slept very well. Not because of the place that we slept but more because of what we were about ready to embark on. I know personally I probably woke up 5 or 6 times just because I was thinking. On Friday morning, after our late start thanks to the construction in Council Bluffs, it seemed really weird that something I had planned for so long was finally on its way.

I won't go into all of the runs that I ran, because there was way too many of them, but some of the highlights for me were as follows:
  • The first run going through Council Bluffs and just the high of hitting the road for the very first time
  • Seeing Mandy get stopped by the guy in the minivan asking if she was being stalked by the people in the RV
  • The hundreds of dead animals on the side of the road
  • Meeting some new friends along the way (especially our hosts and the cops who were "just checking on us")
  • Running in to Eastern Iowa where I seemed to know everyone and everywhere we went
  • Running in to my home town of Marengo and remembering the sports that I was never good enough to play in but still loved to participate in and wishing that my old coaches could see me now (sorry if I sound too much like Michael Jordan)
  • Seeing my grandma, sister and nephew as I came running in to Marengo
  • Kneeling next to my uncles and grandparents graves (that gave me so much strength)
  • Staying at my aunts house
  • The camping experience (sorry guys, if we ever do this again I will make sure to turn the heat on)
  • Running through Iowa City realizing 2 miles in that I was wearing black and yellow and figuring out that was probably why I was getting honked at so much
  • Seeing Andrew break down in the middle of the run and seeing God pick him back up
  • The victory dinner (20 piece McNuggets, medium fries and medium vault)
  • The incredible, although probably inappropriate at times, conversations that we had
I learned so much on this journey that I hope to continue. I learned so much about my team. These people are some of the most caring individuals I have ever met. They were always there to cheer everyone on and to cater to people as soon as they hopped back in to the RV. I learned that you can recover very fast if you take the appropriate steps (advil, gatorade and the stick). I learned how much you can miss your family when you are gone from them for 4 nights. I learned how much more I love my wife for being supportive of me when all I could talk about for nearly a year was running this thing. And I learned so much about myself. I learned that I can do things if I just ask God for help with them. The human body is such an incredible piece of art and it can do anything and accomplish anything that you put it through.

As I close this off, I just want to thank all who have been involved. Point of Grace, you all have been so amazing. All of our sponsors, I thank you for your participation and I hope that we can partner again in the future. All of the families, I thank you for allowing your husbands, wives, moms and dads, and loved ones to participate. Our host families. I may be calling for your recipes. My team. This was not my thing, this was OUR thing. I was just the one that put it together, you guys are the ones that came along and sacrificed your bodies and your sanity. My wife, for putting up with me. I love you so much. The Niehoffs and the O'Tooles for what they are doing in South Africa. You are seriously changing the future for so many people. Most importantly I want to thank God for what he did through all of us. You are the one who pushed us through when we wanted to quit. You were the one who put the wind at our backs to push us along. You were the one that made this whole adventure possible. I hope that what we have done and will do in the future can change generations to follow You. May ALL of the praise and glory go to You.

Thank you all for reading this and following what we have done. Please look forward to updates in the future about what our money raised is doing.

Stay Strong, Run Long

Day 5 and we are done!!!!!!!!

The start to day 5 was one of mixed emotions. Excitement to be done, dread of hitting the road, prayer for safety, concern or the number of miles amongst many others.

Monday night we stayed with my aunt Sandy and Pat. She had an amazing spread of breakfast for us and we were so excited to eat and hit the road until we looked outside. Rain. Wind. Gloom. Eerily reminded us of our start to this adventure but we knew that we had to get it done.

Luckily because we were a little ahead of schedule, we drove in to Coralville to find a wi-fi spot to check out our map to see how many miles we would each have to go. Once we pulled up the map we realized that this may be the longest toughest day that we were going to do because we were all emotionally and physically drained. As a group we made the best decision I think that we made on this entire trip. Change the route.

Our original plan was to go from Council Bluffs to Davenport with 5 people. We were down one person and looking at the map knew that it would be a difficult task with 4. So we decided for the sake of our safety and sanity that we would go through Iowa City and West Liberty as planned but head South just outside of Moscow and go to Muscatine. Technically this would still be a border of Iowa/Illinois and would still be an opportunity for us to see the Missouri River and Nebraska on Friday morning and the Mississippi River and Illinois on Tuesday afternoon.

Nick was the first runner up for the day and headed out with some rain that drenched him within the first mile of his 4 miles for the morning. My uncle Gary and his wife Krista wanted to greet us with some of Gary's co-workers as we were running past his employer. Since Nick had some sidewalk to work with we went ahead to meet them. As we got there everyone headed out of Randy's Flooring to cheer us on. It was a cool experience because we hadn't gotten cheered in a couple of days and made us realize that people were truly behind us.

I was next and due to some logistical errors with the driving situation didn't have enough time to stretch and went out with sore, tight muscles. I had planned on doing 4 but with the weather conditions and my current state I knew that it would be a bad idea and I would just pick up some more later in the day.

Andrew was next and as he started to run the rain finally started to die down a bit. He put in a good 4 miles before handing off to Mandy for her first shift of the day.

As we were rotating we could start to see each other fade a bit. Legs were getting sore, emotions were starting to take over and everyone was just looking to get home. I think that we were all starting to check out until the clouds broke, the sun came out and we got some wind to help us out a bit. I think that we all knew God was pushing us along at this point helping us to finish and finish strong.

We were all so excited once Nick hit his 3rd and final shift for the day because that meant one for everybody. As soon as I saw the Muscatine 10 mile sign, I knew that what had taken me a year to plan for was almost over.

On our last runs, all of us decided to change up our musical choices for the last leg. Nick went with some Casting Crowns to push him through (which later he would say that he should have been listening to that the whole way) and Mandy, Andrew and I decided that Jeff Mullen and the Point of Grace crew were going to get us through and boy did it. You could see everyones emotions changing as the were going. The praise music was working through us and our steps were lighter, we were playing the drums and calling out to God for strength. One of us even started to cry as they broke through "the wall".

As Mandy took over for the final leg going in to Muscatine, you could feel the excitement that in less than 3 miles we have each done our part to take the group across the state on our feet. 2 miles into Mandy's run, we came up on a hill down a very narrow street and there it was, the Mississippi. We had done it. We faced our fears, we beat the weather, we conquered our inner voices. We have done it!!!!!

Over the next couple of days, I have asked all participants to log in here and give you their feelings on what exactly they experienced over the course of 5 days running. I will post my info in a different post and will be posting photos for everyone to see.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Day 3 & 4

Wow, what a last couple of days. Sorry I haven't blogged, but apparently there isn't a wi-fi connection at Rock Creek State Park :)

Let's begin at POG. After everyone went home for the night and slept in their own beds we all met at POG for service and some much needed time with our Church family. The day began with a great service once again and was a really nice lead in to what we were to do that day. It was awesome because Jeff pulled me up on the "stage" to explain what we were doing and to ask for prayers from everyone in the congregation. It turned out that we needed it.

Tim, Mandy's husband, was nice enough to let us rest our legs for a little bit and decided to take on some of our miles for the day. Turns out that 16 miles gets you pretty much through the city of Des Moines. We had a couple of awesome people join in for a short 5 mile walk/run. One guy, Matt, even joined us for an 11 miler in his preparation for the Des Moines 1/2 marathon. He looked real strong being that this was his longest run to date. When we took over for Tim, Aubrey and Mandy began our trek towards Kellogg. It was an awesome day even though we went about 10 miles on one of the scariest highways in history. We made it through, but probably won't take that route again if we do this again.

When Nick took over, he was on dog patrol as we went through a very small town. It seemed like every step that he took there was a new dog popping out of the woodwork. We all were running strong knowing that day was going to be Aubrey's last. We wanted to make sure to maximize the amount of miles we had left in our legs.

As we ran through a few more towns, Aubrey decided that she wanted to end the 3 days off with a bang and busted out a few more miles. As we met her brother, we all decided that Mandy and I would run a little further into the night to get a few more miles. We tacked on another 4 to shorten our day today. After our run we decided to make a few bad decisions and go for some pizza at Pagliais in Grinnell. On our way we were lucky enough to see some 12 year olds get arrested, so that was fun :) After our little pizza adventure we headed to Rock Creek State Park for another adventure, camping. We had a few "techinal difficulties" and ended up sleeping without any heat. Ooops. We all woke up a little chilly and very sore due to our sleeping arrangements.

This morning started off chilly and a little outside of Grinnell. Mandy started the day off with some great hill running. Nick took over to get us through to get us through Grinnell and I hit the road between Grinnell and Brooklyn before handing off to Andrew to bring us in to Brooklyn. When we got in to Brooklyn we met up with Dennis (m-in-laws bf) to help us out for the day. He was a champ and busted out a nice 7 heading out of Brooklyn. After him we started the roation all over again with Mandy and Nick to get us through Victor and Ladora. One of the coolest moments for me was running into my home town of Marengo to meet my sister, my baby nephew Layne, my grandma and my wifes uncle/sponsor Dan. On my way out of town, I decided to pay a little tribute and get my picture taken by the resting places of my grandfather and three uncles. What another great experience to share with my family. Andrew and Dennis got us most of the way to Oxford before we decided that since we have daylight that we would get some more miles in to help out for tomorrow. Tonight we are staying with a very gracious host & hostess, my aunt Sandy and Pat

Well here we sit, 4 days in to our 5 day run. Tomorrow we will start near the Coral Ridge Mall and make our final decent through Coralville, Iowa City, West Liberty and down to Davenport. I will be posting pictures when I get home. We have a ton and Nicks little netbook I don't think can handle it, I kid of course. Stay tuned for more updates

Stay Strong, Run Long,

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Day 2

After all of the drama from day 1 of our adventure day 2 started out different but much the same.

We had a great time with Joe, Judy and Gloria, our new friends from Anita. When we came in to their home I am pretty sure they were wondering what the group of weirdos were actually doing in their driveway with a motorhome smelling like the hog and cattle farms that surrounded the small town of Anita, IA.

They welcomed us into their home and gave Mandy and Aubrey something that they had been talking about for the better part of those 67 miles, a cup of HOT tea and a shower. We were all just so excited to be done with the first day of running that I think most of us were just looking to lay down. Joe & Judy greeted us with some great food and very intriguing conversations. We talked about all of their travels and all of the different countries they had been in and listened to Judy tell us all that we need to make the trip and head to Africa to explore. None of us have been to the orphanage, but just listening to them talk about their passions for travel and seeing the world really helps us realize what we are doing is making a huge difference in the lives of so many.

Leg one was started out by Andrew and we got to see some of the coolest running areas in the state. You know how you see those gigantic blades for the wind turbines? Andrew got to run through a wind turbine field.

We thought for a bit that the weather from Friday was going to give a little until Aubrey headed out. Not only was she going to deal with some of "those hills", she also was the first, and I think only person to deal with rain again but she took it like a true champ.

After Aubrey came Mandy and it was only suiting that the transfer point for Mandy was the Adair-Casey High School where she had actually run in a track meet in high school. We joked about having her try to beat her 800 time, but she was a no go as we are on a mission :)

Nick came next and got to experience the big gas station guy in Menlo that our new friend Joe had told us about the night before. We had to make sure to get a picture to commemorate our conversation with him

I was up next and ran into the city of Stuart. All was going well until I hit a hole in the side of the road and kind of twisted my already ailing knee. I was doing well until some of those hills took me out a little short of my goal distance. I jumped in to the motorhome and iced down with a frozen bagel, since I was the one who forgot the ice packs it only seemed fitting.

The rotation started over again as we made our way through Dexter, where we met our friend Bob Eckhart waiting for us with some delicious stew.

We went through Redfield, Adel, and finally into a very much needed welcoming committee at Point of Grace. We were greeted by some of the members of the congregation that have been to the orphanage along with the folks that are responsible for the incredible growth that the Pines has seen. We were joined by the smiling faces of Brian and Lois Niehoff and Louis and Amber O'toole. It was so cool to have them their to welcome us and show their appreciation for the lunacy that is our journey.
Day 2 was a great success. We all made great times for the day and have been learning some things about each other to make us all closer as a family. This has been such an amazing experience so far and we are all looking forward to the days to come as we continue to grow together.

For those of you POG'ers, we will see you in a few hours for the beginning of day number 3

Friday, October 2, 2009

1 day down, 4 to go

Today is the day the Lord has made, rejoice!!!!

Day one of our run across Iowa and WOW what a day it was. We stayed with an incredible family in Council Bluffs named Drew & Kris Ranney. We got in late to Council Bluffs because the wind was horrible and trying to control a motorhome is not an easy task. We had some great conversations with the Ranney family and could not have had a better meal to start off our adventure. I think most of us were somewhat sleepless preparing for what was ahead. We woke and headed out the door to face the wind, rain and hills.

The day didn't start quite as nicely as planned, seeing that I had gotten us "a little lost". After we finally decided that we better get running. I headed out from an area that was plagued with construction and finally found highway 6 that would start our run. I ran a brisk 8 miler and handed off to Andrew. We made an executive decision to follow behind all of the runners to make sure that everyone was safe. We realized that this was going to be quite the challenge due to the unforgiving weather conditions.

We thought that following the runner was going to be the best idea until 3 of the runners got stopped by "concerned citizens" making sure we realized that there was a gigantic motorhome behind them. I read one time that you know you are a runner in Iowa if you get stopped to ask if you need help. This came oh so true today. Along with being stopped by these people we also got stopped by a different kind of citizen. As we were about 2 miles outside of our stopping point for the night we saw some flashing lights behind us. Apparently another "concerned citizen" called the cops on us because we were running in the middle of the road which is 100% incorrect as we all have the muddy shoes to show it.

Anway, after the first day we are staying at the home of Joe & Judy and nursing our sore muscles. Stay tuned for more updates!!!

Stay Strong, Run Long