Minimizing the Divide Through the Eyes of a Runner.

The fog of the morning silhouettes the deep blue mountains. The ridge pops out from the landscape so vividly, establishing itself against the sky. The cold seems to feed this divide.

As I sprint a little faster to warm my muscles, I ponder on this. Don’t we, as humans, do the same thing?

We fight all our lives to be the darker, brighter, lighter color. To be whatever stands out against our surroundings.

To be so memorable that we can’t help but establish ourselves.

 

… Maybe we should stop. Maybe we should strive to always be the light in this world. Not because it is different than the dark, but because it is right. Just maybe we should try to be what God made us to be instead of what we made us to be. 

Think of the unity and joy that would be found. 

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works” Ephesians 2:10

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Home Through the Eyes of a Runner.

The sun shines in, warming the train car enough to take away the chill of the cool day. It is one of those beautiful odd December days that you are unsure whether or not the winter coat is necessary or not.

I determined it was not necessary, and as I embarked out onto my next journey.

Chugging along, the trains whistle sounds alarming the passing towns that the Regional is coming through. Stop by stop I get closer and closer. Closer to remembering who I was, who I am, and who I want to be.

Coming home is always an educational experience. Sometimes it saddens me to say that I feel no emotional connection to where I grew up. I don’t feel as though when looking back over my life in twenty years I will say my home is Bedford. I will definitely say Bedford is where I grew up, but I will not say it is home. Where my mom is is home for me, which right now happens to be in Bedford. One of the many weird things I’ve come to learn in the past year and a half is that my mom can be with me wherever I am. So it will be up to me where I call home in the future.

I know there has to be some sort of mental connection to this place where I started. Bedford is the location where I began to plant my roots in this ever changing Earth. And each time I near these blue mountains, the dust of a dirt road, the green open pastures I feel a calm. Part of this may just be sentimentality of knowing this was my “start”, but part of it may be because I placed everything I had in everything I did in Bedford.

I gave all the energy I could muster to do everything in Bedford. I was president of everything, captain of even more, involved in all the “right” clubs, organizations, and volunteer groups, but less than two years out, when I return to Bedford I feel nothing. I feel as though I was just another leaf in the pile that had to be raked annually.

I was raked, bagged up, and forgotten in this small town.

This time that I return to Bedford is the first time I feel okay to explore my time by myself over break. I can hang out with everyone I want to, and I won’t let myself feel obliged to see and spend time with those I feel have forgotten me. I finally feel free to take time to go visit my true friends who I have so deeply neglected, deepen my faith, and take a very needed health holiday.

I can spend time with those in my life that truly matter. It is not beneficial to spend my time on relationships that have no foundation and that neither party has any urge to lay a foundation to build upon.

I feel strong for the first time in two years. I can be an independent while in a relationship, while in friendships, while being someone’s child, while in school. I don’t have to conform. I can be who I was made to be.

The hard part is not regressing.

 Not becoming the people pleasing pushover everyone knew. I don’t need to seek my identity in anything other than my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And I thank God for that!

He knew what he was doing when he called me beautiful. When he said I was special and loved. When he gave me my family to reinforce that. When he placed relationships in my life. Even when he took away relationships in my life. God is so good and so deserving of all praise. 

Today, I thank him for my loving family!

 

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Praise Through the Eyes of a Runner.

My heart moves. Thump, thump, thump. I open my eyes to the sun that peeks through my blinds. I shake off the cobwebs that seem to encompass my sleeping brain. It’s all I can do to move my weak limbs out of the bed. Finally my feet hit the ground, not fully, but just enough to grab my bible and climb back into bed.

As I raise the blinds, I feel this odd sense of déjà vu. As my eyes catch sight of Philadelphia, this silly smile comes across my face. What is this?

I’m smiling. I’m smiling again. I’m smiling again when I’m alone. It is enough to bring tears to my eyes. My heart is full and happy. Even in my loneliness I am happy. All I can do is rejoice to the one who all my joy comes from. As I close my eyes to pray, my heart sings songs of unbounded praise.

I’m feeling. I’m alone and I’m feeling. And man it feels good.

“I will exalt you, Lord,
    for you lifted me out of the depths
    and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
Lord my God, I called to you for help,
    and you healed me.
You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
    you spared me from going down to the pit.

Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
    praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
    but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
    but rejoicing comes in the morning.

When I felt secure, I said,
    “I will never be shaken.”
Lord, when you favored me,
    you made my royal mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face,
    I was dismayed.

To you, Lord, I called;
    to the Lord I cried for mercy:

 “What is gained if I am silenced,
    if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
    Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me;
    Lord, be my help.”

You turned my wailing into dancing;
    you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
    Lord my God, I will praise you forever.”

                Psalm 30

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The Antithesis of Evil Through the Eyes of a Runner.

The city hums in the distance as I curl into my warm, safe bed. 

What happens out there this time of night?

As I close my eyes lying torpid in this cocoon. Hibernating from the world, I can’t help but wonder what evil is lurking tonight? 

What will the periodicals read in the morning when I awake? Will I read of another murder, shooting, fire,….? 

 

What would happen if as I awoke I read about a great revival, a joy and peace that has settled over this thrill seeking city?

 What if the reason for Christmas took welcome residence in every heart of every person? 

 

Jesus still performs miracles. I hope and pray that tonight, miracles happen. 

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Trinkyi Through the Eyes of a Runner.

The sound of smiles resonate in a deafening roar around me. As the bitter cold chills my bones, I stop to look up at the white sky. How can such menial precipitation mixed with the finality of a semester bring so much joy?

It amazes me every year, around this time how the world becomes superficially pure. The soft blanket that covers this filthy world brings such peace for a moment. Even the talk and giggles as friends jaunt through the aput[1] seem like soft reverent whispers, insulated murmurs.

Eskimos have over 50 words for this phenomenon and blessing. Something so simple can bring such joy.

Yet we let this feeling fade as the chill sets in, as we step in that unwelcoming shlim[2].

This serenity flees our all too hardened hearts. This elegant attla[3] become naklin[4].

We let this happen. The murmurs have turned into distressing shouts. We argue it is our nature. We just settle that life isn’t beautiful nor could ever be.

But it is. Oh so beautiful.

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Definitions of Eskimo Words:

Trinkyi- first snow of the year

[1]aput-snow on the ground

[2] shlim-slush

[3] attla- snow that as it falls creates nice pictures in the air

[4] naklin-forgotten snow

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The Urban Jungle Called Philadelphia Through the Eyes of a Runner.

As my feet pound the paved earth below me mile after mile, I know I am home. This beautiful city in the past two years has become my comfort, my friend, and my home.

The boisterous noises of sirens, people shouting to their neighbors, and the rushing masses to and fro are not as lively today. The peace of winter and the cold seems to have calmed this beautiful, exciting city, if only for just this morning.

This time of day is magical, as the chill of the dark morning breaks into the warmth of sunlight as it peeks over the buildings that tower stories above my presence.

These buildings make me feel so small yet so powerful. The power comes from the hopes that one day I will have office in one of these high rise buildings. One day I will be the person running to and from work with my briefcase. But for now, as a student, Philadelphia has a way of humbling you.  At least it has humbled me.

Coming into Wharton, I was the big dog: the one person from my small rural town who was going to an Ivy League school, the girl who did everything and everyone knew, the smart one, the overachiever.

Getting to Wharton, I was the smallest possible fish: the girl from small rural town, the girl who wasn’t about to raise her hand and speak in class because she was terrified of being considered dumb, the unsure one, the outsider.

I felt like I was on top of the world when I got into Wharton, but once here I found myself being challenged in ways that were difficult, wonderful and often very stressful. I knew I needed to find an outlet for the days my challenges were difficult or too stressful for me to merely study away.

I had always been told, “the four years of college are the best years of your life.” But for me it has been very stressful. It was the spring semester of my freshman year that I decided to embrace the fact that college is not only about classes and learning, but fun and exploration too. So I sought out an outlet to release some of the stresses from the challenges I was facing in classes: I would begin running.

This outlet commenced as just that, an outlet, but has transformed into so much more than that; running has become a passion. Most people run for health or training for a race; for me, I run to explore. 

And wow! Exploring Philadelphia has been such a joy and excitement! With miles and miles under my feet and on my sneakers, I have seen countless weddings and historical reenactments in the beautiful district of Old City, run by the Schuylkill river along Boathouse Row as the brave souls brace the 8 degree windy mornings preparing for their crew regattas, experienced many street fairs thrown by local artists or neighborhoods, seen the children at play in elementary schools in West Philadelphia, watched as tourists take on the great Rocky Steps, been in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Center City as Market Street employees come back from their lunches, experienced the lively, celebratory atmosphere of South Street as the street performers begin their nightly acts, been shown the homey towns of Mannyunk, East Falls, and Fishtown by residents of these towns, said hello to the animals while passing the Philadelphia Zoo, and on and on.

But my personal favorite thing I’ve been to say I’ve done in my exploration is this: I’ve come to the point where I can say “I know this city. This is my city. I belong here. I’m a resident of the city not just a temporary student in this city.”

Exploring Philadelphia has been one of the best parts of my time at Wharton and Penn. My fellow students will sometimes tell me they haven’t been off campus all year and I question them, why? Being at Wharton and at the University of Pennsylvania we are being given the best opportunities a student could have, academically, socially, and for our careers. But that is not all we are given. We are given the city. Philadelphia is at our fingertips. We are given wonderful culture, amazing people with unique stories, breathtaking views, and places that are just waiting to be explored.

As my feet pound against the cobblestone brick of Locust Walk, I see Hunstman Hall and my dorm in the distance. As I pass a friend I take comfort, I am home on this campus and in this city. At least for these four short years…

Here I can be me: I can be Melanie Smith, the small town girl who is finding herself in the City of Brotherly Love.

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