Connecting with God, each other, and ourselves in the broken and beautiful

It’s All A Gift…

A version of this post appeared in my “Monday Manna” newsletter. If you’d like to receive this directly to your inbox, subscribe here.

Blessings and warmest of greetings to you this morning, friends! 

As I write to you now, many days out from the Chicago Marathon last Sunday, I am still absolutely overcome with gratitude. As a miner of words, it’s been pretty difficult for me to find them (thank goodness for pictures—tons are below). Running the marathon last week was one of the most incredible days I’ve experienced in a very long time, and my spirit is still riding on winds of wonder (even as I am icing my knee while typing!).  

As I wrote about in my last Monday Manna before the marathon, this whole training journey has been a profound experience of God’s faithfulness and of community—the privilege and power God’s instilled in us to support and shape one another. 

I could not have had a more tangible sense of this than I did that Sunday morning. After lacing up my shoes (and checking them twice) I pulled up Hebrews 12, my confirmation and favorite passage, one more time on my phone. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…

I handed my brother the white Alzheimer’s Association ribbon I’d filled out to pin on my back.

“For Mom,” it read in purple sharpie. 

We crossed into Grant Park and I gave parting hugs to my brother and sister-in-law as we split for our starting corrals. The energy of that crowded space was electrifying. As the loudspeaker played, “the final countdown,” I felt the cloud. My dad across the veil, with the best seat in the house. My mom, gathered with other family back in South Dakota at her assisted living complex, phones open and tracking. The countless family and friends who’d sent gifts and messages of love and promises to pray. And our precious “Team Victory” I knew would be standing on the sidelines. 

…let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely…

The last time I ran on a marathon course, it ended with a bombing. And this marathon weekend itself had been a swirl of stress with much illness in our family (who put all the fall road races during the height of viral season?!).  But the time had come. And God was with us. 

…let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus…

I crossed the starting line, locked into step, and the holy adventure of surprises began. As I wove through skyscrapers and brownstones, past the feather plumed U of Illinois marching band and the Chinatown signs, I was so moved by the beauty of God’s children. The beauty of our city. 

I saw my family and friends numerous times throughout the course, some whom I didn’t even know would be there. One of my best friends held the phone up for another friend on FaceTime. I got to clasp hands along the way with those I loved, receiving from them a surge of renewal. 

I closed my eyes at one point (maybe not the safest, but felt so sacred) to listen to the sound of all the pounding feet. Never once on that course was I alone. 

The winds of prayer and pumping my arms carried me down Michigan Avenue to the finish where I met another surprise. My fastest time in a marathon up to this point was ten years ago when I ran 3:21 to qualify for the Boston marathon. I didn’t know what was possible this time, so many years (and children) later. 

I crossed the line at 3:18. My husband hugged me later and said, “a minute per kid!” 

As I’ve continued to marvel with gratitude at the redemption and joy and grace of this whole experience, what keeps coming back to me is a phrase from Father Richard Rohr. 

It’s all a gift—all the time. 

Everything is a gift. And this was a gift of a lifetime.

Thank you for being a team, friends. 

And thanks, thanks, thanks be to God. 

***

A Prayer…

This prayer is grounded in gratitude, reminding us of God’s tenderness and steadfastness through all the seasons, both within us and around us. From my book, Ash and Starlight…

For Autumn time 

Gracious God,

I praise you as the

Giver and Renewer of seasons.

The earth’s rhythms

remind me of

your faithfulness…

your love….

your promises…

The sun rising each morning,

the leaves turning and dropping,

the stars peeking through

mists of morning gray,

then greeting me as

the day kisses night.

Amidst the cycle, I find

a rhythm for my soul.

I hear echoes of that

ancient and eternal place

into which you beckon me,

and I say thank you.

Oh God, how will you

show yourself to me today?

I am longing for

a closer connection,

a stronger fire,

a self-forgetting confidence

that fills me and makes me 

a whole, abundant person.

I want to find myself so full

of your loving presence

that it spills and splashes

over my life’s rim,

blessing and baptizing

every trip I make,

every meal I cook,

every task I do,

every person I meet,

every smile I share,

every worry I carry.

Thank you, God, for lifting me

over the threshold of this season.

May I watch for the stars tonight

and the sun tomorrow,

finding you in both.

Amen.

Psalm 19:1-6 * Galatians 2:20 * Colossians 3:17

“The heavens are telling the glory of God;

and the firmament proclaims God’s

handiwork.” – Psalm 19:1

***

Something that nourished me recently…

Because a picture is a thousand words. Get ready to scroll…..so many pictures, bottomless gratitude….

Team Victory
More of Team Victory, including my mom in the middle
The ‘why’ is everything…
Receiving a surge of renewal from the hands of dear ones
What a crew!
This may be one of my favorite pictures from the day…
It had been a long morning. Those kids were incredible. And done. My youngest was clapping for a plane flying overhead.
My teammate in all kinds of ways.
One of my best friends in the whole world, who is also one of the most generous people I have ever met. I couldn’t love you more, Emily.
The Alz Stars team before the race began…A story behidn each
Takes my breath away…

***

Ash & Starlight, plus other good things….

* Find Ash and Starlight here

* Marathons are channels for good in so many ways, and the money raised for charities last Sunday was astounding. Because of you, I raised $7,280, and the collective Alz Stars team at the marathon last week brought in over $600,000 to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association! Thank you, thank you, thank you again for your incredible generosity.

* A little note on the story of “Team Victory” — when my dad ran the Sioux Falls half marathon after his bone marrow transplant in 2013, he raised money and awareness for “Be the Match.” My dad coined the name “Team Victory” as a nod to many of his caring bridge posts, and how he ended them with a word about victory. Throughout my dad’s illness, our understanding of “victory” was changed and transformed. It went from a plea for remission to a posture of trust in the One who never fails us. Wholeness and healing can come even when cures do not. 

My dad, Dr. Tom Braithwaite…

***

Wishing you experiences of profound gift and grace in this week, my friends. God is with you. 

Love and Light,

Arianne 

4 Comments

  1. Susie Wiswall

    What an awesome experience and just a beautiful summary of your race. Congratulations on being the 3rd highest participant in your fund raising. WAY TO GO!

    We miss your Mom and I know she (and your Dad) are so proud of you guys.

    • Arianne Braithwaite Lehn

      Thank you so much, Susie! Your encouragement means so much. And my mom misses you too. You and Brian will always be special neighbors.

  2. Cindy Whitmore

    Absolutely beautiful! Amen and amen. Loved seeing the picture of your Mom, she looks just as I remember her ❣️

    • Arianne Braithwaite Lehn

      Thank you so much, Cindy! Much love to you!

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