Sunday, February 4, 2018

The North Face 100 - Thailand


5 Kilometers in - I was breathing hard, getting hot, and already behind where I wanted to be.

Ryan, Richard, and I had gotten to the Khao Yai area on Thursday afternoon after flying to Bangkok and driving the rental car 2 hours north. Thursday passed quietly, Friday did the same until we found our way to the race area to check-in, pick up our bibs, and listen to the race instructions.

Running is unique in that it’s the skinny people who are scarier. And there were a lot of skinny-scary dudes walking around. I was getting pretty intimidated, and Richard ‘helped’ calm my nerves by telling me, “Looks can be deceiving… you don’t look fast.” True enough.

I didn’t know what place I was in, but after only 30 minutes of a 100k race, that’s not very important. What’s more important, for me at least, is to follow my plan. So, I put my head down, sped up, and after several more kilometers was back where I wanted to be.

I don’t know how many miles Richard, Ryan, and I have run together since I got to Thailand, but it has to be several hundred. That being said, it was great to spend the weekend with them. They both ran races this weekend as well.

The miles started ticking off and I was feeling good. I caught up with a fellow runner at some point in here and we made conversation for a while. That turned out to be Kristian Morgan, the guy who ended up finishing 2nd and was never far behind the rest of the day. These early miles - with the steep climbs, the sharp downhills, and everything else - these are the ones that you cherish, as the later miles don’t just tick off.

Running on the road I turn a sharp corner and am greeted by a line of young school children. In unison they wai (bowing with hands clasped as in prayer) and yell, “Sa-Wa-Dee-Kha!” “Hello!” I think I managed a translatable grunt back at them as I waved, but their smiling faces buoyed me for miles. Another time a young boy ran with me for 100 meters or so while he tried to get a selfie of him and I. Joy.

Several hours in I ran into a wall. It was a wall of folks running the 15 and 25km race. This wouldn’t have been a problem but it was climbing up a steep hill and then descending that same hill with no room on either side. I spent 10 minutes saying “Excuse me!” waiting for people to step aside, and then rushing to the next group of people. I had to do this with probably close to 100 people. The only thing that kept me from going crazy was knowing that everyone else in my race was in the same situation.

In one of these packs of people I passed the 1st place 100k runner.  So, coming out of that section I found myself in first. And, as the new first place runner, I got a motorcycle companion that followed me around and pointed me through the rest of the course. I’d like to think that we became friends, but a lot of things from Saturday are fuzzy so that might have been in my head.

I took several minutes to enjoy being in the lead, but I could feel the footsteps of Quang Tran (the 3rd place finisher) close behind. So, I put my head down and ran.

What do you think about when you run that far?” I thought about my mom who I knew would be up until I finished (2:45am her time), so I ran as fast as I could so she could cheer and get to bed. I thought about cheesy lava pizza, finish line massages, and why on earth I run these races. But mostly, I was just trying to enjoy the day. Waving to kids, Thumbs-upping fellow runners (“Suu Suu!!!”), and trying to remember poems, (“Forget your voice, sing! Forget your feet, dance! Forget your life, live! Forget yourself and be!” - Kamand Kojouri).

It got hot. It got hard. It got to the point where I didn’t want to take another step. But I did.

As I’m sitting here thinking of all of the stories, all of the people, and all of those little moments that pass quicker than they come, I am forced to stop writing soon or I’ll go on and on. 

I spent nearly 40 miles in the lead. I felt like I was being hunted, and it was not a great feeling. I’ve always enjoyed laying back and waiting for opportunities, but Saturday, for several reasons, I felt like my best strategy was to push early and hang on. Finishing only 2 minutes ahead of second place, 10 minutes ahead of 3rd place and only 35 minutes ahead of the first woman I think that was a good idea!

“Why (or how) do you run that far?” It used to be that I would run angry. Or, if not angry, sad. Life can sometimes be difficult. And I firmly believe what I have said about running being a chance to get a win in life. Running doesn’t solve a failing relationship, but it can displace some of the pain for a little while.  But, right now? Finishing up 2017 and having a good start on 2018? I can be nothing but grateful for my life. And so, when the race got hard, like they always do, this time I didn’t whip myself. This time I didn’t force myself to not quit like I had in other life endeavors. Instead, I ran happy, free, and with joy. And that made all the difference.

Saturday was a great race, but now I am excited to just run for fun for a while. I’m leading a “Couch to 5K” program for my friends at work, and that is great.

I got a free entry into The North Face’s 100k in Hong Kong next December, so maybe I won’t retire just yet. Maybe one more year of this… ; )


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Nana


The first thing you should know about my Nana is that she isn't my real Nana.

My name is Kevin. I am 12 years old. I have one sister who is 6 years old. Her name is Melissa. We live in Point’s Hollow, Ohio with my mom, my dad, and now my Nana.

The second thing you should know about my Nana is that she has great endurance.

Our town is 20 miles from Springfield. My dad is a farmer and my mom runs the corner store. I am in the 5th grade. I like football, fishing, and anything my friends are doing. I still remember the day my Nana showed up. It was almost lunchtime and I was sitting by the road counting the clouds that passed by my house. Summers in Point’s Hollow can be boring.

The third thing you should know about my Nana is that she doesn’t remember much.

The day Nana showed up was in the summer. It’s the wintertime now. I was sitting there, counting clouds, like I told you when I saw her on her bike. She’s an old lady and she rides normal speed for an old lady, which is pretty slow. She rode her bike past me and she had a look on her face like she wasn’t seeing anything that she was looking at. Nana went three pedals past me, and then stopped. She stood there for a long time looking around, so I ran up to her. I said, “Hi. Do you need some help?” She said, “Hi Zachary, I’m just going to the market.” I didn’t know what to say because there isn’t a market near my house, and my name is Kevin, not Zachary. I said, “Are you lost?” She said, “Lost? Good heavens, no! I’ve lived here my whole life! I’m not lost, I’m just looking for Mittens. Have you seen her?”

The fourth thing you should know about my Nana is that she’s a really good cook.

I ran and got my mom. My mom brought Nana into our house and got her a glass of iced tea. Old people love iced tea. Nana usually loves it but sometimes she hates it. That day she loved it. My mom asked her a bunch of questions, like “what’s your name?” “where do you live?” “what’s your family’s name?” Nana didn’t know the answer to most of the questions. When my dad got back from the fields we took Nana into Springfield. We went to the police station, but they said there wasn’t any missing person reports. We went to the hospital, the old people’s home, and even to the rotary club. But, no one was missing a little old lady. So, we brought Nana back home with us. Later that night she told my mom that she wanted to read a story to me and my sister. So, we climbed up into bed with Nana and she read us a story. Even though I’m 12, and too old for stories, I loved it. She’s the best reader ever.

The fifth thing you should know about my Nana is that she always carries butterscotch candy in her pockets.

My mom and dad traveled all around trying to find Nana’s family, but they couldn’t find her missing from anywhere. They even went all the way to Columbus, but no one was looking for Nana. I think that Nana probably got on her bike and rode all the way from St. Louis. Like I told you, she has really good endurance. The second day she was at our house we went for a walk. Nana walked so fast that we could barely keep up with her. My mom turned around and took Melissa home after a while, but Nana and I walked for a really long time. It was a lot of fun. She told me a bunch of stories about her husband and children. She kept changing the names, so I don’t know what was actually true, but I think her husband is dead and her kids are "rabble-rousers." Sometimes Nana lets me talk and talk for hours. My mom always says that my imagination belongs in the circus, and even though Nana doesn’t remember any of the stories I tell her, I’m pretty sure she loves hearing them.

The sixth thing you should know about my Nana is that she is missing a finger on her left hand and has fake teeth.

My dad said, “She isn’t a stray animal, we can’t “keep her!”” I think we spent almost a month looking for her family, but, in the end, we never could find them. I cried and cried when dad said that we were going to take her to the police station and let them deal with her. But mom said something about “leaving him for Billy Forrest” and he said that Nana could stay. Besides, even though Nana is really nice, I think my dad is a little afraid of her. I don’t know why. Anyways, I think that was the happiest day of my life. Nana sometimes does strange things like wears her clothes inside out. One time we woke up and she wasn’t in her room. We looked and looked and finally found her walking towards town. She sometimes scolds mom like mom is her own daughter. Sometimes she gets angry and says that she doesn’t know where she is. But, that’s only sometimes. Most of the time I can’t wait to get home from school to see her. Like yesterday, after I got home from school, we sat on the back porch and snapped peas for dinner. She likes to hear about my day at school, and she likes to tell me about all of her sisters and about when they were growing up.

The seventh thing you should know about my Nana is that she is my best friend.

My favorite part of the day is after Nana is done reading to us she looks at me and says, “Oh, my sweet little Zachary, good night!”  Except, a couple of days ago, she said, “Oh, my sweet little Kevin, good night!” I looked at her, really surprised, and she just winked at me. She doesn’t usually remember my name so that made me super happy. When Nana first started living with us mom said that Nana had “old-timer’s” disease. That’s why she doesn’t remember things too good. Mom also said that Nana would probably get worse. Nana hasn’t been eating. Mom said that Mrs. Bloom’s mother, who had old-timers too, stopped eating before she died. That made me really sad. Even though Nana isn’t my real Nana, and even though she’s only been living with us since the summer, I can’t really remember her not being around. So, I try my best to help her eat. Sometimes she’ll eat, and sometimes she won’t let me get the spoon close to her mouth. So, I can tell that she’s probably getting ready to die. Mom said that sometimes old people are just ready to die. That makes me really sad, but I just want Nana to be happy. The other reason I think Nana is getting ready to die is because she’s been telling stories about her husband and it sounds like she mostly liked him. Back before, when she first came, her stories weren’t as nice about him. So I think Nana knows she’s about to go see him up in heaven, and maybe she’s practicing liking him again. 

I don’t know what makes someone family, but, the last thing you should know about my Nana is that she is my real Nana.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Quiet Time

I’ve been quiet on here for quite some time. That’s because I have had a lot of thoughts floating through, in and out of, my head. Sometimes I feel like a little boy, lying on his back, watching the sky, and watching the kites as they fly up and down and around. Occasionally one of those kites will swoop low enough that the boy can read the lettering on its side. That lettering? Those are my thoughts most of the time.

I used to run around chasing and trying to catch the kites. But that was too much work and produced hazy end results. This way, letting the thoughts coalesce, is much more restful – still hazy – but more restful.

Two quotes have come together, from two very different sources, to hopefully produce one coherent thought.

Many mornings I wake up an utter unbeliever – worse than any atheist” – Christian Wiman

Every morning I must say again to myself, Today I start.” – St. Anthony of the Desert

Do you feel this way too?

I don’t know. Maybe it’s just that I’m too busy in the mornings. Or maybe I’m not enough of a morning person.

Either way, it seems like, if I let me, my self likes to get to lunch time-ish before I remember to start properly.

And by then of course I have to start with penitence for my reticence and when I’m done with that I usually forget why I wanted to start anyways…

The point is. I’ve been much better about starting the day with what we used to call, “quiet time.” That idea of starting fresh every day, not because I should, but because I need.

Do you feel this way too?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Delight

The good news is that God has such low standards
And reaches out to those of us who oftentimes are unlovable
And offers us a chance to come back inside out of our storm
Of drama and toxic thoughts

Love reaches out and reaches out and reaches out

It is staggering that it is always giving another chance
Another day
Over and over and over

Or maybe, it isn’t low standards – but high delight
                                   By delight I mean                    Mother 
looking over the crib at her sleeping baby
                                Daddy                 bouncing baby on his knee
Laughing and laughing and laughing

Maybe God’s delight in us is just so much
So big so high
That the dirt smudge on our cheek doesn’t bother him.

And Remember
delight true delight is best received when it is reciprocated
Given back to the giver


Mutual Joy in the Other

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

An update!

The easiest way to say this is to say that things are good. Things are great. Stupendous, really.

I’ve moved from my apartment across the street from Cornerstone, and from now until the 20th of October, I’ll move several times until I settle into my friend Ruth’s house for the remainder of my time.

Besides the logistics involved in moving around for the next month, I feel confident in saying that I am settled in and comfortably living in Thailand.

In regards to actual counseling, I haven’t started seeing any clients yet. However, I have had the opportunity to observe several other clinicians during some of their sessions and that has been a really good learning experience.

I’m back to running somewhat seriously. I have a couple marathons planned for later on this year and then in February I will race a 100k. Here's a view from a Buddhist temple just outside of town. 

From a practicalities standpoint there is probably quite a bit more I could tell you. But, I think this is a good place to leave those sorts of details.

By far, without even thinking about it, the best experience thus far has been the staff retreat that I just returned from. Wednesday afternoon we piled into cars, drove about 25 minutes to a little hotel/retreat center, and proceeded to spend the next 48 hours doing retreaty things.

Here’s what I can tell you. These are great people, doing great things, with each other. And, for some reason, they let me be a part.

And I feel like I fit – like its where I should be – where I want to be. It also feels too good to be true. But in the real way.

“Wherever you have dreamed of going, I have camped there, and left firewood for when you arrive.”
-Hafiz

That’s how it feels here. It feels like dropping the backpack at the end of a long day of hiking, looking around the area you’ve found to camp, and finding a makeshift fire ring with a pile of dry firewood ready for the evening. Stupendous, really.


So, thanks for being a part of my journey!

P.S. Some humor to highlight how beautiful Thailand is!


Saturday, September 9, 2017

10 Days in.

Friends!

I'm sitting here on an early Sunday morning, slowly getting ready for church, checking emails, and feeling really grateful to be here - in this apartment, across the street from Cornerstone, in Chiang Mai, in Thailand - you get the point.

I have been super busy getting settled in and so haven't sat down to write the last several days. So, instead, I made a little video. Talking isn't my strong suit, so bear with me. : )



So, anyways. Things are great!

Contact: One of the incredible things about living in 2017 is that even though I am halfway around the world we can still communicate easily! 
- Email - david.emch@gmail.com
- Facebook - If you have messenger that's an easy way to communicate
- iMessage - my phone number is +66 93-125-9293
-Whatsapp - Whatsapp is a great texting app. If you have it or want to download it, you can find me with my phone number.

I will leave you with a couple prayer requests.
   - My Mom and Sister's family live down in Florida. Will you pray with me for their safety?
   - I would appreciate your continued prayers for my getting settled in.

Thanks! Talk to you soon. 




Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Greater We

In a couple of days, I am finally, after what has seemed like an extremely long wait, getting on an airplane. I’ll be flying west for twenty-four hours to arrive in the Far East.

I’ll wave goodbye to my Mom, who is taking me to the airport, and getting onto an airplane. All by myself. This is a journey, an adventure, an opportunity, an experience, that I will be taking all on my own.

And yet, I am deeply struck by the fact that none of this would have been possible without a myriad – literally a huge group – of people. If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of those people.

If I told you all of the stories about all of the people who have lent me a hand to get me on that airplane, it would take a book. If I told you all of the stories about all of the little things that got worked out for me to be getting on that airplane, it would take another book.
There is a Bible passage that says this way better than I could.

1 Cor. 12:13-28  - Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.
 I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.
 But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”? As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way—the “lower” the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. When it’s a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons. If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair?
 The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.
 You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything.

So. In a couple days I get on that plane all alone. But, as just one small part of the greater WE!


Thank you all for your love and support up to this point! Next post from Thailand!