Friday, September 30, 2011

Present:Hope Tour

The last few days have been quite the learning experience for me. It seems that in every challenge where people's limits are tested, stuff is squeezed out. Some of the stuff that comes out is good, like when you find out that you can do way more than you thought you could. Other stuff can be not so much fun but when dealt with can bring so much growth.
Thursday was the day when the rubber hit the road for me. I was miserable pretty much the whole day and it was one of our shortest days. I was starting to get sick, my lips were sunburned, my legs were sore and the luster of riding my bike every day was starting to wear off. There was absolutely nothing I could do to keep up with the team. It was a complete mental battle to finish the day and it seemed like I was counting very pedal stroke.

The next day we inadvertently rode 100 miles due to some missed turns. But it was my favorite day so far. I felt great and had so much fun with the team. We finished the day cruising in on some of the smoothest roads in Mississippi. It was breathtaking.
We hit another short day yesterday and cruised in to Tuscaloosa. One of my favorite things is stopping to talk to people along the way. They always stop to ask us what we're doing when they notice our matching spandex get-ups and sweet ride and almost always give donations.
Today was our first rest day today which was amazing. My legs thank everyone involved in that decision. I'm loving hanging out with the team and knowing each of their quirks and personalities. They're all so much fun. I'm already sad thinking about the tour being over in a few days but excited to know that I'll have friends all over the country that I can see whenever I pass through. We went to a church picnic today and played bocce and egg toss, which we totally dominated.
Today we toured Tuscaloosa with a local pastor. The tornado that hit here was an F4 and was on the ground for 80 miles. The same thing stuck out here as in Joplin. Yes there was loss and death, but there were so many stories of lives spared. I keep thinking the same thing, that I really thought I was bringing these folks something by being on this tour but what I'm finding is that we are the messengers of their stories and God's story of hope and redemption. Amazing.

We hit the road again tomorrow and head towards Atlanta. Keep on pedaling!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Present:Hope Tour Day 6

Today was a tough one for me. I think it's the day that reality officially set in. The whole "one foot in front of the other" applies so well to today. I was tired, my butt hurt, my legs are sore. I didn't have any idea how I was going to get through today. As we started out, I thought to myself, just put one foot in front of the other- just keep pedaling. It made me think of how the tornado victims and anyone else dealing with loss must feel every morning too. They wake up thinking, I don't know how I'm going to get through today but they put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. It doesn't happen overnight, but soon there is progress. And where there is progress there is hope.
I rode the first 22 miles with Steve today and he pushed my pace a lot. I burned a lot matches out of the book right off the bat. But it felt awesome. I started out sore and before long I was cruising. Of course, I paid for it the rest of the day but it was totally worth it.
We ended in Memphis where my in-laws picked me up for dinner. Love those guys! Now I'm back with my team and feeling exhausted but grateful for the ability to press on, put one foot in front of the other and start over tomorrow.

Present:Hope Tour Day 5

We have biked 186 miles in the last 2 days. For me, today was the day reality set in- we still have a long way to go. We all kind of take turns sharing a thought for the day. Yesterday was our 101-mile ride and I shared about being present in pain. How appropriate.
At my yoga studio, my instructor often uses the phrase- be present. I love yoga because it gives you this mini world to practice your attitude so you can get it right when you're out in the rest of the world. So you get to yoga and decide- in this next hour I'm going to be present and receive the full benefits. When you hit a posture that feels uncomfortable, you lean in to the pain slightly and then you will see growth. If you pull pack from the discomfort, you will never see growth.
This same concept is true with biking. Going up the 16% grade hill we hit yesterday was painful. But the benefits I receive from pushing through that pain is stronger legs, lungs and heart. My body is stronger, and so is my inner core of resolve. I am now standing at the top of something I looked up at from the bottom and didn't know if I could do.
Both of these physical lessons apply in the spiritual realm. The pain we experience throughout our lives is reaping for us benefits. It keeps building that inner core of resolve but mostly it produces in us the character of Christ. He became a person that was so willing to be present in pain that he was able to give his life for others. The good news about this pain that we all will or have already experienced is that we never have to go at it alone. He promises over and over to be with us always.
My mantra from this thought and from Pastor Aaron's video from St. Paul's has become "keep climbing."

We got on our bikes yesterday and rode 101 miles with 4600 ft. elevation gain. It was tough, it was painful, but we persevered. Started out the first 20 miles with my buddy Paul. Finished out the day with the fearsome five-some. So proud of my crew. It was the most difficult ride I've done but hands down the most fun.

1st pic- my 101 mile crew. Ya budddy!
2nd pic- the view from the top of the hardest hill I've ever climbed.
3rd pic- "the best part of waking up is Iced Via in my cup"

Monday, September 26, 2011

Present:Hope Tour Day 4

Yesterday was so busy, I didn't get time to blog. We were at 3 services at St. Paul's United Methodist in Joplin where our team member Aaron pastors. Right now they're meeting at a college chapel until October 9th when they move back in to their home church that was mostly destroyed in the tornado. What a great church! So loving and fun to meet all of them.
About 40 of them met us for the send-off along with Fox and CBS reporters. It was really great to be there as they sent off their pastor as the rides on their behalf.
We rode about 20 miles and then had to hop in the van so we could meet the rest of the team in Branson for a presentation. The rest of the team rode from Springfield to Branson on Highway 65. If you've driven this road before, you know this was no easy feat. They road beastly hill after beastly hill. I'm going to be honest, I felt like I dodged a bullet. That is until today. The ride to Marshall had some doozies. But it was one of the most beautiful rides I've ever been on.

Ernest Hemingway wrote "It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle." I felt this in every pedal stroke today. It was beautiful country with rolling hills and some really big ones too. They stretched all of us.

I'm loving this experience with this team and growing closer every day. Tomorrow we do 101 miles.

Present:Hope Tour Day 2- Joplin

I know I speak for the whole team when I say that we do not intend for this Tour to bring the spotlight on to us but rather, we are the spotlight holders, shining light and offering a new perspective to stories you may not have seen.

Today was a day I will never forget. We saw Joplin through the eyes of one of our team members who is the pastor of St. Paul's Methodist Church in Joplin. He and his family live here and have played a huge role in the aftermath of the tornado. Trust me when I say, you don't understand the destruction until you are in the town and feel it. It was sobering to ride through the town that our friend has loved and served for 17 years, and have him show us the hospital and high school that are completely destroyed, along with hundreds of houses and businesses. It was heart-breaking to hear stories from some of his congregants of how they lost everything, including loved ones. But as we were experiencing all of this, something started to stand out. They have hope. It was in my misaligned thinking before the Tour that I was somehow going to bring them hope as we are present in these communities. But instead, I saw how a community that is wracked with pain possess so much peace and hope. They are present in their pain, present for one another and getting through it. At the end of our time with them, one of the riders asked them to share with us what message they'd like us to share on their behalf. Every one of them responded, telling us to let people know that God was here.

So many people, including myself, tend to ask the same questions in time of pain and suffering- Where was God,? How could he let this happen? etc. It became apparent today as stories emerged that he was here when the tornado hit and he's here now. Yes, there is mind-blowing devastation here. Yes, there are horrific stories of loss and tragedy. But we've already heard countless stories of lives being spared and God's hand being on them. Out of the ashes is coming a story of redemption. Already there is new construction, the school administration has been rockstars and gotten the kids in school on their scheduled starting day, people are reaching out to one another, volunteers are helping everywhere you look, and many have seen God's hand in all of it. I think what most people want in any circumstance that involves grieving is to know that people understand. Not that you have to be there with the perfect words or a certain emotional response, but that you get it. We hope you will keep following the Tour as we shine the light on more stories. Keep Joplin in your thoughts and prayers, they still need it.

Pictured are the hospital and high school, both of which were completely destroyed.

24 hours of Present:Hope Tour

A few things I've already learned in the 24 hours of the Present:Hope Tour.

1- I love my team. Their stories are incredible and I'm more excited than I even thought to share this experience with them. I love that feeling of really knowing someone and thinking back to when you first met them and you didn't know them at all. That's about to happen.

2- I love Venture. I love hearing their heart, stories and the difference they've made over the last 10 years. Over $1 million raised for different relief organizations around the world. Their desire to bring the hope of Christ to the world is at the forefront of what they do. I absolutely love being a part of it.

3- I love my family and friends. I am so thankful to have a story to share with them that they care to listen to and be a part of. We are making a difference.

I can't wait to share more as this story unfolds.