Saturday, November 6, 2021

Chasing dreams through golden forests

Pulling into the driveway at 0345, Rachel quickly made her way to the car. The prepared bag of extra clothes and snacks went into the back seat as she claimed the shotgun position. A discussion ensued over which of us slept the least despite valiant efforts to invite slumber. Traveling north toward our destination, the aroma of her warmed-up egg, bacon, and cheese bagel filled my Suzuki. It seemed to provide comfort despite the increasing realization of the task at hand.

As I steered the car along the winding mountain roads, eventually turning into the open field that served as the day's parking lot, we glanced at each other after the car came to a stop. Though Rachel had no means of comparison, I noted that the normal fervor accompanying the start of a 50 mile mountain race was missing. Rather, the majority of the Port-a-Potty's stood ready but empty. Small groups of people made the 50-yard trip to the electronic start line to be sent off at five or ten minute intervals. After checking in but needing to wait for her appointed time, we both retreated to the car to escape the more than chilly 20-something temps. It could have been my imagination, but I am pretty sure I heard the accelerated rhythm of my young friend's heart, reminiscent of E.A. Poe's tell-tale heart. I smiled. I was very familiar with that feeling.

Soon enough, headlamp blazing, she took the first steps of her first-ever 50-mile journey. Though dressed in running clothes myself, my athletic wear was not as much necessary as it was familiar. I made my way back to the car, left the parking lot, and drove toward the Blue Ridge Parkway in the darkness of the 0530 time frame. I hoped I would be able to negotiate the miles and miles of driving along twisty-turny country roads throughout the day. I did not want to fail my young, talented protege' by missing her at an aid station.

I chatted with legendary David Horton at the first aid station. We watched as bobbing headlamps came streaming down the steep hill. Many had no need to stop, just 8 or 9 miles into the race. They came and went quickly, which is why I only got a glimpse of Rachel, who had moved up in the standings. Content that she was moving well, my curiosity was appeased, allowing me to make the bumpy drive back down the gravel road.

My next destination was a new aid station for this newly designed out-and-back course. I had successfully run the older version twenty times in past years, learning the ins and outs of the trails like the back of my hand. Still, there were two sections I had never been on, one of them leading to the aid station to which I was now headed. I parked on the side of the road, the lone car at a place that was normally bristling with excitement. "Strange," I thought, gathering my backpack filled with potential supplies and making the short half-mile trek to the station at the 15-mile mark. Highly expecting the commotion common to an aid station, I was surprised to find nothing but two willing souls and one jug of water at the "Cabin." Oops.

The lost and missing crew members eventually found their way into the woods and set up tables filled with food, beverage, and freshly-cooked pancakes. Sooner than expected, I saw Rachel coming down the hill. "I've been passing so many," she quickly briefed me. Game face on, she spent a slim 10 seconds getting aid. I didn't even have time to snap a photo. Off she went as if on a mission to track down and kill her prey. I was excited, but a little concerned that she may be pushing too hard. I had told her to hold a comfortable effort for at least the first 20 - 30 miles. 

Five miles later, she came down into the lowest elevation aid station on the course. This time, she was on the heels of the woman occupying the third spot. A couple ibuprofen to calm an aggravated groin and a quick refuel prepared her for the grueling, predominately uphill trek back to the Cabin stop. Hence, I drove back around, walked the familiar trail into the woods, this time finding a music-thumping, fully-equipped aid station. I felt a little guilty chatting it up with the gang and other crew awaiting the arrival of their runners because I knew how hard it was to climb back up this mountain. I had my phone at the ready to catch a photo op since I could see her coming. Uh-oh. She wasn't looking too chipper. "Will I see my Mom at the loop?" she barked. I suspected that wanting mommy was not the best sign.

We had previously planned that Rachel's husband, mom and dad would hang out near the infamous "Loop," given that she would pass by that spot three times. Hence, I had not planned on joining them due to the claustrophobic parking situation. My plans changed. Rachel was not happy and appeared to be descending into a dark mental space. I needed to drive up there to have a chat with the family, advising them of how they could best handle a discouraged and tired runner.

She was still not smiling when she arrived. "A girl passed me." She seemed annoyed by that fact. "Rachel, run your race. Suffering is part of this. Accept it and continue to make forward progress." Off she went. I hoped she could work through the low she was experiencing. With that, I departed to drive around the mountain to once again conquer the rough and rocky ascent to the Salt Log Gap station.  Her family was left with the responsibility to motivate and hand a little bit of tough love to Rachel once she completed The Loop. Mom did well to respond to Rachel's "Mom, this sucks!" with “I bet it does. You can do this! Go."

It wasn't too long until Rachel arrived at Salt Log. Still not happy, she complained. "My groin hurts. My feet hurt. My whole body hurts." Houston. We have a problem. Though I had not planned on making the 1.2 mile walk up the mountain to the Forest Valley Aid Station, through which she would pass twice, it was now an imperative. She needed more encouragement, and if I could offer that, I would.

What a relief to see her come back into the Forest Valley Aid station. Her face was relaxed, her gait strong and steady. "Miles 25-35 sucked but I feel a lot better now." Time for me to relax as well. With eight miles to go, she returned to her focused-self, not wasting a second in getting what she needed and pushing forward. She was on her own until the end. I was on my own to find my way to the end in my
car.

Her whole family was nestled into their camp chairs when I arrived at the finish line. It was exciting to inform them of her mental and physical turn-around. As runners who were close to Rachel all day began to come across the line, I knew our girl could not be far behind. Sure enough, though she later told us of excruciating knee and groin pain on the final three miles of descent and the resulting hobble to the finish, there she came. In her first ultramarathon, this 25 year-old newbie managed to be the sixth woman to complete the 50 miles with nearly 10,000 of elevation gain. Not bad. I choked back tears.

After the disappointing outcome of my 100-mile attempt back in September, I have been enormously conflicted about my roles as runner, mentor, and coach. Admittedly, pangs of jealousy struck at various times during the day when I saw friends old and new chase their own dreams amidst the golden leaves. Am I destined to be a "has been"? Are my training days over? Is it "okay" if I end up loving an expanded mentor role?

Mentoring and coaching is pretty sweet, I must admit. I am so thankful for Rachel who came along at the right time to follow me to the mountains and beyond. She encouraged me when I most needed it. It didn't seem to bother her that I was old and slow. It appeared she enjoyed my company and accepted my humble advise. She saved me from myself. Rachel, and those Shindigglers who have come before, do far more for me than I could ever do for them.

I still cannot tell you definitively whether I will train and race again. But I am fairly confident that I will continue to look for opportunities to impact young women, whatever that may look like.

Thank you, Rachel Tillis. Much love and respect. I am incredibly proud of you.


Saturday, September 25, 2021

Failure or transition? Or, maybe both?

Here's the abbreviated version. I started the YETI 100 miler, determined to live out the statement by a friend battling cancer: "Don't you want to know what happens if you don't give up?". I never found out what would happen because I gave up--quit--threw in the towel--at mile 64. Let's not sugar-coat it. I failed. Big time. I am not proud of it. Please don't tell me I'm still a winner for having started. Please don't tell me you don't even like to drive that far. Such platitudes are not helpful.

Happy at mile 34
The race didn't start off badly. I felt comfortable running the first 13 miles of the slightly downhill old railroad grade of the Virginia Creeper Trail. The chilly air encouraged a consistent pace, crossing over multitudes of old railroad trestles spiffed up for recreation purposes. When the grade became flat, I wisely heeded the advice of friends who had previously done this race. Be sure to take walk breaks. So I did. Progress was steady as I made games out of counting steps, alternating running and walking. The trail of mostly crushed gravel was beautiful with a combination of cascading waterfalls, open meadows, and over 40 bridges spanning the river and deep gorges. Life was good through the first 34 miles that ended at the trail head in Abingdon. I was moving well, glorious thoughts of a finisher's belt buckle within grasp. I was under a 24-hour pace if my calculations were accurate. Then it was time to turn around, retrace steps to the mountaintop start, reverse directions again and traverse the same path for the third time to the finish. At least that was the plan.

Somewhere between miles 35 and 49 miles, a switch in my head turned off. My head was swimming, steps faltering. All I wanted to do was sleep. It didn't make sense. Sure, it was an early morning, but I had only been running for about 5 or 6 hours when it hit. I hit the caffeine tablets. I fought with all my might not to lay down and sleep, but that would not get me further down the trail. Attempts to run were futile. I felt so weak. I hiked as best as I could, keeping a pace around 15-minute miles. I tried to eat and drink, thinking my swirling brain a result of low blood sugar. Surely, it doesn't always get worse. It can get better, right?

By the time I arrived in Damascus to begin the 18 mile climb back to Whitetop mountain, I was discouraged. Very discouraged. I had to regroup and adjust the attitude. Changing clothes to prepare for the falling temps, several cups of hot chicken broth helped my mental and physical state. Though I continued to walk, not run, I felt a little better. But as night fell, the concrete mile posts seemed to grow in the distance between. My pace uphill was now 16 – 17 minutes. Even in my brain fog, I knew that a pedestrian 20-minute pace from here on out would get me to the finish well under the required 30 hours. But did I want to walk for another 40 miles? How discouraging to see the front runner come back down the mountain, a full 24 miles ahead of me! I felt so old. So decrepit. So worthless. So "has been."

For the most part, I had been alone the entire race, left to contemplate the pathetic inner workings of my mind. Now, cold and moving slowly, the thoughts brewing over the last weeks and months began to surface. They needed to be confronted head on. I could not remember the last time I looked forward to a race. At best, it was 4 years ago as a just-turned 60 year old entering a new age group with high expectations. Lately, I think I enter races for 3 reasons: 1) Obligation and expectation, 2) Because I love the idea of racing and 3) I remember the glory days when I was running at the front of the pack. But no longer am I strong and agile and fast. I honestly could not tell you the last time my legs felt normal, let alone strong. I’m not sure if it’s my mid-60s age or the evil statins I take. There are no easy recovery runs because it always seem like I am recovering. I don’t like living this way.

I’ve been running the long stuff for about 28 years, training year in, year out. I’m tired. I hate the feeling of “have to” training. The pressures from my job, home, and family responsibilities make consistency even harder, which leads to more frustration and guilt. That’s not to say I don’t love going to the mountains, especially with young woman with fresh legs and eager minds who yearn for adventure. But having the pressure of a race hover over my head like a guillotine is anything but pleasant. I’m done. There, I said it. Like the epiphany Forest Gump had when he nonchalantly stated it after halting his incessant running, “I'm pretty tired… I think I'll go home now.”

But after coming to grips with that Gump reality, I first had to get to the next aid station where I prayed Gary would be waiting for me. Prior efforts to take in more fluid and calories became less important, which likely did not help. I was cold. I knew I was not embracing the suffering as I hoped I would. Could I live with myself if I allowed what would likely be my last race end in a pathetic DNF? Nothing was critically wrong with me. “What a WUS,” I harshly labeled myself. I had no good excuse. No bones protruded, no ligaments torn, no cardiac arrest. And yet, like Forest, “I’m pretty tired. I think I’ll go home now.”

Gary was there. “I’m done. I know I have time but I just don’t want to walk another 38 miles.” Tears flowed, my body began to shake, and my emotional state prompted an asthma-like attack, breathing labored. Nevertheless, within an hour and a half, we were back at the hotel. Showered and laying between crisp white linens, I was glad to not be making my way along the trail. I was ready to stop racing and transition to giving back to the racing community while continuing to mentor youngsters just entering the fray.

I’m glad it is now after 1 PM Saturday, the 30-hour cutoff. I no longer need to think about those brave souls who continued in the fight to the bitter end. Do I regret my decision? Truthfully, yes--especially after I checked the results to see all the finishers along with my name at the top of the DNF list. I knew I would. Regret is guaranteed after a self-inflicted failure. But unless I find the fountain of youth and grow strong legs beneath me, I still think my racing days are over. It’s time to release what has become bondage, finding once again the profound joy of running at any speed.

To the mountains and beyond. . .on my own terms.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Summertime Scribbles

It was a duet of years ago when my 5th book hit the market. When the first wave of books hit the doorstep, I had that same giddy feeling that the arrival of other titles produced deep in my soul. Now, nearing summer's end, one new case of new books arrived in early July, a precursor to a final box that will reveal the product of my recent writing efforts.

It's not uncommon to entertain questions about why I write. I never offer the answer that it is because the royalties substantially increase the status of my retirements funds--because that would be an untruth. Besides, I give away a lot of books. Do I tell the inquisitor that I write because it ups my name recognition and popularity? Hardly. That's not true either. So why? Why do I put in so much effort to put electronic pen to paper, agonizing over each word, losing sleep over how the reader will interpret my words, and fixating on where and when to place commas around the words and and but?

I guess an honest answer would be similar to my response to why I run. Because I can. So yes, I write because I can. I do not write perfectly. Never have. Never will. But I write to let the alphabet-soup of letters swirling around in my head congregate into words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs. The process requires starting from a vague impression which evolves into a developed, mature compilation of thoughts. At least I hope so.

Quest for Adventure, the first title spawned from my admiration of ultra-guru, David Horton. It's two books in one, the first half chronicling his then fastest known time completing the Appalachian Trail. The second half was the story of his California to New York crossing as a competitor in the Trans-America Footrace.

As part of a deal for me to compete in the 250K race through the Brazilian jungle, Under an Equatorial Sky describes the ups and down of the seven-day self-sufficient race. At one point when heat exhaustion made it impossible for me to eat or drink anything for a 48-hour period, the thought of dropping out lost to the realization that the book I agreed to write would really suck if my race ended early. I persevered and ended up second only to my South African friend.

Going into 2008, I had the bright idea to write a story every day, focusing on how the ordinary events of the day taught me spiritual lessons. It was a lengthy process to fund a publisher, but the effort paid off. Pace Yourself: 366 Stories from the Daily Grind was released in 2010.

Then came Best Season Yet: 12 Weeks to Train. I was coaching at the time and wanted to have a way to keep all my athletes on the same page. After all, any sport is much more than performing the X's and O's. There are two editions; one for coaches and one for the athlete. I used this book with my teams as well as college teams, and was also able to share it with many other coaches.

Creative Coaching Across 3 Dimensions resulted from my own interest in using activity to teach principle when working with collegiate teams. Publishing in conjunction with the "3D Institute," it was a perfect fit for both parties. It has become a popular resource for coaches on every level who desire to become transformational coaches.

Writing Pace Yourself  was one of the hardest things I had ever done. Hence, I am not sure why I thought it would be a good idea to do it again in 2020. What a year to write! Still, The EveryDay: 366 Real Stories for Real People became my year-
long project. With traditional publishing avenues becoming harder and harder to penetrate, "Twisted Trails Publishing" was birthed. The book hit the online bookshelves in July 2021.

To round out the current list of titles, Conversations for Coaches: Apply Principle to Practice" was released days ago to meet the August 1 deadline. This work resulted from a 15-week walk through the book of Proverbs I developed for a group of college coaches. The discussion-heavy study was so well-received that it made sense to convert it to book form.

For those of you who have supported my writing, thank you from the bottom of my pea-pick'n heart. And for those who not yet joined the crowd, I want to welcome you to the wonderful world of the written word.


Sunday, April 25, 2021

Find a way

It is a curious working of the mind when impending doom is registered in what feels like a nansecond. One minute I was running along on single track trail, and in the next I was flying through the air, outstretched horizontally, much like I image Superman would do it. But my rendition of Superman was short-lived. My mind registered the rock waiting to greet me. I instinctively turned my head to the right and braced for the inevitable impact.

I laid on the ground, head and shoulder sending out rapid-fire distress signals. From the resounding crack of my head hitting the rock, I prepared myself for a bloody mess. My head throbbed, my nose and left eye suggesting a poor outcome if pain was any indicator. Simultaneously, my shoulder screamed out in protest from such a brutal and unexpected encounter with terra firma.

Tears birthed from the combination of frustration and pain welled up. Glancing back down the trail, I saw a group of runners approaching. A rush of catecholamines permitted me to rise to my feet. Hands to face, I was shocked to find little blood on my fingers. The runners confirmed there was but scant blood on the side of my nose. As I had no recourse but to follow them up the mountain, I felt my forehead swelling, head throbbing and legs turn rubbery as my brain tried to communicate with them. I did not notice the blood seeping through the tape on my knee (which, incidentally, later won me the prestigious Best Blood Award).

Just four miles into the 35-mile 20th running of the Promise Land 50K++, the fall seemed only to exacerbate my pent-up frustrations. "What next?!?! Heart issues. Iron deficiency. Wonkly, painful knees. Old and getting slower by the day. Passed out on the floor 21 hours after a Covid vaccine last week and feeling weak and unmotivated all this week. I'm just a good for nothing bag of bones! This is ridiculous. I'm done with this. I hate this.  I have been racing through four decades of my like. Why am I even still trying? This is stupid!"

As I moved forward along the course, I thought back to a post by Susan Donnelly, a woman who has completed more than 100 100-mile races. She wrote of a hard fall in a race, one that could have been race ending. But she did not allow it to be. She got up, dealt with the new reality from the impact, and continued on. "Find a way," I told myself. "Just find a way."

I kept moving as my headache kept growing. As the swelling around my eye and over my eyebrow made my vision fuzzy, the conversation between me, myself, and I continued. I tried hard to be positive but was amazed at how many people passed me. I spoke to no one save a few words here and there. I needed to save every thought to counter an inner conversation to quit at the 12-mile Sunset Meadows aid station. Who could blame me since I was likely concussed, feeling wobbly and off-kilter? But no, I must find a way. I must find my why.

The morning after
My why and my way were wrapped up in a little girl named Addyson. She is my six-year old granddaughter who would be waiting for me at the finish. In fact, it was planned to have her run in with me. Before the race, she told me their class at school was learning about perseverance: to keep going when it gets hard. To not quit." So, how could I quit now? What kind of example would that set? She would be so disappointed. I had to get to that aid station and start down the long descent on the "Dark Side" of the course. There would be little opportunity for me to bag the race and be transported out. Forcing myself onto the Dark Side would protect my wimpy self from making a bad decision that I would surely regret in the aftermath.

And so I kept making progress. I was tentative, very tentative. The rocks seemed to have multiplied compared to earlier years when I would run with wild abandon, not considering the "what if" consequences of a misplaced step or toe catch on a rock. I continuously blinked to clear the vision in my left eye. When I did have clear trail or gravel road to run, my legs did not protest loudly. It gave me a sense of accomplishment to move steadily. That was surprising given the limited number of quad-pounding long runs in the recent past. Still, it was not uncommon for runners to come from behind and pass me. I don't actually recall passing anyone back. That was depressing.

The night before the race, I took refuge in the back of our camo-clad, license-plated "HUNTNJEP. It is tradition that hundreds camp in the open field to make the 5:30 AM start easier to make. I was exhausted from work, eyes strained, and not feeling sociable. Even before darkness settled in, I eased into my sleeping bag, contacts out, glasses on, and picked up where I left off. "Out and Back: A Runner's Story of Survival Against all Odds" is the true story of Hillary Allen. Allen is a world-class mountain skyrunner who catapulted off a knife edge during a race, breaking tens of bones but miraculously surviving. However, the road back to running and racing was miraculous as well. Her words came to mind each time I saw the back of another runner in front of me.

You are more than a result. You are enough, just as you are.

I desperately needed that reminder. Did it matter to anyone but me that I am slow? Do people have less respect for me when bested by so many, including other sexagenarian woman? Is it enough that I entered the fray and continued to put one foot in front of the other? I intellectually knew the truth in her statements. It was now imperative that I internalize them if I was to cross the finish line content rather than angry and embarrassed.

Despite being passed by so many, my fear of missing a cutoff and being pulled from the race was laid to rest with about fifteen miles to go. My time would not be impressive, but I would finish within the allotted time. Or at least, that is what my muddled brain calculated. My focus needed to be on covering the distance despite the ever-worsening disconnect between my brain and my body. My kinesthetic sense was being put to the test. Stumbling was common place. And with the last several hundred yards of rocky, crappy trail, I again found myself sprawled out, half on the trail and half off. My bloody knee ripped open again, palms scraped and ring finger jammed. All I wanted to do was hit the last three miles of descent on gravel road leading to the finish. It would be safer.

It was starting to rain as I ran the road, drawing closer to the finish. The thought of seeing Addyson and completing my journey kept my pace steady howbeit conservative. There was no reason to take chances at this point and under these circumstances. A finish would be a finish in anyone's books.

And there she was. Addyson, cloaked in a fuzzy white sweatshirt and black sweatpants was waiting for me a half-mile from the finish. She fell in by my side, jumping and swirling as much as her effortless forward running. Approaching the finish, race director, David Horton, announced our approach over the loudspeaker. Addy responded to the cheers of the many lining the finish shoot with a wave to the adoring crowd. I smiled, thankful to share the moment, thankful to have persevered and set an example for the young one--and myself.


Thursday, March 25, 2021

It never always gets worse. But sometimes it does.

For all the expectant mothers out there. A few simple words from someone 

who has been there, done that--for whatever it is worth.

The drive home from the hospital is idyllic. That sweet child is snuggled down into her spic-and-span

car seat, nary a crumb yet to be crushed into the fabric or a juice box spilled. She purses her lips, eyes shut, a little coo escaping when she draws in a contented big breath. It is just how you imagined motherhood to be. The world is aglow with magical unicorns and butterflies.

You figure you are off to a great start. How hard can this mothering thing be? It’s not like you haven’t read all the books and listened to the myriad of “how to’s” from other moms. In fact, you should probably be receiving your official “Parenting Specialist” certificate in the mail any day now. After all, you are 100% destined to be an expert mother with all the research you have put into it. It’s in the bag. Easy-peasy. No worries. 

And then. . . then you enter the house, the pregnancy semi-waddle still hanging on as a reminder of what is to come.

As you lay the baby in the crib, still sleeping, reality hits. “Oh, no! What do we do now?!?!?!” Thoughts swirl faster than the ice cream oozing out of Mr. Goody’s delight-producing machines. “This kid is ours—like, FOREVER! What do we do if she wakes up? No, no! I mean, when she wakes up? I have to be the responsible adult for at least the next 18 years, and probably longer! Geez-Louise. This might not be as easy as I thought!!!”

For now, you settle into the rocking chair and begin that rhythmic back and forth, back and forth. Eyes grow heavy, the excitement of the last few days dwindling away. Just as you fall into a contented deep sleep, that distinct newborn wimper turns into a full-blown wale. Jolted awake, you spring to your feet,

make your way to the crib, and gather that child into your arms. With absolutely no warning at all, you feel your shirt begin to get wet. “I guess the lactation nurse wasn’t kidding when she said my milk might come in with a vengeance” you think,  quickly trying to get settled into the rocker to begin the feeding cycle. By this time, the child begins to suck from one breast as a stream spews from the other. You scream, “Beloved Spouse of mine, Get me a towel. Now!” He returns to your side with a hand towel. “No! A beach towel. Please!” He looks perplexed and more than a little startled. Still, he scurries off, dumbfounded that his wife’s ta-tas, previously so enticing, could turn into a messy, musty-smelling milk factory. Still, it never always gets worse, right? Um, Sorry. Sometimes it does.

Day turns into night and nights turn into days. But you hardly notice. It is a constant barrage of laundry, throwing together something reminiscent of a meal with whatever you find in the cupboard, and cleaning up sticky poop. Sleep is more like a series of intermittent snoozes. In you doze-deprived state, there is no desire to change clothes. Even the milk-soaked and now crusted over t-shirts have a hard time finding their way to the laundry hamper, let along the laundry room. Your hair is in a constant state of disarray. With bags

under your eyes that seem to exponentially multiply with each rising of the sun, you are amazed – and more than a little annoyed—that your husband finds it necessary to enter a sexual feeding frenzy, wanting to enter via the same small door from which the equivalent of a bag and a half of pure sugar had recently exited. Still, it never always gets worse, right? Nope. Sometimes it gets much worse.

But just when all hope is lost, the babe’s eyes lock with yours as she lay in your arms after screaming at the top of her lungs for what seems to be a century or so. It is two o’clock in the morning. The house is quiet now, save the tick-tock of the nursery clock and the gentle sucking slurp generated while the baby nurses. Occasionally, she pauses to let out a contended sigh. Your fingers reach out to tickle her cheek, encouraging her to continue nursing. She does, snuggling even tighter into the crook of your arm as you continue to be her sole focus. Your own heart performs a complicated flip-flop, overflowing with love.

Perhaps all those challenges of mothering that leave us disheveled and distraught, leave crumbs on the floor and clothes in the dryer for days on end—maybe, just maybe—those things do not always get worse. Perhaps these things should be expected. These overwhelming feelings of inadequacy and sudden gushes of unexpected tears are simply part of being a mom, new or otherwise. It is a part of life that all too soon will pass.

Remember, it never always gets worse. It does get better. Promise.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  (Romans 15:13)

 

 

Chasing dreams through golden forests

Pulling into the driveway at 0345, Rachel quickly made her way to the car. The prepared bag of extra clothes and snacks went into the back s...