May 10, 2009

A Girl on the Run:
Jilly's Story

Mother's Day has never been a special day for me. I do not have a relationship with my mother for reasons I won't bother you with. I don't have children of my own at this time, so for me it's just another day. Yet today, I read a story by my dear friend and mother Elena. It is women like Elena who help me celebrate Mother's Day in my own way, with pride for having them in my life. She has three beautiful children and she has given me permission to share this story about her oldest, Jilly.

My daughter, Jillian, is a member of Girls on the Run. Girls on the Run is an organization for girls between the ages of 8 and 13. They train to run a 5K while also teaching about healthy body image and making good life choices. For twelve weeks she's been training hard and meeting with her team twice a week. This Saturday was the capstone 5K event. It was also her 9th birthday. So we all got up early and packed the whole family out to Latta Park with literally thousands of other Girls on the Run, their coaches and families. The air was filled with excitement. Each team had their own 'costuming', there were some wearing mardi gras beads and feathers, some wearing artificial flowers and grass skirts. Jilly's team all created capes for themselves, because they are strong, like superheroes.

Finally it was time. The 5K route was set out to be 3 laps of a little over a mile each. They sounded the start and very shortly after starting on her first lap, Jillian fell down. She skinned up her plams and bloodied both knees. At that point she had a choice. She could have decided that she was done, that she'd had enough and couldn't go on and no one would have blamed her. Or she could decide to finish the run she'd been training so hard for. She chose to keep going. She shook it off and finished the race. She crossed that finish line with tears in her eyes and fell into her daddy's arms crying that she was hurt but she made it and she finished strong, no limping for this girl. As a mama, I don't know that I've ever been so proud. I honestly didn't know she had it in her.

Since Saturday morning I've taken every opportunity to brag on my girl, but I've also been thinking about the analogies drawn by her experience in relation to our lives. In life we face many struggles and sometimes we fall down and skin our knees too. And when we are down, we all have a choice to make at that moment. Stay down, or get back up and keep running. And we may want to just sit there and cry over our wounds. And the very idea of getting back up and continuing hurts. We have to dig deep and find the courage and determination and never, never give up. It doesn't matter where we end up in the race of life, the important thing is crossing the finish line and being able to hold your head up and knowing that no matter what, you did your best and even though you may have gotten injured along the way, you ran the race that was marked out for you. And at the end of it all, we can fall weeping into our Daddy's arms too, knowing that He will make it all okay for us again.