Well over seven hundred.
That's how many miles passed underneath my feet last fall preparing for the St. Jude Memphis Marathon 2018.
Early mornings were filled with yawns, snoozed alarms and the buzzing of my Garmin watching telling me it was, indeed, ready for me to start. But yet, I was still fast asleep in my mind. Sometimes alone, but more often with a friend, I ran the streets of my city until I knew every crack in the pavement along the Tennessee River.
It was marathon season.
For me, that's the fall in Tennessee. At the beginning of the training cycle, it's so humid that I lose pounds of fluid on long run days but by the end....oh, by the end it is gloriously cold. At least, that's how it normally plays out. I expected this year would be no different.
This was my third consecutive year training for the St. Jude Marathon and if you know me well, St. Jude is my place. 818 Ministries started serving there a few years back (we deliver handmade hats and handwritten letters of encouragement to patients fighting serious illnesses - check out our website!) and the first time I went I absolutely fell head over heels in love with the place and the people.
God is doing a work there. Their people are the most compassionate staff I've ever experienced. Daily they are saving the lives of children fighting cancer and since their doors opened, they've taken the survival rate of childhood cancer from 20% to 80%! I always call it the "Disney" of all children's hospitals. It truly is all it appears to be on the commercials, guys.
With that being said, there's no other organization I'd rather run 26.2 miles for.
The last couple years, I've ran in celebration of all God's done through the story of my buddy AJ Cucksey who is fighting brain cancer. If you don't know his story, check out this story about his journey and friendship with former UT quarterback Josh Dobbs.
Running the long miles with someone I personally know in mind who is fighting the battle that the race proceeds are going toward always helps me on the hard days. This year was no different.
But as race weekend approached something did feel different. I couldn't quite put my finger on it but it felt a little uncomfortable - sort of like when you buy a new shirt and forget to take the hang tag off and you have that tiny itch on your neck and then remember to pull it off. I wasn't sure exactly what God was going to do at this marathon but I was fully convinced He was up to something.
I didn't check the weather until the day before I left for Memphis (although plenty of people had mentioned that it looked like it would be a warm weekend). On Wednesday, I pulled my weather app up to see that the high for race day was in the mid-70s.
My heart sank.
If you know me well, you know I don't run well in the heat. My body can't handle long distance in extreme temperatures with the amount of fluid I lose and I'm very prone to heat exhaustion. With that in mind, I couldn't stop thinking about how miserable race day was going to be if it truly was going to be "July" in December.
I woke up Friday morning with an odd, "passing all understanding" kind of peace. I looked at Dustin and said, "I think I need to do the half."
We went to the race expo to pick up my race packet and, with a lump in my throat (that I didn't acknowledge in the moment) I walked over to the "St. Jude Hero Help" table.
"How do I drop to the half marathon?"
"Oh, it's super easy! Just go in your assigned corral and start with the full marathoners. Just make sure when you split to go right on the half marathon course!"
I had never done that before. It felt wrong and a little uncomfortable. Kind of like a "walk of shame" of sorts. I'm a planner - an ENFJ to be exact. When things don't go as I planned, it's not my favorite. I had put in the miles. I had done the hard thing. I was ready. But then, life happened. It was going to be above seventy degrees and I knew my body wouldn't make it to the finish line.
I stood there in the rain outside the expo center while I was waiting on Dustin to pull the car around. As I dialed my dad's number to tell him about my decision I saw a poster with a child's picture that I recognized from a hospital visit. In that moment, the Lord reminded me why I was there in the first place.
Rebecca, this isn't about you. It's not about a bigger medal or a more impressive finish line. This isn't about how many miles you slaved over for the last six months. This is about celebrating these tiny warriors that are fighting for their lives each and every day. This is about the healing work I am doing in the lives of the patients, families, physicians, nurses and care givers of this place. Run for Me. Run for them.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
(1 Corinthians 10:31, NIV)
The next morning I laced up my shoes and when the gun went off and everyone started running, I understood why this race felt different. I was able, unlike years past, to really take in the environment...the hype of the crowd, the "ABCs of Cancer" posters at each mile and the city I've grown to love. However, all of that pales in comparison to running through the campus of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital with patients lining the streets. This time, I took it all in. I high-fived every patient I could get my hands on and through tears I saw countless patients call me by the name printed on my bib as I ran by.
Then, I saw the poster. I looked to my right and saw a child, a patient, sitting in a wheelchair cheering. She was holding a sign that said, "Run because I can't!".
"That is why I'm here" I thought as my eyes met hers and we smiled.
"She is why I'm here."
As I crossed the line and the volunteer put a medal around my neck, I got a little emotional thinking about all my memories of the patients and families of St. Jude. I'm so thankful for the research they have done to save the lives of children fighting cancer. I personally know so many families who've had a child on the other side of a cancer journey because of their care.
That's what December 1, 2018 was about. And, as I'm realizing, sometimes courage is about doing the hard thing in a brave way. And sometimes, the hard thing isn't our first choice but it's the best choice. Sometimes, it's trading our agenda for His agenda. He had plans that day to show me moments and truths that I would've missed had I been focused on crossing the finish line of a full marathon.
He is ever-present. Even in the last-minute-change-of-plan-moments of the every day, I don't want to miss Him. I don't want you to either.
So, I trained for a marathon that I didn't run. But in the process, He showed me more about His character and His ways. They sure are higher than mine.
Maybe you find yourself in a situation where you have to choose the "right" path over the "expected" path. Know that He isn't any less faithful in the "right" than He would've been had you chosen the "expected".
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
(Isaiah 55:8-9, ESV)
Jesus, help me not to miss You in the moments where you shift my original agenda. You know I'm a planner and that I like an order and a process to all that I do. But when you reorder my steps, help me to not only see You in those moments, but see those around me. Help me find unexpected opportunities to serve others and show them Your love.
In Your Name,
I'm super excited to share part two of Yvonne's post about Paul and what she has learned from him about chasing after her calling!
Yvonne Velez is an accountant, writer, and creator of the Living the Cozy Life
blog (www.livingthecozylife.com). She wants to help women get away from the
numbers they use to define themselves in order to live more empowered, brave,
confident, fearless and authentic lives through self-discovery of their talents and passions.
These secrets sound simple, but are sometimes easier said than done. But we don’t have to rely on ourselves. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit, who lives within us - and serves as our Helper, Comforter, Guide, and Counselor. He comes alongside and encourages us in our journey as we strive to fulfill our life calling. Praise be to God!
Jesus, Your Spirit serves as my Helper, Comforter, Guide and Counselor. What a gift. What a promise. Help me lean into your wisdom and your perspective as I make decisions, knowing your timing is perfect. Your ways and thoughts are higher than mine. Strengthen me and help me remember my ultimate "why" - being a mirror of You to a dark world.
In Jesus name,
Just a few months after adopting our three children from Ethiopia, we were sitting around the dinner table together one night and my husband and I asked them, “What do you miss most about Ethiopia?” They were new to the English language, so our communication was limited, but increasing daily.
“Our brothers”, our oldest daughter responded without hesitation.
Umm...excuse me? Do you mean cousins? Or friends? Surely you don’t mean brothers...in all the piles of adoption paperwork we have filed away, there was never a single mention of you having “brothers”.
After a lot of back and forth conversation to verify what was said, we were left with our jaws on the floor and our hearts bursting with joy and anticipation. We thought we had kept their family unit together when we adopted our three kids. But they, indeed, were FIVE.
We prayed, we researched, we hired an investigator, and we sent out endless messages on social media in search of the boys. And ultimately, God paved the most unexpected and beautiful path for our family that led us here...to Gambella, one of the most remote areas of the world we have ever travelled to, where our children were born, and where we got to witness them embracing their brothers and extended family whom they hadn’t seen in six years.
They were five. And they were TOGETHER. My daughter said she had prayed every day for six years for this moment. It was healing. It was renewed hope. It was the most visible evidence of God’s love and faithfulness for our children.
We had heard stories from the kids of what it was like growing up in Gambella, but until we were actually there, with our own feet walking the dusty dirt path through the tall grasses of the village, it was a world we couldn’t fully comprehend. Many of their homes were mud and straw huts with ragged curtains hung up as doors. Most had no beds to sleep on, no running water, and no electricity. They cook their meals over open-flames, hand wash their clothes and hang them to dry, and walk miles every day to get to and from their daily activities. Their toilets are holes in the ground and the river serves as their shower. Mosquitos flood the air when the sun goes down and malaria runs rampant.
The schools in the area were closed while we were there due to tribal fighting and violence. And not only that, some of our Gambellan family members couldn’t even sleep in their own huts at night for fear of being killed when the sun went down. Before it got dark, the entire community on that end of town had to walk miles to spend the night elsewhere before returning home to their own properties the following day.
The fear and sickness and material poverty there existed in stark contrast to the stunning beauty of the people and their kindness and generosity that were also abundant. We have travelled to many poor areas of the world, but God opened our eyes more than ever before through this experience because this was our FAMILY living there. It challenged and it changed me to my core with that reality. Because it’s easy to ignore the hurting world when you don’t know their names and you don’t see their faces and you don’t hear their cries. But when you do...and especially when they are your very own brothers and sons and extended family...that is something that you can’t look away from. God had called us to Gambella with a purpose far greater than just reuniting siblings. I believe that He brought us there to light a fire within us that would move us to action. People don’t disrupt their own lives to serve others because of what they KNOW…they do it because of what they FEEL. Action starts in the heart...and God gave my heart a complete remodel!
The entire trip, I couldn’t stop thinking about our life back home in America. The flood of emotions were hard to sift through...it was extreme guilt, and overflowing thankfulness, and anger, and confusion, and conviction all wrapped up together. One month after this life-changing adventure, I’m sitting here in my cozy, heated home with a hot cup of coffee and my laptop computer and I’m still trying to process everything and discern where God is calling us now....
One thing I know for sure is that it’s outside of my comfort zone. But I also know, without hesitation, that I’m ready. I may not feel equipped or capable, but I’m willing. And we shouldn’t wait for opportunities, we should seek them. Because right now, this very minute, someone needs the love of Jesus. And WE get to be the ones who deliver that.
I'm so thrilled to have a guest blogger and my good friend (prayer warrior, confidant, secret-keeper and mentor) Gina Rouse on the blog this week talking about a sometimes-dreaded but ever-important topic to our walk with Christ...waiting. I met Gina about 3 years ago while training for my first marathon. She loves Jesus, her husband and three kids something fierce. She's one of the most compassionate and kind women of God that I know. And let me tell you, something special happens when she laces up her tennis shoes and starts running. She's won the Knoxville marathon the last 3 consecutive years and has qualified to race the marathon in the Olympic trails in 2020. I'm blessed (alongside many others) to call her "friend" and I'm just going to let her take it away - enjoy!
Waiting. Ugh! Do you know anyone that enjoys waiting? Like, I mean actually likes standing
in line waiting at the grocery store, waiting for your coffee, waiting for the wifi to
connect, waiting for Christmas to come, the traffic to move, the pay check to arrive,
the diagnosis, the phone call, the next season in life, your passion to come alive.
Waiting. It’s so not easy and it’s so not natural for any of us, especially in America.
Everything is so fast paced and immediate. We live 90 miles an hour and on 3 cups
of coffee a day don’t we?
What if I told you strength actually rises when we wait upon the Lord as the song
goes? What if in the waiting, you’re actually becoming who you’re meant to be?
If you hurried and were at "the place" you wanted to be at, you wouldn’t be fully
prepared, equipped, or brave enough to do the thing you’re called to do.
Think about an oak tree. Did you know it takes over 100 years for the trunk of an oak tree to fully develop? 100 years!
What about Abraham and Sarah?
They received their “calling” or promise of a child from the Lord SEVENTY FIVE years before he actually was born! No wonder they are included in the “hall of faith” in Hebrews! “Abraham
believed God and He credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)” Is it
possible for you and me to have that kind of faith in Abraham’s God? To be willing to
wait and let patience and perseverance have its perfect work in us (James
My husband, children and I are in a season of waiting. I need to confess I am more
like a stubborn mule than sweet little lamb when it comes to patience. I imagine the
Lord having to put a spiritual leash and collar on me at times because I want to run
ahead so fast and just get to “the getting” without counting the cost, thinking twice,
or fully evaluating the situation. I bet you can guess I’m married to a hunk of guy
who happens to be the complete opposite.
He always counts the cost and takes everything into full account. That’s why he’s awesome at what he does. You can imagine the struggle though of what a season of waiting might bring to our daily conversations, prayers, and action steps when two different people are trying to
wait under the same roof! (Please laugh out loud with me here!) There’s this constant
tension of hurrying up to "do the thing" and the pulling back to "let the thing unfold".
There’s Matt trying to walk in faith and obedience and hear the Lord show us the
way forward with bravery and courage. Then there’s me trying (albeit imperfectly)
to trust and wait quietly (submissively) that if God’s got my husband’s heart, he will
choose the right path and eventually we will get there.
To be more specific, Matt and I made a commitment at our wedding ceremony (a
decade ago) to be “on mission” with Him, whatever that looked like or wherever
that might take us. We’ve had 3 kids and 3 moves since then and a lot of life has
happened. This current season of waiting is preparing us for the next step of being
on mission. We think we have a pretty good idea of what that looks like, but what
I’m realizing is we’re never gonna get the cart before the horse. Finding and
following God’s will is so much more about just living every day seeking Him, praying, reading your Bible and allowing the circumstances to unfold.
If He’s really King of it all, He’s King of it all, all the time.
Even on days when it’s raining, and the mail you expected doesn’t come, the appointment you really needed to happen is postponed, and the sermon you were hoping would give you the clear direction still seems somewhat fuzzy like a camera lens out of focus. Day by day and moment by moment you begin to see the trajectory of what God is up to. You see His big picture coming to life. It literally is one step in front of the other, just like the marathon. And
if you’ve ever run a marathon, it’s never over fast.
Here are some waiting lessons I’ve learned so far:
1. Do the next thing. Faithfully do what you can while trusting Him to do what you can't.
2. Put your yes on the table. Make sure you’ve committed to “the call” and do it
again, and again. Saying "yes" in the small things allows God to move and orchestrate the details. He doesn’t need our permission but I think it frees us up because it puts the control in
the rightful place (God is on the throne of our hearts).
3. Focus on His promises. Remember that He did not spare His own Son to pay for
our deepest need (forgiveness of sin) so He will not spare any good thing for you.
He who began a good work, will be faithful to complete it. (Philippians 2)
Prayer for the entrepreneur:
Jesus, every good and perfect thing comes from You. You are not the author of confusion, doubt or anxiety. Help me cast my worries and cares about the future onto You and trust in Your perfect time and provision. Give me strength as I pursue my next logical step of obedience.
In Your name,
I hope and pray this post finds you rested. But chances are, if you're reading a blog about the glorification of "busy" (OR the topics addressed here related to millennial entrepreneurship interest you), then something tells me this one might hit home.
Honestly, ya'll, I'm sick of the word busy. It's very common when I catch up with someone who hasn't seen me in a while for them to say, "It seems like you've been busy lately!"
I get it. It's a conversation starter and yes, it is quite a busy season in this stage of life. You're right! Balancing a job, 818 Ministries, traveling (for both), family and friends is tough. But let's take a look at the definition of busy.
Definition of busy:
1a: engaged in action
b: being in use
2: full of activity
3: foolishly or intrusively active
4: full of distracting detail
Is that what you want to be known for? Is that what you want your life to be marked by? I started realizing a couple months ago smack dab in the middle of a podcast interview (that should release soon, BTW!) that I was sick of being defined by/as "busy".
I want my life to be more than "foolishly or intrusively active", don't you? I want to become more like Christ with with each day that passes this side of eternity. I want to act, live and speak in such a way that others desire to experience more of who He is.
But if I'm going to live in that way, I need to slow down. Waaaaay down. How do I expect Him to speak to me if I'm not still long enough to hear His whisper?
In the middle of that podcast interview when I was asked the question, "How do you balance it all in this season of busy-ness?" I remember thinking, "Jesus. I just need Him. I need Him in the quiet, still places that I so often try to avoid. That's all.
Then, one day I started reflecting on Psalm 23 and He opened my eyes in a new way to this passage (particularly vs. 2-3).
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. Doesn't that just make you want to curl up with a warm PSL and a blanket and bend a listening ear to Him? YES!
However, I will say in the mundane of the everyday I often trade green pastures and quiet waters for social media, un-prioritized work and to-do lists. I want the "restoring of my soul" but sometimes the "lying down" long enough to be still part is hard for me.
I want and need quiet time in His Word in order for my soul to be restored. I want to sit at His feet...just for the sake of experiencing His presence.
He will fight for us. We just need to be still. (Exodus 14:14)
He gives strength to the weary and power to the weak. (Isaiah 40:29)
We shouldn't fear, for He is always with us. (Isaiah 41:10)
Though the mountains may shake and the hills may be removed, His love for us will not be shaken. (Isaiah 54:10)
Wow. I don't want to miss Him. I don't want to miss what He has to say to me or a reminder of His promises to me in Scripture.
If you've never read the book Having a Mary Heart In A Martha World by Joanna Weaver, I highly encourage it. It uses the story of Mary and Martha to invite every women who's ever felt she isn't godly enough, isn't loving enough or isn't doing enough to His feet in the midst of a busy world. I love these words of Joanna in Chapter Two:
"But rest assured, God will answer. He longs to reveal his love to you. But you won't find it by shaking your fist in his face. You won't find it by barging into his presence and demanding to be treated fairly. You'll find it by sitting at his feet and remembering who he is.
Emmanuel. God with us.
He knows the journey is difficult. He knows life is rarely fair. Jesus fought the same frigid winds of distraction, discouragement, and doubt that keep us from knowing God's love. But like the Father, he longs to gather us in his arms. He longs to trade the flimsy blankets of our own self-sufficiency for his all-sufficiency. The Lord Jesus invites us to cast our doubts, our fears and anxiety upon him, to discover how much he really does care.
Trust me, my child, he whispers, "I have your ultimate goal in mind."
Challenge for the week:
1. Create margin to spend extra time with the Lord in the midst of the everyday. Find a time that works well with your schedule (I will say, morning is best for me).
2. Find some space for yourself. Take a walk, a bath, call a friend, read a book. No matter what it is, I think we all need a little more time to take care of ourselves.
This week's giveaway will help someone carve out a little time for themselves! I've partnered with Sanctuary Beauty, a giveback company that creates AMAZING bath bombs and gives 10% of sales proceeds to provide nutritious meals, school supplies and other services to vulnerable children living in the Langbos settlement in Western Cape, South Africa.
They are giving away a box of bath bombs this week to a Do The Thing Movement Insider! It's super easy to enter:
1. Follow @rebecca.dotson and @sanctuary.beauty on the 'gram!
2. Join our email list by entering your email below to become a Do The Thing Movement Insider!
It will close Sunday night, October 28th at 8PM EST. Good luck!
Your biggest cheerleader,
Prayer for the entrepreneur:
Jesus, you will fight for me. You will never leave me. You give me strength. Your love never fails. I don't want to miss any of these promises. I don't want to miss YOU, even and especially in the everyday. I want to carve out time this week to sit in Your presence and dwell on Your word. Renew my mind and help me focus so I don't get distracted. Then, when you speak, help me to listen.
In Your name,
I hope I never stop learning. I hope I never lose sight of the curiosity God placed in my heart - the curiosity to learn about Him, people, business and sometimes just myself.
If you have a conversation with me, there's a pretty solid chance I'll bore you by telling you about a podcast I recently listened to or an article I read. I'm in this unique season of my life (which, mind you, I know won't last forever) where there is a lot of "white noise" in my daily routine.
I'm a long distance runner. When I'm not logging miles with a training buddy, I'm likely listening to a podcast.
I have about a 30 minute commute to work. So at least 5 days per week I'm listening to an additional podcast in that time (or 2 if the traffic on I-40W is icky!).
I'm single. Since I don't yet have children or a spouse to fill the quiet moments at home, when I don't have guests over there's a solid chance some music, a podcast or a chapter of whatever book I'm reading fills my space at night before I go to bed.
I love to travel. 818 Ministries has me on the road quite a bit, so if I'm commuting to a hospital visit, there's some more space to learn.
The point being, I love efficiency and enjoy learning in the middle of my everyday routine. Something tells me you do too! I came across this Winston Churchill that I just HAD to share:
To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents.
(First of all, I want to acknowledge that I'm a firm believer in that HE equips us for His great purpose for our lives. Ever heard, "He doesn't call the equipped but He EQUIPS the called!" Keep reading for one of my favorite verses that points to this truth.)
However, we've all been "tapped on the shoulder". We've all been given a unique skillset and collection of talents to carry out God's greater plan for our lives. We're all uniquely created, with no rival. Think about that for a minute. There is NO one on the planet who can do what you do just like you do it. It says in Ephesians 2:10:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
WOW. Is it not crazy to think that long before you were born, God had a plan for your life? We are his workmanship.
So bearing that in mind, what are you doing today to walk into "your thing" that God has prepared for you?
I would encourage you to find one space of time in your day that has some margin (not even to sit still and take in information, but something like a commute) where you could invest a few minutes in listening to a sermon or a podcast! Then, share what you're listening to with me on the 'gram so I can see (@rebecca.dotson)!
Your biggest cheerleader,
Prayer for the entrepreneur:
Jesus, may I always be curious about You. I hope I never get over learning something new about Your character. You are eternal and incomprehensible this side of eternity. You are the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. You always have been and always will be. And you sent Your one and only Son to live and die in my place as a payment for my sins, that I may live an eternal life in heaven praising Your name. Forever. I'll never get over it. Help me stay in pursuit of sharing the Gospel with others and when I learn more about You, help it be contagious to me to not keep it inside but be a light to the world. I want to my life to be a beam of the Gospel to those around me.
In Your name,