1. Recurring, done, or performed every year; yearly
2. Of, relating to, or determined by a year
3. Living or growing for only one year or season (botany)
1. A cross-country footrace of 26 miles, 385 yards (42.195 kilometers)
2. A long-distance race other than a footrace
3. A contest of endurance: a dance marathon
4. An event or activity that requires prolonged effort or endurance
According to the dictionary - that is how those two words are defined. Most of us have heard the story of Phidippides, who ran from Marathon to Athens (26.2 miles) to announce the Greek victory after the Geeks defeated the Persians in battle. There's also this little tidbit of information: according to tradition, after completing his footrace, Phidippides apparently succumbed to extreme exhaustion, collapsed and died.
Most people say extreme exhaustion is how they feel at the end of a marathon... like keeling over and dying... at least figuratively. And that is pretty much how I feel about this time of the year... it is exciting, enticing, exhilirating... but is also exhausting, expensive, and emptying.
Yesterday was Brendan's birthday... kicking off my annual marathon. I'm still emotionally reeling from the fact that our oldest is now 15. I'm not really ready for Monday today... and, well, I'm looking forward to these next several weeks with both thrill in my heart, and a marked measure of trepidation.
First, this is the beginning of the end of Autumn which is, as far as I'm concerned, simply the most delightful season of the year. Her official end doesn't come until Thanksgiving... but that is just around the corner. When home in the States, most of the leaves have already tumbled leaving trees bare, a bunch of work is required to remove all those leaves, brown lawns are now exposed by all that effort, and the lovely fall freshness of cooler weather begins its mutation into the bitter, penetrating cold of a Michigan winter. When home in Niger, the weather cools... first only at night, the air dries out and hung laundry dries in literally a manner of minutes, the Sahara sands begin to below leaving an everpresent fog of dust in the air and mini sand dunes to navigate on the roads, all the extra "insulation" in the air causes the call to prayer to reverberate more noticeably and loudly throughout our neighborhood five times daily, my thoughts turn towards nostalgia and family we won't see this year over the holidays, and we start trying to recreate - just a tiny bit - the feeling of American life in our celebrations.
What events are a part of this year's marathon? Brendan's birthday, of course... IBBS/Tri-M classes... pig roast out by the river... Sahel Academy's Field Day (where we pull our middlers out of their French school for the day so they can participate - which means make-up work)... Thanksgiving... Mary Michelle turns two... three days later, Anna turns ten and ten is a big birthday party year... our 16th anniversary and Jonathan's 6th birthday collide on December 17th... big Christmas celebrations over three days at our church... Christmas... reintegrating everyone back into school after the holidays... Nadia's birthday - can't believe she'll be 12!... Tori's birthday... Tim's birthday... Valentine's Day, a significant anniversary for me for a few reasons... whew... and that's just the stuff that we know about ahead of time and doesn't include extended/adopted family birthdays or special events!
I find that during these marathon, multi-tasking months, it is easy for me to shut down spiritually. I'm so bent on surviving, I neglect the One who is necessary for that survival. Time is at such a premium that I relegate sleep to a luxury I can't afford, take on tasks because I feel the weight of other's expectations and try to carry burdens that were often never meant for me to carry. I'm hoping that this year, while busy as always, won't feel so overwhelming as I choose to focus on all for which I'm grateful, I continue to deliberately count how God's amazing grace overflows, filling my life, when I consciously choose to remember that He redeems every moment, even the hard or exhausting ones... and I give Him all praise and glory for the GREAT things He has done... is doing... will do throughout eternity!
This week's gratitude list ~
#541 singing in Zarma, for the first time yesterday, "To God be the Glory," and hearing it again like for the first time because I actually understood bits and pieces
#542 an amazing 15 year old boy who truly is one of my heroes because he so readily demonstrates the gentleness that God continues to meld into my life
#543 watching my two oldest try to work together as they prepare a Sunday School lesson
#544 opening God's word and studying it with the sweet ladies from our church
#545 reading the Parable of the Prodigal Son aloud, in Zarma, for the first time
#546 beginning Zarma language classes again
#547 care packages from home with delights we can only dream of here
#548 raspberry/blueberry pie, whipped cream, vanilla spiced coffee, family and some of the neatest friends ever
#549 friends who ask how you are doing... and persist until you really tell... the truth...
#550 watching one exuberantly alive with the excitement of idealism and hoping she never looses that innocence
#551 the feeling of clean tile floors
#552 realizing anew, as I was reading Luke 15 in Zarma, that for many of those kids with whom I work at Sahel, young people who are learning multiple languages or who have reading challenges, reading with comprehension is a time consuming, exhausting and challenging task... not something to take for granted... I hope I'm always grateful for the oppotunity to walk at least a few steps in another's shoes
#553 the sound of Nadia chopping vegetables as she delights in helping prepare our meals
#554 the smell of warm, fresh baked bread
#555 needing to pull the covers up at night due to the coolness of the air
#557 truly seeing myself as the Prodigal Son... recognizing the horror of my insult each time I demand of my Lord to give me what I think I deserve... or to take away what I think I don't deserve)... and refuse to accept and embrace the grace He longs to lavish upon me... because it isn't what I want, or because I haven't earned it...
#558 the opportunity to testify of this new-found understanding to a sweet group of ladies who were transparent enough to share that they, too, fight that same battle within themselves
#559 seeing undeniable confirmation of God's leading and direction when walking through difficult situations... knowing that each agonizing and/or challenging step has been ordained by Him, is His will, is evidence of His abundant and overwhelming grace