This past weekend, I drove down to Nashville, TN to participate in the Country Music Mini Marathon (which I signed up for BEFORE I found out I was pregnant…just for the record). I stayed with my friend Ashley, who lives there, and who I’ve known since college. This was her first mini-marathon, and with neither of us having trained much for it, we had decided it would be more of a “walking tour,” if you will, of Nashville.
The weather was sunny and gusty Friday, with threats of severe weather that night and the next afternoon. But it looked like there would be a window of sunshine for the race. So things were looking good when we dragged ourselves downtown at 5:45 a.m. The race started at 7 a.m. and it was a beautiful morning….crisp, cool, sunny, all those super-fit good-looking people that made you wonder why you even signed up for this race…just a perfect morning. Ok…minus that last part.
Ashley and I began the race jogging. We felt really good, enjoyed the scenery, and ended up running the first four and a half miles. (I have to say, I am super proud of me and my almost-six-months-pregnant self). But then my right knee began to crumple under the extra 20 lbs. I happen to be carrying right now (WHICH IS IRONICALLY ONLY ONE POUND OF BABY) so I stopped to walk. Ashley, bless her heart, stopped to walk with me. I knew she still felt good and wanted to run so after a couple miles, I encouraged her to go on without me. We would meet up in the “Friends and Family” area in a certain spot after the race. I had my ipod with all my music, podcasts, etc. so I was fine. I wanted her to enjoy and be proud of her first mini-marathon. So off she went. And I kept walking.
Within the next hour, the sky began to grow cloudy and dark….almost black. I got a little nervous, but when I looked around at the people walking around me, nobody seemed to be worried. But soon the race officials and cops were driving along the course encouraging everyone to seek shelter because “hail will be here in five minutes and there is a tornado warning issued for this area.”
I looked around, and literally saw nowhere to seek shelter but under a railroad overpass. We were in an area with lots of warehouses and shut down businesses. There were thousands of us still on the course; where would we go if the storm hit?
Within minutes, the rain began to fall and there were bright flashes of lightning. It seemed to be getting worse by the second. I began to get scared. I was alone. I didn’t know a soul around me. I had no cell phone. I didn’t have Ashley’s number memorized, so even if I did find shelter to wait out the storm (which they were saying would be at least a couple hours long), how would I get a hold of her? And if the storm did get bad, there’s no way she would still be waiting for me in the Friends and Family area, which is just one big field. I didn’t know my way around Nashville one bit, and I was four miles from the finish. I had considered running to the finish, but my legs ACHED so bad. It was out of the question.
I felt tears in my eyes, and I felt stupid for being out on the course, especially without a backup plan having known it was supposed to storm. I felt like I was in danger, and I kept looking around trying to find a place to go, but there was nowhere that seemed safe. I kept trying to picture myself huddled under the overpass while a tornado raged by, and I couldn’t get myself to stop. And in my pregnant state, I was also bothered I had no food with me. (Omg, heaven forbid if I don’t eat every two hours, haha).
As I walked, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and said one of the most genuine prayers I have prayed in awhile. I asked: God, please watch over me. Protect me. Help me know what to do and where to go.
A minute later, as I was trying to decide what to do, I looked to my left and found I was walking, stride for stride, with an older man. As soon as I looked at him, I had this sense I needed to talk to him and that it had something to do with my prayer. I asked him where these hundreds of people were supposed to find shelter. He shrugged and said he had no idea; he just hoped the storm would pass by. We were both walking fairly fast, so we began to chat. I found out his name was Scott and that he was from California. I asked if he had come out this far just for the race. And he said, “Well, I came to do the race with Toby Mac.”
If you don’t listen to Christian music, that means nothing to you. But for those of us who grew up screaming JESUS FREAKS to our TAPE DECKS outside while we played old school games like KICKBALL, then you know Toby Mac was part of DC Talk and has now been solo for awhile.
Scott then told me that he actually works for a radio station called K-Love, to which I shrieked that I LISTEN TO KLOVE! And he said, “Oh, well I’m Scott from the Scott and Kelli show in the afternoons.” Now how fun is that?
I decided he definitely was the answer to my prayer and that if he kept walking, I’d stick with him. If he found some good shelter, I would follow. He invited me to hang out at the Toby Mac tent after the race if I couldn’t find my friends. As we chatted, I noticed the lightning had stopped. The clouds were still present, and the rain was still falling, but it wasn’t really stormy. We chatted about our spouses, our weddings, his kids, my job, my baby girl, how there wasn’t enough country music at this so-called country music mini-marathon, and how awesome it was the storm was holding off.
Scott and I crossed the finish line together, and I’ve never been so relieved to be done with a race. I thanked him profusely for keeping me company, and he told me to shoot him an email sometime.
I ended up finding Ashley, right where we had decided to meet, and I was welcomed with a big hug and an umbrella in the pouring rain. The rest of the day we were comatose, getting up from the couch only to put in a new movie or get more food…and to complain about how much our legs hurt.
Fast-forward to Monday. I emailed Scott to thank him one more time for keeping me company Saturday. I told him about the prayer I had prayed JUST before meeting him and how God answering my prayer impacted me. He emailed me back, saying he would share my story on the air that afternoon.
As I was listening to the Scott and Kelli show later that day, I was sitting in my car in the driveway, having just got home from work. Scott began to read my email about my prayer, and I started to cry. I felt so much gratitude and awe in my heart for that tangible answer to prayer. I had been so scared, borderline panicky, because this huge storm was coming right at me and I had nowhere to run, no one to turn to, and I couldn’t stop it. I asked God…help me please. And He did. He just DID. And I can’t express how much that means to my faith. Not to mention what an amazing picture of LIFE. Sometimes we are in that very spot. It is getting so dark, we see this storm coming, we know what’s involved, we have no idea how to tackle it, and we can’t stop it.
What happened to me Saturday will forever affect how I respond to crap in my life. I am so thankful for that storm.