On Saturday, I ran that half marathon. After those months of training and years of telling myself that I could not do anything of the sort, I did it! I didn't walk and that was my only goal. There were definitely moments I was ready to be done, and I think there really were times when my mind was not connected to my body. I was convinced my legs could give out any second, but they held up! So I kept running. The support system - goodness - I had such great support. Between Ashley who ran with me every step of the way, and the station wagon full of girls holding up signs for Ashley, Kassidy, and I - it was all just so encouraging! I was and am still so grateful!
You would think that the moment of crossing that finish line would be the highlight of my week, but I am surprised to say it wasn't. That moment was given to Ms. Loretta Simmons. Lindsay and I have been mentoring Loretta for the past four years. She started high school. I started college. I originally signed up asking for a little girl to mentor because in my mind that would be easier. However, I was given a 14 year old girl from Marion High School and that was all I knew. My mind flooded with the endless ways that this could all turn out. I was supposed to meet with my mentee for two hours a week, so after the first few weeks of meeting with Loretta, I learned that she was actually not like how I had envisioned. She was so sweet, gentle, and slightly guarded. It took months to get her out of that shell. Over the years, she has become one of the biggest constants in my time at IWU. Her grandma's laugh and smile are things I was always looking forward to each week. There were definitely weeks we didn't meet, but Loretta was still someone I saw on a regular basis and was somebody that I felt like I always knew what was going on in her life. That seemed to be hard for me with everyone else - especially after three years of different staffs and different residents and then balancing my own friends, it was always hard to keep up with everyone. But there was always Loretta. We would always catch up over her preferred salad from Baldwin or chicken salad sandwich from Wildcat. There were moments throughout the years that I would get frustrated and think that I was in over my head. Moments where I felt like I wasn't making an impact. Moments where I wasn't sure if I was supposed to step in or sit back. Moments where she disappointed me. Moments where I disappointed her. I am so glad I decided to stick with it despite those moments. She has challenged me, encouraged me, and made me laugh on some of my worst days. She has helped me grow up, and there are not enough words to express my gratitude to her. So this past Thursday, she made my week - maybe even my year. Linds and I had our last dinner with her, and we got to give her the pictures we printed off from a photo shoot that Lexi did for us so we would have pictures to keep forever. We each wrote her a letter and then we read them to her. It was the day of the huge rain storm, and we decided to end our last meeting together with a good old run through some puddles. So we ran. We got soaked. The rain just came harder. But it was so beautiful. We then prayed in the rain. Loretta never liked to pray out loud. Occasionally she would, but that was so rare. But we went around in a circle and each said a prayer. I will forever regret not recording her voice at this moment. I wouldn't have even cared if my phone got ruined. I don't remember every word of her prayer but it went something like this...
"Dear God, I thank you for Emily and Lindsay and that they could be
my 'big sisters'. Thank you that they taught me how to be a lady
and how to go to college. I pray that you will help them both be nurses.
Be with Lindsay and her future marriage. And help Emily to find
the love of her life out there. Ya, that's all."
It was so perfect, and one of my most treasured moments. It made me laugh. It made me cry, and the rain just added that dramatic element. I have just grown to love that girl so so much. I am going to miss our dinners. I pray that God will continually place her on my mind, so that I will keep praying for her. I pray that she will not sell herself short and keep fighting for her future and her education. I also pray that she will also continue to seek the Lord throughout different chapters of her life. She and her grandma are hopefully coming to our pinning ceremony this Friday, and that would just be so special! My family, Lindsay's family, and Loretta and her grandma all in the same room makes me want to melt. I praise God that I wasn't given that 'little girl' I asked for four years ago. He knew I would need this teenage girl and her grandma throughout college, and they have been such a gift to me.
In the mean time, finals are underway. In my marriage and family final I just had, the professor wrote me a note that included the phrase "you're going to be a great wife and mom someday". I immediately called my mother cracking up because at the end of finals in high school teachers would say "good luck in college" or "you'll love nursing school", and now, I am getting "you'll be a good wife and mom". I guess that is what people say at this point? Ha. Goodness gracious that still seems way far off to me.
Family come Thursday. Graduation Saturday. Some real hysterical memories are about to be made. I just know it.