#AffirmationWednesday – Because there should be no limits on when or where to affirm

My friend Daniel and me got to spend some bro time this weekend. We ate meat, drank beer, climbed rocks and arm-wrestled. But this post is about another impactful person in my life.

My friend Daniel and me got to spend some bro time this weekend. We ate meat, drank beer, climbed rocks and arm-wrestled. But this post is about another impactful person in my life.

Editor’s top note: Here is some recent research that connects the environmental issues with human well-being. Interesting and pertinent stuff.

When I was in my final semester of graduate school, I was fully planning on doing AmeriCorps. My mind was all over the place with research, writing and trying to graduate combined with a ton of personal issues and thoughts. I applied for an AmeriCorps VISTA job in Steamboat Springs, Colo. I knew I wanted to help underserved youth.

The former executive director of where I served told me to apply to their other AmeriCorps program as well. I did and had an interview set up with the program manager, Lindsay Kohler. I wrote it down wrong on my calendar. Totally spaced it and missed it. I sent an email begging for mercy. I figured I had not only blown my chances at that job but also the original one. Lindsay responded and said it was no problem and rescheduled another interview. Despite multiple offers, I knew what I was going to do. Work with people who knew forgiveness and understanding.

Three things Lindsay has taught me:

  • Forgiveness and understanding. Obviously. But it went through the initial experience into multiple times this year when Lindsay moved from coworker to supervisor for me. Lindsay truly wants to help people and so she constantly looks past frustrations and difficulties to ideas of how to help. She is constantly looking for ways to putting others first. And this stems for her consistency in forgiveness and understanding.
  • Passion towards helping underserved youth. This is what Lindsay does and continues to do. She has been serving underserved youth in multiple capacities since being at Partners in Routt County. She worked in a middle school. She did grants and fundraising and marketing. And now she runs the program that puts AmeriCorps in middle and elementary schools. But do you know what the bottom-line, guiding factor is in all of Lindsay’s decisions and actions? Helping the kiddos. Always. How she and her mentor crew can help in the best way.
  • Running passion and dedication. I have consistently stated throughout my life I am more impressed with the people who run and train but never lead the pack than the people who do lead the pack. Lindsay is not a pack leader. But she is out there training through Steamboat winters anyway. Relentlessly. I watched Lindsay walk into the office day after day with snow and ice all over her after a mid-day run. And it was never about dreams of winning races. It was about the struggle. And the fulfillment of completing a challenging course. It was super inspiring.

There obviously is a ton more to Lindsay. But these are the three most prominent things I learned from her after two years of near daily contact. So, if anyone wants (or knows someone who wants) a fulfilling experience mentoring at-risk youth while being mentored by a passionate, dedicated supervisor (and friend), look into the AmeriCorps School-Based Mentoring program for Partners in Routt County in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

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#AffirmationMonday – The Man Who Taught Me it is OK to Love a Kansas Jayhawk

So, the American Medical Association might have some input on making cheerleading a recognized NCAA sport. I honestly don't see why it shouldn't be a sport at that level. They do athletic stuff that would take a ton of training for me to be able to accomplish. I am for it. Happy #AffirmationMonday, everyone!

So, the American Medical Association might have some input on making cheerleading a recognized NCAA sport. I honestly don’t see why it shouldn’t be a sport at that level. They do athletic stuff that would take a ton of training for me to be able to accomplish. I am for it. Happy #AffirmationMonday, everyone!

Yesterday was Father’s Day. I have been blessed with a lot of good male role models in my life. My grandfather, Jack Edwin Allen, is one of them. He also turned 81 yesterday.

For as long as I can remember, my grandpa and I have playfully teased each other about the Mizzou-Kansas basketball rivalry. We used to have a game where if one of us made fun of the other person’s team, we had to give that person 10 cents. A dime is a lot to a 10-year-old. Not so much for a grown adult. Looking back on it, I think it was his way of getting in a few good diggers for a small investment.

1) My grandpa is wise and smart. I think it can just be assumed that someone who has seen many seasons of life will be wise. My grandpa definitely falls in that category. He has had many life experiences and has spent much time reflecting on them and growing from them. And we are blessed to have him share those life lessons and experiences with us.

But he is brilliant as well. To be a civil engineer for an oil company, designing pipelines around the West, you have to be smart. He passed that on to each of his children. It does not take long to realize how smart he is by interacting with him. I do not think I have met someone who processes, contemplates and analyzes like him. I hope to have half of his brilliance at some point in my life.

2) My grandpa is absolutely a hard worker. It is insane. He always has been. But it is crazier the older he gets. He instilled in me early on a strong work ethic and the importance of getting your work done. When my brother and I would spend time with my grandparents in the summer, we did chores with my grandpa every morning. We got to go fishing or go to the park afterwards, but it was always about finishing the chores first. While we were not stoked about it then, it is one of the things that has made us who we are today.

And even though he is now 81, he continues to work on projects and chores as much as possible. It is actually really humorous to watch him help my dad with stuff. My dad will tell him to sit down or take it easy and he just continues working right next to my dad.

3) My grandpa is a fighter. He has been battling lung cancer for a few years now. Even though his body is tired, he continues to fight. I also have a young cousin named Jack. Big Jack is Little Jack’s main male role model. And you can already see the benefits of that relationship. Little Jack is an incredibly smart little dude. He has an engineering brain like his father and grandfather. Little Jack works hard. Last time I was at his house, he came home from his pre-school and immediately would water all of the plants in his yard. Even though it was over 100 degrees.

My grandpa continues to fight. Probably for many reasons. But I think one of those reasons is his love for Little Jack.

My grandpa is a great man. A strong, wise and tough man. He has and continues to teach me many things. I love him and am proud of him. Even though he is one of the biggest Jayhawk basketball fans I know.

#AffirmationMonday – Week 7 – I go to a Small Church Next to Aspen Stands at the Base of a Mountain Pass and the Entire Pastoral Staff Lives on the Land. Kind of like a Commune.

Food is extremely personal. Where you get your food. How you prepare it. What type of food you eat. I am a big believer in being intentional about the food entering our bodies. Consequently, articles like this intrigue me. What do you think about how your food is grown?

Food is extremely personal. Where you get your food. How you prepare it. What type of food you eat. I am a big believer in being intentional about the food entering our bodies. Consequently, articles like this intrigue me. What do you think about how your food is grown?

You know, I have been extremely hesitant to spend an #AffirmationMonday writing about a group of people. I like these posts to be specific. And it is somewhat difficult to be specific about a group of people without making a few generalizations. Please respect and understand that. Additionally, there are multiple individuals in the group who deserve and will have their own #AffirmationMonday posts, but first, I would like to expand on the impact the Euzoa community has had on my life. So, here goes…

I came to Steamboat on a spiritual high. I spent the summer working with one of my best friends and life mentors. We worked with a community I loved. It had also been after a month of work in Kenya and Oklahoma. Basically, I didn’t want to lose the spiritual maturity and community I had spent all summer building. I needed to be plugged into a spiritual community immediately.

I got to Steamboat on either a Sunday or Monday. I remember sitting on the floor of my room alone without furniture thinking I just moved to a town where I didn’t know anyone. My lovely roommates were all spending times with their families. And although their families generously extended invitations to spend the evening with them, I chose a run instead. So there I was. Alone. I sent an email to the pastor at Euzoa and the pastor from another local church. Within the evening, Chris had responded asking if I had time to meet him for coffee the next day. I laughed out loud as I thought, “Chris, I do not know anyone. I think I can probably squeeze you in to my schedule.”

We had coffee the next morning. He invited me to church on Sunday. I still haven’t heard back from the other pastor. Maybe my email was lost in the Internet Abyss. I went to the other church’s Saturday night service and Euzoa’s on Sunday. My brother was with me. After Euzoa on Sunday, he told me I had to go there. I felt the same. Here is why:

1) Euzoa’s worship is perfect for so many reasons. There is passion. There is intensity. There is love. And the music was awesome. I immediately wanted to be involved in the worship band. But judging on appearances, it would take covering my body in tats and getting a flat-bill hat. Now that I am involved, I get to see what makes the experience so intense. One reason is the worship team is a family. Every Thursday, Euzoa provides dinner for the practice. We share a meal together. We laugh. We discuss what is going on in our lives. Also, the practice is actually worship. Sure, we are “practicing” but what we are really doing is enjoying God and each other.

2) Euzoa’s lack of judgment. Upon people. I felt comfortable immediately. And that is because there is an absolute low level of judgment. I guess what I am saying is I am not embarrassed to invite people to come to Euzoa. And that is because I know they will be greeted with love instead of judgment. They will also be met with interesting looking and acting people. They will be met with people covered in tattoos. And piercings. And hats. And laughter. And love. In a world of church’s getting caught up in the little things like appearances and politics and getting to service and leaving as soon as possible and leaving our faith at the church door instead of taking it out into the world, Euzoa gets it.

3) Euzoa’s love for the people of the Yampa Valley. Again, Euzoa gets it. They have a passion to love people in this valley. Instead of spending millions to display the love, they talk to people. They spend time with people. They do not have the millions to spend, but even if they did, they would spend it loving people instead of trying to increase church numbers. They spend a lot of time in prayer. They try to reflect Jesus to this beautiful valley and these beautiful people as much as possible.

Obviously no one is perfect. And therefore, no church community can be perfect. But I think Euzoa does a good job of being upfront with that. One thing they do well is make people feel a part of their community. The welcome people. They show them love without judgment, trying to get them to become members or take all of their money. They love God well. They love others well.

*Editor’s note: I tried to find a photo of Euzoa. No success. Just imagine a barn-looking structure in an Aspen stand with multiple buildings and ponds surrounding it. And dogs running around. A lot of dogs.

*Editor’s (second note): I ran a race this weekend. I share this article not to toot my own horn but because I hate it. Luke did a fine job writing it. But, it was not the story I wanted to be portrayed. Honestly, I think I sound like an arrogant ass. It made me sick to my stomach Saturday evening. But, I learned something from it. I am taking myself and my running way too seriously. Running is an absolute gift. So, now I am focusing (again) on enjoying it. Running without socks so I can feel the dirt on my feet. Taking my shirt off so I can feel the warmth of the sun on my back and chest. Running fast when I feel like running fast. Running slow when I feel like it. What I am saying is, I am finally Forest Gump. Beard and all.

#AffirmationMonday Week 6 – My Other Brother Named Daniel

I recently read an article about a study in Sweden. It was a small study involving 165 infants and their parents. The study found 65% of the babies who had their pacifiers cleaned by their parent’s saliva were less likely to form certain allergies. The idea is to increase the diversity of our microbiomes at a young age. Microbiome is a word describing the community of bacteria living within and on us. All I got from the article is once again, diversity makes everything better.

I recently read an article about a study in Sweden. It was a small study involving 165 infants and their parents. The study found 65% of the babies who had their pacifiers cleaned by their parent’s saliva were less likely to form certain allergies. The idea is to increase the diversity of our microbiomes at a young age. Microbiome is a word describing the community of bacteria living within and on us. All I got from the article is once again, diversity makes everything better.

Allow me to introduce you to the fine looking gentleman holding my hand and running alongside me in this photo. His name is Daniel Lee Gale. We have been good friends for a decade. He has been a brother to me. I love him.

This first thing you need to know about Daniel is also the reason why I chose this specific photo for my #AffirmationMonday posts. Lots of times in life what we need most is not someone to be in front of us leading and giving advice. We also do not need cheerleaders cheering us on from behind. We need someone to hold our hands and go through life next to us. Daniel has done exactly that through many life storms.

1) Daniel the Best Friend. Beginning in high school, Daniel was the perfect best friend. Truly. We did incredibly stupid stuff together. He was the one person who would not only go along with anything dumb I wanted to do, but encouraged it and took it to the next level of dumb. We went on huge runs together. We played pranks on other people together. We pushed each other down hills in wheelbarrows. We bonded over running, life, girls and God.

All this being said, the best part about having Daniel as a best friend is his loyalty. Despite multiple opportunities I had (and took) to ruin our relationship during our early years of undergrad, Daniel stayed my friend. He is truly the epitome of a best friend. In every sense of the phrase.

2) Daniel the Personality. Daniel is hilarious. Dude can make anyone laugh at any time. It is truly a gift. People are drawn to Daniel. Because he is so happy and funny all of the time. Daniel also has a killer attitude towards adventure. He is always looking for a caper. At one point, it was running. A lot of running. Now it is his climbing.

The thing about Daniel is, once he gets his mind set on something, there is no going back. And I love that obsessive drive and personality. Daniel loves outside. He loves others. He loves God. I don’t know many others who would just move out to Colorado with me for the summer and then give away as many working hours as possible so we can focus on our running and other capers.

3) Dan(iel) the Man. While some dudes (like me) are slightly immature and afraid of commitment, others are starting good and productive lives. Daniel falls into the latter category. Daniel graduated college twice, fell in love with a great woman and has started a life with her. He is mature. Honestly, for someone who once asked me to punch him as hard as I could in the forehead with a Pringle’s can on my fist, it gives me hope for the maturing of anyone.

I had the great honor of standing next to Daniel as he married his love. At a time of nothing but cynicism for me towards love between two people in general, I watched Daniel’s face as his love walked into the church sanctuary and then towards him. I watched his eyes. In his eyes I saw nerves change to disbelief of the beauty he was witnessing to adoration and finally to tears. I witnessed a well of emotions through his eyes. And I realized, not only that my brother had become a man but he also had found someone in life that could bring intense emotions at the very sight of her. And I found another level of love and respect for him.

I have learned much from Daniel. I have learned about excitement for life. I have learned about forgiveness. I have learned about the diversity and dynamics of love.

Love you, bro.

This is Daniel and Nathan in high school. We are watching the Field of Dreams.

This is Daniel and Nathan in high school. We are watching the Field of Dreams. My butt is wet.

#AffirmationMonday – Week 5 – My Younger Brother from another Mother

Happy #AffirmationMonday! Let's do some big time affirming to our friends and family today.

Happy #AffirmationMonday! Let’s do some big time affirming to our friends and family today.

Happy #AffirmationMonday, everyone. One thing I realized at a young age was if I surrounded myself with people better than me, it would make me a better person. If I looked up to someone for any reason, I would befriend them. Allow me to introduce you to a dude I constantly look up to and he probably doesn’t even know it. His name is Hunter Schroer.

I first knew of Hunter when he would hang out with my brother and some of my brother’s friends. Then I worked as a summer intern at the church in Missouri both of our families attended. Hunter had just graduated from high school and was very active in the youth group. It wasn’t till working in the sun and heat of the North Carolina Appalachian Mountains that we truly bonded together. After a week of working hard in the heat, our minds started to go. Seriously. We very much entered the slap-happy stage.

1) Hunter the Laugh. Hunter’s laugh is contagious. If you know Hunter, you know this. It makes you want to hear that laugh more, and in my case that means do more stupid stuff that I think will get him to laugh. But there is way more to Hunter’s laugh than just the sound. Hunter is excited about life and always has a positive outlook. I admire and respect Hunter’s ability to find the humor in life and specific situations. People are drawn to that attitude. Hunter is also one of the nicest guys I know. His charm and humor make him extremely fun to be around.

2) Hunter the Genius. Hunter is an intelligent dude. I am amazed by and attracted to smart people. Hunter is one of those people. He has a brain that sees the world, situations and problems in ways mine could never. He very much has that engineer brain but also has an artistic and creative side. I (like many others) have benefited from both. Whether it be jamming out or building our own hammocks, what we do when together is usually a product of Hunter’s brain.

3) Hunter the Friend. Hunter is one of the best friends I have. The thing is, he is that friend to all of his friends. He has an amazing capability and gift to build quality and deep relationships. He is not afraid to be vulnerable and truly open up to people. Hunter has already come to visit me in Steamboat. He is already planning a return trip. He is a friend. He is there for me. He listens. He loves. He shares. He is a friend.

4) Hunter the Heart. Probably the best thing about Hunter and what I admire the most is his heart. He has a huge heart for people. He is so mature. He loves people a ton. When I moved to Colorado in August, I wanted to stay in close communication with him (even though he was spending a semester in London) and grow our relationship and have someone to really open up with. Hunter and I had a helluva email chain going. We got to know a little too much about each other. But, I got to see Hunter’s heart. And it is beautiful. Many people have a good brain. Or a good heart. Hunter has an amazing heart and brain. And he wants to use both of them to help people.

God has huge plans in store for Hunter. Truly. I cannot wait to see what they are. But, I know they are going to happen. Because Hunter and God are besties. They hang out with each other. They listen to each other. They love each other. I have been blessed by having Hunter as my friend. He has made me a better person.

This is Hunter. He is in the process of charging up a mountain with snow shoes and skis on his back. What a bad ass.

This is Hunter. He is in the process of charging up a mountain with snow shoes and skis on his back. What a bad ass.

#AffirmationMonday – Week 4 – The Woman, The Myth, The MEL!

Thanks to my good friend, Mel, I have another awesome new #AffirmationMonday graphic. Also, thank to Mel, I have an awesome, new #AffirmationMonday post.

Thanks to my good friend, Mel, I have another awesome new #AffirmationMonday graphic. Also, thank to Mel, I have an awesome, new #AffirmationMonday post.

“But the kind of love that God created and demonstrated is a costly one because it involves sacrifice and presence. It’s a love that operates more like a sign language than being spoken outright.” – Bob Goff

As I begin my week of house sitting in God’s Country, Colorado, I feel it fitting to affirm my favorite introvert and good friend, Melissa Hatfield. In all actuality, this post has been planned for a while. It just happened to end up coinciding. And as I struggled over the past couple of weeks trying to find the words, I realized while Mel will appreciate these words, and the world must know how rad of a person she is, she is a selfless person (HUGE understatement) and will not get hung up on these words. That is my problem. Once again, I will attempt to put these affirmations into three categories.

1) Mel the Mentor. Mel has been a spiritual and life mentor to many. She has had a huge influence on this blog. She has encouraged. She has prayed. She has given me new things to ponder. She has made me ponder old things in new ways. She created the graphic for #AffirmationMonday posts. She introduced me to Don Miller and Brennan Manning.

Mel has been a spiritual and life mentor to me since the beginning of high school. And while there was a time when we had little communication, she was ready to pick up right where we left off when I reached out to her again. The largest thing Mel has done for me (and others) is allow me to form my own beliefs. She gives immense love, support and encouragement. But when it comes down to forming beliefs, she left that up to me. And it has made my beliefs stronger. Because they are my own.

2) Mel the Introvert who Loves and Seeks Discomfort. My first real interaction with Mel came at a church lock-in at the local YMCA. She had graciously (and definitely with a good heart and lots of naivety) asked the band I was playing in to play at the lock-in. She took an enormous risk. And on the surface it failed. I mean, we were freshmen in high school. And we were idiots. Some of the athletes decided it would be funny to throw flour over all of our amps and instruments while we were not with them. In retaliation, we found the flour next to their letter jackets and dumped it on them. Mel should have been furious. But she showed us nothing but love. That changed everything for me. I started paying attention to spiritual things. Because she showed us love, grace and forgiveness.

Last summer on a flight back from Africa, Mel shared with me her heart was feeling pulled outside of Jefferson City, Mo. Her home is Jefferson City. But if you know Mel, you know while her heart is very much with Refuge Student Ministries and the Jefferson City community, she has left pieces of her heart all over the nation and world. That is how she operates. She leaves her heart with people and cultures. And, lets be honest, Jefferson City isn’t the most glamorous place. She could do amazing things for God all over the world. But she decided to stay in Jefferson City. Not because it was the comfortable thing to do. Because she loves people and she loves God. And that is where God has called her.

3) Mel, Abba’s Child. Mel would want this post to be all about God. That is how she lives her life. But, Mel, this post is about you. And how you are Abba’s child. Mel teaches me on a daily basis how to be Abba’s child. She knows her inner-Pharisee. She is open about her inner-Pharisee. She loves to be with God. She loves spending time with her Abba. And her Abba has unsuppressed, rambunctious, wild, unfathomable Love. Mel reflects that love on all she comes in contact with.

In seeking to be Abba’s child, Mel seeks to be with people. And she is an introvert. She is with people. She laughs with others when they laugh. She weeps when they weep (she is really good at weeping). She bears other’s burdens. Mel knows she is not perfect but also knows her Abba is.

Over the past year, Mel has transformed from strictly a spiritual and life mentor to that and a best friend. I have watched as she has displayed unsuppressed, rambunctious, wild and unfathomable Love to me and countless others. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Nakupenda, Mel.

*Editor’s note: If you know Mel, tell her how much you love her today. Tell her your favorite thing about her. My favorite thing is she loves big. And she loves everyone. And she is selfless.

*Editors (second) note: Mel loves God, loves others and does stuff. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, she would encourage you to love others and do stuff. Looking for something to do? Mentor. Seriously. I have seen firsthand the benefits in my own life and others. It might not feel like it has an impact, but it absolutely does. Google “mentoring” and the community you live in for some resources.

#AffirmationMonday – Week 3 – Daniel Loren Allen

Week 3!

Week 3!

As Ragamuffin Stories ages, the affirmations are beginning to pile up. The initial two #AffirmationMonday posts were about my parents and a Coach who was like another parent. This week the affirmations flow for a brother and (perhaps more importantly) loyal and sacrificial friend – Daniel Loren Allen.

The reason why it is pertinent to point out the friendship is more important is because he always has been and always will be my brother. No matter what. And we have always gotten along, but somewhere in the past few years we have become best friends. A few different things have led to this beautiful occurrence.

Before we get into this, I have to digress for a moment and share about one of the worst times I have ever felt in my life. When Daniel and I were young, we did what boys do. We were wild, full of energy and wrestled. One time at our grandparent’s house, it got out of control and I tackled Daniel into a kitchen counter. Yeah, I know. He hit the top of his eye on the corner and probably should have gotten stitches. I think the reason that moment still weighs heavy on my mind and heart is I can still remember his face. He looked scared. Scared of the moment. Scared of the blood. Scared of me. I made it a point as probably a 10-year-old or something to never see that look of fear on his face again. I am his older brother.

1) Daniel the comedian. Daniel is funny. When he tries to be and when he doesn’t. Anyone in our family (immediate and extended) will tell you how funny he is and how he makes any family gathering better. Daniel has always done funny things. But, somewhere during his adolescence, he actually ended up being a funny dude. Many times during a week, I find myself laughing out loud while remembering something he did or said.

2) Daniel the younger brother. Daniel has always done the same things as me. It used to be annoying. In that younger brother wanting to do everything the older brother does sort of way. And now, we just enjoy being together and doing the same things. We run. We ski. We kayak. We cook. We fish. We play music. We backpack. We climb. We laugh. And we do it enjoying each other’s company and the experience. This is what began the transformation from strictly brothers to good friends.

3) Daniel the best friend. When I think of a best friend, it is always someone I enjoy being with, can laugh with, share experiences with and someone who cares. Who is loyal. Who loves. In the past few years, Daniel has gone from someone I like to just share experiences with to someone I can count on to be a best friend. It started in January of 2012. While I was allowing my world to fall apart around me, he was there. He didn’t ask questions. He didn’t bug me. He was simply with me. To be a friend. To hang out. To cook. To run. To laugh. To share experiences.

I could go into the details of everything we did together and he did for me. But it will be sufficient to say he was present physically and emotionally when few others were. To do whatever.

4) Daniel the protector. During a kayak trip last spring, Daniel watched me almost drown. Sparing details, he saw that same fear in my face I saw in his when I tackled him into the kitchen counter. It was something he had never saw before and something he never wanted to see again. But, he made sure I got out of the situation. He made sure I was OK. For about an hour, the younger brother became the protective, older brother. And for that, I am forever grateful. And look forward to the next opportunity he has to step up in that way.

Daniel impresses me on a daily basis. His attitude towards life. His energy. His kindness. His zeal for experiences and getting the most out of every day and opportunity. His toughness. His humor. His love and sacrifice for friends and family.

*Editor’s note: My brother is the best.

*Editor’s (second) note: The world lost a wonderful person this weekend in Brennan Manning. He will have his own #AffirmationMonday post, but I am still getting to know his writing. I do suggest reading two blog posts about Brennan Manning and his life – one from my good friend, Melissa (beautiful, amazing post) and another from a very influential author, himself – Don Miller.

This is Daniel and me. We are getting ready to leave for a ski adventure. You can tell because we look so AMPED.

This is Daniel and me. We are getting ready to leave for a ski adventure. You can tell because we look so AMPED.

#AffirmationMonday – Week 2 – The Man, The Myth, The (Jim) Marshall

This is the new #AffirmationMonday visual. It was created by my good friend, Melissa. She also created my blog header. This photo is particularly pertinent for today. Because today is all about the man who these two runners spent a lot of time with.

This is the new #AffirmationMonday visual. It was created by my good friend, Melissa. She also created my blog header. This photo is particularly pertinent for today. Because today is all about the man who these two runners spent a lot of time with.

“Suffering creates perseverance. Perseverance creates character. Character creates confidence.” – Jim Marshall

Last week was about my parents. This week is all about a man who was like a parent to me and many others – Jim Marshall. Even though it has been almost a decade since I competed for him and I have had many other coaches since graduating high school, when I say “Coach” he is who I am talking about.

Akin to many people featured in #AffirmationMonday posts, I could write a book about the profound influence they have had on my life and how wonderful they are. To try to guide my thoughts, I am going to (attempt) to break this into a few intentional categories. These words will not do justice to the person Coach is. But I suppose many of you reading this already know that.

1) Coach the coach. First and foremost, Coach put everything he had into coaching. I didn’t realize that right away, but eventually, I came to understand and respect it. He taught confidence. As a freshman in high school, I did not expect to be good. When I ended up being decent, he showed immense confidence in me. That confidence inundated my life and created self-confidence in my running and life.

Running and life. Any athlete who spent any time at all with Coach knows how much he emphasizes the parallels of having success in running and life. He taught me success does not come without work. And work does not come without some pain. From a very young age, he taught me I can achieve nearly anything I want in life, but it absolutely will not come without discipline, consistent work, a positive attitude and paying attention to doing all of the little things. He taught persistence. He taught us to persevere and work harder when the race (or life) got tough. He taught us the value of hard work and to never grow content with who we were as runners and people. He did not expect us to be the best athletes in the state (although he had some of the best athletes in the state), but he expected us to be the best athletes and people we could possibly be.  He has been more of a coach to me. He has been an encourager and mentor.

2) Coach the father. I have my own father. I wrote about him last week. But, Coach made it clear from the beginning of our time spent with him he would be like another father to us. He practiced tough love. But his love for his athletes was evident and profound. He wanted the best for his athletes in running and life. I had a stable home-life. But there were many on the team when I was there who did not. He fought for them. He supported them. He did everything he could to be a positive, stable adult figure in their lives.

3) Coach the fighter. Perhaps the greatest lesson Coach has ever taught me and many others is what it is like to persevere, fight and grow amidst a tragedy. Coach is a fighter. And he instilled a fighter attitude in all he coached. When he was dealt a tragedy no one should ever be dealt, he picked himself up and has made a beautiful life and life’s work out of dust. He is tough as hell.

He has never felt sorry for himself. He has never allowed life’s circumstances and set-backs hold him down or squash his fighter spirit. He is a modern day warrior. And he teaches others to be the same. He teaches us the best way possible – through actions. He is the absolute living epitome of his quote at the top of this post. Coach has suffered. Coach has fought and persevered. And Coach has more character than almost everyone I know.

Coach has changed lives of people all around him. He has changed (and continues to change) mine on a daily basis. And for that, I am forever grateful.

After proofing this, I realized my fear has come true. These words are the tip of the iceberg to Coach’s life and impact. If you have some affirming words or stories for Coach, I encourage you to share them. Comment on this post. Facebook message me. Write on my wall or his wall. Whatever. Affirmations are important…

Especially to those who mean a lot to us and have influenced our lives. So, take some time this Monday to let those people know. #AffirmationMondays

 

Introducing Affirmation Mondays (Week One Installment)

This is my friend Daniel and me finishing a race. We are holding hands. Because we love each other. And running. Affirmations are about telling those you love why you love them. I love Daniel because he does this type of stuff with me. But this post isn't about Daniel. His will come later.

This is my friend Daniel and me finishing a race. We are holding hands. Because we love each other. And running. Affirmations are about telling those you love why you love them. I love Daniel because he does this type of stuff with me. But this post isn’t about Daniel. His will come later.

Mondays are hard. To help me get through them, I am starting a weekly themed post called Affirmation Mondays. I think affirmations are always a good thing. And I have a problem telling those closest to me how much they mean to me. So, Mondays are now all about affirmations. It only makes sense to start with the two people who brought me into this world – Tom and Lisa Allen. My parents.

Thomas Edwin Allen grew up in southeast Kansas. Lisa Gay McDaniel grew up in south-central Missouri. They met in forestry school at the University of Missouri-Columbia. This post could be summarized by saying they are a big part of the person I am today and they continually show me support and love no matter how long it takes me to “grow up” and despite my continuous shenanigans. But, summarizing would not do them (or this post) justice. This is Affirmation Monday! I can see their influence in my life in a few distinct ways.

1) When I was a child (birth to let’s say 12ish). Tom and Lisa read to me. And had me read to them. They taught me the value of reading and knowledge from the beginning. They also took me outside. A lot. They showed me a ton of love and support. All of our family vacations involved being outside. I rarely remember staying in hotels. We camped. They took me fishing. They took me skiing. They put a basketball in my hands. They also took me to church but never forced me into beliefs. They allowed me to form those on my own.

2) When I was a teenager (13ish to high school graduation). Tom and Lisa made a big time mistake here. They introduced me to running. This led to many early Saturdays for them traveling across Missouri to watch me run across parks and golf courses. They went to every track and cross country meet. But they were not the crazy parents many of my teammates had. They cheered me on. They supported me. They celebrated with me when I ran well and were bummed with me when I ran poorly. It might be hard to believe, but there were a lot of parents that actually got mad or disappointed in their kids when they ran poorly. This was never the case for me. They showed up. They ran across the golf courses and parks to cheer me on in as many places as possible. They were waiting at home when I showed up with tears still in my eyes after the state cross country championships my senior year. They waited at the track at the sectional championships my senior year while I went behind the grand stand and cried my eyes out after missing state qualifying by about a second – officially ending my high school running career.

They also supported growth, experiences and spirituality by continually taking me into nature and putting up with all of the stupid things teenage dudes do (especially with friends).

3) When I was a college student (18ish to 24ish). Support and love. Again. That is really all they showed me during this time. Even though I continuously went away from them and put other people and pursuits as higher priorities in my life. Specifically, when I was putting all of my time and energy into one relationship, they continued to wait eagerly for my phone calls or my visits home. Even though I blew them off for the pursuit of this relationship, they showed love and support. And that day when it all came crashing down, they wept with me. They hurt with me. They shared my burden and broken heart. They ached for me. They did as much as they could to take the pain from me.

4) The now (25) and future. Even though I am 25 and have two college degrees, they still send me money for groceries when my food assistance falls through the cracks of the bureaucracy of the federal government. They support my dreams even though they involve potentially moving across the country from them and putting myself in the debt they have worked so hard to keep me from. Even though they would love to see me settle into a career and begin to fully support myself, they continue to support my passions that will delay a career and financial stability for another few years.

Tom and Lisa Allen are full of love, support and interest in my life. They have taught me about the value of hard work. They fostered a healthy spiritual environment without forcing their beliefs. They introduced me to outside and every resplendent activity and sight that comes with it. They taught me to relentlessly pursue my dreams. They taught me to be fearless. They taught me I can do anything if it is truly something I care about. Their unyielding love and support is why I am who I am. And for that, I am forever grateful.

I invite you to join in on affirming someone close to you today. Or someone not close to you. Whatever. Affirming is the best. Affirmation Mondays!