My legs are on fire.
Not literally...but a searing pain runs from my knee to my ankle. One heel feels like it is splitting open and the side of the other foot screams for mercy.
My thighs are begging for oxygen.
I am running.
I can't think of anything other than taking the next step, of pushing the neon yellow shoes forward mechanically. If I can make it around the next curve, up the next hill...
It is mind over matter. I never realized until I started that running is mostly mental.
I am slow. I am surpassed by everyone I run with. I am panting, pitiful.
But I keep going.
And as I strive to sweat off my excess, somewhere in Honduras, a girl I love is slaving for enough.
Her name is Luz. In English, she is called "Light."
Somewhere in the ache I feel, I sympathize with the agony in her strong arms. I can feel the sun beating down on her brown back, her hands stained from hours of picking coffee. I see her rise before the sun and walk down the mountain and across the valley. I see her climb wearily in the oh-so-dark, not even a light bulb to welcome her home.
I have held that work-worn hand. I have seen the determined responsibility in her coffee-black eyes.
She is in a race, too.
More coffee, more money, more meals...for herself, her 6 siblings, her nieces and nephews.
How can I explain to her the simple luxury of a hot, bubbly bath? Of sinking tense limbs into the sudsy warmth to soak away more than physical ache?
How can I explain this to the girl with no tub? The girl to whom hot water means firewood, carrying water, boiling, no tub to put it in?
How many hand-rolled corn tamales would it take to splurge on the bottle of body wash, on the too-large, plush purple towel hanging invitingly to the side?
The pain reliever that is slowly coursing its way into my throbbing muscles would make no sense to her--who lost her sister-in-law in December because they have no access to medical care.
Running is a luxury afforded by free time, made necessary by having too much and doing too little.
Somehow, knowing Luz has made me realize that a lot of what I consider to be problems are the results of blessings.
To whom much has been given, much will be required. Clearly, I have been given much.
It is easy to forget how much until I stand under the Honduran sun, my neon running shoes in the blessing of the fertile earth, looking out over fields cared for by a 15-year old girl who counts herself blessed and who herself is a blessing.
Have you counted lately? And in counting, has it occurred that out of the overflow of the Lord's blessing, you may have something to share?
Don't say, "I will give as God blesses." It is a commitment you can never keep.
Ephesians 1:3 says, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with EVERY spiritual blessing in Christ."
You can't out-give EVERY.
The Lord has blessed.
You must be giving.
And the remarkable part of giving joyfully, from our extravagant blessedness, is that the Lord promises that "it will be given unto you again, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing."--Luke 6:38
Blessing upon blessing, gift upon gift...perhaps not returned in kind...but in gifts immeasurably richer--the warmth of a sun browned arm across your shoulder, a golden day spent away from the fields or the asphalt track, a hand-rolled corn tamale just for you, a letter written with love from a mountain far away.
Next time I see Luz, we will count our blessings together, as our family strives to turn our excess into enough for many.
The neon shoes wait by the door. I will press on.
Luz climbs home, but in the weeks to come, there will be a light on at home. Maybe just one bulb, fed by a wire run up that mountain just for her--evidence that God is working in our family and hers.
Feeling blessed? Here is one way to let your cup overflow into a life like Luz's-- www.compassion.com