My mom sent me a snapshot of some trees iced over in Kentucky. It brings shivers down my spine to look at it. But it is beautiful, too.

Kentucky really does have four distinct seasons. They're the four seasons you learn about in school. They do exist--but not very much of the world has such a temperate climate.

In Houston, we've had a really cold winter. Temperatures went down to the 20s, and didn't bounce back as fast as we had hoped. We're now back to enjoying amazing sunny days.

I laugh when I see some Houstonians dressed for the cold. We all start to resemble ragamuffins. Fashionable winter wear is not a necessary part of our wardrobes. We layer up in creative ways. I get a bit too creative at times trying to turn my summer dress into a winter layer--but whatever keeps the chill off will do in times of cold crisis.

I was about to scrape some savings together to buy a fancy North Face jacket, but the sun has started beaming again, and my toes are begging for sandals! Of course, the toe that went to the market is not sandal-worthy right now, due to some trauma from a foot race, but that is a story that doesn't need a picture.

In conclusion, I think this tropical climate thing has settled into my bones well. Ahhhh, the peace of the gentle swaying of the palms!

After the race, I tried to put on one of the aluminum foil-like "blankets" that were being distributed in the convention center, but I was too hot. The purpose of the blanket was to keep me warm, and I did not need that assistance.

I found a spot on the concrete floor, and set up camp to check out my blisters and go through the things from the bag I had checked. I doctored my blister which was disgusting and put on some flip flops and really could have laid there for hours. I got some phone calls and texts that I tried to answer, but I really wanted just to mold with the floor for awhile.

I finally reconnected with my friends. Jen had made a poster for me complete with a color photo of myself on it. She and Will and Baby Georgie and Kelley all took pics with me. Then, I went to go fetch my free breakfast while Kelley waited in the non-participant zone.

In the breakfast line, I noticed a full marathon finisher in front of me. I congratulated her and she apologized for being emotional. I tried to console her since I could imagine being emotional if I had just ran 26.2 miles.

She told me that she thought she had qualified for Boston with her time based off what her watch had recorded. I congratulated her and asked her some questions about her running career--which turns out to have been only a 6 month endeavor. Pretty amazing to qualify for Boston on your first marathon try!

"That's so cool!" I said.

"Well, that's not really the cool part," she explained. "My dad died at the end of 2009, and he had been in a wheelchair. I never felt like he had a healthy body. And today, I realized that he has a healthy body in heaven."

He had been made complete. Wow. Then, I started crying with her.

The 10 year anniversary of my own father's death from pancreatic cancer was the following day, so it was heavily on my mind that day. I totally understood what she meant by healing happening in heaven.

I got her name and did my best to use whatever mnemonic device I could conjure to remember it, because I felt it was divine I met this girl. She had moved to Houston six months before to be closer to family after her father's death.

I took my breakfast back to meet Kelley, and then we both went out to cheer for the rest of the runners. It was addictive cheering for them. Kelley and I both have cheerleader blood in our veins, and we didn't need our skirts on to remember how to encourage people.

It was so much fun getting stories of the fans around us. People cheering for their moms and dads and brothers and sisters and friends. We couldn't tear ourselves away.

I will be back to the Houston marathon--maybe not as a runner since my body still quite isn't right two weeks later, but I will be back in some form.

God had a purpose for me to run that race. And I ran it. And he blessed me with some new & old friends and stories that are forever woven onto my heart. I thought I was just supposed to run a half-marathon, but I got a whole lot more blessings! (okay, and blisters!)

Amazingly, I enjoyed participating in Houston's half-marathon. I felt like it was something God had put on my heart to do--especially raising some money for Living Water International. I feel very blessed that the donation goal for my participation was reached, and also that I completed the race!

I was very nervous that morning. Somehow, I had finagled my friend, Kelley, to ride with me at 5ish to downtown for the start. We parked the car, walked in the dark and finally made it to be under the fluorescent lights of the convention center to join the rest of the million runners.

Finally, it was time. I hadn't ran in two weeks because of straining my IT band. I had watched some YouTube training videos of ways to change my running stride to hopefully correct my gait so I would not keep adding to the injury. I ran slow with the pack for the first few miles. Any time the elevation changed (which in Houston is mainly just roads over roads), I was in pain.

I wore a rain jacket until mile 2, and then decided to let the light rain cool me off. In mile 3, we crossed from downtown to the 5th Ward. I've driven in the 5th Ward at night dropping some teens off from Young Life, so I know it is best to run quickly through that area. On a normal day, it would not be a path that I would take for a leisurely run by myself. On mile 4, I was in the Heights. I kept looking for familiar faces, but didn't see anyone I recognized. I did hear a band playing some Jesus music.

On miles 5-6, I ran down Studemont. I had flashbacks of my first teaching job where I drove that road every day to work. I almost stepped on a deadrat but another runner helped point it out just in time.

During miles 6-7, I realized that my "running" pace was slower than some walkers. My knee was really hurting, so I started to walk some and then add in faster runs so my time wouldn't be too horrible. At this point, my toe sent a message to my brain saying, "I think we have a blister-situation down here!"

On mile 8, I introduced myself to Gary. I thought he was a politican or something becuase everyone in the crowd kept yelling his name. I had my name on my shirt, too, but I probably had three people pick me out from the crowd the whole way. Gary had everybody's attention. He later said it was because he was tall, old, and slow. He was also smiling. And he was enjoying the run.

At mile 8.5, I found a first aid station and decided to do a run-by pick-up for a band-aid. As the hand-off took place, I felt my back leg get tangled with a man's leg that was stepping out from the crowd. I just about ate pavement over trying to get a band-aid to-go, but thank goodness I caught myself. The prayer station was next, so maybe I was in close enough prayer-proximity.

Working my way up to mile 9, I realized I was getting closer to the end and still felt pretty good, except for the knee pain that would kick in, so I decided to try to run a bit faster between walks. I told Gary he was my pacer. Later, he shared with me that he had thought I said I was his patient, and that made him think he must be in pretty bad shape.

I saw a fellow LWI team member and introduced myself to her. She was also run/walking. She joined me and Gary, and we all made a pack to run to the next light.

Gary shared with me the story from the devotion from the morning. The minister had said, "Flee from evil. Run to God." I was doing my best to run that race!

I attempted to sip some gatorade and slurp some goo at mile 11. I felt guilty throwing the empty cup on the ground. It reminded me of when you go to those restaurants that make you toss the peanut shells on the floor. It doesn't seem nice--even if it is socially acceptable during a race.

During mile 12, I ran down Allen Parkway. This is the road that I run the Susan Komen 5K on every year. It's also the road that leads to the 4th Ward where some of my sweet Young Life friends live. At this point, I started running harder. I could see finishers from the marathon sprinting past. I felt more like a spectator at that point than a racer. I was in awe at their speed and form.

At mile 13, Gary was back running with me. I think I teased some men for running slow. At this point, I could have been a bit out of my head. I think I tended to talk too much during the race for serious racers, but I was having fun! My inner-Granny (my sweet grandmother who had difficulty zipping the lips) was coming out in me. Perhaps I was at my most true state of myself at that point being physically drained. So, this could be an indicator that when I am old, prepare for me to talk your legs off even more.

Finally, I finished. Gary was by my side. Praise God! It was a great feeling. A long, road, but manageable with prayer and encouragement.

I met a few more people post race that touched my heart. But I will share that in the next post. be continued...