“Eek…eek…she’s a freak. Nobody likes fat Monique.” The childhood memories reverberated in her head. She could almost hear the voices of the school kids as they taunted her on the playground. Growing up the biggest child not only in her class but the entire school had left a scar. While it was growing fainter, it appeared at times like this teasing her, trying to steal the confidence she had worked so hard to build. Sure, the teachers had tried to help her but let’s face it, kids can be cruel.
“Focus, Mo, focus” she thought. “That was twenty years ago. You are a different person now. Concentrate…breathe. They are counting on you” she repeated out loud, hoping that hearing her own words would give her the confidence she needed to get through this.
As the feet turned into miles, the hard asphalt radiated the heat of this unusually warm mid-May morning. Monique was relieved when the road wound out of town and into the fresh green countryside. There the welcome scent of grass and colorful wild flowers provided relief from the heat and stuffiness of the city air.
Rounding the curve at mile fifteen, Mo could see the dreaded Harper Hill just ahead. Smiling, she remembered another hill she had conquered at age twelve. She, a lonely, shy, overweight girl, had found peace at church camp that summer. A Christian counselor had shared with her that in Jesus’ eyes she was beautiful and important. At that moment, Mo had decided to dedicate her life to helping kids like her find their strengths and follow their dreams.
Sweat was drenching her clothes and she felt as if her lungs would burst by the time she topped the hill. “Ok girl, it’s down hill from here” she panted. “Breathe…
breathe…in through your nose…out through your mouth. Push…push, you can do this”
At twenty-eight years old, Monique had already accomplished more than many people only hope to do in a lifetime. Through much prayer and hard work, by high school graduation Mo had lost enough weight to equal a whole other person. She had become such an exercise and nutrition expert that she was able to secure a college scholarship in Physical Education. After school she applied and was accepted by the Mission Board and began her career in missions. Her calling, she felt, was working with children and teens at the Christ Cares Youth Center. She became an educator, encourager, friend and big sister to “her kids”.
Just ahead she could see a creek. The bubbly water looked so inviting and Monique longed to stop and soak her feet in the cool refreshing water. Her legs and feet had become numb leaden weights by the time she hit the twenty-five mile marker.
“One more mile…one more mile” she chanted.
When she had decided to enter this marathon it was to prove to herself that she could do it. Then she found out about the $10,000.00 prize awarded for first place. She knew she had to do it for the center. Oh, the things they could do with that kind of cash. Her kids had become her encouragers as she began her training. They had even pooled their own money and bought her the tee-shirt she wore for the race. Each one had signed their name on its’ back so they could be with her when she crossed the finish line.
She began to hear the distant, muffled voices as they grew louder and more excited as she neared the finish line. Gone were the hurtful chants of play yard children, replaced by the voices of her kids shouting “Go…Mo…Go. You can do it. We told you so.” Then she saw it. Her heart pounded even faster as the yellow sash draped across the road at the finish line came into view…yards…feet…inches away. Tears fell from Mo’s eyes as she stepped across the line. “Winner” the crown erupted! “Winner” she thought. “I was a winner long before this marathon. I won the day God chose to use me.” While running in this race had been an important goal in her life, Monique was more concerned with running the race of life. She would press on toward that goal, for the greater prize. “This race” she smiled at the thought, “as only just begun”
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