Grace Notes, By Nancy Kennedy

I know I’ve been writing about my kids a lot lately, but if not for column fodder, really, what else are kids good for?

I jest.

My daughters are runners, Alison more so than Laura. Alison and her husband both run marathons and “fun” little 13 or 18-milers.

Alison loves to run around her historic town, Alexandria, Va. She likes the history and the scenery and the Starbucks coffee at the end of her runs as a reward for not dying.

She wears cute running clothes and her hair in pig tails. She’s foo-foo that way, although she’s not at all a foo-foo girl.

Laura’s more the foo-foo type, but not that much more. However, when it comes to the kinds of races she likes, she prefers the mud and obstacle ones to the distance ones. She likes the challenge of potential death by slimy mud asphyxiation.

This August, both of them are signed up for the Mid-Atlantic Spartan Mud Race. On the Website it says to expect “fire, mud, water, barbed wire and occasionally Hell on Earth. There WILL be obstacles to catch you off-guard. Curve balls, so to speak.”

I’ve been reading my daughters’ Facebook posts back and forth as they anticipate this upcoming race.

Laura’s all about the adventure. She did a similar event for the first time last month and sent me a text when it was over: “I didn’t die!”

She had trouble with a 7-foot wall, however. Something about slamming into it instead of climbing over it.

Alison is apprehensive about the wall, not to mention having to jump over fire. She asked, “How many people trip and fall in the fire? I don’t want to be the first one.”

Laura told her they have medics everywhere. “I’ve never heard of anyone falling in the fire,” she wrote. “Besides, the fire is really low to the ground. Mom could jump over it.”

Laura told Alison not to over think it — just do it.

When Alison was little and she had to do the turn-over bars in her P.E. class she went to the playground and practiced until she could get it right so she wouldn’t be embarrassed in front of the other kids.

She told Laura she wanted to practice for the Spartan race. She’s thinking about making her husband lie down on the floor and hold a lit candle while she jumps over him a few times.

Laura told her she should practice throwing javelins. She wrote, “I threw a grenade last race and almost hit a kid.”

Alison said she tried to throw a water cup in the trash can during a race and nearly drenched a spectator with water.

From what Laura says, if you can’t do an obstacle you can do a bunch of burpees, which are not small, delicate belches or seeds for your garden. Burpees are squat thrusts.

I think I’d rather jump over fire — or maybe not.

Laura said even though it’s a race and people are in it to win it, for the most part when someone is having trouble, like not being able to get over a wall, people stop and help the struggler get over.

That’s kind of like the Christian life.

You sign up knowing there’s going to be obstacles, that you’ll be in the mud, that you’ll be tested by fire. You know you’re bound to hit walls that you think you can’t get over or through or around, but because we don’t run the race alone, there will be other people, also in the mud, who will help you, because we’re all in this together.

That’s what the church is, or it should be. A bunch of people on the same course, slipping in the mud. Sometimes you meet someone who pushes you down or trips you up, but not many. Most will give you a muddy hand to hold yours as you head toward the finish line.

Recently, my husband and I watched a TV show about one of those mud obstacle races. It showed two men and their 70-year-old dad running the race together. It was extremely difficult for the dad, but he did it. He finished.

Laura said, “I did 3.5 miles in 50 minutes. I was scared of the wall. I ran into it and now I’m not scared any more.”

That’s all any of us want. We want to finish the race unafraid. We want to hear God say, “Well done, child. You did it! Welcome home.”

Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached via email at

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