One year of Stronger than Death: Love and Service During a Deadly and Contagious Pandemic

Covid has made me think about tuberculosis many times (I also wrote about the way it connected with my cancer treatment here). Contagious, deadly, different people’s bodies have different responses, the feeling of being made a pariah or a leper, fear, societal changes, new vocabulary, life-long repercussions even when cured, global, no great treatment (yet), no vaccine (yet), racial dynamics, economics…

The overlaps could go on and on. And there are also the medical workers saving lives, risking their own lives, choosing to care for the vulnerable, and doing this in the middle of, in some places, broader violence and danger.

Like Annalena Tonelli did with tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa.

If you want to read about how a woman and a community faced their own “pandemic”, read this book. Read about how she consistently chose love and service over fear and rejection. Read about how she kept on choosing joy and life, even during war and terrible loss.

One reader asked if I hold Annalena as an idol. I don’t think I go to that extreme but I do admire, respect, and feel challenged by her. I know her weaknesses and the ways she frustrated some of the people around her. I know she wasn’t perfect and I don’t even come close to emulating her my own life. But I do find an example in her, an inspiration, ideas for how to live a little bit better, how to love a little bit more.

Every day this week, the 1-year birthday for Stronger than Death and the 17-year anniversary of Annalena’s murder, I will share experiences that I’ve had over the past year in talking about the book.

I’ll tell you about some mistakes and Lord knows I hate mistakes. About the value of reviews and how that little yellow “this book has issues” button that used to be on the Amazon page made me so mad. I’ll tell you about some of my favorite experiences while on book tour, share some reviews, share some reader concerns/issues, and give an update of the impact of the book. Be sure to check back in each day this week for these little tidbits.

And if you haven’t read the book yet, check it out! Also leave a review! Look at how excited I am, I’m using exclamation points!

*affiliate links

Showing Up Matters, by Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young

Today I am sharing a guest post by Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young. Dorina is launching a new book this week(!) Walk, Run, Soar, a devotional highlighting the intersection of faith and running and if you’ve been following this website for long, you know this is one of my sweet spots.

Order the book here.

Check out her podcast here.

***

The announcer for the Miguel Reyes 5k race introduced the elite athletes. I watched in awe as the elite group lined up first. Each man and woman were unique – some tall, some shorter, some with shaved heads, some with long hair, but all with that similar lean frame and chiseled muscles. The rest of us fell into place behind them.

The whistle sounded, and we took off. This 5k course winds through the undulating dirt hills and green spaces of Woodward Park in Fresno, California. This is the same course that high schoolers run for the State Cross Country Meet. As a coach and runner, I’ve traversed this course for many races, but I still felt out of place that morning.

I didn’t have much get-up-and-go to tackle those hills or sprint it out at the finish. I slogged along and battled with my thoughts: You’re not in shape for this. You are getting too old. You’re carrying too much weight these days.

I’ve been a runner most of my life. I ran my first 5k when I was eight with my daddy in our Chicago neighborhood. In high school, I was a track and field athlete. I took up distance running and trail running as an adult, completing dozens of races over the last few decades.

These last several years, I’ve had the huge realization that my running glory days are probably over. I’m not standing on podiums or hitting personal records much anymore. My pace is getting slower the older I get.

My forty-two-year-old body has birthed three baby girls and navigated a tough grief journey these past five years since my husband soared to heaven. I’m mushier around the middle. I look in the mirror and see these laugh lines dancing around the corners of my eyes.

My goals and focus have shifted. Now, I run to clear my head. I run for therapy. I run to feel God’s presence.

A few weeks ago, I found my first gray hair. That wild thing sprung out from the side of my temple with much gusto as if to announce a new season. I plucked it and laughed. I raised it up in the car like a trophy for everyone to see and joked that my three active daughters might be responsible.

Perhaps you might say I’ve arrived. I’ve reached what we call this middle season of life. I wear the middle-sized jeans. I’ve kids in middle school, high school, and one still in elementary school. The middle can be exhausting, but I also know I have a deeper understanding of who I am as a mother, a runner, and a woman of God.

That day in the 5k race, God reminded me of something important: Showing up matters. My goals may shift and my pace may wane, but I’m still running. My race isn’t over until it’s over. Being older and slower doesn’t discount me from the race. In fact, maybe this is just the beginning. Maybe He’s leading me down a new path to a new purpose in this season.

When I was in my twenties nursing babies and running a non-profit, I dreamed of days when my kids would be in school, and I could spend my time writing. I whispered little seed prayers to God about book ideas and creative projects. Now I have more of that space to cultivate and grow these seeds, compared to days when I was changing poopy diapers and fighting kids at bedtime.

Today, I’m clinging to these words from the Apostle Paul:

            So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. 2 Corinthians 4:16 (MSG)

A few years ago, a younger mama came up to me and asked if I would mentor her. I paused at first because I didn’t feel “old enough” to be a mentor. What wisdom did I have to offer? The more we chatted, the more I realized what she really wanted was someone to run alongside her in this race called life.

Now, we set our eyes on the finish line together. Some days we run; other days we kneel. Finishing well and leading our people to God’s glory is the goal.

Friend, whether you are still raising babies or launching them out into the world, whether you are hoisting your broken body out of bed or speed walking on a nearby trail, it still matters. Someone is watching you run your race, and you moving forward today could make all the difference.

After the Miguel Reyes 5k race, I savored tacos, agua de jamaica, and paletas with my daughters. I was sweaty and out of breath, stretching there on our red picnic blanket near the finish line. My seven-year-old looked up at me with her dark chocolate eyes and said, “Good job, mama!”

Another unexpected reminder that showing up still matters: we are teaching our baby birds how to fly.

***

Bio: Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young is a “glory chaser,” who meets God running trails in Central California or near the Pacific Ocean. She is a speaker, spoken word artist, Bible teacher and mama to 3 passionate girls. She is the author of two Bible studies, Glory Chasers and Flourishing Together, as well as the award-winning children’s book, Cora Cooks Pancit. Dorina is passionate about helping people discover God’s glory on life’s unexpected trails. She and her husband Shawn started the Glory Chasers running group on Facebook where they serve up coaching, courage and community for Christian runners. Dorina’s new devotional book, Walk, Run, Soar is releasing September 29, 2020. Subscribe at www.DorinaGilmore.com to get all the insider details on the book.

*contains affiliate links

 

Are You Afraid of Toddlers? Dogs? Muslims?

*This post was first published at SheLoves Magazine in 2015. Many years ago, sadly we have not come very far and it is still relevant. 

A Catholic, a Protestant, and a Muslim. Kenyan, American, Somali.

Are you afraid of your toddler? Are you afraid of your dog?

Are you afraid of Muslims? I say “Muslims” instead of “terrorists” because, as media outlets and Franklin Graham apparently want us to believe, the two words are synonymous.

Franklin Graham seems to believe we should be afraid of Muslims and that we are at war with Muslims both in the US and abroad. A few weeks ago he said immigration needs to be closed to Muslims, that we are under attack. He isn’t alone in this kind of ignorant fear-mongering. Over 160,000 people liked his Facebook post.

In the United States in 2013, three people were killed by terrorists (who were Muslim), all three at the Boston Marathon. That same year, five people were shot by gun-wielding toddlers, and about 34 died of dog bites.

Why didn’t Graham insist we prohibit toddlers inside our borders? Why hasn’t he called for a moratorium on dog ownership?

I think I know, partly, why. He is comfortable with toddlers and dogs. But he might not know many Muslims. We fear the unknown. We fear the unfamiliar and we fear difference.

 

 

But our faith calls us to not be afraid and to live a life of love, which casts out fear. We are to welcome the stranger, care for the outcast, bless the foreigner or alien.

Carl Medearis wrote to Graham: If “Muslims” are your enemies, it’s clear what Jesus calls us to do with enemies.  And if these “Muslims” are your neighbors (and many of them are), it’s clear what Jesus asks us to do with neighbors.  Either way I think you’re stuck. You gotta love em.   

And Marilyn Gardner wrote: To build relationships with people of other faiths is not compromising our faith. Rather, it’s living out a faith that is not threatened but firm.

I think as Christians get to know Muslims on an individual basis they will discover Muslims also grieve when Marines are shot, they also are horrified when marathoners are bombed, they reject violence.

Graham’s inflammatory words only increase fear and divisions. This is not the way of Jesus or the Kingdom.

Discussion:

  • How can we help each other move from fear to faith?
  • How do we speak up about the fear-mongering about Islam? How do we prepare ourselves to speak truth and love in the face of fear?
  • How can you grow in building a cross-religious friendship?

For more:

Carl Medearis: An Open Letter to Franklin Graham

Marilyn Gardner: Dear Mr. Graham, Let Me Introduce You to Some Friends

By |September 22nd, 2020|Categories: Faith, Islam|1 Comment

Go Back to the Broken Places

*A post from 2014, reposted. It feels still relevant and I hope it encourages all of us that we can find beauty and hope and perspective even from our painful experiences. What will we think about this pandemic period when we look back from ten years after? How will we be different? How will we be better?

somalilandTwo weeks ago I was in Hargeisa, Somaliland. For the first time since we evacuated in 2003.

I haven’t written publicly about it yet because I didn’t know what to tell you. It felt both normal and terrifying, right and humbling. I was surprised at the physicality of my response to returning. I hadn’t expected to feel so much anxiety, so much hyper-vigilance that in retrospect seems laughable. Probably the suicide bomb in Djibouti two weeks prior didn’t help. Probably the al-Shabaab attack on people watching the World Cup in Kenya, while we were in Hargeisa didn’t help. Probably the way we left in 2003 didn’t help. Probably my own cowardice, weak faith, and the way I have gotten comfortable in Djibouti didn’t help.

But spending a week in Hargeisa did help. Some things have changed, many things have not. But the longer we stayed, the looser my tense shoulders became and I experienced fewer wild images (completely in my own mind) of violence that made my heart race.

The week was a mix of market trips, women’s gym hours, delicious food, remembering how to tuck a headscarf, ideal weather, my fifteenth wedding anniversary, Tom spending hours and hours completing his PhD research, and a hike up one of the hills known as the Girl’s Breast.

There are so many things to share, to reflect on, to say. But for now, I’ll leave you with one thing: Go back.

When something scared you and wrecked your dream and changed your life, and when you are healed and holding a new dream and thankful for the way life changed, go back to that broken place.

What was shattered just might be redeemed. You’ll likely still bear a scar, you always will. But in Bev Murril’s words, it is a scar of honor and you might be surprised at the stories you discover, the gifts you’ve been given, through that very pain.

somaliland2

You might find a slice of beauty there.

 

By |September 18th, 2020|Categories: somalia|Tags: , , |8 Comments

Announcing The Expat Cookbook!

Order from Amazon

Order from Payhip

(Anyone who pre-orders the Kindle book and sends me a copy of your receipt will receive a free e-copy of Djiboutilicious. If you order the paperback and send your receipt, I will send you a free e-copy of your choice: either Djiboutilicious or The Expat Cookbook.)

Right now feels like a really weird time to talk about launching a cookbook that is geared toward those of us with international lifestyles. Who is traveling? Well, me, for one. We got home to Djibouti last week (after a 30-hour flight wearing masks and plastic face shields curtesy of Qatar Airlines and a 3-hour wait at the Djibouti airport for spit tests – negative).

The Expat Cookbook could come off as tone deaf. I understand that. I made it a long time ago, before Covid changed our lives. I could have sent it out into the world back in April but the world had broken and I just couldn’t do it. So I shelved it.

I decided to release it in October because maybe you know someone who will travel abroad or move abroad in the new year. Maybe you will be heading back to your host country and want some fresh ideas. Maybe you, like me, just have a lot of hope. I’m releasing this book in hope.

Hope that the planet finds healing. Hope that these recipes are delicious. Hope that this book will help you feel good about what you feed your family. Hope that what is in here will take a little pressure off decision-making and all the work of expat living. Those are small hopes compared to the first one. But we must keep going, making things, living our lives.

Recipes include things like overnight oats like 15 ways and about a million, okay more like a dozen, ways to spruce up pancakes or waffles. So many smoothies. So many ways to make popcorn more interesting. So many ideas for what you can bring on an airplane and how to pack it. Ideas for what to bring camping or hiking, what to eat at the office if you don’t have a fridge, what kind of food can you put in a box and mail to someone you love on the other side of the planet because we all know that food=love.

Anyone who pre-orders the Kindle book and sends me a copy of your receipt will receive a free e-copy of Djiboutilicious. If you order the paperback and send your receipt, I will send you a free e-copy of your choice: either Djiboutilicious or The Expat Cookbook.

Also, I’ve put the book on Payhip as well, this is a digital version only. The difference between Payhip and Amazon ordering is that I receive a much larger percentage of the price (rather than so much of it going to Amazon). If you order from Payhip, the same deal applies as above. Just let me know and I’ll send you Djiboutilicious.

Order from Amazon

Order from Payhip

Go to Top