Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away.
~ George Carlin
It was a random and quiet Michigan Sunday in July. Mackenzie had just turned four. And we found out just that morning that she would be running a marathon in Colorado. Just. Turned. Four. Never stop surprising is a trait she inherited. Her momma's faithful photos began to roll in . . . Mackenzie squinting in the sun, standing under a sign that read Start Do Finish: Kids' Cup Mile. . . Mackenzie, white-blond pony-tailed, in a line of children who all stand head and shoulders above her. She is grinning into the camera, undeterred, standing straight and proud with the number 16 pinned to her little white t-shirt. You can see her tiny fists are balled at her sides, determined, ready. Mackenzie crossing the finish line; she is flushed and red, but her ocean eyes focus forward, fists pumping, legs extending in a full out run, looking about as serious as any four year old ever looked. Her momma is running by her side, looking down in delight at her mini-me. Mackenzie in a family picture, suspended between her mommy and daddy, lifted up in their arms, her legs dangling off the ground. Her daddy holds her sleeping newborn little brother in a sling across his chest. She is still wearing her number 16. She holds her head slightly to the side, beaming, chin up, pulling off humble, proud, and adored all at once. And then the story begins to come in in bits and pieces. . . easily assembled. . . She asked to do it. . . She wanted to run like her momma. . . She never stopped running the whole mile, but she asked for a drink of water. . . And the she said: "Momma, see that girl and her mom up there. . . Here's what we're gonna do. . . we're gonna pass them. . . we're gonna beat them. . ." And that's what happened.
My granddaughter. . . my hope. I spent a lot of time in 2013 thinking about heritage. Reading about it. Studying it. Pondering it in my own life. Mackenzie comes from a long line of extraordinary. . . We are runners and writers, educators and builders, pioneers and technological geniuses. We are leaders and creative, innovative thinkers, and seekers of a higher power because we recognize our limitations. We are liars and nurturers of the human soul, and murderers of the body and the spirit. We are missionaries and world travelers. We are indiscriminate takers and we give til it hurts. We look for our place in the world no matter how far the search. Sometimes we come home and sometimes we don't. We are passionate and prone to depression. We break each others' hearts and we build eachother up. We run from each other and we run to the light. We are an abyss of untapped potential that occasionally bubbles to the surface and is worthy of the page. We are survivors, and sometimes we die trying, screaming look at me from pages and pictures, from mountaintops, and from the deepest places in our soul that have been consumed by anger and hurt and injustice and life that just keeps coming. We immerse ourselves in our God-given destiny to find our extraordinary and give it back to the world. We are never failures. But we fail and succeed by varying degrees.
When I look into the face of my Mackenzie, I see our extraordinary. At four years old, she seems to have the jump on it. You can see it in the intensity of her eyes, hanging there in the center of her family, lifted up in love. Her journey in life has just begun. But already she exhibits qualities and characteristics of success that some adults never achieve. She knows what she wants. She shows up. She takes risks. She is courageous. She is not intimidated by bigger people. She doesn't have to win everything . . . just something. She doesn't give up because it hurts. She pays attention. She understands delayed gratification, and that finishing counts. She accepts the glory of a moment and lets herself be loved. She is my hope and the very existence of her and the possibility of her, and all of us through her, takes my breath away.