A week ago today, laced up my running shoes, dreaming of crossing all of Paris' 33 bridges in one outing. I'd been thinking about doing this for a while, but it suddenly took on more meaning about a month ago.
This year, a very good friend of ours was diagnosed with brain cancer. She has a loving husband, a good church, and a whole lot of courage. Yet I couldn't help shuddering when I thought about the costs involved for her treatment.
I honestly don't remember when my wacky thought about the bridges converged with our friend's health situation, but that's probably because the credit for the idea goes to God. One minute, I was thinking about performing this feat for fun, and the next minute, it had taken on an eternal quality. I think life is like this. God inspires us to do something, and then He creatively conjoins these desires to the real-life needs of people so we can serve them. In all of this, we make much of Him!
I watched open-mouthed as he moved the generosity of people in our church here in Paris (many of them know this friend), until I had over 1000 euros in pledged donations, should I successfully finish all 33 bridges. With the wind at my back (half the time anyway!), I charted a course that zigzagged through this beautiful city, from east to west. Rain was forecast, yet I enjoyed sunshine and a pretty haze that beautified the scenery even more.
The beginning of the course was in fact the most difficult, because it was downright ugly. Pont National runs through rusty industrial zones and train yards, and the first sign I saw was "Interdit aux Pietons" (Forbidden to Pedestrians). Not a very promising beginning. But everything just got better from there.
My 2 1/2 hour journey took me through the very heart of Paris - the city I love, the city that we've made ours. It was like running through a photo album of our last three years here. The towers at left are the library where I spent most of last year studying. The bridge at right leads directly to Bercy Stadium, one of Paris' main musical venues where Karl will play on the 31st of this month with a gospel choir. As I ran, I was simply saying: "thank you, thank you, thank you." Over and over again.
In the centre-ville, the bridges get quite short between the two islands, Ile-de-la-Cite and Ile-St.-Louis. When I ran past the Cathedrale Notre-Dame (about the halfway point in my calculations, I slowed my pace. Not because I was tired (really!) but I just wanted to savor each moment. It was happening too fast. So much like our stay here - gone so fast. (Oh Lord, teach me to be content with what I have!)
My original calculation for the whole run was 11 miles, but a few detours due to construction and industrial areas (dang train yards) brought the grand total to 15 miles. My legs were pretty wiped out by the end (my knees have gotten used to comfy dirt paths of my usual running trail south of Paris), but it was worth every step.
I found out later that day that I had inadvertently planned my course for May 10, which happened to be not only Mother's Day, but also the birthday of the friend for whom I was running, and the traditional day for Race for the Cure. These were details that I could not have planned. It is such a delight to be running on the path the Lord has laid out before us.