#52sparks: Illustrate your favorite quote


Second week of this writing challenge and I’m already finding myself staring at the walls seeking inspiration.  “Illustrate your favorite quote” the internet tells me.  So I ask the internet back (or at least my Facebook friends), “What is my favorite quote?”  The answers I received were inspiring.  Here are just a few:

  • Be the change that you wish to seeing the world
  • For God so loved the world
  • They tried to bury us.  They didn’t know we were seeds.
  • Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous. Actually, who are we not to be. You are a child of God, your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
  • Sometimes I’d like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering & injustice when He could do something about it, but I’m afraid He’d ask me the same question.

A theme I kept seeing was about defying expectations, often paired with leaning into the strengths of others.  After a few days of mulling over these words and having this writing task hover in the back of my mind, I finally sat staring at the bulletin board on my wall and figured it out.


“The miracle isn’t that I finished.  The miracle is that i had the courage to start.” – John J. Bingham.

In truth I should have landed on this quote much much sooner.  It has been part of my email signature for a few years now.


One time one of my students actually complained to me about this quote.  She was nearing graduation but experiencing some delays as she did not have enough credits and felt like no one cared about her.  She thought this quote meant that I only cared about students who were starting the program; not those who were attempting to graduate.  That assumption, and the pain behind it, led to a good discussion once tempers cooled and we got to meet face to face (rather than attempting to understand tone and intention on the screen).  I shared with her that this quote was not about those starting their college degree, but rather about anyone starting a new challenge.  That starting line could be college as a whole, but it could also be a course, a relationship, an assignment, or literally a footrace, as the original author intended.  After meeting in person, we were able to come up with plans together for how to get her to graduation.

It seems like there are more barriers to starting a challenge than continuing through one.  I’ve told students many times that the greatest skill needed for a PhD is perseverance.  The reading, writing, and speaking skills are exactly the same as undergraduate.  They are all just a lot longer.

This spring I am taking on a new challenge in the form of an ultra-marathon.  The 31 mile trail race will be in late April with an 8-hour time limit for completion.  Once I get started, the only option will be to continue until the finish line.  But the list of barriers to that starting line, if I’m honest, is pretty long.

  • Fear – Of pain from the run.  Of not finishing.  Of finishing last.  Of not being a “runner.”
  • Embarrassment – Not fitting in physically with the others.  Not being as fast as others.
  • Balance – Multiple training needs to complete.  Multiple life needs (work, school, friends) to fulfill.  Multiple opportunities I’ll have to turn down.
  • Cost – How afford the race.  How to afford the travel.  How to afford the running supplies.  How to justify all those expenses.
  • Illness / Injury – What about my cough from the past 11 months.  What about the possible injuries in training (or the race).
  • What if – What if I get lost.  What if my alarm fails.  What if I can’t find parking.

This is just the list I came up with while waiting for my tea to be ready.  I have three more months to go crazy about that starting line.  That’s over 2,100 hours to need things to go right.  Once I’m at that starting line, there are 8 hours maximum until the finish line  (or the “Did not finish” bus).

According to a running podcast I heard this week, approximately 99% of participants who start the New York Marathon complete it.  I wonder how many sign up but never show up.

Right now I don’t have the ability to line up at the starting line in New York, Chicago, or Boston (other than when I was there a few years ago wandering as a tourist).  But I do have the chance to line up at Tillamook Burn Trail Run 50K in April.  My job until then is to do everything I can to support that miracle.


“#52sparks” is my year-long writing series based on a writing prompt challenge.  The title is inspired by a quote from Star Wars: The Last Jedi: “We are the spark, that will light the fire that’ll burn the First Order down.” (Poe Dameron).  The spark that lights a fire to toast a marshmallow or ravage a forest begins in the space of an inch.  So just imagine what hundreds of inches and words can do.

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