Tuesday, December 28, 2021

"Hey God, It's Me. Kristen O'Hare... I Know You're Busy, But--"



On January 1st, I embarked on Year 2 of the "Run the Year Challenge." I had accomplished it in 2020, (just barely under the wire). I made the decision that 2021 was going to be different. Not because of the one mile increase but because I was going to pace myself better and finish sooner. I could ensure I had flexibility if there was an injury to my foot, ankle or knee. I was also, according to my New Year's resolutions, going to improve my time for every mile. I was going to beat every personal best I had set during my races in 2019. I also decided to set random, arbitrary rules that pertained to no one in this national competition but myself: All miles had to be done on foot and solid ground (no gyms/ treadmills/ ellipticals/ etc.) and all miles had to be done outside. I'm not sure where the idea for those two rules came from but I had set the bar and failure wasn't an option. 

It took only 42 days for my whole 365 day plan to completely unravel. It came apart as 133 cars piled together. 

Often God gives us things in life to test us. We've been told that a million times over. The tests are designed specifically to strengthen you as a person. And the test I received that morning was His way of attempting to strengthen me. I had signed up for a year of strengthening my legs, lungs and core through running. He had other plans on what to strengthen though. Any time we do any exercise, we are strengthening our bodies. And we do that by tearing them down. The microtears you make in your muscles as you exercise them eventually accumulate to form muscle mass. Professional athletic trainers say, "You have to break muscle down to build it back up stronger." It's interesting to note that unbeknownst to me, God's spiritual personal training program is incredibly similar. His approach is a bit more, "I have to break the person down to build her up stronger." 

And that is exactly what He did. 

On February 11th, I had run 273.93 of the 2,021 miles. The day I hit my knees on the bathroom floor and cried out, "I can't do this anymore," I had covered 422.08 miles. The day I finally got help was 454.79 miles. The day I began to read the Bible was 541.68 miles. And the day I was handed my first Bible was 724.24. 

Each of these milestones is marked with an actual mile. A moment in the year that I can tangibly point to and say, "This is when ___." But the more miles I tallied the more evident it became that these nightly "I need to get my miles" journeys were less about reaching 9 minute milestones and more about one-on-one time with my Coach. Every night, like clockwork, I would get home from work and I would lace up my running shoes. And in the thick pollen of spring or the asphalt melting heat of summer, I would hit the ground running. But more importantly: Talking. At first it was a struggle. I had never had these kinds of conversations before and more importantly: I was never allowed to talk to Him this way. So I had to ease into the conversation. A few songs on Spotify followed by the imperative opening line: "Hey God, it's me. Kristen O'Hare. I know You're busy and I am so sorry to bother you but I wanted to talk to you about----" 

And we talked. Mile for mile, the two of us talked. At times, He must have felt like He was being interrogated because my questions turned into scenes from Law & Order squad rooms. The "why's" and the "how could you's" and the "didn't you know?" questions followed the pleasantries and greetings. As the soles on my shoes wore thin on the asphalt, concrete and Camp Bowie bricks, my soul was searching for more information. More guidance. More answers. 

The training intensified when I realized hurdles were being added to the daily 5.5 mile-6.2 mile course. I didn't sign up for hurdles. This was a distance challenge not an endurance challenge. Again, I was completely wrong.

Each hurdle could be approached from a different angle.

The options include: 
  • Option 1: I could attempt to jump it on my own without any assistance. 
    • Result: Fall flat on my face. Jump back up- ignoring every cut, bruise and sprain- and pretend it didn't happen. And keep moving forward, wounded but none the wiser. 
  • Option 2: I could go around it thereby avoiding it entirely. 
    • Result: Going around the hurdle doesn't make it go away. It's still there on my next lap around the track. 
  • Option 3: Ask for help by talking it over with Him and figuring out what the best strength training for that jump would be to successfully make it over. 
    • Result: Find a way over the hurdle by following Him which would result not only in stronger faith but also stronger muscle mass. 
  • Option 4: A combination of Options 1 and 2. 
    • Result: Most likely paralysis both physically and emotionally. 
The first real test of my strength training came when "The Rumor" surfaced at work at mile 673.81. The rumor no one wants to hear: especially a female who has spent the last two decades working on her education and career to become a trained professional. "The Rumor" took me by complete surprise and compounded with working through "The Unraveling" at the same time set me up for the first big hurdle. How was I going to approach "The Rumor" while fostering my fledgling faith? I had the 4 options to pick from. I was strength training with THE Trainer. So there was only one option to take the night I heard about "The Rumor." 

I went with Option 5: Make plans with my friends Jack and Jameson on how to reclaim my reputation by writing a counter argument. The Result: A pounding headache the next morning and a manifesto that read the same as if it were typed in Wing Dings font. The Lesson learned: "J" names have failed me almost every time except for one; so for this particular issue it's best to consult my Coach at the track. But first eat some burgers and fries to help with that hangover and talk scripture rather than personal manifesto with my dear friend. And learn that even though I had failed and turned away from Him instead of towards Him, mercy and forgiveness were available to me with love. 

The hurdles kept popping up though. And I would stop at each one and look at it straight on,  desperately wanting to turn to old habits. I wanted to resort to my comfort zone and say, "I can do this by myself. I am fine." But I didn't. It took a lot of "I'm sorry" and "I will do better next time" and "You saw that didn't you?"...  But the conditioning and training continued. 

Through the heat of summer, I felt my body start to grow weaker. Shin splints, tendonitis, and constant swelling of my knees and ankles slowed me down physically. Mentally though, I was digging in deeper. My talks with Jesus were getting longer, more conversational, more inquisitive and less interrogative. For the first time in my life I viewed Him as a friend. I had this mental image of Him lifting my chin up, looking at my downward gaze and saying, "Get back up. We're not done yet. But I'm proud of how far you have come. You are loved. But you can do better than this. Show me."  

When I ran, He determined my stride. When I jogged, He kept the cadence. When I walked, He slowed to my pace. When I needed to sit and catch my breath, We sat together. For the first time ever on this journey of covering thousands of miles all by myself: I was not alone. While my muscles were breaking down only to rebuild themselves into stronger muscle mass... my heart was doing the same. 

Metaphorically and literally, the running turned to jogging. The jogging turned to walking. And at times, the walking turned to just dragging my feet like a slow crawl. I needed to continue to put one foot in front of the other. I knew the miles would piecemeal themselves together if I could get enough in. Every mile is compromised of feet and inches, I would tell myself. If I could not manage to get one foot in front of the other, then I just needed to get one inch closer. Giving up and giving in were not options. I could NOT give up on reaching all 2,021 miles. And I could not give up and give in on how far I had come with my faith. I could not give up on how far I had come with Him. 

He was breaking me down. With every mile, with every conversation, with every question, and  with every answer, He wanted me to know that He was there but also that He was leading this race. My need to control and plan for everything was not going to work with Him. Every mile needed to bring me further from that life and closer to one with Him. I needed to yield control of everything to Him. And it started with those miles. No records were going to be broken. I would find a mile taking upwards of 15 minutes sometimes because the sunset made me stop in my tracks and just stare at the sky. I would walk at a snail's pace just to take in the colors of the Texas sky. It's as if He had painted it as a way to say, "Slow down. Breathe. This is my arena you're running in. Look around you. See what's under you. I'm setting your pace." 


Every mile taken was my foot hitting solid ground. Every mile exposed me to the elements: the rain, the sun's heat, a quick breeze, the chill of a new winter coming. "The challenge must be done outdoors" was an arbitrary rule- or so I had thought. He knew what He was doing when the game plan was created in January. This rule ensured that every mile was deliberate and every mile took place with His landscape as my view. 

And the sunsets. The countless, unbelievably beautiful sunsets that made me cry on more occasions than not. Those were our most powerful forms of communication. The sky illuminated in colors I could not recreate when I found myself needing confirmation or assurance. He found a way to paint the sky and let me know He heard me. 

I found myself reaching milestones that had nothing to do with psychical distance. My milestones were measured in a series I began to write called, "A Catholic Reading the Bible One Chapter at a Time."  The concept was born of a thought I had on the track wondering, "How many people are my age and were raised never hearing these stories? How many people have spent their entire lives not connecting these points like I am for the first time? How many people who were raised Catholic need to learn what I am learning?" And I wrote. I wrote piece after piece on Joseph's Dreams and Hannah's taunting. I wrote about breaking the "chain of command" established within religion and the freedom of "broken chains" found in a relationship. 

Which is why when I completed all 2,021 miles on December 18th, there was no celebratory line to cross or party waiting for me. I stood on a muddy gravel road in Broken Bow, Oklahoma surrounded in silence and closed my eyes. I thanked Him for getting me this far. For every step that I had taken alongside Him. I found a lot of irony and comfort when I saw that the medal for this year's race was a compass. As the poster child for the directionally challenged, it made perfect sense to put a compass in my hand because otherwise, I was lost. And that compass was earned by following Him. 

I had heard a story this year when reading the story of David about how ships used to have two compasses for navigational purposes. One compass would be right on the helm for easy access to the person steering the boat. But that compass was easily influenced by it's surroundings. The metal from the ship or the typography around it could alter the direction of the compass. So, to balance the navigational prowess, at the very top of the ship, a compass was placed for "true direction." And to find that direction, someone would have to climb to the very top of the ship and read what direction that compassed showed. It was a compass that was not influenced by it's surroundings and was always constant. I knew, that in my hand, that medal was symbolic of the compass at the top of the ship. The one lead by Him and not the world around me. 

And as I stood on that muddy gravel road in Oklahoma, I smiled.  I smiled because I had reached a goal I set out to finish on January 1, 2021 with absolutely no knowledge of what was ahead of me in the coming weeks and months. But I didn't consider a "finish line" officially crossed. 

Why? Because these miles are no longer for building up my muscular strength and endurance. They're for my faith and my spiritual strength and endurance. I'm going to embark on 2,022 miles with Him beginning January 1st. And I already know that huge changes are going to happen in just the first couple hundred miles. 

 I'm going to embrace some incredible people whom I love though have never met. 
 I'm going to hike and get miles in surrounded by trees, rock ledges, mountains, and cactus. 
 I'm going to bathe myself in water I have never stood in before. 
 I'm going to stand in the fire- more than once- and know He's standing with me. 
 I'm going to continue reading the Bible until every chapter has been marked "complete." 
And then I'm going to read it again. 
 I'm going to travel, on foot, 2,022 miles with Him and see where HE takes me. 

I'm also going to continue to write about what I am learning and how it is changing who I am as a person. There are stories that will come out of 2022 that I hope I can give justice to through the written word. But there will be one rather large edit. 

"A Catholic Reading the Bible One Chapter at a Time" has come to an end. The series had a good run but the author knew it was time to let it go. For more than 1,500 miles she yelled, cried, screamed, laughed, shook her head and had every reaction imaginable in her talks with Jesus. The author lost the identity given to her long ago. And in it's place, she built a new one rooted in love and built on the truth she stands on with every mile moving forward. 

2,021 miles provided a heartbreaking canvas to make something out of broken pieces. Mile after mile a new person was created being strengthened with every single breakdown. The next 2,022 miles are filled with introductions, explanations, battles, transitions, and testimonials. And whatever else HE has planned for HE is in control.  Stay tuned for the next edition of: "A Christian Reading the Bible... For the First Time: One Chapter at a Time." 

Have y'all ever read Daniel 3:16-28?
He ● Was ● In ● The  Fire 
(Still processing the realization)

Sunday, December 12, 2021

"A Catholic Reading the Bible"… Communion & Coffee.


On This Edition of "A Catholic Reading the Bible"… Communion & Coffee ๐Ÿท☕️

Today marked 5 consecutive Sundays in a row at church. I walk there which is easy because I can wear jeans to church. I grab a coffee and then I go in through the side door where a nice man hands me the program and I take a seat at one of the tables. I pick a table because note taking is a lot easier on a table than my lap. (Have you seen my multi-colored sticky note system?) But today when I went into the church and the nice man at the door handed me the program… he said, “and here is Communion.”

Here is— what?! ๐Ÿ˜ฐ I’m standing holding a monogrammed Bible case and a hot coffee, with one ear bud in whilst wearing a pair of jeans and cowboy boots AND you just handed me the… what?

I must have looked like I had seen a ghost to that poor man. I quickly walked through the door, put everything down on the table and realized my hand was shaking a bit. I immediately texted “Mayday” to my sweet friend and incredible mentor on this journey. I was panicking— he would know what to do. He always does.

There are 3️⃣ ways you’re reading this post up until this point:
1️⃣- She touched the what?!?!?!? ๐Ÿ˜ฑ
2️⃣- It’s Communion- what’s the big deal? ๐Ÿคจ
3️⃣- She takes pages of notes in church? ๐Ÿค“

If you’re Team 1️⃣— you were most likely raised the way I was raised. I have not received Communion in decades. I think the last time I physically received Communion, I was still in college. As a Catholic, you can’t receive it unless you have been to confession. And me and confession lost touch a long time ago. (There were not enough “Hail Mary’s” or “Our Father’s” for my penance in my opinion). Now— You can walk up to the priest and be blessed during Mass, but you can’t receive Communion. Moreover, the Sacrament of Communion is not one that is taken lightly. I had to be blessed and dress all in white at 7 years old to be able to even approach it. I never held the chalice where the wine was poured nor the dish that held the wafers. I remember as an altar girl my job was to ring the bells (hidden behind a table with a white cloth) when the Priest held the chalice and the bowl of wafers up in the air in prayer. This was a ritual that was not taken lightly and required a lot of training, prayer and repentance to partake in. This is His body. This is His blood. This was not something you were handed with your weekly program upon entering the lobby.

I looked over at the people next to me: Is the wine or the bread on the top of their hourglass thingy? How are they holding it? When do we take this? How do we take this? Am I allowed to take this? When will my hand stop shaking?

My “mayday” text was responded to immediately with exactly what I needed to hear: “You don’t have to take it. It’s just a cracker and juice. It’s your decision. It’s not a requirement. Communion is something that draws you closer to Christ and honors your relationship to Him.” And I’m thinking that if you’re Team 2️⃣… that was your response too.

Team 3️⃣ can borrow my notes one day. Because the reality is: I’m trying to develop my faith but also see where my thoughts and convictions deviate from Catholicism. So I make sure to study both and try to be knowledgeable in how I was raised but also where my journey is taking me. And the other day I read something that made my heart sink.

According to “The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church” (section 1196)— “… we show a greater respect for His majesty and sanctity, acknowledging, by our prayers to the saints, that we are unworthy to address Him for ourselves, and that we, therefore, ask His holy friends to obtain for us what we ourselves are not worthy to ask.”

“Not worthy.” (Tears again just typing that…)

Not worthy to pray to Him? Not worthy to tell Him about my day. Not worthy to thank Him directly when the sunset shows me that He created everything that is beautiful and magnificent in this universe? Not worthy to scream out, from the bathroom floor, with tears streaming down my face for Him to help me because I can’t help myself any more?

Not worthy?

It’s because I’m “not worthy” that I’m shown grace, love and mercy from a God that died to save me and give me eternal life. A God that became human so as to feel every emotion that I experience and know me better than I know myself. It is not that “I am not worthy” of being able to address Him in praise or in tearful prayer… it is that HE IS WORTHY of my grateful praise and my tearful, heartbroken prayers. And they should and WILL be spoken from my lips to his ears with no intermediary in between.

I took Communion for the first time in decades today. There were no chalices or chants. No ritual or rites. And in doing so, I drew closer to Him. I thanked Him. I was humbled by Him. I felt His unconditional love. And the world is still spinning.

According to Webster, “Unworthy” means “not deserving effort, attention or respect; having little value or merit.” According to Luke 12:7(NLT)- “And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”

You say “unworthy” BUT— HE… the only opinion, voice and power that matters in this world— He says “priceless.”

Moral: Your worth is in the relationship not the religion. ๐Ÿ’›

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

"A Catholic Reading the Bible… "Can You Cite that Chapter Please?"

On This Edition of "A Catholic Reading the Bible… "Can You Cite that Chapter Please?"

One of the upsides of being raised without reading the Bible yourself is that most of the work was done for you. One of the downfalls though, lies in not really knowing all of the parts in the Bible that may hold secret decoding messages or the special passages that make you a true “Christian.” ๐Ÿง
When I moved to the South, I entered the "Bible Belt." A foreign land unknown to my family as I was the first to cross the Mason-Dixon. And the longer I lived in the South, the more I realized I was surrounded by some of the kindest humans that I would ever encounter in my lifetime. But I also began to hear the phrase, “That's not very Christian" more. Clearly, I understood the basic tenants of Christianity: Don't kill anyone. Don't lie. Don't steal. Don't cheat. Be kind to Ma and Pa. Don't worship false idols. And don't plan events on Saturdays in the Fall. But the further my all-encompassing guilt pulled me away from practicing Catholicism, the larger the magnifying glass on the level of my "Christendom" grew. ๐Ÿ”Ž
I didn't know the Bible well enough to know if what I was being told about my life not being "very Christian" by people who claimed to be steadfast in their faith WAS IN FACT "not very Christian.” I just had a gut feeling that said, “This doesn’t seem right.”
My personality is complicated. As a tomboy, I tend to gravitate more to male friends because I will take beer and baseball over wine and the Hallmark Channel every day of the week. I am not married. I have dedicated most of the last 20 years to my education and my career. I also have no children. At first, it was because my lifestyle would never allow. And now, it’s because my body never can. I don't wear a sign on my chest that says, "Here is why I am a 37 year old, unmarried, childless workaholic.” That is my story to tell and no one else’s to interpret.
But apparently, unbeknownst to me given my lack of Biblical studies, I did not know that this lifestyle I am living is "not very Christian." I will leave the full details of the who’s, what’s, when’s and how bad’s for another story. A story that allows me to tell my side and the whole truth. Until then, in God’s time, I wait patiently (or at least trying to!) for that chance. I just know that for a really long time I stood in the face of judgement and mockery by women who used their faith and a Book I had not read, to vocally condemn my lifestyle.
When I picked up the Bible- in an attempt to find some light in absolute darkness- I started to see the unraveling of all of the "not so Christian things” I was accused of doing. There were no rules regarding men and women not being friends. There were no rules on the condemnation of the woman with too many failed relationships and a past riddled with mistakes. Rather, I read a beautiful story of how Jesus sat at a well with a woman everyone turned their back on and she too on herself, in shame. I saw myself in more of the broken people that Jesus called to be His followers than I did in any of the self-righteous Pharisees declaring what was right and what was wrong.
Then I met her.... Hannah. In 1 Samuel, Chapter 1, in the very first paragraph. There is a woman who is mocked, chastised, ridiculed and tormented by another woman because she couldn't have children. The pain of being told 3 years ago that I couldn’t be a biological mother was heartbreaking. The pain of being mocked and judged for it by colleagues, was archaic and devastating. So Hannah became a guidepost for me. During her darkest moments she turned to prayer. The ridicule she faced in the wake of her pain brought her closer to God. She prayed harder. She trusted Him more. She put her faith in Him. And she was given a son. I am not looking for that type of outcome. But rather, I am looking to use Hannah as a case of hope and the power of prayer instead of self-shame.
▪ If being without children is wrong: Let me be Hannah.
▪ If being best friend's with a man that's not my husband is wrong: Let me be Mary Magdalene.
▪ If being unmarried with many failed relationships is wrong: Let me be the woman at the well.
▪ If being able to open my heart and my home to those doing good and needing help: Let me be Lydia.
▪ If being strong enough to stand up for what is right despite the ramifications that may come with doing so: Let me be Esther.
▪ If being absolutely broken, imperfect, unworthy of grace and confused as to why the Creator of the Universe would ever want to love me: Let me be His child.

Though these women may stand on their faith, hold a Bible in their hand and declare that I am not one of them: it is not their approval I seek nor even need. I will turn to His Word and see that they are wrong. I will get my strength from Him. Their words hurt. But His Word is the final word. And He shines brightly through broken people of which I am one of the most broken. ๐Ÿ“– ๐Ÿ’ก
I will also stand firmly in the name that I was given by my parents: “Kristen.” They may say I am not “very Christian”… but I am, without question, a “Follower of Christ.” ๐Ÿ’›

Thursday, November 25, 2021




Many families will gather around a table today with a feast set before them and “the always told” stories being told once again. There may even be a smaller table off to the side where the kids are seated hiding vegetables in napkins. Some new guests may have their first chair at the table or there may be a newly empty chair.

Whatever your table looks like this year, may you blessed with love and gratitude.

I’d like to take a moment on this day of thanks to recognize the important role a simple table has played for me this year. Because without fully understanding why— there were a few I was not allowed to sit at.

I’m incredibly blessed for those friends and loved ones who:

๐Ÿ Sat their phone down with me on FaceTime as we played long distance Uno on the kitchen table
๐Ÿ Sat next to me at a table lined with computers despite whispers of sitting “with her” coming from behind
๐Ÿ Sat at the burger joint table as I drank a lot of water with a headache and told me “it’s ok to be upset but maybe we try a different approach to handle it next time.”
๐Ÿ Sat at the Sunday brunch table with me laughing at the lack of avocados on their special day to shine upon toast
๐Ÿ Sat at a small round table eating Paul’s and answering a million questions about the new Book I’m reading that’s life changing
๐Ÿ Sat at the pizza place table ordering two large pizzas and then asking what I was eating as I just rolled my eyes even though you just left Parkland
๐Ÿ Sat at the Sunday Dinner table when it was complete with family visiting from the Northeast and family returning from the Middle East
๐Ÿ Sat on top of the table and on the benches beside it with me to color pictures and write letters as many times as the paper would allow
๐Ÿ Sat around a small coffee table as “The Breakfast Club” using voices rarely heard but with something to say
๐Ÿ Sat at a small intimidating table across from a larger table in a windowless room answering questions, for hours on end, to stand on the right side of wrong.
๐Ÿ Sat at the corner table in the bar on August 26th and let me sit down next to you as you tried to be a Marine and a human at the same time.
๐Ÿ Sat at the conference room table and told me no matter what had to be done— we’re in this together— and we’ll honor the 20th anniversary with everything we have to give.

Thank you for sitting at the table with me. ๐Ÿ’›


"Hey God, It's Me. Kristen O'Hare... I Know You're Busy, But--"

    On January 1st, I embarked on Year 2 of the " Run the Year Challenge ." I had accomplished it in 2020, (just barely under the ...