Sitting here at a train station, there’s a bit of melancholy sinking into my heart. Here we are, about to leave on this epic 10-week journey. As time has gone on, I’ve begun to process more the physical challenge this will be… Yet it is not impossible. Together we will finish, despite the times falling over clipped in, getting lost in cornfields, and relentless hills.

But cycling aside, I feel a deep responsibility as a member of this Illini 4000 team to fulfill my role as not only a fundraiser and a rider, but also as a part of the Portraits Project. It is part of my role to be a compassionate individual who listens and to and cares about strangers’ stories about cancer. Nobody is a stranger to me; we are all children of God, loved by Him and needing His love.

Not only am I intimately connected to those I will meet over the course of the next 72 days, but I have so many ties to people at home. And there are so many unknowns that it almost starts a seed of fear in my heart. There are unknowns for what will happen to us all during the ride, but also… My friends at home. I ride for my best friend’s dad who is fighting pancreatic cancer. I pray for the family daily, knowing that God is the only One who can make us strong enough to confront the situations in life.

A few songs that came up on my iPod:
- “Strong Enough” by Matthew West talks about how God is strong enough for all of us, even when we’re broken down to nothing. It’s my jam for this ride because it’s about how cancer and “rock bottom” lead us to look up to God and reach out to Him. It’s based on Philippians 4:13, a verse I tied into many bracelets.
- “The Hurt and the Healer” by MercyMe talks about how God is all we have and all that remains. Even when parts of us are dying, we are alive in Christ.
- Also by MercyMe, “Beautiful” talks about how the lies we’ve held inside are “nothing in the shadow of the cross.”

Anyone who listens to these songs could be encouraged by the love in the message. I love and miss my friends from college already, and I simply want to know that I can go home in 10 weeks and see and embrace them all.

I’m so excited for this fantastic journey and the things it will bring. I hope that people who had faced hardship in their lives can be encouraged by what this team is doing.

Philippians 4:13 is a beautiful picture of the strength we can find in Christ. And this image is purple - the ribbon color for pancreatic cancer <3

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