Hope Runs: On Travel, Adventure and How to Chase A Dream

This is how you chase a dream: You step off a plane into the dark night of Africa, and you let God take you where you are supposed to be.

It is not my first time here.

It is 2006, and this place has pulled me back with a force I cannot escape. I am here to put one foot in front of another to get to the top of Mt. Kenya. I am ready for another adventure.

From Allison: This is a guest post from Claire Diaz-Ortiz. Claire an author, speaker and innovator at Twitter—and she is also the mother of one of the world’s most popular (and adorable) babies. She’s giving away FREE copies of her new book, Hope Runs, today, so keep reading!

DSC_0118sIn the past year, I have run, and walked, and trekked and moved across 19 countries. It has been a year of trains, and planes, and reading hundreds of books on beaches the world over. 

Before I climb, someone recommends a cheap guest house where I can stay the night. I agree readily (my wallet is thin). It is owned by an orphanage, they say, and I smile. I don’t care who owns it, I say. It is just a place to rest my head.

I arrive at that place of green and blue and 170 screaming little ones, and then everything happens at once.

I feel a stirring like nothing I’ve felt before, and then I am looking in the mirror asking God to help me see. If you have put this place in my way to change me, open my eyes. 

I plead.

He answers. At once.

I don’t climb the mountain. I never do, in fact. I live at that orphanage for a year. I start a running program with muscled teens and tiny little ones who all run with equal fervor. (Fervor that surpasses me, even on my best days.) The running program becomes a nonprofit organization called Hope Runs and life speeds up. 

"Hope Runs"  Nyeri, Kenya.  May 12 and 13, 2007.

image by J. Carrier

And then, the year is over and life is calling again, this time to graduate school. But I have left a piece of me in Africa, and she will come to claim it. Because I have met a boy. A small one, a teen, a boy who needs a family. A boy with a history so sad and so deep that only hope will heal it.

And so with tugging and twisting and prayer and hope and the passage of another year of time, this boy finally comes to the United States, and comes to be my family.

And now it is eight years later and this boy is grown, and I am (more) grown and now there is a book in our hands. They tell us we wrote it but we say we lived it. That this is the story that we were meant to live.

Hope Runs: An American Tourist, A Kenyan Boy, a Journey of Redemption is the story of this journey.

A story of me, and a story of Sammy, and a story of two lives upturned. 

A story of how a dream chased me.

This is my story. What is yours? Do you want to unleash it into the world? 

In honor of the launch of Hope Runs, I’m giving away a free ebook, entitled, Share Your Story. Download it here.

Hope Runs Cover

Win one of 3 Copies of Hope Runs:

To win a copy of Hope Runs, do one or more of the following things. Leave 1 comment on this post for every item you do.

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Remember, for each thing you do, leave one comment. (So, if you post on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, that would be three comments.)

(Or, buy a copy of Hope Runs and get $150 in freebies.)

About Hope Runs:

Sammy Ikua Gachagua had lost his father to illness, his mother to abandonment, and his home to poverty. By age ten, he was living in a shack with seven other children and very little food. He entered an orphanage seeing it as a miracle with three meals a day, a bed to sleep in, and clothes on his back.

When Claire Diaz-Ortiz arrived in Kenya at the end of an around-the-world journey, she decided to stay the night, climb Mt. Kenya, then head back home. She entered an orphanage seeing it as little more than a free place to spend the night before her mountain trek. God had other plans.

Hope Runs is the emotional story of an American tourist, a Kenyan orphan, and the day that would change the course of both of their lives forever. It’s about what it means to live in the now when the world is falling down around you. It’s about what it means to hope for the things you cannot see. Most of all, it’s about how God can change your life in the blink of an eye.

About Claire Diaz-Ortiz:

Claire Diaz-Ortiz (@claire) is an author, speaker and Silicon Valley innovator who was an early employee at Twitter. Named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company, she holds an MBA and other degrees from Stanford and Oxford and has been featured widely in print and broadcast media. She writes a popular blog at ClaireDiazOrtiz.com and is the author of the new book, Hope Runs: An American Tourist, a Kenyan Boy, a Journey of Redemption.

A New Approach to A Lifelong Battle With Depression

I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety my entire life.

As I’ve grown up, and gotten healthier (emotionally, physically, spiritually), I’ve had fewer and fewer seasons of depression. Even when the seasons come, they tend to last weeks, rather than months or years. But recently I dipped into one of my familiar seasons once again and caught myself thinking what I always think:

Here we go again.


Photo Credit: 55Laney69, Creative Commons

I tend to think of depression like this: like getting caught in a riptide—the best thing to do is just let your body go limp and wait for the wave to spit you out when it’s finished. Fighting for the surface of the water would be pointless and impossible. You don’t know which way is up.

This is the worst part about depression, if you ask me.

It’s not that it makes your brain cloudy, or steals your interest in all of your favorite things. I mean, it sucks that it makes you gain weight and takes away all your energy and forces you into bed at weird times of the day to take naps.

But the worst part about depression is the “here we go again” feeling. It’s the part I never recognize as awful while I’m in it, but when I’m on the other side, I’m all like, “What the hell was that? And why on earth did I feel so powerless to stop it?

I was talking to a friend about my depression this most recent time around, and she asked me a question I found to be helpful. She asked:

What if you don’t have to do this forever?

If she were to ask me that when I was in a season of depression, it probably wouldn’t have felt as helpful as it did. There’s nothing more insulting than being caught in a riptide and having someone yell to you, from the shoreline, “swim!” But her timing was good. The “ride” was over and I was laying on the shore, coughing up water and praying I never had to go through that again.

I was vulnerable enough to take any advice I could get.

So I let myself think about her question, and what I realized was this: I had always assumed my battle with depression would be lifelong.

I figured it was a part of me.

It was part of how I was made, how I was built.

Of course, there is all kinds of research that would back me up in that claim. Brain chemistry plays a role in depression and some personalities are more prone to it than others. But what struck me in that moment was that my belief that depression was just “a part of me” was leading me to deal with depression in a really specific way.

Actually, it was leading me to not deal with it.

Why would you deal with a problem you can’t fix?

My idea about depression was leaving me at the mercy of depression, allowing it to come and take over my life whenever it saw fit.

So I decided to get pissed.

After all, this is the thing I can’t do when I’m depressed. I can’t get angry or up in arms about anything. Maybe if I stayed mad at depression—mad that it had stolen so many years from me, mad that it had tricked me into thinking I couldn’t be different—maybe then I had a shot at getting rid of it.

Maybe then I would find healing was possible—like the man who reached his crippled hand out to Jesus (“Do you want to be well?”)

Maybe then I would reach out, myself.

I don’t expect that it’s going to be get better overnight.

Nothing ever does. Life isn’t perfect, and every good thing takes work. I’ll probably get depressed again. But I’m choosing to believe depression isn’t part of me, it’s not attached to me, it’s not an unsolvable problem that I’ll deal with for the rest of my life. I’m choosing to believe there is hope.

If for no other reason than it helps me to feel like myself.

Disclaimer: I am not a trained therapist. I’m simply sharing from my experience. Depression can be difficult and dangerous. If your depression is a threat to your health, please seek the help of a professional.

Weekend Reading

photo: Vinoth Chandar, Creative Commons

photo: Vinoth Chandar, Creative Commons

Each weekend I love to leave you with a list of the best things I have read on the Internet because, well, sometimes, you just need something great to read. I’m so excited to share these articles with you, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

If you read something great this week, leave me a note in the comments. And mostly, enjoy your weekend. Do something awesome!

(PS… I know I encouraged you not to spend your weekend reading, so if you don’t get to this until Monday, that’s totally fair. Also, PPS… this week’s selections seem a little different than normal, but I hope you enjoy them anyway. Can you tell I was preparing for a speaking engagement?)

What Happens to Our Brains When We Have Stage Fright by Mikael Cho (via Buffer)

I think most of us can identify with that gut-sinking, stomach-dropping feeling you get right before you have to speak in front of a group of people. I’ve learned lots of strategies for coping with this feeling, but this review of what is happening in your brain when you feel that way is totally fascinating.

12 Things TedX Speakers Do That Preacher Don’t by Nicholas McDonald (via ChurchLeaders)

Can you tell I was preparing for a speaking engagement this week? Perhaps that’s why two articles about public speaking caught my eye. Don’t miss this one about what the best Ted Speakers do that others might miss.

The Single Most Effective Change I Made to My Digital Presence by Chris Brogan

It’s amazing to me how fast the “rules” of the online world can change. I really appreciated this article about one change this author has made to his digital presence that has paid huge dividends. It has me thinking, for sure.

A Photographer Asks Convicts to Write to Their Younger Selves (via Trent Bell & BuzzFeed)

If you’re reading from your iPhone, you might want to mark this one for later. You’ll have a hard time reading the small print behind the photos. But take a minute to check out the letters when you’re on your computer, and make sure you watch the video too. You won’t regret it.

Feel More Beautiful With This Simple Patch [VIDEO] (via Dove)

Okay, so put aside for a second the questions of whether this experiment is ethical, or whether it exploits the women who participate (I saw plenty of comments like that floating around, and understand the concern). But focus on this: our minds are incredibly powerful. When we can change our minds, we can change just about anything.