This afternoon, my running partner and I went to East Grand Rapids to trudge through a seven mile run. I was dreading it a bit, partially because it had dropped 30 degrees from yesterday, but mostly because it was a new distance for me. But it was (relatively) pleasant, other than the long straight stretch right before the end of the run, where I felt like Parker on a long car trip. I kept asking, “Are we there yet? Do we have less than one mile left? How far have we run so far?”. I’m sure I was just as annoying.
But we finished, felt good about it, and have plans to add another mile next weekend. My friend is training for a July 4th 15k, so we just have a few more weeks to get her up to speed. I might try and run the annual 4th of July race in Ely, MN instead…maybe twice for solidarity? (Yeah, right.)
Running has become a regular part of my life, so my interest was piqued a few weeks ago when our pastor dug into Acts 20:22-24. These verses are a portion of Paul’s final words to the church elders at Miletus before he heads to Jerusalem, and there is a distinct focus on “finishing the race”. Verse 24 states, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” The call is not for us to finish first. The call is not for us to beat anyone else. The call is not to give up with 100 meters to go. We are called to finish, and as someone who runs, I totally connected to this concept, because for many people, including me, we run road races for the accomplishment, the camaraderie, the adrenaline, and to finish the race.
As he was talking, I scribbled down a list of words that came to my mind about what you need to finish well…
- Consistent Practice
…and loved that they translated to running both physically and spiritually. One that stood out to me is “consistent practice”. It is amazing to me how much easier it is to run when you are doing it regularly. Take a week off, and your first couple runs back are rough. Same thing with practicing your faith. The more that you consistently ask for the filling of the Holy Spirit, the more natural it becomes. The longer you get in the habit of studying the Word every day, it becomes a regular part of your routine. I have loved being a part of “Hello Mornings” for that reason; it gives me a purposeful time with God, and also provides two of the other crucial components – accountability and community. I would never EVER run seven miles on my own; it’s only because my friend and neighbor asked me to run with her and then showed up at 1 p.m. to pick me up. I would probably not be working my way through the book of John if I didn’t have a community of women who waking up and getting into the Word too.
If you don’t have this type of accountability and community, find it…pursue it…hunt it down. It matters deeply.
And then there is commitment, which flows naturally from some of the other components. Consistency turns into commitment, which is supported by your community. Run into some rough terrain – a long mile or a disintegrating relationship – without all of your pistons firing correctly, and you are in for a rocky ride. Have your endurance built up, your trust rock solid in the One who has the long view in mind, your support system that seeks to push you in the right direction, and while it might not make it less rough, it makes it survivable.
Our task? Testify to God’s grace and spread His story through every inch of our lives. Our goal? To finish the race. Nothing else matters.
Three years ago, I agreed to participate in the Resolution Run in East Grand Rapids, even though I had not run four miles before…ever. I still remember the last hill, running up towards Rose’s on Lakeside Drive, and being totally convinced that I just wasn’t going to make it. There was a random guy running next to me, and I looked over at him and said, “I’ll race you to the end!” I am pretty sure that he thought I was nuts, and maybe I was. I finished (at a very slow jog) and I remember feeling extremely proud of myself that I had finished.
Finished. It’s a powerful word. It was also the word that I decided to focus on at the beginning of last year. I even included a list of things I wanted to finish…scrapbooks, moving, losing baby weight…
I was actually surprised that I had knocked a few off my list, like losing the last 10 pounds of baby weight, and I was equally not surprised at the tasks that still grace my to-do list, like transferring all of our mini-DV tapes to DVD. Who was I kidding when I thought that I would actually get around to that one? (I really just need to find a good Groupon…let me know if you see one.)
But now that we are almost a week into 2013, I am not quite sure what to do next. Do I keep on focusing on finishing, because it seemed to work out pretty well for me last year? Yes, finishing is great, and I do love a good scribbled out to-do list, but I think I want to direct my focus in a different direction this year.
Here are my thoughts…
Link to video
So…what are your resolutions for 2013? And what suggestions do you have for me to add to my list as I embark on my “Year of Surprise”?
The past month or so has blown by in a blur of holiday gatherings, final exams, cookie making, and plenty of “nose to the grindstone” stuff”. As I barrel through my days, I find myself ticking things off my list and striding forward with barely a backward glance, which always gives me a distinct sense of satisfaction. Check…check…and double check.
It’s the journey, and frequently I find myself somewhere in the thick of it, traveling along and grinding it out. In theory, this sense of immediacy is a good thing, but it can also hinder my view of the past or future. Focus? Yes. Perspective? Not always.
But as I look at my rumpled to-do list, it gives me pause. Each one of those scribbled-out tasks left an distinct mark on me this last few months, and it is good to stop and pay attention. Tasks like…
Submit Final Grades. I stood in front of my class at the end of the semester, and could barely choke back the tears as I thanked them for the opportunity to spend time with them for 14 weeks. When I agreed to teach the class, I wasn’t at all sure about my decision. I honestly didn’t think I would ever find myself back at Cornerstone, and here I was, trying to shake off the lingering feelings of burnout that had followed me since I took a break from teaching a few years ago. But I decided that I was going to pay attention to the “reason”, and I did. My “break” had freed me from the stress of perfectionism and had given me a renewed focus to paying attention to what my students needed…right then. They learned a few things from me, but I think I learned much more from them. Complete survey for The New Testament Challenge. I finished reading the New Testament from start to finish for the very first time this fall, thanks to an eight week program through our church. It was definitely “challenging”, but the impact of being in the Word every day was more powerful than I could have imagined. I usually read or study the Bible in small chunks, so I loved being able to see in broad strokes what it looks like to be a Christ-follower. Loving extravagantly, speaking Truth, giving generously, and using my gifts to serve the community of believers…all things that popped off the pages in very real ways this fall. I can only pray that I continue to water and weed the transformational change that began to take root in my heart this fall and allow it to produce life-affirming fruit. I want to be like Christ, and being in the Word is a big part of that. Buy beef tenderloin. After a personal cooking lesson in early December (which deserves its very own post), I found myself buying groceries to host the firm Christmas party at our home last weekend. I was trying to be nonchalant about it, but I was honestly pretty terrified. One of the “mantras” my instructor kept telling me was “Don’t be afraid, Rachel”, and I needed that tattooed on the inside of my eyelids it as I picked out meat, prepped dishes that were way out of my wheelhouse, and cooked up a huge pot of risotto while our dinner guests lounged around the kitchen. Just a tad bit intimidating, don’t you think? The party was a success, even with my slightly undercooked risotto (yes, it’s true), and as Ben and I cleaned up the kitchen, I was so thankful for all of the entertaining we have been able to do since we moved in. I love having our home full of laughter and conversation, and it felt good to share with others. Pre-register for the winter Hello Mornings Challenge: Earlier this summer, I jumped into an online accountability group that checks in on Facebook in the mornings to share what they are learning in their devotions. Honestly, I did it on a whim, but 12 weeks later, I felt such a kinship with these girls that live all over the Eastern Time Zone…from Panama to Alabama to Canada. When it ended, and we had to decide whether to continue, it was hardly a question. We were all in. Recently, one of the girls went through an incredibly difficult situation, and I sat in front of my computer crying for her, this girl I felt such a kinship with, even though we had never met. You can say what you want about technology, but there are so many amazing ways that it can be used for good…and this has been a Spirit-led movement in my life. Make sheep costume. Madi was asked to be a sheep in her Christmas program, which meant that I had to construct some semblance of a costume. I don’t sew…I’m not an especially astute crafter…which meant that we ended up wandering around Hobby Lobby with an image of a costume pulled up on my cell phone trying to find felt, polyfill, and fluffy pipe cleaners. Did it turn out? We managed. She did leave a trail of polyfill in her wake, and her ears were a bit precarious. But if anything, it certainly humbled me. I really didn’t know if her costume was going to stay together, and that was hard. Lesson learned…next time, I need to outsource. Train for a 10k. Notice it doesn’t say “run a 10k”. I trained with my neighbor, because she was planning on running a 10k at Thanksgiving. I, on the other hand, didn’t have a race lined up. Still don’t, in fact. But strangely enough, I still had a tremendous sense of accomplishment when we hit our six mile run length, and didn’t pass out afterwards. It helps to have a good running partner, one that will always get out of bed to run at 5:45 and will say, “Let’s run the four mile route this morning”, even when it’s raining. That’s the kind of running partner you need. Better than that, though, is the friendship that that has been forged during the miles running up and down the streets of our neighborhood. Talking about everything and nothing…kids and family and jobs and history…it’s something that I don’t want to give up, even though the mornings are getting a bit colder. Finish writing today’s post. This seems to make it on my list almost every day, to be either starting or finishing a post for Mom Colored Glasses or here. I love doing it, but there never seems to be enough time to write…keep up with emails…get our name to the right PR people…build our audience…all squeezed in-between the rest of my life. Some days it feels overwhelming, but then there are other days, when we are able to send a $100 gift card to someone that really needs it or write about something that is close to my heart or have a conversation with a friend about something I wrote…those moments continue to make it worth it. Writing is the quiet that centers me…the perspective that so often eludes me…and the connection that I so desperately need.
The last couple of months have been good for me. Not simple and not easy, but definitely a time of growth, discipline, and rediscovery. And truthfully, it is only as I look back that I can see how my path wove and intersected in just the perfect way.
I can’t wait to see what the next few months have in store.
Last October, I wrote about my first 5K experienceat Cornerstone’s Homecoming weekend. I wasn’t sure where it would take me, but over the last year, I completed seven races…in the snow, on a trail, in the driving rain, and even in the heat. I started with a time of 31 and some change…and whittled it down to 28.30 over this last summer.