Geralyn Wichers

"Life is a great adventure, or nothing"

photo credit: pixabay.com

“Don’t try to do more, even if you feel you can,” the Couch to 5K program said.

“No problem,” I said.  At the time I couldn’t run at all.  I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be tempted.  But now I’ve built up some ability and I’m eager to see what I can really do.  Don’t try to do more?  What’s that supposed to mean?

I was taught to work hard since I was big enough to hold a broom.  My parents are both hard workers and, because I came from a large family, everyone needed to do their part.  Since my late teens I’ve been pumped full of success principles: dream big, make no excuses, just do it.  I’m driven.  I’ve got a dream.  I work hard at it.

I’ve also been taught that you need to ‘sharpen the saw’ as Stephen Covey said.  I’m not good at it.  I can’t leave my laptop at home.  I can’t put down the book.  I can’t get off Twitter and Facebook.

This week, as I read through The Way of the Fight, by Georges St. Pierre, I read something that made a lot of sense.  St. Pierre said: “What balance has also are the following two incredibly important lessons: 1) resting is growing and 2) waiting is training.”

Resting is Growing

“What does ‘resting is growing’ really mean?  It means that you have to give your body time to recover from tough workouts, especially if you’re training every day.  It sounds really weird to people who work out so much, but that’s because they’re addicted to the workout.  They can’t stop.  Trust me, I’ve been there.  It’s because the body and the brain are sometimes fighting battles.  The body wants to rest and grow, while the brain thinks the body needs more work.”

I’m no elite athlete, and in spite of my enthusiasm, I assure you, I don’t feel like running every day. :)  But, I can insert ‘writing’ or ‘work’ or ‘networking’ or whatever activity one might obsess over.  Resting is growing.  The body needs time to rebuild, and likewise the mind needs time to digest the information it takes in, to charge with new inspiration and to gain strength from joyful interaction with others.  I’ve learned that I need to schedule time to shut off work and writing, and be truly present in other fun activities–i.e. a movie or dinner with my family.

Rest is productive time.

Waiting is Training

“‘Waiting is training’ means that I can spend more time preparing mentally for my next session or fight, and less time physically exhausting myself.  By waiting, I’m sending a message that strategy is more important than pure physical power, that tactics surpass repetition, and that the brain is the most powerful muscle in the body.”

I experienced this with my blog this week.  Normally, my tactic is ‘full steam ahead.’  If I’m not happy with the traffic on my blog, I throw more posts at the problem.

That sounds violent…

I write more, in other words.  This week (also while reading GSP’s book) I realized that I was beating my head against the wall.  I needed outside perspective.  Instead of posting as usual, I needed to wait, ask writing colleagues to look at my site, and find ways to do things differently.  As a result I embarked on a site overhaul.  I had to wait instead of posting because I didn’t have the time to dedicate to both writing and redesigning.

I clarified my values and my goals in the process.  Now my efforts can become more focused.

You can learn from anything, I tell you.  I thought The Way of the Fight would be an interesting read.  I didn’t know it would be the best book I’d read in months.

Today I’m not running.  I felt like it, but I didn’t.  I am writing, so maybe this is a tad hypocritical.  BUT, yesterday I watched The Matrix instead of writing.  You know, a writer can learn a lot from a movie…

I just can’t turn it off, my friends.  I’m working on it!

Quotes from The Way of the Fight, by Georges St. Pierre.

photo credit: pixabay.com

Socrates is credited as saying “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

True words, yet I’d like to expand on that and say “The undisciplined life is one barely lived.”

It is very important that we examine ourselves and come to understand who we are. It is crucial that we understand our lives and our character, our flaws and our virtues, our behaviors and motivations. If we are honest in our self-assessment, we will realize which of these things are good for us, and which of those things are bad for us. We will know what things we need to continue in, what things we need to improve upon, and what things we need to cut out completely. The need to examine oneself and arrive at this kind of self-understanding is urgent upon every person. It can be a daunting task, but it is one of the most worthwhile things that we can do for ourselves. A person is mature and wise who understands who they are and why they do the things that they do.

Self-realization is only the starting point.

However, self-realization is only the starting point.  It is one thing for me to realize that my habit of eating entire bags of Doritos is very bad for my health. It is one thing to realize that I have been justifying it by telling myself “I regularly jog. I probably just burn those extra calories off anyways.” (Both of these things are true, but I must admit that I have been slack in my jogging lately, but as steady as ever with the Doritos). What must happen now is that I must discipline myself and start getting into actually doing something about it. Self-examination will only take you so far. What’s needed afterwards is the steady step of discipline.

No builder supposes the work to be done when only the plans and blueprint have been laid out. I realize that my Doritos habit is incredibly unhealthy, and I realize they need to be either dramatically cut back or cut out entirely. I understand that I must start telling myself when enough is enough and stop taking that ever-so alluring second helping (Or better yet, to refrain from eating Doritos entirely). The same applies with jogging. I know that I have gotten a bit out of shape, and that my running times have been 1-2 minutes off their usual mark. If I want to get back to the pace where I was before I started getting lazy, I simply must get out and start running again. It may be a while before my times get back to where they were, and it may be even longer until I get strong and fast enough to surpass my personal bests, but in order to do so, I must get out and run step-by-sweaty-step.

Discipline doesn’t procrastinate

Thus self-examination is merely the place where we begin. The real value begins when we take that first step. Discipline does not put things off for “tomorrow”. Once we’ve understood what it is we must do, the time to begin doing it is now. Want to get more exercise? Start now. Want to read more regularly? Start now. We want to be less self-centered? Resolve to do more for others and by all means start now. For me to get back into running and stop eating junk, I must start now. The walk will be hard, and the way will be difficult, but if we are to truly make the most of our lives, there is not a moment to waste.

 

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Malcolm Roulette (Malcolm Munroe) is an aspiring Actor and Hip-Hop musician. He currently resides in Steinbach, Manitoba. Originally from Split Lake, Manitoba, he is a recent graduate of Steinbach Bible College, and is currently Co-Chair of the Board for Mid-way Christian Leadership based in Thompson, Manitoba. You can check out his music at “HipHopGeronimo” on Soundcloud, or search up “Geronimo (Rapper)” on Facebook.

“Once fear enters your life—whether it’s been there for a second or a lifetime makes no difference—it will take you in one of two directions: empowerment or panic,”—Georges St. Pierre.

I never expected a man so competent in physically dominating other people to talk so much about fear.  Georges St. Pierre is a mixed martial arts fighter of great acclaim. Though currently retired, the Canadian athlete is considered one of the best UFC fighters of all time.

photo credit: wikimedia commons

photo credit: wikimedia commons

I picked up his autobiography in a local used bookstore. It had migrated, most amusingly, into the Christianity section. I pulled it from the shelf, laughed about its location with my friends, and then ended up buying it. “Don’t judge me,” I said. Even pacifist Mennonite writers can take an interest in Ultimate Fighting.  I don’t understand the urge to fight.  I’m not sure I agree with it.  But I’ve learned you can learn a great deal from anyone who is at the top of his game, and St. Pierre is one such person.

Lesson one: anyone who becomes a champion must push past fear. Based on how much St. Pierre talks about it, he must have conquered a lot of fear.

Fear Needn’t be Negative

“The key, I discovered, is to understand fear and how it works… I don’t have a choice, because fear walks next to you everywhere in life. It has a reason for being there. People feel fear because they sense a threat… So fear’s purpose is ultimately good—that’s what people forget. Fear is designed to bring you to a safe place…

The problem with fear is that it’s talking to you about the future—it says, MOVE! Something else that is bad and painful could be coming your way… And people are like animals in this instance; they tend to follow their instincts. They follow the fear and dedicate all their energy to moving out of the way, toward safety.”

We tend to see fear as a negative thing, and understandably so. It’s painful to be afraid. It puts a lot of stress on our emotions, our minds, and even our bodies. But fear can actually be quite valuable. First, in instances of actual, physical danger, fear releases adrenaline and give our bodies the strength to survive. Second, fear can be the motivator that gives us the strength to win. Our dread can be our driver.

Dread Drove him to Victory

St. Pierre wrote about his first UFC fight. He was caught in his opponent’s hold, and everyone thought he was done. But he knew if he lost he wouldn’t be able to pay rent, or buy food that month. His opponent was fighting to win. He was fighting to survive.

“I was ready to die to get out of that hold. Break my arm if you have to, I thought. I didn’t have a choice. So I used the surge of adrenaline to roll him, got him on his back, and won. The fear-based adrenaline, the training and the empowerment of making a decision all helped me to victory.”

Our fear can be the ‘why’ that makes us push hard enough to win.  One reason this works is that fear can drive us to prepare for the unexpected.

Fear Keeps us Moving

“Standing still is never a good option. Not in the ring, and not in life outside the octagon either. When you stop moving, you’re done. When the status quo becomes your main weapon, your arsenal is diminished. When you can find no other way forward except for repetition, your mistakes are compounded into defeat.”

We’ve heard of the ‘deer in the headlights’. Those who grew up in wooded areas may have experienced the moment when the deer appears from nowhere, lit up by your headlights. You freeze. The deer freezes. What happens?

Smack!

It’s bad for the both of you, trust me.

Likewise, if we freeze from fear, we’ll lose. But fear can drive us to improve in order to master our fears and be prepared.

“I want to fight guys who are better than me in all kinds of techniques. I want my training to be harder than my actual fights so I can be prepared to face the toughest opponents—so I can be ready to deal with fear.”

My Own Fears

When I began writing this post, I thought I was afraid of my book not selling–of being a failure as an author.  I realized that this isn’t the case.  I’m afraid of judgement and embarrassment.

I am no more than a month away from releasing We are the Living, and I am mentally preparing myself for the worst.  It’s my first book. How good could it possibly go? I know that success is usually a process of small increments (something GSP says himself) but I dread being asked “so, how many books have you sold?” and having to answer, “ten.”  So this fear drives me to research, to mentor with other writers, to tweak, to write better and better, and to network more and more. Ambition drives me too, but fear provides double the motivation.

If there is any theme in GSP’s biography, it is that success is stress, tension, fear, never accepting ‘good enough,’ and never, ever being done. But it is clear that he’d never trade it for a comfortable, couch-potato existence.  I don’t know enough about him to say if he is a man of good character.  No doubt he’s done things I disagree with (being a UFC fighter not the least of them).  But he is clearly a smart and courageous man, and I can admire that.

I’m going to contemplate the idea of fear and examine my reactions to see where they are fear based.  How many of my decisions are based on fear?  Probably more than I’d like to admit.  But recognizing them is the first step to growth.

We are the Living is so close to release I can almost taste it.  In fact I do taste it.  It savours of puke at the back of my throat, I’m so dang nervous!  Here is the first look at the cover.

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The description from the back:

“Kayla’s plans are as finely tuned as her cello, so when Liam joins her friends on their tour of Europe, she resents him.  The ex-soldier with a fragile psyche seems like a liability.  But when political turmoil in France explodes into a zombie apocalypse, their lives may depend on this warrior’s skills.

Their flight takes them to a tiny Italian community where a mysterious priest is curing zombies. There, the Kayla and Liam’s shared horror draws them together.  But they aren’t the only ones who want the cure.

As the threat of the living eclipses the danger of the undead, they must decide whether to run, or to fight for those they love.”

Stay tuned!

Geralyn

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“Never be satisfied as a drone worker, just showing up and going through the conveyor-belt routines you’re taught. In any position, always be looking for things to improve. And never, ever compromise your moral standards in the name of ‘Everyone is doing it.’

Are you uncomfortable with anything you see at your workplace or in any other position in which you serve? What should you do about it? Why do you think so many people just go along with wrongs they see happening every day?” –From Wavemakers, by LIFE Leadership.

This passage troubles me. In fact, the sheer weight of it makes me want to curl into a ball in the corner. Don’t put this on me! Don’t saddle my integrity with this! Don’t you see I’m doing the best I can?

There’s a lot that goes on in my workplace that I don’t agree with—from teasing that goes beyond friendliness to signing for work that hasn’t been done.

It actually takes work to work an honest eight-hour day because the culture is to waste the first and last fifteen minutes in visiting.  You mean we actually work at a factory? It’s not a social club? It takes concerted effort to do a good job because people are so accustomed to accepting ‘good enough’. I should never have to ask the question “did you actually do this, or are you just saying that?” But I do.

I’m not saying I’m perfect—far from it. This week I’m nowhere near my usual cheerful self, and holding tight to my integrity is a daunting task. I’m struggling to stand. How hard can I push for excellence without breaking relationships? I don’t want to be a legalistic taskmaster. I just want to do a good job.

This really bothers me because I am weak right now and I wish my coworkers wouldn’t make things harder for me—unintentional though it is. I don’t have the energy to pick a side in their political games, or discern whether they really calibrated the scale or they just filled in the numbers.

Do I say ‘No, I will do right,’ or be washed away by the current?

This quote offers some insight.  It’s not exactly on topic, but read it through the lens of your workplace and I think it will make sense.  Edward Snowden said:

“If living unfreely [sic] but comfortably is something you’re willing to accept—and I think many of us are because it’s human nature—you can get up every day, go to work, you can collect your large paycheck [sic] for relatively little work against the public interest, and go to sleep at night after watching your shows.

But if you realize that that’s the world you helped create and it’s gonna get worse with the next generation who extend the capabilities of this sort of architecture of oppression, you realize that you might be willing to accept any risk and it doesn’t matter what the outcome is so long as the public gets to make their own decisions about how that’s applied”–as quoted in Wavemakers.

He was talking about national freedom. I’m talking about personal freedom, job quality and heck, the jobs we wish we could work at. The job we have—the culture, conditions and general attitude—is what we have helped to create.  Whether by commission or omission, our workplace is what we’ve made it.

We want a supportive, inspiring, positive environment. We want fulfillment and advancement. We want freedom. But who will create that if we don’t?

Who will shine bright if I won’t?

“It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little. Do what you can,”—Sir Sidney Smith.

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Life is like the dishes. There are always more dishes. Not half an hour ago I washed the last container and miscellaneous spoon (there are always an abundance of dirty spoons in my kitchen), and then I emptied my lunch kit and found two more containers. So it goes. I paid my telephone bill just now, but there is a credit card bill waiting in the wings. There is always another bill. There is always another dish. Don’t get me started on laundry.
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I’m in a slump. I have a slump every six to eight weeks, so I’m no longer alarmed by them. I know I will rise like the phoenix and become my usual, optimistic self. But that person is unlikely to return today. I’m consumed my merry-go-round life, and trying to reconcile how hard I’m working with my meagre results. When will I catch up to my dreams? It’s like the final lines of The Great Gatsby , in which Nick Carraway likens us to ‘boats against the current, borne ceaselessly into the past.”

I remind myself that I’m only twenty-three, and can hardly be expected to have it together. I also remind myself that part of the issue is that keep myself in a constant state of tension between my current life and my dreams.

But when I’m in a slump, these don’t seem to matter. My best bet is to keep the motions going, so that when Geralyn the Optimist returns, she doesn’t have too big of a mess to deal with.

My pastor said that hopelessness indicates we’ve reached our personal limit. Hopelessness is us ‘redlining’–a warning that we dare not stay here too long or we may get hurt.

But he also said that hopelessness was his favourite ‘difficult emotion.’

What?

He insisted it was true because, when hopelessness, he turned to Jesus. In fact, hopelessness was what brought him to Christ in the first place.

So in these moments when I can’t seem to keep my head up and life seems like an ever accelerating treadmill, I’ve been thinking about that a lot. It’s true, I guess. During my slumps, I listen to more sermons, more hymns and Christian music. I pray more, even though it’s mostly “Help!”

I wish I could instantly be rid of this blend of weariness, discouragement and uncertainty but if I can’t, I guess I can ‘glory in my weakness’ in which God’s power can be perfected.

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This is a scene from my upcoming novel, We are the Living.  Kayla and her friends, after being taken hostage by a terrorist group in the city of Lyon, have been broken out by one of the terrorists.  They are fleeing the city in a stolen French troop carrier. 

Again we were driving blind, feeling bumps and turns, knowing nothing. After about ten minutes of driving, Simone stopped the truck. Her face appeared at the back, just visible from behind the crates. “You can move the crates now. Liam, will you drive with me?” She tossed a pistol and an assault rifle and several magazines. “Morgan or Alex, take these. Liam, I have one for you up front.” She never even looked at me. She had guts as Liam said. I was a snivelling nobody.
Can’t even read a map.
“We’re going to have to take small streets to avoid the blockades,” she continued. “They haven’t been cleared, so keep an eye out the back for infected. If they get close, shoot them.”
Alex’s Adam’s apple bobbed as he gulped. He and Morgan stood staring at the guns at their feet. Finally Morgan picked up the assault rifle and Simone nodded at him and turned to go. Liam jumped down and followed her. Good, he liked her. He could keep her company.
“Do you want to shoot infected?” Alex muttered to Morgan. “They look too much like people to me.”
“We do what we’ve got to do.” The gun looked so foreign in Morgan’s hand, huge against his slender frame. He crawled to the back of the truck and rolled the canvas up about eight inches. He tied it that way and settled down against the tailgate. The truck rumbled to life and into motion smoothly.
“Liam must be driving,” Alex said under his breath.
I’ll bet.
We watched the city streets go by. They were beautiful streets, so normal that they could have been Toronto if they had not been empty. We clanked over a bridge that spanned a wide, blue river. The bank was lined with trees and yellow brick buildings with red-tile roofs—so quaint and pretty from a distance. Then the truck turned onto a narrow street, hemmed in by shops. Glass storefronts were smashed, the contents of the store spread on the sidewalk. Little tables of a café were overturned and scattered in the road, and the truck had to swerve around them. I fell against the side.
Morgan cried out. “Infected!”
I pushed myself upright. I could see them through the gap at the back of the truck. They were a mob, racing at full tilt after the troop carrier. Too much like humans, Alex had said. I couldn’t see the human in these—the contorted faces, the fish-belly white skin, the shredded skin and hair. They skittered like insects, some even on all fours, foaming at the mouth. I could hear animalistic growls and cries. How could they move so fast like that? The human was well gone from them.
“Do we shoot?” Panic laced Morgan’s voice.
“Only if they get close.” Alex had the pistol gripped in both hands, ready.
The truck roared down the narrow street. It leaned as we swung around the corner. Still the infected came on. Morgan thrust the barrel of the assault rifle over the side, his hands trembling. But we were gaining. They were becoming smaller and smaller to our view.
Then I heard a human yell. I gasped. I caught sight of a man in the corner of the gap. The brakes of the troop carrier squealed as it slid to a halt.
“Hurry!” Liam voice bellowed from the front of the truck. “Morgan, let him in. Hurry!”
A man, his legs pumping, came racing toward the truck. Morgan and Alex dropped the tailgate in time for the man to vault into the carrier. I could see the whites of the infected eyes.
“Hurry!” I screamed.
Alex yanked the tailgate shut with a bang. Morgan pulled the trigger of the assault rifle. It rattled out a stream of ammunition. Gore flew, bits of flesh and hair, and then I squeezed my eyes shut. The truck jerked into motion. Liam gunned the engine, chirping the tires. The gun chattered again, and I had to open my eyes. A zombie reached for the tailgate, but Alex swung the pistol toward it. It sailed backward, into the mob. Then we left them far behind.
“Merci, merci!” The man slumped against the side of the truck, swiping at his forehead with his sleeve. He was middle aged, clad in a black dress shirt and a white clerical collar. A priest. He raked his hand through his salt and pepper hair and spoke in French: “God has preserved my life through you. Thank you.”
“We couldn’t leave you,” said Morgan. The priest’s face was blank. I translated.
“All the same, I thank you.”
I translated again, then addressed him. “I’m Kayla. This is Morgan and Alex. Liam and Simone are in the cab of the truck. We’re Canadians, Simone is from here.”
“Alexis Bertolette.” He turned to gaze out the back, at the street rapidly falling away behind us. “That is what is left of my parish. God have mercy on their souls.”
We all fell silent, but for our quick breathing and my own pulse pounding in our ears. Our blood was too high for small talk. The truck swung around the corner and accelerated down a wider street with towers and wires overhead. We rattled across a railway track. Not far off a passenger train stood abandoned.
“Where are you going?” the priest asked.
“Torino,” I said, my eyes still on the city around us.
“And if the infected have reached Torino?”
I looked up. “Have you heard that they…?” If Lyon was overrun, surely Torino was also gone.
“Reached Torino?” he ran his hand through his hair again. “Yes, yes they have.”
I moaned. “No, no!”
Alex and Morgan were watching us, wide-eyed. I gulped and translated. My voice shook. Alex cried out. Morgan just looked grim and very much like Liam.
“Oddly enough, the internet was still working in my church,” Father Alexis said. “I could stream the BBC. Belgium is overrun. Holland was evacuating as fast as they could. Their border was like the front of a battle, troops patrolling every meter. England has sealed its borders, as has Canada and the United states. No one from mainland Europe is getting in. At last I heard, no infection has reached England, or North America.”
We absorbed this in complete silence. So our country was safe, even if we were abandoned.
“So then why don’t you stay in Lyon?” Morgan asked softly.
Father Alexis smiled sadly. “My purpose is to serve God’s people and in Lyon I am alone.” He looked around at us. “Are any of you members of the church?”
We glanced at each other awkwardly. I met Morgan’s eyes. “He asked if we are Catholic.”
“No, Father, none of us are members of the church,” Morgan said. “I am a Protestant.”
I repeated it in French.
He nodded. “I do not ask so that I can condemn you. I simply ask so that I may extend whatever spiritual comfort I may. I am at your service.”
I relayed this to the guys and thought to myself, I could use a little comfort. Mom and Dad had brought me to church on Christmas, Easter, sometimes Thanksgiving but I’d never taken it seriously. And now I was pretty damn sure I didn’t believe in God. All the same…
Father Alexis spoke again. “There is one other reason I wished to leave Lyon. On the BBC broadcasts I heard about a town in Italy–Emilio it is called. It is said they can cure the infected there.”
“How?” I leaned forward. “They have a drug?”
“The report did not say. But the town was never infected, and a priest is healing infected. It is a city of refuge. Perhaps,” his dark eyes were bright, “It is a miracle of God.”
I turned to the boys and translated to them. “He says there is a town in Italy where a priest is healing the infected. The town is a city of refuge.”
Their eyes lit up. Alex lifted his head. “Where? What is it called?”
“Emilio…” I trailed off and turned to Father Alexis. “Where is Emilio, Father?”
“Tuscany, near Siena.”
I relayed this.
I could feel that the mood had lifted with this infusion of hope. We could get to Emilio. We had a truck now, we had weapons, heck, we even had a priest.
But Lyon had yet to give us its parting shot.

Thanks for reading.  I keep on saying my ‘up and coming novel’.  Well, it is coming. Unfortunately, this is my first novel and I am learning as I go.  It’s taking a little longer than I thought.  Stay tuned!

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“Oh yeah? I’ll show you.” Those were my famous last words.

I’ve always claimed I didn’t have the body type to run. Runners are graceful like gazelles, all legs and arms. I’m more of a clydesdale. That was my excuse. I’d never run–I couldn’t.

But my friend had to put out a challenge to all of us Trim Healthy Mamas, telling us of an upcoming 5 kilometre run. “It’s not too late to start training,” she said. “I haven’t run since highschool, but I’m starting on Monday.”

I could do that, I thought.

No you can’t.

Yes I can.

I ran the idea past my family, and they said “Well, you’re pretty busy,” and “Five kilometres is farther than you might think.”

Oh yeah? I’ll show you.

Monday found me picking out purple running shoes (for price not vanity, I maintain). I downloaded the ‘Couch to 5K’ app, learned a few stretches, and prepared to bound out the door.

“Wish me luck,” I said to my sister.

She just looked… skeptical.

I’ve been running for four weeks now. Tomorrow I’ll be halfway through the program. I’m constantly asking myself, “This will get easier, right?”

If you’re on the bike paths in town and you hear clumping footsteps and wheezing behind you, fear not–’tis I. I have the grace of a chicken and less endurance.

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I try to run in privacy so no one sees my cherry-tomato face, but at eight in the evening, every elderly couple, young parent and gaggle of teenage bff’s is on the bike path. I play it cool. THEY don’t know I’ve only been running for two minutes when I blow past them. But in the last quarter of my run, there’s no way to hide how poor of shape I’m in. I grimace like I’m in the last leg of a triathalon. I can’t muster a smile or even gasp out ‘hey’ as I pass.

But when the app says “cool down by walking five minutes,” I pump my fist. Every completed run is a victory.

Yeah, I want to prove to my family that I can do this. But it’s become more and more about the actual accomplishment. I visualize crossing the finish line and I choke up. And when the app says ‘well done’ I’m thrilled.

I think of the Apostle Paul, who said “I do not run like a man running aimlessly… I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not myself be disqualified for the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:26).

Paul knew what awaited him at the finish line and he’d do anything–he’d “put up with anything rather than hinder the Gospel of Christ”–to obtain that goal.

In running I’ve found that mental strength is every bit as important as physical. Self-talk and visualization push me past the pain threshold. Clearly, Paul was a disciplined man who would rather deprive himself of physical happiness than of spiritual gain.

But mental strength isn’t enough in times of emotional and spiritual hardship. Then we must tap into the unlimited strength of Jesus. We were designed to exceed our human limits through our relationship with Him. “When I am weak, then I am strong,” said Paul. It was Paul’s relationship with God, ultimately, that allowed him to endure. He endured to the end–his execution–and gained his prize.

A big deal compared to my 5K.

I’m not expecting this to get easy any time soon. I’m not sure I even like running. But I like the prize, I like how I feel about myself after I run, and I like what it’s teaching me about life.

I’ll keep you posted on how the race goes. August 17th is the day!

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Doesn’t it come to a point where you want to sucker-punch every aunt, grandma and friend who asks “What are you going to do after you graduate?”  Some of you have plans, but if you’re like me, you don’t.  And saying “I’m going to work” doesn’t have much of a ring to it, does it?

I’m here to tell you: that’s just fine.  You don’t have to have a good answer.

I was ejected from my safe, homeschool haven at seventeen, found a job at a meat packing plant and moved out. It was the definition of a dead-end job, but I made the most of it. It was just an interim job, but interim to what I didn’t know.

There is the odd, fortunate soul who knows just what they want when they graduate. But it seems most of us haven’t a hot clue. So we do like I did and get the first available job, or we take ‘University One’ or, if you’re of the Evangelical stripe, we go to Bible School hoping to ‘find God’s will for our lives.’ We were meant for something, our parents said when we were in kindergarten—to be firemen, musical divas, astronauts and presidents. So we watch, and wait.

And wait.

That’s how people get three degrees, I think—psychology, kinesiology and a bachelor of arts. Not that I wouldn’t like to get three degrees. If I could get paid to go to school, I’d be well on my way to a doctorate in something.

Hmm… Dr. Geralyn Wichers. I like that.

But I digress.

Winston Churchill said:

“To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.”

Waiting is inevitable. I think it’s unreasonable to ask a seventeen-year-old to decide what they want to ‘do’ for the rest of their lives. Most graduates can’t even write a grocery list, never mind a plan for their lives (no offense—I couldn’t either). If I’m reading Churchill right, the key is not knowing what you want, but preparing for when it comes. ‘When my ship comes in, I’m going to know how to sail’ kinda thing.

You can’t learn everything about something from a book—I know that. I’ve read marriage books and listened to talks on marriage and family, and I even took a college course on the subject, but I expect to run a pretty steep learning curve if I ever marry.

However, the experiences you have while you are young: travelling, reading, studying, volunteering—read: learning, learning LEARNING—lay a foundation for your life. The more of these things you do, the more broad and solid your foundation is.

In my late teens, I was involved in a network marketing business. I learned about making sales calls and presenting information. I gained a lot of courage from making myself do that, but as a business person I failed miserably. But, what this business had was a superb leadership education system. So, starting at age eighteen, I had people-skills, financial management, economics, conflict resolution, and basic success principles pumped into me.

I wish I could give the same to every grad.

Though I felt humiliated by the business aspect, I can’t regret that time because I laid a gigantic base for my life. I know I’d never be pursuing a career as a writer now if I hadn’t been exposed to that information then. I wouldn’t have known I could.

Finally, remember that ‘it is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little. Do what you can,” (to quote Sir Sidney Smith).

Just because we’re not sure what we want to make of our lives does not give us license to sit on our butts at home, as tempting as that is. What if our defining moment only arrives in our seventies?

Benjamin Franklin’s greatest work was as a statesman. He was an old man when that happened. But he’d been pretty dang busy—writing, building a franchise model printing business, flying his kite. He’d built up a solid base of experience and a network of influence. When the time came and his country needed him, he was ready.

If we do nothing, by seventy we’ll be… nothing.

So I encourage you to do the first thing, be it taking University One or a job at McDonalds—and be intentional about it. Wring every drop of knowledge you can from it. Pick up a book or subscribe to a podcast on something that fascinates you. Take adventures—explore, go on missions or humanitarian trips, go on road trips. You’re young now, and there’s not much to tie you down. Don’t wait for life to happen to you.

And always be looking, waiting for the hand to tap you on the shoulder so you can step up and shine.

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I think they must gas us at the mall–spray us with some mind-altering substance.  I went in feeling great about myself, and now I feel like a slob.

I smelled something strong around the Abercrombie and Fitch.  I thought it was cologne or the scent of those special people who can actually wear Abercrombie.  But now I know what it was: drugs.

Nothing is right anymore.

My shoes don’t match my bag, and they don’t go right with these jeans.  That doesn’t matter, because the jeans are saggy around the butt so they must go.  I will slip into a pair of these hundred-dollar jeans and then all shall be well.  My t-shirt doesn’t hug my curves right, so I’ll trade it for another.  I’ll drop a hundred bucks on jewelry.  I’ll buy new makeup, I’ll…!

Collapse at Starbucks, exhausted and broke.

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The coffee soothes my nerves and washes away the drugs.  I see myself for what I am: a foot-sore consumer among thousands.  No one is looking at my clothes.  No one is looking at my hair.  They are busy looking at themselves, and their saggy jeans, and their outdated shoes.

Where has my reason gone?  Wasn’t I a fiscally responsible, ‘un-shallow’, free-spirited person just yesterday?  How did I get swept into this?

Drugs, I tell you.  They alter your mind.

So I sip my iced coffee and I resolve to smile bigger, to greet the sales people with more enthusiasm, to thank them for their help, to move with grace and peace, and mostly, to slow down–to stop this frantic acquiring and actually enjoy myself.  It may be the only way I stand out in the crowd.

 

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