Acorns, Tire Swings and Work

When my seven-year-old daughter was four, she said she wanted to plant some acorns. I asked her why, and she said, “So I can have a tire swing!”

It was precious, to say the least.

She did not realize that it takes years and years for an acorn to grow into an oak tree strong enough to support a swing.  As I learned how to run, and as I’ve made small steps towards eating healthier, the lesson I’ve learned is this: I don’t realize it takes years and years for an acorn to grow into an oak tree.

This story continues over at The Journey today ...


Writing Elsewhere

This space has been fairly quiet, which is not unusual. I have, however, been writing elsewhere. I post once a week over at The Journey. Some of it is recycled material from this space, but some of it is new.

Here’s some of my posts:

Progress, Not Perfection ::

I have really had to embrace the idea of progress, not perfection. I’m a human, so I’ll never be perfect. I’m going to skip exercising some days. I’m going to give in to a craving from time to time. I’m going mess up. But it’s not an excuse to give up!

Learning to Run ::

I have to wonder how many times I have sabotaged my own progress by trying to start off too fast? I decide something like: “I’m going to get up early, exercise, cook breakfast for my family from scratch, do a load of laundry every day, reorganize the whole house and end world hunger all before 10 a.m.!” Am I the only crazy person who does this?

Giving Up :: Lessons learned from giving up sugar for periods of time. (Basically my unfinished 31 Days to Change One Habit all in one post.)

 Apple Peanut Butter Snack Bars :: Hungry? These are easy to whip up and yummy, too.

Looking Around ::

The problem with looking around is that we have a tendency to look at the best and compare to our worst.



Day 31: The Finish Line

Here we are at the finish line!

It’s been a good run! We’ve decided to run, worked through the training plan, come out of the dark, turned some corners, learned when to push through and when to take a break. We’ve gained inspiration, and learned how running can help others, too.

I was trying to come up with a big, super inspiring and motivational post for this last day. But the truth is, finishing is pretty inspiring, don’t you think?

I’ve always been great at starting things. Finishing them is another matter. I’m motivated by deadlines, which is a nice way of saying I’m a procrastinator. I put things off until the deadline is near, and then I have no choice but to work on them into the wee hours of the morning while the rest of my neighborhood sleeps. I’ve worked on countless school papers, 4-H projects, college projects and Christmas wrappings well past my bedtime. I frantically rush around cleaning the house just before party guest arrive. I may have still been stitching a certain Yoshi costume last week as my son wore it out the door for a Trick-or-Treating parade.

If something doesn’t have a deadline, it often remains unfinished. Such as a blog named I started this blog and then quit this blog. I’ve restarted and renamed. I’ve wondered what I’m even doing. Yet this desire to write won’t leave me alone.

The 31 Days challenge has turned into my a training plan for writing. Like the Couch to 5K plan that taught me how to run, this 31 Days has taught me how to write. It gave me the deadline I needed. It gave me a story to pursue. And a team came along for the ride with more than 700 others participating in 31 Days and all of you who’ve read and commented.

On Day 6 I posted a quote from John Bingham, a man who learned how to run himself. “The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start,” he said. And starting does take courage. We have no finish line if we don’t take off from the starting blocks. When we’re on Day 6 of our new journey, we gain motivation from our courage to start. But as we keep running, or writing, or painting, or organizing, or whatever it is you want to do more of, we reach the half-way point and it can start to overwhelm. We must adjust our focus from having the courage to start, and now dig deep to find the strength to finish.

And since we never fully arrive, this writing journey can’t stop either. After I finished the Couch to 5K plan the first time, I declared my accomplishment and said, “Now to keep from going back to the couch.” I don’t intend to write here everyday, but I do hope to be a little less random about posting here.

The best thing about crossing the finish line at a race is to see the others who have already finished clapping and cheering you on. I’ve crossed the finish line, grabbed my bottle of water and returned to cheer for you! Whenever you muster the courage to start your new thing, I hope this little series has provided some encouragement. And when you’re ready to quit, or feel like you are wasting your time in pursuing your new thing, that’s when I hope you remember to dig down deep and take things one step at a time. And whether you run or walk or write, there is joy in crossing the finish line! You can do it! Woo hoo! 🙂

Day 27: Focus

I was out doing my run/walk routine one morning last fall. It was a Saturday, and it wasn’t dark. I went down a long stretch of street, past the halfway point and rounded the bend to head back home.

As I came back up the same street, I noticed a flurry of activity around a house. There was a garage sale, which meant extra people and cars on the road. I was quite surprised that I hadn’t noticed the sale when I went by the first time. I was on the other side of the street, but you would think I would have noticed the activity on the street.

I realized I was so focused on doing my routine, that I had failed to see what was going on around me. I have to wonder if sometimes I get so focused on the task at hand that I miss opportunities to be interrupted and see something God might want me to see.

Missing a garage sale is no big deal. I mean, I’m all for a good garage sale, but I wouldn’t have stopped my run for this particular sale. I do tend to be task-oriented, though, and wonder how many times I’ve missed showing kindness to someone, a listening ear, a helping hand. Jesus was so good at that. He let people interrupt Him. He was not so focused on His tasks to overlook the hurt, the sick, the blind or the needy.

In fact, when asked how one could gain eternal life, Jesus told the story of people passing by a man in need. The only person to stop and help was considered an outcast in society.

Let’s have passion and focus for the tasks at hand. And let’s not forget to look around, to notice and be interrupted.

Day 26: Goal Setting

I was raking my yard yesterday and thinking about how much I prefer yard work to housework. Later that day, I cleaned out our garage, and I felt like that was way more enjoyable than cleaning the house.

What does this have to do with 31 Days of Learning to Run? I’m glad you asked! 😉

This time of year, yard work has an end. Winter is approaching, so there’s a list of things to do before yard work is done for a season. The garage gets cleaned out once or twice a year. Remove items, throw out a few things, sweep and replace items. Done. Over.

Housework on the other hand, is never ending. I pick up toys and before I turn around, more are on the floor. Dishes and laundry are never ending. I prefer projects that have a start and end. I think that’s why I like the Couch to 5K running plan so much.

Training for a 5K provides a good story goal, but it also provides a start and finish. I know I only have to put in nine weeks of running. Then, if I want, I can stop and do something else. Deciding to run three times a week for an indefinite amount of time doesn’t appeal to me, but running for three days a week until I finish a training plan worked great! There is something to work for in a set amount of time. I’m still able to go at my own pace, or switch days when I need to. People who have a passion for running probably don’t need a plan that has an end because they are motivated by their passion. I, on the other hand, am motivated by an ending point.

My fall running season has actually ended. Running in the cold and dark can happen a few times, but not very often for me. I’m about to start an exercise program that is broken down into nine- and 12-week programs. It makes the, “I should get exercise three or four times a week” thinking much easier for me.

Now, I just need to find a house cleaning plan that lasts nine weeks or something. Ha ha!

Day 25: Give Yourself a Break

Yesterday, we talked about pushing through. When we replace negative thoughts with positive ones, it helps provide the motivation needed to keep running when it’s tough.

Pushing through is good, except when you really need to just take a break.

Many times when I’ve wanted to quit running, I just needed to push through. But a few times I really just needed to stop and walk for a while. Whether I was extra tired or dealing with pain, I had to determine that my best interest was to stop.

I was not stopping forever. I was just stopping for that moment. There is a big difference.

It’s not always easy to know the difference between when we need to persevere and when we need to pause. It probably takes getting it wrong a few times to understand ourselves and our bodies and our situations to learn.

As I was preparing for my first 5K, I was trying to decide what to do about a large hill along the race route. I decided one day to change my usually flat training route and hit a few hills. I did OK for a while, but soon was extremely tired. I wasn’t even halfway through my run, but I knew I was done. It was not a good feeling, but I had to remind myself that running hills is a whole different game.

There was a time late last spring where running felt good, but later in day walking felt really bad. My shins were aching quite badly. I tried to keep up with my running because I was scheduled to run a 5K with my sister-in-law. But when the pain didn’t go away, and was possibly getting worse, I knew it was time to take a break. Pushing through was not the right choice.

There are plenty of times in life when we need to just keep running. But, there are other times when we need to stop, or at least slow down to a walk, because it’s just the right thing to do.

Day 24: Pushing Through

While running is a physical activity, I’ve come to find that it’s very much a mental game. I wrote about getting around the next corner, but it’s always easier to write about the corner once you’ve moved past it.  We like to comfort others with the phrase, “This too, shall pass.” But, when the end is not in sight, or you wonder if you’ll ever see the end at all, the phrase is not very comforting.

In the Couch to 5K plan, there are numerous running/walking combinations. Even as the running part lengthens, I take great hope in the fact that soon I’ll be able to walk for a bit and catch my breath.

Then comes Week 5, Day 3: Run 20 minutes with no walking.

It is a scary day. It sounds way too hard.

So, what do I do when running is hard and I’m not sure I can take another step? I turn up the volume on my motivating music, and I start changing the words that are flying through my head. It becomes a mental battle to fight for positive thoughts.

I can’t. You can, for a little bit longer.

This is dumb. I could just walk. Think of how good you will feel when you finish.

I want to quit. Just keep running. Just keep running. You can do it!

And before I know it, the 20 minutes is over. And the victory is so much sweeter when the battle was a hard fight!