"Inch by inch, anything’s a cinch."
I heard that Robert Schuller quote while I was in high school, and it stuck with me. It came back to the forefront of my mind recently as I observed the results of rain on the granite-covered portion of my front yard: Myriad weeds dotted — actually, covered, in parts — the rocky terrain. I found looking at the unwanted growth as a whole, a bit overwhelming.
Knowing the issue needed to be addressed, I set out to restore our curb appeal. But in order to do that, I couldn’t look at the yard in its entirety. I had to view a small portion at a time. And in doing so, and pulling those pesky plants one by one, my yard regained its cleaner appearance.
We often hear about the importance of looking at the big picture. But in this instance, viewing the big picture was too much to bear. It was paralyzing. I needed to focus on a foot around me and let everything else blur.
When I did that, the task became easy, and time flew by. Before I knew it, my estimated half hour had turned into 45 minutes. But I didn’t want to stop because I was getting closer to the end. I needed to get granular in order for that to happen.
If I had continued to have a wide-angle view, the weeds would still be taking over my yard, growing even taller.
Sometimes in life, it’s important to see the big picture but then to narrow our focus and spot smaller tasks. This keeps the entire project or trial or whatever it is from being too overwhelming.
My little girl leaves for college this week. I can’t help wondering if I did everything I could to prepare her for life.
Although she’s not leaving forever, her return home will never be the same as her time at home with her dad and me the first 18 years of her life. She’s starting a completely new chapter. Is she ready?
Am I ready?
She’s not my first to go off to college. Her oldest brother did that three years ago. And when he was getting ready to leave, I had many of the same feelings I’m experiencing today. I had to trust I had done my part to raise my boy to be a good man, to care about others, and to do the right thing, even when no one’s looking.
And now, I have to trust I’ve done my part to raise my daughter to be a good woman, to make good choices, to select her friends wisely, and to enjoy life. There’s no turning back the clock. I can second-guess all I want, but my opportunities to have significant influence in my daughter’s life are largely behind me. She has her whole life ahead of her.
I’m not sure I’m ready for her to leave. The time went by super fast. I’m thankful I was able to raise her alongside my husband. I had the pleasure of being a stay-at-home mom, and I’m grateful for the memories she and I share. I know she’ll be back.
I also know she’s ready. She’s eager to leave the nest and to spread her wings, to test her freedom. She’s a good kid, and I’m proud of her. I’m proud of all of my kids. (I have two others living at home and attending community college, and another one out on his own.)
So, as my daughter leaves to begin this new, exciting chapter of her life, her dad and I are starting a new chapter, too, with no kids in high school. I’m sure we all have adventures on our horizons. And I look forward to reuniting to share about them.
You’ve likely encountered someone or multiple people who tend to live in the past. They’re always talking about the glory days and how good things were back then, wishing they could go back. Maybe that’s you.
People like that make me think of Uncle Rico, a middle-aged character in the movie Napoleon Dynamite. As a high school quarterback, Rico’s coach didn’t put him in fourth quarter of the state championship game. Rico was sure if the coach had, his team would have been state champs, and his life would have been entirely different.
In a nutshell, Uncle Rico is discontent. He never healed from the hurt his coach caused him. It paralyzed Rico to the point he felt he had to prove to the world that he was an amazing football player. So he made videos of himself throwing and catching a football.
We’ve likely all had tragic and traumatic things happen to us at some point in our lives. I have. I could have let those things paralyze and cripple me, leaving me stuck in the past. But I chose to rise above them, to learn from them, and to move on.
Was it easy? No. I had to face the pain and the hurt, and relive the feelings. It was not a fun process at all. Nor was it quick. But I’m a better me today because of it.
There’s much more of life for me to enjoy and partake of. Too much for me to stay in the past wishing my life today were different. I choose to remember where I’ve come from and how far I’ve come, but not to dwell there. I’m going to take one day at a time and continue looking forward. I encourage you to do the same.
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Sometimes we get distracted and weighed down by the pressures of life — working, paying bills, keeping hungry mouths fed, etc. And those stresses keep us from relaxing and enjoying the finer things in life.
I almost missed out on a night of fun because I was too busy mulling over a tough day’s busyness. I’m a task person, and I like to be busy — to the point that I sometimes have a hard time relaxing. After a taxing day at work, I joined my husband, his mom, and a friend for an outing to an Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game. But my brain was still on my work and all of the things I needed to do at home.
I fought a mental battle much of the first part of the game. In fact, I missed seeing us on the Jumbotron because I was too preoccupied. My mother-in-law hadn’t been to a Dbacks game before, and as she was taking in the ballpark, she saw our small group on the big screen.
I had to disengage my brain in order to be truly present at the game. Once I finally did that, I enjoyed the time with my loved ones, making memories. And I liked watching my mother-in-law delight in her new experience.
The whole ordeal brought to mind the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” my favorite flick for many years. Maybe because it reminded me to slow down. As Ferris said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
I don’t want to miss it. I want to savor it.
What do you do when you come to an obstacle on your journey through life? Do you give up and turn around? Figure out a way around it? Go through it?
I like to go for a walk during my lunch break at work. On one of the trails I take, I encounter the tree you see pictured. It’s overgrown and blocks the pathway, yet it provides a great amount of shade. I don’t turn around when I see it. Nor do I skirt it. Instead, I duck and go right under it — or through it — staying on the trail.
That’s how I tend to approach problems and challenges in life, too. My dad taught me, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” So when I encounter a problem in my path, I don’t spin a 180 and run from it. If I do, I might have to face that same problem or something similar down the road. Sometimes, I try to find a way around a challenge. But I might have to confront that problem again, too.
When I duck to go under the drooping tree branches, I use different leg muscles than when standing and walking erect. So going through the shrouded path despite the obstacle strengthens my legs. And I come through victorious on the other side.
If I tackle an obstacle head-on and walk directly through it, I conquer it. And I grow and become stronger as a result.
Yesterday, I attended the memorial service of a friend and former running partner. Together with another friend, we had prepared for and run the Lost Dutchman Marathon years ago. Our long runs had provided ample time to talk and share, and Keith had become like a brother to me, especially after the passing of my older sister.
His parents not only attended his service, but they participated in it. A child’s funeral — no matter how old the child — is never easy for a parent. They’re supposed to outlive their kids. Keith’s parents’ involvement said a lot to me. It told me that although they were hurting, they wanted to share about the blessing their son had been to their lives. They weren’t just feeling sorry for themselves.
A friend pulled me aside after the memorial service to tell me how she had dreaded attending my younger sister’s memorial service after my family had already lost my older sister five years earlier. But then she told me it had turned out to be the most inspirational service she’d ever been to. The church was packed with standing room only to celebrate a life of 34 years. Part of the service included playing a recording of my sister Gayle speaking to her church congregation. Maybe you’ll be inspired, too:
“Sometimes we need to look at our disappointments as a way for God to use us to minister to others."
“Disappointment comes to all of us. I’ve looked through the Scriptures, and I’ve tried to find verses that say our lives are going to be easy and that bad things aren’t going to happen to us. But I haven’t found any of those verses. Instead, the Bible says things like in John 16:33, ‘Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.’”
When Gayle learned her cancer had spread to her lungs, she said, “Talk about disappointing. That was very disappointing. But I had to decide how I was going to deal with that. God’s Word says in 1 Peter 1:6-7, ‘So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while. These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold — and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.’"
Gayle continued, “I choose to accept whatever God brings my way, knowing that God is in control of it all. I’m going to quit feeling sorry for myself and choose to follow him. I’m going to continue to hope in him. I’m going to consider it pure joy and allow him to work through me.
“Sometimes we need to look at our disappointments as a way for God to use us to minister to others. … He’s using disappointments in all of us so that we can minister to others. We need to get off our pity party and get busy for God.”
I’ve been running for pleasure and stress release since junior high — except for a multiyear hiatus after I completed a full marathon. I’ve found a lot of life lessons through running. Here are five:
1. Sometimes you get hurt and have to heal.
If you’ve ever suffered any kind of physical injury, you know the healing process can’t be rushed. It takes time. We get hurt mentally and emotionally, too, and those wounds are slow to heal as well. Attempting to push through the pain and get back to normalcy quicker only results in further postponement.
2. You might encounter thorns.
Just as thorns and barbs grab onto my running shoes, they figuratively attach to me when I come across toxic people or needlessly put myself in unpleasant circumstances. If I allow those barbs to take hold, they weigh me down. I have to excise them for optimal results.
3. You will have to climb hills.
Running in the Valley of the Sun, I don’t come across many hills. My big incline is running up the freeway overpass and then down the other side — only to have to do it again on the return trip. But that doesn’t negate the fact that we face challenges and uphill battles in life. It’s part of the journey. We can try to avoid them, but then we end up stagnating rather than growing.
4. For best results, look forward.
While running, if I take time to look behind me, I tend to slow down to avoid falling or encountering some obstacle in front of me. If I move my head to look to the right or left, I get the same results. But when I keep my eyes focused ahead of me, the run is more enjoyable and the trek is easier.
5. You can always give a little more.
At the end of a run, I dig deep and find a little more energy to expend. If I were to give that much throughout the run, I wouldn’t have anything left at the end. But I get a sense of accomplishment by being able to pick up a little speed as I cross my self-imposed finish line. When you’re in the middle of a big project and grow weary, it’s important to find that extra oomph within to help you get over the hump and finish. You’ll be glad you did.
As I watched the opening ceremony of the 31st Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, a couple of things stood out to me. For one, I liked how all of these different countries were able to put aside their politics and differences and come together as human beings. People are people no matter which country they’re from, what they look like, or the color of their skin. The Olympics celebrate that.
Sure, the athletes who are there are there to win, to give their best in their sports, and to represent their respective countries. But there’s something about coming together with other countries that unites us, that reminds us we’re actually not all that different from each other.
I really liked how Rio put a different spin on the Parade of Nations by allowing the athletes to mingle with those from other countries if they wanted to — instead of being forced to stay with their individual countries.
It could be argued that as Americans, our athletes are there as the American team and, therefore, should stick together as a team. But humanity surpasses teams. As people, we are all part of one team. Yet too often, we lose sight of that fact.
The other detail that stood out to me was that two things transcend culture and language: A smile and laughter are both universal. They’re clearly understood no matter what language you speak or what cultural background you come from.
That’s a good thing to keep in mind as we go through our day-to-day lives. We’ll encounter people who may speak a different language or come from a different culture or even be going through something we can’t fathom. But they will understand a smile, and by sharing one, maybe we can brighten their day.
When you know you’re leaving on a trip, you have time to prepare for being separated from your loved ones. For example, my husband and I had time to plan and make arrangements before he left town for two weeks on a Commemorative Air Force tour.
Similarly, my younger sister Gayle had time to get her affairs in order before leaving this Earth. As she grew weary in her five-year breast cancer battle, she made a point to mend relationships and to tell others what they meant to her. She didn’t want to have any regrets when her time came.
I was the recipient of a letter to such effect, in which she apologized for any hurt she had caused me over the years and thanked me for the memories we had shared. She didn’t want any hard feelings between us, and I’m happy to say we didn’t have any when she passed from this life to the next.
But what about those who don’t have time to prepare, and they’re suddenly taken from this life in a car accident or a fatal heart attack or through some other means? It could happen to any of us. Are you ready?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to have any regrets. I want my affairs to be in order every day so that when my time comes, no hard feelings will linger in those left behind. I want to tell people each day how much they mean to me. I want to take advantage of the opportunities I have to make a difference in others’ lives.
When I mess up, I’ll pick myself up and get right back to it. And just so you know, I appreciate you.
I made an agreement with my husband long before we wed that I wouldn’t run alone after dark. Last week, when my stress level had peaked, I decided to go for a run to let off steam. Temperatures in my area hovered around 110 degrees all last week, which did not make for ideal running weather. But I had to get rid of the stress.
So, as dusk approached, I laced up my sneakers and headed out. Because the sun was nearing the horizon, I deviated from my preferred route, which is not well-lit. Instead, I circled my local drainage park, which spans more than a quarter mile from one end to the other.
Normally, this park would be practically desolate at that hour, especially in the heat. But thanks to Pokemon GO, lots of people meandered the green belt, looking for the augmented reality creatures they needed for their game. And because of the game players’ presence, I felt safe running around the park.
There is safety in numbers, after all.
Sometimes, though, we can become too at ease in a crowd or a team, not wanting to stand out and be different. And rather than safe, that can be dangerous. You’ve heard the saying, “If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?” That’s just one example.
It’s easy to give in to peer pressure. It’s much more difficult to dare to be different. Yet it’s important to stand up for what you believe in. There are times when it’s safe to go along with the crowd, but there are also times when we need to branch out on our own. Don’t be afraid to do that.
Christian, wife, mother of 5, breast cancer survivor, marathon finisher, writer and editor, author of "Help! I'm a Science Project"