Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Uncompromised Potential

I’ve had an identity crisis over the past several months. I felt as if I was losing a part of myself that I deeply love. Since I was in middle school, I’ve identified myself as a runner. But since this past summer, I’ve struggled with running for some reason. Sometimes I would go out for a casual run and have trouble going 3 miles. I couldn’t figure out. But I felt like I was no longer a runner. And it was depressing.
I missed Mary the Marathoner. I moped and whined and pitied the lesser person I was without her. I saw other runners trotting along and envied them. I worried that I would never again find that piece of myself.
And then on Thanksgiving morning I met up with some friends for a self-organized Turkey Trot. They were planning to go for a somewhat long run, and I told them that I would probably just do the first half of it with them (thinking I probably couldn’t last longer than about 4 miles). It was a chilly morning, but sunny and beautiful for a pre-feast run. We all chatted away as we ran along the Willamette River. Before I knew it, we had run 4 miles. And I was feeling good. We decided to go all the way downtown, across the Hawthorne Bridge and back to our starting point in Sellwood. After nearly an hour and a half, we had run 9 miles! I couldn’t believe I actually ran 9 miles! It had been so long since I had done that. I hardly thought I was capable of doing that anymore.
It felt amazing. And just like that, my identity as a runner was restored. Since then, I have gone for several 5- and 7-mile runs, and felt great! Maybe all I needed was one good run to prove to myself that I am, in fact, a runner. I just needed a little confidence boost.
Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of who you really are, and what you are truly capable of.  Potential: it’s a loaded word; a combination of uncertainty and possibility (even probability!). Seeing a person not reach their full potential is quite tragic. It’s all-too-common in this day in age, and it’s heart-breaking. The homeless person on the street who is in fact an amazing chef; the Syrian refugee who was once an oral surgeon; the inner-city kid who dropped out of high school before graduation; the adult who is too scared to step out of their comfort zone.
Undiscovered abilities. Suppressed talents. Lost potential.
We’re each unique in our own wonderful ways – it’s the beauty of the human race! There are a million differentiators that make you who you are. You have unique skills, hobbies and talents that help create your identity. You wouldn’t be the same without one or another. Maybe you’re an amazing mom, or an inspiring motivational speaker, or you have an exceptional eye for design, or you know how to give just the right advice or counseling to those who need that support. Don’t hold out. Embrace it and lean into that beautiful part of yourself. Don’t let one of those wonderful pieces of yourself slip away or go unnoticed. Maybe you used to be something – an avid runner, an elegant dancer, a compelling writer, and romantic husband, a loving daughter, a brave adventurer – but you feel as if that piece of you is gone or slipping away. Don’t let it go! Hold onto it or rediscover it and take back that wonderful piece of your identity that makes you feel more like you. Or maybe you’ve witnessed or are witnessing someone fall away from their true self. Encourage them! Maybe all they need is a confidence boost.
Nobody becomes a runner without working at it. And nobody runs a marathon without a certain amount of confidence in themselves and the runner they know they can be… and a whole lot of support and encouragement from those cheering them on from the sidelines.
Steadfast Prayer
This prayer was part of my church service for youth seniors when I was graduating from high school. I have it hanging on a wall in my room because I love it so much…
May you be alive to the wonder with which God fills your every day.
May your friends now and henceforth accept you as you are while challenging you to become more.
May you never be without a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, someone with whom to pray.
May you never be comfortable being anyone less than the fullness of who God created you to be.
May you walk the line between joy and grief that this world of blessings and hardships demands.
May your laughter and your tears be free.
May you live up to the uncompromised potential that will lead you to work mighty works, to speak needed truths, and to grow more towards God’s hopes.
May your dreams walk with you wherever you go.
May the sound of God walking with you fill your being.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Christmas Spirit

Once a year for one month, it's in the air.  You can't hold it or touch it.  You can't quite put your finger on it.  But it's definitely there.  Christmas Spirit.  Isn't it wonderful?  Don't you just love Christmas spirit?  I think it is the reason why I look forward to this time of year so much.  People are simply friendlier.  They are kinder.  They smile more.  They are quicker to lend a hand or help another person out.

But why is that?  What is it about the holidays that has the ability to transform people?  Are we trying to impress someone?  Or prove something?  Is it guilt?  Do we feel bad for being a bit self-centered the other 11 months of the year?  Maybe the idea of having to please a big jolly guy with a white beard in the North Pole in order to receive gifts has stuck with us since childhood.

Yesterday morning I was serving breakfast at the Blanchet House like I do every Tuesday morning.  A group of women was there to help serve as well.  We had more volunteers than usual, almost more than we needed.  I thought about leaving so that there weren't "too many cooks in the kitchen", but decided to stay.  Blanchet is a much needed weekly experience for me.  Almost like a ritual.  Almost like my church.  I chatted with the group of women and asked if it was their first time at Blanchet.  It was.  I asked them what brought them here.  They said they are looking for different ways to serve during the month of December.  It must be their way of spreading Christmas Spirit.  They helped serve nearly 300 meals to the less fortunate in our community that morning.  And they did it with a smile on their face.  Their service was much appreciated and I'm sure they spread Christmas Spirit to many people who came in for a hot meal.

Afterwards, I was eating breakfast with one of the Blanchet residents, Vic, and he commented on how many people want to help serve around Thanksgiving and Christmas.  He said that one guy asked if he and his family could help out by serving meals on Thanksgiving or Christmas day.  And this was Vic's response: "If you really want to help out, pick a Tuesday in March to come serve.  That's when we really need people."

His response caught me off guard a little bit.  But how honest and true it is!  As wonderful as it is to consciously make an effort to help others out during the holiday season, there are endless needs surrounding us throughout the year.  What if we really could spread the Christmas Spirit year around?!  What if the love, joy and cheerfulness of the holidays continued 365 days a year?
So I encourage you to find ways to help others out during this holiday season.  Volunteer at a local soup kitchen; connect with a child or family that could use a little support; donate your time or money to an organization that is making a difference.  But more so, I encourage you to continue doing that into the new year, and all the way through next Christmas!  Don't leave the Christmas Spirit behind once December is over.  Approach every day with the same generosity and kindness we all have during the joyful holiday season.