Glaciers, Relationships and Religion

Glacier

Finding a Glacier

“What’s one thing you really want to do in Alaska this summer?” I asked Pedro before our trip started.

“Walk on a glacier,” he replied.

“Awesome! I already have that on my list of fifty fun firsts. Too bad you won’t turn fifty until after we get back,” I teased, “otherwise you could add it to your list.” Of course, I only remembered seeing one glacier in Alaska when I worked there 34 years ago, but Alaska had to have more than one glacier!

Our first weekend in Alaska, our hosts suggested a trip to Kennecott—an old copper mining town at the foot of a glacier. After checking online, I discovered that a short hike would take us to the toe of Root Glacier. Even better, the source said we could just walk out onto the glacier. Perfect!

The National Parks Service owns Kennecott these days, and the surrounding area belongs to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park—the largest National Park in the United States. We arrived a little after noon, and took in two movies at the visitor’s center whilst waiting for the rainstorms to blow over.

Once the rain let up we set off for the glacier. Pedro and Sarah got ahead of me because I kept stopping to snap photos of flowers, waterfalls and ruins tucked into the greenery. In less than a half an hour, we arrived at the bottom of the moraine (a huge pile of rocks that the glacier deposits as it recedes) and the blue ice of the glacier loomed in front of us. (more…)

Five Tips for Learning to Forgive the Jerk at Work

 forgive

How long should it take us to forgive?

Years ago my sister-in-law organized a pool party for Sarah’s sixth or seventh birthday. We lived about four hours away, and planned to visit them during a vacation—which also happened to include Sarah’s birthday.

I enjoyed the break from party planning, and appreciated the fact that my sister-in-law went out of her way to find two little boys to come to the party. The boys and their parents had gone to church with us when the kids were younger, but had moved away to the same city as my sister- and brother-in-law before we got to know them really well.

When I told Sarah that the boys would be at her party, she immediately piped up, “I don’t like Joey.” (more…)

Hype only Builds Hysteria

Hype only builds hysteria

Hysteria has been around for a long time, and the end results remain the same. It starts when fear raises its ugly head, looks around and tries to convince someone else to join a fight. It acts as a smokescreen to a person’s sense of inadequacy. It ends in someone getting hurt.

Hysteria acts as a smokescreen to a person's sense of inadequacy. Click To Tweet

Hysteria makes no pretenses—it never claims to be reasonable or logical. Take for example what happened in Detroit in the 1920s, when black professionals tried to break the color line and purchase houses in a ‘white’ section of town.

Whites, worried that their property values would drop (a collusion of the local bankers and Realtors® ensured that this would happen), formed community improvement societies to run any black homeowners out of town (you can read more in the book Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle).

Because someone arbitrarily decided that property values depended on the color of the owner’s skin, normally reasonable folks joined the KKK and did all they could to drive out anyone who didn’t match their skin color.

I grew up mostly in the western part of the United States, and figured that prejudice had died with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Wrong. When we started shopping for our first house in the late 80s, the Realtor® steered us to another part of town when I inquired about less expensive options. “That part of town is a little dark,” she explained.

“I thought it had fewer shade trees than that other section,” I demurred. “It looked perfectly sunny to me.”

“No,” she coughed and sputtered a bit, “I can’t really say more.”

“I don’t get it,” I answered.

She muttered under her breath, clearly uncomfortable and wishing she hadn’t brought the topic up, “It’s mostly blacks and Hispanics on that side of town.”

I wish now that I would have responded with a pithy comeback such as, “We ought to fit right in—remember, our last name is Ojeda,” or, “Isn’t it illegal to discriminate in housing and isn’t that what you’re doing by calling that part of town ‘dark?’” but I didn’t. My brain doesn’t operate well under shock.

Only now, 27 years later, when hysteria seems to be choking the brains out of normal people, do I see that I should have reacted with kindness and gently spoken to the lady on her racism. In fearing to offend, I’ve contributed to the problem by my silence.

I don’t think we need to build hysteria or jump on any bandwagons. Right now the pointy fingers of outrage might be pointed at police officers. Tomorrow, it could be pointed at you. Those pointy fingers connect to shaking hands that desperately want to hide some inadequacy.

Face it, we are all terribly, terminally human. We all have much to learn and many roads to travel. We can travel through the adrenalin-pumping hype of hysteria, or we can thoughtfully, inquisitively build each other up as travel along.

 

Glaciers, Goals and Goats in Banff National Park

goatsGlaciers, Mountain Goats and Goals

As part of my fiftieth celebration, I created a list of fifty fun firsts for my fiftieth year.  This summer, Pedro and I headed to Alaska to visit Sarah. Along the way, we plan on experiencing as many things from the list as possible. Under the category of ‘Places to Visit,’ Banff National Park topped the list.

We arrived at Banff National Park in between rainstorms on the first day of summer. Ever since I saw a picture of Lake Louise with towering mountains seeming to rise from the shores of the Caribbean-green waters, I’ve wanted to visit. The mountains rose out of green forests and wildflower covered swaths next to the highway like silent fortresses.

We passed Lake Louise without stopping to visit after our foray into Banff to purchase gas. The quaint town sports Swiss-village architecture, narrow streets and corner gas stations built on lots smaller than our not-so-very-big house. Not an ideal place to fuel up whilst towing a trailer—we decided instead to pick a random hike from our Milepost travel guide and wave at Lake Louise as we drove by.

The overlook at Bow Lake looked as beautiful as any photo I’ve ever seen of Lake Louise—unfortunately, the pull out area had already filled up, so we drank in the views as we drove by. Around 1:30 we arrived at the Parker Ridge Trailhead, which our guidebook claimed would take us to the top of a ridge with views of the Saskatchewan Glacier in a three-hour round trip hike.

I managed to keep my camera in my bag until we reached the top of the ridge (not knowing how long the hike would actually take, I didn’t want to spend time photographing every little flower on the way up). We hiked beyond the ridge in order to get better views of the glacier, wildflowers and a see-the-bottom-clear turquoise lake. I hoped to see mountain goats as well, but had to content myself with photos of Columbian ground squirrels and least chipmunks. no goats

 

On the way down, I snapped photos of the wildflowers and contemplated the Creator who formed beauty for every ecosystem. The highest and lowest points often require the closest observation in order to not overlook the delicate beauty that flourishes in the seemingly hostile environments.

When on mountaintops, we tend to look out over the sweeping vistas and forget to notice the miniscule, in-the-moment blessings at our feet. Likewise, whilst walking through the desert places we focus on the heat, the discomfort and the need to just escape. I’ve learned that the desert floor has beauty and purpose, too.

We made it to the truck right before the skies started spitting. After consulting our Milepost guidebook, we decided that we would only try to make it to Grand Prairie—79 miles short of our morning’s stated goal. The four-mile hike to the top of the world provided a worthwhile trade-off.

As I read through the Milepost, I came across a warning to watch out for stopped motorists at mile 233.7—where drivers often slowed down or stopped to view and photograph mountain goats. For years I’ve wanted to get great photos of mountain goats but never had success. I’ve climbed multiple mountains in Montana in hopes of getting a great shot, but whilst some lucky people have gotten fabulous photos with their cell phones, the mountain goats always stayed out of reach for my telephoto lens.

“What’s that?” Pedro exclaimed. I looked up from my guidebook perusal and there, ahead of us on the side of the road we could see a small herd of mountain goats. He joined the other tourists who pulled over and slowed down whilst I grabbed my camera and snapped away. We counted four adults, three babies and two teenagers munching grass and flowers on the side of the road. The smallest kid still had its dried-up umbilical chord attached.mountaingoat mountaingoat-5 mountaingoat-4

We followed the herd as they ambled towards an area with white cliffs. The smallest goat bleated a time or two as it frolicked in the clover. When the mama stopped to lick the earth for salt, the baby flopped down and started licking the ground, too, content to let remaining close to its mother be its only goal.

We couldn’t stop talking about the experience—a magical moment that required no work on our part. And then it struck me. My journey through life with Jesus leading me requires me to commit to the journey and then allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide me and bless me along the way. I don’t have to climb mountains and wear myself out seeking personal perfection—I just have to realize that God will bestow the blessings, gifts, and lessons as I need them.

To cap off the day’s drive, we saw three rainbows hovering beneath the mountains and enjoyed an hour-long sunset show as we drove through the dense forests along the Bighorn Highway.

I Want to be Like A Whale

want

Why Would Anyone WANT to be Like a Whale?

I quit dying my hair ten years ago, around the same time I quit wearing face powder, mascara (unless it’s a really special event) and eye shadow. I don’t have anything against hair dying and makeup, I just got tired of spending money on those things.

My sweet husband assured me that he loved my grey hair (of course, it took him nine years to acquire a few grey hairs of his own), didn’t mind wrinkles and preferred seeing my raw freckles.

After spending an hour last night off the coast of California on a whale-watching tour, I’ve decided that I want to be like a whale. According to Dale, the naturalist on the tour, each whale has a unique pattern on the underside of its tail that not only identifies it like a fingerprint, but it tells a tale of all it’s been through during its life. Most whales have chunks missing (thanks to hungry orcas) and scars that tell stories of fights for survival and close encounters with bigger, more dangerous things.

The crowd on the boat ooohed and awwwed each time the whale came to the surface near our boat. No one said, “Look at his scars and ugly parts.” Oh, if only we could all accept others, scars and missing pieces and all. But that accepting has to being with me accepting me. So, like a whale, I don’t want to hide my lumps and hard knocks and not so pretty parts and episodes. I want authenticity.

When I looked at my photos, I noticed something else—part of the pattern on the whale’s tail came from barnacles.

Barnacles live on whales. It’s called commensalism—the barnacles benefit from hanging on the whales, but they do no harm (or benefit) to the whale.

I always thought that barnacles caused problems—but I learned something new. I know some commensal people. They hang around and change my landscape a little, but they really do no harm. I want to have more patience with them.

I want to have more patience with the barnacles in my life. #fmfparty Click To Tweet

God might not have created me with the whale’s majesty and grace in the ocean, but he created me for a purpose. It’s my job to find that purpose and embrace it—barnacles, bumps and scars and all—and go out and make a difference for others.

Who’s in with me? We’ll have a whale of a time!

Ways to Celebrate the Big Five-O

five-o

The Big Five-O

About two months ago I decided that to celebrate the big five-o, I would create a list of fifty things I wanted to do during my fiftieth year. Finding fifty fun firsts has proved more difficult than I expected. Last night, I decided I’d better put pen to paper and come up with a definitive list (although I reserve the right to edit the list slightly as the year progresses) of things to do to celebrate my 50th birthday.

After all, I’ll only have a year to complete the fifty things—and as someone kindly pointed out, doing 50 things means doing about one new thing per week starting June 9, 2016 and ending on June 8, 2017. I decided to create five general categories of things to do: First Readings, First Visits, Physical Firsts, Creative Firsts, and Adventure Firsts.

First Readings:

Believe it or not, I need the titles of four more books to read. Finish Les Miserables by Victor Hugo sits at the top of my list. I started the book about ten years ago and I gave up at about page 896…so. many. bad. things. kept happening to the main character that I just couldn’t take it any more. I’ve seen the movie and the play, but I regret not finishing the book. I downloaded it today for free on my Kindle.

So, hit me with your favorite must-read titles.

First Visits:

I need two more places to visit—we’ll see the other eight places on my list whilst driving to Alaska this summer. This won’t be my first time to Alaska. I spent the summer I turned 16 working in Cooper’s Landing, Alaska, and earned my first driver’s license in Seward, Alaska. I also visited Kenai and Soldotna as well as Anchorage—so those places can’t go on my list.

This time, I won’t be flying to Alaska, so the stops along the way will all be new. So far, I want to camp inside the Arctic Circle, visit Lake Louise (in Canada), camp in the Yukon Territories, visit Waterton Lakes National Park, see Mt. Denali (McKinley), visit McCarthy, soak in Laird River Hot Springs, visit Chicken, Alaska (and re-read the book Tisha).

Any other ideas of places to stop and visit on our route?

Physical Firsts:

Completing a marathon, hiking the Grand Canyon from rim to rim in one day and beating my personal record for a half marathon top my list of physical challenges. I live in a one-grocery-store town, so learning new sports or taking dance classes wouldn’t work.

Maybe some of you could suggest some physical feats (long hikes or awesome mountain biking trails) that I could add to my list (I need five more).

Creative Firsts:

Part of my Life Plan for this year includes discovering ways to earn an income (hey, it doesn’t have to be a lot of income) from writing and photography. Needless to say, I filled my list of creative goals with specific steps for my writing and photography. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Adventure Firsts:

As an introvert, some of my adventure firsts might not seem that exciting to some of you. I want to take 10 students on an overnight mountain biking trip to Sedona and prepare 50 goodie bags to give to random homeless people—both really-hard-for-me to do things. I’d also like to kayak next to a glacier, watch a glacier calve (although after watching some on video, I don’t think I want to be caught in my kayak next to the glacier when this happens…), go canyoneering in Zion National Park, fly in a hot air balloon, hand write letters to 50 people I’ve never met, and backpack to Havasu Falls.

I still need one more crazy adventure—any ideas?

I didn’t think that hitting the big five-o would bother me, and for the most part, it doesn’t. But I do feel a sense of regret for all the things I haven’t accomplished yet that I would really like to do. Creating a Life Plan earlier this year helped me realize this and provided an impetus for committing to changes in my life that will help me accomplish some of those goals.

Life is a precious gift–one that we can easily fritter away instead of making it count.  I’m choosing to celebrate with intention.

Life is a precious gift. Celebrate it with intention! Click To Tweet

What kinds of plans and goals have you made for your year?

Finding Haven on Earth

havenI didn’t leave a letter out on this post’s title.  I really want to talk about finding haven on earth, not ‘heaven’.  Because, well, we won’t find heaven down here.  But we can find haven. Harbor. Port. Refuge. Favorable opportunities.

For me, a haven represents anything that brings peace to my soul.  Sometimes I find it in church when my voice raises with other congregants as we sing praises to our God and king. Other times, I find haven in the strangest places.

havenI laid on my stomach and drank in the dark blue of the Colorado River as it wandered slowly around Horseshoe Bend.  I inhaled the scent of dew-kissed desert rock in the cool morning air and adjusted my grip on the tripod.  As the sun rose behind me it lit the tops of the high canyon walls and sharpened their reflection in the water below.  I dared not shift too much, after all, I lay on the edge of a precipice that dropped 1000 feet down to the river below.  Haven.  A place to rest in safety and retreat to capture the beauty that God created.

haven at horseshoe bend

Later that afternoon, we lined up with a small tour group and followed Lennard, our tour guide, into the narrow confines of Upper Antelope Canyon.  I have seen photos of this magical place, but with the hundreds of tourists and their guides all visiting the same narrow slot canyon at the same time, I doubted I’d find any haven.haven

But I did.  I also discovered that in order record the stunning shafts of light shining in from above, tour guides kick of throw sand into the air.  The drafts of wind in the canyon pull the lighter debris upwards, and the light stands out like pillars.  Without the junk, we wouldn’t see the light.  Which reminds me of life.  Without the junk, we wouldn’t see the Light.

Without the junk, we wouldn't see the Light. Finding haven on earth. Click To Tweet

What about you?  What does ‘haven’ mean to you and where do you find it?

The Waif in the Grocery Store

waifI stood in front of the produce display, contemplating the relative merits of organic ‘still alive’ butter lettuce and prepackaged hearts of romaine when a quiet voice caught my attention.

“Excuse me, Ma’am, could you buy me and my friend some food?”

I turned to see who had voiced the strange request, and to whom the speaker had petitioned.

A skinny waif with short, spiky hair stood next to me. The store seemed empty except for another skinny boy who stood on the far side of the banana display, hidden under his black hoodie sweatshirt.

I stuttered. Not sure what to say. No one has ever asked me to buy food for them at a grocery store before.

“Um…you want me to buy you some food?” I replied. Brilliant answer.

“Yeah.” His hopeful brown eyes assured me that he hadn’t been joking. “We’re having some money problems and we don’t have any food in the house.”

“What can you cook?” I asked. And immediately second-guessed my response. It’s not like he was asking for money to go buy beer (my usual excuse for not giving handouts).

“I can make spaghetti, prepare macaroni and cheese, and grill steak,” he said.

“How about I buy you stuff to make spaghetti?” I asked. “You go get the bread, and I’ll find the spaghetti and sauce.” I pushed my cart towards the pasta aisle and wondered if he’d skip out. It takes a certain kind of bravery (or hunger) to approach a strange lady in a grocery store and ask her to buy you food.

I found pasta (the kind with whole grains and extra protein) and sauce and made my way back to the produce aisle so he could find me again. I found strawberries on sale and grabbed two containers. Kids need fruit. I figured he wouldn’t come back.

He did, and he brought a loaf of white bread with him.

“You can put it in the cart,” I said. “Do you like strawberries?” He nodded. My cart looked hopelessly empty and he looked really hungry. “Do you know how to fix potatoes?” I asked.

“I like to bake them and add butter and cheese,” he said.

I took off towards the dairy section, and he followed along. The other boy still lurked. “What kind of cheese do you like?” I said.
“Whatever you want to buy,” he assured me. “I really appreciate this.”

“Do you like burritos?” He nodded. My mind works in strange ways. You know, grated cheese, bean burritos…

I zipped back towards the produce section, where the tortillas hold court on the end of the aisle between Hispanic foods and towers of apples. “Have you ever tried these kind of tortillas?” I said, pointing to the whole-wheat variety we usually buy.

“No. But they look good and I’ll eat them.”

I grabbed two cans of refried beans and added them to the cart and headed towards the checkout line. “Wait. What about lettuce? Do you want some lettuce?” I asked.

“That would be good.” He backtracked and grabbed a head of iceberg. By this time I had no idea if I had gotten too much or too little. I couldn’t even remember what I had planned on buying for myself.

“What’s your name?” I finally asked.

“Jared.”

I didn’t ask more because we had reached the checkout line and I didn’t want to dent his dignity by asking all the questions that popped into my head. Questions like, Where are your parents? How many people are going hungry at home? You look like you’re in the 8th grade, am I right? Tell me more about your money problems. Should I be calling Child Protective Services?

We unloaded the groceries onto the conveyer belt and the cashier rang up Jared’s food. I tied the tops of his bags to keep them separate from mine.

“They charged you more than fifty cents for the mangoes,” he said.

I glanced at the cashier and then explained that the grocery store rings up the non-sale price and then at the end they add all the discounts.

“He’s learning to be a responsible shopper,” the cashier commented.

“That’s right.” I said as I finished paying and got ready to push our cart out. Before we reached the door, I stopped and handed him four bags of groceries. “Can you carry it all?” I wondered if black hoodie was his hungry friend.

“I can. Thank you so much,” he said again. “Do you want help carrying your groceries out?”

“No, I’m fine,” I said. “Have a good day.”

“You, too.”

I walked towards my car. When I finished loading my groceries, I saw black hoodie amble out of the store and turn left. Jared had disappeared in the opposite direction.

I drove home wiping my eyes and mentally kicking myself for all I didn’t say and all I didn’t buy. Now I’ll never know if black hoodie needed food, too.

The mangoes. He knew the sale price of mangoes.

I should have bought him mangoes.

Where have you met #Jesus lately? I met him in the produce aisle. http://wp.me/p2UZoK-1iY Click To Tweet

I’ve never lived so close to poverty, but one can’t avoid it when one lives in a one-grocery-store-town.  The signs and patrolmen out front keep the panhandlers at bay, but what does a kid do when school has closed for the summer and along with it the only hot meal some kids receive in a day. This isn’t the first time I’ve found a waif in town.  Last time, she was a toddler walking down the street behind the store. 

What I Wish Christians Understood about Cheer

cheerAre Kind Words Enough to Cheer Up an Anxious Person?

It says it right there in Proverbs 12:25, “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” Unfortunately, some Christians believe kind words can serve as the only antidote to anxiety. They can’t. Kind words provide a corollary, but we should never assume that they provide the only or best answer to anxiety.

Some #Christians beleive that kind words provide the antidote to #anxiety. They don't. Click To Tweet

I have a generally upbeat, happy-go-lucky sort of attitude, so it took me awhile to understand our daughter’s bouts of paralyzing anxiety. She would call me in the middle of the night, crying and scarcely unable to verbalize her symptoms. I would kneel by her bed and murmur soothing things to her and pray with her and help her breathe. Eventually, she would fall asleep and I would return to bed and toss and turn for the rest of the night, wondering what we had done wrong in raising her to produce such deep anxiety.

Our routine seemed to work. In hindsight, I should have taken her to a therapist. I come from a background and era where we avoided coffee, tea, alcohol, loud music and psychiatrists. At this point in my life (after coming alongside a daughter with panic attacks and experiencing life with a daughter with bipolar disorder) I understand how my ignorance and attitudes prevented them from finding help sooner.

A quick search on the Internet shows that therapy (and possibly medication) can alleviate panic attacks, anxiety, and panic disorders. Sometimes, the symptoms can have a physiological basis (heart problems, thyroid problems or hypoglycemia, caffeine or illegal stimulant use). Other times, stressful events can bring on periods of intense anxiety (those who suffer often experience the same symptoms of someone having a heart attack).

If you or someone you love suffers from anxiety or panic attacks, take action.

1. Offer kind words such as “Have you ever considered seeing a therapist to help you with your panic attacks? I’d be happy to go along with you if you need mortal support.”
2. Commit to praying for them and with them (scientists are currently studying whether or not intercessory prayer provides healing results).
3. Avoid phrases such as, “What’s wrong with you? You have a nice home and a great family” or, “So and so has it worse than you do, and he or she never seems anxious.” Only God knows how people are knit together. Guilting someone does not bring cheer.
4. Personal faith in God does not provide immunity from anxiety or panic—it CAN make it easier to overcome the symptoms with the help of therapy and medicine.
5. Never assume that anxiety or panic prove that a person’s faith is weak.

Does the Bible lie or contradict itself? No. That verse in Proverbs simply says that anxiety weighs down a heart, and kind words can cheer someone up. Sometimes, those kind words need to come from a professional who knows how to guide a person through the emotional minefields that comprise the knots of heavy anxiety that produce panic attacks.

So be kind. Get help if you need it without shame or self-recrimination or help someone you know get help.

What Would You Try if You Knew You Had Already Won?

already wonWhat Would You Try if You Knew You Had Already Won?

“What time are you hoping to run it in?” the well-dressed, silver-haired runner in front of me asked as we waited in the chill morning air near the front of our color group.

“I just want to make it up Doomsday Hill faster than I did last time,” I said with a shrug. “What about you?”

“I want to finish in under an hour and thirty minutes,” she said, as she looked down at her race bib.

“Is this your first time running Bloomsday?”

“It is!” She shook her head. “Can you believe I’ve lived in Spokane all my life and this is the first time I’ve ever run it?”

“Good for you!” Sarah said.

“I’m sixty years old now, so I decided I had time to train and run this crazy race.” The lady looked doubtfully at her bib number again. “Although I’m not sure what I’m doing up in this group!”

“Did you run in another race to qualify?” I asked.

“No, my friend is one of the organizers, and he asked me what time I thought I’d get. When I got my bib I was shocked to find myself in the yellow group!”

“You’ll do fine,” I assured her. And then I looked at my own bib and wondered how I had ended up in the yellow group. After all, the yellow group was the third group back from the starting line!

“Do you have any advice for a first time runner?” she asked.

“Don’t start too fast,” I told her. “That’s what I did last time and by the time I hit Doomsday Hill I didn’t have any energy left. I plan on keeping my pace slower at the beginning of the race. You know,” I added, “As soon as I cross the starting line, I’m already a winner.”

She looked at me quizzically. “Do you mean because you’re out here running?”

“Sort of. I’m pretty sure that I’ll come in first place for runners from Holbrook, AZ. And I know I’ll be the first runner with my last name, since no one else in the world has the same last name!”

She laughed at my joke (I love it when people get my strange sense of humor).

“I’ll probably place pretty well for people from Arizona, and most of all, I want to beat my time from before and finish strong.”

already won

Some fun stats from the first time I ran Bloomsday in 2013.

Right about then a friend I hadn’t seen since last year texted and let me know they had found a spot at the back of our color group. I turned to Sarah and her friend Deanna, “Do you guys mind moving to the back of the group?”

“No problem,” Sarah said. “They won’t start timing us until we cross the starting line, so it doesn’t really matter where we start.”

We wished our new friend good luck and made our way a half a block back to find our old friend—not an easy task in a crowd of 45,000 runners. By the time the race started, we had our strategy worked out—run together for the first mile, and then meet up on the bridge after the finish line afterwards.

As I ran, my own words rang in my head. “I’m already a winner.” It didn’t matter how fast I ran or whether or not I beat my old record. I had won because I showed up. Sure, I wouldn’t win the prize money (that was reserved for people who finished in less than half my time), but I showed up. I ran. I had fun.

As I neared Doomsday Hill, I had already conquered Government Way (one-third a mile at 4% incline) and Cemetery Hill (including one-third a mile at almost 5% incline) and covered 4.75 miles.

already won

Yes, there really is a vulture at the top of Doomsday Hill!

I had actually prepared this time around, by running up and down the stairs at school every Tuesday and Thursday during my hour-long playground duty (I usually put in 20-50 flights). I huffed and I puffed and I didn’t slow down. I ran up all three-quarters of a mile of the 6.5% grade. When I saw the giant vulture at the top of the hill, I knew for sure that I would finish the race.

When I crossed the finish line I found Sarah and some other friends, and we rejoiced in our accomplishment. I finished faster than I did three years ago, AND I made it up Doomsday Hill faster this time—in fact, I ran the hill faster than most of the rest of the race!

As I traveled home, I kept thinking about ways we win. I felt empowered to run because I knew I had already won for my town and my last name. Silly, maybe, but it sure took the pressure off because I had a reward in hand (ok, bragging rights can’t be held, but you know what I mean).

How many things do I avoid in life when I don’t try because I fear ‘losing?’

Yeah. That book proposal I fear finishing and mailing to an agent. That broken relationship I fear mending because I don’t want to feel rejection. That project I started and haven’t completed because I fear I won’t like the results.

Even worse, I deny my relationship with Christ with my negative thinking—after all, he promised to be with me always (Matthew 28:20). We know that we can do ALL THINGS through his strength (Phil 4:13). And through Jesus, we are promised victory over sin (1 Cor. 15:57) In other words, I’m already a winner. And so are you.

Don’t ever forget that you’ve already won when you follow Jesus.

What about you? Do you let fear prevent you from starting or finishing projects?