There is a difference between pretending like everything is okay, putting on a front and being genuinely joyful. I’m talking about having an unmatchable lust for life and for the Kingdom.
With every small act of faith you will be rewarded. I am reminded of this verse: “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20
My favorite building in the world (right now), the Flatiron Building, was actually envisioned and designed by architect Daniel Burnham, who worked with The Fuller Company until its completion in 1902. Unfortunately, even after working to put a dream into practice, the CEO of the company who bought the land in the 1800’s was not able to see the finished product before he died. Nevertheless, because of Fuller’s vision and investment, millions of people are able to enjoy his handiwork today.
I could study and draw this building for years, and I have, and I always find a new architectural element that fascinates me. One of my favorite things to do in the city is to sit on the chairs in Madison Square Park across from the Flatiron Building (probably with a cup of coffee in hand) and just thank God that these beautiful landmarks still stand here today.
This past Sunday, I completed the longest run of my life (by a long-shot), a marathon. As physically taxing as 26.2 miles sounds to some, so much of your experience comes from months of training beforehand both physically and mentally.
So many people I know talk about “The Wall.” This mental block that comes somewhere usually between the 18-24 mile marker (I know, 24 miles, I still laugh in disbelief at myself). By the grace of God, I didn’t hit “The Wall.” Maybe it was because I exaggerated in my head how exasperating it would be for me, maybe it was the killer playlist (definitely was the playlist), or maybe it’s becuase I walked when I felt like it (muscle cramps always get the best of you, amirite?). Most importantly, I learn how to train my mind to anticipate and counteract any sort of struggle that would come my way.
Running a marathon is more than just finishing a race that is 26.2 miles. It’s saying that you have the mental toughness to accomplish anything, even when it hurts, even when it sucks. It’s being able to say “yes” to things you don’t feel like doing and saying no to things you would rather do. It’s not shying away from the hard things in life. That is why I go the distance.
When you finish a marathon, you’re training your mind for life. It sounds weird, it sounds cliche, but all my friends who have run marathons are some of the bravest, toughest people I know. So many trials you face in life are overcome by months of preparation beforehand; and I’ve personally learned that by running long distances. A lot of people have recently asked me how to train for a half marathon, so I’ve attached a handy little “schedule” to follow (and a link to some fresh AF workout music if you need some new jam suggestions). Note that this schedule is just a suggestion and everyone trains differently for each and every run, this is what I know works for me! The most important thing is to listen to your body and not over do it. Train smarter, not harder.
The waiting and timing of promises can be frustrating, especially when there are many unknown factors. I was reading through Isaiah this morning when it hit me that God is an artist, a creative, and a creator. (Something you always know but you see it differently some days).
He formed each and every one of us uniquely and with love. He has painted and fashioned a beautiful life for us; and all of His promises for us are ours when we choose Him and let the Holy Spirit guide us every day. Imagine an art studio, where understudies watch a seasoned master paint. The artist isn’t finished, but the students don’t know that. The artist begins to pack up for the day, clean his brushes and the students say, “so that’s it? Are you done?” The artist then replies “My work is not yet finished, and I will be back tomorrow to paint again.” Unlike the artist, the creator, the students cannot see the end vision, they cannot see the complete and beautiful painting.
How is that different when we question God’s artistry and orchestration of our lives? Isaiah 45:9 says “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter ‘what are you making?’…” (NIV).
While we are on this journey called life, trying to fulfill His purpose for the Kingdom, we need to have faith in His timing. I had this vision, where I find myself on this road trip, in the back seat of a car (probably a G-Wagon becuase this is, after-all, my daydream); and God is driving. We are in the middle of the desert, and I find myself asking God “Are we there yet?” “Have we close to our destination?” “Are we out of the desert?” “Have we reached The Promised Land?” Meanwhile, He’s driving the car, turns around and says “We will get there in time, trust me.”
God’s timing is not our timing. When you feel yourself unfulfilled by the promises of God, know that you aren’t finished with your journey yet. Trust God on the windiest of roads, and know that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion…” (Philippians 1:6). Don’t be weary in your well doing.
To be frank, I reflect on my life and sometimes feel underwhelmed with my accomplishments. I feel like my life is at a stand still, nothing is happening and the world can just move on without missing what I have to offer.
As I read more of other’s success stories, learn more about how thought leaders have overcome challenges, and study the lives of entrepreneurs; I find that it is the spirit of resilience that has carried them through seasons of stillness. They are resilient, knowing that endurance is a direct byproduct of challenge. One of my favorite speakers, Bianca Juarez Olthoff, states it beautifully in her new book, Play With Fire (which, I totally recommend buying and reading immediately if you want to learn anything about dealing with frustration). “We all go through desert seasons and have the opportunity to determine how we will respond.” It is in our hands how we react to stillness and frustrations in our lives. One of my favorite excerpts in Romans to recite when I feel like I’m losing my nerve comes from Chapter 5. “…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (NIV).
In my mind I know I want to impact lives in some way, but I don’t know what that looks like just yet and it is beyond frustrating at times. Be on the lookout (or, as my mother likes to say “BOLO”) for areas where there is room for growth, and areas where you already have grown. Having the ability to identify what skills you gain as a result of being tried and tested is of upmost importance. Plus, it is a source of encouragement.
New York is more than just a place I live. It is a place that lives me energy in times of exhaustion, it gives me hope when I feel burnt out. Just exploring the streets gives me peace. As I walk through the city in the snow, I am reminded that every season of life, no matter how bleak or how bitter cold it is, can and will come to an end. “There is a time for everything: and He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiasties 3, Kylie Translation).
With every trial and frustration, comes strength. With strength, responsibility. With responsibility, wisdom. (And…. probably more trials). The key is to find the challenge in everyday, and turn it into a learning experience that you can leverage as you move onto your next season in life. Capitalize on these trials: know that what you are going through will absolutely prepare you for what is coming next. Everyone, everything, and every day has value and a purpose. You just have to look for it.
Most times it is easier for us to imagine what our life would be like without actually having to work for it. You catch yourself saying “wouldn’t it be nice…” or “I’m too busy to…” or “someday when I have…” or my personal favorite (aka most often used phrase), “once I have the money to…” Sound familiar? Welcome to my every day life.
There has always been and there will always be circumstances around me that try and challenge me, belittle me, and make me feel like I am not good enough to accomplish something. These hypothetical circumstances contribute to a negative thought pattern that is not only unhealthy, but also preventing me personally from turning my dreams into practice.
You see, if we are not careful, our dreams can remain that: just dreams. Who said that you aren’t good enough? Who said that you don’t have the time, the money or the experience to set goals and go after them? Yes, you will have to sacrifice in other areas of your life to accomplish what you want to. Yes, it will be hard. Yes, you will have to say no to many other things (distractions). But at the end of the day, you have to start somewhere.
A friend had once given me a greeting card that says ” ‘Begin Anywhere’ -John. Cage.” It has been tacked on my wall for about a year now, but it just hit me a different way when I looked at it the other day. As you can see, I am really into writing. I have always wanted to write with and own a fountain pen. I now own one, but it has been sitting in the box for the past few months. Until today, I had not ever opened the pen, for fear the ink would get everywhere, my calligraphy wouldn’t be the perfect typography, silly things like that. If I never opened the box, if I never tried out the pen, if I never practiced writing my name in cursive a few times, I may have let the pen sit there in the box. Unused. Until the ink expired.
Don’t let the fear of not being good enough or messing up stop you from even trying something to begin with. A devotional app I use said this “Do you hide your talents, gifts, and abilities? Put your light on a stand and let everyone benefit from the light you give off.”
You can begin anywhere, but you can’t begin everywhere. You must pick and choose what areas in your life you want to win, and what areas in your life you will sacrifice. Most importantly, be brave enough to start, becuase you never know who will need to hear what you have to say. If we are going to make the most of every day we are here, we cannot afford to remain neutral. The motivation and determination to start – it’s IN you.
So don’t let your dreams be just dreams.