When Striving Towards Your Goal Feels Like a Marathon

There is no doubt that medical school sometimes feels like a marathon. There are moments of high energy and exhilaration. There are also moments when we feel like we are running out of fuel. The pace is fast, intense and requires consistent focus. If there is anything I am learning, it is absolutely necessary to take moments to slow down, reflect and catch our breath. Why are we doing this in the first place? Do we still have our eyes on the finish line? Are we taking time to enjoy the scenery as we run the race?

This week I felt exhausted from all the demands of medical school and family life. I woke up this morning feeling mentally and emotionally tired. I went before God in prayer asking for strength that only He can give. As I opened my Bible, I came across verses that immediately encouraged me and reminded me that it’s ok to feel weak sometimes. It’s ok to fall on our knees, hang our head and call out for some help. In that moment, we just need to take stock of the attitudes permeating our hearts and minds, and lift our head back up to keep our eyes fixed firmly on our prize. We will get to the end of the race and reach our goals in due time!

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

I press on towards the goal…” Philippians 3:14

Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances” I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Photo credit: http://www.towpathmarathon.net/

Five Benefits of Venturing Outside Your Comfort Zone

It’s rarely easy doing something that we are not accustomed to. It can make us feel uncomfortable and unsure of ourselves. This week I was reminded that venturing outside our comfort zone is actually good for us. It can increase our confidence and help us achieve things we would never have thought we were capable of.

This past week, I had the pleasure of being part of a great team that led over 60 kids aged between 4 and 12 during our church annual summer camp. The theme for this year was ‘Cave Quest’ and many of the activities dealt with geology concepts such as stalactites, stalagmites, snottites and geodes. I was tasked with the role of running the “Imagination (Science) Station” during which I would run various experiments with the children.

Now I have to say that prior to the camp I felt rather intimidated by the sheer number of kids that we would be looking after as well as the fact that I had never done a summer camp before nor did I have much knowledge about geology. I would have felt much more at ease talking about biology or chemistry. But geology? I simply felt clueless. The fact that my team and the kids were depending on me forced me to do my research and come up with some inventive ways to demonstrate the experiments.

Through the course of the week, I went through a myriad of emotions from exhaustion to frustration to amazement to appreciation to gratitude! It was difficult to do something outside of my comfort zone and there were times when I felt I was not doing a good job. But each day, the excited faces of the children with their energy, curiosity and thirst for knowledge, made me feel so privileged to be part of the team doing sports, sharing about the wonders of science as well as the love of Jesus.

This week surely reminded me of the importance of stepping outside of our comfort zone from time to time. The benefits are many:

  1. Growth and perseverance: doing something you are not familiar with stretches you and forces you to use your mind and body in ways that you’re not used to. The result is a stronger, more resilient person who can take on even greater challenges.
  2. Builds relationships: having been in the trenches with the kids and other leaders for five full days in a row, I got to know more about them and to build some amazing friendships.
  3. Expands your horizons: I remember somewhat grumbling to myself when I saw what the theme for the summer camp was….geology? Boring! I don’t know anything about that! But having researched and then explained the concepts to the kids, I learned some truly fascinating things!
  4. Builds your confidence: Having successfully managed to “survive” the summer camp, I feel much more confident to take on  new things and not to be intimidated by my lack of knowledge on a subject. There are so many resources to learn new things!
  5. Meets a need: No matter how uncomfortable or incompetent you may feel at something, if you give it your best and put in the required effort, you will make a difference in someone’s life, maybe even leave a permanent mark on their hearts and minds.

Don’t be afraid to try something new! Don’t let discomfort hold you back! There is a learning curve for everything and with time and effort, you will eventually succeed!

Living a Life of Purpose and Vision

I read an inspiring blog post last week on the importance of the vision we have for our lives. What really motivated me about this post was the challenge to focus on and apply your vision on a daily basis.

Most of us have goals in mind. Some of them may require months if not years of effort to achieve. But what do we do in the mean time? How do we tackle life on a day-to-day basis? Our vision is not just limited to that goal we want to achieve at some point in the future. It is a daily experience that can help us to keep our focus and to live more fulfilled, purposeful lives.

This post asks us to consider three words that describe your vision. I had a hard time narrowing it down to just three words so I decided to come up with 3 concepts that encompass my vision for how I want to live my daily life. Try this exercise for yourself and see what words you come up with, particularly if you are grappling with a lack of direction or purpose at this present moment:

  1. Positive Attitude and Gratitude: On a daily basis, I am aiming to focus on the positive side of my circumstances and to reflect on a few things that I am grateful for. Today, it was simply the beautiful, crisp, fresh snow that I woke up to in the morning. It was breathtaking.  As I folded my children’s laundry, I looked at my son’s bright red Cars T-shirt and my daughter’s favorite rabbit shirt and contemplated the gift of having two beautiful children in my life.
  2. Excellence, Discipline and Perseverance: In my current stage of life, my main focus is child-rearing and family life. Having had a professional career prior to this, there are days when dishes and laundry can seem mundane. Does it really matter if I try to keep the kitchen tidy? Who’s going to notice anyway? I’m realizing though that it’s not so much about the tidiness level as to the heart behind it and the effort put in. If I keep in the habit of giving every task I undertake my very best (no matter how menial it may seem), I am training myself to give my best in all areas of my life, including my future goals. This requires discipline and perseverance. There are days it is difficult and I fall short. But I have to get back up and try my best, no matter what the task is.
  3. God and Faith: I grew up in a Christian environment and culture in Africa so faith is an important part of who I am. I find that daily devotions and quiet time to sing, pray, read and reflect are nourishing to my soul and remind me that I am not facing life on my own strength but with One who is greater than I am.

I found this exercise in defining ‘daily vision’ quite enlightening because it helped me to identify a general approach to life which can be applied to any future goal, be it living a more healthy lifestyle, starting a new project or simply dealing with the daily stresses and hassles of life.

Once you have identified your vision, the next exercise is to think about how people feel when they spend time with you. What impact do you want to have on their lives? I will share what I personally came up with in a subsequent post. Thank you for reading and I hope you are that much closer to thinking about how you want to experience your daily life!

(Thank you to Dax Murphy for his motivational post that inspired me to write this!)

Crossing the Bridge of Forgiveness

Today marked the fourth week of our study on the “40 Days of Love“. This week’s topic tackled the challenging issue of demonstrating love through forgiveness. We have all experienced hurt in our lives in some shape or form and it can be so difficult to get past it, to forgive and move on. What does forgiveness entail?

As difficult as this can be to do, especially when we are going through hurt and disappointment, forgiveness means letting go of the desire to get even, responding with kindness and not keeping a record of that wrong. The hardest part about forgiveness is that we are called to keep on forgiving even when the offense is repeated!

Forgiving is NOT minimizing the seriousness of an offense. In choosing to forgive someone of a wrong, we are not saying that what they did was of no consequence or was justified. The pain is real and it’s important that this is acknowledged. Once we have forgiven a person, what’s next? Candid communication, willingness to change negative behaviors and time are needed to rebuild and regain the trust of the person who has been hurt.

I am learning that forgiveness is a decision. We decide to move past the hurt and avoid falling into the trap of resentment and bitterness. In looking through the lens of forgiveness, we actually begin to see the hurt that the other person is going through. When people lash out or hurt us, they are often going through something difficult themselves, which gets taken out on others. Part of the healing between both parties is acknowledging the hurt on both sides, letting it go and moving towards reconciliation. This can be very difficult to do in some situations, but vital to the healing process.

Why forgive? Aside from the release and freedom it gives our souls, it shows a humility that we too are imperfect and need forgiveness.

Week 4 Challenge: Is there someone who needs your forgiveness? Try to work towards letting go of any resentment or bitterness towards that person.

“Love…keeps no record of wrongs” 1 Cor. 13: 5

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…” Luke 6:27-28

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another…” Col. 3:13

 

 

Loving People Enough to Tell Them the Truth

Today began the third week of our study on ‘40 Days of Love‘. Today’s topic was one of the most challenging topics so far! How to have a loving confrontation…to speak the truth in love. I am personally not a confrontational person. I prefer to keep the peace and not rock the boat.  But I have been reminded that love is not just about warm feelings or happy smiles. It is also about facing hard truths and being able to impart that to someone else in a respectful but honest fashion.

How does one approach someone in order to tell them a difficult truth? It is certainly a scary proposition. We may worry how our message will be received, what the other person will think, whether we will be rejected or whether the relationship will end. But the reality is that in looking out for the other person, and in genuinely loving them, it may be a risk we have to take. Yes, the friendship may end…but it may also be a turning point for that person by showing them something in their lives that is negative or destructive. Or it may bring the relationship to a deeper level knowing they can trust you to tell them what’s on your mind.

Speaking the truth in love is one of the hardest things to do because we have no control over the outcome. But we can find ways to direct the conversation in a loving and respectful way through our tone of voice, body language, by recognizing our own inherent weaknesses, and by affirming how much you care for that person regardless of the current situation.

Week 3 Challenge: It can be a challenge to confront someone with a difficult conversation. But it could also be a positive turning point for the relationship if done in a respectful manner without being judgmental. Is there someone you need to speak to about your frustration or about their behavior?

Love…rejoices with the truth” 1 Corinthians 13:6

Love in Action…How to Become a Kinder Person

Today started off the second week on the series ‘40 Days of Love‘ and it challenged us even more to live a life of love towards other people. Sometimes fear limits our ability to extend love and kindness. How will my actions be perceived by the other person? What if I get hurt? What if this affects my reputation? What if this delays my personal goals? What if this interrupts my plans?

These are valid fears and I have struggled with these at different points in my life. My hope is that we can get to a point where it becomes less about us and our comfort but more about other people. Difficult but achievable!

The lesson gave us 3 take home points to try and put into practice:

  • Sensitivity: How sensitive are we to the needs of those around us? Do we open our eyes and really observe what is going on with people around us? How is your neighbor, colleague, spouse, child, parent, classmate doing?
  • Sympathy: Once we have identified a need, how willing are we to engage the person to find out more? How ready are we to listen wholeheartedly without being distracted?
  • Spontaneity: Once we know the whole story, how willing are we to get into action and do something about it? Are we ready to drop what we are doing? Are we willing to sacrifice and go through some inconvenience to help the other person?
Image courtesy of indiabright.com
Image courtesy of indiabright.com

The lesson also drew from the example of the Good Samaritan. It was really eye-opening to break down the story in detail:

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead…a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ Luke 10.

What can we learn from this story?

  • The Samaritan saw the need, he sympathized, and he acted spontaneously. There was no procrastination.
  • He sacrificed of his time, money and even his own safety to take care of a stranger
  • He used whatever he had with him (wine and oil, possibly his own clothing as bandages) to attend to the wounds of the stranger. Sometimes we don’t think we have what it takes to help someone else but there is always something we can do, no matter how small.
  • He promised to follow up on the stranger at a later date. Follow-up is important as sometimes a person’s need is continuous and does not disappear in a day.

Week 2 Challenge: Identify a need that you can assist with in your community, work place or school. Again, the focus is not to expect something in return.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” 1 John 4:18

One Thing Remains…Your Love Never Fails

As I was having my devotional time today, I sang a song at the piano that I learned a few weeks ago during music practice. The words of this song remind me of God’s unfailing love towards me. The words are so powerful as to induce a sense of confidence that nothing can ever separate us from His love. It also makes me think of the binding love between people, a parent and child, a husband and wife, couples, siblings, friends, family. The enduring sense that no matter what, this love is never giving up.

One Thing Remains (Your Love Never Fails)

Verse 1

Higher than the mountains that I face

Stronger than the power of the grave

Constant in the trial and the change

One thing remains

One thing remains

Chorus

Your love never fails, it never gives up, never runs out on me

Your love never fails, it never gives up, never runs out on me

Your love never fails, it never gives up, never runs out on me

Your love

Verse 2

On and on and on and on it goes

It overwhelms and satisfies my soul

And I never ever have to be afraid

One thing remains

One thing remains

Bridge

In death, in life, I’m confident and covered by

The power of Your great love

My debt is paid, there’s nothing that can separate

My heart from Your great love

Words and music by Brian Johnson, Jeremy Riddle and Christa Black Gifford

I hope you enjoyed the lyrics and the video below (I particularly like this version because of the piano intro and prominent bass line).