How to Finish: A Reminder for Myself

For the past five years or so, I’ve set yearly goals for myself. My goals vary each year. Some goals I hit and other goals get rolled over into the next year.

This year, I decided not to set any new goals because I was falling behind in finishing the ones I already set for myself. I wanted this year to be a year of finishing.

I was told by someone who had a big influence on my life, good and bad, “You never finish anything you start”.

To be honest, it struck a chord with me. I want to be a person that not only starts but finishes. And not just finishes but finishes strong. It is easy to start projects but finishing them takes grit and sheer determination. When you’re half way into your goal and growing weary, it’s easy to think, “Is this really that important?” Or “Why am I doing this again?” That’s when you have to dig deep.

As many of you know, I recently earned my black belt. But, when I was two months away from my test, I struggled to persevere. I was tired. I didn’t feel like I was ever going to become a black belt. The material felt like it only stayed in my short term memory. So, every time I trained I felt like I was starting at square one. It was frustrating and discouraging.

I felt like I hit a wall. I decided to take a moment away from training in order to pin point why I was struggling so much. I wrote down why I wanted my black belt, and why I started in the first place. One of the reasons was to prove to myself that I could finish and finish strong.

Sure enough, when test day came around, I felt ready. Why? because, I pushed through the days I didn’t want to train. I pushed through the excuses. And I pushed through training while fighting off a cold that kept coming back. I realized during those months that the mental battle was harder to overcome than the physical.

I once heard a marathon runner say that in order for him to finish a race, he had to look for outside motivation. Which makes sense why marathoners often raise money for charity. Or, they dedicate their race to a loved one.

As I thought about this I had two verses comes to mind:

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

And

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6

So, here are some points I needed to be reminded of when I’m growing weary and feel like I’m not going to finish my race:

1) I can do all things through Christ.

2) I am only required to run my race — not anyone else’s.

3) I am surrounded and cheered on by a great crowd of witnesses.

4) Jesus is a finisher and teaches His kids to finish through His example.

5) What Jesus has started in me, He will finish it.

So, if you’ve ever been told, “You can’t finish anything”,or maybe you’ve said that to yourself, I want to remind you, in your own strength you will fail and fall short. But we have a Father in heaven who doesn’t let His kids quit. He exemplifies what it means to finish and finish well.

What He started He will finish!

A Different Memory of Memorial Day

Memorial Day is forever seared in my memory for other reasons than taking the day to remember those who lost their lives. But before I go into this story, I want to thank the families of the men and women who did lay down their lives for my freedom. Their sacrifice gave me a choice. In my case, a choice to leave.

It was on Memorial Day exactly three years ago that I made a decision to literally uproot my life. Part of it felt like my choosing. The other part felt very much like a door slamming in my face. So forcefully, I could almost feel the wind on my face.

It took the morning and into the afternoon to get to myself into my office cubical. I knew no one would be there— which is why I was going in. However, I delayed going because I knew when I left my office that day, I would not return.

I scanned my badge for the last time and walked in the door I’d walked in and out of hundreds of times. I walked up to the third floor and down the hall to my cubical taking everything in.

I sat down at my desk and saw a note from my friend who had been transferred to another office while I was gone. Although I knew she’d be leaving her words of kindness brought me to tears. She had no idea I’d be leaving when she placed that note on my desk. Quite frankly, neither did I.

I didn’t know where to start clearing out my desk. How to you clear out nearly three years of correspondence, projects, productions, etc. How to you remove your own access from social media accounts, YouTube, Vimeo, the database and everything else I had full access to? But eventually I started—piece by piece, paper by paper, account by account.

About an hour or so in, my sweet roommate texted me and asked how I was.

“I can’t stop crying”. I wrote back

Within thirty minutes she arrived coffee in hand and helped me shred papers. As soon as I cleared my desk, sorted through and placed the necessary papers on my coworkers desk, I retrieved the email I had already typed up. I put in the contacts I needed in there including HR and clicked send. My resignation was sent. I took a sigh of relief, left my computer and badges on the desk turned around one more time to visualize what used to be my life and walked out. It was 2 am in the morning. After I left, I drove mindlessly for another hour or more. I can’t really tell you where I went that night, but driving wasn’t the easiest considering I had tears pouring out of my eyes.

You see, I never planned on leaving. And never without giving two weeks notice. I thought I would be there twenty years. But what had become clear to me is that there were too many unhealthy things going on. But even with all the craziness, I didn’t even think of leaving until I had multiple people I trusted tell me, “Christi, you need to leave. This situation is no longer healthy”. Never in my life have I ever been under anyone who made me doubt who I was and every action and thought I had. There were no boundaries.

I don’t need to go on. I’m pretty sure we will all met someone in our lives or worked at an organization at some point who fits the description above. I think a lot of it tends to be because they have unhealed wounds from their past. Someone may have treated them the way they may be treating you. I don’t know. But what I do know is that we all live in a broken world which means, we are ALL broken people. We will all hurt each other. The difference is that when we hurt each other, we should own it and then change from doing it again.

I write all this because this Memorial Day looks so different from the one three years ago. Today, I spent four hours training for my Black Belt Test. This Saturday is my test. It struck me today how far God’s helped me come.

From being so battered by someone’s words who told me, “You never finish anything”. To seeing one of the finishing lines right before me. So many times in training, it would feel like I wasn’t make any progress. But today, I took a moment to relish that I spent the day laughing not only with my Sensei’s but also dancing and laughing with my family. I am truly blown away by God’s Grace and encouragement through my family and friends.

And although I wish my Dad could see me test, I know he’s cheering for me as he has been my whole life.

So, my encouragement to you is two of (some of) my favorite verses:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:9-10

And

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

Black Hawk Down VS. Life

“Good luck, and be careful.” Their commanding officer said as they headed out on their mission.

They went in thinking they’d be on their way in 30 minutes.

Little did they know it would be one of the most grueling 15-hour-fight many of them had ever seen. They essentially had stirred up a hornets’ nest. Many of their fellow men would be coming home in body bags.

After so many lost life you’d think the outcome was a success. However, Nothing changed that day. Yet, so many men walked away changed, forever.

I watched Black Hawk Down partly because I just finished a book by Dr. Nik Ripken called The Insanity of God. Nik was an aid worker in Somalia before (and after) the UN sent troops in.

It was hard to watch, but It got me thinking.

The spiritual life is a battle. We are in a war that has already been won, but we still have to do our part. We are soldiers in the midst of a very dark world. We receive fire from a very real enemy.

In Black Hawk Down Major General William F. Garrison commanded that no one was to fire unless fired upon.

How many times in life have you been doing life and suddenly you realize you’re being fired upon? Your kid gets bullied, your spouse leaves, your health plummets, you’re falsely accused, you or your family are victimized, a natural disaster hits, you or your loved one get caught in a “random act of violence”, your house floods, your car gets totaled,  you get fired.

All of a sudden, nothing matters anymore. You are in shock, watching and hearing bullets whiz by your head. You knew this could happen, but maybe you thought It wouldn’t really be like this. You knew there “would be trouble” but this is not the trouble you foresaw.

You’re scared. You hate it. You want to get out, but you’re in the thick of it, and the only options you have left is to leave your fellow soldiers and be labeled AWOL or fight.

As this battle rages in your mind, you see one of your fellow comrades drop to the ground snapping you back to reality…. NO, you scream. Heart pounding, anger pouring through your veins. They will pay…

You pick up your gun and you blast the area where the bullets came from…The bullets that claimed the life of your friend…

We may not be facing literal bullets, but we are in a battle. There’s no denying it.

After experience a very hard “battle” I had someone say to me, “Christi, what you experience was friendly-fire. Instead of helping you, they left you to bleed out” Have you ever felt as though you’re bleeding out? You feel like your life is draining out of you?

In battle, we need our fellow comrades. We need them to cover us to get to shelter. And we need to cover them so they can get to shelter. As we are being fired on from multiple directions, we need someone at our back. If we are hit we need someone to drag us to a safer place. After being hit, sometimes you have to keep going. And other times, you need a medevac to get you out to recoup.

Each battle you and I face is different. Because there is another training God wants to teach us.

During the battle for Mogadishu, the US soldiers hid out in buildings trying to hold their position. As I was watching this movie I thought of how sometimes, even if it’s just for a little while, God is that shelter for us. If we go in deep enough we can catch a short break and recoup a little bit. Sometimes, in the middle of a life battle, we come across a song or a passage of scripture and holding on to that gives us the courage to press on.

So whatever your battle may be, make sure you’re not fighting It alone. You and I desperately need each other and we desperately need God’s strength and the Holy Spirit to guide us.

Stand your ground. Guard your fellow soldiers back. Be strong and courageous.

Song of the Week: Shelter , by Carrollton

NOTE: For those of you who are in the military and have served, I want to say that I am deeply grateful for your service. I also cannot fathom all that you have endured and I do not want to make light of the war zone and how horrific things are on the front lines. Watching this movie helped me keep in perspective that we are in a spiritual battle. I hope that what I wrote was not disrespectful in any way. And once again, thank you for your service!