My 2018 Running Goal: 500 miles. Action Plan Included. (Anyone want to join me?)

I’ve been on a journey of running for fitness off and on since high school.

While I haven’t always been consistent, it is the one form of cardio that I always go back to. Partly because there aren’t many exercises that are more efficient concerning aerobic activity and calories burned by time spent. Also the way I feel when I’m running regularly just can’t be beaten. The post-run endorphins last for hours and boost my mood like crazy.

Until recently, my peak running years were from 2005-2009. Then I hit a slump, and my frequency plummeted. Oddly, the numbers on the scale spiked in the opposite direction. 😉

Last year I jumpstarted the quest to re-commit to running regularly. During my off years, I ran so infrequently that I could never remember when I needed to replace my running shoes (every 300-500 miles is a common figure I’ve read.)

Turning over a new leaf

With the purchase of a new fancy pair in September 2017, I decided to start a mileage log, for the primary purpose of keeping an eye on shoe replacement time. What emerged as a secondary, unintended purpose was logging miles as a means to set and track mileage goals for myself.

Thus, my personal challenge for 2018. 500 miles.

Some might look at that and think, “Girl, you’re ca-razy!!”

Serious runners would look at 500 miles and say, “OK, so, what are you going to do after May when you’re done with that?”

I fall squarely between those two camps, fortunately.

500 miles is ambitious but achievable. Like all industrious goals, breaking them down into bite-size chunks is the key. Works out to:

42 miles per month
9.6ish miles per week

Running three miles three times per week, and adding an additional 3/4 mile weekly would do it.

Running four miles, three times per week would put me well over my goal.

Since I got started again last year, I happen to know that the latter scenario and more is already well within my reach.  It’s just going to take consistency. Which is precisely what I need.

Anyone want to join me?

If you’ve read this far, first of all, thank you. You are a friend and a trooper. Secondly, I suspect it may mean that you aspire to some fitness goals that would push you out of your comfort zone.

Maybe you haven’t started running; perhaps you have deep-seated reasons why. Maybe you know running isn’t your thing, but you’re interested in walking more, cycling more, or doing some other sort of activity more.

I challenge you to set a goal, break it up into manageable chunks, and start chipping away at it. You’ll be amazed how great it feels to start knocking down milestones on your fitness journey.

If you have a plan for fitness in 2018, I would love to hear it so we can celebrate together when we both hit our goals!

 

 

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Posted in Health, Lifehacks, Opinion, Running | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

PrayerMate: An App That Vastly Improved My Prayer Life

As a Christian, I know that prayer is essential. I realize it is key to a vital, growing relationship with God. Yet, my prayer life has gone through many seasons of dryness. I’ve struggled to pray with the passion and consistency I know I ought to, that the Bible calls Christ’s followers to do. Part of my challenge was not finding a system that worked well for me.

That all changed a little over a year ago when I found an article from one of my favorite bloggers, Tim Challies, on PrayerMate.

PrayerMate is an app that helps you create prayer lists by category, as well as organize them and schedule how many items on each you wish to pray for each time you pray. It even suggests topics to get you started. I found that it was just the tool I needed to organize my prayers.

I struggled historically with being overwhelmed by the number of things and people for whom I wished to pray.

 

Praying

When I would create a massive list, I felt obligated to pray through it each time, and it was so large that I quickly gave up. PrayerMate solves that dilemma via the scheduling function I mentioned. The idea of breaking things into categories and praying for only a specified amount of items each time seems straightforward, but it was a concept that had alluded me.

The freedom to spread all my prayer items out over multiple sessions not only eased the self-imposed pressure I felt, but it also gave me the freedom to add more categories to my prayers.

As a result, I am praying for a lot more things and people, and with much higher frequency than I was before.

Here is a sample of the prayer lists I have:

  1. Biblical prayers – prayers directly from passages of Scripture that I pray for others or myself, as well as biblical prayers written by others (PrayerMate has a feed of different prayers you can subscribe to)
  2. My Walk with God – specific prayers for areas of spiritual growth for me personally, including sin areas to conquer
  3. Family and Friends – where I bring before the Lord requests from loved ones, as well as additional items for which I pray for them.
  4. My Church – prayers for church staff and members of my life group
  5. Non-believers – prayers for those who do not yet have a personal relationship with Christ
  6. World Mission – prayers for missionaries and mission organizations that we support or are familiar with
  7. Personal – this category is where I pray for my own requests

I update each category as needed. As I get updates from friends, I edit the details of the request. If prayer is answered, I praise God for it and sometimes choose to delete it. Although, *epiphany* I should and will add an additional category for answered prayers, so I can look back on those and praise God for the ways He has worked.

I can say with confidence that this app has revolutionized my prayer life.

I was hesitant to use it at first because praying from an app somehow seemed too informal or irreverent.  However, I realized that a) my prayer life desperately needed help, and b) this seemed to be what I required; c) whatever gets the job done should not be lightly esteemed. I am so, so glad I decided to give it a try.

In the past year or so since I have been using PrayerMate, I’ve found my times of prayer to be deeper and richer.

It has been a wonderful blessing to be able to expand the frequency and amount of prayer items I cover, beyond just praying for myself. I’ve also found that increased time in prayer has deepened my relationship with God.

A prayer app might not be the thing for you. But maybe it is. I share this with you because I want to pass on the blessing, as it was passed on to me from the article I read. I will prayerfully trust God to use it as He wills to accomplish His purposes.

p.s. my prayer life is currently under further construction as a result of a few books I am reading. It is some exciting stuff that I will likely be sharing here in the weeks and months to come.

Thanks for reading! Here’s to a prayer-fueled 2018!

Please feel free to let me know your thoughts and comments on this topic.

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What My Blog is About

When I tell people that I write a blog, the most common question I get asked is, “What is your blog about?” I often struggle to answer that concisely. The short answer is, “Whatever I want.”

While that is both concise and accurate, it is not sexy or compelling. There’s so much more to it, but the proper brief description has alluded me thus far. So, here is a quick outline of the high points that I cover, with my attempt at a summary statement at the end.

By and large…

I blog about things I’ve learned

In my many times around the sun, I’ve picked up knowledge that has been worthwhile and helpful to me. So much that, I think it some of it might be helpful to others. So I share it, with the hopes that maybe it will shed light on someone’s path.

That includes advice, etiquette, and various observations. It may also include takeaways from things I have read and learned from sources I trust.

I blog about things I care about

That is admittedly a pretty wide net.

If it is something that I have contemplated deeply, or for a long time, I might just write about it.

I love to laugh, and I am constantly thinking about scenarios that make me chuckle. Comedy routine fragments run around in my brain on a daily basis. When I sit down to write, however, I find that the comedy bits are not only harder to write, but they are not what flows out. I would love to write a humor blog, and I may write humorous posts from time to time, but that is not my focus.

The things that flow from my mind to my keyboard are more often things of a more serious, sometimes eternal, nature.

  • Psychology, personality and behavior issues
  • Spiritual matters – Bible application & analysis, my walk with God, my passion for discipleship and service
  • Moods and attitudes concerning significant holidays
  • Goals and plans for the future
  • Victories regarding goals (working on some of those for 2018 and beyond!)
  • Satire (not everything is serious!)
  • Exploring ways to be a better human
  • I’m not above sharing recipes, though I am more of a consumer of those than a creator
  • Anything else that comes to mind

See? As I said, I blog about “whatever I want.” I guess I’d say if I were forced to boil it down to a single sentence: my blog is about personal and spiritual development. I’m too random, and my desire for variety is far too high, to focus on one particular area.

Thank you for taking the time to read this! If you have any ideas about things you’d like me to blog about, please drop a comment. I’d love to hear what is on your mind.

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What is the Christmas Spirit Anyway?

It’s almost Christmas again! My reflections from last year still hold true, about getting into the “Christmas spirit.”

Summer Sorensen

Hint: It’s not about Bing Crosby or Barry Manilow. Although they can help. Yes, even Manilow. 🙂

Christmas is almost here, ready or not.

Can I get a show of hands? Who else besides me is in the “not” ready category 99.2% of the time? Who am I kidding? It’s 100%.

Christmas happens at the same time every year, so it should be no surprise. Somehow, it “sneaks up” on me every time, and I find myself considering all the Christmas to-dos with wide-eyed frenzy.

Last year at this time, I blogged about having an extra difficult time “feeling it” and getting into the swing of all things Christmas. In retrospect, I suspect getting into the mental state of Christmas at that time was made more difficult by our recent return from a dream vacation to Australia in late October 2015 that included a couple mind-blowing tropical beaches. I was…

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I’m Sorry, You Apologized for WHAT?? A Brief Look at Our Over-Apologizing Culture

I can’t tell you how it started. I can tell you that once I noticed it, it was everywhere, and impossible to ignore. Not to mention, a little upsetting.

The overuse of “I’m sorry.”

I was formerly a power-user of the phrase, and I read an article a few years back exploring the folly of its overuse, and it opened my eyes to my own bad habit, which I shared with SO MANY people around me.

Far as I can tell, in my little corner of Western civilization, people apologize way more often than is necessary.  I wish I were a cultural psychologist, to dissect why it is people in this millennium are so quick to apologize for unnecessary reasons.

Save Your Apologies For When You Did Something Wrong

Growing up, I was taught to apologize when I was in error. Treating someone poorly, lying to my parents, cheating on a test, or otherwise breaking known rules – those were justified occasions to apologize.

These days, I hear people utter “I’m sorry” for the silliest reasons.

When someone asks them a question, as though they should have anticipated it and answered it before it was asked.

“Hey Martha, what did you mean when you said ….”

Martha: “Oh, I’m sorry, I ….

Martha, what are you apologizing for? Because someone needed clarification? Why are you apologizing for that, exactly?

When someone enters a conversation after it’s started and didn’t catch all the details.

Late arrival: “Hey guys, how’s it going?”

Person 1: “I was just telling Jim here about how my interview went…”

Late arrival: Oh, I’m sorry!

Why are you apologizing, exactly?

When a boss or co-worker gives you a suggestion.

Boss: You know, Steve, how about you use this format for your TPS reports instead of that one. It makes it easier to present to the client.

Steve: Oh, I’m sorry! I’ll do that in the future.

STEVE!! Getting a suggestion for something someone wants you to do differently doesn’t necessarily mean you were doing it wrong. Please, don’t apologize unless you did something wrong.

I could list more examples, but you get the idea, right?

Apologizing when you are not in the wrong is unnecessary. It makes you come across as weak and lacking confidence. If your goal is to make people lack faith in you and what you can do, by all means, wear out those words.

If you’ve been insensitive, or a downright jerk, broken the law, made a mistake that puts others at a disadvantage or done something wrong that affects someone else, those are the times to utter a sincere apology at the very least.

After I became aware of the over-apologizing trend, I noticed myself doing it way too often. It also began to bother me when I heard others do it. I had to re-train my brain to stop and think of other things to say when my knee-jerk reaction was to apologize.

Things like:

“Oh, I see what you mean.”

“I didn’t realize that.”

“That is good to know for future reference.”

“Thank you for that suggestion. I will work on that.”

Again, there are more examples I could list. The point of the exercise is to examine the use of unnecessary apologies and modify your behavior as needed.

I would love to get your comments on this issue!

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An Open Letter to Critics of #ThoughtsAndPrayers

Right after the tragic church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas in early November, social media was flooded with the usual chorus of people posting “sending thoughts and prayers” to the victims and their families. This is an entirely normal reaction to a tragedy, to acknowledge a sense of helplessness and beseech the Almighty to intervene where we cannot (unless the it happens close to where you live, the ability to take physical action is limited).

What startled me was the instant, sharp-tongued mockery of such statements from liberals, progressives, and otherwise godless individuals. People from A to Q list celebrities as well as average Joes and Janes hurled insults on Twitter to those sending thoughts and prayers for the situation. Most were mean-spirited, a few were clever or even funny. The tenor of the sentiment was essentially that thoughts and prayers are meaningless, and not enough, or not even worthwhile.

I take serious issue with that view, or at least part of it. Calling prayers useless is the part that I wish to side against with vigor. In this post, I’ll make a case for the power of prayer.

I’ll agree with the critics that “sending thoughts” or “positive thoughts” is of utterly zero value. Saying that may make one appear pious, but that is all. It does nothing to help victims practically or enlist the help of the only One who can.

Here are my rebuttals to the anti #thoughtsandprayers crowd.

Prayer is not only worthwhile, but it is also usually the best  response

When tragedy strikes, whether a national crisis or within our own lives, that is when most people feel compelled to pray. Why is that? Because it often takes a crisis to realize how helpless we are, how little we actually have in our control, and how great and unspeakable the fallout from sin and resulting evil in the world.

I wouldn’t wish tragedy or hard times on myself or anyone. Having said that, if tragedy is what it takes to make someone do business with God, they will be better for it. Certainly from an eternal perspective, and most assuredly in this life as well.

As I said, when we can see no other option, we pray. Because somewhere deep inside, we know that it is the Almighty God and Him alone who can intervene. In the case of Sutherland Springs, and so many other tragedies in recent times, it is horrifying to see coverage and know there is not much I can do to help.

If I lived in the same town, I could bring meals to victims’ families. I could offer a listening ear to those who are fighting with grief. If I really wanted to go the extra mile, I could provide temporary lodging in my home for out-of-town family members who come in to sort things out in the aftermath.

In some cases, such as natural disasters, I could donate money to relief efforts. That is a tangible way I often choose to help. But in the absence of that…

It is God who can move mountains, inspire locals to act with compassion, grant effectiveness and wisdom to local officials, and most of all, to bring comfort to those suffering.

My passion and belief in the power of prayer comes from my knowledge of and love for God

I’ve spent my whole life reading God’s Word, the Bible. I’ve read the accounts of the amazing things He does through prayer:

  • Prophet Elijah prayed for rain, and God ended a drought in Israel (1 Kings 18)
  • Elijah also made a fool of prophets from false religions, with fire from heaven (also 1 Kings 18)
  • Joshua prayed for a longer day to defeat Israel’s enemies before the sun went down, and God answered (Joshua 10:12-14)
  • King Hezekiah prayed for life in spite of his mortal illness, and the Lord granted it (2 Kings 20:1-6)

This only scratches the surface of the truly amazing things God does when His people pray. In my own life, I’ve witnessed God work mightily through prayer:

  • Healing a dear friend and more than one family member from cancer
  • Giving me comfort and strength through every tough season of life
  • Providing for my physical needs 100% of the time, even when circumstances looked grim
  • Giving me boldness to do things I normally wouldn’t do, like share my faith with someone else
  • Creating, and providentially leading me to, my husband, a man who is more soul-matey for me than I ever could have imagined
  • Changing hardened hearts of people I know to be softened and opened to God

I realize that someone who mocks prayer as ineffective does so because his or her outlook on God is one that is completely removed from what God says about Himself in the Bible. There are many different nuances to that, which I won’t get into here. In short, those people don’t believe God.

Those of us who do, who have seen God work and love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19), know that praying in the midst of tragedy is not only practical, it is likely the most effective thing we can do.

“The Lord works in mysterious ways.” That phrase is thrown around a lot, almost to the point of being diluted of its significance. But it is still so true.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

~ Isaiah 55:8-9

It is God alone who can:

  • Change hearts and minds (Ezekiel 36:26)
  • Give wisdom (James 1:5)
  • Direct the steps of a man (Psalm 37:23)
  • Inspire His followers to act with compassion (Philippians 2:13)
  • Make the miraculous happen in the lives of the afflicted and grieving (John 11, Psalm 34:18-19, Luke 8:40-56, cf. the whole Bible).

So to those who mock the sincere prayers of others, I say without irony that I will be praying for you. May God open your eyes to His goodness and power, and the salvation He offers through Jesus (John 3:16).

Posted in Opinion, Reliability of the Bible | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

6 Qualities That Will Make You More Endearing to Others

We’ve all encountered people that rock our world for the better. When we meet such a person, we delight to be in their presence as much as possible. They inspire us to be better people ourselves by their example.

While we all may have various ideas of what qualities we admire in people, here are six characteristics that come to mind, in the form of advice I give to myself. Perhaps it will be insightful and helpful for you also.

1. Develop a Sincere Curiosity About Other People

One of my favorite authors, Jon Acuff, said in his book Start, “Assume everyone you meet is more interesting than you.” Everyone has an interesting life story, worldview and experiences, and could probably teach you a thing or two. Using this guideline as a conversational principle is the key to unlocking some amazing information from people you wouldn’t expect.

How often we do the opposite. We try to flood people with impressive information about ourselves, or regale with stories of what we’ve been up to. There’s nothing wrong with that, but putting in equal or greater effort to getting to know others often pays rich dividends.

As an introvert, I tend to listen more anyway, because I am not a big talker. Because of that, I am often fairly quiet in group conversations. I secretly delight when people ask me questions – sometimes that is the only time I talk. (An aside: My post about introverts goes into more detail about how our minds work.)

2. Workout … Your Smile Reflex

More than just a wordy way of saying “smile,” by this I mean making the act of turning that frown upside down an active habit. A big, friendly grin is such a small thing that can make such a big difference in someone’s day. It says, “Hey, I’m glad to see you!” It can be so encouraging to be on the receiving end.

There is a conversation I had with a friend when I was in junior high that I’ll never forget. I always considered myself a friendly person, and thought I was an active smiler. This friend informed me otherwise; she said I didn’t smile very much. I was stunned! It took that unfiltered feedback to realize my perception of myself was off. I realized that I had to actively work to initiate smiles. That is something I endeavor to do with consistency.

3. Listen Attentively

Not much explanation needed here. (No I am not going to break down the principles of Interpersonal Communication 101, you’re in luck.) When in conversation with someone, listen with your full attention to understand what they are saying. It shows the other person that you value and respect them.

Half listening only to formulate your response, and especially, interrupting the speaker when you have something to add to what they are saying is the opposite of respectful. To me, it is discouraging. Let’s be honest, it shows a lack of courtesy, big time. And yet, I am guilty of doing it myself so often. Remember, I am writing this post as advise to myself.

4. Remember What People Told You

One thing that blows me away in a good way almost every time is when someone asks me the latest developments in a life situation I told them about days, weeks or even months earlier. I practically recoil with startled delight. “Wow, you remember that? I am impressed!”

I truly am, and that is likely because I am so poor at this. It means so much to me when someone demonstrates that they were listening, and care enough to ask later, that I know I need to be better at it myself. To match the efforts of the most thoughtful people I know = winning in my book.

Here are a few ideas for improving on this:

  • Summarize what they said before the conversation is over. “It’s been enjoyable talking with you Carrie. Sorry to hear you’ve been having back trouble. I saw an article about treating back pain recently. Let me see if I can dig it up and I’ll send it to you.”
  • Write down notes or replay conversations mentally once you’re done talking. Or take notes while you’re talking. (A few of the most effective people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing make a regular habit of pulling out a piece of paper and making notes about things we are discussing.) Whichever method works better with your natural learning style is most effective. I am a note taker, so I will need to implement this strategy. But I could see how deliberately thinking back about what was said would do wonders for retention.

5. Talk Good About People Behind Their Back

Gossip is easy. Talking bad about people behind their back is a default habit, no thanks to our sin nature. How about flipping that on its head? Why not try sharing positive traits about someone to another person when they are out of earshot? It is so much more fun. It may not spread as fast as gossip, but the result is far superior.

Have you ever heard someone report something glowing about you that was uttered by another person? I have, and it is a delight to my heart. It is a gift that keeps on giving. If you know that feeling, or even if you don’t, you can be that source of delight for someone else. Try it. I dare you.

6. Notice What is Good About People and Tell Them

This builds on #5, and is admittedly something I am naturally terrible at, but at which I greatly aspire to improve. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like to be encouraged or praised. That’s probably because I doubt such a person exists.

I’m not talking about flattery or insincere or shallow compliments (e.g. “Hey, I like that sweater!” Or, “You’re the most amazing person in the world!”) Most of us can sniff out the fake stuff, and it doesn’t really accomplish anything. Other than raising suspicion of someone’s motives, in the case of flattery. Lest you misunderstand, please feel free to compliment my awesome sweater. Don’t shy away from meaningful compliments – that is what I mean.

Here are some examples.

“It must have taken a lot of courage to defend that kid against those bullies. Not many people would be willing to do that. Thank you for doing the right thing.”

“I really appreciate how you tactfully returned the floor to me when other people kept interrupting me during that meeting. Thank you.”

“You’ve really improved at _____. Keep up the great work!”

“You always work so hard at your assignments, and you have a great attitude. I am so grateful you are part of the staff.”

“I can tell you are working hard to teach your kids good manners, and it shows. The world needs more parents like you. Just wanted you to know, I noticed.”

The ripple effects in someone’s life from a sincere compliment often go further than we know. If you’re like me, you are full of admiration for many people in your life, but fear the vulnerability required to express it. I’m going to work on that – will you join me?

In Conclusion

These six things, implemented by people in my life, have had profound positive impact on me. Those that practice some or all of these things are the type of people with whom I want to surround myself. The soul glow that these things produce inspires me to be a more thoughtful, concerned and attentive individual for those in my life.

~~~

Please feel free to share your thoughts and items you would add or subtract to the list. I always enjoy feedback. If you think this post was worthwhile, I invite you to share the link with others.

Thank you for reading!

 

Posted in Lifehacks, Opinion, Self-Improvement, Social | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments