Category Archives: persistence

Mountains and Valleys and Rivers, Oh My!

I was surfing through YouTube for some background music while writing when I found myself in the mood for the soulful voice of Michael McDonald. I came across his rendition of a famous Motown song, and even though I’ve heard this song many times, I was struck by the simple, yet profound words of the chorus (I’ve linked MM’s version for your listening pleasure): 

Ain’t no mountain high enough

Talk about perseverance. 
There is no stopping this person from getting what he wants. He is not focused on the heighth, depth, or width of the obstacles in front of him; his main focus is on what he wants, and nothing — no mountain, no valley, no river — is going to make him quit.
That takes an uncommon strength. 
We all have things we want. We have goals. We have dreams. But if we don’t become practitioners of perseverance, we won’t realize them. 
Perseverance is that spiritual ingredient with oomph. It’s got that extra kick in it that pushes us forward. It’s a combination of endurance and the absolute assurance that what we want is going to happen. 
Let’s take a lesson from these lyrics.
If we are to persevere, we must first know our purpose. We need to have a goal in mind. No goal means no direction, and then we wander aimlessly in the desert of our minds. 
We must also be passionately committed to what we want. Passion fuels us, giving us the strength and courage to power through to the finish. No passion means no purpose, and then when the winds blow, we are tossed about, when all along we could have harnessed that energy to set sail.
Once our purpose is fueled by our passion, we must remain positive. Our positive self-talk assures us of our success. It minimizes the enormity of any obstacles that try to get in our way. No positive self-talk means no passionate or inspired action, and when that happens, we fail even before we try.
Perseverance allows us to see those mountains, valleys, and rivers from a new perspective.
Instead of seeing the mountain as something separate, large, and looming over you, see yourself as that mountain. A mountain never wavers despite being shined upon, rained upon, snowed upon, or stuck upon by lightning. Stand tall and strong as the mountain.
Instead of seeing the river as something that you could never swim against or navigate across, see yourself as that river. A river flows continuously; it cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence, as Jim Watkins reminds us. Flow with the river.
Instead of seeing the valley as something that is a low point that leaves you wide open and vulnerable, see yourself as that valley. A valley contains some of the most fertile soil; it is rich with nutrients. Harvest your strength from the valley.
Heed the words of Alexander Graham Bell when he says, “What this power is, I cannot say. All I know is that it exists and it becomes available only when you are in that state of mind in which you know exactly what you want and are fully determined not to quit until you get it.”

It’s time to finish unfinished business. Think about a project that you have abandoned because the work just got too hard, or you simply got tired of it. Dig it out of the closet or the basement or wherever you left it, and approach it with new eyes. Maybe it’s that novel you’ve always wanted to write. Maybe it’s the renovation you’ve never completed. Maybe it’s the exercise program that you quit because you hit a plateau. 
Revisit it and renew your commitment to it. There is a reason why you started it in the first place. Somehow you got the idea to do this, but this time go back to it with the understanding that your idea came to you as a gift. Now it’s time to honor it by seeing it through to completion. Think of it as your gift back to Spirit since Spirit endowed you with the skills and talent to accomplish it. 

To Hell And Back…For The Kids

I ran a 5K race this morning that handed me my own butt.

It was the inaugural trail run to benefit St. Jude’s Hospital for children.

My dentist, Dr. Jimmy Gardiner, organized the race on his 600-acre farm nestled on Underwood Mountain.

Good Lord…I didn’t know what I was in for.

When I signed up at his office after my check-up and cleaning, I figured it would be a nice change of scenery, since most of the 5K races that I’ve done involved pounding the pavement through various towns, past neighborhood homes and businesses.

Registration began at 5:30 a.m. (seriously?) for a 6:30 a.m. start time (most races start around 8 a.m.). Well, I couldn’t find the registration tent anywhere. I had followed the directions to the farm, where I passed many campers and horses who were there for other scheduled festivities, until a woman drove up to me and told me to turn around and head back to the main road…registration would take place in front of the butcher shop. What?

But then again, I live in Alabama. Things are done differently here.

So, I headed back to the butcher shop where tables were being set up to receive people. I parked in the field, picked up my registration packet, and pinned my number onto my shirt. Number 13. That didn’t go unnoticed by some, and they wished me luck as if I needed some kind of miracle. I had drunk a couple bottles of water earlier to hydrate, and my bladder was full. I looked around.

No bathrooms.

Uh oh. Now what? I noticed other people looking around, and saw some of the men heading toward trees, while some of the women stood with crossed legs and quizzical looks on their faces. The butcher shop wasn’t open (too early), so I did what any self-respecting Southern woman would do in such a pressing situation — I popped a squat between my car and the car parked next to me.

Of course, what showed up on someone’s pick-up five minutes later? Figures.

The race would begin about 1/10th of a mile down the road in front of the neighbor’s mailbox. Dr. Gardiner led us in prayer (a first at a race, but then again, this is Alabama), and off we went, following a man riding an ATV since no trail map was available. “If my plan works, there should be people pointing the way along the trail,” Gardiner told us after prayer. But, hey, this was the first race he’s ever organized. We couldn’t help but laugh in support.

We passed by all the campers and their horses (second time for me), and they cheered us on as we snaked our way toward the barn and the dirt trail. The first mile was slightly downhill. No problem. The second mile, however, began to challenge my ankles with its ruts and gravel. My lungs felt the challenge as well, as I huffed and puffed; the humidity was higher than average and it hit me hard (so, that’s why the early start time!). The group started to break up; some moved ahead, some dropped back. I found myself alone as I rounded a bend in the woods, the trail heading straight toward a creek.  I glanced around.

No bridge.

I hopped through the water like a gracefully-deficient antelope and found it refreshing on my hot feet. Onward I chugged, trying to catch my breath and find my pace, but the pockets of mud and the rocky grooves slowed me as my heart knocked at my ribs. What the hell did I get myself into?

And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, the mountain appeared. The steep ascent awaited with its sneering smile. I staggered my way upward, stumbling over rocks, tripping over my own two feet, sweat stinging my eyes. But I knew I couldn’t stop.

Finally, after putting myself through living hell, I reached the summit and spied the finish line. Those who finished ahead of me cheered me on with their applause. This gave me my last spurt of energy to cross the line. Halle-freaking-lujah!  After a brief cool-down, I joined the sidelines to help cheer the others on to the finish.

I run these races to support various causes. Though they challenge me on a physical level, I know it is worth it in the long run.  After I finished today’s trail run, I thought, This has been one of the toughest races I’ve run in a very long time. 

And then I thought of the kids in St. Jude’s Hospital, facing the challenge of cancer. Nothing I went through today compares to what they are going through. My heart broke open with compassion.  And if I can contribute in any way, I will, because these kids deserve healthy lives.

Would I put myself through this hell again to support them? You bet I would.