1st year in review…

Well, it’s been over a year since I started embrace/refrain.  I definitely faded down the stretch of 2012, but that is mostly due to starting a web-design company over the last couple of months.  Still, I did 9-10 embrace or refrain projects and wrote around 60 blog posts.  Not terrible for year 1.

Some thoughts on the past year:

  • Starting new habits is hard work, but definitely worth pursuing.  Taking habits that are beneficial, but not part of your routine…. to part of your daily or weekly routine takes patience and persistence.  A month gives you a good start, but many times it isn’t long enough to get something fully ingrained as part of your daily life.
  • In our over-stimulated, thing-driven western culture, fasting (or refraining) from things like foods, entertainment and typical conveniences is a great practice.   My favorite project of this past year was staying away from wasting time on the internet.  I got so much done and spent my time so much more efficiently that month.  At first, I kept a lot of that momentum, but after awhile, my old habits crept back in.  I probably need to do that fast at least once a year.
  • Writing is hard work.  I give a ton of credit to bloggers who post creative, original content on a weekly basis.  It takes a ton of time, determination, and creativity.  I thoroughly enjoy writing, and find it incredibly beneficial, but it is still difficult.

And moving forward….

  • I really enjoyed doing this experiment of 1 project a month over the past year.  However, there were months that life was just a bit crazy to be pursuing an embrace or refrain project and writing about it on a regular basis.  So I was successful with it some months, and others not at all.  In light of that, I plan on continuing this year, but on lighter schedule.  My hope is do to 5-6 month-long projects over 2013.  I’ll start them when it works as opposed to figuring out a project for the beginning of each month.  I’ll probably get my first one going in the first couple weeks of February.
  • My second favorite project of the past year was the month I attempted to blog everyday.  That month forced me to write about a greater variety of interests beyond the original embrace/refrain idea.  Since then, I have continued to to do that on a sporadic basis and I’ll continue that in 2013.

Iceman

This past weekend, I raced in the Iceman Cometh mountain bike race.  It is a 29 mile race that starts in Kalkaska, MI and ends near Traverse City.  This year it was appropriately named, as we had fresh snow on the ground at the beginning of the race and encountered flurries along the way as well.  The course was muddy and slick in spots, and sandy in others.  This is my second year racing the Iceman, and it was much harder this year than last.

I was pretty disappointed in my time.  I finished in 3:03:35, where as last year I finished in 2:42:51.  I actually felt stronger and in better shape this year.  Some of the difference is attributable to the conditions and adjustments made to the course because of logging.  It definitely didn’t ride as fast as last year, and it felt like it was a little longer.  I also had a bad seeding, which put me behind a lot of riders who were out there for the first time.  There were several locations on the single-track where we came to a dead stand still, and others where the pace slowed to a crawl.  There was a lot of grumbling out there, some of it mine.  It is frustrating to train for a race and have traffic jams really slow you down and kill your momentum.

Despite the frustrations, it was still a blast.  I was fortunate enough not to have any flats, broken chains, etc., and I made it through without injury as well.   I am amazed at how many bikes you see broken down on the side of the trail, and my wife had to give a few injured riders a lift to the finish.  It has to be a huge bummer to train for and travel to a race and not be able to finish due to breakdown or injury.

There is something awesome about being out there with 4700 other riders on a cold, snowy, November day.  This year, my family was able to come out to the race as well.  They were there cheering me on at the midpoint, which was a huge boost to my morale.  Overall it was a fantastic day.   I hope they fix the seeding issues, but either way, I am looking forward to next year!

Gratitude and Writing

In September, the church community that we get to be a part of did a series on forgotten virtues.  The last of which was gratitude.  The whole series sorta hit me over the head, but the last one really did.  The reality today is that we live in a world of entitlement.   As I wrestled with the message that day (and for a few weeks afterwards), I realized that I have an entitlement attitude more often than I would like to admit.  And… that entitlement is contrary to gratitude.  This last point may seem obvious, but I never really connected the two realities.  Toward the end of the message, Chris (the pastor) challenged us to think of some practical ways we can foster gratitude in our own lives.  As I sat there and contemplated… the first thing that came to my mind was writing.  And as I reflected over the next couple of weeks, that just stuck with me.

For November, I am embracing writing.  I find that when I am writing on a regular basis, I have more of a perspective and attitude that fosters thankfulness.  It really doesn’t even matter what type of writing I do… just that the process of writing puts me in a more reflective place.  It works when I am writing regularly on this blog (it’s been awhile), journaling, or even when I was writing sermons or youth ministry teachings (it’s been an even longer while).   I plan to write some on embrace / refrain, some in my journal… and who knows where else.  My goal is to write for at least 15 minutes a day.