Victory Lap by Doug Linville

Doug and Mariah at the finish line.
Doug and Mariah at the finish line

By now most of us have given some thought about our holiday plans.  Some of you have it completely mapped out: who is visiting whom, on which day, at what location and the menu is assigned.  In our house, we must plan travel time because neither of our extended families lives in town and we have young adult children with commitments. Scheduling can be a nightmare.

Wait, did I just use the word “nightmare” when I am talking about the holiday season!? Yes I did and it fits better than your pants will fit Thanksgiving evening.  Often an unwanted guest arrives at our family holiday celebrations and I am not talking about your crazy uncle. The guest’s name is “High Expectations” and he usually brings an unannounced friend named “Stress”.

I love using true stories to help make a point.  I had an awesome experience this year to share as an illustration. In May my daughter, Mariah, was facing a very difficult time. She had watched some of her classmates withdraw from life when they experienced similar struggles.  Mariah decided to lean into life and build something into her life instead of withdrawing. Mariah decided to train for a half marathon in October. She asked me to be her running partner.  This would be her first half and she wanted to train and run it with someone who had completed the 13.1 mile challenge.  I said, “Yes”, not because I needed a scheduled race to keep me running but to simply have one-on-one time with my daughter.  So we entered into the training for different reasons.  Finishing the race became our secondary goal.

We came together on the weekends to run our long runs at Mounds State Park because the trails were hilly much like the race course. We completed individual shorter runs throughout the week.  We practiced taking our Power Goo at mile 7. We planned out our pace, our water/Gatorade intake strategy, our wardrobe and the attitude in which we would approach the race.  When the day of the race came we were ready.  We had a game plan and I told Mariah, “This is going to be our victory lap”. Because our primary goals were bigger than the race itself, we had won even before the race had started.  Both of us had achieved our primary goals.  The race was going to be a celebration of all the hard work we had accomplished.  We worked our plan and we enjoyed the race.  We often heard comments from the volunteers. They said, “You guys are making this look easy” and “Love your smiles”.  We worked our plan.  More than once I was feeling so good that I wanted to speed up. Mariah would calmly ask, “Dad, what are you doing?” and I would fall back into our pace.  Accountability is always a good piece of any solid plan.

I am asking that you step into the holidays with a clear understanding and plan of your primary goal.  Please don’t miss your primary goal by only focusing on your commitments and busy schedules. The holidays can be difficult and if we do not plan for them we will miss what God has in store for us this holiday season.  Identify which situations bring you stress.  Where are you putting your expectations?  How can you take care of your emotional needs while celebrating and completing the commitments of this season?

If our goal is to have the perfect Thanksgiving meal, or to buy presents for everyone we know then we could miss the primary goals of being thankful and celebrating the birth of Jesus.  Sometimes we take our primary goal for granted and assume it will happen without being intentional.  It will not.  While Mariah and I trained I looked for opportunities to spend time with her, to always be available when she had time in her schedule to run.  If we are not intentional then we are opening the door for High Expectations and Stress to walk in.  So take a moment to name your primary goal for the holidays and make a plan.

I would like to suggest one action step for your plan. Do things you know will build joy. Joy means that we are glad to be together.  Joy will chase Stress and High Expectations out the door.  You can build joy by smiling at the people you are with and praying for them. Acknowledge the characteristics you appreciate about them. You can build joy with God by talking to him and praising him. You could choose a Bible verse for this season to meditate on daily. Listening to music and singing songs in the car can build joy. Deep breathing (smell the flower-blow out the candle) can restore calm when Stress tries to get in.  If you are a person who gets recharged by being alone, then create moments to be alone and if you get recharged by being with people then create moments where you are with “your people”.

It’s time for your victory lap.