A big, smiling welcome to you! This post is part of a series I’m working my way through in the month of October, called Swim Your Own Race. If you’d like to start at the beginning (it is a very good place to start, after all) you can do so, right here.


This past weekend, we were traveling for the Hubs’ work. He second shoots for a fantastically talented and super sweet photographer sometimes, and learns a heap in the process. The kiddos and I decided to travel along so that I could visit that very dear friend I mentioned yesterday and we did a little homeschool field trip at the same time.

Before we left on Sunday, we went to church together, and it was an interesting experience for me. At this particular juncture in my life, I feel more distracted than ever before. There are emails and Facebook messages waiting for a reply. Tasks on the to-do list of settling my Dad’s estate are waiting for my attention. There is always laundry. Always a menu that needs planning, a grocery list that needs to be scribbled out somewhere. Homeschool needs time and focused attention. Quiver Tree (our photography business) brings some extra tasks to the list. And I have the privilege of being a wife to one awesome South African Cowboy Hero Hubs, and I’m a stay/work-at-home Mama to three darling little pumpkins whom I love dearly.

Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed by the task list, I sit on the couch with a cup of tea and just breathe for a little bit.


And sometimes, I scurry around the house, getting distracted by the 1,000 different little things that need doing that I never get the one thing done. I’m on my way to collect laundry to bring to the washing machine, when I see a shoe that belongs with its match in the Belle’s room. I scurry the shoe to the room and see that there are unfolded clothes waiting on her bed. I get to the bottom of that pile and find two dishcloths that should be folded and put away in the kitchen, so it’s off to the kitchen, where I notice a dish that’s been soaking and really needs to be scrubbed… and then the counter needs to be cleared off because it would just make me feel more peaceful and look nicer if it was clear and another stack of mail has arrived with a bill from the lawyers’ offices and heavens sake did I remember that bill last month?

Good luck getting done today laundry, you just weren’t shouting loud enough.

Even inside our little home without much distraction from the outside world, focus still isn’t my strong suit.

We took our kids each to their classrooms at the church we were visiting yesterday, and strolled into the auditorium for the worship service. I’d noticed as we passed the auditorium that it looked hazy in there. When I came in, it became apparent that they blow dry ice or some kind of hazy smoke into the auditorium to make the light show effective. As the lights lowered for worship, it reminded me of a concert, as blue and white lights moved and changed throughout the venue in time with the music. I wanted to close my eyes and just focus on worshipping the Lord, but I didn’t know the words to any of the songs, so I kept having to look at the big screens on either side of the auditorium. The words were across the bottom of the screen, so that they didn’t block the imagery of the worship leaders on the stage also being projected onto the big screens. I was too short to see all of the words and wondered why they couldn’t just put them at the top of the screen instead. (Ya know, then I could see them over people’s heads…)

I tried to pray and just focus on the Lord, but I could feel the big floodlights shining on my face and I was just too… distracted.

Back in his competitive swimming days, focus was a very important part of the Hubs’ preparation for a race. He typically had a very specific number in mind. Let’s say he was hoping to swim a personal best on the 400 meter individual medley, so he and his coach looked at his previous times, considered what time he would need to qualify for national championships, considered the circumstances, and came up with a goal time for him to work toward. This very specific number became his point of focus. The minutes, the seconds, the milliseconds. He’d write the time on post-it notes and put them up on his mirror to look at. He’d say it to himself as he fell asleep. He’d write it down again and again. This goal time for the swim was his focus, from the moment his fingertips touched the water until they tapped the wall. He counted strokes, kept time in his mind, and worked for that number.

Our lives are so full of distractions — ones created for us and ones that we create for ourselves. If I did a better job of making decisions about how to go about completing the seventeen tasks on a particular day’s to-do list, its likely I would be much more effective at achieving those goals. The Hubs has a complicated task management app that keeps him moving forward. I have a string of pieces of paper spread around the house with task lists, sometimes in duplicate, a few items crossed off.

If we say we are the people of God and we want to Swim Our Own Races with God at the center, how do we move past all the distraction?

The author of the letter to the Hebrews has clear instructions for us:

“…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” {Hebrews 12: 1b – 2a}

The verses keep going and there’s so much goodness, but let’s just pause right there. How do we run with endurance in a world full of distraction that would pull us to the sidelines? What does it say? We look at Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

Jesus is the name we can call on to help us make our way through the haze and smoke and lights. Jesus is the person we fix our eyes on waiting at the end of the race to welcome us to the glorious eternity His children are running toward.

Jesus is the time we should all focus on memorizing.

When a new company wants to be a successful, growing, thriving company, the leaders of that company are careful about where they focus their attention. The Starbucks success story has been read and evaluated again and again — examples like this are what companies that want to make it big study carefully. How did Starbucks grow into an international mega-powerhouse just decades after opening the door of its first coffee shop? How did it create that niche need that nobody knew they had? How did Apple single handedly create a market for personal tablet devices after other companies tried and failed? These are the things a company wanting to make it big will learn — this is their great cloud of witnesses. The written stories of the successes and failures and thorough evaluations of those who’ve gone before them are the pages of the Bible they study.

But what about the people of God? If we want to single-mindedly swim our race with love for the God of the universe at the center, where do we put our focus?

We look to Jesus… the author and finisher of our faith — and the Scripture goes on to give us an example of what to consider. Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross. He knows where He is going. He knows what He has to walk through to get there. But for the joy set before Him — the joy of paving a way back to God for all of mankind — He endured the cross — He willingly chose to make the sacrifice necessary to make it possible.

He is where we fix our eyes, friends. He is where we fix our hearts, church. His story is where we learn how to live single-mindedly. We can “swim” this race with singleminded purpose, looking forward to hearing those words when we stretch our arms out to touch the wall — Well done, good and faithful servant, well done.

Everything in this world is temporary. And this world itself is fading away, along with everything it craves.

But we have the Name above all Names to fix our eyes on. In studying His every movement, we will find the focus and direction to swim our own race for His glory.

Swim Your Own Race today, friends.