Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Best Is Yet To Come

It is so easy to get comfortable in one’s own comfort zone; allowing other people and circumstances to limit one’s possibilities, one’s vision, and one’s purpose. Yet, God has a way of throwing a monkey wrench into comfort zones. Just when we think that all is well, and that we have finally arrived, God shows up, steps in, and challenges us to move, and to grow spiritually. Sometimes growth comes through painful experiences, through loss, and sometimes through struggle. But spiritual growth always produces good fruit. It is never void or barren.

Spiritual growth requires openness and an awareness of one’s own humanness and vulnerability. It is the realization that everything comes from God. We are his creation, his beautifully crafted tools, created for his purpose, to glorify him, and to be used at his discretion.

Spiritual growth also requires self-discipline, commitment, sacrifice, and regular prayer and communion with him. It requires studying his word, not just from an academic or theoretical perspective, but as one who seeks to know beyond the superficial, beyond the surface. Because to know, requires a change in behavior. It is similar to one who looks at his reflection in the mirror and decides whether to fix himself up or to continue in disarray.

One might ask, why? Why follow this path? Life is hard enough. Why seek that which will never bring instant gratification? Yet, the human spirit needs more . . . more than the glitter and glamour that the world can provide. It is hungry, thirsty, wounded, beat-down, tired and desperate for something more.

I believe that this is why so many of us seek purpose – a higher call than our careers, wealth, and power. We feel in our spirits that life must be more than what we can see and obtain. There has to be more to life than going to work every day in order to pay bills and to get by. There must be more than loving and losing. There has to be more than watching good people die young; or more than suffering or watching others suffer. I submit that in spite of it all, God has a purpose for each of us. The best has yet to come!

Many of us have seen God’s handy work, whether directly or indirectly. I, personally, have experienced a transformation that only God could have made. I’ve also seen God change people that I might have counted out, and thought were hopeless. We can also look at our Haitian brothers and sisters, and while we see the poverty and devastation, we can also see their hope and resilience. People are still being rescued from under the rubble after being buried for 14 days. Miracles still happen, and the best is yet to come.

While circumstances can arise that may make us question God and our faith, we must believe that he has our best interest at heart. We must believe that God doesn’t put more on us than we can bear. I know this personally, because in my weakness, God was there. He was there through my mother's fight with cancer.  He was there in my darkness and embittered spirit. He was there through the difficulties and challenges of marriage.  He was also there through job loss and childrearing. I can confirm that he has never abandoned me.

If you haven’t seen God in action in a while, I challenge you to ask him, in faith, to make a difference in your life, according to his will. I promise that he will not let you down, and that the best is yet to come.

God bless!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Thrill is Gone – Now What?

Now that the holidays are over, and you’ve charged up your credit cards trying to buy gifts that you shouldn’t bought, cooked and eaten more food than your body can burn, and socialized until there’s nothing left to do or say, what’s next?

The anticipation of the holidays tends to bring about a flurry of action and a variety of emotions that can feel almost like a drug. But once there over, it’s not uncommon for many of us to feel sad or even depressed. The high, that drove many of us to run around the malls, shopping until our feet felt as if they would fall off, is nowhere to be found.

What’s a person to do when the thrill is gone? Well, most of us can probably stand to keep that appointment that we’ve been postponing with our treadmills or with the gym for the past 6 months.  It’s a sure thing that if we start now, we could probably work off that extra 10 pounds that we gained last year, and the extra 5 that we put on during the Christmas holidays.  Exercise is a wonderful way to improve one’s spirits and to get into the right mindset.   Very few things feel better than fresh oxygen flowing to the brain, as sweat drips down the side of your face after doing some aerobic exercise, or some other fun excursion. . . . You can decide what works best for you!

Although I’m an introvert by nature, I like social clubs. One of the reasons many of us probably felt good during the holidays, probably had to do with all of the people interaction we got. The holidays wouldn’t be special without “people” getting together, cooking, laughing, playing, and eating together.  I believe social clubs have a way of helping people who aren’t kin to feel a part of something that’s a little bigger, and more interesting than themselves alone. So, if you want to regain the thrill, join a social club and step outside of your comfort zone this year. I promise that you won’t get bored!

Even still, we all have a responsibility to give back . . . . If social clubs don’t do it for you, then join a community service organization.  Boy, there’s a lot of work to be done, and a lot of needs that need to be met in our communities.  I personally like the Habitat for Humanity, AmeriCorp, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the United Way, and the Salvation Army. Although there are numerous organizations, these are a few that do an enormous amount of work in my community and have helped a lot of working people who fell into hard times by no fault of their own. I’m a believer that you can never beat the feeling that comes from helping someone in need who actually appreciates what you did for them. So, if the thrill is gone, reach back and help someone in need. I promise you the thrill will be ignited again.

Another idea, is to establish a church home and develop a genuine relationship with those of faith. I have had a church family for many years and have often been blessed by their generosity and support. If you don’t have a church home, I think you’re missing the mark.  I believe you can always find a church organization to practice your faith and to use your gifts and talents.   It may take a while, but the search will be worthwhile.  So, if the thrill is gone, join a good church!  I promise they'll keep you as busy as you will allow them.

Finally, if all else fails, or if you have enough energy to try this in conjunction with the other suggestions, you can make the decision (if your single) to enter the dating arena.  I know that dating now a days, can be a little scarey and sometimes frustrating.  But with the right attitude and the right approach, it can be fun.  If I were single again, I think I would probably hire a dating service to help find viable dating candidates since meeting strangers can be similar to buying a box of assorted chocolates! However, "friend referrals" can be very reliable.  I met my husband 11 years ago through a relative, and we have been married now for 10 years. 

Nothing is more exciting than meeting someone new who finds you attractive or desirable. However, a big part of the prep work is to develop a healthy self-esteem.  Keep in mind that very few people want to meet someone who looks like they don’t care very much about themselves.  It’s for certain, if you don’t think your sexy or interesting, than very few people will think so either. So, change the way you think about yourself! Spruce up your look if necessary.  Be honest with yourself, polish up your attributes and improve your shortcomings. With the right attitude, a little faith, and opportunity, you’ll be certain to meet someone who just might turn out to be Mr. or Miss. Wonderful!

When the thrill dies, do something different or something off the wall. Don’t just remain in a slump! Life is way too short to live it without passion and purpose. Good luck on your next adventure, and Happy New Years!


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fortitude. . .

I woke up this morning feeling that lady luck would grace me with her presence. So I prayed for patience and handled each challenge with fortitude and grace because I knew that good things are rendered to those who endure adversity with courage.

Although I seethed inside, I did not drive my car over or into the man in front of me driving 50 miles an hour on a busy highway. Instead, I smiled and rode his bumper. Nor did I cop an attitude when a colleague politely stole the parking space that I was so patiently waiting to pull into. I simply put my middle finger up and found an alternate spot.

Subsequently, the thirty-minute meeting that turned into a working lunch didn’t irritate me one bit. It only made me appreciate my management team and the useless information they were trying to disseminate. After all, my time was negligible and I needed to lose a couple of pounds any way. So, I smiled graciously and drank a cup of water.

From what I could see, lady luck was truly on my side! I breezed through two interviews for a great promotional opportunity only to find another hoop to jump through and an additional river to swim. But, I didn’t frown or swear, I simply sighed and handled the frustration I felt with fortitude and grace because I knew that good things come to those who wait patiently. So, I agreed to wait another week to receive my blessing.

By the end of the day, I had received a generous speeding ticket from one of the locals in blue, nearly avoided a fist fight with a nasty old lady who tried to run me down in the produce department, and visited with a neighbor for two hours until my husband could get home from work to unlock our house door.

Wow! Lady luck had truly graced me with her presence. Any more luck, and I might have been captured by an alien or died from a foreign object hitting me upside my head. But in spite of everything, I thank God for fortitude, the strength of mind that allows one to endure pain or adversity with courage because without it, I don’t think I would have survived the day.

Hopefully, lady luck will give me a break tomorrow. . .

Thursday, July 23, 2009

After the Kids Leave, What's Next?

As the day approaches, (August 21) when I will drop my only child off at college, and help her get settled into her dorm and then go home without her, I am wondering how we got this far so fast? Where did the time go? What’s next in my life?

Some people call this stage the “empty nest” period. That is the stage before the adult children return home to hide out until they figure out what they want to do with their lives. I’m not sure what to call it.

In theory, this is the time in life when many parents feel a sense of relief. They have raised their kids, have seen them through high school, watched them graduate, and found a way to finance their undergraduate education. In some ways, I echo those sentiments of relief. This journey has not been easy.

However, I still can’t quite muster up the excitement that I thought I would feel when I imagined regaining my freedom back. No more babysitters. No more homework to check or dinners to cook or late nights waiting for my child to come home from a date. I won’t have to complain about how junky her bedroom and bathroom are. No more teenage mood swings, or hearing about the boyfriend drama and fussing about the cell phone bill that looked more like a car note! No, this would be my time to work hard, play hard and enjoy my husband. We would bond like we did when we were dating.

Yet, in spite of the endless fussing, coaching and chauffeuring to every school and church event, I honestly think I will treasure every moment. The past 18 years have been a learning experience for me. I have grown as an adult, developed all kinds of skills, learned to persevere through difficult times, and learned how to keep smiling through my own pain. But most of all, I have raised a beautiful, smart and loving young woman whom I am more proud of than anything in this world. I consider this to be my greatest accomplishment and a true gift from God.

So, as I count the days, and ensure that the tuition will be paid on-time, I look with apprehension and pride at the young woman whom I will be sending off to the world of academia. I know in my heart that although my life will never quite be the same, the relationship that I’ve built with her will never disappear, only grow and get better with time.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Does Passion Come from Work or from Perspective

Ever wondered how some people can work the same job for 20 years and find job satisfaction? What about those who wake up every day excited about life, exuding confidence and success? What makes them different?

I think it’s probably fair to say that most people don’t fit into either category. Most people go through the motions of life, working hard, playing the hand that has been dealt to them, never quite reaching their full potential or ever discovering their true purpose in life. But, is dragging one’s self out of bed every morning, showing up to a boring job and counting the hours until the work day is over really living? I submit to you that it’s not! However, there must be a correlation between it and substance abuse, sex/food addictions and victim syndrome. A lot of people find comfort from these bedmates.

One writer once described passion as “food for the soul, the courage to express one’s convictions and zest for life, and the spark that illuminates purpose and mission” (Norris, 2000). Does passion exist in the type work that people do? Does it come from making a lot of money? What about religion, volunteerism or philanthropy?

Passion does not exist within the job but within the individual. I believe we all have the power to transform ourselves and our life situations for the better. Most of the time, it is as simple as a shift in our perspective. I like what Kara Pecknold, (2008) suggested in a recent article. She suggested that in lieu of focusing on all of the things that may be wrong in our lives and with our jobs, we should write down all of the things that are good, the things that we are grateful for and then take one thing from our list that is important to us and create a simple one month project where we can increase that component in our daily lives. When one’s focus changes, one’s attitude and perspective also changes. Thus, one's life can change.

What is your passion? I challenge you to unleash it and live life to the fullest.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Why Is Change So Hard to Embrace?

I don’t know if it’s age, stubbornness or simply fear that makes change so difficult to embrace. I just know that I’ve been struggling to adapt ever since I turned 40. Everything around me is changing, except my pay check, and my ability to hit the lottery.

Am I the only one who feels like I’m running fast but not getting very far? The more I do, the less fulfilled I feel. I can’t quite put my finger on it but time seems to have sped up. It seems all I do every day is breathe, work, pay bills and try to keep my head above water. Every now and then, I find some small pleasure or some small relief. Life has to be more than just getting by. Where’s the passion? Where’s the purpose that our spiritual leaders talk about?

What’s happening to our world? In the midst of all of this change, what is there to look forward to . . . a jacked-up economy, astronomical unemployment, increased poverty, homelessness, fear, homicide, and helplessness? Everything is stagnant. Small businesses are closing up shop. Big businesses are filing bankruptcy or begging for a government bailout. Communities are being held hostage by drugs and degradation. Yet change is constant.

Nothing feels the same. There’s a sense of paranoia in the air that is slowly sucking the life out of everything that use to be fun and normal. People are afraid to spend money, walking on a tight-rope at their jobs not wanting to give their employers any reason to hand down a pink slip. Others are feeling desperate because they don’t know how they’re going to pay their mortgages or their children’s college tuition.

People are working harder and longer than ever before with no vacation in sight. No relief from this vicious cycle. Everything is pending . . . everything is changing . . . nothing is quite the same anymore. Change . . . why is it so darn hard to embrace? Why can’t we just go with the flow? Might happiness be found there? Or is it all an allusion?

Can Average People Make a Difference?

I'm a firm believer that great works are not exclusively achieved by those with the most education, the most money or the best connections. I believe that the greatest achievements derive from every day "average" people who are willing to work hard and persevere in the midst of difficulty and uncertainty. Sometimes pushing forward with nothing more than sheer will-power even when the odds are clearly not in their favor. That's when the true heroes rise to the occasion.

Today, we need a few heroes. As hard-working Americans begin to work their way through the economic crisis that threatens to unravel their foundation, the need to toughen up, tighten up, and to focus on finding workable solutions instead of finger-pointing will become essential. In spite of the many challenges that we face, this is not the time to become weak at the knees. We must resist the “victim” syndrome with all of our strength. This is an opportunity for self reflection, strategic planning and the hero syndrome to rise. Average people can make a difference. The time is now!

We must develop a can-do attitude and believe that with faith and perseverance we, the average person can prevail. Each person has a choice. Individuals can choose to be inactive, and allow the gloom to paralyze them; or proactive, and begin to pool their resources, knowledge with others to influence positive change on their own. History has shown us that there is power in numbers. As a unified voice, we can make our needs heard and influence our elected officials and leaders to stand up and address the issues that plague this country.

Since new ideas are limited in the political arena, this is an opportunity for regular citizens to begin to brainstorm and tackle the difficult problems that stagger their own communities. No longer can we afford to wait for politicians to solve our problems. Until politicians begin to feel some discomfort of their own, it will be difficult for many of them to understand and empathize with those who are jobless, homeless and feeling desperate. Because of their limited view of main street, and their hunger for power and prestige, the politicking and back-biting with continue in government instead of strategic collaboration and the search for real solutions to the problems that face this nation.

We no longer have the luxury of being passive. It is unacceptable to simply complain about the economy, the plight of the middle class, or the disadvantaged. Now is the time to roll up one’s sleeves and get busy working towards solutions that will improve the future of our communities and this country. The challenge is yours. The challenge is mine. What will you do today to make a difference? Today is a new day. Let’s empower ourselves to make a difference.