”Start collecting moments, not things.” – Unknown
As I sit here and reflect on 2017, I consider all of my accomplishments set out from 2016. I think of the many challenges I faced, some that forced me to grow in ways I did not expect, while others exposed areas that I still need much work in.
One thing I can say on this last night of 2017 is I have no regrets, despite the many challenges and unmistakable weaknesses that remain with me – sometimes (those weaknesses) are like a friend that I wish would just go home. However they do not. They stay right along side me like they belong, and in some ways they do, because I have allowed them to.
It kind of goes back to that saying of learning to be comfortable with discomfort. I am getting better at it, but some things are harder to learn and grasp than others. And if you are not familiar with this saying, it is not simply a statement of disregard or to say, “suck it up”, but it is to say that some hardships are not designed to just go away with prayer, counsel or coaching. Some challenges we must go through like a journey. A process that will forge deep into our souls and allow pain, to become the prime motivator for our next steps.
So as I gather my thoughts for 2018 and consider what I want it to look like, I continue to think on the things that matter the most to me. They have not changed much except for a few tweaks here and there. Some of those things are as follows:
- Continue to live a life of gratefulness. – Things could always be worse, and I recognize that I am blessed in my current state.
- Spend more quality time with my family and friends. – I have so many thoughtful, smart and dynamic people in my inner circle. I must take advantage of those relationships I have and continue to learn from them as they learn from me.
- Stay open for unexpected/unplanned blessings. – I tend to live a rigid and analytical life, so I have to work at this, but I know enough to realize that life does not unfold from a planned box, so whether I receive an encouraging word from a child or direction for my ultimate destiny from a stranger, I realize that God can connect us in ways that we could never imagined if we just remain open to the idea and not get caught up on how it happens or looks.
- Continue to treat my physical, emotional and spiritual body as a temple. – Feed it good stuff more often than not and exercise it with consistency and determination.
- Continue to recognize that my ultimate purpose should serve a greater cause than myself. – I choose to give more of time in servitude in 2018, whether through my career or personal life. They all tie together.
So whatever state you found yourself in on the last day of 2017, today is not only a new day, but a new year. A time to reflect and begin anew. Allow nothing to hold you back and learn to understand that there is always an upside to being down. It’s like being in the desert and coming towards and oasis. You will always appreciate it more after going through the hardship.
Have a great 2018!!!
“You had a purpose before anyone had an opinion” – Unknown
The other day I was listening to a Podcast about finding your purpose. Like many of you, it was not my first sit-down encounter of gathering points on a topic that is readily available for the masses, yet equally difficult to really grasp and live out. Over the years I have taught on purpose, read many books on the subject, but I was pleasantly surprised on this speaker’s particular delivery and the simplicity of it.
In times past I would proclaim that many will ultimately live outside their true purpose, yet spend a lifetime seeking it out, and inevitably that would have become their purpose; simply looking for it. What a waste I felt that was, as most would I imagine. What I failed to share and understand, due to my own ignorance was the sustaining component of living out our specific callings.
You see it is one thing to fully understand why we were created, and another thing altogether to grasp the means to that end. In other words, if I fail to understand that my purpose must connect to something much larger than myself, it will ultimately die and never fulfill it’s course in my life. So it is not enough to only discover what one’s purpose is in life, but it is equally important to understand what and who that purpose will serve. Once we make that connection, our purpose begins to reproduce life in others and becomes sustainable and viable for future encounters.
Over the years it has become crystal clear that one of my purposes in life is to teach. So for years I taught in church, various topics about how to live a victorious life as a Christian. I had students that eagerly attended my classes and all was good, but quite honestly, something was missing. For years I had no idea what that was. I realize now that missing component was the lack of connection I had with most of my students. Of course a few I had great connection with and knew about their lives intimately, but somewhere along my journey it became more important to convey the content, than to understand how the message was received.
Were my students able to really connect with the words proceeding from my mouth, or were they more wowed by my illustrious words, charismatic delivery and eloquent presentation? A question I may never truly know the answer to, and perhaps it doesn’t matter to the others, but to me it does. It matters today and for the rest of my life, that my purposes in life bring life to others. Not just in words, images or ideas, but in tangible life-giving moments that touch the hearts of those that choose to listen.
When you truly think about it, what else really matters at the end of the day? To me not much does. As a teacher it is essential that my students learn, grow and apply what they have been taught. Therefore, it is important for me to connect with them in ways that authentically connect with how to apply the lessons.
Many of those lessons will stem from my own life experiences, if I dare to share them. That is where the life-giving part comes into play. So I can choose to hide behind the knowledge I have and speak from a very impersonal place, or I can become a life-giver by sharing the ugly and not so happy moments that brings an array of hope, real truth, and life to my audience. Suddenly I am no longer just a teacher, but a student as well. Open to all that I seek to give.
Never forget that living out purpose is directly tied to our choice to serve others. When we fail to see that, we miss the most essential part to sustaining it. It’s not not enough to know it, we must also live it and ultimately give it.
“Once you choose hope, anything is possible” – Christopher Reeve
As I go through my life encountering new obstacle’s and trials; good times and bad times, one thing I try to keep as a way of life is to grow, learn and improve, no matter the circumstances. Whether it is discovering something new about myself, another person or embracing a new perspective on life, I try to live my life in such a way that I never become complacent or satisfied with the way things are.
I know this sounds like a common declaration, and it is, but it is also a choice to live with a commitment on something we can control. And that is, no matter what happens in our lives, we always have the option on how we react, respond and what the next steps look like in our lives.
I realize for some this may sound like an impossibility because perhaps you have lived the majority of your life underneath someone else. Not only were your best ideas and thoughts overshadowed, but they were rarely heard or even considered as an option. So if that is you, this concept may seem foreign, strange or outlandish, but it is never too late to start your best life.
Consider the fact, that no one can make you do anything. No one can make you so angry that you hit them, even if you want to. No one can make you so sad that you stay in bed with the blinds drawn for three days, even if you feel like that is the best thing to do. No one can hurt you so bad that you feel as if life is not worthy of living, even if the thought crosses your mind.
You see, we are all human and therefore we are subject to frailty, disappointment and poor decision-making, however we are also a resilient specie that tends to find our way in the darkest hours. We never really know what we are capable of until the options we once had are no longer options. Until we find ourselves with our backs against the walls of life, the path of least resistance is the preferred (human) choice.
I get it and have been there on many occasions. If I could spare myself a little initial temporary grief, even if it meant a longer period of travail after, I took that route almost every time, but I also lived to regret it every time as well.
Growing and getting better in less about just getting things right, and more about learning why you do, or should in the first place. It is coming to an understanding about who you are, how you are wired and the various proclivities you have at a specific time and realizing the specific reason you make the choices you do. And then after all that, deciding to make a better choice for yourself, consciously.
I purposely omitted specific issues that we face, like death of a loved one, death of a relationship, loss of a job and health issues that come our way, because we are all bound to encounter one or several of them in our lifetime. The key is what we do when we are there.
We will discover what we are made of, what we truly believe and how we respond during a crisis. In most cases if we actually take the time to examine our responses we will learn something new about ourselves. Perhaps that something new is favorable, and you continue down that path of growth, or perhaps that “something” fell short of what and who you thought you were. Instead of getting upset or angry with yourself, maybe it is your season of growth and getting better. Nothing beats a failure like a try, so get to trying and expect a better outcome.
“We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.” – Unknown
Have you ever thought about what a trapped mind looks like? Well imagine anything that does not have the ability to move about freely in its surroundings or environment. Sort of like being in a cage I suppose, bound only to what it can see or possibly touch. Either way it is a life that is lived with limitations and restrictions.
So it is with our mind. Everyday there are millions of people walking along in life, living beneath their God-given potential and capabilities. And as much as we have heard (or said in some cases) that ignorance is bliss, it is most certainly not, especially in this case. In other words that new common saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know”, can be harmful when it comes to the capacity in how we choose to live our lives.
So what about that potential we are all born with, but may never have the opportunity to tap into for various reasons? How does that happen and why does it? In many cases it is a divide of ethnicity, education and sheer accessibility to people and things that have the ability to broaden how we think about ourselves, our communities and the world in which live in.
There are obviously many extraneous factors and deep layers that contribute to our minds becoming numb, dull and lacking the ability to see past our current status, however I will never be satisfied with simple and one-dimensional answers, like certain groups or classes of people simply cannot learn, lead or see past their own history. But what saddens me is if we simply do nothing and accept this as a way of thinking we will inherit patterns for ourselves, as many already have and continue to do everyday.
So how often do you challenge yourself or someone else to stretch past the comfort zones in which they currently live under? How many times per week do you reflect on your life and see yourself doing more or going beyond what you could imagine? How often do read? Yes, it may seem far-fetched or sound like a crazy concept, but I dare you to try it or encourage someone else to as well. How about a child? (Perhaps your own)
Our words can become the keys or locks to someone’s enlightenment. They (our words) are that powerful, because we will only strive for what we can ultimately see in with our mind’s eye. And if we can expand the horizons of that outlook to a potential that goes beyond our family history, existing communities and neighborhoods, or what is portrayed on social media, we will inevitably help to set some minds free. Imagine that.
We will never live past what we cannot first authentically accept for ourselves. So if you are trying to encourage a group of young people to believe beyond their current circumstances or challenge young adults that their limitations only exist in their minds, you must first begin to live that way yourself, regardless of your age. Even when it is difficult, our decision to press through the doubt and unbelief will not only solidify our hope and determination, but it will inevitably open doors. Not just the doors of physical opportunities, but the intangible ones that live in our minds. You know, the ones that come in the forms of hopes, dreams and desires.
Start freeing your mind today. Let nothing limit you or discourage you. Divorce, lack of education, family dynamics, fear and lack of confidence are only opportunities. It all depends on your perspective and willingness to believe that there is more outside the confines of what you already claim to know and understand.
This is so exciting to me, to be writing my first Blog. “Hello world!” I have so much to share, so much to say, that I almost became paralyzed on what to blog about first. Then one day (just recently) I was driving in the Humboldt County hills with my daughter and son in the car on a winding road and my 9-year old asked me a profound question. She asked, “daddy, how do you know where we’re going?” It was in that moment my first official blog came to me like a light. You see I had no idea where we were going, and I didn’t care to know. I simply wanted to drive and discover what was around each bend in the road. I’ve always been a guy that needed to know, understand or make sense of a situation, but as I have grown, matured and stop taking myself so seriously I realize sometimes it really doesn’t matter. Knowing everything in the moment that is. So there it was my first topic to blog about right in my face, literally. As I gathered my thoughts to reply to my daughter in a way that she could relate to, I pulled to the side of the road, stepped out of my vehicle (as she followed me) took a few pictures (the one on this post along with a few others) and I attempted to answer her question. I said sweetie, “sometimes you don’t have to know exactly where you are headed and there may be times when the answer and the joy lies in discovering something new and unplanned”. Kids have a way of making things very clear with simple questions.
My life has taken so many turns in the last 7 years or so. There was a season that I would consistently ask myself, “How did I get here”? And make statements like, “This was not supposed to be my story”. But it was my story and I needed to learn how to embrace it and quit beating myself up for things I couldn’t change or people I have hurt. The Upside of Down came to me like an epiphany one day and just like that bend in the road, I had no idea where I was going or what lied ahead, but as I continued to drive I found adventure, beauty, places to stop and enjoy the amazing scenery and perspectives I had never saw before. How does this all happen and why? I mean this was not the first time I drove down a winding road with a picturesque landscape. What made this different for me? Like so many of our life journeys it’s not so much about the road we’re on, it’s about the person driving the car, or better yet you and me. What we can see or hear is all about the place we are in emotionally, psychology and spiritually. Negatively, this place will either cloud our judgement, dilute our definition on what is beautiful or perpetuate a numbness that life will always be like this. All this can lead to are fear-based decisions that in turn lead to more disappointment. I became so tired of being in this place. Positively, it can cause us to see the beauty of what surrounds us, the love that we want and deserve and a relentless hope that is as real as our own heartbeat. I wanted to see! Really see, live, hear and touch the beauty of the world, all for the very first time! Finally I am doing that. Like someone once told me, “do it afraid”. I am living that life, no longer on the sidelines watching, but I’m in the game man! Making it happen, giving my best and expecting the same in return. I still fail, screw up and fall short, but now I get up quickly and remember the journey versus the destination. I have also learned to bloom where I am planted.
I am smelling the roses of life (literally and figuratively) and nothing has quite prepared me for this place like hardship has. Man did it hurt! Thought I was going to die, but I didn’t and like Celie said in the movie the Color Purple, “I’m here!” I am equally here, on the upside of down. Who knew it would be at the bend in the road, I would find my best life. Are you ready to drive?
What is your bend in the road? Did you stop short of the turn due to fear, betrayal, death, a knuckle-head or getting in your own way? Whatever the cause I encourage you to get up off your tush and return to your journey. Your best life awaits you around the bend. I don’t say this without empathy. I’ve been down, very down and lived at that point on my knees crying, depressed and ultimately paralyzed by my own doings. I stopped short. In that season of my life I became like a dormant tree. The interesting point to make about a dormant tree is it may look dead, but it isn’t. It’s preparing for the inevitable, to bear fruit. Strengthening itself for what lies ahead. That said, don’t be discouraged in your still/quiet moments. Things are still working on the inside, below the surface. Bloom where you’re planted and soon you will be back on that road to discover what lies ahead. There’s a saying that “time heals all wounds”. I have always whole-heartedly disagreed with this statement. The human body has the ability to heal itself, but it’s not the time that heals it. Time is a significant part of the formula, but it’s what happening deep inside that actually causes the healing to occur. Like our bodies, it’s the work we do below the surface in the time we have that allows the healing to actually manifest. Whether counseling, prayer, surrendering, joining a group, church, taking long walks, sharing with friends or reading a great book, it’s the work we choose to do that infuses us with the power to press ahead. Press ahead to our best life. Now…get to the work. Someone is waiting on you to move.