Tag: God

Defining Moments

This past Friday I had the honor and the pleasure of attending an induction ceremony and tea for a girls organization that I had the privilege to help start as well as advise when I was a teacher at my previous school. The organization, P.I.N.K. (Positive Influence Nurtures Knowledge), was originally created by a wise and beautiful woman at a local elementary school, and one of her old members begged my friend to start a chapter at our middle school a few years ago. I heard about the idea and jumped right on board, and the rest is history. Being an adviser for P.I.N.K. was one of the most rewarding things that I have done in my adult life (kind of like parenting but to 30-40 young ladies at one time).

This year we were inducting 20 new members, and I was so excited to be on the other side of the table, not the one putting everything together, but as a speaker on a panel coming to encourage and impart wisdom to the new and old members.  I didn’t plan a speech or anything of that sort because I knew that once the conversations at these events start, they just keep rolling seamlessly.

We had gotten to our Q&A session of the tea when one of the young ladies, after hearing stories of the challenges and hard times that we had all overcome, asked a very thought provoking question. She asked  “In order to grow in life will there have to be more bad times than good?”  Apparently in conveying our stories, we had given her the impression that in order to it make to where we were as guest panelists and successful women, that life would have to be more hard than easy, more bad than good. Two other presenters spoke up before I could, and because we were running short on time, I didn’t have the chance to respond. But here is what I wanted her to know. Maybe she’ll get the chance to read this some day.

No, there will not be more hard times than easy and more bad than good. It’s really all about your perspective of and approach to life each and every day. When I look back over my life, I can definitely point out more happy than sad days, more laughter and smiles than tears, more peaceful moments than those spent in pain.

The bad days or hard times cannot be avoided and yes, they do help us to grow. It’s all in our responses to these moments that can make all the difference in our lives. 

We can grow from “good” moments as well. For example, if something that you’ve tried to do turns out positively, you’ll repeat the process to continue to get good results. You will learn through that process. You will grow.

However, the moments that seem to have the biggest impacts are those hard times or what I will call the defining moments of our lives. I believe that the reason most of us point these moments out when giving wisdom to others, the reason why they stick out in our minds the most, is because they are the moments that change us the most, the moments that truly make us who God created us to be.

These defining moments stick out because we are usually in a make or break situation where the decision we make or the lesson we learn will have a lasting impact on our lives. 

They can be the beginning of a chapter of our lives that will lead us to success or even the ending to one that will take us away from negative things such as a toxic relationship.

The reason we are so eager to share these stories is because we don’t want you to be blindsided by them. If we came in and told you that life would be all unicorns and rainbows, you’d be mad at us when it didn’t turn out that way.

Defining moments often come as a surprise. They interrupt your normal life. They may even knock you off your feet. But I dare you to do this. I dare you to welcome these moments and use them for the learning experiences that they are meant to be. Let them be temporary interruptions and not how your story ends. That way you can add words such as courageous, strong, bold, wise, indomitable to your list of words you use to describe yourself.

We want you to be prepared and understand and remember that this too shall pass. That you will come out on the other side of this stronger than you’d ever thought you would be and that one day, you will be standing in front of a room of young ladies, or on the phone with one, or holding your own daughter’s hand as you tell your story of overcoming adversity, so that she will understand that the strong, beautiful, positive, successful woman that she knows wasn’t created overnight.

But she also wasn’t defeated by the storms of life. If anything, she always found a way to come out on top. That is our humble prayer for you and why we are here today. So that you may always come out on top. 

 

 

 

 

 

We Are Called to Love

It’s November already.

Wow.

Where has the time gone?

I remember the beginning of this year and the promises that I made to myself to make this year my best year yet. I was determined to be #unbothered by life and people, to focus on setting goals and achieving them, and to change things in my life that were no longer working for my good. I am happy to say that while I may have lost my cool a few times (or many), I didn’t reach all of my goals that I set, and I haven’t made every change that I wanted to make, my life has improved drastically by what I have accomplished thus far.

Spend more time in the presence of God. Check!

Lose weight. Check!

Transfer to a new school. Check!

Reduce my debt. Check!

These were just some of my goals that I made and achieved, and my life has definitely been much more fulfilling. I must say that I am quite proud of myself. When I do my check-ins with my accountability partner, I get a certain sense of satisfaction when I realize all that I’ve done to improve my life and my state of mind.

However, lately something has been missing. There’s been this empty space that’s been longing to be fulfilled. While I’m not a selfish or self-centered person (although we all are in some way), I didn’t feel like I was doing all I needed to do in the area of service. My heart has always gone out for other people (I mean, I am a teacher), but I have not been consistent with going that extra mile to help others.

Lately, I’ve felt the need more to do more to help others especially when I consider how I can have a bigger impact on the lives of my children. How do I really get them to love and to appreciate and to be grateful for their lives and all of the blessings they have?

How do I get them to understand that they should give more than they take in this world?

What is the legacy that I want to leave behind that my children can take up and continue even when I am gone?

That’s when I decided enough was enough. The end of this year would be the beginning of my journey in purposeful serving. In other words, I would be purposely seeking opportunities to be a blessing to others. Some things that I have done thus far:

  1. Gotten more involved in my Raktivist (Random Acts of Kindness Activist) community on Facebook, getting inspired by all of the wonderful, beautiful things other people are doing to serve others selflessly. These people have hearts so big that I don’t know how their chests can contain them.
  2. I’ve joined a campaign this month called Neighborly November. Instead of just doing 30 days of Gratefulness in which most people document 30 things for which they are grateful, we are challenged to put action with our gratitude. Every day I must find a way not to just speak of my gratitude but to actually live it out. (Created by Carrie Wisehart)
  3. I took my younger son (6 years old) to my school’s sorting of the items from our Harvest Drive. We had an enjoyable time while running food from the center of the gym floor to the designated areas around the room. More than 100 families were able to receive food just in time for the beginning of the holidays because of this Harvest Drive. I felt so fulfilled just watching all of the volunteers running back and forth cheerfully sorting food even after a long day of school and work.
  4. I started working on a community service project with my team at work so we can get our students involved in serving others while learning the concept of giving without expecting to receive something in return (more to come on this in future posts).

While it’s easy to live in our bubbles and focus on just our own problems and needs, God has called us to love and serve one another, to use our gifts and talents to be a blessing to others and that’s just what I want to do. I want to do it and teach my children and my students the same thing. I pray that my children and my students will learn to love helping others, not because they will be rewarded, but because it feels good to do so, that they become intrinsically motivated to do what’s right.

I write this post not because I want any accolades or praise but to hold myself accountable. If I tell everyone what I am going to do, I know that people will be checking to see if I’m doing what I said I will do even on those days when I don’t feel like it and just want to focus on self.

Maybe I can motivate others to do the same.

Maybe I can start a small movement.

Maybe I can open more hearts to the love that God has called us all to show.

Stay tuned for more…

…So Plan Accordingly

We all live pretty hectic lives, but I feel women are especially focused on and stressed by all of the day-to-day tasks that need to be accomplished. Whether we are wives or mothers or single ladies or career women, we all attempt to have it “all together.” In the midst of this, many things get overlooked, forgotten, pushed aside. Our perpetual to-do lists are constantly on our minds as we race back and forth from place to place, appointment to appointment all the while neglecting the things that are truly important to us, the things that make us feel like women, that make us happy, that give us our sanity. We struggle with how to organize it all so that all of it (or most of it) can actually get completed each day.

One way that I’ve learned to try to “get it all done” is by taking time to plan out my days, my weeks, and my months while taking time to reflect on how well they went, what I could have done better, what I need to change, and what I should continue doing. I’ve used many different planners to try to achieve this, but none of them took into account one matter that has become more and more important to me within the past few years: my faith. I know some people are wondering how a planner can help with my faith. Well, it’s my pleasure to explain.

Since I switched to my Sanctuary Girl Faith Planner, my life has changed. For a while, my relationship and time with God were separate from my daily to-do list. It was almost as if it that time was something separate from my “real” life. However, since getting my planner, my perception has changed. With this planner, I cannot write my plans for the day without noticing the columns indicating whether or not I have spent time that day journaling, reading my devotional(s), reading my Bible, and praying. If you enjoy utilizing a planner as much as I do, you’ll understand that there is a sense of satisfaction in being able to check off or cross something off your to-do list; seeing that little check mark or that line drawn through the task is (excuse the expression) a high for me. Knowing that I have checked off those four columns each day makes me feel even better than usual because I know that that represents quality time spent with God, time that sets the tone for the rest of my day, preparing me to deal with the other items on my to-do list or situations that I may have to face. That time is not something separate from the rest of my life; it’s an integral part of it. (more…)

Encourage Yourself

Sometimes you just have to encourage yourself.

Through the heartache, the pain, the tears, the frustration, the aggravation, the sadness.

Because giving up is not an option.

Giving up is never an option.

Even when it seems the situation is hopeless, it’s not. While you’re going through it, it may seem impossible to see a way out. You may feel lonely, isolated, neglected, rejected. It’s during these hard times, these down times, that we have to encourage ourselves.

 

For me, encouragement is my finding key Bible verses that speak to me and meditating on them. Turning on my worship music and singing and dancing along enjoying the freedom of not focusing on my problems for a while. Writing in my prayer journal, pouring out my heart to God.

I have learned that I can’t wait for the situation to be fixed before I allow myself to feel joy again. I just have to encourage myself, believing that God is working in the situation and that in His perfect timing, I will come out of the problem stronger, wiser, happier. That I will look back at the problem and realize just how small it was compared to my God and laugh about how worried I was.

But while I am in the storm, I have to hold tight to my faith and know that trouble doesn’t last always. That weeping may endure for a night, but joy certainly comes in the morning. I’ve experienced it time and time again. Problems that were meant to break me down ended up working in my favor, and there’s nothing about my past that I would change because that would mean changing the woman that I’ve become.

Therefore, I will be encouraged in knowing that things will get better.

If you’re in the midst of a storm right now, I pray that you will do the same. Encourage yourself! Know that you WILL get through this! No matter how dark the situation is, look for the lesson in it. Think: How can I use this to make me wiser, bolder, stronger? How can I use this to help others? What am I supposed to take away from this trial? 

I guarantee if you start looking at your storms as opportunities to be poured into spiritually, that because of them you can grow into the person you are meant to be, you won’t shrink back from the storms but stand out boldly in the rain because you can see the beauty in your future.

No matter what you’re going through believe that things will get better.

Encourage yourself through it all, and you will be alright.

Breaking Free

Anyone who really knows me knows how much I LOVE butterflies. I fell in love with butterflies a few years ago when I had a major change in my life (a much needed change), and, as a result of that change, something within me begin to awaken. I begin to see myself in a new light. Day after day, week after week, month after month, I could feel myself growing, and I came to the happy realization that I would never be the same. It was then that the concept of my becoming a butterfly begin to take shape as well. You see, for the longest I had played it safe, first just going through the motions of life never taking any real risks, never getting out of my comfort zone, and then, once I found the safety of it, staying inside of my cocoon even as the outside world and all of its opportunities constantly beckoned to me. All around me, friends were setting out and doing great things with their lives as I stood on the sidelines watching, applauding, even encouraging them to fulfill their dreams. I knew I wanted more for myself, that my purpose here on earth was so much more than what I was doing, but that stupid thing, that silly, dirty four-letter word, held me back: FEAR.

“For God has not given us the spirit of fear…”

In the back of my mind, this verse, it has always been there, but I always pushed it back, convincing myself that my fear was bigger than me or any help I could get, that my fear would always win, and I would fail. And a failure is something that I was terrified of being. Eventually, I decided that I didn’t want to live like that any more. Did it happen overnight? No, of course not. But slowly I begin to emerge from my cocoon, changing the way I thought, the way I spoke, even changing up my style, and people started to notice and comment on the changes. They liked this new me, and, as I’m sure you have guessed, so did I. I really, really liked her. Little by little, year after year, I emerged from my cocoon transforming into the woman that I am today. Am I where I want to be? Not even close. But I am so proud of the woman that I am now: a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, photographer, teacher, consultant, entrepreneur, writer, and now blogger. And this is just the beginning! Now that I have my wings, I am going to use them to soar to new heights, to go above and beyond anything that I ever imagined for myself.

“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think…”

I used to limit myself to what I could imagine for my life or thought I was even capable of doing, but once I realized what God could do and would do for me, things changed. I burst free from my cocoon, renewed in strength and confidence, no longer a slave to fear. Why play it safe when life has so much more to offer? Why fear the unknown when I could miss out on so many beautiful things? I can and will achieve even more; of this, I am certain.  Do I still get fearful at times? Of course, but I know that it’s all a trick of the mind, that there’s nothing to fear. This thought has me giddy with excitement about what the future will bring! That’s why I choose to surround myself with positive, motivating people and read encouraging, thought-provoking books (more about these people and books in future blogs) that challenge me to be my best self, to grow, to try new things, to believe in myself.  Thank you, God, for allowing me to break free. I know the best is yet to come!