Life Lessons

A Key To Pursuing Life Goals – Even When You Want To Quit

April 28, 2017
Do you ever find yourself excited at the onset of a new plan, only to become overwhelmed halfway through, a desire to quit suddenly more tangible than the dream itself?
If so, you’re not alone.
I’ll be the first to raise my hand and say, “Me too.”
Whether it’s an important personal goal, or movement toward spiritual growth, the struggle of middle ground often presents a treacherous climb.
Wheels of hustle begin losing traction, and we find ourselves desperate for a strong dose of momentum.
Sound familiar?
Not long ago, I experienced this firsthand, along with a little nugget of truth that helped me press on, even when things got tough.
 
It was a beautiful day, and in the spirit of Spring and home improvements, I set out to paint the front porch.
Just a simple project.
Or so I thought, since only the outer frame and supporting posts needed attention.
A cool breeze teasing the countryside, I popped open a gallon of dark gray Valspar, stirring the thick liquid in anticipation of spending about two hours on the task.
A dip of the brush, a climb up the ladder, and there it was.
The first stroke of rich color pressed against thirsty wood, gleaming in the sunlight.
As soft birdsong floated on a gentle wind, morning shadows played across green grass. And though exterior painting is not my forte, the experience was refreshing and invigorating.
At first.
Three hot and sweaty hours later, though, the rise of an afternoon sun began taking it’s toll, my desire to quit bubbling up alongside it.

Isn’t that how it often happens in the pursuit of life goals as well?
Heat and pressure  have a way of becoming unwanted catalysts, tempting us to throw in the towel midway through our journey.
Where thoughts of victory once reigned, the haunting cry of defeat echoes gloom and failure instead.
You know?
Like on the path toward a healthier lifestyle, or during the uncertainty of learning a new skill.
Or when we’re trying to navigate the uncharted waters of long held dreams, a disillusioned cadence beating through tender places of our hearts.
More important still, defeat taunts us on the sacred journey toward Godly character, and in the pursuit of days filled with purpose.
Stuck between the vision and the finish line, letting go seems the best route to take.
Red faced and tired, that’s where I was, standing on an aluminum ladder while hopelessly staring down the long stretch of bare boards, wanting to step down and move on with my day.
Until I looked back.
Until I realized just how far I had come.
It was a subtle mindset shift that became a driving force, suddenly bringing truth to light with a thoughtful reminder.
Momentum isn’t always found in pressing forward.  Sometimes, it comes by simply appreciating how far we’ve come.
When fighting the urge to quit, looking back may be a key component in the process of moving ahead, an underlying current of strength to help us stay the course.
It’s surrender, but not defeat.
It’s a necessary time of pressing pause and embracing the stillness.

As heat and pressure swirl around us, we can remember that strength comes from above, and success isn’t always measured in giant strides.
Sometimes, it rises with rich tones of Valspar paint, floating softly on an afternoon breeze.
Temptation may threaten to derail our vision, shifting an old ladder in the wind, but we can stand firm and say,
“I’ve come too far to turn back now.”
Rising stronger.
Better.
More determined to appreciate the process, one step at a time  –  even while reflecting on a Spring afternoon in the country and a simple porch painting project.
Because, thankfully, I pressed on, finally finishing the job.
Five. Hours. Later.
Complete with a lopsided sunburn, swollen joints, and paint spattered clothing.
But oh, so very glad I did not give up.

An Unexpected Lesson From Chaos and Construction

February 17, 2017
A blast of concrete dust formed chalky clouds on the sidewalk in front of me. Pausing slightly, I turned, taking a moment to observe the activity behind a silver chain link fence.
Large dump trucks and bulldozers crawled over fresh dark soil, leaving thick tire tread in their wake. Neon clad construction workers swarmed the area, shouting instructions and maneuvering heavy equipment between piles of rubble, narrowly missing deep holes in the ground.
I watched what was happening on the enclosed patch of earth, now a world of its own. One I no longer recognized, despite nearly six years of working in the same place.
Within a matter of days, the landscape was transformed from a shady pedestrian path and manicured parking lot to a space filled with discordant blends of machinery and metal clanging through the morning air.
And from the outside looking in, there was no apparent rhythm or pattern to all the commotion.

But I knew that wasn’t true.
Even amid chaos and upheaval, the scattered crews were working to accomplish finely engineered designs of a master builder, and soon a better facility will rise to accommodate the needs of our growing company.
I know this, but it doesn’t always make sense from the other side of the fence.
What struck me about the bizarre scene in the middle of a busy office complex is the fact that demolition isn’t always for the purpose of destruction.
Sometimes, it’s the ground breaking transition for a greater plan ahead.
And those who have the blueprint understand patterns and methods the rest of us do not.

Trying to figure it out is a lot like putting a puzzle together without all the pieces.
As the work has continued, I’ve found myself fascinated with the process because it reminds me a lot of our lives on this Christian walk.
Maybe you can relate?
When God is designing a story, He alone knows where it’s headed.
Isaiah 55:9 tells us, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts than our thoughts.
When carefully laid plans go awry, or in the middle of circumstances that are out of control, the Master builder is still at work. He is unearthing soil in deep places of the heart and laying ground work to restore and renew His purpose.
And sometimes, our messy places are a necessary part of framing the ultimate beauty of the big picture.

Walking by this construction site day in and day out has given me pause, bringing reflection on times when our own stories seem to unravel.
I’m realizing that there is a connection between uncomfortable territory and unique design. Even when it appears otherwise, they are linked together as a work in progress.
Our rough edges and awkward stages aren’t intimidating to the Creator of all things. They may, in fact, be part of the process to bring about His greater plan.
Because often times, the breaking down of our spirit can become a catalyst in the shaping and building up of our soul.
We can rest in knowing God is the master artist, already seeing the end result of a paint spattered canvas before it fully takes shape.
He is an experienced potter, envisioning the beauty of a finished product in cracked, misshapen lumps of clay.
And like a skilled craftsman, He knows the potential and ultimate design His handiwork will bring.
So the next time a road block, detour or impending disaster lights our horizon, let’s remember the unexpected lesson of a chaotic construction site.
And keep in mind, that although struggle is a defining point in forming and shaping our character, it doesn’t determine how a story ends when God is in control.

Mining Gold In Moments of Gathering

December 19, 2016
They disappeared beyond a dip in the shoreline with sun kissed cheeks and tousled hair. One little niece and two nephews arm in arm, sandy feet carrying them down the beach to the rest of our group. With family in town for a long awaited stay, I could almost feel the moments fading.
December was upon us, but the cold grip of winter had yet to settle a firm hold here in the South. A smattering of vacationers and residents basked in the lingering whisper of autumn, lining the soft earth with chairs, coolers of snacks and iced tea.
Soon it would be time to join forces and begin the process of cleaning and packing. To shake the remnants of sand, sea and togetherness from our blankets, collecting towels and toys before trudging across the dunes toward the end of this beautiful day.
But not yet.
I turned, frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean teasing bare ankles, a constant reminder of my role as an unofficial lifeguard to these children of my heart.
Several more little ones played in the waves, jumping and splashing beneath a bright blue sky as seagulls pranced overhead, their soft gray and white wings moving against the late afternoon breeze.
This buzz of activity alternately stirred fear and delight in my nieces and nephews, the flurry of birds soaring high and swooping low at unpredictable intervals drawing a mix of giddy squeals and wide eyes at their unusual closeness.
And I knew these were the moments I wanted to remember.
The love. The laughter. The excitement and thrill of being together with little thought of how quickly it would all be over.
Soon there would be the struggle of herding our crew toward showers and dry clothes. And the duty of lugging armloads of beach gear across the dunes, up a weathered boardwalk and into the parking lot, layers of sand and seashell dust multiplying along the way.
But it would all be worthwhile.
Because along with these strands of time comes high reward when we choose to fully embrace beauty wrapped into the experience.
As time passes, I realize the stark reality of words that have been handed down for generations: “Life is a vapor. Treasure the good moments while you can.” Amid the rhythm of a fast paced life, I know it’s what I want to do, and I’m guessing you do too.
Thinking back on that day now, no longer standing at the water’s edge or surrounded by childlike wonder filtering the salty air, I’m struck by the value woven through these moments of togetherness.
Perhaps it’s a bit like mining for gold, where the sifting of hard work and responsibility is part of a natural process in uncovering shiny nuggets of wealth. A place where effort and reward go hand in hand if we’re willing to pause.
If we’re willing to release the rush and embrace the treasure hidden just below the surface.
All too quickly, times of gathering with those we love will slip through our fingers. But the next time we feel the moments fading, what do you say we linger just a little longer? Let’s fully embrace the present and allow memories to settle, captured forever in our hearts.
Because ultimately, regardless of status or wealth, these tiny slices of time will be worth more than all the gold in the world.

 

 

 

 

What I Learned From Not Getting The Job

July 19, 2016
 I lowered my head as hot tears flowed down flushed cheeks, thankful for the cover of dark windows in my small sedan.
It had happened once again.
Despite hours of research, interview preparation and years of hard work, I was passed over for a job promotion, my hopes dashed with news of not being chosen.
As a young woman learning to navigate the workforce, the sting of rejection hurt, but something inside stirred a pain greater than just the disappointment of missed opportunity.
It was the ache of feeling left behind, colliding with all my insecurities at once to create an emotional avalanche.
Maybe you can relate?
Sometimes it can seem as though everyone around us is moving forward in natural progression while we’re stuck in time, marching to a slow beat in the rhythm of life.
Perhaps I took it too hard in the heat of the moment, but have you ever noticed that elusive dreams and seasons of waiting are rarely easy struggles to face, no matter where we are in life?
This experience of missing out can be painful, especially when wrapped in the raw emotion of feeling suspended in time, while the world advances around us.
Maybe you’ve experienced the pain of prolonged hardship or a tender wound of past defeat weighing on your heart.
Or maybe the struggle stirs from a series of disappointments that are finally taking their toll.
However it comes packaged, though, sitting in the pain of  a delayed dream is hard. You and I see the ship of opportunity sailing away, with little promise of ever returning again.
But when it seems hope is floating on the wind, could the exact opposite be true instead?
Is there perhaps a greater purpose found in the waiting?
As a young person, the year after my disappointment at work proved to be one of slow, subtle growth. A period of learning rather than the strong forward momentum for which I had hoped.
 So imagine my surprise when an unexpected offer dotted the horizon, filled with the potential of a better opportunity than before.  One I could not have anticipated, and best of all, a role for which I was finally chosen.
As simple as it may sound, not getting the original job promotion became a life lesson, impacting my thought process with a lens to filter future experiences.
Experiences that bring heartache and uncertainty. Those that remind us that life is often lived in the waiting. It’s part of who we are and the forming of who we will become.
We wait for jobs and financial security. We wait for fulfilled needs of the heart and relational hope. We wait for test results and good news. We wait for direction and answered prayers.
 But through it all, do we grow? Is the end result perhaps not as important as the journey in between?
Over the years, I have come to realize God is not bound by the time clock you and I set. I’m also learning that periods of uncertainty aren’t characterized by the absence of His presence, but are an invitation for sweet communion with Him that may not otherwise be possible.
An invitation to trust that He knows best.
God moves in ways we can’t always understand to foster growth and maturity in our lives.  And a closed door today does not dim the light of opportunity for tomorrow when our future rests in His hands.
Each season of life brings unique needs and challenges in a rhythmic ebb and flow. Through it all, it’s my desire to hold steady and trust Him. May I encourage you to do the same?
 Let’s remember, that even when winter seems long, spring is still coming.
The dark, hard road of testing may leave us wondering, hoping and waiting. But don’t lose faith. It may just be the bridge to a greater blessing ahead.
Proverbs 13:12
“Hope deferred maketh the heart sick; But when desire cometh, it is a tree of life.”