Where’s Your Focus?

Where’s Your Focus?

Have you ever been in a situation where someone has come in and decided that there needed to be some changes made? Maybe it’s new management or people new to a church or place of business. From our perspective walking into something we can see how so many things need to change without knowing anything about the people, organization, or the insides. We don’t have the inside scoop but we’ve already determined how something can be better than what it is that we visibly see.

For example, I’ve worked places as a regular employee and as an assistant manager. At times, new managers would come in to replace the current manager and this could be for several reasons. The current manager could have gotten promoted or they quit or they got fired. Either way there’s a new person walking in and they’ve got a lot of great ideas. There’s nothing wrong with that but before making all of these changes they didn’t stop to take the time to learn the current environment. They didn’t take the time to sit back and observe how things were currently operating. They didn’t ask us, the people who are most familiar with that current area or business, any questions. They just started changing the things that they perceived could work better or look better.

After these changes were made they expected that things would run more effectively. They anticipated that the changes that they made would result in better production, better numbers, increase in customer satisfaction, increase in employee performance and satisfaction. Things would now run more efficiently and as the new manager in training or manager they would be able to report to the district manager all of these amazing changes made that equaled these amazing results. But strangely, that wouldn’t be what happened. Things either got worse or didn’t change at all. Employees got frustrated or felt overlooked and quit. Employee morale went down and we were less productive. This new manager is wondering why none of the changes actually helped. What happened?

One of the most valuable tools I learned from a previous manager who came into a new store after the manager we had got promoted was don’t walk in and change anything immediately. She explained that every time she took over after another manager that she at least spent the first two weeks to a month simply observing. Watching the employees and how they interacted with each other. Watching the employees interact with the customers. Talking to the customers and watching the flow of the store. Watching the different shifts and how the transitions were between the morning shift and afternoon shift. Taking the time to meet with the assistant managers or employees that have been there a long time to get to know and understand them a little before having an all staff meeting. She would ask questions. Sometimes to everyone as a group. Other times she’d speak with individuals asking them different questions.

After observing and asking questions she would then start making gradual changes. Some of those changes would be non-negotiable. Other changes would be a group consensus meaning she would ask us all which change we thought would be most effective. She explained this process to me, when I’d started the journey to become an assistant manager, as part of my training. And how she explained it to me is something that has always stuck with me. She said “When walking into a new situation or when there has been a change in management your most valuable assets are the people that are currently there. Naturally, when coming into new environments we see things differently and want to make changes. But it’s not always the appearance of things that need the immediate change. It’s not always how things are set up that contribute to whether something is successful or not. It’s the people. They know more about this store, the system, the customers, and the environment than I do. They know why things are done a certain way because that’s what makes things more productive. So it would be a huge mistake on my part to come in and decide that everything they’re doing needs to change without actually learning anything about this store or the people who operate it. It’s also an insult to them and communicates that I don’t think they know what they’re doing which not only affects employee morale, but now also affects how they receive instruction from me. So anytime you step in as a new person or new employee or new manager always take time to observe and ask questions.”

My question is how often do we do this? How often do we watch someone doing something and think of ways we can do it better without having all the information? How often do we walk into to places and think how much better something would look or run not knowing anything about the business? How many times do we observe someone doing a particular job and create a list of things mentally we think they could do better, should do better or how we think certain things should operate without knowing a thing about what it takes to do that persons job? Do we give the benefit of the doubt? Do we show grace? Do we tap into the most important resource (the people) and ask questions?

Often times our focus in life can be on the wrong thing. We focus so much on what we perceive things to look like without taking the time to dig deeper and acquire more information. We fail, at times, to use our most important resources. I’m reminded of the story in the Bible where Jesus is there and one sister is flustered, running around trying to prepare things. She’s upset that her sister isn’t helping her and is instead sitting at Jesus’ feet. She even says to Jesus “Hey don’t you think my sister should be helping me?” and Jesus tells her she’s focused on the wrong thing. Her sister is where she should be. All the pomp and circumstance to prepare for Jesus and the other people seemed important but how many opportunities did she think she would get to just sit with Jesus and talk to Him? He’s right there! Be present in the moment. Pay attention to what’s most important. Ask the questions you need to ask. Take value in the people you have with you in that moment. Take advantage of what you can learn or what you need so you can be effective. So you can prosper.

Sometimes the reason things aren’t successful initially or at all is because we lost focus. We didn’t take advantage of the resources we had. We aimed to make changes in a situation without having all the facts. We sometimes don’t see the success of something the way we think we should because we are focused on the wrong thing. We’ve looked at a situation for a short time and have then deemed we have all of the answers when in all actuality we know little to nothing. We haven’t asked God for direction, wisdom, knowledge or even if this is what He wants us to do but then we want Him to bless it after the fact. We want Him to fix the things that are not going well but we didn’t seek Him before we made the change. We made the change in haste without seeking the change agent.

I know I’ve done this before- even recently. So when God reminded me of this I went 😳🤦🏾‍♀️. If you’ve got things not going quite right in life. If you’ve started a new business, a new job, made new friendships or relationships, had some transitions in the work place and you seem a little frustrated or irritated take a step back and reevaluate your initial point of focus. Stop and look at what changes or decisions you’ve made without asking questions or having the facts and readjust. Pray! Ask God to forgive you and then ask Him to make it plain what changes you need to make going forward. Then take it all as a lesson for the next time and remember to adjust your focus. Ask yourself what’s most important in that situation so that what you do next prospers.

Be The Difference You Want To See

Be The Difference You Want To See

I remember being in middle school and during lunch time I would stop by the table with the special needs children. I would say hi and ask those who could communicate with me how their day was going. I would sometimes even sit with them and talk for a little while before heading on my way to my next class. I’d like to think that it was comforting for some of them to be surrounded by people that were like them but that it hopefully brought some joy into their lives that someone who was not quite like them took the time to engage in conversation with them or to just say hi. Even though this kind of thing was frowned on by my peers and no one really understood, I did it anyway. Instead of being the one picking on them or laughing at them I choose to be kind and love on them.

While this is a good memory and a kind act, I didn’t always make these types of choices. I’m sure that we all at some point have had choices to make and didn’t make the best one because at times I think we make choices without regard to how they will affect the future. For example, I grew up in the baptist church. And for so long the encounters and experiences I had with church I thought were limited to just me. But as we grow older and meet more people, we start to talk about our experiences more. The more I talked about how I grew up and the things I experienced in reference to baptist churches (not all of them were the same just some of the ones I went to with my parents) the more I learned that I was not the only one that had this experience.

Going to church was not always the greatest experience. I do have some memories of fun things such as going to vacation bible school or sunday school with kids my age. Most of my experiences that I can remember are tied to having to always wear a dress. How you looked when you went to churh was important. Girls wore dresses, not pants. I had to wear panty hose or tights. I also had to wear a slip under every dress or skirt I wore. As an adult I don’t own one single slip. I haven’t worn one probably since I was a child! I also recall being older and just growing in life. I was a responsible young adult. I worked a full time job. I was also coming into a space of freedom. I didn’t attend church as regurlarly as I used to but when I did attend I didn’t feel welcomed. I felt judged or like I was being reprimanded for missing church. Because of this feeling it lead me to gradually stop attending. Not to mention I didn’t really understand why I needed to go in the first place. I got baptized at the age of 9 and while it was explained to me I don’t think I got the full magnitude of it until I was much older.

I moved back to the town I would consider “home” in many ways because it was the place the military had allowed our family to live in the longest. I started going to one of the churches I attended as a teenager. The church was familiar to me so when my friend invited me to attend one Sunday morning I said sure. I was always warmly welcomed every time I went. I always enjoyed service (even though the first month I cried every Sunday. God was doing something new in me). It became my church home and later the place I would work at.

When I first started working there one of the main challenges I encountered was my attitude. My face often told what I was thinking or feeling and I often responded before thinking about how my response would be interpreted (rude is how it would be interpreted). It took many moments of me getting scolded, watching how people looked when I responded or even having people tell me that they didn’t like my response before things started to eventually click. I often thought in my head that I just didn’t like people and that’s why I responded the way that I did. Even though I had loved people all of my life and hadn’t always responded in this manner. However, at this time in my life I had gone through and was still going through some very tough things. It changed me in ways I did not like. Over time I came to learn and understand that it wasn’t that I didn’t like people, it was more so that I didn’t like me. I had some things that I needed to change about myself. I had some growing to do.

When life has taken us through tough situations we often don’t want to connect with people because we feel ashamed, hurt, and often times people can see the things in us that we are struggling with but we don’t want to face. Being around people consistently and building relationships means we have to grow. If we’re in the right relationships they will push us to grow and change. Sometimes we just aren’t ready to face it. We aren’t ready to deal with the hurt and pain so that we can grow. But with the people I surrounded myself with I really didn’t have a choice. And as I began to make the necessary changes I started to see things differently. I started to think differently which then resulted in my acting differently.

I got to a place where I really loved the people that I came into contact with each week either during Wednesday or Sunday service or during the week in the office. I didn’t have to constantly tell myself to be nice or to respond in love or to smile because I genuinely already felt those things inside and that resonated with the people I came into contact with. I stopped seeing the looks people gave when I responded poorly. I started hearing things like “You bring so much light into the room.” “Your smile lights up the place.” “You’re such a pleasant person.” “You are so kind.” Hearing these things further encouraged me and reminded me of how far I had come. I started making it a goal to learn people’s names and to learn a little about them. I interacted with people more. What I came to realize is that I had come to a place where I loved myself and that showed. Because I loved myself it was much easier for me to love and connect with other people.

How does this tie into my experiences at church when I was younger? God put me in a position to be the change. He put me in a place when I was wounded and needed growth. I needed to be stretched beyond my comfort zone. And then after all of the changing and growing and discomfort He allowed me to be the opposite of what I had experienced. Although initially I was similar in attitude to what I had grown up in, I allowed God and the influences around me to change me and grow me up so that I could be different. I wanted people to come to church and feel welcomed and loved not judge. We had a great team that did that when people came on the church campus but that didn’t have to just stop with them. We convince ourselves sometimes that because someone else is doing the good thing or volunteering to help that we don’t need to. We make ourselves believe that we aren’t needed or that we don’t need to be apart of the change.

I hear so many people complaining about churches. They have things they don’t like, experiences that they’ve had that have deterred them from attending church or other events. And I get it. But I wish people would think more along the lines of their reasoning for attending church…..is it so that everything will line up with their list of demands so that they will feel comfortable or it is it so that they can change? Is it because they’re seeking something and they know they need to go to church to receive it? Churches are often full of damaged people. No one is perfect. Everyone is in some way trying to be better. But whether it’s church or sitting with kids who are different at school, connecting with the strange co worker no one talks to, be the difference you want to see. Find something to connect to in that church or school or job, examine your reasoning for going and then be apart of the change there. If you want people to experience something other than what you’ve experienced learn to be the change. We too often wait for somene to change things in our enviroments when we can be the actual change.

Love Your Uniqueness

Love Your Uniqueness

Growing up I would say that I was considered to be weird or didn’t quite fit the mold of what some would consider a black girl should fit into. I was an avid book reader, still am. I remember being in between duty stations (I was an army brat) and we were at my grandmothers house. Some of my cousins were fascinated at how well I read and the type of words I could recognize at such an early age. I think I was maybe 8. My cousin set me up on the washing machine and handed me a newspaper. Then my cousins would just ask me to read it. They’d sometimes interrupt me to point at certain words and look at me in awe as I said them.

I’ve also always loved to write. English or Language Arts have always been my favorite subjects. As a teenager and young adult I’ve written several short stories and I’ve had a few poems published in a compilation book of poetry. I used to think someday that I’d be an author of some sort but I didn’t quite find the genre I was passionate about writing.

I often got called a nerd or accused of wanting to be white. I spoke proper English and in complete sentences so I was frequently accused of talking like a white person. I couldn’t figured that one out. Not all white people talk proper or speak in complete sentences so there was always a question mark there for me. I liked school and didn’t like missing school. I was there everyday unless I was sick or had a family emergency. If my parents signed me out for an appointment and there was still time to go back to school I would ask them to take me back. Senior skip day? I was one of the few present. Like who gets a freebie day to skip, so to speak, and still shows up to school? This girl. Boys often called me stuck up because I wasn’t super interested in dating and often didn’t respond to the way they’d try to talk to me. And honestly most of the guys I liked didn’t like me back.

I got picked on a lot. Even by my own family. I got bullied on the bus. To this day I can’t even recall everything the bullies said because I’d ignore them intentionally and then get off the bus as quickly as possible. I didn’t always dress like everyone else. I got my first pair of Nikes’s when I was about 13 I think. My parents had 5 kids and Nike’s were really expensive back then so I saved up my babysitting money and bought my first pair. They were black and white. Lord help you if you stepped on them! Lol.

I was different and often didn’t relate to a lot of my cousins my age or black kids my age. Not all of them of course, but growing up a military brat moving around all of the time I was exposed to different people and different cultures and that’s what I related to. Moving to an area that was predominantly black when I was halfway through my 6th grade year was eye opening. I remember coming home from school telling my mom that I had never been surrounded by so many black people in school!

Fast forward to now having two kids with ADHD and my oldest daughter being diagnosed with Aspergers, a high functioning form of autism, at age 8, you could say I have some pretty unique kids! My oldest daughter required a lot of my attention especially during her elementary school years. Raising her during this time was exhausting, overwhelming, emotionally draining, funny and inspiring.

She did not fit in with most of her classmates and didn’t have a lot of friends. She still doesn’t. Interacting with her peers is difficult for her because well, she’s weird. And I can say that cause I’m her mom. She was really into animals and would talk about them all day depending on which phase of animal obsession we were in. She stayed in the dinosaur phase the longest, which was my favorite phase. She loves things like avengers or anything marvel. She is not girly and didn’t like wearing dresses. There’s a slew of other quirky things about her but the point is she’s different. As soon as I felt she would understand that she was different I started telling her that. I’d have conversations with her and say “You’re weird and quirky and funny and smart and all of that’s ok! Don’t change. Keep being who you are no matter what. I love you just like this.” As she got older and people would tell her she’s strange or weird she would smile and say “I know.”

My second daughter is all girl all the time! Exact opposite of her sister. From a very early age she was all diva. I think she got that from her Grandma Becky! She loves lip gloss, getting her nails done, pink and dressing up! Sometimes I’d take her to the grocery store all dressed up in whatever little princess outfit she was in. She was just so cute but it was mostly because she refused to take it off and I didn’t have all day to fight with her about it. Unlike her sister, she’s a social butterfly. Kids flock to her. She’s friendly, intelligent, hilarious and super sweet. But she talks incessantly. I mean it is nonstop! She’s always got a story or something to say. She can go all day. I consistently have to fight the urge to yell “Hush!” Honestly I have more times than I can say. She knew she talked a lot. I told her so but I tried to steer away from making it a negative thing as much as possible. It didn’t stop her from coming home one day really upset with her feelings hurt.

I was at the bus stop waiting for her. When she got in the car I could tell she was upset. I asked her what was wrong and she said “Mommy this girl made me feel bad. We were hanging out and she says to me loudly in front of everyone ‘Oh my gosh Ari you talk so much. Can you be quiet sometimes?!’ I know I talk a lot mommy. I just can’t help it!” My heart broke for her. I’m sure she was embarrassed and hurt. I said to her “Ari, yes, you talk a lot. Sometimes it can be too much for some people. But that’s ok. There are people who love you just the way you are. Mommy’s loves you just like this and I think it’s one of the best things about you. You’re smart and it’s ok that you talk a lot. If people don’t like it then don’t be their friend. Pray for them and remember that you’re loved just as you are. It’s ok to be different.”

My point in sharing all of this is we are all unique in some way. We all have things about us that not everyone will get or like. People may even say mean or cruel things to us but we have to learn to accept and love ourselves in all of our uniqueness and pain. The difference between my story and my kids is I wasn’t celebrated in my uniqueness or weirdness. No one really told me that I was loved just the way that I am. Even growing up in church I never got the concept that God loves me just as I was because you had to look a certain way at church. Girls always wore dresses. You had to be present at every service all the time and you were criticized for missing one. I felt more judged than accepted. It’s taken me years and well into adulthood to finally embrace who I am and to love myself. I love me! So it was important to me to tell my kids early on that they are loved for who they are even with their quirkiness and flaws. I don’t always get it right. I’m sure I’ve said or done something that has hurt their feelings but I always try to go back and apologize then remind them that they are loved. There’s nothing wrong with being different.

We should remind ourselves of this as much as possible. Being different changes the world. There are so many people who stepped out of the mold the world was trying to force them into and they have created amazing inventions or advancements in science. Being uniquely you is beautiful. Embrace it and encourage those around you, especially your kids or children you influence, to do the same.

Maybe It’s Your Confidence

Maybe It’s Your Confidence

When I was a teenager I started to bake. Not a whole lot and not anything too fancy. Mostly cookies; chocolate chip and peanut butter. My mom was awesome at baking pies and cooking as well. She made the best sweet potatoe pie I have ever had to date. Now this baking that I used to do came from my mom and a friend that she had. My mom’s friend had a daughter that was around the same age as me. Every now and again the mother and daughter would come over for a visit but the mother came over more by herself just to hang out with my mom. Every time my mom’s friend was going to come over my mom would ask me to make cookies. Peanut butter to be exact because my mom loved peanut butter cookies. I thought she was just asking me to make them because she loved them but I later found out that wasn’t all there was to it.

One day my mom and her friend were in the kitchen talking. I had already baked the cookies and was coming into the kitchen for something when I heard my mom tell her friend that I made the cookies from scratch. It took all I had not to burst out laughing because I most certainly did not (although the cookies were good)! I was not overly crazy about baking or cooking but I knew the basics and was fine helping my mom in the kitchen if need be. I most certainly was not a professional in the baking or cooking area. I later learned from my mom after her friend left that there was some motherly competition between the two moms and their two girls (we obvioulsy were oblivious to this). They were often bragging about us to each other and it kind of became a fun pass time between them.

When my mom became ill with cancer, it’s what she taught me that allowed me to cook when she was too sick to do so. But because at such a young age I kind of had to grow up to take on more responsibilities like cooking, cleaning, taking care of my little brother etc., I didn’t think that I would ever enjoy baking or cooking. Even when I got married (the first time) I would cook things and sometimes my husband would look at me, after he had eaten the entire meal, (bless his heart) and say “Yeah don’t make that one again.” Usually this happened with meals that I was trying for the first time, ya know, trying to step out of my comfort zone. So I would trash the recipe and continue on to cooking what I knew. It wasn’t that I couldn’t cook it was more so whatever it was that I was attempting to cook I wasn’t sure or confident that it would turn out well. I wasn’t certain that I knew what I was doing (and sometimes I didn’t) or confident that the meal would turn out well. I wasn’t certain that I could do this new recipe justice. I would try to make it my own and that would sometiumes backfire which made me lack even more confidence.

This lack of confidence in my cooking ability even translated over to group meals with friends. Some of my oldest friends will tell you when we were having a big meal together to avoid having to bring a dish and it not quite meet the standard I had set for myself, I brought the same things each time we gathered: corn on the cobb, hawaiian sweet rolls, drinks and I would make a cake or two. Sometimes I even threw in paper products LOL. That’s all they were getting folks. These friends were really great cooks and I was intimidated by that so I stuck to what was easiest and couldn’t really be criticized. But over the years after divorcing, being a single parent, and learning how to try new things, all of this gradually began to change. There are two things that will thrust you into stepping out of your comfort zone: being a military spouse and single parenthood. I started cooking more and even picked up some new recipes from other friends. The more that I started cooking things out of my comfort zone the more my confidence began to grow.

My confidence really bloomed more when I met my spiritual mother who is an amazing baker and cook. Over the years of getting to know her I learned more about different spices to use as well as trying different recipes in the baking area. As I practiced and started bringing new dishes to parties or group functions, I realized that not only did I like to cook and bake but I was also pretty good at it! My husband now is currently reaping a lot of the benefits from that. He thinks I can bake and cook anything! And truthfully there isn’t any recipe that I see now that intimidates me. I pull up new recipes all of the time and bake or cook them on a whim. Not just that, I will try a recipe for the first time and take it to a party or group function and not stress about it because I’ve become more confident in my ability to do so ( I also taste stuff before I bring it…..I mean I want to ensure it does taste good! LOL). I even cook without measuring now! And, sure, sometimes I burn things or it doesn’t turn out right but that doesn’t stop me or change my confidence.

The point to this story is somtimes we think we don’t like something or aren’t too good at doing something to include trying new things and in some cases this may be true. But sometimes it’s our confidence or lack thereof that is standing in the way. We allow the times that we have made mistakes or didn’t do as well discourage us from trying again. I know we’ve all heard the saying at some point in our lives “If at first you don’t succeed try and try again.”  The more we work at something the better we become and the better we become the more our confidence is built up. Don’t get discouraged and resort back to staying in your comfort zone.

Keep in mind that as you branch out and try new things; as you push the boundaries of your confidence people may come out of no where and say or do things that may be discouraging. They may not mean it to come off as discouraging but people don’t always see the back side of things. They don’t always know the work or effort that you’ve put into something before they respond in criticism. Sometimes they think they are helping you. Either way remind yourself that you won’t always have everything perfect but that’s not going to change the path that you are on. Keep going because soon enough you will see the results of all of your efforts and well, confidence in yourself and your abilities is always a great result.

Now I do bake cookies and cakes from scratch and I imagine that my mom is in heaven smiling down at me because I rose to the potential she knew I had. I bet she wishes she could call her friend and really get her brag on now! But what really warms my heart is knowing that she bragged on me anyway-before I came into my potential and confidence. You may not have someone bragging on you right now but brag on yourself! Consider it the beginning of your confidence building journey.

What Do You See?

What Do You See?

I often have conversations with people about different things happening in their lives whether it be work, personal or family related. It’s always interesting to see how different people’s perspectives can be on each subject. I think a lot of the time our perspectives are dictated by what we feel about the subject at the time. Sometimes we can have an overall positive perspective or a really negative one and honestly I think it depends on where we are is in our journey in life.

For example, when I was a single parent there were times where I was extremely overwhelmed. In those moments I had the tendency to look at my situation as hopeless or impossible. For me, one of the hardest parts about being a single parent were the amount of day to day decisions that rested solely with me. Sometimes I didn’t want to have to figure out how to get the kids from point A to point B or what I should do about certain issues they were struggling with. I also didn’t want to have to worry about childcare all of the time! I wanted the freedom to make plans with friends and have another parent available that I could trust to leave the kids with. But that just was not the cards I was dealt initially. Because I felt alone and frustated I would often see my situation as unfair. In some ways it might have been but it’s also about how I looked at the situation overall.

Another example of what we see or how we  perceive things might be in the work place. I have worked several jobs before where there were times where things were overwhelming or hard to push through. We spend more of our time at work during the week than we do with our family. If you do not enjoy your career or if you are going through a hard phase at work it can be very discouraging.  We want to enjoy what we do and it is very hard to go to a place day in and day out when you don’t like the environment or don’t want to be there. Have you ever had a moment where you’re just really irritated and you vent to someone who then comes back with “Well at least you have a job”? Sometimes in these moments I think people say these types of things to get us to look at the overall picture and to change how we see things in that moment. At times, it may work and help us take a step back to look at things with new lenses or it could make us more irritated because in that moment that’s not the point. We’re grateful for the job but we want to stay in that space of irritation so that someone can validate us.

Lastly, something our perspective can be skewed on is life in general. There are a lot of people that I know who have not had the best hand dealt to them in life. When I look at my life and the circumstances that I have been through I used to think about how unfair it was or how painful it was-and still is for some parts of my life at times. I’ve been divorced, a single parent, my mom died when I was 9 months pregnant with my first child (who was diagnosed with Aspergers-a high functioning form of autism at age 8), my dad died 4 years later when my second child was only 6 months, my mother in law at the time had just passed 6 months before my dad, each and every time I have had a child my spouse has been deployed and I have had to spend the first part of the child’s life handling things on my own (sleep deprivation is the worst!), not to mention I have birthed two of my children without their father present, and in one of the births I lost a lot of blood. I had to be readmitted to the hospital after being discharged a few days later for a total of 5 days. I had to spend time away from my new baby during that time because I had a uterus infection and preeclampsia. Whew! That’s a lot and that does not include the boughts of depression I experienced and overcame with God’s help.

If I take a look at all of these different experiences through the negative lense it’s easy to feel discouraged, frustated, let down, hurt, depressed. If I consistenly stayed in the thought process of how things didn’t go my way and I had to spend years of being a single parent, sacrifcing a lot of personal time (which still happens as a parent whether you have help or not) and shedding a lot of tears, I’d miss out on all of the good that came from that time frame in my life. I wouldn’t have been able to see and appreciate how God kept me. My bills were paid, my kids had all of their needs and wants met, God brought people into my life that helped encourage me, people who supported me, people who helped me with my kids and cared for my kids as if they were their own (I had an amazing support system with friends and church). If I choose to focus on the loneliness I felt for a large portion of that time I wouldn’t have been able to learn about God’s love and allow Him to fill that void in my life.

From the work perspective if I solely focused on the jobs I had where I felt like I couldn’t take another day, I’d miss out on the lessons God was trying to teach me in that business and how He was using me to bless and encourage others. I once worked at a storage business where people came in to store their personal household goods or even their cars. Towards the end of my time there I often felt like I was on the brink of losing my mind. The work environment was intense. It felt like if you were not constantly on your p’s and q’s you were minutes away from being fired (and people were getting fired!). I did not want to go and sometimes cried before going! But while I was there I didn’t allow myself to focus on the fact that I was miserable. I focused on doing the best job that I could. I put my attention towards making sure I was helping the business to run as effectively as possible. I provided excellent customer service and because we dealt with people often not being able to pay their storage bill for whatever reason, God used me to help bless people by negotiating with them to work out payment plans. I can’t tell you how good it felt when you have someone on the phone who went through a terrible divorce, didn’t have a job or a place to live and those personal belongings were all they had, to be able to work with them to ensure they didn’t lose everything! But if I was a disgruntled worker I would have missed out on countless moments to be present and allow God to use me to be a blessing.

In my life the things that I have been through, especially losing my parents, have been some major hurdles. I could let the loss of my parents at a young age be used as an excuse or a crutch to make poor decsions. I could have allowed the divorce I went through to make me and keep me bitter (because I was bitter at some point. Going through a divorce feels like processing a death of a loved one. It’s brutal!) but I instead focused my attention on being a better person, a better parent, and someone that my parents would be proud of should they have been around to see me go through these different stages in life. It really is about what we are seeing and how we let the experiences we go through in life determine how we handle things moving forward. Something that has stuck with me that my husband has said to me (when he is wise I have to roll my eyes because it’s true but I want to be all in my feelings LOL) was “So what your tire is flat, that’s going to happen. Don’t get so upset that it ruins your mood. A flat tire can be fixed easily. Just be grateful it wasn’t something much worse”. It’s a great reminder to not sweat the small things. Sometimes when I find myself in moments where I want to look at the things that aren’t working out in my favor God brings that memory to mind and I am able to regroup.

In the end we have to choose how we see things. We get to choose whether we are going to spend our time (which is already limited because we have so many things to do between work, family, etc.) focusing on the one thing that didn’t go right or the several situations in life that knocked us down or didn’t go our way. We get to choose whether we take a moment and see the beauty in the situation or to constantly let our mind and feelings determine that it’s all bad and no one understands. One of the most powerful and exciting reminders I got while reading my Bible the other day was 1 Peter 5: 8-9 which says “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for somene to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.” The last part of this scripiture screamed out to me “You’re not the only one going through tough times!” It was a reminder that I am surrounded by people daily who are going through things I know nothing about and some of them choose every day to put a smile on their face and look at the beauty in life even though they’re dealing with cancer. Some of them lost a spouse and choose to show up smiling and honoring their spouse by celebrating the time that they did have together to love each other.

What do you see when you look at life? What do you see when you are going through tough times or when you’re surrounded by people who are dealing with difficult situations? Are you the person that always have something negative to say and can’t ever see the good or are you the person that chooses to speak life? If you find yourself always sad, angry, depressed or frustated I challenge you to look at things from a different perspective. Literally start to ask yourself “What do I see?” and if you start off with negative things start challenging yourself to see something else. Even if it’s one good thing….that’s what you need to focus on. It really can and will change your life for the better and not only that it will start to affect those around you in a positive way. It’s all about perspective. Start looking at situations as  learning experiences because that’s what life is. We are all on the journey of living and learning.

 

Let It Go

Let It Go

I tend to hang on to feelings a lot longer than I should. A part of me wants to redeem myself or make people see how their rationale for treating me a certain way does not make since and isn’t right. You can feel like you’re a really good person. You can know that about yourself. You know that you’re kind and caring and giving. These are all things I know to be true about who I am. I know that my goal is to be helpful and to bless people. I know these things to be true because I tend to treat people and do things for people based off of how I would want to be treated. I aim to love people and show them that love through my actions.

But what do you do when you feel like you have been there for someone and they have not consistently been there for you? What do you do when you feel hurt or let down in life or relationships? First of all, be grateful and secondly, learn to move forward in forgiveness. Be grateful that your eyes have been opened. If you’re anything like me you constantly want to see the good in people. I have stayed connected to people that I should have walked away from because I believe in the good in them. And truthfully I hate letting people down. I don’t want to be the person that is not there for someone I care about (even though I can say there were times that I’ve failed to be in some way). But walking away from a relationship does not always mean that the person is not a good person and that you’re a bad one. It does not mean that you don’t care about them as a person. It means that you care about yourself more. We have to stop thinking that caring about ourselves and what’s best for us makes us selfish. We cannot pour from an empty vessel.

I recently watched a sermon online and  the pastor was preaching on releasing things. Sometimes that can be ill feelings towards someone that we are harboring. It could be resentment. The release could also be a person but we have to let go because these things or people are literally holding us captive emotionally and mentally. Especially if we are in a particular space in life where we are looking for God to do something big. We are sometimes wanting God to do something major and we sit around wondering why we are still in the same place a year later (we have baggage).

I have come to a point where I no longer chase relationships. The people that value me and are meant to be in my life are already here and if they aren’t God will send them. If they aren’t meant to be I pray that God gives me the strength to let go and move forward. I used to chase relationships. If there was a disagreement or I felt like I did something wrong I would frequently be the one to initate repairing the broken pieces. It’s not that initiating or attempting to resolve conflict is bad but watch out for relationships that make it seem like it’s always YOU that’s the problem. I have apologized for issues that weren’t necessarily my fault just to move the relationship forward. This isn’t good if the other person takes no ownership in the situation. Everything isn’t always your fault and everything isn’t always the other person’s fault either. You both should evalute the situation and determine the role you played.

I stopped chasing relationships not because I didn’t value the relationship or the person but because I valued me! If it is easy or necessary for that person to walk away without attempting to resolve the situation or to communicate with you any further then you need to let them walk away. Let them walk away and don’t harbor any hard feelings. Understand that they are doing what’s best for them just as you are doing what is best for you. In that moment you are being released from a situation or relationship that wasn’t meant to go with you on your next journey for whatever reason. Trust God on that release. Personally I don’t want a relationship with someone who doesn’t want to talk about or confront issues. It’s how we learn and how we grow. And I don’t want to be in relationships where I give more than I get.

However, there are circumstances where you have to determine what discussing certain things resolves. What does it change? I had a moment one time where someone said somethng to me and in that moment I thought “Well that’s interesting. So you’re going to totally discredit everything that I’ve contributed to the relationship because I’m not who I once was?” That’s kind of painful and frustrating and I thought about taking the time to have a private meeting with them and then I thought no or maybe it was the holy spirit. The comment revealed more about the person than it did about me. And,well, why should I have this conversation when what they said made it clear what their expectations were. I don’t meet those expectations and wasn’t going to try. So if I wasn’t willing to make those changes then it wasn’t necessary for me to address it. And guess what? GOD KNOWS. God knows the things that I have done in the relationship. He has seen the good things (and the bad things!!!!) that I have done out of my heart. He has seen the sacrifices I have made and He is who my reward (and conviction for the bad things) will come from. I know without a shadow of a doubt that His reward will be bigger and better than any person could ever give.

So when you find yourself wrestling with resentment, hurt or frustration; when you find yourself hung up on the same issues remind yourself to let it (and sometimes the relationship) go! Especially if you’ve addressed or decided against addressing the issue and to move forward. You know who you are. It’s not necessary to try to constantly convince someone of that. Easier said than done I know. If you’re anything like me I have a replay button in my head and that sucker stays on a constant loop-reminding me of how I could have handled something better or how I feel misunderstood. But I am learning to press stop. I am learning that what has happened-well, has happened. I cannot change it. I care about my well being and peace more than I care about being right. (Trying and wanting to be right all of the time will mess you up! You’re not always right.) I don’t care to prove to someone that I am right or justified in my actions. I care to show my heart but you can’t make everyone see your heart or recieve you. I aim to let my character speak for itself and to focus on being a better me. I am content knowing that God has searched my heart and He knows what’s in it. He’s making it easier for me to release old habits, old ways of thinking, past feelings, past frustations and pain. He’s making it easier for me to let go of anything and anyone that is holding me back from where He’s taking me. Allow Him to do the same for you!

Find Your Why

Find Your Why

Lately, well a little more than lately- I’ve been working on this side project. The more I dive into it, the more I am learning things about myself that should have been obvious but only just became clear through this process. I have been reading a book called Business Boutique that’s directly related to my project. What I like most about this book, aside from the knowledge Christy Wright supplies, is how it really opens me up for self reflection. It has helped me focus more on my strengths and less on my weaknesses. It has helped me clearly put together a plan based off of my strengths and values as a person. The more I read, the more exciting aspects of my life that I am looking forward to exploring are revealed. Through reading this book it has helped me identify what brings me genuine happiness in what I do.

A question she frequently poses is what’s your why? Why do you do the things that you do or want to do? I’m naturally encouraging. I like encouraging people. I enjoy letting people know that they are not alone and there is someone who will listen; someone who will understand or not judge them. I mostly thought that this was my why. Upon further reflection and prompting from the questions asked in this book, I started really thinking through things throughout my life. The book references so many times people saying “I’ve always enjoyed knitting.” or I’ve always enjoyed creating or painting” but for several chapters I couldn’t really find my “I’ve always enjoyed…” until recently. See, I knew I always enjoyed encouraging people but what I really enjoy is how God opens doors for me to encourage people in simple, but powerful ways.

I’ve always enjoyed blessing people in ways that makes whatever gift is given personalized. Because words are my love language and because I value gifts that I know specifically speak to me as a person, I thoroughly enjoy giving items, gifts or words of encouragement to people where it personally speaks to them. Over the last year or so I have started making gift baskets as presents for people. Whether it be for birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas etc. I deeply, deeply enjoy making these baskets and the shopping that goes along with making the baskets. Now anyone that knows me knows I strongly dislike shopping! But it’s something about going out and picking specific items that I know a person would enjoy that just brings me so much joy. I’m always excited to give these baskets because I hope that through the items I picked just for them the person can see my heart and intent behind it. Life is so short. The people you care about need to know without a shadow of a doubt that they’re important to you and that you care. Knowing how encouraging or happy these baskets (sometimes I use a box) make people feel is apart of my why.

Another part attached to my why are personalized, hand written cards I mail out to people. My goal is to mail 2 per week. These cards are meant to encourage and uplift people; to remind them that even if they’re struggling or hurt or overwhelmed that they still matter. They’re important and amazing and loved. The feedback I receive blesses me more than anything else. When people tell me they tack it to a board in their home and when they have a bad day they read it and it encourages them or that they carry it around with them as a reminder or that it’s exactly what they needed to hear on that day in that moment it seriously warms my heart and touches me to tears. I’m grateful that God allows me to bless people that way. There is so much harshness in this world. People are often struggling in ways we cannot comprehend and in ways they may never say. It costs nothing to be kind. It costs nothing to encourage someone but saying nothing when you had the chance could cost someone everything.

So with all of that being said, my why is simple. Because I have had experiences in my life where I’ve felt alone and because I know how it made me feel to have someone see my pain and say something encouraging I make it a goal to pay it forward. I’ve had moments when I was falling apart and didn’t want to deal with another second of the day and someone would give me a small gift or a card and it would change my whole mood. It would give me hope and well, who doesn’t need hope? So whatever you do- at work, at home, with friends, at church, in your community, find your reasoning for connecting with others and it will change your perspective. It really can help you be more passionate about your purpose, find joy in what you do, and help you be a conduit to changing someone’s life.