Accepting change

Recently I had the chance to visit a couple of other regions in the world and it was fascinating to see how much each of these places had changed since I last visited them. As I walked along the quiet paths in an old London park, it took me back to the days when my dad would bring us to the park on a Sunday afternoon for ice cream and play time. My sister and I would run around until we could hardly stand. I remember going on the swings and feeling the rush of the wind in my face as I went higher and higher without a care in the world. Oh how different a time it is now.

As I walked along sandy beaches in Ocho Rios Jamaica, I also remember a time when life was just so much fun and very carefree. The sun beat down on my shoulders each morning when I took my beach walk with friends, and now I worried more about getting sun burn than I did back then when I spent hours in the water and often times going home burnt to a crisp!

Its funny how when we look at change, we can only see what was then and what is now. We miss the parts in the middle and they can often be the most critical things that have helped us to grow from then to now. We miss the times of ecstasy when we land our first job, pass our driving test or complete our education. We forget the excitement of meeting our spouse, buying our first home and dealing with our first drama. Our memories become jaded as we reflect on then and now and so often we miss the things that make us who we are today.

Life has changed significantly for me in these past months. My 2 children are now adults and there are days when I feel invisible, unappreciated and completely unimportant and I long for those days when they used to drive me crazy with their unending questions, and artful tricks - there I go looking at the then and now completely forgetting how wonderfully rewarding it has been to be their mother! I am also a newly single woman and as I look back on my years of marriage, the then and now holds very bittersweet memories and almost a wistfulness of what if..... Change is never easy but it is always necessary. What we should never forget is the bit in the middle that took us from back then to now.

"We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us." Joseph Campbell
 

New year, new you

2017 was a tough year for a number of reasons. Watching the news, failing relationships, conflict in churches and other social connections have led to feelings of sadness and at times despair. There were days when I even wondered if the sun would shine through the dark clouds of discouragement, disappointment, and failure. I have often thought that life can only get better because of my usually sunny disposition, however, there were days when I struggled even to believe my own philosophy...

If you pay attention to numbers, the number 7 in the biblical sense signifies completion and the number 8 represent new beginnings which leads me to my title, new year, new you. I firmly believe that 2017 was incredibly difficult because it was signaling an end or completion of a phase in my life. Things seemed to chug along nicely, until they didn't and I wasn't always ready to accept the end and closure of whatever the situation or thing was. I always wanted to hold on to things that sometimes were not right for me because they were comfortable... There are times that we have to experience hardship, where God literally yanks the rug of comfort from under our feet, to wake us up and ready for a new day.

 And so, 2018 represents hope and anticipation of newness. Now I have always believed that you can help to write your own story and I still think that is true to a large extent. If you believe that you can achieve something, you can and if you don't, you won't. If this is true, you can also assume that we all have a measure of power and influence on whether or not we achieve our goals and maintain a sense of happiness no matter what. 2018 can be your year to achieve all of the things you have been pushing to the side, things that have been whispered in your spirit and nag at your heart yet they remain unaccomplished. Don't miss your opportunity, let this be your year of newness, step out in faith and believe that your 7 is complete, and your 8 is a new season, ordained by your heavenly father and has just begun...

What's your worry?

We all worry or fret about something or another at some point in our lives. Even those of us with the strongest most resilient of faith have days when we wonder if a solution for a situation we are dealing with will ever be found. Take heart because you are not strange nor is there something unusual about you if you worry.

Sometimes even when we have received promises from God and even though we know that He will take care of us (because this is not the first time we are in this position), we wonder and doubt if He will come through because we do not see the results just yet. We forget that He will take care of us no matter what our circumstances tell us.

As I completed my devotion today, I too realized that I was secretly concerned about things I had no business being worried about. I have God's promises but I had become distracted with the things that I could see - the loneliness of an empty nest and a traveling spouse, the fear of starting a new business on my own and most of all, the fear of failure having experienced a long and very successful career in the corporate world. What would people think?

Luke 24 and so many other scriptures reminds us that we are valuable to God and He will always take care of us. He provides for and clothes the animals and wild flowers and, He does and continues to do so much more for us. God has invested talents, skills and emotions in us and because we fail to remember this at times, we get distracted and ripples of worry begin to disturb our days and our nights. You can help yourself by taking a few simple steps:

  • Remember how much God has invested in you already. Your talents, skills, experiences and resources are all for you to do more with for His kingdom and to help yourself
  • Remember, if He has given you much, He also requires much from you (Luke 12:48). How have you used what He has given you? Start thinking of ways to use the 'much' and it may help you worry less about the small stuff
  • Turn your focus to God and your readiness to be in His presence - recapture the excitement of your relationship with Him when you first came to know Him, and gain a new appreciation of the wonder of His love for you
  • When you start to worry about your finances - remember, somehow you always manage to come through. That was not you, it was all God and you have to trust that He will continue to do that same thing for you

And finally - whatever you do here on earth should be an investment in your portfolio for your future in heaven. How you treat others, conduct yourself in business, school or even socially is an asset that you developed for life. We plan for the future in a number of ways but how do you treat your assets for eternity? Laying up your treasures for heaven will keep you in the mindset of ultimately going there. What do the assets in your portfolio look like?

The balancing act of quitting and winning

I recently read a blog at gritandvirtue.com that made me think a lot about my life purpose. In the blog, the author wrote about knowing when a season is ending and that it was ok to "be a quitter". I thought that was interesting because I have never ever wanted to be considered a quitter since I have always been taught "winners never quit and quitters never win". As a woman, I have lived through different seasons and schools of thought which today have formed and informed who I really am. In my season of youth,  I was under the mindset that I had to be pliable and submissive to others. This only worked for a short while. Now that I am older and in a different season, I have developed a mindset that pushes me to be tougher and stronger which does not always work out either.

While I believe firmly that both mindsets serve their purposes in particular life seasons, learning how to balance the mindsets is critical for sustained peace and happiness. This takes me back to the blog I read from Grit and Virtue. There are times when you need to quit - the bad habits of self-doubt, feelings of not being enough or good enough and self pity, and reclaim your strength and love of life. Life is what you make it and choosing to be happy are not just things we say, its what we should do. Its ok to walk away from toxic situations, people and relationships that we think we cannot do without. Let's face it, how happy have those things really made you feel?

We all have stuff that we should quit - no one needs to tell you what those are. Will you be brave today and be a quitter?

 

The Happiness Story

What does happiness mean to you? Is it the unbridled emotion of love you feel when you stare into your new baby's eyes? That warm tingly feelings your experience when your significant other's hand gently brushes your arm? Is it that satisfied feeling of knowing your did your best work and others noticed? Or can it be something as simple as a warm mug with your beverage of choice on a cold winter's day? Its probably all of these things and more. Sadly, so many of us seemed to be denied these essences of happiness, and the world seems to be a very dreary and fear-filled place.

Its almost frightening to watch the news - natural disasters, crime and violence, sickness and death seems to be the order of the day. There does not appear to be a safe haven amidst the turmoil, and many people appear to losing heart because of the times. But there is good news! We can still find joy in the little things and peace even when the bigger things seem out of control. Science proves that happiness is possible and in fact a recent study of African American women in the US south found that when certain facets in their lives were properly aligned, they were more than happy, they had an intense feeling of well-being.

These women indicated that when they felt supported, had good work-life balance, were self-aware, had opportunities to work autonomously and experienced feelings of thriving and appreciation, they felt happy. In addition, they all held strong religious beliefs and when they had the chance to give back through acts of altruism, they were truly happy. There are a number of studies that support the benefits of happiness or well-being and in many ways, these studies overlap with the themes found with the study of African American women. The good news is, this can include you - you can find your happy.

You can take charge and begin a new chapter in your story but as with these women, you have to find a foundation upon which to live. They had a religious connection and when you leave the writing of you up to a higher power, your life will become your bestseller.  When we look unto Jesus who is "the author and finisher of our faith" (Heb. 12:2) for our happiness - how can our story be anything but? It does on the other hand take more than faith in an all loving God - we saw that in the research  with the women. They learned how to have balance in their lives, gave back to others and enjoyed the benefits of social support, self-awareness, autonomy and feelings of thriving.

Your happiness story has many chapters - what can you do today to begin writing it? What can you do to kick-start your joy? What are the things that drain away your feelings of love, mirth and contentment? Its time to do self review - it will be interesting what you find.