Sunday, September 30, 2012

Someone Else's Story as My Defining Moment

Have you ever experienced a moment?

A defining moment?

You know, getting the first “A” grade back on a paper. Or, the phone ringing when you know it’s the person you have a crush on calling. Perhaps, a moment might be when you’re actively listen to someone speak and earnestly believe you were absolutely meant to be the one listening?

I’m not going to lie, this weekend my joy was dimmed a bit, my mind and thoughts were in overdrive, and I was really ready to get back in the driver’s seat of life when I had a moment.

I’m talking a mountain trembling, rain falling, earth shaking kind of moment. There’s no way I’d ever experience it if I wasn’t where I was and the people there weren’t there. There is no doubt in my mind that the slow fade away from faith would’ve started, or at least, settled in by now, but a moment grabbed me back. 

I listened to someone speak tonight, and I won’t share what he said, because it was confidential and his personal story, but it profoundly affected me and woke me from my possible soon-to-slumber. 

“Awake, O Sleeper!” says Ephesians 5:14. 

I know this to be true: God puts people in our lives for reasons we don’t understand or even need to know yet, but He put them there. Deal with it.

A Defining Moment, as Simple as a Sunset

Sometimes, they’re there for a moment, or a season, or for our entire lives consistently or not. Either way, it’s these particular people we notice and recognize how their presence in our lives shakes us, or trembles, or calls us into action and we are never the same again. That's many moments, many of them defining, some of them redefining, and it's all the work of Jesus in disguise!

Isaiah 64:1-3 (NIV)
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains would tremble before you!
As when fire sets twigs ablaze and
causes water to boil, come down
to make your name known to your enemies
and cause the nations to quake before you!
For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,
you came down and the mountains trembled before you!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Face the Fear, See the View

Adequacy in the face of fear is one of the greatest feelings of accomplishment any person may have.

I’m afraid of heights, but I love, and feel enriched by, a great view.

“View,” I am told is one of the very first words I ever uttered. My Dad journaled in my childhood diaries that I walked to the large floor-to-ceiling windows of the home we were moving to in 1981 and looked out to the golf course. 


As tiny as I was at the time, and the house being above ground, two or so stories, I’m surprised the height didn’t scare me. 
So, when this past June when I decided that going zip-lining would be a great idea, my choice was to completely ignore the fear. It was a great plan, and it worked right up until I was standing on the ledge.

The instructor was telling me to sit down, lean back, and get into a cannonball-like position. I heard him, alright, but was completely shaken after watching the person in front of me zip across a canyon, hundreds of feet above the ground in just 15 seconds across something almost the length of a football field.


“I’m sorry, you want me to do what, now?” 

Two and a half lines later, I couldn’t wait to do it again! All of my fears were relieved, and once I stopped shaking and fighting the experience (that I chose to participate in - willingly), the view was absolutely stunning.

I’m not a fan of speed, but I do love the feel of the wind in my face and the color of a crisp white snow as I make it down a mountain. I like it as much as I’d like to sit in a cabin and drink hot chocolate, but inside I can’t see that view. Not to mention, I’d probably crash into a tree if I kept my eyes closed on the ski slopes. 
Whether you are sitting at a window with your eyes closed and waiting for a storm to pass so that you may open them and see the sunshine; or, you’re standing on the ledge of a decision, a choice, that has every fiber of your being shaking; or, you’re worried your life is moving too quickly for you to enjoy it, when you do open your eyes, and you take that leap of faith, you just might like what you see, and ultimately, who you are. 

I’ve always liked a good view. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Celebrate Others and You Will Celebrate Yourself

Celebrate others and you will celebrate yourself.

It seems simple enough, but sometimes many of us get caught up in our own selfish desires, preferences, and “ways of doing things” that we miss the point.

When I finished high school, a group of my close girl friends and I hoped to take a graduation celebratory trip. 

San Francisco, Hawaii, New York, and downtown San Diego were all possibilities, but they eventually dissolved into nothing.

Two of us really just wanted to spend time with everyone and tried to come up with multiple options that would fit all of our interests.

It didn’t work out well, when one person didn’t want to fly, another person didn’t want to drive, and then the train was out of the question.

Illegal activity and violation of common sense isn’t an option. So, not including those activities, I find when I put my selfish preferences aside, I’m challenged to enjoy something I wouldn’t have considered enjoying.

That surrendering to the experience often reveals a greater experience than one I ever could imagine or plan. 

It’s about enjoying the experience, who you’re enjoying it for, and doing it without grumbling. 

In fact, the best experiences of my life have been the ones in which I just said, “Yes!” and went with the flow, stopping only when I knew it absolutely wasn’t right. 

When it’s a friend’s wedding, and you’re in it, or a birthday party and you’re going, or a Bachelorette or Bachelor Party that you’re throwing, and it’s not what you would do, remember who you’re doing it for. 

If one of my friends said, “I want you to be my party planner for my 35th birthday.”

“What do you want to do?” I would immediately ask. 

It’s not about me, it’s about me honoring them in the same way I hope they would honor and respect me.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Clinging to the Hot Air Balloon

I’m an only child. 

That’s the first thing that came to my mind when I was at a seminar with the Junior League of Las Vegas in Pasadena, California over the past weekend.

It was a series of questions that began, “Who are you?”

Well, and then, that was the only question that was asked. The questioning went on for two minutes and I came up with a total of 16 adjectives and descriptive words and phrases. 

  • Only child
  • Friend
  • Volunteer
  • Professional
  • Emotional person
  • Sensitive person
  • Stubbornly thoughtful
  • Someone who lives in Las Vegas
  • in-Between everything
  • A Christian
  • student of philosophy
  • fan of crisis management
  • news nut
  • wine drinker
  • caffeine addict
  • middle of the road

Yes, that’s what I look like to myself when asked, repeatedly, over and over again, on a Saturday mid-morning without much coffee or sleep the night before.

What’s interesting about this is that the first thing that came to mind was, “Only child.”

On the ride down to Pasadena, someone discussed with me their concerns about raising an only child. I offered up my fears and my own memories.

“I felt lonely at times,” I said. “But, mostly, I worry about being alone when my parents are gone.” 

I explained one of the best parts about being an only child is that we choose our family.

Fast forward a few nights, and here I am having a discussion, via text message, that bounces right off of this concept. 

Here’s the conversation and it’s edited for your pleasure:

Me: Us lonely only’s just surf the ride of life until we find friends who can sustain the wave. And therefore, we stay upright.
Friend: Exactly! We’ll keep supporting each other as friends and as sisters. You’ve done very well rising the surf!
Me: You’ve got that right! This world is too big and too hard to wade waters alone. And, one day, when my parents are gone - I will be alone. 
Friend: We have to cling to those we love, and I’ll be there right there with you whenever you need me.
Me: Thank you. And yes,
And here comes the part that I want to reiterate to anyone who is willing to listen.
“Clinging may not be the right word, but I do often use the illustration of hanging onto the basket of a hot air balloon - even when it might be falling - not wanting to let the others crash alone.
And, so that we can also rise to see the sunrises and sunsets of their lives... When the fire is burning bright.” 

So, who are you?

1 Peter 4:8-11 (NIV)
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers
a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another
without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has
received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s
grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks he should
 do it as if speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should
do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things
God may be praised through Jesus Christ.
To Him be the glory.”

Sunday, September 16, 2012

5 "Things": A Successful Life

When I think of the phrase “self love” the first thoughts that come to my mind aren’t necessarily what the topic is really about.

In her song “Secret” Madonna sings, “Until I learned to love myself, I was never, ever lovin’ anybody else.” 

That’s where the real issue is! If we, ourselves, think we are unloveable, chances are a lot of people around us might feel the same way about us. 

In a seminar I participated in this weekend on this very topic, I was challenged to write the answer to a question. I chose to think that God was asking the question and no one else. 

“Imagine you are on your deathbed, and I am with you, 
and I ask, ‘What were the five things you accomplished or experienced 
that made your life a total success?’” 

Here’s what I wrote, September 15, 2012, with grammatical and tense errors, and all, as I waffled between the present and the certain, but hopefully not soon, future:

“The first things I think of about making my life a total success:
First, my relationship with God and the pursuit of developing my faith. 

The second thing I think of is how I interacted with my friends, by being encouraging and loving even when they may have been unloveable, and making amends when I realized someone should make them.   Also, third, would be telling and showing the ones I love that I love them when I do and not waiting another minute.  
Fourth, giving up what others think of me. Everyone has an opinion and while I will always strive to do what is legally and morally right, I cannot care about what anyone thinks. I would go crazy trying to please everyone. 
So, leaping with a strong heart, and open eyes, and hands outreached for all I can. 

I will not consider my life a success for the awards I earn, the praise I receive, or the jobs that I have. It is not my money earned or not earned, or where I lived, or the clothes I wore. 
It is, fifth, and finally, the family I have, the family I created, the friends I love, and that it was my life.
And, it was for God.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Who Are We Succeeding For?

When I was 13, the teachers and my peers at Del Dios Middle School awarded me with the title “Most Likely to Succeed.” 

“Aren’t you proud,” people would ask.
“So, what are you going to do,” people would wonder.
“How do you feel,” is the question that would follow.

I’ve written about the importance of accepting compliments, but honors and awards are different than compliments. Actual recognition seems to come with some unspoken expectation that you will exceed the desired outcome of those awarding you the honor. 

At least, that’s how I felt about it. I went into high school thinking I should not only already be a news anchor in some small town, but that I should also know exactly how I was going to succeed! Talk about pressure.

Recently, I learned I was the recipient of an unexpected honor of appreciation at work, and the first thing I thought of was how was I going to live beyond it. 

Does an Academy-Award Winning Actor stop pursuing roles that challenge him or her? Or, do they pursue the things that push them beyond even that line?

The answers are this:

We should always push ourselves to be better than we already are, while accepting and understanding our own limitations. 

But, we should never strive to please everyone and meet everyone else’s expectations of us. We would go absolutely crazy trying to do so, and their expectation is nowhere near the same as our own.

And, you know what? I’m not the center of the world, and neither are “they.” 

Romans 8:28, 31
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.
What, then, shall we say in response to this? 
If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Give the Blessing Back

Who is the person who inspires you the most? Why? Is it because they stand up against some sort of adversity and they are still strong? Or, is it because they support you and carry you in a way they wouldn’t even know? Is that person a blessing in your life?

There are people, for me, that fit both categories, and probably some people in some other category I wouldn’t recognize here. 

Are there people you spend time with and you catch yourself starting sentences with “I” and then feel guilty? It usually goes something like this:

“I’m really worried about....”
“I have this really great trip planned...”
“I’m really excited about....”

Recently, I discovered that if I actually stop and listen and not worry about myself, I can be there for them in the way I’ve felt they are there for me. Sometimes, it’s just the one person who passes by you once a day and says, “Hey, how’s it going?” 

“Hi!” many of us might say as we quickly pass by the person. Sometimes, though, the best thing to do is to actually stop, and say, “I’m well, how are you doing?” 

Recently, I’ve been thinking about actually pausing and giving time to the people who stop me in my path. Even if their hello, or Happy Birthday, or Thank You, or Congratulations was really meant in passing, maybe there’s more there.

Give the blessing back. I’m focusing on turning those above phrases around:

“What are you worried about? How can I help?”
“What are you looking most forward to?”
“How are you?” 

Ask the questions and really want to take the time to hear the answer, and the blessing might, again, come back to you. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Just a Job? Delight in it anyway.

For a few weeks when I was 18, I shrink-wrapped VHS cassette tapes at a publishing warehouse in San Diego county. It wasn’t the worst job I’ve ever had, but it was the only thing I could think of.

“What was the worst job you ever had?” my co-worker asked on Monday, which was Labor Day. 

Politically and economically, it feels unfair to even answer that question. There are so many people, and I see some of them on the street corners in the community I live, who would take that job shrink-wrapping VHS cassette tapes. Perspective is nearly everything. 

It is too easy to leave work on any given day and knock back a cocktail or two and vent and groan. 

Deadlines will confront me.
Tension will occur.
Conflict will arise.
I will wonder if I’m good enough. 

So, recently, I decided to go into work everyday enjoying it. Period. 

I decided to immerse myself creatively into my work and with all my energy and passion, and truly delight in it. 

It’s amazing how fast the work day goes when you enjoy every minute, delighting in the work, fulfilling your obligation to your colleagues, employers, and ultimately to God. 

Once you realize He’s the ultimate employer, your focus shifts. It doesn’t mean it’s any easier, it’s just more rewarding.

The day might drag on and on, and we might wonder why we’re “stuck” where we are, but delight in it anyway. Don’t leave because times are tough, don’t leave until it’s time to. 

It might be a dirty job, a rough job, or upsetting hours. Delight in it anyway. 

Colossians 3:23-24
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, 
as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you 
will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. 
It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Learning to Complement the Compliments

I don’t take compliments well. As young as a student in elementary school, I could not allow myself to feel pride. Honestly, for whatever reason, I felt ashamed of being proud of anything I did. 

A little over a month or so go, someone complimented me on my eye shadow. In the moment, I thought, “Eye shadow? I didn’t even try and it doesn’t look right.”

Ashamedly, I may have even thought it was a far cry from compliments for good grades, winning the County Science Fair, or even winning an Emmy Award. 

Not true. 

All accomplishments and all compliments can be created equal. It’s not about what you are complimented for, but who you are; your character and your deeper ambition in your achievement. Personally, I have never found sustained joy in embarking on a task or a journey with the hopes of being praised. However, just like most people, even when I am ashamed of my pride, a compliment, especially an unexpected one, does feel really good.

I don’t remember what I said, but I remember what the person said back to me.

“Next time, just say thank you,” she said. It’s something I’m still working on. When you open yourself up for true compliments, you’re able to discern them from flattery. 

Flattery is not a compliment, and most often come from a place of selfish ambition.

 A sincere compliment comes from a place of wanting to encourage someone else, meaning it, and nothing more.

Last night, a colleague gave me a compliment that elevated my self-esteem to a new place. I said I was embarrassed to feel proud, and on the inside I just kept giving the glory to God. 

“You should feel proud,” she said. 

“Thank you,” I pray I said back (and probably a few other things, too). With pause, and true thanksgiving, I had to say, “I’m only as good as my team and the people I work with.” 

My active ambition is to take a real sincere compliment, receive it graciously, and pay it forward. That is, I am learning to complement the compliments.

Philippians 2:3 (NIV)
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, 
but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”