Victory is a Journey

For the past few years I’ve been following the story of two twin boys who were joined at the head and separated in a very difficult and complex surgery in October of 2016. It was a trial for them, their parents and their brother, and we only got a tiny glimpse into all of it. Today I saw that an update had been posted on their story and it spoke to me about this new year we’ve entered, with both words of encouragement and wisdom.

The first thing that spoke to me was the fact that they’re both still alive, developing and growing, which is really a miracle. It’s also a miracle that we’ve made it to 2019 without killing everyone off or doing more damage to our world than we could ever try to fix.

Second, the one thing the parents said repeatedly was that some things just take time. Things weren’t perfect the moment the surgery was done, it’s been years and they’re still dealing with setbacks and challenges. That said, they can see the growth and improvements that the boys are making. We expect things to be so instant in this day and age, but that’s just not always the case.

Finally, the parents are thankful to have this time with their boys. It was a do-or-die surgery, 80% of those joined at the head die by age 2. So the only choice the parents had was to pray for a miracle, and a miracle they got. We can choose to leave this life, but I have so much more hope for the future than I am discouraged by the past.

The bottom line is I hope that in 2019 we’ve gotten through the absolute worst and only have some more bumps to contend with. I’m tired of always fighting the most extreme of uphill battles and would like to see a year in which more things go my way and your way, more things go the way of more people. I don’t expect easy or perfect all the time, but some less exhausting wins would be nice. I’m hoping for a year that shows we’ve finally turned the curve, what about you?

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Hope for 2019

The new year is just a few hours away and you may be one of the many who are celebrating the end of 2018. It’s not wrong to celebrate being done with something that was less than awesome, but it’s better to celebrate what’s ahead. You should never celebrate what’s done (and not great) with the enthusiasm, longevity or passion that you celebrate what’s yet to come or the victories you’ve achieved.

So I’m going to celebrate what’s ahead, the new possibilities that are coming in 2019, the opportunities to change and grow, the people I will meet, the days to enjoy the world, the transformations of nature, the successes in business and relationships, the victories I will help bring about, the relationships I help build, the ways that humanity gets to grow, and the ways we get to support each other.

Every day brings with it choices we have to make. I would hope that you choose to enter into 2019 with hope, joy, confidence and an attitude ready to conquer whatever comes your way. To make 2019 a year that you lived and loved and dreamed to your fullest. To enjoy 2019 with new friends and old. To being a year of laughing more.

“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.” Kevyn Aucoin

Reality Reflection: Strength and Beauty

This past week in the UK there was another royal wedding, Princess Eugenie married Jack Brooksbank. One of the big stories of this event was, unsurprisingly, about her dress, but not for reasons that people typically discuss it. Her dress made a point of showing her back scars from her surgery as a child.  You would have to be close to see the scar, it’s not something that’s noticeable from a distance, but it’s certainly there to see if you’re standing close to her.

Yes, it’s brave and makes a clear statement for all children who have surgery or deal with an illness. It shows them that it doesn’t matter who you are, anyone can have to deal with physical challenges, and anyone can overcome them to live a happy life and get married or be in healthy, committed relationships.  But it also shows a huge measure of confidence and self acceptance she has for herself and her body, something that many people who don’t have visible scars struggle with.

I don’t know what I would do in her situation, whether I would want to go with something that covered it or show it proudly to the world.  I might want to cover it not because I was ashamed of it but because I wouldn’t feel the need to show it off.  But at the same time it would be a part of who I am and my life story, so it might be something I would want to show, like someone would pick a dress that would show their tattoos.

Ultimately, it’s a celebration of two people committing to spend their lives together, and the outfit choices are strictly their choice and should be whatever makes them feel most comfortable and look their best on their special day.  It’s our job to celebrate with them, and love them for the people that they are.

The Wisdom of Nelson Mandela

One of the great men of all time was born 100 years ago yesterday: Nelson Mandela.  He endured through many challenges and struggles, yet never gave up, never gave up hope and always tried to do the best for everyone involved.  He’s a great example of what’s possible when you do your best, be your best, and lead regardless of the challenges in your past.  So today I thought we’d honor his life by taking a look at some of the great wisdom he shared.  

“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.”

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

“Courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace.”

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

“Even if you have a terminal disease, you don’t have to sit down and mope. Enjoy life and challenge the illness that you have.”

“People respond in accordance to how you relate to them. If you approach them on the basis of violence, that’s how they’ll react. But if you say, ‘We want peace, we want stability,’ we can then do a lot of things that will contribute towards the progress of our society.”

I want to close with an invitation for you to read what other people had to say about the great man.  The words they chose to honor this man reveals yet again what a distinguished, caring and exceptional man he was.  How has Nelson Mandela touched you?

Strong with God

This week I’ve been thinking about strength and courage and how so often we talk about strength and courage as something we have to grow or be or become. But a devotional reminded me that sometimes we can be strong or find our strength because there’s someone stronger than us standing between us and whatever or whomever is challenging us. God does ask us to be brave and courageous, but never asks us to be stronger or braver than He will be for us.

Throughout the Bible there are examples of God saying that He will go with and before people as they do the work that He has called them to do. God does sometimes ask us to take a step of faith, a courageous step, but never one that He thinks we’re not ready for or able to do.

There are also countless statements throughout the Bible to how powerful, all knowing, and capable God is, from the flood to caring for the sparrows. God took the time to create each and every creature on earth, He knows them intimately and knows their beginnings and endings, their comings and goings.

Where the Bible calls us to pull on the Armor of God, it talks about pulling on tools, strength and protection from God, not anything like the physical armor that is used in wars here on earth. God gives us each the opportunity to pull on that armor, He doesn’t believe in leaving us defenseless.

This week don’t be afraid to use the tools of protection and strength that God has put in your life, you don’t have to be strong on your own.

“You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory [and my honor], and the One who lifts my head. With my voice I was crying to the Lord, and He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah. I lay down and slept [safely]; I awakened, for the Lord sustains me.” Psalm 3:3-5 AMP

4 Questions to Power Up Your Day

As I was thinking about our topic of the month, strength, and all that goes along with it, I was reminded of a powerful tool that we don’t always use enough in our lives: questions. We usually find time for blaming and yelling and talking, but not much for questions. So today I thought we’d take a look at 4 questions you can ask today, and every day.

1-what’s one courageous step I can take today?
I’m not asking you to leap, just take one step towards overcoming a challenge, conquering a fear, or making a dream a reality. For example you could watch a video on cooking a specific ingredient properly, video taken from the perspective of someone skydiving or research career options. But maybe the courageous step you need to take today is to do something big and bold and finally take a very active step forward.

2-what can I do today to help someone else feel/see/realize/understand their strength?
Strength can be used to hurt and to hoard, but I believe strength is best used for helping others. The phrase ‘together we’re better’ applies here, because when I bring my strengths to the table, and you bring yours, we’re stronger than we would be alone.

3-what will I do today to increase my strength?
Life is a learning and growing process, one that only can be successful if you not only work on your weaknesses, but also work on your strengths. Working on becoming better at what you’re good at and diving deeper into your passions not only builds your confidence, it gives you new ways you can make a difference in the world.

4-what was the most courageous, brave or strong thing I did today?
This is an important question to ask at the end of the day, it helps remind us of our victories, give us an opportunity to celebrate the ways we rocked today and give us a chance to end the day on a positive note. Yes, it’s good to go over what didn’t go well, but I would start with those as you make your to-do list for tomorrow, and end with thoughts of your successes.

What about you? What questions do you use to help you make more victories in your life?

Courage to Live Another Day

The other day I was reading one of the email updates I get from a charity that I support, Mercy Corps, and in it they were talking about the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal. I had a bit of trouble wrapping my head around the fact that they happened in 2015, and not years before that, and how long ago that actually seemed. In the very busy lives we live 3 years can seem like an eternity, and yet it all seems to go by so fast. Maybe that speed is part of the reason that the 2015 earthquake seems like it was so long ago.

This email I recieved shared about a woman, Sushma, and her family, and the difference that just $75, a few pots and some farming education made. That seems like so little to most of us, but to them it made all the difference. It gave them the support, both mental and literal, to get back on their feet after their home (and village) was destroyed. Since then Sushma, her family and her farm have grown and thrived.

Something else the email said really made me think.  One of the women who visited Nepal from the charity said she realized that not only is there courage needed to survive a crisis, but there’s courage needed to live, and thrive, after one. For some when a crisis is over, that’s the end, they’re no longer living, but for so many of us we have to figure out what comes next and how we’re going to get there. It’s a lot easier to say you’re going to rebuild, than it is to actually do it; just look at Puerto Rico still struggling with power in many areas after the hurricane hit back in September of 2017. Even choosing to pick up and move to a new state or country after a big event like the earthquake or hurricane takes a lot of courage.

But what about the “smaller” things? The tough illness, lost job, failed class or broken relationship? They hurt too, and take a lot of courage to move on from as well. Sometimes it takes a lot of strength to get through just one day, and that’s OK. All of these life events and challenges show us who we’ve been created to be, help build our strength, teach us things and give us a chance to prove to ourselves that we’re more capable than we could have ever imagined.

So what about you? Will you choose to be courageous in your life today?