Tuesday, May 29, 2018

We are all the same

I have brown hair (well, most of the time), hazel eyes, and pale skin. The man sitting next to me has black hair, dark caramel skin, and deep brown eyes.

We don't look at all alike, but we came from the same place and we will end up the same. After all, the Bible tells us that we "all go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return" (Ecclesiastes 3:20 NIV). 

So why do we treat each other differently? Why do we hold one group accountable for the actions of a few? Why do we spread hate based solely on skin color (or any other trait, for that matter)? Why do we put our guard up when around certain people, but not others? 

Is history really our best teacher? To learn from, yes - so we don't make the same mistakes again. But, to mimic history to create a future? Not in the slightest. 

Everyone has something to bring to the table. In fact, did you know that Jesus invited everyone to his table? He ate with tax collectors and sinners of all types. And, his disciples did, too. 

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  Mark 2:15-17 (NIV)

There are riches to be found in a melting pot. My family is a melting pot. When we sit down to dinner each night, we have a mix of different faces with different colors and different sizes - each with different personalities and different stories. In fact, we are just a whole lotta different.

Why would anyone want everyone to be alike? Jesus didn't ... and neither should you. 

Embrace everyone. 
Starting today.



Monday, May 14, 2018

My mom, the fighter.


This is something I wrote a while back about my mom. I wasn't sure what to do with it because it was a bit personal, but in honor of Mother's Day yesterday, and the journey my mom is conquering like a warrior every day, I wanted to share it with you. 
Enjoy. 
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Have you ever given thought to losing your mother? I never did until she was struggling to heal. Though He already knows the plan, I begged God to heal her! And He did.

I fed my mom today. She was in the hospital bed looking at me, then at the spoon, letting me know she was ready for another bite of her strawberry yogurt. She is wearing her hospital gown and a high flow oxygen mask. Her right hand is wrapped in a soft cast due to a fall that cracked her wrist. Her face is swollen and bruised from that same fall.

She looks beaten. She looks worn. She looks tired. And she looks helpless. 
I went to pick her up the other morning for a doctor’s appointment. She was leaning on the table, hunched over, mouth open, and pale. As she would try to take in a breath, her shoulders would move her whole body. She was struggling. Instead of the doctor, she went to the ER and was admitted. That’s how we ended up here.

That first night was rough. Mom was scared. She had an oxygen mask on and spoke to me through her eyes. I felt her look of pure fear straight down to my soul. The lump in my throat was making it hard for me to even breathe.

I wanted to give her air. I wanted to show her peace. There was nothing I could do but put my trust in God that she was in good hands and that she was right where he wanted her to be.

A trip to the ICU and the head nurse fills me in… “your mom is very sick woman…her body has dealt with a lot of trauma... heart surgery can make or break her… may need to put her on ventilator… too weak to breathe on her own… explore all your options… extensive double pneumonia…. prepare for the worst…” All these words just came at me like sharp nails, as if someone rigged a nail gun to keep shooting at me.

Instantly, I was numb. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t even cry.

What does he mean prepare for the worst?! Mom was going to be fine. She had heart surgery just a couple months ago – a triple bypass. All the people who had also had that surgery had been to visit her and told her how wonderful she would feel afterward. Sure, she has had some struggles with fluid retention and breathing since the surgery, but she followed all the directions and her scar has even healed beautifully!

I drove home for a quick shower and bite to eat with these words resonating through my mind. The tears came quickly. And I cried. A reality I hadn’t thought of just hit me on the head so hard.

I could lose my mother.

Not my mom. Not the woman who raised me… who made sacrifices just so my selfish, tantrum throwing self could be happy. The woman who showed me what it means to love another being unconditionally. The woman who bent over backwards more than once to make sure I was taken care of. No, my mom was going to be fine. She was going to get better and she would be home.

But, still, I cried. Because, what if I am wrong? What if she doesn’t get better? This could really be it. I couldn’t even believe my own justifications.

Until now, I had never even considered what I would do without my mother. She is the string that links me to my family. She is my phone call in the morning and another at night. She answers my questions about things I don’t understand – like cooking, how to get stains out of clothing, ways to hack almost any household situation. She has been my mom for 39 years. She can’t go anywhere. Not now!

From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. – Psalm 61:2

I literally cried out to God. I begged him to leave her here and to heal her while at the same time knowing that my begging would not change his bigger plan – whatever that may be. I reminded him that she had all these things she planned to do, if she could just feel better. She was learning her way as an incredible, independent woman, since my dad’s passing. And I made sure to let him know that she was not ready to go anywhere.

Mom spent a couple of days in ICU. They pumped her full of antibiotics and diuretics and even drained fluid off her lungs. Before we knew it, she was breathing better. She is healing, albeit slowly. We began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Exhalation could now come.

Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.

– Jeremiah 17:14

I am sure it had nothing to do with my begging prayers and was all part of a more important masterpiece – but as beaten up as I felt through the whole ordeal, I know my mom was (and is) feeling like a warrior. As she should.

Sometimes we encounter these terrifying moments to make us step back and realize the intricacy of the world around us. What happens with one person can affect the lives of so many others. Even though she may not realize it, my mom has once again taught me lessons for life – who is important, what is important, just how vulnerable we humans are, and what it means to truly care for someone.

God is good. I love you, mom.

Monday, April 30, 2018

On purpose.

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves.."
- Philippians 2:3 (NIV)

Now is the time! No more wasting energy, moments, and resources. Forget living the lackadaisical life that you want to live -- and start living for the purpose you were created. 

Today I need you to get it together. 

Stop and think about this for a moment: Do you think that you were born into this world to indulge in everything that is good to you without regard for others? Does your world revolve around you? Do you think that you will ever get a second chance to do things differently?

It is time to make a change -- because it is not all about you. The world is so huge and there are so many people who need you. People you haven't even met yet. But, if you stay so focused on yourself, you may miss them. A lost opportunity.

Doing things that we want to do or things that make us happy is not always what we should be doing. We are all guilty of this. You know, spending time going to out to eat and then tossing the leftovers because they won't be as good tomorrow. Pushing away time with God for a good movie, drinks with friends, or a mindless hour of staring at the social media accounts on your cell phone. Or even taking ourselves shopping, for a mani pedi, or on an over-the-top vacation.

Time is a gift that we are all guilty of wasting. And, we may not even realize how. For example, you may think binge watching the latest Netflix series is harmless. But, what awesome task could you accomplish if you didn't?

In all honesty, it is impossible to be perfect all the time, but it is possible to start shifting your focus from yourself and your wants and desires to others who are patiently waiting to be a blessing to you. But, to receive it, you have to look up.  

Are you ready to start living on purpose? 

Give life everything you've got. 
Listen more. 
Talk less. 
Be kind. 
Get dirty.
Follow your heart.
Be like Jesus. 

Our world is crumbling around us and we are all too busy living our own lives to notice -- or do anything about it. We are killing the planet and killing each other. We are surrounded by hate, by fear, and by cowards. Without switching our focus and living on purpose -- for our purpose -- nothing will change. The world around us will continue to implode. And, one day, we may end up going with it. 

Be the difference. Be the light. Be the comfort. Be the strength. Be the one that is fearless in the eyes of those looking for help. Then, share your secret. God created you for a reason. Keep your eyes on him -- and you will see the difference in your life and the lives of those around you. 

Start today.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Your reaction matters.

For every action there is a reaction. And, as much as we may wish we can control the actions -- we cannot always do so. What we can control, however, is our reaction. For instance, when something happens to you that may cause you to stress out, cry, or throw your hands up in defeat, you aren't doomed. You have a choice. 

(1) Are you going to let the action defeat you? Are you going to forfeit your happiness? Are you going to stay smug by withholding your forgiveness or failing to find acceptance? Are you going to let the other forces at play win? Are you going lose your ability to love?

-OR-

(2) Are you going to get over yourself and come out on top? Are you going to let love lead and heal? Are you going to find your happiness by letting ill feelings go? Are you going to move forward with forgiveness and acceptance? 

It is easier said than done, I know. But, practice makes perfect. So, start practicing today. 

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Each one of us has a different road in life. God has carved out a tiny piece of a gigantic puzzle -- and that little piece is you. As hard as you may try, you may follow God's plan for you. But, you are bound to mess up and that is ok -- you are human.

How do you want others to react to your mistakes? .... That's right, I want to be forgiven, too.

Those around you -- your friends, your colleagues, your family -- they will mess up, also. Just like you. And guess what? They want forgiveness, too.

You want to feel good enough and worthy.
You want to feel strong and capable. 
You want to feel beautiful. 
You want to be kind. 
You want to make a difference. 
You want to feel loved. 

Everyone around you wants the same thing. 

Our roads may be different. Our stories, our backgrounds, our lives, our goals, and our gifts may be different. But our desire for acceptance and love is the same. 

Think about this the next time you find yourself in a situation that prompts you for a reaction.

"Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others."
- Colossians 3:13 (NLT)

Friday, December 15, 2017

Here is your annual reminder. You're welcome.

What if we had Christmas with no gifts?

Some of you may say, "well baby Jesus received gifts from the three wise men." Of course he did. He is Jesus! That's why we celebrate Christmas, right? 

You aren't Jesus and neither am I. We aren't even close no matter how much we try. So what makes us think that we need to celebrate Christmas with a bunch of gifts? 

Every year around this time, stress seems to amplify. I don't know about you, but I don't like feeling stressed when I think of Christmas -- it is much too warm and magical for that! But, social calendars fill up. There is a ton of cooking, baking, and decorating to do. Shopping is a priority -- especially for those that you need to ship gifts to. And then, of course, we have financial stress that affects a huge chunk of the population. (Did you know that more than half of us will go into debt just to buy Christmas gifts? And, some are still paying off last years Christmas gifts!?)

And, what is this all for again? Right, to give a present to someone who has been blessed with so much more than others. It just shouldn't be. It is just not what is it about. 

I know I probably sound like a broken record by now and you are probably shaking your head at me by now if you are even still reading this, but I feel like these feelings have amplified for me over the last couple of years. I also feel like I am somehow supposed to be that stuck record chirping in your ear to remind of you of what Christmas is all about -- and its not about buying presents!

Now, I am not saying this because I am a scrooge or that I am trying to be frugal. That is not my thought at all so go on and just dismiss that from your mind. I'm simply just throwing it out there that we need to stop and take a moment to remember why we are celebrating Christmas and decide what we truly want from our celebration. It's like this: Do you want memories of time spent with family celebrating together under the magical glow of lights? Or, do you want to waste time trying to find a place to put all your new gadgets? 

The choice is yours. But, remember who is front and center of that manger... and that is where your eyes should be drawn this season. Psalm 115:4-8 (NLT): 

 "Their idols are merely things of silver and gold,
    shaped by human hands.
They have mouths but cannot speak,
    and eyes but cannot see.
They have ears but cannot hear,
    and noses but cannot smell.
They have hands but cannot feel,
    and feet but cannot walk,
    and throats but cannot make a sound.
And those who make idols are just like them,
    as are all who trust in them."



Sunday, November 19, 2017

Gratitude attitude

Why is it that so many of us only say what we are thankful for on Thanksgiving? Truly, what is the difference between Thursday, November 23, 2017 and Wednesday, November 15, 2017?

Nothing. There is no difference at all. Well, other than one comes with a feast and the other does not. 

Gratitude is the feeling of being thankful. And it is a feeling you should be actively seeking every moment of every day. 

  • When you are stuck in traffic and will be late -- be thankful that you have a car to sit in amongst that traffic. 
  • When you fall face first in front of a potential employer -- be thankful that you have legs you can walk and trip with. And, be thankful that you are able to show how genuinely human you are. 
  • When your kids act out every time you need them to be on their best behavior -- be thankful that you have been blessed with kids who aren't afraid to share their voice. And be thankful that they have lungs to breathe with and life to share with you. 
  • When you are in charge of cooking Thanksgiving dinner for a large number of guests and your power goes out -- be thankful that you have just created the future most-talked-about Thanksgiving memory ever. 
Get the idea? Having an attitude of gratitude can help you find the faintest of rainbows in the darkest of clouds -- and to focus on the good and let the bad fall away. 

Not only is gratitude helpful for your mental well-being, it can also be physically rewarding. In fact, by maintaining a positive attitude and looking on the bright side, did you know that you can reduce the stress in your life? And we all know that stress can cause so many ailments, such as headaches, sleeplessness, digestive issues, increased blood pressures, etc. 

Now that you know just how important gratitude is, here is how you can implement a plan to make it a part of your day -- and change your life!

1. Find yourself a notebook, a note pad, a journal, an old composition book. Anything that you can write on regularly and keep it set aside for this specific purpose. 
2. Write at least one thing every day that you are thankful for. This can be one word, one sentence, or a whole darn story. 
3. Dedicate a specific time for reflection and writing. It could be when you wake up, before you go to bed, or on your lunch break. Whatever time works for you and allows you to be consistent. 

Try this -- even if only for a week or two. I promise you that focusing on just one thing that makes you thankful will slowly turn into more thanks and, eventually, a whole new habit. Out with the old way of thinking and in with the new; out with dark, in with the light. 

Don't just focus on gratitude for Thanksgiving. Make everyday a day of thanks. Starting today. 

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses.”
- Alphonse Karr

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Love is an action

"Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying"
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have you heard that quote before? I happen to love it. I discovered it a long time ago when I was going through some rough stuff -- and it was perfect for how I was feeling at the time. Since then, it has just stuck with me.

Face it -- people talk. A few speak real and honest words. Many others, though, only talk to hear their own voice. It is as if in some way they truly believe that if they talk enough they will eventually convince you to see them for something other than they are. As if the words will form the person in your mind and override the visual actions and body language you are face to face with.

It works. Sometimes. But only for a short time.

Eventually, actions show through and we are able to fully discover the real person who has been yapping all along. Come on, you've all experienced this at some point in life.

So, when it comes to spreading God's love, do you think actions or words make a better impression?

I could share with you how much I absolutely love black olives. However, if we were out to dinner and one shows up in my salad, you won't witness me showing much love to the little sucker as I pass him on to Tina -- and not necessarily in a graceful manner. I honestly find them disgusting. My actions will show you that.

Jesus knew that showing love was more important than the sound of his own voice. How did he do it?

By staying connected to God

"I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love." -- John 15:9 (NLT) Jesus stems from God, like a branch and a strong trunk. Love comes from God. Therefore, if you have a heart full of love, there is a lot of God in there, too. After all, "We love each other because he loved us first." -- 1 John 4:19

By loving everyone

There are some people who seem difficult to love. You may find that your love can't penetrate the hard, protective shell on the outside. Kinda like Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), the tax collector who Jesus visited in his home. He was a deceitful sinner. Jesus could have acted like he was not worthy because of his sins and passed on by without a second glance. But he didn't. In fact, he took the high road by going to his home.

God wants us to love everyone -- even those who seem unlovable. "...Love each other in the same way I have loved you." -- John 15:12

By helping others

Be a beacon of light to lead those who are lost. Be the strong hand that can lift someone up. Be kind and help others -- for no other reason other than it is what your heart knows is right. "...Love your neighbor as yourself." -- Luke 10:27 

In our relationships and friendships, it is sometimes the little things that make us feel loved, right? Your spouse could say "I love you..."  a thousand times a day. But, when you find your car has been blessed with a full tank of gas and one stop removed from your errand list (thanks to a loving spouse) -- THAT is when you feel loved.

You can say you want to help the homeless or the family in the hurricane who lost everything. Unfortunately, your verbal compassion will only get you so far -- and it does nothing to help those individuals.

You have to actually take action to make a difference.

Be aware of your actions and know that others are watching you. It doesn't matter what you say, but rather what you do. Act like Jesus and show love like Jesus. Stay connected with God, love everyone, and always help those in need.

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We are all the same

I have brown hair (well, most of the time), hazel eyes, and pale skin. The man sitting next to me has black hair, dark caramel skin, and de...