Graduation season is upon us and commencements abound. I, for one, am a fan of the whole thing. In spite of long lines, scorching heat, and waiting forever to exit the parking lot, it’s a thrill to see the students cross the finish line. How can we not join in celebrating the culmination of years of hard work, victories won and challenges overcome? Nights of cramming, tears over assignments, final exams, and the struggles dealing with difficult professors—it’s all over! It’s joyful and we want them to go forth and prosper. Secretly, though, I wish I could talk to each graduate the next day. I’d want to encourage them not to forget the lessons learned. I don’t mean the subject matter they studied, but rather the truth about who they are: how they patiently persevered; endured and showed true resiliency; rebounded when they achieved less than what they had hoped for or even failed; grew in understanding people and relationships; perhaps survived times of loneliness, feelings of inadequacy, and maybe even despair. I would want them to know when the rainbows fade or life throws them a curve ball, that they have what it takes to keep on keeping on. I’d also ask them to tuck away three words for when they really need them: “JUST HOLD ON”. There may be days when that is all they’ll be able to do, and that’s quite okay, until they can once again get back in the race. For us onlookers, we have an assignment too. We have to continue to show up, to be that still, small voice that whispers truth when they have bought into the lie about who they are or what is possible. We have to listen, guide and always celebrate when there is opportunity to do so. Graduation is the end of a chapter. There is so much more of each book to be written. How exciting it is!
Who and what have been your mirrors, and what have they said about you and about life itself? When we embark on a journey of discovery, to acquire knowledge and apply wisdom to separate truth from untruth in the mirrors of our experience, we have enormous potential to grow into all that we are called to be in order to live a transformed life. Read and learn more: Reimagine: Your Life, Your Purpose, Your Future: https://www.amazon.com/REIMAGINE-Your-Life-Purpose-Future/dp/1799073009/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=REIMAGINE+YOUR+LIFE%2C+YOUR+PURPOSE%2C+YOUR+FUTURE&qid=1552239299&s=amazon-devices&sr=8-1-spell
I recently attended a training program that met a couple days a week over several weeks. On day two the instructor asked if we had done our homework and how the process went. A young woman responded quite candidly. She had not completed her assignment. Instead she described that she had a major meltdown followed by an elaborate pity party. She was doing much better and was proud of herself for just showing up for the meeting. Everyone clapped.
I could identify with her. I’ve been there, haven’t you? Life is often a roller coaster. We have highs and lows and can land in a tough spot. So, if we find ourselves in such a place how do we make it a short visit?
- IDENTIFY AND CHALLENGE. Identify the source of the negative messages that are overwhelming and controlling us. Are they internal or do they come from an external source—or both?
- For example, consider a common belief and/or feeling that we are inadequate for the task at hand. What does the evidence of our life choices and experiences tell us? We can’t just look at how far we still have to go. We have to look back at where we started and how far we’ve come. Competency and confidence come over time and chances are we’re in a stronger place now that when we started. That’s who we are and determines what we’re capable of in the future.
- Perhaps we have a special person in our life—someone who likes to remind us we’re pretty much a loser. Why are we giving him/her permission to define our reality? Why does his/her vote count so much? We need to decline the invitation to see ourselves as less than and perhaps even remove him/her from our circle of influence.
- We may benefit greatly by scheduling time to talk and listen to people who will be supporters, encouragers, and even mentors. These folks will help us stay on the right track.
- TAKE ACTION. Create an action plan for how to get from here to there.
- Doing nothing results in nothing. “Just do it!” We’re not to let fear, anxiety, or other counterproductive beliefs and emotions win the day. Even if we go shaking and trembling, we’re to move forward!
- Don’t underestimate the value of taking even one small step—making a phone call or setting up a meeting.
- There is usually no such thing as an overnight success. Success is the culmination of many, many small steps, lots of practice, and multiple failures.
- Set realistic expectations. When we overestimate outcomes, we set ourselves up for disappointment and discouragement.
- SELF-CARE. If you’re exhausted, hungry, or isolated you won’t have anything to draw from. Take care of the basics first and maintain that level of self-care; otherwise, we work from a deficit and our goals are much more daunting.
- ENDURANCE. Challenging times may last a while. Commit to doing what it takes to make it over the long haul.
- APPRECIATE AND VALUE. Difficult times tend to grow us up. Sometimes the process is far more important than the goal. We may even determine this particular path is not ultimately right for us. That’s okay. It gets us ready for what will be.
So, have a great self-pity party if you need to but don’t let it last too long. It may be part of our journey, but we don’t want it to be our final destination!
My eighth grandchild, Grace, recently came into the world. She’s beautiful. As I held this tiny little girl in my arms, I was keenly aware of how fragile she is. As the days, weeks and years pass she’ll get bigger and stronger as did her older brother and cousins. One day she’ll be able to take care of herself. Grace doesn’t realize it but many folks have already rallied around her to provide support. During the sleepless and exhausting first few weeks of life, her mom and dad have been blessed by encouraging messages, visits, meals, and gifts. There’s a team in place to watch over and enter in when there’s a need. I’m grateful for that. The truth is, no matter what our age, we’re all a bit like Grace. We human beings are a bit fragile, at times more so than others. We need a team around us. They become our safety net, locking arms and preventing us from falling or catching us when we do. They cheer us on to be our very best self. So, how are you doing? Do you need to build or add to your team? No time like the present to surround yourself with caring people who will help you and whom you can support as well.
The other day my husband and I stopped for lunch at a place we regularly frequent. My husband asked our server if she had any plans for 2019. She smiled and hesitated a moment, as if saying it out loud made it too real, or that she would be committing herself prematurely. She then responded by stating she was planning to run a half marathon in Canada in the fall. She had looked up the air fare and she thought she could save enough to swing it. She had enough time to train and it was something she always wanted to do. What she said next was interesting. She knew the race itself would probably be awful. She really didn’t like to run all that much but, “Everyone says that when you’re done the runners high is worth it!” She made us smile and I hope she gets to go. Dreams fulfilled often make for life-long memories.
New Year’s brings positive feelings. We think of new beginnings, of adventures, of things unexpected. It’s fun and exciting to ponder. The year will certainly bring some surprises but our server brought home an important point. Our choices have a lot to do with the outcomes we desire. There is great value in planning, preparing, and persevering. Some of that is not much fun and some of it no fun at all. But when we’ve passed the test, reached the goal, accomplished the task, the celebration is worth it all! This New Year, 2019, is certain to be different than we expect in many ways—every year is, but we have much to say in making each day count when it comes to fulfilling our dreams. Blessings to all for a wonderful year ahead!
I found myself drawn to watching the recent tributes for former President George H. W. Bush. I responded strongly to the salutes from those who served with him, many now in their twilight years, and the recounting of his own military service. I appreciated anew the recap of historical events under his leadership. Seeing the presidents and first ladies who followed him sitting front and center in the church and the powerful political figures and writers who spoke of his contributions, was impressive. The glowing admiration and deep affection from family members was tremendously moving and heartwarming.
If I had to say what touched me the most, though, it would have to be that President Bush seemed to know how to love well. In relationships he gave his whole self, was genuine, and down to earth. One person after another–whether friend, someone in the political arena, or family member, spoke of his loyalty, warmth, connectivity, humor, initiative, affirmation, forgiveness and grace. His letters, many handwritten and deeply intimate, illustrate these characteristics. The recipients had a sense that they were important to him, that they mattered in his life. It was mentioned that every one of his grandchildren believed they were his favorite. What an accomplishment, to convey to each impressionable young person that they were so special and greatly valued. When people disappointed him, President Bush had a pattern of forgiving and showing grace. He often reached out to affirm someone who had made an error in judgment, letting them know he was still there for him or her. Perhaps most challenging of all, he owned up to his mistakes and apologized when necessary. He truly seemed to operate from the perspective that he was here to serve, not just the country, but every person God brought his way.
President George H. W. Bush was a relational role model, something much needed in our current culture. Perhaps that is, in part, what held us captive to the numerous broadcasts. Too often loving, respecting, investing in, and putting others first is low on the hierarchy of what matters most in life. When I leave this earth, I hope those who knew me well will feel a loss—not because I did anything great, but because someone who loved them well would be away for just a while and be missed. Love is expensive, it costs us a lot, but the return on investment sure seems worth it, if what I watched this week is any indication.
My sister recently shared excerpts from letters written by our aunt. One, from 1981, was penned shortly after our father had passed away and as our birthday approached. She tenderly spoke of the sadness my sister might feel since daddy was gone. She commented on what a good daughter she had been and encouraged her to continue to move forward, enjoying her daughter and the little person that was on the way. In another note, my aunt talked about our mother, whom she still missed, some thirty years after her passing. She reflected on their growing up years and said from the time mom was a little girl, more than anything she just wanted to be a ‘mom’. She said our mother would be so proud of her girls; in essence, that we were a wonderful reflection of the love she had poured into us. I am touched when hearing these letters. During her life, our aunt was encouraging, affirming, and showed her love in many ways. What a wonderful blessing this continues as we re-read her beautiful letters and cards.
All of us, big and small, have opportunities to affirm one another, sometimes in ways that are very simple. I played a game of Go Fish with my granddaughter the other day. She would ask if I had any blue cards and when I gave them to her, she sweetly said “thank you” every time. I couldn’t help but smile. Her response sent a message—that she appreciated me. When I call my Boston crew, often one of my grandchildren will just yell out that they love me. You better believe I am smiling on the other end of the phone. I know they love me, but it warms my heart to hear it just the same.
Words of affirmation contribute to the quality of our lives and say much–that we are valuable and worthy of dignity and respect, just because we are, not because of anything we do. We won’t ever do it perfectly, but seeing others as bearers of God’s image, individuals to be valued, cherished, might help us use the right words – those that will bring about good and far less that have the potential to cause harm to another. “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18 (NIV)
I’ve had several unexpected and random conversations lately around the topics of death, dying and heaven. One began with my little granddaughter asking, “Do you have a mom?” I’m not sure where she thought I came from; I did confirm I had a mother and informed her that my mother was in heaven. This four-year-old proceeded to tell me she didn’t want to go to heaven because she would be dead and her eyes would be shut all the time. She was pleased to hear me share the good news. We are going to be alive in heaven and we will see all the people that are already there, like my mom. (She later told her mom, “Grammy told me we’re alive when we go to heaven,” setting the record straight.)
In a second conversation, experiencing the death of someone we love entered the discussion and we agreed among the most painful experiences in life. Separation doesn’t fit with how we’re made. In Ecclesiastes 3:11, where it is said that God “set eternity in the human heart,” touches on aspirations that go beyond this life and the material world.
These dialogues gave me, again, a sharp awareness of the value of relationships— meaningful and fulfilling in the hear-and-now, but of eternal significance. This past weekend I was blessed to spend a few days with my daughters on the New England coast. We were able to fully relax—especially needed for these moms with busy schedules and unending responsibilities. We ate great food, laughed a lot, played games, and talked about life. In a strange way, there was a sense of newness for me. My mom was gone before I was married or had children and I also never knew my grandparents. Subsequently, enjoying grandchildren and watching my girls be moms are extraordinary blessings for me.
Someday I’ll meet my grandmother and my mother will meet my children, and then their children, and so on. Our relational investments are worth every ounce of effort in the here and now, but how glorious that what awaits us on the other side is eternity—no more separation, the missing of those we love with our whole hearts. Can you imagine?
I have always had a passion for helping women grow into all that God has called us to be. Life is certainly an event-filled journey, interspersed with a multitude of ups and downs! Identifying a strategic life plan and overcoming obstacles that might hinder our steps, is what I believe lays the foundation for successfully moving forward throughout our entire lifespan.
To facilitate that effort, I would love to offer direction, insight, or share words of encouragement at your upcoming women’s retreat, conference, or gathering. Together I believe we can support one another toward personal growth that will also contribute in leaving a legacy for the next generation!
Please visit my website: amywildmanwhite.com, to learn more and consider ‘liking’ me on Facebook, following me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Thanks you for your support, I appreciate it!
My little granddaughter is a big girl this year. She started Pre-K. It’s an all-day, everyday affair, not just those few hours in the morning like when she was a kid. After the first day she told her mom and dad it was good, but she just “missed everyone way too much.” Yet, she returned in the days that followed and seemed to be doing well. Then it happened. It hit her one morning and as she stood in the hallway outside of her classroom about to say good-bye to her mom, a few tears rolled down her cheeks. Then came the deluge. Her mom comforted her and suggested she take a deep breath, which she did. She calmed down and then a repeat. Her emotions got the best of her. After several more deep breaths, her mom asked her if she was ready to go into her room and this little girl said she was, but first she had to wipe her tears off her face. Her shirt did the job and she turned, walked into her room, and sat down on the floor. She didn’t look back. What a big girl!
Like this precious little one, so many times in life we come face-to-face with a challenge that calls us to step out of our comfort zone. Ugh. It’s scary. We can’t do it. Who thought we could? This little 4 ½ year old was a star. She was in touch with and had the freedom to share her emotions (thank you wonderful daughter of mine), she was open to receiving the support she needed, and then she made a decision to courageously step forth to confront her fears. She’s got the recipe down pat! She doesn’t know it yet, but she’ll follow these steps many times over her life span, and that’s just fine with me. Feeling insecure, afraid, and maybe even alone, can sneak up on all of us from time to time. We just have to remember to let it all out with people we trust, hold a strong hand, take a deep breath, and make a decision to move forward! These experiences all contribute toward making us people of strong character and the folks that others turn to when they need to confront their own giants—suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope in a God that is worthy of our trust.