The Daily Decision

You know those times when you’re reading a blog post or a meme and something just jumps out at you and smacks you in the face. It’s happened to me a couple of times. (Hmmm… I need to put all of those sayings together so I can remember what smacked me in the face).decisions-by

Anyway, I had words smack me again today. I was reading a blog about being a writer and the challenges that can be faced with choosing a writing career. (Check out the post on Seekerville by Debby Giusti).

Debby said that you have to make a decision to write. Talk about words leaping off the page: you have to choose. You have to make the decision. Such a simple thing, but somehow it smacked me. I have a really made the decision to pursue writing? If so, then it’s a choice DAILY to sit down and write.

I think that’s true with most things in life. You have to choose.

If I really want to pursue a career in writing, I have to make the decision every day to put words on a page.

If I want to blog regularly (ahem!), then I have to choose to think of topics and again, put the words on the page.

If I want to get healthy and lose weight, then I have to choose to exercise or go to the gym. I have to make the decision to eat healthier.

Don’t get me wrong, I know things can happen that can totally derail your daily choices. I’ve had cancer twice, so I get that. I’ve been derailed! But when events happen that change your path, then you still make a choice of how you’re going to handle interruptions to your regular schedule. What will be your next decision?

To accomplish most things in life, you have to make the decision to do it. And do it. It’s a daily decision and a daily choice.

What I’ve Learned from “The Voice”

For the past couple of seasons, I’ve been a fan of “The Voice” on TV. And this season, it struck me what I’ve learned from watching the show.
the-voice-logo
First, I believe we all like to watch these type of talent shows because it’s always a thrill to watch people go for their dreams. I appreciate “The Voice” in particular because it’s a positive show. The coaches can teach someone, share their knowledge and help that person improve without tearing them down and being so negative. You can learn from being positive and from being encouraging. There’s enough negativity and tearing down of people in this world that I really appreciate watching singers grow in their craft from working hard and receiving positive encouragement.

But something struck me recently that applies in my own life. One of the singers was afraid to call themselves an artist, to call themselves a professional. Immediately, Pharrell Williams said “You are an artist and you need to own that. Don’t think of yourself as anything less.” (I’m paraphrasing). You know what? Pharrell is absolutely right. These singers obviously have talent and they need to own that talent.

In hanging around with other writers, I see that we’re guilty of the same thing. I see so many, especially early-on in their writing journey, afraid to call themselves “writers”. I was guilty of that as well. But yes, I am a writer. Whether I’ve been published or not, whether I’m struggling, and whether or not I feel like I’ll ever be able to complete my novel – I’m still a writer.

Owning up to be an artist of any sort doesn’t mean you walk around strutting your stuff like you’re better than anyone else. It means you acknowledge your talent, and like the singers on “The Voice,” you work hard to improve, to learn and to grow in your craft.

God will take you where He wants you to go on this journey, but you have to work hard and never stop learning.

By owning up and saying “I’m a writer” (maybe again and again), it’s a way to encourage myself to keep going and keep striving to sit down in front of that computer to write the words.

Everyone is an artist of some sort. Whether you’re in the creative arts or not, you need to own what you’re talent is.

Next time you’re struggling tell yourself “I’m an artist.” Maybe it will inspire you to keep going during those tough days.

What tips do you have? Would a mantra like this work for you?

2015: The Year of the Unchosen Path

Our message last week at church was called “The Unchosen Path.” And wow, did that title resonate with me when I thought about 2015. It was definitely the year of walking a path I did not choose!
Unchosen Path
I’ve called 2015 my year of change. Everything turned upside down. It was the year I finally felt my age, and felt “old.” I’m usually the one who still happily admits my true age and that I’m grateful to have made it this far. I didn’t have a fear of growing old. But some of that changed last year. I wouldn’t say 2015 was a bad year, it was just a hard year. And many times, I dwelled too much on the negative. It was so easy to do. However, my husband, God bless him, kept reminding me that there were still a lot of positives from 2015:

First and foremost, we learned we will be grandparents for the first time! Our daughter announced her pregnancy over Father’s Day weekend, and we’re anxiously awaiting the birth of our grandchild in a couple of weeks. It’s an exciting time as we watch our daughter embrace her pregnancy and impending motherhood.

Second, our son and his wife had their first home built and are settling in with their careers and life together. Life is good for our kids. Praise God.

Next, despite the serious health challenges that my mother faced in 2015, and the way both Mom and Dad’s world changed forever, there were good things that came from that as well. One is a stronger relationship with my father. I grew up as a daddy’s girl, and our relationship has always been good, but while Mom was in the hospital, Dad and I spent our evenings just talking and sharing, and found ways to laugh and cry together. An even deeper bond formed between us during dark and uncertain days.

There was also bonding with my brothers. One brother I was rather angry with, but we were able to have an adult conversation, and share our feelings openly and honestly about the situation. We ended with a mutual understanding of each other’s viewpoints and a deeper love and respect for each other. Amazing what happens when you can sit down and talk (not yell, not argue), and just try to understand what the other is feeling. Love that this happened.

Another brother had a complete life change in 2015, with a move to another state and more. Witnessing and sharing in this positive and happy change for him makes me smile.

And with all my trips back and forth to be with my parents (who live in a different state), I am grateful to have a renewed friendship with someone I hadn’t seen in several years. Those years melted away when we got back together. Oh, how I wish we lived in the same town, but I’m thankful to keep in touch with her and her husband and grateful to have a restored relationship now.

Also in 2015, my husband and I began leading a church life group. We didn’t feel qualified to do this, but we jumped in, even in the midst of everything that was swirling around us at the time. And guess what? We’re having a great time. Our life group members are blessing us more than they realize. So thankful we took the chance even when the timing wasn’t perfect. I guess there’s a lesson in there somewhere. 🙂

As usual, when you go through a difficult crisis, you find strength that you never knew you had. That’s God’s gift to us, because He is the one who strengthens us. He is always there, even on the dark days when you don’t feel His presence. He doesn’t waste the pain we go through at times.

While it was easy to focus on the negative of 2015, my husband taught me to focus on the positives that still occurred during a tough year. And lo and behold, there were many. 2015’s journey may have been a path I wouldn’t have chosen, but in the long run, it’s a path we conquered, and many of these good things that happened, wouldn’t have happened without the hard events first.

It’s amazing how our God works when we stop, reflect, and listen for His voice.

Fighting Back from Discouragement

We’re several weeks into the New Year… and this is traditionally the time when we’re already failing in our resolutions that we made three weeks ago.

How are you doing with your goals for the year?

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big fan of tennis. The first Grand Slam of the year is going on now with the Australian Open. And a major upset of the tournament just happened — Roger Federer lost his match. The first time since 2003 that he won’t be in the second week of the Aussie Open. (This is one of the reasons I feel like he’s the greatest of all time… his consistency in the sport to reach semi-finals and finals of the tournaments…but that’s another discussion for another day.)
Roger-Federer-5-418x300
Last time Federer was upset this early in a slam, everyone was talking that his career was over. It must have been a discouraging time for Roger. His desire to play the game is still so strong, yet, these defeats will happen. So, now, at the ripe old (in tennis years) age of 33, is this his swan song?

I can’t wait to see. After the last time he was defeated early in a grand slam in 2013, he played inspired tennis for 2014, and was so close to reclaiming his #1 ranking. He started out this year with his 1000th career win (see why I believe he’s the greatest of all time?). I believe that Roger will take this defeat and turn it into an even stronger, burning desire to compete and win. I don’t think he’s giving up yet. Wimbledon will definitely be the tournament to watch for him.

Watching tennis inspires me again and again to fight my discouragement. I fought for years with my weight. About 2 1/2 years ago, I started to win the battle and lost 85 pounds! It felt so good. Now, the pounds are creeping back and discouragement is settling in. It would be so easy to have the attitude of giving up and belief that I will never beat this.

That may be true. I’ll be fighting my weight for the rest of my life. However, knowing I have achieved success makes me hungry to achieve that success again. And that takes hard work. Roger Federer is the great tennis player he is from hard work. And like Roger, I need to go back to the “practice court.” Sometimes you have to start with the basics and build back up again.

I need to start with what’s in my diet that’s sabotaging me. I need to get back to my strong exercise routine. We’ll see if I ever equal that 85 pound weight loss again. But I know I need to fight back. I feel stronger, more energized when I know I’m doing the right things. Whether I lose another pound or not, I’m going to fight this discouragement, one day at a time.

Roger will fight his discouragement one practice, one tournament at a time.

So, if you’ve fallen away from the goals you set for the new year, today’s the day to take a step, pick up your racquet and step back on the practice court.

Fight against the discouragement. You might be surprised how far you’ll go.

A New Perspective on “One Word” for the Year

If you’re like me, you know several people who choose “one word” for the year and try to live by that word. I’ve done it myself. Many are talking about it now as we’re preparing to go into the new year.
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This has got me thinking (always a dangerous thing! :)) There’s a song out now that keeps echoing in my head:

“When you don’t know what to say, just say Jesus. There’s power in the name….”

Last year, my word was “shine.” I wanted to shine Christ through me and shine in all I did, I wanted to make sure my focus was on Him.

And every time I felt like I was failing, or when I was having a bad day, I would pray. And the first word out of my mouth was “Jesus.”

I had already picked out my word for 2015, which was “time.” You know, time for God, time for others, better time management at work. You get the idea. The thing is, none of that can be accomplished without Jesus first.

While it’s great to ponder whatever word is on your heart for the new year, or if you don’t utilize “one word”, let’s not forget to name the most important: Jesus. Nothing we want to accomplish in the new year can be done without Him.

So perhaps, every year, every month, every day, we already know what our “one word” should be: Jesus.

Wishing you many blessings for 2015.

Stay focused on the one who saved us.

A Blink of an Eye

It’s amazing how things in your life can change in the blink of an eye… and take you into a completely new direction.

I’ve experienced this personally with my own journey with cancer. It profoundly changes you.

Losing parents and family members will change you. Becoming a parent… and so on…Good things and bad things can change your trajectory.

A couple of people in my life are experiencing things that will profoundly change them.

Sometimes processing the change and the impact it has on you is daunting. Knowing that you’ll never be the same again… but sometimes change is good, even when it starts out as scary or even life-threatening.

Having cancer, I’ve learned to appreciate life more. A lot of the little stuff that could be bothersome are no longer bothersome. Appreciating time with my husband, my kids, family — even watching the seasons change, makes me want to enjoy every day.

I’m a big believer in having a positive attitude. Attitude can help you through the lowest times. My faith in God, the hope that I found with faith also carries me through.

Going through the dark tunnel can bring even brighter days.

We may be resistant to change, but most times we have no choice. So having the positive attitude, and knowing that this won’t last, can carry you through.

After all, something else will come along, in the blink of an eye.

In Our Darkest Moments

NOTE FROM BECKY:  Hi everyone. My friend and fellow writer, Jennifer Slattery, is guesting on my blog today — with a great message of hope.  Please enjoy!

In Our Darkest Moments:
Jennifer Slattery
by Jennifer Slattery

I stood in the back of a large, cafeteria-styled room, Bible in my hand, and stared at the broken women and children in front of me. I’d been asked to speak, to share God’s Word, and never before had I felt the pressure of such a task more intensely.

They sat with hunched shoulders, faces drawn. They’d come for a meal and maybe a bed. The one who pierced my heart most was a teen with thick, tightly curled hair and wide brown eyes. Close to my daughter’s age.

My mother’s heart ached as questions surfaced. How does a homeless child fare in the cruel, clique-laden, shallow halls of high school where poverty is seen as a disease? Does he dream for better? Or drown his pain in busyness and noise? Or booze?

Nothing I could say would fix these women and children’s problems. I couldn’t fill their bellies tomorrow or buffer them from the heat or rain or cold.

But I could share the story of a man who’d been right where they were, one who found glory in the darkness.

His name was Joseph. He was the youngest of twelve sons, favored by his father and despised by his brothers. One day, his brothers turned on him, and his life instantly changed. They stripped him of his robe, threw him in a cistern, and sold him into slavery.

From there, owning nothing and with no hope for aid, he began the long, treacherous journey to Egypt. He arrived in this foreign, pagan land, completely alone, his life at the mercy of the highest bidder.

Or so he thought. But even in the depths of Joseph’s despair, God was watching. And loving Joseph to his very core. In fact, I believe Joseph sensed God’s presence with every step and every bid. Those strong arms surrounding him, buffering him, giving him strength and holding him close.

For a while, things went well. Joseph served with faithfulness, and God blessed him for it. But once again, when he least expected it, a human betrayed him, and Joseph was thrown into a dark, dank prison, indefinitely. No hope of a trial by jury or even a trial at all.

And once again, God was watching, and loving Joseph to his core. I believe Joseph sensed God’s presence with every shiver and hunger pain. Those strong arms surrounding him, giving him strength and holding him close.

Because Joseph clung and surrendered to his Creator, he was able to bring light to a dark and hopeless place. One morning, he noticed two inmates looked upset, so he asked them about it (Genesis 40:5-7). They told him they had two very unsettling dreams, and Joseph used their revelation to point them to God.

This encounter-Joseph’s noticing the pain of other prisoners, compassionately engaging them, and pointing them to God-resulted in Joseph standing before the Pharaoh, the leader of an immensely powerful pagan nation, pointing him, also, to Creator God.

Joseph alone was in a position to speak to those inmates, and God had used his lowly position for something so glorious, pastors preach on this event today!

Had Joseph been consumed with self, he would’ve missed it, and how different this story would’ve been. A lonely man, betrayed first by family than by strangers, left to die in a dark, dank prison.

This was the message I gave those women, and it’s the one I give to you. Each day, we have countless “Joseph” moment, opportunities to look past our circumstances to those God sets before us, individuals in need of hope.

In need of God.

Will we allow God to use us in our lowly, broken state, for His glory?

About Jennifer:

Jennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. Her debut novel, Beyond I Do, is currently available in print and e-book format for under $10! You can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Jennifer-Slattery/e/B00JKQ4ZTW/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

Jennifer loves helping aspiring authors grow in their craft, and has editing slots open beginning in November. Find out more here: http://wordsthatkeep.wordpress.com/

Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. 

Beyond I Do:
beyond I do
Released Sept. 2014

Will seeing beyond the present unite them or tear them apart?

Marriage . . . it’s more than a happily ever after. Eternally more.

Ainsley Meadows, raised by a hedonist mother, who cycles through jobs and relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, falls into a predictable and safe relationship with Richard, a self-absorbed socialite psychiatrist. But as her wedding nears, a battered woman and her child spark a long-forgotten dream and ignite a hidden passion. One that threatens to change everything, including her fiancé. To embrace God’s best and find true love, this security-seeking bride must follow God with reckless abandon and realize that marriage goes Beyond I Do.

Read a free, 36-page excerpt here: http://issuu.com/newhopedigital/docs/beyond_i_do_sample?e=6362996/8842858

Being There

As I write this, the world is talking about the shocking passing of Robin Williams. As the TV talking heads are going through his television and movie credits, I realize how many of his movies I’ve seen… and loved.  It is incredibly sad to lose such a great talent.

But through all of this discussion, this man who is being heralded as a comic legend, who entertained millions, has suddenly become very human.  Yes, we tend to put celebrities on a pedestal, forgetting that along with their immense talent, they are human beings, going through this life of ups and downs, marriage, children and everything else.

Obviously, Robin Williams was battling more.  He was always open about substance abuse, but did many of us realize he struggled with depression?  Severe depression.

It’s almost inconceivable that someone who was so loved and admired was in such a dark and lonely place where he was driven to take his own life.  He brought such laughter to everyone else, but couldn’t find the joy for himself. It’s tragic.

I’m almost embarrassed with my last post, when I talk about “wallowing” in my own sadness of recent events in my life.  Thankfully, I haven’t been to the darkest place where I’ve thought of a “permanent solution to a temporary problem.”  I always knew I’d pull out of this and things would get better.

But I didn’t share with many how sad I was feeling.  I don’t always share, because I don’t want to burden others, I don’t want to come across as a whiner, and I don’t want to be considered a negative person.

Was that mindset preventing me from getting the support and encouragement I needed at the time?  How do you balance reaching out without being a whiner?  How do you invite people in without pushing them away?

Hopefully, more discussion will come from this awful passing of Robin Williams about depression, about how to help others.  One thing I heard this morning was just be there. You may not be able to solve the problem, but you can come along beside someone and just remind them that they mean something to you, that their life has value.

Maybe this is a reminder to all of us to hug your family and friends and say “I love you.”  I hate that we have to be reminded, and that we’re usually reminded when someone else has died. We need make this part of our daily lives.

Life is short.  Reach out to someone.  Touch base.  Just be with someone today and hold their hand, give them a hug…. heck, just smile at someone and wish them a wonderful day.

What a difference we could make if we all did that every day.

Can You Be an Inspiration?

The Winter Olympics are happening, and yes, I’m watching.  I love the inspiring and uplifting stories, the competition, patriotic pride and more.Olympic Medals

To see athletes achieve their lifelong goals along side those who are just happy to be in Sochi right now is heartwarming.  Remember the young American skier, Heidi Kloser, who was injured in a training run before opening ceremonies, and hobbled into the stadium on crutches? When she was injured, her first question was “Am I still an Olympian?”

During opening ceremonies, the commentators talked about another athlete, I believe the only athlete from his particular country,  who knew he would come in dead last his event, but it didn’t matter. He was just happy to be there.

So while we are inspired by the medalists and all they’ve accomplished, are these two athletes  I’ve mentioned any less inspiring?  I love that these two (and so many others) are happy to be Olympians, to have strived, trained, and worked to make it that far and to experience this international competition that’s unlike anything else.

Most of us won’t make such a big impact on an international, or even national stage in our lives.  But I believe we can be an inspiration in our own little world.  What can we do for others around us — in our city, neighborhood, at our jobs, or heck, even in our own home?  Are we striving to make a difference? Are we shining God’s light and inspiring someone else no matter where we are?

What can you do today to shine?

Being Thankful in the New Year

I’ve talked about gratitude before in a post from September, and I’m going to recycle part of that post again today.  I think it’s especially fitting as we face the New Year.

Thankfulness should come more than every November.  We need to live our lives with a spirit of gratitude.  Imagine how your attitude would improve if you approached everything with an attitude of thankfulness: your job, your commute, your family, your health…

We all have stressful days and frustrating times with friends, family and co-workers.  But what if, in the midst of that frustration, you took a deep breath, and said “Thank you God for this job,” “Thank you for the abilities you’ve given me” or “Thank you God for my family, friends, co-workers.”  We know there are others in this world who suffer much more than we do. So, our gratitude for our lives should be an every day occurrence.

I’m beginning 2014 with new challenges and responsibilities with my job.  I’m excited and nervous and praying I’m up to the challenge. And I’m also grateful for the opportunity.  I hope God uses this for His purposes and by doing that, it will only benefit me in the long run.

So, to repeat words from my September blog:

Romans 12:1 from the Message says:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you:  Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering.” 
Do your work with a spirit of gratitude…thanking God for your abilities and thanking him for what he’s going to do with your story…. Place it before God as an offering.  The audience of one!
Walk Worthy of Your Calling.
Whatever we’re called to do in this life — we need to walk worthy.
While it is trendy right now to think of your motivating “word” for the year (and yes, I have mine), I think everyone’s motivation should be to “Walk Worthy.” No matter what we’re doing in this life.
Happy New Year!