Don’t Stare at Closed Doors

“See I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.” (Revelation 3:7 NKJV)

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! I pray that you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s spending time with family and friends and also receiving the gifts and blessings you were expecting. Now, it is time to think about what you will do differently to better yourselves in this new year.

When I was child, I remember watching the Helen Keller Story on television. When Helen Keller was approximately 19 months old, she was stricken with an illness that left her blind, deaf, and unable to speak. She did not continue to stare at what could have been perceived as a closed door–Helen Keller overcame her adversity of being blind, deaf and mute to become one the 20th century’s leading humanitarians as well as co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Helen Keller once quoted, “When one door of happiness closes; another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been open for us.”

In 2019, I am sure you may have experienced a closed door or two. I know I did. The closed door might have been in the form of job loss or maybe you didn’t get the job you applied for, failing an exam, ending of a relationship, an illness, your car broke down, foreclosure, or maybe it was some other problem or financial setback. Whatever it was, that door is now closed. Instead of staring at it, open your eyes to new possibilities. I believe God closes doors to point us into a new, more positive direction.

Let me give you an example with this most inspiring story. On December 19, 2015, a Pittsburgh newspaper reported a story of a Duquesne University custodian quietly finishing her bachelor’s degree. Connie Burwell had been a custodian at Duquesne University for several years. One day while cleaning, Connie literally approached a closed door. Following protocol, she knocked and when there was no response, she opened the door with her master key. However, when she opened the door, there was a professor standing in the room and she was not happy. She chastised Connie for entering the room without permission. Connie stated that she lectured her with an air of superiority that left her humiliated. As humiliating as it was, this incident was a defining moment in Connie’s life. She decided on that day, “I’m not going to let people talk like this to me. I have to do something.” Despite being in her mid-50’s and afraid of failing and of what the professors and students might say, Connie took her daughter’s advice and enrolled in Duquesne University to complete her degree. Her daughter, Kadia Givener, quoted, “Change isn’t change until you change.” Other family members encouraged and supported her decision to return to school. She met with guidance counselors and they told her that fear is not bad–good fear will push you forward. On Thursday, December 17, 2015, at the age of 57 and after two years of taking Saturday classes, Connie Denise Burwell earned her bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science. She plans to obtain a job in mental health or drug rehabilitation services. Connie expressed, “It’s never too late!”

What if Connie Burwell would have just seen those dirty classrooms as a closed door and never opened that door to higher education? She can be grateful to the professor who humiliated her because it only propelled her forward and motivated her to want better for herself. A negative situation can often give you the drive and stamina to accomplish great things. Romans 8:28 states, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Connie Burwell did not continue to stare at that closed door; she look over to see there was another door of opportunity open for her and what a wonderful door it was.

Are you staring at a closed door? Do not continue to stare at it because there is another door already open for you–you just need to recognize it. As always please share your experience where a door has closed and another one opened. Your testimony can be a great inspiration to other readers.

 

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Hope for the Holidays

“…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31 NIV)

As I began working on this blog post, I was notified that another beloved church member had passed away and by the end of the day, a friend had lost her father-in-law. For many of us, it is a time for family, food, fun, and lots of festivities; however, for others, it may be just the opposite. The holiday season can be a very difficult and painful time of year for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. There are many who are experiencing loss this holiday season–my family, my church family, my coworkers, my friends, and a local congregation mourning the loss of their beloved pastor. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalms 34:18 NKJV)

In an article titled, How to Deal with Grief During the Holiday (Psychology Today), Amy Morin shares her experience of grief. She states, “Christmas music, holiday parties, and festive decorations that were meant to bring joy served as painful reminders of my loss. As it is for most people experiencing loss, the holiday season was the most painful time of all.” Morin offers the following strategies that can help you survive the holidays without your loved one:

  1. Trust that grief is part of healing. Experiencing the pain, rather than escaping it, can actually help you feel better in the long-run.
  2. Set healthy boundaries. If participating in holiday traditions are too painful this year, be willing to say no. People may try to convince you to participate, but you do not have to please anyone.
  3. Focus on what you can control. Think about what you can do to lessen your pain. Choose things you can do to assert some control over the holiday festivities–keep in mind life goes on for other people and it is okay for them to celebrate the season.
  4. Plan ahead. Create a simple plan for how you will get through the holidays to avoid extending your anguish.
  5. Allow yourself to feel a range of emotions. The holidays can bring a wide range of emotions. Allow yourself to feel those emotions without judging yourself or thinking you should be happy or you should not be laughing.
  6. Find a way to honor your memories. Create a special way to memorialize the one you have lost–you could light a candle every night or eat their favorite food. Honoring your loved one can serve as a tangible reminder that they may be gone, but the love never dies.
  7. Create new traditions. Do not be afraid to create new traditions this year. It is okay to get creative and do something a little out of the ordinary.
  8. Do something kind for others. Even when you are in the midst of grief, you still have something to offer the world. Performing acts of kindness can be good for a grieving person’s spirit.
  9. Ask for help. Do not be afraid to ask for assistance when you are struggling with the holidays. Remind others you are having a difficult time or you may also want additional support such as a professional counselor to assist you in dealing with the grief in a healthy manner.

To my family, coworkers, church family, friends, those grieving the loss of their pastor, and to all others experiencing loss, I pray these strategies will be of some consolation in getting you through this difficult season. Please feel free to share your comments that it may be a source of healing for you and a sense of inspiration for others. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalms 147:3 NKJV)

Wishing everyone a wonderful and safe holiday season.

 

 

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Persevere–Don’t Quit

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:1-4

 

As we embark upon another holiday season and this year comes to a close, there may have been goals you set out to attain or in pursuit of your purpose, but things just don’t seem to be working out. I hope this blog post will serve as a source of encouragement to keep you motivated to stay the course–persevere. So, what does it mean to persevere? Merriam-Webster defines perseverance as a continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure or opposition. It is the ability to persist in an undertaking for a long period of time in spite of counter influences, periodic setbacks, or bouts of discouragement. If you have been thrown off course or distracted–in spite of the situation, do not quit.

This topic came to mind as I recently watched the 2006 movie, Pursuit of Happyness, starring Will Smith which was inspired by the autobiography of Christopher Paul Gardner. In a December 2016 BBC News article titled, Chris Gardner: The homeless man who became a multi-millionaire investor, Business Reporter, David Gordon shares Gardner’s story in an interview. In addition to an extremely troubled childhood, at age 27, Gardner found himself homeless with a toddler in tow on the streets of San Francisco. They ate in soup kitchens and were forced to sleep nights in public restrooms, parks, at church shelters, or under his desk at work after everyone else had gone home for the day. At one point, he was even incarcerated. Never defining himself by his current situation, Gardner enrolled in a low paying trainee program at Dean Witter Reynolds. With the little money he had, he paid childcare so he could go to work. Despite the adversity, Gardner excelled in his job–he was a natural at selling stocks and shares. At the end of the training period, Dean Witter Reynolds offered him full-time employment. He was then able to rent a home for him and his son. In 1987, he founded Gardner Rich–his own investment firm.

Gardner experienced many setbacks and endured unfathomable living conditions not to mention all while raising a small child. At any point, the average person would have probably thrown in the towel; however, because of his tenacity, persistence and perseverance, his estimated new worth is now $62 million (in 2016). He is an entrepreneur, author, and philanthropist who travels the world as a motivational speaker sponsoring several homeless charities and organizations that combat  violence against women. Gardner told BBC news that he “wouldn’t change a thing.” He stated, “The rest of my destiny came forward because I made the right choices.”

A couple of years ago, as part of my retirement plan, I set out to pursue my securities license to sell investments. In pursuance of my newest goal, I experienced losing two of my closest loved ones and many distractions and delays–too numerous to name. I previously shared in a post of failing on an attempt to pass the exam. I am a living witness that nothing worth having comes easy. I am proud to say I have passed all the qualifying exams for a licensed securities agent. Helen Keller quoted, “Only through experience of trial and suffering can a soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” 

In an article titled, “Developing Perseverance–The Mental Capacity to Overcome and Succeed,” Huffington Post Contributor, Anurag Harsh offers the following factors of personal perseverance:

  1. Positive attitude. It is the desire to move forward–to persevere when others are retreating in the face of change and hardship.
  2. Conclusive choice. Despite any apparent unlikelihood, you must choose a course and stick to it.
  3. Ethical compass. Whatever values you consider vital, use them as guiding stars–they will fill you with the conviction of moral certainty and belief.
  4. Uncompromising resolve. Persist until you recognize the best option is to quit. Recognize when stopping is rational or reasonable rather than convenient or easy.
  5. Social backing. Who can you count on to have your back?

Remember, adversity is all part of the process–keep persisting, keep persevering, and don’t quit. Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and as always, I would love to hear your comments and please share with a friend. I leave you with this poem:

 

Don’t Quit

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,

When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,

When the funds are low and the debts are high,

And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit,

Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,

As every one of us sometimes learns,

And many a failure turns about,

When he might have won had he stuck it out;

Don’t give up though the pace seems slow–

You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than

It seems to a faint and faltering man,

Often the struggler has given up,

When he might have captured the victor’s cup,

And he learned too late when the night slipped down,

How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out–

The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell how close you are,

It may be near when it seems so far,

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit–

It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit.

~Author Unknown~

 

 

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Restoration

“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11 NIV)

Recently, I was watching an episode of “Property Brothers” on HGTV which happens to be one of my favorite shows. It is amazing to see the twin brothers, Jonathan and Drew Scott, restore and transform older homes into someone’s dream home. As I was watching, I began contemplating on how we as individuals also need restoration (it might seem like a weird analogy, but that is how I think!). Often times, we continuously pour into others (i.e., providing emotional support, sound advice, financial support, etc.), while at the same time, there is no one to reciprocate which results in us becoming physically run-down, emotionally overwhelmed, and spiritually bankrupt.

For the past several months, I had been extremely busy at work, involved in church activities, moving, and getting my new home in order. To put it mildly, I was overwhelmed with a capital O. Have you ever had the feeling you did not have anything else to give? Well, that was me. I love to serve others and I am a giver of my time; however, I have learned a valuable lesson–to pull back and restore myself by practicing self-care.

In an article titled, “Self-Care: 12 Ways to Take Better Care of Yourself,” Tchiki Davis, Ph.D., provides the following strategies to implement self-care:

  1. Make sleep part of your routine. Sleep can have a huge effect on how you feel both emotionally and physically. Not getting enough can cause health issues.
  2. Take care of your gut. The types of foods you eat crucially impact the bacteria that live in your stomach resulting in negative or positive effects.
  3. Exercise daily. In addition to losing weight, exercise can boost your mood and reduce stress and anxiety.
  4. Eat right. Eating right can ward off weight gain or diseases and keep your mind working and alert.
  5. Say no to others; say yes to self-care. Once you learn to politely say no, you will begin to feel more empowered, and you will also have more time for self-care.
  6. Take a self-care trip. Getting away for a weekend every now and then can help you disconnect, relax, and be rejuvenated.
  7. Get outside. Spending time outside can help you reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and be more mindful.
  8. Let a pet help you. From giving unconditional love to providing companionship, pets can be beneficial for self-care.
  9. Get organized. Getting organized is often the first step to becoming a healthier you, because it allows you to figure out exactly what you need to do to take better care of yourself.
  10. Cook at home. At least once a week, consider making a healthy meal for yourself or your entire family.
  11. Read a book. Instead of scrolling your phone, read a book on self-care. It could improve your mood and also help you to stay more present and mindful.
  12. Schedule your self-care time and guard it with everything you have. It is extremely important to plan regular self-care time. Moments alone can help you to ponder the best way to move forward in your life and keep you grounded.

I would like to add one more strategy to Tchiki’s list:

Do not allow anyone to steal your peace. If someone displays negative energy, remove yourself from the situation. This includes your adult children, family, friends or whomever. In her book, “In Pursuit of Peace,” Joyce Meyer states, “One cannot enjoy life without first having peace. Without it, we live in turmoil–always worried, anxious, and upset about something.”

With being so busy, I had contemplated ending my blog, but every time the thought surfaced, a reader would leave a comment expressing how my blog continues to encourage them. I believe this was God’s way of letting me know quitting was not the solution. Please know, your comments minister to me just as my blog minsters to you. I appreciate your encouragement–it gives me the fortitude to continue doing what I believe God has called me to do.

This past week, I finally felt like I could breathe again. I now know the solution was not to end my blog–it was to restore myself and practice self-care. How many times have individual’s aborted their calling because they did not take the time to restore their mind, body, and soul?

On Sunday, after church, I went to my Zumba class, cooked dinner, and spent the remainder of the day watching Hallmark movies. I did not engage my brain in anything mentally exhausting–I actually took the time to be with me. We can all be in the business of restoration just like the Property Brothers; however, we should be restoring our temples which houses our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Let’s all practice self-care to avoid being run-down–let this be a season of peace and restoration.

Please watch the following message from my friend, Pamela Losada, a Health and Emotional Wellness Coach:

As always, I look forward to reading your comments, and please share with a friend.

 

 

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A New Season

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven; a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to gain and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and time to to sew; a time to keep silence, and time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

(Fagus sylvatica)

After ending my two-month writing hiatus, I began contemplating and meditating on what topic to share with you. The word, “seasons” repeatedly came to mind. As I have entered into a new season of my life, I thought this topic was most appropriate. Just as nature’s seasons will change, so will the seasons of our lives. As Ecclesiastes states above, to everything there is a season–a time for every purpose.

Life is consistent rhythmical ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys, as well as sunshine and rain. Some life events are unavoidable and yet others are self-imposed by a string of bad choices–I have experienced both. I have withstood many seasons during my lifetime. There have been seasons of insecurity; there have been seasons of pride and accomplishment; there have been seasons of rejection and alienation; there have been seasons of great joy as in the birth of my children; there have been seasons of happiness as on my wedding day and yet, there were seasons of heartbreak as when I became a divorcee; there have been seasons of grief and heartache, and there have been seasons of peace and joy, just to name a few.

Last summer, my girlfriend and I took a trip to the beach. One morning while sitting on the beach enjoying the peace and serenity of the ocean, I prayed and asked God how I should move forward with my life. My youngest son had recently graduated from high school and I knew I was entering a different phase of my life. A couple of days after returning home from my trip, I clearly heard a voice telling me to sell my house. I know you might think I am crazy, but I knew it was God ordering my steps. I told God that I needed confirmation that this was what I was hearing and He confirmed it several times. I had raised my son’s in this home–my youngest son was two years old when we moved there. There were many birthday parties, Christmas parties, girlfriend gatherings, graduation parties, coaching sessions and happy times. There were unhappy times as well–it was where my marriage ended and it was where my mom took her last breath. Deep down in my spirit, I knew it was time for me to close that chapter of my life and begin a new one; therefore, I did exactly what that small voice told me to do. I sold my home of 16 years carrying all of the wonderful and not so wonderful memories with me. Sometimes, you have to let go of the old in order to move toward the purpose or assignment God has destined for you. I thank God for this new season–a new address, a new phone number, and a new beginning!

If you are experiencing sickness, grief, disappointment,  heartache, heartbreak, or whatever you are facing, know that it is only for a season and there is a new beginning right around the corner. “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalms 30:5). Be encouraged!

As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts and please share with a friend.

 

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New Things

“Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.” Isaiah 42:9

I am definitely a creature of habit. As a result, I have committed to trying new things. I love visiting new restaurants, but the problem is, almost mechanically, I will order the same entree’ each and every time. Why do I order the same meal every time? It is safe and I like safe–I know I won’t be wasting my money or be disappointed. I came to the realization that it may be economically sound; however, it is boring and mundane. Although it may be a challenge, I am committed to experiencing something new on the menu.

Despite my mundane food choices, I have welcomed some new experiences. Because I am accustomed to patronizing the same grocery store (I know the exact aisle that contains the item I need), I decided to visit a couple of new ones in my neighborhood; I joined a new gym and exercise class called Pound–a cardio exercise session using Ripstix; and a few months ago, a friend and I took salsa lessons which I thoroughly enjoyed. These activities may not be mind-blowing, but they are unusual to my normal routine.

In her book, “Year of Yes,” Shonda Rhimes tells of a conversation she is having with her sister, Delores, while preparing a Thanksgiving dinner. Shonda is the creator, head writer, and executive producer of such television shows as Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder. In her book, Shonda is telling Delores about some of the amazing opportunities she has been afforded. Delores, in turn, asks Shonda why hasn’t she taken advantage of the invites (to events, parties, talk shows, etc.) and added, “You never say yes to anything.” Shonda admitted the words were harsh, but true. Her excuses were that she was busy with two jobs, Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal (at that time), and she was a single mother with three children. This was the beginning of her making a conscious decision to say “yes” to everything for one year resulting in the writing of her book. During that year, Shonda interviewed with Oprah on Super Soul Sunday and spoke on TED Talks where she talked about saying “yes” to the things she feared.

Do you live a very routine, mundane life? You get up, get dressed, go to work, come home, have dinner, attend to the needs of your spouse and/or children, and go to bed only to start the routine all over again the next day. How about trying something new and different? In an article in the Huffington Post titled, “A Look at the Incredible Benefits of Trying New Things,” Larry Alton, CEO of Alton Enterprises, provides the following benefits:

  1. Overcome fear. Fear is the one thing that keeps us from trying new things. We’re afraid of the investment, consequences, and worst-case scenarios. What if I don’t like it?
  2. Get to know yourself better. We think we know ourselves, then we try new things and realize we have unique likes and dislikes that were previously unknown.
  3. Stimulate creativity. When you try new things, you put your brain into unique situations that force it to really think. This stimulates creativity, which eventually rubs off in other areas of your life.
  4. Make you more marketable. Your desire to try new things should be centered on you and your life goals. A commitment to forging new life experiences makes you more marketable to the world.

Alton offers five things to try this summer:

  1. Learn a new sport. Maybe it’s time to learn a new sport and physically challenge yourself in ways that you haven’t before.
  2. Travel solo. Solo travel is highly beneficial. It teaches you independence, allows you to set the itinerary, and provides life lessons on how to handle different situations.
  3. Go speed dating.  You’ll experience a whirlwind of emotions and may learn something about yourself along the way.
  4. Cook for a week. Try cooking every single meal you eat for an entire week. From this experience, you will learn new skills and will come to appreciate the patience and rewards that come with cooking.
  5. Start a side hustle. Try starting a new side hustle this summer. Turn your skill into a business. Your business acumen will increase and you will have fun being innovative at the same time.

As I agree with numbers 1, 2, 4, and 5, number 3 will take some convincing. If I ever experience speed dating, I will definitely include the experience in my blog! I challenge you to make this your “Year of Yes” and do something you have never done before, whether it will be visiting a new store, restaurant, exercise class or whatever it is–just try something new. You do not have to do anything death defying such as bungee jumping or parasailing–new things can be something simple.

I hope this blog has ministered to you as it has simultaneously ministered to me. I will challenge myself to release my boring, routine habits and say “yes” to new things and experience many of the opportunities life has to offer. How about you?

As always, I would love to hear your comments and please share with a friend.

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