Cornerstone's Reflection eNews
Quarterly Newsletters to help you to reflect and to grow where you're planted
Anthony J. D'Angelo: Become addicted to constant and never ending self improvement.
3rd Qtr 2019
In the Midst of Chaos You Can Claim Your Moment
Knowing the importance of living in the moment is one thing, taking action is another. Unknown
I’m goin’ like 90!” is my response when asked how I’m doing. But at that speed, I sometimes find that “the faster I go, the behinder I get.” High speed living races toward stress, exhaustion, do-overs. It’s hard to keep thoughts from colliding into each other or feeling as though your brain just froze—little is processing. But there is hope! According to cognitive neuroscientists, the human brain processes at different speeds whether in a conscious or nonconscious state of being.
In a conscious state our brain actually switches off. The brain tends to switch off to its busy and chaotic external environment. Because our brain requires a state of balance, what actually happens during demanding times is that our brain protects itself from the calamity and switches itself off. So a “one track mind” leads us through our busyness and turmoil, and in the off switch, our brain will ramp through on a single focus and stay “frozen” or a “halted” position until we realize we need to slow down.
In the preferred slowed down state of being, the brain works from the nonconscious mind. Dr. Caroline Leaf, author, neuroscientist and Bible scholar says our brain enters into the “rest circuit.” She further explains that we don’t actually rest. Rather we move into a highly intelligent, self-reflective, directed state. She contends that the more often we go there, the more we get in touch with the deep, spiritual part of who we are. In this state of rest, our brain switches on. Awareness of a situation is heightened, where we instinctively discover the solution to our problem. Dr. Leaf explains in her book entitled, “Switch on Your Brain,” that brain imaging experiments show that there is a persistent level of background activity when a person is in a state of directed rest. This includes recollections, ruminations, imaginations, and self perceptions; which involves the ability to focus on a specific memory, thinking through things from different angles while still being solution focused.
Even though “the sky is falling” in our lives, we have the mental capacity to discipline ourselves to step outside of our pain and step away from the menacing dark cloud. There we’ll find someone that we can share our moment with, someone that needs our moment. The challenge is to be alert to claim our moment to give away to someone else who needs our help, our encouragement and support; and understanding that that moment shared will be returned to us at levels unimaginable. It’s important that we balance our attitude as best we can and become alert to promises, encouragement, and support that come our way, then be on the lookout to share our moment.
And here’s the thing about claiming your moment, if you keep alert to your circumstance, God will open up the heavens to reveal your moment in the midst of chaos, switch your brain on and rise above the stuff that tries to rob your joy. Here are a few other tips:
Start with a Smile
Somewhere through a kind gesture of a smile, you have an opportunity to find your moment. One day I had a thousand and a half things on my mind while grocery shopping, when I approached a woman, pushing a cart in the opposite direction. She simply smiled at me. I smiled back, of course, but in retrospect I wished I would have thanked her for giving herself away with a simple smile. If she only knew what her smile had told me, Live life as simply as a smile. Cast your burdens aside. Give simplicity a chance, Things have a way of working out. Do you see what happened here? The woman claimed her moment by giving a smile and in return, she allowed me to claim my moment and set the thousand and a half things into a positive perspective.
When life around you ignites into a fierce combustion and there seems no way of escape, and your moment is sizzling in the ciders of pain and regret, remember that Divine Rescue is at your fingertips. It only requires that you ask…it’s that simple. But why is it, at times, tough to ask for Divine help? I tend to do the same thing and when I’m finally at the end of my rope, where the only way I can look is up, then I ask…well…okay…plead for God’s mercy and grace. Once my prayer is answered, I wondered why it took me so long to finally ask. In the Bible, in the Book of Matthew, Jesus speaks to the multitudes and he encourages them to Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened. Now take the first letter of each instruction and what do you come up with? If you found A-S-K, you can go to the head of the class. So the next time, your fire gets too hot; just simply ask for Divine Rescue and through it God will guide you to claim your moment.
The Boomerang Effect
We are surrounded by hurting people. They go about their day, dragging a huge elephant, which may be bigger than yours. By stepping outside of your chaos and doing something nice for someone else, you parachute the boomerang effect into your life. The act of giving yourself away allows a better version of yourself, like a boomerang, returns to you. So switch your brain on and do a thoughtful deed, say an encouraging word. Help someone claim their moment because you took the time to claim your moment. Remember, time is porous and can slip away unaware. Once you miss the opportunity to take action, it’s difficult to retrieve. Be alert. Take action. The more you give, you more you’ll be blessed. The more you’ll be groomed with strong character, a tender heart, a generous spirit.
Life is more than raising children, running errands, paying bills, worklife, meeting friends, but in the in-between times, what really matters is that we claim our moment by thinking outside of ourselves and becoming strength for someone else. Who can you find today? Who needs encouragement that can only come from you? Who needs an act of your kindness that lets them know that there is good in the world? Can it be expressed in a smile? Might you need a boost from Divine Rescue to be refreshed to claim your moment and then usher someone else to theirs? Can it be an encouraging word to help lift the dark cloud from someone else’s sadness? Switch on your brain. Allow your purpose the freedom to serve others.
2nd Qtr 2019
Three Dimensions that Influence Life’s Journey
“It's so difficult, isn't it? To see what's going on when you're in the absolute middle of something? It's only with hindsight we can see things for what they are.” --- S.J. Watson
Different facets of our lives can be defined in groupings of three’s. During elementary school, we learned that a story has three parts: introduction, body of content, conclusion. Society is identified by three classes: Lower, middle, upper. Even our names come in three’s: First, middle, last. Life’s journey can also be simplified into three groupings: Beginning, middle and end.
Most often what occurs at the “beginning” is an action, a start of something. Usually, a beginning unfolds once a decision is made. Let’s say you decide to eat healthy and lose weight. What follows is a plan to start a healthy meal plan and an exercise regimen. Another type of beginning occurs when it is forced upon us…ugh! We didn’t have a choice. A beginning bamboozled our lives. Regardless the type of beginning, we are eventually faced with the “middle.”
“Hold on! I’m in the middle of something,” is a response you may have heard when you asked someone to help you. And that’s the focus we should maintain when we’re in the middle of our journey. Separate yourself from distractions, compromise and half-hearted commitments. Why? Because the middle is the most critical stage in your life’s journey. Its impact of time, intensity, and frustration can consume us physically, mentally, and spiritually. The middle can become a rigorous test of your tenacity. A “test” of who you can become. It seeks to assess your determination for growth and victory, or personal erosion and defeat. Although the middle can seemingly make you feel as though someone is standing on your oxygen cord, remember the middle is packed with power potential in your life. Knowing that the middle works for your good should motivate you to hang-in-there. Another reason to stand firm is that even though enduring the middle seems impossible—don’t cry “uncle” yet. The “end” is within your reach.
After the middle stage, we finally get to the “end.” Whew! It is the goal, the purpose, the reason, the dream. Most people think that once at the end, they can return to being themselves again. But really, we’re not the same person. We’re changed. We’re better. There were times when I reached the end with feelings of exhaustion. But when I gave myself space to recover from the aftershock, I slowly realizes that I’m now feeling stronger, settled, victorious because I weathered the middle.
The end can be the euphoric mountain top experience. Especially after the difficult climb during the “middle,” we begin to understand that we are now better at the end than we were at the beginning. The end grounds us and rewards us with inner-strength, greater wisdom, better understanding. Our frame of reference is enlarged and we are better off than we ever imagined. But while in the middle, we wondered if we’d ever see this moment—the long awaited end.
How can we overcome the middle and still keep our sanity? How can we blossom, achieve, accomplish? The truth is—how can we respond to these questions when all we want is to get to the end. Here are some tips to help you endure the middle and get to your glorious finish line:
We’ve all experienced the sometimes arduous journey to lose weight and get healthier. But when our body has reached its plateau, we start to believe that being healthy and losing weight are no longer a goal, but a burden. We wonder if it’s easier to give up. But wait! Give yourself a chance. Remember, you’ve already set a goal. Don’t let yourself down by taking the easy way out. Instead of being hard on yourself, be patient with yourself. And here’s the thing—it took a while for you to gain the weight, it’ll take a while to lose the weight. Remember, patience will get you to your finish line.
What does it mean to be patient? What is the profile of a patient person? How do we know that we are being patient? Let’s examine these soul-searching questions:
What does it mean to be patient? Some people translate patience as waiting for results. But experts say that patience has nothing to do with waiting. Patience is all about working hard while waiting for the results. For example, an event happened that made you feel really bad. Patience in this case means both bearing the bad emotions and working hard to solve the problem that made you feel bad.
What is the profile of a patient person? Patient people understand that the only way to get rid of the pain they are experiencing now is to do something that is proactive. They bear the bad emotions and fight hard to let them go. Patient people keep their eyes on the prize. They take an objective posture and work toward achieving their goal. No matter how tough it gets, they won’t give up. They keep running their race. They understand that when they keep moving forward, that they’ll eventually reach their finish line. They will be victorious. Because patient people have their prize in view, they have good attitudes. They have a picture of hope within their sights.
How do you know that you are being patient? You know that you are truly living in patience when you can let go of your situation. That you can trust yourself enough to hang in there until you reach the end. Letting go is a liberating feeling. You’re not thinking about the situation 24/7. It no longer consumes you. Rather you consume the problem with your patience and ability to loosen your grip on the situation. Then, you’ll know the elephant has left the room.
It’s important to track your progress. Reflect on how you’re doing. Why? Because your notes will give you a chronological progression of your accomplishments.
Other benefits under the spotlight of self-assessment are: 1) Identify your weak spots. You’ll recognize what needs fixing. And 2) Unlock powerful inner resources you didn't know you had, so they may actually boost your confidence after you’ve completed your assessment.
Consider journaling at least three times a week, although daily is preferred. Peruse your journal after a week’s notation. See how far you may have improved. If you think you should be farther along, then set up a plan on how you can reasonably stretch your intrapersonal growth.
Self-assessment will encourage you while you’re in the middle. Once you arrive at the end, you’ll have factual evidence of your experience and a good resource; instead of relying upon memory for every detail of your journey.
When you’re in the middle, don’t be hard on yourself. Rather, be patient with yourself. Give yourself some grace, understanding, and love. The middle can remove the cobwebs from the way you perceive life. Remember you’re on a journey to a better you! Any level of self-improvement—including tiny steps forward—will encourage you to run your own race and focus on the prize. Follow up with a weekly reading of your journal and be proud of who you are becoming. So, grab a cup of coffee and sit down with your journal to reflect and assess, and begin to see your life more clearly. You’ll soon find the elephant is cut into manageable pieces.
Choosing Curiosity over Fear
“As I get older, the more I stay focused on the acceptance of myself and others, and choose compassion over judgment and curiosity over fear.” --- Tracee Ellis Ross
Fear has the power to rob our joy, make us feel less than, and impede our vision to make the climb toward our dreams. Fear is the subtle voice that begins logically, but hidden beneath its convincing speech are lies and more lies. It advocates a life lived in a container half empty, a goal just out of reach, and distinguishes the spark deep within our soul to aspire to mind-boggling heights. Fear reminds us what we can’t do. And the more we listen to fear, the more we become entrapped, ineffective, miserable.
And because we’ve all experienced fear on occasion, we tend to play-it-safe. We tend to stick to the places we feel protected, safe, confident. Our natural instinct is to avoid things that we’re less certain of—even when a part of us wonders What if?
I’ve learned that the power of the What if far surpasses the fear that paralyzes and defeats me. Asking What if escorts us to the path less traveled—the unknown, the uncharted. Ben Franklin has said, “Nothing ventured nothing gained.” And that is the challenge to our own sense of curiosity. How will we know what’s on the other side, if we don’t get out there to check it out? How can we put on triumphant living ignited by a fearless mindset? Here are a few tips to help you to become curious enough and brave enough to lift your foot out of the boat and wiggle your toes into foreign waters:
Give in to Your Natural Desire to Ask Questions
I’ve been saving an excerpt from an Oprah magazine in the April, 2001 issue, which illustrates the importance of an open question:
It’s not the answers that show us the way, says Czech poet Rainer Maria Rilke, but the questions. Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
Despite what we hope for, life seems to have a mind of its own. For example, we don’t awake and instantly overcome fear. Shifts in attitude are a process that takes time. It’s about getting to a place within ourselves where we’re ready to ask questions, brave enough to face the unknown, to take action, and put aside avoidance. The process starts with an open question.
Take a Deep Breath and Go for It
Our natural tendency to play it safe could be hindering other people, not just ourselves. So the next time you’re drawn to play it safe, think about how that decision affects those you really care about. Then take a deep breath and just go for it!
Realize the Benefits of Overcoming Fear
Birthed within our soul are the answers to every situation. Unfortunately, fear can hold us back from discovering those much needed answers. But when we are brave enough to step into the fear, the transformation of our situation is powerful. We become empowered with many benefits:
Perhaps the most important benefit of overcoming fear is gaining confidence. Confidence building comes after we take a risk, take the first step out of the boat. We might find that the water is just fine. Secondly, realizing renewed confidence instills within our soul a vibrancy, a refreshed attitude. Seeing the glass half full and with that vision we then become unstoppable.
Finally, we gain insight and appreciation for the path less traveled. The light at the end of the tunnel no longer dims inside of our fear, rather it shines as a beacon, guiding us to the shortest distance to breakthrough.
Curiosity—the hunger for a bigger, better and brilliant life is key to hushing the persuasive voice of fear. Simply ignite curiosity by asking questions. Ask all kinds of questions, all the time and eventually you’ll arrive at the right question that leads to discovery. Answers can be discovered once we take a risk by stepping out of our comfort zone. Then once you do, stand tall; because you can!
4th Qtr 2018
“Real change is difficult at the beginning. Without the familiar to rely upon, you may not be in as much command as you had once been. When things are not going your way, you will start doubting yourself. Stay positive, keep the faith, and keep moving forward – your breakthrough may be just around the corner.” --- Roy T. Bennett
After wading through eighteen months of loss, disappointment and chaos, I awoke to feeling like my old self: cheerful, positive, liberated. The elephant that had parked itself on my shoulders was gone. I could finally breathe with ease and think clearly. The breakthrough had finally come.
In retrospect, these eighteen months seemed to last forever, but the truth is it evolved into a season, whose purpose was to groom me into a better version of myself. The lessons I had learned created a new mosaic of the person I had now become. It birthed patience, positivity, and empowerment. The climb during this season is something I would not want to experience again, but the intra-personal growth became my treasure. The following are takeaways that have blossomed during this season:
I Am Still the Same Person
The emotional impact of conflict has a way of making us feel less than. Not good enough. Not smart enough. But here’s the truth: You are the same person, when the conflict blindsided you, as you were the day before. Yes, the strengths you brought into the experience still exist, even though they are camouflaged by negativity and doubt. Remind yourself of who you were before calamity smothered your life. Take a few minutes to create a “This Is Me” card. Write down all of your strengths on a 3X5 card. Post it in a conspicuous place. Review it regularly, especially when you’re not feeling your best. It’ll be a good reminder of who you really are.
When your life is consumed with obstacles and challenges, it’s tough to peel yourself away from them. But the sooner you can let go of negative thoughts, the faster you can move forward. Negative thoughts can keep you stuck and if you’re not careful, you’ll find comfort in the pit that negativity has carved out in your life. When a negative thought comes to mind, STOP! Immediately think of an opposite thought. My go-to opposite thought is, “Today is a gift. Today, I will let go, knowing that God will never give me more than I can handle.” Throughout the day, when sadness spread its venomous claws, I’d recite a condensed version of this mantra: “Today is a gift. Today, God is my strength.”
Bitter or Better
We may not have a choice when a problem blindsides us, but we have the power to decide how to deal with it. Will we let the problem get the best of us, or will we get the best of the problem? If you tend to focus on a problem too long, it’ll cause bitterness, where all you’ll see, think, and talk about is your problem. Arm yourself with your strengths and focus on the bigger picture. Notice how your horizon will change. I must admit, it was tough to think about the big picture. But it helped me to see beyond my circumstance, which gave me hope. Hope challenged me to keep an open mind and not get caught up in the entrapment of bitterness.
Line of Sight
We had learned of another death in our family. The pain of loss fingered its way deep into my being. I stared out the kitchen window after a sleepless night. I happened to glance straight ahead to the back yard, seeing the pool, landscaping, tall trees. Then for no particular reason, I looked upward, seeing clear blue skies. I looked straight ahead again, from a horizontal perspective, and noticed the busyness and distractions. If we look horizontally distractions loom ahead, magnifying our situation. But when we cast our gaze vertically, the immense sky seems to consume our problems, not amplify them. The expanse of the sky, void of distractions, gives a sense of calm, a resting place. Viewing tough situations from a vertical perspective relaxes the roar of life into a gentle whisper. It is here where our strength comes from. It is here where we find grace and resolution.
A breakthrough clips at a faster pace when we use our strengths to combat negative thinking. In large part, our strengths will give us the courage to let go of our problem with confidence to search for the bigger picture and explore beyond our circumstance to possibility. When we shift our line of sight from horizontal to vertical, we’ll right-size our situation. And remember that today, albeit overwhelming, is still a gift. It sparks our intra-personal growth so we are empowered to empathize with others who are suffering as we have. There is no other endearing force than to have gone through the eye of the needle and to arrive victoriously at the end of our journey.
3rd Qtr, 2018
What is Weighing You Down?
You were given this life because you are strong enough to live it.--- Unknown
“I was better, but got over it.” I kiddingly told a friend, who called to see how I was coping with several events that had recently bamboozled my life.
But isn’t that how life rolls—good days and bad days? The waves of love, blessings, laughter splash in. Life is amazing and we’re ecstatic to be alive. Then there’s the flipside when the brutal storms of disappointment, despair, and destruction slam onto our shores and literally knock us to the rocky beach. It drowns all of our good memories into a murky yesterday. What’s a person to do?
We could fight back by using threats and intimidation to deal with life’s surprises, but these tactics will only prolong our agony and injure our relationships. We could take flight by choosing the path of least resistance, or simply avoid the conflict all together, but problems won’t go away, they’re still where we left them. It’s easy to pursue greener grasses, but some time or another we must face reality and that short detour only delays the inevitable. What’s a person to do?
Maybe we could change our attitude—change the way we see our situation. Maybe we could jump into our problem with both feet. And just maybe with the right attitude we might see this unwanted and uninvited struggle as a gift!
A gift? Really? If you’re thinking that I’ve gone nuts, hold on! Hear me out! Think back to a time when a terrible event blasted through your life, think about your struggle, think how things turned out. What was the outcome? Were you stronger? More compassionate? More forgiving? More tolerant? More loving? More patient? So let’s analyze these outcomes: Stronger, compassionate, forgiving, tolerant, loving, patient…aren’t these words of strength? If the struggle brought you to a better place, then maybe it was a gift.
Let’s say we’re in agreement that struggle is a gift. Here is a list of goals and awareness that can ground us while we venture into uncharted territory:
Rite of Passage: Conflict gives us the rite of passage to go through the struggle and to get to the other side. Hopefully to arrive stronger and better off than when we started our journey. It’s the euphoria that clings to our soul, knowing that we made it! We land flat-footed on the finish line! We fulfilled the climb! If we can do this, we can do anything!!
Grow Where You’re Planted: When we are in the struggle, we need to understand that we have what it takes to “grow where we’re planted.” Step out in faith—take that first step and start growing! Look up to where your strength comes from. Soak in the beauty of your growth potential. Keep your eyes on the prize. Don’t allow distraction to seem attractive. Nothing, absolutely nothing is more beautiful than God’s finished work in your life. He has a plan to help you grow into a better you. To make you resilient. To give you a new song. To set your feet to dancing. To fill you with joy unspeakable. So be brave and grow where you’re planted.
Own This Moment: We’re never encouraged to live in the past, to cry over spilt milk, to be burdened with guilt. We’re reminded not to look far into the future for the what ifs, for a pseudo promise. The past is passed. The future is a tomorrow that may not unfold the way we thought it would. What we can do and should do is to own the moment—the right now. This moment is what you have control over. This moment allows free will to choose how you will deal with it. Don’t try to over analyze the struggle, or get out of it, or give it a good hard kick. For the next 60 seconds decide to be good to yourself. To release the tension that you’ve been hauling around. To quiet your mind of negative self-talk. To rest. To be still. To be refreshed…just for a moment.
Count Your Blessings: Set aside your struggle and think of nothing else but the good things in your life. Name them one by one as the old song goes. For me, it’s my husband, who is my rock. My mother, who is my strong tower. My dad, who occasionally gives me a sneak peak at his loving heart tucked under his gruffness. My adult children, who expands my own heart with their talent, wit, and strength. My grandchildren, making me proud of the people they are becoming. To my rescue, Lulu, my soul mate with four legs, who gives generous sloppy kisses. Just by naming my blessings—one by one—reminds me that the good in my life far outweighs the struggle I’m going through.
So as I embark upon my journey, to grow where I’m planted, to own the moment and make the most of it, and to count my blessings, I galvanize my aspiration to be the best “me” I can become. This focus finds residence at the center of my heart. I am determined to never give up. I expect the sun to shine in the next moment. To grip onto hope and see the finish line gradually edge into view.
2nd Qtr, 2018
You are a Masterpiece, a Work in Progress
“A work in progress. And the possibilities are endless.” ---― Elizabeth Eulberg
One day while sitting on my bed, doing homework (actually feverishly working on an essay due in English the next day), when my father peeked in and told me something that, as a 16 year old, has stayed with me even today. He said, “The longer I live the more I realize there’s so much yet to learn.” I’d remember his encouraging words even during dark moments of despair and disappointment to keep moving forward, keep an open mind, keep alert to your direction—discovering all the different things that beckoned me to keep striving, keep learning, keep hopeful.
As long as we’re alive, we should dial into the fact that we’re a work in progress. I honestly believe that there are opportunities for me to improve, to see each new day in a richer way, to love more, to laugh more, and—well—to eat more chocolate!
But there are days when it’s easier just to pull down the blinds and hope for a better tomorrow. But embracing my dad’s quote, I’d remind myself of all the good things I’ve learned along the way and these they were a gift to shine light to make today better and position myself for a happier tomorrow. I’m reminded that I have the capability to make the right choices to continuing building a fulfilled life, while trying to balance a secure footing upon a rocky pathway. And when my journey seems daunting, then I can always rely upon God to make my path smoother and straighter. I’ve dug deep into my soul and found golden nuggets of pure euphoria that not only made my tomorrows better, but today a place of awe. Here are a few of my golden gems. I hope you will enjoy them:
· Accept yourself right where you are. You are a work in progress! Each day offers a gift for you to grow. Maybe not as quickly as you would like, but today you are growing—faults and all. So be happy where you’re planted. Know that you’re okay just as you are today.
· There’s a lot more right with you. Indeed, there is a lot right with you, albeit a dark cloud looming overhead. If you’d try to put your mind to it, you’ll be able to come up with one thing to be thankful for. And if that one thing doesn’t show up for you, then listen to nature. Hear the birds with their cheerful serenade and be thankful that you can hear the beautiful melody of Nature.
· Don’t compare yourself with others. When you’re down it’s easy to think that everyone else is up and happy. Everything is going their way. Don’t compare yourself with anyone, because they have their own race to run and so do you. Comparing yourself will only keep you stuck right where you are.
· Negative thoughts keep us from improving and moving forward. We are all a masterpiece, and we have talents and skills to fulfill our destiny. Negative thoughts do not have a place within the framework of intra-personal growth that hold hostage the masterpiece that is resident within you.
· Focusing on your weaknesses will weigh you down and rob your confidence and make it harder to reach your destiny. Your destiny is too important to be weighed down with negative thoughts. Instead, celebrate your strengths. You have more of them than you realize.
· Be grateful for who you are and who you can become. Continue to scale the heights of your personal climb. Gratefulness will energize your journey and take you to heights unthinkable.
· The most important relationship you have is with yourself. There will always be some reason that you don’t like yourself—we are just human, not perfect. Learn to accept yourself and notice that you’ll get along with others.
· It’s okay to feel good about yourself while you’re in the process of improving. Be patient, be kind, be generous, be forgiving, and fall in love who are you right now. Today.
Consider one of these affirmations throughout each day. You may find that one affirmation might need more than one day to hold close to your heart. And that’s a good plan.
As I write this article, my Dad is 93 years young and going strong! Over the years I’ve learned more from him than I can count on ten fingers and ten toes, but one thing remains true: When I’m alert, I find there’s so much more to learn, to dream bigger, to reach higher for my star.
1st Qtrr, 2018
A Life in Progress
I am a work in progress, truly a unique yet unfinished masterpiece.― Maria Koszler
On a blistering cold Fall night in 1903, my Japanese grandmother, Shige, nineteen years old at the time, embarked upon a ship for the four month journey from Japan to Hawaii. On the small ship, she was sandwiched amongst hundreds of young women, whose hearts were filled with a mix of fear for leaving their country to the excitement of reaching a foreign land to marry unfamiliar men through an arranged marriage. After the arduous journey, where many of the young women died, young Shige stood shyly on the dock at the shores of the Big Island to meet her future husband, Tokuichi Hamada. He had left immediately for Hawaii once the details of the marriage were finalized to find work and establish a home for his future bride. Tokuichi was a talented carpenter, designing and crafting furniture and cooking utensils for the Governor’s Palace. He was a brilliant man, speaking fluently in the languages of Hawaii: Japanese, Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese and. Filipino.
But life in Hawaii turned bleak when Tokuichi began to squander his earnings on gambling and alcohol. Whenever he thought death was eminent, he’d return to Japan, leaving his wife to care and support their five children. When his health improved, he’d return to Hawaii. Shige supported her family by working as a laundrywoman, scrubbing barrels of clothes for the plantation workers and plowing a pineapple plantation. One day she had given birth to a stillborn out in the fields. She wrapped her dead baby in a soiled apron, dug a grave, took the same shovel and went back to work a couple of hours later. Her infant son had died a year earlier. Eventually, her husband’s health worsened and he could no longer work. His older children were forced to drop out of school and work in the plantation. Sadly, he would use a portion of their earnings for his addictions.
Shige helplessly watched as her husband became violent and irresponsible. She wept until her heart was squeezed dry. Would life ever get better? She vowed to become both father and mother to her five children. The illness that destroyed her husband would not be allowed to maliciously poison their young lives. She taught them about honorable living, the need for education, hard work, and the strength to aspire to greatness.
Shige was a single parent during WWI, as Tokuichi would return to his homeland whenever he feared his death was eminent. But during the war when his family needed him most, he never returned to help them. Then during WWII, when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, the Japanese were treated poorly. They could not use public facilities, drink out of the public drinking fountain, ride the bus or eat in restaurants. It was difficult to buy food and many nights Shige’s children went to bed hungry. These injustices caused her to endure many long and troubled nights, while tears flowed her pillow and her heart ached for the future of her children.
Her eldest son, Takumi, as a young adult was now head of the family, his duty was to support his mother and sisters. Shige’s heart broke in a thousand jagged pieces while watching him put his ambitions aside for the sake of his family. His younger brother, Shigemi, answered the call for volunteers to join the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 1943, a segregated unit made up of Japanese-Americans. He performed many heroic deeds and at his discharge from the Army received numerous distinguished awards. In 2015, Shigemi was posthumously inducted into the Military Hall of Fame at Fort Huachuca, AZ for his heroism in Operation MAGPIE, rescuing survivors of the Doolittle Raiders and 600 other prisoners from a Japanese prison camp in Peiping (currently Beijing). His team parachuted in and, upon landing, drew fire from snipers. Still, they were able to successfully extract the prisoners.
During all of her difficult and lonely years, Shige learned to never give up as she scrubbed and ironed clothes, plowed the field, cared for her children, and endured the hardships she suffered with her husband. While I was growing up, she shared her life story, teaching me valuable lessons of living well in the good times and the bad. The one thing she’d say over and over again is that we are all works in progress, but we must remember to keep working in order to progress.
Two Sides to Every Situation
“’The only people who see the whole picture,' he murmured, 'are the ones who step out of the frame.’” ― Salman Rushdie
4th Qtr 2017
As a child, the adults in my life kept asking me what I wanted to do when I grew up. Even at the age of five, I realized this must be an important question because so many people were interested in my future. So I thought as long and as hard as a five year old could about a future that seemed so far away. I began thinking about my favorite TV shows.
I loved western shows: Roy Rodgers, The Lone Ranger, Cisco Kid, Wyatt Earp, Bonanza, to name a few. I watched western girls with her long flowing dresses that tossed about as they rode English on their beautiful stallions. I decided I wanted to be a cowgirl.
Then a couple of years later when I was a bit wiser, I realized that maybe becoming a cowgirl wasn’t all that attractive. I went on a lot of horseback riding escapades and this is what I learned: All they wanted to do was to get back to their barns and eat. Once dismounted, I swear my legs bowed out big time
There are always two-sides to every situation, to every story, to every opportunity. What may seem glamorous at first, when considering the flip side of the coin…hmmm…we might guess again. For these reasons alone, we shouldn’t make rash decisions of a situation. Rather give yourself enough time to gather enough information so you can make an informed decision for yourself. Here are a few tips to consider:
Be patient: It’s rare that information gathering happens overnight. Sometimes the waiting can take a toll. Always remember that a stitch in time saves nine. By patiently waiting, you could save yourself many seasons of unrest and unhappiness.
Keep an open mind: The purpose of gathering information means that we should keep an open mind and collect all kinds of data and don’t make any judgments of what is needed or not needed. One of the major benefits of keeping an open mind is that it has the capability to create a vision of what you really want in life. An open mind has no blinders. It doesn’t see obstacles. It only sees possibilities.
Build a tolerance for uncertainty: Take a strong hold to your dream. Even if people can’t see what you see, don’t get discourage. Don’t give up when your dream’s light grows dim and discouragement begins to set in. Build a tolerance for uncertainty as uncertainty is the key to success. The reason why others don’t support your dream is because it’s not their dream. Grip on to your dream and don’t let anyone else try to distract you.
Catch your star: Your star—your soul—knows where it should go. Why? Because God has planted your destiny within you. All of your answers are already planted inside of you and when you need answers, they’ll reveal what you need to know. Your star provides just enough light for you to step out in faith and see the path ahead of you.
Step outside of your situation: It’s easy to get tunnel vision when discouragement sets in. When that happens, take a step back and step outside of your situation. By looking from the outside in, you’ll get a bigger picture of where you’re at, where you’ve come from and where you’re going. Now rejuvenated, return to your journey with vigor.
The next time you’re up to your eyes in a situation, remember, that there are always two sides to a situation. Don’t forget to bundle all of these tips together and use them as your travel guide along the journey to plow forward to your dream. Answers to burning questions will be revealed and you’ll reap a blessed, happy and fulfilled life.
BLESS THIS MESS
Learn to be thankful in your trials, because in order to get your breakthrough, you need a trial to break through.” ---Craig Williams
2nd Qtr, 2017
Over the years, I’ve come to rename the term, “life trials” to “life messes.” More times than not during difficult life events, I’ve felt as though I was in a real mess. And this is what I learned: I could easily make a mess of things during tough times. Why? Because I was making up my own rules. Rules to figure out how to get out of this difficulty. Wondering how in the world did I get into this situation in the first place? Why me? Soon a list of unknowing innocent people were centered upon my bulls-eye of blame. Then pity parties followed. The worse was that I began calling myself names: stupid, stupider and more stupider. This jagged list of rules became my direction to navigate through difficulty. The result: I created bigger messes.
Then one day while in my early 20s I read a book entitled, “Dare to Live on the Edge.” It was a faith-based book and it challenged its readers to understand that God doesn’t make junk. Once I understood I had a purpose in life, then I was able to find value in myself. I was better prepared to face the book’s other challenges: to think big, to expect good out of the unexpected, and to grow where I was planted. So I began cleaning up my messes, starting with the first tip in the Dare to Live on the Edge book:
God doesn’t make junk: Because I had suffered with tragedy in my young adult life, I figured God had given up on me. But Dare to Live on the Edge explained that I had a purpose and I was equipped to serve that purpose. That deep inside I was a diamond and God was at work to scissile away the crusty messes in my life. The book further explained that God’s responsibility was to develop me to become what I was destined to be. The book went on to say that he loves me unconditionally. There’s a powerful ingredient in love that I learned—the power of freedom—when you love someone, you free that person to become a better version of themselves. God was pouring out his love into me, thus giving me a huge sense of accountability for my own behavior. The result: I trashed my blame list and stopped calling myself names.
Think big! One of my favorite Bible verses is found in Matthew 19:26, “…with God all things are possible.” The only way I could wrap my thoughts around God-sized outcomes, was to think big! This is where faith and trust comes into full dimension, but sometimes we can be taken by surprise when life takes on its own euphoric components. I just published my first book, Uncharted Territory. Never in my wildest big thoughts did I ever think that BIG!
Expect good out of the unexpected: The easiest way to expect good out of the unexpected is to change your rules. Start every morning with, “Today is the day for breakthrough!” Sure, there were times when I had to make an effort to think positive, and when I did, a curtain arose in my hindsight and I could see the horizon for miles ahead. Whenever a life event bamboozled me, I’d lean my full weight into making a concerted effort to find the good out of the unexpected. There’s always a silver lining entwined in our mess—it’s tucked around the question: Why me?!
Grow where you’re planted: My mom loves to garden. Sometimes I’d go out and watch her till the soil. Never once did I see a carrot jump over to where the tomatoes were growing. Or a string bean slide over to the rows of corn. All of her vegetables grew where they were planted. No questions asked. So out went one of my favorite questions from my list of rules: How in the world did I get into this situation in the first place? The question isn’t” how” but “what”—what can I learn right where I’m planted. Planting and harvesting is for a season. Interpersonal growth lasts a life time.
You may have heard the old saying, “Turn your mess into your message. I just did. How about you?
If you’re never scared or embarrassed or hurt, it means you never take any changes. --- Julia Sorel, writer
1st Qtr, 2017
Daring to do the unexpected by stepping out of your own protective “boat” can be scary. Because what is resting at the bowel of your boat are thoughts about what you might lose rather than what you could gain. If we can take that risk, we may be surprised at what we accomplish! Risk, in and of itself, sees no limits, no negative thoughts, no hesitation. Are you ready? Go ahead! Try something new! Be unpredictable! Experiment! You don’t have to hazard huge things—even a small change can point you toward a fresh experience. Keep the following tips close at hand to remind yourself how invigorating it can be to take the road not yet traveled.
Tip #1: What You Value: Jeanette Winterson, writer, has said, “What you risk reveals what you value.” What do you value: a fulfilled dream? Advancing your career? Furthering your education? Choosing happiness? Take a close look at what you treasure. Seize your values. Whatever you value will be the fuel to move forward.
Tip #2: Strength to Venture into the Dark: Yikes! Venturing into the dark is like taking a risk without the benefit of experience, but consider the alternative. When we are brave enough to venture into the dark, we can be assured that personal growth awaits us at the end of our journey. Remember, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained!” How will we know what we’ll gain, until we step into the shadows that lurks outside our boat!
Tip #3: Accept the Fear of Failure. Let Yourself get Loose! Take a chance. Walk the line between the known and unknown and you’ll set yourself free! Give abandon to all those things that tend to keep you in your boat, run your fingers into the ripples of the massive ocean. And remember, you can only deal with the small amount of the vast ocean that fits into the palm of your hand. Always expect success! Expect to aspire to it! Expect to receive it! If fear holds you in this binding control, then ask yourself, “Who says I’m afraid? Who says I’m safer in my boat? Who says I shouldn’t venture out? If Fear is whispering in your ear, then tell it to hush! Tell Fear that you’re only open to positive thoughts that lead to success.
Tip #4: Set your Course and Sail Away from a Boring Life: We’ve all been entrapped in a routine where boredom settles in. If we’re not careful, it’ll become a way of life. Beware! Boredom will disguise itself as security and comfort in your life. That’s the lesson I learned from a friend, who’d take different routes to work so he wouldn’t get bored with his commute. I thought he was nuts! I always traveled the same roads and freeways during my forty-minute commute. But one day, after a particularly tough day, I decided I needed a change. This time I took a different route home. Wow! What a difference it made. I hadn’t realized how bored I was with driving over the same roads, waiting at the same stop lights! B-O-R-I-N-G!
Tip #5: Test Your Tenacity: Wallace Stevens, Pulitzer Prize recipient for Poetry, has said, “After the final ‘no’ there comes a ‘yes,’ and on that ‘yes’ the future world depends.” Never ever give up on your dream. To fully execute a dream, one must take a risk. One must put feet to their dream—a plan, a vision—or else it is just a vapor in your mind. Take a risk and follow your heart. Nothing anyone says can discourage you, because the dream belongs to you and no one else. So be tenacious! It will open doors that you never imagined. That’s what I did with my new book, Unchartered Territory! It has opened hearts, calmed fears, changed attitudes—all because some five years earlier I took a risk to keep on writing when most people told me to “give it up.” I quieted their voices by listening to my heart. Listening to my own convictions kept me tenacious to fulfill my dream!
Tip #6: Dare to be Yourself: Yes, take a risk and allow the best you to become a reality. This means we need to have the right attitude; to be brave enough to hush the fears; and to break bad habits that hold us back. Daring to be yourself allows you the freedom to live what I call the “you-phoria lifestyle.” That is to face the obstacles in your life, being determined enough to overcome them, to live large in your individuality. And don’t worry, because God will walk the path ahead of you. He will show you the potholes and give you a safer path around them. With God’s watchful eye, he’ll straighten the crooked pathways along your journey and make sure you are successful.
Let’s give a rigorous salute to anyone who has ever taken a leap! Hopped out of their secure boat! Stepped into the unknown! These brave people will tell you that they found taking a risk didn’t feel quite so risky.
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