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Archive for the ‘Reflection’ Category

 

Lilly of the Valley blooms from my garden.

Lilly of the Valley blooms from my garden.

 

Last week, something happened — and I don’t even recall the events any longer — but I do remember saying to my colleague at the time, “Well, that certainly could make you feel invisible.”  And then I stopped and thought about that for a second. Feeling invisible. Like what you say or do or think or contribute is of absolutely no consequence. Meaningless. Life can go on and on and on without your leaving a mark of any significance.

When I dug a little deeper, I heard it this way: Your contribution is so meaningless, that you should stop whatever you are doing to tend to whatever I need. And, before I could allow an oversight to become an offense, I stopped and realized this is what women sign up for when they become mothers.

  • Cooking dinner? Stop it immediately to comfort a crying baby.
  • Balancing the checkbook? That can wait, a diaper needs changing.
  • Enjoying a quiet moment at the end of the day? Investigate the patter of feet in the hallway.
  • Planning for an important meeting? Reschedule because of a conflict with the recital.
  • And on, and on, and on.

In life, as in motherhood, there is always a conflict — competing priorities and limited resources. On a daily basis (and usually much more often), your influence, voice, desires, and activities take a back seat — often without acknowledgment or appreciation — to attend to the needs of another.

But make no mistake, your presence is quietly influencing, adjusting, correcting, encouraging and changing the future. I was reminded of this when I stepped into my garden on Friday and was delighted with a sweet aroma. After looking around to discover the source, I found that our Lily of the Valley had come into bloom.

Their blooms are tiny in contrast to other flowers that easily catch your eye. Their white bonnets are quietly tucked away between leaves instead of loudly announcing their arrival at the top of tall stems. Basically, unless you are looking specifically for them, they are invisible. No worries — they influence not necessarily through sight, but through an amazing smell that belies their smallness.

Influence doesn’t always stir the crowd by shouting from the pulpit. Often it is the quite, unrelenting, “invisible” consistency that comes simply because you are present.

So, the next time you feel invisible, take heart in knowing that you are influencing in ways you can’t even see.

Whatever you are, don’t worry about being invisible!

Deanna

PS: A very Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who have encouraged, corrected, listened, and influenced me in ways that may have seemed invisible at the time.

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The only thing certain was that the future would have to reveal itself in due time, and most likely it would be different from anything we had expected” [The Miracle of Mercy Land].

I recently read the book, The Miracle of Mercy Land by River Jordan. This is not a book I would have typically chosen for myself, but I had agreed to read and review the book for the publisher, Waterbook Press.

After finishing the story (in which I found the pace to be a bit slow and the characters underdeveloped), I realized the amazing message the author shares goes far beyond the story she’s written on the page.

Set in the late 1930’s the book centers around a young woman in a small coastal town in Alabama. The daughter of a poor backwoods itinerant preacher, Mercy Land has moved to the “big town” of  Bay City to discover life, and winds up working at the local newspaper, Banner.

For seven years, under the watchful eye of the newspaper editor, Doc, and his wife, Mercy comes into her own.  Things get interesting when a mysterious book arrives which reveals the pasts, the choices, and the consequences people living in Bay City have experienced.

The information the mysterious book provides is not always comfortable for Doc and Mercy to read. Secrets are revealed. Choices laid bare. Decisions exposed.

Honestly, in some ways this book is not unlike the onslaught of today’s political attacks we see during election season.  Flippant comments made or senseless actions taken years ago come back to haunt candidates in full color on television.

The question the author presents is one we have all struggled with at one time or another. Is it possible to effect the past in some way in order to create a better present or future?   We’ve all done things then that if we had the benefit of our experience now would have been handled much differently.

This is especially painful when we realize our failings have negatively affected another. What then?

How long must we carry around regret for past mistakes?
Can we ever be absolved?
Can we ever make it right?

These are some of the same issues the characters in The Miracle of Mercy Land confront. There are no easy answers.

Many times, we do the best we can with what we have at the time. We cannot be faulted for that. Time does not stand still. Memories fade. Expectations change. We grow into ourselves and see things differently.

Regardless of who we are, everyone carries their past right along with them. It is our past which has helped shaped us into who we have become. Along the way, however, it is our choice to either sharpen the points or smooth off the rough edges.

As children, we are quick to blame others. As we grow into adults we must put this childish behavior away and take responsibility for choosing our own path — regardless of what our past looks like. The blame game is a sorry excuse for taking control of one’s life.

Perhaps Maria Robinson is right. “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” Good advice for today, and for the characters in The Miracle of Mercy Land.

Whatever you are, as Doc and Mercy discovered, the choice is yours!

Deanna

This review also appears on BN.com via this link.

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The words “I am” are potent words;
be careful what you hitch them to.
The thing you’re claiming
has a way of reaching back and claiming you.
~A.L. Kitselman

The other day, I was asked a simple question, “What do you do, exactly?”  In essence, the writer of the email was asking who I am, what am I all about, and how do I do it?

On the face of it, I should have been able to spout out an answer in 30 seconds flat.  In fact, my mind started racing with all the “things” I am and “things” I do. A list of possible answers appeared.  Multiple choice.

You’ve been there. The directions state, “Select the top 3 choices that best answer the question.”

TOP 3?  These types of tests always cause a bit of panic. Because not all the answers on the list are wrong. Some are just more “correct” than others.

You start by crossing off the obviously incorrect answers.  And then you attack the list again, selecting the top 5 to begin weeding out the contenders.  But what about this one you didn’t select. It’s like number 5.5 — really, it could be equal with 5.  Oh, dear. The selecting and re-selecting and trying to anticipate can drive one a bit mad.

Just like life!

Who you are is defined by your choices, your actions. It is not defined by the car you drive, your address, the labels you wear, your marital status, political affiliation, position in life, title, or heritage.

The effects of your vacation destinations, coiffed hair, affiliations, education, and polished resume vanish like a mist if character is missing from the equation.

Who you are is not defined by the elections you’ve won, the stages you’re invited to speak from, the books you write, or programs you broadcast.

Who you are is what you do when life gets messy and people are illogical. What you think about during those quiet times — outside of the spotlight. How you react when life is throwing lemons. Do you take responsibility or find someone else to blame?

Your response to those who are in no position to repay or propel you forward or open doors for you.   Are you known for your kind benevolence, grace, and dignity or by your malice and disdain?

The way you conduct yourself when others are standing in your way.  Where do you step? On others to get what you want, or into the role of a mentor to help them get what they want?

Do you build up or tear down. Include or exclude? Help or sabotage?

That’s who you are.

And people can see it. Regardless what you advertise about yourself.

As Paul Vitale says, “What we do flows from who we are.”

Whatever you are, if you don’t like who you are, change what you do!

Deanna

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Experience is a hard teacher
because she gives the test first,
the lesson afterward.
~ Vernon Law

I think it was Paul the Apostle who said,

“I have learned by now
to be quite content
whatever my circumstances.”

Interesting concept if you think about it.  Not just the part about being content — satisfied with what he had, not desiring anything else — but the part where he says, “I have learned by now.”

I wonder what experiences Paul had, what previous lessons had ended in failure, what holes had been dug, what plans had been sabotaged  .  .  .  before he arrived at the “learned by now” part.

In fashion –as  in life — they say if you hold on to anything long enough, you will see it again.  Remember the platform shoes of the 70’s? Back! Lava lamps? Back! Save the Earth campaigns? Back!

So, it stands to reason that the challenges and tests you faced and failed in the past will be back, too.  Maybe that’s what Paul was saying, “In my past I’ve never learned this lesson.  But this time, I got it!” And we all know that once you’ve learned — really learned — a lesson, you get to move on to something else.

It’s not that the challenges vanish altogether — you just graduate to new ones. And you take with you the knowledge and confidence accumulated from past wins. It’s like the snowball effect.  The more you win, the more you have the opportunity to win again.

Which leads me to wonder about the people who seem to have it all together. It’s not that they don’t have challenges and issues.  It’s that the problems and difficulties seem to strengthen their resolve instead of undermine their courage.

Perhaps it’s because they’ve already experienced the losses and forfeits, and through it all they have “learned by now” how to stand their ground, remain poised, and properly deal with the issue instead of allowing the issues to deal with them.

I have to agree with C. S. Lewis who said, “Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”

Whatever you are, isn’t it time you learned by now?

Deanna

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The legacy we leave is not just in our possessions,
but in the quality of our lives.

The greatest waste in all of our earth,
which cannot be recycled or reclaimed,
is our waste of the time God has given us each day.”

~ Billy Graham

Did you happen to catch the story about Chester Reed?  He retired last week as the nation’s oldest postal worker, ending a 37-year-old career without taking a single sick day.  He is 95 years old.

Reed’s story is intriguing.  Who sticks with something that long? What kind of person is able to show up day after day for 37 years — long after the time most people would have retired? He earned the right to kick back and enjoy life without the responsibility of daily employment thirty years ago.

Reed claims the secret to his success is finding a job that provides a steady income and where they don’t hassle you (Here! Here!); as well as a healthy diet of watermelon, alkaline water, and an onion sandwich with mayonnaise every day.

And while all of this is well and good, it was his response to a question about leaving a legacy that caught my attention:

Put your hand in a bucket of water,
put it in all the way to your wrist.

Take it out and the hole you leave
will be how much you’ll be missed.

I chuckled when I heard the news anchor relay Reed’s quote.  I had to agree.

The truth is, unless I discover a cure or establish a multi-million dollar foundation or break a record or change national policy, it’s doubtful I will be remembered much beyond the next generation.  It won’t be too far up the family tree before relatives look at a fading picture of me and say, “I think that was . . .” and perhaps my name will be recalled — but more than likely the memory of me, like my life, will have evaporated like a vapor.

Like a hole in water.

And while no one may miss the idea of my existence, I am hopeful that day-by-day I am able to shift the perception, inspire a life and start a chain reaction whereby the lives I touch, inspire the lives they touch for generations to come.

My name isn’t important. My life, such as it is, is quite insignificant in the grand scheme of things. However, I am convinced there is more to living than simply passing the time.  It’s about passing it on.

Whatever you are, I believe you can leave a legacy by impacting a life!

Deanna

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Why is it that when we want to prepare a fabulous dessert to amaze our friends and impress our enemies — something like Southern Red Velvet Cake — we happily add ingredients that taste horrible.

Items that you would never consume if placed in a bowl in front of you — even if you hadn’t eaten all day.  Things like baking soda, cocoa powder, vegetable oil or vanilla extract.

It’s because we know that individually, each ingredient isn’t a true picture of what the final product will be.

Of course you’re not going to ask for a second serving of baking soda (or a first serving for that matter), but you’re not going to omit it from the recipe either — that would be disastrous.

On their own, many ingredients are less than impressive. However, when combined with other ingredients you are able to appreciate the the unique qualities they bring to the final dish.

Life is like that.  We have sweet times and savory times and times that are so distasteful we would have preferred to leave them out.  But each one serves an important role in crafting who we become.

Our experiences smooth the texture, react with other adventures to cause us to rise, make life colorful, keeps things interesting.

Today’s ingredient could be the sweetness of sugar or the bitterness of baking soda.  It doesn’t matter — they both serve the same purpose of combining with other experiences in order to create a delectable life.

Life is a series of experiences,
each of which makes us better.

For the world was built to develop character,
and we must learn that that each victory and setback
(each ingredient added to the recipe)
will eventually result in a masterpiece.

~ Adapted from Henry Ford

Whatever you are, value each ingredient added to your life!

Deanna

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By now, you’ve probably read an article or seen a news report about Phoebe Prince, the girl in Massachusetts who killed herself after being bullied mercilessly. The story is tragic. Beyond tragic, actually.

Unfortunately, we see the same type of behavior played out again and again everyday, all over the world.  Our days are filled with those who feel they have the right to be first in line, their desires are more important, their opinions more valuable, their brand of selfishness has the right to reign supreme . . . regardless of the cost.

You know who they are — they manufacture your goods, pass your laws, work in your office, live in your neighborhood, hang out in your house.  (Maybe even stare back at you from the mirror.)

Whatever, whenever, why-ever, it’s all about them: what they want, what they think, how they feel, their agendas.

Why do some of us feel we deserve better treatment or different rules from everyone else? What reason in the world could we use to justify our poor treatment of others? Is it our position, financial worth, appearance, intelligence, talent, address, ethnicity, nationality, religion?

Really? In the grand scheme of how we treat others,
none
of those things matter!

Shouldn’t there be one standard, one rule, one set of expectations which is the same for all of us?

There is. It’s called “The Golden Rule,” and some variation of it appears in nearly all cultures:

Ask yourself what you want people to do for you,
then grab the initiative and do it for them.

Putting others first. Sounds simple, but it is a lofty goal.

And this “doing for others” is not reserved for a special day, or just when they ask, or it’s trendy, or acceptable, or convenient. It’s about living your life in such a way that it’s evident you understand you are not the most important person on the planet. It’s about proactively being mindful of others.

Ted Koppel said, “There’s harmony and inner peace to be found in following a moral compass that points in the same direction regardless of fashion or trend.” I couldn’t agree more.

What kind of world could we create if we committed to upholding the standard of doing what is right for others? Why not start today and find out?

Whatever you are, practice the Golden Rule today!

Deanna

PS: For more thought-provoking information on ethical behavior and the Golden Rule, you should read  Ethics 101 by John Maxwell.

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