Part 2: Getting where you want to be.

The end of the year is the perfect time for reflection. It’s a chance to look at the past, learn from losses…

And celebrate your wins!
It’s also a time to meet the future with goals and dreams that fire up your spirit with passion and purpose…

Your life is precious.

Your gifts are needed.

Your passion is powerful.

Never forget how loved you are and how important your unique calling is in the world.

I gotta tell you,

I have a really, really good feeling about 2014.

I can’t explain it, it’s just an intuition.¬†

I’m really looking forward to this next year, and I’m going to make sure I relish every single moment of every single day.

I hope you feel the same.

If for any reason you don’t, please let me infect you with my irrational and exuberant optimism… That’s just how I roll. ūüėČ

Let me begin todays post by asking you a simple question…

What’s Your Story?

We all love a good story.

Stories define us, and we all tell stories about ourselves.

When we want someone to know us, we share stories
about our childhood, our family, our school years, our
first loves, our achievements, and so on.

FAST FORWARD

Let’s jump 100 days to April 10, 2014 and think about
the story you are going to tell yourself and repeat
numerous times to others.

Will it be a story of…

REDEMPTION and how you turned things around and
are now on a hot streak.

MASSIVE SUCCESS and how you started 2014 fast,
focused and fired up.

REGRET and how you let so many opportunities slip
by due to fear and procrastination.

EXCUSES and complaining about how hard it was to
ever find the time, money, resources, etc to ever get anything done.

You must accept this reality…

On April 10…your story will have been written.

The narrative of that story will be a result of your inner
dialog, choices and corresponding performance.

Is it going to be seen as the sad consequence of neglect,
poor character, lack of direction and ambition,

or …

will it be an inspiring example of talent put to good use in
the intense pursuit of clearly defined New Year goals?

The day you begin taking responsibility for everything that has shown up in your life, is the very same day you discover the power to change it.

 Only from the seat of responsibility can you change your familiar story to create the space for what you really desire to show up. 

Claim your power by owning your past and make a commitment to create the future you desire. 

Discipline is truly the power to make your dreams happen. Without it aNew years  RESOULTION will never become a REALITY.

Discipline is defined as a commitment to the most important person in the world. It means doing what you have to do, even when you don’t want to do it.

Any behaviour that gets recognized and/or rewarded gets repeated.

To be disciplined for life requires that you recognize and reward yourself accordingly.

So let’s start with the first question:

who is the most important person in the world?

While you are at it, who is your greatest enemy?

It is fair to say that you came into this world as a miracle. Then what happened?

You got exposed to the outside world ‚Äď family, religion, education, friends, politics, etc., and you internalized these messages.

You have created who you are by what YOU allowed in.

Is it fair to say you have created your own fears, barriers, limitations, and beliefs primarily because you have lived your life from the outside-in?

Is it fair to say you are who you are because of YOU?

Yes, you are the most important person in the world, and at the same time your own worst enemy.

Maybe it is time to take a good look at your beliefs about you.

As an adult, you should be able to distinguish between fact and fiction ‚Äď what is real about you and what is not.

Maybe it is time to turn things around, to believe in yourself, to take control of your life and start living your life from the inside-out.

Your beliefs will determine your attitude.

Your attitude determines how you feel.

How you feel determines the actions you take.

Which in the end provide you with results.

Are you getting the results you are looking for?

If not, take control of your life and start living your life from the inside-out, instead of the outside-in.

Combining attitude and discipline, both of which are 100% under your control, will increase your performance by 200%.

What is the most productive time of your day ‚Äď morning, day or night?

What would happen if you took one hour of that most productive time and dedicated it to the most important person in the world?

As a morning person, that is what I do first. After that hour, I reward myself with my first cup of coffee. (Ummm, is it ever good.)

Of all commitments one makes in life, the one you make to yourself is by far the most important.

So today, the biggest day of the year for setting goals, may I offer you a suggestion?

Set a goal to honor who you are, and what your heart desires.

Forget the goals to lose weight, make more money, fall in love…

None of these goals will be successful unless you start making a committment to YOU!

You are the author of your future. You and God…nobody else.

The best thing I ever did to get my life on track was to stop tearing MYSELF down.

I started to treat myself the way I treated the people in my life when they made mistakes; GENTLY!

I have never been the kind of person to judge or berate someone for a mistake. I am that person who gently tries to help them understand why it was wrong, and what they can do to fix it.

But when I made a mistake…I was BRUTAL with myself. I taunted and tormented myself till I was convinced that I was the worlds biggest failure.

I have learned to speak to myself exactly the same way I would talk to a friend who was hurting and had come to me for support and advice.

By changing this one behavior, I changed EVERYTHING!

Today, when you begin your story of 2014…make sure you are kind, gentle and dedicated to the main character of your story: YOU!

Happy New Years.

new years goal picture

 

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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,400 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 40 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Part 1: Getting where you want to be

We are all perfect as we are, we are exactly where we are supposed to be. 
 
Breathe in a sigh of relief –
you are not behind,
you have not fallen off course,
you are not somehow broken. 
Right now, in this moment you are exactly where you are supposed to be.
It is not possible for it to be any different.
If there are things you do not like about where you are,
the fact that the desire to change it exists in you,
means it is possible for you to change it.
 Everything in your life has led you to this moment, seated where you are, reading this right now. 
Breathe that in and become present to all that you are: LOVE.
This is my best advice to anyone who is stuck at a place in their lives that is undesirable to them.
I too have been there.
I too, have made choices that caused me to experience such deep levels of pain that, to this day, I do not know how I survived.
I clearly remember the desperation, the fear, the hopelessness.
But I was determined to live the life of my dreams.
The life that I knew I was capable of having.
So, I started my journey on the long road HOME.
For the rest of this year, 2013…I will be posting blogs that share the insights and wisdom that made it possible for me to not only survive my trials, but to THRIVE, and succeed in all areas of my life.
The insights I offer don’t come from a college degree, or some fancy title behind my name.
My insights come from life lessons.
From real experiences that have shaped me into the woman I am today;
A woman who is capable of deep appreciation of everything in her life.
A woman who can recognize a good person when she meets them, because she has been abused by the bad ones.
A woman who does not hesitate to give her WHOLE heart to her family and loved ones, because she knows that to give  them any thing less than that will eventually destroy that love.
But most of all, I am a woman who knows what I want, and will fight any battle to achieve my goals.
When I hit the bottom of my downward spiral,
I literally hit the BOTTOM!
To go down any further than I already was would have been my undoing, and I knew it!
So…
what I did was to go down on my knees. I cried out to the only one who I felt could hear me. I was so alone, so ashamed, so crushed that no mere mortal could have helped me at all.
What I discovered on my knees, is the very thing that started to change the entire direction of my life:
I discovered that I was exactly where I was supposed to be, doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing.
I began to see that my “TRIALS” were not necessarily trials at all but rather valuable “LESSONS.”Lessons that changed me into a person that God could use for his purposes.
This simple, yet profound change in attitude allowed me to set aside the debilitating emotions of guilt, shame, and fear.
Experience is a tough teacher…she will always give you the test first, and the lesson afterward.
but, if you are willing to stop living life as a victim, and instead live it as a student…your life will blossom just as mine has, I PROMISE!
So on today’s blog, I want to focus on the area of forgiveness. Because until you can forgive yourself for the mistakes you have made, that have led you to where you are now, you cannot move past it.
I read a quote in a book called ” Letting go of the Person you used to be” by lama Suri Das
In it he was speaking about forgiveness, and he said that forgiveness is one of the most difficult concepts for humans to embrace and understand, and yet its concept is so simple. He said, ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ” Forgiveness is simply letting go of the need to have had a better past.”
Let the truth of that statement penetrate your mind for a moment.
There is NOTHING, or NOBODY in your past that you have any power what-so-ever to change.
The past is gone…FOREVER.
It cannot be altered, changed or destroyed.
So WHY hold on to it like a life line.
It is NOT a lifeline, it is a moat thrown around your neck that is drowning you, literally killing you.
Sure, there are people and situations in your past that have hurt you. Things that changed you in ways that you can never repair.
SO WHAT?
By holding onto that pain and abuse, you are allowing them to continue to hurt you today, even as we speak.
You cannot hate them for your pain, when it is your choice to let them keep hurting you.
You need to fight back.
You need to reclaim your identity, the one you had before they stole it from you.
You need to LET THEM GO…
Stop trying, hoping, praying that they will change and be better.
They won’t…
SO MOVE ON!
I always ask my kids this question when they are upset with the actions of someone who hurt them, and they can’t understand why they don’t just CHANGE and be nice.
“How hard is it for YOU to change a bad habit in your life, even when you are dedicated and determined to change it?”
To which they usually respond, ” It is really hard, I have to concentrate on it all the time or else I will forget and slip back into my bad habit.”
That is when I impart this wisdom to them…
” If it is that hard to change YOURSELF….How impossible is it to change SOMEONE ELSE?”
I used to be a rescuer. I thought that if I loved people enough, they would change and be dedicated to me forever…
WRONG!
What I discovered is this,
Unless someone asks for your help, and is willing to help themselves, Don’t try to help them.
I had to accept the truth that I was arrogant. ¬†It is pure arrogance that makes you believe that you have the RIGHT to butt into someone else’s life and attempt to alter it somehow, even if you are attempting to alter it in a positive way, it is still wrong.
I had told myself for so long that I was being Christlike, that I was compassionate, but the truth is, I was arrogant, and that attitude was the reason for my life being such a mess.
Not my ex-husband.
Not my job.
Not anything…it was ME.
I was my own worst enemy.
But feeling guilty was not going to change anything, neither was  resentment, or desiring revenge.
The only way to change my life was to FORGIVE.
I had to forgive myself, first and foremost.
I had to forgive my ex-husband. And that one was hard!
I had to forgive the past.
I had to let go of the need to have had a better past and set my sights on the present, and the future.
I began by writing down the things I wanted.
I wrote a letter to myself, a letter that I gave myself 10 yrs to achieve.
I wrote a letter to the man in the future that I was going to grow old with.
I wrote a letter to my adult children.
In all these letters, I held myself accountable to becoming the person that they would be proud of.
A person that they could admire, and emulate. A person that was worthy of their love.
In a word, I let go of the past and embraced the challenge of the future.

One thing we all have in common is that we all love
a challenge!
For some it could be a goal that puts you to the test,

an obstacle that says you can’t beat me,

a belief system that is begging for a breakthrough,

or even a mountain that just dares you to climb it.
Whatever it is, your attitude should be BRING IT ON!

The benefits of being challenged physically, intellectually,
emotionally, and vocationally are in a word:
ENORMOUS!
YOU have greatness inside you!

However it will never  burn as bright as it could if you do not WILLINGLY
put yourself in a position to test your limits.

To dig to the depths of your commitment.

To push yourself to go further and faster than you ever have before.

To allow yourself to FORGIVE and let go of the past and embrace the possibilities that await you in the future.

 Tomorrow I will talk about setting goals.
forgiveness-clouds

Risk+ Commitment = Quality of Life.

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can…begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” ¬† ¬†Goethe ¬† ¬†

How much of our lives are spent with new beginnings.

Starting over.

Learning.

Failing.

Trying again?

 

From the outside looking in, my life may appear to many, to be series of failures, heart-breaks, and utter hopelessness.

But to me, my life is beautiful, promising, and each day is a new beginning. Literally a chance to try again to get it right.

I have made so many mistakes.

Failed so many times.

Cried countless tears.

But in the morning, I always get out of bed determind to give this new day a fair chance.

I know in my mind, I have the potential to succeed.

The ability to have that AMAZING love story.

and to impact the world with my typewriter and paintbrush.

We all have that potential…

the difference between me and other people is that I have the courage to make the first move.

I will start the conversation with a perfect stranger, who just may become my friend.

I will offer my services to someone knowing full well that they may turn me down… ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† but what if they don’t?

I am willing to go out on that first date because this time I might begin that love story I have always dreamt of.

As long as we stand around on the edge of things, unprepared to jump in, the universe seems to take the attitude, “You don’t seem to be very serious about this. Once your committed, then I will give you some help.”

The moment we have the courage and conviction to boldly declare, “I am going to do this thing, no matter what!” we somehow tap into that genus, power and magic.

Everything I have ever achieved in life has been because I made the decision to do so.

The mountain climber who conquers Mt. Everest is the one who said, ” I WILL do it.”

I have noticed that when I am on the fence about a decision and have the attitude of…

” I will give it my best shot,

or I’ll try”

I can almost plan on failure.

Unless I am totally committed, I find that it is way to easy to quit, or walk away.

Gandhi’s entire life was testimony to the fact that one person, totally committed, could change the course of a nation’s history.

Disraeli put it well when he said, “ Nothing can resist the human determination that will stake even its own existence on the extent of its purpose.”

It is best that we also realize that whenever we make a stand on something, people will test us out.

My children are always pushing my buttons.

Trying to break my resolve.

I know, however that the thing that they NEED and DESIRE most from me as their parent is a firm stand, a solid resolve.

That is where they learn to trust and find safety in the world. If they can push me and get their own way, they have no real security in life.

I am their security, and if I cannot be firm, then they live on shaky ground.

Our day today began with a “family meeting”,

I call these meetings quite often when my children begin to show signs of disrespect or misbehavior toward me, their parent.

I sit them down and firmly tell them that I am the adult, the parent.                                                           I work hard as a single mother to provide for them, and that because of my position, and my willingness to ensure their safety, I deserve their respect.

I DO NOT tolerate rudeness from them.

They are kids, and they test this resolve, but I stand firm. Because of that, they are learning to be polite and respectful human beings.

People are always looking for someone to admire.

I am constantly hearing things from people like, “ I don’t know how your going to make this business successful in this area.” or ” are you and Brenda done with your crazy schemes yet?” When I declared my intention to lose weight, suddenly everyone was offering me chocolate.

But the thing I have noticed and learned is this…

They are all secretly hoping I DON”T quit trying, they are hoping that I¬†will have the strength to stand by my commitment.

Another thing that those of you who have known me for years also knows about me is that I have bad luck in the area of relationships. This summer, I ended my relationship to my fiance when I discovered that he had been lying to me. I was sad. I was temped to quit.

But…

I did what I always do when I fail.  I try again!

In my heart, I have a deep desire to love and be loved. Not just romantically, but as a human being. I see the sadness in the world, and I know that what it needs to heal is human beings relating to each other as human beings.

The thing that is missing in this world is respect for one another.

Following this breakup, I didn’t know how to proceed. I wavered between giving up entirely on finding a healthy relationship – or – continuing to look.

When my path crossed with an acquaintance from highschool, I decided to go on that first date. But before I did, before I took that risk, I spent some time making sure I was committed to this choice.

I have a really great life, that doesn’t need a man to be great.

I have built a wonderful life for me and my kids. I am happy, content and surrounded by incredible people.

So…before I agreed to a first date, I took the time to decide to take the risk…and Commit to the decision.

I took it really slow at first. He even commented later that he was about ready to give up on me and count me as a waste of time.

But I think I speak for both of us when I say, I am so glad he didn’t.

Our first date was PERFECT!

Since that first date, we have continued to get to know each other better. We have both spoke out loud our intention to give this relationship our TOTAL COMMITMENT.

With him, I have no reservations,

no “hope this works” attitude.

For some reason, I KNOW it will work, and I am ready to give my life to the pursuit of the success of this relationship.

A very interesting thing happens to your life when you finally learn to take the risk and commit yourself.

Often times, the committment is enough!

In other words, if you are prepared to do anything to achieve your goals…generally you won’t have to.

But…if you are only half serious, you may well be tested to the limit.

That is why I have learned the value of choosing my risks wisely.

I don’t agree to everything anymore.

I have learned to only commit to those things that I can give my entire heart and soul to.

To do otherwise is just foolishness. It makes life much harder than it needs to be.

It fills your life with struggle and heartbreak.

One of my favorite mantras is this, ” The secret to getting whatever you want is to do whatever it takes.”¬†

In a nutshell, the story of Fritz Kreisler, the great violinist illustrates beautifully the relation between effort and success. After a virtuoso performance, he was approached by a woman who said, ” Mr. Kreisler, I would give my life to play as you have!” ¬†to which he replied with a smile, ” I have!”

When we commit, things start to change for the better.

So many people spend their entire lives WISHING things will get better. They wish that everything was easier, and seem to hope that one day a magic wand will come down and sort out their mess.

NO WAY!

Things can only get better, when we ourselves commit to their improvement.

Things change when we change and not before.

If you put all you have into whatever you do, you won’t eliminate failure.

If you put everything you have got into everything you do, you won’t eliminate disappointment.

So why bother?

The answer is, “For your own peace of mind and mountain-climber-rejoices-at-the-summit-at-sunriseself-respect.”

When your personal philosophy is, ” I will do my best, regardless,” You will always stand tall, and always have the courage to take a risk.

Because RISK + COMMITMENT = QUALITY of LIFE

 

“I think, therefore you are”: Willa Cather

Today on my blog I am going to once again simply share a story with you. The story of Don Quixote de La Mancha.

I will also encourage you to rent and watch the Hollywood rendition of this movie during the Holidays.

Put “The Man of La Mancha, starring Peter O’Toole and Sophia Loren on your “must see” list this weekend.

Watching this movie may well alter how you view reality.

Can we create our own reality?

Can we really affect “what is” simply by altering our perceptions?

And the really BIG question, can we do it without being considered delusional?

In the story of Don Quixote he is a tall, lean eccentric, retired landowner who percieves himself as a noble knight riding forth on a mighty steed. (He is actually riding a broken down cart horse.)

He sets out to fight evil enchanters and giants (windmills) in defense of truth and justice.

His grasp of the principal was tenacious.

His grip on reality, however, seemed tentative.

Quixote saw the world NOT as it was…he saw it as he himself perceived it. ¬†A fact that made many perceive that he was insane!

Quixote’s weakness was his delusions of Grandeur.

His greatness was his delusion of other’s grandeur

Quixote saw greatness in EVERYONE, no matter who they were.

To him the innkeeper was a Lord of a Castle.

The common folk was noble squires and warriors.

Even his enemies were assigned a noble title..worthy opponents on the battlefield.

The main plot of the story includes a scullery maid, who was also the village prostitute. But to Quixote, she was a high-born lady of virtue and beauty. He insisted to anyone within earshot that she was indeed a woman of magnificence and worth.

He was a lone voice.

He was one rare and supportive voice amongst hundreds of her enemies.

She felt the disdain of polite society the abhorrence, even vicious hatred, from the respectable women in the community.

She believed they were right, THEREFORE Quixote MUST be wrong.

At first she passionately resists his high opinions. She even angrily insists that she is NOTHING and NOBODY!

“I was born on a dung heap, and I will die on a dung heap.” she crudely protests.

BUT…

Quixote remains steadfast in his opinion of her. He refuses to see her as anything but a magnificent woman.

Eventually his high opinion of her finally wins out. She slowly begins to see herself in a different light.

By the end of the story she becomes The Lady Dulcinea.

Was his high opinion of this woman delusion OR perception?

He saw people not as THEY believed they were, but as HE  believed they were.

In a time when people questioned not only their worth but their very existence…he would say “I think therefore YOU are just as magnificent as I say you are.”

This unlikely hero had the ability to inspire others.

Common folk actually became great because of Quixote’s “delusions” about them.

His delusions were no longer delusions…They were perceptions… ¬† ¬† and his perceptions became reality.

Quixote called the oppressive negative reality that others saw, ” A stone prison crushing the human spirit.”¬†and he set forth with banner, buckler, shield, and lance on an old broken-down cart horse, to alter that reality.

Though he saw none, he believed in justice and mercy.

Though he despaired at the wickedness and cruelty of his fellows, he believed fervently in the nobility of humankind.

When others mocked him and called him mad, he would simply inform them that, ” The greatest madness is to see life as it is, not as it should be.”

His ability to see people not as they saw themselves, bt as he did was transformational.

He literally created a new reality; a more promising, more productive and more practical reality than the old one.

His insistent perception of others greatness actually created that greatness in them.

He changed circumstances by changing the people themselves.

It is my belief and my deepest hope that we too, can learn to see only the greatness in others.

Perhaps the highest indication of true leadership is to inspire greatness in those around us by perceiving them as magnificent and wonderful, despite how they may appear or behave in the moment.

Touting our own greatness may be egotistical, but regarding others positively inspires greatness in them and can literally change them… consequently changing reality.

Eight years ago, I was a tired, beaten down woman. I was in a cruel and loveless marriage. We were poor, desperate and with little hope. I saw myself as worthless. I despised the woman in the mirror that I saw each day.

BUT…

I had a family and some really special friends who saw me differently.

They saw my worth.

Their insistent perceptions eventually softened my hard heart.

They changed my reality.

They convinced me to share my gift of art with the world.

They encouraged me to share my wisdom and gift of words with everyone.

It took time, but I now live in a world where I see myself as the Grand Lady that I am.

The daughter of God that I was born to become.

So…back to my original question:

Can we create our own reality?

Can we alter “what is” simply by altering our perception?

YES WE CAN!

When we enhance living, breathing human beings by enhancing our perceptions of them, and consequently their perception of themselves, we enhance the circumstances they affect.

We go beyond the yearning for change to actually creating change.

We make our world what we choose it to be through the exercise of our power of positive perception.

So my final question is this:

Is it really impossible to change others, and only possible to change yourself?

Ask Don Quixote.

Ask Dulcinea.

I really would like to encourage you to take some time this weekend to enjoy this movie.

Let the story line into your heart.

Allow the possibilities to penetrate your mind…

and then…

I want you to vow to begin the New Year with the determination to alter the perceptions of everyone you encounter in your life.

In 2014, lets all start seeing the “innkeepers as Lords of their Castle”.

The “common folk as nobility”…

don quixoteand your neighbors as the glorious friends that you simply cannot live without.

Let’s put a dent in the cruelty of our world in the most powerful way possible…

by using our minds!

In 2013 I became a GOAL-GETTER…not just a GOAL-SETTER

As 2013 is in its final days, I have been thinking a lot about all the ways my life has changed this year.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the goals that I began this year with.

Did I accomplish the things that I promised myself that I would on New Years Day last year?

I began 2013 overweight, tired, and pretty overwhelmed.

So obviously, I made the goal to get in shape, eat healthy, blah blah blah…DSC04546e(8X10) DSC04660

But by the end of the 2nd week of January, I was back to my old habits. I was once again treating myself like a vending machine, not sleeping well, never exercising, and taking care of everyone but Melanie.

It all caught up with me in February.

My health hit the proverbial¬†“BRICK WALL.”

I either had to stick to the goals I had set, or spend the rest of my life as a diabetic.

I chose to get serious about my health.

I decided to start walking at least a mile every day.

I did that, consistently, and it felt so good that I decided maybe I could start walking 2 miles every day.

I also began working with a company that supports your nutritional needs, and teaches you how to eat properly.

The weight started to come off, FAST!

I set the goal to run a 5K.

So I began to train for that.

My first 5k was a color run that my hometown sponsored for the 4th of July. I alternated between walking and running. It was a lot harder than I expected it to be. My legs felt like lead poles, my mouth was filled with cotton, I wanted to give up!

I slowed down, ready to quit, when my friend tapped me on the shoulder and said, ” Lets finish this, were almost done and if we stick together we can help each other get across that finish line.”

Before I knew it, we were joined by two more of my good friends.

Suddenly the fatigue melted away and I started to actually enjoy the experience. We were all laughing at how old and out of shape we had become. But the best part was that we vowed to run more races together this summer, and we DID!

I not only ended up running in additional races, but even worked with Brenda and together we organized the first Zombie Fun Run in our area.

As I have been thinking about life this past year, I realized that life is a lot like my first race.

It is unpredictable.

Even with planning and preparation, obstacles can throw you off course and make you feel as if failure is imminent.

But my first 5K experience taught me three very important lessons:

First one is to get ahead you have to silence your inner critic. Stay away from negative thoughts, people, and activities. Avoid them like you would a toxic waste dump. Instead of saying, ” I can’t” encourage yourself and say, ” I can do this one step at a time.”

Second, let your past help you ensure future success. I went to my next race with a lot tougher mind-set. I was better prepared. I knew what to expect. I knew I COULD finish the race. I was willing to embrace the challenge rather than push it away.

Third is to surround yourself with friends. Just like my friends were able to make me forget the lead in my legs and the cotton in my mouth, they can do the same for you in your everyday life. When you surround yourself with like-minded individuals you are more likely to succeed. Chase after the person in front of you, and always be willing to reach out and help others finish their race too.

This year, I accomplished things that I never even dreamed were possible for me.

It all started with the decision to LOVE myself enough to take care of my body. When I did that, it was almost as if the universe gave me a BIG HIGH FIVE! Things just magically started lining up for me.

Our painting business got some exposure when we were willing to organize the Zombie Fun Run.

We made some really great connections during that experience that led to even more exposure for Humpty Dumpty Mural Magic.

We became friends with the local Radio Personality and that friendship allowed us to meet the manager of the radio station, who liked our work so much that she offered us the chance of a lifetime and asked us to decorate for the annual Halloween Ball that benefitted the children in our area.

That led to even more exposure and recognition.

During the Halloween event we worked with and met some influential people in the community who loved the decorations and the mural we had painted, and they asked us to work with them again in the future.

We were given air time on the radio to advertise our painting business,

Which has led to even more exposure and recognition.

Looking back over this year I am beginning to realize that when you set goals and stick to them, you empower your life in all areas, not just the area of the goal.

So I would encourage you to set goals for yourself.

Love yourself enough to choose one area of your life to work on.

Dedicate yourself to improving that area with your whole heart.

As you work to identify your Bucket List of goals for 2014, be
sure to remember that there is no purer form of success, no more
exact and demanding test of what you are capable of, then to set
a challenging goal and find joy in the capacity to meet it.

While we all have different goals and aspirations, we all love and
benefit from a challenge-something that inspires us to reach the peak
of our potential,

jailbreaks us from our comfort zone,

and transforms us into a better, far more capable version of ourselves.

The ultimate reason anyone has for setting a goal is to entice ourselves to become the person we know we can be.

A BIG CHALLENGING GOAL…

…is so much more than a thought in your head. It’s a profound
message about who you are and what you are capable of achieving.

IT IS imperative that you accept this reality: when you rise to meet
the mental rigors and physical demands of a challenging goal, you
will never be the same again.

You either cope or crumble.

You become better or bitter.

You emerge stronger or weaker.

It has to be this way, as a challenging goal exists to test your
limits, to push you beyond the breaking point, and to separate
you from the herd.

You’ll never know the full measure of your potential until you are
tested.

You can never be sure whether you’ll step up or falter in any
given situation.

Passing the tests presented by a challenging goal proves that you are
tougher, more resilient, and far more capable than you ever imagined.

As I bid 2013¬†farewell, I have to spend a few minutes to thank the people who have reached out a helping hand to make sure that I finished the “RACE”. The friends and family that never let me quit. The new friends I have made that have opened up a whole new world for me.

First I want to thank my parents. They are the best parents any girl could have. They are my foundation, without them I would surely crumble.

I need to thank my business partner, my very dear friend, Brenda. She is the best co-captain in the world. She is always there to help me with anything. I call her to help the kids with homework, to listen to my worries, or even help me balance my finances. I couldn’t do my life without her love and support.

I need to thank my kids. I have four of the best kids anyone could ever ask for. They love me. They respect me. They make me laugh. They push me out of my comfort zone and show me how strong I really am. They are my heart and soul. They are my EVERYTHING!

I also want to thank Jeff. We went to school together, but never even spoke. Over 20 yrs later our paths crossed again. He is showing me that taking a chance on love is worth the risks. He has opened up my heart again, which is a pretty amazing thing. It had been broken so many times, I thought it was beyond repair. But thanks to him, It is healing. So thanks Jeff for your friendship, for your love, and most of all thank you for your amazing hugs.

And finally, I want to say thank you to all the new friends that I have been blessed with in 2013. You have made this year one of the funnest years yet.

I am so excited to see where 2014 will lead.

I am ready for anything 2014 can give me.

I finished the race that I set our to finish in 2013, and am looking forward to all the new races that 2014 will bring!

 

The War on Christmas

Today I want to broach what may be a sensitive subject…

The war on Christmas.

I want to take the position of pointing out what should be “THE OBVIOUS”, but apparently is not, if the conversations that I am overhearing, and even participating in are any indication.

So, is there REALLY even a war on Christmas that exists?

Or is it, as many major media outlets have said,

” All this hype is just a “phony conflict based on manufactured outrage”.

A 2012 survey conducted by Public Policy Polling found that 47% of Americans feel that the struggle is real.

At the very least, there are influential people in our culture who wouldn’t mind diluting and muting the biblical version of Christmas.

My question to all of you is this:

WHAT DID YOU EXPECT?

Like the apostle Paul on Mars Hill (Acts 17:16)

We may initially feel “greatly distressed” by our neighbors’ ignorance of the meaning of Christmas…

But, at some point, we also need to be asking ourselves a few hard questions about this cultural clash.

In the first chapter of John, he clearly tells us that Jesus, the worlds true creator and true light, came to visit us and walk among us as a man, and yet, “his own did not receive him.” (John 1:11)

Throughout his earthly life the Savior repeatedly told us that he would be “dismissed and rejected”, and he promised that we would receive the very same treatment.

So, based on Jesus’ own teaching, I’m not sure where we got the idea that the world would just lay down and unanimously and zestfully join us in a birthday bash for our Savior.

As I contemplated my own reaction to the worldliness of Christmas this year, I began to compare myself to a cowardly football player.

I could almost imagine myself saying to the coach,

” Those uncooperative defensive linemen keep rushing at me, I could easily complete every single pass if they would just stop throwing their arms in the air and trying to tackle me.”

At that point I would deserve nothing less than to have the coach grab me by the facemask and scream in my face…”are you kidding me? That is what the defense DOES! Quit worrying about them and just do your job, start completing the passes!”

So, have you been like me, distracted by the masses throwing their arms in the air and protesting Christmas?

We belong to a democratic  society.

We too, have the right to speak the truth into the public square.

Just because some people choose not to join us in the birthday celebrations doesn’t mean that we should just ignore the birthday ourselves.

To use the football analogy again,by “completing passes “ you can choose to be creative and gentle in your response to someone who is speaking negatively about Christ.

The next time someone tells you, “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” don’t get offended, use it as a chance to start a conversation.

Say something like,

” Thank you for your kindness. I am so excited to have this chance to remember and celebrate the greatest birth in History. What are you excited about during this season?”

and then…

LISTEN!

Ask respectful questions.

Engage as a human being.

It might be risky.

It will take time.

But it sure beats perpetuating the War.

For many of us the reason for the season gets reduced to tidy and trite sayings such as,

“be nicer.”

“Try Harder”

“Hang out with the family for a day and try to get along.”

“be less materialistic.”

etc!

Every year the drive to get more shopping done earlier increases.

We pile on so much pressure that we are literally bursting at the seams trying to get it all done.

No wonder the comedian Stephen Colbert joked:

“Halloween is just around the corner. You can tell because the stores are all decked out for Christmas.”

So…

WHAT IS CHRISTMAS REALLY ALL ABOUT?

Lets answer that question by deciding what Christmas is NOT about.

It is NOT about us.

It is NOT about impressions.

It is NOT about our schemes for moral improvement.

or…our plans to qualify for something more than a “lump of Coal” in Heaven, so to speak.

Christmas is about Christ.

Period.

End!

Christmas is about a beautiful love story.

This story started with an unplanned pregnancy.

Followed with a unceremonious birth,

a life of struggle,

the conviction of an innocent man,

and the unimaginable death he suffered.

He ended his life as a condemned criminal, stripped naked, asking for water as he prayed with parched lips, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”

But the glorious part,

the part that makes me want to celebrate…

is the fact that Jesus, the true creator of this Earth, was willing to come here and walk among us as a man to accomplish the gift of Eternal Life, salvation!

He WILLINGLY stepped down from His throne so that He could give me the gift of Salvation.

I celebrate Christmas because I know that even if I had been the only person ever born on this Earth, He would have done the same thing to save only me.

The tradition of ADVENT allowed the Jews to pay attention, remember, pray, and express their ache for the coming Christ.

It was a time for them to be like Mary, that humble and innocent young woman who hungered and thirsted after knowledge and understanding.

Instead of focusing on the alleged WAR on Christmas, what would happen if you read and pondered the words in (John 3:1) and Beheld what manner of love the Father has given us.

This Christmas,

stop trying to get life right,

and just allow Jesus to captivate you all over again.

I bet if you do, the same thing that happened to me will happen to you…

You’ll be a lot more impressed with the Savior and a lot less worried about some alleged battle in our culture.¬†

Maybe the best way to end the battle, is to refuse to fight!dchoc_christmas_shopping_madness_pc_screenshot_01