Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Never, never, never...

I think we (modern society) over-glorify the idea of starting things. We encourage each other to do what's hard, do what is a little scary, to take risks, and to be brave. Which we should, because stepping out into the new and the unknown is difficult. It really is. However, I would propose today that sticking with something that you have already started in your life is much, much more difficult.

I am sure that some of this can be contributed to different personalities, so it may be completely different for some people, but it seems to me that being consistent, faithful, and passionate can be a major struggle. We get excited about the idea of something new. Sure it can be scary, but the excitement can help us bypass a lot of that fear. So starting a new business, hobby, or some other venture can be exciting, but there comes a time when that excitement wears off... and usually that happens when there is some push back coming at us. It happens when the real work sets in. We may kick off a new business with a bang, but when it gets down to the numbers and expectations that aren't met, we start second guessing ourselves.

"Maybe this wasn't such a great idea."

"Maybe I should quit before I have too much invested."

"This is just too hard."

We start singing quite the different tune. It is the age-old idea that we, for some reason, believed only applied to kids. They want to take gymnastics.... after a few months it is karate.... then swimming lessons to become an Olympic swimmer... then music lessons to become the next superstar.... then... Kids are not the only ones who do this. Grown ups do it too. All the time. So let's change that.

I would like to propose we stop putting so much emphasis on someone's courage to start something / do something new, but rather on their courage to stick with it. Let's congratulate their zeal, but let's celebrate the dedication of someone who doesn't give up... even when others would. Because that is real bravery. Riding into undiscovered territory may be scary, but riding out the storms is too.

As Winston Churchill said, "Never. Never. Never give up."

I couldn't say it any better myself.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Live Full

You can truly learn something from just about anyone and anywhere. I say that to elude to a short video I recently watched that challenged in such a good way. I was watching a short interview of a recording artist who was giving the back story for one of her new projects. In this interview the artist talked about something she had been inspired to do to keep her life focused and strong. She made a list of things that she had to have in her life to function fully. Things that were essential to keeping her spiritually, emotionally, and physically strong. This list included many things most people would agree are essential, things like time with the Lord, time with her family, and time with uplifting people. I think we would all agree those are important things, so we should certainly be intentional about planning them into our lives.

I decided to use her concept for myself. So I too made a list of things that I have to have in my life. I put down the essentials, but then I took time to take inventory. I thought about activities that may not be essential, but they refresh me; to put it simply, they make me happier. You know, I think just as we need to be intentional about the essentials in our life, we need to be intentional about making time for things that refresh us, things that keep us inspired, and renew joy in our hearts for life.

So I reflected. I took inventory. What are things essential to keeping me strong spiritually, emotionally, and physically? What things make me 100%? Personally, I made two lists. One was for things I needed in my daily routine and the other for the things I need in my weekly routine. Yes the essentials are in there, but I realized I need to make time for the fun stuff, for the stuff that will keep me inspired. I needed some hobbies and adventures in there! So I made ANOTHER list (and all the type A personalities said "Duh, what else would you do??"). In this list I complied things that I currently do or have done that I really enjoy. Things like graphic design, painting, coffee tasting, writing, hiking, concerts/events. Then I added things that I would like try. For which I included knitting/crocheting, handwriting classes, kickboxing class, painting class, learn a foreign language. Silly, unnecessary things, but all things that help me try new things and stay inspired so I can always be at 100%.

What are some things you currently do to keep you inspired and keep you at 100%? 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

God is Able

A few months back I shared a deeply intimate post that I wrote the morning after my uncle passed away (You can read that here). The post was raw emotion. I had to stop between phrases and release the tears that were filling my eyes as I wrote. It was filled with honest heartache. There were so many pictures in my mind characterizing my uncle, I wanted to describe them perfectly so they could never fade or diminish. To me it was one of the most real posts I have written. Here is a little exert I would like to revisit today:
A familiar voice comes over the phone with news and a call to prayer. So we do. We pray. After all, God created us so He can fix us. Faith united. Faith multiplied. He is able.
He is able. 
You know that has been a common sentence in my personal communication. God is able. It is something I say not only as encouragement to others, but I even say it in prayer, "God, You are able..." as if I am reminding Him. God doesn't need reminding, but I sure do. 

I remember my prayers that night after hearing that my uncle was in need of a miracle. I remember praying with a kind of boldness, "God, You are able. It isn't even hard for you. Do a miracle..." But then I questioned in my mind, "But will He?" I say I questioned in my mind because my lips would not let me utter those doubtful words. However after experiencing how different God seems to work things out compared to the way I would work them out, it causes me to question, "But will He?"

My uncle did pass away. I prayed, many people prayed, for a miracle, why? Because God is able. But still, the miracle was not the one we had expected, and to be honest it wasn't the miracle we had hoped for. But I know it was the miracle my uncle Bill's soul hoped for, and even longed for. The prayer I was praying wasn't answered in the way I had imagined it should be, but guess what.... God is still able.

Can I encourage you today? No matter what you are facing today, God is able. The prayers you have been praying, God hears them loud and clear and is more than able to answer them. The difficult situation that doesn't seem to have an escape plan, God is able to bring you out of. Whatever you have need of, whatever situation you find yourself in God is able. Remind yourself of that. As someone recently encouraged me, "Ask again. Trust again." 

He is able. Just ask. Just trust.
Again and again and again.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Go deep little Mermaid

     I would not claim to be a fearful person. I have no fear of trouble or threat or danger or uncertainty. I try not to at least. Why? Because God is a God that cancels out fear. He expels it. There is no reason to fear, because He is with me. However there is one thing that causes a need for a cautious and careful fear.

     Shallow living is one thing to fear, not in a terrorizing way, but in a conscious alertness. Shallow living lacks substance. It lacks purpose. It lacks vision. As you may have read in the book of Proverbs, "Where there is no vision people perish." People may not perish in the physical sense, but they do perish in a spiritual sense when empty of vision. When something stops growing it may stay the same size and maturity, but when the development stops progressing it is actually digressing. When you stop growing spiritually you are actually dying. Like age, it may take time, but nevertheless you are in fact wasting away. 

    I will not say I am much of a gardener, but I do know a thing or two about the subject. Most plants you purchase will come with instructions on how to obtain the best results with the plant. It tells you how much sun, how much water, and how much soil the plant needs. Some plants do better in full light, some do better with only a few hours of sunlight. Some need consistent watering, others need large amounts once a day. Now if you find that your plant can be planted in shallow soil, you can be sure the plant is not going to get very big. It may be a smaller flower or supplemental plant. If you were to try and plant a hedge in shallow soil you will not get very good results. If you were to try to plant a tree in shallow soil, you definitely will not get the results you want. Why? Because to have large plants they need deep roots. They need room to grow. They need depth.

    You can translate this information to people. If people are planting themselves in shallow living they ought not expect great growth and maturity. To grow, develop, and flourish depth is needed. I encourage you, and challenge you, do not be satisfied with comfortable, shallow living. Go deep. Deep living is challenging, it requires going deep in the dark, unknown places, but it produces amazing discoveries. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the ocean overs 71% of the Earth's surface and contains 97% of the planet's water, yet more than 95% of the underwater world remains unexplored. We don't even have a good idea of what lies in the deep.

Go deep and discover the great mysteries
lurking in the unknown depths of your soul.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Living for Applause

I think it is a common desire to be noticed. Everyone wants to be recognized for what they are doing especially when it comes to their work. Regardless of where you are working, for a big company or for your family, you want your work to be noticed, appreciated, and commended. It's normal! However, it is something we can't get hung up on.

A few years back I decided to start a new tradition with some of the leaders who work with me. I know what it's like being a volunteer leader. You feel like you are working hard on top of all of your other responsibilities and trying to not get burned out in the process. It just feels nice to be reminded that what you are doing matters. So I always try to be that reminder. But I decided that it was worth the investment in these leaders to treat them to a little getaway. A short retreat that would refresh and inspire them to be who God created them to be. Way worth the investment! Inspired leaders will inspire others every time

I pitched it to them and they seemed excited. They seemed to anxious and excited to get away even just for a night. Yes. Success!

So the weekend rolls around and spirits were up. Most of them had never been on a leadership retreat of any kind so it was a new experience for them. As much as that worked in our favor, it worked against us as well. I felt like some did not get the picture of what to expect for the weekend, so they imagined more of a vacation rather than a retreat. Others just seemed to be a little too go with the flow if you know what I mean (they are so flexible it seems like they couldn't care less). With these two dynamics, some appearing to be frustrated we weren't going to see the sights and others just content to sit around, I have to admit I was disappointed. And if you want another reason to write me off as a baby, no one seemed appreciative. Not one person said, "Oh my goodness, thank you Dalayna for putting this together for us," or, "Wow, it was so nice to be treated to this weekend. Thank you planning this... and getting our speaker... and our dinner... and our activities. I really enjoyed this!" Nope, nothing like that. Not a word of thanks. Nothing.

While I am sure they did enjoy themselves, I was the immature one waiting for them to say so. Sure it is fitting for them to say thank you, but my point is I should not have been waiting for their recognition for all my hard work. Giving that gift to them should have been enough for me. You see we shouldn't be living and working for anyone's pat on the back. We should be doing what we believe in. We should be working for what we believe in. People will always disappoint us. We will always feel under-appreciated at times, but as long as we are working for a purpose we won't be disappointed with ourselves. I can recover from someone being let down, but if I let myself down that is a true tragedy. 

I encourage you to live and work and fight for what you believe in. Live with a purpose. Not for the purpose of pleasing and impressing others, but to please and impress God. The bible tells us that God sees what we do in secret and rewards us openly. You see, God's approval is the only one we need. When He applauds you everyone hears it.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Wings to Fly

I had a great misconception as a child.

In my young mind I equated age with strength, with ability, with freedom. I remember many times feeling limited by my age. I felt like there was so much I wanted to do, and even felt convicted to do, but was unable to because of my age. I felt limited mostly by people. I cared deeply, not about what people would say, but about what people would think. I had this nasty voice in my head that translated everyone's thoughts. That voice would tell me, "Well that person doesn't really believe in me. They don't think I can accomplish this because I am too young. They are probably laughing at me on the inside." I even remember my little voice calling out to God, many times with tears running down my cheeks, asking him, "God I feel like I can't do anything. I am just a kid. No one will take me seriously. Why would you want me to do this if I am too young to do it?" 

I specifically remember one instance that at first discouraged me, but then gave me wings.

It happened at a church service at my home church when I was around the age of 7 or 8. It was during the prayer time at the conclusion of service. The Lord was moving and many people were gathering around the altars praying for one another. I remember crying. The Lord was working in my little heart. I followed the people around me as we gathered around and prayed over one man in particular who was seeking the Lord. We surrounded him with our love and with our prayers. I was in the front of the prayer circle, with my hand extended to the desperate man. I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked up at another man who gently guided me away from the prayer circle as he said, "You need to move out of the way."

I was confused and I was crushed.
I continued to pray and cry, although I am not sure if they were tears of worship or tears of hurt.

The prayer time continued. I stood on the side, against the wall. After some time had past the man who had pushed me aside pulled me in. He sat on the alter so to be on my level and he dropped his head. He said, "Dalayna, I need to apologize to you. I told you to move and stop praying for that man because I didn't believe you were truly praying. But then God convicted me and told me I was wrong. He told me I should not have pushed you aside because He was using you. I was wrong... and I am sorry." 

I accepted his apology.

I couldn't help but feel some sort of satisfaction. I always felt pushed aside because of my age, because I was "just a kid," but in that moment I felt like the most qualified person in the room. God had stood up for me. God had defended me. God had qualified me. In that moment I knew that I was not "just a kid" to God, I was HIS kid. If I was willing, no matter what anyone else thought, He would use me.

In all honesty, that nasty voice that spoke to me as a child as returned time and time again as an adult. After I graduated from college it would tell me all the time about the people who didn't take me seriously because I was only 22, because I am female, because I am single, and on and on it would chatter. But I have had to learn again that if I remain willing God qualifies, God justifies, God fills in the places where I am not enough, and He gets the glory from my life.

Never let anyone disqualify you. Never let anyone discourage you.
No matter where you are lacking, God can use you

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Who's Your Crew?

I am pretty sure we have all heard the expression

Show me your friends and I will show you your future.

It is a pretty powerful statement. To think that the people we surround ourselves with directly determines our future, whether that contains failure or success, makes you think twice about who you consider your friends. While I am a firm believer that we alone are responsible for our actions and our choices, there is definitely something to be said about the influences that surround us. You see that's what people are, influences. They aren't just voices, they are actually voices of influence. Whether we agree with them or not their influence is real. Who we spend time with matters.

I want to highlight a few things to consider when choosing who you surround yourself with.

First of all, surround yourself with people who challenge you.
Find people who are further along in the journey of life and experience than you are, and get close to them. You will learn from their mistakes and their successes. Too many times we choose to surround ourselves with people who are in the same place in life as we are, or even people who are a little behind us. If we are honest with ourselves, I think we would admit some times we do that because it is easier. People in the same rut as we are aren't going to challenge us or push us. People who are a little behind us in life and experience will make us feel good about how far we are, rather than show us how far we have left to go. Let's find some humility and allow people to challenge us, because that will actually be making us better and stronger.

Secondly, surround yourself with people who encourage you.
There are lots of people who will tell you why something won't work. Now, you don't need a bunch of "yes man" type of people who will agree with everything you say, but you do need people who will look for open doors with us rather than pointing out all of the closed ones. You need people who will admit they don't have the answer either, but are going to stick it out and help you find the solution. There will be times you need someone to keep you grounded and slap some sense into you, but people who are encouraging will be the voices you actually want to listen to when that time comes.

Finally, surround yourself with people know the worst about you, but still recognizes the best.
Sometimes it is hard to imagine that there could be such a person. A person you can trust with the darkest moments. Those moments are hard to share. You can handle that information, but to let someone else in on them is really difficult. It is difficult because you think those things will alter the way people see you. But the individual who sees you in the darkest moments and still sees the greatness in you, even when you don't see it in yourself, that is the voice of influence you want to hold onto. That is the influence that will sustain you and take your further than you could ever hope to go alone.

I encourage you to find those people. There probably won't be many of them, but it is quality over quantity. When you find those few people, hold onto them. Hold onto them even when you feel they are challenging you too much. Hold onto them when you need that encouragement. And hold onto them in your dark moments. They will be the voices speaking life to the greatness inside of you until you can see it again.