Seven Keys for a Productive and Fulfilling Life

Even though they are spoken directly to graduates, I love the motivational and inspirational graduation speeches. I certainly felt inspired Saturday night as I listened to actor and producer Darryl Bell, of A Different World fame, address the graduates at my alma mater–which is also my employer. ūüėÄ

Bell delivered a succinct, timely, and power-packed list speech that resonated with me and reminded me of some basic principles for navigating life. Here are his tips and what I remember of his commentary on each one.

  1. ¬†Use the gifts that call you.¬† Choose a vocation because of your compulsion toward it, your passion, not simply because you’re competent in an area. Your being good at what you do but hating it leads to a miserable life. ¬†Pay attention to the thing that keeps calling you, the thing you can’t help but do. “Your gifts have been calling you. Answer them.”
  2. Remember the four-year-old.¬† Four-year-olds are confident that they can do anything. ¬†A few years later, kids begin to learn their strengths and their limits, and begin to doubt themselves. Be like four-year-olds and do not put limits on what is possible. Use all of your abilities and gifts, empowered by your education, to solve the world’s problems.
  3. See the world. Travel beyond your state, beyond your country. Experience other places and cultures. Those interactions will open you up to other ways of seeing and being. If you only know America, you can’t be competitive in a global economy. Travel changes your perspective on life and everything you do.
  4. Pick somebody else.¬† Sometimes you won’t hear extraordinary advice given because you hear the same voice so often that you automatically tune it out. ¬†Pick someone else. Always ask another person; get another opinion. It affirms and confirms. Sometimes you have to hear [the extraordinary advice] from someone else.
  5. Ask for help.¬† No one accomplishes anything without the help of others. Life is worse than hard. You’ll have times when you’ll face bone-crushing, soul-crushing defeat, where you’ll feel like “it” isn’t even possible. Interestingly, when you are going through these moments, when you most need help, contrary to what is logical and instinctive, you are least likely to ask for help. ¬†You must fight through your vulnerability and through your shame and ask for help. You’ll be surprised by the people who exceed your expectations in providing what you need to turn the situation around. Be prepared to ask for help.
  6. Be kind. Kindness goes a long way and is long remembered.
  7. Embrace the fear.¬†You experience fear when you try to accomplish something big and you are afraid to fail. “Everything that I accomplished that was worth something scared me and I learned to run toward it, to embrace it.” Fear tells you this is something worth doing. Embrace it! Run toward it! Grab it! Now, go change the world!

Bell punctuated his list with (mostly) entertaining anecdotes from his life that kept us all riveted. He offered keys for a productive and fulfilling life. There are other keys, of course, but I think the graduates found the most important one in the school’s motto–“God first!”

But first¬†and¬†most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness¬†[His way of doing and being right‚ÄĒthe attitude and character of God],¬†and all these things will be given to you also. ¬† –Matthew 6:33 AMP

Until next time…

[Note: Photo from Pixabay.com]

Sunflowers and Tears

“Those who sow in tears…”

You’ve probably figured out by now that I am incredibly blessed to have a number of friends who are artists. They do amazing work and generously spread their light. My friend Lindy, whom I met via swap-bot, sent me the “scripture” sunflower painting above a few years ago.

I was going through a period of deep sadness, but “life” needed me, so I had to continue functioning in the midst of my pain. At times, the only thing that kept me going was the assurance of others that “this, too, shall pass.”

This is what I appreciate most about Lindy’s gift. She could have sent just the sunflower, and for me that would have been enough. But, knowing what I needed, she added the scripture.

Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.  Psalm 126:5.

The painting reminded me then (and continues to remind me) that there will not always be pain, that if I push through it–if I sow through it–songs of joy will indeed rise in my spirit again.

And the sunflower, you know, is my constant reminder to “face the Sun.”

Lindy is a gifted and prolific artist who offers paint lessons and paint parties from her home studio. You can see more of her work in her Etsy Store, Nana Who Paints. Check her out! I’m sure ¬†you’ll find something you like. ūüôā

If We Love Each Other…

I read something this morning that nearly brought me to tears–a comment written in response to a blog post about God’s love for us. The post, written nearly two years ago, had few comments, but one comment in particular caught my attention. It was written by a man who for several years dealt with a series of really¬†bad circumstances and came to the conclusion–after a lifetime of belief–that God does not love him. The saddest thing, however, is that the comment sat beneath the blog post with no response for a full year before another “random person” stumbled upon the post and read the comment.

A full year.

Even after the “random person’s” response, neither the author of the post nor the Christian organization that hosts the site responded. In nearly two years.

If it hurt me, imagine how much it affected the man who so bravely and desperately cried out. He needed an answer. He needed a virtual hug and assurance of God’s intimate concern and love for him.

He got crickets.

The thing that keeps me sane and walking upright in this world is knowing that God absolutely loves me, but I first experienced God’s love through others.

It is God’s love for and in us that allows us to love sincerely and deeply; it is His love that permeates our being and generates love action.¬†It’s nearly impossible to experience or “possess” Divine Love and not be transformed.

Loving God and understanding His love for humanity results in reaching out to hurting people, living out His presence in our lives, and showing the world who He is–through acts of love.

Without human manifestation of God’s love, His love is simply theory.

Psalm 23 Celebration Freebie: We Did It Again!

Yesterday, one of my besties, Aleta, sent a morning text filled with encouragement for the day and a beautiful poem, a reworking of Psalm 23 by Japanese poet, Toki Miyashina. She wrote:

 

The poem speaks perfectly to our need for peace and calmness of mind as we rush through our days of madness. Meditate on it today…

 

When the seriously involved mom of four-busy lawyer-pastor’s wife who is also taking courses toward yet another degree tells me that something helps her find balance in her days, this woman takes note.

 

The Lord is my Pace-setter, I shall not rush;
He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals.
He provides me with images of stillness,
which restore my serenity.
He leads me in ways of efficiency
through calmness of mind,
and His guidance is peace.
Even though I have a great many things
to accomplish each day,
I will not fret, for His presence is here;
His timelessness, His all importance,
will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment and renewal
in the midst of my activity
by anointing my mind with His oils of tranquility.
My cup of joyous energy overflows.
Surely harmony and effectiveness
shall be the fruits of my hours;
for I shall walk, in the pace of my Lord
and dwell in His house forever.

 

The only “solid” information I have on the poem is that it was written in the mid-1960s. But what has been popularized as the “Japanese Translation of Psalm 23” is really a reworking or reinterpretation of the psalm rather than an actual translation of scripture. No matter. Toki Miyashina beautifully captures the essence of the psalm for the busyness of our modern-day lives: God as guide and giver of rest and sustenance and God as pace-setter and balance-keeper, under whose management we produce harmony and effectiveness.

I must see¬†this poem as I’m going through my busy days, so I designed a simple printable for my Arc and Classic planners. And…I’m giving them to you in celebration of my completion of NaBloPoMo for the second year in a row and as a simple “thank you” for enduring my random postings and musings for the last 30 days.

 

There are two designs and three different sizes: for full-sized planners and notebooks (8.5 x 11–such as the Arc, Levenger, or Tul); for the Classic (5.5 x 8.5–Franklin Covey, DayTimer, DayRunner, etc.); and for A5 planners. The printable was designed with floral elements from Jen Maddocks Designs. Take your pick and download the size you need–or all of them. Click one of the links below:

Be sure to adjust your printer settings for the size you need. Enjoy!

Many Postage Stamps + Washi Tape = Happier Mail

When an envelope that looks like this (below) arrives in your mailbox, you almost forget there might be something even more interesting inside!

After studying the stamps for several minutes, I did finally open the envelope to find an elegant handmade card from my penfriend Beth. She and I had not corresponded in quite some time, so I was overjoyed to receive a newsy letter from her.

“This Is the Day,” Handmade Card by Beth

My scanner is being weird, and no matter what I do, I can’t capture the vibrant colors in the card. ¬†“In real life,” the white is whiter, the pink is “pinker” and the gold is “golder,” shinier, and more glittery.

Beth made the card with card stock, washi tape, and a scripture stamp. If I remember correctly, she’s the reason I made my first¬†washi tape card¬†(so embarrassed by it now) and postcards many moons ago. I haven’t made a washi card in years!

Her card comes at a good time. I’ve been bored with my washi tape (and my Cricut), but you can guess what I’ll be up to this weekend…

Thanks for the happy mail and the weekend therapy, Beth!

Encourage Me…with Scripture and Teddy Bears

I’m seriously understating when I say October was a difficult month, so I desperately needed the “encouragement” swap one of my penfriends, Beth, recently coordinated on swap-bot. Considering the many crazy things going on in the world, she rightly figured that we all need a little encouragement to get us through the rough patches.

My partner, Charlene, sent a cheerful package with an encouraging message and teddy bears! The card is so beautiful that I almost forgot to read it!

“Moments to Treasure” by PaperCraft, Atlanta, GA

A verse from Psalms was printed on the inside:

I will praise the Lord…
and will sing praise to the name
of the Lord most high. –Psalm 7:17 KJV

And Charlene stamped a kindness quote:

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.¬† –Mother Teresa

Of course, no encouragement mail is complete without a personal message. She wrote:

I pray that kind words will be spoken into your life and bless your heart, that you will find opportunities to praise and sing praises to our Lord.

Life has just been one thing after another lately, so it is nice to bathe in blessings and prayers and to sing praises in anticipation of relief from struggles and strife.

Charlene managed to make me feel hugged through her note, but to be sure I felt her hug, she sent teddy bear postcards too! [Click an image for a closer look and for postcard details].

Don’t you just want to hug them?

You Are Perfectly Loved!

Sometimes, we go through situations that make us feel unwelcome, unwanted, unloved. This Illustrated Faith postcard sent to me by Debra D, one of my Love Notes pals, is a simple reminder to stop the lie before it permeates your spirit and sullies your days.

Illustrated Faith, Bella Blvd

Need more proof?

For the Lord your God is living among you.
    He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With his love, he will calm all your fears.
¬†¬†¬†¬†He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. ¬†–Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

May you have the power to understand, as all God‚Äôs people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. –Ephesians 3:18 NLT

See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us his children, and that is what we are! ¬†–1 John 3:1a NLT

Despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.¬†And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God‚Äôs love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,¬†neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow‚ÄĒnot even the powers of hell can separate us from God‚Äôs love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below‚ÄĒindeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. –Romans 8:37-39 NLT

One of the things that keeps me sane and whole–most days, at least–is knowing that God absolutely loves me, that He is enamored with me and makes much of me. We all have those moments when it feels no one loves us. Even though it defies logic, it’s human.¬†But¬†to make sure we don’t stay in that place, it’s good to memorize and meditate on scriptural truth. That way, we attack those negative feelings before they can take root.

Take a moment to commit a “love” verse to memory today! ‚̧