My wife, Lisa, and I are blessed to have a beautiful home. It’s not beautiful because it’s the biggest or fanciest home we’ve ever owned. It’s beautiful because of the love we’ve poured into it and Lisa’s gifts and talents for making anything in this world more beautiful. It’s what she was created to do!
The other day, we were outside planting some new flowers in the flower beds and we noticed that quite a few weeds had begun to appear in some areas. We had already done a lot of work that day so I made her a promise that I would take care of the weeds and have them out before she got back home from a trip she was about to take.
Being the great procrastinator that I can be, I didn’t jump on this task right away. I left the house and came home many times over the next several days. Then one day, all I could focus on was the weeds as I came in the driveway. I couldn’t see all the beautiful flowers anymore, even though they were still right there.
So I finally got to work on the commitment I had made and while I was pulling the weeds I started thinking about things from a different perspective. Why was I so focused on the weeds and not the flowers? Why was I allowing the weeds to redefine the true beauty of the flowers?
Then it occurred to me that we do that with ourselves and other people all the time too if we’re willing to be honest. It really is a matter of focus. We can become so focused on a negative behavior or event that we will actually begin to treat ourselves or other people differently. We will wipe out years of good decisions or years of love and kindness in the blink of an eye. Before we know it, something that was once so beautiful begins to disappear as if it doesn’t exist. Yet it’s still right there.
Where’s your focus right now? Is it the weed or the flower? What is bothering you right now? Are you so focused on something you haven’t done right or that someone else hasn’t done right that you can’t see who you or they truly are anymore?
We should be careful about what we choose to focus our attention on and for how long. If we have done something wrong or someone else has done something wrong, we should face it and hold ourselves or others accountable. We should pull the weed and not ignore it or dwell on it.
And then we should strive to remember this:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
Have you ever had a child, who rarely requests food, specifically ask for macaroni and cheese? Have you ever opened a packet of powdered cheese sauce from the box, only to find it has gone rancid and congealed? Have you ever had both happen simultaneously? If you have, then you have surely learned this lesson already.
Sometimes, you need to find a different way.
In this instance, I knew how to make a cheese sauce from scratch, so I began to make a roux with butter and flour. I had just added in some milk to create the basis for a sauce when I realized the only shredded cheese in the refrigerator was mozzarella. Not the ideal cheese for macaroni and cheese. But I was undeterred. My daughter wanted macaroni and cheese! She only asks for a specific food maybe once a week. I was not going to let her down!
I found a block of Velveeta in the back of the cabinet and diced it into small pieces and melted it into the sauce I already made. Success! While it was thicker than usual, it was still macaroni and cheese and my daughter gobbled it down. I had made it happen. I was supermom!
In The Journey Training, we often talk about how you can make it from point “A to B”. Sometimes, your first attempt won’t work out the way you originally planned. But along the way you can learn to improvise and even blaze your own trail.
In the movie Finding Dory, the quote “There’s always another way!” has often inspired me (and my friend Alison) to “just keep swimming”.
If you try to do something and it doesn’t work, don’t stop, try another way. If you can’t see another way, ask others for help. There’s always more than one way to make Mac and Cheese!
Over the past few months I have had to deal with some physical issues that have led to the doctors putting a lot of limits on what I can and cannot do. I’m the type of person who loves being around others and usually hates having to depend on others for anything. In fact, for the last 5 years I’ve generally faced life with a “God and I can do anything” attitude, staying strong for my kids, family, and friends. So when the doctor said, “ You can’t drive for at least 2-3 weeks. You can’t lift heavy objects or even walk without being attached to a tank of oxygen,” it kind of threw me for a loop.
At first, I was tempted to go into a dark place, feeling sorry for myself and wondering how on earth I was going to get my kids to and from school, pay bills (without working), and basically keep life going at all. I felt like I was being given a sentence of isolation and being punished for something I had done. Fortunately, I had friends and family that reminded me of some things I learned through my experience with The Journey Training.
In The Journey Training I learned that I always have a choice and I was challenged to see circumstances that I face from a different perspective. Even the Bible says, “My brothers and sisters, be very happy when you are tested in different ways…” (James 1:2) In every situation, we have a choice on how we view it and respond to it.
I was seeing the restrictions placed on me by the doctors as a sentence of isolation and a form of punishment. I was dwelling on the fact that I couldn’t get out and do all the things that I enjoyed and be around those that added to my happiness. I saw myself as weak, stuck in the house, alone and broken.
As I was talking to a friend about my situation, they gave me a different perspective that I could possibly choose to see. They brought to my attention that there are people who pay large amounts of money to go someplace where they can be alone, have time away from everything and to refocus. They told me that I was being given this kind of opportunity for free.
A light bulb went off in my head and made me say “hmmmm”. How could I look at my situation differently than a sentence of isolation? How could I turn this situation into a window of opportunity? What could I do during this time of limitation that would take me closer to my dreams after this season of rest was over?
As I contemplated these questions and realized, I actually had a choice, new thoughts came to me. I could: spend more time with God, journal about where I wanted the next phase of life to look like, allow myself to get the rest I needed to heal properly, spend time dreaming more, and a multitude of other things. Instead of focusing on the “bars on the prison window”, I could focus on the light of the sun that was shining through it and all that the light could possibly represent.This brightened my attitude, increased my energy level and allowed me to enjoy the season I was in instead of dreading it.
What are you facing right now? Are things that are beyond your control placing limits on what you can do? How can you turn your focus from the prison bars to the sunshine? The Journey Training and the friends I made there have truly changed my life and given me tools that help me in everyday life continue to reach for my dreams and actually live life rather than just exist in it.
Have you ever actually walked in someone else’s shoes? What would you do if you could see what others see? How do you compare what you see to something you’ve never seen? In this blog, we’ll explore how two very different people “see” typical daily activities.
If you know Alison, you know she’ll say she “sees” through gifts from God and her intuition. As someone who is legally blind, the question she is asked most often is what exactly does she see? She’s had different responses over the years, but to be completely honest, practically speaking, it’s hard to describe when she doesn’t know what YOU see.
Alison recently read an article that compared the everyday sights through the eyes of perfect eyesight and the eyes of a legally blind person. She decided to ask her friend Christina to do their own comparison.
Brief history: Alison’s eyesight difficulties have been lifelong, with the beginning of notable impact not being until middle school, due to the distractions of a weakened left side from a prenatal stroke.
Christina actually had better than perfect eyesight before a car accident caused some liquefaction of the gelatinous mass inside her right eye. She now has close to 20/20.
We will use 20/20 as our definition for perfect sight and 20/200 as our definition to describe legally blind eyesight. We use sight instead of vision, as one can have poor eyesight, but perfect vision.
Alison: If I go to grocery stores I don’t know, I get a headache. If they move items around on me, I feel overwhelmed. I like to shop where I know exactly where to find everything. If that means that I go a little farther or spend a little more, I do. I don’t have the luxury that some of my friends do of going to multiple grocery stores to accommodate coupons or different product needs.
Christina: I frequently go to two or three grocery stores in one day. I comparison shop all the time and get irritated when I don’t have the ability to branch out even further. I load up my daughter and go, go, go – until we get it all done.
Crowds of People
Alison: I often feel overwhelmed. It’s too visually overstimulating, and I can’t focus. I fear getting lost. When I was in Tokyo, thankfully, I had a very tall friend to be my focal point. When I’m walking with a group of people, I have to stay super focused on the people in front of me. I often just have to trust that the people behind me will keep up.
Christina: I hate crowds. I have a huge anxiety problem with feeling out of control in a crowded setting. I often use visual cues to distract me from the butterflies in my stomach; for example, I’ll count the number of bald guys in my immediate vicinity or people wearing orange shirts. I tend to be the person at the back of the group, constantly counting to make sure no one is left behind. I’ve been the “mom” of my friend group for many years. If I can see everyone, it gives me a sense of security.
Alison: I’ve confused or hurt a lot of feelings over the years. People wave, honk or even smile. I don’t acknowledge them. They think I’m ignoring them. If I’m walking and deep in thought, my face may even confirm my ignoring them. I don’t usually see them beyond about 10-20 feet. If I know them well enough to know their figure, they stand a better chance of being recognized. Some people have a distinctive walk or posture. That helps.
I’ve hugged, yes hugged the wrong person. I once thanked a nice elderly man for dinner, calling him Grandpa. In college, I once hugged a stranger, thinking he was a friend of mine.
Turning that situation around, I once was in a crowd of people when a whirling figure ran up and hugged me. I didn’t know his identity until the hug.
Who hasn’t hugged a random stranger by accident? I once called out an (unfortunately off color) inside joke to someone who resembled a friend of mine. Turned a bunch of different shades of red on that one. My excuse is straight up obliviousness. I’ve gotten so much better about paying attention in the past few years, though.
Alison: You KNOW when I recognize you. There’s a definite change in my voice and my face. I go from a polite hello to an excited HELLO! The hugging arms come out! I have the nickname Alison Loud for a reason more than a typo.
Christina: Oh my goodness, I have a tendency to avoid people that I don’t want to see. Once on a trip back to my hometown to visit my parents, I saw my middle school bully/frenemy and hid behind my husband until we were out of Walmart. I have no idea if she saw me or not, but I avoided a confrontation I didn’t want to have. Though for the life of me, I can’t remember if it was her face or voice that cued me into her presence.
Alison: Mountains majesty! I love them! I love them from a distance, and I love hiking them. I love anything mountainous! From a distance, I see majestic beauty but not to the depth and detail you do. While hiking, I make people nervous. As someone with very little depth perception, I can’t see how deep the cliffs go, as I look over them. I go on what I feel, leading to some falls….but not as many as I used to have! Thank you exercise and a strong core!
Christina: I love mountains too, and as it so happens, I’ll be moving closer to them in the near future. Alison is already planning her visit.
Alison: Yes, yes I am!
Alison: Having a condition of the retina, my eyes are sensitive to light and glare. I love fireworks. I love the atmosphere. Contrast is really key to my eyesight, so the bright colors in the dark sky are BEAUTIFUL!
Christina: As a child I could not stand fireworks, they were so loud and in my face. I frequently would watch from inside a nearby building. Now, my family launches their own fireworks on the Fourth of July and I truly enjoy them. I prefer to watch though. Once, I accidently knocked one over and it launched at my aunt who had just had surgery!
Alison: If I want to see what’s going on in football, I need to be close to a big screen TV, If I REALLY want to see football, I should watch it entirely in instant replays. The slow speed helps tremendously. In college, not knowing anything more about football than touchdowns and marching bands, being in marching band myself, I became highly dependent on my friends. They are my commentators. They are my eyes. They give me the play by play. I cheer with everyone else and then ask why. I always knew when we were doing poorly with one friend – he stopped talking.
WAIT- I did marching band?! Yes! Four years in high school and two years in college. I depended on the people immediately next to me. I couldn’t see the drum major. Lining up the form was, well, special. But hey! Only once in six years did I march on the wrong side of the field!
Christina: See, a big difference between Alison and me is that I just don’t enjoy watching sports. I will occasionally get caught up in a game that is playing at a restaurant or something, but most of the time I find my attention drawn elsewhere. I once spent an entire Super Bowl party making paper crafts.
Alison: I used to watch the Super Bowl solely for the commercials. I once ran down the hall of my freshman dorm and asked, “Who won? The red team or the white team?”
Alison: What do kickball and 4 Square have in common? They were my favorite sports to play as a child. What else do they have in common? Yep, a giant playground ball. I actually played tennis for a long time because my parents were big tennis players. I don’t know how many bad line calls I made. Countless. I’m sure I ticked off a lot of people. A small, brightly colored ball flying through the bright sky…no contrast there!
Christina: I had undiagnosed childhood asthma, so I was the last kid picked for most everything we played. When I got an inhaler in seventh grade, my basketball game really improved! I played softball for a long time, which was a really good game for me in that it was intervals of activity followed by rest. In high school I became a competitive cheerleader, so my asthma got strained with all the shouting initially. By the time I was a senior, my symptoms had become much more manageable, and I was able to complete my routines with no problem. I can’t imagine trying to do basket tosses with Alison’s eyesight! I’d never catch anybody! And when you’re the only thing between someone and a ten-foot fall to the ground, you need to be able to see where they’re going.
Alison: In all of my time playing basketball, I had one moment of glory. Someone passed me the ball, I dribbled it all the way down the court and launched it toward the basket. It didn’t go in, but for a couple of moments, my parents were on their feet!
Alison: No, I don’t have a driver’s license. Through a series of unfortunate events, we didn’t fully understand until middle school that I didn’t see well enough to drive. I thought I would be the only 8th Grader with a parking spot!
I am persistent, though. I spent a lot of years pressing a lot of people for the chance to drive their cars. A few people caved…and those parking lots will never be the same.
As much as I want to drive, there are plenty of practical reasons this is a bad idea.
1. Driving isn’t a textbook procedure. Even if they did everything they could to get me behind a wheel, the other drivers aren’t so predictable. Dangers like being cut off are even worse because I wouldn’t know they were happening.
2. I can’t see what the signs say or see the colors in a stoplight unless it’s overcast or right when we are going under them.
3. Some of my best of friendships began with a car ride. Except Christina. That began with The Journey Training.
Christina:Alison kept offering to drive when we first met. I didn’t realize what was so funny about that, other than I knew she had flown into Tulsa, and thus wouldn’t have a car. I had no idea about her visual impairment! I personally hate driving; it’s a chore and an obligation. Whenever I have the option to defer to someone else (usually my husband) I take it! I will always take my turn as the driver if the other’s in my group need me to. I just prefer to be the passenger and fall into my oblivious natural patterns. Unfortunately, it means car conversations often make me lose track of directions, and occasionally I distract the driver that way as well.
Coffee Shop or Restaurant
Alison: If I’m at a familiar restaurant, I typically know exactly what I want. If I’m at a new place that is candlelit, I have been known to use the flashlight on my phone. If I’m at such a restaurant, I’m typically with someone who can help me read the menu. If a place has a menu board, I always ask for a handheld menu. It’s just what I do.
Christina: I avoid going to new restaurants, because of a food allergy. Once I find a place that I like, with a menu that I find favorable, I keep going back. I also tend to order the same things at these restaurants, more out of habit than anything else. I make a joke with my husband of not liking the things I order out of my usual, “That’s what I get for trying something new”. I always look over each option and consider trying something new, but I just stick to the same old choice, because I know it’s good and it won’t make me sick.
What began as a comparison of literal views of everyday life – revealed a lot of different perspectives and things they have in common. Christina may not have an eyesight problem, but still has to make special considerations when she goes out to eat. Alison may not have had asthma, but can relate to the feeling of being picked last. In fact, Christina and Alison’s friendship started because of how Christina saw herself and how Alison in turn saw her (differently!).
Everyone has a story. Every time you come in contact with a person, you’re coming in contact with a different perspective, a different way of SEEING the world. Alison flew from Georgia to Tulsa to attend The Journey Training in order to meet a Coach who inspired her. Christina followed the advice of her mother in law who had found her own freedom in the Journey Training. Not only did they wind up sitting next to each other and gaining a new best friend, they experienced all new elements to their stories. The Journey Training gave them new perspectives, not only to see from someone else’s shoes, but also to more freely walk in their own!
Are you ready for a new perspective on your life? Join us for the next Journey Training.
Recently, letting go has been a recurring theme for me with all of its terrors and joys!
As a tall lanky kid with naturally curly hair, I always envied my little blonde friend with straight hair. Last summer was very rainy if you remember. Well, after years of using the straightening iron and tugging at frizzy locks, I decided to let go of the aspiration and hassle of obtaining straight hair, enjoy the natural, and let go of the dream to have something that wasn’t truly me. There has been such a freedom to let the curls out and quit fighting it! It was also an outward reminder of an inner relinquishment of some loved ones to God’s care.
I’m learning that self-acceptance involves embracing an unwanted reality about me, going with the flow so to speak, saying this is true about me and not fighting facts. Then I add that I don’t judge myself for it. In the acceptance then letting go, God is now free to change it in His way and in His time. In the lyrics of the Casting Crowns song, JUST BE HELD, “there is freedom in surrender, lay it down and let it go.” I love this concept and am growing in the liberty this process brings.
I struggle with second guessing myself often. After hearing of The Journey Training class called Launch, I was double minded about signing up. Knowing I was living my purpose and in my sweet spot, I asked Noell if the class would really be relevant. She mentioned that it was also designed to help with overcoming fears, I was much closer to being “in.” I specifically prayed about it and two days later our pastor’s sermon was on “The Jesus Who Calls You to Stop Playing It Safe.” He spoke about leaving the boat to walk on the water as Peter did toward Jesus. Loud and clear, that was my answer and I signed up that night!
Shortly thereafter, I was at an event where it became very clear that this third class of The Journey Training would involve lots of challenges, actual physical and mental challenges that were waaaaay out of my comfort zone. Yikes! Now it’s too late! I had committed, paid, and gotten a great roommate. After After hearing that a ropes course and zip line were part of the week-end, the anxiety truly began to rise. Then there was that inner AH HA moment with God, where I felt His smile on me as I recalled that these two events were actually on my bucket list! Not to mention that this was the very month of a significant birthday of mine. Ready to check these two off my list!
As Launch began, I stated that I wanted to grow in courage. Forward to Saturday morning, we did lots of team building games/exercises, each with higher commitment levels. Then it was time to step into the gear. Once strapped into the belts, I turned around to find that I had been assigned a turquoise helmet. Another smile from God as that is my favorite color, and a reminder of his partnership, love, and nearness!
Once onto the elements of the ropes course, I found it both challenging and scary in a positive kind of way. Confidence was already coming, fears being let go, though my nerves produced cold fingers and a very dry mouth. I was so looking forward to coming back to ground on the zip line just to get a refreshing drink of water…. relief, and exhilaration! Then we went outside for the next event, where it was sunny though a little windy. Tall 35, 45 and 55 foot poles with pegs were already being climbed by our brave classmates! The facilitator began explaining that once up the pole, the next challenge was to stand on it, then jump to the suspended bar hanging in space. You could touch the rope attached to your back but if you began to fall or were ready to come down, you let go of the rope! This news scrambled my brain. When in stress I hang on tighter, grasping for security and safety. Now I questioned my resolve to even give it a try. Stalling, watching, and pacing, I contemplated, then stepped forward focused, committed, and started up the pole! My plan was to not stop, forge forward and see what happened. I heard friends cheering me on, like vitamins to my soul! To my amazement I found myself standing on the pole, my feet felt riveted to it. Then I hear those amazing words again, “turn toward me and let go of the rope! Count to three and then jump,” said the guy on the ground. Somehow I did (foregoing the bar) and was safely in a free fall suspended by the very rope I had let go of.
The lessons of that experience were rich in significance. Since then I have noticed a growing trust and confidence. The lessons of that day seem to remind me that when I let go, I am safer than clutching in fear. I hear the truth within that says if you can climb the pole, you can __________________! (fill in the blank)
What is your rope to let go of? The struggle is REAL to be confident in our position of trust in Christ. Let’s encourage each other on this path away from the zone of comfort!
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