When You’re Nearing the Finish Line

By Samantha McKenzie

Finish lines represent the big “win” for runners and marathon enthusiasts. They remind us that we’ve accomplished a goal, achieved an objective and made it to the end.  To the champion, it is the moment of truth, when all of your hard work finally pays off. You did it!

I saw a video this week of a female runner, whose body overcome by exhaustion, buckle to her knees just a few feet away from the finish line. Just when viewers and onlookers thought it was over for her, she pulled herself back up from the ground, continued the short distance and made it across the finish line.  The pain in her face spoke volumes. Her body was riddled with fatigue. Yet, somehow, she found the resolve to push forward.

Finish lines in life can be a little more elusive. There isn’t any tape or ribbons at the end to mark your accomplishment, no audience cheering you on. We learn, however, that if we are really trying to achieve a goal, we must discipline ourselves and condition our body and mind for success.

This means we may have to get up earlier each morning to prepare. It may even mean we’ll have a few more late nights and long weekends as we plow away at our agendas.

You’ll find that there’s less time to party, to shop, or to watch the football game. When you are training your mind to get across the finish line, you may temporarily lose a few friends. You will learn to say goodbye, for now.

Carving out your new schedule will seem impossible. People will tell you often, “I don’t know how you do it.” You’ll have less time to complain. When you are trying to achieve something big, you’ll fix what needs to be fixed and keep it moving – forward. You’ll learn to sidestep the trifling things as well.

Dream chasers plug away. They pound down doors and keep their ears cocked awaiting the one door of opportunity to open. I use the audio app on my phone quite often to leave notes to myself. When you’re grinding, you don’t have time to forget one thing.

I wonder what that runner told herself that day that made her get back up off the ground and make it to the finish line.

In life, you’ll find that the mind is your most reliable tool. Right when you are near the end and  your body feels weary, right when doubt raises its ugly head and fills your thoughts with a thousand reasons why you should put off your goal, you’ll hear the voice from within remind you that, “I’ve come too far to quit.”

In these moments, we push ourselves harder, press on even more, and find a way to the finish line.

What Are You Seeking?

You will find what you seek

Whatever you are searching for, you will find. Peace. Contentment. Happiness. Joy. Love. Whatever it is, the Bible says ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

Buddhists believe whatever you are looking at is a projection of your own mind.

We see things through our own way of thinking. Sometimes not as they are, but as we think they are. If we see the world as a cold, miserable place, it will be. If we see more good than bad, that’s what we will find. Our minds have the power to create and destroy. We can draw things to us — good and bad — by the power of our minds.

If you’re not pleased with your world, you may want to ask yourself what you are seeking.

 

When Your Sunshine is on Fire

By Samantha McKenzie

I’m just gonna put it out there. I love, love, love the sunshine. I love the one I see up in the sky each day (collective amen!) and I love the one I see inside of other people. I gravitate to the energy of people who are alive and doing something that betters themselves and others – big or small. This is the joy of the living.

Woman-in-the-sun

I crave the harmonies of human beings and heartbeats of the unknown. I want to laugh at the things we regard as impossible and marvel at every day miracles. I search for vibes and pulses that connect me to others, even those in a faraway land. This inspires me.

It doesn’t matter where your passions lie. I recall a colleague of mine who was a passionate teacher. She loved science and she loved teaching. Everywhere she went, she found new ideas on how to teach the tough topic while also making it fun for her students. She was her own mad scientist and the students loved her for it. She’d turn a casual trip to the supermarket into a lesson plan in five minutes flat. And it worked. Her class outscored all the others in the school and surpassed the state’s requirements. She was on fire!

We’ve grown up hearing about this little light inside of us. We’ve been warned about hiding it under the bushel basket. Yet, each day, we put our passions off for another day, cling to the mundane and call it life.

Do you know people who frown at your success? They sometimes smile in your face, send you a card of congratulations, but when they are standing face-to-face, you know their heart lies (even before their mouths do)? Shine anyway.

Your sunshine is your high-five, fist bump, atta-girl to the Creator. It’s how you communicate out loud that you are thankful and appreciative and that you get it. Let it radiate throughout you girl.

Now let’s be clear. Your sunshine is not for show. It’s not tied to fame or glory, popularity or prizes. You won’t have to become the next Oprah Winfrey or get your own Hollywood star because of it. It’s personal and unique. It’s designed just for you.

When my friends, Todd and Valerie Warren, fight for public education and protest on behalf of children everywhere, their sunshine is on fire. When local neighbors get together and create urban community gardens, their sunshine is on fire. When my daughter feeds her entrepreneurial spirit and creates wallets, makeup bags, lunch boxes and hair bows out of duct tape, her sunshine is on fire.

Be the sunshine that’s contagious and use it to light your life on fire!

 

 

Strengthening Our Gratitude Muscle

Thanks

By Dawn Onley

I read a note that someone posted on Facebook six years ago, challenging their friends to write something they are thankful for each day during the month of November, and to post it to their page. I did it that year, and have been doing it ever since.

I think it’s a great exercise, in much the same way working out is for our bodies and reading is for our minds, as I’m always eager to strengthen my gratitude muscle. By summoning the emotion of gratitude, I hone in on the everyday positive, both great and small.

There is simply so much for which to be thankful. I’ve noticed that, by focusing on all of my blessings and choosing one to highlight each day, my thinking has shifted from today’s work and tonight’s dinner to how truly fortunate I am. I simply can’t count all of my blessings – they are too numerous. I can’t count all of the benevolent acts that were done for me by people who love me, or at the very least want to see me succeed. I could never repay such kindness, aside from living a life of gratitude and lifting someone else up to pay it forward.

There are plenty of people who are smarter than I, more accomplished, more degreed. There are people who have lived what I dream, and who have gotten it right the first time, and who can eat whatever they want this Thanksgiving, and the day after, and not gain a single pound.

There are women who have birthed babies and businesses, who have accomplished a degree of fame with their truth and character intact, who have exhibited an extemporaneous courage culled from an inner strength that was built from failure and determination.

There are people whose talents know no bounds, who can sing five octaves, run great distances in record speed, who can swim the English Channel, and even farther. There are women who are stunningly beautiful with skin as smooth as silk and as soft as cotton.

If I focused on any of this, I would forever live in a place called lack. If I compared myself to people who have been blessed in different ways from me, I could never be in a place of thanks.

Lovely Coast Cayman

I’m thankful for who I am, what I have, what I can do. I’m thankful for my unique gifts, my distinct look, my generous spirit, my loving heart. I’m thankful for my parents, for my family and close friends, who I think the world of. I’m thankful for my son and for my husband.

During a recent, early morning walk along the beach, I peered at the ocean in all of its infinite and majestic glory, as waves kissed the shore and the beauty overwhelmed, and I thanked God for my life.

It’s Time You Tell Your Story

By Samantha McKenzie

We all love a good story. We want the happily ever afters, the heroes who save us from darkness and the successful endings that separate us from the ordinary. Whether we like getting it out of a book, a television drama series, or near the water cooler at work, most of us have held on to the memorable details of someone else’s tale.

3f0777d0be93372cc3aa3f1ea13da2aa

But are we ready to tell our own story? Are we willing to share it all?

I grew up in a traditional extended family, where grownups bragged about the good times – the children who made the honor roll, scored the winning touchdown at the game or debuted at a recital. When we gathered together, they boasted about promotions and raises, the long overdue vacation and the latest “new thing” that they got on sale.

We shared a myriad of milestones that reminded us of the bountifulness of the good Lord and marveled in the joy that constantly filled our collective homes.

These were our stories about our unpredictable lives with chapters tastefully torn out. Deleted scenes. Shredded text. The tales still incomplete. We couldn’t share our stories.

I watched as family members skillfully tucked their secrets beneath their broken hearts and concealed the conflicts that arose during the course of any given day. Maybe it was because of guilt or shame, or a combination of both, but they all managed to bury as many mistakes as far down as it could go. The good intentions of proud people.

I hope I’m not alone when I confess that as a child, I ease dropped on many conversations. For years, I’d swap information with cousins until we finally pieced together an entire story.  Dreaded details and all. This task sometimes took years to accomplish.

As an adult, I’ve learned about the immense power of telling your story and the healing that comes with it. Through ups and downs, we emerge stronger. There is a great lesson for all of us to learn. And many lessons still to be taught.

Our trials bring us closer to each other and create the bond that we proudly call family. They remind us that we are human and that we are responsible for the whole.

Our stories are us. They reveal the real heroes, like my aunt who never gave up on her son who was using drugs, or my uncle who worked every day to make ends meet. They make me proud of my dad who was always taking another college course because he was a student of life. And my brother who started his own business after being laid off.

We have to tell our stories. It will help others along the way.

hopegrows

 

 

 

 

I’m Not Lucky. I’m Blessed.

Einstein

By Dawn Onley

At the risk of sounding hokey, I don’t believe in coincidence or luck. I don’t believe in fluke.

I believe in divinely orchestrated occurrences. I believe in things that are beyond my level of comprehension conspiring to my benefit. I believe in ‘God winks’, which author SQuire Rushnell decribes as “messages of reassurance.” I believe in blessings.

A few years ago, I started noticing something that initially I chalked up to coincidence, but now I believe was the voice and the move of God. It was the frequency by which very similar things would happen to me. I started paying attention to the repetition. For example, I would read a passage in a book that seemed to apply to what I was going through. A short time later, I would see that passage again, but this time in a pull away quote on a friend’s Facebook page, and/or then a close friend would recite it as something great they had read and wanted to pass along to me. It all felt very familiar, like God wanted to ensure I got the message.

After quite a few of these experiences, I began noticing a pattern. God speaks to me through repetition, which normally takes the form of what some people call serendipity, but I call confirmation. This is how I receive confirmation: I was pondering a middle name for my son. I initially picked Victor as the middle name, but I was starting to have second thoughts because there were a few other names I liked as well. Then, I met two guys within days of each other – one of whom, an older gentleman, had captured my grocery store receipt, which the wind blew out of my bag on the way to my car, and who brought it to me exclaiming that I might need it in case I needed to make a return. Such a nice gesture, I said to him. He introduced himself as Victor, and I smiled. The second guy came to repair something at the house. His name was Victor too.

orange berries

Albert Einstein said coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous.

Maybe, but for me, they reinforce His presence. They let me know He hears my silent thoughts and answers them in a way that I can receive.

I’ve seen too many chance encounters that may not seem like much on the surface, but that work together perfectly in the great puzzles of our lives. Pay closer attention to the things you may shrug off as coincidences. Watch and see if some of them don’t have a divine way of coming together to answer your prayers.

Grow the Flowers, Not the Weeds

growsWe all have the potential to grow. The question is, are we willing to nurture that potential in the right way?   When you are on a path to meeting up with your best self, you will face many challenges. Roll up your sleeves and go for it. Hang on to the positive experiences and send the negativity packing.

Feed your mind a healthy diet and watch yourself flourish.