Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Power of A Story

Yesterday was a day that I looked forward to for almost 20 years.  If I had a bucket list, meeting Dr. Ben Carson would have been on it.  I was introduced to him by my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Wilson.  She read Gifted Hands, a story about a troubled inner-city boy discovering his ability to make big dreams happen despite his circumstances and own challenges, to our class.  This was more than inspiration to me.

As a child of a single mother with three children, I knew that my life was different than my best friend's.  While her mother created beautiful dresses and often volunteered at school, my mom worked long hours in a factory to provide for us and I often wondered where my father was.  I didn't have someone home to go over my homework with me, but like Ben, I enjoyed learning and found school to be an environment where I was challenged to think beyond what was missing at home.  Learning of his mother's encouragement despite her inability to even read the assignments she required reminded me of my mother's encouragement and high expectations, despite her inability to be home when I was doing my school work. She too, valued a strong work ethic and believed that I could do more than I could imagine with enough hard work.

Ben's story is more than just a biography.  It is a calling to be incredible so that you can do extraordinary things to bless others.  As the first surgeon in the world to successfully separate Craniopagus Twins, he used his unique, God-given ability and acquired skills to give a family a chance at life and opened the door for other surgeons to change lives.  This allowed me to see that a diligent, wise and sacrificial spirit didn't just impact me, God could allow to the impact to reverberate far beyond my own abilities.

I remembered his story when, like Ben, my family moved away from my friends.  I remembered his story, when like Ben, I was bullied.  I remembered his story when my step-father was abusive.  I remembered his story when despite graduating at the top of my class, my own choice caused me to become a single mother at 19 and brought on its own set of challenges--ones that could break me or make me stronger.  I remembered God's grace in Ben's life & continued to seek God to be equipped for the purpose that He had for my life.  I remembered that like Ben, despite my brokenness, I am called to finish the race and make an impact.  I remembered his story when I became a mother and knew that despite my own inabilities, God could use me to inspire the life of a child to step up to God's higher calling.

So when I found out that Ben Carson would be in Chattanooga, we had to go to meet him!  Stay tuned for more on Ben Carson's visit to my hometown.

If you don't know Dr. Ben Carson, I would encourage you to read more about Dr. Ben Carson HERE or pick up one of his many books:

Monday, October 7, 2013

Life By Design: Thinking and Marriage

Last year, my life verse was Philippians 4:6

God's word proved to be powerful and comforting at the same time during this season of life.  As I digest the word, I find so much goodness and just a couple of lines down, you can find this other life-giving gem:  

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.

This verse has so much goodness in it and I'm sure to unpack it and learn more, as God's Word is living and active.  But this weekend, I utilized it as a tool in our marriage.  

We all get married for different reasons, but most of us choose a partner because we are attracted to something about them.  In our day-to-day lives, we get bogged down by responsibilities and our differences and faults can rise quickly to the surface causing discord and unhappiness. We can look at our spouses as failures and after time, it may seem more attractive to just start over.  Also, we can sometimes see ourselves as failures when we don't feel loved or respected by our spouses.  I admit that I rarely stop and thinking about "whatever is admirable..." or what is "excellent or praiseworthy" in my spouse.  

When I first memorized this verse, I honed in on the "whatever is true" part.  This weekend, after a disagreement with my husband, this verse kept coming up and the part that commands us to think on whatever is admirable, excellent and praiseworthy stood out.  While I knew I was tired, I just became very frustrated with yet another missed expectation.  I had been dwelling on what didn't happen this weekend during an adventurous overnight date that I planned and I became frustrated. Memories of fun and intellectually stimulating conversations in college left me feeling unengaged and unhappy with my current life filled with monotonous routines, conversations centered around feedings, diapers, bedtimes and homework, and the lack of enthusiasm from my husband concerning spontaneous adventures (he was tired too).   I started stewing.  Again, the verse popped in my head.  But then, I was so blinded by my own frustration, I couldn't bring myself to think about anything excellent--only stuff that bothered me.

When my husband returned from the store, I was ready to continue some of the negative communication so that he could see that he needed to be better at _____________ (fill in the blank, I had a list).  But again, I thought about the verse and I asked him what he thought he excelled at.  He stopped in his tracks.  "What do you mean?" he asked.  

"What are you really good at?"

After a few seconds of thought, he named off a few things--then included some things where he could improve.  I interrupted and asked him to only name the excellent things.  He continued, and then I joined in and added just as many.  Within minutes, there was a long wonderful list of how he was awesome.  It's kinda hard to stay mad at somebody awesome.  

Why is it so hard for us to think of our Rockstar spouses when they disappoint us (usually over something trivial)?  For me, it is because I don't make it a habit of thinking about what is excellent.   Also, we sometimes are hard on ourselves due to our own failures and we dwell on these.  These can put us in a funk.  When we both thought about & discussed what was excellent about my husband, it helped him to think about the unique gifts and talents that God has entrusted him with.  He also followed by making me go through the same exercise.  It was lovely.  

Instead of continuing in negative patterns, we effectively trained our brains to think differently.  I am so glad that God uses His Word to remind us about ways we can help ourselves and help others, just by simply thinking.