Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What Drives You?

I need some help and advice, friends.  I'm pondering a question or two these days.  I want to know what drives you?  Or to put it another way, how do you know what your passion is?

And has your passion changed?  What if you strived for something for years, and then found yourself wondering if that's really what you're supposed to do?

I guess I'm directing this more to those of you in the arts: writing, music, dancing, acting, etc.  But it could be applicable to any vocation.

It's always challenging to go for your dreams.  It's a lot of hard work.  But when do you know when it's time to try something else?  Are you afraid of giving up too soon?  Or do you know when to face the realization that maybe you're supposed to be doing something else with your life?

For example, if you're an actor  -- you have a passion for acting.  But how long do you go along doing Shakespeare before you discover that you're a better comedic actor?  Or that you might be a better director or writer than actor?

I know we should pray about it.  I know we will just have a gut feeling.  But sometimes that gut feeling isn't as specific as we'd like.  Or God hasn't provided that neon billboard that says "Go this direction" instead.

So, I'm full of questions today. How do you know if you've found your passion?  What drives you to work so hard?  Even on the tough days or the discouraging days, are you anxious to get back to work to follow your dreams?  How do you know?

Questions, questions, questions!  Is this what happens after you turn 50 years old?

I'd love to hear your thoughts, advice or comments.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

No Offense Intended

I'm a little behind in posting today. I've been thinking about so much the last few days... I guess birthdays have a way of doing that.

In planning my birthday, the topic of RSVPs came up.  In this day, a lot of folks don't take the time to let you know whether or not they will attend your gathering.  I don't know why that happens.  It really is okay to tell me "No," that you can't make it.  Trust me, I won't be offended.

RSVP is just a courtesy so we know how many people to plan for and how much food to buy.  (Incredibly, not matter how hard we try, we always buy too much food! :)

Anyway, back to the RSVP discussion.  Some were a little offended and unhappy with the lack of RSVPs.

But I choose not to be offended. I didn't take it personally.  Those who didn't attend my birthday party weren't out to offend me. 

People are too ready these days to be offended.  To twist any wording as a personal offense.

When did we stop taking people at their word?  When did we stop trusting others?  I guess the bigger question is "When did everything become all about me?" 

Are we so self-focused that we're ready to take offense, ready to have our feelings hurt, ready to create drama when there really is none because we think it's all about us?

That takes so much energy!  Why not take people at their word, trust that they are your friends and care about you... even when they don't do things the way you'd want them to do it.  Even when they fail to RSVP, or fail to call you once a week, or fail to do whatever you think they should be doing.

My attitude is to stay positive, to trust, and to feel confident that my friends care about me. And realize they don't have to tell me every five seconds in order for me to believe that.

Choosing to be positive takes a lot less energy, a lot less time, and generally makes you feel happier in your day to day life.

I hope that doesn't offend you.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My Re-Birthday

My birthday is coming up this week… and it’s one of those BIG birthdays. A milestone.

Whether we like it or not, birthdays keep coming. How do you celebrate your birthday?  Do you dread it – knowing there are a few more wrinkles or more gray hair? Do you just feel “old?”  Or do you say, “Thank you, God. Thank you for my time here, serving you.” 

I am a 2-time cancer survivor. My last diagnosis four years ago came two days before my birthday.  And let me tell you, something like that does change your perspective about your birthday! Suddenly my age didn’t matter. In fact, on my birthday, I didn’t think about the number, about how old I was turning.  What originally had been “uh oh, I’m making the turn for the downhill slide toward 50”, very quickly became “I’m too young.”  I’m too young to be faced with another bout of cancer that could kill me. There’s so much more I had left to do.

Since then, my birthdays have become my “re-birthday.”  A time to re-dedicate myself to Christ. A time to say: “Am I doing what God wants me to do here on earth? Am I dedicating myself to God in my everyday life, in how I live my life? Is His light shining through me?”

Hebrews, Chapter 12, verse 2 says very simply: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.”

But we know we’re all sinners.  There are days when we fall short.  Yet as Christians, we know if we ask, God will forgive us and wipe the slate clean.  Does that mean there aren’t any consequences for our actions?  No. We know better than that. Sometimes what we do can leave scars.

Now, I’m real familiar with scars. Almost 30 years ago, I was in a motorcycle accident.   
Riding on the back of my then-boyfriend’s bike on a wonderful summer day.  A pick-up truck turned in front of us and we had nowhere to go.  We slid sideways into the truck.

I had a compound fracture of my right femur and ended up having four operations on my leg. As you can imagine, that left a scar—quite a long one – that goes from my knee all the way up to the top of my leg.  My husband calls it my zipper.

Now, I have more scars across my chest.  There are two ways you can look at scars. It’s easy to look at scars and believe they’re ugly and disfiguring.  With scars, you know you’ll never look the same way again as you did before.

Or you can look at scars as a sign of strength and survival, as God’s blessing.  You may ask yourself “What? Scars as a blessing? After the trauma that caused them?”

Yes, scars are a blessing.  My scars tell me that I’m still here. That God carried me through those surgeries, and that He has work for me to do here on earth. 
There’s a wonderful old hymn, written in 1922:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will go strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

So, on my upcoming birthday, as I reach my milestone of 50 years old, I’m not going to moan about my gray hair, or the deepening of my crow’s feet.  I want to have a re-birthday. I want it to be a celebration, and a re-dedication of my life to God.  He gave me this life, and I want to use it for His purpose.

I need to remember that God is always there, even through the dark times. As I mentioned, my last diagnosis came two days before my birthday, which was a Friday.  I was at home and grappling with the emotional side of being told I had cancer again.  Then the mail came.   

There was a package from my mother – a birthday present.

With tears still in my eyes from hearing the devastating cancer news, I opened my present.  Inside was a silver necklace. And on it was one word:  BELIEVE.

Mom later told me she doesn’t know why she sent me the necklace.  It had been a gift to her.  But she doesn’t wear silver…ever.  So, it was just sitting in her jewelry box, never to be worn. As my birthday approached, Mom thought she’d send it to me, not knowing it would arrive on such an awful day.

Although I was facing a long journey with cancer, and another birthday, there, in my hands, was a reminder to stay strong and believe.

Believe that God has a plan for your life. Enjoy every moment of getting older.  You can’t go back anyway.  I’m excited to see what God has in store for me.  So, on my birthday, or any day, I want to take time to thank God for my life and to re-dedicate myself to Him.  To really dedicate myself to what His will is for me.  I may show a few battle scars from life, but if my eyes are focused on Him, then His light will shine.  His light is more beautiful than any cosmetic I can apply anyway.  It’s not just a birthday; I want to have a re-birthday -- focused on Him --- and just BELIEVE.

So, how will you celebrate your next birthday?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Dream a Little Dream…. Heck, Dream Big!

I thought one tennis-related post would be enough, but after watching the results of the Wimbledon Championships over the weekend, I couldn't resist one more.

Every player who enters Wimbledon dreams of winning this tournament. It is arguably the most elite, most coveted of all the grand slams. The century of tradition and great moments make it a very special place.

This past Saturday, Marion Bartoli and Sabine Lisicki played for the women's championship. All the top seeds were gone and neither of these ladies had ever won a grand slam tournament. It was a great opportunity for both players. Marion won. She played steadily and with confidence. And as well as Lisicki played during the tournament to reach the finals, even beating the #1 women's player, Serena Williams, the occasion of being in the finals of Wimbledon was too much for her.

But Marion Bartoli was a class act, and showed that she remembered what it was like to be in Lisicki's shoes. Bartoli was the runner-up to Venus Williams in 2007. It took her six long years to even reach another final. And she was determined not to blow her opportunity. But she had only kind words for Lisicki and encouraged her for future appearances at Wimbledon.

Then the best moment in sports, in my opinion, happened.

 Image from http://www.dailynews.com/sports/ci_23610659/marion-bartoli-wins-first-womens-wimbledon-title-over
After all of the pomp and circumstances of the trophy presentation and photographs, the two women walked off the court arm-in-arm, smiling, savoring their time on Centre Court at Wimbledon. Bartoli demonstrated that she didn't forget what it felt like to be runner-up. She was clearly basking in her own victory, in her own dream coming true, but she didn't forget, and she made sure Lisicki knew how special it was just to be there, right where they were, playing in the biggest grand slam tournament in the world. I hope we see these two women a lot in future tournaments, and that they always show the class they exhibited on Saturday.

Then came Sunday, and the men's final. The weight of an entire country was on Andy Murray's shoulders to win Wimbledon and become the first man from Great Britain to win their home tournament in 77 years. But he had to face the #1 player in the world, Novak Djokovic in order to do this.

Both men had been to the finals before. Novak was victorious in 2011. But Andy…. He was in tears in 2012, as the great Roger Federer beat him last year. But I have to believe those tears made yesterday's victory over Djokovic all the sweeter. Novak knew how sweet this was. But you know he was disappointed not to win. However, his on-court comments were full of congratulations to Andy and this accomplishment.

These men did not walk off the court together. Novak left the court fairly early… leaving the moment for Andy and for Great Britain. To me, that showed as much class as Bartoli did the day before. If you follow tennis, you know the moment was huge for Murray, and Novak understood that and left so Murray could bask in his victory. But Djokovic will be back. You know he will.

These are examples of respect, and for encouraging someone in their dreams.

My dream is to be a writer, a writer with several books published. It's a dream that takes hard work. These tennis players achieved their dreams by YEARS of hard work, training, hours and hours on the tennis court and in the gym.

I've watched as most of my friends have succeeded and had books published. I've hugged and shared with them the joy of receiving that phone call from an editor or agent, saying their book was accepted for publication. I've stood on the sidelines and watched their dreams come true.

And I've genuinely been happy for them. Yes, it stings a little, because I haven't yet achieved my dream.

But like Murray's tears from 2012 that made this year's victory all the more sweeter, my achievement will be sweet, and in God's timing. And maybe Sabine's tears will make her moment sweeter when it comes.

My time is coming. And while I'm on this journey (and let's not forget the importance of the journey, not just the destination), my friends, published or not, continue to encourage me in pursuit of my goals.

We can all take a lesson from tennis, from the respect and sportsmanship that was demonstrated over the weekend.

As a Christian, I hope my actions always demonstrate Christ's love to others, even when I don't understand what God is doing in my life.

So, tell me, are you encouraging someone else to dream big? Are you watching someone else's dreams come true, and celebrating with them even if you're still struggling with yours?

Photo courtesy of lifeshiftingseasons.com
Can you imagine the impact of this world if we all were encouragers and cheerleaders for each other?

I dare you to dream big, to cheer someone else on in their dreams, and let's watch what happens from there.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Game of Tennis and Respect

Most anyone who knows me, knows I'm a big fan of tennis. The grand slams are my favorites, although I watch as much as I can whenever I catch a tournament on TV. (And no, I really don't play much tennis. I'm just a spectator).

Right now, arguably the most prestigious of the grand slam tournaments is being played: Wimbledon. I've been watching tennis since Bjorn Borg was king of Wimbledon in the 70's. John McEnroe was coming on scene. Jimmy Connors was a crowd favorite, and in the women's game, there was the great rivalry between Martina Navratilova and Chrissie Evert.

This year's Wimbledon has been by far one of the most surprising I've ever watched. The top three seeds on the women's side are out. The draw is wide open for a new player to win the whole thing. On the men's side, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer lost early in the tournament. All the media had them slated for a big quarterfinal match up. But Rafa was gone in round one and Roger in round two.

At Roger's post-match press conference, he handled his loss with grace and class. He also said something that stuck with me. He talked about how the media already had him and Rafa in the quarterfinals, and now they were both out of the tournament. He told the press that they need to show more respect to the other players in the draw.
One of the reporters asked another question and mentioned the other players wanting more press coverage. Roger interrupted him and said not press, but respect.

Respect is getting difficult to find these days. It used to we could have a gentleman's debate. We could agree to disagree on issues (any issue) but still respect the other person. Now, it seems like if we disagree with someone, then we're "haters." Nothing could be farther from the truth.

I can disagree with your beliefs or lifestyle and still respect you, still care about you and still love you. You can disagree with how I live my life, but I hope you'll still show me respect as a person.

I think I love the game of tennis because at the end of the match, the competitors must shake hands. They must show each other sportsmanship and respect. Some players are better at doing that than others. But I like that the players can compete fiercely on the battlefield of the tennis court, leave everything out there, and still shake hands with their opponent at the end of the match.

Have we lost the ability to do that in day to day life? We may fight our battles, but do we show respect for the other side? If Christ tells us to love one another, then to me, that includes respecting everyone as people, whether you understand or agree with their beliefs or not.

How can the game of tennis teach us to respect each other? How can we translate this into our every day lives?