I am working my way through the study guide for Joyce Meyer’s book Seize the Day. This book and study guide has such a breadth and depth of knowledge in it, I feel like I could work my way through it five more times and get something new from it each time. If you are looking for a great way to grow in your Christian walk, I highly recommend reading the book and working the study guide!
There a lot of high points in this book, but my current favorite is a gem of wisdom that Joyce shares from John W. Gardner. (Mr. Gardner is the founding chairman of Common Cause, a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy.) Gardner said, “It’s a rare and high privilege to help people understand the difference they can make—not only in their own lives, but also in the lives of others, simply by giving of themselves.”
Then, Joyce shares that Gardner often tells of a cheerful old man who asked the question of just about every acquaintance he fell into conversation with: “What have you done that you believe in and you are proud of?”
This is the gem I am referring to. It can be found in chapter 13 in Seize the Day. It may, in fact, be one of the top highlights of the whole book for me. I LOVE this. It is infinitely better than asking someone, “What do you do for a living?” It gets to the heart of the matter and puts the emphasis on the person and what is important to them, NOT their job. (And, while a person’s job may be something they believe in and are proud of, those two things don’t necessarily overlap.)
The other day as I was working through this chapter of the study guide, I decided to post this question on Facebook to see what my friends would say. The responses I received are amazing! To date I have had 17 friends share what they are proud of.
One of my friends shared her answer, and then noted that she felt uncomfortable by saying it. I get that. It can be tough to toot our own horns. For some reason, especially for women, we have been taught that this is a bad thing. I disagree! I believe it is an important thing. A freeing thing. A self-liberating thing. We should all be proud of any good work we do. (Now, remember, you can go overboard with this. Then, it becomes annoying to others. Don’t do that. Just be aware of yourself.) I also happen to think that when we share our good works with others, we can be inspiring to others. Also, a great thing!
Since I got an overwhelming response to this one question on Facebook and it lifted my heart and spirit so greatly, I asked my friends if I could share their responses on my blog. All of them have graciously agreed! So, below, in the order that I received them, are the incredible things that my friends are doing that they are so rightly proud of:
“Raising amazing children.” ~ KeriAynn Strickler
“I’ve been a mother...it's been an incredibly humbling and all-consuming job.
I've built a website that offers good info and support about healthy living. And I've learned how to shoot on manual with a big girl camera!
I've created a comfortable, lovely home on a shoestring budget that is kind of timeless looking. I switch out curtains and slipcovers for the seasons.
I am a very good cook. I can make awesome biscuits, and love to make a great meal for family and friends.
And I feel like I'm just getting started with developing myself, as I'm starting into a new season leading up to "empty nest".” ~ Friend who wishes to be anonymous
“I've been a compassionate friend. I've also saved the lives of six cats.” ~ Robert McCloud
“I've supported the arts community in a complete and life changing way and was able to continue to support myself and my family. (This is the best post ever btw!)” ~ Kate Bidwell LaFoy
“Got married.” ~ Mark Alan Kimbel
“We have a cat that is 21 a half years old.” ~ TeeJay Geer
“I've been a Mom since 1997 and a CNA since 1998. Do a caregiver to many. Three of my earthly biological children, two I miscarried. One I donated his organs to the hospital where I delivered him and glad he was able to help another child. He was so tiny.” ~ Michaela Brown
“I'm a warrior for my 7 year old daughter, the voice for my girl who never felt the grass under her feet or the sunlight on her face so that people know she existed and was so loved, I've been gifted with amazing friendships which have stood the test of time, I've taught hundreds of students who in turn, have taught me.” ~ Jessica Landry
“I started my life over again and succeeded... and by "I", l mean myself and the entire network of people that I have surrounding me. Starting over got me closer to all of them and extended that network because of the people I've met through them. I take pride in their accomplishments and console their failures because they, graciously, have done the same for me.
I (along with those same people) am raising a fantastic kid.
I found the perfect partner (She's the biggest part of that network of people, by the way.)
I take a lot of pride in calling those people my friends.” ~ Cameron LaFoy
“Volunteering this summer at an inner-city center. Disrupting, amazing at the same time.” ~ Greg Moceri
“I got a Master's degree in Linguistics which was very difficult. I have traveled to over 30 countries and several of those with large groups of students on educational trips as well as a Fulbright trip to Hungary and the Czech Republic. I taught English in Russia for a summer and just finished my 10th year teaching when I wasn't even sure I would make it past 5.” ~ Natalie Thompson
“I married the boy I loved when we were young, even though we were advised not to. We had more kids than we "should have", and we chose to homeschool them for a myriad of reasons, yet I still am intentional about being an encouragement to my classroom teacher friends (public and private), as well as my friends who do not choose homeschooling. We have always taught our kids that people are more important than things, and we practice it. I have set boundaries in relationships to preserve self, while leaning into the relationships God has blessed me with, no matter how different we may be. I am a frugal queen and have saved my family so much money over the years. I teach kids about Jesus and loving others, and I empower adults and parents to minister to kids in ways they don't feel qualified to do so. I write sometimes. I speak in front of crowds, even though it terrifies me. I am honest and transparent with the joys and struggles of life so that I can be an encouragement to others. I lean on God because I know I am not enough on my own. I am intentional in where I choose to live and who we spend our time with because I want people of color to know that white people can be kind and loving, even though there are many that have not been that way. I listen really well.” ~ Jamie Peoples Stovall
“I went to UC Berkeley, studied Positive Psychology and the Science of Happiness - and then used the research to work with people who were in the end stages of their lives. It was the most meaningful work that I've ever done and will forever live IN me. ...so will those people!” ~ Lisa R. Kambel-Campbell
“I'm the advocate for my daughter who suffers with ADHD and Disruptive Mood Disregulatin Disorder. I find that God uses her most often to humble and teach me. I'm also very proud that I had the opportunity to live with and take care of my grandfather before he passed away. I wouldn't trade those years for anything.” ~ Niki Copeland Wilson
“Becoming a hypnotherapist was life changing. It not only helps my clients in amazing and powerful ways, but it both literally and metaphorically saved my own life.” ~ Stephanie C. Conkle
“I'm entering my 19th year of teaching (9 in public/going on 10 in private). I have a BFA in Theatre Performance and a Masters in Educational Leadership. I use both my education and performance degrees now because I still teach history full time and serve as the theatre director for our high school. I am married to an incredible man and we are raising two amazing daughters. I am passionate about my beliefs and I am a fierce friend.” ~ Brooke Brandon White
“Since my divorce, I have had six friends reach out to me for advice on attorneys or other divorce related information. I recommended something that I used when I was trying to save my marriage and I'm proud to say 5 of them are still married and thriving.” ~ Adam Vance
I don’t know about ya’ll, but I happen to think I have some of the most wonderful friends on the face of the earth. I am sure your friends are just as awesome. At our core, I truly believe that people are good. This is just some of the proof. Do yourself a favor and start asking your friends and family what they are proud of. I have a feeling you will be glad you did!
In conclusion, in Seize the Day, Joyce points out that the cheerful old man who asked this question, said that he didn’t really care how they answered. He just wanted to put the thought into their minds. He said that they should live their lives in such a way that they can have a good answer. Not a good answer for him, but for themselves. That is what’s important.
I couldn’t have said it better myself!
In keeping with my last blog post and slowing down, I wanted to hit on another aspect of this: being slow to anger and slow to speak. The Bible tells us in James 1:19-20 Understand, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry. For man’s anger does not promote the righteousness God [wishes and requires].
For some reason, as I have gotten older, I have realized that I am the opposite. I am quick to anger and quick to speak. And, if I am being honest, slow to hear. I am backwards! I am especially bad about this when it comes to being in certain situations with certain people. And, unfortunately for me, it is the same basic situation week after week. I feel like my life is Groundhog Day.
Obviously, I am missing something somewhere, right? God would not keep putting me in the same situation over and over and over again, just for the fun of it. Would He? Goodness, I hope not.
Typical me, I try and figure out what the problem is, because I want to fix it. The first thing I tend to do is look to other people and blame them. It couldn’t possibly be me, could it? No way!
I also overthink and overanalyze the situation to death. Unfortunately for me, this is my standard default. (Overthinking, that is.) The only conclusion I can draw is that, time after time, situation after situation, the only commonality is…well….me.
There--I said it. I admit it. The only thing I can figure out is that I am the problem.
Now, being the logical person I am, (at least that I think and hope I am), this means I need to change the way I think. What other choice is there? God has me in this same situation over and over for a reason, right? He must. So, there is something I am not learning, something I am not getting. It is like failing the same grade over and over. And, I am tired of it! I am ready to move on up to the next level for crying out loud!
Is this happening to you? Anyone? Anyone? Please say yes. I sure hope I am not alone. After all, misery loves company! (I know I do anyway.)
So, ok God, I am asking for some direction here. I need some guidance. Truly.
I read a post somewhere, more than a year ago, that I wrote down and come back to every now and then. I believe it was from Joel Osteen. He said something to the effect of, “I don’t like this job. These people are so negative. Nobody has a good attitude. Ask yourself, why do you think God put you there? They don’t need more light in bright places. This is an opportunity for you to shine.”
In other words, Be the Light.
This makes sense to me. It struck a chord with me. I mean, I wrote it down so I could refer to it. And, I actually do refer back to it. My problem is that I have a hard time “being the light.”
So, you are probably asking yourself, “what does this have to do with being slow to anger and slow to speak?” Well, I will tell you—everything! At least in my case.
I think that I have a hard time “being a light” because I keep finding myself in dark situations. And, these dark situations are fertile ground for the devil. And, as we all know, the devil loves to wreak havoc wherever and whenever he can. I know I can’t just blame the devil though. I am an adult and can take responsibility for myself and my thoughts and actions. This is where the slowing down part can come into play again.
I can easily get worked up. I let things get to me that I shouldn’t. I don’t know why I am this way, but I have been this way for a long time now. And, I hate it! (My hubby, Paul, often reminds me that I need to be like a duck and learn to let things roll off my back. And, I desperately do need to learn that. Maybe writing this blog post will help. When Paul texts me to be a duck, I reply back, “quack, quack’.)
There is something hard-wired into me that causes me to be quick to anger and often quick to speak when it comes to witnessing things I think are wrong. I get so aggravated and frustrated and I know I should just keep my mouth shut, but, alas, I don’t. Instead ugly thoughts pop into my mind and I spew ugly words out of my mouth. (However, I must say, there is just something so satisfying about getting stuff off your chest, especially if you are a girl.)
This isn’t to say that if I (or you) witness something wrong, I (or you) should not speak or do anything. On the contrary, if you see something wrong or inappropriate, I urge you to act and help if you can. However, most times, you can afford to slow down. Act rationally. We can consciously take a step back. We can take some deep breaths. We can count to five. We can remind ourselves that God does NOT want us to get angry or take offense.
As responsible adults, we can control our thoughts, actions, and words. God gives us this ability. We are in control—no one else. We can restrain ourselves because we have God’s grace. Isn’t that an amazing gift? With His help, we can manage our feelings of anger.
Now, I just need to get busy and focus on slowing down my anger, thoughts, and words. If I can train myself and learn to become someone who is slow to speak, slow to take offense, and slow to anger, then maybe, I can be that light God intends me to be.
And, then maybe, just maybe, I can move out of this vicious cycle that always find myself in. Maybe I can be that duck after all!
I am so glad you are here! I am Erica Strickland, a girl who loves God. My goal here is to simply share His love and light and any good thing that I come across.