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500+ for 50 – day 45: don’t be swayed

A lot of people make the mistake of believing that a life born anew in faith is one that will be lived without any major trials or pain.  While an individual who has experienced a renewal in spirit during their personal growth transformation may experience more positive days in their future than they’ve had in their past, they will not live a life without stress and hardship.  In fact, in all likelihood more than ever before they will be positioned as a target of evil.  Because the devil hates to lose dominion over those that he has had the ability to deceive and manipulate in the past.  And he won’t relinquish his control without a fight.  Anyone searching to change the course of their lives and follow their faith should keep in mind that they will have to battle to protect their beliefs.  A choice to follow the Cross comes with tremendous responsibility.  If you’re going to live by the Spirit you will need to be committed, no matter how hard you are tempted by the evil one.

I’ve found in my own personal journey that it’s often when things have been going extremely well in my life that I am challenged to remain committed to what’s been instrumental in keeping me healthy mentally, physically, and spiritually.  The devil seems to have a way of picking his spots.  He tends to make an effort to prod me when I’ve momentarily let my guard down.  That’s why it’s so critical that I remain in tune with the habits that have led me to my positive outcomes.  If I take for granted the position that I find myself in as a result of my hard work, I will leave myself open and susceptible to a strike.  And sometimes it’s completely unintentional.  It could simply be that I’ve gone a few nights without sufficient rest or that I’ve allowed a recent occurrence in my life to sway my mindset in the direction of negativity.  No matter what the trigger, I find that I am tested in moments when I am less than one-hundred percent.  The devil preys on weakness, and he delights in opportunities to seize control when we are not at the top of our games.

Yesterday was a wonderful day for me, but it was an exhausting one at that.  I woke up early and wrote my blog and got in a run, and spent the rest of the day with my best friend, his fiancé, and my girlfriend enjoying the first football weekend in Chapel Hill.  We had a great time together, but admittedly, I could not seem to shake the feeling of exhaustion that I was carrying physically.  I just did my best to ignore what my body was telling me and continued to make the most of the day.  By the time that we got home from our game and settled in to watch the end of a few of the late evening contests on ABC and ESPN, I was absolutely dragging.  I was struggling mightily to keep my eyes open.

When I finally called it a night and retired to bed, I passed out almost immediately.  I tried my best to get through my prayers but I don’t recall making it very far with them.  I was beat.  But unfortunately, I wasn’t able to rest easy for long.  Because forty-five minutes or so into my sleep I awoke in a horrible panic attack.  It was the type of anxiety that I used to encounter in my sleep with regularity when I was heavily afflicted by my disorder.  I was sweating and shaking tremendously, and for a brief time, I felt as though I was dying.  It was terrifying.  And even though I was able to regain control of myself fairly quickly, I didn’t sleep well for the rest of the night.  I was too shaken by the experience to truly be at ease.

With last night’s experience, I could have headed in one of two directions this morning.  I could have chosen to reflect on my setback and fear what obstacles might now await me in the day ahead, allowing my mind to feel defeated and vulnerable.  Or I could have decided to view the incident for what it was, simply a hot iron poke from the devil seeking to steer me off course, and continued on with my day in confidence knowing that with perseverance I would prevail over his futile attempt.  I chose option two.  And that was an easy decision for me.  In the past, I would have struggled to make that choice.  I would have likely allowed my mind to be manipulated by fear and in doing so I would have only opened myself up to greater harm…harm that might potentially impact my ability to carry out God’s plan for my life.  But not today.  Today I was aware – today I was strong.  

Do not let the devil fool you.  Be aware of his schemes.  When you are weak, you will be tempted.  Do your best to evade the circumstances that might lead you into harm’s way.  But understand that you cannot avoid every poke and prod.  Sometimes you will just need to take it with a smile and keep moving forward in faith.  In doing so you will disarm him, and his ability to influence your life will diminish over time.  If you choose to follow the Lord, you will need to accept that you will become a marked target of the evil one.  But fear not, as the devil cannot do anything with those who refuse to be influenced by him.  When you live your life with Christ, your road will not always be smooth, but I assure you, it will be the most fulfilling journey that you could ever imagine.  Don’t allow yourself to be swayed by evil.  Stand firm, keep the faith, and know that just like a panic attack, it will pass quickly if you simply remain aware of what’s happening and keep moving forward with confidence.

May God Bless!

500+ for 50 – day 44: if today was my last day

There are a lot of uncertainties in this life.  But one thing is true.  There will be a day when each of our numbers will be called and we’ll depart from our lives in the body and move on to our final resting places.  We can’t escape death.  We can only make our best efforts to promote a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle during the time that we’ve been allotted on God’s green earth.  I believe that the way that we choose to spend our days is very important.  Our Creator called us to live with a purpose.  And the best way for us to fulfill our calling is to live embracing the gifts that we’ve been given and utilize our strengths to promote the well beings of others and love those around us.

If you’ve never encountered it personally, you’ve probably seen movies or videos of individuals on their death beds, calling family and friends to their side so that they can tell them all things that they’ve kept stored up in their hearts over the years.  It’s really sad for me to think that it could take the knowledge of one’s imminent passing to spur on the sharing of one’s true feelings.   We should be telling those that we love and care about how much we adore them every single day.  Not everyone will be fortunate enough to know when their day is approaching.  Only God knows when our time is up.  Today could be the day that we that we take our very last breath.  It could come without warning at any time. 

I know that it sounds cliché, but it truly is best to “live each day as if it’s your last.”  There are no guarantees that we will see tomorrow.  So we really need to embrace the life that we’ve been given and love without bounds.  No one wants to take their true feelings to the grave with them.

In the spirit of this post, I’ve decided to share five things that I would want to be certain that those around me knew if today was my last day of my life on earth:

  1. To my family, I love you unconditionally and I am forever thankful for your support… Things haven’t always been perfect in the Deibler household even though on the exterior we sure worked hard to make it appear that way.  But despite our flaws individually and as a unit, I am forever thankful for my Mom, Dad, and sister – I love you all and could have never learned to navigate life independently as an adult without you.  You guys have seen the best and the worst of me, and you’ve always supported what has made me happy.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for loving me.  I certainly haven’t always made it easy.
  2. To my girlfriend Kelly, I will never leave your side… It’s safe to say that my relationship with my girlfriend Kelly has been the most spiritually rooted, deeply committed bond that I’ve ever had with anyone in my life.  We came to each other somewhat broken, and the scars of our pasts have not always made love easy, but we’ve remained devoted to one another through thick and thin.  And that’s very special to me.  I know that you’d love for a ring, and I’d like for that, too.  Try to be patient with me, and don’t worry, because I will never leave you.  I love you.
  3. To my best friend Jamie, thank you for remaining true…We’ve known each other since we were little.  And even though sports were constantly driving us to compete with one another, we never let that get in the way of our bond.  Competition only seemed to make us stronger.  We benefitted mutually from the growth and development of our own personal talents and skills.  And we excelled as a team, not only in athletics, but in life as well.  No matter where we are, no matter what type of distance may separate us, or how many days may pass in between our conversations, you’ll always be my best friend.  I know that I can count on you.  Thank you for enduring a lifetime by my side with a smile on your face…I’ve enjoyed every moment that we’ve spent together.  I love you, bud.
  4. To my cat Dixie, thank you for being a loyal partner in life…  From the day that you were born, you never had it easy.  The volunteers at the SPCA where I adopted you told me that you had a home, but that your owner gave you up.  That must have been difficult.  I’m thankful that now you are forever a part of my home, no matter where that may be.  You drive me crazy at times with your constant energy and pacing, but I wouldn’t trade you for anything.  You’ve been loyal to me through some very difficult times.  And you’ve witnessed my battles with the darkness on a level that no one else has and you’ve never left my side…you’ve only offered me more love and comfort.  I’m sorry for the inconsistencies and heartaches your eyes have seen over the years.  I’m doing my best to make a better home for you today.  I love you, Dixer.
  5. To the world, lead with honesty, faith and love and embrace your uniqueness… I’ve learned a lot about life in the 31 years that I’ve spent living on this earth.  To truly capture the lessons that I was intended to receive I needed to make a lot of mistakes along the way.  But what I’ve grown to understand as a result of my life experience has been priceless.  I’ve learned that there is most certainly a God, and He is absolutely miraculous in nature.  I’ve learned that very little of what the masses deem as important has any significance.  Money and things will not make you happy.  True fulfillment comes from knowing the truth and living it with love in your heart.  When you lead with faith, anything is possible.  And always, always remember that God created you with His PERFECT hands.  So embrace who it is that you are and excel at being YOU – no one can do it better.

May God Bless!

500+ for 50 – day 43: wear your colors proudly

This morning I had to head in to downtown Chapel Hill and pay a visit to Franklin Street to run a quick errand.  As I walked up the block I noticed in the window of my favorite Tar Heel sports apparel store a sign recognizing today as National College Colors Day.  Across the U.S., alumni, fans, and students alike take to the streets on the first Friday of the collegiate school year proudly donning the colors of their respective colleges and universities.  It’s a fun tradition and it’s special to me because it’s a holiday (of sorts) that coincides with the beginning of football season.  What better way to get ready for Saturday gridiron action than to gather in numbers sporting your team’s colors a day in advance of kickoff?

I take a lot of proud in my affiliation with the University of North Carolina.  I wear my Carolina blue proudly and not just on national designated holidays or game days.  Carolina is a part of who I am.  And Chapel Hill is my home.  No matter how old I get, I can assure you that I will always have a drawer littered full of Tar Heel apparel to wear.  And I won’t save it for special occasions.  Putting on my team colors is as natural for me as reaching for my underwear and socks in the morning.  I’m not a Tar Heel part time…it’s who I am day in and day out.  I’ve bled blue since childhood when I had the opportunity to take my first drink from the Old Well.  You won’t need to know me personally to understand the passion that I have for my university as you’ll most certainly be able to recognize it from afar.

UNC has served as a major contributor to the development of the qualities that make me who I am.  But Carolina blue is not the only color that I wear proudly.  My affiliation to my university is something very special to me, but the character that I embody as an individual is what really carries the most weight in my life.  When you see me on the street, I intend to display for you an accurate representation of the person it is that I have become.  I want you to see my true colors.  I am a man who is flawed.  I’m a person who has failed far more times than he has won.  But I’m also a fighter.  I’m a dreamer.  And more than anything else, I’m a believer.  So when you look at me, try to see beyond my day’s chosen attire (be it Carolina blue or something different) to witness the true colors that I have to offer you.  I wear those colors every day, and they are what truly make me unique.

In life we often spend so much time residing in fear of judgment and criticism that we never allow ourselves to feel comfortable displaying who we are to the masses.  We wait for the perfect, non-threatening opportunity to appear and invite us to securely share the traits that make us the distinct human beings that we’ve become.  Not surprisingly however, that opportunity almost never presents itself.  And as a result the world never gets to see our true colors.  No one is going to designate a holiday to celebrate our own individualities.  And even if they did, how could we possibly be satisfied with celebrating the uniqueness that we cherish within ourselves just one lonesome day out of the entire year?  That’s not enough for me.  I want to celebrate who I am every day of my life. 

Don’t wait for a special invitation to wear your colors.  Display them proudly for the world to see no matter the occasion.  If you bleed blue like I do, bleed it all year long.  You don’t need an army of like-minded individuals to give you the blessing to embrace what it is that you’ve become.  Society can’t possibly broaden its color palette until you offer your unique flavor to the rainbow of life.

May God Bless

500+ for 50 – day 42: kickoff – the intersection of passion & purpose

Today marks the beginning of a new college football season.  I don’t know about you, but I awoke with a spring in my step this morning in anticipation of tonight’s match-ups.  Eight months of waiting finally comes to a close this evening.  There’s nothing like witnessing the toe meet the leather for the first time of the season during the opening kickoff.  It’s truly a special moment for players, coaches, and fans alike.  Because it’s the signal that an inspired battle is about to take place for the next sixty minutes that will serve to potentially direct the course of an entire season for both teams.  Opening kickoff is a rebirth of sorts.  It’s an opportunity for players to connect passion with purpose and stake their claim on a new pathway to success.

The opening kick of every game has always been an emotional moment for me, both as a player and as a fan.  I can remember back to my high school days feeling the butterflies build in my stomach as we approached the gate to head into the stadium.  By the time that we flipped the coin and lined up our special teams units, I was absolutely electric.  I would feel charged with so much eager anticipation that I could hardly handle it.  I simply could not wait to get out there and deliver (or take) that first hit so that I could reset my mind and focus on the task at hand.  And the same has been true for every contest that I’ve attended as a fan cheering on my Tar Heels in Kenan Stadium on Saturdays.  There have been moments when I’ve been so torqued up prior to kickoff that I’ve felt as though I was going to pass out in the stands.  In fact, I’m getting choked up now just thinking about it.  What an amazing rush of adrenaline!?

I think what makes the opening kick so special is the fact that it is in that very moment that passion intersects with purpose and opportunities for greatness are revealed.  As a player, you spend the entire offseason dreaming about the achievements awaiting you in the fall.  You train with great intensity to develop a mind and body capable of excelling at peak levels of performance throughout the course of a four month season.  You study film, you study your playbook, and you immerse yourself full-time in football so that when the season arrives there is no need to think about your reactions in live game situations…your movements and decisions simply become second nature.  When you prepare to take the field for the opening kick, all you really are focused on is that fire burning deep within you.  You know your assignments, and you know the game plan.  Now is the time when you turn up the intensity and get ready to lay it on your opponent.

As the kicker strikes the ball and sends it high into the sky above the gridiron below, passion turns to purpose.  It’s time to get down to business.  In a matter of seconds your adrenaline will calm and a new mindset will prevail…one that is focused on execution.  This is what you’ve trained for, the moment that the rubber meets the road.  It’s time to take all of the hard work done in preparation for this day and put it to good use out on the field.  Now is the time to seize control of the battle and embrace each and every opportunity for success that presents itself.  This is your chance to blaze a new trail.  It’s a fresh start – you are undefeated, and only you will impose the limits on how far you can go in this new season.

I’ve found that when I’ve connected passion with purpose in my life, actions taken in the direction my goals and commitments tend to feel virtually effortless.  And that’s the way that it is on the football field as well.  When toe meets leather, your desire to control and overthink things goes out the window.  You just move and react, losing yourself in the game.  Your preparation directs your course and your passion allows you to excel in critical moments when you are given the opportunity to create separation from your opponent.  It’s amazing how systematically the battle unfolds when inspired effort connects with defined objectives.  Success is inevitable when you pursue goals that make you feel alive and connect with the core of your being.

If we all spent our lives matching passionate drive to identifiable purposes, I have a feeling that we’d be very pleased with the eventual course of the season of life ahead of us. 

May God Bless!

500+ for 50 – day 41: find a way

There are going to be days when life will push you to what feels like your breaking point.  Some mornings you will struggle to pry your eyes open and get moving.  It could be the aches remaining from the day before that have you harnessed.  Or perhaps what has you off to a sluggish start is simply your anxious anticipation of the obstacles lying ahead of you.  Regardless of the primary influence causing us pain, some days just will not begin as we would like.  There are mornings when the sun will seem to rise only to awaken us to begin tackling the pile of adversity that’s been forming as we’ve rested.  And that can be difficult to handle.  We really have two choices.  We can turn off the alarm and pull the covers over our heads, choosing to save our troubles for another day, or we can remain committed to winning the next twenty-four hours and get up and begin taking action.

I’m not here to address option number one, because I’m not a proponent of hiding from life’s responsibilities.  I believe that God will never give us more than we can handle.  And I don’t expect for life to always put the wind at my back.  That’s just not realistic.  Some days we’re going to need to swim upstream to fulfill our commitments.  The destination does not change simply because we encounter less than favorable circumstances.  If we are committed to success then we must understand that certain days we may need to work a bit harder than others to keep ourselves on course.  Sometimes to win the fight we must simply be willing to commit to outlasting our opponent…it’s not nearly as complicated as we often make it.

Your actions taken on the days when you are tested will be what will define you moving forward.  Greatness is not as much about the final realization of your goal as it is about the process that you must commit to in order to get there.  It’s about remaining dedicated to doing everything that it takes on a daily basis to follow through with your vision, no matter what life throws at you.  That means ignoring pain, it means making time when your schedule is overbooked, and it means derailing every ounce of negativity seeking to lead you off track so that you can create positive outcomes for yourself each and every day.  Your grit, determination, and willingness to sacrifice comfort for growth will be the characteristics that will lead you to unprecedented new heights in life.

It’s easy to find excuses to tone back your commitment when the world knocks you over with adversity.  We’ve all had that internal conversation when we’ve bargained for a day off with our mind.  It can be very difficult not to listen.  Our past conditioning can be quite persuasive.  And sometimes it does truly present a seemingly justifiable case for its position.  But we cannot allow ourselves to get lost in the chatter of hesitancy and doubt.  We must simply take action.  These are the days when we will begin to separate ourselves from the masses.  These are the moments when we will have the opportunity to set a new, firm precedent for our future…one that states that we will not quit until the job gets done, no matter the circumstances.  These are the times when our true greatness will be revealed to the world.

So when your system sounds an alarm at the presence of pain, fear, doubts, and other distractions seeking to toss your day into chaos, respond with a resilient determination to keep heading in the direction of your dreams anyway.  Let the signals of distress be nothing more than a reminder of the opportunity that lies before you to showcase your true greatness.  And take pride in standing tall and fighting the battle when lesser individuals would have instead chosen to retreat back to comfort.  Champions remain focused and excel in all circumstances, not simply those that occur when the wind is at their backs.

May God Bless!

500+ for 50 – day 40: twenty-four hours at a time

Forty days ago I began my quest to contribute five hundred or more meaningful words to my blog each and every day for fifty consecutive days.  So after tonight, I will have completed eighty percent of my goal.  And I have to say that it feels pretty good to have reached such a milestone.  The fulfillment of my commitment is now most certainly within reach.  I can see the finish line off in the distance.  The ten days that follow will pass with ease.  And when it’s all said and done, I’m sure that I’ll feel sad to part ways with this journey.  But ultimately I know that I can keep on heading in whatever direction that I choose, and that’s very exciting.  The future is brighter for me than it’s ever been.

I’ve been approached by a number of people who have been unable to comprehend just how it is that I’ve been able to balance all of my other priorities and still find time to commit to this venture.  To be honest, it hasn’t always been easy.  I’ve had to take on quite a bit outside of my writing throughout the course of the last forty days.  My girlfriend and I just recently completed a move into a new condo in Chapel Hill.  And we’ve had our fair share of visitors this summer…my parents were in town for a weekend at the onset of this project, and my girlfriend’s parents were also here for five days just a couple of weeks later.  This weekend will be no different…my best friend and his fiancé will be spending the first UNC football weekend with us in our new place.  And I couldn’t be more excited for their arrival.  My writing will get done.  I will not break my commitment.  And if it means early mornings or late nights, then so be it.  I will see this through to its completion.

I believe that most people can relate to the busyness of life that has been so characteristic of my last forty days.  It’s our demanding and unpredictable schedules that make committing to ventures like these so intimidating.  Many people will tell you that they’d love to have the time to follow through with something meaningful on a regular basis, but that with their current schedule it’s simply not possible.  The reality is if you’re waiting until the day that you have enough time available to get started you might as well get comfortable, because you’re going to be waiting for a long, long time.  Life is not able to offer you more than your allotment of twenty four hours each day.  So you’re going to need to make time.  And that will require prioritizing.  It will mean cutting out the things that are wasteful.  If you wish to create opportunities to develop your talents and skills on a regular basis, you will need to be disciplined in your efforts, skillful in time management, and relentlessly committed to your pursuits.

Too often in life rather than taking action we instead sit idle contemplating the difficulty of the tasks that lie ahead of us.  And in doing so, we totally disarm our efforts.  We allow our doubts and anxieties about the process to discourage us, and rather than give ourselves the opportunity to fail, we quit before we even get started.  That’s why it’s critical that we restructure the way that we envision the demanding journey lying ahead.  If we focus on the monumental task that it will be to, for instance write five hundred or more words for fifty consecutive days, we’ll be sure to feel overwhelmed.  Instead we need to break it down into parts.  In my particular case, that involves visualizing how it is that I will find the time and inspiration to write today’s blog…not tomorrow’s or any day after’s.

Several years ago I remember hearing Chip Kelly, now the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and at that time the head coach of the Oregon Ducks make a statement about the motivational mantra he used with his team throughout a very successful season to keep them focused and on track with their lofty pursuits.  The words that he used were “win today”…simple but profound.  As a goal seeker with significant aspirations for my future, I found Coach Kelly’s slogan to be a very powerful visualization strategy and I sought to immediately put it into practice in my own life.  So I began making every effort to win the day with my sights locked in on the ultimate sense of achievement that I would feel when I was able to finally reach my desired milestones.  And slowly but surely, I developed a grit and tenacity within me that was unbreakable.  I grew to understand that I could routinely win the twenty four hours in front of me if I simply summoned the will to dig deep and make it happen.  Day by day, by getting the best of every twenty four hours given to me, I knew that would undoubtedly inch my way to my final destination.

Success is about commitment.  If you remain committed to the realization of your dreams, you will reach them in time.  But you can’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed by an apprehensive view of the arduous journey ahead.  You must simply take it one day at a time with resolute determination to win the battles before you and then allow yourself to rest well in preparation for the inevitable challenges to be presented tomorrow.  Don’t overthink things.  Just keep moving and remain committed to taking action no matter how challenging life may be for you tomorrow.  It’s your duty to win the day, no matter what it offers you.  If you stay committed to that principle, before you know it, you will have trained your mind and body to find victory in any circumstance.  And the tasks that originally seemed so daunting will become effortless for you to complete with regularity. 

Eighty percent sure feels like a wonderful milestone on this present journey of mine.  By I know in my heart that day forty is just another day.  So tomorrow I will go out and win day forty-one, because I understand that that’s what it is going to take to be successful.  And I know that when this journey ends, I’ll still be ready to push it again on day fifty-one.  Because all that I have are the twenty four hours that lie before me.  And I hope to make the most of them every day until the moment of my last breath.  I hope that you will choose the same for your life.

May God Bless!

500+ for 50 – day 39: one in 50 million

Inside of each and every one of us lies a dream.  And while there are many of us who are blessed to know the nature of our callings, there remain countless others still unaware of their greatest inspiration.  No matter whether we’ve had the opportunity to fully visualize the tremendous feats lying ahead of us or not, our most significant aspirations are most certainly a part of our make-up.  They were planted deep within our souls by our Creator when we were given life.  And when we make an investment in the truth and in the development of our God given purpose, our most meaningful dreams will undoubtedly manifest themselves in our minds. 

You see each of us has the potential to contribute greatly to the advancement of humanity.  No matter our skin color, no matter our birthplace, no matter the city or neighborhood that we were raised in nor the difficulties that we encountered in the early stages of our development…WE WERE ALL GIVEN LIFE FOR A VERY REAL REASON.  It’s hard to pose an argument against this.  The nature of conception is an absolute miracle in itself.  And to think that we were all chosen as one of 50 million sperm cells to be the basis of a new life….wow.  That’s absolutely amazing, isn’t it?  Someone upstairs sure must have thought that we were all pretty special.  So it’s important that we always recognize that, too.

I spent the better part of my first thirty years never really understanding how I fit into God’s plan.  To be honest, for most of that time I didn’t really care.  I was governed by selfish desires.  And I think that’s probably the reason that I felt so lost.  I was never that kid growing up who knew that he was going to be a doctor or a fireman.  I didn’t have any real direction.  I left college with a degree in History and began seeking a career that would offer me the best opportunity to make money quickly.  Because to me, that’s what was most important…get ahead, accumulate things, live the dream.  But those desires weren’t characteristic of the dream that had been planted in my heart.  Whether I had things or didn’t, whether I was loaded or broke, I never felt fulfilled living the life that I came to know chasing worldly pursuits.  And as a result I felt very conflicted inside.  It was as though life was trying to mold me into something that I was not.  And that made me feel very resentful.

After multiple bouts of heartache and more trials and tribulations throughout my twenties than most people will encounter in an entire lifetime, I finally hit my bottom.  And when I reached that breaking point, I turned to God to rescue me and offer me His guidance.  Soon after, my dream manifested.  And it’s been taking shape within me ever since.  I have admittedly thoughtlessly steered my focus away from my dreams from time to time, because honestly the world hasn’t stopped making every effort possible to influence me to head in other directions.  But ultimately, I’ve always returned.  Because I know in my heart and soul that the aspirations that have been revealed to me are critical to my fulfillment, and they’re also critical to the advancement of humanity.  So I cannot let go of my dream, no matter how difficult it may be at times to hold onto.  I know that I’ve been called to visualize my purpose for a very real reason, and I believe that God will bring my dreams to pass in this life, because that’s why He chose me, one out of 50 million, to take my first breath here on His green earth in the first place.

The tragedy of this life is that very few people remain committed to defining and pursuing their true callings.  Many of us simply float around for an entire lifetime as I did in my first thirty years, cashing paychecks, keeping busy, and following a program.  Never mind that we feel completely unfulfilled in what’s become our routine way of living.  “That’s just life,” we say as we begin to rationalize a subpar existence.  Before we know it, we’ve grown old and gray. And as things begin to slow down we finally have the time to look back on our achievements and the overall direction of the course of our lives.  Far too often, our conversations lead with “I wish I had…when I was younger” or “what if I had pursued…?”

That’s a scary way to die, and one that I hope that I never have to encounter.  I want to be able to rest easy in my final days knowing that I turned over every stone and gave absolutely everything that I had to the pursuit of my purpose.  I don’t want to sit back and remember all of the gifts that God has given me along with the dream that He put in my heart only to state that I was always too busy or too intimidated to ever develop my talents and skills and pursue my greatest aspiration.  How can I say that I ever really lived if I was never willing to invest in what He called me here for in the first place?  I don’t want to go to my grave feeling unfulfilled, knowing that I left the best of me hidden behind a distracted life.  What if God had planned for me to live a life that would change the world forever?

Imagine the society that we’d live in if everyone had the courage to believe in their purpose and follow the dreams planted within their soul.  Do you have any idea what we’re leaving on the table each and every day when we settle?  Don’t allow your ideas, your skills, your talents, and your abilities to die with you.  You’ve been called to greater service.  You’re one in 50 million – NO ONE was created like you.  And there is a very real purpose behind what it is that makes you unique.  There’s a very real dream within you waiting to take root in your mind.  And there’s a very real God watching from above and eagerly hoping to guide you to the fulfillment of the miraculous life that you’ve been given.  After all, it is He who called you.  So live it for Him before it’s too late…the world will thank you for it.

May God Bless!

500+ for 50 – day 38: scaling mountains

In life we tend to spend a whole lot of time focusing on the mountains that lie before us.  I can assure you that it will not be uncommon for you to find yourself in a conversation with someone who has little more to share than the agony that they feel as a result of their seemingly never-ending to-do list.  People like to be able to vent about their circumstances.  That’s natural, and we need to be able to accept that and forgive it.  But we also need to be able to recognize what’s happening on a deeper level when a person chooses to focus their attention on their obstacles, rather than on the attainment of their eventual success.  Whatever we give our attention and feeling to in this life is what we are going to attract more of to our world.  So we need to be careful to train our minds to approach life from a more optimistic point of view.  It’s critical that we learn to tame our tongues.  If we desire positive outcomes, we must always lead with a positive mind and a positive mouth.

When you’ve spent your entire life conditioning your mind to respond to the adverse circumstances and events that arise in a negative way, it can be a very challenging task to abandon those limiting ways of thinking so that you can set yourself up for more rewarding outcomes moving forward.  I know this to be true, as I’ve lived it myself.  It’s hard to dispose of deep rooted mental conditioning, no matter how badly we desire change.  But it is absolutely critical that we make a determined effort to shift our focus and lead with a more optimistic view if we ever want to embrace anything more fruitful in our future.

You’ve got to envision your mind and your mouth as you would the world’s most powerful magnet.  Whatever originates in your mind and flows from your mouth is what is going to be attracted back to you.  So if you focus your conversation on a never-ending to-do list, you’re going to likely always feel as though you have a million things on your plate that are constantly overwhelming you.  If you direct your attention towards fear, your anxieties will inevitably dictate the decisions in your life, no matter how badly you desire to allow your faith to lead the way.  If you involve yourself with the discouraging feelings associated with debt or on lack, you will never see your way to prosperity.  The bottom line is that life is going to present its mountains.  And if you spend all of your time and energy staring up at them in awe and frightfully avoiding the climb, you will never see your way to the peaks.

Your climb begins the second that you first assess the obstacles before you.  It’s in that very moment that your greatest opportunity lies.  You have the ability to lead your thinking and your actions in one of two ways.  You can either revert to your past conditioning and visualize the journey as long, arduous, and perhaps an impossible feat…OR you can choose to take action immediately, focusing your mind on the powerful feeling of fulfillment that you will receive as you stand atop the pinnacle and look back on the trek behind you.  If you ever wish to excel at satisfying your commitments and achieving all that you desire in life, I encourage you to choose option number two.  Spend not one wasteful second giving any energy to the mountains before you. Visualize success, and begin taking action in faith. 

One thing that I’ve learned since reconnecting with my faith several years ago is that God is often going to seek our willing participation in order to make extraordinary things happen in our lives.  More than anything else, He is going to request our presence and our surrender to His will.  In surrendering to Him we must restrain our worldly ways of thinking and learn to tame our ruthless tongues.  We must begin to see things by His vision, not by our own sight or by the direction of the masses.  And that involves perceiving life’s obstacles in a far different way than what we’ve been used to.  We need to learn to approach the mountains that lie before us with unwavering faith in His ability to lead us to the summit.  God does not want us to get bogged down at the onset of our journey feeling overwhelmed with stress, anxiety, and doubts about the climb.  He simply wants us to take action with resolute determination and trust in His willingness to see it through.  Because when we follow His direction, life becomes much less stressful and far more fulfilling.

Don’t allow yourself to be limited by past conditioning and by the words of an untamed tongue.  Start retraining your brain to lead with optimism and faith so that you are able to attract like a magnet God’s amazing grace to your life.  It will make your ascent to the top of the mountain feel virtually effortless.  And instead of nagging about the burden of your last climb, you’ll find yourself eagerly promoting your desire to seek out your next summit to scale.

May God Bless!

500+ for 50 – day 37: the 7 essentials of my carry-on suitcase

I’ve had the opportunity to travel to nearly all parts of the country at one time or another throughout the past seven years of my career as a remote based national salesperson.  And that’s been an absolutely wonderful experience for me.  The healthy side of my persona has always loved the freedom and adventure associated with travel.  When I’m fearful to board a plane or take a long road trip in a car, that’s usually an indicator that something in my life is seriously off track.  Because deep down I really do love to involve myself in as many new experiences as possible in life.  And that’s often best accomplished through travel, whether it be for personal or professional reasons.

As an individual with an anxiety disorder, I’ve spent more time than most planning the contents of my carry-on suitcase.  It’s important never to take things for granted when you’re dealing with mental health related issues.  To maintain a healthy mindset and to function optimally it’s important to remain committed to the habits that promote a healthy well-being.  You can’t simply sacrifice those habits for your temporary change of scenery or the more demanding schedule that you may be facing.  You must be committed to what works for you 100% of the time.  There is no room to slack in lesser known settings.  Maintaining a healthy mind and body is a full time gig. 

A person’s luggage make-up is normally dictated by the specific needs of their trip.  But I’ve compiled a list of essentials that my baggage will hold no matter the destination in sight.

Here are 7 items that are sure to be in my carry-on suitcase at all times:

  1. The Bible

Number one on the list because it’s number one in my heart.  My faith is what makes any ounce of travel that I do possible.  I have directed my focus to God to aid my efforts to overcome my anxieties and He has helped me time and time again.  The Bible is a visual reminder and representation of my relationship with Him.  I like to hold it in my hands and say a quick prayer before heading out onto the runway.  And I also enjoy reading some of my favorite selections of Scripture in moments when I anticipate that I may be tested by my mind.  It provides me with a peace that I cannot find through any other outlet.  I know that God is with me at all times, and the presence of my Bible is a visual reminder of that.

  1. Running shoes

Admittedly, I do not utilize them with the frequency that I should on every trip.  But no matter the burden that they are to carry in a very tightly packed carry-on, they are a priority that I try never to overlook.  Running has been a tremendous resource for me in my battle with anxiety.  When I’m running with regularity, generally things are pretty stable in my mind and body.  Sometimes the best way to enjoy a vacation is to start the morning with a run.  And often it’s the best way to calm down in the evening back at the hotel after a day filled with travel and meetings.  It can also be an excellent way to experience the sights and sounds of a new city.  I want to always provide myself with the option to get my feet moving, no matter where it is that I may be.

  1. Calming Music

Music can offer tremendous benefits to the mind.  I’ve found calming, instrumental music from groups like Explosions in the Sky and The Album Leaf to be very helpful in allowing me to channel my focus towards a positive place.  When I’m listening to such music, I find that my heart rate calms and I am able to gather my thoughts more effectively.  It serves as an excellent tool for meditation and prayer.  And music is often the inspiration behind some of my best writing.

  1. An Inspiring Book On Tape

I’m a big fan of YouTube because I love listening to motivational personalities deliver profound speeches that empower others and inspire greatness.  But on an airplane, I often don’t always have the internet access necessary to allow me to surf the web effectively for my favorite speakers.  So I like to travel prepared with a few of my inspired mentors housed in my library on my iPad.  You can wind up wasting a lot of time traveling.  So why not learn something new instead of simply staring at the back of the seat in front of you for the next four hours?  It makes sense to seek inspiration whenever time permits.  And on a long flight, all that you really have is time to burn.

  1. A Tablet/Journal for Writing

There is no better trigger for inspiration than a little bit of travel.  Have you ever gazed out the window at 30,000 feet?  It’s pretty amazing.  I have found that lots of great thoughts tend to come to me when I’m traveling.  Perhaps it’s because when I’m high in the sky and less attached to the worldliness below that I tend to be more open to free thinking?  No matter the reason, I always carry my journal in my carry-on so that I can capture any inspired thoughts that arise in the sky or on the ground below at my destination.  Many of my best blog ideas were developed far from home as a result of my opportunities to travel.

  1. A Healthy Snack

It always amazes me how the McDonald’s at any airport terminal tends to be the busiest of any vendor throughout the concourse.  I’m not here to judge anyone who loads up on a value meal before their flight, but I simply cannot eat that way.  To maintain my maximum efficiency both mentally and physically, I need to remain committed to a healthy diet when I’m on the road.  The first thing that I do once I clear security is grab a liter of Smart Water and generally a banana and/or fruit & nut bar.  Those items will give me the vital energy that I need to carry me through to my final destination.  And they won’t do me any harm in the process.

  1. GPS/iPhone

Nowadays, most of us have a GPS available in our smartphones.  This is perhaps the greatest resource for any regular traveler.  I use the Maps app on my iPhone to get me everywhere.  Rental car to hotel, to meeting, to dinner in the evening – it’s essential.  And it’s best when utilized in combination with some of the other great apps out there to support tourists and newbies seeking dining options and things to do in the area around their basecamp.  I’m a big fan of experiencing the culture of the place that I’m visiting.  So I like to explore with Yelp and Trip Advisor.  And sometimes I just enjoy heading out on a long sightseeing walk with no major destination in mind.  The GPS provides me with the freedom to do so without ever worrying about getting lost.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed my list of travel essentials.  What’s vital to the make-up of your carry-on?  No matter the items you choose, just be sure that they will fit in the overhead compartment or under the seatback in front of you…no one wants to have to gate check 🙂

May God Bless!

500+ for 50 – day 36: seeing the light

It’s Friday, the sun is shining bright here in North Carolina, and I could not be more thankful to be alive.  Today I woke up in a comfortable bed next to the love of my life feeling healthy and ready to take on the world.  Sure, it’s been a long week and I could very easily allow myself to groan with the leftover aches from a physically and mentally demanding schedule that’s behind me.  But I’d rather choose to be grateful for those experiences instead.  What a gift it is to be in a position to take on all that life chooses to throw at you.  What a blessing it is to have a roof over my head, to have nourishing food to eat and clean water to drink and bathe with every single day of my life.  My heart is full, and I lack nothing.

I can recall memories of darker periods in my life when I was blinded by fear, anger, sadness, and resentment…times when I was unable to rise with any appreciation for the new day ahead whatsoever.  It pains me to think of how selfish I became in those moments.  I remember when I was living in California during my sophomore year of college.  I was facing some of the most dreadful anxiety and panic that I had ever encountered.  My life was spiraling quickly out of control.  And I hated the thought of tackling each new day ahead.  Southern California is an area of the country that is fortunate to receive a lot of sunshine, and I used to curse the beams of radiant light that would pierce through the panes of the sliding glass door in my apartment each morning.  I didn’t want to see the light.  I only wanted to stay in bed and sleep the day away.  I prayed for rain.  Living was not something I embraced but rather it was something that I feared.  I found it very difficult to be thankful for a life that was seemingly causing me so much pain.

When you live a life ridden with fear, you learn to adapt to the physical symptoms that you begin to embody as a result of your persistent anxiety.  One of the more common complaints of anxiety sufferers is their sensitivity to light.  When a person’s fight or flight response is triggered and adrenaline begins pumping rapidly through the bloodstream, the individual’s pupils will dilate to allow the mind to react abruptly in those moments of conflict.  Most people respond accordingly to the perceived threat, and then their senses calm so that they are able to restore themselves to a more even plane.  But for individuals like me who suffer with severe panic and anxiety, we remain on high alert with great regularity.  So it’s not really a shocker that I was not a proponent of the sunshine during those trying times in my life in California. 

The sun was never a soothing sight for me when anxiety was assuming control of my world.  Even if I was feeling more stable heading into the day, if had to look directly into the sun during my ride to class, I’d begin to feel the panic well up within me.  I couldn’t live without my sunglasses serving to temper the radiance coming from the sky above.  Over time it was as though my body had grown accustomed to reacting with fear to any light that presented itself.  The sun became a trigger for my panic disorder.  I remember feeling like I was allergic to light at times.  It created such a threatening environment for me.  Yet it was something that I had always appreciated prior to the day that fear began to take over my life.

Light and darkness are two terms used symbolically throughout Scripture to depict the battle between good and evil.  You’ve probably heard people say before “step out of the darkness and into the light”.  In other words, rid yourself of your sinful ways, seek forgiveness, and live your life according to God’s calling for you.  I understand well enough now that there truly is a war being waged between darkness and light.  The darkness embodies feelings of lack, anger, resentment, pain, and sadness while the light is characterized by the emotions of gratitude, joy, hope, grace, and opportunity.  When you become afflicted mentally, it can be very difficult to live in the light.  You may feel that you are almost incapable of handling it, and the darkness will beckon you to remain in the comfort of your misery forever.  You simply can’t serve two masters.  So if you’ve chosen to cater to the needs of your addiction or your affliction, you will likely resent the presence of any light calling you to the window. 

Many people will fight determinedly to remain in the darkness just so that they never need to address the light that so desperately desires to direct them towards a more fruitful, healthier approach to life.  I know this to be true, because I was one of those individuals.  Although I was struggling mightily, I refused to turn to the radiant skies above for any guidance or direction.  My soul had been corrupted by darkness, and the evil that had taken root simply did not want to let me go.  My eyes were not prepared to see the light as they were too sensitive to handle it.  I had spent my days isolated in the darkness for far too long.

But thankfully, as I began to form a deeper relationship with my Creator, as I began to take responsibility for my life, to seek forgiveness for the ways of my past, and to surrender my future to Him I began to be able to better handle the beams that beckoned me.  And in time, I was able to step fully into the light with arms AND eyes wide open.  That’s the moment that my life truly began its transformation.

Today, radiant sunshine is no longer a trigger for fear within me but rather it’s a symbol of my life’s renewal through Christ.  When I see the light peak through my window each morning, I’m reminded to be thankful for how incredibly far that I’ve come.  Now that my eyes can see the beauty of all that I had overlooked in the past, I hope that I never return to the darkness again.  It’s truly a joy to live in the light. 

May God Bless!