A new vision

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

My spiritual mentor has told me this on numerous occasions. The saying proved true in my journey to finding my spiritual mentor, and it proved true when finding my career mentor, too.

467039_10151664152983185_896591402_oIn 2005, I attended the Arkansas Association of Colleges and Employers conference. In addition to meeting other fabulous speakers—people who would be key to my success and landmarks in my career journey—I met Samantha Hartley, Founder and President of Enlightened Marketing. Her story and vision inspired me. A few months later, after relocating to central Arkansas, I decided to go beyond the typical follow-up after a conference (a LinkedIn invitation and message stating how much I enjoyed her presentation) and contact her to invite her to lunch. She said yes.

I held back the first time we met even though I probably wanted to beg for assistance. I didn’t want to scare the poor woman off! I’m sure I still sounded like a wayward child (I was). I truly had no idea what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go in life. In addition, my personal life was in shambles. I could find no peace and stability in my career until I found personal and spiritual peace and stability; Samantha recognized this and even pointed this out at the time. Samantha offered some ideas and suggestions, but our initial meeting was more about getting to know one another, as it should have been.

Over the next few years, we kept in touch and met a few times face to face. Samantha’s guidance was crucial. My career goals ran the gamut. I was good at everything, highly adaptable, a quick study, and stuck at a certain salary range. I kept leaving jobs in hopes of greener grass, and finding similar stubble. I couldn’t figure out my missteps until one morning over pancakes when Samantha encouraged me to create what I call my vision card. I lacked vision—and I kept accepting positions that weren’t aligned with my passion, my values, or my goals. As soon as I fixed the problems that presented themselves, I became bored, and I moved on.

vision cardSamantha asked me to create a vision board. However, I’m not really into pictures as much as I am into words, and she said that was okay. So my board because a card, and when I pictured a big display of images, the images were just words. So I wrote down all the words I envisioned.

Something beautiful is happening in my life right now. On this journey of life, I’m finding that each time I look back at my vision card, my current position aligns even more closely with the words written on it.

I don’t believe in coincidences.

I believe this is a direct result of planned and thoughtful decision-making, of saying no to interviews, of listening to my gut, of stepping away from situations that feel wrong or incomplete and stepping closer to situations and people that feel right and that align more closely with my values and goals.

If Samantha were not in my life, and were not willing to thoughtfully consider each question I ask her before responding and provide such excellent mentorship—without asking anything in return, except that I give to others—I might still feel like an aimless soul rather than a purpose-driven woman.

Dear Rhonda

Dear Rhonda,

2013 year in review maggieThank you for helping me find my house. I resisted liking that house since it was more my ex-husband’s preference than mine. You might even say that I resented that darn house for a long, long time, actually. Slowly but surely, the longer I lived in it (particularly the longer I lived in it by myself), the more it grew on me. The house and I made our peace. I learned to love not only the house but the yard, the view from the front porch (thank God for the pasture and horses paid for by the neighbors!), and the woods behind my property. With lots of help, significant elbow grease, and minimal financial investment, I converted the house into a home.

Rhonda, thank you for introducing me to Cheryl and Henry Wilson. They became surrogate parents to me. I miss them so much, particularly this time of year when I just long to go home to their house and bake, bake, bake spicy pfefferneuse cookies with Cheryl. 252482_516930600632_6872391_n

Rhonda, when you offered me the opportunity to work for you as a sub-contractor six months after we closed on my house, doing odd jobs under the umbrella of real estate, I felt relieved and honored. The offer came in the nick of time. As my life mentor says, “God goes ahead and plans in love.” He certainly did that time. I was recently divorced and desperate for extra income with flexible hours. Working with you was much more classy and fun than serving drinks at the Underground Pub, and I gained experience in real estate for three years, picked your brain on a regular basis, and benefited under your leadership and guidance.

229694_506890022032_1308731_nRhonda, thank you for mentoring me and teaching me everything you could in every situation we encountered while working together. I never felt bossed around by you; I felt like a team member. I watched you open your own business. I learned how to be fearless and brave. I listened to you open and close deals while upholding high ethical standards. I observed you undergo difficult business and personal situations with grace and dignity.

I cannot even begin to list the lessons I learned from you in one measly letter. Thank you for going to lunch with me and going shopping with me and convincing me to serve on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters with you (not to mention the countless other non-profit service projects we tag-teamed on together!). It was refreshing to share my passion for non-profit fundraising and development with someone who approached volunteerism and fundraising from a business perspective. You helped me grow and develop my personal interests, weed out some of my potential career paths, and hone in on my real passion: writing, reading, and teaching these two things to others. 189672_502826380602_5699_n

I know that we don’t make or find time to talk over the phone or face to face now (shame on us!), and we live two hours away from one another, but I hope you know that you made a significant impact on my life. You helped shape me into who I am today.

Did you know that I actually LIKE who I am today, thanks to people like you? Did you know that I have direction in my life now, and that I absolutely love waking up every single day with the people in my house and going to work every day, thanks to people like you who chose to invest in my life? It’s true.

If it hadn’t been for people like you, Rhonda, I might still be floundering and trying to find my way. Thankfully, you cared enough to share your experience with me. You cared enough to share yourself with me; you shared your time with me, and that is a gift I will keep giving back to those I mentor and teach for the rest of my life.

Thank you, my friend.

I love you. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

Bethany

Dear World

*Today’s letter is written by fellow blogger and wonderful writer Toi Thomas.*

Dear World,

Sometimes life gets hard in ways that are difficult to explain. You look around to your support group, the people you have in your life like family and friends, for comfort but sometimes it’s not quite enough. You don’t want to come off as ungrateful or selfish, but sometimes it really doesn’t help your situation when your mom, or sister, your husband, or bestie tells you for the hundredth time that they love you and believe in you. Sometimes it takes a familiar stranger, an acquaintance, a work friend, a colleague, or a fellow club or group member to really get through to you… And when that happens, it changes your whole outlook.

I’m more than blessed to have the family and friends I have. They love me and support me, but there’s another group of people and few very special ones who have impacted my life, and I’d like to say thank you to them now. Thank you to all the people I’ve met online who have actually had conversations with me, not just liked a post or commented on a picture or shared a video. I’m grateful for making real true connections with people that last.

I’m grateful and blessed to have encountered open-minded people from diverse backgrounds who have agreed to disagree on certain matters and who choose to live in harmony with those who are different from them. These are the people who openly and peacefully express their opinions and then step aside so you may do the same.

I’m blessed to live in a country where I can believe what I want and still have the freedom to express myself as an individual and to make friends with people who do the same. I accept the fact that I may not be able to be best friends with everyone I encounter, but I can reach of level of respect that goes beyond common curtesy, to creativity, professionalism, and new ideals for friendship.

There have been many times when I’ve felt lost and disconnected from the people around me, in life and on the web, and in those moments I was blessed to have someone reach out to me. Thank you M.C.V. Egan for being who you are and making a difference in my life. Thank you Tricia Drammeh for being who you are and making a difference in my life. Thank you Chrystal Erickson for being who you are for more making a difference in my life.

Toi Thomas Nov 14Thank you Tori J. Jones for being the best sister I could have ever asked for. Thank you for being who you and for making a difference in my life. Your prayers, your guidance, and your example are more precious to me than gold.

I thank you, God, for all these encounters, opportunities, and people in my life; whether for a life time or a moment in time.

Love,

Toi

Dear Sabrina

*Today’s letter is written by one of my former spunky students. Thank you for adding spark to my life, Jessica!*

Dear Sabrina,

I have had five therapists in my lifetime from 2nd grade on. None of these people could get through to me until the 5th one. The 5th one was you. Something about you stuck out to me. Maybe it was because of your willingness to listen or your genuine want to help me and reach out. Honestly, I don’t know what it was, but what I do know is that I have not needed a therapist since December 2013, and I owe that all to you. Actually, no, I owe my whole life to you.

When I met you, I was in a bad place in my life. The therapist I went to a couple of months before basically blew me off and made me feel like I didn’t matter. She shooed me out of my second (and last) appointment that SHE scheduled and was LATE to because she had a meeting. Part of the reason I was going to a therapist in the first place was because I felt that nobody cared about me or what I was going through. I was lost and looking for some kind of direction in my life. That little incident pretty much proved me right. Not even my therapist cared about my life or whether I’d pull through or not. She only cared about herself.

After that, I kind of decided that maybe therapy wasn’t for me; after all, I’d had four different ones in my past, and none made me feel any better about myself or my future. Finally, I got to a point in my life where I REALLY needed someone to talk to. I felt I couldn’t talk to my family members because they wouldn’t understand. I talked to my best friend a lot, but she was getting tired of being the one to be unloaded on. Plus, in the relationship I was in, I was told to drop my best friend if I wanted to be with him. So, basically, I had no one. No friends, family, anyone.

You quickly became my friend as time progressed, though you could not be my “friend” because of your contract, but I knew otherwise. I always felt like you took a little more care with me than you did with your other clients. You can’t deny it. We spent three years together. You watched me grow as a person and saw me at my worst and still cared about me and my well being. I truly believe it was God that led me to you. He saw me struggling and knew just who could help me.

Ornament01You are an amazing therapist, and I would recommend you to anyone. You were the reason that I decided to become a therapist myself. I realized that I wanted to help people become all that they can be. Nobody should have to go through depression alone. All of that being said, I just wanted to let you know that I am so unbelievably grateful and thankful for you and your help. Without your selfless guidance, I would have never been able to pull myself out of the dirt and get back to the person I used to be, well, close to who I used to be. I love you more than you know, and I will never forget you.

Your Friend,

Jessica Nicol

P.S. When you look at Eeyore on your bookshelf, know that I’m thinking about you, too.

My leap of faith, part one

*Today’s post is part one in a two-part series by my friend LaTresha Woodruff-Johnson. I’m thankful God places inspiring, compassionate women like her in my life. Stay tuned this week for part two.*

I love the LORD; I am not afraid to say it.  In fact, I’ll take any opportunity to tell people that I love the LORD.  But when you say that to some, they ask, “why?”  I say things like, “because HE first loved me,” or “HE gave his only son that we might have life.”  But more importantly “because HIS grace and mercy is new every day, and HE has done so many things in my life; HE’s made a way out of no way.” 

I have so many stories of what HE’s done for me, how HE’s changed my life, but there is one in particular that I find myself telling people over and over and over again.   You see, it’s a timely and timeless story about my “Leap of Faith.” 

I have always sought the LORD’s guidance before making decisions, so when I started feeling my soul moving in a new direction or yearning for new direction, I thought to myself, “It’s time to leave the news business, put down my microphone, step away from the camera, the people/fans I’ve met in my 14 years as a reporter.”

LaTresha's last day as a reporter for Fox 16.

LaTresha’s last day as a reporter for Fox 16.

So I did what I do? I got on my knees and prayed to my heavenly FATHER.  I asked for guidance, I wanted to hear a clear word from HIM on what I should do.  I felt he was leading me to find something, a job allowing me to be more available to my husband, my church and my community.  I waited and waited and waited but heard nothing!  To me that meant it just wasn’t the time to walk away.  With that, I threw myself back into work. I changed my attitude and tackled each day head on; I started it by telling myself to, “Expect Good things,” and not to allow others to determine how I am going to feel today.  I took back that power.  Soon that burning desire to leave news reporting went away.

But GOD wasn’t done with me on this issue.  Two years later I got that desire in my soul that I was not where I needed to be.  I wrestled with it for a few weeks saying to myself, “I’ve gone through this before–it’ll pass.”  Well it didn’t, and I found myself on my knees one night praying to my Heavenly FATHER again.  But this time when I got up, there was a strange feeling that came over me.  A feeling of peace–my soul seemed to be at ease.  So I talked to my husband, and he supported my decision to resign from my reporting job.  That was April of 2010, but I didn’t have a new job. All I knew is that I had heard from the LORD, and I was following his will.  I ended up staying four more months because the news department was so short-staffed. Yes, I prayed about that, too, and the LORD moved me to stay and help out.

August 27, 2010, was a bittersweet day, bitter because I was leaving what I considered in 7th grade as my dream job, what I was meant to be, thought I’d retire from a big reporting/anchoring gig from CNN.  But it was sweet because I had faith that my GOD would supply all of my needs.  It was one of the happiest days of my life.  I did a great story, a child who was kidnapped but returned home safely.  What a happy ending to a great career; for me it was one of the happiest days of my life!

I gladly tackled this strange life of not constantly going and going from one end of the state to the next in one day, writing stories behind the eight ball and constantly being on alert.  Yes, my days were filled with sleep and thoughts of learning to cook, but they were just thoughts!  This all lasted about three weeks, and I was ready to get going.  See, as a reporter, I was always tackling numerous things at once, never an idle moment.   I started to get a little uneasy, and the LORD started dealing with me again.  I believed HE was saying, “LaTresha your idle time has come and gone; it’s time to get to work.”  By work I believed he meant, find a job, one that lets you help people, find time to volunteer, and honor Me through your works.

I ramped up my volunteering with one agency and became “a Friend” of two other non-profits.  While I started getting that feeling of fulfillment, my tank wasn’t quite on “F” so I started with Big Brothers Big Sisters and became a friend of Habitat for Humanity and Conway Cradle Care.  While I enjoyed being involved with these organizations, there was still something missing.  I could hear that sweet still voice of the Lord saying, “I want more for you. I want you to do more.”  So my job search kicked into HIGH gear.  I attacked the search ferociously!  I set my sights on what are called “Public Information Officer” positions.  I can’t tell you how many times as a reporter I interviewed Public Information Officers from various agencies and thought, “I could do that job with my eyes closed.” 

I applied for about 20 PIO positions; I had 5 interviews where I felt I had “knocked it out of the park!”  Slowly I started getting word that the positions had been filled.  Soon there was just one position left, and I thought, “This is the one.”  After all I had made it to the 3rd round of interviews. I didn’t even know there were 3rd rounds.  I just knew I had this one in the bag, so much so that I didn’t bother God with it anymore.  I remember the day that I got the call about the position, I had decided not to get up early and search the internet for jobs because I was so sure I was about to get this job.  The phone rang. I fumbled for it, cleared my throat, looked at the caller ID, and sure enough it was the hiring manager for the agency.  My heart leapt. I thought, “Here goes, about to enter the working world again,”  and I was excited.

You cannot imagine the heartbreak and devastation I felt when I heard the words, “We have offered the position to a more qualified candidate.”  It was all I could do not to start sobbing right there on the phone.  He went on to say things like, “You possess all the qualifications and would have done an excellent job but…”  And that’s the point I stopped listening.  I can’t even recall saying goodbye and hanging up the phone.  My pity party went on for the rest of the day.  I didn’t even get out of bed. 

It was only the next morning when I forced myself into the shower that I started thinking clearly.  Sitting in the shower I realized that I got ahead of myself.  When things looked like they were going in my favor I didn’t ask God if getting this particular job was His will.  I left him out of the equation.  He’d been there leading and guiding me through it all, but I decided I could handle it from here. When I put my hands on it, God took his hands off.  It was as if He was saying, “If you think you can do better than your Heavenly Father, go ahead give it a try, you don’t need me.”  I asked my heavenly father’s forgiveness and gave in to what I already knew–that He would take care of me no matter what.  I knew He didn’t bring me this far to leave me! 

So my journey continued. 

Riding the high horse

My life has consisted of moments when I chose to ride the proverbial high horse quite often–okay, periods of years, perhaps. I’ve always had the tendency to analyze and criticize to death–whether that be myself, other people, world philosophies, or literature. This tendency can, like almost all tendencies, be an asset or a defect. Many times, I allow my tendency to analyze and criticize to become a glaring defect, leading me to judge others and myself rather harshly.

I know I’m riding the high horse when:

a) I make sweeping judgmental statements–aloud, but more often, in my head–about individuals or groups of people. Example: “I don’t know why they act like that. I’m guessing it’s because of their little clique they belong to. They must not realize how pathetic it makes them seem.” Most of the time, these statements are heat-of-the-moment thoughts, and later I recognize that when I’m pointing the finger, three are pointing back at me. I also realize I’m riding my  high horse when I use words like “always” and “never” more often. “I cannot believe she did that. I would NEVER do that.” Ironically, many of the things I pledged to NEVER do are the exact things I have found myself doing. Talk about a humility check. The view from atop the high horse may be grand, but the distance from the top to the bottom is quite painful.

b) I can identify every single fault and hole in your philosophy, way of life, or action. I can point out three ways you could have done things differently to avoid the situation you’re in. I can identify a zillion reasons why you’re wrong. Yet I can’t find one thing erroneous about myself or my way of thinking. Sure, I may say, “I could be wrong,” but at the end of the day, I’m pretty sure I am right. When I’m willing to sacrifice living at peace with others and being a joyful person for the sake of being right and being recognized for being right, I’ve saddled up in the high horse again.

c) I find myself mulling over whatever I perceive as being wrong with you or the situation at hand. My thoughts turn so frequently to the matter at hand that I find myself obsessing over something I’m not even in control of–whether that be you, your actions, or some random circumstance. The only thing I have any control over is myself–and at times, that is shoddy at best. If I’m not constantly relinquishing the reins to God, then chances are, I’m riding my  high horse.

Today I’m grateful that, thanks to the guidance of other people and the quiet voice of God, I choose to step off my high horse more often than I choose to ride it. Today, I’m grateful to have the ability to choose to spend my time around people who recognize that they don’t belong on top of a high horse at all. Today, I’m grateful that rather than looking down my nose from atop my high horse, I’m more often looking around me and seeing that, despite all their flaws and quirks, I’m surrounded by beautiful people who capture the heart of God every day.