Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015: Joy

As 2015 comes to a close, I love reflecting on my year through the lens of the one word I chose for the past year.  At the beginning of this year, I chose the word Joy.  This past year has been a year full of joy, even in the midst of not-so-joyful circumstances.

In March, I spoke at our church's annual women's conference on Joy.  I learned much more in preparing for this opportunity than I'm sure anyone else gleaned from my teaching.  As I focused on the story of Nehemiah and the words of Ezra reminding the people that "the joy of the Lord is my strength" I learned that joy is there on the mountaintops and joy is there in the valleys.  Why?  Because the Lord is with me.  Though I may have known that in my head, really immersing myself in that truth really stuck with me.  I love teaching women and I love opportunities to speak and I hope that the words I shared made the same impact on the ladies in attendance as they had on me.

The end of June brought the closing of the last book in the pursuit of my MBA.  After two years, I was done.  Finished.  Complete!  I was ecstatic!  For the first time in two years I wasn't balancing work, church and school and having some resemblance of a social life.  Let's just say that I've been a reading fiend since July 1, and not of the textbook variety.  When I started my MBA, it was just a few weeks after my Dad passed away.  The journey took on a different perspective as I pursued this degree not only for my future career growth, but because Dad knew I was going back to school and was so proud.  On days when I thought I couldn't read one more page about business strategy or economics, I would remember my Dad.  My hero who never went to college and earned his high school education by taking the GED.  Yet, he was one of the smartest men I ever knew.  This was a joyful, albeit exhausting, journey.

In September, I celebrated the culmination of my year of Golden Jubilee.  You see, this was the year I turned the big 5-0 and I prefer to call it "Golden Jubilee" than hitting the half century mark.  I am blessed with so many wonderful friends.    The celebrations were plentiful.  If I was honest, I wasn't really keen on this birthday.  I did accomplish my Master's by 50, but you always reflect on what you haven't done, not what you have accomplished.  But, God is so faithful and I look forward to 50 more years (or however many the Lord blesses me with) to conquer new challenges and reach for my next milestone.  

Lest you think the year was all lollipops and unicorns, there were some sad times as well.  Many of my close friends lost loved ones suddenly or after long illnesses.  Friends faced serious health issues. Work changes abounded.  But that is the part about this year's word - Joy.  Through all of those experiences, I still found joy.  Granted, some of these didn't impact me personally, but in many cases, the losses just brought back the memories of the past losses in my life.  Joy was there.  And it all goes back to the Scripture in Nehemiah...."the joy of the Lord is my strength."  The Lord is my joy and my strength.  Without Him, life is desperately hopeless.  

It's been a great year, full of joy.  Even amidst the darker times.  As I reflect on the year, I am grateful for His mercy and grace.  As I look forward to 2016, and meditate on my next word, I know that my word for the upcoming year will be rooted in the foundation of joy.  Stay tuned for the big reveal!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Good News at Christmas

Tis the season for holiday cheer and mayhem.  And the real meaning of Christmas - the birth of Jesus.  But amidst all the chaos and cacophony, the good news of Christmas gets lost.  More than that, our news feeds are replete with negative news from all over our city, country and world.  It can be quite a downer when I'm trying to feel all jolly, and Ho-ho-ho like.  But the last few days, I've experienced some things that have warmed my heart amidst the negativity.

Last Friday morning, my day started off with a group Facebook message from one of my high school classmates.  She had observed another classmate of ours posting something the night before about feeling suicidal.  Sadly, I've not talked or heard from this classmate since high school.  Apparently her life has turned very difficult.  Her husband left her, she is addicted to drugs, and her son was taken away from her on Thursday.  As high school classmates, we all rallied together to reach out to her, encourage her and pray for her.  We banded together to donate money to buy Christmas gifts for her son, and are seeking out resources in the area to help her, especially a church.  

The coolest thing about this is how our classmates mobilized.  Social media was used for good.  We were able to reach people near and far, even for a classmate who was struggling and lives across the country from most of us.  People didn't hesitate to give money to help provide Christmas.  Even today, plans are being made to go shopping and we're getting closer to more resources to help her.  Maybe the most amazing thing is this.  We all graduated high school in 1983....32 years ago.  The bond we have transcends time.  

Yesterday morning at work I experienced the second "feel good" event.  One of my employees had noticed a man walking around the parking lot with his dog.  He seemed disoriented.  We have a lot of dog walkers from the area but this guy just didn't seem right.  Two of my male employees went out to check on him.  They discovered he was special needs, and seemed lost, not being able to find his house.  Peter and Jon then called the non-emergency police line and explained the situation and the police said they'd come and make sure they got him home.  The guy couldn't tell them where he lived, and only the first name of his parents.  Peter got ingenious and took the phone number on the dog's tags, Googled it, and did a reverse lookup on the address.  Jon got water for the guy and his dog, and the dog didn't drink any water, which was a good sign they hadn't been out too long.  When the police got there, the work was done and all they had to do was transport the guy and his dog home.

I always say my team rocks, but yesterday, they truly hit it out of the park.  They were alert to a problem, addressed the problem and resolved it.  All before 11am.  On days when work is discouraging and frustrating, being able to do a good deed, just makes the day better.

The best news this Christmas is Jesus' birth.  And that's where I need to focus, but having these sweet events occur to help me remember that the world isn't completely lacking compassion gives me hope to keep plugging on.  One day Jesus will come again, and when that day comes, oh what a joyful time of really good news that will be.