Posted in My life in pictures

129/365 The Messages

“The message is very close at hand. It is on your lips and in your heart.”  Romans 10:8

I was thinking about what I would blog about tonight, as it’s been another one of those really bad days that seem to continue to come out of nowhere lately.

And then I got Godsmacked.

I’ve prayed a lot more than normal lately, asking God for a sign, for a message, anything to help relieve my  hurt and disappointment. On Sunday, I was given a very clear message during the service at church. Very.Clear. I heard it and it really gave me some much needed peace. Then the ugliness started creeping back in and with the layoffs at work, it’s just been stressful.

As I’m sitting here doing some random stuff on the computer, I suddenly had an overwhelming urge to take the camera to our bedroom. ODD, I tell you. I walked in and went straight for our Bible. As I picked it up I started recognizing the various messages that surrounded the box that holds and protects our Bible.

The messages were about faith, talents,  and blessings.

I believe He’s giving me another message. I know He’s reminding me to be faithful. I’m so afraid that’s been difficult for me lately. I know He’s reminding me of all of the blessings in my life, and again, I’ve failed to recognize some of that during my recent pity parties. But …  talents … what is that message all about?

I don’t so clearly recognize the word of God as it’s whispered in my ear very often, so I’m working through this. However, I can’t help but wonder if this third message doesn’t follow the theme of the first two in that I need to do more with regards to my talents.

Faith and gratitude are typically the bedrock of my foundation and I’ve allowed cracks to form lately. This is something I recognize with embarrassment and regret. I guess the same could be said for my talents. Am I building them and strengthening them in the way I had hoped I would in the past year? Am I using the talents I do have in a way that pleases God? Should I be using my talents in other places? In places that seem to appreciate them? In places that show how much I appreciate them, and Him? Am I using the talents He has given me to their full potential or am I just wasting His gifts to me?

I’m going to have to put into action one of these attributes right here and right now. I will need to have more faith that He will make this clear to me when the time is right. He will either gently guide me in the way He wants me to use my talents, or I may receive another Godsmack. I don’t know. But I have faith I will.

Posted in My life in pictures

080/365 Let’s Eat!

What are you grateful for?

Food!

Today’s menu:

Today I am thankful for:

  • Every dish came out great
  • My Mom’s mad chopping skillz, for her cleaning behind me as I cooked AND for the awesome crochet Turkey decoration.
  • Natalie making the Deviled Eggs (almost) all by herself, with Mom guiding and teaching her.
  • Gil reading the virtual newspaper out loud to me while I prepared our little Cuban feast.
  • Daniel for being so enthusiastic about the Oreo Pie.
  • Friends who understand.
  • Afternoon naps.
  • Michael’s Pre-Black Friday sale and the fact that I got new art supplies for super cheap. (Stay tuned…I’m going to try some Watercolor Pencil artsy stuff)
  • Gil and I in complete agreement on the absolute crapiness of the move Bridesmaids.

What about you? What are you grateful for today? Why don’t you upload a picture to Epic Thanks and spread your joy and love with others. Can’t we all use a little extra joy in our lives? I can almost guarantee a smile or two if you take a minute and scroll through the gratitude photo bombs.

Posted in My life in pictures

077/365 Florida Sunsets

What are you grateful for?

This was the view in my rearview mirror for most of my commute tonight. The sky was on fire! I think it was God’s way of saying, “Let’s get this gratitude party started!” These sunsets are one of the many reasons it does not suck to live in Florida. I am thankful for this gift from God.

Come join us as we celebrate a not so secret week of gratitude.

Posted in Random Writers

Hero of Hope

Random Writers Week 8 Topic: Write about someone you consider to be a hero.

My original plan for this topic was to write about a woman who has been a huge inspiration to me for over a year now. That woman is Stacey Monk, and I’m pretty sure I would follow her to the ends of the earth if she asked me to. The goodness and beauty and love in her heart is surpassed only by the light that she radiates to those around her. She is a bright, shining soul that I’m honored to call friend.

When I first met Stacey and her now fiancé, Sanjay, in early 2010, I was taken aback a little. I’m not a person who sees auras and I’m not even sure I fully believe in the idea of auras, but for that day, I did. I’m not sure what it was but I came home that night and told Gil I thought our lives might be different because of this woman I just met. That night I learned a little of the story of Stacey and how she and Sanjay started the non-profit Epic Change a few years earlier. I had no idea that night just how impacted my life would be.

Over the next 18-20 months, I would work with Stacey and support her dream to build a school in Tanzania. I would devote time and money and crazy amounts of love into a project that meant nothing more to me than the fact that it meant something to Stacey. It was also during this time that I began to understand just why this school was so important to her. For Stacey, she had found hope after a devastating tragedy, all because of one woman and her dream. While in Africa, Stacey had found Mama Lucy, and in doing so, found hope in her life and her world.

Mama Lucy Kamptoni is a mom who had to take her children to neighboring Kenya in order for them to get an education. After leaving three children in the care of strangers, she knew something needed to change so that other mothers and fathers did not have to do this for their children. In 2003, Mama Lucy told her husband she was going to take the money from her small chicken business to rent the house next door, and that she was going to start a school. And that’s exactly what she did. After hiring a teacher, she posted notes throughout her town and in churches that she was starting a school; and the children came. Six showed up on the first day. By the end of the week, there were 10. The children came and came and came.

Mama Lucy continued to educate as many children as she could in that rented house until one day she was told the house and land would be sold and she would need to find a different place to teach the children. This news came shortly after Stacey and Sanjay had visited and volunteered at Shepherds Junior School. When Stacey and Sanjay heard this news, they knew they had to help. Oh, and help they did. Through some of the most successful social media fundraising campaigns ever, Mama Lucy got her new land and a new classroom. Soon, more new classrooms were built. When the need for a dormitory to house some of the children was announced, more funding was found.

Mama Lucy had a dream of educating the children of her country, and what began with six children is now 503. What was a small rented house is now a Pre and Primary school with multiple classrooms, a computer lab, a dormitory and a staff of 47 educators and administrative support.

I asked Mama Lucy if she found that people told her she couldn’t do this? She responded with an emphatic “Ohhhhh YES. How did you know?” I knew because it’s often our first reaction when someone throws some farfetched idea out there. I can only imagine people’s reactions to her dream. “Who is this chicken farmer to think she can build a school?” I never got a chance to elaborate with her, but in my next face to face conversation with Mama Lucy, I firmly intend to find out what her responses have been to those people. She obviously didn’t let any of those Negative Nellie’s slow her down in pursuing her dream. Throughout all of this, Mama Lucy has never given up. She’s had her struggles and each time, she has found a way, either through her own hard work or through the sharing of love from around the globe or from some ginormous combination of both.

I met Mama Lucy on Tuesday. I also met two of her amazing students, Leah Albert and Gideon Gidori. Earlier in the day I had posted a blog about how I felt a darkness creeping into my life. It was just one of those bad mood feelings that I couldn’t shake.  Within moments of meeting these three people, the bright light shining from their souls left me blinded. I was no longer consumed with my own feelings of hopelessness. I had been filled to the brim with two four letter words: HOPE and LOVE. You can see both so clearly in Mama Lucy and in these kids. I have no doubt the hope Leah and Gideon have is a direct result of Mama Lucy’s perseverance and unwavering dedication to love these children and provide an  education so that they can grow up to be pediatricians, astronauts, or anything their beautiful hearts hope to be.

Mama Lucy is my hero. She had a dream and she made it come true. Now, because of that, 503 children can also hope for their dreams to come true as well. The thing with Mama Lucy is, not only does she channel the ability to hope into these children’s lives, she also showers them with unconditional love. By doing that, she has also flooded my world with love. For this reason, I can’t help but put that love right back out into this majestic universe we live in. How amazing is it to be filled with so much love that you HAVE to share it with others?

If you haven’t already, please take a moment to read my fellow Random Writers bloggers, Gil, Jeff and Lindsey‘s posts on the changes they wish to see in the world.

Posted in Post A Week Challenge, Treasure Chest

Monday’s Treasure Chest – It’s YOU!

I missed my Monday Treasure Chest post last week because we were traveling back from St. George and Rock by the Sea, and honestly, when we finally got home, I completely crashed. The last thing I wanted to do was sit in front of the computer and think. However, on the drive home, I was contemplating about what the post would be about if I actually found the energy needed to write, which I obviously did not. As I thought about my many blessings, one kept coming back to the forefront of my mind. I found myself smiling with joy each time I thought about my most recent discovery in that chest.

My treasure chest has been overflowing lately with blessing of you. Yes, you, there, reading these words. I am so honored and humbled that you’ve taken time out of your busy days or nights to check out what I have to say. I am even more grateful when you tell me about it. Recently, I’ve been left completely speechless and crying tears of delight because of the compliments you guys have given to me.

I had wanted to start a blog for a really long time but my fears kept telling me it would not work.  Once I finally decided to just go for it, I was so blessed by the fact that Gil was there every second of the way offering words of encouragement, praise, and guidance. I could not have gotten this far without him. I, also, could not have done this if not for you and the amazing, sweet, wonderful feedback you have been providing me for months now.

I recently received an email from someone I love and cherish very much. This email left me in tears for hours. These weren’t sad tears but tears of joy and a sudden awareness that I’m doing exactly what I should be doing with this blog. I’m writing about what I feel, what I want, what I need and what I love. I’m trying to say things here that maybe I’ve been too ashamed or afraid to say out loud. It’s strange how I know this is the most public way possible to share my innermost thoughts but something about it also seems so anonymous, and that makes it less scary. I know, that makes no sense to anyone outside of my crazy little brain, but it’s how I feel. I’ve felt demons inside of me start to die and disappear. I’ve felt portions of my soul, which I thought were dead, start to rise again. I’ve felt closer to God than I have since childhood.

When I started writing back on January 1st, I had big plans and big dreams for how this project would progress. After 30 days of writing every day, I had proven to myself that I could do it and all the fears I had simply faded away. You guys were reading and commenting and telling me that you liked what I had to say.  You were telling me that my words touched you and you told me how you felt the same way but couldn’t find the words to say the things I was saying.  I was flying pretty high and very satisfied with what I had accomplished when February rolled around. But then, I began to fail myself. I began to find reasons not to write as often.

I don’t know what happened. I blamed work, kids, exhaustion. All of the same things that were there in January but I somehow managed to still make the time for me and for this blog. I still thought about writing every day but I could never find the motivation I needed to sit down and type. What really sucks is that the motivation was there, I just kept ignoring it, kept pushing it aside and giving something else a higher priority. You guys kept providing the motivation I needed in the form of conversations and emails, comments and feedback, and questions about when I would post again. I don’t know why I let my dream start slipping away, but I did. I feel ashamed and thoroughly disappointed with myself.

“Where you invest your love, you invest your life.”

~Mumford and Sons

As I sit here and write, I think about all the things I want for this piece of my world. I want to tell my tale and find out more about myself, but there is so much more I want. I want to share my experiences with you. I want to grow in my faith in God with you. I want to talk about my marriage, both the good and sometimes not so good parts of it. I want to share both the uplifting and heartbreaking stories that have made me the woman I am today. I want to open myself up to you in an effort to share who I really am and who I really want to be.

I am going to pour my heart and soul into this dream of mine. I am going to love and nurture it with every ounce of passion I have. Maybe if I do those things, and do them honestly, maybe you can find some piece of my life and experiences that inspire you.  Maybe you won’t make some of the mistakes I’ve made. Maybe you’ll find some peace within yourself because my words helped to heal an old wound. Maybe you will find the inspiration you have been looking for to pursue your own dream because you see my courage in the pursuit of mine. My main objective with my writing is still to find my authentic self. But how awesome would it be if I play a very small part in helping you to find your authentic self as well?

Posted in Post A Day Challenge

Lee “Rocks”

(Prompt: What is your proudest professional moment?)

I have to start this blog by saying that I’ve been fortunate enough during the past 4 ½ years with L-3 Communications to have experienced several proud professional moments. I’m going to pick two to write about tonight. When I get to the end, you’ll understand why I picked two.

When I look back at that day in May, 2006, when I received an email from Christi Gilbert with L-3 Communications, requesting an interview, I can’t help but smile. I sometimes wonder if Christi saw something special in me or if she was just desperate for help. Whatever the reason, she made me an offer. I quickly accepted and my life has not been the same since.

It is such a blessing to have a job that challenges me every day. It was because of those challenges that I was given an opportunity to excel and after only a year on the job, was nominated and selected as L-3 Communications Employee of the Month for October, 2007. My true reward for this accolade was not the plaque or the company mug or the small bonus check. My true reward was being recognized for the hard work and dedication I had put into my job. I had assumed a lot of duties that were not originally part of my normal job requirements, but I wanted to be a team player and put everything I had into being the best that I could be for my company. I’m a firm believer that, if in the public eye, my company shines, I shine and if I shine, my company shines.

When I found out that Christi had submitted the nomination for me, and that she had received endorsements from my peers, customers and vendors, I was so flattered. What more could an employee want from their boss? I gave everything I had to my job and I was honored for that. I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I was finally able to read the nomination and endorsements. Some of the people I respected the most had used words such as exemplary, professional, responsive and supportive to describe me. I was blown away. There were phrases like “her hard work makes my job as a subcontractor a lot easier,” “with all that she has to do, she will always do everything in her power to resolve my issues,“ and my personal favorite, “Lee rocks”. In her nomination statement, Christi said “She cheerfully and without complaint took on that responsibility and has successfully resolved many tough issues.” Who doesn’t want to hear her boss say things like that?

I will never be able to express the level of gratitude I have for Christi. She was my boss, my mentor, my biggest cheerleader, my confidant and my friend for 3 years. About a year and a half ago I had an opportunity to move into a different position, so even though Christi has not been my boss since mid-2009, she does continue to be all of those other things to me. She gave me a chance to take on a job that I had very little experience doing and helped guide me to be successful in a very short amount of time. I’ve often joked that I didn’t win Employee of the Month so much as Christi’s nomination and description of me won. Christi has been supportive and encouraging to me since the day I walked in the door at L-3 and I will never forget that.

A few months after being recognized as EOM, I had the amazing honor of being named the L-3 Employee of the Year. The announcement was made in a room full of people in Reston, Virginia, but the only person I remember seeing in that moment was Christi. She flew up there with me and stood beside me as the announcement was made and I’m honestly not sure which of us was more proud. I remember seeing the tears in her eyes through the tears in my eyes and thinking how blessed I was to have someone like her in my corner.

(35/365)