Reading Seabiscuit

SeabiscuitTo clear any misconceptions, this is NOT a book review. I find reviews a bit too tedious to write –it’s just not me.

After years of not being able to read a good novel, I finally decided to buy a reasonably priced book from my favorite Book Sale outlet. Being on a tight budget, I was hard pressed to find that award winning best seller in a tiny and crowded 3×3 meter space. Whew!

I spotted Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand in a non-descript corner and grabbed it immediately. I had been wanting to see the movie with Toby Mcguire but have had no luck since the DVD is perennially out of stock.

It was a challenging read in that I was always too busy to read no more than 5 pages at one time. But once I got through over 30 pages, I HAD to make time to read! And I loved it!

Mostly, I was encouraged that I was not alone, and that true and lasting success does not come easy. I’m even fortunate that I have not broken my bones and been near death whenever I “failed”. There seems to be no more tenacious a soul than that of jockey, Red Pollack. He was not much to look at, poor, but was a wit in his own right. His partnership with the feisty Sea Biscuit, horse trainer Tom Smith and owner Charles Howard, was what made him the hero of the 1930s. The book was a very well-written chronicle of the ups and downs, the highs and lows, and the failures and successes of one man,his horse, and the equally persevering characters that surrounded him. It was an amazing and encouraging read.

I found myself crying at the end of the story, feeling as if I knew each character personally and witnessed their lives as they unfolded. I did not want the story to end because it meant that my journey with each character had ended. That was how effectively Laura Hillenbrand depicted each character, making them real in every page through the very accurate and detailed accounts borne from intensive research. Hillenbrand herself is a strong character and reading an excerpt of her life at the end of the book made me appreciate the story more.

True success doesn’t come easy and I only need to remember the challenges and tribulations of Red Pollack to truly get right back on the horse after I fall.

My next read? Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt – winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

Advertisements

Kudos to the SAHM!

STay at home mom

I just read an inspiring blog from an online friend She is a stay-at-home-mom (or SAHM) and supplements her family’s income by running her online baking business. She gets no slack from some family members and friends who wonder why she wouldn’t get a “real” job when she graduated with an engineering degree at a top university. Why not indeed?

Her story is my story. I was always dreaming of running some kind of business when I was much younger. The thought of being my own boss seemed very appealing fresh out of college.  But, alas! The need for a stable income pressured me into being employed for a good ten years or so. And I was never completely happy. Something inside of me wanted to break out and go on my own. I was scared, but the desire to break free from the mold was stronger.

Just like my online friends, I now also run my online baking business (http://velvetconfections.multiply.com/) because of a new found passion that took years to form. I also established a training and speaking business two years ago (http://teamworxventures.wordpress.com/) and relish being able to control my time and activities.

The doubts still come every now and then, though, especially when finances take a turn for the worse. Voices filled with self-incrimination nag me when I find myself with more time and less money in my hands. It is still a never-ending battle that drains me and leaves me wondering if I am doing the right thing.

For all the stay-at-home-mothers out there, your decision to stay home and take care of your precious children will always be the right decision. There could be nothing wrong with it. I have observed so many children who have grown up without their parents’ guidance and I am saddened by their lack of direction in life and their lack of sensitivity toward others. It is a tragedy that so many children are made to grow up on their own and mess up their lives and other people’s lives.

I pray that more families will support the SAHMs. This is a portion of what I wrote to my online friend: “I have started and ended a number of businesses since I graduated from college. And each time I would chide myself for giving up so easily. Perhaps I just wasn’t emotionally, psychologically and financially prepared yet. You said, “It’s been said that not everyone is cut out to be an employee.” I agree with you 100%! I’m one of those — I want to be my own boss and make my business grow and succeed. I have never been happy in all my employment history. And I believe we are all succeeding. Let us not allow other people to define our success for us. The fact that you are doing what you’re passionate about, that you are able to finance your passion and business, that you give happiness to people who receive your tasty works of art, that you are finally recognized and affirmed, all confirm how successful you are!”

This is a good reminder for all the women and mothers having second thoughts about being their own boss and running the household more efficiently. You are never “just a housewife”. Whether you run your own business or not, you are still doing a worthwhile and very important job at home. While money is important, it does not define you as a person. Don’t let it dictate the most important decisions in your life. Go and follow your dreams.

“The ideal life is in our blood and never will be still. Sad will be the day for any man when he becomes contented with the thoughts he is thinking and the deeds he is doing–where there is not forever beating at the doors of his soul some great desire to do something larger, which he knows that he was meant and made to do.”
–Phillips Brooks

I salute you SAHMs! You are God’s gift to mankind.

Just Be

We’ve all heard and seen the very popular slogan of Nike, “Just Do It!” It is a catch phrase that spans several years and many countries and has launched Nike into yet another highly successful run. While for some it may just be another sales pitch, for many it is a 3-word command that has pulled them out of seemingly endless stupor. Often times I would catch myself saying these very words whenever I feel daunted by a task ahead of me, or when I find myself with too much time on my hands and too much guilt for “not doing anything” in the mean time. How about you?

Our God has recently reminded me that life – the Christian life – is not all about doing. If we stop long enough to listen, we will probably hear less of just do it and more of just be.

As I write this, the news of Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin’s sudden death at 44 is very fresh in everyone’s minds and hearts. As a fan of his TV shows and conservation efforts, I feel a great sense of loss not just for myself but for the world, especially for the animal kingdom. However, I also thank God that Steve died doing what he loved and being the kind of person he was created to be. How many of us will be able to say the same at our final hour?

It is easy to be lured into believing that life and success are all about doing. After all, we only have a few years on this earth (beyond 70 years is already a bonus) and we ought to make the most of our God-given time. It is a terrible feeling to look back on our lives later on with much regret over things we haven’t done and dreams or ambitions we haven’t achieved when we could. This is especially true for those of us who are home-based, struggling to have a sense of identity, purpose and achievement in our lives. But let me propose Christ’s radical alternative to just be. It could actually change your life and mine!

Rick Warren said in his book, The Purpose Driven Life, “God is far more interested in what you are than in what you do. We are human beings, not human doings (177).” Our character and the condition of our hearts are of greater importance to God than what we are or what we do on the outside (1 Samuel 16:7). And whatever it is we do must be a result and reflection of Christ’s work in us. Let me reiterate. It is Christ’s work in us, not ours, and this through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit (2 Thessalonians 2:13).

For people like me who still get conned (mostly by my own feelings of inadequacy) into believing that “doing things”, specifically things that reap financial rewards, is a measure of one’s productivity, this is a truth that needs to be seriously and consciously lived. And I don’t even have a type-A personality! I need to be constantly reminded that God is far more concerned about my growth as his child than my physical or material accomplishments. Reflecting on his truths, praying in the spirit, basking in his glory, standing in awe of him and even struggling inside as he grows me up are all part of my being all he wants me to be.

When my final hour comes upon me, I pray that I will not regret having spent so much time doing chores and responsibilities but so little time just being in God’s powerful and transforming presence. After all, when all is said and done, it is only my relationship with Christ that I can bring with me to eternity. Making every second count is not so much cramming in a lot of physical activities as it is living a purposeful life in Christ. “Live like you mean it”, a catch phrase from HGTV’s Lifestyle Network, is advice I hope to apply to myself every single day.

Let me end with the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 12:5 from The Message (NavPress): “Since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be (italics mine).”

When God Defines Your Success

One of the greatest needs of mankind is to achieve. Whether it is material wealth, fame, peace, prosperity or a sense of self, we all feel the need inside to accomplish something that is of some worth to us and even to others. We plan and prepare to accomplish our goals from the moment we step out of high school or college to the time we reach retirement. And each time we achieve a goal, we feel successful and accomplished, ready to tackle the next one.

But what if, somewhere along our highway of goals, we encounter a divine roadblock? Often times this roadblock comes without warning and appears every so often in our journey. When God steps into our lives and begins to steer us along His path, do we readily follow? When God begins to reveal to us His master plan for our lives, do we willingly submit or do we insist on our own plans?

What happens when we let God define our success?

I have had to struggle with these questions for many years. Society has conditioned my mind into believing that real success is all about getting the best education, the highest grades, the most prestigious job, and all the perks that come with it, including a hefty savings account and insurance. While these are all good, they are not what define real success in God’s eyes.

To be sure, I looked into God’s blueprint for success – the Bible – and found only 3 passages (there may be more that I might have overlooked) that use the word “successful”. They are Joshua 1:7, 2 Kings 18:7 and 2 Chronicles 20:20. All three passages speak of God’s servants who obeyed His commands and had faith in Him. These were God’s prerequisites for success! And what is success? “And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook.” (2 Kings 18:7 – first part; italics mine)

Knowing for sure that God does not define my success the way I used to and other people do gives me much relief and comfort. To have the Lord with me in all my undertakings already ensures my success! To have Jesus Christ in my life, to know Him, obey Him and trust in Him makes me a successful person. To live a life of active faith despite the struggles and heartaches that befall me along the way pleases the Almighty (Heb. 11:6). Can there be anything more rewarding in this life than pleasing our God? Can we be any more successful?

God gives us all the opportunity to be successful in this life. But we also need to realize that we cannot and should not hold on to our own plans for success as if our lives depended on them. God knows our hearts and if we willingly surrender all our goals and plans for our lives to Him, He will guide our every step so that His eternal goals and plans are accomplished in us. Now that is real success!

In the words of King David, “Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.” (Ps. 40:5)