I joined a local Toastmasters group after seeing my son and his peers speak in a High School Homeschool Speech and Debate tournament. Because it looks so easy and fun I thought I would try. Public Speaking isn’t as easy as it may appear. It looks so simple when you are inspired by that speaker who motivates you to change your world, try a new skill or develop a deeper skill set. Yes, I actually thought that when I started Toastmasters. In my mind, my first speech would sound like a finely tuned TED talk. If the first few speeches didn’t turn out so great then the 4th, 5th and so on would be profound. When you join Toastmasters there is a level setting with reality because you hear yourself make mistakes and feel powerless to change midstream.
To truly change and grow you need an accurate idea, picture or assessment of where you are, today. This can be very painful if you’ve had or have an elevated sense of what your skills really are but once you have this information you can stop looking backward and fretting about where you are today. You can take this snapshot and map out where you want to go.
Maps tell us where we are and help plot us to what roads, mountains, seas, lakes, ponds or creeks that we need to travel, climb, or cross to reach our destination. Those destinations can be small stops to spend the night or have lunch just off the interstate. They can be several days of sightseeing before we continue our journey. With a map we can plan or estimate how long it will take us to get to our intermediate destinations or final goals. As with all travel the more you stop and see the sights the longer it takes you to get to your main destination.
I hate driving for more than 5 hours a day. If I’m going to travel at 60-70 miles per hour and hope to reach a destination that takes 20 hours I have to decide how many days I want to travel. This usually is the deciding factor. One day, two days, three days or more to travel 20 hours at 60-70 miles per hour. Your road trip can be spent in the car, at a hotel or at a friend’s home. These ideas seem so simple don’t they? They are simple till we apply them to ourselves because it’s so much harder to take a road trip and try new things when it’s our lives, goals and interests. It’s easy to drive through a town as your grabbing a burger at the drive through right off of the interstate but it’s hard to incorporate ideas from random sources because we don’t know who to easily incorporate them into our thinking.
Cars, Planes & Trains
Does it matter what type of transportation you use to reach your goals? While you’re traveling it makes a huge deal. If you take 5-7 days to drive or 5 hours to fly across the United States will make a huge difference to how you arrive but will it change your destination, maybe or maybe not. I do know that you will feel differently after being in the car for 5-7 days driving with your family. I know this for a fact. When you are in compact places for prolonged periods of time with your family your journey will change. If I arrive at my destination via an airplane in 5-7 hours and have time to read and nap I will arrive refreshed and energetic for the next leg of my journey.
Journeys & Goals
Does the journey change the destination or goal? I don’t know. The phrase “hindsight is 20 20” means you usually get clarity when the event or situation is past. I would add that the farther the event is in the past the more you can see it realistically or without emotion. Planning during the journey is hard because of the emotions that we connected with the event. If we didn’t have these emotions it would be as easy as pulling out a map and setting a plot and then systematically taking steps to arrive at our destination.
To achieve goals we need to define them. Those beautifully polished TED talks didn’t just happen. They were written, rewritten and polished before the speaker took the stage. We must have courage and endurance for our journey to achieve our goals in public speaking and other areas of our lives.
Christmas has past and the long dark days of winter are upon us. It’s a time of reflection and contemplation of the good, the bad and the ugly of the previous year. It’s like cleaning the closet in your life as you take everything out and reexamine what you have, what needs to go and what needs to stay.
When do you throw out those really worn sweat pants that are way past their prime but have become a familiar friend on the weekends? How about those gym shoes that have logged hundreds of miles on the local paths as you prayed and talked with friends? What do you do with the homemade scarves that you don’t wear but were a beautiful thought from an old friend? It takes time for contemplation as you peruse through your wardrobe relics. It takes time to evaluate your clothes but not those of a friends or family member. Our clothes have memories associated with them.
If sorting through closets requires contemplation then so does Christmas items, books and housewares. This is where clutter grows at an exponential rate and it can give you the creeps because of the memories… good and bad which are associated with the stuff.
Christmas decorations, cards, lights, trees and wreathes come with more emotional weight, good and bad, than the closet of well-worn pieces of clothing. Those things help us remember Christmas’ past like Ebenezer Scrooge’s Christmas ghost from the past. They are relics of old Christmases that had fond hopes for the future and relationships that were just beginning and or were old seasoned. It’s hard to pack away Christmas items after these big festive days because we are pondering what the next year will bring. How will we meet new challenges with fresh new ideas and solutions?
It’s easiest to keep moving forward and not take stock. So why should you take stock?
Here are some meaningful quotes:
In the end, it's not going to matter how many breaths you took, but how many moments took your breath away - shing xiong
Psalm 90:12 Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
When tossed about by winds and waves it’s hard to keep your composure.
How do you keep your composure when the wind and waves are tossing you and around you back and forth and up and down? Not many of us live on or use ships in our day to day lives. It’s a metaphor to describe things that are beyond your control in life. What are your storms and how do you weather them?
Storms can be a sudden diagnosis of a critical illness for a loved one. It causes incredible change to daily rhythm of your lives and future plans. Your plans for the next steps for life hang on the latest words from the doctors you visit. They are busy. They are healing many people. Their time is in demand. It takes time for treatments to work and new paths to be determined.
Storms can be a sudden career change or a loss of an opportunity. These can come from economic winds of change to your industry or city. This change will cause incredible change to the daily rhythm of your lives and future plans. Resumes are dusted off and cover letters are written. Headhunters and recruiters call to determine if you’re a fit for their clients. Clients determine whether you a fit for their company and try to time the hire to their schedules. You hang on every word they say. They are busy. They have meetings to hold and plans to discuss. Their time is in demand. It takes time to see what will work and be a good fit. New paths are forged and planned.
Storms can be sudden changes in your relationships. These can come when a person changes their mind about what they want in life and who they want to spend it with. It will bring incredible change to the daily rhythm of your life and future plans. The relationship will redefine you in many other relationships also. You hang on every word to know what to expect and how to plan. They are busy. They have places to go. It takes time to reshape your views of yourself and what your future plans will be. New plans will come and new paths will be explored.
During the storms of life where do you look? Outward? Inward? Upward? Downward?
You need to make a habit of looking upward.
Isaiah 40:26 tells us to “Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”
Psalms 121:1-2 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.2 My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
Is it easy or hard to lift your eyes to the hills or heaven? Is it easy or hard to seek the Lord in the midst of your storm? I don’t know. But I do know it’s not our natural instinct. It takes practice. We need to make a habit of seeking the Lord in our lives and asking him what our plans should be and what our next steps should be.
King David was ruled Israel. He made plans to build God’s temple. God changed his plans. He said someone else would be building it. David spent the rest of his years collecting the materials for the temple.
1 Chronicles 28:2 King David rose to his feet and said: “Listen to me, my fellow Israelites, my people. I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, for the footstool of our God, and I made plans to build it. 3 But God said to me, ‘You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood.’
When this happens we can become bitter or blessed. We can choose to accept what God has chosen in our lives or we can resist it. Resisting can be painful.
Choosing to trust in the midst of the storm is hard. It is necessary for our spiritual growth and future plans. We can’t see though the storms like God can. It requires trust.
Frederic Edwin Church 1861
Frederic is an American landscape painter. His teacher was Thomas Cole who founded of the Hudson River School of painting in the state of New York. Thomas focused on New England's raw and rustic mountains and valleys. Frederic was independently wealthy and could have been trained in Europe but decided to be American trained.
America was being torn apart by the slave debate in 1860 and 1861. November 1860 Abraham Lincoln becomes president of the United States. South Carolina leaves from the Union in December 1860 and many more follow in 1861.
February 1, 1861 the Governor of Texas, Sam Houston walks out of the capital when the Texas legislature votes to secede the Union. The people of Texas ratified secession by 3 to 1 on February 23, 1861, and on March 18, 1861 Sam Houston is removed as Governor for opposing secession and the Confederacy.
April 12, 1861 the American Civil War began. Church's painting displayed for the public in New York April 24, 1861 and was originally called "The North--Church's Picture of Icebergs". The New York viewers were charged 25 cents for the benefit the Union's Patriotic Fund.
In 1863 Church changed it's name to it's current title "The Icebergs" for it's London showings because England was sympathetic to the Confederate cause. There it was purchased by Sir Edward William Watkin, a railroad magnate and member of England's Parliament.
A picture and it's title is worth a 1000 unspoken words.
Snow and Water
Snow that melts and becomes water is a big part of winter in the North. It is a constant process of warming and melting then cooling and snowing from December to February. This is one of the creeks that I crossed as I walked my dog during the last few years.
I took many pictures in the winter. The primary colors of the winter color palette in the north are blue, grey, white and various hues of brown. At times it is repetitiously monotonous. The shades of green have long last turned to hues of amber, burgundy and crisp fall apples.
These winter hues are dark charcoal grey, crisp white and multiple hues of textured bark brown.
I thought this verse was a good fit for this picture.
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Crossing the English Channel
Do you know what I really really hate? I hate it when people don't give references for their original art work but that is what I'm going to do here because I've searched and searched and searched for the name, artist and date of this painting. So sorry, I'm breaking one of my cardinal rules.
The side note next to this picture says this ship is crossing the English Channel from France to England. When I first saw it I thought they were coming to America. My favorite part of the picture is the lady in the white dress reading with mayhem all around her. He husband or male escort is even looking green around the gills.
The artist does a lot to show the sea sick motion in the picture. The main ship mast is at a 20 to 30 degree angle to the right and the people in the picture are leaning to the left almost 30 degrees to compensate and keep their balance.
The ladies behind our heroine in a white dress and bright red shaw are visibly distressed. Don't you wonder what she is reading. I was wondering if she was reading scriptures about trusting God when every thing is crazy around her or perhaps a love story has gripped her heart and she can't put it down.
The Birth of Jesus
1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
Jesus Presented in the Temple
22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against,35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.