Back in the day, it was common to hear it said that someone sounded "like a broken record" if they discussed the same issue, circumstance, or problem whenever one saw or talked to them. The idiom--"like a broken record"--was apparently borrowed from the description of a scratched vinyl album that, when played, continued to repeat the same words and/or music each time it reached a particular groove. We sometimes experience ruts (scratches) in our lives--times we feel there's no forward movement, and nothing new on the horizon. In response to queries about how things are going, it's not unusual to hear/say the refrain, "same stuff, different day". As a result, interactions with us may come to be described as sounding/being "like a broken record". 

We don't have to remain stuck in our ruts. As with scratches on vinyl records we want to restore, we can seek solutions to get us to the other side of the scratches in our lives. While we may be tired and frustrated, it's within our power not to become resigned, discouraged, or complacent when we're in our ruts. Sometimes, we look for encouragement from others, but it's important that we learn how to encourage ourselves. It may not change our circumstances, but it can certainly change how we view our circumstances. Each day is a gift, and how we receive it and what we do with it are up to us.

It doesn't take much time to change how we handle getting to the other side of our ruts. It's sometimes a matter of deciding and committing to change our daily habits, our defaults--for example, not spending each day talking about what has us in the rut; not turning another's challenge into an opportunity for us to talk about our challenge. How can we see anything beyond our rut if our sole focus is inside of it day in and day out? We can use the time we would use focusing on our rut to try something new, such as take a foreign language class, try a new form of exercise, volunteer, etc. Or, we could create new habits of listening to music, reading scripture and/or daily affirmations, taking a walk, riding a bike, writing, etc. Doing something new or different, or creating new habits makes room, and provides opportunities, for interactions and conversations that have nothing to do with our problems. It may not change our problem(s), but it may help us feel better. And with better perspective, perhaps we can move beyond our rut and the broken record.
 
 
It's been said that what others think of us is none of our business. But many of us spend a significant amount of time worrying about what others think and/or trying to please others, many of whom mean well and/or want the best for us. As a result, some live in bondage, full of fear and insecurities, unable to make decisions on their own. While there are times in life when we need guidance, support, and encouragement, it's important that we learn how and when to forge our own paths, without seeking validation/approval. We're all unique. How can we find our life's purpose or forge our own path if we don't learn to appreciate and rely upon our own faith, gifts, skills, strengths, values, talents, sensibilities, creativity, etc.? Always concerning ourselves with what others think may result in others dictating our life's journey. That makes it their journey, not ours. If we follow their path, anger, resentment, and dissatisfaction may result.

When we forge our own path, there will be mistakes, setbacks, and challenges. They are part of life's journey, and I don't know anyone who hasn't experienced them. Even if we're not successful on a path we take, it's the path we chose. That means we must accept responsibility for it, and the lessons are ours to learn. Is there the possibility of hearing, "I told you so", and "Oh, well", if the path we take turns out to be a bad one? Absolutely. And is it possible we'll need help? Yes.
But it's important to bear in mind that just like we chose one path, we can choose another. It may not be easy, but we shouldn't allow that to deter us. If we want to accomplish something, we should take as many paths as necessary to get there. Many successful people experienced some of their greatest successes after suffering disappointments and defeats on a path they chose. They succeeded because they stayed focused on their end game, and changed or corrected their course as necessary to get there.

In my own life, I've found it's easier to swallow the bitter pill of mistakes, challenges, and setbacks when I'm minding my own business--that is, forging my own path. Truth be told, those who may offer opinions have been there themselves.

 
 
Each time I ride the train it happens that the person seated beside me is someone battling illness. They end up encouraging me, I end up encouraging them, or we end up encouraging each other. It's been happening for the last five years. The first time I had the experience, I didn't really think about it. The second time, I thought it was interesting. The third time, I found it uncanny. Now, it's happened so often that I expect it.

My most recent trip was a little different in that I encountered Michael and his wife while we waited on the train. Michael shared that he had just completed a chemotherapy treatment, and they were going home until the next treatment in three weeks. A colon cancer survivor, Michael shared that he's now battling liver cancer that has metastasized to his lungs. Initially, I was blown away by both the gravity of the information and the fact that
what he told me wasn't reflected in his gait, countenance, demeanor, or attitude. And then my joy radar went off. It hit me that Michael was living his joy. And that's exactly what he told me. He had faced death, and might be facing it again, but he was living the joy he felt in his soul. And as Michael shared his testimony with me, he became more and more animated. His joy was running over--he couldn't keep it to himself. He felt blessed to have lived through his first bout of cancer after having to be revived twice. According to Michael, he was healed once, and had faith he would be healed again. But even if he wasn't healed, he was going to spread joy every opportunity he could because he's still here, still standing. What an inspiration!

Michael and I sat on that train sharing all our business that is rarely shared with others. I've found this to be fairly common among folks battling illness. I'm sure those around us could not believe we were total strangers as we discussed things most people--including myself--usually consider private. But in my experience, once you've walked a certain path, there are few things you hold private when trying to encourage someone on the journey. My journey is significantly different from Michael's, but there was comfort and understanding once we made a connection. As a result, there was no shame in discussing things that have the potential to strip one of their composure and/or dignity--for example, the residual effects of surgery, frequency of bowel movements, what it's like to wear a bag to collect your bodily fluids, the experience of wearing adult diapers, etc. TMI (too much information) for most, but for us, just par for the course on our journeys. There is no doubt in my mind that God allowed Michael to cross my path at just the right time. I don't know what it is about the train, but it happened again.

 
 
Life has its measure of ups and downs. I've found that when I choose to approach life's challenges with a sunny side up perspective, it's often a game-changer.

While many, if not all, of you have probably seen this video, I thought I would share it. It may help to put some (more) pep in your step today.

 
 
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The movie, "It's a Wonderful Life", reminds us that friends are a blessing. I feel blessed to know I have friends, and am humbled by their love. Here are some quotes that remind me of the gems in my life:

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Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That's why it's a comfort to go hand in hand." Emily Kimbrough

"A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." Proverbs 18:24

"The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are." C.S. Lewis

"A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words." Author unknown

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Friendship isn't about whom you have known the longest... It's about who came, and never left your side...." Author unknown

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I value the friend who for me finds time on his calendar, but I cherish the friend who for me does not consult his calendar. " Robert Brault

"Friends pick us up when we fall down, and if they can't pick us up, they lie down and listen for a while." Author unknown


"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." Proverbs 17:17

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Friends are like walls. Sometimes you lean on them, and sometimes it's good just knowing they are there." Author unknown


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The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart." Elisabeth Foley

"Remember, you don't need a certain number of friends, just a number of friends who are certain." Author unknown


"No matter how sure you are that a friend will be there for you, it's still the greatest feeling when the time comes and there they are." Robert Brault

"A friend can tell you things you don't want to tell yourself." Frances Ward Weller

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Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down." Oprah Winfrey

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The best kind of friend is the one you could sit on a porch with, never saying a word, and walk away feeling like that was the best conversation you've had." Author unknown

"The most memorable people in life will be the friends who loved you even when you weren't very lovable." Author unknown

"Any day is a great day to say 'thank you for being my friend.'"  Natalie Taylor

"No man is a failure who has friends." Quote from the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life"




 
 
Not all of us will be news makers and/or trendsetters, but life is so much richer when we use our lives--or at least a portion of our precious, limited time on this earth--to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

Many, the world over, are now celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela, who made a significant difference in the lives of others.
In the struggle for freedom, equality, and education for all, Madiba's later years epitomized this quote from Robert Brault: “Life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got.” 
In two weeks, many of us--the world over--will celebrate the birth of Jesus, the ultimate difference-maker and model of forgiveness for Christians. Wishing you and yours the love, joy, hope, peace, and spirit of Christmas.
 
 
Have you seen the movie "It's a Wonderful Life"? It's broadcast on television during the Christmas season, but I sometimes watch it at other times of the year as its messages resound throughout. In the movie, the life of the protagonist, George Bailey, is challenging--to say the least. As a young man, George dreamed of college and traveling the world. Those dreams were dashed when George's father died and George had to take over the family business. After that, George did what he could to make the best of his life--a great deal of which included helping others. And just when it seemed things were going well, something happened that shook George to his core. Having endured one setback too many, George got tired. He was at the end of his rope, and believed things would be better if he wasn't alive, or had never been born. But before he was able to act on his despair, George was sent a guardian angel who showed him the blessings he had and how his life made a significant difference in the lives of others. In the end, George saw that despite his challenges he had a life worth living, rich in love. It seemed like he was so accustomed to making sacrifices and being there for others that he didn't realize they would be there for him in his time of need.

Some of life's greatest lessons are learned in the midst of our trials and tribulations. We may be devastated or discouraged along the way, but it's important to hold on. As older people used to say when I was growing up, "just keep living . . . chances come around." Nothing good or bad lasts forever, so we must make the best of our circumstances and allow our blessings, our faith, our hope, our joy, to cushion life's harsh blows. One thing from the movie that really resonated with me was that George didn't reach out to his family and friends to say he needed help. He suffered in silence. Many of us do so, thinking no one will understand; no one will be there for us; others will criticize us; we can handle it on our own, etc. I've been there. But like George, I have learned that when we have others who will love and support us in the midst of and through our pain--and allow them to do so--we'll find that it is, indeed, a wonderful life.
 
 
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What's a tire without a rim? The rim supports, holds the tire. Tires and rims are interdependent--they work together for a designated purpose. Even when a tire is flat, the rim supports it. It doesn't have the ability to inflate the tire, but it supports it nonetheless.

In life, sometimes we're the tire and, unless we are completely selfish and self-centered, sometimes we're the rim. As tires, we try to move our lives in various directions. We may start families, create businesses, get an education, have careers, set goals, live our dreams, etc. But absent the rims in our lives--those who provide support along the way--it's impossible to fully realize our potential; or manage our various responsibilities. Our rims include those who take care of our children, teachers, garbage collectors, cashiers, receptionists, secretaries, maintenance workers, co-workers, managers, employees, parents, siblings, children, godparents, friends, postal workers, delivery workers, stock crews, doctors, lawyers, accountants, mechanics, acquaintances, strangers, etc.

My point is that very little works in isolation.
In order to make our relationships, our jobs, our communities, and our world better, we must depend on each other. We are attached, connected. Sometimes we take each other for granted; or we overlook the importance of those who provide support for us, especially if they are on the periphery of our lives. We sometimes devalue them, underestimate them, or fail to see them. We can all look at our lives and recall situations where but for the help of someone (sometimes a stranger), we wouldn't have our lives, our homes, our jobs, etc. Maybe someone saved our child from getting hit by a car; made an exception for us; provided a word of encouragement; smiled when we needed kindness; made a call on our behalf; paid a bill when we couldn't see our way through; returned something valuable we thought we lost; wiped our tears; held our hands when we were afraid or could not walk alone, etc. Our rims lighten our loads, stand in the gaps, help make connections, and facilitate the business and conduct of our lives. They provide support even when we're deflated.

So it's important to recognize, acknowledge, and appreciate our rims. We're often so busy that we don't truly see or focus on the many people who touch our lives in one way or another. But most of us are still standing because of our rims. I know I am. And because I'm grateful for my rims, I intend to do a better job of letting them know I don't take them for granted. 'Cause after all, what's a tire without a rim, but empty?


***Thank you, my readers, as you, too, are my rims. You may not comment, but I know from my website statistics that there are many of you. Thank you for taking the time to stop by, and I pray you have been encouraged by the blog.

 
 
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Living My Joy
Conventional wisdom says we should live below our means, specifically, our financial means. Makes sense, right? Because living above our financial means can have repercussions that ripple throughout our lives.

I've been living above my means for years. Not my financial means, but my life's means--my own personal capabilities to make things happen. When confronted with circumstances I cannot handle on my own--for example, forgiving what seems unforgivable, mustering the strength and courage to handle serious health issues, dealing with life's various setbacks, living my dreams, etc.,--I find it necessary to tap into my faith line of credit. Sometimes, the amount available is very small. But I've found that each time I access the line, my faith balance grows. My repayment plan consists of regular deposits of gratitude for what I have and what's on the way, as well as sharing my journey (the challenges and the victories) with others to provide encouragement. Living beyond my means is recognition and acceptance that winging it is sometimes/ofttimes necessary. And through it all, I'm still standing.