Follow your dreams or your mission?

By Erika Rizkallah

Follow your dreams.

In our individualistic culture we’re bombarded with the idea. All forms of media fill our heads with bucket lists and the notoriety of easy celebrity.

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I admit I’ve been fascinated with following my dreams since I was a kid. I was convinced I could be so many things: a model, a marine biologist an Egyptologist . . .

It didn’t matter I was too short and plain for modeling, or that I was afraid of fish and  hated sand. Those careers appealed to me. Then the reality that I lacked certain skills became obvious and I settled for the unglamorous job of working in human resources.

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Until recently I pursued some other dreams but chronic illness, aging and parenting issues edged them out, making them seem frivolous. I struggle with that – after all, aren’t we supposed to follow our dreams?

I wonder if it’s a modern construct. If it’s part of Paul’s warning about the last days, People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God . . . 3 Timothy 1-5

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So I looked to the Bible for wisdom. I found nothing about following dreams. I looked to Jesus’ life and wondered about his dreams. Was he content with his carpentry career?  Did he talk to his buddies about it?

Then it hit me. We were his dream of the future.

He focused ceaselessly on God’s purpose, not veering from his mission. Mark 1:21-39 offers a clue. He taught with authority in the Capernaum synagogue and dramatically drove a demon out of a man. Later he went to Peter’s house and found his mother-in-law suffering with a high fever. Jesus healed her and that evening the people brought him all the sick and demon-possessed. The Bible says, the whole town gathered at the door and Jesus healed many and drove out many demons.

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Early the next morning he left the house and went to pray in a solitary place. Peter and his friends found him saying, “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. 

He was so focused on his mission that he left the comfort of Peter’s home and the certainty of local celebrity to spread God’s good news to others in the region.

We benefit as a result of his obedience and in turn, his dreams for us (and himself) came true. It seems to me that when we follow God’s purpose for our lives, somehow they intersect.

What about you? Do you find God’s purpose and your dreams are in sync? Please share and tell us how!

 

The one word standing between you and your dreams.

By Erika Rizkallah

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Psalm 37:4-6

Years ago when I was thinking about my life plans and goals, this verse shone like the noonday sun on my dreams. After all, who doesn’t want God to give us the desires of our heart?

One word

Certainly not me, I want it all! I want the full life Jesus wants for me and I must say He’s done it. He has given me the desires I desired and even ones I didn’t know about. But first I noticed three things were required of me:

Delight – To delight means to take great pleasure in him. I first needed to get to a place of joy in him, to take great pleasure in his presence and in his word. I achieved that by devoting my life and spending quiet time with him each and every day.

Commit – Next, I determined to commit my way to him. This means I decided to make his cause my cause. I needed to obey his requirements and plan for my life – not choosing my own path, but seeking to know his will for me in Christ.

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Trust – Trusting in someone we can’t see is difficult but our God is the living God. When we spend time in his word and prayer and then follow Christ’s lead, he hears and makes himself known to us. We obey and see him working everywhere. Trust then follows.

When I was in second grade my teacher introduced me to other worlds and cultures through studying two countries: Japan and Ghana. I loved my lessons and decided to be a world traveler so I could see places with my own eyes. Pippi Longstocking was my adventure hero and I wanted to be just like her.

The answer to my 7-year-old heart’s desire came much later, but now I do travel the world. I want to share my experiences with you through my writing. I want you to know that God is waiting for you to delight, commit and trust in him.

Sometimes there’s only one word standing between you and your dreams. That one word is . . .

YES!

Your turn: What desires are hiding in your heart? Do you believe he wants them for you as much as you do?

 

Every day is a blessing from God

By Erika Rizkallah

“Every day I feel is a blessing from God. And I consider it a new beginning. Yeah, everything is beautiful.” Prince

2015 was a hard year for me – filled with physical, mental and emotional challenges. I can’t remember how it began but it’s fresh enough to remember how it ended.

November and December was like a slow moving hurricane whirling off the coast toward a direct hit on my home.

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Last year my husband and I decided it was time to renovate our highly outdated home. We’ve been wanting to remodel certain areas; get rid of the mirrored backsplash in the kitchen, replace broken appliances and get rid of the gold fixtures in the guest bathroom.

But you know how those things go. Once you decide to change certain  areas, you may as well go big and do it right. So what started out as a simple kitchen/bathroom remodel turned into a full scale renovation of our middle and upper levels.

There were many disagreements between us along the way. Multiple meetings with the contractor and interior designer that came with the job. And packing up EVERYTHING. This was no easy feat for a homebody homeschooling mom like me, but I did it (for the most part). In order to give the contractor a good start we decided to take a trip so we left the country for two weeks and spent time visiting family in Dubai.

And we came back from this life-changing vacation to this . . .

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Goodbye kitchen

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My favorite room in the house – our heritage room

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Just like a man …the tv still remains

So that’s where I’ve “been” – metaphorically and physically speaking – and I have so many new things to share with you in 2016.

I’ve resolved that this year will be different – I’m saying goodbye to the physical, mental and emotional challenges of last year. And even though I’m living in a literal mess, I agree with Prince’s assessment that each day is a blessing from God and yeah, everything is beautiful.

5 Tips for Conquering Procrastination (aka Resistance)

By Erika Rizkallah

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5 tips for conquering procrastination

Yesterday I was talking with a shrink (that’s what he calls himself) about procrastination. I was listening in on an open conversation he was having with a family member and as soon as he said the word my ears pricked up. I struggle with procrastination and he told us it’s really a symptom of anxiety.

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He said if it were laziness we would be fully lazy – we wouldn’t do anything at all. But if it’s procrastination it’s a matter of choosing to do something other than the thing we’re avoiding. I think there’s some truth to that and it got me thinking about  Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art.

It’s a great book for people of a creative nature. He talks about resistance being an impersonal but powerful force that immediately appears as soon as we delve into the creative.

While it’s secular in nature, it speaks to me and I turn to it as as way to shake the grip of procrastination from my spirit. Here are 5 of my tips to help you conquer this inevitability.

Tip #1 – Be prepared: There are always things in life that will make us anxious. Whether it’s a task, conversation or event, rest assured, resistance will come. Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This is a good time to run the “what if” scenarios through our minds. We can ask things like, What if my computer crashes? or What if the boss doesn’t like my presentation? By thinking through things that could thwart our efforts, we’re preparing ourselves for success.

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           Think through problems

Tip # 2 – Pray for God’s strength: We’re simply human beings, only flesh and bone. We are inherently weak, but when we ask God for strength to persevere, we’re accessing his power. He’s generous and he loves to give us gifts.

Tip # 3 – Face the obstacle head on: Yes, there may be resistance but we don’t help ourselves by avoiding it, we just delay the inevitable. Or worse, live with regret.

Face obstacles head on!

Face obstacles head on!

Tip # 4 – Get an accountability partner: Grab a friend and ask for help. Ask her to help you stay on top of the issue by calling, e-mailing or standing with you as you reach for your goal.

Tip # 5 Stand firm: At the end of procrastination is a gift waiting to be opened. In his struggle to preach the gospel, the apostle Paul suffered beatings, hunger, shipwrecks, sleepless nights, and more. It’s likely we won’t suffer physically, but if we do, we’re in great company.

Your Turn: Can you share tips for conquering procrastination? What tip will you use from my list? 

Love Your Breasts and Love Yourself

..The second is this; ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31  

As is obvious by pink ribboned everything, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Coincidentally, last week I got a pap test, mammogram, thyroid ultrasound and bone density screening.

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What does this have to do with the Bible verse above?

It’s all about love.

In Mark 12:28, a teacher of the law heard Jesus debating with some other men about God. He asked him which was the most important commandment. Jesus correctly answered, “…The most important one is this: ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

Now focus on the verse at the top of this post – the second most important commandment: love your neighbor

as yourself.

Do you love yourself? Are we even allowed to do such a thing?

Yes! We are God’s glorious handiwork and when we love ourselves, we’re loving Him. If Jesus didn’t mean for us to love ourselves, he would have put a period at the end of neighbor.

Part of loving ourselves means we care for the bodies God gave us.

We don’t just make important appointments for our elderly parents and children, we treat ourselves with the same level of care.

So let me ask you this question:


How long has it been since you’ve had a mammogram?

How about a pap test?

What about a bone density screening or (ugh) a colonoscopy?

How about in honor of Breast Cancer awareness month, we commit to making these dreaded appointments and then show some sisterly love by challenging a girlfriend to do the same.

Ready? Go!

A Decade of Desire

I have been trying to get to Sedona, Arizona for ten years.

I’m not kidding.

When I got married twenty years ago, my husband and I decided to travel all 50 states together before we die. It’s harder than it seems and we go someplace every year – not always in the U.S. – but we try to hit at least one new state a year. The one place I’ve always wanted to see is Sedona. I can’t explain why. I’ve never been there, but it attracts me like a magnet to metal.

So a few weeks ago when my husband said, “Where do we go next?” I gave him the standard answer.

“Sedona.”

“Ok, book it.” (yeah, right).

So, I pretended to do research. Again. We went back and forth about dates and blah, blah, blah, I thought. Same ‘ol, same’ol.

But he surprised me and my patience paid off. With the exception of Palestine and Paris, I’ve never been so excited!

And when we landed in Phoenix and he didn’t feel well, I didn’t panic when the paramedics were called. Nope. I waited patiently while five paramedics/EMTs hooked him up to an EKG machine, right there in the middle of the terminal.  A couple of the cops made small talk and I could tell they were trying to assuage my fears. Instead, I peppered them with questions about Sedona.

And my kids took selfies.

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I’m pretty sure, they thought we were a little too casual about the situation. But you have to understand, we’re used to stuff like this. Almost every year before or during a trip, we have to call the paramedics for him. We have an enemy who comes to kill, steal and destroy. (John 10:10)

Our dreams are his for the taking unless we stand firm, trust in God and believe that only He holds the key to life.

Pursuing my dream was worth it and I have so many stories to share with you. As soon I recover from my jet lag, I’m going to post photos of this incredible area so please stop by and visit again.

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The gorgeous view from my room!

 The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: To do what is right, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8