My one bag

In recent anticipation of the looming tornadoes across the south, I decided to pack my bag. I’ve never done that before, but a co-worker’s advice echoed in my head telling me that I should be prepared.  Really, I spend my days as a project manager planning and preparing for contingencies and talking about risk mitigation, yet I don’t give much thought about my own.

I should know better too.  A tornado passed within feet of my house about five years ago and left a path of downed trees which I still see the effects today.  But back then I didn’t pay much attention, fully absorbed in my work and often mentally tired.  That particular day five years ago was one of several wake-up calls for me.

So this time, after hearing of the deadly tornadoes just a little west of me and heading my way overnight, I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to pack a bag.  I grabbed a tote bag and began walking around the house thinking of what I would carry with me if I only had a moment’s notice to evacuate and my house became destroyed.  Immediately I started to categorize things into two groups: replaceable or not.  That narrowed down the list significantly.  After packing the standard emergency items of flash light, a fully charged cell phone, and my purse with identification and money, I began to fill my bag with these few remaining items…

1. Contacts and glasses – because I need to see above everything else.

2. Sentimental jewelry – my grandmother’s wedding ring and a small custom-made necklace with a collection of stones I had received from family and friends over the years. Nothing too valuable but they are tangible memories from those who have passed, and I wear them as a part of myself.  Besides, they take up very little room in the bag.

3. Baby photo album – my son’s baby pictures are not digital or online, so these are precious beyond words.  You always see people in tears when they go through the rubble of their house and find a photograph.  It was hard to choose only one album, but I picked his first-born pictures.

4. Memory scrapbook – it’s a book where I’ve written letters to my son every year since he was born, and collected his various awards, accomplishments and school pictures along the way. It is 18 years in the making and priceless!

5. My journal and collection of writings – it is something for me to hold on to and to keep the human spirit going during a tragedy.

6. My computer with financial documents, notes, etc – I suppose these are on the cloud somewhere but I still need a computer to access them.

7. My work computer – I still had a little room left in the bag so I threw in my work computer.  I don’t want to have to redo any of my work.

8. Graduation cap and gown – as a final thought, I grabbed these off the dining room table. Everything else I collected has been from the past, but this one is for the present moment.  Nothing will stop us from celebrating my son’s high school graduation in a few weeks!  Don’t forget to live in the moment.

Though I’m grateful I didn’t have to use the bag this time, it was a good life exercise on deciding what is truly important; to stop and really think about my life and what I would take with me.  It’s a good exercise that everyone should try.

What would be in your one bag?

travel bag

little feet

Of Only Happy Things

Today is such a beautiful day that it is fitting that I should only write of happy things.

Snow is gently falling and my family is safely tucked inside the warmth of our house.  No where we need to go today.  The pantry is stocked full, a warm fire glowing in the fireplace, and plenty of wood to keep us warm if the power should go out during this winter storm.  It reminds me of God.  He keeps us safe from the dangers.  Sure, we all fall at times, but we only need to reach up and take God’s hand and He will lead us someplace safe.  So, today I reach back into my thoughts and remember the happy times, this being one of them.

There are bits and pieces of memories and images, of sandy shores and glorious mountains, of running through the fields with child-like freedom, holding my newborn son, celebrating all the birthdays along the way, and smiles of achievements won.

We should store these times in the front of our minds and think of them often, so we can easily reach them when we need to, when the not-so-good times come too.  Grab hold of the good memories and God’s hand, and He will lead you through.

God loves us not because of who we are, but because of who He is.

I have been reading the book of Psalms as my daily devotional this year.  I have never read it straight through like this before, but it is the most uplifting and encouraging book I have ever read.  It should be on Amazon’s Top 100 list.  Simple but pure, no fancy gimmicks, and it’s all free.  God had a specific reason for giving us the Psalms, to encourage us to seek His refuge and peace.

My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, And I will look up.  Psalm 5:3

Guy Lomabardo childhood memory

This is one of my favorite childhood images, listening to this record of Guy Lombardo and the children’s choir, while holding the album cover in my hands and wondering about the people inside those windows, safe and warm, happily singing carols.  I recently found the album again on Amazon, and today is a wonderful February day to play it and listen and dream.

little feet

 

Sea Glass

I wouldn’t have seen it this morning if I had not ventured out for a run.  I would have missed a lot of things.  The sun was shining bright and warm, calling me outside, but I had lots to do today.  I need to do some cleaning and catch up on emails, I thought.  Sounds silly now.  Life can pass us by while we’re busy doing stuff, and not just in a big way but in the small simple ways.  Following my new year’s promise to myself, I had decided that I will try to enjoy and experience life with every possible minute this year, and to do the most good with all those “lost opportunities” that come across my way.

What if….

What if we each took this one year and tried to make the very best of it, no matter what.  One year of our lives, given to the very best we can do.  To resolve to smile and laugh more, even during those stiff business meetings or tough times; to resolve not to spread hate no matter what the principal may be; and to resolve to help our fellow human beings more.  It really wouldn’t take that much effort.  It might even make things easier.  And it would change the world.

So I stopped what I was doing this morning, none of which will matter for very long anyway, and I went down to the beach for a run.  The tide was high after the storm and the only part of the sand not covered by water was still too soft for running, so I settled into a walk instead.  As I slowed down my pace, I began to look at the sea shells beneath my feet and caught the glimpse of something glistening, sticking out above the sand.  I reached down to pick it up and could not believe what I held in my hand.  It was a piece of milky white frosted glass, perfectly polished and smoothed around its edges from the friction and waves of the sea.  My first sea glass find!  I have always enjoyed reading about these elusive treasures from the sea, studying their colors and origins, and following the stories of those who collect them.  But as much as I have searched, I have never found any genuine shards of my own.  I wondered what far-off shore or boat this had come from.  It was a small treasure indeed!  And I would have missed it if I had not taken the chance to venture out on this day. 

(Today is Day 16 out of 365 God-given opportunities this year)

sea glass

“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” – Marianne Williamson

little feet

Lessons from the Sea ~ how much do I really need?

I like to pack lightly – a selection of feel-good music, flip flops, running shoes, and of course, my books.  I don’t need much else when going to the sea.  It is a time to shed the layers of clothes, worries, and the to-do lists of our busy lives, and to realize just how little we do need instead of how much.  Rather than accumulating the latest of things, it is a time to let go of some things.

My road trip down to the sea follows the same pattern.  As I leave the big city behind, my body begins to relax a little as I drive through the pleasant, flat farmlands of South Georgia, passing nothing but signs for pecans, peaches, and boiled peanuts.  I always turn on the radio about now, partly to pass the time driving through the miles of farmland, but also because I know I’ll find that classic radio station playing the old songs from the 60’s and 70’s – of a time gone by.  Memories of the past occupy my mind for a while as I begin to leave the present worries behind.

Then I start to smell the sea air and see the palm trees in the distance and know my destination is close.  The sea is a wonderful mystery to me.  I am still amazed every time at its vastness.  My first thought upon seeing the ocean is always the same – Wow, God is big!

After settling in and a good night’s rest, I put on my running shoes and head to the beach in the early morning.  I take in all the beauty and mystery of all that God has made for us.  God has hidden such wonderful details and awe in everything He made, from the smallest design in a seashell, to the numerous sands, to an ocean full of underwater sea life.  The sea provides the food that sustains us in our meals, in livelihood and jobs, in recreation, and it was also a central gathering place in Bible times.  I look at all of God’s beauty around me, that which we often cover up with our belongings and stuff, and all the things we miss while we hurry along, and I think that God must sometimes feel like someone who has prepared an elaborate banquet with all kinds of food and delicacies and provisions for his guests, and yet the guests do not appreciate it.  Let us stop for a moment today to say thank you to God for his overflowing abundance that He has given us.

And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19
JM beach 3   JM beach 2
JM beach 1

(photography courtesy of my son @ facebook.com/JohnMcCuskerPhotography)

little feet

Simply Do

It was a meeting of the great minds of our times last week, as I had the opportunity to listen to the various speakers at Chick-fil-A’s Leadercast session in Atlanta.  It was inspiring.  Their bits of wisdom and optimism spoke of things each of us can do right now, today, wherever we are, to make a difference and do great things.  I would like to pass along some of their thoughts here, and also to keep for myself – to remind me when I need it most.

Andy Stanley author, speaker, pastor.  After working as an associate pastor and student minister at First Baptist Atlanta, he and five others founded North Point Community Church in 1995.  It has now grown to five campuses, over 24,000 attendees weekly, the second largest church in the U.S., and he was voted one of the most influential Christians and has the 3rd most influential church in America.

He starts the conference…  Ask yourself:  What is my critical role?  What is my unique contribution?  What is my core responsibility?  Do these things.

In case of an emergency, if you had to “break the glass”, what would be your role?  What would you do?  That should be your one sentence mission statement.  Anything that goes against that is not what you are supposed to do.

Condaleezza Rice first female African-American Secretary of State, college professor

Look for the enabling condition.  It all starts with one – one act, one person.  Look for that one thing that makes you act, makes you step out.

Be right with yourself.  Be grounded.  Have integrity.  People will see it.  You cannot truly lead without it.

Be an optimist.  Nobody wants to follow a pessimist.

Motivate toward a common goal.  Out of difficult circumstances in our past, good things have happened.

Be open to where life might take you.  Life is a series of events.

Mark Krzyzewski – Duke University Head Men’s Basketball Coach and Team USA

Focus on a culture of success, not on winning.

John C. Maxwell – author, sold over 20 million books

Add value intentionally everyday.  It will increase your influence.

Instead of trying to find a leader to solve our problems, Be the Leader.

Dr. Henry Cloud – psychologist and business coach, author

Create necessary endings.  If you are going down the wrong road, the worst thing you can do is hope it works out for the best.

Sanya Richards-Ross – 2012 Olympic gold medalist, track & field

Push through your fears.

David Allen – leading author on personal and organizational productivity

A kind of peace shows up during crisis.  You are no longer thinking about trivial things such as your email.

Einstein, Mother Theresa, and DaVinci all had the same amount of time as us.  It’s not about the time.  It is about having room to think.

Flexibility, not perfection.

And here are a few of my own that I like to say, both in my job and in my own personal life:

If we are making it too complicated, then we are doing it wrong. 

We are all good at something.  We each can do something uniquely that no one else can do exactly the same.

And from Seth Godin, marketing guru:  You are not your resume, you are not your workWhat you do matters more than what’s on a piece of paper.

little feet  So let’s go do it!