As the days grow shorter and the nights longer, it’s not uncommon to find ourselves grappling with the shadows of stress and mental angst. It seems unbearable at times! Yet, in the midst of the darkness, there is a resilient light within us waiting to shine. That’s why I want to encourage you through my newest YouVersion Bible plan that you CAN make it through dark times!
I wrote and published this Bible plan now because seasonal depression peaks at this time of year. As such, I wanted to provide a 3-day Bible plan with practical advice that anyone can apply. What’s more, I narrated this plan so you can listen on the go! Download, take notes, and share with your friends and loved ones. We can make it together!
Sometimes, we are faced with dark situations that cause us to believe we don’t have what it takes to make it through. Allow me to encourage you through this three-day devotion that you CAN make it! In this devotion, you will get practical, perspective-shifting advice on how to conquer adversity, anxiety, and toxic thoughts, and live a purposeful and fulfilling life.
My original plan
Along those same lines, I shared my first Bible Plan on YouVersion in September 2023: “Distractions Causing Distance [From God].” I modified and shared this plan with YouVersion to encourage you. There are many distractions that exist to distance us from our family, our friends, and, most importantly, our Heavenly Father. In this 4-day devotion, I share how we can defeat three daily distractions and allow our loving Father to restore our connection with Him and others!
I’m elated to have the opportunity to continue reaching people through Parent-Child-Connect! Thanks for your continued support!
We expect some people to live forever, but that’s not reality. I want to pause to reflect on the life of Reverend Thomas Kennedy who we affectionately know as PawPaw. Although he was not biologically related to me, he has always been a mentor, guide, leader, wealth of knowledge, and a shining example of someone whose moral compass pointed true north. PawPaw may be gone, but he left behind some great lessons. I’ll share a few that have impacted the way I live, love, and lead.
Stand for what you believe in.
PawPaw was first and foremost a Christian man who stood firm in his beliefs. He believed in being kind, generous, and forgiving to others regardless of how they treat you. One of his funniest quotes was, “don’t look like a bulldog sucking on lemons. It costs nothing to smile.” In other words, he was teaching us to be approachable leaders instead of being standoffish and off-putting. This is a lesson I try to apply daily. Greeting people with a smile can lift their moods, portray trust and positivity, and can be the first step in a lifelong friendship. It’s a simple but powerful friendly gesture that can make someone’s day.
I’m 100% for “right” and 100% against “wrong.”
The above was usually the beginning of PawPaw’s quote that he’d finish with, “if I were a police officer and my wife was speeding, I would give her a ticket even if I had to pay for it.” I admittedly used to think this was an extreme or draconian outlook when I was a child; however, I quickly realized how important this was as a leader. The law is the law, and a standard is a standard. If we aren’t committed to enforcing existing standards, we are intentionally or unintentionally creating new standards. For example, for every substantiated investigation that I’ve conducted or read in the Marine Corps, there is usually a deviation from the existing standards. As a result, this deviation inevitably caused the acceptable standard to lower. Then, the lowered standard produced unethical and/or immoral actions.
PawPaw’s advice was to nip that in the bud by hating what is wrong and holding tightly to what is good. (Paraphrase of Romans 12:9 NLT)
Love for family.
Pawpaw left behind his widow after being married for almost 70 years! Although I knew they had been married for a while, actually hearing how long was astounding. PawPaw stressed the importance of being chivalrous and serving your wife. He taught us the countercultural lesson that selfless sacrifices and kindness are key ingredients to long, healthy relationships. He loved his wife, and I always saw her by his side. I never heard him acknowledge an accolade or achievement without giving credit to his wife. He also believed in taking great care of his family and exemplifying an admirable commitment we could all learn from. I believe PawPaw had the utmost respect for his family, and he expected us to do the same.
Hard work, patience, and community service.
I remember working outside in what seemed to be 150°F weather!! Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit, but it was definitely hot and humid Louisiana summers. Either way, we would head outside with PawPaw to do some yard work. Whether we were landscaping, replacing flooring, doing carpentry, working on cars, or anything in between, PawPaw patiently taught us how to do these odd jobs. At the end of the day, he paid us for every hour of work. He hired countless young men of all ages–including returning citizens–with the goal of giving us an honest way to earn money. PawPaw was a dreamer with a passion for community service.
Jack of all trades.
I had a hard time coming up with one topic for this section, because I learned so many lessons from my time working with PawPaw. For starters, my wife and I laugh all the time at the random knowledge and experiences I’ve had over the years. Although I choose to pay professionals nowadays, I was perfectly content with doing my own odd jobs earlier on in our marriage. I am the textbook definition of a “jack of all trades, and a master of none.” Ok, I say this jokingly, but I do not wink at the experiences, knowledge, and work ethic I gained. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.
PawPaw couldn’t teach us these skills without patience. I remember one particular instance when I was supposed to use the weed eater to simply “edge” his lawn along the sidewalk. He did everything right–he told me, showed me, and allowed me to practice. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough for me. I somehow managed to dig a little two-inch trench along his sidewalk… A big “no-no” when caring for the lawn! I could see the disappointment and displeasure on his face as he walked towards me. “He’s about to chew my butt out!” I thought. What he did next shocked me.
PawPaw walked up and said, “uh oh. I didn’t teach you right.” He then calmly took the weed eater and taught me (again) how to properly edge the sidewalk without yelling or even seeming agitated. It was such a countercultural moment that it has persisted in my mind and influenced my parenting and leadership style. When given the perfect opportunity to gripe, he patiently extended grace.
Resiliency and consistency.
PawPaw lived for almost 90 years, but it was amazing to see how his messages, lifestyle, humor, and generosity remained consistent for at least the three decades I had the pleasure of knowing him. (Several others will attest to the fact that he’s been consistent much longer). No matter what fads came and went, PawPaw took pride in his personal appearance and was sure of his identity and purpose.
He constantly demonstrated his strength, resiliency, and wherewithal. Even when physically down, he would claim he felt “like a 15 year old!” During my last visit, he said he wanted to ride the 4 wheeler and even had me wheel him outside to take a look at it. I couldn’t help but encourage him to hop on! Luckily, his wife (Ma’dear) was the wise voice of reason to prevent what was sure to be a catastrophe…the flat tires help dissuade our antics as well. 😂
This is just one of the many [humourous] examples of how PawPaw never allowed life to get him down. He taught us to be confident in who we are and to never give up. Most importantly, he taught us the value of trusting God and pursuing a higher calling in life.
We will miss him!
I’ll miss PawPaw, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that we were blessed to witness him live for almost 90 impactful years. During one of my last conversations with him, I told PawPaw how he had to stay healthy so he could witness me bring one of his community service dreams to life. He responded, “well when you do, come pick me up so I can see!” Though he’s no longer here to witness it, I plan to fulfill that promise to bring his dream to life. His direct influence has transcended several generations, and we will ensure his legacy continues!
I’m excited to share my latest article with you! My friends at Stand For the Silent gave me another opportunity to share my opinion. This time, I discussed how we can provide our children the support they need. This topic is extremely important to me because I believe our support is the foundation upon which our children build their lives. Therefore, our children rely upon our support to effectively navigate the obstacles and opportunities in life.
Other Articles I’ve Shared on the Stand For the Silent Platform.
Stand For the Silent has really opened their [virtual] doors to me and the parent-child-connect platform! It’s always fun to collaborate with visionaries who share a common goal. Their message, “I AM SOMEBODY” perfectly aligns with my goal to remind people to “Never, EVER, forget your worth!” Ultimately, we share a common goal to raise awareness about issues that impact our children and provide resources for parents, teachers, mentors, and caregivers to develop a positive relationship with their children to lead them through life’s many challenges.
Here are the other articles I shared.:
What is Stand For the Silent?
I have introduced Stand For the Silent before on my platform, but here is a brief description from their About Us page. It won’t take you very long to figure out why I love collaborating with this organization!:
Stand for the Silent was started in 2010 by a group of high school students in Oklahoma City, OK, after they heard the story of Kirk and Laura Smalley’s son, Ty Field- Smalley. At eleven years-old, Ty took his own life after being suspended from school for retaliating against a bully that had been bullying him for over two years. Stand for the Silent exists as a platform to allow Kirk and Laura to share their story, and offer education and tools that will prevent their tragedy from happening to another child and family. Kirk and Laura’s mission is to continue to change kids’ lives and bring awareness to bullying and the real devastation it causes.
Since May 2010, Kirk and Laura Smalley have traveled to over 1,000 schools and spoken with over 1,000,000 kids! On March 10, 2011, Kirk and Laura met privately with President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in The White House prior to attending the first ever White House conference on bullying.
The Stand For The Silent (SFTS) program addresses the issue of school bullying with an engaging, factual, and emotional methodology. With the help of student leaders, Kirk Smalley presents his inspirational story, and students are shown first-hand the life and death consequences of bullying. Through this unique approach, lives are changed for the better. Students, some for the first time, develop an empathetic awareness through education and understanding.
The goal of the program is to start a SFTS chapter at each participating site. Each chapter consists of a group of students committed to change. These students will no longer stand for their peers to suffer at the hands of a bully. At the end of each event, pledge cards are given to those who agree to stand for the silent. The pledge speaks of respect and love…hope and aspiration. Above all, it illustrates the main lesson taught through the Stand For The Silent program: I AM SOMEBODY.
Lately, I’ve been besieged by the thought of “living in the moment.” I’ve previously written about embracing where you are and how parents can make time count; yet, I find myself pontificating about what it truly means to live in the moment. As many in my generation do when they want to blurt out their opinion, I turned to Twitter to express my conclusion. Here’s what I wrote.:
It’s easy to scroll past a quote like that because, quite frankly, it’s an abstract concept. In other words, I gave you a Yoda-like quote with no practicability or applicable instructions. The good news is this blog is not constrained to 128 characters, so I can provide that for you today!
Living in the moment is a balancing act.
Living in the moment is actually fairly complex for many of us because it requires intentionality. If you were to observe the world around you, I promise you will find someone opposite ends of the spectrum. Neither side of the spectrum represents “bad” people. Having been on both sides myself, my justification was supported with good intentions. Either way, I had to find my equilibrium point after a wild swing of the proverbial pendulum.
On one hand, there are some who simply exist. They are physically present, but their mind is elsewhere. They appear isolated and disconnected from the people and world around them. Their number one defense is: “But at least I’m here, right?” Many may call them boring or a “drag” to be around. I say they are living at the moment.
On the other hand, there are people who appear to follow the wind wherever it leads. It’s almost as if the only word they know is “yes.” They are the ones who live by the motto, “you only live once” and proudly sport a “Carpe Diem” tattoo. Oftentimes, these people have very sporadic and inconsistent relationships. Their decisions are sometimes erratic, careless, and dangerous. Many may call them “scatterbrained,” or as the Temptations so talentedly sang it, “a rolling stone.” I say they are living around the moment.
Of course I wouldn’t recommend that you lean towards either side of the spectrum. Instead, as Goldilocks learned many years ago, we should strive for the “just right” combination of both.
Living at the moment.
Being physically present is a huge part of living in the moment. Some would argue that’s half the battle. However, I’ve been this person, and I’ve been around this person before. Honestly, many times it feels better if they just weren’t there. They are so disengaged and uninterested that bystanders feel personally attacked by their presence. Their [our] physical presence wasn’t a gift to those around them [us].
In my personal experience and opinion–of which I am an expert in–I believe closure is the biggest contributor to living at the moment. Whether it be closure from a past relationship, loss of a loved one, past hurt, or even daily activities, lack of closure seizes your mind and leaves you thoughtlessly going through the motions.
Here’s my advice to seek closure.
Be patient with this advice as it takes time and practice.:
Face whatever it is head on. It can and often will feel overwhelming, but it will steamroll you if you don’t accept responsibility for your own healing. Surround yourself with friends and professionals who can help you begin your journey. The only way to finish a large meal is one small bite at a time.
Acknowledge and accept your emotions triggered by this event, series of events, deadlines, etc.
Schedule time to journal out your emotions.
Develop a daily “closure” action plan that includes what you need closure from and what you are determining to be “the end” for that particular day. You want to tell yourself, “I will have closure today once I finish [this].”
Execute your daily plan or “ritual.” This is an intentionally scheduled time that ends with you declaring “the end” of that activity so you can become more engaged with those around you. I like to associate this step with a physical action.
For example, if I find myself constantly thinking about work, I will choose to only work in a designated location. When I finish work, I will say “all done,” turn the computer off, close the laptop, stand up, stretch, turn off the lights, walk out, and close the door. Over time, the combination of these verbal and physical cues trains my mind to leave all traces of those thoughts in my office. This frees me to be both physically and mentally present with my family.
Living around the moment.
Another song that comes to mind when I think of this group is, “Born to be Wild” by Steppenwolf! These are the thrill seekers who are either never around or so busy they never really have time to engage in normal human interaction. Since their minds are constantly fiending for the next thrill, their actions are usually infused with spontaneity. This isn’t inherently a negative thing until it impacts their [our] relationships with others.
Relationships are impacted because this group of people fails to exercise moderation. I believe they can find the same fulfillment and more if they add structure to their lives. Furthermore, I believe this group can benefit from the aforementioned steps for closure. Nevertheless, they must first become more organized.
Here is my advice to become more organized:
Goals, goals, goals! Here’s a topic I’ve written about a few times. Why? Because structuring your life begins with setting measurable and achievable goals that will lead you to your desired end state. Zig Ziglar said it best, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”
Establish a “daily battle rhythm.” This is a military term that describes the deliberate, repeatable events we do everyday to achieve a specific goal. I know this sounds like nails on a chalkboard for spontaneous people, but don’t worry. You can (and should) schedule time to be spontaneous. Just ensure you achieve closure after each activity or series of activities.
CCTV. No, I’m not talking about closed circuit television. I’m talking about checklists, clocks, timers, and voices.
Checklists: Many scientists recommend checklists because–according to them– our brain releases dopamine every time we check that tiny box. That dopamine creates positive feelings which, in turn, gives us the adrenaline we need to complete the next task. This tends to work really well for thrill seekers because they enjoy that same dopamine release on their various adventures.
Clocks: Allocate blocks of time to do certain tasks. It may be tough to accurately guess the proper amount of time starting off, but you’ll be able to create a better time schedule as you continue to practice.
Timer: Having a scheduled time block is important; however, sometimes seeing that time dwindle is the psychological push we need to complete various tasks. Additionally, the act of counting down creates an urgency that gives importance and relevancy to each task. Some may argue that urgency draws on our adrenaline supply while increasing anxiety. Contrarily, I submit that the adrenaline rush is what gives us the momentum and focus to complete a list of tasks in a timely manner. Using timers are another method to combine physical and psychological activities to produce a favorable reaction.
Voices: Listen to your voice and your accountability partner’s voice. Sometimes, our thoughts tend to drown out our own conscience. That’s why we all need that friend (or group of friends) who will help hold us accountable. Listen to them when they tell you to “slow down” or “you’re never around.” They may be trying to help you grow.
Clean up! That “rolling stone” or “wild” lifestyle tends to make us a little junky. Physically organizing your personal and professional spaces is key to becoming more organized.
Limit distractions as much as possible. I know this can be a challenge depending on your situation, but we have to try! Close the door if you can work in a closed door office. Wear headphones while at the computer. Stay away from the break room during normal “chat” time. Set time restraints on your phone apps and web browser. These are just a few ideas to get you started!
I get it; living in the moment sometimes seems like a foreign concept or “dream deferred.” None of us will get it right all the time. In spite of that, the beauty of our daily journey is that we can let yesterday go to have a better today so we can start tomorrow off on the right foot. Be encouraged. Living in the moment is achievable!
I wasn’t originally planning on releasing a part two, but after receiving feedback from you beautiful people, I decided to continue the conversation and discuss how to conquer adversity, anxiety, and toxic thoughts.
As you already know, life is a journey. In Part 1 (Click here for Part 1), we discussed a quote by award-winning poet, Theodore Roethke: “In a dark time, the eye begins to see.” As I continued to read and think about this topic, it reminded me of a challenging hike I completed when I was doing the Mission Trails Regional Park 5-peak challenge in Santee and La Mesa, CA. It was not the most physically demanding thing I have done (U.S. Marine Corps training will push you to your limits), but there were definitely a few extremely challenging portions.
There was one particular portion of the North Fortuna Mountain that gets fairly steep; especially after inclement weather. The natural competitor in me forced me to complete this trail numerous times…but the first time was not a pretty sight! When I first approached this portion of the trail, I heard a loud, Drill Instructor-esque voice in my head yell, “attack the hill!” So I looked down and began charging up the steep incline that led to the summit–pumping my arms and power breathing as I went. I kept my head down in hopes that this would somehow help me magically arrive at the plateau quicker. Unfortunately, this was not reality. The further I hiked, the steeper the incline became. After about two minutes, my legs were burning, I was panting, and I was raining sweat.
I finally glanced up… I was definitely not as close as I thought I’d be. In fact, I hadn’t made much progress at all! So I had a choice to make. You see, I had already determined I was going to finish the hike. (Once I put my mind to it, it is going to happen!) Turning back wasn’t an option, but I had another decision to make: how should I motivate myself to complete this hike? Should I focus solely on the plateau? How long will I dwell on my progress (or lack thereof)? Should I closely monitor my progress as I continue to go forward?
I chose the latter and restarted my journey. After a couple more minutes, I checked my progress. When I looked back I initially thought, “I haven’t gone anywhere!” Then, I noticed some people who were close to where I started. “Those people look small,” I thought. “I am further along than I thought!” That’s all I needed to continue pushing! So I started to hike again–looking back every 5-10 steps or so to see if the people behind me were getting even smaller. After another couple minutes passed, I decided to look up to see how far I made it. “You haven’t gone anywhere!” I exclaimed to myself. The tree I marked during my last break was still relatively close. I made less progress this time than I did before my first stop.
This is where I started to feel sorry for myself. “I am doing my best to get in better shape, and I cannot even motivate myself to get past this hill!” That’s when it hit me. I could not efficiently move forward while gazing at the things behind me. While I was glancing back, I found myself slipping on loose sand, stumbling over rocks, and falling off the path. In hindsight, this made my journey even more rigorous!
I could not efficiently move forward while gazing at the things behind me.
The Winning Strategy to conquer adversity, anxiety, and toxic thoughts!
With that in mind, I developed a new winning strategy that would eventually help me overcome this challenge and subsequently make it to the summit. Before I restarted, I established what I called “checkpoints” or “mini-goals” along the path where I would rest and reflect (i.e. celebrate my progress). While hiking, I paid close attention to where I stepped; ensuring I constantly progressed as each step was on solid or compacted soil. Lastly, I kept my overall goal in mind: reach the North Fortuna summit, take a picture, and enjoy sunrise and the peaceful nature around me. It is important to note, this portion of the trail did not get any less steep or challenging; however, I knew I had the winning strategy to conquer this adverse situation and achieve my goal.
There are a few things I learned from that hike that I believe are helpful…
Rest and reflect. One of the biggest contributors to successfully completing this hike was implementing my mini-goals. I set my sights on several large rocks, trees, or recognizable features along the trail and said, “do not stop until you reach that mini-goal.” Once I reached my mini-goal, I did a small celebration to commemorate my progress. In essence, I broke my journey into manageable chunks that I could physically achieve and implemented preplanned opportunities to refresh my mental resiliency. The stops were not long; just quick enough to catch my breath and celebrate my progress. As goes life. Schedule quick moments to rest and reflect on progress, then keep pushing towards your ultimate goal!
Live in the moment. While grappling with today’s challenges, we cannot allow ourselves to be burdened by yesterday’s news or overwhelmed with tomorrow’s issues. Focus on traversing the path ahead of you and achieving your mini-goals instead of gazing at the things behind you or worrying about tomorrow’s uncertainties.
Be aware and selective of what (or whom) you allow to validate your efforts. I was gauging my success on the trail off of someone else. In retrospect, those people were taking pictures, enjoying nature, strolling, and most importantly, they didn’t even take the same trail. We currently live in a society where it is easy to allow likes, shares, comments, money, and praise to validate us. The issue is those things are temporary. We should only find validation in things that are permanent (e.g. your purpose in life). For me, it is inspiring others. My efforts are validated when my children’s books, blog posts, speaking engagements, and my platform in general inspires someone else to pursue their own goals and dreams!
Don’t lose sight of your goal. My overall goal was to reach the summit, and I did! No matter how challenging the journey, never forget where you are going. Your “why” is what drives you day to day. Your “where” is what makes the journey worth it! You can and will achieve all of your goals! Believe in yourself!
Have a fantastic week, and know that you CAN and WILL make it through these dark times!
Want a little help making it through these dark times?
I partnered with my friend Deb Kartz during her Conquer Anxiety & Toxicity 21-day virtual summit to give you proven strategies to conquer anxiety & toxicity! I embedded the 2-part YouTube series below! Enjoy!
Anxiety and toxicity are just another way that sneaky “shadow” tries to creep into our life and our children’s lives. As my Amazon best-seller Crow From the Shadow says, “The Shadow is a person… or maybe a thing… or a place. The Shadow tells me who to be, how to go, and where to stay.” Not anymore! In this two-part series, we expose that sneaky shadow and kick ’em to the curb! Watch these FREE interviews as we #defeattheshadow to conquer anxiety and toxicity!
I’ve been meaning to come back around to this. I have continued to write daily; not necessarily in the form of journaling per se, but in the form of calculated and random to do’s, thoughts, or memories needing someplace else to live rather than just my brain. They tend to find new residences in my notes folder on my phone or the little black notebook I keep close. I do this because I realized that if I am to become the writer I aspire to be, I must demonstrate consistency and discipline.
Consistency and Discipline
Consistency and discipline are two very interesting concepts that take on their own identity depending on the task at hand. The human mind subconsciously prioritizes actions according to importance, interest, and the situation. That is why actively reminding ourselves of the following is the utmost necessity.:
What is important to you?
Our interests are ever evolving. What are you currently interested in?
What is your current situation or life circumstance?
Keeping these things at the top of your mind help deflect the inevitable woes of procrastination that come naturally in moments of busyness, transition, and perfectionism. Here is yet another reason why understanding a wide array of perspectives can be beneficial to how you approach daily obstacles.
Perspective is key.
On one hand, you can accept that you’re not being as productive as you intended to be, which can result in frustration. On the other hand, you can examine why you’re operating the way you are based upon your current season, which can result in a better understanding. I try to focus on the latter, and honestly, it’s what gives me the most peace.
I’m reminded of Paul in 2 Corinthians pleading with God to remove the thorn from his flesh, and God replying with:
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV
That “thorn” can be in the form of anything.
Transparently, my “thorn” often shows itself in my time management, overextension, and focus. However, it’s a refreshing feeling to know that based on my intentions and faith, even my weaknesses can serve as a reminder of how strong my God is. On the days I feel like I lacked consistency and discipline, I remember His grace. That empowers me to give myself grace and to continue to pursue my purpose. God’s grace enables my consistency and discipline, and it makes my “thorn” or weakness my greatest asset.
Why? Because it turns my errors into educational moments. It allows me to understand who I am and where I am in life, and it allows me to refocus and grow into a better me. Thereby, I become stronger through my weaknesses.
Hi guys! I am Joshua Ogunyemi aka Josh O. Not only is Olaolu my little brother, but I illustrated the Amazon best-seller Crow From the Shadow and Billy Dipper’s Time to Shine. Today, I want to post a few words of wisdom I shared on June 13, 2021 that explains how our faith in God and our power to heal has started us on a journey to victory! Feel free to watch the video, read the blog, or both! Please note: I made some slight edits to the written version to ensure it flows well. Enjoy!
Our Journey to Victory: The Power to Heal
Introduction: Keep smiling!
“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it. If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. If you’re happy and you know it, stomp your feet. If you’re happy and you know it, stomp your feet. If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it. If you’re happy and you know it, stomp your feet. If you’re happy and you know it, smile. If you’re happy and you know it, smile. If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it. If you’re happy and you know it, smile!”
Now, why did I start with that song? Well, I thought it was important for y’all to see your brother smiling even while in this struggle.
We still have our faith. We still have our hope. We’re still standing, trusting, and believing in God’s Word. I can think of so many times we had to rely on a smile, a laugh, and the joy of the Lord which has always been our strength. That strength that kept us going. It empowers us every day and gives us the strength to bounce back and keep going (NO MATTER WHAT)! So, I thought it was important for you to see us smile.
Smile every day. Smile like you mean it! You may have had a tough week and for some, it’s a struggle just trying to get a smile through. Whatever you do, just smile. Remember that “the JOY of the Lord IS [your] STRENGTH.” We had to hold on to our smile through all the highs and lows on our journey to victory!
Our gifts were made for this moment…YOU were made for this moment!
If you are a parent, guardian, caregiver, family member, or anyone else connected to someone challenged with a developmental disability or “special need,” it is important for you to appreciate, honor, love, cherish, and labor with them. Why? Because it brings out the best in you. It helps you tap in and begin to transform situations that you previously couldn’t transform. It enables you to impact situations in your life that you previously couldn’t control.
It’s through our many challenges that we “stir up the gift that is in [us].” And what is this gift that is in us? Well, I’d like to submit to you that that gift is the POWER to HEAL. I want to encourage you— anyone who may come in contact with someone who requires special needs. YOU have the power to heal. YOU are anointed for this.
When God blesses you to come into contact with a person overcoming physical and mental challenges, make no mistake about it, YOU were chosen for the assignment. YOU were hand-picked for the mission. Not only that, YOU are equipped for the mission. YOU are built for this, and God trusts YOU. He made YOU the executor of his estate.
What does that mean? It means He trusts you to be informed and make sound decisions regarding your family member and their health and safety. It means He trusts you to make the right move and get the job done.
The doctor who witnessed it all.
I’m so proud that earlier this year, we were able to visit one of the doctors who previously gravely said, “She’s a very sick baby…” He saw her after she was born at 23 weeks at one pound and three ounces. She had survived the passing of her identical twin sister and had suffered a Stage 4 hemorrhage–the worst form of bleeding from the brain. At that time, her body was too fragile to undergo the life-saving surgery that would keep her alive, so the surgical staff had to use a needle to withdraw fluid from her brain to reduce the pressure and swelling. More than one of those doctors encouraged us to terminate care.
They wanted us to terminate care, but we remained hopeful.
I’m so proud that we chose to stand in faith and believe God. I love it when my wife tells this story, because it’s by far the most gangster thing I’ve ever said. The messed up part is I really don’t even remember it! The doctors came to us and said, “we’ve pretty much done all we can do… It’s essentially our efforts keeping her alive [and] it’s probably best if you let her go.” My wife recalls that I responded, “Y’all do what y’all do, and we’ll do what we do, which is to pray and stand on God’s Word.” That wouldn’t mean anything if we didn’t have the evidence here with us today. This proves that standing on God’s Word WORKS!
Faith in Action
God trusts you to get the job done. When you acknowledge Him, He will give you direction. He trusts you and has anointed you to heal. It’s our responsibility as the able-body folks to not leave our loved ones in the conditions we found them in. It’s our responsibility to heal them.
Many of us are familiar with the biblical story about a rich ruler who divided up talents among his workers and left town for a while. When he came back, the two he gave multiple talents to gave him back more than what he had given them. But, there was one who gave him back the same talent that he had been given. The Master was displeased with the servant who did nothing to multiply his talent. Why? Because God wants us to take our situations–the gift that He’s given us–and give him back more! So again, let’s use our power to heal!
God works through us!
Now don’t get it twisted. It’s the power of God that heals bodies, makes the lame walk, makes the blind see, and mends the broken hearts. He cures sickness and disease and sets the captive free, but it is by our hands that he causes these miracles to be. It’s by our hands that he manifests these miraculous signs and wonders. The Bible says God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or even think according to the power that works in us (Ephesians 3:20). So it’s by our hands that manifestation happens.
Jesus said, “believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do… anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works…You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.” (John 14:11-13 NLT)
So yes, it is God who does the work, but it’s by our hands that he manifests. By doing so, God gets the glory.
In Acts 14 Paul and Barnabas travel town to town speaking God’s word. When they came to a particular town, they encountered a man “with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was sitting and listening as Paul preached. Looking straight at him, Paul realized he had faith to be healed.” (Acts 14:8-9 NLT) So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking. (Acts 14:10 NLT)
What am I saying? We have that same power to heal.
Remember the doctor I told you about?
Yep, one of the few who thought that turning down the assignment was even an option. We visited him earlier this year–seven years later. He was amazed by Kennedy’s cognitive ability and her speech. He had some questions! This doctor remembered her brain scans all too well. It looked like she didn’t have a chance! He remembered the conversation we had. You know, the one where he encouraged us to terminate care.
That same doctor now said that based upon what he saw, Kennedy shouldn’t be this far along. She shouldn’t be doing the things that she’s doing. As a matter of fact, they thought she wouldn’t make it. They expected her to be severely retarded and unable to walk or talk. He originally told us that she’d be a vegetable collecting SSI and we’d need a lifetime of medicine, machines, oxygen, and around-the-clock care.
Kennedy’s [our] journey to victory!
Instead, after six months of being in the NICU, she came home with no equipment, oxygen, medicine, etc. It was almost like she just came home and said, “that was it?” Today, Kennedy is on the A/B Honor Roll, promoting to the third grade, and can even count to ten in Spanish! She sleeps comfortably in her own room–in her own bed–and she is a prayer warrior. Kennedy quotes scriptures and recites positive affirmations every day. She will also get you together, whether you ask for it or not.
I will end with this: the doctor told us that he believes Kennedy would have had all the previously mentioned side effects had she been in any other hands. Why is this important? Because I believe our journey to healing begins when we realize our power to heal and transform any situation!
Please continue to pray for me and my family, and I will do the same for you and yours.
About Josh O., the author of “Our Journey to Victory: The Power to Heal”
“Josh O.” is a devoted husband, dad, mentor, author, and entrepreneur. He is proof that faith, courage, and determination will outlast even the toughest challenges. His story has inspired many, exemplifying spiritual and mental toughness, defying every challenge he’s had to face.
Despite losing a child, extended periods of unemployment, failures, financial problems, the everyday pressures of marriage and fatherhood, and raising a child with special needs, he has become a champion of challenging situations and encourages others to do the same.
Josh’s book “tough times don’t last, TOUGH PEOPLE DO” is a must read! Josh shows you how to turn your hard times Into THRIVING times with just 9 Key habits.
“IMAGINE YOU HAD A BLUEPRINT– A guide to help you during hard times. YOU can come out ON TOP! You just need the tools to help get you there.” -Josh O
I believe I received this shirt on Father’s Day in 2015. As you can tell by the wear and tear, it’s one of my favorite shirts. I don’t remember exactly what I said when my family handed it to me, but it was probably something like, “that’s right!” Yeah teaching children to be inquisitive is important, but not more important than doing what I say when I say it! I even ran into an older gentleman who read my shirt and said, “Hey, I would do what you say too.”
“That’s right!” I thought. “You see these biceps?! These back up my authority. You do what I say, when I say it. Why? Because I said so!” Some of you are beating your chest and wondering where you can buy one of these shirts. Others are ready to vomit. Nowadays, I agree with the latter group. “Because I said so” is easy to say (and wear), but it’s actually quite shallow and it can potentially squelch a child’s inquisitive spirit. We’ll discuss more, but before we dive in, we have to answer two important questions: 1. What does it mean to be inquisitive? 2. Why is it important to raise children who are inquisitive?
What does it mean to be inquisitive?
To be inquisitive is to be curious and extremely interested in learning new things. Typically, inquisitive people have an insatiable desire to know more about any given topic. For example, my son [randomly] asked me the following questions last week: 1. Why is the sun so bright? 2. Why is a Rip current called a “Rip” current? 3. Why do we say “bless you” when people sneeze?
I know that as soon as I mentioned the word “curious,” some of you thought about this old quote:
Curiosity killed the cat.
A lot of people
My ten minute Google search tells me that this quote originated in the 1598 play, Every Man in His Humour, written by the English playwright Ben Jonson. Since, it’s been used as a forewarning for those who are inquiring about or expressing curiosity in something that may result in trouble. Over the years, this quote has been used to keep people from interfering in others’ affairs. Of course this quote has also been used to discourage children from asking “too many” questions about anything. I even remember as I stared at a lifeless cat in the middle of the road, someone told me, “See? Curiosity killed that cat!” Sounds like a pretty compelling argument if you ask me.
Why is it important to encourage children to be inquisitive?
In true Olaolu fashion, I’d like to offer you an alternative to the previous quote:
Let’s use the same scenario above. Some argue that the cat died because he was too curious. He met an inevitably fatal ending because he was satisfying his naturally inquisitive mind. Well, I’d like to offer that the cat wouldn’t have wandered into the road in front of a car if he had known it could end his life. In other words, his fatal outcome was based upon his ignorance, not his inquisitive mind.
It’s not all life or death situations though. There are many other benefits to encouraging our children to be inquisitive.
Here are a few benefits.
It broadens their perspective on current events.
It gives them a desire to know more about life, science, religion, etc.
It helps to develop their critical thinking skills.
It helps develop their perspective and opinions.
It sparks their mind to conduct analytical processes.
It teaches them to remain open minded.
It gives them confidence as they learn new things.
It teaches them to think freely and explore their thoughts and emotions.
It creates another teachable and memorable moment for you with your children. That’s what my entire parent-child-connect (P2C) platform is all about!
So now for the million dollar question:
How do you raise inquisitive children?:
1. Ask questions.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge advocate for setting the example. That is our job as leaders and mentors. The more our children see us asking questions, the more they will be inclined to do the same. Your example also teaches them the appropriate time, forum, and method to ask questions. For example, if your significant other says something and you yell back, “Why do I need to do that?!” Expect your child to do the same.
2. Give answers based upon fact.
Children may be naïve, but they’ll eventually realize if you’re just making stuff up. It’s ok to say, “I don’t know. Let me read more about that and get back to you.” It may even be a great opportunity for you to learn together! In any case, give them factual information.
3. Teach them where to find answers and how to conduct research.
I’m sure we have all heard this proverb.:
If you give a man a fish he is hungry again in an hour. If you teach him to catch a fish you do him a good turn.
Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie
I’m not encouraging you to hand them a dictionary or an encyclopedia, and tell them to “go figure it out.” I am encouraging you to show them how and where to gather information. Encourage them to read! This is why I include fun facts and educational material in my children’s books. Not only is this skill transferrable to the classroom, but it teaches your child how to examine perspectives and analyze information before developing their opinion.
4. Listen to them and be patient.
Patience is another topic I discuss regularly. It is a critical part of any relationship, and it’s impossible to raise inquisitive children without patience! It takes time for them to ask questions that they perceive to be complex. The fact that they don’t know how to ask the complex question makes asking the question that much harder.
Relax. Give them time to ask the question, and if they need a little help forming the question (i.e. they are struggling to form the words), gently help them. Whatever you do, don’t rush them or cut them off mid-sentence. Take time to hear their question, and give them an age-appropriate answer that they can comprehend.
5. Encourage them to ask questions.
This is a pretty simple concept. If you want your children to be more inquisitive, encourage them to be more inquisitive. Sometimes, they may be scared to ask questions. Maybe there’s a guy yelling and wearing a worn out t-shirt that says, “because I said so!” I say that tongue-in-cheek to make fun of myself, but you get the point. Be aware of what you say about and your disposition towards your children when they are being inquisitive.
Their inquisitive mind is constantly expanding as they learn about and take in the world around them. Your children’s life-long experiences and opinions will be based upon what they learn and perceive to be true. Their willingness to ask questions and challenge the norm will inevitably make them catalysts for change. And ultimately, that change will drive us to a brighter future.
I’ve often felt like an outsider in multiple areas and at various times in my life. For example, although my siblings were born in vicinity of New Orleans, I was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. We started off in the East of New Orleans then moved to the Westbank in Algiers, and even then, we attended school in St. Bernard Parish because that’s where my father taught.
My parents uprooted us from our home 17 years ago as Hurricane Katrina ravaged through my hometown. I assumed we were just evacuating for the weekend until my family enrolled us in school the following Friday in rural North Louisiana. Once again, I found myself feeling like an outsider as I settled in and remained there throughout my adolescent years.
That’s one reason I’ve come to realize that adapting to any given situation is second nature to me. It’s all I’ve known for a very long time. I continue to search for who I am in spite of who I’ve become as a result of the continual changes. Was I designed to be the perpetual outsider?
To answer that question, I turn to Proverbs 18:16
Just as height, coordination, and athleticism are advantageous to those who are gifted in sports; perspective, comprehension, and communication cultivate the various gifts inside of you. With that in mind, Proverbs 18:16 takes on a different meaning for me. Your gifts may open the door for you, but the environment you enter helps produce the skills you need to grow the gifts within you.
Your gifts may open the door for you, but the environment you enter helps produce the skills you need to grow the gifts within you.
Full circle: The Outsider’s Advantage
On the anniversary of the biggest adjustment of my life, I choose to ignore hypotheticals. Instead, I will focus on my growth, the growth of the city I love, and the growth of everyone else affected by the hurricane. Though we are still putting pieces back together in a multitude of ways 17 years later, the strength, endurance, and resiliency that came as a result cannot be ignored.
One of my favorite sayings is “Perspective is everything, and everything is relative.” Meaning, your outlook on any given thing or situation is all based upon your experience and opinion. That outlook could be very difficult to garner if you’ve maintained an unvarying viewpoint for an extended period of time… So maybe being an outsider in multiple areas and at different times of my life isn’t so bad after all.
Hello! I know some of you will click this expecting some form of optical illusion or a trivial search. I can assure you that I’m not trying to point your attention towards anything in particular. Instead, I want to introduce two kinds of people who differ based upon their perspective and why each is important.
Last weekend, my wife and I went to watch Kevin Hart in Raleigh, NC. (It’s a hilarious show by the way, but that’s not the point of this post). The pictures you see were taken from our viewpoint in our hotel room. One picture is what I immediately saw, and the other is what my wife immediately saw. While staring out of the window, I told her, “if you look down, you will be disappointed, but if you look up and out, you’ll see the beauty.” How romantic. Here I am spewing out a philosophical observation when we were supposed to be just taking in the view. She simply (and accurately) responded, “sounds like you have your next post.”
She was right!
At first thought, I thought I would discuss how important the “up-and-out” perspective was. Then something hit me: the “down-and-in” perspective is crucial to our success. So let’s talk about how both perspectives are mutually supporting.
The “up-and-out” perspective
You have probably heard this story, but I’ll share anyway! Sir Christopher Wren is the famous architect responsible for numerous reconstruction projects following the Great Fire in London in 1666. One of his most prolific masterpieces is the St Paul’s Cathedral. Legend has it that one day during construction, Christopher Wren observed three bricklayers hard at work. Christopher Wren posed a simple question to these three men, “What are you doing?” One bricklayer responded, “I’m a bricklayer. I’m working hard laying bricks to feed my family.” The second bricklayer responded, “I’m a builder. I’m building the walls of a church.” The third brick layer responded, “I’m a cathedral builder. I’m building a great cathedral to The Almighty.”
This is when most of the self-help books and blogs stop to praise the latter of the three men. This man has the up-and-out perspective, and he understands the big picture. People like him can usually keep a positive attitude in the worst situations, because they can forecast a positive outcome. Conversely, they can warn you of impending danger regardless of how positive the current situation is. Can you understand why a large amount of self-help literature recommends this perspective? This person sounds awesome, right? Let’s check how this individual interacts with the “down-and-in” perspective.
Interaction with the down-and-in perspective.
Are you actually going to pretend you don’t see that literal pile of trash right there?
I think this quote accurately captures the kind of conversation I have at least once a week with my wife (😂). The up-and-out perspective person needs this reminder. Because they can often accurately predict the future, they easily become unrealistic. In other words, if untethered, the up-and-out perspective person can set lofty and unachievable goals. Also, their constant positive attitude or sense of foreboding can become exhausting. Sometimes, they need the down-and-in perspective people to ground them and help them embrace the moment.
Another important note is the up-and-out person often likes to document their thoughts (i.e. budgets, schedules, personnel tracking estimates, etc.) This can feel overwhelming to the down-and-in person and they’ll feel the up-and-out person is overbearing and too controlling.
The “down-and-in” perspective
This group of people represents the other two workers in our St Paul story. I always imagine that while Mr. Up-and-out is taking a break to lean on his shovel and admire his work, the down-and-in bricklayers keep working to meet the day’s timeline. They are all about doing the immediate work it takes to get the job done.
Because they have the down-and-in perspective, they can usually identify immediate dangers or opportunities. They are also more apt to embrace the moment –whether positive or negative. Their perspective may initially seem brash or uncalled for, but it can help inform future decisions.
Interaction with the other.
I live in the future!
This is another weekly quote from our conversations. Down-and-in perspective people can often seem like “Debbie Downers.” The down-and-in people usually provide valuable feedback that the up-and-out person may not immediately understand or appreciate. For example, by pointing out the dumpsters in the first picture, the down-and-in person will give the up-and-out person something to think about when choosing rooms in the future.
To the up-and-out person, the down-and-in person seems to be shortsighted with no comprehension of or care for long-term initiatives. The #YOLO or Carpe Diem lifestyle with no future considerations makes the up-and-out person extremely uncomfortable. The up-and-out person feels the down-and-in person is too unorganized and solely focused on surviving the day. Thereby, the up-and-out person will (often unsuccessfully) urge the down-and-in person to understand how their daily actions contribute to the big picture.
These perspectives are mutually supporting but not mutually exclusive
Some of you may be thinking, “I’m a little bit of both.” Well, you’re right! Many of us find ourselves bouncing between these two perspectives. This is an important note as we fulfill our role in any team or relationship. We must constantly understand and adapt to the different perspectives to avoid the inevitable clash and work together to achieve common goals. If you are leading a team, you must constantly assess who’s who and find ways to incorporate each perspective to gain and maintain momentum on any given project.
So who are you today?
Picture yourself in that same hotel window with me and my wife. What do you see? And most importantly, how will you incorporate the alternate perspective? These are the questions I challenge you to think about throughout the week.