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To the Single Mom at Christmas

December 1st, 2016 | 2 Comments | Posted in Encouragement
Dear Single Mom,I have been thinking of you since Thanksgiving.

As Christmas gets closer and closer, I have been praying for your heart.

This time of year is hard for you, I know. I was a single mom for almost five years. My sister was for seven. And my mother has been a single mom for almost the entirety of her four children’s lives.

The holidays were by far the most difficult times for me, as a single mom. I can still feel the intense sadness, mixed with grief and fear, alone at the Christmas Eve service that first year. A custody agreement always includes who has the kids when on every holiday. This year, it was my turn to celebrate without any kiddos lighting candles at the service, waking me up the next morning, looking for their stockings, eating Christmas tree shaped pancakes, and playing with new toys .

Or the following year, when my boys were with me. It felt like we were surrounded by all the dads carrying kids on their shoulders at the mall, videotaping the first grade holiday concert, dragging Christmas trees out of the lot, standing in line for Santa pictures while their wives shopped for gifts.

I remember exactly how it felt. It felt lonely. It felt different. It felt somehow less than.

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The most difficult part about being a single mom for me, was the intense pressure of responsibility.

Every single day, it was all on me — providing, nurturing, caring for, teaching, disciplining — it felt like there was no safe place to just be.

Then add all the holiday stuff: the shopping, the gift wrapping, remembering the advent calendar, getting the tree, hanging up the decorations. I wanted my boys to have a “normal Christmas.” And every year, I was completely overwhelmed.

Being a single mom can be crushing, especially this time of year.

So as we get closer to Christmas, I want to gently, lovingly say: You are not alone.

Even if you have absolutely no help…

Even if you have been a widow since your child was a baby…

Even if your children’s father left you without any involvement on his part…

You are not alone.

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God has you in this. He is the best Father there is — for you sweet momma, and for you little ones.

It’s the reason we celebrate this season in the first place. Jesus came for you, for me, for our children.

I pray this year, that He would help you feel lighter and so lavishly loved.

I pray that no matter how difficult your circumstances may be right now, He would remind you that He doesn’t make mistakes. You are exactly where you are supposed to be in God’s economy. So are your children.

I pray you get some rest, somehow.

I pray you get a sweet handmade card or craft from school.

I pray the people who love you shower you with attention and help around the house.

I pray your children give you an extra hug, sweet snuggles, and plenty of smiles.

And even if none of this happens, I pray that deep down, you would hear me, would believe me when I say:

You are a mother. You are so very special and important and powerful.

I am celebrating you this Christmas.

There is no one like you in your child’s life. You can do this and, by the grace of God, you will do this.

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.
Love, Shawna

Homelife Calendar and Scripture Art

October 1st, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Encouragement

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Faith helps Canada’s fastest woman race to Rio

August 1st, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Encouragement
Khamica BinghamKhamica Bingham’s OIympic dream began when Perdita Felicien’s ended.

One of Canada’s medal hopefuls in the 2016 Summer Olympics was initially inspired by one of Canada’s greatest Olympic disappointments. At the 2004 Olympics, Perdita was the favourite to win gold in the 100m hurdles, but in the final, she hit the first hurdle and crashed to the track.

As Perdita sat on the track, devastated, a 10-year-old Khamica, over 8000 kilometers away, was caught up in the emotion of the moment.

“My first Olympic memory was Perdita,” says Khamica. “I didn’t know what it was, there was just thisrace. Everyone was getting all amped up about it, talking about ‘Perdita, Perdita, Perdita.’ And then when she fell, the emotion in the room changed.”

Up until this point, she had never even thought about the Olympics, but the way her family reacted to the race, both the highs and the lows, captured her attention: “I was just like, ‘I want to do that! I want to do something where I’m on TV and everyone’s cheering for me and hoping that I bring home a gold medal.’”

Twelve years later, Khamica’s dream is on the verge of coming true, as she heads to Rio de Janeiro in August for her first Olympic games, carrying Canada’s hopes for a medal in the women’s 100m and running the anchor leg for the 4x100m team.

As a sprinter, Khamica craves the speed and simplicity of the 100m, but her journey to the Olympics has had its fair share of complications.

“As athletes,” she says, “we just want a straight path. But anything that we really want—our true dreams—it’s never that easy.”

The first obstacle came when she could no longer pursue her chosen sport, which was gymnastics, not track.

“My two siblings went to university, so my parents were trying to pay for their tuition as well as my gymnastics fees,” she says, “But there was a part of me that always had a love for track. I just knew instantly once I was done [gymnastics]: track is what can take me to the Olympics.”

She quickly found success in the sport, winning high school championships and competing on the world stage. Her athletic career hit new heights in 2015, but it was a tumultuous year filled with both triumph and tragedy.

Through it all, her faith kept her focussed as she learned to trust more and more in God’s timing. It’s fitting, then, that 2015 started with a landmark event in her spiritual journey.

“In January, I was talking to Herbie and verbally gave my heart to Jesus,” she says.

That would be Herbie Kuhn, Athletes in Action staff member and the chaplain for the Toronto Argonauts and Toronto Raptors, who has been providing the same service for the Olympic sprinting team. With the constant training and travel, it was tough for Khamica to keep connected to her church, so having Herbie available to the team to lead Bible studies and provide spiritual mentorship bridged the gap.

“I’ve always had a belief in God,” says Khamica, crediting her mother for teaching her about faith growing up. “And I’ve always wanted to know more about God, to work on that relationship and get closer. But my walk with Christ really happened when I met Herbie.”

In March, Khamica raced in the CIS Championships, winning gold in the 60m and setting a new Canadian university record in the process. But later in the month, tragedy struck.

While the Canadian sprinters were training in St. Kitts, Daundre Barnaby, who competed for Canada in the 400m at the 2012 Olympics, died while swimming in the ocean.

Khamica and Daundre joined several other teammates at the beach to cool off after a workout. “We were in the water and he was just a little bit further out than us,” she recalls. “I didn’t even realize that he was asking for help. By the time one of our teammates tried to actually help him, he was getting too far out and he drowned.”

Herbie was there the next day to support the athletes as they grieved and returned to training with heavy hearts. Khamica was particularly impacted.

“He was like a brother,” she said at his funeral a few weeks later and talked about how he made her laugh and was always there for her. Looking back now, she recognizes that his death gave her a new perspective.

“It made me realize how short life is,” she says, “and it really brought me closer to God, learning to rely on him and depend on him. To not take things for granted.”

“I’ve learned to stop complaining so much,” she adds, “because one day when it’s all over I’m going to really miss it and regret it. I think about Daundre and I think about everything that he wanted to do, so he’s my motivator: I try and do it for him.”

That was the mindset for her and the rest of the team heading into the Pan Am Games in Toronto that July.

Khamica made the final for the 100m, finishing 6th behind some of the fastest sprinters in the world. But the true highlight came a few days later as she ran the anchor leg for the women’s 4x100m relay.

With Jamaica and the USA running neck and neck for the lead, Khamica received the baton for her run with the runner from Brazil breathing down her neck. Khamica ran hard to the finish, dipped hard at the line, and held off Brazil for bronze.

“That was one of the best feelings that I’ve ever encountered in track,” she says. “We got a bronze, but I felt like we won gold. Because it was at home, knowing that my parents and my friends were in the crowd, it felt like we were at the Olympics.”

“To finally get that medal and for us to be in Toronto where everybody’s watching and wants to support us and cheer for us, it was perfect.”

2015 saw one more success for the 4x100m team, as they broke the Canadian record at the World Championships in August, even though they finished off the podium. Now, in 2016, Khamica has a different record in her sights.

The Canadian record for women in the 100m is 10.98 seconds. It was set nearly 30 years ago by Angela Bailey.

“That record has to go!” says Khamica emphatically. “It has to go!”

While Khamica has run a wind-aided 11.0 seconds, she has never broken the 11-second barrier, a defining moment for elite female sprinters. Her personal best is 11.13 seconds, set during the Pan Am 100m final.

“Once you go under 11 seconds,” she says, “anything can happen at that point. So right now we’re looking through my race plan and figuring out my weaknesses and my strengths and how we can improve so that by the time Rio comes, I am at my fastest.”

In order to reach the podium or even just the finals in Rio, Khamica feels that she will have to run a sub-11 race. The slowest qualifying time for the finals in the 2012 Olympic Games in London was 11.01 seconds.

“That’s why I feel that record has to go,” she repeats. “It has to go! The sooner the better, especially in a year of the Olympics where it really matters, this is the year where everything has to come together.”

That straight path she desires took one more unexpected curve this year when she suffered a knee injury. The injury will keep her from competing in the 200m event in Rio, for which she had already qualified.

“I had a cartilage tear in my knee and a fat pad impingement,” she says. “It took me out for about a month and a half of my training, so I’m just getting back now. My therapist and coach agree that I’m going to stay away from the 200 this year, because we don’t want to have any setbacks or risks running on the turn.”

For Khamica, the injury has been a lesson in patience and also in trusting God’s timing. The upside for her is that she is now able to focus solely on the 100m event. She hopes that devoting all her attention to the 100m will make her that much better in Rio.

As she sets her sights on success at the Olympics, she recognizes that success doesn’t define her, as her growing faith has helped her define a different path.

“Obviously as athletes we want to win,” she says, “But it’s about doing your best, glorifying God, and knowing that it’s him that gives me the talent and the blessing to do what I do.”

“Herbie’s the one that taught me about that,” she adds. “In everything I do, I glorify God. God created me and I just want to make sure that I’m doing what he has made me to do.”

Gymnast Shawn Johnson: How Her Olympic Career Led Her to Faith

August 1st, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Encouragement

Just Drop the Blanket: The Moment You Never Noticed in A Charlie Brown Christmas

January 1st, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Encouragement

Christmas may be over but I had to share this great article with you. It’s so fitting as we start a new year, a year filled with unknowns and perhaps fears. I also love how it ties in to this year’s CHRI Christmas letter (read the letter here). I have never made the connection the author makes in all my years of watching A Charlie Brown Christmas. – Ashley

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This week A Charlie Brown Christmas aired on national prime time television for the 50th time. In a world where the latest greatest technology is outdated in a matter of months, and social media trends come and go in a matter of days, 50 years of anything becomes quite meaningful.

I am a fan of all things nostalgic and all things Christmas, and so when the two are combined I am hooked, and the Charlie Brown Christmas special falls squarely into that category.

I was in the first grade back when they still performed Christmas pageants in schools (less than 50 years, but still a very long time ago), and our class performed a version of the Charlie Brown Christmas. Since I was kind of a bookworm and already had a blue blanket, I was chosen to play the part of Linus. As Linus, I memorized Luke 2:8-14, and that Scripture has been hidden in my heart ever since.

But while working so diligently to learn those lines, there is one important thing I didn’t notice then, and didn’t notice until now.

Right in the middle of speaking, Linus drops the blanket.

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Charlie Brown is best known for his uniquely striped shirt, and Linus is most associated with his ever-present security blanket. Throughout the story of Peanuts, Lucy, Snoopy, Sally and others all work to no avail to separate Linus from his blanket. And even though his security blanket remains a major source of ridicule for the otherwise mature and thoughtful Linus, he simply refuses to give it up.

Until this moment.  When he simply drops it.

In that climactic scene when Linus shares “what Christmas is all about,” he drops his security blanket, and I am now convinced that this is intentional. Most telling is the specific moment he drops it: when he utters the words, “fear not” (at :38 seconds).

Looking at it now, it is pretty clear what Charles Schultz was saying, and it’s so simple it’s brilliant.

The birth of Jesus separates us from our fears.

The birth of Jesus frees us from the habits we are unable (or unwilling) to break ourselves.

The birth of Jesus allows us to simply drop the false security we have been grasping so tightly, and learn to trust and cling to Him instead.

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The world of 2015 can be a scary place, and most of us find ourselves grasping to something temporal for security, whatever that thing may be. Essentially, 2015 is a world in which it is very difficult for us to “fear not.”

But in the midst of fear and insecurity, this simple cartoon image from 1965 continues to live on as an inspiration for us to seek true peace and true security in the one place it has always been and can always still be found.

As a writer and musician, Jason Soroski strives to communicate in a way that is insightful, meaningful, relevant, and mindful of the small things that we may otherwise overlook in our everyday lives. He effectively taps into his experiences as a worship pastor, classroom teacher, husband, and homeschooling father of five to relate poignant stories from real-life experiences. Jason holds an M.Ed. from Missouri Baptist University, has been featured in various print and web publications, and currently resides in Houston, TX. Read more from Jason at his blog The Way I See It.

Source: crosswalk.com

11 Proven Rules for Success from a Former Navy SEAL

June 1st, 2015 | 1 Comment | Posted in Encouragement
“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, persistence, and learning from failure” —Colin Powell.shutterstock_174448655After leaving the Navy SEAL Teams, I went to grad school, met my business partner, and we started our first company. The housing market was booming, so we created a vertical search engine for finding new homes and condos. Then the bubble burst. I should have listened to my economics professor.Diversification was needed, and needed fast. We learned so much about digital marketing while building that company that we decided to say “yes” to the question, “Do you guys also offer marketing services?” We borrowed money from that business to start the new business, gave those shareholders equal shares in the new company, and Internet Marketing Inc. was born.

As a motivational speaker, most of what I present in my keynote presentations is based on principles I learned in SEAL training and combat, which we have applied in growing our digital-marketing agency.

Based mostly on learning from failure, here are 15 rules for achieving success in your personal and professional life.

  1. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Get outside your comfort zone on a regular basis. The more you do, the wider that area becomes. Things that used to seem impossible can become part of your everyday life.
  2. Never quit. Unless you’re doing something you should stop doing. Just because something doesn’t work out the first time doesn’t mean there isn’t a different approach or a better way to do it. We used to say in the Teams, “Plan your dive and dive your plan.” Don’t change course just because you face obstacles.
  3. Know the difference between preparation and planning. Plans are great and essential for success. But preparation and execution are what gets it done. As General Patton once said, “A good plan executed violently today is far better than a great plan tomorrow.”
  4. Eat the elephant one bite at a time. Setting and achieving lofty goals is great. But those big, far-reaching goals mean nothing without a series of more near-term strategic achievable goals and milestone set along that path to the achievement of the larger goal. Break the big goals into bite-size chunks, making them less daunting and more achievable.
  5. Never stop moving forward. One of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. says, “If you can’t fly, you run; if you can’t run, you walk; and if you can’t walk, you crawl. But no matter what, you keep moving forward.” If you are not focusing on improving your life and career every day, things will stagnate. If you aren’t always trying to improve, then what’s the point?
  6. Measure everything that is important. If you aren’t measuring the success of your activities, there isn’t much chance they will thrive. But if you do, there is little chance they won’t improve.
  7. Manage everything that is important. I don’t know how many times I’ve set something on cruise control to focus on other initiatives only to circle back later to find things either in shambles or with zero progress. It doesn’t have to be you, but someone needs to be actively managing the important aspects of your business or life.
  8. Know that life isn’t fair. I’ve been in combat, lost brothers, spent years as a single dad while trying to lead a company, gone through costly divorce, battled to maintain much needed full custody of my son, and worked hard to recover from inevitable business mistakes. But God doesn’t put us in situations we can’t handle. He blessed me with the most amazing wife who saved my life. And she blessed us with a beautiful baby girl. Then she was born with a birth defect and spent a month in the neonatal intensive care unit. That’s life. As long as you take every day knowing things aren’t fair, you’ll be just fine. Never be out of the fight.
  9. Laugh when you would rather cry. There is always a reason to smile, especially when you are leading a team. Positivity and calmness are contagious. As is panic. Decide what type of environment you want to promote. Lead by example.
  10. Know the difference between skill and success. The world is full of highly skilled people or teams that fall short of achieving true success. In SEAL training, often it was the most elite athletes who were the first to quit. Although they had the physicality, they lacked the mental fortitude to compete and win at that level. They lacked the ability to adapt. We have to be able to bridge the gap between skill and applying that skill to achieving goals.
  11. Surround yourself with subject-matter experts. And then take credit for all of their work. Just joking! I would never be where I am today without my wife, business partners, advisers, and our amazing team. I am the least important person at my company. As soon as I realized that, I knew how to get out of the way.

These are just some of the things I have learned along the way. There will be many more lessons to come.

BY BRENT GLEESON

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Navy SEAL combat veteran Brent Gleeson is the co-founder and CMO at Internet Marketing Inc., a leading digital marketing agency and an Inc. 500|5000 company for the past three years in a row.

Source: inc.com