Don’t sell yourself short!

by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

Did you not apply for the job you really wanted because you thought you wouldn’t get it anyway?

Do you feel it’s too late to start a new career, so you continue on your current path even though you’re miserable?

Have you settled for a relationship with someone because you believe this is as good as it can get for you?

When someone pays you a compliment, is your first response to deny and discount rather than simply saying thanks?

It could be that you’re suffering from what some consider to be the most dangerous disease — self-doubt!

Perhaps it’s time you grab your pompoms and become your own cheerleader.

Sometime in the past year I recall receiving an email or Facebook post about a YouTube link titled, “Jessica’s Daily Affirmation.” It was this adorable rather precocious little girl standing on her bathroom counter looking in the mirror basically proclaiming all that was wonderful about what she saw and declaring her grand expectations for her day and life.

It seems children are born with an innate sense of appreciation for themselves. This included you and me a few years back, by the way. What happened to our ability to cheer for ourselves and our lives in a positive and passionate way?

Somewhere along our life journey we learned to argue with and against ourselves. And in doing so, we lost the high regard we once had and became obsessed with self-criticism.

The good news is we can learn to root for ourselves again and stop underestimating our potential and settling for less than our best.

Self-appreciation is not arrogance! There is nothing wrong with valuing and honoring our God-given gifts, talents, abilities and skills. I have no doubt that God cherishes and blesses the uniqueness of each one of Her precious children. Why would we not do the same?

And of course we should celebrate our successes! Why should we only have pity-parties?

You are not inadequate, insufficient, deficient, limited in any way. You are not at a disadvantage. When you make an estimate of the quality or worth of yourself or your abilities that is lower than what God makes, you are cheating yourself out of seeing your potential, genius, passion and purpose. And you need to recognize your value, in order to reach it!

You have only become unmindful or forgetful of the child God created. And this child — like little Jessica — knows very well that anything is possible and whatever is possible will be great!

I can’t help but think that Jessica’s daily affirmations are a good way to begin each day. We, too, can make daily affirmations of our strengths and capabilities when we wake up each morning. It makes sense that if we are to reach our full potential, we need to begin by appreciating who we are and what we can do.

So be your ally, your friend, your cheerleader. Know you can count on yourself to be in your corner every step of your life journey. And know that God is right there along side of you cheering, applauding and rooting for Her child with you.

Today is big with prospects, possibilities and potential. And tomorrow is promising to be even brighter. Your enthusiasm and exuberance for each day will give you the sparkle, hope, faith, inspiration and encouragement you need to make each day be all that it can be.

You’ve got a lot in your favor, my friend — stop selling yourself short!

Just keep going!

by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

“I want us to be that couple,” I said to my husband. My most poignant moment during our trip to Maui came as I watched a very senior-looking couple slowly leave the restaurant where we were enjoying a delicious seafood dinner. They were smiling, hand in hand, each with a walking cane in the other hand.

I couldn’t help but think how awesome it was that this dear couple undoubtedly traveled thousands of miles for a tropical vacation — even now.

And why not, I queried. Why should they stop going and stay home?

Maybe traveling isn’t as easy as it once was. Maybe it takes longer to get where they want to go and do what they want to do.

Isn’t there still joy in watching the sun set over the ocean? Isn’t there still contentment while breathing in the fresh sea air? Isn’t there still wonder when seeing a mother and baby whale swim side by side?

Surely, there is no age limit for such life pleasures!

So why should we let aging keep us from experiencing these pleasures? I think we should do our best to not let anything keep us from doing what we want to do. That’s my life plan anyway — after being inspired by my elderly vacationers.

Sometimes we start believing opinions of others that try to tell us we’re too old. Or sometimes we start believing theories that say a certain age brings certain limitations.

This reminds me of Sarah (in the Bible) when she was ninety years old and received the news from God that she would have a baby. She laughed at the idea. The Bible says, “So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “Will I have this joy after my husband and I have grown old?”(Genesis 18:12) God responded with the resounding, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14) And indeed, she gave birth to Isaac.

Whether Sarah’s laugh was in delight or disbelief, I must admit if I received such news, my laugh would be one of sarcastic doubt, and my reply to God would be, “Lord, you’ve got to be kidding!”

Admittedly, I don’t really want to prove I’m not too old to have a baby. But I don’t ever want to be too old to go on a vacation with my husband! And the spiritual truth is that our God-given freedom and dominion is timeless — ageless. Mortal measurements are man-made. I’m quite certain that how old is too old is not a question known to the Lord.

Perhaps some ageless thinking will help precipitate some ageless living. We need not accept that decrepitude and decline is inevitable. Who is it that confines, restricts, hinders or inhibits the days of our lives? Who perceives us as young or old? Not God!

We can break any age barrier that would keep us home by acknowledging and exercising our eternal spiritual qualities of promise, purpose and progress. God has endowed each of us with boundless energy and a never-quit spirit. We can prove this even if only one step at a time!

And as we do, these words of Job will ring true, “And thine age shall be clearer than the noonday; thou shalt shine forth, thou shalt be as the morning.” (Job 11:17)

So with determination, resolve and perseverance, plan that vacation and have fun. Live life now — moment by moment. Don’t worry about tomorrow or “what if’s.” Just keep going, my friends!

Resolve to keep your heart young

by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

“And a little child shall lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6)

When I think of a child — remembering when my daughter was a baby — I think of the love a child has for each new day. She loves everything she is doing and seeing in each moment. Every day is a new adventure of discovery and imagination. Nothing can concern or worry her. Nothing can depress or stress her. Nothing can take her peace and joy.

A child may fall as he learns to walk, but he simply gets up and keeps on walking. His blocks may fall over, but he immediately starts building his tower again. When someone bumps into him, they both fall down laughing and then help each other up — still laughing.

Perhaps we really did learn everything we needed to know about life in kindergarten.

But perhaps there is much we can learn now (or remember) by pondering what it means to be young at heart.

I was listening to a Frank Sinatra CD the other day when his song, “Young at Heart” caught my attention. I’ve heard it sung many times and have even seen his 1954 movie with the same title, co-starring Doris Day.

His song gives some assurances that come with being young at heart such as — fairy tales can come true, life gets more exciting with each passing day, it’s hard to be narrow of mind and you can laugh when your dreams fall apart at the seams. All of these things are possible, Frank sings, when we’re young at heart.

His song suggests that being carefree and happy isn’t based upon age. I suspect many of us fondly recall — and at least some of us long for — our youthful days of less responsibility and more energy. But according to Frankie, it sounds like an ageless lifestyle is grounded by an eternally youthful outlook. So a youthful outlook isn’t only in spite of one’s age, but also in spite of one’s circumstances and experiences.

American baseball player, Satchel Paige, also renowned for his philosophy on staying young, asked a poignant question. He proposed, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?”

It could be that too much awareness of our age develops into an excuse. Whether that excuse seems very real or it is imagined or assumed, age becomes the basis for our limitations, inabilities, inactions, boundaries, obstacles and confinements. I wonder how my thoughts as well as my actions, decisions and dreams would change if I dismissed completely any thought of getting old or older.

Now that I’m moving into my fifties, there’s a long list of synonyms for old that I want no part of. Synonyms like decrepit, obsolete, antiquated, outdated, stale, dull, dusty, worn out and most importantly — gray-headed. That will never happen!

Perhaps staying young and maintaining a youthful point of view is possible and for the most part within our control.

Why can the young at heart laugh when their dreams fall part? Because the young at heart are visionaries!

If one dream doesn’t turn out like they dreamed, they envision a new dream — a new possibility, a new path, a new opportunity. As I recall my own childhood memories, I don’t think a day went by without me dreaming about my future. And that future was filled with endless possibilities — many of which are still attainable and many of which I’ve not yet pursued. So what am I waiting for?

Why can a little child lead them, as we read in Isaiah?

Because children know no limitations, boundaries or obstacles! Children only envision or imagine what is possible. Children are flexible, adaptable and buoyant. Children don’t take matters so seriously. Children have the innate ability to lighten up absolutely everything they encounter. Consequently, they are able to lessen the oppressiveness, trouble or severity of any situation and make any needed alterations, changes or modifications to reach their goal.

So my friends, may we all cast away our old age blinders and return to the God-given vision of our youth — where our vision sees only the infinite. Surely this is how we keep our heart young! And this point of view will lead us to our own infinite possibilities!

A mother’s greatest gift

by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.

Imagine a quaint French tearoom … in Texas. Live jazz piano background music. Servings of hot tea, bite-size desserts and chocolate-covered strawberries. A lovely and charming lady surrounded by family and friends telling what they love about her. This describes the recent scene of my mom’s 80th birthday party.

Mother’s Day just around the corner seems a fitting time for me to recognize and honor the woman who has inspired and taught me most about life, courage, persistence and my own spirituality.

Most folks reading this do not know my mother and never will. But her story may sound familiar to some. By society’s standards, even today, she was a child bride. Unhappy at home with her mom and stepfather, she was easily wooed by a handsome young man in uniform. Her teen years were spent as a wife and mother of two. By 1967, she was the mother of four children — three of them grown. She had been married two-thirds of her life.

She struggled with a troubled marriage and health problems. What was next for her? When her marriage ended in divorce, she hit the road, taking me and little else. We often joke how she did manage to pack her ice cream freezer. There are certain priorities that a multi-generational Southerner from Georgia never forgets. This most definitely would include the ability to make homemade ice cream for her guests.

Our road not only took us westward. It would be a life-finding journey for my mother that would bless my life more than I have space to say.

Shortly after her divorce, my mom began studying Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy’s explanation of Christ Jesus’ healings and teachings. These ideas gave her comfort, hope and practical ideas about prayer and healing. It’s not that she didn’t know about God and prayer before. She had been a Bible student all her life, attending a couple of different churches. But now she was starting to gain a new view of her identity that proved to be health-giving and life-regenerating.

How can I summarize her next 40 years? My mother found a new life for herself, step by step. She never gave up, no matter how rough and bumpy the road got. Her belief in herself grew as her trust in God grew. Over the course of these years there were many firsts and accomplishments. From owning her very own car and house, her first bank account to college and a career. And there were also the intangibles of happiness, peace of mind, satisfaction and better health.

Her life has taught me that it’s never too late. Beginnings and first times can happen throughout life at any age. Happiness is not bought with money. Home is in your heart. Joy is God-given and can’t be taken from you. Never give up. I could go on and on!

I don’t think any words are truer than these of Mary Baker Eddy: “The lives of great men and women are miracles of patience and perseverance.” In my eyes and to many who know her, my mom is among the greatest of women, whose life is most certainly a miracle of patience and perseverance. God-given qualities she learned were hers as her identity grew from a struggling single mom to a whole-souled woman reflecting the motherhood and fatherhood of God.

Her achievements against great odds have instilled in me a conviction that anything is possible. Perhaps the greatest gift a mother could ever give to her child. So it’s time for me to say “thank you” to my mom for life lessons that have left indelible marks on me and many others, too. Happy Mother’s Day!

Oh to be a child again!

by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.

I wanted to get up and dance, but I didn’t. I was suddenly reminded of my daughter’s marble paperweight with the inscription, “Dance like nobody’s watching.” But, hundreds of people would be watching if I stood up and started dancing. Consequently, I unhappily restrained my desire and stayed seated.

Oh, how I wished I was a child again as I watched dozens of little ones dancing and jumping around in front of the stage. My husband and I were attending an outdoor concert. It was great fun except all the adults were sitting in their chairs while the children, it seemed to me, were having the most fun.

Did I really care what others would think? Well… yeah. I did. But why? When did I lose my impetuous, uninhibited child self? How can I recapture the unbridled freedom I had in my early childhood? I so miss that freedom.

Somehow I had managed to put myself into a grown-up box, which basically meant I was, like many adults — taking myself too seriously. But I didn’t want to.

I can think of a few adults who seem to have managed to hold on to their childlikeness. My step dad is one of these fortunate grown-ups. An example of this is when he is in church and inspired by a soloist performance and lets out a resounding “Amen!” It matters not that his is the only voice heard. He follows his heart. Or my mom — does she worry about anyone seeing her walk around in her swimsuit? No way! Her joy of swimming fills her thoughts. I’ve often longed to be more like them.

Christ Jesus once gave his disciples — and all of us who read his teachings now — some serious advice on the import of maintaining the heart of the child. In fact he said, “for such is the kingdom of God.” This instruction came on the heels of his disciples arguing among themselves about who should be the greatest among them. He told them the “childlike” are the “greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

I’ll never forget a lesson learned from my daughter when she was very young. A little boy joined her Sunday School class whose skin color was different from hers. She didn’t think he was a different “race” (although he was). She innocently told her nanny that this new boy had as good a tan as she had. Her nanny has an olive complexion as well as a great tan because she loves the outdoors and often swims in her pool.

It seems to me that our childlikeness is our natural self, and “stuff” is learned as we grow up that would rob us of our child hearts. I suspect everyone knows what stuff I’m talking about, so I will not waste space now reviewing all of it. I want to focus only on our childlikeness.

God created us childlike — full of wonder, in a state of perpetual discovery, curious, compelled by fascination, satisfied by simple joys, spontaneous, trusting, obedient, confident, expectant, innocent, eager to learn, with a humble spirit, forgiving, ready to explore and investigate, filled with the spirit of adventure, unconditionally loving. Since this is how God created each of us, we can’t lose these qualities. We only stop remembering our childlike self. But childlike is what we “truly” are. So, we need only be willing to rediscover this self.

I’m working on living my childlikeness. The next outdoor concert we attended, I got up and danced like nobody was watching. My husband said they were watching. But that thought didn’t cross my mind. I was too busy enjoying the moment. Thank you, God, for giving us the gift of a child heart! I will do my best to never forget it again!