Thursday, October 9, 2014

You can't even imagine what life could be like....


Good morning from the glorious, albeit, a bit rough shores of Lake Michigan!  I am in Bay Harbor, MI, just outside of Petoskey, to attend a conference for Community College leadership. Two of my colleagues and I will present a session this morning on the partnership we’ve formed between the Financial Aid Office and Retention departments, and the strategies we’ve developed to help students succeed. This is not the typical kind of speaking that I do, but nonetheless, still exciting. When I truly believe in something, it is exhilarating to share it with others.

As I mentioned yesterday, a last-minute change in plans regarding accommodations occurred, and my group has somehow managed to end up in King Suites in the Inn at Bay Harbor.  I’ve stayed at this hotel before when attending the conference in prior years, but never in a room like this. In fact, this little ‘rural girl” has never SEEN a room like this, let alone stayed in one.  I felt like Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” when I walked in to find that the hotel suite is nearly as big as my house, complete with a full-functioning kitchen, living room with fireplace, separate bedroom, AND….a jet tub!  Yikes! All of this opened up to a balcony overlooking Lake Michigan!  I’m not sure I really want to leave this room to attend the sessions! 

All of this is a bit overwhelming for me to comprehend and it is completely ‘out of my norm.” I’ve never been one impressed by luxury or expensive things, but this certainly is a pleasant surprise. After all, I made a little stop on my way north to the Salvation Army Thrift store in Gaylord, and walked into this place carrying a watermelon and a grocery bag of food. My 14-year-old car is the oldest one in the parking lot. Oh, the irony!  I find value in the simple things in life; those moments that are ‘priceless” as the commercials say, and measure my wealth in terms of the heart. Certainly, I will enjoy these few days, living in luxury, but will be just as glad to return to my simple life in the woods.

This morning, as I listen to the surf pound the shore outside my room, my heart is filled with gratitude, not necessarily for my surroundings, but for the blessings that are all around me. I give thanks for this journey, and for all of you with whom I share it. I’ve been remembering all of the conference invitations that I had to turn down a few years ago when I was at my worst. It would have been just way too hard to attend something like this, if not impossible.  I knew it, and it didn’t take much for me to convince my superiors of it either. Eventually, they quit asking. It was difficult enough for me at this stage to get myself up here, traveling in the wind and rain yesterday, hauling ‘way-too-much stuff” into the hotel (did I mention I brought a watermelon with me?  LOL), getting settled in my room, standing and mingling with the other attendees at the hospitality suite, etc.  This would have been virtually impossible for someone 400 pounds and unable to walk. I know, I’ve been there, and I could go back there again…IF….I don’t make a choice…..every….single….day…..NOT to!  Our journey is FOR LIFE….not merely until we reach a goal.

 I watched as people bustled around me, milling in and out of the hotel, transporting luggage, and standing in the lobby mingling with others. I wondered if they knew how blessed they are to be alive?  They were doing every-day normal things that we sometimes take for granted; things that others like “Old Theresa” and perhaps you, only dreamed of one day being able to do for the first time…or again. Some of you may never be able to walk pain-free or without the use of a mobility device due to physical disability; some may never be comfortable mingling or socializing due to anxiety or depression; some may never be given the opportunity to travel or stay in a place like this for a number of reasons, but EACH OF US....is given blessings each day that we often take for granted. 

Today, I encourage you to focus more on those things that you CAN do, even if they are small and what you feel to be insignificant. Focus on what you DO have, even if you are struggling to put food on the table or make ends meet. Focus on what you GET to eat, rather than on what you CAN’T eat. (Remember, you Can eat it, but you Choose not to). Focus on what you HAVE lost or the progress you HAVE made, rather than on how far you still need to go and how bad you may have messed up yesterday.  Today is a gift….approach it with gratitude and I guarantee you will begin to see things in a new way.

I’m grateful today that this ‘fluke in reservations” has landed me here, but not because I got to take a bubble bath in a hot tub last night (although that was pretty “sweet” LOL) but because it was just God’s way of reminding me that “when we allow HIM to intervene in our journey, the result is beyond even our comprehension.” When I began this journey to wellness three years ago…..never, ever would I have imagined that my life would end up like this. All I wanted to do was keep myself out of an Assisted Living home….and be able to walk the 50 yards or so to my mailbox. I never dreamed I would be ever be able to walk down the beach or get into a bathtub again after many years of not being able to do so.   Trust me…….you have no idea what joy; what freedom; what opportunities will come from your journey, but you have to take the first step. You have to do the work…day-in-and-day-out in order to get there. You have to make the hard choices and sacrifices, and ask yourself daily “What do I want MORE….this donut; cigarette; drink; bad relationship; unforgiveness and anger  (whatever, you can fill in the blanks)…or freedom, joy…true joy from within, not from a lakeside suite….and a peaceful spirit?  The choice is pretty easy for me. I choose life…and gratitude…and joy; things that will last far beyond my business trip or the taste of that cinnamon roll.

Make it a great day, my friends, and be assured that you are here with me in spirit.