The Road to Success

What is success? It has many varied definitions depending on who you ask and in what context. Getting out of bed in the morning can be a success to some, while taking that next breath is a success to others. Most people like to place the label success on an amount of money one has made in a year or a lifetime, but who determines that amount? How much money is enough? Some call success having large houses or nice cars, but how large is large enough and who determines if a car is nice or not? Some ‘nice’ cars can have engine troubles like the rest of them. Truth is, if the car gets you from point A to point B, isn’t that a success?

My daughter is graduating in a couple of weeks, and that is a success! One of many in her life, I would hope. She still has her whole life ahead of her with many possibilities. Many will want to judge her success as how much schooling she accomplishes, what kind of job she gets, who she marries, and where she lives. My opinion of success for life will be whether or not she lives for God to the best of her ability and makes it to heaven one day.

You see, I was in her shoes at one time. I had a whole world of possibilities before me. My time in school was spent achieving top grades and academic awards. School came easy for me because things just made sense. I thrived on the attention I got from making good grades and this help fill the emptiness in my life left by parents who chose not to make my siblings and I a priority. Due to my academic success, other family members and members of the community were the wind beneath my wings believing that I could ‘make something of my life.’

I set goals and had a course set for my life, but I have learned that the best made plans are meant to be interrupted. See, although I was achieving great success in the life people could see, I was drowning emotionally. I knew God and was struggling to find my place with him. I loved him and was thankful for his hand on my life, but I wasn’t allowing him in to heal my brokenness. I was trying to build a new life right over the top of the pieces. Any attention I received from people, good or bad, was never enough for me. I felt empty, almost starved. I could never get full. This is a horrible feeling.

Thankfully, God never gave up on me and was patient to teach me anytime I would look to him for instruction. For a while I would do pretty good, but when new people came into my life, I again would thrive on their attention. My pastor and his wife, friends, boyfriends, only two, extended family members, and teachers were sources of joy for me. This is where the trouble begins. The Bible says in Nehemiah 8:10, that the ‘joy of the Lord is your strength.’ There is a place in your life that can only be filled by God and nothing else will satisfy.

I had been on the road to success for some time when the Lord really began to reach out to me. I look back now and can see that He was trying to save me from building my house on the sand. I was trying to ‘patch’ the holes in my life on my own. All along He was wanting to heal me. One summer, after my second year of college, I knew that something was missing. God had been a part of my life for most of my life, but I had not given myself to Him completely. You just can’t live for God part-time. Your life will be in a constant state of tension, trust me. That summer I remember saying, ‘I’m going to church camp because I need one week of JUST God and nothing else!’

I also had to make clear choices. The boy I had dated for the last four years, who began to drink heavily after his brother died tragically, was clearly not wanting to make God a priority in his life. I knew all along that it wasn’t going to work, but kept holding on to the chance that he would eventually give his life to God. I had to say good-bye. Being the control freak that I am, I went to camp, praying that God would somehow change his mind while I was gone. The very first night of camp, Bro. Jerry Jones preached ‘Not my will but thine be done!’ That night I repented and released my hold on my will for my life. And as it always happens when you make a decision to live for God, things got worse, and that’s all I will say on that because that’s a whole other story. What I will say is by Thursday of that week I was introduced to my future husband. I watched him in the services and he would worship with all of his might. I knew that this would be a good place to begin building a foundation for the rest of my life.

Unfortunately for Eric, my family and friends didn’t know much about the inner struggle I was having and blame him for the choices I made shortly after meeting him, but only God knows that I was beginning my journey on the road to success. Putting God first in every part of my life. I chose to become a wife and a mother. To me, this was the real challenge of life. Doing, every day, what must be done. I’m not done yet, but I know my life has had more meaning and fulfillment on this road.
I don’t know who appointed certain people to ‘measure’ success, but I’m pretty sure they were self-appointed, and I failed miserably in their eyes.

Success comes in different forms and in different degrees. A journey is completed by one successful step after another. Every day we must set goals, some short-term and some long-term. Some days success is eating three meals and accomplishing daily hygiene. Other days we look back and see the home and life we have provided for our families, and this is success. Success for me will always be seeing my children make choices to make God a priority in their lives, because I know the rest will fall into place.

One day I want to hear the Master say, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant…Enter into the joy of the Master.’ Matthew 25:21 I pray one day that everyone else would put away their measuring sticks and concentrate on their own lives. If we are busy helping others instead of pointing fingers, we might see more of a success rate! God gave us all a measuring stick and it was shown in example when he walked among us as the man Christ Jesus, and we have His word to help us every day.

Again, success depends upon where you have set your goals. I choose to set my goal on heaven above and not in the things of this world that only bring pleasure for a season. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “ Matthew 6:19-21

I don’t regret one day since I’ve been on this path. It hasn’t always been easy, but I’m used to difficulties. The difference is, on this path, I have help from my Father above. He is just as close as the mention of his name. I have found that truly:

Only Jesus can satisfy your soul.

Only he can change your heart and make you whole.

He’ll give you peace, you never knew.

Sweet love and joy and heaven too.

Only Jesus can satisfy your soul.

– Lanny Wolfe

In His Hands

In the last year I have seen five dear people, that I have been privileged to call my friends, enter into eternity. They were all uniquely different individuals. Some male, some female. Some old, middle-aged, and young. They varied in their financial and social statuses. Their hobbies ranged from hunting and fishing, to poetry and plays and their professions ranged from students, to factory workers, from medical professionals to multi-faceted business owners. What they all have in common, though, is by whose hands they were created and in whose hands they are in now.

Our creator allows our entrance into this world. He gives us choices in how we decide to live our lives. You know how it is when you give your children choices and you want them to feel like they are making the choices on their own, but you word the choices in such a way that if they pick the choice that is wrong, or against your wishes, that they would be obviously foolish for doing so? That is how I can imagine God is. He says, in so many words, if you choose my way you will have life and peace, but if you choose another way you will only find trouble, even death. This is not because he is a control freak, it is only because of his great love for us. Again, as parents we can understand this. Most of us do not want to just control our children’s lives, but instead we give them rules and boundaries because we want only to protect them and to see them be successful.

A time of death brings a time of questioning. Why do some die from car accidents and illnesses and yet others are miraculously saved from the jaws of death? The only answers to these questions are in His hands. God is sovereign in His decisions and he knows best. The other questions that arise are, if I would die, would I be ready? What would people say about me if my number was called tonight? What sort of impact have I made in people’s lives and what footprints have I left behind? These questions can be answered by placing our lives in His hands. We must make our calling and election sure, or other words, we must decide where we are going to live eternity and make all of our decisions and actions reflect our choice.

The five people I have recently lost have left very positive imprints on my life. They brought me smiles and laughter. They gave me hugs and words of encouragement. They took the time to participate in my life and for that I am truly grateful. These people are gone now and instead of merely finding people to try to fill these voids, my life has been challenged to make a conscious effort to give encouragement to others. I want to pattern my life after these people, and ultimately after my God, the Creator, my Saviour, Jesus!

There was a time, not too long ago, that I had allowed years of bitterness to consume me. I’m sure I’ve hurt many people in the process, and this is something I wish I could go back and erase, but time doesn’t go in reverse. We only have today to work with. About a year ago I began a journey of healing. I’ve experienced help from various sources over the years, but these crutches allowed me to merely survive. But I wanted more! I wanted to experience a complete healing, I wanted to live before I died. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it. Has everything changed and become peachy-keen?…no. Have the people I hurt forgiven me? Not all of them. Do they trust or have they seen my changes? Only if they are looking and want to see it. What I have learned, though, is that in my hands, my life is damaged and a total mess. But in His hands, He is able to make all things new. He is the healer, the creator, the author of my story, but only when I make the choice to put my life in His hands.