Tag Archives: inspiration

Press Re-set on 2015

So we’re almost a third of the way through 2015, and if you live in the northeast like me, you’re thanking God that it’s finally spring after the longest, coldest winter since Washington hunkered down at Valley Forge.Press Re-set on 2015

While we can celebrate by finally wearing short-sleeves and chilling outside, it’s also time to reflect on how our year is going and if we’re living the theme or goals we proclaimed back in January.

Hopefully you’re on track to reach the goals, but even if your life has gotten off track, there’s still time. That’s right, who says starting over is relegated to the turn of the calendar? Every day is a day that never happened before—ever. Each day is a fresh start, sort of like the new year.

We don’t think of it that way because we get caught up in the routine where one day seems no different than the last. Even the start of a new week feels static.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

You don’t have to let a calendar dictate your progress. You can have a fresh start now. You can set new goals and a new vision starting today.

Maybe the year hasn’t gone as you hoped it would. Maybe you’ve experienced heartbreak, a setback in your health or finances, loss of a loved one, or disappointment. Maybe those goals you set at the beginning of the year appear impossible now.

Sure, the first few months of the year haven’t gotten off to a good start, but today is a new day…and so is tomorrow.

Each new day offers an abundance of possibilities. An abundance of opportunities. It’s all in how you look at it.

Sure, your circumstances may still be the same, but your mind-set and attitude can be completely different. And how you think determines how you feel.

I’ve come to realize our thoughts and decisions can determine our mood. As a friend once told me, “Being in a good mood is a choice.” Circumstances don’t control your thoughts, you do. They can influence them, but you determine how much influence they have.

So today can be different. You can start your year over today. Inject new hope, new life, and new optimism into your life.

Today is nothing like yesterday. It’s completely different. It’s your new year. So pop some Champagne, forget the past few months, and look ahead with hope and happiness. You can press re-set on 2015.

 “…one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.” – Phil. 3:13

 

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What Inspires You?

We all need a kick in the butt sometimes…a little inspiration, that thing that sparks a dream, ignites passion, pushes hopeyou past procrastination, or causes you to light up inside. Sometimes it’s a speech or sermon, a scripture, a person, a book, song, album, or another work of art that stirs something inside you. We all need it, and we know when we come across it. It’s often small but profound in its impact. So if you feel stuck, if you feel lost, if you feel like life is passing you by, look for some simple inspiration. Here are five things that have inspired me in recent years:

The Book of Acts

Is there anything in history that documents a more significant, purpose-driven movement that turned the world upside down and still resonates today? Acts is the birth of the Church, Christianity in its purest form. It’s the ultimate grassroots movement. It shows what a group of people can do when they’re united, selfless, follow God, and empowered by His Spirit. It’s inspiring to see how the Gospel was spread and how a small group of regular men and women literally changed the world.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Don Miller

This is one of my favorite books by my favorite author. Any book Don Miller writes inspires me, but this one will help bring clarity and meaning to your life. You start by asking if your life was a book, would anyone want to read it, or would they put it down after a few chapters because of boredom? The book helped me find meaning in my life by simplifying what I wanted. Most importantly, it helps you realize conflict is an inevitable part of life, but it carries an important purpose — character development — therefore, we should embrace it.

“Live Forever” by Shad

Music is inspiring, whether for the gym or just life. This song by my favorite artist, Shad, always gets me thinking and focused.

My Past

There are plenty of things in our past that we’d like to forget. We all have regrets. We’ve all made mistakes, struggled with sin, wasted money, said stupid things, etc. But when I look back at my life (which is much easier to do when you keep a journal, so I highly recommend it) I focus on how much I’ve grown and how far I’ve come from the guy I used to be. It makes me grateful for the progress I’ve made and inspires me to keep pushing forward because I won’t be the person I am today 10 years from now. I’ll be better.

People

Nothing inspires me more than seeing someone using his/her gifts or taking a risk to follow a dream. These people are models of success, exuding inspiration. They show that it can be done. That a risk is worth it. That if there’s an opportunity for them in this world, there’s also one for me. They are people living life, in the game, taking full advantage of it. Their lives push me to do the same.

Hopefully you find some inspiration from this short list of things that have inspired me. Feel free to share what has inspired you in the comments section below or on your own social media feed. I’m sure others can use some inspiration as well.

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5 Lessons From My 80-year-old Self

On the heels of writing some tips to my 18-year-old self, I was thinking of what advice I could use now. If my older self,

photo by Andre Delhaye via compfight
photo by Andre Delhaye via compfight

say the 80-year-old Kevin, could give me some guidance on navigating life from here on out, I wonder what he would say? I wonder what lessons, tips, and words of wisdom he’d share.

He’d probably start by saying I know less than I think I know right now. Then he’d say my future is bright and I become filthy rich (OK, wishful thinking there).  Most of all, he’d probably focus on regrets he has and how I can change my life to avoid them. So here are five things my 80-year-old self would tell me to live a fuller life:

SPEAK YOUR MIND

You tend to be cautious, young Kevin (yes, you’re still very young). You speak up when needed, but you’re guarded with your words. You’re diplomatic by nature, which has been helpful in gaining friends, bridging gaps, and defusing conflicts. Yet, your opinion needs to be heard more — unfiltered and direct. It will catch people off-guard, and it may hurt some feelings, but as long as it’s done in truth and love, it’s worth it.

BE SILLY

There’s nothing more beautiful in life than being able to laugh at yourself. It’s more natural for the youngest and oldest among us, but it’s something you need to rediscover and embrace. Laughing is one thing, but being able to make a complete fool of yourself — and awaken the silliness in others — is a moment you’ll never forget, trust me.

TAKE RISKS

You’ll never regret taking a risk. Do they all pay off? No. Is there embarrassment or discomfort in the moment? Yes. But looking back, taking a risk was always the right decision. Risks always result in either the outcome you desire or a lesson learned. The only thing that holds you back is fear. And you’ll find out what you fear most about risks never happens. The greatest risk of all is the risk not taken.

SPEND TIME WITH PEOPLE YOU LOVE

You’ve been telling yourself to do this for years, and you’ve gotten better at it, but remember this: You can never spend too much time with the people you love. No one ever reached 80 years old and said, “You know what, I think I spent too much time with loved ones.” Take every second and every minute that they give you. Too many people let work, school, church, chores, sports, Scandal, and social media get in the way of real relationships. By the way, Facebook, Instagram, and Olivia Pope won’t last that much longer anyway. If your loved ones are really loved, prioritize time with them.

SAY ‘I LOVE YOU’ OFTEN

Those three words mean the world to people, Kevin. They don’t part your lips enough. The people you love — which include pretty much everyone — need to hear it. You’ll regret not saying it enough. Your words are sincere. You only say what you mean. If there’s anything people should remember about you, it’s that you loved them.

Enjoy the journey, young Kevin. You’ll be OK. Oh, and get off Facebook!

What do you think you’d regret most at an older age? What are some changes you can make to avoid those regrets?

 

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How Fear Helps Us Dream

By Kevin Howell

Discovery Channel
Discovery Channel

This past Sunday night was a slow TV night. The NBA Finals were over, the Sunday Night baseball game on ESPN was in a rain delay so, unless you’re into Lifetime or Oprah’s OWN network, there wasn’t much to watch.

But lo and behold, the Discovery Channel came through with a can’t-miss/can’t-bear-to-watch event — Skywire.  Daredevil tight-rope walker Nik Wallenda was attempting to walk on a tight wire across the Grand Canyon. Yes, you read that right. And he was doing it without a harness or safety net… on live TV. I wasn’t sure how the FCC would approve the live airing of a man plummeting 1,500 feet to his death at the bottom of the canyon.

The walk was a quarter of a mile long and, yes, he made it. Throughout the walk, Wallenda, who had a mic on, was praying to Jesus — constantly. I’m no theologian and I don’t judge others’ relationships with God, but there has to be better ways to bring glory to God. Sure, he was exalting Jesus on national television, but at the same time scaring the hell out of everyone else. Anyway….

Wallenda is a pro at this stuff (he did the same stunt across Niagara Falls). His family has tight-roped walked for generations. He said he dreamed of walking across the Grand Canyon since he was a teenager.

FEARS VS. DREAMS

Wallenda’s stunt helps illustrate the unique relationship between our fears and dreams. Often times these opposing factors are quite related. What we fear most points to what we desire most. If you are afraid of being alone, your dream probably has something to do with family or community. If you are afraid of failing, you likely dream of success.

courtesy of fearsvsdreams.com
courtesy of fearsvsdreams.com

The organization To Write Love On Her Arms, which supports those struggling with self-injury, suicide and depression, started a campaign called “Fears vs. Dreams” where it asks people to write down their biggest fear and their greatest dream. The purpose is for people “to feel less alone in reading the words of others.”

One of my biggest fears is embarrassment and humiliation. Conversely, my greatest dream is to impact and encourage many lives through my words (both written and spoken). With the dream comes the risk of embarrassment, the risk of humiliation. But our greatest dreams will never come to fruition until we conquer our biggest fear.

Nik Wallenda said he doesn’t fear doing crazy stunts. He said you can decide whether you want to fear something or not. Though I wouldn’t even tight-rope walk 15 feet in the air, Wallenda chose to walk 1,500 feet high. That was his dream, and he conquered fear to do it. What’s your biggest fear? It will likely point you toward your greatest dream and let you know what you have to overcome to get it.

“Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. … the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul.” –Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

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A Couple’s Journey of Faith, Pain, and Compassion

By Kevin Howell

Maglys and Jesus Hernandez
Maglys and Jesus Hernandez

You’re 20 years old. You’re newlyweds enjoying your new life together. You’re dreaming of starting a family, buying a home, and growing your business. Life seems normal and promising. The first sign of those dreams start to emerge. You are pregnant…. but with triplets.

Complications begin. One triplet’s heart stops and he’s lost. You go into premature labor weeks later — just 22 weeks into the pregnancy. Doctors don’t expect the remaining two children to make it. Complications such as blindness and missing limbs are predicted if you go through with the birth. There’s no guarantee you’ll survive the birth. They recommend abortion.

You’re only 20 years old. This wasn’t what you signed up for. This isn’t happily ever after.

Those were the circumstances Jesús and Maglys Hernandez faced early in their life together. Blindsided with tough decisions and challenging circumstances just a year into their marriage. It was the first test they faced together. Just the first. Many, many more would come. Nineteen years later, they tell their story with peace, confidence, surety, and the perspective of a couple that has lived by faith, walked through fire and emerged, not just stronger, but more compassionate.

FIGHTING FOR LIFE

 “It was like a blur. It was like a bad dream. I was only 20. There were a lot of shattered dreams there. You’re preparing for something, and all of a sudden in a blink of an eye everything changes.”  – Maglys Hernandez

Maglys recalls the fear, confusion, and chaos of that day. A doctor telling her there was nothing she could do and the best choice would be to terminate the pregnancy.

“You’re so vulnerable at that moment,” she said.  “I’m thinking, ‘Do I really want to put my child through this? Am I wrong if I decide yes or no?’ Then you have to shake yourself and say, ‘Wait a minute, who is she to determine the outcome of my children?’ I had to believe that whatever God took me to, He’s going to bring me through.”

They went through with the birth. Their daughter, Jeselys, was born 1 pound, 4 ounces, and 5 inches long. Just 24 hours later, she weighed less than a pound — the size of a fetus. At that time, only 1 out 7 babies that weight survived. Maglys’ cervix was stitched to allow the other child to remain in her womb. But five days later, their son was born: 1 pound, 5 ounces. He didn’t fare as well as their daughter and he died five days after being born.

“I knew my daughter was going to be the one to survive,” Jesús said. “So when he passed, I just said ‘God allowed it.’ I just looked at it that way. So then, I just wanted my daughter to have a normal life. That was what my focus was on.”

TURNING PAIN INTO PURPOSE

Five months. That’s how long their daughter remained in the hospital after she was prematurely born. And every single day, Jesús and Maglys would visit her. They watched as she was given multiple blood transfusions daily, flat-lined on several occasions, and underwent surgeries. Finally, after five months, they brought home a 4-pound, 13-ounce girl.

“I tell people all the time, I don’t know how we did it,” Maglys explained. “It was literally by the grace of God. I don’t consider myself strong enough. It was all by God’s grace.”

Even after leaving the hospital, Jeselys endured many challenges, including a Level 4 brain bleed, eye surgeries, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.

“On the spiritual side of it, when your life is attacked at such a young stage of the game, it’s because there’s a huge purpose,” Jesús said. “Our daughter is very spiritually connected. If I want to know something about a spiritual situation, I’ll go to my daughter to see if she agrees. She’s very connected to God. We’ve seen that her whole life.”

An example of that was when Jeselys was younger, there was a lunch aide at her school going through difficulty in her marriage. The woman found out her husband had been cheating on her and she decided to commit suicide. The day she planned to take her life, she met Jeselys while working the cash register in the lunch line. After paying for her food, she decided to give the woman a tip. The woman refused, but Jeselys grabbed her hand saying, “Please take it because you served me.” As soon as she touched her hand, the woman said a feeling came over her body and she couldn’t stop crying. She didn’t commit suicide, and to this day, she regularly sends gifts and cards to Jeselys. “She adores my daughter,” Maglys said. “She always tells me ‘Thank you for giving birth to this child. You’ll never know what your daughter means to me.’”

Now at 17, Jeselys continues inspire others with her progress and faith.

“She’s amazing. She’s come so far,” Maglys said. “My daughter has disabilities but she doesn’t focus on them. You can’t even tell her that. Sometimes I’ll tell her we need to get her therapy for her arm and she’ll say, ‘There’s nothing wrong with me; I’m healed.’ I have to catch myself because I can’t tarnish her faith.”

NEW CHILD, NEW CHALLENGE

Four years after Jeselys was born, Maglys was pregnant with a son. Though his birth went much smoother than their first pregnancy, they would face a unique challenge in their son’s development.

As a toddler, they noticed he had a speech delay, wouldn’t make eye contact, and was very quiet. When he was 2½, they decided to have him examined by a neurologist. He was diagnosed with autism.

“Honestly, my son’s diagnosis was harder than losing my first son,” Maglys said. “It turned my world upside down.”

Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the U.S. It is a brain development disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and repetitive behavior. One in 88 children is diagnosed with it.

The journey has been tough for the Hernandezes, but it hasn’t hindered their faith.

The Hernandezes with their three children.
The Hernandezes with their three children.

“As a faith-filled family, we believe no matter what label they give him, God still could intervene,” Jesús says.  “There are no ifs, ands or buts that somewhere down his life, there’s going to be a testimony from this. Because if I believe God for salvation, I have to believe God for healing. Why’s it taking so long? Yeah, that’s a question in our mind, but I don’t question God. Because I believe, in His time, we will see something happen supernaturally.

“There has to be something in this that God’s going to get the glory for. I’m believing that what’s going to come out of this is that he’s going to be supernaturally healed. Not only that, but God’s going to do miracles in other people’s lives. I can’t settle for less. I can’t believe that God’s not able to intervene. I trust His Word.”

God has already been using their experiences to help others. Jesús was hired as the children’s pastor at Faith Fellowship Ministries in New Jersey, and last October, they started a class for special needs children during church. Before, parents of special needs children didn’t have a place to bring their kids for a Sunday service. Now, they have a haven where their children are worshipping God and improving behavior.

“There’s a huge need, this thing has grown and there’s no answers for it,” Jesús said about autism. “When there’s no answers, it’s because God has the answer, and people will flock to wherever the answer is. I believe this is why God’s allowed all of this to happen. For you to be able to touch someone you have to have compassion. You have to go through it or understand it.”

ENDURING FAITH

To understand Jesús and Maglys’ trust in God, you have to understand their background. Maglys’ family was “the epitome of dysfunctional.” Her father was an alcoholic and drug addict, and she had a distant relationship with her mother. The family unity she lacked growing up, God gave her with Jesús. “If I would have never gone through those things, I wouldn’t love God the way I love Him now,” Maglys said.

Jesús’ faith emanated from his father, who was diagnosed with cancer and given just 30 days to live. The day he was diagnosed, his father went to a Bible study and told God, “If you’re real, give me 20 more years to live to enjoy my family.” Later he was re-examined and they found no cancer in him. He lived exactly 20 more years, serving God. “I’m a Christian because what God did in my father’s life,” Jesús said.

Before they faced the trials in their children’s lives, they had seen miracles. A foundation of faith was already built. They drew on the grace and strength of God to endure. There’s plenty more to their story — including financial struggles and setbacks in which they lost homes, cars, and went through bankruptcy — but as Jesús says, it’s still unfolding. They’ve witnessed God work miracles in their lives. And they are expecting more.

“In everybody’s story, there’s conflict,” Jesús said. “There’s a moment when something’s going to happen. You can’t live this life and expect that nothing’s going to happen. There’s always going to be conflict somewhere down the line. It could be early on, in the middle or at the end, but you’re going to have conflict. That way you can understand who Jesus Christ is. I believe our story’s not finished. This is just the beginning.”

 

Have a story of your faith journey you want to share to inspire others? Let us know. Email editor@transparencymag.com or connect with us on twitter @transparencymag

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