Via the Washington Post:
A journey of transformation: reinvention in hard times
In my vocation as a pastor, I’ve had the privilege of speaking to individuals and large groups at churches and at events across the country. In these off-line conversations a common theme emerges: people are growing increasingly dissatisfied with mere survival. They know intuitively that there’s more to life than the status quo.
This age-old angst is magnified 100-fold in hard economic times.
When you encounter hardship, you can’t continue down the same familiar, comfortable path, sticking with what you know, doing what you’ve always done. Mike Tyson famously mused: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
When things aren’t going according to plan, it’s time to head in another direction. It’s time to reinvent the dream.
More often than not, hard times are the catalyst that invariably sets you up to repurpose pursuits and reignite the vision.
I’ve learned to look for the opportunity within the adversity.
When we pay close attention, we find that God is constantly revealing hidden talents and undiscovered passions that help unstick and unlock our circumstances.
If we put one foot in front of the other even when the way seems uncertain, a path will emerge like an old Polaroid peeling away the darkness to reveal a clearly formed image right before our eyes.
So begins the journey of transformation.
As a high school dropout, I would never have imagined the turns that my own journey would take. I unknowingly set on a new course as a young pastor’s wife and mother when my world intersected with Bishop T.D. Jakes’ following a family move to Tennessee.
Over time, he became a mentor who helped me to realize my full potential as a preacher, singer, and now first time author. Along this journey, I found my own voice and a purpose to encourage others. His guidance gave me the courage to feel that there was nothing that I couldn’t tackle.
That is until one late August afternoon in 2010 when I received a call asking me to speak at his popular men’s-only conference called ManPower. I knew that this was a truly historic, breakthrough moment. I would be the first woman ever to address this audience of 10,000 men, waiting expectantly to hear from the visionary himself. Insecurity set in and I asked him if he really wanted me to do this.
He told me that I was the perfect woman for the job. Nevertheless, I was scared. But, I caught my breath, dug deep and delivered a power-packed message. Had I not listened to that little voice inside that said, “You can do this!” Jakes’ empowering, trust-filled words would have fallen on deaf ears.
I wrote my first book, “You Have It In You!: Empowered to do the Impossible,” out of my own scrapbook: a wife in my teens, a mother in my 20s, pastor in my 30s and an author at the age of 50. Each decade brought with it new twists, challenges and achievements that I never imagined were within my reach.
So now, when my Sunday morning seekers come I speak to them from the volumes of my own living epistle.
I tell them with conviction, “No matter what landed you on life’s crash cart – an unforgiving economy, unemployment, debt, foreclosure, bankruptcy, divorce, family strife – the latitude and longitude of your destiny lie within.’
I tell them to listen to that little voice inside and to take that first giant step towards the best part of their lives.
Then with a tender knowing embrace, I say, ‘”Hard times don’t last, resilient people do. Your time is now. Reinvent you. You have it in you!”
Sheryl Brady is the campus pastor at the Potter’s House of North Dallas. She has traveled the globe as a singer, pastor, lecturer and recording artist speaking and singing at conferences and churches. She and her husband, Bishop Joby Brady, have three daughters and five grandchildren.
My son in law Marc recently reached a major milestone in his life. I asked him to write about his journey. I pray it’s a blessing to you…
“Everyone has moments in their life where they will always remember exactly where they were when a certain event happened. I can remember exactly where I was at on September 11th 2001, the exact spot that I proposed to my wife and what I was wearing when my daughter was born (I still have that shirt by the way). I’ll also never forget exactly where I sat when my younger brother, Billy graduated from college. Even in an auditorium that seats thousands I can literally still take you to the exact seat where I watched it all happen.
I remember it so well because it later became one of the most pivotal parts of my life that would “drive me” for years to come. It was one of those moments that seemed to come out of nowhere. I hadn’t been thinking about “it” at all leading up to his graduation, but once it entered my mind I knew it would never leave. As I sat and listened to all of the speeches and all of the ceremony that goes along with such an occasion, I started to feel uncomfortable. I could feel my face turning red and emotions that I never knew existed began swirling all throughout my head. My wife, who knows me better than anyone, could tell something was wrong. She leaned over to me and whispered in my ear “this is eating you up isn’t it”. I looked back at her with my eyes glossy, trying to hold back the tears and simply said “Yeah…it is”.
It was one of those moments that two conflicting emotions were both fighting to stay on top. I was both extremely happy for my brother’s accomplishment, yet extremely disappointed in myself that I had not achieved getting my own college degree. I had the same shot as he did, right after high school but, due to my own choices, I didn’t take the opportunity seriously and found myself dropping out just 2 years into college. After leaving school I did what most people do, I worked, eventually got married, you know…life. There were times along the way that I’d feel regret over not finishing school but would quickly dismiss those feelings and come to grips in my own mind that it just wasn’t meant for me to be a college graduate.
But something was different while I was watching my brother walk across the stage. I felt that little voice inside of me telling me “You can do this”, “If you want that degree you can have it”. I can’t explain what happened but I felt in my spirit that God was giving me permission to go after it again. When I got home that evening I couldn’t get on my laptop fast enough. I searched through every local college website I could find. Before the night was over I had enough information to get me started and I was determined to go back and get my degree.
Over the next six years I would embark on this journey, and what a journey it was. I would get started taking classes and then my daughter was born. I wanted to make sure I was there for those “first moments” of her life so I had to take a couple of months off. I got started again and then had to have emergency back surgery, which resulted in another 6 months off. I finally got back into the swing of things and back in school and had the opportunity to move to Dallas. It was a great opportunity but cost me another 3 months off. It seemed that every time I’d start to build a momentum, something else would occur. I’ve taken classes in large auditoriums and temporary schoolrooms in side of churches. You name it…I’ve done it. At one point I was having difficulty in a particular subject and the Professor indicated that they only way he could help me is if I would be willing to come over to his house. Apparently, he had a eye condition that kept him from driving at night. I remember praying the whole way over there “Lord, please don’t let this man pull out a gun and lock me in his basement!!” Thank God that didn’t happen.
I had a few moments during the process that made me want to quit altogether. One time in particular, I got halfway through my class only to realize that I had already taken it years before under a different name. Doesn’t sound like much but when you go to school from 6pm to 10pm at night for six weeks in a row, finding out it’s been all for nothing can be devastating. I remember Pastor Brady calling me after I realized what had happened. I was so depressed that I just wanted to quit it all. She said “Marc, all of your sacrifice and your labor of love in ministry for all of these years will not go in vain”….”God is going to reward you but you can’t get bitter about this”. I hung up the phone, dried my eyes and immediately started registering for the next class.
I just kept my head down and worked as hard as I could moving on from the next class to the next, to the next. I’m convinced that life is all about small victories along the way. One day you’ll look up and all of your small achievements will result in one greater than you could imagine. On October 9th, 2012 all of the hard work paid off and I received my college degree. I remember when it first arrived I just kept looking at it. All of the work, all of the sacrifice, all of the setbacks seemed to pale in comparison of what I was holding in my hand. I’m so grateful for that day that I attended my brother’s graduation. I’m grateful for God nudging me and challenging me to stretch myself. I’m grateful for a strong family support, such as my wife Lana who cheered me on and encouraged me at all the right moments.
I’ve learned so much from this experience. I’ve learned that there are more things in me than I could have ever dreamed. Here are a few…hope they can help you in some way too:
Things usually tend to look much harder at first
If you are going to try to reach any goal in your life you can’t let your initial view of it cause you to shrink back because of fear. The whole process from registering, getting transcripts, paying for it, as well as how long it would take to actually finish scared me to death! The old adage is so true, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”. Sometimes it’s just making that first call or sending that initial email that starts you on the right path. Don’t let the journey intimidate you.
Just because it doesn’t look the way you want it to doesn’t mean it’s not God’s plan for your life
I can’t tell you how humbling it is to go back to school as an adult. If you have any arrogance in you, adult college education will quickly take that away. As I’ve stated earlier, I’ve attended class in high-rise buildings and small Sunday school rooms at a Lutheran Church. In each of those places I found the favor of God assisting me to get to where I needed to go. They weren’t always the most ideal of situations as I had planned in my head but they were effective. Being effective wins every time!
When you hear that still small voice…MOVE
Think about how many “great ideas” you’ve had over your life that you’ve never taken the time to act upon. I am so glad that I went home THAT DAY and started the process of registering. I’ve found that most of the time the one thing that gets in between us and our destiny is the time we allow before we act. The more time you allow, the easier it is for fear, doubt and worry to change your mind and talk you out of it. In the words of Pastor Brady…”Don’t Let Nobody Talk You Out of It!”
I hope sharing my story has stirred something in you. No matter where you are in life, it’s never too late to try something new. Sometimes you just need to know that it’s ok to dream again. You Have It In You!”
@MarcRJeffrey – Twitter
I am sitting on the edge of my seat with an expectation of the greater days ahead. I want to encourage you to know that God has something better in store for you too, if you faint not! Don’t allow yourself to give into weariness while on your assignment because your victory is attached to your perseverance. Galatians 6:9 says, Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. In due season, the promises with your name on it will manifest!
We all face times in our lives that’ll leave us so broken and wounded we think we can’t go on. There are circumstances that can leave you so hurt you don’t even want to believe again for fear of experiencing the same pain. Yet you still try to move forward, try to keep hoping, but it seems to be a lost cause. You’ve run out of resources and you’ve run out of strength. Even if you have a support system, you can reach a point of wondering if you can ever trust again, or dream again. Not to mention the fact there are always enemies trying to keep you down by mocking you, taunting you, which may cause you to doubt your value and abilities.
Have you ever reached a place where you are so tired you just don’t want to try anymore? That’s the kind of tired that even sleep doesn’t fix. It occurs when you’ve suffered so much loss you have no fight left and you are at the point of saying, “I’m just tired now.”
I am reminded of the story of Nehemiah and his determination to rebuild the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. The Babylonians had laid siege to the city and reduced it to rubble. Seventy years later the Babylonian empire fell and freed the people who had been enslaved. However, they were freed without resources. They were freed, but with low self-esteem. Freed, but with no strength. Freed to hear sarcasm and ridicule that their goals would never be reached. Sound familiar?
You probably know the story. But the twist to this story is that Nehemiah, whose name means comforter, found favor with the king. He obtained permission to rebuild, received papers for safe passage throughout the kingdom, and provision to accomplish the arduous task at hand. Was it an easy task? No. Was their mission accomplished? Absolutely! You see, in spite of everything, they were still the children of God, and God never forgets His own.
Don’t be deceived. When God gives you permission to succeed, it doesn’t matter how long, or how hard you work. It doesn’t matter what the situation looks like, or how it feels. God will send you help. Just because you have to fight for whatever it is, doesn’t mean you don’t have permission for possession. You have to be persistent and persistence pays off.
Nehemiah’s persistence is remarkable — how he pulled courage out of the people; his wisdom to pause and pray; why his countenance was a critical factor in what became a divine opportunity.
Always remember that whenever you begin to make progress the enemy sends words to deter what you’re doing, or cause you to abort your assignment altogether. You must be able to challenge the voices that are trying to shut you down and fortify yourself. Through it all God is able to revive you even when others have pronounced you dead. If He has ever done that for you, you already know you’ve been Revived for a Reason.
Hey everybody…just uploaded some new podcasts on iTunes. You can download them here…http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/sherylbrady/id527628321
Have a good week!
I’m looking for stories of people that discovered they had hidden things in them that they never knew they had. Tell me your story of how God unlocked things in you that you never dreamed possible.