The ABC’s of Finding a New Best Friend – K is for Knowledge

December 15, 2011: K is for KNOWLEDGE

“Hello she said so gently, you do not know me well. But I’ve been here quite a while and you need me I can tell.” (From New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith by Vera Jones)

In less than a month from now, my only child Andrew will turn 14 years of age. I like many mothers and fathers across the world constantly wonder, “Where did the time go?” There are some stages of parenting that seem like they will never end, especially the sleepless nights of raising a colicky infant. (I just had a flashback and bags under my eyes instantly appeared from just writing this!) But for the most part, I think there is a majority opinion that time flies, and it seems our babies grow up far too fast.

Once over the shock that I was pregnant, I remember a boat load of questions and concerns filling my brain. How do I change the diaper? Will I remember how to breathe during childbirth? How on earth do I breastfeed? Won’t that hurt? What if my baby gets too much? Too little? How will I know if he is sick? Do I really have to stick the thermometer there? The fear, worry and doubt were overwhelming at times. There was so much I just didn’t know. Even though at the age of 31 I gave birth later in life than most of my peers, and I had been exposed to other people’s babies, I was so afraid of inadequately taking care of my own.

I learned something pretty amazing about lack of childrearing knowledge. That little baby would teach me what I needed to know long before I started teaching him. My unconditional love and countless prayers stimulated the “Faith Nanny” to deliver all of the knowledge I would need. I’m not saying I was without Worry or Doubt. Those two good-for-nothings always wanted to hang around and help babysit. But Faith always stood watch, answering every cry for help. Most of the time, the cries weren’t even from baby Andrew. They were from me, and they were pretty loud, pretty often and pretty ugly too! Andrew had a lot of medical complications right from birth including his spending the first five days of life in the intensive care unit. In spite of all my tears and fears, there was a calm that said everything would be fine and that someone far more qualified than me was watching over Andrew. After all, Andrew was not just my child, but God’s. This proved to be the greatest knowledge of all.

Whether child rearing, starting a new job or school, adopting children, teaching a class, or even meeting new people, we all have a tendency to fear the unknown. We stress over how we will accomplish tasks we have never attempted. We worry that people won’t like us or understand us.We wrestle with doubt that we are saying or doing things correctly or adequately. We wonder if we will look stupid or inadequate or incompetent in the eyes of others. Keep in mind that just like babies, we are also God’s children. I think with so much adult responsibility and pressure, that’s easy to forget. God’s been taking care of us ever since our mother’s and father’s gave birth to us. Before actually! When our parents lacked knowledge, Nanny Faith stepped in for them as well. This faith-filled system of knowledge has existed as long as God has.

If you seek knowledge, you will find it. That doesn’t mean you will always find it easily. In fact, part of the knowledge plan is to make the journey a bit difficult as there is so much wisdom gained in the detours, twists, turns and potholes. But have faith you will find the knowledge you seek. Having faith means knowing you have already been blessed with what you need to survive and even thrive. Have faith also in the fact that you don’t have to know everything about everything in life. You only need to give birth to your faith in the one who does.

Faithfully,

Vera

 Get your autographed copy of New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith today at http://www.verasvoiceworks.com/products.html. Be sure to purchase one for a friend, or anyone in need of a little Faith!

The ABC’s of Finding a New Best Friend – J is for JOY

December 14, 2011: J is for JOY

“I’m chilling today with Faith, you two, is all you ever say. And if we didn’t know better, you’ve been acting mighty gay.” (From New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith by Vera Jones)

We’ve all probably been asked the question a time or two, “What would you do if you won the lottery?” Last I checked here the Florida Lottery Powerball Jackpot was up to 78-million dollars! Just the other night while riding in the car I began to contemplate that after taxes and a bunch of red tape, if I were to win, I would be walking – oh no, excuse me – dancing away with close to 40-million big ones, I bet. The thought alone bugs my eyes, swells my chest, sends my mind racing and widens the smile on my face to the point my cheeks begin to hurt. Everyone I know that gets asked that question seems to have a very similar joy-filled physical response.

Rather than discuss all of the things one could begin to do with 40-million dollars, I wanted to touch on that visceral emotion of joy we are likely to experience should such a windfall ever occur. But for a moment, right now, just deeply imagine you just won $40-million dollars. Are you smiling? (If you are not, you are not imagining hard enough, or you may simply need counseling for severe stoicism.) Many people begin to imagine big homes, new cars, boats, trips, purchasing a small island, huge acts of charity and philanthropy and debt free as well as work free lives. We are talking extreme excitement here, ginormous giddiness, and huge happiness!

Capture that that emotion! Hold it. Squeeze it into your essence. Feel it, taste it, smell it, hear it, experience it with every one of your senses. Now, here is the big test. Remove the thoughts of stuff you could buy and things you could do with that huge sum of money. Can you still feel that tremendous sense of joy or has it been deflated? If you can still sense what joy feels like without tangible objects and material things, then your joy is pure. Pure joy is spiritual. It cannot be removed or altered by the addition or subtraction of objects or events in your life. Pure joy is a place you can arrive at only with the assistance of faith in something bigger and better than yourself. God allows us to experience joy by the nature of who he is. But there is a catch. We also experience pain and sadness and other negativity. So our perceived joy can seem quite fleeting and inconsistent at times.

Faith is joy’s little helper. When you can believe that no matter what happens, come what may, your life is rich, your life is good, and your life is purposeful, pure joy will always be a part of the essence of who you are. Even on your worst days, the voice of Faith will remind you that you are going to be okay, things will eventually work out, and you are always richly blessed. It is much like imagining you just found out you won the lottery even if you have not actually received the proceeds yet. You know it’s coming so you sing, you dance, you smile , you laugh and you experience joy just on the sheer anticipation of greater things to come.

Today, whatever you may be experiencing, a good day, a horrible day or a day somewhere in between, can you find the faith to believe that your life is great regardless of the possessions you currently have? Can you experience joy independently beyond your physical health or your current emotional assessment? Possessions, circumstances, feelings, thoughts change regularly, but pure joy exists forever in your spirit, just by simply acknowledging it. Remember, in my exercise earlier, you hadn’t actually received that $40-million dollars yet. You likely have never received such material wealth. (If you have, please contact me directly and expeditiously!) Yet you had no trouble calling upon and even experiencing joy from just the mere thought of what that windfall might bring because pure joy exists independently and inherently. You can be that jackpot lottery winner every day in spirit, a virtual mental millionaire! Just take the time to imagine your life of great joy and have faith that you are already richer than you could ever imagine. Turn that thought into action today and let the world experience what a true joy-filled, faith-filled millionaire looks like! Wow! Wealth of joy looks so good on you! I love it!

Faithfully,

Vera

Get your autographed copy of New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith today at http://www.verasvoiceworks.com/products.html. Be sure to purchase one for a friend, or anyone in need of a little Faith!

The ABC’s of Finding a New Best Friend – I is for Introspection

December 11, 2011: I is for INTROSPECTION

“I stared into the mirror, long and hard into my own eyes. Right then is when it hit me, I began to realize…” (From New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith by Vera Jones)

The bug to be an actress or entertainer hit me pretty early in life. I was probably about four or five years old when I began what I call “Mirror Madness.” I loved to stare into the mirror and make different faces and sounds to make myself laugh. Sometimes I stared into the mirror and I felt kind of ugly because I didn’t look anything like the Barbie dolls I got for Christmas. Other times if I had on an outfit I really liked, I would model it in front of the mirror acting out different roles and scenarios to match my cool clothing. Still other times I would just stare and count the little freckles on my face wondering where they came from and assigning each one a character role. One freckle would ask another, “Hey Mr. Mole, why have you grown so big? I am just a little freckle. You are taking up my space on this face. Could you move over some please?”

Before you organize a care committee to possibly have me psychologically evaluated and committed, know that I am really OK. In fact when it comes to taking a good look in the mirror, I think I have a jump on the rest of the population. I trust that I am very self-assured of who I am – me and all of my 1001 characters! Taking a good look at oneself is a very good thing to do. But it can also be a very scary thing to do. Just check me out on any given bad hair, morning breath, wake up moment. I’ve startled myself on many mornings, believe me! But far worse than the physical trepidation we may experience when looking into the mirror is the emotional or psychological truths we must face during introspective moments.

During a painful separation a decade ago, I remember crying hysterically into my longtime playmate called the mirror. My face was so contorted and hideous I barely recognized myself. I had been previously balled up on the floor screaming uncontrollably and babbling a bunch of incomprehensible syllables as I hurt so badly I had forgotten how to speak. It was by far the most distorted view of my physical self in that mirror I had ever witnessed. It was so distorted I began to giggle noticing my dark baggy eyes, my freckles glistening from tears and mucus, and my mouth white with pasty stuff gathering in the corners. My hair stood straight up on end as if I had just withstood an electrical shock and my white t-shirt was wet and stained with residual brown and black make-up from application earlier in the day. All I could do was laugh. The laughter felt really good, so I laughed harder. Soon I was a total nutcase laughing so hard I was crying and crying so hard I was laughing! Where was You Tube when I performed this act of pure psycho-mania? This madness would have gone viral in about five minutes flat! I could have been a star in no time!

What I came to realize in that moment was that I had become deeply depressed. A single mom with a three year old and a very visible television career at the time, I had done everything in my power to try to hide my true painful emotions. My cup of depression, however, had become a big bucket of lies, pain and sorrow spilling out of every corner of who I thought I was or who I was pretending to be. That long, hard moment of craziness staring into that mirror helped me to see I was not who I wanted to be and not even remotely close to who I needed to be. That moment of mirror madness helped me to reflect that once upon a time I was a very happy, fun-loving, faith-filled and creative person. After that moment of deep introspection, the voice of Faith spoke to me and told me I was still that person in purest form but I had allowed fear, pain, worry, doubt, bitterness and rage to take center stage in my life. I was acting way out of my God-given character. “Enough, already,” I said. It was time to pull the curtains on this bad act and re-cast Vera in a positive role.

Sometimes, as hard as it may be, we all need to take that long look in the mirror. We may not always be happy with what we see. But we have to have enough faith in the goodness of who God created us to be and ask for the courage and the strength to reveal that character, and not the negative roles that try their best to cast themselves as the stars of our show. When you are acting out of accord with the good person you are meant to be, you will undoubtedly experience pain. You cannot go on forever avoiding your mirror madness. Self-introspection is critical to personal growth. When we step to the mirror and discover we are wearing shoes or an outfit that simply does not suit our liking, we typically go and change it. Look a little deeper today. Does the countenance you wear or the spirit that lies beneath reflect your best? If not, have faith that you can change that for the better as well. You can put on something within that is most flattering for anyone on the outside to view, especially flattering to you, and most flattering to God.

Lastly, never be ashamed to talk to your freckles or any other body part for that matter. Laughter means there is still joy in the soul. From what I have experienced, virtually everyone wears joy quite well.

Faithfully,
 Vera
 Get your autographed copy of New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith today at http://www.verasvoiceworks.com/products.html. Be sure to purchase one for a friend, or anyone in need of a little Faith!

The ABC’s of Finding a New Best Friend – H is for HOPE

December 10, 2011: H is for HOPE

“It’s your decision who you choose to call your closest friend. I’ll never interfere; I hope you understand.” (From New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith by Vera Jones)

There I was, a nervous 12-year old greatly anticipating my first time to drive a real automobile! Dad had taken my brother and me out to the country in North Carolina where we could drive down deserted, dirt roads and get the hang of the driving experience. I took a deep breath, placed the key in the ignition and turned it forward. Just then I felt the excitement of the car idling as a soft vibration rustled through the steering wheel. My eyes were wide with anticipation, my heart ready to jump out my chest! I did it! I started the car! I was so very excited it was becoming impossible not to squirm in my seat. I kept both hands at the 10:00 and 2:00 positions as my father instructed. There Dad and I sat in silence. After what must have been a couple of minutes of just sitting and me peering out the front windshield in a complete daze, Dad, a very patient man, finally said, “Uh, if you want to drive the car, you have to put it in gear and step on the gas.”

Put it in gear and step on the gas? What a concept! I actually had to do more than just start the engine to get the car moving? At that time, the thrill of just revving up the ignition was enough excitement for me for one day. But why was I so nervous to put the car in gear and press on the gas? It was worry that I might drive into a tree, and doubt that I was ready to drive a car in the first place at only age 12. I had long hoped and imagined doing it, but here I was at the moment of truth full of hope but lacking faith. I remember taking a deep breath and saying, “I can do this! I know I can.” I shifted into drive. I gently placed my foot on the gas. “Whoo hoo, would you look at that? I was driving! Holy cow and chicken, I was driving a car!” Thanks Dad! And thank you Faith!

As quoted from New Best Friend above, Faith hopes in us. She desires that we understand we always have a choice to either call Faith our closest friend, or to call upon Worry and Doubt instead. Although there are many great lines in this poem (of course I’d say this as I am the author), this is one of my favorites. It is powerful. We actually can choose at any given time whether we are going to be faith-filled and positive, or worry and doubt stricken with negativity. I’m not sure we always understand this concept as it seems almost inevitable that when things go wrong, or whenever we are trying something new or untested, worry and doubt automatically settle in and take over.

“Why doesn’t Faith just kick in naturally and save me all of the drama, headaches and heartburn?” I’ve often wondered. It is because hope and faith are much like driving an automobile. Hope has the powerful ability to physically stimulate the senses, sending happy endorphins throughout the body as the positive imagery of something wonderful activates in your brain. Turning on hope is much like starting the engine of that automobile. Once the key is in the ignition the car revs up and so begins the anticipation process. But much like that car, you just remain idle with the power to go somewhere, but you don’t actually move ahead. To get moving, you have to make a choice to place Faith into gear then step on the gas. Let me see if I can drive this important point home (all pun intended).

So many of us find ourselves full of hope, but we remain idle, not seeing our hopes transformed into our realities. We wish for something good that we believe could happen (hope), but we aren’t necessarily believing that same something good actually will happen (faith). Faith is always inviting you to activate her power to help turn your hopes and dreams into reality. She recognizes, however, that you can be full of hope but still be overwhelmed with worry and doubt. When this happens, no matter how full of anticipation you become, if you do not put Faith in gear and give her some gas, you will remain right where you are. My father in the car that day did not put the car in gear for me, nor did he press my foot down on the gas pedal. He waited for me to choose to overcome my nervousness and do it myself. That’s how Faith works. You have to choose Faith over worry and doubt if you want to get moving in the right direction.

So if you find yourself frustrated because your hopes do not materialize into reality, discern whether you have chosen to activate your faith beyond your hopes, disregarding worry and doubt. You have to believe you can indeed drive that car! Hope is important. Remember, it’s what gets the car started. Unfortunately, you never go anywhere on just hope alone. If you are sitting in the car as it just idles in the same position, you might want to make that choice to kick Faith into gear, put your foot on the gas, and get ready for the ride of your life!

Faithfully,
 Vera
Get your autographed copy of New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith today at http://www.verasvoiceworks.com/products.html. Be sure to purchase one for a friend, or anyone in need of a little Faith!

The ABC’s of Finding a New Best Friend – G is for Goodness

December 7, 2011: G is for GOODNESS

“I had to be mistaken, we’d all been together too long for there not to be any good times to keep our bond so strong.” (From New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith by Vera Jones)

It had already been a long, exhausting flight. I had just spent the last two hours wedged into the dreaded middle seat on a plane en route to Detroit. I could barely eat my nine complimentary pretzels without elbowing my less than friendly neighbors on either side. The last thing I needed was a disgruntled customer service representative at the rental car counter. But that’s what it
looked like I was about to experience.

I looked on as the woman demonstrated with great theatric detail every possible non-verbal communicator of annoyance, frustration and overall displeasure with everything remotely associated with her job. If she rolled her eyes any harder at the customer in front of her they surely would have fallen out of the sockets and bounced all over the countertop! I quickly prayed for the strength not to compete with this woman for the ugly attitude award. Given my fatigue, I knew I could be a strong contender.

As I stepped up to the counter, without even looking me in the eye, the woman blurted out with a sigh that made it sound like she had terminal gas, “Name?” I gave her my name then quickly added, “It’s not nearly as pretty as yours. How do you pronounce your name?” I was staring intently at her name tag which revealed “Ahnaia.” “It’s ah-Ny-ah,” she said softening her tone. “Wow, very unique and very pretty,'” I continued smiling at her. She smiled back ever so  faintly, as if the gas had let up a bit. “Thank you,” she replied.

“Ahnaia,” I tried my luck at furthering pleasantries, ” If your day has been anything like mine, you probably can’t wait to get out of here. Have you ever been stuck in a middle seat on an airplane for two hours with only nine pretzels for a friend?” With this she advanced her soft smile to a chuckle and nodded her head. “It’s a horrible experience. But you should know because I’m sure everyone of us comes straight to your rental car counter with our aching knees,  bad vibes and pretzel breath demanding you give us a car with legroom, huh?” She laughed again, as did I, and for a moment, I forgot how ugly I found Anaia’s attitude to be and how frustrated and fatigued I was. All I saw was a good person with a pretty name who probably had just as challenging a day as I had.

I see a lot of ugly in the world, daily. It’s as if we just have become accustomed to selfishness and bad attitudes. But I have not given up on the faith that we are all God’s children and therefore we are all capable of love and kindness. I believe if we project negativity, we invite others to do the same. If we project joy, hope, laughter, peace and all things good, we invite  others to follow suit as well. I’ve learned that rather than combat ugly attitudes with my ugly attitude, to try a little tenderness and empathy instead. Worry and doubt constantly insist that people are probably going to be mean and nasty because we live in such a negative world. But thank goodness faith’s voice still speaks louder that there truly is good in everyone. Sometimes you just have to be willing to look for it. And sometimes you just merely need to initiate it.

Anaia upgraded my rental car that day, no charge. She also offered me complimentary bottled water (Lord knows I needed it after those dry pretzels), and she took the time to show me on a map the best route to my destination. I won’t get so mushy to say I made a friend that day. But I will say I’m sure I avoided an enemy. Anaia not only smiled at me as I departed, but she greeted her next customer kindly too. Goodness is quite contagious it seems. Don’t take my word for it. Try it yourself!

Faithfully,

Vera

Get your autographed copy of New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith today at http://www.verasvoiceworks.com/products.html. Be sure to purchase one for a friend, or anyone in need of a little Faith!

The ABC’s of Finding a New Best Friend – F is for Forgiveness

December 5, 2011: F is for Forgiveness

“And then there was that time when in love I started to fall, Worry said, “What if you get dumped? Doubt said, “Don’t give it your all.” (From New Best Fiend – A Little Book of Faith by Vera Jones)

He carried on an extended affair with a co-worker and had casually slept around with a few others. He lied to me repeatedly about everything. He purposely used psychological tactics to try to convince me that I was paranoid and over-sensitive. He verbally degraded me, emotionally derailed me, and physically exhausted me while also placing me at risk for sexually transmitted diseases. Yet here he stood, his eyes pleading with mine, hitting me with the lowest of the low relational requests. He had the audacity to ask for Forgiveness! “Are you out of your mind or do you just think I am?” I screamed. I had given this man all of my heart and soul. What made him think I had anything left to even think about forgiving him let alone to actually do it?

For years of countless nights I wrestled with this tremendously unreasonable, dare say psychotic request to forgive someone who had hurt me so badly that I barely recognized myself anymore. Yet as defiant as I wanted to be in honoring his plea for forgiveness, I just could not escape the realization that I, too, had made mistakes. I, too, had hurt someone before. I, too, was human and therefore destined to sin and do things that were less than loving and pure. I, too, required forgiveness. How could I expect to ever receive it if I was unwilling to concede it? Oh I tried to justify with defenses of, “Yeah, but I never hurt anyone this badly.” But I could not deny that I was not perfect and even if I believed I hadn’t in the past, there surely may come a time in the future when I would indeed say or do something that may cause someone pain or harm, and I may be very sorry for it. So it was undeniable. I had to forgive just as I would pray to be forgiven. Fair is fair.

When you are deeply, emotionally scarred, forgiveness may seem an impossible task. Forgetting is out of the question. But faith is a greatly overlooked and powerful part of the forgiveness process. When you walk in faith, you sense that everything will work out for the good, even the deep and dark pain that has been inflicted by another. Faith also allows you to forgive yourself as you realize God still loves you despite your faults and shortcomings. You need only ask with a sincere heart to be forgiven and the healing process begins (even though I admit it sometimes takes a while to actually feel healed.) I have learned it is very difficult to reap the rewards of faith when you are holding tightly to the penalties of an unforgiving spirit. During your most vulnerable moments worry and doubt will try to convince you things will never get better and your pain will never end. But if you stop to listen closely, faith is whispering, “You are already healed. Just let go and believe better things, better people and better times are on their way into your life.” Will you listen and trust that whisper?

Faith is the key to the ignition that drives forgiveness. The man that hurt me deeply just didn’t deserve the loyal and true love I had to offer. Quite honestly, he had not learned to love and be loyal to himself. Why on earth would I expect him to give that which he did not have? Are you expecting someone to give something they don’t have? Do you lack faith that you are bigger than the pain someone caused you? Do you no longer believe your life will improve and therefore carry an unforgiving spirit? Maybe it’s time you find a New Best Friend named Faith. Believe better things, kinder people, happier times are ahead. Then start that engine of faith and drive forgiveness to your destination of peace and joy. That place does exist. I am proof. It took some time but today I live a life of complete forgiveness. I am both loving and lovable and happy
beyond measure. I’m beginning to fall in love again. Imagine that! Faith told me I could be, that I should be, and that I would be happy again. I’m so glad I listened! I wrote this because I know of so many people in pain and bondage because they don’t know how or they just don’t want to forgive. I’m tossing you the key of faith. Breakout! Be happy! Be faith-filled and free!

Faithfully,

Vera

Get your autographed copy of New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith today at http://www.verasvoiceworks.com/products.html. Be sure to purchase one for a friend, or anyone in need of a little Faith!

 

The ABC’s of Finding a New Best Friend – E is for ENCOURAGEMENT

December 2, 2011: E is for Encouragement

“My friendship is very loyal but unlike Worry and Doubt, I promise to always encourage you that things will surely work out.” (from New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith by Vera Jones)

“You’re going to lose. You’re too fat. You’re too slow and you’re stupid too.” The words cut like a jagged dagger through my five- year old heart. My big brother had figured out how to discourage my big dreams yet again. After all, that’s what older siblings do, right? It was my very first chance to run in a race, and they were giving out trophies! Wow, I could win a real trophy! My heart had never pounded harder! My only real opponent for years had been a stronger, more competitive brother, two years my elder, so I had never won anything before. Here was my chance to not only win, but have a trophy to forever show for my young talent and valiant efforts from the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity – Washington, DC Annual Family Picnic.

I believed I was fast. But I was only five and the race was for girls age 10 and under. My brother made sure I knew everyone was bigger, stronger and faster than I was. I was the youngest and smallest one there. The girl standing next to me was eight. She was tall and mean-looking and had a mustard stain on her T-shirt. She would probably devour me much like the apparent helpless hotdog she had just finished. My brother was right. I didn’t stand a chance. I would surely lose and all the onlookers gathered around would just simply laugh at me. Instead of receiving a trophy, I would receive a big, red forehead stamp that read, “LOSER” and it wouldn’t wash off! Oh the horrors! I’d be scarred for life! I began to cry.

Just then, my Godfather, Uncle Ed, walked over. He was very tall and strong with a deep, resounding voice like I imagined a lion would have if it could talk. He had always been a virtual giant to me. Uncle Ed who had witnessed the hurtful teasing and taunting stormed over and raised his big, booming voice at my brother, Danny. “You stop that now! That’s your little sister! You don’t pick on her, you encourage her! Go on baby girl, you step up to that there starting line and you run your little heart out. Don’t you pay your brother no mind! Do you want to run in this race?” With tears running down my cheeks I nodded yes. Uncle Ed emphatically continued, “Then get on up there and run, baby girl! Run and have fun! You are a winner!!” With that Uncle Ed took me by the hand and led me over to the starting line. Then he cut my brother a hard glance like he would string him up naked by his toenails if he even so much as blinked at me the wrong way. Uncle Ed to the rescue! My hero!

“Runners take your mark, get set,” said the man holding the cap gun. “POP!” sounded the gun and off I went! I ran fast. I ran hard. Mustard girl was on my right and I was gaining on her. Then I passed mustard girl! My heart was pounding as there was only one more big girl just steps ahead of me and I was gaining on her too! But just then she burst through the little yellow ribbon they called the finish line. She beat me. Danny was right, I didn’t win. I caught him smirking at me on the sideline. (His back was wisely turned to Uncle Ed). I started to cry again. But then I saw I saw Uncle Ed, my mom, my dad and a bunch of strangers all cheering for me, like I was the little engine that could. They were cheering for me even though I had come in second place. Suddenly a strange man came over to me, grabbed me by the arm, and placed a silver thing in my hand. It was a trophy! I had won something after all! I won a silver trophy! The girl next to me had a gold one, but I didn’t even care. I won something and discouraging Danny had nothing!

With tremendous excitement I ran over and handed my trophy to Uncle Ed whose loud voice was echoing over all others, “That’s my baby girl! I told you she could run. She’s a fast little thing, ain’t she? My god-daughter is a winner!” I felt so very proud. Although my brother could not bring himself over to congratulate me (it’s against sibling rivalry law), my parents, friends and complete strangers all seemed to be thrilled with my performance. My mom proudly told onlookers it was my very first race. My father and Uncle Ed seemed to be in competition over who could high five the hardest. It was the most awesome feeling I had ever felt in my five years of life – a feeling I obviously still cherish. Some said the first place contestant won the race. But I felt like I won something bigger – the will to try despite discouragement and doubt.

The biggest winner in my mind, however, was Uncle Ed, who in his great wisdom understood the power of encouragement. He introduced me to faith that day – the courage to believe in myself and to try no matter what anyone else said, or how discouraging things felt or appeared. I will never forget my first race, my first trophy, or the first time I realized there is no better assist to faith than another’s sincere voice of encouragement. We all have the power to be an encourager. You don’t even have to have a big booming voice like my Uncle Ed’s. I pray you recognize this giant gift within yourself and share it every day. Someone is ready to run today. You can help them win! In this way, you win, too! Take your mark, get set, “ENCOURAGE!”

Faithfully,

Vera

Get your autographed copy of New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith today at http://www.verasvoiceworks.com/products.html. Be sure to purchase one for a friend, or anyone in need of a little Faith!

The ABC’s of Finding a New Best Friend – D is for DOUBT

November 29, 2011: D is for DOUBT

“Doubt was a bit overprotective, she questioned my every need. She told me things I shouldn’t do or try for fear of where they may lead.” (From New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith by Vera Jones)

In my mid-twenties I once accepted a friend’s dare to perform standup comedy on amateur night at a famous comedy club in Syracuse, New York. Given everyone I knew was constantly telling me I was the funniest woman they knew, I figured, how hard could this be? I tell jokes, funny stories and make people laugh all the time. Plus I always wanted to experience the roaring laughter of an admiring crowd. “This could be my big break to stardom, fame and fortune!” I gleefully imagined.

With great excitement, anticipation and diligence I went about the task of developing my six minute sketch. I had confidently planned, rehearsed and pumped myself up for the big moment. Friends had confirmed my act was funny, that I would do great. My big chance had arrived and less than an hour before I was scheduled to go on stage a barrage of questions filled my head: “Why is the room spinning? Why am I shaking so hard? Where can I throw up? Does anyone have a Depends handy? Where is my mommy? What’s my name? What’s the number for 911?” I was in complete panic! I promise you I had never been so nervous in my entire life. Why had I lost all of my confidence and gumption?

It was the dreadfully loud voice of Doubt! (Insert haunted music and wicked laughter here.) “Oh, the audience is going to laugh alright! They are going to laugh you right off the stage you sorry, corny joke-telling, pathetic excuse for a wannabe standup comedian!” Doubt wasn’t whispering, but rather screaming at unbearable decibels! I felt physically ill and paralyzed. Never before had I experienced such performance fear and panic. Nor have I ever again since.

Just as I was prepared to exit the back door of the comedy club en route to the bus station for a ticket to any place I could buy a backbone, another voice deep inside whispered, “Pray.” I was due on stage in two minutes. So in desperation I prayed – hard! It was the only thing I had left to do. When I opened my eyes I  was miraculously on stage. Hundreds of eyeballs were peering through me, dying to get their $10 and two drink minimum worth of laughter for the night. I mumbled something ridiculous and I heard a sudden burst of loud laughter. I thanked God for the inebriated patrons sitting up front! It didn’t matter whether they were laughing with me or at me. They were laughing and that was the goal, right? That little burst of laughter was enough to get me to stop taking myself so seriously and believe in myself again. I then continued on to deliver one of the funniest performances I could have ever hoped for.

I’ve come to learn a lot about Doubt, that nagging voice of fear, who will use every tactic imaginable to convince you your goals are too risky, too absurd, and too unattainable. Doubt will not only remind you of your previous failure in this area, but everyone else’s too. If it’s something you have never previously attempted Doubt will be relentless in trying to convince you failure is certain. Doubt pretends to protect all the while prohibiting your physical, emotional and spiritual growth. Doubt wastes no time in echoing the dreaded sentiment of “I told you so” every time the slightest task does not work out quite the way you had hoped or planned. Doubt gives me gas.

So why on earth do we spend so much time hanging out with doubt? Too much pride and too little faith is my answer. My amateur night comedy moment taught me that there is nothing that can conquer doubt quite like a little faith, and a whole lot of laughter. In hindsight I’ve learned that Doubt is the true wannabe comedian. When I begin to hear that voice, I’ve learned to laugh at my doubts and trust my faith. You must learn to move your pride aside and accept that you may very well be an amateur, you are not perfect, people may indeed laugh at you or your dreams, and you may even flop a time or two. However, the fact that you took center stage on cue to attempt to bring your dreams into reality means you really haven’t failed at all. You’ve moved one step closer to success by having tried than having not. Faith will always be there applauding and encouraging you to be the star of your own show. Do you really want to be upstaged by Doubt? Trust me, in the end, it will be hard to find any humor in that.

Faithfully,

Vera

Get your autographed copy of New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith today at http://www.verasvoiceworks.com/products.html Be sure to purchase one for a friend, or anyone in need of a little Faith!

  The ABC’s of Finding a New Best Friend – C is for CHARITY (LOVE)

November 23, 2011: C is for CHARITY (LOVE)

“Faith is my name,” she added, “And I’d love to be your friend – someone you can depend on time and time again.” (from New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith, by Vera Jones)

What is Love? That’s got to be the million dollar question, and probably the trillion dollar answer! Love as a noun is one seemingly ginormous, simple to feel but difficult to describe emotion, and yet to me it is something best described and demonstrated as an action verb. I guess if I had one shot to define it I’d say, “Love is CHARITY, the selfless caring and giving of oneself to another person, cause or entity.” Yeah, that’s good, I like that. But then if I were to go with being more spiritually succinct I’d simply say, “God is love.” But for a really good laugh I prefer to refer to a website collection1 of a few whimsical comments from elementary aged children offering their ideas of love:

*”Love is like an avalanche where you have to run for your life.” — John, age 9

*”I think you’re supposed to get shot with an arrow or something, but the rest of it isn’t supposed to be so painful.” — Manuel, age 8

*”No one is sure why it happens, but I heard it has something to do with how you smell. That’s why perfume and deodorant are so popular.” — Mae, age 9

*”Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good too.” — Greg, age 8

*”It gives me a headache to think about that stuff. I’m just a kid. I don’t need that kind of trouble.” — Kenny, age 7

*”One of you should know how to write a check. Because, even if you have tons of love, there is still going to be a lot of bills.” — Ava, age 8

*”I’m not rushing into being in love. I’m finding fourth grade hard enough.” — Regina, age 10

*”A man and a woman promise to go through sickness and illness and diseases together.” — Marlon, age 10

*”Love is foolish…but I still might try it sometime.” — Floyd, age 9

*”Love will find you, even if you are trying to hide from it. I been trying to hide from it since I was five, but the girls keep finding me.” — Dave, age 8

(If you aren’t at least smiling at some of these, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but something is wrong with you!) The truth is it’s kind of funny that we all know what love is, at least in some measure, but it is so vast, so deep, so multifaceted and grand that it truly is difficult to universally define. I think we all would agree, however, that life void of love is the worst life one can live. When life gets really tough, we sometimes struggle to find faith that love even exists let alone that it will conquer all. In fact we often blame love for our troubles. It is our distorted view of what love is, as well as our distorted view of who we are that causes this blame game.

I am of the opinion that most people struggle with love because they do not view it as charity or giving, but rather focus on that which is received. Therefore, if one does not receive love the way he or she wants or expects it, then love is just plain no good. To have faith in the power of love is to know you are capable of loving even if you don’t feel very loveable. It is also the recognition that you are loved even if you have not been very loving. Love is just amazing and no matter how tough life gets, no matter how we try to hide from the love of ourselves or others, love is dependably everywhere. You need only a smidgen of faith to believe in it, and you need only to give it to actually get it.

I would be remiss not to share how love is defined Biblically in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

This Thanksgiving, I give thanks for love. I wish you the faith to believe in the power of love, real love, true love, God’s love, and I pray you experience it by sharing it in abundance!

Faithfully with LOVE,

Vera

Get your autographed copy of New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith today at http://www.verasvoiceworks.com/products.html. Be sure to purchase one for a friend, or anyone in need of a little Faith!

 1 http://www.rinkworks.com/said/kidlove.shtml

The ABC’s of Finding a New Best Friend – B is for Believe

New Best Friend

November 22, 2011: B is for BELIEV E

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”. – Hebrews 11:1NIV (from New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith by Vera Jones)
I have a confession. No, this has nothing to do with an illicit affair, sex texting, a secret drug addiction, pedophilia, money laundering or any of the other sinfully exciting, dramatic or traumatic events that lace our news headlines daily. It’s not that kind of party, you thrill-seeker, you! Well, there was this one time when I got drunk in college….

I digress. My confession is that I have not always been of the strongest faith. Granted my name means faith and I have a strong spiritual foundation in Christianity. But despite religious dogma I have not always known what or even how to believe. I think many people struggle with this same experience. Arriving at this place of strong faith I have now took a life threatening and eye-opening experience. Perhaps eye-closing is more accurate.

My son Andrew, now almost 14 years old was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was 12. After undergoing a traumatic surgery, weeks in intensive care and witnessing his once fairly attractive mother turn into an unsightly gargoyle of stress almost overnight, Andrew’s small body was left with numerous life-threatening hormonal complications and a loss of 75% of his visual field. He awoke from surgery totally blind in his right eye and the outer peripheral of his left. Andrew sees life now through a very small tunnel, much like looking through a straw. Naturally, this was as emotionally and psychologically challenging for him as it was physically debilitating. But during this phase of our lives, a time we felt was our darkest and most helpless moment, we both gained a new best friend named Faith. She was once a casual acquaintance. Now we don’t go anywhere without each other! Both Andrew’s life and mine have improved dramatically for one reason. We never stopped believing things would get better. There is not enough room in this blog, or even a novel to tell you how much they have!

One day, soon after surgery, Andrew was agonizing over his unwanted visual condition, and spending a lot of time focusing on the things he could no longer do like play sports, or things he would never be able to do like drive a car. “It’s not about what you can’t see, it’s about who you are meant to be,” I told my son. I admit I was pretty proud of myself upon hearing such profound advice come out of my own mouth. But I couldn’t take credit. It was Faith who whispered this in my ear. Faith has shown me that we as humans, a relatively intelligent species (void our penchant for illicit affairs, sex texting, drug addictions, pedophilia, money laundering, etc…) live life committed to “seeing is believing.” What you see is basically what you get. To live a faith-filled life, however, we must change this paradigm and accept that “Believing is Seeing.”

There is a vision, a dream placed in each of us – an urging to do something great, something creative, something noble, or something that we personally have never done before. It tells us despite whatever adversity we face we will overcome if we just believe, and then take action upon this belief, bringing our belief into reality. The challenge lies in being able to listen to the voice of faith which tells us God, our ultimate Creator, has a plan for ultimate good, and you and whatever adversity you currently face is part of that plan. Hearing this voice and believing it is difficult because there are equally strong voices of worry or doubt that say, “Yo Dude, this situation looks pretty bleak. There is no way this is going to turn out good. Give up.” It is also difficult because we expect immediacy. We must learn that patience and faith are like Siamese twins. They rarely operate independently.

All great accomplishment begins with what we choose to believe. The key word is choice. You have a choice every moment of the day to believe the voice of faith or the voices of worry and doubt. Achieving greatness on any level in life is not about what you can or cannot currently see. It is only about who you are meant to be. Believe you are meant for good, that’s what you will eventually see. The best thing about finding Faith as my New Best Friend is that she keeps things simple. Faith already knows I have much to learn from trials and tribulations, so she does not ask me to ignore my dark or painful past… She only tells me to BELIEVE in a bright future. Ask her to be your New Best Friend, and I believe she will tell you the same, over and over again, until you finally live a life where believing becomes seeing, not so much the other way around. Thanks for letting me confess.

Faithfully,

Vera

Get your autographed copy of New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith today at http://www.verasvoiceworks.com/products.html. Be sure to purchase one for a friend, or anyone in need of a little Faith!

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