My Reflections

And Relax . . .


If 2020-2021 has taught me anything it has most taught me the necessity to relax. With so much happening that none of us were expecting, I learned to value time with those I love, respect and enjoy being around.

It’s also so important to enjoy some time with yourself doing what brings you joy.

I learned that some things I once viewed as necessary may not have been so important. This also helped me to find more balance in my life, with personal life, work life and my spiritual life. When one part overwhelms the others exponentially, the equation of our lives can lose focus.

Spending time doing nothing, alone or with others, is not a waste of time. I have found a lot of calmness, peace and time to think more clearly in those moments. Relaxing is not a bad use of time. It provides us with more time.

Taking a break when the weather is especially nice, just because you can.

Laughing, dancing and talking with friends and/or family are some of the best forms of relaxing that I’ve experienced over this past summer. Finding who you need in life helps us to stay healthy, happy and living the lives we are meant to live. It also helps to keep us accountable.

Find your people and relax together just as strongly as you support one another in the other portions of your lives.

Relaxing definitely looks different at various times and can be very different for each of us, but it is so crucial to our mental health. While we should all take care of our physical bodies, this past year has taught us so much of the importance of mental health for all of us. No one is one dimensional. We are multifaceted for a reason.

Whether it’s time to relax or time to work, stay persistent in living a life of balance.

If you need more balance, make it happen. Value yourself. Value others. Make it happen. You may need to start small, or you may be able to drastically change your life immediately, but whatever you do . . . relax.

If you need someone to tell you, it’s a gift to yourself and others when you spend time relaxing. Life is too short, and we all need time to enjoy as much of it as we possibly can.
My Reflections

2021: Be the Fulcrum


As we usher in 2021, may we remember what truly matters.

So many are looking for 2021 to help us heal from what’s happened in 2020. Deaths of loved ones. Isolation. Lockdowns. Normal education having so many shifts. Fears in various forms. Faith and hope shaken up. Places shut down. Shortages and hoarding. Events cancelled. Places of worship shutting doors for weeks and months on end. Political unrest in ways never seen before. Racism and prejudices becoming harder to ignore. Loss of jobs, food, homes, relationships, and the list goes on and on.

I get it. I have faced a lot of that myself, as I’m sure you have, too.

There’s not a single human who can rescue us. God does all He can for us, yet we humans don’t make it easy. We never have.

We want life to get back to normal, while much of what was normal needed changing. Normal doesn’t exist.

We want masks gone. Not seeing full faces is not in our nature.

We want to hug and touch others. Humans crave connections.

We want to be there for our loved ones in the hospital or in adult care facilities. Going through hard times alone is not what we were meant to endure.

We want to gather with others for weddings, births, funerals and celebrations. Life milestones are important.

We want some sense of predictability we can rely on, after all of this. Yet, when was life ever predictable?

2021 will not erase the past and it will not entirely fix the world. However, each of us can do our parts and be the change this nation and world needs, be truly selfless and the best versions of who we each are meant to be in the time we have on this planet.

The best way to make 2021 a better year, involves all of us. May we do all we can to water those seeds.

We can each make the differences that are needed, making life easier for all. Each of us have purpose and it is those purposes within us that are parts of so many solutions. There is much to be changed, no doubt.

However, if we truly consider our fellow humans and other living creatures that inhabit the land, sea and skies, as well as the planet itself and our Creator, life in 2021 can be the turning point that can finally get us all on the right path.

By truly choosing to see others as humans who have their own burdens, we can have more compassion.

By truly listening to understand, rather than to have our say, we can have more empathy.

By giving of the resources we have to those in need, we can heal.

By trusting those who have proven themselves worthy and by giving the benefit of the doubt to others till shown otherwise, we can have more respect for others.

By seeking truth and not just trying to confirm our own conceptions, we can have better discernment.

By doing all we can, by valuing the lives of other, we can have more unity.

We are always a part of the equation. Each of us have more power to do good than most of us believe. Step out in 2021 and let’s do this, together!

While we head into 2021 in a matter of hours, reflect on what you have learned during this past year. Reflect on the good moments, because they also happened even if some were different than prior years, and learn from the bad ones.

While no year can fix so much, we can shift the trajectory too many of us have been on and begin moving into brighter days, weeks, months and years. We can leave a better legacy for those who come after us, rather than leaving behind more heartache.

May we all see the pandemic end or at least lessen to a huge degree soon.

Are you ready to be the fulcrum? Come join me and so many others. A shift is about to happen and we have plenty of room on the ride.

May we give, love, laugh, and enjoy one another more than ever before.

Let’s make 2021 the year we all begin to heal and help others to heal, because we seek to make our lives and those all around us the best examples of ourselves that we all need. When we are each on the other side of Heaven, may we truly do so knowing that we were “good and faithful servants” to all.

As we look in the mirror, may we each remember that today is a good day to have a good day, for us and for others. https://nikkibanas.com/

Healing comes in many ways. Seek and you shall find.

My Reflections

BE THE CHANGE: Matthew 10:25-37, Mark 12: 30-31, John 3:16


Not to Act is to Act

Almost from the start of mankind, the existence of  evil and suffering have been a part of the human experience. While the faces and the circumstances may change, evil and suffering still persist. Watch the news and there is plenty of evidence of the horrific acts that have been happening in the Ukraine, the beheadings of Christians in Iraq or the fighting and killings in Israel, to name a few.

While these are indeed horrible, there are other acts of evil, of injustice, happening daily in our own country and world-wide. Sex trafficking is one issue many would rather ignore. According to F.R.E.E. International:

1)     There are more slaves in the world today than at any other point in history, including the trans Atlantic slave trade

2)     Commercial Sex Trafficking is the third largest criminal enterprise in the world

3)     Trafficking occurs both internationally and domestically within the United States

4)     It is estimated that anywhere between 100,000-300,000 children are exploited for commercial sex every year in the United States

5)     The average age a person enters into prostitution in the United States is between 12 and 14 years old(SOURCE: http://freeinternational.org/the-issue)

There’s also the issue of the abuse and neglect of children by the hand of those who are supposed to love and care for them. According to Royal Family Kids, which serves abused and neglected foster children across the globe, “Annually, 3.6 million cases of child abuse, neglect or abandonment are reported in America,” and “One of these victims dies every six hours due to that abuse” (http://royalfamilykids.org/about/our-history). Those are just the facts on the reported cases.

Actor, comedian and humanitarian Robin William’s suicide was another stark reminder that the hurting are among us. Many people put on a good face and say that everything is fine, when their lives are far from it. There are people going through domestic violence. There are people contemplating taking their lives, feeling there is no other way. There are people who wake up every morning wondering why they exist, because they feel worthless. There are those suffering from mental illness. Need I go on?

Unfortunately, we often ignore the obvious signs of the pain in others and the injustices that exist, because it makes us feel uncomfortable or we don’t realize that we can do something to help. What’s even sadder, is we don’t often even notice the pain and injustices around us, because people have learned to hide so much of it, recognizing that most people will sit by and do nothing.

Christians have been taught to serve, to love our neighbors, to get involved when we see someone in need.  Many who haven’t read Matthew 10:25-37, have heard of the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  In a nutshell, those who should have helped a stranger who had been victimized walked by him and did nothing, while the most unlikely person stopped to not only help him, but to get personally involved.

Jesus Christ died for all. As John 3:16 tells us, ““For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  Notice that Christ died for ALL people.  He has and always will love ALL people, and yet, we don’t often do the same.

Love requires action.  Love goes beyond feeling.  Love sometimes involves us to get uncomfortable. Why?  Because it is not about us. It is about others, loving them, protecting them, serving them.

In Mark 12:30-31, Jesus reminds us, “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” To love God is to love people. To love people is to act. 

As my pastor, Dr. Ryan Darrow shared on a Sunday morning, “The Samaritan could have made many excuses to not help, like the others. What area is God asking you to get involved in another’s life? It doesn’t always mean getting involved with an organization, but the person who we see every day.”

We so often feel more comfortable conforming to what others do, even when we know we have the means to help, which doesn’t always mean money. We can help with our skills, talents, knowledge, time, whatever we have and are.  What is right is still what is right. Our lives are meant to make a difference in the lives of others. We are called to fight for justice with whatever we have within us and whatever we have to give.

The Lord calls us to be involved in a practical way. As Pastor Darrow reminded us, “Our neighbors, [at home, school, work] are often metaphorically lying in a ditch hurting. What can you do? What is God calling you to do?”

We are His hands and feet. There are people dying on the inside. You are not where you are without a purpose, a purpose to change the world.

We are called to advocate on behalf of others. They are counting on us. We all know that change is needed. Be the change.

Want to talk with me more about how you can be the change?  Let’s join our efforts. Are you already being the change?  I’d love to hear about what you’re doing.  Let’s inspire one another to do what we were called to do.  May Jefferson Bethke’s latest video inspire you that darkness is losing.

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My Reflections

THE BONDS THAT DON’T BREAK: Romans 8:31-39


My Daughter's Mother's Day Gift to Me
Mother & Daughter Forever: My daughter’s Mother’s Day gift to me

I can think of very few bonds that are as strong as that between a child and her parents.  There is very little I wouldn’t do for my daughter, whether getting matching mother/daughter tattoos as we did this Mother’s Day, as her gift to me this year, or unhesitatingly dying for her, which I would do in a heartbeat.

While those may be two extremes situations, one thing I know, without question.  My love for her is boundless.  We are connected forever.

Even stronger than the bonds that tie my beautiful daughter to me, are the bonds that don’t break between our Heavenly Father and His children.  He is very much connected to us.

I know that not all of you may have experienced this sort of parental love, this sort of connection, this sort of bond. However, I know as clearly as I know how I feel about my daughter that my God loves His children without any hesitation, without any wavering, no matter who we are or what we do.

As Romans 8:31-39 reminds us, “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself.Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,  neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I don’t know about you, but I take comfort knowing that absolutely nothing separates us from our Heavenly Father’s love.  That’s a true bond, one that cannot be broken.  God will eternally love us, ALWAYS!

Do you feel like you’re not good enough for God?  Do you feel like you have messed up so much that God would never consider loving you?  Do you think that God might care about others, but there’s nothing to love about you?

Those are common thoughts or feelings, but God isn’t like that. Just as a loving parent would never dream of turning her back on her child, there is nothing we can do to make God love us or to make Him not love us.  He just loves us, because He is love and He knows no other way to feel towards His creation, His children.

As 1 John 4:7-12 reminds us, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”

One thing I want my daughter to always know, no matter what happens, is that my love for her will never waver.  It only strengthens with time.  Nothing can ever happen that would break the bond between us, because I wouldn’t let it happen.  I could never let that happen.

God speaks that over us, as well.  How, you may ask?  The Bible is a love letter to us, from start to finish.  It tells us, over and over again how much He loves us.  How desperately He wants to stay connected to us.

Having a hard time believing it?  I would love to chat with you.  Feel free to send me a message.

Want to rediscover that bond with Him? He has been by your side all along.  Just talk with Him.  You’ll quickly discover that the bond still remains.

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My Reflections

THE POWER OF YOUR LIFE: Psalm 139


appreciation

I have taught for 17 years of my life, and I absolutely adore what I do for a living. While I very much enjoy the subject that I teach, I enjoy my students even more. They always brighten my day, remind me of how important it is to serve others and to use our gifts, and they teach me so much more than I ever imagined I would learn, before I embarked on this journey, called teaching.

Over the last two weeks, or so, God has been so kind in showing me some of the impact I have made on my students.  Some showed me their appreciation through gifts, like the one in the picture, given to me during Teacher Appreciation Week. However, this week, four of my classes got to write letters of appreciation to any staff member in the school. While organizing those letters to distribute to my co-workers, I was overwhelmed to discover that a quarter of them were addressed to me.

Very humbling, to say the least!

In one student’s letter, I learned of the impact I had unknowingly had on her, during a very trying time in her life.  Another letter shared a variety of personal traumas she has endured for two years, and she credited me to causing her to finally overcome these traumas. Each letter was such a gift, as these precious teens shared pieces of their hearts with me.

I know that none of this is because of me, but because of Christ within me.  I sat in marvel, over the working of the Holy Spirit, with tears in my eyes, as I read one letter after another.

Psalm 139:1-18 says, Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up.  You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LordYou go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence. If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you. You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!”

Do you know what I see when I read that? God truly cares about us, has always cared about us, and doesn’t leave us. He sees us, even before anyone else ever did. That’s huge!  That’s amazing!

Honestly, I think that’s a big part of why “what” we do with our lives is so powerful. People want to know that they matter, no matter how old they are. They want, and more importantly need, to be seen, heard, understood.

As I read each of those precious letters, from my students, that’s what I heard speaking to me, over and over again.  You saw me.  You cared.  You went out of your way to go beyond teaching me the subject, and taught me about life.  You believed in me.

All I want to say in return to all of them is this. . .Oh, honey, I don’t just see you, hear you, care about you, and believe in you. God does! If I hadn’t realized that as a child, I wouldn’t be fulfilling my purpose, as I am right now.  Touching you all with His love. You are so very precious to me, because you’re precious to Him.

I encourage you, no matter where God places you, to be His hands and feet to those around you.  It may be an encounter with a person that lasts for just a brief moment, or you may spend years with these individuals.  But, live your life with impactful purpose.

We matter. Others matter, and they matter, because we matter to our Creator.

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My Reflections

MORE THAN JUST A GAME: Part 6 (Final) – Proverbs 4


Don’t let emotions ruin the moment.  I’m an emotional person.  I have no problem admitting that, and emotions can be a fabulous part of who we are, if used correctly. If emotions are steering the course, though, the outcome is normally not the best.  When I am golfing and I allow my emotions to take control, my focus is in the wrong place and what I set out to achieve normally falls short.

I encourage you, to keep your emotions in check (good and bad), as you work towards what you’re trying to achieve. That doesn’t mean to not have any emotions, but as they say, you have to keep your head in the game.

You will have plenty of time to rejoice later, or to possibly feel bad over what could have been, but at least you’ll know that you gave it your all.

While one is doing what must be done, take time to enjoy the view.  One of the big reasons that I love golf is getting to be outdoors.  I love seeing God’s creation. It’s absolutely amazing!  Most of the time, as I am at work, at home, at the store, at church, at the gym, or wherever, I’m indoors. Golf gives me the chance to be outside!  It’s awesome.

iPhoto Library

So, as I end this blog series, let me encourage you, one last time.  As you believe in yourself, follow through, try to improve, pay attention to the details, work through your plan and not let your emotions ruin all you’ve done, take the time to look around.  What’s the point of the journey, if you missed out on all the great points of interest along the way? The end goal is necessary, but life is lived in the seconds and minutes. Make the best of them.   

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My Reflections

MORE THAN JUST A GAME: Part 5 – Proverbs 4


One may have the best of intentions, but without a plan of action and a means of executing that action, those intentions are going nowhere.  When I set up to hit a golf ball, I have the best of intentions.  I have a goal in mind that I aim for, I think through my movements and placement (most of the time anyway), and I do the best I can to recall and repeat what has worked before.  However, I admit that I don’t practice enough, and I don’t look enough at those who know what they’re doing, so I can improve more quickly.

So my intentions may be fantastic, but if I don’t have a plan of action, what do my intentions matter?  Like with any sport, I need to plan out what I’m going to do, if I plan to have more success.  This is so true to life, as well.  How many times have you heard someone say they were going to do something, and you know they had every intention of doing it, but they failed to plan it out? 

You know what happens to those who fail to plan.  It’s great to have a positive attitude and want the best, but success doesn’t usually just happen.  If it is worth it, then it is worth taking the time to plan out how to reach that goal.

When facing a tough situation, go into it prepared.

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My Reflections

MORE THAN JUST A GAME: Part 4 – Proverbs 4


Details matter.  Something else that I’ve learned, as I’ve worked on improving my game, is that details are extremely important in the game of golf. Wrong foot positioning, incorrect movements of the head, wrong analysis of angles, even if slightly off, will affect the entire trajectory of the ball and ultimately, your game.

We often go through life, oblivious to many of the details around us.  People can walk in and out of our day, without us even noticing. The emotions played out on their faces, evidence of who they are and what they’re going through, ignored.  The beauty of nature, art, and so many other things are too often replaced by our electronic devices and a myriad of other distractions.

The impact we are truly meant to have on one another, even if it’s only a small impact, may never happen.  Those seemingly small details can and do change the trajectory of a person’s day, and at times, a person’s life.  We often underestimate the influence our actions have on others, let alone ourselves.

That is a huge mistake, because it is no longer some game of golf.  When we ignore details in our everyday lives, the impact is one that ripples to those we may never meet.  Golf is fun, but life is important.  Don’t let it pass you by.

“Don’t look back at tomorrow and say you could have done more.” – a fire chief on “Chicago Fire”

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My Reflections

MORE THAN JUST A GAME – Part 3


Each moment is another opportunity to be better than you were before. One of the reasons I enjoy golf is because even though you are playing with others, your real competition is yourself.  You’re typically not part of a team, like in baseball or basketball.  Your level of achievement is truly measured by knowing how you’ve done before, and comparing yourself at that moment to what you did the last time and who you were before.

With the help of my husband, I spend time analyzing what I’m doing well and what still needs work. Though I need to do this more, I stop to watch others achieve what I’m trying to do, as a means of learning. I know that the next time I face the same hole, I can do what I may not have been able to do the last time.  Even if I have been stuck in neutral, on a specific hole of the golf course, as I learn more, I have a new chance to improve.  That’s pretty awesome!

I know that life isn’t always easy.  However, each day is a fresh start, another chance to improve upon the person who went to bed the night before. Mistakes can be learned from.  Achievements already made allow us to know what’s working, so we can continue in the right direction. New experiences can be had.

Really, it’s kind of exciting to know that yesterday wasn’t the end. As long as we have breath, we have the opportunity to improve upon ourselves.  We live in a country with many opportunities afforded to us, no matter where we came from or what lies people may have tried to get you to believe about yourself.  Seize the day! Heck, seize the moment!  I promise you that it will be worth the effort.

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My Reflections

MORE THAN JUST A GAME: Part 2 – Proverbs 4


Our actions are worth nothing, without follow through. As much as I’ve improved in my game, one of my biggest problems is not following through.  My club will hit the ball, and almost immediately my momentum stops.  If you know anything about golf, continuing to follow through is necessary for the ball to go the distance in which you initially sent it.

The same is true with anything we do, in life.  We may start off strong or gain some great momentum along the way, but following our actions through to the end is what counts.  Often, obstacles get in our way. If what was once started truly matters, those obstacles will strengthen us.  Just like the follow through, in golf, provides the rest of the power to take your game where it needs to go, as we are strengthened through overcoming each obstacle, our overall ability increases and we come to realize that our potential is much greater than we ever imagined.

Is there an area of your life where you began something, something important and gave up along the way?  Or have you achieved a certain level of success, in some part of your life, but then stopped reaching higher, stopped believing that you could do more?

Follow through, all the way. See all that you are capable of doing.  Don’t slow down. Don’t settle.  Don’t quit.

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