Posted by: emilyosburne | July 21, 2009

Unrestricted Exploration

Eiffell TowerWhat is it about traveling abroad or taking a year off that inspires and excites us so much? Judy Colley has been mentoring young women for over a decade, and she advises them to take time to live overseas or travel with a mission team before diving into the “American rhythm” of success-seeking.

Although we all sense something is missing from the relentless pursuit of the American Dream, many of us are uncomfortable with anything that does not directly lead us to a desired outcome.  On one of my favorite blogs, Christian Lander makes fun of the notion of taking a year off to “find yourself.” And many parents discourage their kids travel plans that might derail a nice, long career in a cubicle.

However, deep down we know that there might be something to this kind of exploration that gives deeper meaning to every life.

Although it does not seem to matter the place or the time, one key to fulfillment is this idea of exploration without strings attached. Most traveling comes with a purpose. You are on a mission to see every sight, to take every picture or to visit all the museums. Maybe you have gone to the beach with the purpose of swimming, sleeping, and playing volleyball on the beach. You go to Disney World to introduce the kiddos to Mickey and Minnie.

People who experience a higher level of fulfillment seem to give their minds more space to wonder, to think and to explore without a definite purpose. It seems paradoxical that you would set out on a purposeless journey in order to find real purpose, but I am finding that to be true.

This does not necessarily mean that every person in the world is required to travel abroad for a year. It’s just an invitation to take a walk without the goal of burning a specific number of calories. Go to a coffee shop without your laptop. Take a weekend in the woods and do nothing. What is the point of all this pointlessness? Give yourself space to be completely free; free of deadlines, free of expecations and free of your own demands. In this kind of environment, new thoughts can emerge that lead your life down a truer path.

Have you ever taken an extended period of time free from demands of the “American rhythm” of success-seeking?

Posted by: emilyosburne | June 28, 2009

Do Hard Things

DAy 2 JailThis week, on a mission trip to Honduras, we had the privilege of visiting the largest ladies prison in the country.  After passing through security, we walked into the courtyard in the middle of the jail and one of the inmates started yelling something in Spanish.  We asked our interpreter what she was saying. 

“She says, ‘The Grandmas are here!  The Grandmas are here!”

The ladies who took us to the prison were each about 60 – 70 years old and they were like Grandmothers to these women, most of whom were stuck in prison for more than twenty more years.  I was amazed by the commitment of these “Grandmas” who spent their entire Saturday, every week, reaching out to ladies who have huge, overwhelming problems.

One inmate we met wanted us to pray for her because she has not seen her children in five years.  Another lady sobbed because she knew that her kids had gone into hiding, in fear for their lives.  And Sandra, the woman I spoke to for the longest time, was worried about her family having enough to eat.  The Grandmas lovingly threw themselves in the middle of such intense problems… willingly… wholeheartedly.  And they loved it!

Noami, the leader of the Grandmas, told us about the woman who started visiting the jail over twenty years ago.  I can’t remember her name, but I cannot forget her story.  This visionary woman wanted to help the ladies of the Honduran prison, but there was no paved road leading up to the jail, so what did she do?  She took a bus to the bottom of the mountain and walked two hours up the mountain to reach the prison.

Every week, for years, this dedicated woman chose to trek up a mountain in order to reach out to society’s most needy women.  And she never missed a week.  I wonder if this Honduran woman has found one of the secrets to a fulfilling life.

Alex Harris wrote a book called, Do Hard Things, and shockingly, teenagers are flocking to this book in record numbers.  Maybe it’s because we have an innate desire to do the tough work, to put in the hours of labor toward a worthy cause.  In America, we have a tendency to avoid hard work like the plague.  We spend thousands of dollars to avoid even a few minutes of strain and stress. 

Maybe we should take a lesson from the Grandmas.  Should we embrace hard things rather than run from them?

Posted by: emilyosburne | June 16, 2009

Does Your Job Speak to You?

PR PersonDana is one of the only people I know who has stayed with the same company for almost a decade and doesn’t regret it. She does not feel stiffled or underutilized. In fact, she loves her job!  She is a PR Specialist who claims to be constantly challenged and fulfilled by each project she undertakes. 

“You want to spend eight hours a day, five days a week, doing something that speaks to you.”  So, how do you know if your work “speaks to you”?

Dana has a litmus test for all of us.  “If you go home and you are still thinking about your job, about how to make it better, then it is probably right for you.  However, if you are at work, thinking about what you wish you could be doing, then this job might be wrong.”

Does your job speak to you?  How can you be sure?

Posted by: emilyosburne | June 10, 2009

Be Your Own Mama

Post Based on an Interview with Beverly Cannady:

college girlHow did you choose your college major?

My Dad decided to pursue engineering while waiting in line to register for classes.  He turned to his friend and asked, “What are you majoring in?” 

The friend replied, “Engineering.” 

“Hmm. Do you have to take a foreign language for that one?” Dad asked.


And that is how my father became an engineer.

Beverly Cannady, Mom of five children had a similar story.  She took an Accounting class that she liked, so she decided to major in Accounting. A few semesters later, she really enjoyed a Psychology class, so she changed her major to Psychology.

Beverly and her husband are not leaving their children’s future to such chance.  They are extremely proactive about discovering their children’s natural talents and gifts as well as their likes and dislikes.

“Our oldest children have taken the DISC Personality Profile and the younger ones will take it, too.  Plus, we watch them very carefully to figure out what they really enjoy and where they can be fulfilled.”

Just the other day, she and Tim were discussing the idea of cancelling the home telephone line.  From the other room, their daughter, Bethany, heard them and vehemently objected. Tim and Beverly were not surprised.  Bethany is a people-person, energized by human contact and always ready to plan get-togethers with her friends.  She thrives in social settings and uses the phone more than any member of the family. 

In fact, Beverly does more than just notice her children’s natural talents and abilities. She provides opportunities for them to engage their interests in real-life scenarios.  Recently, she took her oldest daughter to a movie set to spend the day with an actress.  Her daughter is interested in becoming a stylist so this was an opportunity to see the job in action.  She loved it! 

Beverly is like a detective with each child, noticing the way they react in various settings and helping them understand their personality types.  What if we did this for ourselves?  What if we became our own Mama? 

Choices about college, career, and life might be so much easier if we had years of data to draw from like Beverly has with her children.  Become a student of what you like and why.  Take personality tests, spiritual gifts tests and career placement profiles. 

“What would I have seen in myself if I would have taken the time to LOOK CLOSELY?”  Beverly asked.  “What would I have learned about the careers that existed if I would have taken the time to volunteer, ask questions and find the answers?”

How well do you know yourself and what will truly fulfill you?  How do you make decisions about your career choices? What have you done to “know thyself”?

Posted by: emilyosburne | June 8, 2009

Feeling Full During the Chaos

golfcourseAt this moment, I am looking out the window, lazily watching golfers in the summer sun.  I have time to breathe deeply. I have time to ponder the beauty of trees, shaking in the breeze. I am wearing my fuzzy socks and comfy house pants.  Shelby, my dog, is snoring on the floor next to me.  It’s a relaxing summer day.

At this time two weeks ago, I was at work, frantically checking my e-mail while I awaited the next class of seven year-old students.  I had a To-Do List the size of a short novel and my closet doors were holding back the chaos that characterized my whole life. Sleep could not come soon enough because I was overcommitted and ready to be committed.

Fulfillment is so easy to grasp when I have time to think and yet it seems so illusive in the middle of the everyday storms.  Why is it that my life feels so meaningful when I stop and look at a little flower and so meaningless when I run from one meeting to another? It seems like my life would feel more significant with more stuff, but it seems to be the opposite.

Have you found ways to find meaning in the middle of the chaos?  How do you stop and refuel so that each day can have the special something that it was meant to have?

skinny jeans Humans are fickle creatures; we continually want what we do not have. Americans are notorious for always wanting to have “more,” to be “better,” and “bigger.” A woman with straight hair wishes her entire life for curly hair. A man with a wife and three kids works eighty hours a week and justifies his actions by telling himself “once I get this next raise, I’ll be happy. I can cut back on my hours and spend more time with my family.” Millions of people work jobs they do not enjoy to pay the bills, never even considering there may be a job somewhere they could be passionate about. It is not our nature to be satisfied and content. It is something we must strive and pray to achieve.

     My entire life I wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom, I couldn’t wait to get married, have children and spend my days “playing house” and tending to everyone. When my first child was almost two years old, my dream was realized and as always, the grass wasn’t quite as green as it had appeared from the other side of the fence. While working as a RN in the emergency room, it was all I could do some days to stay focused and do my job, I longed to be at home at dinner time with my husband and child.

     Now I had exactly what I had always wanted, and washing dishes and changing diapers was so insignificant and boring compared to performing CPR and saving people’s lives. I found my self slamming the dishwasher closed, grumbling under my breath as I put my husband’s clothes away, “It must be nice for your clothes to just magically clean themselves and put themselves away! HMPH!”

     After I had my second child in less than two years, I told myself I would be happy if I got into shape and lost some weight. I picked out a pair of “skinny jeans” which hadn’t been on my body in years and got to work. I would be happy once I had reached my goal, when those jeans fit I would officially be fulfilled. I kept food journals and worked out religiously until the day my skinny jeans fit. I had an epiphany when I heard myself saying to a friend, “I think I just need to lose five more pounds.”

     I realized how ridiculous and unreasonable it is to say “I’ll be happy when…” or “If only…then…” The key to enjoying life is to realize it is the mundane and everyday tasks that add up to the sum of your life. If you are not content and satisfied washing the dishes or folding clothes, you won’t be satisfied at the end of a day, a week, a month or even a year.

     You will let years slip by waiting for “SOMETHING” to happen to you or for you so that you can finally be happy. Friends, we must first be happy and content in the mundane and everyday tasks of life. I began to thank God daily that I had dishes to wash, and a healthy child to take care of. I began to take pride in every task I performed. My reward was a sense of contentment and fulfillment that has never waned. I realized that each task I was doing was a ministry to my family and to those around me.  

     No one can do the job God gave you- no one but you. It may seem mundane, and repetitive and even pointless at times. But God has a purpose for you and your life, each task you perform gets you closer to His dream for you. We must choose happiness and fulfillment in every moment. We must know that nothing we do is insignificant. Your attitude in doing the seemingly meaningless tasks of life is the key to finding significance, fulfillment and happiness on a daily basis. Without enjoying the work it takes you to achieve God’s dream for you, you may not even realize when you get there, you’ll still be waiting for the “next big thing.”

What is “the next big thing” you are waiting for now?  Or have you ever gotten “the thing” and then realized that you still wanted more?

Written by: Robin O’Bryant

Posted by: emilyosburne | June 5, 2009

The Empty Feeling

sad girlWe can appreciate the sunshine because we have experienced the rain. We understand the beauty of the mountaintop only after the journey through the valley. I can remember a time in my life when I felt very unfulfilled. Honestly, I was feeling lost.  It was my freshman year in college and nothing seemed to be going how I had planned. I was confused about my major and had no clue about what the future held.  For one semester, I lived in an apartment by myself and I felt so alone and disconnected, like no one even knew that I existed. 

I can remember driving around Auburn in my silver Lumina and crying uncontrollably.  I did not even know what to pray or what to think.  I just knew that I wanted to cry.  I had been wanting to cry for months and that night, I just let it out.  Surprisingly, I felt a little bit better the next morning.  I think it is because I finally admitted that something was wrong. 

Have you ever experienced a time of confusion and disillusionment?  When did you finally admit that everything was not perfect?

Posted by: emilyosburne | June 4, 2009

Define Fulfillment

woman drinking coffeeIt’s 8:00 AM and all over the world, women are going to work, taking care of children, planning for their day and chugging mocha choco whatevers.  In the next twenty-four hours, some of those women will enjoy immense satisfaction in their work.  They will feel a sense of accomplishment and meaning.  They will feel connected and purposeful.  In short, they will experience fulfillment in their work.

On the other hand, countless women will feel just the opposite.  The tasks they complete will be very similar to the ladies in Group #1.  They are washing dishes, wiping faces, composing e-mails, and managing To-Do Lists that are never done.  They laugh, love and accomplish goals.  On the outside, they look almost exactly the same as the other women, but there is a significant difference.  For some reason, this group is not experiencing fulfillment.  They have a deep feeling that something is missing, that something is not quite right, but they cannot put their finger on it.

In fact, we have all been a part of Group #1 at times and Group #2 at other times.  The goal of this research project is to learn the difference between those groups and unleash the power of true fulfillment in every aspect of our lives.  I have to admit that I have no idea where this research will lead, but I thank each of you for participating in the journey with me. 

To begin, I want to come up a good definition of ‘FULFILLMENT’.  What does it mean to you?  Your definition can be one word, one sentence or an entire paragraph.  Don’t bother with Webster, Google or Jeeves.  Just look into your own heart and let us know what it says.  How would you define the word, FULFILLMENT?