Side Note: This is another one of Manda’s “Find Yourself” blogs that are so common in the early to mid ’20s..If you already know exactly who YOU are, this blog may not be for you. But, if you find yourself questioning and searching for answers, just like me, I hope you’ll relate. 🙂
I have always been the kind of person that likes to meet societally emphasized milestones and then reflect upon that achievement. What lessons did I learn, and better yet, what could I do better moving forward? For most of my childhood, there were certain benchmarks of success. Most kids pass school each year, make good grades and remain relatively good kids. I also participated in extracurricular clubs (even started a couple), held many leadership roles, etc. I graduated from college with highest honors and began my graduate degree, a full time job and a marriage all at once. But was it enough? Was I Amanda Sams (Now Bradshaw) enough?
I have always been the person to be uber critical of myself; I was taught from a young age to strive for success and to accept nothing less than the best. As a child I figured I would be either a CEO of a company or super successful lawyer or author by 30; but, along the way my path changed a little. As a military spouse, there are certain career challenges that you come to accept, such as moving every few years. Although I have been blessed to work in a company that understands my particular situation and I have enjoyed a great deal of advancement, I do see that the company must ultimately protect itself for when (not if) we do leave Fort Benning. Therefore, my managerial role may be more limited than if I were to live here permanently. My boss (correctly) asks often what our timeline looks like now. When I took my job I committed to 2-3 years with the company, and I am within mere weeks of my 2 year work anniversary. I clearly see the advance planning and the question marks from their perspective–how much longer will Amanda be with us and when should we start planning for and hiring to replace her as the leader of certain departments? After all, hiring and training is a long process.
Professionally, I am in a good place, but I do not know what is next! The future is so vague, and timelines are ever changing. It is tough to see that I am not quite where I had thought. But, as a dear friend pointed out to me just the other night, I have accomplished (nearly) 2 degrees, a great marriage to a wonderful man, the ability to provide for and support ourselves, and the small beginning of the idea of a social media consulting business too, that I am not really sharing much about just yet. My point is that no matter where you are in your life–and most especially if you are not where you THOUGHT you would be– that doesn’t mean that you haven’t accomplished anything. Some of your accomplishments may not even register in your mind as a true measure of success but they are. Have your friends point them out if you are self critical as I am, and you will see that you are doing things, even when it feels like you are spinning your wheels! But, accomplishments of the heart are often the greatest of all.
Consider the following. Have you:
- Asked Jesus Christ to become your Lord and Savior so that you may have eternal life in Him?
- Chosen to walk a life of faith, trusting in that which you cannot see, trusting that even when one opportunity ends and a chapter closes, another one is coming that will be more magnificent than you can imagine? (This is especially true for those tough chapters when we learn the hardest lessons that make us who we really are.)
- Mastered the ability to not let others make you feel inferior?
- Become comfortable enough in you that you can express your views and opinions regardless of what others think, most especially when those opinions and ideas go against the grain of society?
- Found a way to live in peace with those around you, as much as it is within your power to do so?
- Love your enemies and forgive those who hurt you (and I mean really forgive, no grudge holding, secret voodoo dolls or ill thoughts)?
- Determined and realized to the core of your being that success is not and never will be earthly; it does not matter how much money you make, how many degrees you hold, or what possessions you accumulate. It matters how you live your life and WHO you live for?
- Realized that someone always has it worse than you? If you don’t believe me, just watch the news. It will douse you with a bitter cold dose of reality (and as a journalist myself, I can truly attest to this).
- Found the grace and love to let others into your heart–truly into your heart by breaking down all of your walls and simply trusting?
- Developed a vision for one or two things that you want to accomplish in your life as part of your legacy? Your legacy is the impact you leave behind for your spouse, your children and all of those who knew you. What vision do you want them to have of you and the way you live your life?
As morbid as it sounds, I used to have a fascination with the idea of my own funeral. Who would be there and what would they say? Would anyone even care I had died? Would I live a life to make enough of an impact where others would feel pain that I was no longer there? This hit me around the time I was a reporter for my collegiate newspaper and I was covering student suicides and deaths. We had at least a dozen in any given year, and I always found those obituaries to be my absolute favorite stories to write. They were deep; they had meaning and purpose. Friends and relatives appreciated the effort I put in to write one last piece–the very last piece–about a person’s life. Those pieces aimed to verbalize a legacy. Some were hunters and fishers; they were good brothers and sons. Others, were friends to all, beloved spouses. There were musicians and writers, straight A students and science nerds. Some were even openly hated for their beliefs and personalities. The interesting thing that i found after writing a few of these stories is that not a single one of them was not missed in some way. Their absence left a gap in someone’s life–even if it was just one less annoyance or one less hater or one less bully in the world. That is when I learned the truth– the question is not IF you will make an impact in this life, it is simply what KIND of impact? What will people remember about you? Will people see Jesus in you or not? What did you choose to stand for?
Here is one of my favorite songs that actually helped convince me to become an AOII during sorority rush when it played during philanthropy day.
“I want to leave a legacy; How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love?
Did I point to You enough?
To make a mark on things
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace
Who blessed Your name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy”
Our pastor preached a great message last Sunday about how he always asks the family members of people who die about the time when that person accepted Christ as his/her Lord and Savior. He said it saddens him that many times, loved ones do not know the answer only that the person had been a “good person” or “went to church” or “loved their family.” His challenge to us: share when and how you came to Christ with those you love. How could you say you love someone so very much and not be willing to share this with them so that they too would hear the truth and seek out the Truth Teller?
The truth for me is that I was saved at 5 years of age. I was the youngest person my pastor had ever baptized, and both he and my parents questioned the wisdom of that decision. They thought I could not possibly understand what I was doing. They made me work through a workbook for weeks before they would accept my decision, and then finally, I knelt and prayed and accepted Jesus into my heart and the pastor agreed to baptize me. I wore a white robe and all of my family came to see me profess my faith in front of the entire congregation. Then we all went to lunch to celebrate. I will never forget that day as long as I live, and with it this very simple idea, “Let the little children come to Me.”
Adults often complicate things with their ideas of how things should be or what has to be done. To do lists and distractions and smartphones make up our days. Constant connectivity does not leave much time for reflection and prayer–Jesus what will you have me do today? What will you have me say?
I can tell you, friends, that I have not nor will I ever live a perfect life. I sin and make mistakes all the time. I put my foot in it WAY too often. I am rude, and speak without thinking. I become prideful and self seeking. I disrespect those around me. I long for things that are not mine and envy others. I do all of these things, but Jesus died on the cross to forgive me of those sins and all of the others that I have committed and will ever commit. He died for you, too and wants you to come to know Him intimately.
I never felt much of a calling toward ministry, but I have always felt a call to write, so here it is in black and white: if you are wondering what you have accomplished at ___age or by ___ deadline, consider this: What have you done for Jesus? All of those things that you did quietly for the sole purpose of pleasing Him are stocking up as your treasures in Heaven. What have you done to love others? To show kindness to strangers? To respect those who demean you? To make amends to those who hurt you? I couldn’t claim to have accomplished all of those things by 25 (Luke will tell you that!) but I am working in that direction.
Cheers to the weekend and a chance to unwind and relax with loved ones and your Heavenly Father!
May God bless you for reading this blog–and for being a part of our lives in this journey.