When I grow up, I want to be this guy.

The past few months of staying home and trying to decide what I want to do next have been trying to say the least. I’ve been on the other side of job search for the past seven years, having been a job coach and a case manager, a friend and a listening ear to those in job search. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to fill out applications and post my resume. It’s been a while since I’ve had to figure out what direction my career is going to take.

Since my last employment experience didn’t necessarily end on a positive note, I’ve been wary not to jump carelessly into the next opportunity for the sake of being “employed”. I want to live my passions. I don’t want a job. I want a career. I love helping people identify their goals and achieve them. I enjoy creating things- designing programs and social services projects that have lasting impact improving the lives of individuals, families and communities. I want to help people discover and fulfill their god-given potential.

With as many available jobs as there are, one would assume job search would be easy- boy, do I wish it were! Unfortunately, many times it is not. I want to stick to my guns and only apply for jobs where I feel motivated and excited by the job description and the organization, only apply to those positions where I know for certain I would be most thrilled to wake up everyday and be a part of whatever is going on, regardless of the title. I want to, but my bills are piling up and I feel like I’m running out of time. Despite my anxiety, I hang in there and press on, keeping faith that the universe knows what I need and want, what my next employer needs and wants, and that at exactly the right time, the nexus of these things will manifest itself in an offer at an organization where I will experience an enjoyable and fulfilling career, and I will be very happy that I’d stuck it out and waited.

So far, I’ve found several “dream job” descriptions, and I’ve applied to them all. There are days when I feel so excited about what is to happen. Other days, I sit nervously in front of my Chromebook, refreshing my gmail inbox, checking to see if my phone has been disconnected since use it hasn’t rung in days, nervously scanning the digital horizon for the next opportunity.

In the course of my job search I came across an organization, Defy Ventures, and a guy named Coss Marte.

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Defy Ventures is an entrepreneurship, employment, and character training blended online program for people with criminal histories.

Defy recognizes that many former drug dealers and gang leaders can become successful, legal entrepreneurs.”

Coss is an ex-con whose prison workout is taking over New York. From all accounts, this guy seems to me to be the ultimate modern-day alchemist. Everything he touches turns to gold. As I googled him and read his story, I became more and more inspired to keep reaching for my dreams. I was reminded that obstacles are only opportunities disguised as situations to which I am yet to find a solution. This guy has been to prison, had nothing handed to him and experienced his fair share of unfair circumstances. As I watch his TEDx Talk and listen to his story, I am inspired by his bravery, his vulnerability, his resilience and ambition. From inmate to entrepreneur, he’s partnered himself with an organization, developed his passion, honed his business acumen, delivered Shark Tank styled business pitches, and he’s done a TEDx talk on his life experience. When I grow up, I want to be this guy- his entire life is my bucket list!

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Coss is a real life person who is skilled at turning water into wine; he knows how to find the extraordinary in the sacred ordinary. It’s good to know that there are real people out there with real life obstacles who are reaching for their dreams, achieving and succeeding despite their troubled pasts. Knowing this gives me the hope to keep holding on to my own dreams, to keep striving despite what it looks like with natural eyes, to believe that the universe can do for me what it continues to do for people like him. It reminds me, too, that turning water into wine is possible everyday for each and every one of us.

Defy-LogoTo learn more about Defy Ventures, visit their website http://defyventures.org/

To read about Coss Marte, entrepreneur, owner and physical trainer at Coss Athletics, go to http://nypost.com/2015/03/30/meet-the-ex-con-whose-prison-inspired-workout-is-taking-over-new-york/

Join my network or view my LinkedIn profilewww.linkedin.com/in/asamarithompsonpmp

(pictures used do not belong to the author)

Take 11 minutes to watch Coss’ TEDx talk. You’ll be glad you did. 

The Storm Within The Storm

Remember the scene in the film where Pi and Richard Parker get caught in the storm after having sailed somewhat calm seas for quite some time? Firstly, he loses everything that made him comfortable during this ordeal- his raft, his food, the water he’d painstakingly collected, the journal he’d been writing and the nub of pencil he had left- all his comforts were now stripped away. At first, he responded in awe to the might and presence of the storm, staring directly into (the face of God), cocksure he was about to die for the umpteenth time on this journey, and un-apologetically unafraid.  Then, he responded in anger, exploding in rage in the face of the injustice being meted out to him and his friend. “WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT????!!!!” He screams into the sky, demanding the universe give him an answer.

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Sometimes just when you think you’ve gotten the hang of it, just when you think, “You know what, this is not that bad!”, everything absolutely falls apart. They say things happen in three’s, but sometimes it seems like “three’s” is more like three-sets-of-three, of the “when it rains, it absolutely pours” variety. Think back to just before this scene where he is content. He’d come to terms with his situation, developed a routine, tamed the tiger, built his raft, and above all he did not give up hope. By all accounts, he hadn’t done anything to deserve what he was facing now- it is unconscionable to conceive a god who, seeing his servant already in the midst of suffering, takes away whatever he has left and hands his servant even more suffering.

And yet, so many times we experience exactly this in our daily lives. We’re already at a place where things aren’t ideal but we’ve committed our resolve to make it work- we’ve built rafts and find comfort daily rituals, just to find the strength and motivation to help us to get through whatever it is we are facing- only to have these things taken away from us too. It takes every shred of composure not to snap, not to climb the stairs of heaven, get into god’s face and ask him dead on- What, exactly, is YOUR problem???

I’ve had so many of my fist-shaking-against- the-heavens moments I’m more than sure god himself has lost count (I mean, I’ve never attempted to count the number of times my children have thrown temper tantrums, so I’m assuming the god of the universe doesn’t either!). In hindsight, I can see though that the things I used to resort to in order to make myself comfortable during the storms were akin to the way babies use pacifiers. I still do it- resorting to procrastination over action, preferring to live a cushy, small existence instead of pushing myself to go for my dreams, settling for jobs instead of pursuing a career, failing at every turn to live up to my own aspirations and to acknowledge my own self worth- these are crutches I use so I never have to stretch myself into being uncomfortable.

Whatever comfort zone I find for myself, the universe is usually quick to strip it away, to leave me raw and bawling, pushing me face first into whatever storms may come, eyes wide open. In the blink of an eye babysitters quit, relationships fail, jobs are lost, markets fail, spouses get sick and/or die and homes are lost. Just like that every single thing I counted on to support me, everything I thought I could count on to keep me steady, every single support I thought I had was gone. No childcare, no job, no apartment. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Luckily, the universe always has bigger plans for us than we have for ourselves

You can rail against the heavens all you want but god is a good parent who rarely responds to temper tantrums. This storm will get you closer to where you need to be- to who you are. You are being pruned, stretched and molded by your storm into the person you need to be in order to fulfill your next assignment, so get ready; there’s more to come. All those things you thought you needed to get you through were actually holding you back from achieving your potential and fulfilling your destiny, that’s why they were taken away.

Whatever it is the universe has in store, know this: you CAN do this. Do not give up hope.

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I’ve decided to call this series Lessons From The Lighthouse, in homage to the imagery found in the film, Life Of Pi. These lessons have served as an inspiration to me in my personal growth and development in the past year and half, and now, I’m sharing them with you. I hope that they are instrumental in helping you find your inner ability to create miracles in your own life.

To find the entire series, click here.

Light & Love!

Dear Future Husband, I’m Not Afraid To Love You

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I’m not afraid to love you.

I’m not afraid to throw my arms around your neck and get lost in your eyes

Or to close my eyes and bask in the warmth of your smile

I’m not afraid to wrap myself in your embrace

and feel our soul entwine

To let my heart keep time with yours

I want to marry you.

I don’t just want to get married. I want to marry you.

Not because of what you have or who I think you are,

or because I think marrying you will make my life

perfect.

I want to marry you because I know you

and I love you and

because I know life isn’t perfect

but the idea of spending the rest of my life with you makes me want

to keep going.

I want every piece of imperfection with you.

And I want to marry you in your backyard.

On a Wednesday,

in the afternoon.

I want it to be simple

and beautiful

and elegant.

I want to tell your family and our friends how much I love you and

how much you mean to me, and

for them to witness me telling you how much I love you, and

that I promise to love you until the end of time.

I want the sun to set on us kissing

and dancing

and my not having to go home in the morning.

I want to wake up the next day with your last name,

as part of you,

as part of your family.

And I want to look out into the yard

and remember where we stood when we took our vows.

I want to fill your heart and home with happiness

with you.

I want to marry you.

I’m not afraid

To hold your hand and let you lead me

To places I cannot go alone

To carry your voice on my tongue

Or hold your essence in my womb

Through gardens, along sea shores,

Nurseries and cemeteries

Forever no longer scares me.

I love you

Therefore

I am not afraid.

© Asa-Mari Thompson, 2015

10 Things I Learned About Friendship

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This article was featured in its entirety in elephant journal at http://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/03/10-things-ive-learned-about-friendship/ 

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Over the past year or so changes in my life have caused me to take a good look at the people I consider friends. Growing up, my parents dispensed a lot of advice about friends and friendship- some good, some not-so-great- but as I grew older I realized I had to be smarter about my choices. I needed to make my own rules. Not everyone who smiles with you is your friend; not everyone who seems mean to you is your enemy either. People who mean so much to you one day may not mean so much a year or two out. Be that as it may, I still have some very good people in my life who confirm to me not only that I have good friends, but that I know how to be a good friend.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1: Your friends celebrate with you when you are happy. They don’t look for ways to diminish your happiness, even when they are not happy themselves.

2: Your friends cry with you when you are sad. They don’t downplay your grief as though it were insignificant, even if they believe differently.

3: Your friends will call you out on your bullshit. They will be the first ones to tell you when you are being an idiot, when you are being petty or rude, when you are being a moron or a jackass. Your friends are not “yes” people. Your friends help to keep you in line with the truth of who you really are.

4: In the dark times of your life your friends will find you and turn the light on. Your friends don’t add to the drama and insanity by punishing you with insensitivity.

5: Your friends learn your song and will sing it back to you when you’ve forgotten the words. There will be times when you feel so lost, like you’ve forgotten who you are. There are people who know you inside and out who will be happy to remind you because they love you. These are your friends.

6: Your friends will take great lengths to understand your quirks, your flaws, likes and dislikes. They will not judge you. They will love you just as you are and will not try to change you.

7: You know your friends because they are the ones who help you to be a better person just by virtue of who they are and by their presence in your life, whether you talk to them every day or once every seven years.

8: Facebook may say you have over 100 friends. In real life, you only have seven, plus or minus two. Of those seven, only three are in your inner circle, and there is only one person whom you will call at 3 a.m. when you cannot sleep. Understand those numbers. The entire world cannot fit in your front row, nor should it.

9: As you get older, your friends will change because your needs and wants will change. Your true friends will understand that and be okay with it.

10: Friendship, like love, is a form of energy. It can neither be created nor destroyed; it simply transfers from one state to the next. Cherish your friendships and pay attention to them. They are important in navigating the seas of life. In order to have good friends, you must practice being a good friend.

What are your friendship rules? Share in the comments! I’d love hear about your friendship experiences.

Asa-Mari

Standing Firm On God’s Promises

Psalm 84:11: “No good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”

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The beauty of being covered by the blood of Christ is that once born of His Spirit, we begin to see the world in a whole new way, we begin to perceive things differently. And with this new set of eyes, our value systems begin to change, and our everyday walk begins to change it’s shape. Suddenly the things that used to be pleasurable and fun, the negative things, just don’t seem to be fun anymore. We value the things that God values. And when we begin to live this way, our lives become truly blessed, for God rewards those who seek after Him.

In the Jewish culture, this weekend marks the beginning of a brand New Year. Let us all put on a brand new attitude, one of faith and confidence in the promises of God! Let us remember that our God is a faithful God, who seeks to reward those who love Him above all things. Let us remember that all things work out for good for those who love Him, and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28).

We are all called to fulfill some purpose while here on earth, and every facet of our lives is part of that kingdom building work! Remember that God always finishes what He started, and be confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Phillipians 1:6). And let us always remember that when we seek after the things that are of God– when we focus on His plans for us instead of our plans for us; when we allow Him to have control over our lives and our destinies, He promises to fulfill the desires of our hearts. (Psalm 37:4
Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.)

My friends, the promises of God are sure and they are true. When we make His Word the foundation of our hope and our happiness, when we are standing securely in His Word, then no downturned economy, criminal background, chemical addiction, bad relationship or any other ghost of our past can take us out of the game! Because God’s promises are sure and strong, and they will sustain you even in the roughest times. When I think back over my life in the past ten years, I am grateful that I finally came to understand who God is and how truly powerful He is, and I see now that had I not been standing on His promises specifically in the past three years of my life, I would surely have given up. But when your source of hope comes from God, then there is always hope. And when God is your source of love, then there is always love. And love never fails. God will never fail you. He will never leave you, nor will He forsake you (Joshua 1:5). Remember that above anything else, He loves you so much , that he sent His Son to die in your place so that you can be free to live the life you have today (John 3:16) Jesus entered this world to take on the burden of our sins and the penalty of our sinfulness so that we could share His perfection.

Today, if our hearts are aligned with God, our walk is considered blameless, for there is no condemnation for us because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. He gave his life so that we might truly live. Go boldly knowing that God rewards those who seek after Him. Declare your faith by speaking positive words over yourself, your loved ones, your situations and circumstances.

An ‘A’ For Effort

“Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!” (Matthew 25:21 NIV)

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Jesus likened the Kingdom of Heaven to what it would be like when a man, going on a long trip, gave his servants amounts of money in trust until he returned. He gave each a differing amount proportionate to their abilities. Upon his return, he assessed what each servant did with the money. There was reproach and shame and loss for the one who did nothing but bury the money in the earth. But the ones who took the risk to invest reaped a profit, and earned the praise of their master.

God gave each and every one of us a specific set of skills and traits that make us unique and qualify us to do the job He put us on this earth to do. We can choose to use those gifts for good, use those gifts negatively, or not use them at all. Think back to the time when you were a child and what others would always say about whom you are and what you were doing. It is true that, even then, you knew who God created you to be.  God expects us to use those gifts, with which we were entrusted, to reap a profit for Him in this lifetime.

All our time on earth is crafted by how best we use our gifts and talents. In your professional life, you will be doing something meaningful for God’s Kingdom with your gifts. It is wise for us to take some time for introspection, to find out what those gifts are, and how best we may use them to bring glory to God’s Kingdom.

If you do not have a job, consider the following:

If your talent is for service and helping people, volunteering at your church or local mission could be a great way of networking and improving your resume by building references and gaining experience.

If your talent is in computer skills, doing online applications (and then following up, of course) may be your best bet, as well as helping others in job search with their online applications.

If your talent is for handiwork or craftsmanship, staying current with your craft by doing odd jobs for others is also a great networking tool and gives you an excellent source for building Quantified Selling Points while helping someone else.

If you’re an artsy type of person, think of a creative way to sell yourself in the interview. Hiring managers are looking for people who stand out. Using your creative flair in a tasteful way makes you memorable and gives them an idea if you are a good fit for their company.

You see, God has put on the inside of you exactly what you need to achieve what you want. The responsibility is ours to use the gifts and talents we already possess to gain what we want. When we do, God recognizes our efforts and blesses us in ways we could never have imagined. He is all too eager to give us an ‘A’ for effort, as long as we are faithful enough to try.

Pray. Then, Practice

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I’m always wary of people who pray “[God], give me (xyz virtue: patience, love, strength, etc.)”. I’m not sure that it is clear that God (or whatever you call Him) is not a magician. That is not to say that He is not capable of granting us anything we truly desire; after all, He is God. He can do whatever He wishes. The thing is, none of us is going to wake up one morning to find ourselves fully perfected. The day that happens is, quite honestly, the day we cease to exist on this plane. We are blessed with days on this earth to practice those things which we sincerely desire for ourselves in order to find that perfection which we seek.

In other words, you’re not going to wake up tomorrow, having prayed “God give me patience”, to find that you are now a completely patient creature (hallelujah, wouldn’t that be awesome?!).

 

Pray for patience.

Then, practice patience.

 

Pray for love.

Then practice love.

 

Pray for understanding.

Then practice understanding.

 

Pray.

Then, practice.

 

Set your thoughts into motion in the direction in which you want yourself to go. Then, set your actions in the same direction. When your thoughts, words and actions are in alignment, miraculous things happen. Once we pray for things like this, the universe opens a way to bring us exactly what we asked for. There will be several opportunities on a daily basis to give us the ability to practice and achieve what we set our minds to. We just need the vision to see it and the strength of will and obedience to follow through.

 

Will we fail sometimes? Yes, and that’s okay!!!

 

Acquiring any new skill is going to take time. Think of it like learning to play the guitar. At first it will be slow, demanding, maybe even a little painful to feel. It will sound awful, dreadful even. But the more you practice, the easier it becomes. and one day you will find that you are the very thing you once wished you were.

Find out what your soul needs. Heed the call. Answer.

Pray, then practice.

A Grateful Heart Is A Happy Heart

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“…the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the LORD, saying,
“Give thanks to the LORD Almighty,
for the LORD is good;
his love endures forever.”
For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before,’ says the LORD” (Jeremiah 33:11, NIV)

The hand of the LORD was heavy upon His people, molding them, shaping them, purifying them into the people He knew He created them to be. In the face of their sinfulness, He had no choice but to deal with them according to their ways. That meant destruction and famine, homelessness and waste, sickness and death. But greater than His anger, was His love for them. For even among the darkness, God sent them a messenger who spoke to them words of hope.

Praising God is always the right thing to do, whether you are having a good day, but especially when you are not. God loves a cheerful heart, one that is full of faith and is willing and able to declare His name boldly in times of trouble. If we reflect, we can easily call to mind the times when God delivered us from some thing or other; times when we thought our backs were against the wall and we thought surely we were about to die! But if we remember clearly, God did not abandon us then. He came through, just at the right time, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.

The reason why God loves a cheerful heart such as this is that the heart that remembers His faithfulness will always be faithful to Him. When we get in the practice of praising God, we get to the point where we are unstoppable—the obstacles don’t matter, and the disappointments don’t faze us—because our hearts are focused on the promises of God. Our faith, then, is built on the personal history we have with Him, a first hand knowledge that God is powerful and all-mighty and able to do what He said He would do. God calls us to be a powerful people such as this, a people who believe with their heart and worship Him in spirit and in truth. Purpose yourself to praise Him continuously, and watch the circumstances of your life transform into your most powerful testimony!

Above The Storm

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“Those who hope in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31 NLT).

The name Isaiah translates into “Yahweh is salvation”. It seemed that Isaiah was born at the right time just to carry this specific message. The prophet Isaiah had a special message for the nation of Israel. In the face of despair and a broken past, the message for this people was hope. In the midst of what felt like being abandoned by God, Isaiah told this people to hold on to their faith. God was about to do something different, something new, something big with their lives; He was preparing them to experience a different level of goodness and blessing. Salvation was near.

An interesting fact about eagles: they are the only birds with the ability to fly at altitudes that take them above storm clouds. God created them in such a way that they are able to see a storm ahead of them. They position themselves to where the warm air currents on the outside of the storm rise to lift them up above the approaching storm. And they soar, without much physical energy, above the storm, where they are safe doing exactly what God created them to do. You and I are created in much the same way. Job search presents storms and challenges, and while our instinct tells us we should panic or run (fight/flight?), God says He will give us strength and we will soar high on wings like eagles. When we purpose our hearts to believe in His promises and we become willing to walk in the way He would have us, we find that the challenges of life become less of a struggle.

God promises even now, as we put our faith and hope in Him, to bring us through this next phase of our lives, just the same way He has brought us through before. He will provide us with the strength required to see us through to the end. When we fully believe, our perception of events change and we are able to approach life’s storms with a calm and peace of spirit that is only found in God. In doing so, we position ourselves to experience a new life in Him, and deeper relationship, and manifold blessings…above the storm.

“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself” Exodus 19:3-5