Living 7 Decades: The Milestone Story

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Sumary

Sheryl reflects on life milestones on her birthday trip to experience the grand views of the hallowed Glenn and Antelope Canyons and Zion Valley. “While the milestones seem ordinary yet each day that passed shaped me into the person I am today, just as the rocks, canyons, and valleys were hewn by the daily action of winds and waters… Surely the Lord has blessed me, shone his face upon me and been gracious to me.” Sharing her journey over 7 decades including transitions to opportunities before her, she expresses her gratitude and passion: “I am grateful for the many family, friends, mentors, teachers, and authors who spoke words of encouragement, wisdom, and knowledge into my life, some for a season and others over the decades. Often an answer to prayer, they came alongside me to lighten a burden or give hope for a better tomorrow. In like manner, it is my heart’s desire that through my work and creative expressions others may be enlightened, edified and encouraged.”

Antelope Canyon

To celebrate my 70th birthday my husband Ken and I took a trip to experience something new and re-experience a cherished national park. It was a memorable week from an elevated view of Glenn Canyon/Lake Powell by helicopter, to a walk through the artistically sculptured red rocks of Antelope Canyon on Navaho land, to the always enthralling drive and hike through the Virgin River Valley of Zion National Park. It was the perfect combination of sights and sounds to reflect on 7 decades of life.

Achieving one’s 70th birthday is a milestone in itself and once arrived you wonder how in the world it went by so fast! It sounds like a very long time, yet when measured against the tapestry of time represented by the grand views I experienced in the hallowed canyons and grand Zion valley, 70 is but a brief span in the scope of creation! Never-the-less, the Psalmist David reminds us that we are to “number our days” (Psalm 90:12) realizing that each is ordained by God for a purpose and He has appointed life to the fullest. As I reflect on my seven decades, the milestones seem ordinary yet each day that passed shaped me into the person I am today, just as the rocks, canyons, and valleys were hewn by the daily action of winds and waters.

First Decade – Childhood

Growing up in a loving family devoted to God, I learned to appreciate very early the value of faith, family, education, and service to others. We were blessed to have parents who loved us, provided for us, and encouraged us to be the best we could be at whatever we chose to do. Growing up in a large family with ten siblings created an appreciation for unique personalities, abilities, and perspectives. We learned to be independent while at the same time embracing the importance of relationships and community.

One of our favorite activities as a family was a Sunday drive to our Uncle’s dairy farm. We lived in town, so this was an adventure we all enjoyed. On the way we would buy bushels of fruit for canning, a treat we enjoyed all through the year. My favorite activity on the farm was target shooting with a 22 rifle! Also, in Pioneer Girls summer camp a favorite sport was bow and arrow target shooting. I was always competitive when it came to games. It seemed to me that hitting the target and winning were sufficient rewards! While I was not engaged in team sports at school, I did not shy away from family games and would play tag football with my older brothers. They would appoint me center, and once the ball was hiked, I was gently pushed aside so as not to be trampled!

Another favorite family activity was a day at the beach. We have many home videos of those joyful times on Lake Michigan beach. Mom often prepared a family favorite combo of her amazing potato salad and fried chicken. We all enjoyed swimming except Mom, who from the blanketed sand always watched with care the younger children play.

Two of my favorite childhood stories involve dinner experiences, always family affairs. As a small child, I recall when the family had a special celebration at a local restaurant, an infrequent outing for our large family. For dessert, everyone ordered pie a la mode, so I ordered my favorite cherry but without the a la mode. As the waitress served everyone, I looked chagrined at my plain pie and everyone else’s heaped with a scoop of ice cream and asked, “where is my ice cream?” Everyone smiled to exclaim in unison that I had not ordered the a la mode! Even as a small child I hated not being in the know, so being cool, calm and collected even when in doubt became my MO. As a preteen I went with my father on a business trip; together we toured a flute factory since it was my chosen musical instrument. Afterward, as a special treat for his oldest daughter, he took me to a very fancy restaurant. In keeping with my MO, I took everything in as though it were a daily experience! When we returned home, my father relished sharing with the family how I had behaved as a natural in an elegant setting with waiters watchfully hovering near to fulfill our every need… remaining cool, calm and collected, I thought, was a great strategy in the face of new experiences!

I remember fondly those idyllic years as I learned, grew, developed, cherished relationships, and embraced Biblical truth at a young age. One of my favorite verses as a child was, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119: 105

Second Decade – Adolescence & College

Entering the teen years is always traumatic as we struggle to become adults and venture out on our own. Studious and serious, I chose to focus on education and was eager to excel in school. Upon high school graduation when my parents relocated to the East coast, I followed and completed my liberal arts undergraduate and first masters’ degrees in record time, anxious to move on to “real life”! Little did I know then that my first two decades would later be remembered as some of the most cherished years of my life!

In fact, my teen years passed with relative ease despite the politically and socially turbulent 1960s. While conservative in my views, like any teenager I challenged the values and beliefs of my youth, seeking to fully understand the basis for the beliefs I held. Like the turns and twists of the canyons I toured at 70, these years offered the opportunity to explore and discover reality from every perspective. My conclusions were not all accurate in those formative years but generated a love for truth-exploring I embrace to this day. My truth-exploring passion keeps me in His Word: “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I may not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11

Of particular interest as a youth was Biblical prophecy and I recall eagerly studying and attending conferences on end- time teaching. My passion for prophecy has not diminished over the decades, as confirmed by the amazing prophetic fulfillment over my lifetime — the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 the year before my birth, the reunification of Jerusalem in the war of 1967 when I graduated from high school, and for Israel’s 70th birthday, the US recognition of Jerusalem as her capital. As in my youth, I am a “watchman on the wall” passionately looking for prophetic fulfillment in our chaotic world. I embraced the scripture, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

Third Decade – Career Start & Marriage

My first professional position was at a community college in New Jersey where I met my one and only husband, Ken, and together we embarked on the building decades of life. While we chose not to raise a family, we were very career focused and sought to excel in our work. Ken and I relocated to Florida to advance our careers and live in a warm climate near water. His parents soon joined us and we helped to care for them in their later years in Tampa. While we loved Tampa, boating on the gulf and playing tennis, we sought a more dynamic business environment to launch our consulting business.

Houston with its reputation as the oil capital of the world seemed like the place for two ambitious professionals. In Houston, we soon established our outplacement consulting practice. By the end of this active decade, encouraged by Ken, I completed an MBA enhancing my consulting confidence in support of our clients. My desire was to follow the admonition, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

Fourth Decade – Growing Our Business

My fourth decade was consumed with growing our consulting business and helping others in their careers. Out of Ken’s creative genius, we developed Job Search: The Total System to differentiate our boutique business and compete with global competitors. Now in its fourth edition, The Total System is unique in a number of ways and has helped thousands transition to better jobs, for better pay and a better life! The powerful Cycle of Success provides core concepts and evergreen values, combined with a multi-media step-by-step fool-proof approach, that facilitates learning for all backgrounds and organizational levels. We are grateful that as our clients succeeded, we prospered and were privileged to meet many great people, some of whom have remained friends over the years. One of my greatest passions is connecting people to achieve mutual benefit.

We navigated the ups and downs of the economy, sought ways to overcome many of life’s challenges together, and accumulated life-changing and treasured experiences in leadership, career, and talent development. Always optimistic, I thought with every challenge there was a solution, with every obstacle a way to overcome, and I pursued them with enthusiasm. I believed Jesus’ declaration, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

Fifth Decade – On the Road

By the nineties, we discovered a love for RVing and the west. Those were prosperous years for us with the oil bust increasing outplacement demand combined with a nationally robust economy. We enjoyed several years of planning RV trips to most of the national parks, traveling annually for 2 months at a time. The internet had not yet emerged so communications were limited to cell and fax! We made it work and remember those years of RV travel with great enthusiasm. This period is when I learned to love photography and began to document our travels. Many of our early trips are featured throughout our home in my photographic gallery.

We enjoyed motorcycling on Ken’s Goldwing and have traveled in all terrains even in the winter! We had two cockers during these years, and not wanting to leave them behind, Ken built a kennel on the back of his Goldwing! We attracted many astonished looks as we cycled down the byways with Tigger and Pooh! If you are wondering how they got their playful names, it was my enduring love of the childhood story, Winnie the Pooh, that inspired me to name these two lovable pups whose personalities perfectly reflected their namesakes! They gave us much joy for 13 years.

Mid-point in the decade we decided to buy a home on Lake Conroe and for several years commuted from lake to Houston. We loved the lake yet work demands soon led us to buy a townhome to ease the commuting toll. We discovered that success can sometimes be more grueling than failure, as we continually pursued ways to innovate and grow our business. I learned that much can be accomplished through dedicated exploration: “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:4

Sixth Decade – Turmoil & Renewal

Little did we know that our challenges would be compounded when the world was blindsided by 9/11, global recession, the bankruptcy of Enron and collapse of the gold standard auditor Arthur Anderson devastating capital formation, followed by massive Wall Street financial failures and ensuing recession of 2008. The economic and business turmoil of this decade resulted in many business failures and closures of consulting firms. We had traversed valleys, forged high waters, and overcome innumerable obstacles in our journey over the decades, but this was the darkest of valleys yet. One of my favorite Psalms is the 23rd: “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, the Lord is with me.” It was my faith alone that carried me through this long decade of turmoil.

How we kept our doors open while many competitors’ doors were shuttered, is hard to explain. In those stress-filled years, we sold our lake home, downsized our business, connected with a global brand and diversified to survive. I am especially grateful for the coaches and consultants who contributed to our business endeavors over the years, many of whom remain friends to this day. We were not fully cognizant that by persevering and navigating through the turmoil, God was preparing us to embark on the next decade of transitions.

During these years I often turned to the book of Job and the Psalms desperately searching to understand the purposes in losses, hardship, and failure. I clung to Psalm 91: 14 – 16 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” I believe that in every dark cloud there is a silver lining and always looked expectantly for His light to appear and prevail.

To end this decade of challenges, God knew just the trip to give us rest for our souls. In November 2009 we went to Israel with Daystar’s founders Marcus and Joanie Lamb and band. Visiting the land of the Bible, seeing where Jesus was born, being baptized in the Jordan, visiting the Mt. of the Beatitudes, boating on the Sea of Galilee where he walked on water, visiting where he fed the 5000, healed the sick, and founded his church, brought the scriptures to life in a way that transforms one’s faith and hope in the future. It truly was a trip of a lifetime culminating in our visit to Jerusalem; as the bus drove up the mountain, they played the inspiring song Jerusalem:

Jerusalem
I want to walk your streets that are golden
And I want to run where the angels have trod
Jerusalem
I want to rest on the banks of your river
In that city, the city of God
Jerusalem
(The Hoppers in Jerusalem)

Before his crucifixion, Jesus wept over his beloved city from the Mt. of Olives where he prophesied of its destruction and of his own death and resurrection. Upon our return as a labor of love I created a video of this memorable experience (photography, narrative, and music), Walking with Emmanuel, available on www.celebraingchrist.com; 2019 is the tenth anniversary of our Israeli tour yet the sights and sounds seem as fresh as when we were there. Our tour of Israel was just a foretaste of the transformational decade ahead of us; our spirits were renewed as we followed Jesus’ admonishment: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30

Seventh Decade — Transitions

At the beginning of my seventh decade, I forged a local business partnership to continue rebuilding and diversifying our practice and leveraging our global brand. It was not an easy path and the stress brought on a health crisis that was also a wake-up call to focus not only on business success but also health and wellness. Within a few years, we sold our local ownership in the global outplacement brand that was key to growing our business through the toughest economy in our career.

New Practice

Rebranding my consulting practice, I focused on predictive behavioral analytics for talent management optimization. It is a privilege to support individuals and organizations in assessing their talent and potential, strategizing ways to achieve their goals and implementing effective solutions across the changing landscapes of careers and talent needs. Helping CEOs in private equity assess their leadership teams and leverage their growth potential is a unique value proposition that integrates my many years in consulting with Harrison Assessments’ leading-edge predictive talent analytics solutions.

My years in career transition work and new-found dedication to wellness has led me to help individuals achieve greater happiness and fulfillment. Another unique assessment created by Harrison Assessments, the Whole Life Profile (WLP), offers insight particularly valuable in facing major transitions in life. Over the last few years, I have personally benefited in my business transition and health challenge by the WLP and workshop, and have had the opportunity to support others in applying lessons from this revealing self-assessment. Recognizing imbalances in the five life dimensions — Financial, Psychological, Relational, Integral, and Physical — enables one to identify areas of improvement, motivators to activate change, and strengths to leverage achievement of career and life goals, as well as attain greater satisfaction in every life dimension.

My new practice integrates both personal and professional life experiences to speak into the lives of others; like a pebble dropped into the ocean the ripples of impact are predictable by God alone! As a young girl living on the shores of Lake Michigan, I could not have imagined that my journey would lead me to touch the lives of others in so many intriguing and rewarding ways. I am blessed to be a blessing to others whatever their life direction, wherever their ripples may flow.

New Home

After 40 years in Houston, this was indeed a decade of transition not only for our business but in our personal lives as we relocated to Flagstaff. The dream of living in the mountains was envisioned in our RVing days, but we never had a specific plan to make it a reality. We now live in a beautiful custom home on the forest with a peak view of Mt Humphries. Having carefully decorated our home with all our personal, faith, family, career and travel treasures, it truly reflects who we are and the people and experiences we cherish. When sorting our possessions of over 40 years, I made deliberate choices to keep the fond memories and discard the painful! Though we have learned and been shaped by them all, God has been faithful to turn each one for good. (Romans 8:28) We now enjoy sharing our home and the destination city of Flagstaff with friends, family and with our Forest Peak Retreat Air BnB guests.

New Natural Element

As we planned the relocation to Flagstaff over a period of three years, I embraced hiking and photography to enjoy the unlimited opportunities to experience the beauty of this laid-back city and surrounding area with the San Francisco Mountains, Snow Bowl Ski Area, Coconino Forest, Grand Canyon, national monuments, Sedona and red rock country. After walking through the “valley of the shadow of death” during my sixth decade, climbing a mountain in my seventh seemed like a natural progression! As I overcame health and wellness, spiritual and financial challenges to scale new heights, taking on a physical parallel to climb an actual mountain seemed to me an essential goal. The tallest in Flagstaff Mt. Humphreys was calling and after significant planning and preparation, I summitted to 12,633 feet on September 24, 2018. (see The Summit Story

What a memorable way to end 7 decades of climbing life’s inevitable mountains! It was quite the physical challenge and accomplishment; I will never again look in the same way on Mt. Humphreys’ peak! However, while retirement was never a concept I embraced, I think I will make one exception and relegate my future summits to metaphorical mountains!

The Eighth Decade and Counting

Having arrived at the completion of my seventh decade, I can say that each decade was indeed a milestone worth “numbering”. There were many canyon-like turns and twists that were dark and uncertain, but we always returned into the light of wonderous views. Surely the Lord has blessed me, shone his face upon me and been gracious to me. (Numbers 6:25)

When reflecting on one’s life journey a common question is, “do you have any regrets?” I must admit that yes, of course, there are regrets over wrong choices, failed strategies, and times in every decade when I missed the mark of God’s plan.
Fortunately, He has been faithful and gracious to forgive and redirect my steps when I have strayed from His righteous path. (Psalm 23) Some poor choices have lasting consequences, while others are temporary impediments, but by learning from them and making better choices for the future, one can overcome and pursue His purposes anew. As we teach in The Total System, I choose to “leave the past in the past, and focus on the present and future.” While God alone is able to forget “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12), yet Jesus admonishes us to forgive others. “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25

Transforming Vision, Mission, Values

I look forward to my eighth decade with anticipation, eager to fulfill my purpose and destiny in Christ. In all I do the values to which I aspire are represented by the fruit of the spirit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23 While the world seeks fulfillment of self like Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection, God has called us to fulfillment in Christ-likeness. Paul acknowledged our life-long transformation: In addition to my consulting practice, I enjoy writing and photograph for my personal website www.celebratingchrist.com It represents the intersection of all my passions to positively impact the lives of others. I am grateful for the many family, friends, mentors, teachers, and authors who spoke words of encouragement, wisdom, and knowledge into my life, some for a season and others over the decades. Often an answer to prayer, they came alongside me to lighten a burden or give hope for a better tomorrow. In like manner, it is my heart’s desire that through my work and creative expressions others may be enlightened, edified and encouraged.

Regardless of how many years or decades I may yet celebrate, my prayer is that each moment fulfills His appointed times. As Paul proclaimed, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” I Corinthians 9: 23-25

The Eternal Milestone

When He calls me home, I will be ready to reunite with family, friends and beloved spiritual leaders and mentors who have preceded me to heaven. As Paul encouraged us, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” I Corinthians 13: 12 What a joyous day that will be to see Jesus face-to-face and spend eternity in His light, truly an incomparable milestone to which God has made a way for everyone through His only Son, a sure foundation. (Ephesians 2:19 – 22)
The Hoppers, Shouting Time in Heaven

By Sheryl Dawson January 2019 www.celebratingchrist.com

The Summit Story: Planning, Preparation and Perseverance Pay-off

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The Father’s Prayer: A Story of Blessing

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The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you;
The Lord turn His countenance toward you and give you peace.

Numbers 6: 23 – 25

Having grown up in a Bible-centered church, every Sunday I experienced the tradition of our Pastor speaking this prayer of blessing over the congregation at the end of each service. Even as a small child it impressed me as a powerful prayer. It would be years later that I learned more about the context of the prayer and recalled my early sense of receiving an all-encompassing blessing as it was spoken. Last year when we moved to Flagstaff, I wanted to bless visitors to our home upon entering our foyer. I was moved to have this prayer superimposed on a picture I had taken over Lake Michigan when I was flying into Chicago after a family wedding. It now graces our entrance as though God Himself is imparting the blessing from heaven. Then just this year I was introduced to Warren Marcus’ book, The Priestly Prayer of the Blessing: The Ancient Secret of the Only Prayer in the Bible Written by God Himself. I was struck anew by the power of this seemingly simple prayer.

The Mountain Impartation

To understand the full impartation of the Priestly Prayer, one must know the story behind it. After the Israelites were released from bondage in Egypt by the ten plagues of God, and then escaped the pursuing Egyptians by the miraculous parting of the Red Sea, Moses led God’s people into the desert where God called Moses to the mountain top. At the summit Moses was given the 10 commandments written by the finger of God on tablets of stone. Upon carrying the stone tablets down the mountain, Moses returned to the camp site to find that the people had erected an idol of a golden calf to worship, a remnant of their Egyptian bondage. Moses was so furious he broke the tablets, had the calf melted down, and returned to the mountain to implore of God how he could possibly deal with “His” wayward people. In God’s infinite grace, He rewrote the 10 commandments and gave to Moses the Priestly Prayer, instructing Moses to have Aaron the Priest speak the prayer over the people every day.

Supernatural Provision

Moses obeyed and for 40 years in the desert Aaron spoke the words of blessing over the people; they were fed by manna from heaven and quail when they tired of the manna; their clothes and shoes never wore out, and when they thirsted water came from a rock. This supernatural provision was a result of the daily Priestly Prayer of blessing. Based on extensive research, Warren Marcus shares the amazing story of the amplified meaning of this ancient Hebrew prayer. As simple as it seems in English, the Hebrew reveals an expansive blessing.

First of all, Lord in Hebrew actually refers to God the Father, Yahuwah; amazingly this blessing is the only prayer given directly from the Father. We know the prayers of His Son Jesus and the apostles from the New Testament and are familiar with many prayers of the patriarchs, prophets and kings in the Old Testament. There must be something very special about this singular prayer to have been spoken by the Father to protect and provide for His chosen people as they wandered in the desert.

Journey to the Promised Land

God knew that His people, who had been in bondage for 400 years, were not ready to go directly into the Promised Land so through their desert experience He taught them to follow Him by fire at night and pillar of cloud by day, to trust in Him for daily provision, and to worship Him alone. The older generation, who had known only Egypt as their home, died in the desert, and it was the next generation born in the desert who would enter and conquer the Promised Land. Even Moses died prior to the Jordon crossing, imparting to Joshua the mantle of leadership. Indeed, it was the daily Priestly Blessing that sustained the Hebrew people on their long journey to their Promised Land.

The Amplified Prayer of Blessing

After reading Marcus’ book, also available in CD, I have listened to this prayer often as I start my day. Since discovering the origin and amplified meaning of the Father’s Prayer, I have shared it with friends and family to bless them. I believe as Warren Marcus does, that this divine prayer is an impartation of supernatural blessing from the Father Himself and, as of old is meant for us today.

Receive the Blessing

Do you need a blessing today? Perhaps you are going through a desert experience of financial, health, relational, career or spiritual crisis. Adapt the prayer of blessing and you will enter an oasis of the Father’s provision, protection, inspiration, and revelation. Look into His face as He intimately shines His grace on you. Allow His whole being to embrace you, transform your perspective on life’s challenges, bring order to your life and reveal your purpose. I can attest to the transformative power of the Father’s blessing as I read, hear, and recite it for myself and others. Receive the blessing now as you listen to the amplified English version of the Father’s prayer: www.warrenmarcus/prayer In addition, Paul Wilbur, a Messianic Jewish musician, chants the inspired Hebrew blessing. Your heavenly Father desires to bless His adopted children, as He has blessed His chosen people over the centuries. Receive the Father’s prayer of blessing and your life shall be renewed in love, faith, and joy.

Sheryl Dawson
May 14, 2018
Honoring the 70th Anniversary of the Founding of Israel

The Story of the Bristlecone Pine: Resiliency in the Face of Change

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Find Bristlecone Items at Redbubble

After the global economic tsunamis of 9-11, resultant recession and collapse of Enron, like so many in Houston, I personally was impacted in dramatic ways. Seemingly overnight the business climate turned chaotic, capital fled, and client business seemed to vanish. Everyone was either scrambling to sift through the ruble or hunkering down to weather the storm. Ex-Enron executives handcuffed for perp walks captured the headlines. Meanwhile, victims of the carnage – both individuals and businesses — implemented survival tactics. I laid off half my staff, went into debt to keep the doors open, and devised strategic initiatives to diversify. Nothing seemed to work.

While we put our best face forward in marketing and sales, behind the scenes I was in a cauldron of anxiety, uncertainty, failure, and self-doubt. I wondered what was wrong with my business agility? I was literally in the “valley of the shadow of death” – in Hebrew it means the blackest of black darkness. There seemed to be no light. As consulting firms shuttered their doors around me, I clung to my faith and believed that somehow I would keep my doors open.

Overcoming
I developed new business models – they failed. I invented new services based on research and a changing Talent Management environment and slowly, painfully opportunities materialized. I built a team of expert coaches and partners in the changing talent management space. Fortunately I landed a talent development opportunity that seemed to come out of nowhere. We expanded into recruiting and achieved placements, celebrating every new piece of business. At the time I owned the local CPI global brand and they too diversified and expanded our international footprint. The parallel paths of the local and global brands enabled me to slowly rebuild my business. There were several very tough years in which progress was discouragingly slow. Yet I persevered, grew through the challenges, and learned new skills.

New Challenges Arise
As though my resilience were not sufficiently tested, other challenges arose with family relationships, a personal health crisis, a major legal battle, and betrayals that shook me to my core values. Nothing seemed to come easily. Yet, I had been through the” valley of the shadow of death” before, and I knew that these challenges too would pass. I persevered. I sought out the help of my coach friends who were more experienced in many of the situations I confronted. With every need, it was as though the right person, with the right expertise was available at the right time to help me. I never walked my journey alone. The Lord impeccably selected those who like angels would appear on the scene with just-in-time solutions and support.

Prevailing in the Face of Hardship

Just as I stood holding up this Bristlecone Pine while hiking in Bryce Canyon, I stand today to prove that I not only survived, but have thrived. In early 2014 I sold my global CPI practice and reestablished my legacy Dawson brand providing talent solutions with a focus on assessment.  Everything I have experienced in my life and business, including the failures, have culminated in my consulting capabilities and a love for transforming organizations and individuals to achieve their potential.

The Ranger Persona
I have many other passions and one is to don my hat, pull on my hiking boots and with camera in hand explore and capture in photographic clarity the beauty of nature. Several people we accosted in the national parks wondered if I was a ranger! When I shared that with one of my certified assessment coaches, he asked whether I matched the ranger career success template. That question brought me back to reality! But, I do enjoy hiking in my “ranger” outfit!

Regeneration & Resiliency
The Bristlecone tree is the oldest living organism on earth. How does it live for centuries? It has the unsurpassed ability to regenerate. After every natural disaster that kills all other plants, the Bristlecone sprouts new life. In the same way, within each of us is the power to regenerate. Resiliency in the face of change comes from within. You too can have the faith, fortitude, and fighting spirit to overcome whatever challenge you face. When your capacity wanes, around you are people who care and have the expertise to help. There are new opportunities to explore. New ideas to develop. New contacts to meet. New skills to learn.

What I found in my journey over a long and gnarly career, is that whatever the economic challenge, natural disaster, or personal failure, we have the God-given power within us to regenerate, to survive and thrive. Rather than a stumbling block, every challenge or failure is a stepping stone. Rather than the worst thing, it can be the best thing to happen. The choice is ours. We may not outlive the Bristlecone Pine, but while we are here we can regenerate, reinvent, and re-energize. We can rise from any valley to tell our personal story and help a fellow sojourner. Resilience always finds the silver lining in every dark cloud.

The Silver Lined Clouds Story: A Personal Testimony

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Dark clouds can appear unexpectedly in many formations, and in 2012 I faced a significant ominous health challenge for the first time in my life; on the day of my initial diagnosis I left the hospital as the sun was setting to see this amazing sky with silver-lined clouds; immediately as I observed the radiance of the image, the Holy Spirit impressed on me, “all will be well.” Having heard this encouraging word before I received the doctor’s recommendation for surgery and treatment, I knew I had to take a picture of the sky. At rush hour in the medical center, that was no small task! My view obstructed by buildings from every perspective, maneuvering around congested traffic, I managed to find a parking lot with a clear view of the sky and captured the silver-lined clouds to encourage me throughout my medical journey over the next few months. On the celebratingchrist.com Home page we superimposed the Star of Christmas to honor Jesus, our ultimate illumination and the “light of the world”.
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The Beach Cross Story: A Personal Testimony

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For three consecutive Thanksgivings I chose to spend the day in Galveston, since my husband had moved to our second home in Flagstaff, preceding our eventual relocation, and I was living in our Houston home of many years. Since I was traveling back and forth to manage the transition after the sale of our company, it did not seem practical to travel to Flagstaff for Thanksgiving when I had obligations in Houston prior to the Christmas holidays.

The Beach Walk Inspiration

Finding myself alone for the long weekend, Galveston was a perfect diversion to enjoy the day. On the final year of my transition, I was taking my traditional walk on the beach when I spied some small pieces of driftwood. I was inspired to pick them up though I was not sure what I would do with them. I was not accustomed to shelling on Galveston beach as it is not the ideal location for finding pristine shells, however, having found the driftwood it occurred to me that they could easily form a cross. With that in mind, I began to pick up shells thinking I could create an image of Christ on the cross with them.

Unprepared for shelling, I did not have anything to bag my collection so I carefully cradled them in my hands! Somewhere along the way I found something to hold them as they became more than I could hold! Now committed to my creative mission, I realized that I needed a large shell to represent the body of Christ. The notion seemed impossible to find until I spied an elongated piece of oyster shell – “ah, perfect for the broken body on the cross,” I thought.

Giving Thanksgiving

Laden with a good supply of shells I completed my walk and then prepared for Thanksgiving buffet at my favorite seafood restaurant. I decided I would return to the beach later after a hearty meal and texting all my friends and family to wish them a happy Thanksgiving.

The Beach Gallery

With bag of shells and driftwood in hand, wearing my beach shoes and hat, I returned to the beach to create and photograph the image representing Christ on the cross. It was a windy day and I wanted to take advantage of the incoming tide; my idea was to capture water surrounding the cross to designate His living water washing away our sins. This was a challenging assignment as the wind kept taking my hat away, and in the rising tide my bag of shells kept floating away! I had to find the right distance from the shoreline to have time to create the image, allow the water to partly surround it and snap the picture. Ultimately, I managed to bring all elements together without losing my hat!

The Meaning of the Beach Cross

The resulting image is on the celebratingchrist.com home page. It has become a favorite photograph of mine as it memorializes my journey over the previous three years of my business and personal transitions. While I was alone on the beach for Thanksgiving far from family, I believe the Lord inspired me to be thankful for all He had done for me.

Those fragile, broken and worn shells represent His crucified body. The driftwood of course represents the wooden cross upon which He hung. The sand represents the entire world for whom He gave His life, that all may be saved. The water reflects not only His blood washing away the sins of the world, but also the Holy Spirit who fills us upon acceptance of His sacrificial grace. The pierced shells for His hands and feet remind us of the nails from which He bled. The jagged shell for His bowed head, represents the crown of thorns pressed upon His brow. Above His head is a broken sand dollar, traditionally viewed as telling the crucifixion story, here represents the message written by the Roman soldiers, “King of the Jews”.

Together for Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving I was privileged to spend with my husband of over 40 years in our new home in Flagstaff. Together we thanked the Lord for bringing us through a challenging period of our lives to celebrate together in our new home. Each Thanksgiving I spent alone on the beach, I felt privileged to enjoy the beauty of His creation, His presence in my life, and His promises to bring me through my transitions.

Come to the Cross

In the same way, His sacrifice provides these same promises for you. Wherever your journey takes you, whatever your circumstances, you can always come to the cross to satisfy your needs.

Seven hundred years before the birth of the Messiah, Isaiah foretold:
“Surely, he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Isaiah 53: 4 – 5

Bring your burdens, challenges and transitions to the cross and He shall restore, provide and sustain you.

By Sheryl Dawson
Thanksgiving, 2017

This image is available on a mug, a travel mug, or a spiral notebook at RedBubble.