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

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Send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. Psalm 43:3

The Pronouncement

After many years in Houston, my husband Ken and I decided to relocate to Flagstaff for its destination location, four seasons and mountain living. We began the transition not really knowing how we would make it happen, renting a home in Flagstaff in January 2014 while I planned the sale of our business and Houston home. During the first 3-years, I traveled back and forth to Flagstaff three times a year to experience the winter, spring and fall seasons. Enthralled with the mountains, early on I surveyed Mt. Humphreys, the tallest peak of the San Francisco Mountains, and determined that I must climb it.

My pronouncement was not made casually as I knew that it was the most challenging hike in the area and I was definitely not physically fit at the time to accomplish it. Nevertheless, I was inspired to embrace the physical challenge to parallel the seemingly mountainous financial and business challenges we faced to accomplish relocation. Since my faith was being tested, it seemed appropriate to put all life dimensions in the balance! I embarked on an enhanced fitness training program only to have it interrupted by work demands, surgery, the building of a new home and the all-consuming cross-country move.

Finally settled into our new Flagstaff home by the fall of 2017, I again turned my focus to conquering the peak. I reasoned that since I was not getting any younger, time was of the essence. While hundreds hike Humphreys in the summer, for me the best time to climb is early fall; cold and snow limit access in winter and early spring, and monsoons are daily threats in the summer months. Intrepid climbers often trek the mountain at dark-thirty to summit and return before noon, but that did not seem like the best strategy for me. Knowing I had a narrow window of opportunity in early fall as the monsoons abate, I began an aggressive workout plan under a personal coach’s direction. Simultaneously, I continued my consulting practice and the process of developing connections in our new community.

My Summer Plan
The summer of 2018 was intense as I balanced my personal and business goals, while working out often 2 hours a day. I supplemented the coach’s recommended routine to improve overall fitness and aerobic conditioning with classes for strength, flexibility and balance. I was trekking to the club often twice a day! In addition, on weekends I hiked 6 – 10 miles to advance my endurance and explore various trails in the Flagstaff area.

My hikes were photographic excursions as well since photography is one of my passions, which I feature on my personal website, www.celebratingchrist.com. Having created a winter video series of my photography during our transition, my goal was to complete spring, summer and fall videos featuring local scenes. Since my very first summer in Flagstaff was during our move in 2017, I was focused particularly on capturing the flowering imagery of summer in Flag. Enthralled by the uniqueness of each trail experience, I eagerly documented my hikes.

Given Humphreys’ challenging terrain, I knew it would be wise to climb with someone, even though I am usually a lone hiker. I shared my goal with just about everyone I met seeking someone to join me for the summit climb, while also exploring hiking clubs. I prayed that the Lord would send me the right hiking partner and good weather when the variable peak winds were not too extreme, a frequent complaint from hikers who had reached the summit. Climbing past the tree line, affectionately called the saddle due to its topography, traverses rugged rocks and boulders — definitely no cake walk!

The First Endurance Test
As summer progressed my fitness improved, so I decided to test my readiness by hiking to the saddle. I chose a weekend mid-August thinking I could beat the daily monsoon. It was a great day and within 3 ½ hours including photographic stops, I reached the saddle! There were fabulous views and lots of other hikers mingling about. But then the clouds started to rumble with thunder and toss down hail – it was time to get off the mountain as quickly as possible.

The descent was challenging in the intense monsoon with constant thunder overhead and torrential rains further down the rocky path! I prayed the entire way and set the pace for several others who followed me as we hurriedly passed others along the way. An hour and a half later, without poncho or gloves, I was totally soaked and bone cold; then as we neared the trailhead large hail pelted us! I could feel the hurtling hail through my felt hat and found cover under a dense evergreen branch before it eased up sufficiently for me to hurry to my car. My hands were so numb from the cold and tightly gripping my poles to prevent a fall, that I could not access the keys in my pocket! Finally, I got into the car, turned up the heat and headed for the house. It took an hour for my hands to defrost! The good news was that I had made the saddle successfully. Even after the hurried descent, once dry and warm I felt fine with no pain. Lesson learned and undeterred, I headed to REI at my first opportunity to purchase poncho and gloves for my next attempt on the unpredictable mountain.

Second Summit Attempt

A couple weeks later the University Hiking Club scheduled a Humphreys climb for Labor Day for which I eagerly signed up. Unfortunately, the weekend they chose was threatening rain so the climb was canceled. I did not get the word and thinking they were going to attempt at least a partial climb I showed up at the parking lot trailhead. Disappointed there was no one from the club there, I spotted a young man by himself getting ready to hike. I approached him and asked if he would mind a hiking partner. Given my age, I hastily added that I was in good shape and had recently made the climb to the saddle. It was his first time on Humphreys, so he said, “Sure”. I lent him some extra poles I had in the car and we headed up the trail.

We went a bit more quickly than my first climb as I did not stop for photographic shots, however, the clouds were ominously surrounding us and by the time we reached 11,400 feet, it began to hail. I turned to my ad hoc hiking partner and asked what he thought about continuing. He was eager to go on, and since there was no thunder, I thought we would be safe and continued the climb. Meanwhile, the hail intensified and by the time we approached the saddle, accumulating hail obscured the rocky trail. I charged ahead, commenting that I did not recall the steep steps I was now scaling!



At the saddle I donned my poncho and gloves; after a quick snack and some pictures of the view filled with threatening clouds, we hastily started the descent. My partner Nick, unfortunately, had no extra gear so he took the lead to get out of the monsoon storm! We headed down as quickly as the hail would allow, but slush made the going slick. Further down, it turned to rain and did not let up.

Two monsoons and two failed attempts at the summit — with luck like that, I wondered when I would reach the peak! Nick and I were grateful for the trail companionship, however, and simply chalked it up to a learning experience. What was concerning to me is that after this climb, I experienced muscle pain. I deduced that by charging the steep hail-covered rock steps I had overextended my muscles both on the way up and down; the hail had obscured the path of least resistance that I had easily maneuvered on my first saddle attempt. Clearly, weather on Humphreys makes a big difference in hiking difficulty. That realization made me question my preparedness, but my coach assured me I was physically ready for the climb when weather permitted. An important lesson for me was to go my speed so I could climb within my physical capability.

Three’s a Charm!

I still had to find a partner to summit; I continued to share my goal with others, very aware of the narrowing window of opportunity. At a professional meeting, I met a lady close in age who was part of the R&R Hiking Club. I followed up with Mary and just after my second attempt on Humphreys, she responded that she was interested in going. We selected a date only to have it postponed by smoke from a significant forest fire in a remote area near Sedona.

Finally, we rescheduled for September 24, knowing our window of opportunity would quickly close as fall was bringing cooler temperatures and snow often comes to Humphreys in early October. As the morning sun rose September 24, an ominous cloud covered the peak and I said an earnest prayer for the clouds to lift and give us a clear day to summit.


Four other women joined us for the climb and we set off with determination to summit. As we approached 11,400 feet we looked up at the big cloud shrouding the peak and declared it must leave! Soon after, it did indeed lift even though all around the surrounding areas of Flagstaff we could see gathering rain clouds. We reached the saddle, ate our snacks, and donned gloves and heavier coats to traverse the exposed one-mile rugged climb to the summit. The final leg of the hike twists and turns over rocks and boulders that obscure the summit approach. For a first-time climber, you have no idea how much further you must endure! All you know is, keep climbing upwards! Along the way are amazing views and I stopped to capture them… and my breath!


At one stop, my partner Judy commented that she was going to take a peek around a large boulder to see the view from there. I followed her to confront the Inner Basin splashed with the golden aspen of Lockett Meadow – its stunning beauty literally took my breath away. I shared with her how four years ago when we first came to Flagstaff, I had climbed to the Inner Basin through Lockett Meadow. It was an inspiring hike and as I returned through the shimmering aspen interspersed with evergreens, I whispered a prayer, “Lord, make a way for us to live here, as this is where I belong.” Now, here I was climbing Mt Humphreys, beholding that amazing place of tranquility and promise. The spectacular view gave testimony that the Lord had graciously granted my heart’s desire!

The Final Ascent & Decent

As we continued the trek to the top, fortunately, the wind was not too strong and I was able to climb without resistance. Having summitted Humphreys previously, Judy stayed with me and pointed out the summit as we approached it. Within a few minutes, we were at the top of Mt. Humphreys! I was breathless not from the climb, but from the awe-inspiring views of the distant Grand Canyon, painted desert and surrounding mountains. The sky was dramatically filled with monsoon clouds and visible rains accentuated by thunder and lightning. Sudden gusts reminded us that caution is the watchword on the mountain, so after a quick snack, we started down the rocky trail. We scurried to the saddle with a few hail flurries to speed us along.

Back at the saddle, we shed our extra coats and gloves and having learned the lesson on my two earlier descents, I tied my poncho pack close at hand. We continued the descent and soon the clouds moved in bringing light rains. I pulled on my poncho and we hiked on without too much trouble. Finally, at the end of the trail which seemed much longer than on my prior two attempts, we wearily headed for the car. We had made it! Those last two miles were tiring to say the least, but I felt relieved that the weather had held for our final ascent to the summit and we had experienced such dramatic views!

Surely summitting Mt. Humphreys was God’s timing as, within a week, the tropical storm Rosa from the Pacific coast brought days of rain followed by an early arrival of snow not only on the mountains but in Flagstaff proper! We had summitted Mt. Humphreys at 12,633 feet just days before our window of opportunity closed! And had we not been delayed for three weeks due to the fire and monsoons, we would not have seen the spectacular fall colors on the mountains. Add the dramatic sky to the experience and we were clearly blessed with the best of days to summit; while I had been impatient with the delays, the Lord knew just the right timing to create the most memorable hike of my life.


Wellness Lessons Learned

Nearing my seventh decade of living, I have accomplished a significant physical fitness goal! Yet I was humbled by the experience, and grateful that the Lord had answered all my prayers throughout my summer training and on the day of the summit hike. The ladies with me were all seasoned hikers and in much better fitness than I. For each person, goals are unique and cannot be measured by anyone else’s goals and accomplishments. Everyone has their own set of circumstances, advantages, and challenges. The essential lesson is that fitness and wellness is an individual journey for which it is important to set goals that are right for you! Have a plan, prepare, and persevere until you achieve your goals.

Having summitted Mt. Humphreys, I have set my sights on new goals, not to break any records, but to continue my wellness and fitness journey. I hope along the way to inspire others who may not think they can accomplish their goals. As I reflect on the start of my fitness journey over five years ago, I was so weak I could not even do a squat! I asked my coach at the time what the problem was and she answered, “everything!” I can chuckle about that now but at the time it was a serious shock. Squats being my immediate challenge, I kept doing them daily until I could squat correctly!

Had I known then how much work I needed to be physically fit, I would have been overwhelmed. Each step I took revealed new challenges, each solution a new revelation about my body and fitness needs, and each achieved goal led to another step for ongoing progress. Praise the Lord, He has led me to the right professionals and programs to help me each step of the way.

Embark on Your Wellness Journey

“They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.” Psalm 84:7 Indeed, step-by-step from strength to strength, you too can achieve whatever you desire. All it takes is a plan, preparation and perseverance… oh, and a lot of prayer! Most of us also need others to come along beside us to help plan and prepare. I mentioned my coaches and trainers who have been informative and encouraging; I also required physical therapy after surgery and discovered the value of massage therapy which I continue. My preference is to have a fitness club to access the right equipment and classes to meet my needs. Remember, your needs and support requirements are unique to you. Whatever approaches are best for you, embark today on your wellness journey.

Whole Life Profile Facilitates Summit Success

An additional resource that helped me and others whom I have supported, is the Whole Life Profile (WLP). This powerful personal assessment with optional workshop identifies one’s life imbalances and personal motivators; with this insight you can develop an effective plan to improve your life balance and happiness. I found the WLP valuable not only for wellness programs, but also to accomplish major transitions in business, relocation, and personal challenges.

If you are experiencing significant life change or career/retirement transitions, the Whole Life Profile can provide the insight you require to facilitate important decisions and manage change. Whatever mountains you face in your life, whether relational, financial, spiritual/integral, emotional/psychological, or physical health, the Whole Life Profile provides the self-perception essential to set and achieve your summit goals.

In fact, it is like having a “summit” vantage point! The WLP gives insight into the big picture unique to the challenges or mountains in your life. It facilitates the long view of how your values and strengths support development in each life dimension. Finally, the WLP is all encompassing of the five health factors enabling you to achieve the true life-balance you desire. An investment in the WLP, is an investment in your family, friends, and colleagues, as well as your future. Become the person you envision and create the legacy for which you were born with this innovative and compelling assessment and workshop.

Summit After Word

Whether a summit experience is a physical mountain conquered or a major life challenge overcome, one cannot stay at the summit. There is always a descent or moving on process. Often, we desire to spend more time at our summit experiences to savor the elation of victory and the view. Even on the mount of transfiguration, the disciples suggested building shelters to prolong that amazing experience. But Jesus took them down the mountain and told them of future things yet to transpire.

When you allow summit memories and lessons to transform your life, the experience remains part of who you are forever. Mt Humphreys’ peak will never look quite the same to me again, as it is now a memorial of the effort expended and the amazing views I beheld from that pinnacle vantage point. Having purposefully set the Humpheys’ peak goal in the midst of significant life challenges over the last few years, my accomplishment is particularly poignant in light of His faithful guidance of my steps to overcome each one. Having descended from my mountain summits, I have new goals and summits to conquer. You too will find that descending and moving on from your summit experiences is as transforming as the ascent. Allow your summit experience to be life transforming and you too will be enriched both by the ascent, as well as the descent.

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

Journey to Forest Peak Retreat: Mountain Top Testimony of Provision

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From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind;
from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth.
Psalm 33:13-14

As we RV’ed across the West over 20 years ago my husband and I discovered Flagstaff. Subsequently, on vacations, we visited mountain resorts and national parks with a dream of one day living in the mountains. While we had no real plan for how that may come to pass, today we live in beautiful Flagstaff in our custom home affectionately called Forest Peak Retreat. Indeed, living in the forest with a peak view of Mt. Humphrey’s is truly a life-long dream come true!

Over these many years Flagstaff was a magnet and we often returned to enjoy this highly rated “destination city” with so many interesting things to see and experience, including the Grand Canyon only an hour and half away, Sedona just a 45-minute drive through amazing Oak Creek Canyon, the National Monuments of Walnut Canyon, Sunset Crater and Wupatki, Mt Humphrey’s Snow Bowl, hiking trails galore and a captivating picture-perfect view of the San Francisco Mountains from every direction.

Our dream became a walk of faith in early 2014 when we unexpectedly sold our consulting practice of many years and began a transition that took four years to complete. In the fall of 2014 I was hiking in Lockett Meadow in Flagstaff; walking among the golden aspen shimmering in the wind, I looked up into the clouds to see this inspiring view through the aspen — my “Portal to Heaven”. Deeply moved by the thought of capturing a glimpse of heaven, with tears in my eyes I retraced my path through the aspen and evergreens breathing a prayer, “Lord, make a way for us to live here, as this is where I belong.” At that time, I was still seeking to rebrand my consulting business and our dream seemed a long way from realization. Yet the Lord was faithful in the summer of 2017 to answer that pleading prayer when we completed the construction of our new Flagstaff home, sold our Houston home and relocated. After four decades in Houston, it was no small feat to move across the country, yet all the details worked out in His perfect timing.

As I think about the prophetic fulfillment of my simple prayer among the mountain aspen in Flagstaff, I recall the many Biblical examples of the Lord’s mountaintop provision, protection, and prophetic fulfillment. In Genesis, we read how God sent Abraham to a mountaintop to sacrifice his long promised, and only son Isaac. As he climbed Mount Moriah with Isaac, in faith he told his servants to wait below and they would return. Isaac questioned as they climbed the mountain trail, “Father, where is the sacrifice?” to which Abraham reassured his son that the Lord would provide. Even as he laid his bound son on the altar and raised his knife in obedience, his faith sustained him. In that fateful moment, God called out, “Stop and look in the bush for a ram to replace Isaac.” This amazing story foretold God’s sacrifice of His Only Son, Jesus, who on Passover would become the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world and provide salvation to all who received Him.

Later Moses climbed Mount Sinai and received God’s law; with His finger, God inscribed on stone how His people were to live during the centuries preceding the arrival of Emmanuel, God with us. The Ten Commandments were His provision for the chosen people from whom Messiah would come; in God’s perfect timing He replaced the written law with grace, as Jesus carried the cross up Golgotha to become the final sacrifice and reconcile mankind to the Creator.

During His time on earth, Jesus climbed the Mount of Olives with His disciples to pray and seek His Father’s will. From that high point overlooking Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, He prophesied of its destruction and His own death and resurrection. Biblical archeologists and historians believe the Temple Mount is the spot where Abraham took Isaac to sacrifice. The Holy of Holies accessed only by the High Priest annually may have been over the very spot where God provided the substitute sacrifice for Isaac. When Jesus died the heavy curtain separating the outer court from this Holy place was torn in two, signifying direct access to the Father through Jesus’ own substitutionary death that paid the price for all human sin.

After the dispersion of the Jewish people in 70 AD, 2000 years passed before the world would see the fulfillment of many other prophesies on the restoration of the promised land to the Jewish people and the nation of Israel. As He spoke through the prophets, God was faithful to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses bringing to pass His provision, protection, and prophetic fulfillment for His people and the entire world.

Our journey to the mountaintop seems insignificant in comparison to these grand mountaintop miracles, but for us it is just one more miracle of the Lord’s faithful provision. When we discovered Flagstaff over 20 years ago and then traveled here in 2014, we did not know how our dream could possibly become reality. Looking back now, we realize that the unfolding events over the subsequent years were His plan for us; we merely held on to our dream and stepped out in faith. As with any mountain climb, ours was no walk in the park, yet as we traversed the rugged trail through the valleys to new heights, He was always with us. We praise the Lord for our mountaintop journey to Flagstaff and desire to share our joy with others who visit us in our Forest Peak Retreat. Come to the mountaintop and rejoice with us!

By Sheryl Dawson
Easter, April 1, 2018

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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Home For Christmas

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The one tradition with which everyone agrees is being home for Christmas! Home is where our families are, where we feel loved and cared for. Home is where memories of Christmas’ past are etched in our minds and hearts. Home is where we can experience all the joy, hope and love that is central to the spirit of Christmas. Yet many are without a real home this Christmas. Natural disasters have destroyed tens of thousands of homes in the devastating hurricanes of Houston, Puerto Rico and Florida, the consuming fires in California, and other disasters around the world. Terrorism has displaced millions, Christian, Jewish and Muslim, throughout the Middle East and impacting other parts of the world. And many people confront health, work and financial challenges which have altered their lives, causing some to lose their homes or be dislocated. Our active military may be stationed far from home, leaving families separated for long periods. Where is home for these this Christmas?

In contrast, my husband Ken and I have moved into a new home this Christmas. Since we do not have children, we traveled for Christmas in past years, going to winter resorts to enjoy the snow and festivities of the season. Yet our tradition when away from home was to find a local church wherever we were to celebrate Christmas eve candlelight service. “Home for Christmas” in those years was joining a congregation gathered with other families to remember the true meaning of Christmas. Now in our new home, we decked the halls throughout the whole house with decorations which had been stored for 15 years! It is a joy to share the memories and experiences of the season with friends and neighbors in our new home town of Flagstaff. We are grateful to be home for Christmas and anticipate sharing the traditions of this special season for many years to come.

While privileged to be in our new home, we think of the many who are not home for Christmas. Christ himself was not born at home, but rather in a stable on a field in Bethlehem. This was more than a coincidence caused by Herod’s decree for a census, returning all Jews to their ancestral homes. Rather God ordained that His Son should be born in Bethlehem as prophesied in Micah 5:2: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”

Why Bethlehem? Could it be that aside from being the “house of bread”, the ancestral home of the line of David, that Bethlehem is where the sacrificial lambs for the temple were raised? Indeed, the shepherds watching the sheep were the first to receive the announcement of the angelic host on the first Christmas: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’  And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, ‘Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.’ Luke 2:13 – 15

Jesus was born as the final sacrificial lamb on a hill in Bethlehem over which a bright star shone, also prophesied: “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he that is born King of the Jews, for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him?’ Matthew 2:1-2

This sacrificial lamb also was called King. The Savior of the world was not only king of the Jews, but King of the universe! God Himself sent His son Jesus born of a virgin, laid in a manger, and ultimately crucified that all people may be reconciled to Him: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

After Christ was crucified, He rose again and ascended unto the Father to prepare our eternal home: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14:2 After the resurrection Jesus shared with the women in the garden: “‘Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.’” John 20:17

Regardless of our current circumstances or where our earthly home is, it is comforting to know there is an eternal home awaiting us! The ultimate home for Christmas shall be heaven. Awaiting us are family members who have departed before us. They are already celebrating Christmas in their heavenly home with Christ Himself. As the Chris Tomlin popular song Home rejoices, “I’m going home where are streets are golden… I’m in your open arms where I belong…. The trump will sound, the angels will sing, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, I am going home.”

What a homecoming it shall be when we are reunited with family and friends for the great feast of the Lamb and King!  “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.  And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard them saying, ‘Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.’ Revelation 5:12 -13 Indeed, “Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding supper of the Lamb.” Revelation 19:9

If you are displaced, have lost your home, or are separated from family and home, you can still rejoice this Christmas simply by knowing the One whom we celebrate, Jesus. When He resides in your heart, when He has made you anew in His resurrection power, you become His temple. In a sense, you are at home already through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. Praise the Lord, He makes a way for each of us to experience His peace, joy, and hope now and for eternity. If you do not know His presence, then this Christmas receive Jesus as your personal Savior. Wherever you are, you indeed will be home for Christmas!

By Sheryl Dawson
Christmas, 2017

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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.

Thank you, Lord, for Everything!

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Thank you for sun, sky and sea For sand and shells For brisk breezes and breaking waves – Thank you, Lord, for everything.

Christmas Stable Conversation

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Prologue: On a calm and clear night, long ago in Bethlehem, an amazing miracle transpired that would affect the entire world for all eternity. God announced the long-awaited birth of His Only Son whom He sent as Savior of the world. To ensure no doubt of His intention to gift mankind with a path to […]

The Magic of Christmas

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One of the most popular traditions of the season is telling endearing Christmas stories that proliferate in books, media, movies, songs, and theater. Christmas stories captivate children and adults alike. Everyone loves heart-felt stories! What makes Christmas stories so magical?