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.

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 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 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 mugs, t-shirts, totes, and prints.