Brilliant sunsets, scenes of the African bush, and experiences with elephants and lions should be part of my Sunday Coffee this morning, as I was due to leave from New York to meet up with my Publisher’s Invitational trip to South Africa.
A Childhood Dream
I was about to live a dream I’ve had since leafing through issues of National Geographic as a child, about to go on a game drive. (I just learned the word safari is no longer considered correct because it has connotations of a time of oppression and the killing of beautiful animals.) About to see animals in their natural habitat, not a zoo. I’d get to paint Africa and create painted jewels for my necklace of memories, and spend time with old and new friends who came along.
Packed and Ready
I spent months getting ready for Africa, studying which lenses I should get for my camera to capture distant game, what kinds of paint I should take along — knowing I might not get my normal solvent through the airlines — and what I should take to accommodate the weight restrictions on luggage. I spent my spare time last week picking up some adventure clothes, and packing my painting gear, clothes, and cameras.
A Last-Minute Change of Plans
I think I mentioned that I had not been feeling well the week before, and as a precaution, I scheduled a visit to my doctor to find out why. Knowing I had very little time, he got me in to see a specialist, who put me through a battery of tests to be done in time for my trip. When we met for the results, he told me he was not confident that I would feel better and he felt I needed even more tests, and he wanted to give me some meds that had to be monitored for a week or so to make sure I did not have a bad reaction.
Then, the words I feared. “I’m afraid, Eric, I’m going to recommend you not go to Africa and that you spend the next couple of weeks getting better so you can go on the rest of your trips.”
(I’ll be going to our Fall Color Week in the Canadian Rockies, Banff, and Lake Louise, and then to Rome and Florence for our Italian Art Trip, then our FACE convention, and then our Radio Forecast conference.)
A Week of Crashing
In the midst of getting packed, having two kids home sick with a virus, and having a deal I had been working on for three years suddenly fall apart, plus trying to get our new soundstage video studio fully decorated and operational before leaving (including getting a floor laid), plus my normal workload and trying to get things done so I could be gone, and then the doctor putting an end to my going on the trip, I was stressed, disappointed, and feeling pretty blue.
Why is this happening to me?
Because I was not feeling well, because I was not sleeping well, because a major deal had fallen through, and because I had to cancel going on my trip, my first reaction was “Why is this happening TO me?” Though it’s unlike me to be negative, it’s easy to get that way when you’re not feeling well.
Once I got some rest and was feeling better, I realized that something wasn’t happening to me, it was happening for me.
What We Want May Not Be Right
Think about this for a second. People always say things like, “If God loves me, why would he let this happen to me?” Yet how many times in our lives has our not getting the things we hoped for ended up leading us to better things? Just because we think something will be good for us does not mean it will be.
I’ve come to realize that I need to be more trusting that all things are being done for me — even the things that don’t go my way, even the things that happen that I don’t understand.
I’ve also learned to pay attention when doors close and stop trying to force them back open.
And sometimes doors keep getting opened that I ignore, and I need to be trusting and go through them.
No, Not One More Thing
For instance, this week, in the midst of all this chaos, I kept seeing a peek of light through a door that has kept opening for me for years. I had resisted it, not because it was not inviting, but because I kept telling myself an old story and had a thousand reasons I should not pursue it. When I stopped to think about it while all this other stuff was going on, I realized it was something I wanted, that I needed, and that I was resisting because of fear and because of being worried about what others would think. I was also so busy, so stressed, that I almost walked away from it because I could not handle one more thing.
A Different View
When you trust that doors will open and close FOR you, when you trust that things happen FOR you and not TO you, it opens your eyes to a different way of looking at life. So I held my breath, held my nose, and jumped through this open door that was about to close forever. And I trust that it was the right thing, and that if it is not, the door will eventually close.
Changing one little word, from TO to FOR, impacts the way we process everything. Suddenly you’re not the victim, you’re the beneficiary.
Remarkably, you see the world differently.
- What am I supposed to learn?
- Why do I have to go through this?
- Why do I or others have to suffer?
- What am I supposed to see that I’m not seeing?
- Am I being self-centered instead of selfless?
Though I know what I want, what I want isn’t as important as the grand plan for my life.
The Gift of DNA
Like it or not, the DNA you were given at the moment of conception is the same DNA that determines how your body responds over time. Some believe that same DNA carries a divine plan for your life. If that is true, shouldn’t we embrace it rather than fight it?
A Talk with My Girlfriend’s Dad
When I was about 17, I was dating a girl who I thought at the time was the love of my life. I dated her on and off till I was about 20. With the girl came a great family, who I adored, and one day her dad sat down with me for a talk. He said, “I’ve noticed something about you — would it be OK if I pointed it out? You’re an amazing young man, you’re bright, you’re intelligent, you’ve got lots of ideas, and you’ve got a promising future. But my daughter has told me you’ve become very negative. You’ve got to manage your self-talk. You’ve got to look at life as the glass half-full, not half-empty. And if you don’t turn this negativity around, your life isn’t going to go well. You’re going to look for problems, you’re going to hurt your success, you’re going to hurt your health, and you’re going to die young and unhappy.”
Wow. Did he just say that?
He went on to coach me about how to change my mindset.
Now, it was nothing I had not heard before. In fact, my own father had coached us on this very thing repeatedly, but because my girlfriend’s dad had seen it and wanted to point it out, he changed my life — because I was not even aware I was doing it. My self-image was that I was a positive person, but my actions didn’t reflect that. His talk made such an impact in my life, I dedicated my first book to him.
About a year ago my wife attended an event called Date with Destiny, put on by Tony Robbins. During the event he gave several days of training about how to get your life together, how to think, and how to manifest things in your life. Though she went through the process, I’m not sure she believed any of it. Yet yesterday she said to me, “I don’t know if you know this or not, but I’ve been manifesting my goals every day by seeing myself in them. Do you know that every single goal I set for myself has come true this year?”
Being Negative About Being Positive
Negative people say that positive thinking doesn’t work, that it’s all nonsense. They will come up with excuses for why good things happen to others, things like “they had advantages” or “their family had money” or “they had a better education.” I know people who had every advantage in the world who had crummy lives, and I know people who had no advantages, who had horrific upbringings and experiences, who are living amazing lives.
Mindset is everything. I’ve seen it manifested in my life, and when it gets out of tune, I see bad things happen. It is why I have to constantly remind myself, check myself, and get away from negativity. It is why we need sleep, we need something to distract us from our stress, we need laughter and fun, and time away, and whatever else recharges our batteries, because sometimes we have to go for long stretches of time dealing with difficult things.
Today, I’d like you to consider how you’re processing this message. What are you finding wrong with it? Why?
I’d also like you to consider the times in your life when closed doors resulted in good things.
And what would happen, if just this week, for one week, you looked at what was happening FOR you instead of TO you?
A Big Negative Snowball
Last week things were happening TO me. I was not feeling well, things I’d been working on were falling apart, I was grumpy, I was making others around me unhappy, I felt as though everything was crashing down on me, and I was not able to go on my own trip to Africa. It was very out of character for me, but things started to snowball. Yet the minute I caught myself, I embraced the closed doors and realized it was all FOR me. As my attitude changed, the negatives became positive.
I don’t know if this is a vibe I was putting out, a change in the universe, or God getting my attention, or what, but the moment I changed my attitude back, even though a lot of things were crashing down, everything corrected itself. And some of the biggest and best things I have been working on for years, months, or weeks suddenly came together, when three days earlier it had been clear they were all not going to happen.
Attention Needed, Please
I also realized one other thing. I spend more time in prayer when things are not going well, and I need to spend more time in prayer when things are going well. It’s almost as though God is saying, “I’ll do what it takes to get his attention and get him into prayer.” By the way, all my prayers were answered. All prayers are always answered. Though it may not be the answer I want, they are all answered, and I have to trust more that I can’t always see things clearly and what I want today may not be what I need today.
I hope you have a great week, and I hope you’ll consider FOR instead of TO.
PS: This past week we remembered the anniversary of 9/11. I was due to be in the South Tower on the morning of September 11. My RadioCentral team was on a fundraising tour, and we were to meet at the towers at 8:30 for breakfast, then wait in the lobby of the SEC while one of our members, Mark, had a meeting there. Then we were going across the street to meet with the Wall Street Journal people who were going to invest. Then that night, we had a flight to Minneapolis to meet with Ginny Morris of Hubbard Broadcasting the following morning. But at the last minute on the Friday before we left, Ginny called and asked to reschedule the meeting for a week later. We would either have to do two trips or cancel the one trip and reschedule everything for a week later. We decided to reschedule and not go to New York.
The man Mark was meeting with died that fateful morning, and we would have been in the waiting room of his office at that time.
I have to admit I was miffed when Ginny called, because I was eager to meet with her and because we had to change our plans. Yet that call to reschedule saved my life and the lives of five of my team members. This is a great example of something that happened for me when I was thinking it happened to me. Since then I’ve learned to accept closed doors.
Though I was pretty frustrated that I could not attend my own trip to Africa, my tests revealed the need to be on some meds, and who knows what would have happened if I’d gotten ill in the middle of nowhere? I have to assume this happened for me. And the good news is I’ll be feeling 1000 percent by my upcoming trip to Banff and Lake Louise and won’t have to disappoint the people going on that trip. I’m so grateful I’ve been placed in a role that allows me to help people live their dreams with trips like that one. If painting in exotic places sounds fun, we probably have a couple of seats left for the Canada trip, and if you love art but don’t paint (or do), there are two seats left for the Italy trip.
Thank you for sharing this part of your amazing journey. You continue to be a positive force of inspiration that I find refreshing and valuable.
I am constantly amazed by the miracle of our modern sources of communication that bring the likes of people like you into my little art room in the middle of Nebraska.
I am blessed.
Happy trails as your journey continues❣️
There is clearly a lot to realize about this. I feel you made certain nice points in features also. https://dodowsleep.net/
I really enjoy reading the articles that you write. I love your “word pictures”. I can often close my eyes and see the images you are describing.
I appreciated your comments on the closed doors. I have experienced many. God, many times had to wait until I was at my lowest point before I was willing to give up my control and turn things over Him. Now I can look back and see how God has provided and directed my life. There is a song that I enjoyed listening to years ago by Evie Tornquist entitled “Give Them All”. This song has encouraged me during some of the hard times. “Are you tired of chasing pretty rainbows? Are you tired of spinning round and round. Wrap up all the shattered dreams of your life. At the feet of Jesus lay them down. Give them all, give them all, give them all to Jesus – shattered dreams, wounded hearts, broken toys. Give them all, give them all, give them all to Jesus, and He will turn your sorrow into joy.” This beautiful song has meant a lot in my life. I have sung this song many times, accompanying myself on my guitar.
Thank you for all that you do!
Zbiór оbramoѡania, koncentruje się spośród tzw.
Hi Eric.. not sure if you’ll get time to read this comment – since it’s way down the line on a blog that was written a couple of weeks ago. Really thought and faith provoking. Thank you! Hope you do get back to complete health and energy. But please… if you need to take a break every once in a while and rest, don’t feel bad about it. It’s better to have you here doing some-things then gone and doing no-things.
I’m grateful for all you have done and I enjoyed the events I was able to attend. You’ve already made a lot of artists or would-be artists happier and more productive. It’s good to think about the future and move forward, but also good to reflect on what you’ve already accomplished and how that work has made a positive and lasting change for many.
Hi Eric, I aways read your Sunday morning letter. Have a few questions about the Canada trip. Were would I fly into ? Would I have to rent a car for the week? I am from Ohio and I am not good about driving in the mountains . I their a bus or other transportation I could take to get their? I really liked you letter today. I had a friend who was very nagative and I stopped doing things with her and now I am a much happier person . Thanks for the encouragement . Glad you are felling better too. Take care! Kyna
I love reading your posts. This one is particularly helpful, as I have been of the “to” me mindset lately. Yet I remember plenty of times in my life when something that seemed bad at the time turned out to be positive. Thanks for reminding me, and thank-you for all of your writings each week. I will be switching to “for” me this week.
Thank you so much for sharing this challenging time with all of us. I am 75 and have found over the years that so often when things seem to be turning upside down, they may actually be adjusting to what is truly right for us. Often too, it has been a gentle tap on my shoulder to remind me to slow down, not to rush so much and to take more time to think about all that I’m being given each day.
Bless you for sharing this event and your faith that helps you each day.
I am so sorry for yours and others disappointments. However without them this powerful post would never have happened and touched so many in such a profound way. You are in thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery.
In response to Eric’s post I must say that I had no idea that you are an avid believer and obviously not ashamed of your faith. So very inspiring in the art world I always thought of as being very hostile to those of judeo-christian beliefs. I also am very impacted by your post because I always tried to spend my life as a positive person but after two bouts with cancer, the first time was a stage-1 occurence in my late twenties when I was strong enough to recover without incidence. The second time was stage-4 in 2010 when I was in my late forties and has caused a vast array of other very serious health problems. Despite being surrounded by very uplifting people, I have let my occasional frustrations regarding “feeling my life was stripped from me” – cloud my thinking. I appreciate your post because it is a reminder that it isn’t something that happened TO me – but FOR me! And it is a glaring reminder that I must make sure that my words and actions “tow-the-line”.
The last two Sunday coffee chats have really struck a cord with me. When I look back on my life all 72 years of it, there have been many times when things have been really hard but in the end what wonderful gifts those times have been. Things have been difficult over the last few weeks but your chat has brought me back to where I belong and that is trusting that when things look really dark we are not alone but are privileged to be carried by Our Lord. Things may not end the way we wanted them to but they will end the way He wants them to do for us. How lucky we are.
So many times, as we progress down our life journeys, these things happen….the problem is that most times, we will not take the time to “listen”. We continue on without thinking the reasons why. This is the sad part. He only comes as a whisper, and you must take time to listen, until things happen again, and we ask why.
I’m sorry that you had to miss your trip, and then I’m not. It is clear to me that your dance card was over filled, and our bodies have a way of pulling the plug, and many times, it’s all for a good reason, it’s useless to ask WHY. I learned long ago not to use the word “why” but “reason”. Ask not “why” this is happening to me, but for what “reason”. We want justification for these things that we don’t feel there will be benefit. As children we are asked “Why did you do this or do that”? The usual response is “I don’t know.” from the youngsters. As we grow older we have the reasoning to reply, but the question is still put to us as “why”? Asking for the reason brings forth different answer, or at least the way the answer is started. So, ask not why things are happening, but the reason. Ask not why this took place or that, but the reason. Ask not why did you do that or this, but ask for the reason. Ask not WHY this is happening to ME, but what could be the reasons. We will then and only then be able to see the glass half full, letting us accept the outcomes. I’m not a deeply religious man, but I do subscribe to the “universe” as an energy that will bring me what I need and take care of what bothers me. I can’t be sure, but I believe that something will come out of this cancellation where you otherwise may not have made the painting trip or others. Look for that moment, stay alert, eyes and ears and heart open. You can’t predict what will happen. Believe it will. It happened to me in Clayton when I met you. There’s a REASON for it. Have a great trip to the Rockies.
To compliment your 911 experience…my son was sent to Africa, to install a computer for the people there, that he was working with. He was scheduled to come back on the date and the plane that crashed in Scotland. His computer did not get out of customs in time for him to come home on that plane…..so his boss rescheduled his flight home for a later day. We are so thankful that God was merciful and our son is still living, and still with his family. Prayer and thanksgivings are the blessings we share. I have enjoyed reading your “life stories”
that you share with us . Thank you so much.
This is a marvelous post, full of wisdom, faith and practical advice. Frequently, it takes hindsight for us to realize the incredible blessings that come to us disguised as disappointments.
Thanks for sharing your ideas and insights, Eric, in such a transparent and generous manner.
I pray everyone in our nation of artists appreciates what a gift Our Lord has given us in you and your wise words. You put it so well. My husband Jack White always said, “We can’t control what happens to us but we can control how we react and deal with it. No matter how bad something is we can’t let it ruin this day, a wonderful present from God. SO NO BAD DAYS!” God has a plan for us and He does EVERYTHING for our good. Even though we may not feel that’s true in the midst of the storm. ATTITUDE and FAITH are so much of living well.
And last but not least Eric, Thank You for being so open about your faith. Its refreshing! Mikki Senkarik
Eric, thank you for sharing a great life lesson. God bless you for the selfless person you are!
Dear Eric, Your message came to me with that uncanny “perfect timing”.
I have been wanting to varnish my transparent watercolors since seeing the lovely affect this creates, but I’ve felt stressed out and conflicted because I want to stay true to this fine art of Transparent Watercolors! This is an opportunity to go with what is happening for me- and be ok with whatever the outcome is. I visualize this as a wonderful addition to this art form that I love.
Best wishes for a speedy recovery, with many more beautiful places to paint.
Eric: When we let go of the control and let God do the talking we always come out better on the other side. Type A people are great examples of taking on too much in their lives. We are perfectionists,creative,sensitive,caring, and constantly exploring and learning new things. We love the challenges of problem solving for ourselves and others. With all this comes the burden of taxing ourselves to the point where we need to slow down, deligate and let things happen as they will. So rest up, let your body and mind heal; your creative genius will still be there better than ever when you get back out there.
I have learned a lot about being an artist from your podcasts and emails. I have learned the most about how it all fits together in my life when things don’t always go well for you, and you are transparent about your own struggles. I especially appreciate it when you share about your faith being central to all of it. Thank you!!
Wow Eric! I was supposed to leave today to drive 10 hours to a workshop in another state. I found out Friday that the workshop was cancelled because the artist teaching it was ill. I was disappointed because I had really been looking forward to studying with this artist. Several months ago I told our daughter about a dream I had. I was supposed to attend a workshop but couldn’t for some reason. I was really disappointed but then attended a later one. In my dream I found out there was a huge boulder on the road that would have crushed my car if I had gone to the earlier workshop I planned. I realized that God was telling this weekend was not the time to attend that workshop. Then I read your Sunday Coffee, and today I am home safe.
It is with gratitude that your message came today and wishing you a smooth and quick recovery!
Eric,a wonderful message! I had an episode just last week and asked why? You are so right when you look at for instead of to it changes the whole dynamic. Trusting our wonderful God is usually the answer to all things. Thank you for sharing you are a special person and God has His hand on you.j Rosie
Beautiful message. Beautiful writing. Best wishes for continuing good health. Enbrace those wonderful medical experts, too.
The highlight of my week is having a cup and reading “Sunday Coffee”. My heart was jerked up into my throat after reading about all the recent changes in your life. Thank you for sharing of yourself through your thoughtful words — both written and spoken — so often. Being aware of our thoughts and actions can and will change our lives, we just need to listen and stop trying to be the “director” of it all. Thank you for putting your powerful story out there as a reminder to us that how we think, what our perspectives are, can change our lives. Wishing you perfection in health and all doors that open to you.
Amen Brother, love the message and will pray for you.
My husband had an unexpected heart catherization Friday, he will need an aortic valve replacement soon, however the doctor said go on to The Canadian Rockies. We will see you there good Lord willing.
A beautiful, heartfelt message this morning, Eric. Thank you! Best wishes for a speedy recovery so you can thoroughly enjoy your trip to Banff, as well as all the others to follow.
A very good read, thank you.
Thank you Eric. What a wonderful Sunday message. We pray all will go well with your health and you recover quickly. You encourage all of us who have doubts from time to time. But we know in our heart that God is always ‘FOR’ us. Stay well for the future trips you have planned. I hope to be able to join you on one of them in the next year.
God’s ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts and plans for us better than ours. (Paraphrased) Thank you for sharing your Sunday morning coffee with us.
Sharing ….. So much wisdom. I am thrilled with “Sunday Coffee” and it’s my first one! God places many people in my path, who call in times of need. He created me to be an encourager.. but I too get tired. Your words, helped to focus my thoughts, and to give me new direction. Thank you for being an instrument of strength and insight. Looking forward to receiving future messages.
On the money!!! did ‘learn’ same some years ago now, event that left me devastated but soon found out it was in my DNA ‘plan’, so life for me, my sons, did a 180 over time. Since, have tried with some good results, doing as you write about, altho’ every so often have to check myself back to the “FOR” vs. ‘to’ me….and try to pass same philosophy onto family when asked.
Please take care of yourself, as health is the #1 thing in life in order to bathe in everything else.
Thank you for your encouraging and profound messages. You are a kind human being.
What a timely and profound message you have shared today. Thank you for putting your personal experiences out there for us all to acquire wisdom and comfort from. Wishing you a speedy recovery as you prepare for your future journeys!
What a beautiful from the heart message that we should all learn from.God has a plan for all of us and its for good & if we would agree with His words about us instead of being negative we would have much happier successful lives
Beautiful message, Life is for you! Thanks for your insight and I hope you are feeling 100% soon.
Thank you for this message. Your timing is perfect and I’ve forwarded it to a friend who needs to read it.
Great thoughts and encouragement! Thank you
Hope there will be a future opportunity for you to visit Africa
In the meantime prayers for improved health and God’s blessings for you and your family
This is one of your best articles on so many levels! Thank you!
Thank you. This is the perfect message for me today as I pack for an art retreat in Nice.
Something happened to me a week ago, that I could not understand, and was devastated by.
But now I will rethink how I feel, and enjoy France, and my work.
Now I can say with confidence, something happened FOR me a week ago.
Thanks for the courageous post, and the solace it provides.
Great message Eric, God always has a plan if we listen. I can attest to His grace and mercy.