Okay, maybe it wasn't my past life. Maybe it was just a few short years ago. But it is a title I claim proudly because I love music and I loved playing my clarinet. Every day was a challenge. I worked hard to make my fingers and tongue move in perfect rhythm. Many felt the need to compete. I felt the pressure, but my band director had a phrase that he often told our band:
"Your main goal in this competition is to be Poteet (that was us). If you can beat what we were this time last year, you will have accomplished our goal."
I still remember that admonishment. While I am not the most competitive person, I do understand the need to beat myself. I don't need to be the best, but I do need to be my best. I constantly push myself to beat my previous standard of "best," and in this way, I am always growing.
Mr. Jones was another of my band directors. He taught me to play my clarinet and was present and active in my life from the time I entered middle school until I graduated. He was my silent cheerleader. I never knew how much until recently.
When I graduated, Mr. Jones gave me a book written by John Maxwell called, Developing the Leader Within You. This book teaches leadership skills rooted strongly in Maxwell's faith in Christ. When I went to college, I attempted to read this book, knowing that Mr. Jones had given it to me for a reason. It was above my head as an 18-year-old who was only focused on making good grades and meeting new people. I've recently read through it, and value the lessons I have learned. But I value something else even more.
In the front of the book, Mr. Jones wrote me a letter. Several lines stuck out to me and have bridged the 5 years since I was his student. "As you embark on this new journey, I know you take a strong faith in the Lord and His teachings. I have no doubt that you will bring Him much glory! I pray that you will hold steadfast to His promises even in the hard times."
Mr. Jones believed in me before I believed in myself, before I recognized the hardships life would throw my way, before I realized my own leadership potential, or before I realized that Maxwell's words would help me grow in my people skills and my faith. Mr. Jones challenged me throughout my teen years and his words continue to challenge me today. Hard times have hit, and I am clinging to the Lord for dear life, just as Mr. Jones prayed I would.
He left me with a verse that I leave you with today, "Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." 1 Corinthians 15:58
I pray whatever you do brings God glory, that your hardships point you to the goodness of God, and that you remember that what you do for the Lord is never in vain. I pray that you don't compare yourselves to others but constantly push yourself to excel beyond what you were previously capable. Beat your best and stand firm in the Lord.
HE IS FAITHFUL.