A Stronger You

I hesitate to use such a cliché title, an expression that has so many interpretations
and various uses. For example, we have “Army Strong,” and at my gym we have the saying
“A strong core.” In times of crisis we lovingly say “Be strong.” The word is often used by our society to convey a variety of meanings; however, my use of the word is different. I am not using the word in its typical context. I am using it more from the context of what makes a “Stronger You,” the unseen person residing within each of us. This unseen person is what guides us and allows us to persevere. What comprises that “unseen person” determines much of our
ability to cope with life’s challenges. The demands of work, setbacks, as well as crises that occur without warning are all windows to the person inside. There is a common saying that says, “if it doesn’t kill you, it’s probably good for you.” That may be a bit extreme, however, the point is that in each of us there are coping mechanisms that are tested as we go through crises or hard times. What are these mechanisms? Are they similar for each of us, or are they different? Through the course of a year, especially this one, my coping mechanisms or principles I seek to live by, are tested, and I’m sure if you had a challenging year, yours were as well. In looking back over this year, I have selected four that have made the biggest difference this year.

This year, like all years, has been very busy and a few rainy days here and there would not only be needful for our environment, but would provide a bit of a respite. For in landscaping, much of the work comes during a specific period; for us it starts in early spring and continues to about the first weeks in November. From that point until early spring the work is once again more manageable. This year, on top of the business that work brings, came challenges in health. For those of you dealing with health issues, be it with parents, a spouse, or a child, you know the emotional concerns that you carry. Their well-being is important and seeing them limited is hard. I am sure many of us carry this concern and often these issues are a roller coaster ride between hope and disappointment.

This brief personal introduction frames the context of this article, giving you an idea of where I am coming from. And though I am not writing this from a position of necessarily “feeling strong,” I am writing from the position of being grateful for the core values that have sustained me and my family through this period. My core beliefs give me hope and strength, keeping me positive and moving forward. It is said that adversity introduces a man or woman to themselves, and it is true. As we go through life’s challenges, the good, the bad and the ugly surface, and I want the good to take deeper root and the bad and the ugly to take a hike! We all have struggles, be it a loved one, job concerns, our kids etc., and how we deal with these issues says much about the person inside. I want to and answers to my concerns but in the process, I want to be pleased with the man in the mirror. Shallowness or self-centeredness are not welcomed. Hopefully what I share will strengthen and encourage you.

FORGIVENESS
I have a neighbor that truly hates me. He can be enjoying a conversation with someone on the front lawn, but as soon as he sees me his whole demeanor hardens. He has held this hatred for over several years now, and his only greeting to me is either an obscene gesture or visible hatred. He is blaming me for something he assumes I did; however, I can’t even speak two minutes with him to explain I was not the cause. He’s a neighbor, and I would never do anything to put him in a bad light. And though I am not the one doing the hating, I feel his and have the choice to hate back, but I refuse. To become a captive of such emotion is a waste of a soul; it is much better to forgive. I see what his hatred is doing to him. The person doing the hating is the prisoner. Allowing bitterness to become a permanent resident in one’s heart is like surrendering your soul to a cruel task master. And though it makes being his neighbor tough, allowing bitterness to take root would make it impossible. Forgiveness, kindness, and praying for him have been my “tools” to keep me free from the destruction that bitterness brings.

KNOWING MY LIMITS
As owner of Executive Care, people’s expectations of me vary from one extreme to the other. Meeting everyone’s expectations would be awesome, but it is unrealistic, especially through the busy spring and summer months. Therefore, accepting what’s within my reach, being
as communicative as possible so that expectations are realistic is what I attempt to do. For those situations where the client feels that I, as the owner, dropped the ball, I do my best to learn from them, especially since I know my clients and count them as friends. I want to see any perceived problem from their perspective. Issues as such rarely occur, especially considering how many landscapes we complete during a year. However, by taking this positive approach I am able to make a perceived wrong, right.

BUILDING ON MY STRENGTHS
All of us have strengths, things we like and are good at. I love landscaping, meeting with people and creating for my clients a landscape that is both unique and beautiful. I consider my strengths as God-given gifts and am truly grateful for them. My background working in wholesale nurseries and having various job titles (with the last one being a “grower,” responsible for seeding plants and growing them to specimen trees), have allowed me to know and understand the growth patterns and requirements of countless plants, all which uniquely t me for my work. My confidence in these strengths and continually seeking to build on them enables me to positively face each day, knowing that there is not a challenge too great for our company, as we seek to consistently do right by our clients. For those of you who feel uniquely tted for your job/task, you understand and can appreciate my sentiments.

KEEPING STRESS IN CHECK
Paperwork has been and remains my challenge. ere are so many moving parts in creating custom landscapes that the paperwork each job generates is sizable, especially since we have multiple jobs going on at once. Accompanying my crews in the morning and taking appointments most afternoons leave little time to complete the paperwork. Having my daughter Amber join me in the business will bring much needed help. Therefore, when I’m feeling stressed over my growing paper pile, I think more towards the future when Amber will be completely trained and ready to take on more responsibilities. She’s already showing an admirable sense of design, which is gratifying to watch develop in her. It also helps having great clients that understand and have personally experienced my “hands on” approach and dedication to each job.

MY FAITH
My faith is my “secret weapon.” It is what overshadows everything I do. It allows me to overcome the demands that running a small business brings. I can come to work with plans firmly in place and then get a phone call or learn of a challenge presented to a foreman at a job site, and at the last minute everything changes. The best way I can explain how my faith works is with this saying, “A Big God equals small problems, a small God equals big problems.” When I feel the temperature gauge of problems rising in my mind, I must remind myself of this saying and it brings me back to home base. He is my friend, my advisor, my Savior, my counselor, my go-to when things go south. ere is nothing I do that I don’t pray about first. A woman, in speaking to Abe Lincoln regarding the Civil War said, “I’m sure glad God is on our side,” to which Abe replied, “I am more concerned of being on His side,” and through prayer I find this balance. God is not just with me on Sunday, but on every day of the week, month in and month out. My relationship to Him is what permeates everything I do, from dealing with my employees, to the relationship with my clients, to decisions I make, and the challenges in my personal and family life. It’s a little scary for me to go out on a limb in print and talk about my faith so candidly, because I am concerned that if I somehow let people down, I will give Him a bad name. I do not want to let people down, nor do I want to give my Lord a bad name. I am still human and will falter, and all I can do is attempt to make it right. Whether the client or neighbor accepts it is out of my control. However, He knows I tried, and ultimately it is His approval over my life that I live for, and this will always speak louder than what others may think. is is a huge strength and comfort, giving me peace in those trying times.

In conclusion, these are some of the foundations of my being, none of them too complicated or hard to understand, and somewhat simple as I see them here on paper. Yet they are strong synergistically, and keep me hopeful through the demands of life. They help me to find a meaningful balance between work, my life as a husband, father, and grandfather. Life can often be messy, and I know others have greater trials than those I outlined here. However, if we continue holding tightly to our core beliefs, you and I can rise to these challenges and be the man or woman that those challenges inspire us to be. The toss and tumble of life makes rough stones into polished ones. May the beauty of character, patience, faith, forgiveness and kindness shine in all of us.

If this article has helped you and you would like to learn more about a relationship with the Lord, I encourage you to visit our website at executivecareinc.com, Go to Publications, click on Stronger You Part II. And please do send me an email sharing a belief or practice that has helped you during tough times at arthur@executivecareinc.com.
Until next month, Merry Christmas, and thank you for reading. God bless!