My Vegetarian Breakthrough: 12 Months, 12 Lessons, 1 Answer (Part I)

I never wanted to be a vegetarian. After all, I wore my love for meat as a badge of honor—like most Southern boys do. But, desperation causes one to do uncommon things. For several years, I had wanted more clarity of direction, more reach for my voice, and more open doors for my passions. I read. I prayed. I cried. Yes, there were some successes. But, my breakthrough always felt just out of reach. I was getting desperate. It’s cliche but “desperate times do call for desperate measures”. Challenged by a message I heard at a retreat, I went back to God once more. But, this time with a passionate plea—reminiscent of the biblical account of Jacob. I prayed, “God, I will not eat meat again until I receive my breakthrough.” And, so with both desperation and resolution my journey began.

Finding Your purpose

It was the last day of a marriage retreat in Montego Bay, Jamaica at which my wife Dalia and I were one of several presenters. The final presenter, Pastor Jamal Bernard, issued an impassioned challenge to all of us, “How desperate are you?”

Though this question was a challenge to examine our marriages more deeply. It also evoked a strong, visceral response within me about my passion portfolio—my purpose for being in this world. Tired of feeling as if my options were limited, I internalized this challenge as a personal call to action.

For years, I felt dissatisfied with the trajectory of pursuing what I was built to do. But, now I felt I was at a psychological and emotional impasse. The time for change was now. But, only if God would show me the way. During my trip back home from Jamaica, I began to sense my response. A way for me to lean in to God and focus on hearing his voice. I felt called to a what is called a “fast”—a biblical tradition of consecrating oneself by sacrificing elements of one’s regular diet. For me, the message felt clear. Give up what you like most—meat. All of it. Yes, even fish/seafood. So, on August 19, 2013 it began with a simple prayer to God, “Please show me my breakthrough“.

It is hard to believe that it has been twelve months. But, here I am. Just as a knew it was time to begin the fast, I knew it was time to end it. My simple prayer was answered—though not in the way that I had expected. Over these twelve months as a vegetarian, I learned twelve seminal lessons about my vision, my voice, and my value.

I believe, in fact, that these twelve lessons are, in many ways, critical for anyone wanting their life to reach that next level of influence.  Is that you?

Over the next two blog posts, I will be sharing these twelve lessons with you—six lessons at a time. The first six lessons for breakthrough influence focus on my personal development  while the final six lessons hone in on my practices to embrace.

Why We Must Notice Blended Families

For years, blended families have lacked the support that they need to thrive—often ridiculed as imperfect and ignored in the family education movement and even the churches. While society still celebrates spouses whose first marriage is their only marriage and who only birth children within this context, fewer and fewer families fit this model. The reality is that blended family configurations now represent a force that cannot be ignored or marginalized. Blended families are the “new normal” and they represent an opportunity to bring majesty to our culture.

blended family

For much of American history, the traditional family structure has been lauded and romanticized as ideal (though admittedly there was hypocrisy in the handling of Black families during slavery). The celebrated paradigm for families went something like this. Virgins marry. Children are born within the context of the marriage. And, first marriages last until one spouse dies. People who didn’t fit within this model were stigmatized, sometimes even outcast, in many communities.

But, times change.

The Blended Family Boom

American culture is experiencing a blended family boom. This trend represents a convergence of several national trends:

  • Our sexualized culture has created an atmosphere where virginity before marriage has become too rare
  • 41% of all unmarried couples living together also have children living with them (a figure that is even higher in the African-American community)
  • Even when marriage does occur, only about half of first marriages survive. The odds are even worse for second and third marriages.
  • The presence of children is no longer a high barrier to divorce. In fact, about 65% of re-marriages involve children from the prior marriage)

The results speak for themselves.

  • 2,100 new blended families are formed EVERY day in America
  • More than one-third of the U.S. population is in stepfamily configurations (meaning 1 out of 3 Americans is now a stepparent, a stepchild, a step sibling, or some other member of a stepfamily)

LYH19: Five Steps to Maximize Your Relational Footprint [Podcast]

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Show Agenda

Here’s a riddle for you? What do carbon emissions and marriage have in common?

Featured Presentation: Five Steps to Maximize Your Relational Footprint

Featured Presentation

You can find the full blog post on this topic at haroldarnold.com/relationalfootprint

The answer to the riddle…they both leave a footprint, one that will outlast your years here on earth. 

In a real sense, footprints are what each of us leaves behind when we move on. Whether positive or negative it is our legacy, an indelible reminder that we were there.

I wonder what is my relational footprint? In other words, what impact are my marriage, parenting, and friendships having on people that I know as well as those whom I will never meet now or in the future.

Unfortunately, too many people leave a small relational footprint because they think selfishly  about getting their own financial, emotional, and sexual needs satisfied. The impact of our short-sighted relationships dominate the news. Popular culture increasingly challenges the relevance of marriage. Divorce rates remain intransigent. Child poverty and economic impoverishment more generally continue to plague inner cities. Education systems, particularly urban ones, often graduate only half of its students.  Trans-generational epidemics of teenage pregnancy and father absenteeism continue to mar the national landscape.

I would like to suggest five steps to maximize your relational footprint and fulfill the purpose for which you exist. These steps are effective because they shift the focus away from exclusively you to a broader concern for those around you.

Five Steps for Maximum Relational Footprint

  • Step 1: Assume a redemptive posture
  • Step 2: Give others the best of yourself
  • Step 3: Maintain healthy boundaries
  • Step 4: Adopt a positive narrative
  • Step 5: Demonstrate a spiritual sensitivity

These five steps for maximal relational impact are effective because they  are altruistic–focused on touching the lives of others.

What do you desire your relational footprint to ultimately be? Leave a comment below and let me know.  I can’t wait to hear your thoughts. 

Please leave a rating and/or review on iTunes. This will help me tremendously.

Play

Five Steps to Maximize Your Relational Footprint

Here’s a riddle for you? What do carbon emissions and marriage have in common?

relationship-footprint-fb

The answer…they both leave a footprint, one that will outlast your years here on earth. In a real sense, footprints are what each of us leaves behind when we move on. Whether positive or negative it is our legacy, an indelible reminder that we were there.

Scientists increasingly admonish us to be more considerate of the impact that our individual behaviors (e.g., electricity usage, transportation emissions, and waste management) have on the health of our planet. Though I admittedly feel as if some of their worries are overblown, there is no question that we humans have to become more responsible for our carbon footprint–our impact on the earth for future generations.The premise of course is that our responsibility is to leave as small a carbon footprint as possible in order to preserve our earthly home for future generations.

However, as I listened to one of these environmental debates, I began to think about the imprint that we leave in other domains as well–particularly in relational areas.

I wonder what is my relational footprint? In other words, what impact are my marriage, parenting, and friendships having on people that I know as well as those whom I will never meet now or in the future. Contrary to the interest in minimizing one’s carbon footprint, the objective is to leave as large a relational footprint as possible in order to positively influence individuals and communities for future generations.