By Audrey Johnson | Illustrations by Amanda Rhodes
The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. —Robert Burns
Experiencing a spiritual awakening is like feeling all the senses at once; a switch flips, and suddenly you are crying and smiling at the same time. Surrendering to the God that lives inside you. Grateful for the gift of life. Joyful beyond what words can describe. Often, a higher level of consciousness is awakened by misfortune, tragedy, or a significant event that forces us to look at the world in a new way. Some call this enlightenment. Biblical texts liken it to scales falling from the eyes. Kendrick Lamar would say, “Take the mask off so you can see.”
Rick Stanfield spent his whole life replacing one mask with another. In his motivational self-help book, I Can and I Will, Stanfield describes going from a career as a third-generation law enforcement officer to flipping houses and owning a chain of convenience stores in Missouri.
When a new business opportunity brought Stanfield, his wife, Tina (they’ve known each other since fifth grade), and their son, Ricky, to South Walton, Florida, they felt like life was good. “We thought we could take any business and make it successful,” Stanfield confesses. But the franchise they invested in didn’t deliver on quality products. Soon after opening, traffic was slow and bills were stacked high. The Stanfields were hit hard by the Great Recession, and the author writes in detail about losing their business, vacation properties, vehicles, and even their family home.
My richness is life, forever. —Bob Marley
When Stanfield got the eviction notice, he walked to the beach and cried. He had only cried one other time in his adult life, at his father’s funeral. Then he began to pray. “As soon as I stopped praying, something told me that I had the wisdom, strength, and ability to do all the things that I had asked for,” he recalls. “A complete renewal of my soul had just occurred.”
At its core, I Can and I Will is a testament of faith and an instruction manual for staying positive in the face of adversity, defining success on your terms, and, above all, loving your neighbor. The book details the Stanfields’ journey from homelessness to founding Sweet Henrietta’s Treats, a bakery Tina conceptualized the first night they slept in their borrowed car. (Spoiler alert: Vern Yip was one of the Stanfields’ celebrity clients that put them in the national spotlight. The family sold Sweet Henrietta’s last year, so they could travel and encourage others facing the same obstacles they overcame.)
As soon as I stopped praying, something told me that I had the wisdom, strength, and ability to do all the things that I had asked for. A complete renewal of my soul had just occurred.
Many of us, at one time or another, have fallen prey to living our lives based on somebody else’s definition of success. Society is a rat race, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of keeping up. We are defined—even judged—by our cars, clothes, jobs, houses, and the number of Instagram followers we have. Tiny successes are often disguised as failures; each one brings a new lesson. Before the economic downturn, Stanfield defined success in terms of the size of his bank account. “The old me would have simply forfeited to a life of labor for survival until I died, but now I know my life has a purpose, and the obstacles I was hurdling were temporary,” he says.
Taking your spirituality seriously will undoubtedly be met with opposition. It is the law of nature. People will subconsciously project their fears and shortcomings onto you, and when your heart is open, you are vulnerable to their energy—positive or negative.
Sometimes it’s necessary to distance yourself from people you love dearly—even people you would do anything for—to maintain a peaceful mindset. Stanfield writes, “Just because I’ve distanced myself from a person does not indicate that I do not love them. I don’t have a choice. If I kept filling my head with negative thoughts, I could not fulfill the life God wants for me.”
Love one another. —Jesus Christ
On his family’s eighth day of homelessness, Stanfield received a call from his best friend, Don Garner. He considered not answering it but followed his intuition and picked up the phone. The conversation was brief. Don had no idea that Rick and Tina had been living in a car for eight days while their son stayed at a friend’s house. All Don wanted to know was if Stanfield was okay, and to tell his friend that he loved him.
In I Can and I Will, the author arrives at the realization that the treasures of this world (things that money can buy) are simply by-products on the journey to fulfill what God has purposed in your heart. Being rich means having an abundance of love and encouraging others every time you have the chance. “We all share the same problems, just with different variables injected,” Stanfield shares.
This winter, the Stanfields are embarking on a book tour for I Can and I Will. Their first stop is the Rogue Retreat in Medford, Oregon, a tiny-house community that provides shelter for homeless people and helps them get back on their feet.
After Hurricane Michael leveled Panama City and surrounding areas on October 10, 2018, the Stanfields loaded supplies and caravanned to Bay County, seeking out anyone they could help. Many hurricane survivors continue to face homelessness and are living in their cars. During his ten days of sleeping in a car, Stanfield notes, “It’s funny how the sun was now a feeling of security and nighttime was terrifying.” Hurricane survivors have shared the same fears about darkness.
But there’s a funny thing about darkness. It cannot withstand the light.
“Our goal in life is to help as many people as we can before we die,” Stanfield says. “We are not going to let this part of our lives make us angry or bitter. We choose kindness and compassion. Now it seems so simple.”
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Visit RickStanfield.com to learn more or to order your copy of I Can and I Will.
Audrey Johnson is a freelance journalist, copywriter, and editor based in Destin, Florida. She enjoys writing about food, travel, art, and people. See her work at AudreyLJohnson.com.