Monday, October 29, 2012

Finish Strong: Thoughts of an Armchair Quarterback




I am a huge football fan.  I love the sport because of the physical strength of the players, the endless stats that can be derived from the games (yes I am a nerd like that), and the mental toughness that it takes to show up at every game no matter what.  Since my team (the Eagles) are doing particularly poorly this season I have decided to take an interest in random players on random teams.  And I am getting caught up in all of the drama that goes with the NFL.  Does Peyon Manning still have it?  How far does "Bounty-Gate" really go?  Are the Redskins going to protect their exceptional, record-breaking quarterback?  These distractions take the sting out of a cocky, overly-talented, bunch of individuals who can't seems to string together 60 minutes of teamwork to win decisively this season.  But about finishing strong....

I turned to the middle of fourth quarter of the Saints/Broncos game Sunday and I was pretty conflicted because these are two quarterbacks that I currently cheer for.  The score was 7 to 24, Broncos up.  The Saints were in possession of the ball and Drew Brees was cool, calm and in control.  He was trying his best to set up plays to put points on the board even though it was clear they were not going to come back and win this game.  He showed so much strength under pressure, going through the fundamentals and just plugging away at the plays and the steps he had practiced for countless hours.  Even in a losing battle he showed himself strong.  He had the resolve of a champion; he was very much in the game.  My takeaway: you may not win them all but don't let that reduce you to subpar performance.  Finish strong.

The journey of life is filled with many twists, turns, and opportunities.  You will not be victorious in every little battle, but you have the overall victory in life if you keep focus.  Don't let the small foxes take you out of the big game.  You belong here! You were created for a specific purpose.  Drew Brees was playing that losing game like the Super Bowl champion that he is.  You have a champion inside you! Finish strong!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Let It Go

I am a recovering "Yes Woman".  There, I said it out loud.  I was the person who used to commit to things that I did not really want or have enough time to do.   The person who just didn't want to make waves; go with the flow, you know the type.   But when you keep giving and giving and giving, you eventually have nothing left to give (particularly when you are spread across activities that are not your passion).  Living this way you will find you become depleted; devoid of energy, inspiration or joy.  Life is not meant to be lived this way.  We are created to live with purpose, having meaningful connections with mutual give and takes.  My personal road to recovery started with the following:

  1. Just Say No.  Seriously, if you are already over-scheduled and running on empty, you must decline any additional commitments until you are able to find a balance and recharge your batteries.  I started saying no to things and at first it was a bit challenging, but it got easier and more freeing the more I did it.  Look in the mirror and practice saying no.  You can do it.
  2. Delegate. I have been a bit of a control freak, I can admit that.  However, I have learned the value of allowing others to take on responsibility where they can.  Contrary to my former self, I have come to embrace accepting help and doling out tasks that others can do.  
  3. Determine your worth.  This is HUGE!  There are just some people that are not worth your time, effort or energy.  Don't want to get to deep here, but if you are always giving in certain relationships, or ones where that person consistently lets you down, it is time to sever the ties.  Save your best self and be energized for the relationships that add value to your life.
  4. Breathe deeply everyday.  The pace of life can leave us running all of the time (my people in the DC Metro can surely relate).  We run from home to work; from work to home, to church, to __________(fill in the blank).  This running makes us susceptible to making decisions in haste.  Breathing deeply, and I mean a concentrated, fill-your-lungs with air breathing, will give your brain the boost it needs to be at optimal productivity and less likely to make poor choices regarding how you spend your time.
  5.  Laugh often.  If I am not laughing and enjoying life it can't be good for me in general.  Yes, we all have times of pain or sorrow, but on a daily basis there should be joy and laughter in your life.  Complaining, grumbling, or dreading your basic day-to-day activities is WARNING sign for sure.  Don't ignore the warning.  Laughter is truly medicine for the soul and should be a part of your daily living experience.
The bottom line is Let It Go.  Whatever IT is.  Let go of the IT that drains on your time, your joy, your peace.  You only have one shot at this life and every single day you have left here must be spent living intentionally focused on what really matters.  Let It Go.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Be the Change








A few months ago I introduced the Breathe-Relax-Aim-Sight-Squeeze concept that I
adapted from my days at Army Basic Training to center myself.  Well, in the midst of the presidential campaign, the economic ups and downs, the dismal effort put forth by our elected officials, we must continue to create balance in out own lives. We do this by knowing where to place our hope.  It is certainly not in politics.  I truly vote my conscience so the reference to hope is NOT an underlying political message of any sort.  My hope is in God. It is that simple. I have begun a daily mantra: I will not be moved by circumstances.   My pastor just preached a sermon that put a renewed fire in belly.  He talked about the change that one person can make by keeping the faith and allowing their faith to shine through in their actions no matter the circumstance.

I work as a Federal Government employee and this time of year is always the most stressful (change of fiscal year); especially with a Congress that has not passed a budget in three years. There have been talks of personnel reductions, hiring freezes, and we have not gotten pay raises for two years.  The tensions are running high and most people are allowing the uncertainly to dictate their actions. But I have resigned myself to be the atmosphere regulator for my office.  There are many things that are out of our control, but we can control how we talk to one another, how do our jobs, and how we choose to see our circumstance.

In essence, we must be the change.  This again, is NOT a campaign slogan it is the only way to guarantee you live a life of substance and purpose.  Be the change you want to see.  You may not see it but seeds you plant will manifest.  So as long as most people think that it is someone else's responsibility or that it is not your problem, those seeds continue to manifest our culture of apathy.  Be the change! The most courageous thing one can do is take a stand. I am singing,

My Hope is in You God
I am steadfast
I will not be moved
I'm Anchored, Never shaken
All my hope is in You

I encourage you to find your inner strength and become the you want to see.  Little by little we can change the world around us.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

What Are You Becoming?





The word becoming has been interesting to me since my time in the Army. The Uniform Code of Military Justice is the essentially the military standards of law and order. It contains "Articles" or laws which must be adhered to by all members of the uniformed service. While there are hundreds of Articles, the most common (albeit catch all) one is Article 133 "Conduct Unbecoming of an Officer."

Definition:
Conduct in violation of this article is action or behavior in an official capacity which, in dishonoring or disgracing the person as an officer, seriously compromises the officer’s character as a gentleman or gentle woman (my addition), or action or behavior in an unofficial or private capacity which, in dishonoring or disgracing the officer personally, seriously compromises the person’s standing as an officer.


I am currently reading a book which has truly transformed my devotional time with the Lord. In, "Developing a Secret History with God", Margaret Mearns Bass emphasizes the ideal that God is much more concerned about what you are becoming over what you are doing. This simple truth goes against our human nature and the laws of man which tell us that if are doing the right things and not doing the wrong things we are good to go. But it is in the becoming that we no longer need a listing of good or bad, right or wrong, success or failure.


As we invest time becoming more Christ like we won't need a litany of law and order because our minds will be transformed to a level where certain things won't even enter into the farthest stretches of our imagination. As we make becoming more intimate with our Heavenly Daddy the priority of our lives we will be becoming more loving, more pliable for His use, and more like the One whose image we are made in. When we search for areas in our lives to be becoming better, we replace our selfishness, impatience, and irritability with loving-kindness, patience, long-suffering; we will be becoming a walking breathing vessel exemplifying the fruit of the spirit.


What are you becoming? It is in the daily intentional acts that you will be becoming more like Him. Additionally, a lack of appropriate action or being a slave to doing will also set you on a path to becoming religious for religious sake and busy rather than impactful. Meditate on 2 Corinthians 4:16 "Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day."

Sunday, May 6, 2012

B.R.A.S.S.

B.R.A.S.S This acronym that I learned as a young recruit in basic training has stuck me over the years. I think it could be due to the way my mind works. When words in specific order are attached with actions that produce results it just clicks with the way I acquire knowledge. I am a methodical person and I can learn just about any skill if the steps are easily broken down and communicated in concert with the actions required. So BRASS or Breathe, Relax, Aim, Sight, Squeeze has just remained a part of my conscious mind for over 20 years since I learned it in conjunction with the art of rifle marksmanship during my Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, SC. Prior to enlisting in the Army I had never even touched a firearm, but I became quite taken with my M16A1 rifle during those eight weeks of learning everything there was to know about to care for it, clean it, take it apart put it back together, and finally how to marry up my bodily actions to make the weapon hit the intended target. Additionally, my competitive nature made me want to become an expert shot, not just pass the training, so I studied, practiced, and perfected the BRASS concept and I did earn an “Expert” badge for hitting 38 of 40 targets on the firing range. So I woke up thinking about BRASS and how I can relate it to becoming an Expert at applying the principles of God’s Word to my life. I thought that if I, who had never touched a weapon in my life, could become an Expert in eight short weeks, surely I can apply this same concept to bring my walk up to the next level. I am challenging myself to an eight-week boot camp so I may get the maximum out of this life I am living. I want to become an “Expert” about what God is saying through His Word, telling me in Prayer, and teaching me about to respond relationally in all of the roles that operate in (mother, wife, sister, friend, supervisor, etc). My New BRASS application: Breathe- breathe in God’s sweet aroma before I do anything; I will spend more time meditating on His word and lingering in my prayer and study time to hear from Him. Relax- I will just take some time to slow down and know that surely this race called life is not given to swift; it is a marathon not a sprint. I will spend more time in a relaxed state to allow my creativity to flourish and give my body a chance to rejuvenate to remain at peak operating capability. Aim- I will aim and focus myself in my study time with God. I will work to understand more than the basic ideas of the passages or my first revelation; I will study with an intention on gleaning the hidden nuggets of wisdom that are sometimes hard to find but well worth the effort. Sight- Once I have my sight set I will not allow anyone or anything to deter me from connecting with the idea, vision, decision that has been birthed in my spirit. Sight set: locked and loaded! Squeeze- time to pull the trigger! I will begin to put some things in motion because I know that I am prepared. My mind, body and spirit are aligned with my father in Heaven and I know I will hit all of the targets required to be an EXPERT!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My Juneteenth Praise

This month on April 21st to be exact, I realized for the first time in months that I did not have a knot in stomach. A new freedom overcame me! It is an amazing feeling. I have been praying and believing God for some major things in the past few months; claiming victory in the midst of dark circumstances. When it seemed like all hope was lost I kept on fighting, praying, and declaring the victory. I have overcome many things in the past but this situation was trying to take my mind, my marriage, and the legacy that my husband and me are building. I have heard the phrase "new level, new devil" many times during my Christian walk but I know these words to be truer now more than ever before. There is a very real enemy that is out to kill, steal, and destroy; but I serve a God who has already defeated the devil and every demonic force that has been assigned to attack my family, my church, and me. I learned so many lessons in this dark time. Within the darkness, God shone His loving light on areas of my soul that needed healing. As I was pushing through this attack God showed himself stronger and stronger. He also began to whisper secrets to me about myself. He has BIG things for me to do in the next season and He fine-tuned some of my spiritual gifts through this dark time as well. You truly know what you're made of when adversity comes; when you have to put the Word into action and just know that things going to work out in your favor. You keep praising Him like Isaac Caree "in the middle of it", then there's that moment when you realize that your theme song has changed to Kirk Franklin's "the storm is over now". You're standing and believing, and pressing it and than: it is finished. Almost in the blink of any eye your mind, body and spirit have been under major attack, you're weak and then you're walking tall again. You're in a place of perfect peace but you're not sure when it changed. Then I heard the Lord say that I needed to declare my victory. So April 21st is my freedom day but I really think it came many days beforehand, therefore I declare April 21st my Juneteenth Praise Day. I am sure those slaves in Texas were shouting and dancing when they found out that the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed nearly two and half years earlier. It didn't matter when the freedom came it just mattered THAT freedom came. So I am not really sure when the fear left me or when the knot was eradicated from my gut or when the devil was reduced and placed under my feet where he belongs. All I know is I am going to celebrate my freedom by remembering my Juneteenth Praise Day; knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt the GREATER IS HE WHO IS IN ME THAN HE WHO IS THE WORLD!

Friday, March 16, 2012

My Top Ten List

So I've been THINKING about writing so often but nothing is getting transmitted from my brain to my fingers and onto this blog. I don't know what happens: I have divine inspiration all around me, my heart filled with joy, God's wisdom bringing it together with true poetry in motion and yet sleep trumps it all. The more I lament about the missed opportunities to sit and think and write I realize that I am a walking billboard for the old Nationwide Insurance Company campaign: Life Comes At You Fast. And so here is my top ten list that makes sleep more appealing (and necessary) than writing at this time in my life:

1. I am a wife and mother. I am working hard to build a legacy with the man God blessed me with and it takes time to cultivate a strong, healthy, lasting marriage. I am trying to raise two black girls in a complex world of bullies, body image drama, and a culture trying to lure them to the opposite of every value that I am trying to instill in them; enough said.

2. I am working in one of the most challenging jobs I have ever had in my life right now. I enjoy my work but there are literally not enough hours in the day to do all of the things that I want to do; coach and mentor all of the people in my professional circle, improve the organization the way that I want to; and basically make the impact that I feel I should be making. But I am determined to keep striving for these things and more. Note: sleep is getting off to an amazing start.

3. I am serving at wonderful and growing church doing things in ministry that I believe are truly making difference in body of Christ. I am co-leading our monthly women's fellowship, working as an event planner for our women's conference, leading a life group, and helping to shape the future of our AV ministry with a GREAT team of people. I am not doing any of these things at the level of excellence I desire (however I am growing and learning and becoming better along the way), but I love every minute and this service brings me much fulfillment.

4. I am reconnecting with people who have been instrumental in my life. Being in the military for many years and being pretty transient during my childhood caused me not to have roots truly planted anywhere. God has blessed me to reconnect with some of the people who were so very important to me over the years. But reconnecting is intentional and it takes planning and coordinating and TIME. I'm getting sleepy thinking about all of the fun I had at CIAA with my girlfriends, the one day travel to Greensboro, NC to be present at my Godmother's ordination as a Bishop, and my 40th birthday trip to Hawaii last year. Whew!!!! But these are memories and connections that I need in my life and so writing must wait.

5. We have added to our family--no I have NOT had another baby! But I have my 21-year-old niece living in my home and we have become Godparents to a precious baby boy. I spend time as I am drifting off to sleep wondering how I can be a better Aunt, what can say to help shape and mold this young woman at this critical time in her life? I don't want to push her away but I want to make an impact. I dream about days just holding that little boy in my arms but the days keep going by fast and I fear he will be walking and talking before I carve out time for him in his infant stage.

6. I have about ten women who I would love to meet with on a regular basis just to chat, pray, laugh, provide sanity checks, etc. I have these mini, power packed, drive-by conversations in the bathroom at church, before or after meetings, in the parking lot, standing in line, and we say we really need to grab coffee together or let's get together for lunch. Doesn't happen most of the time but I am meeting with one of these ladies in the morning for breakfast so maybe there's hope. :-)

7. I am trying to live a healthy life and do some things that are just for me. One of those things is running. It really brings balance to my life, provides a way for me to stay fit, and is a great stress reliever. I ran my first half-marathon last year and I am planning to do a full marathon this year, but guess what: it takes time to run 5, 6, 7, 10 miles. I am thankful for the running DNA that God gave me because I have never been able to keep up with any running schedule.

8. I think it will be pretty pathetic if I am not active in a local chapter of my beloved sorority since our 100 year celebration is quickly approaching right here in DC. I mean seriously? Yes, I am calling myself out. Note to self: get it together before January 13, 2013! Enough said.

9. The little time that I do have to "veg out" I spend on research the various things I want to know more about. I like news, but not FOX, MSN, or CNN kind. I prefer NPR and BBC. I can spend more time than I care to 'fess up to reading articles about obscure subjects and happenings around the world. I love stories of hope and inspiration found in small villages in Botswana and I have found myself in tears at my computer praying for people I will never know who are trying to overcome things that would knock the average American out of commission. So I don't have clue who any of the real housewives, basketball wives, or dancing with stars contestants are at all.

10. Finally, I am thankful that I am passionate about God's word and I spend the other parts of my computer time researching scriptural meanings and various commentaries on passages that I am trying to wrap my mind around. I wish I could spend all day in prayer and study of God's word but I know that is not a balanced life. But there are days when prayer follows my inspiration and that is all; I am hoping for thought to jot down but nothing comes. Or I may thoughts and every intention of releasing them on a page (computer screen) but they are only fit for prayer and further sharing with my Heavenly father. So I meditate, I pray, I have poems and words written in my heart and that is where they stay most times because those moments are more important than maintaining a blog and forcing something that is not quite ready. Just words for words sake? No, I will never do that.

Well, there you have it, my top ten list of things that are keeping me from writing. I hope you enjoy and until the next we "meet" in this space I pray that you are living a full, abundant life!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Kaleidoscopes and Marriage

When I was a little girl I loved kaleidoscopes. The simple yet intricate device was given to me around the age of 7 and I recall many hours of solitude adjusting the tube and watching the scattered colors form into unique and beautiful designs. Kaleidoscopes operate on the principle of multiple reflections, where several mirrors are attached together. As the tube is rotated, the tumbling of the colored objects presents the viewer with varying colors and patterns. Any arbitrary pattern of objects shows up as a beautiful symmetrical pattern created by the reflections in the mirrors.

As I begin to step into this new year I am filled with gratitude that my husband and I traversed a particularly challenging year in our marriage that made us stronger, wiser, and more committed than ever before. Around 4 am this morning, I thought of marriage as a kaleidoscope. Two people joined together in harmony and unity sounds so good, but the truth of the matter is the two people are kind of smashed together with their pieces continually adjusting to form a beautiful picture. Each year, each life event, each challenge twists the rolls of our marital kaleidoscope into a recognizable pattern. Sometimes I can remember looking into the kaleidoscope while it was being turned right before the pattern formed and the pieces seemed to be in complete disarray: that is how the bumps in the road appear in marriage.

I think marriage is like a kaleidoscope because of the mirrors reflecting off of each other to form a masterpiece inside the kaleidoscope, likewise marriage causes each person to reflect the other to bring out the best in them. We obviously connect with people that we are compatible with on many levels, but our mates are often healthiest where we are weak and our union with them brings us wholeness. In those moments of "healing" it can be that our mates reflect the worst in us to help us develop into the best that we can be. I recently read an article that says we instinctively find the mate that helps us finish the "work" from our childhoods; that we are drawn to the person who is exactly what we need to slay the demons of our past. Sadly, many couples divorce right in those moments when they are being pushed by their mates because the pain is so great, they don't know how to hold on while the kaleidoscope is twisting. But the beauty of building a healthy, unbreakable marriage is the lifetime of unparalleled experiences shared by two people who are better off together than they ever would have been apart. Here's to all of the married folks I know particularly the "Get Married Stay Married Crew" of GCC.

8 The Lord God said, " It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." 19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to man. 23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman' for she was taken out of man." 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.