Monday, November 11, 2013

Called to Serve

There is something about serving others that I find rewarding.  I believe it is a true testament to one's own sense of self that allows the free-flow of service to another.  There is discipline and humility in yielding one's own ideas, desires, or status to the cause and comfort of another human being.  The older I get the less tolerance I have for those who always pushing their own agenda, looking past obvious opportunities to serve, and vying for the spotlight every single time they can grab it.  Me, me, me people really get under my skin.  But rather than getting angry or banishing these kinds of people from my life, I choose to serve and try to set an example.  This is not an easy choice, it is a battle between my natural and spiritual self.  But I thank God I am growing.  I used to think these kinds of people would change as they got older and hopefully wiser but, I find that I am the one that must keep my resolve to serve, prefer others, and be prepared for God to do His work because the "me people" are plentiful in this world. 

This year I have had a continual phrase ringing through each time I've spoken to a core group of women I serve with and that is: you must find the joy in serving.  You have to seek it, nurture it, let it firmly take root in your soul.  There will not always be immediate rewards, the program may not turn turn out exactly as you though it would, you will not always get a pat on the back.  But none of those things are what serving is all about.  Finding the joy in serving releases you from the potential for being shattered by the disappointments that will surely come.  Finding the joy in service allows peace to flow.  Finding the joy in service keeps the main thing the main thing: that God will do whatever He is trying to do (in your marriage, ministry, or workplace). 

Veteran's Day again elicited the idea of service for me.  I joined the military for the chance to experience a better life than I though could otherwise.  But while in the Service, I began to understand discipline, honor, courage, loyalty, and service.  These are values that only became enhanced once I became a believer.  The idea of being part of a platoon, company, or battalion and how my little part benefited the larger operation made the concept of serving the body of Christ second nature to me.  Serving those in leadership with the full capacity of my god-given ability is who I am.  And just like the military where you move up the ranks once you've proven yourself, God has a unique moment for each of His children, but the proof in your service.  Let us remember Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. As well as, 1 Peter 4:10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Peace Piece

Over this past year our church women's fellowship has been walking through the fruit of the spirit.  We concluded last night with peace.  We had a very engaging discussion about how important it is to hold onto, protect, and fight for one's  peace.  When we don't have peace it can lead to degraded sleep and rest, lowered immune systems, irritability, strain on relationships, making poor choices, and many other issues that decrease our quality of life.  But there is hope!  No matter how far you may be be from a peaceful state, you can make changes and implement healthy habits to regain and hold onto the peace that God has provided.

1.  Guard Your Thought Life.  Isaiah 26:3 says You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because He trusts you.  We must not allow our minds to dwell on the issues, hurts, or challenges we face.  Once we have reached the limitations of ourselves it time to rest in the peace of God.  That is when we know that He has it and no matter what it looks like, we can be in peace about it.  No more mulling things over and over your mind, taking that "what if" scenario to bed at night.  Rather, permeate your mind with the word of God: stand on it and believe it.  I've spent many nights over the years tossing and turning with worry about my marriage, my finances, and fate of other people who were going through challenges.  I cannot tell you how debilitating it is to lie awake, heart pounding, and thoughts racing sapping every bit of peace from you.  But the power of God's word to calm and comfort is priceless.  If I wake up at night these days it only to meet the Lord and bask in His presence.  These days I just believe God (without any reservations) and I know if He can't do it, I surely can't do it.  Therefore, I rest much better.

2.  Know That It Is Only A Test.  James 1:2-4, My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trails, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.   I am results-oriented person and I like to understand the purpose for how I am spending my time.  It is difficult for me to just complete a task without understanding how it fits in with a larger-scale outcome.  This has helped me not to stay in my pity party mind set when trials have come.  Real life trauma hurts, badly.  It is easy to think that you are just being picked on for no good reason.  But when I think back over the phases of my life, every single trial has made me stronger, more resilient, has healed other wounds, helped me relate to others, etc.  God does not waste a hurt.  So we can hold onto to our peace in every situation when we understand that it just a test meant to perfect us and make us whole.

3.  Live Inside The Margins.  Psalms 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, oh Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer.  I was reading a book by Joyce Meyer and she used the phrase, "live inside the margins".  This really struck me because my life is so busy in this season that I am often rushing from one thing to next.  I sometimes make it through a week and find it hard to remember the significant events within each day, it is all a blur.  I have to force myself to stop and slow down because I know life is not meant to lived in that way.  I want to live to the fullest not wearily move through life in a hazy state of mind.  So I find that I have to stop trying to fit everything into some ridiculous schedule.  A schedule so tight that there is no breathing room, because that is when I get robbed of peace.  Life does not stay on schedule.  I can't always be one traffic jam or lost shoe away from catastrophe.  We must leave room on both sides of the margins of life to meditate, ask the Lord to order our day, as well as building in time for a child's meltdown, or a back up on route 66.  The common everyday things we face should not send us into rage or mild depression.  We must hold onto peace on a daily basis by making realistic choices about what we can and cannot accomplish in 24-hour period.

Finally, we must always take comfort in knowing that when we are alive in Christ, we win!  John 16:33 tells us These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

I WIll Do Relationships Differently

Wordle: Community of People

I think we all have those moments when you don't quite recognize your life, the person you've become.  You've lost yourself along the way.  It happens over time little by little, each choice taking you on a winding path along the life's journey.  One of the more complex and clarifying things that shape our lives are the health of our relationships.  That is where I have been parked for the past few months.  Seems like life has rolled on by and here I am a wife, mom, boss, army veteran and mentor.  I have a mortgage, I'm making preparation for my daughters' education, and I'm picking out my long-term care insurance.  But wait, I can still vividly remember my high school homecoming, senior cut day, and passing the driving exam...where did the years go?

Now I don't don't know if I have come into a different season since entering the fabulous forties, but all of sudden life has more meaning.  I have a clear sense that I have more years behind me than in front of me and I don't want to waste another moment in dysfunctional relationships.  Consequently, I cannot allow anything or anyone to keep me from fully enjoying relationships with the people that God has blessed me with, my people.  My people may not be be the people that others have chosen or the people I think "should" be there for me.  I have let some relationships fall by the wayside because I was concerned about another person's feelings.  But the person I was so concerned about has never been capable of having the kind of healthy relationship with me that I could have had with the many people, my people that God brought into my life.  Suffice it to say, I have deficits in areas of my life where I could have been whole.

Other things are not so cut and dried but have essentially had the same impact on my relationships: finding balance with marriage, family, and self.  I've made what seemed like tiny little sacrifices in the name of marriage and motherhood.  I've also invested much of my life building security through my career and trying finding balance with work and home life.  After 13 years of marriage, two children, and a full-time career, my outside relationships have dropped lower and lower on the totem pole of priorities.  I've missed weddings, graduations, and other important events in the lives of some of my closest friends due to work and/or family commitments.  I feel pangs of guilt for taking the time to get regular manicures, let alone even meeting a friend for coffee.  Add to that the church commitments and I'm pretty much tapped out.  But I need my sister girlfriends to walk with me as I navigate the role of wife/mother/leader; to sustain and support me through all the stages of womanhood.

So here I am in the midst of the centennial celebration of my beloved sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.  And while I was fortunate to share precious time with a few of my sisters it was also a bittersweet reminder that I've missed out on too many years with some amazing women because I didn't place enough value on cultivating the relationships.  But I love the beauty of true friends, the ones you can pick up with like you just spoke yesterday.  I spent some quality time with some of my beautiful Sorors who are genuine sisters and friends to me and in one day together we connected in a way the was empowering and inspiring and life-giving.

This post is dedicated to the many women who have graced and impacted my life, as well as, a call for me to do better with my relationships.  I must adhere to the call for my own well-being and for the sake of my daughters.  It recently dawned on me that I am not setting a good example for them in terms of self care.  One day when they are grown with families of their own I want them to be balanced enough to build strong relationships with the people that God sends their into their lives to enrich them as women.  There has to be an investment in self in order to be healthy and able to give to those we love.  Part of that health is gaining what we need from meaningful relationships.  It is in gleaning the wisdom of the elders who have lived so much longer than us.  The elders may not be your Mom or Dad.  Maybe Mom or Dad is not in the picture or they don't have the capacity to love and nurture you the way you need it.  Cultivate relationships with the elders that have become a part of your personal community, your people.  It is also in protecting sacred time with your sister girlfriends.  As a married woman, I can't get everything I need from my husband.  Though he is a big part of my life and I have grown through the course of our marriage I need my sister girlfriends as well.  No matter how much he pouts when I am away (smile), I am always better when I have the time to connect with the women in my life.  However, from this point on these relationships will have priority and not be sporadic stops and starts.  I have made a commitment to myself to be intentional about fortifying my community of people.

On a final note, a very wise woman and I were talking one day shortly after we moved to this area.  She asked me how things were going and I mentioned that things were good: I had found a cleaners, the girls were adjusting to school, still searching for a nail shop, etc.  Then I told her that one of the ladies from church lived near me and we kept meaning to get together because it seemed like we had some much in common: married, children around the same age, and so on.  She smiled at me and said,  "relationships are not about proximity or those kinds of similarities; meaningful relationships are born organically."  That was a powerful statement that I have just come to understand some four years later.  I have my people.  That is not to say that I can't add new friends along the way, but I have a sisterhood of women who I owe a great deal.  They have been there for me at some defining moments in my life and I will not let distance or busyness or the feelings of others keep me from having the depth in the relationships with my community of people, the people assigned to walk with me through my lifetime.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Take A Second Look

We have been in our current home almost four years and for the most part love it!  It is a home better than I have ever lived in my life and more of a blessing than I ever dreamed of having.  We were introduced to the community by some friends when we were on a discouraging home search.  We thought that building a home was out of price range in the Virginia market so we had been looking at a fixer-upper that would give us access to good schools for our daughters.  We were not looking for anything high-end, just something comfortable and safe for our family.  So we were cautiously optimistic about the possibility of building a home.

Well, we were ecstatic when we visited this development and even more elated when we were pre-approved for a mortgage that would give us more house than we knew what to do with.  For months we tracked the progress of our home from site clearing to final touches and when the move-in day arrived we were beyond grateful.  Fast forward four years and things had begun to become a little familiar.  We had a couple half-completed DIY projects, a massive basement flood that destroyed one of the completed projects, and a loud dishwasher that often had us saying things like, "I knew we should have gone for the top of the line appliances when we were building."  Where had the gratitude gone?  I would even get a little antsy when we had guests over because I kept thinking about the fact that we hadn't gotten around to painting our main level.  Oh my!

Then a strange thing happened a few weeks ago.  We were hosting a gathering and someone had taken pictures and posted them online.  And although my house was not the object of the photos, I realized that my house was quite beautiful.  The hardwoods were gorgeous, the decor was warm and inviting, and the fading paint on the walls didn't matter.  My gratitude was rekindled and I had to seriously repent for allowing those ridiculous thoughts overtake my mind and rob me of the things that God has blessed me with.  Do I still plan to make some home improvements? Yes, but it will be an effort to enhance and preserve my blessing and not from a place of discontent or ungratefulness.

I began to realize that many of us are robbed of our peace because all we see are the imperfections, the places for improvement, the unfinished places.  I encourage everyone to take a second look at your home, your car, your body, your face, whatever it is about you or around you that keeps you in a state of malcontent.  Receive the compliments of others, embrace the beauty of your surroundings, and be present in the moments of your life.  If you think it will help, take some pictures and see the things differently.  Those pictures of my home were a pivotal moment for me maybe it could work for you as well.  It would be a shame to miss out on living a full and content life because we don't have the right type of sight.  Take a second look and see the beauty that surrounds you/that IS you.  Don't waste another moment being robbed of your peace.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Circle of Life

Again it has been way too long of a break from my beloved blog.  So many pressing demands taking my time have forced me into a terrible case of writer's block.  My days at work are filled with budget planning, pending furloughs, counseling employees through this tough time, and succession planning all at the same time.  When I am away from work I devote my time and energy to my family and well, there is little left for piecing together my many thoughts into something that makes any sense at all, let alone something inspiring or refreshing.  (sigh)

However, as a women who lives by accountability, loyalty, and never giving up: the blog will go on.  The words will come.  I will not abandon this outlet that gives me the lifeline back to myself.  I am full of thoughts, ideas, inspiration and creativity.  I know the words will come.  I've been reading and praying and hoping.  Today, I decided to just start typing.  I don't have an outline or a conclusion.  I only have a need to feel alive in the free-flow of words as my thoughts form and my fingers move across the keyboard. 

Here it is: Monday morning and I am in another meeting (coffee cup empty: yikes!).  But my light bulb has come on during this briefing about a seemingly never-ending plan to deliver electronic health records to our military health care beneficiaries.  Its all about eliminating redundancies, portfolio management, and risk mitigation strategies.  AHA! There is it is: risk mitigation.  My mind wanders off.  I don't know what was briefed on the remaining 16 slides.  The words have come to me and I cannot wait to get to my blog.

I will no longer live a life of risk mitigation strategies.  I have played it safe all my life and don't get me wrong, I life a good life.  But I know there is SOMETHING MORE!  My mind's eye reveals an image of wounded bird.  A wounded bird becoming so fearful that it holds its wings close and chooses not to fly as high.  The view is pretty good midway up the tree and the food is plenty there.  The wounded bird lives on but just beneath where it should.  But it is still a bird capable of flying much higher than it does.  That wounded bird is me.

I've made many of my choices for security above all else based on outside influences of poverty, fear, and a question that has plagued me for my entire life: who am I to think I deserve more?  I mean, I live a good life, some would say the American dream, but I am not flying.  Somewhere deep inside of me I know I was meant to soar.  I don't want to live out my days as injured bird.  This moment of clarity has come to me as I reflect on two lives lost in my extended family: a distant cousin who succumbed to cancer at the young age of 47 and an uncle who died suddenly of heart attack at the age of 77 (both within days of  one another).  One life reminds me of the realization that this life is truly fleeting and we never know how many tomorrows we are going to have.  The other is the life of a man who made such huge contributions; an example of emptying oneself before leaving the earth.  Death is never without sorrow or pain, but I am inspired to live more, do more, be more and soar with the remaining time that I have on the planet as I pray for my loved ones during this difficult time. 

No more risk mitigation for me.  The circle of life is an amazing thing.  Two lives ended yet still touching those left behind.  The end can be the beginning.  Nurse your broken wings and fly higher than before.  Join me, let's take flight. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

I Am Ready

This weekend I celebrated two totally different occasions that have moved me like never before.  See, I've been in a state the past few months trying to manage my time better, connect with the people who matter, make new meaningful friendships, and make steps toward living a more fulfilling life.  I don't really have much to complain about but at times I feel busy rather than productive.  Like I am just moving through each day without creating a legacy or truly emptying myself of all the gifts and talents God has blessed me with before I leave this earth.  But now I am ready.

On Friday morning I went to celebrate the short life of a five year old boy who went on to Glory after suffering with cancer for over a year.  He was only five years old.  That was a hard place to be and I my heart was and still is broken for his young parents who had to bury their baby.  But there was celebration because this child was very special.  I had the pleasure of meeting him when he was around two years old and he was so smart! He could identify every shape and color around my home.  He was courteous and curious; he brought joy to a room.  The preacher who gave the eulogy remarked about these things but also about the fact that none of us know how much time we have on the earth.  While we may have been thinking about the great things this young baby would do as a teenager and young man because of the great aptitude he had as a toddler, God chose to call him home at age five.  But every person at that service who had known him was touched by his life in some memorable way in his short time on the earth reminding us that we must do all we can while we can.  Be intentional and maximize life daily.  The preacher also reminded us that we are all afforded the same 24 hours in each day not matter who we are; we have a choice as to how we spend our time.  We must allocate our time wisely because we just don't know how many more 24 hours we will be granted.  I am ready to make better time management decisions because I don't have anymore time to waste.

Then on Saturday I had the great honor to celebrate with one of my husband's dear friends on his 6th pastoral anniversary.  Everything was beautifully done and the entire event signified great faith on his behalf.  Starting a church is no easy undertaking and the genuine kindness of his membership and the quality of every detail showcased the fruit of his labor.  But the highlight was the keynote speaker!  She spoke a life-changing message about speaking positively in every circumstance.  Co-Pastor Veda McCoy brought the house down with a timely word about knowing who you are by God's standards and not by society, race, background or anything else but God.  We sat spellbound by the power and sincerity with which she delivered her message.  She led us in a resounding mantra, "I am the I Am's Child!"  He is the Great "I Am" and He created the heavens and earth with spoken words.  I will ever more speak life-giving words in every aspect of my life and those around me.  I will not be the same after hearing this word from the Lord spoken through this woman today.  She reconnected me with a simple spiritual principle that I learned many years ago: The power of life and death in the tongue.  I will choose to speak life.  I am ready to be and do ALL that I was created to do, no more time to waste, no more idle words.

I pray that everyone reading this post is empowered to make the changes to live the life you were created and destined to live.  You don't need seven keys, or ten steps, or a 90-day program: you only need to choose how to spend your precious time and speak life every time you open your mouth.  Those two things will bring you into alignment with path that God has already planned for you.  You are ready: GO!!!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Living With Sinkholes

This story about a Florida man who was sleeping in bed and pulled down into a sinkhole has captivated my attention.  In the DC metro our news has been dominated by the sequester, the dysfunctional Congress, and the political gridlock.  So when I heard this sinkhole story it stopped me in my tracks because even though I'm not thrilled about losing 20% of my pay, I am not being swallowed into a sinkhole.  I cannot imagine the devastation his family is feeling right now.  My prayers are with his family and I hope that the man was saved.  The story is just heartbreaking

All that being said, this story revealed two major things for me.  This first is that you cannot "over share" your salvation story.  Every person whose life has been changed by and encounter with Jesus Christ should see this story as their personal wake up call to find every opportunity to witness to someone about the goodness of the Lord.  You never know when you may be the last chance for someone's life to be changed.  You never know that someone is literally leaving your presence and walking toward their final hours on the earth.  Sounds extreme, but this man laid down for the night in his bed and was sucked into the earth in the middle of the night.  Things happen: car accidents, terminal diagnosis, senseless shootings.....sinkholes.

The second thing was revealed when I saw footage of the house.  From the front of the house you could not even tell that anything is amiss.  It looked like all of the other houses along the suburban street where it was built.  Then when the camera panned to back you see that the entire rear of the home is underground.  I though about the fact that many us are walking around with potential sinkholes within our soul.  What are you tip toeing around? Do you even know that these fragile places exist?  Have you just developed a coping mechanism to live a life full of sinkholes?  This is no way to live because you never know when one of these sinkholes in your soul will open up and swallow you. When one will wreck your entire life.  It is imperative that we let the healing power of Jesus into to every area of our souls.  His grace is more than enough for any sinkhole in your soul.  Don't hang onto them because you don't know when you might begin to collapse, self-destruct.  Get help for the sinkholes now.  You were created to live a life of freedom and on a firm foundation.  You can have this life when you live not just for God, but with  God.  Invite Him into every area of your life.

Singing, "On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand."

Saturday, January 5, 2013

My New Year's Wish For You: Wild Card Drive

I cannot believe it has been so long since I have visited and/or written here on my blog.  What with two work trips, Girl Scout meetings, hosting Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's gatherings in the past two months I just didn't have the time.  I'm back and I hope everyone had a fabulous holiday and that this new year finds you in a better position than last.

I'm sitting here watching football and not really concerned about who wins since my beloved Eagles are no doubt watching it right along with me.  Well, as I catch the end of the Bengals/Texans game it suddenly dawns on me that both teams made it here by the skin of their teeth and in this win or go home playoff game you gotta have determination, will, and DRIVE to get to the next level.  These teams could very easily be at home with my team but by some slim margin (and NFL math) they have an opportunity to get to the big game by winning this appropriately titled Wild Card Game.

I have often been in positions where I didn't quite have the record to be there, had a score that was rounded up to make the grade to give me honors, had the favor of God to move in circumstances that made absolutely no sense: I've had my share of "Wild Card Game" moments of life.  One thing I've learned is not to squander those moments.  There is no time to stumble, question yourself, or show signs of weakness.  It is in those rare and special instances that you MUST show up with your game face on and push through to make it to the next level.

Now I know in the NFL there has to be a winner and a loser (oh how I know about losing football teams) however the beauty of life is that we can all be winners because each of us is afforded opportunities to close the deal, get the promotion, heal the relationship, realize our potential, etc.  The key is that we must own those precious moments in time and rise to the occasion.  You've been praying for this, visualizing this, you know the drills, you've been preparing for quite some time.  Seize the day!  No time for doubting. No time for retreating.  This is your time!  Push, press, and make power moves into this new year.  You may have gotten here on a wing and prayer but none of that will matter when you clench the victory.  You have what it takes!  I encourage you to drive on and start choreographing your end zone dance because you are going to WIN.

Peace and blessings....