Full of Thanksgiving!

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As another Thanksgiving Day comes to an end, I find myself full of Thanksgiving!  I’m not full of Thanksgiving dinner…although we did eat, rather I’m full of true thanksgiving for life and all that the experiences that it has afforded me.  This year, I decided to fix dinner for my Dad’s family.  Lucky for me, my parents decided to help me out with completing this monumental task!  Contrary to what I was expecting, I had a blast fixing dinner…we were all up bright and early getting things in order.  My dad fixed our turkey on his new rotisserie (it was amazing…that will be the only way I eat turkey in the future), and I busied myself finishing up our desserts, sides, and fixing our Thanksgiving ham.  This year’s Thanksgiving was different, but so very special.  This was our first year without Mom Putt, which was hard if for no other reason because she was such a fixture in our family.  She was the glue that kept us all together.  But, every time our family gathers these days, my heart smiles because even in her death, we’ve found a way to stay as connected as ever.  I’m so thankful for this because in some cases, I’m clear that death creates distance, but this has not been the case for us.  If I had nothing else to rejoice about in my life, this alone would be enough to be thankful.

But the truth is I’ve got so many things to be thankful for in my life.  During this month, I’ve been updating my Facebook status daily with a statement of thanks.  These things have ranged from being thankful for life and a job, to being thankful for biological and acquired family members, to being thankful for life’s challenges.   You see, what I’ve learned in this past year of my life is the importance of being thankful for ALL things.  I’ve not always found it easy to be thankful and rejoice when things weren’t going so well in my life…I’ve gladly participated in my share of self-pity and loathing over the years, but this past year God has proven to me that He is with me in every season of my life.  He has shown me that despite my declared need to be in control of my own destiny, He is truly in control and knows what needs to happen in my life, just when it needs to happen.  He has shown me the importance of patience, He has shown me the value of trusting Him fully with my life, He has shown me that if I’ll just do those two things – be patient and trust – He will open up windows and doors that I did not even know existed all so He can bless my life.  Just to think, a year ago, I was miserable in my job, submitting applications on almost a weekly basis, dreading getting up and heading to the office every single day of the work week.  I was angry with God…I couldn’t understand why He would not allow a door to open for me in my professional life…I was clear that I was beyond competent for the jobs to which I had submitted applications, but nothing opened up.  I tweaked resume after resume, I went in for job interviews, I sent follow-up e-mails, I did what I considered to be all of the right things, but NOTHING opened up for me.  I was angry and frustrated, but in God’s timing, He opened up a window and poured out a blessing in my life that I didn’t even want.  And now I’m in a job that I absolutely love…that’s only God, and that’s a reason to be thankful.  

Similarly, about a year ago, the Lord brought an amazing friend into my life…and as life would have it…within a few months of meeting him, life threw yet another wrench, and it became clear that this friend was going to be moving out of the area for reasons beyond his control.  Anger with God is an understatement for what I was feeling about the situation.  Given the not so great ending to my previous relationship, I was rather bothered that God would bring a great guy into my life and then take him away almost quicker than I could blink my eye.  I was irritated, but even in that situation, I was able to dig deep down and find a reason to rejoice.  You see, the Lord brought this friend in my life just before I found out my grandmother was terminally ill.  And it turns out that he was a wonderful friend during my time of grief…without thinking twice, he made himself available to be my sounding board.  This brotha offered me words of comfort and scripture, and was just there.  He also showed me how to respond with the compassion of Christ to life’s many challenges.  Despite losing his job in a seemingly unfair manner, this friend showed genuine love to those who betrayed.  His response when people asked him about his situation was simply, “This is clearly God’s will for his life…while he didn’t understand it, he accepted it.”  And if his response weren’t enough, this friend had enough courage to move across the world because he felt God calling him to do a work in a developing country.  So, despite this great brotha only being physically present in my life for a season, he taught me so many things…compassion, agape love, and “all-in” faith…and for these lessons, I’m thankful.

I could continue with examples of why I’m full of Thanksgiving, but it really all boils down to this…over the past year of my life, I’ve grown to a place where I’ve learned to give thanks in all things.  I’ve finally learned that there are lessons and blessings to be found in every life experience, both good and bad.  The enemies of my former job taught me to function with more integrity, they taught me to be more observant of my surroundings, and they even taught me the value of appreciating those individuals who genuinely want to support me.  My friend who is now many miles away taught me that there are wonderful people in this world whose hearts are genuine…he taught me to trust again, he showed me that I can open up and share my life with folks and not be hurt in return, and he also showed me what it truly means to be a follower of Christ.

So, I’ll end this post as I began it.  Tonight, I’m full of thanksgiving…not thanksgiving dinner, but thanksgiving for the blessings that this life has offered me.  I’m so thankful for the joy and peace that I have.  I’m thankful for the new season of my life that is in front of me.  I’m thankful because I know that my best and brightest days are yet ahead of me.

Until next time, find a reason to be thankful!

DMW

A Perfect Way to Give Thanks!

I must start this post by saying Thanksgiving just doesn’t feel the same this year…I’m cooking for my Dad’s family, and I know it will be a great day, but I don’t really feel overly excited about Thanksgiving.  The obvious explanation would be that this is the first Thanksgiving since Mom Putt passed away and that’s making me feel some kinda way, but I don’t think that’s it.  I think what’s getting me is the lack of gratitude in people’s hearts that I view all too regularly…that’s what makes Thanksgiving seem a bit different for me this year.

In this past year it seems that I’ve reached that grand age where I’ve learned to be grateful for the small things (which really are big things)…a job, a home, a paycheck, a family (biological and acquired), transportation, a relationship with the Lord…I find myself no longer caught up on material things, I’m just grateful for the daily blessings of life, strength, and health.  I no longer need to live in an exclusive neighborhood, a safe one will suffice…I no longer need to drive a luxury car, a nice one will do…I don’t need to eat at the fanciest restaurants just because, I’m fine with a home-cooked meal…I’ve reached that place where my status (how I am perceived by others) is no longer what’s most important.  Instead, I want to know that my life is making a difference in the life of someone else.  To me, that’s a perfect way to give thanks.

Tonight I had the opportunity to live out this goal in a very special way.  I was once again able to help prepare and serve dinner at the NIH Children’s Inn.  Over the past few months, I’ve found this to be one of the most rewarding parts of my job…to serve those who are bravely facing some pretty challenging diseases with their heads held high, along with their families.  I’ve always had such a great time on these dinner nights…it’s as if for that one hour of dinner time, sickness is thrown out the window, and everyone is viewed as equal.  Tonight, we had a spaghetti dinner, and yours truly pulled an absolute Mom Putt move and took over the cooking in the kitchen, I put some seasonings and most importantly love in the sauce, and if I must say so…it was some pretty good spaghetti.  But it wasn’t just me, the whole group did their part…we cooked, we helped fix plates of food, we laughed with the families, we brought smiles to the faces of children and adults, and we enjoyed giving back for the good of someone else.  It was a perfect way to give thanks as the Thanksgiving holiday rapidly approaches us.

For me, that’s what Thanksgiving is really all about…not only giving thanks verbally, but showing that I’m thankful for the blessings of my life by giving back for the good of others.  In thinking about Mom Putt earlier this evening, one thing came to my mind.  Mom Putt would give freely even when she didn’t have it to give…she might have to borrow the money from elsewhere or make promises based on someone else’s resources, but she didn’t mind giving.  After she had raised her children, and helped with raising her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, she took in foster children and anyone else who needed a home.  Her door was never closed to anyone…she didn’t have much to give, but she would never see anyone hungry or homeless.  That’s what a life of Thanksgiving is all about…giving freely just because it’s the right thing to do.

I personally think we get caught up on ourselves far too often…we get so fixated on our personal goals that we don’t take the time out to see if someone in our circle needs a helping hand.  One of my greatest flaws, perhaps, is my insatiable desire to help others…I will truly give my last dime to help someone else.  I will commit myself to helping someone even when I know I don’t have the time, but I just believe God has blessed me too much to not give back.  I know there are some people who don’t understand why I give so much of my time and energy to select causes, but everything isn’t meant to be understood by everybody.  I give myself away because others have sacrificed and given pieces of themselves away for my sake.  Now it’s time for me to do the same in return.

So, as the Thanksgiving holiday draws near, let’s not just express our thanks verbally, but let’s commit to showing our thanks by pouring into the life of someone else.  That’s a perfect way to give thanks!

Until next time…

And, we’re off…

I managed to check 1 thing off of my 101 list today!  That’s something worth celebrating…in some ways I feel like checking things off of this list is like singing 99 bottles of “something…beer, coke, you name it” on the wall in slow motion.  But, sticking to it is the key.

Today’s success, I checked checked off item 23, “Write a letter to open in 1,001 days”.  What an interesting task…I can’t divulge the details since the letter is to me…but this is definitely something I would recommend to others.  I think it’s easy to focus on the accomplishments we do not see and forget about all the progress we have made.  I hope at the end of these 1,001 days, this letter will make me smile in knowing that I’ve accomplished some great things since the time I wrote it.

Until next time…

Everybody Doesn’t Get a Daddy Like This!

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My Dad and Me

Sometimes in this life, we are reminded of the things that we so easily take for granted.  This rang ever so true in my life today.  This morning the men at my church celebrated their annual men’s day.  We had a guest preacher who spoke about the divine impregnation of Mary.  We often hear this story preached from the perspective of Mary…things on the order of pregnant with a possibility and such, but today’s preacher spoke about this story from the male perspective, Joseph’s response to Mary’s pregnancy and used the sermonic theme, “Everybody Doesn’t Get a Daddy Like This!”  He talked about the awesome father Joseph was to a son who wasn’t even his own…he talked about how he cared for this boy and taught this boy, Jesus, the art of carpentry and showed him how to be a man…but what really struck me in this sermon is how this preacher described 3 types of fathers – the “rolling stone” father, the “present but absent” father, and the “all-in” dad.

The message in the sermon touched my heart so much, and it made me think about how fortunate I am to have an “all-in” dad…a dad whom I have far too often take for granted, a dad who, through arguments and moments of hate, has always been there, a dad that was at every band performance I had in high school, a dad who moved me into my college dorm, in and out of apartments, a dad who gladly cooks for me when I come home, a dad who remained strong for my family when my grandmother passed away leaving a huge hole in our hearts, a dad who isn’t perfect, but unselfishly loves his family, a dad whose grandchildren absolutely adore him, a dad who is more than words can describe…I was blessed to get a dad like that.  But, not everyone gets a dad like this.  I’ll will be the first to admit, I haven’t always appreciated my dad as I should.  We often times think about how great our mothers are, and we easily show them appreciation for all they have done for us, they gave us life, but we often forget that our lives are a result of divine collision that both our mothers and fathers played a part in.  Sometimes our “all-in” dads get neglected and aren’t shown the same degree of love and appreciation as our mothers.  How unfair is that?

At the conclusion of the sermon, the preacher took a poll to see who had each type of dad across the congregation, and then asked those of us with “all-in” dads to pray with those who have not had that same experience.  That, my friends, is where it hit home for me.  As I was praying with some of my friends from church, tears streamed down my face (really, it was more like water works…but I don’t cry so I would never admit to that!) because I realized just how much I’ve taken my dad for granted over the years.  I’m so guilty of not saying thank you for the things he has done for me, I’m guilty of not saying “I love you” to him, I’m guilty of placing conditions on my relationship with him, I’m guilty of not trying to look at things from his perspective…I haven’t always given my dad a fair chance, but despite these things, he has always been an “all-in” dad…he’s made some mistakes (I have too!) and he’s not perfect, never has been, and never will be, but he loves with me every fiber of his being.  I will forever be his one and only daughter, and that means the world to me!

So tonight, I celebrate my Dad not only because he is my earthly father, but because “Not Everyone Gets a Daddy Like This!”  I’m a lucky girl to have him!

Until next time…

My 101 in 1,001 List!

After a few days of writing and editing, I’m finally finished my 101 list.  My goal is to check everything off of this list by August 13, 2016 (about 2.75 years).  I think I can do it…well, I’m at least going to try…some of the things are definitely going to be a stretch, but what’s a challenge if it doesn’t make you sweat.  When I complete a challenge, I’ll check it off and write about the experience.  I’m excited…if you want to join me on any of my list adventures, let me know.  Here it is…

Things to Do/Personal Challenges

1.  Finish writing my 101 list…this is hard stuff!Completed 11/16/2013

2.  Complete photography CE certificate requirements.

3.  Watch the 1st season of Scandal.

4.  Write 5 letters to 5 people who have had a positive impact on my life. – 1 of 5 completed

5.  Organize my computer files.

6.  Organize my iTunes library.

7.  Make a list of my fears and what I can do to face and defeat them.

8.  Make a list of what is important to me in a relationship.Completed 12/5/2013

9.  Complete a 30 day photo challenge.

10.  Attend a summer fireworks show. (This is by far the most challenging item on the list.)

11. Make an address book with contact information for family and friends.

12. Go speed dating in DC.

13. Subscribe to Real Simple magazine.

14. Go to Morgan’s Homecoming Gala.

15. Go to Morgan’s Homecoming game.

16. Write on my blog weekly for 52 consecutive weeks. – In progress

17. Get to work by 8 am every day for an entire month.

18. Go without watching TV for one week.

19. Go whitewater rafting.

20. Bike round trip from Baltimore to Annapolis.

Personal Growth and Enrichment

21. Read 10 books I currently own but have not read.

22. Write a living will.

23. Write a letter to open in 1,001 days.Completed 11/19/2013

24. Writer a letter to open when I’m 40.

25. Write a Personal Mission Statement.

26. Go away for a personal silent retreat. – Completed 5/6/2014

27. Write in my journal for 30 consecutive days.

28. Write a letter of forgiveness to those people who have hurt me in my past…won’t send it, but will write it.

29. Get my CPR certification.

Relationship-Building

30. Go on a vacation (maybe a camping trip) with my immediate family.

31. Have lunch with my Dad.

32. Take a photography workshop with my brother.

33. Go on a spa day with my sister-in-law.

34. Go to tea with my mother.

35. Spend a day with my oldest nephew.

36. Go on a movie date with my middle nephew.

37. Bake holiday cookies with Kim.

38. Go to Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse with Pastor Ann.

39. Go on a weekend ski/snow tubing trip with friends.

40. Fix and have dinner with my grandmother and great-aunts.Completed Mother’s Day 2014

41. Host a dinner party for my church “mothers”.

42. Complete a 5K (walking or running) with Ronnie to celebrate her weight loss journey.

43. Visit my aunt for a weekend in NC.

44. Send Sentell a care package. (This may be mission impossible!)

Faith and Spirituality

45. Complete a Daniel Fast.

46. Read the Bible in its entirety.

47. Create a prayer and meditation space in my home.

48. Apply to seminary.Completed 6/23/2014

Lifelong Learning

49. Take golf lessons.

50. Take tennis lessons. – Completed 6/2014

51. Take swimming lessons.

52. Take a guitar class.

53. Take a piano class.

54. Take a cooking class.

55. Take 3 photography courses. – “Shooting in the Dark” (February 2014)

56. Learn how to make vegetable beef soup.

57. Learn to hand dance.

Health and Fitness

58. Run 30 miles in 30 days. – In progress

59. Complete a 10K race.

60. Lose 25 pounds.

61. Go rock wall climbing.

62. Run in the St. Michael’s Running Festival.

63. Bike a century.

64. Complete a sprint triathlon.

65. Complete a 50 push-up challenge.

66. Complete a plank challenge.

67. Consume zero cookies for an entire month.

68. Document my meal choices for 30 consecutive days.

Things to Own

69. Upgrade my dSLR.

70. Buy prime lens.

71. Buy a new TV…the tube TV has been out of style for some time now!

72. Buy a new bed.

73. Buy a dresser for my bedroom…I think it will help with organization.Completed 5/2014

74. Buy a new nightstand.

75. Buy a desk. Completed…January ??, 2014

76. Buy a new iron and ironing board.

77. Buy new lamps for my bedroom and living room.

78. Buy my first home.

Financial Milestones

79. Pay off my car.

80. Save 10% of  my annual salary.

Things to Do at Home 

81. Organize my filing cabinet.

82. Create a weekly cleaning schedule. Completed…can’t remember date!

83. Finish decorating my bedroom.

84. Make my bed every day for 30 consecutive  days.

85. Create an office space in my home. – In progress

86. Frame and hang my artwork from Nigeria.

87. Frame and hang some of my own photos.

Places to Visit 

88. Go on a European vacation.

89. Go on a cruise.

90. Go to New York during the Christmas season and see the Christmas Show at Radio City Music Hall.

91. Take a trip to Canada.

92. Go to the US Open…I love tennis!

93. Attend the Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival.

94. Spend an afternoon in St. Michael’s.

95. Spend a weekend as a tourist in DC.Completed 5/3/2014

Giving Back

96. Go on a missions trip.

97. Organize a scholarship fund to give a book scholarship to at least 1 high school senior annually.

98. Donate books to a school/organization.

99. Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.

100.  Volunteer at a soup kitchen.

101.  Join the Pratt Contemporaries.

101 Things in 1001 Days

Last week I posted about just being me.  As life would have it, after I wrote that blog, my cousin shared with me that she had revised her 101 in 1001 list which led me to think that creating my own list would be a perfect way for me to begin focusing on just being me!

So, what’s 101 Things in 1001 Days?

The 101 Things in 1001 Days Challenge

The Challenge:
Complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days.The Criteria:
Tasks must be specific (ie. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (ie. represent some amount of work on your part).

Why 1001 Days? 
Many people have created lists in the past – frequently simple challenges such as New Year’s resolutions or a ‘Bucket List’. The key to beating procrastination is to set a deadline that is realistic. 1001 Days (about 2.75 years) is a better period of time than a year, because it allows you several seasons to complete the tasks, which is better for organising and timing some tasks such as overseas trips, study semesters, or outdoor activities.

With that, I’m hoping to finish up my list tonight…it’s really hard for me to think of 101 things I want to do (sad I know!)…and post it by tomorrow.  I’m really excited about this challenge, I know it’s going to be lots of fun and rewarding when it’s all done.

Until next time…

Just to Be Me!

Earlier this week, my church began a new Bible study series based on the book, Hinds Feet on High Places.  I’ll admit, I wasn’t quite sure if I was going to make it through the book initially. It is an allegorical novel, and I found myself easily distracted while reading the initial chapters.  But, over the course of 2 months or so, I was able to push through my initial challenges, and finish the book.  And, what an interesting novel it turned out to be…I certainly had a few “aha” moments while reading, but perhaps the most interesting thought about the book arose from the discussion my Bible study group had during our first session.  As we were preparing to wrap things up, my Pastor asked the question, “What does going to the High Places mean to you?”  As I casually jotted down a few things, one of the ladies in the group shouted out…”It will allow me to JUST BE ME!”  She repeated it several times, and it turned out to be the defining moment of the session.  I started thinking about that statement and how it applies to my life…if only I could just be me!  But then, two even more important personal questions surfaced…”What does it mean to BE ME?” and “Why am I afraid to just BE ME?”  That’s a lot to think about…

Do you know what it means to be authentically and unapologetically you?  Do you know what it means to be you without the pressure of external forces (family, friends, peers, teachers, colleagues, society, etc.) shaping and molding you?  Do you know who you are minus the conditions that have been defined by others for you?  These are the questions that surfaced in my mind, along with…do I know how to just be me…who is just me?  That’s a lot to think on, but I would argue that deep down, I clearly know who ME is…I just haven’t become comfortable enough with ME to reveal her to the world.  

Funny enough, I just shared this exact thought with my Pastor a few weeks ago.  I mentioned to her that deep down inside of me is a very emotional and sentimental person that most people don’t know.  Contrary to what I suspect many people think, I would give my absolute last to help someone in need…just yesterday, as I was about to overextend myself again and offer to help with something that I just didn’t have time for, my mother reminded me that I can’t help everyone all of the time.  I also love to make people laugh…those who are closest to me know this, but many folks don’t see this, they only see the more subdued side of me.  I’m quite content keeping to myself, but in reality, I enjoy having fun with others and making people laugh…I could honestly have a one woman stand-up comedy routine.  Most people have no idea about this side of me.  This is the side of my that even my own family has rarely seen. But it’s who I am…an extremely sensitive, caring, compassionate person who wants the absolute best for everyone in my circle.  I strive to keep God first in my life at all times…I love to cook, I love to spend time with my family, I like adventure, and an ever-changing environment.  I always put others first (sometimes to a fault).  I’m a deep thinker who tries to always make decisions based on logic, rather than feelings (unless intuition kicks in strongly)…I try not to let emotions interfere with my decision making…I strive to be honest and fair with everyone.  One day, I hope to be a wife, a mother, and a highly successful career woman.  That’s a bit of who me is!

Crazy, right?  Who knew I viewed myself as all of these things…I really think most people don’t know these things because I have always felt a need to adapt and fit into others’ definition of my life.  I fully recognize that everyone who is and has been a part of my life has had the absolute best intentions as they’ve offered guidance to me, but I think the one thing people sometimes forget is that I am the only one who can be me.  While their opinions and advice may be great…I was created to just be me.  Every mistake I’ve made was just for me…every achievement I’ve made was just for me…every job I’ve had was just for me…every place I’ve lived was just for me.  I was born for the sole purpose of being me…and how amazing that I was given the birth name Dawn…every single day I have the opportunity to start fresh with the dawning of a new morning.

As the end of another year of life for me rapidly approaches, I’m eager to focus on just being me!

Until next time…