The Thrill of the Challenge…

It seems that I function best under pressure.  For example, I’m rarely early for anything, nope…I somehow manage to produce my best work just moments before a task is due.  I’m fully convinced that this is just my personality, and I think it spills into every area of my life.  True to form, it seems that my recent diabetes scare has brought out the fighter in me once again.  Now that I feel pressured to get control of my health, I’m able to step up and perform!  No doubt I knew I needed to make some changes a year ago, but it wasn’t a pressing matter until last week!  That’s the difference…

Since learning of my test results, I’ve been serious about making changes.  I’ve been out walking and tackling the hills of my neighborhood like they are flat roads (it seems the developers out here forgot what a FLAT road looks like)…I’ve gotten back on My Fitness Pal and have been diligently tracking my daily food intake…I’ve been turning down the sugar, while turning up the water, protein, and vegetables.  Over the weekend, I knew I was going to a cookout at my church, so I made sure I ate a solid and healthy lunch early in the day.  My goal was to minimize my hunger once I was at the church…and I was successful.  After leaving the cookout, I came home and walked nearly 10,000 steps, which brought my total daily step count up to 16,780 steps.  Woohoo…mission accomplished!

Since I got my test results, I’ve made it a point to be active and be conscious of my diet daily.  I haven’t had a cookie in over a week…that’s a miracle right there given my love relationship with them (I could eat cookies everyday)!  The blessing is, changing up my habits hasn’t been all that hard.  A few years ago, this was my norm…I was a gym junkie, I was at spin class faithfully 3-4 days/week, and running the other days…I had a personal trainer and had no fear of lifting weights…the gym used to be my stress reliever!  I was there first thing on a Saturday morning and was all about chasing the next challenge!

In the past few days, the former me is slowly emerging, I’ve got my eyes fixed on a fall 5k, and over the past week, I’ve lost 4 pounds…only 21 more to go to reach my first goal!  If I remain committed, I’m certain I’ll lose 25 pounds before Christmas!  And what makes this all a little easier is tackling this challenge with my sweetheart!  He’s lost over 10 pounds so far.  He’s been faithful to getting in his 10,000+ steps daily, embracing living a healthier lifestyle, and checking up on me daily to make sure I’m doing right!  We’re in this thing together!  So, I guess this proves there is positive to be found in every experience if we’ll be bold enough to look for it.  For me…a negative test result is leading to a positive life change, and I’m happy about it!

Until next time…

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A Sobering Moment…

The number on the scale at my house has been rising a lot these days, and perhaps even worse than that…I’ve noticed a significant difference in my fitness level.  I can’t run like I used to, and my endurance has plummeted.  It was easy to overlook these things, and say to myself, “I’ll get back to where I used to be”, until yesterday.

About two weeks ago, I got some blood work done for a health and wellness program that my insurance company offers.  If I’m honest, I only did it for the monetary reward…I mean $100 for a blood draw, who wouldn’t do that.  It turns out that this simple test ended up rocking my world.  After going out for a walk in my neighborhood last night, I stop and pick up the mail, and aha…the results of my blood draw were in.  I wasn’t all that worried, I’ve never had a blood test that turned out bad, but I guess our past doesn’t necessarily reflect our present.  The test results showed that I am at risk for developing diabetes.  The good news, I haven’t crossed the threshold yet, the bad news…I let myself go and got to this place.  We all know it’s so much easier to prevent something than recover from something, but recovery mode is what I’m in.

I’m not even going to lie, I’m so disappointed in myself.  Under no circumstances should I have allowed life to get me so overwhelmed that I stop cooking and exercising regularly.  I should have never allowed myself to justify having a cookie or two on the way home from work on any given day.  I let things go too far, and now I’m paying a huge price.  Interestingly enough, I had said to my doctor during my physical this year that I just hadn’t felt like myself, I didn’t have the same energy that I used to have, and I wasn’t in a good place physically.  Perhaps, my blood sugar levels have been marginal for longer than I’m aware.

So, now that I’ve cried and felt sorry for myself, it’s time to make some real changes.  There is no more skipping out on exercising…by Christmas, I’m determined to be 25 pounds lighter.  It won’t be easy…moving closer to work to free up time in my day might have to happen sooner than I thought and eating fresh foods and home-prepared meals will have to be my norm again.  I refuse to be a statistic, I refuse to let the chronic illnesses that plague our community take over my life.  I have the ability to change some things, and maybe it took this sobering moment to get me back on track.

I gots to do better!

I’ve Learned to be Patient!

In just over two weeks, I will end a great journey that I’ve been on for the past two years of my life.  I’ve had two great years in the NIH’s Management Intern Program…there have been many new friends made, lots of professional growth achieved, high stress projects completed, long days survived, and trying moments where my personal convictions and beliefs have been challenged…but, in every experience, I’ve managed to learn lots of things and most of all, I’ve truly been reminded of what it means to be patient in this life.

My decision to accept a position in this program, meant taking a step backwards, I had to take a demotion, which many people probably would not do, but I believed that a step back would ultimately result in many steps forward if I could manage to be patient.  A step back has meant no pay raises for multiple years, while living expenses continue to increase, no annual bonuses, no telework days, limited vacation time, and a huge hit to my work-life balance.  A step back has meant not moving ahead at the pace one would hope for, but managing to find peace with it knowing that in the end, I will gain.  Taking a step back has meant acknowledging that there’s a strong possibility that I would be at a very different pay grade now if I hadn’t accepted this opportunity, but also accepting that I may not be making a real difference if I had remained where I was.  This program, or perhaps this season, has truly taught me the difference between chasing money and chasing a life-changing experience.  I’m certain that I will always choose a life-changing experience moving forward!

Without a doubt, there have been painful days over the past two years, especially when the money got tight and the daily commute to the office became exhausting.  There were lots of stressors…the constant shuffle from one office to the next with no sense of stability…carrying the load one’s office on your back on a daily basis…not knowing if you will have access to a printer or computer…and not having an office phone number where people can always reach you if you’ve got poor cell phone reception…there were stressors!  I gained 20 pounds and am completely out of shape, my body is tired and I’m in desperate need of a long break that I will not get any time soon, but despite these things, I’ve survived the challenge and I’m better for it!

I’m not the same person today that I was two years ago when I entered the program.  I’ve gone from lacking confidence and often feeling beat down in the office environment, to believing that not only am I great at my job, but one day soon and very soon, I’ll be leading my own staff.  I’m now comfortable making presentations to senior leadership of the organization even when I’m sharing tough stuff knowing that all will be well, I’ve come to learn that my age doesn’t limit my ability to offer reasonable solutions that can have a positive impact in an organization, and I’ve come to understand that people really do want me to be a part of their team.  One of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had came from being asked to apply for the job I ultimately accepted.  When you’ve experienced real rejection in your lifetime, this means so much!

Through these two years, I’ve learned how to speak with greater tact, I’ve learned to take a look at things with the bigger picture in mind more frequently, I’ve learned to appreciate my bosses as colleagues and not people who I always have to agree with, I’ve learned to embrace and value mentors, and most importantly, I’ve truly learned to be patient.  Not everyone who started the program with me is finishing it alongside of me.  Some people jumped ship along the way, and while I don’t know all of the details for why they walked away, I do know, in part, it was related to desiring more money and not being able to embrace the challenge of working under different leadership styles.  For them, I wish they had not jumped off the boat so soon, for in this life, it’s the storms and the waves, that grow and develop us.  An easy life makes for a weak soul, but one who can face challenges with a winning spirit and courage will always survive!  For those who have the courage, even the most challenging task isn’t too hard to overcome!

When I honestly reflect, I’m reminded of how I used to get upset when it looked like other’s lives were more blessed than my own, but now I can see how the hard times developed my character and made my roots strong enough to withstand the storms of life.  I can remember days when I would visit my brother and his family and leave in tears questioning why God seemed to be withholding His blessings from my life, but pouring out His blessings upon them.  I can remember days when I was so angry about needing to live with my parents because I was broke and truly poor.  I was so ashamed and bitter about my life, but now I cam remember those days, and smile, because they show just how good my God has been to me.  Remembering those moments reminds me that there is great value in being patient.  It may have taken me longer to get where I am than some others…as a matter of fact, there are still many things I desire but have yet to see unfold in my life, but my process was designed just for me and it is shaping me to be the person who God wants me to be.  I’ve learned to not long for what others have; instead, I choose to be patient and let God work things out in my life in whatever way He chooses.  I know that in due season, if I don’t interrupt the process and try to do things my way, my patience will be rewarded and I’m okay with that!

Until next time…be patient in the process!

The Jamaican Bond…

I’m getting back into my groove and am trying to find time to write a bit more.  I read a quote this morning that really challenged me to figure out a way to make writing a priority in my life.  It simply said, “What’s that soul thing for you, that God-honoring thing, that keeps slipping away because there’s been no time?  Schedule the start of your thing RIGHT NOW.” -Lysa TerKeurst

Now to the Jamaican bond…when we departed for Jamaica, I knew I was going away with a group of known strangers.  On some level, I knew just about everyone on the trip, but at the same time, most of these individuals were complete strangers to me.  Beyond knowing their name, their marital status, the names of a few of their family members, and their roles and responsibilities in the church, I knew very little about the group of people with whom I would be spending a week in Jamaica.  Similarly, they knew very little about me.  It’s amazing how often we work and socialize with people and yet never really know who they are.  I don’t think it’s intentional, but sadly it happens.  Well, in Jamaica, an interesting, and expected thing happened…we learned about each other and we bonded on a different level.  Previously, my perceptions of my fellow missionaries was solely based on brief Sunday morning encounters, I now get to base my thoughts and views of them on the extended time we shared during Jamaica experience, and that’s a good thing!

There were some people who went on the trip who I’d only smiled at in passing, there were some who knew my name for many months before I remembered theirs, there were some who I’ve never even spoken to, there were some who I serve on ministries with, and then there were those who knew me pretty well.  But in this experience, it didn’t matter how the relationship was at the start of the journey, my relationship with everyone changed over the course of the trip.  I now look forward to see the JM15 crew in church because we always have something to laugh and talk about together.  It could be about someone’s supah fly red satin bonnet, it could be someone talking about goats having milk in their balls, it could be someone talking about one of the guys running off the boat while nearly knocking others into the water…or it could be about the unique worship experiences we shared, the joy we found in connecting with our brothers and sisters while painting or passing out medical kits, or the meals we shared together as a family.

Every day certainly wasn’t perfect…by the middle of the trip, the introvert in me certainly needed a break from people.  I did good to make it through the first two days without needing a serious break!  Through it all though, I believe this experience has opened the doors of communication for this group in so many ways…if not for anyone else, I believe I can have conversations with individuals now that I never would have engaged in previously.  A bond that will never be broken was formed during those days of doing God’s work in Jamaica.

Until next time…

Family Time…

This weekend was filled with lots of travel and lots of much needed fun with my family.  One of my cousins got married on Friday evening and they threw quite the party, and then, my parents had a little barbecue gathering on Saturday afternoon.  It was so good to be around family.  Interestingly, that’s rarely a thought that escapes my mouth.  I’ve have a tendency to be a loner, and while I enjoy being around my parents, my brother, my sister-in-law, and my nephews, when it comes to extended family, in many cases I don’t feel as connected.  The argument could certainly be made that I tend to push family away and not the reverse, but no the cause of the disconnect, it has been present in the past.  But, this weekend, it was so different.  I was so happy to be around people, and for the first time in a long time, I really felt connected to everyone…I didn’t feel less than in the presence of my loved ones.  What a great feeling that was!

Perhaps the most exciting element of it all was taking my significant other to the family gatherings and introducing him to everyone.  I typically shy away from letting people into my life to that degree, but I’m so glad I carried him along.  He fit right in with my crazy family, and it showed me that people aren’t always looking at me with a critical eye.  It became clear to me that people want me to be happy and they want to know that I’m loved, appreciated, and cared for.  What an awesome change in perspective for me?

Life is about to get real good for me, I just feel it in my bones.  I’ve certainly been through a journey.  I’ve journeyed through low self-esteem, high levels of self-hate, emotionally devastating relationships, church hurt, haters in the workplace, and so many other internal battles in my mind, but I’ve overcome all of those things.  I could have given up and thrown in the towel, there were certainly times when death felt like the easier path, but I survived and I know that I’m a better person because I didn’t give up in the midst of the struggle.

So, family time was good this weekend.  I needed to be in their presence to lifted emotionally…I needed to be in their presence because I needed something to laugh and smile about, I certainly got those things, but I also walked away feeling loved in a new way!

Until next time…I wish you peace my friends!