Why Not?

This weekend I spent some time flipping through my grandmother’s Bible…it was filled with lots of good things – pictures, wedding announcements, funeral programs, newspaper clippings, etc. One of the things I stumbled upon was a poem written by a local artist entitled, Why Not. It was an amazing piece that I read at the right moment in my life. There have been lots of changes and transitions for me over these past six months…I’d say all of them have been positive…but change certainly is not always easy. I started the year declaring that my theme was to Jump. I was very clear in January that I was committed to dreaming again and pursuing bigger goals, and yet while I was excited about doing new and different things, apprehension and nervousness has crept in as the months have gone by. The beauty is I have not stopped crawling forward (that book that I decided I would write is taking shape ever so slowly and the new website is on the way), but on numerous occasions, I have questioned why I thought these big, crazy, wild dreams that I have were feasible for me. And then I stumbled upon this poem in Mom-Mom’s Bible that let me know that it’s okay to jump out and chase a dream that is one size too big! So, I leave it with you today, as perhaps you question some decisions that you need to make for your own life. Perhaps all of us should refrain from asking why and push ourselves to ask, Why not give it a try?

Why Not
J. Joy Matthews Alford

I knew I’d never do it.
I couldn’t.
I always wanted to,
But didn’t know how.
Didn’t even know where to start.
All my life I’d been told,
“You can’t do that”,
So I never questioned why.
Just accepted that I couldn’t.
“Til one day I asked myself, “Why Not?”

“Nothing beats a failure but a try.”
How often I’ve heard those words recited.
Is that all they are; empty words?
Or could they hold the key?
Ok, so, I can’t do it now.
Does that mean I can never do it?
What part can’t I do?
What part can I do?
Will my ego stop me from trying
Because I fear I might fail?
If I get over this fear,
How far can I go?

Until now, I never believed I could do this.
Never believed in myself enough to try.
What else might I try if I succeed?
What other fears might I conquer?
Even if I fail
Will things be worse than before?
Maybe that’s the key –
That by challenging myself
I can discover new facets of me.
Maybe venturing beyond the safe and charted route,
By striving towards goals once believed unattainable,
I can achieve successes I never dreamed possible.
Successes that I could never have known
Without have tried, or having asked, “Why Not?”

 

Lessons From My Grandmother…

giftAfter more than 93 years of life, my grandma died early Thursday morning. She has had many ups and downs over the past 18 months, but she proved to me and everyone I know that God truly has the final say. Doctors counted her out on several occasions, but “Lazarita” just kept on getting up! But, on Thursday, God declared that her work here on earth was finished. While death draws out many emotions, when one dies in the Lord, I find comfort in knowing that my loved one has gone on to their heavenly home. So, for me, Mom-Mom’s death is well with my soul!

As I was riding in my car this morning, I started thinking about the life she lived. I’ll be the first to admit, Mom-Mom and I had our share of differing views – she was quick to offer me unsolicited advice, feedback, opinions, and yes, sometimes criticisms – but, I’ve got to be one of the luckiest kids to have ever lived! God blessed me with two of the best grandmas ever known! They didn’t have a whole lot of material things, but they sure did have a lot of love to give. But, back to Mom-Mom. As I was riding, I thought of 3 key lessons my grandmother taught me. Mom-Mom taught me about acceptance, endurance, and sacrifice!

For many years, Mom-Mom worked at the Benedictine School, a school that served children and young adults with developmental disabilities. Upon her retirement, she served on the school’s Board of Directors as a member and honorary member until her death this week. My grandmother had the ability to look beyond each child’s disability and see their ability and zeal for life. As a result, most members of my family spent a bit of time working at the Benedictine School over the years. As a child, I remember going to work with my mother during the summers when she served as a summer school teacher there. I absolutely loved it…to this day, there are certain students who I can remember vividly! Something that may seem odd happened during those summer days – I learned to not view disability through a negative lens! I learned to accept all people as God’s amazing creation! At summer school, I was there in my Mom’s class just having fun with other students…I remember my favorite days were pool days! As I got older, I loved taking advantage of opportunities to volunteer at Special Olympics and be present for those who may feel like the outsider. It became a part of what defined me!

Mom-Mom also taught me how to endure. As children we often view the adults in our lives as perfect people. It’s not until we are grown ourselves that we fully understand their ability to survive the greatest of challenges in life! My grandma had it in her to face life’s challenges head-on! My grandfather was a diabetic his entire life, and she cared for him while working and raising their 5 children. My recent encounters with diabetes and its affects on one’s life has increased my respect for my grandmother tremendously! When life got hard, Mom-Mom continued to put on foot in front of the other. Multiple knee replacements…no problem! Fused leg…no problem! Lost daughter…no problem! Dementia…no problem! Mom-Mom’s ability to endure through life and all of its changes is a lesson in life for me!

Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned from my grandmother was sacrifice! She did that well. She was the oldest of her siblings, which meant she was not only a big sister, but a surrogate mother too! As if that weren’t enough, after raising her own children, Mom-Mom’s house was a haven for her grandchildren. Who needed a babysitter or summer camp when we had Mom-Mom’s house! Every summer my cousins and I would spend our days (and for some their nights) at out grandmother’s house. It was a sacrifice of love for her family! She dealt with their shenanigans (because I was always the good cousin). My brother and cousins would throw apples on the neighbor’s tin roof just to hear the thumping sound, then they would have contests to see who could throw the apples the farthest, and the worst, my cousins would write songs about me. Through all of our cutting up, Mom-Mom was always kinds to us (I only recall getting in trouble once for the apples); my Aunt Elaine used to threaten us with the switch off the tree, but not Mom-Mom, nope, she didn’t fuss with us all that much, so long as we didn’t interrupt her soaps or Norm Lewis on Channel 2 News.

I feel today as I did when Mom Putt passed away. I’ve managed to find peace while facing death. I thank God for the years He gifted me with Mom-Mom, He blessed her life abundantly and I’m one grateful soul! Now, I pray that my family remains close and perhaps grows closer through this!

Be Still. The Lord is Doing His Work.

This afternoon I had the opportunity attend a Christian Writers’ Group at a church not too far from my current residence. I’ve been wanting to attend this group for some time now, but I’ve not made it for a variety of reasons – I’ve been too busy or I’m exhausted following Sunday morning worship or most often, I’ve been ridiculously nervous about going to a new place where everyone is a stranger to me! But, today I ventured out of my comfort zone and attended the group. I had a great time. I left feeling motivated to write a bit (hence this post) and confident that I can achieve one of my life goals of writing a book of devotions/meditative thoughts in the not too distant future.

As I was riding home from today’s group, I began to think of thunderstorms. I’m not quite sure why, there are definitely no thunderstorms on the horizon in Maryland today. Instead, the bitter cold of ol’ man winter rushed back into the area over these past few days and I’ve decided I’m absolutely ready for spring. But I digress…

While thinking about thunderstorms, I remembered something my two grandmothers always said during these events in my younger days, “Be still. The Lord is doing His work.” When thunderstorms hit and we were with our grandmothers, this meant sitting still, no talking, shoes on, and no television, at both of their homes. To me, this was always the craziest thing. I hated thunderstorms, so the thought of just sitting still and suffering through them in silence did a number on my psyche! But I survived, and now thunderstorms aren’t as traumatic for me.

As time has passed and life has unfolded, I’ve realized that my grandmothers told the absolute truth about how we should respond to storms…when the storms of life hit, we should learn to just be still, for it is in these moments that the Lord is doing His work! I’m learning that God can’t do His work when we’re busy attempting to find a solution to our problems. There are some things that we just cannot fix in our human strength, we must learn to trust God with all of our hearts and believe that the One who created us knows what is best for us. I think God does good work, so perhaps we should take a seat and let Him do His thing in our lives! Be still for the Lord is doing His work!

Desperate for Lent!

The United Methodist Church describes Lent as a time a “time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter” and a time for “Christians to focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others”. I view Lent as a time for me to slow down, be still, sacrifice some of my comforts, and most importantly, be intent in seeking God.

I’ve not always taken this season seriously, but this year, I’m desperate for Lent! I’m desperate for a time to slow my pace…I’m desperate for a time to be still before God…I’m desperate for a time to be intentional in studying God’s word…I’m desperate for a time of fasting and praying…I’m desperate for God – I want to see Him and feel Him and experience Him! I’m taking some huge leaps of faith in this season that are requiring me to trust God more than ever. And, I’m doing what I think is the hard work of focusing on self-care right now. I expect these two things to cause Lent to have a greater impact on my life this year. This year Lent is not so much about what I’ll give up, instead, it’s about trusting God completely and watching Him do amazing and impossible things in my life as I do a bit of walking on water.

How will you honor God during this season of Lent?

Blessings…

Dropping Insanity…Fixing My Diet!

in·san·i·ty: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  Albert Einstein


Can you believe January is rapidly coming to an end?!?!?! It’s amazing to me how quickly time flies these days…it seems like just yesterday I was turning 30, and now…well, I’m closer to 40 than 30 and I’m not sure how I feel about that!

I’ve been really excited about this year…I brought in 2017 with the expectation that things were going to really congeal (that’s an Aunt Marie word right there) in my life! And as life would have it…a mere three weeks into 2017, my first jump came crashing down! The new job offer that I was super excited about was rescinded the day before I was scheduled to report for work! It certainly was not the news I was looking for, and frankly, I was pissed about what happened to me. But, then I decided that anger wasn’t going to get me anywhere, so I returned to my old job, pulled up my sleeves, and got back to work! I decided that repeating the cycle of anger and frustration and being mad with God was pointless and insane, the job fell through for whatever reason and I have to believe that there’s something positive to be found in this situation. It’s really freeing to look at the situation this way!

In general, I’m trying to view life in a more positive light this year. Rather than focus on my challenges and the mistakes I’ve made, I’m trying to think about the positive changes I can incorporate into my weekly routine. I’ve recently been inspired to plan my weekly meals by a friend and old co-worker who just so happens to be a registered dietician. She made the JUMP a couple of years ago to leave her job and pursue her passion of nutrition. She’s now making a difference in the lives of patients and people like me who follow her blog from a distance. Last week, she posted about budget friendly meal planning for families of four. From this post, I was motivated to do some meal planning of my own (time to drop the insanity of getting home and not having a clue about what’s for dinner!)…I went through the whole process of looking at the weekly circulars for my local grocery stores and came up with a meal plan for the week. I’m pretty impressed with myself!

What’s this week’s meal plan look like?

Breakfast: Cereal (Shredded Wheat or Oatmeal), Fruit, and a Protein. I have to pick up fruit and milk, but I have everything else in the house already.

Lunch: I’ll start the week with chicken salad (made with greek yogurt rather than mayo) and end it with turkey burgers. I’m also going to have some veggies and salad with my lunch daily.

Dinner: I’m trying to utilize the chicken and ground turkey fully, so for dinner, I’ll have chicken stir fry for a few days, and finish out the week with thai turkey lettuce wraps. Hopefully this approach will keep me from wasting food. Meal planning for one can end like this far too often!

I’m not sure what my weekend meals will look like just yet, but I’m gonna try to find something quick and easy to fix…maybe some baked fish and veggies, that’s simple enough!

The most exciting part of this meal plan for me is that these meals won’t cost me tons of money and I’ll have a variety of flavors in my meals. With the passing of each year, I’d like to think I become a bit wiser…I at least try to do one thing better than I’ve done in previous years. Hopefully, meal planning will become one of many things I do better this year!

I’m still jumping and still believing great things are ahead of me!

Until next time…DW

Just Jump!

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It’s finally 2017…I’m excited! I’m skipping resolutions this year, and have decided to embrace a theme for the year. Yearly themes have been described as, “a word or a phrase that you choose to define what the next year of your life is going to be…an idea that should speak to you, and that should guide you to make more of the choices you think will lead you where you want to go in life and in your career. It will be your constant guide that informs your choices as you go about your life this year”.

My theme for the year is Jump.

There’s been lots of talk about jumping lately. Steve Harvey talked about this thought in a monologue following the taping of a Family Feud episode, and just a few weeks ago, he released a book entitled, Jump: Take the Leap of Faith to Achieve Your Life of Abundance! I’ve not picked up the book, but its premise really resonated with me. In his monologue, Steve said, “Eventually, you are going to have to jump. You cannot just exist in this life. You have got to try to live. If you are waking up thinking that there has got to be more to life than it is, man, believe that it is. Believe in your heart of hearts that it is, but to get to that life, you are going to have to jump.” That statement is my life story…I’ve always been driven to play life safely…comfort and security have been a t the top of my list, but this year, I’m challenging myself to chase the God of the impossible. I mean…I say with God all things are possible, but have I ever chased the God of the impossible. Have I ever assessed all of the impossible things in my life and placed them before God for the sole purpose of asking Him to do what His word says He will do? I’ve not…but in this year of jumping, I’m going to do just that! I’m going to write down every single impossibility in my life that enters my mind and ask God to do exceedingly, abundantly more than I could ever think or imagine! There’s no more time in my life to look at my dreams and say, “Impossible”. There’s no more time to look at my visions and say, “Impossible”. No, this is the year that I’ve got to have child-like faith, and truly believe that the sky is the limit in my life! It’s the year I must believe that all things ARE possible! I’m jumping and I hope others will jump too!

And, since there’s no need to delay the jump…my first jump will be in just a few weeks…I’m leaving a job that is comfortable and jumping into new territory. I’m not sure how God is going to bring it all together in the end, but I’m fully convinced that my new job is a part of a larger plan for me! So, here’s to a year where all things are possible for those who are willing to jump!

Failure is an acceptable option!

A failure is not a loss. It’s a gain. You learn. You change. You grow.  – Michael Barata

Last week, I wrote about my challenges with moving on the goals and dreams I have for my life. As one would expect, that challenge still remains true for me today, but I’ve taken some real action steps over the past week to overcome this weakness. At the top of my list of accomplishments for the week…I reached out to a small circle of friends and colleagues about starting a Mastermind group. I wasn’t sure how the response would be, but a few folks expressed an interest in being involved. What a relief…I would’ve felt a little sorry for myself if no one had been interested. Then, in a very unexpected conversation with some buddies from church on Sunday, I heard some awesome stories of people wanting to connect with others to share their dreams and goals and stories of people wanting to take a major jump in their personal and professional lives. There were talks of writing books, producing music, opening group homes, pursuing new career opportunities, and seeking insight about the next steps in life. I thought I was alone in feeling hesitation about putting action to my dreams, but this confirmed that others share my feelings and my desire to start a Mastermind group might not be some outlandish thought that just happened to enter my mind…no, I think God placed this notion on my mind to help me and others in reaching our full potential.

Fast forward to today…I woke up feeling a little blue…life will do that to you sometimes! I was feeling a bit discouraged about the future of my career. I felt like the door on an opportunity that I’ve been very interested in for months was closed on me…it turns out that is likely not the case, but I was thinking the worst. I have a tendency to do this, I’m really hard on myself…it’s definitely not one of my better traits. Anyway, a co-worker stops in to express some concern about me and my mood, and we start talking about the beauty and value of failure! This is significant because for me failure has always been accompanied by a great degree of shame and embarrassment. Failure has never been good in my eyes, but I’m beginning to understand that the act of failing in some things is an acceptable option in life. Failing in a task does not mean I’m a failure in life, it actually means I was willing to get out of the boat and try a new thing or two! If I’m honest, in that moment where I’m sinking, it rarely feels good, but I’m starting to view my failures along life’s journey as real learning moments. If I can manage to avoid drowning while I’m sinking, it’s quite likely that the next time I risk walking on water, I’ll do a little better (or I’ll at least think about carrying a life jacket with me!). So, taking intentional risks will be among my list of goals for 2017, because even if I encounter some failures along the way, I will have tried, and that’s better than always playing it safe.

I’m looking for more in 2017!

Keep Going!

People_Who_Move_Change_The_World.fwOver the years, I mastered the art of coming up with new ideas. I can always think of new creative things to do, I can discuss big ideas with friends, I can dream of what my life will look like in the future, but I tend to get stuck in the process of moving from thinking to doing…PLANNING and EXECUTING mess me up too many times! I’m great at thinking and talking, and not so great at moving! Yep, it’s definitely not my strong suit, so I’ve decided that this will be the challenge I conquer in 2017! I’m going to put my all in to the idea of pressing beyond my thoughts and making my dreams a reality!  That’s tough stuff for me, so I’m getting an early start on the process this month! I stumbled upon the 2017 Volt Planner by Ink and Volt. It’s a planning system that allows one to go beyond planning daily tasks and allows one to think creatively while tackling weekly and monthly goals. Yes, it is ridiculously overpriced and perhaps filled with a bit of hype, but I need help with focus in my life right now!  That being said, over these past few weeks, I’ve been intentional in thinking on my habits and goals for 2017 and beyond.  There are things that I want to accomplish in 2017 and I will not be successful unless I move from thinking to doing!  People who MOVE, CHANGE the world! Working with a life coach seems a bit ridiculous for me at this stage in my life, but slowing down a bit so I can be intentional in planning out some key elements in my life seems very reasonable.  So, how am I getting on the move in my life…

  1. Intentional Prayer: I’m pretty sure most people have heard of the movie, War Room.  I really enjoyed it and have watched it several times because I’ve needed to be encouraged a lot over this past year about the faithfulness of God and His ability to work miracles in my life story! From the day I first watched the movie until now, it has been clear to me that I need to develop a prayer strategy for my life…for some time I’ve needed to shake up my prayer life in a major way and truly petition God for those things where I need him to work on me or my situation the most! Despite knowing this, I’ve done a great job of getting stuck at the idea of slowing down to develop a prayer strategy. No more! Last week I moved from thinking about my prayer strategy to activating it! I now have my prayers up on my prayer board because I need God to do some amazing things in my life!
  2. Intentional Meditation: Not only am I circling specific things in prayer, I’ve made the decision to set aside quiet time daily for meditation and reflection. For way too long, I’ve been living life way too fast! I’m always going from here to there or meeting with this person or that person. I’ve always got something to do or somewhere to go, I rarely just sit still and have quiet time! That’s not good, but busyness is apparently my coping strategy for dealing with stress or it’s the thing that makes me feel important…I’m not sure. Despite this, I am clear that it’s an unhealthy habit that I’ve adopted, and it’s one that I’m choosing to break! I’ve been focused on reading my Once Daily Bible and a book a coworker gave me, Jesus, CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership during my quiet time.
  3. Intentional Eating: While I love cooking, here lately, I’ve been a bum in the kitchen. It’s been so much easier to stop and pick up fast food on my way in from work, so that’s what I’ve done. It’s resulted in many pounds joining me on my life journey and it’s not good at all! Do you know how frustrating it is to not be able to fit into last winter’s clothes!!!! I’m highly upset with myself for my slip-ups in this area of my life, so I’m making a change. Sugar and flour are no longer active parts of my life! It’s not that I don’t love holiday baking (Lord knows I do!!!), but my love of sweets has gotten me into a place I don’t want to be, so I’ve got to part ways with them.
  4. Intentional Exercise: Taking care of my physical body is just as important as taking care of my soul and spirit, so I’ve gone back to the gym and am planning to register for some spring 5K races. I’ve got a goal in mind and the only way to get there is by incorporating a regular exercise regimen into my weekly agenda. Sometimes you gotta just do it!

So I am hopeful that these intentional steps yield fruitful results in my life! I’ve not even gotten to writing out all of my goals and dreams for 2017 and beyond…I know some of them (and I’m a little intimidated because I could fail miserably!!!), but I am in full-fledged preparation mode! I’ve got work to do…I’ve got moving to do…I’ve got challenges to overcome…I’ve got success to find!

Until next time…

 

Just a Little Whitewater…

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Well, I managed to check another item off of my 101 list over the weekend!  While in Columbus, GA with B and his family for their family reunion, we opted to go on a whitewater rafting excursion.  Initially, I was a bit nervous about going (as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become a real coward…having absolutely no control over my fate is increasingly hard for me to handle), but what an awesome time I had!  After my nerves settled, our time on the water was the most relaxing two hours of the entire trip.  We were on Class I-III rapids, so they werent’t too bad.  In fact, by the end I was thinking, “That rapid wasn’t even that challenging!”  We did 360 degree turns through the rapids, we jumped in the middle of the raft and let the water carry us through the waves, we surfed the rapids, and we jumped out in the water and floated down a lazy river for a bit too!  No one fell out of the boat, but B’s cousins weren’t so fortunate.  Their raft capsized as they were surfing the rapids…from what they say, flipping over was kinda fun!  Had that been our boat, I’m pretty sure I would’ve been that one who was kicking and screaming!  I’m thankful to have been spared that bit of embarrassment and shame.  But given how fun the experience was, I’m hoping I’ll be more open to trying more new and adventurous things in the future, even if they may be a bit nervous.

Now about Columbus, GA…what a neat small city!  B and I have become quite the tourists whenever we travel together.  We tend to be the ones in the group who go out and explore the stores, restaurants, and museums in the area.  On our first night in town, we tried out a donut burger at Nonic Bar and Kitchen.  While a trendy dish, it wasn’t my thing…I really wanted a polish dog, but we decided to go with the recommendation of our waitress.  It was certainly an interesting mix of sweet and savory, but it was way too sweet for me.  I don’t think I’ll order that again. We also ate at a neat little “inexpensive” spot called Plucked Up Chicken.  We split an order of chicken and biscuits and a biscuit sandwich with ham, goat cheese, and jalapeño jelly.  The food was AMAZING!!!!!  The chicken and biscuits was definitely a play on chicken and waffles…they were sprinkled with chopped bacon and drizzled with syrup.  I’d definitely go there again.

We also spent one of our afternoons at the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning.  The mission of the museum is to honor the legacy and valor of the U.S. Army Infantryman. Hands down, this has to be the best museum I’ve ever been to.  We didn’t get to spend nearly enough time there.  We got to walk through the last 100 years of 10 major battles fought by the infantrymen of the US Army, view lots of weapons, tankers, helicopters, and uniforms, watch amazing videos about the army, Ft. Benning, and the infantry experience, and read the stories of some amazing soldiers.  The figures in the museum were incredible.  According to our curator, several soldiers from Ft. Benning were sent to New York where their bodies were cast and used to create the replicas observed in each of the exhibits. The replicas were so lifelike…it was insane!  While I’m not a history buff at all, I left the museum wanting to learn more about world history.  I was quite sad that we could not see the entire exhibit, and will definitely go back if my travels should ever take me to Columbus again.

So, I’m very thankful for another opportunity to live life to the fullest!