You’re Kidding Me!

One of the venues I’ve come to enjoy in the District is Sixth & I. Not only is the space itself beautiful, but the author talks I’ve attended there have always been great. (Random fact: The space was the home of Turner Memorial A.M.E. Church for over 50 years.) While scrolling through my e-mail this afternoon, I was checking out some of the upcoming talks and to my surprise, I discovered one of the facilitators is a former intern in one of my labs at the NIH. I was shocked. I never doubted his ability to do great things, but the Sixth & I platform is a pretty big deal. I’ve seen Brené Brown, Susan Cain, and W. Kamau Bell speak there. These are all big names, mainstream authors and Vann is facilitating a discussion there. Wow!

I thought about it and began to wonder if this was an answer to a giant prayer he once prayed or just a random happening. I will never know, but I’m reading a book that’s had me thinking a lot about the size and expectation of my prayers. A passage I read today said sometimes God gives us thimble-sized blessings because we have thimble-sized prayers. The author suggests in the midst of the vast ocean of blessings that are available, we can limit ourselves to a portion as small as a thimble simply because we fail to ask for more. I’m guilty! I don’t dream or pray big enough. At work, I give my all and can always push the envelope, but in my personal life, I’m often a lot less comfortable walking on water.

Yet, given where I am in my current thoughts, it’s interesting that I would run across this e-mail today. Comfortable hasn’t been all that comfortable lately. And, even though faith walking is hard, I’ve been forcing myself to trust God more. I’ve recognized that I can’t stay where I am, God has more for me, but I have to embrace faith walking.

About two weeks ago, I spent part of an afternoon writing in my journal about some big life goals. I’m talking, I dropped the thimble and wrote out my biggest and wildest God-sized dreams. Things that only God can do. The day after I wrote them, someone invited me to lead a workshop at a training for leaders in the federal workforce next fall. The invitation was random and completely unexpected, but in my journal I’d written that one day I wanted to be a workshop facilitator. I didn’t know the topic, didn’t know the audience, but I wrote down this big dream, and a day later one path to realizing that dream revealed itself. My initial response was, “God, you’re kidding me, right?” But then I decided to act like the child of God that I am and remember that God’s not kidding around with me. He wants to do major things in my life, but He’s waiting for me to release the brakes. It’s acceptable for me to be nervous, but I ought to pray with the expectation that God is going to answer in the here and now.

I’m nervous about this workshop, if I’m honest I don’t have a clue what I’m going to talk about, but I know it will come together. God did not create me to shy away from opportunities He presents in my life. Things have to work out because God answered my prayer. Now, I’m challenged to trust Him with more. Up next . . . registering for the Publishing in Color Conference. It makes no sense to me, but I stumbled upon this opportunity and writing a book is on my list of God-sized dreams. I’m going to go to the conference AND I’m going to force myself to be brave enough to trust God to let my gifts make room for me. He’s not kidding me, just as God is opening doors for others, He’s willing to open up gigantic doors for me too!

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My Lenten Path…

cross-sunset-humility-devotion-161089.jpegYesterday marked the beginning of a new Lenten season. For me, this represents a time to slow down and be more intentional in communing with God. I used to halfheartedly give up something, usually sweets, but it was always for the wrong reason. In my mind, if I gave up sugar for 40 days, naturally, I’d lose some weight . . . I’m certain that was my greatest motivation. As a result, I’m not sure that sacrifice (which never lasted for the duration of Lent) made a difference in my faith walk. So, this year, I’m not giving up food, in fact, I’m not giving up anything per se! I hope that doesn’t make me a bad Christian in your eyes. If it does, I’m sorry. Rather than giving up something, I’ve decided to commit to spending more time with God in study, prayer, and writing.

Last night’s message during Ash Wednesday service prompted this decision. The sermon was entitled, “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around”. In short, the text came from the book of Numbers where the men were sent to scope out Canaan and the majority returned with a report of defeat. According to them, the giants were too big to make possessing the land a possibility. They knew the land was plentiful and lush, but their fear caused them to shy away from possessing the land. That’s real—I can definitely relate to that perspective in life, but during this Lenten season, I hope to be more like Caleb. Yup, there are giants in my path, but that doesn’t mean I should stop making strides towards achieving my goals. So, during this 40 day period, I’m committing to writing at least one devotion per day. That’s going to be hard, but I think it will be far more meaningful and impactful for my spiritual walk and life in general than giving up chocolate or red meat or whatever other food I’ve given up in the past. I’m excited about what this 40 day journey holds! I’m believing that some good work will come from it.

How will you honor God during this season?

Riding with my camera…

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Loch Raven Reservoir, February 2018

Have you slowed down lately? I have! Yesterday, I decided to take the scenic route home from church and drove up on this amazing scene. The picture doesn’t do justice to the beauty of nature, but it was my best try at capturing the awe of the moment. My camera was in my trunk, but a drained battery only allowed me to get two quick pictures, so the above image was captured using my cell phone. One of my former photography instructors said the best camera is always the one we’ve got! So true!

Anywho, yesterday served as a reminder that I should always keep my fully charged camera with me. You never know what beautiful scenes we may encounter in our daily routine.

Make it a great one today!

101 Updates…

I’ve not written about my 101 journey here lately. It’s not that I’ve jumped ship . . . no I’m still enjoying the journey, I’ve just not taken time to write about it. So, I figured I’d write a quick post this evening about what’s going on.

Things Completed:

  • Make a batch of bath salts. I gave these homemade creations away as Christmas gifts to my coworkers. I still need to tweak the recipe a bit, but I was pleased with how things turned out. I made a baked bath salt with a blend of several salts . . . fancy, right. I think I’ve got at least one more batch in me to make before I’m ready to take it to market.
  • Finish watching Dear White People (the Netflix series). It was good . . . I’m looking forward to the start of the next season.

Things in Progress:

  • Everything else.

Funny, right! But, it’s true, everything else is in progress. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’ve got no complains because there are lots of great things happening in my life right now. I can’t tell it all just yet, but I can’t wait to watch God do an amazing work. And then I’ll say, “The Lord has done this and it is marvelous in my eyes!”

In the meantime, I joined a fitness challenge at my gym that’s been lots of fun (there will be a post about our 1,000 reps workout), I’ve begun training for a spring 5K, I’m working at reading one book per month, and I’ve got an idea for a small writing project that I’m looking forward to starting.

My life hasn’t moved at the speed I once thought it would, but it’s all good. Everything is coming together perfectly. You can’t see it yet, and honestly, neither can I, but I can feel the great things that are about to happen in the depths of my being.

Here’s to the start of another great week!

When Hate Knocked On My Door…

I’m not sure what I want to do right now . . . cry, scream, punch the wall, or lay into all of those people who try to make me believe the false narrative that racism isn’t real! During my lunch break today, I decided to ride to the Trader Joe’s just up the street. Before heading in the store, I was sitting in my car reading a text message from an old co-worker. Out of the blue an older white man pulled up next to me and began hollering at me calling me a n$%#@! The rant went on for several moments and I sat there in disbelief and shock. I was frozen and scared. I WAS SCARED! I had no idea what this man was going to do next . . . was he going to get out of his car and approach me . . . was he going to attempt to run into my car . . . was he going to park his car in the distance and follow me? It was a terrifying moment for me, and I didn’t know what to do. So I called my Dad not just because he lived through the civil rights era that seems to be present again, but also because he’s my father and he will always seek to protect me whether he’s in my presence or with me in spirit. My Dad stayed on the phone with me while I walked in the store to pick up the one item I intended to get and as I began my journey back to the office. And then, I was left to sit, think, and process what happened to me when HATE knocked on my door today.

You see, people get upset about the Black Lives Matter campaign, people get upset when men of color take a knee during the playing of the national anthem, people get upset when I call 45 racist and a disgrace to this country, but do these said people really understand what it feels like to be a minority in this country! Do they know what it means to get nervous if stopped by a police officer? Do they know what it feels like to question whether it’s safe to stop in specific areas to grab a bite or use the bathroom when travelling? Do they know what it means to not be given a chance when you’re more than deserving of it? I do! Until you’ve walked a day in my shoes, no white person will ever know how it feels to be Black in America! That statement does not mean I dislike Whites. That’s far from the truth with me, there are many White people in my circle who I call “friend”, but this does not negate the reality I experience as a minority.

I’ve been falsely accused of being disrespectful because I’ve been bold enough to ask tough questions in workplace meetings . . . I’ve been told “well, you don’t seem black, you’re just one of us” . . . I’ve been overlooked for positions that I am more than qualified for . . . I’ve been followed in stores so people could “ensure I was not stealing” . . . I’ve been asked to provide additional identification and proof of insurance for car rentals when others have essentially just been given the keys . . . I’ve had to work so much harder for everything I’ve gotten, and it pisses me off that people still find it acceptable to hate me or mistreat me because of the color of my skin! It irritates the heck out of me that I have high school classmates who wanted to be “down with the brown” 20 years ago, and now hateful words roll off their tongue with ease. If you’ve never been an oppressed person (not a black person, an oppressed person because oppression crosses color lines), you don’t know how it feels!

I’m mad about what happened today! Let’s be real . . . I’m cussing mad! Yet, today’s events remind me that this dark world needs to experience the Light! The Light that causes so-called Christians to come to their senses and recognize that we ought not say people who spew hate from their mouths and show it by their actions align with our Christian values! There’s NO WAY Jesus walked in hate and I’m certain what’s happening in this country right now is not pleasing in His sight! The time has come for us all to begin to call HATE what it is. It’s time for people to stop co-signing on hate . . .  if it’s your family member engaging in this nonsense, call them out! If it’s your friends, call them out! If it’s your former classmate, call them out! If it’s your co-worker, call them out! Don’t settle and be a listening ear to this nonsense, take a stand, be the light, and decide to make a difference in this world that’s decided to give hate another chance to live!

 

New Year, New Theme…

trust

trust: firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

Ahhhhh..the beginning of a new year, what a joy! It’s a wonderful time to reflect on the year past and it yields an exciting opportunity to ponder on the year ahead. For me, 2017 proved to be interesting—it was a year that became an unexpected, divine watershed moment in my life. Yet, it was a year that I wouldn’t trade for the world. It was a really good year! I got connected to a great writing group, I began to pursue a major life goal (that I’m believing will soon come to pass … exciting!), I left a draining job, I let some people go, and I spent a lot of time focusing on my personal growth! I learned to genuinely love me last year … I needed that in ways I never knew! The Lord proved to be faithful in my life and I’m so thankful!

Fast forward to 2018 and I’m over the moon and filled with excitement about what this year will prove to be for me. As I did last year, I’ve decided to identify a theme to guide my life this year.

Trust.

I thought jump was hard, but I’m pretty sure I’ve lost my mind with this year’s theme. Yet, in a devotion I read by Pastor Rick Warren earlier today he said, “God blesses people who are not afraid to trust him completely.” It kinda confirmed what I’ve been thinking about these past few weeks. This is a theme that I don’t want to guide my life this year, but it’s the right theme for me in this moment. Yes, it’s too hard—it requires this control freak to release the grip on more than what feels comfortable, but, perhaps, this is why trust needs to be my theme for this year. As is the case for all of us, I have absolutely no control over my life. I think I’ve got control, but everything depends on God waking me up in the morning and allowing things in my life to remain the same or get better day-by-day. If one of these variables changes, so does my life, and I’m left realizing that my only choice is to trust God with everything.

Trust is hard for me, being calculated is so much easier. But without trust, I’ve learned that one doesn’t do much living. So, this year I’m embarking on a new and challenging journey. I will strive to do a bit more trusting. And this time next year, I hope to look back and reflect on all the wonderful lessons I learned along the way.

Time to live…

In All Things Give Thanks!

LIfe is a beautiful struggleThis Thanksgiving week has offered me lots of time to sit and reflect about the wonderful things unfolding in my life. From a genuine and sincere place, I can thank God for how He has orchestrated my life in the most interesting way. I’ve not always felt this—no, if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I’ve often been angry with God about the things He’s allowed to happen in my life. My first post on this blog spoke of me emerging from a dark season and just hanging in there. Yes, things were challenging in that moment, but the disappointment I was feeling wasn’t as bad as it seemed. And the life hiccup that proceeded that post certainly didn’t equate to God’s absence or lack of protection. I was overreacting. When I look back on my attitude and behaviors, I sadly realize that I’ve been unnecessarily bitter about so many things for too long. Instead of seeing the good, I’ve seen the bad. Rather than seeing the blessing, I’ve focused on the momentary pain. In place of “thank you”, my mouth has uttered the words “why me,” “I don’t deserve this,” and “God must hate me”. I have been a really negative person, but I’m so thankful I am no longer!
What happened? I’m not sure. Maybe I got older … maybe I learned how to be a bit more patient … maybe I feel better about myself in general … I really don’t know. It may simply be that I’ve learned how to give thanks in all things. I’ve come to appreciate the work of God’s hand behind the scenes in my life. While I’ve often been willing to settle for mediocre, I now understand that God only wants the best for me, so He’s taken me through some things to strip me of those hindrances in my life. He thinks I deserve better even if I’m too foolish to realize it!
This past year has been a challenge, but I’m thankful for every aspect of it. I couldn’t understand what God was doing as He was breaking me, but it was for my good (and I don’t mean that in a cliché way, I truly understand and appreciate this truth)! If I knew the magnitude of the blessing that was in store for me, maybe I wouldn’t have been so angered, frustrated, disappointed, and hurt by the difficulty of the season! I’d like to believe I would’ve responded differently and done a better job of speaking life to me and my challenges. I know hindsight is 20/20, but I just believe if I had known where things would end up, I wouldn’t have fought God so hard. But I’m human, so maybe I still would have failed. Regardless, today I appreciate my struggles and how they forced me to grow to this place where I find myself today.
So … in all things, I choose to give thanks. The good, the bad, the challenging, and the confusing. The delays, the denials, the blessings, and the victories. All of these things are working together for my good and my response is “thank you”.

Journey to 101: Pay Off My Car!

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Another work week in the books and while a cold may have had me down for a bit, life is on the up and up! The new job is going great, an article I wrote was published in The Christian Recorder last week, and I paid off my car! I PAID OFF MY CAR! I know one day I’ll have to buy another car and I may inherit another car payment, but I hope to enjoy many months of not having this monthly expense.

In the meantime, I won’t be wasteful, I’ll repurpose this money in a way that aligns with the Dave Ramsey philosophy. He has a very common sense approach to money management that sometimes feels overwhelming, but is generally manageable. It’s helping me slowly reach some big goals, so I’m willing to tough it out.

Until tomorrow…gotta have a Thanksgiving post. 😉

I Dare You…

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My church is embarking on an “I Dare You” campaign this month. We are challenging ourselves and others to be bold enough to trust God with the important things in our lives. For some, the important thing is personal finances and for others, it’s dealing with a wayward child or a terrifying health condition. As I pondered on the thing I’m trusting God for during this challenge, I couldn’t settle on just one—the truth is, I have to dare to trust God with everything in this moment of my life. I started 2017 feeling extremely hopeful and while my attitude remains the same, there are so many things that need to fall in place in my life! If I were left to figure it all out myself, my human frailties would quickly emerge and incredible doubt would cloud my mind. So daring to trust God in everything seems like the better option for my sanity and my forward movement in this moment. That’s really hard for me to do. Letting go of my desire to be in control of my life in both the present and the future is not consistent with my character. Gladly following Him as He leads me through unknown territory en route to my destiny feels a bit overwhelming to me. But, I’m going to dare to trust God because I know He can do the amazing and the impossible.

I invite each of you to trust God with something important in your life for the remainder of this year. I know I am trusting God for some big things, stuff that only He can allow to unfold. Things that feel uncertain and cause me to question my ability to succeed, but things that I know are possible for God.

Until next time,  I double dog dare you to trust God with your life!