A Journal and Journey Through My Past…

GodIsAbleTemplateSaturday was a big day in my life—MOVING DAY! There were stressful and intense moments, but I’m settling into my new space and loving it. I love the neighborhood and the neighbors whom I’ve met so far have been great. I’m super happy and excited about this new season in my journey.

One of the greatest parts of this move has been stumbling upon my old journals. It’s amazing how some of my feelings have remained the same, yet in other areas, I’ve changed so much! One of the musings that struck me deep was written on June 18, 2011. I remember that day so clearly. My church had just finished a Bible study series entitled Experiencing God and we spent that day together on a silent retreat. I was quietly struggling greatly with God and ministry in that season, I was determined to do things my way, yet I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling of God calling me to do a greater work for Him. I’m the fighter who thought I could wear God out with all of my punches and running. God won, and the winning sorta, kinda started on June 18, 2011!

It was that day when my former pastor sought me out to be her partner during the morning icebreaker. I was so distraught about this happening . . . I tried to avoid my former pastor at all times like the plague. God was working on me and I had heard through the grapevine my pastor had her eye on me (Translation: God had probably put something about me in her spirit, and she was trying to observe and see what God was talking about. I wanted no parts of such.) I had planned to leave the retreat super early to go to a friend’s birthday party in New Jersey, but this icebreaker partnership messed up that plan. Fast forward several years and my former pastor has become a mother to me. Together we share a wonderful bond and I’ve stopped fighting God. Certainly, He and I still have differences of opinions, but I don’t have the same level of fight towards Him in me. Praise the Lord!

This is what I wrote on that day:

I must trust God completely and believe that if I remain in Him and stay obedient, He will grant me the desires of my heart. He will bless my life beyond belief, He will provide for all of my needs. I will not be lacking in any area and, in due season, He will give me overflow. I will not struggle to pay bills, everything will not be perfect, but in Him I will not have earthly worries.

Like the tree, I’m [God] too big for your to grasp. You can’t wrap your arms around me, so stop trying! What God’s doing is something I can’t analyze my way through. Stop trying to figure out what I’m  doing and just do what I tell you to do. I’m trying to prepare you for the end result and I need you to do what I’m telling you to do. Stop trying to figure out what the end result is. It may or may not be what you think it is.

I’m stuck to you like glue. It must be done My way.

Reading this, given where I am in my present life, is a refreshing reminder of God’s sovereign power. I had no idea what God had in store for me then, but everything He put on my heart that day has proven true. He is truly blessing me beyond belief . . . the home I was blessed to purchase is certainly a “beyond belief” blessing. This job I’ve got is a “beyond belief” blessing. No matter how hard I try to figure it out, God still confuses me and others in my circle. He’s beyond my grasp, but He’s faithful and just. And, He’s shown me time and time again that He’s stuck to me like glue. God truly loves me and I absolutely love Him.

I wonder what the remaining journals have in store for me.

Until next time . . .

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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!

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!

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”.

The Awesome Privilege to Serve….

giftThere are so many things on my mind to write about these days. I consider this a huge blessing given the writer’s block I’ve experienced over the past few months. Ironically it now seems that I don’t have enough time to cover all of the thoughts in my head! I look forward to the day when I’m able to dedicate more time to this area of my life.

I have the awesome privilege of leading the campus ministry at my church. And while I’ve not been able to dedicate as much time as I’d like to sharing with students at local colleges and universities, God has shown favor on my church and sent so many students our way this year. I owe many thanks to the awesome ambassadors that God has planted in my midst who invite people to come and fellowship with us every Sunday!

The basis of our work is to support students socially, financially, and spiritually to help them finish their undergraduate education. Yesterday we invited a young lady from DC, Yasmine Arrington, in to share with our students her story of overcoming challenges and finishing strong. It was an awesome experience. As is with functions, there were some hiccups along the way, but we had a great turnout and the students were so engaged throughout our time together. It made my heart smile…

There are many days when I feel like this work of campus ministry is more than I can handle. The stress of my job and pursuing my personal dreams can be suffocating at times. The burden of another person needing me for something, whether it be a ride to church or a quick pep talk can seem like too much. But then days like yesterday happen! I see the zeal of the next generation and my strength is renewed. So, I press on and I serve the Lord with gladness. I think of new and different ways to empower and encourage the students. I think of ways to let God’s light shine through me so that they might want to have a relationship with Him…this ministry is not about beating students over the head with the Bible. It’s about living out those two important commandments, love God first, then love those He places around you. That’s what we do…we love and encourage the students and pray that those who are not saved will make a decision for Christ because they’ve seen His light in us. We also pray that those who are facing great struggles will be encouraged and find the strength to continue placing one foot in front of the other. We seek to see our students finish strong!

So, this morning, I’m thankful for every blessing and every struggle that has defined my life because all of these things have prepared me for this awesome privilege to serve!

Make it a great day…

Hugs for everyone…WHAT?!?!?!

It’s been a great Sunday, church was awesome, the Ravens won, the Eagles won, I met up with my cousin for an early dinner…it was a great day! Honestly, it was an amazing weekend. Last night, I spent some time in DC at Mastro’s Steakhouse celebrating the recent marriage of another cousin and her husband. While I’m not big on steak, I’d definitely suggest one consider visiting Mastro’s if you’re in the area…the food was amazing, the medium rare steak included!

The highlight of the evening was sharing with friends many of whom I’ve not seen in months. It was so good to see so many people, and I, the person who isn’t too fond of hugging people, greeted and said farewell to everyone with a HUG! That’s amazing for me! I’m the one who has never been a fan of giving my elderly relatives hugs and can easily leave my parents’ house with a quick wave. But with this new commitment to living from my heart, I decided to let my guard down a bit and share hugs with everyone. Truthfully, it took a lot for me to show up to the party yesterday. Deep down in my heart, I really wanted to go, but I was struggling to get myself to get up and out of the door. Life is like that more often than I’d like for it to be (not because I’m depressed, I’m just mentally exhausted), but I found the courage to get up and go be with my friends. I’m so glad I did, and more than that, I’m really happy that I decided to embrace so many people with a hug. Turns out, it wasn’t so bad…in fact, I think it kinda opened me up to engaging in authentic conversations the entire evening. Through those conversations, I learned that more people read what I write on here than I thought. How about that…

So, maybe in the weeks ahead, I’ll remain open to the simple act of opening my arms up to give and receive hugs. What a challenge for me that will be!

Make it a great week…

Writer’s Block!

I need to write, but I’ve got nothing in me right now. Yet, I’m committed to writing because it’s a part of my 101 journey and I’m determined to finish the work on my book before the end of the year! Given these things, it seems like getting stuck in a writing funk is not an option…

So, I’m going to do some reading and thinking tonight to see what thoughts begin to stir in my mind. And then, I’m going to write because it’s been too long since I’ve worked on my book, and deep down I know there’s something in me that needs to be shared with the world. I can’t let momentary mental challenges stop me…