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”.
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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…

Weekend Adventures…

 

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About two weeks ago on a casual ride home, I stumbled upon a beautiful treasure tucked away in Harford County, the Jerusalem Mill Village. I didn’t have a chance to stop that day, but managed to go back for a visit over the weekend. What an awesome story this place offers…

The Jerusalem Mill was established in the late 1700s and remained open in some capacity through the mid 1900s. It started out as a mill and ended up as a local convenience store before it ultimately closed down. The one interesting fact that I learned during the visit was that Joppa, MD was the major port city of Maryland for many years until the water became to shallow to accommodate large shipping vessels. This led to the Port of Baltimore taking shape as we know it today. Kinda neat!

Over the last several years, the buildings that define Jerusalem Mill Village have been restored into a piece of living history. What really captured me as I rode through the village the first time was its potential for creating beautiful pictures (it has so much scenery to offer…I can’t wait out to get out there with my real camera), but what fascinated me during my visit was the rich history of this small community. What an awesome reminder that the so-called small things in life have the ability to make a major difference in the world!

What local spots fascinate you?

A Love Worth Waiting For…

New relationship…broken heart…woe is me, life sucks!

New relationship…so-called love…engaged…this won’t work, time to end this things…broken heart, maybe, sigh of relief, definitely, tears, yes, lots and lots of them…time out for just me, growing my career, having fun with family and friends, becoming a better me…life is great!

New relationship…wait a minute, this guy is really nice and he really likes me…ummmmmmm…my life is great, now what?  Love…really, love?  Uh-oh…I don’t do all of those mushy emotions…until now!

It’s Valentine’s Day week…everybody is supposed to be excited about the love of their life!  I’d say that I am!  But, when I think about the past 7 or 8 years of my life in terms of love and relationships, this hasn’t always been the case, my life has been a seesaw experience.  There have been incredible high and incredible lows, but I wouldn’t change the experiences that I’ve had for anything!  I have learned and grown so much because of them, and I can honestly say that they have made me better.

What did these experiences teach me?

I learned to how to be a self-sustaining adult.  I used to think that my success and my ability to fulfill my life dreams and goals was dependent upon the presence of somebody else in my life.  If my parents were no longer my support system, I needed a man in my life to be my provider.  I believed that my singleness and being a woman would never allow me to reach greatness, so I sulked thinking that I would never be more than average.  I thought I would never be a homeowner, I thought I would never be a mother, and I thought I would never have the finer things in life all because I believed my life depended on another human being holding my hand through life’s journey.  Flawed thinking and a reflection of low self-esteem, but thank God for growth and maturity!

I learned to love myself.  For a long time, I only found joy in the presence of other people.  I feared going to the movies alone or treating myself out to a restaurant.  I was reluctant to be the person who was dateless at a party and I was always jealous of the people in my life who found themselves in a relationship, healthy or unhealthy.  I always wanted what those couples had!  Sadly, because I had unrealistic expectations of what a “good” life looked like, I spent many days down and depressed, when I truly had many things to rejoice over!  Despite what I thought, I had a really good “sometimes single” life!

I learned how to make decisions for myself.  I have always loved my family, and for many years I had a family first mindset.  I did not waver from that thought process.  If my family called, I was going to be present.  I would miss functions with friends, significant others, or anyone else for my family.  My own life was not my priority, pleasing my family was.  And while, I still love my family a great deal, I also now have healthy boundaries in place.  I’m not going to let anyone be in harms way, my folks can always count on me in a pinch, but I’ve also learned how to consider myself when I make decisions.  I no longer feel obligated to go along to get along.

Perhaps, most importantly, I learned about the things that do not define love.  I used to have an image etched in my mind of what picture perfect love looked like!  He was tall, dark, and handsome (and likely from another country)!  He had a high-paying job, and was a homeowner before he met me.  All of the ducks were in a row in his life in my fantasy.  But I learned that love isn’t necessarily what we fantasize.  Love is not linked to a certain career.  Love is not linked to a certain salary.  Love is not linked to a certain family history.  Love is not linked to a college degree.  Love is not linked to a certain physique.  Love is not linked to a certain neighborhood.  Love has nothing to do with a lot of things we have been conditioned to believe it is linked to.  No, love really is patient and kind, selfless and forgiving, compassionate and supportive.  Love is hard and challenging, it takes serious work, but love is wonderful if it’s true and one opens up to the experience…

I’ve discovered that true love isn’t perfect, in fact, sometimes you want to give up because it’s easier.  But, I’ve also discovered that true love is always seeking to be the person that you need him (or her) to be.  True love wants to support you and encourage you and be present for you even if he (or she) cannot change a thing about your circumstances.  True love admits that he is only human, but, true love also declares that in his humanness, he always seeks God first, so He can refine his imperfections so he can strive to be perfectly aligned with God’s will for his life and the relationship.

Years after feeling sorry for myself, years after feeling so much hurt and pain, I’ve come to appreciate all of my life experiences because they have prepared me for my present place in life.  I’m still not perfect, but every hill and every valley taught me how to embrace love.  On the other side of these things, I’ve come to appreciate that I was never ready for the “loves” that I thought were for me in those earlier seasons of my life.  No…God was preparing me for a love that was worth waiting for!  Now, we shall see where the journey leads us…

Until God Says So…

Nearly a month ago, as my work day was coming to an end, I got a call that no one wants to receive.  Through the earpiece of my phone my crying mother said, “Dawn, you need to come home.  Mom-Mom is dying, she only has a few more days to live, and she wants to speak with all of her grandchildren tonight.”  Without thinking, my immediate response was, “I’ll be there, I’m leaving here in just a few minutes.”

Despite having just visited my grandmother the weekend before, I had to go, I had to see my grandmother, I had to be there for my mother…I had to be an adult and face the difficult challenge of death once again.  When I arrived at the hospital, I felt like I was on the set of Soul Food…my entire family was gathered in the halls of the hospital and despite our tears and emotions, my grandmother was offering her final words of wisdom to everyone and unlike me, she was very much at peace with the situation.

A month later, I’m happy to say that I didn’t face death that night, and death still hasn’t knocked on my grandmother’s door.  No, she’s alive, kicking, and amazingly getting stronger each day.  Interestingly, my oldest nephew declared on that challenging day a month ago that he had faith and believed that Mom-Mom was going to get better.  Well…out of the mouth of this child we were reminded that nothing happens until God says so!

I don’t know what my grandmother’s fate is…she may have just a few days left here with us, or she may have a few years, I really don’t know and am afraid to guess, but I do know this, God has not said it’s her time yet!  When I visited her last week, she shared with me that the Lord had brought her a mighty long way, and this same thought rings true in each of our lives.  Whether we choose to admit it or not, there are areas in each of our lives that have been on life support a time or two.  It could have been our marriage, our finances, our children, our health, our job, our academic achievements, our home, or our anything!  All of us have been down so low in something that we were certain death was inevitable, but in that moment, somewhere deep down on the inside we had just enough faith to whisper, “I’ve got faith and I believe my life is going to get better”!  This is my conviction this year, not just for me, but for everyone who is connected to me, my family, my friends, my coworkers, and even my haters!  We’ve got faith and life is going to get better for all of us!

This chapter of my grandmother’s life story has reminded me that God truly has the final say!  Many of us (including me) get a bit too confident, and think that things happen in this life because of what we’ve done or who we are, but it doesn’t matter what anyone says or does, God does what He wants, when He wants, and there’s nothing we can do about it!  So, I’m gonna keep on visiting my grandmother and enjoying the time I get to share with her until God says it’s time for her to come home and rest with Him eternally because nothing in this life happens until God Says So!

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” -James 4: 13-15