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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Chopped…AGAIN!

On multiple occasions, my mother has encouraged me to always be open to experimenting with new hairstyles, but me, being the somewhat conservative and ridiculously self-conscious person that I am, I tend to shy away from this notion.  I’m always thinking about what folks will say about the new hairstyle and worry if I will look good or bad with a  new do, but last Friday, I did something completely out of the ordinary.  On a whim, I decided to chop my hair off (again!) and get a completely new style.  Truthfully, I had no intentions of getting my hair done, I had simply been casually thinking about doing something different with my hair.  I was becoming tired of the twists, I was pretty certain that a relaxer every 6-8 weeks wasn’t going to work for me as I need both an exercise friendly and easy do, and the natural thing…well, I was getting tired of my resistant hair.  While there are lots of great products on the market now for women of color who opt to go natural, my hair is just a bit more kinky than I desire, and those nice curls that they claim to give…ummmmmm, well, I’m tired of still looking for them!  So, in light of all of these things…I decided to once again chop my hair off (and let the natural thing go).  I didn’t think about it, I didn’t analyze the decision…I just did it.  I was hoping my hair would look good once finished, but I had not a single picture that sorta, kinda looked like a style I may want, so I took a step of faith.  And, what do you know…I was pleasantly surprised after all was said and done.  Who knew it was so nice to actually be able to run one’s hands through their hair!?!?!

After the fact, I quickly realized that cutting my hair is much more significant than simply parting ways with several inches of  filamentous outgrowths of my skin.  It’s not simply a new spring/summer do, it’s a reflection of the internal transformation that is bubbling up in my life.  I looked in the mirror the day after the big chop and smiled back at myself and thought, “Whether people like your hair or not, you are beautiful”.  That certainly didn’t sound like me talking…beautiful is never a word I’ve used to describe myself.  Then, three days after the big chop, I found myself gazing in the mirror speaking positive affirmations to my own self about all of the things I have yet to see or do, but am still fully convinced I will accomplish in my life.  This is major progress…I wouldn’t even speak positive affirmations to myself when it was the therapist’s orders!

Parting with my hair is so much more than what meets the eye, it is symbolic of me parting with the girl inside of me who has harbored lots of self-hate and self-doubt, parting with the girl inside of me who felt so unlovable and undesirable, parting with the girl inside of me who didn’t want to look in a mirror because she didn’t value the image that was reflected back.  In cutting my hair, I cut ties with an old version of me.  Some people will never understand the significance of this moments in my life!  Some people have never truly felt left out, unworthy, or undesirable in their own skin, but I am that person.  I am that person who has had to work hard at loving oneself…it has never been second nature to me, I’m that person who has mastered the art of wearing the mask that grins and lies…that was my means for survival, but at the beginning of the year, I decided that I would intentionally change the messages that I allowed to infiltrate my mind.  Without hesitation, I can certainly declare that I’m now doing just that!

Until next time…peace!

DMW

I’ll take packing up for $100…NOT!

I’ve decided that as much as I’m looking forward to moving to my new place in less than 1 week, I hate packing with a passion!  Hands down, no questions asked…packing isn’t for me, and to think, after this move, I’ve got at least 1 more move ahead of me (because I’m determined to purchase a home of my own sooner or later), it makes me sigh!

But, packing is my fate for the next few evenings…I’m hoping that if I buckle down, I can knock it all out in 2 evenings.  I’ve managed to do quite a bit of purging over the past few years, so I truly only have things that I plan to carry with me for the long haul to pack.  I guess I better pick up a little Woodchuck on my home from the office and get ready for a long night ahead!

Here’s to packing up, closing out another interesting (but amazing!) year of my life, and starting off 2014 on a completely new foot!

Until next time…

Oh the Places You’ll Go…

Oh,_the_Places_You'll_GoTonight, I find myself well over a month into my new job, and if I’ve never said it before, I can now say without hesitation that we never know the places we’ll go!  There is no doubt in my mind that the past 7 weeks have been some of the best weeks of my life.  Yes, there have been long days, no telework days, and definitely some moments of utter exhaustion, but for the first time in a long time I’m certain that every morning when I head out the door to start my day, I never feel like I’m going to work, I’m just going our for some daily fun.  I love what I’m doing and never could have imagined what this life had in store for me!

I now can better appreciate the amount of time it took for me to transition into this job.  In the waiting days, I was far from happy, but now, I have absolutely no regrets.  Why, you may ask?  Well, today I had the opportunity to meet with the deputy director of my current institute.  As she led our meeting, I sat in awe of this remarkable African-American woman…not because of her credentials, but because of her undeniable passion for mentoring younger African-American women in the fields of science and public health, and her commitment to improving the health of women and children by any means necessary.  This woman has an incredibly busy schedule, yet she found 15 minutes to spend talking with me and my rotational supervisor, and she ended our conversation by thanking me for rotating in their institute and assuring me that I would have a worthwhile experience.  Talk about being stunned…I was beyond thankful for the opportunity to sit in her office, that was enough for me, and yet this woman found it in her heart to thank me for coming to spend a few months working in their office.  Oh, the places we’ll go!

On top of this, I had an opportunity to meet with the President of a Southern college that is primarily attended by young African-American women.  This is a college that I dreamed of attending when I was younger (but I was afraid to be that far away from home at the time).  Never in a million years did I think I would get to sit in on a meeting with this college president.  And to make things even better, I will get to meet her in-person next week.  That was completely unexpected, but such a blessing!  Oh, the places we’ll go!

I’m no Dr. Seuss when it comes to putting words together, but I like the words of his book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!  Although a children’s book it highlights the peaks and valleys that we all certainly experience in life.  He also talks about continuing to move forward when things are a bit unclear.  He ends this book with these words:

Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

The more I live, the more I learn to be open to all that life has to offer.  The guest preacher at my church a few Sundays ago preached from the theme, You Have No Idea.  That statement is so true in my life right now.  God is doing the absolutely amazing!  He is doing the unimaginable, and He is showing me that I don’t really know the places I’ll go.

Daily Gratitude…

I was talking with a friend earlier today about making adjustments to my daily routine so that I can have more time to relax, while still feeling like I’ve accomplished the things that I’ve set out to do.  Over the course of our conversation, my friend asked me had I ever considered keeping a Gratitude Journal.  Surprisingly, I have never heard of such, but I was immediately intrigued by the idea of recording daily a few things for which I am grateful in the present moment.  Just think about how encouraging this can be, well at least in my current world I find it to be encouraging.  To be able to take on a positive attitude about even the negative things going on truly is looking at life from a new perspective.  How amazing is it that even on my seemingly worst day, I can be grateful for the small things like having a brief phone conversation with a friend whom I have not seen in a long time or being able to take a summer vacation with family members who I also consider friends?

We don’t live in a grateful society…people are quick to complain about everything – quality of service, the amount of time it takes to get things done, the cost of things, issues with our children, spouses, church folks, friends, coworkers, etc. – we have been conditioned to look at life through a negative lens…but, just as with film processing, the negative does not reflect what the actual picture looks like.  If we only look at the negative, but never look at the print, we miss out on the beauty of the image.  The same is true with our lives…if we only look at our lives through negative eyes, we never get to see the beauty of the world unfolding around us.    Despite how things may seem, there’s some good in everything!  So today, I’m digging a little deeper and searching for the things to be grateful for…

Until next time…

Amaze Me…

This week has started on an incredibly high note for me.  My Pastor preached the sermon, “Amaze Me, Lord” on Sunday morning and it hit me in an interesting way, sparking a fire deep within me.  The root of her message focused on how we live never expecting anything outside of normal to occur in our daily lives.  She stated that in many ways we have planned our lives out so much that God has no room to step in and do something amazing.  And, even if he did, many of us aren’t open to the spontaneous and unpredictable ways of God…we shut Him down and refuse to surrender our own personal agendas to follow God’s guidance.  This message struck me in an interesting way because I’m always trying to figure things out, I need everything to make sense, and I NEED life to unfold as planned!  On the one hand, I panic and experience anxiety when life seems out of control.  On the other hand, I sabotage my efforts whenever it seems like things aren’t going as they ought.  The idea of not putting forth effort, thus not getting expected results is much easier to accept than the idea of failure!  But Sunday’s sermon really made me think deep about my perspective and approach.  Perhaps continuing to do the things that I feel led to do, rather than sabotaging my efforts, would result in God doing something amazing in my life!

Earlier today, I posted the Holstee Manifesto…this is a great example of something amazing happening in the lives of people who took a step of faith.  The gist of the story is that a few individuals quit their job to start a company selling all natural tee shirts, which initially weren’t a big hit…somewhere along the line they posted the Holstee Manifesto, a personal mantra gone public, that went viral and gave the company a name.  Graphic designers made the statement visually appealing and this became the company’s most popular item…it wasn’t in the plan to sell it, but this amazing and perplexing thing happened simply because these individuals followed their heart and stayed the course.

In 2013, I want amazing and perplexing things to happen in my life!  This year I want to stay committed to following my heart and following my life dreams…I want to stay committed to conquering every challenge that I encounter.  Specifically, this year, I want to start figuring out how to move from my day job to my dream job…this year, I want to not just run a few 5k races, I want to set personal records and run farther without fear, I even want to complete a sprint triathlon…this year, I want to encourage others and let them know that those things that were once impossible can now be done…this year, I want to trust God more than ever before to start granting me the desires of my heart…this year, I want to give more to others than ever before.  And if some these things happen, then God will have amazed me and therein lies the beauty in all of this…God’s amazing grace!

It’s going to be an AMAZING 2013!

Yearly Reflections…

As another year comes to an end, I’m once again setting aside time for a bit of introspection.  As I get older, I find that reflecting on both the positive and negative aspects of myself helps me identify ways in which I’ll try to approach my life a bit differently in the future.  Whereas I once avoided this hard work, I now find that it helps to ensure I’m always moving in a positive direction.  So, tonight, I’m going to share part of this reflection process (I’m taking this one area at a time) as  I feel strongly that writing things out makes one more accountable, and more importantly, sharing my goals publicly surrounds me with individuals who can ensure I’m not slacking in working towards my personal goals.

I’ll start with what’s perhaps easiest area for me…fitness & nutrition!

What will I do?

What will I do?

The first things I shall acknowledge are:

1.  Innately I strongly dislike exercising,

2. I would prefer junk food over healthy food most days of the week, and,

3.  I’ve been an epic failure in the fitness and nutrition areas of my life over the past year!

The blessing is, despite my natural tendencies and failures, I recognize the importance of both exercising and healthy eating, and would sincerely like to live a healthier life in the coming weeks and year ahead.  For several months now, I’ve moaned and complained about gaining weight and additional soft layers, but feeling sorry for myself has gotten me nowhere.  As the picture so eloquently states, “The question isn’t can you, it’s WILL you?”  That said, I will do better in 2013 than I did in 2012.  I fully recognize that I MUST slow down and release the clutter that fills my mind, my life, and my space so I can focus on leading a healthier life.  I heard the question asked in a podcast this week, “What works better for you…finding an hour a day to exercise now or being dead 24 hours day a later?”  Ummm…I’ll take an hour of exercise for $100.

In 2013 (well, really I think I’ll get started now), I WILL be more intentional in planning my meals and snacks weekly, I WILL make preparing a variety fresh veggies every week a priority, and I WILL write protected gym time into my personal calendar.  I know I can become a bit obsessed with things of this nature, but I need to be obsessed…tomorrow is not promised, so I need to take care of the vessel that God gifted me with!

Until nest time…

Walking in Circles…

For the past few weeks, my pastor has been talking about a book, The Circle Maker, during Sunday morning service.  From the first time she mentioned it, the book seemed very interesting to me, and I added to my reading list.  Yesterday, I managed to pick up a copy of the book.  In a nutshell, the book talks about making circles around our prayers…simple enough, right?

A few weeks ago, I shared with some of my church buddies that I was praying that I would be more loving and compassionate.  In some way, life has made me cold and hard…I’ve lost the ability to show compassion to others, my patience is always running thin, and when I think someone is just playing games with me, I shut down completely, I don’t take mess and I don’t mind letting people know this.  The reality is that it’s not because I’m not a caring person, it’s just that I feel like I’ve been taken advantage of so many times that I refuse to be a victim of my kindness again.  In recognizing my issue with being loving and compassionate, I found a need to pray specifically for a change in this area specifically to happen in my life.  By placing this on my heart, God was up to something…

When I got home from work on Monday evening, I checked my mail and found a flyer about a new housing development across the street from my community.  Typically I would have just thrown this in the trash, but for some reason I read the advertisement this time.  As I looked at the monthly mortgage rate, I realized that these rates were within my price point, and felt led to be in prayer about the purchase of a home.  Again, God was up to something…

On Wednesday morning, I picked up The Circle Maker and within a matter of minutes, I realized God is truly up to something in my life.  After reading just a few pages of this book, I found myself fired up and ready to start walking circles around my wildest dreams and craziest prayers.  While I’ve gone to church my whole life, prayer has never been my strong suit.  There have been times where I’ve fallen asleep while praying, or found myself randomly talking about nothing while praying, or even saying my grace during my evening prayers.  There have been days when I haven’t prayed at all and days when my prayers probably weren’t worth much.  It’s not that I don’t know the value of prayer, it’s not that I don’t have words to say, I just don’t settle myself down into that “sanctified” posture of prayer as I should.  Does this mean I’m less of a Christian?  In the eyes of some, perhaps, but for me, I just see it as that area in my faith walk that will always require my attention.

So, for however long the Lord shall lead me, I will be circling the promises God has for my life (the author refers to these as our Jerichos) in prayer.  I will literally be making circles around the houses across the street from my community and believing in faith that God is going to bless me to purchase a new home.  I will be circling the bank as an outward act of faith to let God know that I’m trusting Him to provide the financial backing needed to purchase this home.  I’m going to be walking and specifically praying for some other things as well, not just for me, but for my family and friends to.  It’s no mistake that I learned of this book…it’s no mistake that my prayer life is being challenged in this season…I truly believe that this path I’m walking is about to reveal things in my life that I never could have imagined!

What promises will you circle in prayer?

Until next time…peace and blessings!

DMW

September Photo-a-Day Challenge…

As September rapidly approaches, I’m committed to taking steps to living the life I desire…that was after all yesterday’s epiphany!  So, to start things off, I’m making photography a daily priority in my life.  I may not be able to edit all of my pictures on a daily basis, but I’m going to commit to completing a Photo-a-Day Challenge next month.  Here’s the list for next month’s challenge: