Journeying to 101. The Gifts of Imperfection

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“My story matters because I matter.” – Brene Brown

For the past few weeks, I’ve been focusing on reading more…it’s one of my 101 challenges. My goal is to read 10 books that I currently own but have not completed. Some days, I manage to get in a few chapters, while others just a few pages, but I’ve been intentional in reading and reflecting for a few moments daily. It’s been good, and I’ve now managed to read two of the ten books! A few weeks ago I finished In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson.

Today, I finished reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. I’ve had the book for a long time, but I’ve never managed to get through it. Perhaps this is because the book requires one to do the tough work of self-reflection (the book’s subtitle hints at this very thing – Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and EMBRACE Who You Are) or maybe I’ve just been too busy doing a bunch of nothing to stop and read a book! I’m certain it was the self-reflection piece that kept me from reading the book. For me, genuine self-reflection is hard stuff (I bet the same is true for you), but it’s so freeing for the one who is daring enough to do it! I’ve learned that many of us are content not digging deep into the depths of our souls to deal with our life issues, but I’m convinced that honesty is still the best policy. Unfortunately, over time, we’ve mastered the art of “wearing the mask that grins and lies”…oh yes, “with torn and bleeding hearts” we know how to smile, but somehow we’ve managed to forget how to truly live. Living authentic and wholehearted lives is a daily struggle, well for me at least…but this book challenges its readers to face this struggle with an open heart and a sense of expectation. I would encourage anyone to give this book a try.

Now…I must offer this disclaimer, I had a major meltdown in the middle of the book. I’m talking an “I’m done with God” meltdown! This book made me want to cuss (ok, I did cuss…I’m just being honest)! In dealing with me…I was left feeling quite vulnerable. For a moment, I felt like my life was shattered in a million pieces with no hopes of repair! I felt like I had failed myself, I felt like I had failed God, I felt like God had failed me, and I just felt downright sorry for myself! I’m currently recovering from the meltdown…I’m still feeling the effects of it…but I pushed myself to keep reading the book and I’m still doing the hard work that goes along with this journey! And, I think I’m glad I did.  The author ends the book with a statement that sums up my present journey pretty well…one minute you’ll pray that the transformation stops, and the next minute you’ll pray that it never ends. You’ll also wonder how you can feel so brave and so afraid at the same time. At least that’s how I feel most of the time…brave, afraid, and very, very alive.

Will you embrace your gifts of imperfection?

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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?

Journeying to 101. Swim Lessons.

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I’m so excited to be on the journey to 101! Today, I’m checking swim lessons off my list…yay! I took swimming lessons as a child, but that was a really long time ago, and I’m pretty sure I never managed to perfect the art. So…I decided that now was a great time to jump back in the pool and take lessons again. Today was the first class and I think I did rather well (if I must say so myself). We started nice and easy with bobs and progressed to swimming laps using kickboards. The competitor in me was happy to take on every challenge the instructor put before me. While I could feel the fatigue in my legs when I got out of the pool, I had a great time! I can’t wait to get back in the water and practice my kicks this week…

A New 101 in 1,001 List…

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A few years back I wrote a 101 in 1,0001 list. I got the idea from my cousin Tiffany, and found that it was really helpful in pushing me to do some things that otherwise may fall off the radar screen. So, for the past month, I’ve been slowly working on my new list. There are some things that I never managed to check off of my old list that I’ve recycled, along with some new things. I’m looking forward to another leg in my life journey….there are lots of great things out there to do, if we’ll just set aside the time to do them!

This journey began on June 1, 2017 and I’m hoping to check everything off the list by February 27, 2020!

Things to Do/Personal Challenges

  1. Finish writing my new 101 list…I don’t think it will be so hard this time! – Completed 7/7/2017
  2. Complete photography CE certificate requirements.
  3. Finish watching Dear White People.
  4. Write 5 letters to 5 people who have had a positive impact on my life. (6/19/2017: 1 of 5 written and sent.)
  5. Organize my computer files.
  6. Organize my iTunes library.
  7. Make a list of my fears and what I can do to face and defeat them.
  8. Complete a 30-day photo challenge.
  9. Make an address book with contact information for family and friends.
  10. Go to Morgan’s Homecoming Gala.
  11. Launch new website. – In Progress…Coming Real Soon!!!
  12. Write and publish a book of devotions.
  13. Write on my blog weekly for 52 consecutive weeks.
  14. Get to work by 8 am every day for an entire month.
  15. Go without watching TV for one week.
  16. Bike round trip from Baltimore to Annapolis.
  17. Go to Top Golf.
  18. Play a round of golf on a course
  19. Plant a garden.
  20. Make a batch of homemade soap.
  21. Make a batch of bath salts.
  22. Attend PlantNite.
  23. Visit the Newseum.
  24. Visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
  25. Host a dinner party for friends.
  26. Host Thanksgiving dinner for family and friends.
  27. Host Family Christmas Party.
  28. Attend the Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival.
  29. Start or participate in a MasterMind Group.

 Personal Growth and Enrichment

  1. Finish reading 10 books I currently own but have not read in their entirety. (6/19/2017: Read 1 of 10)
  2. Write a living will.
  3. Write a letter to open at the end of the 1,001 days challenge.
  4. Write a letter to open when I’m 40.
  5. Write a Personal Mission Statement.
  6. Identify my core/guiding values and display these in my home.
  7. Write in my journal for 30 consecutive days.
  8. Write a letter of forgiveness to those people who have hurt me in my past…won’t send it, but will write it.

 Relationship-Building

  1. Go on a vacation(maybe a camping trip) with my immediate family.
  2. Have lunch with my Dad.
  3. Take a photography workshop with my brother.
  4. Go on a spa day with my sister-in-law.
  5. Go to tea with my mother.
  6. Spend a day with my oldest nephew.
  7. Go on a movie date with my middle and youngest nephew.
  8. Bake holiday cookies with Kim.
  9. Go to Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse with Pastor Ann.
  10. Go on a weekend ski/snow tubing trip with friends.
  11. Complete a 5K (walking or running) with Ronnie to celebrate her weight loss journey.

 Faith and Spirituality

  1. Read the Bible in its entirety.
  2. Create a prayer and meditation space in my home.
  3. Complete seminary (or get very close).

 Lifelong Learning

  1. Take swimming lessons.
  2. Take a guitar class.
  3. Take a piano class.
  4. Take a cooking class.
  5. Take 3 photography courses.
  6. Learn to hand dance.
  7. Take an Intermediate WordPress course.
  8. Attend Global Leadership Summit.

 Health and Fitness

  1. Complete the Whole Life Challenge.
  2. Run/walk 30 miles in 30 days.
  3. Complete a 10K race.
  4. Lose 25 pounds.
  5. Go rock wall climbing.
  6. Run in the St. Michael’s Running Festival.
  7. Bike a century.
  8. Complete a sprint triathlon.
  9. Complete a 50 push-up challenge.
  10. Complete a plank challenge.
  11. Consume zero cookies for an entire month.
  12. Document my meal choices for 30 consecutive days.

 Things to Own

  1. Upgrade my dSLR.
  2. Buy prime lens.
  3. Buy new lamps for my bedroom and living room.
  4. Buy my first home.
  5. Buy a new laptop.
  6. Buy a new pair of sunglasses. – Completed July 3, 2017

Financial Milestones

  1. Pay off my car.
  2. Save 10% of my annual salary.

 Things to Do at Home 

  1. Organize my filing cabinet.
  2. Create a weekly cleaning schedule.
  3. Finish decorating my bedroom.
  4. Make my bed every day for 30 consecutive days.
  5. Create a functional office space in my home.
  6. Frame and hang my artwork from Nigeria.
  7. Create an art gallery in my home that features my own creative works.

Places to Visit 

  1. Go on a European vacation.
  2. Visit Western Maryland.
  3. Visit Great Falls Park.
  4. Go on a cruise.
  5. Go to New York during the Christmas season and see the Christmas Show at Radio City Music Hall.
  6. Take a trip to Canada.
  7. Take a trip to Albuquerque, NM.
  8. Go to the US Open…I love tennis!
  9. Attend the Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival.
  10. Spend an afternoon in St. Michael’s.
  11. Spend a day in Old Town Alexandria.
  12. Take a trip to Bermuda.
  13. Take a beach vacation.

Giving Back

  1. Organize a scholarship fund to give a book scholarship to at least 1 high school senior annually.
  2. Donate books to a school/organization.

 

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!