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…

And You Say You Are a Christian…

Disclosure: My blood has been boiling since yesterday afternoon.

Love-unconditionallyFor several months, I’ve been a member of a local writing group. It’s composed of Christians of varying ages and gender. While there are a few Black Americans in the group, lately I’m the one who attends most regularly. Yesterday, an older white gentleman shared a devotion entitled Loving Black Folks. As soon as the devotion was circulated among the group members, the other members shared with me that they had some real concerns about the devotion and told the gentleman that he needed to make some revisions and bring it back to the group before it would be accepted for publication. Then they proceeded to ask me to provide my honest feedback on the devotion because the other black ladies in the group had been non-responsive to their request. So, with an open mind and heart, I read the devotion and tried my best to give it a fair shot. But, can I tell you that I was cussing mad when I finished reading the document! I didn’t cuss, but I certainly shared with the group exactly how I felt. One of the ladies stood up and clapped. I’m not sure that was necessary, but I appreciated it!

You see, my anger with the devotion began with the title…don’t call me folks! Personally, I find the term “folks” to be degrading when referring to a group of people! I wouldn’t say, let me go love those “crackers”, so don’t call me “folks”. My other issue with the title is that as Christians we should focus on loving ALL people, there was absolutely no need to single out a specific group (unless, of course, that’s a group you silently have a problem with). In John 13, Jesus says, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” We are to love all people regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, income level, ability level, and family structure, among other things. We are to love those who are different from us, we are to love those who have not come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, we are to love those who have done wrong to us, we are to love those who engage in sinful behavior…we are to love all because while all of us are different, we are all valuable in the eyes of God! So, as nicely as I could (it took real effort) I told the gentleman, “This title makes it seem like it’s work for you to love black folks. For the record, I want you to know that I don’t need anyone to feel burdened to love me. I’m alright being loved by those who accept me as I am. Please don’t feel obligated to love people of color!”

But my frustration did not stop with the title, the devotion was five paragraphs and two sentences. Of all the words he wrote, five paragraphs discussed his personal experiences of Black people serving him and his family and two sentences contained a reference to the love Jesus has for all of us! I was blown! I mean, this guy didn’t find anything strange about what he had written, so I proceeded to tell him that his devotion talked nothing about loving people, it talked about his personal experiences with Black people. And honestly, I found nothing loving about the experiences he described. I don’t think it occurred to him that most Blacks who worked in the houses of Whites did not do this because it brought them joy or was the fulfillment of a life goal! NO…they did it because they needed to feed their families and they wanted their children and grandchildren to have an opportunity to pursue the dreams that were left deferred in their own lives! I was personally offended because some of my relatives served Whites but could’ve done so much more if segregation weren’t the law in their day! I was offended because the church where he attends and where the writing group meets is one of the most diverse congregations I’ve visited in my life…the pastoral leadership is diverse, the musicians and singers are diverse, the greeters are diverse…this place is the epitome of what I think a worship environment should look like! And yet, there was THIS experience with a guy who clearly just doesn’t get it! I went and checked out his blog and Facebook page after the meeting (because that’s where people share their real views) and there he made a statement about how individuals in same-sex relationships need to take their problem to God and deal with it by themselves because it’s not his burden. While I respect his views, I swear we are called to love those who live a life that we find offensive. For me the offense doesn’t really matter because I’m certain my Bible tells us that the person without sin should cast the first stone, and the last time I checked all of us have engaged in some type of sinful behavior, so how about we love on each other and help one another strive to honor God completely with our lives!

So, my blood is still boiling because in my book it doesn’t matter how many mission trips one takes or how many souls one leads to Christ or how many sermons one preaches if one forgets that commandment that tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves! If you don’t love ALL people regardless of their stuff, then shame on you and ask yourself the question…am I really a Christian.

Until next time…show love!

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.                1 Corinthians 13:13

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…

Journeying to 101. A Personal Manifesto.

Personal Manifesto 2

Two weeks ago,  I had the opportunity to lead a discussion with some colleagues on the work of Simon SinekIn short, Simon Sinek argues that everyone has a why that motivates them daily. He defines our why as the purpose, cause, or belief that inspires us to do what we do. Our why reflects our core values and personal convictions. If you have a few minutes, check out his TED talk, I think it’s pretty good.

It turns out that identifying my why made it onto my 101 list! Seems like that’s all I write about on here these days (I have to save my other writing for that big project I’m working on). On the list this item looks like, “Identify my core/guiding values and display these in my home,” but that’s simply an extended phrase for identifying my why.

After thinking a bit about my values, I came up with the above manifesto. Because I’m driven to challenge myself, I tried to flex my teeny-tiny creativity muscles to come up with something appealing to the eye. I gotta have something nice to display in my space. So, what guides me?

  1. My Faith. At the end of the day, that’s really all I’ve got. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no stranger to throwing a temper tantrum with God. We roll like that, but He’s been so faithful to me. Some folks casually say the God has always been by their side, but I can truly say that God has seen me through some things. Many times, I’ve fought Him the entire way, but I’m clear that my faith wins. So before anything else, my faith is at the top of my list of my guiding values.
  2. An Acceptance that I Am Enough. Hands down, believing this has been the greatest struggle of my life. But, with lots of therapy and hard work (and I’m talking real hard work), I am now at a place where I know that who I am is enough! I am lovable and I am just who God wants me to be, flaws and all! Recognizing this truth has been the key to me giving myself permission to explore those things that bring me joy, deciding what’s most important in this moment, letting go of things that have held me back, and being open to making crazy changes in my life!
  3. My Dreams. At 17 years old, I decided I would be a biology major. I liked science, I liked lab experiments, I liked dissecting things, and I thought I wanted to be a doctor. Within a few years, I no longer believed I was smart enough to go to medical school, and had to figure out something else to do. So, public health was it, and public health is good, I can talk about infectious disease epidemiology for days, but that’s not where my heart lies. There’s a side to me that I’ve never honored –  a creative side, an inspirational side, a deeply loving and compassionate side. I’ve always needed to do the “right” thing that aligned with the image I thought I needed to portray for others, but now my 36-year-old self knows that I need to follow my dreams! I deserve to follow my heart and chase my dreams! I may crash and burn, but I also may find great success. And, I think I’d rather live this life knowing that I sought after my dream and gave it a fair try. If I fail…well, at least I gave my dream a chance to live! That’s what matters most, right!

In writing this manifesto, I feel a bit selfish because it really revolves around honoring me, it doesn’t make much mention of family or friends, but that’s what I need in this moment. I’ve spent lots of time doing things that have pleased others…now it’s time for me to follow my heart and LIVE!

Until next time…consider your own guiding values!

Journeying to 101. Global Leadership Summit

Have I ever mentioned just how much I love creating a 101 list! It’s one of the greatest motivators in the world for me. I’ve been working my current list since June 1st and I’ve managed to place a check next to five things so far. Not a bad start in my opinion.

Today, I had the opportunity to attend the Global Leadership Summit. Until a few months ago I’d never heard of this meeting, but I’m so glad I stumbled upon this information. Without a doubt this is the best leadership event I’ve ever attended. At 5:30 pm, I was still wide awake, taking notes, and fully engaged in the final talk of the day! I’m excited about taking things from the training back to my circles in both my professional and personal lives which is far from my norm, but the summit has been just that good! The beauty of this event is that while rooted in Christian values, the speakers are not limited to faith leaders. Yes, there were two pastors that spoke today, but the majority of the speakers were business leaders and everyone focused on leadership lessons, there was nothing “churchy” about the event. I’m definitely looking forward to tomorrow’s sessions.

So, what are my personal action steps from today’s session…there’s so much, but I know I can only do a few things!

  1. I need to determine who I will plant leadership seeds in. People did it for me, now I need to do it for someone else.
  2. I will create a leadership betterment plan that outlines how I will take responsibility for improving my leadership skills over the next year. Everyone wins when I get better!
  3. At the end of each day I will write 3 moments of joy!
  4. I will be more intentional in giving people a chance. Despite how things may seem, I don’t know everyone’s story…I must be mindful of this.
  5. I will stay hopeful and I will be present with those I am trying to lead.
  6. I will choose to be a student, not a critic. I will choose to keep my eyes and mind open. I will choose to replace “How” with “Wow”.

The last goal, replacing “how” with “wow”, is probably the point from the day that resonated the most for me. The lecturer challenged us to “wow” ideas to life rather than “how” them to death. I think this hit me so hard because I see this exact scenario unfold in so many areas of my life all of the time. When presented with a new idea, individuals in my space are quick to respond with questions that ask how we can afford something or how can we find the people to do that or how can find the time to make that work or how do we think this small church can do that. While individuals hearts may be in the right place, I’m so sick of hearing excuses framed as “compassionate questions”. I really just want everyone connected to me to think outside the box and dream bigger!

With that, I’m looking forward to what tomorrow’s sessions will be…

Journeying to 101. Year of Yes!

Happy Sunday!

Since beginning my 101 list, it’s been my intention to post on here at least weekly, but last weekend, I seemed to run out of things to say. I’m not quite sure why, so I simply blamed it on having a writer’s block. But, I’m back this week…

I’m continuing on my journey to 101. I managed to check one big item off of my list last week…more about that later this week after I’m able to edit some of the pics. In the meantime, I’ve finished another book, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be You Own Person by Shonda Rhimes. I started this book quite some time ago…it was a Christmas gift from 2015…and decided to make it my vacation read. I think it was a pretty good choice.

In short, the author chronicles a year of her life where she goes from never saying yes to anything to forcing herself to say yes to everything – herself, her children, her family, her health, and her happiness! The author did a great job of pulling me into her story of facing her personal fears, I could relate to the things she was feeling and experiencing with an uncomfortable amount of ease. I highlighted and underlined several things in the book, but two points sunk deep into my soul – “That never would have happened if I hadn’t stopped dreaming of becoming her and gotten busy becoming myself,” and “I’m great at taking care of other people. So why am I so bad at taking care of myself? Why am I so unwilling to show myself the same kindness and consideration, to cut myself the same slack, to give myself the same protection and care that I would give anyone else?”

That never would have happened if I hadn’t stopped dreaming of becoming her and gotten busy becoming myself.

Shonda was referencing her longing to follow in the footsteps of Toni Morrison in this particular section of the book. She wanted to be a Nobel-prize winning author, but she mentions that while she was dreaming, she was also living in her sister’s basement not reaching her potential. Her dream kept her from being who she was created to be. That hit too close to home for me. I want to write a book and I want to move this blog to its own site…I dream of doing these things…I’m talking I look at others and say, “Wow, one day I hope to be like them…I hope to write like them and I hope to have great impact like them.” I say these things in my mind over and over again, but truthfully, God has not created me to be like others, He’s created me to be me and only me. Sometimes I try too hard to make my circle fit into a square, but I’m not a square…I’m a circle! God created me to do my thing and have my impact, but only in a way that I can do it, I’m uniquely me! So instead of dragging my feet and doubting myself, I think it would serve me well to get a little bit busier becoming myself! That’s not to say I’ve not done anything…I’ve been doing some work, but I’ve been moving slow, so maybe it’s time for me to pick up the pace and march a little faster to the beat of my drum!

I’m great at taking care of other people. So why am I so bad at taking care of myself? Why am I so unwilling to show myself the same kindness and consideration, to cut myself the same slack, to give myself the same protection and care that I would give anyone else?

Now this is the big one for me…if one could earn a PhD in everything that statement says, I’d have it! For more years than I’d like to admit, I have struggled greatly with showing love, care, and compassion to myself…I am hard on me! But this book challenged me to say yes to loving me…ALL of me – my curves and edges, my greatest hopes and my biggest fears, my beautiful smile and my kinky, maybe curly (and quickly graying) hair, my low tolerance of people at times (the introvert in me) and my love of making others laugh! Loving all of me is hard stuff! My natural tendency is to pick myself apart and declare that I am a broken mess that’s beyond repair! But really I’m not…I was made in God’s image with the kind of love that only He can give, so I’m following Shonda’s lead and deciding to say YES to loving me a bit more, caring for me a bit more, showing compassion and kindness to me a bit more, and giving myself the same protection and care that I would give anyone else. I deserve it!

The journey continues…I’m excited about what is still to come!