Why is this a big deal? Because like any other relationship, sometimes the demands of life cause us to pass by each other like ships in an ocean of responsibilities. The good thing is that we’re transparent enough with each other to say Hey, I need some sister time and do something about it.
Ashlee and I met in college and now we creatively cross paths as members of two performing arts companies. She is the assistant director of one and I am the founder of the other and we easily weave in and out of each other’s leadership like Olympic skating partners. Mutual respect. Mutual trust. But at the end of the day, when I need my sister, I’m not afraid to tell her and she’s not afraid to tell me. We don’t mix buckets – work is work, us is us. The result? Laughing over pasta, sharing updates over tea sips, and dancing at random moments. This year, I got to spend some old-fashioned QT with one of my favorite humans and it was definitely fuel for the soul.
Notice the people in your life that you don’t have to entertain and be perfect for and be that person for them as well.
Ashlee and I enjoy being around each other because we accept each other for who we are no matter where we are in life. I love that we can just… be. With almost 20 years of friendship under our belts, we have learned to be emotionally honest and give each other room to grow. It reminds me that God wired us for unconditional Love and when we share that Love with other people, it leads to a pretty dope life.
For this year’s See Jane Write #bloglikecrazy challenge, I am sharing 30 Days of Good that happened this year despite the not-so-good. There’s no use in throwing a whole year away when 1) there were definitely happy moments in it and, 2) the year isn’t over yet! So, each day will have a brief synopsis of the experience (what I like to call the good) and the lesson that tagged along with it. Ready? Let’s go!
#1 – I was able to attend therapeutic massage school at my place of employment! Why is this a big deal? I’m glad you asked.
Unfortunately, soon after I was hired at my institution, the policy that allowed employees to attend classes on their campus was overturned and I would have to either pay higher tuition somewhere else or drive 1.5 hours to another campus every week day for 9 months. My father was sick at the time and being over an hour away Monday-Friday from 8:00 AM until 3:00 PM was not complementary to being a caregiver. I needed to be closer to my parents. After 5 years, I was convinced that the protocol had a permanent place in the books and I gave up on that dream. Then, the Holy Spirit nudged me to ask again to see if the rule had changed. It was a Monday afternoon and I was completely disobedient. I walked by my friend/ financial aid representative’s office (only 3 doors down from mine) without stopping. I didn’t want to be disappointed… again. See, my former supervisors and the therapeutic massage program director had pleaded on behalf many times for an exception and each time, we were denied. I didn’t see the point in asking, but truthfully, my attitude was “Fine. Whatever. I’ll ask her.”
So, Tuesday came. I picked up my little yellow notebook, walked toward her office, then turned the corner like I was an undercover spy. This time, the Nudge was more like a shove and I took a few backward steps and walked inside. I sat across from her desk and watched her face light up like the 4th of July. “Actually, they changed that yesterday!” she said, smiling at me. My face? Fallen and flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe what I heard, so I asked to her to repeat it. She said confirmed that I wasn’t being punk’d and I sat there speechless. I asked her when was the next class and she said January 3rd. The whole trajectory of my 2018 was about to change and I had no idea it was coming, but as we sat there and crunched some numbers, my dream-deferredwas becoming a plump and juicy reality and I got excited like it was harvest time.
Open doors are everywhere, but they have their own timing. So, don’t get discouraged by closed doors. Just be ready when it’s open season. I was reminded of the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4:8-37. If you’ve never read that chapter, do it. It’s dope. She had let her dream of having a son die over time and when it was time to believe again, she reminds prophet Elisha that she didn’t want to get her hopes up again (verse 17). All it took was one more ounce of belief + action to change the story.
What in your life needs a breath of fresh air? What is your dream-deferred? What action is needed to move it from conception to delivery? Pray about it and listen for the answer everywhere you go.
It’s October 31st… November’s Eve. Why am I excited? Because #bloglikecrazy begins tomorrow!
This is the 3rd year that I have participated in the See Jane Write challenge to post daily in November. Each time I do this, something wonderful comes out of me and I am shocked at the responses I receive. I was in the department store one day and I ran into a friend who said she was keeping up with my #bloglikecrazy posts and they were encouraging her to tackle her obstacles. She didn’t want to post a comment because she was shy and I had no idea she was reading, but her personal thank you was just as enriching.
So, in light of every difficult experience that transpired this year, I challenged myself to think of 30 good things that happened this year and share lessons I learned from them. It’s easy to see the lemonade after you’ve been squeezed like a lemon because hindsight is 20/20. On the other hand, there are jewels of wisdom in the good stuff too. Yes, we experience negative situations, tiring situations, degrading situations throughout the year, but that doesn’t make the whole year a bad one. As I flipped through my calendar, I smiled and remembered happy times, funny moments, and joyous occasions deserving of recognition (like the photo below).
On a personal note, I do a version of this every year on a sheet of paper. I draw a circle in the middle and write the year inside of it, then I create a mind map (also called a circle thinking map) of all of the goodness that happened that year at whatever speed it pops into my mind. It’s fulfilling, encouraging, and a great reminder to stew on my blessings.
That’s what you’re going to get for the next 30 days. The good stuff. Little doses of happy and a lesson in the bottom of each half-full glass.
My prayer is that you dig a little deeper to find your 30 days too. You can jot them on a sticky note, in a big or mini-notebook (I frequent Dollar Tree, WalMart, and Michael’s for mine), or keep them in an online note-taking app such as Evernote (one of my favorites). Wherever you decide to store your happy, keep it for the rainy days in your life and prepare for more sunshine.
Peace & Thanks for listening! Wind down safely this Halloween night!
Recently, I felt the pain of a woman who’s only desire was to provide the best solution for her children at the expense of what she wished for them. She cried after we prayed together. I bought the items she needed and she agreed to a massage therapy session. I just wanted to help, wanted her to know that I see her. She was the 2nd person for I whom I prayed and to whom I had given. The first person was homeless and when I asked him for a prayer request, his response was to pray for his family. How selfless. These opportunities started hours after I received news that my income would decrease… again. Perfect timing, right? Exactly. That’s what I said too.
Now, I’m not monetarily rich. I’m not a superstar. I don’t have someone taking sensational photos of me at every turn so I can post them on the ‘gram. And I’m definitely not a selfie girl. I just… listen. I sincerely try to listen to God’s voice everyday and anywhere. That’s how this blog Listening at the Speed of Life was born. So, when those opportunities presented themselves, I had to be obedient. No questions asked.
What have I learned about myself along this journey of obedience?
I hug my students.
I even hug strangers.
I pray for people I don’t know.
I say thank you. A lot.
I love big and I retreat quickly.
I boldly express my care.
I can speak up when I’m scared.
I can ask questions unapologetically.
I seek to understand.
I generally stay to myself, yet I have meaningful relationships.
I am a delicate, and resilient balance of mind, body, and spirit.
My introversion is beautiful, not a defect.
I don’t have to be loud if I don’t want to be.
I don’t have to be in the mix to feel included.
I like breathing and being, and sometimes these come at the cost of being misunderstood. That’s OK with me now. (It wasn’t when I started.)
So, back to the moment. She was grateful. I was humble. We connected.
It’s time that we slow down and feel the heartbeat of one another. We’re all humans trying to navigate through this life, and if you’re a Christian, then you’re trying to adhere to a certain compass as you travel on your path. It’s not easy, and we are all doing it… walking it out, journeying into the next dimension of ourselves, and feeling our way around in the darkness of tomorrow’s challenges.
What would it hurt to wave to the service worker? Speak to the custodian? Give a thank you card to the teacher? Buy an extra meal for the hungry? Or simply hug your friend without it being an obligatory salutation?
What happened to us orbiting together instead of spinning around each other, being afraid to bump into one another’s space?
What happened to running the human race together and checking on others along the way?
I have the best creative team in the world. Give us space and time and we do extraordinary things, like create moving water, tumultuous trees, and a visual Bible story in seconds.
On last Sunday afternoon and into late that evening, my performing arts troupe, Workmanship Incorporated, rehearsed for our upcoming performance at the UAB Gospel Choir Reunion Concert to be held at the Alys Stephens Center on Monday, November 13, 2017. I was torn between physical pain and supernatural will, but I made it. One of my teammates lives in another state and she drove into town to join us. Other teammates came from church, work, and family duties to give their sacrifice of dance as well. To check out a short clip of the rehearsal, click here.
At one point in the rehearsal, I stepped back and just marveled at how fantastic they were. Willing and diligent to get it right so God could have complete control on performance day. No one complained. No one was belittled. No one was anxious to leave. We were on one accord. Everyone was pressing toward the mark and it was beautiful. I loved beholding the glory of God working in them behind-the-scenes.
In a bigger perspective, many will never see what we go through at home in order to produce the fruit on our limbs in life. We have structured areas and danger zones where we get our lives together before heading out into the world. In the performing arts arena, the audience may see 10 minutes of creativity for 10 hours of preparation. It’s a labor of love and a gritty process, but well worth it in the end. That’s the essence of your life, your relationships, your dreams, your responsibilities. If you do it right, grit becomes part of your daily diet. It’s good for you and for those around you. It doesn’t let you quit or whine. It pulls you over the humps and having others with you that chew on the same stuff makes all the difference.
So, there I was… with a front row seat looking at a dream realized from my 14-year-old self. Rehearsing with all of the energy we could muster. Laughing through trials and sharing our victories. And I realized then,the aftertaste of grit tastes good.
Peace & Thanks for listening!
And to my Troupe, Workmanship Incorporated, thank you for being my muse. I love y’all. Xoxo
His goodness is not contingent upon my feelings, reactions, or justifications. He is good. Period. And His mercy endureth forever (Psalm 136:1) – which means whatever I’m going through, whenever I’m going through, wherever I’m going through it, He is still good. He transcends time and situation. There is nothing too far where God’s mercy can’t reach; He’s already tHEre. There is nothing too hard for Him where His goodness will not reign.
I have a list of things that went wrong in the last 7 days, but I also have a list of what went right. They combat each other, and then they balance each other out.
How can you laugh when your license plate was stolen off of your car in broad daylight? You get grateful that your car wasn’t missing too.
How do you not be upset that you have to work on your day off? You become grateful for employment.
How do you breathe when someone leaves your life? You begin to thank God for the time you had, knowing that s/he could have been born on the other side of the world and you would have missed out on her/his awesomeness.
I’ve grown in this area, this No Matter What territory. Life’s challenges continue to improve my agility. I’d like to think that I came straight from heaven with it, but it was forged in me through my parents and mentors that served as night lights along the way.
CAUTION: This No Matter What mentality is not for the faint of heart. It comes with distractions sprinkled like glitter on a carpeted floor, luring your focus away from your purpose as you attempt to walk forward. It has splashes of anger as you recall the sacrifices you made while fighting your demons… alone. It requires you to acknowledge the bad stuff, square up, and say that all things work together for the good of those that love the Lord and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)… and believeit. It means crying tears of courage that leak from your broken heart.
No Matter What takes practice. Expect bruises. Check for sores. They’ll be there, but keep walking, keep praying, and keep fasting from the feast of your fears.
Believe, no matter what.
Give, no matter what.
Go,no matter what.
Love, no matter what.
And while you’re standing there braving the winds or bent over wounded from the blows, remember that Jesus is Immanuel. He is with you… all the time…
In March of this year, I witnessed a beautiful blend of past and present.
My fraternity brother was inducted into the Birmingham Police Department after graduating from the academy. Be it that he is my little-big brother (he towers over my 5′ 4.75″ frame), I was so proud when he shared the news and invited me to come to the ceremony. I had attended military and law enforcement events before, but unfortunately, most of them were funerals. This time, I was in the audience as a member of his support team and I was honored.
Upon arrival to the designated room, it was clear that this was a family affair. Many people were just as excited as I was to be present for such a special occasion. Even children that may not have understood the magnitude of the moment were all smiles seeing blue police uniforms everywhere. There were sergeants, captains, and city officials waiting to honor the new graduates with their new badges and priceless pearls of wisdom. I found a good seat and waited with expectation for what would happen next. I’m used to attending events by myself, but this time was different. I felt out of place for a minute because I wasn’t with a pack. I didn’t come with a 15-piece cheering section, yet, I cleaned the lens on my camera phone and checked the front and back doors in hopes of getting a good photo on the first try.
Families and friends were buzzing around like paparazzi waiting for celebrities. To us, that’s exactly what they were. They were our heroes and we were excited to see their debut. A short, petite female officer stood in front of the cadets like she was six-foot-four.
I was immediately proud and wanted to raise my feminist fist. As she gave orders to stand at attention, recite prolific promises, and march forward, the room absorbed her command as well. Everyone seemed to be at spiritual attention.My fraternity brother marched by and I felt the wind of his maturity and pride. He was seriously motivated to uphold his vow and relieved to finish the first leg of his municipal marathon.
Then, I got emotional.
The tears almost fell from my face when I realized that this was the same police department that tormented his ancestors – with water and other horrible means. The history of what I was watching flooded my soul and a for a brief moment, I was overwhelmed. Dignity arose within me for every freedom fighter, foot soldier, and civil rights leader ever to grace this God-given Earth. I didn’t feel militant. I felt regal. I felt strong. I felt American.
My vision was blurry with teary pride as I watched each officer shake hands with superior officers, some of which were parents initiating their children with a solemn salute. This was the dream so many slaves had when their heads fell upon their pillows made of dirty cotton after surviving lashings they didn’t deserve. When marchers stood in the streets locked arm-in-arm, singing and chanting in the blood thirsty faces of evil, they imagined a mirror image of liberated faces on the other side.
I couldn’t breathe easy for a few minutes. I couldn’t stop smiling for a few more. There was nothing more American than what I was feeling right then – a dream realized and an honor bestowed simultaneously. I blessed them in my spirit and prayed over their lives… that God would keep them alert and ready at every call and even when no one was in need of their service. I prayed for protection and wisdom and for the understanding of their families.
The fact that something so ugly could metamorphosize into this moment made me proud to the recipient of their sacrifices. It was a social spit in the face of centuries of racial injustice.
I was grateful. I was proud. I was filled.
What makes you “feel” American? Moments like these do it for me.
I started this trip a bit frustrated with some people that call themselves family. I had been holding in a tumultuous flow of words for a month. Unfortunately, people think that if you aren’t belligerent with colorful words spewing out of your mouth, that you aren’t capable of being such.
I am happy to inform you that this is a lie.
That quiet worker or positive colleague can be a verbal assassin with plenty of artillery to annihilate your heart, but s/he chooses to smile instead. This was me for a month. The term familyalmost seemed like a dirty word that left a foul taste in my mouth when I thought of certain people. My circle got smaller and some of it was involuntary. So, needless to say, I was a bit sour.
Then, my sorority sister lent her ear for what was a tsunami of “Why’s,” “That’s just stupid’s,” and “I just don’t get it’s.” My mother and aunt tag-teamed to ensure I caught my twilight bus. A sisterfriend checked for my travel safety. Another sisterfriend of 16 years transported me to bookstores to inquire about book signing opportunities before heading to the airport. One sorority sister extended herself with hospitality that could rival any 4-star hotel and another sorority sister hosted me with patience as I coordinated visits with DMV friends I had not seen in 10+ years. My big brother is always one call away when I’m in town and my mother always seals my travel with prayer.
God brought all of these things back to my remembrance and I am sitting on this plane marveled at how flimsy we view the f-word and how quickly we throw it away.
It doesn’t matter how many genetic or blended relatives you have,
God will give you the family to fill the need.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs indicates that we have a need for connectedness, love, and belonging. I believe that wholeheartedly. After all, God created the ultimate adoption plan through His Son, so we were not designed to “do life” alone. Even a mean senior citizen has a plant, pet, or something they can care for!
You may have a sister you can’t stand or an uncle you don’t like, but for every ounce of foolishness and discord, there is someone spiritually-related for you to do life together.
I am so grateful for my family. I pray that God shines a spotlight on yours so you can see them when life gets dim, too. Don’t think that familyjust encompasses a group with the same last name. It just requires a circle of people connected by the same heartstrings.
I thank military service personnel every time I get the chance. Today was another day to pay my Vet-debt-a.
My prayer today was that love would override hate. And it did. I saw kindness everywhere toward veterans and civilians alike. At the grocery store, the crosswalk, the parking lot…everywhere I went today. For every neurotic comment I heard this week, there was someone smashing the paradigm instead of shifting it around and casting the blame.
I am grateful today for the balance of selflessness to the cancerous ignorance that abides nearby. Most importantly, the Vet-debt-a is an extension of ourselves that is required. I cherish the truth that individuals decided to live a life of selflessness as a profession.
It is our duty to pay our bills of gratitude and honor to these angels in uniform. If you see a soldier, say thank you. I’ve never had one disregarded. Your payment will go further than you think, so pay it as much as you can.