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Birthday & The Beast: Part I

Have you ever felt full, like you were about to pop? Well, me, my Converse sneakers, and my school uniform made a break for it this week.

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Gotta love my therapeutic massage family. That cake… *hands up*

 

It was Monday and I was full of everything – grief, fatigue, anticipation, excitement, concern, questions, tension, gratefulness… I was just full. After all, it was my birthday and that came with a cacophony of spiritual noise. I had been fighting to stay afloat in the midst of recent rip tides and I was doing a pretty good job, but when you wake up on your birthday and wish you could just sleep in, that’s when you know the jig is up. I couldn’t do most of what I wanted due to surgery recuperation and two financial surprises, so I had to make some adjustments to keep my annual self-care ritual.

Each week in August, I do something that fills me with joy, then I continue the celebration once per month until the end of the year. It’s like my body and spirit know it’s August as soon as July ends. Well, with a few modifications, I still managed to uphold my law.

Week 1: Weekend road trip with Mommy. Music, laughs, and priceless convo.
Week 2: Ate pancakes the night before surgery. Binge-watched Blue Bloods and The Resident from the beginning. Man, I love those shows.
Week 3: Sister Time with sisterfriends. Ate half of a Ribeye from the Hickory Chip.
Week 4: Drove to Noccalula Falls (Gadsden, Alabama)

Now, about this drive… it was a serious mission. I almost didn’t make it in time due to my car repair, but I’m so glad I kept going. When I arrived, I had 25 minutes to make my birthday wish come true, then when I got there, I didn’t follow the map correctly and got set back 6 minutes. Noccalula Falls is special to me because it is one of two places in the world (so far) where I can breathe without respiratory rudeness. Something about that Gorge Trail makes me giddy like a school girl waiting on a glance from a crush. I don’t have to scale or climb, but a fall can easily be in anyone’s future along those jagged rocks. It had been years since I stood beneath the falls, but I never forgot the way I felt taking that deep breath in without clearing my throat for the first time. (A picture of it is on my About Me page.)

I know God is everywhere, but it seems like that is our sweet spot. I just have to push beyond the tough part. On the way to the cave beneath the fall’s cliff, it was difficult to breathe and believe me, there were plenty of opportunities to give up and turn around having had surgery 10 days prior. The impending thunderstorm, the 5-minute grace before getting a ticket, the throbbing headache and sore muscles, my ill-prepared attire… I could have easily said forget it. Not to mention that I kept hearing a loop of negativity in my head along the way. But with every step, I felt the reverberation of my soul making a judgment call to not accept no as an answer to my prayer request. Needless to say, I hustled in all of my sweaty glory to reach the cave by 5:00 PM and made it on the dot. When I finally reached the spot, I took that deep breath and teared up. 20180820_170342Everything that filled me up finally had a place to go and I could empty it out before His perfect blend of peace and power. There I was, looking up at God’s natural wonder, and once again His Word met me there. Here’s what I heard. I hope it helps you too.

  1. Pride, like a tumor, must be removed – not ignored.

  2. Like a tumor, pride metastasizes and blocks your divine purpose.

  3. You can’t ask God for miracles and control how they arrive.

  4. You have to go low to be lifted high. You can’t start at the top.

  5. God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. If you never admit your weakness, there is no room for His strength to take over.

  6. Nothing can stop water and nothing can stop God’s grace and Love toward you. Just let it flow.

  7. Water smooths the rough edges. So do life’s challenges shape you.

No, there was no surprise party waiting for me when I got home and just 10 years ago, I was celebrating my birthday with my fiancé. I had plenty to swirl in as I recalled my battle scars, but standing there made everything feel small and made me feel safe enough to receive His strength. The exchange was available, just like air, and all I had to do was let it happen.

You know that exhale you do after ripping and running all day or removing an overcoat after a long day outside? That’s where I was. Pure relief.

And what was that overcoat? Pure Pride.

I hate asking for help to carry my bags during recuperation, accepting kindness in resources and deeds, or saying “OK” to a surprise provision that I prayed for…. how ridiculous is that? So, just like the benign tumor that was removed from my neck recently, it was imperative that God was still working on me and my foreign-body attachments.

Now, check out an excerpt of what I journaled in September 2016.

“My mantra in August was to unleash the beast.

Each birthday month, I vow to do something I enjoy and spread it out across each week. Sometimes, it’s small like a milkshake or a little bigger like a solo road trip. Well, this year I decided to embrace something that I don’t like…and it hurt like hell.”

Isn’t that crazy? Well, Sweetheart, that’s where Part II comes in. It’s great to celebrate and it’s beautiful to exhale, but we must deal with the Beast within us in order to be healthy.

Peace, see you next time on the blog, and thanks for making it to the end of this post. lol I love y’all. Let’s keep walking. If you have a birthday ritual, let me know. If you don’t, make a pact with yourself to start one. It will bless you more than you can imagine. XO

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TM Lesson #5: He Thought of Everything

Hello Sweethearts!

Last week, I mentioned that I’m in the final countdown of my therapeutic massage program (33 days to be exact, and I’m including weekends). While it is exciting to prepare for the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx), our study sessions have also made me nostalgic and full of wonder all over again about how intricate God made our bodies.

Did you know…

  • The biconcave shape of your blood cells increase its surface area for oxygen consumption, yet remains flexible enough to squeeze into tight spaces?
  • The sarcomeres in our muscles facilitate muscle contraction (and look like a subway system, if you ask me)?
  • Aromatherapy is an actual form of therapy because your brain and muscles create and recall memories as you inhale an essential oils?
  • Your sternocleidomastoid (SCM) has a clavicular and sternal head to stabilize your neck when you tilt it back. Remember that little tidbit the next time you doze off in class?

    sternocleidomastoid-muscle
    Courtesy of Yoganatomy.com
  • Your body will always attempt to achieve homeostasis (balance), even at the expense of your free will?

The lymphatic system. Respiratory system. Cardiovascular system. Autonomic and Somatic Nervous Systems. There are many more collaborations that keep you alive and massage therapists can affect every last one of them through the power of touch. That’s how cool God is.

He touched us first. His fingerprint is on our hands. No matter how many people are born in the world, no one can duplicate you. Can you believe that such an incredible God thought enough of you to breathe into you and form your body Himself? All of those cells, muscles, and systems were fashioned with your purpose in mind. I am fascinated by that even more now that I am adding a new career industry to my journey.

Now, here’s the disclaimer. I don’t know why some of the systems malfunction or why parts of them are deformed or missing, but I know God still had every detail in mind when He made you. Everything else in creation was called to be, but you? You were customized with ocular muscles around your brown eyes. The zygomatic bones on your face are perfectly curved to create your cheekbones. You have the cradle of life sitting between your iliac crests. There is no mistake in you. I have had to remember that as I face health challenges myself. Even the parts of me that don’t function properly still exude His glory because I continue to fulfill my purpose on this Earth. I’m here to tell you… He thought of everything about you and you were designed with Love in mind.

Wind down safely, Dear. I have some reading to do before class in the morning, but don’t forget our chat, OK? *smile* Look in the mirror or check yourself out with a selfie to admire the greatness in you, on you, and shining through you.

Peace & Thanks for listening!

Wednesday Wind Down: Start

Good Evening, Sweethearts!

According to my planner, 8/1/18 was supposed to be the launch of my 2nd book – sizzle reel and all. It was the perfect date for the perfect plan… at least in the land of my notebook.

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Am I sad? Well, I was, but not anymore. Why? Because it is the first day of my birthday month and the last day of my fifth module out of six in order to complete my therapeutic massage program. I made A’s on my final exam, practical application, and overall module. I felt reflective and excited to be at the cusp of the end and the beginning simultaneously. Honestly, I felt like a 5-year-old sparked by the sound of the end-of-day school bell. Instead of running out of the front doors with a teacher’s note in my hand, I walked to the unsung heroes of financial aid and hugged each one that touched my journey. I appreciated their patience, diligence, and encouragement. Behind the scenes, they worked side by side with my admissions representative to ensure that I had a positive experience and I wanted them to share in the fruit of their labor.

I remembered when I started the program and September seemed so far away and now it is sitting right next to me, swinging its legs in the upcoming fall breeze. Now, that I’ve reached the end of this hill and staring up the next one, my spirit is so grateful that I started. Then, I thought about you.

What is it that you need to start? Time is one of those things that has kept its word ever since God placed it in motion. And guess what? It won’t wait on you. So, you have no choice but start now, start later, or start never. Either way, a starting point is waiting on you. As I left campus, I played my Andy Mineo album loudly and got lost in it. I smiled when I thought about Shawn bobbing his head with me along the drive. Blue sky, green hills, and open road… what a beautiful metaphor for how I felt inside. Like the world was wide open for me to keep starting. When I said as a teenager that I wanted to become a licensed massage therapist as part of my long-term goal plan, I didn’t realize that my starting line had 2018 spray painted on it. Perhaps this applies to you. What have you dreaded starting because it seems too big or out of your reach? Remember, your start can be at any time, but nothing’s better than knowing that a finish is coming. I live by the following mantra God gave me: Today will be yesterday. God lives outside of time and He has always had your start in mind.

Peace, thanks for listening, and wind down safely, Dear. I’m getting some much needed sleep in 5…4…3…2… zzzzzzz

Photo courtesy of Roux Creative

Wednesday Wind Down: Yes and No

Hey Sweethearts!

Tonight’s wind down is pretty simple because that’s how it hit me.

I was reading an article last night from Entrepreneur.com – 3 Rules I Use to Stay Productive and Not Overwhelmed. I read productivity articles often to find practices that best suit my purpose and vision. This one was particularly interesting because the guest writer Ted Serbinski engaged personal examples that created a comprehensive model of how he uses life-changing principles.

Over the last couple of years, I have adopted some of these rules and they have enriched me personally, academically, and professionally. I am a full-time student, educator, writer, and executive director of a performing arts troupe. On any given day, I have homework to grade, rehearsal to attend, and content to write. So, needless to say, I was eager to read Serbinski’s wisdom as a father of three under age three that has a portfolio of 40-plus startups that he has invested in and actively support – plus, he receives 1,000 emails and takes 15-30 meetings. WHAT THE WHAT?!

One section especially grabbed my attention – “Consider this: Each time you say yes to something, you are inadvertently saying no to something else. That “yes” takes up time in your life and when that next opportunity comes up, you don’t have the time to say yes.”

I incorporated this principle into my life some time ago and put it in overdrive 2 years ago, and I appreciated his wording of it.

So tonight, I’m asking you the same question I asked myself – Where are your yes’s going? Are you saying no enough to make room for the yes’s you’re supposed to say? 

Let that churn a bit and make it settle in your spirit. Have a great week and wind down safely, my Loves.

Peace & Thanks for listening.

Photo courtesy of Forfend.

 

5 Things You Must Do On A Snow Day

Good Afternoon, Sweethearts!

Did you enjoy the snow? Is it still around? Here in Birmingham, Alabama, it’s starting to melt, but ice is still lurking on the roads. I hope you’re safe, warm, and smiling.

The snow day couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I just closed the fall quarter and I hibernate the day after finals to recuperate my mind, body, and soul. Even my mother tries not to call me the day after finals. Sweet Woman.

Since God blessed me with snow on my day off, I did 5 things that made me feel awesome. I think they make fine ingredients for any snow day to feel like the Son is shining on you. If you did anything that made your day, share it!

  1. SLEEP! SLUMBER! REST!
    • Confession – This is one thing I do not do well on a consistent basis. Running a performing arts troupe, writing your soul free, and educating Birmingham’s Finest can make make feel like I’m running on fumes at times. So when my friend texted me a snowy picture, I smiled. It was officially a rest day. I think getting a few winks in when you’ve missed a million is a great way to recharge!
  2. REFLECT.
    • There’s something about the stillness of snow that makes me just sit and watch. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to drive. I want to reflect on how cool it is…. fluffy goodness floating from the sky. It quiets the world for a little bit. It makes me be careful. It forces me to gaze at the winter wonderland around me that I zoom past everyday. So, I took a few pictures to remind myself to do more of that when life gets busier in 2018.
  3. PLAY OUTSIDE!
    • After the spiritual battery has been charged, then I want to play. My footsteps make art as I look back at them in the snow, plus my miniature schnauzer had a blast trying to eat it. I laughed watching my aunt make snow angels. There’s just something about snow that makes the 5-year-old you feel safe to show out. Throwing snowballs and trying to make snow sculptures are what snow is made for, right? lol
  4. EAT!
    • When it’s cold outside, you simply must eat something warm inside. My vice of choice yesterday? #1 – PANCAKES! I was so hungry when from my self-care, that pancakes and hot tea were the only items on my menu. #2 – QUESO and tortilla chips. But, it’s not just any queso dip. I made my favorite recipe that I conjured up in college. Dorm living will make a chef out of anyone. lol It includes shrimp, ground turkey, cilantro, corn, and diced tomatoes (and sometimes a hint of bacon). The dip was oh so heavenly as I curled up to watch one of my favorite movies.
  5. WATCH A MOVIE.
    • Me, my bowl of queso, my sweatpants, and my fuzzy socks enjoyed one of my favorite movies – Something New (2006). If you’ve never seen it, get ready for some humor, some sensitive topics, and just good old-fashioned Rom-Com (romantic comedy) moments. Curling up on the couch after a long day of self-care was the perfect ending to my classroom duties and the perfect beginning of a well-deserved break.

What do you like to do during a snow day? Do you have favorite foods that taste better during winter weather? Are there movies that you must watch?

Peace, Thanks for listening, and Stay safe out there!

Photo of my awesome aunt and my super dog courtesy of moi.

#bloglikecrazy: Day 18 – Together

Three people. One day. All the feels.

It began with a tutoring appointment with a former student who is determined not to let anything stop her from graduating, including her English paper. I challenged her and she made me laugh. She stepped outside of her essay-writing comfort zone and I helped her see her thoughts on paper. She left the session equipped and excited to keep going. It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes and made me proud to be an educator.

Next, I had lunch with sweet friend from high school. She and I were in band together and I always thought her hair color and freckles were cool. She had a quiet strength that I admired and we became friends quickly. Now that we’re grown, we had grown-folk conversation and it was lovely. We vented, we cried, we laughed. I was proud to be a friend… and her freckles and hair color still rock.

Then, it was time for my cousin’s baby shower which, might I add, was a night time swag affair. Live music, baby shower games, good food and laughs made this shower worth the cold rainy drive. I’m well acquainted with both parents, so it was great to anticipate my new cousin’s arrival. As I helped clean up, the running theme was clear. I was proud to be family.

Afrer all three settings, the word that stuck out was TOGETHER. My former student’s essay challenge wasn’t so mountainous after we met for tutoring. My friend and I didn’t feel alone in our life lessons after lunch. My family’s shower was better because everyone could share the experience. On that day, life was better together. 

Sweethearts, I pray that if you’re feeling lonely and life’s bumps are giving you bruises, that you remember that you are not alone. Lonely and alone are not the same. You can feel lonely in a crowded room. I’ve been there, and wisdom has taught me that you have someone who wants to be better together with you. Be careful, but let her or him in your heart’s circle and watch the healing begin. We were not designed to do life alone. Your problems may not go away quicker, but you’ll be stronger together as the storm passes by.

Peace & Thanks for listening!

#bloglikecrazy: Day 4 – INYWA

Saturday was awesome.

So awesome that I didn’t post my feelings all weekend. I soaked in it until my happy waters receded a bit. I just naturally let the sweetness of what happened feed my soul. So, let’s catch up.

When I hurt, I serve. So, I was missing my dad one day at work (he passed away in August), and I thought of how it would feel to receive a note of encouragement at that moment. When compassion compelled, I went for it. I hosted a service letter-writing event on 11-4 between 11 AM and 4 PM. Couldn’t get any better than that.

Consequently, my letter-writing service event turned out perfectly. It accomplished exactly what I wanted – to create space and time for people to give of themselves on paper despite their busy lives. Not only did it accomplish this mission, but it provided a sweet spot for strangers to connect comfortably over a common goal. It sparked conversation, laughter, and camaraderie. It allowed people to pause for awhile and open up their hearts.

Secondly, most of the participants sat down wondering if they would have enough words to create a letter and they ended up having their inkwell overflow.  It was so touching to be so vulnerable to each other. The common comments were “I don’t know what I’m going to write.” and “I don’t think I have enough words to write a whole letter.” Once their hearts connected to their pens, they couldn’t stop writing. Consequently, some participants wrote more than one letter. I just loved how the outpour continued from the pages to the person near them through smiles and conversation.

Lastly, I was excited to simply see kindness run free. Although there was much to be sad about in the world, for 5 hours there was love to be had by any who desired it. Family, friends, and strangers gathered in one place to swim in the altruism of service letter-writing and every person left lighter and brighter in spirit.

I received 6 military addresses and those soldiers are going to get a lot of random love and encouragement in the upcoming weeks with the 27 letters that were written that day. That made me beyond happy… it made me full.

Stay tuned for the next I Need You Write Away (trademark pending). It’s going to be just as sweet.

Thank you to everyone that came, wanted to come, and shared their loved ones’ military address with me in confidence. It is an honor and a pleasure to share life-giving words.

Peace & Thanks for listening!
(And don’t worry. I haven’t forgotten about the #bloglikecrazy challenge. I got you.)

#bloglikecrazy: Day 2 – power

Power.

That word alone gives me chills. Always has.

It can be clothed in danger or fitted with finesse as it walks into the room. It has a resonance that stops the steps of all that surround it. You can detect it, feel it… even the its pheromones smell different. Power stands out, or does it?

What if power was a fragrance that pride liked to wear? Spraying it on before walking out of a house of insecurity and riding in a car full of guilt. High-stepping into a boardroom or a networking event and waiting for onlookers to stare. Humor me for a minute as I go deeper.

What if the fragrance we were attracted to when that person walks in the room wasn’t their power, but their hubris, confidence, or even humility? Then, what does that say about us and our spiritual receptors? What if the scent of power masks the ambition underneath? We see someone who looks wealthy and our eyes can’t stop gazing. We see an expensive car speeding down the interstate and we can recall the make, model, and customization in seconds. We admire the influence of an industry leader and hang on their every word to grab crumbs of wisdom to take back home with us. Did we absorb their power or what was underneath it?

I’ve learned over time that power can be quiet and strong, simultaneously. As a performing artist, I’ve also learned that power can be explosive and exuberant. Whatever the type, power is an expression of what is underneath the surface, not what you see. It’s an emittance, not a cover-up.

Check out Thayer’s Greek Lexicon for the word. It may surprise you. My favorites were –  a) the moral power and excellence of soul,
b) the power and influence which belong to riches, and
c) power consisting in or resting upon armies, forces, hosts.

Imagine which one you have and which one you’re most attracted to. I believe we are a fan of all of them in some capacity, even if our definitions of “riches” are different. Somehow, we can manage to exude power from within our soul and from the confidence of God’s might.

So, check your power this week. I’m definitely checking mine. Let’s be sure we’re radiating the Real Thing.

Peace & Thanks for listening!

If you want to #bloglikecrazy with See Jane Write Birmingham, click here and join the fun!

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com. DISCLAIMER: I’m not the spokesperson for the brand in the featured photo, but feel free to shop for your power blazer here. I found a few that I liked… A LOT. *lol*

Small Things Matter

BHM -> DEN -> SEA:

Small things matter, so be excellent.

IMAG3065What if everyone I met (and didn’t meet) wasn’t excellent at their job today? I wouldn’t be on this flight. I may not have even made it out of the parking lot. I bet someone was nervous about the flight information being correct as they typed it into their computer at work. I’m sure someone was tired as they dressed themselves this morning.  Nevertheless, they did it. They made it happen. They pushed aside the weight and picked up responsibility, hoisted it on their shoulder like a backpack, and trudged forward… knowing that someone needed them to be great.  Not good, not average – great. And that someone was me.

Excellence matters.
Regardless of color, creed, origin, excellence speaks and small things matter.

From the parking lot to the cabin, greatness was the only option and the only item on the menu today. Because everyone needs the same thing… to get to the next destination, even if it’s not pleasantly perfect, we all need to get there. The outside signage had to be flawless in order to direct seamless traffic of various types of vehicles. The roads had to be painted correctly and well lit so we could see where we’re going. The check-in process had to be smooth for my presence to be accounted for and for my luggage to travel with me. It’s a chain of processes that have to work together (seemingly) flawlessly in order for me to get where I’m going.

IMAG3588_1

C is for me.

The attendant that met me with a smile and helped me find the quickest check-in for my baggage… the TSA employee who directed me to the nearest checkpoint route (who by the way was standing in line waiting for breakfast and could have easily brushed me off like the Walmart associate did last week who said that she was off the clock and “couldn’t” redirect my question. Sidebar within the sidebar – Yeah, Walmart ass-ociate… I remember you.)The TSA agent that kept the security checkpoint moving (I thank God for her. Please give her extra jewels in her crown, Lord)the TSA agents that checked my boarding pass and ID and monitored the security scans/process (it’s a hassle sometimes, I know, but it keeps us safer than we realize).. the person or machine that regulates the concourse train (can you imagine your legs running like Chicken Little through the maze we call an airport?)… the attendant that was standing there ready at her post as I handed her my boarding pass, out of breath. She could have been lazy or out of place, but she was exactly where she was supposed to be. The seats I’m looking at across the aisle were once a bunch of parts that had to be put together. The engineer that conjured up this design had to have the exact measurements and mathematical prowess to create this vessel.

Every bolt, every screw, every stitch had to be done with care in order for me to write this entry on my way to Denver. All the parts had to work together. Just like the plane, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Keep that in mind for later.

IMAG3585
the view

I needed everything to work today, and to work well. There was minimal room for error and whatever error that may have occurred, I didn’t see it. Even when I misheard my dear sisterfriend tell me that we were leaving home at 4:30 AM instead of waking up at that time (BIG difference, but don’t worry. I was ready to roll in 15 minutes. That’s the trust, but verify part of this LATSOL moment.), the lovely people at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and Southwest Airlines exhibited a level of excellence at each part of my journey. I appreciate that… for real. I needed every last person along the way.

So why can’t the Body of Christ act like that?

I’m still on this “body-kick” and it won’t let me go. Instead of acting like a whole Body with a Head, we act like a body parts – disconnected and dying. Instead of being connected to the Vine, we would rather be scattered like dead branches after a storm. It’s only a matter of time before we shrivel up and return to the dust from whence we came. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. We could complain and blame the fall of man (and woman) for all of our ills, but the truth is that God saved us through the blood of His Son and thus, we are reconnected by our word of faith. Therefore, there are no excuses. Therefore, there is now no condemnation, either (shout out to Romans 8:1). Nothing can keep us apart from each other and nothing can separate us from the love of God, the Vine, the Head. I beg to differ that we can simply coast through life alone, needing no one, touching no one, loving no one. We were designed to a Body, a significant part of a whole that just happens to be contained in this shell called humanity. This Body needs to operate as a whole organism, moving one direction… just like this plane. As long as we stay separated and live recklessly egotistical off our own laced supply of judgment and ignorance, we won’t get anywhere. Instead, we’ll die as broken branches with the Source within our reach.

I may not have met all of the people, but I met their excellence. And it spoke volumes as it helped me get to my destination. Let’s hope that someone meets our excellence everyday.

Southwest pilot photo courtesy of SWA Media
(I always touch the plane too. 🙂

Concourse and sky photos by moi

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