Change the Game

I’m always amazed when I’m sitting somewhere alone minding my business and I have an epiphany about the significance of relationships.  It’s true that not everyone you encounter along your journey will be there until the end, but do know that every person is playing a role in who you will become.  My most recent aha moment related to a relationship came as I was traveling across the country on another work assignment.  I find that God likes to speak to me on airplanes.  He clearly knows I have nowhere to go except to the front or back of the aircraft to the closet-sized restroom.  So, while He has me on the Boeing, our connection is flowing! *sometimes I rhyme, lol*

I decided to take advantage of the in-flight entertainment and came across an all-star interview with Kobe Bryant.  Now, I’ve never been too much of a sports enthusiast, but basketball and all its details is the one sport that intrigues me and gets me off the couch yelling incessantly at the screen.  Because they can hear me, right?  Ahmad Rashad went through the interview with the Lakers superstar asking him questions about the highs and lows of his career, his love for the game, and how he leveraged the differences in his personality and his teammates to lead them to championships.  Toward the end of the interview, Kobe explained that one of the things that helped him to be a good leader is to be okay with being uncomfortable about his teammates not seeing the best in themselves but still pushing them anyway.  He further explained that if you’re not okay with being uncomfortable, then you’ll go up against a team with a leader who is, and you’ll lose.  In that instant, it clicked.  I think I rewinded that clip at least twice to hear him say that again.

I realized in that moment that was the one thing a close friend and once upon a time sweetheart had been trying to get through to me during all the time we shared life together.  I can’t recall how many times I would mope, vent, and complain to him about how I felt like no one ever listened to me, how I felt alone, how it seemed like my friendships were fading, or how sometimes I just didn’t feel like being the one to initiate, organize, and push the envelope.  And every time without fail he would give me a kind, witty, and stern response that would leave me feeling like it was okay to feel that way, but I’ve been entrusted with certain characteristics to go the extra mile and get out in front because I was born to lead.  It almost seemed as though he was asking me if I was going to take the torch or let opportunities burn because the people I wanted to believe just weren’t getting it and/or what I had to say was the least of their concerns.  Talk about frustrating.

A 10-second perspective in this 48-minute video connected all the dots for me about this part of our relationship and further made me realize how God can use people to teach us about our individual characteristics.  I’m sure he wouldn’t be excited to know that there were times when he was engrossed in one of his tough talks with me, that I let it go in one ear and out the other.  Sorry!  But, I get it.  And I’m grateful for the confirmation not only about the intricacies of leadership and what it means for those who God will place in my care to be there for me in that capacity, but more importantly who He places in my path to embrace who I am, what I have to offer, and how I’m meant to change the game just as the seasoned and developing basketball superstars have done one play at a time.

Love Fronts

Love.  What is it exactly?  Do you ever wonder what it means for your life?  How many times have you thought that perhaps you’re missing what everyone is alluding to?

I’ve always found it interesting how we’re bombarded in multiple ways each day with suggestions as to how we’re supposed to love, but yet we’re also driven by societal boundaries on what exactly that should look like.  We’re supposed to love but follow a specific set of rules to ensure we’re loving the right way?  Interesting concept.  So, if love to me doesn’t look like what someone else tells me it should look like, then somehow I’ve missed the mark?  Even more interesting concept.

Two profound nuggets of my own truth about love:

1) You can’t hold back your love for someone to satisfy society’s “requirements” –  life is short.  And the more mornings I rise from the comfort of my pillow and blanket, the more I understand how ridiculous it is to not want to express your love in fear of what other people will say or think because love for me doesn’t look the way it looked for them.  Yes, you can gain wisdom from the experiences of others, but love is a unique and multidimensional form of affection.  That means we all don’t see it the same, receive it the same, or give it the same.  In other words, if you love somebody, make sure he/she gets the memo.  How crazy is it for us to believe that the people in our lives are mind readers AND that we should abide by some unwritten protocol about love to make everyone else feel better about their opinions?  Are you living for you or someone else’s opinion?

2) Seize opportunities to express your love – your demonstration of love can come in a variety of ways.  I’ve noticed that people, myself included, often give a small percentage of the love they have in their hearts because they’re afraid of rejection and/or how it will be interpreted. The question is are we more afraid of how our love will be received or if we’ll die with love stored that can no longer be reached and acted upon?  I believe that we often regard love as elusive and intangible because we haven’t given ourselves permission to do it without fear.  Just like you can’t hurry love, you can’t stifle it either.

As a poetic and sultry musician once said, “It could all be so simple, but you’d rather make it hard…”  But why?  My advice: love…and be love.  Because if we were all honest, we’d confidently say it’s the one thing we all want anyway.

 

Weakening My Worry

True life: I am a habitual worrier.

As much as I attempt to capture and check every thought, many become a part of the whirling sea of guilt and defeat that moves about in my head.  I find myself taking these thoughts to the extreme and dwelling in that place as if that’s where I belong, mainly because of my own choices that I wish I had handled differently.  But, I recently read something that arrested the worry.  It was as if God jumped right in my face like umm..do you not know I have the power?  Have I not shown you that even with your mess, my record is good?  Like really…who am I to give a thought so much of my energy that it consumes the brain space I could be using to craft new ideas or penning words to inspire generations?  I suspect God may have taken my obsessive worrying as an insult.  BUT (because God is the Master of conjunct solutions, or in other words, moving mountains on our behalf), He cared enough to use that one sentence I stumbled across as I perused an online article to remind me of Who I say I trust.

Trusting means there’s no room for worry.  Because to worry diminishes power. And God isn’t about to let me (or you) get punked by a thought!  God is so much bigger, and the sooner we stop boxing Him in, the sooner we can see how gracious He truly is.  In no way am I implying that an extension of grace gives us permission to purposely make careless choices.  But, asking for help in all of life’s circumstances seems slightly less burdensome when the One you’re approaching doesn’t expect perfection and is still willing to give you an overabundance of grace and mercy.  There aren’t enough words to express the significance of that very fact!  It’s major!  I don’t think there are enough hours in a day to ponder on that goodness.  And for that reason alone, my worry is weakened.

Lessons in Blessings

Lightning speed.  That’s how fast I feel like every hour in the past 30 days has gone by!  I think much of that feeling can be attributed to my work for TEDMED in conjunction with several tight deadlines for major deliverables for my primary job.  A few weeks ago I blogged about my selection as a 201Leaps6 TEDMED Research Scholar and the opportunity it has afforded me to learn a plethora of new information about innovations and entrepreneurs in health and medicine.  There are definitely talented and imaginative people walking among us every day who envision the future of healthcare in creative ways.  But, in addition to my scholarly discoveries, I also learned much about myself through this awesome, yet rigorous blessing that I’ve elected to share in hopes that someone will draw some insight or inspiration from my three lessons:

You can do more than what you think you can do – I can’t even begin to count the hours I spent completing my tasks for my role as a scholar.  Every night I saw the clock strike 1 a.m., I decided that was the point when I would stop tracking.  I had to push myself to stay the course no matter the obstacle.  I countered every negative thought with a encouraging scripture or “self” pep talk (Self, please stay away for a few more sentences, lol).  To have to juggle what seemed like the MOST tasks all at once was a true test of my faith and trust in God to help me make it all happen.  Do you ever feel like you get a ton of random requests when your plate is legitimately full?  Yeah, that was me.  But, all of this was really an exercise in positivity for my mind.  I had to first believe that I could finish before it would be done, and that made all the difference on every late night and early morning.

You have more time than you think to do more of what you need to be doing – I’m guilty of adamantly declaring that there aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done.  There are two problems with that though: 1) why am I trying to do it ALL?  and 2) what opportunities have I overlooked to prioritize those things that actually matter?  I have no idea where I found the time to absorb, synthesize, and report all of the information I uncovered as part of the TEDMED review.  I just know that the entire process has further revealed to me that when your gift makes room for you that means there will be enough time, resources, energy, and even the space (I now know exactly how to get to the library at my job without getting lost, lol) to finish the assignment and finish it well.  More importantly, my ability to find the time to complete this task also confirmed my ability to be able to give God more when it comes to my devotions, meditation, and just quiet time growing in faith.  Message!

You think you’re ordinary, but God thinks you’re extraordinary – I’m sure you’ve heard people often say that in life you have to take chances or you have to jump to see if you’re going to fly…insert similar statements here.  And, well…you do!  What I’m discovering about myself and those around me is that we neglect to take leaps because we don’t give ourselves enough credit.  We dismiss our gifts, experiences, and talents as if we can’t be chosen to do the unimaginable or that we’re not important enough for our dreams to come true.  A couple fun facts to dispel those unreasonable thoughts: 1) you don’t have to be qualified to obtain favor and 2) “importance” is subjective which means that it is a non-factor when something is meant for you.  The plans God has for us are exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think.  That’s proven every time we find our name on the roster to do things and go places we never thought possible.  So, even when you don’t think you deserve the opportunity, go for it anyway and watch God show you that He thinks you’re worth it.

This is a blessing in my life that I surely won’t forget.  I appreciate everyone who has invested in me to get me to this moment in my career.  I know that God will continue to show His love, kindness, and grace through blessings for all of us.  And even in the triumphs, there will always be something to learn.

If I Can Help Somebody

I had quite the number of “firsts” over the last several days.  I’d love to spend the next few paragraphs documenting my safari adventures in Africa or grape smashing in Italy, but then you’d be walking in my imagination instead of reading the truth.  Part of me struggled with the idea of sharing this story not because I have anything to hide, but because I like to keep my personal life…personal.  I choose not to spill tea on my timeline particularly about my own life. *shrug* However, I decided to write about my experience this past week because it may save someone’s life.  It’s an assignment that’s bigger than me and any feeling I have about being private.  Here’s some context…

I can now say that for the first time in my life I’ve had a biopsy, CT scan, been transported in an ambulance, been admitted to the hospital, and seen what an operating room actually looks like all within a week.  And yes, the room really looks like what you see on TV!  It feels like a freezer, the doctors scrub in, and they even listen to music.  But, save yourself the visit and just take it from me.  I think all of these “firsts” are starting to sink in for me now that I’m home and feeling like myself again.  But, just a few days ago, I endured several agonizing moments.

I had a scheduled liver biopsy about a week and a half ago due to elevated LFTs (liver function tests) that surfaced some time ago during a routine physical exam.  After being tested for everything under the sun, the biopsy was the last course of action to determine the reason for the elevation.  I was freaked out about the entire thing since I had never had any similar issues and was otherwise a healthy adult.  I spent about a month contemplating if it was the right decision.  After much thought and prayer, I decided to have the procedure done, because I didn’t want to be in a position where there was something I could’ve done about a potential serious issue that I avoided simply because I was scared.  Sometimes you have to do it afraid.  Plus, I knew this was one of those times in my life where God was testing how much I was willing to release control and not allow the fear of the unknown to lead me into a state of worry and defeat.  Why?  Because I worry…a lot.

The procedure itself was relatively painless and went well.  I was back to my daily activities within 24 hours and awaiting the results.  The preliminary report indicated there were no issues with my liver, but they also still didn’t have an answer for the abnormal LFTs.  I was a mystery.  And I was willing to accept that.  Sometimes you don’t get the answer you want in the way you want it.  That doesn’t mean that’s how the story ends though.  I was willing to take a backseat and continue to do my best to take care of myself even if everything wasn’t adding up.  I expected that one day it would all work out for my good.

Things quickly took a turn though.  The day after I received my preliminary biopsy results, I started having excruciating abdominal pain.  It was a type of pain that I’ve never felt before that literally brought me to my knees.  The pain was episodic and would dissipate after a few minutes.  Honestly, I thought I had taken one too many bites of a food that causes flatulence until the pain returned at least three other times.  I knew my body was trying to tell me something.  I went to Urgent Care, and my doctor sent me to have a CT scan given the fact that I had had an intravenous procedure a few days before.  Again, they found nothing, and I went home thanking God but also praying to God that the abdominal pain was a thing of the past.  Unfortunately, that same night the pain returned.  I spent the early morning hours sleeping on a bed in Urgent Care with my boyfriend at my side as an IV pumped pain medication in my body and we awaited the arrival of a technician to take an ultrasound of my abdomen in another attempt to determine what was causing the pain.  You don’t know intimacy until you’ve had to share a twin-sized hospital bed with your significant other for four hours because you don’t want him to sleep in the chair that’s only made for temporary sitting.  Somehow we managed to get some shut eye despite the beeping heart monitor and nurse station chatter outside the door.  But, even after the ultrasound, they still couldn’t pinpoint the cause of my abdominal pain or find anything that demonstrated I may have been having complications as a result of the liver biopsy.  I was sent home with instructions and pain meds.

Before we could even make it out of the building, I found myself in the restroom vomiting blood.  That instantly changed the game.  To make this long story short, I had to be transported to the hospital so doctors could perform a procedure called an arteriorgram to ensure one of my arteries or blood vessels hadn’t been punctured during my biopsy thus causing me to bleed internally.  While this was a procedure my doctors could’ve performed in the outpatient setting where I had been all morning, they preferred that I was in a hospital in case there were any other issues.  I didn’t want to go to the hospital of course, but I’m grateful to have had people around me who cared enough about me to do what was best.  They were my “hidden halos”!

They found no internal bleeding during the procedure, and I stayed overnight for monitoring.  Thankfully, my blood levels were stabilized and I was able to return home after one day.  It all happened so fast that I’m still internalizing what I’ve been through yet I have a considerable amount of gratitude for everyone who took care of me, prayed for me, and checked on me.  My KP physician team (Drs. Nguyen, Oh, Mathur, Camba, Brown, Truong, and Stone) demonstrated what it means to provide team-based, quality care, and I’m sincerely grateful for their professionalism and kindness.  The KP nurses and technicians and the Holy Cross Hospital nurses (Nurse Terri, Tonya, and Lissa) were extremely patient and gentle.  I know there were times when I probably wasn’t the nicest person (I was “hangry” and nauseous lol), and so I’m just thankful they didn’t take my frustration personally and made sure I was taken care of as directed.  My boyfriend was my rock throughout this entire ordeal!  I know I probably scared him, but I’m so very thankful for his comfort and love.  My mom was right there as always in Mama Bear mode!  Love you, Mom!  To everyone who thought of me, I thank you for helping me to endure.

I can’t deny this was one experience in my life that created much anxiety.  From the very beginning, I never knew what to make of it.  But, I thank God for the unknown and the fact that I had no choice but to take everything in stride, because it reminded me Who is always in control.  Ironically, I learned a song about three weeks ago by Mahalia Jackson called “If I Can Help Somebody.”  The song says, “If I can help somebody, as I pass along, than my living shall not be in vain.”  So, I tell this story hoping that I’ve helped someone to be brave enough to take whatever next step that’s needed to face your affliction head on.  I made it out, so that you could make it to the best days of your life.  Take charge and cherish your health, because it is definitely your wealth.  As for me, I’m doing well and hoping my next encounter with the OR is on Thursday night at Seattle Grace.

Raising Requirements

As we go through life, there will be many instances when people, circumstances, and our personal/professional roles will require us to do something.  I mean let’s face it, there’s always something to be done somewhere for someone at some place.  Typically, requirements that are set upon us can be good because they have a way of keeping us humble, responsible, and well perhaps…employed. But, there’s a small percentage of time where requirements can make us feel restrained, overwhelmed, annoyed, and glum.  I believe these types of feelings emerge when we forget what we should require of ourselves.  No one should go through life without a few personal requirements.  And while I have your attention, I’ll share my short list of requirements that have helped me to dust myself off when too many remnants of opinions, frustrations, condescending comments, and disappointments have attempted to permanently settle in my mind and heart.

  1. I am required to love myself in all things and at all times.
  2. I am required to generate my own happiness.
  3. I am required to spend time doing things that I really want to do and that make me feel alive.
  4. I am required to be okay with saying no.  Seriously, I dare you to try it.
  5. I am required to trust in the beauty of the universe.  Because once you’ve seen the miraculous happen for everrrrryone around you, there’s simply no way His majesty will miss me or you.

While my list may not exactly resemble yours, I assume that we’ll cross somewhere in the middle.  Ultimately, when we raise a few requirements, we also raise the bar for the future we dream about.  So, what are you raising?

 

Gift Small: Businesses That Bring Me Cheer

The holidays are definitely upon us.  The fresh smell of pine and evergreen makes my soul happy!  Although I can do without the copious shopping ads I’m receiving in my inbox every hour, it’s beginning to feel and look a lot like Christmas!

Christmas to me is about honoring the birth of a Savior who is selfless, faithful, and loving even in this present day. His message encourages us all to live in a way where we can cheerfully give, uplift, and support the needs, dreams, and talents of others as best as we can.  So, in the spirit of this season, I wanted to take a moment to highlight a few small businesses created by individuals who I can personally attest are thoughtful, gifted, and inspiring.  I’ve patronized all of these businesses and believe in their vision as entrepreneurs and as givers to the communities in which they live and work.  And while I don’t think that Christmas is all about Santa, presents, and reindeer sleighs, I do think that it’s an opportunity for us to show the small business owners we know and adore that we believe in their dreams and what they have to give back to the world. Together, we can build and spread wealth to our family, neighbors, strangers, and friends.  I hope you will take some time to explore the businesses I’ve outlined below and what they have to offer. I’m proud of all of their accomplishments and look forward to what they’ll do next!

Happy Holidays to all!

Iyabo Alli, Accent Me
Iyabo is a woman of many talents and someone I have the pleasure of calling a dear friend.  Somehow between her responsibilities as an engineer, health coach, and model, she also makes customized bracelets for her jewelry business.  Each of her bracelets are unique to the individual(s) who will wear them because they are designed to represent personalities, promote unity within an organization, and/or bring awareness to a philanthropic, health, or social cause.  I have no idea how many bracelets I have accumulated at this point, but one of my favorites is pictured below with minty green beads!  To browse other designs and/or order a custom bracelet, you can like Iyabo’s Accentme Facebook page or contact her directly via e-mail.

 
Elaina & Alysia Bright, Skin Scholars
I still remember the day when Elaina & Alysia eagerly committed to this venture.  Their zest for creating pure and fun products has not wavered. As sisters who love nature and value the authenticity of ingredients in their rawest form, it’s no surprise that they have developed a skin care line made only with what your skin needs.  I’m a regular user of the The Healer Salve and the limited edition Gingerbread Body Polish.  Both of these products have helped to keep my skin supple and moisturized and are gentle enough for daily use.  There are a variety of other products to choose from that make perfect gifts for family and friends.  You can check out Skin Scholars at the Arlington Holiday Bazaar this Saturday, December 12th or order online at any time on their website or Etsy shop.

 
Kimery Williams, LeMark Photography
As an event planner and my particular love for visual curators of all kinds, I’m always scouting for uniquely skilled, personable photographers.  Taking a photo is so much more than pressing the shutter button on a camera.  To properly capture the creative and emotive essence of people and events, you must be able to genuinely connect to those from all walks of life, adapt to distinctive qualities of individuals and environments, exercise a considerable amount of patience no matter the client or situation, and quickly negotiate postures and props for a quality photo.  Kimery does all of this very well and with an exceptional level of professionalism, which I think is partially attributed to his studies and work as a soon to be criminal defense attorney.  I had the pleasure of working with him for a personal photo shoot this year that was relaxed, delightful, and even educational. It has also been exciting to see the results of his shoots with several of my other friends and colleagues. To view his portfolio and schedule a session for you or someone you love, you can visit his website.