Here, There, and Somewhere

I may not have blogged too much in 2018, but I definitely took plenty of trips!  I scrolled through my old photos this week and was quickly reminded that I didn’t sit still.  I remember having a conversation with someone about my desire to travel internationally in 2019 (already done, so stay tuned!) since I didn’t at all last year.  While I do enjoy globetrotting to other continents, my domestic trips are never without some level of allure.  And judging by the hundreds of photos in my digital collection of landmarks, food, scenery, and people I love, last year’s travels are worth chronicling.  Notable highlights included:

  • Getting a henna tattoo and enjoying a live belly dancing show during a Moroccan dinner at Epcot;
  • Snuggly CNN time with my cute godbaby genius, because cartoons don’t keep his attention;
  • Beignets, étouffée, and po’ boys…enough said!  My bayou adventures are never without all of my Creole faves;
  • A random outing on the Chesapeake Bay for crab cracking and boat watching with my momma;
  • Dining underneath the sunset by the beautiful seashore in Puerto Rico and later being mesmerized by the colorful murals throughout the capital city;
  • Blueberry birthday pie at my home away from home, because cake wasn’t on the menu and peaches were the appetizer;
  • Getting the scoop on all of the best Mexican eateries in San Antonio from my Uber driver’s well air-conditioned car…because Texas…in the summer;
  • Attending the Sisters of Flora art exhibit with stunning floral paintings by a New Orleans native;
  • Trying not to break an ankle on the graveled roads and ogling at the calves on the drive to my friend’s farm country wedding in Indiana;
  • Galavanting around Austin looking for the best spas and BBQ with the one who makes me laugh hysterically and supports my need for delectable foodie finds.

If I gain nothing else by traveling, it’s the pure essence of being comfortable with leaving behind what I know to experience the richness of what I don’t.  That’s life.  That’s wealth.  That’s my happiness.

All the Places a Plane Goes

Last year, I crisscrossed the United States more than a few times and traveled overseas.  As my Nana would affectionately say, “Girl, you have a lot of miles on your butt!”  Much of my travel is attributed to my professional life, but whether I’m learning about new innovations at medical schools or enjoying time off, I look for the small beauties in new places and things.  That can be anything from –

  • Exotic tree branches or flowers that collectively produce fragrant winds or shade under the California sun;
  • The fullness of the trees along the perimeter of Olympic Park in Georgia;
  • The perfectly aligned bales of hay along the South Dakotan flatlands;
  • The trio of sail boats slowly cruising along the river in Wisconsin;
  • The presence of the sun’s shadow as it radiates among Nevada’s popular skyscraper hotels;
  • The sensory jolt from the Cajun spice, vibrant jazz tunes, and boisterous locals in Louisiana; or
  • The smell of bread and pastry dough from Parisian or Italian cafes along narrow cobblestone streets.

I have definitely been fortunate in my ability to move about the world and explore the definition of life through someone else’s eyes.  In each of these places, I’ve met enthused, indifferent, lively, subdued, and impolite people.  All with a story (perhaps some far too long for my typical abbreviated Uber rides).  All with a perspective.  And all with a personal connection to the geographic location in which I managed to temporarily house my suitcase and carefully organized work binder and fact books.  But, what I take away from all of my recent travels is the greatness of creation – of things to look at, paths to trek, and conversations with other beings.  Because life is not about the number of places you can say that you’ve been but the quality of the connections you make to your surroundings.  Hats off to a great year of discovery…and food!  Phenomenal food!

Monday’s Mantra: Remember When

It’s amazing how quickly time passes. Can you believe we’re less than 20 days away from the 100th day of 2016!  Over the weekend, I found myself thinking about all that I’ve accomplished so far this year and the many opportunities I’ve had in my short life span. I try to make it a point to do some type of reflection on a regular basis as a way to be reminded and grateful for my blessings. I guess you can say it’s my mental exercise for cataloging my gratitude. Some people choose to make this a written exercise, which I do too.  Regardless of your preference, just the act of recalling has a way of helping you plant more seeds of confidence and expectancy for greater.

This weekend’s reflective moments brought me back to the time  I was selected to attend the first young adult conference at The Potter’s House about a year and a half ago. I was volunteering as a team leader for the young adult ministry at my church at the time and received a call from one of the ministry leaders inquiring about my interest.  The Potter’s House is the mega church in Dallas, TX led by the world renowned Bishop T.D. Jakes. Thousands of people from all walks of life attend this church every week in-person and online. Of course people have their opinions about mega churches, their pastors, clergy lifestyle, etc., but my comments on that are too lengthy for this post. But, I can say from firsthand experience that a church is only “mega” when you sit on the sidelines (again, another post for another day). Although I had heard Bishop Jakes speak on several occasions at my home church, I never thought I’d have the opportunity to hear him speak in his house. I mean Texas is cool, but I don’t get there often.

My trip to this conference turned out to be insightful, engaging, and fun! There were young adults there from countries I may not even get to in my lifetime! From a structural standpoint, the church itself was massive and indeed situated in what seems like the middle of nowhere (I wore flats just about every day)! I met a member of the Planetshakers (the Australian band most known for their song “The Anthem” – a very popular praise and worship song in churches all over the world), acquired good study material, and was able to sit in a front section seat for Sunday service. For anyone who has never attended a service at a mega church, that’s prime real estate! Now, whenever I see The Potter’s House or any of the Jakes’ family on TV programming, I think of that trip and how little ol’ me had a chance to experience all of that.  And the best part…it was at no expense to me at all.  *insert happy dance*

I can recall so many other moments in my life like this when I’ve had the ability to do things, go to places, and connect with people from other continents. It’s important that we remember where we’ve been and how we may have landed there, particularly as the young adult years begin to pass us by. We need those “remember when” moments for a few reasons: 1) for encouragement as we usher in new phases 2) as the spark that may facilitate a much needed laugh, and/or 3) perhaps as a reminder that all of us can be used to do anything. There may be things, people, and places we all want to be part of our story, but I think it’s imperative that we embrace where we’ve been in order to see the bountiful beauty in blessings big and small.