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.

Monday’s Mantra: Save the Sulks

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.  Even though I don’t come close to being a morning person, I do my best every day to go forth, do great, and forget about my bed that doesn’t seem to want to let me go.  My morning routine was business as usual until I realized that one of my favorite pieces of jewelry was missing!  *insert music to signal impending doom* Now, I’m very much an analytic, neat freak who makes it a point to put all of my things in the place I’ve designated as their home.  So, I knew that if one piece of the jewelry I wear just about every day was in its place, then this particular ring should’ve been there too.  That was the rationale I had declared in my mind, but of course that wasn’t reality since I found myself looking all over my room and checking purses and cracks where it couldn’t have possibly been.  I had to look anyway.

During this intense 5-10 minute searching spree, my thoughts began to shift to all things negative.  Maybe I left it at Lather where I was trying a bunch of skin care options over the weekend (btw…they have great soaps!).  Maybe it has been missing a day longer than I actually thought and I’m now noticing.  Is it in the vacuum cleaner?  Great, it fell out of my car on the ground and it’s now being kissed by oodles of rotating tires.  I think I had about 20 thoughts go by in a matter of 30 seconds, all of which were negative.  Clearly, I did not awaken with any inkling of victory.  While I was grateful to see another day, my actions embodied defeat.  I decided that wasn’t conducive to a productive week, so I took all of those thoughts captive and re-focused my energy on my devotional.  Plus, I didn’t have anymore time to look up, down, and all around my room with a full day of work ahead of me.  My devotional this morning was from Exodus 16 when God gives the children of Israel manna and quail even after their complaints about not having any food.  Yikes!  Not even a few minutes before I had started reading I was distraught and grumbling about what I had lost too.  I’m always amazed how even in this day blessings will come despite our complaints and protests.  I felt like that was the perfect message to start my week even after losing my jewelry.

As I was getting ready to leave the house, I decided to check my jewelry box one more time.  You’d never believe what I found in one of the small corners that I had looked previously even though I don’t ever put this particular ring there.  Sitting right there in that spot was…my ring!!!  *insert sigh of relief*  I had spent part of my morning being a sourpuss and yet I had overlooked what was right in front of me.  *covers face*  Ultimately, I’m glad I found my ring, but more importantly, I’m encouraged by my effort to quiet the negativity that is always more of a distraction than it is help to what’s happening in life.  Sometimes you have to redirect your energy in order to produce an optimal result.  So, whether you’ve misplaced something or you’re struggling to make it over the hump, I urge you to quiet your pessimism.  Only then will you begin to find what you’re looking for.  Solutions, and I guess rings, tend to hide in unlikely, yet promising places.

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.

Monday’s Mantra: Keep Your Zest

Who would have thought I’d find a little nugget of wisdom in a kitchen gadget?  I swear wisdom is all around you if you’re awake and conscious of every day moments.  Last week I elaborated on what it meant for me to be whole and shared a few of my cooking creations in my attempt to get better acquainted with my dinner table.  And this week as I thought about how I would maintain my chopping and sautéing momentum, I remembered the one gadget that would take my marinade to the next level!  It’s one of the easiest to manipulate and clean.  It also aids in producing a smell so incredibly crisp and fresh that’s to die for.  Ok, please don’t die.  My friends, ask yourself if you have a lemon zester!  If you don’t, Homegoods will be expecting you.  I honestly think they named it a lemon zester not just because it easily peels off the skin of perfectly round and bright citrus fruits, but also because the aroma literally induces excitement (hence the reason citrus scents show up in a ton of products)!  I implore you to get one and find a reason to use it!

As I was rolling the lemons around the zester, I noticed that despite my careful inspection of the fruit in the grocery store, they still had a  few imperfections.  I then began to think of how I’ve used this one fruit for so many things.  Got a pimple?  Use a lemon.  Sore throat making you miserable?  Use a lemon (in your tea).  Getting ready for your spring cleaning?  Use some lemons!  Need a pick me up?  Slice a lemon.  The list goes on and on!  I admire versatility in fruit…and people too of course.  In this moment, I found myself thinking that lemons are a lot like people.  In spite of our imperfections, we can still be used to do and become a host of great things.  Our uniqueness is what keeps the universe energizing and delightful.  In addition, we all have an opportunity to use our gifts to bear fruit in many areas of life.  And despite our scars, we can still choose to be bright and refreshing in all that we do.

The only things that should be losing their zest this week are the lemons for your marinade or cake or cleanser or…fill in the blank.  Don’t let opposition or opinions dim your shine.  So, be like a lemon — Stay vibrant.  Be flexible.  Embrace your cool.

Lemon zest for my marinade

Lemon zest for my marinade