Re-evaluating

I periodically take some time to step away from my day to day life and re-evaluate.  It’s an exercise in re-evaluating priorities, looking at what’s taking up my time and then figuring out what needs to be removed from my life in order to align to my priorities.  At least that’s how it normally goes.

As you know by now, I am out on maternity leave.  I’ve been blessed to be able to take 4 months off from work, and am really enjoying the time, for a myriad of reasons.  I love spending my days with my Itsy, getting to know this little bundle of joy the Lord has blessed us with.  I enjoy not having the normal hustle and bustle of life thrown at me constantly.  And frankly, I enjoy not really having to figure out what to wear each day.  Well, not dressing up.  I actually take some time to figure out what to wear daily, and am typically changed at the end of the day because Itsy has spit up on my shirt one too many times.  Ahh, the joys of motherhood!

During this time of leave, I’ve started re-examining and re-evaluating my life in a different way.  I’ve entered a new chapter, a new journey, and with that comes shifting priorities.  The constant go-go-go pace that I previously kept has got to, for the sake of my sanity, if nothing else, slow way down.  Thoughts that consumed me daily (How’s this project going?  When will this thing happen?  Am I being productive enough at work/home/community?) no longer take up space in my brain.  I actually feel like I’m thinking more clearly than ever before (except in the middle of the night, when I can barely stay awake long enough to nurse Itsy).  It’s like there’s nothing but time and space in this head of mine (not that it’s empty, or my brain cells left, just to be clear).  There’s just an inexplicable calm and peacefulness that is allowing me to really think clearly for the first time in a very long time.

I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I’m always down for the ride and the journey.  I do encourage people to take time to really clear their heads, though.  We move at such a hustle and bustle pace all the time, we forget to “Stop, Collaborate and Listen.”  (A prize to the first person to put in the comments where that came from). Well, not Collaborate.  Unless it’s just in your quiet/prayer time.  But I digress.  We have to stop going through life, and start being purposeful about everything we do.  So take a step back, take a break from it all, and ask, “What am I supposed to be doing?” and sit still long enough to hear not just the answer, but the “how.”

Happy resting!

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A Change is Gonna Come

About a year and a half ago, I bought some wall decals for my youngest daughter’s room (Miss Lady).  She was five at the time, and very into the Disney Princesses and Tinkerbell.  So one day, while strolling through Target, I saw both Fairy wall decals and Princess wall decals on sale, and picked them up.  The next time she came over for her weekend with us, I showed her the decals and she selected the fairies to put on the wall.

You have to understand, Miss Lady is a girl’s girl.  She loves pink, princesses, dresses and dolls.  Her room is “Bunny Nose Pink” (gotta love those fancy paint color names), and, while she has it setup with all her toys and photos, it was missing that special touch that told us all it was her room.  Clearly the pink wasn’t enough of a statement for me.  When she saw the wall decals, she was elated and immediately selected the Disney fairy decals.  There were like 50 stickers in this packet (I should’ve read it more carefully), some small, some large.  We literally spent an hour placing each and every sticker, no matter how big or small, around her room.  Admittedly, when it was done, it was just what she needed to complete the look of her room.  She thought it was, “Awesome!”

Now, Miss Lady turned 7 last month (I know, she’s growing up before my very eyes).  I’ve been trying for the past few months to get her to take down the fairy decals and put up the princesses.  But whenever I asked (and I didn’t ask very often), she would say, “No, I’m not ready yet, Momma.  Maybe when I’m 8.”  So I let it go.  The last time I asked was in May after we returned from Disney.  After all that time with the Princesses, I just knew she would be ready for the fairy decals to come down.  But, no, she wanted to wait until she was 8.

Understand, I didn’t ask about the decals because I was tired of looking at them.  That really is her room and her space, so, unless she is there, I don’t spend much time in her room (our girls don’t live with us, for those who are looking confused right now).  But I knew that she had outgrown the fairies and moved on to the next thing, as evidenced in the things she chose to play with and liked to do.  So I wanted to support that in her living environment as well.  Growth is good.  At the same time, you have to know when to use a gentle nudge, and when to step back.  So after I nudged, I stepped back.  And a funny thing happened.

I was coming out of my bedroom on Saturday, and was met at the door by Miss Lady.  “Momma,” she said to me, with that look that told me she wanted something.  “Miss Lady,” was my reply.  “Momma, I want to take down my fairies and put up my princess stickers.”  I smiled to her and said, “But I thought you wanted to wait until you were 8.”  “Yes, but I changed my mind.  I’m ready now.”  I just smiled and said okay, and off we went to her room to work on our new project:  taking down the old stickers and putting up the new ones.

An hour later, all of our work was done (and the paint on the walls remained perfectly in tact . .. those decals are GREAT!).  As I walked out of Miss Lady’s room, I looked back at her.  She was staring at the walls and spinning and laughing, which is what she does when she’s REALLY happy. The next day, I asked Miss Lady about her “new” room, and if she liked it.  Her response?  “I love it, it’s awesome, but I kinda miss my old stickers too.”

I thought about the process of her changing her mind about the stickers.   I gave her a gentle nudge, but didn’t push hard when she felt she wasn’t ready.  And yet, she was ready, which I knew all along, and when she finally realized it, the change was made.   But even after the change was made, she still missed, just a little bit, what she’d left behind.  How often does God, through the Holy Spirit, give us a gentle nudge to make a change or adjustment?  And how often do we push back on it, feeling that we’re not quite ready, even though we know inherently that He knows all and is doing what is best for us.  But eventually, God works on our hearts, and we walk the path we’re supposed to be on.  And even then, we may look back longingly at the past, but we must realize that the past is behind us, and we have to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling (Philippians 3:14).

What lies ahead of you?  Has God been speaking to you about doing something that makes you nervous or apprehensive; feeling that you aren’t quite ready?  Why are you waiting?  Just as parents do with their children, He knows best, and we must trust God and walk the path that He has set before us.  So step out of your comfort zone, there are better things ahead of you.

Train Up a Child

 

Growing up, whenever my brother or I would get in trouble (usually him), Daddy would sit us down and go over his 3 rules.  I always remembered 2 of the 3; that third rule would elude me every time, which just irritated my dad.  The three rules were simple:

  1. Don’t lie to me.
  2. Don’t play games.
  3. Be responsible

That “Be responsible” rule and I just didn’t like each other.  I couldn’t remember it at all, and never really got the whole thing.  At least, not until I got older.  Now, as an adult, I find myself reciting Daddy’s 3 rules.  Funny thing is, I don’t recite them to my children very often.  I recite them at work.  They’re pretty basic guidelines for any interaction.  “Don’t lie to me.”  It shows a lack of integrity and character, and tells me that you can’t be trusted.  “Don’t play games.” Nobody has time for foolishness.  Be straight with me, and I’ll be straight with you.  In my opinion, playing games puts you on the borderline of lying to me, and puts you in the category of someone I have to watch, because playing games puts you too close to lying.  “Be responsible.”  Do what you say you’re going to do.  If you can’t, acknowledge it, own up to your mistakes.  Man (or woman) up.

I’m sure there were points in my childhood that my dad wondered if I understood the three rules.  I mean, outside of the times in trouble and the subsequent lectures and spankings, I don’t remember hearing the rules all of the time.  And considering I had a hard time remembering “Be responsible,” I wouldn’t blame him for wondering if I was “getting it.”  Yet, here I am, at 33, not only remembering the 3 rules, but reciting them and applying them in my own life.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Proverbs 22:6.  Whether you are a Christian or not, Bible reader or not, you’ve heard this scripture.  Our job as parents is to teach and train our children.  Sometimes, we question whether they get it.  And yet, you have to trust that they do, either then or later on.  And at some point in the future, be it tomorrow, next week, next month or next decade, they will go right back to the foundation that we give them.  The question is, “WHAT are you training your child?”  Are you training them to be responsible adults contributing to the world around them, or are you training them to be manipulative?  Are you teaching them according to the Word of God, or are you teaching them to rebel against the Word?  What you teach them today will be seen again in the future.  let’s make sure they can return to those teachings and use them to make themselves and those around them better.

My dad taught me the 3 rules, among many other things.  They remind me to walk with integrity, to have good character, and give me a baseline with which to interact with others.  I share them with friends, with co-workers, and even my direct reports, so they understand my basic needs and expectations.  The 3 rules, which I learned 20+ years ago, continue to carry me, and I am thankful for the foundation my Daddy gave me, as it has helped me grow into a woman of integrity and character.  I pray that, as we continue to instill lessons into our girls, my husband and I pay it forward to them.

Taking the First Step

Yesterday I tweeted this quote: “‎The first step to somewhere new is deciding you’re not going to stay where you are.” ~JP Morgan

Surprisingly enough, I came across the quote while cleaning out my desk at work.  No, I haven’t switched jobs or anything like that.  At my job, it is common to move buildings or offices, and this is one of those times.  Our floor is being reconfigured and my team is moving to a new location (across the floor) next week.  But, I digress.

The quote was on a stack of cards I found at my desk, and it really resonated with me.  I’ve been feeling overwhelmed (AGAIN).  I mean really, who keeps repeating this experience?  I’m over it.  Like my Pastor reminds us often, “To get what you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.”  Well, it’s not that I’ve never had a calm, underwhelming life.  I just sometimes get in over my head and don’t do a good job of managing things.  So, this weekend, I tried some things that I hadn’t done before.

First, I deactivated my FaceBook account.  Not impressed?   I am.  I have over 750 fb friends, and yes, I do actually know all of them.  In fact, I periodically did a purge of my friend list.  Don’t be impressed by the numbers, I’m not.  FB friends are mostly acquaintances and family members.  My real friends, like those closest to me, can be counted on two hands, and that’s intentional.  In any event, I felt like FB was becoming a time suck, and I needed to do something about it.  So. Saturday morning, I posted a status warning my fb friends that I would be deactivating the account by the end of the weekend.  Here’s what’s crazy:  an hour later, I wanted to pull the trigger.  But, I waited.  I waited a whole 8 hours.  Then I pulled the trigger and hit deactivate.

It’ took me a couple of days to get used to not having a Facebook account.  It has now become very freeing.  Like REALLY freeing.  Which also tells me I spent waaay too much time on fb.

Second, I cooked Sunday for the whole week. This doesn’t sound eventful to most of you, I’m sure, but I am, by no stretch of the imagination, the woman who works all day and wants to cook dinner for her family when she comes home.  The thought alone wears me out.  And yet, I have a responsibility to do something. So I opted to find a balance.  Sunday afternoon, I invested about 3 hours of my time into either fully cooking or prepping meals for the week.  Some meals were frozen, others put into the refrigerator.  Granted, the week is only halfway through, but there is still food in there and I’m feeling really good about the lack of stress I feel in the evenings.  I don’t have to do anything but take out what was prepped and cook it (which takes SO much less time), or my husband can start dinner (or warm it up) before I get home.  Do you have any idea what a stress relief that is??

Lastly, I’ve cut back significantly on the television watching.  Why?  Another time suck.  Granted, today I’ve been posted in front of the tv because of the earthquake here in Richmond (can you believe we had an earthquake???).  But I’m committed to this very limited television thing.  I’ve already seen an improvement in my productivity, and that makes me happy.

I think I’m on my way to moving out of the zone of overwhelm.  What’s funny is it has only taken a few tweaks.  That’s it.  A little advanced planning, a little discipline, and voila, less stress!

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, or just need to make some changes, I encourage you to take an assessment and then take some basic steps to make changes.  After all, the first step is deciding you’re not going to stay where you are, right????

In the Midst of Solitude

Yesterday, when I arrived home, I just sort of shut down.  I found myself at first annoyed by something, and then ultimately angry.  Over the years, I’ve learned how to be significantly more self-aware.  As part of that, I know that, when I’m that angry, I should just be quiet, so that’s what I did.  I put myself in time out, or in the “corner.”  The corner is the place I go to just be quiet.  It’s where I have to sit myself until I am in a much better mental state.  And I don’t think of the corner as a bad place.  In my mind, the corner has great snacks, a Tempurpedic mattress and all the comforts I could ever want.  It also doesn’t have other people.

As I rose this morning to start my day, I still felt a little bit of that quiet mode.  The difference is that now, it isn’t about frustration or anger.  It’s just about being still.  Sometimes we go so much, move so fast, have so many things going on that we don’t take time to just sit still.  And I don’t mean sit still and watch tv or veg out.  I mean just flat-out be still.  We have iPods and phones and televisions and video games (and the list goes on), and there is always movement.  But what happens when you just shut it all off and sit still?  All of those things are distractions.  Let’s be real, there really isn’t anything on tv right now.  Most of the shows won’t have new episodes until the fall, and the shows that do are, for the most part, “reality tv” where I can feel my brain cells leaving (yes, I do watch some of it, but it doesn’t make it right).  So what’s the point?

Last night, I shut it all off.  I plugged up my phone, grabbed a book and had a nice relaxing bath.  I kept reading my book until I convinced myself that going to bed really is the best thing.  And you know what? It was a very peaceful and quiet night.  I read, but I also listened to the thoughts (not the voices, the thoughts) in my head, filtering through the randomness that plays through my mind to get to the things that really matter.  I found myself with a renewed sense of energy and determination, and, when I woke this morning, looked forward to the solitude that this morning brings me.

Take some time to enjoy the solitude.  A lot of times we fear it, when, in reality, it’s just what the doctor ordered.  Perhaps a trip to the corner isn’t so bad after all.

Free Your Mind

In 1992, En Vogue came out with a song called, “Free Your Mind.”  I remember the entire song, but I love the line that says, “Free your mind, and the rest will follow.”  (and yes, I’m singing while I type).  The song was about prejudice, and was a bit radical for its time.  It is still a song I really enjoy.  But, contrary to what you’re thinking, I use it not to talk about prejudice or discrimination.  Rather, to talk about freedom in your mind in the truest sense.

As I’ve been sharing over the past few weeks, I recently made some decisions to cut back on things in order to ensure I was “handling business,” so to speak.  Last week, I found myself in an interesting situation.  One of the decisions I made was to step out of a particular role.  The reason for this was that, frankly, the commitment required of me was more than I am able to do at this time, and particularly the time commitment.  So last week, I made a decision not to attend an event.  Seems minor, except it was an event that, prior to stepping out of the role, I would have attended.  I literally second guessed myself for about an hour and a half.  Then I “came to myself,” and said, “Rasheeda, you made a decision not to do this role anymore.  You cannot make yourself feel guilty for then choosing to walk that out.”  My pep talk concluded with one simple statement (yes, out loud):  “Be confident in your decisions and walk in them.”

How often do we find ourselves tormented by the thoughts in our mind?  We are our own greatest critics.  I can literally play out a scenario in my mind that is just as off and wrong as could be.  In my mind, I can envision a dialogue with someone that can go really right or really wrong.  And it is all in my mind, because nothing has manifested in the natural yet.  How important is the mind?  It is the most critical part.

In your mind is where the battle is, because in your mind is where you begin to develop your perception.  And perception is, for many, reality.  Your reality is different from mine, because you view it through a different lens.  We may see the same things, but your experiences and lessons interpret what you see in your mind, and you are left with what is your reality.  What you imagine in your mind becomes reality, and that reality can lead to guilt, frustration, anger, bitterness and so many other things.

We all hold on to ideas, frustrations, etc.  Some may be past hurts and hang ups that we just can’t let go; that pop up in our minds at the most random times.  But the Word tells us to “. .. demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and … take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  (2 Corinthians 10:5, TNIV)  We are also told, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2, TNIV)

What are you holding on to today?  What are you condemning yourself for, feeling guilty about?  Take a moment to free your mind, and, if necessary, forgive yourself so that you can walk in the freedom God has intended for you this day.  The mind is a powerful thing, and when it is in bondage, you are in bondage.  But when you are free, all things become possible and your thoughts become life-giving instead of life hindering.

Choices

We all make choices in life.  We choose what time to wake up in the morning; we choose what to wear every day.  We choose what to eat (or what not to eat).  In this day of social media, we choose who to friend on Facebook, and who to follow on Twitter.  So often, we do these things without thinking through the impact of our decisions. Yet, the choices we make have long lasting effects.

For several years, and particularly the past couple years, I’ve had quite a struggle with my weight.  Nobody would look at me and think I weigh what I do.  In fact, a couple weeks ago, I went to a new primary care physician.  After going through my medical history, she looked at my chart and said, “This can’t be right.  Is this you?”  She didn’t believe the weight that was written on the chart, and then said, “You carry it well.”  Of course I did the obligatory, “thank you,” and her statement didn’t offend me. But at the end of the day, her comment reminded me that I have a long journey ahead.

I don’t really know how I got to this point.  Well, I sort of know.  I was the one that was always moving, going.  Not necessarily working out, but moving too fast to stop and eat, which usually ended with me getting sick at some point.  In law school, I don’t think I weighed myself even one time.  In the summer after I graduated, I worked out 5 days a week, cooked and ate very balanced meals, not because I was trying to lose weight, but because I was trying to make sure I was in top mental shape for the bar exam, and that included physical and spiritual health, not just mental health and capacity.  Imagine my surprise when I returned to Ann Arbor 9 months after graduation and was told, “Wow, you look great!  What have you been doing?”  I remember wondering, “Did I look that bad when I was here?”

When I returned home, I got on a scale and was completely shocked at what I saw.  I had gained 30-40 pounds over a 3-year period, and somehow, didn’t even notice it.  Even more, I knew that the scale reflected a number that was probably lower than it had been the year before.

You would think that I made a choice, at that point, to get all of the weight off.  To keep doing what I had been doing.  But that wasn’t the case.  I chose not to do anything.  Not consciously, but in hindsight, that’s exactly what I chose.  And the results of that choice, I am still dealing with.

Fast-forward 6 years, after the loss of my son.  I distinctly remember eating whatever I drove past:  Popeye’s, McDonalds, Wendy’s, the list goes on.  And then, it was conscious.  I don’t feel like cooking, I don’t feel like doing anything, I’ll deal with this later.  Later kept coming and going, and before I knew it, I was 210 pounds.  How in the world did that happen?  That spiraled me into lack of self-confidence, discouragement, and all around disappointment.  Shucks, that’s a blog in and of itself.

Here I am today, still pushing, still fighting, still trying to find, not the right diet, but the right lifestyle change.  I joined a boot camp 6 weeks ago, and LOVE it!  It’s an intense workout, but it is well worth it.  I push daily.  I literally make choices when I eat, and I am more cognizant of it.   If I eat this salad, what does that say I am choosing versus eating the Chick-Fil-A nuggets?  Do I believe I deserve the best?  If so, then I need to give myself the best.  And, more importantly, as I seek to fulfill the purpose God has given me on this earth, I must give Him my best.  After all, He gave me His best (John 3:16), so why wouldn’t I give Him my best?

We all have struggles and challenges, and we all make choices.  My struggle is weight.  That may not be your issue.  Even so, there is something you face that you must address, that you must deal with and stop hiding from.  Take a moment today to step back and think about the choices you make daily, often without thinking “too deeply” about them.  Don’t go through life just being, and just doing.  Choose to live intentionally.

“Give You My Best” is included with permission from the artist, TWyse.