It Starts With One …

When I was a child, my parents enrolled me in Friends Association for Children.  Friends was a place that I remember fondly.  It was founded by Lucy Goode Brooks, a slave in Richmond, Virginia, as an orphanage for colored youth.   Friends opened its doors in 1871, and is still open today, with multiple locations and resources for young people of all ages.

A few years ago, Friends began selling the Lucy bracelet, a beautiful sterling silver bracelet that has a simple saying engraved on it, “Isn’t it amazing what one woman and her friends can do?”  I’ve been thinking about this statement for the past couple weeks.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m working on a project that is very near and dear to me. But I recognize that, while I believe the project will touch many lives, it isn’t a work of mine alone.  It is truly the work of “one woman and her friends,” because it takes some of my friends to complete the project.

I’ve thought about this as I watched the movie, “The Help.”  I read the book, albeit reluctantly, a few weeks ago, and saw the movie over the weekend.  I was glued to my seat, because it took “one woman and her friends” to step up and share their story in the midst of very real, very dangerous threats.  But it was through the sharing of that story that they gained freedom, freedom of self and freedom of mind.

And today, I thought about this quote as I watched, through teary eyes, our local news channel do its weekly “Acts of Kindness” story.  I was glued to the television because I knew the recipients of this week’s “Acts of Kindness” award.  They are #TeamBolton, who I’ve mentioned in previous posts.  They have spent this year, and the entire summer, dealing with their 4-year-old daughter’s diagnosis of severe Aplastic Anemia and enduring long hospital stays, a bone marrow transplant and many other challenges.  Yet, through it all, they’ve remained strong in faith, strong in spirit, strong in family and strong in love.  What was also touching, though, was that they were nominated by another friend, Frazelle Hampton, a single mother who had just gotten out of the hospital dealing with her own health challenges.  But she wasn’t thinking about that, she was thinking about how she wanted to be a blessing to #TeamBolton.  Frazelle did something amazing, with her friends.

“Isn’t it amazing what one woman and her friends can do?”  It doesn’t have to be a lot.  You just have to take a step.  Make a phone call, lend a helping hand, reach out.  There are so many opportunities to give to others, it’s hard to justify why you wouldn’t.  After all, you never know what impact you will have long term.

“Isn’t it amazing what one woman and her friends can do?”

Acts of Kindness Video

Smile

As you can tell from last week’s post, I’ve got a few things going on right now.  Work is busy, life is busy, and it is a little overwhelming. Tuesday night was the first time in 2 weeks that I actually rested, meaning, I wasn’t just sleep.  I got to close my eyes and rest, without random thoughts and dreams popping into my head.  I’ve taken a few days off from work this week, and was excited that my night of rest was a sign of better things to come.  I got up Wednesday morning, got in a great workout at the park, and thought, “Oh, yes, I’ve got endorphins, life is good.”  I even began to invoke my inner Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon’s character in “Legally Blonde”) and found myself saying, “Exercise gives you endorphins.  Endorphins make people happy.  Happy people [aren’t mean, they just aren’t].”  Sidenote:  the quote actually ends, “Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.”  I always change it to suit my situation.

Unfortunately, Tuesday night’s restful sleep was not night a sign of more restful nights to follow.  Correction:  it wasn’t followed by a restful sleep on Wednesday night.  Admittedly, this is my own fault.  While I am off work for a few days, there are a number of things going on, and I can’t let the ball drop on them.  Yes, this is where my workaholic tendency comes in.  I’ve been . . . monitoring . . . my BlackBerry.  Responding to the items I deem as urgent that no one else is in a position to answer, and skipping the rest.  I really should be putting the Blackberry away completely; I’m working on it.  It’s quite draining to plan a memorial service, and, frankly, my few days off are more about needing to focus on that than they are about needing time off from work (but I am in need of a vacation, honestly).

Now, I’m not here to whine or complain.  In the midst of my not so restful sleep Wednesday night, I had an interesting revelation.  Sometimes, in the midst of everything going on, you just have to smile.  You know, like the Kirk Franklin song says, “You look so much better when you smile, so smile.”    So I’m smiling. And one of my favorite things that makes me smile popped into my dreams Wednesday night:

Yes, sometimes I dream in YouTube.  Don’t judge me.  But my YouTube dreaming made me smile last night.  Not just in my dream, but I woke up with a smile on my face (before I fell back asleep).  The video is cute, you know you laughed and probably watched it more than once, but it isn’t just about being cute.  It is a reminder that you have to take time out and just enjoy the special moments in life, the ones that make you smile.

My week isn’t all about sadness and stress.  Yes, it’s hard to know that my grandmother is gone, and even harder for me, who has spent my 33 years of life blessed with 4 living grandparents yet, in just 9 short months, I’ve lost 2 of them.  Work can be stressful, but I do enjoy what I do (most days, we all have “those days.”).  But I’ve laughed a lot the past couple weeks, I had a BLAST hanging out with my mom yesterday while we ran errands in preparation for the memorial service.  In other words, I’ve found the moments to make me smile in the midst of what can be a trying time.

What are you going through today that makes you feel down?  Don’t let it get you down.  Find your favorite thing, and make sure you Smile.  “You look so much better when you smile, so smile.”

Clean Your Closet

This past weekend, I cleaned my closet.  Now, I know, that sounds like something uneventful.  Perhaps for some, but not for me.  It took me a total of 8 hours to clean the closet.  I went through every article of clothing, every purse, every item hiding in the closet until I had purged it fully.  I left no stone (or item) unturned in that closet.  And, in the midst of my 8 hour cleaning spree, I had a revelation.

I realized that I had been allowing others to define things for me, without defining them for myself.  Take my closet, for example.  It was full of clothes that were given to me by other people, or things others thought looked cute on me but I had never really been quite sure.  In my closet were items I was holding onto for nostalgia sake, and waaaay too many t-shirts.  I had several “I’m going to fit into these again one day” dresses, suits, etc.  And as I kept working, I wondered where the clothes were that expressed who Rasheeda really is.

Well, 8 hours later, the results were in.  Here were the clothes that represented me

And this is all that I purged, or rather, donated to Goodwill:

Now, this may all seem silly to you, but it was a pretty significant moment for me. I’ve been going through a lot of growth and changes this year, and particularly in the recent months.  I took everything over to Goodwill immediately (well, the next day), because I didn’t want to change my mind on anything.  Over the next few weeks, I’m going to take some time to figure out what I like, what I really like, and rebuild my closet with those things.

For me, it really was my closet that needed the purging.  But for someone else, it could be anything:  your career, your spiritual life, your love life.  Take some time, hours, days, whatever it takes, to do a very thorough inventory, clean out the things that you need to, and purge them for your life.  The “closet” may seem empty, but that emptiness can be the most fulfilling emotion you’ll ever experience.

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.

How Do You See It?

Whenever something happens that bothers me, my husband always reminds me that it is all about perspective.  Now, admittedly, this usually just irritates me, but not because I think there’s wisdom in what he says.  In fact, I do.  But usually, at that moment, I want to wallow in whatever is bothering me.  It just so happens that my wise husband doesn’t really allow me to do that.  Go figure :-).

He does make a good point, though. When things don’t go your way, how do you look at it?  Is it a learning opportunity, or just something else to upset you?  And if it’s the latter, are you missing the lesson?  We had a situation occur over the weekend that really upset me.  I had an unintentional emotional reaction, in spite of my best efforts to hold it in.  But once I got that out of my system, I took a moment to step back and look.  The situation, frustrating though it may be, was simply a challenge.  From my perspective, it was the physical manifestation of a spiritual attack.  So, taking that into account, I did the one thing I know to do in spiritual matters:  I prayed.  I prayed for the situation, I prayed for those involved and I prayed for myself.

There was a time where a situation like that would have shook me for days.  It would have left me in a funk.  But, as I’ve learned, it is all about perspective.  I can’t change what happened, but I can change (and control) my reaction to it.  There are things that take place every day that frustrate you.  You can wallow in it, holding on to the past, or you can change your perspective.  Identify what lesson or opportunity you may take from the situation.  Alter your perspective, I guarantee it will alter more than just your thoughts, but also your attitude, your behavior, and possibly even the outcome of the situation.

There’s An App For That

App:  Abbreviation for application, which is defined as “a program that performs one of the major tasks for which a computer is used.”

I try to be fairly self-aware.  It doesn’t mean I know, recognize, or even acknowledge all of my flaws and issues.  It just means I try to be aware of them.  one of the things that I know about myself is I’m a techie geek.  I like gadgets, I want the latest greatest one, and it greatly annoys me that Verizon will only give me discounted pricing on a new phone every 2 years.  I mean, maybe I want a new iPhone (I don’t, my Android phone and I like each other just fine).

With my Droid Incredible, I discovered the world of apps.  I’m always searching the Android marketplace, looking for a new app.  Over Christmas, I took 2 weeks off from work and spent a week straight playing Angry Birds.  Seriously, a whole week.  Nonstop.  Because I was determined to beat the game.  I had to uninstall it from my phone when I won.  Because no person, grown or otherwise, should play a game that much.

In any event, as I sat in church Sunday morning, I thought about my Pastor’s current series, “LIFE – Living Intentionally For Eternity,” I thought of how we apply lessons learned to our lives.  Last week, I wrote about my struggle with weight loss.  Well, that wouldn’t have meant anything if I didn’t do something.  So I downloaded an app to my phone (MyFitnessPal.com), and started logging my calories.  That, combined with making it to boot camp 3 days last week (I know, I was slacking, I usually try to make 4-5 classes, but I was out-of-town), resulted in . . . wait for it. . . . 4 lbs lost!  Woo hoo!!!

I’m excited about the weight loss, but as I reflected on the message and also my success for the week (I weighed myself just before heading out for church), it made me think about how often we apply the tools we have available to us.  I have a number of apps on my phone . . . my favorites show up on my home screens:   YouBible, Gmail, Facebook, Kroger, Out of Milk and the Verizon Fios apps, just to name a few.  I use those all the time (we won’t mention my fascination with my Scrabble apps :-)).  But when I look at all the apps I’ve downloaded over the past year—I think I counted 52—I don’t use them all.  Why not?  Some, like Hoccer, were downloaded in moments of comparing apps with friends, when my techie geek tendencies kicked in and said “oooh, that’s cool, I want it.”  Others were downloaded thinking I’d use it, only to realize that, well, not so much.Out of 52 apps, I regularly use 13.  That’s 25% of the apps.  So are the others wasting space?  Probably.

There’s an app for everything.  But how many times do you use it?  Many people list the Bible as their favorite book.  How often do you read it?   I’ll admit, it’s a challenge for me. That’s actually why I have the app on my phone.  I use the daily Bible reading plan on there, and I can read anywhere.  I can read any version of the Bible, wherever I am.  Because, let’s be real, I’m rarely without my phone.  What about that lesson you learned a few years ago?  The one that said that everything that looks good isn’t good for you?  (That can apply to a lot of things, not just food. Like relationships – romantic or platonic).  Do you apply it when you meet that guy who looks like Patrick Dempsey or Taye Diggs?  Or, fellas, when you meet the woman who looks like Salli Richardson, Halle Berry or Angelina Jolie?  Or do you ignore that small, still voice telling you “everything that looks good isn’t good for you?”

Yes, there’s an app for pretty much everything.  The question is, are you using the app, or is it just taking up space on your memory card?