Reflections of Another Year

November 21, 2011

10:15 pm

As I sit here, the last hours of my 33rd year on this Earth are winding down.  2 hours from now will mark the moment that my mother began going into labor with me, and 5 hours and 35 minutes from now will mark the exact time that I was born.  Yes, I know the time, and it will be the exact day, too, Tuesday, November 22, 1977 at 3:50 am, a star was born.  That’s what my birth announcement says, I didn’t make that up!  Alas, I digress.

When I turned 33, I had a moment; an epiphany, if you would.  I thought to myself, “When Jesus was 33, He had fulfilled His purpose on this Earth and was crucified on the cross for our sins.  What in the world am I doing with my life?”  It’s not that I felt I’d wasted 32 years of my life.  In fact, I feel like I am on a continual path to fully understand and discover my purpose.  As part of that journey, I’ve had some hiccups and some moments where I wavered, but I was never too far from the path that God ordained from before I was ever even born.  The thought, though, was more about pushing myself to the next level.  So, I embarked on that journey this year.

Welcome to my world of reflection.  Here’s what I am proud of from this past year:

  • Do What You Say You Will Do.  I started my husband’s annual 120 Day Challenge, and am well on my way to completing it; on time.  The 120 Day Challenge is reading the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, in 120 days.  I got behind several times, and am currently behind, but I have a plan to finish on time, and am actually ahead of that plan.  So on November 30th, I’ll be done.  At the beginning of the challenge, I purposed that I would finish on time, and I am doing just that.
  • Be Disciplined.  Okay, this hasn’t been my best year for discipline, but I’ve made my way down a path to doing so.  As you’ll recall from some previous posts, I had to let go of some activities in my life so I could take care of basics.  I had to shift my schedule around so I could work some things out.  And I’ve done that.  I have a regular workout routine (with makeup sessions when I need them), I have a schedule for cleaning the house that I generally stick to.  I feel like I’m finally getting into a groove, even if it did take most of the year to get there.
  • Give of Yourself.  I’m hard.  I’m hard on me, I’m hard on others.  I’m even hard on my kids.  But I am aware of it, so I work on it.  This year, I especially gave more to my youngest daughter, who I am the hardest on.  That has played out in our relationship.  Over the year, I’ve gone from being “Rasheeda” (the step-mommy) to “Momma” (because she’s determined she has two mommies, her mom whom she sees most days and who  loves her dearly, and her “other” mom who loves her dearly as well).  You have to understand that, as a step-parent, having one of your inherited children choose, on their own, to call you Mom or Momma is one of the most precious, giving and rewarding feelings you can ever have.  So, as I’ve given her more of me, just hanging out, having fun, learning about each other, I’ve gotten so much more, though I expected nothing.  And that has been worth it’s weight in gold.
  • Discover Yourself.  I’m always on a journey of self discovery.  This year has been no different.  I’ve had the privilege of participating in a coaching program that has allowed me to learn more about my work self and my personal self.  Through what I’ve learned in that program, I’ve defined more what my goals, plans, and steps to get there are.  It has made me more sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and I believe I am truly on the path God has set out for me.  I am walking this life out.
  • Enjoy the Moments.  I’m a planner by nature.  I plan the route I’m going to take when I take errands, working to maximize the number of right turns I make (YES, I do that).  My husband, by contrast, is a “go with the flow” type of guy.  He likes to take things as they happen, which often makes me batty.  But I’ve been learning to go with the flow.  Okay, let’s just chill.  Yes, it’s okay that we don’t have plans.  Let’s just enjoy the company of who’s around us or enjoy the peaceful solitude.  You don’t always have to be going somewhere or doing something.

Thirty-three has been good to me. I am excited about 34, and know it will be even better.  I’m not intimidated that I’m entering the mid-thirties.  After all, you’re only as old as you act and, well, in that case, I’m really 14.  So I thank God for this year, and I thank Him for every moment that I will get to live out my purpose on this earth.  I pray that I used every moment well and, where I missed it, let me not repeat the mistake twice.

Happy Birthday, Rasheeda Niambi!

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????

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.”

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?