Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Some of the most profound advice and wisdom that I have ever received on life and living has come from children.
The other day my five old nephew and his grandmother (my Mom) got into a heated debate. He wanted to watch what he wanted to watch on the nice new TV that my brother and I got her for her birthday while jumping on her bed. She's usually quite patient with his antics because he's just so darn cute, but this time she just couldn't take it anymore. Needless to say, the disagreement ended with him in tears when he caught her off guard by saying,
"Grandma, you tipped my bucket."
"What?" my mother said, not familiar with the term that he had used.
"I said you tipped my bucket." He repeated.
"Well, what does that mean?" She asked.
"When you make someone angry or upset, you tip their bucket, so you say you're sorry to fill their bucket back up."
Needless to say, she was sold on the idea, so they hugged and made up after which he said,
"Thank you Grandma, now my bucket is full."
Wow! If only adults could make it that simple. We argue, hold grudges, talk behind each others backs and do everything else short of addressing the issues at hand directly. In his own simple way my nephew introduced my mother to a method to use to reframe conflict. They discussed how each of their behaviors affected the other person, they acknowledged one another's feelings, and they came up with a plan together for moving forward.
When I called for an interview he had no comment, so I asked him to call me back the next day and with reluctance and a little coercion from my mother he did just that. The few words that he did have for me left a major impact...
"Aunt Munka (His pronunciation of my name), We want to be bucket fillers."
Monday, November 30, 2009
Having flown so much, I've begun to realize a pattern. I've noticed that turbulence, or a shaking and unsteadiness of the plane, most commonly occurs when we are traveling through a cloud.
So, you start at one point (the ground) and your destination is your goal, but you rarely get to that goal without passing through some clouds.
While in the cloud, the plane shakes, sometimes mildly, other times violently and drops and dips may be felt. I've heard gasps and even screams from other passengers. Ultimately we don't have many choices other than to trust that the pilot will get us to our destination safely because even if by some slim chance we do have the skill or the knowhow, we don't have the power or the authority to take over and fly the plane.
This whole predicament is very much like life. A new beginning or a change in your life is very similar to the plane being on the ground before it takes off. The actual flight is your journey. Along your journey, you will face obstacles, or dark clouds...the turbulence.
Your first thought in flight is, "Is this plane going to crash?"
In life, your first thoughts include, "Why me?", " Are you punishing me God?" Or, "My life is over!"
We are so quick to anticipate the absolute worst.
Because I fly so frequently I've come to know that turbulence is par for the course. It is a natural part of the journey...so I sit back, say a prayer, and trust that the pilot will do all that is in his or her power to get us to our destination safely.
Again, the same is true in life. Just as I am a frequent flyer, I am also a frequent faither. As much as I want to, I do not lean on my own understanding, but I I trust that God will take it from here. There will be clouds of pain, hardship and despair. There may be trouble at home or on the job. It may seem that financial hardship is trying to take you under. There will be times of turbulence. A bad break up, or a seemingly irresolvable situation might be chipping away at your spirit. Through it all it is important to acknowledge that these circumstances are not the end of the world, but a natural part of life.
During a radio interview recently, I was asked if I would change anything in my past. My answer was "No" because everything that I have endured, no matter how painful or crazy has shaped who I am today by making me wiser, stronger and a living testimony that with faith, all things are possible. We cannot control it, so we must trust that our pilot will take care of us.
God is our pilot on the journey that is our life. Trust that he will get us to our destinations safely.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
When we are considering taking the next major step in a relationship, namely marriage, we are often advised to ask our potential partner some very important questions. I’d like to amend that wise council by adding a mandatory pre-requisite. There are some very important questions that we need to ask of ourselves.
What are your standards or boundaries?
If you don’t set clear standards and boundaries for yourself other people will determine them for you. The result is that you will find yourself unhappy and ultimately resentful toward the person that imposed these lowered standards upon you. The worst part of it all is that since you were the one that did not stand up for you in the first place; you will begin to resent yourself. Knowing what you will and will not accept and knowing when you are willing to compromise is key.
Would you marry that person as they are today if they never changed?
There is a common misconception that once a couple is married, their problems will decrease or disappear all together. Somehow we have been falsely led to believe that marriage will make things better. This might be true if you put in the deliberate effort as a team to make the relationship work, but the truth is that if issues and problems are not addressed, marriage may only make matters worse.
The reality is that we cannot change people, and people only change if and when they are good and ready. With all of that said, could you marry the person that you are with today, as they are? Could you stay with that person, with all of their shortcomings for the rest of your life? If the answer is no, then you may want to re-evaluate some things.
Would you marry you?
We spend a lot of time trying to pick apart our mate in order to decide whether or not we can spend the rest of our lives with them, but when was the last time you took a look at yourself? If you were someone from the outside looking in, would you marry yourself? If you have a hard time controlling your emotions and communicating effectively, the answer might just be no. So do some self inventory to see if you would chose yourself if you were someone else.
Getting to know yourself is the most effective way to learn to love and be loved. Show your intended how to love you based on how you love yourself. Self reflection and insight are the best ways to become a strong partner in any relationship.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Think about how you feel when someone tells you what you need to or should be doing. Even when they say it nicely, my first reaction is often to rebel and do the exact opposite of what they are telling me to do. Constructive feedback is one thing, but lecturing someone on how they need to change is totally differently and rarely well received.
As a result I’ve found that the best way to see change is to be the change that you want to see.
What can you do differently to reduce or eliminate the undesirable behavior that your love one exhibits without being manipulative?
Here are a few practical examples…
Let’s say that your loved one has a smoking habit that you do not care for. Physically removing yourself when they smoke will let them know how you feel about it without you telling them that they need to quit. Telling them that they should stop does not encourage them to do so, but perhaps the absence of your presence may help them to give the idea some thought.
I’ve noticed that people only do what you allow them to. The cigarette smokers in my life know that I do not like smoke, but since I don’t set any clear boundaries, I am still subject to this undesired behavior. But I’ve noticed that there are certain people that they do not smoke around. This means that the people that they do not smoke around have set some clear boundaries. Know what you want and be firm in that.
Perhaps your issue is that you and your loved one argue all of the time. You can be the change that you want to see by making an effort to be more positive. If you find yourself being negative or reacting to their negativity, take a step back. Either counter your negativity with positivity, or simply do not respond to their negativity.
I watched the film “Fireproof” the other day and in the movie, the husband was reading the book, “The Love Dare.” The love dare is a forty day process based on biblical principles where individuals are given a different challenge each day. One day the husband was given the challenge of not being negative. Even if his wife was negative he had to be silent and not reciprocate her actions. Give that a try. A person can only fuss, rant and rave all by themselves for so long before they begin to feel foolish.
These are but a few examples, but I encourage you to examine the stressful situations in your relationships and think about how changing yourself can benefit the union.
**This Relationship Rescue Series is not just limited to romantic relationships; these are principles that can apply to any relationship whether it be family, friends, or co-workers. Relationships are what keep us alive so it is important to nurture them and put in the time and effort that it takes to make them work.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
In this case it is important to make a conscious effort to date one another in order to avoid complacency, lack of growth or having either or both parties stray away from the relationship.
I often hear stories from our elders about how they used to “court” back in their day.
Courting was a practice that happened when men would date a woman who he was interested in being in a relationship with. These days we skip that crucial step of getting to know and trying to pursue one another for a greater purpose. We go straight to being physical, living with, and even having children with one another. Marriage and relationships are often secondary to those things or an afterthought.
Then we wonder why, years down the road, we find ourselves at a dead end. We look up and we are with someone that we’ve grown to love, but fail to like. Or, we find ourselves with someone that we call our boyfriend or girlfriend, but that’s more so just a title because the truth is that neither of us are boys or girls and we are not friends at all.
So, what are we to do to reverse or better yet, avoid these circumstances?
Here is what I recommend…
• Be Planful* and Intentional about scheduling creative and engaging dates with your mate. Even President Obama and First Lady Michelle have a designated date night with a back up night in case something comes up.
• Set a Date and Keep It just as if it is any other important appointment in your planner. Make the commitment.
• Be Present when you are on the date. This means limiting or eliminating all distractions such as talking on the phone, texting, watching television, or reading a book or magazine. Use this uninterrupted time as an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation. It will promote bonding and you may learn new things about your mate.
Dating your mate may not be as easy as it sounds, especially if you have fallen into years of the same old pattern. This is why I have only listed three steps to take toward rejuvenating your relationship. Take it one day at a time, one step at a time, and once you have mastered these three steps we can move on to more complex challenges. In the meantime take time to reevaluate where you are in your relationship and DATE YOUR MATE!
*Planful is not actually a word, but I use it all of the time and I love it. So just consider it a part of the MMJ Vocabulary. Perhaps I’ll create my own dictionary.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
I love to use new seasons as my markers for new beginnings because everything and everyone that comes into your life is for a season. Some seasons are longer than others but most leave you with a lesson that allows you to come out better than you were before.
This might be your season of health and wellness, your season of financial literacy, or your season of focus on family. This is my season of personal development. Weather we realize it or not, we invest so much in making other people’s dreams come true, that very little is left over for our own self improvement. Think about it,
How much do you really invest in personal development? Now when I say personal development, I don’t mean getting your hair and nails done. Don’t get me wrong, that is very important too. But that goes under self-care which is another subject and another blog. When I say investing in personal development I mean investing time and money into books, classes, workshops, mentors, conferences and networking opportunities that move you forward in the mission and vision that you have for your life.
We tend to invest in high risk things where we may get little or no return, but self investment is a win- win situation. When you invest in yourself, the return is always high. In the financial world the acronym, ROI stands for Return On Investment. This speaks to the amount that you get back when you invest in something. When you invest in yourself, the return is priceless.
I definitely “Put it in my work” when it comes to writing, but lately I’ve decided to do the same thing when it comes to exercise.
I was watching Creflo Dollar one day and he said, “We can’t stop birds from flying around our head, but we can stop them from building a nest in our hair.” He used this saying to illustrate how we don’t have to entertain all of the thoughts that cross our mind. He then went on to tell a story about how he had the strangest thought. He said he was in a store one day standing behind an old lady when he thought, “What if I just pushed her?” I laughed so hard when I heard him say that, but the truth is that in addition to all of the other emotions that we have daily, no matter how nice we are, we often just want to punch or slap someone.
So where can we place these thoughts and feelings in order to avoid carrying them out?
“Put it in your work OUT!”
That is one of the main reasons that I took up kickboxing. It is the best stress reliever. When I am in front of a 100 pound punching bag with my gloves on I picture all of the people and things that frustrate me and I take it out on that bag. It’s a much safer and healthier alternative to putting the smack down on someone. The same is the case with any type of exercise. Take all of that built up resentment, worry, frustration and irritation and “Put it in your work out!”
The benefits are endless. You will lose weight, feel great….and avoid catching a case. So the next time someone or something gets under your skin... “Put it in your work out!”
I’ve never stopped working out, but other circumstances in my life have caused increased stress and anxiety which lead to behaviors such as emotional eating. Stress also causes some to hold onto and ultimately gain weight. Another factor that contributes to my lack of weight loss is that when we continue to do the same type of exercise our body reaches a plateau and needs to be shocked by doing something different.
I took all of these things into consideration and used them as a catalyst to launch my Walk Away the Weight program. So often we get fixated on physical weight loss. Maintaining a healthy weight is important to ward off illnesses such as high blood pressure, hypertension and diabetes, but very rarely are the prevention of those diseases our motivation. The bottom line is that we usually want to lose weight to look good.
What we fail to realize is that a huge part of gaining and losing weight is psychological. Hence, my Walk Away the Weight program is twofold. The obvious side of it is that I am walking for physical health and to meet my weight loss goals. The not so apparent side is that I use walking as a way to clear my mind and heart thus lifting the mental and emotional weight that I often carry around with me daily.
When I walk, I take deep restorative breaths. Think about your day. How often to you stop to take a deep breath, honestly? Sadly you probably cannot think of one time and you find yourself taking that first deep breath of the day as you read this.
Based on my research I’ve also learned that exercise and sunlight are two ways to holistically treat depression so it serves that purpose for me as well….because believe it or not, Little Miss Sunshine, as some of you may view me, was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder just one year ago.
I am revealing this because too often we fall prey to the fear of the stigma that surrounds mental health in the African American community. By speaking out, perhaps I can help someone else by letting them know that they are not alone, and that recovery is possible. I also want to encourage those who feel that something just isn’t quite right, to seek help...even if that means taking a free diagnostic test online to see if you are suffering from the symptoms of depression.
I walk for an hour each day at a local track or park. While I am walking I think, pray and meditate which often leads to fresh ideas and a new outlook on my life.
Walking Away the Weight has given me a release and a peace beyond all understanding. I encourage you to develop a program that works for you. Just be sure to consider how you can incorporate all aspects of a healthy lifestyle which include physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, and nutrition.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
I’m usually the one dishing out all of the inspiration, but recently I found myself on the receiving end. Teachers, speakers, ministers, parents and social workers give so much up themselves to uplift and encourage others, but where do they go when they need to be fed spiritually, intellectually and emotionally? The common answer is a training, seminar, class, sermon or lecture, but I have another suggestion that is a little different. I find the motivation that I need in the arts. That comes in many forms including the performing arts, literary arts, movies, book, plays and the like. But most recently I found myself motivated through the visual arts when I paid a visit to Gallery Guichard in Chicago.
The history behind that gallery, its artists and the neighborhood that it’s in is rich, but what touched me the most was hearing each of the artists that were featured in the “Emerged” Exhibit speak. Their stories touched my soul and it opened up a whole new world for me. Usually we look at pictures and can only guess and wonder what might be behind the colors and textures. This experience gave each artist the opportunity to speak life into their art…ultimately baring their artistic souls. I could go on and on, but the best way to capture what I felt is through the following poem that I wrote that night as they spoke…
Artists are deep
Their minds paint pictures even as they sleep
Pretty is far from the ultimate goal
They don’t just paint pictures, they paint souls
Inspired excellence on canvas
Art saves lives
Conveying messages beyond what we see with our eyes
An investment in prosperity
Far beyond the value of money
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Going out by yourself is not about loneliness or lack of friends. It is actually a liberating and enjoyable experience that is more so about being confident. My fear of going out alone was based on my own insecurities and my concern with what others would think of me.
Going out alone also gives you an opportunity to get to know and love yourself, which is a key component of being able to have healthy relationships with others. It's somewhat ironic that I went out to the movies by myself because I went to see Tyler Perry's new movie, "I Can Do Bad All By Myself."
I won't give away the story for those who have not seen it yet, but the main character had never taken much time to get to know or love herself and it had a huge impact on her ability to love others. With that said I highly recommend that you go and see that movie because the message is a powerful one that really hit home for me and had me in tears when I wasn't laughing at Madea's inserts of comic relief.
This week I also challenge you to take yourself out on a date, especially those of you that have never gone out to dinner or a movie alone before. There are several benefits, but the most important one of all is that you get to spend some quality time with you.
Recently I read an amazing book by Francine Rivers called Redeeming Love. The book is set in the 1800's but it is based on the book of Hosea in the Bible. The main character had suffered so many traumatic events that she had a hard time believing in and accepting God's love.
As the novel progressed she ended up meeting people who not only taught her about God's grace but they were faith personified in that their day to day actions made it evident that they believed in God and lived by His Word.
One of her friends introduced her to something called a God Box. To the untrained eye, the God Box merely looked like a plain card board box with a slot in the top, but its meaning and power went far beyond its appearance.
The friend who created the box was a fixer and a worrier. She had the complex that many of us suffer from today of trying to save the world. She always tried to take problems into her own hands instead of seeking God first. So she created the box to remedy this problem. She said...
"When problems prey on my mind, I write them down, fold them up, and put them through the slot. Once they are inside the box, they are God's problem and not mine."
As simple as it all sounds, the box helped her to seek God first instead of trying to handle things on her own. It helped her to convert from being a fixer to a faither.
I used this example to create an actual God Box and an activity to accompany it that I presented at Bible study. Here are the benefits of creating your own God box...
- It helps "fixers," worriers, and people who tend to "play God."
- It helps with letting go.
- It's a reminder to put your faith in God and not yourself or anyone else.
Now go get that shoe box off of the shelf, create your God Box and cast your cares on Him.
Do Not Worry
28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see the works of the LORD,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear,
he burns the shields with fire.
10 "Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."
11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
The truth is that we often base how we feel about ourselves on many of the factors listed above...but do those things truly make us happy? At the end of the day, are we fulfilled, or do we find ourselves always wanting more, no matter how much we have? A better car, a bigger house, newer clothes, longer hair, a smaller waist....
How we feel about ourselves cannot be based on how we look, what we have, or what others think about us because what happens when we don't have those things anymore? What happens when those people are no longer in our lives, what happens when our looks fade or change?
For most of my life I remember thinking that if I lost weight, then I'd be happy. As a result I changed my lifestyle, started exercising, ate right, and lost 65 pounds. I got a lot more compliments and attention... but there was just one thing that was missing. I still was not happy. I did not know my value, I did not know my worth, I didn't realize that I was a gift. All that I needed was already inside of me.
Let's talk about that for a minute. Let's talk about what I mean, or what it looks like when I say that you are the gift.
Think about a person that you find to be intriguing. What is it about that person that makes them so interesting? Nine times out of ten it is something that you just can't describe. They walk into a room and their presence is felt. People are drawn to them. It's almost like that person has a glow. It really has nothing to do with that person's looks...there's just something about them....
They have that SWAG...now what is swag? Is it something that you can see? Is it something that you can buy? Is it something that you can learn? No, it is something that we all have inside of us, we just don't realize it.
Let me break it down like this. SWAG.... S-W-A-G
The W stands for Within... It's something within because clearly we can't quite describe it and we can't see it, but we know that it's there.
The A stands for Awesome...It makes us want to know that person, be that person's friend, be around that person.
The G stands for Gift. They are the gift, they have the gift, it's inside of them and it's glowing on the outside...
Sometimes people spell SWAG with two G's. ...SWAGG
That last G is silent, sometimes you don't see it, but it's ever present...That last G is God. Something Within...Awesome Gift...God. God is the gift, God Gives you the Gift, God is in you. That thing that people see shining through is the God in you.
That's the realization that I had to come to. How dare I talk negatively about myself? How dare I think I am not cute enough, or too fat? I am a child of God, and denying myself...denying that I am the gift, is like denying God.
God is in me so how dare I not love myself. How can I say that I love God if I do not love myself? Loving yourself is knowing that you are the gift. Knowing that you are the gift, is loving yourself.
Now that you know, you have no excuse. You've got SWAG. It's in you, now you should adjust accordingly. The change may not happen overnight, but here are a few steps to get you started...
- When someone gives you a complement, simply say thank you (accepting a compliment is like saying, "I know that I am the Gift")
- When you enter a room hold your head high, and look everyone in the eye...you think no one notices you? You think no one's checking you out, how could you know when you've had your head down for so long. Lift it up and let that beautiful light shine through your eyes and your smile.
- Next time someone tries to mess with you or talk bad about you look them in the eye and smile...Laugh even.... But in your head I want you to say... "Do you know who I am? Better yet? Do you know who's I am? You better ask somebody!"
I could just cut and paste my write up for the Swag Book Release Experience in this box, but I'm not (Maybe Next week though. Heehee) because I just want to talk to you for a minute.
I want to tell you to use me. Use me as your guinea pig, your crash dummy, your example for what happens to you when you step out on faith and pursue your dreams wholeheartedly. When all you see is what WILL be and not what might be in the way.
The blessings have been flowing down and all around and I am so grateful and so humbled. Now enough of the mush...let me get down to the real deal...
Last year I was watching P. Diddy's Making the Band. During a commercial I dozed off and had a dream that I was on a reality TV show. When I woke up, I immediately began writing and "Swag" was born. Shortly thereafter I took a trip to Traverse City, Michigan for a personal writer's retreat. It was there that I dug in deep and really got to know the characters as they unfolded in the book. All of my other books took years to write, so I thought that this one would be no different. So it amazed me when less than a year later, the book was complete!
All I have to say is once I truly gave in, and put my all into developing what I know to be my purpose....I have been bombarded with blessings. I mean from hour to hour I get an email, a phone call, something in the mail...
The opportunities that I am beginning to receive such as major radio and TV appearances, international travel, investments in my business come as no surprise to me. To be honest, I've never seen it any other way. When you dream big, and you think big...life hands you BIG things. So once you start doing that, boy oh boy, you'd better get ready to receive!
I know I'm kind of babbling on but I'm just so excited! It will all make much more sense as you see things unfold over the next few days, weeks and months. I just hope that this message has something that someone needed to hear. I will begin blogging my blessing testimonies, under some cool and catchy title that I have yet to think of, after the Book Release Party (Friday September 25th)
Stay tuned and stay inspired...