This is my Year of Learning

 

For the past five years I have chosen a word to define my year instead of list of resolutions. Since starting this tradition, each word has revealed something new to my life. Pushing me to accomplish different things in my life, including writing this blog. Each word is more than simply a word but more so a theme for the year.

At the start of this year I did not have my word. Half heartedly, I tried out a few different words. But none of them felt right. In reality, they felt wrong, false somehow to where I am in my life.

Then it came to me. Actually it had be in front of me the whole time. Coming up several times in conversation with friends.

This is my year of learning.

Learning about myself, who I am in Christ, my community and the larger world beyond.

I need to learn.

I am willing to learn.

I want to learn.

It fits in perfectly to where I am in my life. I look forward to seeing how this word will affect this year. The adventures and experiences it will take me on.

 

 

 

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Unexpected Places

I never once imagined that I would end working with kids. I played teacher as a kid but I also played doctor, super hero and WWII spy. ( In a way it’s understandable to see why I enjoy writing fiction so much!). But working with kids as a career? NOPE. Or at least that was what I believed. Until I met my friend Mary Ann who works with Greater Miami Youth For Christ in a program called KIX ( Kids in Christ). It is an afterschool program (among several ) that reaches into a few neighborhoods throughout Miami. Through my friendship with Mary Ann, I started to volunteer off and on over the years. Helping out with homework or being there for the teen program on Friday nights.

Last year though, I was offered a position as staff. It was an answer to a prayer, a second source of income and feeling the God moment in it. Have you ever had a moment where there was no hesitation to say yes because it just felt right? This was one of those moments for me. I knew I was going to say yes to this and I began work with the second and third graders three days a week.

Let me tell you something, it has been the hardest job I have ever had but by far the most rewarding. These kids they just get into the heart. One in particular reminds me of myself. She has a bit of imagination and I see the story teller emerging in her. I get her, I was her at her age. I lacked confidence in my abilities with Math homework ( and I’ve only just begun to encounter this Core Math stuff too). Working each day with my girl is one of the highlights of the day. Seeing that moment when she gets it, especially after fighting hard for the answer is a victory. Her victory.

I have been told that God qualifies us for the work He needs us to do. This is why this time in my life could not have been planned by myself. I did not feel confident in being able to do something like this in my life. But God is greater than my doubts. This is where my trust in Him comes in for my life. Trusting Him in this place has been a huge lesson for me. I’m still learning and I’m not the greatest every day but there is grace in this work. As I learned a few years ago, work is worship and worship is work.

The desire and heart of Greater Miami YFC ( and YFC nationwide and international) is to reach the youth. Kids and teens in communites of all kinds bringing the love of Christ into their lives. The neighborhood that we minister  in is one of the largest Habitat communites in the country. It is a tight knit community that often has dealt with crime and violence. A few weeks ago a young lady was shot in the face by her ex boyfriend waiting for the school bus. She survived but she may lose her right eye.

This is the reality of what these kids deal with day in and day out. But by being able to come to KIX afterschool or  for teen events gives them a respite. It gives them a place to point to and say there is safety and love inside that building. I am grateful to get to be part of it. To plant seeds of hope in Christ and loving on these kids. I look forward to the next victory my girl has this coming week.

I would love it if you could dear reader take a moment to click on the link for Greater Miami Youth For Christ to learn more about what we do in our vast city. Perhaps you would like to get involved with your local chapter or even donate to KIX ( just look for my name under the donate tab). Most of all I would like your prayers for this neighborhood and many like it through out our country. For these kids to find a place of hope and love in the name of Christ.

 

 

The Social Media Conundrum

Social media has become a vaccuum of opinions and unfriendliness. It has sucked me in and took over my mind and soul for a while. Especially with the election this past year and the eventful first days of our new President. Having this constant stream of news and opinion without much time to digest is not healthy for me. So much is coming at me so fast that I find myself feeling shaken and torn.

Social media can be wonderful, don’t get me wrong. It is a great way to peek into the lives of those we care about, like a photo or learn some news. In fact for my birthday party next month I created a Facebook event since it’s the easier way to keep up with people able to come or not. I have learned so much about this world, expanding my view on social issues and opposing views from mine.

However these platforms have become a place full of half truths about our lives. Posting photos that reveal part of our lives but belie our struggles. There have been times when I have hesitated to post something because I simply don’t want to deal with the fight in the comment section. At least on my personal FB account, Twitter is where I get more politcal. I feel free to do so since I don’t have as many followers and have yet to encounter any pushback on my tweets. I’m sure that day will come, but for now it’s what works for me.

Using social media also takes so much energy from me. Engaging in this way, especially if it is of a political nature. It takes energy to read through comments or finding myself getting angry at what someone has posted and so on. I have wasted so  much time scrolling through multiple platforms when I could of been reading or (ahem) writing. It becomes the great time suck ( I’m looking at you Pinterest!) that hours can go by and I wonder what the heck did I accomplish today?

The reality is I often look to using social media for a bit of distraction from my own life. I admit to posting things and then checking obsessively to see how many likes or comments were made on it. When it didn’t garner the attention I had hoped for, there is disappointment. Afterall it can feel like a popularity contest. For me it has often feed into the lie that I’m not cared about. It can be so easy to do when you see posts of your friends out without you. It can lead to assumptions and often bitterness about feeling this way. I have to remind myself that a post only shows a portion of the whole picture.

Never before has humanity have so much information at our fingertips. From our phones we can see what others are up to, peek into the lives of those we admire. For me though, I need to step back a bit. To not engage quite as much and be more intentful about how I spend my time. I have many goals for this year and I believe less time spent on all of them the better it is for me.

 

My Best Frienemy is Running

Running has been my best friend and my frienemy. My longenst on again, off again relationship thus far. Becoming a runner was not anything I had ever envisoned for myself over four years ago. It was by far the most convienent and accessable form of exercise for me. I only needed a good pair of shoes and a nearby park to do it. It also helped to have a buddy at the time also running alongside me, pushing me to run one more lap, then another. Running has taught me that so much, which is why it has become the habit I quite can’t quit. I go through phases of going hard at it, not quite the six days a week habit I had four years ago. Today it looks more like three maybe four days a week, but still I’m getting out there.

Other times it looks like ghosting. I ignore the reasons I need to run and end up doing nothing. There have been times when I have used my work schedule as a reason for not doing it, but the truth is I simply did not want to run. But I need it.

Running keeps me physically and mentally healthy. A good morning run not only starts my body off well but my mind. It helps to wake me up and prepare my mind for the day. Running for me can be medidative. In this I mean nothing else is going through my mind is getting through it.( That and the lyrics from the Hamilton musical and Mix tape).

It is cost effective. As I stated above all you really need is a good pair of sneakers to run. No gym membership fee needed. I can run solo or with a group ( something I haven’t been able to do yet but hope to soon) and those are free too.

I enjoy it. Despite how I sometimes dread going, I don’t want to get out of bed. Or after a long day the last thing I want to is go home to run or work out. If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t do it at all.

I’m also in a different state of mind about being healthy. For a time it became so all encompasing for me that I could think of nothing else. At some point it became too much for me mentally that I had to figure this out again. And again and again as my life has changed over time. I have less time for the intensive six day a week work outs but I can still get in a good run or a short but intense workout.

Tomorrow morning I shall put on my running shoes and clothes, turn on my app, press play on Hamiliton and go!

Ask and You Shall Recieve…

Last year was a long, hard year. Not only because of the stress of the election ( and its outcome) but also personally. For the past few years I have chosen a word to define the year and for 2016 I had chosen Stretched. What was I thinking when I chose this word ( or did it choose me?)! In years past I have picked YES, LOVE, and BOLDNESS as my words. While I encountered challenges in those years with them, always learning and growing with them, never have I been as challenged as I have been this year.

I liken it to praying for patience, I don’t know about you but when I have prayed for that in my life it shows my lack of patience! It’s like God is saying alright, you really don’t know what you are asking for here but I will answer your prayer. I have been challenged and stretched in various areas of my life, from learning how to work in a ministry, leading young adults at church, getting some kind of grasp on my financials and being pushed out of my comfort zones. I say zones because there is always more than just one isn’t there?

The biggest and most recent is moving out of my sister’s house. It wasn’t something planned but it had to happen when it did for the sake of my family and future relationships. This was hard and painful and for a most of last month I was in survival mode. In the end it has all worked out, I have found a new place to live, with friends whom I am growing closer in relationship with each day.

Another comfort zone I had was in ministry. For several years I have served at my church in the area of stage design. For many of those years it either myself or myself and one other person. Which meant I HAD to do everything otherwise things would not get done. Anyone who serves at church knows that this was not a healthy place to be in. This year I have learned how to delegate ( this has also become my new favorite word!) with my team. This has meant me letting go of wanting to be in control of how the church looks each week and trusting what my team is doing with it. It has meant placing others in charge in preparing for Easter and Christmas Eve services. This has been so freeing! Letting go of control ( when I believed I didn’t have control issues oops!) is the best gift.

The best way to put it is that God stretched me this year by having me see where I needed to also let go. It didn’t mean I needed to take on more but had to jettison what wasn’t helping me grow in relationship to him. Letting go doesn’t mean one no longer cares but also sees that others care as well. If I take on everything I am not allowing someone else to also serve God.

As I reflect on the words for each past year, I see a larger word behind them. Namely trust, in order to say YES, I have to trust. Same with LOVE, BOLDNESS and STRETCHED. I have to trust God and His providence, not mine.

As I prepare my heart, mind, body and spirit for the new year this is where I sit. In adoration of what God does all the time in my own life and in the lives of others around me. I am not sure of a word for 2017 as if yet or at all.

Learning to Love

Recently my church has started a new series in the book of Jonah titled Called To Love. The timing of the start of this series could not be more apropos in my view. As a Christian I have been taught by Jesus and others in my walk that we are called to love. It is after all it is the commandment that Jesus says we must follow.

Matthew 22: 37-40

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and the first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

What I see is  discomfort at being called to love, to love God and to love others. Because it is easier to not love everyone and choose to love a few. But we aren’t called to love just the few but all we encounter.

It’s easier than saying that at the end of the day all of us struggle. [Tweet “All of  us have a need to be loved and to love. To feel like we all matter, to be heard and cared for. “] All of have a need to be loved and to love. One life is not less valued because of differing views or circumstances. It saddens me when I read comment sections and people demand  deaths or bodily harm of others because of what exactly? A shared post on social media?

We must choose to love others because God loves us. God loves me through the darkness and my straying heart. We must love the person who chooses to sit out or kneel during the anthem, not call for harm for them. Love the person who protests police abuse, Love the police officer on the job. By loving them I mean to see beyond the surface, to see their soul that God too loves. To sit down and have a conversation, to listen to them. Listening to someone can at times be the single biggest act of love.

Love others by listening. The art of listening has fallen to the wayside. Too quickly we are simply waiting to say what we have been waiting to say instead of hearing the other person ( often, this has been myself). By listening to others, learning their story and what they have endured and why they are where they are in life. Before anything can change, we must first love without placing requirements upon it.

It takes work.  It is hard to love another who perhaps has far different views that we can hold so dear. In loving others is not about making people believe as you do. Or that only those who wholly agree with everything you believe are worthy of your love. I am learning how to love people who can be frustrating or not easy to get along with in the first place. I have had to admit my failings here and seek Jesus’ strength to love as I have been commanded.

Love is not easy, can often seem a far out concept and hurts. In the end, love is worth the effort.

Still Learning Healthy Skills

I was uncomfortable in my body when I was unhealthy and that did not change once I was healthier. My mind had to catch up with my body. What I did not know yet was that it would take time. Even though I was at my thinnest ever in my life, I became obsessive about two things. How flat other women’s stomachs seemed to me and counting my caloric intake. Seriously, the majority of my thoughts focused on that alone. I would sit in a room during Bible study and instead of paying attention, I would find myself staring at other women and their stomachs.

[Tweet “Were theirs flatter than mine? I need to sit up straighter so mine doesn’t poof out as much. If my stomach was flatter that guy would want to talk to me….”]

Were theirs flatter than mine? I need to sit up straighter so mine doesn’t poof out as much. If my stomach was flatter that guy would want to talk to me….

Then there was the constant counting of calories in my head. Constantly going over in my head and My Fitness Pay how much I ate and when I ate it. Calculating how much of my workouts negated the calories I had consumed.

I was exhausted. I had gone from binge eating to binge thinking about food. How much I ate, when I ate and what I ate. I spent more time on the food app then anything else.

A huge motivation during my journey to getting healthy was that it would lead to my believed fairy tale ending. I was blinded by the idea that it would be my turn, finally my turn and nothing was going to move me away from this idea! But (and there is always a but with God isn’t there), God was showing me something more. He placed people in my life who continue to cultivate the idea of His love in my life. People who challenge me and force me to really take a look at my motivations behind my goals.

I also had to grow comfortable with how my body. The key for me was coming to terms that my stomach will never be flat no matter how many ab work outs and sit ups I did. That no matter how much I count calories, there will be times that I am off or just don’t care enough.

I have gained weight since meeting my weight loss goal four years ago. Today, I am in a healthier place mentally and no longer desire to try to fit into some mold that doesn’t work for me. Meaning I still strive to be healthy, working out and eating well ( for the most part) but not freaking out as I once did when I do not. Accepting my body for what it is, for how God has made me has been so freeing.

I encourage those of you to strive for your goals, to be healthy and see the amazing things your body can do! Also learn to accept the reality of what your body will look like. There will be a time when the choices you make will be to not work our or to eat that “forbidden” food. Just try to be kind to yourself during those times. You are not less than because of these choices. How you come back from them is what will define you. Gaining health is not about getting it right all the time. It is learning skills in order to be healthy. To live a well rounded life.

I am still learning how to be healthy, and some lessons take longer than others. The biggest lesson I have learned is to keep going, that life can get in the way. Or like me one can just want a break for a time from the work out grind. And that is just fine…

 

 

In A Place of Learning

1 Corinthians 15: 58

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast,immovable,always abounding in the work of the Lord,knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Recently I learned that I have a lot to learn. It was during a during a breakout session while attending a conference  for Youth For Christ. We were discussing what works in doing ministry in the city. I am new to working with a ministry serving in my city. I work for Miami Youth For Christ as a tutor for elementary school kids in the KIX program ( Kids in Christ).I have served at church leading small groups, organizing the young adults and helping lead setting up each Sunday. But this is a different kind of work.  While I have volunteered over the years with this organization. Last fall I was offered a position as staff. All of it is work for the glory of God.

I struggle with not feeling qualified to do this work. That somehow I need to do have done more to be here. To help kids with their homework while showing them the love of Christ. That I don’t know enough to do this work. But then I remember that God qualifies me. He is the one who created me to do this kind of work. In the talents and abilities. In creating a patience within me that I have doubted was there. Most of all recognizing that I have a lot to learn is a good place to be at. It means I am open to learning more, being able to forgive mistakes I may  WILL make during this school year.

I look forward to what this year will bring. Hanging out with these kids during the week. Helping them play, learn and understand who they are in Christ. Getting to be a part of this is a huge blessing. God is at work in this place, in the community we serve. He is there during the games, laughter and learning. He has provided this safe place for the kids to come and us to love on them. The scripture at the top of the post is an encouragement from our staff training. To see the bigger picture of what God is doing in this place as we do this work in this mission field.

If you would like to learn more about this ministry, visit the Miami website of Miami Youth for Christ.

Would you pray for this school year? This community in Miami and this ministry to serve God well. For His love and truth to shine through their lives. I would appreciate such prayers!

 

Blogging Blues

I have been posting here sporadically for the last few months. The truth is I just don’t know what to write about anymore. Or that if anyone is even reading my posts. It has been nearly three years since I started blogging consistently. In reality I am not sure of the direction I should take right now with it.

This began as a place to document my weight loss and journey to health over four years ago. A journey that has taken a few detours as I have gained and weight and lost motivation to eat well or work out as often. My heart has turned more towards the world of advocacy to combat human trafficking locally and globally.

How these two aspects can be a coherent blog is what has been in the back of my mind for months. Focusing on both has not felt right to me. Or does it need to be one or the other. Does my voice really count out here in the vastness of the internet. A place that is becoming more ugly of late.

All  in all I am just tired. I feel I have not been as genuine as I could be or that I have repeated myself over and over. So for a bit I will not be posting as regularly, which means I won’t be posting to my regular schedule. But instead posting once a week if at all.

I also need to focus on my novel more and trying to get blog posts in each week has been distracting. Plus my day jobs are about to fill up my time even more. I hope my regular readers are patient and also look for updates on my FB page as I will utilize that more in the coming months.

Mid Week Motivator : Over All Health

What is over all health? To be it looks like a balance in different areas of life working together as one. It looks like this for myself.

Mental Health: taking time out for myself. Sometimes this takes the form of a quiet day away from people. Or going for a workout, especially when I don’t feel like it. Other times it means allowing myself to feel my emotions, face them head on.

Spiritual Health : When I am distant from God, not praying as often or seeking His word my soul feels it. I am darker, more pessimistic and prone to anger. I don’t want to engage with people. Not in a self care kind of way but in a selfish way.

Physical Health: By working out and eating well, I feel good. I feel energized and ready to take on the day or task. I sleep better when I am consistent. My disposition is better when the food I eat is healthy and nutritious.

I can only be healthy when all three of these elements work together. When I lack in one area, the others suffer. It is important to be aware of my needs, recognize when I need more of one in my life.