Filling up on {faith}

Six weeks later and we finally have a post! I’d say we’re off to a good start (sarcasm).

You know, I’m always having an internal debate when it comes to my schedule. I feel like I rarely ever have downtime and I can’t decide if that’s just how life typically is at this phase or if i need to take control of it and be more intentional about creating downtime / learning to say “no”.

….anyway, I digress.

Last time I wrote, I promised to update you guys on what has been going on in my life in each of the 6 “F’s” so today, it’s all about Faith.  I would definitely say I’ve always believed in God but, over the last year or so, I feel like I’ve really been learning how much He loves me.

I know, I know. That sounds so cliché…

Especially because those who know me well know that I’ve been going to church since literally the womb. For most of my life I was one of those kids that went to sunday school, “big church” and some other form of activity on Wednesday nights. But honestly, I don’t know that I can say I had much of a relationship with Him (at least until these last few years). And I definitely feel like I didn’t fully start to grasp His love for me until this past year or so.

Growing up I would say I was a pretty good kid. I got good grades, I had a great relationship with my family, I was involved in sports. I was everything that I feel like a parent would want their kid to be. But then I hit the teenage years… and not only did the devil horns come out (am I allowed to blame hormones?), I became someone that I hardly recognized. I did things I wasn’t proud of. I hurt people that I love. I was so far from God and honestly wanted little to do with Him.

But that’s the amazing thing about Him – even when we want little to do with Him, He never stops pursuing us.

It wasn’t until I moved to Richmond that He really started to get my attention (you can read a little about that here and here). In one of my last posts, I was talking about how I had just joined a new small group (shameless plug: if you’re not in one, you should join one. do not pass go. do not collect $200. join one. like now.). When I wrote that post, I had recently joined “the Fan Fam”. As part of that group, we all committed to sharing our stories at some point throughout our time; not as a confessional, but more as a testament to the work God had been doing in our lives. As my date to share was nearing, I had so many mixed emotions. Part of me was finally getting somewhat comfortable with the fact that I would be sharing intimate details of my life, but also part of me felt kind of sad. I felt like God had been doing so many amazing things in my life… things I wanted to be able to share with my family, but i felt stuck. Because for my family to understand all of the things God had been doing, I’d have to tell them what I’d been through.

Isn’t it weird? Sometimes it’s easier to tell people you just met your deepest darkest secrets, yet we’re crippled at the thought of telling those closest to us… those who have shown and proven that no matter what you do or have done, they will always love you.

Anyway, I decided to start with my mom.

For those of you who don’t know my mama, she’s amazing. She’s loving and caring, wise and supportive. Of all the people in my immediate family, we are probably the most dissimilar. I’m often loud and boisterous, she’s typically the type that doesn’t mind playing more of a “behind the scenes” role (although don’t let that fool you, she can still talk your ear off). Yet, no matter what, when I really really need someone, she’s usually the first one I call.

So yeah, I called her and asked her to come to Richmond. I basically told her that in my (at the time) 24 years of living, I’d never had one-on-one time with her so I wanted her to come spend a weekend with me. (How can anyone say “no” to that?). We locked down a date and put a plan in place. She was going to come on a Thursday night and leave that Sunday afternoon. I scheduled the weekend with a dinner/girls night in on Friday, a gala with Dr. Ben Carson on Saturday, church on Sunday, followed by brunch at Graffiato afterwards… and I was going to share my testimony with her (that part I never told her).

It was going to be the perfect bonding weekend.

But before I knew it, the weekend had arrived… and when she got here, I couldn’t muster up the courage. Before bed each night, we would lay for hours (literally hours) watching Suits and as each episode played, I would tell myself that as soon as the episode ended, I would bring it up. As every episode neared the end, I would pray, asking God to remove the fear and to give me the courage to talk to her… yet every episode would end and I would just let it go to the next one. Finally at around 3AM each night, I would finally call it quits, go to bed and promise to do it the next night.

Except Thursday night passed. Friday night passed. Saturday night passed… nothing.

Sunday morning rolled around and we got up to go to church and anyone who knows me knows my favorite part of church is usually worship. I just love listening to the words and really meditating/reflecting on their meaning. That Sunday, for the first time ever, my church decided to play a song called You Make Me Brave and I seriously felt like God was speaking directly to me. If you don’t know the lyrics, there’s a part of the song that goes like this:

I have heard You calling my name
I have heard the song of love that You sing
So I will let You draw me out beyond the shore
Into Your grace
Your grace

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way

I. Started. Bawling.

Like ugly crying. Tears, snot, everything. And as you can imagine, this blew my cover a bit… but my mama, being the patient woman she is, just handed me a tissue and kept singing (she’s a lot like Jesus in that way. Patient. Very Patient.)… and me being the woman I am, still just tried to play it off like everything was cool.

Church ended and we went to brunch, we hung out with friends, we made dinner… I literally kept going on with the weekend like nothing had happened. After dinner, Mom wanted to keep watching Suits and since she wasn’t working on Monday, she decided that she would just stay the night and leave Monday morning (deep down, I know the real reason that she stayed). So we go to my room to watch Suits… and as the first episode is coming to an end, I say my prayer asking for courage, I pause the show and tell my mom I need to talk to her…
 
 
 
… Not really, I let it go to the next episode. (Didn’t I already tell you what kind of woman I am lol?). Yep, I literally chickened out AGAIN. We watched a few more episodes that night and then got ready for bed…nothing. We wake up the next morning and lay in bed talking… still nothing.

Finally, I went upstairs to make my mom breakfast while she got ready and as she comes upstairs and sits down at the bar, she looks at me and asks me if everything is okay. Naturally, i look at her dumbfounded and say, “yeah, why?”… she brings up what happened at church and I ask her if we can wait until she gets in the car to talk.

So we pack the rest of her stuff up and go sit in her car and I just burst into tears. I tell her about Needle’s Eye. and how amazing the Fan Fam is. and I tell her that God has been doing some great things in my life and how I want to be able to share those things with her but that scares the poo out of me. because for me to tell her who He’s molding me to be, I have to explain to her who I used to be… and that’s terrifying. It’s terrifying because I love my family and I love my parents and I would never want to do anything that hurts them…and then she stopped me.

and you know what she told me?

She told me that she loves me. and that my dad loves me. and that there is literally nothing, NOTHING i could ever do that would change that. She told me that she understands that there are some things in our lives that we don’t need to tell everyone, and sometimes that includes our family. and that’s okay but that if I ever want to tell her, she’s there with open ears and arms. She also encouraged me to make sure that I at least talked to someone about it because often times the Devil uses secrets to hold us captive (or as another woman that I look up to always says “Secrets make us sick”).

She told me that there were people in the bible who had done all sorts of things and that not only did God love them, He used many of them to do amazing things for His kingdom… because at the end of the day its not about what we did, do, or will do. It’s about what Jesus did on the cross.

And then she grabbed my hands and she prayed for me.

And when she finished, she looked me dead in the eyes and asked me if I knew that Jesus loved me. If i really, deep down, believed it… and when I told her that I knew it but didn’t feel like it, she told me to wake up every morning and thank Him for loving me… because she knew that the more I said it, the more I would believe it.

And she was right.

——————————————————————-

How Can it Be by Lauren Daigle.

I am guilty
Ashamed of what I’ve done, what I’ve become
These hands are dirty
I dare not lift them up to the Holy one

Chorus
You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be
How can it be

I’ve been hiding
Afraid I’ve let you down, inside I doubt
That You could love me
But in Your eyes there’s only grace now

Chorus

Bridge
Though I fall, You can make me new
From this death I will rise with You
Oh the grace reaching out for me
How can it be
How can it be

Chorus

It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor

A couple of weeks ago the Women’s Network at work hosted an event called “Envision Your Best Year”. The Women’s Network hosts many events each year and sadly, I never jump at the opportunity to attend. It wasn’t until my manager sent out a note asking if anyone wanted to join her that I decided to give it a shot. I’m so glad I did because it made me realize a few things that I want to improve about myself & my life.

One of the first things the keynote talked about was how, in a lifetime, women make about a million less than their male counterparts. Some of the reasons she mentioned are that:

1.  We never “brag” on ourselves.  Rarely do women complete a project or milestone and stop to take a few moments to pat ourselves on the back- we tend to move right into a new project. Even when we do take a minute to recognize our progress, we tend to downplay the accomplishment. Men, on the other hand, are sure to let everyone know.

2. Women never ask for the things they want (for instance raises or promotions). We think that if we deserve a promotion, it will get noticed on its own or that it will make us look greedy to ask for one.

When she mentioned these points, I started to cringe because I know I am definitely guilty of both.

I am definitely my own worst critic and never give myself enough credit. Rarely do I stop in life to celebrate my accomplishments or pat myself on the back. Instead, I’m always looking for the next new thing that I think needs fixing.

I also feel like I had the mindset of “If I’m doing a good job, other people will notice”. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago when I was talking to a friend and she mentioned how in her 10/10s (weekly development meetings with your manager), she would make sure to call out the ways she has improved since her previous 10/10. At first it seemed so odd to me. I felt like calling out accomplishments was “bragging” and that it seemed cocky, when in reality, its important that we recognize progress and take pride in our accomplishments (within reason). I decided to start taking her advice and I feel like it has helped me in many ways.

First, it helps me to keep myself accountable. When I first started full time, I didn’t mind playing a backseat role and was always afraid to speak up. Even though my team is very supportive, I was always afraid of messing up or saying something stupid so I kept quiet. Once I made the decision that I wanted to be able to report back to my manager on my progress, it helped me to push myself out of my comfort zone. I speak up more and make offers to do tasks that I’m not necessarily comfortable with which has not only helped build my confidence, it has helped my team to see me as more of a leader.

Doing this new technique, also shows my manager that I’m listening to the feedback she’s giving me and that I’m making an effort to improve. While I don’t know that I would ever feel comfortable straight up asking for a promotion/raise, it has helped me to be more transparent about what my goals are as well as solicit feedback from her about what she thinks can help me perform at the next level. So far,  it has been very motivating to see the things I can be capable of when I stop holding myself back and is very encouraging to hear from my manager that she sees a difference as well.

Another point that the keynote speaker brought up is that we seldom take the time to assess our life satisfaction. While I actually think I do this fairly regularly, she did help me to realize something new. She made us write down all of our goals for the next 5 years. A lot of mine were things that I have already discussed in previous posts but there were a few were new ones such as “pay off car” and “get promoted”.  She asked what things we realistically thought we could accomplish this year if we had more time… and surprisingly, many  of them seemed reasonable. Next, she had us fill out a spreadsheet that asked how many hours per week we dedicated to different activities (Work,  Friends, Family, TV, Fun, Exercise, Service, etc). It was shocking to me to see how much time I wasted during the day. There are 24 hours in a day- even if I sleep for 8 (which rarely happens) and work for 8, there are still 8 more hours left… When I think about the things I do in those extra hours- I’m embarrassed… Too much of that time is taken up by meaningless activities such as watching Trashy TV or stalking people on social media (dont act like you dont do it too :P). It also showed me how little hours I put into “Service/Volunteer” (zero to be exact) and realized something needed to change… I want to do more meaningful things in my life and not spend half of it watching the Real Housewives of Every City.

Soooooo that being said, I have decided to join more extracurricular activities. Last week I signed up for the “Community Engagement” committee for our African American Network and am hoping to leverage that to get involved with CHOICES. I have also signed up for the “Development” committee for the Women’s Network and the United Way of Greater Richmond’s Women’s Leadership Initiative. Along with signing up for more extracurricular activities, I have decided that I will start to limit the time I watch TV to 1 hour a day. After that one hour, I am going to force myself to find something else to do… whether its call a family member/friend, clean my room, blog, go to bed earlier, etc. I also want to read more so I am trying to read a chapter each night before I go to bed. Currently, I am reading a book called “It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor” which talks about ways in which women hold themselves back from advancing in the corporate world. Ironically enough, I won it at a Women’s Network event back in 2011 when I was interning. (Yes, I’ve had it for two whole years and never cracked it open. After the event a couple weeks ago, I figured it was time :).) I’ll be sure to keep you updated on my progress as well as celebrate any accomplishments ;).

In the meantime, I challenge you to evaluate how many hours you currently spend per week in each of the categories (Work, Commute, Spouse, Family, Friends, TV, Fun, Service, Exercise, Chores, Self-Care, Sleep, Spiritual Practices, Learning, Other- the hours must add up to 168). How many hours would you ideally like to spend in each of the categories? What are you willing to change to start moving towards your ideal? For those of you that actually take the time to do this, I would love to hear what you learned about yourself…

Until next time…

xx

Resources: It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor: Free Yourself From the Hidden Behaviors Sabotaging Your Career Success by Rebecca Shambaugh

What on Earth Am I Here For?

I always call myself a Christian but sometimes I look at myself and I look at the world and I don’t see much of a difference. For so long, I was okay with it I guess. I knew I wanted better but I never wanted to put in the time to make it different. In the beginning of 2013, I was going through so many internal struggles. With all the distractions of moving and starting a new job now gone, I was now forced to face many issues that for so long I had been trying to suppress. I was so unhappy- with Richmond, with myself, with life. One night I was laying in bed upset at the world and I started to really think about everything: who I am as a person; the good, the bad and the ugly. Do I like what I see? What kind of person do I want to be? What do I want my life to look like? What do I want my future marriage to look like? A lot of my answers were “I want it to be like what I had growing up”. I want to be a strong, Christian woman like my mom. I want a strong Christian husband who treats me the way my dad treats my mom. I want a family like my family. And then I started thinking about how they got all of that and it all came back to one thing: God. In happy times and in hard times, that is the first person they turn to. I’ve always admired that. I admire that fact that they rarely worry about things… that they whole-heartedly believe that no matter what happens, it is in His hands and He will take care of them… and I decided I wanted a relationship with Him like that.

In January, I started looking for a church home – one that I would be excited to go to on Sundays and not just go to because I felt like I needed to check it off some checklist. I had been praying to God that he would work on my heart, that he would motivate me to take action and that he would make it clear to me where he wanted me. My first Sunday looking, I went to a church in downtown Richmond called Commonwealth Chapel. Because it is downtown, they don’t have a formal parking lot- it is street parking or parking garages. (Keep in mind, I chose to live in the suburbs because I hate trying to navigate the city). That Sunday, I got to the church ten minutes before it started but could not find parking for the life of me. I started praying to God like “God, I’m trying to do something good here… PLEASE just help a sista out”. I drove around aimlessly for about 15 minutes trying to figure out where to go and finally just paid $5 to park in a parking garage. Once I got in the church, they had already started praise & worship and since everyone was standing it was impossible to find a seat. After a few minutes of walking around like an idiot, I finally found a seat all the way in the back corner. By this time I was a little frustrated with how my morning was turning out… so again, I prayed. I asked God to clear my mind and help me focus on the message and to help me to hear what he needed to say to me. That week the message was titled: God’s perfect work through imperfect people. The main points of it were:

  1. Trust knows God is working even when we can’t see him
  2. Perspective doesn’t focus on the outward and superficial
  3. Glory belongs to God and not a person
  4. Grace: We’re broken people in the process of being made whole

It was one of those messages where it came right at the perfect time. After feeling so alone and discouraged it was exactly what I needed to hear. As if that wasn’t crazy enough, for the closing song the band played the song “Stronger” by Hillsong. The chorus of the song is “You are stronger, You are stronger, Sin is broken you have saved me. It is written, Christ is risen, Jesus you are Lord of all”. I literally just started crying right then and there. I felt like it was God’s way of telling me He hears me, He is with me, He isn’t going anywhere, and He will always be strong… especially when I can’t be. It was at that moment I knew I had just found my church home.

For February, my goal was to try to get more involved at the church. I emailed the church to find out about membership classes, bible studies, etc. I got an email back from a co-ed group that meets on Thursday nights. I tried it out and met some pretty cool people but I knew the next two Thursdays I was going to busy and I didn’t want to start out the month already missing two bible studies. The next Sunday there was a newcomers social at the pastors house. The purpose of it was so new people could meet other new people as well as the staff. I ended up meeting one of the Staff members who is a girl that is a couple of years older than me. She mentioned that she hosts a girls bible study on Tuesday nights so I got her information so that I could go that week. When I showed up, they had wine and krispie creme donuts… It was at that moment I knew I had just found my small group.

For March, my goal is to spend time with God daily. As I mentioned in my post yesterday, after going to Barnes & Noble to look for a devotional, I came across the book What on Earth Am I Here For? I had planned to start it today but the first thing it said when I opened it was that they suggested reading it with a partner. Ecclesiastes 4:9 states “Two are better off than one, because together they can work more effectively. If one of them falls down, the other can help him up… Two people can resist an attack that would defeat one person alone. A rope made of three cords is hard to break.” So I got my three cords: my brother, sister and I will all be starting tomorrow :). Needless to say, I’m excited to see the things that God has in store for my life this month!

Until next time…

xoxo

Resources: What on Earth Am I Here For? by Rick Warren