pomp and circumstance

Recently, I was awarded the awesome opportunity to speak at a graduation ceremony.  The gratitude that I feel for such a privilege is truly immeasurable.  So after much prayer and pondering, here are some of the tidbits that I was able to share with the graduating class:

Your parents: love them unconditionally, thank them often and appreciate them much. They have given you their absolute best and they love you like no one else does, like no one can and like no one else ever will on the entire planet.

Do not compare yourself with others as if one of us were better and another worse.  We have far more interesting things to do with our lives.  Each one of us is an original.  -from Galatians 5:25-26, The Message translation

Shine brightly and be yourself, but know that it's not ALL about you.  When dealing with others, seek first to understand... not to be understood.  (Thank you, Brenda Puckett!)

We are all part of an unfolding and ongoing story which includes a past, present and future, so look at people from a historical perspective rather than a mathematical perspective (as if they are a problem to be fixed or solved by you).  You are not the Ultimate Fixer of All Things anyway.  God is.  

Know the difference between knowledge and wisdom.  Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.  Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.  Hopefully, you will continue to be a lifelong learner; however, in all your knowledge, do not forsake wisdom.  Wisdom comes from God so just ask Him for it.  He will give it to you generously.

God is not a Republican.  
God is not a Democrat.

He does not fit into any of these boxes that we conveniently create to categorize ourselves and others.  God is not in a box at all because He cannot be contained.  He reveals His attributes and character through the pages of the Bible and his handiwork surrounds us in the beauty of others, in the beauty of nature and the changing of the seasons. His spirit inspires music, books, art, interactions with others and He even moves within our very hearts. Look for, love, appreciate and acknowledge His work. There is evidence everywhere.

Live because you are dying. Death is sometimes called the great equalizer because it doesn't matter if you're rich or poor... when it's your time, it's your time and He who dies with the most toys is still dead. Maximize each moment and encourage others to do the same.

Always do your best and trust God to do the rest. This means you work hard, play hard, pray hard and leave your concerns in the good Lord's hands.  Whenever you find yourself going through tough times (inevitable... ), know that in the end, everything truly works out for good. If it's not good yet, then it's not the end.

You can sum it all up to say this: Love God. Love People...or Love your neighbor as yourself, which means treat other people the way you want to be treated. Not just some people. Not just the people who look like you. Not just the people you like or agree with, but ALL people.
Love them and treat them the way you WANT to be treated. 

Most importantly: Your best is yet to come!

foolywank friday: everything is easy #lie

Pretending like life is easy.  Why do we do it?  Why do we lie to ourselves and others saying everything is all good when it isn't? Sometimes life delivers a tough and swift kick to the gut; other times life delivers a huge bouquet right on our doorstep.  My point today is this:  when life is tough... and at some point it will be because the struggle is inevitable... reach out to someone you can trust and let them know what's up.  We all need encouragement and support on the regular, but during the tough times, we need it even more.  

Stop pretending like _______ isn't hard.  

Fill in the blank...

this relationship
trusting others
trying again
moving on
cleaning up
saying goodbye
letting go
single parenting
holidays with/without the extended fam
working out
kicking a habit
eating healthy 
empty nest
being your best self

Fill in the blank and then stop pretending.  Because in this case, pretending is synonymous with lying to yourself and we all know that lying to yourself is NEVER a good thing. 

Life is hard sometimes because it is a battle.  
Oh yes, there are moments of reprieve: time to reflect and take in all the beauty and splendor. Yet there are undeniable times of disappointment or momentary paralysis.  In those difficult moments, it is important to say (admit!) to a loved one or trusted friend that this situation "is hard" or things are "rough right now."  Sometimes we just need to say it so we can hear that loved one or trusted friend say, "I can imagine" or "I understand" ... or perhaps they'll sit with us, hug us, pray for us, talk us off the ledge or simply hold our hand.  

Sometimes we need to hear "I know it's tough, BUT YOU CAN DO IT."

Sometimes it's hard and then it gets hardER before it gets easy.  
Just keep pressing on, my friend.  Change is coming.  The struggle is inevitable, but change is too.  So is triumph and it is in your blood to battle and emerge victoriously.  

Quit pretending like it's not hard sometimes though.  Everything is easy = Lie.

Life is gloriously brutal, breathtakingly beautiful, worth doing.
Fight hard for faith, family, friendship, hopes, dreams and love.
These things are all worthwhile.
Let's just make sure we love, support and encourage each other along the way.  
We will come through it if we are willing to press on rather than pretend.  

keep on keeping on

Yesterday was a little rough.  

It started out with major communication irritations, peaked in a nostalgic-sentimental mood and then plummeted into a furious funk.  I still don't really understand how I went from one extreme to the other, but it happened nonetheless.  Gratefully, I didn't say or do anything yesterday that I regret today. 

As I wrote complaints from the cloud of fury into my journal last night, the negative energy was overwhelming so I wrote out a simple prayer and asked God to "meet me right now... to raise me up to him... to save me from my mess... from myself...to help me stop hating the things I cannot change about this life... to give me strength and courage to change the things I can..."  I also told him that I am "desperate for you to answer because I am on the last fiber of the thread that was once a rope."  I ended with two thoughts of gratitude (in direct opposition to the pervasive funk!), put my pen down and shut my journal.  

This morning... not too long ago, actually, I heard encouraging words in my heart, soul and spirit.  Words that are just too good to keep to myself.  So in case you need a reminder (like I did...), here goes:

"We are building something here that does not depend on how you feel at any given moment.  It is not about your lifetime; it's about your legacy."

I am holding onto this nugget of truth today and I hope you will grasp hold of it too.  We are part of something much greater than we can see, fathom or completely comprehend.  Let's encourage and remind each other (especially on the rough days!) that we are cultivating a legacy so it IS worth it to keep going.  


how to prioritize your life


"If you want your life to have a point, you'll have to taper it."  -Laura Francis

Verbal checkmate death blow to a recovering thought I could do it all, but I know 'tis true.    So as I vacillate between missions of ending hunger, building bridges out of poverty, swimming with dolphins, riding elephants in Bangladesh, folding laundry, cooking dinner, loving orphans, globetrotting, caring for widows and poor folk, telling people Jesus loves em, singing songs of hope, going grocery shopping, teaching and encouraging others, the whole taper thing comes to mind because you see, my list is broad.  T  O  O  B  R  O  A  D.  Time to narrow down, lean in and focus on what's really important in the right here and right now... in this season of life.  Doesn't mean I won't build bridges out of poverty.  Doesn't mean I won't love and care for widows and orphans.  Because I do and I will continue to do so; however, there is a natural order to fulfilling your dreams and it revolves heavily around your life priorities.  A few years ago, my brother shared this revolutionary list with me and now I'm sharing it with you.  In order of importance, here goes:

Call of God

PLEASE for the love of all things seen and unseen, keep reading even if you're single, have no children or think that God sucks.  I ask you to keep reading because for everyone, purpose and priority begin with the deep, intuitive, genuine part of you that is spirit.  Hence spirituality or a relationship with God (who LOVES YOU UNCONDITIONALLY and is like the best dad/dream dad ever!).  For me, the list above helps tremendously because if I am working my singing, writing and speaking while neglecting my hubster and our young'un, I know that I've just booked a one-way ticket to Crazy Town.  And since I no longer enjoy trips to that place, I now know how to re-direct and re-focus my efforts.  Meditating on scriptures and praying always bring me back to center and from there it's easy peasy to do life.  I cannot tell you how many times I have forgotten this simple yet profound truth.  Nor can I tell you how many years my priorities in life looked like this:




To Do

Yeah, those eras didn't fare so well.  
Today I am so grateful to be living in a place of clarity where my priorities are straight.  Yes, walking it out can be a real booger at times, but I'm committed to giving my best effort everyday.  Doing my 100% absolute best and trusting God to do the rest.    

The cool thing about this list for properly prioritizing life is that it works for every stage and every aspect of life.  Married with no kids?  Life priorities looks this: 

Call of God

Not married with kids?
Call of God

Single with no kids?
Call of God

You see, you just skip over any aspect of  life that doesn't apply to you.  Skip over any aspect EXCEPT GOD.  <---That's the clincher here and He applies to you, loves you and wants to be part of your life whether you know it or not.  Whether you open your heart to Him or not... and even if you think He sucks, He still loves you with a passion because He's just bomb.com like that.  

If you're single now but you get married next year, you add spouse to the list at the appropriate time.  

The "call of God" is specific to each individual and it includes: 
your natural talents and gifted-ness
the issues that you are passionate about
the thing(s) you do that make(s) your heart race and 
you never ever get tired of it and 
it never ever feels like "work"

For me those things are writing, singing, speaking/teaching, working with young people and encouraging others.  Sometimes your job and the call of God are synonymous.  Other times they are two separate entities altogether.  Neither way is wrong or right, it just depends on the season (of life) you're in...

And placing yourself at the end of the list does NOT mean that you neglect to take care of yourself.  No you ARE to care for yourself.   It's all about maintaining a healthy balance, knowing that life is not ALL about you yet knowing that it's not about neglecting yourself either.  It's a delicate balance for sure, but it is totally do-able.  One of my favorite reminders from scripture is this: Love your neighbor as your self.  How can I love my neighbor if I don't love myself?  It's not possible, peeps.  So it's about living with the awareness that life is not "all about me" (aka being selfish or narcissistic), learning the balance of giving and receiving as well as caring for others and myself.  Placing yourself at the top of the list is the fast track to Narcissist Island, which ultimately isolates and destroys the individual.  Even the Greeks knew that to be true.  See their story about Narcissus here.

God's totally unselfish love is the only sustaining force that cannot be diluted, compromised, found faulty or remotely shaken.  And I know this only because it happens to be my bedrock foundation.  The fact that I am still standing (after all I have been through) is no little thing.  I'm sure the same is true for you. So, that being said, let's get and keep our priorities straight.  Let's adjust whenever we see a subtle reminder that things are off track.  For years, I kept this list on my bathroom mirror and it was also written in the the front flap of my journal.  I think it's time for me to put the list on display once more.  

Let us live with hope for a bright future that is the fulfillment of our wildest, deepest and most passionate dreams; yet be fully focused and engaged in the present, that which is before us today.  Paper stacks, half finished projects, punches in the face from the internet and all... I like to keep myself accountable and in check on the daily never forgetting the fact that I've got a pimped out ride in Bangladesh.  


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