Enough with the Numbers Already

So, I recently got an Instagram account. (In my mind, I hear the resounding, “FINALLY,” from all of my close friends.) My main reason for getting one is to spread the love by reaching more people with whom I can share my blog. Posting selfies isn’t really my thing (to each their own), but I thought it’d be a great platform to encourage others. Not too long after obtaining an Instagram account, the monster of social media anxiety began to rear its ugly head. What started out so innocently had slowly turned into a numbers game. I went from, “I just want to inspire” to “why did only x number of people like this post?” or “I thought x number of people were following me. The numbers went down!?” PAUSE. Ego check. If I was only here to inspire, why was I so #Bothered? I had gotten trapped by the Numbers Vortex.

So many have fallen victim to the Numbers Vortex whether it’s due to the fault of their own insecurities or whether it’s due to the constant pressures of society. Yes, society pushes numbers on you to the point where you are forced to regard numbers and yourself as both one and the same. Think about it. Class rankings. Beauty rankings. Number of Followers. Number of “Friends.” Number of views. The list goes on and on. This is not a bashing of social media but rather a bashing of society’s reduction of human beings down to mere integers—equating numbers with our worth. UGH! Enough with the numbers already!

I say, “No more!” You’re more than just a number. In fact, you’re not a number at all. You’re you, and that’s enough. This blog post will serve as a form of accountability for me. Anytime I feel myself slipping into the Numbers Vortex, I will reread this post so it can act as a life preserver to help rescue me. I will not be reduced to a number. I will not let numbers define me. I will not allow my worth to be chosen for me by a list of numbers. I choose me. I choose purpose. I am valuable because of who made me, and I could not be worth LESS. (<–No, that’s not a typo. It’s meant to be two words instead of one.)

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The Next Time You’re In L.A. . . .


So recently, a few friends and I went on a trip to Los Angeles for birthday shenanigans. None of us are originally from there, but my friend wanted to do something different for her birthday, so we did. We ended up having an incredible time and I left feeling truly inspired. Here, I’ve listed some inspirational takeaways from this trip that I hope you too will experience the next time that you happen to visit L.A.

 

Lovely Art

The city of Los Angeles is just bursting with creativity. There are gorgeous murals to be found all over the city that are not only Instagram worthy, but memory worthy. What would typically be a plain wall in another city splashed with beige paint, is filled with color and artistic design in L.A. Even the architecture of the buildings were artistically inspiring. And the performing arts were just as interesting, from stumbling across the occasional solo musician on the sidewalk to the high-energy street acrobats. The art was truly a sight to see for any  individual who is in need of some inspiration to get creative again.

From top to bottom: California Dreaming wall, Unknown (location Venice Beach), and the Love wall
Top: Michael Jackson (I know those Jackson eyes anywhere lol.) Bottom: Mike Tyson (location-  Frank’s Chop Shop Barbershop)
Petersen Automotive Museum

Live Adventurously

My time in L.A. was truly an adventure. My friends and I didn’t really have anything planned; we sort of just went with the flow. Normally, my analytical and logistical self would have freaked out with so much spontaneity because I’m a planner at heart. However, I had been so exhausted from previous weeks at work that I was not about to spend what little energy I had left to make suggestions for an itinerary. Thus, we came, we saw, . . .we had fun!

Each day was an adventure. It was as if God was guiding our adventure since we took the limits off. I’m sure if we were on a stricter schedule, we would have missed out on a ton of events that were happenstance because we were in the right place at the right time. We met all kinds of people, visited interesting places all without having a schedule. The amazing food spots we came across . . . totally unplanned. Which brings me to my next point . . .

Lingering Appetite

This trip had to be possibly one of my best food experiences ever, which is saying a lot because I have quite a few trips under my belt and I consider myself a total foodie. We went to a lot of local spots and even made friends with restaurant owners along the way. The next time you’re in L.A., you have got to try this hip new breakfast spot called, “Hash.” (The name even sounds cool, right?) Typically, I’m not into breakfast food. I’m very particular with how my eggs are prepared. Plus, I usually don’t find breakfast food to be filling or full of variety so I tend to avoid those type of spots when eating out. Well, the Hash proved me wrong.

It did not have your basic breakfast menu of eggs, bacon and sausage, but it consisted of exotic dishes with multi-cultural inspiration. They had everything from the sweet tasting Acai bowl to the Carrot cake, cream cheese drizzled Belgian Waffle. (And I didn’t even get to try that one, so I MUST return.) And let me tell y’all how this Chiquitas & Gringos dish blessed my life . . . . This dish had tortilla chips, eggs, cheddar cheese, pickled onions, salsa verde and red chili crema. You could choose the protein to be added. I selected the braised beef, which was tender beyond belief. That no doubt had to be one of the most savory dishes that I’ve ever had from a restaurant in my entire life! Not only that, but the staff was super nice and the environment was really relaxing. We met the owners, who I also found to be awesome, and turns out they own ANOTHER restaurant. So, guess where my friends and I headed for dinner? Yep, that’s right. We cruised on over to this trendy greek restaurant called, “Rodini Park.”

Prior to attending this spot, I had never had Greek food in my life, but I found the experience pleasing to say the least. I had gyro, rice, and pita bread topped with chipotle sauce and olives, tomatoes and feta cheese on the side. I washed it all down with a nice refreshing glass of Rosemary Lemonade. And before you could say the word, “OPA!” there I was downing a piece of Baklava cheesecake and another piece of yummy custard dessert. I left stuffed! Now that I’ve returned back to “life as usual”, my appetite for that great tasting Los Angeles cuisine still lingers. It’s a bit of a bummer now that I’m home, but at the same time, it motivates me to take on more food adventures next time around.

Left: Chiquitas & Gringos dish, Top Right: Baklava cheesecake, Bottom Right: custard dessert (Sorry guys, so busy stuffing my face that I forgot the name.)

Laugh Always

It was great to reconnect with friends. Though we are typically separated by several states, it’s always beautiful to reconvene in one place and pick up where we left off. We cracked jokes and laughed until we couldn’t anymore. Each of us spoke of how we hadn’t laughed so hard in so long due to the many curveballs life had threw at us. After experiencing a rough period in your life, there is something about laughter that can be so comforting. To quote my friend, S. Lynn, “I laughed. I laughed. And I laughed.”

Leave Astounded

Being in L.A. sparked something in me. I left feeling exhilarated and rejuvenated. My creativity was re-energized. I now have an appetite to be more artful, to taste adventure, and to share laughter. It is my hope that you too get to experience something so inspiring even if it happens to not be in L.A. As for me, I hope this feeling doesn’t fade. Nevertheless, just in case I need to re-up on my sparkle, L.A. is only a plane ride away.

 

Making it Through My Dark Days

For the past couple of years, I’ve been experiencing a dark period in my life. That period was filled with insecurities and self-doubt and it sent me into a shell. That period caused me to retreat to a younger version of myself who was extremely shy and unsure of herself. I felt that my experiences had caged me and I longed to be free. I needed to be comforted on a spiritually deep level that would not be satisfied by just anything. I was in a dark place.

By God’s grace, I’m steadily making it through. This time hasn’t been easy, and I’ve kept it mostly to myself. I will go into further detail at some point later on, but not now. Awesomely enough, during this dark time was when I’ve built my intimacy with Christ on a completely different level. I was able to intimately experience the Holy Spirit as a Comforter for myself. I was not just hearing another story from someone else of supernatural healing power of the Holy Spirit. I was living it! It was amazing.

Through all of the staggering hurt, I became wrapped up in His presence. Who knows? Maybe the point of this whole dark period was for God to draw me nearer to him. God had His hand on me, and I felt him suturing my internal wounds bit by bit. At times, I didn’t think I would make it. I was the living proof of the definition of CeCe Winan’s lyrics to the song, “He’s Never Failed Me yet.”

 

When I was a child, I did childish things

My life was church and all it brings

I’d always hear the old folks sing

“He’s never failed me yet!”

I heard this phrase and I trusted so

That one day, I would come to know

The truth in which these words do hold

He’s never failed me yet

 

With years of life came test and trial

And nights when tears replaced the smile

Though God was right there all the while

My soul was not at rest

But I lived to tell that I made it through

So instead of singing ‘bout the blues

I bring you news to encourage you

He’s never failed me yet.

RECLAIM YOUR DOGGONE TIME!

It wasn’t too long ago when Congresswoman Maxine Waters took the internet by storm with her brilliance yet again. She nearly broke the Internet (and put us in stitches, lol) after she sternly, but oh so gracefully, executed procedure during a discussion. When her fellow colleague tried to dodge a question she’d asked, Auntie Maxine replied, “Reclaiming My Time!”

In other words, Auntie Maxine was not about to let some sly, filibustering individual try to steal her time to speak by filling that time with excess jargon and compliments. (What you won’t do is try to flatter your way out of answering Auntie Maxine’s questions directly.) She took back her time to speak. She was not going to get distracted during questioning session. She went on to say, “[W]hen you’re on MY time, I can reclaim it.” The now popularized phrase, “Reclaiming My Time!” has since taken flight as if it had wings of its own.

Personally, I’ve found ways to insert this phrase into my casual conversations with friends. After my overuse of the phrase in a recent texting conversation with a friend, it dawned on me. This “Reclaiming My Time” principle can and should be applied to our real lives.

You see, so many times in life distractions come our way. They manage to hinder our focus. Those distractions knock us of off our game. Sometimes they come in such a subtle way that if you’re not attentive, you can easily get tangled up into it’s web of manipulation. What appeared to be harmless initially is now counterproductive to your overall well-being and your ultimate goals.

That job with the long hours and mundane duties but cushy benefits has you trapped in contentment, too scared to venture out on that dream that you’ve been holding onto. That situationship with the space-filler of an individual has gotten you distracted into thinking that right now you just don’t have the time to dedicate to start that company or write that book. Wake up and smell the wrist watches! Reclaim your doggone time! That foolishness that has slithered its way into your life, that has distracted you and prevented you from dreaming, building, creating, and doing—enough already.   I’m not saying that you should act hastily and drop everything, but rather refocus and come up with a plan.

Time is precious, and we don’t have a second of it to lose. You’ve got to know that you CAN reclaim it. (<–That’s courtesy of my mom.  You’re welcome.)  We must remain attentive when it comes to following our dreams. Refocus. Revaluate. Reclaim your doggone time!

Thank you Auntie Maxine for helping us dream chasers get some perspective. You’re my shero.

Supersize It

Me, enjoying my french fries.

My father and I sometimes go hang out and grab a bite to eat. Sometimes I’ll buy, and sometimes he’ll buy. Anytime my dad says that he’s buying this time, I joke with him and say, “Well in that case, Supersize it!”  Since I would be depending on his wallet and not my own, I want the boundaries to be endless, well . . . at least to the extent that the menu allows.

Recently I started to wonder, what if we had that no holds barred mentality when it comes to God and our dreams? In our minds, we have these structured, miniscule plans, while God’s plan could be to take us bigger and better than we initially planned. We just have to put our trust in Him. There’s nothing too hard for God. Your dreams are big, but they can be even bigger. Lean on Him and depend on His provision. Take the limits off. He can do above what you can imagine. We need to depend on God’s provision, not our own.  Pray and ask God to supersize it.

Be a Peach

Have you ever tried to do something, but the timing was all wrong? Whether it’s starting a business or changing that career path—we’ve all been there. Heck, even certain fruit is better in certain seasons, but you get one out of season and it’s disgusting. Take peaches for example. Peaches are an excellent summer fruit. Now as a fan of peach cobbler, I’m not one for tangy peaches. I prefer the sweet kind. Even the idiom, “You’re a peach,” is used to refer to someone who is kind and “sweet.” When gathered in season, you’ll find peaches that are firm, spotless, and sweet. On the contrary, if peaches are gathered out of season, you’ll find that they’re often blemished and tart.

The point I’m trying to make is when something is in season, it’s at its best. It’s capable of reaching its maximum potential. If something is out of season, then it is doomed from the start because it is out of order. Being out of season involves more constraints that didn’t exist before thus limiting one’s ability to fully blossom.

Oftentimes in life, we try to rush things. We want what we want when we want it. When things fall apart, sometimes they are just not meant to be. Other times, the timing is just wrong and you’re out of season. You have to gain wisdom in order to distinguish which is which. Sometimes things have to develop a while before they can fully flourish. Get out of your own way, and let things ripen as they should so that you can obtain the best results. Be the best you that you can be—in season. Do not be out of order. Be a peach.

This is a Story About Control—My Control

Photo inspired by Janet Jackson’s Control Album.

So, I have a slight issue with control. I don’t try to control people or anything like that; I try to control my circumstances through worrying and extensive planning. Being a planner plus struggling with issues of perfectionism is a recipe for controlling chaos. I feel overwhelmed with the unknown, so I try to grasp every aspect of life that I can and control it with all of my being. I guess you could say that it’s sort of a coping mechanism for me.

When the storms of life come about and the wind of my circumstances become too much to bear, I try to cling onto everything I can even more, holding on for dear life. I plan everything out to the minute detail and when the plan falls apart, it frustrates me so much.  There were things that I was worried about that were simply a waste of time.

I can’t control what other people think about me or say about me. I can’t control the future. However, I had built up this façade that if I’m constantly worrying over something and I plan, plan, and plan some more, then everything will work out the way I want it to. Here’s the problem with that. As a Christian, I am not supposed to depend on myself for everything. My dependence should be on God. [Disclaimer: This post was not meant to be a debate on religion or the existence of God. These are simply my beliefs, and I am fully aware that everyone does not believe what I believe. Nevertheless, it’s my hope that you will be inspired regardless. 🙂   ]

My life has been the remix to Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel.” I was like, “Jesus take the wheeeeeell! But, when we get up here to this stoplight I want you to switch seats with me and let me drive for little bit.” <–Wait, what? That is NOT how it’s supposed to go. (And it’s probably the reason why Carrie did not remix the song like that because that would be a hot mess, lol). God is God. He is powerful. He’s all-knowing. He can see the big picture—things that are beyond my view. My interference is counterproductive.

I begun writing this piece a little while ago, but I didn’t finish it at first because me learning to give up control wasn’t an option at the time. Let me clarify that—it wasn’t an option that I wanted to choose at the time. At that time, I was still convinced that attempting to maintain control over everything was the best way to protect myself from disappointments. Time and time again, this has proven false. There are some things that will be out of our control. For all of the things that are out of my control, it’s high time that I depend on God regarding those things. Otherwise, I’m just simply wasting my time and energy.

Allowing God to maintain FULL control instead of me trying to get a piece of the action does not mean that the storms of life will no longer come. It means that He can provide peace in the middle of the storm with me letting go and trusting that He is in control. He’s got this! I wasn’t made to control, solve, or fix everything. I’m a human being.

I’ve been taking on a weight that I was never meant to carry. I have exhausted myself trying to take hold of my life from every angle, and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of feeling like a hamster on a spinning wheel—running and running and going absolutely nowhere. I prayed about it, and now I’m ready to release it. I don’t expect to get it right every time. I’m flawed, so I’m bound to make mistakes during this process. I know that God will help me through this. I no longer want to try to control everything. I’m done trying to do things my way and then screwing them up further.

“This time, I’m gonna do it God’s way. Because it’s all about control, and God’s got lots of it.”

Something to think about: What are some areas in life where you KNOW you need relinquish control?