Time to Think Differently

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I was on the phone with my niece, niki, today. We talked for hours about practically everything. We covered politics, science, religion, self-improvement, our crazy family, and then some. And that was in the first three hours. One of the most interesting things we talked about was how our thinking has changed over the years. OK, so maybe I talked about that the most. Thinking. That’s been the topic of most of my conversations with people for awhile. I am a firm believer that our minds are these super computers, but more powerful than the man-made ones.

Our minds have put men into space. Our minds have transplanted body parts that keep us alive. Our minds have designed, created, discovered, and built so much. Our minds have also destroyed, abused, misused, feared, and judged. Our minds are phenomenal! They’re more powerful than computers because they weren’t made us; they were made by God. God gave each one of us a mind and a will that guides us through life. How we think determines what we can accomplish, and how we respond to internal and external stimuli. In a nutshell, our minds lead us.

In order for computer systems to exist and function successfully, several key people, working in the following positions are necessary:

SYSTEMS ANALYST
PROGRAMMER
COMPUTER ENGINEER
INFORMATION-SYSTEMS OPERATIONS AND ADMINISTRATION
COMPUTER OPERATOR
DATABASE ADMINISTRATOR
HELP-DESK/SUPPORT ANALYST
TRAINER
MANAGING INFORMATION SYSTEMS
CIO
FUNCTIONAL MANAGER
ERP MANAGEMENT
PROJECT MANAGERS
INFORMATION-SECURITY OFFICER

But our minds only need one key person. God. He is the one who designs, creates, and enables our minds to work at all. He gives us, however, the power to choose our own paths, and that is where we, sometimes, most of the time, way too many times fall short.

I can remember instances throughout my life where I chose not to be lead by anyone, even as early as age three and four. It may have seemed cute to see me stomp around the house or say things that the average kid didn’t say back then, but as the years progressed, things got ugly. My thinking landed me in situations that became harmful, even dangerous. My thinking didn’t just affect me either. It also disrupted my household and hindered my growth and success.

Now that I’m older and my behind is much softer from having such a hard head, I have learned to think differently. I want to think like God wants me to think. I want to think good things, true things, lovely things, and praiseworthy things. Not only that, I want to be lead by God. I want His will to be the will that leads me. I used to say I wanted that, but my actions didn’t line up to what my mouth said. It was all just lip service. Resistance is now reserved for the devil, temptation, and fulfilling my civic duties that lead to justice. Don’t get it twisted though, I’m still a work in progress.

I have always thought that our families, environments, and experiences shape our thinking and decision making, but that’s only partly true. For some, it’s deeper than that. There are people who are naturally resistant and strong-willed. They seem to be born that way. Have you ever seen a baby that resists being changed or screams for the bottle even when he or she isn’t that hungry? Have you ever seen a baby that doesn’t want to wear clothes, take a bath, or demands attention? What about that toddler walking around like he or she owned something? And we won’t even talk about that strong-willed teen. That’s another post, but you get my drift though, right?  Family, environment, nor experience has nothing with anything concerning them. Some people come into this world more resistant than others, but whether it’s natural or learned, our behavior is governed by the mind.

But we’re not babies, toddlers, or teens, so what do we do? We change our minds by any means necessary. Start by asking yourself some brutally honest questions like, “Where has my best thinking gotten me?” Then answer it out loud and on paper. What’s your answer? Is it divorced? Broke? Successful? Side chick? Side dude? Homeless? Abused? Fired? Bankrupt? In debt? Locked up? Single with kids and alone? Whatever your answer is, own it. It doesn’t make you stupid, dumb, thirsty, or any other derogatory names that people use these days.

If you don’t like the answer, it’s okay. It just means that you’re thinking impaired. It just means that you need help. So go get it. Get help for your thinking. We get help for everything else, doctors, lawyers, repair people. Why not our thinking? I’ve gone to counseling for a few things. I have mentors and I read lots of books. The Bible is one that has helped transform my thinking tremendously. I spend time with God every day reading, praying, and meditating. I don’t want to sound religious or anything. I’m just sharing what has helped me. If you believe God can help your thinking too, by all means let him do it. Do something that will help you think in a way that brings about a real change in your life. Don’t resist change; think differently.

 

 

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Where Are You?

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Have you ever gotten lost or off track while using a GPS? Maybe you weren’t paying attention to the voice, or you thought it was giving you a wrong instruction, so you did what you thought was right. I admit that I’ve done that a few times, not just while driving either, but also in life. Ever since my first back surgery, I feel like I’ve been driving, then backtracking, trying to find my course.

I’ve been dealing with bone and muscle issues for a long time. In sixth grade, long before Pilates existed, I had to go to physical therapy three days a week for muscle stretching. Two injuries that I sustained, later in life, left me at home on disability. The most recent was a five-year stretch at home (no pun intended).  During that time, I was drawn to organic skin care and started making bath and beauty products. This led me to becoming an entrepreneur.

The idea of working for myself was freeing, but also a little frightening. I don’t have any formal business training or education. So when I was barely breaking even with all the money I’d invested into products, I headed back to the workforce. Back to administrative duties. Back to punching a time clock. Back to waking up in the wee hours of the morning. Back to depending on someone else cutting my paycheck. Back to severe pain too, but most days, I try to ignore it, and I pray a lot.

Now, I’m not knocking anybody with a job. I’m grateful for mine; it pays my bills. Actually, where I work is the best place I’ve ever worked. I love my co-workers and I don’t hate what I do. I just know that this isn’t the thing I’m supposed to be doing. There is more, much more.

Where are you? Are you happy where you are? If not, why are you still there?

In my favorite book, God asked Adam a loaded question. After Adam and Eve had sinned in the garden, they hid themselves from God. Genesis 1:8-9 NLT says, “When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord called to the man, “Where are you?” God wasn’t just referring to Adam’s physical location. He’s God; He knows everything. He was trying to get Adam to pay attention to his own mental, emotional, and spiritual position. I’ve been asking myself that same question lately, “Where are you, Lori?”

Do you ever question your position? Is where you are now your purposed destination?

Everything has a purpose and a season, but sometimes we can miss the season of transition because we’re not paying attention, or we can move out of position too quickly. There is good news though! If you’re not dead or permanently incapacitated, there is always an opportunity for re-positioning. Once you determine that you’re out of position, do something about it. Don’t just sit there whining and complaining about your situation as many often do, present company included. I wasted a lot of years complaining and waiting for God to bless me, while He was asking, “Where are you?” I’ve been using the 5P method—Prayer, Projection, Planning, Priorities, and Praise.  It works for me. Let me explain what I mean.

Prayer – Talk to God about your situation.  I mean really talk to God. Don’t just hit surface areas, but be real about the things in your heart and mind. Be prepared, though, you may not get an answer the first time (or few), but be persistent. Keep talking to Him with the expectation that He will answer. You don’t always get a signal on your GPS, but if you don’t know where you’re going, you keep trying until you get one, right?

Projection – Determine where you need to go. Want to buy a house? Need to change careers? Want to be your own boss, lose weight, or go back to school? Do you want to serve people better or live a more fulfilling spiritual life? Whatever it is, visualize it. What does it look like? What do you look like there? How can you get there? I believe God shows us glimpses of purpose and change, but sometimes we don’t know how to get there, so we quit in the process. Or worse, we never pursue it. That’s where the last two ‘P’s comes in. Planning and Priorities – Do your research. What do you need to know? Who do you need to know? What cutbacks do you need to make (people, places, activities)? Do first things first. Several things, I believe, are connected to my purpose. I used to try to work on all of them at once, but that’s crazy. That’s just like running from room to room trying to clean the house. It’s exhausting and a waste of time. I know because I used to clean that way. Find out what planning and priority methods works best for you.

I work best when I do one thing at a time. God taught me. My house was a total mess and I had no clue how to manage a household. I’d listened and followed everybody’s advice, but none of their methods really worked for me. One day, God told me to wash one load of clothes and do nothing else in the house. It didn’t make sense, but I did it. Next day, He said the same thing. The days following, I did one thing, until one day, my entire house was clean. I’ve grown since then with housecleaning, but the method still works. It decreases anxiety and stress, leaving room for clarity. Lastly, Praise – Celebrate the steps along the way and the final outcome.

I have determined to leave my job and work for myself. I believe it is what God wants me to do. I can see it. Almost everything I am doing is leading up to it, including this blog. Because I’m so creative, I have to keep myself focused on the tasks at hand. Note to self: Create some paper hands for my tasks. I keep a dream book and when I get ideas, I write them down. A friend helped me to understand that creative people create new ideas all the time. Even while we’re working on some spectacular project, newer ideas will pop into our heads. If we’re not careful, they can easily become distractions. I validate myself and my ideas by writing them down without allowing them control my brain or my time.

I am excited about the day when I can wake up bright and early to do the thing that has been purposed by God for me to do and GET PAID! I’ve been doing it for free and for pennies, for a long time, too long. Those days are almost over because I have an exit strategy. Do you? Where are you?

Planting for Peace

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I woke up this morning and the first thing on my mind was the same thing that was on my mind before I went to bed—relocating to Atlanta. If you didn’t read my previous post, check out The Road Ahead to find out why moving is so significant for me. Since I last posted, word got around my job about me leaving. My coworkers have shown mad love and support, even though some say I can’t leave. It’s out and it’s all good though, right? Think again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful, excited, and I’m anticipating good things for the future. Praise Jesus!!

My challenge, however, is that there are LOTS of details left out of the equation. Where will we live? What about school for Milo? Where will I work? Will I work from home? When will Gabby’s transfer kick in? Will my new grandbaby be born here or in Georgia? Questions, questions, questions. How did I handle them? Why I did what any calm trusting person would do. Not! I began looking into private schools, scholarships, homeschooling options, jobs, etc. I started gathering boxes, packing things we don’t use often, all without a moving date, all in the name of faith. I thought I was handling faith and patience well. Anxiety, however, was lurking in a dark corner of my mind like a burglar, watching my every move, waiting for his opportunity to strike. As more people learned of my plans and interjected their thoughts, fears, and opinions, that sneaky crook got bold, snatched off his mask, and started running roughshod through my belongings. Before I knew it, I was a wreck with worry.

I don’t blame the people though. People are people. I don’t even blame myself. Self-inflicted criticism is harmful. Nevertheless, I have to make an honest assessment of the situation to see where things went awry. Upon examination, I spotted a pattern, a familiar one. I had begun filling in the gaps of uncertainty that God intentionally left vacant. Those gaps were intended for my faith and trust to grow. Have you ever seen a farmer plant certain seeds in the ground? He purposely spaces the seeds apart in order for the plant to grow to their full capacity. Crowding can hinder the plants from getting enough light, stunting their growth.

Faith and trust thrive on uncertainty. As God’s shines His light, our roots of faith and trust dig deeper into His rich soil, absorbing all the nutrients that our spirits need, so that we can experience the peace that surpasses the uncertainties of our situation. Philippians 4:6-7 NLT says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Anxiety (worry) is a burglar and prayers are the police.
Prayers arrests those worries that rob the mind of nourishment (peace).

So now that I’ve found the answers, do I unpack? Do I stop seeking an apartment, job, scholarships for Milo, and all the other pre-move plans? No. Not at all. You see, I know myself and God knows me too. I won’t pack up my whole house and live out of boxes until moving day like I did four years ago. Instead, I will continue to discard old clothes, papers, and things I don’t need. That’s healthy. I will enjoy purging the past while anticipating the future. As for Milo’s education, I’m looking forward to homeschooling my grandchildren, if need be. I’ve talked to several teachers that have offered their support. I even found a bunch of donated school materials that would be helpful to all my grandbabies. And I’m doing a whole lot of praying.

One thing that I am super excited about is the revamping of my bath and beauty business, ReNuMe Organic Essentials. I kept praying about how I would earn income, and God pointed me in the direction of what I had already established. With my children’s book pending publication in May 2017, ReNuMe, and school, I really don’t have time to worry about Atlanta. My oldest daughter, Gabby, reminded me of that yesterday. She asked me why I was so anxious and I couldn’t give her a good reason. She blessed me by saying, “Ma, my job is going to transfer at the right time. We’re going to move when it’s the right time. It’s not the right time now because we’re not ready. So stop worrying.” She was right. Milo is still in school and I have some unfinished business here. I’ve been asking God to open the door in June, and I believe that He will. Even if He has other plans, now is not the time for worrying; now is the time for planting.

What are you anxious about? How did you get there? What can you do about your situation today that will give you peace of mind? 

The Road Ahead

Recently, my daughter, Gabrielle, and I made the decision to move to Atlanta, Georgia. We’ve had numerous conversations about it, but now we’re on the same page and we’ve set a date. I haven’t told many people, but the few I did tell have asked the same first question, “Why are you moving?” At first I felt obligated to give some reason that would make sense to them so I would, in some crazy way, receive their blessing. After awhile, I started feeling bad because none of my reasons made them feel better about our decision.  Doubt and fear’s voices tried to creep, but I quickly stepped on their mouths. Asking why is a normal reaction, but truth is, I don’t have to have an explanation. People move, and their reasons are always personal. No matter how I explain myself, it will still be painful to the ones that matter most.

I have lived in the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) all my life, along with a small remnant of my mother’s side of the family. Although my mom often talks about her hometown, Winston-Salem, NC, we have never visited. Family is very important to me. I have never lived more than fifteen minutes away from my mother, or two hours away from my other relatives. A few years ago, our family grew overnight when we met my mother’s baby sister’s family for the first time. My mom had been searching for her for years, and by divine connection, we were reunited with more cousins than we ever expected. It was a joyous reunion, especially for my mother, aunt, and uncle. Our new family members have lived in the DMV all their lives too, but our paths never crossed until then.

When I was about nineteen years old, I wanted to move to California. I had a cousin, Linda, who lived in LA, and I remember talking to her on the phone and expressing my desire to visit her. Our conversation went like this:

“I want to come to California.”

“Come on!”

“If I come, I might not want to leave.”

“Okay, you can live with me.”

Linda and I never spoke about me coming anymore after that. She put the ball in my court, and I didn’t do anything with it. At the time, I was an immature teenager with no idea how I would get to LA. I didn’t have any money. I never even thought of asking my parents to buy a plane ticket. I just dismissed the idea altogether. I have never been to California.

I’ve always wanted to travel, see the world, and live somewhere else. And even though I’ve done some crazy, adventurous things, fear dominated most of my life. I’ve been afraid of people, failure, rejection, and even success, but mostly the unknown. Not anymore. I have never been more prayerful and clear as I am right now. I don’t have to know all the details anymore in order to move forward. Fear no longer has a say in my life. I live by a different formula now.

I pray.
I listen to God and pay close attention to His directions.
I move.

     It’s a simple formula, but it took years for me to believe it was that easy, let alone practice it. I’ve learned something important though. I’ve learned that in order to hear clearly from God, you have to disrupt your thought pattern, and silence all the other voices that keep you from the road ahead—the ones in your head, and the people you give an ear to. Your life will never grow to the measure of God’s intent unless you move these things out of your life:

stress, fear, anger, bitterness, envy, doubt, insecurity, unforgiveness, mistrust, jealousy, laziness, pride, selfish ambition, haters, self criticism, negative thoughts, and anything else that keeps you in a place of mediocrity and stagnation

      I am excited about moving to Atlanta. My reasons are personal and I have peace. I’m not naïve to think there won’t be bumps and hurdles. That’s life. Between now and moving day, Gabby and I have a ton of planning to do, here and there, and money to save for a successful transition. We’re not alone though. God is right here with us, leading and guiding us, and preparing the road ahead. Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” We also have a loving family, including our friends who are really family, praying and supporting us. Even though physical separation is coming, we’re getting things in order for the road ahead.

What’s holding you back? What decisions have you been mulling over or ignoring? What or who do you need to move out of your life, so that you can move forward? What’s your road ahead look like this year?

 

A Deeper Place of Trust

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I have a special affinity for rain, especially storms. The credit goes to my sister, Sharon. When I was about two or three, I remember us standing in the front doorway, looking outside at a summer rainstorm. I don’t remember what she said to me, but I remember feeling safe in her arms as she held me, pointing to the sky, and I remember her smile and her eyes. As devastating and reckless as storms can be, I have never been afraid of them. Thank you, my beautiful sister.

Life storms, on the other hand, are a different story. I used to fall apart whenever one hit. And like someone trying to outrun a tornado on a broken leg, I foolishly thought I could outrun life storms. I would run to people, but they could only provide temporary comfort and shelter, if that. I did whatever I needed to mask painful emotions from the storms. Nothing worked. Eventually, I became numb, unable to feel anything, including love, mercy, and compassion.

I didn’t understand the purpose of life storms. I didn’t understand a lot of things, but just like my sister held me back then, I’ve learned a few things after spending some time in God’s arms. I have learned what it feels like to be in the safety of His embrace when life’s storms rage. God doesn’t point to the sky though; He is too busy cradling me in those big strong arms of His.

Each life storm has been different, some not as difficult and painful than others, but each has brought me to a deeper place of trust. There was a time when I didn’t trust anybody. ANYBODY. God knew that, and He went out of His way to show me that I could trust Him. He kept at it until I was convinced. Now I trust Him with everything—my mind, my heart, my family, my belongings, my will, my money, my future, EVERYTHING. God has proven to me that He is real and that He loves me personally. He didn’t have to do that; He doesn’t owe me anything. It was His choice. Love pursues.

I don’t know what you need in order to move to a deeper place of trust. You may already be in that place, and if so, awesome. This word of encouragement, however, is for that guarded, defensive person with the fortress around his or her heart, the one who gives everybody the side eye. It’s for that person who believes nobody is genuine, like I used to. But I dare you to make a conscious decision to believe God is real. I further challenge you to ask Him to reveal Himself to you in a way that only you could be convinced.

Let me forewarn you, though, life isn’t suddenly going to become some fairytale with a happily ever after. In fact, things could get worse. You see, life is alive and like the weather, constantly changing and shifting direction. At any time, a life storm could hit without warning. A father dies suddenly, without being sick. A single mother loses her job and her family ends up homeless. A child gets shot in school. A police officer guns down an unarmed teen. As unnerving and traumatic as those examples are, the people affected by those storms somehow survive. Families get stronger and closer. Community organizations are formed to help rebuild lives. Laws are created. Movements are birthed. The purposes of storms are revealed and God is glorified.

What life storms have you had in your life? How did you handle them? What storm are you going through right now? What is it teaching you? How is it shaping your character?

I have learned that no matter how big or small the storm, God cares about your well-being. He’s not just up in the sky watching you suffer, He’s right there with you, in the suffering. He can stop any storm at any time, but sometimes He allows them to happen. It’s in those times when He longs to scoop you up in His loving arms and hold you tight until you feel safe. He’ll keep on holding you after that too. He never wants to let go of you.

My awesome big sister helped me not to fear natural storms, and my great, big, fantastic Daddy helped me not to fear life storms. It doesn’t mean that I don’t feel pain, disappointment, grief, or whatever emotion I feel, and yes, sometimes even fear. What is means is that no matter what, I know that I am safe, and that I am not in the storm alone. I can acknowledge the emotions, but I don’t have to succumb to them because God is there, and I trust Him. That makes all the difference in the world. If you know the safety of God’s arms, leave a comment to encourage me and/or someone else. If you know someone who needs this kind of encouragement, please share this post.

Cups Were Made to be Filled

Have you ever been working or relaxing while drinking a cup of something delicious, and at some point, you pick up your cup and it’s empty?  You don’t remember finishing it, so you missed that last satisfying swig. That’s exactly how I felt a couple months ago. I had been on autopilot, for some time, and didn’t realize I was almost empty until I was. I found myself in the danger zone. You know, the place where all the negative chatter resides. I know you creatives can relate to that. I couldn’t create a paper bag to fight my way out of.

Then one day, God showed up with His big pot of cup filling substance. He’s always there, but you know what I mean. He didn’t fill me all at once, but rather in intimate, personal moments, slowly pouring just enough for me to recognize that it was Him.

Here’s how it started. I work at a school, and one day I was conversing with one of the parents, LaTasha Kennedy. She is one cool chick. She and I were sharing our love for theatre, film, and acting, and somewhere in the middle of our conversation, I shared a career goal with her. She gave me some of the best advice! I mean she went into professional mode. I felt like I was having a one-on-one at a writers’ workshop. Tasha was so knowledgeable and passionate, depositing chunks, not nuggets, of wisdom. That was God filling my cup!

I felt energized, inspired, hopeful. She told me that surrounding myself with like-minded people was the key to life, and she suggested that I start a blog. Uh-oh. Hold it. Pump the brakes. Blog??? Blogging was on my long list of unfinished projects. I’ve started about four blogs, but none of them exist today. Nevertheless, I decided to give it one more try. After a couple of months of laboring over themes, titles, widgets, and whatnot, I finally finished it, thanks to my awesome niece, niki, aka mamasgotmoxie. niki is ultra creative! She’s a veteran blogger, seasoned writer, social media guru, and my favorite niece of my oldest sister. With Tasha’s continued encouragement and niki’s hands-on experience, here is my new blog. I even figured out how to link my other social media sites and match the names all by myself. That’s huge. I’m gonna throw myself a blog launching party tonight!

Seriously though, I’m really proud of what I have accomplished. I refuse to dwell on emptiness, failure, and inconsistencies. That only causes cups to crack and break. My future is in front of me and it’s all bright. So is yours. God intended our cups to be full, overflowing with life-giving substance. What’s your vision for keeping your cup filled this year? Who’s in your circle of influence? Are they giving you life or nailing your coffin? Are they filling or emptying your cup? If the latter, what are you going to do about it?

Let’s raise our cups. Here’s to keeping them filled in 2017.