Music Monday

Reflect & Grow

Good Monday morning, friends! What a beautiful day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad today and every day. Yesterday I participated in a Twitter Chat for educators — something I hadn’t done in quite some time. I truly enjoy these opportunities to chat with educators from all over the globe about those issues we all have in common no matter where we reside. It was a 30-minute chat with five questions about the importance of being a reflective leader.

I could hardly wait for the chat to start because this topic interests me. Of course, I had plenty to share, but I really wanted to hear what other school leaders (in particular) had to say. The common thread throughout our time together was growth. You really can’t grow as a teacher, leader, or just an average Joe without reflecting on your practices. That really resonated with me.

In fact, just last week, as I reflected on what had been weighing me down, I discovered that it was me and my attitude. I felt shackled! You see, as a school leader, all you hear day in and day out are complaints. Parents, colleagues, and kids complain a lot. It’s not their fault; I think we’re just wired that way. If we’re dissatisfied about something, somebody’s going to hear about it.

I’ve learned that if you’re not careful, you’ll follow that example. It doesn’t take much effort to drown out the positive things you hear all day and focus on the negative. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t careful, and I, too, had become a complainer. So, I set a goal for myself last week. I decided that I wouldn’t complain about anything — no matter how annoyed I became, I would not complain. What I did instead was come up with two “if/then” solutions. If I had the power to resolve an issue, then I would do it — even if it wasn’t my job to do it. If something was out of my control, I’d seek help and attempt to resolve the issue without complaining. This was definitely a challenge because it’s so much easier to complain rather than keeping your mouth shut. I think I did ok, but this week I’ll do better.

Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 All of us who are mature [pursuing spiritual perfection] should have this attitude. ~Philippians 3:13-15

I think it’s important to reflect on who you were yesterday, and try to be better than that person. John Dewey once said that “We don’t learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.” Imagine a world where we didn’t reflect on our practices — a place where outcomes would be the same because the input would be the same. If you want to reap something different, you must sow something different. It’s really that simple. What will you do differently today in order to get a different outcome? Scroll down to the comments, and join me there.

Before you leave today, turn up the volume and get ready to dance to my Music Monday selection by Mary Mary entitled “Shackles.”

NOTE – BIble verse courtesy of Biblegateway.com and Featured Image courtesy of Google Royalty-Free Images

On Your Knees

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday started out unseasonably warm and overcast. As the day progressed, the sun came out to tease all who dared to revel in it, and then suddenly, the rain came. Thunderous rain peppered with hail drowned out all previously audible signs of a typical Saturday afternoon for nearly an hour before finally dissipating — revealing a cool, crisp evening fit for a brisk, after-dinner walk.

Life can sometimes be just as unpredictable as the weather pattern I just described. One’s day can start off a little odd and get better along the way, tease you into thinking things will always be this nice, and then suddenly, out of nowhere, everything changes. Disaster looms and threatens to envelop you. Your thoughts are anxious, and you can hardly breathe. Your mustard seed-sized faith is waning. Just when you feel like giving up, you see a sliver of light in the distance — a ray of hope, peace in the storm, and then you breathe a sigh of relief. You weathered this storm for sure. You’re a little bruised and maybe even a little light-headed, but you’re still here. You didn’t give up. You didn’t succumb to fear. You waited on the Lord.

For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.  ~Isaiah 41:13

Weathering the storm is never easy, but it’s expected of you. If you’re driving through it, keep your hands at 10 and two. You probably learned that in Driver’s Ed. Weathering the storms of life, however, requires a different position, and you won’t likely learn this in school –unless it’s the school of hard knocks. Battling many of life’s uncertainties requires outstretched hands and bended knees. It’s the most logical position after a fall — right hand to God to help you up and bended knees to thank him for being our very present help in times of trouble. All of our help comes from God, so why not start and end each day the same way — on your knees.

May blessings abound! ❤

Count Your Blessings

A couple times each month, I take a little time out of my hectic schedule to stop at Panera Bread in my neighborhood. Whether I just need a quiet space near the fireplace to write or a warm bowl of chicken soup to offer me a little comfort before going home, I treat myself to that little peace of heaven.

Each time I go there, I always see Joyce — with her perfectly coiffed cornrows, skin the color or burnt sienna,  a smile as big as Texas, and a hospitable presence to match. I always say “How are you today, Joyce” and she always says “Amazing!” In all the years I’ve been going there, our conversations have been friendly and brief — the time it takes to order soup, a soft dinner roll, iced green tea, and a blueberry muffin. This time was different. I told her that I can always count on her for a smile, and she responded by saying that God just keeps blessing her over and over again. I smiled and sang “Over and over…over and over…over and over again.” Her smile grew as she asked “Who sings that song?” I told her it was Trinitee 5:7.

By this time I had my muffin and tea, and I was headed to the pick up area for my soup. She followed me there, asking whether I’d seen the Grammy’s. I hadn’t, but I had heard a lot about the show, plus we DVR’d it for later.

“Did you see that rapper?” [She couldn’t remember his name.]

“You mean Chance the Rapper?”

Joyce squealed, “Yeah, isn’t he amazing?”

“Oh yeah, he’s definitely something special — a young man rapping about his love of the Lord!”

“My daughter called me into the room to say ‘Mom, you need to see this guy on the stage. He’s speaking your language.'”

Through that brief conversation, I learned a lot about Joyce. I know (for sure) that she loves the Lord; we have that in common. She has a daughter, she loves music, and she’s thankful that God keeps blessing her over and over.

My conversation with Joyce reminded me of my scripture reading  from Mark 5:2-19. It’s a powerful story of a man possessed by many evil spirits. Jesus commanded them to leave this man, and he allowed them to enter a herd of pigs. Overcome by those spirits, they ran into a nearby lake and drowned. The man, on the other hand, was freed.

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with him. 19 But Jesus said, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.” ~Mark 5:18-19

The great thing about God is that he’s so generous with his favor, and we could never repay him for his grace and mercy toward us. Imagine the weight lifted from this man when Jesus freed him from bondage — allowing him to live among his family members, freely telling them how the Lord had blessed him. What has he freed you from today?  How has he blessed you over and over? I’ve been blessed with his presence and this platform. As I mentioned yesterday, if he doesn’t do one more thing for me, He’s Done Enough.

Before you leave today, turn up the volume and enjoy my Music Monday selection by Trinitee 5:7 entitled “Over & Over.” Remember to count your blessings today, and share the love of God with everyone you meet. May blessings abound! ❤

He’s Done Enough

If you’re human, and I suspect most of you are, you have had at least one rough day this month, and the month isn’t even over yet. Some of you have had a rough year, and if that’s you, this post is for you. Today is the day that we figure out what’s at the core of that rough year, peel back those battered layers, and trash them — giving way to the good that’s left behind but has been overshadowed by what’s at the core.

The issue I see most often that stops most of us in our tracks is loss — loss of a family member, one’s livelihood, your health, your home, or your marriage. Because of the devastation associated with losing someone or something so important, you lose sight of your blessings. Your grief consumes you, and it is all you ever think about and talk about. It even takes a toll on those you encounter daily. They, too, will find themselves in a similar funk if they’re not careful.

You can’t lead someone where you have not gone. ~John Maxwell

I’ve had my share of loss over the past two decades: aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, and dear friends. Taking time to grieve each loss is essential to your emotional well-being. Without a conscious dedication to unearthing the core issue, you will never fully deal with the emotions and behaviors that result from the loss.

When my cousin Stephen died from AIDS in 1994, I was devastated. I was angry, confused, sad, and depressed for a time. I was angry because I could tell from watching him slowly wither away that his time was short, and the gossips were talking about him. They were dying too; they just didn’t know it. I was confused because I thought the medicines he had been taking could preserve his life. I was sad because my best friend was gone. We were more like siblings — only five years apart, and we were raised in the same house. I was depressed because he was asleep in death, and I wasn’t sure that he had made his peace with God before he succumbed to that dreadful disease.

I responded poorly. I cut everyone off. I moved to another state, didn’t call home anymore, didn’t visit anymore, changed my phone number, stopped going to church, and started going out a lot. All I did was work and wait for the weekend so I could go out. I was really a homebody, but I just needed to get out in a place where no one knew my story. It was my way of forgetting my story for a few hours. Thankfully,  I knew the Lord back then, but I didn’t know him well, and that’s when he really started using me — revealing things in dreams and telling me how to pick up the pieces. I went back to church, but that didn’t pull me from the depths. I had to figure out what was at the core before I could come out of that pit.

The Heart of the Matter

  1. This was the first significant loss in my life.
  2. My routine, visits home, and holiday plans would change
  3. Our family dynamic would change drastically; we would miss him terribly.
  4. It seemed unfair. He was only 30 years old.
  5. Though he had served his purpose, we would never see him do all those great things we expected him to do.

Those issues were at the core. Once I was able to identify what was causing me such distress, I was then able to put each core issue into one category — Things I Can’t Control. Ultimately, God is in control and has numbered our days before we were even conceived. He knew that Stephen’s passing would leave a void in our lives, but he allowed us to focus on so many wonderful  memories. His laugh, his sense of style, his love of cooking, his love of music, and his ability to draw anything were things that stood out. As a family, we could now focus on the joys associated with his life. My aunts and uncles told stories of his childhood (before I was born) over and over again. We laughed each time they retold those stories as if it had been told for the first time.

I helped his mother sort through his clothes and other possessions. We gave most of his things away but kept a few items for ourselves. I didn’t find any of his drawings. I wanted one from his teenage years — a caricature of our little cousin Allie Cat. Maybe one day I’ll find it. I listened to his albums — singing “My world is empty without you babe” and whistling the theme song from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly — smiling all the while and crying a little too. I wanted to pull those old speakers onto the porch like he did most weekends and blast “Bedrock” or “Push the Button” in his memory, but it was too soon for that.

Weeping may last for the night, but there is a song of joy in the morning. ~Psalm 30:5

A couple months later, we lost my grandmother and my uncle. Again, we grieved, but we focused on what they brought to our lives while they were here. In order to insure our survival after these devastating losses (and there were more right after that), God changed our mindset — allowing us to focus on our blessings rather than our losses. There is no straight path between a devastating loss and emotional healing. The route is circuitous, but there’s hope along the way. Each day doesn’t have to be shrouded in darkness, but it’s ok if a few of them are. You’re human; we established that in the first sentence of this post, so you’re allowed to fall apart. Cry, scream, roll around on the floor if you want to, but get back up, dry your tears, and pray to God to continue to reveal the blessings in your life. If he doesn’t do anything more for you, he’s done enough.

May blessings abound! ❤

 

NOTE – Bible verse courtesy of Biblegateway.com , Featured Image courtesy of Google Royalty-Free Images.