Stand on Your Platform

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Those who know me, know that I am constantly evolving and trying to find ways to better myself as a person. They know and understand that I am forever seeking God for my purpose in life and trying to define the reason for my existence on this planet.  In my prayer session last night, this question came up once again, but this time, I had more on my mind than where I fit in. Last night, I asked for a platform. A platform where I am able to change people's lives, influence minds, and be a beacon of light in this world of darkness. Hmmm, ponder that for a moment.  A woman—who has realized her childhood dream four times over and connected with countless people all over the country—is asking for a platform. I would like to think that God smiled at the irony of the whole situation.

His answer to me came in the form of a scolding.  What do you mean you want a platform? You're on it.  You are a role model, voice of truth, motivator, supporter, prayer partner, and friend to countless people (more than you realize).  Why can't you see that? To make a difference and an impact, you don't have to have thousands of people following you, liking your posts, or commenting on your daily affirmations . . . Jesus had twelve disciples. Let that sink in. I mean, I am placed before over one hundred young people on a daily basis; to educate, to inspire, and to mold. What more of a platform do I need when the future is sitting in front of me five days a week? In that moment, I decided to be obedient, stop searching for more, and realize what I've been given.  A chance to shape the future for us all, to inspire young women to never settle, to drive young men to be more than just the status quo, and to be an example of success for young people who come from the same neighborhood I grew up in.  It's my duty to prove to them that, no matter what may come their way, if they stay true to themselves and never give up, they too can realize their dreams.

What a load to carry, but I still feel that I am not doing enough.  I want to reach more people and this year, I asked God to make me uncomfortable, draw me out of my shell, and force me to reach out to the world at large and the people of my community to make more of a difference.  It's hard . . . because the introvert in me truly enjoys my own company and my trust issues run deep.  But, God isn't done with me yet.  Actually, He has just begun.  Today, I am thankful for having a strong-mind, faithful people who are willing to support me and understand my madness, and for always making me keep my eyes on the prize.

So, no matter where you are in your journey. No matter how small your audience; whether it is just the two children that call you a parent, or hundreds of thousands of people on social media, use your platform to change the world.  Send a message of hope, love, peace, and motivation because this world have enough people doing the exact opposite.  You don't need a million views to change the world, all you need is one read, one like, one thank you that to let you know you are on the right path.  To validate the fact that you are making a difference and that someone out there appreciates what you do.  If I never get a like . . . if no one ever reviews a word I write, I know that someone is watching.  Never, ever be afraid to stake your claim on this world and follow your heart to your destiny.  Speak your truth. God will give you a platform.

But First, Love Yourself

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There are so many people out here these days giving advice about almost every topic. Many call themselves life coaches or relationship experts in order to validate themselves and cause you to trust the information that they are giving to you.  I'm no such person.  I am just your everyday wife and mother, who just so happens to know a thing or two about what works in relationships.  Oftentimes, people have something to say, but are they really telling you the truth. And, if they are telling the truth, are they telling it all? Sometimes to me, it all just sounds like: blah, blah, blah.

What's the issue that I have? You never get told the full story. Should you have someone who loves and respects you? Yes, absolutely.  The problem with these "pop up" advisers is, they are not telling you that, you have to give the other person something to respect.  You can't be out here wearing the most scandalous clothes you can find, running to every club and event, having random sex with people, fighting, and acting the fool like you have no common sense, and then expect for that "good man" or "good woman" to accept you.  Even a stripper can have class and dignity, so it isn't about the occupation, money or status in life but, it is has a lot to do with how you were raised, how you see yourself, and what you have determined as your self-worth.  You can read a book about it, listen to YouTube preaching and read Instagram and Facebook posts like they are going out of style, but if you are not changing your ways to match the requirements that you are placing on someone else, then . . . you will never find the person you are looking for.

You want someone to love you and give you what you need, but first, you need to look within yourself.  Are you open to love? Have you dealt with your issues from the last relationship? Are you really ready for love or are you lonely and just ready to have someone in your bed? Some of us need to learn how to be comfortable with our own company first.  Learn to love the person in the mirror; their flaws, their insecurities, their sorrow, their fears, and everything that makes them who they are.  Without an intimate understanding of our innermost self, there is no way that we will be able to truly love someone else.  We have to deal with our own issues before we can decide to incorporate someone else into the can of mixed nuts that comprises our lives. I said all the above to say this: The answer you look for isn't in some book that you can go to the store and buy.  The answer you are searching for is right in front of your face.  Stand in the mirror, open your eyes and see yourself.  If you don't like what you see, change it.  If you're uneducated, change that. If you can't cook, learn.  Need a new wardrobe, buy one. Whatever it is. Get it together so you can love again.

Look inside yourself and you will find, the answer to all the questions in your mind. All the reasons why.  All the tools you need to be ready to love again.  Look inside, dig deep and do the work. Do what it takes to be the best that you can be, so that when your true love comes along, all you have to do is open your arms. The rest will fall into place.  Heal yourself before you think of loving someone else.

Open Letter to Grads

Graduating from high school is a major accomplishment. In these days of endless testing, educational changes, and a poor economy, it’s hard to students to focus on education.  If I had my way, and I could speak to every graduating class of high school students around the world, here’s what I would say.

1.)  Keep your eyes on the prize.  Life is a roller coaster. There will be ups, there will be downs; there will be dips, twist, turns, thrills and moments of panic and distress. The road you travel will not necessarily lead you directly to your destination. There may be detours, blocked lanes, accidents and construction to deal with.  With that being said, never get distracted from your true purpose.  Continue on your quest to reach your goals.  Don’t look left, right, back, down or even forward.  Keep your eyes to the sky.  Walk by faith and let the grace of God take you where you’re flesh and blood may be too afraid to go. 

2.)  Don’t play the hater game. Most people will admit that they have haters; those people who do not want them to succeed and try the hardest impart words of discouragement in order to annihilate their hopes, goals and dreams.  Never worry about the opinions, pessimism, or mis-guidance of others. Worrying about your haters and what they have to say is the equivalent of wearing white shoes to a child’s birthday party and worrying about how many times they will get stepped on. It just doesn’t make any sense.  Haters are just admirers who don’t know how to show it. They’re acknowledging the fact that you’re doing something right, they just may not be in a place in their life where they can celebrate the success of another. Never succeed to prove them wrong, succeed in order to prove yourself right.

3.)  Always trust your gut. God has provided us with a tool that will never steer us astray.  It is the spirit that Jesus left when he ascended into heaven.  Some call it the Holy Spirit or in general terms, intuition.  It sets off an alarm inside of us when things are inherently wrong and makes us questions situations, people and actions that may cause us harm. Never stray from it.  Never ignore those butterflies in your stomach, the thought that gives you pause, or the annoying voice in your head that is screaming, "No!"  You will never regret trusting your gut. 

4.)  Never stop learning.  When you stop learning, feeding your intellectual appetite or increasing your wealth of knowledge is when you may as well head to Bradenton Funeral Home and ask Dr. Lavelle Bing to open the casket so that you can climb in. There is so much knowledge to be had in this world and, even if the information seems the least bit appealing and extremely irrelevant, always know that there may come a time when you wish you would’ve learned that bit of trivial information.  Learning is essential to life and the pathway to success and achievement.  No matter how corny the saying, knowledge is power. 

5.)  Learn the power of NO. You will encounter many moments when you are pressured to do things by fellow college students; attend a party when you have an early class in the morning, go away for the weekend when you don’t have any money, or hang out when you really should be working on your research paper.  It’s okay to say no.  No should be a major part of your vocabulary as a college student, away from home and trying to prove that you can make it on your own.  Those credit card solicitors will have their clipboards ready and waiting for you to sign your financial freedom away for $500; just say no.  That slick senior will be ready to ask you to leave your friends at the club and head to a private place with him; just say no.  That overzealous football fan will try to persuade you to have a little fun without protection; just say no.  It’s okay and, in the end, you would rather be ridiculed for making the right choice and saying no or looking back and regretting your actions because now your stuck with bad credit and a bill, a horrific memory of sexual encounter you never intended or the child support payments that cause you to quit school.  Use no, and use it often.

6.)  Discover who you are.  As children and teens inside of our parent’s homes, we have to abide by their rules and often we are who they would like for us to be.  College is a time of discovery and revelation.  It is when we are able to become adults and truly learn our likes, dislikes, pet peeves, and toxic behaviors.  It is our moment of truth.  Where we are no longer under the watchful eye of the family, the neighborhood, or the community but a bird, flying free and exploring the world.  You will make mistakes; you will have regrets, but never ever feel like there is no hope in life.  Your parents and family are there to help you and God has the ability to make every stumbling block move you in the right direction.

Go, change the world and make a difference.  As I said before, don’t live your life worrying about who is going to have something to say. Keep prayer in the forefront of your life and leave a legacy.

Trust Your Gut

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What do you do when everything you've ever believed was a lie? If the life you have lived was a fraud, and all the signs you ignored along the road, were actually pointing you in the right direction? I sign my books follow your dreams, when I really ought to be telling myself...and others, to follow your gut. The feeling that you get deep down inside of your belly that tells you when something just isn't right is the only omen you need. If you listen to your heart, you can love something away and remain blind to what is right in front of you. Your need for love will overwhelm you and you will ignore the obvious. Don't listen to your head, because, despite the fact that your intelligence is involved, you will rationalize what is going on in front of you, or allow your insecurities to prevent you from paying attention. You gut...now that's a thing of beauty. It prevents you from being hurt, shows you the truth in every situation, and screams like an alarm when things are about to take a left turn. Listen to the alarms, never ignore the butterflies, and keep your guard up. Your gut will never, ever lead you wrong.

Taming the Beast

We all have different callings and stations in life. Inside of me is a beast with an inherent need to succeed.  It nags me when I feel like taking a break from bettering myself, it slaps me across the face when I want to give up and sometimes, it gets scared of the continuous upward climb and questions me to see when enough is enough.  How far in life do I have to go before I’ve decided that I’ve reached the level of ultimate success? What position must I reach before I decide that I’ve finally “made it”? With the beast of success driving me to my destination, there are often feelings that I push to the side and hide from even those near and dear to my heart.  Deep inside, tugging at the beast’s core and yelling to be recognized is guilt. What exactly do I have to feel guilty about? Why should I feel guilty about wanting to succeed, wanting to have a career, or wanting to provide a better life for my family? What’s so wrong with that?

As I have stated in a previous post, one of my main issues is, I’m superwoman. Really, I am.  I want to be everything to my husband, children, family members and friends. Why, because it’s the beast inside that feeds off of excellence that is driving me to do it.  I want to be the best wife I can be; have an immaculate home, cook hot meals morning, noon, and night, have no laundry piled up, kids in perfect tip-top shape, workout for hours at a time, and be the woman of his dream, and more.  I want to be the best mom; always having a fun activity going on, continuously educating and schooling, taking them out to play everyday, keeping up with what is going on in their lives, and staying abreast of their current feelings.   To everyone else, I want to be the best; best daughter, sister, cousin friend by attending every event, helping everyone out, always showing support, and never missing church or Bible study.  Pretty ambitious, I know but hey, I’ve got to feed the beast.  His appetite is ravenous and he never sleeps.  I mean, I’ve worked two jobs, taken three Masters courses at a time, started a new career, traveled everywhere, helped coach a YMCA basketball team, worked on a novel and blogged, simultaneously.  All the while being a wife, mother, sister, and friend.  I don’t think I slept more than four hours at a time in two years.  Hey, I was thing about me, with my family in the background.  The beast wanted to have a Master's degree and become a leader within the healthcare industry and would stop at nothing until he had the sweet nectar of success in his mouth, all the while knowing that it wouldn’t be enough.  His appetite to climb the corporate ladder, make more money, and have more letters behind his name came first while my family, my home and my health came second. I won’t lie, I fed this beast generously until one day, something set in and I did a complete about-face.

I didn’t want to feed the beast anymore.  He needed to go on a diet.  Besides, the more I examined myself, my life, and what was important, I realized that my children were suffering.  They had a mother who was smart, driven, accomplished, and educated but, they also had a mother who was tired.  Distracted by her research and papers or the every growing list of things to do and appointments on her calendar.  She only half-heartedly listened when they told her about their day. She didn’t have time to play games with them like they wanted her too and the park was something they did with their dad because hey, mama had two papers to write and a three chapters to finish reading by Sunday. They seemingly lacked for nothing. Except for their mother’s undivided attention.  One day, I decided to sit down and have a long talk with the beast. He was running my life and it was time we got an understanding.

I had an epiphany and, instead of taking the beast’s word for it, I went out and bought a chain and a cage. I put the beast away. I decided that, watching my children grow up, truly enjoying them and being the type of mom to them that my grandmother was to me, was way more important that making a name for myself in the world.  They are my world.  My reason for living and breathing but, they are also my reason for slowing it down.  I reevaluated myself and decided that the most important role I could play in this life, besides being a fervent follower of Christ, is to be a wife and a mother.  Nothing else matters.  Teaching is the first job I’ve ever had where I’ve never gone home at night and said, ‘I want to quit.’ It’s the one job where I’ve never minded going.  No matter what issues may arise, no matter how much my students may drain me, and no matter how many times I feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants.  I have found my peace, my ultimate place in the world.  Nothing could make me happier (except being on the New York Times National best seller list but, hey in due time).  As I told my husband the other day, you can always, ALWAYS make more money, but you can’t make more memories.  My kids are growing fast and I cherish every second that I get to spend with them. From going to the park, checking out books from the library, visiting museums, watching movies together on Netflix, and being off every weekend and holiday, I enjoy the time we have together. It’s priceless and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  I’m not saying that I don’t like going out into the world meeting new people and making connections but, what I am saying is that, the most important lives that I need to make a difference in, came from my own womb.

In closing, all have an expiration date. Don’t let a moment pass you by without cherishing it to the fullest. You can always make more money, but you can’t always make more memories.

Movement vs Progress

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One thing I live by, we cannot change our circumstances, until we first change ourselves. Often, we confuse movement for progress. They are two very different things.  First, let's examine the definition of movement.  Movement is an act of changing physical location or position.  Life is about movement.  The question is, what are you moving towards?  If you don't have an idea of where you are going, there really is no need to move because you aren't truly making any changes.  You could relocate to an entirely different city, but if you continue to have the same mindset, what have you really accomplished? As I stated above, in order to change, we must first change ourselves and that means: learning from our mistakes, finding ways to grow into the person we desire to become, and cleanse ourselves of any stagnation that we've allowed to enter our lives.

Now, let's examine the meaning of stagnation.  Stagnation is not flowing, advancing or developing.  How do we know if we are stagnant? It's easy. We are still doing the same things we've always been doing, yet insanely expecting different results.  We are still clubbing, blaming others for our mistakes and the issues in our lives, allowing fear to rule our thoughts or continuing in the same habits.  Stagnation can be caused by behaviors, thoughts, surroundings, people, situations and even emotions. All of these things can contribute to us remaining in the same place as we always have been. Hanging on to old things, refusing to change, and having dreams but no plan of action will leave us resentful and upset when others achieve their goals and we remain as we always have been.

Lastly, what is progress? Progress is movement forward or the process of improving or developing something over a period of time.  Progress is a gradual betterment of ourselves and the lives of those who rely on us.  No one said it would be easy, but it is most definitely worth it. Progress can be obtained by first setting goals, making a plan, then acting on that plan. In order for change to occur, there has to be a definite change in our mindset and obviously a ton of hard work. While striving to reach our goals, we must accept criticism, stay strong in the face of adversity, and make wise choices. Standing on the plan you make and adjusting as need be will also get you where you want to go. Once you have your eyes on the prize, don't look back.

Make your plan, stick to it, and continue to progress.