Being grateful is a choice. It is not always easy to choose gratefulness, especially if your life circumstances create pressure and uncertainty. Choosing gratefulness requires a shift in perspective from identifying the things in your life you want to change to identifying the things in your life you do not want to change. As a therapist, the first question I often ask my clients is, “What do you not want to change about yourself or your life?” I often get the shocked, taken aback look, as most people are conditioned to spewing off all the things they hope therapy will “fix” about themselves or their situation. I purposefully draw their attention to what’s “right” about them and their life, giving them immediate assurance they are not “broken” but “bruised”, leading them to a place of gratefulness.
Today, I choose to be grateful. I chose to be grateful for the challenges of motherhood, as I know my investment now will bring a great pay off in the future. I chose to be grateful for having a life partner, because I will never know what it means to die and not be loved. I choose to be grateful for lack, because when plenty shows up, I will appreciate it all the more. I choose to be grateful for anxiety, because it heightens my awareness to small moments of peace. I’m grateful for this opportunity to develop as a writer and author, because it has expanded my ability to serve.
Many of us have experienced the advantage of making lists. Lists help us organize our daily tasks and keep us on track to accomplish a goal. Lists sometimes are a conglomerate of things that need or are desired to be accomplished within a certain time frame. Lists can be ordered or unordered. Lists are also like gatekeepers of our time and space, as gatekeepers are “used to oversee how work is being done and whether it meets certain standards.” For example, this simile can apply to those daily lists we sometimes use to determine exactly what needs to get done by allotted times throughout our day in order for our day to live up to our standards.
Nowadays, many of us even use fancy paper, colored pens or markers to adorn our lists and make them stand out as a means of motivation. If it looks pretty on paper, we are more likely to pay attention to it and accomplish it. Lists also provide a simple organizational system with an immediate reward, checking the box. Have you ever checked boxes on a list? It is one of the most exhilarating experiences to check boxes once tasks are completed. My heart starts racing when I get to the last 2 or 3 items on a list, a feeling similar to being so close to crossing a finished line you can taste it. No matter your place in the race, crossing a finished line brings a feeling of accomplishment.
Habakkuk 2:2 (MSG) says, “And then God answered: ‘Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run.’
Like God’s instructions, I challenge you to make a list of the vision and dreams God has given you about…you. He speaks to all of us. He gives instructions. He directs us towards His purpose for our lives. Write your list. I also challenge you not to date your list. Dates are confining, build anxiety, produce unnecessary stress that may lead to discouragement, feelings of inadequacy, and eventually deflate your drive to accomplish much of anything.
Instead, list your vision and your dreams with a sense of freedom and excitement. List your vision unconfined by time. Make your list with confidence and security that if God is the developer of your vision and dreams, in due time, He will lead you to check every box in His perfect way and perfect timing.
HYPERFOCUSED. I can’t see. I wasn’t born with 20/20 vision and it is likely something I will never experience until I reach heaven. I have an astigmatism and have always seen the world through blurry eyes since the age of 3 or 4. This reality has been emotionally bothersome for me throughout the years. I would often question God as to why I had to wear “big” glasses? Why couldn’t I have perfect vision like some of my friends? Why couldn’t I afford Lasik surgery? Why could I not swim and see clearly underwater?
I never received a direct answer to these questions, but instead I had to get to the point of accepting the way I was designed. I actually felt sad and angry when our son was diagnosed with an astigmatism at the age of 2. I blamed myself for passing along this “bad” trait and dreaded having to support him through navigating sports with glasses, learning to put a little piece of plastic in his eye daily, buying countless bottles of eye solution and eye drops, itching his way through allergy season, and attempting to read comfortably in bed with glasses. To some, it’s not that big of a deal, but for me, I was hyperfocused on the disadvantages of not having perfect vision.
FOCUSED. I just turned 39 years old. My self-image is stronger than ever. Why? Because I decided to refocus my attention on the positive characteristics about myself and how God is using me to serve others, glasses and all! I am beautiful, I am strong. I am courageous. I am a world changer and spirit breaker. I inspire. I motivate. There is no one in the world quite like me. Just like in my story, many of us often get hyper-focused on our mess ups, hang ups, and screw ups, taking our eyes off of what we actually have to offer.
Focus requires more than just changing the lens but it requires vision, spiritual vision. If you always saw the world through your natural eyes, you would miss opportunities to serve and be served. You will only see the characteristics that make you invaluable and unimportant. Nevertheless, when you see the world through spiritual eyes, you have the ability to see beyond yourself into the realm of how you actually fit into the world. Having a clear vision of you, produces a wholeness and completeness that defines your purpose.
Changing your focus reveals your true value. What’s your worth?
Interesting fact about me: I love NFL football! Fashion, Faith, Fitness….and FOOTBALL! Yep, that’s me. My all-time favorite NFL player is Peyton Manning. He is now retired and I followed him from the Indianapolis Colts to Denver, the last team he played for before retirement.
I started following Peyton Manning when he played for the Indianapolis Colts. Matter of fact, I got quite the stare while attending a NFL pre-game wearing my Indianapolis Colts gear while sitting on the home team side of the Carolina Panthers! I like athletes that play from a place of intelligence not arrogance. I’ve seen both and Peyton Manning is definitely one of the most intelligent athletes I’ve seen. He had the ability to use his intellect to outplay any team and find a way to win against any strategy aimed to stop him. After learning his style and trusting his intellectual abilities, I was never bothered if it was 3rd quarter and the team was behind by more than a few touchdowns with Peyton as the quarterback. Peyton always knew how to think well, lead well, and connect well with his teammates to pull through every time. He was a true team player.
One of the greatest teams of all-time included the trio of Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, and Reggie Wayne while playing for the Indianapolis Colts. It was a true gift to watch them in action. I always anticipated what record-breaking move they would make next. A recent article I read stated this,“Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison played together for eight seasons, forming one of the greatest receiving tandems in history. They were close in so many ways – their numbers (87 and 88, respectively), their lockers (side by side) and their statistics (grab the closest record book).” Another article stated, “Manning and Harrison also own every major quarterback to receiver record, including most yards, completions, and touchdowns.” It was a true treat to watch this trio each shine in their own gifting while also demonstrating humility in unity.
Humility involves being mindful of others. Without humility, true unity does not exist. If you want to be a good team player, first find out how to serve others on your team. Any team can win a game, but a team based in humility breaks records…
Depression. Often for many, depression is a hidden, quiet form of suffering. Depression is one of those mental health challenges that can be easily hidden. It can appear to others the depressed is just mellow, or a little sad. It is not always noticeable how much the depressed person lives “in the dark”. How much the depressed person cries themselves to sleep at night. How many times a day the depressed person drops to their knees in a fetal position sobbing uncontrollably, as if some invisible person just sucker punched them in their gut unexpectedly. The secret side of depression makes it one of the most high risk mental health conditions because it is the gateway to more severe conditions such as substance abuse, self-harm, and even suicide.
I should know because I am on the front line fighting depression daily. Not because I am a marriage & family therapist, but because depression visits me quite often. I have become so good at hiding depression in response to those around me who think it doesn’t “make sense” for me to be depressed. Depression has no respect of person and how a person’s life appears at face value is not an automatic barrier against depression. I am a strong, courageous, independent person and always have been. I take risks. I make things happen. I give it my all. I work hard….And I also crash. I get weak. I get tired of getting wounded in battle. I suffer emotionally in ways that strips me down to nothing but an empty shell. No one notices or maybe no one cares because I’m not “supposed” to be depressed.
In this moment, as I write these words, I am exposing depression in a way that weakens its stronghold over my emotions. Depression thrives in secrecy. Depression thrives in isolation. I have uncovered its hiding spot in my heart and broken the rule of secrecy in hopes of dismantling its power in my life and the lives of others. Hey you, the person suffering from depression. I want you to know…I understand.
I don’t believe in magic, I believe in miracles…although miracles can feel magical. Dr. TC
Miracles are all around us. Miracles happen every day and at every moment whether we realize it or not.
Miracles come from an omnipotent, omniscient God who finds pleasure in performing miracles throughout the earth. I believe miracles keep us humble, grounded, and connected. I believe miracles are God’s way of saying “I’m in control, and I love you.”
There are two miraculous “magical” days that have a permanent place in my memory. I choose to share the one that occurred in my adult years to encourage someone that may think “magical” moments are just for children. Interestingly, my “magical” day occurred as an adult at DisneyWorld! Ha!
The trip was beyond perfection. In addition to the joyous company gathering, presentation of speakers, and lots of free stuff, every staff member received free tickets to DisneyWorld for the next day. My co-worker/friend and I were ecstatic to experience DisneyWorld together. Everything is more fun when it’s free right?
The next day we teamed up with two other colleagues we adored and spent the entire day laughing, playing, and frolicking around DisneyWorld. Here is the most “magical”, unexpected moment of the day. As we entered the park, right after presenting our tickets, we were met by park attendants who were very eager to give us something. They immediately handed us “free” lanyards with two beautifully adorned keepsake character pins and greeted us with, “Welcome to the Year of a Million Dreams.”
We were happily stunned and didn’t know what hit us. If you are a dreamer like myself, imagine waking up tomorrow morning and God says to you, “Welcome to the Year of a Million Dreams.” We had no idea what we were stepping into. The rest of our experience that day included free opportunities to collect and trade character pins to fill up our lanyards, a lot more free stuff with every turn in the park, and fast lane express passes which allowed us to go to the front of the line on every ride in the park. It was unbelievable.
I often wonder why this experience has stuck with me through the years. At face value, it was truly a “magical” day that many people may not ever experience at DisneyWorld without a hefty price tag, but I believe there is a much deeper meaning for me. On that day, I felt a huge sense of security, peace, innocent joy that totally blocked out everything that may have been contrary to what I was experiencing at that very moment. I felt like I was in a dream, yet it was real. I felt the glass ceiling being lifted off of me and everything I envisioned was possible and within reach.
That’s what miracles do. They give you hope and make whatever you desire to do in the world feel like it’s right at your fingertips. I feel like I’m due for a miracle. I have recently felt smothered by a glass ceiling, and will admit I have not revisited this memory enough as a means of encouragement and motivation. I have always been a dreamer and I dream BIG. Presently, I am fighting to dream with conviction, yer I will admit, writing about this memory gives me a sense of hope that one day I will walk into my “Year of a Million Dreams” unexpectedly in real life.
Yesterday morning, after a drought of approximately a year, it happened. I took a sip of one of my favorite elixir drinks, Lemon Verbena tea. Not just any Lemon Verbena tea…
I’m talking about Lemon Verbena tea fresh from a Lemon Verbena plant. I’ve feigned for this drink for approximately a year! In case you are wondering, we travel quite a bit, so my last plant died during a travel weekend. I definitely hope to find an automatic watering system this year.
Everything about this elixir brings me so much joy. First, I take the journey to one of my favorite garden centers, For Garden’s Sake. This garden center is a very special place, as it is a family friendly center where I am able to browse the gardens as well as visit the animal park with my son, Elliott, and watch him play with the goats, chickens, and ducks on the grounds. I remember last year, on a beautiful fall day, having a relaxing picnic in the park right next to the duck pond, followed by Elliott jumping and making music on the tree stumps. I enjoy ending our journey loading up my car with beautiful plants and fresh soil. You would think I have a green thumb, but I assure you I do not! I simply enjoy creating beautiful things. What I do have though, is mindful awareness into the things that touch my soul, bring peace and happiness, and remind me of the beauty that God created. For Garden’s Sake takes me there…
On Wednesday of this week, after discovering garden centers were “essential businesses”, who knew, we took a family trip to pick up a Lemon Verbena plant. I almost couldn’t contain my excitement. While there, I also picked up three other plants to create a nice display pot, using the skills learned from a representative at For Garden’s Sake last year. I learned to choose something tall, something short, and something falling to make a beautiful flower pot display. Of course, we had a great time also visiting the goats, ducks, and turtles before we left.
Back at home, Elliott and I planted the flowers in our pot to display on our back deck. It was such a joy watching him get his little hands dirty with me and insisting on carrying the water pot by himself. The day was an extension of Earth Day were we were able to enjoy the “fruits” of God’s labor. Within minutes, the flower pot was complete and brought incredible life to our small deck.
Preparing Lemon Verbena tea is very simple yet brings pure joy. After firing up the Keurig to release the hot boiling water into one of my favorite Starbucks mugs, I step barefoot out onto the deck and pull a few Lemon Verbena leaves from my plant. If you try this at home, you must do so barefoot. Ha! The fresh lemon aroma from this plant is delightful! I essentially bring mother earth straight to my mug in the most delicate way. I sometimes add a little agave syrup, find a comfortable place to sit and enjoy my tea, and then…I write. What a God experience!
I had no idea Lemon Verbena tea would gain this much attention in my writing on Elixir. I read in an email that an elixir may be something that has given you a fleeting lift in the past week. The Lemon Verbena tea plant has certainly lifted my spirits, brought a deep sense of relaxation, and opened my mind to creativity, one sip at a time.
I am struggling with this thought…”I’m not good enough.” It’s a conflicting place to be because deep down I know that I am. I know what I have to offer is great. I know what I can accomplish is endless. I know how I serve can be far reaching. But…it hasn’t happened.
I sometimes feel like that huge elephant in the room that no one pays attention to…unless you are in need of an elephant. And…how often do we actually need elephants? Most of the time we only pay attention to the elephant when the elephant has literally pushed our backs against the wall and we have no choice but to say, “Ok elephant…I see you.”
I actually made a note to myself a few years ago to take risks with no fear, go after my dreams, and live on purpose daily. I even led others to do the same. For the most part, I have maintained this tempo and I love who I am and how I serve. I am just stuck in feeling like I’m in this place of holding. I sense a big break…daily. A break from my present circumstances that are so emotionally debilitating it almost makes me want to give up. But, I don’t. I keep pressing towards the mark…some mark that seems to shift and move and I have to constantly seek to find where it went next.
It is difficult to be multi-talented because it’s hard to decipher what you should focus on. What is your niche. Where is your true passion. I make mental notes to myself that it’s ok to be in this place. I keep sensing one day soon it will all make sense. All of it will come together into a uniformed package I can more confidently sell. Or maybe my current package of multi-talented pieces is enough. After all…you can reach in and find exactly what you need when you need it. Like a woman’s purse.
I make note. I make note of how I serve others. I make note of their testimonies in response to something I did or said that changed their lives. I make note of that rewarding feeling I get, that feeling of purpose that gives me strength to continue being me.
The state of motion or activity. At this time in life, living in quarantine, the tempo of life certainly has slowed down. I have written previously on my appreciation of the slow pace. My experience is different from others around me who are eager to get back “to normal life”. I’m more eager to figure out how to keep this same tempo when everything else starts “moving” again.
It’s interesting because I love living in fast tempo cities where there is always something to do and something to see. It excites me. I don’t get bored. I can find “something” to do even when there is “nothing” to do. Nevertheless, I am realizing how much power I have to create a new melody that complements, not competes with the tempo around me. I can create a polyphony, which is, “the style of simultaneously combining a number of parts, each forming an individual melody and harmonizing with each other.”
As the world is seemingly preparing to “reopen”, I challenge you to decide your tempo. What tempo in life is most productive? What tempo sparks the most creativity? What tempo brings your mind, body, and spirit the most peace? Although some may choose to live a more fast paced tempo, I do believe all of us need moments of “rest” to refocus and recharge, no matter the tempo we choose to live.
Instrumental Moments…A Time of Reflection and Appreciation
This post is for someone somewhere! Someone needs to stop and take some time to reflect on those instrumental moments in life that have made you who you are at this very moment. Maybe you are so focused on your present you have not taken the time to reflect on where you’ve come from and where you are going. Maybe your current circumstances feel hopeless and stagnate. Maybe you are not sure what to do, how to think, how to act next because it seems as if every action leads to detrimental outcomes.
If this is you…I want you to get in a quiet, still place and just allow your mind to reflect on those instrumental moments in your life that motivated you, strengthened you, encouraged you, or maybe pushed you into your destiny. If you have any age on you, there are so many moments you can reflect on. But, when you lead this reflection time with your heart and not your head…your spirit will guide you to the exact moments God showed up BIG in your life. Your body will remember the shift in your life caused by these moments. You will know exactly which moments were instrumental on your life journey.
I will take the journey with you. I will share some of my instrumental moments as a model for your work. Here we go…
Instrumental Moment #1: Affirming Me and What I Could Be
I attended an elementary school in a rural area and experienced racism in the manner of verbal bullying at a very early age, triggered by my intelligence. I was too smart to be so black. This was the moment I could have told myself I am not good enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough to really be anything. With the confident support of a God-fearing mother and my second grade teacher who believed in my abilities and affirmed who I was daily, I know I would not be where I am today personally or professionally.
Instrumental Moment #2: Developing Self-Worth and Self-Confidence
I was a thumb sucker, which caused bucked teeth. I also have an astigmatism and needed glasses at the age of 4, maybe earlier. Well you know…back then, cute glasses for kids did not exist. So, here I was with bucked teeth and Coke bottle glasses during the prime years of social development…middle school. I had just moved to a new area where my mother and I knew absolutely no one else in the entire county. We had a raggedy station wagon with a shattered windshield as I entered the first day of middle school in my new city. At some point in 6th grade, I got braces. I don’t remember having really deep identity issues based on my appearance. However, I do absolutely remember the day I had a HUGE boost in confidence when my braces were removed after almost 3 years, and getting my first pair of contacts just as middle school ended. I do remember how it felt to walk down the hall with straight teeth and no Coke bottles glasses in my way. I actually had people that were so used to seeing me in my Coke bottle glasses, they were adversed when I started wearing contacts. Really? This is when I really begin to pay attention to my sense of self-worth and self-confidence regardless of what others thought. I liked who I was becoming and that was all that mattered.
Instrumental Moment #3: Being OK with loss
I have always experienced a lot of fear and anxiety with just the mere thought of death. Growing up in a single parent, mother-headed household, I remember constantly crying to my mother and telling her “I don’t want you to die!” Losing people you care about was the the biggest fear for me. It would cause me to to react physically and emotionally to just the thought of death. Then…I experienced loss. My most instrumental experiences of loss actually started in college. I loss a group of friends that were instrumental to me, in a way that was unexpected. I think that is what made the loss so much deeper…I couldn’t understand what exactly I did wrong and why this was happening. I have always at least tried to be a good friend and still feel confident in my relational skills, however, I definitely now understand loss has no respect of person. It took years for me to accept the fact that I loss what I thought were going to be lifetime friends, mainly because I kept begging God to replace what I loss and he didn’t…at least not in a way I could initially understand. I am now developing a greater sense of the vision God has for me that makes me OK with the loss and more open to God’s choice of friends at this stage in my life. (Just sent out thank you messages to my tribe! 💞)
Losing my grandmother and my first cousin were other more recent experiences of loss that affected me deeply. Losing these two family members really showed me how much God is in control. I have always had a close relationship with my grandmother and still have fond memories. The last couple of years, right before her death, threatened my fond memories as Dementia changed her personality and my desire to be around her. It is very difficult to interact with someone who is completely different than your previous experiences. Since her death, I have definitely had my personal moments to reflect on the good times, to cry, and pray God lets her know in heaven, just how much I appreciated her presence in my life.
The loss of my first cousin was also difficult and is still fresh. She was the oldest of the 5 first (female) cousins, who all have names beginning with the letter “T”. We call ourselves the “5 Ts”. The difficulty in this situation was finding out how deeply she was suffering physically, financially, emotionally, and spiritually…within 24 hours of the funeral. I knew her story and her journey in life were difficult, I just didn’t know the magnitude of her challenges until after her death. It’s heartbreaking to feel as if you could have helped or should have helped sooner, but didn’t! Guilt tries to creep in, but then I have to remind myself, “you can only get in where you are let in!” Dr. TC
The privacy of her life did not allow me or anyone else to have the ability to help but so much. It’s hurtful to watch someone suffer and you can’t do anything about it. Again, this was a loss that showed God’s sovereignty and full control in some of the most painful moments in life.
Ok…so I’m going to end my journey here as I could write for days. I hope my reflections of some of the instrumental moments along my journey inspires you to do the same. I am moved emotionally and spiritually in writing my own truths. Some truths are painful, yet necessary.
Take the journey! Playback your instrumental moments like beautiful elevator music as you move up and down your journey of life. It makes the ride much more pleasant.