Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 Reflection: The Year of "But God"

Anytime I find myself getting sick, I take it as a sign from God that I need to slow down. Now a couple of days away from the end of the year, I lie in bed with a slight cold. However, in the stillness of this last Saturday morning of 2012, I am very grateful for being forced to be still. In the stillness I hear God and can have time to meditate and reflect. Many times when the end of the year comes people have so much excitement stating the next year is “going to be my year” because the year we are exiting from has had its share of trials and tribulations. We rush out of one year with such anticipation and expectation, seemingly only to recite the same sentence at the close of the next year…..”Next year is going to be my year”. When we look back on it, it seems all we had was a series of setbacks, disappointments, struggles. All we can look forward to is a new beginning and hopefully better outcomes. As I prepare to exit 2012, I have great expectations of what 2013 will bring. However, I am also choosing to leave 2012 in gratitude rather than defeat or disappointment in what has happened over the course of the year. It has been a year of ups and downs, disappointments and setbacks but it has also been a year of great joys, blessings and favor. I started the year looking for a job, money low, and bills still needing to be paid but God blessed me with a new job making more than I have made in years. I envisioned starting the PhD program this year but it was setback. But God has me in position to complete my second masters and pursue another educational opportunity in an area I am passionate about coming in 2013. It was a year of car troubles and related expenses that appeared to drain me. But God blessed me with a new car and the car that I wanted. Some people walked out of my life, it hurt deeply and I didn’t really understand. But God opened the door for new relationships, friendships and associations to come in their place. There are many things I could look at as loss. Many things I could choose to look at in sadness. However, as I leave out of 2012, all I can say is “but God”. 2012 was the year of “but God”. God is faithful. God has a greater plan than anything I could ever imagine. It is not to be churchy or religious but it is to state facts. Things have happened which I could not have imagined or dreamed. It was not at my hand or my doing but it was in the master plan of God. Every loss, every setback, every dark cloud, even when I could not see it at the time, had a “but God” attached to it. Therefore as we prepare to cross into 2013, I am not going hell-bent on my will, my timetable, or my expectations. I cross over into 2013 continuing to seek God’s will, God’s direction, the Spirit’s leading and God’s timetable. Yes, I have some goals written down and some desired timelines to keep myself accountable. However, I also remain flexible knowing there may be some adjustments along the way because God is still in control. The goals will be met and the desired end will come but the journey may take some twists and turns before I get to the end. It does not lessen my expectation of it coming to pass. That is a lot to say coming from a control freak, type A personality that likes to know the whole process in advance. However as 2012 has shown me, no matter how much I want to know or how much God has shown me in advance, there are still steps, twists and turns that I don’t know about in advance. I just have to trust God and flow with the Spirit. I leave out of 2012 in peace, not with the frustration and anxiety of years past. I leave in light knowing even in the midst of all the struggles, 2012 was a necessary year. There were lessons learned through the struggle, disappointments and heartaches. It did not kill me when I felt like it would. It did not win when it seemed as if it had the final say. I am still here and choosing to continue to move forward. I am still learning and living. Therefore, all of it happened for a greater purpose than even I understand right now. I pray we all come to the place of not rushing our lives away and failing to appreciate the journey. We all have a way we must go and it was not promised to us it would be easy, fair or perfect. However, we must choose to trust God knows what is best. We must keep the faith and keep believing it will get better. We must be able to look on the whole picture, even the things which hurt us or made us struggle, with the eyes of gratitude because it built our faith, character, deepened our relationship with God, taught us to pray, and a host of other things. Let us choose to leave 2012 in peace with great expectation for what is to come in 2013. Farewell 2012 and welcome 2013!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Permission Slip: A Valentine's Love Letter to Myself

When we were in grade school, whenever there was a special activity or field trip usually there was a permission slip required. The permission slip would have to be signed by a parent or guardian granting permission to participate in the said activity or trip. So often in our lives, like small children, we walk around with invisible permission slips, waiting for someone to give us permission to live our lives. We wait on society, relatives, mentors, or friends to approve of us and our choices. We sit by watching life pass us by because we are waiting on the permission slip to be signed by some authority figure to turn in to some unidentifiable source that has the key to open the door to our lives.
However, today on this Valentine’s Day, I have chosen to give myself one of the greatest, most important gifts I can give myself. I give myself the Ultimate Permission Slip. Today I hereby sign it stating my approval for Evita L. Smith to participate in my own life as of February 14, 2012. I attach this permission slip to this letter to myself:
Dear Evita,
I have loved you since the beginning but have wished and hoped for you to realize and acknowledge it. There is so much inside of you and you have not even begun to see what great things are in store for you. So today I give you a gift of love – permission to be the best you that you can be. I give you permission to live your life to the fullest and obtain everything God has for you. I give you permission to forgive yourself for the past and be free to experience the future. I give you permission to say “yes” to what you will and “no” as you please regardless of anyone else’s expectations. I give you permission to be ok with whatever decision you make. I give you permission to let go or grab hold, walk away or stay, take the risk or be cautious. It is your choice. You have permission to live out loud, be bold, laugh, cry, dance and be free. May from this day forward, you never wait for someone to give you permission to be you because you are the best you. You are the best you because you are “fearfully and wonderfully made”. May you never live in regret or feel less than because the you that you are is just fine. So go on and do you, love you but most importantly be you. You hereby have your permission.
Happy Valentine’s Day! I love you!

May those of you who read this always give yourself permission to be and love you!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year 2012

5...4…3…2…1, Happy New Year! The moment we all waited for…a new year, a new day, a new start has begun. While it is an exciting time as we consider all the things we will set out to accomplish this year, it is also a scary time. 5…4…3…2…1 and the clock starts. It is the countdown to the clock starting me trying to figure out how I am going to get so much accomplished in what seems like a short amount of time. This clock is ticking down 12 months until I am at this point again – a new goal list, a new set of responsibilities, a new calendar to get them done.

While some people sit comfortably floating through life, content with the status quo, people like me begin to feel intense pressure. It is the life of the dreamer. When one has the fire and passion of dreams and visions inside of you, it puts you in overdrive. (At least I can say it does for me.) When I consider the amount of time lost while trying to “find myself” – the various careers, schooling, relationships, etc – when it finally clicks what you are supposed to do, you feel like you have to make up for lost time. It feels like the clock becomes louder and faster, signaling you are running out of time. While you know everything you have experienced has been preparation for now, it still feels like you are behind.

This is one thought I constantly battle especially as the New Year approaches. “This year I have to get it right”, I say. Then I am reminded of two things. The first is the race is not given to the swift but to the one who endures to the end. This journey is a process and it takes time. It is not a sprint but a marathon. Therefore I have to take it one day at a time knowing I will make it to completion. The second thing I am reminded of is one day with the Lord is like a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. God’s timing is not like the timing of man. I have to abide by God’s timing and release myself from the confines of my own timetable. Though there is work to be done and I must work on the things God has for me, God also has a set time of fulfillment. There is no reason to stress myself but to take it one day at a time.

I have always been an overachiever and could stress myself out to perform. Now years later though I still have the overachiever mentality, I have to allow my relationship with God to guide me rather than my mind to rule me. I will reach my goals. I will bring God glory. It may not be on the schedule I once thought it would be. But in the end it will happen. After this self-check, I can say “Happy New Year” now, take a deep breath and enjoy this moment of transition. It is a new year filled with new opportunities and I am excited about its possibilities.