Who Am I – to believe I was called to be a Dance Minister? I have repeatedly asked myself this question, prior to and even during the 2014 Gathering of Eagles in Dallas Texas. I came to this conference as a 2014 TEN graduate; however, unbeknownst to me, I was coming to the conference to gain so much more. During the day of the Yom Kippur (atonement service), Rabbi Yisrael Ben Avraham said that instead of asking ourselves “Who Am I,” we should ask ourselves “Where Am I”. So there I sat, considering WHERE AM I? During that particular service, I came to realize that where I needed to be was laid prostrate before the ‘face’ of the Lord… So when Rabbi sent out the call for the person “fighting for their life.” I hesitated and stood there conflicted, until I finally gave in and walked that very lonely walk to the front. It was there, after my act of walking to meet God, that Rabbi served as the vessel to give me the personal message that on that day I was “renamed beloved” by God. I finally accepted that I was called to be a Dance Minister. However, my journey to this place has been a long one. I believe I came out of the womb as a dancer. However, my dance training began by attending my first dance school, Dance Explosion, at the age of 9. I remained there for 2 years and then began dancing at Gloria Jackson, a dance studio that was under the direction of Kathleen Turner. Ms. Kathy was eventually called to bring dance into the church at the Greater Allen AME Cathedral. However, I felt too emotionally constricted to dance for the Lord, as was evident when I attempted to audition to join the newly formed ministry. However, I continued dancing with Gloria Jackson until I left to begin my undergraduate studies at Binghamton University. Dance would continue to be a significant part of my life through the Black Dance Repertoire at Binghamton University, and the various dance groups I’ve formed myself, such as the Hommocks Middle School Multicultural Dance Group. As time evolved, I eventually returned to the church. After completing my graduate studies, at Pennsylvania State University, I joined Union Baptist Church (in New Rochelle, NY) and ministered in the Dance Ministry. Two years later, I moved to Mount Vernon, NY and joined the dance ministry at Grace Baptist Church. In 2010, I moved to Atlanta, Georgia and joined Turner Chapel AME. It was through Turner Chapel, via Eagle Danese Turner, that I was introduced to the TEN Network. I began TEN in January 2011, but moved to Orlando and therefore did not finish. While living in Orlando I attended and ministered with the dance ministry of St Mark AME Church. It was here, in a place of financial, emotional, and spiritual desolation, that I finally found myself able to dance more freely. All of these years of dance, yet I still felt confined. I returned to Atlanta in November of 2011. However, I was now in a different county than previously, and though I visited various churches in my new area, I never felt led to join. So for three years I have remained un-churched until I felt pulled to St James United Methodist Church in Alpharetta, Georgia. I joined St James UMC on September 28, 2014, one week before I would attend the 2014 Gathering of the Eagles. Which brings me back to where I started… so where am I? I am sitting here typing a letter to receive admittance into the 2014-2015 Eagles International Training Institute Dance Ministers Year One. I finally accept that, long ago, God had called me to be a Dance Minister.
Have you ever found yourself in a place wondering: “what am I doing here?”
Well, that was me, this past week… I was going through a mini existential crisis, wondering why certain desired things had not yet entered my life. It took everything in me just to be able to go to and from work. I was out of energy, as a car whose fuel tank was on empty. It wasn’t that anything new had occurred; yet somehow the dark cloud of depression had found a way to blot out my sunshine. I guess I was experiencing scripture firsthand because Proverbs 13:12 says that a deferred dream will make one sick… and sick I was feeling indeed.
From this place of feeling like an emotional train wreck, I showed up to volunteer for the Catalyst Conference. For those of you not familiar with the Catalyst Conference, it is a national conference intended to provide education, resources, and tools to leaders who love the Church. From this place of emotional brokenness I had to dig from within to keep a smile on my face as I greeted the arriving guests.
After the second day, all of that smiling on the outside (but not the inside) depleted me. When my duties were done, I fled the conference to sequester myself in my bedroom. But something miraculous happened on the third day of the conference. My duties were done strangely early that morning and I was free to sit in on the conference activities. As I sat there in an arena filled with 8,000+ Christians, I initially watched but then joined in as we sang about the awesome power of God to free us from past hurts, from disappointments, from broken hearts. I realized that I had found the answer to my initial question of “what I was doing there”. It struck me that I was in the right place, at the right time. And it felt good, awesome in fact!
So much so that I see it as a pivotal point in my faith walk with God because two days after the conference ended I decided to give my body back to God. I am now choosing to abstain from sex until marriage. Go figure, me? Seems ludicrous yet as I was reminded, during the conference, we serve a God of the IMPOSSIBLE… not the difficult… the Impossible!
And it is in that God I place my faith, all of my future hopes and dreams.
I am in a new season and it is one that is hope filled. May my story of courage and bravery, in the face of doubt, fear, and tears give you the strength to take your own leap of faith!
Life According to Me,
I was single and that was not were I desired to be… an apparent disconnect between my wishes and reality existed. It was so apparent that I was awakened from my sleep with a sense of unrest! It was 2am and I was no longer in the oblivion of REM, which meant I had to face the truth. I was lonely…
The weight of loneliness began to get heavy and the disheartening bordered on unbearable. But then I had a thought! What if I started using all of the things I’ve learned about happiness? Now that would be something novel – to use the information I’ve amassed! So that’s what I set out to do. I combed my brain for remnants of something that could help me in this moment of despair. And that’s when I bumped head first into the idea –
WHY NOT FOCUS on where you are HEADED instead of where you are RIGHT NOW?
Eureka I think she’s got it!
The more I turned the thought over in my mind, the more I realized that it was indeed the answer. And keeping with the nickname given to me by my father (The Scientist), at 2am I went on a search to find evidence for my proposed hypothesis. Here’s what I discovered:
Elizabeth Gilbert – “You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings” – from the book ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ – read August 2008
Tracey McMillan – “you really do have to believe something before you can see it” – from the book ‘Why You’re Not Married yet?’ – read June 2014
Michael Singer – “learn to stop resisting reality, and what used to look like stressful problems will begin to look like the stepping-stones of your spiritual journey” from the book ‘The Untethered Soul’ – read November 2014
Ralph Carson – “See yourself getting better each day and use your mind to visualize where you want to be and how things will be when you get there” from the book ‘The Brain Fix’– read July 2015
Cindy Trimm – “Focus[ing] on the problem [prohibits you] from seeing the solution” from the book ‘Command Your Morning’ – read July 2015
After 1 hour I decided to stop, though I could have continued… The evidence seemed to be clear: what we think, see, and believe becomes what is. So I refuse to allow my current state to dictate what is to come. I will dance in advance, for I claim the victory as mine!
My hope is that you too will find the courage to start dancing DURING your situation. See yourself successful, think about your next step, believe you’re going to WIN, and by God’s might it shall be.
Life According to Me,
This morning I listened to a song called ‘Lord You’re Mighty’ by a group called Youthful Praise. The lyrics continue to echo in my head as they repeatedly chant: “Lord you’re mighty”…
There are so many reasons that I could cosign with that tune, but right now I just want to hone in on one point – the Lord is MIGHTY because GOD IS EVERYWHERE! I mean literally everywhere! Just look for God in the church and out of the church. You will find God in the flight of the birds and the waving of the trees. God is even on our jobs and in our neighborhoods.
You may be wondering why I’m on this God Love Fest? Well… it’s because this weekend I was struck by the seemingly random yet synchronous events of life! Only GOD could take the seemingly accidental happenings of life and string it together so that it reveals a little bit more about this journey called life.
Let me share what happened.
On Friday, of last week, I decided to participate in a webinar on total body health. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a health nut and the eternal nerd, so I am always seeking to learn something new! While listening to the webinar, the speaker shared that true health involves not only physical health but also mental and spiritual health. She went on to elaborate that health begins with a desire to be healthy and even when we don’t know the next step we have to trust that our desire will guide us in the direction of the information that we seek.
Now fast forward a few days… I was spending some time at my sister’s house and decided to peruse her bookshelf. My fingers for whatever reason stopped on a book entitled The Magic in the Extra Mile by Larry DiAngi. Wasn’t familiar with author, nor his work but for some odd reason I decided to skim through his book. As I peered into the pages, reading some but scanning most, my eyes fell upon these words:
YOU WILL KNOW THE NEXT STEP
How odd! The phrasing of the words in the book was almost identical to the words spoken in the webinar.
It was as if those particular words were being repeated because it was intended for me to not only receive that message but to do something with it!
I now share these same words with you hoping that they inspire you to trust your life path, trust the journey, trust God to give you the next step!
Believe and never stop…
Life According to Me,
Do you ever find yourself wanting to complain about things gone awry? Doesn’t it feel so much easier to have a ‘bitch session’ focused on venting? I believe we’ve all been there, those moments where we need to ‘get it out’!
Emotional expression is healthy; it’s best to air the negativity instead of keeping it bottled up. However, it’s important to remain aware so that the complaining, whining, and venting doesn’t start to become who you are. When you find yourself complaining more than talking, venting more than appreciating, then you probably fell into the negativity trap.
How can you get out of the negativity trap?
Two things you can do – 1) just start to be appreciative for what you have right now. I know that it’s commonly said we should show appreciation, but I’ve never challenged myself to actively do anything about it.
So this morning that is what I did. I decided to create a list of things I am thankful for and things I am asking God for (waiting on/aspiring to). I have to admit that the right side of waiting/aspiring was quite long! However, what was even more surprising was the left side of the page. Can you believe that my list of thankful items was longer? Not only was it longer, it was two times longer than my waiting/desires list. It felt really good to be able to find reasons to smile, reasons for joy, opportunities for thanks.
The second thing you can do – 2) be encouraged in the fact that those very same things that are distressing have the potential to be used for your future gain. How do I know this? Well check out this verse from Hebrews 12:11 (No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it).
And if you need more motivation, take a look at a few quotes about discipline:
“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment” – Jim Rohn
“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind” – Buddha
“It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enabled us to follow through” – Zig Ziglar
Get out of the negativity trap! Endure! Persevere! You CAN DO IT! You WILL make it, if you keep going!
Life According to Me,
Don’t grow weary and lose heart
Have you ever started a new venture? And thought aaugh! I’m in over my head! Well that’s me lately… Wondering what do I need to know? Who do I need to know? Where do I begin? Why do I feel so far behind? Questions, questions, questions.
The new venture is my journey to write and now to publish my book. It can be a lonely and daunting process, so much so that a gazillion times I’ve contemplated GIVING UP!
And to add salt to the open wound, the process requires you to expose yourself to judgment and critique from agents, publishers, and other writers. It’s enough to make your head spin…
While staring at the to-do list that seemed to stretch to infinity, I found myself feeling overwhelmed and overstressed. I decided to reach out to a good friend who reminded me “Donna if this is your purpose, trust that.” His comment took me somewhat aback. What did he mean by stating that I needed to trust? This wasn’t about trust… This was about manuscript submissions, snippy agents, and nonresponsive publishers. I sat baffled for a few minutes and then the realization came crashing down like a bolt of lighting. I was trying to work overtime to make things happen, forgetting for a second, that since God placed me on this path – God would be the one to make it happen! And that’s when I remembered a bible verse my pastor repetitively recites: Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty (Zechariah 4:6).
Now don’t get me wrong, I believe we are accountable for our actions and we need to make decisions that move us towards a goal. However, I also know that at the end of the day life often happens in a serendipitous way. We can’t line everything up, sometimes it just happens and we have to allow it to do just that.
So now, I will remind myself from time to time, to step back, take a deep breath, treasure the present moment, and trust that the life promised to me shall unfold in time.
For a moment I started to grow weary and lose heart. I allowed doubt and discouragement to slip in. But I’m back on track. The spoils go to those who persevere. I look forward to the finish line, but will also allow myself to enjoy the race!
Life According to Me,
Praise Before the Blessing
This past Sunday in church my pastor shared a message about the importance of having an attitude of gratitude. He reminded the congregation to FIND A REASON TO BE THANKFUL. And as an exclamation to his point, the choir sang a song with the lyrics I constantly thank you, you constantly bless me.
I left the sanctuary with these thoughts reverberating through my mind. Be thankful, be thankful, be thankful, echoed the reminder. This task is particularly easy when you are able to look around and see whatever it is that you desired and asked God for.
However, what are you to do, when the blessing has not yet arrived?
How can one be thankful for something that is yet to come?
In other words, how can you praise before the blessing?
These are the questions that may run through your mind as you expectantly wait on God to fulfill unanswered prayers.
The good news is that gratefulness, thankfulness, and praise do not begin with what you don’t have. Instead it begins with what you ALREADY have! That means, acknowledging, appreciating, and saying thank you for things you’ve previously received. Be it your health, memory, senses, family, or the simple act of the sun rising on a new day. Give thanks! Not only will this help your mood, it will also open up the windows of opportunity for more goodness to enter your life!
Here are a few useful quotes about gratitude:
- Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough – Oprah Winfrey
- Keep your eyes open to your mercies. The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life – Robert Louis Stevenson, Novelist
- Often people ask how I manage to be happy despite having no arms and no legs. The quick answer is that I have a choice. I can be angry about not having limbs, or I can be thankful that I have a purpose. I chose gratitude – Nick Vujicic, Motivational speaker
- Be thankful for problems. If they were less difficult, someone with less ability might have your job – Jim Lovell, Astronaut
My wish for you is that you choose a spirit of gratitude! You deserve a life of joy, happiness, and fulfillment! The first step to attaining that life begins with heartfelt thanks and praise.
Life According to Me,
How specific are YOUR requests?
In life we are each on a journey, and along the way there are various things we desire, dream, and want. However, when I look around I see that there are those who attain what they want, and those who seem to fall shy of crossing the finish line. I wonder, what is the difference between the people that make it and the others that don’t? Is it based on luck or chance? Or is it based on the idea that some people are just more fortunate than others?
Hmmm…. Well it can’t be luck or the idea that “some people are just more fortunate” because there are many who have been elevated to success but they started out from humble, meager beginnings. So what is it?
I wonder if the missing piece is that the successful are very specific in their requests. Let me explain…
The bible suggests that we should “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). I have often heard this verse, as it is commonly cited. So much so that even secular references have been made to this idea in books on the Law of Attraction. But I found something even more interesting when I went to re-read this verse. I discovered another translation of the Matthew 7:7 verse, it states:
Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you – Matthew 7:7, New Living Translation
Wow… now this is really powerful because the key word in that verse is KEEP! Keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking…
So it would seem that the successful have attained that status because they kept on asking, seeking, and knocking on various doors until they found the very specific requests of their heart.
I am seeking from God: a book deal for my memoir, a job that is not toxic/constantly stressful, a supportive husband, a biological baby, and financial freedom.
What things are you seeking for your life?
In the Untethered Soul Michael Singer states:
“Does anything in God’s creation, other than the human mind, actually pass judgment? Nature just gives and gives to whoever will receive. Should you choose not to receive, it doesn’t punish you. You punish yourself because you choose not to receive”
My hope for you is that you find the courage to keep asking for, seeking, and knocking on the doors of your dreams. And may you be ready to receive the overflow when it comes!
Life According to Me,
I sat here listening to the contemporary song by Jekalyn Carr, and what caught my attention was the chorus where she repetitively sings: It’s Going to Happen.
I turned that same phrase over and over in my mind… It’s going to happen… It’s going to happen… It’s going to happen.
Some may say that it’s easy for the talented songstress to have such optimism because of her youth. And others may wonder incredulously, how could she sing that a statement with such certainty?
But I challenge you to pause for a moment and consider, how successful, how productive, and how fulfilled you would be if you wholeheartedly believed your dreams, your desires, and your purpose was a certainty!
Just imagine, with me, a life where you were lucky enough to do what feels good to your heart, and right with your soul… Now let’s go one step further…
What if I told you: That life is attainable. That life is possible. And you don’t need luck to have it!
All you have to do – right where you are, in whatever current situation you are, start to speak what positive blessings you want to come into your life. But you can’t just voice these desires as a passing thought. You have to believe it! When you believe in it, it shall come to pass…
Remember it’s going to happen – but will you have the courage and audacity to believe it?
The choice is yours…
What is the ‘it’ that you’re waiting on? Visualize it, as if it were already a reality! And then take baby steps towards manifesting that vision.
Here are three quotes to encourage you on the path of choosing to believe that your IT, is going to happen!
- “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure” – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
- “The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it” – J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan
- “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Start to believe in the impossible, that which does not yet exist – for that vision is merely the beginning of wonderful adventures that await YOU!
Life According to Me,
I met someone and he has captured my attention. However, the cynical side within queried: “how do you know he’s truly worthy of a second glance?” I wasn’t sure how to answer my probing mind. I then wondered how does anyone know when he or she has met the one?
The one… isn’t that what women and men alike, are seeking during the journey to find love? Isn’t that why we subject ourselves to the craziness of dating, because we hope in the possibility of meeting that individual we have been seeking?
I tossed these thoughts around in my mind for sometime, never really finding a true answer. The lack of resolution was starting to get to me, and from that frustrated place I replayed some of my former breakups and wondered do I even want to be in love. Doesn’t love hurt? What would be so different about love this go-round? But then it hit me, even with no answer to all of my musings, I realized there is one thing I am quite certain of now. I am in love with a God who never fails, and that love is guaranteed!
And as if to confirm that my thinking was on the right track, later that day I went to church and heard the choir sing: “my hands are lifted up, my heart is ready to receive a blessing from you”.
An open heart… an open heart… everything around me was the resonating with the importance of having a heart that is receptive, unlocked, and willing to be vulnerable.
Tears of amazement streamed down my face as I realized and accepted that I was finally in a life space where I am ready to love. The past heartbreaks and disappointments would no longer cloud my horizon because the light of God was now resting with me. I had received and accepted the love of God, which now made me accessible to welcoming a loving relationship.
The verdict is still out about the new guy. Time shall reveal his merit, and his ultimate purpose in my life. However, in the meantime I find comfort in knowing that it is God that I put my trust in, God who reveals all things, and God who will answer the prayers of those that believe, persevere, and praise him.
Will you find the courage to let go of past hurts?
Will you open your heart to love?
For it is only with an open heart that you can walk into all of the remarkable blessings waiting just for YOU.
Life According to Me,