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.
Yesterday morning I trembled from the sheer weight of my tears; I was driving and crying, not the safest way to travel. But I couldn’t help myself…
You see… I was overcome with emotion, as I listened to ‘We Magnify Your Name’ by Lecresia Campbell. It’s not my first time hearing the song, and it’s not my first time shedding tears to the lyrics of this tune. Yet this morning was different. As I hummed along with the songstress, I thought about the POWER of God. And I thought about how I want to share with others the magnitude of God’s force that I feel within me. I reflected on my desire to touch the lives of others with this great energy.
To let all of that pour out through dance would be such an amazing testimony to God.
As I drove and fully acknowledged that I was created to bring forth such a testimony, the tears fell. And as the stream of tears lined my face, I distinctly felt the spirit of the Lord ask me “are you ready?”
Am I ready God? Am I? You tell me, I replied…
The Lord was asking this question, at this juncture because I was finally admitting to myself that I have been running from God my whole entire life. I didn’t want to be the strong warrior he created me to be. Correction, I didn’t believe I could be the strong warrior he created me to be.
Yet every inch of me has always gravitated to things of strength from my fascination with the birds of prey science exhibit in elementary school to my young girl yearnings to be Queen Elizabeth, She-rah, Alice in Wonderland’s Red Queen, and even Joan of Ark! These were weird fantasies for a budding girl, yet somehow it was as if I always knew I was made to be a soldier.
But, and this is a huge but… life beat me down. Life weighed me down. And though my spirit yearned to soar, I was overcome by the dampening weight of depression and ravaged by the unceasing angst of anxiety.
So how, God? How could this broken me be useful, much less strong, was the question I pondered for years?
And because I had no answer, I ran. I ran from answering God’s call on my life. I refused to surrender, because to surrender would mean to walk in the vision God had for me – that I am strong!
But God is faithful. God is omnipotent. God is all knowing. He knew what I was made of, he knew I would endure, he knew I would stumble but not crumble under the pressures of life.
And so there I was, in my car, listening to We Magnify Your Name… and God asked “are you ready?”
Who knew that after 40 years, I would be able to answer… Yes… Yes God I’m ready.
This humble servant is ready to don the mantle you had prepared for her, in the beginning. I am no longer afraid of the awesome power of you that shall pour out of me. Use me God.
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 am 40 and still intend to have biological children. That statement often garners me incredulous looks and an inane litany of questions that go something like this:
- You STILL want to have children?
- Why’d you wait so long?
- When do you plan to do this?
- You realize time is running out?
- Doctors say your chances are slim after 40, so how are you going to have a baby?
And on and on the list goes…
In my younger years I would let the doubts, insecurities, and disbelief of others cloud my own visions, hopes, and dreams.
However, me being as comfortable as I am in my own skin now, has allowed me to believe in every single dream within my heart… And that means I trust in me, I trust in my body, and I trust in God’s plan for my life – so I guess that’s why I have faith that I shall be a midlife mommy 🙂
The irony of this entire situation is that while outdated research studies say I should be less fertile after 35, I actually feel and look healthier than I’ve ever been. I must add in the emphasis that the research is outdated; women are having babies post age 35, at increasing rates.
If you’re interested in reading more about the outdated research take a look: http://nypost.com/2013/09/28/outdated-studies-feed-false-panic-about-older-moms-to-be/
I share this story about my fertility journey, hoping that it might inspire you to believe in whatever it is you desire to birth or bring forth, whether it be a baby (like me) or some other new life journey!
The moment I stopped limiting my options to what was in front of my eyes, was the exact moment that I broadened my perspective and life began to unfold before me…
So here I sit on the cusp of birthing my first book as an author! Watching my professional speaking career flourish! And being able to complete a few must-do activities like flying trapeze!!
I’m so EXCITED and THANKFUL for this season that I am in…
I am happy – I am healthy – and I am ready for that which is to come.
Life According to Me,
I sit here reflecting on this season of life that I’m in… and it is good…
✖ Not because life is perfect
✖ Not because there is an absence of life stressors
✖ And definitely not because I have everything I desire
In fact the amazing thing is that my life feels good in spite of the negative situations I’ve had to face!
How could that be you wonder?
Well, I’ve arrived at this very interesting space in time where I not only truly love myself but I know, I accept, and I appreciate my life purpose – my reason for living – the contribution/mark I intend to leave on this earth.
This place that I’m in is pretty awesome, particularly when I reflect on just a few short months ago I was struggling with the waiting:
In that previous blog from Spring 2015, I mentioned the song ‘Conqueror’ by Estelle and Jussie Smollett. At that time, I needed the song to encourage me and help push me in the direction I desired to go. Now I listen to the song, and I smile… it is a smile acknowledging and confirming – YES indeed, I am a Conqueror!
I am a conqueror because I learned the secret…
Would you like me to tell it to you?
You can truly have happiness and peace NO MATTER WHAT is going on around you –
once you’ve found inner contentment!
It took me many, many, MANY, did I say many – years to get here.
But here I am… I finally understand and LIVE the true meaning of inner peace.
Here are two quotes about inner peace:
- Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset. Saint Francis de Sales, Roman Catholic Saint
- My faith helps me understand that circumstances don’t dictate my happiness, my inner peace. Denzel Washington, Actor
I leave you with a final word… Namaste; which you will hear Yogis (practitioners of Yoga) say as a form of greeting to one another. It means the spirit within me, honors the spirit within YOU!
May you come to know the inner spirit that dwells within you, so that you may find peace, happiness, and inner contentment!
Life According to Me,
Completion on the Earth…
Have you ever stopped to wrap your mind around the fact that everything is already complete? Tomorrow has already happened! It is mind boggling for our human minds to fathom this, but everything already exists within the spiritual realm. This is not only demonstrated on a metaphysical level (good old science) but it’s also scriptural.
So if everything already exists why don’t we have all we desire right now?
Why do some people die with unfulfilled dreams?
I don’t think anyone has the definitive answer to either question; we may have to wait until we can ask God himself. However, I do believe that part of the answer rests within the person. I wonder… do dreams die because we fail to bear them? Do we quit? Do we get frustrated? Or do we not chase them at all due to fear or unbelief?
There are so many signs and wonders that prove when we never quit – we make it to the finish line! And what we speak is what is…
Here are two short examples:
Example 1 – Two weeks ago I repeatedly teased one of my pregnant students that she was having twins, and I forewarned her that words have weight. So since I put it out into the universe, it was probably going to come back as truth. Guess what that same student emailed me to say: “so you were right, I’m carrying twins. We just found out in the ultrasound.”
Example 2 – Seven months ago friends and I began a Morning Prayer Circle. We pray over our finances, our family, our health, and our hearts. We also stand in the gap and pray over others: our nation, our coworkers, and even people we don’t know. For seven months we have kept up this practice and this week one of my friends shared that God has blessed her and answered her prayers! It took seven months for the blessing to appear but we prayed without ceasing and we never stopped believing, so the blessing was completed!
If you’re reading this, I hope you are getting inspired. I pray you are experiencing motivation. My wish is that you feel a burning desire to go after, chase after, and pursue each and every promise God has JUST FOR YOU!
Remember prayer and positive thinking is where it begins, but it can’t stop there. You have to take persistent and consistent steps in the direction of where you hope to be!
Life According to Me,
What a season this has been!
In the midst of my own struggles, several family members have attempted to slander my name… I didn’t think it could happen in my family, thought we would be immune to the human condition of jealousy and envy. But alas, we are not.
For a few days it left me confused, hurt, and distraught – as my mind attempted to rationalize why would someone related to me desire to hurt me? What could they gain from my demise?
And then I ran across this quote from German composer Johannes Brahms:
“Those who enjoy their own emotionally bad health and who habitually fill their own minds with the rank poisons of suspicion, jealousy and hatred, as a rule take umbrage at those who refuse to do likewise, and they find a perverted relief in trying to denigrate them.”
It made perfect sense… because I always strive to seek the positive, surround myself with positive, and exude positivity – so those who have not found that balance within themselves will attempt to degrade and malign me, in hopes that I would lose my focus on what is right, and good, and beautiful about life.
I am happy to report – that plan was foiled! I will admit that I shed a tear. I cried for the pain and malice that was inflicted. But then I dried my eyes I reminded myself that the only one who gets to decide how I feel – IS ME!
I choose to surround myself with positive people
I choose to pursue the things that make my heart sing
I choose to have family and friends that support and encourage me.
Everyone and everything else [that is negative] can “kick rocks!”
In your life, if you ever run into jealousy – here are a few quotes to encourage you:
“Jealousy is the tribute mediocrity pays to genius”. Fulton Sheen, Catholic Bishop
“Don’t waste time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind.” Mary Schmich, American journalist
“As iron is eaten away by rust, so the envious are consumed by their own passion.” Antisthenes, Greek philosopher
Life According to Me,
It’s another 4th of July…
As I reflect on this day known for barbecues, time with the family, and being poolside, my mind wanders. Independence – freedom – the pursuit of happiness. It’s quite ironic that a few days ago I was reflecting on the season of life that I am in. It is a period where I am finally and truly open to change, growth, and releasing the past! So this year is a bit special. July 4th will not only be a time for remembering the freedoms fought for and that we’re still striving for, but it will also signify a turning point my life.
Moving on to the new can be a very daunting and overwhelming task! Most may opt to remain with the familiar. However happiness, true happiness can only be obtained when we are free – when we allow ourselves the chance to seek the things that encourage our inner passions, creativity, and spirit.
This Independence Day I am channeling the sage wisdom and bravery of my ancestors to walk courageously into happiness!
So what is the first step on the path to happiness?
It is letting go of the past hurts, pains, and even regrets… this first step is often the HARDEST but it is necessary!
I give myself permission to be happy
I give myself permission to be free
I give myself permission to be whole
I forgive those who have hurt me and …
I liberate myself from feeling any further self-blame that I allowed them to hurt me
I am eager to see the amazing new things that will walk into my life because I am a new me. Marriage, babies, publishing books, and amassing wealth… an exciting time is on the horizon, indeed!
Well that’s my Independence story, what’s yours? What are you focused on this Fourth of July? Will you take a moment to reflect on what new pursuits will add flavor to your own life?
I hope you do!
“One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Amen”
Life According to Me,
This week God has been teaching me a lesson on Delays, Patience, and TRUST!
You see I have been wracked with feelings of unrest because I want to see the fruits of my labor. Just imagine you work at something with everything you’ve got and it doesn’t lead to immediate results, definitely enough to cause you a few gray hairs, that is of the hair that you haven’t already pulled out in frustration!
Well, that’s where I’ve been – in a place of waiting. Delayed in a holding pattern. Just like a plane during heavy traffic, I’m sitting on the tarmac waiting for air traffic control to give me the go-a-head. But alas the signal has not yet to come.
For the past 4 days this has been me. This morning though, I had a thought… this morning instead of praying for the things I desire and are waiting on, this morning I would pray that God give me greater faith so that I might find peace while in purgatory. After that prayer I made an important call to a potential literary agent and guess what was the result? You guessed it – MORE waiting! I hung up the phone with her words “can you wait two more weeks” ringing in my ears! I started to feel somewhat downtrodden as her words seemed to mock me and taunt me with MORE waiting… and then I had the thought…
Delay does not mean Denial…
And I could finally see the purpose to the last few days. This period of waiting was prodding me to have greater confidence about my path, this process, and the finish line!
In the midst of all of this inner turbulence during the last few days, God reminded me that even delays have their purpose. Feels good to know that God hasn’t forgotten me, and my waiting is not in vain.
In the words of Poet Friedrich Nietzsche: “On the mountains of truth you can never climb in vain: either you will reach a point higher up today, or you will be training your powers so that you will be able to climb higher tomorrow”
So have you ever been delayed by God? How did you handle the waiting? Or if you’re waiting now, what are you doing with this time? Share your thoughts.
Life According to Me,
Sometimes life is such a lonely journey because you are the only one traveling your particular course… family, friends, loved ones can listen, empathize, and attempt to relate but have you ever had a moment where that was just not enough?
Well last night I was having one of those evenings…
I am in the midst of following a path that I believe I was destined to follow, but sometimes staying on the path is hard because of obstacles, challenges, and setbacks. Each difficulty seems to beg the question:
– Maybe you’re not on the right path Donna?
And the follow up to that question, is the thought:
– If you’re going in the right direction, why haven’t you reaped rewards for your efforts, by now?
Those questions, those doubts, the fears make it so tempting to give in, to turn back, and to give up. But if I did that then I would be sealing the coffin on my fate. Quitting is a guaranteed loss, whereas to persevere means I continue to put myself in position to win!
Yet I was still at a loss – my options seemed to be 1) continue to sacrifice and struggle while chasing dreams that seem so far-fetched and out of reach or 2) take the more realistic approach, play it safe, and take the well intentioned advice to give up my dreams…
Neither option seemed to be appealing and I went to bed with a heavy heart; a heart full of hurt that had no more tears because too many were shed during the day.
As I closed my eyes I had the final thought: “the advice they’re all giving won’t work because I’ve been doing it already. I’ve prayed. I’ve fasted. I’ve read. I attend church. I do self-care activities. I’ve waited. I’ve done everything humanly possible, so now what?” And then I remembered the line from Donnie McClurkin’s famous song Stand: “after you’ve done all you can, you just STAND!”
And as if to confirm that I am on the right track, this morning still needing some encouragement I decided to read another dream chasers story. Figured they too had experienced moments of doubt. Thought their story might inspire me. I Google’d ‘Tyler Perry and Quit Your Dreams’ and stumbled upon a 2008 post from him that said:
I am a dreamer and sometimes when you have dreams you are met with obstacles, and your dreams will start to fade. But what I’ve found is that when God has given you a dream, no matter what it is, when you want to give up and believing becomes hard, and when you can’t go any further, the dream itself will start to believe for you. The dream itself will start to carry you through with visions and hope and encouragement.
So, the new mantra for Tyler Perry Studios is “A Place Where Dreams Believe…” Don’t worry if you’re met with opposition on your path to your goals. When you’ve done all you can, stand and surrender. God will allow your dream to motivate you.
What confirmation for me that I was indeed on the right track. That others before me had felt the same moments of doubt and questioning. And to continue on my path means that in the end I will WIN!
So I intend to STAND.
Life According to Me,