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.
I sat listening intently as Father Greg Boyle provided his keynote luncheon speech to a captive audience. As he spoke, I jotted notes wanting to capture the nuggets of wisdom woven throughout his humorous and candid talk. However, in the midst of writing down pointers, I began to focus more on his delivery and energy. I took note of tone, pitch, inflection of speech, as well as the spacing of jokes that peppered his lecture. There I was the eager student hanging on to the words of the sage teacher. Absorbing all I could because I have already envisioned the day when I would be the invited keynote speaker…
Yes, that’s my vision and where I am directing my efforts and energies, to be a well-renowned motivational speaker. Though my dream is a tall order, I have lived a life that has taught me that:
It is the impossible that is quite possible!
So I continue to reach for the stars… And for those moments where I begin to doubt myself, I just reflect on how far I’ve already come.
I reflect back on the Donna of my yester-years. Seemingly outspoken and high achieving, yet on the inside I was a worrier, a loner, and a seeker of avoiding any and all the things that drew attention to myself. Any one who knew me when, can attest that I was notorious for burying my head in a book!
Yet, fast forward 25 years, and now I stand before others, providing them with the tools necessary to bring children out of their shell – kids locked inside of themselves, just like I was…
Father Boyle shared various points that I shall cherish. However, the statement that resonated with me most:
We must heal wounds to heal the wounded
I can attest to that… it was through the process of unleashing my own voice, of learning to get comfortable of being front-and-center, that I can now share that wisdom with others…
We must heal wounds to heal the wounded
I challenge you to pursue your own self-growth. Where are your shortcomings? What’s your Achilles heel? Identify it, accept it, and allow the healing process to happen, for when you do not only will it help you; it will equip you to help others!
As we cherish this time of the holidays where we focus on giving, let’s give to others the greatest gifts possible: the gift of acceptance, the gift of understanding, the gift of hope, and the gift of love.
Life According to Me,
I woke up with an earnest prayer of God: I need you. There is darkness… there is confusion… I need you. Where am I going? I have desires and needs, when will those be answered?
I was tired of wandering in the wilderness and tired of feeling confused and then I ran across a blog about earnest prayers… the word EARNEST peaked my attention, for though I have always talked to God – prayed to God, I began to question myself of the intensity with which I had prayed.
I had never thought to ask God to hurry! I had never considered requesting God to come quickly. For I always assumed that the time should be left to God to decide… until I became so desperate for God’s deliverance, that out of my despair, I was asking God to COME NOW!
As a result of residing in a miserable place, a friend suggested that I read the story of Jacob. You see Jacob spent an entire evening, well into day, wrestling with an angel because he believed that his blessing and healing would come by that very angel’s touch. He refused to let the angel go until he was blessed. His desperate actions reflected his yearning for God to come at that very moment!
I found comfort in reading about Jacob’s story. It consoled me to know that God answered his plea because of his desperate demands!
And what’s more… I was encouraged that amidst the struggles God will not only swiftly answer the cries of his children, but he will use the very same struggle to strengthen our character, and guess what else… to bless us (and others).
So you be encouraged and don’t give up! Because healing, blessings, and your anointing are just a desperate prayer away!
Life According to Me,
P.S. If you’re curious in reading more about the value of earnest prayer, take a look here:
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.
I’ve always been a HUGE believer of the connection between the mind-body-spirit… However, this lesson hit very close to home when I found myself feeling lethargic, lackluster, and sad. It wasn’t until I took a B12 vitamin, upon the encouragement of my sister, that I found some of my usual vitality returning! This experience served as a great reminder that if you want to be healthy you have to tend to each area. The secret to health or the proverbial ‘fountain of youth’ is to achieve balance in mind, body, and spirit…
Even the Bible mentions the importance of mind-body-spirit:
Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth (3 John 1:2)
So God is reminding us that health requires total body health. This sounds like such simple common sense, that you may even wonder why I’m writing about it…
Well, as we know, often the things that appear simple and common are often the most challenging!
To have total body health, we must be disciplined and being disciplined isn’t easy… because even if we can convince ourselves to get started on the path, it seems darn near impossible to sustain and stay the course…
So what shall you do?
You must FIRST start by disciplining your mind and then the rest becomes possible.
Here are a few tips to help you on the path to train your mind:
- First identify a target – what is it that you’re desiring?
- Next, visualize in your mind how you will feel once you’ve actually reached the goal
- Finally, think of 2-3 really simple steps that you can begin immediately that will lead you in the direction of your goal
Remember it’s never too late to get in the habit of developing a disciplined mind!
I’ll leave you with a few useful quotes about discipline:
“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. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him” Buddha, A Buddhist sage
“We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment” Jim Rohn, Entrepreneur
“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, Author/Motivational Speaker
Get Disciplined! Stop TRYING and choose to DO IT!
Life According to Me,
I sit here watching my stepson play basketball and a thought pops into my head: raising a teenager is like a test of wills!
This idea was triggered by a recent exchange we had. The discussion began when I prompted him to put on a hoodie to temper the evening air. He grunted, complained, and mumbled under his breath “I don’t even wear those”, but he complied, knowing that this discussion was not open for debate.
That exchange occurred last night, and was forgotten by the both of us, until this afternoon. He was readying to begin his basketball practice. Before he took to the court, he removed his hoodie; yes the very same one of last night’s discussion. However, even more shocking than him wearing the garment again, was the comment he tossed at me: “I’m keeping that hoodie, I like it”, as he trotted off to play basketball.
It was in that moment I knew for sure that children are sent to DRIVE US
I immediately sent an SOS text to a few close loved ones:
“raising a teenager is enough to drive anyone to drink. Pray for my sanity”, the text read.
But now I sit here reflecting on my stepson’s stubbornness and his rejection of things before having all of the facts. If I were honest with myself and with you, haven’t we all been guilty of the same thing? Rejecting something, just because it’s new or unfamiliar.
How often have you missed out on things simply because you weren’t willing to try?
2015 is rapidly coming to a close and I am pleased to report that in this year, I took several risks and opened myself up to the new, including:
- Trying Flying Trapeze
- Taking an aerial silk dancing class (think Cirque Du Soleil)
- Writing and self-publishing my first children’s book
However, the BEST news is that the year is not YET over! We still have two and a half months to make it count!
Take some time to think about something new that you’re going to try…
Life According to Me,
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,
I was recently listening to an old favorite gospel song and for some odd reason one line in particular echoed through my mind: greater is the ending of the thing that is beginning!
As I sat and pondered that line from Bishop Morton’s song ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’, I thought about the merit of it. It makes sense, doesn’t it… think about how awesome you feel when you complete something, when you cross that finish line. “I made it!” you might shout! However, if completion is so awesome, what is the stumbling block holding most of us back?
It would seem that the greatest stumbling block is the actual starting of the thing…
Psychologists often say that the anxiety/fear of doing something is often greater in the anticipation of the feared experience, as compared to actually going through the feared experience. In other words, as so aptly stated by former president FDR: “there’s nothing to fear but fear itself”.
This all leads me to ask – So what great ending are you denying yourself because you’re afraid?
If you would challenge yourself to push past your fear, you might discover a new experience that is worthwhile, fulfilling, and eye-opening.
And I’m not just giving you advice – I have actually pushed myself to do the same that I am suggesting to you…
One year ago (2014), I made the decision to write a children’s book. Although I have worked with youth my entire career, writing a book for them – was unchartered territory… Naturally, there were moments of doubt, uncertainty, and FEAR.
“What if I’m not good enough?” queried a small negative voice from within. However, I pushed past the negativity and fear, and today I sit here with a proof of my soon to be published children’s book in my hand!
Gives me chills!
I hope you find the courage to begin… so that you might experience the thrill and satisfaction that comes will completing something that you started. Greatness awaits YOU!
Life According to Me,