Home

#GoalsForGod

Leave a comment

 

Goals

I have several journals – at this time I have about five in various places around my home and office. I use them all! They serve different purposes and are of different sizes and quality. Yesterday, I thumbed through one of my larger journals. I started this particular one when I was preparing to relocate for work. I was amazed at how consistently I wrote work related goals, dreams, ideas, lists, and contemplations. Page after page after page included daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals. I have word clouds and other graphics depicting how my goals overlapped and were intertwined. I wrote lists of people who could help me achieve my goals and even how I would celebrate meeting these marks. I have to admit that looking back on these entries shocked me. I was – and am in many ways – overzealous about meeting my professional goals. This commitment has paid off. I am extremely happy in my career. I love my job and the opportunities, as well as the lifestyle, afforded through it. Yesterday I contemplated what changes I would witness in my life if I retained this same exact commitment to my finances and savings goals; to my fitness and wellness goals; … to my walk with God and spiritual goals. What if every single day I focused on #GoalsForGod? What if I had daily, weekly, quarterly and yearly goals for intimate time with God, worship, service, and tithing? What if I created and re-evaluated a circle of people who can help me in my #GoalsForGod? I have oodles of journal entries about my professional aspirations; what if I gave that same submission and dedication and zeal to my life in Christ?

*I have been abroad for a little over two months now. I came here with very specific goals; strengthening my relationship with God was not on the list – just being honest. However, it has been the GREATEST and most impactful gift I could have received during this time. I have tried so many other things in my life seeking complete joy and satisfaction. I think this is the first time in my life I have committed 100% to exploring a life lived fully in faith, as best as I can, in every way I can, every day I can. I hope you will read along during the journey.*

Advertisements

The Danger of Being Un-Boxed

Leave a comment

Box

Around the age of 18 or so (a LONG time ago :-)) I realized how much I despised being boxed in. I hated that people made assumptions about me or my lifestyle based on how I looked, or where I was from, or what college I attended, or what I wore. I think these experiences were the beginning of me rebelling against the notion of boxes. I have lived in that space for much of my life now: sometimes I do this; sometimes I do that; sometimes I am this; sometimes I am that. My encounters have strengthened my rebellion against the box. I find that there are some people who use boxes to avoid getting to know others, to justify hate or ill will, or simply to rationalize not taking risks. So for me boxes – cookie cutter ways of defining myself or another – have been bad. But recently I have been thinking about how my use of being un-boxed J may lead to a lack of commitment or consistency in some areas of my life. For example, I have been vegetarian off and on (yes, off and on) for over 20 years now. I have had periods such as when was a Peace Corps Volunteer or other sporadic years thereafter when I have completely abandoned a vegetarian diet altogether for one reason or another. Most often, I have stuck with a meat-free diet about 95% of the time, leaving room for allowances when I desired (yes, when I desired with no further need to rationalize). I have willingly and openly shared this practice with others, especially others considering going meat-free: encouraging them to start with just one meal, one day a week, one weekend or even one meat item. I find that people – self included – can stomach major lifestyle changes when they are incremental versus extreme and abrupt. But I also find that existing in these sort of in-between spaces for too long foster a lack of consistency or commitment. Yes, it’s fine to transition to a meat-free diet and do so with caution. It is also highly encouraged to make modifications that fit one’s lifestyle. However, I became vegetarian for very specific reasons so why have I vacillated so much with my commitment?

The meat-free diet is but one minor example in the grand scheme of things (minor unless you are an avid anti-animal cruelty or an environmentalist who studies the impact of meat eating on the environment). There are other examples of this same practice in my life – more personal examples, more harmful examples. I won’t disclose them in this blog post, but instead offer the question to you: what are the freedoms afforded and dangers incorporated in un-boxed spaces?

On Faith and Fitness: My Prelude to 40

Leave a comment

Faith and Fitness

Image taken from: https://crystalstine.me/

On September 4th of last year I wrote a blog post introducing you all to what I’d planned to be a series of posts counting down to my 40th birthday. Just a few weeks later, we were hit by Hurricane Florence and life took a series of different turns. Additionally, before I left the U.S. I wrote a few journal entries on what I wanted to gain from my experience in the U.K. Along with professional development opportunities, I wrote about having more reflection time, time to regroup, and remaining open to any other unexpected adventures beyond my imagination. One thing I didn’t anticipate was how this season of semi-solitude would enhance my faith. In consideration of my commitment to health and wellness, as well as welcoming an unexpected season of my life, this post draws on some of the parallels between my faith walk and my fitness walk.

Longevity

I have attended church for as long as I can remember, subsequently being one of those people described as having “grown up in the church”. A few weeks ago I was listening to a sermon and the pastor said those who spent much of their childhood in church need a special kind of therapy. Although he made the comment jokingly, I agree with him. Having spent so much time in church without the spiritual maturity to process or digest all I saw, heard, and experienced has tested my faith through the years. I have spent endless (and useless) amounts of time wondering how one can be so present in church and not display those very attributes outside the four walls of the sanctuary, within the larger community. I’ve been perplexed by theology that I consider harmful and hurtful to any representation of God, Jesus, or love. My response has often been prolonged periods away from church or any faith community.

I started running track around the age of 14 and cheerleading shortly thereafter. Once I become a cheerleader – with the sleeveless tops and uber short skirts – I also became more cognizant of my body. I don’t think I ever considered dieting or weight loss until I became a cheerleader. For nearly 26 years I have vacillated between being ultra-committed to my physical health and wellness to being completely dismissive. I’ve tried nearly every fad, often confused about the basic fundamentals of healthy eating and weight loss: more output than input equals weight loss … not magic diets or restricted eating, or unreasonable exercise routines – just a basic understanding of calories, energy expelled, and room for error. I have been at this for a long time and am hopeful that although life is a journey, I am entering a phase where there are less extremes and more balance with how I care for my body.

Staying in My Lane  

I’ve watched people – some I know intimately, others I don’t – who manage their faith and spirituality in a multitude of ways. Some have never stepped foot into a church. Others are grounded in other faiths such as Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, African spiritual practices, solo practices such as meditation, and some who proclaim no sort of religious or spiritual system at all but live a life of integrity (based on what I can see) and honor. At some point I have tried at least one element of them all, some longer than others – just trying to find my way and make sense of my life experiences, along with my spiritual needs. These explorations have taught me compassion. I now know that people have many routes to God. Had I not ventured away from my upbringing, I believe I would be tempted to devalue the beliefs, practices, and cultures of others. Simultaneously, while exploring I picked up a few nuggets for what I now call my own spiritual basket and have been reminded of some foundational things that are essential to my faith walk. I must be in community. Meditation (or prayer) on my own is not enough. I do believe in the power of prayer and have experiences when I’ve gained clarity by spending time in solitude – much like now 🙂 – but for me, these occasions must be coupled with being with others who share similar values, who are present with me to process thoughts and experiences, and who are available to teach, as well as be taught (i.e. “iron sharpens iron”). I must have a hearty worship experience. This doesn’t mean that every time I attend church, I need to sing my favorite songs (simply stated), but it does mean that watching sermons from the comfort of my home on a regular basis is not enough. And showing up to service just in time for the sermon is also inadequate. Praise and worship are parts of my spiritual experience. I need a faith (and spiritual home) that are applied and relevant to the here and now. I grew up hearing too much about “when Jesus returns” or the “sweet by and by” but I believe we are called to serve and evoke change now, thereby creating the best version of Heaven on Earth that is possible. I cannot be a part of a spiritual home that is “too Heavenly bound for any Earthly good”. And finally, while I have sampled other religions, I come back to my home base – the church. I am grateful that I have been able to sift through many of the associated hurts and challenges of growing up in church. I am incredibly grateful for the amazing professors, preachers, and peers I met while attending seminary. And I am grateful for how my own devotion – especially as of late – that has helped me continue to mature in my faith in ways I didn’t cultivate when I was younger.

I have tried almost every fitness routine you can imagine! Cross Fit, boxing, running, cycling, walking plans, kettle bell workouts, outdoor boot camps … indoor boot camps, ladies only workouts, workouts at home, dance only workouts … you name it, I’ve tried it! When in actuality I know exactly what I like: walking (not running), cycling (outdoors or in a spin class), dancing, and other forms of fun group fitness. I HATE boot camp workouts. I have strong feelings about personal trainers :-). And while I see the need to challenge myself, I don’t like any workout I can’t enjoy. I have enough things in my life I have to do so when it comes to my workout I want to look forward to it on more days than not. I’ve watched and even been inspired by others  – enough to try their fitness routines – but I always some back to the things I know and love. They work for me. I enjoy them. When done correctly, I see results. And the benefits are extended beyond exercise for my heart and body; I actually feel better, sleep better, am happier, and enjoy my life a little more.

It’s a Daily Practice

Being away from home has helped me see more than ever how much my faith walk is a daily practice. From my (now) morning and evening devotions to encounters I have with others, I have endless opportunities to be an example of Christ. When someone speaks an ill word or I am agitated by a student or feel I have been wronged by a colleague (or random stranger), I can choose compassion, forgiveness, and grace in that moment. I can choose my words carefully. I can choose my actions with even more care and caution. I can affirm that as often as possible, I want others to feel love, kindness, and joy when we spent time together. I may fail more than I’d like to, but at least I can try. For some these actions come easily and are not necessarily tied to any sort of faith or religious belief. For me, they do not come as easily and are intricately linked to trying to be a better person. I now know from many decades of experience that when left to my own interpretation, I don’t always choose the route I am most proud of, that is best for me, that is the most honest, or is that is the most honorable …

Likewise, being here I have a daily choice to be active and make wise food choices. There are more than enough social activities for me to get in to, more than enough delicious – but not always healthy – food, more than enough beer (which I love :-)), more than enough times when I can take the bus or a taxi. But I opt to walk to and from work as much as I can. I prepare healthy meals at home every week. I try my best to monitor my alcohol intake and limit how many times a week I eat away from home. These are all baby steps, but when taken consciously on a daily basis they make a significant difference.

Other considerations

I need structured activity: committed time for devotions and church, as well as exercise and food prep.

I have always had wonderful role models: In addition to my mom raising me in church, I am especially appreciative of two of my aunts who invested an amazing amount of time in me throughout my life; they are my ultimate models of faith in action.  Likewise I have a cousin who just celebrated her 50th  birthday and has been a lifelong fitness fanatic – even alongside marriage, two children, and a robust career.

I feel all kinds of amazing when I am devoted to growing in both these areas. I feel purposed and divine when I am taking care of myself; in prayer, worship and devotion on a consistent basis; being more compassionate and forgiving; grounded in my faith; making wiser decisions; and physically active.

I always come back: no matter how far I “stray” I always come back to my faith walk and finding ways to be my healthiest self.

I feel as if I could write for days, but I think the point has been made. My life has included this consistent struggle with actively finding my place within my faith and living my life in such a way that I am consciously caring for my physical body. My revelations are by no means the end of the road, but the beginning of a new journey. I am grateful for this season and look forward to all that is ahead. This is my prelude to 40.

Clarity

2 Comments

img_0736

It has been a week and a half since I have been here (feels like so much longer). On my commutes to work, I often wonder why my mind has felt so clear – no major decisions to be made or complicated scenarios to contemplate. I credit some of this to being on a different pace of the semester; while my online class at my home university is in full swing, the students have another week before classes resume here. This additional time has given me a moment to adjust to my new life here and also ease into the semester without the normal hustle and bustle of juggling three new groups of students at once. But today I took a moment to reflect on other aspects of my life here that have made such a profound impact on me in such a short period of time.

In no particular order, I will start with physical activity. People have asked if I plan to “hire” a car here. My answer has consistently been “absolutely not”. I have been looking forward to being in a walkable community and not having to drive. For the last week and a half I have walked everywhere … to dinner, to get coffee, to and from the grocery store, as well as to and from work. It has helped that my walk to work is along a path that is 100% parallel to the sea – not a bad view at all :-). This increased physical activity has been good for my body and soul. It has given me an increased amount of quiet time as I haven’t used headphones during any of my commutes. It has given me extra time to be grateful and enjoy nature. And it has helped me sleep better at night as by the time I log anywhere from 7k to 25k steps a day, I am beat!

The time difference has also had an impact. When I wake up in the morning, most of my friends are either fast asleep on the east coast or winding down for the night on the west coast. This means between the hours of 6 or 7 a.m. (depending on when I wake up) and around noon or 12 p.m., my life is relatively quiet. No one is texting or emailing or IMing me. This extended quiet time has helped me set the pace and tone of my day with minimal distractions. It has also given me time to settle into my own mood for the day before taking on the energy from others.

I have had limited WiFi. Although I was originally annoyed by this, I have come to embrace this reality. I can’t download most videos on social media or receive/send Marco Polos (a video messaging app) with ease. I can’t send pictures and it takes forever to download pictures sent to me via text message. This new reality has limited how much time I spend on social media, but also how often I am in touch with others. I have opted to send group Marco Polo updates. I don’t even bother waiting for pictures sent via text messages or videos on social media to download. BUT this limited access has also significantly impacted how and when I work. Until yesterday, I had to go downstairs or to campus (two and a half miles away) to do “major” work like reading large files, responding to detailed emails, or uploading large documents. Not one email or task was missed, but I was forced to consolidate my work hours and have a finite start-finish time. Yet again, I have had more quiet time and time to focus on more productive things, like my academic writing and class engagement, while also having some boundaries around how and when these things occur.

Finally, I can’t figure out my TV schedule. It takes me a senseless amount of time to find a show I want to watch and once I do, it seems to only last for 30 minutes! For the last few days I have avoided trying to find something to watch at all and resorted to listening to music only.

The common theme is that my external distractions have been significantly limited. Additionally, I have be that much more intentional about who I welcome into my space and how, i.e. chatting via What’s App or texting or foregoing communication altogether if it becomes a hassle. In this regard, the amount of people I have been in touch with has already decreased and I imagine it will continue to do so. I am more active and more present with my surroundings. I have become a better steward of my time and energy. Once again, it has only been a week and a half. I look forward to experiencing what the weeks and months will bring. On a grander scale, I look forward to replicating these practices in my life back at home.

 

#BreeTakesTheUK

Leave a comment

this one life ...

Ironically, one of my first posts about my semester abroad featured the quote included in this post by poet Mary Oliver. She transitioned the next day.

Today is my fourth day of five months (at a minimum :-)) that I will be in the United Kingdom! On every single day I have been here, I’ve been in disbelief and awe – in the most beautiful ways – about the possibilities of this experience. Planning for this experience began during the fall semester. When I was first approached about the opportunity, I had two questions. After they were answered favorably – LOL, I thought “why not”. As the months passed and planning continued, I vacillated between being completely overwhelmed because of the hurricane and its aftermath, along with utterly and uncontrollably excited! The last few weeks were probably the most unpredictable – from a flurry of preparatory things to what seemed like an endless stream of wonderful outings with friends and family. What I realized was that I didn’t have to do everything at once … nor could I and life is better for me with lists :-). I completed my to do items, made all the contacts I needed to, prepared for the online course I would teach, and tidied up a few loose ends. BUT I also realized how much of an amazing circle of friends and family I have.  Not one moment went by when I didn’t feel loved and that I would be missed. From coffee/tea meet-ups, to lunches, dinners, and near-all-night outs, my friends came through! We laughed. We talked. We planned for their visits. We took pictures. We hugged. We said our “see you laters” and I was off.

After about 12 hours of travel, including one short layover and a 3-hour train ride, I arrived at my destination. A colleague met me to take me for a short tour, grab a bite to eat, see where I would be living, and check into my temporary shot until my home is ready. Wednesday was a bit of a blur, but also a wonderful introduction to my new city. Thursday started with a peaceful, seaside walk to work followed by back to back meetings and more introductions. I was beat by the time I got home. Friday was my first full rainy and windy day here. I went back to campus for more meetings, but was done earlier than expected. And then today … today was a beautifully full day with a side of emotions. Today it finally hit me that I am here and life continues to be amazing! I started out with a city center and market tour, followed by coffee and girl chat, then a light hike to the beach and some beautiful scenery, followed by dinner + brew a local pub. My heart is full! In just a few days here I feel:

  • Even more grateful for my academic home – it is because of the support and encouragement I receive that I am able to be here
  • Grateful to have been introduced to Mike Dooley and Abraham Hicks whose teachings consistently remind me to be intentional, visualize, BELIEVE, and not sweat the details about how things will happen
  • Eager to share my experience with my students, as well as family and friends
  • Grateful for loving friends and family
  • Welcoming of loving experiences
  • Gratitude for time in a different space and at a different pace
  • Excited about what this experience will bring
  • Hopeful about the doors that will open as a result of this experience.

Stay tuned … I hope to share regular updates during my time here. Until then “Cheers” :-)! #BreeTakesTheUK

img_0736

Wild and Crazy Love

Leave a comment

Wild and Crazy Love

Everyone deserves a wild and crazy love … the kind love that seems irrational, unpredictable, unprecedented, all-encompassing, and all-consuming. Everyone deserves a wild and crazy love that keeps you up at night, has you consulting with your girl (and guy) friends about what to do next, and questioning your sanity … just a bit :-). Everyone deserves a wild and crazy love that comes out of nowhere, spins your life around, and makes you question why in the hell you’ve done or would ever do anything else. Everyone deserves a wild and crazy love that offers you something out of the ordinary, fills your empty spaces, and eases your soul.

At least once in your life, you deserve a wild and crazy love that reminds you of the innocence, comfort, peace, joy, pleasure, and fulfillment found in innocent, unfiltered, out-of-this-world, love. #missingyou #wildandcrazylove #somekindalove

 

Don’t Cry for Me

2 Comments

Loved Ones Pic

Never in a million years did I imagine our physical time together would end this way. When I received the news of your tragic and sudden death, it felt like my heart had been snatched from my body. I felt immobilized. Crushed. Shocked. Confused. Hurt. Deeply saddened. On the days that followed, I have tried to focus on our good times – on all the laughter we shared, our simple moments together, our cuddles, all the hugs, and all the kisses.

I remember meeting you like it was yesterday. Even then, your laughter was so infectious. You made it known that you wanted to spend as much time as possible with me and for a while, I obliged. The weeks flew by as you showed me parts of my new home I had yet to explore. But then my own uncertainties kicked in. You were so different from anyone I’d spend time with in recent years. You reminded me of “home” – all I knew growing up and much of what I am still connected to. Simultaneously, our present lives were so different. Our schedules. Our day to day realities. Our desires. Our goals. This is what both perplexed and intrigued me about spending time with you. For the months that would follow, our bickering settled on this very crossroad. We were back and forth more than either of us can probably account me. Weeks and even months of silence and then a phone call or text would seemingly erase all of my questions … only to be reminded of our circumstances shortly thereafter. We never found our sweet spot, but in between all of the chaos we found love and generosity and kindness and comfort.

You taught me a lot. For this, I am grateful and will hold near to my heart. You reminded me to laugh. You taught me to not take myself so seriously. At a time when people – including me – can get caught up in titles and positions, you still affectionately called me “Doctah” but showed me how much joy we can find in simple pleasures. You removed the bells and whistles and created spaces where quality time brought an overwhelming sense of calm and peace in my life. Bike rides, walks on the beach, nights on the dance floor, cocktails at home, movie marathons, take-out, dine in, late night connections after we’d gone out with friends … we created so many memories in such a short period of time.

Maybe the aforementioned is what hurts the most. Of all the lists I have created, you didn’t quite make the cut :-). BUT in matters of my heart, you were more than I could ever ask for. I knew that and I think – I hope – you knew that as well.

I am going to miss you. I miss you. Deeply. I can’t begin to imagine what your family may be feeling at this time. But I have no doubt that many people will hold you in their hearts because of your kindness, humor and generosity. I, too, will never forget our season of uncertainty. The time we shared and the lessons you taught me. If you were physically with me at this time, I know you’d tell me “Don’t cry for me” so I dedicate this poem to you.

In loving memory,

Don’t cry for me.
I will be okay.
Heaven is my home now,
and this is where I’ll stay.

Don’t cry for me.
I’m where I belong.
I want you to be happy
and try to stay strong.

Don’t cry for me.
It was just my time,
but I will see you someday
on the other side.

Don’t cry for me.
I am not alone.
The angels are with me
to welcome me home.

Don’t cry for me,
for I have no fear.
All my pain is gone,
and Jesus took my tears.

Don’t cry for me.
This is not the end.
I’ll be waiting here for you
when we meet again.

Deborah Garcia Gaitan

Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: