“If you fail to plan, then you are planning to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
Many of us have heard it, read, or even posted it, but living it out is the real challenge. For those that know me well or have worked with me on any given project, they know that I posses a tad bit of self-diagnosed OCD. I like patterns, color coordination, spreadsheets and knowing exactly what is happening and who is doing it and how it’s getting done. That’s pretty consistent except for the things that I inherently WANT to do.
You see, I figured out a way to do a lot of things but I inadvertently, I wore myself out to the point that I was incapable nor had the desire to do the things that I felt called to do. Why? Because I was terrible at planning the deeper parts of my heart. So yes, I was very busy multi-tasking, but being busy did not mean I was being productive.
I love the way that Bishop TD Jakes put it in his book Instinct. He wrote, “Many people think that being busy equates to being productive. However, many studies suggest that busyness is a sign of poor management and lack of focus. You become exhausted simply because you’re divided.”
I decided I no longer wanted to be exhausted and divided in 2014. In my quest to being made whole, I am challenged to now do better. What good is it for God to declare us saved, healed, delivered and whole, but then we just sit there. Shaun once shared with me a quote, who’s author I don’t know but it says, “If you aren’t planning your recovery, you are planning your relapse.” Declaring wholeness is great, but living out wholeness is the next step.
I was challenged by one of my very intelligent and quirky mentees to do a word of the year instead of a New Year’s Resolution. It’s called, I believe, One Word 365. Last year, my word was Intentional and I purposed to be intentional in everything that I did. Last year alone, God allowed me to birth 2 books and a vision in my being intentional. This new “word of the year” mantra carried over into 2015 where my word of the year is balance. I want to be balanced in everything that I do. (You can try to come up with one yourself! Try it! It’s GREAT!)
But being balanced for me, fundamentally requires 3 components:
Counting up the cost
I always had great intentions, but intentions didn’t quite get the job done. I was challenged by that word of the year I purposed to live out with God’s help and apply it accordingly.
Balance requires being Intentional
I learned last year that being intentional made me conscious of the things I did, the conversations I engaged in, the relationships I invested in, the places I attended, the moments I embraced and the inner ward parts of me that easily would go unnoticed because I was busy being busy. With balance, comes the beauty of the lessons learned through being intentional.
Balance requires counting up the cost.
About two years ago, my spiritual mother, Pastor Sharon Dean, preached a sermon titled, “Count Up the Cost” that shook my foundation. She taught on the passage from Luke 14:28-30 (KJV) that says:
For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.
I was so challenged by that word because I began to consider how much it had cost me NOT to be balanced and wise. It’s foolish to start school and not count up what it costs to attend that school each semester. It’s part of the process.
In that passage, we see such a practical lesson. I love the way Jesus taught. Such practicality. And it makes so much sense! Who embarks in any journey without at least counting up what it costs to build it. Now, counting up the cost doesn’t remove faith in God. In order to believe God for something, you have to at least know WHAT is it that you’re believing Him for. What good is it to lay a foundation but not have what it takes to complete. While Jesus is the author and the finisher of our faith, He is not the author of confusion. Let’s be wise in counting up the cost.
After counting up the cost, it’s imperative to plan it out. Dream out loud, but beyond having a dream, have a vision. Write the vision and make it plain as Habakuk 2:2 tells us. Have a blueprint. That’s what makes the undeniable difference. While God’s plans and thoughts and ways are always better and higher than ours, it is our job to at least give God something to compare to, whereby He receives the glory out of our lives. What good would have been for Dr. Martin Luther King to have had a dream, but leave us with no vision to keep fighting. His term “dream” was only the precipice of what we would be living out today… a vision.
And so I’m taking that and running with it. At Seton Hall University, as part of the curriculum I was teaching my wonderful EOP (Educational Opportunity Program) students during the summer of 2012, they had to create a vision board for themselves. While I taught it and even managed to put together something quick as a demonstration… I didn’t live by it. This year, as a Family Worker, an e-mail was sent by my supervisor to all Family Workers about creating a vision board. It tugged at me, but I ignored it the first time. Then, she asked again about creating a vision board for our 1st meeting of the year, right before we left for our winter break. I was challenged within. Intensely. I didn’t know why this was such a challenge for me. I had done it before, sort of, and it’s not that serious. Well, I felt in my spirit that this was the opportunity for me to be held accountable to finally be intentional about VISION.
This was my opportunity. And I ran with it. And I’m so glad I did.
As menial and childish a Vision Board may sound, it has been such a catalyst to holding me accountable to my word of the year. BALANCE. I thought about the areas in my life where I felt I always fell short in. I call it my Fab Five. Faith, Family & Friends, Fostering Change, Finances & Fitness & Health.
The Five Pillars
Faith. It is my foundation. I placed it front and center because that is what God is to me. To love God with all my heart soul and mind and to love my neighbor as myself according to Matthew 22:39-40 is my impetus. It’s what I live by. Jesus said that on these two commandments hangs ALL the laws of the prophets. So I’ve made it my mantra for my life. Loving God and loving my neighbor as myself is the theme and foundation for anything else that I engage in. It ebbs out of me. Even when I don’t plan to, I speak about God, my faith and my heart for people because it’s the abundance of my heart. God has been more than great… He is enough. So spending time with Him is crucial in word, prayer, worship and witness. I want to make sure that I don’t allow anything or anyone to interrupt that. Practically speaking, once my day gets going and 7am hits, there is no turning back. So I make it a point to make sure that I wake up just a little earlier to make sure I get that interrupted time.
Family & Friends can easily go unnoticed as people that will always be there. But with sudden deaths, real life challenges, diagnosis and so on, mortality becomes confrontational. You can’t guarantee that “they” will always be there. So being intentional about investing in relationships that matter is part of being balanced. It’s not enough to be in the same room or watch a movie together or say hi in passing. Being present is necessary to building quality and effective relationships. Spending time with the people that really matter and have my back when the lights and cameras are off matters more than the Facebook likes, the comments or the pat on the back. Sure all those play a part in feeling validated as a human, but nothing beats Zinai looking at me, kissing me and saying “Te amo, te amo, te amo” when we finish reading our bedtime story. Nothing fulfills me more than knowing that come hell and high water, Shaun has my back and I have his. To have intentional conversation and supporting each other is paramount. He’s not just the man I married or baby daddy. It’s amazing to know that he is my best friend. I need that balance.
Fostering Change is so important to me. I am a big proponent for being a servant. Jesus says that the greatest of these is a servant when speaking to His disciples. I give by grace what by grace I received. I will never forget the impact that organizations like Salvation Army, Catholic Charities and many others helped my family have a sense of identity, childhood and humanity when we were mere Dominican immigrants trying to learn the language, figure out the American way and trust God through it all. It’s because of organizations like these that push me to do more than just talk about change, but be a part of the change. I want to be, if it means to just one person or one family, what those organizations were to us. The hand of God through love and service. And I get so emotional every time I think about it, because every time I see a homeless person and I get the opportunity to help them in some form, and I see the gratitude in their eyes, I am reminded by what the word says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). I choose that over any possession that will be fleeting. Hope is what I received, so far more than more, I want to share hope in a greater manner. But I started with what I have in my own home and what I can do with my own hands. Little by little, I know God will continue to connect me to people with similar passion and heart. For there is more power in unity than in trying to do everything by myself.
Finances are important. While money has been identified as being the root of all evil, it is also the language by which answers can be provided for a need. Period. We can’t ignore it’s importance. With it, we can either bless God by blessing others and in turn, God blesses us beyond our imagination. Or we can squander it and lose sight of its purpose. Last April, with the help of God, my brother Danny’s connections, my father’s wonderful accounting skills and assistance and companies like Credit Pros & Student Zoom (college loans consolidation), I was able to start the road to cleaning up my credit history and loan repayments. I made a decision to invest in cleaning my history up. And it was well worth it. In 6 months, my credit score jumped from below 500 to a whopping 724 and it’s still increasing! But it started with being aware of my bad spending habits, being more mindful about my finances and sticking through the process. Although I have a great system of getting into debt (I think we all have that part figured out), I know ways of getting out of debt, but the trick for me has always being staying out debt. It has been a see-saw for me. Last year, there was major shift for me. My desire to help others and build for the sake of assisting those in need became my impetus to do and live better. I had to learn financial responsibility. I am looking forward to the day when I encounter a family in need and lead them to a place that they can call home and provide their basic needs to get them back on track. I can’t wait for the day where I can write a blank check and not worry about where it’s coming from because God is my Daddy and His funds are unlimited so He shows me was to develop different streams of income to meet the need. So I need to learn balance. And even in that, I allow myself an item or two because I still like nice things. All in good measure! So I am taking on a 52 Week Money Challenge I read about and I challenge you to do the same. There is still time. This one is a little different. I like this one much better than the one everyone else is doing!
Fitness & Health. This is a biggie for me. I’m Dominican married into a Black Family. I LOVE TO EAT. And I mean EAT EAT! It’s my greatest vice. But As Jonathan Nelson sings, I had to declare, “YOU NO LONGER HAVE DOMINION OVER ME!!!” Seriously. I dreamt of food. I follow food pages on instagram. I have a board on Pinterest dedicated just to food. So it’s serious for me. But I had to find balance in that. I know what I need to do to lose unwanted weight. But losing weight is not the point. Have the cute body for the random picture I want to take to post on Facebook is not the purpose. Being fit and healthy is what’s important. Why? Because our life and purpose depends on it. I can have a vision all I want, but if I am not taking care of my body (which by the way 1 Corinthians 6:19 describes as the temple of the Holy Spirit), then I won’t have the energy, balance and strength to carry that vision out. While it is appointed for many to die once, and after this judgment, it is our responsibility to make sure we don’t speed up our appointment. Let us take care of our bodies so that God can use a healthy vessel with longevity. My desire is to be balanced in my health. So I do watch what I eat while making sure I fuel my body properly so that I don’t pass out. I have my daily Iaso tea to promote my body to natural detox for health (not weight loss reasons), I have made my home my gym (I decided to save the money I would have paid on a fitness center that I probably would only see twice this year and invest it on bringing down my debt) but I do invest in once a week Zumba – which is PHENOMENAL, Safe & Fun, I follow workout pages on instagram and I allow myself measured moments where I eat the chocolate chip or caribbean coconut gelato!! YES LORD! LOL. It’s all about balance. Starving yourself isn’t the answer and neither is eating everything in site. Balance.
So I share that to challenge you as well. Find the areas where you feel you need to find balance and be made whole in. What is your vision? Have you made it plain? I challenge you to create a vision board for yourself. It doesn’t have to be as elaborate as mine. I’m artistic by nature, graphic designer and arts and crafty… so of course I did the whole hoopla. LOL. I used an old board I had at home, one marker a magazine and print-outs. But you don’t have to. Use what you have and MAKE THE VISION PLAIN. This will help you to hold yourself accountable in your journey to being Made Whole!
The Bible – I challenge you to do a 90-Day Bible Challenge! Go to http://www.shaunsaunders.podbean.com for more info!
Be Made Whole by Yours Truly Copy and paste this link to purchase: http://godzchildproductions.net/store/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=168
Credit Pros – Contact Info: 727-378-9311 – ask for Jim, you can let them know Ana Saunders referred you
Student Zoom – Contact Info: 858-332-3973 – ask for Dan, you can let him know Ana Saunders referred you
Counter 52-Week- Money-Challenge: Here is the link to explain it. http://www.pocketyourdollars.com/2014/01/why-you-shouldnt-do-the-52-week-money-challenge/
Fitness & Health