The (wo)man in the arena

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”- Theodore Roosevelt (the man in the arena)

When it comes to love, we all should strive to be like the man in the arena. Yes, you will stumble, you may even give your heart to a person who doesn’t deserve you. You may have critics that judge you that might say, “Oh, I wouldn’t have done that, or Why couldn’t you see he or she wasn’t worthy of you?”

Some people definitely are lucky. They find their Mr. or Ms. Right early in life. They don’t make many of the mistakes that I or you may have made. But the majority of us tend to find love a little later in life. The time in life  where we are battle worn and have our armor of fear and worry around us. We can be afraid to reveal ourselves to the next person that enters the arena with us, concerned that they may pierce our heart in a way that we may not recover.

Vulnerable. To be exposed. To show a person all of you–the good, bad, and ugly.

Will they run? Will they understand? Will they realize that you are more than the mistakes that you have made in the past?

But  you and I, being the brave ones that we are decide to stand in the arena time and time again. We show up for love. Hoping that the next person that enters the arena with us will be worthy of our vulnerability. We take the risk and expose ourselves, trusting that God will not allow them to deliver a death blow.

Each risk that we take stepping in that arena brings us closer to finding that person that will stand by us in the arena. We can be vulnerable and exposed because they have decided that we are worth fighting for. That we are the person that God has intended for them. That we can do more together as a couple than apart. That person will see your scars and think them beautiful because they will realize that you have “dared greatly” and have tried to love to the fullest.

Because to love and to fail is better than not having tried at all. Do you really want to spend your time on the sidelines criticizing every other person’s failures in love? Do you want to spend your life in fear, afraid of love and giving your heart to someone that could hurt it? Yes, you may fail, but what if you don’t? What if the next person that enters the arena with you will protect your heart? What if you experience a joy you never known?

I don’t know about you, but I think great love is worth this risk of having your heart broken. It took me a long time to feel this way, but I am tired of living on the sidelines of love. I want to experience love whole-heartedly and have a person know how much I truly love them. I want to know what it feels like to have that love truly reciprocated.

So here I stand in the arena. Hoping and praying that the man who will join me in the arena will be the one willing to protect my heart and love all that I am.

 

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2016: The year of becoming who God has called me to be

Gosh, I can’t believe it is that time of year again to sing “Auld Lang Syne”, write down New Year’s resolutions (that we may or may not keep), and potentially go to watch night service (or another church service if you are religiously inclined).

Honestly, this year was such a blessing. God truly answered many of the prayers that I prayed in 2014. I have met wonderful new friends, had wonderful new experiences, and even had my unapologetically singleness challenged by a wonderful man. Yes, it is amazing the things that happens when you step out of God’s way and enjoy the season that He places you in.

As I reflect on this year and begin to cast my eyes on 2016, I decided that I really need to keep it simple with my goals for the new year. So my plans are:

  1. To get really serious and focused about my prayer life.
  2. To be healthy: mind, body and spirit
  3. To be completely vulnerable. To allow certain people to completely see all of me. The good, bad and ugly.

Focused prayer life

If you haven’t had the chance to watch “War Room”, I highly recommend doing so immediately. For me, that movie was a wake up call to show me that I really need to go to God first for all things and to trust that he will work it out on my behalf. I want to open my eyes to see the tiny things that God does for me everyday, not just the amazing things. I want to reach a higher level of spiritual growth and continue to become the woman that God has called me to be.

Wholistically Healthy

As I will be entering my 36th year on this planet in 2016, I really need to step up my wellness game. I have to learn to fight the urge to turn to junk food when I am upset. I have to learn to be better at resting when my body needs rest, and working on stress reducing techniques. My body showed me this year that I need to treat it better. So in 2016, I am focusing on a better diet, relaxation techniques, and staying in touch with God.

Vulnerability

Gasp. Showing a person all that you are. Honestly, that has been difficult for me over the years. Anyone who has been hurt knows that the natural reaction is to protect themselves. You can even doubt that you are worthy of love. You can do things like sabotage relationships, become cold and aloof, or be mean to guard your heart.  I am sure that not being vulnerable has prevented me from having the love that I have always wanted. Oh, I have wonderful family and friendship love. I have even loved a man or two in my day. But I have honestly never given any man my whole heart.

I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I wanted to experience the deep love that can exist between a man and a woman. The kind of love where both parties are all in and love each other in spite of each others mistakes or imperfections.  But, to experience that, I have to be willing to be completely open, to be vulnerable. to trust that, no matter if I fall and get hurt, God has me. But it also takes a special man to deserve that level of me. There is a special man and I do believe he deserves that from me…

So I am looking forward to 2016 and all that it brings. Whether it is good or bad, I chose to trust God and His plan for me life. I know without a doubt that it is infinitely better then anything that I could imagine for myself.

Goodbye 2015. 2016, I am ready to embrace all that you will be to me.

 

 

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Giving up control

This morning as I sat in the presence of God, I felt myself drawn to Psalm 139:16: “..all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

Literally, I repeated that out loud to myself several times to let it truly sink in. I think after the 20th time, it finally did. God has already lined up my future. He knows who I will marry, if I will have children, what my future job(s) will be, everything. He knew and knows every mistake I have and will make and still has made provision for me because he loves me. I am his child.

After I read the scripture, I moved to my morning devotional and I started laughing. The title of the devotional was “Giving up Control”.  God really has a sense of humor. Friends, I recognize that I truly struggle in this area. I honestly have slight anxiety at times about the unknown. I like to feel like I can think through and figure out every outcome for everything in my life. I love plans! I love knowing what comes next. But God knows this about me as well.

He knows that I want to know everything so for that reason, I feel God tells me things on a need-to-know basis. I have never been that person that God has told that they would accomplish something 5 years from now. God literally lets me know in the moments or days leading up to something.

I think He wants to remind me for the twenty thousandth time to rest in Him. To trust that he has plans to prosper me and not to harm me (Jeremiah 29:11). To trust that his perfect will is working in my life and that for every heartache, for every mistake that God can give me beauty for my ashes.

As I get older, I feel that life brings a lot more unknowns and new experiences. This year has brought so many blessings and experiences that I never even dreamed about. I know God wants to do more for me and through me. But he can’t while I am trying to control things.

So, with a “Woo-sah” I exhale and let go. I let go of all of the stress and fear associated with the unknown. And I trust God to work his perfect will in my life.

xoxo,

Cosmo

 

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Thanks and giving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Thanksgiving kicks off a period of serious introspection for me, where I take stock of what I have experienced and learned this year. I also start to turn my gaze towards the next year and all of the promises that it brings.

THANKS….

I woke up this morning feeling truly happy and thankful for all that God has done for me. This has been my year of being unapologetically single, which has brought so many interesting twists and turns that I completely didn’t expect. I must say God has a sense of humor. If you would have asked me at the beginning of the year whether or not I would be boarding a plane to go to Senegal in November, I would have laughed. But, I have gone and have come back so grateful for the opportunity. God truly can do exceedingly and abundantly more than we can ask or dream of. 

However,  I can be a bad daughter at times and not put God first like I should. I let work and other distractions keep me from being in a place of worship. Yet, I have learned that my experiences and time with God doesn’t need to be just limited to kneeling at my bed in prayer. It is in the everyday moments of life that I need to make sure I am cognizant of keeping God at the forefront. I need to make sure I am talking to Him throughout the day and taking the time to be still and observe His responses back to me.

Oftentimes, God doesn’t  speak to us as we think. I think for the longest time, I thought God would speak directly to me. But most of the time God speaks to me through other people, songs, or even animals. Some time this summer, I had read a devotional where this woman had said that God sent her red birds to let her know that He hadn’t forgotten about her and that he was taking care of her issues. I kid you not, I saw a red bird later that day and would see one for the next several weeks at the most random times. One time, a red bird flew past my car during my commute home on the George Washington Parkway..lol

GIVING…

God has also reminded me over the course of this year the importance of giving. It is in giving that we are truly rewarded and see God’s goodness. We also allow others to see God’s goodness through us.  I am glad that God has been able to use me this year to help others and I am hopeful and prayerful that God will use me increasingly to bless others during the remainder of this year and in 2016.

As I sit here sipping on my tea and writing this blog, I am truly amazed at how God has guided me and led me to this point. He truly been so good to this undeserving soul. I truly believe that is the true meaning of Grace. So, I will close this blog with this simple prayer:

“God please continue to use me. Not my will, but thine. Light my path and bring/keep the right people in my life, while removing those that would hinder your purpose for my life. Help me to fully embrace all that I am and to embrace others where they are. For all of the ways that you have protected me, I give thanks. For the times you said no, I give thanks. In all seasons, I am thankful. Please God continue to allow me to reflect your light. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen!”

 

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The unexpected blessings of traveling solo.

A slight hint of trepidation penetrated my heart as I awaited for my solo international journey to start. Was this a mistake? Would I be lonely traveling by myself? Wouldn’t it be better to experience Paris and Barcelona with a friend or a significant other?

NO!!!!

I quickly stopped those negative thoughts and started to reflect on how blessed I was able to make the trip. If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I was laid off last year and spent the whole summer on my knees praying to God to send me a job. I was afraid, I questioned God and my faith, and worried how I would keep a roof on my head. I had no safety net to fall back on if I didn’t find a job before my severance pay and savings ran out. I had to humble myself and request unemployment funds….

But what a difference a year can make! In September of last year, I started working for a non-profit consulting firm and found myself financially stable again. Instead of worrying about how I would pay the bills, I was able to turn my energies to checking off items on my bucket list. A few years ago, I took my first solo vacation to New Orleans (you can read about this here). Towards the end of that trip, I told myself that I had to travel internationally solo and that I would go to Paris and Barcelona.

Last December, I found the perfect trip through Go Ahead Tours and I kept looking at it over and over again for several weeks. Could I do this? Could I really travel alone internationally for 9 days with a group of strangers? Maybe it was gumpton or a nudge from the Holy Spirit, but I pulled the trigger and booked the trip.

Holy cow! I am going to Paris and Barcelona!!!

So when the trip finally arrived, I did find myself slightly afraid. What if I didn’t meet any cool people? What if I got lonely? What if something happened? But as I boarded the plane for my direct flight from Dulles to Paris, a sense of calm came over me. I knew it would be alright.

And it completely was. From our first group dinner to our final pow wow in the lobby of Barcelona over Sangria, I have been blessed. Everyone in my group was so friendly and fun. I definitely had some favorites though: the Persians from LA, the couple from Boston that has been married for 38 years, and the two women that had been friends since high school.

The conversations we had truly enriched me. We talked about everything: men, dating, marriage, travel, family…I could go on and on. I learned a lot from my group and I definitely plan to keep in contact with many of them. They never once made me feel excluded; I was able to spend time alone as well as with each one of them.

Many of them remarked to me how brave I was and how they couldn’t have traveled alone if it was them. I guess I am brave. But I also didn’t want to wait my whole life to visit Paris or Barcelona for a man to come into my life. What if I never met the right one? Does this mean that I shouldn’t travel and see the world like I have dreamed?

No!

Honestly, traveling solo taught me so much about myself. I learned how independent and courageous I am. In addition, I had the wonderful opportunity to really reflect on how great God has been (and continuously is) to me.  I asked God to travel and I have several more trips lined up in my 35th year (more details to come in future blog posts ;-)). I am looking forward to all of the experiences I will gain from each of them and the wonderful people I will meet and reconnect with along the way.

I am determined to live this one life that God has given me. Again, what if I never meet Mr. Right?  Does this mean that I shouldn’t live out all of my dreams or be miserable? Of course not! As I have mentioned in my unapologetically single post earlier this year, I am determined to be happy single. I will enjoy this season to the fullest because the single season is to be treasured. If I do get married, I won’t be able to do as I please any more. I will have to consider and compromise with my spouse. If I have children, I won’t be able to up and book trips as I wish. So why not do it while I can?

I am truly grateful for this experience to relax  and eat/drink my way through Barcelona and Paris. I look forward to sharing with you more details about the trip and tips to traveling solo successfully in my other blog, Life, Love and Libations. I am one of three writers who are 30 something, naturalista singletons in the DMV area. You can check us out here.

Pointing to Jesus at La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

Pointing to Jesus at La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

xoxo,

cosmo

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One word: Grateful

This month marks my first full year back in VA since college.  I moved here for an awesome opportunity and was excited about that, but I was so broken from the toll of the stress of finding the job and the relationship that I had to terminate earlier that year. For the majority of my first few months in VA, I just worked, went to church, and sat at home. I prayed to God to help me, to heal me, to help me forgive myself for my mistakes. To guide me. To learn to love this season that I am in and to bring people into my life that could enrich and minister in my life. To bring me experiences that I would thoroughly enjoy and to push myself to get out there and to try things I wouldn’t normally do.  Overall, to bring back the child-like zest for life that we sometimes lose as adults.

When I thought about this past year, I was so  grateful that I got slightly teary eyed. I have met some wonderful people that have poured into my spirit. I have experienced wonderful things and have pushed myself to finally take the trip that I had been waiting to do for a long time. So in two weeks, I will be boarding a plane and waking up in Paris. I am so looking forward to eating great food and seeing all of the sights that I have only dreamed about: the Eiffel Tower, Versailles, Notre Dame. And then in Barcelona—the tapas and Sagrada familia!

Isn’t it funny how life changes so gradually, you don’t even realize it has happened? Until one day, you pause and take stock on how far you have come. Each choice we make to get up and push through the pain and disappointment brings us closer to another glorious beginning. Day by Day, you find that your smiles come faster and that wonderous opportunities are brought to you. The bad seasons seem long, but when you enter a season of harvest, you realize that all of the heartache was necessary to help you appreciate the good when it came.

Even though I didn’t understand the lay off  and the heartbreak that I experienced last year, I realize that it has helped me to grow into a more compassionate and understanding woman. I am quicker to understand than to judge. Most of all, I make sure I do a better job of being grateful. For this reason, I say cheers to a new month and a new birthday year.

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This is 35.

I thought I would be sad turning 35 and still being single, but strangely enough I am happy and excited.  Something tells me that 35 is going to be a game-changer of a year.  Back in January, I promised myself to live this year unapologetically single and to truly embrace my life. I committed to getting out of God’s way and allowing him to do his work in my life. Every day, I find myself being challenged and stretched to grow into what God has called me to be. At times, it is rough, while at other times, I feel a sense of pure joy.

35 is bringing a fruition of many of my bucket list items. For one thing,  I will travel a bunch. Next month, I am headed to Paris and Barcelona, and then in December, Hawaii. Next year, I will be going to Costa Rica in February and then possibly Argentina in the winter.  I am looking forward to experiencing the culture and food associated with each place and just savoring my time to reflect and practice gratitude for the experiences I have been blessed with.

I will finally run my marathon in November! I am so excited, yet so nervous about this. I have been training since June and find myself pushing on everyday to achieve new mileage. My goal isn’t to make some time goal, but to finish standing in the time that I am allotted. Running is such a mental game. Every time I do a long run, I have to encourage myself to keep going. Telling myself, “You can do it Shanta!” It is hard, and I do have setbacks at times, but I keep on going. Running is definitely a great analogy to life and the perseverance it requires.

Lastly, I am just reminding myself to stay in the moment. To enjoy each day and savor the things/people that God brings into my life. Telling myself not to overthink, but to trust God will protect me and guide me along the right path.

So, here’s to 35. I know that it will be good to me and I will continue to place one foot in front of other following the path that God has set before me! My Bible verse for the year: Isaiah 43:18-19 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it?

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