When You’re In The Wilderness

When you’re traveling through the wilderness, and it feels like life is hitting you with everything it’s got, it’s amazing to finally look up and see the growth that has occurred. Like many of you, I’ve been going through a storm in my life and truthfully, it’s been extremely hard to navigate. I think the main lesson here is that I shouldn’t be navigating… period. But that’s for another blog post.

This season of my life has put me in some pretty low places and has had me asking extremely important yet vague questions. I’ve been so low that anxiety attacks and breakdowns often occur, and I’ve been so confused and full of questions like, “What’s the point,” “What am I even doing here on this Earth,” “What’s my purpose,” “If I’m supposed to go the heaven, and that’s the goal, what is the point of this lifetime,” the list goes on.

But with all of that said, just recently, I got a chance to look up and realized just how far God has taken me through this season. So here is a little bit of what I’ve learned so far traveling through the wilderness.


God Is Still With You In The Wilderness

I must say, I never thought God left me during this season; He’s been with me all the time, but He’s been quiet. It’s weird to move from a season where God is chatty, and I’m talkative, and we’re really “vibing,” and I can feel Him and see Him moving, to a season when I’ll pray, and I start to wonder if He’s heard, or if He cares, or if He’s a little too busy for me. But if I’ve learned anything from Bible stories, it’s that God is still there. He’s always there, even when you’re in the wilderness. That was true of the Israelites when they were traveling from Egypt to The Promise Land, and it was also true of Jesus when spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness. God was there, the whole time.


Perspective

If you take nothing else from this blog post, please understand the power of perspective. It truly can change your life, and it’s something I’ve been working on for the past few weeks. After weeks of breakdowns, crying, and then finally realizing that things aren’t going to change, I need to, I adopted a new perspective. Often times, it’s just that, understand that things won’t get better, but you can. More often than not, it’s counting your blessings a little more than you have in the past, or seeing a situation from some else’s point of view. Whatever it is, I promise a change in perspective will do wonders for you and your ability to get through this tough season. Keep in mind, much of the time, the season you’re in has a lot to do with how you wait. I’m sure the Israelites who ended up wandering for 40 years when they should have reached The Promise Land in 11 days could tell you better than I can.


Trials Produce Growth

I’ve heard it many times before that you can only grow when you’re going through something, and I am here to say that is true. It’s true for when you’re building physical muscles, and it’s true for when you’re building spiritual muscles.

You don’t build muscle by just hanging out and being comfortable. You build muscle by lifting, working, running, etc. That’s how you grow your muscle tissue. So that’s the same for your spiritual muscles. You can’t grow when you’re comfortable and what’s more uncomfortable and growth producing than a good ‘ole fashion test, trial, or walk through the wilderness?


Stronger

I don’t know what the Lord is preparing me for, but I do know He has taken me through the wilderness to prepare me, and because of that, I am stronger. One place, in particular, I have found myself to be stronger is in my mind. This wasn’t an easy one. I am a thinker guy, and because of that, I can think myself into great moods, bad moods, sad moods, whatever emotion, I can think myself into it. But because I’m only human, I often think myself into the lowest, most unhappy thoughts. This season has caused me to work on my mental. God exposed my weakness, humbled me to the ground about it, and then showed me that through Him alone I can overcome my thoughts.

He also changed my thoughts towards work. I find this so ironic that He changed my perspective on work during a season I’m not really working (full-time). Like LOL, God is funny! Despite not having a full-time job, He has shown me the importance of being grateful, being humble, stewarding small beginnings, and hustling. I always thought of myself as a hard worker, but this season and being an adult in general, has really taught me what hard work is, and how to stay consistent when you feel overlooked, uninspired, unappreciated, and bored.

To say the least, the Lord is working on me, in the wilderness, and for that, I am thankful.


I’ll end with this… recently, I heard a pastor say, something along the lines of, “Sometimes you’re not moving out of this season because you haven’t thanked or praised God yet.” That wasn’t the exact quote, but my take away from it was, you need to thank God for what He’s giving you, but you also need to thank Him for what He’s about to bring you into.

Praise Him for what you’re believing for as if you already have it and see what happens. Thank Him for what you’re believing for and see what He does. I find myself getting into a habit of always asking God for things, but rarely praising Him, or thanking Him for what I do have, and for the things He is doing but I can’t see. I’ve been making an effort to change this, and I hope you do too.

Until next time, get up, get moving, and be salt & light!

 

Peace > Clarity

A wise man once said, “It’s hard to get your gift from God when both your hands [are] full.” – Tobe Nwigwe

Recently, not only my hands but my mind have been full, overflowing really. In this season of unemployment, I have been plagued with worry. To be honest, when I first entered this season, I was fine. I still had faith that I was exactly where God wanted me to be. But it’s funny how the testing of your faith can reveal the truth.

This is not to say that I don’t have faith in God, but this season has shown me that I need my faith to be stronger. It’s not as strong as I thought it was and just like when you grow your muscles through lifting, you are in pain and quite sore, the growing of my faith has left me just the same, sore and in pain.

I think I entered this season with a vague timeline of when I would exit. It wasn’t like I said, “On September 15th, I will have a job,” but as days continue to pass and I still don’t have one, and there isn’t much progress being made, anxiety has set in.

So, what do you do when God is late? What do you do when you underestimated your season? Well, I recently watched a sermon by Transformation Church (TC) out of Tulsa, Oklahoma called “Planted and I Underestimated.” TC is in a series called Planted Not Buried (it’s incredible, and you should watch all of it when you get a chance) where they have explained that both planting and burying is the same processes, but the outcomes are different. If you’re not careful, you could be having a funeral when you should be celebrating growth.

But in this particular sermon, one of the points made was, you need to embrace the delay when you’re waiting for God or you feel like He is late. I know when I heard that the first time I was like, “Really? You want me to be happy while waiting? You know I’m a millennial right?” But honestly, that statement couldn’t be more accurate.

It’s no surprise I haven’t been great at embracing delay, but as I have been forced to wait, it’s been amazing to see how God has revealed parts of His plan and his goodness to me.

For example, I recently went on a mission trip to Haiti. The timing of the trip couldn’t have been better because I really needed a break from my normal life. I was losing my mind… I’m not kidding. But it’s funny, how this trip popped up at the right time. Only God!

I needed to serve, I needed to live with less, I needed to lead a simpler life, and more importantly, I needed to be disconnected from the things that were causing me stress. (There will be more on my trip to Haiti in upcoming blog posts, so if your interested subscribe.) But with all that aside, I needed Haiti because I needed clarity. My current situation was draining me and I was drowning in my own sorrows.

I didn’t have high expectations for the trip because I knew it could go a number of ways. Truthfully, I was hoping God would give me an aha moment. That I would be there and realize my purpose, or get a word from God, or something and to be honest none of that happened. At least not in the groundbreaking, earth-shaking, mind-blowing way I expected. But instead, it happened subtly.

I didn’t gain the clarity I was seeking, but I did gain peace.

On the flight back to the States, I reflected on this exact topic and realized that God didn’t tell me my purpose then or give me clarity on anything, but by allowing me to live a simpler life and understand what is important, He gave me the peace to know that everything will be just fine. So, for now, I am free from worry, free from anxiety, and choosing not to dwell on uncertainty.

The funny thing is, while I am fine now, these are demons I will have to fight again, and again, and that’s okay.

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:19

Worry, anxiety, and discontentment were, and still are my temptation. But Haiti was the escape God provided for me, and that trip allowed me to rediscovered God’s goodness, how unworthy I am of His love, and how He loves me dearly anyway. For that I am thankful.

Until next time, get up, get moving and be salt & light!

The Erryday: Honesty

As I try to seek God in all aspects of my life, sometimes I find myself being stagnant.

Did He really call me to do that? Am I doing the right things? Should I continue on this path?

These are all questions that come to mind and to be honest, with so much uncertainty I find myself living with anxiety. But fortunately, I have wonderful friends and family who can speak life into me, and one of the friends who I love so dearly mentioned to me that anxious is not how God made us.

It really got me thinking, “Why I am so anxious then?” After a lot of reflection and praying, it was because while I was feeling certain ways about aspects of my life, I hadn’t truly presented those things to God. I hadn’t invited Him into all of my life.

If I’ve learned anything about the Lord, He is a gentleman. He will stand at the door of your life and knock until you let Him in, and that’s in all aspects of your life. It’s not just about the one decision to be saved. It’s a decision that every believer has to make everyday.

So no matter how big of a problem you’re facing or how small, know that to a God who created the whole universe, everything is quite small. And to a God who has overcome the world, nothing is too mighty. So present everything, your triumphs, your disappointments, and especially your anxieties to Him, and in Him, you will find peace.

Until next time, get up, get moving and be salt & light!

Choosing Perseverance​

Hello, wonderful people! I hope all is well in your worlds. For those of you who follow me on social media (I’m @sydneyumeri on all platforms), you may have seen my picture in the Newsroom studio at CNN. While this is an exciting time in my life, I want to take a moment to put things in perspective.

To say the least a lot has changed these days, but at the same time, not much has changed at all. Contrary to the thoughts of many, no, I do not work for CNN. I’m not an anchor, and you won’t be able to catch my work on TV… yet!

I am currently an intern under the wonderful and talented George Howell who for the last month has taken me under his wing and shown me what the work of a seasoned news anchor and journalist looks like. Before continuing, I want to highlight the fact that without George and the connections/networking that was put in place to connect us, this internship would not be possible. So I am incredibly thankful to him and the people who were able to make this happen.

For those who don’t know, George anchors for CNN Newsroom between 4-7:30am Thursday through Monday. This means that my internship actually takes place within those hours. Yes, I wake up at 1:20am on Saturdays and Sundays, and shadow George from roughly 3am to 8:30am.

During that time, I watch him prepare for each show, write and re-write scripts, communicate between the studio and production room, line up questions for interviews, and of course, deliver each show live. As each show takes place, I follow along through either the teleprompter or written scripts and take notes on how he is able to deliver each story, his mannerisms, inflection, etc. Then come about 6 or 6:30am it’s my turn. I get the opportunity to do a cut-in.

A cut-in is basically announcements inserted into a network program. In the case of CNN’s Newsroom, at the bottom of every show, quick headlines of the top stories are given leading into another regularly scheduled programming. Now, as I mentioned before, my work does not go on air, and thank goodness it doesn’t because to be candid, I have a lot of work to do.

As an aspiring broadcaster, I have not gotten the opportunity to truly work and hone my craft. That is until now. For the first time ever, I did a cut-in the morning of Saturday, August 5th, and guys, it wasn’t pretty. I struggled through sentences, stumbled over words, and ultimately ended up stopping not even half way through the first script because I was just so shocked and overwhelmed. If you know anything about broadcasting, the biggest rule is to not stop regardless of circumstances.

We were able to run it back, and I read through one script completely, still struggling through it, but the point is, I got it done. Despite the significant improvement of being able to finish the second time around, I found it hard to celebrate. I was scared from the first take. 😬 Truly, broadcasting is more difficult than we give anchors and reporters credit for.

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Having watched Geroge for the past four weeks and seeing everything that goes into broadcasting, I have even more respect for what anchors, reporters, and everyone in between do. Broadcasting isn’t just talking or reading, there is an aspect of performance that goes into it. To hold the attention of millions while essentially reading a story is not easy, so there is a lot to be learned about inflection, body language, pacing, and even reading from the teleprompter without letting you eyes constantly scroll from left to right.

Speaking of reading, that is another aspect of broadcasting that is quite difficult for me. Yes, I can read, but just as some people have a fear of public speaking, my biggest anxiety provoker is public reading. I’ve never been very good at it, and the fact that the profession I aspire to requires so much of it is nerve racking. Every day that I get up and go to CNN, I have to face one of my biggest fears, and that alone is a lesson that I would like to share with you all.

The first day I shadowed under George I swear I was ready to give up my dream of broadcasting because I thought there is no way I could overcome my anxiety towards reading out loud. Not to the point where my job could depend on it.

But with little consistent acts of perseverance and courage, I continue to show up every Saturday and Sunday. Not just for myself, but because of the time, energy, and wonderful teaching George invests in me. Most days are hard because I really have to push myself out of my comfort zone. I usually leave exhausted just because of the mental push I assert solely to overcome my anxiety and ultimately negative self-talk. But despite the days being hard, there isn’t a day I walk out of CNN thinking, I didn’t get better. I always move the needle forward in one way or another, even on the day I completely botched a cut-in, my first cut-in.

After that day, I returned on Sunday, August 6th, determined to have a better showing. In my mind, nothing could be worse than my first take from the previous day. It turns out, I was right. I could only go up from there. I was able to complete a full cut-in, and despite stammering through parts, I made significant progress towards my ultimate goal.

I share this story just to say that the road to any goal, anything worthwhile, is never painless. Oftentimes, we look at the successful people who have gone before us and think, “They make it look easy. They probably never struggled like I do.”

Well, you’re wrong. Everyone struggled at one point, or several, and made the conscious decision to persevere. Now, this isn’t a story to pat me on the back. That would be ridiculous. But I hope it serves as inspiration to some and for others a little reminder that you’re not alone as you struggle and persevere towards your goal. This is just the first step to getting there. We all have to pay our dues, and for many of us, we are doing that now.

I’m not exactly where I want to be yet, but hopefully one day you’ll turn on your TV and find my relaying the most recent news happening or giving you a rundown of the day’s sports.

I also share this story to put my picture, and other things on social media in perspective. As I’ve mentioned before, social media is a highlight reel, and that day at CNN was a highlight for me, as is every other day I get the opportunity to walk in that building and get better. But I don’t want you for one second to think I’ve “made it” or believe I have a role that I don’t currently possess. Instead, I want to give you the full story.  I’m an intern who’s getting better, and I’m proud of it! 

 

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Until next time, get up, get moving, and live your best life!

Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

I didn’t post last week for two reasons. 

The first being that my blog post last Thursday, “A Word On Relationships…,”, left me feeling emotionally drained, but in the best way. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I blog because I love it and because it can be helpful to others. But also, much of what I write about is relatable because I’m either going through it or have recently.

Usually, I choose to write about situations that I have recently gone through because they leave me feeling less emotionally drained, but my last post on relationships was a situation I was currently going through and was probably the most candid I’ve ever been on this blog. In my opinion, that post is my best and most genuine work so far.

With that said, writing about losing friends after college was very real for me, and that post was as close to a personal diary or journal entry as it gets. So, to say the least, I was emotionally drained and couldn’t think of any other topics to follow-up with for the next week. I needed a break to gather myself.

The second reason is that I was overwhelmed, in yet again the best but most anxiety provoking way possible. My daily to-do lists were long, but let’s be honest, after being a varsity college athlete and graduating a year early I’ve definitely had longer ones.

I felt like I could barely stay above water, and after taking some time to evaluate why last week was so overwhelming, I realized that it was because I pushed myself out of comfort zone.

The saying goes “Nothing good happens inside your comfort zone.”

I definitely believe that growth begins when you step outside of what you know; therefore, some of the better things in life happen outside of your comfort zone. But that is so much easier said than done. I mean who doesn’t want to be comfortable?

As a creature of habit, pushing myself outside of my norm is something I avoid at all costs. If I’m honest, I try to limit “getting out of my comfort zone” to a once a week ordeal, if that.

I do that because I literally become exhausted and fatigued from the high levels of anxiety I endure when I do take that leap. Yup, you heard it correctly, going outside of my comfort zone is the equivocate of a tough (mental) workout for me. 

So since that’s how I feel towards discomfort, it is no surprise why last week took everything out of me. It felt as though every day I was either out of my comfort zone or preparing to be.

Much of what I was working on was video and photography related. In due time, the final product of last week will be shown on this blog, but to give you some perspective, I was producing a short documentary/interest piece. The stressful thing was, I was the producer, camera (wo)man, in charge of lighting and audio, and am currently in the midst of post-production. To put it simply, I was and still am a one (wo)man show.

Creating quality video content for this blog has been a dream of mine since the beginning and it’s good to know that this dream is weeks away from being realized. But the process of actually turning dreams into reality is uncomfortable and overwhelming.

At some point, you have to stop talking about it and actually start doing something. This last week and weekend I did exactly that, and I sure am glad I did. Despite the discomfort, uneasiness, anxiety, etc., I was able to finally put what I have been thinking about since December 2016 into action, and it was a great feeling.

If you’re sitting on your dreams, I highly encourage you to get up and act upon them. It’s not comfortable, it’s definitely overwhelming and you might second guess yourself along the way, but that small act of doing, whether it turns out like you envisioned it or not, teaches you so much, gives you confidence and gets you one step closer to your ultimate goal.

Sometimes you have to be overwhelmed and out of your comfort zone to be your best self and create your best work. I encourage you to push yourself to do so.

Until next time, get up, get moving, and live your best life!

Travel Anxiety

I don’t know about you, but there is something about a full flight that really stresses me out. The stress and anxiety are in full effect on flights where I have both a carry-on and a personal item. If you know me, that’s is all the time! I rarely check a bag, and if you listen to the advice of many travel experts, they’ll tell you to avoid doing so as well.

By only bringing a carry-on you’ll eliminate the chances of your luggage getting lost and can hit the ground running when you land. But nobody ever talks about the stress of bringing a carry-on onto a full flight.


It all starts at the beginning of the boarding process for me. As the gate attendants are getting their premier, skymile, platinum, gold, and whatever else they call their most valued customers through the boarding gate they make an announcement.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this will be a full flight. If you would like to check your roller bag to your final destination, please come to the gate desk.”

This statement usually makes me cringe because with my luck I’m in one of the last boarding groups. That means no overhead space for me. Also, full flight make me so uncomfortable. Maybe I’m claustrophobic, and I don’t know it, or maybe I simply don’t like the boarding process.

Does it ever feel like everyone who’s already seated is staring at you? It literally gives me anxiety just writing about it. Plus you have the pressure to move quickly because you don’t want to be the person holding up the whole boarding process.

This brings me to my main point. It’s so stressful to move quickly during the boarding process when there is no overhead space. You have to get creative, and hopefully, there is some space before you reach your seat. But if there isn’t, you have to walk toward the back to find some. Usually by then, flight attendants are telling you that the overhead bins in the back are full, and you should take whatever space you see available.

So you’re stuck with a rolling carry-on that’s kinda heavy, well mine always are, and you have to do that awkward “Excuse me. Pardon me,” song-and-dance back to the front until you can find space or can shuffle other people’s bags around to create space.

Let’s pause there. Some people are really protective of their bags. Once they put them in the bin they don’t want anyone else to touch them. For some people, this stands true even if they put their bag in the wrong way or could just shift it over a tad to create a little more space for someone else’s bag. This scenario has definitely happened to me, but most of the time people are pretty nice.

Now I know what you’re thinking. “You could have just checked the bag for free before boarding.” In some cases, if I know I’ll have time on my hands when arriving at my final destination, I will. But most of the time I don’t have time and checking a bag would defeat the purpose of me fitting my whole life into a carry-on in the first place.

So instead I uses these three trips to deal with my full flight and carry-on anxiety.

1. Talk to your gate agents about possible upgrades, or changing your group number.

Sometimes you just have to turn on the charm. A big smile and bright eyes never hurt anybody. The worst they can say is no, but usually, they’re pretty accommodating. By upgrading your seat or changing your group number, you most likely will be able to board earlier without all of the hassle, and most importantly,when there is more overhead space.

2. Ask about courtesy/valet bag checking?

This is where you get a tag and leave your bags at the end of the boarding tunnel right before you get on. Then at the end of that specific flight, you line up to retrieve your bag just outside of the plane doors. This is way more convenient than check a bag because it’s generally quicker, free and saves you the anxiety of pacing the plane aisle looking for an overhead spot.

3. Board early anyway.

Now, I’m not super proud of this tip, but it gets the job done. I only recommend this if you notice your gate agent isn’t really looking at the tickets as they allow people to board. If they just scan them and let people go, then feel free to jump in with one of the earlier regular boarding groups. Flashing a smile to keep them from looking too heavily at your ticket is a good idea too.


While I know many of you are unbothered with boarding a full flight with carry-on luggage, I hope those of you who share my same travel anxiety and discomfort got a few ideas on how to navigate the situation. Feel free to leave tips on how you combat travel anxiety in the comments down below.

Until next time, get up, get moving and live your best life!