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!

 

Yoga, Pure Barre & Kickboxing Review

As I have mentioned before, my college career ended on March 3rd, and I wasted no time implementing a solid workout routine. While I dedicate an hour and a half each morning to cardio and weights, I like to throw in a few exercise classes to spice things up.

Yoga

If you are anything like me, you’re probably under the impression that yoga is easy. Probably because most “yogis” are super chill and yoga is all about stretching, right?Well, that is a myth. It honestly depends on the class you sign up for. Some yoga classes are more focused on meditation, others on your core, balance, restoration, the list goes on. If you want to do yoga only because you want to stretch, then I think you’re better off just stretching by yourself.  But if you want to stretch, work on strength, balance and your core, then yoga is for you.

The first yoga class I ever took was a hot vinyasa class. I think I overestimated my abilities. While I didn’t die during the workout, there were a few times I came pretty closes. (I know! I’m dramatic.) While I am new to yoga and still learning about the different styles, vinyasa is definitely a more advanced form. Try it if you want, but you will definitely understand what I’m talking about when you’ve held a plank for five minutes, you’re sweating bullets because the room is a sauna, your muscles are shaking, and your instructor is telling you to “Just breath through it.”

I highly recommend that you take flow or sequence classes that are not hot as your introduction to yoga. Once you’ve done those, you can slowly incorporate beginner or intermediate hot class as you get more comfortable and begin to understand what yoga is all about.

I like yoga because it is a very self-reflective practice. Whenever I go to yoga I know I can work on myself, but in the presence of others. Often at the beginning of class, you’ll set a focus for yourself or as a class. A common theme of many of my classes has been letting go of anything (any energy) that doesn’t serve you.

It’s a great way to clear your mind, push yourself mentally and physically, and meet other amazing people in your community.

Pure Barre

It’s all about “finding your shake.” What is “your shake,” you ask? It is when your muscles start to shake as you fatigue them during an exercise or movement. Barre is an exercise that closely resembles the movements and workouts of ballerinas. As the name alludes to, you work with a bar and a few other items (2-3 pound weights, a small exercise ball, and circular exercise cords) to get the most out of each workout.

Pure Barre is all about working in opposite directions. You will hear the phrase “heavy tailbone,” because it helps to isolate muscles and ultimately “find your shake.” As someone who trained as a college athlete, I find pure barre to be quite challenging. Pushing through fatigue is hard despite the fact that all movements are minuscule. It causes me to work my mental toughness just as much as it makes me work physically. This has been refreshing because one of the biggest lessons I learned during college athletics was mental toughness. I’m glad I get the opportunity to work that “muscle” as well as all my other ones.

Boxing/Kickboxing

I have tried both boxing and kickboxing and have decided that I like boxing more. While kickboxing is fun and very similar, I just find boxing to be more my style. It’s easier for me to focus on punching combinations without adding in kicks and switching my footwork.

But let me backtrack and start by saying boxing and kickboxing are both great workouts! You will definitely sweat and be tired after but isn’t that what you went there for? Usually, you will have a warm up that is honestly harder than actual boxing or kickboxing workout. It will consist of jumping jacks, different variations of squats, lunges, planks, push-ups, mountain climbers, etc. Then you go through a series of boxing or kickboxing combinations for multiple rounds. Depending on where you go and what class (boxing or kickboxing), your workout could end with 10-15 minutes of abs, boxing with a partner, or something similar to the warm up.

When I attended my first classes, I didn’t know what to expect, but it’s definitely worth the hour you’re paying for. There is no doubt you’ll get a quality workout in.

I hope this workout review was helpful, and that it inspires you to get active for at least one hour every day if you are not already.

Let me know in the comments below if you have ever tried these classes, if you plan to, and other workout classes that I should try in the future!

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

 

Moonlight: Your Constant State of Becoming

As dynamic as the movie Moonlight and its characters were, I feel that if we look closely, we will all find Little, Chiron, and Black in ourselves. For those of you who haven’t watched the movie, I highly recommend it. It is another screenplay meant for theater that was brought to the big screen and again, another one that doesn’t disappoint. That is saying a lot coming from me because it’s not my typical happy romantic comedy. But after seeing the film, I definitely believe it lives up to every nomination it has received.

i. Little

This section of the movie hit home for me because I, like many others, was bullied during my childhood. Statistics for bullyingstatistics.org say, “About 77% of students have admitted to being the victim of on type of bullying or another,” so I know many of you can relate. It was hard to watch such a fragile child who was so unsure of himself deal with both physical and emotional abuse pertaining to topics that he had no knowledge of. It was also hard because much of his bullying stemmed from society’s unwillingness to accept him and ultimately rejecting aspects of his being because it didn’t exude masculinity as we define it today.

While I felt for this character, I also recognized the all too familiar pain of being an outcast and not truly understanding why. While my childhood bullying situation was nothing like Little’s, this was only the beginning of me understanding how our pasts have a lot to do with who we are today and how we answer the ever-illusive question, “Who are you?”

ii. Chiron

Just as many kids experience when bullied, it only gets worse as you get older. So bad that in many cases, you’re pushed to a breaking point. While Chiron was physically abused more than anything, the mental aspect of trying to figure out who he was and live a life that would grant him peace and a sense of normality was no easy task.

Like Juan alluded to earlier in the movie, “At some point, you gotta decide for yourself who you’re going to be. Can’t let nobody make that decision for you.” In this part of the movie, you see the beginning stages of Chiron defining himself, and I identified with he as he attempted to do that.

If you think about it, whether it was in high school, college, or even if you’re still waiting for this, at some point, we all have a defining moment or series of events that help us define ourselves. For me, I think my “moment” was and still is a series of events that continue to take place every day.

I am not the same person I was in high school, and now I can say I’m not the same person I was in undergrad. Always changing, I find myself constantly in a Chiron state of mind, balancing aspects of my past with current situations, and where I see myself in the future. Call me crazy, but I think we all deal with this reality at some point or another.

Chiron took a huge step towards choosing who he wanted to be. Ultimately, he made the decision to save himself from his life of physical and mental abuse by fighting back in the most literal sense. Which leads us to the manifestation of what he chose to be, Black.

iii. Black

I think if anything, we will all see a reflection of ourselves in the character Black. I know I do. As a person who is extremely keen on self-reflection and awareness, I often find myself asking who I would be if my past were a little different, or if I genuinely like/hate some of the things I claim to. After taking one too many sociology classes in undergrad, the Goffman theory that we all actors never fails to peak its head in my daily thoughts. But this movie helped to bring these ideas and theories to life.

Just as Chiron left and reinvented himself to be Black, the toughest version of himself, I feel that in some cases we all adjust our personalities and preferences to shield us from past negative experiences. But with that said, are we truly ourselves? Is that who we chose to be or is that who society forced us to become?

For me, the true beauty of this film was discovered when a concept I learned in undergrad at UVA surfaced. The idea that we are always in a constant state of becoming. This idea in its simplest form is that we are always changing into versions of our best selves. But from this movie, it also shows that we are always changing as we attempt to answer the question of “Who are you?”

I’m sure if the movie went on there would be another character following Black. But for us, as we move through different phases of life, we are not solely limited to being Little, Chiron, and Black, we have the opportunity to be so many different versions of ourselves as we continue our cycle of becoming. But with the opportunity to continually become, I hope that we have the strength despite what society says, to truly become ourselves. Not the version of ourselves that society created due to its sometimes harsh and unforgiving nature. I hope that you truly become you.