Expect the Unexpected 

As I was headed into 2015, The Lord told me while I was at church that evening, my theme for the year would be to “Expect the Unexpected.” For lack of a better phrase, I did not know what to expect but my expectations were high. To quickly confirm what He said to me, a woman at church gave me a beautiful bracelet. Needless to say, that was very unexpected and only made me more excited to see what God was going to do for Elise throughout the year. 

Many of you know I was living in Connellsville and traveling to Moon Township five days a week working at Robert Morris University. I had been in this position since November 2013 and was beginning to grow weary. Being in my car three hours a day to get to and from work was beginning to take its toll on me. But I used this time wisely–I spent that time in worship and prayer with God. So I took my problem up with The Big Man himself and said, “Lord. I don’t know how much longer I can do this drive. I’ve done all I can do.” He said, “Continue to work hard and you’ll see your prayers realized.” I said, “Deal.” 🙂
Skip to April 1st around 6:35 am about five miles from my house, I was in a car accident. Simply headed into work, a Dodge truck ran into the right side of Baby Jet (my Chevy Cruze). Thankfully, I was only shaken up and able to walk away from the accident (the other driver did too). Disappointed in myself, The Lord said, “Elise. This is the beginning of your shifting. Out with the old and in with the new.” My trust was (and is) in Him wholeheartedly. My car was so damaged with such high mileage, my parents and I thought we wouldn’t get much for it. Well, Liberty Mutual called and we were given a significant amount of money for Baby Jet. This was used to put a down payment on my 2015 Jeep Renegade, Baby Rev. Expected the Unexpected
April was also the month Blessed Resistance, the Christian Rock band I’m in was assembled. The Lord brought us together and it’s been such a blessing. If someone would have told me 2 or even 3 years ago that I’d have the chance to play drums and sing in a band at Idewild, I would have looked at them sideways. God is good like that, isn’t He? Expect the Unexpected

Fast forward to July where I was beginning to job search. My mentee was beginning to look at Seton Hill for graduate school. When she told me that, I figured I’d look to see what they had posted. As an aside, before I applied to my job at RMU there was a job a Seton Hill that I almost applied to but He told me to wait and so I did. Well, as God would have it, my colleague told me about the position of Director of Student Involvement. Everything listed in the description was exactly what I needed and wanted in my next position. God perfectly orchestrated (as He always does) this for me. By mid-August, I got the call and was hired at Seton Hill University as the Director of Student Involvement. As soon as I got to The Hill I asked God, “Why [am I here] now? He said, “Had you not been through what you’ve gone through, you wouldn’t be able to do what I need you to do while here on this campus.” Expect the Unexpected

My intention is not to brag or boast, but to simply share how my faith in God was strengthened this year. He kept me through snowstorms and construction traffic for almost two years, so that he could bless me with a job where I don’t even have to get in my car to get to work.  He kept me safe even in a car accident, so that I would realize that when I need to get rid of something old, He’ll do whatever he’s gotta do to get me out because He’s coming with something better and more exciting. He put me in a band, to spread The Good News in a way I never thought possible. God is ALWAYS looking for ways to bless us. We just have to make sure we’re expecting. 

 Thank you for everything 2015!   

  

 

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Celebrate Difference

Let’s begin taking our fate into our own hands. If we truly would like see change in this country, we have to begin doing the little things that can make a significant difference. No longer can we stay quiet when those around us say or do something offensive about any “other.” That ‘other’ can include anything from the n-word or b-word or using rape and gay as slang. If we challenge one another to think differently about these everyday issues, you would see our culture begin to change.

It’s up to you and me to begin helping everyone to recognize what being an other is all about. Really, we are all an other in some capacity, which just means there is something about you that makes you different from the next person. That’s so cool! We all have a difference we can celebrate about ourselves, yet there are many persons who also celebrate that same difference. Take myself for example. I’m a black woman who loves country music. I’m sure there are many black girls who also love country music. There may not be many, but I know I’m not alone.

It’s time we begin celebrating what makes each once of us unique, which will in-turn, teach us to loves ourselves. Thus, appreciating others as well.  To quote Disney’s The Sword In The Stone, “Just because you can’t understand something, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong.” Not being able to understand someone’s otherness, should not mean you demean its existence in any way or vice versa.  If we were to take on this perspective and make it an ideal, there would have to be a regard for others’ otherness. See what I’m getting at? By no means will we agree on or about every little thing, but what there can be is a mutual respect. I respect you and the life you’re living. We are all trying to survive in this crazy world and when our paths cross, we should high-five one another on how we are somehow making it work.

Our culture has a lot of incorrect messages being perceived as real and truth. How do we change this? We don’t wait for heartbreaking situations to happen that can divide us even more. Instead we use the past as positive ammunition to work towards something better. We change it by talking about our thoughts and opinions without getting loud or cursing. Who is going to want to listen if your point is riddled with offensive language? No one and what good is that? Share what’s on your mind without all that extra stuff.

If people begin to talk, then we also need to really listen. That means not just being quiet and waiting for that person to be finished with whatever he or she is saying—letting it go in one ear and out of the other. Listening means that not only are your ears open, but your mind and heart are as well. You’re listening not only to reply, but also taking something from the conversation that enlightened or taught you. Hear whatever it is that person is truly saying. What they have to say is just as important as what is on your mind.

It’s not all of our faults that we’re like this. We don’t listen well, we use slang words that offend and don’t celebrate our uniqueness. However, the time is right now for us to change our ways. Put politics aside and let’s embrace what makes us different. Think about how boring this world would be if we were all the same. Difference is what makes this life fun! It’s what makes the world around us. For just one second, consider how there would be no need to travel if every part of the world was exactly the same. There would be no reason to travel to Paris to see the Eiffel or London to see Big Ben. Without difference the world is dull. No need to be dull when we were born to be sharp. Iron sharpens iron right?

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Situations…Will Arise

Life is not always going to deal you the winningest hand of cards, so having the capability to use those cards to the best of your ability is an important skill to possess.   Naturally, we would like for every situation that arises in our lives to work in our favor, but it fortunately does not. Why do you say ‘fortunately,’ Elise?  If everything was handed to us on a silver platter, our stories would not be worth telling, much less empowering.  We would never learn how it feels to have hard work pay off if we could have everything we wanted.  For example, let’s say everything you made a decision to pursue since the age of eighteen went exactly as planned.  There are things in your life at this present moment that would not exist if it had not been for some “no’s” along the way.

There are plenty of ways the no’s (old and new) in your life were and will continue to be used for your good.  Those no’s have either been the fuel to a lot of fires that have led to your current success or maybe given you the chance to grow by thinking about things differently.  Most of the time, when something we thought was going to work out does not, the next opportunity is typically better than the last.  Isn’t it funny how that works?  Therefore, do not be discouraged when Plan A or Plan B does not pan out. If it is Plan G that finally works, lean something from each of the plans that did not and keep progressing.

All things work together for your good. There will be times when keeping a phrase like that in mind will be more than difficult.  If you can, keep an inspirational quote written somewhere to remind yourself everyday that you can handle whatever life throws at you. Even the worst storms end at some point, right? Sometimes, there is even a rainbow!

Make the best of any and every situation, no matter what it looks like on the surface because just below is your victory. –Elise Michaux

 

Write Right No Matter Who is Reading

I am both blessed and thankful for all of the opportunities my education has and will continue to afford me. Thus, seeing and hearing people bash education or say it isn’t necessary, makes my stomach turn. As an educator, I realize that school is not for everyone. Heck, my own brother is one of the most well spoken people you’ll ever meet and he only spent two years in higher education before deciding to stop out. However, I also appreciate that deciding to stick it out sets you apart from the masses.

One simply cannot brag about not being educated, then speak or write in a way that says it without requiring their bragging. In other words, those among you who are educated can tell you are not educated by the way you both speak and write. Now, I do have to admit, that there are some folks that graduated from college and still speak like they attended Backwoods University. Thankfully, that is only a small number of people. Frankly, all that means to me is that you were not completely invested in your time spent at college. Also never forget that self-education is where true knowledge lies.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “Oh, E! You only care because you were an English Literature major in undergrad and grew up with an English teacher in your house.” While all of that is true, I’m not the only one who still cares about grammar. A professor at my job just asked me if we had someone in our office who could help one of her students work on his basic writing skills because an email he wrote to her was subpar. Even punctuation and grammar still matter in little things like emails.

Just this morning I stumbled upon a blog post by CNN anchor, Fareed Zakaria. He was asked to be the keynote commencement speaker at Sarah Lawrence in New York. He wrote about the power of a liberal arts education, realizing very quickly that anyone can memorize and regurgitate stuff they’ve memorized, but expressing his own ideas was altogether different. “Whether you’re a novelist, a businessman, a marketing consultant or historian, writing forces you to make choices and it bring clarity and order to your ideas,” says Fareed. See my point? I’m not the only one who thinks this matters.

Let me be clear. In no way am I saying that everyone should be like Maya Angelou when it comes to writing; no one can be like her because that was God given talent. Nor am I saying that I am the bees-knees when it comes to writing/editing. What I am saying is that having the ability to write (and speak), sets you a part from a whole lot of people. Like Fareed Zakaria said, Whatever you do in life, the ability to write clearly, cleanly and, I would add, quickly, will prove to be an invaluable skill. I could not have said it better myself.

This piece is dedicated to Maya Angelou. I find it uncanny that I would need to write something off of my chest the day of her death. She has inspired myself and so many other to tell his or her story. May she rest in power. 

Lighting that Comes From Within

As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way.  –Mary Anne Radmacher

This quote immediately brings to mind both Oprah and Ellen.  Each has amassed fame and fortune owing to, I believe, their heart’s propensity to be generous, lighting an eternal flame.  One can only imagine the millions of dollars these two have donated to families in need, schools, and charities.  While you and I may never have bank accounts that look like Oprah’s or Ellen’s, we can agree that giving is a reciprocal and precious commodity.  In fact, it yields the keys to happiness.

Do you volunteer a Saturday each month at the local food pantry? Do you mentor a young adult who has taken an interest in your profession?  Taking advantage of these kinds of opportunities will benefit everyone involved.  When we take a genuine interest in things like this, something deep within us begins to develop. That “something” may turn into a passion. What if you discover that your talent makes the critical contribution to the local junior high musical?  What if teaching a cousin to play basketball leaves a smile on his face long after your game of “horse?”

I hear you saying you don’t have time.  Just make sure your heart is part of whatever is your chosen contribution.  If you do what you love, the time spent will not feel like work and you will be more likely to do it again.  Step outside of your comfort zone; outside of your comfort zone is where you discover yourself, and on a larger scale, the world.

This is meant to simply encourage you to look at the plethora of benefits in giving.  It may help you to connect with someone you never thought you would have, had you not struck up a conversation with that person.  Maybe it will be so powerful that it inspires you to start an organization like TOMS.  He got that idea from some kind of service, right?  Taking us back to the quote we began with, I think we can all agree that it has brightly lit his way.  Make a pledge today that you will find a way to create light for others.  There will be nothing that compares!

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Finding Your Voice

I am beginning to realize the importance of finding your voice.

Once an individual has found his or her voice, the true self begins to emerge.  In my opinion, taking the time to understand who you intrinsically are, is one of the most important first steps in being successful.  Why? Because there is so much power in knowing who you are.  Negative influences are less likely to distract you.  By finding your voice, you become a more confident and genuine person, whose persona is attractive to those with whom you interact.  You’ll also like yourself a little more.

A confident person talks and walks in way that makes you take notice.   His speaking voice is strong and you don’t have to cup your hand to your ear to hear him speak. His walk is upright and exudes gracefulness. His presence demands to be felt and commands any room. This person has most likely done some soul searching.  I guarantee he has spent some invaluable time getting to know what makes him tick. That is what finding your voice requires;  you must examine yourself on a level so profound, that you figure out things that even family and friends don’t know about you. You won’t figure it out in one sitting, but frequently having “me time” is how you begin to see the value.

There is a plethora of ways you can spend that “me time.” You can go to the gym or go for a run.  Maybe you decide you’ll just read a good book or listen to some music. All of that is great, however I also encourage folks to keep a journal. Keeping a journal is one of the sure ways of finding your voice. There is something very cathartic about writing.  The same came be said about running/exercising, which is just a different kind of catharsis. Documenting in some fashion what happened on a certain day or writing about whatever is on your mind, is a great way to begin understanding what you care about most.

Don’t over think.  Just write.  Write what’s on your heart because by taking notice of what makes your heart beat or what makes it ache, will change your life.  We know that smoking can cause damage to our lungs because the surgeon general has examined smokers’ lungs.  Do you see where I am going with this?  Well, how would you know what is good or harmful to your heart if you don’t examine it every once in awhile?

Last Thought: You find your voice by understanding who you are and what makes your world go ‘round. Once you have a  pretty solid idea of who you are and make the commitment to continue to grow, you cannot be stopped.

I promise.

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Remember to See the Forest for the Trees

One of the many beauties of life, is the fact that we’re constantly challenged. We are challenged to do things which may not show benefit for years to come. Those challenges  are not meant to break us, they are meant to make us both stronger and wiser.  If we approach life’s “not-so-fun” moments with a different mindset, handling those situations becomes much easier.  We simply must remember to see the forest despite the trees. When something’s overall appearance seems detrimental, expend your energy on what’s really important.

Am I saying that you are not going to be disappointed or discouraged at times in your life even with a conscious effort to see the forest for the trees?  Heck no.  However, your reaction is crucial!  Feeling upset can come at any moment, but should not last for but a moment.  For example, an extreme case may be mourning the death of a loved one.  That may be a wound that never completely heals; I just would not want to see that mourning rob you of  living. In a less extreme case, maybe you’re upset about something that just did not come to fruition as you expected.  Don’t dwell on it and just take it in stride.  There is an even greater opportunity that is going to present itself.  Let that thought alone provide you peace.

We have to understand that without the rainy days, we would not appreciate the sunny days.  Without the days that seem like nothing is working in our favor, we would not appreciate the absolutely terrific days.  If we did not know struggle, how would we appreciate the achievement and accolades that are the result of hard work? There are so many things in life that are symbiotic, which means we have to find a way to appreciate even what doesn’t feel or look appealing on the surface.  There is always something bigger and of greater importance in what looks like a negative season/experience.

Do you see how important it is to have a positive mindset in life?  If we begin to teach our minds to be able to see at least a little of the good even when we see mostly bad, it will not only get easier, but we’ll also get faster at distinguishing the good.  No life isn’t going to be easier, but just implementing a mindset that triesreally hard to see the forest in spite of the trees,  life will be easier to manage and understand.

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Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

What intrigues me the most about reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was that he knew his assignment on this earth. Although he knew it wasn’t going to be an easy assignment to accomplish, he didn’t shy away from his purpose. His sacrifice and dedication to making this country, this world, see that NO ONE should be judged by the color of his or her skin, was to be admired.
Today, I charge you with this question: Are you living out your assignment or are you shying away? I guarantee, that if you choose sooner rather than later to take on that assignment, you’ll touch the lives of many. If you don’t know your purpose just yet, reflect on it today.

New Year New Me: Don’t Take It so Literally

Before we entered 2014, per usual, everyone was reflecting on the past year. Whether it was Flipagram or Statigram, reviewing 2013’s highlights filled the timelines of all my social media platforms.  Along with the new year, also brings New Years resolutions and the phrase “New Year, New Me” tends to get thrown around quite a bit.  However, this year, many folks were bashing the idea of that phrase.  They claimed, “You’re not gonna change, so don’t even say that you will.”  I would like to argue that the phrase “New Year, New Me (NYNM)” in this sense, is being taken too literally and delve into what I believe that person is really trying to express.

First, we have a tendency to take things literally far too often.  The tendency to do this increases even more, when we are going to criticize someone/something.  We are creatures of habit and when someone or something changes, there’s going to be some folks who don’t like that change or flat out discourage it.  Don’t listen to the naysayers.  Change is good, healthy and in most cases very necessary.  If you have a bad habit, there is something that you need to do differently in order to stop that bad habit.

I believe the person using NYNM is really trying to say that the new year will look different for them because of what the past year taught them.  They’re trying to say that some poor decisions, minor mistakes, and bad habits should be left in 2013. They’re trying to say that there will be a valiant effort made towards being a better “me” in 2014 and that’s nothing we should bash—it’s to be encouraged!
We spend far too much time criticizing and not enough time lifting each other up.  Challenge yourself to be better than the person you were yesterday.  That’s the only person you have to compete with—you should be your biggest critic.  As LeBron James would say, “Strive for Greatness.”

Thanks to 2013

Overall, 2013 was absolutely amazing, but it did have some “shaking my head” points. I wanted to share the five things I’m taking from the year. 

  1. Life sure ain’t always easy, but it’s amazing! One of the things I think our society has gotten better at because of Instagram, is not taking everyday things like morning sunrises and moonlight nights, for granted anymore.  People are beginning to see that the ordinary is actually extraordinary and taking time to capture those unforgettable moments.  Who would have thought a piece of technology would make us appreciate our breathtaking surroundings? 
  2. With a few deaths that hit close to home this year, from my grandfather’s to Trayvon Martin’s, life is precious.  People say ‘carpe diem’ and “life is a gift,” but do they really live that way? Some days I do and some I don’t. It’s time to really begin ceasing the days I have and making the most out of life. 
  3. My skin color will always be seen in so many eyes as less than, a threat, and even worthless.  In many ways, remnants of the mindsets of those in the 50s and 60s still exists.  It’s both alarming and disappointing. This is what drives me to be educated.  Although being educated doesn’t necessarily make me safe from ignorance, it does give me the opportunity to help with whom I come into contact.  I may not be able to change the world, but if I can reach just one person, then that’s something. 
  4. The importance of loving myself. Songs like Roar by Katy Perry and (not enough people listen to) India.Arie’s song Life I Know, really struck a chord with me.  If I learn to love Elise’s weaknesses, flaws, and downfalls, then I won’t be so susceptible to doing things that I’ll regret later.  Mistakes are bound to be made, but when you make it a second time, that’s a choice.
  5. Don’t go rewinding scenes that don’t deserve a second viewing.  Being the empathetic person that I am, my feelings often get tangled up in situations that don’t end up working in my favor.  It’s important to acknowledge that about myself.

No New Years resolutions for this girl. I just like to take time to recognize what I have improved on over the past year and what needs to be worked on in the year to come.  Always take time to reflect about what’s most important to you, set short-term and long-term attainable goals, work to achieve them and watch yourself become a happier you.