Thursday, June 27, 2013

When You Know What You Know What You Know

I first heard that line from the late, great, gospel pioneer Rev. James Cleveland when he testified during one of his songs about overhearing the hospital nurse say she didn't think he would make it during one of his bouts of illness. He said he knew without a shadow of a doubt that he would pull through. And although he did pass some few years later, during that particular hardship, he knew what he felt...and he was right.

I too have had my own moments of "unexplainable knowing" throughout my life (an uncanny trait I'm told I inherited from my late grandmother, Sallie), and I had one spine-tingling moment coupled with an extreme act of bravery just this week. After boarding a flight for a business trip in Chicago, I realized we had fallen behind the departure time without any explanation from the flight crew. A few minutes later, the pilot informed the passengers that maintenance was working on the engine, but all would be fine and we would be leaving soon. Instantly, I felt uneasy in an uncharacteristic way that I've only experienced a few times in my life. That uneasiness quickly grew into an unexplained, rapid-breathing panic, and I knew the window of time was closing for me to follow my gut and make a hard decision.

In that instant, I hit the flight attendant call button and told her I wanted to get off of the plane. She didn't challenge my decision, but her expression showed a slight look of skepticism. That alone could have caused many of us to forgo that decision. But I retrieved my bags, headed up the aisle, and made my solo exit. I was placed on a flight leaving an hour later and with that I felt a calm restore and breathed a sigh of relief although I knew I would be late for a meeting I was managing. When it was time to board my new flight, I went to the gate and discovered my original flight had been grounded and that everyone had to disembark--including the flight attendant who I spoke with, who was now sitting in the waiting area with her entire crew. I took no joy in what had happened to the other passengers, but I did feel extreme victory in knowing I had fought against doubt; the "norm"; questionable looks; and, instead, made a decision that not only saved me time (those passengers who got off were not able to rebook on the next flight like I did) but may have also saved my life!

That got me to thinking about how often we choose NOT to follow our gut or--as I like to call it--listen to God speaking into our spirits. Oprah loves to ask, "What do you know for sure?" That list may be long for some and short for others. But what I do know is that we know a lot more than we give ourselves credit for. The problem is that many times we simply prefer NOT to know. Although Chris Rock has a great joke about this, there lies an abundance of truth in that statement that have cost many of us an insurmountable amount of time, money, and pain.

How many times have we known the person we were in relation with was not who we should be with, yet we continue on because accepting that truth may leave us single or criticized? Or how about knowing the man who just got on the elevator with us in that dark parking garage seems questionable, but because we don't want to "judge" or cause hurt feelings by existing a floor earlier, we stay on and possibly put our lives in danger? How about knowing something in our body just doesn't feel right, but instead of checking on it we choose to take a few antacids and hope for the best? Or how about investing in a business venture that you're not 100% at peace with yet running the risk of losing your life's fortune because you're hoping for a successful outcome instead? There have been countless stories of misfortune that have begun with a person saying, "You know, I knew...but...." Unfortunately, hindsight is 20/20, but often we aren't as "blind" as we like to portray we are.

Thankfully, God gives us all that tiny "alarm clock" inside to wake us up to situations that may not serve us best. Yet, we tend to hit the "snooze button" often instead to save face, save time, or simply because we don't think we have the strength to face the outcome. Trust and believe, if God is there to bring you to it, He'll bring you through it. But we must first listen and then be obedient to what we hear. Never turn off or ignore your connection to the main line. You may be getting a "call" designed to save your joy, wealth, health...or even life.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Riding Out the Storm: What's Your Plan?

Perhaps because I'm getting older and am starting to notice the things "older folks" love to lament about, I've been very aware of the hostile storm patterns that seem to be increasingly plaguing many parts of the country as of late. In fact, the term "derecho" was never a part of my vocabulary until one collapsed my backyard fence in 2011 on the weekend of my birthday. It was both frightening and disheartening but, luckily, my insurance covered the damage and within a few weeks after waiting on money from my insurance company and selecting a fencing company, I came home after work to a brand new fence, which is even sturdier than its predecessor and still stands today, despite the many storms we continue to have.

That got me to thinking about storms of all kinds; not just the ones with wind and rains but those "storms" that show up as unexpected trials and tribulations in our life, be it health issues, job losses, the ending of relationships, or even the death of loved ones. And what I've discovered is that the same preparedness measures we take to protect ourselves and our surroundings from physical harm, can be applied to how we ready ourselves for life's "unexpectancies" as well.

1. Have a Plan--Most evacuations plans start with just that: a plan. In other words, a strategy of how you will get out of a tough situation if the unexpected should happen. If you lose your job tomorrow, do you have six months of your salary saved to sustain you? If major surgery is needed, do you have insurance that will cover you? If your partner should suddenly leave or pass away, can you continue to take care of yourself and your children be it through life insurance or other financial support? Many people live by the "wait and see" or "it will never happen to me" ideology. Here's the reality: "waiting to see" already puts you miles behind the starting line and "thinking it will never happen to me" will almost guarantee that it will. Don't be wishful; be smart and prepared.

2. Stock Up on Your Supplies--This directly ties into point number 1. Access your financial stability. If you are no where close to having six months of your salary saved, it's time to work your side hustles or look for a part-time job in order to earn enough funds to cushion your account. Pass on the daily Starbucks and stash that money into your savings as well. As my mom used to say, "Pennies make dollars" and every little bit helps. Also, if you work for a company that will reimburse you for your education, take advantage of gaining all of the knowledge you can while you can! A close friend who had been on her job for several years planned to eventually finish her bachelor's degree. When she was unexpectedly laid off, she found herself older, more in debt, and still without a degree, which made it even tougher for her to compete in the job market today. Remember: Never delay what you can start working on today.

As for preparedness when it comes to health, if you have medical insurance, get your annual exams without question! Women's wellness exams. Mammograms. Lab work. Eye checkups. Dental care. The body works much like an automobile and one part breaking down can quickly affect the other parts. Not preventing illnesses can not only cost you time, money--and in some cases your job--it can also cost you your life. As is said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Let proactivity be your first line of defense!

3. Find Shelter--In the common sense "finding shelter" means to do so inside a physical structure; however, when facing life's trials, it's important to find a place where you can "go within" to meditate, pray, consult, and get clarity. Be it church, a prayer group, or a counselor, never underestimate the therapeutic benefits of talking through your situation with someone willing to listen and hold your hand through the tough times. There is strength in numbers, even if that number is increased by one. Rely on your emotional support systems during this time so that you don't feel your world is crumbling down both around you and within you.
4. Assess the Damage--When the storm passes--and it will--take the time to exhale; celebrate your "coming through"; and makes notes for what you could have done better. Then start at number 1 again and create a bigger, better plan. Unfortunately, and contrary to the old adage, lightening can strike the same place twice. And the only thing worst than going through something once, is going through it again when you had the opportunity to be both wiser and better prepared.

Just like with nature's storms, there is nothing like seeing the sun peek through the clouds afterward and calmness return to your surroundings. It's God's reminder that "the storm does pass over (hallelujah)." However, it's important to remind yourself that riding out those storms can be a lot less frightening when you've done your work and made provisions for the unexpected. Don't let the storms of life catch you "uncovered." It's time to get prepared!