Five Reasons to Love the El Dorado

I’ve traveled all over the world and stayed at a number of fantastic properties. However, there’s only one property in the world I’ve traveled to five times. I have not visited this beautiful resort since launching Golden Life Musings so naturally, I just had to blog about the reasons why I love the El Dorado Spa Resorts by Karisma and why you should too!

  1. The accommodations

First, let me share that the AAA Four Diamond award-winning, adults-only El Dorado Spa Resorts in Riviera Maya, Mexico consist of El Dorado Royale, El Dorado Casitas Royale, El Dorado Seaside Suites and El Dorado Maroma. The Karisma brand also includes Generations, the family friendly resort that is connected to the El Dorado property. During my previous visits I stayed at the El Dorado Royale and the El Dorado Seaside Suites, which is a little further away in Tulum. However, on this stay I decided to try something new and explore the El Dorado Casitas Royale. My casita, which means “little house” in Spanish, was everything I thought it would be AND more!

Casita
My casita made me feel right at home

One of the things I love about these resorts is the spaciousness of all of the accommodations, including the lead-in category room, which they call their standard room, but is anything close to standard. The casita, however, boasted even more space and came complete with its own expansive indoor and outdoor shower stalls and an indoor alcove for a private spa jacuzzi. Depending on which category of casita you select – I opted for the oceanfront casita – you have either an outside deck that expands into a swim-out pool or an outside deck or balcony that leads out to the ocean. In either category you also have a private pool and swim-up bar for you and your neighbors to enjoy.  So, you have options – either a pool or the ocean is your backyard…decisions, decisions!

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I had some of the best quiet times on my veranda

Something to Note: The casitas really only work if you are traveling solo or you are a romantic couple. As is the case with most adults-only resorts, there are limited or no options for double beds. Therefore, if you want to travel with your bestie, your best bet is for each of you to get your own casita or stay at the El Dorado Royale or Generations (the family resort next door) if you want to room together.

  1. The culinary experience

If this is your first time reading Golden Life Musings let me just share with you now that I’m a foodie. That means any review that I do is going to talk about food and how much I love it. That being said, this resort had me at “gourmet-inclusive.” That means this is not your typical all-inclusive resort. These properties specialize in culinary arts and aim to give you the full palate-pleasing experience. In fact, on their web site it says, “it’s not just cuisine. This is a culinary journey.” Hello!

El Dorado Food
Some of my favorite dishes to view and eat 🙂

What does that mean exactly, you ask? Well, let me just share with you some of the amenities. There are more than 12 restaurants on the property (including the Royale, Casitas, and Generations) serving an array of gourmet options, there is 24-hour complimentary room service, and the kicker – the El Dorado Royale has a 76,000 sq. ft. greenhouse on the property where fresh vegetables and spices are grown.

El Dorado Greenhouse

Additionally, this time I opted to partake in a unique feature of the El Dorado brand – Fuentes, a Culinary Theatre. This five-course culinary experience features a full cooking show where the resort’s Head Chef and Sommelier prepare a demonstration of each course using some of the finest ingredients from their greenhouse and pair them with a premier selection of wines. It was truly an experience, and not to mention delicious!

Something to Note: This is one restaurant where you definitely need to have a reservation. There is only one sitting each night, which begins at 7 pm with a welcome cocktail and 7:30 show and dinner.

El Dorado Fuentes

  1. The service

Having stayed at this property on more than one occasion, I can say with confidence that this resort is one of the best I’ve experienced in customer service. The staff is not only super-friendly and cordial, they are extremely helpful and do what they can to make you feel like a rock star. During this stay, because I was a Casitas Royale guest, I was able to experience the convenience of having a personal concierge. This person was there to essentially take care of whatever I needed from booking my massage and restaurant reservations to finding me a toothbrush if I needed one. When you experience service like that, well it’s hard to go back to anything else!

Check-in appetizers and champagne
This was our check-in experience – appetizers and champagne!

Something to Note: There is a complimentary shuttle service that runs every 20 minutes to take you anywhere you want to go on the property. This service ends at 11 pm so if you plan on enjoying the many restaurants or bars after 10 pm, know that you will have to get yourself back to your accommodations on your own.

  1. The spa

As it is one of my duties as a travel consultant to fully inspect a property for my clients, I had to do my due-diligence, of course, in experiencing the spa (smile). There are two spas on the resort and this time, since I was a Casitas guest, I opted for the Casita Spa. Both have an ancient Mayan-themed motif and are designed to “soothe, refresh, and rejuvenate your entire being.” And that it did!

I elected to indulge in what they call “The Sky” massage, which is conducted in an open-air cabana right on the beach where you can hear the sound of the waves crashing in the background and feel the warm Caribbean breeze graze your skin as you get rubbed down. It was so magnificent, in fact, I had to go back for a second visit a couple of days later…for research purposes of course (smile).

El Dorado Naay Spa
Be sure to ask for Saidy or Angeles…their hands are magic! That photo on the bottom right shows how relaxed I was lol.

Something to Note: Try your hand at the 80-minute Kukulkan massage, which infuses different massage techniques using natural oils derived from the benefits of Mexican herbal therapy and massage accessories that include native dried gourds and bamboo. They also use a combination of various techniques including Lomi-Lomi, Reflexology, Shiatsu and Swedish, which will have you in the deepest state of relaxation and serenity you ever thought possible.

  1. The vibe

This might be the hardest part of the resort to describe, but probably one of the most important parts of a vacation for me. Every time I visit a new destination, I am keenly aware of the feeling I get when I experience all of the aforementioned amenities. It is an intangible, yet very real part of the experience, and that is the vibe.

Most of the times I visited this resort, I have been with a large group of people and with those large groups, sometimes it is hard for a resort to maintain the essence of what makes its brand shine and the quality of service that it provides. Not here. From the convention group services to our private foam party and swim-up bar service, each staff member served us with excellence and made us feel like we were right at home. And that’s why the El Dorado will see me again.

El Dorado Maroma
The El Dorado Maroma’s overwater bungalows are next on my list! Yes, please!
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From Thailand With Love Part Two

Last month I began to tell you about my amazing trip to Thailand and yes, it was that epic I had to break it up into two parts. One of the beautiful things about Thailand is in fact, the diversity of the places to see while you’re there. The experience in Bangkok is very different from the experience in Phuket, but I very much appreciated them both. But before I get into sharing my love affair with Phuket, let me interrupt this program to share with you my experience getting to the other side of the world.

My travel mates and I knew we wanted to make a stop in Dubai, so we decided to do it big and have the Emirates experience. If you’ve never heard about or actually had the Emirates experience let me enlighten you. It is beyond first class – even if you are flying economy class. Since this was also birthday trip, my saint of a mother upgraded our tickets to business class as a birthday gift. BEST BIRTHDAY GIFT EVER!

Business Class

Literally from the moment we stepped out of my house to find our Suburban waiting to escort us to the airport, Emirates made us feel like superstars. Every meal, from breakfast in the lounge to the lunch and dinner and snacks on each flight, was cooked and seasoned to perfection. The service was impeccable. The rest that I got in my seat that converted into a lay flat bed was the best sleep by far I’ve ever gotten on a plane. Emirates even took care of a complimentary hotel room where we could go and freshen up during our 10-hour layover in Dubai. The only bad part about it all is that they’ve completely ruined me from wanting to experience another airline, and certainly not economy. [Insert chuckle and fake eye roll here.] I will be flying Southwest in a few weeks and I will be just fine.

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I have to admit though, after the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, which is not unlike most highly populated major cities around the world, I was ready for the calm and serenity of Phuket. And it did not disappoint. Phuket is by far one of the most beautifully charming cities I’ve visited. From the moment we stepped out of our transfer onto the beach, my heart skipped a beat. I felt like I was in heaven on Earth. The almost white sand and blue green water glistening from the brilliance of the sun immediately relaxed all the leftover tension I was holding in my body from back home.

Baan Amandeha

We walked onto the property at the villa and I had another reaction – complete awe. This villa was incredible and none of the photos or videos quite do it justice…but I tried! At the last minute, the vendor that I used to book the villa upgraded us from what was already a phenomenal property to this 10-bedroom beachfront dreamhouse. There was nothing about this place I didn’t love, but my favorite part was the infinity pool and the direct view of the sunrise from my bedroom every morning. The day of my birthday I decided to take a bath while I watched the sunrise. It just doesn’t get any better than that!

Sunrise

While I have to admit that it was quite hard leaving that place, all of the activities we experienced off the property were just as incredible. If you know me you can probably guess my favorite, which was the Thai cooking class. It was awesome! Our concierge connected us with Pat’s Home Thai Cooking Class – a must visit! We cooked several traditional Thai dishes – Tom Yum Goong soup, spring rolls, chicken green curry, papaya salad and a banana in coconut milk dessert. Yum! It was one of my favorite meals on the entire trip.

Thai Cooking Class

Next on our agenda was to visit the Big Buddha Temple of Phuket and the Elephant Sanctuary. The temple was one of the most gorgeous structures I’ve ever seen. The Big Buddha statue sits on a hill directly overlooking a 360-degree panoramic view of the island and Chalong Bay. It was absolutely breathtaking. The temple, which sits adjacent to the statue, has a number of Buddha statues made of gold and marble that are equally incredible.

Big Buddha

Our visit to the Elephant Sanctuary was just as we all wanted it to be – short and sweet. We liked the fact that the sanctuary we went to gave us the option to ride or feed the elephants and we all opted to feed them. I had researched prior to the trip about how elephants’ backs are actually not built to hold the weight of humans. Our interaction with them was just long enough to get our photo ops and get some baby elephant kisses along the way.

Elephant Sanctuary

One of my other most memorable parts of the trip was our trip to the Phi Phi Islands (pronounced pee pee if you were wondering). Ever since I put Thailand on my vision board and bucket list, I had dreamed of going to the Phi Phi Islands. And I must say, I was not quite prepared for what I actually experienced. Let me explain. First, no one told us about the speedboat ride there. It was rough, to put it mildly. So rough, ten minutes into our trip we had to turn around and go back because two of the ladies could not take the ride – for stomach and fear issues. To say it was bumpy would be an understatement! But the rest of the girls and I battled it through for the more than an hour-long ride. Once we got there, we could all say that it was absolutely worth it. There really are no words to really describe the majestic beauty of this place.

Panoramic Phi Phi Islands

We stopped a few times, once to see Monkey island (where you can imagine what goes on there) and another time to hop off and do some snorkeling. I don’t know if it was the crazy ride or the heat of the afternoon sun, but that was the most refreshing water I’ve ever experienced. The final stop was a shopping area where we scored on some great souvenirs and a delicious lunch.

Phi Phi Islands

After that day trip, we were happy to get back to our villa where our massage therapists were awaiting our return. We had no idea how much we were going to need them that day! One quick note here, massages are amazingly cheap in Thailand (as low as $20 for an hour), so make plans to load up on massages while you are there!

Massage Therapists
We had our own massage room in the villa!

I would be remiss if I ended the recap of my Thailand trip without sharing my birthday experience with you. We hired a chef to come in and cook three meals for us that day (which was also very cheap by American standards) and it was absolutely amazing! Imagine this: you wake up when you’ve finished sleeping (which happened to be at sunrise), soak in a nice warm bath, eat breakfast that’s waiting for you, have a photo shoot with your friends, wade in the water, have another amazing meal, get a massage, take a nap, and have another amazing meal. Heaven!

Birthday Meals

That’s pretty much the word I would use to describe this trip. Absolute heaven. That’s why I will be returning to this charming destination and I recommend you add it to your bucket list as well.

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From Thailand With Love

In case you haven’t noticed, I love to travel. With each new destination I visit, I get a renewed thirst and joy for visiting a new place. And just like that, it becomes one of my favorite trips to date. My most recent journey to Thailand proved to be no different.

This beautiful country located in Southeast Asia has everything I love about a travel destination – beautiful beaches, a fascinating culture, kind people, amazing food, and lots of hidden and not so hidden treasures to explore.

Our trek began with a day-long layover in Dubai, which I was eager to get back to after spending some time there a few years ago. I had the opportunity to show my traveling buddies some of my favorite sites – Miracle Garden and Global Village. We split our time between the two, but you could easily spend a whole day exploring and still not see everything these destinations have to offer. (For more insights on Dubai, why you should go and what you should do while you’re there, visit my “Why Dubai?” blog post.)

Dubai 2019

Our first stop in Thailand was Bangkok. We stayed in the beautiful Okura Prestige. Since by American standards Bangkok hotels are pretty cheap, I figured we could afford to splurge on luxury accommodations here…and luxury it was! Between the breathtaking views from the rooftop infinity pool, the first-class customer service and stylish, spacious rooms offering panoramic views of the city, we took no time to fully immerse ourselves into luxury Thai living with a bit of Japanese flare. 

Our first adventure was testing out the street food at the infamous night markets in Bangkok. Well honestly, getting there was the first adventure. We decided to try our hand at Bangkok public transportation, which was not bad, once we got the hang of it. It’s definitely one of the cleanest, civilized public transit systems I’ve experienced. I definitely recommend it because it was the quickest, cheapest option to get around considering the horrendous traffic!

Our concierge at Okura Prestige recommended The New Rot Fai Market Ratchada right next to the Esplanade shopping mall, which was conveniently just a few steps from the Thai Cultural Center transit stop. I was definitely overwhelmed with all of the food options at the market – but in a good way. I spent a great deal of time surveying the rows and rows of vendors until I finally landed on what essentially were dumplings filled with yummy goodness. There was a lot of chicken, seafood, fish, and yes, they even had a wide array of insects (yuck). Vegetables seemed to be a bit scarce. I tried everything from Thai fried chicken to pork belly to marinated prawns and grilled squid, and honestly, I did not try one thing I didn’t like. I did have one regret though. I did not try the whole fish filled with herbs roasting on a spit that some of my travel mates went back and tried the next day. You know what that means…I have to go back!

Thai street food

Our journey the next day took us to the Floating Market. A word of caution – it’s best to leave super early in the morning (6:30 or 7 am) because it is an actual journey getting there. The distance and traffic from downtown can easily make it a two hour ride each way! I can’t say that I was wowed by anything in the markets, as you could find what they were selling at most of the vendors in the markets closer into the city. But, the experience of floating down the waterway to visit the different vendors was pretty cool. I don’t have to do it again though (smile).

On our return visit on the back end of our trip, we had a chance to visit what is affectionately called the “Weekend” market, which was even larger and filled with more shopping options than the night market. This market seemed to be one that more of the locals visit for retail shopping. They had literally every trinket, piece of clothing, and food option you can imagine. I just wish we had been able to spend more time there.

Speaking of shopping, one note about Thailand. In general, it’s extremely affordable once your feet hit the ground there. Most everything – food, souvenirs, even massages – is pretty cheap considering the exchange of the US dollar to Thai currency, which is called baht, is in our favor. One dollar is equivalent to 30 baht. A decent meal at the street market might run you 150 to 300 baht depending on how hungry you are (smile).

So that was just Bangkok. Stay tuned for Part 2 of From Thailand With Love where I’ll share more on my favorite part of the trip: Phuket! I’ll give you a sneak peek…this was our 10-bedroom home for five days!

Baan Amandeha

Seven Must Have Experiences in Cabo

Anybody who knows me knows that Mexico is one of my favorite destinations. Somehow I end up there at least once a year and haven’t seemed to tire of it yet! I’ve traveled extensively throughout this beautiful country but I find Los Cabos, otherwise known as just simply “Cabo”, to hold a special place in my heart. Not only is the landscape distinct from more popular regions like the Riviera Maya region on the northeastern Yucatán Peninsula, but the more laid-back feel and charm of this destination make it worth visiting.

As it is on the southwestern tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, the climate and “desert meets sea” scenery resembles the southern west coast of the United States. In addition, what makes Cabo really visit-worthy are the experiences I outline below. You definitely want to check out these must-have experiences that surely will land Cabo on your radar:

  1. Watch the sunset. It is true that the further you travel down south, the more glorious the sunsets are because clearly, you are closer to the sun. Well Cabo does not disappoint in this area. In fact, the distinct landscape of this beautiful location adds to its beauty. And the way the rays reflect off of the mountains and cloud formations, is uniquely beautiful each day. On our day of arrival, my friends and I had an opportunity to experience it just in time!

Cabo sunset

2. Watch the sunrise. Most destinations I’ve visited are either known for their glorious sunrises or sunsets but Cabo shines well in both categories. Pun intended. In February when I most recently visited, the sunrise was a little later than some of the sunrises I’ve seen around the world, at roundabout 7 am, so your wake-up time isn’t too crazy. If that sounds way too early for you, I promise it is worth it! The way the sky changed colors leading up to the sunrise, contrasted against the sea and the mountains…it was nothing short of magnificent.

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3. Visit The Arch. The Arch, or “El Arco”, is a natural stone arch over the ocean in Cabo San Lucas (one of the two towns in Los Cabos) where the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of California meet. I don’t know if words can even express how glorious this was and the pictures and videos don’t do it justice either. You just have to experience this for yourself! Additional Tip: I recommend renting a private boat for a few hours so you can soak in the whole experience and enjoy some snorkeling as well.

The Arch
I was so proud of my panoramic shot of the Arch from our boat. 🙂

 

4. Go to The Office. No not your office, THE Office. The first time I visited Cabo, our concierge recommended this delightful local gem on Medano Beach (which is also where you can catch the best views of the sunrise). Not only is the food excellent and the margaritas on point, there’s tons of entertainment and people watching to do there as well. Just a word of caution, if you sit on the front row of tables facing the beach, be prepared to harassed by the beach vendors. Yes, they will try to sell you on holding and petting their iguanas while you have a fork up to your mouth.

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5. Get a massage on the beach. If you are a beach bum and a massage lover like I am, well this one is self-explanatory. For those who need some selling, I can’t tell you how amazing it is to hear the real sounds of the ocean in the background (versus recorded sounds) while the ocean breeze grazes your skin as your muscles relax from the rub down. And the best part, it won’t break your pockets. I got a 90-minute massage for $50 and there are some places where it is cheaper!

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6. Dance the night away at Mandala Club. I get it, partying may not be your thing but the laid-back mood of Cabo, combined with the charm and feel of this destination, makes it worth having on at least one night of your trip. They have a wide selection of music that will satisfy just about anybody’s music preferences and they go well into the wee hours to satisfy you party animals out there.

mandala

7. Eat street tacos. You know the foodie in me couldn’t resist saying something about the food, right? Yep, Cabo has some of the best tacos in the world, as you can imagine. When in Mexico, right? And you can find an excellent taco at just about anywhere, and particularly the street vendors.

Street tacos

A final word of advice. Don’t let the reports of Cabo and Mexico, in general, being dangerous and crime-ridden scare you off from visiting. The violence and crime that does take place in Cabo primarily involves locals, not tourists, and it takes place nearly 100% in the rural, hillside communities. As I’ve recommended before with anywhere you go, take part in recreational activities responsibly and be careful of your surroundings, especially when traveling off resort grounds. I still cherish Mexico as one of my favorite travel destinations and I will continue to recommend it to travelers looking for an amazing vacation experience.

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Let Me Tell You A Story

This week I participated in a podcast with my pastor Keith A. Battle and two other talented authors about the process of writing a book. One of the great conclusions of the podcast was that everyone has a story. In fact, we agreed that there is at least one book inside all of us.

Everyone loves a good story. That’s what I told myself when I sat down to write the first version of my new book God Doesn’t Make Mistakes. It was a fictional story about a dozen or so people who did not know one another but were somehow connected. And then 2015 and 2016 happened. It was quite a season of turmoil and transformation for me, and my journal reflected that. It was upon the review of those journal entries from that season that I realized the story I needed to tell was my own.

My story was filled with insights around struggling with purpose, being single and sexually abstinent, surviving as a full-time entrepreneur with a fledgling business, anxiety around the future, forgiveness, heartbreak, waiting. Any of these struggles sound familiar?

Sure, made up stories are entertaining, but there’s nothing like the juiciness and depth of a story that is well…real. You know how people say truth is sometimes stranger than fiction? True story.

Going back to my book…God spoke. He told me to use and write my story, so I was obedient. In God Doesn’t Make Mistakes, I actually publish ten of my journal entries from that season. Yes, journal entries that I wrote during a period of time that I felt the most lost, vulnerable, hurt, disappointed, and uncertain. Needless to say, it’s pretty transparent. But that’s what makes a good story right?

Except I don’t just tell a story. I really break down exactly what I was thinking at the time and use biblical principles to frame the lessons I learned. I’ll give you another cliché statement that is still an undeniable fact. Hindsight is always 20/20. The blessing of journal writing is that you get to look back at what you lived through, in your own words, and apply wisdom to it. That’s what I did here. Even though this book reveals things about myself that I never thought I would share publicly, I knew it was too good to keep to myself.

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Today, I share with you God Doesn’t Make Mistakes: Learning How Our Missteps Fit Into His Perfect Plan. It’s a story about how a time of turmoil and transformation in my life taught me how to trust God. More importantly, it taught me how to trust that His plans are much bigger than my mistakes. What a refreshing and comforting revelation! I pray the comfort and joy that I received as a result of that revelation extends to you as well as you read my book.

Like any good story it has lots of conflict, plenty of drama and some humor to balance it out. And even though our stories are different, I know there will be plenty of areas where you can relate and share in the “aha moments.”  If nothing else happens, perhaps after hearing my story you’ll have the courage and confidence to tell your story, because I hope you do know that there is one inside of you too.

To purchase an autographed copy of God Doesn’t Make Mistakes visit www.ourmistakeshisplans.com. If you are an Amazon or Barnes & Noble lover or you’d like to purchase the e-book, it’s available on those platforms as well. I look forward to hearing your experience with it!

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The Wait

Have you ever had to wait on something? That was an obvious rhetorical question, I know. Everyone in life has had to wait on something. Some of us handle it better than others, but I can’t imagine anyone really liking it. Even though it’s something none of us likes, did you know it’s actually a good thing, particularly as it relates to faith? Stay with me here, don’t check out.

There are all types of waiting – waiting in line at the grocery store, waiting in a doctor’s or dentist’s office, waiting for a friend to arrive for a dinner date. The type of waiting I particularly want to highlight right now is the wait of a desired outcome, a promise unfulfilled, a lifelong hope. You know the ones I’m talking about – the dream job, the spouse, the baby, the house, that one big break, your purpose revelation. Why is it a good thing to lie in wait of those things?

Well, it not only builds patience, which is a powerful virtue to have, it also builds faith. What is faith exactly? In Hebrews 11:1, the Bible describes it as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

None of us who believe in God have ever actually seen God with our own eyes but we believe that He exists and He is present with us at all times. That belief requires faith. But if we remain weak in our faith, and we never actually have a chance to grow it and build it, that belief will start to fade over time as we live more and interact with the world.

In my newest book, God Doesn’t Make Mistakes, I talk about what a review of the previous journals I wrote over the course of seven years did for me. I was able to see my life, in my own words, through the lens of hindsight – in a way, how God sees our lives. (Although, He’s able to see with hindsight and foresight – what an amazing God!) One of my greatest discoveries during that process was how my waiting seasons taught me lessons, helped me to draw closer to God and deepen my relationship with Him, and most importantly, taught me to trust Him. Over time, I started to really get that He knew what was best for my life.  

Some of the things I waited for came years after I prayed for them. When I did receive them, it seemed to have been “perfect timing.” Some of the things I waited for never came, and that was actually a good thing because I either wasn’t ready for them at the time or it was not His best for me. Some things I’m still waiting for, but now that I’ve learned to trust Him in the wait, I’m fully at peace and resting in His sufficient grace.

The greatest revelation of all? I have come to realize when I have a strong desire for something to happen, I don’t need my prayers to be answered; I need my faith to be strengthened. That oftentimes happens during the wait, in the silence.

If you are waiting for something to happen in your life right now, I encourage you to first thank God for this season of waiting because it’s building something in you. Next, I encourage you to pray this prayer:

Dear God, sometimes I don’t understand your timing. It’s hard to wait, but I trust you. I want to rely on your ways, your thoughts, your perfect timing. Help me learn what I need to learn as I wait, and help me resist rushing your plan. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:3-4 NLT

 

Our Mistakes, His Plans

I used to be terrified to speak publicly on spiritual matters. In fact, years ago when someone told me I would go into ministry I laughed and told them they didn’t really know me well. But actually, they were onto something.

I’ve been a spiritual person pretty much my whole life. My relationship with God, however, went to a whole new level in 2015 when I was forced to be still and evaluate my life and my relationship with Him in a way that I had never done before. Like I’m sure many can relate to, it took being broken down to be built back up. That’s just how God works. The trials and tribulations we grow through are meant to strengthen us and build muscles in areas where we are weak. He gives us opportunities to fall down and make mistakes so we can learn how to fully trust and be obedient to His will.

That season of transformation that began in 2015, and continued into 2016, was the genesis of the new passion book project you’ve seen me allude to over these past several months in my posts. God Doesn’t Make Mistakes: Learning How Our Missteps Fit Into His Perfect Plan uses my journal entries as a discussion point for many of the lessons learned and revelations I experienced along my spiritual journey during that season. I didn’t know my journal entries would ever be published for the world to see, but I realized after reviewing them, there were insights and aha moments that I just could not keep to myself.

I’ve made mistakes, a lot of them. I’ve had stinking thinking. I’ve said things that hurt myself and others. I know, at times, I’ve delayed my own blessings because of my disobedience. But that’s exactly what qualifies me to write a book like God Doesn’t Make Mistakes.

I know I’ve been through some of the same things you’ve been through. While the characters and circumstances were slightly different, the results were the same – hurt, disappointment, shame, guilt, feelings of inadequacy – you name it, we’ve all felt it at some point in our lives.

But, we have a choice when those feelings arise — distance ourselves from God or draw closer to Him. I chose to draw closer to Him, and some magical things happened as a result of that stronger, deeper, more meaningful relationship. I found purpose. I heard very clearly my assignment in this season.

Share. Share your story, your testimony and yourself.

Out of obedience, I share God Doesn’t Make Mistakes with you. Today, I launch the pre-sale phase of this project, which gives you an opportunity to pre-order the book and receive the introduction, first chapter, and foreword written by my pastor Keith A. Battle immediately. The official book launch will take place on January 30, 2019.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to finally release what feels like my baby into the world. A lot of sweat, tears, and love went into creating it and I pray that it blesses you beyond what any of us could even imagine. If it does, my challenge to you is the same one God posed to me – Share it!

Visit www.ourmistakeshisplans.com to order your copy today!

 

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Good News

Hey you, I’ve got some good news…

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This news is so good I’m going to just get right to the point. It’s not all on you. What is “it” exactly? Whatever we go through in life.

A daily devotional I read this morning led me to this scripture.

We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 NLT

It was highlighted so that means I had read it before. But it hit me differently this morning. Isn’t that just how scripture works? It gives you new insight and inspiration each time you read it depending on where you are and what’s happening in your life.

As I read the scripture, it dawned on me that the reason we often struggle is because we are busy carrying burdens that we were not meant to carry. Regardless of whether or not you are a Christian, I’m sure you’ve heard more times than you can count that when you’re struggling with something that seems bigger than your mind, heart and skill sets can handle, you should give it over to God. But what does that mean to give something over to God?

Admittedly, I haven’t completely mastered this thing. But then again who really has? Even Paul acknowledged on more than one occasion how much he struggled. However, I have found some steps that guide me when I’m tempted to carry things on my own.

Talk to him about it. It seems simple doesn’t it? The more I’ve talked with people about their spiritual journeys, the more I realize how difficult it is for people to pray. Most of us were not taught how to do it so we’re afraid of it. And we tend to avoid things we fear. Honestly though, prayer is just a conversation with God. I’ve found that when I just talk to God as if He is my father and my friend, which He is, my spirit is comforted. I begin to feel at peace. When you are faced with something that’s troubling, talk to Him about it and ask Him to help you. He may give you the discernment you need to take action in a way you have not tried. He may give you the strength to do something you didn’t think you had it in you to do. He may reveal someone in your life who can help turn things around. There are myriad ways God can choose to handle it, but talking it through with Him will allow you to start collaborating with Him instead of trying to take on the burden on your own.

Be still. I think this is probably one of the most misunderstood concepts, as it relates to faith. I know many believe to be still is synonymous with doing nothing. Quite the contrary. When you are in the state of “being still”, you are praying, trusting, exercising patience, listening, being obedient – a whole host of exercises that most of us find difficult. As with anything though, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. The challenge is, most of us don’t have practice in being still. We are used to fixing, worrying, manipulating, controlling…or is that just me? That’s why we’re exhausted. We’re doing too much. When I truly understood what this concept meant and I started praying, listening, patiently waiting for God to speak instead of worrying, fixing, trying to control the situation, etc., I got much better results – even when things weren’t resolved right away.

Believe He has already handled it and trust Him. This might be the hardest one for us. God made us in His image so we have a level of autonomy and brain power no other creature on Earth has. However, we are not Him so we have limited sight and understanding. When we try to fix and control things that we are not equipped to handle on our own, we get ourselves into trouble. Giving our concerns, worries, troubles over to God requires that we trust He’s already seen the end so He knows exactly how to handle it. When we talk to Him and are still and patient enough to wait for Him to reveal the game plan, as Paul said “He will continue to rescue us.” He will provide for us. We’ve got to trust His word on that.

Whatever that thing is that is so hard for you to endure, that seems almost unbearable… it’s not your battle; it’s His. He did not intend for you to carry it out alone. So, breathe… relax. He’s got you covered. Trust that He will not let you fail. If that’s not good news, I don’t know what is!

 

Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:10 NIV

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La Traviata

It was only my second time at the opera, and it was even more magical than the first time. La Traviata, an Italian love story. As a hopeful romantic (I rebuke the term hopeless) and a lover of all things Italian, I immediately accepted the invitation from my opera-buff friend for an afternoon at the Kennedy Center. When she shared that it was the opera featured in one of my favorite movies of all time, Pretty Woman, I immediately envisioned myself as Julia Roberts in her striking red gown adorned by six-figure jewels, and got even more excited.

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Even though my friends and I attended the closing matinee show at the Kennedy Center in our hometown of Washington, D.C., we decided to play dress up and pretend like we were at the MET. We stood out like a sore thumb lol, but we got compliments literally all afternoon and we felt like royalty.

As a lover of music and the arts in general, I live for moments like these at the opera. This particular piece, La Traviata, was the full entertainment experience. Everything from the wistful, dramatic and at times spiritual tones of the music, to the captivating staging and scenery, and the superb acting and singing all left me co-signing my audience-mate’s sentiments “Brava!” in my head at the end of every scene, particularly the lead character Violetta’s arias.

In a nutshell, La Traviata tells the story of a young woman, Violetta, who is suffering from a serious illness, yet catches the attention and ultimately heart of a man named Alfredo. After initially rejecting him, Violetta falls deeply in love with him and they get to live happily for a short period of time until outside forces, over which neither have any control, threaten their relationship. Ultimately though, love prevails and they are reunited shortly before her [SPOILER ALERT] untimely death.

Yes, La Traviata means “the fallen woman” and she does die at the end. However, the entirety of the production leaves you feeling more joyful and peaceful than the title, or even synopsis suggests. Violetta’s arias alone left me absolutely mesmerized. And I don’t know if it was the fact that my friends and I attended the closing show at the Kennedy Center or if I was just caught up in my Julia Roberts moment, but I found myself with the rest of the audience jumping to my feet for a standing ovation, wildly applauding the cast with tears in my eyes at conclusion of the performance.

Opera may not be your thing, but if you ever decide to step outside your comfort zone and give it a try, I recommend La Traviata. There is a reason it is the most frequently performed opera of all time. Even if you aren’t a hopeful romantic like I am, I believe this love will win you over.

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Review: Brass-A-Holics

Brass-A-Holics

They had me at World-Famous Go-Go Brass Funk band. Being a D.C. native, I feel a sense of pride when musicians respect and appreciate the DC-bred music art form enough to adopt it into their sound. But, I assure you the New Orleans-based Brass-A-Holics has a sound all their own that transcends any type of categorization or boundary you try to place on them. That’s why after hearing them for the first time a few nights ago, it was no question what I was going to write about next. If you are a lover of live music like myself, or just music period, trust me you will want to have the Brassaholics experience.

And it was just that…an experience. Aside from the 15- or 20-minute intermission, from 8 pm to 10:30 pm, it was nothing but a straight party. Playing every genre of music imaginable from funk and R&B to a little bit of jazz, hip-hop and pop, the Brass-A-Holics had the dance floor completely packed and everyone in the room young & old and every ethnicity imaginable in a groove. There was no one excluded from getting caught up in the experience.

Their versatility, I think, is a huge part of what makes them so dynamic and special. We found the band in any given moment flow from Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together to Lil Duval’s Smile (Living my Best Life) to Katy Perry’s Dark Horse to Chuck Brown’s Bustin’ Loose and of course the traditional New Orleans-style brass band music, keeping us on our toes wondering what would come next. Not only that, the band’s three horn players doubled as vocalists and rappers, effortlessly switching back and forth between talents even mid-song throughout the night. We might have even seen some choreographed dance moves here and there as well.

The other thing that makes them so special, is simply their energy. With each song they played you could feel them give a piece of themselves to the audience. It is evident that these talented musicians genuinely love what they do and that is delivered through their unique sound and energy. Hence, by the end of the evening you had even the most chill and laid back of audience members playing along shouting back to the band their iconic chant, “Feeling that band, what they call it? Word on the street, it’s the… Brass-A-Holics!”

Needless to say, the Brass-A-Holics have made an official fan out of me. I would even go so far as to say this was certainly in my top 10 of live band experiences, which is saying a lot coming from a fellow artist and live music aficianado. If you are planning to head down to New Orleans or if they are heading to a city near you, I recommend making it a priority to have the Brass-A-Holics experience. You’ll be glad you did! You’re welcome.

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