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

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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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Sleeping Adam

Praise report! I just completed the first draft of a passion book project that has been on my heart and in the works for several years. It’s been a process y’all. But I’m really excited about it for a couple of reasons. One, it will be one of the most challenging exercises I’ve ever completed. What I’m most excited about though is how much I know it’s going to bless those who read it.

Those who know me know I love to write, and particularly journal. This book, “God Doesn’t Make Mistakes,” examines several of my journal entries over the course of what was one of the most challenging, yet transformational seasons of my life. Several times throughout the book I mention this concept of “Sleeping Adam.” As I thought about what I would write to you about next, I considered doing a Part 2 to Singleness is not a disease. Trust me, I could talk about that topic ALL DAY LONG, and I’ve gotten so much food for thought over the past several months. But then it came to me. In honor of the forthcoming book, I wanted to give you something special for following Golden Life Musings – an excerpt from the book! Considering the subject matter, we’ll just go ahead and call it Singleness is Not a Disease Part 2. (smile)

This chapter will give you some advance insight so when you read the book, you’ll know who I’m referring to when I shout out Sleeping Adam. Don’t you just love getting the inside hook up? Lol. Enjoy and stay tuned to the book release later this year!

MY SLEEPING ADAM

This notion of my “Sleeping Adam” has been on my heart since I first heard the words spoken at a women’s conference I was working in Atlanta in July 2015. It was that same year I was healing from one of the most painful breakups of my life. I had convinced myself I was going to marry a man that God did not call to be my husband. I wanted it to be true because I loved him and I had invested so much time, energy, love and myself into the relationship. But I was disobedient from the beginning. I ignored the red flags. I ignored the initial conversation about him not being ready to be in a relationship because of where he was in his life. I ignored him and I ignored God’s whispers.

So, when I heard Dr. Wanda Davis Turner explain this concept of a Sleeping Adam, a light bulb went off for me. Adam was asleep when God performed the surgery on him to bring Eve to life. God had already done most of the work on Adam before the surgery, but the final part of the process was his induced coma for God to prepare Eve for him.

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And there was the epiphany: Some of us as women are trying to wake men up who are still “sleeping.” That time of sleep is a preparation time for him while God is putting the finishing touches on who he is as a man, and ultimately as a husband (if that is his calling). We fail to realize that God put him to sleep for a reason. If we wake him up before he’s ready, we stand the chance of getting a mate who is half asleep or not complete on his own, meaning he needs someone else to make him complete. I think most, if not all, women have experienced or at least seen the consequences of that.

That “Sleeping Adam” term spoke to my heart so profoundly, I started using it in my journal entries. What she said made so much sense and it explained many of the struggles I had in my dating experiences. The men I wanted, or thought I wanted, were still sleeping and I was trying to wake them up. I was trying so hard to get them to see the value in me, not realizing that was never really the issue.

Most of my adult life I’ve been with both half asleep and half complete men. The reason I felt like I had to lead them was because they weren’t ready to lead, and there was nothing I could do to make them be ready. I heard many times, “when a man is ready, he is ready”. And you can’t make him ready before that time. For those women who do manage to wake their Sleeping Adams up before their process is complete, and cajole them into a marriage via an ultimatum, they ultimately end up regretting it in the long run.

I needed to go through those experiences to learn the lesson: If Adam is not coming for Eve, it doesn’t mean Eve is not amazing or that Adam doesn’t see her value. It might mean he’s still asleep. If that is the case, you have a decision to make. Wait for him to wake up (if you believe he’s worth waiting for), or keep it moving, but please don’t wake him up before he’s finished sleeping!

I’m not one of those people who believes in soulmates in the sense that there is just one person on this Earth for everyone. But I do believe God has placed His best for us strategically in our lives for us to choose. There are many scenarios that will work based on the myriad decisions we make. That’s why there’s no mistake we can make that God hasn’t already factored into His plan. The book has already been written. The course has already been set. I’ve learned His best plans come when we act according to His will and His timing. And we could always save ourselves a lot of pain, suffering and time by just being obedient and patient.

 

 

 

Review: Barceló Maya Grand Resort

As part of my participation in a company retreat a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to stay at the sprawling Barcelo Maya Grand Resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico. This resort is comprised of five all-inclusive resorts – Maya, Tropical, Colonial, Beach and Palace – and happens to be one of the largest properties I’ve visited to date. That can have its pros and cons, depending on the reason for your travel, so I’d love to give you a little taste of what I experienced so you can decide for yourself if this is the right property for you.

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First, one of the great things about this resort is there is a little something for everyone from the little humans to seniors so it works well for large groups like weddings, family reunions, retreats and any other group function that comes to mind. Each resort has its own unique feel to it with its own lobby, pools and specialty restaurants. I opted for the Palace considering all of its rooms are suites and offered the highest level of accommodations and adults-only options.

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The lounge area of my Junior Suite at the Barcelo Maya Palace

One of the least appealing things about this resort is that it is massive and everything is pretty far away from each other. We found ourselves walking a lot, which wasn’t always a bad thing because it gave us a chance to work off all the food we ate! But, if you have some type of disability or ailment, this resort will prove to be challenging. They do have shuttles that can take you back and forth between resorts, but they take time to get around the property and unfortunately, they are not air-conditioned, which proves to be difficult in 90-degree heat and when the shuttle is packed with guests.

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If you’re a Golden Life Musings follower you can probably guess what my favorite part of the resort was. If you guessed the spa, you are absolutely right! You know me so well (smile). One area where the Barcelo brand really shines is certainly the spa. It was quite a trek from the Palace (30-minute shuttle ride with multiple stops or 20 to 30-minute walk depending on your pace) but once I arrived, it was well worth the struggle to get there. The relaxation room certainly lives up to its name, with multiple comfy lounge chairs, soft music, assortment of teas and fruit flavored water, and a beautiful view of the lush landscaping surrounding the property, another thing Barcelo does right.

I opted for the 90-minute Swedish massage, otherwise known as an hour and a half of heaven. From there I ventured off to the hydrotherapy section of the spa, where I spent the remainder of my morning and afternoon until I got hungry. For those who may not know, hydrotherapy is simply the use of water for therapeutic effects. Specifically, you use a combination or “circuit” of warm to cold to hot water, which serves to energize and rest the body, improving blood circulation and helping with detoxification. Just being completely honest, I absolutely hate cold water so the idea of intentionally submerging my body into cold water does not even remotely trigger relaxation. For that reason, I always opt out of that part of the treatment. (Don’t judge me.) But I will say the sauna, steam room, and jacuzzi are all amazing!

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My own personal oasis

My favorite part of the hydrotherapy section of the spa was the outdoor pool. The design and size of the pool paired with the outdoor landscaping just makes it feel like your own private oasis. And I just happened to be there when there weren’t many guests  so I was able to have the entire pool to myself for most of my visit. Winning!

Onto the food, which you know for me is one of the most highly anticipated parts of my travels. At large resorts like Barcelo, I always have to manage my expectations because the reality is, this resort has to feed thousands of people on a daily basis. I get it. With that in mind, I try to take it easy on the larger resorts but honestly, the buffet options are hit or miss for me. The breakfast every morning was amazing because they have omelets cooked to order, smoked salmon (which I would eat every day of the week if I could), and fresh squeezed orange juice. I don’t need much else but even those mornings when I ventured a little bit from my norm, I was pleasantly surprised with the options.

Lunch on the other hand was a different story. Any time I tried to venture away from anything else but chicken, I was disappointed. At that point, I was just eating to make the hunger pains go away. But I will say, the saving grace one day was the fresh fried fish they were serving as a feature item at one of the smaller buffet restaurants. It changed my entire life. It was so delicious I raved about it to my friends and recruited them to go back the next day for it but sadly, they were not offering it that day. If you have the opportunity to go to his resort and you see they are serving the fish on that day, jump on it! It can take up to 20-30 minutes to wait for it depending on how many people are in line waiting for it, but it’s well worth it! [Side note: Yes, it is a whole fish including the head, but it’s ok just deal with it, the meat behind the head is where most of the deliciousness is!]

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The fish that changed my life.

For dinner, I highly recommend the specialty restaurants and that’s where having Premium status will come in handy because it is imperative you have a reservation at these restaurants. Premium guests have first dibs on these restaurants and you don’t have to stand in line to make them like the regular guests. I found this out the hard way because I was not paying attention and made a mistake by not selecting Premium status this time around. Upon my arrival, I had to spend the first 45 minutes of my trip waiting in line to purchase wi-fi and make my reservations for the specialty restaurants. And after all of that waiting I was told there were no more reservations for that night. Fail.

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Four course meal at the French restaurant that included shrimp salad, escargot, sea bass and creme brulee…delicious!

If you venture into the specialty realm, my personal favorites were the French restaurant, Spanish restaurant and the Brazilian Steakhouse. Barcelo does a great job of making you feel like you’ve stepped into another country by not just nailing the cuisine, they create an entire experience for you with ambiance and décor as well.

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At the Brazilian steakhouse, my friend James opted for the authentic experience where the unlimited meat options were presented and carved at the table.

Other things to note:

  1. In general, the beach on which the Barcelo is located is on one of the best beaches of the world. However, we arrived just days after a storm so the beach was filled with seaweed. Fortunately, the pool areas of the resort are beautiful and more than made up for the seaweed-mired beach.
  2. Be sure to catch the sunset at least one of the days you are there. It is breathtaking.
  3. If you are a cruiser and have been spoiled by the great shows on cruise ships, you may just want to manage your expectations with the entertainment.

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Poolside fun!
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They did the best they could with Marilyn bless their hearts…

Overall, the Barcelo resorts are a solid choice. If you remember, I went to the sister property in Punta Cana about two years ago [see review HERE] and I recommended it particularly for group travel and even first-time travelers to Mexico. If you are looking for a more intimate 5-star luxury experience with your loved ones and you are a more experienced traveler, this would not be my first choice. One thing is for certain about the Barcelo brand though, they give you great value for the price and you will have a little something for everyone to love.

Five Things to Know About Working with a Travel Professional

I’ve been in the travel industry for 11 years. Over those past 11 years I’ve learned a thing or two about designing epic experiences for the people I have the honor of calling my clients, but I’ve also developed a deep appreciation for those who call themselves travel professionals. While everyone has had some type of experience with the industry – whether it’s booking travel online, working directly with a vendor or booking a trip through a travel agent or consultant – most really don’t know the inner workings of the travel industry and how truly it’s transformed over the years.

Since last week I celebrated my third year of the wonderful world of full-time entrepreneurship, balancing two distinct business entities (Golden Life Getaways and Golden Life Communications Consulting) and a growing ministry, I figured it was time to use Golden Life Musings to educate on some of my beloved industry’s least understood topics.

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  1. The term travel agent no longer means what it used to. In the days of old – like more than 20 years ago before online travel was such a thing – travel agents were “agents” to the airlines. You could not book an airline ticket without an agent, so there was a commission embedded in the cost of the airline ticket. Today, there are no commissions embedded in airline tickets for agents and you can often find the best deals online, therefore most agents do not book solo airline tickets anymore. So, before you think about going to your travel professional friend and asking them to find you a deal on two tickets to such and such, think again. Your best bet is to go online just like everyone else and find your best deal there.
  2. There is a difference between a travel agent and a travel consultant. Today, travel agents primarily work in the travel departments of large corporations or brick and mortar travel agencies that still exist, yes despite the growing trend of online travel. Their primary purpose is to book your travel arrangements so you don’t have to. They typically earn a salary in addition to the commissions paid by the supplier or vendor with whom they book your trip. A travel consultant, on the other hand, is a specialist. Their purpose is to design an experience for you by collaborating with you and helping you figure out how to bring your dream trip into reality. They often times are an expert in a particular specialty or niche and you go to them for their expertise in where you are looking to travel. Travel consultants are generally independent, meaning they don’t get paid unless they charge a fee for their services or they rely solely on the commissions generated by the supplier/s with which they book. Why-use-travel-agent-
  3. Quotes require research, thus time. When you ask a travel agent or consultant for a quote and you have a few different destinations in mind, it requires them to do research with various suppliers to find and present the best packages based on the parameters you set for dates, budget and other preferences. In some cases, depending on how involved the trip will be, this can require hours upon hours of research and time. If you’re working with a home-based agent or consultant who only gets paid when you book the trip, providing quotes for potential clients with no intentions to book can be dangerous because that agent is potentially working without getting paid for the time and energy he/she spends researching. That’s why there is a growing trend in the industry for travel professionals to charge a travel design fee, so in the event the client decides not to book, they’ve at least been paid something for their time, and expertise I might add. If you’re working with someone who is knowledgeable and can provide you options based on first-hand experience, they deserve to be paid for what they offer.
  4. It’s not about the deal, it’s about the service. If you are on an extremely tight budget and you are looking for the lowest possible deal you can find, working with a travel professional is probably not ideal. Now don’t get me wrong, if there is a deal to be had without cutting ourselves out of the commission that is already embedded in the cost of the trip, we will find it for you. But, if you are expecting your travel professional to beat the rate that Groupon is offering or that last minute deal from Priceline or Expedia, you might as well go with the online guys. It’s like the difference between fast food and eating at a restaurant. Either place offers you food, but when you go to a restaurant, you are going for the quality, service and experience and as a result, you’re willing to pay more for that food.restaurant-service-and-supply-chain-1
  5. You’re already paying a commission when you book online. To the point above, going with a travel agent or consultant does not always mean your trip is going to be more expensive. In fact, you may end up saving money by working with a travel professional because if they’re any good they know how to get their clients more benefits, privileges and access than what you actually pay for – yes, we like to upgrade you using our connections. One of the first things I learned when I entered the industry was there is a commission already built into bookings, whether you book online or with an agent. If there is no agent involved, that commission just goes back to the company. All companies, including online travel entities like Expedia and Priceline, include a markup on travel in order to make a profit. At a bare minimum, if you know what you want and your agent can meet or beat the rate of what the online provider is offering, go with your agent so they can claim that commission that’s built into the booking. So, what am I saying here? If you know someone who is a travel professional, at least give them a chance to earn your business. And who knows, next time you book, they might find a way to upgrade you.

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Review: Sedona, Arizona

As soon as I feasted my eyes on those mesmerizing red rocks my body immediately relaxed. It was my first time in Sedona, actually the whole state of Arizona, and the charm and beauty of the area had preceded my introduction. The purpose of my visit: relaxation and the exploration of an untapped and, in my opinion, underappreciated American gem. Even having done some research on this hidden treasure prior to my visit, I wasn’t quite prepared for all of the magnificence of what I experienced.

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Let me preface my review with a slight detour from the destination itself. This delightful weekend was a girl’s trip and much needed mental health weekend that could not have come at a better time for any of us. From demanding careers to newborns back home and everything in between, we were all worn out and I was happy to provide the perfect prescription for the woes of adulting. If you are reading this right now and you haven’t scheduled your own mental health break or some type of getaway to rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit, stop right now and schedule it! Well, first finish reading the blog and then get to scheduling (smile).

Being the travelpreneur I am, I thoroughly researched the resorts in the area and landed on the Amara Resort, which is in the family of one of my favorite hotel brands, Kimpton. I love the boutique resort feel and the attention to detail in customer service and of course, the food. I also loved that a ginormous red rock formation served as the backdrop and focal point of the outdoor pool, communal lounge area and restaurant. Additionally, out of all the luxury hotels offered in the area, the Amara presented some of the most reasonable rates.

I loved pretty much everything about this hotel, including the glorious infinity pool and decent sized hot tub adjacent to it. However, based on the capacity of the resort, the pool area is a bit small. On more than one occasion, particularly during peak hours of the day (noon – 3pm), there were more guests than lounge chairs and cabana beds. Aesthetically, it is a lovely, well-landscaped and designed area. But if you want to have a relaxing day at the pool, you better arrive before 9 am or you won’t have a place to lay your towel, much less your body.

What I loved most about the resort was pretty much what I most look forward to on any trip: the spa and the food. Considering Sedona is spa country, meaning that it is most well-known for its spas, I was excited about venturing to a destination that specializes in my beloved past time. The Amara Spa itself is not a full-service, large-scale spa but it certainly delivered in service and quality. After a glorious 90- minute massage, a rejuvenating nap in the relaxation room and a refreshing visit to the sauna, I literally had to pry myself away from the place. If it wasn’t for my grumbling stomach, I might have stayed all day.

If you’re a foodie like me, you’ll appreciate that the Kimpton brand specializes in an award-winning collection of seasonally-inspired restaurants and bars. Considering that type of yummy goodness was just steps away from our living quarters, we spent a lot of time at Saltrock Southwest Kitchen, Amara’s signature restaurant. Literally everything from breakfast to lunch to dinner and everything in between was absolutely delicious. And since it was Cinco de Mayo weekend, we just HAD to indulge in the handcrafted margaritas as well. Delicious!

We also had top-notch experiences at other well-known Sedona gems such as Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill, which boasted ridiculously beautiful views of the mountainous Sedona landscape, and Etch Kitchen and Bar of the beautiful L’Aubuerge Resort and Spa, which is nestled along the banks of Oak Creek. Neither of these options were cheap but they were well worth the delicious fare and breathtaking views. We opted for the all you can eat gourmet brunch at Etch where we thoroughly stuffed ourselves with some of the most delicious brunch bites I’ve had to date.

The most unexpected but memorable highlight of the trip came at nearly the tail end and in hindsight, it should have taken place at the beginning because I needed another massage afterwards. Anyone who knows me knows I have two fears: insects and heights. I can’t say that I was ever excited about the idea of hiking, but I did want to explore Sedona and see some of the magnificent views I’d heard and read about, so I looked at it as a necessary evil when two of my girlfriends suggested we go. Little did I know, a hiking trail called Devil’s Bridge would have me stare my fear straight in the face.

When presented with two options, I selected the trail because the reviews said it offered hands down, the best photo ops. Sign me up! Let me be clear. I had NO idea what that meant. I got to what I thought was the top and jumped for joy that I had made it through my first hike without passing out or having a heart attack.

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Then I was rudely awakened to the fact that I was not at the top and I had some serious climbing left. Yes, climbing. At one point we had to use our feet, legs, core, arms and hands to pull our bodies up to what was the real top. Then nothing prepared me for what I was going to see next. Devil’s Bridge. They don’t call it that for nothing. Granted, the natural sandstone arch is not as high or as narrow as it looks, but when you’re standing on it and look out and see that you are peering down on a forest and there’s nothing on either side stopping you from plunging hundreds of feet to your death – well it’s pretty scary. But, it was a magnificent view. I can say without a shadow of doubt, I was afraid (heart beating through my chest and legs trembling), but I did it anyway…with the help of my friends, holding my hand as I gingerly stepped towards the middle of the bridge.

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Now you can understand why I was regretting getting the massage before the hike. But, I was able to reward myself with the brunch I mentioned above and a nice long dip in the hot tub afterwards, which sufficed.

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Needless to say, Sedona was in fact, a trip of a lifetime. For you Americans reading my blog I want you to know you really don’t have to go outside of the United States to see some of the greatest wonders of the world. They literally are right here in our backyard. And believe it or not, I didn’t even get to experience all there is to experience so yes, I’ll be returning. Upon my next visit, I plan to check out the famous spiritual vortexes, take a pink jeep tour, and maybe just maybe indulge in a hot air balloon ride if I want to get my heart pumping again.

There are a few things to note if you plan to take my word for it and make Sedona one of your next travel destinations. Save up some money because the best places to dine and spa are not cheap. Fly into Phoenix, rent a car, and enjoy the amazingly scenic two-hour ride to Sedona. It is useful to have a car while there. Everything literally shuts down by 9 pm so you’ll want to make sure you grab some munchies and perhaps a bottle of wine or two from the Circle K to keep you entertained until your bed time. Lastly, stay off of social media and away from the rest of the world as much as you can while you’re there. Otherwise, you’ll miss all the magic this splendid little town offers.

 

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

There’s something quite extraordinary about conquering fears. If you’ve ever conquered one, then you know it doesn’t feel that good leading up to the experience because you’re thinking about all the negative things that could possibly go wrong. But once you’ve done it, in addition to the sense of relief that it’s over, you also feel a sense of accomplishment because you proved to yourself hey, I just did something amazing here!

A friend of mine recently conquered her fear of heights by jumping out of a plane at 13,000 feet over The Palm in Dubai. She said there definitely was an urge to back out at the last minute, and she screamed her head off for the first 60 seconds or so on the way down in complete fear. But once that parachute opened, and she began to glide in the air as if she were flying and she was able to see all the magnificence of the world below, the reward  suddenly became greater than the risk.

Kim skydiving

Now I can’t say that I’ll ever jump out of a perfectly good airplane to conquer my own fear of heights (my bravery has limits), but I do know what it feels like to feel the fear of doing something completely out of my comfort zone, moving forward anyway, and feeling pretty darn good about it afterwards. I’ll tell you from experience, it’s an even greater feeling when that thing you accomplish is tied to your purpose and it just got you one step closer.

I believe there are healthy things in life to fear, such as being pursued by a dangerous animal that threatens to harm you or being in the bulls eye of a natural catastrophe like a tornado or wildfire. Healthy fear teaches us to run and get out of harm’s way. But honestly, most of the fears we experience in life are those that are non-life-threatening and most unfortunate, self-induced. When we look at the scripture below that clearly states God did not give us a spirit of fear, we must consider its origins.

2 Timothy 1.7

As a follow up to my last blog about that Abundant Life, I believe the biggest travesty is when we let those self-induced fears stop us from ultimately doing what we were put on this Earth to do. Some of us have stories to share, businesses to create, books to write and people to help, but we aren’t doing it because we’re afraid of what it will require of us to make it happen.

I’ll use myself as an example. Since I was in grade school I’ve loved to write – music, poetry, papers, even meeting notes (don’t judge me). I ultimately started a career in public relations, where I’ve done a lot of writing, but I always said to myself some day I’d like to write a book. Some day I’ll start a blog. Some day I’ll write music again. You know what kept me procrastinating for years, thus paralyzing me in the process? Fear. It was the fear of potentially being overwhelmed and not being able to fit it all into my busy schedule of commitments. My biggest concern was, what if I start it and I’m not able to follow through? This is otherwise known as a fear of failure.

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I believe that is the biggest fear that paralyzes us. The “what ifs” keep us in bondage and for many, subject them to a life of mediocrity. Those “what ifs” and “some days” give us permission to procrastinate and create excuses that hold us hostage.

The sad part about all of it is, we are fearing something that doesn’t even exist. I think one of the greatest acronyms ever created was the one defining FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real. It’s a nasty perception that we’ve just got to face and conquer if we want to do anything great in life. And chances are, even if we do “fail” at whatever we set out to accomplish, it’s usually not as bad as our minds created it to be. My experience has been, even when I have failed at something I was afraid to do and did it anyway, I still felt a sense of accomplishment and pride afterwards. I also learned some valuable lessons, which are priceless.

So here a few things to consider when it comes to breaking the hold of fear in our lives.

  1. Ask yourself, what is that thing I think about daily or most of the time that I’d like to do but haven’t done yet? Chances are, if you are procrastinating on doing something that consumes your thoughts, there is a fear in the way and it’s time to conquer it.
  2. Write down up to five of the worst things that could happen from you doing that thing. Conversely, write down five of the best things that could happen from you doing that thing. Honestly consider if the bad things outweigh the good things. If they don’t, it’s time to put on your big boy or girl pants and get to moving.
  3. Imagine the best-case scenario of doing that thing you fear. Write about it, speak on it, visualize it by adding it to your vision board. The more you fill your head with what you desire versus what you don’t desire, the more comfortable you will become with making it happen. And the law of attraction is real, I might add.

You know what happened when I got out of my comfort zone and just went for it and started to write? Nothing Earth shattering honestly. I didn’t die. There were no eggs thrown at my head. I also didn’t receive a medal or a call from Oprah’s people asking me to appear on her next show or write a guest feature in her magazine.

Be Afraid_Self confidence

But something extraordinary really did happen. I proved to myself that I could do that thing that I was afraid of doing. Then I did it again, and again, and I started to get better at it. I started to receive testimonials about how something I wrote helped someone in some way. I can’t even tell you how much self-confidence that gave me. But honestly it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t taken that first step. And you won’t know what you’re capable of either if you don’t take yours. So I’m here to tell you, it’s OK to be afraid. Just feel the fear and do it anyway.

You should go do them

 

 

 

 

 

About That Abundant Life

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A couple of months before the close of 2017 I received an important phone call, seemingly out of the blue. Considering what had transpired about a month before that phone call, I should have expected it. A leader of my church’s women’s ministry was on the other end of the line inviting me to be a featured breakout session speaker at our women’s conference and retreat in Norfolk, VA. Not only did she want me to speak, she wanted me to speak on the topic “About that Abundant Life”.

The next words she spoke resonated with me and have stayed with me since that phone call. “I’m not even sure if this is something you do, but you came to my mind to speak on this topic.”

Let’s rewind a little bit. A month prior I took some time to read and study the principles outlined in the book, “Purpose Awakening”. In fact, I blogged about my experience with this book because it was literally life-changing for me. For the first time in my 10-year purpose discovery process, I got clarity. God revealed that as a PR professional of more than 13 years, I was about to take on my biggest client EVER…HIM. God Himself spoke in words that I could hear. He was setting me on a path in this next phase of life to use the skillsets I had built over the last several years as an entrepreneur and a publicist – speaking, writing, making connections – to now use for His glory. He was beginning to elevate me from Golden Life to the Abundant Life.

Needless to say, when I heard the words, “I’m not even sure if this is something you do”…I immediately said to myself, “it IS now.” And sure, I had spoken publicly hundreds, maybe even thousands, of times over the last decade plus as a business owner and publicist, but this would be my first time speaking publicly in a ministry setting. I immediately felt the weight and responsibility of what this invitation brought, but I also felt a sense of peace and joy because I knew that I was in the midst of the manifestation of my assignment.

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Zion Church’s Women 2 Women Retreat 2018

As I began to prepare my message about this abundant life – this thing that everyone wants but always seemed to be an elusive concept – I realized that it wasn’t so ambiguous at all. I went to Facebook Live to conduct a survey of what my friends thought the abundant life was and I heard everything from prosperity and wealth to happiness, contentment and having more than enough of what you need. And to be honest, there was a time in the not too distant past, I would have agreed with all of what they were sharing and the fact that an abundant life means something different to each person.

And then I went to the Bible. I asked God to show me what He wanted me to share about this Abundant Life concept since the term “life abundantly” (John 10:10 NKJV) first appeared in His book anyway. Since we as human beings were created for His glory (Isaiah 43:7) after all, what would abundant life mean to Him with that truth as a reference point? What does an abundant life look like through God’s eyes considering we were created for His glory?

I came to the conclusion that if we discover and use our unique spiritual gifts God gave us to serve one another, discover and walk in our unique assignments He planned for us, and learn how to live and walk in the present (not the past or the future) – the right now that He gave us, we can begin to step into and experience that abundant life He promised us. And here’s another important point I discovered: living an abundant life has less to do with what we actually attain and more to do with what we can give and how we can be of service to others with what God gave us.

I think it would do my message a disservice if I tried to deliver the full power of what I shared about the abundant life in a 75-minute breakout session in a less than 900 word blog post. I will say that while the results of an abundant life may be varied, the formula to achieving it is pretty clear and attainable. While the Bible had many authors who came from different backgrounds and time periods, it was inspired by the word of God and remained consistent on a number of topics, one of them being why we’re here and how we are to use our time here.

Over the last several months since reading that book, receiving that phone call, and getting clear on what an abundant life really is, I can say with confidence that I am absolutely living it, and I want others to as well.

As a part of my newfound ministry I hope to deliver the message About that Abundant Life again some time soon. I’m also working to include it in my next book project you’ll see launching this year. In the meantime, stay tuned to Golden Life Musings where you’ll see more next level manifestation from the Golden Life to the Abundant Life.

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I was blessed to have three of my small group Bible study members there with me to encourage and support me in my first ministry speaking engagement!

UPDATE: Here are links to the videos from my Abundant Life talk. Enjoy!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Singleness is Not a Disease

I’ve wrestled with writing on this subject for some time now. As I sit here on the eve of my 38th birthday, and Valentine’s Day for that matter, I thought it was finally time. It is not lost on me that I am in the (small or large, depending on how you look at the stats) demographic of women who have not been married by the age of 35. And this is not lost on me not because I am alarmed by this fact, rather because I’m constantly reminded of it and in some cases, meant to feel ashamed by it.

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As I get older it seems social media, traditional media, advertising (online and offline), people’s questions around my love life are all competing for more attention on the subject of my singleness and how I should feel about it. So I figured I should write about it.

Before I go any further, let me say that I do have a desire to be married and have a family complete with children someday. And yes, that someday has a date that is further out than I expected. But I reject the idea that because that someday hasn’t yet happened for me, or the countless others who are single at or around my age, it means that something went wrong or even worse, something is wrong with me.

We should not have to remind each other that each of us has our own journey in life and not everyone is on the same timetable or has the same order of life’s milestones to which we should each adhere. Yet, I hear more often than I care to admit that dreaded question (or some derivative)… “Why are you still single?”

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This question is so unfortunate, misguided and downright ignorant for so many reasons. But for the sake of time and space, I’ll only go into a couple.

I believe this question is unfortunate because I’ve seen the repercussions firsthand of couples rushing to the altar just so they don’t have to hear that question or to escape the title of “single” as they age. That may be an oversimplified reason, but the reality is a lot of people rush into marriage secretly because they feel like they are on a time clock they have to beat or else they won’t get their happily ever after. Or worse, because of fear of being judged or shamed by their family, friends or peers.

The harmful side effects of rushing are in some instances, people making a huge error in judgment regarding the person they marry, and in many cases, the couple is just simply  not properly prepared for marriage.

If I’ve learned anything from watching my loved ones go through divorce and ugly breakups, it is that marriage takes a lot of work and endurance, even for “happy couples.” It’s a beautiful institution, but it is not for the faint of heart, and if you’re not prepared for it, you run the risk of enduring very painful consequences. It’s not just something you hop into because it’s “that time”, you might as well because you love each other, or you’ve made it this far, might as well go all the way.

I believe it is also a misguided and ignorant question because as a follower of Christ, I believe purpose is a huge component to marriage. I believe that everyone has a purpose, or a God-given assignment they are to fulfill while on Earth. If you marry someone whose purpose is not complimentary to yours, you stand the risk of causing self-imposed strife and opposition within your marriage. Again, marriage is challenging enough as it is, why add the pressure of being unequally yoked?

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Therefore, if a single person is not yet clear on their purpose or assignment in the world, it’s probably best they aren’t married. And some singles may not like this but, their purpose may require them to remain single. A fact: some people are just simply not meant to marry. For others, marriage may work best later in life. In any of these cases, singleness is actually a good thing.

But unfortunately, our society often times looks at singleness as if it is something to escape or aspire to get away from, as if it is some type of disease. But for many it is actually a prescription for living a happier, peaceful and purpose-driven life, even if only for a season.

I follow a pastor and his wife online and they have a ministry called Redefined TV. In one of their webisodes a few months ago they covered the topic of “Why do you want to get married?” I encourage you to watch the entire episode, especially if you are single, but I want to highlight one of their points that was so profound and relevant to the message I’m sharing here. He said, “View your singleness as a passport not a prison. When you view your singleness as a prison, anyone who comes along is seen as a bail bond.” Just Wow.

If you are single, I want to encourage you during this season of singleness, as I’ve encouraged myself, to 1) explore your purpose, if you haven’t already and 2) view it as a passport and an opportunity to get to know and love yourself more deeply. I’ve heard from many married couples and experts that you have a happier and healthier marriage when each of you has a greater sense of self-awareness, self-love and self-respect.

And the next time you get that question about why you’re still single, just smile and say, “Because I’m working on a few more stamps in my passport.”

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