March 13, 2014

3 Secrets For A Happier Life!

Who doesn't love a good secret? Thankfully, this is a secret that you can share! So maybe it's not totally a secret but I've got some juicy details in here! When it comes to life, we will experience hard times. I just got off the phone with two friends who are dealing with situations so heartbreaking that I was fighting tears while on the phone with them. In the midst of all trials and in the midst of all triumphs, we must be sure to follow these three rules in order to continue to receive the best in life and to also shine the light of Christ to those we come in contact with! 

1. Be kind. 

As a child, it wasn't uncommon to hear parents stress the importance of being kind. 
"Don't hit your brother!" "Say 'excuse me'!" There were always plenty of reinforcements to encourage you to be kind. We live in a society where people feel so entitled. If you feel like hitting someone, you do it. If said person gets upset about it, they're in the wrong. Why? Because you felt like doing something so as a result, you should be able to. There's no more excuse me. We cut people off. We cut people off on the road and in conversation. We interrupt and get upset when they remind us that they were in the middle of talking. Why? Because we feel entitled. If I want something, I should be able to get it when I want it without waiting or being excused. A person who wants friends must show themselves friendly. If you are not kind, friendly, jovial, or pleasant, it's going to be very hard for people to actually enjoy being around you. They may be around you to appease you or make sure you don't go off on them in anger but the reality is that our best selves are shown in environments where we feel safe. An environment where someone is unkind is an environment of tension. If you don't want people feeling like they're walking on eggshells around you, learn to become genuinely kind. No situation, good or bad, is an excuse to be unkind. 

2. Be open. 

There is a sense of control that we all like to have in situations. Even when it comes to growing in our Christian walk, we're constantly hearing about how there is a need to SURRENDER our will over to God's and give Him full control. Most (if not all) Christians don't like the sound of that. However, being open to the concept of surrender WILL make your life better because of who you're surrendering it to. Be open to what God has to offer you because He wants to restore you and heal you. Be open to the experiences and people God will bring into your path. They will enhance your life, whether it be through a lesson learned or a friendship gained. Don't close yourself off based on fear of hurt, failure or insecurity. Give that to God because if the enemy can keep you in a place where you're closed off, you won't grow. Let the light in and be open! 

3. Be grateful. 

My senior pastor did a sermon a few years ago around Thanksgiving time. I always reference it because it really did change the trajectory of my life. I naturally look at life from a skeptical/negative view. I anticipate what could go wrong. I worry and get afraid. It's pretty crippling. However, after listening to her sermon on gratitude, I was CHANGED. She encouraged the congregation to get into the habit of being grateful for each breath and opportunity to get things right with God. We also needed to "in all things, give thanks". So when negative things happen to you (which they will), it's your job to put on the grateful lens and see the good that can come out of the situation. If you do that with each moment, you will develop a lifestyle of gratitude. Even if you have to focus on the fact that you are still breathing or that you're in your right mind, those are blessings that shouldn't be taken for granted.  Thanksgiving and gratitude are disciplines that must be developed. They're not easy but they're totally worth it!

I hope I've encouraged you to accept these three points into your life. 
May God continue to bless you as you seek Him with your whole heart!

- dani

March 11, 2014

Updates & Expectations

So, there is a ton of stuff going on in my life right now! I'm really really excited and busy which partly why the blog has gone on the back burner. So today, I simply wanted to give an update on what's going on with the me & the blog as well as what to expect in the future!

Updates & Expectations
1. One of my dreams was to become a freelance writer. I've been doing that since 2009 but the money was extremely slow. I finally have hustled my way to the point where I can do freelance writer full-time!!! I can't believe it. I am currently juggling the writing as well as other gigs but now, I'm in a position where I've developed enough clients so I can focus 100% of my efforts on writing. My last daytime job ends in July! From July onward, it's completely me full-time! Aaahh!!! I'm so excited! Praise the Lord from whom ALL blessings flow!!! 

2. God has truly been opening doors and showing me different avenues to serve and grow as a Christian. I started a dance ministry last year and it's growing! New members are joining and the old members are growing in their abilities! I'm moving a lot quicker through rehearsals and we're able to do more challenging moves which is really exciting! Our next performance is in two weeks. I can't wait.  I also joined the leadership of my church as an Elder in training. Last year, my senior pastor told me she wanted me to pray about the position and consider it. For many reasons, I knew I needed to do it. The main reason is personal spiritual growth. Our church's motto is prayer, love and service. The position has been stretching me in ways I couldn't have seen coming and it's only March. However, the stretching is a REALLY good thing for me. I'm excited, nervous and super humbled by the opportunity to serve God and my church in a way that forces me to dig deeper into Christ!!! God is really good!!!

3. My #purpleyear journey is going well! I'm taking dance lessons now and it's exciting! I started with Low Intermediate Modern Dance. Even though the classes are a blast, I need the formal education foundation so I'm going to bump myself down to Beginner ballet. I really want to learn the vocabulary as well as the techniques. It's not a journey that will be completed within a year. This is more of a lifetime journey but I'm SOOOO excited and I can't wait to see how I grow as a dancer! 

4. I looked at the bottom of this blog and looked at my feature called "popular posts". I realized that I needed to get back to the root of why I started this blog. I got to a point where I was only talking about God (which isn't a bad thing) but I wasn't doing enough exploring, taste testing, experimenting and [photo] documenting in my life. So, reviews are coming back! More DIYs are coming back and just more fun, creativity as well and more personal posts will be shared. I think it's important to share and be a little bit more vulnerable. It really helps others to break through and part of the way that we will overcome as Christians is by the word of our testimony!

5. You can pin me!!! If you hover your mouse over any image I post, you can bookmark it in your Pinterest boards (if you're on Pinterest). You can also join my email list to the right of this page. Joining the email list guarantees that you won't miss a single DSO post! And no worries, spam won't be involved! This is a #nospamzone!!! 

Three cheers for continuing to dream something up!!! 

Much love,

February 11, 2014

Becoming a Morning Person Pt. 2

I've been working on waking up to the tune of 5am.
My goal is to consistently wake up at 4 am without the help of an alarm.
I want my body to naturally be ready to wake up at 4 am. So this involves a few things:

1. I need to go to bed earlier.
2. Laying in bed for a few more minutes is a major no-no.

So my experience has been a little tragic recently because even though I am successfully getting up, I am exhausted. I've been getting into bed by 11 pm which is not toooo bad but I will stay up answering emails, pinning on Pinterest and watching YouTube videos later than 11pm. Shame on me, I know.

I'll wake up at 5am but within a few hours of being at work, my eyes are rolling around in the back of my head and I literally STRUGGLE to keep my eyelids open. It's crazy. I had this issue a couple years ago and I purchased a couple bottles of 5 hour energy to drink as needed. It helped but I don't want to do that this go-round.

Suggested Solution:
Take those things that keep you up late unneccesarily (tv, emails, social media, shopping, etc.) to a designated time slot in the early morning.

I love Pinterest and if I know I have a designated time slot for it in the morning, it will encourage me to go to bed and anticipate waking up to get my creative caffeine for the day. When it's time to get out of bed, GET OUT OF BED. Designate a spot in your house where you can get to work and make a bee line for it. If you don't have a spouse or child still in the bed when you get up, make the bed. When the bed is made, it'll be less tempting to get in it.

Just remember that the work you put in today may not pay off immediately tomorrow but you're investing in yourself. To see a return on investment, you may have to put in some work. It's worth it though. Take it all one day at a time. Before you know it, 4 am will be your best friend!

You can do it! Stay tuned for more updates & lessons I learn in becoming an early riser!
Thanks for reading!
God bless you!

- dani

February 7, 2014

The Golden Rule & Our Ability to Love

"Treat others how you would want to be treated"- What a perfect mantra to live by! 

There is a reason why that particular rule is considered golden.  It's so deeply rooted in love. We all have gifts, talents and abilities. By God's grace, we all have the ability to love. 

No matter how sadistic a person may seem, at the core, we ALL want to be loved. We don't want to be merely tolerated. We want love, appreciation and kindness shown to us. It's interesting because we may WANT love but we don't necessarily go out of our way to give love. The Bible notes in Acts 20:35 that it is more blessed to give than to receive but does that truly transfer over when it comes to loving the people in your life? 

It can be easy to love people on the good days or when they've done something great for you. The challenge comes in when a person is inconsiderate, rude or downright hateful.Will you still love?  When we've experienced an offense/been offended,  human nature usually kicks in and says that we can bypass loving the offender. Additionally, we get a golden pass to return evil for evil.

There are people who I know take pleasure in knowing that I've faced some not-so-great days. There is something about misery loving company.  There are people (not just one) that are walking around that I don't particularly care for. There are people that I would be totally okay if I never ever saw them again.  It's not that I wish them harm but because of the brokenness/disfunction in the relationship, I'd be good to "God bless you" and bid them adieu. There are people who I know are mean and take pride in being mean.  Why should I love them? If they dish it out, they should be able to take it, right?

I'm reading Steps to Christ by Ellen G. White with my church. One of my pastors creates these incredible study guides to go along with the chapters we're reading. I'm really enjoying it. One of the things I was reminded of in the Chapter 1 was that when Jesus was here on Earth, every word He spoke, even if it was a rebuke, OOZED (and continues to ooze) love. There were two thought-provoking testaments to the love Christ showed that I highlighted in my book. 

Thought #1: 
"Love, mercy, and compassion were revealed in every act of His life; His heart went out in tender sympathy to the children of men. He took man's nature, that He might reach man's wants. The poorest and humblest were not afraid to approach Him. Even little children were attracted to Him. They loved to climb upon His knees and gaze into the pensive face, benignant with love. - (SC 11.2)

It just seems natural to be afraid to approach someone who everyone sees as important. I'd be nervous to approach President Obama or any other former president for that matter. There are many famous and a few not-so-famous people that I'd be afraid to approach. I'm sure I'm not the only one who would be a little tense about running into Suge Knight in the grocery store. Mind you, it's not necessarily the air that the person projects. Sometimes, it's our own mental stronghold that keeps us from approaching others. At the same time, random kids aren't running and jumping in my lap! Lol! The only way to be that approachable is to learn to not only give love like Christ did but make a commitment to become like God because essentially, God is love. 

Thought #2: 

Jesus did not suppress one word of truth, but He uttered it always in love. He exercised the greatest tact and thoughtful, kind attention in His intercourse with the people. He was never rude, never needlessly spoke a severe word, never gave a needless pain to a sensitive soul. He did not censure human weakness. He spoke the truth, but always in love. 

 We are supposed to follow that example. When I get annoyed with something, I'll often feel like I have the right to be rude. Christ was NEVER rude. In my experience, it seems like in order to get things done with certain people, you HAVE to be rude or they'll trample all over you and I don't want to be anyone's doormat. However, if I want to be like Christ, Christ was NEVER rude and I have to remember that.

Never rude?!?!?!?!?!

Nope! He was NEVER rude! He never spoke a severe word. A severe word could be something as "harmless" as cracking a joke at someone's expense behind their back. If it's something you couldn't say to their face because you know it's hurtful, don't say it.

People who are mean, rude, hateful, spiteful need the most love. Our definition of love is found in 1st Corinthians 13: 4-7. I think it's always good to CRITICALLY go through these verses and accurately apply them to each person in your life especially the people who make you cringe. I'm not saying you'll be best friends with everyone. As a matter of fact, you won't. Look at Christ. He was hated by many yet He still loved and He still forgave. It all goes back to treating others how you would want them to treat you. After all, the golden rule, in it's finest hour, reveals love.

Continue to pursue Christ and let Him show you how to love.

God bless you!

February 5, 2014

The Bantu Knot-Out Breakout

The Tale: 

Last year (2013) was a pretty stressful year from beginning to end. There were a lot of new changes that I experienced and just when I was beginning to adjust to one situation, a new curveball was usually thrown. By the end of the year, I had experienced my share of disappointments. However, I decided that my disappointments and failures would not define who I was. Life is going to hit you on the blind side. You will have some grueling situations to face. As many of you know, I'm a Christian and a lot of times, believers have this illusion that because they are walking with God, everything is supposed to pan out wonderfully. Yes, all things work together for the good of those who love God as we're reminded in Romans 8:28. Just know that you will face trials. It is your job to mentally rise above the situations with an understanding of who you are in Christ and the fact that He is covering you. 

By the end of last year, with an understanding of who I am in relation to the challenges I face, I made up my mind and committed to enjoying 2014 and purpose/passion-driven living. I've called 2014 my "purple" year. When I was a kid, there was one year where I made a bet that I would kiss everything I saw that was purple. Purple is my favorite color. If I couldn't kiss it because it was dangerous or inappropriate (i.e. a moving car, complete stranger), I'd blow the purple subject a kiss (I was a kid so be nice. It'd be wrong to judge my bizarre antics lol). Now fast forward to 2014. I decided to, in a figurative sense, "kiss everything I love" or become a little more intimate with the parts of my life that I'd like to improve i.e. dancing skills, workout routine, etc. On Monday, I introduced my early bird quest in Becoming A Morning Person Pt. 1. I will continue to share my findings over the next few weeks with my endeavor. I've also made a commitment to DO MY HAIR! I really like my hair but when facing a lot of stress and a never-ending to-do list, the hair usually falls off the list. I found that my hair was really becoming super stringy and weak. It was hard to do anything with it so I kept putting it in a bun. 

So how have I decided to "kiss" my hair?
  •  REGULARLY washing my hair and detangling :: It sounds gross but I wasn't washing my hair as consistently as I should've been. I would wait until it started to look and feel dirty before I washed it. That may work for some but it wasn't working for me. 
  • Hairstyle Experiments :: I have a ton of Youtube videos bookmarked and hairstyles that I've pinned on Pinterest but I never gave them a try. It's not about waiting until a special occasion to pull out a fun hairstyle. It's about appreciating the moments in the present and what's in front of you right now. It's about celebrating each day like a special occasion because technically it is. Every day is another 24 hours you are alive and able to glorify Christ! When you look at it that way, it's easier to start the whole "carpe diem" process with the simple things like hair. 
**Disclaimer :: I still love my bun. I really do. I will still wear it. I just won't wear it every day for 6 and 7 months on end. Now, if you're on a hair growth challenge or journey, that's a different story. The bun is a great protective style but I just got tired of the excitement scale getting stuck on zero. No thanks! 

The Tutorial: 

I love this hairstyle and it's seriously my new favorite. I haven't been able to get 3rd day hair out of it but I can get 2nd day hair by simply "pineappling" the hair on top of my head and then covering with a satin bonnet.

What you'll need::

1. Blow-dry the entire head. I ALWAYS use a comb attachment...ALWAYS!

2. Part hair into sections as pictured below. Obviously, the parts don't need to be perfect.

3. With one section in hand, apply a tiny bit (I dipped one finger in and dotted it over the length of the hair).

4. Brush the pudding into the hair so that it is evenly distributed throughout the hair.

5. Twist (not two strand but literally twist) the hair and then put it into a bantu knot. The knot should look more like a Dr. Seuss character knot instead of a perfect bun (if that makes sense).

6. Be sure to use the fine tooth comb to get any tangles out of the ends of the hair. You want the ends to be as smooth as possible.

7. If you can't get your bantu knots to stay in place, use a bobby pin to hold.

8. Put a satin scarf on it and go to bed.

9. When you get up the next morning, unscrew the knots and separate. I separate the curls once and sometimes twice and called it a day!

Here is the link of the tutorial that I followed for this hairstyle. It's called How To Get Perfect Bantu Knots on Dry Natural Hair and it's by Curly by Nature 21/Alyssa Forever! She does a lot more than I did but I'm sure that if I followed all her steps that would take the hairstyle up a notch on the fabulous scale! I bookmarked a while ago but never used it. This tutorial has helped me achieve, hands down, my best bantu knot-out EVER! Thank you, Alyssa Forever!!!

Cheers to getting out of the hair rut!

Two things::
1. If you're stuck in a rut, what do you do to help break out of it?
2. Are you going to try this style? If so, I'd LOVE to see your results!

Thanks for reading & God bless you!

February 3, 2014

Becoming A Morning Person Pt. 1

"Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." 

My mother used to recite this popular quote by Benjamin Franklin when my sisters and I were little. We used to like staying up late to watch television and she would always use this saying to remind us that staying up late was never in our best interest. 

Speaking of my mother, one of the most beautiful traits my mother possessed was the ability to gently lead by example. My mom was born in Grenada, W.I. and naturally loved the heat. The laundry room was the warmest place in the entire house and so she loved going in there to study. She even had her own special couch in the room so she could be comfortable. Mom would do her morning devotion and then she would study/do homework (she was a teacher and was also in a Master's program at GW). She would do this routine every morning at 5 am. As a result, she was able to be successful in juggling her class load, achieving straight As all while managing a home, career, children and a husband. Even though she's not here anymore, my respect and admiration for her continues to grow daily. 

In Exodus, we read about Moses and his challenging journey with the Children of Israel through the wilderness. At one point, Moses communed with God and received the Ten Commandments (Exodus 31:18). However, when Moses came down from Mt. Sinai, he found the Children of Israel worshipping a golden calf. He was so furious that he threw the two Ten Commandment-inscribed tablets on the ground, breaking them to pieces. So since the Ten Commandments are pretty important and they needed them, God felt it was important to give Moses another copy. God is so particular when it comes to His instructions so it's important to listen when He speaks. So, In Exodus 34, God gives instruction to Moses on what to do next so that He can get the tablets. Verse 2 opens up with God telling Moses to, "be ready in the morning".  

Now, I know that God can meet with us anytime and anywhere. However, for some reason, I believe there is something special about getting into the habit of early rising. Many people who have achieved levels of success that they never dreamed possible have noted that early rising helped them get there. Upon further reading in Exodus 34, God instructs Moses to come to Mt. Sinai early and alone. There's something significant about communing with God without any people to distract you. Early mornings are the time when the world is the most quiet. A lot of people are still asleep and the business of the day hasn't begun quite yet. Even the Proverbs 31 woman gets up in verse 15, "while it is still dark." So she's up before the sun! Some of my most intimate moments with Christ have happened when I've risen early in the morning. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to share some great benefits to early rising and how to become an early riser. So, if you're like me and want to see some major growth in your life this year, stay tuned! 

God bless you!


January 14, 2014

What Are You Thirsty For?

Don't you hate it when you have a craving for something in particular and nothing else can fill it? Sometimes I have a specific craving for salty meals like salmon, olives, aged cheese and heavily seasoned asparagus. It's the strangest combination. When I know I want that meal, a regular salad or sandwich just won't do. To take it a step further; Have you ever had a craving for something you knew you didn't have and you tried to replace it with something that was available in the fridge? You may try to eat more of that other substitute, but in the end, you're still not satisfied. For example, you may want Deer Park water but Aquafina is the only one available. It's just not the same! 

In the innermost part of our souls, we know, innately, that we need more than what we see in front of us. We are all searching for some entity to quench that thirst/longing that we all have to be heard, understood and loved unconditionally. Jesus says in John 4:14 that "whoever drinks of the water that I shall give will never thirst again." 

A couple months ago, I heard an elder bring up different ways that we use to get our thirst quenched. We try to quench our thirst by using some of these tools: 

1. Power - Having power is not a bad thing. Being in a leadership position is an awesome responsibility that, when used wisely, can foster positive growth and impact for the greater good. However, when a person seeks power only to control and manipulate others, they are coming from a place of deep hurt. There is a thirst to fix the hurt that others committed against them by propelling the hurt on others. With Christ as the center, He can heal past hurts and quench the longing so that power doesn't become an abusive tool for those in its' path. 

2. Praise- It's such an incredibly beautiful sight to see when people support and encourage one another. We are relational beings and need to be uplifted and encouraged by one another. Even though it is beautiful, it shouldn't be all you rely on. If you rely on the admiration and praise of others, you'll be sorely disappointed when they criticize you. Don't place your value in how many friends you have, how many people like you, your social media stats or the accolades you receive. People's opinion may change about you so you need to know that Christ is sufficient for all your questions about your worth. 

3. Possessions- Isaiah 55:2 says "why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?" There is always a new smartphone, tablet or gadget that is supposed to make life a teeny bit easier. There is usually a pretty hefty price tag attached to those supposed "lifesavers". Or there is another sale at the mall with an outfit that you have to buy because the other 70 outfits in your closet don't quite encompass your style the way that this one does (yeah right).  The text is not saying don't enjoy nice things but at the same time, you have to understand that those things won't satisfy you. You must seek the kingdom of God. God is the only one who can satisfy. 

4. Pleasure - When used in the right context, pleasure is a necessary part of our everyday living. When it's abused, the habits can have damaging effects. Sex within the context of marriage is a beautiful and necessary part of life. Eating is a necessary part of life. Enjoying leisure time with friends is a necessary part of life. However, when used outside of marriage, premarital sex can result in STDs, emotional damage and unwanted pregnancy. Eating whenever it feels pleasurable can lead to overrating and the health issues that come along with being overweight. Leisurely spending time with friends but neglecting the study of the Word of God, work or personal responsibilities can lead to an eventual overload of work that has only been fostered by procrastination and escapism. 1st John 2:15 commands us to not love the world. "Everything in the world -the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does -comes not from the Father but from the world." 

At the root of all we search for, there is a deep crying out for Christ. Matthew 5:6 reminds us that you can be filled with Christ. Let Him take full control. 

So... what are YOU thirsty for?