Honoring the journey to wholeness

                When I started this blog, I knew I wanted to speak to women. I wanted to remind my sisters that wholeness is possible, necessary even. What I didn’t know or understand then was hoe much more I needed to learn and grow, how much I needed to learn how to love H.E.R. myself. This journey to wholeness has been one of the hardest, most painful, most challenging work of heart that I have ever done. And, with all the growth I have achieved and all that I have learned, I admit that I have yet still more work to do. This journey will never end, and I am okay with that. I am here to tell you that this journey is not for the faint of heart, or for anyone who is unwilling to be honest and transparent with themselves. But the most important thing is that you must want to be whole, and you have to want it for yourself. Living from a place of health and wholeness allows you the ability to live, learn, love and serve in a far greater capacity that you could imagine. It allows you to fully embrace who you are, flaws and all, and see the beauty and find happiness. It empowers you to love yourself completely, which then enables you to love other openly, and with more compassion and less judgment.

                I have personally been walking the journey and doing the heart work necessary to come to a place where I genuinely love and honor the woman that I am, the woman God created and called me to be. And, because I am healed in some areas and still healing in others, I feel restoration and see restoration in my life. The most amazing feeling is soul restoration. For a long time, I felt disconnected from myself, from my true center, and from my Creator. My personal time and prayer time felt shallow, hollow even at times, but that didn’t stop me from praying or seeking. If anything, it pushed me to press deeper and seek more fervently. I now have a new understanding of Jacob, who wouldn’t let go of the man of God, as well as a deeper appreciation for the determination of the woman with the issue of blood, who pressed her way through the crowds for her healing. In many ways, I identified with her. The more I realized that I needed healing, the more determined I became to get it. I wanted what that woman, and every other woman who is hurting and in needed of healing wants – FREEDOM. I had no idea that I was living in bondage, enslaved to heartache, heartbreak, and fear. But I was, and I was able to see it and work through it because I was open to growth and allowing God to uncover my hidden chains. I had to be honest with God and with myself, and then I had to be honest with people in my life, both past and present. The hardest part about heart work is acknowledging your mistakes and then making amends and apologizing for them. It is an incredibly humbling process. I wrote letters and apologies to people I didn’t realize in the moment I had wronged. But, because I was willing to do the work and own my mistakes, and be transparent, a relationship was restored, a special one at that. Not only did I have internal restoration, I received external restoration, and that brought such joy to me that I cannot begin to describe.

                Now that I personally know the benefits of loving H.E.R., I can encourage others and share wisdom with my sisters about how you can find freedom for your mind, body, and soul. I want you to be healed, empowered, and restored now more than ever, because I know how it feels to be free, to feel that weight lifted. And it all starts with seeking healing for yourself.

 

“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.”

~ August Wilson

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Building Resiliency

                My birthstone is the opal, and recently I became the owner of two different opal rings. As a young girl, I was cautious with my opal jewelry because it has always been known to be a soft and porous gemstone. So, I only wore them on special occasions and handled them with great care. Until recently. I came across an infographic about the opal gemstone. One line stood out to me in the care and handling instructions – “Wear it often to expose it to moisture and humidity.” It seemed incredibly counterintuitive to someone who had otherwise believed this gemstone was so delicate and fragile. But now it is encouraged to expose it to the elements, perhaps to maintain or encourage resilience. The concept intrigued me, and I considered the life applications and parallels.

                We humans enter the world, fragile and delicate and helpless. And those who are not experienced with babies, especially newborns, handle them with such tenderness and great care. I see it all the time in my office, new fathers painstakingly undressing their freshly born infant, so worried that they are going to hurt them if they are too rough. That’s the way we treat ourselves all throughout our lives, like newborns, fragile and sensitive and afraid to be brave with our lives and our hearts. We walk through life shying away from the difficult and challenging experiences because we are afraid of getting hurt, afraid to make bold choices. But those are the very things that help us grow, doing the things that scare us – stepping out into a new work field, telling that person how we really feel about them, taking a chance on a new endeavor. It’s the only way to build a resilient spirit, to push through fear and do the things that scare us the most. Not unlike the opal, to build resiliency, we must expose our hearts to the “elements”, those life experiences that stretch us and pus us to the limits of who we are and what we are capable of. Freedom lies on the other side of fear. We just have to determine within ourselves that we are going to push through and grab freedom for ourselves.

Damaged Goods

We hide behind this label as an excuse to not do the heartwork needed to move toward wholeness and move forward in life. We come out of a situation that caused emotional or mental pain, and use “damaged goods” as an excuse, a cop out, for being stuck . We use it as an excuse to disengage, disconnect, and isolate ourselves. But the reality is that we are all damaged goods, wounded by life and not always healing from all the hurt and heartache. The Bible offers hope to those who feel like they are damaged beyond redemption.

[2Co 5:17 ESV] Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

You don’t have to live damaged. You can live whole and in abundance. As women, we have allowed society to label us — by our profession, our body type, our fashion choices, our education, our viability, etc. — but none of those labels ought to stick. You are not “damaged goods” in the eyes of your Creator. You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). You are a princess (Psalm 45). It’s time to stop hiding behind “damaged goods”, do the heartwork, and grow into your purpose. Embrace wholehearted living, heal your heart through grace, and show up for life!

Don’t just survive; THRIVE.

Personal Power

INVICTUSOut of the night that covers me,

Black as the Pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.


In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of change 

My head is bloody, but unbowed.


Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.


It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll.

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

(William Ernest Henley)
    The first time I read this poem, I thought the author was being arrogant and controlling. It was only after watching the documentary film, I Am Not Your Negro, that I felt the need to revisit the words of this poem and really ponder what Henley was trying to convey. What I discovered was what takes most of us a long time to understand and embrace. A profound yet simple truth that is indelibly tied to how we view and experience life. It’s this: Life happens. And, majority of the time, we have little control over what happens, how it happens, or why it happens. There are circumstances and experiences that we have absolutely no control over — death, heartbreak, opinions, illness, etc. However, we are able to exert influence over how those circumstances and experiences impact who we are and the people we become. This poem talks about weathering the hardest storms of life, and how we have the power to emerge from those situations unharmed. Not unchanged, but with minimal to no permanent damage. We always have two choices when faced with tough times: we either act or we react. How we choose to posture ourselves in the face of profound moments that wear on our very souls is what makes us “the captains of (our) souls.” We all possess the capability to influence our future, as well as the capacity to decide how we will respond to the unpredictability of life through our emotions. You see, the soul is the seat of the emotions, some of the most fleeting things known to man. But we have a choice when faced with situations that stir up our emotions — either we rule our emotions, or our emotions rule us. We can be emotional volcanos that explode with every life encounter, or we can captain our souls, and steer those same emotions toward something positive and productive. Life happens either way, and every situation affords us the opportunity to grow and mature into better people. 

    Henley was on to something. Every person is created with the capacity to become formidable creatures, and learning the lessons of life provides the space for us to grow into resilient people who weather the storms of life with strength and inner peace. Life may knock us around, but, as we build resiliency, we build an “unconquerable soul.” We learn how to endure, to perservere, and to survive the storm, and then come out on the other side thriving. 

Damaged Goods

We hide behind this label as an excuse to not do the heart work needed to move toward wholeness and move forward in life. We come out of a situation that caused emotional or mental pain, and use “damaged goods” as an excuse, a copout, for being stuck. we use it as an excuse to disengage, disconnect, and isolate ourselves. But the reality is that we are all damaged goods, wounded by life and not always healing from all the hurt and heartache. The Bible offers hope to those who feel like they are damaged beyond redemption.

[2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV]  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

You don’t have to lived damaged. You can life whole and in abundance. As women, we are bombarded by society’s insistence on labeling us, whether it be based on our profession, our supposed body type, our fashion choices, our level of education, or our perceived viability. But none of those labels have to stick. You are not “damaged goods” in the eyes of your Creator. You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139). You are royalty (Psalm 45). It’s time to stop hiding behind “damaged goods”, do the heart work, and grow into your purpose. Embrace wholehearted living, heal your heart through grace, and show up for life.

Don’t just survive; THRIVE.

This too shall pass…but you must go through

[Isa 43:2 NLT] When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.

     A lot can be learned from thunderstorms. The one thing I am reminded of by thunderstorms, usually because I am driving in them, is two-fold.

     First, storms ALWAYS end. No matter how long they last, or how torrential and turbulent they may be, they always end. Whether they blow in another direction or the storm dissipates, the fact remains: The storm will pass. This principle also applies to the storms of life. For all intents and purposes, all the clichés point to truth. No trial is perpetual. But one must understand the underlying source of the shift in the length of your circumstances — ATTITUDE. How you respond to your circumstances directly affects how long you will be in those circumstances. If you choose a pity party and to complain about them, you will suffer much more and at your own hands. However, if you choose a humble and teachable posture in spite of your circumstances, you open yourself up to finding the purpose within the storm.  And this makes all the difference, which brings me to the second point.

       You cannot get around a storm; you must go through. Somehow, we have been allowed to believe that we can pray or bargain our way out of tough circumstances. It’s simply not so. The only way out is THROUGH. But you don’t have to go through alone. God’s promise of His presence is echoed over and over throughout Scripture. When He commissioned Joshua after the death of Moses. When He spoke to Gideon while he was hiding in a winepress. When Gabriel spoke to Mary before she gave birth to the Messiah. But I love the words He spoke to Israel in exile through the prophet Isaiah: “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.” Even when Jesus prepared to reunite with the Trinity, He promised the disciples that He would always be with them, “even unto the end of the age.” Trials and hard situations can often feel very lonely, especially when the tangibles don’t seem to understand or try to be sympathetic. It can be very easy to feel isolated and alone. But, because God’s Word does not return to Him useless and void, and because His promises have no expiration date, you can know and be confident that, no matter where you are or what you are going through, your Creator is walking with right beside you. Not only that, He is your cheerleader, your coach, your confidante, and will carry you when you get too weary to press forward. Part of getting through is remembering who is walking with you. Mark Batterson describes God as “He who dwelt in the burning bush.” If God chose to occupy a bush that burned without being consumed to speak to Moses, He will walk with you. If Jesus walked on water and beckoned Peter to join Him, He will keep you. If God could be ever-present with the Israelites in the wilderness in a cloud by day and a fireball by night, He will most assuredly keep His promise to never leave you or forsake you. You may have no choice but to walk through the storm, but you won’t have to go through alone.

Be encouraged, beloved.

Mutualism and the Biology of Teamwork

Friendships, romantic relationships, familial relationships all have something in common: they are usually mutually beneficial. In our most healthy and valuable relationships, the characteristics that we value the most are those things that improve or add positive energy to our lives. I personally place high value on loyalty, respect, authenticity, and compassion. I recently did an exercise of listing my personal core values, and those four things were near the top or at the top of my list of values. Why? Because they reflect a personal commitment to oneself and to others to honor the relationship they have with you as a part of the community to which they ascribe.

In symbiosis, the word for such a relationship is mutualism. The name speaks for itself. In a mutualistic environment, the organic interaction is mutually beneficial, both organisms supporting the other’s highest good and survival. They make each other better and look out for one another’s best interests. There is a pooling of resources, each organisms acting in their strengths for the collective benefit of the interaction. Another way of describing this is reciprocal altruism, a behavior where one organism acts in a manner that temporarily reduces its fitness while increasing another organism’s fitness, with the expectation that the other organism with act in a similar manner at a later time. Sounds a lot like the covenant of marriage, doesn’t it? But this level of commitment to mutual “fitness” is not limited to marriage. This is the way the early church functioned after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. There was such a sense of community and shared responsibility to and for one another. Every member brought what resources he or she had, in an effort to make sure that every need was being met. And this is what we do in our personal relationships when they work well. One of the things I find myself saying often to the people with whom I share a relationship is “If I have it, you have it.” It’s a statement that I genuinely mean, and what I am really saying is that, whatever resources I have that can help you, I will use to that end. It may not necessarily be monetary in nature. It may be running an errand, sharing my time and strength to lend a hand, or even something as seemingly simple as a listening ear. We often hear the word “resources”, and immediately think financial. But resources are not limited to the financial. Resources include anything that you can do or share that will uplift and “increase the fitness” of the other person.

By no means do I mean to say that relationships will be perfect. The truth is that relationships are messy, and that, to some degree, is by design. Humanity is generally flawed, which means, at some point, we will fall short of the mark. You are going to disappoint people, not intentionally, but it will happen. The key to successful relationships, no matter what setting or relation, is an abundance of unconditional love, grace, and mercy. No one gets is right all the time, and no relationship is 50/50 all the time. Often times, it is 80/20, 90/10, 25/75, 0/100, etc. But, as long as the balance sways in the other direction, you will find value and merit in that relationship. Remember the concept of reciprocal altruism, and you will get much further in said relationships. There is one catch: Don’t expect the pendulum to swing back in your direction the exact same way you swung it away from you. There is a well-known relationship book called “The Five Love Languages.” In it, the authors list the five main ways we all receive and feel love. And, while there are people who share similar love languages, no two people share all in common. In an ideal world, we communicate to others in their love languages, and they respond in ours. But, you and I both know that the world is far from ideal, and this is where grace is important. When the ones we relate to attempt to reciprocate and it doesn’t translate quite the same way, we need to remember to honor the effort they showed.

Psychologists like to call this relationship interdependence. Interdependence is the mutual reliance between two or more groups. In relationships, interdependence is the degree to which members of the group are mutually dependent on the others. In an interdependent relationship, participants may be emotionally, economically, ecologically and/or morally reliant on and responsible to each other. An interdependent relationship can arise between two or more cooperative autonomous participants (e.g. a co-op). (via Wikipedia) No matter how you frame it or redefine it or label it, it all boils down to the same basic concept of understood give and take between persons who are in a healthy and thriving relationship with one another. In such an environment, people not only survive, they thrive. In this safe place where they know that they can depend on others if needed, but are also encouraged to be independent and supported in those endeavors. This is why this is a healthy environment – it promotes growth and healthy change.

There is an area of concern here that one must be aware of. Healthy relationships always have the potential to become unhealthy relationships if not maintained well and regularly evaluated. Some of the closest and best relationships often devolve into parasitic relationships (which I will get into in the next blog post) simply because people are not diligent to prevent it from happening. And it usually happens slowly over time. This is usually the infamous one person “outgrowing” of another in the relationship. You are doing your best to continue to grow and be better overall, while the other person contributes less and less over time, until you wake up one day only to realize that you are no longer in the same place with this person. You have grown apart. It’s okay; sometimes it is a necessary part of the life journey and the growth process. There will be different people who will be pivotal to your growth process at different stages. And not everyone will understand or support that growth or the new place of self-worth that you achieve. These are the people who you must choose to release, or you put the growth that you achieved in jeopardy and you run the risk of regressing, all for the sake of “preserving the relationship.” This is an unhealthy choice. You are never to sacrifice your health and well-being – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual – for the sake of saving a relationship. If that is what is required of you, it’s not worth it. PERIOD. The most important thing I have ever learned from being burned over and over again by people who clearly did not care about my well-being in a relationship is that you are allowed to WALK AWAY from anything that threatens your peace of mind, body, and soul. End of story. And it doesn’t require being nasty or mean. But it does mean that you have to know where your boundaries are, and assertively protect them at all costs. I won’t get into this too deep, because I will address it in the next post, but it needs to be said here as well. In good, healthy relationships, people who love you and value you as a person will, not only honor your boundaries, but they will defend them.