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

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.

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. 

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.

 

Light Shine Bright

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

                A year after Freddie Gray’s death, we are still fighting for freedom. We realize that freedom isn’t free. The cost of freedom is high, really high. The pursuit of freedom will cost you everything in the fight to be “free.” And those who fight for freedom in any area understand this. Immigrants understand that freedom costs you the comfort of home. The slaves of the 1800s understood that freedom cost the lives of their loved ones. Jesus understood that freedom cost both his human life and his connection with God the Father, albeit a temporary separation. And, in spite of all this, there are many souls and voices yet crying out for freedom. So why can’t they seem to find it?

I remember visiting the Statue of Liberty as a child with my mother and brother, not really grasping the weight, and significance of such a monument that continues to stand as a symbol of hope for all those who wish to attain “a better life.” When the monument was first built, America was seen as a land of promise and hope for those who wanted to make more of their lives, and leave a better legacy for their children. The same is true for the Gospel, something we have somehow lost sight of. Listen again, and see if you hear it.

[Matthew 11:28-30 ESV] Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

[Isa 61:1 ESV] The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound…

            Can you hear it? Can you see it? We are all familiar with the excerpt from Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus” that is etched on the pedestal on which Lady Liberty stands, but we are not familiar with the poem in its entirety.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

            Lady Liberty is calling out to the outsiders, the outcasts, “the homeless,” those who are searching for a place to call home, to be free. And so is Christ in Matthew 28.

“Give me your tired, your poor…”

“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden…”

“…He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives…”

You see, just as the Statue of Liberty stands as a monument, a symbol of hope to immigrants traveling to a foreign land in search of freedom and a fresh start, the cross stands as another monument and symbol of hope for those traveling this side of eternity in search of freedom and redemption. Etched in the nail prints in His hands and feet are the words of Matthew 11 and Isaiah 61. I can see in my mind’s eye, a tablet at the foot of the cross on Good Friday, leaned against it, with the words written, “Come and find rest for your souls.” While Emma Lazarus, hundreds of years later, penned the words, I hear the voice of Christ echoed in the words: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” The message of the Cross is hope – hope for freedom; hope for healing and forgiveness and a fresh start; hope for transformation; hope for grace and mercy. The Cross is the spiritual Statue of Liberty. And, as we encounter and embrace and accept all the hope that the Cross offers, we, too, become the manifestation of that hope in a world that is dying and in need of that same hope.

[Matthew 5:14-16 ESV] “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and pit under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

            We are called to be the torch carried by the cross. As we seek to mirror the life and ministry of Christ, we allow Him to shine through us and influence the lives around us. And how do we do that? By acting with compassion and love and grace. That same hope that the cross offers, that is the hope that we must offer to those around us. We are called to be the visible manifestation of the invisible God, through our hands and feet and mouths. We are commissioned to be the ambassadors of His grace and mercy, of the redeeming power of His love active and alive in the life of the one who chooses to trust Him with all they have.

“From her beacon-hand glows worldwide welcome.”

            We are Jesus’ spiritual welcome wagon, greeting people in love and inviting them to participate in and embrace the rest that comes with an intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe. The price for freedom has already been paid. There is nothing more that is required of us but to enter that rest in the presence of a Creator so incredibly enamored with us that He took care of the tab for our freedom for the rest of eternity. And yet we fail time and again, because we somehow have been deceived into believing that we are allowed to determine whether or not someone is “worthy” of God’s rest. This is not the way of the Cross, nor is it the message or the purpose of the cross. It is not our place or within our authority to disperse the infinite grace provided by the cross. It is available to all who believe and embrace it. Our place is to love and embrace all, without a second thought to whether or not they are “worthy.” The truth is that none of us is “worthy,” and yet God sent His Son to die and pay the price for our freedom anyway.

Marianne Williamson said it best:

“We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

            Our purpose is to shine in such a way that it draws out the light that is already in others, to be the glow that beacons the world to draw closer, and catch fire. The things that bring us together are the things that are similar in all of us. Each light is unique, and yet it shines brightly and encourages others to embrace the unique light that lives within their hearts and souls. And when we find the light in one another, we find home and freedom that can only come from the Creator, in Whom we are all one.

SHALOM.

Self Affirmation

                I am strong. I am powerful. I am enough. I am resilient. I have survived many storms, and learned many lessons. I have been broken, even shattered. But I made it through, and I am better because of it. I am smarter, wiser, deeper, and clearer because of the pain and struggles I have endured. I am a lotus flower, and I am learning every day how to be at ease in muddy waters. One day I will be able to immerse myself in obstacles and emerge anew, untouched, unbothered, and wiser for the experience. That is the goal, to maintain an inner peace that is rooted in the knowledge of who I am in Christ and that Jesus has already won the victory. My job is to simply walk in obedience.

SELAH

daughter of the kng

Participate in the Present

“Be present.”

“Live in the moment.”

“Never miss an opportunity.”

“You only live once.”

                We are constantly reminded, chided, scolded even, not to waste the present moment. While it is good, wise even, to consider the future, to be cognizant of how our actions and decisions affect the future, it is also important to experience the fullness of the present moment. But what does that mean? Consider the purity of the following encounters: the laughter of a child, a live concert, a conversation with a good friend over coffee, having family dinner, a picnic in the park, sitting in the arms of a loved one. So simple, and yet so beautiful and full of life.

We exist as a part of a beautiful tapestry that is God’s creation. Surrounded by God’s divine brushstrokes in nature and each person that we meet on a daily basis, it is still easy to miss those moments that make life beautiful. Watching a child’s first steps, or your dear friend get married, or sitting on a couch with someone you love, these are the moments in which we ought to do our best to truly be present. Have you ever noticed how some of your best memories are those moments when you stopped to take it all in? Those moments are sacred, and to be savored for all the joy and meaning they hold. Being present is about being thankful, taking note of each and every blessing you are given in that moment, and not taking them for granted.

The purpose of life is to be lived. Not to waste time stuck in the past, or worried about the future (which you can only affect by what you choose to do in the present). Worry is the number one way we waste the present, usually worrying about things we have absolutely no control over. As women, we worry a lot. We worry about our loved ones. We worry about getting things done and needs being met. We worry about our appearance and, sadly, many even worry what others think of us. But, as women of faith, we are commanded not to worry because we are covered the Divine Presence of a Father who already knows what we need and what concerns us the most.

[Luke 12:29-31 ESV] And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

[Mat 6:27 NLT] Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

 John Lennon said in one of his songs, “Life is what happens when you are making plans.” Or, in today’s culture, while you are checking your email, talking on the phone, checking social media, and all the other things that clamor for our attention, distract us from living in the present moment. Don’t miss the seemingly small but precious moments in life that could be the best memories, the defining moments, of your journey because you are too preoccupied or distracted. That moment may never come around again. Think for a moment and consider all the moments that you have missed because of one thing or another. You overthought it. You were distracted by something that wasn’t really important in that moment. You were afraid of the unknown. The reality is, you don’t know if you will even see tomorrow. We were created with an eternal mindset, but that doesn’t mean that we are to miss the lessons and blessings that come with every new day God gives us. So, make some time today, this week, this month, this year. Make it a part of your mission to make the most of each and every new day that you are blessed to see. Take time to engage each and every moment you are given. Cherish them, and allow them to become a part of the tapestry that will become the story of your life.