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.

 

The Biology of Relationship

    Science, for me, has always pointed to the brilliance of the Creator. Biology, in many ways, mirrors how we function and dysfunction in relation to one another. After have a discussion with my mother about relationships, and the more I thought about it, I began to realize that, all I needed to know or learn about the nature and function and purpose of relationships, I learned in biology. Human relationships are quantified or categorized based on status and value of the relationship, what they contribute to your life journey. Nature categorizes organic interactions in very much the same way. Human interaction is called relationship; organic interaction is called symbiosis.

    Symbiosis is classified based on location (internal or external), connection (together or separate), necessity to survival, and consequence (benefit or detriment). If you think about it, we could define human relationships in very much the same ways, although the labels and adjectives would be a little different. Here’s what I have learned about life relationships through the study of science.

    In symbiosis, the three most common scenarios are mutualism (both organisms benefit), commensalism (one organism benefits without doing great harm to the other), and parasitism (one organism benefits to the detriment of the other). These have parallels in the sphere of human relationship, with slightly different labels but the same understanding. The bottom line to all this is that each and every relationship has and serves a purpose. No encounter or experience is wasted once you understand and embrace that truth. Whether it is intentionally mutualistic, or unintentionally parasitic in nature, there will always be a lesson to be learned – about life, about relationships, about oneself. The purpose and goal of life is to learn from and grow through each and every experience, and then share that knowledge and wisdom with others. Every victory, every defeat, every heartache and heartbreak, every disappointment is an opportunity to grow. Remember this: Defeat is not defeat if you learn something. We were created to live in relationship — with our Creator, with ourselves, and with one another. And, when we neglect or deny that innate part of who we created to be, it causes us great pain and the journey of life becomes much harder. Therefore, it is imperative that we engage our relationships and do all we can to learn as much as we can so that we can get the most out of those relationships. So, with that in mind, what follows are the things that I learned in life that symbiosis has helped me better articulate and share the wisdom that I have gleaned so far.

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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.

Healing for My Soul

This blog was re-purposed almost four months ago when I genuinely felt God leading me to speak to women in a way that would encourage and empower them to live life to the fullest and embrace what it means to be a woman, to be a daughter of the King, and to be sisters who uplift one another, rather than tearing each other down, only to continue to feel bad about themselves. Thus, Loving H.E.R. was born. In the next few posts, I want to share from my heart and from the heart of our Creator what He wants for us, as I dig into expanding the meaning behind the title. I hope and pray that you take something away from here that will help you grow, and hopefully be the beginning of a new beginning for whomever needs that in their life journey. Today we talk about Healing from the Past

Healing is a process with which we are all familiar. But it is something that is often hard to achieve, because either we run from it or we deny that it needs to happen. The human body is a wonder in that it is designed with certain “tools” that work to promote the healing process. The ability to grow new skin cells after a child scrapes their knee, the rush of white blood cells to an area to prevent infection and disease, and a host of other things that happen when we are injured or sick that work to help us recover and restore us to health. To heal is “to make healthy, whole, or sound, or to restore to health.” In other words, the purpose of healing is restoration, and restoration is exactly what many of us need but can’t really obtain for one reason or another.

Many of us are walking around with wounds that have not been healed, whether we want to admit it or not. Broken hearts, broken relationships, disappointments, failures are all sources of wounds that we carry around with us in our “baggage” every day. But, in order to grow and continue to move forward, we need to obtain healing from the things in our past that are holding us back from enjoying and embracing the beauty of the present, while robbing us of joyous anticipation for the future. It is only when we engage in the healing process and are intentionally reaching for wholeness within ourselves, that we are able to put each and every experience in its proper perspective and glean the wisdom that we are able to utilize to fulfill our divine purpose. All your experiences have the potential to provide the motivation for your life’s purpose, but only if you have taken the time to learn from them and are willing to be honest with others about what you have learned. Nothing is worse than a wasted life experience that holds you hostage instead of empowering you to live your best life and be the best possible version of the person God has created you to be.  So, how do we achieve the healing needed in order to be free to move forward and embrace the next step?

The first step in the healing process, and the most important step, is acknowledging that there is a wound that needs to be healed. Dr. Phil always says to his guests, “You cannot change what you don’t acknowledge.” I’m no big Dr. Phil fan, but the statement rings all too true. You cannot achieve healing when you don’t admit that there is something that needs to be healed. Many of us have been suckered into believing that admitting that you have been hurt is a sign of weakness. The reality is that you cannot move on from an experience if you ignore it, or deny that it happened. And, what’s worse is that, the more you try to ignore it, the more discomfort it will cause you. Just like an infection of the body that worsens without treatment, an area that is causing you pain will only become more and more painful when you choose to disregard it. It will oftentimes become toxic, clouding your emotions and impairing your ability to be impartial when dealing with the experiences of others. in short, you will not be in a position to help others when you haven’t dealt with your own baggage. But the only way to begin to deal with your baggage is to first admit that you have a full set of Samsonite following you around in life. This is why having a trusted confidante is so important. Find someone who loves you enough to tell you when you are being irrational and a little crazy, but at the same time, possesses the compassion necessary to listen and encourage and walk with you through the process of healing. The healing process is often a hard thing to do on your own, and it’s not really something that you are supposed to do alone. Healing requires support and unconditional love that helps you learn and grow. So, don’t just admit to yourself that you need to heal from an experience. Find someone who can walk with you through the process and help you to stay positive as you work through it.

The second step in the healing process is forgiveness. This is equally as important as the first, but definitely the hardest part of the entire process. Someone once defined forgiveness as accepting the consequences of another person’s actions. Another way of defining forgiveness is accepting the apology that you will never get. The truth is that, for many, the idea of allowing someone to “get away” with the damage that they caused us seems incredibly unfair. However, the other side of that is that you will continue to walk through life with a chip on your shoulder over someone who is living their life without a second thought to whatever situation has you held hostage emotionally. The underlying purpose of forgiveness is to free you to live your life unencumbered and unhindered. For some, the person who needs to most forgiveness is yourself. We are often our own worst critics. I know that to definitely be true for me. But the thing that I am still learning and practicing is to remember that I am fallible and I am going to make mistakes, and that’s okay, as long as I learn from them and try not to repeat the same mistake over and over again. Compassion for oneself is the biggest part of forgiving yourself. Understand one important thing about forgiveness: It is a process and a choice. Forgiveness, just like healing, doesn’t happen overnight. It is something that requires you waking up daily and deciding that you are going to forgive, whether it is yourself, or someone else, or a situation in general. And you have to be intentional about it, because forgiveness doesn’t come naturally in the human nature, such as it is. Note that forgiveness does not require you to grant re-entrance into your life by the recipient of your forgiveness, including an old personal habit that caused you repeated pain and personal unrest. You wouldn’t allow someone outside of you to continue to do you harm, so why allow your internal self to do the same? That’s why the healing process is so important. It helps you identify damaging and destructive patterns in your own behavior that keeps you from the growth that you desire, along with discovering external behaviors that you repeatedly accept that are not necessarily in your best interest. Forgiveness is for you more than it is for the recipient of your forgiveness. Give yourself the opportunity to be free and live free of the burden of holding on to things that are only causing you more pain and turning you bitter in the process. Bitterness is not healthy, and it is much harder to dig up the roots of bitterness than it is to make a definitive decision to forgive and move on with your life. The upside of forgiveness is that, the more you practice forgiveness, the easier it becomes to do so.

The last step in the healing process is the letting go. Once you have acknowledged that there is some area in your life that needs healing, and you have gone through the process of working through it and forgiving whomever needs to be forgiven, it’s time to let it go. Women have a nasty habit of holding a grudge. I am just going to speak clear truth here. Men are much better about letting things go than us ladies. I will never understand what purpose there is in keeping a Rolodex of the wrongs that have been committed against you in life. It’s a fruitless effort. Instead of enjoying your life and all the things that God has blessed you with, you are sitting in a corner, sour and lonely and bitter because you just can’t seem to let go. Enough is enough! Here’s a little tough love for you: Do the hard work and LET IT GO. There is nothing worse than doing all the work of learning what needs to be learned and going through the process of forgiveness, only to file it away for a later date. That is clear proof that your work is not done and that you need to go back through the first two steps and stay there until you are fully able to let go and not look back. Period. I promise that, once you have really done the work, you will be happy to let it go. A sign that you have not done all the work that needs to be done is a clear inability to release that person or situation completely and move with your life. You want that wound to heal and become a scar. Scars don’t hurt anymore; they are monuments to the growth that you have achieved in life on your journey. As my mom says, if it still hurts, it’s still a wound. Scars are not something to be ashamed of, because they are reminders that you grew as a result of the experiences that you have been through. The result of a completed healing process is a scar. Might be a big one or a small one, but still a scar. In the journey of life, you are going to encounter pain and be wounded. But nothing is more satisfying than the moment you discover that your wound is a scar, and the pain that you once felt has resolved, allowing you to move forward and move on with your journey.  Don’t let those wounds fester and become infected and turn you bitter. Don’t let those wounds rob you of your joy and your peace. Don’t let your wounds be what holds you back from enjoying the present and all the beauty it can bring into your life. Don’t let your wounds hold you hostage in the past and keep you from really living in the moment. Don’t allow your wounds to keep you trapped in death, instead of embracing life. Don’t let your wounds have you walking around like the living dead. Let it go. Do all you can to heal from your past and then let it go. Leave the past in the past, and learn to live in the present. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself, for your loved ones, and for all the people you will encounter in your lifetime, however long or short it may be. Life is short; don’t waste it being a prisoner of the past. Healing is waiting for you.