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Wednesday Wind Down: Tell Me Something Good

Well, Sweethearts, I hope that last week’s transparency helped you as much as it helped me to share it. Whew! Talk about emasculating the Beast. I must admit; it felt good…. really good, but I’m putting the last part of Birthday and Beast on hold until next week. Why? Because I have good news!

Remember my board exam from my therapeutic massage posts? On September 1, 2018, I passed my Massage and Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx) and in a few days, I’ll be able to call myself an LMT! *insert a boatload of confetti here* Let me share something with you about why this victory is sweet.

20180827_191446.jpg
This stays in my office at all time. Thank you,  Pastor Steven Furtick.

When I was 14, God gave me a vision of my purpose. I have been pursuing it ever since piece by piece, knowingly and unknowingly. One of the parts of the plan was to obtain my massage therapy license. I could swear that this was an easy path to follow, but I would lying if I did. According to my perfect-turned-hilarious calendar, this accomplishment was supposed to happen 5 years ago. Leave it to God’s itinerary to say nope, not yet. A series of challenges made it seem impossible to reach my goal. Nevertheless, the door opened for me to apply and I walked right in, knowing that it would be financially uncomfortable and seriously inconveniencing. Honestly, uncomfortable and inconvenient doesn’t even scratch the surface, but with God’s strength, wisdom, and plain old grit, I am now posting this good news. *smile*

The Lesson

There’s nothing wrong with being transparent with those you trust, and who says the only thing you can trust them with is something bad or melancholy? I don’t share my victories enough. After all, that’s what will keep me going when I meet another challenge farther down the road of life. I’m learning that there are some genuine souls that wish to celebrate with you and that it’s OK to let them in. Isn’t that a lesson worth receiving… that one can share a cup of joy and a couple of tears with individuals perfectly capable of handling both? I think so, too.

So, now that we’ve talked about something good, what can you share with me? What can you share with someone you love? Where’s the good news in a day full of bad moments? Find some. They are there. I promise.

Feel free to share a piece of your happy in the comments. I’ll celebrate with you if no one else will. Peace & Thanks for listening.

Photos courtesy of moi. By the looks of it, my dog is happy that I’m finished with this program, too. lol

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Birthday & The Beast: Part I

Have you ever felt full, like you were about to pop? Well, me, my Converse sneakers, and my school uniform made a break for it this week.

20180820_143936
Gotta love my therapeutic massage family. That cake… *hands up*

 

It was Monday and I was full of everything – grief, fatigue, anticipation, excitement, concern, questions, tension, gratefulness… I was just full. After all, it was my birthday and that came with a cacophony of spiritual noise. I had been fighting to stay afloat in the midst of recent rip tides and I was doing a pretty good job, but when you wake up on your birthday and wish you could just sleep in, that’s when you know the jig is up. I couldn’t do most of what I wanted due to surgery recuperation and two financial surprises, so I had to make some adjustments to keep my annual self-care ritual.

Each week in August, I do something that fills me with joy, then I continue the celebration once per month until the end of the year. It’s like my body and spirit know it’s August as soon as July ends. Well, with a few modifications, I still managed to uphold my law.

Week 1: Weekend road trip with Mommy. Music, laughs, and priceless convo.
Week 2: Ate pancakes the night before surgery. Binge-watched Blue Bloods and The Resident from the beginning. Man, I love those shows.
Week 3: Sister Time with sisterfriends. Ate half of a Ribeye from the Hickory Chip.
Week 4: Drove to Noccalula Falls (Gadsden, Alabama)

Now, about this drive… it was a serious mission. I almost didn’t make it in time due to my car repair, but I’m so glad I kept going. When I arrived, I had 25 minutes to make my birthday wish come true, then when I got there, I didn’t follow the map correctly and got set back 6 minutes. Noccalula Falls is special to me because it is one of two places in the world (so far) where I can breathe without respiratory rudeness. Something about that Gorge Trail makes me giddy like a school girl waiting on a glance from a crush. I don’t have to scale or climb, but a fall can easily be in anyone’s future along those jagged rocks. It had been years since I stood beneath the falls, but I never forgot the way I felt taking that deep breath in without clearing my throat for the first time. (A picture of it is on my About Me page.)

I know God is everywhere, but it seems like that is our sweet spot. I just have to push beyond the tough part. On the way to the cave beneath the fall’s cliff, it was difficult to breathe and believe me, there were plenty of opportunities to give up and turn around having had surgery 10 days prior. The impending thunderstorm, the 5-minute grace before getting a ticket, the throbbing headache and sore muscles, my ill-prepared attire… I could have easily said forget it. Not to mention that I kept hearing a loop of negativity in my head along the way. But with every step, I felt the reverberation of my soul making a judgment call to not accept no as an answer to my prayer request. Needless to say, I hustled in all of my sweaty glory to reach the cave by 5:00 PM and made it on the dot. When I finally reached the spot, I took that deep breath and teared up. 20180820_170342Everything that filled me up finally had a place to go and I could empty it out before His perfect blend of peace and power. There I was, looking up at God’s natural wonder, and once again His Word met me there. Here’s what I heard. I hope it helps you too.

  1. Pride, like a tumor, must be removed – not ignored.

  2. Like a tumor, pride metastasizes and blocks your divine purpose.

  3. You can’t ask God for miracles and control how they arrive.

  4. You have to go low to be lifted high. You can’t start at the top.

  5. God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. If you never admit your weakness, there is no room for His strength to take over.

  6. Nothing can stop water and nothing can stop God’s grace and Love toward you. Just let it flow.

  7. Water smooths the rough edges. So do life’s challenges shape you.

No, there was no surprise party waiting for me when I got home and just 10 years ago, I was celebrating my birthday with my fiancé. I had plenty to swirl in as I recalled my battle scars, but standing there made everything feel small and made me feel safe enough to receive His strength. The exchange was available, just like air, and all I had to do was let it happen.

You know that exhale you do after ripping and running all day or removing an overcoat after a long day outside? That’s where I was. Pure relief.

And what was that overcoat? Pure Pride.

I hate asking for help to carry my bags during recuperation, accepting kindness in resources and deeds, or saying “OK” to a surprise provision that I prayed for…. how ridiculous is that? So, just like the benign tumor that was removed from my neck recently, it was imperative that God was still working on me and my foreign-body attachments.

Now, check out an excerpt of what I journaled in September 2016.

“My mantra in August was to unleash the beast.

Each birthday month, I vow to do something I enjoy and spread it out across each week. Sometimes, it’s small like a milkshake or a little bigger like a solo road trip. Well, this year I decided to embrace something that I don’t like…and it hurt like hell.”

Isn’t that crazy? Well, Sweetheart, that’s where Part II comes in. It’s great to celebrate and it’s beautiful to exhale, but we must deal with the Beast within us in order to be healthy.

Peace, see you next time on the blog, and thanks for making it to the end of this post. lol I love y’all. Let’s keep walking. If you have a birthday ritual, let me know. If you don’t, make a pact with yourself to start one. It will bless you more than you can imagine. XO

TM Lesson #6: Do The Math

Fun Fact: Red bloods don’t divide.

Most likely, you’re not walking around with a bag of blood with you in case you run out.
So, how do we have enough blood to live if those cells don’t divide? Let’s do the math.

Red blood cells live approximately 120 days (4 months), then they are engulfed by macrophages (the clean-up crew of the cellular world). Don’t fret – new ones are created in your bone marrow daily and massage therapy affects the body all the way down to the chemical level, so we definitely must be knowledgeable in your cellular function. Blood flow can tell us a lot while we are administering modalities to assist your well-being – inflammation, blockage, tissue damage, etc. Blood carries life and in 120 days, there’s a lot of life to live.

I was driving to work recently and the Holy Spirit reminded me that we were charged to be fruitful and multiply in all things, especially in the purpose in which we were born. When God the Father said “Be fruitful and multiply,” it didn’t just mean to populate the Earth. Whatever awesomeness that is transcribed into your DNA is designed to multiply in the lives of others. If you have a passion for fashion, that natural ability was destined to be fruitful by increasing the self-image and body positivity of everyone you serve. If you enjoy cooking, your love of culinary arts was designed to multiply by sharing the work of your hands. This doesn’t mean that everything you love to do that you should run a business in that area. Truthfully, that same food lover could be a horrible restaurant owner and terrible entrepreneur; yet, that thing that makes you smile and power-up… it’s worth exploring when you see lives being changed by it.

Ask God to open your eyes to the ways in which you can multiply. You don’t have to divide yourself and be thinly spread among various responsibilities. The directions were clear. Be fruitful and multiply, not divide. It’s not efficient to sprinkle slivers of yourself everywhere, but you can plant seeds with each client, student, and family member. Seek wisdom on how to grow your gifts and passions so others can bear the same fruit. Most likely, someone is hungry for what you were born to grow. The law of the harvest is real and you will be held accountable for everything you don’t use. That’s why I’m on a quest to die empty. I’m using everything God planted in me to multiply on this Earth so the harvest can outlive me.

Fruit trees don’t divide themselves in half; they bear fruit of the same seed. After all, isn’t that how we know the tree’s identity (Matthew 7:16)?

Red blood cells don’t divide, yet we function well on their 4-month run. What are you going to do for the next 4 months? How will you circulate? Let’s do the math and live. Need some help getting started? Check out this throwback post.

Peace, thanks for listening, and wind down safely, Sweethearts!

Photo courtesy of Giant Microbes

TM Lesson #5: He Thought of Everything

Hello Sweethearts!

Last week, I mentioned that I’m in the final countdown of my therapeutic massage program (33 days to be exact, and I’m including weekends). While it is exciting to prepare for the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx), our study sessions have also made me nostalgic and full of wonder all over again about how intricate God made our bodies.

Did you know…

  • The biconcave shape of your blood cells increase its surface area for oxygen consumption, yet remains flexible enough to squeeze into tight spaces?
  • The sarcomeres in our muscles facilitate muscle contraction (and look like a subway system, if you ask me)?
  • Aromatherapy is an actual form of therapy because your brain and muscles create and recall memories as you inhale an essential oils?
  • Your sternocleidomastoid (SCM) has a clavicular and sternal head to stabilize your neck when you tilt it back. Remember that little tidbit the next time you doze off in class?

    sternocleidomastoid-muscle
    Courtesy of Yoganatomy.com
  • Your body will always attempt to achieve homeostasis (balance), even at the expense of your free will?

The lymphatic system. Respiratory system. Cardiovascular system. Autonomic and Somatic Nervous Systems. There are many more collaborations that keep you alive and massage therapists can affect every last one of them through the power of touch. That’s how cool God is.

He touched us first. His fingerprint is on our hands. No matter how many people are born in the world, no one can duplicate you. Can you believe that such an incredible God thought enough of you to breathe into you and form your body Himself? All of those cells, muscles, and systems were fashioned with your purpose in mind. I am fascinated by that even more now that I am adding a new career industry to my journey.

Now, here’s the disclaimer. I don’t know why some of the systems malfunction or why parts of them are deformed or missing, but I know God still had every detail in mind when He made you. Everything else in creation was called to be, but you? You were customized with ocular muscles around your brown eyes. The zygomatic bones on your face are perfectly curved to create your cheekbones. You have the cradle of life sitting between your iliac crests. There is no mistake in you. I have had to remember that as I face health challenges myself. Even the parts of me that don’t function properly still exude His glory because I continue to fulfill my purpose on this Earth. I’m here to tell you… He thought of everything about you and you were designed with Love in mind.

Wind down safely, Dear. I have some reading to do before class in the morning, but don’t forget our chat, OK? *smile* Look in the mirror or check yourself out with a selfie to admire the greatness in you, on you, and shining through you.

Peace & Thanks for listening!

Wednesday Wind Down: The Cave & The Crown

Good Evening/Morning, Sweethearts.

A spiritual message has come up in recent conversations since Sunday –

“You have to go through the cave to get the crown.”

Recall the story of David before the glory days of kingship (1 Samuel). Faking insanity to prevent being killed on site… hiding multiple times from King Saul of Israel who was determined to see him dead… being best friends with King Saul’s son, which caused its own set of challenges and grief as he dies in battle. This is a difficult road for someone who was promised a crown.

So, what does this say about us? Can we not fathom the possibility that we may experience a cave before the crown? Is it crazy to think that we will obtain a promise unscathed? Just look at Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle. Her marriage into the British Royal Family is still undergoing mudslinging from some disgruntled family members. There is no shortcut to the promises of God where there is more responsibility waiting. You can’t wear the crown if you can’t handle the weight of it. There’s a process in the cave that prepares you like no other journey would. We can hear the lament and rawness of emotion in David’s voice in Psalm 142. He was confused, angry, and humbled and being in the cave felt horrible and safe simultaneously. Somewhere in the midst of hiding and fighting, his faith and fortitude birth the muscles capable of ruling a kingdom. Because of the cave, David was able to hold his head up as King of Israel and extend mercy to the man sought to kill him… more than once!

The cave sucks, but it can also bring the very people designed to fight with you. So, this week, I encourage you to embrace your cave. It won’t last forever. It’s not your landing place. You’re just paused there, not stopped. Darkness is not your enemy because it’s where you learn to shine.

I believe that God is still awesome and He continues to amaze me even though there is much I do not understand. As I move forward through my cave, I can confirm that He is a keeper. You are not there alone. I’m right there with you and I’m praying for you all the way. Get your #LATSOL notebook or your online notepad and write what you hear during this time. That’s the good stuff coming out.

Peace & Thanks for listening. Let’s keep shining together.

Wednesday Wind Down: The Flood

Good Evening, Sweethearts. There’s more transparency than usual below, so here we go.

I cried last week at work, and I’m OK with that.

That statement may not mean much to you, but it means everything to me. 

Grant it, no one was within my radius, but at that point, I didn’t care if a soul was near. I’m not afraid of tears, but unless it is in a worship service or tears of joy, I do my best not to cry in front of people. No matter who they are – family, friend, or acquaintance. And crying at work? An absolute no-no. Even though family, friends, and acquaintances are completely free to unleash their tears on me and let them drop down the back of my shirt, for me, it’s not the same freedom. After all, that’s how us givers feel. We’re used to having open arms instead of receiving them.

Sorry. On with the story, before I get ahead of myself.

Last week, I didn’t cry tears of joy or frustration. I truly believe they were a gift from God. The pressure valve had clicked and my saline salvation released the pressure. Twice.

For the past 2 years, I’ve ridden on a rollercoaster of experiences, including snuggling with depression after a car accident where I slammed head-on into a guard rail and on the flip side, publishing my first book. Fluctuating income and a 4.0 GPA in massage therapy school. A corporate Excellence in Teaching Award and the death of loved ones. A cancer scare and the exhilarating participation prominent performances. Kindness from strangers thousands of miles away and an amicable divorce. I often felt like a twisted vial of Bible heroes –  Joseph the Dreamer, Job the Survivor, the giving and relentless Shunamite woman, Nehemiah the Builder, and Elijah the Miracle Conduit. Every high where my hands flew up came with a transfer from pit to pit as clusters of unrest pounded my back like the seat of an old rollercoaster. The undulations were inevitable. You wouldn’t believe them all. On most days, I was perfectly fine, in the center of gravity and gravitas. On other days, let’s just say I was locked deep within my introverted shell.

The smiles, jokes, encouragement, motivation… that’s how I live everyday and all of that is real. And last week, so were my tears. They weren’t the cute ones either. Beginning as a silent scream, they arrived with wailing in tow like airport luggage. In the first wave, I had 9 minutes left on my lunch break at school and the bank representative expressed such empathy that I was rattled. “Just get to the car,” I said. “You don’t have time to do this right now, so just get to the car and give it a few minutes.” The bank representative didn’t know my story; I just gave the facts she wanted and that was enough for her to feel my spirit over the phone and beautifully encourage me. Then, I permitted myself to twist the valve and let the tears go. The 2nd wave? Yeah, pretty much the same – random, ugly-faced, and loud.

Like many givers, I have grown accustomed to trudging along, staying optimistic, and living in gratefulness. Unfortunately, this also leaves a sliver of opportunity for me to press and pack down the cries of my heart. Somewhere along the way, it became more “Christian” to suffer in silence and only praise God in public. Then,  when I stopped in the emergency lane of life to catch my breath and actually shared a glimpse of the reality in which I was thriving, it was viewed as whining and not having enough faith. Really? How ludicrous! So, what did I do? *smh* I stopped sharing with certain friends and family and just kept running. Well, last week, I took a pause to let my soul cry out and that release was my blessing. With 2 minutes left, I began to sob with gratitude that His provision and understanding kept me this far. “Thank you, Lord” and words of adoration seeped from my lips. When my break time was up, I packed my half-eaten home-cooked lunch, wiped my eyes, blew my nose, washed my hands, and clocked back in to massage my next client.

I’m sharing this with you as encouragement, not as a plea for pity. In that moment, I was overwhelmed because I was so grateful that God never sees me as weak when I cry. He actually sees me as strong when I plop my dead weight on Him. If anything, I am creation under obedience and a daughter that isn’t scared to fall hopelessly and hopefully into the lap of her Father. Doesn’t a tree bleed sap when it’s scarred? Doesn’t a cloud release rain when it’s heavy? So, why can’t I? You may have had that moment recently or you can feel the pressure valve ticking a little and you haven’t cried yet. If you need a time-out to release the kracken, take it. Find a bathroom, closet, public park, wherever you feel safe and just let the flood do its work. No matter how strong you are or how much faith you project, your tears are a gift from God. Just check out the people we look up to in the Bible. Trust me, you’re in good company. Countless times, prophets, disciples, and pariahs cried out to God

Tears were made to purify and speak on behalf of the spirit. Don’t stifle them. Let them flow. Breathe. Then wipe your face, drink some water, and get back on the road. There is nothing weak about the flood, for it has much strength when it runs free. And you’ll be able to run free too.
Peace & Thanks for listening, Sweetheart. Hope it helps. 

Shaken AND Stirred

Happy Wednesday, Sweethearts. How are you? I pray you’re doing well. As I wind down, here is a thought for us to chew on.

When James Bond orders his signature martini, he likes it one way and one way only – shaken, not stirred. There’s a lesson to be learned in that phrase. 

Sometimes we need a shaking. We get settled in a rut of disappointment or in the complacency of goodness. The best parts of us can settle to the bottom, to the core of who we are and all anyone can taste is the supplemental contents of our purpose. 

Shaking up anything doesn’t feel good, including our inner selves. There’s a chaotic mess that’s supposed to be good in the end. Did you know that the shaking of a cocktail provides aeration which changes the texture and consistency of it? How many of us need a texture change so we can live life as a better version of ourselves? 

Stirred. At least stirring looks organized. It seems civil, right? It is anything but. Consider a dizzy symphony of ingredients learning that they need each other in order for the best flavor to be experienced. It’s strategic. Even the ice cube size matters.  Needless to say, we need stirring too. The events of life make us loopy sometimes and we can’t see the flavor it brings to us in the mix of the moment. Remember, flavor is meant to tasted, and texture is designed to be seen and felt.

It may be unfair, chaotic, frustrating, or even exhilarating, but I guarantee that you become a more refined being after trials and joys of life are experienced (Romans 8:28). Wisdom ensues and anyone who meets you will be able to enjoy the divine blend of a beautiful creation called YOU.

I choose not to drink alcohol, but I respect the skill and the artform of bartending. Perhaps we should ask God for the same treatment… to blend our gifts, talents, life lessons, scars, and accomplishments into the best refreshment the world could have ever consume. We all need to host flavor AND texture. There’s a lot of thirst out here.

Peace & Thanks for listening. 

Wednesday Wind Down: Stormy Weather

Good Evening, Sweethearts.

When a sisterfriend asked me how I’ve been doing since we had last spoken, I replied. “A little bitter mixed with the sweet, but it’s all good.” It wasn’t one of those fake answers you give the lady in the supermarket as you keep rolling down the aisle. It was real and I was actually cool with the words leaving my lips. So, one of the sayings my mother has uploaded into the world and I downloaded into my spirit is the following: “This is just a season, and seasons do change.”

That reminder coupled with my response to my sisterfriend made me want to share what I’ve been sipping on to get me through recent storms. Below are four videos to chew on while the winds are blowing in your life and things seem to be crumbling around you. They have helped me greatly and I pray that they build you up as well.

 

Steven Furtick, Senior Pastor
Elevation Church

Sermon: Overwhelmed… But Not Outnumbered

 

Michael Todd, Senior Pastor
Transformation Church

Series: U R Loved (Watched all of it.)

 

Sarah Jakes Roberts, Pastor
The Potter’s House – One LA & Denver

Sermon: Firefighter

 

Paul Daugherty, Senior Pastor
The Jesus Tempo

Series: Tempo

 

It’s severe weather season here in the south USA, so wind down safely, Sweethearts. The storms are passing and season do change.

Peace & Thanks for listening.

Wednesday Wind Down/TM Lesson #4: Arrhythmia

Happy Wednesday, Sweethearts!

We learned something cool in therapeutic massage class about the heart and I underlined it in my book as a reminder to share it with you. I remember learning it in college, but something about this time around was louder.

Did you know that the heart has its own rhythm? As in, every organ is co-dependent except the heart, which can beat (for a short time) outside of the body. It has a natural pacemaker (the sinoatrial or SA node) that initiates the electrical sequence for the heart beat, and that the blood turbulence in the atria and ventricles create your heart sounds. Neat, right?! So the SA node kicks off the rhythm of your heart like a drummer giving the band 4 counts to start a song and your valves keep the sound flowing in the right direction – in, out, up, down, arms, legs, lungs, head… it’s all coordinated with the heart’s rhythm. And if the beat is off, well… that’s not good.

Image:
Venzella “Joy the Drummer” Williams

What I extracted from that lesson was God made us with our own rhythm. We walk around with this customized drum set in our chests at all times. Never do we say “Hold on, let me check my pulse. It may have stopped today.” No, we just keep going through life – talking, laughing, living. We trust the rhythm and it keeps the rest of our body on beat. So, what happens when the rhythm changes? Then, my friends, there is arrhythmia. Not all rhythmic changes are fatal, but some warrant close attention.

 

Some arrhythmias are so brief (for example, a temporary pause or premature beat) that the overall heart rate or rhythm isn’t greatly affected. But if arrhythmias last longer, they may cause the heart rate to be too slow or too fast or the heart rhythm to be erratic – so the heart pumps less effectively. (American Heart Association)

CJW and Sheila E.
The legend herself, Sheila E.

In life, the very same thing happens. We can be on a path that feels so good and then something small can throw us off. On the other hand, that steady pulse of life can be disrupted by something large and it can feel like the entire band needs to walk off stage and go home. Whatever the sound, you’ll feel the rhythm of life change. Maybe it changes your daily routine at home or your financial distribution. Maybe it skews your speech or the way you see someone. I believe we experience spiritual arrhythmia and I am convinced that we either learn to adjust or, like the heart, we simply stop. We wander through life on autopilot and wonder why we don’t feel anything. Maybe it’s because our heart is offbeat and we need a pacemaker to jump it off. Well, God is the ultimate heart regulator. I know this from personal experience. When I felt like the walking dead, he resurrected me to see life through different lenses and I haven’t forgotten that gift, even if my heart skips a beat or two along the way.

You don’t have to die from arrhythmia of the mind, body, or spirit. If you find yourself reading this and you are in need a heart check as you wind down tonight, I am praying with you. Contact me and I’ll pray with you via email. Just don’t live off beat and by all means, don’t stop. You are needed in the symphony.

Want to learn more about the heart? Check out this link from the American Heart Association. It has explanations, videos, and downloadables. A nerd’s dream come true!

Sheila E. photos courtesy of moi at the Sheila E. Concert (epic.)
Joy photo courtesy of: NBC News

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