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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

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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 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. 

Wednesday Wind Down: Dichotomic 

Recently, I felt the pain of a woman who’s only desire was to provide the best solution for her children at the expense of what she wished for them. She cried after we prayed together. I bought the items she needed and she agreed to a massage therapy session. I just wanted to help, wanted her to know that I see her. She was the 2nd person for I whom I prayed and to whom I had given. The first person was homeless and when I asked him for a prayer request, his response was to pray for his family. How selfless. These opportunities started hours after I received news that my income would decrease… again. Perfect timing, right? Exactly. That’s what I said too.

Now, I’m not monetarily rich. I’m not a superstar. I don’t have someone taking sensational photos of me at every turn so I can post them on the ‘gram. And I’m definitely not a selfie girl. I just… listen. I sincerely try to listen to God’s voice everyday and anywhere. That’s how this blog Listening at the Speed of Life was born. So, when those opportunities presented themselves, I had to be obedient. No questions asked. 

What have I learned about myself along this journey of obedience? 

  • I hug my students.
  • I even hug strangers. 
  • I pray for people I don’t know.
  • I say thank you. A lot.
  • I love big and I retreat quickly.
  • I boldly express my care.
  • I can speak up when I’m scared.
  • I can ask questions unapologetically. 
  • I seek to understand. 
  • I generally stay to myself, yet I have meaningful relationships.
  • I am a delicate, and resilient balance of mind, body, and spirit.
  • My introversion is beautiful, not a defect.
  • I don’t have to be loud if I don’t want to be.
  • I don’t have to be in the mix to feel included.
  • I like breathing and being, and sometimes these come at the cost of being misunderstood. That’s OK with me now. (It wasn’t when I started.)

So, back to the moment. She was grateful. I was humble. We connected.

The message?

It’s time that we slow down and feel the heartbeat of one another. We’re all humans trying to navigate through this life, and if you’re a Christian, then you’re trying to adhere to a certain compass as you travel on your path. It’s not easy, and we are all doing it… walking it out, journeying into the next dimension of ourselves, and feeling our way around in the darkness of tomorrow’s challenges. 

What would it hurt to wave to the service worker? Speak to the custodian? Give a thank you card to the teacher? Buy an extra meal for the hungry? Or simply hug your friend without it being an obligatory salutation? 

What happened to us orbiting together instead of spinning around each other, being afraid to bump into one another’s space? 

What happened to running the human race together and checking on others along the way?

Peace & Thanks for listening. 

Wednesday Wind Down: Reply All

Raise your hand if you have given a canned response to a question. Yeah, me too.

The easiest thing to do is give an auto-reply and keep walking, i.e. “yeah, I’m fine,” and “yeah, it’s all good.” Well, when I start getting the same questions over a certain period of time, I spiritually sit up. I interpret it as God testing my answers.

So, recently I’ve been asked the same question regarding my career plans and usually, my answer is pretty status quo. “Whatever the Lord says.” Since the same question keeps coming up in  different circles, it makes me think that the Lord wants me to check my responses. It’s true – my future is in the Lord’s hands; however, perhaps the responses should be more intentional instead of sounding like a robot. The same words can be said with life instead of sounding like a default reply. Also, I have to get comfortable with the plan God has set before me and get used to hearing it out loud. *shiver* Regardless of the situation, there’s a season for bulldozing through the muck and giving a ready-made answer to save your face from crumbling in tears; then, there’s a season to speak in faith of what God has shown you, even if your voice shakes.

Is God testing your responses? Are you set to complain by default? Do you deliver the  same response no matter how you feel? Are you being so holy that you don’t sound human? Do you giving canned responses to everyone you meet?

Sometimes a “reply-all” isn’t the best approach and at other times, it’s the oxygen keeping you alive. Ask the Lord which one should come out of your spirit when questions arise. Trust me – He’ll let you know.

Peace, Thanks for listening, and wind down safely, Sweetheart.

Wednesday Wind Down: Better

Hey Sweethearts.

As I sit here gearing up for a late night homework/study stint before bed, I thought of something I said to myself yesterday and hope that it helps you too.

I was tempted to say something out of character and in a split second, the following words flew out of my mouth, traveled into my ears and pressed the kill switch on what could have been a negative interaction:

You’re better than that. 

I had to remind myself of the Queen I am. Queens don’t bicker. They reign. They exert their authority and move on with their daily agenda.  They don’t stoop; they glide. So that’s what I did. I floated right over that situation and kept my mouth shut. What could have been a moment of spiritual quicksand ended up being a day of personal peace. The trajectory of my life was better because of that reminder and the chain of events that could have ensued did not have a chance to weigh down my royal adornment.

So tonight, as you wind down, remember that you’re better that – whatever that is for you. Maybe it’s smoking, drinking, cutting yourself, bingeing on porn… my Love, you’re better than that. Stop stooping and starting reigning in the authority God gave you.

Peace, Thanks for listening, and wind down safely.

Wednesday Wind Down: 7

Hey Sweethearts! Happy Valentine’s Day! If you haven’t heard it today, let me be the first to say it – I love you!

For some people, today is filled with flowers, cards, and love-making. For others, it’s a day of disdain or heartbreak. But I have a newsflash for both parties – to God, it’s just the 14th. It’s one more day to show you how much He loves you in spite of your flaws, habits, and dark thoughts. It’s February 14th – another day to love you big. And guess what 2+1+4 is… that’s right. The number 7 represents completion and perfection. So 2/14 is just another day for Him to love you completely and for you to experience perfect Love. Wherever you are, please remember that… and wind down safely.

Peace, Love, & Thanks for listening!

Wednesday Wind Down: I Love You More

A short stop for your week

Yesterday was my mother’s birthday. *insert shiny confetti here*

While we were on the phone last night, saying our usual benediction of “I love you” and “I love you more,” I told her that she got me on that front. There’s simply nothing I can do to love her more than she loves me. Why? Because she loved me first. She knew me before I knew myself.

That’s a good reminder as your day may be coming to a close or as you’re preparing for a night shift. God will always love you more than you love Him. You can pour your heart out on a plate of prayers and benevolence and serve it to Him with the utmost sincerity and He will still love you in a way that is unmatched. He knew you before you got here (Jeremiah 1:5). Before you had a car, a degree, a child, an eating disorder, a panic attack, or an addiction – He loved you. So, that means whatever state you’re in, He will continue to love you. You are His and no one can change that. He will always say “I love you more” when you mess up, disgrace His name, and fall short of your promises to serve Him wholeheartedly. That’s the beauty of his Love. It’s all-inclusive and lasts forever.

So, needless to say, my mother will always 1UP me in this department. And God will always supercede her. And I’m loving that truth.

Peace & Thanks for listening!

TM Lesson #2: With ALL My Heart?

So, the Holy Spirit connected some things for me recently while we were learning about the muscular system in therapeutic massage school. Do you know what that means for you? We’re playing connect-the-dots today! Are you ready? lol

DOT #1
“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and
with all of your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)

1517368961654_imageHave you ever heard of this verse?  It first appears in Deuteronomy 6:5 after as part of Moses’ reiteration of God’s laws (The Ten Commandments) to the Israelites. It’s also sprinkled throughout the rest of the book and is referenced again by Jesus in the three of the four major gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke. So, I guess you could say it’s pretty important. After all, that’s how God loves us, by the way. It is only befitting that He requests reciprocity. Don’t you have the same request of someone you love?

DOT #2
“…out of the heart flow the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

One of my favorite translations of this verse is the Hebrew Names Version (HNV) which reads “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it is the wellspring of life.” Wow, a wellspring… source, originator, supply. Since it is so vital of a source, I should allow Peace to keep watch of it instead of relieving Him of His duties. Let’s go to next dot, then we’ll connect them all.

DOT #3
Heart: The Organ

The heart is designed to pump blood, nutrients, and waste products in and out of it. Yes, circulatory waste. Your heart muscles have a beautiful rhythm that consists of an involuntary symphony of contractions and relaxations… all to ensure that you stay alive. A myocardial infarction (heart attack) occurs when there is blockage in your arteries and the heart is deprived of oxygen. The beautiful rhythm is disrupted and muscle tissue can die.

NOW, FOR THE LINES…

If we are to love the LORD with all of our heart (DOT #1) and out of the heart flows the source of our physical and spiritual lives (DOT #2), then what issues are blocking you rhythm of love toward Him and others (DOT #3)? Are we not supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves? What if we ignored the effects of a spiritual myocardial infarction? Is there dead heart tissue causing disruptions in our relationships?

Your heart is truly the seat of your decisions, not your head. It holds your emotions and your brain creates circuitry to remember what you felt within positive and traumatizing experiences. Have you ever had your heart broken and actually felt a heaviness or tightness in your chest? It wasn’t just stress, but also the essence of you aching. The experience created a blockage in your spiritual circulatory system.

So, that’s the connection that made me pause. There are damaged parts of me that are hard to pump the Love of God through. Those cells have lacked oxygen for quite some time. And there’s supposed to be an exchange – in and out, arteries and veins, circulation – that keeps me alive and flourishing. In Deuteronomy, the heart is listed first. I believe it is listed before soul and might purposefully. I can’t see myself loving God or anyone on Earth without my heart being in the front seat.

1517369020834_image-1Next, am I truly keeping my heart guarded diligently? Am I letting Peace do His job? This doesn’t apply to just romantic relationships; it covers every communicative intercourse. Most think that it is a primarily reference to being in love with the right person, but I believe that Peace needs to guard your heart in every transaction – familial, professional, romantic, and platonic. Out of each of those interactions can flow the essence of you. And I wonder how well our heart pumps and receives the Love of God for our well-being and for the lifeblood of those around us.

To love the LORD with all my heart is a tall order, but I am on a mission to give it to him, even the diseased parts, the angry parts, the fractured parts, the confused parts… In the words of my mother, ALL means ALL. I don’t get to pick and choose when it comes to Him. If I can accept all of His Love (which was a cool experience I should add), I have to complete the cycle so my heart can be healthy.

Peace & Thanks for Listening! Keep rocking your week!

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