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.
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*
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
Have you ever thought you had dealt with something and then it reared its ugly head at the most inopportune time? *hand up* Well, it’s time for the Beast, and this one has two heads which makes it quite a monster. Allow me to expose them and share how I won.
Let’s start with #1 tonight – DEPRESSION.
In February 2016, I had a terrible car accident that could have easily been fatal. I blacked out while driving to an out-of-state funeral and all I remember is seeing something like stripped rubber in the road, being 8 minutes from my hotel, declining my mother’s phone call because I needed to focus on the interstate junctions, and seeing the black and yellow end of a guardrail fastly approaching my face. The car was totaled. I was so shaken up and confused at God’s allowance of such an event. Then, I had a former friend act horribly and say that it was a sign that I was in the wrong place and should not have come. I knew in the Spirit that she was talking outside of hers. On the same day, my husband called to tell me that a family friend passed away. So, let’s recap… I was on my way to a funeral, surprised to hear about the transition of a sweet soul, and almost lost my life.
What made matters worse was that besides my family, none of the individuals that knew I was traveling 8-hours alone checked to see if I had made it there or had returned home safely. I wasn’t just hurt at that point. I was heartbroken and swirled into a pit of depression. Not the stereotypical visual we have of someone in their bathrobe eating ice-cream for days, but in addition to being withdrawn, I was on strict auto-pilot. One week passed by. I didn’t even tell anyone that I had returned to town besides my parents and husband because I didn’t see the point. After all, if I had died, they would have found out through a 3rd party if they cared, right? Well, things came to a head when I was driving and my hands started to slip from the wheel. I was in head-to-head-to-head combat with the Beast and it was winning. I didn’t want to kill myself, but I felt strength leave my body. I had never felt such physical and spiritual weakness simultaneously. A few seconds passed and I could feel the vibration of the emergency lane grooves. It jolted my senses and I immediately called my sisterfriend to say that I wasn’t OK and needed to pull over or meet her somewhere ASAP. She agreed and we met at a KFC. Slowly, but sincerely, she allowed me to drip my soul in front of her like water seeping through the cracks of a concrete wall. She apologized for not checking on me and told me how much she cared that I was alive.
For the next 5 months, my life was a blur of deadlines, rehearsals, and canned responses. I prayed sporadically, but on most days God and I weren’t “friends.” Auto-pilot was the only survival mode I knew and it kept me from crashing and burning every day, but it was undoubtedly unhealthy.
Needless to say, the person-to-person admittance alone was a strong swift kick in the chest of the Beast and I kept crawling until I could stand up using the Truth as a daily set of crutches. I stabbed one of its eyes by concentrating on who loves me and that apparently my purpose was unfulfilled because I was still here; then, I allowed people to show they cared instead of shutting out their sincerity. That year, with the thanks of my parents, I also celebrated being alive by keeping my self-care law and basically shifted some individuals to the outer court of my relationship house to release the energy struggle. After all, a tug-of-war takes two. In Matthew 7:16, Jesus says that you will know a tree by the fruit it bears. I believe this was later woven into the poetic tapestry of the late Dr. Maya Angelou – When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. That year, I learned that it is just as healthy and Christ-like to preserve your energy and expend it wisely.
Below is a glimpse into my mind that year in my attempt to deal with the Beast after my birthday. It’s raw and unfiltered. I hope it helps by letting you know that you’re not alone either.
Written September 2016
I got so angry one day that I refused to pray. I didn’t see the point. I wanted to believe that somehow my whole life would turn around and I would stop getting screwed over, but that belief wasn’t even a glimmer of hope anymore. The wait and the want? It’s insatiable. It never gets full enough to stop feeding on your emotions. That’s why you have to cast it aside and speak the TRUTH. I literally had to start fighting that Beast before it dragged me into its lair. Philippians Chapter 4 became a daily meal of nutrients I had originally refuse to ingest. I literally made myself chew on it every day. The despair is real. It’s a monster. It breathes in all the joyous moments you locked away in storage for a rainy day and exhales death. I hate it if I can be so frank. Sometimes, you have to just release it and fight for your life.
Peace & Thanks for listening, Sweetheart. I’m praying for you. Keep fighting. You’re not done yet!
According to my planner, 8/1/18 was supposed to be the launch of my 2nd book – sizzle reel and all. It was the perfect date for the perfect plan… at least in the land of my notebook.
Am I sad? Well, I was, but not anymore. Why? Because it is the first day of my birthday month and the last day of my fifth module out of six in order to complete my therapeutic massage program. I made A’s on my final exam, practical application, and overall module. I felt reflective and excited to be at the cusp of the end and the beginning simultaneously. Honestly, I felt like a 5-year-old sparked by the sound of the end-of-day school bell. Instead of running out of the front doors with a teacher’s note in my hand, I walked to the unsung heroes of financial aid and hugged each one that touched my journey. I appreciated their patience, diligence, and encouragement. Behind the scenes, they worked side by side with my admissions representative to ensure that I had a positive experience and I wanted them to share in the fruit of their labor.
I remembered when I started the program and September seemed so far away and now it is sitting right next to me, swinging its legs in the upcoming fall breeze. Now, that I’ve reached the end of this hill and staring up the next one, my spirit is so grateful that I started. Then, I thought about you.
What is it that you need to start? Time is one of those things that has kept its word ever since God placed it in motion. And guess what? It won’t wait on you. So, you have no choice but start now, start later, or start never. Either way, a starting point is waiting on you. As I left campus, I played my Andy Mineo album loudly and got lost in it. I smiled when I thought about Shawn bobbing his head with me along the drive. Blue sky, green hills, and open road… what a beautiful metaphor for how I felt inside. Like the world was wide open for me to keep starting. When I said as a teenager that I wanted to become a licensed massage therapist as part of my long-term goal plan, I didn’t realize that my starting line had 2018 spray painted on it. Perhaps this applies to you. What have you dreaded starting because it seems too big or out of your reach? Remember, your start can be at any time, but nothing’s better than knowing that a finish is coming. I live by the following mantra God gave me: Today will be yesterday. God lives outside of time and He has always had your start in mind.
Peace, thanks for listening, and wind down safely, Dear. I’m getting some much needed sleep in 5…4…3…2… zzzzzzz
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.
I am so grateful that last week’s post reached your heart. You told me in person, on Facebook, and through direct message how much it helped you and that you are keeping me and my family in your prayers. You are why I take the time to write each week. (((HUGS))) to all of you and thank you again for your support.
Below is a post I wrote in August 2017 and I’m ready to share it. Oddly enough, these lessons still apply. Hope it helps. If it does, let me know. – CJW
It seems like life slowed down a lot after my father passed away. I’ve been on auto-pilot, getting things done on the list, but vitality is a visitor. And no, this isn’t a sad soliloquy about how much I’ve lamented over the last three weeks. This post is actually a summary of how much I have learned experienced in the month of August and some of the lessons completely surprised me.
I listened to a few friends who felt like they have lost themselves in their parental and marital roles. I realized I don’t know how to do that. I think no matter what I do, how full my schedule may be, I always have a sense of self. I may not like her sometimes, but I always know who she is. That may repel some and draw others, and I am at peace with that.
When someone loves you, s/he will show it. Maybe not the way you want them to, but they’ll respect you enough to try. I am so grateful for people that do. I get distracted by those that don’t, but I’m working on shutting those blinds and pulling those curtains for good.
Pull people closer if they are worth the intimacy and don’t be afraid to say how you feel. If you’re hurt, say it. If you’re happy, say that too. Don’t just welp when you’re wounded. Say something when your soul is happy.
Allow friends to “see” you… in all of your messy glory. The best friendships I have are because of this rule. They’re the grittiest, most beautiful kaleidoscope of experiences I could never describe with justice. I share moments with people. That’s my gift and my desire. But, some moments multiply exponentially into priceless relationships. Keep watering those and they will refresh you too.
No matter what you do, someone’s lie will always be the truth to her/him. And there’s nothing you can do about it. Save your energy. Literally and spiritually. Let them live with the lie.
Honor is an big word. You have to open your heart wide to do it. Some flies get it in, but that’s part of the price. To honor is to open yourself and be humble toward someone’s esteem. And it doesn’t end after death.
Family is anywhere Love lives. What a sweet feeling to be counted as a family member by the blood of Love alone. You are born into one, and there’s something special about being adopted into another.
Legacy is everything and we are building it everyday… good and bad. My sisterfriend shared the legacy of her family and I was excited to see the fruit of her family’s labor. What a beautiful aftermath bore in the midst of segregation, heartbreak, economic development, and old-fashioned hard work. What legacy are we leaving? Bullet holes? Student loans? Shattered hearts?
Seek your insecurities and stare them down. Talk directly to them and don’t let them wiggle out of your sight. Don’t let them shade the truth with a different color.
God knows where you live. You don’t have to hide in your dark hours. You have a Father that knows your name and each star in the sky and each animal on the planet. You don’t have to fear your humanity; just know that you are clothed in divinity through the blood of Jesus and He gets it.
It’s OK to retreat. You need to refuel and recharge sometime, just like a car and a cell phone. No one has the right to make you feel guilty about doing so. Instead of fighting from fumes, choose to regroup so you can live more efficiently. Now, don’t randomly disappear where your loved ones think you’re unsafe. You are loved and will be missed, OK? OK. So, at least tell one person that you’re taking some time.
Peace & Thanks for listening, Sweethearts. Keep shining, keep breathing, and wind down safely. I’m praying for you!
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.
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.
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.
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)
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
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.
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?