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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. 

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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/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

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. 

Monday Motivation: Purpose is inconvenient.

Hello, Warriors!

I have a short stop newsflash for you – if you’re all about walking in your purpose, you must be willing to be inconvenienced. Doing what you are born to do requires a level of humility unlike any other.

Think about it.

  • When it’s time to celebrate a big moment, there is usually music and food involved. That means that someone is working while you’re enjoying the fruits of their labor.
  • In 1 Kings 19:19-21, Elisha was called to be a servant of Elijah, he was plowing oxen.
  • In the 2nd chapter that bears her name, Ruth was gleaning fields trying to support her mother-in-law when Boaz found her and she became King David’s great-grandmother.

In order for your purposeful journey to flourish, there is a tilling of the ground, a rehearsal that makes your body sore, a recipe that doesn’t work, or a car that breaks down. Purpose does not make you comfortable. It makes you birth something you didn’t know you had. Jesus’ purpose in delivering us from evil through his death, burial, and resurrection was beyond uncomfortable and it definitely wasn’t at a convenient time. He was approximately 33 years old when completed his mission, and He did more in 33 years than some of us do in our entire lifetime.

So, keep this in mind today – your purpose will be fruitful… and especially inconvenient. What a beautiful dichotomy.

Peace & Thanks for listening!

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: Learning

Hey Sweethearts.

Learning is such a vulnerable position. It makes you susceptible to judgment and frustration. Essentially, you’re opening the door to your heart and mind to absorb something new… to rewire your circuitry. So, be patient with yourself and be around people who won’t make fun of your vulnerability. Friends and significant others encourage progress, not scoff at it.

Tonight, I pray that you give yourself permission to learn. To be uncomfortable. To stretch. To stumble. To become.

Wherever you are in the process, remember that it’s OK… and wind down safely.

Peace, Love, & Thanks for listening!

Photo courtesy of YouVersion 

#bloglikecrazy: Day 24 – David?

Generational mercy? I had heard of generational blessings and curses, but mercy though? That blew my mind.

In my recent reading of 1 Kings, Chapter 11, I couldn’t help but notice that generational mercy is a repeated sentiment between God and Solomon. Basically, God said “I won’t punish you as you truly deserve for the sake of your father’s relationship with me.” Now, this is King David we’re talking about here and if you know anything about him, you may see where I’m headed.

The ambitious warrior, the murderer, the adulterer, the lady’s man, the musical genius… sound familiar? In today’s terms, King David would be the last person to receive a humanitarian award or a seat in our pulpits. After all, to see if he would heal faster, his attendants suggested putting a young virgin in bed with him (1 Kings 1:1-4). What a remedy, right? But the difference between David’s and Solomon’s wrongdoing was that David would humble himself enough to acknowledge his struggles, repent before God,  and get up from prayer with best intentions to follow God’s directions again. We have his proof woven throughout the Book of Psalms and even when he is anointed has King.

Acts 13:22 (NIV)
After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him:
‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart;
he will do everything I want him to do.
‘” (referencing 1 Samuel 16:7)

Solomon disobeyed God and felt no remorse, even though he was blessed to be the wisest man on Earth simply because he asked for it.

1 Kings 3:9 (MSG)
“Here’s what I want: Give me a God-listening heart so I can lead your people well, discerning the difference between good and evil. For who on their own is capable of leading your glorious people?”

The sinful act of worshipping other gods wasn’t the deciding factor (he was doing that in verse 3 of the same chapter); it was the heart. The comfortability of loving his wives’ gods was the issue, even after David instructed him otherwise in 1 Kings, Chapter 2.

Isn’t that something? Knowing that Solomon profoundly screwed up numerous times after repeated warnings, God says that he will still uphold his covenant and hold back part of Solomon’s consequences for David’s sake. David? Of all people? Yeah, him.

There’s a David in all of us… struggling on the inside to project Christian values on the outside in spite of all that life throws at us. If David could be close to God, why can’t you? In all of his mess, God weighed his motives and even through hardship, he blessed him.

If you default to behaviors that are opposite of your Father’s voice, do you grieve over disappointing Him? Do you dust yourself off and try to walk forward again? Then, you’re a David and there is room for you at the Father’s table. He already knows your vices, and sees your shame, but He won’t hold it over your head. Just look at how Solomon reaped the benefits of generational mercy through someone that we would deem unworthy in today’s terms.

You are loved. You are valued. You are David. You are His.

Peace & Thanks for listening!

Photo courtesy of selectitaly.com

#bloglikecrazy: Day 19 – Church

Remember that TOGETHER post?

Guess what my pastor preached the following day? ENDURE: Running the Race. I included some of my tweets below. It’s one of the ways I like to take sermon notes. 

(Sidebar: I love it when God layers His Word. Don’t you? 🤗)

11/19/17 @GFCBHM

ENDURE

Hebrews 12:1 (NASB) – Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

http://bible.com/100/heb.12.1.NASB

One of my highlights was Ecclesiastes 4:12 – Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Essentially, we fight better together. That’s what church services are to me. Yes, we are there to collectively worship God, but I also like to think of it as a pit stop where you can pause and regroup with other runners. Knowing that you’re running in the same direction, having similar experiences along the way, and celebrating our different journeys forge our faith. It strengthens the spiritual muscles.

Running together.  What a beautiful, yet simple solution to many of our problems. What do you think?

Peace & Thanks for listening!

 

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