Good Morning, Sweethearts! How are you? You’re still moving forward, so I’m proud of you. *fist bump*
Tuesday was the last day of therapeutic massage school (insert quick dance right here) and I took a break from the blog on Wednesday to soak it in. So, I’m coming with a “shortstop” today to make up for missing our Wind Down this week. Below are 9 quotes that were on my Instagram when I began blogging. They are still relevant in my life, and I pray that at least one of them speaks to you as well.
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.
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. Everything 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.
Pride, like a tumor, must be removed – not ignored.
Like a tumor, pride metastasizes and blocks your divine purpose.
You can’t ask God for miracles and control how they arrive.
You have to go low to be lifted high. You can’t start at the top.
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.
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
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!
It’s been two weeks since I’ve blogged because my reservoir of words was empty. Now, I can connect again, so here goes. As always, I hope my transparency can help you as it is helping me heal and grieve.
Peace & Thanks for listening in advance.
I’ve only had two boyfriends in my life and the second gentleman became my husband. That should tell you how stringent I am when it comes to making decisions. My forever made it a point to let me know that he was intentional about me and what can I say? He passed my tests and I said yes.
So, when the best friend of my former husband called on Father’s Day and said “It’s not looking good and…,” my answer was the same. I knew I had to be there. No matter what. I immediately adjusted my route and was at the hospital in about 25 minutes. It was the least I could do. The least I could be for the man I vowed to love forever, regardless of what those papers said.
We had a beautiful beginning, a sweet middle, an amicable denouement, and a beautiful friendship all over again. It’s not what normally happens, I know, but it was us.
Was everything perfect? Of course not, but we had a love and respect for each other that wouldn’t disintegrate. And I appreciate that part of God’s plan. The fragments of questions that float around in my mind, I will never understand and I try to not to marinate on too much. It was devastating to say the least, watching him fight and knowing he was going to let go. As I walked into his hospital room, my heart began to throb in pain. I felt like someone had loosely stitched it together in light of my father’s passing less than a year ago, but the inner part of me was about to make it burst. We had gone through this before, he and I… the undulation of health. Like a Pavlovian subject, I switched into “wife mode” – talk to God, talk to him, touch him gently, kiss his face, rub his head, listen to the nurses, watch the monitors, ask questions, remember names the medical team, notate medicines given, nap during sponge bath, keep up with anything he needs to know when he wakes up… Something was different this time. Every beep echoed sadness in the hallways of my soul and the tears just wouldn’t stop stampeded down my face.
Being a Christian, of course I was hoping for a miracle of any kind, but I could feel that prayer request being removed from my fingers every time the medical team told me differently. I took a picture of me holding his hand so I could show him when he woke up. We were supposed to have lunch that week and I thought it would be a great topic of discussion. A part of me wanted to ask him over shrimp and grits to describe what he saw, felt, and heard as he lay in that bed. Did he hear us? Could he see angels? Was he talking to God Himself? Silly, I know, but I wanted to chat all about it as we laughed about another school year down in the books. Singing and praying and crying and meditating, I held his hand along with Mark and his wife. The lower the blood pressure, the less strength in those stitches that held my heart together. At the last beep, they couldn’t hold any longer and my heart bled mercilessly.
Needless to say, I’m letting myself feel everything now and staying soaked in prayer along the way. I couldn’t start grieving for my father until months after he passed away and this time, I am allowing myself to just be. If tears fall at school, so be it. Just the other night, I screamed and cried out in anguish on my way home from work. The outpour of support has been amazing, but some fail to realize my spirit has an open wound that resembles more of a widow than an ex-wife. And that’s OK. It had only been a little over a year since we divorced and we weren’t bitter. We weren’t angry. We were simply us and I now understand what he was trying to do. I hate the pain, but I get it. Before, during, and after our marriage, the most important title was Friend. Such a rarity it is to come full circle with someone. I couldn’t have asked for a greater honor in this life.
It was a pleasure to love you, Shawn, and that love extends beyond the grave. My heart cries into the heavens as you enjoy your new home, but I’m so happy for your relief. The world may have lost your beautiful mind, body, and spirit, but your legacy will live in us all. Always and forever grateful.
I share this not as a lament, but to encourage anyone who is grieving a loved one anywhere in your soul. Be present. Be human. Be tender. It doesn’t mean you’re not a “good Christian” (whatever that means anyway) and that you just need to “get over it” (insert same sentiment here). Jesus cried too and He understood what it meant to grieve the inevitable. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Yes, joy comes in the morning, but there is a new morning everyday, so it’s OK if you have to get a refill on that joy more than once. He has plenty and will never run dry. That’s what I’m leaning on right now.
I love you and I’m praying for you. Keep me in prayer too, please. In the words of my mother, God’s got a whole world out here, so let’s make the best use of our time while we’re here, OK?
Tonight, I’m sharing an open letter to my performing arts troupe. As you read it, think of how you can inhale and exhale more efficiently with your squad. If you don’t have one, you got me. Here we go…
ON THE 6: an open letter to Workmanship Incorporated
The number 6 represents the imperfections of man, labor, and is often used to indicate symmetry.
There were 6 days of creation and the Creator made man on the 6th day.
A family table often hosts 6 chairs.
What a unpopular, yet fitting number to celebrate.
In 6 years, we have disrobed and unmasked before each other, revealing the vulnerability of ministry – raw, beautiful, and free. Our paths were forged long before we formed a crew, and so were our tears. The struggles, the laughter, the prayers, the outpour of anointing… all of which encompasses the journey we chose to take together 6 years ago. I wouldn’t trade anything for June 5, 2012, when my hands shook with nervousness before each call to request your time and energy.
Now, we breathe as a family of imperfect people on fire for God’s Love and Creative Expression. We are His Workmanship and it’s an honor to serve with you.
Where was the Wednesday Wind Down last week? On the road. To Indianapolis, Indiana. So, you have a bit to catch up on.
On Easter weekend, Upon This Rock (UTR) Productions celebrated 34 years of theatrical passion with a trailblazing rendition of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that could rival any Broadway play. Hands down, Sweetheart. It was exciting, invigorating, and empowering.
The day before the last rehearsal, I left Alabama with a worn out spirit, waiting to be refreshed. I won’t lie and say that nothing good happened to me leading up to my departure. Actually, God the Father sent distinct reminders after I cried my eyes out the prior week. I don’t cry often, so why the tears, you ask? Because I felt like a wrung out dish rag. Strong will plus a caring spirit, coupled with a loving heart can create opportunities for people to minimize you. Because I am not boisterous, it is sometimes assumed that I am resilient enough to be kicked around like kindergarten ball at recess. If you’ve ever felt this way, you know that at some point, you deflate a bit.
Well, since the beginning of the year, there have been significant instances where this assumption occurred, and by late March, I had reached my quota. I recall feeling so low a couple of weeks ago that I pulled over at a parking lot to gather myself on the way home one night because my silent frustration was so loud. There I was, battling the Truth against what was true – 1) that as much as I sincerely give of my time, talent, and treasure, there will always be someone that will disregard it, 2) that I can not control whether someone values my gifts, 3) that at times I feel invisible – trudging along some days just to stay positive and uplifting, 4) that in the midst of invitations to birthday shindigs, bridal showers, baby showers, gender reveals, organizational celebrations, etc. I somehow felt good enough to celebrate with, but not enough to contact otherwise, and lastly 5) that I was God’s Beloved and that I shouldn’t be feeling down in the first place. Ever been there? It’s not a “Woe is me” moment, but a “I’m tired of getting screwed over and fighting for the basics” moment. The vest that was once girding and protecting me was now suffocating me. It needed to come off for a minute. Just for one minute so I could catch my breath from the blows… then, I could strap back on my armor and return to the battlefield. *smh* But, two weeks
My Sister for Life – Producing Actress/ Vocalist/ Comedienne Moneca Reid
ago, I just needed a minute. That minute turned into an hour of outcry over the phone to my sister (with whom I would attend UTR) who understood exactly what I was experiencing. She decoded my tears and congratulated me on giving my frustration a voice.
So, now you see my mindset and spiritual state by the time I had to travel to Indiana. I came with a positive outlook, ready to receive whatever God had to show me. Whatever He had to say, I was beyond all ears. My prayer included the resolve that I was coming to Indianapolis empty-hearted, but would not leave empty-handed. I was spiritually hungry, and everything in me was open and available. My assistant role was clear and I was excited to serve and experience my first UTR Production.
In the midst of working backstage, I was absolutely filled. There were 3 things that I heard from God and three responses I released to Him.
“You do all things well.”
“How dare I accept less than what I am worth?”
“You really do know how I feel.”
Though some loved ones are no longer here, God does all things well.The adversity that we live through brings us closer to the people who need our story. This is the case for Executive Director Sharon L. Hill. Her testimony manifested in the form of Upon This Rock Productions. The smiles you see in that photo are not results of everything being perfect, but of God doing everything well from one point in life to another and another and another…
So how dare I accept anything less than what Jesus paid for my heart when He came with my end in mind? He values me so much that He continues to give His Love in exchange for my tainted version. Friends, Lovers, Family… it doesn’t matter. You can not – hear me clearly – you CAN NOT allow yourself to absorb the value that someone has placed on you. Check yourself for “stickers” that others have put on you and remove them quickly. You may need the Father’s help, but you can do it.
When I saw the actors cast as Jesus experience everything I had cried about just days before, it humbled me… quickly. He truly does know how I feel. Now that I’m back home, I can’t imagine the thought of forgetting that Truth. He knows what it feels like to be me.After all, that was the soul purpose of Jesus coming to Earth, destroying the religious status quo, loving the discarded, and obliterating hell’s power. He had to experience life in my shoes. At times, He retreated to pray and regroup. Sometimes, He was frustrated. He was sad. His authority and identity were questioned. He felt loved. He felt happy. He felt betrayed. He felt forgotten. He felt victorious. He is the perfect example of finishing a mission. He is the perfect depiction of Love.
One thing is for sure — everyone who experienced Jesus then and everyone who experiences His Love now have probably said one or all of those three responses above. As you wind down tonight or get ready to start your day, I pray that you are reminded of God’s Love toward you. I had to get that off my chest before I went to bed, so I hope you feel the virtual hugs through your screen.
Peace, Love, and Thanks for listening, Sweetheart.
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.
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.
Merry Christmas, Sweethearts! I know a photo of Serena may not be your thought of Christmas, but allow me to explain why it perfectly fits mine.
I had to protect my Merry yesterday (and for the last couple of weeks, for that matter.) I mean, I fiercely protected it like Serena Williams defending her side of the tennis court. A few people got clap-backs that they inadvertently signed up for. Rude shoppers, irresponsible drivers, and inconsiderate individuals/former friends in my circle could have sucked the happy right out of my bubble, but I swatted them like flies… and I have no remorse.
They didn’t know that I had to fight to gather my Merry.
I searched for its pieces while crawling through the barren forest of my spiritual winter. I scrounged. I foraged. I created little piles of joy around me, forming a 360-degree barrier between me and the world – me and the reality of my bank account, professional transition, and life changes. I replayed fond memories of my father instead of anticipating his absence on yet another holiday. Four months later and I still patch the holes of my heart with thoughts of his smile to protect the cracks of my heart from the cold winds of grief. My piles of Merry were the only boundaries I had to keep the darkness from penetrating my oxygenated peace.
So, you had best believe, that I defended my happy with everything I had yesterday. To keep from crying sporadically in public places, I thought of his spirit dancing and I spoke to him.
“I love you.”
“I miss you.”
“Thanks for everything.”
To keep from royally cussing someone clean out (as we say in the South), I retracted the sporty backhand that was perfectly poised under my tongue and said “Have a blessed day.” Friends that were jolly as long as I supported them have surprisingly fallen away like leaves from trees when reciprocity made sense. I stuffed a little happy there too so the wind couldn’t get in and make me bitter. I let the angels do their jobs. I summoned God the Father to comfort me and the Holy Spirit to keep aerating my Merry with reminders of Truth. I let a harvest of joy grow from seeds of gratefulness. As I stood in front of my heater, I thanked Him for warmth. As my feet hurt from working, I thanked Him for the opportunity. As I drove on lesser gas as I normally do, I thanked Him for my wheels. As I coughed and massaged my face from sinus pain, I thanked Him for life. When I ate leftovers, I thanked Him for provision. Upon receiving random messages from sweet friends, I released the expectation from hearing from certain ones and truly let the peace of God rule and wash the hurt away. These things fortified my Merry and I wasn’t letting anything rob me of it.
Maybe you’re like me. You’re holding onto your Merry with both hands and you’re trying to keep it alive in the midst of hardship, loss, or change. I pray that you protect it with everything you got – that you exhibit the grit needed to keep the light in your spirit on, that you regain the strength and courage to fight for your happy, fight for your joy, and fight for your right to live. Don’t be distracted by what you don’t have. Defend what you have and let God heal the cracks. Let the angels of protection do their jobs. Hold fiercely to the Truth that Jesus was born so you could live.
You are loved.
You are cared for.
You are the reason Christmas exists, and your Christmas is Merry because Merry is a state of mind.
I love you and Merry Christmas, Sweethearts! Peace & Thanks for listening!
Photo of Serena Williams courtesy of Tennis.com
Photo of Christmas tree ornaments courtesy of Lowes.com