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Wednesday Wind Down: Forever…

Hi Sweethearts.

It’s been two weeks since I’ve blogged because my reservoir of words were 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.
– CJW


FOREVER…

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.

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Q: Where do two nerds spend their first wedding anniversary? A: at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, FL

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.

IMAG0280
What teachers really do on snow days in Alabama

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. 2It 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?

Peace, Love, & Thanks for listening.

CJW

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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. 

#bloglikecrazy: Day 9 – Band-Aids or Surgery

surgery
Photo courtesy of The Atlantic

“We keep changing the chefs never noticing the oven is broken.”
– T. D. Jakes, Sermon: Destiny Flocks Together

Disclaimer:
This isn’t a political piece. It’s bigger than that.
So, since you’re here, you might as well come on in and keep reading. *smile*

I was teaching my Introduction to Communication class today and something flew out of my mouth like a free bird. I can always tell when the Holy Spirit takes over because the faces of my students look like someone punched them in gut and the echo of my words surprise me when I hear them.

We were discussing conflict resolution and communication styles. The students’ conversation turned into how the value of the relationship and a person’s stage in life can affect conflict resolution strategies. Then, I said something that made the environment change. I’ll paraphrase below since I don’t remember the exact wording.

“Sometimes, you have to admit that there are no more band-aids in the box and it’s time to agree to do the surgery. It may not be a pretty quick-fix, but if you have placed a high value on the person and the long-term health relationship, you have to agree to do the work and have a common goal of achieving a shared understanding.”

I felt it. It was a slight shift where my students thought about their personal situations. So, I gave the “pregnant pause” before continuing my lesson plan.

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Clip Art courtesy of ClipArtBest.com

Depending on the value you both have placed on each other and the relationship (whether platonic, familial, or romantic), the conflict resolution outcome will vary. And just because the outcome isn’t a win-win (which isn’t nearly as feasible as people think in most cases), it doesn’t mean the issue was not resolved. Perhaps you have extended every option in your emotional storage and the other person is stuck on fueling the fire. The resolution is to accept the loss of the relationship type and get used to a new normal (lose-lose). The outcome doesn’t always have to be rosy to be the best option.

Let’s take this communication theory further. In the case of our most recent presidential election, I found Pastor T. D. Jakes’ quote most fitting. At times, we place too much responsibility on one person to fix our problems. Just like a surgeon has technicians and a team of doctors to consult, so does anyone that sits in the president’s seat. Unfortunately, just like in a medical situation, we put an unrealistic divinity on one human to heal our diseases. As Pastor Jakes said, we never put the microscope on the systemic leaks that need to be addressed. We simply change the person in the seat. On a personal level, instead of surgery, we opt for the band-aid of another partner, another friend, another job, another state, and all the while, the best option is to dig deeper for the source of the problem and attempt to resuscitate our lives.

Since we’re all created by the same God, shouldn’t we all get along? Shouldn’t everything be perfect and no surgery be necessary? hmph. Take into account the following verse:

1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. – Ephesians 4:1-6

Everyone is living in a tainted shell; therefore, we have to do the work to keep peace abounding in our communication…and in our country. Diligence is necessary. Patience is a prerequisite. Tolerance is essential. We’re in a time where the band-aids are peeling because the problems are too great and the blood is running freely. Let’s do better and choose wisely in speech and in our political footsteps.

Peace & Thanks for listening.

 

 

#bloglikecrazy: Day 7 – Pray for Rain

I saw something beautiful on the news today. A rarity, I know, but such a convicting sight it was.

My state is enduring a drought that has affected its agricultural production and marine life. Farmers are hurting financially and hoping that rain will come in time to rectify the damage of the dryness. It’s painful to see their livelihood be as parched as the soil beneath their feet. Each day, the meteorologists deliver the same news – beautiful sunny day, maybe some clouds, no rain. A disheartening report when you’re watching your crops die. I thought to myself – Too much sunshine is just as deadly. Rain or shine, we complain either way.

Then, I saw the beautiful thing.

A group of Muslim men and women had gathered to pray for rain. Prayer mats were sincerely used in the background while the Imam of a local Islamic society spoke on their behalf. The ritualistic gestures of the covered women resembled a secret poetry spoken between them and God in untainted prayer. The leader then said words that matched the beauty my eyes beheld on the television screen-

“We show our love for our country and our people and we expose ourselves to the mercy of God asking Him to send rain to all of us. We’re all in the same boat and all facing the same challenge of drought and as American Muslims, we are doing our own part in praying to God asking for relief because we share the concern like everybody else.”
– Imam Dr. Sameh Asal (read the full article from WBRC, Fox 6 here)

With so much hatred and ignorance in the world, I was oxygenated by the news story. As a Christian, I was convicted. How many times have we complained about thunderstorms and dreary overcast days? Personally, I love rainy days, but that’s definitely not the norm. When it’s summer, it’s too hot. In the winter, it’s too cold. Too windy. Too humid. Too this. Too that. It’s sad that a creation would be fickle about another creation, both not in control of the other.

What happened to being grateful for sun and rain?
*insert that Walter Hawkins gospel classic here*

What happened to praying for what we need instead of wishing for it and complaining when we don’t get it in our timing? We may not have the same religious beliefs, but I respect their humility to ask God for a need that affects us all. Here they were…such beautiful people engaging in unity within a country that sometimes disrespects their practices.

One need. One accord. One community. May we all respect that trinity as well. May we all mimic that practice during the personal droughts of our lives. May we pray for rain.

Peace & Thanks for listening.

#bloglikecrazy: Day 1 – Slow Down

slow-down-quotes-favim-com-2618639Am I crazy to #bloglikecrazy for 30 days straight?

Yep.

I’ve accepted a challenge by my writer’s group guru Javacia to unblock my writing potential through this annual exercise. I’ve always wanted to do it, but I didn’t expect it to be here already. Day 1. *eek*

So, what have I heard in my spirit today? SLOW DOWN.

It’s not enough to be a machine, but people expect you to be an energizing, self-sufficient, non-emotional android while getting catapulted by life events at the speed of light. Not an easy feat if you ask me. So today, I slowed down. I have a lot to do this week, and I’m sure you do too. For once in a significant amount of time, I ate my lunch at work… comfortably. Not in a car while thinking about my next stop. Not while on a conference call. Not taking a bite then answering a request. But sitting in a chair… at my desk… with minimal noise. It felt good to taste my food instead of inhaling it. Furthermore, I could have easily postponed lunch until after my afternoon meeting (which is my normal), but I looked at the clock and said – I need to eat before I do anything else. It was as if my body and my spirit agreed and aligned in peaceful matrimony. I enjoyed every bite of my bell pepper and grilled chicken.

Have you ever been like that? Not hangry (hungry + angry), but resolved that the absence of food was no longer an option? That was me today. That was the guilt-free me standing up for herself. How often do we do the same with God’s Word and our relationship with Him?

I need to pray/study/listen to God before I do anything else.”

What a difference that would make! Unsupported decisions would decrease and broken souls wouldn’t cry as often. We would think of our actions before they commence. Our canned responses would have more depth and loveliness woven between them. Perhaps your heart is aching in that place of resolve for you to ____ before you start whittling your to-do list.

I guarantee that you’ll have a better sense of direction after you’ve consulted the Compass.

Blog like crazy, huh? Well, I’m game. Let’s see what the Lord has to say, or better yet, what I’ll have to slow down to hear. lol

Peace & Thanks for listening!

Photo courtesy of QuoteAddicts.com

The Chorus

Thank you, Dictionary.com.

If I could let you hear the voices that visit my mind, this is what you would find. A host of negative vibrations consistently try to pimp me out of my promise. The offense could be legitimate, but my heart will want to forget it. The chorus steps into the sanctuary of my thoughts and proceeds to sing the same song, in the same rhythm, using the same poison. As definition 1d states, intervals are its mode of choice. The chorus is never constant, relying on the fact that I have breaks of solitude in the midst of my busy life. I hold them dearly close and seek to protect them at all costs. Unfortunately, I am not always successful and there I am, battling in the middle of my sanctuary.

I hope this peeling-back of the curtain encourages someone to know that s/he is not alone in the fight within the frame. It’s real, but so is God’s power. This isn’t a cry for attention or pity, but a step forward to reinforce that the weapons we use are not carnal because the enemy we fight is invisible as well. So, here they are, in no particular order of degradation.

*pressing play on the broken record player*

  1. “They don’t care about you. If they did, they would call. They would act like it.”
  2. “If you died today, you’d be missed for a moment, but not for a lifetime.”
  3. “Better watch out for her/him. She always let’s you down. That’s why s/he’s so carefree.”
  4. “You keep trying and they keep showing you where you fit on their totem pole.”
  5. “They don’t make time for you now, so why would they make time for your funeral?”
  6. “Put the phone down. You’re bothering them.”
  7. “Forever is a long time to wait for their reciprocity.”
  8. “You’re not good enough. You’ll fail in front of millions.”
  9. “Why are even trying? You are not equipped.”
  10. “What you just did was horrible. Everyone is going to remember that.”
  11. “You’re annoying everyone. It would best if you just went home.”
  12. “What’s the point? Bad things happen to good people. You’re wasting your time.”

Anyone claiming that suicidal thoughts are for weak has never experienced a “paper cut” of the mind and spirit. That’s all it takes. Sometimes the smallest cracks can cause the most damage. Am I going to kill myself? Emphatically no, but it doesn’t change the fact that demonic influence can override the will to live.

Evil seeds are often planted in the soil of our mind, then our broken insecurity waters the ground and we start sinking in the darkness.

The lifeline? Your mouth. I encourage you to talk. Keep talking until your voice quiets the chorus. Keep speaking up until your shaky words sends shock waves of freedom beneath the battlefield of your mind. Don’t let anything silence your will to dream, hope, and live. You have so much to be awesome for. You were handcrafted by an awesome God. That’s how I know you’re supposed to be here…right now…reading this. Flick the dust off your clothes and wash your soul in His Word and what He says about you.

Below are 15 doses of strong reminders that I use for my battles. The quoted phrases are what I tell myself. Feel free to say them aloud as well.

Philippians 1:6 (NASB) – “He will finish what He started in me.”

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Deuteronomy 31:6 (NASB) – “Fear is around, not within.”

Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”

Proverbs 3:26 (NASB) – “YOU are my confidence.”

For the LORD will be your confidence And will keep your foot from being caught.

Joshua 1:9 (NASB) – “The Lord is with me wherever I go.”

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Isaiah 41:10 (NASB) – “I am upheld with His righteous right hand.”

‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

Matthew 11:28 (NASB) – “I am tired now. I won’t be tired forever. I have a place to go.”

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

Ephesians 6:12 (NASB) – “Focus on the culprit, not the distraction.”

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Psalms 34:19 (NASB) – “All means all.”

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.

Psalms 143:10 (NASB) – “You lead me on level ground. I am sure.”

Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.

Psalms 1:1-6 (NASB) – “I am planted. I am strong. I am fruitful.”

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,

Nor stand in the path of sinners,

Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,

And in His law he meditates day and night.

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,

Which yields its fruit in its season

And its leaf does not wither;

And in whatever he does, he prospers.

The wicked are not so,

But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,

But the way of the wicked will perish.

Isaiah 40:28-31 (NASB) – “Don’t forget His greatness.”

28 Do you not know? Have you not heard?

The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth

Does not become weary or tired.

His understanding is inscrutable.

29 He gives strength to the weary,

And to him who lacks might He increases power.

30 Though youths grow weary and tired,

And vigorous young men stumble badly,

31 Yet those who wait for the Lord

Will gain new strength;

They will mount up with wings like eagles,

They will run and not get tired,

They will walk and not become weary.

Proverbs 23:18 (NASB) – “I am sure and I am convinced. I have hope.”

Surely there is a future, And your hope will not be cut off.

Romans 8:37-39 (NASB) – “Nothing shall separate me.”

37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Proverbs 18:10 (NASB) – “You are my safe place.”

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe.

I hope these encourage you to build up your speech arsenal and fight back. What are some of your biblical bullets to cast down imaginations? What are you favorite verses that you chew on to remove the taste of doubt?

Peace & Thanks for Listening.

 

Party of 3

Party of 3

If you try to reach me using Facebook, good luck. I’m simply not as big of a user, especially of the messaging system. I turned off the notifications to my phone a long time ago. “This person like your picture… this person commented on a picture you liked… This person liked the same picture you liked…” It was becoming too nerve-wrecking. Then there’s the infamous question:

Did you see my post/get my message on Facebook?

My usual response – No. Do you still have my number? Why didn’t you just call me?

Sure, I understand that social media is the wave of the future in terms of communicating with the masses and with loved ones abroad. It makes perfect sense to use it in that fashion; however, if you truly want my attention for a time-sensitive matter… call me. That’s the direct line to anything you need from me. I’ve often wondered how we moved so far from using the phone for its intended purpose, yet claim that we can’t keep in touch? Don’t hide. I’m guilty too.

With so much technology,
you would think the ties that bind us
would be stronger, but instead,
they’re sparse and brittle.

While I was wandering around this topic, I heard God say the following:

“You have complete access to me,
but you always choose a 3rd party to reach me.
You have direct access and barely use it.”

Wow. I couldn’t believe the conviction and hurt in His voice. We listen to sermons, read devotionals, attend bible studies, all to receive a Word from God. He loves that about us… that we seek Him diligently and collaborate with others to sharpen our Faith. Nevertheless, there is nothing like that sweet alone time with God. Our Father is lovingly waiting for us to use the only liaisons we need… His Son and His Spirit. The requirement to patch through to Him is Jesus. That’s why Jesus died on the cross. His Spirit allows us direct connection any time we wish and without delay.

I encourage you to use your hotline today to say “I need you” or just to say “hi.” You can use any of the above mentioned methods to dig deeper in His Word, but He truly loves to hear your voice. He knows what you sound like.

Its timbre is sweet to Him
because He made it the perfect pitch
and wavelength; it is a custom fit for His ear.

Isn’t that amazing? Out of the 7.4 billion people in the world, He leans forward when you say His name in passion and sincerity. Speak with the Holy Spirit, by way of Jesus the Son, to your Father. Use your party of Three to be heard by the One.

Peace & Thanks for listening.

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