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TM Lesson #5: He Thought of Everything

Hello Sweethearts!

Last week, I mentioned that I’m in the final countdown of my therapeutic massage program (33 days to be exact, and I’m including weekends). While it is exciting to prepare for the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx), our study sessions have also made me nostalgic and full of wonder all over again about how intricate God made our bodies.

Did you know…

  • The biconcave shape of your blood cells increase its surface area for oxygen consumption, yet remains flexible enough to squeeze into tight spaces?
  • The sarcomeres in our muscles facilitate muscle contraction (and look like a subway system, if you ask me)?
  • Aromatherapy is an actual form of therapy because your brain and muscles create and recall memories as you inhale an essential oils?
  • Your sternocleidomastoid (SCM) has a clavicular and sternal head to stabilize your neck when you tilt it back. Remember that little tidbit the next time you doze off in class?

    sternocleidomastoid-muscle
    Courtesy of Yoganatomy.com
  • Your body will always attempt to achieve homeostasis (balance), even at the expense of your free will?

The lymphatic system. Respiratory system. Cardiovascular system. Autonomic and Somatic Nervous Systems. There are many more collaborations that keep you alive and massage therapists can affect every last one of them through the power of touch. That’s how cool God is.

He touched us first. His fingerprint is on our hands. No matter how many people are born in the world, no one can duplicate you. Can you believe that such an incredible God thought enough of you to breathe into you and form your body Himself? All of those cells, muscles, and systems were fashioned with your purpose in mind. I am fascinated by that even more now that I am adding a new career industry to my journey.

Now, here’s the disclaimer. I don’t know why some of the systems malfunction or why parts of them are deformed or missing, but I know God still had every detail in mind when He made you. Everything else in creation was called to be, but you? You were customized with ocular muscles around your brown eyes. The zygomatic bones on your face are perfectly curved to create your cheekbones. You have the cradle of life sitting between your iliac crests. There is no mistake in you. I have had to remember that as I face health challenges myself. Even the parts of me that don’t function properly still exude His glory because I continue to fulfill my purpose on this Earth. I’m here to tell you… He thought of everything about you and you were designed with Love in mind.

Wind down safely, Dear. I have some reading to do before class in the morning, but don’t forget our chat, OK? *smile* Look in the mirror or check yourself out with a selfie to admire the greatness in you, on you, and shining through you.

Peace & Thanks for listening!

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Wednesday Wind Down: The Cave & The Crown

Good Evening/Morning, Sweethearts.

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.

Wednesday Wind Down: Forever…

Hi Sweethearts.

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.
– 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/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: End of Day

Happy Wednesday, Sweethearts.

Imagine this scenario:

It’s been a long day at the workplace and the only thing you want to do is envelope yourself in the warmth of pure affection. On the ride home, you anticipate the kiss of your beloved and an embrace that would melt the day away. So, you smile as you unlock the door and call out the sweetest name your lips have ever known. Before changing clothes, cooking dinner, or unloading the car, you desire nothing more than to fall into the arms of spiritual, emotional, and physical safety. You call out once more, but no response. As you search the house, your anticipation morphs into disappointment; then, you hear a knock. Finally! When you open the door, your love on the other side. Your arms fling open and you are ready to enjoy the moment you’ve been waiting for all day, but s/he says that you have to wait until you hug each other. You ask how long and the reply is “I don’t know.” Your heart is crushed as the door closes and you hear your person drive away.

Can you imagine your arms being open all day long waiting for the one you love to run into them? Me either. The sheer thought of it makes my heart ache. So, you now understand how I felt when I read Romans 10:21 this week – “But regarding Israel, God said, ‘All day long, I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.'”

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I immediately thought of the prodigal son and his loving father. I thought of Hosea and Gomer, his promiscuous wife (check it out – he has his own book in the Bible). I thought of someone waiting for days, years, even decades in hopes that a love would return. To the extreme, how heartbreaking it would be for a Father-Creator to see disloyalty from afar and leave His arms open anyway.

So, what does your end of day look like? Are you tired of something of running from something? Are you exhausted from fighting with your demons? Are you angry at the person who hurt you? The Father’s arms are open. Right now. Tonight. Every night. No matter how stubborn you are and how much you think you can figure it all out yourself, His arms are open all day long. Watching. Waiting. Anticipating. Searching for you in the darkness and hoping that you’re on your way.

My, what a beautiful God we serve.

Peace, thanks for listening, and wind down safely, my Loves. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to exhale in His arms tonight.

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: These Three Things

Where was the Wednesday Wind Down last week? On the road. To Indianapolis, Indiana. So, you have a bit to catch up on.

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I just had to pause and take this shot of Jesus waiting for the curtain to open. 

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

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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.

  1. “You do all things well.”

  2. “How dare I accept less than what I am worth?”

  3. “You really do know how I feel.”

 

20180331_012130
Living Testimony / Executive Director Sharon L. Hill

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.

 

 

Wednesday Wind Down: Reply All

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

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

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

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

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

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

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