My smiles this week were a direct descendent of my cries this past weekend. Yes, I said cries. There were definitely more than I expected.
I knew they were coming because of a series of unfortunate events this year, but I didn’t know when. Friday was a low point and a couple of tears leaked down my cheeks, but no more than that. Then, Saturday, there was a straw that broke this camel’s back. My hands started shaking and my heart rate increased. In less than five seconds, unintelligible speech spilled from my lips and my sweet sister was able to catch every drop of my pain on the other end of the phone. While she assured me, the waves of tears came so strongly that I muted the phone. I knew the scream was coming with more tears in tow. I tried to muffle that duo for months, and now they were inevitable. The next day, I had a terrible headache and my eyes were tender. Regardless of the discomfort, I felt… lighter. Not necessarily better, but lighter, which was more valuable to me.
Because of that cry — that release –, I was able to smile in the photo below and mean it. This was taken at a book club event hosted by my writer’s community See Jane Write. I was chosen as Member of the Month and my book was chosen as a summer read. I was able to soak in a beautiful experience with these beautiful souls. I was able to sparkle in a grateful moment instead of listening to the cacophony within. I don’t cry easily, but I learned a long time ago that there are only so many times you can twist that valve to the right and say “Nope, not today.” The muted mixture needed a sound because three days later my spirit would desire to smile.
So, I am sharing this with you so you can allow your valve to be open too. Whatever cry you need to see a genuine smile on your face and feel yourself radiate the purest happiness one minute of life can bring… it is worth the flow. There’s something lighter on the other side of that scream. I also encourage you to provide a safe space for someone else to not feel alone in their tsunami. Someone you know may need to turn the valve to release the pressure as well. He needs to be heard. She needs you to listen. And if the tears fall and the scream reverberates, they need you near. There’s no better support than sharing the same comfort you received.
I pray that you have a wonderful week until we meet again. Peace & Thanks for listening. Check that valve.
As you wind down for the day, I pray this message reaches you with good health in mind, body, and spirit. I can’t wait to share what I heard this week.
One of my favorite athletes is Manny Pacquiao. No, I am not a boxer, but I admire the profession and Manny has earned my respect over the years.
On FOX Sports PBC FACE TO FACE, I watched undefeated Welterweight Keith “One Time” Thurman talk about how excited he will be when he defeats Filipino Senator and Legendary Champion Manny “Pac-man” Pacquiao. Frankly, he was talking a lot of trash with shots of cockiness. Thurman spoke jovially of Pacquiao’s age and career statistics. He said that he studied Manny’s fighting style and described ways he could penetrate his speed. I shook my head at the television while my athlete remained unphased on the screen.
The reason why Pacquiao is on my respect list is that he keeps his priorities straight — no matter what. I love how cool he is under pressure. I love how he keeps the main thing, the main thing – faith, family, then the fight. I appreciate his ability to train hard and serve his country equally hard. I admire his work-life balance. So, as I continued to watch the dialogue, I couldn’t help but notice the dichotomy in demeanor. In the midst of this observation, I heard 3 things that can help us prepare for battles in our lives.
1. There’s a difference between training to obtain and training to maintain.
Looking at sizzle reels of their training sessions revealed how different they trained. Thurman’s clip was grizzly. His workouts were aggressive. He explained his rise to fame and his teenage decision to choose boxing over academics. I loved it actually. So much passion at such a young age and still tenacious as ever. Pacquiao’s clip was seasoned and strategic. He looked like wisdom in motion, and I’m not just saying that because he’s my favorite. Their attitudes during exercises were visibly different as well. Thurman kept repeating his goal of being a history maker for bringing down his opponent. Pacquiao never mentioned him. It was like watching a car in the acceleration lane versus on the open road.
2. Let your fight talk for you.
The moderator asked for pre-, during, and post-fight predictions. Pacquiao had little say. His words were light, short, and clear. “I respect every opponent,” he said. When asked how the fight would end, he said that both fighters worked hard and made the fans happy. Thurman? In his best announcer voice, he claimed himself as the champion. Pacquiao smiled.
3. Let your enemy keep talking.
Throughout the entire session, there were opportunities for Pacquiao to retaliate with a fiery response. He let Thurman talk as much as he wanted and only spoke when asked a question by the moderator. His face didn’t flinch. He didn’t smirk. He didn’t grimace. His eyebrows didn’t furrow. He was calm. Even his instinctive blinks were undisturbed. I study communication like coaches study plays. I can’t deny my sentiments — I loved it. I couldn’t tell what he was thinking, but he definitely wasn’t moved.
So, on July 20, 2019, we’ll see words and training in action. Of course, I am #TeamPacquiao all day and regardless of the prediction, his character is a winner in my book. My prayer for us is that we take his lead when faced with situations underneath our royalty. Enemies always have a lot to say. Let your character be just as loud. Now, I’m not saying Thurman doesn’t have good character; I do not know him. What I am saying is stop engaging in every conversation as if you have something to prove. You don’t. Let your work speak for you.
Good Evening, Sweethearts! It’s a short stop for your week!
Here’s a fun fact – I don’t have road rage. Nope. None at all. I don’t care how much you honk or swerve, I don’t let your energy into my car. That’s my safe haven. My bubble. No one gets the right to invade my mobile sanctuary. It doesn’t mean that people don’t try… especially when your city center is under major construction.
Before I share further, let me also say that I love construction. I know it’s weird, but I truly do. It’s trying to figure out the biggest jigsaw puzzle and being able to drive through it all like a life-size Legoland and an Erector set working harmoniously together. *sigh* I love watching the vision come to life piece by piece. The inconvenience doesn’t bother me because the detours give me a chance to gain a closer look into the mind of the engineers. Try it sometime. You may be surprised by what you see… oh, and thank the nearest construction worker or police officer that is part of the teamwork.
Driving in congestion also makes you observant and attuned to what’s around you. I noticed so many people that were impatient, angry, distracted, and oblivious. While some days I drive in silence, I also jam in traffic. I mean a full out jam session… and I don’t care who’s watching. Try that sometimes too. Find that song that lights you up every time you hear it and have a mini-concert in your vehicle. Snap your fingers, raise ONE hand in the air, and if someone is in the car with you- have your very own lip sync battle.
Why should you do this? Because it boosts your endorphins and who couldn’t use a big dose of that before you reach your destination? Secondly, it’s a reminder that also works in life. Some parts of your story need building and there is nothing you can do to rush the journey. You have to live through it until completion. Being impatient, angry, distracted, and oblivious will cheat you out of insight, fortitude, growth, and gratitude. While you can’t control how fast you can go, you can control what’s in your spirit. Stay focused on what you need and protect your mental sanctuary… and rock out on that mobile stage.
Recently, I felt the pain of a woman who’s only desire was to provide the best solution for her children at the expense of what she wished for them. She cried after we prayed together. I bought the items she needed and she agreed to a massage therapy session. I just wanted to help, wanted her to know that I see her. She was the 2nd person for I whom I prayed and to whom I had given. The first person was homeless and when I asked him for a prayer request, his response was to pray for his family. How selfless. These opportunities started hours after I received news that my income would decrease… again. Perfect timing, right? Exactly. That’s what I said too.
Now, I’m not monetarily rich. I’m not a superstar. I don’t have someone taking sensational photos of me at every turn so I can post them on the ‘gram. And I’m definitely not a selfie girl. I just… listen. I sincerely try to listen to God’s voice everyday and anywhere. That’s how this blog Listening at the Speed of Life was born. So, when those opportunities presented themselves, I had to be obedient. No questions asked.
What have I learned about myself along this journey of obedience?
I hug my students.
I even hug strangers.
I pray for people I don’t know.
I say thank you. A lot.
I love big and I retreat quickly.
I boldly express my care.
I can speak up when I’m scared.
I can ask questions unapologetically.
I seek to understand.
I generally stay to myself, yet I have meaningful relationships.
I am a delicate, and resilient balance of mind, body, and spirit.
My introversion is beautiful, not a defect.
I don’t have to be loud if I don’t want to be.
I don’t have to be in the mix to feel included.
I like breathing and being, and sometimes these come at the cost of being misunderstood. That’s OK with me now. (It wasn’t when I started.)
So, back to the moment. She was grateful. I was humble. We connected.
It’s time that we slow down and feel the heartbeat of one another. We’re all humans trying to navigate through this life, and if you’re a Christian, then you’re trying to adhere to a certain compass as you travel on your path. It’s not easy, and we are all doing it… walking it out, journeying into the next dimension of ourselves, and feeling our way around in the darkness of tomorrow’s challenges.
What would it hurt to wave to the service worker? Speak to the custodian? Give a thank you card to the teacher? Buy an extra meal for the hungry? Or simply hug your friend without it being an obligatory salutation?
What happened to us orbiting together instead of spinning around each other, being afraid to bump into one another’s space?
What happened to running the human race together and checking on others along the way?
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.
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