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Listening at the Speed of Life

– by C. J. Wade –

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selfcare

Thursday Love: Purple People Pleaser

Hi, Family!

First things first – guess what? I intentionally went to bed before midnight last night. *gasp* I know! I’m surprised too! Usually I stay up to write you, but I was led to turn in early… then my dog decided he wanted to frolic up and down the street without returning home for about an hour.

When you know you messed up… #SammysWorld

I growled, retrieved him, and still managed to throttle down before midnight. I say that’s a win. Thanks for celebrating with me. lol

Before I went to sleep, I knew the contents of this post and I’m so excited to encourage you today. It’s a little meaty, but there’s good stuff and pictures, so let’s get into it!

I want to talk about Aaron, Moses’ right-hand man and priest to the Israelites. He’s one of my favorite Bible profiles to study because he had such an interesting life. Here’s some facts you may not know.

  • He was older than Moses by three years (Exodus 7:7).
  • He was commissioned to be Moses’ eloquent mouthpiece as he confronted Pharaoh (Exodus 3:14).
  • His staff turned into a serpent in front of Pharaoh and ate the other magician’s staff-serpents (Exodus 7:8-12).
  • He made the infamous golden calf that caused Moses to flip his lid and break the Ten Commandments (Exodus 32).

Yes, you read that right. Aaron made the golden calf. From the Israelites’ earrings. Ear-rings. Let that sink in.

Photo by Rafael Barros on Pexels.com

To put this in a present-day perspective, imagine you and your older brother (emphasis on older) built a company from the ground up and he sells it to the lowest bidder without telling you. So, you come to work one day, and the employees are having a fully blown party. Cake. Balloons. Alcohol. Dancing on desks. Everything. Then your brother says he didn’t know how the sale took place, that he just gave the people what they wanted. That would make you angry, yes? I know I would be furious.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Well, that’s a small equivalent of what happened between Moses and Aaron. Moses trusted Aaron to be his go-to. They confronted Pharaoh together. Traveled the wilderness together. Beheld the intricate assembly of the Tabernacle (their mobile place of worship) together. Saw God rain manna (small pancake-like food) from heaven together. While the Israelites were fighting the Amalekites, Aaron and Hur upheld Moses’ arms so they wouldn’t lose (Exodus 17:8-13). He was bestowed the responsibility of priesthood to lead alongside Moses. He was even outfitted with custom threads made to God’s specifications to represent his leadership calling (Exodus 28). So, you can imagine the disgust Moses wore on his face after he comes down from Mount Sinai with God’s Words in his arms, still beaming with glory from meeting the The Most High to find out that his older brother was the culprit of the calf and leader of the party. Then, to make matters worse, Aaron gives a lame excuse and says the calf just came out of the fire (Exodus 32:24). Really, dude? <— my real life response. See what I wrote next to the verse.

I write what I think as I read the Bible. Good ol’ reading comprehension skills happening over here.

Now, before we judge Aaron and his tomfoolery, let’s recall when we did something not-so-great under the pressure of others. Here he is, among the anger of thousands, wondering how much longer his brother was going to take in the mountains. “He’ll be back soon,” my imagination hears Aaron saying to himself. “Just be patient.” The grumbling grew to insurmountable degrees. The legal matters multiplied as he judged with his best intentions. Their piercing eyes alone would have made anyone nervous to come out of his tent. Then one day, he cracked and gave in to the people. This is where I wanted to bring you into the picture. The “you” that tends to say yes when you should say no. The “you” that accepts the invitation when you should respectfully decline. The “you” that foregoes your preferences for the comfort of others. That “you.” That’s who I want to bring to the table to meet Aaron. Meet the leader. Meet humanity. Sometimes we forget that as we read God’s Word that there were people in it. Blood, sweat, and tears. Skin. Fear. Love. Admiration. Ambition. People-pleasers. For a moment in time, Aaron set aside his divine directive to oversee the Israelites while Moses was gone and gave them what they wanted instead of what they needed. How often do we do the same? Setting aside our divine instructions for a temporary moment? Throwing up our hands instead of squaring our shoulders? The answer is probably more often than we think.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

My favorite part of the story is that God didn’t throw Aaron away. Not only was he outfitted in customized priestly garments, but so were his sons. In Exodus Chapter 39, we see the same attention to detail and craftmanship put into his attire as in Chapter 28… and this is after goldencalf-mageddon. He reminded Aaron of his identity. He reminded him of his purpose. It comes full circle when you research Aaron’s garments. Part of God’s instructions were to engrave the names of the 12 tribes of Israel on two onyx stones. Onyx has been known throughout the ages as representing protection and forward movement from the past. I believe Aaron the priest needed that prayer just as much as his people. His breastpiece included jewels that represented each of the 12 tribes and a linen pouch sown inside of it carrying the Urim and the Thummim, which were stone-like objects used for divine decision-making. He was to wear this breastpiece over his heart when he entered the Tabernacle as a reminder that he would carry judgment for all 12 tribes (Exodus 28:29-30). How befitting… that God would give him such responsibility before and after the decision to create the golden calf.

If you find yourself being a chronic people-pleaser, know that you’re not alone, that it is easy to fall down that wormhole, and that you can get out. My suggestive start is to say no to one thing a week that you usually say yes to and that you would probably feel guilty about later. Just one no once a week until you’re comfortable with that level. It doesn’t have to be a rude one and you don’t have to overexplain it. Just exhale it and let it breathe into the moment. Start there. Pray about where you should be so you don’t overbook and overwhelm your schedule. I do it all the time and it started years ago with a prayer and a stressed-out face looking at my calendar – “Lord, where do I need to be?” As a result, I haven’t been stressed about my schedule again.

Wherever you are on the spectrum of people-pleasing, I pray that you uproot insecurities and fear of rejection. I pray that Love wraps around you so warmly that you remember exactly who you were fashioned to be. People-pleasing is a dangerous trap that always leaves you as the victim. My prayer is that you remember that you are the survivor.

Peace & Thanks for listening!

Wednesday Wind Down: A Is For Advocate

Good Afternoon, Family!

I hope you are doing well. If not, it just got better. I missed you last week, but I prayed for you. 🙂 I kept falling asleep trying to post last night, so it was best to share with you today. Trust me, you would have been all kinds of confused looking at that jibberish. lol

Well, let’s get into it. I’m taking you on a journey today.

I’ve been in a strong self-advocacy mode this year. January began with one question –

What will it take to keep Christina healthy?

It was fully-loaded, but I accepted the gravitas.

While my self-care habits are solid, I felt like there were pockets of deficiency that couldn’t matriculate into the next decade. I truly wanted to live my best life and, for me, it all began with that singular question.

Photo by Polina Kovaleva on Pexels.com

What I Did

I looked at it from four angles – physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. In my imagination, this question looked more like a Rubik’s cube than a spreadsheet. There were so many parts that needed to work together in order for me to be the best me. I wasn’t overwhelmed though; I was intrigued. What would it truly take to unlock me?

With meticulous care, I listed items under each category of what it would take for me to be my best self. That meant everything and everyone had to be on the chopping block so I could obtain an aerial view of my needs. It meant that my current plate needed to be clean so I could determine the essential ingredients needed to nourish CJ 2.0. Nothing or no one was “canceled,” but all parties were up for re-election.

So, I started this process with a prayer and a plan. I was going to be a healthier version of myself starting this year – no matter what. I had already resumed therapy to kickstart the mentally column. I asked God to help me not to grow weary quickly and he led me to the physical area next.

Let’s Get Physical

What would it take for my body to be in the best position to do what I am called to do?

I lined up my current medical team like a fresh roster of football players during camp (in my mind, of course). Primary Care, ENT, OB/GYN, Dermatologist… everyone was on trial. Aside from integrity, each practitioner had to make me feel like we were in a partnership. What I needed was well beyond the power of a good gym sweat. I needed to be in solidarity with my doctors and they needed to be in alignment with my CJ 2.0 vision. Everyone had to get in formation and I needed to feel 100% comfortable in their care. I needed medical support beams in my life not benchwarmers giving me prescriptions. That was officially non-negotiable. So, I went down the line and determined which professional needed to be traded so I could get to the healthy championship.

Photo by Fabricio Trujillo on Pexels.com

How It’s Going

So far, so great! The year isn’t over and the journey has just begun, but I’ve already got further than I ever have. Thanks to referrals and research, I have two new doctors who are committed to my vision and do not sugarcoat the data. They don’t talk over me when I’m explaining my experiences. They don’t dismiss my questions. They don’t make condescending comments.

They listen, assess, and deliver information honestly. What a concept.

I felt an ocean of emotions the first time I received an infusion I needed. I kept saying “Lord, thank you for being my advocate.” I flipped the timeline in my mind to the countless doctor visits where I felt diluted and depleted by the lack of empathy. The cold exam rooms. The thin paper gowns. As if it were muscle memory, I would slide off the exam table, gather my things, and attempt to walk out with my head high. Once again, my concerns were unanswered and once again, a medical bill would shortly be in my mailbox.

Photo by Klaus Nielsen on Pexels.com

“Something’s not right. I’m not getting better.”

“I need a copy of my medical file, please.”

“Will you explain the side effects of this prescription?”

“Which lab tests are you running?”

These were on repeat like a Marvin Gaye tune. Before Google was born, I researched as much as I could in books and would write down questions to prepare for medical visits. I was diligent, but after the repetition of disappointment, I was exhausted. Advocating for yourself is a job, you hear me? A full-time job if you’re doing so in the medical arena without insurance, which was where I was during two seasons of my life.

So, when I asked what would it take?, I knew it would require me to squeeze another gallon of self-advocacy out of my spirit. I had to have an “I’m the captain now” attitude. I took the approach of shopping for a car, a house, or even fruit in the grocery store. If I could have standards about my purchases, I could have standards for my medical squad.

Sometimes, we forget how simultaneously fragile and resilient we are. Yes, we coexist with others in this Big Brother house called Earth, but we are not infinite beings in these bodies. We are not endless supplies of anything. We are fueled by what we’ve been given. Self-advocating in these truths created an anchor for me. Many Christians will have you believe that the less you speak up for your needs, the closer to God you are. The more you grit your teeth and bear it or take whatever is given to you, the more jewels you get in your crown.

That’s a ridiculous lie.

Photo by Chad Witbooi on Pexels.com

I guarantee that if your meal was subpar at an upscale restaurant, you wouldn’t just “live with it.” You would expect to receive not only the advertised product, but the staff’s best service.

Self-advocacy doesn’t require rudeness, but it does demand a certain level of confidence. It may even require firm pressure to the powers that be.

I know it’s exhausting and can feel downright degrading at times, but I encourage you to keep advocating. Keep praying that God leads you to the best match for your needs. Divine navigation is real and I’m a witness of it. Every time I felt a “nope” in my gut, I respectfully declined to continue their services and crossed them off the list. It wasn’t an emotional decision; my life was (and still is) on the docket and I believe God wants me to have the best version of this life possible.

Finally. Photo by me.

My prayer is that you know advocacy is not a sin and self-advocacy is not being selfish. There’s a whole world out here (quick shoutout to Diagnosis on Netflix), so there is an empathetic match for you.

Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 says “I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.” As much as we work, we should be able to enjoy a positive quality of life. Self-advocacy is just as “saved” as reading my Word. It reaffirms the quality of my Craftsmanship. My DNA was created by a divine being and that alone makes it worthy to cherish.

Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit. – 3 John 1:2

When the Creator placed you on this planet, you were not designed to take whatever you can get. In January 2021, I officially denounced that theory when it came to my health. I pray you do the same from here on out.

Peace & Thanks for listening, Family!

Wednesday Wind Down: Deep Dive

Hey, Family!

How’s your week so far? I pray it’s been amazing!

If you’re new to my site, this is my virtual living room and you’re welcome to sit for a minute. We get personal around here as I merge faith and humanity, so I’m glad you’re here. Let’s go!

Currently, I am healing from the outside in and it is painstakingly uncomfortable. Having surgery last year opened up a Pandora’s box of emotional remnants that I didn’t know were there.

A major key I reaffirmed is that I’m acrobatic in giving grace to others.

When you’re a Psychology-turned-Communication Arts major, you are ingrained to look at every situation with a prism instead of judgmental binoculars. You quickly learn that everything isn’t as it seems and you dishonor the truth when you leave out a perspective.

For example, your spouse comes homes and the door slams behind her, what are your thoughts?

Photo by Dobromir Hristov on Pexels.com

At first glance, you may jump to a “What’s wrong with you?” type of response. A communication skill called perception checking would take you through a few steps to allow ethical interpretation of that behavior. Maybe she misjudged how close the door was to the frame or the wind forced it. Maybe, she was annoyed with something that happened during the commute and regrets letting it slam. After you provide the possibilities, you ask your spouse to verify or correct those options. This diffuses defensiveness and allows your spouse to tell you the truth instead of you being upset by your assumption. Even if she doesn’t say so, she can’t say you jumped to a conclusion and reacted rashly.

See what I mean?

Prism. Not binoculars.

So, passing out grace? No worries there. I give situations a 360-view before I draw the line.

Serving that plate to myself? Epic fail. More like “Harpo, who dis?”

Photo by Anna Nekrashevich on Pexels.com

Sometimes I even beat myself up because I’m not trudging through every muddy puddle with a smile, waving my usual positivity flag, and onboarding everyone around me on the sunshine train. Why? Let’s admit it, Family… who doesn’t want that badge of honor and who hasn’t glorified that trait in others?

“She never complained.”

“He always put his kids before himself.”

“She always had a smile on her face.

“He always had a kind word to say.”

It’s an addictive perfection drug that can take you out if you’re not careful. I admit – I want the badge. I want the perfection. I want those words said at my funeral… but when I really need to breathe between the punches, I end up landing a fist of guilt on myself as I give a plate full of grace to someone else.

All I can say is thank God for therapy.

So far, I’ve had some serious revelations. One of them is the following: I know how to survive in a box; I struggle breathing outside of it. Thank you, Therapist.

Let me explain. Who knows? Maybe you and I are related.

Remember that scene in Harlem Nights (1989) when Eddie Murphy tells Danny Aiello to take very short breaths while he’s in the vault? That’s me. Little breaths. All day. All month. All year if I have to. Whatever it takes to get me over the hump and keep moving. Don’t get me wrong – I know how to self-care just not between traumatic milestones. In the words of my therapist, I know how to survive on little breaths. It’s like coming up for air after a deep ocean dive, but only taking a short breath before returning to the depths.

That is not sustainable and I hereby declare that I am no longer able to sustain myself on those small puffs of air. See what I did there? OK, I’ll stop rhyming. Lol

I’ve accomplished a lot in the midst of about 14 years of unfortunate events. I felt great about each milestone, took vacations, enjoyed time with friends and family, smashed some goals, and yet – *gasp* Little breath. Why? Because that’s how I learned to survive the shockwaves. That’s how I said to my mind, body, and spirit “Hey, get ready. There’s another one coming.” Over time, a week-long vacation or a mini-road trip transformed into a mere puff of air or a big exhale from holding my breath underwater so long.

Who can survive like that?

None of us.

So, I’m on a quest to learn how to live outside of the ocean I’ve learned to survive in and to kick the boxes that read “This is the way to heal” and “Christians suffer quietly with permanent smiles on their faces.”  I’m asking God to rewire my spirit so I can sweetly pass that warm plate of grace to myself and to accept it easily from my Savior, knife and fork in hand.

I also pray that by sharing this moment, you are encouraged to begin or continue your own journey to a healthier you. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you have to only show the highlight reel and be shamed as you heal and learn. Our faith allows for growth and grace to flow to us and through us. It calls for us to break at the feet of Jesus and within the sanctuary of   each other’s understanding because His Love should flow from heart to heart to create that circle of safety.

Let’s agree to deep dive into the waters of our soul if we need to and to learn to deeply breathe outside of the boxes we discover – the one that happened to us and the one we taped up ourselves.

I love y’all and I’m praying for you. As always, Peace and Thanks for listening!

Wednesday Wind Down: Regroup You

In The Valve, I described what it felt like to reach a pressure point. Tonight, Sweetheart, I’m going to give you some practical tips to regroup after you’ve emptied out. Sometimes it’s a struggle, but the more you do it, the easier you can reach for it when you need it.

  1. Remember who you are, not what you feel. I read Bible verses that remind me of whom I belong. I may feel like crap or be treated like it in a situation, but how I feel doesn’t reprogram the Truth of who I am. What I feel is valid; however, I have to live like I’m still wearing a crown. If you need suggestions, here are a few.jeremiah 31-3
    Song of Solomon 4-7
  2. Write it out. If you’re like me, sometimes (who am I kidding… most times) I don’t feel like talking when I need to do so. On most occasions, instead of venting to a friend, I’ll release it on the page. I have cheap notebooks and fancy journals — it doesn’t matter. A page is a page. The beauty of writing is that it’s between you and you. Sometimes I talk to God through the pen and by the end of the sequence, His spirit has answered my questions.
  3. Be still. When was the last time you paid attention to your breath and heartbeat? One of the most valuable lessons I learned in college was how to stop for a few minutes to check-in with myself. Each heartbeat is a blessing. Each breath is a beauty. If you have a high-energy personality, set a timer for 15 seconds. Put your hand over your heart and focus on it. Tune everything else out. After a few days, try 30 seconds. Work your way up to 5 minutes. You can say truthful sayings or Bible verses between exhales or stay silent. This practice saved me on many lunch breaks so I could return to work in a calmer state of mind.
  4. Solo jam. – If you know me personally, you know that music runs through my veins. Another way I fill up is to jam to some favorite songs. I could be driving, standing in a check-out line, walking, or in my kitchen. The location is irrelevant. If you have a friend that can jam it out with you — even better.

beautiful-cellphone-cute-761963
Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

So, if you see me out and about and I’m bobbin’ my head and snapping my fingers, you know what’s up. Ask me what I’m listening to and join in. lol

Peace & Thanks for listening! Regroup you!

Featured Photo by Steve Johnson from Pexels

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