I’m another kind of parent now

Remember when your parents would tell you not to go past the end of the block? Or maybe they wouldn’t let you leave the table until you finished every bit of peas that you pushed around the plate. Did your parents make you wear clothes to church, when company came over, or to their meetings that you would have never worn otherwise? Was “go outside and play” readily heard in your home?

It’s interesting, nostalgic, telling and frustrating to reflect on childhood memories and analyze where and how those reflections fit into who we are today, if they do at all. The saying goes something like, “swallow the meat and spit out the bones”, and that’s exactly what I have to do with some experiences from my youth. I believe we all do this in some capacity.

Whether we’re parenting, ministering, or even in social circles, remnants of our former years raise their heads in our present days. Happy, traumatizing or otherwise, voices from childhood shadows ring in our ears. The challenge is what to do with those utterings.

For me, in this moment, I am caring for my aging father as he traverses the waters of cancer. From having to call 911 from his apartment to begin this journey, to taking him to and fro hospital appointments, I have spent more time with my father in the past month than I have in my entire life. Not because he was absent physically as I was growing up per se, but he was definitely emotionally unavailable. Never mean or demeaning, simply, uninvolved. There aren’t many utterings of his for me to chew and swallow, nor bones to discard. Always the life of the party until he met his extroversion quota, he had a joke for every situation. It was his defense mechanism of choice: “If I can make you laugh, and you can see how charming I am, we won’t have to get closer, I won’t have to be vulnerable, and you can’t hurt me.”

Much of that remains today.

The more time we spend together, the more I find myself interceding for his past hurts that created the defensive, yet sensitive being that he is today. I look for opportunities to sneak in a spiritual hint or trigger some self-evaluation in him. Bittersweetly, it’s worked; sweetly because for the first time, he’s admitting truths about himself, out loud. That is unprecedented. However, bitterly because I now am in the position to show him grace and patience as he works through those things. Don’t get me wrong, grace and patience are, essentially, who I am. What makes it bitter is that I become the target, the sounding board, the counselor, the minister, the comforter and the friend; my mood or attitude about it matters not. I’m there, in those roles because God called me to be. He has prepped my life for such a time as this. My obedience and my dad’s soul are both incredibly important to God as well as Kingdom-building. And my dad will have an incredible testimony after all of this.

Though I am in something if a parental role to my parent, and it is weighty, stressful, and at times, draining, I am grateful that I have the wherewithal to be in this position for him. Even in making sure that he’s eating his vegetables and moving around as he should, I hear and feel crumbs from my youth. And I can only pray that my children will be able to be for me what God is allowing me to be for my parents.

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Falling out of hopelessness

I’m currently in a place where I feel as though I’m suffocating. I have more tasks on my list than hours in the day, more bills than money, more ambition than resources available more children in my house than parents. In times like this my body gets fatigued and my faith gets low.

I’m human just like you. No matter how strong I may be or how in love with God I am, I’m still, infallibly human. I believe we all have these moments whether it’s triggered from day to day duties and responsibilities or something more drastic like grief or trauma. Regardless of the source, there will still eventually be a light, hope, a path… an end.

Because I’m so used to having it together most of the time, I get really out of sorts when I have these moments. I have to audibly remind myself that whatever it is isn’t the end of the world. I’m aware that God is either laughing at me or rolling His eyes when I beg Him to deliver me from my humanness. In fact, I then have to tell myself that it’s ok to be human. The problem is that I spent so much of my life FEELING and it’s exhausting. 27 consecutive years of my life were filled with traumas, tragedies, and calamities of every variety. I felt every single emotion that homosapiens can experience and it was mad draining. So now, when I have feelsy moments, I just want it to be over. The thing is, we HAVE to feel; that’s how we know in which direction to go, what we need, and exactly how far into God we need to fall. Those moments of dark hopelessness are when God wants to be involved the most.

For me, in this moment, I was reminded that I don’t have to figure things out on my own. I also reflected on how things aren’t nearly as bad now as other things have been in my life. Today, I simply needed to praise, cry, worship, pray, eat pudding, and fold clothes until things made sense again. And they did. And though it’s uncomfortable and life’s answers still elude me right now, my hope is full, not less.

Romans 12:12 (ESV)
12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

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Circling back to lost dreams

There was a point in my teenagehood that I was convinced that I was going to play my violin in Mariah Carey’s accompanying orchestra. This would be my side gig as I taught early elementary education with a cutely decorated classroom and a wide-eyed teacher’s assistant alongside me, learning the ropes. My life, however, has taken a much different turn.

What do we do with our dreams when we stop trying to achieve them? As a people, we’re so easily jaded and defeated when things in life make us stumble that we ultimately give up altogether. Our dreams get stuffed in a drawer, left in a trunk, or end up as evaporated tears after first soaking a pillow. We robotically move from house to cubicle to pew to classroom, only concerned about bills and scheduled, while our passions, spiritual gifts, and ambitions lie dormant in thought bubbles floating in the universe.

As cliche as it sounds, it’s never too late to reignite the sparks that once were wildfires in your soul. Plan that business, take that dance class, dust off the palette, create that new recipe, fix that car, design those clothes, buy a new guitar; whatever it is, stop allowing the enemy that is time, procrastination and excuses keep you from living the happiest, most fulfilled version of you. You deserve to live excitedly for the remainder of your numbered days on Earth. God didn’t design you to warm a seat or for misery day after day in a workplace. And after all, you need a good, inspiring, legacy-building story to tell your grandchildren so that they will live their dreams, too 💜

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Standing in the rain

“…he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil.” Deuteronomy 11:14

I used to believe that I had a proverbial storm cloud that followed me around. My life was akin to that of Lemony Snicket — a series of unfortunate events. I recall memories in my life based on whatever trauma happened that year. I tried to weave together an umbrella out of academics, “Many Hats”, liquor and any relationship (friendly, romantic, platonic) that would have me, but to no avail. That shoddy umbrella was riddled with holes, inconsistent thicknesses and half of the time it was blown inside out.

But God.

I learned that it wasn’t a storm cloud per se, rather, a rain cloud that was necessary for my growth. It was the former rain. Had I not traversed every storm that was set before me, I wouldn’t be the person who I am today. Each and every rain drop that hit me added measures to my character and imparted wisdom that I could not have received any other way. I wouldn’t have a loving family. I wouldn’t have this ministry. I wouldn’t have one, much less two businesses. I wouldn’t have a voice. The rain was pivotal for bringing into fruition everything I had sown so that I could finally start harvesting everything that was and is assigned to me in the Kingdom.

I’m peculiar. I know this. I’m proud of this because I’m not [only] the kind of peculiar that ends up ostracized from groups or anything along those lines. I grew up being that, but I digress. However, I’m the kind of peculiar that was chosen specifically by God (Deut 14:2). His people are weird to the rest of the world. It wasn’t until I fully grasped this concept, realized it wasn’t grounds for shame and started walking fully with God that my circumstances, and ultimately life, started to turn around. I had to turn my back to trying to process life through intellect and worldly things because those can’t reconcile with the goings-on of the Spirit and those things were keeping me stagnant in innumerable ways. You can’t pick and choose parts of the world to hold on to because God won’t honor that. And that was excruciating for me because I had, unfortunately, rooted my identity in the world. But I found that once I confidently started doing things God’s way, everything else seemed to fall into place without much effort on my part. God had and has me. The moment I let that concept soak in, my life as I knew it was never the same. You don’t have to understand it, nor do you have to agree with it. You can even call me a kook. It won’t change the fact that God changed me.

Whew! But God!

I’m happy. Anyone who has physically been around for my journey knows that happiness was not an easy place for me to navigate to. But I have arrived. I’m not simply happy with my circumstances or happy in a moment, but the very core of me is genuinely happy for the first time in my existence. Happy. Excited. Content. Expectant. FREE. I am all of these things that at one point in time were mere daydreams for me. And this is only the beginning.

If your way of doing life hasn’t brought you to a place where you can’t even effectively quantify your happiness, then maybe you should give God a try… again… for real this time. And not church. Cultivate a relationship with God. As cliche as it sounds, He has all of the answers that you’re looking for.

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Running to your livelihood

At 17, 18, or 19 years old, we may not have had the maturity, experience or conviction in our hearts to know exactly what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives. In fact, we may not have had the maturity to make a firm decision on a Pop-Tart flavor for breakfast. Despite what society says, that’s ok and normal, even.

We go on these journeys to post-secondary education with visions of flourishing careers, corner offices, flawless business attire, and a hopping night life where the “tab is on us” and it doesn’t make a dent in our pocket change. Then comes the dream of marriage, 2.3 kids, 4,000 square foot home with a three car garage, pool, and butterfly garden. These daydreams motivate us to work hard so we can hit the American dream right in the face. The problem is that many of us miss the mark. Maybe we got that degree in Chemistry but we are currently a Retail Operations Manager. Or maybe college did not work out for us, we were not college material to begin with, or we had a passion that did not include college at all.

Here’s my truth: I am 38 years old and I have had on-again-off-again relationship with college because I could not decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. I tried what I thought I wanted, I tried what others wanted for me, and then I tried what God had for me. That was when I won.

I weighed my life experiences against what God was saying to me through those occurrences and now I’m living a fulfilled life in a field that I absolutely enjoy. I may not have a corner office or a three car garage, but I live a life helping and encouraging people; serving and showing up during struggles as well as celebrations. I get to speak to people right where they are because I have been there. I am doing Kingdom work and God is providing.

What have you been through in your life? Does your livelihood reflect what God has brought you through? Do you see your destiny in front of you when you clock in to work? If no, then why not?

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Jumping into your destiny

Fear will keep your life in a state of sleep paralysis. Your dreams, goals, aspirations, visions, ideas and plans are busy in your mind, but fear sits right on your chest, like a weighted blanket, keeping you from moving anything but your eyes. When you’re finally able to move, you take one step, it doesn’t look like what you thought it would, so rather than pushing past and taking another step, you have a seat and wait for the next cycle of pseudo-bravery to come around.

Know how I know this? This has been my life for the past eight or nine years. For that long I’ve known that my dreams were meant to be manifested into reality. Dreams of entrepreneurship, community engagement, working with the youth and genuinely affecting change loomed above my head like an unattainable cloud. I’d take a few steps, reach a goal, run into a stumbling block and immediately think, “This must not be what God had for me after all,” and then I’d have several seats. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not one to kowtow to adversity. I was built to battle goliaths. However, if it starts to look like my family is struggling, I’m not making the progress *I* think I should be making, or finding balance seems impossible, I’ve historically gotten nervous and shied away from the dream, retreating to a 9-5 job where I knew I’d eventually be miserable. My dreams, legacy-building and ultimately God’s purpose for my life would then take a back seat to my apprehensions.

Fear is not of God but our destinies are. We find ourselves worshipping lack because of our own inadequacy and feelings of unworthiness which leaves our destinies hanging in eternity lonely and untouched. That is convoluted and repentance-worthy. That is also pleasing to every universal dark force that is seeking to see us stagnant. You have been chosen. I have been chosen. We are more than worthy, we’re accepted in the beloved.

Every one of us has things in this life that we know we are to be doing. Our identities are rooted in and directly linked to details in our destinies. We pray for guidance and direction, and the moment God illuminates the path for us, we retreat. No more. Instead, it’s time to live in faith and embrace who we are. We have lives to affect, people to help, smiles to create, love to spread, talent to showcase and gifts to share. God will give us the tools, and likely already has — we simply have to actually use them.

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope

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Walking into self-awareness

“He needs to be less prideful because he’s coming off a little arrogant.” “She lied to me … again!” “His attitude is TERRIBLE.” “She completely disregarded my feelings and ideas and did her own thing.” “He is a deadbeat.” “She needs to leave all those men alone.”

It’s truly a gift to be able to look at ourselves and, rather than deflect negativity onto someone else, scour our inner selves for opportunities to grow. But that gift is one many of us do not even want. You know why? Accountability is HARD even if it is to ourselves, and honesty can be even harder. And you know what is MUCH easier and even exciting for some people? Pointing out everyone else’s flaws and missteps. Worse, if it is not enough that someone else’s mistakes can be the topic of an hour long conversation, we forgo all of the grace, empathy, mercy, compassion, and understanding that we expect would like others to have for us.

Let us explore the first few sentences that kicked off this blog post:

“He needs to be less prideful because he’s coming off a little arrogant.”

How was he raised? Did his parents teach him to never ask for anything? Was he heartbroken and now he would rather ‘strike than be struck’ so to speak? Was he bullied? Is he super talented and has no one in his life to teach him balance and humility? Have I ever come off that way? What is/was my reasoning? Am I totally free of toxic pride?

“She lied to me … again!”

Are they ashamed of something? Are they pathological and their lies have nothing to do with me AT ALL? Have I ever told a lie? Have I ever told a lie that ended up being a hunnert ‘n lebben fitty lies because I did not want to admit that I lied to begin with so instead I just kept lying to keep up my original lie? Do I still lie sometimes? All the time?

“His attitude is TERRIBLE.”

Has he been dealing with some bad news? Is he dealing with chronic pain? Depression? Is he still working through childhood trauma? Is he an introvert doing his best to be around people? Is he on the Autism spectrum and is constantly misunderstood? Does he get enough sleep? Have his kids been misbehaving? Am I a treat to deal with every single day?

“She completely disregarded my feelings and ideas and did her own thing.”

Is she normally a team player? Does she know how to be a team player? Did she simply really believe in her idea? Is she an alpha? Could I pull her to the side and ask her rather than jump into my feelings feet first. Why is it immediately about my feelings anyway? Did I even look at her idea objectively? Was this about a win for me? Do I believe that there will be another opportunity to implement my ideas at some point in life? If not, why have I put my entire life’s purpose into one, solitary idea? Have I ever done the same thing? I wonder what my parents would say if I asked them…

“He is a deadbeat.”

Was he taught responsibility? Was his father around? If so, did his father provide him with the proper tools for adulthood? Not that it’s ok, but is he accustomed to seeing women handle everything because that is what he saw his single mother do? Have I ever gravely dropped the ball in life? Have I just naturally always had it together?

“She needs to leave all those men alone.”

What is her self-esteem like? Whether good or bad, why is her self-esteem where it is? Is she filling a void? Is she manic? Was she ever taken advantage of sexually? Does she have an addictive personality? If she appears confident, is it genuine? Does she claim to just enjoy the company of men? Have I ever found validation in attention from others? Have I always made good sexual decisions? Why or why not? Am I dealing with a superiority complex or self – righteousness?

This is not to excuse poor behavior or generally make excuses. Rather, this is to highlight the fact that we are more alike in our experiences than different and we are all in different places in our journies. We all have a ‘why’ behind our actions. Of course behaviors will often manifest differently because of individuality and free will, but much of our crummy behavior is rooted in pain, abandonment, rejection, mental illness, soul ties, and/or upbringing.

And to complicate things further, if you have a relationship with God, you are to, “love [“… is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬7]
your neighbor as yourself, (Mark 12:31)” and, “do to others as you would have them do to you, (Luke 6:31)” and, the best of them all, we gotta, “remove the plank from our own eye so we can see clearly to remove the speck from our brother’s eye (Matthew 7:5).” In other words, we need to be healed, delivered, free, and no longer displaying signs of whatever it is we are about to fix our mouths to criticize or complain about. Yes, establish boundaries with people. No, this does not give the world carte blanche to treat you however they please. BUT, it does mean that if you are not healed or mature enough to handle that relationship in a positive or uplifting way, you can, optionally, step away while you address whatever is in your soul and spirit that is causing the ugly reactions, particularly since you can ONLY control you. Plus, you need to be whole to be the blessing to others that you are called to be. And in the event that a break or distance isn’t practical, God has a grace specifically designed for that relationship — ask Him for it. He’ll hand it out willingly and abundantly.

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