Disciplines Devotional Found Poem (06/07/15)

experiences were temporary–

temporal experiences,

temporary,

transitory.

God worked,

he believed,

conviction—

God’s eternal purposes.

We believe,

we follow Christ,

every day we walk with Jesus,

unseen,

eternal,

consolation to many

see through eyes of faith.

God was doing more,

past our forevers,

joy of eternity.

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Hurt People, Hurt People

While under the tutelage of Pastor Paula White I recall having heard her say (on several different occasions) that “Hurt people, hurt people.” The two clauses are profound. The first clause is fragmented and merely describes the collective’s condition; the second clause, while independent, succinctly expresses the actions of the collective. The irony is in the structuring of the statement; people who are hurting (those who are emotionally fragmented) inflict on others what has been done to them—perpetuating a cycle of dysfunction and proving that misery does in fact love company. Sad and yet true, I have come to realize that I am in the healing stages of being one such individual.

Let me first say that I don’t think that people intentionally act out for the purposes of hurting others, especially those with whom they are closest. However, hurting others does happen in the crossfires of their attempts at making sense of their world (or the collective “dream” that Don Miguel Ruiz references in his best-seller The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom). Having recently finished a second reading of the text at the suggestion of my hypnotherapist (yeah—I’ll be getting around to her later), I have come to the conclusion that:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”—Lao Tzu

 As one transforming from the emotional hurt unintentionally inflicted upon me, I earnestly believe these practical words from the esteemed Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu. If one who has been hurt no longer wants to hurt others, it merely takes one conscious step to begin the journey of recovery or transformation.

The closing of my last post referenced Romans 12:2 and serves as a springboard for todays. While many people prefer the King James Version of the bible, I myself, prefer The Message version for it’s simplistic language. So I will share both with you in an effort to be accommodating.

“And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” (KJV)

“(1) Don’t be so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. (2) Instead, fix your attention on God. (3) You’ll be changed from the inside out. (4) Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. (5) Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (The Message)

Yes, The Message version, while written in “plain English”, is longer, but is easier for me to digest and appropriate in my life. So let’s break it down.

  1. Sentence One: is imperative in its function. It is a command or request that cautions us against an uncontrolled mind and “running with the masses”. In her national best-seller Joyce Meyer notes in the introduction of Battlefield of the Mind, that:

Our actions are a direct result of our thoughts…[and] So many people’s problems are rooted in thinking patterns that actually produce the problems they experience in their lives…; [therefore] The more you change your mind for the better, the more your life will also change for the better.

All that said, we have been mandated by God to transform our thoughts in a manner that will lead us to a place of freedom and out of bondage.

  1. Sentence Two: also imperative in function, calls us to fix our attention on God. No, I wouldn’t say that our every thought should be about God (the being or spirit), but of the things of God, namely His word. I cannot tell you how much I have struggled to keep my mind on God (not so much in a literal sense, but in the sense of doing the great command—loving those as He loves us (unconditionally).
  2. Sentence Three: informs us of the benefits of such actions. In it we see the effects. If we are non-conformist to popular culture and thinking, and our thoughts are God-ward, then we shall be changed internally. And as we are being changed internally, our actions will be the evidence of those changes.
  3. Sentence Four: is a return to the imperative, and urges us to be cognizant of what God desires of us and to urgently take action.
  4. The Fifth and Final Sentence: serves as a reminder of the difference between those who are bound by their “unenlightenment” and those of us who are being transformed. With knowledge of the truth we (the enlightened) are developing a spiritual maturity that sets us apart from those who lack the knowledge to be the best version of self.

So where am I going with all of this? In the words of Bishop T.D. Jakes, “I’m glad you asked!” Today I had my first hypnotherapy session (told you I’d get around to this). It was marvelous, freeing, therapeutic and enlightening. Because I am by nature inquisitive and curious, I quickly decided that this form of psychotherapy deserved a “look-see” after I stumbled upon an advertisement in a local magazine less than a week ago. Given the fact that I have hurt people as a hurt person, I knew that I needed to make changes in my life. As one who grew up in a religiously spiritual family, I was taught at a young age to “pray about it.” But just praying about my mental and emotional dis-ease hasn’t yielded the breakthroughs that are necessary for real transformation. Yes, in years past I have made efforts at renewing my mind, but again, my previous efforts haven’t brought me to a place of sustained peace; thus my desperation for trying another alternative, hypnotherapy. Regardless of your personal belief system, I know that prayer alone was not going to get me to where I have desired to be, in perfect peace. And since faith without works (action) is dead (James 2:17), I have chosen to engage in this alternative form of therapy so that I can:

“Be the change that I wish to see in the world”—Mahatma Gandhi

The session began with us talking about the book (The Four Agreements) that she (I’ll call her Sarah) suggested I read during the consultation three days prior. I got out the journal I had purchased specifically for thoughts related to these therapy sessions, and I went to town talking about my “take aways” and the quotes that “spoke to my spirit”. Intermittently, Sarah shared her insights as a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist. I appreciated her listening ear, but more so appreciated her candid honesty about the conscious act of re-reading the book about every six months. I was immediately taken aback by her statement. As an English teacher I understand the importance of rereading. I urge my students to read and reread as an act of becoming a better reader, a more conscious analyzer, but I haven’t always walked the walk. Don’t get me wrong; there are some books (You Can Pull Down Strongholds And Break Old Habits by Pastor Casey Treat) that I have read upwards of four times. I suppose I was in awe of Sarah’s statement because I have tended to pull the previously mentioned title off the shelf when “I’m desperate for a change”. Her act of purposefully rereading The Four Agreements every six months is a conscious act of continued transformation, and that has seemingly been lost to me in years past. Our talk continued as I mentioned conversations I had had with friends the past week. I told her about the notebook I’d created with positive confessions that I recite. And I even shared with her how I had allowed myself to be vulnerable in front of my students by writing them individual heart-felt letters that I distributed to them on the last day of school.

“Wow! You’ve made a great deal of progress in a short amount of time.”

“Yes. I’m serious about this. And I’m excited about it too. I don’t want to waste this experience.”

And that’s when we got down to more serious business. Calmly, she asked me the following question, “So where do you want to begin?”

I took a deep breathe; “I think the best place to start is with my self-loathing tendencies”.

While there is certainly more to the session, I will save the rest for another time. What matters most is that I have reached a place, emotionally and psychologically, where I no longer desire to hurt people with my words and actions (you know, those things that originate as thoughts), I have taken the first steps in the journey of my transformation (personal evolution). I live in the reality that this journey may not be easy; it may at times be uncomfortable and arduous. And for these reasons, I have to remind myself of wise words that I coined just a few days ago:

“Maturity is about doing what must be done despite one’s obvious desire for something less ‘confrontational’”—Me 

My transformation “cocktail” includes (Please know that I use the word “cocktail” with utmost respect):

  1. Prayer
  2. Positive Confessions
  3. Reflection
  4. Reading (and re-reading books)
  5. Hypnotherapy

Undoubtedly, our words have power and impact those around us. And as such, we are charged with spreading love and not hate with them.

“Your word is the most powerful tool you have as a human; it is the tool of magic.”

Don Miguel Ruiz

from The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

No Guarantees

Now burgeoning on the age of thirty-nine I have to ask myself why I’m still a single, unmarried woman. Over the course of my adult life I have had ample opportunities to connect with men in an effort to progress the relationship to a more permanent status–marriage. Nevertheless, not one of my previous relationships has yielded the outcome I’ve desired for countless years. My “current situation” has left me perplexed, a little bitter, and somewhat reluctant to try again.

After each failed attempt at a lasting love I take the time to reflect over my actions with the hopes of finally achieving the “eureka” moment where the light bulb comes on and my life is forever changed because I now know the malaise that has kept me from obtaining what I so longingly desire—a permanent love connection with a man. But that hasn’t been my truth because I keep finding myself pacing around the same tree.

Just recently the man that I had been dating (with the intent of progressing the relationship to something permanent) broke up with me. No, this wasn’t the first time a man had dumped me, but that certainly didn’t make the loss any less traumatic. You see, when I met him I had plans to leave the country. I was on my way to Dubai because there was nothing and no one (male counterpart) keeping me here. And while I will admit that I didn’t expect to catch feelings for him, I didn’t stop myself from doing so. With each passing day and the interactions that ensued, I soon found myself falling for him—something I hadn’t done in nearly four years. My lack of falling for a man wasn’t so much about my lack of desire, as it was about my lack of connectivity with the men with which I had been interacting. At any rate, after falling for this man I made the decision that the possibility of love with him here was more enticing than the opportunity to live and work abroad. I soon contacted the director of the institution for which I planned to work and was subsequently released from my contract. Later that day I sent the following email to the man for whom I had recently fallen.

In just a short time you have captivated my heart. You awoke something inside me—the possibility of love. I have been in search of love all my life and it has always seemed to elude me. And when I had all but given up on the possibility, you walked into my life. You’ve ignited a passion inside me—a passion to love fully, completely and without condition. I am not asking anything of you, but that you are invested in building a future. I’m not interested in just “dating”; I want to try and build something permanent. I am aware that there are no guarantees when it comes to love, but I can guarantee that if I stay, you have my heart and my full attention. I want to stay because my heart is with you. I want to stay because the possibility of love is much more enticing than leaving this country. I want to stay…because I want you.

Now, before you cast judgment, let’s consider a thing or three. Some people might think that my decision to stay was rash and foolish.   To some degree I would concur with those individuals. Still others might consider my decision to be nostalgically romantic. And to those individuals I too would agree to an extent. Nevertheless, at the end of the day I have to embrace the decision that was made and move forward without regret(s). After all, I did state in the email to my beloved that “I am aware that there are no guarantees when it comes to love…I want to stay because the possibility of love is much more enticing than leaving this country.” Like the lyrics in the Chico Debarge song “No Guarantee”, I was essentially saying, “But I know exactly what I wanna do/I wanna make this work with you, yeah…[but] Nothing in life is guaranteed”. I knew what I was getting myself into; I knew that the relationship (which was relatively new) wasn’t destined to last. But I took the chance on him, and I took a chance on love because I wanted love more than I wanted the job opportunity.  And maybe the idea of taking a chance at love, instead of closing my heart, wasn’t such a bad decision to make after all. In the end every experience (blissful and/or sorrowful) teaches us something.

While the sting of the loss is new, there is a sense of peace that I currently feel because I am respecting his wishes and I have left him alone. I will not lie to you, or myself, and say that I don’t want him back; I do. But I refuse to be one of those women who won’t let go. I will not be one of those women who makes every attempt to insert herself into a man’s life because the idea of living without him is greater than the idea of once again being alone. Besides I’ve already tried to convince him otherwise and that failed attempt didn’t dissuade him to change his mind. Yeah, that’s right. I shed tears; I begged and pleaded for him to reconsider, and at the end of the day (yesterday in fact) he didn’t budge, so I walked out of his residence licking my wounds. After I had finally calmed down, I resolved in my spirit to seek God’s face and to give the man that I love space to determine if a life without me is better than a life with me.

Again, here is what I’ve chosen to do. I’ve chosen to dry my eyes and seek the face of God. The irony in all this is that I’ve been on the run from God because I couldn’t understand how the last man I’d fallen for could end an eighteen-month relationship with me, and just three weeks later propose to another woman. Crazy right? Yes, that’s my “ish”. Anywho, here I am (ironically) running to the face of God for solace–once again because of yet another disappointing attempt at lasting love.

However, here is the conclusion I have drawn from this last disappointing outcome. I know; wait for it! Yes, I have finally reached a point where an epiphany of sorts has entered my cranium. The light bulb is vibrant and brilliant. And the crowd collectively sighs! Nearly every time a man has shown interest in me I lose my head. I never stop to consult God about the man’s intentions or whether he would be good for me and not just good to me. Never have I stopped and prayed for discernment before I got wrapped up in the moment, in the man. Yep, that’s right. History has shown that I lose all sense of control when a man expresses interest and I reciprocate his interest. Worse still, I fold into a nice little napkin that he can trample over. I get so caught up in the idea of love and a lasting relationship that I become the proverbial doormat. Instead of maintaining my rough exterior, I melt and turn into this woman who will do whatever it takes to make the relationship profitable. I stop being inherently who I am—the fiercely outspoken and independent woman because I want to cast aside the stain of being a super-single (thirty-eight year old woman who has never been engaged or married).

Despite my formal education, I have been stuck on stupid (SOS). I recognize that relationships are work. I get the fact that nothing is promised to last forever. But I want to embark upon a relationship that defies the mundane. Perhaps I am delusional about the prospect of a lasting love where two people respect each other and make a conscious decision, each day, to work together instead of separately. I thought I had been doing that with each relationship, but maybe I wasn’t. Perhaps I was deluding myself into believing that I was making conscious attempts at working in tandem with each man for whom I had fallen. The last man I fell for said that the decisions I made lacked the consideration of his feelings. I countered that his decisions and plans rarely, if ever, did the same.

I’ve tried to rationalize my actions as well as his. But nothing seems to matter because one of us got fed up to the point that it seemed best to walk away. I want to believe that he’ll come to his senses and realize that despite the bad we experienced there was more good to latch onto, and he’ll come back to me. I am not going to hold my breath waiting. I am going to get myself together so that the next time a man shows interest I don’t lose sight of God. I will use discernment and wisdom to determine if he is for me or for someone else.

Undoubtedly, I’ve been charged to “…not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of my mind [to God’s word]—Romans 12:2

Don’t Quit!

I had a wonderful conversation with a small cadre of ladies yesterday that has left me pontificating about men, love, life, and relationships—the subjects of our engaging chat. There is hardly a conversation that I’ve been engaged in where the topic of men, love, life, and/or relationships didn’t surface at some point. It doesn’t matter if you are at work, school (and for some of us those two are one in the same), church, at the park, or on the beach, these topics will at some point be in rotation. Does that mean that women have little else to expound upon? I daresay that is true. But I will confess that I never tire of talking about any of the aforementioned topics. Does that make me predictable and/or boring? Perhaps. And I’m okay with that. I’m okay with being a woman and never tiring of “girl talk”.

What has stayed with me from yesterday’s conversation is a matter of character. One of the ladies spoke of a rift that had recently come between her and her boyfriend. The two have been in a relationship for the past fifteen months, and as of late, a couple of incidents have forged a gulf between the two of them. This woman, whom I had just met, wasn’t necessarily seeking advice from any of us, and none of us sought to provide her with any relational “pearls of wisdom” to be quite honest. It was more about lending an ear to a sister who was going through an experience (and for a couple of us, a relatable experience). I’ll be the first to admit to never trying to give anyone relationship advice given my history of unsuccessful ventures with men. And quite frankly, that’s what I shared with the woman I met yesterday. I hardly ever feel confident telling another woman what she should (or shouldn’t) do when my relationship report card is full of failures. Nevertheless, we were analyzing the circumstances and at some point I said something to the effect of actions saying a lot about a man’s character. To put this into context, the woman had mentioned that her boyfriend hadn’t really been speaking to her and their living arrangement had begun to be awkward. However, he admitted to struggling with some things internally, but wasn’t comfortable and/or willing to talk about these issues with her. So the woman suggested that her boyfriend talk with her pastor. After some reflection he accepted the offer. And that’s when I made the point about his openness to speaking with her pastor as a positive sign and being a reflection of his character as a man. The fact that he was responsive to talking to her pastor, and had maintained an open line of communication with her, says something about his character—in my humble opinion. And when it comes to finding a mate, character is without a doubt an essential quality (a deal maker or breaker).

And as I left the beach I began to think about my series of unfortunate events with the male species. I mulled over one failed relationship after another. I thought about the role I played in those failures. And I came to one conclusion: I want a man who is brave enough (or crazy enough—given one’s point of view) to stick around when the “ish” hits the fan. I think most of us want someone by our side who won’t run at the first sight of turmoil. Personally, I know I give men (friends and lovers) grief because I’ve been trying to find that one man who can handle the heat in the kitchen. I know that I’m far from perfect and will never reach such a state, but I do admit my shortcomings and try not to allow them to rule me. But I am adamant about acknowledging my vices. I am convinced that relationships are work, hard work. Perhaps they are even more work that our jobs/careers. That being the case, I’m okay with that. But I can’t be okay with someone who doesn’t recognize this truism in life and isn’t willing and/or able to buckle down when the storms of life come. All that being said, I’m in search of the man whose character proves that he has staying power—the power and desire to stay around when I get ugly (physically, spiritually, and emotionally—just naming a few here). I’m holding out for the man who realizes that life is about change, and neither one of us will be the same people we are (were) when we first met, but he’s a man who is interested and invested in knowing who I’ll become in a year, a decade, or even longer. I’m waiting on that man whose motto is “I ‘Don’t Quit’!” I don’t know if they make them like that anymore, but there remains a glimmer of hope that he’s somewhere out there, and one day our paths will cross.

No woman (and I would presume the same may perhaps be true for men, but I don’t dare assume anything) whose invested time and emotions into a relationship for any extended period of time wants to throw in the towel at the first sign of struggle. If anything, we (the tenacious) tend hold on never wanting to let go even when we know in our heart of hearts when we’ve lost the battle (and perhaps the war). So many of us hope beyond hope that there is chance for redemption—be it our own or our mate’s. We remain hopeful that even when the terrain on the road of life has become treacherous. We don’t want to give up, to throw in the towel. We strive to make it work in the face of imminent failure. But that’s what tenacious men and women do—we try as we might, but we just don’t quit.

In closing, I am reminded of a well-known poem I fell in love with as a young girl. While the author remains anonymous, the spirit and message of the poem have become familiar friends of mine. I leave with you the words of one of my all-time favorite poems, “Don’t Quit”.

Poem, "Don't Quit"

I Lost God; He Didn’t Lose Me

People lose all sorts of things: keys, money, books, track of time, socks, memories, games (contests), their minds, etc. Funny thing (in an ironic sort of way)—I seemed to have lost God somewhere over the past year. I know it sounds like an extremely strange statement, but it’s my truth. I’ve never spoken with someone who claims to have lost God, but I’ve had countless conversations with people who have lost one or more of the aforementioned items. Nevertheless, over the course of a year I have lost God—lost my ability to talk to God, to feel His presence in my life, to believe in/have faith in God, to pray to/speak to God, to meditate on His inspired word, to commune with other believers, to trust His word(s)—in short, I’ve simply lost Him.

 

And yet here I am wondering: is it even possible to lose God? Seriously, if we take God’s inspired word, The Bible, as Truth, then perhaps I’m delusional in thinking that I’ve lost God. But bear with me as I attempt to rationalize my current situation. In The Message translation of the bible, Deuteronomy 31:6 states:

 

“Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them [doubts, circumstances, setbacks, shortcomings] a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.”

 

If God, my God (because at one point in time I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior), is striding ahead of me, is right there (here) with me, how can I have lost Him? But I’m being real here, being completely honest and transparent.

 

I have lost God.

 

If I accept Deuteronomy 31:6 as Truth, then God hasn’t left me, hasn’t lost me—I’m the one in this relationship who has lost Him. And yes, it is a relationship. Despite the fact that I cannot touch God like I touch/feel other human beings, cannot have a conversation with Him as I do other human beings, cannot see Him like I see other human beings (or can I?), that doesn’t necessarily negate His presence, nor his being real. Yet and still, therein lies my dilemma. I want to believe God’s word. I want to believe that the words of the “Good Book” are true, but much of what I have seen and/or experienced over the course of my existence on this planet has left me questioning the truth of His word.

 

Let’s get back to business. If God is all and in all, then God is everywhere. And if God is everywhere, how can it be that I have lost Him? Again, let’s look at what His word says. Colossians 1:16-17 in the King James Version (KJV) reads:

 

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”

 

Again, let’s break this down. If God is the creator of all things (present in heaven and earth, visible and invisible), then He exists in all things and that means that God is more than a “presence” one feels in a church (house of worship) and there is more than one way to feel him, see him, commune with him, to know Him.

 

But I have lost God.

 

Seemingly out of nowhere, I broke down in tears this afternoon in the midst of a conversation I was having with a close friend (in her car of all places—I guess where shouldn’t matter, but it was just odd how it all happened). She was sharing her walk with me when the flood of tears escaped my eyes. We were reflecting on life, being raw, being honest about our feelings when I simply allowed my truth to come out. I said:

 

“I’ve lost my way; I’ve lost my peace and I don’t know how to get it back.”

 

My friend looked me in the eye and said something that touched my heart more than she may ever know. She said . . .

 

“We all have to find our own way to God.”

 

Such simple words, but words with such a great impact. She went on to say that she has found God in nature and in a fiction book. She told me about this book that she had once read. The book, The Shack, by William Paul Young, had forever changed her relationship with God, had changed her life. And it was then that something inside me “broke”. All my life I had been trying to find the magic formula to make situations and circumstances in my life bend to my will. I would look at a person and try to figure out why things had seemingly come together for them and pattern my attempts at life after theirs. Still yet, I would gaze upon another and try to emulate their formula and all to no avail. My friend was right; we all have to find our own way to God. We all have to find our own path to peace and perhaps that peace doesn’t come instantaneously, or after a confession to a priest, or after our first, second, or ninety-fifth prayer to God. Perhaps our path to peace, our path to God happens after a lengthy uphill trudge full of stops and tasks along the way.

 

So here’s my truth: I’ve lost God. But I’ve heard that it only takes one step to once again find him.

 

Maybe I’ll find him in the midst of meditation (another suggestion from my great friend), maybe I’ll find him in His word, maybe I’ll find him in nature, maybe I’ll find him in a work of fiction, maybe I’ll find him in the spirit of another human being. Right now it matters more that I find Him and not so much where it is that I find him. Today, I’ve made the decision to seek Him; won’t you do the same? Isaiah 55:6 (The Message) urges us to:

 

“Seek God while he’s here to be found, pray to him while he’s close at hand.”

 

So despite the fact that I’ve lost God, I am going to do everything possible to find him.

 

One last thing. Before my friend drove off today she said that we (she and I) were going to commit to verbalizing His word even when we don’t completely feel it with our whole heart. Though I seemed to have lost God, I’m going to try and find my way back to him through His word. And if that doesn’t lead me to him, I will try another route. Truth is, I’m determined to find my way back to him and I won’t give up until I’ve found the peace that is associated with knowing Him.

 

I don’t know how, and I don’t know when, but I’m trusting that:

 

“. . . the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your [my] hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (KJV).

Hear My Call

On Jill Scott’s Light of the Sun CD is a track titled “Hear My Call”. It spoke to my spirit during a recent morning jog. It begins:

Here I am again asking questions,

 

A few Saturdays ago I awoke around 6:20 a.m.  No, it’s not exactly normal for a Saturday. But then again, I’m not exactly “normal”. Still dark outside, I attempted to go back to sleep for at least another hour or so. But something kept me up. So I began talking to God, praying for those near and dear to my heart, and asking God questions: Lord, why do I keep compromising? Why is it that I seem to be unable to stay the course? How is it that I find myself backpedaling? Why do I keep settling for men whose intentions are temporal and not directed towards permanence? Why do I move so quickly? Why can’t I hold out? When God, when?

Once again I wondered how I had found myself in a situation that I had sworn I’d never return. It’s amazing how life provides us with exactly what we need despite our best efforts at fleeing and evading the lesson(s).    

Waiting to be moved.
I am so unsure of my perception,
What I thought I knew I don’t seem to

 

There seem to be too many instances when I thought I knew what I wanted or needed. I thought I knew better than God who and what was right or wrong for my life. And then a revelation would come and I would once again realize that I was deluding myself, or worse, delaying the inevitable—and perhaps delaying my destiny.

 

 

Where is the turn so I can get back to what I believe in?
Back to the old me and

 

I am yearning to get back to the old me. I long to be that woman who wasn’t afraid to ask for exactly what she wanted. I want to once again be that woman who was bold enough to stand alone—confident and secure in my womanhood—with or without a man in my life. I yearn to be that woman who didn’t allow life’s circumstances to callous and harden her spirit. I want to get back to the old me who smiled more than frowned—the old me who laughed so robustly and without regard. I want to get back . . .

 

[Chorus]
God, please hear my call.
I am afraid for me.
Love has burned me raw
I need your healing
Please, please, please.

[Verse 2]
I am such a fool
How did I get here?

 

There have been too many instances when I’ve played the fool—by my own hands mostly. I cannot in good consciousness blame others for my shortcomings. Sure enough, they played a role in the “experience”, but inevitably, I have to own up to my own actions. I, like Jill Scott am asking, “How did I get here?” Yes, here! Here as in–a place where I complain more than count my blessings. Here as in—a place where I allow life’s setbacks to disrupt my mood.   Here as in—a place where I stopped believing in my dreams and my ability to actualize them. Here . . .

 

Played by all the rules
Then they changed
I am but a child to your vision

 

It seems that I too “Played by all the rules [or at least what I thought were the rules]/Then they changed”. The dynamics between men and women have drastically changed. One minute I question whether I’m too aggressive; the next minute I can’t decide if I’m not aggressive enough. And here I am though. Here I am persevering. Here I am fighting against adversity. Here I am–desiring more than the life I’ve been living. Here I am God. Here I am . . .  

 

Standing in the cold and the rain
Lost here in the dark
I can’t see my foot to take a step,
What is happening?
Oh, this hurts so bad. I can hardly breathe.
I just want to leave so…

 

When it comes to this “dating” thing I am standing in the cold and the rain—wondering.   And then sometimes it seems like I’m lost in the dark and I’m questioning what is happening. What aren’t things working out despite my best efforts and intentions? And again God, “What is happening?” The sting of disappointment hurts so bad I want to leave the pain behind. The result: I’ve lost my ability to breathe. And again . . .

 

[Chorus]
God, please hear my call.
I am afraid for me.
Love has burned me raw
I need your healing
Please,
God, please hear my call.
I am afraid for me.
Love has burned me raw
I need your healing
Please, please, oh, please, please.

 

God, if you’re there, please hear my call . . . I need to feel your presence; I need your healing.  Please . . .

A Thin Line Between Submissive and Dominant: The Plight of the Independent Woman

“Men seem to be intimidated by me.”

 

“I feel you girl.”

 

“They see my car, where I live and they get in their mind that I’m some kind of way.”

 

“Yes, they say they want a woman who isn’t draining their pockets, but at the same time they don’t know how to vibe with a woman who’s got her own.”

 

The conversation fades to black and suddenly I hear Jamie Foxx, Ne-Yo and Fabulous in the background singing “She Got Her Own (Miss Independent Remix)” . . .

 

“I love her cause she got her own/She don’t need mine, she said leave mine alone/There ain’t nothing that’s more sexy/Than a girl that want, but don’t need me/Young independent, yes she work hard/ . . . She don’t expect nothin’ from no guy/She plays aggressive but she’s still shy/But you’ll never know her softer side, by lookin’ in her eyes . . .”

 

There is an obvious paradox to what these three men were expressing as they sang the song and what we, Independent Women, have experienced, are experiencing, and may continue to experience presently and in the future. Me personally, I will be the first to spout out that I don’t need a man, but I certainly want a reliable, honest, devoted, and caring man in my life (just a few of the stellar qualities I desire in a mate). I don’t mind paying for dinner; I don’t have a problem spending my own money in the presence of a man. For me it doesn’t negate his manhood or his being a “gentleman”; it just means that I recognize the shift in cultural norms and I’m not above being fiscally responsible in a dating scenario. Much like the lyrics note, I don’t expect nothing from a man, I got my own, I work hard, but . . . many a man has missed out on my softer side because I tend to be aggressive—or at least come across as aggressive.

 

And that’s a problematic paradox. It’s as if independence and docility cannot possibly inhabit a woman’s personality concurrently. If there is some measure of truth to the aforementioned lyrics, where are the men who agree with Ne-Yo and Jamie Foxx? Where are the men who desire an independent woman with a softer side that she reserves only for her man, girlfriends, and family?

 

The day of the above-paraphrased conversation, I was hanging out with a couple girlfriends, and as usual, the topic of men surfaced in our conversation. We talked about how we kept happening upon men who weren’t aggressive in their pursuits to “woo” us. With voices laden with frustration at many a failed effort in experiencing a bliss-filled future with a man whose interest and devotion to us matches that of our own, we soon dropped the topic and made a day of enjoying the sights and sounds of a local festival—just us girls. Nevertheless, what stayed with me after our conversation and the festivities was that our independence—while oftentimes is received as virtuous—has also been internalized (by the opposite sex) as a vice. I’m not sure who made the exact comment that followed me home and has been pestering me the past couple of weeks, but this I do know: this world is overflowing with absolutely beautiful, intelligent, captivating, and loving Independent (and single) Women.

 

A few years back a similar conversation surfaced amongst a different circle of friends and I remember penning the following words, “I will ‘submit’ for the right man.” I place the word submit in quotation marks because I mean to say that I will let the right man lead. Yes, the right man. I know how to take charge of a situation; yes, I know how to take care of myself; yes, I too can be aggressive, but there comes a time in an independent woman’s life when she wants to rest assured that she doesn’t have to be the one holding it down all the time. I recognize that I am a bit rough around the edges, but like a Caramel Hershey Kiss—I am gooey on the inside (don’t misconstrue that analogy). But don’t get it twisted; I’m no doormat.

 

Oftentimes it feels as if we (independent women) are misunderstood. We come across as brash, but in reality, we are powerfully loving creatures who have much to offer to a man who proves to be loyal, dependable, and loving—to name a few.

 

“Where are all the good men hiding?”

 

“That’s a great question. I can tell you that it ain’t in church.”

 

“They are the worst.”

 

“Girl, don’t I know.”

 

We scan the crowd. Suddenly, my mind drifts and I hear Katy Perry in my ear . . .

 

“I knew you were/You were gonna come to me/And here you are/But you better choose carefully/’Cause I, I’m capable of anything/Of anything and everything/Make me your Aphrodite/Make me your one and only/But don’t make me your enemy, your enemy, your enemy/So you wanna play with magic/Boy, you should know what you’re falling for/Baby do you dare to do this/Cause I’m coming at you like a dark horse/Are you ready for, ready for/A perfect storm, perfect storm/Cause once your mine, once you’re mine/There’s no going back . . .”

Much like Katy Perry has pointed out–we, Independent Women, are capable of anything and everything.

  • We are capable of loving a deserving man without condition—we all have limitations, but they don’t define us, or our man.
  • We are capable of holding down a job and still coming home to fulfill the domestic needs of the household.
  • We are capable of raising our children alone, but prefer to take on that responsibility with our man.
  • We are capable of speaking our mind when the situation calls for it, but we are also capable of being quiet when no words need be spoken.
  • We are capable of taking care of our man’s needs because we want to, not because we feel obligated.
  • We are capable of honoring our commitments regardless of life’s circumstances.
  • We are capable of this and so much more; we’re just waiting on the right man to recognize ALL the good that we are capable, and desirous, of extending.

Man—don’t sleep on the Dark Horse!

A Woman’s Worth

Mental Toiling:

Today, a girlfriend of mine sent me a link to a recent blog post titled, “Why BEAUTIFUL WOMEN who want COMMITment will NEVER be ASKED on a REAL DATE, but a stripper will”.  I was immediately intrigued by the title and could hardly wait to get off work so that I could figure out what the brother, Ebrahim Aseem, had to say.

I must admit; the brother posed some great points that I wholeheartedly agree with.

·       Loyal women are old-fashioned; they love to be pursued.

·       Inconsistency is a turn off to a loyal woman.

·       Once you get a woman’s number, don’t use it exclusively to text her; use it primarily to call her.

·       The sign of a mentally mature man is one who can commit to something, commit to a major, commit to a career, commit to a creative discipline and commit to a loyal woman, respectively.

Aseem’s statements are valid. I will admit to being old-fashioned—to a degree.  I’m old-fashioned in the sense that I want to be pursued.  I don’t believe I should be calling a man on the regular trying to get his attention or attempt to steal his attention away from another woman. If a man isn’t calling me then I take it as I sign that he isn’t all that interested in me.  And no, texting me on the regular doesn’t count. Likewise, consistency will get you everything and everywhere.  Inconsistency will get you nowhere.  And that’s a two-way street.  My loyalties run deep when I know that I’ve captured a man’s heart, but there is nothing worse than not being consistent and not being a man of your word.  I’m sure is true for women on the part of men.

Yes, texting is a form of communication. However, texting should not be a man’s primary means for communicating with a woman he is interested in—that’s the old-fashioned coming out.  I want to have conversations—not textversations.  Talking allows for both parties to capture tone and mood. I prefer to not have to read between the lines when communicating.  Besides, there is something alive in talking.  Texting is so flat.

Then, there is this business of commitment. I made a comment yesterday that I’m constantly being stereotyped as the “Angry Black Woman” and all I keep running into is the “Commitment-Phobic Black Man”.  I don’t like being angry; I actually do like smiling and being jovial. And I want more than anything to believe that there are still single men out there who aren’t afraid to commit.

Epiphany #1

And then there was the intriguing post a friend posted the following on a popular social media platform last week.

“Interesting conversation on the Kane Show this morning. At what age/time does a woman stop dating bad boys/jerks and start giving the nice guys a chance? And at what age/time does a bad boy/jerk grow up and start acting more mature and considerate?”

My response was, “That is a great question . . . I think we (men and women) finally come to the realization that we deserve more than what we’ve been settling for and at that point we see the inherent goodness a person (man/woman) brings to the table . . . Let’s be confident old(er) women who know their worth!”

Epiphany #2

And then there was the recent expression of “interest” from a man I would normally never give the time of day.  Out of nowhere a gentleman complimented me on my energy and then asked if it would be possible to contact me sometime.

Normally I wouldn’t give my number to a man that I’m not in some way physically attracted to, but something inside me decided that perhaps it’s time to invest in male-female friendships that are purely platonic. While I’m not exactly sure what this man’s intentions are, I do plan to find out soon enough.

Recent epiphanies and mental toiling have led me into a different headspace—to Alicia Keye’s “A Woman’s Worth”.

She starts . . .

You could buy me diamonds
You could buy me pearls
Take me on a cruise around the world
Baby, you know I’m worth it

Personally, I don’t need, nor have I ever, requested diamonds or pearls.  But that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t graciously accept either or both as a gift. And a man could most assuredly take me on a cruise around the world, but again, I am not a woman who would expect such a kind offering.  And perhaps that’s why I’ve never been offered the diamonds, pearls, or cruise around the world. Truth be told, I wouldn’t know how to act in response given the fact that a man has never been so generous. But again, that doesn’t mean I would be averse to the idea.  At this point in my life I think I have finally come to the realization that I am deserving of much more than what I’ve been accepting.  Alicia Keye’s was on to something back in the day and I’ve finally seen the light.

She adds . . .

Dinner lit by candles
Run my bubble bath
Make love tenderly to last and last
Baby, you know I’m worth it

The thought of a candle-lit dinner sounds romantic and long overdue.  I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a bubble bath drawn by the man I love on only two occasions. And those two occasions bring a smile to my face and warmth to my heart.  My heart yearns to be romanced again—to be pursued, to be desired for more than the treasure betwixt my thighs.  And yes, I’m beginning to believe I’m worth it—worth being appreciated, adored, pursued, and/or called instead of being sent texts.

And then . . .

Wanna please, wanna keep
Wanna treat your woman right
Not just dough, better show
That you know she is worth your time

You will lose if you choose
To refuse to put her first
She will and she can
Find a man who knows her worth

There is so much truth to these last two verses. I am a woman who is not afraid to please her man.  My problem has been that I’ve been pleasing men who haven’t been my man. And yes, I want to be treated right; I want to be treated with respect and honesty.  A man can throw around all the money he has, but if he isn’t throwing around his personal time—his quality time, there really isn’t much there between the two of us.  I thrive on quality time and physical touch—a touch that is more sensual than sexual in nature.  I long to be held–to be cradled in a man’s arms.

A number of men have truly lost out on this good woman because they’ve refused to put me first. I’m not saying I have to be at the top of your list every day of the week, but I need to be on your list every day if you want the best of me and from me.  And I’ve not been, nor will I ever be, afraid to walk away from a man who’s clueless about my worth.  Yes, we’ve all heard the adage that “I can do bad all by myself.” The statement is very true.  Personally, I prefer to do good with a good man by my side.  And I’m determined that I will be found by a man who knows my worth.

And . . .

‘Cuz a real man knows a real woman when he sees her
And a real woman knows a real man ain’t afraid to please her
And a real woman knows a real man always come first
And a real man just can’t deny a woman’s worth

Yes!  A real man knows a real woman when he sees her.  And when he sees this real woman he won’t be afraid of me—won’t run from the possibilities of us. And when that real man presents himself I will know that I can please him without fear of him being a “Samsonite Man”.

What’s more . . .

If you treat me fairly
I’ll give you all my goods
Treat you like a real woman should
Baby, I know you’re worth it

If you never play me
Promise not to bluff
I’ll hold it down when shit gets rough
‘Cuz baby, I know you’re worth it

I just want to say that I have no problem giving what I have to a deserving man.  When I’ve been treated with respect and adoration I’ve showered my man with love and devotion.  And yes, I can, and will, hold it down if need be, but that only comes for a man knowing my worth.

Finally . . .

She walks the mile, makes you smile
All the while being true
Don’t take for granted
The passion that she has for you

You will lose if you choose
To refuse to put her first

She will and she can
Find a man who knows her worth, ooh

‘Cuz a real man knows a real woman when he sees her
And a real woman knows a real man ain’t afraid to please her
And a real woman knows a real man always comes first
And a real man just can’t deny a woman’s worth

No need to read between the lines spelled out for you
Just hear this song ‘cuz you can’t go wrong when you value
A woman’s worth
(Woman’s, woman’s, woman’s)

I look forward to the day when a real man recognizes this woman’s worth. But that won’t happen until I’ve fully recognized my own worth.  Recent epiphanies and mental toiling have led me into a different headspace. For far too long I’ve been selling myself short—I’ve been taking what’s been given without expecting more. It’s pretty simple actually. Every woman, including myself, needs to recognize her individual value and worth.  Yes, there may be men out there who would rather play than stay. Yes, there may be men out there who are no more interested in a committing to a woman than they are to scheduling annual preventative doctor’s visits.  But the pool of men will be what it will be regardless of who we are. The players and non-committers will continue to walk the earth, but they shouldn’t negate a woman, this woman, from recognizing her worth. Today, I’m going to “woman up” and have some honest conversations with men from here on out.
‘Cuz a real man knows a real woman when he sees her
And a real woman knows a real man ain’t afraid to please her
And a real woman knows a real man always comes first
And a real man just can’t deny a woman’s worth

Got Faith?

“Yes, I’ve got to have faith . . .” are the words that end the popular 80’s song “Faith” by George Michael. These are telling words, prolific words in fact.  I too have got to have faith. But it seems that I’ve lost my way . . . lost my faith?  My faith has been, and may always be, a questionable matter (and that pains me). In the past decade or so my endurance in this race has been challenged in a number of ways, on a number of levels, and a number of times.

In the bible there is scripture that points out that, “Knowing this, the trying of your faith works patience,” (James 1:3).  If this is in fact true, I have gained a great deal of patience over the years.  I am also familiar with Hebrews 11:1 which reads, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” There have been times in my life where I have been extremely hopeful.  There have likewise been moments when I couldn’t capture an ounce a hope to cup in my hands.  And finally, there is Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”  Herein lies my true dilemma. As an individual who was raised to “fear God” (reverence God) I have struggled with this concept of faith for nearly all of my waking life.  Has my lack of faith or intermittent faithlessness displeased God?  On a conscious level I believe that God is real, but there are moments when I question His presence in my life.

Perhaps my problem is that I lack the diligence to seek God. If I think about my spiritual “walk”, I have to ask myself: have I been walking with God?  Do I commune with Him daily?  Do I seek His face with a heart and demeanor that desires nothing in return but the feeling of His love, forgiveness, and devotion?  Honestly?  I cannot in good conscience claim that I seek God’s face faithfully. There are, and certainly have been, moments when I have walked far from God.  And conversely, there have been moments when I have seemingly been in stride with God.  There are days when prayer is the last thing on my mind.  And then there are days when I am thrust upon my knees.  There are undoubtedly moments when I ponder God’s presence.

Why?  You ask.  I question if He is real because of all that I have ingested from the Bible, what I have heard from one pastor, preacher, evangelist, etc., and from what I have experienced in life. Take Psalm 37:4 as an example. It reads, “Delight thyself in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”  If I take the logical approach, it seems that all I would need to do in order to actualize the desires of my heart is to delight myself in the Lord God.  But what does that really mean?  Does it mean that I walk around 24-7 spouting that I’m delighted to know God?  Or is it something more?  I’ve cross-referenced the KJV with The Message translation and this is how The Message reads, “Get assurance with God and do a good deed, settle down and stick to your last.”  Honestly, I’m even more confused.  How does one get assurance with God?  Is it through prayer?  Through communing with God? Is it through reading and confessing His inspired word?  The translation says to “do a good deed”, but what qualifies as a good deed? And is there a quantity attached to the number of deeds required before my heart’s desires are actualized/realized? Now if “assurance with God” comes through faith—this substance of things I hope for and the evidence of what I don’t see, then my faith must grow in order for me to please God and then receive the desires of my heart—at least logically that is the conclusion I have drawn.

So let’s take this conundrum a step further.  Let’s look at Romans 10:17 which reads, “. . . faith comes by hearing, and hearing the word of God.” Okay, in order for my faith to grow perhaps I have not heard enough, heard enough of God’s word. I’m torn again. I grew up in church. I grew up hearing some man or woman [of God] share his or her interpretation of the Bible which is “God’s inspired word to man”.  I grew up hearing my grandmother’s and mother read from their Bibles.  And I have heard, heard God’s words for all these many years, yet why is my faith, my faith in God, called into question time and again? Why do I doubt that He will give me the desires of my heart?  Why do I wonder if he has heard my petitions?  Why God? Why?

Today, I posed a question to a group of students who had been reading a book, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, about a Rwandan woman’s survival of the 1994 genocides that rocked her country. Here is what I asked four 8th graders, “Does it take an experience like Immaculee’s (surviving genocide) in order to meet God face to face—grow your faith?” I too had been reading the book alongside my students. And while I had been reading the harrowing experience this woman went through, it seemed that my faith kept being called to the carpet.  One at a time they each shared their personal thoughts.  The consensus: perhaps it does take a life-altering experience for our faith to grow and develop.  I looked at one of the girls and said rather plaintively, “I would hope to never have to experience genocide in order for my faith to grow.” I went on to state that I wanted a spiritual experience like Immaculee Ilbagiza (the author of the book and genocide survivor).  “Here dream was so vivid,” I said as I recalled the dream Immaculee had regarding her murdered family after she had made peace with their deaths and forgiven their Hutu killers. Immaculee had great faith throughout her ordeal.  She prayed and sought God daily while hiding from Hutu tribesmen who sought to rid Rwanda of its Tutsi population.  And it seemed that her seeking God made all the difference for her survival amidst the genocide.

  • She sought God and He protected them from being detected in the Hutu pastor’s bathroom for three months
  • She sought God and avoided being attacked on the road by a throng of Hutu killers wielding machetes
  • She sought God and obtained a job working for the United Nations
  • She sought God and married the man she petitioned God for

 

I too want(ed) my faith to grow and expand to the point that it is more than positive thinking, but a deep-seated intrinsic “knowing”. As the group’s discussion transitioned, I found myself moved for two reasons. One, I was so very much impressed with the level of analysis the students had with regards to the text and the concept of genocide.  All too often we Americans take things (experiences) for granted.  But more importantly, these four young adults had made such poignant remarks about humanity that I was nearly moved to tears. And all the while I kept questioning my faith.  Where is my faith?  I’ve got to have faith!

So I am posing a question to anyone who doesn’t mind answering.

 

How do I grow my faith?