Beyond Shame

After what feels like weeks of constant motion, I’m delighted to be sitting still this morning. I know there is work to be done today (I’ll get to it), but to be still and in total silence for this moment is delightful. It’s a cherished moment. It’s a reminder that I need this every week—a moment of sabbath. Exhale . . . 

I discovered a major truth about myself last week—I’m moving beyond shame! This may not be a big deal to others, but it’s a huge moment in my life. I’ve struggled with feelings of shame for many, many years. I’ve wrestled with this in therapy, I’ve battled it in silence in my alone time. I’ve fussed with God about it. I thought I’d never conquer it. In my mind, I thought it may have been the thorn in my flesh, but I’m thankful to know the courageous work I’ve done is finally paying off.

What’s shame?

Well, Brene Brown (aka one of my favorite authors) says, “Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.” According to her, guilt is adaptive and helpful – it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort. On the other hand, shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection. That’s deep! Guilt is good, but shame is bad, real bad. Shame means something is inherently wrong with me, as a result I’m a failure at many things.

I know shame all too well. For a long time, shame was my first and middle name (perhaps my last name too). It is extremely hard to live with. In some ways, I wish it was an official diagnosis and there was a medication one could take to make it go away. I mean, it’s not depression, it’s not PTSD, but it’s a real thing. One has to struggle, wrestle, and fight with shame to overcome its grip. It’s a hidden thing that outsiders looking in probably cannot understand, but it’s real.

Shame has been a beast in my life! For many years, it has caused me to distance myself from my extended family and isolate in social settings. It has also caused me to make some poor decisions. The good news is, I’ve made great progress! Often we don’t even realize the progress we’ve made until we encounter an experience that would throw us back into our old behaviors. That’s where I was a week ago. Something happened that usually would’ve thrown me into the “woe is me” narrative. For a hot second, I felt shame, but I quickly snapped out of it. I evaluated the situation and realized, I had absolutely no reason to feel shame. Yes, I was guilty of a thing or two, but the shame narrative that tried to creep in had to go! In response to shame, I declared I am enough and I am worthy!

I believe moving beyond shame will give me the courage to open so many incredible doors in my life that have been present for some time. It frees me to live and love. It frees me to be me without feeling like I’m undeserving or unworthy. It frees me to live out my dreams without thinking they’re too big or too crazy for me. While I know, I’ll have to actively fight shame for all of my days, I’m thankful that my past experiences and feelings do not have to determine my present or future life. I can move beyond shame!

Advertisements

A Journal and Journey Through My Past…

GodIsAbleTemplateSaturday was a big day in my life—MOVING DAY! There were stressful and intense moments, but I’m settling into my new space and loving it. I love the neighborhood and the neighbors whom I’ve met so far have been great. I’m super happy and excited about this new season in my journey.

One of the greatest parts of this move has been stumbling upon my old journals. It’s amazing how some of my feelings have remained the same, yet in other areas, I’ve changed so much! One of the musings that struck me deep was written on June 18, 2011. I remember that day so clearly. My church had just finished a Bible study series entitled Experiencing God and we spent that day together on a silent retreat. I was quietly struggling greatly with God and ministry in that season, I was determined to do things my way, yet I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling of God calling me to do a greater work for Him. I’m the fighter who thought I could wear God out with all of my punches and running. God won, and the winning sorta, kinda started on June 18, 2011!

It was that day when my former pastor sought me out to be her partner during the morning icebreaker. I was so distraught about this happening . . . I tried to avoid my former pastor at all times like the plague. God was working on me and I had heard through the grapevine my pastor had her eye on me (Translation: God had probably put something about me in her spirit, and she was trying to observe and see what God was talking about. I wanted no parts of such.) I had planned to leave the retreat super early to go to a friend’s birthday party in New Jersey, but this icebreaker partnership messed up that plan. Fast forward several years and my former pastor has become a mother to me. Together we share a wonderful bond and I’ve stopped fighting God. Certainly, He and I still have differences of opinions, but I don’t have the same level of fight towards Him in me. Praise the Lord!

This is what I wrote on that day:

I must trust God completely and believe that if I remain in Him and stay obedient, He will grant me the desires of my heart. He will bless my life beyond belief, He will provide for all of my needs. I will not be lacking in any area and, in due season, He will give me overflow. I will not struggle to pay bills, everything will not be perfect, but in Him I will not have earthly worries.

Like the tree, I’m [God] too big for your to grasp. You can’t wrap your arms around me, so stop trying! What God’s doing is something I can’t analyze my way through. Stop trying to figure out what I’m  doing and just do what I tell you to do. I’m trying to prepare you for the end result and I need you to do what I’m telling you to do. Stop trying to figure out what the end result is. It may or may not be what you think it is.

I’m stuck to you like glue. It must be done My way.

Reading this, given where I am in my present life, is a refreshing reminder of God’s sovereign power. I had no idea what God had in store for me then, but everything He put on my heart that day has proven true. He is truly blessing me beyond belief . . . the home I was blessed to purchase is certainly a “beyond belief” blessing. This job I’ve got is a “beyond belief” blessing. No matter how hard I try to figure it out, God still confuses me and others in my circle. He’s beyond my grasp, but He’s faithful and just. And, He’s shown me time and time again that He’s stuck to me like glue. God truly loves me and I absolutely love Him.

I wonder what the remaining journals have in store for me.

Until next time . . .

Journey to 101: Get that House!

9640 Front ViewMy writing has been at a standstill as of late. As usual when life seems to take over, it seems writing is the first thing thrown out the window. This time, my writing came to a halt for a good reason. I’ve been diligently pursuing one of the biggest items on my 101 list . . . buying my first home! Last Friday, I checked it off my list. I am officially a homeowner. YAY!!!!!!!

What a journey it has been to get to this place. I’ve felt frustration, anger, joy, nervousness, incredible faith, palpable fear, and everything else along the way. I thought I’d be buying my home a year ago, but it took a bit longer. I suppose bumps in the road are inevitable even when we think we’re fully prepared. There were several moments when I was ready to go out, rent an apartment, and keep it moving. But . . . I didn’t. I stayed the course and managed to stumble upon the home of my dreams.

There’s a lesson in my story. It’s simply this, in the face of giants, be bold enough to rise up and face them. Don’t run from them for God’s greatest blessings are truly on the other side of fear. I tackled real fear and self-doubt on my path homeownership. I felt like I didn’t make enough money as a single, Black woman. I believed my credit score wasn’t good enough. I felt like I didn’t have enough money saved up for the down payment and closing costs. But, perhaps my greatest fear was being afraid that I wouldn’t be able to handle the monthly mortgage payment. Many days and nights I spent hours running numbers through my head and writing them out on paper to assure myself that I could handle this major purchase. I may not have shared the musings of my mind aloud, but lots of thinking was happening. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous when I signed all of the final paperwork. I was . . . so my Mom came to be my support system in the room. On the other side of signing those papers, I can honestly say my excitement beats out all of the nervousness I felt no questions asked!

9640 KitchenI’m so excited to share my home with friends and family. I’m looking forward to hosting dinner parties and baking holiday cookies and pies. I’m excited to watch football and share in game nights with friends. More than anything I’m excited to start living my best life! It’s the start of a brand new season for me and I’m so happy with all God is doing in my life! During this past year and half, I’ve seen the best in my family as they’ve supported me and shared in my sacrifice so I could reach this goal. I couldn’t have done it without them. I’ll forever be grateful. This past year and a half has also allowed me to see the best in me. I did lots of hard self-work and I am amazed by the healing and wholeness God has brought into my life!

And so for this incredible blessing of my new home and the journey that accompanied it, I offer this verse from Psalm 118 as my thanks. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes!

Journeying to 101: What’s Going On…

beige analog gaugeI’ve been silent here lately. Lots of things going on and I’ve just been allowing life to unfold. I thought I’d jump on and give a few quick updates on my 101 list tonight. To my shock, I started this list just over a year ago! Time flies . . . it’s been a challenging and fun time for me. I’m excited about being even more intentional in working on my list in the days to come.  So, what’s been going on . . .

Launched a new website. I took the leap and finally checked this off the list. My original plan was to relaunch this blog with a new web address, but plans changed. After dragging my feet and contemplating how to approach the new website, one afternoon while standing in the basement of my former pastors’ home, I got the idea to use the new website for the sole purpose of writing and sharing devotions. This new website is truly a ministry platform for me. On occasion, I may share a bit of my daily musings there, but it’s primarily a platform to share my writing. That’s the area where God has been dealing with me a great deal lately, so I’ve chosen to be obedient to that call in this season. When you have a minute check out the new site, Between Faith and Fear. Feel free to sign up to receive a weekly devotion while you’re there.

Attended the Publishing in Color Conference. In line with my focus on writing, I was privileged to attend the inaugural Publishing in Color Conference last week at the New Brunswick Theological Seminary. What an awesome experience? I’m fairly new to this writing thing. I enjoy this work, but the world of publishing is foreign to me. Last week, I met some incredible people who poured wonderful blessings into my spirit. I’ve not had a chance to fully process the experience yet, but I’m certain great things are in store for me. Before it’s all said and done, I think God is preparing to blow my natural mind.

There are a few other things bubbling up, but they’re not quite on the surface yet, so my lips are still sealed. Life is so good. God has been more than faithful. Church folks often say, “I don’t look like what I’ve been through.” I used to think that phrase was cliché and meaningless, but now that I’ve lived a little and survived some real challenges and tests, my true confession is just that . . . I don’t look like what I’ve been through! God has been better than good to me, and I’ve got a strange suspicion that He’s just getting started in my life. My prayer is that I will always stay humble, remain rooted, and be eager to live a life that pleases God alone.

I’m looking forward to the journey in front of me . . .

 

Journeying to 101: High Tea

0512181641Would You Like An Adventure Now, Or Shall We Have Our Tea First? – J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

I love tea of all kinds, particularly unsweetened tea with a bit of lemon. For Mother’s Day this year, I enjoyed high tea at Turnbridge Point with the ladies of my mom’s family (another check off my 101 list…yay!!!). We had a wonderful afternoon of laughing and sharing together.

I’ve heard lots about Turnbridge Point from my Eastern Shore friends. Their reviews are definitely on point! This was my first time visiting this quaint bed and breakfast, but I can assure you it won’t be my last. Chef Steve put together an amazing menu—cucumber sandwiches, chicken salad croissants, quiche, apricot scones, and a variety of desserts. I have a very strong hate relationship with cucumbers, but I ate the entire sandwich. It was amazing! To make the day even more exciting, we all dressed up and wore our fancy hats! We were preparing for the Royal Wedding . . . I wore one of my grandmother’s hats. Of course it barely fit my head, but I rocked it to remember her anyway. Life always seems so busy and stressful. High tea was the perfect opportunity to just relax and have fun with the ladies.

It wasn’t the grandest of Mother’s Day celebrations, but we had lots of fun.

 

You’re Kidding Me!

One of the venues I’ve come to enjoy in the District is Sixth & I. Not only is the space itself beautiful, but the author talks I’ve attended there have always been great. (Random fact: The space was the home of Turner Memorial A.M.E. Church for over 50 years.) While scrolling through my e-mail this afternoon, I was checking out some of the upcoming talks and to my surprise, I discovered one of the facilitators is a former intern in one of my labs at the NIH. I was shocked. I never doubted his ability to do great things, but the Sixth & I platform is a pretty big deal. I’ve seen Brené Brown, Susan Cain, and W. Kamau Bell speak there. These are all big names, mainstream authors and Vann is facilitating a discussion there. Wow!

I thought about it and began to wonder if this was an answer to a giant prayer he once prayed or just a random happening. I will never know, but I’m reading a book that’s had me thinking a lot about the size and expectation of my prayers. A passage I read today said sometimes God gives us thimble-sized blessings because we have thimble-sized prayers. The author suggests in the midst of the vast ocean of blessings that are available, we can limit ourselves to a portion as small as a thimble simply because we fail to ask for more. I’m guilty! I don’t dream or pray big enough. At work, I give my all and can always push the envelope, but in my personal life, I’m often a lot less comfortable walking on water.

Yet, given where I am in my current thoughts, it’s interesting that I would run across this e-mail today. Comfortable hasn’t been all that comfortable lately. And, even though faith walking is hard, I’ve been forcing myself to trust God more. I’ve recognized that I can’t stay where I am, God has more for me, but I have to embrace faith walking.

About two weeks ago, I spent part of an afternoon writing in my journal about some big life goals. I’m talking, I dropped the thimble and wrote out my biggest and wildest God-sized dreams. Things that only God can do. The day after I wrote them, someone invited me to lead a workshop at a training for leaders in the federal workforce next fall. The invitation was random and completely unexpected, but in my journal I’d written that one day I wanted to be a workshop facilitator. I didn’t know the topic, didn’t know the audience, but I wrote down this big dream, and a day later one path to realizing that dream revealed itself. My initial response was, “God, you’re kidding me, right?” But then I decided to act like the child of God that I am and remember that God’s not kidding around with me. He wants to do major things in my life, but He’s waiting for me to release the brakes. It’s acceptable for me to be nervous, but I ought to pray with the expectation that God is going to answer in the here and now.

I’m nervous about this workshop, if I’m honest I don’t have a clue what I’m going to talk about, but I know it will come together. God did not create me to shy away from opportunities He presents in my life. Things have to work out because God answered my prayer. Now, I’m challenged to trust Him with more. Up next . . . registering for the Publishing in Color Conference. It makes no sense to me, but I stumbled upon this opportunity and writing a book is on my list of God-sized dreams. I’m going to go to the conference AND I’m going to force myself to be brave enough to trust God to let my gifts make room for me. He’s not kidding me, just as God is opening doors for others, He’s willing to open up gigantic doors for me too!

My Lenten Path…

cross-sunset-humility-devotion-161089.jpegYesterday marked the beginning of a new Lenten season. For me, this represents a time to slow down and be more intentional in communing with God. I used to halfheartedly give up something, usually sweets, but it was always for the wrong reason. In my mind, if I gave up sugar for 40 days, naturally, I’d lose some weight . . . I’m certain that was my greatest motivation. As a result, I’m not sure that sacrifice (which never lasted for the duration of Lent) made a difference in my faith walk. So, this year, I’m not giving up food, in fact, I’m not giving up anything per se! I hope that doesn’t make me a bad Christian in your eyes. If it does, I’m sorry. Rather than giving up something, I’ve decided to commit to spending more time with God in study, prayer, and writing.

Last night’s message during Ash Wednesday service prompted this decision. The sermon was entitled, “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around”. In short, the text came from the book of Numbers where the men were sent to scope out Canaan and the majority returned with a report of defeat. According to them, the giants were too big to make possessing the land a possibility. They knew the land was plentiful and lush, but their fear caused them to shy away from possessing the land. That’s real—I can definitely relate to that perspective in life, but during this Lenten season, I hope to be more like Caleb. Yup, there are giants in my path, but that doesn’t mean I should stop making strides towards achieving my goals. So, during this 40 day period, I’m committing to writing at least one devotion per day. That’s going to be hard, but I think it will be far more meaningful and impactful for my spiritual walk and life in general than giving up chocolate or red meat or whatever other food I’ve given up in the past. I’m excited about what this 40 day journey holds! I’m believing that some good work will come from it.

How will you honor God during this season?

Riding with my camera…

IMG_20180211_153449011_HDR-2

Loch Raven Reservoir, February 2018

Have you slowed down lately? I have! Yesterday, I decided to take the scenic route home from church and drove up on this amazing scene. The picture doesn’t do justice to the beauty of nature, but it was my best try at capturing the awe of the moment. My camera was in my trunk, but a drained battery only allowed me to get two quick pictures, so the above image was captured using my cell phone. One of my former photography instructors said the best camera is always the one we’ve got! So true!

Anywho, yesterday served as a reminder that I should always keep my fully charged camera with me. You never know what beautiful scenes we may encounter in our daily routine.

Make it a great one today!

101 Updates…

I’ve not written about my 101 journey here lately. It’s not that I’ve jumped ship . . . no I’m still enjoying the journey, I’ve just not taken time to write about it. So, I figured I’d write a quick post this evening about what’s going on.

Things Completed:

  • Make a batch of bath salts. I gave these homemade creations away as Christmas gifts to my coworkers. I still need to tweak the recipe a bit, but I was pleased with how things turned out. I made a baked bath salt with a blend of several salts . . . fancy, right. I think I’ve got at least one more batch in me to make before I’m ready to take it to market.
  • Finish watching Dear White People (the Netflix series). It was good . . . I’m looking forward to the start of the next season.

Things in Progress:

  • Everything else.

Funny, right! But, it’s true, everything else is in progress. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’ve got no complains because there are lots of great things happening in my life right now. I can’t tell it all just yet, but I can’t wait to watch God do an amazing work. And then I’ll say, “The Lord has done this and it is marvelous in my eyes!”

In the meantime, I joined a fitness challenge at my gym that’s been lots of fun (there will be a post about our 1,000 reps workout), I’ve begun training for a spring 5K, I’m working at reading one book per month, and I’ve got an idea for a small writing project that I’m looking forward to starting.

My life hasn’t moved at the speed I once thought it would, but it’s all good. Everything is coming together perfectly. You can’t see it yet, and honestly, neither can I, but I can feel the great things that are about to happen in the depths of my being.

Here’s to the start of another great week!