It’s 1:44 am and I can’t sleep. The words of a devotional I read early keep replaying themselves in my head. It was a passage from Judges 6:23 But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.” You are not going to die. Those words jolted me from a place I hadn’t realized I had traveled to. It was like an electric shock shooting straight up my body. Even now some almost 24 hours later I am still feeling that surge of energy that comes with a new enlightenment.
I realize that like Gideon I had become timid, almost afraid to move forward in certain areas of my life. While I love counseling and being able to help those who are hurting, I have often felt God has placed a larger calling on my life. A calling that I have been running from or rather using my counseling practice to escape from. After all, it’s easy to hide behind appointments and meetings. It’s safe!
Safe! So here I sit at almost 2 am coming to grips with the fact that God did not call me to play it safe. 2 Timothy 1 versus 6 – 7 instruct me to fan into flame the Gift of God, which for me is to use my speaking and teaching abilities to reach the multitudes of those who are hurting. Women who like me have battled with feelings of not being good enough, not being pretty enough, not being smart enough. Women who have, out of fear, sat on the sidelines under the guise of being a background player while silently attempting to quench a raging fire bursting to be allowed to expand and roar. It also tells me that God did not give me a spirit of timidity but one of power, love and self-discipline. The power to boldly step forward and embrace the woman he has called me to me. The ability to love beyond limits and meet the needs of those who are hurting and in need of guidance by sharing my experiences, the good, the bad and the in between. Most importantly, he gave me a spirit of self-discipline, which enables me to stand firm in my faith even when things are though and it seems as if there is no way to overcome the confusion, hurt and pain I may be feeling.
Now, here I sit reflecting on my life and the things that I have been through. The loss of two children, one to an ectopic pregnancy and the other to a miscarriage, the deaths of family members and close friends, the loss of friendships and the general ups and downs of life, I ask myself, “did I die?” and the answer is a faint but firm NO! No, I did not die. I am here to tell the story, my story in the hopes that the things that I have experienced throughout this journey I call life will in some way help another along the way.
So, stay tuned. There is more to come!
John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”
What does having life to the full mean to you?
What are some things that you believe cause us to NOT live life to the full?
What about our thoughts, how we view ourselves, others and our world. I believe they play a huge part in our living life to the full.
Think about it:
FIRST: We listen to the lie (told by someone who has influence in our lives or most often it’s the negative self-talk that goes on in our heads that comes from our own faulty thinking)
SECOND: We dwell on the lie (we replay the scenario or the words that were spoken or the assumptions made over and over again in our heads)
THEN: We begin to believe the lie. We allow the seed of negativity to grow. You know the ones, (I’m not good enough, I am not pretty enough, I am not smart enough, and on and on) even though God’s word tells us we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”
LASTLY: (PROVERBS 23:7) KJV says, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…”We act on the lie: What we believe about ourselves begin to manifest itself in our actions, how we treat others and ourselves.
Matthew 22:39 instructs us to love our neighbors as ourselves, but if we are allowing negative self-talk and insecurities to affect how we view ourselves, how can we effectively extend true Godly love to our neighbors?
Matthew 5:14-16 (The Message Bible) Says “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven
Do you consider yourself a light to the world?
Vs. 15 says, "I am putting you on a light stand."
That doesn’t sound like God intends for us shrink back. When I think of a lamp on a stand, I think of something beautiful that you would place in a focal point of the room so that it brightens everything within its reach.
So, what about you, what are some ways that you allow your light to brighten the lives of those you come in contact with?
ZEPHANIAH 3:17 (English Standard Version) – “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing”.
What do you think it means to be quieted by God’s love
For me, When I think about this verse it gives me chills. I think of all the negative thoughts that run through my head at times and then I envision God taking me in his arms the way you would a crying baby and enveloping me with his love and compassion and gently smoothing my hair and softly whispering to me that everything is going to be alright, I am here, I have you!
I encourage you to pause and think about the past 24 hours. What has occupied more space in your thoughts: Your hurts, worries and anxieties or the assurance of God’s love.
Let's chat about. Take a moment and share your thoughts below.
As I sit and look out of my window this morning, it amazes me who quickly things change. Just yesterday it was partly cloudy and warm, the roads were filled with people moving rapidly about there day and school children heading off to start there day. Now, one day later we are a city paralyzed by the thought of snow. Yes! I am writing this blog from my just outside of metro-Atlanta as we prepare for our “big non-snow” snow event. Funny yes, but it brought to mind how the heart behind the decisions to close schools and business while pure may have been hasty and isn’t this how we sometimes respond when we react based on our emotions (our heart) instead of aligning our responses with God’s word.
In Romans 12:3 Paul says, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Paul encourages us to be self-aware and maintain a sober judgment. A judgment void of excessive or extreme qualities of fancy, emotion or prejudice.
We are also instructed in Proverbs 4:23 to, “guard our hearts above all else, for everything flows from it.” Everything, every thought we have, every decision we make, every response, everything!
Today, I encourage you to take some time to examine your heart as we work through Psalm 139.
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Question: What does intimate mean to you?
Intimate – defined as closely acquainted, familiar, close
Question: Do you realize that God has an intimate knowledge of your thoughts, fears and dreams?
PAUSE & REFLECT > What do you think God sees when he looks into the depths of your heart?
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, “even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to you.
PAUSE & REFLECT > Ask yourself is there anything in your life that you don’t want revealed to God? Are you running away from God?
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you.
QUESTION: How does it feel to know that everything you are was intricately crafted by God?
QUESTION: Do you accept that where you are at this very moment is exactly where God wants you to be?
If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies. Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.
QUESTION: Do you count as enemies not only those who go against God, but do you hate YOUR actions that go against God?
QUESTION: When was the last time you cried out to God asking him to rid you of the things that take you away from him?
NEXT STEPS: Now that you have taken a glimpse into your heart, take a few minutes to write a personal prayer to God asking him to help you to truly see and gain a conviction about anything in your life that his keeping you away from him?
The Greatest Love of All – Love for Self
For many years I lived a life defined by other’s expectations of me. From a very early age I was told I was smart and I spoke well, so instead of engaging in activates that I longed for in my heart like dance and sports I conformed. I read books, participated in plays and basically said and did all the things that were expected of me. It all looked great on the outside and looking back it was not all bad.
It wasn’t until my junior year of high school when I heard the lyrics to Whitney Houston’s song Greatest Love of All that I paused to think, “what if”. Now mind you, it was only a pause – a momentary interruption in the normal ebb and flow of my teenage life. But that brief pause planted the seed of “what if” that allowed me to begin to think a little differently.
Later as a young adult, I can recall sitting in my bedroom miles away from everything familiar on a cold, rainy and just plain dreary day, again listening, a little deeper this time, to the lyrics of Greatest Love of All. I was 21-years old and had made the very grown up decision to relocate 1,025.7 miles (15 hours and 21 minutes) from everything I held dear. And again, living a good life but just not fully the life I wanted. This time however, a second song immediately followed. It was Stephanie Mills’ “Home”. Now I know what you’re thinking, “God does not speak through R&B music”. Well, I am here to tell you that on that faithful morning God used the morning DJ on a Milwaukee radio station to play just the right songs at just the right time and in just the right order to get this girl’s attention!
The lyrics that struck a chord in me where:
I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I'll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can't take away my dignity……
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all
(Whitney Houston, Greatest Love of All)
Maybe there's a chance for me to go back
Now that I have some direction
(Maybe there's a chance I'll get home)
It sure would be nice to be back at home
Where there's love and affection
And just maybe I can convince time to slow up
Givin me enough time, ooh, in my life to grow up
Time be my friend
And let me start again
(Stephanie Mills, Home)
I won’t say that everything changed overnight, and I immediately began to make decisions without giving a second thought to what others believed. I will say that this revelation started me on a journey of self-discovery. One that has had it’s ups and downs and wins and losses, but a journey that I will never regret, because it has led me to discover the fearfully and wonderfully made woman God designed me to be!
What I have learned and strive every day to pass along to those I encounter and engage with, is that living authentically begins with accepting ourselves as we are, flaws and all. It is living a life where our daily actions align with our beliefs and values. It is being true to ourselves and boldly embracing the amazing person that God has designed us to be!
I have also learned that I do not have to be the smartest person in the room. God has generously gifted many amazing people with the ability to encourage and teach others. So, with that I encourage you to take a listen to the 4-minute video below featuring Brene` Brown and Oprah Winfrey discussing Faking it, Perfectionism and Living Wholeheartedly.
As a young child I enjoyed dressing up in my moms high heeled shoes, jewelry and any piece of fancy clothing that I could get my hands on. It was like being transported to a magical land of make believe. I would spend hours pretending to be a fairy princess or a celebrity! It was great, but at some point, the make believe would end, the clothes, shoes and jewelry would go back in their proper places and I would once again go back to being Crystal. The little girl that lived on West 6th Street.
Even as a teenager and young adult I would spend hours getting lost between the pages of a romance novel. I would spend hours reading about and dreaming about love everlasting, moonlight kisses and magical romances. Again, this was enjoyable, but there would yet again come a time when I had to return to reality and embrace my life for what is was. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but most of all tangible and real!
Even today as a wife, mother and mental health clinician I still find myself getting lost from time to time in a great day dream. The key word however is dream and the reality that it is just that a series of thoughts, images and sensations that are occurring in my mind, not in my reality.
So often, however, it is hard for many to accept the everyday realities of life. This leads them to hide behind their titles, careers, money, marital status and so on. Many of us on the outside looking in buy into the mask, engage in the superficial conversation and walk away with the belief that because everything looks good it is good. This is so far from the truth!
With the tragic deaths this week of Fashion Designer, Kate Spade and Celebrity Chef and TV Personality, Anthony Bourdain, it has become all to clear that we must pause as a society and take the time to look behind the façade that so many put forth. We must begin today to ask the uncomfortable questions of those we love and often of those we have chance encounters with. Questions like:
We can no longer accept the standard polite “I am good” or “things are fine” responses. If we claim to love someone we must be OK with maintaining eye contact during those few moments of awkward silence that often come when we ask the tough stuff.
We must begin to look past materialism and titles when we feel in our gut that something is just not right. Feelings of hopelessness are real. People are hurting. People are dying because of the stigma associated with Mental Illness. We no longer have the luxury of keeping it safely tucked away in the shadows only to be discussed in secret discreet whispers during family gatherings.
According to a 2016 Center for Disease Control Report, suicide claimed the lives of nearly 45,000 people and was listed as the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States. However, suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34 and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 54. In 2016 there were twice as many suicides (44,965) in the United States as there were homicides (19,362).
When you feel something is not right 9 times out of 10 something is not right. Below are a few warning signs that someone may be having suicidal thoughts:
Proverbs 20:5 says “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out”. We must start today to be that man/woman that will take the time to draw out what is really going on within a person.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255). It’s always open, and you can speak to a trained counselor.