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Bringing Me Back from Captivity


You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all you heart. “I will be found by you” declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity. Jeremiah 29:13-14

Certain scriptures stick out in my head. They pop up when I’m struggling and need a reminder of God‘s promises. But every now and then, there’s a different word that stands out and gives me an even greater understanding  of what God is saying.

“I will be found by you” declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity. Jeremiah 29:14

The past couple of days I’ve been a hormonal moody mess. The majority of the week left me feeling trapped more than  empowered,  and definitely un-“able to do all things.” Why wasn’t my life moving?  And why wasn’t it working like it should? It wasn’t that I didn’t have ideas but everything fell short. I felt stuck. In my messy captivity. Not that I did anything wrong,  or that I was being punished. But nothing was working. And nothing I did made any difference. That’s when I pulled out my Bible and saw the end of Jeremiah 29:14. In my arrogance, I read the verse thinking, “yea, I know what it says, I’ve seen it before a million times.” This time was different because I finally read the end of the scripture. The part where God says  “I will bring you out of captivity.”

Then it hit me. Some of the problems I’m dealing with (created) are not designed for me to easily wiggle my way out of. And with this being the kind of year where I’ve had little to no control (except in how I react) over things, my first thought as of late is to “I gotta do it on my own.” Which is why nothing was working. Which is why I’ve been exhausted. And tired. And grouchy. I can try, but I can’t  do anything on my own. My writing, my work, my singing, cannot be done without the favor of God on my life.

So when I saw  the word “captivity”, the stress in my shoulders relaxed because I realized I’ve tried to DO  and BE everything on my own. And doing without inviting the One who knows how to DO it best is a futile attempt. I prayed for help. I prayed that God would lift my burdens and remind me that if I honestly call on him, he will answer. Not to give a passer-by prayer, but a real-time, “I need you to help me God because if you don’t, I’m liable to do something stupid really soon” prayer.

As a single woman, I do a lot of  things on my own. So I admit I need help letting go and remembering God is the piece of the puzzle that keeps me from being overwhelmed. Unlike Britney says, it’s not me against the world. And unlike Beyonce sings, it’s really not me, myself, and I.  And even when I feel trapped, if I just remember to seek God, he’ll bring my out of whatever stressful thing I’ve gotten myself into. Again.

Can You Really Forgive? #30in30


forgiveness

forgiveness (Photo credit: cheerfulmonk)

My dad got the phone call that my uncle passed away.  In true fashion, he didn’t give much detail on what happened. He just said, “your uncle died today.”   I didn’t care.  No reaction, no sympathy, no feelings one way or another. Surprised, I thought “Wow, you don’t feel ANYTHING.” I guess the fact he molested  me when I was five yrs old took something out of me. I  didn’t have any emotion to send his way.

I realized what happened to me when I was saw a reporter on tv discussing sexual abuse and the signs to look for in children. My eyes got big, and I looked at my mom who was cooking dinner  but didn’t say anything. That’s when I realized what happened was wrong. I wondered would she care if I told her. Wondered if she would believe me or somehow blame me for letting it happen. I decided to keep it to myself but was glad I could put words to the experience.

I read a couple of books on sexual abuse in college and tried counseling after graduation. I wondered if  I should share what happened  when I was a little girl with my parents. It was the only time they ever left me alone with him. It was the only time I ever saw him. My counselor prepped me that the reaction from my parents may differ from what I expected. I told my story. My mother confused and angry. She immediately became mother hen, asking if I was okay, wanting to know was it something she’d done. She kept asking me, “how do you feel?” Like it just happened but it was so long ago. My dad had nothing to say. To be exact, his words were “it happened and you just need to let it go.” Amazing. It wasn’t the supportive reaction I needed but then this was my dad. He’s never shared too much emotion with me. Or anyone for the matter. I was hurt.   That all you could give to your baby girl was “you need to get over that. ” In addition to working on me, and forgiving my uncle, now I had the lack of concern from my father who I thought should have been in rescue mode,  irate and on the phone to his brother about it. I worked through as much as I could with my counselor and assumed I had forgiven him.

The thing is,  I prayed to forgive him but it wasn’t really tested because I never saw him again. I don’t know if it was by God’s grace that he spared me that type of pain but I sure do appreciate it. And I knew being hateful towards a man who didn’t know the impact of his behavior simply wasn’t going to do anything for me. I just didn’t like it. How could he get away with it even after all these years?

Truth is, it’s hard.  I hate him for what he did.  I forgive him in my mind, but I’ll always remember him doing things to  my body when I was too young to  understand. My parents trusted him to care for me while they went out that night. He broke that trust and somehow got away with it. My questions will  never be answered. I’m not sure if I really need them to be. So, I keep trying to forgive.  And  asking God for grace. It doesn’t happen often but when I remember the pain, I  go back to God. I admit the hurt he caused and then ask God again  for the grace to grow to  forgive this man. I like the fact that each time I ask, God doesn’t get upset. I really think he knows some things in life are harder than others to deal with. But  each time I do, I gain more strength and more resolve that my uncle  has no control of any part of my life anymore. It’s  a struggle, but I deal with it.

Can you really forgive? Yea, you can. Will it happen overnight? No. Will it eventually sting less? Yes. Will you discover power in yourself once you let go of the pain? Yes. Will it sometimes pop up to remind you of scars? Yes. But I won’t allow my uncle to have that kind of power over me. Even though he controlled me for a night when I was younger,  I’m more than that awful experience.  I’m still numb to the thought because that was the totality of my relationship with my uncle. Never saw him again. Picked up the phone and heard his voice 10 yrs later. Passed the phone to my dad and kept living. I’m not responsible for what he did nor responsible how my parents reacted. What I am responsible for is how I respond.  My choice is to move forward. Not forgetting, but forgiving by letting go of another piece of the anger each time it comes back up.

Who Are You When No One’s Looking? A Lesson in Integrity #30in30


  Be honest. Tell the truth. Have you considered claiming someone else’s  kid on your taxes since you didn’t work the year before? Maybe you thought about adding a fake position to pad your resume and up the chances of getting the $20,000 raise with the new gig?  Or how about railing on a friend behind her back when you disagree with her choice of husband but smile kindly in her face overflowing with compliments?  We talk a lot about integrity, we know what it is, but why is it so hard to follow through?

Todays blog for  #30in30 is about  me and my struggle to stay truthful even when it hurts. John Maxwell, one of the my favorite authors on leadership,  says integrity means,  “I am who I am,  no matter where I am or who I am with.”

I’m not perfect, I jack stuff up ALL the time even when I’m not trying.   But  I am trying do better and learn from my mistakes.  I paraphrase the biblical scripture Romans 3:23  when  it says that “we all fall short of the glory of God.”  So even on our best days, we need his measure of grace to get by. Here’s my experience with learning the value of integrity. I supervised a student in a counseling setting.  She chose the setting  because it was near  her home,  she could get class credit and it would be a good starting point for the center to branch out into the community. Even with all the benefits, it wasn’t a good fit because of low staffing and our poor communication. We both noticed things we didn’t like but  instead of both of us honestly sharing our concerns, we let it build up.  Sometimes with all good attempts, it’s just not a good fit. But when faced with the opportunity to  be candid about the appropriateness of the placement with her advisor, I shrunk.  One, I wanted to make sure the student to stay in good standing. Two, I assumed (deadly) that if she wasn’t pleased, she would take the initiative to share her concerns with her supervisor on her own. After all, it was her learning process. And third, I wanted to make sure I  looked good to continue developing a network. So, instead of the real, I gave a glossed up review  about her work and productivity. I wasn’t honest and it was the worst thing I could’ve done. In no way did it help her or myself.   If I could do it all over again, I’d address it from the jump and be as proactive as possible.   I  left  a poor impression with her supervisor, destroyed a relationship with the student, and had to deal with a tainted  reputation. It was a tough lesson to learn, but I earned it and realized it’s never worth it to cover for anyone.

Ethical dilemmas exist in every area of life. Do I tell my boyfriend his friend is cheating on his wife? Do I tell the boss my coworker was drinking on the job? There will always be a choice in telling the truth  regardless of who you work with. Just because  you and your coworker work at the same corporation, does NOT mean you use  the same value system. There are ministers who teach every Sunday  and don’t believe the teachings of the Bible.  So don’t assume because a person works/worships with you, their beliefs are the same as yours. Integrity comes down to  money, greed, and selfishness. Whenever  we are willing to manipulate the rules so  we can somehow benefit, it always ends up being a lose-lose situation. It only took me one time to learn the lesson of being honest even when it potentially could be a negative outcome. It was difficult, but I learned one of the most valuable lessons in my lifetime. Who are you and what will you do when the truth is hard?

Learning to Listen #30in30


It’s true when as  you get older, your social circle shrinks. I’m not talking about that list of  “friends” on facebook and twitter that con you into thinking you have a bunch of people to lean on when your friend list has 1000 people in it. But the core group, your girlfriends, are the ones who you can share your deepest disappointments with. Like when you’ve given up on your dream. Or your heart is breaking because you found out your husband cheated. Or, you simply  scared to lose a parent whose getting older and keeps going in the hospital with no improvement.  Somehow, it makes life better when you can call that one person who will simply listen.

Listen.

I know the value of listening. Not giving advice. Not telling them what to do. Not spitting out a Bible verse. But listening. I didn’t always understand it. I used to find special joy in being a problem solver. But as I’ve grown up, I realize it’s not about that.  When I get a call, and hear the distress, I stop and listen instead of waiting my turn to jump in and save the day. It’s changed the way I perceive my relationships because I have realize some people just need a safe space to talk. They didn’t ask me nor do they need me to tell them what to do. They just called because they are hurt and need to vent.

If we take the time to listen, and not attempt to solve our friends problems with our best ideas, we might hear the hurt in a person’s voice. I wonder if we choose not to listen closely because we can’t handle hearing that kind of pain. We say we’ll call them back after they’ve dropped a bomb that’s going to change their lives. We get quiet when she calls back and think, I hope she doesn’t want to talk about THAT again. Or we go into solution mode and offer a book, a video, that has helped us with our own junk.

Everybody’s journey is different even though we are walking down the same street. Most of the time, the solution is within us, we just are working through the process of our emotions. So the next time the urge pops off  to say “girl, look -this is what you need to do….” Just hush, listen, and  allow a different dimension fo friendship to develop.

No one wants you to be Oprah with the best answers a girl could ever ask for, but a friend who loves and is willing allow them  to spazz out without judgement. I’ve got great friends, with great difficulties at times, but the best gift I’ve been able to give them is knowing when they call, I’m all ears because it may be the only place they can share their fears. Life is messy, confusing, and downright unfair at times, but having a friend whose willing to hear you out can make all the world of difference.

I’m working at being a better listener, because I know now it’s not my place to solve your problems. I need friends who are willing to do the same, and sit in the uncomfortable silence of not knowing the solution, but trusting that eventually, I’ll get there. I value my friends, but value their process of growth even more. So, I’m learning to listen.

Knowing When It’s Time to Leave


“I want to remain committed to a purpose, not a position.-Cory Booker

I ran across the Mayor’s comment  at a time when I was questioning my commitment to a leadership role in church ministry. An interviewer asked him how long he anticipated staying in office. I was surprised by his answer because it wasn’t the pat political response. By nature, I feel like I tend to stick around too long in situations that I’ve outgrown  for one reason or another.   I  didn’t want to be the colleague  who drives everyone  nuts at work by asking questions during the  last five minutes of an 1 1/2  staff conference call. Seriously, who does that?!! That person doesn’t understand the beauty of boundaries and honoring limits.  And I really  didn’t want to feel like the woman in a relationship whose waiting for the words she already knows have been spoken in the crevice of her heart:  it’s over. Like any relationship, or job,, it’s important to check in and evaluate what’s still effective and  useful. 

I’ll be honest and say I’ve held on too long  in relationships, jobs, and even petty arguments just so I’d feel like I had some sort of control. (That’s a story for another day). But even more so, I kept positions  because I worried what other people would  say. That ranged from my working as church ministry leader to being in a half-baked, terribly unhealthy relationship. Would the church volunteers  be proud of the work I attempted, or say I didn’t do enough? Would I be called disobedient in the spirit or faithful for trusting my voice? Even in my relationship, I didn’t feel comfortable anymore but I was too afraid to let go. What would he say in the end? Was I good enough as a woman or was it truly a bad fit for two people who just wanted  love?   It wasn’t a good time in my life as I struggled with these decisions.   As I look back, I knew what was best for me, but hadn’t learned to trust that God was leading me in the right direction in spite of the negative chatter spewing through the grapevine.  

I was stuck as a result  of not learing  the art of release. To me, the art of release simply means being self-aware of what’s working and what no longer fits in a person’s life. Then, having the willingness to make  changes before being forced to do so in crisis mode.   If you need an example: what about being fired from a job because you are underperforming? For my Love and Hip Hop Fans, what about staying in a relationship that puts you at risk for STD’s as well as constant emotional abuse? And my sports fans, what about Dwight Howard sticking around In Orlando when he knew that’s not what he REALLY wanted to do? Perhaps you can identify with this.   Staying put was hurting my ability to heal and move on in relationships and my career. 

This was the time in my life where I just wanted to be needed. If I wasn’t seeing anyone, I’d  take on project after project at work and church  as most single women do. See, it  fills up your schedule and you  can avoid instead of learning how to balance work and your personal life. I’m writing this from the perspective of a woman whose heart belongs to God and loves to serve him. I grew up  in church and believe strongly in  the power and purpose in serving in ministry. If anyone asked me to work on a project, I did it. Because they asked. And that may have been part of the problem. Who knew there were would be a time when I  have tapped out my  potential in a position and really needed to move on? It’s tricky and sometimes difficult to know when you are serving connected to your purpose and simply being busy  and stagnant after the goal has been met. I liken the word stagnant to dirty, muddy water after a rain. Stinks, huh?

In my relationship, we tried to adjust and it didn’t work. I pretended he was happy, he continued being unhappy, I was unhappy and the both of us kept bumping into each other with fake hearts.  It made us more uncomfortable. The truth was we weren’t a good match for each other and our needs weren’t being met. Now,  my involvement in ministry has the same concepts. I chose to step down at a time when there were multiple departures in other units within the church. And I stayed longer than I wanted to because I felt guilty. And it made leaving worse, and more difficult, and like a slow death both my volunteers wanted the transition to be done.   Thank God for his grace. Through that, I learned that  part of growing is moving forward. And knowing most of all, when it’s time to let go.  I was sad, but I would have been even  more despondent if I stayed. Not because I didn’t love what I was doing, but because there were other lessons for me to learn outside of the church I spent most of my time at. 

 I now pay more attention to the signs of change in my dating and career world. I am often the first to say, “I think it’s time for  a change.” Not because I’m bored or disatissfied. But because my purpose  and my understanding of who I am has become more clear.  And  that’s a good thing. I now know when it’s time to leave and have less  worry of what others will say. Guess what? Those who talk about you will talk whether you are present or gone. But that’s no longer my focus. I am.   

#30in30….wait what?


You ever agree to do something, set a new goal, and have all this incredible, exciting energy? Like, ooh, I’m going to join the gym and start drinking 8 glasses of water  and stop sugar cold turkey…….all in the same day? Yea, um, not going to happen. I’m pure proof that being totally committed to the IDEA is totally different from follow through. I’m trying to write more and agreed to this blog challenge for 30 posts in 30 days. So what happened?  Life. Human Behavior. Or just plain laziness. I started #30in30 writing challenge to improve my writing skills but really don’t know if anything’s changed. It’s only day 8, and I have 3 to catch up on, but I guess I need more clarity on what the outcome will be. (hear the excuses coming?) Pushing out 30 blog posts in a month is a lot of writing, but I need to focus to know WHY I am doing it. Maybe that’s it. Maybe I need to figure out what I WANT out of it. I do want to write better and I do want feedback on how to get there. But it won’t come if I don’t write it, so…………let’s just say this will be a quick number 6. I need help, prayer, Jesus, something. But I’ll get through it. Look! I just did number 6!!!! (I am a bona-fide mess.)  lol!!!!