Life Happens

From the Heart of Grace Waters…

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Embracing Transparency

For the month of November, I did a thing…by “thing,” I mean that I did a 30-Day Gratitude Journey. For this journey, I posted every day for 30 days about things I am grateful regarding. If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know that I am fairly transparent when necessary. If I believe it will help someone, I will usually share. This journey, however, was an uncomfortable one. It forced me to keep sharing, over, and over, and over again. Even for someone used to being fairly transparent, this 30-day journey had me feeling very uncomfortable and exposed. I kept thinking about all the negative that could arise frome sharing…”how would people look at me? Who would get tired of me sharing? What’s the point?” Even so, I trudged through the self-doubt and completed my 30 days today.

What an amazing sense of accomplishment, and admittedly relief. My immediate thought was gratitude that I could stop feeling so exposed to everyone. What?!?!? I’m still human. But, my next thought was pride in myself. I completed the task regardless of emotions, wanting to stop, and despite a lack of engagement at times. I did it. Now, could I have stopped and others didn’t notice? Maybe. But, I would have noticed. Regardless of anything, I strive to finish what I start.

So, was it worth it? Well, it absolutely made me focus on the multitude of things we should be grateful for, including even the seemingly minute things. It gave me great pleasure to encourage others to start their own gratitude journey. In the end, despite how vulnerable I felt, it was worth it. Now, I don’t know what comes on the other side of this obedience moment, but I know I will never see things the same way–all because I was intentional and true to what I determined I would complete.

As we turn the corner to our last month of 2021, what things have you been avoiding addressing because they make you uncomfortable? What do you refuse to do because you don’t want others to look at you a certain way? Now is as good a time as any to wipe the slate clean. Start anew BEFORE the New Year begins. It may be completely out of your comfort zone, but so too will the blessings be because you chose to step out. Has your year made you forget all the good things from 2021? Start your own gratitude journey today. So, this is your call-to-action. Go!

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Seasonal Shifts

As the seasons change, we make adjustments to embrace the changing weather. Many of us have pulled out our fall and winter clothes. Instead of flip-flops and shorts, we have fall sweaters and boots. Outside, nature shows us the shifting of the times as leaves turn color and begin falling from branches, and what was once a vibrant green shifts to browns and oranges. It’s natural. It’s normal. These are the times…

In keeping with the season change, my husband and I were in the yard recently preparing our yard for fall and winter…tilling the garden, pulling up weeds, trimming the bushes, etc. At some point we were separated as he worked on one part of the yard, and I worked on another. My task involved trimming our rose bushes. As I cut away the dead leaves and branches, and even trimmed off some of the flowers, it was cathartic. In some way, it relaxed me to do something seemingly mindless. When I was finished, I was proud of my work. The bushes were neat and even, and I felt accomplished; however, they also looked somewhat bare as all of the flowers and excess had been trimmed away. Then I looked down at my feet and saw the flowers mixed in with the dead leaves and branches, and a part of me got sad. Beautiful flowers and so much foliage lay waste on the ground. I knew it had to be done, but looking at it caused me momentary pause.

As I stared at my handiwork, I thought about how in recent times. I have felt like things have been “trimmed” away from me. When I had THE career, was out and about doing all of the things I used to do, I felt purposeful, full, necessary. Then, when my life changed and I no longer had THE career or all of the things I used to do, I felt empty and bare. After all, what am I but a combination of all of the things I used to do…the busyness, the need to be needed, the control…admittedly, those things gave me a sense of security, no matter how stressful it all was in the end.

So, on the other side of all of that, I have found myself feeling a bit lost, not having all the answers, feeling unnecessary and not needed. I told my husband how it felt like I no longer had purpose, and because it felt that no one really sees me, there was no point in “doing” in this seemingly empty place. Stripped bare from all of the things I used to rely on to give me meaning, I wallowed on the brink of depression, flirted with the thought of not being worth anything…yup, me, the encourager, struggling…

But, even in my sadness at seeing the rose bushes stripped bare, a thought came to me regarding the last time we trimmed the bushes. It looked just like after I cut them this time, but slowly, I noticed flowers coming back, and before I knew it, the flowers grew back bigger, fuller, more vibrant, and as if they were never cut down. So, as I stared down at the destruction around me, I thought to myself, “But, it won’t always look like this. After a while, there will be evidence of growth, and the bushes will flourish again.”

In that same token, so will I. So will you. We all go through seasons of feeling…not enough…but eventually life happens, and we begin to understand the lessons taught in those seasons. One thing that always holds true, no matter how dark the day, another day the sun will always come from behind the clouds. As this seasonal shift came with some not so perfect accessories, so will another season with just what we need. Embrace the shift, and be ready for what’s to come. Singing, ” the sun will come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar, tomorrow…”

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The Root of it All

I realized recently that I hadn’t written anything in a long time. No substantial social media. No blog posts. No one-on-one encouragement to someone else. It’s as if one day, my flow stopped. I didn’t “feel like it.” It wasn’t fun anymore. I felt that my words had no real value. I stopped being. Then recently, I felt my heart beat again, and suddenly I just had to write…had to encourage…had to be me. What in the world?!?!? What changed? I did. Circumstances weren’t substantially different. Life happened, but I have flowed pretty well in the current. But, even fully unbeknownst to me, I was undergoing a metamorphosis of sorts. It caused me to go into a figurative cocoon while the process played out. On the other side, I’m different, but better able to flow in who I am. Better.

So, what was really going on? Well, I figured it out, at least partially, while in the garden with my husband. Due to the weather, the garden had grown fast, but not necessarily full of the vegetables we desired. Instead, there was crabgrass and weeds that seemed even more substantial than what we actually planted. As we began the task of pulling out what didn’t belong, I heard myself repeating to my husband, “I have to make sure to pull out the root so it can’t grow back like I never pulled it up.” As I moved about being very intentional about pulling out the roots of the undesired things, while careful about not disturbing the things I wanted to thrive, that’s when I understood.

My “silent times” were a time of me pulling out roots. Roots I didn’t even know were still in place. Over the years I have talked about the things I have struggled with, and I declared over and over that I was free from the repercussions of my experiences, but I hadn’t taken real time to pull up the “roots” that burrowed in because of my experiences. Roots of low self-esteem, bitterness, self-doubt, fear, feeling undesirable, not feeling like I deserve good things, seeking acceptance and attention, seeking validation, and just not knowing how to love myself. I had roots buried deep. During the time of unintentional quietness, I realized I went through the drudgery of pulling up those roots. To be truly free. To be able to speak, write, encourage, love…without being choked out by the roots of the very things I claimed to be free from. I was the garden from whence things had to be plucked….and it was lonely. I didn’t understand it. I had no words to describe it. But, now I am here. Again. Right where I need to be.

So, maybe you have been in a strange place. You don’t understand it. The place is not comfortable, and you feel alone in it. Take a self-assessment. Are there things you haven’t truly addressed that threaten to mess you up every time you feel you’re getting close to the best version of you? Do you feel stifled? Untrue to yourself? Maybe you have some gardening to do. Take the time. You’ll find that once the work is done, you can actually see the progress towards the things you really want. You can breathe. You understand your place. But, first, you have to work. Get down to the roots and pull up every one. You’re worth it.

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It’s All in the Mind

Like most of us, my cell phone is usually near me. When I have down moments, I play games on it. One of my favorites happens to be Solitaire where you are able to compete against other players. I enjoy the competition, as I am competitive by nature, but I don’t really like to lose. Go figure. 🤗 However, sometimes the games result in a tie and we have to play a tiebreaker. For some reason, I haven’t had the best track record with tiebreakers. It seemed, at least for a while, that I was destined to lose EVERY time I had to play a tiebreaker game. It got to the point where I had already counted myself out and planned to lose.

After some time of this, I got indignant with myself. How dare I think so lowly of myself? How could I believe I would only lose? Why wouldn’t it be ok for me to win? Then, I realized that it wasn’t just about the games. In life, I have often set myself up for failure. I have expected the worst time and again, believing that to expect is a set up for disappointment. I have had moments of self-doubt and lack of trust in my efforts and my abilities. I have not always believed in me or that good things should happen to/for me. It’s all in the Mind. It has always been in my mind.

As Spring approached, I got excited about the possibilities of new…new growth, new possibilities, freshness, more sun…but then I began to consider myself. So what if the season and my surroundings are new, but I am not any different. Everything else would be meaningless. Thus began an introspective analysis regarding what I needed to shift so that I could completely embrace the new all around me and not keep myself back. That included a shifting in my mind. Something so little as saying to myself, “I can win this tiebreaker game…” or allowing myself to accept something good that comes my way, those “little” things become big.

Maybe you have found yourself in a cage in your mind, relegated to old thinking and beliefs that threaten to steal your future. Now is as great a time as any to change your mindset and break free. It’s up to you…

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When Dreaming is Reality

I was telling my husband recently about how vivid my dreams have been during this pregnancy. So vivid, in fact, that I remember them clearly upon waking, and I have to intentionally shake off the feelings evoked while asleep. I know dream experts could tell me many things about those dreams, but even knowing there may be some explanation, the feelings in the moment have been very real…and disturbing.

My most recent dream started out with me riding joyfully down the road with my windows open, singing along to music on the radio. I parked my car briefly and walked a few steps away to record a video in an opportune spot. It was a public place, and I interacted with no one. As I finished the recording, I grabbed my tripod and phone, having left my purse in the car since I was just a few feet away. As I began to walk away, I saw police lights and heard a police intercom telling cars to move out of the way. Since I was near a freeway, I figured the officer was telling them to move so they could get to an emergency. So, I continued walking, only to hear someone running behind me.

I turned around to see the officer approaching me with his hand on his gun holster. He immediately told me to stop where I was. In shock, I did, dropping my tripod and phone on the ground, inwardly praying that I was somehow recording. The officer instructed me to place my hands in a certain position in front of me, which placed my hands directly in front of my very pregnant belly. He then began to ask me what I was doing in the area.

In shock, I began by making sure he knew I was a 6-Month pregnant female who had a car parked nearby and had briefly gotten out to record a video in a public place. With my head, I gestured to the tripod and my phone on the ground, and told the officer my purse was in my car parked only a few feet away. I remember speaking slowly and calmly, so as to not seemingly provoke the officer. I also remember praying that the officer didn’t have a reason to react and possibly tazer me, a noticeably pregnant African-American female, with nothing but a tripod and a phone, and a car parked steps away. I hoped in my head that others were watching.

The officer told me that they received reports of a suspicious person in that area of town panhandling, and I fit the description. Incredulous, I saw the worst things flash before my eyes and began praying that things didn’t turn out as bad as I imagined. Here I was, black, female, pregnant, suspicious because I was in the wrong place according to someone else.

I awoke from this dream, turned nightmare, traumatized. Scared. Dry throat. Looking around to make sure it was just a dream. Heart thumping. It took a while for me to gather myself enough to roll out of bed and get to the bathroom, where it took everything in me to not crawl into a corner and bawl my eyes out. Then it came to me: This is my reality in America. To many, with my small build and clearly pregnant self, I would not be viewed as a threat, but to others, the mere fact of my existence somewhere they did not believe I should be warranted an interaction with an officer…and in America, those interactions don’t always end well.

I have always held officers in high esteem, knowing the job they do and the dangers they face; but, I have never been able to turn a blind eye to the seemingly intentional practices that target certain races and genders in our society, leading to high arrests and most disturbingly death. I am not naive enough to believe that some actions aren’t warranted, but I also know the inequities. So, as I experienced my own “situation” in my dream, it was very real. It made me hurt for those who look like me. We’re in the month of February, Black History Month. So, we’re celebrating the MANY achievements of those who came before me; however, in the midst of, I have to acknowledge the recent history that has often ended in violence and bloodshed.

I am always one for us healing in love and accepting one another. I “preach” unity, and oneness, and advocate for us seeing beyond our skin color to the heart beneath it all. I strive to present a view in which we give one another a chance to prove that we are not the stereotypes displayed for all to see. But, when will there be a change?

I’m praying for all of us to acknowledge the need for something different, so that NO ONE: man, woman, child, Black, White, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Native American, etc, will be nervous about walking around just because of the color of their skin…and I believe it can happen. It has to happen. We are better than the negativity of our history, which unfortunately stems from many years ago. There is more.

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Work It

This first month of 2021 has indeed been something for the history books. Things have happened that we never could have imagined. Now, we stand in the “after” planning our next steps. Many of us may still carry the vestiges of left over disappointment from 2020, not expecting better, but hoping for no worse. We still rehearse what we did not accomplish, and we wonder if things will ever change. We’re in danger of repeating cycles…but we just can’t break loose. At least that is what our mind believes.

But, what if I were to tell you that it’s not too late? What if I could convince you that the power to change what has been is all in your hands? Would you listen? Maybe. Maybe not. But, walk with me a bit.

So, what you have been doing has not been working. Maybe you have tried and tried again, but the support is lacking…it seems no one understands your press…you’re at the give up point, but you just can’t make yourself throw in the towel…I get it. Been there. Picked up a souvenir, then found my way back to where I should be. But, it’s not always easy to push yourself to keep being, doing, functioning when the “fruit” on your proverbial tree is lacking. Even so, humor me will you…

…as I watched the events that have taken place this month…the tragedies, the uprisings, the bitterness, the strife, I had to intentionally refocus my attention to more productive thoughts. Then, on the inauguration day of our 46th President, while the ceremony was august and meaningful, I was enamored with the thoughts that arose from seeing two people on the world stage: Amanda Gorman and Eugene Goodman.

Prior to this month, many may have never known their names. Yet, these are two people who have been consistently doing what they are passionate about. Not always with recognition, but touching lives all the same. Then, this month, something shifted. They were each doing what they knew to do, and suddenly the world knew their names. I don’t know what doubts and fears they have fought, the times they wanted to quit, the self-doubt, or the hurt from feeling unnecessary or overlooked. I don’t know their private, tell no one, heartbreaking moments, but I do know that they showed up. Then, they were found being in the right place at the right time. Life for them has irrevocably shifted. It’s now their time.

This is what enamored me as I contemplated this month’s events. There is a time for me, for you, for all of us to “shine” in our own way. Life may not have been kind. We may be tired. We may not see the value in ourselves, but it only takes one moment to shift the very foundation of our existence. I don’t know about you, but when that “moment” comes, I don’t want to have regrets. I want to be able to know that I put in the work, I sacrificed, I gave, I pressed, so I can enjoy the moment. Whatever your “it” is, work it. Instead of having to get ready, be ready.

Today is just the beginning…

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Full Speed Ahead

I spoke with someone earlier, and we talked about how we were not planning to write down goals or desires for the new year, especially after looking at the entirety of 2020 and the unspeakable twists and turns that greeted us daily. As we spoke, I began to think more about that. Historically, as a new year approaches, many of us talk about our resolutions and our hopes. We get excited about what is to come. But this year, that excitement is lacking for many of us. Why?

Well, 2020 has been “something.” We set out with high expectations, only to see thing after thing happen and throw everything off track. So, we hesitantly hoped again, then something else occurred. For some, it got to the point where we decided not to hope anymore to prevent being disappointed or thrown off track. So, as 2020 has come to an end, I sense despair and the lack of excitement hurts my heart.

Now, I have had my share of things this year…deaths, a miscarriage, family with COVID-19, depression, and the list goes on…BUT, even in that, I cannot help but hope for better. Maybe that would be considered naive by some, or not realistic to others. I call it choosing life. Yes, this past year has been rough, but one thing that makes life worth living is that eternal hope of dreams coming true and being able to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

So, as I approach this new year, I do so of course with a small bit of trepidation, but there is still an expectation for great things to come. Somehow, I still believe in the rainbow after the storm, and though this past year has not given much indication of great things ahead, I still believe.

Maybe you are struggling with looking forward to a new year, unsure of what it will bring. That is everyone right now, but I challenge you to go beyond your fears and doubt. Go beyond the memories and everything telling you not to hope as the next year would become just like the last. Go against your own beliefs about how bad things will be, and believe that there will be, can be, better.

2021 may not be all peaches and rainbows, but there is something in the next year worth believing in for you. So, full speed ahead…

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Fear Freedom

Fear has this way of incapacitating you, encapsulating your mind in an endless stream of doubt and uncertainty, making you feel that nothing will ever be any more than the moment when fear took over. Fear is debilitating, insidious, and often creeps in such a way that you don’t realize you’re a prisoner to fear until you try to believe, but fear tells you things will turn out exactly the same way. Fear is a cunning mistress, and makes it difficult to ever let go, but…

…it’s NOT impossible. In just the past few months, I have had things happen that I never thought I would face. These things caused me to doubt myself, question God, and wonder if life would ever be “normal” again. I battled depression, hurt, shame, and an overwhelming cloud of feeling meaningless and unnecessary. I doubted my influence and relegated myself to being unimportant. Then, as it had silently crept in, I realized that I was seeing my future through the eyes of fear…afraid to hope or expect, not daring to believe that I would smile or laugh again, certain that my heart was broken beyond repair. Me and fear had a good thing going on.

But, as situations have come up that look similar to what was, I have had to stand at a crossroads between this overpowering fear and my used-to-be unshakeable faith, and decide which direction I wanted to take. It would be easy to go the way of fear, protecting my heart, not expecting, never hoping. Existing, not living. But, what about the inevitable joy in hoping and having your hopes realized? What about the moments that make the hard times hurt just a little less? What about living? So, as I stood at that crossroads, I chose faith, knowing that everything may not work how I want it to, but knowing that ultimately it will work in my favor.

Fear is not a great companion. It climbs on you, then makes its way to your heart, sucking the life out of every part of you that would to believe in better. Fear is powerful, but you are much more than that. You are unbreakable. So, whatever you are facing that fear wants to tell you it will turn out the same way as before, I dare you to believe differently. I challenge you to pull on every bit of strength and faith you have, and know that you can handle whatever comes next. Discard the fear. Put on your strength. Today.

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After the Storm

“The sun’ll come out…Tomorrow,
Bet your bottom dollar, That tomorrow, There’ll be sun! Just thinkin’ about, Tomorrow, Clears away the cobwebs, And the sorrow, ‘Til there’s none! When I’m stuck with a day, That’s grey, And lonely, I just stick out my chin, And grin, And say
Oh!The sun’ll come out, Tomorrow, So ya gotta hang on, ‘Til tomorrow, Come what may, Tomorrow, tomorrow! I love ya tomorrow! You’re always, A day, Away!”

This song by Alicia Morton epitomizes life, especially when it storms. Last night, our area experienced some of the effects of Hurricane Zeta. We lost power. Some had property damage. Noises and heavy rain throughout the night made it hard to sleep for some. There is no way it seemed that the next day would be normal. As I got up this morning, outside it appeared gloomy. I could see debris strewn about. In my mind, it just made sense to be “this kind of day” after the storm; but then, it’s as if the sun read my mind. Out of nowhere, the sun peeked out of the clouds, and what was once a gloomy and disheartening sight gave way to a brightness and unexpected cheeriness.

The earth deals with storms and chaos, but without fail, the sun still rises. Even if it’s not the next day, it does rise again. Such is life. We may deal with some crazy situations, and it may not appear that the sun will ever shine again, but one day, things just get easier. One day you find yourself smiling again, hoping again, trusting again, loving again. One day, the hurt isn’t as deep. You stop expecting the worse. You embrace what’s next. One day…

I just went through, and still have moments of a tough time, but recently I realized a hope buried deep within me that makes me keep looking for the sun to shine. Find that hope within yourself, and know that whatever you’re facing, and no matter how dark things seem, the sun will shine again.

“The sun’ll come out…Tomorrow,
Bet your bottom dollar, That tomorrow, There’ll be sun!”

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After This.

I did a thing today…something a week ago I would never imagine I would want to do anytime soon. I created a maternity wishlist “just in case.” Not with any plans to be pregnant any time soon, or even knowing there would be another time, but I did it without bursting out in tears. Now, last week my husband and I lost our unborn child. The week before that, the doctor told me “there’s no heartbeat.” How quickly life shifts. Prior to that we were looking forward to our new baby, and although unexpected, we were excited to celebrate this new life. Yet, with just a few words everything shifted, and we had to accept that tragedy had interrupted our narrative.

I was originally in shock. Then that shifted to anger. From there was guilt and fear that I was the cause…then, there was an immense sadness that permeated the very essence of my being…but the cycle is not linear as emotions shift from day-to-day; however, in the midst of my own pain, I have found myself encouraging others.

Sometimes we do not understand the “why” of what we are experiencing. We may have questions. I did and still do. I joked that when I get to heaven I need to have a long conversation with God about this period of my life. But, while I am still on earth, I must continue to live acknowledging that pain has a purpose…and while I am sure the memory of this time will remain, the sharpness of the feelings won’t threaten to paralyze me…in time…

So, maybe you are dealing with a situation you never imagined, and you’re not sure how you will navigate this new territory. Well-meaning friends and family may offer you advice and words of comfort, and while you hear it all, you will still have to identify your best steps forward. While you move forward, know that you are strong enough to handle even this seemingly impossible place. On the other side of this heartache, pain, sadness, anger, fear…is more life.

One day, you/we will smile at the fact that you/we did indeed get through today. But, be kind to yourself. Love, allow yourself to be sad, but then to laugh again. Most importantly, embrace every moment. As I have said before you/I win.