The Silent Treatment

I’m a believer.  I’m a worship leader.  I’m a low-key, unofficial counselor.  Blah, blah, blah.  I’m a human.  Today, I am going to be honest even if it makes me look a little less spiritual.

| The Silent Treatment |

I recently saw a post on Facebook that read:

“Ladies, which one are you… temper tantrum or the silent treatment?”

The post was referring to how a woman would react if she were upset with her man.  Well, my mama used to say to me, “Two people going at it is an argument, and one person going off is a tantrum,so I REFUSE to be a temper tantrum type girl.  When I am upset, irritated, disturbed, or even if I feel misunderstood, I am a silent treatment girl through and through.  Sometimes that is for the best; I know my mouth and how sharp my tongue is.  I know when I am pushed to the edge, I don’t just use my words to cut but to kill.  Yeah, silent treatment it is.

Recently, I polled a few of my closest friends and asked about their prayer life.  I wanted to know if they had a set devotional time or a particular way that they’d prayed each day if they even prayed at all.  One friend said she prays in the morning and sporadically throughout the day.  Another friend said he has ongoing conversation with God throughout the day but doesn’t necessarily say prayers before he goes to bed.  When questioned about my prayer life, I grew quiet.  Ironically, that quietness was metaphor for my communication with God lately.  In some ways, I have given God the silent treatment.  Now before you grab your stones to cast them, let me explain.  It isn’t that I don’t talk to God at all, I just don’t talk to him like I should.

When I was a relationship a few moons ago, I can remember pulling the silent treatment on my then boyfriend.  Now to know me is to know I will pull all the way back and avoid talking to you at all costs, but I’ll talk AT you.  In this particular situation with my ex, I was still in the room with him but would not address him.  Instead, I’d say random things out loud that were intended to trigger his response.  For example, if I was angry with him for staying out too late when he promised to take me out, I’d blurt out, “Oh yeah, I just adore broken promises and wasted time.”  My sarcastic jab was strategically stated to make him feel bad because he screwed up.  Truth is, that was a very cowardly and immature way to convey my feelings.

When asked about the methods of my prayer life, I could basically sum it up this way: I talk AT God not TO God.  Don’t get it twisted, I say quick prayers here and there for others, but when it comes to praying about me – I have very little to say.  I want to clarify the difference between my dwindled communication with God and my cold shoulder towards my former beau.  I am not upset with God.  He has not angered me.  He understands me better than I understand myself.  I didn’t intend for there to be such space between us.  Somewhere over the last few months, I pulled back and to him spoke less.  Though I have some really big, scary, and life-changing requests to ask of him, and though I need clarity, guidance, and wisdom, I take the cowardly way to express my feelings to him.  I pray very safe prayers.  I don’t ask for what I really want, let alone need, if I ask for anything at all.  Despite some of the stress that I’ve carried lately, I don’t ask him to help me carry the load with me or remove it altogether.

I talk at God.  I was stunned by my confession.  WHY was I only talking AT God and not TO God?

I am sometimes guilty of treating God the way I treat some others in my life.  I’ll assume that he may think I am a burden or that I’m asking for too much.  I’ll question if he’ll think I’m needy or clingy.  On the surface, I am independent and self-sufficient; however, when I grow close to someone, I let my guard down.  I am more open and a sap – for lack of a better description, then as a defense mechanism, I slowly build the guard back up so that I’m not too vulnerable.  I’ve done that with God.  I’ve built up a guard so that I won’t have to be so exposed and vulnerable about what I really need.  This is STUPID!  He knows me better than I know myself.  He knows my thoughts before they reach my brain.  Why, WHY would I reduce him to human frailty that can’t handle my vulnerability?  Why would I try to hide from him all that I need to ask of him or share with him or receive from him?  Why?

“Oh, what peace we often forfeit.  Oh, what needless pains we bear all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”

Hymn: What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Lyrics – Joseph M. Scriven

THE MORAL OF THE STORY

Last night in lieu of our normal Wednesday night service, my church had corporate prayer.  Let me veer to the left as say that I had intentional expectation that in that moment I’d be able to feel safety in God’s presence and leave lighter.  God honored my expectation.  When instructed by my pastor to get into my posture of prayer, I found a space to kneel at the altar.  I began my prayer by asking God for forgiveness for quieting the communication between us.  Merely talking at him instead of to him has not only repressed my expression to him but diminished his expression to me.  God is a gentleman and won’t force himself on me to be heard or felt.  How can he share with me if I won’t even create an adequate opportunity for us to talk?  I believe he sincerely heard the cry of my heart, and though he didn’t shut the door between us, he opened it.  Thanks for that, God.

Somewhere near the end of the corporate prayer, my pastor said the aforementioned lyrics to the hymn What a Friend We Have in Jesus.  My unintentional silent treatment has been causing me to endure unnecessary pain.  Here is God ready, willing, and able to carry my grieves (what I’m suffering with and what is causing the suffering) AND ME, but I won’t release them.  It is like the the child who has a splinter in his finger but refuses to let his mom pull it out for fear that the pain of the removal will hurt worse than the pain of the splinter.  OH MY GOD, THAT’S IT!  I’ve only prayed safe prayers and talked at God because I was afraid that the pain of his response (possible denial or delay) would hurt worse than not having what I want at all.  Woah!

So what is my resolve?  I don’t want to not tell God what I’m thinking, feeling, or needing.  Even though he already knows, I need him to hear me, and I need to hear from him too.  I am accepting that he wants to talk me.  He cares about me (1 Peter 5:7).  He isn’t like the people I know…it’s okay to be vulnerable with him.  There isn’t a set formula, time, or even script for prayer.  The only rule is I just can’t give God the silent treatment.

I hope this helps.
-Chris

 

Keeping My Hands to Myself

I was having a really hard time.  Why was I struggling while everyone else was okay…specifically the ones that I helped?  It just didn’t seem fair that I was the one with the short end of the stick when it was my stick to begin with.

| Keeping My Hands to Myself |

Whatever you think I’m about to say, forget it.  Growing up, my mama would say, “Keep your hands to yourself,” when any of her three children got into a little fight or just couldn’t stop annoying each other to death.  That’s not what this blog is about.  I will not be talking about physical touch.

Let me go on a limb and say I’m probably going to end up sounding selfish today, and I’m quite alright with that.  I hope by now you know that I mean well and am really more selfless than selfish.  If you have any questions about what I’m trying to convey today, feel free to comment below or message me.  Hopefully you’ll understand where I’m coming from by the end of this blog.

I don’t know why, but God blessed me with a big ole heart.  I have the capacity to love so deeply and genuinely that it sometimes scares me, and I also have the ability to care for people as if their situations are my own.  It’s not just sympathy, it’s empathy.  In fact, I am an empath.  (Empath: noun – a person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual.)  Couple this big heart and my empathetic nature with my Super Hero Syndrome (my need to rescue everyone), and you’ll find me – the woman who rushes to fix problems that are not mine to fix.  I’ll metaphorically burst into burning buildings, jump into deep waters, and leap in front of flying bullets just to rescue someone…just to lend a hand.  (Now can you see where I’m going with this?)

I’m always lending a hand.

Years ago, I had a friend in a bind who needed some financial help.  Though I really didn’t have it to give, I couldn’t stand to see my friend need something and I not attempt to help.  Without a thought, I adjusted and rearranged so that I could help my friend.  A month later, my friend needed help again.  Though I didn’t have it, I reached into my wallet and made it happen.  This time I was careful to ask if I helped this month would he end up in the same place again the next month.  Of course I was assured that this wouldn’t become a recurring situation, but we both know I’m about to say next, right?  The following month approached, and this time he was worse off than the months before.  Being the friend who couldn’t watch a friend struggle, I rushed in to save the day.  What started as lending a hand here and there became a continual thing, and by the time I got off that Mary-Go-Round that seemed far more expensive as time progressed, I was depleted in more ways than one.  I had nothing left to give and debts to pay.

Fast forward the clock some years, and I found myself struggling.  As life would have it, I watched that same friend seemingly be quite alright on his own two feet while I was still paying the debts of handouts that should have never been given.  I was stretching ends to make them meet while it seemed as if the other party was enjoying luxuries and bonuses.  I’m going to be honest with you, I was pissed.  I was angry with myself for caring and carrying someone else for so long.  I was also mad, highly upset, and boiling lake of lava heated with God for giving me this big ole heart in the first place, until he yoked my up by my collar and got me together.

And the conversation goes:

Me: God, how could you let them prosper while I am SUFFERING!  If it weren’t for me stepping in to help, they wouldn’t even be this well off.

Him:  First of all, I didn’t tell you to help them; you jumped to that all by yourself.  Secondly, they would have gotten there even without you because they had me.

Welp, that shut me right on up!

Ladies and gentleman, there are some battles that are not ours to fight.  No, I am not referring to the battle not being ours but the Lord’s.  I am saying some stuff ain’t got nothing to do with us!  (I intentionally used bad grammar.)  If you, like me, suffer from even the mildest cases of Super Hero Syndrome, then you occasionally often find yourself trying to save people from hitting rock bottom.  You don’t want to see the ones that you love and care about hit the ground at their lowest of lows.  That’s it!  Here is the revelation that life has taught me the very, very hard way: trying to rescue someone from hitting rock bottom may drag you down to rock bottom with them.  Don’t believe me?  Imagine someone falling then you running and basically leaping to catch them.  You both are airborne, and you know the old adage: what goes up, must come down.  Sugar, you are both gonna end up on the ground, but unfortunately, it’s you who would have taken the brunt of the fall, not the one who you were saving.  So in my case, my friend was over on his own side of the world falling because of his own missteps, and I ran to his side of the world to catch him.  Three things to note about that:

  1. I abandoned my stability to make sure he didn’t lose his.  I’ll remind you that I did not really have it to give it, but I gave anyway.  Where the heck did I pull that money from?  I’ll tell you…one of my own bills.
  2. His unnecessary weight that had fallen me!  Enough said.
  3. Because I couldn’t recover my footing fast enough , we still hit the bottom! All of that and we fell anyway.
  4. Last thing to see in that – and this is what ultimately made me mad – because I had his weight on me and I was on the bottom, he stood up first while I had to try shake off the pain in order to stand up.  Anyone who has fallen down knows that your body is sore long after you’ve fallen.  Ask me how I know after falling down some cement stairs yesterday (*insert eye roll*).  Long after I ran in to save his day, his week, his month, and even his year (reference to Friends theme song), I was left trying to shake off the pain of the fall, gain strength to get back up, and walk away despite the pain all while watching him trot steps ahead of me.

Y’all, I legitimately had to ask the Lord to help me with this one because I felt like I ended up 12 steps behind because I tried to help someone get two steps ahead.  I was angry that I had opened my heart, hand, and wallet just to be the one left lacking.  And to add injury to insult, it seemed as if my friend didn’t even look back to see if I was okay.

I don’t have a clever quote or a perfectly versed scripture today.

THE MORAL OF THE STORY

Back to my conversation with God…

Me: God, how could you let them prosper while I am SUFFERING!  If it weren’t for me, they wouldn’t even be this well off.

Him:  First of all, I didn’t tell you to help them; you jumped to that all by yourself.  Secondly, they would have gotten there even without you because they have me.

I had NO RIGHT to be mad about what I’d lost in my exchange because I had NO RIGHT to intervene to save the day.  I hadn’t received one instruction from God to put on my cape and save the day.  Honestly, there was probably a feeling in my gut telling me to think twice that I ignored.  I’ve learned that God will sometimes allow someone’s life to fall apart so that He can rebuild it, and our intervention interrupts his work.  Maybe my friend’s failing finances would have led him to a rock bottom that taught him how to be a better steward of his money.  Maybe his rock bottom would have forced him to trust God as his source, but who came in adorned with her cape and magical bank card?  My dumb tail with big heart.  I didn’t seek God first, say a quick prayer, or even really think twice; I immediately jumped to action because it was my friend in need.  Unfortunately, my quick move meant that God had to use another means to teach the lesson that I foolishly interrupted.  But here was the part that left me with the “Boo, the Fool” face: as much as I wanted to pat myself on the back for helping him get back on his feet, I couldn’t really take credit.  God never nor will he ever need my help supplying a need.  He is Jehovah Jirah, the God who provides. I am Christen Rouson, the chick who only has what she has cause he gave it to her.  *side eye*

I still haven’t’ gotten to the moral of the durn story.  Here it is…

Chill all the way out!  I’m not saying you shouldn’t help your brother or sister who is in need.  As a believer, I follow the example given to me concerning good will toward men.  What I’m saying is sometimes you need to step back and ask God if this is your assignment or not.  There’s a difference between someone who has hit hard times who you are a blessing to and someone who continuously makes bad choices and you become an enabler for.  There are times when you have to allow someone to fall because he/she may actually be falling from his/her will into God’s hands.  YOU DON’T HAVE TO SAVE EVERYONE ALL THE TIME.  The world needed one savior, Jesus the Christ of Nazareth.  Christen the girl from Chesapeake is not that savior!

I have since been careful about rushing to save the day, and I’ve had to be intentional about not running into a phone booth to become a super hero.  This is so hard, y’all.  In my heart, I just want to help everybody; however, after this incident and the aftermath that I’ve had to deal with, I understand the importance of allowing God to lead me instead of just doing.  In my humble opinion, it doesn’t make a bad person or any less of a Christian if I don’t reach for things that aren’t meant for me to grab.

Before I go…  I believe that God will honor my big ole heart.  My intentions were pure and my heart was full of love when I extended my hand.  I believe he will bless me because I sincerely sought to bless someone else, even if I moved out of turn.

“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

Luke 6:38 [New Living Translation]

I hope it all made sense.

I hope this helps.
-Chris

Nurturing Dead Things

It’s been too long since I last shared.  I’m in a place where I can share today.  Please be gentle with my heart.

Disclaimer : I will use the word “relationship” in this blog.  Please do not limit this to a romantic relationship.  I mean that word to mean “connection.”

| Nurturing Dead Things |

It wasn’t in my direct line of sight, but out of the corner of my eye, I could see a hazy vision of it.  A yellow pot, filled with dirt, showing no signs of life occupied space on the bookshelf in my office.  Another day had passed.  Neither had it bloomed again nor had I thrown it away.  “This is it,” I thought to myself.  I finally built up the courage to let it go, and I did.

Having plants has taught me that I can’t nurture everything.

Approximately five years ago, in recognition of Administrative Professionals Day, I was gifted a plant.  It was and is no secret that I do not have a green thumb; however, that day, I pasted a smile on my face and expressed my appreciation despite my uncertainty of how I’d care for that plant or the fact that it just wasn’t the right gift for me.  According to the paperwork included, it was low maintenance, but left to me, it would be dead by the end of my shift.  That day I made a vow that unlike some plants of my past that didn’t last very long, I would devote my energy to making sure this one had a fighting chance.  As to be expected, I had my share of ups and downs with this piece of greenery over the last five years.  I’ve talked to it (because that’s what I heard you’re supposed to do), watered it, and watched it flourish.  When it was growing beyond the capacity of it’s original pot, I moved it to a larger pot and gave it fresh soil.  When it had a few dead leaves that threatened the life of the entire plant, I cut those leaves back.  After awhile, I started to receive compliments, and people asked me how I kept my plant looking so good.  Just when I thought my innate nurturing skills were on autopilot, my plant succumb to the side effects of transition.  The concise version is my plant had journeyed from place to place and climate to climate until it ended up in my office at work.  It was that last move that allowed me to give it the most attention but not the right care simultaneously.  Basically, I was around all the time but wasn’t the right person to take care of it.  It was in this office that I saw the plant grow with branches so long that they could be cut off and planted in new soil to produce a totally new plant.  It was also in the atmosphere that I watched my plant shrivel and begin to die.  I continued watering and talking to the plant just as normal, maybe even more than normal.  As before, I cut back dead leaves in an effort to save the entire plant, but nothing I did was enough. 

The same people who once complimented my flourishing plant grimaced at the sight of its withered leaves and dried soil.  Without really knowing or caring how much effort I had already exhausted to revive my plant, they offered their own set of sure-fire solutions.  “Chris, what you need to do is cut the branches all the way back, get some fresh soil, and maybe you should move it to another climate.”  I was over it, but I allowed my coworker to cut back the branches and search for new soil, but there was nowhere else for the plant to go; it needed to be where I was so that I could remember to take care of it.  Two weeks passed, and I found myself trying to ignore the dead plant that occupied space in my office with the exception of the times that I’d water it in hopes of resurrection.  Having that plant so close to me was a painful reminder that despite my best efforts, I couldn’t save the gift that I was given long ago.  So I did what I need to do; I picked up the plant, and I threw it away.

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That was a long introduction for a short message…I hope.

Recently, I found myself taking a review of the relationships that I’ve been watering.  That in and of itself took a bit of courage because I wasn’t ready for what was on the other side of the review.  I have already watched so many close friendships dissolve that I have developed a bit of a complex, and what I didn’t think I could stomach was losing another person or realizing the rejection that comes with a break up/ending of a relationship.  That rejection piece is a whole other blog for another day.  Anyway, when I started sifting through the remaining relationships in my life, I found one that mirrored this plant.  At one point, it flourished beautifully.  It was my pleasure to nurture this relationship, so I paid it extra special attention.  Just as my plant, I watered (showered) the relationship with love and affection, and when things appeared to threaten the life of our connection, I foolishly cut it off…including people.  If I am truthful, I gave this particular relationship extra TLC because I was working extra hard to keep it.  Consider what I just said about the dissolution of prior relationships.  I had series of significant relationships fail in the past; therefore, I attempted to go above and beyond to maintain the health and life of this one amidst transitions, but I failed.  No matter what I did, how hard I tried, or how often I prayed, the relationship was dying.  After awhile, I accepted that there wasn’t anything I could do to make the plant be what it once was.  Still, I couldn’t part with it.  Like the lifeless plant that sat on the bookshelf in my office, this relationship was merely taking up space in my life.  I’ll honestly admit that I had an array of emotions.  I went from crying endlessly because this relationship didn’t live up to the promise of flourishing to praying that God would help me accept that the relationship would never be what I hoped for.  But I just didn’t get it.  This “plant” seemed to withstand the array of transitions that life had taken me through, so why did it start dying once I was settled?  A reality check gave me an answer that was harder to accept than the death of the connection itself.  The plant I received five years ago on Administrative Professionals Day wasn’t the right gift for me because it was outside of my scope of care.  Just the same, this wasn’t the relationship for me.  I was trying to make something work that would have never worked because it wasn’t meant for me.  He wasn’t for me.  He didn’t belong to me.  Like that plant, I spent hours, minutes, and seconds watering a relationship that didn’t truly belong to or should I say for me. 

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Back to my story…  There were no commentators to give me advice as to how I could rescue this relationship, and rightfully so.  My desire for a private life meant that this relationship was hidden in plain sight; furthermore, I hadn’t shared my woes with anyone to even receive advice.  As a matter of fact, I was the only one coaching myself to continue watering this thing.  I was nurturing a dead thing in secret and praying that no one would notice.  To no avail, I offered some measure of care to something whose season had ended in my life.  Daily phone calls dwindled to once or twice a week, and text messages went from engrossing conversation to small talk.  Even though I wasn’t still pouring at the same measure, because my heart and feelings were involved, I continued watering my dead relationship.  I watered it every time I rehearsed with him that stale conversation of what happened vs. how/if we could fix it.  I watered it every time I walked on egg shells and bit my tongue in an effort to make things feel like they once did though they weren’t what they once were.  I watered it every time I suppressed how much this relationship had drained me in order to care for the feelings of the other party.  I poured into soil that refused to receive what should have given it life.  One day I decided enough was enough.  I didn’t want to replay the scenario, I didn’t want to review how well I did/didn’t take care of things, I didn’t want to remember how I felt when there wasn’t any return for my investment, and I didn’t want to be responsible for what wasn’t anymore.  I didn’t want it to be my fault anymore or take blame for what I didn’t deserve.  I no longer wanted to carry remorse because I had transitioned to a new space (way of thinking, maturity level, and level of expectation) that wasn’t conducive for us anymore.  I was done apologizing that I couldn’t reduce myself to who and where I was in order to make this thing thrive again.  I WAS DONE!  So when the conversation arose as it periodically did, I expressed my concerns for the final time and gave the benediction.

Benediction – the bestowing of a blessing at the end [of a religious service]. 

I didn’t pick a fight.  What’s done is done, and I’m not holding a grudge.  I don’t hold grudges, but I hold feelings.  Everyday, I am making myself choose not to hold those feelings of anger, regret, and resentment.  Truthfully speaking, some days are a lot harder than others.  Today, as I face the memory of a relationship that ended so long ago, has become one of those days.

Grow Apart

THE MORAL OF THE STORY

Here’s my truth, my hesitance to fully let this relationship go had nothing to do with whether or not I could live without that person.  I’ve had people walk out of my life before and some without saying, “Good bye.”  Letting go of this relationship meant acknowledging that the ending of this feels like yet another failure.  Letting this “plant” hit the trashcan meant accepting that I wasn’t the one meant to carry this particular plant to its full bloom and keep it alive.  Me… Christen Diane Rouson?  I wasn’t the token one to make it work.  Me… Christen effin’ Rouson?  The one who was supposedly perfect for this but still not good enough.  Me?  Me.  I’d have to embrace that after pulling out all of the stops, jumping through hoops, and tirelessly giving of my resources, it, the relationship, died right before my eyes.  If you know of my Superhero Syndrome and my need to be needed, then you’ll understand how this hurts. 

Regardless of what pain I felt in my office that day, I had a dead plant, a trashcan, and a choice.  In the same manner, I had a dead relationship, an opportunity to walk away, and a choice to make.  I chose to count my losses, shake the dust from my feet, and end the toxic cycle of feeding something that refused to live. 

Self Pep-Talk: Chris, you are no less of a woman or nurturer because you couldn’t bring that plant back to life or because you chose to not try anymore.  You didn’t need to try anymore.  It was over, and the dead thing was zapping you of your strength.  You chose to walk away, let it be, and clear your space for something new.  You needed to do this for your peace of mind’s sake… that same peace that you fought to have. YOU FOUGHT FOR THIS PEACE!

I told y’all this feels like failure.

Talking to you… Maybe it’s time to evaluate what in your life is living and what is dying despite your care.  Keeping some one or something in this season that is dead and, more importantly, not meant for you will only be a space consumer that wears on your heart.  Yeah, it will hurt to let it go, but it’s just as detrimental to let it stay. 

Side note: I received a new plant the other week… not much longer after I trashed my old one.

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I’m sorry this was long.  I hope this made sense.

I hope this helps.
-Chris

Comparison Kills: Me vs. Her

Disclaimer: I’m going to be very transparent with you.  I’ll be honest, I am almost nauseous typing this because I am letting my guard down and allowing you into a hidden space.  Please be gentle with my heart.

| Comparison Kills: Me vs. Her |

I looked at the notification on the lock screen of my iPhone.  She had sent me a friend request.  Almost in a flash, I swiped to unlock my phone and confirm that we would be friends… well at least on social media.  Under any normal circumstances, I’d sit my phone back down and continue what I was doing.  These weren’t  normal circumstances.  After clicking “accept,” I clicked on her profile and scrolled until I ran out of patience.  I scrolled through pictures and posts that I had already seen once, maybe twice before.  Facebook had already suggested her as a friend some time before, and I had already done a thorough exploration of her page.  And then out of compulsive habit, I clicked on my profile and scrolled through my own posts and pictures.  And then it happened… I began comparing.

Here is my very transparent and vulnerable truth:

I play the comparison game DAILY.

I’d like to just state for the record that I truly like and love myself.  My short 30 years have been filled with transitions and transformations, good and bad that have worked together wondrously to create who I am today.  I have earned the right to be Christen Rouson.  Self-love isn’t an issue.

After some self-reflection, I was able to pinpoint the insecurity that makes me do a complete examination of my life and compare it to a brief snapshot of someone else’s.  I have allowed myself to be placed in too many situations where I was in a silent competition with another woman.  In many cases it involved me talking to a man who hadn’t let go of his ex or the string of other women he was entertaining, and I was left competing with a woman who knew nothing of me for a spot that he had no intentions of giving me.  That toxic behavior has sparked this daily self-destructive pattern of comparing me vs. her.

 This girl that I referenced is merely a representation of the several others who are now in the count of my followers or sit among many others on my friend’s list.  She is educated, beautiful, walking out her purpose, achieving success, and radiating with God’s glory…  and then I examine myself.  The truth is, I have quite a resume of my own beyond being beautiful, caring, and giving.  I am actually doing something with my life:

  • I have a weekly blog with followers throughout the United States and abroad.  (Thank God for those stats!)
  • I write my own music, I sing, and I have music on all digital outlets that I collect funds for monthly.  (Thank you to all of you who are still streaming or downloading my song.)
  • I have been an Executive Director and Worship Leader at my church for the last nine years.
  • I have been selected to facilitate staff development classes, and this year I sat on a development committee for the school district that I work for.
  • Though I have not officially launched my own mentoring program, I have a following of young ladies that have pulled close to me as my mentees.
  • I’m branching into public speaking and have a few engagements booked for this year already.
  • I just completed cosmetology school, will be taking (and passing) my state boards next month, and I’ll officially be launching my business shortly there after.
  • I am highly independent, single woman, and I am making it on my own dime.

Humbly speaking, with all of that coupled with the fact that I am a woman of God, what reason do I have to compare myself to anyone else?  That is the question I shamefully ask myself after I pick every piece of me apart in an effort to see how it measures up to someone whose shoes I do not walk in and whose life I do not live.

My close friend, Lauren, is my gym buddy.  Often times, we will use the same machines for the same amount of time so that we stay together throughout the workout.  I will even go as far as programming my machine with the same settings as hers so that we are on an even playing field.  Because I have such a terrible habit of comparing, I found myself comparing my progress to hers.  In addition to my proclivity to play the comparison game, I am also a bit competitive – I don’t like it when people are better than me or I’m not number one.  One particular day when we went to the gym, I somehow got a head start of about 30 seconds on the elliptical.  I must have been feeling good that day because I was zooming on that machine.  The head start coupled with my quicker pace meant that I was covering more miles than Lauren, but somehow when our 15 minutes were up, she had burned more calories than me.  I was genuinely puzzled, frustrated, and a bit upset.  I had done more work than she had, but she had made more progress than I had.  This was the norm for our next few gym visits, until one day between pants and heavy breaths, I silently asked God, “Why am I doing double the work just to still not measure up.  I’m working harder than her just to barely make it just beneath her.”

I will blog about his response another day.

That experience at the gym was a metaphor for how I was really feeling in life.  That occurrence reminded me of the several instances where I competed silently for the approval, validation, and acceptance of someone who just liked my attention but didn’t like me enough to choose me.  All those years of doing the most, jumping through hoops, compromising, being what he (insert several names) needed, and giving more than I should aided my need to be better than “her,” and it slowly diminished my belief that I am enough… as is.

There it is… the core of it all. 

I compare myself to other women because I question if I am enough.

*hangs head in shame*

But how?  How, Christen, can you not be sure that you are enough when you have such an extensive “resume,” a significant last name, and the hand of God on your life?

I sometimes don’t feel like enough because I have confused what I do for who I am, and when I don’t feel like I’m doing enough, I convince myself that I am not enough.  Let me just say this is toxic on so many levels because it can lead to busyness which leaves you burnt out and vulnerable opposed to purposeful moves that leave you fulfilled.  When I jump to the Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages of these women, I am not seeing who they really are.  I am looking at pictures, quotes, and posts of what they do and making an assumption of who they are.  Then I head over to my page to look at pictures, quotes, and posts of what I do without measuring what I said or did against who I really am.

And as I typed this post, I had an epiphany.

The “her” that I am in competition with is really me. 

Ladies and gentleman, it is me vs. me!

I have spent so many years putting pressure on myself to be a certain person in a certain place doing a certain thing by a certain time that I haven’t really appreciated who I am in the place that I am.  Comparing myself to other women is merely a mirage for the places within myself that I am dissatisfied with.

comparison

THE MORAL OF THE STORY

As much as I want to do what I typically do and include you in the story, I won’t force that today.  If you find yourself somewhere between my transparency and epiphanies, I pray that you can walk away knowing that you aren’t alone.

I could easily end this blog with empowering words like, “You are enough,” and “You are amazing just as you are,” but those are words that I’ve heard and spoken before.  They are words that seemingly haven’t made it to the core of me.  Today I am shifting myself to first believe what God says about me and also believe that I am who I am supposed to be at this time.

If there is to be a daily comparison game, it should only be to compare who I am today to who I was yesterday and applaud myself for my growth.  Wasting my time in a silent competition with my peers and women who aren’t even close enough to me for me to know them well is robbing me of the joy that I should have after surviving the life that I have lived.  Reading my blogs or hearing my testimony proves that I have found life despite the crappy hand that my adulthood has dealt me.  I deserve to enjoy my successes without reminding myself what I haven’t accomplished. 

“You are so more that what you haven’t accomplished.”  I just said that in my last blog.

*sigh*  I guess this blog proved that I’m not perfect… and that’s okay.

Dear God,

Please help me to appreciate who you have created and allowed me to be.  Don’t allow me to be distracted by the mirages of the lives of others, but help me to celebrate my own reality.  I pray that you will heal the places within my heart that have been damaged by years of unnecessarily proving myself.  Heal me from hurtful words spoken by others and even out of my own mouth that discredited who I am at my core.  I believe that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  I believe that I am the apple of your eye.  I believe that I am chosen.  Now please help me to always know that I am enough.

Amen

I hope this helps.
-Chris

Pep Talk: You’re Doing Just Fine

It’s been a while since I’ve shared something really personal with you.  Today, I will be just a little vulnerable.  Please be gentle.

| Pep Talk: You’re Doing Just Fine |

Disclaimer: This may not be a “One size fits all” kind of blog today.

Today’s post is inspired by yesterday’s appointment with my new gynecologist.

There are some things in life that I expect but can never get used to.  In the mornings, I expect there to be traffic on my commute to work, but I can’t get used to it.  I feel shocked and irritated about the traffic every single day.  At this age (and weight) I expect to have occasional pain in my knees, but I don’t think I can (or want to) get used to that either.  In the same manner, I expect most visits to my gynecologist to include the “Age vs. Fertility” conversation, and I’m still not used to it.  Yesterday was exactly what I expected, but the way it stung was different from times past.

Yesterday, I took a chance on a new gynecologist.  I won’t get into the actual factuals of the visit because they are private, but I will share some basics.  In our conversation, I brought up the topic of birth control.  When that topic hits the table, I know to brace myself for the “Age vs. Fertility” conversation as I have been enduring it since my early twenties.  As predicted, the doctor asked my age (as if it was not listed in my chart), and followed up by reminding me of the risks associated with having children later in my thirties.  When I appeared to be unbothered by her speech, she abruptly asked, “Are you even going to have children?”  When I replied that I wasn’t very concerned about that at the moment because I was focusing on other things, she told me that I needed to develop a plan so that I didn’t wait six or seven years just to not be able to have them.  She made me feel like my current set of goals were incomplete because it didn’t include dropping everything and getting pregnant.

Frustrated, I left her office with no solution to the real reason for my visit and bruises from her harsh words.  Barely making it out of the office and down the elevator, I could feel the burn of hot tears welling in my eyes.  I willed the automatic doors of the medical suite to open faster, and I hurriedly walked to my car.  Once in the safety of my own privacy, I cried.  No, I wept.

Visiting that doctor, who had despicable bedside manner, broke me down.  She was rude, but beyond that, she was just saying what she was suppose to say…what medical science and society tells her to say.  Leaving her office, I was hyper aware of societal standards that says a woman’s greatest worth is vested in her ability to carry and birth children.  I started to include her ability to mother children, but sometimes women who mother an adopted child or a child of her heart aren’t as praised as the women who endure labor pains.  There was so much that I wanted to yell at that doctor on behalf of childless women over thirty, but instead I posted this on my social media pages:

Facebook Post

I knew there would be a myriad of responses, and they began pouring in almost immediately.  “You still have time, girl.”  “Adoption is always available and beautiful.”  “Enjoy your life now, and have babies later.”  I found myself being just as frustrated reading the responses to my post as I was when I sat in the doctor’s office.  My point for the post wasn’t about whether or not I had time but that I have a choice.  It’s up to me if I want to have kids or not, and if I don’t – by choice or force – I don’t want to be treated as if I missed the mark.  That’s how I felt leaving that doctor…that I had somehow missed the mark.  Forget all my accomplishments, my healthy relationships, my faith in God and how I build his kingdom, the number of people I reach through this blog or by other means, my business plans, or even the purpose that God has for me.  In that moment I felt like all of that I could speak well of had been diminished because my uterus has been underutilized. 

At 18 years old, after just moving out of my parents house for college, I discovered that I was pregnant.  I can remember standing in my bathroom of my Crystal City apartment eagerly awaiting a result, praying that it would be negative.  My silent prayers were interrupted by my outburst, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”  My boyfriend left the living room where he and my roommate, Roxana, were anxiously waiting and joined me in the bathroom.  I was pregnant.  I laughed and cried because I didn’t know how to respond or what I was going to do.  I carried my baby until 13 or 14 weeks, then I terminated my pregnancy.  For years, no one knew except the few people who were in that room, and the guilt I carried was undetectable by anyone who saw my smile.

Let’s fast forward 12 years to a time where I am no longer captive to the guilt I once carried or haunted by the thoughts that God won’t let me have another chance at motherhood as punishment for what I did.  I now live in a dispensation where I am making choices, and I realize I have a choice as to whether or not I want to have children biologically or otherwise.  The possible decision to not have children has been a struggle in and of itself because for so long I was certain that I wanted to be a mother; now I am not.  I have wrestled because I had an opportunity at motherhood and blew it because I wasn’t ready.  I have also wrestled because there are always negative connotations attached to a childless woman.  “What’s wrong with her?”  “Maybe she’s barren.”  “She’s being too selfish to have children.”  And God forbid that you have a woman who is highly successful but doesn’t have children.  “It’s a shame that she put her career above having a family.”  “Success is nice but it won’t keep you warm at nice.”  “Who is gonna take care of her when she gets old.”  I am a 30 year old woman, approximately four months from my 31st birthday, and most of my high school classmates are mothers.  There is pressure from every side to “settle down and make some babies,” and I hate it.  It is the imperceptible notion that I haven’t reached my highest level of achievement yet because I haven’t birthed a child.  I wish “society” and these doctors would take into account how a woman may feel before they start attacking us with the Age vs. Fertility conversations.  Yesterday proved to me that this is more of a sensitive subject than I was aware of.

Women are so much more than their wombs.  I guess that’s all I’m trying to say.

You are so much more than what you haven’t accomplished.

THE MORAL OF THE STORY

Nope, I didn’t use a scripture reference today.  All will be well.

I know this blog was primarily my passionate rant about my womanhood beyond my womb, but I have a greater message. 

There will always be people who make you feel like what you’ve accomplished still isn’t good enough.  You have a high school diploma – it’s not a college degree.  You get your Bachelor’s – it’s not your Master’s.  They’ll say that’s basically the equivalent to a high school diploma.  You go to tech school – that’s not real college.  You work a good job – you’re a slave to a 9-5… You need to be an entrepreneur.  You start your own business – you’re grinding alone, and it’s not enough people working together to put each other on.  If you are single, people ask when you’ll get married.  If you get married, people want to know when you’ll have a baby.  If you have one baby, they will ask when you’ll have more.  And if you have more than three children, the same people will ask when your going to stop.  Do you see my point?  You will never be able to measure up the fickle standards of others, so don’t!

After crying it out, talking it out, and sleeping it out, I had to pull myself together and give myself a pep talk.  I am so much more than motherhood.  If I choose or it is God’s will for me, then so be it.  If it is not, then so be it.  Regardless, I don’t have to make any decisions today!  I am caring, loving, and giving.  I am a survivor and a Class A overcomer.  I have giftings and talents that have provided platforms for me to reach people, and they soon will bring me LOTS of tangible success.  I am not just a woman who has a womb.  I am a woman who is striving to have the heart of God and be a light on this earth.

Take what you can from this.  You are more than what you haven’t accomplished.  Pat yourself on the freaking back for making it as far as you have and doing all that you have done.  You are on track.  You are not late.  You have value.  And if you never accomplish that, you are doing just fine!  I’m freaking proud of you.  I’m proud of me. 

I feel better now.

For Blog

I hope this helps.
-Chris

 

 

Keep the Change

This is it.  This is the last part of my three-part series on change.  If you are behind, go read Don’t Ignore the Change and Necessary Change to catch up.

Disclaimer: As I mentioned last week and the week before, the introduction may be a bit lengthy, but please read all of it even if in multiple sittings.

| Keep the Change |

Once I got of driving age, and my mother finally trusted me to drive, she would sometimes send me out to grab food for her and my dad.  Because I wasn’t working yet and didn’t have my own funds to sponsor their meal, she would provide what I needed to produce what she was asking for.  (Jot that down.)  In the event that I had not eaten, she’d add a few extra dollars to the fund so that I too could eat.  I’d take her money along with her order and set off to go where she instructed me.  Once I returned and distributed everyone’s meals, I would walk over to her with a receipt and a few folded dollars…her change.  More often than not, when I was given money for the purchase, my mom would say, “Bring me back my change,” but every now and then, the narrative would be different.  Sometimes my mother, after thanking me for my obedience, would smile and say, “Keep the change.”

Let us begin.

The last three years have been a whirlwind of transitions, processes, and growth all because of an instruction.  Here is my candid truth: I wasn’t interested in changing.  This is in part because I liked who I was exactly how I was, I didn’t see the need to change, or because I feared change.  Fast forward the clock, and I am nearly a new woman.  I have taken chances, had accomplishments, walked away from things, and let go of some people…because God told me to.  If you would have asked me in 2016 if I could imagine my life looking like it does today (the good and bad, gains and losses), I would have vehemently disagreed.  God took me through a metamorphosis of sorts.  The change was necessary, and I didn’t even know it.  Here’s the thing, God had some assignments that I needed to complete for him, and I couldn’t do that the way I was, so change was necessary.

Let’s tie in my example of my mother sending me out to get food.  In many cases I have considered myself too inadequate to fulfill the instruction that God has given me.  To me, this correlates with my mother sending me to buy her food although I didn’t have money.  God will never instruct you to do something that he hasn’t equipped and made provision for you to do.  For example: when God instructed me to release music last year, I quickly reminded him that I didn’t have the funds and didn’t know what connections to make to do so.  By clicking on the homepage of this website, you will see that I successfully released music.  This isn’t the case because I figured it out on my own; actually all of my personal plans failed.  God quickly shut down my self-doubt reminding me that he had already gifted and anointed me to sing – that’s the “equipped you to do” part.  So the only remaining issue was funding.  Well, just like my mama gave me a twenty dollar bill with her order, God gave me the instructions and he gave me the resources.  Before I knew it, one phone conversation linked me with all of the key players I needed, and just when I needed it, the money showed up too.  God provided what I needed so that I could produce what he was asking for. 

Oh!  I almost forgot to bring up the part about my mom giving me extra money so that I could eat too.  Have you ever been faithfully doing the will of God, and it seemed like you were pouring out what you should’ve been keeping for yourself?  I have prayed for people when I needed prayer, loaned money to people when I needed financial increase, lifted people when I was sinking, and poured into others when I felt depleted.  In those moments, I found that God not only gave me what I needed to do his will, but he provided a little bit extra to sustain me too.  It’s kind of his way of saying, “I won’t use you without taking care of you.”  Whew!

Now for the “keep the change” piece…

Continuing with my example of releasing music last year, I can think of two ways that God told me to, “Keep the change.”  Number one, the most obvious one: once I had paid all of the invoices for both my single release and the single release concert, there were a few hundred dollars left over.  I can vividly remember sitting with my closest friends after counting the money three times feelings shocked that after all of that, I wasn’t empty handed.  God had covered the tab for the assignment and gave me a little something something.  Just like my mama… “For your obedience, keep the change.”

That’s not the good part because money runs out.  In the time leading up to that big assignment, I was changing.  I had to learn how to relinquish fear, take big leaps, trust people and not be so guarded, PRAY FOR WHAT I REALLY WANTED, be patient, be okay when people didn’t subscribe to or believe in me or my vision, and celebrate small victories.  Often times an assignment from God isn’t just about fulfilling his will regarding what he wants you to do, but it is also about becoming who he wants you to be.  That particular assignment grew my faith to a brand new level.  So after the single was released and the concert was over, I found myself asking God, “Now what?”  My calendar wasn’t booked, I hadn’t hit any top Billboard charts, and I still had to go back to work that next Monday.  God, in essence, told me to keep the change.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”

Isaiah 43:18-19 [New International Version]

THE MORAL OF THE STORY

One of the worst things you can do with a new season is live like you are still in an old one.  Imagine finally getting a promotion that provides a substantial increase of pay but continuing to be a poor financial steward.  Imagine having a liver transplant but still drinking like a fish.  Imagine someone spending years in jail because of drug charges then returning right back to that lifestyle once he/she is released.  Imagine going through a process of transformation then reverting to who and what you were at the end of it.

The greatest thing you can do when you have been changed is stay changed.

If I may say this, you did not endure all of those processes and learn all of those lessons to remain who you where when you first began.  I’ll even go on a limb and say that the transformation wasn’t just so you could complete your God-given assignment.  You’ve changed because you are becoming, my dear.  Who and how you were were sufficient for that time, but your present and future requires something different.  Yup, even who you are today may not be who you’ll be tomorrow; the process of transformation is ongoing.  But here’s the thing to discern: your change isn’t the only change.  God is literally shifting the things around you.  Newness is bursting from the soil and budding all around you.  Though a former version of you could figure out what to do with this newness, the changed you was created for it.  Whatever you do, no matter how challenging it may be, keep the change.

I hope this helps.
-Chris

Necessary Change

Today I am sharing part two of my three-part series on Change.  (I feel like a preacher… “My three-part series.”  Ha!)  If you have not had the opportunity to read part one, “Don’t Ignore the Change,” I strongly encourage you to start there.

Disclaimer: As I mentioned last week, the introduction may be a bit lengthy, but please read all of it even if in multiple sittings.

| Necessary Change |

I have a friend who, in some rights, just became an author as he and other scholars compiled a collection of devotionals to be published.  After reading his portion, among others, I reached out to him to give him my congratulations and take away.  After an intellectual conversation about the context of his civically conscious devotional, he briefly shared with me the process that he endured from his first submission to the pressed copy that I read.  As an English major, he was no stranger to writing papers, but this wasn’t just the average research paper.  Not to say he wasn’t a good writer who couldn’t rise to the occasion, but his original draft was returned to him with suggested edits.  It was pretty comical to hear my friend, who is beyond confident *insert eye roll*, tell me how he felt some kind of way that his work was critiqued and wasn’t accepted on the first submission.  (Personally, I was cracking up on the inside.)  What he said next resonated with me in a greater way than he probably intended.  He said,

“Edits are a part of this kind of process.”

I can remember being sixteen years old and writing out what I thought would be the plan for the next ten plus years of my life.  This elaborate plan contained details concerning everything from the age I’d graduate from college, to how old I’d be when I got married, to when I would have my first and final child.  All of this…at sixteen.  For the record, NONE of the things I jotted down, especially while playing a riveting game of M.A.S.H., came to pass; nonetheless, that didn’t discourage me from writing out a new plan year after year.  Like my friend who was no stranger to writing papers, I am no stranger to conjuring up what I think is supposed to happen in my life whether I feel led of God or not.  I often make a list and check it twice, but that doesn’t always mean that my expectations will become my reality.  I’ll even go a step further and say that there have been times when I was clearly walking out the will of God for my life, but he called an audible and switched the play without my consent.  (That’s a football reference.  *smirk*)  But why would God seemingly change up the script especially when he wrote it?

I am currently rehearsing for what will be my fifth stage play and the third where I have had a leading role.  As a matter of fact, I am the star of this play!  My cast mates and I received our original scripts on January 20th, and by the first week of February, we received updated scripts.  As we have rehearsed and our characters have begun to fully develop, there have been changes here and there.  One thing I really like about my director, Neisha, is she will give us the creative liberty to occasionally add to or go off of the script to fully convey what the character is trying to portray in a particular scene. Still from time to time she will reel us back in or scrap what we just said by saying, “Instead of saying that, say this.  I want the scene to go here instead of there.”  Though at times it can be frustrating because I am having to learn something new that isn’t on the script, whether typed by her or added by me, I understand that she, as the director and writer, sees something that I cannot see as the actor.  I am only able to see the scene from my point of view, but she sees from the perspective of the author who wrote both the beginning and the ending of the play.  She knows how the story should end and what should be the expected response; I am only acting this out scene by scene.  There will be times when she demands a stronger emotion because, in her words, “Y’all are here, and I need the scene to get here,” while using her hands for effect.  Basically there is something greater coming that we need to quickly build up to.  Let me pause and answer my previous question as to why God would seemingly change up the script especially when he wrote it.  I am reminded of the many times while growing up in church that I heard of God being “The alpha and omega – the beginning and the end.”  Hebrews 12:2 refers to him as the “author and finisher of our faith.”  I’d like to think of him as the playwright and director of our lives.  God has the sovereignty to change the version of the script that I am reading at anytime without consulting me first.  The truth is, he already knew of the changes long before they occurred as they are not changes to him but only to me.  So here I am acting out my scene, following my plan, and living out his will, and God is like, “I’m ready to up the ante because I have something bigger than what she imagined that I need her to build up to.  I have something greater for her to do, and she needs to get there.”  Subsequently, he’ll flip this, change that, remove this, add that, require this, provide that so I can get to where I need to be and do what I need to do at HIS appointed time.

“Edits are a part of this kind of process.”

I just can’t let that go.

The truth is, I don’t like change.  I am a Type A, control freak, logical type of woman.  I like details and specifics, and I even if I’m “going with the flow,” it is a very calculated maneuver.  I know that seems like an oxymoron… I’m Christen, what did you expect?  Simply put when God comes and scrambles up my eggs, I can’t say that I’m always happy about it.  The fact is, the end result is always good – read Jeremiah 29:11 to see how God only has good plans for you – but the process can be bothersome.  I don’t like to be bothered, and I’m not too keen on my normal being interrupted.

On January 26, 2010, my mother suddenly passed away.  She was the founding and senior pastor of my church.  My oldest brother, Ray,  served as the Director of Media, and the brother right above me, Cedric, served as the Director of Worship and Fine Arts.  I was merely a choir and praise team member.  I faithfully sung in the background and occasionally led a song or two.  Trust me, I was VERY content.  At that time in my life, I was not interested in writing or recording music of my own, at best I wanted to be a background singer who traveled the world.  Well, upon my mother’s sudden passing, the “edits” began happening.  Cedric immediately became the co-pastor alongside my father and would be appointed as the senior pastor just two years later.  I suddenly was thrust from the background as a faithful doo-wop singer to the Director of Worship and Fine Arts where I have served since 2010.  As of last year, Ray has shifted from being the Director of Media to becoming the Executive Pastor working side-by-side with Cedric.  Within the last nine years, my assignment has shifted from just being of support to be leader, I have since tapped into my gifting as a song writer and “recording artist,” and I have a passion for not only leading people in worship but training others to do the same.  Being in the front as a leader gave me the confidence to began opening up and sharing, and in 2012 “According to Chris” was birthed.  While encouraging others through this blog, I found my own courage to take leaps and go back to school for cosmetology.  I am but two examinations away from being a licensed stylist and fully launching my own business.  All of this was catapulted by one of the biggest [and worst] changes of my life: my mother passing away.  The truth is, I had a plan nine years ago that included me having a measure of success with her still alive to see it, but God handed me a new script that revealed my character in a much greater capacity despite those major edits.

“There is always a measure of discomfort in destiny.”

-Pastor Cedric Rouson

(That’s my brother/pastor, y’all!)

THE MORAL OF THE STORY

I can remember in the fourth grade going through a major growth spurt.  My feet grew three shoe sizes in one year (my poor parents’ bank account), and I grew a few inches taller.  Sadly, I stopped growing taller in the fifth grade, and I have been five feet, four and a half inches for the past nineteen years.  Anyway, I digress.  I can remember having pains in my back, shoulders, and legs that I had never felt before, not to mention the discomfort I felt because my shoes were always too small not long after I got them.  My mother explained that with growth comes discomfort.  Because I have always been a dramatic being, I just knew that the pain would cause me to surely die.  I was quickly reminded that what I was experiencing was not trauma, it was growing pains.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to submit to you that the discomfort that you are feeling in this season, on this level, and at this time are merely the growing pains caused by the stretching that God is requiring of you.  I know that you have enjoyed the script that you have been acting out for quite sometime, but for this kind of process, edits are necessary.  See here’s the thing, who you are and where you are, even with as good as it may be, is not the end all be all.  There is more required of you, AND God has already invested in you what you need to fulfill that requirement.  With that said, drawing from my experience, God will make you uncomfortable with what you have become proficient with and prompt you to have faith in him so that you can continue to transform into who and what he needs you to be.  That process can be uncomfortable.  The truth is, I don’t like being a novice at anything, so much so that I will sometimes avoid trying something new for fear that I won’t be the best at it.  This isn’t just limited to skills and talents, I don’t like being incompetent as it relates to anything.  So just when I become content with where I am and how I do what I do, God will stretch me to learn something new which requires me relinquish my pride.  Ooo, y’all, I have such a pride issue.

I can guarantee that even with whatever glimpses God has given you about your destiny, you have not seen the full picture; therefore, these little edits may not make any sense.  I’ll be honest enough to admit that I still have moments of grief when I question why God took my mother away from me.  Then there are times when it is so clear that his divine sovereignty has shifted me closer to my destiny.  If everything around you seems to be shifting, if it’s starting to feel uncomfortable, and feels as if things are changing, GOOD!  God has handed you a new script, and you are just acting through the process.  It may not feel good, but this is a necessary change.

Part three next week…

I hope this helps.
-Chris

Don’t Ignore the Change

Two things: Number one, I missed you.  I didn’t write last week, and I didn’t realize how much I’d miss sharing with you guys.  Number two, I believe this will be part one of a possible three-part series on change.  This wasn’t planned; it’s like this literally just dropped in my spirit.  We’ll see what happens.

| Don’t Ignore the Change |

Disclaimer: I am going to have a long introduction and a short message.  Please read it all even if you have to read it in more than one sitting.

I arrived to work on Monday an hour and a half late.  As badly as I wanted to go back home, I pulled my focus towards having a productive day.  Unfortunately, just as I crossed the threshold of the entrance, I was greeted by darkness throughout the halls of the high school where I work.  Other than the natural sunlight that spilled in from random windows, there was a blackness and an eerie silence that filled the building.  The power had been knocked out.  I saw my principal and assistant principals dart in and out of the main office trying to gather pertinent information: what caused this darkness, and when would the power be restored?  Simultaneously, other staff members began brainstorming secondary plans for lunch and activities for the students while security guards policed the halls, escorted students and calmed pandemonium.  A short while later, parents responded to the unnecessarily frantic text messages of their students and arrived to the school to rescue their children.  All the while, I sat in my office wishing that I could go back home or at least have some power, one or the other.  In a disappointment to me, it would be hours before at least a portion of my wish would come true.  The power outage had affected much of the surrounding neighborhood, and the Dominion Energy workers didn’t know exactly what caused it.  Furthermore, there was an estimate that power would be restored between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.  It was 9:45 a.m. when we received that news.  The phones and WiFi were down, of course none of the electronics worked, and the heat was no longer circulating.  I was cold, bored, and inconvenienced; furthermore, there was no hope of us getting released to leave early.

After about 2 hours in the dark and cold, I found that I wasn’t even complaining about the conditions anymore.  To compromise for my inconveniences, I put on both a jacket and my coat to counteract the cold, and I fiddled on my cell phone so I could at least be aware of the time and feel connected to anything outside of my darkness.  I even found myself joking with my co-workers about how we were “stuck” and there was nothing we could do about it.  When I least expected it, the power was restored, and I assumed that despite our setback, things would return to normal.  Boy was I wrong.  I didn’t expect that following the set-back there would be more discomfort.  A few years ago, digital clocks were installed throughout the school, but the analog clocks that are built into the walls were not uninstalled.  Both the digital and analog clocks are wired to a centralized database that sets the time for the clocks and also triggers the bells to ring on time.  After the power was restored, it didn’t take long for the digital clocks to adjust back to its correct position.  As a matter of fact,  I glanced at the clock when it turned on, and it read, “6:00.”  A few moments later, the clock was expedited to the correct time and continued ticking as it should; however, the analog clocks did not have the same fate.  The analog clocks not only stopped at the time that the power was lost, but seemly went back in time and had a further distance to catch up in order to be correct.  In an effort to get back on track, the seconds hand began rushing around the clock.  I know you are looking for the inconvenience or discomfort.  Here it is…  Because the seconds hand was working overtime, it began making a squealing/screeching noise.  Before long, it sounded like a tea kettle on a hot stove that had reached its boiling point, and I eventually developed a headache.  I stomped out of my office and declared that I could not function under those conditions.  I complained and complained until the clock finally shut up about one hour before my shift ended.  Though I was elated to have some relief, I knew it was only temporary because the clock read “11:00” when it was really 3:00 p.m.

The next morning when I returned to work, the temporary silence had expired.  Instead of a squealing/screeching noise, I was greeted by a grinding sound that mimicked a lawn mower or a vacuum cleaner.  Though I was as irritated as the day before, I figured it was easier to ignore this lower pitched noise better than the squeal from the day before.  That noise persisted for my entire shift and even remained while I worked overtime.  When I left my office at 4:30 p.m., I once again had an excruciating headache just as the day before; furthermore, I found myself frustrated that of all of the analog clocks in the building, I was the only one experiencing this inconvenience.  Yesterday, I had the expectation that I would suffer another day of noise to try to ignore.  I clocked into work and began my grind determined to be more productive than the two days that had preceded.  It wasn’t until I was about 2 hours into my shift that my assistant principal walked past my office and said, “I’m sure you are glad that the clock isn’t make noise anymore.”  I looked at him with a puzzled glare then looked up at the clock.  He was right.  The clock had been silent since I arrived but I hadn’t noticed.  I was so immune to the discomfort that I didn’t recognize when it wasn’t there anymore.  In addition, I had no explanation for why the noise had stopped.  It was 4:30 p.m. when I left the day before and 10:00 a.m. at that point, but the clock read “3:58.”  Without me or a maintenance worker fixing it (despite the many times I tried to know the clock down with my yard stick), the issue stopped on its own.

I am going to do my level best to hit some key points as quickly as possible.  Thank you for your patience.

When I arrived to work on Monday, the last thing I expected to walk into was darkness.  I believe that is a metaphor for how we sometimes walk smack into a trial when we least expect it.  You can just be minding your own business, living your life like it is golden, then BOOM…trouble.  That’s how I felt Monday.  I didn’t ask for this issue, and I soon learned that one problem would cause a domino effect of others.  Not only was it dark, it soon became cold, we were without the resources we were used to, and we didn’t see a quick fix or way out.  In essence, we were stuck.  Have you ever felt like you were stuck in a trial that you didn’t sign up for?  Just like during that power outage, there are times while in the middle of my trial that I long for normalcy.  I want to get out and have life return to what it was, but what do you do when God doesn’t make you privy to the details as to when this thing will be over?  Eventually, I found the my expectations were shifting.  I went from complaining about the issue to praying that it would be over soon to just accepting what was and figuring out how to survive in it.  The paradox of waiting in a trial is that if we aren’t careful, we become content with the conditions, we learn to live with what is, and we may eventually stop hoping for anything better.  You don’t believe me?  Imagine someone with chronic pain.  At the onset of the illness, they may be diligent to find a remedy for the condition; however, as time progresses they may settle for “pain management” in the mean and in between time.  You need another example?  Have you ever felt caught in the “Month-to-Month, More Bills Than Money” cycle?  Eventually when it seems you are caught in the rut, you may just accept that some things you just can’t afford do, and some places you can’t afford to go.  It’s not just about living within your means, it’s about dropping your expectation.  I’d like to call this the “It is What it is Phenomenon.”  That basically means, I may or may not be responsible for how things got this way, and I may or may not be able to fix it so I’ll just accept it.  You see what I’m trying to say?

Let’s take this a step further.  Have you ever finally gotten out of one storm just to be immediately hit with the aftermath of the storm?  Think about when we have terrible hurricanes or tornadoes.  First we have to suffer through the storm itself, then we are faced with the devastation caused by the storm.  So the power went out, then I had to deal with the clock issue.  So your health fails you, then you have to deal with the losses that follow: independence, job, etc.  So your marriage ends, then you have to deal with rejection, loneliness, lack of security, and a forced fresh start.  I reckon it’s bad enough that I have to go through the trial in the first place, but why is that once I’ve survived I am forced to deal with the residue of the trial?  And if we are not careful, we will fall prey to restarting the cycle of the “It is What it is Phenomenon.”  We will complain for a while then pray for the issue to be over until we eventually accept what is and figure out how to survive.

I hope I am making this plain.

I had become so adjusted to the noise of the clock that I didn’t even notice when it was silent.  I’ll give a practical example.  If my adulthood had to be described, I think of two words: struggle and survival.  Unfortunately, this isn’t limited to just a conversation about finances.  Money has always been tight even when I had more of it.  Biggie Smalls said, “Mo money, mo problems.”  For every extra dollar earned, there seemed to be an extra expense to juggle.  Even when it came to love, friendships and relationships, I’ve experienced for every one person who poured into me, there seemed to be three who drained me dry.  In situations where there seems to be an imbalance, we enter survival mode not only to protect ourselves but to just “make it” since we are seemingly stuck in that situation.  Survival mode is cool if it is used on a short-term basis.  The issue with remaining survival mode too long is you can easily MISS, IGNORE, or REJECT an opportunity to escape.  Basically, relief is present but you miss the shift because you’ve subscribed to your coping mechanisms and your Plan B, but I’m not judging you.  We can become so devoted to our survival plan because we have genuinely been stuck in the trial so long that we have lost expectation that it will ever end.  We believe it will take a miracle, a windfall of success, or some cosmic realignment to finally allow escape from our trial.  I have a news flash: some trials just end.  With no miracle prayer line, windfall, or cosmic realignment, it’s just over.  Just like milk has an expiration date, issues can too.  And just like that, the clock stop making noise.  And just like that, a way was made.  And just like that, my pain subsided.

The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ – eternal and glorious plans they are! – will have you put together and on your feet for good.

1 Peter 5:10 [The Message Bible]

THE MORAL OF THE STORY

Trouble doesn’t last always, but you won’t be aware of the change if you are only looking for the trouble.

I was so immune to the discomfort caused by the squealing, screeching, grinding, buzzing clock that I missed the moment when things were silenced.  I was not only free from the noise, but I given an opportunity to recover from the headache that it caused.  For at least one or two readers who will receive this, there is freedom from both your storm and the aftermath, but you’re going to have to pay attention to the shifts that have occurred.  There may be some abrupt stops: some friendships that abruptly end, a command to walk away from something suddenly, a report from the doctor that contradicts what they had once seen, or even an unction to take a leap that will land you in a space much further or different from where you are.  And think it not strange if some of these things occur with no explanation AND if it looks like it shouldn’t be over just yet.  Let me remind you that the clock on my office wall read “3:58” when it was really 10:00 a.m.  Based on logic and what I had experienced before, the clock still hadn’t caught up so the noise should have started again at some point.  For the record, it is now a full day later and not only is the clock still silent, it’s also still stuck.  INEXPLICABLY, that issue is over, and I’m not going to question this deliverance!  Amen?  Amen!

My dear friend, as you may be in a situation that has caught you off guard, one that you didn’t sign up for, and one that you may have even just accepted, God knows when he will rescue you from the portions of it that he wants to rescue you from.  (Long suffering is a thing, and sometimes God won’t deliver you from it but deliver you in it… That’s another blog for another day.)  I urge you to be aware.  Right while you are smack dab in the middle of a problem, God is working all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).  Just as the trial happened unexpectedly, out of the blue things can change.  Don’t ignore the change.

Part two next week.

I hope this helps.
-Chris

Consistent.

My beloved readers, I have a confession: I didn’t feel like blogging today.  I don’t feel extra inspired, and I don’t have an urgency to share any major revelations.  If I can be completely candid with you, I am posting primarily because it is Thursday, and I post on Thursdays.

| Consistent. |

One of the most guaranteed ways to have inconsistent results is to have inconsistent effort.

Some time over the weekend, I began wrestling with the idea of not blogging today.  I know that seems a bit extreme as I was only about two days out from my last blog, but I just wasn’t sure that I was up to it.  The truth (that I may share in a later blog) is that last weekend was rough and came with a set of sucker punches.  The beginning portion of this week has had its highs and lows and even some highs that made me feel low.  All in all, I just wasn’t interested in “Sharing my story.  Changing a life.”  A few hours ago, I even tweeted, “I don’t feel like blogging today, but I’m going to do it anyway.”

The truth of the matter is there are times in life where we do things for the sake of keeping our word, and other times that we do things for the sake of being consistent.  I have recently recommitted to living a healthier lifestyle.  I joined the gym and had been going with a few of my home girls.  I traded fast food lunches for homemade salads, fruit, and healthy snacks.  Lastly, I started drinking at least 1.5 liters of water daily.  I went strong for about two to three weeks, then last week happened, and I got knocked off my high horse.  While a friend of mine shared that she had lost six pounds, I hadn’t been to the gym in seven days and hadn’t drank more than a bottle of water in three.  Though we both have our own personal reasons for our lifestyle changes, one of the goals is to lose some weight for this beach vacation we are taking in the summertime.  I wanted to be jealous of the fact that she had residual results and I didn’t and she could possibly end up looking like a dime on this vacay while I’d be looking like spare change, but I had a reality check.  I didn’t have any results because I didn’t remain consistent.

While wracking my brain trying to figure out how to share this piece on consistency with you, because I didn’t feel like it, I ended up gaining more insight than I bargained for.  I am willing to admit that I have been inconsistent as it relates to eating healthy and going to the gym.  I don’t mind admitting that I am sometimes inconsistent as it relates to  whether or not I give 100% to tasks or at work especially when I feel burnt out, physically or emotionally.  What I didn’t realize is that I tend to be inconsistent with myself specifically as it relates to what I think of or how I treat myself.  Don’t worry, I’ll explain.

Just last week I said something to the effect of not regretting my journey because it made me who I am and brought me to this point… blah blah blah.  Fast forward to this morning as I scrolled through my mental Rolodex of peers who are working as teachers, purchasing homes, buying new cars, and tucking cash into savings accounts monthly.  In that moment, I felt measures of regret and began playing the “Should’ve, Could’ve, Would’ve” game.  I couldn’t help but think that if I would have just went to a four-year college out of high school instead of art school, focused on finding myself at 19 years old instead of getting married, or learned to save money instead of learning the art of survival mode then maybe, just maybe, I’d be like my peers who are doing well and not in “the struggle.”  But what happened to the declarations that I just made…that I’ve embraced what my life has become, I’m proud of me for overcoming, and that the hand I was dealt made me who I am?  If I’m not mistaken, it looks as if I flaked on the very thing I believed about me because of how I felt, but consistency has NOTHING to do with feelings.  Feelings change…and fade.  An investment into emotions and even circumstances only result in instability and inconsistency.  Going back and forth with myself as to whether or not I am a failure, did things right, or followed the right path not only makes me question where I am but it puts me at risk to forfeit where I can go.

Consistent

THE MORAL OF THE STORY

The truth is I have bad days accompanied with, followed by, and despite good days.  That, my friend, is life.  There are days when I am rooting for myself loudly and other days when I am seeking for strength just to get through the day.  Sometimes I knock it out of the park, and other days I get three strikes.  When I dug to the core of these most recent feelings and what seemed to be the recanting of my declaration, I found that I was playing the comparison game, and comparison kills.  That’s a different blog for a different day.

My two goals today were to publish blog despite how I felt and to remind myself that my journey is okay and my destiny is still sure despite what I feel.  Well, I am just about to hit the “publish” button on this blog, even if it didn’t hit the mark today.  In addition, I’ve decided to shift my focus from what I don’t have because life happened to what I do have despite life happening.  I am removing feelings and emotions from the equation of consistency.  Sometimes it all boils down to a choice.  Today I am choosing to make “it” happen regardless, and if I fall off, I’m going to pick myself up and get back to it.  Just like I posted this blog because I wanted to be consistent, I am going to speak positively over myself today if nothing else for the sake of being consistent.

…and anything I do repeatedly will bring results.  Let me add for the record, consistent negativity yields results too.  Keep that on your mind.

Maybe I’ll say more on a day when I feel like it.  *wink*

It was a bit broken, but I hope this helps.
-Chris

Why Not?

I was on a roll typing a completely different blog, then I deleted it for this.

| Why Not? |

This blog is inspired by the conversation that I just had with my co-worker less than five minutes ago.

“I really want to move out of state.  If I don’t move out of state, I am considering moving to Richmond.”  My co-worker, who is a wife and mother of three boys in high school, began telling me how she wishes she would have traveled more, moved away, and experienced life a bit more prior to having so many obligations.  She then followed that statement with, “Do what you can while you can.”

If you were to ask my 16 year-old-self what I thought life would look like now, the 2004 Christen edition would make mention of a husband, a few children, being a homeowner, and working some magnificent career.  In a quick comparison, the present day 30 year-old Christen is single as a dollar bill, with nare chick nor child, renting a third-floor apartment, and a secretary by day who is building a few of her dreams into careers.  For the record, I am in NO way feeding you some sob story.  Though my life isn’t perfect and it looks nothing like I imagined 15 years ago, I have learned to love the life I have and work for what I want.  Anyway, when my co-worker said, “Do what you can while you can,” it was as if something clicked deep within my soul.  I am not tied down by a husband, any children, a piece of property, or even a career that is hard to replace.  I’m not even restrained by a boyfriend.  For all intents and purposes, I am free, honey!  I have been handed a one way ticket to go live life with little to no limitations.

Let me just say: No, I’m not just going to up and make any rash decisions without consulting God.  Because my will is submitted to his, I know that I ultimately need his guidance so that I’m not living outside of his will.  Amen? Amen.

Now that I’ve stated that for the record, back to what I was saying.  Being transparent, I have been mega frustrated with some of the normalcy of my life.  I am, in some ways, discontent about the dynamics that make up my day-to-day life.  I am beyond ready to move from my third-floor apartment and my city altogether, I feel as if I am not fully fulfilling my purpose, and maybe some changes need to be made as it relates to my occupation, and so on and so forth.  It’s like I have been standing at a fork in the road waiting for direction AND clearance to move forward…to try something new.  Hesitation has stopped me from making big leaps, but why?  Again, I don’t have a husband or kids.  What do I really have to lose?  So if I want to go back to school one more time, who am I abandoning at home?  If I want to take a week off of work and travel to the other side of the country, who do I have to answer to?  If I decide to move to New York, DC, Atlanta, or California, what am I leaving behind?  I could do any or all of these things.

When ending my conversation with my co-worker, I told her of a recent conversation with a friend who was jokingly trying to convince me to move to a city that is seemingly far away from my home base.  I shared with her the litany of excuses that I proclaimed to my friend in between laughs and chuckles.  “I’d be all alone over there.  My church is way over here.  My friends live over here.”  Blah, blah, blah!  At the end of the day, no excuse was greater than an opportunity to try.  I looked at my co-worker and said, ” I could move there or anywhere if I wanted to.  Why not?”

“Do what you can while you can.”

THE MORAL OF THE STORY

I already know that a few of you have surmised that this blog has nothing to do with you in the least bit, but that’s not how I roll, my dear.  Even in the moments where I am pouring out my heart before you, I try to leave a take-away that is applicable to your life by some measure.  I am aware that some of you do have a spouse and/or children.  You may very well be a homeowner, and you could possibly work a job that won’t allow you to abruptly uproot your life and move to lands unknown.  Let’s go ahead a remove moving away from the context, mmkay?

Today, in this very moment, you have the ability – strength, vigor, energy, resources, etc. – to do some things that you may not have the ability to do later in life including but limited to tomorrow.  For example, I just conversed with a lady in her forties yesterday about being a hair stylist.  She said when she was younger, she could stand for 9-12 hours behind the chair doing one head of hair after the other, but now not only has she gotten older, she has bone spurs and back issues that make standing for long periods of time virtually impossible.  When she could do it, she did it.  Now that she can’t do it, she has to improvise or not do it at all.  Do you see my point?

While you have today and the all of the opportunities that today has offered you, DO SOMETHING!  There is no gift greater than the chance to try.  So you don’t have all you need; use what you have!  Period!  Ask God for guidance and direction, and when he directs your path, WALK ON IT!  Here’s the truth, not every opportunity comes around again, and if it does, it may be harder to seize it.  Going back to school at 29 years old was rewarding, but going to school straight out of high school required less of a sacrifice.  Though I have no regrets about my journey, I acknowledge that I didn’t take full advantage of what I could do [easily] when I could do it.

Today I want to challenge you to do something with me.  Yes, I am going to legitimately do this.  On one side of a sheet of paper, I want you to make a list of all of the things that you want to/feel led to do or at least try.  On the opposite side of the sheet of paper, I want you to list the reasons why feel that you can’t do them.  Then in big, bold letters, I want you to write over top your excuse column, “WHY NOT?”

This year, I will make bold moves.

I hope this helps.
-Chris