I Can't Fix This!

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This blog is dedicated to the memory of Dionesha Clarke

#HeyFlee

 I Can’t Fix This

 I was sitting in my office on January 2, 2019 looking at my calendar and planning some dates for the year. Then suddenly, something happened. My friend’s daughter died, one of our nieces was gone.  It threw us all off. I was stunned, sad, and unable to think clearly. It was all emotions.  

 No one ever expects death, especially when it seems to come out of nowhere. We are never prepared. I was planning my year and I did not expect to hear that she was gone. One of my favorite quotes (and I have many), is, “If you think you have figured God out, then it must not be God.” I could not figure this out!  

My eyes were filled with tears, I openly wept and I shook my head. You see, a part of me has always felt that if you line up your life, know your purpose, have your affirmations on a stack of post-it notes, pray, sit in silence and meditate, then all of your dreams and hopes for a bright future will come to pass. The other part of me knows that life just happens.

 I will admit that I am a fixer and many times I will over function because I am that kind of person. Isn’t that what we are trained to do? This “fix this” mentality even spills over into our relationship with God. “Jesus fix it and fix it now!” I could not fix this. I could not bring her back. I only had my faith, my love for God, and my love for them. Would that be enough? 

Then I heard this small voice say, “No, you can’t fix this but you can count on Me to be with you. You can’t fix this, but you can continue to believe Me for them while they are on this journey. You can’t fix this but you can trust Me and continue to love them through this difficult time.”

This “fix this” mentality impedes waiting on God and it is exhausting. I needed to be reminded of the importance of waiting. Peter Scazzero is right when he says, “Waiting on God when things are confusing is difficult.” He calls this, “The wait in the confusing in between.” He says it is control. When I try to fix this, it means ‘I got this because I am in control.’

 I am not in control, God is! I can’t fix this but I am learning to wait on God even if it is confusing!  “Loss marks the place where self- knowledge and powerful transformation happen, if we have the courage to participate in the process.” (Scazzero)

I have the courage to continue to trust God in the process of what He is doing in my life and in the life of my friends. I am still crying and there are no “spiritual shortcuts” around this hole in my heart. I know now without a shadow of doubt, since I can’t fix this, I can be present with them. I can call, send a a note, a text, say a prayer and most of all, I can love them well!

"How are you doing?"

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I love to read, watch movies, documentaries, and series on television.  Perhaps it stems from watching the ‘Edge of Night’ with my grandmother, and ‘As the World Turns’, ‘The Young and the Restless’ and ‘Days of our Lives’ with my mother.  Our conversations around these soap operas were always stimulating and exciting.  The tradition has continued even today with my daughter and son, who constantly introduce new shows to me.  Part of the excitement is our conversation around the many issues that we see in these movies, soap operas and television dramas.

One television series I was intrigued by was Being Mary Jane.  The writers delved into issues that often caused me to reflect on my own journey of turbulence, navigating “white water” family dysfunction and trying to understand who I was as a woman, mother, sister and wife.  There were a lot of issues in season three which ended in the suicide of Mary Jane’s best friend, Lisa.  When Mary Jane was asked how was she doing, her response was, “I am fine.” I saw myself in her response because embracing my emotions has been a problem for me.  You see, fine is not a feeling, it is not an emotion.

 In the book ‘Emotionally Healthy Spirituality,’ by Peter Scazzero, he talks about how our inability to express our real feelings and emotions, impedes our emotional and spiritual growth.  Emotionally, I was an infant in the area of grief.  It was difficult for me to embrace my feelings around grief and loss and I did not know how to grieve. I’d never given myself permission to feel sad.  I could only express to people that I was “fine.”  I saw myself at that point, like Mary Jane.  “How are you doing, First Lady?”  “I am blessed and highly favored”. “What is going on with you?” “Oh, the Lord has this, I am fine!”  Really?

In 2014, I was a part of a small group called Restoring Your Heart.  I learned that fine was not an emotion or a feeling, thus, I began my journey of what it meant to process pain and to ultimately grieve.

Mary Jane was not able to appropriately process the depth of her loss.  So much so, that when asked to give remarks at her friend’s funeral, she dumped on everyone who had hurt her friend.  When she finished, it was like a tornado had come through the room. When you’re not able to process your pain, you will “bleed” all over every one.  You will hurt others and not be aware of the damage you have caused.  I have been Mary Jane!  My inability to feel and express my emotions has caused me to lack compassion and to be judgmental of others.

I am learning each day that pain will come. It can keep you from moving forward, if it is not processed appropriately. Mary Jane's friend saw no way out and unfortunately ended her life. That is another blog for another day, but Mary Jane had another opportunity to get it right.

I am learning if I am going to “love well”, I need to express how I feel and honor where I am on my journey. So, the next time you are in the context of your community and one of your friends, mentors or spiritual companions ask, “How are you doing?”, express the emotion that you are experiencing at the time of their inquiry.  Friends ask because they care!



Sitting with myself

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I read the other day that, “Failure is not something we are, failure is something we do.” The author stated, “The real question is not if you will fail, but how you will respond.” One of the areas in my life where I feel I’m a failure, is food.  I used to think I was an emotional eater.  I thought food was the thing I used to bring comfort, and if I could just transfer it to God, then I would be okay.  I did this and lost over 70 lbs. in the 90's through a spiritual based weight loss program.

I never gained all the weight back, but there has always been those 15 lbs. that would creep back. Some people would say the overeating and weight gain is caused by a lack of discipline, true; some would say greed, true.  However, for me, the question still remains, "Why, God, does something as simple as food has me bound? Why am I not free from this struggle? What is in my journey that causes this problem of overeating?”

Last year, I felt I had overcome.  It was my 65th birthday and finally, I was down to a good weight. This was reflected in my A1C numbers and other health areas. Then it happened again, the weight started to creep back.  Those principles I had embraced were no longer being used.  I was back on the same street, same address, ringing the same door bell.  My 15 lbs. were back, and this time with a vengence.

“Why?!” I cried out to God, “What is wrong with me? Why do I sabotage my success?”  As I sat with “me”, I decided to take a backward journey to see when this love affair with food began.  My earliest memory was in elementary school.  It’s too much to go into, but I now had an understanding of the cause.  I accepted that this was a stronghold that needed to be broken.

Let me be clear, I am not striving to be a particular size, but I do want to see improvements in my A1C numbers and overall health.  So, I started over again by sitting with myself. From a principle standpoint, I know what works for me -  small portions and eating when I am truly hungry.  Spiritually, I needed to invite God into the process of really healing me in those areas where I needed healing, love and acceptance.

I needed to embrace God's vision for my life and get clarity.  No physical cleanse could do this, only God’s spirit.  I needed to trust God, to believe that He really was all that I needed in this life and on my journey.  God loves me no matter what my size is, but it is difficult for me to complete my assignment if I am not honoring my body.  I sat with myself and repented of my sin.  God forgives! I have made a decision to correct and modify my behavior.  I can’t do this in my own strength, but I am well aware that I am on a path to be whole.  Someone once said, “Two steps forward and one step back, but going in the right direction.” God’s power, God’s provision, and God’s grace are always with me on my food journey.  So, as I sit with myself, it does not include eating the entire bag of chocolate chip cookies, but being in touch with that little girl in elementary school and understanding that God is really enough.

LEAVE IT TO THE EXPERTS

This blog is from the writer's book "My Hair  . . . My Marriage which was published in 2013.

I have always been one of those girls who would follow people through a store just to figure out what they were wearing in their hair or what they'd done to it. Usually, I don't have a problem with this because of my southern roots. Being from the South, I will strike up a conversation with just about anyone. Once you have given me the information, I will always try to find an inexpensive way to get it done. Some people would say today that I was cheap, but I call it wanting to look like Hollywood on a Norwood budget.

 It's true that I have had an ongoing affair with hair all of my life.  But this time I fell hard. I fell in love with extensions. I had to have them. I wanted that beautiful, curly, wavy, full head of hair. I would fantasize about this hairstyle as I watched 'A Different World' and 'Living Single' in the late nineties. How could I get this hairstyle? And then a woman walked into the church. She had the type of hair that I wanted. She was wearing the style that I wanted. God was with me that day. God heard my prayer and gave me the desire of having that beautiful head of hair. After much discussion, the woman stated that although she did not do her own hair, she could do my hair. All I had to do was buy the hair!

I was now off to buy packs of hair. I had the vision; she had the skill and expertise. I was on my way to having a head of hair that would at least have me looking like  . . .  never mind. I should have known that I was in trouble when it took her only two hours to do my hair. This process requires tiny braids, and it usually requires four hours.

When I got up out of the chair in my family room, I wanted to cry. My head did not look like what I envisioned. It looked like a recently plowed field that was being prepared for planting. You could see every part and the place where each extension was braided to the hair. It did not loo like her head. I thanked her, gave her a holy hug, and said good-bye, and cried. What would I do? I was going out of town on Monday and it was already Saturday evening. I would need to call my hairstylist, swallow my pride, and see if she could fix this mess or at least take it out.

When I arrived at her shop that night, she shook her head and asked, "What were you trying to accomplish?" "Who did you use to accomplish this?" and "What were you thinking?" She called in one of her stylists, who stated that he would come over on Monday morning and work his magic for me. He would try to make me presentable before I left for my trip. It would not be a Different World look, but at least it would be an improvement. He rescued me and I learned a valuable lesson: Leave it to the experts who are licensed, trained and experienced in their profession.

In marriage there will be times when you hit a cycle of problems that your girlfriend, mother, sister, boyfriend, or best "boo" cannot help you with. There may come a time when you need to find professional help. It is the big C____, not cancer, but counseling. Some things in our marriages will require "sittin' on the couch." There is no shame in doing this. It is realizing that God has people who are called, trained and equipped to help us navigate through deep waters when we are in trouble.

When we are facing problems in our relationships and marriages, don't be afraid to make that phone call and say you need help. I learned a valuable lesson that weekend that put me back in my trained stylist's chair. They were able to clean up what I had messed up.

There will be times in our marriages when we need help to restore, renew and refresh. There will be times when we need help straightening out things that we have messed up, but please, leave it to the experts!

What was I thinking?

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This month I will celebrate 43 years of marriage. When I started on this journey, I had no clue what it meant to be a wife, a lover, and in a marriage. I thought that good marriages just happened and if they were not good, people just somehow would stick it out. I did not know all it would involve. I knew that it would require a little work, but I was not ready for the "white water rafting" of marriage. How could I possibly understand the full scope of what a marriage would involve? We were 23 years old, hmmm...

On August 29, 1975, I packed my bags, my trousseau, my electric curlers, my student loans and waited for the big day, On August 30, 1975, I said "I do".  It was a beautiful summer day at my home church. Of course 43 years ago, little did I know that I was beginning a journey of self-discovery and the discovery of the person I would be sharing a bed with over the next 43 years. 

I didn't realize I would need tools to communicate my needs, desires and how to just get along in a one bedroom apartment. My model for marriage was . . . well, I didn't have one. I had never witnessed any public display of affection from my parents and although Michael and I dated for a year, I did not know the importance of building intimacy in a relationship. It was work, school, work, church, church, and more church.

Neither of us understood intimacy and what it meant to make each other a priority.  I did not know how important it was for me to express my desires and what I needed as a woman. I did not know I could do this because no one (my mother) had ever talked to me about sex, other than "Don't have sex before you get married" and "Don't get pregnant before you get married." That was it!

In my early years of marriage, I was so focused on finishing seminary while Michael worked full time, I lost myself. I did not understand what it meant to be a whole, healthy woman who could love well. I thought all I needed was Jesus and that would be enough to sustain me and Michael in our marriage. I don't remember taking time off to go on a vacation (unless it was a church conference). Financially, it was tight and we were not creative in the planning of our time together. 

Someone once said, "You cannot change what you are unaware of", and I was not aware of a lot of things in those earlier years. My journey of loving well began with myself. I started to grow and mature in my relationship with God, myself and others. The "others" started with Michael. Because I was learning who I was, I was able to see him as that life partner God had given me. Marriage can be turbulent, but by the grace of God we were able to survive. The great thing about this 43rd year of marriage is that we are no longer just surviving, we are thriving! 

 

Time to Declutter!

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I opened the drawer by my bed and I could not find what I was looking for because there was so much clutter. I cannot recall when my life of clutter began. I grew up where there was constant cleaning, but very little instruction in organization.

Now, don’t get me wrong, when you walk into my home it is clean and it appears that there is order.  However, if you look closely you will find that there are some things out of place because they do not have a place.

In my early years of housekeeping, I could not see the clutter.  Perhaps, because it was such a part of my environment. I would clean, but never cleared the unnecessary things that I had accumulated. I always envied people who lived their lives effortless in the area of organization. I wanted order in my world. Thus, began my journey of decluttering.

In the beginning, it was difficult to know where to start. I had read, “a journey always starts with one step.”  I started with a drawer. This was not easy for me. I had to actually sit with some items before I could part with them. I had to ask myself the question, “When I die, would this mean anything to my children or grandchildren who would go through my things?” If the answer was no, I threw it away or gave it away. If it brought me joy or some type of added value, I kept it.

It took me several hours to clear that night stand drawer that had become a place for clutter and useless items. I felt good, now knowing I had a designated drawer for my bracelets and other items. I smiled! I began a plan to clean out every drawer and closet in my home. Taking on such a task can be overwhelming, but then I was reminded, one drawer at a time, one closet at a time.

I began to reflect on my spiritual life. It was filled with projects, to do lists and activities that consumed my time, my space and  most importantly, being with God. How could I assess what was needful? What would a ‘decluttered’ spiritual life look like and even feel like? Just as I had tackled that one drawer, it was now necessary to tackle the clutter in my spiritual life.

I assessed “why” there was clutter. Much of it was because I did not know how to refuse projects and even say no to things that God had not told me to do. I always felt that I had to help God. You see, I am a performer and I will take a project on because I can get it done! This kind of mentality led to my spiritual clutter.  Where there is clutter there is no room for clarity.

How could I hear God? How could I see God! Yes, I was “doing” for God, but not “being” with God. I was exhausted. It was reflected in other areas of my life.  I needed clarity in order to love well and to be my best self. I needed clarity to be a better wife, mother and now grandmother. I needed clarity to see where God was working and to hear what God was saying. Someone once said,  “If the devil can’t make you sin, he will make you busy. Either way your soul will shrivel”.

Now when I open a drawer, I am able to see what is in it. Everything now has a place. It is like a new-found freedom. Also, I am opening my heart to God daily, clearing it of those things that would crowd him out. I am finding more peace, joy, and love. My soul is being renewed daily, even amidst life’s challenges, because I am committed to living a clutter free life, both physically and spiritually!