Conception

When a woman asks for guidance in pursuing her dream, I do not take it lightly.

This is sacred ground.

I bear witness to a conception.

Directing a vocational school allowed me access to inspired minds and eager learners. Women gathered here to develop a trade, and with hopes of improving their life.

My time was not spent telling women what to think, what to believe, or what to do. We had an accredited curriculum and capable teachers.

My presence was to oversee all departments- create engaging environments, bolster confidence, motivate and inspire.

My job was not only to keep the ship sailing at full speed ahead, but also to make sure all aboard were safe, progressing beautifully, and remained on-track for completion.

Every so often, an innovative woman would ask to meet privately. She would be bursting at the seams with ideas and insights.

Let me tell you this: there is something unforgettably exhilarating in listening to a woman share her vision.

I watch eyes sparkle, postures rise, and cheeks flush as she stumbles upon choosing the right words. Breathtaking.

A woman declaring the treasures in her heart is a most magnificent display. I would go so far as to call it exquisite.

What I suggested to each woman, regardless of her plan, was to begin with a vision board. Write it all out.

Choose the finest words to describe it – this thing you can’t seem to put your finger on but you know it is something.

Cut out magazine clipping, fabric swatches, color schemes and leadership quotes.

Let this conception come to life.

Next, I would suggest placing the vision board on a wall within her home.

Let it stand in sight, day-in and day-out. When it catches your eye, think upon it. When its beauty beholds you, let your heart swell.

When it ignites a spark, give thanks.

When you’ve lost endurance and it seems far out of reach- pray. Pray for more. More inspiration, more guidance, and less distraction- as you place another piece on the board.

“Your beliefs will either move you forward, or hold you back.” – Oprah

Sometimes, when unsure of the next step, it helps to look your personal beliefs dead in the eye.

Investigate, interrogate and question motives.

If you have a dream, if you have an audacious vision for your life – one that has not made its way out of your heart, into your head, onto paper, and developed itself into physical form- you may have beliefs that are holding you back.

If you know you hold great purpose and your thinking has moved you towards desiring a personal contribution to your community – yet you remain tethered to visions that exclude an invitation and prohibit collaboration – you may have a belief system that is holding you back.

Beliefs are for you.

Beliefs are for enhancing your human experience, not replacing it.

Beliefs add value to your life, they do not consume it.

Beliefs are meant to be inside of you, not plastered to your car, toted around in a bag, or used as a weapon to justify judgment.

Beliefs are what help you become the best version of yourself. Beliefs help construct your way, a mode of engaging in this world that can deeply enhance the lives of others.

Let your beliefs lead your steps, and let your path follow your purpose.

Let your purpose come to life on a vision board within your home.

Whatever you can conceive,

add to it belief,

stir it up with action,

and watch it come to fruition.

XOXOXO

M

Advertisements

The Blamed and The Brave

“He must have tired of being crippled, as prisoners tire of penitentiary bars, and the guilty tire of blame.”

-Maya Angelou , I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

For the guilty, confrontations often turn into a yawn and an eye roll. They’ve got the process down.

Lists of defenses pinned to the lining of their jackets, secrets stuffed into the toes of their shoes, or perhaps the clinking of ice in a glass will drowned out the lies spoken; preparation and planning surfaces when the guilty show up to perform.

Confronting someone who loves you can be the best thing to happen to your relationship. Honesty can flow. Understanding can be found. Apologies can surface. And greater connection can absolutely be the outcome of a confrontation.

Sometimes, as many know, it doesn’t always go down like that.

Sometimes, the denial of wrongdoing is strong. Sometimes, the response to expressed pain is cold. Sometimes, one is completely ghosted- abandoned to hold on to hope, alone. And sometimes, I wonder if there was a strategy involved.

Abusers are those who use what they know of you, against you.

In a confrontation situation, this could very well be how some abusers think:

“Oh, this will be easy. Denying words is effortless when my position is elevated to theirs!”

“I know that they struggle with shame, I’ll simply suggest they are overreacting and they will consider that they are.”

“This one is a communicator, all I need to do is stay silent and watch them unravel.”

“He thrives on connection, I’ll just retreat from the situation and disappear. That will teach him.”

I have witnessed the guilty shamelessly divert attention and shift blame onto their victims.

I have watched the meek pick up the offense and carry it alone, while breaking their own backs in the process.

That’s how professional abusers stay in business, by surrounding themselves with yes-men and people-pleasers,  creating insulation, a protection from those uncomfortable feelings of guilt.

What we often forget, and what we must try to remember, is this: getting uncomfortable is part of human development. And those who continue to choose insulation over connection inevitably grow relationally immature and relatively irresponsible.

I have waded through far too many abusive situations in my life, so many so, that I consider myself an expert at the art of detecting bullshit.

There are keywords to listen for. There is body language to pick up on. The red-flags are there, my friends, our responsibility is to get wiser at spotting them. Not only for our own well being, but for our children, too.

The guilty often find it tiresome to be forced into considering the concerns and challenges voiced to them. Some guilty readily use their tears to negate admission. Many guilty are known to gather a crowd to disappear into. The art of organized crime can be quite immaculate.

I suppose it must become an art sometime, after all, when confrontations happen quite often, surely there would be a calculating of how it will go this time.

“Oh dear, I already used charming manipulation yesterday and gaslighting is tomorrow’s plan, so I’ll have to choose naive, pouty lips today and cross my fingers for complicity!”

Some guilty simply take it to the grave. (No matter that this requires slowly dying inside, it apparently beats transparency!) Others have learned how to bob-and-weave, growing into masters of illusion while wondering in anguish why their health is failing.

The greatest of the guilty, however, are those I call The Brave Ones.

The Brave Ones release fear. The Brave Ones surrender pride. They are the ones who labor for keeping a soft heart; they are the ones who remember how to listen; they are the ones whose desire for healthy relationship overrules a desire to be right or righteous.

I stole my neighbors mail when I was 10. A few bills and a piece of junk mail. As I layed in bed that night, wide awake, I could hear my heart pounding. With clammy hands and restless feet, I acknowledged these feelings of guilt. No one was present to accuse me – nobody needed to be. I was doing just fine acknowledging my guilt, all by myself.

The feeling does arise, if you get still enough; it still does whisper, if you tune your ears to hear.

It takes a village to make humility cool, to make it popular again. It takes a community gossiping about the thrill of making things right.

It takes responsible leaders to model the way forward – exposing and celebrating the deep joy that can come from letting go of ego.

But it takes The Brave Ones to recognize and publicize how magnificent the grit of accountability can truly be.

This is Where We Keep Developing

There is a long held song and dance about an enemy who hates us. There are folks who truly believe that any resistance in their life is due to a spiritual attack by an arch nemesis.

I do believe that we are tested, that our character is examined and our motives are challenged- even our will power can be held to extremes at times. But what I happen to witness, more often than preferred, is cruel behavior, unethical actions and harbored pain, making its way into the universe by human mouths, human hands and human feet- and with an unwillingness to consider that these evils have been executed by human beings.

The shrieking of “spiritual attack” at the slightest sense of discomfort, keeps people insulated and immune to examination. These people eventually find the protection they seek, a detour from sincerely and humbly looking at the behaviors that flow out of their very own hearts.

Humble people have a language. When you hear it, you know. The wise trust in the process of development. The trustworthy believe in the power of receding.

It’s healthy to say I’m sorry.

It’s ok to claim fault.

It’s beneficial to acknowledge error.

In doing so, we develop and grow, we learn from our experiences.

When the path of pride is chosen – willful ignorance owns our projections, causing a backslide into childish, self-seeking habits and a carelessness forms towards those around us.

My hope is that we choose the pain of discomfort- that we bravely journey into the vulnerability of failure.

My hope is that we, as women, as matriarchs and leaders, practice the pain of sorrowful remorse to the point that we fear it no longer.

Our white fragility and our spiritual bypassing have no place where this world is headed. But with knowledge and wisdom, with humility and grace, we can learn to develop into the resilient women this nation desperately needs in order for unity to arise.

For Freedom

The Christian Homeless Shelter.
*******
(begin Google review)
During my time as both an employee and volunteer, the directors husband made inappropriate comments about my body, as well as the bodies of other female staff members.
As the company’s private photographer, he also asked me to pose in an inappropriate way (different than that of other female staff members).
After resigning from my paid position and requesting to remain as a volunteer, I shared this information with the director herself.
In retaliation, she blocked me from continuing to volunteer in the class I was currently engaged in.
I shared this information with the CEO. He made excuses for the directors behavior and expressed zero concern about the safety of women (staff, volunteers, or residents) in his shelter as well as the retaliatory actions of the director.
He did, however, send me a copy of their conflict resolution procedures suggesting I submit to their processes even though his director did not follow them in any way. 
No one at this organization made a single attempt to apologize, express remorse, or claim culpability in this matter.
{Side Note: seeking counsel from my pastor’s wife brough no resolution, either. She joined in the dismissing and devaluing of the situation and remained closely supportive of the director. Perhaps she did not want to jeopardize her regularly scheduled speaking engagements at the shelter or chance the interruption of their business collaborations? }
Good intentions of patriarchal Christian organizations do not overrule the harmful experiences they cause.
If your intent is to help, but you end up harming those you invite to partner with your efforts, how helpful to a community are you, really? 
(end Google review)
*******
This is what breaking away from oppression sounds like.
These are the kinds of scathing stories that find their own freedom. These are the words that escape from a weathered heart when healing floods a wound.
I have whispered this experience many times in my head, over and over again in my mind, while living in fear of speaking it aloud.
“I am compelled to combat the distortions of twisted religion, misused power and entrenched and evil patriarchal systems”
  As this story leaves my bones and travels to this page, I feel a rush of peace within. A completion to my pain. There is warmth and belonging, right now – right here – even in my solitude.
This is the birth of Hope.
I see her more clearly, having shed these cleansing tears; I feel her joy more presently, having laid this burden down.
Silence has been a weapon formed against me, killing quietly my crushed spirit.
This is breaking those agreements. This is refusing the invitation.
This is my life as a Matriarch.
Whatever could I preach, without having first done it, myself? Whatever could I advocate, without having first led the way?
How can one speak of freedom, while silently living in fear?
Not in my house. Not on my watch.
Freedom has made her home in my heart, she kisses my lips and holds my hand. Freedom compels me to action and relieves me of shame. Freedom is now my true friend and trusted ally.
Whatever comes about from having shared this story of mine, is no longer in my hands. These hands are occupied with raising fists of solidarity and waving a welcome to peace.
And this is enough.

The Art of Care

If you have ever inhaled the luscious, sweet fragrance of the Gardenia plant, consider yourself deeply honored. The Gardenia is hailed as exotic, with her deep green leaves and delicate, woody stalks. She stands royal in her intoxicating glory. But know this, Gardenias do not just show up and throw down a petal party, they require – no, they demand- specific temperatures and precise humidity in order to thrive and live their best life. I know this, as I have failed many times in caring for them.

I think about how often we fall in love with the novelty of things. We search out a lively looking plant that can bring forth a scent that reigns over Fabreeze; we spend money to make her ours, bringing her into our domain. Weeks pass without conceptualizing the magnitude of her care and she slowly begins to fade.

Watching a plant die can cast a shadow of shame – its lifeless pedicel becomes a symbol of our inadequacy, so before she gets too unsightly for us to bear, we discard her in Wednesday’s trash.

Sure, a plant is not the same as getting a puppy or giving birth, but isn’t caring for a plant the simplest form of practice for learning the process of care taking? Wouldn’t we do well to learn how to properly care for a plant before we go and start leading people, influencing others, or starting a movement?

Investing the time into discovering the art of understanding living things – the delight of recognizing what it needs to thrive, and the joy of honoring its demands, leads to wholehearted care giving. Mastering these skills allows for the living to flourish.

Could it be that we just don’t take caring for things as seriously as we should? Have we replaced the word “care” with “leadership”, therefore desensitizing ourselves from the humanity of our influence? Perhaps we are addicted to the notoriety and novelty of positional leadership more than we experience deep satisfaction of the quality and integrity that leadership demands.

And how about when these living things we have acquired begin wilting, are we willing to look at the care we have administered, taking accountability for the culture and soil that we have established? Or, do we blame expressions of affliction on everything and everyone else?

When I walk into someone’s space and I see healthy, thriving plants, my trust level shoots up. There is something sturdy about the wisdom of those who have learned to care for plants; people who have taken the time to understand needs of sunlight, water, and the individual demands of each plant’s care; people who have found joy in monitoring and assisting in the health of the “least of these”.

These are the people in whom I can usually trust to add great value to my life. I am almost certain that I may find something to learn or some form of enlightenment, simply by knowing them.

In fact, nowadays I look for the plant people. I search out the simple care givers.

Fake plants filling an office or home make me incredibly uneasy. The same goes for candles. There is something deeply authentic about people who mist leaves, prune leaves, and adjust lighting – people who light the wick, position the candle, and respectfully take the drip of the wax into consideration.

A counterfeit flame does not hold the same power as the dangerous heat of a living fire. And a false leaf does not omit the life-giving properties of oxygen.   

I wonder if we had more plant people at The White House, more plant people behind the pulpit, more plant people wearing badges, or more plant people in schools. I wonder if we might experience a more thriving humanity?

To test and strengthen the ability to lead – simply bring home a plant. Research its needs, adjust your lifestyle to properly care for it, and seek to discover the joy of making your care an art. Accepting the great responsibility of caring for a living thing, and taking it a little more seriously, grants us witness to the unique beauty and divine aroma that comes from being a wholehearted caretaker.