Reflection Connection 2018

Last Saturday I hosted my very first Reflection Connection Sisterhood gathering and it was sensational!

First and foremost I’d like to thank the lovely ladies who came and celebrated sisterhood with me. Without each of you, this event could not have been possible.

32349518_2016854328563044_373811198707105792_oReflection Connection is about inspiring women to shift the way we speak to ourselves and forming friendships with other women who will remind us how incredibly remarkable we are. It’s about gathering women of all ages and races and circumstances, examining ourselves, finding commonalities and creating bridges to restoration.

This was our message for Reflection Connection 2018…a282cfa919620b121dacdb00fa8f98fdProverbs 15:4 tells us that a “soothing tongue is a tree of life.”

Trees of life symbolize many things; a fresh start, positivity, growth, and strength. The Bible compares our spiritual journey to trees several times. For example, in Proverbs 13 it says, “Wealth obtained by fraud dwindles but [SHE] who gathers gradually by honest labor will increase [HER] riches. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” Let’s read that last part again…
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
Deferred – to put off – to wait – to postpone
What does God desire for YOUR life and are YOU honoring His expectations or are you putting them off?

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Let’s bring it back to elementary school for a moment and talk about the parts of a tree.
One of the first things we notice when we see a tree is its beautiful crown; the crown of a tree is made up of leaves and branches. The leaves are the part of the tree that converts energy into food – some kind of tree sugar – this sugar is stored in the branches. The branches provide the support the tree needs to distribute the leaves evenly and efficiently (based on the environment that particular tree is in). The trunk of the tree is the base, it provides the shape and holds up the crown. Last but certainly not least are the roots. The roots are only part of the tree that grows underground. Trees have tons of roots and the size of their roots are usually as big or even bigger than the tree itself. The roots are the strongest part of the tree. The roots are the support system.

During Autumn the leaves start to fall off and by winter the trees are essentially naked, bare, exposed, with nothing to cover them, nothing to keep them warm during the winter. But it is during that time, during that season that the roots of the tree dig deeper into the earth. They grow in search of the nutrients they need to survive.
We are like trees. The seasons we find ourselves naked, bare, exposed, lacking protection from the cold, the bitterness of the world, the schemes of the enemy – that is when our faith should increase, that is when we should relentlessly search for the nutrients we need to survive, to dig deeper, to grow closer with God and when Spring comes again, our growth will be evident, our crowns bigger and brighter than they were before. With each season we grow – sometimes that growth is hidden, sometimes that growth is slower than the others around us but just like trees, that growth cannot be forced to happen before it’s time.

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The good news is, we know that beautiful crown is coming.
In Revelation 22 it says, “The angel showed me a river of water, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb…on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing [not one but] twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of nations.” We are trees of life, called and created to bear fruit, to use our leaves (our gifts, our hurts, our joys, etc) to help heal others. BUT FIRST, we have to heal ourselves. We need to train our minds, we need to stand in the mirror and say, “This woman looking back at me is all I need because God is in me and because God is in me I am wonderful, I can capable, I am powerful. I can and I will” and adjust our crown as we say it.

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We already know that beautiful crown is coming but we can’t have a crown without roots. We all want the bright, beautiful leaves but we gotta get deeper into the dirt first.

Which brings us back to our focus scripture, “a soothing tongue is a tree of life.”
Our words are powerful – our words kill or give life – they can be poisonous or prosperous – the choice is ours.

What words are you choosing?

What words have you chosen? What do your words reflect? How do you speak to others? How do you speak to yourself? If I’m being honest, I have spoken very unkindly to myself, even just this morning. I won’t hesitate to say harsh things to myself and yet I wouldn’t dare to say them to others. We as women have a tendency to self-sabotage. But why? Where do these toxic words and thoughts stem from?

Take a few moments to reflect
What words have others called you? What words have shifted how you see yourself? What words sting a little more than others? What words come with a negative connotation? What words have marked your life?

Now take a few moments to connect
Who else is affected by that exact or similar word? Why does it affect them? What’s their story? Can your commonalities provide the coverage they need? Can you help each other heal?

Watching these lovely ladies, who were essentially strangers to each other prior to this event, openly share some of their stories while simultaneously encouraging each other was exceptional. There is so much strength to be found in sisterhood. I believe that now more than ever.

See you at Reflection Connection 2019 

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When the roots are deep,
there is no reason to fear the storm. 

 

Subscribe and stay tuned for a Reflection Connection worksheet later this month

 

* I do not own the rights to the tree coloring sheet *
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Brighter Than The Darkness

April 19th marks the anniversary of the last time I planned to commit suicide. It’s been ten years since then. Today I’d like to share something I’ve spoken about before with the hope that it reaches the person who needs it today…

For far too long I sought the approval of others and set my desires aside
Pleasing people became second nature
Yet as hard as I tried, I could just never fit in
Depression and insecurity overwhelmed me
Voices in my head telling me, “There’s one way to take the pain away”
Knife in my right hand and bathroom door locked
My mind was set on doing it until I heard a knock
It was my little sister
“Kim, how do you spell elephant?”
My heart sank
Tears streamed down my face
Everything that happened before that moment didn’t matter
Not the neglect
Not the molestation
Not the teasing
Not the physical bullying
Not the need to be accepted
Nothing
At that moment all I could think about was my sister finding me
It took a split second to change my life
Better said to save my life
You never know what someone has endured or is currently enduring
Don’t be the person that makes them break
Before you snap
Before you scream
Before you do anything unkind
Know that it took six words to save my life

To my friend struggling with thoughts of suicide, please know that you are brighter than the darkness that is trying to consume you on the inside. The world needs what only you can provide so take my hand dear friend, together we will survive.

Secrets of a Sinner

I’ve cried
I’ve prayed
I’ve tried
Yet nothing’s changed
All the pain still feels the same
Are you happy God?
Are you entertained?
Feels like I’m about to burst
Might be better to become one with the earth
They say we’re born to die
And I’ve tried three times
Yet death I cannot seem to find
Screaming out, “Why God! Why!”
As I stare in this mirror
Satan starts to whisper
It could all end today
Just pull the trigger
Fourth times a charm
It won’t take long
Why hold on?
You’re already gone
He removed the cloak
Now I’m seeing clearer
No one can help me
I am a sinner

The Green Sweater

6:59am
It was cold. The sun was shining but the temperature was below freezing. The little black alarm is buzzing, the sound echoing throughout the room. The blankets begin to move, an arm stretching towards the nightstand, knocking over the empty glass before hitting the snooze button. It was time to wake up, time to get up, time to face the misery that is his life. He sighs then slowly emerges from his bed. For several minutes he sits at the edge of his bed, slightly hunched over, defeated before his day even begins. Today will be good. It’s Thursday.

8:00am
He has been standing at the corner of Union and Florence for 15 minutes. The bus is late. Again. He’s freezing, his toes tingling, his body trembling, his nose a bright shade of red and to make matters worse, here comes Alex strolling down the street. Not today. Not today. Not today. 
“Hey there buddy!” his thoughts interupted. Alex wraps his arm around him and says, “How’s my favorite retard doing today?”
“Hello Alex” he mubles while staring at the ground.
“You know, it’s cold out here. You should really wear a coat.” Alex chuckles.
The bus finally arrives. Alex dashes through the doors. He slowly follows behind him.
“Look he’s wearing his green sweater again,” a loud voice shouts followed by laughter. He keeps his head down and walks to his seat. Today will be good. It’s Thursday.

11:15am
He walks through the doors and sees Mr. Washington and greets him with a smile. It’s time for calculus. His favorite class. He loves numbers. He knows numbers. They give him a sense of solace.
“Does anyone want to discuss last night’s assignment?”
His hand shoots up, eager to explain to his new discovery. But before he could open his mouth to speak there is a knock at the door. A new student. His excitement plummets. He sinks into his seat. His happy place is being invaded. He closes his eyes and takes ten deep breaths. When he opens them again, he sees her, the new student. She’s sitting right in front of him. His heart starts to race. Suddenly she turns to him and says, “Can I borrow a pencil.” Without breaking eye contact he reaches into his backpack then hands her a pencil. His only other pencil.

2:20pm
As he walks towards his bus he hears footsteps quickly approaching from behind. He closes his eyes and braces for impact but instead instead of a blow to the back of the head, it’s a gentle tap on his shoulder. He opens his eyes and slowly turns around. It’s her. The new student.
“Hey! Sorry! I just wanted to return your pencil and say thank you.” He looks around then looks at her then looks around again. She extends the pencil, smiles and says, “I’m Thea by the way.” He looks around then looks at her then looks around again. “Andrew,” he says as he reachers for the pencil.
“Thanks again Andrew. Hey! Did you know that Andrew is Greek for strong.”
He nods his head. Ironically, since before he could remember he’s always felt weak.

6:45pm
He’s rocking in the corner; his eyes shut tight, his legs pressing against his chest and his hands over his ears while yelling, “Amelia!”
His room door swings open, she rushes towards him, falls to her knees and wraps him in her arms. “Shhh. It’s okay. I’m here. It’s okay Andrew, I’m here.”
It broke her heart to see him like this, especially since he wasn’t always this way. He didn’t always have these episodes. Not until their mom died. It’s been six months since then and every day at this time he collapses. Literally.

7:15pm
He’s sitting at the table, chipping away, watching the small specs hit the floor.
“Andrew. Please stop. I know it’s not the best table but it’s ours.”
“There are 37 pieces. 37 pieces of chipped paint on the floor.”
“Well, could you pick up those 37 pieces, please? I just finished cleaning the kitchen.” Ameila snaps as he walks towards the pantry. Just as Andrew finishes picking up the pieces of chipped paint, she surprises him with a big red bag. “I know it’s not Christmas yet but I just got this today and know how much you need it.”
Andrew’s green eyes light up, for the first time in a very long time. He reaches for the bag, tosses the tissue paper to the side, looks in and smiles.
“I know it’s not brand new but-”
“It’s perfect!”
Andrew pulls out the gently used coat and tries it on. “It has a hood…the zipper works and no holes! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!” He wraps his arms around her, lifts her off the floor and swirls her around. “I have the best big sister ever!”

If Only

Areas on a surface, unlike its surroundings. Lesions left on one’s body where a wound occurred and fibrous connective tissue has now formed. A visible stain. These marks are known as scars. Most scars are spotted almost effortlessly. Most. There are also scars you can’t see. Are those also spotted almost effortlessly? No.
It took me quite some time to realize that not all wounds are visible. Some people are seared in scars that have no physical evidence. I have scars. Scars that make me feel inadequate. Scars that make me feel ashamed. Scars that make me feel damaged and dirty. Scars that make me feel undeserving.
These feelings often cause us to obstruct our own future.
The thing about scars is, they already happened, they’re part of the past. Past by its very definition is what has happened previously. But we can still be haunted by what has happened previously.
I am.
There are parts of my past that I have tried extremely hard to suppress yet I still have very vivid memories, some would even call them out of body experiences. It’s like I’m there again, watching myself, seeing the scars as they form and I’m yelling at myself to run, to hide, to scream, to shout, to ask for help. Sometimes I relieve those moments over and over and over again. Sometimes those moments seem endless. Sometimes I feel trapped in what are now only memories. Sometimes I can’t sleep. Sometimes I can’t breathe. It’s overwhelming.
And that’s where they want us. Trapped in things that have happened previously, unable to see past it, blind to where and what and who we could be if only we would stop allowing our scars to have sovereignty.
If only.
If only we could see that scars are merely marks. If only we knew that our scars told a story. If only we believed that our scars showed us that although we have suffered, we have also survived.
Our scars shouldn’t bring shame. Our scars shouldn’t be hidden. Our scars should be shared. Our wounds prove that we are warriors. Brave men and women who took a stand, who fought even when it seemed like every area of our lives were simultaneously infiltrated. The invasion may have marked us, but it didn’t stop us.
Areas on a surface, unlike its surroundings. Lesions left on one’s body where a wound occurred and fibrous connective tissue has now formed. A visible stain. These marks are known as scars. Most scars are spotted almost effortlessly. Most. There are also scars you can’t see.

Are you seared in scars that have no physical evidence?
Please share your story with me.
Comment below or write anonymously.

Predators and Prey

20180206_091410.jpgThere’s a place I know
I once called it home
It’s supposed to be a safe space
Yet predators freely roam
Watching, waiting, planning their next attack
Throwing people into pits
Amused as they try to climb back
Laughing as they stumble
Cheering when they crack
Offering a helping hand
But only to push them back
This time further down, deeper into the ground
They invite their friends to gather round
“We’re here to help you”
That’s what they claim
But in reality, we’re just their prey
Hiding behind the name above all names
Trapping more and more people in their game
But if you point it out, they tell the world that you’re insane
Brothers and sisters this is NOT okay
If you’re experiencing this please know I feel your pain
It’s hard and it hurts
Damn near breaks you
But if I can overcome, you can too
Stand strong in your faith and your Father will set you free
He’ll send a flood to fill the pit
And with the waters, you’ll rise above it
Above the predators
Above their games
Soon they’ll see the error of their ways
But even then, extend them grace
Because it was their own pits that made them predators in the first place

The Mask

People are never who they appear to be
We all wear masks to show who we want others to see
But in doing so we lose ourselves unknowingly
We take a mask and place it on our face
Allowing ourselves to enter into a new state
For each person in our view we shape and mold someone new
All while leaving behind little bits of what is true
Using partial pieces that cannot fully mend
Creating and conjuring whatever we can
These new mixtures help us to pretend
To portray this ongoing play
These temporary roles that never seem to fade
Line for line
Word for word
Never missing a cue
Failing to realize that we’re losing what is true
These characters are more than a state of mind
It’s a trap and we cannot escape
All these masks will seal our fate
Because even when every role is done
We’ll never remember who we were before it begun

Guilty

Time and time again we hear how motherhood transcends any and all other experiences. Carrying a child is a momentous journey and there is nothing more miraculous than the moment your eyes meet for the very first time. A bond begins instantaneously. It’s beautiful.

But what about when it’s not? What happens when what you should be the happiest experience of your life isn’t? How do you cope with knowing that instead of joy you have anxiety and anger? Recent research has found that postpartum depression affects approximately one in seven mothers. I am one in seven.

I had already experienced pregnancy, childbirth, caring for a newborn and raising a child. I was confident in my innate motherly instincts. But this time it was different. This time my instincts were far from innate. In fact, everything felt completely unnatural and guilt began to overwhelm me. Guilty. I felt so guilty. Guilty that I wasn’t able to appreciate my miracle baby the moment he entered into our lives. Guilty for not wanting to hold him. Guilty for growing angry as he cried. Guilty for each and every thought I had of leaving. Guilty.

Never before had I felt such shame. Never before had I felt so afraid. But most of all, never before had I felt like such a failure.

I should’ve known something was wrong. I should’ve been able to see that there was something causing my mood swings, anxiety, anger, intense irritability, sadness, excessive crying, withdrawal from my loved ones, fatigue and thoughts of suicide. But I couldn’t see. I couldn’t see because there are no visible signs for PPD. It’s internal. It’s chemical and it’s emotional. It’s a combination of hormonal changes, psychological adjustments and sleep deprivation.

“Postpartum depression is a very real and very serious problem for most mothers. It can happen to a first time mom or a veteran mother. It can occur a few days…or a few months after childbirth.” Regardless of when and how it happens, the pain is the same. But there is one other thing that is the same, the ability to overcome. I am not alone. You are not alone. We are not alone. Together we will overcome.

I would be lying if I said that I have completely recovered because I haven’t. It’s been a strenuous battle. Some days are great. Some days are terrible. But the days that are great are starting to surpass the ones that are terrible. I must be patient with myself, I must celebrate the small steps forward and push to avoid any backtrack, I must open up when feeling overwhelmed and I must remember that I may have postpartum depression but postpartum depression doesn’t have me.

Free and Fearless

My chest tightening. My heart thrashing. My body suddenly starts trembling and just as suddenly becomes completely still. Paralyzed. I am paralyzed. It seems like a scene from a movie, a freeze frame merely to emphasize fear. But this isn’t a movie, this is real life, my life. Here I stand, each and every fiber of my being filled with fear.

Fear by definition is, “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat.” The thing is I wasn’t in danger, I wasn’t in pain, I wasn’t threatened and yet fear still had a hold on me. Have you ever experienced one of these moments? Has fear ever immersed each and every inch of you?

I wish I could say that this is something I’ve only experienced once. But that would be a lie. I’ve felt this overwhelming fear on several occasions. Many of which were minuscule and yet somehow something small would become very vast. I cannot count the amount of times that this has happened but I can say that it often occurred prior to a pivotal moment, a life changing moment.

I had been waiting for what felt like eternity just watching countless women walk in and out. Almost all of them alone, like me. We were in a room with each other but I’m certain we all had never felt lonelier. Finally, the speaker we’ve been waiting for entered the room. The judgement in her eyes was evident. In her defense, she did just walk into a room of pregnant teenagers. The next 90 minutes would mark a turning point in my life. It would be the very first time I finally stood and said the words that had been lingering for the past few weeks. “I…want…an…abortion.”

The moment the words escaped my mouth all the fear vanished. Finally, I could think clearly. All that time I was anxious to admit how I had been feeling and yet the moment I said it was able to see that the thought wasn’t mine, it was a dart the devil had thrown in my direction. The enemy feeds on fear. Much like a predator and their prey, he anxiously awaits moments of apprehension then makes his move. I was full of fear; the fear of being judged, the fear of being a teenage mother, the fear that my life would never be the same again. And it wasn’t. It was better.

Too often I hear someone say that they allowed fear to factor into their decisions, decisions that most regret making. I heard a quote in a movie once and I’d like to share it with you today. “The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is neat insanity. Do not misunderstand me danger is very real but fear is a choice.

Let’s make a choice today.
Let’s choose to lay down our fears at the feet of Jesus.
Let’s choose to be free and fearless from this day forward.
“For God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7