Changing Directions

“To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven…”
Ecclesiastes 3:1

To Everything There is a Season:  Changing Directions

Faith-hope-thrive-moving-on

As I listened to yet another doctor’s report, I was reminded of how our lives can change in the blink of an eye. A couple of months ago, my family navigated three health scares one after the other. The first one involved my husband, then me, and then my son.

While my husband’s health issue was admittedly the most serious. The other two were scary nonetheless, especially in the beginning, when we did not know what was going on.

During each of these unanticipated events, my life came into better focus. I had to admit some things to myself and make some changes.

One of those changes involved this blog. Years before starting this page, I attended several blog and media conferences, webinars, writing programs and much more.

One of the overwhelming themes was to select one topic or area of expertise for your blog, develop or define your niche, have a targeted population market, and brand yourself.

So while my original desire for a blog was broader, I listened to the experts.

I started this blog.  A singular topic blog focused on faith.

The plan was to follow the norm and have a more niche based blog. Yet, my original desire of a more broad-based blog never faded.

I’m a person who likes to explore many different things and share with others all those other areas of interests.

Eventually, I gravitated more towards my original blog intent. However, I understood some people following a lifestyle themed blog may not want to encounter posts dealing with faith or God.

Therefore, I separated them.

But here’s the thing, while I understand the marketing method behind establishing a singular focus, this method does not fit me.

My heart was not in this concept. It was a struggle to produce decent and consistent content weekly for this blog, let alone two, and then to add in navigating the differing social media accounts.

However, that wasn’t the biggest issue. This separation of the blogs felt less authentic to me.  And it was harder to focus and commit to either one.  My creativity and passion dwindled.

The whole of me is not lived out in separate little spaces. Yes, while I may be involved in many different activities, they all arise from my core, my foundation, which is rooted in faith.

My family’s recent health scare reminded me my next breath is not promised. With that reminder, I knew I had to begin living my life in the way that felt the best for me.

I’ve heard many celebrities talk about initially listening to their respective industry experts but eventually found themselves no longer enjoying their work. It wasn’t until they learned to follow what felt best for them, even if it went against conventional wisdom, did they regain their love for their work and have success their way.

I understood what I had to do for me.

“Even in failure, we rarely regret what we attempt.
We nearly always regret what we don’t.”
~Richard Paul Evans

For those who’ve followed me from the beginning of my journey, starting with Views n Hues, and then to this page, here’s hoping you will continue to follow me to my next adventure.

I am no longer ashamed of the changes nor any real or perceived failures. I see each change and/or failure as an opportunity for growth. A growth which leads me one step closer to where I am supposed to be.

This will be my last blog post on this page.

To continue to receive posts similar to those found on this page and encounter so much more, feel free to check out and subscribe to my newly launched page, www.monyaslens.com.

Thank you for your support.

Peace,
Monya MJ

Faith. Hope. Thrive.
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Real Talk: Faith-Filled and Still Depressed

 Faith-Filled and Still Depressed

What is wrong with me? Faith-filled and still depressed?!
I’ve confessed, prayed, and fasted. I am speaking life over myself
and others. I’m seeing their lives transformed; yet, I am appear to
be sinking further and further into depression and isolation.

I have no energy. I’m irritable and emotional. Is it hormonal? Well, I
am way over 40 now. Exercise isn’t energizing me nor helping my
mood.  I no longer enjoy doing any of the things I used to do.
Getting up and moving requires so much energy.

What is the problem? God, are you even hearing me anymore?

I’ve surrounded myself with positive affirmations galore and nothing.

I changed. I’m no longer planning events. I’ve stop sending cards.
I’m no longer reminding my crew of each other’s birthdays. I’m no longer
sending encouraging texts. I’m no longer hosting my book club or the small
‘table talk’ group I started.

Yet, no one seems to have noticed. No one is checking on me.
One year.
Two years.
Three Years.
No one.    

(but still moving forward)

I waved red flags the only way I could muster at the moment. I even texted
an article to my crew about a woman warning others to pay attention to their
friends. The author of the article had been surprised to hear about her friend’s
suicide and realized she’d missed the signs.

And still nothing. Well, I did get one response: “that’s good; thanks for sharing”.

Helloooo, my spirit-filled friends, your girl is dropping nuggets the only way she knows how right now.

Okay, God where is the “you reap what you sow?” I may not typically own the
gifts and abilities you’ve given me but I know I’ve sown presence and presents
into the lives of others. And I’ve sown encouragement. I’ve been told numerous times
the difference I’ve made in a life by just showing up, especially when no one
else would.

So, what gives? Where are the people who should be present for me now?   depressed-isolation-alone

Why do I feel so utterly alone? I mean lonely — coming from a person who leans towards introversion – who recharges from solitude – that’s saying a lot?

This is different. Sure, I’ve typically leaned towards a more melancholy disposition since my youth. But this – this is different. I can barely function on any type of level. I manage to get the kids off to school, maybe get to the grocery store and maybe get a meal prepared – but that’s happening less and less.

I no longer find joy in planning and preparing meals. In designing jewelry.
In DIY or creating gift bags/treats. In going to arts and cultural events. I’m
no longer reading nor journaling. I’ve lost interest in volunteering and serving.
The thought of any of it is simply exhausting.

Depression-faking it-isolation-mental health
(this is what my depression looked like)

Sure, I am still showing up for events I’ve invested money on like conferences out of town or events where I’ve committed to being present. Yet those require so much mental preparation and I struggle to truly enjoy the moment.

Okay, maybe this new unexpected job opportunity will be just what I need to propel me out of this “funk”. I’ll have to get up and out by the same time every weekday.

The job is great but I still feel the same. Where is my energy? My zest for a new challenge? I’m still just drained and then there’s the extra effort to smile. To engage in conversations. To think and perform well. What’s the point of out all? Is it time to go home yet?

WHAT. IS. WRONG. WITH. ME? I can’t seem to breakthrough. Nothing is
working. When will I return to myself? When will I stop crying on the way
somewhere, in the shower, while watching a show or while doing anything?

My blood work is fine. No thyroid issues. No diabetes. No low anything.
So what is the problem?!!!

Those were just some of my thoughts for several years. Truth be told, I am only a few months removed from that place of despair.

It wasn’t until the early part of 2016 I recognized I had been battling some level of depression

While I could recognize depression in a few others, I missed it in myself.  Or had I just been in denial?  You know faith-filled believers can’t have depression; plus, I am black too.  We don’t battle this type of stuff and we certainly don’t talk about it. 

Well, if we do, we’re met with “just press through it”, “get over it” or “snap out of it”.  Girl, you gon’ be alright.

But I wasn’t really alright for three years! I needed help.  I needed someone I could be real with without judgment.  And I didn’t need another scripture quoted to me.   

I needed a friend with a listening and empathetic ear.  Heck, I just needed a friend.

And I probably needed a therapist too. 

Eventually, I reached out to a counseling associate.  The associate did not really help but our interaction was an eye-opener; it was a great learning experience. 

I’m still working my way back to the real me and beyond – a better me.

The despair has been lifted.  The journey has not been easy and it’s still ongoing. 

While I learned a lot in that season, I will not elaborate at this time.

As a trained counselor, coach, and a believer, this post is more about me setting myself free from the perceived shame of battling depression.

For now, I will share two observations:

1. There is no shame in admitting you have or had depression.

We are not ‘one size fits all’ on this journey of life. We are all different. We process things differently. Our brains are wired differently. What works for you may not work for someone else. We have to learn to extend grace to ourselves and to others.

2. Friends pay attention to any long-term changes in your friends.

Don’t assume a friend’s absence is because they’re probably busy with life. Especially if you notice they’ve been absent too long or are out of character, check on them! I know we can get caught up in our own lives but it only takes a few seconds to send a text or make a phone call. You have no idea what a difference that may make in a life. I realize sometimes a person doesn’t even recognize they need additional help; sometimes they’re not able to ask for help or they’re too ashamed to admit they need it.

Throughout this season of depression, I was never without a ray of hope.  Some days I just couldn’t see it radiating through my darkness.

Life matters. Don’t give up on it or on yourself!

You are not alone.

Faith. Hope. Thrive.

For more on depression, see the links below:

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/depression-and-african-americans

https://www.cru.org/train-and-grow/life-and-relationships/emotions/to-the-depressed-christian.html

http://www.attn.com/stories/13574/expert-explains-low-functioning-and-high-functioning-depression

https://themighty.com/2016/10/what-it-feels-like-to-have-functioning-or-low-grade-depression/ 

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You Matter

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
Psalm 139:17


you-matter-now-believe
You matter.  Yes, you!   

It’s disheartening to think we still need to remind each other of this simple truth. 

Yet, as I listen to personal stories and read about hurtful, discriminatory attacks on people, I wanted to encourage someone today.

Despite what has been spoken over you or how you’ve been made to feel, know that your life has value. 

The words or actions of others cannot define you unless you allow it.  Choose instead to believe God loves you and believe what He says about you.

Scripture teaches us that before we were even born, God knew us. He knew YOU! He formed you and you are precious in His sight.

Psalm 139:13-18 states:

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up, you are still with me!
(NLT)

If you have ever felt less — less than, less loved, less appreciated, less anything, I’m writing this to let you know YOU matter.

Your life matters.

You are worth loving.

You are valuable.

You have a purpose.

You bring a uniqueness to the table no one else can.

You are more than enough!

Be encouraged today and every day! never-give-up-you-matter

Embrace your own worth regardless of any negativity around you.
Find people who acknowledge the beauty within you.

Be intentional in your thoughts about yourself.
Speak life over yourself.
And become mindful of how you allow others to speak to and about you. 

Yes, you do matter!

You are very much needed in your area of influence!  Therefore, go out and bless the world as only you can.

You matter too!

Faith. Hope. Thrive.
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Comfort Zone

Letting Go of Your Comfort Zone 

Have you ever sensed God leading you to do something completely out of your comfort zone?

I have.  More times than I can count!  And I’d like to say with each new assignment, my initial fear reaction has lessened but that’s not always the case.

Years ago, I was asked to teach, and subsequently coordinate, biblically themed retreats for women. I felt so unqualified for the task.

I’m a person that prefers being in the background; I’m a listener and helper.

For years, I’d quietly studied the word of God and even taught small bible study classes. I had even co-lead a few ministry teams before.  So I tried to convince myself I could do this.

But this was different.  This felt huge and not in keeping with my overall personality. Coordinating the retreat wasn’t the problem; speaking was the problem.  It terrified me!

For one thing, I would be teaching and ministering to some women who were ordained ministers and friends!  I was not an ordained minister. I wondered if they’d even receive me.  And what about my friends, would they even hear me?

What if I miss God and He doesn’t show up?

What if I say the wrong thing?

What if I’m not supposed to do this yet?

What if (insert any other irrational thought)?

For God has not given us a spirit of fear,
but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)

In reality, my ability, or lack thereof, had nothing to with the assignment.  It was more about my availability and my willingness to trust God.

It was also about learning how to get comfortable being uncomfortable.  Once I moved past the fear and welcomed this new assignment, unbelievable adversity followed.  During this season, my life was stretched in ways I never could’ve fathomed.

But as I continued to do my part, prepare and show up, God was faithful.  As usual, He did more than I could have asked or imagined. (Ephesians 3:20)

Even with a solid faith, there are times when the “what if’s” attempt to drown out what I know to be true.

  • I know all things are possible with God. (Luke 1:37)
  • I know God will not put more on me than I can bear. (I Corinthians 10:13)
  • I know the Lord is the strength of my life and I do not need to be afraid. (Psalm 27:1)
  • I know all things will work together for my good. (Romans 8:28)
  • I know weapons will be formed against me but they will not prosper. (Isaiah 54:17)

Knowing these truths helps me to silence the voice of fear and move forward in faith.

You can no more show me your works apart from your faith
than I can show you my faith apart from my works.
Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.
James 2:18 (Message Bible)

My faith must be active; it must include works. (James 2:18)

I must press through any doubts and fears and take a step of faith — the next best corresponding action. When I do that faithfully, doors of opportunity open and my world expands. 

There is no growth when we get stuck in fear.  May our faith be bigger than our fear!

Faith. Hope. Thrive.
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Don’t Lose Heart

Don’t Lose Heart: Keep Moving Forward

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that
I would see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Psalm 27:13 (NKJV)
Don't Lose Heart Keep Moving Forward Beach Scene
Santa Monica Pier in CA, Photo Credit: Monya MJ

Have you ever felt like you were losing heart? Losing your overall enthusiasm for life? Your courage? Your kindheartedness?

Admittedly, I have.  Specifically, when evil appears to prevail or my own world is in utter disarray for prolonged periods.

When things get bizarre in my life or even in humankind, I cling to the verse above.  And I’ve been clinging to it a lot lately.

Life is messy and difficult, at times.  But that’s no reason to lose hope or lose heart.

When life seems insurmountable and I’m tempted to lose heart, I meditate on the following truths:

  • I am not alone. 

God has promised to be with me wherever I go (Joshua 1:9).  I do not have to be afraid or discouraged.

  • I have an anchor. 

So when I feel like I’m slipping and losing my way, I can rest in a steadfast and solid anchor knowing I will not fall.

We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab
the promised hope with both hands and never let go.
It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances
right to the very presence of God…
Hebrew 6:18-19 Message Bible
Anchor Wilmington Waters Don't Lose Heart
Downtown Wilmington, NC, Photo Credit: Monya MJ
  • I have been here before. 

The last storm didn’t destroy me; I survived. But I didn’t just simply survive, I thrived! My faith was re-energized and my strength was renewed.

For you know that when your faith is tested,
your endurance has a chance to grow.
James 1:3 NLT

After I’ve reminded myself of these things, my perspective shifts.   It is then I’m able to readily detect the goodness already present in the land and within me. 

Don’t lose heart.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Keep moving forward.

Faith. Hope. Thrive.
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Mother’s Day 2016: Dear Mama

Dear Mama

May 8, 2016

Dear Mama,

There are seasons when your absence from my life seem to pain me more than others. And this has been one of those seasons.

I’m living in a world where hate and fear dominate and people seem to have lost their minds; my kids included, at times. 🙂 Where everything appears so different and strange while at the same time seeming so normal. Where people still live lives of pretense and conformity, while verbally professing to one another “be unapologetically you.”

Oh, how I’ve needed your guidance, your strength, your support, and your unconditional love.

I’ve been at a crossroads for quite some time now and I can only imagine what it would be like to sit at the table with you and feast on your wisdom.

Mama you were my rock, my role model, my provider, my safe place – my everything. It’s been 33 years since I saw you alive. And it pains me to say, I realized last year, I cannot remember the sound of your voice. I’ve searched for a tape, a video, something where I could just hear your voice again.

img src="mama.jpg" alt="me and mom with together"Thankfully, I have pictures and wonderful memories. But with that, also comes the memories of your final days on earth. And last week, while riding home from a Listen to Your Mother storytelling event, those memories came crashing down on me.

Out of nowhere it seems as if I’d never grieved your loss or was it that I hadn’t forgiven myself. Yes, that was it. I’d never forgiven myself.

I’m so sorry I did not say a word to you while you lay lifeless in a coma. When I stepped in your hospital room, I was at a lost. I had no frame of reference, as a 15 year old girl, how I should respond.

I did not see you, my mama, on that hospital bed. I was confused. All I saw was the blankness of your glazed covered eyes, one barely open.

As if I was having an out of body experience, I could hear the nurses and my Aunt Carolyn say it was possible you could still hear us. “Talk to her”, they said. But I said nothing. I did nothing.

Of course now, I wish I’d grabbed your hand, caressed your arm, whispered in your ear, ANYTHING other than stare and run out, never to return.

img src="mama.jpg" alt="Mom with dignity and grace throwback"Thirteen days later your were gone. And I was utterly alone. Sure, there were family members, well meaning high school friends and my dad. A dad that I’d spent weekends with who would now assume his full-time role. But you, my dear mother, you were gone. And so was I.

In an instant, my world changed in 1983. My life would never be the same. I was a motherless child.

For a time, I was foolishly angry with God and with you. As if you had any say in being full of life one moment, lovingly serving others, caring for me and yourself, and suddenly sliding out of a chair the next, never to speak again.

As if you chose to have a brain aneurysm invade your body and strip you away from a life you’d finally gained the freedom to enjoy.

Again, I say I’m sorry.

On this mother’s day, some 33 years later, I realize I have to forgive my 15 year old self. And I know, if you could actually hear what was going on that day in the hospital, you held nothing against me either. You knew I was still essentially a kid.

img src="mama.jpg" alt="Mom with dignity and grace"

Thank you momma for showing me a life of resilience and faith. Despite the challenges life threw your way, you embraced the journey with dignity and grace. I can only hope I’ve lived my life, thus far, in a way that reflects your legacy.

I cherish our time together. I am forever grateful for at least getting 15 years to do life with you.

Still your daughter,
Monya

 

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Missing: Finding My Way Back To Me

 Back To Me

img src="Missing.jpg" alt="Gone Missing Finding Way Back to Me"

 

An interesting thing happened to me a few years ago.  I came to the realization that ‘I’ had gone missing.  No, of course, I wasn’t physically gone but the person I had become was essentially gone.

The one who encouraged others. The one who was present for others and cared. The person who was very detail oriented; the event planner for my friends and I. The one who enjoyed life, her family, and the Lord. The person with ridiculous faith. She was gone.

See several years earlier I made a confession of faith; I entered into a personal relationship with the Lord.  Now mind you, I’d grown up in the church but I guess I missed the ‘personal relationship in God’ part.

And with anything new, after entering this relationship, I was “on fire” for the Lord.  I wanted everyone I met to know this Jesus and I believed every account detailed in the Bible.  Now I was not the one to attack complete strangers with scripture and their need to “be saved”. But I did share my beliefs, many times unsolicited, with family, friends, and co-workers.

I read the Word ferociously and studied it fervently. I had this new sense of myself and purpose. I felt God had gifted me in certain areas and I operated in those areas fully (after some denying and battling with God).

IMG_20160110_203930

 

I enjoyed being present for people (specifically women) and helping them navigate life’s challenges.  I could intercede for them and stand in faith with them, even when their faith seemed to be faltering.  I witnessed many women experience hope, renewal, and life change.

I fully walked by faith. I could not be persuaded otherwise.  I believed if God spoke it, that settled it; period. I experienced blessings and protections beyond what seemed to make natural sense and, at times, that seemed impossible to others. I trusted God completely.

This went on for over 15 years, even when life dealt what would appear to be its hardest blows, I still believed in and trusted God. I was able to walk in peace even in the midst of some difficult circumstances and trust me there were many.

And of course, I was fully plugged into church ministry.  Admittedly I was so busy being busy in and at the church, I lost sight of what was happening in the real world.  And, regrettably I missed some aspects of being fully present for my, at the time, small kids.  My husband and I served together in ministry, so we were both away often.

At some point, I reached exhaustion and frustration.  My heart began to harden and I started to care less.  I was still reading the Word but things had become stale – common.  The thrill was gone.  My perspective starting changing and doubts ensued.  Did it really take “all that”?  If this is all true, why so many injustices?  Would God really allow this and that?   And so much more.

I began to question passages of scriptures I’d never doubted before. And I began to question God and His pathway for my life.b87a4cc9-ce52-4689-8320-255c09cde0e3

Hence began an interesting journey of finding bits of myself again and discovering so much more about my God, myself, and life.

Parts of this blog will delve into some of what I discovered on this journey back to me and beyond.

~Monya

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