Lava and Fire and Me

Even though, numerically, I’m an adult, I love Disney movies.  I have been really moved by the song “How Far I’ll Go” from the movie Moana and especially the performance on Ellen by the young lady who plays Moana, Auli’i Cravalho and 4 year old Claire.  Tonight, I watched the movie and was instantly taken in by the magic of it all.  The movie talks about creation and God’s power to create.  It talks about the strength of a young girl, and the power and pull of her dreams, and that strength and power and pull being discouraged by a fearful father. It’s a movie about yearning, and destiny, and purpose, a longing for something bigger than ourselves.  It was a reminder to me, though I wasn’t chasing a demi-god or racing across the ocean, that I was once a young girl who yearned for more and was unafraid.

Watching Moana, I was transformed back to the young girl  whose grandparents, a butcher and a retail store clerk, were raising in a lower middle class neighborhood, a girl who checked out books on places like London and Paris and dreamed of one day going there, a girl who wrote poems, sang at lemonade stands to attract more customers, and a girl who wanted to be so many things – a teacher, an archaeologist, a scientist, a singer, a wife, a mom, a writer.  I was a girl who dreamed BIG!  I have written before about how I was born different from the rest of the women in my family, how I was told by my mom’s former classmate how shy she was and how outgoing and different I was.  I was bold, and loud, and took risks, and I was a dreamer. As an only child, my dreams are frequently what kept me company and helped to entertain me, but my dreams weren’t always encouraged. I remember once going to Toys R’ Us with my grandmother – $20 in hand, and her surprise when I picked out a microscope set instead of a Barbie doll. She actually tried to talk me out of the microscope even though I probably had ten other Barbies at home. My grandmother had very old school beliefs about what women could be or do. Instead of being encouraged to study or excel in the arts, I was told to find a man that would take care of me and not to look too far beyond the horizon of my neck of the woods.  Looking back, it was always my grandmother cautioning me not to do this, or not to do that, not to go to movies past 7 PM because it was too late to be out, not to get on roller coasters, or go swimming, or lean on the car door because it might fly open.  My grandmother was afraid of, seemingly, everything, and while I’ve done some things and taken some risks, I’ve mostly shrunken back and given up many dreams, mostly out of fear.  Her cautions caught up with my subconscious and have had me stuck like a deer in the headlights.  I know she meant well.  I know she loved me, but she has no idea how crippling her fears, cast onto me, have been.  For so many years, I’ve played it safe.

Moana stirred something in me tonight.  I cried more than once during the movie. I was proud of that character, and the young woman playing her.  I connected.  I thought of the beauty and symbolism of the islands being created, and afterward, I sat down to pray to God and asked Him to remind me of who He created me to be.  I asked Him to renew my courage to take chances and follow my old, dormant dreams.  I thanked Him for His strength and power to create.

I have recently felt that maybe I’m too strong in some ways, that I come across in a way that makes me too much for some people.  I’ve second guessed so many things about myself and how God created me, so in essence, I’ve been second guessing God.  I realized, in my prayer time this evening, that God made me strong and self-assured because He knew I would need to be.  He knew that in my own home I would be taught to play small, to play it safe, to live fearfully instead of faithfully.  He gifted me with a boisterous personality, a sharp mind, and a soft but strong heart that would recognize His calling.  He gave me gifts that would help me survive doubt and fear and all of the other turmoil that surrounded me.  Tonight, He reminded me of all of that.  He spoke to my heart and reminded me of who He called me to be, and that girl never played small!  That girl dreamed and dreamed BIG!  I asked Him to renew that spirit in me tonight. Where would I be now if I had followed my heart and passions?  To quote Moana:

See the line where the sky meets the sea, it calls me! And no one knows, how far it goes! If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me, One day I’ll know! If I go there’s just no telling how far I’ll go!

As I prayed and praised, these words came to me:

You take lava and fire and make islands from it

You take dirt, You take coal and make diamonds of it

Who am I that You are mindful of me? 

I am made of fiery lava, and dirt, and coal, and strength, and self-assurance, and perseverance, and dreams, and love…and so are you!  Even if no one ever told you, or even if others, even well-meaning family members, discouraged you.  Never play small!  Believe in yourself and there’s just no telling how far you’ll go!

What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” – Psalm 8:4

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” – Psalm 139:14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Covered in Shame

During a recent call with one of my spiritual big sisters, we talked about generational curses and other negative things that were passed to us even before birth.  She shared with me some things that she felt the Holy Spirit revealed to her about her spiritual lineage and it caused me to think about my own.  There are some obvious patterns that even the average person can see, but what would I find if I dug a little deeper?  I wanted to know what the atmosphere was like while my mother was carrying me.  I wanted to know if she felt bonded with me, or if she was ambivalent.  I wanted to know more about her during that time as much as I wanted to know about myself.

A couple of weeks later I took my aunt, my mother’s older sister, to lunch.  As I was driving her home I asked, “How was my mom when she was pregnant with me? How did she act?  Did she seem happy?” Before giving me any information about my mother, she immediately, without hesitation, said “Mama made her cover up her stomach with a towel when she sat down at the [dinner] table.  She didn’t want anyone to know your mama was pregnant. She tried to hide it.”  The “anyone” my aunt was referring to was my mom’s five other siblings.  Later that same day, speaking to another aunt that is married into the family and mentioning this story to her, she told me that her husband, my uncle has said on occasions of discussing our family “I was the only one at school with a pregnant fifteen year old sister.”

The revelation that I got from these two simple stories was profound.  As an adult who has made my fair share of mistakes and poor choices, I struggle with feelings of guilt and shame, sometimes to the point that they cripple me and hinder my happiness and ability to receive love and joy, even God’s love and joy.  I recently realized how deeply my spirit is steeped in these inaccurate thoughts.  These two brief conversations with two different aunts were truly eye opening.  I came to the realization that I was born into shame.  Being a writer, it was not lost on me that my grandmother covering my mother’s stomach with a towel was a metaphor for her literally covering me in shame.  My conception wasn’t celebrated or welcomed.  It was, I was, my mother was…seen…as an embarrassment.  I left those conversations with a depth of understanding that shame literally followed me out of my mother’s womb.   And this knowledge freed me!

After the initial jolt of sadness wore off from knowing my grandmother was so embarrassed by me, I laughed at the irony of how God made me.  I was one of the most talkative, chatty, precocious children ever!  One of my mom’s friends paid me one time to stop talking.  (This really happened!) I started singing and entertaining my family, pretend mic and stage and all, at about 4 years of age.  I excelled in school, in music, in extracurricular activities.  I was outgoing and bubbly! I was a cheerleader, literally. One of my middle school teachers was a former classmate of my mother’s and I remember him saying to me once that I was nothing like her at that age.  He seemed to look at me in a sort of bewilderment as he spoke.  He told me that she was very shy and quiet and not involved in any activities.  I was, in his words, her total opposite. I thought of all these characteristics, these God-given gifts of my personality that made up my spirit, and I saw how God never intended for me to be hidden.  He did not want me to be ashamed.  I know my grandmother didn’t know what she was doing, but God did.  Everything about me from a very young age said “I’m here!  Look at me! God made me and gave me these gifts!  I’m His child!  You will not hide me or shame me for existing!  I was meant to be here!  I have a purpose, even if that purpose is just to make people smile when they are around me!

Other things started to make sense to me as well;  it’s hard enough to shake emotions like shame and guilt when you realize the magnitude of your own mistakes, and how you’ve hurt or disappointed the people that you love,  but it’s nearly impossible to do when those things were put on you without your permission, by no choice and no fault of your own, by simply being conceived.  I began to understand why it was so difficult for me to forgive myself, or to even accept Christ’s love and forgiveness.  These feelings were in my literal DNA.

God gave me a vision as I was lying in bed one morning dwelling on my past, the part that I wasn’t born with…the part that I created including all of my many mess ups and awful choices.  I saw Jesus carrying His cross.  (I actually recalled the scene from Passion of the Christ.) I remembered in that movie, how heavy the physical weight of this huge wooden cross was and how difficult it was for Jesus to bear its weight on His shoulders.  He was in such agony.  It was then that the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and said “The cross, by itself, was so heavy already…how much heavier do you think it was with the weight of all of your sins on it?  All the sins of the world…past, present, and future. Jesus did that for you.  He carried, not just that cross, but all of your sins with Him, on His shoulders, on His back,  so that you wouldn’t have to live in guilt or shame.”  I don’t think I ever understood the purpose of the cross and Christ’s death so clearly before.  In all my years of believing in Christ, in that moment, it dawned on me that I never truly accepted His forgiveness and I was living in a world where I continuously punished myself and negated what He did for me when He willingly laid down His life.  By not accepting His forgiveness, I was likely hurting Him more.

I try to live each day now with this vision at the forefront of my mind.  Any time those shameful feelings try to creep in, or those voices that say “you don’t deserve to be happy, look what you did back in 1996 or 2008 or yesterday.”  I pray them away.  I rebuke and renounce them.  And I live each day to the fullest, trying to be better than the day before, forgiving myself, loving myself and those around me, seeking His wisdom, and relying on His grace and mercy.  I am here.  I will not be ashamed.

 

Go Be Amazing

I wrote this to encourage a friend who acknowledged that he was in a “dark place” and in need of prayer.  It was tailored specifically for him,  but as I reread it, I realized that it is a message that any of us could stand to hear. I hope it encouraged him, as I hope it encourages you.

FIGHT. THROUGH. THE. DARKNESS. This is your life and your happiness, your peace, and your joy, and someone wants to steal that. As hard as it may seem at times, fight for your space on this earth. Someone needs the light you have inside of you. Even if you don’t feel like having fun, push yourself to try to go out and have some fun. Laugh. Look at flowers, or water, or puppies, whatever makes you smile. The other day, I was on the underwater treadmill, alone in the pool, singing along to “Eye of the Tiger” as loud as I could and I found myself smiling uncontrollably. I just felt joy.  You deserve joy. Fight for your joy. Determine to have it again. I have had some very dark times in my life, but I’m so glad that I’ve learned to push through, to find hope, and to believe in and envision a healthy, happy, whole me. Pray. Seek God –  even when it seems hard to, or you don’t quite know how. Ask Him to bless your  home, every doorway, every entry point – that nothing negative, bad, or dark may enter. Ask Him to reveal himself to you in new ways, to cover you, and strengthen you, to give you back your joy. You are amazingGo be amazing!

When Life Gives You Lemons

“But this kind does not go out, but by prayer and fasting.” – Matthew 17:21

(This was written several months ago on a Sabbath evening, but I am just posting.  It was actually during the Christmas season, Dec. 26, 2014 to be exact.)

Tonight, I am fasting for the Sabbath.  I’ve never really “officially” fasted from solid food for more than a few hours, but I feel like I recently had a spiritual breakthrough and I want to seize this momentum and give all I have to God.  In this moment, this giving up of solid food, of sacrificing my desire for the Reece’s cups chilling in the fridge, or the funny meme’s on Facebook (did I mention that I’m giving that up until the New Year?) I am saying to God, “I love You more than food, snacks, and crass humor on a news feed. I am humbling myself before You and I’m chasing after Your heart.”  I’m telling God that against the hunger pangs and the habitual urge to pick up my phone, that I choose Him.  I’m trying to hear from Him.  I am asking God to create in me, in this moment, a clean heart.  I am tellng Him that I’m honoring His command to fast and pray, that I believe that certain things like breakthroughs, blessings, and deliverances only come through fasting and prayer.  I am asking Him to honor my obedience and sacrifice and continue to heal my heart, mind, body, and spirit.  I am asking Him to continue the work He is doing in my son, who is increasingly seeking His face.  I’m asking for healing in relationships, for reconciliations, and forgiveness.  I’m asking for 2015 to be my best year yet.  I’m telling Him that I want His will, His perfect will, and His best for me SO badly, that I want to spend twenty-four hours just focused on Him and His plans for my life.  I believe God is real and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

As I sit here in the still quietness of my apartment and drink my first warm cup of lemon water, I’m reminded by the bitter taste that life is sometimes bitter, but those bitter moments can make us better.  Those brief moments of a sour taste in my mouth are accompanied by numerous health benefits of the detoxifying lemon water.  In the same way, I’m learning to look for the lesson in the sour moments of my life, both past and present.  I’ve realized that I’m more bitter and angry that I thought.  That has harmed me, my relationships, and those people I want to relate to.  I no longer want to dwell on the negative or continue living in hurt, fear, or rejection.  Some of those moments may give strength, some may give peace, some may give wisdom, some may give all these things, but they all will give me something of value if I am open to see it.  I don’t want to be stagnant any longer.  I want to grow and it is my hope that this first fast will usher in that growth.  I pray that my fast finds favor with God and that I honor Him.  I pray that it yields spiritual growth and abundant life and that I form a new spiritual habit that becomes a tool in my arsenal to help me fight when my days seem weary or I feel afraid.  In just this one fast, this first time, I’ve already had the eyes of my heart opened to this very valuable lesson:

Be careful not to lose your hold on God’s grace by allowing bitterness to come into (to live, to dwell in, to unpack and stay in – my words added for emphasis) your hearts, for this will not only hurt you, but a lot of others.” – Hebrews 12:15, The Clear Word version

When life gives you lemons, don’t be afraid to taste the bitterness for a moment, but  learn the lesson and God will surely give you lemonade! 

Remember What You’re Made Of

What are little girls made of, made of?

What are little girls made of?

Sugar and spice,  and everything nice,

that’s what little girls are made of.

What are little boys made of, made of?

What are little boys made of?

Snips and snails, and puppy dog tails,

that’s what little boys are made of.

Last night I was sitting on my patio praying for God to cleanse me and to make me into what He wants me to be, to make me into who I know I am inside.  In that moment, the nursery rhyme above, one from my childhood, popped into my mind.  It speaks of all the good and innocence that we are born with.  Somehow the world changes us.  We learn of pain, loss, and betrayal.  We learn of lies, deceit, and unfairness.  And it robs us of our innocence, of our ability to dream, to hope, and to believe. We stop believing in people and ourselves.  But when I catch a glimpse of my childhood innocence, as I did tonight, I feel a sense of joy and warmth and I pray to reclaim it. When the beauty of art or song makes me cry, when a baby’s laugh or the sunset takes my breath away, I remember and celebrate the good in me and in the world; and I pray for it to stay.

Becoming Brandy

Simply put: This blog is about ME.  More specifically, it’s about being the ME that God intended, some may call it “coming into my own,” I just call it “finding my way.” I believe I was born and created for a purpose (Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28) and part of that purpose is to become the best me that I can, to break old habits, to free myself of guilt, and shame, and walk with confidence and in love.  I’ve endured some pain and loss, and so far, my journey has been far less than perfect, but I am thankful for the lessons, and hope that, by sharing them, that you can learn something about yourself and find your way, too.  God bless you, and thank you for being a part of this journey.  I’m excited about my future!