I'm confident 2020 is a year we can all agree is one to be remembered! It will be a year that will go into the history books and be talked about among generations. No matter your thoughts on 2020, I think in some aspects, it forced us to slow down a bit, to spend time with our families in ways we may not typically have. We also had to become creative about connecting with friends and family for some self-love; you may call it self-care.
I am an advocate of self-care! I would love to say I consistently make time for it in my life, but I do not. I'm working on it. My struggles with self-care are planning it. I know how valuable self-care is, based on articles, blogs, my own life, and shared stories from others. I want to share what I have learned over the years and what I am implementing in my own life.
I want to encourage you and myself to be intentional about investing in yourself. Don't leave it to chance, don't wait at the perfect time; don't wait until you get the invite. You have to be proactive. Sometimes the challenge with implementing self-care is that we feel it has to be a certain length of time or present itself in a particular way. If we wait for these things to happen, it probably won't happen or happen as often as we need it to.
I love getting together with friends and family and taking a break from the everyday responsibilities that wait for me to wake up each morning as I roll out of bed. We need to make time to connect with others! You have heard it 1001 times, so let this be 1002; we are wired for connection. So go ahead and connect; it's good for the soul. What's also good for the soul is quality time alone. It still may be a challenge to find that solo time, especially with the current state of the pandemic, at the time of writing this. However, the need for self-care and solo time doesn't change. The holidays are approaching. Even if the holidays look a tad bit different this year, it is upon us. The holiday season can be chaotic, but that doesn't mean it has to be stressful. Nor does it mean you can't fit in some quality time alone.
Spending time alone may require a new perspective. It may require some thinking outside of the box, depending on your situation.
Spending time alone allows you to calm down, regulate emotions, better understand yourself and your priorities. Taking time to be by yourself benefits the relationships in your life. It's also a time that allows you to evaluate relationships in your life and determine any needed changes. To access what boundaries you may need in your life. that need to be made or boundaries put in place. It's a great time to reflect on your goals and priorities and access if you are in alignment. It's merely an excellent time to get to know yourself better. It's challenging to reflect when you are engaged in conversations or entertaining deeply. It's also challenging to do when you are distracted by TV, cell phone notifications, and email. It's simply good practice to have uninterrupted moments alone with the person you greatly value-yourself.
This blog post may be solely for me, and perhaps I should have journaled it, but just in case there is someone else who needs to hear this...Here we go.
We as people can be tough on others. Holding them to high standards and unrealistic expectations. These standards and expectations are often heightened when applied to ourselves. But by pushing ourselves to meet unrealistic expectations, in the event we fall short, our inner critic can become ruthless.
Standards and expectations are oftentimes subconsciously created, informed by the opinions of society, culture, religion, or family and friends. Whether spoken directly or indirectly, these opinions filter our standards, goals, and expectations thus creating the lens through which we begin to see ourselves. Our lens is also warped by past hurts and disappointments, a driving force behind our actions and behaviors.
With these factors influencing our outputs, it’s easy to get caught up in the rat race of life, trying to keep up with and impress people we don’t even know! CRAZY, right? In our attempts to run the race and maintain the pace we end up running on empty, tired, not happy, and truthful pursuing a life or lifestyle that is not a true reflection of us.
It is terribly easy to get caught up and become influenced by others! It happens without us even being aware of it. For example, we may clean our house all day, every day because of the remarkably clean Pinterest houses we see. Or we may visit a friend's house, whose house is always spotless, and feel guilty or ashamed because we left dishes in the sink overnight and have unfolded clothes on the couch. We hear this all the time that social media is the ‘highlight reel’ of people’s life. Yet, we still see it and pursue a similar life. Or we see the “fruits of their labor” and now we are working from sun up to sun down trying to have the same or similar fruits as they have.
Sometimes we are working hard to make up for past failures and disappointments. Thinking that our success will make up for it. Maybe it’s wearing expensive clothes to distract from your perceived flaws or to make you more acceptable by a particular crowd. Maybe it's the effort you put into your yard because having the greenest grass you believe shows you are worthy of your neighbors’ admiration and will make you more likeable.
Whatever the cause or reason, it pushes us to constantly work and to be in pursuit of things or status. There is nothing wrong with work or to pursue goals. The problem is when we do it and our reasons or motives behind the action are unhealthy. The standard that we are to measure our life against is the standard that God has set for us. The world, others, and even we will have thoughts and opinions. However, if it doesn’t line up with the standard of God, it is not what we should use as our rubric.
Let me share this with you, God says:
YOU ARE LOVED
YOU ARE FORGIVEN
YOU ARE ENOUGH
YOU ARE WORTHY
Read this more than once because I want you to get this.
This is important because many of our actions are rooted in:
When we don’t know who we are in Christ we easily get caught up running in the hamster wheel of life dictated by society and others. Trying to prove or be loved, forgiven, enough or worthy, when you already are. Let’s get off the hamster wheel and let the standard that has been given to us by God be the standard for our life. The standard by which we make decisions and guide our actions.
I know society tells us to work hard, sacrifice is required to have success, too much white space on your calendar means you aren’t doing enough or you aren’t being productive. In the same breath, we are also incredibly hard on ourselves. We create a standard and expectations for ourselves that are too high and possibly unrealistic, and when we don’t meet them our inner critic starts badger.
For Everything there is a season, a time or every activity under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1 NLT
We all go through seasons in our life, just like nature. The seasons that we may find ourselves in can impact us spiritually, personally (on an individual level), and in our relationships with others. Having an idea of the season you are in can help you develop the right perspective during that season.
This is a time of rest and recharge, a time to take advantage of the slowed-down pace that it brings and a time to seek guidance and direction. The winter season is cold, and many things go dormant. Although things may appear lifeless, their dormancy is actually a part of their growth cycle. Winter is a time for inner growth.
Spiritual: Winter is a time of introspection and the examination of our hearts and motives, allowing God to work in us to strengthen and mature us. Winter may sometimes feel like God is not present like He has forgotten about us. As a result, this can work positively in that it compiles us to seek God more, to hunger to get into His presence. This continued seeking draws us closer to God and God closer to us, resulting in a deeper love relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Personal: During this time, our relationships can seem to take a much-needed break allowing us to focus on ourselves. It becomes an opportunity to examine our goals and pursue professional and personal development. We can also invest in ourselves by taking time to enjoy hobbies and invest in activities or practices that will increase our self-awareness.
Relationships with others: The is also a time to look at our relationship with others. In Dr. Dharius Daniels's book Relationship Intelligence, he encourages us to press pause. This pause is an opportunity to reflect, evaluate, and align the relationships in our life. To ensure we have the right people in the right place. It's a chance to invest more in relationships that you don't usually get an opportunity to do so.
When we emerge from our winter, we are busy planting, cleansing, and restoring. The spring rain acts as refreshing. This is a time of transition as the soil is rotated, new things are planted, old plants are pruned, and we also experience re-growth as things that went dormant in the winter start to take bloom.
Spiritual: Represents a time of joy and glory after dormancy and hardships. We have a stronger sense of His presence in or life. New seeds of truth are planted in our minds and watered and cultivated through intimacy with Him. This season holds within it great hope—hope that the planted seeds will eventually manifest an abundant harvest.
Personal: It's a time of implementation. To take the things that you dreamed of in the spring, the things that God planted into your spirit and get busy planting. You may experience a transition during this time. Transitioning from one position to another in your job, financially changes, or transition in relationships or in your business or career.
Relationship with others: Spring is a time that can feel like we are emerging from "hibernating." We become more social and active than the winter increasing our interactions with our friends. At the same time, we are perhaps implementing and adjusting to changes in our relationships as a result of the pause that we took in the winter. These changes in our friendship could be watching them re-bloom, re-positioning for some, and pruning for others.
Summer is a mixed time of work and fun. It's an enjoyable time because you are starting to experience some reaping from your spring planting. During the Summer, you do experience times of extreme dryness and heat, but the summer showers offer some relief. There is still work required because you have to do maintenance such as watering, pulling weeds, and fertilizing and keeping away bugs. Growth is still taking place.
Spiritual: Represents a time of spiritual dryness. A time of needing more spiritual food than usual to stay replenished. You can come out of this season stronger if you endure. On the downside, Summer is a busy season, and we can become overzealous and place too many irons in the fire. This is a valuable time to seek God for guidance and wisdom, so you know where to put your energy and efforts to the right things.
Personal: Summer is a Self-development season. In this season of our life, we may have to persevere more than in other seasons. It may seem at times like you are "going through the fire" with some of the trials you face. God can use this time to prune you, which enhances your growth. However, at the same time, you experience moments of relief from the difficulty. The difficulty or tension of this season comes from the growth that is taking place internally. Self-Care is of extreme importance to help you stay encouraged and focused because of the level of investment you will make into others during this season. You want to make sure that you keep your cup filled so that you can pour "quality" things into others.
Relationships with others: This season requires more work than others when it comes to maintaining our friendships. We should always work at maintaining our friendships, but during the Summer, the maintenance needed to keep it healthy and is higher. Part of this could be due to the conflict experienced in the friendship. The friendship may experience some tough moments and require more time and effort for it to remain healthy but to also flourish. This is also a season, were those friendships that have changed are pruned because they are not healthy or fit for this season in your life.
Things fall off/loss, change, and preparation for the new things that are to come. Things start to slow down, and there is relief from the Summer. Fall is known as a time of harvest requiring more pruning in preparation for the approaching winter, another time of transition.
Spiritual: Represents a time of harvest when you bear fruits and see God's love expressed throughout our lives... More correction and shaping will take place as God prepares you for the winter season.
Personal: This is a time for evaluation of self. Asking yourself, "What is working?" "What is not?" "What are some things that you need to let go of or change?" We all love a harvest! This is the time that we experience the harvest. God blesses you in other seasons, but in the Fall, you are experiencing the fruit of your work. Look at your harvest as overflow. The things that you planted in the spring, cared for, and continued to care for throughout the Summer are in full bloom, and you see the full effects of it in your life. It may bring about change and loss, but it's required for you to have the things that you have been working for. This is a time where you get to also rest because you have done the heavy work the season before.
Relationships with others: This can be a stressful time for the relationships in our life. A Fall season can be a time where we experience loss, and things fall away. Sometimes you see it coming, and other times, you aren't given that insight. The other side of the coin is seeing the harvest of the investments you have made into your friendships/relationships. The relationships are flourishing and perhaps are in a place that you long for them to be, a place you have been working hard to get to.
This is yet another season of pruning in preparation for the winter. Pruning is a way to be a good steward over things that God has given you. It doesn't only mean cut away the dead. It also means to cut away at the things that are doing well, but pricing or making some adjustments, you will experience what you are trying to accomplish when it's time for it to grow or as it continues to grow.
It is essential to realize that these seasons do not line up with the experience in the natural. That would be nice, but that is not how it works. We all go through seasons in our lives, and many times the season you are in is not the same as others close to you. However, it is vital that as Christians as brothers and sisters in Christ that we support and encourage each other in whichever season someone may be experiencing. While our circumstance and the totality of how we experience a season are different, we can empathize and connect with the difficulty of a season. Sharing your season and how you experienced God in that season can be the BIGGEST encouragement to another. This not only encourages others but is also a way to walk alongside each other on our Christian journey.
Until Next Time~
Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction.
When we accept Christ into our lives as our Lord and Savior, it begins a life long journey with an eternal destination. When you think about your Christian journey, there is a lot of emphases placed on fulfilling our purpose. I am NOT suggesting that we shouldn't seek God for our purpose and fulfill it. We absolutely should! (I am a supporter of that-hence the name purposed for a purpose.) However, our focus and efforts can become misplaced. We focus all our attention and efforts on fulfilling our purpose, forgoing what's most important, our condition, and transformation as we walk with Christ on the journey.
We can sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that our journey is a race. A race by definition is about time, who can get to the finish line the fastest.
A journey is about getting from one place to the next. Unlike a race, we may run in the physical, and we rush to the finish line. The bible does talk about the race we are in (insert scriptures) Our Christian race/journey operates differently. It isn't one that we rush through to get to the end. It would be best if you pace yourself. Why do you ask? Because trying to rush and speed things up to make things happen, often leaves us tired, frustrated, disappointed, overwhelmed, and more than likely making a mess.
I love to travel! Long trips, short trips, day trips, it really doesn't matter. Have you ever heard the saying, "Let the past stay in the past?" Well, I agree. We should let the memories of the past remain memories and take the lessons learned from the experience. This doesn't mean that past experience won't impact your present or future; however, you determine its level of impact. When it comes to past experiences, let's be honest—it's not the positive experiences we struggle with; it's the negative ones.
As I mentioned before, I like to travel, and traveling requires packing, except for the occasional day trip. Upon returning from my journey—I am sure you do the same—I unpack the dirty items and put things away. If we think of our experiences like trips, then it's essential to unpack them afterward. Otherwise, we begin to haul around baggage from months and years past that have no place in our present or are negatively impacting your current journey.
I am guilty of doing this in my life, carrying around negative things from my past. It's not the memory that is problematic, but the emotions associated with the memory that causes the issues. Carrying my emotional luggage prevents me from moving with ease, being fully present, and acts as a hindrance in relationships. The bags that we carry around can be numerous such as rejection, shame, guilt, humiliation, grudges, fear, or even a feeling of worthiness.
Some of the baggage we carry is obvious. Similar to the yellow, red, camouflage, or polka-dot luggage that comes out of the baggage claim at the airport. You can't help but notice it. When I do my 'Heal the Hurt' talk, this is the first type of baggage I assist you with unpacking. What I have discovered on my healing journey is that as you begin to unpack your bags, you may find that there are other hurts hidden in the crevices of your luggage. Let's call them hidden hurts. These hidden hurts are often the real roots cause of the more blaring issues.
I am excited to be able to participate in the Bloom Healing Arts Academy retreat in Bali, Indonesia taking place on September 13-19, 2020. During this retreat (which I would love for you to join me BTW), I will dive more into healing our hurts. This is an excellent opportunity to begin the work on unpacking baggage. Unpacking our baggage allows us to not just walk in our purpose, maximizing our potential. I'm excited because there is so much freedom that comes when you unpack, learn from the experience, forgive, let go, and move forward.
If you haven't considered going with me next year to Bali as part of the Bloom Healing Arts Academy Retreat, please give it some consideration. However, at the very least, start the work of unpacking your baggage and step into freedom, my friend!
You will not regret it!
Until Next Time~
Faith is the substance of things hoped for
the evidence of things not seen.
In July, I went in for my regular six-month check-up with my doctor. All of my appointments end the same, with no surprising discoveries and the scheduling of my next appointment in six months. However, this appointment went a little different—by the end of the visit, a fairly major surgery had been scheduled. I was okay with the surgery, trusting that God would take care of me as he did four years before when we found the malignant tumor.
In the weeks following that appointment, God realized to me on two separate occasions that I would not have the surgery! Logically, I couldn't understand how this revelation would come to fruition. With the things that I read online, the physical evidence, and the input of others, mostly contradicted what God had said, it was difficult to understand how I would end up not having the surgery. I knew that God could heal and could perform miracles. I prayerfully petitioned for wonders on others and believed it could happen, but could it happen to me? It came down to what I would choose to believe. Would I believe God, others, or myself and what my eyes could see and what I could understand?
The doctors scheduled my surgery for the first week of September. But the week before the surgery, Hurricane Dorian struck the US, causing all operations to be postponed a least a week. We rescheduled the surgery for October. I had no idea how God was going to move, and I struggled at times with my faith. I wanted a sign that the Lord was operating. Realistically speaking, if he gave me a sign, would it have required faith? Nah! I had to trust God with no indications. Before the rescheduled surgery, I requested an ultrasound. The doctor's office couldn't understand why I needed or wanted it, but they scheduled it anyway. It was at that appointment the reason for the proposed surgery was revealed; it wasn't required! Instead of a significant operation with a 6-12 week recovery, I only needed an outpatient procedure with a week recovery! It was ALL God! There wasn't anything that I could have done to bring about this change. Two days after my surgery, I received a call with the pathology results—EVERYTHING was NORMAL. Thank you, God!
When God spoke to me and said I wasn't having the surgery, he meant the specific surgery the doctor wanted to perform. I spent many weeks trying to figure out what he meant by that. I had ideas and suggestions on how He could make that happen, but the truth is God didn't need my help, opinions, or recommendations. He is God, all by himself. It wasn't for me to figure out, but simply to trust Him based solely on his character and the word He spoke.
There were times when doubt would try to creep in, and I would have a little anxiety because of the unknown. The uncertainty of the details would cause me to become a bit uneasy. In those times, I would respond with, "God said I'm not having the surgery." God's word trumps my fears and anxieties! It all comes down to whether I trust God or not. God does not lie, and His word will not return to Him empty (Isaiah 55:11).
If God gives you a word, hold on to it! Things at times will seem not to line up. Logically you may not be able to make sense of it. But hold on to His word. If God said it, then that's all you need to know. The enemy will try in different ways to cause you to doubt, but remind Him of what God says and "walk" away. Don't entertain it. If you resist the enemy, He will flee (James 4:7).
Until Next Time~
For we walk by faith, not by sight.
2 Corinthians 5:7
In life, we WILL encounter storms. The storms may cause us to want to look for the closet and easiest exit. Some may even cause us to suggest taking a detour to get the destination. A detour would get you to the final destination, but you may cause yourself to miss out on something significant.
Instead, buckle up, hold on and stretch your hand out to God and ask him to lead the way.
Storms in life are not designed to be a place comfort, but there is a peace in knowing that the creator of the universe will hold your hand thru it. All you have to do is ask and stretch your hand out. Taking the detour won't allow you to experience God's fullness. Experiencing who He is and what He can do in, through and for you. Sometimes when we opt for the detour we miss the opportunity to allow God to work in us. It has been in some of my difficult seasons of life that I have seen God's hand the clearest. It's an opportunity to draw closer to Him and Him to us. Those times have been moments where He has highlight areas in my life that need some real attention, stretched me my Christian walk and my roles. No matter the goal, the storm was with purpose.
Don't get off...Don't take the detour...Buckle up and Let God lead.
Until Next Time
J.Branch is a wife, mother and child of God. She is passionate about helping others live the life they desire, have fruitful relationships and know who they were created to be and to live a life of purpose.
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