A different type of air…

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Took this hike last month on 6.3.2020, what would have been my younger brother’s 23rd birthday. I carried a lot of pain to the top of that mountain. From the memory of his loss 11 years ago, to the recent passing of George Floyd and the terror of the race war that followed, to the confusion of being stuck in the middle of a global pandemic, with a leader that heightens your anxiety every time he parts his lips of fixes his fingers to tweet. There was just a lot to grieve all at once. So I took it to the top of the mountain, and for one brief moment, I could breathe… deeply, again.

The irony is, science says oxygen is harder to access at higher altitudes, but somehow being here was easier to breathe than down there.

Sometimes you’ve got to change your elevation, not just for the better view, but to breathe a different type of air.

On another altitude

Crabgrass… the current bane of my existence.

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I’ve been doing a lot of gardening lately. I’m quite proud of the progress I’ve made since converting my new backyard from an ancient dump site to a beautiful lawn of fresh, green, healthy grass with a colorful garden around the perimeter. There’s just one thing standing in the way of it living it’s best life… Crabgrass.
Crabgrass is such a hater.

I only recently discovered the term for this weed when sipping wine in my garden with with my garden friend, Margie. She’s taught me everything I know about rearing and maintaining greenery.

We’d spent some time weeding a few weeks prior, but this time she pointed out something I had not realized was in the beginning phases of overrunning my yard. I had noticed a lighter color of “grass” coming in around the perimeter of my yard. It was a pretty shade of green, and I thought maybe it was an off shoot of the grass seed I had recently planted to fill in some patches a few weeks prior. I hadn’t bothered weeding any more than what Margie and I had done a while back because we had planted some seeds the same day and as seedlings were starting to sprout and grow, I didn’t want to risk pulling up the wrong things. As a newbie in the game, I had to be careful, lest I ruin all of the work that went into planting what would soon be more gorgeous, blossoming flowers. So in my negligence, the crabgrass had stormed in and laid a generous amount of roots.

What I’ve discovered about crabgrass since being enlightened by my friend Margie, is that:

1. They are seasonal, so they pop out in spring and disappear in the fall.
2. They outcompete the grass where they grow. So if not tamed, they can ruin the area where healthy grass once grew.
3. They emulate grass, but are visibly different in that they grow in clusters not individual strands as domesticated grass tends to.

Bonus: Their seeds when crushed can be used to make flour and beer. Carbs and beer, two of my favorite things. Yum!

As I’ve been taking the time to meticulously uproot the clusters of crabgrass that have taken over my beautiful lawn, it had me thinking how this relates to life and relationships.

As I’m evolving in this season, and loving myself more, I am taking stock of my friendships and realizing that I’ve allowed a number of people to get too close who are not worthy of the being I have become. You may have discovered the same in your evolution.

The problem is, I was treating these friendship removals as isolated incidents. But I was frustrated when weeks later, I had to lose another “friend,” and another one, because they were not honoring the boundaries I had set to protect myself from the first uprooting. I realized, they existed in clusters and only getting rid of part of the cluster, still left the issue deeply rooted with access to killing all of the health I had created around it.

I realized that I had to treat toxic friends in cases like these as crabgrass. Sometimes you have to assess how far the spread and treat that whole area before it ruins the whole lawn. Sometimes (not always) you have to uproot everyone you met through the person in order to protect yourself and honor where you’re going. Because otherwise, you’ll look up in the fall and notice that they left a gaping hole in the middle of your lawn, after having distressed the life of everything around it.

Crabgrass comes to emulate healthy grass, but it is very unhealthy to keep around. It sees something beautiful and thriving and steps in to sap the life out of it without you even noticing it.

This group of friends came in and did just that. It has taken me months to recover from the emotional devastation. And I’m still recovering.

The beautiful part is this. Because I finally decided to do the hard thing and pluck them one by one, I have so much peace to show for it. And BOUNDARIES! I have learned to keep boundaries around me to filter who I let in, what I allow, and what I consider to be real joy. That is the blessing in having gone through this. Those are the carbs and beer that I’ve been able to make from this. Crushing the seeds before they even try to germinate into my healthy soil is what I like to call having boundaries. I didn’t use to have boundaries because I felt like I owed everyone access to me. I thought that was the godly thing to do, but it’s a lie meant to drain and expose you to things you have no need being drug into. So, BOUNDARIES, people!

Finally, I encourage you to do an inventory of your friendships and begin to uproot the unhealthy ones and all that is attached to them, so that come Fall, you’re not having to fill in the emotional gaps they left behind with their toxicity.

These things have no place in your garden, or your life.

I’d have settled for a paper towel…

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[Fairly random excerpt from a book I hope to eventually publish.]

When he was finished, he stood up, put his index finger to his lips signaling the instruction to keep this a secret and he disappeared back into the darkness outside of the bathroom. I stood there, utterly confused, and trembling. What had just happened? All I’d asked for was toilet paper. I’d have settled for a paper towel.

I don’t remember if I cried. I only remember feeling like I had done something wrong and wanting no one ever to find out. I stood there for what seemed like an eternity, resolving never to tell a soul what had just taken place. As I left the bathroom to return to my family seated comfortably in the next room, I felt his presence in the darkness of that kitchen, watching me. He was probably wondering if he’d be found out, if I would be trustworthy enough to keep his little secret. All the while, I was cursing the family that took him in for running out of toilet paper that night.

The Christian Singles’ Dating Manifesto

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My mentor, a divorcee, and I were having our usual check in, and she mentioned to me, “what if we created a Dating Manifesto for ourselves?”

Here it is:

We will not date anyone who does not want to be married.

We will not date anyone who does not believe in the Lord.

We will not date anyone who is not an active member of a local church.

We will not date anyone who is not a tithing member of a local church.

I realize this eliminates a massive chunk of the otherwise eligible bachelors. But because I am committed to all four items on the list, and making excuse for them in the past and only left me disappointed and heart broken, it only makes sense that I be yoked with someone who is as well. That’s also Bible, but sometimes you need experience in order for it to really make sense. And let’s just say, I’ve had my fair share of experiences with this. 🙂

The concept of the yoke essentially means, the two of you are yoked together like oxen and can only move in one direction. If you oxen are yoked together but going in different directions, they go nowhere and end up very frustrated with one another. That is what it’s like to be in relationship with someone that is not equally yoked with you.

One other realization that came out of this conversation was this: If we start out believing that there are no good Christian men, then we will behave as such. Behaving like there are no good Christian men leaves us behaving in a way that attracts the broken men we have and lands us in relationship with men who were never our match, doing things that draw us further away from being the woman we are meant to be for our future husband.

So rather than settle because it’s what I see, I am changing what I see. There is enough good content out there showcasing powerful and honorable men following God. It may not be as easy to find as the fluff, but like anything worth having its worth finding. It’s rare, but so are we, so why not do the rare thing, and shift your focus?

So this is mine and my mentor’s commitment. Will you join us?

4 Steps to Ending a Toxic Relationship

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Toxic Relationships… I’ve had my fair share of them and have been fortunate enough to get out. I want to use my experience to help you make a clean break if you’re ready.  

They can be really hard to let go of. We’ve all been there. But how do we end them? 

Well before we go into the how, I want to be clear on my definition of a toxic relationship.

I see toxic relationships as any relationship that gets in the way of the following: 

Your relationship with God

Your career or calling

Your health

Your destiny

You know what it looks like. You’re losing sleep, you’re crying all of the time, you’re losing weight, you’re unhappy, you pray less, you’re anxious and you start to lose your function. You’re fearful of losing them, you spend more energy trying to keep them happy so that your fears don’t come true and because of it you are incapable of focusing on what’s important (i.e., your relationship with God, your career and calling, your health and your destiny).

The people in your life are supposed to add value in these areas, not take it way. So if they are interfering in any of these ways, it is time for them to go. It is not worth it. And if allowed to fester, it will ultimately destroy you.

This can happen in romantic relationships, friendships, professional and family connections alike.

The following steps will help you eliminate the toxicity.

Step 1: Write a List

Write a list of the people you feel you may need to cut off.

Here’s some suggestions on how to develop the list.

Anyone who repeatedly makes you feel like you’re less than you are

Anyone who causes you to doubt your gifts or calling

Anyone who makes you feel less than beautiful or makes you feel insecure

The people connected to them that do the same

Whoever comes to mind. Just write them down.

Then I want you to take a moment and imagine yourself 5 years from now living the life you want. Who’s there? Are these people there? Did they help or hinder you getting there? Dream for a bout 45 seconds or longer about where you see yourself.

Anyone that is standing in the way of your destiny has simply got to go.

What you choose to do with the rest on the list is up to you. Maybe you realize, they are a nuisance, but it isn’t actually necessary to cut them completely out of your life. Maybe you just need to have a conversation with them to air your grievances and move past them. Maybe you just decide you want to distance yourself and limit their access to reduce the amount of agitation. They may not be toxic enough to be getting the axe. But do take action in the form of a conversation or some distancing.

Step 2: Send a Text

So after you’ve decided who’s getting the X, it’s time to commit with a text. (Bars!)

You’re going to send one of two texts.

If you’re confident it’s time, and you don’t think it’s worth a face-to-face conversation, then prepare to send a text and skip to Step 3.

Particularly if it was a romantic one, one that has lasted longer than 3 months, and one where you do not feel like your physical safety is at risk, then consider doing it in person. 

Additionally, for those on the list who you still see on a regular basis… maybe they go to your church or school, they’re a coworker, roommates,  or family, it may be inappropriate in these cases to do it by text. So strongly consider a face-to-face interaction.

In these cases, your text should read, “Hey, when do you have time to meet in person.” And schedule the time to meet up.

Step 3: The Conversation

Now here’s how the conversation (or text) should go. Many people stay in relationship with toxic people because they do not know how to approach the conversation. Here’s a template to make it simple and effective.

First, start by thanking them for what you’ve gained by being in relationship with them.

-Maybe it’s that you’ve learned a lot about yourself and your needs by being in this process with them.

-Whatever you can think of to show gratitude. Because everything has a purpose and all things work together to make us better and for our good.

Second, you want to get to the point. What are you saying?

-I often do this in coaching or when having a challenging conversation with someone who is dancing around the point. 

-A lot of the times when we are afraid of a reaction or how they will take it we hesitate and start to ramble. This makes things more uncomfortable than they make them better. 

-So just get to the point.

Thank you… but it is not in our best interest to remain friends…

Thank you… but I cannot continue to be in this level of relationship with you… 

And the third part is where you explain why.

-You cannot make this about them

-Simply explain to them how their actions made you feel, where you are in the process of your journey, and what you are doing and adjusts you are making to best continue on that journey

-This is not about them, it’s about you and what you need to do to protect you.

-Use I statements and as much as possible avoid using “You” statements the way that I did in the last few moments.

Lastly, I want you to end with what you wish for them. Send them off well. This does not have to end in violence. It can end amicably. 

Wish them well on their journey. That they would find who is right for them, or that they would get healing too if they’ve been vulnerable enough to share that they need it, or whatever your wish is for them. And do not make it snarky. In fact, you should not be having this conversation if there is even remotely one single snarky bone in your body. 🙂

So that’s it for the conversation: 

  1. Thank them, 
  2. Tell them what, 
  3. Tell them why, 
  4. Wish them well. 

That’s all.

And then the final step, is this…

Step 4: Close the Door

That’s it. You’re free. If you need to put them on block so that you no longer have to see the hurtful things they send, or you want to eliminate their ability to contact you, do that. Close the door on them.

Whatever closing the door looks like for you. Close it. If you have to leave the conversation and sit with the pain of the loss and mentally envision them leaving and you closing the door or you leaving and shutting the door behind you, do something that allows you to feel the finality of it. It is so important that you grieve and go through this process if you want it to be final.

Now what happens if after the conversation, you choose not to remove them from your life and block them? Maybe they showed up to the conversation a new person with a different attitude and were very apologetic. That is very possible. But that does not mean that they deserve to continue to hold the same place in your life. After all, people put on shows in interviews all the time to get the job. You are the CEO of your own life, hire, fire and promote, accordingly.

You may decide to give another chance but they do not get to continue to fill the same space in your life they once did. If he cheated on you repeatedly, and you decided not to drop him, then he needs to at least drop to a lesser position in your life and work his way back up. Fellas, if you do choose to keep her, at least give her a different position until she’s earned it. If they are family and you found out they’ve betrayed you to others on numerous occasions after being confronted, they do not get to play the same role in your life or have the same access. 

What’s toxic is allowing them to refill the space they’ve already told you they are incapable of filling. 

They can start back over from the bottom and work they’re way up. And if they are not willing to, then so be it. God will send you a better replacement. 

I hope this was helpful. Let me know in the comments what other steps work for you. If you have the courage to lay the axe, message me and let me know how it goes.

Time to nurse the baby… 🍼

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Many of us were told through revelation or prophecy that we were pregnant with something. A vision. And that it was about to come forth. And the trials and pain we were experiencing were the labor pains. And that we just had to keep pushing and not give up. Well I think we’ve given birth now. But many of us expected what we were giving birth to to come out fully developed. And that’s not how the birth process works.

We’ve given birth. But it’s a baby. And we now have the temperament and tools to nurse this thing, be it an idea, a business or a new way of life. So don’t get bored with your baby. Use this pause to nurse and feed and get it healthy. It’s a growing season. And we’ve been granted this season of stillness to affectively focus on rearing it the right way. With the noise, without opinions, without distraction. Congrats! Now, Raise your baby. 

‘A [love] poem…’

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I don’t want the love that I once gave because it was forced,
Tampered and tainted by the love I was receiving.
I want the love that I have now.
It feels like the love I wish I’d given,
Were it not meddled with fear and insecurities.

-Rebbecca Bakre

New Levels, New Pressures.

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If you want to be a politician, imagine the hate you will have to filter through when you make a decision that does not please all sides. It’s virtually impossible to keep everyone happy, so hate and defamation are guaranteed. You’ll spend a lot of days in sadness and insanity if you don’t equip yourself now to be familiar with the pain of not being loved by all.

If you want to be the owner of a million dollar brand or business, imagine the envy and competition you will be faced with. If you are not strong enough to handle the pressure of being opposed on all sides, you’ll tank when you get there.

If you want to be a homemaker, that comes with its own pressures as well. If you aren’t fully secure in your identity and able to handle the pressure of a dark and fallen world, then you’ll question your abilities as a mother as your children grow up, and you’ll question the sanctity of your union every time your spouse leaves the house. It will drive you crazy.

You have to be ok with the testing that prepares us for the pressure of the next level. And you have to be able stand firm in your identity when trials, satan and the world try to convince you of something that isn’t true. Because those tests of your identity won’t cease. You know why? Because each new level requires a new level of strength.

The Cure to Procrastination

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Do the thing that stands in the way of the thing you’re avoiding. Do all of the things.

And if still you have no desire to do that thing. Find something you’re actually passionate about, and do that.