How Do You Keep Going When Life is Hard?

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Photo Credit: Dr. Linda Plummer Ward

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

What keeps you going when you’re tired, sad, disappointed? Conventional wisdom suggests “life is hard” and “keep going”. Oops, that may have been me making those statements.  For years, in fact, a quote attributed to Harriet Tubman was my signature at the end of my emails: 

If you are tired, keep going.
If you are scared, keep going.
If you are hungry, keep going.
If you want to taste freedom, keep going.

The “life is hard” quote comes from a consoling comment I made to my four-year-old daughter who was crying because her homework was hard. I know she was only Four.Years.Old. Don’t judge me. I was preparing her for life. 

Anyway, my point is that most of us have statements that go through our heads when we need to get motivated through challenging times. Certainly those statements help us stay the course and as I have said in the My Quiet Spaces blog, pretty words can be healing. 

However, I’m offering another equally profound way to keep going in the face of adversity, weariness, and despair. I offer you to use your mission, your heart-felt purpose to give you the energy and passion to not give up even when life is hard.

I know I have needed to keep my eyes on my purpose these past few years in Houston. It seems that anything else I try does not work out. I tried working part-time for a national nonprofit where I had once been on the Board in Nashville, but I seem to have upset the balance with my desire to try something different. It didn’t work out. I was an adjunct for one lo-o-o-ng semester and then was told “budget cuts”! Okay, what was I missing?? According to my therapist, I was not living in my purpose, my God-given purpose.  All other paths I took served to take me away from what God intends for my life. I had believed that any meaningful, paying work would be nourishing and move me forward. Not true. I may be paid, but not have meaning. I may think I have meaning, but not actually flourish. I have learned (the hard way—yes, Erin, life is hard) that it is only when I work in my purpose that I keep going through challenges, that I bring joy to others as well as myself, and that I live meaningfully.  My purpose:  Sharing messages with women on how to live healthy, well, and with joy nurtures, not depletes my spirit.. 

Though I am known for giving advice, sometimes even to my clients, I cannot tell you what is your purpose. You know it; it only needs to be reclaimed, resurrected, affirmed. But, just in case you need a little bit of inspiration, here are three websites/blogs that talk about life, purpose, and joy and I like what they say:

Kevin Monroe’s The Purpose Manifesto: Start Living Your Why Now is a quick, yet inspirational read. I met Kevin several years ago when he was consulting with our faith-based initiative at the Tennessee Department of Health. He was energetic, knowledgeable, and offered practical wisdom that engaged our congregations. You can download it at no charge. 

Unbelievably Human does not give advice or have resources on finding your purpose. She simply models what it looks like when you are living your purpose. It looks “unbelievably human; unbelievably you”! Sheer fun, but also unrelenting in its reality for Millennials. 

You have probably heard TED talks, which cover diverse topics. Have you had a chance to check out their blog posts? Also diverse, provocative, challenging, and funny. This post may help you ask more helpful questions as you think about your purpose,  The Right Way to be Introspective—(yes, there’s a wrong way).   

You decide how to explore your purpose. Listen to your life and ask yourself: “What keeps me well? What brings me joy? How can I do more of both?”. Then, you may begin to have the answer to “how to keep going when life is hard?”. #LiveHealthyBeWell

 

 

 

 

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It’s Not Easy Being Green

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My younger brother, Malcolm, said this phrase from the familiar Kermit the Frog Sesame Street song to me years ago. He was such a philosopher and often highlighted his discussions with an illustration that made his point and had staying … Continue reading

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“Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing”

imagesA friend who is a pediatrician said her son told her he wanted a “real doctor.” He was about six years old and was ill. Nothing major, but certainly ill enough to require medical treatment. As she began to treat him, he pulled away from her distrustful. Then he insisted he wanted a real doctor. She could not convince him that she was, indeed, really a doctor. But, he could not trust what was known to him; the person most familiar to him and closest to him. He felt that a real doctor was someone else—a person who doesn’t live with you; not someone who knows your secrets and shortcomings. Someone out there.

Before you chuckle indulgently at the innocence of her son who doesn’t know he has the real deal living at home with him every day. Before you dismiss this as something a child would think and nod from the wise place of “being a grown-up” that you are more mature than that. Before you stop reading this article because you are not six years old and you know good advice when you get it. I’m really talking about you, about me. Not the six year old you, but the grown, wonderful, smart, talented (did I say good-looking) You!

You overlook the doctor, the teacher, the spiritual guide—the wisdom living inside of you to seek others who you consider to be “real,” but have less knowledge about who you are than you have about yourself. We are taught at an early age to listen to the experts, that is, someone outside of ourselves. Our teachers, our doctors, the web expert, the Oprah. As a counselor who has a counselor, I believe in seeking advice. I believe in convening a meeting of the “Kitchen Table” the “Back Porch” the “Barber Shop.” I have gotten some really good stuff at the beauty shop. . . and it worked!

But, what I am proposing here is to take the advice we get “out there” and allow it to inform our own wisdom—not to replace it. With that in mind, I am beginning a new series: “You Are The Real Thing.” Remember the Tammie Terrell and Marvin Gaye song, “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing”?  Well, I am inviting all of you who have found what works for you; who have begun to live well and healthy not because of what the diet doctors say, but because you have researched,  listened to your body and your wisdom; then created your own lifestyle that works for you. You have built a wellness lifestyle that is not restrictive, but selective. You don’t allow yourself to be shamed by what you’re not doing, but to celebrate what you are taking steps (no pun intended) to do that will benefit your wellness. 

I use the language of wellness and well-being when I talk about health because you don’t become well or have well-being because you have the biggest muscles, run the farthest, or eat all the right food groups. Your well-being grows because you feel good in mind, body, and spirit. 

The writers in this series, beginning with a dear friend of my Daughter who I have grown to love, Stephanie Griggs, a young woman who listening to her own wisdom to figure out what works for her. Please see Stephanie’s delicious article,“Doing the Work.” on my website. You will see more from Stephanie. I’m proud of her for “doing her!”

Talk back to us. Tell us what you have learned about your own wellness that allows you to flourish. How did you learn that you are the Real Thing?!!

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A Balm in Gilead?

For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt,  I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.  Is there no balm in Gilead?   Jeremiah 8:21-22

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“Writing was always a sanctuary for me. . . one of the healing places in my life.”bell hooks

I wrote the following on July 8 because when I woke that morning and looked at the news I saw more devastating coverage of another tragedy: Five police officers killed in Dallas. This news coming on the heels of two young Black men killed by police in the same week. The shock and grief left me speechless. In writing this post, I was able to find a space of healing:

I feel like there is “terror on every side” (Jeremiah 6:25) and have no idea what to do next or how to do anything. My Daughter called me with tears in her voice and asked, “Where is God in all of this?” We both felt despair even before the tragedy of the slaughter of the police officers in Dallas. “Where is God?” This is my lament at the end of a week that leaves me without consolation. 

Sometimes, the bewilderment and disbelief leaves us numb. Sometimes the inability to make sense of tragedy is so overwhelming, we can only cry,

  • “My God, My God, why has thou forsaken us?”Psalm 22:1; 
  • “How long, O Lord, will you ignore me forever?” Psalm 13:1
  • “Why, O Lord, do you stand aloof, heedless in time of trouble?” Psalm 10:1

Yet, we keep going. We know that God continues to offer us presence in response to our prayers, 

  • “In my distress I called to the Lord and He answered me.” Psalm 126:1
  • We have to remind our children, “O Lord, you have been our refuge in every generation.” Psalm 90:1
  • “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.” Psalm 46:1

After I spoke to my Daughter, I called my Sister who is a Sargent on the Detroit Police Department. I could barely hold my tears when I heard her voice. I needed to check on her and her officers. We shared our feelings of sadness and bewilderment. She seldom talks about her work or what her days look like; even after 30 years on the force. But, in the face of such tragedy, she gave me a glimpse of how extraordinary their “ordinary” days are: 

One of the officers she serves with is a police diver. During this week when the news was full of shock at tragic shootings, she described how this police diver was called to the scene of a boating accident. Young adults had been drinking on a boat and one of the young men had fallen into the water and drowned. The diver was called while it was still dark to retrieve the body of this young man. The mother refused to leave until her son was found. It was 3am. The young man had already drowned. The Detroit River is dark and dangerous. Yet, this diver left his home, his family, put on his gear, and kept searching for the deceased young man until he found his body and the mother could have some peace.  A white police officer risking his life for a young Black man who had already died. This is the type of work we don’t know about unless, like me, you have a loved one who is out there every day rescuing, serving, and protecting. 

I say to the thousands of police officers around the country who spend their days, nights, holidays, birthdays, 24/7/365 serving and protecting people. Police officers who place their lives at risk—who have families who love them and worry about them—who are only trying to earn a living; I say to them “May the Lord grant strength to [you]; may the Lord bestow on [you] wellbeing.” Psalm 29:11. And I also say to them, “Thank-you.”

In the midst of all that is senseless and leaves us numb and unsettled, we must continue to look for meaning and passion in our lives. Many churches and groups have come together to grieve and seek ways of bringing healing to our land. As individuals, how can you stand in the face of daily uncertainty? Where do you find your “balm in Gilead?” I offer three ways I have experienced healing in the face of my personal grief:

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  • I turn to prayer, meditation, or inspirational writings; I look to my spiritual beliefs
  • I seek people and communities who are willing to work for peace and justice and who believe that loving-kindness transforms hearts, 
  • I reclaim my sense of purpose. I look at my actions and ask, “Am I making a difference in my community and in the lives of others?” “How can I use my gifts to bring joy to someone else’s life?” Am I living fully and with passion? If not, when do I start if not now?”

There is a balm in Gilead. We are that balm for ourselves and others. Now is the time to learn and do what brings you healing, to seek others who will benefit from what you have learned and pass it on, and to say thank you to those who bring security,  comfort, and peace to your life. Shalom.

 

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Dianne Bondy: “Rocking the Yoga Boat”

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So be a trailblazer, be a cultural shifter…be fearless.

I am taking action. I am here to rock this boat as hard as I can. Some people will fall out of the boat and some will stay and be visionaries and trailblazers with me…and those are the people who will lead the way to change. We need to change these limited messages by any means necessary. Dianne Bondy

I have practiced yoga for years—I have not gotten good; I just practice. I have taken face to face group classes and done my downward facing dog (a yoga posture) in front of my television screen. However, it was not until I “met” Dianne Bondy on Twitter (@DianneBondyYoga) that I felt included in the sacred world of yoga.

She is a serious, dedicated yoga teacher whose classes are not only instructive, but also inclusive and (if I may so) kind.  Yoga classes often feel more like a competition than an opportunity to “yoke” mind, body, and spirit according to one definition. But, Dianne’s online classes are exceptional because she touches the whole person and affirms all bodies, ages, races, and people. Her passion is for yoga practices that invite everyone to the mat with skill, compassion, and acceptance. It takes a particular level of skill to adapt yoga practices for many abilities. I know because I have been in a beginners class that was so intense and so difficult that I had to stop only half-way through the session. Dianne teaches, writes, and speaks what she believes to create a yoga culture that embraces all bodies—as she does.

In fact, this excerpt at the top of this blog is taken from a keynote speech she gave at the Yoga and Race Conference at the University of California, Berkeley. Dianne speaks boldly and passionately about body image and race in the yoga culture. The following points from her keynote give insight into her passion and mission to make the yoga industry more inclusive:

We reclaim the practice of yoga to include people of colour, disabled bodies, LGBTQ, bigger bodied individuals.  . . .

We take yoga to the streets, community centers, and hair salons. We take yoga out of the exclusive studios and retreat centers.

She challenges the media who continues to have a narrow picture of what a yogi looks like.

We flood social media and mainstream media with images of all bodies doing yoga.

She challenges the yoga industry that builds the careers of primarily thin, white Western women as the leaders of what is an ancient practice that evolved from people of color in Third of the World countries.

We change the yoga business model from targeting the wealthy to targeting and  training everyone. . . .

We acknowledge, communicate and promote the origins of yoga. We remember that the system of yoga comes from a culturally diverse people of colour and we honour that instead of appropriate it.

If you have ever wanted to try yoga, but the teachers did not look like you or the class did not have a welcoming spirit, or if the challenge of the class was greater than you thought; please take a class or a series of classes from Dianne.

I have enjoyed her personal approach to teaching and her willingness to adapt and adjust her teaching to make every-body feel included. I fell in love with her entire approach to yoga and to life. Dianne did not stop when her message was not heard at first, but continued to sprunnamedead the word that yoga is for every-body. I’m glad she did. Try her classes—you’ll be glad too. 😉

Register at yogasteya.com  Yoga for all Shapes, Sizes, and Abilities

Dianne gives a positive body love message:

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Bless Our Hearts

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Above all else, guard your heart  for everything you do flows from it     Proverbs 4:23

Today I was shocked to hear that two dear church members had a heart scare recently. They both looked good and were not sitting down looking at life, but were fully engaged in serving the Lord with their whole hearts. They did not look like they had been visited by nor had a nodding acquaintance with heart disease. I felt startled enough to sit down and tell somebody tonight.

What struck me was the ordinariness of their stories, especially Joan (not real name) who said she had a procedure where a stent was inserted to open her arteries. (For certain people, heart disease treatment can be achieved without surgery. Angioplasty is a non-surgical procedure that can be used to open blocked heart arteries. Stent placement is another option that can be done during angioplasty . . . A stent is a small metal mesh tube that acts as a scaffold to provide support inside your coronary artery.) Her main artery had been 95% blocked. She told me she had no big symptoms leading up to the episode that led her to call 911 and be transported to the hospital. The week before she went to the hospital she had felt some tightening around her upper chest and considered it to be heartburn—something she had eaten.

What led her to make the 911 call was an exertion one evening after leaving a restaurant with friends. She walked up a slight incline and the pain became sharper—”like a balloon had blown up in her chest.” She drove home, but before getting out of the car called 911 because she was alarmed. Joan knew that heart disease was part of her family history. Two close relatives had angina. The emergency room kept her, called her doctor, and the procedure was performed the next day. Typically, the hospital stay is no longer than overnight and recovery is rapid. She paid  attention to her symptoms and her family history, which were important for how good Joan looked today. She is healing, the procedure was a success, and she plans to take a two-week vacation.

My other dear church member had a silent heart attack. (A silent heart attack happens when the flow of blood is blocked in the coronary arteries by a build-up of plaque. Studies differ, but some suggest that silent heart attacks are more common in women than in men. Ekery points out that women and their physicians may also be more likely to chalk up symptoms of a silent heart attack to anxiety and dismiss them.) It was discovered quite by accident. As with Joan, Betty (not real name) did not have any recognizable symptoms either. She had no idea she had previously had a heart attack; nor can she think of unusual symptoms that would lead her to remember when it occurred. She too looked fine today and was offering her service as usual. Betty also will take a vacation.

Okay! What is our take-away from these stories? Well, let me share what I am thinking. I love happy endings. Both ladies plan to pay more attention to their diet and get more exercise. We can make lifestyle changes. But, remember heart disease is not just because you are fat or thin, rich or poor, tall or short; not just because we look or don’t look a certain way. It’s more complicated than that. Heart disease happens, but we can pay attention,  get regular screenings, and do the following:

  1. Know the symptoms of a heart attack. Here is a quick video —I watched it through the tears—spoiler alert: a happy ending 🙂

2.  Know your body and pay attention to what it’s telling you.

3. Know the risk factors.

So, just three things; perhaps four: Tell somebody about heart disease. Tell your sister, your sister-in-law, your church member!! Go Red, the American Heart Association, says, “Tell 5 people.” Right—I’ve told my 5; how about you? But, now, I think I will plan a vacation!! Good Night!!

 

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Wellness, Mama, and Home Remedies

 

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Behold, I will bring health and cure, and I will cure them; and I will reveal to them abundance of peace and truth. (Jeremiah 33:6)

I was in Atlanta for Thanksgiving with my daughter and nephew visiting her best friend, Stephanie, and her family. We stayed at the Hilton where I caught Maude’s attention as I made multiple trips to the hot water dispenser. Her warmth makes her perfect for the front desk and also caused me to respond to her comment about my hot water. I told her the hot water was for my tea and she and I began talking. I told her I drink lots of tea to manage my blood pressure (Studies show that hibiscus tea lowers most). I told her that I write and research on Black women and integrative medicine (my website: www.wellblackwoman.com). I mentioned that my next blog post would be on “home remedies” which have recently become mainstream medicine. Maude suggested I show a scale that illustrated the balancing we do between home remedies and pharmaceuticals. images-6Indeed, we do decide which to take for what and sometimes we do both! No problem, just let your physician know what you’re taking—even though Mama told you it was okay.

My mother gave us plenty of home remedies when we were growing up. That makes plenty sense because dragging five children to the doctor’s office was out of the question. Her images-3remedies ranged from tying garlic around my neck (I was one of the early “experiments”) to administering daily doses of cod liver oil all winter. Maude said her Mom lined them up for their daily cod liver oil, too. I believe that was not unusual then; actually, it has become mainstream to take cod liver oil. However, it may be cheaper to go to the doctor—thanks to the Affordable Care Act making healthcare more accessible!! I noticed that old bottle of cod liver oil once the mainstay of Dr. Mom now costs as much as a dinner at a moderate restaurant.

Carlson Cod Liver Oil Unflavored is the finest cod liver oil from the deep unpolluted waters near Norway. Cod liver oil is naturally rich in Vitamin D with Vitamin A, EPA and DHA.  Swanson $25.89 Retail$55.00 Save 53%

imgresWe were also given castor oil, Black Draught, Father John’s and my favorite: the cough images-4medicine my Mother made by mixing whiskey, lemon, honey, and garlic in a jar and giving it generously. I tell you, “It Worked!” My sister remembers, “We weren’t sick!”

Remember these??:

Horehound is used to make hard lozenge candies that are considered by folk medicine to aid digestion, soothe sore throats, and relieve inflammation.

Apple cider vinegar Alongside all of the other health benefits of apple, substances like malic acid are formed in the creation of apple cider vinegar, giving it antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties.

We can begin to pay attention to those remedies, rituals, and routines that brought us thus far. Certainly, it is easier to take a weight loss pill than it is to hit the gym and make dietary changes. Also, it’s easy to always listen to your physician, take all those little prescriptions right to the pharmacy and add the new med to your 12 others. Or you can research your symptoms, take what you learned with you to your next appointment, and ask questions before you accept the prescription.  (Disclaimer: I am not telling you to ignore your physician. Trust, but verify. I’m just sayin’)

Our Mama and Grandmamas knew something about staying well. Go back to their medicine cabinets and look at what they used. Let your physician know what you are taking in case there may be a drug interaction. This is called “integrative medicine.” This is the message I will continue to deliver. Pay attention to the (somewhat) inexpensive home remedies that have worked for decades and some for centuries (apple cider vinegar). You don’t have to work so hard to be healthy; just take small steps and use what you know works. Thanks, Maude, for helping me make my case. Tell your Mama thanks, too. She did not mistake taking medications for having health.  Our Mothers used what kept their families well. You can use them, too—home remedies are still working along with mainstream medications. Take the best of both worlds and Live Well.

 

 

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