Thursday, September 29, 2016

Being Colorblind is as Effective as Actually Being Blind

“I don’t want a politically correct answer,” our professor said in his Portuguese accent.

Up on the screen in our classroom was a picture of an African man in tribal garb and a white man dressed in a blue polo shirt and khaki shorts. The question was, who is appropriately dress? When the majority of the 60 person class answered “both” the professor prodded the classes to answer the question with the first answer that came to mind and not the answer that society demanded. It was important to look at the background of the photo where the two men stood because the context of the photo shared vital clues as to who was appropriately dressed. The photo’s background was that of the outside, of sand and blue sky. Being politically correct gets people nowhere; it is as useful as stereotypes and living on the notion of colorblindness.

The topic of this particular day was multicultural counseling in terms of group counseling. The question was followed with breaking down stereotypes and creating dialogue between those of different ethnicities and races. Our classroom was filled with individuals from various communities; the professor himself was a naturalized citizen from Brazil. The professor continued his instruction by asking those of various ethnicities and races to give the class examples of things we may not know about a particular group. One black woman informed the class that although she was black, she was not African American but of Jamaican decent. Another woman informed the class that although she was blonde hair with lighter colored eyes, she was of Porto Rican decent. The point was that counselors need to allow our clients to high light themselves, and that we should not assume we know how someone should be identified because we are scared to ask. Furthermore, it is our job to inform ourselves about the client’s identification so that we can better aid them throughout their counseling endeavors.

“I love people of all color the same and I would treat them all the same.”

What could possibly be wrong with this statement? After all, doesn’t it demonstrate love, compassion, and understanding? Well, it wraps everything and everyone up in a nice package. Everyone has a story, and whether they are white, black, or tan skinned there is something in their story that has shaped their lives. Native American, Latin, Asian, or black Americans have cultures that cultivate how they interact and thrive or survive. These differences should not be feared. These differences should not be put under one rainbow because we cannot create an open and honest dialogue with someone due to societal fear. 1 Corinthians 14:10 (New International Version) states, “undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me. So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church”.

We have a duty to learn about those who come to us as counselors, and this duty should extend to everyone within their daily lives. Being colorblind is only good in theory, but the actual practice of it does not create dialogue or high light the differences the human race has as God given creation. The aforementioned scripture reminds us that we need to understand that each language, each race, and that each story is not without meaning. Without grasping the importance of the meaning, we are doomed to continue the cycle of stereotypes and the blindness that lack of dialogue creates. Without the honest dialogue, we are merely just speaking at each other.

Let’s be honest people, being colorblind is as effective of being blind. We can no longer assume that we have all the answers when it comes to those of different backgrounds than us. In fact, we cannot even assume that those of similar race as us have the same values, the same story, or the same opportunities. It may take work, but we should seek to understand how those different people have different views. This can be applied to the black individuals in America and how they view the world around them, the experiences they have had. Before we say that Hispanics are stealing all of our jobs and are coming over to America illegally, we have to listen to their story. We have to take the blinders off and see the colored past of these individuals, to understand how and why they see red. We have to seek to understand why some fear blue. We have to, without revocation, level with each other and listen.

We are not bound by chains as Christians; we are set forth in freedom because the Lord equips us with His love and grace no matter what endeavor we embark upon. We do not have to operate on a “this or that” mentality and there is no give away when we operate in the name of the Lord. There is a truth about educating ourselves to become not only more culturally competent, but to become integration competent as well. As Christians we need to become competent in our faith and what this means in the context of a secular world especially in a world were we are often culturally and ethnically divided. Now don’t get me wrong, we are all human and are predisposed to failing and weakness. We are never going to make it through life without making a mistake, but it is vital to call upon the grace of God when we have fallen short, and to learn from our mistakes so they do not become a negative cycle of interacting with others.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Person of Faith With a Mind Full of Doubt

I have struggled with anxiety for a while, a feeling of always needing to be perfect was something that permeated my life at a young age. My older brother was bullied very often at school. I do not put this lightly, I mean he was ridiculed and near tortured, so it was natural for me to not want to stand out. I wanted to make sure that I could maintain my life under the radar. Though we were not a rich family, and we couldn’t afford the most fancy of clothing or pretty little hair style, I still worked to dress nice and normal.

To this day, I still have a fear of not measuring up when it comes to making and maintaining friends. I have a fear of my story never being enough, or of my pain never being painful enough to share with others. Little did I know that I became stoic, I didn’t want to bother others with my pain, sadness, or needs. I didn’t really notice my anxiety until attending one of my first college intensives. It was a week long class, in another state away from my family, a new experience. This was a counseling class meant to teach us techniques in counseling theories. I thought I was completely prepared for this class, the new adventure on my own was a willing one, and I looked forward to it. 

Oh my goodness gracious!

I didn’t know what was happening to me by day three; I thought for sure I was done for. Though my instructors thought I was doing well, progressing with the class as a whole, I thought I was failing. One afternoon, I even found myself in tears in the bathroom about to have an anxiety attack. I prayed on my knees, begging God to help me though this feeling of pressure, of failing, of not being enough. Even with the wonderful friends I made on my trip, I began to negate my importance and wonder if their friendship with me was as important as it was with the other ladies. I, after all, had nothing special to give. To this day, I struggle with anxiety, compound this with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and there are days that I feel like I need to bury my head under my pillows. Imagine if you will, a mother of four and caregiver to an ill mother, leaned over the bed with her head buried under the pillow. I am like an Ostridge trying to get away from the anxiety, the fear, and the depression that compresses my heart, but I am still visible and needed. Imagine their faces as they try to understand what is going on with their mother, and why she thinks that no one else can see her. 

I am a woman of faith. I believe that there is only one entity that can truly heal; I have come to learn this on my own accord without other's opinions. I have had the blessing of discovering my faith through a lot of self exploration and education, which has given me the gift of making up my own mind about what I believe in. I have seen the grace of God. I have seen how prayer makes a difference, and that pure coincide does not exist (at least not in my life). So, this whole thing with anxiety issues, depression, and struggling from PTSD should not even be a factor in my life, right? I even chuckle now as I write this, I am learning how to handle all of these demons little by little, and may have to continue fighting for the rest of my life. 

I have learned that it is okay to ask for help, and I have sought out professional help to understand where I begin and my demons end. Some may wonder that if one believes in God, how can he or she suffer? Shouldn’t prayer be enough to whip someone into shape? Well, I am human and with my humanity is a back story, a fragile mind and heart. I may be a strong individual, I may care for a health failing mother, four children, a husband, and attend school, but I struggle. I repent to the Lord, and submit to the truth that I need to pray to him that I need to trust him, but I am still human. I fall short. God places individuals on this earth to help others, so as I mentioned previously, I went and sought someone out. It is not easy to be faithful and fight the human brain. There are days when life is like a tug of war, and I feel ashamed. There are days when I feel fine then something overwhelms me, and I feel anxious. I feel sad and scared when I drive down the road even though I have witnessed a true miracle. Little by little I have begun to learn who I am in context to the world that exists around me, but there are daily battles in the war my brain that started years and years ago. I am a continued work in progress.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What Happened to the Sexiest Man Alive?

first day I saw my husband in his uniform
When I first saw my husband in his military uniform I about lost my breath. Here was this man standing before me, looking trim and finely cut with a sense of authority. To this day, I can still see my husband standing before me and more often than not, I get the same loss of breath sensation. True, he is no longer in a military uniform, but the way he walks and moves is often breath taking to me. After a few years of marriage you begin to know the person beside you inside and out, and sometimes their insides tend to sneak their way to the outside. I often find myself leaning in for a kiss only to hear the rip of something disgusting.

“Really, when I lean in for a kiss you have to do that?”

“What?” my husband will reply with an innocent smirk on his face.

“You are the sexiest man ever, why do you have to be stinky?”

Imagine if you will, a high school boy befriending you in tenth grade biology class, your first year at a new school. As the years pass by you begin a type of courtship only to have it shatter to pieces. Years later that boy has joined the Army and you are in a circumstance all your own. One evening, on the other line is his deep sexy voice, telling you how wonderful you are and how he had made a huge mistake years earlier. You are swept off your feet at the sound of this man apologizing and telling you he was wrong. That is our romance story (give or take a few details) and it is part of what keeps our relationship fresh.

How is it possible that the man I picture as the lead hunk in a romance story can be so irritating and disgusting? I suppose it is by some divine creation from the creator above, the unique oneness that marriage creates is undeniably something divine. I also suppose I do like knowing everything there is to know about my husband, being the one who knows all his hopes and fears is remarkable. I do like to be the woman he crawls into bed next to and the one he kisses good-bye before leaving for work. So, I suppose that if that means I have to partake in the “not so good” parts about knowing everything there is to know about my husband, okay.

We have a great love story. However, I still find myself getting a reality check when he does something irritating like relentlessly pick on me about the silliest things or when he gets frustrated and needs a moment all to himself. I am reminded that I am the one he turns to when his day has not been the greatest, and even though I have to hear him gripe (he’ll agree to this title), I am the one he wants to gripe to. Yes, the end of the romance story is just the beginning of a whirlwind life where the sexiest man alive drives you to the brink of insanity. There are fights and frustration as you learn to live with each other after long distances, including deployments. A while down the road, routine will sneak into your life and you have to find ways to spice up the romance. Between work, school and children, the sexiest man alive is going to grab at your body just to entertain himself. There is beauty in marriage. However, it is possible that he will make you cry and feel horrible at times, but it is also possible that he is also going to touch your hand at the dinner table, winking at you when you catch his eye. The person you know more than anyone else is also going to be the one who wants you to sleep close to him, tugging on your arm when you move away. If only you knew my leading hunk with baby blue eyes and dimpled smile, stink and all is still the sexiest man alive to me. 

There has to be something for each couple that reminds them of the reasons why they fell for the other person. Finding joy in the little things can often be the difference between a happy marriage and a dismal one. So you may have to put up with a few things that might seem to suck the romance from the relationship, but imagine sharing your life without these things, not knowing someone as you might know yourself. I tell my husband when things get frustrating or our plate begins to fill up, “remember, we are lost and holding hands.” It doesn’t matter what goes on around us, the pile of bills, screaming and running kids, or a calendar full of appointments we are together through it all. My husband may know more about my body as a woman and mother than he ever thought possible and as I know more about his bowels than I ever knew one could know about a man, but nonetheless, we are in love.

So what has happened to the sexiest man alive? He is with me every day. I take pride in knowing that I married the sexiest man alive, and that we are able to share our lives together. To this day, when my husband decides to give me grief, I simply smile and tell him, “You're luck you're hot.” Insert eye roll.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

"No Excuse" Should Not Negate Your Struggles and Pain

So you may have heard, “so and so went through this struggle and they came out stronger than every. You have no excuse.” Okay, so let’s examine this a bit. What I believe is lacking these days in our society is the ability to empathize, think of others on a daily basis (not just in times of trauma), and the ability to understand that every single person has a story. Moreover, everyone’s story matters. What does this all mean? This means that there has to be a balance between strife and the mantra “no excuse”. Weakness, struggles, pain, and sadness are all things that can help a person grow and gain wisdom. In Christianity, we believe these things bring us closer to God. God wants us to turn to him in times of strife, when we are at our weakest. He wants us to turn to him in times of happiness. Over all, He wants us to turn our eyes upon him. “No excuse” here would mean, repent. You have to own your struggles, pain, weakness, and sadness and turn towards the Lord. If you bear some responsibility for where you are in life, own it. If you are failing to turn to God in times of need, change it. True, things are often easier said than done, and we should not expect to grow alone. I am a big proponent on the truth that God made humans for relationships. We are not meant to be alone, to struggle alone or to be happy alone. Aside from being a Christian, the mere fact that humans have formed bonds since the beginning of time indeed speaks volumes towards this belief. “No excuse” does not mean “get over it”, and I caution everyone to be careful when thinking this about others' struggles. What this should mean is reflect and take ownership in how you are interacting in your own life. Consider your relationships and where you are failing. Consider how you could make things better for your own life, and if you feel weak, seek out the counsel of someone else and especially God. It is okay to feel weak, to be weak, and to feel sad when faced with struggles and hardship. This makes sense, we are humans and we are meant to feel. Emotions were undoubtedly created to handle a multitude of situations. Furthermore, remember that each person has a story to tell and that each story has meaning no matter how significant or insignificant they seem (a lost love, loss of a child, living through deployments).

On the flip side, extend Grace with everyone that you come in contact with, and remember this is not a sign of weakness. Remain honest with yourself whether you are the person listening to the others' struggles or the person who is struggling. True, there are those who seem to be perpetually struggling and use this as an excuse to remain at their own base level. These are people that we alone cannot change that despite our irritation, still need our love. There are individuals who can only be changed by the grace of God. These are the individuals that cause us to scratch our heads, fight to understand why on earth they continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. We have all likely come into contact with these folks, those who really could use the mantra “no excuse”, but have made plenty of excuses. Here is the interesting thing about these individuals and why I say that these folk can truly only be helped by the grace of God. These individuals have created their own worlds. This is comparable to habitual liars, who truly do not know how much they are lying or that they have even told a lie. They believe their own self-talk and no matter how many times you highlight their lies or inconsistencies, nothing changes. I am not saying your frustration is wrong or not to even feel it, but remember to extend grace, and that you can love someone in spite of their flaws.

I digress, now back to the matter at hand, “no excuse” does not mean compare yourself to others. We all have our own coping mechanism as well as strengths and weaknesses. Let others inspire you, but do not dwell on the fact that others can do what you cannot do or are doing what you desperately want to do. Whether it is loosing weight, having children, finding a mate, or landing the perfect job, “no excuse” means do not let the negative parts of life consume you. Breathe through life and allow yourself to feel. Repent and be honest with yourself and take ownership of the wrong doings in your life. Never let anyone diminish your pain or your struggles, but appreciate that there may be others out there who understand and want to help you. Above all, have faith that change is possible and know that it is always darkest before the dawn.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Why a Woman Should Want a Man

As a mother of three beautiful daughters, I have begun to look back on my life and wonder if I have the tools to raise them up to be strong, beautiful, honest and least of all, independent women. I look into my own life and begin to dissect my shortcomings, and cringe at the thought of my daughters’ broken heart. I cringe at the thought of them meeting a man who does not honor their faults and love them unconditionally. I have a sense of anger when I think of them meeting someone who belittles them or worse, combines mental and physical abuse causing our daughter’s beautiful spirit to break. Worst of all, I worry that they will not be able to stand up to a man, have a broke heart, and come back out of it strong and more beautiful than ever.

So here it is, a woman should want a man and should strive to find a man with refusal to settle. Honestly, what do I mean, a woman should want a man who adores the woman she is (faults and all). I am not saying that a man needs to constantly give her everything she asks for. I am not saying a man should be a “yes man” or loose himself to keep her happy. What I mean is this, when a man truly loves a woman, he will yearn for her. He will want to learn for her, to make himself a better man. He should understand that she has value and treat her heart like it is a prized possession. I am not saying he will never break her heart nor does this mean he will be without fault. Everyone is human and everyone comes from different histories with their own set of stories and wounds. A man who truly loves a woman will challenge her; he will seek to encourage her. He will cause her to question herself, and aid in helping her find answers. A woman should want a man that she doesn’t have to change, but who will grow for her (notice I said not change for); she will want a man who knows when to stay silent and hold her when she cries, understanding that he cannot fix everything. He will not become angry at her tears; a woman should want a man who understands that his issue with her tears is his fault and not hers.

A woman should want a man who, if given daughters, should become the example of what a woman should look for in a man. A man should teach his daughters the value of a woman by example, loving their mother unabashed and wholeheartedly. If he is given sons, he will pass his wisdom to the next generation of husband and fathers. A man’s world will become her, and he will respect, love, and honor her so she will never doubt where he stands even when he pursues his own passions and dreams. She will come first; she will be his partner. A woman should want a man who learns to say “I am sorry”, but she will have to understand that this is difficult, and together they should learn from their mistakes. A woman can be strong and independent; she can be a wife and mother. A woman should be able to depend on a man, but not become dependent on one. There is no “give away” when giving away one’s heart; it is not one or the other. A woman can rule the world, and submit to the love of a man.

Relationships are beautiful; they were made in the Heavens before humans drew breath. Marriage is a union of two imperfect people, coming together to learn and grow. There is often confusion when looking to the Bible for understanding of how a man should treat his wife. Let us not be confused when the Bible states, “wives submit to your husbands as you do the Lord” Ephesians 5:22. This does not mean a woman does not have value in God’s eyes and in marriage. This is not a statement of enslavement. What follows is this Ephesians 5:28-33, “in this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

I have to laugh at the description my husband gave me the other day. He has noticed how I have grown in our relationship together, just as he has grown too. He is the tornado and I am the hurricane. He drops down, creates chaos then moves on, back up into the sky. He says that I start small, and give hints that I am coming, so be all should be prepared. Then I slam onto the coast and cause major destruction. What did he mean? Though not perfect, I have found a man who understands that I am a force to be reckoned with. I have grown, and he understands that to keep up with me, he must grow too. He knows that he has to be prepared for the woman that I am now. I am a destructible force when it comes to protecting my family; he knows that I am strong even when I do not feel strong. He is a man who understands, and submits to his love for a woman. He understands that he cannot get away with being less than a devoted husband, and he knows even though I will not leave, I will not become less than what God has intended me to be.

I pray our daughters, through their struggle, will understand these lessons and seek out a man who can enhance their joy in life because no one on this earth can fill a void or increase the value one already has in God’s eyes.