Date Nights

Valentine's Day Blues

Date nights are important at any phase of any relationship. Friends cannot maintain a relationship unless they hang out. Couples dating would not be successful if they did not maintain date nights in order to get to know each other and spend quality time with each other. The same is true for marriage. Many marriages fail because the romance is lost. We tend to sometimes get comfortable in relationships and forget what we did to get there. Humans are ever evolving and in order to stay a breast with each other there has to be a connection. Date nights can definitely help with that. You are probably wondering how many date nights could you actually have? Wouldn’t you eventually run out of things to do? It is important to understand that date nights should be catered to you specific relationship. Dates do not always have to be at the movies or dinner. Have a date night folding clothes…. Have a date night playing board games…Have a date night cooking…. Couples could even have a date night napping. Date nights should suite the couple. Date nights are designed to bring people/couple closer together. When relationships get comfortable people usually stop trying. The routine becomes the norm and the spark is lost. It is important to keep that spark going and date night is always a start.

Career Versus Job!!!

Are you currently in a career or a job? My definition of a career is something you are trained to do via education or hands on. Not only are you trained to do it but you enjoy doing it. You are also able to explore other dynamics of your field and there is room for improvement and advancement.  The added bonus….you get paid for doing what you love.  As for a job, it is the place you go to earn a paycheck. That’s it you get no perks….just a paycheck. Don’t get me wrong….getting paid for services is a beautiful thing. However, in my opinion, a job is not as fulfilling as a career. Studies have shown that individuals who secure a career that matches their personal qualities; seem to do better and excel in their profession. There are several career inventories that can help match your personality traits/qualities with the best job type for you. One of the most common assessments used is the Strong Interest Inventory. This assessment uses Holland’s 6 categories of interest to give individuals insight on what jobs might be a great fit for them. So many of us finish school and take the first job available in order to pay the bills…..again just earning a paycheck……. But how many of us are truly happy with our current jobs? I have found myself asking myself this question a lot lately. Although I am currently in a job earning a paycheck…I have my career wheels in motion as well. I have taken career inventories and I know the best fit for me……Right now, I just have a job……Hopefully, soon I will have the career I desire!!! Having a career versus a job impacts your performance and in my case, whether you have any sick days accrued.  So where are you, in a career or a job?

Define Beauty

Define Beauty

How do you define beauty?   When someone asks you what a beautiful woman or handsome man looks like what picture do you conjure in your mind?   For most of us we go with the culture’s definition of beauty.   This is detrimental for most of us because our culture has a very narrow definition and most of us don’t fit in that definition.   Most people compare themselves to others in order to define their worth (but that is a subject for another blog).

Notice how even America’s definition of beauty has changed over the years. Marilyn Monroe would be considered overweight and less desirable by today’s mass-market beauty standards.   Yes things are starting to change in relation to finding women of a larger size attractive. In fact a size 16 model was recently featured on the cover of Sport Illustrated.   That being said it’s important to note how that model was still “attractive” by our society’s definition in many ways.   For instance she lacked cellulite, she has a flat stomach and smooth skin.

For women to push back against society’s definition takes some mental effort. This isn’t just one-time effort either; it’s an ongoing internal dialogue we must have with ourselves.   When we notice a negative internal audiotape that says we are not attractive in some way it’s important to take notice of the thought and re-write it in our mind to a healthier statement.   We must decide we will not be brainwashed by numerous advertisements sporting pictures of what society thinks is a beautiful woman.  Left over from patriarchal times there is still this underlying unspoken message all women receive that says we are not worth as much if we are not beautiful by our culture’s standards.  We must decide that our worth is not based on outward appearances but upon whom we are at the core of our being and who God says we are.

 

Depression: It’s Not Just Crying in a Dark Room

Megan Smiling Full Size

Depression has a stigma, I have to admit it. Especially in the African American and other minority communities. I can remember even saying myself, “I don’t have time to be depressed, I have a kid to raise and work to do.” Then I went through it. It took me a while to realize that it didn’t look like what I thought it would.

The signs for me were more subtle.

It all started with a slow progression in weight gain. In 2005 I was a tight size 8. I loved the way that I looked and enjoyed shopping, I felt like I looked good in my clothes. Then someone told me that I was too skinny and didn’t have enough hips. At the time in my head, I was thinking, “Go to hell. I look good to me.” BUT, unbeknownst to me, I heard it and I internalized it. So began the weight gain. Somehow it became my mission to look like someone else wanted me to look. At my heaviest I was 182 pounds, a size 18 and at 5’2” tall that was way too much. I began to hate how I looked.

Next was the comfort eating. Now mind you I did not have the awareness that this was going on at the time. I’ve always been a foodie who enjoyed eating and cooking. But my consumption of sweets and my favorite things that “I” cooked increased. When I felt down at night and could not sleep, I would eat some chocolate chip cookies. If I felt down during the day, I would go to my favorite restaurant because alone I didn’t have to hear about how much I was spending. Or worry about how much I was spending. Went I felt alone in between, I snacked on unhealthy things that made feel better for a short time. I stopped going to workout. I used to go a minimum of 3 times a week.

Sleep eluded me. I wasn’t sleeping. On an average night I slept about 5 hours a night. I would toss and turn, wake in the middle of the night or just not sleep at all. This had been going on for several years and was starting to have an effect on the way that I looked and my effectiveness. Many times while driving during the day I would nod off…in broad daylight! Praise GOD I am still here and I didn’t hurt anyone else doing that mess.

Lack of Confidence was consuming me. Now those who know me and see me, think I have it all together. In many ways I did but I was losing my ability to manage things as well as I used to. I had all sorts of ideas, expansion plans and other ways to help people through my business, my ministry. I just couldn’t get them off of the ground. I let fear overtake me, even though the Holy Spirit had been constantly prompting me to start a group to help other women. I was stressed out, felt like crying all the time and just could not finish anything. I believed that because I did not have my life together and was living in a façade that I had nothing to offer anyone else.

None of these events separately looked like depression to me. It seemed to me I was just having a bad day, or a bad week or a bad couple of months. Then, what I knew as specific symptoms of depression started to hit me.

I did not leave my room or and would barely get out of bed. Now do not get it twisted I was “functioning” during this time. I got up and went to work, went to church, networked, went to Bible study…you name it. BUT when I was at home and did not have any outside responsibilities, I did nothing. I stayed in my room, in my bed all day and all night. I mean I might have come out to eat but that was it. I would take a shower and get right back in the bed. I didn’t clean anything I didn’t organize anything, I did nothing else but binge watch Netflix and Hulu. Everything was on an as needed basis. I only washed when I absolutely needed clothes. I washed dishes when I needed dishes. I never cleaned the bedroom, I hardly cleaned anything. If I didn’t live with my family I shudder to think what everything would look like.

When I recognized it, I fought back. I began to change the way that I was living my life.

Faith returned to me. I got back in God’s word. I had been participating in Bible study every week, going to church every week and had all kinds of Bible studies on my nightstand. But I was not taking it to heart.  At my moment of realization I learned that I could not move forward in my life with things the way they were. I cried out to God to comfort me and looked to him for my strength. I started absorbing the word, I started believing it again. I made some changes in my life, I made some changes in my eating, I removed the idol I had placed in my life.  Idols don’t love you back, God does.  At the beginning of the year, doing the Daniel Fast with my church changed my life. This year I did it unto God. Not for something I wanted, not to change someone else, but just to show my commitment to God. I internalized the sermons I was hearing, I stopped just listening because I was supposed to. I valued the healthy changes the fast was making in my body.

Resurrection. God brought ME back, the real me. I remembered that God loved me no matter how I looked, no matter how I felt I failed, no matter how much I doubted myself. I began to care about how I looked and what I ate. Sometimes I just smile to myself, because I am feeling happy. I started yet another business that has a direct connection to the confidence in myself that was coming back to me. (I have 3!) I made the Bible a true part of my life again. My focus was back on God.

I STARTED COUNSELING. Yes I know, I’m a counselor why wasn’t I already going? Because I avoided counseling for some of the same reasons you do. I didn’t want to face the truth about myself, my life and the idol I had created in it. I went and it changed my life. I experienced the feeling that others get when they come to me. That experience lead me to praising God even more for this gift he has given me to help and encourage others.  There is no shame in counseling. Get some help, you are not alone and the things that are happening, are not just happening to you.  I am a living witness. I am here to help.

Depression can rear its ugly head in various ways. It is not of God and can be dealt with. As you can see from my story above it can show up in more than one way.  Here are some signs of depression. But this list is not all inclusive. And some people who have a more chemical depression versus a situational depression may need medication on a temporary or long-term basis.

According to the Mayo Clinic the symptoms of depression are:

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
  • Changes in appetite — often reduced appetite and weight loss, but increased cravings for food and weight gain in some people
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself for things that aren’t your responsibility
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

You can make it through this. I did. Get some help. I’m here. Family First Counseling is here.

Be Blessed,

Megan

Influence of the Father

Influence of the Father

I had the privilege of attending a seminar about the influence of the Father.  The speaker was talking about the influence of our Earthly and Heavenly Father.  The speaker encouraged the attendees to write a list describing our earthly father (i.e. dad); then the speaker asked us to write another list describing our relationship with our heavenly father (i.e. God).  He encouraged us to really take time to think about each and resist the temptation to write what we know others expect to hear from us.

I was amazed at the similarities in my list.  I certainly used different words to describe the relationships of each; however there was a common theme among these lists.  It made me begin to think about how much influence does our relationship with our fathers and men on earth influence our perception of God.

If our earthly father tended to be gentle, caring and loving, are we more readily able to accept and believe in God’s gift of love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace?

If our earthly father tended to be critical, harsh, and strict, do we see God as our accuser ready to send us to Hell?

If our earthly father is absent, do we readily believe God loves us and will never leave us?

Much of the literature will say that our relationships and attachment with our parental figures does impact our sense of self and relationships with others so it doesn’t seem like a large leap that it would also influence our relationship with The Father, Our God.

My hope and belief is that if we have a negative perception of God and can change our perception of God, this would significantly impact all our other relationships, including our relationship with our self.  I would encourage you to create the same list as I created at the seminar; notice if there are any themes. Then search the Bible to find evidence of how God truly is.  Write those verses down and use them as a daily reminder.

Marriage 2.0

African-Couple-in-Love-219x146

Marriage was once considered to be a contract or institution between two people that was ordained by God. Marriage created structure, allowed for procreation, built families, and was based on love. Marriage was made to be permanent. It untied two people (man and women) permanently trough love and marriage with a charge to procreate. This model was based of the Christian view that church is the bride of God and together Christianity would be created and maintained. We have strayed so far from this concept. Marriage is no longer sacred or permanent and the ideal of ‘for better or for worse’ has completely diminished. Marriages used to last through the good time and the bad. The concept of for better or for worse was incorporated into vows because God and the ancestors knew it would not be easy but the commitment was worth it. Now marriage is more about the wedding and the dress. Marriage has become a contest. I cannot count how many times I have heard people, including friends of mine say, “I have to hurry and find ‘Mr. Right’… I’m getting old”. Age should not be a determining factor in marriage, love should be the main factor. We have become so trendy and liberal that cohabitation and divorce have become part of the norm. We have even strayed from the concept of the bride and her groom that same sex marriages are accepted. I am not here to judge just voice an opinion. Over the last few decades the factors of marriage have changed so drastically that even the Christian church has a contractual view of marriage that now prevails over a more covenantal understanding of the institution. This divorce rate is even with the marriage rate. That should not be and until we can get back to the sanctity of marriage this will continue to happen.

Ephesians 5:24-27; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:7-9; 21:1-2