Friday, May 18, 2012

Sticks and Stones

When I was a little girl and someone would call me a name, my grandma would have me recite "sticks and stones may break my bones but words would never hurt me." While I understand as an adult the lesson that she was trying to teach me, I do not think that I would pass along this same message to the next generation for this one reason....its simply not true.  Words do hurt us. They can even hurt us deeply.  How many of you can still remember that one comment from a parent, a lover, or a friend that happened years ago but still has the emotional attachment with each memory as if it were occurring for the first time?

I woke up this morning and for some reason my mind was on playback. I do not know what triggered this particular memory but it was a comment that a close friend made about me to someone else that I stumbled upon accidentally many years ago.  Because the message was not addressed to me, I never addressed it. But I struggle today with that decision because the memory of one simple statement was just as painful for me this morning as it was when I first read it. At first I prayed again for the strength to forgive again and I've spent years convincing myself that perhaps this was just spoken in anger, or maybe the person did not mean it. But none of that really matters in the end. It was was devastatingly hurtful then and it still is today and there's nothing either of us could ever do to take it back.  I decided to write about it today perhaps as a means of my own catharsis because I need to figure out exactly why this one comment is still so fresh. And all I can think about is, it is not the words themselves that were hurtful.  Growing up as an obese child, this was not the first time that I have had hurtful statements tossed in my direction, especially about other's opinions of my appearance.  So why this time?

I think the reality of this situation was not that I expect all persons to love me or even to accept me exactly as I am because i know that many will, but some will not. But there are some people in our lives that we absolutely do not expect to do or say certain things. Maybe because of other promises that were made..maybe because of the nature of your relationship...maybe even just because you expected them to know better.  At the end of the day, its not about the words themselves but the relationship is what gives those words such stinging power. Truth of the matter is, in one statement I realized that someone who I thought could see my value actually did not see it at all. I felt violated. Betrayed. Confused. And definitely angry. But above all of that, I felt like a fool and very vulnerable. I still do.

So maybe it is not just the words themselves that are hurtful and if I actually told you the comment for some it may not even seem like a big deal. But you cannot separate any word from its context -- a little lesson I learned in seminary. There is a text, a pre-text, and a context for all communication. There is a thought or feeling that preceeds all language and an intention with every word that we deliver whether written or spoken. So guard your tongue and your words carefully.  Be careful what you say to your children, your parents, your lovers, and your friends.  Create as many memories of words that are uplifting, empowering and encouraging so that when there are errors, there are other moments that can be referenced.  Be careful how you speak when hurt or angry and  leave room for humility to admit when you have made a mistake. And forgiveness to forgive the mistakes of others.

Sticks and stones may break our bones AND words can also hurt choose them carefully today.

Peace and Love,

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lessons from Loretta..

My grandmother was probably the most influential force in my life. Its funny because as a child, we bumped heads alot and many of the things that she said to me did not make sense until I grew older but I have a deep and sincere gratitude for the lessons she planted when I was young. So many of our young people are simply allowed to grow older without someone taking the time to raise them or even loving them enough to say things that at the time get on their last nerves. We assume that children will automatically know how to be kind, how to be a good friend, how to share, how to respect themselves and others, or even simply how to love. But all of these things are "lessons" and "how can they learn without someone teaching them.." So here are some quips and lessons from Loretta..thanks Grandma

1.  Everybody that smiles in your face isn't your friend..if you are lucky you will only get a handful of true, life friends in your lifetime

2. Don't turn in anything with your name on it that is sloppy or half done...(i used to cry when she made me rewrite my homework until I got it right...thanks grandma--its gotten me through two and a half degrees and good work ethic)

3. "Go back into your room and do not come out until you are friends again" (this came after i tried to give my best friend all of our toys back after an argument...she never let me let things fester too long..thanks Grandma)

4. As a woman, it is always important to have your own...never let anyone be your everything

5. If you want to have a friend, then you have to learn how to be a friend

6. If you dont know how to do it..get a book and look it up

7. Say what you mean and mean what you say...and there's nothing worse than a LIAR

8. Don't sleep the day away....

9. "A watched pot never boils...." (this was her favorite phrase that always made me patient)

10. "No I'm not paying you for good grades...thats what you are SUPPOSED to do..."

and my all-time favorite..."Remember, I'M your best friend always.."

It wasn't always in words but in actions. She was my example of strong womanhood. She sent cards to her friends for everything and was proud to announce that she maintained many of her relationships from childhood. She could make a whole meal out of nothing and taught me how to never settle for anything less than my best. Mediocrity was never an option. I wonder sometimes who I would have become if I wasn't forced to go to those afterschool math programs or if she wasn't so particular about my friends. I wonder how far I would have made it in school if she didn't rip up my homework because it was done "half-assed" as she would say and just let me turn in anything just to say it was completed.  I wonder how I would handle conflicts in my life if she didnt force me to go back in the room and "work it out" or else I would get into trouble.

Thank God...I will never know. Thanks Grandma for loving me enough to get on my nerves growing up...though you are absent in body, your lessons and your impact in my life will live for generations....

Saturday, January 8, 2011

REMEMBER YOUR NAME...(My introduction)

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5
For some time, I have had a keen curiosity about the meanings of names. My professor in seminary once told me whenever I read a story in the Hebrew Scriptures, to always take the time to understand the names of persons and things. Names within that culture were carefully selected and often provided insight into who the person was..and also who the person was to become.

We all have a name. It is the first piece of information that we share with new acquaintances. It is our own individual self-definition before we explain our occupation, our background, or even our history. And yet, how often do we take the time to define even what our names mean..and what it has come to mean to us? It is our first gift...planted in the minds of our parents by our Ultimate almost give us insight into who and what we are destined to become..

That being said, let me introduce myself more properly to the world. My name is Nichole. My mother was bilingual in French and I heard that she liked this name. The "h" was added to distinguish me from being common or ordinary. (Setting me apart even then seemed to be important and my uniqueness continues to be both my blessing and burden at times).  "Nichole"  is derived from the Greek term meaning "Victory".."Victorious Heart"..or "Victory of the People."  Throughout my journey, I have looked up my name many times. However, as I reflect retroactively, it seems prophetic that my NAME would be VICTORY.  I often wonder if my mother knew the adversity I would face in my childhood and even as an adult. Of all of the attributes to define me by...I was defined not by my journey, or my pain, but by my outcome. Not only my outcome for myself, but also for my destiny to also live to bring victory to others.  There is no need for victory without conflict...inherent in even the name is the suggestion that adversity, like with most in life will be present.  But my heart rejoices to know that my mother, whether consciously or through her unconscious that was connected to God, defined me in this way. Sometimes when I feel discouraged or the odds are against me, I remind myself of this very fact. "Girl..your name means VICTORY"..and I reach inside to those things placed in me before I was born to find the strength and the wisdom each time to fulfill my name... It was then that I realized that the pressure to be what I was created to be was really not pressure at all. My only responsibility isto be exactly who I am to the best of my ability and to be faithful to this task, and victory will in fact come..

My middle name is Aura..hence the name for the blog. Defined as "a distinctive and pervasive quality or character; air; atmosphere"..this term is actually a noun moreso than a description. It speaks to a mysterious or inescapable, noticeable presence or quality.  For many years, I did not share this middle name with many, but as I have come to know myself and become myself, I have come to appreciate the significance of even this name. My ability to be calm in chaos or (at least other's chaos..LOL) or encouraging and able to journey with people in dark moments is not because of my own is simply part of who I was always created to be.  And so now, I am no longer ashamed of this part of my name..and I am grateful even for my father who gave it to me. 

And so friends, let me introduce myself as we journey together.  My name is Nichole Aura. Outside of just sharing this with the world, I wanted to encourage each of you. There is a destiny and a purpose for us all..It is the fulfillment of this that keeps us pushing...and praying...and sacrificing...and does not allow us to settle for anything less than who we are. There is greatness in each of us because we each were designed to carry the very Spirit and presence of God.  In those times when your life circumstances, your past, or even your present failures may try to distort this identity, sometimes all you have to do is REMEMBER YOUR NAME...

Each day, I am learning to practice gratitude. And so let me start on this first day by being grateful to God for both of my parents who, even with their mistakes, loved me enough to listen to the God in them and define the God in me. I dedicate this blog to my mother, Jewell Yvette Phillips, who's strength in the face of her own adversity and illness encourages me daily. Her passion for writing continues to live through me and I am grateful even for this gift and pray that it will bless all who read it. 

Peace and Blessings
Nichole Aura