Carry Hope, this Counselor’s heart

 

journey-pic  It is never easy being vulnerable nor is it ever so easy being the strongest. What I am learning is that life gets better when we share. When we open up, expose our hearts, share our pitfalls, and express our hopes and dreams, our lives become bigger. No longer are we alone, separate, on our own.

I am learning with confidentiality comes responsibility. At the beginning of my education in counseling, I thought confidentiality was a burden…a required stressor for client relationships. As Counselors we cannot share any client cases not even with our spouse. I would find this most difficult whenever my he finds me. Yet, as I grow, as I try to understand the complexities of the heart, our minds and the human spirit I am not alone in carrying or solving another’s problems. It is their story, I am blessed to hear it, to listen in…what a grand opportunity to be present for another.

Our heart’s ache with so much. Love for family, for our spouse, our friends, partners, for all we are connected to and things will get heavy, very heavy. Carry Hope. Hope is essential. Faith is a required necessity. The two enable us to pick up shattered pieces, to gain a God perspective in all matters of the heart. In addition, it is free…listening with care is priceless. Seeing a person’s heart is one of the greatest values, a treasure. God will do the rest. Carry Hope and be gracious in giving it away.

Yesterday, I listened as this woman described how her 19-year-old son has schizophrenia. How over the years he has tried to cope with the voices in his head…how loud music does not drown them out, how the medicine does not drown them out. Yet, he knows the difference in what the voices tell him…he knows which are spiritual and which ones are not. I listened as she says she has never been dismissive when he speaks to her, warns her about things. I listen, as she has become his champion, his advocate. How she works to make sure the members of the police department know him, their family for his safety. How the Church members know him, he sits in the foyer (his choice) away from everyone and he listens to the sermon, the music. How she says he looks normal and he is her son. There is no tiredness in her voice, no weariness. She smiles. She speaks of love, her son, her husband, their community. I see her heart. I am proud of her, her son, her family, her community. She “fights” for everyone. #VillageLove

My Autumn  told me she saw me as a forgiving person, very forgiving. I asked does that make me a wuss, a pushover. She responded: “It means you forgive, Mother. That is it. Stop adding stuff.” I laughed. What a great characteristic to see in a person. She is right; I tend to add more than the necessary to any situation. Forgiving frees you up. It requires a lot to forgive but even if the process is slow, we are gaining more of ourselves each time we forgive. Do not let what others perceive of you dictate the kind of heart you have. Let your heart show. Let it beat, break, heal and love some more. Continue to guard it, though guard it with love not barbwire.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4: 23 (NIV)

Inevitably, the God-stuff happens. My heart is most happy when I can witness the miracles God works daily through our lives, nature, in our friendships, with family relations, in business ventures and once in a lifetime encounters. It was not until I went to bed last night that I realized that I was among a group of women that counsel, that are Believers, wonderful individuals and we all want the same thing. This path is so different from what I imagined. I am so grateful for my experiences; even the difficult ones for each equip me to journey on.

Again, carry hope…your definition of success is soon to follow.

Intimately worded,

A. Michelle!

© 2017 Michelle Tillman All rights reserved

 

 

Culinary Skills & Dilemmas

When I have no solace, a lot to think over and no one to share my thoughts with I cook. I love the art and the science in preparing a meal. I love the creativity it takes to create a new recipe…the imagination of different flavors and spices. Trying to measure and enhance one product  to mesh with another. I enjoy the soothing methods slicing vegetables brings. I love the colors of bell peppers, the promise of just enough heat of habanero peppers and I love the earthiness of mushrooms. Today I am preparing a new dish, a signature recipe in every aspect: Salmon Braise, perhaps. I like that. As I am cutting, and preparing all ingredients to go into the crock pot I think, I pray. I listen for confirmation, affirmation of my thinking process. Oh how I miss the days of having someone listening to me, hearing my heart without cutting me off, nor interrupting me nor misconstruing my words. I continue cutting. This meal is supposed to be for me, the Little Ones do not care too much for mushrooms and okra. I think I have prepared enough for the neighborhood.

My dilemmas: Church & Internship and other stuff

My length of unemployment boggles my mind. It still hurts. I feel so unbalanced and insecure. I have worked since I was 15 years old. Its wonderful being available to the children, driving them to school and helping with homework. It is completely alien to me not being able to provide from my own work. I do not know how to be…but I am learning. I am learning that this phase of my life is so much bigger than not having a 9 to 5 or an office job.

Church vs my prayer life! Someone told me that the length of my unemployment might have a lot to do with my prayer life. (I have to bite my tongue a lot!) This statement pissed me off until I realized my relationship with God is intimate and no one gets to decide if I am close to Him or not based upon my employment status. (The preparation of cooking gives me time to evaluate and rid myself of others’ toxic conversation.) My spiritual growth is becoming greater but my spiritual connect with fellow believers has become stagnant. This concerns me. I believe in going to Church although I do not believe in the strictness and mandatory that religiosity pushes.

Teaching this Identity Workshop series will be a huge undertaking for me. I am in awe of how I got to this point in my life. This concept is not mine alone. If it were up to me, I would be behind the scenes somewhere. I consider myself more of a support person not a leader. I think I help leaders be better. I am a bossy supporter! 🙂

Internship! Internship! Both placements are awesome and could take my counseling career to great horizons. What is amazing to me is that internships are coming left and right but no job offers. Confuses me so; boggles my mind. You would think God’s priority would be opening doors of job opportunities first.

This Soul reveal has been on my heart for awhile: I attended several training classes this past week. My counseling journey can be quite heavy. Confidentiality is a huge piece of counseling, the heart of it. This journey is going to be more difficult than I thought and what I presumed. One class educated us on the effects of child sexual abuse, the tragedy of what happens to the victim from onset to the cycles of their adulthood. Heart wrenching. The documentary included a 60-year-old beautiful woman; she had the bluest eyes and the whitest hair. (I still see her face.)  One particular night she described how terrified she was at a young age. Her father was in her room and they both heard her mother’s footsteps approaching. Her father stopped. She held her breathe knowing that it would all stop now…then the return of exact devastation as they heard her mother’s footsteps retreat upstairs. She knew her mother would not save her. He knew that they all knew, He would not stop. She stated he abused her from the age of 2 to 17. Oh how I felt her terror. I wanted to protect her then and at present. She is 60 years old and the fear that came over her as she told her story saddens me deeply.  It is a heavy but necessary training course. The permission of hurt that mother allowed, it stops my heart. We can prevent child abuse. Although my heart ached for all their stories and my soul is tattered, I will continue to volunteer as a Guardian ad Litem. I do not see myself removing this type of servitude from my journey.

Do your best to stop taking ownership of the hurt people cause you. It is not your fault. I believe we all have good hearts and the Life stuff happens. However, taking ownership of what others intentionally do to us manifests into cancerous emotional scars. It multiplies. Yes, get to the root, do the necessary work to heal but stop blaming yourself. Getting hurt is not a responsibility, stop owning it.

What I gained this past week, the good things, the revelations are: the beauty in pushing forward, the hope in seeing tomorrow and the requirement necessary to focus on the love received. You will make it. Our humanness, that spiritual part of us promises that we will overcome. Sometimes the unintentional hurt pulls our heartstrings the worse. Allow God to work His way… you have to release it, all of it.  It is not your fault.  Tomorrows are worth the fight. {Psalms 91:1}

Me intimately worded,

A.Michelle

Pick your battles…Parenting Autumn

IMG_217943346666549    You have the ability to choose. I think often times we lose focus on the power of simplicity because if our lives are not forced focus, in crisis mode, hectic hellish or nonstop un-normal we fight to right our ways our way. Discern what matters God has placed within your life to deal with. Remember anything He gives us He also equips us. There are difficulties we must face, know that we do not face them alone. So often, we place burdens on ourselves that are His and we blame Him for the most. We carry that ice chip on our shoulders, in our words and we embed it in our hearts. God loves and He disciplines those He loves. He is not going to allow us to outdo Him. Honestly, there is no way we can.

My Autumn is 13 years old, an awesome daughter. She is my only daughter. #motherhood As her mother, I think I mess up a lot. I think I have to watch her more so because I fear for her. I think she could have had a mother that has more expertise in all things. I think she could have had a better mother—a mother who knows how to raise daughters. (I have three sons.) I do not allow her any social media time, her friends are few and she starts high school next year. Oh, and her figure, her shape is coming in already (just like mine at her age) and she is a beauty and so smart. Therefore, I am frightened in so many different areas of her life because I am her mother. Am I too stifling? Do I suffocate her? Am I making her feel she is loved and loving? How is her self-esteem? What are boys saying to her in that school? What are men saying to her? Then again, what are girls saying to her? Do we talk enough? Am I doing right by her? Has my singleness all these years braced her or harmed her for her future relationships? Big sigh.

When I get this way, which is not often but often enough. I immediately go into a tailspin of fear after hearing about the 12-year-old girl who committed suicide on FB. This cuts my heart up in so many ways. My soul is silenced when my friend tells me. My heart aches. She sends me the link of the little girls’ suicide. I refuse to open it up.

At times when I worry and Autumn is home, I run in her room and jump in her bed with her. I snuggle up with her while she reads her book. I make her take out her ear buds and we talk. Earlier this week, she complains but is laughing, “Momma, why?! It is hot. Stop.” She says. I smile and kiss her cheek and say, “Well, I’m not. My feet are cold. Warm me up” Her: “Your feet are always cold.” Me: “Let me search your phone to see what I can see. What’s your code?” She tells me and goes back to reading her book. While perusing through her phone, I find this text: Her and her friend are discussing their hair issues:

India (is a great friend to her and has long straight hair): “Use the ECO gel on your hair.” Autumn: “I did and my hair came out so short. I did not like it. My Mom used it and her hair looked great! But she used oil on hers and I did not. I am going to use oil and the ECO gel tonight.” My eyes water, I turn to her and smile, “You don’t ever tell me my hair looks great. You just say good or act like I am getting on your nerves. You love me!” Autumn, laughs so.

She has an awesome laugh too. Her natural hairstyle, her choice since she was 9 years old. Our hair textures are different but she has embraced her hair with such creativity and uniqueness it baffles me. Her self-strength is so powerful. What an amazing mirror I have. {An excerpt from one of my original poems: “I see Autumn leaves in the coldest of winter.”~M.} She is rooted well. I am so humbled by God’s love for me.

Therefore, I am going to push aside the “what if” and “if I just had” and also the “but God” and pick my battles, the winnable ones— the God has equipped me battles. I love being her mother more than the fear. Parenting costs so much yet the rewards are priceless and non-refundable. It is impossible to do everything right, I know that but the easiest part is when we do our best for them. We do not argue about social media. It is just an “is” in my home. We have discussed the possibility of Snap chat when she turns 14. So, I am on a journey to learn all I can about that before her next birthday in order to give the right answer to her, yes or no with an explanation of my choice.

I grieve for our children. I love our children; it truly takes a village. Suicide is preventable. Autumn and I discuss the neglected and abused children, teens, her peer group. I smile because her anger, her fight is just as strong as mine. Children, Adolescents have my heart they always will. We all are accountable to all we are connected. Please see the hope in that statement, there is no condemnation nor judgment. None, zilch. We must find ways that show our children they are loved without sacrificing our moral upbringing, without them suffering the residuals of this mean, mean world.

I think if we take a firm and mindful stance to focus on the winnable– our aspirations, hopes and dreams we have no recourse but to line up with what God has purposed for our lives. #TrustHim In all we do there has to be a peace that remains. I am learning this scripture holds so much direction and guiding, Philippians 4:6-8:”Do not be anxious about anything but in everything…”

Discern and pick your battles in every aspect of your life. God has planned for you to win the war. Growing up I did not like kids, did not want to be a mother. If I married, I wanted one child that was it. I remember telling my father I was never going to marry. He laughed along with giving awesome advice. (I will share that conversation later.)  God laughed too! I have four children, married once and divorced. I have been single longer than I was married. I am a grandmother! I am a child advocate, graduate student of Counseling and I teach Sunday School. Oh, God laughed big!! Remain focused on where He has you. Be God-confident!

My heart is all over the place… I hope this read makes sense. It all circles back.

My heart–Intimately worded,

A. Michelle!

 

 

Geeked!!

What God wants…

Happy 2017! I have committed to living a better life…no resolutions. Great things happening this morning, Wednesday, January 4 has led to a shift in perspective. Although I am able to encourage others (not just shoot off cliches) I find myself in the “dumps” quite often.

Early morning I receive a text requesting that I speak at a Book Club event. I smiled and agreed. My friend, requested and suggested the topic to speak on: the “work” needed in the “Sisterhood” era. Earlier this week I tweeted my thoughts on Self-care:

Click on link: https://www.instagram.com/p/BOvSoQCjiE0/?taken-by=nit_one

I smile at her suggestion, our communication and reflect. During my graduate interview in 2014, I was asked by the panel, “What population do you think you will have trouble serving?” Me, “To be honest, its not a matter of trouble. Its a fear. I fear working with Black Women and that makes me feel guilty. They are a population I feel I cannot reach. There is so much hurt there. I can’t understand it and it bothers me so.” Dr. S, “Than there is where you are most needed. Your greatest fear is entry point to your greatest triumph.”  I side-eyed her, she is African-American. I thought to myself, pssh if I am accepted I am not dealing with anyone I do not have to. My plan was to maintain a B average and avoid the difficult. God has other plans. Accepted in, A average and I did not avoid any difficulties…I worked. I studied. I cried. I counseled.

As my day progresses, I review assignments for my next class: Substance Abuse Counseling. I am excited that we have the previous professor we had in our Crisis Counseling course. She is awesome! My final course, Gender Counseling is taught by another professor I adore so my nervousness in achieving all A’s is swept away. I am able to do the work. I have learned as a grad student that apprehension about a course has a lot to do with learning the professor and the way they teach. Once the final two courses are completed, I begin my practicum and internship in May. Finding and researching the correct placement for my counseling career is exciting, slightly overwhelming. I emailed two more resumes and requested contact information for spots in Domestic Violence and Sex Trafficking of minors. I will be a practicing student counselor. Oh my!

One of the assignments in the Substance Abuse course is to abstain from one certain thing and journal our progress for the next 8 weeks. I have chosen to abstain from sugar. I have practiced the Daniel’s fast several times and although it takes great discipline, I enjoy it. The healthy results gained were fast, effective and practical. I am intrigued with how I will progress in abstaining from sugar as a project assignment. Especially, after I was a dessert pig over the Holidays.

I am looking forward to traveling and attending counseling workshops with my cohort. We get to meet one classmate’s mother when she visits. We have been pressing through together for three years; meeting mothers are a treasure. (I love the Elders)

The Little Ones return to their regular schedule of school and homework. They were not excited this morning yet this made me smile too. Their ways, their reactions I am learning to devour every chance I get. Time is so swift. Brutus’, “two more minutes” are the most endearing because he mumbles it and pulls me in for a hug. Autumn’s, morning “mm-hmm” and conversations on the drive to school remind me so much of myself. She said, “I already know they are going to be asking me for my pencils. I am going to say no. These pencils are my fav, the eraser just does not stick straight up you know. They twist up. You know I bought three packs. (Big sigh, smiling). It makes me feel better knowing I have them and I will not run out. Its 9:05, not late and not too early. Bye, Mother.”  My teen, she is a stickler for wanting things a certain way. (We cannot just write with any kind of pencil. She buys pencils!!! Lol) #motherhoodbliss

The career hunt is still a career hunt. I am maintaining a consistent belief that God is my provider. After this stint of unemployment, something wonderful will come. #bigHope #BigGod

Just a quick blog message, I am going to enjoy 2017 moment by moment. You do the same! Nothing is greater than walking the path God leads us on, for there; there He has equipped us for it all. Dig deep. Go further. Faithfully pray and do good works. #necessary work

God’s grace,

Michelle, Counseling Graduate

A Christmas Eve Note

 “Love yourself. Accept yourself. Be honest about what heals and helps you. Then you will bring your healing gifts to others. Your life will be a gift to the world.” ~Melody Beattie

One of my favorite events of Christmas is trimming the tree. I completed the trimming this morning. I was very ill earlier this week. Yes, there is a point in putting it up this late, it is my joy! Also, I remember. I reflect on each ornament. There is so much love,  so many memories… Damien is now 27, and now has a fiancée!! Darius gingerbread man hangs crooked–he was created in 1997 and has survived many breaks. I have glued him back together several times during Darius’ gravity defying superboy years. Smh/lol.  He is now 24. Autumn & Brutus'”new” ornaments with their initials. As they hang their individual ones, (I love their banter.): Brutus:”You know “B” is always at the top.” Autumn: “A” always come first.” As she hangs hers higher. I am a grandmother and my first grand baby brings me the greatest joy–her love is the reason for my illness. I could not put her down no matter how she coughed and sneezed. Oh she is getting so big, my Plump Plump.

 I have beautiful old ornaments passed to me by my deceased Mother-in-Law. The way I decorate all my Mom, deceased now 4 years. I remember so much of how I grew up with family …I remember my oldest brother Wayne teaching me the tricks of cooking grits. “Michelle because the instructions say 5 minutes. You do not stop there. You cook them longer than 5 minutes.” This morning we had grits for breakfast. (Not something I eat daily.) I remember walking over our land and picking out our Christmas tree for Daddy to cut down. I remember all my Waxhaw Christmases. #Tillman

My children do not realize the joy of trimming the tree yet. The toils of youth!  The thought of trimming the tree is cumbersome and they want to do something else. I cherish this time, it is very dear to me. I give pause and think of so much that has brought me to this day, my now. So much has happened in my life this year but that will be another blog post. I promise to share. 2016 has been amazing and amazingly difficult yet I have not lost sight of how God does what He does.
Reflect. Remember. Receive. Giving back to self requires many non-worry moments. Light your candles, play the Christmas music, fill the kitchen with the smells of baked cookies and favorite cakes. Listen to the laughter of children, of family. Love more because you are capable. We are equipped with the gifts to love, to love others and to be loving. Gift the world with your presence. We were created in His image for so much more.
Live love. Love self, it is imperative that we do. Be great at expecting God’s best for you. What we gift out, boomerangs purposely. Continue in God’s grace for your life. Do not doubt His love for you even though it feels and seems like He hasn’t heard a word of your prayers. As He justifies, He prepares. Merry Christmas!

Season’s Best,

Michelle & the Tribe

2016-christmas-tree
Christmas Tree 2016…my Angel Woman’s head. My tree is 7ft tall…I wouldn’t have it any other way. #tiredoftakingpics #thisisthe bestshot

Love anyway

To be a Guardian ad Litem is the most adventurous, heart-wrenching, soul-healing-happy roles ever. Although, I am unable to share their story due to confidentiality please note that the victims are within the system for much more than what my little self can fix…being there, visiting them makes me happy.

These two, six-year-old girl and nine-year-old boy are the most genuine lovable pair I have yet to advocate for. They have no knowledge of the past week travesties to their race nor of the ones who protect and serve. They did not hear the woman in my Sunday School class state: “We cause things to happen to ourselves. We deserve what happens to us when we put ourselves in environments like that.” She’s Black, a mother, a wife and older.They are unaware of the state of my heart. I visit them at their daycare. They greet me with hugs and questions. I smile so.

They command me to get on the floor and race cars, play in the sand box. I think oh my achy knee, hitch up my skirt and I join in. It takes a minute for me to realize that the little girl has snuggled up against me and is inside the crook of my arm. I hug her. She is just chattering away. The little fella has named me in his imaginary carpool with himself as the driver, “Ms. Michelle you can sit in the back seat. I got this.”

We move to the drawing table and they talk some more. We are drawing and coloring, making paper airplanes and paper masks. Frustrated, the little fella destroys his mask because he cannot cut it just right. He begins to fuss at his sister. She says, “Stop getting so upset. I didn’t do anything to you.” Without any anger or accusation, I address him, “Don’t do that. Do not fuss at her. Try again. We will have to use a different type paper. Don’t get so frustrated and do not quit.”

An hour later, “Ms. Michelle can you come back tomorrow? Ms. Michelle come back next Friday it is show and tell. Come back next Friday definitely. Ms. Michelle you do not have a phone? You lose it, break it? You really need a phone so I can show you how to play games.”(I keep my phone off and out of sight. They have my full attention.) I left there with a drawing, a happy heart that is sleep (too cute) and a happy heart that is crying. She also drew me in a picture with her family.

Their story is not the easiest nor one of the worst I have had to advocate for but the innocence and love they have for this stranger bends me and molds me into a better human, a better mother.

Writing about child advocacy is a difficult task and because of the emotional totality of it, I do not write but today, today these two are an exception…a remarkable exception. Their big hugs are enough to mend me, encourage me to keep doing what I do. 🙂

As a people we cannot be outdone.God cannot be beat. There are so many reminders of His promises to us. Find a way through it all, continue to care and love for and on others. It makes our world different, better.

When I return home my Brutus: “The kids good? These are not the ones at the Center. These the ones you guardian for, the ones that have been neglected? You help them. Kids should have their parents, Momma. I like that you do this.”  I kiss and hug him even the more.

My morning affirmation: After the loss…love anyway, trust this part of the journey, trust the timing of your heart. I believe we observe the power of Holy Spirit more in this part of the journey when we trust God’s timing. We are not in this alone. There is no part of our journey God hasn’t equipped us for. I promise you each phase of our journey prepares us for His next. I am so ready for “After the loss” moments, soul-tired yet ready.  💛 Faith read: Matthew 11:28-30. The choice to be amazing does not guarantee the absence of hurt…it sets you apart to set you apart. Continue to be amazing! ~M.

P.S. I love when the beginning of the day transforms the remainder of the day.

As for the lady who spoke such ignorance. No one addressed it. I think God has a way of indicating to fools too.

Be amazing!