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I like you. Do you like me?

So, a man asked me for my “stuff” over the holidays. More precisely he offered to do “stuff’ with me or to me. “Stuff” is my word. In the moment I couldn’t quite process that a neighbor was propositioning me for sex in such crude, unsolicited, non-encouraged and awkward manner. But more astonishingly, he assumed access to my body, energy, life, home, bed, and time only required him saying he “likes” me. 

Before he got to his coup de grâce of “liking me,” I tried to derail him, and in my mind, had turned him down multiple times in the conversation. I deflected, changed the topic, greeted other neighbors, but he was laser focused with liquid courage (I’m guessing). Men act like they’re too sensitive for rejection, but they are in fact aggressive revisionists who think of “no” as a challenging obstacle to overcome. Or overpower. 

He approached me in my driveway late on a Saturday evening as I was stepping out for a food run. It was dark with only one streetlight on my end of the street, and cold as winter was entering its deep freeze in Wisconsin. I thought I recognized him, but my night vision isn’t the greatest, so I was on edge as his dark shadowy figure moved towards me without speaking. As I walked down my porch stairs, I called him by name and asked how his holidays were going. Midway down the stairs, my motion light came on, brightening my driveway.  I could see him clearly now, but his lack of verbal response made me uneasy.  

He is hard of hearing, but he normally tries to cup his ear and ask me to repeat myself. Or simply wave and shout his own greeting. This time he didn’t speak until he was nearly toe-to-toe with me – far too close for my comfort – he finally responded quietly that his holidays were going fine. Then he stared at me and said, “You’re so pretty.” Almost like a whisper. Somewhat bemused.  

The Color Purple, 1985. Mister attempting to convince Nettie to be his wife.

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Reflective Questions

  • What are you offering in exchange for access to someone’s body and life?
  • What are you willing to accept in exchange for access to your body and life?
  • How do you evaluate what you’re willing to share? 
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Poem: No longer listening

I once heard what I thought  
was a calling. A mating call of yearning, 
of need, of matched desire. 
I listened. 
 
Was someone seeking me? 
The voice seemed familiar –  
its vibration pierced my soul, 
breached the dark midnight of my days  
in the directionless wilderness of life. 
It pulled me, spun me 
surrounded and filled me. 
The melody delighted me. 
Surely it was a call to live;  
to fulfill hopes and dreams 
I kept listening. 
 
Even as I called back,  
I listened.  
Even after I became a seeker  
starving through the ravenous desire 
of a supernova devouring its own light, 
I listened. 
I called back. 
I listened. 
I called back. 
I waited and waited and waited, 
for more than a dozen years,  
I waited for my radiant reply to reach  
the one my soul loved;  
ached for the brilliance of their  
presence to sustain me. 
 
I thought I needed to see, to feel, 
to be seen, heard, wanted, and needed.  
I thought I needed someone to love me;  
someone I could pour love into. 
Yet aging with none of my needs met 
altered my hearing, diminished my longing. 
Silence is not only deafening, 
it deadens the soul and mutes the heart. 
I stopped listening to the void. 
 
A lifetime ago, a whisper tickled my senses  
through the wilderness of the universe. 
But how could that be when  
sound can’t travel in space? 
Relics of my imagination had launched  
on gases of hope, creating orbits of dreams 
in the echo chamber of my heart. 
So… I’m no longer listening. 
 
I will feel what I can, be who I am, exist as created 
with no regard for the sliver of sound heard 
in the wilderness of loneliness, that had only  
ever been my own echo reverberating off stardust. 

LaShawnda Jones
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Are you listening? 

Listening: give one’s attention to a sound; take notice of and act on what someone says; respond to advice or a request; make an effort to hear something; be alert and ready to hear something. 

In recent years, mostly since the pandemic began, I have become aware that the people I had been most comfortable speaking to – i.e., bearing my soul to – are not good listeners. Not only that, there’s no evidence they take the time to hear any of the words I actually speak. 

All my relationships have relied heavily on telephone time for the last twenty years. None transitioned to social media well. I’ve rarely been in the same space or state with family or friends for well over a decade.  

Nearly two years ago, I returned to Milwaukee where I lived for high school and college, for what was supposed to be a summer stay. My goal was to purchase, renovate and flip a property while spending time with my sister. For nearly twenty years prior, home had been elsewhere. There were two old friends I had maintained contact with over the years. I had last seen them both in 2018. Neither were interested in connecting upon my return. After the initial sting, I was and am completely okay with that. Above all else I did not want to get wrapped up in the lives of people who hadn’t grown much in twenty years. My focus was my first real estate investment project and seeing where that would lead.   

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Relics of My Imagination

Returning to a former hometown has been revelatory in a profoundly impactful way. We remember people as we were last with them. Memory is faulty. It leans towards rosy hues and comfort connections. If prior interactions were positive, or what we may have considered to be warm, friendly, or loving at the time, memory will serve rosy images of comfort. If prior interactions had been overwhelmingly negative or emotionally damaging, memory will bar any images of comfort attaching to lingering thoughts. If the relationship was a mixed bag of all life has to offer, the love, admiration and esteem you held for the person will overshadow everything. Until it can no longer stand up to the truth of character and time.

shown me more of. Releasing my thoughts release their hold on me.

Since the turn of the century 😊 (the last twenty years or so), I have been trying to understand myself in tandem with my core relationships. I have chiseled away the elements I didn’t want to be a part of the woman I am becoming. Likewise, I began holding my relationships up to the same harsh light. I saw they all needed infusions of Spirit, Love and Truth. Only then was I able to see people as are, rather than as my imagination remembered them.

Even as my relationships collapsed and wasted away one by one, there were a few I genuinely believed would survive close scrutiny. The friendships I thought were based in truth and mutuality of intent. The friendships I built on shared belief in the Word and compatible spirits. The family members I loved more than myself and would have laid down my life for… until my life became an expected forfeit for their ease. I thought some relationships would survive the fire God was purging my life with. For many years, I held on to some stubbornly. Refused to let go. Kept doors open. Maintained lines of communication. Fanned the flames of hope. All the way up to my return to Milwaukee last year.

Returning to a point of beginning has shown me like nothing else, how much I’ve grown – how much I’ve BECOME. In many ways, all the people I’ve been holding on to are in the same places emotionally, mentally, physically and/or spiritually as they were when I left. Effective sharing has been impossible because I’m not able to be fully who I am now in conversation. My current troubles, concerns, hopes, goals, views, ideas are nothing close to what they were twenty years ago. And yet they speak to me as if twenty years have not passed, even though we’ve been communicating throughout this time.

Twenty years ago, I subjugated myself in every arena of life. Everyone I encountered and interacted with were treated with great esteem. So much so, that it may have appeared that I esteemed myself less than I esteemed them. This is true to the point that I chose to leave home – family and friends – for a faraway place (New York City) to explore who I am without everyone else’s demands and influence on my personhood, time, and resources. That was the beginning of me chiseling my identity out of the narrative I was born, and repeatedly placed, into.

I’ve been gone from Milwaukee for as long as I’ve ever lived there, yet it remains the place I’ve lived the longest. As such, it has a deep impact on my early worldview and life expectations. These ingrained perceptions transformed into re-writable code during my fifteen years in New York City. A whole life recalibration in the Southern Arizona desert followed my time in New York. Living in quiet solitude allowed me to gently revisit core family and friend relationships. The tranquility of my environment provided space for honest evaluation and the ability to listen with an uncluttered heart.

During that time, I learned I wasn’t important to any of the mother and sister figures in my life. I was useful, but not valued as a whole person. What I could do for them kept them in contact with me. When I let their words and actions reveal their hearts, I was able to see how they viewed me as only a fraction of who I once was. They kept me in a mental space of need, lack, silliness, and inferiority. Easier to exploit if they thought they were doing me a favor with their attention and demands.

Painful revelations to be sure, but from the distance of a few years, I now appreciate not misunderstanding my place in people’s lives. They held a special place in my heart, but now what I thought we were has become fond memories. I’m no longer burdened with a desire to be present, to perform or to even communicate. When I stopped buying into the performative nature of our interactions, they began giving up the performance as well. This unmasking has been a great process for repositioning relationships more appropriately according to their nature rather than what I imagined they were.

Returning to Milwaukee has cleared away fog, doubt and shaken the stranglers completely loose. I’ve been looking at this period of my life as the end of an autumn season. There’s been vibrant change, amazing color, and opportunities for joy, but the whole season has been about transition. From changing leaves to winds of change. The shaking loose of the dying leaves from trees can be traumatic with its suddenness. Sometimes, all it takes is one good storm to leave you shaken, naked and barren. Ferocious gusts of wind to take away the glory of your foliage. An overcast darkness to usher you into a season of dormancy.

As we transition deeper into winter, we lose light and heat. We become grateful for the few leaves that weren’t shaken loose when one storm became many. We cling to those resilient leaves for as long as we can. Until the light becomes brighter and the heat starts to warm our roots again. Transitioning from winter to spring reminds us that adorning ourselves with dead things hinders growth. That storm we hated for shaking our beauty and comfort loose was necessary to prepare us for new life, new possibilities, for our next season of blossoming. The storms also deepen our understanding and sharpen our sight.

I still don’t know the full purpose of this extended return in Milwaukee, but I recognize the need for purging, clarity, and rejuvenation.

There will always be questions. What if my past hadn’t been what it was? How different would my life be? What if I had made different choices? What if I had stayed and not sought to chisel my identity from the harshness of the world? All those what ifs would still be what ifs with the addition of “who am I” – the question that sent me out into the world – if not for the path my life has taken.

One thing my solitary existence has taught me is the firmness of my identity. I’m not fluid. I’m not unsure. I’m not scared to ask hard questions. I know I’m created in glory as a Child of the Most High. I know my will and moral compass bends towards the Word of God. I know I will achieve all the purposes I’ve been created, prepared, and positioned to achieve. I need not chase or worry. I need not torment myself about who is with me or for me. It is only me and My God as it has always been – even when I wasn’t aware. I am confident in proclaiming my name, and my determination to fully develop into My Creator’s purpose for me.

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Breathe. Release. Repeat.

There was a time when I held on to everyone and everything

for dear life. Periods when life was defined by the people I craved
relationship with, things I strove to acquire, and status I worked hard to achieve. All these were cultivated by family and societal culture.

This current stage of transition and transformation doesn’t accommodate such baggage well. It’s taken away my appetite and done away with most of my desire.

Over time, relationships have disintegrated, things have
lost value, status no longer has meaning. Contentment has come with releasing them all.

Learning to simply be is a joy. Embracing my breath. Learning its pattern. Knowing without it, I am nothing. Breathe. Release. Repeat.

Today I choose to release yesterday’s hopes, plans, and disappointments.

Right now, I focus on my breath. It’s softness and it’s power.

In this chain of moments, I honor my cycle of inhaling and exhaling. The pleasure of simply being.

Wherever I am is where I choose
to be present, so there I be.

Selah.

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Video MR2.0: Marriage & Relationship Series Intro

This first video for the Marriage & Relationship: Modern Concepts vs. Biblical Principles series is an introduction of me (LaShawnda), my company and the study series. I also begin to explore the importance of naming. Each meeting is focused on one or two Biblical couples. We explore the main theme, elements, issues and lessons of their marriage and dominant relationships. For the longer discussions, the videos will be cut up into parts. Video Part 2.1 is a larger discussion of Abraham/Sarah and Hosea/Gomer. The proposed discussion questions for these couples are posted in Discussion Questions: Marriage & Relationship, Part 2 .

 

Marriage & Relationship: Modern Concepts vs. Biblical Principles Bible Study Series Part 2:

  • Topic: Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah + Hosea and Gomer
  • Text: Genesis 12-13, 15-18, 20-22: Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah
  • Text: Book of Hosea: Hosea and Gomer

Video Part 2.0

  • Series Intro
  • Importance of Naming

We meet bi-weekly. Join the conversation! Subscribe to Harvest-Life-org. Feel free to post comments and questions below.

#bible #biblestudy #discussion #learningwithfriends #adamandeve #manwoman #humanspirit #humanity #spirituality #genesis #harvestlife #harvestlifer #harvestlifeorg

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Terry Ann: Woman. Seed. Fertile Ground. Inspiration.

In the summer of 2018, I began working on a portrait and prose book project about womanhood. That summer I returned to my hometowns Gary and Milwaukee and asked friends, family and old connections to pose and share some words about their womanhood experiences.

When I began sketching out the project my mom was not top of mind. As the project morphed into various incarnations, the hope was to pull others in along the way. But the more women I talked to and the closer I got to women who had been close to her, the more Mom began to dominate my thoughts.

I can’t ask my mother what her womanhood meant to her. She died just as I was coming of age. Oddly enough, I hadn’t considered my own womanhood in the context of the project until I visited my mom’s gravesite in Milwaukee. It was there that I realized I hadn’t really known her as a multi-dimensional person. My perspective was only as a daughter looking up. As a result I began questioning and exploring the layers of my own personhood. Perhaps my Mom became my proxy. I chose to focus my questions on how she was before becoming a mother.

During the visit, I asked relatives: What do you remember about my mom?

I wasn’t prepared for the responses. Such a simple question seeking to learn about personality and character, unleashed stories of actual and imagined trauma and violation. Things she would have shared with me during her lifetime if they were true. It’s interesting how I was able to reject the lies for what they were after holding their words up to the relationship I had with my mom. She was an honest and straight-forward woman. She didn’t wallow in past trauma, hide from it or keep it from me. Her story was her story and she told me what she wanted me know. More importantly, she answered my questions truthfully.

The more I analyzed my urge to ask others about who Terry Ann was before she became my mother, the more I realized I have only to look within. Everything I thought I didn’t know about my mother is actually in me because she remains a part of me. She’s the seed and fertile ground I sprung from and her life is forever my inspiration.

My sister had the only words worth sharing. She said, “I remember everything, but I can’t put words to my memories.”

Truly profound.

Perhaps that was my true dilemma as well. I know what I know, but somehow I can’t speak it all.

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Sermon: Standing In The Gap by Pastor Gary Ham

For those of you who thought the grass was greener on the other side and found that it was not, this message is for you. “The crisis you are facing is not one of money, is not a crisis of relationships, it is a crisis of faith. It is your faith. For with God all things shall be possible. Nothing shall be impossible. Will you open the door? Will you allow Him to come in. Will you allow Him to strengthen the relationship that’s He’s brought you into the world to have?” There have been strongholds that have held you back from stepping into what the Lord has for you. I say in the name of the Lord , those strongholds are broken. Today you are free!

Listen here: Standing In The Gap

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When Truth Destroys

Note: I came across this hand-written message (written by me) last weekend while organizing some of my papers. It’s not dated, which is unusual for my writings, and was written on the back of a travel document. When I read it, I was convinced that it was confirmation of a message I had just heard that morning and of reminders that had been given to me throughout the week. 

Someone once told me that my directness in sharing my truth is courageous. My response was, “I’ve learned that most people can’t handle their truth. My truthfulness has destroyed my relationships; none of the ones I’ve spoken directly in have survived my words.”

“That is why I think you’re so courageous,” she continued. “You’re living free as you are, not as other people will have you be. You’re not restricted to their view of you because you are so direct about where you are and what you need.”

Since that conversation I have thought of the many relationships that changed drastically or ended because I exposed myself in truth. Then I thought of how each of those relationships would probably still be as superficially satisfying and emotionally frustrating as ever had I held my tongue and worn the mask of false communion that so many keep in place as if their lives depend on others believing in their shallowness or trusting in their vanity. I mourned each of those relationships for a time and gave thanks for the people and the lessons they taught me.

It was never my desire to come to the end of people, but I’ve come to learn of that when we are able to see the true limitations and weaknesses of human relationships, only then are we truly open to the incomprehensible vastness of possibilities available through our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Through Jesus, God teaches us the true nature and purpose of relationship. When we get that understanding – the understanding of the truth of Jesus Christ – everything that burned up in our life (fell apart), when we first learned to be true to ourselves, ceases to matter. It was all chaff in the wind. See, the fire of truth purifies and refines that which is true and created to endure, but the same fire of truth destroys the falseness and imitations – whatever is rooted in the flesh – in your life.

John answered everyone, “I baptize you with water, but there is one coming who is greater than I am. I am not good enough to untie his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. He will come ready to clean the grain, separating the good grain from the chaff. He will put the good part of the grain into his barn, but he will burn the chaff with a fire that cannot be put out.” And John continued to preach the Good News, saying many other things to encourage the people. ~ Luke 3:16-18

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An Open Letter: Woman to Man

When Jesus came to the area of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His followers, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They answered, “Some say you are John the Baptist. Others say you are Elijah, and still others say you are Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
Then Jesus asked them, “And who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
Jesus answered, “You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because no person taught you that. My Father in heaven showed you who I am. So I tell you, you are Peter. On this rock I will build my church, and the power of death will not be able to defeat it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; the things you don’t allow on earth will be the things that God does not allow, and the things you allow on earth will be the things that God allows.”
~ Matthew 16:13-19 (Mark 8:27-30)

Dear Man:
Please note: What others say about you will never trump what I see in you and believe about you.

Though my day to day feelings about you derive in part from your treatment of me, my vision and knowledge of you is God-given. You may think the accolades of others will win me over. You may also think that what you do for others will make you shine brighter in my eyes. You would be wrong on both counts. You can bend over backwards for everyone in the world, but if you aren’t willing to even stand up and face me, why should the opinions of other people matter to me? Your relationships with everyone else in the world do not create space for a relationship with me. Those relationships do not even accommodate an {us}. Your relationship with others is about you and them. They have nothing to do with me. Nothing to do with us. For that reason, I am not impressed by what other people think of you because their experience of you is not representative of my experience of you.

Right now, in this moment, my struggle is seeing everything you are willing to do for others while remembering everything you have been unwilling to do for me. This knowledge continually leads to resentment, bitterness and separation.

Your struggle is admitting you are in error; that you have squandered time and taken love for granted. Pride is the downfall of every man, however, all is not loss. You, my dear Man, are a conqueror. Should you choose to accept your assignment, you can make everything right with just a word.

You love the Word of God, but you won’t speak a word to me.

You enjoy life, but you won’t share yours with me.

You yearn for the light but you keep me in a shadowy pit.

You admire modesty but the way you waste time is the most painful extravagance to witness.

You think you’re humble, but your spirit strives against me in a rage of hurt masculine pride.

You think love and war are synonymous. They aren’t. Love may be confrontational but it is not destructive. War is targeted violence and willful destruction. Creating and maintaining conflict is not an expression of caring.

You go on and on about love and grace, but what love and grace have you shown to me? Where is your mercy? Where is the love of Christ for the woman you would have as wife?
OLDER-COUPLEI do not hold a grudge against you, but I will not fight endlessly with you either. I know what you want; I know what you need, but I can’t force you to receive anything from me.

I have been equipped to nurture, love and honor your life with my being. I have been created to share your breath and expand your life.

I have prepared for you, but I am not willing to be everything I can be to a man who is content to be nothing more than a disconnected observer of my life.

You will not drain me dry and leave me nothing for myself. I won’t allow you to do that. God has shown me too much of Himself in me for me to throw myself away according to your whim.

I will not support a man who doesn’t support me. That would be energy you take from me without replenishing it. Your confidence should not cost me mine.

I will not attempt to stand beside a man who has no interest in standing beside me. To do so invites heartbreak every hour of every day.

I will not chase anyone who is not pursuing me. I am the good thing you are responsible for shepherding, but I am also responsible for where I choose to go. You lead, I follow. When you stop leading, I stop following. Remember that.

Relationships are built on mutuality and thrive on reciprocity. I cannot build with someone who is constantly attacking me. Passive aggressive behavior is violent in nature. You may “only” be emotionally dismissive, neglectful, and stoic, but each instance is an attack on everything I see in and believe about you. Such behavior attacks everything I understood about us from the vision I was first given.

If you want a woman who will sit at your feet and praise you continuously while you spend your time and energy praising everyone else, then you have my blessing and encouragement to keep looking for her. I am not the woman for you.

If you want a woman who will encourage you, despite your refusal to acknowledge her words, then again I say, I am not the woman for you. Go in peace and live a joyful and bountiful life elsewhere.

But,

If you want a woman who will strive to communicate with understanding and who will use her tongue only to bless and lift you up, then I say I am your woman.

If you want a woman who will walk, run, dance and ride through life with you in all its triumphant glory and devastating tragedy as a partner – hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder with arms linked – I am your woman.

If you want a woman to build with – from scratch or from leveraged land and materials – I am your blessed goodness. I am your wow-factor.

If you want me, you must recognize you are joining with a woman who knows her place in God’s Kingdom. My place is not subordinate to you. My place is one of honor, not disgrace or shame. My place is by your side as co-ruler of all we are blessed to supervise and manage as stewards. My joy in you derives from your recognition of your place in my life.

Be the man you were created to be, Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, breath of my breath, joy of my joy. Be true to God. Be true to yourself. Be true to me.

At night on my bed,
I looked for the one I love;
I looked for him, but I could not find him.
I got up and went around the city,
in the streets and squares,
looking for the one I love.
I looked for him, but I could not find him.
The watchmen found me as they patrolled the city,
so I asked, “Have you seen the one I love?”
As soon as I had left them,
I found the one I love.
I held him and would not let him go
until I brought him to my mother’s house,
to the room where I was born.
~ Song of Solomon 3:1-4

Song: Say You Love Me by Jesse Ware