Meaningful Living in the Hashtag Age

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Three Things Fear Helped Me Accomplish

Fear is an emotion often associated with feelings of uncertainty, danger, shame, and rejection. It is a dark room where creatures wait to prey on me, a dangerous journey towards the unknown. But every emotion, good or bad, has its purpose, and fear is no different.

Where love brings me joy, warmth, and connection, fear drives me out of my comfort zone. It forces me to fight against my inherent nature to run away from what is unfamiliar. 

Fear is born out of change, and progress cannot exist if we do not accept change. Therefore, if we live trying to avoid fear, we ultimately limit our progress in life.

If fear is designed to hold me back, why did God give me the emotion of fear? And how do I manage my fears and reach my destiny in life?

I’ve asked myself these questions countless times when fear was not my friend when fear caused me to miss out on opportunities in life that God meant for me to experience. But now, after years of learning that every emotion carries good and bad energy, I look back and know that I was better equipped to accomplish my goals when I embraced my fears.

The three biggest goals accomplished in my life were done with love, fear, and change in the passenger’s seat. Below is what fear helped me achieve:

1) Open my life to others.

I am a closet introvert who refuses to hide. That means I love being alone but don’t choose to be alone. Most days, you find me in front of a television clicking back and forth between the news, Lifetime movies, true crime, and Family Feud. I enjoy the sound of my heartbeat in a quiet room and listening to the noise the keyboard makes when my fingertips tap against it. But my fear of true isolation forces me to live out loud. To fight against anything that prevents me from being who God said I am, “the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).” Despite my love of being alone, my life cannot be lived in isolation. Therefore, I live in the open. I write in the open. I love in the open because fear inspires me too.

2) Find true love.

As the story goes, true love is hard to find. This is not only factual, but it is humbling. When the greatest gift God gives us is hard to find, fear, and the anxiety and isolation it often creates, can kick in. Before I met my husband (over twenty years ago), I feared I would never find true love. I’d watched people struggle with fading, wavering, and conditional love, but true love was still a legend. Then I met my husband, a military officer who lived a life that was foreign to me. He was moving around every 3 to 4 years. From city to city. Military base to military base, and he wanted me to be a part of his life. Instead of doing what fear called me to do — stay within my comfort zone, say ‘no,’ remain in my hometown and continue pursuing my career; I pushed against this and instead used my fear of the unknown as my motivation. I decided to join him on his journey, to be his wing-man, his rib, his family. I found true love because my fears allowed me to.

3) Become a mom.

I never played with dolls. Honestly, I never liked them. As a young girl, I would rather play football with my cousins than play dress-up with my friends. So, when I reached my late twenties, and my girlfriends were becoming mothers, I didn’t know how to feel about it. By the time parenthood became an essential part of my dreams, I discovered I could not get pregnant. This sent my husband and me on an 11-year infertility journey with fear and uncertainty. Eleven years! But in the end, regardless of the tears and frustrations, I became a mom. Fear forced me to trust life’s process and gain the patience I needed to overcome longsuffering. It taught me to move in ways that celebrated wins before they became a reality. The day we adopted our son was the day we understood that even in the darkest hours, fear propels us towards our blessings.

Do it afraid. That’s the message. 

Fear should never stop you from moving forward; it should empower you. Let your fears be a beacon of light on your path; let them motivate you to live life out loud, seek greatness in every situation, and trust the process. Because what’s on the other side of fear is true love and achievement.

Today, I pledge to love myself.

Burdened by contrasting views about beauty and likeability, too many of us (women) suffer from feelings of worthlessness.

Based on the world’s standards, we are expected to be authentically ourselves AND entirely acceptable to others. We are to live in virtue of man AND pleasing of God. We are to expect our beauty to be fleeting YET never rest on mediocrity. We are to seek perfection in everything we do YET know it is an unrealistic pursuit.

The bar is set too high. Perfection is a fantasy.

But for those of us determined to play the game and achieve our badge of excellence (at the detriment of our sanity), we are often forced to give up one key life-empowering attribute – self-love.

Self-love inspires true greatness. It is the confidence to be kind to ourselves even when the world is not. It allows us to love the parts of our mind, body, and spirit that are different and unappreciated by others. Self-love is knowing that we are strong, courageous, and fabulous even when no one else thinks so.  

When our self-love is depleted and destroyed, we cannot feel authentic, virtuous, or beautiful. We were never born to hate ourselves; self-hatred, or feelings of inadequacy, are the results of engaging with hypercritical people, seeking perfection, and setting standards of acceptability based on the world’s demands and not our own.

Negative feelings and unhealthy thoughts easily damage the road towards true self-wholeness, self-love, and self-respect. To maintain self-love, we must embrace feelings of worthiness daily by reaffirming that who we are, regardless of our physical beauty, weight, intellect, or economic status, is acceptable. We must release the burdens of perfectionism and celebrate everything that makes us unique and extraordinary.  

Therefore, regardless of the past, I have decided to reclaim my love for who I am and who God made me to be. So, today, I pledge to love myself unconditionally.

The person in the mirror versus the person in my heart

When I look through the distorted lens of an unbridled world, I see a broken vessel, an incomplete soul, and a queen with no crown. I worry about my looks when no one is complaining. I wonder if my femininity and blackness are good enough. I question my intellect and talents. I look for reasons to be ordinary when God made me extraordinary.

Over the years, I realized that my self-love and self-talk didn’t match how I felt on the inside. On the outside, I am an overachiever who struggles to be who God created me to be versus what the world expects of me. Yet, on the inside, there lies this fantastic person with no insecurities who is filled with power, fearlessness, and uncontrollable joy.

See, in my heart, I’m a writer wielding the pen like a samurai. Crafting works of art like glowing brown faces placing limestone at the foot of The Great Sphinx of Giza. Masterpieces churn from my soul like poetry dripping from Langston Hughes’ emancipated mind. I’m a great writer, by no measure set by man, only the heavens.

In my mind, I’m a beauty queen twirling towards the sky. My white chiffon dress is covered in diamonds, and my Jimmy Choo’s have wish-granting powers. When I click twice, a harem of handsome admirers rises to greet me. But when I click three times, the world becomes my playground. 

In my soul, I’m a warrior shuttered in the trenches, strapped head to toe with armored gear, preparing to protect what I love the most. I’m a female warrior with no fear of insult or failed expectation. I fight for what makes my soul stir and gives me peace that no man can control.

So, why doesn’t the greatness I feel in my heart, mind, and soul match my self-love and self-talk? 

Unlearning the misguided lessons of self-love

Humility teaches us to stay grounded and never brag. Self-respect leads us to behave in honor and dignity. Integrity encourages us to have strong moral principles. But why is self-love untaught or considered contrite and arrogant?

Why am I taught to love others but not to love myself? Why am I left to believe that what I see in the mirror cannot reflect what I feel inside? Why don’t we tell our little girls they are beautiful even if their looks don’t match what the media defines as beauty? Why can’t we stop comparing ourselves to other women and trust that there is enough acceptance for everyone? Why aren’t we taught to battle against the negative thoughts in our mind that leads us to hate ourselves?

Today I accept a new truth. For it is not arrogant to love oneself; it is magnificent. It is feeling the cool waters of the Nile River on my face. It is standing at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and watching the world beneath me. It is all things good, kind, and wonderful. It is accepting that my looks don’t define my self-worth, and my accomplishments don’t determine my status in life.

I’m good just the way I am.

So, I pledge to love myself today and every day. I promise to live like the warrior nestled in my soul, the queen twirling in my mind, and the writer wielding greatness in my heart.  From this day forward, my self-love and self-talk will start with happiness and end with joy. I will live, love, and linger in my extraordinary self. I will bask in the greatness and beauty of God’s imagination. I will give back to the world more than it expects, and I will love myself while working to inspire others to do the same. Today is a BIG day!

The Reset: A Poem of Restoration during the COVID Crisis by Michelle D. Jackson

God promised us many things.

A life of glory and merciful meaning.

Purpose, love, and righteousness.

Peace, grace, and selflessness.

He granted us abundance that far reached what we could embody. He blessed us with the power to rise above sickness, hurt, and melancholy.

He gave us his most precious thing, His love transcended in an earthly being.

He loved us so much He left to the world a priceless deed, the life of his son, His only seed.

And now, in the wake of what we can not control, God performs the most sacred role.

He does just what He said He would, He renews, restores, and protects the poor, humbled, and spiritually good.

Through the uncertainty of a sickness we struggle to cure, God resets the world, creating a new, blessed universe, holy and pure.

Our sinking earth ravaged by ego and greed, now has a fighting chance to succeed.

Starting with what He loves most, God fights to unify the family with His heavenly host.

Then seeking to end what is destroying our earth, He uses a virus to remind us of our godly worth.

Replenishing the sanctity of things we can not comprehend, God empowers our fears to bring us back to where He intend.

He reduces pollution while we debate climate change, using His strength to break us out of illogical mental chains.

Seeing to the elderly, who created the path for which we follow, God promotes them to a heavenly home, while our pride fall to an earthly bravado.

Those who die, die strong with fearless faith, as a reminder to the living that death brings God’s ultimate grace.

He has put in motion, The Reset.

A time of prayer, redemption, confession, and reflection.

A time to reconnect, reassess, and redress.

A time to rekindle, remember, and reminisce.

A time to learn to love again with complete fearlessness. A love that doesn’t require touch or feel or tenderness.

But one that consumes the heart and reverberates from six-feet apart.

What may appear final, is far from the end. Only God controls how this world will ascend.

No sickness, no greed, no leader-less land, will destroy what is safely secured in God’s hand.

So stay-in, stay strong, believe what God says is real, but never give up on His power to heal.

Embrace The Reset. You know in your heart it’s time to start again. To put what is important first and make God’s love and kindness transcend.

By Michelle D. Jackson

Well Done

A Message from an Overachiever with a Restless Heart for God

So often my friends and colleagues ask me, “Do you sleep?” This question is understandable because I can sometimes appear to be constantly working on a new project instead of enjoying my life. Therefore, I always pause before answering because I don’t know if the person is applauding my effort to accomplish my goals, questioning my ability to find peace and contentment in this life or if I look tired and weary from my work. Either way, the question ultimately leads me to think about Christ and his time on earth.

In only 33 years, Christ healed the sick and fed the poor. He counseled people in need and taught those who sought knowledge and understanding. He worked miracles that changed lives and fought for what was right. He loved people who didn’t love him back and he sacrificed his life for our sins. In 33 years on earth, Christ accomplished more than I or anyone could ever accomplish.

So, do I sleep? Yes. Comfortably. Because the things God has asked me to do with my time on earth is worth the sacrifice. It’s worth the long days writing, running my business and nonprofit, and taking care of my family. It’s worth the hard times when I’m unsure of myself but refusing to quit. Don’t misunderstand my work ethic or the work ethic of people in your life like me. I have an amazing life that I want to live like Christ. I’m just focused on one thing, and one thing only – hearing God say to me, “Well Done!” Then I will rest with him in peace for eternity.

Michelle Jackson is an entrepreneur and nonprofit leader and author of fictional novels The Heart of a Man and From Darkness to Night. To learn more about her work, visit http://www.authormichelledjackson.com.

What I learned from Hamilton The Musical

To say I waited patiently to see Hamilton The Musical is an understatement. From the moment I realized it was the story of the American Revolution set to rap, I was sold. Despite the fact I couldn’t make my way to New York to see it on Broadway, and I wasn’t sure who the heck Alexander Hamilton was, I desperately wanted to see it the very second it hit the stage.

Fast forward a few years and the play is on tour and headed to New Orleans where I live. My husband surprised me with two tickets for Christmas and boy, was I excited.

An hour into the play and I realized how much Hamilton’s life was like my own. I too am in search of greatness or at least real goodness. I’m looking for ways to make a difference and leave a legacy. And most importantly, I’m trying hard to never miss an opportunity to change the world for the better.

Everything about the play was right, including the cast, music, and message. Meaningful and heartfelt, I left the theater with a new understanding of who Hamilton was and why he’s important to our history. But I also learned a few other things:

1. In life you must take your shots. There’s a new song I heard called ‘Shot Clock’ that’s growing in popularity on the R&B/Hip-Hop scene. It reminds us that just as in the sport of basketball, you only have a definitive amount of time to take a shot and make the goal. Life is no different. Hamilton took advantage of the opportunities he was offered. Despite being the son of an adulterer and orphaned at a young age, he grew into a strong and determined leader who played a major role in the Revolutionary War, the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, and the creation of our federal treasury system. He made mistakes – he shot a few airballs – but in the end he didn’t let his past, his fears, or his failures stop him from making the BIG moves.

2. Know who will tell your story and care about what story they will tell. Hamilton lived an amazing life despite his arrogant and womanizing ways. When he died, he left behind a legacy that wouldn’t have been properly told without the love of his wife, Eliza, who overlooked his flaws to support him before and after his death. His story is so fractured yet beautiful that it resonates with people who thrive to live honest, authentic lives. Eliza, like many of us, was left with the responsibility of passing along his legacy to the world. She knew his real story and understood the importance of sharing it. A life poorly lived doesn’t leave a great story to tell; nor, is it an inspiration to the people we leave behind. It is a badge of honor to live a good life and to inspire people you love to do the same.

3. Jealousy is the enemy of success. Although Hamilton wasn’t always kind to his political rival, Aaron Burr; Burr was portrayed as an accomplished man consumed with envy and jealousy. He was always one step behind Hamilton, but he could never catch up. Burr waited for the opportunity to eclipse Hamilton’s success without realizing that standing in another man’s shoes doesn’t make you The Man. I will not debate who was right or wrong (or dispute the accuracy of the play), but Hamilton’s success often appeared to be at Burr’s expense. Because of this, Burr killed him in a duel. Leaving a legacy for himself of a man who failed to stand on his own because of his devious desire to bask in the sunlight of someone else’s achievements.

4. Seeing the world through a prism of light is growth-in-action. When racial issues are at the forefront, we often find ourselves searching for the politically correct way to characterize our differences. But when we stop talking and start using our creativity to show, and not tell, how beautiful our multi-cultural world is, we can turn the page on racial disparities and change how we connect and honor each other. Hamilton uses a diverse cast to tell the story of the American Revolution. Hamilton and George Washington’s characters are played by actors of Asian-descent, and Thomas Jefferson is played by an African-American. This is a wonderful example of how adding color and flavor to the story creates a memorable piece of art.

As you can tell, I loved the play. The rapping was on-point. The story was compelling, and Hamilton and his wife were great examples of what we can accomplish when we accept that our lives are not our own. I believe that our lives are gifts from God and He wants us to build a world we all can live and thrive in.

Congrats to the cast on a wonderful show!

#1stMorningthoughts

To Die For

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The praise team approached the microphone stands behind the pulpit one warm Sunday morning. Called by God to inspire a congregation of worshippers, they gathered on the stage to give back and I, like many others in the church pews, was willfully ready to receive. The tempered playing of the keyboard was accompanied by the guitarist’s spasmed sound and the chest pounding thump of the drums. Each singer rocked from side to side in an uncoordinated dance; joyous, I imagined, for being blessed to see another day.

The song began with words I’ve longed to hear all week. Words that took me to a place of peace and joy. Words that encapsulated the heartbreak and uncertainty of living in a struggling world that desperately needed God’s salvation.

The choir sung with such perfection, “You thought I was worth saving. So, you came and changed my life. You thought I was worth keeping. So, you cleaned me up inside. You thought I was to die for.” With every verse, I was reminded of God’s faith in me. Regardless of the countless mistakes I’d made, the sins I repeated even when I knew better and the times I refused to do what he sacrificed on the cross for me to do, I was still worth saving – I was worth God sacrificing the life of his only begotten son.

Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He paid a debt we could never repay. We were worth dying for; we were bought with a price. What an honor to be loved so completely.

In every corner of the church, congregants sprung to their feet lifting their hands in praise. Together, we were transported to the ultimate place of worship. A place void of pain and filled with love. We were seated at the foot of Christ; worshipping him in unison. We were embodying what the praise team was called to do. Our faith – a blessing to God – was music to his ears.

My tears overwhelmed me. They were a testament to a life so filled with God’s love that I unequivocally could not take another breath without giving him praise. And while I praised him, the Holy Spirit revealed in me a path to a better understanding of my purpose on earth. I asked myself: If God thought I was worth dying for, how do I justify living a frivolous life? How can I refuse to follow God’s word?

God gives us what we don’t deserve. He redeems us. Sets us free. He took our place on the cross. He never asked for much from any of us; but he gave in abundance.

Knowing how unconditional his love is, gives me the strength to set my goals high and to see my life as a conduit to spreading God’s word. As a child of a living God, I cannot justify a meager life. My dreams must be bigger than the sky; my purpose filled with giving back and helping others. I am not here on earth to do my will, but to do God’s will and to show him that the life Christ died on the cross to save is working to be a blessing to those in need.

What are you willing to die for?

Our Christian walk is one of purpose. How we live our life and how we realize our dreams were set in motion during the long and torturous walk Christ made to the cross. His work on earth is done; he is now with God steering us in the right direction from his throne in heaven. Now, it is for us to complete the rest of the journey with God’s strength and faith beckoning us towards living a life of purpose.

But living a purposeful life is often hard to do. Knowing what’s worth sacrificing our life for is difficult to explain. That’s why I’m so happy God had no reservations about me. He didn’t look over the totality of my life, or considered my failures and sins before determining if I was worth sacrificing his only son for. He simply knew my heart and loved me despite my transgressions.

As the praise team continued, I recognized why the sweetness of their words brought me to tears. Again, in perfect unison they sang: “You thought I was to die for. So, you sacrificed your life. So, I could be free. So, I could be whole. So, I could tell everyone I know.”

I pray that on this journey we clutch hold to things worth dying for and we live our lives with principle and courage so we can do as the song writers says – be free and be whole.

Michelle D. Jackson is author of the inspirational novel, The Heart of a Man. Follow her on Facebook @AuthorMichelleDJackson. The original article was published in the October 2017 issue of The Mount Magazine.

The song referenced in this article is “Worth” by Gospel Singer Anthony Brown and group therAPy

 

 

You Are A Masterpiece


It dawned on me this beautiful Sunday morning that over the years God has been working to get me to a place where I understand the true purpose for my life. So many times I’ve visited the graveyard to say goodbye to a friend or family member. So many long, sad walks back to my car wondering if that person, who is now with God, fulfilled their earthly purpose.

This journey to live on earth takes us through many peaks and valleys. We struggle with understanding who we are, our mission, our purpose and why God chose us. We see people who appear to navigate life with such ease and grace, and then we witness the fallen – those who struggle with every turn. 

We all have a story; we all have fears, but do we know and accept God’s purpose for our life?

What I am more and more convinced of is that the God I serve whose imagination is as wonderful and brilliant as a bright and sunny sky and as massive as the roaring sea, has molded each of us into a unique piece of art, a masterpiece.

Once we accept that we are God’s greatest work, we can live in His purpose for our life and fulfill our destiny.

You were never meant to be like anyone else. You are an original. You are the first and the last. Your purpose cannot be defined by anyone but God. Your wins and losses are all intentional paths on your personal journey. Every experience was created to help you become the person God wants you to be. 

You are a masterpiece!

Accept it. Live in it. Love with it and be blessed.

Michelle Jackson 

Looking Up: My 2015 Resolution

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Over the next 24 hours millions of people will set goals for the New Year. Typical resolutions will be a laundry list of positive changes like weight loss, spiritual growth and financial stability.  Most goals will be realistic and achievable and others will be too whimsical to set in motion.

But the idea of leaving one year behind and diving head-first into the next is refreshing. It’s a chance to start over, to get life right and to forgive yourself for the mistakes of the past 365 days. It is the finish-line for wrapping up unresolved issues and the starting point for reinventing your life.

This year, I’ve decided to take a different approach to setting my personal and professional goals. Of course I plan to eat healthier, love harder and seek peace in everything I do, but my primary goal will be unlike my goals of the past.

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The First Thirty-Nine

Check out my latest blog post, The First Thirty-Nine.

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