Well, Hello there Butterfly…letter to my FUTURE self…

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Wow! Can you believe that half of October is already passed and we have officially moved into a new season of life? This is the time of year when we realize that the year is, in fact, almost over and while some of us are giddy with anticipation of making New Year’s resolutions, others of us are filled with regret thinking about the New Year’s resolutions of our past that we did not keep. And we begin to beat ourselves up about the things we did not change, do, or accomplish…And for me, I start to think, “If I could just go back and change it. If I could just rewind time, and talk to that Taria, I would make sure I did everything I set out to do.” And there are moments when I have become so discouraged over a space in time that is no longer available for me to occupy, that I ignored the beauty in the time that I have right now and the time I hopefully have ahead of me. And during those moments, I would start to think about all the things I messed up in my past, all the ways I let others influence certain decisions and all the opportunities that I didn’t fight for and just procrastinated away. I felt like I had to do something to clear the cobwebs of past “failures” out of my head so that I could feel like I had a clean slate, and THEN I would be able to reach all my goals and fulfill my God-given purpose. So, I decided the way to do this was to write a letter to my past self. To tell her it is ok if she falls and stumbles. That she will get back up. That the hurt she experiences, whether by someone else, or by her own hand, she WILL make it.

So, here we go…

Dear 13- year- old Taria,… Wait! Wait! Wait! What am I doing? At 13 I might not be ready for the advice I am about to give. So, let’s try……16. Ok. Dear 16- year- old Taria,… Wait a minute! I don’t know if 16- year- old Taria was ready either. Then it dawned on me. I am attempting to write a letter to a past self that no longer exists, while in a present state of mind, to inspire a future that I longed for and yet wasn’t sure about how to achieve, because I kept reflecting on my past. And I just couldn’t think of anything to say to her, to that Taria, my past self. There is nothing I can say that would change the different situations that she experienced, both happy and not happy, both fulfilling and unfulfilling, both hurtful and life changing. No warning I could give her to just hold on and keep going…to not give up because hope and faith lie beneath the surface of her heart, etched into her DNA. And while I know writing a letter to my past self could be therapeutic, I also understood that I needed to embrace the new seasons in my life without trying to wear last season’s clothes. To not birth my past failures and disappointments in my present and allow it to miscarry my future. To not use my past as an excuse for current behaviors that would forfeit my future. And the scripture came to mind: “…But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,” Philippians 3 vs. 13 NIV and in that moment, I made up my mind to use my past as a step stool and prophesy to my future.

Dear Future Taria,
You did it! You made it to 40! Remember when 40 seemed so far away? And now you are here! Healthy, happy and whole! And I am so proud of you and what you have accomplished! I am proud of the way you decided to pursue every dream that GOD showed you and to drive every gift that GOD gave you with faith being your only method of transportation. I am proud of you for understanding that in this life, it is not always about you. That your gifts, your faith and your obedience to GOD are not always for you and you alone. That sometimes, GOD will use your gifts to encourage someone else, your faith to inspire someone else and your obedience to bless someone else. And to not immediately ask what you are getting out of it, but to remember that it is about building up GODs’ kingdom by edifying the body.

And how about that Podcast and your blog, Tales of a Butterfly?!?! You DID it! You jumped, feet first into a pool of dreams, wading through a little self- doubt, a little fear and a little uncertainty…unsure of whether you could do it… but with GOD as your life vest, you made it through to the other side! And I am depending on you to keep going, to keep pressing toward the mark of the “higher calling”, because there are people you don’t even know who are depending on you. And the people that you envisioned that would say yes to being a guest on the podcast, you interviewed THEM ALL! I would tell you who they are, but you will find out soon enough, in our future:)

I am so proud of you for becoming the person, the woman who you were looking for. For becoming the person, you needed in your life, knowing that one day, someone will need a you…and you will be ready. For understanding that the words you spoke would either be the breath of life that sustained you to the future you, or cause you to choke and your dreams to die by asphyxiation, never moving beyond the past you.

I am proud of the woman you have become. A woman who knows her worth is far above rubies and doesn’t allow anyone or anything to make her feel less then. A woman who chooses to recognize her strength as a mother, while knowing GOD’s power is made perfect in her weakness. I am proud of you Taria, for recognizing what you bring to the table of friendship, although not perfect, you sit in love and at the same time you are willing to lay your fork down, turn your plate down and walk away in grace, when what is being served has been contaminated, whether by another table guest, or yourself. I am proud of you for no longer defending yourself or apologizing for the type of friend you are. For understanding that although you may have experienced hurt at the hand of a friend, you have probably caused that same hurt in someone else and have chosen to forgive yourself and to continue to strive to be a better person, not for people, but for GOD and for yourself.

I am proud of you for acknowledging that while the sum total of your PAST experiences adds up to the person you used to be, on this forward moving journey of your life, you understand the price of taking extra bags would cost your future too much. So, you decided to exercise your right to hand over all over your past baggage to a GOD whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light. And although you appreciate and recognize the important life lessons that you learned from a past Taria, you made the decision that she could no longer dictate your future…to you. So, I celebrate this Taria today, and the way you have chosen to submit your heart fully and completely to GOD, choosing to follow him at all costs and allowing HIM to define who you are.

I bid adieu to the caterpillar of the past who had to fight to survive the process of metamorphosis and I say hello to the beautiful butterfly that has come forth as strong, powerful, bold and free…Well, Hello there Taria Shondell and welcome to your future…
Love, Taria…

I want to encourage anyone who is struggling with a past that seems to want to keep a hold on you. A past that may seem insurmountable. A past that seems to have a foot hold on your present with the intent of strangling your future. You CAN make it. You CAN be a success. Every plan that GOD has for your life will come to fruition. Every promise he made to you, will come to pass. All you have to do is lay your burdens/baggage down, and he will pick it up. Submit yourself completely and fully to HIS will. Start speaking his word into your life, start speaking to the future self you want to be…Write a letter to your future self, declaring what you WILL be! Habakkuk 2 vs. 2 KJV says, “And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.” And I promise you, you will not fail…because in him there is no failure.

I love you guys and thank you for reading!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29 vs. 11 NIV

 

 

 

Hi! My name is Taria…and I am a member of Empowerment Temple Church and Jamal Bryant is my Pastor…

WOW! It feels like forever since I sat down at my computer and put into words the thoughts that have been stampeding through my head. My thoughts, my opinions, my questions, about the headlines and stories we have read all over Social Media…namely the ones about the church. And quite honestly I have been feeling frustrated because I felt like I was stuck; stuck between a rock and a hard place called transparency. Real, raw, uncut, no holds barred transparency. The type of transparency the church folks “talk” about. And so I have gone around and around in my head, trying to figure out how to create words that tell a true story while at the same time carrying a certain level of anonymity and censorship to them…And I have been asking GOD to come on and just give me the “proper words”, for what I wanted to say…But he had already given them to me…I was just trying to water them down. But no more…

I am a member of Empowerment Temple AME church in Baltimore, MD and my pastor is Dr. Jamal Harrison Bryant. YES… I am a member of THAT church, and before some of you wrinkle your nose or furrow your brow any further (that causes wrinkles…and quite possibly the need for botox) let me remind you that while my membership is with Empowerment Temple, I am APART of the body of Christ…And the two are not mutually exclusive as some may think. And I know that there are some that do think the two are, considering the numerous articles and social media posts/comments in reference to Pastor Bryant…and his congregation. As I started seeing more and more posts and reposts and articles being published about Pastor Bryant, I was taken aback to see the ease and comfortability at which fellow clergymen, fellow prayer warriors, fellow intercessors, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, could use the same lips that we use to offer up worship to our GOD, now use those same lips to remind everyone that we need to do better and this pastor is the reason why. I was taken aback to see the same hands that we lift in surrender to worship our GOD, are the same hands that glide recklessly across a loaded keyboard attached to a desktop, MacPro, Android or Iphone waiting for the right time to pull the trigger and propel the “holding him accountable” bullets into a body that has already been ridden with bullets…Multiple times… And some may say, “Well he did it to himself… He shot himself.” And they would be right… But I don’t want my fingerprints on that gun….anymore…

There was a time before, not that long ago, that I was a sharp shooter, my mouth the smoking gun. And I felt like I had every right to speak what I felt, what I saw to be wrong and what could be done to fix it. I spoke about MY personal experiences with other church folks…and I felt like I COULD speak on it, because they were MY experiences! Simple right?! Nope! Not simple… And I thank GOD that he used my husband to shift my perspective and to really take a deeper look into myself and to recognize that without meaning to, my words were doing more harm then good, to the body…not my body… But the church body…

I had become frustrated with certain things and I was venting them to my husband and close friends…repeatedly, whenever these issues came up in conversation, even when I wasn’t the one to initially bring it up. Then one night when my frustration level was at an all time high and I’m saying, “Isn’t GOD going to DO something??? Is he going to continue to let certain things take place in his house???” And my husband said to me, “If you are so upset and disgusted, why are we still attending church? Why are we going and then talking about the issues?” And he basically told me in so many words, I needed to be praying…And of course I wanted to run back down everything that we had experienced personally at church, not to mention what was going on in the media, and list them as the reasons why I had a RIGHT to feel the way that I did. And I wanted to say, “and why are you not as upset as me???” BUT I didn’t…because his words really pierced my insides…and I felt ashamed. Ashamed at the way I had allowed what I SAW and EXPERIENCED, to have an affect on what I said, on what I spoke. And to who I spoke those things to. Those that know me, know how I am about words. I was raised in a Christian home and was taught early on by my parents that the power of death and life are in the tongue (Proverbs 18 vs.21 KJV). So although I had every right to FEEL the way I did, what I didn’t have was the right to speak vacuous words and I knew better… Matthew 12 vs. 36  NIV tells me, “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.”  And again…I knew better…

That was a sobering moment for me…sobering because I realized that I am supposed to be a reflection of Christ..to the world. I am supposed to be a light that sits on a hill, but my actions were like the worlds’ in a valley. Now please understand that I am in NO WAY defending or okaying or pacifying any actions or behaviors that are contradictory to GODs word, whether they are done by my pastor or any other pastor. I firmly believe that there ought to be sanctions and repercussions and accountability to be had by Pastors, Elders and anyone who holds a positon of leadership in the church, who continually commits grievous sins. 1st Timothy 3 v. 2 tells us that an “overseer should be above reproach…” And I know that there comes a time when a rebuke/reproach is necessary…1st Timothy 5 vs. 20 tells us, “But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning.” And I had to ask myself,  how can this be done if I am not praying in earnest for my fallen brother or sister? How can I quote scripture in self righteous indignation concerning the actions of leadership and as a reminder of where they are falling short, and yet not follow the steps that scripture says we should be taking when it comes to a leader that has fallen?  How am I conducting and carrying myself in the midst of what is going on? Are my words and actions still pleasing to GOD while demonstrating his Grace and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit?  Am I praying and fasting not just for my church home but for the body as a whole? Am I petitioning the heavens on behalf of leadership across the nations, going into warfare so that strongholds can be broken because “…we wrestle not against flesh and blood…” (Ephesians 6 vs. 12 KJVAnd how effective can we as a body be if our form of “reproach” is using various social media sites to call someone out, that 9 times out of 10 doesn’t follow you and will never see it anyway. Not to mention, everyone that follows us on these social media sites are not believers. What are we showing them? How are we reflecting the love of the GOD we claim to serve if our cyber conversations lack grace and are not seasoned with salt? How can we truly unite as a body if our words are inciting division amongst each other?  We should know a house divided against itself cannot stand. How can I pray for a shifting in the spirit, how can my prayers be effective for the body if I continue to attend a place of worship with a less then pleasing attitude and a stiff neck, making it difficult to hear GOD and ultimately difficult for him to hear me?

“…For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” (Luke 12 vs. 48 KJV) Leaders of the church do need to understand that as your sheep, we are counting on you to honor the position that GOD placed you in and to truly respect and not pervert the influence you have over your congregants life. And at the same time, I know that even in the positon of leadership, you are also my brothers and sisters in Christ, and it is my responsibility as a child of GOD to pray for you, not post about you. To go to spiritual warfare on your behalf while not ignoring the need for  natural consequences. And I realize that change can only come with Holy Spirit conviction, not unholy conversation, whether it be in the company of friends or in the privacy of my home.

Please pray for me as I pray for you

Thank you for reading!

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.”

Galatians 6 vs. 1 NIV

 

 

Who are YOU Running For?

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It was hot! As I stepped out of my truck and onto my friends rocky, gravely driveway parking lot, I was already hot, even though it was early in the morning. And I think I had kind of an attitude because I didn’t want to be here. I mean why am I going through all of this? Why do I keep coming back to see this friend? My friend that forces me to slow my mind down while at the same time is pushing my body to go just a little bit faster, just a little bit farther and to go beyond the weariness I sometimes feel. Why won’t my friend just let me be and let me stay in the same place with the same pace? I mean, I’m comfortable there. Why do I keep coming back to see this friend who seems to just take me round and round in circles that are sometimes painful? I really don’t know why, but I couldn’t dwell on these questions, my friend, Lake Montebello was waiting for me.

As I walked across the smooth stones, I couldn’t help but think, “Ugh! I can’t WAIT for this to be over!” I stepped into my friend’s house on the track, and I start jogging. I had not even jogged 3 minutes and already I said to myself, “You know what, I can just stop and turn around and walk back to the truck and just go to the gym (even though I knew I was lying to myself, I wasn’t going to the gym if I left), you don’t have to run today.” Even though my legs weren’t tired, I was going to just stop and turn around and go back to the truck, because I was a little uncomfortable and going back was easier. Even though my breathing was o.k., I was just going to stop and turn around and go back to the truck, because, again, it was easier. I could feel my body begin to relax at the thought of just stopping, turning around and walking back to that truck. All because I didn’t feel like it. All because I was a little uncomfortable. All because the sun was shining bright and had a little heat to it. Not the sweltering, stay inside in the cool kind of heat. It was just a little more heat than normal, but in less than 3 minutes into the run, sweat was running from my body as if it couldn’t get away fast enough. It was getting in my eyes, running down my back and…I just didn’t feel like it! And just as I was getting ready to cross over from the running lane into the road on my right side and I am in the middle of telling my friend “Thanks for understanding, I will come back tomorrow”, my mind traveled back to a different time and to a different place. I was no longer at Lake Montebello in Baltimore, MD. I was in Cumberland Green apartments in Millville, New Jersey in the living room of apartment 25B.

There she was, as pretty as always. She was walking out of her room and through the living room into the kitchen and she was smiling. She had on her red fitted tight jeans (women don’t wear baggy jeans she said), with her red, cream and blue striped shirt, all pressed to a T, creases and all! She always said, “Taria, you need to iron your clothes or you will look like you came out of a paper bag. Even if you’re just sitting round’ the house.” And she is right…I just HATE ironing! Thank GOD that Clorox life hacks showed me that all I had to do was get a couple of ice cubes and toss them into the dryer along with whatever is wrinkled and between the heat from the dryer and the steam from the melting ice cubes, the wrinkles would fall out. Oh how right they were! Or I could just ask my husband to iron…Other than the woman I am describing, he is the best ironer (that might not be a word) ever. Anyway, as she was walking, I saw her naturally long and rounded at the tip nails were painted a bright and beautiful shade of red and her fingers were wrapped in beautiful gold rings. I loved her rings and the way they looked on her hands and would try them on sometimes, while simultaneously trying to talk her into giving them to me. And no, she didn’t give them to me. She was firm on that no! I saw she had on the gold chain with a cross hanging from it that she never seemed to be without and as she was walking from her room to the living room and into the kitchen, the sunlight from the white horizontal blinds that hung over the den window, caught the reflection of one of her gold hoops and caused the room to get just a little bit bigger and just a little bit brighter or so I thought…Looking back, I now know that in one quick, unguarded moment of her just walking, the sun had actually managed to catch her and who she was, which was what really made the room a little bit bigger and a little bit brighter. She…is my Grand mom Mattie.

That memory caused me to stand still for a moment out there at Lake Montebello. But only for a moment. Then out loud, not caring who saw me, I said to my body, “You need to run.” I started slowly running again, under the same conditions as before, except where there was once sweat running from my brows into my eyes telling me it was too hot, there were now prayers of my heart, running from eyes in the form of tears, acting as navigators to get my prayers’ to GOD’s ears and more importantly to his heart. He needed to heal my Grandmother completely from the effects of a stroke that she suffered in March. And while she is making progress, I am trusting GOD for more. So I said to GOD, “I will RUN WITHOUT complaint, regardless of the conditions, for those who can’t walk on their own, no matter what happens with my Grand mom. However, I DO want you to heal my Grand mom to be able to walk again, regardless of the stroke conditions.” And I made a promise to myself that I would RUN strides that may sometimes be laced with soreness while outlined in weakness, so that my Grand mom and others could WALK in steps full of comfort and strength…

The reason I am able to run in the first place is because of my Grand mom Mattie and her daughter Sharon, my mother, who ran BEFORE me, FOR me. And as I got older, I saw them run when they were tired. I saw them run when they could have easily walked. I saw them run to help others (and they helped/help me…A LOT) when they could have used that strength for themselves. I saw them run in strength while clothed in dignity. I saw them stand firm in their beliefs’ which taught me how not waiver in my beliefs’, even when we didn’t agree…with each other. The reason I was not afraid to go 8 hours away to school, to try new things (except new foods, I am still in my box with that one…pray for me) and even move away from my safety net in New Jersey (even though their net STILL reaches wide enough to catch me when I fall) is because of them.

Back in January of this year, me, my husband, our two children at home, my mom and my dad flew to San Antonio, Texas to see my oldest daughter graduate from Air Force Boot camp. She is now stationed in North Dakota and is training to become an MP/Military Police and was just awarded a coin of excellence…WOOOOHOOOO YASSSSS!!!!! #PROUDMOMMOMENT.

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The first night there my mom called me and asked what we were doing (her and my dad stayed in a different hotel). I told her I found a store I wanted to go to and she said, “Where are Cory (the hubby) and the kids?” I said, “Back at the hotel.” She said, “You young people are braver than we were, my generation. I wouldn’t be out driving around by myself without your dad in a place I hadn’t been before.” But what she doesn’t realize is, SHE is the reason I am brave enough to go out and explore life…Because I watched her run for me and my brothers and my dad…In Bravery.

And now it’s my turn…And I have to keep running…I have no choice because I have children I am raising who are apart of the next generation. Children who will need to be strong enough to run the path that was predestined for them while they run their own pace…But if I allow my weakness’ to stop me from running MY life race, who will they draw strength from? From whose well, will they be able to draw a drink of endurance, courage and tenacity, to keep running towards their goals and running for their beliefs and their strength to run for others who can’t run for themselves, if they see that I allowed idleness, fear and laziness to distract me and stop me mid run? I have to keep running…I have to keep running so that my children can see that I believe that WE WILL SEE the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. I have to keep running…because one day, I may need someone to run for me…

I want to encourage anyone who feels like life itself is getting heavier and weighing you down, almost to the point that you feel like you won’t make it, think on Isaiah 40 vs. 31,” …they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” …Keep Running…

Or maybe the hunger of dreams that have yet to be fulfilled, is making you feel dehydrated and thirsty and like you want to drop out of the race, remember John 4 vs. 14, “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst…”

I love you guys and thank you for reading…And remember…Keep Running!

“Are you there GOD? It’s me, Taria”…

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Are you there GOD? It’s me, Mary Margaret…I used to love this book by Judy Blume when I was in middle school and must have read it about 4 times. In the book, Mary Margaret has a Christian Mother and a Jewish father and is confused as to her belief in GOD and if she actually believes in GOD. She goes to school and is given a yearlong independent study project and she chooses to study peoples’ beliefs. So every time she had a question for GOD about things she didn’t understand and needed him to explain, she would start out by saying, “Are you there GOD? It’s me, Mary Margaret.” This book came back to my remembrance while on the phone with a friend and I was losing phone service and I jokingly said, “Are you there GOD? It’s me, Taria.” My friend and I started to laugh and I asked her if she remembered the book. After we hung up, I really started thinking about the book and how Mary Margaret went to a GOD she didn’t even know for sure existed, for the answers that she so desperately needed. And then I thought, surely if he could use a donkey in the bible, he could use a fictional middle school character named Mary Margaret…So I took my cue and said out loud, “Are you there GOD? It’s me, Taria, and I need you.”

It’s not that I question if there is a GOD or my belief in GOD, however sometimes, in those midnight hours, just before the night sky allows the sun to peak through with the light of hope for another day, I ask questions…Questions that if GOD can’t answer, I know I won’t get one. I want to know why at 39 years, 1 month and 23 days old, I feel like I am stuck. I am 312 days’ shy of my 40th birthday and I feel like I am stuck. Am I STILL in a caterpillar cocoon that is seemingly steeped in ashes, fighting through a transformation to finally possess the beauty of the butterfly? I ask him if the poor choices and decisions I made earlier in life became the matches that lit my hopes, my dreams and my passions on fire causing them to burnout and sometimes leave me feeling like all that is left of me is that powdery residue that remains after something is destroyed…ashes. But then I remembered you answered the question before I asked. You said in your word that you would give me “beauty for ashes.”

I ask him if I should be further ahead in life because even though I was born in the Eastern Standard Time zone, I feel like life has kept me in the Pacific Standard Time zone, 3 hours behind what I am supposed to be doing, continuously running on a treadmill of time that is shaky and not always sturdy, constantly trying to catch my purpose that seems to move ahead of me, but really, I’m just running in place, making no solid strides or steps forward. Is THIS where you want me to be GOD??? But then I remembered you answered the question before I asked. You said in your word that, “The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him.”

I started asking him if I had wasted all the years I have had prior to this year when I had a burning passion to use my voice to inspire greatness in others through encouragement. When I wanted you to use my voice to become a pen to my generation, an instrument that used what you put me in to help write the vision and make it plain so that when we read it, we could run with it. I wanted you to use my voice to help break the chains of hopelessness, helplessness and despair off of my fellow brothers and sisters. And yet some days I fear I have run out of ink and that the well has run dry. I wanted the sound waves of fearlessness to carry your message of hope through me and now sometimes I fear if I release this unique sound that you gave me, people will come for my neck and I will be beheaded. So should I stay silent? And YET at the same time I still feel the embers of that passion, but I question what is it about my NOW that will help anyone? How will it be different from years prior. And then I remembered, you sent the answer through Queen Esther’s story before I ever asked it.“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will not come… And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as THIS.”

*(Queen Esther went against the law and approached the king without being summoned which she should have been killed for, and used her voice to make sure her people were not killed. And not only did the King not kill her, he promised he would grant her request. Her belief and bravery helped save a generation from death.)

I want to encourage anyone reading this who feels like your time has come and gone for you to fully operate in the gifts and talents that GOD has given you, anyone who feels stuck in life whether it be your job or finances and fears where you are is where you will remain, anyone who feels like what GOD is leading you to do is completely out of the norm of those around you, go to your quiet space and don’t be afraid to pour your questions out to GOD. And even when you can’t verbalize in words what you are feeling and all you can do is cry out, remember that, “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry.” And I promise you, he will encourage you and turn your questions of doubt into answered manifestation!

I love you guys and thanks for reading!

Habakkuk 1 vs. 2 & 5

Habakkuk- “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen…”

GOD- “Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”