Failed To Listen

The soul whispers, but I failed to listen. It’s ironic, naming my blog ‘The Soul Whispers’ when I forgot how to listen…maybe it’s not that I forgot so much as I wasn’t ready to hear what my soul had to say.

I like to think that I’m that tough, rugged, All-Terrain Vehicle that can plough through anything, all the while looking flawless. I pride myself in appearing to have it altogether. I thought that I could do it all and with grace, patience and success – not perfect, but pretty close to it! I thought I could take care of my loved one’s needs, be a good friend, manage a household and have endless amounts of patience, wisdom and achievement at work. I failed to recognize what I was working with. 

Over the past few years my ‘fuel’ was being used up at rapid rate. So much so that even when I stopped to ‘fill-up’ no amount could push the needle to ‘F’. With my engine perpetually running at near-full throttle, I quickly drained the fuel dry. I needed fuel to survive the demands placed on me. Needing to go on, I stripped away layers of my empty tank until it was rusted and unfit for fuel. I had nothing to work with. I was forced out of the race and sidelined.

I had given it all. Here, in the mud, I could finally listen to my soul…to be honest, even then I struggled to listen to my soul. I never realized how hard it was to give yourself permission to slow down and to let go. 

We pride ourselves in having it altogether because we think that somehow having it altogether bring us fulfillment. My tough, rugged All-Terrain Vehicle that flawlessly ploughed through everything is useless without its tank and fuel. It took me the hard way to learn that I don’t have to have it altogether. I forgot how to listen. I didn’t think it was okay to pay attention to my own needs. I am learning to tend to the whisper within. Its gentle sound repairs my soul. 

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My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion. Psalm 73:26

 

Cashed In

When I put myself last I suffered a great loss.

At the start, I happily gave bits and pieces of myself away. The takers received them, unknowing that I was gradually emptying inside. Everyone knows you’re responsible for your own well-being. It’s assumed that if you ‘give’ you have the cash to spend. I had the cash to spend (and even replenished) as it was traded in for love, friendship, order and a “job well-done.” Life was good when I had cash flow…but somewhere along the way the demands increased. The cost of living became higher than my salary could afford. I was robbed of a fair deal, and my lenders took and took and took. I stayed. I let it happen. I thought I was smarter than that. I’ve always been wise with my money…but I still had to meet my demands.

Not realizing my infinite value, I was spending money I didn’t have. What is one to do when you have debt to pay and no cash to pay for it? I now understand that my well-being is costly to replace, and the debt I had incurred would take months to replace and take even more work than what it took when I first gave it away.

When someone requires more than you can afford, leave! Never give gold to the greedy.

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Unearthed

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My outer guard cracked as the inner voice intensified.

Nothing a little glue couldn’t fix.

Demanding to be heard, the surface cracked once more.

Nothing a little glue couldn’t fix.

Uprising in revolt, its current surged my body undoing all its working parts,

shaking my outer guard.

Nothing a little glue couldn’t fix.

Accelerating in anger, the tremor from inside ruptures the outer guard.

Heard with an intense cry, the inner voice screamed, “Listen!”

Nothing, not even a little glue could fix.

 

Waiting For An Answer

As I laid in my bed with the covers pulled closely to my face, my body exhausted, my mind frantic, my thoughts mixed with everything from the daily to-do’s to intense emotions about life’s purpose. I’m not sure why at 12:00am on a work night my mind started to go there, but it did, and I had to deal with it regardless of the late hour. Life lesson # 101: If you don’t allow your mind the time to ‘deal with stuff’, it will make time with or without your permission, and it’s usually unexpected…12:00am happened to be when it needed to voice it’s concerns.

Frustrated and exhausted, I was taunted with negative thoughts around my sense of purpose. My insecurities were heightened and I began to feel sad. I focused on the pitfalls and rejections, the lack of control and ongoing lack of respect. One negative thought turned into another and another and another until my pillow was dampened with tears. My desperate desire to sleep turned into a cry for help. I knew that the lack of sleep heightened my feelings – inadequacy in particular. At the same time, I was fully aware that I didn’t have to soak in negativity. Despite my intense emotions and lack of sleep, I still believed that God could help. I whispered, “God, help me please…” Those few words gave me the courage to mutter my next prayer: “Remind me of my identity and calling and let me sense Your love for me.”

Silence.

My prayer had no reply. I waited with hope in my heart. I focused on the rising and falling of my chest with each breath.

Silence.

After an hour I finally fell asleep with no answer to my prayer.

The alarm rang sooner than I wanted it to and I was forced to return to my routine. That morning I left very little room for my emotions to surface, simply because I had to keep to a schedule which didn’t allow for it. With tired eyes and a humbled spirit I faced the day, and as fate would have it, it quickly turned into ‘one of those mornings’. One issue led into another, and I thought to myself, “If this is a sign of what’s to come, I may be in trouble.”

Annoyed and under-slept, I bent down to put a running shoe on a tiny foot. As I knelt down with the shoe in my hand, little did I know that my prayer was seconds away from being answered. I placed the running shoe on the tiny foot and as I was lacing it up I heard Jesus say to me, “I washed the disciples feet.” God knew exactly what I needed to hear and why. For months I had felt disrespected, looked down upon, dumb and undervalued, but in that moment I was reminded of my identity to serve. Jesus, having the greatest title in the whole Earth, ‘the Son of God’ bent down and washed His disciples feet. Feeling like I had a title but being placed in the least desired position I had carried feelings of disrespect for months. Jesus didn’t have to announce his title to others in order to show that He was important and respected. He knew deep within His being that He is the Son of God. Yet, He was not too important to bend down and wash feet. Jesus is completely sure of who He is and never shies away from His identity. He lived a recklessly bold and humble life.

God’s words to me, “I washed the disciples feet” echoed in my heart as a reminder of who I am and how I am to live.

I am His daughter and I am loved. I may have a title and the least desired position and feel like I spend most of my days tying shoes and zipping zippers, but if Jesus bent down to wash feet then who am I to say that tying shoes is above me. I am not what I do but the attitude in which I do what I do. I am not just ‘a shoe-tyer’, I am a servant. I have not come to be served but to serve.

 

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“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God  something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above ever name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”                                    

                                                                                                                            Philippians 2: 5-11

 

Set Free By A Glance

Overwhelmed with stress, I was set free by just one empathetic glance from a friend.

It was one of those days. Chaos was on the rise.  It wasn’t just my small world – it was all around me. With only a quick moment to spare I walked past my co-worker friend in the middle of her own chaos. We exchanged glances and only a few words, but in that moment there was a kind of empathetic understanding and a sense that ‘we’re in this together.’ Life’s load lifts when we are surrounded by those people who, with a glance, can shift our outlook and help us to ‘just breathe.’

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

There are a few magnificent people in my life whose very passing-by generates feelings of peace and love. They don’t even have to open their mouths and say a word. They truly are the peacemakers of this world. They are those people who grab ahold of what is good and positive. They don’t ignore the looming harsh reality of stress and pain but shine bright and bold beams of positivity into it. Where stress and pain dim your sparkle (all that makes you feel alive) they change your outlook and, even if it is just for a moment, refresh your spirit.

I want to be near people who with their entire being choose to listen without judgment and see the good even in chaos.  I also want to be one of those people.  Like the bright twinkling stars in the night sky I want to offer hope from the chaos.

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“Men and women who have lived wisely and well will shine brilliantly, like the cloudless, star-strewn night skies. And those who put others on the right path to life will glow like stars forever.” Daniel 12:3 MSG

Thank God for people who kick you out of your reality, whether it be negative thoughts or life’s tough stuff.  Here’s to the radiant beams of light in my life.  Keep shining brilliantly!

You’re Not Alone

As I write this, I am alone. I have been alone for a good while. I wake up alone, eat alone and spend my evenings alone. Not to say I don’t make small chat with neighbours and have meaningful conversations with my co-workers…but I am currently without the company of a companion. I still text my friends and of course, my husband, who is away for a few weeks fulfilling a dream of his. Although I am not emotionally alone, I am physically alone without the company of a companion.

It’s alright though! I’m alone. I’m okay…but it seems as though the world prefers pairs. I’m positive that any person without a companion desires a loving partner to wake up to, eat meals with and enjoy all the pleasures life has to offer. Sometimes we find ourselves alone and without a partner for whatever reason – break-up, divorce, death, or we just haven’t found that special someone. It’s okay!

My sister has learned how to embrace and overcome being without someone at different points in her life. I’m happy to say that she’s with a fun-loving Australian and is very content having a committed companion. She recently reminded me that while I was without my husband for Thanksgiving this year, last year at that time she was alone. Her advice, although it was given to only our family, was passionately directed at a larger audience, “Why should I stop my life just because I’m alone? If I want to do something, I’m going to do it!” She’s braved many holidays without a companion, gone to different events alone and has travelled all over the world on her own. While the world prefers pairs, my sister didn’t put her life on hold because she wasn’t ‘paired’. Instead, even with a broken heart that longed for genuine love, she boldly lived life. She’s a fighter in a world ‘paired off’ and sought adventure over being housebound. She sought opportunity and welcomed new friendships, and despite her wounds from past relationships trusted that love would come her way.

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted. And saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

I, unlike my sister have only been alone a few times in my life. I have never travelled on my own. I did eat at a sit down restaurant alone. It felt weird but I braved it. When I found myself away from my loved one I wanted to embrace my sister’s determined attitude to do what you want to do even if you’re on your own. So I did! It was a Friday night after a long work week, and I had been invited to a surprise Birthday celebration. The friend that invited me worded the invitation “I know that your husband is on tour but wanted to see if you wanted to come to a little surprise party.” I did! I thought to myself, I have two options: sit at home, do some work and maybe watch a movie, or get dressed up and go to a party. I chose the second option. I purchased a gift, picked out an outfit, put some make-up on and headed over to the party. As I entered the house (alone) I heard these words spoken in a loud voice: “Where’s your husband?” She went on to say that she would never go anywhere on her own. As you can imagine, I’m standing awkwardly in the doorway at a party with a group of people I ‘kinda’ know and feeling like I was ‘no one’ without my husband. A rush of thoughts entered my mind: “Was it alright that I came on my own? Do I not have as much value unless he’s with me?” I know my friend had no intention of hurting my feelings, but it really made for an awkward evening where people needed to asked me, “How are you holding up?”

I’m alone. I’m okay.

When I find myself alone I know that I am not truly alone. God is near. He is that needed comfort that settles all the insecurity that comes from being alone. He is a comfort that embraces me with confidence to brave eating alone at a restaurant, going to a party alone and sitting alone in my house. He is a comfort that allows me to let go of the ‘presentable me.’ I wash off my make-up, put on my PJ’s and throw my hair back in a pony tail and simply let go. He is a comfort that welcomes my words without judgement and truly ‘gets it.’ In a world that prefers pairs I’ve found the finest partner. God is with me always. I am never alone.

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“In fact, God isn’t far away from us. In God we live, move, and exist.” Acts 17:27b-28a

 

Embrace the Silence

The pause between words in a conversation can stir up awkward jitters. We make like we’re okay with the awkward pause with a “hmmm” or a nervous scratch, or worse, make an off-topic comment about something in the room – “That’s a nice lamp!” Prolonged quiet isn’t always welcomed. Whether we’re with others or alone, quiet is often the sound most hard to embrace.

Quiet is usually shared only with a few very privileged individuals. Very few relationships are comfortable without the constant noise of technology or each other’s voices. Not having understood the moment I was quite guilty of interrupting a beautiful, silent interaction with the common “What are you thinking about?,” forgetting that BE-ing together was more needed than conversation. This silent social exchange got me thinking. Is BE-ing with God more needed than continuous chatter? Am I missing out on a deep connection with God by constantly feeling the need to talk?

Jared Brock, author of “A Year of Living Prayerfully” recalls an encounter in Taize, France, “It was a deep silence, broken only occasionally by a sneeze or cough. It was so beautiful to share prolonged silence with hundreds of brothers and sisters. In a world that competes for attention, that always has an agenda to push and a point to prove, it was incredible to share a moment of silence with a large group of people. For a small moment, we weren’t talkers and speakers. We were transformed into listeners and hearers.”

When we are transformed into listeners and hearers our agendas change, our hearts soften, we let go of trying to do everything and fix everything and welcome God’s voice into our souls. “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.” (Psalm 37:7a) What if God simply needs us to ‘BE’ in order to for us experience His presence, hear His voice and for Him to ‘act’ in our lives?

I’ve chosen the word ‘BE’ to describe the silent interaction between God and us because BE-ing is an active verb (like all verbs) that requires little to no movement, but requires that we fully engage the moment. This verb/act could quite possibly be more difficult than exercising at the gym for an hour or studying for a test. You’d think that remaining still would be an easy task but it’s far harder than you can imagine. It’s even more difficult to centre your mind and emotions in the moment.

BE-ing takes on the posture of stillness (e.g., sitting, laying, kneeling) in which we allow ourselves to become aware of our breathing, let go of our stresses and welcome God’s presence and voice. During this time we will be inclined to muster up emotions or feel like we need to tug on God’s heart by telling Him all our troubles. BE-ing is the quiet act of welcoming God and trusting that He knows what’s going on in our lives.

In trying to practice the fine art of BE-ing I’ve found that ongoing busyness unintentionally but forcefully pushes pain and unsolved issues to the hidden corners of my soul. It’s only when I sit in solitude with no agenda, those buried emotions rise to the surface and the ultimate test becomes whether or not I’ll allow God to comfort and repair the “worn out me” or quickly find something to keep me busy.

If I can embrace the uncomfortable silence and stillness long enough, my body unclenches and begins to move with the simple life-force rhythm of my breathing. Every exhale feels like I’m shedding layers of relentless pressure “to do.” Weight lifts off one breath at a time, and I sense God vying for my soul. I become aware of my size in comparison to the universe and although I feel small, I know I am deepening my connection with God by simply BE-ing.

In a world that prides itself on busyness, it’s very difficult to not be doing something. We somehow have equated prolonged periods of BE-ing as lazy and unproductive. Productivity doesn’t only look like work and busyness. Although BE-ing may appear unproductive, there’s something incredibly restorative about it. What we may need more than a busy productive day is a productive silence! Let’s rearrange our outlook to value BE-ing just as much as doing. Embrace the silence!

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“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31       *pic by @strbye

 

Living Prayerfully – http://jaredbrock.com

 

Risk of Insecurity

This has to be the loftiest of topics I’ve tried to tackle. It’s been weeks of reading, pondering, praying and experiencing and I’ve realized that the topic of insecurity has many angles – one too lofty for just one blog post. I felt the need to analyze my own insecurities because, quite frankly, I don’t like feeling insecure. Insecurity feels like isolation and judgement. It holds me prisoner to enjoying life, to believing I have purpose and prevents me from truly feeling comfortable being ‘me’ in social settings.

Being an introvert who also appreciates the company of others, I often find that most people around me seem to be very secure. They confidently spout whatever comes to their minds, and people listen to them. Insecurity seems to reveal itself in one of two ways:  withdrawal or overcompensation. When one feels insecure he or she either withdraws from a social situation completely, or will go out of their way to let everyone know that they are important in some way, shape or form.

I don’t think we begin as insecure people. Rather, external circumstances trigger feelings of inadequacy. Reflecting back on my teen years I can pinpoint a fracture that occurred in the way I saw myself. While standing in a circle with a group of friends talking, I piped up to give my opinion but was quickly shut down by an older guy friend. Being the impressionable teen that I was, my friend’s comment not only cut me out of that conversation but developed in me an insecurity. I started believing that as a girl my opinion didn’t matter – a lie that impacted much of my teen years and early adult life. I feel as though most of us have a story where we at one point authentically felt inner security but some circumstance challenged or replaced that inner security with insecurity.

Being human puts us at risk of insecurity. It starts as a comparison exchange that impacts our thoughts, potentially resulting in a long list of life inhibitors: envy, fear, disbelief in what God says about us or has called us to, or an attitude that says, “I can do it on my own” (lack of trust in God and others), to name a few. Whether it’s a social comparison exchange as one person/group actively places themselves in a position higher than you, or a self-perceived comparison exchange has you feeling inadequate, insecurity inhibits you from being your authentic self.

Your “authentic self” is a broad term. I’m in the process of re-discovering my authentic self (and as long as I’m alive I’ll be in that process). I know that I will never truly feel myself unless I’m connected to my Creator. I’m most secure when I feel loved, as I’m sure that’s true for all of us. I’m reminded that God is love. He is love and He loves us. His love reminds me that I am not a mistake or a blip in human history, but I am chosen.

“From all eternity, long before you were born and became a part of history, you existed in God’s heart. Long before your parents admired you or your friends acknowledged your gifts or your teachers, colleagues, and employers encouraged you, you were already ‘chosen.'” – Henri J. M. Nouwen

The disciple Peter seems like the most sure of himself in the bunch. In the middle of a storm at 3:00 am Jesus terrifies His disciples by walking on water towards their boat. After reassuring them that they needn’t be terrified, the over-confident (possibly more trusting) Peter wants to join Jesus by walking on water and he does…until the world around him looks less secure. As he begins to sink, Jesus immediately reaches out and grabs him (Matthew 14:22-33). Outside circumstances make us doubt who we truly are, our potential and our purpose. Even though we doubt and sometimes respond to our insecurities by withdrawing or over-compensating, Jesus immediately reaches His hand out to us and tells us to have faith in what He says to us and about us.

Instead of allowing external exchanges and inner lies crush your authentic self, grab ahold of your Creator’s hand and allow Him to remind you of your worth.

Being human puts us at the risk of insecurity. Insecurity taunts you with what you don’t have, tempts you to over-power and over-spend, isolates you, crushes your spirit, and it’s the root of evil and destruction in the world. But insecurity also keeps you aware that “it’s not all about you!” There will always be someone more popular, more educated, more successful than you. Being human puts us in a place to find security in the hands of our Creator who truly loves us and doesn’t want us to live in an insecure world of comparing.

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“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. I will build you up again.” Jeremiah 31:3

 

 

My Frame Is Frail

Although my frame is fit to the untrained eye, to the friend it’s frail.

Weakened by the weight of life I find solace in silence, sin and splendor.

My being vibrates with the pace of life sending desperate signals out to still the intense motion.

Quickened by stress in the atmosphere, the vibrations intensify, depleting any inner peace.

My frame appears intact but one touch, and it could crumble to dust.

Weakness is a pool of whirling waters where sin and glory convene: one grips me like a rope and rock tethered to my feet, pulling me to the floor of the deep; the other exasperates and jolts my body into flight, reaching for air and a hand to grab.

It elevates my weakness and with a firm grip rescues me, turning my struggle into a cleansing bath of redemption.

The warmth of the hand I hold makes my cold drenched body rise like steam reaching to the heavens.

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Walking To Stand Still

My mornings always start out the same way:  get ready for work, eat breakfast and walk the dog. Each morning I pass by the same children at the bus stop, say hi to the same neighbours also walking their dogs and watch the same cars pull out of their driveways on their way to work. Day after day, month after month and even year after year, I seem to be stuck in the same routine along with my neighbours. Sure, some mornings someone may be running late or working from home or out of town, but most of the time ‘life’ seems to run itself nicely.

As I walk my dog on the same path each day, from time to time I think about this man. I know – that’s quite general. The man I’m referring to happens to live about a 7-hour flight away from me in Paris. I’ve had the opportunity to visit Paris twice now and loved every minute of it. Since I’m creature of habit, for my second visit I stayed at the same hotel as the first time. It was a quaint hotel within walking distance to Sacre-Coeur (a beautiful Cathedral with a view of the city and a lovely spot to sit in the evening with red wine and a baguette). Every morning while on my way out for a full day of sight-seeing, I would walk past ‘the man,’ right outside my hotel sitting on his belongings with a can to collect money. He was a larger gentleman with dark hair and a beard. If I could guess, I would say he was in his late 40’s or early 50’s. From time to time people stopped and chatted with him. One day a young mother with her daughter stopped to talk to him. Although I couldn’t understand the conversation, it appeared to be a casual check in that I found fascinating. The young mother wasn’t afraid and didn’t even come across as judgmental. She simply chatted with him as she would a store clerk or postal worker. Once she received answers to her questions she was quite happy to give ‘the man’ money. I, on the other hand, passed by him each and everyday and never made conversation (partly because my French is grade school quality) or gave him any money. I did give him some extra food one day and he seemed grateful.

Despite having visited a city with so much beauty and history, this man seems to pop in my mind more than the Louvre or the taste of French red wine and baguettes (yes, wine tastes better in France!). I’m intrigued by the thought that while we are worlds apart, we both repeat our personalized routine day in and day out. While I wake up, get ready for work and walk the dog, he wakes up, walks over to the hotel and sets himself up for a day of collecting. I’m sure that if I were to travel to Paris again I’d see ‘the man’ in the same spot he was in five years ago.

I can’t begin to make the connection between my life and his. I may not be begging for money but my soul begs for healing. Like ‘the man’ I also feel stuck in life. I think about ‘the man’ often because I wonder what it would take for him to do something different and if he’ll ever get off the streets. It reminds me that just as much as routine can be safe and calming, it can be equally terrifying. There seems to be ‘something’ that ropes us in and traps us into a vortex where years can go by and we’ve got nothing to show for it. I know life is more than just a bunch of thrills. Christmas can’t be everyday. Date Night isn’t seven days a week – hence the name ‘Date Night.’ Epic vacations or parties surely aren’t a weekly occurrence for most people.

Rarely do we take the risks needed to make changes in our lives. I’m a complete sucker for routine, and when I find something I like or that works for me I stick with it…but my life needs a shake up from time to time. I’m talking about the shake up that pushes you to take healthy risks – risks that shake up the soul, stripping the routine called ‘life’ and generating a new way to approach our existence. I’m not talking about a complete disregard for routine but rather within the routine gain a new approach to our existence. To risk is to think differently, do differently and be a more passionate and fulfilled person.

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Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when we look back everything is different. – C.S. Lewis

So what will it take for my Parisian friend and I to make a change? Truly, we need to experience a severe discontentment with unhealthy routine. Then we can embrace the ‘new’ by regaining trust in the social systems, people and God. We do this by altering our thoughts and seeing ourselves in a new light (not as a beggar or someone with an inability to commit). Finally, we need to commit to a new routine.

Day in and day out a disabled man was carried out to beg in front of the temple gates. On their way to afternoon prayer at the temple, John and Peter spot this man begging. Although money may have seemed like the solution, Peter addresses the root of the man’s poverty and tells him, “I give you Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” With the charge “walk” Peter extends his hand, pulls the man up and the man’s feet and ankles become strong. Walking, jumping and praising God, the once crippled man goes into the temple courts and every eyewitness is filled with wonder and amazement (Acts 3:1-10).

What changed this man’s routine of begging? Healing! God healed him! Routine may be triggered by self-perception, poor health or circumstances, but every so often routine needs to be analyzed, shaken up and God needs to revive us to new health.

I have this weird thought-connection to ‘the man’ in Paris. It’s almost like I have this intel: “I know where you are and what you’re doing. I wish we’d both change our path from time to time. You’d get off the streets and have a job, a home, and loved ones around you, and I’d regain trust in areas of my life where I’ve lost it.”

‘The man’ serves as a reminder to me to ask myself what is healthy routine that serves me well, and what routine in my life is a result of hurt, self-worth or over-comfort. I too want to hear the charge “Walk!” and change my course. And with the helping hands of others be pushed into a place of praise where those around me notice a life drenched in love and purpose.