MRP Interview: Nichola K. Brown

This year, the Modern Ruth Project will feature occasional interviews with specialists and professionals who are experienced in each month’s topic. This past week, I had the pleasure of talking with therapist, author, and founder of Keilah Restoration Ministries, Nichola K. Brown. Nichola specializes in empowering individuals and deeply desires to help women understand what it means to be loved by God.  

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MRP: In your experience, what are some of the most significant mental challenges faced by women?

Nichola: Statistically, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, the most common mental disorder for adults [overall] is depression and anxiety.  And the church isn’t really equipped to deal with anxiety/depression, which starts in the brain. You can’t really tell people to pray. It needs to be taken more seriously.

MRP: In your opinion, where do insecurity and low self-image stem from?

Nichola: There can be so many factors. It can go all the way back to your family origin, your household, or school. For example, if a teacher didn’t think highly of you or you were bullied or if there was verbal abuse in the home. It varies from person to person and could be triggered by anything.

A woman goes through about 7,000 to 9,000 thoughts per day. So let’s say, you make a mistake. [Now] you have a whole story you created from that action. Whatever an external encounter was, we [mentally] create a narrative and elaborate story that’s not even true.

MRP: Can a negative view of oneself be easily overcome?

Nichola: Anything is possible through Christ. We are so resilient and God made us in such an amazing way. As easily as we learn, we can unlearn.  But it will take energy, effort, and intentionality. It’s not impossible but not easy.

MRP: How can women start to improve their self-image?

Nichola: You can listen to sermons. Put words of affirmation on your mirrors. Flood your minds with words that counter those negative thoughts. Focus on and memorize affirmation Scriptures.

Usually, people come to therapy when they’re in crisis. [But] I’m a huge advocate of everyone going to therapy once a year, just like a physical exam.

Proverbs 20:5 says “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” Connect with someone who can really help you. You aren’t alone in this feeling. There are a community of people struggling with the same thing and there are counselors who are willing to work with you.

MRP: What’s one thing you’d say to a woman who is struggling with crippling self-esteem?

Nichola: I’d say “God loves you as you are.” He is not less pleased [with us] when we are in a place of brokenness for He sees us in such a different way. Sometimes, we push God away because we think we need to be in a healthier place. But that doesn’t make Him love us any less. God is still present in the despair.

The decisions I made were so different once I really understood that love is not based on perfection. And once you receive His love, you’ll understand why identity is so important in our faith. It’s the core foundation of everything you’ll build on.


MRP thanks Nichola for sharing her wisdom with us! Nichola is also hosting a FREE webinar this Saturday, February 10th, “Loving Me: The Christian Women’s Guide to Self-Love.” Learn more about Nichola and her ministry at https://www.keilahrestoration.com. Also, check out her book, Sabbath Season: A Call to Rest on Amazon.

If you’re interested in seeking therapy, please visit https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists, http://www.christiancounselordirectory.com/FindATherapist, or https://www.therapyforblackgirls.com/ for a therapist near you.

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Flakes

macro-3095631_1920I saw a snowflake the other day. Not just a dollop of soft ice falling from above. Or a flicker of a crystal drop.  But a real live snowflake with elegant arcs and patterns and chiseled peaks and valleys. I watched it as it landed on my coat sleeve. Now, I’ve seen my share of snow. But up until that point, I hadn’t had the experience of viewing a snowflake up close. It was so intricate and delicate and simply gorgeous. A light wind made it flutter for a bit but it stuck there for a few seconds.

Until it melted.

Something so stunningly crafted only to be strangled by the atmosphere. This beautiful thing created only to melt. But knowing its lifespan would be short, the snowflake was still made to be a dazzling beautiful thing. Because the Creator wanted it to be.

So if God took so much time, attention, and detail to make snowflakes that disappear as quickly as they appear, what does that say about how much dedication, loveliness, and wonder He created in you?

Every time our faces are warmed by a new day’s sun, we are to love, praise, cherish, enjoy, and to be what and how He made us.

 Live, you beautiful thing, you. It’s what you were created to do.


“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

-Psalm 16:11 (ESV)

MRP 2018 Focus: Identity Crisis

source

Happy New Year!

If you’re like me, a resident of the Eastern coast of the United States, this is a frigid Friday and you’ve curled up with either A) soft and fuzzy warm blankets or B) mugs of varied hot beverages or C) all of the above.

But for all of us, it’s also the first Friday of 2018. Two thousand and eighteen. I know it takes a few recitations for the foreign accent of a new year to melt into normalcy. But 2018 just looks and sounds futuristic to me.

So with that in mind, I’d like to ask you a question.

Who were you on the first Friday of 2000?

Yep, 2000, eighteen years ago. That period of time when Y2K was the biggest of deals, theories and questions about the new millennium ran amok, and a time when most of us were wee bitty teenagers.

Who were you then? What was your life like? What did you want and who did you want to be? What did you expect your life to be like in your 30s, like say, in 2018?

Do you remember?

I’ll go first.

The first Friday of 2000, I was a painfully insecure high school sophomore who loved writing stories and poems. I spoke softly, not to appease those who heard but to avoid their rejection as much as I could. My life was domestically peaceful. My parents loved me and provided a great and wonderful foundation. Yet internally, I consistently felt like I wasn’t enough. What I wanted was to be enough and to feel enough. I wanted to be pursued and loved. So my mind would eagerly throb with daydreams of Thirty-Something Jen. Thirty-Something Jen would have been happily married for 10 years to a handsome and adoring husband. Thirty-Something Jen would be a witty conversational butterfly. Thirty-Something Jen would eat confidence for breakfast and wrap power around her wrists like the wonder woman she’d be.

Now let’s fast forward to today. Who are you now? What is your life like? Based on your expectations in 2000, are you comfortable with where you are now?

I can go first again.

I’ve changed some and changed none. Through Christ, I realize how loved and valued I really am. But I still struggle with confidence. I am not a conversational butterfly and I married my handsome adoring husband only 2 years ago. On this first Friday of 2018, I am a 33-year-old who still speaks softly at times because the security I expected at this point never fully arrived.

How about you? Are you where you thought you’d be?  It’s OK if you aren’t. And the truth is not many of us are.

Life after the age of 30 is presumed to be when women are more confident, more secure and more phlegmatic about themselves and their state of being. But that’s a mistaken belief, one that a lot of us have swallowed whole.

What happens when you thought you’d be a wife and mother by 30, and you’re single at 42? What happens when you thought you’d be an award-winning journalist by 29 and you’re a data entry clerk at 35? When our hopes and aspirations don’t match the reality of our circumstances and we can’t figure out how to join them together, an identity crisis is formed. Our sense of ourselves leaves solid ground and we can drift into uncertainty and resignation.

In 2018, the Modern Ruth Project will focus on the tension of discovering who you are in Christ, who He made you to be in this world, and how to get to and enjoy where you want to be. Throughout the year, we will be posting stories about career growth and transformation, spiritual endurance, marriage/dating experiences and counsel, and maintaining a healthy mindset about who and how the Lord made you.

I can’t wait to go on this year’s journey with you!

 

The Many Forms of Generosity

christmas-2951662_1920There are days I struggle with not being able to be generous in the ways I want. When most people think of generosity, giving financially comes to mind. At this point in my life, unfortunately, I’m not able to extend much generosity in that regard. However, I’ve realized that there are a plethora of ways in which each of us can be generous. I’m seeing that each one of my gifts and talents are a way that I can be generous. No matter where you are at financially, you have been given many gifts which you specifically can offer.

Your specific God-given talents are intended for generosity. I recently discovered that I love singing in front of people. I can’t wait to be generous with my voice, whether in the choir, at nursing homes, or wherever else doors open. Your gift could be anything: cooking, website designing, working with children, or the gift of intercession. If you don’t know how to be generous with your gift or where to offer it, ask the Holy Spirit to open doors. Believe me, they will open!

Your specific situation in life also offers different opportunities for generosity. As a student and a working person, spare time isn’t on the top of my list. However, I can be generous in offering a listening ear to my fellow students. I can be generous in the prayers I offer for the countless needs of others at this time. I can also learn to be more generous in offering a “sweet spirit” to all those to whom I come in contact with. Though you may not have a lot of time, your season in life offers some way that you can be generous.

Don’t lament your lack of finances and make it an excuse as to why you can’t be generous. Generosity comes in so many forms. At different times in our lives, we all have different blessings that we can be generous with. Ask the Lord how you can be generous with your specific gifts and in the season you are in. Each day, we are granted opportunities to be generous and to bear fruit. In this season of celebrating the One who came to give it all, let’s seek how we can be more generous in giving of ourselves.


lianna-headshot Lianna

Hello! My name is Lianna. I am 28 years old and live in Cleveland, Ohio.  I am a Master’s student studying to become a counselor.  My favorite things are traveling, learning other languages, singing, and journeying with others. I blog and hope to inspire others at sunflowersojourn.wordpress.com.

December Challenge: Generosity

hand-2597795_1920I have a confession to make: Christmas isn’t exactly my most favorite time of year.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love seeing glowing strands of colored light spiral streetlamps and draped around bushes. And sipping hot creamy drinks of sweet caffeine or chocolate from poinsettia red cups. Not to mention, listening to holiday music on the radio is a bonafide mood lifter.

But somewhere, in the past 10 years, my connotation of Christmas went from this lovely scene:giphy

to these not so lovely scenes:

giphy (1) giphy-downsized (1)

 

 

 

 

I’m sure my deteriorating holiday high has a lot to do with age. As an adult, the holiday I adored as a child became unfamiliar. I was suddenly mindful of prices and how much gifts cost and whether I should buy gifts for some people and none for others. Giving became disfigured. It had mutated from being euphoric to being exhausting.

But as I write this, I think about how much it cost God to give Jesus to His beloved but fallen world. He didn’t hesitate. He wasn’t too exhausted or overwhelmed to give Himself. And He didn’t give only to those He deemed worthy or meritorious. He gave His life and continues to offer the gift of new life to all. 

I think about that whenever I begin to feel weary this time of year. How the Lord gives so freely, richly, and without measure. And as His daughter, I should as well.

As we go into December and close out 2017, I challenge you to give to someone who can’t give back, an unlikely recipient. Maybe the next stop you get an Uber, thank the driver with a $5 gift card to Starbucks. Or give a thank you card to your waiter when you go out to eat. Call your local schools and ask to pay off overdue lunch accounts for kids.

We are all unlikely recipients of God’s love and grace. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, let’s spread His love and grace generously this month and beyond.

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Jennifer Jen

Hi, there! My name is Jennifer. I’m 33 and live in the D.C. area. I love Jesus, R & B music, and sugar in all its forms :-).

In June 2016, I married my amazing husband, Calvin.

I was completely single and waiting throughout my entire twenties. So I know the prayers, fears, and tears that come with prolonged singleness very well.

I am excited to share my story and encourage single women who are waiting for God’s best!

 

Attitude of Gratitude

persistence

In my present circumstances, I am recognizing that challenges accompany blessings. Life now looks very unstable compared to my life last year. Yet simply because something is challenging doesn’t mean it isn’t good. In all of it, I am seeking an attitude of gratitude. I want to continue to see the goodness of each situation, even when the road is difficult. When I praise God for the blessings instead of focusing on the challenges, I am much more filled with joy. Focusing on the challenges brings frustration and negativity.

A mere text message a few weeks ago was impetus for me to reflect on my attitude. “What have you been up to?” An acquaintance texted me. My reply: “The usual: work and school.” “Sounds boring.” was his reply. Wait…Boring? “Boring” isn’t a word in my vocabulary! More than anything, I realized that I am grateful for everything in my life, and for life itself. I don’t count anything drudgery. In my eyes, it is all opportunity. True, school can be very draining and time consuming. Yet, not too long ago, I was pining to leave a job where I was more tired than fulfilled. I was more than ready for student life! Here I am, now in school and being stretched daily for a career that (God willing) will one day be fulfilling for me and bring healing to others. Not every person in the world has the ability to further their education or even to pursue a job that they are interested in. Even if my job isn’t what I would prefer to be doing–I have a stable source of income. There are so many who cannot say the same and would happily jump at a job offer! While to outsiders my life may appear burdensome or “boring,” I am very grateful for each situation. When I am grateful, my mood is much more upbeat. I have found that I am even more productive in my school work when I focus on the opportunity that is being in school!

An attitude of gratitude leads to contentment. Gratitude leads to greater awareness of the blessing that each situation in our life is. The challenges help us to grow. No opportunity comes without responsibility. Praise God for every blessing—even when it is challenging. I promise that it will lift your mood and help you to remember your opportunities! As I move forward into finals, I’m thanking God for the opportunity to expand my knowledge and further my career.

How can you praise God in the midst of your current blessings accompanied by challenges?

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lianna-headshot Lianna

Hello! My name is Lianna. I am 28 years old and live in Cleveland, Ohio.  I am a Master’s student studying to become a counselor.  My favorite things are traveling, learning other languages, singing, and journeying with others. I blog and hope to inspire others at sunflowersojourn.wordpress.com.

Seasons

autumn

The foliage of an oak tree is an ordinary sight in springtime. But a searing summer afternoon is what turn its shade into rare relief. In the winter months, cold air is shunned and cursed as people bundle up. But in the summer, that same arctic chill is hunted and chased by the same people who wished for its end.  Seasons are like that. They enable you to appreciate what was formerly overlooked and make you grateful for what you wouldn’t have otherwise.

I’m in what I would call a tetherball season.  Imagine a ball made of anxiety and doubt, with some teaspoons of fear thrown in for good measure.  Anxiety about our leaders and the world. Doubt about my professional life. Fear about the future. The ball is floating and bouncing on a rocky midnight blue sea. But the size of the ball is dwarfed by the magnitude of the chain attached to it. The thick metal links are fused to a pole in the center of the body of water. So, though the sea tosses and turns the ball over and over, it can never drift away from the anchor.

“God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

-Hebrews 6:18-20

I already knew that God is mighty and securely holds us in His hands. But lately, His daily assurance has been powering my days.  And the security of His word keeps my heart at peace. Only by being in this particular season can I say that I am truly grateful for His strength.

Maybe in a season of loneliness, you cherish His love. Or in a period of doubt, His faithfulness soothes you. Sometimes, going through something will allow you to completely treasure, enjoy, and be thankful for all of who God is.

In your season of life, what about God are you grateful for?

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Jennifer Jen

Hi, there! My name is Jennifer. I’m 32 and live in the D.C. area. I love Jesus, R & B music, and sugar in all its forms :-).

In June 2016, I married my amazing husband, Calvin.

I was completely single and waiting throughout my entire twenties. So I know the prayers, fears, and tears that come with prolonged singleness very well.

I am excited to share my story and encourage single women who are waiting for God’s best!