Everyone has a story. No matter how good or bad it may be. Whether you come from a family of wealth or had to beg and borrow for everything you had, each of our stories begin the same: our mothers gave birth to us, father was present or not. Grandma and grandpa may have raised you. Maybe you were adopted or bounced back and forth from home to home. Perhaps you had a few friends or you had a lot. We could talk about the commonality in each of our stories for days but the biggest commonality is that each of us, me and you, were born with an amazing purpose; a gift that has been given to us to share with the world.
When I was younger I gave a lot of thought to what life would be like when I grew up. What would it be like to have a family of my own and raise kids? If you were like me, you probably also thought of all the things you weren't going to do that your parents did "to" you when they raised you.
I grew up in the South. I was raised by my very Southern grandmother, my mom and my aunt. (Yep, all three) My grandfather passed away when I was I was six so that left only women in the house to take care of the home and one other. We all lived in the same house until I was a senior and graduated from high school. My older cousin, my aunt's daughter who is ten years my senior was also a part of our household. I call her my “sister-cousin”. Growing up with her around made life much easier to bear and fun as I got older. She left for college as I entered middle school and life definitely felt just a little different after hat.
Our home and my life was filled with tons of memories. Lots of amazing ones but some pretty bad ones sprinkled in here and there as well. My mother, for most of my life, was without a job and relied on my grandmother and other resources to help support her.
I feel that, in order to adequately and effectively tell my story, I must share a bit of hers here as well.
HER STORY. MY STORY. OUR STORIES.
My mother was a beautiful woman (inside and out) with an amazing hunger for life and people. She was FULL of life. When she was in her 20’s she met my dad whom she fell in love with and well, I was conceived. Instead of living every girls’ dream, her happy relationship with my dad ended prematurely and before he even knew she was pregnant. She had plans. Big ones…and they didn't involve him so she packed up and left.
Fast forward nine months later and I arrive. What an awakening my entry into this world had to be for her. I am sure just about any mother can relate. Of course, I have no memory of that day but I believe that day for her was full of emotion not only because she had given birth to her one and only daughter but because I believe there was a piece of her heart that longed for more that day. That longed for the presence of the dream that she knew, for her, would never come true. She and my dad were done and she was now left with the responsibility of raising me without him. While the help of family was abundant, I am confident that a piece of her heart she left behind with my dad. And so, yet another link in the chain to the bondage of depression was added.
Throughout my life I have memories of my mother struggling with depression and manic episodes that landed her in and out of mental institutions. As a young girl, I really never understood why life just seemed so hard for her. I can remember visiting her with my grandmother and aunt and not being able to see her many times because she was too medicated or perhaps just too ashamed to face us. Whatever the reason and whether I saw her during a visit or not, I also remember leaving holding back tears as we walked back to the car after each visit. “Why would God would give me the life I had? Why couldn't I just be ‘normal’ like everyone else?” I asked.
My grandmother and many of my aunts ended up taking up the slack for her (at least that's what it felt like at the time) and I can remember feeling overwhelmingly bitter about my mother not only not being the mom that I NEEDED her to be but that my dad wouldn't show up and take me away. Who was he? Where was he when I needed him most?
Church also played a major role in my upbringing and most of the time it seemed the only stable thing; the only constant in my life aside from family and friends. Later, I would realize it wasn't “church” at all of course, but the consistency and peace I felt was Jesus, my Savior, who was there carrying me all along.
Isn't that just like life sometimes? Sometimes we just need a reminder that we are being carried. We need to know that someone is there and that everything is okay and that life is more than just a walk through the unknown and the unseen. Sometimes you just want a little more. A little more adventure, excitement and little more purpose. Just a little more security and assurance.
Fast forward once again but now we are in the present. I am a grown woman with four kids, an amazing husband and a family living a big life but finding that I still want more.
While life is nothing like I could have ever imagined and God is way better than I could have dreamed, I must be honest with you and say that about a year and a half ago I found myself in a really difficult place.
During that time, I questioned where I was in life, particularly in relation to my business, and I felt, well…a bit lost. It felt as though everything in my life was being stripped away. Literally. My desire to refinish and paint furniture was diminishing and I couldn't figure out why. What did remain, however, was a relentless urge to write more than ever before. So, I did. As I submitted, with each post here on the blog and social media, I realized I felt more invigorated and more alive than ever before. It was like I had found a new life. Beyond simply restoring furniture, I felt as though I was fulfilling my purpose and giving life and voice not only to my heart but to the heart of God through my writing.
Months passed, I lost my mama suddenly and my world was once again rocked but this time I refused to let that result in a defeated spirit. I decided that, unlike some other times in my life, I would allow myself to see God in it all. This is when my world changed. Deep down inside I longed for freedom. True freedom. I longed to be in a place I’d never been before. I wanted to be comfortable in my own skin expressing myself as I’d been called and created by God to do. Something deep down inside cried out for this kind of freedom. At the time, I really didn't understand why I couldn't shake this feeling but it was absolutely unshakable to say the least and with each day the voice of the Holy Spirit became louder and louder until I could no longer silence it.
The truth is, He wanted me free and not just for me. He wanted me free so that the gifts, words, heart and passion that He has given me would beckon and call out to the bound hearts of others who needed to experience the same freedom He was calling me to not just experience, but to LIVE.
And there it was. All these years. All my life. All of the struggles. All of the tears. All of the trials. All of the laughs and the loss. It all came to this moment when I made the decision to truly accept the freedom that Christ gave me and use the platform He has given me to not only tell the world but to inspire others to experience it as well.
‘Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.’ Galatians 5:1 MSG
Let’s look at the end of the above scripture “…never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” Notice the scripture says “let”. This would imply that we have power, a choice if you will. First and foremost the power of Christ in us gives us this power but it is through that power that He has given you and I that we can say ‘no’ to those chains that have bound us. We have the power and authority to say NO to the chains of: jealousy, depression, comparison, low self-esteem, suicide, sadness, weariness, and the list goes on.
True freedom in Christ releases you. Forever. The funny thing is, as long as I’d served Christ and walked this walk of faith as a Christian, I’d never really had that revelation. But, now. Now is my time. Now is YOUR time. This is your time. This is my time. It’s time to get free.
THE SOUND OF FREEDOM
I was having a conversation with a friend a few weeks back about the “sound of freedom”. It’s been months now but this word continues to press on my heart and mind. If you follow me anywhere else you already know this. You've seen it in quote and text. Not only is it the anthem of my heart but I believe it’s God’s for his girls. (That’d be you)
So, the conversation. I honestly don’t even remember how we started talking about it but one thing led to another and I recall almost shouting, “Oh, my gosh! What is the sound of freedom? What does freedom sound like!!!?” It was more than a question randomly posed; it was officially a quest, a desire, a yearning for more than just an answer. For within that answer lie the key to unlocking the future and the promises of God in hundreds of lives. It may seem like a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s true.
You see I know, much like myself, that our world is flooded with women who want, need and desire more out of their lives. She wants to know what it feels like to be free to be who she’s been created to be. She just need somewhere to start. She needs to know that she is beautiful. And not because she is wearing the most trendy and fashionable threads or because her hair lays just right but because there is a God who magnificently, wonderfully and perfectly crafted her. There is a God who called her to life, who breathed life into her just because he loved (and loves) her and gave her reason and purpose and being before she even took that first breath.
So, a few weeks later the same friend and I were having yet another conversation about this topic and I mentioned this scripture as I shared my heart’s desire with her. She stopped me mid-sentence exclaiming, “Kennesha! That’s it! That’s the sound of freedom!!!” Admittedly, I was a little confused by her interjection and it took me a minute to catch up with what she referred to but I soon realized exactly what she meant.
As reference the passage reads as below:
God grabbed me. God’s Spirit took me up and set me down in the middle of an open plain strewn with bones. He led me around and among them—a lot of bones! There were bones all over the plain—dry bones, bleached by the sun.
3 He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Master God, only you know that.”
4 He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones: ‘Dry bones, listen to the Message of God!’”
5-6 God, the Master, told the dry bones, “Watch this: I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you’ll come to life. I’ll attach sinews to you, put meat on your bones, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you. You’ll come alive and you’ll realize that I am God!”
7-8 I prophesied just as I’d been commanded. As I prophesied, there was a sound and, oh, rustling! The bones moved and came together, bone to bone. I kept watching. Sinews formed, then muscles on the bones, then skin stretched over them. But they had no breath in them.
9 He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath. Prophesy, son of man. Tell the breath, ‘God, the Master, says, Come from the four winds. Come, breath. Breathe on these slain bodies. Breathe life!’”
10 So I prophesied, just as he commanded me. The breath entered them and they came alive! They stood up on their feet, a huge army.
11 Then God said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Listen to what they’re saying: ‘Our bones are dried up, our hope is gone, there’s nothing left of us.’
12-14 “Therefore, prophesy. Tell them, ‘God, the Master, says: I’ll dig up your graves and bring you out alive—O my people! Then I’ll take you straight to the land of Israel. When I dig up graves and bring you out as my people, you’ll realize that I am God. I’ll breathe my life into you and you’ll live. Then I’ll lead you straight back to your land and you’ll realize that I am God. I’ve said it and I’ll do it. God’s Decree.’”
I know there is a lot here but I really needed to include the entire passage to give you the full picture. I will reference this passage frequently throughout this series but today, I want you to look closely at verses 7-8, “As I prophesied, there was a sound and, oh, rustling!” The New Living Translation reads “…as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley.”
This is exactly what my girlfriend was so excited about it. The rattling. The rustling. Now, I know that the sound of freedom won’t literally sound like rustling or rattling but it just may sound, for you and I, like tears hitting the table as we pour out our heart to God or a friend. It may be the pounding of fists, shouts of frustration and release,
What does your freedom sound like? What does it look like? For me and for the others sharing their beautiful stories here the next few weeks, it comes in the form of courage. Of putting pen to paper or finger to key and taking the first step to breathing new life. Orchestrating and initiating a new sound of freedom in their own lives and blazing and pioneering a new trail in this amazing journey we call life.
This, my friends, is #rhithebeautyinside. It’s officially a movement. Not because it’s a system or a new way of seeing yourself beautifully, but because I am believing it will be your first step perhaps in moving into an unparalleled, unbridled, unshakable, overwhelmingly uncontainable relationship with the One from whom your beauty, your TRUE beauty, has been given.
You, my love, have a gift to give and it’s not just for you, it’s for the world. In the next few weeks, we will explore and discover what it means to be free to be the beautiful YOU that you were called and created to be. This is the beginning of a lifetime of adventure and I couldn't be more excited to have you join me on this journey. Get ready to be encouraged, inspired, uplifted and see you as you've never seen YOU before.
This week's stories of beauty from:
Whitney Leigh Morris (10/29)
Thelma Chaves (10/31)