Within the past year my life has drastically changed. Last summer I made the decision that I wanted to stop several habits that were detrimental to me and my growth. I was exhausted from living a double life- one for the world to see, and one behind closed doors in the shadows.
I am grateful to no longer feel the need or want to live life in the shadows. I am grateful to feel open, transparent, and authentically me! Some days the transparency is uncomfortable and can make me feel vulnerable. However, I know that sharing my authenticity and vulnerability through The Queen Project is so much bigger than myself. The assignment I have with TQP will not always be comfortable and easy. There is much work to be done within myself and outside of myself, and many lessons to learn along the way. Nevertheless, I want to keep sharing these authentic and vulnerable lessons with you.
One lesson I am currently learning is to accept the “essence and shadow” in everything I see. I first heard the concept “essence and shadow” in my modern African history class at University of North Texas. This class was taught by one of my favorite professors, Dr. Constance B. Hilliard [if you attend UNT, I strongly encourage you to take a course from her]. Dr. Hilliard explained to us that everything in our society has an essence to it (the wonderful qualities and characteristics of something) and a shadow to it (the darker and negative attributes of something). I learned about “essence and shadow” in 2015, and 4 years later it still holds so much meaning to me.
Now at 27 years old, I am accepting the essence and shadow within myself and my past experiences. I am also accepting the essence and shadow in everything around me. Everyday I am trying to stay focused on the essence of everythihg and learn from the shadow of everything.
Accepting The Shadow of My Past Experiences…
This summer I have been in a season of reflection over my life (as always), especially over the events that took place after I graduated from high school in 2010. Within the past nine (almost ten) years, A LOT has happened- naturally, because life is always happening. I can’t even begin to tell you everything that has transpired within this past decade. Some highlights from these past ten years have been bringing my daughter into this world, graduating from college, my little brother being born, getting my first car, and so many cherished memories along the way. Some battles that I had to face and fight through are losing sight of my love for Christ, struggling with addiction, acknowledging hurt that I ignored for years, watching my family dynamic change, and many other hardships along the way.
In this recent season of reflection, I thought a lot about all of the bad decisions and choices I made. I find that it can be beneficial to not only reflect on the good things in your past, but to also reflect on the bad things in your past. However, reflecting on all the wrong decisions and choices can become problematic when feelings of guilt and shame begin to show up. God does not give us feelings of guilt and shame because all good things come from above (James 1:17). Feelings of guilt and shame are a trick of the enemy because he wants us to believe in those feelings and believe that there is no hope for us. In this recent season of reflection, I found myself feeling guilt, shame, and regret for all of the stupid, dumb, terrible, awful, horrible things that I have done. Feeling shameful began to put a wedge in between God and myself because I didn’t feel worthy enough to come to Him.
During this summer and during this same reflective season I went to church and my pastor preached a sermon about forgiveness. When I tell you this sermon came right on time and it was exactly what I needed (don’t you love when that happens)!! One of the biggest things that Christians (people who desire to live life as Christ did) must learn and practice daily is forgiveness. We must be willing and able to ask for forgiveness and forgive those who have wronged us, hurt us, tormented us, broke us, abused us, and persecuted us. We must also be willing and able to forgive ourselves. When the pastor taught us the importance of forgiving ourselves, it resonated with my soul so much. For the past nine (almost ten) years I spent so much time not being able or willing to forgive anyone, especially myself. Living in unforgiveness for so long was robbing me of the life I deserved to live and of the promises God had for me. The pastor said it best,
“Don’t loose energy on what your called to do, and wasting it on not forgiving yourself and others…”
Not only was I encouraged to forgive others and myself, I was also able to then accept the choices and decisions I made, no matter how terrible they were. After studying my sermon notes and spending some one-on-one time with my Father, I was reminded of some truths. I was reminded that God still remains constant and in control of everything. I was also reminded that He worked all of these experiences together for my good (Romans 8:28). Without everything that I went through I would not be able to have the same testimony and story. I believe in the work that God is doing through my testimony and my story. I pray the same is true for you and your story.
Seeing The Essence In Myself…
Growing up I had a lot of insecurities- as I’m sure most of us did. My insecurities included being tall (I have been 5’9 since 5th grade…), having ‘knock knees’ (if you don’t know what that is, Google it), being overweight all of my life, and having a full nose and full lips. It wasn’t until I got into my early twenties when I begun to truly appreciate the woman I was becoming- with my insecurities and all. I accepted my height because I believed it made me stand out and it made me look statuesque. I learned how to stand a certain way that would make my knees less noticeable (#honestmoment God is still working on me accepting these knees 🙃). I also decided to get fit, eat semi-right, and loose the weight that I held onto for so long. I even got to a place where I genuinely appreciated my full nose and full lips that women were paying a lot of money to get what I already had. Even after having my daughter and still trying to get rid of my #MomBelly, I have fully accepted the essence in my physical beauty- flaws and all. Whenever I begin to compare my physique and outer beauty to others, I am quickly reminded that I am fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God (Psalm 139:14; Genesis 1:27). God made no mistakes when He created and crafted me- and the same goes for you too.
Accepting the essence and shadow of my outer beauty has been a journey. Now I am currently accepting the essence and shadow of my character. All of us have character flaws. My character flaws include (but not limited to) being too passive, being a procrastinator, not being dependable, and being fearful. Recently God’ is showing me my character flaws through all of my relationships and how I interact with others. I am so grateful that God is concerned about our character and our heart’s posture just as much as He cares if we have enough food to eat and clothes on our backs (Matthew 6:25-34). In this current season, God is challenging me and my character flaws to be transformed through Him. One day I felt shameful and I felt that I was a bad person because of my character flaws (#trickoftheenemy!). However, God reminded me of my essence and how much I am worth. My essence (includes but not limited to) is creative, passionate, loving, nurturing, talented, and intuitive. Whenever I begin to doubt who I am and if I am worthy, I now seek God first and He reminds me who I am. I am reminded not only of my shadow but also of my essence as well. What does your essence and shadow look like??
Society’s Essence and Shadow…
When I took my modern African history class with Dr. Hilliard, she taught us the concept of ‘essence and shadow’ through what our society looks like, in both the past and the present. When you think about it, it is not hard to see the essence and shadow with everything in society. For example…
- Being an American– I love being American, even though sometimes America doesn’t love me…
- Being a parent– No one can ever prep you on how to deal with tantrums and how much love you never knew you could have for a little person.
- Being African American– As a culture we have our strengths, and we definitely have our weaknesses.
- Social Media– It is so amazing to be able to connect with so many different people around the world. But infinite scroll is my biggest distraction and comparison is a #trickoftheenemy.
Seeing the essence and shadow in everything throughout society helps to interpret everything through a balanced perspective, and not lean to one extreme or another. Seeing the essence and shadow with everything around us can also help to appreciate some things more, or to see them for what they truly are.
“Essence & Shadow”
I bought a fuzzy art poster in 2014 (if you don’t know what a fuzzy art poster is, please Google it- along with “knock knees” 😄) because at the time I needed a creative outlet and I was hearing about all the benefits of coloring #facts. Well a lot of life was happening and I did not get to finish coloring the poster. However, I kept it because it turned into one of those projects that I swore to myself that I would finish. After I did complete coloring the poster, three and a half years later, I still felt it was incomplete. Well little did I know that God was going to use it for something else.
Since I have begun #TheQueenProject I have been finding inspiration and an art project in everything I see. One day I finally got the inspiration and saw my next art project with my fuzzy art poster- to make a collage titled, “Essence & Shadow”. I felt the poster was perfect for this conceptualized theme because at the time I was focused on seeing the good and bad of my life and how everything transpired the way it did- my upbringing, having my daughter, graduating from school, and letting go of addictive behaviors. I also was inspired by all of the current events that were taking place. From people of color living in a free nation with so much access to resources, yet are still institutionalized, to the feminist movement. From the state of hip hop, to the state of the natural hair movement. From Tupac, Prince, and Nipsey Hussle to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mike Brown. From technology to Mother Nature. Everything has an essence and a shadow.
I have to stay focused on the essence of everything, and learn from the shadow of everything. I encourage you to do the same as well. I know that my personal journey will help others, and I must be open to shining my light- no matter where I am or what I go through. Taking on The Queen Project and openly sharing my projects even has it’s own essence and shadow! Nevertheless, what I have learned this season is that God remains bigger than the shadow and He is the source of all good things. Some seasons of your life may be full of ‘essence’ and other seasons you may only see the shadows but, no matter what, take notes during both seasons and remember who is in control.