It doesn’t matter who we are, at some point in our lives, we will all encounter challenges. We all go through situations that are sometimes beyond our control. As I think about my own challenges, I think about my circle of influence and circle of control. What I can control is within my circle of influence. I am aware that as I encounter challenges, it is how I respond to the challenges I experience. The response to the challenges we encounter are critical. How we respond is important but what I have learned, is that I do not need to through life challenges on our own.
The challenges, I have may not be the same challenges you experience, because we are all different and encounter different things. However, one thing, I have learned over the many years, is that through our challenges, we can further develop. Sometimes, our challenges taste like a tangy and acidic unripen grapefruit. Sometimes, we question why we are going through certain situations, and ask questions such as: “Why me?” “What did I do to deserve this?” In reality, we don’t have to do anything, to experience challenges. Just take a moment, reflect on one challenge you have experienced in the past, reflect on how that challenge helped you further develop.
Personally and professionally, I have experienced many challenges, and as I reflect on where I am today and who I am, I can say that these challenges helped me to develop character. I learned to appreciate life and to be be contempt with what I have. I also found and still find it helpful to connect with people who are encouraging. Those in my networks were able to empower me, check in on me, and remind me to hold on. Positive words go a long way, and it is important that we surround ourselves with positive people. It doesn’t matter who we are, like I said, at some point in our lives, we will all face challenges and we will all need support to get through our challenges.
I want to encourage you, that as you experience challenges, in your own life, do not get discouraged. Find someone that you can speak with. Find a support group. I learned that I don’t have to face all my challenges by myself. There are even moments in our life, where we may lose hope, and others in our networks can encourage us. The challenges I encounter, will not be the same challenge as you encounter. We will all experience some sort of challenge, and when we do, you need to remember that our challenges don’t last forever, but instead, we can learn from what we are going through and we can also connect with others that can encourage us.
January 2, 2023, at this time I take the time to reflect on my journey. I reflect on 2022 and I am moving forward in 2023. I am not one to make resolutions, but I do make goals. What I really like about writing my goals, is that I can focus on making each goal a plan, a guide of where I see myself going. To get somewhere, you require some sort of direction and goals provide me with direction. By writing goals, they are visible to me. The same goals I write, I can refer back to them throughout the year and see how I am working to achieve each one. I also love vision boards because again, it is a visual that reminds me of the things I want to achieve. I believe that in life, we can do what we love, although many may disagree with me. However, I am grateful to do what I love. Over the past years, I have learned that it is important to do what we love, but even in doing what we love, there must be a purpose and there must be intentionality. As I think about 2023 and the message I have, I know reflection and introspection is important. I, therefore, take take time to reflect. I reflect on what I have learned from 2022. I reflect on how I have grown. I reflect on the mistakes I have made. I reflect on where I go from here. I reflect on purpose and intentionality. Purpose and intentionality for 2023. As I reflect, I ask myself, what were some of my goals for 2022? How did I show up for my family? How did I show up for my community? How did I show up for my friends? What relationships did I or did not cultivate? What spaces did I occupy? How did I become a better person? How did I grow personally, professionally and most importantly spiritually. As I think about who I am from a holistic perspective, I reflect on my life. For 2023, how will I show up for my family? How will I show up for my community? How will I show up for my friends? What relationships will I cultivate? What spaces will I occupy? How will I focus on becoming a better version of me? How will I show up for me?
Self-reflection is critical for growth. Although, based on my profession, I am trained to self-reflect, self-reflections goes beyond my professional career. Self-reflection is personal to me. I remember when I sat in one of my undergrad classes, and the professor stressed the importance of being a reflective practitioner, she reminded us that for us to serve children, youth, families and our communities, we must self-reflect on who we are, what contributed to who we are and continue to work towards growth. I believe that with self-reflection comes that responsibility to acknowledge where I am, what has influenced me to be who I am today and reflect on where I am going. By doing so I am able to focus on becoming a better version of myself. In my opinion, we should all want to be a better version of ourselves daily because there is always room for growth. I have learned that I should never allow others to tell me I shouldn’t work on becoming better each day. I should. We should. Imagine being the same person you were two years ago. Imagine being the same person you were five years ago without any growth. Just imagine that for a second. As the world changes, we too have to evolve into our best selves and that includes continuous growth.
Goals for 2023
As I reflect on 2023, there are many things that I have begun to think about. For example, I like to set SMART goals, which helps me to map out my path, the steps I need to take in my life, being mindful that life comes with interruptions. I am mindful of how I will respond to interruptions. For 2023, I pause. Yes, I pause. I pray for wisdom and God’s guidance and direction. Even if it is just to say, “Lord, please help me, I pray,” then I must do that. I cannot continue into a new year without seeking my creator. I believe, I am at that point, where I need to draw closer to God. So, Lord, I ask, please help me, this is my prayer, please help me.
As I reflect on my SMART Goals. I begin with the end in mind and work backwards as to how I am going to achieve my goals and tasks. I am also mindful that I must put God first in everything I do. So, even my goals, I am dedicated each one to him. As long as I am still breathing, I acknowledge and hold space, that there is room for improvement, growth and there will be things I need to do to ensure I am developing. I acknowledge, I am an ongoing learner and the process of learning is everyday.
2023 is here and I’m striving to be better in all areas of my life, which includes: mind, body, and spirit. Mentally, physically, emotionally, personally, professionally and spiritually. I hope you will also strive to be the best you can be. I am surrounding myself with positive people and I will be in positive environments, where I am encouraged, empowered, and have the opportunity to flourish.
My message to myself and to you for 2023, is to strive to be better in all areas of our lives, including spiritually. Prioritize your mental health. Say no, when you need to. As I reflect on connecting to communities, we are created to be in a community, not in isolation. We are the community. Communities are different, but they are essential. These communities include: social communities, church communities, physical development communities, book communities, seniors communities, entrepreneurship communities, etc., the list goes on and on. We need to be intentional into plug into communities, like we plug our electrical cords into outlets. By connecting to communities, we are building relationships and have the opportunity to empower each other. 2023 includes connecting to communities, and not operating in isolation. For example, I have a church community, a women’s meetup community, and other communities I connect to for different purposes an intentions. As I began to connect to different communities, I am able to also see different needs and responded to some of the needs I see. I continued to pray for God to help me see the needs and use me in the community, to help me see this world for what it is, so I don’t just go through this world like everything is okay, when in reality it is not. Through this process, I realized that my education is not only for me, it is for me to use what I have learned to help others to build and create. As I reflected on one of the first video I saw with Dr. Umar Johnson a few years ago, I watched his interview, and his words have never left me. He says, we have the resources to help our communities. We can use the resources we have to either build or create. Therefore, I as I reflect, I am asking myself what I can do to help build and create in community through collaboration. At the end of 2022, I began to reflect and learn more about the seven principles of Kwanzaa and the first principle is unity –
“Umoja (unity)- to strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race,
Kujichagulia (Self-determination), – To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) -To build and maintain our community together and make our community’s problems our problems and to solve them together.”
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)- To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.
Nia (Purpose) – To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
Kuumba (Creativity) – To do always as much as we can to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
Imani (Faith) – To believe with all our hearts in our people and the righteousness and victory of our struggle” (National Museum of African
So for me, for 2023, it is imperative I take these seven principles in consideration not just during Kwanzaa, but throughout the year.
As we are in the first month of 2023, I want us to dig deeper into what we want for this new year. I want to dig deeper into what I am asking for. It’s not about acquiring materialistic things because I can guarantee that when you and I leave this earth, we are not going to be remembered by the cars we drive and what we have. I am not saying those things are bad, they are not, but don’t allow your focus for 2023 to be only on acquiring your wants, make it deeper. We just cannot afford to worship materialistic things for 2023, and make those things our God. Again, don’t get me wrong, we should want to acquire things, they are not bad, but they can become an issue when we only focus on our wants and ignore our whole development.
As I reflect on 2022 and what it has taught me, I realized that I have more compassion, more love and I have learned to be still in moments in my life. There were moments, I needed to be alone and meditate. I learned about the importance of silence from my spiritual development class. My spiritual development director, saw all the work I was doing, she prayed with me, and asked me to pause. I remember, telling her, I didn’t have time to pause, but we discussed the importance of being in silence and just not doing anything. The first time, I sat in my room for 10 minutes in silence, it was difficult. I had to report my experience back to mt spiritual director and I shared what it was like to take time and just be in silence and meditate. It wasn’t easy, but it allowed me to clear my mind for those 10 minutes. I needed to pause to hear from God and spend time with God. My spiritual development coach and I discussed the importance of resting and self-care. I learned the importance of pausing.
Who will we help while we are occupying this space called earth? How will we impact our community? These are questions, I ask myself. I am not just here to obtain materialistic things that depreciate. The lives we touch will not depreciate. Having a relationship with Jesus will not depreciate. God equips us in many ways. We need to sometimes take time to reflect. 2023 I am reflecting, but I am activating, I am moving forward with purpose and intent. I parented with intention. I didn’t just wake up and say I would be doing whatever with my son. I was intentional with my parenting style for example, I wanted him to know about the God I serve and I taught him to the best of my ability. I prayed with him and asked him to pray for us and he would pray over both of us as a child. Together we read the bible and together we prayed, as I prayed for him as well. I would choose a scripture to read and when he was younger, he would have to choose a scripture to also read. I tried my best to be purposeful in his development. For example, his physical development was also important to me, so I intentionally never placed a TV in his room when he was a child (this was my personal choice). He played outside most of his childhood and we went on hikes to different parks. We rode our bikes and I participate in extra curricular activities. I focused on ensuring he was active. I even remember the first family day we had in Canada. I had to put on my snow pants because he insisted we build a snow family like our own family. So off we went to the backyard to build in the snow. The point I am trying to make is that in anything we are doing in 2023, let’s do it with purpose and intent. How can I be intentional and purposeful when it comes to my whole development – personally, professionally, spiritually and mentally – mind-body-spirit. It takes intentionality and purpose to work towards becoming our best selves. For this year, if we choose to set goals around materialistic things let’s delve a bit deeper into who we are and who we want to become. Let’s take time to think about how we are caring for our mind, body and spirit. What will I do for you this 2023? What will you do? What communities do you need to connect to? I pray for wisdom for 2023. I pray that God will guide and lead me, lead us, as we walk through 2023. I pray for discernment. I pray that I will continue to walk in love. That I will not just love my family or friends but I will love others the same way I would love my family and friends. For 2023, I pray that God will enable me to help others abundantly in my community. In my opinion, when we see the world for what it is, we will understand the importance of prayer. We will also understand community. We are created to be in community. We are apart of the community. Rather it be a social community, a meetup group, a self-help group, meeting up with friends, a church, a seniors group, a teens group, those are all communities. We are surrounded by different communities and we operate in community, we are not separated from community, we make up our communities. So do not distance yourself from the communities around you, find those positive communities to be in. Ask yourself how you have changed from 2022? What have we learned from 2022? Reflect on how you can be more positive? Focus on what you need to do to grow? Write it down and get ready to activate. Do not let fear consume you. Fear can allow you to be stagnant. As well, if you fail at something, get up. If we fail at something, we can revise the plan and try again. For 2023, as I start the new year, I focus on my growth personally, professionally, and most importantly spiritually.
The pandemic was difficult for many of us. We experienced isolation, loss and even trauma. For some of us 2022 also had its challenges and 2023 may have its challenges too but be intentional in what you say and what you do. Join a community where you can grow and evolve because we are not meant to stay the same each year, we must see some growth. Take time for you as well. Practice self-care. When 2022 began, I began to focus on my self-care and gratitude. By doing so, it has changed the way I see life. First and foremost, gratitude has allowed me to appreciate what I have. I appreciate my family, my friends, I even appreciate having the ability to walk in the parks and go hiking. Hiking and walking is one of my biggest self-care routines and riding my bike. Appreciate where you are coming from, appreciate who you are and who you are becoming. Remember, that you have so much to offer this world. What you have been through wasn’t just for you. I was once told by one of the pastors that visited the church I attend, that I should plant seeds. I have finally begun to own the words she spoke over my life, I am asking God to help me to plant seeds. I’m planting the first seed by sharing this message to you. I know that anything I am blessed with is not for only me or my loved ones, it is for me to help my community. So for 2023, I’m praying for God to lead, direct and help me, for his word is clear. I am seeking his will not my own.
Psalm 119:105 “ Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light on my path” KJV, – I am reminded by this scripture, that it is within Him, that I will continue to find my purpose.
For several months, God gave me the scripture to focus on Psalm 119:105, I wondered why I kept coming back to the scripture at the end of 2022. As I meditated on Psalm 119:105, I realized that the same effort I make to read many books a year, the one book I must meditate on and read, is the word of God. I must go back to the word of God for 2023, not only should I read the word, I must apply the word to my life. So, I continue to pray for guidance and I pray for wisdom. I end this with writing piece by John F. Kennedy quote
“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,”
Based on my research I learned that John F. Kennedy’s quote challenged Americans to see the country from a different perspective. To be involved – civic engagement. It’s not so much about what we can get, it was more about what we can give, even, if it is giving to just one person. Depending on where we are, what your experiences are, some of us may not be able to give much, however, there are so many ways we can give back. For example, we can check on a friend. We can cook a meal for a family less fortunate than our family? Can we donate some of our clothes? If we are able to, can we volunteer once a month. What can we do for our country? Let’s bring it closer to home. What can we do for our province or state? Let’s bring it a bit closer. What can we do in our cities? What can we do in the communities we are in? And we do to need to do it alone, we can work together in unity – Umoja
As we set goals for 2023, as we set new year’s resolutions, as we attend vision board parties, let’s challenge ourselves to do something for someone else this new year. At the same time, focus on becoming the best version of you. – Written January 2nd, 2023 by Naj (Natalee Antoinette)
Psalm 28:7 – The Lord is my strength and my shield, in whom my heart trusts.
As I reflect on Psalm 28:7, I think of all the things God has shielded me from. He has protected me from so many things that I am aware of and that I am unaware of. The word of God speaks about God being our strength and shield.
For a second, imagine walking with a shield. First, we must understand that a shield is an armour made for battle. The shield is designed to protect in attacks from projectiles (e.g., arrows spears, crossbows). The characteristics of a shield differ in shape, size and thickness, etc. Some shields cover the entire body, and others only cover a portion of the body. The purpose of a shield is to protect and cover as we go into battle.
When we step out of our house, or wherever we go, and when we are experiencing battles, the word of God reminds us that we are shielded. The word says, God is our “strength and our shield.” As I think about the word, a few images come to mind, and I think about all the things God has shielded me from. Things I sometimes can not see and things that I am unaware of and that I am aware of. Sometimes, it may seem like things may not be going according to my plan, and things may not be happening in my timing, but what if God is shielding me from some things. I believe that he has shielded me from places I should not have been in, environments and he has also shielded me from people who had ill intentions. He has shielded me from some relationships by removing me from those relationships. He has shielded me from some heavy blows. His shield is before me and blocks things I don’t even see. I am reminded that a shield is “protection of God.”
For a second, just visualize being on a battlefield, warriors have shields. Shields block arrows 🏹. Sometimes, we are on that battlefield, but not only is the Lord our strength, he is our shield. He is our shield that blocks the arrows that were meant to harm, distract, and hurt us. The battle is his and not our own. Even though we are on the battlefield, we need to remember that God is our shield. He is shielding us on our battlefields.
We can no longer practice the same way we did prior to the pandemic. Whether a pastor, teacher, social services worker, mental health practitioner, youth worker, community support worker, the list goes on and on. We must practiced from a trauma-informed lens. This includes Trauma-Informed Care (TIC), Trauma-Informed Practice (TIP). To share, some forms of trauma are: – Developmental trauma – Inter-generational trauma – Historical trauma – System induced trauma (e.g., youth incarceration, invasive medical treatments) – Vicarious trauma/secondary trauma – Collective trauma – Acute/Chronic Trauma
For Mental Health Awareness Month, I raise awareness as it relates to the importance of practicing from a trauma-informed lens. As practitioners and community leaders, we cannot do things the way we used to because our actions can and will retraumatize people who have experienced and are experiencing trauma. We must unlearn to relearn, to better serve and understand the people we support while considering intersectionalities and practicing from a strength-based approach.
“Trauma is in the nervous system, not in the event.” – Peter Levine
Therefore, our nervous system can change based on events we experience. Every person is different, and sometimes we have trauma ourselves, and we are unaware because we just haven’t been taught. We need to normalize conversations to address issues. From a Christian perspective and my personal opinion, we cannot just tell people to pray, and things will get better. People also need acceess to wrap around support, therefore, when in position of influences and leadership, sometimes, if not all the times, we have to address the whole development of a person (e.g., spiritually, cognitively, physical) – mind, body and spirit. The reality is that the events we experience do affect our brain and can change our thought patterns.
References: CAMH, The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, Trauma-Informed Practice Resource – Government of British Columbia