A New Year’s Resolution: Let Freedom Reign

 

Change.  Upgrade.  Adventure.  Discovery. These are just a few of the words that come to mind as we face a new year.

The traditional idea of “out with the old and in with the new” is probably the most familiar. And although New Year’s Day is accentuated on our calendars, it is just another blip in the continuum of time.  But as humans we like the idea of making a statement about a specific event, revelation or commitment as if to make an endelible mark in our memories and the halls of history.  We do it in the form of celebrations, memorials and formal covenants, expressed through ceremonies, photographs, declarations and writings.

It is important to us to communicate our inner longings, dreams, visions and hopes. We declare or promote the things that we value and the things that we hope for, but are yet seen. As if to say, “Hello world, hello past or future, I am placing my stake in the ground on this day to make it known…”  —whatever that might be.  It may be a goodbye or good riddance to some things in our lives, or a welcome mat or invitation to others.

We long for freshness, vitality and newness. We are grateful for second chances (or third or forth, or fifth) and the concept of redemption. We don’t want to become stuck in neutral or to become irrelevant.  In essence, we want our lives to matter.

So how do we get from here to there?  Some women (or men) strive for killer job promotions, meaningful experiences, new relationships, or improved bodies. All suggest a new and improved model or end goal in hopes of ultimate fulfillment or lifestyle improvements.  And while goals and objectives, successes and achievements are oftentimes admirable and an important part of change and hopefully, positive forward motion, these are the things that are like shifting sands. They are not the more permanent anchors that will bring ultimate resolve or lasting value. 

It is important to set strategic and meaningful goals, dream dreams and have a vision for our futures.  But it is equally important to not allow ourselves to pour new wine into old wineskins. To guard against mislabeling the old with the label of “new”.  Doing the “same old, same old” while deceiving ourselves into thinking something has changed, or that we desire change, when in reality we find ourselves repeating the same mistakes, clinging to worn out mindsets, embracing the same limited (or selective) vision, or living off yesterday’s dreams.

We can become successful by the world’s standards, while all the while, remain failures in our personal relationships, broken, wounded, enslaved to addictions or bitterness and/or never fully satisfied within ourselves.  While accolades and acheivements may decorate our walls or tickle our ears, we can grow cold, hard or lifeless on the inside.

BREAKING FREE – WILL THE REAL YOU PLEASE STAND UP?

Resolve to live your life on purpose.  It’s time to break free!  Have you ever heard of a person falling asleep a slave and waking up free?  To “break” free means we have to take some type of action.  And action doesn’t happen without forethought. It starts in the mind (with an idea or hope) and we must choose to partner with it to see the thought, dream or vision become a reality.

You see, we can advance through the ranks of our career, increase our financial or social portfolio, expand our education, achieve a coveted goal–which are all good and admirable feats—things that cause the world to stand up and take notice.  They applaud, compare and pat us on the back and yet we can remain enslaved and stuck on the inside.

We can become captive to the hidden things that never allow us to progress. While all the moving (external) parts are in active status–blinking, sparkling, captivating and alluring–nothing has changed on the inside. There is no newness or freshness in the internal places that human beings need for lasting change and ultimate satisfaction or freedom.

We’ve all seen tragic stories of beautiful, smart, uber-accomplished women who appeared to have it all together but very publically crashed and burned. We stood in awe.  How could that have happened and to her of all people?  Whispers of, “But, everyone thought she was so happy,” because they seemed  invincible.  They appeared to have the perfect life, marriage, body, career—fill in the blank–on the outside, but imploded on the inside shattering the fragile external facade and exposing the reality of an unanchored life.

TAKE TIME TO REFLECT

The Past:  Have you taken time to reflect on the past year?  What things changed and what things remained the same? What brought you the most satisfaction and what things caused you the most grief, longing for genuine and permanent changes?  Most importantly, how did you change (or refuse to change) and how did that affect your happy meter?  Are you satisfied with your results?

The Present:  Sometimes we forget to stop and really consider the present. We may look at the past year or to the new year, but we live in the present, so what about that?  Is there anything you need to do today that will impact your tomorrow—your plans, dreams, visions, goals?  Things that will affect you, but also the things that you do today, now, in the present, that will affect the people around you and the things that are important to you.

The Future:  We can assess our past and make all sorts of declarations about how we don’t want things to be the same as they were last year.  But until we face the reasons why we didn’t move forward in positive motion in the past, we won’t be able to take hold of the keys that will unlock the doors of our tomorrows.

We need to care enough about our God-given destiny and our relationships to get real with ourselves. What held you back, and why?  What role do you play in securing lasting change, anchoring change, for your future? Do you need to forgive yourself, or others?  Do you need to let go of something, initiate something, create something new, adjust your perspective, release someone or, simply start living outside of yourself and choose to love better? Sometimes in freeing another, we free ourselves; and oftentimes we are our own slave masters, holding our own destinies captive.

LET FREEDOM REIGN

Time marches on whether we do or not. We have been given so many opportunities to right wrongs, be temporarily satisfied or permanently fulfilled, seek only our own pleasure or share our abundance with those who need it, and become active participants in our own stories. 

This year, choose to let freedom reign. Don’t major on the minors.  Be willing to gently look yourself in the mirror and determine what is most important and do your part to make it happen.  Women who lift others burdens learn that their own suddenly become lighter–we all become stronger. Steward your own life and destiny well and encourage others to do the same.  Thankfully, your past (or present) does not define your future.  Choose today to set yourself free, and in the process, you will set others free. 

You see, it’s not just about celebrating the new year, it’s really about celebrating (and embracing) the new YOU.  Let Freedom Reign!

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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Journey of Compassion: Walking a Mile in Her Shoes

Homeless Woman, Los Angeles, California


You’ve no doubt heard the expression: You never truly know someone until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.  Make that her shoes. Our lives seem to have become so self-focused and self-serving that our compassion level for others has become dull and taken a backseat. So what exactly is compassion? It is defined as sympathy for the suffering of others, often including a desire to help.

It’s easy to poke a stick at something, or someone, from a distance. We taunt, ridicule, make uninformed accusations and false assumptions. And it is all too easy to judge externals, becoming self-proclaimed critics of that which we do not understand. We hide behind shadows or sit on lofty perches as we dispense judgments, but regardless of our methodology, they are only our judgments—our limited and flawed estimation of the truth.

How can we know where a woman has really been until we know her — know her story, know her life and until we have in essence, walked a mile in her shoes?

Offering a Hand Up

If only we were to sit down and speak eye to eye and listen heart to heart, we would understand the full truth about her life. It’s likely that in more cases than not, our conclusions would be dramatically altered. Giving a hand up benefits two people, the recipient and the giver. But extending no hand and holding another person down serves no one. How much more powerful to funnel our energy into benevolence, prayer, positive words and action through things like social justice, spiritual transformation, practical compassion and creative advocacy.
 

Empathy is the ability to identify with and understand another
person’s feelings or difficulties.


Circumstances Do Not Define a Person

Masai Women, Tanzania

Many women suffer from the fallout of oppression. While some struggle with cultural and gender discrimination resulting in a lack of education, opportunity and personal freedom, others suffer under the oppression of violence, forced labor or are sex trafficked resulting in stolen lives. Many girls and women are basically discarded. Scarred and despairing, they live their lives in the wake of abandonment.

Maybe you know of a woman burdened by lies she was told about herself. Like the story of Cinderella, she was told that the better shoes weren’t for her and she was relegated to “her place” in life. And then, there are women who have, for whatever reason, made bad choices and because of those decisions, are not wearing the shoes intended for them. They are not alive to their own destiny and higher purpose.

The good news is, as long as there is still a road ahead to travel, she can make positive choices in the place where she finds herself and with what is in her hand. The journey is still in the making.

“Circumstances do not define a person, they are only stepping stones in their journey to wherever they intend to go” –April McCallum

Choice of Shoes

Women's Shoes Shanghai Market


Just because she was born into a land of less opportunity, a different color skin, a culture where women don’t have a voice and equal rights, or she has made unwise decisions maybe unlike our own–it doesn’t make us better, it makes us different.

We may not relate to the devastating poverty, abuse or discrimination she has faced, but it doesn’t make her less of a person for suffering from it as a result.

We may have made better choices, but it doesn’t make her dreams or destiny less valuable. It doesn’t make her less worthy as a human being.
 

“Suffering and joy teach us, if we allow them, how to make the leap of empathy, which transports us into the soul and heart of another person. ln those transparent moments we know other people’s joys and sorrows, and we care about their concerns as if they were our own.” -Fritz Williams

But for the Grace of God


There’s a familiar quote that says: There but for the grace of God, go I. None of us choose the family, nation, time in history, political persuasion, talents, physical body, intellectual capacity or skin color that we are born into. We cannot take credit. We had nothing to do with it. We only have control over what we choose to do with what we’ve been dealt.

Are we compassionate, kind, giving, loving, forgiving, understanding and honest? Do we hoard all that is within our power—our talents, influence, abilities, wealth and creativity—for ourselves, our own pleasure? Or do we steward these gifts well by sharing them with others. Are we givers, or are we merely takers?

If we look not only where her shoes have taken her, but why, and are honest about it… we become softer, kinder and more compassionate. If we are willing to take the lenses off to see her maybe even for the first time through a transparent filter — She becomes us, and we, her.

We can commit to swap shoes once in awhile, and teach our daughters, and the next generation, to do the same. Therein lies the journey of compassion.

“One who walks the road with love… will never walk the road alone.”

© by April McCallum, Destiny’s Women

(Photos by Dave Blume, Jess McCullochDavid Dennis, World Bank, Markusram)

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Her Story: Women’s Stories of Oppression & Freedom

 

When you think of a woman who is being held captive, what does your mind’s eye see?  Do you imagine some form of restraint, a cryptic strong-armed figure or a cage that demands a key?  

Cages of Oppression & Keys to Freedom

Oppression comes in many forms, but however it emerges, it is not always visible to the human eye.  Ask the women who know.

They may have suffered at the hands of a violent oppressor who beat them, sexually abused or raped them, or by a tyrannical greed-driven taskmaster who coerced them into a position of forced labor.

Others have been cruelly subjected to verbal or psychological abuse, and while their bodies show no outward signs of harm, their hidden self is bruised, battered and twisted–weighted down by the heavy burden of chronic inner turmoil. 

Some may appear to lead “normal” lives, free from the aggressive abuse wielded by a strange or familiar hand, but they are women who live in the extreme bondage and heavy cloak of oppression brought on by physical or mental illness, acute self-image issues or some form of strangling addiction.

Freedom is the oxygen of the soul.  –Moshe Dayan

 A woman contending with anything that hinders, suppresses or tries to snuff out her ability to be free and to live out her life’s purpose, is in bondage, and—whether shackled on the outside or from within—she is not yet liberated.

 

Telling Her Story – Propagating Hope

Every life has a story. With the first breath a baby takes, their outward journey begins. While some paths lead to success, health and wholeness—free from the death grip of oppression–sadly, others do not.

For those who exist under some form of bondage, whether by another’s will or by their own choices, they have a story to tell. Some are heroic, triumphant or inspiring. Others are tragic, disheartening or senseless. Not every story has a positive ending.  Not every life is set free. 

Learn from yesterday, live today, hope for tomorrow –Albert Einstein

We must learn from the stories—from the lives of women who lived as captives—both from the ones who broke free, and from the ones who did not.  For in telling the stories, we bring life to others who still have a chance.  It is called hope. 

In some cases, we can play an active role in rescuing and redeeming, while in others, we advocate for change or for the discovery of a cure. 

In telling her story–women’s stories of oppression and freedom–we rejoice in the victories of those who have found freedom from their captors and in doing so, we find inspiration, challenge and hope for ourselves.  For those who did not find freedom, we purpose to not let the seed fall into the ground without bearing fruit for others who still have a chance to find their freedom.  May their stories take root and bloom to also bring life and hope.

Let’s continue to champion our sisters who have found their path to freedom and also commit in our own way to bring life through the fallen petals of the lives of those who did not. 

© by April McCallum, Destiny’s Women

(Photos by BairoPretty Saro, Tina Sea)

 

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Victim Advocates — Help Me, Don’t Help Me

 

How do you help someone who is being victimized but doesn’t want your help or isn’t even aware that they need help?

 

BE AVAILABLE.

It sounds way too simple, but the truth is… just maybe there will come a day when your loved one sees for herself how desperate her situation has become, and she will remember you. She will remember your openness, your kindness, a thoughtful gift, an encouraging word or that unconditional look of love and acceptance in your eyes. She will remember your availability.

Timing is Key – Don’t Push Too Hard 

Don’t push, prod, pry, or try to pull things out of her. Just love on her. When she is ready—and only she will know when that time is–she will come back around.  It is painful and wrenchingly frustrating to watch someone be marginalized and victimized. We want to step in and stop the abuse—to stand up and scream, “This is insanity!”

Unfortunately, when a victim of abuse finally comes to terms with the reality of her situation—it is so often after things have escalated far beyond any line we would have drawn hoping to prevent further pain.  She may know things aren’t right, but she’s not yet willing to admit that continuing in her present lifestyle is actually detrimental or dangerous.  She needs to make a conscious decision for her own well-being, but that rarely happens in our timing.

If we look from the outside in and jump the gun, we are liable to create more problems and that’s the last thing we want. She needs to see and to know for herself why it is time to get out of her situation.

Use Wisdom with Intervention

Too often, women return to their abusers because well-meaning friends or family intervene before she is ready, because they feel the need to made the choice for her. It is completely understandable because they love her and have legitimate concerns for her well-being.

In turn however, her abuser may clamp down more control because he is afraid of losing his dominance over her again. Or worse, try to “teach her a lesson” by inflicting more abuse in an attempt to instill even greater fear should she ever consider leaving him again.

As onlookers, we are painfully aware of the dire circumstances. We see clearly, the cause and effect unfolding before us, and before her.  Understandably, we want to play the role of victim advocates. We want to rescue, fix, and make things “all better.”

Awareness is key–but we also need to use discernment and wisdom as we try to help our sisters that are in trouble.

Be Purposeful – Keep Planting Seeds of Kindness

She may also be afraid and ashamed to talk about her abuse or disillusioned and not sure how to deal with what she’s feeling.

It costs so little to just love on our fellow human beings. The simplicity of offering a listening ear, a hug, inviting them to an event or for a cup of coffee can mean so much to someone who is longing for authentic friendship or validation.

Start with what you can do today. Your simple acts of kindness may eventually lead to a place of safety and trust for her.  In a figurative sense, leave your light on, keep that candle of hope burning.

“Walking with a Friend in the Dark is Better than Walking Alone in the Light”

–Helen Keller

Out of your thoughtfulness–your attentiveness, little gestures that say “I’m thinking about you”, and your open heart towards her–an opportunity may be birthed to move from a “don’t help me” to “help me” — simply because you purposed to make yourself available.

Then maybe, just maybe… her story will become a part of your story.

 

© by April McCallum, Destiny’s Women

(Photos by blai server, mgbrigby )

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