The Grip

Every now and again I’ll find someone who is not gripped by an experience, but it is rare.  Like when we touch a hot stove as a small child and quickly understand that high levels of heat are a source of pain.  We become skiddish, cautious, and mindful of our surroundings around stoves and hot flames.  Should the initial incident involve a trip to the hospital, we may never touch a stove again.  It’s nonsensical, but it is understandable.  The experience has a grip on the soul of the victim.

For most of us the grip is much more than a hot stove.  It involves our heart, the highest energy source of our body, and the main instrument from which we can manifest our dreams.  The experiences all vary dramatically as do the impacts.  Even if comparing one victim of molestation to another, the stories always roll out with unique circumstances that, in some ways, make the burden of pain solely their own.  And, to me, even more fascinating, is the varied response to this experience.  Some will walk away with nearly no repercussions while others allow their minds to hold them in a state of fear or panic or pain.  Their minds hold them in a state of limitation.  A grip.

Perhaps this is fascinating to me because I’ve spent so much of my own life overcoming these limitations and each time I approached another level of release, I recognized I had yet another limitation to hurdle.  It’s frustrating really, and even more so when I acknowledge that I created the hurdle.  I had a choice when I walked through my experiences, I just didn’t realize it.  By the time you see that you can just change your mind and see life differently, your subconscious has taken hold and you find yourself walking around in limiting patterns you don’t even see are present.  But, you know something is wrong because you can’t quite get a total grip on happiness and joy.

For me the grip started in 5th grade, as I mentioned in earlier blogs, patterned itself throughout the remainder of my childhood and virtually dictated all my decisions for the first couple of decades of adulthood.  Fear.  That’s the core issue for most people really.  Mine was a fear of never being loveable, being forever alone, and having no value worthy of anyone’s time.  I have spent the majority of my adult life trying to morph to what I perceived were the desires of those around me in order to gain approval.  Wow!  Just rereading that last sentence practically stops me dead in my tracks.  What a strange concept.  You want to know what I lost for that decision?  My spirit.

Along the way, as I healed myself through loads of book reading, coaching, and God, I met countless people in the same position.  Dreams left by the wayside years ago.  Present knowledge that they are living an unhappy or overly stressed life because they lost all courage to fight for what they want and who they are or who they were meant to be.  All living inside of limitations set by other people whose behavior caused pain.  Limiting actions to avoid future pain.

Here’s the deal.  It’s not always easy to see the limitations, as I mentioned above.  They can hide away sneakily inside the subconscious mind.  But, just like you had a choice to make a decision to limit yourself when you experienced something bad, you now have a choice to stop living your existing life based on an experience in your past that has nothing to do with your present.  Stop approaching every situation as if it is the same situation.  It’s not.  Life changes.  People change.  Now, the question is will you change?

There are thousands of books on this subject.  The road to healing can be long.  In the beginning, stepping into the life you were meant to live can actually be more uncomfortable than living in limitations.  Change is hard, even good change sometimes.  But, not pursuing who you were meant to be, which is virtually impossible when you are living your life based on past experiences, is no life at all.  It’s an imprisonment.  Aren’t you a little curious about who you would be if you broke down the walls?  I am.

Today I face a whole new path in life.  It feels super uncomfortable.  I have to fight the natural response to judge myself and worry what others will say.  I have no idea exactly what my future holds which is extraordinarily uncomfortable for my Type A control freak personality.  But, ya know what, I’m not sure I was ever meant to even be a Type A control freak.  That manifested as a result of analyzing my every move to be certain it aligned with the wants and needs of others.  For all I know, I am meant to be a total surfer chick who doesn’t care about anything but sun and sand!  But, whatever that person is meant to be, I am going after it like people go after their professions, degrees, fastest time in the marathon, or the crowning victory of Miss Universe.  I get one life to live and I want to live it authentically.  I want to feel pure joy, peace, and happiness.  I want a life filled with laughter and contentment, knowing I awaken each day stepping further into the destiny that God laid on my heart, not the journey others’ might expect me to live, and so should you!

Your past experiences – Bless and Release!

Your present experiences – open your mind, connect with your heart, and go after the dreams that set your soul on fire!

Tonya Stuart


Where I am Weak, You are Strong!

Do NOT let negative opinions hold you back. Remember, those opinions usually arise from the insecurity lying within that person, that they are not as brilliant, talented, driven, (fill in the blank). Do not allow a moment of your time to consider their disdain or criticism. Instead, turn toward your destiny. Rise above. Fulfill the journey God has set for you! Your talents, brilliance, drive (fill in the blank) are just what this world needs!

I wrote the above on a FB status earlier this week after yet another peer slammed me directly to my sister via a phone call.  She is a people pleaser.  I am a Type A go getter.  She is not a fan of my leadership.  While she can’t deny I am able to lead well, she feels I need to spend more time helping my team achieve their goals WHILE blowing loads of rainbows and unicorns all around the room.  Picture Bozo the Clown.  Look, there is nothing wrong with accolades, and I serve them up well too, but the business of success on the road to the top takes grit and sometimes there is little room for rainbows and unicorns.  I have been in similar circumstances more times than I can count.  Every single time it amuses me how seemingly “over the top” female people pleasers have no trouble whatsoever putting the nail in the coffin of a strong woman.  But, then….it also stings a little.

Why?  Why do we do this to each other?  Men don’t sit around analyzing each other’s behavior, what they are wearing, whether or not they got the latest promotion or deserved the latest promotion, if they are good enough dad’s, put on a few extra pounds, have their nails done, and they sure as heck don’t thwart each other for being strong in character and leadership.  But woman?  I can barely remember a time I wasn’t ridiculed.  It’s part of where this blog began, elementary school.  The irony is that back then I was tormented for being weak, ugly, wearing the wrong clothes, being too stupid, and having an insufficient residence.  The crazy thing is I was TOO NICE to fight back.  Ha!  Talk about full circle!  Now, I am tormented for being too strong/successful, too pretty/confident, wearing stylish clothing, being too smart, and having too nice of a home.  And, when I have fought back, it only made it worse – the tormenting of course.  It has always just validated that I am the B#*!^ they had presumed me to be.

We can’t win, at least I can’t!  Just to be clear, in elementary school it was open bullying.  In adulthood, it is groups of woman meeting for wine or huddling in a coffee clutch, and secretly ganging up on me about how awful my actions have been, like the time when I worked like a dog to become the top ten best agent in my county after having only lived there for 18 months.  Do you know I actually had a veteran agent corner me in the copy room and tell me I had no right to do what I was doing?  Say what?  I have no right to work hard for my family?  She nicely clarified the matter by telling me that I needed to earn that slot and that that should take years not months and who was I to think that I could replace those veterans that had worked for decades to attain said position.  Wow!  Where’s a mic when you need it!?  I was floored.  But, then again, I was only 28, a mere adolescent of adulthood.  I had no idea at the time that my drive would be a constant threat to many, and that even though my heart is full of nothing but love for people, the strength I carry would isolate me, even without saying a word.  Oftentimes, it was my mere actions.  I guess this is why they say it’s lonely at the top!

But again, why?  Has it always been this way?  I thought we fought for woman’s rights so woman could have a voice.  Now we have a voice and we use it to slay one another.  And it is not just about my story.  I have friends polar opposite of me with similar experiences and we all live with the sadness of wanting to be who we are without fear of ridicule that shames us into believing that who we are is somehow amiss.  How did we convince ourselves that pitting against one another would work in our favor?  In reality, it works in the favor of those who have always tried to hold us down.  Now, instead of them doing the work to accomplish this goal, we are taking care of that matter ourselves!  Instead of us locking arms and celebrating our differences and strengths, we shun each other out of jealousy and fear that our strengths may not be as admired as much as those around us.

Rejoice in your success!!!!  Rejoice in your peers success!  It’s OK to admit you admire your female counterpart.  That doesn’t distinguish your flame!  In fact, it makes it burn brighter.  It’s your gift to lift others.  We all need each others’ strengths.  Where I am weak you are strong.  Where I focus on training the mind, you can nurture the heart!  Where you can combine any given event with your stunning beauty and energized personality, making it the night to remember, I can arrange the process of rolling out the party seamlessly from the theme to the time of arrival for all caterers.  Don’t you see?  Together we are better!  Together we rise up farther than we can alone!  Together we become a force of positive change for ourselves and the world!  Together we create beauty as far as the eye can see.  A sisterhood of strong woman empowering each other to be the best version of ourselves.

Ladies, we don’t need more insult.  We have plenty of it staring us in the face daily from magazine covers to cat fights on glorified TV shows.  We need more honor and grace toward ourselves and one another.  Let’s embrace and respect the differences and feed each others souls as a means to creating truly legendary change in this world!!

My deepest respect to all of you fighting the fight to be who you were truly meant to be,

Tonya Stuart



The Good Life!

Another tragedy of my younger years was the unexpected death of my father, who was killed in a boating accident when I was 21.  I last saw him the Saturday before his death as we said our good-byes and I departed for my honeymoon.  I was married the day before.  I’ll never forget the feeling inside when I saw his best friend and my mother, his ex-wife, coming toward me upon my return at the airport, 2.5 hours from where they lived.  I knew immediately that something was wrong.  As they approached me, I simply said, “How bad is it?”.  They pulled me aside, my back against a wall, and told me he was gone.  I fell to the ground instantly.  The ride home was like a daze.  Empty, scared, frazzled, and helpless.  The tears didn’t stop for months.

As for my marriage….it was over before it started.  I had known he wasn’t right for me and even tried to back out of the wedding.  It’s a long story, but I’ll save it for later.  Now that my dad was dead, the one who taught me very little, but constantly preached to live for the moment, my husband’s belongings might as well have been tossed out the door immediately.  I stuck it out for a year as I worked through the swirl of emotion and chaos that unraveled my life as I had known it.

This story became an all too fresh reflection this weekend as I sat through Sunday service and we prayed over the father of four beautiful children, plus foster kids.  Two of his children were present in the service.  Our pastor and assistant pastor walked us through prayer and a beautiful sermon on strength of faith.  Even though the service was part of a series that has been planned for some time, it was incomprehensible to us just how much we would all need to hear their words at this very moment.  As usual, God’s timing is more significant than our own.  This family is likely a step in the process of solidifying all of our belief in the Lord, and his mighty power to transform ANY situation through the power of prayer.  For this family, it means bringing their father and husband and our friend out of a coma, to stop the bleeding on his brain, to heal his body and resurrect him to his original state or better!  It is a situation that needs God’s hands and one that requires more than just prayer.  It requires deep, unrelenting, steadfast faith behind the prayer.  It’s precisely the position God seeks to jolt us from any temptation that we can “make things happen” all on our own, that we have control.  Although they don’t seem it at the time, these big problems that require big answers are the breeding ground for deeper faith that leads to freedom of our souls.  And, best of all, it glorifies God because without him, we have nothing.  No hope.  Just the chance that if we cross our fingers we’ll get lucky.  With him, and faith filled prayer, we have everything!

I wish I had had that faith when my father passed.  Oh how very different things may have unfolded.  But, the reality is I was alone, within myself.  I didn’t rely on God, but of my own accord.  The results?  I got fired for stealing at a bank.  Ha!  Remember, my now husband told me that I was the most naive person he had ever met, and I was, so the idea of stealing from a bank would literally scare my pants off!  But, the money was gone and there was no trail so I got the boot.  I dropped out of UW-Madison where I likely would have graduated with honors.  I moved in with my brother who wasn’t too keen on me as a person at the time, and let me know it.  I divorced my then husband, started a new relationship on bad terms, and got into four car accidents in a 30 day timeframe.  To say the least, I needed God!  And how well did I deal with my Dad’s death?  I have never been back to his grave and I try not to think about it.  My true feelings are buried in a container in my heart somewhere I suspect.

This brings me back to Sunday’s service.  I cried like a baby several times.  I cried again this morning just chatting with a friend about it.  I wasn’t nearly as sad over my own dad and his memories, but for the family before me, knowing the tremendous pain that results from said circumstances.  But listen, that was only a small fraction of the emotions pushing so many tears from my eyes.  The other part was the beauty of God and his work on the people of our community.  I will never be able to fully convey the experience through words, but anyone present would tell you the power of the holy spirit was felt like a weighty fog penetrating every last centimeter of space.  As we worshiped, the two children approached our stage and just like that, God’s people responded.  One by one, they left their seats and wrapped these kids in love and prayer – deep, faith-filled prayer no doubt.  It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed.  There is no replacement for God and his believers.  They will wrap you tight in their arms, like the arms of God, and pray for you in time of need or in time of great joy!  Had I only understood that with my own fathers passing.

Where are you at today in your life?  Are you seeking the Lord’s wisdom in every corner of your life?  Do you pray?  Is your prayer filled with expectation because you are filled with faith that he will answer?  Have you found a church home full of people that lift your faith to new levels?  If not, do it!  Just do it!  This is the cornerstone of joy, peace, and unrelenting love!  This is the foundation to “the good life”!

Many, many prayers to the Yost family!  We are all praying hard!

Tonya Stuart



Th 10 Year Effect!

One truly good piece of my childhood was country living.  It seeped into my bones and has never left.  To this day the smell of nature instantly puts me in a state of calm and peace.  I love every single part of it, except the cold.  I will confess, I HATE cold, but even with that I can appreciate the beauty of snow covered trees and the complete silence that usually accompanies a heavy snowfall.  It’s especially beautiful at night.  Nature is my solitude.  I believe it is the closest to God anyone can ever be, and provides me with a very deep appreciation for all things made solely by him, which is a nice reprieve from the constant barrage of human-centered products and activities that consume most of our days!

Prior to my parents divorce, I spent countless hours wandering an old abandoned house, playing in sand piles carved out of the earth at the entry of my Grandma’s woods, and carefully meandered paths, attempting to avoid all things prickery as we used to say, in search of treasured fruits.  These were memories that served as an amazing foundation of appreciation for life.  It gave me a sense of connection and innocence that all life was beautiful.  That deep connection of faith in Gods works has steadfastly remained through mountains of pain.  Even when I didn’t believe in God himself, I stilled believed in his creations.  I never doubted humankind and somehow always knew that when people hurt others it was because they were hurting, rather than ever buying into the idea that people were just mean.

Take a stroll with me for a moment.  The sun is shining, multiple bird songs are playing from every direction, wind is whipping through your hair periodically – just enough to offset the heat of the sun, you dig your feet several inches beneath the sand and then lift them up and wiggle the refreshing cold dirt between your toes creating a soft giggle.  Now, pop up and take a walk in the woods.  Leaves rustling, trees swaying, squirrels jumping from branch to branch, the crackle of broken tree limbs beneath your feet, and oh the smells.  Breathe in the fresh moss, a dose of wild flowers, and listen in the distance to the babbling creek, your mouth salivating with the idea of ice cold water!

We fill our lives with so much stuff but nature is the essence of peace and tranquility.  It’s this beautiful place that became the emergence to my belief that our food is also meant to be savored, not just from the moment it hits our plate, but from the moment it is created.  Our fast paced lifestyle and development of what I refer to as corporate food, has nearly deleted all true connection with food.  Such a sad chain of events.

When I was a kid, a garden was mandatory, followed by a season of canning.  At the time, eliminating the weeds from the garden was a burden I abhorred.  But, pulling up a fresh carrot or radish, wiping it clean under the well spigot, and tasting the crunch of the juices flowing through my teeth was pure delight!  And the colors!  When was the last time you took a walk through a vegetable garden?  Not the pages of a magazine displaying a vegetable garden, but a REAL garden!!!  It’s bursting with color, smells, and the buzzing of bees!  Tomatoes are by far my favorite.  They permeate a smell like none other and you can usually detect it from a good ten feet away.  There is simply nothing like fresh vegetables from a garden and how we became a society satisfied with anything less is beyond me.  Not only are we satisfied with less, we are now eating what I think is tasteless, chemically ridden, sugar coated, dangerous consumable products that corporate refers to as food.  This has occurred over a span of 30-40 years or more.  I mention this because when things of this nature happen slowly, the negative impact oftentimes are unrecognizable, like weight gain or loss.  A pound or two here or there doesn’t seem like much but continue the trend over the span of ten years and you are truly unhealthy and likely obese.

This is essentially what has happened with our food industry.  Disconnection, often exhausting lifestyles and the stamp of approval by our FDA and USDA has provided a perfect environment for us to rationalize fast food, whether that be from a drive through or pulling a boxed meal out of the freezer and whipping it into the microwave.  As you can probably guess, this is a topic I could write on for days.  And, slowly, over time, I will continue to pour out more and more on this matter.  There is an epidemic of illnesses throughout all age groups, including depression, and obesity.  Nobody will ever convince me that most of these problems couldn’t be fixed with proper nutrition and a backyard garden.  Yes, I advocate everyone have a garden created from fresh, organic soil, and hand worked by the owner!  Therapy and nutrition in one fell swoop!  And, you’ll save money!!!  YES you can fit it into your life, like anything else you decide has utmost importance.  If the food you eat isn’t at the top of that list, then what is?  What could be more important than keeping yourself and your child healthy?  How do you think your body is fueled for protection, immune function, brain power, etc?  Our body is fueled by food.  Feed yourself whole foods created by God, free of chemicals, and you are setting yourself up for the best health possible.  Feed yourself and your children loads of sugar, a known toxin, and chemically ridden foods, and hold your breath waiting on the damage you are creating leading to deterioration of your health.  Ever hear of Russian Roulette?  Ha!  And, don’t forget the powerful supplements needed to fill in the gap created by lack of nutrients in our soil from overuse.

Remember my comment about gaining weight over the span of 10 years?  This is the premise of why people so easily rationalize boxed “foods” in their freezer and on their pantry shelves.  Perhaps even you just finished such a meal.  Nothing bad happened right?  Or maybe last week you grabbed a cheeseburger from Wendy’s, and nothing bad happened right?  But the truth is we are turning a blind eye to the 10 year effect – the net effect.  We are refusing to acknowledge the connection between the long term effects of the food consumed today.  It’s simply easier to ignore it.  It’s easier on our time and it’s easier on our wallets.  But mark my words, there is a reason God created beautiful food that can give nourishment to our bodies and our souls.  And, regardless of what you WANT to ignore, the fact remains that every bite you take is positively or negatively impacting your health and the same goes for your child.

Now there’s some food for thought!!!!

Tonya Stuart


How Much Power Does a Parent Really Hold?

Our children are the foundation to our future.  We must be careful how we proceed as parents.  They begin life as an innocent sponge, soaking in anything and everything we place in their path.  This means parents have the power to create beauty or ugliness.  The child has no choice.  Let me repeat.  The child has no choice of the outcome they will receive or the person they will become as a resident of a parents home.  To be honest, this causes me great sadness.  Coming from a highly dysfunctional background and marrying a man that experienced the same, I have seen the harsh results of lazy and/or irresponsible parenting.

Now, if you looked at me today, driving my Lexus and living in a sizeable home with two absolutely amazing boys, you may argue that the parents don’t really have the power to determine our future.  But you would be wrong.

Consider the years of extreme emotional, and sometimes physical, abuse I received from my husband.  I took the abuse, and he delved it out, both a result of poor parenting.  Consider the addiction to money we once had causing us to sacrifice all relationships, including our own children, in order to work insanely long hours.  We both had our reasons why, but at the root of it all were childhood experiences drilling in the belief that our value was in our success.  You may recognize that as conditional love.  Consider that I once married someone because my mother told all of us girls that we should grab the first man willing to take us or we would never make it in the world.  As you can see, my track record for marriages starts out pretty bleak.  Consider that, in our 30’s, when I received a medical diagnosis, and we lost everything we owned, my husband went into a deep depression and has never been the same since.  Just to be clear, this is because he thought his value was in the things we lost and the bank account that went with it!    He has never fully grasped self love, or letting go of the stream of repetitive jibber jabber in his brain telling him he would never be good enough.  And don’t even get me started on our siblings.  We look like a walk in the park compared to the trauma that still exists in them.

Instead of turning 18, and facing the world with great hope and belief in myself to become whoever I chose, I had no hope or belief that anything good was possible for me.  Instead of spending my efforts making a difference in people’s lives, I spent the better part of the next 25 years just trying to fix my own.  What a waste of time.  I am no Einstein, but I am smart, just not particularly book smart.  I have a few talents and a work ethic that can outdo the best of them.  My husband?  Oh my goodness.  Where do I start?  To this day he is the smartest man I have ever met.  I am talking top 5% smart.  He could have done anything or been anyone.  Instead, we spent our adulthood breaking chains.  I can only imagine the difference he would have made in this world had he started out under different circumstances.  And, I look forward to the day our youngest son takes off in the career world.  He is a spitting image of his father and no doubt will create immeasurable change in his field of interest.

Parents do have ALL the power to determine the future of each child whether it seems obvious or not.  Part of my pathway to healing, both physically and mentally, brought me face to face with the reality of my own parenting.  It was a huge slap in the face from the man above when I realized I was forsaking my kids for my career.  I was providing a better environment than our parents had offered us, but I had to ask myself was that good enough?  The answer was no.  I was 32 when I had my ahha moment and I have worked diligently ever since to place my kids needs before my own on every single matter.  This includes living with very little at times, to avoid having both parents employed and unavailable.  There was a moment we had so little money we had to sell the plow off the front of our 20 year old truck to make it through the month.  Yet, we still ate organically and we still remained a one income household.  In our minds, there was simply no other option.  It was what was best for our kids.  They don’t need all the things money can buy.  They need to be loved well.

Today, our boys are 15 and 17.  And, my theories were right.  First, they provide more joy and love than any other aspect of this world.  I have no regrets.  We are not set for retirement.  We don’t have a fat bank account.  As an aside, the Lexus is paid by my company or we’d still be driving a beater.  And, I shop mostly at Goodwill.  I can not imagine four individuals loving each other more than we do.  Their brotherly bond will carry them far.  Second, our boys have grown into humble, respectful, intelligent, responsible, loving, considerate, hard working young men deeply rooted in their walk with the Lord.  People comment often, wondering how we got them to be the way they are today.  That’s my greatest accomplishment in life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  It is not anything that will earn an award or public recognition, but it is the greatest gift in existence.  I have given my children love in many different forms so they can, in turn, do the same.  Will they look back at their childhood with any complaints?  Probably, but they will be trivial and they know it.  They thank us often for how well we have cared for them and still do.  THEY SEE THE DIFFERENCE – as compared to some of their peers experiences!  Purposeful parenting makes a difference!

I hope to be a voice to this extremely important matter.  I hope to one day see a revolution of change that places our focus on each other, our own children and our neighbors children.  Remember, sometimes it takes a village.  For now, here’s some food for thought:

  • Do you eat together as a family each night?
  • Are you preparing healthy meals?
  • Do you have regular open discussion about value based decisions?
  • How often do you hug and kiss your kids, with an I love you, daily?  Hint:  For us it is multiple times every day and much of the time they are the initiators.
  • How well do your children care for each other?  If the answer is “not well”, what plan do you have in place to replenish and grow that relationship?
  • How much time do you allow for technology versus family time playing cards, board games, talking, or grabbing some entertainment like bowling?
  • How is your marriage?  Do you communicate love openly, ie hugs, hand holding, respect for one another?
  • If you are a Christian family, do you attend a good church weekly and pray with your kids daily?
  • Have you, or you and your spouse, collaborated effectively on how to raise your children?  Are you on the same page?  Have you discussed how you will instill values, work ethic, respect, belief in a higher power, serving others, education, etc?  Do you agree upon boundaries and discipline?
  • Have you implemented chores?  This is a biggie!  We implemented chores at the age of 5 and it was one of the best things we ever did.  It taught the children a great deal, not just work ethic.  By the time they were 11 or 12, they were fully capable of, and expected to take on, any chore as needed, including mopping, their own laundry, bathrooms, lawncare, etc.
  • Do you allow disrespectful comments from your kids?  Are they allowed to say No to you when asked to do something, or avoid the activity altogether with no consequence?  Do you allow them to follow through with the activity with a bad attitude or their face in front of electronics as an act of rejection toward said activity?

These are all a great start to analyzing your commitment to parenthood.  Time is the struggle for most.  Parenting well has taken an insane amount of time, sacrificing much on our part.  But I urge you, make it happen!  It will indeed be the best thing you ever do!!!

Prayers for Powerful, Purposeful Parenting!

Tonya Stuart


The Human Connection

Babysitting for a prostitute, being knifed while punched in the face trying to save my sister from the same, sitting on the bed of a child molester are all very scary circumstances for a young girl, but at the end of the day, when I look back, nothing left a deeper hole in my heart than the loneliness.

My younger sister sat with me one time when I was about 26 and rattled off situation after situation of the ugliness of our childhood.  I had forgotten so much.  Shortly after that chat, I let it all go again.  I asked her recently if she still remembered it all and she said yes.  I told her I may or may not have her rekindle those memories for my writings.  But, honestly, for the purposes of my blog, I am not sure they are necessary.  What I have come to realize is that we can have many, very traumatic things happen to us throughout life, but the real hurt comes from the effect of the human need to have our hearts heard and cared for with love.  The need for connection.

If you’ve read my previous blog you get the point that food was a close second to the loneliness factor.  Since we had no car for a number of years, it was necessary to walk to the store.  For some reason, that responsibility always landed on my shoulders.  I guess because my older sister was always working or being dragged to the bars with my mom and my little sister was simply too little.  I grudgingly agreed much of the time because, well, it meant getting food.  There were countless days and nights that I walked miles round trip.  I remember the walks very vividly.

Even though the streets were silent, my heart screamed as if a megaphone inside my chest, longing to be heard by anyone!  Why was I so invisible?  Why did I so easily go unnoticed?  What is wrong with people that they don’t care enough to reach out and help me or love me?

As I developed through middle and high school, I watched the “happy people”.  One commonality seemed to be money.  If you had money you could be happy.  Thus, as an adult, I sought money as a means of security, and as a way to gain friendships so I would never have to be lonely again.  Flash forward thirty years and I now know how off I was in that assessment.  Money had nothing to do with it.  We are the richest country on the planet, by a long shot, and the most medicated.  We outweigh any other country for use of anti-depressants, with 60% of users having taken the medications for more than two years.  I bet I didn’t need to give you that statistic for you to know we are a country bleeding from the heart.

As dumbfounded as I was walking those Appleton city streets, I am equally dumbfounded now.  I am certain our happiness lies in the connection we have with others, yet connection is a strain.  Judgment is rampant.  I have to wonder if the very thing I thought was the answer to connection, money, was really the answer to my loneliness.  Perhaps as I child I was surrounded by people so busy seeking money to find happiness, that they didn’t have the time to see me.  If they didn’t have the time to see me then perhaps they didn’t have the time to see others either.  The focus on chasing the dollar was so high that they missed the very real, and perhaps only true access to happiness that exists – the love of each other.  The fulfillment of reaching out and serving one another which ultimately is glorifying God and a direct link to his love, the greatest love of all.

I could be wrong.  I could be way off.  But, I know that I got misled into thinking that money would create a pathway to happiness, forsaking time for relationships along the way, and if I did that I am quite certain I am not alone in my mistake.  It is so bizarre too because I thought that was the pathway to friendships.  If I was successful people would like me.  Really that all just circles back to judgment.  Sometimes I look at the scope of this viscous cycle and wonder how we got here.  Was it the post WWII boom?  That first taste of real materialism?  Or perhaps it was the 80’s.  The baby boomers were hot to trot to finally master the idea that you can have it all!  But then there was the early 2000’s when McMansions were all the rage!  I guess it doesn’t matter what the cause.  It’s the solution we need to be reminiscing upon.

Truly, there is no perfect time frame in our history.  Fragmentation is ever present.  But I’ve heard the stories.  People communing for long hours of card playing, Sunday gatherings after church, neighbors helping neighbors through crop season and working together to replace a roof, no non-profit organization or church needed to set the task in motion.  I’ve seen the front porches that were actually in use rather than being solely staged like a perfect Norman Rockwell scene.  There was a time that we needed each other and that acknowledgment humbled us enough to watch our words and our judgment.  We were never perfect.  I’m not claiming that to be the case.  But, I would argue the more we pursued money, the more we staked our claim of independence.  We have fought to stand on our own two feet, and to prove that we can do all things ourselves.  This fight sets the foundation for competition as to who is better than who, rather than cooperation which is the birthing grounds to strong friendships.  Suddenly asking for help becomes a sign of weakness and defeat.  Whispers of judgment, once considered a burning bridge to the resources needed in others, is now a powerful tool to further the gap between you and everyone else.  Point out all their mistakes and recognize who is farther up the food chain to provide your heart with a feeling of fulfillment.  But is that true?  Are we finding the fulfillment?

Of course the answer is no or we wouldn’t have the rate of anti-depressant use, or obesity in my opinion.  Even as a newcomer to a new town, I have found it ever frustrating to create new friendships.  I have met a lot of amazingly wonderful people in two years time, but to really exchange deep friendship has yet to happen.  I am rarely invited out to anyone’s home or to meet up.  Maybe it’s my fault.  I am no queen of “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, that’s for sure!  Ha!  But, I can’t help but wonder if it could all be easier.  I can’t help but wonder if we have created our own prisons of fear that prevent us from reaching out to the unknown abyss of people.  The chance that judgment lingers or a fear of being taken advantage.  Has the barrier of protection for our humanity been lifted with the loss of humble behavior needed to respect one another, knowing that community was essential to survive?  Is our loneliness a sad result of our pursuit to all things shiny in order to claim an isolated spot at the top?  When are we going to understand that we will all traverse murky waters and we need each other to rise above stronger than ever before?

The signs that I am on the right track are innumerable.  Now it’s time to open the discussion to all.  We all need to step up and admit that perhaps this economy of capitalism we’ve fought so hard to prove superior to all others has a tipping point.  Admitting wrong.  Who’s going to go first?  Who’s going to risk judgment?  Maybe it doesn’t have to be such a big to-do!  Rome wasn’t built in a day.  It started with the laying of one stone.  Be the first stone!  Pave the way!  Actually use that front porch furniture!  Invite your neighbors!  Find the new kid on the block at Sunday service!  Open your homes and your hearts!  Discover the true joys of life in one another.

And for goodness sakes, slow down!  Say what?  Yes, slow down!  Come off the ladder to nowhere.  For real.  That ladder to the top never actually ends.  We keep striving to get somewhere but then when we do, there is yet another rung to be climbed.  It’s a dizzying cycle of exhaustion.  Step away from the ladder and toward your community.  We don’t actually need the latest and greatest car, an even bigger home, or yet another pair of jeans hanging in the closet.  Simplify your life and your expenses.  Less stress and more time.  Imagine the possibilities!

Cheers to the Good Life!

Tonya Stuart

Delete, Delete, Delete!

I heard a sermon this week that made me reflect on my first few years as a child post divorce.  “Garbage in, garbage out.”, the pastor said, as he spoke of the consequences of an uncontrolled mind.  So true.  Garbage was about all my mind was fed for the remainder of my childhood.  It sounds pathetic, but it proved to be the starting point of who I am today.  Imagine that?  It had purpose!

Mrs. Radar’s 5th and 6th grade class was only the beginning of the in-school bullying.  It was ramped up in middle school, as it is for all children.  I don’t always remember much, but I swear I can retrace every fine line on the face of Ms. Patty, the girl occupying the seat next to me every day in art class.  Her and two twin boys taunted me endlessly.  It cemented immense internal shame and certainty that I was the ugliest, least talented, most ignorant person ever born.  And, it always involved how poor I was, which dictated much of my later behavior.  A misfit is what I told myself.  By ninth grade I locked arms with another girl and planned my suicide.  It was treacherous.  The depths of unnecessary sorrow forged by floating words of which we have no means of defense at such a young age.  It’s unfortunate.  Obviously, the consideration for suicide was abandoned.

It took me a long time to understand that I could control the intake of garbage, and the effect of that garbage on my brain, and thus my soul.  In fact, I am in my mid-40’s just first realizing how literal the bible is when it states that death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits, Proverbs 18:21.  Now a parent of teen boys, I wonder why we are not teaching this truth more explicitly.  If the outcome of our life can be determined by our words and thoughts, unquestionably, then why do we spend so little time teaching our children to mind their words and thoughts?  There is plenty of science to back this up and likely many books documenting this truth, such as Switch on your Brain, by Dr. Caroline Leaf.  It’s one of my favorites since she bounces between scripture and science to show the overlay of information.  Scripture and science parallel each other in their conclusions of how our brains work.  The fact is, what we expose our brains to manifests in our life.  Allow yourself to listen to someone defining you as a stupid person results in you thinking you are a stupid person and either making stupid decisions or no decision at all out of fear that it will be evidence of this truth.  How you talk to yourself and the words you speak are no different.

Think about the power behind this reality.  It’s insane really.  We focus so much of our time on doing, but the reality is our life is manifested in our thinking and speaking.  Take a moment to consider the words, and even images that conjure up words, poured into our minds daily from TV, radio, videos, gaming systems, advertising, conversations filled with gossip or shame, and reading material.  Everything feeds your brain which manifests into life.  Now think about what we allow our children’s brains to be exposed to daily.  Their brains are in an infancy state, even more fragile.  Yet, as a whole, we pay little attention to the power we are giving these avenues of connection for ourselves and our kids.  In fact, many are now in the habit of using these connections as a tool for keeping our children occupied.

I am no different.  Most of my life I allowed every word to seep into my mind like a serpent wrapping itself around my heart, sucking it dry of all hope and happiness.  Did you ever notice how much easier it is to hear the bad over the good too?  Well, keep in mind, as toddlers, we hear the word “no” an average of 400 times a day.  We learn what to do and not to do through negative language, teaching our brain synapse to respond far quicker to negative talk.

Today, I am an enormous advocate for undoing the damage.  I teach my children this truth about words on a daily basis through a leadership course, biblical knowledge and constant reminders if I catch them breathing death instead of life.  Why learn a trade or get a college degree if the foundation of who you believe you are is wrapped up in negative thought?  I have taught them techniques to train their brain.

  1. Speak or process negative thoughts and catch yourself doing it?  Stop!  Repeat delete, delete, delete and now tell yourself the opposite.  I am so stupid becomes, delete, delete, delete, I am super smart and can do all things through God who strengthens me.  Boom!  It’s amazing the difference.
  2. Start each day in a state of gratefulness for three minutes followed by prayer.  Meditate with your hand over your heart while visualizing something that brings joy to your life.  Now transfer that feeling to a current situation that you wish to find joy or abundance and stay focused on this for a few minutes each day.
  3. Breathe in for five seconds and then release for five seconds, while imagining that you are exhaling negative and stressful thoughts.

These are all techniques I teach my children to provide them with a line of defense to the all too easy path of negative thinking and the negative world around us.

I desire a life made easy for my kids.  Who doesn’t?  But, I have come to realize that starts with the power of their tongue, their thoughts and to whom and what they expose their brains.  If only I had understood this when I was sitting in a cesspool of negativity.  Delete would have been my mantra, and I would have empowered myself to rise above, eliminating years of pain.

Such a simple tool, perhaps it’s why so few make it a priority.  Life is hard.  Talking to myself can truly bring about all my dreams?  Is that really possible?  Try it.  More importantly, let your kids give it a shot, and watch the amazing transformation that occurs!

God Bless!

Tonya Stuart