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Sunday Special: Just For You, Too

Happy Sunday, Sweethearts!

Today is Father’s Day in America and since I had already written an homage to my late father and to my friends who are fathers, I decided to post a special message to men everywhere.

Men: Generally speaking, you get a bad rap when it comes to the family circuit. You thrive in the business and economics (hence the glass ceilings that still exist), but when it comes to matters of the heart, you don’t receive your spotlight when you do well. If you have received shade all day, all month, all year — let me be the first to tell you, thank you.

A deeper look: You may be discouraged to extend your love for fear of being rejected or emasculated. Perhaps you were dismissed when you tried to hug your parents as a child or attempted to kiss your significant other. When affection is rejected, it can cause men to shut down and not feel emotionally safe. The result can be an adult male who does not know how to adequately express his feelings. This can manifest itself in destructive or distant behaviors and your family suffers the most from those inaudible blows. Furthermore, you may have a positive father reference to model, let alone a positive friendship with other men to keep you lifted. I encourage you to not to shrink into the shadows. No matter what you think, it won’t make things better.

person on a bridge near a lake
Photo by Simon Migaj on Pexels.com

From a daughter who experienced an estranged father and later an involved one, please consider the following for your future:

  1. Never underestimate the power of your presence. Whether your reputation is tarnished or squeaky clean, your love will shine through anything when you decide to show it. Let them say no, but don’t let them say that you didn’t try. I believe my biological father did the best he could within his capacity. The father who raised me simply had a deeper well from which to draw.

  2. You’re the blueprint. I’m a firm believer that a man’s interaction with his child(ren) can create a customized definition of provision and protection. Sons and daughters tend to use their fatherly relationships as reference points for platonic and romantic relationships. You’re more than a sperm donor. Your fingerprint is part of their growth. You’re a life-giver and women grow what you plant. We nurture what you give, so remember that as you interact with your family.

  3. You need a team. In the name of sports, be humble enough to be a team player. If you have friends who are also fathers or men that you will take you seriously when it’s time to confide, let them know what you need in order to stay on track. Whether it is an addiction, temptation, or a knot of anger you can’t comb through, talk to your tribe. Just like on the court/field, everyone plays a role to win the game. Let your friends play their roles.
photo of men having conversation
Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

I encourage you to breathe through each attempt to be better and if you are already doing those items listed, offer to be a safe space for another man as he grows into a better version of himself. Mentor a neighborhood child who could use a father figure. Offer to make amends with a family member. Just don’t stop trying. Let them say no. You can live with the peace of knowing that you extended the opportunity for them to meet the new you.

I love you all. Keep standing strong. I see you.

Peace & Thanks for listening! Happy Father’s Day!

Wednesday Wind Down: Visibility

Hello, Sweetheart.

Show Jesus everywhere.

That’s what I heard for you this week. It is such a loaded and misunderstood directive.

Showing Jesus means toting my bible everywhere, quoting scriptures when someone says “Good Morning,” and barely be tolerable at social functions because of all the judgment seething through my pores, right? Quite the contrary.

Jesus has many faces (just look at all of the colorful faces in the world) and there are opportunities to show these faces in various situations. One of them could appear as a person in need of assistance while walking across the street. Another opportunity could be a co-worker in need of a kind word. We find these moments easily because the needs are relatively visible, but what happens when the need is underneath a layer of pride or anger? I agree– it’s a bit challenging to succumb to a higher level when the low blows are trying to knock you out. Truthfully speaking, this is the perfect opportunity to show His face to someone who may have never seen it or even believe it exists. You may not see the need because his/her words are too loud or they are absent from your life, but believe me, it’s there.

Here are a couple of examples of how I try to show Jesus

  • I met an atheist this week and we had an intellectual and humorous conversation (Sidebar: Christians, stop arguing with everybody).
  • Someone raised her voice at me and I did not return the behavior.
  • I pick up fallen clothing at the department store on a regular basis.
  • I’m truthful with my feelings even when I don’t want to be.
  • I smile at strangers.
  • I don’t return road rage.
  • I listen.
  • I say thank you to police and military officers.
  • I pray for people when they ask me to, sometimes at that moment.
  • I encourage as many people as I can.

Now, I am not a saint. I just try to live my faith in real life and not just at church. It’s not easy, by any means. There are plenty of times when I want to use profanity to prove that I am not a punk, but the truth of the matter is that doesn’t prove anything except a poor vocabulary to express my emotions. There are times when I want to reciprocate negative behavior so the other person can understand that I am very much capable of doing so, but that would only show me contradicting my belief system. I choose daily to show Jesus when I don’t want to do so. Sometimes, it’s a firm stance of Truth and sometimes it’s a warm hug. I make mistakes like other humans, yet I do my best to rectify it as soon as possible. That’s showing Jesus, too.

This week, I challenge you to show Jesus to the person that gets on your nerves. Notice that I didn’t say you had to agree with them or be their best friend. Just think of ways your actions can resemble His so that His Love is recognizable through you. It may seem like a small gesture or it may be a great sacrifice on your part, but at least you have made Him visible. At least you’ve provided the proof they’ve been waiting to see.

Peace & Thanks for listening. Have an awesome week!

Sunday Special: Just For You

Happy Sunday, Sweethearts!

Today is Mother’s Day in America and I decided to post a special message to my mother; my family and friends who are mothers and mother-figures; and my family and friends who no longer have their mothers here on Earth. I pray these words will reach you wherever you fit among them.

MOMMY

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Our 1st vacation together in bajillion years. Epic.

These 3 words come to mind when I think of you – courageous, relentless, sincere. I could write a million words and they would still fail to capture the power of that trifecta. I’ve watched you peel back layers of motherhood to reveal the woman within. The bravest part was allowing me to be part of that journey. In this phase of our relationship, we are discovering the latest version of ourselves. I love it. In our rawest state, we unfold unapologetically and I love that too. We aren’t afraid to grow in front of each other and I am so grateful for that gift. From wearing your natural beauty to your larger-than-life laughter to your fervent and effectual prayers, you are the epitome of a spiritual soldier and I appreciate you with every fiber of my being. Ain’t no mountain high enough.

I love you, Mommy.

MOTHERS & MOTHER-FIGURES = THE WARRIORS

red bear child childhood
Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

You are fierce. I can’t imagine what it is like to be you. Throwing on your armor every day to ensure your tribe is enveloped in love. You are nurturing, protective, and flexible. You don’t break; you shine. Through the mud that life throws on you, the unkind treatment you receive, the dirty looks from religious hypocrites… you wake up with a back full of bruises and start over. Some of you have let me into your village and it has been a hilariously beautiful experience. Your children will always be family, just as you are to me. I stand with you as you fight for them. Some of you have children who are no longer here and, my sisters, I admire your bravery and your humanity. You were entrusted with a forever gift and you will forever be a mother to me. Warriors, I see you and I salute you. Thank you for being your beautiful self.

SONS & DAUGHTERS

photo of person on brown surface
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Whether your relationship with your mother was positive or negative, I am so glad she birthed you into the world. You are part of my circle because of her and I couldn’t imagine experiencing life without you. So, while the world celebrates mothers here on Earth, I also celebrate who your mother left behind for me to cherish – you. Consider sharing one thing your mother said that positively steers your life with someone younger than you. If this isn’t applicable, choose one negative behavior from your mother that you refuse to perpetuate in your circle. Either way, I encourage you to breathe through today and every day. I love you.

Peace & Thanks for listening! Happy Mother’s Day!

Wednesday Wind Down: The Trickle-Down Effect

Hi, Sweethearts.

This post is dedicated to my aunts and uncles. How many of you can attribute something you do to a family member, better yet, a family member older than you? I can. The older I get, the more I realize how much of my behavioral traits can be directly traced to my family and I’m proud of that truth.

Aunt Janice – She’s so creative and resourceful. I have fond memories of helping her create flower arrangements and searching for just the right item to make it perfect.

Uncle Buck – Supa fly. Had style and swag like no other. Military veteran, strong confidence, and a breezy disposition. We could talk about anything.

Uncle Mack – Passionate and resilient. It is what it is. When I broke my arm as a child, he was limping but carried me down about 15 steps. When I rode in his car, we always listened to R&B classics, and I fell in love with them.

Uncle Bo – Any question you have, he has a wise answer. Practical, a well of knowledge, and can get along with just about anybody. Taught me how to change my brake pads too.

Uncle Greg – The life of the party, daring, and devout in his faith. Always smiling and laughing. When I was a kid, I remember wanting to be fearless like him.

Aunt Lisa – Full of joy, intuitive, and a garden goddess. Pure horticulture athlete. I get my playful side from her. She always looks at the bright side and helps people along the way.

Uncle Ed – The debater. The intellectual. The Bible scholar. His drawer full of cassettes compelled me to dive in and listen to everything, then try to put all of them back before he came home.

Uncle Ced – Courageous. My first superhero besides my mother. Military veteran and family man. My fondest memory was him returning from deployment and me acting like he had just come from the moon.

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My uncle’s tapes. *sigh* All the feels.

My musical love affair comes from my family. My fierce ride-and-live (I don’t say ride-or-die) loyal spirit comes from my family. My insatiable appetite for learning, desire to enjoy life and relentless drive comes from my family. My grandfather and grandmother empowered their children with life-long skills that have reached throughout generational branches. I am so blessed to be part of this family tree and I encourage you to dive into yours and explore yourself. You may be surprised by what you find. More importantly, I encourage you to pour into the fruit around you. Don’t leave a person in your home in the dark about something that you’ve learned from your elders. That water needs to be pulled through the roots in order to drip from the leaves. It’s valuable. It’s what make you rich. It’s what makes you live forever.

Peace & Thanks for listening!

Wednesday Wind Down: The Others

Hi, Sweetheart!

If your status is single, divorced, widowed, childless, or married without children, then this message is for you.

Have you ever had someone deem you unfit to babysit because you are not a parent?
What about your relationship status becoming the primary focus at the dinner table
Have you been disassociated from certain circles because you’re divorced?

I have encountered those scenarios. Being stereotyped by people I called friends was the ultimate slap in the face. For a season, I couldn’t go a week without someone asking me if I ever wanted to get married or whether I would have time to have children with my busy schedule. Ridiculous? You would be surprised how often it occurs. A discussion with friends led to the discovery that I was not alone; this contagious mindset was more prevalent than I imagined. They even mentioned moments of being denied event invitations, experiencing condemnation by a church, and receiving degrading comments regarding their marital and parental status. First, let’s be practical. You don’t know how a person arrived at that space in life, so it’s best to choose your words wisely. Let’s go deeper.

Somewhere along society’s way, the idea has developed that God “rewards” you with marriage if you play your cards right during singlehood. How absurd! Marriage is not a prize for an upper echelon of Christians. It is a beautiful gift and exceptional experience, but not the sole proprietor of your divine purpose.

When you were formed in your mother’s womb, God impressed His fingerprint upon your heart and blew His breath into your lungs. That was a singular act of love from Creator to Creation. A moment of purpose at minute-one and not a second later. So to assume that someone is of lesser value because of status is degrading to the Lord’s inscription on a life. I know… it is not good for man to be alone is often used to justify the means of someone telling me that my life is unfulfilled. It used to infuriate me, but not anymore. Perhaps it annoys you now. Let me remind you of two things – you are not a pariah and there is nothing wrong with you. There is no cookie cutter Christian life. Wherever God has you is where you need to be.

Your worth is not contingent upon whether you’re married or a parent. God cares about your soul and He is unapologetically in love with you and you alone. So, if you don’t fit the mold of someone else’s idea of awesomeness, I commission you to live out loud with your amazingly wonderful self. Don’t allow a convoluted point of view to build a pseudo-scaffold around your purpose. I, for one, am so grateful to have a pastor that understands this. For reinforcement against the closed-minded, check out his It’s Complicated series.

While you’re walking along your customized journey, Sweetheart, hold your head up high. Own it. I think you looks great on you. Oh, and if you’re thinking of saying something ignorant to a stranger or loved one about their marital or parental status… don’t.

Peace, Blessings, & Thanks for listening!

Wednesday Wind Down: Full Circle

Good Evening, Sweethearts!

So, a beautiful thing happened this month and there were 3 messages that were so clear to me. I chewed on them a bit before sharing them with you and now I’m ready. But first, the context.

On Saturday, February 16th, the Birmingham Committee for Truth and Reconciliation hosted A Conversation with Dr. Angela Davis at the historic Boutwell Auditorium in Birmingham, Alabama. I had the honor of performing Glory (from the Selma movie soundtrack) with my childhood friend G.I. Magus in front of Dr. Davis and a potpourri of historical and political pillars. I was appreciative just be a piece of the puzzle and I couldn’t have written a better chapter in my life story. Besides the obvious prestige, let me tell you why this was a jewel of a moment.

In elementary school, I saw a photo of Dr. Davis and was entranced. She was a beautiful mix of political prowess, academic excellence, and natural beauty. I loved the way she wore her freedom like a long technicolor cape. Her hair, her voice, and her facial expressions screamed confidence. It was official – she was a shero. The more I read about her, the more fire I felt and I was proud to know that she was a native daughter. I was convinced that I would have an afro just like her when I found the courage to do so. For over 10 years, I did and still do.

Seeing her this month was the culmination of multiple dots connecting to create a beautiful experience, which leads me to the first message – your past can touch your future at any moment, so spend your present well. You never know how hello’s can turn into a double helix of lifetime connections. The people I met in 7th grade, high school, and college would become creative geniuses, community organizers, academic powerhouses, and prolific speakers. Any way you slice it, the fingerprints of my past were all over my future and I was in awe of the masterpiece.

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It’s a blessing to genuinely develop relationships over time, which leads to the 2nd message I heard that week –  your character will follow you wherever you go. This past weekend was a reminder that how you treat people goes far beyond the present moment. I’m not perfect, but I am so grateful that my rapport was strong enough to last a decade or two and some awesome individuals thought positive of my footsteps. That is a gift I will never take lightly… as long as I live. I hate it when people size me up based upon what I can do for them. That’s why I love learning about the spirit behind the job title and socioeconomic status.  In the end, we all appreciate being seen as a person. We appreciate a chance to disrobe our character and let it walk freely ahead of us.

The third message was just as loud – your help is waiting on you. I couldn’t have performed with confidence without the support of my tribe. The prayers from my mother, the love from my small group, the perfect track from my friends, the training from my mentors… there were familiar faces in every facet of this opportunity, each of them believing in God’s gift in me. I am forever grateful. Forever appreciative that when I asked for help, many hands opened wide. Pride keeps a lot of people in the jail cell of their souls’ contempt. I was once a prisoner of that warden and never will be again. This experience was a reiteration that some are still held captive.

Sweethearts, you are exceptional. Stop trying to be perfect. See everyone around you as an individual, not as a marketing tool. Try to be a better version of yourself than the day before. Whether you know it or not, everything will come full circle if you let it. I am so glad I did.

Peace & Thanks for listening!

Wednesday Wind Up: Make It Stop

I knew what I was going to post tonight. I had it all planned out; then, I saw Prayers Up for Jussie Smollett in my inbox and everything about my Wednesday Wind Down changed. I simply couldn’t wait. This isn’t about creating a literary bouquet of flowery words on my blog for lament and catharsis. Despite the disgust I experienced, this post is about obedience and attention.

Before I explain, let me share my immediate reaction. My mind kept trying to compute the Essence article because I couldn’t believe what I was reading. The man who stopped to speak to me and my Sorority sister in a Michigan airport had been attacked. The same human being who was on his way to advocate for Flint’s water solution. The same spirit that smiled and said that I looked like someone who knew and wasn’t walking with an entourage. The horror and hurt grew exponentially as I saw the slurs he heard and the pain he felt. My heart cracked in a matter of seconds and I cried inside and out. The worst sting was reading the end of their rationale – “This is MAGA Country.”

I had thought of Jussie Smollett all day yesterday, and not in the way of an admiring fan. I kept being compelled to pray for him, for his heart. Now, I pray for celebrities all of the time because the weight attached to their gifts, talents, and purposes can be too much to carry, but this time was different. Throughout the day, before I knew anything about the hate crime, I prayed for his spirit… that it wouldn’t be downtrodden, that he would be well and not tarnished by evil things around him. I prayed for his peace of mind and his strength. Never once did I pray for his physical health. I wasn’t led to. It was all about the pain that couldn’t be seen and didn’t need to stick to his soul. Then, to run across that article right before I was going to bed, it was gut-wrenching and I couldn’t sleep. The last moment of serendipity was that this photo was taken on January 30, 2016, three years ago today. I was speechless, then I prayed again. Lord, just make it stop.

Screenshot_20190130-133426_Instagram.jpgJussie

Jussie, I am so sorry that happened to you. I hate that you were the subject of their spew. My heart is with you and please know that while I can’t explain where God was to prevent the experience, I can truly say that He had you in the spirit of someone miles away from that horrific moment in time. Your spirit can not be broken and what you are doing in life matters in more ways than you can possibly imagine. Apparently, you are breaking boundaries that need to be broken and making demons float to the surface. That’s the only way I can see anyone trying to hurt you in such a repulsive way. Even though you were tired, your heart was brighter than the sun that day at the airport. My Soror and I could feel it well after we left. I had to share how much I appreciate you and that you are covered. My prayers will continually be with you.Sweethearts, we have to do better at spreading Love. We teach those around us by living it out. Every day. No matter what. We have to teach our children, our co-workers, our neighbors that hate is not allowed to multiply near us. To have people physically assault one’s life is an act that should unsettle us all. Regardless of your religious or political affiliation, hate is not a validated battle cry and somehow the current temperament in America has created this warped sense of safety for ignorance to run free. The invisible seething waters of hate are tumultuous enough to reach out and grab us while we’re simply walking down the street. And don’t pretend that you don’t hear it in your cubicles, coffee shops, churches, and around your dining room tables. We do and we look away. We make excuses for it. We say it’s free speech, but is it liberating anyone? We say to just pray for them, but do we actually do it? You do realize that Jesus came so that individuals such as the ones who attacked our brother could not only receive the opportunity to turn from hate and receive Love but to also know that judgment was near, right? This MAGA mantra has nothing to do with Christian values. Stop sewing them together. Be careful to the extent to which you stretch your loyalty. Claim Christ more than your political party, more than your social justice agenda, and more than your generational ideology. We can’t stop hate forever, but we can stop it wherever we are, whenever we hear and see it.

This moment in time has rocked me to my core and taught me that absolutely nothing happens by chance, not even prayer. Be diligent and keep fighting using whatever means you were born with.

Peace & Thanks for listening. I love y’all.

#bloglikecrazy: Day 30 – Love It Up

The Good

#30 – I spent mother-daughter time at the beach!

These posts have not been published in the order of importance, but I definitely saved the best for last. It was desperately on my heart to enjoy the King & Prince Beach & Golf Resort with my mother during the Word of Faith Love Center‘s At The Table Women’s Ministry Retreat. This is not your stereotypical Christian retreat. You know the ones… you’re not super saved unless you wake up at 5:00 AM to pray with everybody, attend 5 breakout sessions with 10 different speakers, 2 prayer meetings, then snot-nose-cry on the floor well after 1 AM. Not that I have never been a broken piece of clay at a spiritual event (because I have), but if you tell me that I’m attending a retreat, that is what I expect. I shouldn’t need a vacation when I return home. That’s what I wanted for my mother. After the decade she has had, a time to refresh and replenish her spirit was not part of the calendar. So, that’s exactly what we did and it was the really Good stuff of this year.

The Lesson

Allow your love level up.

I had attended the retreat twice before, but this year was different. It seemed like everything in the world tried to prevent me from going (just like the previous years), but instead of focusing on the obstacles, I was relentless about the outcome. My mother was coming with me no matter what. And guess what? She felt the same way. We double-teamed our discomfort with faith and action. We declared and decreed that we would not only attend the retreat but that we were going to have a fabulous time together. There was a season in our relationship where that was not our warcry, so I was so full to be able to say those words.

Love overrides obstacles every time. The obstacles will be there, but they don’t have to shine. Don’t be afraid to let love surpass the pain, the frustration, the history, the cracks, and bruises. My mother is the most resilient person you will ever meet. She greets challenges with a smile and hammer ready to work. Every day. Since I’ve been born, she’s been on the grind and it healed my soul to see her singing in the ocean, trying new foods, embracing her natural hair and new makeup, and connecting with other phenomenal women – including me. I love her more now than I ever have. Because we decided to “level up” our love, I am able to witness the expansion of her courage in real time and be an active participant of her regeneration. Love breeds love, so all we have to do is let Him breathe between us.

Peace & Thanks for listening! I appreciate you hanging with me again this year during #bloglikecrazy. It’s been a blast. See you next week on our regular Wind Down Wednesday schedule. God bless you all and enjoy your weekend, Sweetheart. I love you too. *hug*

#bloglikecrazy: Day 27 – Level Up

The Good

#27 – I got to “birthday chill” with Kendra Dear!

Well, that’s not her real name, but it’s what I call her. She began to know me as her high school teacher and now she’s my performing arts troupe teammate and sister. Sounds weird? Not really once you know the backstory. I don’t make a habit of turning former students into friends, but this one? A rare occasion that was worth every step of the journey. The result was the opportunity to celebrate her birthday with food, exercise, and fun this year and I couldn’t have asked for a better time. We had excellent conversation and I was so grateful to celebrate her life.

The Lesson

Be willing to walk the journey. 

I didn’t expect to be on the same team when we met, but I truly believe that God knitted us together as family. Despite her youth, she has been as loyal and encouraging to me as one that has known me for a lifetime. What she doesn’t realize is, while I mentor her, she fortifies me every time she overcomes an obstacle… and trust me, she’s had more than her fair share. She is my mentee, but she has proven to be my friend in sensitive times. On the phone when I was studying or grading papers late at night, calling to see if I made it home from work when she knew I was sleepy, and checking to be sure I ate when she knew I didn’t want to – these are just the minor leagues in comparison to the sincerity, joy, and downright determination she gives to those around her. My life has been enriched because she’s in it and going forward, I will continue to be appreciative every step of the way.

Peace & thanks for listening, Sweethearts! “See” you tomorrow!

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