Who's Keeping Watch Over Your Soul?

Recently, a friend of mine had a family member pass away suddenly.   Planning funerals are almost always arduous experiences.  Not many are readily prepared with complete logistics in order at the time of death of a loved one, but unfortunately often, a common difficulty is determining where the service of a loved one should be held.  That was one issue that caused a bit of strain on my friend’s family as they prepared to lay her uncle to rest, as he was not a member of local church.

 

Now some may read that and say, “So what?”  But there’s a lot that goes along with that disconnection to the church.  As mentioned, it was hard finding a church to hold the services, being that her uncle was not really connected to any.  My friend’s family had to rely on their own associations to churches to find pastors and facilities that would be available.  Again, maybe another “So what?” moment, but not for me. The idea of having someone stand over me and present my eulogy, without knowing me personally, or even a little bit, is a disconcerting feeling.  What would they say? How could they speak to the life I lived? Did they know any of my aspirations? My joys and sorrows?

 

These are thoughts that I myself, having grown up in church, didn’t even think about until the combination of this recent passing, and the growing relationship with my current pastor here in DC.  Just a couple weeks before the death in my friend’s family, I’d emailed and asked if I could meet with my pastor to talk through a few recent changes in life and upcoming big decisions. This was a request that even a year ago, would’ve been weird to  think about asking, but attending a church under the leadership of a shepherd that deeply and clearly cares for the well-being of his flock, has made a world of difference.  My pastor quickly responded, agreeing to the request, and a few days later I was at his home, sharing tea (the actual beverage) and cares with him and his lovely wife, soaking up guidance and encouragement from them both.

A couple weeks later, I was back home in Memphis visiting, and went to my old church.  I walked by my former pastor, and he didn’t know who I was. (Still thinking "So what", huh?)   I’d gone to that church for about two years, had a face to face membership interview with him, and even served in the media ministry, but I was a total stranger to him.  This is no shade to him as a person, as he is a phenomenal teacher, organizer and leader, but the difference was glaring. If he didn’t know who I was, he likely didn’t know I’d been gone for for two years, and likely hadn’t been praying for me.  Again, this wouldn’t have mattered much to me before experiencing the level of intentional church community I now enjoy.

Actual footage of me running into the pastor at my old church: 

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I don’t write this to evoke shame in any way, but the contrast here was significant to me.  From experience, I can attest, that once you encounter real, church community, you absolutely feel it when you don’t.   

 

The relationship between a church goer, and a pastor is an important one.  Hebrews 13:17 tells us to “Obey your spiritual leaders...for they are keeping watch over your souls and continually guarding your spiritual welfare as those who will give an account of their stewardship of you…”

 

What a grand responsibility as a pastor!  To lovingly keep up with me and to be accountable to God for it.  The pastor of your church is tasked with literally watching over your soul!  The imagery in my mind after reading that verse was, if I have a major spiritual setback, God’s  gonna look at my Pastor like “daaaang, bro, what happened?” Idk about you, but that alone makes me want to always be connected to a church, especially with a pastor who understands this great accountability.  

 

The weight that a pastoral relationship carries is unfortunately seen when they aren’t holding this authority responsibly also.  I know of one too many people who have turned away from faith altogether, due to hurt they’ve experienced directly from their pastors.  My heart aches for anyone reading this that can identify with that. I pray that you can heal from whatever pain still lingers, and not let it continue to keep you away from such a beautiful faith, misrepresented by a flawed person.  

 

Now, if you go to a really large church where an intimate relationship with the leader may be difficult, or if you’re “in between churches” (lol), and still looking for a home, I’d recommend seeking out people to disciple you in your journey as well- a spiritual mentor, if you will.  There’s an older woman at my church who came to me and asked if she could disciple me. She asked if we could dedicate time regularly, to meeting to talk, read, write, catch up, and whatever else. “I want to be involved in your life,” she said.

My first thought was...

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 I was very hesitant to oblige, but I'm glad I did.  Often times in our chats, she’s just asking what’s up with me. “How can I pray for you this week?” or “Are you struggling with anything?” (When I saw Killmonger in Black Panther, the answer to that was a resounding yes). I’m out here, in this new-ish city, away from family, and here someone is, just wanting to love and encourage me. I’m clear that she too, is voluntarily keeping watch over my soul. It’s kinda lit, and makes me teary eyed at this display of God’s love for me through people.  Whew.

 

Although she asked me this time, I know that I’ll never again go without this kind of relationship, and will actively seek a similar or additional one, should I one day relocate from DC.  And I believe this is important at any age. One reason I trust the woman who’s discipling me, is because I know she has someone discipling her, and that’s exactly how it should be. That also tells me that you never outgrow the need for this relationship model.  I’m also learning how important this type of counsel is in dating or general relationship building. You can learn a lot about someone by learning who pours into them. 

 

Fellowship with other believers is worked into God’s design for the local church.  “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25.   It’s part of His plan for us to be all up in through each other’s lives.  Keeping up with one another. Bearing each other’s burdens. I’m learning more and more, that being a part of a church is an important part of this.

 

Anyway, I encourage anyone that has stopped on this page to ask yourself the question of who’s keeping watch over your soul?  Do you have anyone checking on your spiritual state? Helping you to sin a little less (lol), gently pushing you closer to God?  If the answer is no, thank God there’s still time to change that.



 

 



 

It's Okay to Be Single

A friend of mine recently sent an article with the title “What People Don’t Tell You About Freezing Your Eggs.”  After 3 long blinks and mentally slamming my head into my keyboard at work, I asked myself,  “Should I be thinking about this?”

The thoughts and emotions that flooded in all before I even clicked open the link, reminded me that there are millions of anxious women having feelings just like this. Feeling as though the dream of a loving marriage and family could end up being just...a dream.  This fear of never finding true love, or having the kids they’ve always wanted is very real for many women.  As I thought more intently about this fear that I didn’t necessarily share, I recognized that it isn’t purely natural, but there are outside influences that make singleness, for women in particular, dreadful.  

American society plays a major role in how us gals view our unwedded lives.  There are thousands of movies on love and romance, finding that special someone, or being “lucky” enough for them to find you. The strong emphasis on being “chosen” makes it oddly taboo to discuss being single, as a woman, especially to do so fondly.  It’s a topic that isn’t as welcomed in girl chats as it is in guy groups, and because this status isn’t affirmed as much in women, ladies everywhere are urged to feel the way popular culture tells us to feel about it: miserable.  It is often this urge that causes women to remain in relationships much longer than they should, or to rush from relationship to relationship without much or any time for reflection and healing in between.

Then there are those that are actually in relationships, married or with child.  Perhaps without even trying, many of them use language that elevates those titles over others.  How many captions have you read from a new wife or mom that go something like “I’m finally complete” or “Now I know what true love is” or ‘Motherhood gave me purpose”? And it’s not just women who do this.  I’ve seen some damaging statements from men also, that are along the lines of  “You become a man when you become a father.”  How might that man or woman with reproductive issues feel when reading these?  If he’s never been able to help produce a child, or if she’s just had her 9th miscarriage, is he or she any less of a man or woman?  Of course not. 

There’s also this stigma that if you’re of a certain age and single, that something must be wrong with you. I’ve heard so many conversations over the years where a woman who seemingly has a lot to offer is picked apart once it’s known that she’s single.  Comments like, “She must be crazy,” or “I wonder what she does to run men off” are prevalent in these discussions.  What a flawed, but common way of thinking.  In case anyone reading this doesn’t know, there are women out here that are literally choosing.  Women who could jump the broom at the snap of their fingers but would rather wait until she finds the one her very soul adores, or focus on her own wholeness, instead of rushing to keep up with the world’s timeline.  Go figure.

I have a somewhat unique perspective, having been on both sides of this pendulum.  I’ve been engaged before, and have experienced “wedding culture” with nearly everyone around me treating this experience like it’s the best one that will ever happen to me, when in actuality, ending that particular engagement was!  Since being on the other side, I’ve found and am still finding, such freedom and joy in truly discovering me, my interests, my goals, my heart’s deepest desires, without the influence of another person. It saddens me to hear women discuss their singleness like it’s a curse or a punishment - it is neither.  If treated well, it is an incredible time of self-discovery and refinement.  

I asked my mother a couple years ago, what was the hardest part of marriage to her, and her response has stuck with me ever since.  “I didn’t realize how much ‘me-time’ I’d have to give up,” she said. “Once I got married, all the time outside of work was shared with your father in some way.  Even if I did things by myself, like going to the grocery store, it’d still have something to do with him because now I have to think about what he wants in there.  Then the kids came, and I completely forgot what ‘me-time’ was.”  Now, my parents have been happily married for 38 years (TODAY actually), so it’s safe to say my mom wasn’t lamenting, but just highlighting a very real point.  In case I wasn’t catching on, she ended with “Enjoy this time alone, ‘cause once it’s gone, it’s truly gone.”  That advice didn’t make me shun marriage, but it did give me a new appreciation for my singleness, knowing that this incredible time to be selfish is precious too.      

I wish I could change the narrative of what singleness for women in particular should look and feel like.  It shouldn’t be a sad, dreaded experience, but an invigorating and empowering one.  It should be a time of growing and learning from the inside out.  And it doesn’t have to be riddled with any of the various “phases” that people suggest women should experience in their singleness. Along with wholeness, you can be completely liberated without the intimate company of another person.   

It’s a fairly common misconception that romantic relationships are the only ones that grow you.  I’m thankful for the friends around me, male and female, who push me and make me a better human.  Don’t take those opportunities to be sharpened by platonic relationships for granted.  You can learn compromise, patience, forgiveness, faithfulness, TRUE LOVE, and much more from ya own homies, and I’m learning more everyday.  And if you plan to be in a relationship or married someday, it’s a good idea to work on these qualities with your friends, your family, your coworkers etc., because they won’t magically appear when you’re boo’d up.  

Society encourages women in particular, to justify our significance based on marriage and children.  We’ve been influenced to feel that singleness is a lesser position, and our greatest hope should be that we’re one day chosen by someone else. Call me a rebel, but I just can’t surrender to that way of thinking about such a sweet time in life!  We don’t have to play by those rules. Romantic love is one of the MANY things, to be enjoyed in this life, and so is singleness.  Singleness should be treasured and spent well.  (See my blog on Alone Time.  Introverts love my writings lol).

I hesitated to post this blog because I didn’t want it to be perceived wrongly or for my intentions to be misread.  I LOVE love, and I deeply value marriage and family.  But I desperately want women [people] to know they can and should be whole without either.  Romantic love is a desire of my heart, but an even greater desire of mine is to have a life where if it never happens for me again, if I never birth children of my own, or any other of my many hopes, that I am happy, whole and complete; trusting the God who knew my end from the beginning.  I strive for the apostle Paul’s level of fulfillment in being content (satisfied) in whatever state I’m in (Phil.4:11), and I hope the same for you.  And if we are not first whole ourselves, we’ll never be the wives or mothers we were (possibly) meant to be anyway. 

 

So,

To the woman who’s single and hating it…

To the woman who was engaged, but her relationship ended in heartbreak...

To the woman who’s been married before, and afraid to try again...

To the woman who’s never even had a boyfriend…

To the woman who feels she’ll never love again like she did before...

To the woman who’s holding out hope that her twin flame still exists…

To the woman who’s patiently waiting on that man to decide he’s ready...

To the woman who’s not so patiently waiting for him to decide...

To the woman who believes she’s aged out of the window of possibility...

To the woman who’s letting God write her love story...

To the woman who feels her past makes her unworthy of love...

To the woman who secretly loathes holidays, because she’s tired of answering why she’s not married yet

To the woman who wants love, but not bad enough to settle for just anybody

To all of us, and every scenario in between, live your best single life!

Lessons From the Leap: 5 Tips for Relocating

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What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?  For me, the answer undoubtedly is moving to a new city, 14 hours away from home one year ago today.  I never really thought I’d do something like this, as I’m the youngest child, the only girl, and I’ve never lived more than a quick drive from the parentals.  Beyond that, I absolutely LOVED the city I was in (Memphis, TN).  I’d developed a strong network, gotten involved with the community and it’s needs, secured my favorite restaurants.  I was comfortable there, but that was the problem.  I was a bit too comfortable.  I was drifting from job to job and while I enjoyed them, I was without any pressure to align my passion with my profession. I realized my twenties were more than halfway over and I needed a jolt.  I needed a breath of fresh air and a change of scenery for a while.   

People relocate for tons of reasons.  Sometimes, something really good happens like a job opportunity you can’t refuse, and sometimes bad things happen like losing loved ones, that catapult you to a new space and make you answer the questions, ‘Now what do I want,?Where do I want to be?’   Sometimes it’s neither of those things and you just want to see a new part of this world we’re occupying.  Whatever the reason behind your possible move, I want to share a few tips that helped me in this journey that will hopefully be helpful to you too. 

1)  Research- My first and biggest piece of advice is to find out everything you can about your potential new life in the new city.  It sounds like a no-brainer, but it's easy to underestimate how drastically different one city is from the next.  I recommend starting with the cost of living.  You need to know what it will take to survive there.  The cost of living difference from Memphis to DC was night and day.  I started saving for the average apartment rental, and slowly factored in my new travel expenses for trains(Metro)/buses that would now be part of my daily commute, and paying for more Ubers and garages.  Every single thing you can think of is more expensive here, from food to dry cleaning, and I needed to first wrap my mind around that.  In addition to the cost, it’ll help to learn the living culture there prior to moving also.  For instance, I don’t know many people that live alone here due to the scarcity of affordable single-space apartments, unlike Memphis, where it was much more common.  It’s not unusual for the average resident to have one to FIVE roommates!  (You read that right).  Utilize Facebook for info on your prospective city.  I found a FB group specifically for DC housing and got a first look at available places.  Research job markets.  Find out if that particular city is a wise career move.  Professionally, will you want to be here in a year…five years…ten?  Among others, understand those dynamics before moving. 

2) Ask for help. Tell people you’re interested in moving.  You never know who’s connected to who and to where.  You might be surprised at the ties you have to various places via your current network.  Work those six degrees of separation! Several people connected me to their people in DC and many of the connections were totally unexpected.  Most likely, someone you know has a cousin, sister-in-law, old classmate, etc. in whatever area you’re thinking of, and you’ll never know if you don’t ask around.  I had so many phone conversations with strangers that lived here and each one helped me get here in their own way, whether it was helping paint the picture of DC, or giving tips on what to prepare for.  This is a great precursor to my next tip…

3) Network- One of the hardest decisions in me leaving Memphis was leaving the social and professional network I’d built while there.  I had a fair share of anxiety about the idea of starting over in that regard, but I knew that if I’d done it there, I can do it again somewhere else.  If you’re moving to a place where you know no one, you’ll need to get out and meet people.  Go to stuff!  Attend events.  Find out what’s happening in that city.  Eventbrite.com is a pretty solid tool in finding events in your particular area.  Additionally, there are lots of local organizations to join that’ll help you connect to the new city, like the Urban League of Young Professionals.  There’s usually a chapter in every major city, though the names may differ slightly, and they are a great way to get out and connect with the people and the community.   There are also tons of GroupMe groups in many major cities that are constantly updated with things to do around town.  I joined TheWave DC and now I alllllways know of cool festivals and events to attend.  Now none of these things may sound fun to introverts, but enjoying a new city is always made easier with the help of new people, so get out and interact.

4)  Explore- When moving to a new space, it likely will not be the city you grew up in, and have vivid memories of field-trips to different parts of town.  It will be generally unfamiliar, so it’s up to you to learn it.  Get lost.  Go out without your GPS and see what you discover.  Start with the typical touristy stuff then find the hidden gems or vice versa!  Just don’t be afraid to [safely] wander.  Pinterest is a surprisingly helpful tool if you’re totally clueless about what your city has to offer.  Search the site for lists of top things to do in your new area and then eventually, create your own!

 I have to say that exploring the new area can be the best part.  You can either spend your time thinking of how much you miss your old favorites, or you can channel that energy into discovering new ones.  Once I shifted my perspective from missing to exploring, this entire experience became more fun.  I missed my old church and my favorite Memphis restaurants, but I found a great deal of enjoyment in finding new ones. 

5) Be an “-ian”- This is my tongue-and-cheek way of saying immerse yourself in the new city and really be a part of it.  The transition from Memphian to Washingtonian was and still is at times, a bit challenging.  It took me a little while to stop checking my daily Memphis news outlets so much and start being more aware of DC news.  I downloaded all the local news apps and even went to a community meeting to become more abreast of my current surroundings.  Even though DC is a temporary home for me, it is indeed home for now, and I should govern myself accordingly.  I’d hate to leave here one day, having not given my current home the time and attention it deserved.  For as long as I’m planted here, whether it’s 6 more months, or 16 more years, I want to bloom!

 

I cannot end this blog without allocating a portion to the many people that have helped me along this journey.  I first have to thank my cousin for not ignoring my “Do you want a roommate?” text in late 2015.  She and I can count on ONE hand how many times we’ve laid eyes on each other in real life, but she didn’t hesitate to take me in for several months in DC while I figured out housing.  I’ll forever be indebted to her for opening her home to me and I’ll forgive her for charging her sweet little cousin rent later in life, I’m sure, ha!

I have to also recognize my professional and personal network of Memphians who sat down with me, helped me strategize back when this was just a crazy thought, and mostly notably, connected me to their DC friends and family to help make my transition smooth.  I’ll omit names to avoid missing anyone, but I can’t thank you all enough for your sound advice and making your friends my friends early on in this process.  The questions you couldn’t answer about the city, you made sure your DC peers could, and I'm so grateful for your help.

Lastly, but certainly not least, my Memphis to DC family!  I was blessed to transition to a city with so many Memphis transplants, who have been ultra hospitable and welcoming.  I don’t think I paid for anything my first month or so here!  (SN: can we go back to those days ya'll?!  Renew our relationship??)  Some I knew before, some I connected with here, but all are my good friends now and this experience wouldn’t be the same without each of you.  To Tristan, Darrah, Kenny, Whitley, Tammi, Jasmine, Preston…thanks for being my home away from home!

Whether you’re just starting to think about moving, or you’ve recently relocated, pat yourself on the back for taking the leap.  It’s a bold move to pack up and move away from everything familiar.  It takes some courage to really go for it, whether it’s clearly calculated or every step is as ambiguous as the last. Don’t be consumed with sinking or swimming. If it’s in your heart, do it, and allow yourself space to change the course if or when you need to.  When you’re in new territory, even your failures or misses are incredible instruments for development and sharpening, so don't be afraid to bump your head a bit.  I’ve had plenty of days where DC won, and I lost, but even those days strengthened my character and without question, I know that I’ll look back on this move and be so glad I made it.  Most likely, you won’t regret the experience even if it isn't entirely pleasant, so go for it.  Take the leap!

 

Fight For Your Happiness

Do you ever get that “blah” feeling? You know that place we as normal humans tend to drift to where we’re just moody, tired, mentally/emotionally drained?  You know, those times when the beat of our own drum is off a little?  Some may experience this more than others, but it’s those hopefully fleeting moments when nothing seems just right in our worlds that we need to draw particular attention to.  It’s important to notice when these feelings arise, or the first signs of our spirits weakening, because if these “small foxes” go unnoticed or untreated, they can easily grow into full on depression.  And ain’t nobody got time. 

I believe that if we pay enough attention to ourselves, we can notice when our moods are shifting, and catch them before they drift too far into the abyss of long-lasting melancholy.  Granted, there are times when our mental and emotional states are simply out of our hands and we need some outside help, but I also think we can attempt to stop that train before it gets there and I want to share one of the things I’ve learned to do that helps. 

As I strive to be more intentional about my happiness,  I’ve recently started making my very own “happy chart.”  Life can get so busy that sometimes doing the things we need to do, keeps us from doing stuff we just like to do.   I created an actual chart/spreadsheet with a list of things that I know makes me happy or simply adds to my wellbeing.  In this chart, there’s a column for the activity, the date of the last time I engaged in it, and when I’d like to engage again.  The items on my list range from coffee shop time- what I consider to be one of my happy places, to gym time (exercise literally releases happy chemicals called endorphins to the brain and knowing that you’re getting finer should make you happy anyway). 

Also on my list is meditation time which I try now to do daily.  For me this process is faith centered (no pun) and I use this time to not only quiet my mind of all the racing and sometimes not-so-pleasant thoughts, but to refill it with the thoughts I actually want in there- reminding myself who I am and who I want to be.  I also have time with friends on the list as I’ve come to realize how much I need it.  One of my best girlfriends came to visit for the weekend and I know that I am healthier mentally and emotionally due to her visit!  Family time is definitely on my list, as every now and then, that blah feeling is just me getting a little homesick.  Sometimes you just need a hug from your mama- straight up.  Not ashamed to say that lol.  Items on my list also vary dramatically in ‘size’.  A trip to my favorite DC donut shop and a trip overseas are on the same list and no one’s gonna check me 'cuz it’s MY happy chart *smiles*

One thing I've noticed in doing this is that in keeping an eye on this chart, I'm able to schedule things around items I know I need to do for my wellbeing.  I'm much less likely to over-schedule myself with all the must-dos when I'm actively incorporating my wanna-dos as well.  This chart helps me balance all of that.  Make sense?  Anyway, those were just a few of the things on my list and I add to it as I identify new things that do my heart, mind, or body well.  I recommend creating your own list, if not to check it everyday, to simply keep a mental note of things that keep your heart pumping. 

A bonus tactic I use is simply tweaking what I absorb.  I understand that everything I take in during this blah period is crucial and could impact how long I remain in that state.  If I'm feeling blah at all, one of the first things I do is turn on my personal playlist of music that I know boosts my spirit!  Listening to music that speaks to how I want to feel, and doesn't allow me to wallow in how I might currently feel, helps out a lot.  So keep a nice lineup of songs that help get you outta your funk!  

As important as it is to know what lifts your spirit, it’s equally important to understand what/who drains it.  Part of exercising that happy muscle is simply abstaining from stuff that makes us unhappy.  This may sound easy but it isn’t always, especially when we’ve developed an affinity for the very thing that attributes to our despondency.  It’s very possible and even common to like/love things and people that aren’t good for us.  For example, I enjoy social media but I’ve come to recognize when I need breaks from it. Similarly, I’ve had to cut ties with people that chipped away at my peace, whether they intended to or not. 

The point of this post is to hopefully convey that we don’t have to let our emotions control us.  Just like you can often sense when you’re ‘coming down with a cold’ before it actually hits you, I think we can stop our lethargy in its tracks by giving ourselves a boost of stuff that makes us feel good.  But we have to be intentional about it because these things won’t always come on their own or fit into our busy schedules.  In as much as you can, take hold of your mental/emotional state.  Know that there are things you can do be and stay relatively happy.  Protect your peace, yall.  Fight for your happiness.

Christianity Is Not A Political Party

I moved to D.C. a few months ago and it didn’t take long to notice that I was out of the traditional south.  I moved to a place where driving is optional, diversity is welcomed and everyone, literally everyone, gets CNN app notifications. 

Among all the changes, perhaps the most eye-opening for me was the realization that I was smooth out of the Bible belt.  Growing up in TN, I’d never really been around mostly unbelievers- people that were so (vocally) detached from spirituality and religion.   Even people that I didn’t consider friends shared some sense of connection to faith.  Many, if not most, of my peers at least had an early start in some form of church, even if they’ve strayed away as adults.  I have to admit that it was new to me to be in a place where it was rare to hear people mentioning the Christian church (especially in a positive way,) let alone attending.   But a policy-centered area like D.C. is different, and there’s at least one particular reason why.     

Christianity is negatively synonymous with “Republican”

One thing I love about Washington is that it’s such a democratic city.  People are here from literally all over the world working, fighting and advocating for their cities and states back home.  As much as I’m invigorated by the spirit of democracy alive in nearly everyone I meet here, I’m saddened to know that for many people, the only glimpse of “Christianity” they see is from political rhetoric spewed from people that are often more concerned with winning votes than souls.   My sadness isn’t from a disdain for right-wingers, but from knowing that the GOP has hidden many oppressive, exclusive ways behind falsely labeled “Christian” values. These ‘alternative facts’ are pushing people further and further away from God.  From the rights women have to their own bodies, to the decision of who we let over our borders, this notion of the Christian way as we’ve seen it lately, couldn’t be further from what God envisioned for His people. 

While I do believe many vote according to their honest, moral convictions, it’s important to note that Christianity was used as kind of a political pawn in the 80's by Republicans who felt the nation was losing its morality.  The party positioned itself as protectors of America’s moral fabric in efforts to solidify the Evangelical vote.  Evangelicals (not to be confused with Evangelists) generally maintain the value of tradition, and tend to push back on or oppose policies that threaten it.  The problem is that for some of them, tradition-keeping often supersedes basic humanity, and that’s just not cool.  

I’m reminded of the Pharisees who were fabulous rule keepers, but terrible people-people.  Jesus and his crew were out and about one Sabbath day and his disciples had gotten hungry.  They began to pick spikes of grain to eat (you know, so they wouldn’t DIE) and the Pharisees tried to stop them.  They were like “whooooaaa it’s the Sabbath, yall can’t do that.”  After Jesus read them, He basically was like, ya’ll don’t even see that grace is more important than sacrifice [holding tight to these restrictive rules].  I believe His message in Matthew is still His stance today.  We can’t be so caught up in what we’ve decided are rights and wrongs that we overlook the main thing we’re  called to do on this earth: love God, and love people.  Das it.  Literally what Jesus said are the most important things we are to do here.  (Matt. 22:36-40).

While the bible doesn’t explicitly use many of today’s buzz words like abortion and immigration, we can glean a lot from the known characteristics of God and Jesus to get an idea of how they feel about all of this.   God told Moses in Leviticus to treat any foreigner like he belongs, and love them. Straight up was like, ‘don’t forget you were a stranger in Egypt at one point, yourself.’  I really believe that’s what He’s looking down saying to America now “Ya’ll DO know ya’ll weren’t here first, right?”  But that’s another story. 

We also know that God was no respecter of persons, (Acts 10:34).  The bible speaks a lot on how impartial God is to people.  I truly believe God sees equal value in every being, and that walking, talking, breathing humans currently suffering today matter just as much to Him as the not yet born fetus.  It’s so strange to hear someone condemn the killing of an unborn baby, but can justify murders of unarmed citizens.  If Jesus still walked among us and we asked if abortion was wrong, I believe He’d simply ask us what we’re doing to help existing lives.  And then drop the proverbial mic.

This post isn’t doubling for a Democratic party sign-up sheet and I’m not Republican-shaming. There are extremely great and extremely imperfect people making up all the parties (yep, there are more than two) and Christianity doesn’t belong to any of them.  My intent is to implore those who have been rubbed the wrong way by Christians for reasons other than their profession of faith, to not let a few bad apples across party lines spoil the whole bunch. My hope is that you all not stereotype an entire faith with oppression, hatred and hypocrisy for those that choose to carry on that way.  Regardless of the images of “Christianity” you may get from any of us flawed, dirty, struggling-to-get-right Christians, the fact remains that this faith is rooted in love, and any policy that promotes the opposite isn’t a true Christian value.  It’s also my hope that those of us that claim this faith, work to better show its true essence in our actions, our words, and our policies. 

Just know that there are men and women after God’s own heart on the front lines of every fight we’re fighting now.  You may not always see us, but we’re at the protests, gripping the hands of the atheists, not to preach to you, but to actually live out our sermons.  To show that if nothing else, we can agree on love and the fact that everyone deserves it. 

GOoD Friends

 

So I wrote about the importance of alone time in an earlier post, but now I'd like to bring light to the importance of good friends, and of real relationship with others.    

After church one Sunday, I went to Starbucks for some much needed “me time” and I found a little table in the corner that I made my own.  While there, in my zone, with India Arie Pandora as the soundtrack, two guys came up to my table.  They weren’t there to greet me, my table just happened to be where the two familiar friends bumped into each other and decided to stay and chat.  I thought their stay would be much shorter, but they actually had a lengthy conversation, at my personal space’s expense.  In all honesty, I was kind of annoyed at first, that they were so close to me (one of the guys was resting on the chair that my wide open bag was in), having such a long conversation, without even the slightest “excuse me”, or "Are we bothering you?”  I quickly got over it though because I’ve been working on my peace and whatnot.  They really weren’t bothering me, so I eventually felt silly for taking issue with it. 

 

Since I have a minor in Ear Hustling, it didn’t take long to get all-up-in-through their convo, (their closeness made it all too easy).  (Sounds like I’m still salty about how close they were lol!)

 

They spent about a minute getting up to speed on each other’s wives and kids, then the conversation moved organically to spirituality.  One of the men, seemingly stronger in his faith than the other, started talking about an issue that God was seeing his family through.  He made it clear that this was a trial that God had his hands on and that he and his wife were trusting Him through it.  The other friend, inspired by the faith of his old pal, started talking about a situation in his life and how he hasn’t been to church in months.  He said that the friend reminded him that he needs to get back connected and how trusting God had gotten hard to do. The faith and witness of the one friend, influenced the other and it was beautiful to see.  That’s exactly what Godly friendships and connections are designed to do. Both friends were dealing with a trial, but only one had a sense of strength, power and boldness in that moment and he used all of it to encourage the other.   It was such inspiration for me to hear that conversation.  I was driven to strengthen my current and cultivate new friendships in Christ to serve as encouragement for my own dark times, and hopefully help lighten the loads of others as well.

  

My mentor asked me once if I had anyone I could 'exhale' with. I was happy that I could respond honestly, "yes.”  It gave me a happy chill that I could easily recall my very own Savannah, Bernadine, Robin and Gloria; that I had my own set of gal pals that I could call to vent with at any time. (SN: If you’re reading this, thinking I just listed the names of my personal friends, then I kinda don’t trust you). 

 

I can’t help but think of Job's friends that wept with him when I think of friendship. Job was down bad, man.  He had everything and lost it all.  Bruh had seven whole sons and three daughters, 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 oxen, 500 donkeys, and a huge house (Job 1:2-3 <- because God ain’t bout to get me for plagiarism).   The bible says that when his friends heard that he'd lost everything, they all went over there just to sit and cry with him (Job 2:11-13). That was so powerful to me. They were so moved by his sorrow that it made them sorrowful as well. For as long as I live, I'll never forget the fallen tears of my friends for and with me in one of my lowest times. To know that at that moment, they'd take the pain away from me if they could…to really feel that from another person is unexplainably moving. That's for real ninjas only lol. Only people that truly love you are sad when you're sad and genuinely happy when things are looking up for you. 

 

I want to point out that so many people are silent sufferers. Sometimes you think you know everything about a loved one, but could be totally missing signs of sadness, loneliness and depression. Ask your people how they're doing. Then ask them again and put “for real doe” at the end. 

 

I can't stress enough how important it is to have real people in your circle. I have more than one close friend that isn't afraid to tell me "Naw girl, you wrong" after a venting session. People that love me enough to show me the error in my ways. Listeeeeeeen...like seriously put your ear to the screen right now and hear me when I say, WE NEED PEOPLE LIKE THAT!! There are too many people lying to us in the name of maintaining relationship.  This is a cold world. If you can't get the pure, honest truth from your circle, you need to print out some fresh copies of Cynthia Bailey's friendship contract. (Hey RHOA fans lol).

And with that, know the difference between a friend that comforts you in misery, and one that simply bonds with u because of it. If you’re a cutter, and you link up with another cutter, chances are….y’all just bout to cut together and that’s not really what friendship is about.  But if you’re a cutter, find someone that can sympathize and even better, empathize with you, but can help get you out of that place. That’s friendship.

 

Don't close yourself off, man.  We need people. We need relationship. Allow yourself room to establish real friendships with people.   Society encourages extreme solitude, cutting people off.  Don't get tricked into thinking you don't need anyone, because you do, and if you don't at this second, you will. As much as I love my 'me' time, this world, this life, is bigger than me and I can't survive it alone.  We were never really meant to. 

 

-

 

Sow Good Seeds

 

So, this  “youth” thing is pretty fun, right?  I mean, we’re all getting a little older, but us millennials are a long way away from being considered ‘old’ and that alone is pretty comforting to most of us.  However, more often than not, we tend to exploit youthfulness and take too much advantage of being young.  We don’t always realize the importance of sowing good seeds that will benefit us in our future, nor that we can sow bad ones that will do the opposite.   Yes, we can sow bad seeds, but take it from the great scholar Young Tiller, and…"Don’t". 

 

The time is now, right in the prime of our youth, to start thinking about the persons we want to be, truly be, and sowing seeds accordingly.  But what does it really mean to sow seeds for our future?  It's actually really simple: do good stuff, and try, actively work against, doing bad stuff.  And this, of course, isn't a new phenomenon.  This idea is as old as time, and while I'm calling it sowing seeds for the sake of this blog post, its really just the law of reciprocity.  Do good, good will come back to you.  Do bad stuff...eventually the same.  The good or the bad that comes back around may not always be of the same magnitude that it was planted, but its a fact, that what you sow, you'll reap.  Now is the perfect time to start taking responsibility for our actions and really understanding the effects of them.   After your teens, being ‘young and dumb’ is less and less excusable.  There's a terrible misconception that recklessness in speech and behavior is somehow reserved for our earlier years but that's just not the case.  Our youth is an incredible time for development and shouldn't be wasted.  

As I grow now, I find myself thinking more about the total 'self'.  For example, I care now more than ever about integrity.  I genuinely want to be a good person, just as much as anything I'm aiming for professionally.  I’m learning to live more intentionally. I’m trying to think a little more before I speak, trying to present myself in the way I want to be perceived because I'm not a kid anymore.  Seriously, I blinked and I was 26.  Not that that’s ‘old’, but I’m well into adulthood, the age that I always deemed "really grown" when I was a child, and I care more about the actual woman I’m becoming and putting time into the woman I want her to really be, as well as the kind of life I want her to enjoy.  That consciousness requires some honesty about myself that’s not always easy.    It requires some adjustment.  It calls me to understand that everything I do or say is a seed that will become a harvest.   

I jotted down a few key seeds that I'm developing and sowing for a harvest that my future self will thank me for and I want to share a couple of 'em with you all.  

 

Verbal Seeds

Words are seeds.  I try now, not to say anything bad about myself...(and others, but I'm still working on that part lol).   Many of us say things in jest about ourselves, but even things said jokingly are seeds.  I used to say stuff like “Ugh, I’m such a mess” or "Man I just can't get right," but now I realize the subconscious seed that’s planted each time I do.   Just as harmful words are seeds, so are good ones.  I’m incorporating more daily affirmations into my routine and I definitely see the effects.  So gone' and "You is kiiiiiind..." yourself a little bit each day.  It helps! 

I'm also learning that u can sow verbal seeds in others that help them also.  I started telling someone that annoys me (I feel like I reference someone annoying in most posts lol) all the good things I appreciate about them, and after a while, they started acting more in the way that I affirmed, and less in the ways that secretly make me want to stab them.  I sowed positivity and got it back.  And it benefited more than just me!   Eeeeveryone needs a little ego boost from time to time, so don't be afraid to give it.    

 

Behavioral Seeds

Our behaviors are DEFINITELY seeds.  Our action or inaction in this time of life is everything.  We're too old to think that we don't need to put necessary wheels in motion for our lives.  You want a better job?  One that you actually can enjoy and grow in?  Then what seeds are you planting in your current one?  Are you so mentally checked out that you barely give 50% and never go the extra mile?  That’s a seed.  Want to be in a happy committed relationship some day?  Then you probably shouldn’t be that girl or guy that’s cool with 'dealing' with people that are already in relationships.  The whole health thing, falls nicely in this category also.  So many of us younger folks eat terribly and never counteract that behavior with healthy choices or physical activity, all in the spirit of being young and having plenty of time in the future to live right.   You’re sowing a seed, and being young isn’t a justification. We're shaping our personalities, our character, our bodies, our minds etc., right...now, whether we realize it or not.  And the behaviors we're developing now, in our young adulthood, will likely still be around in our older adulthood, so act wisely!  

 

Financial Seeds

Everybody I know is thinking of a master plan to someday be rich, but most of us are totally missing the boat on the seeds we can be planting right now to yield a more comfortable life in the future.  I’m no financial planner, but simply not spending every single dollar I earn, but saving a bit as I go is a good seed.   And one seed, that many young people think is reserved for much older adulthood, is GIVING.  Philanthropy is a huuuuuuuuuuge seed and I didn’t really consider it much until recently.  If you like the work of a certain organization or situation in the city or elsewhere, take out your checkbook (yes I still use those lol) and sow a seed!  That return may or may not come back in the same amount or even type that you sowed, but you WILL get a return.  

I keep up with a certain tv ministry and each time I watch, I’m greatly impacted by the message and it sticks with me a long time afterwards.  At the end of each program, they do a subtle ‘ask’ for donations of any kind, and it wasn’t until probably a couple months of watching that I realized, hey, I really like this ministry and I’d be kinda sad if it was no more, so I’m gonna send them some money with hopes that it helps them continue.  Honestly, it felt weird at first lol. I was like dang, I don't get no t-shirt or nun?? lol   But it felt good also and it made me want to do the same for local entities in my community.   You don’t have to be balling to give.  Your $5 donation is huge.  Just ask any nonprofit org.  Giving is a key element in having good finances. I’m a firm believer that if you don’t have enough money to lend or donate if need be, then you’re not managing your money right.  If you spend every penny you get, you won’t have enough to lend a friend or stranger that may reeeeeally, really need it.  I’m pretty sure that’s where the term “it ain’t trickin if ya got it” stems from.  Maybe not.  But I think about that often. 

Investing is another financial seed.  Consult an informed financial advisor on ways to invest your money so that you have a little more of it in the future.  Oh and...now's a beautiful time to get a financial advisor.  

 

Social Seeds

We’re also not too young to sow seeds in other people!   Millennials are generally self-centered, but its really not all about us.  I know many of us may not feel like we’ve yet “arrived” professionally, mentally, spiritually or otherwise, but we all have experiences, thus wisdom, that we can lend to someone coming up behind us.  Even if it’s a lesson in what NOT to do.  So don’t be afraid to sow the seed of mentorship.  With that, don't underestimate the power of 'one'.  Don't feel pressed to find the perfect mentorship program, or the need to lead 513 young boys into black manhood.  It could be that one kid that u see often in your neighborhood, or your little cousin that you may not spend enough time with (<---me).  My current mentor has shaped my life in so many amazing ways, simply because she saw something in me and wanted to offer her .02 along my path.  I desperately want to impact someone else's life the way that she has mine, and I will, even if it's only one.  And it's never too early to start.  

 

Again, the time is now to start thinking about who we really want to be, in addition to what we want to be.   A big part of this process is realizing that we have a LOT to do with that outcome, that end result.  Spend some of your youth working [sowing seeds] on that being. Let's make some sounder choices.   Don't make folks have to lie at your funeral lol.  Decide to be the best you, today.  :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alone Time

How much time do you spend alone?  Absolutely by yourself.  No friends, no baes.  Just you.  If I had been asked this question a couple years ago, I’d have to admit that not much time is spent alone.  I’d proudly state that I’m an extrovert so I’m supposed to be around people all the time.  Even after a clearer, more informed definition of intro/extravert-ism, I’d still probably say that I get energized from being around others, so I’m definitely an extrovert.  But I realize now that that isn’t the case.  I realized that isn’t a truth for me only after I started spending my alone time better.  

 

Before, I’d think of alone time as just being at home, watching tv or something alone.  And that idea of aloneness didn’t seem attractive to me.  Why watch this movie alone when I can watch it with a boo or a friend?  

 

But since then, I’ve come to really appreciate alone time because the definition of it has changed.  I now see alone time as time to build, well, ME!  I haven’t always realized the importance of working on me, all by myself, but now I look forward to and make time especially for alone time.  While alone time can happen anytime, my designated alone time is on Sunday afternoon/evenings.  The workweek is always pretty busy and time after work is usually spent winding down/relaxing if not at an event.  Saturday seems to be the day to just get things done, running errands I may not get to in the week.  So, Sundays are just the right days to focus on Joya.  The older I get, the more focused I am on changing the things about me that I’m not satisfied with, and enhancing the things I am.  I actively seek out books that speak to my shortcomings, and any time I read them in my alone time, I feel like its alone time well spent because I’m a better person after it.  Even if only by a little bit.  I’ve come to learn that THAT is what truly energizes me.  

 

I started writing this post a couple months ago and the concept of “alone” has developed in many ways since then.  

 

I realize that many are not alone by choice.  There’s a significant number of people who suffer from pains of losing loved ones, difficult breakups etc.  Its important, however, that even forced time alone be spent wisely.  Circumstances happen for reasons often beyond our control and understanding, but if we have lived through them, there’s still time to work on, develop, build, enhance…us!  And that time is precious.  

 

When the time comes that we realize what the tough, forced alone time was all for (if we ever get that understanding) we should want to be wiser, stronger, better in as many ways possible when we greet that next chapter, and that betterment often comes by way of quality alone time.  I want to have read what I needed to, tasted what I was supposed to, experienced what I was meant to when that time comes.  

 

Even Christ himself understood the beauty in alone.  When His disciples ‘nem got back from city-hopping, telling folks about about God, Jesus was like ‘cool, now let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest a while.’  (Mark 6:31)  Bible says they did that because so many people were coming and going that they didn’t even have time to eat!  If JESUS thinks its important to just chill and regroup sometimes, then I think there’s something to it.  

 

In the sea of annoying insta-quotes and memes, I recently saw one that I really liked.  “I’ll only have you if you’re sweeter than my solitude.”  That phrase can only be true if you actually enjoy or appreciate your alone time.  How many meaningless relationships could be avoided if we all really took time to know and love ourselves?  When you truly love, value, honor, respect YOURSELF, it's really hard to let people half love or disrespect you.  I think it’s healthy for us all to learn to be alone and to like it.  No this is not a call for all to be loners, (I don’t consider myself one at all), but the older I get the more I see the importance of time alone.  

 

So whether its getting up a half hour earlier in the morning or carving out a Sunday afternoon, find some time to enjoy, build, develop you.   Write down some thoughts, read a book, go eat or see a movie alone.  Do something with just you from time to time and see how much more you like yourself.  :)  

Lessons From My Water Bottles

I'd like to think of myself as more of a health aficionado than a guru.  I don’t know everything there is to know about health, but I know that one founding principle is that drinking water, and lots of it, is good for you.   

With this thought ever at the forefront of my mind, I’ve gone through tons of water bottles over the years.  I’ve searched relentlessly for the right water bottle to fit my weirdly specific needs.  Said needs over time have consisted of being aesthetically pleasing, easily cleanable, BPA free, large capacity, straw included, anti-straw, with handles, durable, etc.  Of all the random and rapidly changing preferences I’ve had for my water bottles, one desire remained top priority: NO LEAKING!!  

Leaks from bottles in the past have had the ability to ruin my entire day.  The way water, even the smallest amount, creeps out and ruins an important document, or spills onto my shirt when I’m walking into a meeting while carrying it…no matter how big or small the offense, leaks were NEVER welcomed here.  

So I’ve always searched for bottles that had the superpower of leak prevention.  After about 10 bottle purchases over the last 3 years or so, I recently bought a water bottle that I thought would end my search for good.  It was the first time I had purchased a bottle with a schedule printed on it to ensure I was drinking my desired amount in a day.  It wasn’t as fancy as bottles I had purchased before.  It didn’t have any modern mouth pieces or built-in straws.  In fact, outside of the handy reminder schedule, it was actually one of the most unassuming, plain bottles I had ever purchased.  It had a simple, twist cap that sealed the bottle, it was clear, with black lettering for the schedule and that’s about as sexy as it got.  No bells or whistles with this bottle, but one thing was different.  After about a week or two of carrying it daily, I noticed that I hadn’t experienced a single leak!  No ruined papers, no wet spots reminiscent of sweat stains, just a fully functioning, leak-free bottle from what I had gathered.  

I had made up in my mind that this bottle was perfect; the best bottle I ever had.  I would fearlessly whip my bottle around, tossing into work bags, happily pulling it out without care.  Then one day, the water bottle that I had previously praised for its seeming perfection, brought my leakless reign to a screeching halt.  There it was, in plain sight…a leak.  I felt used.  Hoodwinked.  Bamboozled. Run amok! (Sorry, Netflix and chill has been Spike Lee themed as of late).  The point is, this bottle, like all the ones before it, had let me down.  Something different occurred however this time around.  As quickly as I realized that this bottle was no different, I also had a somewhat life altering epiphany from that realization and its this epiphany that I’d like to share with you.  

Lessons

 

  1. Like, people, no water bottle is perfect.  Some are cuter, smarter than others, some have greater capabilities, but no bottle has it all.  Understanding that will make shopping easier.  
  2. Misunderstanding the purpose of the bottle, invites dissatisfaction. Somehow over the years, I lost sight of the ultimate goal of the water bottle: to supply me some freakin' water when I wanted it.  When I went back to that initial goal, I realized how much money I wasted on bottles, because they all were fulfilling their purpose…what they were advertised to be. 
  3. Sometimes, what we deem as imperfections or faults in others, are reactions to us and our actions.  I learned with this last bottle that sometimes, bottles leaked because the tops just aren’t screwed on tightly enough, and each time, that was fault of my own.  Not the bottle’s.  I have a friend that used to annoy me.  You know the ones you love to death but still drive u up the wall?  Well that friend rarely bothers me now, because I realized that sometimes its the things I say first, that yield the comments from her that used to make me crazy.  Now this isn’t to say that everyone’s imperfections are the direct result of yours.  But i do think its healthy to evaluate our own roles in conversation, in thought and in energy.  

So next time, I’ll allow the small leak to lead to a smile and even reflection, because I know that there’s still water in that bottle and it’s still doing its job.  Cheers to all those poppin [water] bottles all over the world.  Hopefully this post will inspire you to be a little sweeter to them, cuz they're likely doing the best they can.  :)