It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Valentine’s Day is here!!! I have felt all the love this weekend and so much more. I’ve been asked several times why I love Valentine’s Day and the simple answer is, I love love. I always have, I always will. My mom would give my sister and I Valentine’s Day gifts and decorate the house. Even after we went to college, she would send us goodies. It was never just February 14 in my family. My parents never did a whole lot to celebrate the day but it was always acknowledged. It’s something special to me about taking a moment, a whole day, to bask in love. I know some people say it’s a commercialized day and blah blah, but to be wrapped up in something as powerful as love is a feeling I can’t describe. To be able to send gifts and cards to others, to see smiles on my goddaughter’s and her sisters’ faces, to gaze into the eyes of the one I love…. ::deep sigh:: It just fills me with so much joy. Valentine’s Day is a reminder of God’s love and how capable I am of giving and receiving that love. So if no one else has told you today, let me be the one to say HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!!
1 John 4:8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
Over a week ago, rioters (posing as protesters) stormed the Capitol building in Washington D.C. As I watched the events unfold, I was speechless. A day I would have celebrated Georgia helping Congress turn blue, I spent glued to my TV screen trying to convince myself I wasn’t watching a movie. The more I watched, the more enraged I became. There was no revolution, just an ugly truth being televised.
My friends will tell you, I hardly ever keep up with politics. What little I do know, comes from them and the minimal research I make myself do. These politics influence the decisions that are made which impact my daily life and my future, and although important, I’ve never found them interesting. There are certain political figures I’ve taken a liken to based on speeches I’ve heard them give or learning about how they’ve helped their constituents or honestly, because they’ve looked like me and represented what was possible in America. Unfortunately, January 6, 2021 was a reminder of what was also possible in America. People drunk with lies and false narratives, weaponized their privilege and showed who they were and have always been. It was never about all lives or blue lives, just not black lives. It was never about making America great again, but simply wanting to make America theirs, and only theirs.
This upcoming Wednesday, God willing, a new dawn and a new day will descend upon us. My faith has never been in this government but in the One whose shoulders it rests on. If nothing else, I’ll remain hopeful because it’s really all I have left. God bless America.
Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
When asked to tell my favorite story, I imagine I’ll always tell this one.
Chai Latte A South-Asian flavored tea beverage made by brewing black tea with a mixture of aromatic Indian spices and herbs. We steam our Chai with local milk creating a wonderful sweet and slightly spicy comfort drink.
This was the description I read online as I prepared for my date. We were meeting at a coffee shop and although I don’t like coffee, I love coffee shops. He didn’t know this about me yet, but the coffee shop was his idea and I was thrilled. Aside from my love of coffee shops, if the date wasn’t going well, I could leave after I finished my drink. The pressure to sit through a dinner or a two-hour movie, did not exist. I could do thirty minutes of terrible and be on my way. I just had to figure out what I would order. Usually I get hot chocolate when I go to these places, but I told myself I needed to get a grown-up drink and then I stumbled upon the chai latte. Bingo!
I pulled up to the coffee shop, upset I forgot to put on my eyeliner and mascara, but thankful I remembered to put on my favorite perfume. I must admit, I was terrified. The week before I had gone on a not so good date (read here), and as much as I tried not to get my hopes up for this date, I was really interested to learn more about this guy. This interest didn’t supersede my nervousness though. So, while sitting in my car, I called my friends, Kristal and Ray, for a pep talk. Up until that point, they had been leading and guiding me through this dating process and per usual, they told me to relax and just enjoy the experience. I took a deep breath and went with God.
As I entered the coffee shop, I could feel my heart beating in my stomach. I told myself to put one foot in front of the other and try to smile like a normal person. He was seated at a table quite a distance from the door and I was grateful because it was cold outside, and I wanted to be far away from that. I breathed a sigh of relief when he looked up and his face matched his pictures. He was taller than I imagined and had such sincere eyes. We had just met, but I could feel myself getting lost in those eyes. He greeted me with a hug and guided me to the counter so we could place our orders.
“I’ll have the chai latte,” I said. (I noticed he smiled after I said this)
“I’ll have the chai latte as well,” he said. (That’s why he was smiling)
I believe God gives us signs but at the same time, I don’t think everything is a sign. Looking back though, this was definitely a sign. We had quite a few things in common, but there was something special about both of us ordering chai lattes. Maybe it was the fact that neither one of us like coffee or the fact that I strongly considered ordering a hot chocolate instead. Either way, it was a sign that we were off to a great start.
Over the next two hours, the time flew by. From music to college to living in Atlanta to family to expectations to careers, we talked about it. I felt like I was meeting up with a handsome friend I hadn’t seen in a while, and I was grateful he was still single. We probably could have sat in that coffee shop and spent the day trading stories and sharing dreams until they closed, but this was a good start; a promising start. We got up to leave and he said he was going to use the bathroom before he headed out, so he gave me a hug and sent me on my way. No numbers were exchanged. No second date was planned. I was slightly devastated.
As soon as I got in the car, I called my father figure, Raynard, and told him how amazing of a date it was but was disappointed that I could have been the only one who may have felt that way. Maybe the chai lattes weren’t a sign. Maybe the conversation wasn’t as effortless as I thought it was. Maybe he had better options awaiting him. Of course, Raynard tried to talk me off of this ledge but being true to myself, once I make up a story in my head, it’s the reality I live in. After fifteen or so minutes of me discussing the many highs and one low, something happened. Through the app he messaged me and told me he enjoyed talking to me and sent me his number!!! I’m pretty sure I screamed. The wave of relief that washed over me is an unexplainable feeling. I hadn’t misinterpreted things! The conversation was as good as I thought it was! The chai lattes were a sign!
Neither of us could have known the love story that was being birthed in that coffee shop as we sipped chai lattes and discussed life. We were hopeful, but not quite sold. We were inspired by the idea of what could be, but not sure it would be reality. In 2019, I wrote about extraordinary love. I said I wanted it, but I wasn’t truly convinced that I could get it. Now that I have it… ain’t no turning back! The bar has been set and if it isn’t this, I’m never going to want it. This love is transformative, propelling me to be the best version of myself. It is a reminder of everything good in this world. It is not afraid of my dark. It is exposing the not so pretty parts of me and choosing to stay. It is healing. It is spilling over in every area of my life. If I hadn’t believed in God, this love would make me a believer. Only the God of the universe could have orchestrated such a love.
That day in the coffee shop feels like yesterday and forever ago, but I’m grateful that as time has passed, this story is still being written. And every day, I’m reminded why it’s still my favorite.
1 Corinthians 13:13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. (NLT)
If you’re reading this, you lived to see Christmas 2020 and that in itself, is a blessing! Maybe you were happy, maybe you grieved your way through it, maybe you were surrounded by family, maybe you celebrated alone; whatever your situation was, God saw fit for you to be here. Even with a heart full of gratitude, it’s been a rough week for me.
This was the first time in some years that I wasn’t dreading the coming of Christmas. I didn’t spend the weeks leading up to it, wondering how I would feel when the day arrived. I didn’t walk around in a daze. I didn’t cry. But as soon as I walked in the home I spent my whole childhood in, a depression set in that I couldn’t get rid of.
Being home for the holidays has been difficult since my dad died but I think this year was the worst it’s ever been. I was only there for a week but each night I was excited I was one day closer to getting on a plane and getting out of there; I was literally counting the days. I felt like a stranger in a place I should have been familiar with which was a new feeling for me. I’m used to feeling sad or not wanting to get out much, but this was different. Everywhere and everything reminded me that my dad was missing from my life. Home didn’t feel like home. Streets I traveled countless times made me feel like I was in a distant land. I could not identify with these places and spaces without my father. It took all the energy I could muster up to interact with people outside of my mom and younger sister. And the anxiety of this pandemic added fuel to a blazing fire.
It took a while to recognize my emotional state. I knew something was off but I don’t think I wanted to admit it. Even though I know grief is a process (in a lot of ways, a cycle), I definitely thought I had gotten over this part. Clearly, I had not. My sister said she noticed at Christmas dinner I was present, but checking in and checking out. She was right. I thought about the tips I gave for dealing with grief last week (click here) and had to put them to use.
With all that was going on inside of me, I still managed to laugh from the depths of my soul, thank God for my family, dream about the one I love, celebrate friends, and be hopeful. This year I have learned the art of two things being true. I have learned to live with “both/and.” I can be sad and hopeful. I can be both drained and inspired. I can feel lost and know I’ll be found. One feeling does not negate the other, and there is enough room for both. Hopefully, your Christmas was a lot merrier than mine but even if it wasn’t, let this be a reminder that you’re not alone and we’re all doing the best we can do, you included.
Psalms 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Here are 4 tips to get you through Christmas as you grieve.
Something so simple can have a major impact. We can spend so much time trying not to cry, trying to smile, trying not to feel, we forget to simply breathe. When you find yourself almost consumed by the sadness, take a deep breath. Then, take another. (You can find more about breathing, here)
For some, this may seem counterproductive (it certainly did to me) but bottled up tears don’t just disappear. Give yourself space to cry. Whether you do it when you first wake up and that aching hits you in the chest or after you make it through the day as you realize time didn’t stop because your loved one passed. You may have to go in the bathroom in the middle of the festivities and that’s okay. If you feel like crying, cry.
3. Fake It
This may sound contradictory to the above but stay with me. Maybe you have kids and a family depending on you to prepare Christmas dinner or maybe you’re in charge of organizing the annual family talent show. Maybe you have to go to work and literally can’t afford to stay in bed like you want to. Your responsibilities don’t care about your grief. Fake your way through it. If you have to put a timer on your phone to go to the bathroom every hour and give yourself a five minute check-in, do that. If you have to spend your lunch break crying in your car, do that. And the rest of the time, smile even though it hurts. Try to muster up the strength to find a joke to tell. You may look back and realize this wasn’t a very happy Christmas, but you did what you had to in order to get through the day.
Grief can feel like our dirty little secret. We don’t want anyone to know we’re struggling. We are held captive by our own emotions. It doesn’t have to be that way. Find someone who you know will be supportive and tell them how you’re feeling. Tell them your mad or you’re sad or you don’t feel anything. Tell them you can’t wait for the day to be over. Tell them you tried to fake happy and just couldn’t. And after you’ve done that, talk to God. Even if you’re mad at Him, even if you don’t think He can hear you, do it anyway.
Psalms 34:18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. (NLT)
My dad dying was like God taking my favorite vase and dropping it on purpose and the shock of it all left me speechless. But I let my silence speak volumes, because I had nothing to say to God. As far as I was concerned, He’d made a mess and left me with the broken pieces. I know the Bible says all things work together for the good of them that love the Lord but maybe I didn’t love the Lord because surely no good could come from this.
Those were (sometimes still are) dark days. I’m grateful I’ve grown to a place where those days are few and far between, but when those bad days come, sometimes it’s really bad, making the good seem nonexistent. And it’s a pity, because there’s so much good. So much, that even if I tried to hide from it, the good would find a way to me. And maybe this seems impossible to believe right now. Maybe you don’t have dark days, but you have dark weeks and it’s been months since you said the word good and meant it. Misery may love company, but you’re doing just fine all by yourself. I know that feeling.
Grief is difficult. It just is. There are no shortcuts. You are where you are. Other people may not understand it and they don’t have to. You don’t have to see it right now, you don’t have to feel it, and I’m somewhat tempted to say you don’t even have to believe it (although, it helps if you do), but know that one day you will be able to genuinely smile again. You won’t measure time by loss. God will be friend to you instead of betrayer. He won’t just be seen as taker, but giver. One day, your bad days will be few and far between because good is coming to find you.
Romans 8:28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
I started this month off talking about celebrating my friends and the importance of acknowledging their wins (click here). However, this past Thanksgiving, my sisters brought to my attention that I struggle to give them compliments. I literally laughed out loud because they were right. Out of the three of us, I come in last when it comes to passing out compliments. If I have on a nice outfit, my younger sister will say, “Ok, I see you!” If my older sister enjoys a post, she’ll text me and say, “You did that!” If I enjoy a meal they prepare, my response? “It was alright.”
They slightly overexaggerated because every once in a while, I will acknowledge something they did well. And to tell you the truth, they were complaining but I think they enjoy my usual reaction. I say it was alright, they call me a hater, I say whatever, they say I never have anything nice to say, I agree with them. It’s a whole thing we do. I’m good at celebrating their big wins, but the daily, mundane things, I would rather be a jerk about. Is it right? Eh, I guess not. Is it something I want to change? Not really. Is it something I should change? Maybe.
I know all siblings have unique relationships and this is the relationship I have with my sisters. If I’m being honest with myself, this is the relationship I’ve had with most people in my life until recently. My younger sister has told me for years that my expectation of people is so high and I can be hyper critical if things are not my idea of perfect. So, I have tried to be more intentional about pointing out the little things that I do like when I’m among friends and not just waiting for the “big” stuff, but this has not quite transferred over to my sisterships. Although I like the pattern I’ve settled into with my sisters, I do plan on adding a few more compliments throughout the year (not too many though; have to stay true to who I am lol).
Maybe you always give compliments. Maybe you’re like me, and when you give a compliment your friends and family think something is wrong. Whichever category you fall into, this week, take the time to compliment someone you don’t normally compliment. Or give someone a compliment about something you often overlook. Tina your hair looked nice last weekend. Lethee, I liked your maroon swimsuit. Savor these until March or so because until then, everything will be “it was alright” 😊
Proverbs 15:4 Gentle words are a tree of life; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. (NLT)
I was walking behind a little girl and her mother the other day. The little girl was holding a cup in one hand and her wallet in the other, and as she glided along this breezeway, she hummed along with the song that was playing overhead. When we got to a set of stairs, her humming stopped. Her glide became careful steps, one foot placed delicately in front of the other as she balanced her cup and wallet. Eventually, she called out to her mom to wait for her. Her mom seeing her struggle, grabbed the cup and held on to the little girl’s hand and off they went. The apprehension the little girl appeared to be holding on to was replaced by her mother’s hand. Walking down the stairs became as easy as walking down the breezeway.
Sometimes we’re juggling a million and one things and we’re juggling them well. We’re handling all our work responsibilities, our church commitments, our family obligations, all of it. But then we find ourselves faced with a staircase we must walk down. The very things we were able to do with ease, now appear to be a challenge. The ideas aren’t flowing like they once were, events are starting to overlap, sticking to the routine feels impossible. You’re still putting one foot in front of the other, but you’re scared you’re going to fall. I encourage you to let someone hold your cup for you; let them grab you by the hand and help lead you down the stairs.
We don’t have to do it all, all of the time, all by ourselves. God has someone there who is more than willing to help you.
Isaiah 41:10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
I started not to say anything because all of this still feels surreal. My vice president is a Black woman. Reading those words makes me feel like I’m reading the beginning of a good story my best friend started writing. She’s full of ideas usually rooted in fiction, but this is no fairytale. My vice president is really a Black woman.
I know the correct term is “vice president-elect,” but I don’t care. Since I’ve started teaching, it’s been difficult to find a bright spot when referring to our government, especially on a national level. But I’m so excited to tell all the brown girls in my class that their soon to be vice president is a Black woman. I can’t wait to have endless conversations with my goddaughter and her sisters about the limitless possibilities that await them and be able to use this moment as an example. God willing, I’ll tell my future daughters what it was like to witness history being made. This feels so good!
My friends will tell you, I don’t keep up with politics as much as I probably should (most of my knowledge comes from them), but this goes far beyond politics. In a country where Black people were considered three fifths of a person, in a country where Black people literally lost their lives in order to vote, in a country where people have to be told that Black lives matter, we voted for a Black man to be president and eight years later, we voted for a man who chose a Black woman as our vice president. It’s said that Black women are often overlooked and underappreciated. But today, Madam Vice President Kamala Harris, you are seen and you are adored. Thank you!
1 Timothy 2:1-2 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
Romans 12:15 says “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” Lately I’ve found myself doing a lot of the former. A while ago, I wrote about standing with your friends while they’re in the fire, but I’m learning how important it is to stand with them when the sun is shining on them and the breeze is blowing just right. With life still being what it is, it makes me feel good to know people are still out here accomplishing goals and just being happy.
Whether it’s a new job or a new relationship or a new apartment or a new move or new book or a new LLC, it doesn’t matter, rejoice with your friends! Send a congratulations text, take them out to dinner, send them Uber Eats, be one of their first customers, give them a book to put on their coffee table, share their post, celebrate your friend. I don’t consider myself to be very celebratory but I’m trying to be more intentional about acknowledging other people’s wins. Sometimes we have no idea how impactful a few words or a small gift can be, but it truly is the thought that counts. It’s also important to note, that it doesn’t have to be limited to close friends. Maybe you all only know each other through social media or maybe you went to high school together and haven’t said much to each other since then, but you can still reach out to them and let them know they’re seen and celebrated. A “like” or “love” reaction, a comment under their post, a picture with their product, it doesn’t have to be anything extravagant.
I’m grateful I’ve had people who were with me at my lowest of lows, who showed up for me when I was a complete mess. I’m also grateful I don’t have to enjoy my highest of highs by myself. It makes those special moments even more special when I am able to share them with others. So that is my goal with the people in my life: make the special moments more special by celebrating them.