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.
So I was watching this movie called “Irreplaceable You.” If you’re looking to cry and be in your feelings, this is the movie for you. If not, just read this post and be happy. At some point in the movie, they talked about planning and being prepared for the what if’s of life. It sounds like the responsible thing to do and in a lot of ways it can be, but it can also serve as a distraction from what is.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I’ve been planning my wedding since I was a little girl. You know I can be a perfectionist (read more here). You know I have an interesting relationship with time. You know I missed out on a lot of the good after my dad died (read more here). And as carefree as I can be with my day to day plans, sometimes I struggle with letting God be God over my future (read more here). This past Summer, I talked a lot about trusting God through this pandemic. It got to the point though, that I was worrying more about the what if’s than trusting God with right now.
Of course, we have to plan for our futures and make responsible choices and prepare for the unexpected as much as we can, but we also have to live now. We can go over one thousand scenarios of how a situation may play out and still not account for some random factor that influences the outcome. All that time spent trying to predict the future, only to be met with a circumstance you never saw coming. I’ve done it too many times. Despite the many conversations I’ve had with God about giving my future to Him and allowing my desires to be His desires, and trusting His plan, I still have to tell myself, “Jocee, He’s got this. Enjoy your right now!”
What experiences and memories are you creating today that you will be able to look back fondly on? How are you spending time with the people you love today? What are you doing in terms of self-care this week? Spiritually, what can you do today to grow in the areas you need to grow in? The what-ifs of life will always be there. Because of them, we have to make certain adjustments and consider certain options but we don’t have to stop living life. So today, I’m reminding you that God’s got this and all you truly have is now.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
I have an older brother and sister, as well as a younger sister. My older siblings and I are over a decade apart, almost two (they won’t appreciate me saying that lol), while my younger sister and I are two years apart. Maybe it’s because of our closeness in age or us growing up in the same household, but it is because of my younger sister that I understand the complexities of relationships and how different they can look over time.
If you were to see my younger sister and me out together, you’d think we’ve always been two peas in a pod and in some ways that’s true. We have a similar sense of humor that often times makes sense to no one but us. We have similar taste when it comes to clothes (yesterday she showed up at my house wearing the same brand of shirt unplanned, see below; this actually happens a lot). In a lot of ways she knows me better than I know myself. Countless times, I’ve had to ask her what some of my favorite things are (music, stores, etc.) and she’s right every time and I do the same for her. We used to watch a show called Twinning, where twins were tested to see how well they knew each other and we would answer the questions as though we were on the show and got a lot of the answers correct. There are things she can tell me and if no one else understands, she knows I will, and vice versa. With all of these similarities, people still see us as night and day. She can appear a lot friendlier and more outgoing than me (keyword: appear). I’ve been described as quieter than her. Contrary to popular belief, she’s more sensitive than I am (well maybe that belief isn’t so popular). We have very different ways of handling conflict. Our idea of a good time can also look quite different. But as we’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that for years, I’ve allowed these differences to color how I’ve viewed our relationship instead of paying attention to how our shades of similarities filled in so much of my life.
When I was in high school (maybe a freshman in college), I told my younger sister that if we weren’t sister, I wouldn’t be her friend. Ouch, I know. I wasn’t angry with her. We weren’t in the middle of a heated argument; I was just making an observation. She agreed with me but it wasn’t until years later that she told me I hurt her feelings (in the middle of a heated argument). Back then, we both understood we didn’t get along. We laughed and dealt with each other but that was as far as that went, at least that’s how I saw it. Once I left for college, weeks would go by without us talking. We weren’t upset, nothing major happened, we just knew where we stood with each other.
Even through this physical and emotional distance, there was still an undeniable bond. When my parents decided to buy me a car, she was at the dealership texting me about what they were looking at. When she was having a rough time in college, I sent her a care package with some of her favorite things. I used to send her a scripture every day for years (okay, maybe it was a year), and when I would forget, she would remind me. When I didn’t believe I could accomplish certain goals, she was the one I felt most comfortable confessing those things to and she was the one encouraging me. It was so easy to forget all of these things and tell people I didn’t get along with my sister but that simply wasn’t true.
To this day, I tell people no one can get under my skin like she can. I thought it was because we were so different but I now see it’s because our bond is so tight. When she offends me, it’s not someone just hurting my feelings, it’s the person who knows me best hurting my feelings, and it’s the same for her. We tend to focus on the negative feelings when it comes to our relationships, especially those within our families but take time to look at the positive.
As the big sister, I realize I was trying to raise a mini me. I would encourage my younger sister not to talk to other people because I didn’t talk to other people. I wanted her to like the same music I liked. I didn’t give her much space to be herself and when she would attempt to create that space, I would see her as doing life wrong because she wasn’t doing it like me. I now see the flaws with that mindset and as adults our relationship has improved exponentially because we’ve both become more accepting of who we are as individuals. We still call each other out when we’re tripping, but it’s not because we don’t like each other as people but because we love each other and know we hold the power to encourage each other to be our best selves.
So I said all that to say, show grace when dealing with family, even the ones you can’t stand. Yes, they’re your family, but they’re people and a wise man once told me that people are going to people. They’re going to let you down, they’re going to upset you, they’re going make dumb decisions, just like you will. It may very well be true that if they weren’t related to you, you wouldn’t be caught in the same room as them but don’t say that out loud (learned that the hard way) and don’t be so quick to write them off. It’s easy to throw the whole relationship away, but sometimes it’s not only unnecessary, it’s detrimental. You’re right, you all may never be besties and that’s okay but you don’t have to be miserable around each other. Find ways to connect with each other, whether that’s watching a TV show together or sharing a meme. One of me and my sister’s favorite things to do is complain about our mother to each other. Whatever works for you! My life would look much different if not for my younger sister. Through the good and the bad, we’ve decided to let the good outweigh the bad. I’m glad we’re related.
Proverbs 17:17 A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.
I would describe myself as a fairly independent person. I don’t ask for help very often, not because I think it’ll make me look weak, but it just seems like more of a headache than I want to deal with. I would have to explain what I need help with and how I can best be helped. And there is always the risk of someone agreeing to help and not following through or simply not being as competent to help as you thought they were. Or sometimes you just can’t find someone willing to help. Again, a headache. If something needs to get done, I’d rather do it myself. As true as this is for me, I was having a conversation with my father figure and it really made me reflect back on various points in my life where having help made life so much easier.
More than anything else, I am likely to ask for advice. I enjoy talking through situations and weighing my options with people who know me well and have valuable input to add. Through the years I’ve had to balance this with seeking God first (where all of my help comes from), while not ignoring the wisdom of the people God has placed in my life. Whether it’s job related or romantic relationships or spiritual guidance, I’m blessed to be in a position to call on multiple people for help. I remember when I wanted to be a nurse and I talked through it with a friend and she helped me realize, I liked the idea of being a nurse more than I did the actual job of being a nurse. This forever changed the trajectory of my life because I sought out the help.
Asking for advice is one thing, but when it comes to asking people to actually do something for me… That’s another story. If I’ve asked you to do something for me, it’s usually because I’ve spent five hours trying to figure out how I could do it on my own, to no avail. One time, I walked over two miles back to my apartment in the middle of a Tallahassee summer day after dropping my car off at the car shop because I didn’t want to ask someone to give me a ride home. Keep in mind, I don’t like exercising so that definitely wasn’t the motivation and I had more than one friend I could’ve called on. When my friend eventually found out, she made me call her when I needed to pick my car up so I wouldn’t have to take that walk again. I’m still forever grateful for her. Although I never want to feel like I’m inconveniencing someone, I’m learning that when asked, a lot of times people don’t mind helping.
I do my best to help where I can and recently I’ve attempted to give others that same opportunity when it comes to how they can help me. Even though it is difficult at times, it is worth it. In a lot of ways, America is a “do it yourself” society, but God has created us to be relational beings who are to be of help to one another. So no gold star for you (or me) because you did it by yourself. Don’t just give help, but seek help.
Proverbs 11:25 The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.(NLT)
Pursue purpose. Be a goal digger. Turn your hobby into your hustle. Do the work you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.
It’s what I keep repeating to myself, but I don’t seem to be measuring up to the expectation. Starting to second guess myself, every move I make drenched in hesitation. If what’s for me is for me, why do I have to work so hard? Why am I constantly having to pick myself up off the ground and lick my own wounds? No one said it would be easy, I just didn’t think it would feel like cruel and unusual punishment. That is until I suffer a win and my labor doesn’t quite feel like it was in vain. Long nights seem worth it. It’s only then that I embrace disappointment and failure no longer seems like an option. And I tell myself…
Pursue purpose. Be a goal digger. Turn my hobby into my hustle. Do the work I love and I’ll never work a day in my life.
So even when I grow tired and weary, God help me remember this is who You called me to be. Head bowed under an open sky, trying not to cry, help me remember I was made for this and I’d be remiss if I let it pass me by. Remind me stop signs aren’t dead ends, there’s plenty of road ahead. So pedal to the metal, I can’t give up now. Keep me in the fast lane, I don’t want to slow down. There is no destination, this is the journey with plenty of sights to see. Help me take it all in as I…
Pursue purpose. Be a goal digger. Turn my hobby into my hustle. Do the work I love and I’ll never work a day in my life.
Matthew 19:26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible
To read more about overcoming obstacles, click here.
If you know me well, you know I love weddings! Not even COVID-19 could stop love from being celebrated, and taking all the necessary precautions, I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of two wonderful people recently. It was easily one of the best weddings I’ve been to! Aside from the bride and groom being the stars of the show, the officiant, who is also a friend of mine, made the whole experience a memorable one. The bride and groom are both family therapists (they met in graduate school, how cute is that!), so most would consider them experts in relationships. The officiant (a pastor, as well as a family therapist, shout out to Valdosta State!), acknowledged this fact and used the analogy of Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan is arguably the best basketball player there is, but even in all his greatness, he still had a coach. The officiant reminded the couple even though they may be great family therapists and know a whole lot about relationships, they still need a coach and that coach is God. They could have passed around a collection plate at that point. I literally had to stop myself from shouting, “alright!”
I started to think about the areas in my life that I consider myself to be the best of the best, a know-it-all, if you will. With such high regard for myself in certain areas of my life, sometimes I don’t think I need a coach, meaning God. We don’t always do this consciously, but we do it. Maybe you feel you know your spouse like the back of your hand, so you don’t ask God about how you should talk to them. You’ve done all your research about the company trying to hire you and you know they’re going to pay you top dollar and they have great benefits, no need to inquire of God on His thoughts about the matter. Your child literally has half of your DNA and you’ve raised a few before this one, you don’t need to consult God on how to handle certain situations. You’ve been at your job sixteen years, you can do your boss’ job better than he can, no need to worry about what other plans God has for you. You got it. That is until you don’t.
This was often my mindset when it came to teaching. I knew my content. I knew strategies. I knew my students and their families. I knew who was going to cry. I knew who was going to turn in their homework. I knew who I was going to have to send out. I knew which parents were going to answer the phone. I knew who was showing up for conferences. And I knew I was miserable, considered it part of the job description I read over. Even with all the craziness that went on last school year with the world shutting down and realizing I want to work with a different population, it was the first year I wasn’t miserable. It was also the first year I truly sought God on how to be a teacher and be sane. I did good work the previous years, but last year I did better work because I had a coach who I actually utilized.
I’m learning life is so much easier when we invite God to play an active role, when we allow Him to be the coach. He’s given us the talent, but we have to let Him develop it. So even when I know that I know, a celebration of love reminded me that God knows even more and it’s going to take Him to get me to the next level.
Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
It’s difficult to see God as a giver of love when you feel like He ripped it away from you, pulled it from underneath you while you were floating on cloud nine. You quickly realized, there really is no sunshine when they’re gone. You were taught God is love but the evidence you possessed of that love has vanished so you’re forced to truly learn to believe in what you can’t see. You don’t do this overnight. There are times when it doesn’t feel like God’s for you. When you not only question if He’s love, but you start to wonder if He’s even good. These are dark days and long nights but time passes and things happen, and light starts to peak through. One smile turns into another and joy no longer feels like a stranger. You no longer equate proof with truth. God helps your unbelief. You find a way to have hope and wait patiently for what you don’t yet see. You cling to a faith you didn’t know you were capable of holding on to. And soon enough, God reminds you that He’s still who He said He was. That He’s good and He’s love. And He may take, but He certainly gives.
Keep believing in what you can’t see and one day you’ll look up and find love staring you in the face.
1 Corinthians 13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
If you’ve been reading my blog since the pandemic has started, you’ve probably read about my disdain for virtual anything. Calls, conferences, meetings, workshops, workouts… I’d rather you email me. I’ve unmuted myself by accident (thankfully I didn’t say anything too crazy). I’ve fallen asleep and woke up long after the meeting ended. One of the things I’m dreading happens is I’m called on to speak but I don’t realize it because I’m not listening. I’m relatively tech savvy and definitely see the benefits, given the current state our world is in and I’m grateful people who don’t mind this medium have access to a variety of content and resources, but it’s difficult for me to sit in front of my laptop and be engaged (which is kind of strange considering the amount of TV I watch, but that’s a story for another day). With all that being said, I can feel how I want to feel about it, “virtual things” aren’t going anywhere any time soon. I recently had the opportunity to present virtually and it was a fail guys. Well, a fail by my standards.
I wrote previously about me being an undercover perfectionist so it should come as no surprise this carries over to me presenting virtually. Why do I think I failed? Basically because things did not go as I thought they would. At one point, I was talking while music was playing loudly in the background without me realizing it, so the participants couldn’t hear me. I couldn’t do the interactive game the way I wanted to so I had to come up with an alternative. I wish I had incorporated more information from the topic I was given. Although some people responded to my questions, I thought we were going to have a livelier discussion. I could honestly keep this list going but I kept thinking about how different all of this would have been if we didn’t have to do it virtually. I wondered how many people it would take to tell me that I did a good job in order for me to believe it, and I realized that number did not exist. I had to accept defeat and try harder the next time. Or so I thought…
As I was complaining about all the “terrible” things that went wrong, I finally said I would accept the success I did have, and a wise person told me to CELEBRATE the success. Afterall, so many things went well. Children from different areas got to meet each other. I was able to share scripture and talk about the wonderfulness of God and connect it to their daily lives. Even if the children didn’t do very well on the interactive game, they were exposed to new information. Some children received monetary prizes. I became more familiar with how Zoom works and different features available. It was a success worthy of being celebrated.
As we navigate this virtual world and life itself, I encourage you (and myself) to acknowledge what you may deem as failures but don’t forget to celebrate the successes. Don’t just accept it, don’t push it to the side, don’t minimize it, CELEBRATE SUCCESS!
Proverbs 16: 3 Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed