If I were to choose a word for the year 2021, it would be grateful. I celebrated love and I celebrated people and I was celebrated and I went places and I laughed a lot and I cried a little and I lived to tell it all. I’m grateful that as I reflect back on 2021, the good far outweighs the bad. As I look forward to 2022 the word that comes to mind is faith.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
I’m expecting God to do a lot in 2022 but if I’m being honest, I can’t see some of it happening. ::insert FAITH:: I typically beat myself up for not seeing the vision no matter how plain it is. I’m of the belief you have to see it to believe it and I struggle to be excited about things I can’t picture. But instead of berating myself, I’ll choose to have faith. I don’t have to know how it’s going to happen or when, I just have to commit my ways to Him and trust the process (Proverbs 16:3).
I know sometimes this will be easier said than done but I realize it’s necessary if I’m choosing to live in the blessings God has for me. I can’t wait to tell you all about what God has done!
I’ve heard many people say “no” is a complete sentence. And although I’ve gotten better about setting boundaries (read about my struggle here), I’m still a work in progress. As I continue to learn how to own my “no,” I’m also learning the importance of owning my “yes.”
During my freshmen year of college, I learned of a study that found even when confident about their response, many women (I don’t remember the actual percentage) start their response with “I think” or “maybe” or “it could be.” It made their opinion quieter and less threatening. I was one of those women but after hearing that statistic, I did my best to say what I mean and mean what I say. However, I fail often. Over ten years later, I’m still hesitant to say exactly what I want or how I feel. Sometimes I’ll catch myself and rephrase my response so that my opinion is highlighted and not downplayed, which is growth. It’s difficult though. So difficult, sometimes I ashamedly opt to say nothing.
I consider the summer of 2011, my great awakening. I was in Hawaii surrounded by amazing people, and I said yes to so much and benefitted greatly from it. But after my dad died in 2013, I didn’t give my yes as freely anymore. In a lot of ways I felt like I had to remember how to live and move in the world and most days that consisted of trying to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other.
Fast forward to 2020… For my 30th birthday my best friend gifted me Shonda Rimes’s book “Year of Yes,” and it was such a refreshing read. It encouraged me to choose to be the main character in my own story. Always. Not in a selfish, nobody else matters kind of way, but in an I’m deserving of enjoying the good things life has to offer kind of way. I started saying yes to dreaming again and yes to attaining my goals and yes to being kinder and yes to learning more about God. As I transition into different seasons of my life, I need no, but I need more yes too.
Yes to your restaurant of choice. Yes to the job. Yes to the date. Yes to the outfit. Yes to the trip. Yes to Jesus. Spread your yes’ around like confetti! It’s been said you don’t miss what you’ve never had but let me tell you, there’s no reason to miss out on all God has for you. As difficult as this may still be for me, owning my yes will always be worth the work for me.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven
The other day I asked myself if I was responding to a situation from a place of confidence or insecurity. In that moment, I realized it was the former but I also realized that sometimes it’s the latter. The word insecurity has always felt like a bad word to me. Something I know exist but I feel like it shouldn’t. So much so, sometimes I dress it up as something else. Pride, ignorance, uninterested, and the list goes on. To embrace, “not knowing” and “uncertainty” is a scary feeling, but it’s necessary.
It’s not about being wrong as much as it’s about being wrong about something I “should” already know. That carries with it a level of shame and embarrassment that I really don’t like feeling. But sometimes people know more than us. Sometimes our ideas are not the best ideas. Those truths do not make what we bring to any table with sit at, any less valuable. I am learning to be open to being challenged without feeling like I am being threatened or that I’m inferior or deficient.
For me, sometimes it goes beyond what I “should” already know; sometimes my insecurities are rooted in being unsure of how others may respond to what I know or what I believe or who I am. I can recall a time when my friends told me a group of people didn’t like me. My friends were joking but because I strived to be liked by everyone and couldn’t bear the thought of someone not liking me, I pressed them for more details. In the pouring rain, I refused to let them inside my car until they told me who these people were and what exactly they said. I shudder with embarrassment thinking about how I responded that day. However, I am pleased to say that if I were faced with that same situation today, I would be okay with finding out someone didn’t like me. I understand now that I may not be everyone’s cup of tea and that doesn’t make me a failure or unlikeable, it makes me who I am and I like her, which is what’s most important.
I have made great gains in this area of my life but there is still a lot of work to do. Too often, I’ve allowed my insecurities to speak for me. I respond to what I’ve heard, instead of what was said. And don’t get me wrong; sometimes people say things and there is more to it than what was said but we should ask about “the more,” instead of assuming what “the more” is. Our insecurities force us to look at ourselves in the mirror and acknowledge the not so pretty parts that we thought we were hiding well. Why are we triggered by the things we’re triggered by? What does my response say about me? What am I afraid will happen if I consider another’s perspective?
As comfortable and familiar as our insecurities can feel, they are not very good security blankets. I work really hard to allow my confidence to rest in God and not my insecurities. I am intentional about questioning my doubts instead of accepting them as truths. I am surprised that after all this time, I still struggle with this but I’m convinced practice makes perfect. So I’ve given myself permission to fall and trust God to help me get back up and I can say that I’ve created a lot more distance between falls.
Jeremiah 17:7 But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. (NLT)
So I’m sitting in the massage chair at the nail place, getting a pedicure, minding my own business. All of a sudden, I hear the customer a few chairs away from me say, “What are you doing? Half my nail fell off.” She was not yelling, but her tone was firm. A few of the women who worked there went over to see what the commotion was about. I’m unsure of what language they were speaking but at the moment I wish I spoke it too. The customer tries to explain what she wants; not yelling, not cursing, she is simply stating what she wants. Another one of the ladies steps in and tries to fix the problem and apparently she made it worse because then I hear the customer say, “my whole nail fell off.” Her tone is more agitated this time and she threatens not to pay for the service. The lady is still trying to see where she went wrong and the customer repeats what she wants. Eventually they must have gotten it right because not too long after, she pays and leaves. Although still annoyed, she got what she wanted.
In that moment, I thought to myself, “Jocee, you should be bold enough to ask for what you want and not let up until you get it.” Often times, I just accept what I am given. I never want to cause a scene or make a fuss, so I’ve learned to make do with most things. Even if I’m disappointed with the outcome, even if I had a preference, I just go with the flow. This has been a blessing and a curse. Life is so fleeting and I would much rather enjoy what I do have than complain about what I don’t and ramble on about how something could have been better. But at the same time, sometimes it’s not complaining; it’s wanting what you want.
I worry about making someone feel bad or asking someone for too much, all to the detriment of myself. I tell people that I only want what I can have so I’m only going to ask for things I know I can get (emphasis on “I”). But what if I can have everything I want? What if I actually believed that? Whether that’s my nails being done correctly or my order being made correctly or getting the house of my dream or letting my prices be my prices. If we’re not careful, we’ll confuse avoiding confrontation with showing grace and we’ll call ourselves humble but we’re simply afraid to make our desires known.
Desire is owning your wanting (got that from Esther Perel). We don’t get brownie points for not getting what we want because we didn’t speak up for ourselves. We think we do other people a favor by not saying what we want but we really do them a disservice. Our partners don’t get the opportunity to love us the way we want to be loved because we say we’re okay with everything. If you would rather have chicken wings than flowers, say that so he can stop wasting his money. If you want the thousand island dressing, say that so she’ll stop putting that ranch on your salad. We sell ourselves short at work. We’ll never get to work on a different project or get a raise because we allow our supervisors to believe we’re okay where we are. God wants so much more for us but are we willing to want it for ourselves? Are we willing to want what God wants for us? Are we willing to want what we want?
Deuteronomy 28:13 And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them:
For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed working with children. When I had to get community service hours in high school, I volunteered at daycares and a children’s shelter. When my cousin had her first son, I was only fifteen years old but treated him like my very own; changing diapers, feeding him, rocking him to sleep, dressing him, etc. I am slightly obsessed with my goddaughter and her sisters. My father figure asked me what I was passionate about in life and the only two things I could think of was loving Jesus and helping children. I always knew I would work with children in some capacity.
I tell people children under five are my favorite age group to work with because there is something magical about witnessing the simple things in life bring one joy and the feeling I get while observing little humans make connections in this big world can’t be described. Not much gets me excited, but to be able to play a role in how children see themselves and the world is one of the many things I’m most proud of about myself. I am grateful I was able to do it as a therapist and a special education teacher, but to be able to play this role as a Pre-K teacher makes my heart smile. I am truly living my dream.
I was exhausted after the first day; I mean if I sat long enough I knew I was going to sleep but I couldn’t wait to do it all over again the next day. I can’t remember the last time I looked forward to going to work. I told my fiancé that this is the feeling I have been longing for in regards to the work I do. I am sure I helped some children along the way and made an impact and whatnot, but to feel like this is why God put breath in my body is such a blessing. My first principal used to say teachers do the Lord’s work. Although I knew that to be true, it didn’t feel like it until now. I am sure hard days will come but I will know I am pursuing God’s will for my life. I am grateful for my previous jobs and all the people I have met that have led me to this place, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. My Pre-K babies will get to benefit from all that God has blessed me with.
It may not be a job for you. It may be a hobby or a particular person. Whatever it is God is pushing you towards, don’t stop pursuing it. I applied to daycares after I graduated with my therapy degree to get income until I found a therapy job. I knew I wouldn’t be able to live on my own working as a daycare teacher but I knew it would be work I enjoyed. I almost started to believe I could not do work I enjoyed and afford to live, but God showed me otherwise. And if you remain faithful over the opportunities He gives you along the way, He’ll show you too.
Colossians 3:23-24 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ
And to read more about me figuring things out and waiting on God, click here, here, and here.
Since becoming engaged, a friend of mine asked me for advice about navigating the world of dating/romance from a faith-based lens. I’ve told my fiancé more than once that since being in a relationship, I feel like I know even less about relationships than I did before getting into one. That sounds terrible but in this short time I have learned that every relationship is unique and it should be. But being single? I know that well. Of course, everyone’s single journey is different but as someone who boldly considered themselves chronically single, I’m not going to lie, I feel a bit like an expert.
I can’t tell you how to get a man. I got mine, so just be happy for me but I can share how to live happily single. I did it for quite some time and some moments were better than others but when I was out here living my best single life, I kept the following in mind:
My relationship status won’t determine the quality of my life.
Single, dating, divorced, engaged, married, whatever your relationship status is, good things are happening in your life and they are still going to happen. My mom always says, “one monkey don’t stop no show!” As a single woman, I still had goals to crush. I still had places to see. I still had friends to love and celebrate with and be celebrated by. I had songs to sing loudly and badly to in the car and in the shower. I had shows to watch. I had family to laugh with. I had a goddaughter who thought I was the best thing since sliced bread. I had a job that didn’t make me crazy (most days). I had a God to glorify. These are the things that made/make me happy and give quality to my life.
“My name is ____________ and I’m so very, fly oh my, it’s a little bit scary.”
That song was my anthem for a while (Pretty Girl Rock – Keri Hilson). Long ago one of my friends asked me if I thought I looked better than Beyonce. I hesitated to respond because I figured “no” was the “right answer,” but I knew it wasn’t my truth. I can’t remember what I said but understand, I certainly don’t think I look worse (interpret that as you will). Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I hope whatever you behold in the mirror, you see as beautiful. After all, if you don’t, why should anyone else? You won’t be everyone’s cup of tea and they won’t be yours (people tend to forget that part), and that’s okay. Some days you’ll feel yourself a bit more than others but deep down, you have to believe you are more than pretty enough. And not only that, you have a wonderful personality to go with what people see (hopefully). Looks may not be everything but you are a looker! You wear confidence well. Walk in that truth.
I am who I am.
And I’m wonderful. I’m a Christian. I’m independent. I laugh a lot. I like country music. I’m a giver. I’m an introvert. I’m constantly becoming the best version of myself. I am who I am and I embrace that person. I know for a fact there was more than one guy who passed me by because who I was didn’t align with what they were looking for. If I had been a little less independent, been more outgoing, didn’t love Jesus as much, we probably could of have something (at least for a few more weeks). But if it cost me myself, it was far too expensive. Don’t get me wrong, I tried to force certain situations and got my feelings hurt along the way, but when I finally tallied up the expense of it all, it was never worth it. I had/have so many flaws, but I was/am unwilling to negate all the amazing qualities I bring to any relationship I find myself in. In my singleness, I perfected being me; I truly learned to love her.
Sometimes we shame people for wanting to be in a relationship and wanting to be married and wanting to have kids. We tell them to just enjoy where they are because the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I’ve never wanted to be that person because I remember the countless prayers I prayed to God and moments when it felt like He didn’t hear me. I remember friends having to remind me I’m the prize. I remember joking with my friends that “this would be my year,” while hoping deep down inside it really would be. Two things can be true at the same time; you can be happily single and still desire to be in a relationship. You can catch flights and swipe right. You can look up first date questions and look up the home buying process. You can write a list of qualities you’re looking for in a spouse and write a list of ingredients you’ll need for a recipe you’re excited to make for yourself. Being single was beautiful and being engaged is beautiful. It’s not about the grass being greener but tending to whatever grass I find myself in.
While I believe God will give us the desires of our hearts, I also believe He intends for us to enjoy where we are.
Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
Ecclesiastes 5:18 Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.
“Fathers be good to your daughters…” I have always loved this song and grateful I had a father who was good to me. As the story of grief goes, some Father’s Days are better than others, and today is not one of the best. But even with that aching feeling I still haven’t become accustomed to, my heart is full. Today, I’m choosing to celebrate fathers who are not only good to their daughters but good to their sons too! I feel blessed to know young black men who are involved parents. While some had amazing examples and others did not, they embrace the role they play in their children’s lives and I’m thankful their children will know a father’s love just as I did.
When asked “what’s something you feel you understand about your father since becoming a father,” this is what they told me:
“His sense of unconditional love. It’s not every day that you’ll be willing to clean a person’s butt for them or be ok with them puking on you. Even when she upsets me I still love her nonetheless.” – Rashod
“I understand communication is important between kids and parents. My father is the only parent I speak to and out of his 6 children I’m the only one he hears from but that’s because we have great communication.” – Brandon
“I understand why he was pretty strict but also why he always made sure I knew he was my best friend. I’m also pretty strict with Deuce but I want him to know that immediately after, I’m his best friend. That way he knows that me being strict is me looking out for his best interest and that he can come to me for any and everything.” – Jahi
“I think now I understand better why my father really emphasized on two things as a parent. One was creating memories. He used to try his best to create memorable moments with us. Whether it was fishing or spontaneous bowling excursions, I realize now how important those days really are because you understand that your baby won’t be a baby forever and that those memories last a lifetime. The other thing I understand more as a father myself, is that it is important to develop a culture of standard when it comes to your children. I didn’t understand why he would fight so hard to help us live up to the standards that he raised us to have. Things such as being honest, even if you did wrong, or taking care of your family even if it’s a burden. Those things are what I hold on to til today and they have shaped me into being the man I am.” – Vaughn
I understand the power of my words. I can both bless and curse. I can build up or tear down. Though my words are powerful, it is my silence that is deadly. – Raynard
Proverbs 20:7The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.
I have been on vacation for a couple of days and I still have a few more days to go. Not summer break vacation but vacation, vacation. People who know me well will tell you that I’m always going to make time to do nothing. It doesn’t matter where I am or how many deadlines are approaching or what needs to be graded or what needs to be cleaned, at some point during the course of my day, I’m going to enjoy the company of myself and Jesus and allow the time to pass by. I tell people this is a response to a childhood filled with activities and not much downtime (which I’m grateful for), and what some may call a luxury, I see as necessary.
Often times people think because you’re unmarried and have no kids, you have no life. It can be assumed you’re always available and lonely, so you’re always looking forward to hanging out with others. Somehow people believe you’re never really THAT busy. I assure you, all those things are false; I have plenty to do, all the time. My busy may look different than your busy, but it isn’t any less important or fulfilling. No matter what our everyday lives look like, we all need a break.
Self-care. Unplugging. Decompressing. People call it different things, but whatever you call it, I encourage you to do it. Even if it’s just for ten minutes a day. At this point in my life, I can lay on my couch and watch TV for hours and eat Cheetos for dinner. That’s my form of self-care. Maybe you can take an extra ten minutes in the shower. Or take the long way home. Maybe you can go to dinner by yourself. Or if you’re blessed and highly favored, you may be able to take a whole trip by yourself. And you don’t always have to be alone (that’s just my preference). Have a girls night out with your friends. Go on a double date with your favorite couple or just a date with your favorite person. Some of you with kids, really like your kids, take them out for ice cream on a random Tuesday. We make time for everything else; make time to rest.
Sometimes (not often), I feel guilty for resting. I know I have a million and one things to do and it can feel like life will fall apart if I don’t get it all done in that very moment. I’ve learned to ask myself a few questions to quiet that voice in my head. Will somebody die if I don’t do *insert thing* now? Will I lose my job if *insert thing* doesn’t get done today? Will God feel some kind of way if I don’t do *insert thing*? If the answer is no, it’s highly likely that I’m going to make myself comfy on my couch.
All of us have responsibilities and there are times when we literally cannot afford to take a break. Sometimes the answers to those questions I asked are yes and I have to push through but that doesn’t have to be life as I know it. I’m a master procrastinator because I know whatever needs to get done, will get done… eventually. Although I’m working to procrastinate less, I’m highly committed to living the life God intended me to live which includes resting. Sometimes we cannot afford to not take a break. Read that again then schedule your time of rest.
Genesis 2:2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
On May 13, I wrote a note in my phone, “Life with you is good. So, so good.” It was a regular Thursday; I was at work, you were at work. The night before, I cooked us dinner (and it was amazing!) and we talked and laughed. I don’t remember anything specific from that night but that Thursday I remember sitting and being so grateful I was sharing my life with you. It was in these simple moments that the fabrics of my love for you were being stitched together.
You do grand gestures well, leaving me speechless with my cheeks hurting from smiling. Those moments are the icing on a delicious cake. They leave me floating in the clouds questioning if this is my life. But I am aware this love is rooted in those small moments I previously mentioned. I can float freely in the clouds because I know when I come back down to earth, the air is just as lovely down here.
One would say a proposal is one of the grandest gestures one could make, and somehow you managed to make such a huge moment, the most intimate I’ve shared with you to date. Under a gazebo in front of a couple of friends and strangers going about their day, we decided to pursue forever together. If I thought I was floating in the clouds before, I certainly had reached another part of our solar system that day.
I did not make it back down to earth until a couple of days later while sitting at work, feeling similar to how I did that Thursday. I made the mistake of watching the proposal video for the third or fourth time and after it ended, I thanked God for everything it took to get to that moment. As the tears flowed, I knew how undeserving I was of such an extraordinary love. There was nothing I did to earn it, but God’s faithfulness towards me led me there. His grace and mercy covered me. I could have not chosen this path for myself but an intentional God saw fit to bless me in His perfect timing. And I’ll spend the rest of my life thanking Him for it.
I look forward to forever with you because life with you is so, so good.
Mark 10:6-9 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
As most of you know by now, I absolutely love talking about relationships and not just romantic relationships. I’m fascinated by how fluid relationships can be. How you relate to someone today can be very different from how you related to them ten years ago. Often times these difference are rooted in changing seasons in our lives. How we see someone changes as we change. This sentiment is true of daughters who are now mothers. I asked family and friends how their understanding of their mothers have changed since becoming mothers; what lessons they have taken away from their experience as daughters that they hope to teach their children.
“I can say to continue the path of keeping God first in their lives like my mama did us!”
“The great work that goes into it, namely for mothers, whether or not the dad is present. The sacrifice and riskiness of pregnancy. The physical, emotional and maybe even mental tolls of bringing a child into the world. I guess it’s more so a greater appreciation for her and what she had to do and give up to bring us into the world and to raise us.”
“Something I understand about my mother now that I am a mother is how much she sacrificed herself to make sure that we were all good. I know, I know cliché! But I think about the days she would wake up early, get us dressed for school and herself ready for work, take four children to school then go work an eight hour shift. After all of that, she’d pick us up from our various after school activities, sometimes go to parent/teacher conferences and/or church, come home and cook a meal, get us off to bed, and finally…FINALLY, she would have time for herself and my dad. Wow! I’m tired just reminiscing! I look at my own life as a wife and a mother and I pray that I can measure up to at least half of the woman that she is.”
“My entire life I looked at her as a mother, I never looked at her as a person. I never realized how much she gave up for us to be our mother. She had goals and dreams. She had plans, but she chose to become a mother and that comes with sacrifices.”
“After becoming a mother I understood that my mom was not just a mom, but a person. And she did the best she could. When I became a mother I decided that I wanted to be better. Not better than her, but better than who I was at the time. The best I could was not enough. I wanted to unpack all my baggage and offer my children the best version of me. As I worked through my own trauma and unresolved issues, I realized how difficult it is to parent through pain. I began to understand my mother had probably been doing the same thing. I understood how exhausted she must have been. And how strong she was. I understood that there was no way for her to know if she was doing it right or if we would “turn out ok”. (Especially the difficult child *raising my hand) I understood how terrifying that must have been. I accepted that her best had been good enough.”
“How intentional she was about having us around people, outside of her and my dad, who genuinely loved us. Currently I’m trying to build that for my children. This was beneficial [for my parents] because they had a lot of quality time, but creating a community of love for us was important as well. And I see the importance of that, and being intentional about it, now that I’m a mother.”
“When you think your kids aren’t listening, they really are.”
“Since becoming a mother, I understand better the love and forgiveness that
my mother exemplified. Her love was not one size fits all, but she catered to our individual needs like only a mother can. As far as forgiveness, I can still hear her show us and tell us ‘Don’t turn rail for rail.'”
Whether your baby is still a baby or you’re mothering a pre-teen or you have adult children or you’ve been blessed to now be called a grandmother, I pray you remember that even when it doesn’t seem like it or you don’t feel you’re equipped, God is using you to influence generations to come.
Psalms 139:13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.