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)
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.
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)