Sundays With Rae

a blog for women by a woman who is trying to get her life together while still loving Jesus

My Favorite Story

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)

September 2020

Good is Coming

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 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Enjoying the good (November 2020)

Celebration Time

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.  

October 2020

But What If?

September 2020

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.

Related

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.

edandearl.com (September 2020)

Seek Help

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)

August 2020

Destinations and Journeys

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

 

June 2020

 

To read more about overcoming obstacles, click here.

Back to Life, Back to Reality

Well, kind of. Tomorrow the students in my district will return back to school virtually. I’ve technically been back a week (virtually), but tomorrow everything will be official, official. This is probably the most unprepared I’ve felt returning from Summer break. Thankfully, I’ll be able to do everything from the comfort of my home but there are so many unknowns. I’m nosey and like to know things before they happen, so this doesn’t sit well with me. But after talking to God and my coworkers and my friends and my family, I’ve decided it’s not going to be so bad. How do I know? Because I’ve decided it’s just not going to be.

I’ve also decided I’m going to set myself up for greatness and control what I can control. And I encourage you to do the same thing. I was always one of those people who said I could stay home by myself and be happy not going anywhere but this pandemic has shown that to be a lie. My home was/is my safe haven and comfort zone but now it’s become my workplace, and I don’t like that. I don’t have to like it but I have to deal with it, so my goal is to do the following to balance my life out a bit:

  1. Only do work in one area of my house
  2. Stop working at 6pm (I’ve already failed at this today, y’all pray for me)
  3. Get a schedule and keep a schedule while remaining flexible
  4. Schedule time to do nothing
  5. Read my bible
  6. Make spending time with family and friends a priority
  7. I can vent but I still have to get the job done
  8. Get out of the house (safely)

Whether you’ve been back at work for a while or maybe you never left or maybe you have no idea when you’ll return to work or when you’ll get another job, it’s necessary to take steps to create the life you strive to live, even under the strangest circumstances. God has full control and this pandemic is proof of that, if we needed any. He’s given us tools and people to help us navigate through uncertain times. You don’t have to suffer in silence. You don’t have to stay at a standstill. Decide that today will be better than yesterday and live like it. So even as I return back to a new normal, feeling completely out of control, I’ve decided my reality won’t be so bad.

Matthew 6:34 So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (NLT)

May 2020

Know That I Know

August 2020

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.

Give and Take

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.