Over a week ago, rioters (posing as protesters) stormed the Capitol building in Washington D.C. As I watched the events unfold, I was speechless. A day I would have celebrated Georgia helping Congress turn blue, I spent glued to my TV screen trying to convince myself I wasn’t watching a movie. The more I watched, the more enraged I became. There was no revolution, just an ugly truth being televised.
My friends will tell you, I hardly ever keep up with politics. What little I do know, comes from them and the minimal research I make myself do. These politics influence the decisions that are made which impact my daily life and my future, and although important, I’ve never found them interesting. There are certain political figures I’ve taken a liken to based on speeches I’ve heard them give or learning about how they’ve helped their constituents or honestly, because they’ve looked like me and represented what was possible in America. Unfortunately, January 6, 2021 was a reminder of what was also possible in America. People drunk with lies and false narratives, weaponized their privilege and showed who they were and have always been. It was never about all lives or blue lives, just not black lives. It was never about making America great again, but simply wanting to make America theirs, and only theirs.
This upcoming Wednesday, God willing, a new dawn and a new day will descend upon us. My faith has never been in this government but in the One whose shoulders it rests on. If nothing else, I’ll remain hopeful because it’s really all I have left. God bless America.
Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
When asked to tell my favorite story, I imagine I’ll always tell this one.
Chai Latte A South-Asian flavored tea beverage made by brewing black tea with a mixture of aromatic Indian spices and herbs. We steam our Chai with local milk creating a wonderful sweet and slightly spicy comfort drink.
This was the description I read online as I prepared for my date. We were meeting at a coffee shop and although I don’t like coffee, I love coffee shops. He didn’t know this about me yet, but the coffee shop was his idea and I was thrilled. Aside from my love of coffee shops, if the date wasn’t going well, I could leave after I finished my drink. The pressure to sit through a dinner or a two-hour movie, did not exist. I could do thirty minutes of terrible and be on my way. I just had to figure out what I would order. Usually I get hot chocolate when I go to these places, but I told myself I needed to get a grown-up drink and then I stumbled upon the chai latte. Bingo!
I pulled up to the coffee shop, upset I forgot to put on my eyeliner and mascara, but thankful I remembered to put on my favorite perfume. I must admit, I was terrified. The week before I had gone on a not so good date (read here), and as much as I tried not to get my hopes up for this date, I was really interested to learn more about this guy. This interest didn’t supersede my nervousness though. So, while sitting in my car, I called my friends, Kristal and Ray, for a pep talk. Up until that point, they had been leading and guiding me through this dating process and per usual, they told me to relax and just enjoy the experience. I took a deep breath and went with God.
As I entered the coffee shop, I could feel my heart beating in my stomach. I told myself to put one foot in front of the other and try to smile like a normal person. He was seated at a table quite a distance from the door and I was grateful because it was cold outside, and I wanted to be far away from that. I breathed a sigh of relief when he looked up and his face matched his pictures. He was taller than I imagined and had such sincere eyes. We had just met, but I could feel myself getting lost in those eyes. He greeted me with a hug and guided me to the counter so we could place our orders.
“I’ll have the chai latte,” I said. (I noticed he smiled after I said this)
“I’ll have the chai latte as well,” he said. (That’s why he was smiling)
I believe God gives us signs but at the same time, I don’t think everything is a sign. Looking back though, this was definitely a sign. We had quite a few things in common, but there was something special about both of us ordering chai lattes. Maybe it was the fact that neither one of us like coffee or the fact that I strongly considered ordering a hot chocolate instead. Either way, it was a sign that we were off to a great start.
Over the next two hours, the time flew by. From music to college to living in Atlanta to family to expectations to careers, we talked about it. I felt like I was meeting up with a handsome friend I hadn’t seen in a while, and I was grateful he was still single. We probably could have sat in that coffee shop and spent the day trading stories and sharing dreams until they closed, but this was a good start; a promising start. We got up to leave and he said he was going to use the bathroom before he headed out, so he gave me a hug and sent me on my way. No numbers were exchanged. No second date was planned. I was slightly devastated.
As soon as I got in the car, I called my father figure, Raynard, and told him how amazing of a date it was but was disappointed that I could have been the only one who may have felt that way. Maybe the chai lattes weren’t a sign. Maybe the conversation wasn’t as effortless as I thought it was. Maybe he had better options awaiting him. Of course, Raynard tried to talk me off of this ledge but being true to myself, once I make up a story in my head, it’s the reality I live in. After fifteen or so minutes of me discussing the many highs and one low, something happened. Through the app he messaged me and told me he enjoyed talking to me and sent me his number!!! I’m pretty sure I screamed. The wave of relief that washed over me is an unexplainable feeling. I hadn’t misinterpreted things! The conversation was as good as I thought it was! The chai lattes were a sign!
Neither of us could have known the love story that was being birthed in that coffee shop as we sipped chai lattes and discussed life. We were hopeful, but not quite sold. We were inspired by the idea of what could be, but not sure it would be reality. In 2019, I wrote about extraordinary love. I said I wanted it, but I wasn’t truly convinced that I could get it. Now that I have it… ain’t no turning back! The bar has been set and if it isn’t this, I’m never going to want it. This love is transformative, propelling me to be the best version of myself. It is a reminder of everything good in this world. It is not afraid of my dark. It is exposing the not so pretty parts of me and choosing to stay. It is healing. It is spilling over in every area of my life. If I hadn’t believed in God, this love would make me a believer. Only the God of the universe could have orchestrated such a love.
That day in the coffee shop feels like yesterday and forever ago, but I’m grateful that as time has passed, this story is still being written. And every day, I’m reminded why it’s still my favorite.
1 Corinthians 13:13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. (NLT)
If you’re reading this, you lived to see Christmas 2020 and that in itself, is a blessing! Maybe you were happy, maybe you grieved your way through it, maybe you were surrounded by family, maybe you celebrated alone; whatever your situation was, God saw fit for you to be here. Even with a heart full of gratitude, it’s been a rough week for me.
This was the first time in some years that I wasn’t dreading the coming of Christmas. I didn’t spend the weeks leading up to it, wondering how I would feel when the day arrived. I didn’t walk around in a daze. I didn’t cry. But as soon as I walked in the home I spent my whole childhood in, a depression set in that I couldn’t get rid of.
Being home for the holidays has been difficult since my dad died but I think this year was the worst it’s ever been. I was only there for a week but each night I was excited I was one day closer to getting on a plane and getting out of there; I was literally counting the days. I felt like a stranger in a place I should have been familiar with which was a new feeling for me. I’m used to feeling sad or not wanting to get out much, but this was different. Everywhere and everything reminded me that my dad was missing from my life. Home didn’t feel like home. Streets I traveled countless times made me feel like I was in a distant land. I could not identify with these places and spaces without my father. It took all the energy I could muster up to interact with people outside of my mom and younger sister. And the anxiety of this pandemic added fuel to a blazing fire.
It took a while to recognize my emotional state. I knew something was off but I don’t think I wanted to admit it. Even though I know grief is a process (in a lot of ways, a cycle), I definitely thought I had gotten over this part. Clearly, I had not. My sister said she noticed at Christmas dinner I was present, but checking in and checking out. She was right. I thought about the tips I gave for dealing with grief last week (click here) and had to put them to use.
With all that was going on inside of me, I still managed to laugh from the depths of my soul, thank God for my family, dream about the one I love, celebrate friends, and be hopeful. This year I have learned the art of two things being true. I have learned to live with “both/and.” I can be sad and hopeful. I can be both drained and inspired. I can feel lost and know I’ll be found. One feeling does not negate the other, and there is enough room for both. Hopefully, your Christmas was a lot merrier than mine but even if it wasn’t, let this be a reminder that you’re not alone and we’re all doing the best we can do, you included.
Psalms 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Here are 4 tips to get you through Christmas as you grieve.
Something so simple can have a major impact. We can spend so much time trying not to cry, trying to smile, trying not to feel, we forget to simply breathe. When you find yourself almost consumed by the sadness, take a deep breath. Then, take another. (You can find more about breathing, here)
For some, this may seem counterproductive (it certainly did to me) but bottled up tears don’t just disappear. Give yourself space to cry. Whether you do it when you first wake up and that aching hits you in the chest or after you make it through the day as you realize time didn’t stop because your loved one passed. You may have to go in the bathroom in the middle of the festivities and that’s okay. If you feel like crying, cry.
3. Fake It
This may sound contradictory to the above but stay with me. Maybe you have kids and a family depending on you to prepare Christmas dinner or maybe you’re in charge of organizing the annual family talent show. Maybe you have to go to work and literally can’t afford to stay in bed like you want to. Your responsibilities don’t care about your grief. Fake your way through it. If you have to put a timer on your phone to go to the bathroom every hour and give yourself a five minute check-in, do that. If you have to spend your lunch break crying in your car, do that. And the rest of the time, smile even though it hurts. Try to muster up the strength to find a joke to tell. You may look back and realize this wasn’t a very happy Christmas, but you did what you had to in order to get through the day.
Grief can feel like our dirty little secret. We don’t want anyone to know we’re struggling. We are held captive by our own emotions. It doesn’t have to be that way. Find someone who you know will be supportive and tell them how you’re feeling. Tell them your mad or you’re sad or you don’t feel anything. Tell them you can’t wait for the day to be over. Tell them you tried to fake happy and just couldn’t. And after you’ve done that, talk to God. Even if you’re mad at Him, even if you don’t think He can hear you, do it anyway.
Psalms 34:18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. (NLT)
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.
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.
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)
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.