Sundays With Rae

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

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.

Breathe

Take a deep breath in, hold it, now let it out. Do it one more time. Take a deep breath in, hold it, now let it out. When’s the last time you stopped and simply breathed? Not because you have to in order to live, but just to remind yourself that you’re alive? That you’re here in this moment?

We have so much going on in our lives. Once we’re done with one thing, we’re on to the next. We’re securing the bag, doing the work of the Lord, accomplishing goals, achieving success. We’re holding our breaths waiting for the next best thing, never really living in the moment. If we’re not careful, we will have collected memories without experiencing them. Last night I went to a gospel concert and in the middle of worship, I took the time to breathe, to be present where I was. I didn’t worry about who was coming on stage next, I was there and could feel myself alive.

This week I’m encouraging you to breathe. Take a deep breath in, hold it, and let it out. We often think of needing to take a breath when life gets overwhelming and things aren’t going so good but be sure to breathe through the good times. They too deserve to be lived in.

Genesis 2:7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

October 2019

Living for Sunday

Sunday Best (June 2019)

I like church as much as the next person. My father figure always says I go to church more than he does and he’s a pastor (which is an over exaggeration). I enjoy getting dressed up for service on Sunday and always look forward to having a good time. For too many believers, though, this is where living begins and ends for them.

I’m of the belief, everyone should have a church home. A place where the Word of God is being taught with sound doctrine to go with it. A place where you feel at home and there are opportunities for fellowship. A place you can serve and be fed at the same time. I’m also of the belief, we are the church so wherever we go, people are able to see those same qualities within us, but we have to be willing to go somewhere. Some of you literally go to work and go to church. That’s it. I know that’s not the life God called me to live and I’m pretty sure He didn’t call you to that kind of living either.

Our worship shouldn’t be limited to Sunday morning service. It should be in the conversations we have, in the thoughts we think towards ourselves and others, in the park, in the car, at the festival, on vacation. You don’t get bonus points for showing up every Sunday. What are you doing the other six days of the week? Is your Sunday worship a reflection of your Friday night, 2am self? Do people see you and see the freedom Christ gives or do they look at you and see the bondage tradition (not religion), has you in?

I am heavily involved in my church. There are weeks I’m at my church 4 or 5 days out of the week. I only miss a handful of Sundays ever year and not too many bible studies. But I am determined to live a life that allows me to experience God outside of the sanctuary and I’m thankful to attend a church that not only preaches this but the members, young and old alike, live by it. Sundays are good, really good. But recognize the good in between your Sundays and live in it.

Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.

Promise Not to Tell

Silence gives consent. Silence kills. If you don’t say anything, it’s like it never happened. We usually hear these phrases when something bad happens. But I’ve noticed that I often remain silent when good things happen. I remember when I bought my house a couple of summers ago and my coworker asked why I didn’t share during the meeting when the principal asked if anyone had any good news. It’s like I was embarrassed God allowed me to accomplish such a goal. Or like me and the devil had promised each other I wouldn’t share what God had done. What have you unknowingly promised the devil you wouldn’t tell?

It’s not that serious. No one cares. I don’t want to come off as conceited. I’m just a private person. We use every excuse we can think of not to tell of God’s goodness. Even when given the opportunity to share, we make His glory a secret. We hold on to it like our grandmother’s finest china that will break if anyone but us knows what God has done. We call it modesty, not wanting too much spotlight. That modesty can also be translated into fear. If people find out, will they hold you to a certain expectation? What happens if they think that you think you’re better than they are? Do they even know how much you trust God with your life? And if they do find out, will you be “too saved”?

Sometimes we share what we have, but not who gave it to us. We worked so hard to get to where we are, and if we’re not careful we’ll have people believing we did it by our self. I’m soooo guilty of all of the above. Either I don’t say anything at all or I just casually mention my accomplishments with no mention of the God who I know helped me achieve those goals. I would tell myself that people already know I love God so surely they know I realize it’s because of Him that I’ve been able to do what I’ve done… But why not take every chance to remind them? Why not say it out loud so I know it’s real? Why not show the devil that me and him don’t have any secrets?

I am committed to telling people how good God has been to me (not what I’ve done, but what He’s done), with the hope of inspiring them to pursue whatever He’s purposed in their hearts because if He’s done it for me, surely He’ll do it for them. This doesn’t mean making a Facebook status about everything good that happens to me with the hashtag #allglorytoGod or posting a picture on Instagram of every place I’ve been blessed to travel to. I’m definitely not opposed to sharing what you want on your page but don’t ever feel obligated to do so. It can be as simple as texting a friend “God did it again! I passed my test!” Or while at dinner sharing how thankful you are that God blessed you with the job of your dreams. Or talking to young people about where you were at their age and how God brought you out. All of this is part of moving beyond just telling what we’ve done and truly telling someone about the Source of our resources. So if you too are committed to making God famous, hold up your glass of apple cider and let’s make a toast to breaking the promise of not telling!

Psalms 109:30 I will greatly praise the Lord with my mouth; yea, I will praise him among the multitude.

July 2019

Everyone’s Depressed

I was hesitant to write this post because I was embarrassed. Me, the former therapist, mental health advocate, was embarrassed to discuss depression, go figure.

In recent years, you’ve heard people talk about mental health a lot more than they use to, especially in the black community. All of this awareness made it possible for some people to not only get the help they needed, but to share their story with others and inspire them to seek help. As I observed this slight shift in our culture, it appeared as though most people at one time or another has experienced some level of depression. Whether it was trigged by a certain event (loved one’s death, childbirth, etc.) or just showed up, a lot of people have danced with depression. Everyone except me, of course.

Earlier this year, I went for my yearly check up and I was telling my doctor about some extreme fatigue I had been experiencing. Her response was, “are you depressed?” In my head, my response was, “girl, who are you talking to? I take trips, I meet friends for lunch dates, I go to events, I’m involved in my church, I have an active prayer life. I’m out here living my best life!” But instead I told her, “no, I don’t think so.” She went on to talk about vitamin deficiencies that could cause certain symptoms and said that stress also plays a vital role in our physical well-being (which I knew). So, I decided that I was stressed. I left the doctor, almost offended that she would think that me and my awesomeness could be depressed.

Fast forward to a month or so later and I’m meeting up to have an early dinner with a friend who graduated with me from my therapy program. I was physically drained but we had been trying to meet up for months so I knew I couldn’t cancel. As we’re catching up on life (it had been almost a year), and I’m explaining to her my current state of being, she says you should go talk to someone. It had been over two years since I’d seen my counselor, and I’d considered going but it never really seemed necessary. After all, it’s not like I was depressed. But when my friend suggested it, I realized she was right. I NEEDED to talk to someone.

There are different types of depressions. According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (what doctors/therapists/counselors use to make diagnoses) it is considered a mood disorder, which sounds pretty scary. People hear depression, and they automatically think suicide, which is not true. Suicidal thoughts can be a symptom of depression, but many people do not experience it as a symptom. Other symptoms include:

  1. Depressed mood or irritable most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feels sad or empty) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful).
  2. Decreased interest or pleasure in most activities, most of each day
  3. Significant weight change (5%) or change in appetite
  4. Change in sleep: Insomnia or hypersomnia
  5. Change in activity: Psychomotor agitation or retardation
  6. Fatigue or loss of energy
  7. Guilt/worthlessness: Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
  8. Concentration: diminished ability to think or concentrate, or more indecisiveness

(https://www.psnpaloalto.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Depression-Diagnostic-Criteria-and-Severity-Rating.pdf)

I know some of you are reading this and telling yourself, “omgoodness, that’s me!” Like I said before, most of us have experienced some symptoms of depression at certain points in our lives but an official diagnosis should come from a medical professional (in my opinion, a counselor/therapist/psychologist, but that’s just me).

So, what now? I scheduled an appointment to meet with my counselor. My counselor isn’t big on labels so it’s highly unlikely she’ll say, “yes, Jocee you are depressed,” and I don’t need her to. I think some people need a diagnosis to know they are not crazy for feeling how they feel (no one says anything when someone gets diagnosed with diabetes after experiencing extreme thirst for months, which is a symptom of diabetes). If this is you, seek help and get better. If you’re like me and perhaps experiencing the symptoms but not interested in the diagnosis, seek help and get better. Someone can believe they do not have diabetes, but if their sugar levels says some sort of intervention needs to happen, they should seek treatment even if they reject the label.

I’m not going to lie, I feel like I have a strong case of that black woman syndrome. Life is a lot right now (for no particular reason, I should add), but it just doesn’t seem that bad. I tell myself other people have it worse and I have to just get through it. But my friend helped me realize, my life can be better than this. God intended for me to enjoy the fruit of my labor (Ecclesiastes 5:18) and that’s what I’m going to do. I encourage you to do the same thing.

And one more thing: Stay off the internet and talk to a live person. This is your confirmation, this is your “sign.” Sometimes you can’t talk yourself through a situation (like you’ve been trying to do), you have to pray and talk yourself through it with someone else who knows what they’re talking about. If you don’t have insurance, this is a site with licensed professionals at a reasonable cost and some offer telecommunication (video chat) and phone calls https://openpathcollective.org/ (there is a $49 sign up fee). And it’s okay if you have to try a few people before you find a good fit.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-19 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. Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.

April 2019

Say Less

Are you the person that replays arguments or conversations you’ve had with people and realize some of the stuff the other person said doesn’t add up? Or do you reread text messages and think about all the things you could have said? I am that person. If the conversation doesn’t end the way I think it should (of course with the other person realizing I’m totally right about everything), I’ll bring it up again with hopes that they would have been thinking about things too and finally see things my way, but that hardly ever happens. I’m learning to say less.

According to the Urban Dictionary, “say less” means you understand and nothing else has to be said. Many of you are like me and although we try to convince ourselves that we don’t understand, we do, we just don’t agree. And guess what? It’s okay, you don’t have to agree with everyone and everyone doesn’t have to agree with you. I don’t care how close you are or how much you have in common, they don’t have to think the way you do. For a long time, I thought the only way to have a productive conversation is if at the end, everyone agreed. But not only is that untrue, it often times left me frustrated for no reason.

People are allowed to think differently than you, Jocee. If Jesus had waited until everyone agreed that He was the son of God, He wouldn’t have made it to the cross or been risen from the dead, giving everyone the opportunity to receive the gift of eternal life. And Jesus took it a step further, not only did He keep living life, He asked God to forgive them. He didn’t worry about trying to tell them they were wrong, He went to His father.

I’ve wasted too much time trying to change people’s mind, instead of saying less and going on about my life AND praying for the person. I tell myself if I say it a different way they’ll understand, but they understood the first time and so did I. Stop replaying the conversation, delete the text thread, let it be what it is by praying more and saying less.

April 2019 (Chicago, IL)

Psalms 141:3 Set a watch, O Lord , before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.

For more information about keeping your mouth closed, click here.

Testimony Tuesday: Rebekah

You know the person that always seem so happy and bubbly, like nothing can ruin their day? Everybody who meets them, loves them? Rebekah Evans is that person. The self proclaimed celebrity of her family, Rebekah is the eighth of nine children. She was the good version of preacher’s kids. She explains that as the preacher’s kid you either get talked about for doing all the wrong things or you’re expected to know the whole Bible. So with all the attention on her, Rebekah chose to be the “goody two shoes.” She went to church, prayed, even went to the altar, because of course, that’s what good Christian girls do.

But at the beginning of Rebekah’s senior year of high school, that was no longer good enough. The Christian school she attended would occasionally have speakers come in to motivate students and Rebekah had grown weary of hearing the same old speech, especially from other preacher’s kids. “I had to build my own relationship with God.” “I could no longer live this life for my parents, but I had to experience God for myself.” It sounded so cliche but Rebekah was those people and those people were Rebekah. Not too long after, her church held a conference and Rebekah experienced God in a way she never had before. The freedom in calling on Jesus for herself and not because people were watching or because it was what she was supposed to do, but simply because she needed to. Years of church had told her she couldn’t live a fulfilling life without God and on October 18, 2013, she decided she wouldn’t.

Rebekah had faked being saved for so long, that when God truly did give her a new heart, she took it seriously. She strived to learn more about God by reading His word and she uncovered a lot of truths about herself that weren’t so nice. Although she’s always been outgoing and friendly, she was also prideful and arrogant. Every action required her reaction. It is so easy to overlook these “little things,” and pat yourself on the back for not doing the “big things” (fornication, lying, drinking, etc.), but Rebekah knew all of the above impacted her relationship with God. The Holy Ghost has taught her she doesn’t need to say everything that comes to her mind, she doesn’t have to be the source of everyone’s entertainment all the time, and turning the other cheek may be difficult but it’s necessary. “Being saved comes with more trials but there are also more blessings.” For Rebekah, being saved means giving up complete control of your life to God. His plans overrides everything. Although scary at times, He’s always working for them that love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

Rebekah is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in directing and producing for film and television. In her spare time she enjoys going to art galleries and museums. She also enjoys traveling. And a little known fact about Rebekah: she loves sports! Her favorite teams are Duke, the Minnesota Vikings, and although I had to drag it out of her, she kind of likes the Chicago Bulls.

I’ve only known Rebekah for about two months but I’ve already decided we’re going to be friends forever. I look forward to hearing her name when the topic of great filmmakers comes up. She will be the example people can look to when asked can you serve God and excel in the entertainment industry.

My Faith is My Proof

I love cop shows, in particular, the “Law and Order” franchise. In my mind, I’m the best investigator and prosecutor anyone has ever met because I’ve watched almost every episode (literally, don’t judge). However, just when I think I’ve got everything figured out, one piece of evidence changes the outcome of any given case. Evidence is the proof that what someone said happened actually happened.

Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith is substance and faith is evidence. It is the proof. It is all that is needed to change the situation. God said it, your faith is the evidence that supports it. Seeing is not believing. In fact, not seeing is believing. So when someone asks you how you know what will happen, will happen, tell them the proof is in your faith.

Commitment Issues

July 2018

What are you committed to? What cause do you give 100% to? I’ve had this conversation with myself a few times this past week and I kept drawing a blank. Commitment is being involved whole heartedly and consistently giving your best. I wanted to say I was committed to church because I’m there a lot but I realized a lot of times all I do is show up. I don’t give everything I’ve got simply because I don’t want to or it inconveniences me. I wanted to say teaching but if I’m honest, I could do so much more (I know teachers are underpaid and blah blah, but in a lot of areas, I could still do better). Then I thought about my friends and peers who have similar stories, and some of them don’t even know it. Sometimes we show up and we rationalize in our head that we’ve done our part but there are no participation trophies when it comes to commitment. You don’t get anything for showing up. You must do something and do it to the best of your ability.

A lot of times we’re committed to other people; sometimes to people who aren’t committed to us. We give them everything we got to fulfill everything they need. Whether it’s a significant other, friend, relative, we are committed to them. But when commitment does not have a face or a name or a quick reward or recognition, can you still be committed? Will you still be willing to plan the event that hardly anyone attended last year, but you know impacted the few who were there? Will you give more of your time and money to make it better than before? Or will you just “support,” like everyone else did? Will you participate in the conference calls? Show up early to help setup? Make whatever amends necessary to work peacefully with everyone?

I’ve said it many times before: I love doing nothing. Absolutely nothing. So the idea of commitment is the complete opposite of how I want to live my life. But a few caring friends have let me know it’s not about me and I’ll be the caring friend to let you know, “it’s not about you.” Anyone can show up and be counted as present, even have a good time while they’re there. It takes special people to do the work and do it well. I’m the best show-er up-er there is. I can even make it look like I’m doing something well, but in the end I’m only fooling myself. I’m all about being gentle with yourself and knowing your limit and self-care, but I’m learning that commitment means pushing my own feelings aside sometimes.

Jesus didn’t just show up on earth; He did something while He was here and He did it well. We should keep that same energy when it comes to our gifts and our purpose and our church and our jobs. I’m not saying hop on every committee you can or say yes to everything you’re asked to do to show how committed you are. Doing that will actually cause you to be committed to nothing. I’m saying choose something and truly be committed to it. Don’t just get by, don’t do just enough, don’t just support, don’t throw money at it; do the work. It’s a sad case when we’re always supporting our friends and families and what they’re committed to but they can never support what we’re doing because we’re not committed to anything. You may never see the outcome of your commitment, but like I said, it’s not about you.

God: The Ultimate Event Planner

There are some people who have every second of their days planned and others who have no idea what is happening, they just show up. God is more of the former while I fall somewhere in the middle, closer to the latter. In planning events, one must pay attention to detail and be ready to deal with the unexpected. Someone is not a great event planner because all their events go off without a hitch, but when things happen, they are able to recover and still put on a great event. This makes God the ultimate event planner.

Think about it, He already knows the plans He has for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11). If we would simply go with the plan, we wouldn’t find ourselves in as much mess. Of course we don’t do that, but He takes the mess and makes it beautiful. He incorporates our desires into the event we call life when we give Him control (Psalms 37:4). He allows those bad times to work out for our good (Romans 8:28). He also has the connections to open doors we need opened, if we ask Him (Matthew 7:7). In order to receive these benefits we have to acknowledge Him as our event planner and consult Him about the details (Proverbs 3:6).

Again, it’s not about everything going according to your plan. It’s about trusting your event planner (God) to still make whatever happen good for you. When I bought my house, a man who has been like a godfather to me, told me to enjoy my home no matter what happens. He reminded me that God had brought me this far and everything was ALWAYS going to work out. I have dealt with many things as a homeowner (leaking roof, being robbed, etc.) but I always remembered his words. And recently, I have been trying to be more intentional about applying those words to my life as a whole. No matter what happens, my event planner has it under control.

June 2017