One of the greatest feelings I’ve been able to experience is the joy that comes from watching my friends dreams come true. Raynard, we are learning together that they do indeed come true. Those dreams we’ve dreamt together that seemed so far away, almost out of reach, now have a face and a name with the promise of forever.
We have walked this single journey together and I am thrilled to see it coming to an end for you. I have watched an intentional, surprising, confident love blossom. This love has shown us what it means to live out Hebrews 11:1 (“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”). This love causes us to reflect on 1 Corinthians 13:13 (“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” – NLT). This love brings to our remembrance Ephesians 3:20 (“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us”).
I use the terms “us” and “we” and “our” and “together” because Raynard and I are a package deal. It’s not something many people understand and we’re okay with that but I’m grateful his future bride has welcomed me with open arms. I’m grateful he has someone in his corner who will always be on his team, who he can share his hopes, dreams, and fears with, who will love him through his high highs and low lows. She is someone who will elevate his already successful ministry, and again, for that I’m grateful.
There’s so much more I want to say but I’ll save it for the wedding! CONGRATULATIONS!!!
Proverbs 18:22 Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord
“You got up so I could get up again.” He is risen and I’m glad about it! Resurrection Sunday could not have come at a better time. The past month or so, I’ve felt like I’ve been running in place, not really getting anywhere. Work has been annoying, my allergies have been trying to take me out, and I’ve been having hard conversations with myself. Although there have been multiple bright spots, as a whole it still felt like blah.
Today reminded me that after Jesus was crucified, Saturday (or whatever day came before He rose) came and went. The day before Jesus rose, people were still sad and scared; they thought that’s where the story ended. Even though Jesus had already said what He said, Jesus’ disciples and followers, had no idea Resurrection Sunday was going to happen. They thought they’d just have to adapt to their new normal. But the waiting was all a part of the plan.
So perhaps this running in place does feel like Resurrection Eve, the longest Saturday ever, but I’ll trust God because the same power that got Jesus up from the grave, is the same power that lives in me. I’ll be like Noah and keeping building with no rain in the forecast. I’ll be like Mary and carry what God gave me. I’ll be like the woman with the issue of blood, pushing through the crowd to touch the helm of His garment. I’ll rise with victory. Happy Resurrection Day!
Luke 24:6-8 He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.” Then they remembered that he had said this. (NLT)
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Valentine’s Day is here!!! I have felt all the love this weekend and so much more. I’ve been asked several times why I love Valentine’s Day and the simple answer is, I love love. I always have, I always will. My mom would give my sister and I Valentine’s Day gifts and decorate the house. Even after we went to college, she would send us goodies. It was never just February 14 in my family. My parents never did a whole lot to celebrate the day but it was always acknowledged. It’s something special to me about taking a moment, a whole day, to bask in love. I know some people say it’s a commercialized day and blah blah, but to be wrapped up in something as powerful as love is a feeling I can’t describe. To be able to send gifts and cards to others, to see smiles on my goddaughter’s and her sisters’ faces, to gaze into the eyes of the one I love…. ::deep sigh:: It just fills me with so much joy. Valentine’s Day is a reminder of God’s love and how capable I am of giving and receiving that love. So if no one else has told you today, let me be the one to say HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!!
1 John 4:8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
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)
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.
Inhale love for the black man, exhale love for the black man. Inhale love for the black man, exhale love for the black man. Inhale love for the black man, exhale love for the black man.
Sometimes I get upset that I allow tears to pierce the corners of my eyes. Once they are there, I cannot stop them from falling and it scares me that I will never be able to. That this feeling of despair is a prerequisite for loving black men. It is required learning, understood as necessary to carry such a love. And as difficult as it may be at times, I will carry it just as naturally as I carry the air in my lungs. When it gets hard to breathe, I will inhale a little deeper, soak up the particles of black boy joy floating in the air. The ones they do not want to see because they are too busy seeing a threat. I will hug a black man much tighter and much longer than I ever have before, allowing the sound of his heartbeat to be music to my ears. It will be a reminder that all of the good do not have to die young; that street pavements do not have to serve as death beds for black bodies at the insistence of white hands. I will let a black man see me cry, an act of vulnerability my own mother cannot tell you the last time she saw. Even with the tears falling against my will, my soul will be cleansed after it has been seen by this black man. I will pray I will be as safe a space for him as he has been for me. And I will breathe a bit easier and continue to breathe for all of those who no longer can.
Inhale love for the black man, exhale love for the black man. Inhale love for the black man, exhale love for the black man. Inhale love for the black man, exhale love for the black man.
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.
Some years back there was a video of a little girl saying she wasn’t going to do it for the vine but eventually she does (one of my favorite videos). In our daily lives we are presented with a host of opportunities to do something for the Lord, and we don’t. It’s not comfortable, the other person doesn’t deserve it, or perhaps they do deserve whatever treatment you’re giving them, it’s not in the budget, it’s not part of the plan, or maybe you just don’t want to. I’ve been there more times than I want to count and often times felt justified in my not doing. But that’s not how God has called us to live our lives.
Colossians 3:23 says “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” As to the Lord. As to the Lord. One more time for the Holy Ghost, as to the Lord. Not my comfort level, not someone else’s “worth,” not my plans, not my budget… as to the Lord. One of my favorite songs is “For Your Glory,” by Tasha Cobbs and the lyrics say “For Your glory, I will do anything…” And every time I sing that part, I feel it deep down in my bones.
Unfortunately, that feeling leaves when my mom ask me to look up her flight information when she is just as capable as I am or when I’m asked to teach Sunday School when I would rather sit in the Senior class. “For Your glory, I will do anything…” I’m not doing my mother or the church a favor because everything I do should be as to the Lord. All for His Glory.
And I know: you’re ALWAYS doing for others. Shouldn’t you be allowed to say no sometimes? You definitely should say no sometimes but if you say yes, don’t blame anyone else because you made the choice to help. When we go out of our way or allow our day to be inconvenienced to help someone, we don’t get brownie points. Jocee, you don’t get brownie points. It’s my reasonable service; the least I could do because I’m doing it as to the Lord.
So when you’re asked to do something, especially when you don’t want to, remind yourself to do it as to the Lord. Don’t half do it because they asked at the last minute. Don’t expect something in return because you did it when you didn’t have to. Don’t complain about doing it. Do it as though God Himself were asking you to. Do it for the Lord.
These are the responses I get when I tell people I’m waiting for marriage to have sex. They are amazed at such a declaration. As I was having this conversation with a new friend and we discussed relationships, I started to wonder was this the point guys I “talked” to realize we weren’t going to work. After all, no one has ever told me, “I’ll wait for you.” I’m grateful they didn’t because it would have been a lie and in all honesty, I don’t want anyone to wait for me.
Wait for me to get my food before you start eating. Wait for me to finish getting ready before you leave. Wait for me to wake up before you call me. But don’t wait for me to have sex.
I’m not waiting for marriage to have sex because I want to be seen as an “angel” and it actually saddens me that we equate not having sex before marriage with being a non-human. I’m waiting for marriage because God said so. It’s that simple for me. Are there other areas I struggle with and have to ask God for forgiveness? Yes. But I’m always striving to do what God says. We all fall short, but what are you striving for?
I’m striving to be holy and desire to be with someone who is also striving to be holy. Not striving to make me happy. Not striving to marry me. Someone who is striving to be holy. I always tell people I’m a lot to deal with. All day, every day. It’s going to take you striving to be holy, to be with me. Not because I’m unworthy of love. Not because I’m any more to handle than anyone else. Not even because I’m waiting until marriage to have sex. I’m a human striving to be holy, so every day I’m not wrestling against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12). I don’t want to wrestle alone.
I don’t want to carry the spiritual weight of my relationship, all the time. There will be times I am spiritually weak, and will need someone to hold my arms up and pour into my life. If you’re walking around on empty talking about you’re waiting for me, you’ll have nothing to give. This is why the bible tells us to be equally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14). I admit there was a time when I behaved as though I didn’t know what this scripture meant or I made it mean what I wanted it to. But by and by, after while, I realized there was no getting around it if I desired a Godly marriage.
There is the scripture in the bible that says the saved spouse covers the unsaved spouse (1 Corinthians 7:14) and you’ve heard love stories of how the saved man brought the sinner woman to Christ and they lived happily ever after. During that phase of my life when I was trying to skirt around 2 Corinthians 6:14, I settled on this being my destiny. I would meet a really nice guy who just needed Jesus and I would lead him to Christ and we would live an amazing life with a great testimony. I had no idea the trials and growing pains those couples go through. And, yes, every couple has their ups and downs, but did I really want to set myself up for such a relationship when I didn’t have to? No. A resounding no.
We’re called to draw all men to Christ (Matthew 28:19) but I would never want someone to come to Christ for me. I’ll be the light, I’ll be the salt of the earth, I’ll help them take that first step, but if we don’t work out, I would pray they are still moving towards Christ. This can only happen if you come to Christ for yourself. You’re not doing me a favor by waiting for me. If you don’t understand the purpose in the waiting (to be holy – set apart), your waiting is in vain. Wait for Jesus, don’t wait for me.
John 6:44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.