Sundays With Rae

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

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.

Filling Time With Feelings

I recently told someone it’s been May 20th the past couple of days in my world. Time has become such a fluid concept for me (which I’m sure my bosses did not appreciate considering I had deadlines to meet). However, as a child, I was obsessed with time. I wore ugly sports watches well into high school because I always wanted to know what time it was. Now, it just doesn’t seem to be that important. The days come and go. I’ve had really great days and other days, not so much. I’ve talked to friends a lot more than I usually would have. I’ve stayed up way past my bedtime most nights. I’ve read books. I haven’t written as much as I’ve wanted to. I’ve cooked (yes, me, I cooked). I’ve done bible plans. I’ve exercised. I’ve loathed video conferences. I’ve cried. I’ve taken breaks from social media and the news. I’ve prayed. I’ve laughed. I’ve done a whole lot since the world took a “kind of” pause but I’m realizing through writing this, that I’ve let a lot of time just go by.

Some days I’ve been really intentional. Sometimes I intentionally rested and sometimes I intentionally completed tasks, but I haven’t had enough of those intentional days. With that in mind, I’m going to do more to fill my time with things I set out to do (being intentional) instead of just going to bed at 4am, clueless as to how it got to be so late and unsure of what I’ve done with the day (being lazy). That may look like me sleeping in until noon some days and other days getting up at 8am (probably not going to do much earlier than that unless I’m highly motivated). That may look like reading a book for four hours or binge watching “A Different World.” That may look like praying/mediating for an hour or listening to music while playing Candy Crush Soda Saga. That may look like doing a video call with my college friends or harassing my younger sister about whatever comes to mind. That may look like writing about everything and nothing or looking up recipes I’m not going to make. And that may still look like, “today we’re going to just see what happens,” sometimes. We don’t all have to start a new business or become fitness gurus (shout out to those of you who did though; I can’t tell you how proud I am to call y’all friends!) but we all have to be responsible for what we do with our time. I want to fill my time with things that feel right for me. I want to look back and be able to say time did not pass me, but I decided how I passed it.

As in control as I thought God was, this whole pandemic has shown me just how true that is. He is working things out for good, and even after we get to our new normal, I always want to fill time with feelings.

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.

May 2020

Pause in the Plan

Guess who doesn’t have to go to work until further notice? Me, I don’t. Of course I’m beaming with excitement! I thought I would get a day or two but it’s going to be at least a week, probably two. As a single person with no kids who will still be getting paid, this is honestly like an early Spring Break for me. We’ll probably have to make up some of the time, but I’ll deal with that then. In the midst of my joy, I realize what I’m considering a vacation, for many it’s a disruption in their life they didn’t see coming and they don’t know how they’ll recover.

Their kids are out of school, but they have to go to work. They don’t have to go to work but they’re also not getting paid. One of their family members is sick and they have to take care of them. Appointments they’ve had for months have been canceled because offices are closed. Events they have been looking forward to are no longer happening. Trial dates have been postponed. They have no idea what their tomorrow will be. It’s like everything has been put on pause.

We’ve all experienced a pause in our lives, maybe not to this degree, but in some way or another, things don’t end up going the way we think they will when we think they will. We wait. And we hope. And we pray. This is the trying of our faith. Can we really trust God? Will He really see us through? Did we hear Him right? Yes, yes, and yes! This pause doesn’t mean the plan won’t come to fruition and it doesn’t mean it won’t be difficult but know that God is working it out. There is a grand scheme of things we are not privy to. It’s easy for me to say all these things while sitting in the position I’m in but trust me when I say there have been so many moments when I didn’t believe, and I desperately wanted to. God is faithful, He always has been and always will be. Lean into Him through this pause and know that you’re coming out on the other side.

Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

February 2020

To read more about waiting, click here and here and here

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

Handle With Care

I am my own worst critic. Jocee you should have said this, you should have did this. Why did you look like that? Why didn’t you do this? I’m never satisfied with what I present to the world. Even with writing this blog, you have no idea how many times I reread each post, questioning if it’s good enough. However, I’m learning to handle myself with care. The same grace Jesus asks us to give to others (Luke 6:36), is the same grace we need to extend to ourselves.

We should set expectations for ourselves but if we don’t measure up to those expectations, it’s not the end of the world. A toddler who is potty training is going to have accidents. We don’t yell at them for not reaching the goal of staying dry all day (or rather we shouldn’t). The next day you encourage them to keep trying. We should take on this same attitude when we mess up and fail to reach our goals.

As a teacher, I have some of the best ideas and literally spend hours planning. Once it’s time to actually teach, some days it seems like everything is going wrong and it’s all my fault. Why didn’t I make the copies earlier? Why did I choose that story? Why didn’t I use a different example? Why didn’t I account for little Timmy being a jerk today? And if I get caught in that downward spiral, I ignore all the things that went well. I successfully talked Timmy out of running out of the building. They thought my joke was funny. When I asked for all eyes on me, all eyes were on me. I made a real world connection to the standard and they actually understood. Celebrate what went well and make notes of what you can do better and tomorrow, do better.

Galations 5:22-23, list the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance). This fruit is not just for others, it’s for you. If someone were to overhear you having a conversation with yourself about yourself, what would they hear? Would they feel bad for you? Or would they marvel at how kind you are even under the worst conditions?

Jonathan McReynolds once said the things we are most insecure about are the things we think everyone else is “hating” on. What if I told you, you were your biggest hater? You don’t give yourself permission to have a bad day or moment. You’re not allowed to mess up. And I get it, maybe you have too much at stake. Maybe others are depending on you to get it right all the time. But in helping everyone else, make sure you’re helping yourself by handling yourself with care.

Loved by You

i loved you on purpose

When I read these words in Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, I was taken aback. The poem was talking about a romantic love but the idea of not falling in love by accident or by chance or simply because there were no other options, but to have counted up the cost and considered the risks, and still choose love, is amazing to me.

As a teacher, I’m used to hearing children debate about whether or not something was done on accident or on purpose. It could be stepping on someone’s toe, knocking over the pencil bucket, coloring on someone’s paper; whatever it is, if it’s done on purpose, it takes it up another level. There is intent and motive behind your actions. You made a choice.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on Him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). He loves us on purpose. Despite knowing every mistake we’ll make, He loves us. No matter what we do on purpose, He loves us. And not only does He do it on purpose, He does it WITH purpose. Every day, He chooses us. His love is beyond a moment of weakness. In fact, love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). He knows the plans He has for us (Jeremiah 29:11) and isn’t scared of our shortcomings and failures. It may be all we can see and perhaps all those around us can see, but He just keeps loving us on purpose.

April 2016

“And I’m loved by You, it’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am…”

(Good Good Father – Chris Tomlin)

Empty Your Hands

I was babysitting my goddaughter, Safiya, and her sister, Naima the other day and Naima, who is two, found an eraser that looked like a strawberry. She did what all two year olds do: tried to eat it. I informed her it was not food and I told her we could get some snacks if she was hungry, but she clutched the strawberry eraser and ran away shouting “mine!” I had something better but she thought she had the best. Too often, we are Naima. We are so content with what we find, we ignore and sometimes run away from what God has for us, not realizing that what He has is so much better. If we would just empty our hands, God can bless us.

I remember being very unhappy at my job as a family therapist. I just did not like it. However, compared to most beginning therapists, I was making pretty good money and my hours were fantastic. But that did not seem like enough. I technically could have continued to work as a therapist as I applied to teaching jobs but something in me knew I needed to empty my hands. I didn’t think of it as that then, I just knew I was sick of being a therapist. I had some savings and I was going to live on that until God made a move. During these times of empty hands, I learned how to pray. I knew what it meant to put a request before God and trust He was going to make good on it. I would not have been able to experience this total dependence, had my hands been full of family therapist stuff. Maybe I would not have scored as well on my teaching certification exams. Maybe I would not have taken as many substitute jobs (which is actually how I got my full-time teaching job). I had to put down what I thought was best and trust in God’s better.

Fear kills. Fear cripples. Fear stunts growth. Of the million and one things I want to do in my life, if you ask me why I have not done them, my answer for the majority of those things would be because I’m afraid. I’m afraid I won’t do it right. I’m afraid no one will like it. I’m afraid I’ll look stupid. I’m afraid. So instead, I hold tight to all the things I already know how to do. I hold tight to my views of the world. I hold tight to my stuff. I don’t trust that what God has is better. What I have is good enough… Who really wants to live a good enough life? Not I. So as scary as it may seem, I NEED to walk around with empty hands, awaiting God to fill them.

We can usually tell when God is calling us to something better. It’s usually uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and relies solely on Him to make work. For me, it was a job. For you, it may be a relationship. Yes, y’all have been together for five years and of course you love the person, but it’s going nowhere. You know it, he/she knows it, and maybe the thought of being alone is scary and the thought of having to get to know somebody else is overwhelming (don’t even get me started), but it’s necessary for better. It could be unforgiveness that you need to let go of. You know they were wrong, they know they were wrong, all of your social media knows they were wrong. Empty yours hand of it, so God can give you forgiveness. As much as we want to believe we can hold unforgiveness and forgiveness at the same time, I assure you we can’t (I’ve tried, several times). Let your “secret” sins go. Maybe nobody else knows about them but we both know, God knows. He can’t give you everything He’s promised you because your hands are so full of sin. Free your hands up.

Today I challenge you to drop the strawberry eraser, with the belief that God’s better will fill those empty hands.

424 Miles

That’s the distance between my house and Cleveland, MS. Yes, there is a Cleveland in Mississippi. It’s closer to Arkansas than Alabama and is as Southern as you think it is. What’s in Cleveland, MS? Delta State University. The Grammy Museum (random, I know). But my reason for going was to visit one of my closest friends from high school. It was a trip I almost didn’t take, but a trip that was necessary.

Of course I wanted to see my friend, but 424 miles though? That would be a 6 hour, 39 minute drive… one way. Issa no for me. I literally considered almost any other option. Savannah. Daytona Beach. Fort Lauderdale. Chicago. Charleston. Boston. Panama City Beach. Those options were either too expensive, out of rooms, or just as far as Cleveland. Then, I remembered, Cleveland was on my list of things to do in my 27th year (click here, this is why you should write goals down). So off to Cleveland I went. It was one of the best trips I have taken in a long time. It inspired me to go after the things I want in life. To do what I was called to do even if I am afraid. To reassign people’s roles in my life story. To take care of myself. To live life unapologetically. All of this came out of a 424 mile journey, a journey well worth it.

Too often, we become so complacent in life, we allow goals and dreams to fall by the wayside, locked away in our thoughts and journals. The journey seems like a waste of time, so much so, when the opportunity to take the journey presents itself, we say “it’s too far,” “it’s too much,” “it’s not enough,” “it’s not going to work,” “I’m too old,” “I’m too shy.” Excuse, after excuse. You could be right, but what if you’re wrong? What if your healing is there? What if your multi-million dollar business is there? What if your self-esteem is there? What if your husband or wife is there? What if your degree is there? What if your ministry is there? There will always be a “what if,” if you never take the journey.

Moses was the king of excuses. “What if they don’t believe me? I have slow speech and a slow tongue. Let someone else do it” (Exodus 4:1, 10, 13). He was having an actual conversation with the God of the universe, and was still like “nah, that’s not for me.” Moses did not think he could lead. He did not want to take the journey. Touch your neighbor and say, “ohhh, but when he did!” He performed miracles. He helped set a whole nation free. And although it took the children of Israel a minute to figure out life, Moses was still able to be the leader God called him to be. Thousands of years later, we’re still talking about him. The journey was worth it.

My journey took 424 miles. Yours may take going to the gym consistently. Writing and rewriting your manuscript. Going to class. Studying. Saving money. Investing money. Going to therapy. Saying no. Saying yes. It may not always be easy. God told Moses He had hardened Pharaoh’s heart and would not let the people go right away (Exodus 4:21). And God even sought to kill Moses at one point (Exodus 4:24), but it was all part of the journey. Those bumps in the road may come, but we serve a God who can do above all we could ask or think according to the power that worketh in us (Ephesians 3:20). You think the journey is taking you one place, but when you finally get to the destination… In the words of today’s preacher, you’ll find “much better and much more.” Take the journey, even if it is 424 miles.

1 Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

Grammy Museum (April 2018)

My friend Susan at the Grammy Museum in Cleveland, MS (April 2018)

Trust the Sign-Giver

My favorite color is red. His favorite color is blue. We both have on purple today. That’s a sign, he is bae. Sounds ridiculous, right? But if we are honest with ourselves, we make “signs” out of anything. I use to like this guy who had a very common last name and after we started talking I felt as though I was seeing his name everywhere. Clearly, that was a sign we were meant to be… Ask me where that guy is now. I have no idea. But I wanted it to work out so bad, I didn’t even ask God for a sign (I knew homeboy was not going to work lol), I just made up signs. Too often, we want God to cosign on situations that are not good for us, when the truth of the matter is, if we are constantly communicating with God as we should (1 Thessalonians 5:17), He will direct our paths (Proverbs 3:6).

I recently saw a meme about a girl who asked God to give her a sign on whether or not she should continue talking to this boy and in the midst of them texting, her phone died at 87%. This was hilarious to me because not only is this something I would say, I would then proceed to say “this phone is always acting crazy, I’m taking it to the At&t store tomorrow,” and continue talking to the boy. Even if God spoke to us through a burning bush like He did Moses, and specifically told us what to do or not to do, we would make up excuses to do what we want to anyway. “Bushes don’t even talk.” “He thought I was someone else.” “He meant for the rest of today, not the rest of my life.” “I’m not even sure that was really God because of all the fire and everything.” Like, girl, wake up…

My prayer has become, let my will be Your will. If we are striving to be in His will, the decisions we make will be based on what He wants for us, and not we ourselves. We won’t have to keep asking Him for a sign to be sure we are doing what is right because our goal will be to glorify Him in everything. So if a relationship is not glorifying Him, there is your sign. If your job is not glorifying Him, there is your sign. If your life is not glorifying Him, there is your sign. I am not saying you have to walk around speaking in tongues and praying out loud and singing hymns all day. But is your life a reflection of Christ? Does your relationships look like Christ’s relationship with the church? Can people see God in you at your job? Are you a light in this dark world? Those are the signs we should be focused on.

There will be times in life when we are not sure if we are making the right decision but I challenge you to ask God to lead you, instead of asking God to give you a sign. Now, I do believe God will give you confirmation (if you like the word sign, you can use that) on certain situations. I was unsure about a decision I made and out of the blue a friend called me and without telling her my decision, she just started confirming everything I had been thinking. I had not asked God for a sign, but I trusted He was going to hold my hand through the process and He sent someone to hold my other hand. And not just anyone, someone who also follows Him and trusts Him (Carol, you the real MVP lol).

God will never leave you, nor forsake you. Never! Even when you do not know what to do, trust that He will show you. It may not come in the form of a prophet speaking over your life or you passing three green lights in a row or even seeing a name multiple times. Often times, it will be a still small voice (1 King 19:12) and if you are not listening for it, you may miss it. Remember, all things work together for the good of them that love the Lord (Romans 8:28). So even if you feel as though you made the “wrong” decision, if you stay in His will, He will use it for His glory. Trust the sign-giver.

November 2017