Personal essays · Self Love

100 days…

From my post in April:  100 signifies an election. The word election stems from the Latin eligere meaning to “pick out.” So today, I have elected to reflect over the past 99 days and pick today as the day to begin to conquer my fears, move past my insecurities, and just do it. My faith is urging me to really do IT.

We were taught that 100 means the end. But it’s only April, and Spring just started getting good. Excuse me while I wipe off my rose-colored glasses, adjust my curls away from my face, and exhale, “please count with me…..101, 102, 103, 104, 105. . . .”

 

And now here we are in September with 100 days remaining in 2017. I have still elected to conquer my fears, move past my insecurities and just do IT! I came here tonight to make some declarations so I can purposefully and intentionally fulfill my 2017.

I declare that I will learn dedication and consistency.

I declare that I will work on not being so hard on myself.

I declare that I will work hard and put all my faith in God.

Good night and CHEERS!

 

Give Love. Get Love.

 

 

 

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Parenting · Self Love

Kitchen ABC’s

For most adults, you learn how to feed yourselves according to your appetite. If you love watching Food Network, like me, you imagine a kitchen filled with the latest gadgets and utensils. Until that dream becomes a reality, you might have these basics on hand (most probably acquired during your college years): pots and pans, spatula, maybe a mixing spoon, probably a whisk, and aside from the staple silverware, you might have a knife block. 

As a woman, the saying goes, “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Yet, any man that is willing to cook for me and with me is a keeper! I like using my hands and trying to figure out how seasonings pair or standing over a mixing bowl saying, “what if I add this?” or “I wonder how this will taste?” Sharing my creations has not always worked in my favor BUT I can follow a recipe to a tee (I still have to add my own personal touch!)

But regardless if you have flights of fancy of starting your own cooking web series, there are some kitchen staples that every home can use. You never know when the day will come and you want to host a dinner party, or you might feel like experimenting in the kitchen like I do.

 

I asked my childhood friend and talented chef, Birmingham’s Chef Eryka Perry of Not Just Catering, to lend her expertise by providing a list of kitchen staples that everyone should have – married, single parent, doting bachelor or family of 5.

Pantry:

  • Garlic (fresh or minced)
  • Basic seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika)
  • Coconut and olive oils (these are NOT interchangeable)
  • Liquid amino acids – building blocks of life (great substitute for soy sauce, and flavor additive) 
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Italian herb mix: oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, sage
  • Lemon or lemon juice

 

Equipment:

  • One good knife because it can make magic
  • One pyrex or casserole dish
  • Small and large saute pan or skillet
  • Median and large sauce pot
  • Bowls (various sizes: small, medium and large)
  • Ziplock bags (varying sizes: sandwich, quart, freezer)
  • Nuwave oven: can replace stove, oven, and microwave
  • Rubber spatula
  • Tongs
  • Wooden spoon
  • Forks and spoons (4 of each) – never know when you will want to or need to entertain

 

Foods:

  • Greens: Kale, spinach, collards
  • Frozen fruits
  • Bananas
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Beans (canned or dried, depending on your preference)
  • Rice (brown or wild rice blend)
  • Butter

I am going to add flour and sugar to this list because anything can be made or created when you have those in your cabinet as well.

These are just some basics that you should keep stocked. You can add other foods, seasons, equipment to your liking.

Besides, recipes are becoming easier to follow. If you can subscribe to Hello Fresh or Blue Apron, you can surely select a recipe online or at your local Publix, purchase the needed ingredients and then enjoy the fruits of your labor. BONUS: Having a home cooked meal saves money and calories! 

(Shameless Plug): Chef Eryka offers food coaching, cooking classes, lunch and learns, AND she will even come to your home and cook for you and yours!!!! Contact her today <info@notjustcatering.com> and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and THEN subscribe to her newsletter  😉

 

 

 

Parenting

365 days later

You made it! You survived your 1st year as a parent! You kept your child alive for an entire year :). Now you enter into the potentially highly stressful situation of planning his birthday party. Do you make reservations at the infamous Chuck E. Cheese that does not genuinely cater to children under 5? Do you go to McDonald’s or Chick-Fil-A with a cake where your child, who may or may not be walking, cannot climb up the play structures and slide? Or do you invite friends and family to your home and try to have a cartoon-themed party?

How should your child’s 1st year be celebrated? In my opinion, this should be a time for the family to congratulate themselves. Parents are not wholeheartedly prepared for the numerous responsibilities of childrearing. So many changes as your child is growing, exploring, and evolving. Does it stop after the 1st year? Of course not! However, if you take the time to glance back at the pictures you took in the hospital, during their 1st doctor’s visit, the 1st time they smiled, the video of them tasting food, or the 1st time they sat up alone, you see all of those firsts!

So it is my humble opinion that parents should enjoy their child’s 1st birthday. They deserve a level of celebration. I was discussing this topic with my sister-in-law and she suggested the parents get wined and dined and I agree! I do not see anything wrong with parents clanking glasses to say, “Yes! We did it! We made it! The little human that we were privileged to create is still here and healthy 12 months later.” This is a highly interdependent relationship: parents did not exist with a child and a child is not created without parents. Celebrations all around!

Over the past year, I have attended four one-year-old birthday parties.

  • There were 2 house parties
    • One parent had a story time. The godmother is a library so she read “Pete the Cat” and it was a hit.
    • The other party was just a big family affair with a Peppa Pig theme. All the foods were pig related – curly fries to represent a cute little piggy tail and pigs in the blanket.
  • The other 2 were on-location
    • The mall has a carousel in the middle of the food court, so these parents reserved tables near the ride. They got a chicken tray from Chick-Fil-A and the little attendees were treated to vanilla ice cream cone. Then the birthday girl and her court were able to ride, many of them for the 1st time. It was easy and convenient. (Even if someone forgot a gift or didn’t have time to shop, they could just go to a store there!)
    • One grandparent decided to have a big Mickey Mouse theme blowout with a huge inflatable house and water slide at a local park. This party had so much grilled food – hot dogs for the kids and chicken for the adults. The weather was perfect! There was no rush to leave the pavilion and when the birthday boy got tired, he napped in his stroller.

The best thing about each party is that they were all about family. That should be the goal. Surround your child with love from their village. Even though they will not remember the day, they will see the excitement, hear the birthday song, and feel the love.

Give love. Get love.

 

 

Parenting

The Village

Although I am not a parent, I have parented several children throughout my years as an either an educator, nanny, aunt, or sister. Each of those roles as afforded me the opportunity to be a part of a village. From my 3-year-old niece to my just-turned-1-year-old nephew to my friend’s children to all the children I have had the pleasure of calling me, “Ms. Valerie” or more recently, “Ms. Jones,” I have the honor of being a part of several villages.

Raising a child is not easy, and I do think anyone has have made that claim. This is why it is important for parents to know how to create their village. Regardless of how convenient family is or if the grandparents are deceased, your community should consist of those friends and family or “framily” (friends who become family) that you can not only trust with your child but also those who can vent to, cry to, and expect support. Those people become responsible to your family. The 1st year of the child’s life is so unexpected yet very foundational. Books, parents, friends family, other parents, and the childless offer all levels of advice. It is your job to trust your gut and then surround yourself with those who either go with your gut or even challenge it. Then keep away those who are set on destroying what you know to be true.

Your village should protect your child. The world can be scary. The angels assigned to your child and your family are always on guard. But those you have chosen and allowed into your community will be your eyes and ears when you can’t.

Your village will love your child. Perfect love, the love that Jesus personifies, the love that God is, cast out every kind of fear. Love creates a cocoon that your child can help them face the world head on. Knowing you are loved gives you confidence, security, and a sense of bravery needed to conquer any challenge.

Your village should be available for a good laugh. Laughter provides healing to your soul. When your soul is healthy, your body is healthy. Soul prosperity is beneficial to you and your child. Do not be afraid to call on your village just to chuckle.

Your village will provide a strong shoulder. A good cry is just as important as a good laugh. Lyfe Jennings said, “Crying is like taking your soul to the Laundromat.” What we see, hear, and say is how our souls are fed. Sometimes we have been feeding too much of the wrong thing and need a crying detox. There may be times when your child is inconsolable, give them room to cry. When you need to cry, call on your village so you can have the room to just cry. Cleanse your soul.

You do not know what your village will look like. It will just come organically. Embrace those who are willing to embrace your child. Use discernment to only include those you mean you help and not harm. You are not alone. You will have moments you feel lonely, and that is okay but know when to pull on your village, your circle of love.

Give love. Get love.

Parenting

Toddler Tidbits: Part 1

Wouldn’t it be magical if vegetables were as sweet as fruit?!? Feeding toddlers is not an easy task. They are still trying to distinguish different taste and get accustomed to textures. Imagine the transition – liquids –>mush—>regular foods. But all tiny tots are not the same. Some are excited about the textures – the crunchy, the crispy, the lumpy. Some gag on the softest foods for months. Regardless of your child, just go with the flow.

But parents, do not be afraid to introduce any and all foods to your children. It is so easy to feed your little ones solely the food you have grown accustomed to eating. For example, I LOVE blueberries, but this did not become fact until about 2 years ago. I asked my mom about it, and she said it was not a fruit she grew up eating so she never thought to offer to me. Blueberries are always on sale; they are small and as convenient as grapes! I am not suggesting waste money on expanding your child’s palate but do try to introduce a new food every few weeks. There maybe a vegetable, grain or fruit that the whole family will be able to enjoy.

What is the solution if your kids are stuck on pop tarts? There is hope! Sneak those healthy, bone-building foods into dishes that are enjoyed by all.

  • Smoothies: using greens allow the mixture to have a green color, but berries always win. Search the net for a fruity recipe and just add a few greens or carrots. (I love www.simplegreensmoothies.com)
  • Pizza: a cauliflower crust is an easy substitution; make your pizzas with only healthy toppings (i.e. shredded carrots, olives, lean meats, pineapples, spinach, broccoli)
  • Soup: use a vegetable broth, double the vegetables to beef stew, add carrots and peas to chicken noodle soup
  • Batter up: using panko or bread crumbs, oven fry zucchini, asparagus, string beans, or even broccoli; include a fun dipping sauce
  • Pasta: get that spiralizer and make your own version of spaghetti or fettuccine alfredo using spaghetti squash or zucchini as an alternative
  • Salad: load up on the veggies and fruits such as apples, grapes, and mandarin oranges and allow your kitchen helper to add his dressing

The best advice I can offer is: be your child’s best example. If your shadow sees you making healthy choices, then they will follow. We all want to grow up before time so if their plate mirrors yours, then their habits will also. Do not get frustrated. Pay attention to what foods they consume without being told and keep it handy. Do not stress; they will eat when they are hungry. If your child is “always hungry” then feed in moderation; however, make sure she is full at meal times.

With various food allergies and fears of creating obese children, it can be difficult to navigate the “best” way to feed your offspring.Do what is best for your and your baby but make sure real food is always on hand. (www.100daysofrealfood.com)

Give love. Get love.

 

 

 

Self Love

Ode to Blueberry Pancakes

I could probably eat blueberry pancakes every single day. I usually reserve them as a Saturday morning breakfast/brunch treat or any day of the week that I have time treat. Yesterday was rough. I was dejected and spiralled into a bout of depression. My life feels like everything is up in the air and definitely not how I would have planned it. This morning I woke up purposed to not stay down. I went to the kitchen for just a cup of coffee and decided that I had time for my blueberry pancakes! I have been full all day!!

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I have a friend who is a mental health professional. I reached out to him a few months ago when I felt that I was at the end of my rope. He recommended a few psychologists. Once I finally found the nerve to call, the one I selected was no longer in practice. I moved to the next name on the list and still have not called. I have communicated with her and she is very understanding and realizes it is a big step to ask for this type of help. The one thing that she said that helps me inch towards finally talking to her was, “Just look at it as helping you  to put skills in a toolbox to help deal with whatever is making you consider therapy in the 1st place…definitely no pressure.” Yet I still have not called. Seeking therapy does carry an unfair stigma. Definitely does not mean that I am crazy, just that help is needed. In the Black community, speaking with a psychologist or a psychiatrist is not an acceptable form of help. In the Christian community, this type of help seems to oppose the power of prayer. I think my hesitation lies in the thought that I can work it out. Things will get better. After yesterday or even during my “crisis” I should I have ran to this stranger. Yet I chose to sleep and wake up this morning to eat blueberry pancakes.

I definitely cannot eat my way to peace. I am already struggling with my weight! Talking is cheap, healthy, and safe. Prayer still works but I do need time to discuss me.

Thanks for reading. I hope to update this post with revelations after my talk with the therapist.

Give Love. Get Love.

Self Love

May is Marvelous

It is May!!! 5 months in 2017! That is just a crazy realization. Five is the number of grace. I will gladly walk in that all month long! Today I woke full of hope. I feel the freshness of this day. It is tangible. It is a great day to get stimulated and inspired!!

This weekend I was able to receive so much motivation! I watched this video on YouTube by one of my favorite comedians right now, Kevonstage, entitled, “Doboy’s testimony is my testimony.” 

This video was not a laughing matter at all but a push to just believe in yourself and the talent God gave you and keep working. Despite setbacks and rejection, keep striving. It made my heart so full. I think Kevonstage is so humble so to take the time to share an experience that was not about him just made me so incredibly full. Then I went to church! Saturday was women’s prayer. I almost missed it! Even though I was late, I was on time for what I needed to hear – God is concerned about me! We gathered to pray for loved ones and those souls who would give their hearts to Christ. At the end, we were instructed to them pray for ourselves and “ask lavishly” of God. As much as I have prayed and cried and written in my journal and whined to my friends over the past several months, during that moment in prayer in a sanctuary full of hopeful women, I felt my release. Then yesterday at church I was able to witness so many get baptized including my godson! I needed all of that the final weekend in April to set me up for the magnificence of May.

May means:

  • Lupus Awareness month. Put your purple in support! This disease does not play fair but the wolf won’t win! I’m a survivor.
  • It is Teacher Appreciation week! Being an educator is tiring and selfless but I love being in the classroom. Teachers need all the support and encouragement possible! Thank your child’s teacher.
  • Graduation season! I love graduations!!!!! That euphoric feeling of completion, realizing that you can finish something, feeling empowered to begin again and conquer new territory. . . .
  • Mother’s day! Mom’s are the best and just never get enough credit.

Now after writing that list, I understand why these events take place in May – it’s because each requires its own level or measure of grace (simple elegance, courteous goodwill, the free and unmerited favor of God).

 

Give Love. Get Love.

 

Ephesians 4:7Amplified Bible (AMP)
Yet grace [God’s undeserved favor] was given to each one of us [not indiscriminately, but in different ways] in proportion to the measure of Christ’s [rich and abundant] gift.

 

Self Love

The Little Things and the Joy they bring

Self care is simply the opportunity to be selfish. For me that is not always an easy task. I am selfish with some of my things that others but I do not truly take the time to take care of myself as I should. Having lupus has reminded me of the importance of listening to my body, taking care of my heart and allowing my mind to rest. Having my body to shut down, one more than one occasion, has been a hard lesson to learn but as the saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” It is impossible to keep loving others without 1st loving yourself.

For me, I do occupy my time doing simple things:

  • eating a nice helping of my favorite ice cream or dessert (I have a big sweet tooth)
  • watching my favorite movies (I have a pretty extensive collection)
  • perusing the aisle of a bookstore (SWOONS!)
  • taking a nap or just lying in my bed listening to music (hopefully not scrolling through my phone, unless it’s Pinterest or reading a blog)
  • depending on how I feel, exercise (I hope to start yoga soon)
  • partaking in a craft (I hope to learn how to knit one day)
  • watching cartoons with my niece while we play a game
  • depending on how stressed I am, I clean
  • enjoying a simple cup of tea (just add lemon)
  • being silly with my sister or a friend (laughter is the BEST medicine)

All of the above, are free or of low cost to me. One day I will be able to just jump on a plane and spend a day walking on the beach or engage in a shopping spree. Until then, I consciously take time to do things I love. It is so easy to get caught up in work, school, family obligations, church volunteer work, or just life. Those stressors can and will sneak up and that overwhelming feeling can swallow you whole but it can be defeated. Loving yourself is a way of showing God how much you love Him. He created you in His image and gave of Himself because of the magnitude of His love. Therefore, when you love yourself, you become more equipped to love others. This all equates to the love of God because God is Love.

Breathe deeply. Take a break. Find peace.

Give Love. Get Love.

Romans 13:8-10 The Message (MSG)
8-10 Don’t run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. The law code—don’t sleep with another person’s spouse, don’t take someone’s life, don’t take what isn’t yours, don’t always be wanting what you don’t have, and any other “don’t” you can think of—finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.

Self Love

Why I Write

I was in the 2nd grade when I met the reality of my life as a writer. My memory is a little cloudy concerning the particulars of this day, so please forgive my attempt to recall. I believe we were presented with the opportunity to write a story. I remember illustrating a picture and writing maybe, a one-page story. Out teacher either gave us the option to enter this state-wide competition or I chose to, however, myself and one classmate, who I was also very good friends with at the time, were allowed to go to the state capital, Montgomery, with other writers from our school for a young author’s competition.

I remember sitting nervously on the bus because my mother was not able to chaperone; yet so excited because of the magnitude of such an opportunity. My friend and her mom were in the seats behind me and I turned around to her to discuss our stories and what we might experience that day. I had never visited the state capitol so this was a big deal in my 8-year-old world. I felt so important! Before the bus departed, I pulled out a small military/army green notebook my mom gave me. The word “journal” was written diagonally across the cover in cursive, gold letters. She instructed me to write down all I could from that day. She said I need to start writing down my experiences so I can recall them when I got older. She stood on the sidewalk waving goodbye as the bus pulled off. Other details I remember from that trip were seeing the capitol building, going to a the site of the competition and seeing so many other young writers. I think we got to listen to an author speak and received a signed copy of a his/her Caldecott book. I remember writing a few sentences on the 1st page of my journal because I really did not know what I needed to capture. I have no idea where that book could be and I think that journal is long gone; however, I never stopped writing.

It was not about the competition; although, this post reminds me of the dream I gained that day of writing my own Caldecott-winning book. My writing has always been about me. My mom and that journal is what I draw from today because it sparked something in me that I have not be able to shake in almost 30 years. I have kept a journal off and on since then. I have a few distinct memories of writing while in undergrad. My sophomore year of college: my roommate journalled almost every day. We shared the inconsistency of our writing habits. Yet, seeing her write each night inspired me to fill the pages of my journal. My senior year: I had excitedly had to complete a 20-page research paper. I lost sleep and almost lost my paper but I loved the research and the stress of writing the most I had ever written.

I did not gain confidence I needed until last year when I earned my 2nd bachelor’s degree in English. I actually graduated Cum Laude – unbelievable! One of my professors praised my writing on a paper that I felt like I just could not bring together. I think I may have cried but I know I took a picture of that comment and sent it to my mentor. At that point, I was starting to break and question this decision but it was then I felt validated. Completing this degree pushed me aggressively pursue a childhood dream, even though I went from desiring to be a model, teacher, doctor and lawyer. I remember writing each of these professions in a journal around 4th or 5th grade. I thought I could be all 4 at some point in my life. But writing is something that I have never been able to stop doing. My mom told me that I read and write more than anything so it did not surprise her (I need to beef up on my reading, recommendations are welcome) that I made this choice. That was a surreal yet substantial moment because I did not think my mom knew or paid attention to how much I wrote but I guess a mother truly does always know!

Since becoming an adult, I write to pray; to release frustrations; to express joys; to plan for the future; to share my love; to seek interpretation for my dreams; or to seal in words heard while in church. I read this quote today by George Orwell, “[You write out of the] desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, etc., etc., etc., It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive and a strong one.” I can admit that I want to be remembered for the words I pen and not so much for the ones I speak. My friends know that when I care enough to send the very best, it will always be in a card, email or letter. One of my most beloved and oldest friends became spoiled by my words. Imagine that! From our 24th or 25th birthday until our 34th birthday, I think, I would pen a letter to her. My birthday in July and hers in November so whatever pearls of wisdom I gained in those 4 months, I would share with her. What was cathartic for me, motivated her.

Anything that I cannot verbally or physically express comes through the words I write. Words have power and create permanence. I write because I can.

 

Give Love. Get Love.

 

Psalm 45:1 NIV  Beautiful words stir my heart.
    I will recite a lovely poem about the king,
    for my tongue is like the pen of a skillful poet. 

Self Love

1000 words

Last year, my sister and I took pictures in our Easter outfits after church and this year was no different. I boldly posted last year’s picture on Instagram. As soon as I saw it in my feed, I scrutinized it from top to bottom. I felt confident in my rose lace dress, nude pumps, and tightly curled coif. But with every notification of a “like,” I found a reason as to why I should take the pic down. I had been working out and thought my arms would have been more toned and felt shapely but that picture did not display the smaller waist I felt I had earned. I decided to try a new hairstyle. I felt really good about my curls but that picture showed that I should have picked it out or saved that style for another day.

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This year, I purposed not to buy a new dress or get my hair done. I was not going to fall into the stereotypical fashion show that takes place in churches all over the country. BUT I bought some really cute pants from Target that I would have bought anyway (right?)… Another “difference” from last year is that I fasted for Lent and I gave up sweets, coffee, and tea. I knew that after 40 days, I would lose significant weight. But a picture is worth 1000 words. One word I had, in comparison to last year, was “Better.” But of course, being super critical is something I may have perfected.

20170416_173150

I reviewed the pictures of my photoshoot but what I saw was that I “better” start exercising! I see 1000 words but nothing really positive. Crazy thing is I felt good about my entire outfit all day long, until I saw this picture. It really is not fair for me to be hyper-critical but I have chosen to use it as motivation to get the body I am most comfortable in. It did not help that when I was out looking for my Easter ‘fit, I tried on clothes and was so disappointed when I could not participate in the fabulous sale that was taking place at The Gap. So many cute, affordable clothes that I could not purchase. I truly dislike trying on clothes so seeing myself, in a full-length mirror, in my clothes, then down to my underwear, and then in clothes that did not fit they way I had hoped really bummed me out.

I am taking all of those feelings to the gym, at least that is goal. I am purposing to change my narrative. I will find 1000 words that will build and not break. I have done this before. I have consistently worked out, changed my eating habits, fit into my “goal clothes” and despite not reaching my goal weight, I was beginning to truly love the weight I was carrying. I will get there. This is not a lofty goal and I have successfully done this before. I will find my groove, my mojo and work it out!

 

Give Love. Get Love.

 

I Love God

Good Friday

It is Holy Week 2017. This is a week of reverence and remembrance in the Christian community of faith. This week symbolizes a foundational truth of our faith – the life, burial and resurrection of Christ.

Today, Good Friday, is the day Jesus fulfilled prophecy. His people, the Jews strongly urged the high priest to crucify, the King. They chose to spare the life of a radical revolutionary who committed murder during protests for the life of a radical revolutionary who performed miracles while enduring protests.

This year, I wondered why this Friday was labeled as “Good.” The easy answer is that it was good that He was crucified for a sinner, such as I. His death for my life. But reading the description of the events of that day do not depict anything good. He was taken to court with no lawyer, subpoena, or jury of His peers. His accusers had no just cause for their rage other than a fulfillment of scripture. He was classified as the King of the Jews. After his sentencing of capital punishment, He was bound, hand and foot. Then he was beaten. The whip as described by Robert Gidley (2000):

The whip had iron balls tied a few inches from the end of each leather thong on the whip. Sometimes, sharp sheep bones would be tied near the ends. The iron balls would cause deep bruising, while the leather thongs cut deep into the skin. The sheep bones would hasten the process of cutting into the skin. After a few lashes the skin would be cut through, and the muscle would begin to be cut. Blood loss was considerable, and the pain would probably put the victim in a state of shock. (para. 7)

Then the soldiers, to mock Him,  placed a purple (color of royalty, dignity) robe upon his shoulders, placed a sceptre (a reed) in His hand, and a crown of thorns upon his head. They repeatedly cried, “Hail, the King of the Jews.” Once they had their fun, He was stripped of His robe and then He was then forced to carry His cross which weighed about 100 lbs. But after being beaten so, he was too weak to carry Himself much less the cross to Golgotha (place of a Skull) where the crucifixion would take place so the soldiers found a man to carry the cross for Him.

Once they arrived, the cross was laid down and His body was placed and then nailed. They drove spikes into his wrists, not His hands,  so they could carry the weight of His body. One leg was placed atop the other and the spikes were driven into his feet. A sign reading, “This is Jesus The King of the Jews” was nailed a the top of the cross, written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. Then the cross was raised and placed on the hill, Calvary. His body gave into gravity. He hung there for 6 hours: placed on the cross around 9 am; at noon, darkness set upon the earth; and it was 3 pm when He cried to God and His humanity was released. He felt forsaken. But he then released His last breath and died.

How is it that something so horrific and disturbing could be declared good? But that is how God works. He takes what is deemed evil and declares it good. We reflect on this time and are reminded of the pain endured from head to toe: a crown of thorns forced into His head until blood ran down, stripes placed on His back until His flesh was exposed, spikes several inches long hammered into His bones. The thought of that level of sacrifice pierces my emotions. I am humbled by the notion that despite the pain and the shame, He thought of me. He had my birth, my joys, my bruises, my disappointments, my triumphs, my hurt, my aches, my achievements, my sins, and my grace on His mind. This is the God I have chosen to serve and that I respectfully honor today and all weekend long.

It is a good Friday, God’s Friday and I am grateful.

 

Give Love. Get Love.

 

Gidley, R. (2000). The facts of the crucifixion. The Cross Reading. Retrieved from http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/controversy/common-misconceptions/the-facts-of-crucifixion.html

I Love God · Self Love

100 days

Today is the 100th day of 2017. In most elementary schools, they count up to the 100th day of the school year and celebrate in various ways (i.e. bringing 100 items to school, dressing up as someone who is 100 years old, having a party, etc.).

But what will you do to signify the fact that you have made it through one season of this year? The country is in political turmoil. The citizens of Flint still do not have access to clean water. Innocent people are still being murdered every day, especially here in my hometown. Even the governor of this great state of Alabama has turned in his resignation because of uncivil acts committed while in office. Yet, you can say that there is still purpose for you.

I choose to see this day as a fresh start. It is a chance to say that tomorrow will be 1 – 101 – a continuation. It is a comma – to pause and calmly think about my next move for the remainder 265 days. A period to end and start a new paragraph or close the book altogether. An exclamation point to say, “Yes, there is still more for me to do! I am NOT running out of time!” A question mark to ask myself, “What can I do better? What actually worked? When will I resume my workouts or start yoga?”

100 signifies an election. The word election stems from the Latin eligere meaning to “pick out.” So today, I have elected to reflect over the past 99 days and pick today as the day to begin to conquer my fears, move past my insecurities, and just do it. My faith is urging me to really do IT.

We were taught that 100 means the end. But it’s only April and Spring just started getting good. Excuse me while I wipe off my rose-colored glasses, adjust my curls away from my face, and exhale, “please count with me…..101, 102, 103, 104, 105. . . .”

 

Give love. Get love.

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Parenting

Speaker of the House

Words have power. I think this is a statement I repeat aloud and to myself quite often. To simply begin with the belief that the world we live in, the sun and moon, the animals, plants and trees were all created through words should be proof of the potency that words possess. But we tend to casually misplace that authority when we fail to track the manifestation phrases like, “You make me sick!” or “I am always broke.”

When you become a parent, you gain a special ability because you understand the weight of your words. You speak the life growing inside the womb assured that your child will recognize your voice once he/she enters the world. You might place headphones on the belly, sing or even read to your unborn child. At this point, you are teaching your child the power of words, sight unseen. These actions open the door to their worlds. Consider the fact that a baby’s sight has not fully developed until 8 weeks old. Your child fully relies on your voice, the words you speak, for 2 months without being able to completely recognized your face!!

With this understanding, it is vital that the things you say (even those said in jest) are spoken purposefully because they are going to perform as sent. I have a major pet peeve when I hear a child called BAD. A child is not inherently bad. A child might be born into a bad situation or in a bad neighborhood or even under dire circumstances yet none of these things warrant a bad child. Yet if a child consistently hears that they are bad then they will result in actually being bad.

Children are born students – they must be taught everything. Therefore when they are trying to learn and an unwanted behavior is exhibited, it will be translated to the child as bad. The behavior needs to be addressed and corrected. The desired behavior needs to be displayed so it can be duplicated. Provide choices so good decisions will become habit.

Do not confuse their exploration and creative nature as bad behavior. Set limits. Be consistent. Be intentional. Frame their worlds with your words – I love you. You are beautiful. Yes, you are important! I like the way you did that! – and then apply faith that they will be what you say.  Eventually your child will start speaking those words to themselves and even repeat it back to you.

Hebrews 1:1-6The Message (MSG) 1-3 Going through a long line of prophets, God has been addressing our ancestors in different ways for centuries. Recently he spoke to us directly through his Son. By his Son, God created the world in the beginning, and it will all belong to the Son at the end. This Son perfectly mirrors God, and is stamped with God’s nature. He holds everything together by what he says—powerful words!

 

Give Love. Get Love.

Parenting

Prayer is Practical but Parenting is….

[Pardon me as I attempt to create a flow]

Let’s deem Thursdays for the people, little people. . . and their parents.

Several people in my life, friends and family, decided it was time to grow up, get married, and procreate, as it were. Therefore, I was inspired to pen a prayer that I hope would assist them along the way as they transition from being my fun-loving fellows to the lovingly terrific role as parental figures to the little people.

Give Love. Get Love.

A Prayer for Parents

Father,

We come before your throne of grace as humbly as we know how. We thank You for choosing us to be parents. In Your word, children are arrows in the hand of a mighty man; a crown to old men; shall be taught of the Lord; are a heritage of the Lord; should be train in the way that they should go; and have the kingdom of God as their inheritance. Therefore, God, we thank You for granting us with the grace, wisdom and mercy for the gifts you have given.

God, we will not be snared by the words of our mouths. We command and declare a word curse, a crop failure over every negative word spoken against our parenting skills. Every feeling – positive or negative is being passed to our child; therefore, we now ask you God for forgiveness against any negative thought or deed that we have willingly or unconsciously committed against this gift and ask for Your loving Spirit to overshadow those times when those feelings may have been transferred. We ask for Your perfect strength in our weaknesses and that Your dunamis might will go into overdrive! Thank you for granting us perfect peace – the peace that surpasses all understanding, the peace that guards and protects our hearts and our minds.

We will not get weary in our well-doing. Thank You for the grace you have allowed us to walk in during this adjustment becoming parents. We bless you God for the support system that has surrounded us. Every person that has been strategically placed into our village will help our child grow in the strength and admonish of the Lord.

Thank You God for every way You have shown Yourself strong on our behalfs. Thank You for Your blood covering and redeeming us as our family grows. You have already created the supply for our needs. You are our Good Shepherd so we shall not want. You are our Jehovah Jireh which means you already knew when and with who we would become parents with and thusly provided the provision. Thank you God for supplying our needs according to Your riches in glory!

We will continuously look to You for guidance and strength.  We will never be ashamed to confess when we are overwhelmed, depressed, stressed, confused, perplexed, or even unfit. When we are able to admit these feelings that is when You allow the healing to begin. As Jehovah Raphe, the Great Physician, you heal wholistically – spirit, soul and body.

No matter what test, trial or temptation that we are presented with, Your faithfulness provides a way of escape. As Jehovah Roi, the God who sees, You created us and know everything about us. We are never abandoned. You are always with us.

We call on the name of Jesus! The name that is higher than any other name! Every food, clothing, child care, schooling, transportation, medical, extracurricular, and housing need has been met through that name!

We declare and receive the victory now!! The treasure that you have given us in our child(ren), these earthen vessels that the excellency, the grandeur of the power may be shown from God and not from us.

Thank You Lord! We present our child back to You and receive Your love that cast out every fear, anxiety, concern or worry.

We give you all the glory, honor and praise!

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

I Love God

What is Love ?

 
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For me, ♥ Love ♥ is so many things. It is a feeling, an action, an expression, an ideal. It is God.

I do not recall when I fell in love with the word, feeling and idea of LOVE. But when I did, I fell hard. It is such a simple yet deep concept. It makes or breaks people and relationships. It can be easily ignored and expressed. But my heart knows it, feels it and is constantly making me find ways to express it.

If I learn a friend’s favorite food, color, drink, or past time,  I will find a way to randomly surprise them with a gift. When I see a new mom, I trip over myself trying to offer my assistance. Hearing a simple worship song or reading a scripture reminds me of how much love God has shown me. Then I repeat the cycle by looking for ways to express that love.

Love is an action. It is an expression of the words that you confess with your mouth. Ultimately, love is sacrifice. If God is surrender his only son for the world, then we should be able to provide the same level of commitment in our own worlds.

Give love. Get love.

What does love mean to you? What is your love language?

Personal essays

Oh July…

It’s the last few hours of July, my birth month. I can usually reflect back on all the love I received and/or the fun I have had. But I looked at my calendar hanging on the wall and the flower chosen for July is barely seen because the edges are folded over and I looked thinking, “I cannot believe I am actually turning the page to a new month.” July was a busy blur and I don’t like that at all. So much happening between home, work, church, and my life smashed up in there. I am disappointed. It makes me sad to think that my one birthday wish – to receive the love that I give out – really was not fulfilled. The irony here is that when I had that thought this morning, I received a text from a friend who said I crossed her mind and she chose to encourage me. I think God was wanted me to know that He heard my heart’s cry.

Either way, as I lay in bed very tired, I cannot believe that this 7th month of 2017 is over. Seven is the number of rest. I did very little of that. It is the number of perfection and my life has been far from that. I am just wishing I could rewind to July 1st and make some adjustments. I do not know what I could actually change because there was so much going on but I wish I could have found time to celebrate me. I kept telling myself that I will just borrow some time in August but it does not feel worth it at this point.

But in spite of it all, I am grateful. I am a full-time employee and as of August 1st, I will earn the most amount of money yet in this field. My car is still running when I thought it would have given out by own. I am able to sleep in the bed I want even though my parents think I should have gotten a smaller one. My skin is reacting to something; I feel as though I am breaking out from everything but it could be worse.

And what’s crazy, I did not plan a birthday dinner, per usual, but I really wanted a lobster dinner.😏 Guess that’s for the best because I truly want to adopt a vegetarian diet.

I think I had more to say but I started watching a Bishop TD Jakes message from a few weeks ago and my feelings of disappointment are beginning to dissipate so I am ready to sleep in peace.

Get love. Give love.

Personal essays

Seven – Seventeen – Seventeen

Today is my BIRTHDAY!!! 🎂🎁🎊🎉 (<—- and world emoji day 😄)

I left my journal at home 😕 so I might as well blog, right?? I had some good writing to get done, great thoughts to get out! Hopefully, I will be able to pen it all tonight.  I also left a check I needed to cash. I did not sleep well because my mind was racing and I think my music was up too loud – I think I heard every song between each sleep cycle. 😞 I am also at work, which is rare. I typically take off for my birthday, or if I must work, I leave early or something. I am here all day today! It’s a national holiday, and as much as I appreciate God for allowing me the ability to get wealth, I would have preferred enjoying it my own way.

In other 1st, I received birthday gifts from my family weeks early! That was pleasantly surprising. I also did not plan anything for my birthday. There are things I want to enjoy for myself and by myself (i. e. sips n strokes, possibly lunch at a winery) but I typically plan a dinner or some sort of gathering with my friends and family, and I did no such thing this year. There is so much going on, I felt that I would have been disappointed by the lack of participation or the flood of excuses, so I just opted to do me.

I do, however, plan on celebrating until the end of the month. I will try to stop on July 31st, but I am not making any promises! 😏 I expect the most from this year, so I will not be bound by time. I will be 37 for the next 364 days and every day is a gift!

But it’s 7 – 17 – 17 and I plan on just resting in silence satisfaction in all those numbers have to offer. 7 – perfection and rest. 17 – victory. I love it! I will rest in perfect victory today and for the remainder of the month. Taking advantage of this moment will carry me through the end of 2017.

My birthday wish: to see and experience God’s blessings while I am living and well-able.

I love my family for accepting me. I love my friends for loving me.

Give Love. Get Love.

Self Love

Attitude of Gratitude

It is Saturday and this day has earned this hash tag #selfcareSaturdays. So today I slept in, washed my clothes, bedding, and my hair, and now I’m writing! I have done my best to manage my pain without medication. I even do some window shopping online for a new car. Ideally, a massage, possibly deep tissue (if I could handle it!), a manicure, a shopping trip, and maybe a movie would have been so terrific. Yet I have had a free day, in more than one way and I am grateful.

I even got to catch one of my favorite shows, ER. Way back during the early days of cellular devices, I wanted the theme song to be my ringtone. I remember periodically checking to see if I could ever purchase it through a website or whatever avenue we used to use for that purpose. I can’t remember if I tried to record it, but I probably did. I, also watched some great documentaries on the presidency and the White House on the Smithsonian network (did not even know this channel existed). And I now get to watch Jeopardy!!!

It truly is the simple things and the joy they bring. If I had my way, this day would have been spent in the streets but I have recently become a full-time teacher again, and it has been such an adjustment. The job is not what I want, but I am very grateful for this time and trying my best to be patient and take advantage of the opportunity given to me each day. So today in all its simplicity was necessary. I have no regrets. And because I will be 37 Monday, I have been quite reflective. Trying my best not be depressive because I cannot spend my day the way I wish but again, grateful. I guess my self-care Saturday is simply about gratitude. I will take it!

Give Love. Get Love.

Parenting

Toddler Tidbits: Part 2

You’ve survived your 1st year of parenting! Your baby has gone from being held to crawling, and now you have a full-blown walker! Bottles are being phased out. They open their mouths every time you raise a fork or spoon to yours. And you have found less need for that huge baby bag. Maybe you have already transitioned or have found it easier to carry a backpack but now that your child is older, what do you really need to carry?

At this point, you know your child’s cries and needs. Therefore the essentials of carry are simple:

  • 1 change of clothes (this may vary depending on how your child eats and how they potty but use your best judgment, especially depending on how long you will be out and about)
  • Diapers (again the amount depends on how long you will be out but keep about 8-10 in the bag that you can store and forget)
  • 2 cups – an empty, one with juice and then a bottle of water. If you child has transitioned to whole, almond or soy milk, I would recommend using a thermos because it needs to be kept cold, unless your bag has an insulated pocket/compartment.
  • Wipes
  • Travel-sized ointments, creams, lotions
  • Snacks (varies depending on your child’s taste or your preference)
    • If your child loves fruit, use your smaller Tupperware containers and fill ’em
    • I love to combine toddler tidbits to make a little finger trail mix such as the yogurt melts, cereals, raisins, Teddy Grahams, Goldfish crackers, etc.
  • Toys and small board books
    • Toys should be small and quiet (cars, balls, action figures or small stuffed toy, 
    • It is nice to include toys that they love but I suggest that these toys remain in the bag so that your child can forget about it – out of sight out of mind. Every time they see the toy, it will be new to them.
  • Bib – not the cotton drool bib, unless your child is a drooler or still teething but a feeding bib. Walmart and Target sell them for about $5 for 2.
  • Fork and spoon (optional) depending on if you are trying to help your child learn how to self-feed with utensils

Eventually, you might be able to phase out to just a freezer bag with a change of clothes and a travel-sized pack of wipes, a couple of toys, and a cup. It truly depends on your need and how prepared you want to be for your child. I always tell parents to do what works for you. Everyone has an opinion but you must do what is best for you and your child.

Parenting is a journey definitely not a destination.

Give Love. Get Love.

 

Personal essays

Good TV

Can’t believe June is here!!!

Aside from my niece turning the big F-O-U-R, it is summertime! I have big plans of being poolside or oceanside, which ever finds me first! However, TvOne has decided to dedicate a portion of their programming to two of my all-time favorite shows – The Cosby Show and A Different World! These shows shaped my childhood, and I love them! I often times get frustrated with my Hulu and Netflix subscriptions because there is a lack of available shows that have the appeal that these two had and continue to have.

The Cosby Show would air on Thursday nights. I always looked forward to the musical openings, especially at the start of a new season. I wanted to change my name to Vanessa, raid Denise’s closet, date Theo, style my hair after Rudy and have twins like Sandra.  It made sense to me watch a two-parent, dual income household because it was similar to the makeup of my family. It was inspiring to see people with my skin color, hair color, and family situations that seemed so far-fetched at the time yet were quite entertaining.

A Different World gave me something to look forward to upon high school graduation. I definitely wanted to be a student of Hillman University. I wanted to live in the dorm, eat at the Pit, and take math from Dr. War (Colonel Taylor). This show made me feel that I would find love in college and possibly even reside in that same college town upon graduation. It provided hope.

What has been most beneficial about this marathon is that there are tv shows that I can watch with my niece! I do not have to compromise and watch Disney or Nick Jr. These two shows are appropriate for my also four-year-old niece. It has been refreshing to enjoy this together!