Turning Bad into Good: A Mother’s Day Story

I have a complicated relationship with the month of May. I’m not going to say that every May I don’t have moments of sadness or a sense of being robbed of something precious — because my mom was precious. She was sweet, thoughtful, wise and strong. Not one to be in the limelight, she was a low-key woman who was cultured, down to earth and handled her many health challenges with tremendous grace. The consequence of having such a jewel for a mother means she is deeply missed, and I look forward to the day when we are reunited again.

Mommy and me at Fairlane Mall

When I was a kid during my mother’s birthday/Mother’s Day, I remember making her cards, buying her little gifts and then when I got older, I was able to bless her with better gifts. Her appreciation for anything I did for her didn’t change — no matter how big or small the present was. Mom appreciated the little things: a good book, chai latte, animals, a romantic movie. It’s a trait I’ve adopted over the years but when my mom passed on May 7, 2006, everything changed. It became a month that I had come to dread. Her homegoing was on her birthday (May 13). That year, Mother’s Day was the next day. So each year I was triggered and so irritated with all the email notifications and commercials reminding me of what I didn’t have anymore. As years passed, it got better, but I still wasn’t friends with this time of year. I started to make a tradition of going to lunch with my good friend Stephanie on the holiday since we both didn’t have our moms anymore. On May 7, 2013, 7 years to the day I Iost my mom, I found out I received the job I’d been wanting for years along with a decent pay increase. I could sense that this was not a random coincidence. It was a confirmation that I was moving in the right direction. Now the team I worked with almost made me second guess that I was supposed to be there, but my pursuit of a different line of work had pushed me to start writing again, hence the blogging. More and more, the Lord used my desire for change to get me to write again. It was something I hadn’t done since college and He wanted me to use my voice. It was a reminder that EVERYTHING I’d endured was not in vain and had real meaning and purpose.

In 2015, I met my husband Ray. We were planning the wedding and it ending up falling in May and a day before my mom’s birthday (May 12). I just couldn’t get the dates to hit right for the honeymoon, so it was something I just started to lean in to. Could it be that Jesus was nudging me to turn a month that changed my life into something that would encase not just great loss but moments of celebration and joy? I now have wedding anniversary moments that are a part of my story. Mother’s Day gifts, cards and phone calls are something I wasn’t always sure I’d receive and it’s something I look forward to every year. Yesterday after our Sunday service, there was a spot designated to take pics for the holiday, and I got to take a picture with my bonus daughter. I know my mom would be so proud and ecstatic for the path that God has carved out for me.

So now, I receive the emotions as they come. I may have a moment and then it passes and I reflect on how far I’ve come and remember the blessing of being fiercely loved. I take the time to be conscious of the present and appreciate the new memories I get to make with the family that remains and the new family I’ve been given. I am learning how to take the bitter with the sweet and reconciling the feelings of loss and gain, realizing that there’s not always an orderly flow for these fluid feelings. I believe the Lord has asked of me to display a Romans 8:28 life. The Amplified version of the verse says, “And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.” It’s a great comfort to know that EVERY SINGLE THING that I’ve experienced is used for His good. The journey doesn’t always make sense or feel very comfortable in the moment, but I see it working on my behalf. The gift of time has helped me gain the best perspective about the most crucial moments in my life. When I can comfort someone who’s lost, who has despaired for fear of the future, I see His purpose defined and my part in telling His story. I can say with confidence that God has truly been my resting place in my darkest moments and He has prepared an abundant table for me. — THB

Why Jon Batiste Is the Best Response to the Angry Black Man Narrative Right Now

Okay y’all. I’m not going to rehash the Oscar fiasco. We know what it is. We’re all over it already, no matter what you think about it. But last Sunday’s Grammy Awards was the feel-good story we can all get behind. I got familiar with Jon Batiste probably about 2 years ago. I caught an episode of the The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and he was the smiling “piano guy” serving as the bandleader/music director since 2015. Last year, I saw an interview of him on The Daily Show and I got a better sense of some of his range, catching a clip of his music video for Freedom and I was impressed. This year, I decided to watch The Grammys, not really expecting too much. Boy was I surprised. I enjoyed a number of performances and Batiste was a main highlight. It was exuberantly ecstatic, electric and had such a sense of lightness and joy that radiated off the screen, featuring vibrantly dressed dancers and singers, channeling multiple decades all at one time. He gave colorful Chuck Berry-Liberace hybrid vibes with a gospel thread. I also saw style influences from the greats like Little Richard, James Brown and Michael Jackson. And if you’ve ever watched The Wiz and Black Panther, the similarities in wardrobe were undeniable. By the end of the night, he took home 5 Grammys, including Album of the Year. His speech was humble, insightful and gracious: “I believe this to my core, there is no best musician, best artist, best dancer, best actor,” he said. “The creative arts are subjective and they reach people at a point in their lives when they need it most. It’s like a song or an album is made and it’s almost like it has a radar to find the person when they need it the most. I’d like to thank God. I just put my head down and I work on the craft every day. I love music, I’ve been playing since I was a little boy. It’s more than entertainment for me, it’s a spiritual practice…”

A couple days later, I looked him up and read up on this accomplished musician. He comes from a gifted and prestigious musical dynasty hailing from the culturally rich New Orleans area. Batiste has a Bachelor and Master of Music in jazz music from Juilliard. As I’ve feasted on his music the past few days, I’ve heard the enormous range of talent. His hit Freedom may be what he’s best known for because of its viral success, but his music and voice vibrates anywhere between classic jazz, New Orleans brass-band style, R&B, soul, funk, blues, hip-hop and gospel. His self-professed Christian faith simmers and often bubbles up from under his music and the response from his audiences are visceral and joyful.

Album cover for Batiste’s 2021 release We Are, created by Karla Cordova

During my research, I found an interview he’d done with CBS Sunday Morning this past February and his story became even more profound. At the age of 35, he is living a life that seemingly is hitting all the right notes. But he and his wife are walking through a very challenging time with tremendous grace and courage and it hit me — this is the award moment we should all be talking about. How do we respond in moments of deep pain? What do we radiate in the most visible moments of our lives? Do we seek moments of joy during the struggle?

And what’s our focus when we witness a big-stage moment go sideways? Do we continually fixate on the outliers? Do we dwell on those that lash out in anger and disappoint us, leaving us feeling betrayed and deceived? It’s understandable. Our brains are wired to pay attention to the atypical, the aberrations that confound us. One of my favorite doctors, neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf, explains this fascination our minds have for the unusual. But can we take more moments to breathe in the incredible God-given talent that He places in the earth to reflect the best in us? Sunday’s Grammy performance was just a taste of his affect on the audience. An obvious prodigy, he’s already made 13 albums in his mid 30s. Is it possible that our fixation on the worst in us is keeping us from seeing what’s been right in front of our faces for so long? Just like the baddest kid in the class gets all the attention but the student who plugs diligently away and is at the top of his class is sometimes given a shoulder shrug because he/she is expected to do well.

So I submit to you an alternative view in these rapidly changing times. Allow me to divert your attention away for a worthwhile moment that I hope sticks with you when you want to get in your feelings about the current cultural climate. It’s hard to deal with folks who want to blankly label and cancel black and brown folks in the limelight when they behave badly. It’s frustrating when someone steps out of line. Those of us of color often carry a mantle of a whole race on our back, but I push back on the narrative that we’re the “good ones” when we’re perceived to be upright, productive and “civilized” people that don’t fulfill the negative stereotypes played out on TV, movies or the evening news. We’re not exceptions to the rule. We’re humans, made in the image of God, experiencing the same hurts, traumas, dreams, joys and victories as anyone else breathing on this earth, as individual as a fingerprint. We are ironically like Batiste’s most well-known genre: jazz. We are fluid, nuanced, varied, unpredictable, flawed, open to interpretation and controversy, sometimes confounding and breathtakingly beautiful all at the same time. đŸ€ŽđŸ™đŸŸđŸ’™ — THB

To watch Batiste’s dynamic Grammy performance, click here: https://bit.ly/3NQtltQ

To watch the Jon Batiste CBS Sunday morning interview, click here https://cbsn.ws/3ueT4Eq

Wasting Time? Or Using It?

Time is one thing we can never recycle. It’s as precious as water and air but because we’re living in it constantly, we forget how fragile it is. This digital world gives us more reason to spend that very currency on virtual “junk food” on way too many occasions. The news has many stressing and feeling compelled to stay in the know but we end up being caught up in our emotions and often without the most important filters to reveal the real meaning of it all. Sometimes there are moments that felt too brief and I wish could stretch on longer and be relived — my wedding day, my trips to London. But then there are times that dragged and felt never-ending and agonizing — my time as a Community Manager.

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile (Unsplash)

I’ll admit I’m not the best at managing this free resource. I sway between being busy with the necessary to-dos but then find myself not making much room for what brings me fulfillment or joy. I am a list QUEEN. 👑I get to the bill paying, the grocery shopping, the business appointments and wind up at the end of the day still feeling like a hamster. It appears I’m at a crossroads right now. Do I keep going in this pattern or do I make a hard pivot? I know I’m not alone. I have to make time for things that might seem frivolous to some because it doesn’t pay a bill, seems boring or unpolished. I heard a đŸ”„message on Sunday that sparked me to move forward in my purpose, focusing on things I have a passion for. The past two years have been exhausting for so many and it can feel like an upward climb at times. But if we can just start making baby steps toward what lifts us up, makes us smile, invigorates us, we’re a little closer to our true purpose and the reason we are all still here. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy but it makes the time we are here worth it, rather than just going through the motions of life. Do you have a passion for something you’ve been putting off but you’re ready for a change? It doesn’t matter how dreamy or silly it seems — just move forward with it.

“A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before great men.” — Proverbs 18:16 (Amplified Bible, Classic Edition)

Caution: Life Under Construction

The following copy is written from an unpublished post from 7 years ago, when I lived in Ferndale, Michigan. My life is so different today, but it still speaks to me. I thought I’d share it just as it was written at that time. 

There was a lot of construction going on in my neighborhood last fall. I mean A LOT. Trucks, orange cones and barrels, blinking signs, piles of gravel with incessant beeping and rumble surround my area. And it went on for a while. A few months before they started they smoothed some areas and did some utility work and then as the air grew cooler it kicked up again. This time big tubes and long-term lane closures ensued. But I noticed something even more annoying — it wasn’t just happening around me. It was taking place on many streets I’d traveled while going to various stores, work and even in my very own office. Yes, after 5 p.m. I could hear the sound of drilling and banging accompanying the sound of the clicking and clacking of my fingers on my laptop keys. I mean I am not a huge conspiracy theorist, but anyone who lives in Michigan knows there’s always an orange and white barrier is just a drive around the corner away. It’s enough for anyone to begin making plans to relocate.

Construction by my home. Yikes!
Construction by my home. Yikes!

And now that spring is here and summer is knocking on the door, there is even more work going on and recently I found out it’ll be here for awhile for some major improvements in the area.

Through my personal experience, I’ve learned that when I go under heavy construction in my life, I usually look for the quickest exit to head off the pain of the process. I doubt I’m alone. This season of my life is under excavation, renovation, and restoration. Some parts of my life look pretty dead and dormant while others are budding like flowers in May. And I have to take it all in — the good and bad, the bitter and sweet. Some things are taking my breathe away, but if I look too hard at other others I’ll just jump up and down like a little kid having a tantrum. But the only reason for restructuring and rebuilding is to improve the environment and increase the efficiency of its intended purpose. I know I am the clay and God is the potter. And though the pressure of circumstances can be very uncomfortable, fiery and look downright disastrous, it’s not the truth.

Romans 8:26-28 “Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”

For Cynics and the Curious: How I Became a Christian

My story isn’t neat, pretty or predictable. There was no grand moment when I found myself praying to God at the altar. I didn’t “grow up” in the church. My family had a Catholic background. Not the typical experience for the average black girl in Detroit. My mom didn’t take me to mass every Sunday. I didn’t receive confirmation. I had an awareness of God based on Christian children’s books/Bibles my mother gave me, an afterschool bible club and even my own personal experience. I remember sensing God’s presence as a young girl in a priest’s rectory (studying for confirmation). Seriously. I really did. It wasn’t something I questioned, I just knew I sensed something outside of myself. I felt a peace there. I had an intellectual understanding of “God.” I never really thought too hard about other religions. My mom never pushed me to believe in Jesus. We went to mass maybe a few times a year. She gave me the culture she knew. She presented it and left it up to me to decide my path.

Early Onset Adulting and the Unexplainable

I was the daughter of a single mom who had health challenges that, in my teen years, began to overtake my own growing desire for independence. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her younger years, but she was starting to have more frequent episodes when I started high school. Though she struggled fiercely during those years, often shifting between mania and depression, she always did her best to keep me first. She wrote a poem dedicated to me called “Jewel.” I had no doubt I was the most important thing to her. We lived in a 1-bedroom apartment. There were times when we faced hard challenges financially. I believe the stress of it set off her symptoms at times. I remember actually encouraging my mom that in spite of all our challenges things “were always working out.” I couldn’t articulate that God was keeping us because I was early in my spiritual journey, but I just knew it wasn’t a coincidence.

I graduated from high school and began attending Marygrove College, a Detroit-based liberal arts school close to home. Since I was her only child, I knew my mom needed the support. I used to look at people who talked about Jesus a lot as oddballs and super extra. So I get the skepticism. I remember seeing folks on TV speaking in “tongues” and I was thinking this is some out there stuff and these jokers are in some type of trance or something. 😀 I used to be really off into astrology and even visited a psychic once. I even had a pack of tarot cards. I’ve always been a global girl, open to different cultures and beliefs. I was never dogmatic or had firm spiritual beliefs. I was flexible and open. I had my moments and personal theories about God, especially in my college years.

To a lot of people I give off “goody two-shoe” vibes. I won’t hide from the label many have put on me. It’s been with me as long as I can remember. I’m usually quiet and observant around new folks. But I’m just like anyone else. I’ve lied, made mistakes and tried to cover it up. During my early college years, I was hungry for attention from guys and was super boy crazy. I used to hang out at a male strip club in Canada with a girlfriend I’ll call April. She couldn’t wait to take me. As soon as I turned 19, April drove us over the border. I was hooked for a minute because of the attention. One day when I was parking my car in the club’s lot, I dented someone’s car. I begged the attendant not to tell anyone. I will never know what I would have done if I’d gone to a college with a ton of dudes and I don’t want to know. I was inexperienced but super naive. God knew my personality. I’m thankful for His protection from the wolves that would have surely preyed on my inexperience.

As time passed in school, things starting getting shaky. Taking care of my mom was starting to take a toll on me. Juggling that and a rigorous school schedule as an English major felt too much to handle. A girlfriend invited me to visit a storefront church. I said a prayer about Jesus, was baptized and at one point, I was babbling like a brook speaking in “tongues.” #InsertIronyHere I was trying to figure out what I was saying (e.g., sounds like Italian, Chinese?). It was all a bit too intense for this girl who slept in every Sunday. I had in that very moment become what I had never understood and even made fun of in my mind. And because I couldn’t make sense of that significant event, I just chalked it up as an intriguing, but puzzling spiritual experience. On that day, without full understanding, I had become a Christian. I just had no idea. No one from that church followed up with me, so I just kept moving on with my life.

I’ve always enjoyed friendships with people from all walks of life. My college attracted students from all ages and backgrounds. I met a fellow female student named Pat who was a big blessing to my life. She was probably in her 50s when we started our friendship. I was about 22 at the time. When my senior year neared completion, I didn’t think too much about graduation expenses. It was all new to me. She bought me an outfit for my baccalaureate ceremony from Lord & Taylor and another dress from Ann Taylor. I never would have been able to afford something like that. She told me, “God wants me to do this for you.” I didn’t give her statement much thought. Pat came into my world and just unselfishly showed me so much love and understanding in a really pivotal and challenging time in my young life. She shared her stories of her personal struggles but also expressed how the Lord was still keeping her. In the midst of her pain, she was pouring into me. I didn’t know it at the time, but she became my first spiritual mentor. Years later, I remember her reflecting on life as a Christian saying, “It’s a hard walk but a good one.” Some people I met during that time were just a little too “deep” for me. I met a hairdresser who seemed like an over-the-top Bible thumper. She had Christian videos playing while I was getting my hair blown out. She gave me a cassette tape from her church. I stopped going to her shop because I was basically thinking “It don’t take all that” and I didn’t come here to be preached at. But I did keep the tape for some reason. Keep that tape in your mind. I’ll share on that later.

Having It My Way aka Crash and Burn

I finally finished college after 5 years. Between work and home demands, I decided to take my time finishing school. I start working at Electronic Data Systems (EDS) as a call center rep for Buick Customer Relations Center. And then I meet HIM. I met “Josh” through a friend. It was my first real adult relationship, filled with all the stars and rainbows of young love. We were together about 3 years and I thought he was the man for me. I still didn’t know how it would work out because we both had entry-level jobs and my mom couldn’t afford to live on her own. But when he went back for his Master’s Degree, all the love and attention fell off hard. And what I didn’t pick up on early enough became evident and the final nail in the coffin: He was a mama’s boy. I couldn’t occupy a space that would always be reserved for someone else. I ended the relationship, wondering what my future would look like caring for my sweet mom but wanting my own life. One night while sleeping on the couch, bullets shot through the apartment next to mine, and I knew we had to leave the neighborhood immediately. I moved us into a place I thought would be safer for us. One day when I was parking my car at our new apartment, I fell on a patch of ice and damaged my knee. I had surgery and physical therapy. It’s an injury I still have issues with today. I also had two jobs losses two years in a row. I almost thought my mom and I should move out of state to live somewhere with a more stable job market. The financial instability was a big stressor, and I wasn’t just taking care of myself. Thankfully, it didn’t take me long to get another job and I started working at an ad agency named BBDO Detroit. I made fast friends with two women there who were my age. We all started hanging out together, laughing, bonding over the ad world life. But I noticed they were different. Mary and Katherine both were churchgoing, scripture-knowing, celibate ladies. I hadn’t really bonded with women who were young like me but seemed so solid. They were anchored. It’s not that they didn’t have their challenges and personality quirks, but they were grounded. It was an assurance that was so attractive. It was intangible, something that I couldn’t put my finger on but I wanted for myself. I remember asking Katherine tons of questions about Jesus, salvation and the Bible. Since I didn’t regularly attend a Bible-based church, there was a lot I didn’t know. They would influence me to finally follow Jesus fully. On Valentine’s Day 2002, I said a prayer to God and asked Him to be Lord of my life. Something clicked for me that day. I had a peace, an assurance about so many doubts and questions I had during my spiritual journey. It felt like a download from Heaven that brought revelation and clarity. It was like going from black and white cinema to a full-color, 3-dimensional interactive world. Living a celibate lifestyle had never made sense before, but it was something I desired for the first time in my life. I had a hunger for reading the Bible when I had previously considered it a boring, dusty Shakespeare read. Sundays were now opportunities to hear more about this Savior I had largely ignored in most of my waking moments. I later learned more about the Holy Spirit and how He played a part in revealing truth to my mind. Every twist and turn I took through life God used to get me to Him. Every person that showed me His love, every situation that felt impossible. It’s why I cling to this word: “That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” Romans 8:28.

Remember that tape I told you about? I had visited nearly a dozen churches and was really leaning toward the last one I had visited, but I wanted to be sure. Not long after, I stumbled across the tape. It was from Dunamis Outreach Ministries (DOM) — the same church I had been visiting. My pastor and his wife, who would go on to be my spiritual guides for many years, were pictured on the back cover. DOM’s building had been a Catholic church many years before. There were still bolts on the sides of the pew where parishioners could release cushions to kneel and pray. My mom told me she prayed in that very building when she was pregnant with me and asked the Lord for a girl. Twenty-eight years later, I walked through the same door as my mother and joined, spending 16 years there as a member. It’s been an amazingly exquisite journey, filled with the highs and lows of life and one I’ve never regretted. ❀

Waiting All the Way: My Journey of Loss, Love and a Dream Fulfilled

Eighteen years ago, I embraced the love of my life. It was Valentine’s Day 2002. For about a year, I’d been hanging out with some Christian girlfriends and I had questions. I’d visited a church while I was in college, professed that I believed in Jesus and was baptized, but my Catholic upbringing didn’t really prepare me for understanding what I’d actually done. So now that I had friends my age who were “church girls,” I wanted to know what it meant to be “saved” and just how to live a better life that brought me peace and comfort. I was dealing with a lot. At that time, I was in my late 20s and I was the sole caregiver to my mom, being her only child. It felt like my life was passing me by, but my mother needed me. She had serious health issues and she could not afford to live on her own. Our roles had slowly started to reverse by the age of 14, and my mother looked to me for direction and often companionship.

90smeandmom
Me and mom in the 90s. Look at my tiny waist. LOL!

But I was a young woman and I wanted to be independent and see the world. And in a way, I had. By the age of 28, I’d been to England (twice) and France (three times), Germany (a month in 1999) and Montreal, Canada. Traveling has always made me feel alive and visiting those places changed my perspective on life forever. But I was still feeling stuck in my everyday life and craving love. I’ve been a romantic since I was a young girl. My mom loved reading, love stories and period piece movies with a dashing, young hero. So I’d read her old romance novels, bought a ton of my own and I was always on the lookout for my next “love interest.” I’d had a pretty serious relationship that started in my early 20s and ended in 2000 and things felt pretty bleak for me. I didn’t see how I could have a marriage and life of my own when my mother depended on me so much. So by 2002, I felt like my life held more questions than answers. But on a seemingly inconsequential V-day, I read a beautiful prayer that asked Jesus to be Lord of my life. And this time, I had a better grasp of what I was asking. My Christian girlfriends really helped me see what it really meant to live for Christ, not what TV, society or loved ones may have believed it meant. On that day, I literally began to experience God guiding me in my decisions and bringing clarity to my life. I didn’t have a taste for certain kinds of music and movies. I had a deep hunger to consume anything Christian: the Bible, radio programs, church services. It was a very special time in my life. I felt messages leap off the pages of the Word and everyday interactions started to have deeper meaning. Jesus was speaking to me everywhere I went. And I was truly in love. He became my Forever Valentine and every February 14 took on a greater meaning. I could see His hand in my entire life as embodied in Jeremiah 31:3: “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.'” ❀

But hold up now. That DID NOT replace my longing for a relationship. Not EVER. I was not going to sit up and declare, “Now that I have Jesus, I don’t need a man!” I think new Christians get caught up in that trap as if the two loves cannot coexist. Maybe it’s the intensity of experiencing the love of Christ and because His love is perfect we think it’s somehow minimizing the honeymoon experience. I will say that most new Christians do need to focus on learning and growing in their relationship with Christ because distractions are out there to trip people up. But acting like you’re asexual and not made for companionship is just unrealistic and not Biblical. Adam spent time exclusively with God for awhile, but He provided a mate for him (Genesis 2:20). Because the Lord knew that’s what he’d need, Adam didn’t even have to ask for a companion. So here I am in the wait of my life. I am doing what’s right by caring for my mom. Now I’m the “church girl” going to every Bible Study, prayer meeting and church service. I actually get up super early on Sunday mornings to serve on the Service Team of my church. Life is very different, but my home life is pretty much the same. My dating life looked like a desert. I’d go to single gatherings where it’d be 2 guys for every 12 women. Ugh. This can’t be my life. And when I invited my friend Mary to one of the gatherings, she ends up meeting her future husband. She gets married on my 30th birthday. I’m outdone by this point in my life. This is not that deal. I didn’t know that God was really shaping my life so exquisitely that I’d be ready in His perfect timing.

How could I know that my sweet, loving mama would be gone before I turned 32? She passed from cancer. The diagnosis came out of nowhere when all her health issues seemed to finally be under control. I buried her on what would have been her 54th birthday. It didn’t seem fair, but she’d been through a lot in her body and she’d begun her own walk with Jesus not long after me. I had the peace that I’d honored her and that I’d see her again in Heaven. I just wanted her to get stronger in her body and feel confident enough in herself to live more independently. I admit sometimes I felt guilty that she was gone. The enormous responsibility I’d been carrying had been lifted and I could finally live life fully, but it came at the price of losing the closest and most precious person in my life. It was hard, but the Lord gave me the strength to build a life for myself for the first time in my adult years. Those times were also exhilarating because I finally got to explore who I was independent of someone in need of my time and attention.

I’m not going to come off like I was just waiting with grace. I’m impatient. And no one really enjoys waiting. It doesn’t matter what it’s for: a job, a boo, a degree, a car, the weekend. We all have our wilderness moments from time to time, but it’s important to continue to press forward and remember that the here and now is not forever as much as our emotions may tell us it is. The word encourages us to not lose heart when it gets tough: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9). I wanted someone who loved Jesus and would love me from a Biblical perspective. I did not want to go church without my husband every Sunday. But a Christian man + a Christian woman does not always = a match. Compatibility and chemistry are key for any relationship to begin to flourish.

There were moments when I had family and friends just flat out wondering why I had such a hard time finding a husband. And all I could say was that I was trying to wait for the right person. I was perplexed too. Sometimes I actually went years without a date. You read right. Years. At one point, I actually went seven years between relationships. And globe trotting to faraway places? Forget about that. My mom and I used to share expenses. Her disability checks were not much, but it helped every month. I was truly on a financial tightrope. All my funds went to paying my bills and keeping a roof over my head. I was seriously adulting now. No more island excursions and exciting foreign getaways. This sista was happy to get to Chicago or Florida every few years. I dodged a big bullet in 2011 when that old flame from my early 20s came back on the scene, declaring he wanted marriage and he’d missed out on us. We tried long distance for awhile when a new job took him to Savannah, but it ended in a stalemate a year later. I began to feel like an option, never truly feeling like his priority. I decided to end the floundering relationship because I refused to lose the progress I’d gained over the years. It was a difficult thing to do, but I had to believe that there was more and that I deserved it. I’d come too far to settle now.

After that, I started to really look at what I wanted in life and I started to write again in the form of this blog, something I hadn’t done since college. People gave me great feedback, and it felt good doing something that people genuinely enjoyed and resonated with. I had prayed for a new direction in employment. I had so many confirmations that the Lord was all over the transition. This blog was a way I marketed myself to get my foot in the door for a digital job as a Community Manager at my advertising agency. Though the career change didn’t work out cause I was mad miserable and the work-life balance was awful, the writing stuck. It’s only recently that I’ve begun to realize that it wasn’t really the career God wanted me to pursue — it was writing. I would have sat on my hands if it’d been left up to me, but I was uncomfortable enough with my position in life to make a change. Comfort often makes us lazy and complacent. If life hadn’t taken the turns it had, I may never have explored my writing again.

By 2015, I was TIED, not TIRED. Because I was so past tired, I didn’t need the r anymore. After my mother died, I lost more loved ones, family members and the pastor of my church. He’d taught me so much of the spiritual foundations I hold today. Hadn’t I done all I could to live right? Work was toxic, money was a little better but just enough for breathing room. I was still paying out to that hussy Sallie Mae and college felt like a dim memory at this point. I’d lived in apartments since I was 10 years old. The way it was looking, home ownership was a long ways off. My credit was great, but I had only $250 as my savings for several years. The Lord surely kept me because I didn’t stop tithing when it got really hard and all my needs were met, including the unexpected ones. But I still wanted someone to share my life with. I am sure to many people around me living for Jesus was holding me back from living my best life. I mean I’m getting a little long in the tooth, right? I was 40 now. Some declared maybe my standards were too high, I seemed inaccessible or maybe it truly was my lot in life to live as a single woman. I held to my beliefs that who I wanted in a spouse was still out there, even when my own faith started to really stagger. Growing up my mom’s only child helped me enjoy my own company in my adult years. I often went to the movies, the coffee shop or out to lunch by myself and had a good time too. I didn’t always feel a need to constantly be with a man, but humans are created for companionship. I read books, went concerts/events, prayed and hung out with girlfriends who were in the same boat. And with all the changes in my life, every once in a while, I enlisted the help of Christian therapists to help process my journey. We all can use a tune-up every once in awhile. Life doesn’t stop for us to take inventory of our mental, spiritual and emotional health unless we intentionally do it.

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This book gave me so much life! Camerin really helped me practically understand this season from a Biblical perspective.

In February 2015, I met Ray. 🙂 There weren’t fireworks and starry nights at first. We were just getting to know each other, and I’d been through too much to go full throttle without waiting for time to pass. He was obviously attractive, but by then it was not my main criteria for finding a mate. But we really connected on a lot of levels. It was about his heart, his authenticity, his concern for my well-being and his love for Jesus. We found out on our first date that I went to church with some of his family members. Ray had even visited my church years ago. We’d probably been in the same service together. The timing had never been right before — until now. We took our time to learn about each other and work through challenges and bumps in the road, having fun along the way. And I’ve never had to question how much I mean to him. He’s always made me a top priority. So on May 12, 2018, I became Mrs. Brown or rather Mrs. Haney-Brown. I kept my mom’s name to honor her. That year we bought a house. It’s the first house I’ve lived in for 30 years. This past December, I finally got to experience international travel again. We visited the Caribbean, and I’m looking forward to more exciting trips. I can’t say I ever saw my life unfolding this way back in my 20s, which makes it all the sweeter.

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Engagement pic. Photo by Mishira Davis.

There are so many famous and renowned people who changed the world when they experienced a renaissance in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond. Our life and our potential is not tied to our age. And many times, maturity and persistence outlast the momentary buzz that our youth gives us. We can use time to refine us and to give us a more nuanced perspective. Time doesn’t have to be our enemy when we do something in the middle between the beginning and end of our lives. There’s opportunity to reinvent, explore and set new goals. Whatever you are endeavoring to do, don’t let mishaps, mistakes or detours keep you from pressing forward. It can be the very catalyst you need to get you exactly where you should be. All the seemingly “random” events in your life can be woven into a beautiful pattern that the Lord uses to bless your future. — THB

“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,” Joel 2:25

“The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.” Haggai 2:9

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Ephesians 5:25 

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

America: Who We Really Are

Here we are as 2017 comes to a close. Wow. Time is amazing. This time last year, many were either still reeling or celebrating after the election. And so many other shockers — the loss of David Bowie, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Maurice White, Alan Thicke (Growing Pains, ya’ll!), Carrie Fisher, etc. By Christmas, my beloved George Michael passed and I was done, son. Protest after protest, hashtag after hashtag in memory and anger over needless deaths. Get out –> 2016. For real! Along with so many others last year, I was too through. But we were truly just getting started.

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2017, you’re one cold piece too (peep my Tony Baker reference 😉 ). I guess I was prepared for the roller coaster ride since we’ve seen the trajectory for a while now. So as the stockings are hung at the Starbucks with care (literally at the one I’m at right now), I’m reflecting pretty hard. Breaking news every 2.5 seconds, scandal here, scandal there, scandal everywhere. Allegations galore and our anthem have us even more divided. Everybody tweetin’ everywhere, even the POTUS. Sigh. So many new “normals” that feel absolutely uncomfortable. And I have to fight getting tired of being uncomfortable so I don’t just go along with the crowd, become numb and turn into the walking dead. Many of us for years walked around like this country was a bastion of democracy (albeit flawed with imperfect human hearts), but we were a living framework of what a democratic country could become. Years ago, I met some young boys who were from Poland when I was in France. One exclaimed, “I want to be in America!” I wonder what that young man thinks of the United States now. So as this year began to unfold, many saw how delicate and flawed our system is or rather the people are. I won’t lie. I’ve had my own firsthand experiences and observations to inform me that life in America is far from perfect. But I think most prognosticators could have not predicted the carnage and collateral damage of this hour.

I consider 2017 to be the year of the “Real.” Between the dizzying array of events that no one can keep track of, filled with political and social revelations, it’s become pretty clear no matter what you believe — America is not everything it has pretended to be. Journalists for years have reported on deeply corrupt countries all over the world, and I think many of us thought we were better than that. I think we were just better at hiding our messes, and now everyone in the world is just finding out that the Emperor has no clothes. So many icons, noted celebrities have fallen from grace that we need a timeline to keep up. And guilty or not, no one can fully recover from luster lost because Wikipedia will always catalog that “Controversy” back in ’17. So underneath all this craziness that make me think I’m in the Stranger Things‘ upside down or in a really long episode of Black Mirror, God is really just peeling back the curtain, giving us a front-row view to what He’s known all the time. The rug’s been lifted and all the ugliness that’s been hidden from public view is all on display for the world to see. And some little nasty bugs and critters are running and scrambling to be in the dark, to hide from surprised and prying eyes. But it’s too late for all of us to say we never knew. God often works in seasons, and it’s pretty obvious that during this dispensation, He’s turning over some stuff, bolted down or not. So we have a couple choices: See what’s happening or walk around in a cloud of cognitive dissonance until what hasn’t effected you comes knocking on your door. It’s up to you.

Thoughts in the New Year

So I can’t speak for anyone else, but 2015 was a challenging year for me. There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding my circumstances. It LOOKED like I was losing. When I recently saw the movie Creed, it reminded me of the battles we all face. When I say I took some blows… I was face down on the mat. There were some deep disappointments I encountered. So many doors were shut with seemingly no real reason or logic behind it. For me, it’s been a multi-year struggle in a lot of areas.

And when my Pastor passed, my spiritual father and the man who helped shape my faith, I was shocked and devastated. I’m still reconciling the fact that this is the new normal for me and so many other dear loved ones because of this loss.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned to really walk out and experience in this season is that God is Sovereign. The definition of sovereign is supreme power or authority. He makes all things and He does not need our permission or to consult/discuss with us His perfect plans. Those who believe marvel at the greatness of God. He is all at once magnificent, beautiful, majestic and worthy of all reverence and power. There are not enough words in all the languages of the world to adequately describe Him. So we can pause and scratch our heads and wipe tears because the God who has all power in His hands allows things to happen that shake our very faith. All I can say is grip His hand tighter, be more than real with him in quiet times of communion, and hold on to His promises with all the strength left within you. I know that’s helped me in my season. And there may be other things God would have you do to build yourself while you are in a valley. I still have goals and situations in play for 2016. I can’t have all the answers because I was never meant to. I was meant to worship God and keep my eyes fastened on Him like a baby trains her eyes on her mother. He is our source for everything we need. Sometimes we’ll run, limp, walk, stumble, crawl through our valleys. Let’s keep moving for He’s surely with us. His love and sovereignty kiss and though we won’t understand it all, His eternal presence is a promise to us. This song really helped me have a deeper understanding of the deep love and sovereignty of God. Happy New Year to you as we trust God for His best for us in 2016. –TH

 

Valentine’s Day Edition: Love Song Playlist

As Valentine’s Day is upon us, I thought I’d share some love songs that celebrate love and the significant others we have or look forward to having in our lives. I’m a romantic. Ever since I was young girl I’ve loved a good romance novel or rom-com movie. And though I don’t have a boo currently, there’s nothing like a great love song to make you reminisce, think of your love or daydream about the one to come. So I’ve compiled a list of songs to groove to for this V-day based on my own personal favorites and ones submitted by my friends on Facebook. ❀

1. No One in the World — Anita Baker (Classic)

2. Love — Musiq Soulchild (He originally titled this song “Lord”)

3. Just As I Am — Ingrid Michaelson (I love this simple song about unconditional love. The video is pretty different, but I like the quirkiness.)

4. Simply Beautiful — Al Green (This song just oozes soulful love. Though I don’t remember the 70s it makes me miss it. 😉 )

5. “Fall For You” — Leela James (I don’t know how I’d never heard this song before, but I thank my friends Mishira and Jennifer for submitting this song as a fav. It’s now going into my own personal rotation. It’s such a sweet, vulnerable song.)

6. “Ribbon in the Sky” — Stevie Wonder (There’s nobody like the genius who’s given name is Stevland Hardaway Judkins. I will definitely use this song in my wedding playlist and he just happens to be my mom’s favorite singer).

7. “How Do I Live Without You?” — LeAnn Rimes (This is one heartfelt song with a country flair.)

8. “All I Do” — Troop (A 90s hit for those remembering their school days. Lol)

9. “Fortunate” — Maxwell (It’s one of my all-time favorite neo-soul love songs from my favorite male singer. I could listen to this song on repeat all day.)

10. “Spend a Lifetime” — Jamiroquai (This more little-known song from British soul singer Jamiroquai is just achingly beautiful to me.)

11. “I Have Nothing” — Whitney Houston (Her voice is truly a national treasure and she’ll never be forgotten. This song is easily one my top 10 songs from her tremendous canon of work.)

12. “Just the Way You Are” — Billy Joel (Another beautiful unconditional love song. I remember hearing this song as a little girl and knew it was something special.)

13. “Hopeless” — Dionne Farris (Whenever I hear this I think of Love Jones — it has such an old-school vibe.)

14. “So Amazing” — Luther Vandross (Where’s the fireplace and candles?)

15. “The Way” — Jill Scott (From her first album, this song makes me think about the rush you get from the blush of new love.)

16. “Must Be Nice” — Lyfe Jennings (For the ones who like a little thug love. Operative word is little.)

17. “Nobody But You” — Algebra Blessett (She’s got some attitude and style to match her decisive stance on her love for one and only.)

18. “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” — Aerosmith (Steven Tyler has a soft spot too and it’s a great timeless hit.)

19. “Traveling Like the Light” — VV Brown (So dreamy…)

20. “Sensuality Part 1 and 2” — Isley Brothers (For the fans of old school ballads.)

21. “Distance” — Emily King (Long-distance lovers can relate…)

22. “Love Calls” — Kem (To wrap things up, I had to bring it back to the D since Detroit has created some of the best love songs in the world.)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Lift Up Your Head

Alright, it’s tough right now. Maybe not for you, but you know someone who’s having a rough time or an extreme life challenge right now.

We should take a page out of the book of those who’ve faced some of the scariest times in history. What inspired me to write today’s post is a book I’ve been reading called You’ll Get Through This by Christian author Max Lucado. It details the story of Joseph from the Bible and the lessons we can gain from his story. If you haven’t read about Joseph and his journey from family, slavery, prison and finally becoming the highest official in Egypt, please do. It’s a great encouragement illustrating how God can use any situation for His and our good. Lucado also shares many other historical stories and testimonies from friends in his book. One story in particular prompted me to do some digging. We’ve all seen the “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters or images online. As far as I knew, it was a recent creation.

Keep-calm-and-carry-on-poster

Actually the phrase and its image was created back in the late 1930s in England during the days leading up to the war with Germany. It was a third poster that was never released and only recently rediscovered when it was in a box of old books a bookstore owner in northeast England had purchased at auction.

As it turns out, there was one image I found when looking up the origin of the phrase that struck me.

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Talk about carrying on!

This young woman’s house had been bombed during the war. Ena Squire-Brown was an international dancer and she didn’t let that deter her from having her wedding day. Even though the shot catches her from the side you can still tell she is smiling. How many of us have that courage to continue on and just LIVE in the face of a literal or figurative bomb dropping into our surroundings? Do we cry, forgetting that our lives may be a bit broken even though we still have breath in our bodies and still reasons to smile? I have to check myself too. I can get so inward and forget about the God who is truly in control. I have to lift up my loved ones, many of whom are facing great challenges right now. That means I really need to Keep Calm and Carry On. It’s not always easy, but we’re not the first to go through or the last. Someone will face the same situation one day, and we’ll need to be able to tell them they can make it — because we will — if we faint not. Psalm 27:13