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

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Eighteen years ago, I embraced the love of my life. It was Valentine’s Day in 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 make void 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 a bit of time, but He provided a mate for him (Genesis 2:20). Because the Lord knew that’s what he’d need, Adam didn’t even need 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 this. 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, 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.

20180709_162736

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. ūüôā 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. I knew he was 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 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.

IMG_2209 (1)

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

‚ÄúSo 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

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Justice.PNG

2017, you’re one cold piece too (peep my Tony Baker reference ūüėČ ). 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

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

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.¬†‚ÄďTH

 

Valentine’s Day Edition: Love Song Playlist

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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. ūüėČ )

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

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

© Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

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

We Can’t Ignore the Race Issue Anymore

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I can’t say I was surprised about the decision by the grand jury¬†in¬†Ferguson. I’d heard from news outlets that more than likely Darren Wilson would not be indicted for weeks. So when the decision finally came down after an agonizing, bristling wait, the response from protestors was also not a surprise. The orchestration of the whole process spoke of the lack of sensitivity and wisdom that’s needed for such a hotbed situation. And the overall racial tension throughout the country has been brewing, considering the events of the past few years that brought our underlining problems to the surface.

But what I really want to do is talk about the average experience of a black American, speak to the root cause of this quagmire and what we can do now in a practical way to become an active participant to¬†make a difference that can benefit our future generation. Right now tensions are high throughout the country,¬†we’ve almost finished the holiday season and¬†not everyone has a reason to feel real “merry” or “happy” right about now. Not everyone has a job, a loving family or even a pillow to lay a weary head upon. Personally I’ve seen more homelessness now than I can remember in all my years before in the state of Michigan. All the complicated issues — domestic and international — that we¬†deal with in a more fast-paced and¬†social way sometimes make us more lazy or tired to do the necessary work to make our own corner of the world a little brighter and enlightened.

We as a nation have not fully dealt with the sins of our¬†nation. First, the Europeans who came here took over the country and forced the Natives of this land out by excruciatingly cruel methods — almost to the point of decimating the population to near extinction. I love my country and I am an American through and through. There are so many freedoms and blessings this country affords that can be found virtually nowhere else on this planet. Though we are a very young nation by comparison to so many others, there’s no doubt that many countries look to us with admiration, jealousy, and hope or¬†often a combination of all three. But I cannot turn a blind eye to the injustices that began during the brutal birth and journey of this nation. Think about it — do you know any Native Americans? Are you friends with a Native American? It’s pretty sad. Reservations still exist in this country. The damage to this race reverberates throughout North America.¬†I did have a friend in middle school who was part Eskimo and French. I was also friends with a girl from Laos at the same time named Kamohn.¬†Having friends from a different race in Detroit Public Schools was pretty rare back in the 1980s, but I was never one to shy from others who didn’t look like me. Back then¬†in Detroit the population¬†was pretty¬†segregated and I had plenty of friends who were black, but I never set an invisible race boundary around myself.

American_flag-2

What happened at the inception of what we now call “America” is a horrific beginning that does not simply disappear because it happened hundreds of years ago. This trauma has reverberated through the country and was compounded by the enslavement of a whole race of people for profit. It was to many of the forefathers and founders of the nation a common practice and¬†it was¬†a business pure and simple. It didn’t matter that people from England came here to escape the oppression of a monarchy. They went on to commit more atrocities against others they branded as “savages” and “less than human.” Whole families were ripped from their homes, fathers and mothers separated from their children. The basic desires to marry and create a home of their own were considered a fairy tale at best. Learning to read were reasons to be whipped or killed. The level of emotional, psychological, mental, sexual and physical abuse that occurred went on almost uncontested for centuries. And then it was over. How does one process “freedom” after knowing nothing else? How do you “start fresh” when you’ve never been given the tools to succeed and constantly reminded you are less than in other’s eyes? There were no programs in place to help anyone build. No 40 acres and mule to start a life. Hostility, hate and anger greeted anyone who did not stay in line and many¬†experienced a¬†new form of slavery during the Jim Crow era and lynchings were common practices. The laws were enforced¬†until 1965 in the south and other regions of the U.S. Yes, 1965. That was 50 years ago¬†— within so many of our lifetimes. In modern-day society, those who’ve experienced trauma are usually encouraged to go through therapy, join a support group and/or take drugs to counteract the effects of a devastating situation/occurrence. We hear it on the news pretty frequently: a shooter goes on a rampage at a school and counselors and therapy dogs are dispatched to help people cope with a tragic event. People that come out alive from those circumstances are expected to not have the best sleep, experience depression, have problems functioning in every day society and maintaining relationships, etc. But for some reason, whether it be guilt or insensitivity, a whole race of people who went through almost the unimaginable are supposed to walk out of the circumstance whole¬†and¬†capable now that they’ve been afforded “freedom.” And never mind it didn’t really happen overnight and there are still many instances of racism and injustice still today. My people have triumphed in many ways, considering the roadblocks and plans and schemes along the way, but this was all with many unresolved issues within the fabric of America. I’ve had my share of negative experiences based on the color of my skin or just plain rude, oblivious behavior, but it’s the expected lot that folks of a darker hue endure.

When I started working my first job at 16, I became more aware of the racial divide and the perceived view of others around me. I was a shy, nerdy girl working my first mall job. I worked with mostly white girls. One girl I worked with named Carla was Middle Eastern¬†and white. There was also another white girl I worked with who only dated black guys (by her admission) and dressed and talked in a perceived ethnic demeanor. As me and several coworkers left for the evening, Carla felt necessary to point out that myself and the white girl should switch places. The other coworkers (who were white) did express surprise and protest over her proclamation, but the statement was already “out there.” I think that was the first time someone very pointedly made a declaration on my behavior, personality and somehow came to the astute conclusion that I did not truly represent what they perceived as the black race. So is the lot of blacks across the nation, especially in corporate America. There you will experience a microcosm of this capitalistic¬†society where blacks, whites and others are brought¬†together and have no option¬†to stay in a¬†comfort zone where everyone thinks and looks like themselves. This little micro-society is an environment where odd comments, questions and awkward conversation abound. And silence¬†—¬†lots and lots of silence. I’ve had more than one co-worker ask me if I tan. Yup, I do. I tan just like you do. It’s as if black skin is impenetrable¬†to the sun with some strange set point that will never change. I’ve had people from work suggest I go out with the only black dude¬†or the mail room guy they’d never set their daughter up with. Because I guess I wouldn’t be interested in dating anyone of another race or they couldn’t imagine it, I suppose.¬†One day I brought my baby sister to Kids’ Day at my workplace. I look young for my¬†age and my sister was a young teen at the time. I guess a¬†white woman, who worked at my company, assumed she was mine though some people bring nieces and nephews as well to the event. She gave such a look of incredulous disgust as if she was horrified I’d had a child so young. Ironically, I was in my early twenties when my sister was born, but this woman assumed the worst. So on many occasions, we don’t get a pass. Perception is their reality and what many in white America see on TV, in movies are the only education they’ll ever know about black people. It’s a scary prospect. It’s as if you allowed a child to be educated only by watching TV instead of going to school as a means of understanding¬†the world. How can you expect them to be able to function in society without sounding like a bumbling idiot when encountering someone from a different background/race? Oh boy America, we’ve got some work to do.

Back in the summer of 2008, someone broke into my apartment in the early morning hours. Though I was¬†asleep in my bed¬†at the time, they did not harm me. Thanks be to God! They did take my car keys and steal my car, but I was just thankful I was in one piece. But what I experienced after I called the police reinforced my perception of how some white police officers deal with blacks. I lived in a suburb at the time and was given a heads up by my girlfriend (who was not black) that white cops in the area did not like the fact that blacks rented apartments in this city versus owning a home. I guess that’s a justification for bias. That’s what it sounds like to me. It’s not like people are just squatting and not paying to stay¬†where they live (shrugging my shoulders). So rewind¬†back to that fateful night. When the cops arrived I was pretty shaken up to say the least. I am a woman living alone and someone came into my home and could have done anything to me. One of the police officers (in his 30s) began to question me very aggressively. The line of questioning quickly turned to me, asking if I knew anyone that would commit this crime. ¬†He just continued to badger me and at the end of it all I felt violated and doubly traumatized from the events of that early morning.¬†My boyfriend at the time showed up and they confiscated his car keys. His vehicle was not the same make as mine, but he was looked at suspiciously as well (incidentally, he’d just finished medical school).¬†Even in that scenario it was perceived to be my own fault.¬†My only crime that night was being black when a crime happened to me. It was sickening and it made me so angry.

Racism in America is one of the few strongholds in this country that’s never been tackled. It sits fermenting¬†like the crazy uncle locked in the basement that never shuts up. You periodically hear fits and spurts of him rumbling below, but most just¬†hum louder and louder to drown out the noise that never really goes away until¬†it almost becomes white noise (no pun intended).¬†Our nation is still very new and for those who may want to try to brush past wounds¬†under the rug, to God one day is but an hour. In¬†Psalm 90:4, Moses used a simple yet profound analogy in describing the timelessness of God: ‚ÄúFor a thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.‚ÄĚ There are¬†so many conservative, white Christians who¬†continue to condemn¬†abortion and homosexuality, but ignore the blatant injustices that happen everyday. Jesus not only called out people to repentance but also¬†addressed the¬†issues of the day.¬†You can’t turn on the TV nowadays without being confronted with the crazy uncle in the closet, but no one wants to talk about. We’d rather stick our fingers in our ears and declare everything is fine in this grand melting pot that really resembles a stew full of seemingly¬†incongruent ingredients. It’s time to get out of our seats, get in our cars, walk across the street or whatever it takes to¬†connect with your neighbor, your coworker whether he or she is in a different city, professes a different faith or¬†background. We need to start linking and aligning our lives with others and by doing so have a greater understanding and¬†an honest, real dialogue about race. Stop the silence that’s killing us as a nation and widening the gap of understanding and sensitivity. How many times have I seen two different newsfeeds when significant racial issues are playing out on the world’s stage. My friends who aren’t black are talking about what they’re cooking or some inane topic while some of the most timely and important conversations and critical moments are happening around them. We don’t have the luxury to ignore what is going on anymore. The face of the country is changing and we need to leave a legacy and example our children can be proud of and really live out more fully the creed of America being the¬†“land of the free and home of the brave.”

Beauty Finds

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I found some really cool products lately and I thought I’d share. I signed up for Ulta’s loyalty reward program (no cost to join) and I got a FREE full-size Signature CK One Mascara for my birthday month. I was pretty excited because I knew I needed to get a new mascara anyway. It has a feature that allows you to expand and contract the brush to try different looks,¬†and¬†I’ve liked the look of my lashes so far. So sign up for the card¬†for points, special coupons and to¬†try out a new makeup item risk free during your birthday month.

CKOne

Another sweet find that I am really excited about is Revlon’s ColorStay Gel Envy. I can’t keep color on my nails for more than a couple days with any type of brand without chipping for some reason. My toes fair better in the summer, but I like to have pretty shades on my fingers all year long like the next girl. I don’t do professional manicures so one day I had a $1 coupon for Revlon and decided to buy one of the polishes just to try it out for myself.¬†It goes on pretty thick and drives fairly quickly too — which is great for when you need to head out and you don’t have a lot of time to wait. I put on two coats. Three coats would be too thick I think. Then I top it with just a clear coat to add some shine.

RevlonColorStay Gel Envy

nailpic

In the picture above I’d been wearing this color for almost two days. I’ve been buying my bottles at Target for $5 which beats Etsy any day¬†even though I love their colors too. It’s gets the Tiffany Seal of Approval. ūüėČ

If you’re a fan of Bath &¬†Body Works fragrances that are sweet¬†and¬†sultry, then you may just enjoy their new Wild Madagascar Vanilla product. They premiered this new scent for the fall season. I picked it up yesterday and the saleswoman told me it has a vanilla extract that’s exclusive to their stores. It has top and middle notes of fruit and flowers such as pear, plumeria, jasmine and apple that settles with dry notes of white sandalwood, Madagascar vanilla and creamy musk — reminiscent of incense without the heaviness.

wildmadagascarvanilla

I enjoy the scent and layer the fragrance mist with the lotion that leaves my skin feeling silky smooth. You may only need to wear the mist or lotion, depending on your body chemistry, but I find it works together to hold the scent for a longer period of time. Fans of vanilla can enjoy a little twist on the standard scent and enjoy smelling more like a grown woman versus a cupcake. Ha-ha!

Hope some of these shares are helpful and enjoy the beautiful fall season!

For Late Bloomers and the Awkward at Heart

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I was awkward and shy growing up. Okay, I’m still awkward and pretty shy now, but now I’ll just say I’m a little introverted and quirky. Those are the grown-up euphemisms I use now. Bookish by nature, you’d find me engrossed in a nice piece of fiction¬†or watching a romantic PBS mini-series with my mom. But like any other kid in the 80s, I also watched The Cosby Show, the A Team and The Jeffersons.¬†I never had fly style as a teenager. Every once in awhile, I rocked a cute outfit because of my little mall rat job, but my hair was very rarely professionally done until college. When I started school at Marygrove College, I experimented with wearing my own curly texture and have¬†adopted that style for most of my life now. And I was a late bloomer when it came to dating, getting my own place, having my own computer, etc. It’s just a¬†recurring theme God has running through my life. But I’m glad I didn’t run out of steam early, looking back at my high school and time in college as my “golden years.” I didn’t peak early so I’ve lived a life of slow blossom. Sometimes I’ve kicked away at that scenario but after really only stubbing my toe, I’ve had to cut that out — for the most part.

wordle

So now as I’ve reached my 40th year on the planet, I’ve quite settled into myself. Though I am adept at being okay with “me,” I’ve had my struggles with where I find myself and learning to make peace with the change of seasons, relationships¬†and the situations that appear to be immovable.¬†Public speaking is still a bit of a phobia to me and I’m just glad when I can spit out some semi-intelligent words in a professional group setting. But I don’t starve for the attention from others that happens from having a great car, a beautiful wardrobe or the perfect man. I don’t envy those in their 20s just beginning their journeys into adulthood. I know more, lived a little and have much more to see from life but without the filter of being that wide-eyed young woman I used to be. I’ve got scars, some parables of my own to tell and love for God and who He’s been to me through it all. I’m learning to live at the pace of His grace. ‚̧

Table for One, Part 2 (Living In The Margins)

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I haven’t reached the generally accepted milestones or highly¬†lauded successes (finances, advanced degrees, a mate and kids) of some others in my age range. So¬†though this season¬†leaves me at times with feelings of immense freedom, I’m also challenged at times¬†to find a niche for myself among the changing landscape of the environment around me. Playing it safe or “saved” has been my calling card for about 12 years now. I was never a Sex In the City type of girl, but more so Coffee or Tea¬†with Girls Downtown. I am not about to turn¬†around¬†now when the road is now less traveled by my friends and¬†some I no longer connect with regularly, if at all. Some of it is just natural with the gradual change of lifestyles. While¬†with others¬†it’s more about¬†clearing the path¬†that would eventually hinder either one or both of us along the way.¬†Certainly I’m not spiritually, mentally or emotionally in the same place so it’s never best to hold on to bonds or situations that are not thriving.

BandL

Living in the margins of the mainstream existence made me more sensitive to those who people consider live on the outskirts of “normal” life, living. I see a homeless man occasionally in a downtown area I visit often. I’ll call him “Barry.” He is a slight man probably in his early 60s. His bearing is quiet, dignified and unassuming. This time Barry¬†was sitting at a bench eating cat food. Yes, cat food straight out of container like it was a fine delicacy. The sight¬†broke my heart. I was shocked, saddened and felt a little helpless at the same time. And to make it more thoroughly sickening were his “neighbors” sitting next to him. Both we were rather large women blissfully enjoying their yogurt treat. The juxtaposition was disturbing and the image¬†stayed with me. I later gave him some money and his eyes lit up and he said, “Bless you.”

At the moment I face some¬†challenges right now, but I’m not the only facing an uphill battle. Right now there are so many people around me (family, coworkers and friends) who are experiencing some very heavy trials. I wonder if I weren’t where¬†I am right now if I would be as sensitive or care as much. In the bluster of youth, life seems so bright and boundless. The positive focus is great, but rarely tempered with enough wisdom or character to withstand the blows of life. I’ve now seen enough sunrises and sunsets to have faced some mighty trials and stupendous blessings. Right now as I wake everyday, I try my best to keep the Lord and promises before me — through a song or a devotional. There’s truly nothing to go back to. As I traverse a path less taken, I must press on to see what the end shall be. Despite any superficial and temporal¬†standards¬†of the world, the¬†full destiny that’s been prepared for me is here, more real than anything I’ve ever seen or heard.

 

Mali Music Makes R&B Debut “Beautiful”

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

For most promising Christian¬†artists,¬†taking¬†music into the secular realm is met with judgement and¬†suspicion by others in the¬†Gospel music community. There’s little doubt Mali Music faced some opposing views or advice going into little-ventured territory with his gifts. He’s had a couple of favorable releases in previous years¬†as a standard gospel artist with a neo-soul flavor. I became aware of him when he was featured as a BET Music Matters artist on the BET Awards show a few years ago. His delivery and unique vocal abilities had me excited for the new generation of Gospel singers. And I, along with many other music fans, anxiously awaited his next album. When he teased the world with “Beautiful” earlier this year, it quickly became a hit, but it did not have the heavy gospel message many may have expected him to publish. So Mali Music may have had some doubters and haters along the way with his newest album,¬†but his faith¬†is paying¬†off handsomely. Mali Is¬†is¬†receiving many¬†accolades¬†and¬†praise while currently holding a¬†top spot in its debut week.

10264858_10203699039894176_1051251271947247518_n

“No Fun Alone” is a good first track to introduce his latest offering. He describes his life as an artist, reconciling his humanity and vulnerabilities in the spotlight of fame. “Ready Aim” and “Fight For You” are¬†bangers displaying Mali’s hip-hop skills. To me I hear such an undercurrent of Holy-Spirit-influenced musicality using a format that grabs the ears of any music lover, regardless of spiritual persuasion. His music just brims with a fresh way of expressing a new life in Christ without the boundaries of conventional expression. “Walking Shoes” is a clear nod to old school sounds of the 1950s and 60s, beckoning us all to move forward against the currents armed with the truth of¬†Psalm 119. “Little Lady” samples the phenomenal Nina Simone while serenading the stories of girls we see everyday in need of real love and the reassurance that¬†men of integrity still exist. “Johnny & Donna” tells the story of a young couple and the complications of love, family, and life¬†and¬†demonstrates¬†Mali’s range and masterful vocal manipulation. In the¬†last track “I Believe” there’s a clear declaration of his faith and hearkens back to the old days of believers who unabashedly shared their belief in song. I believe is a theme that runs throughout the whole album. It’s clear Mali has not departed faith-based music as much as redefined and expanded it while challenging his contemporaries and those aspiring gospel artists to carve out a niche that’s not bound by invisible dos and don’ts. This young believer has thrown down the gauntlet and speaks to a lost generation where turning up and twerking is the preferred and expected everyday social norm.

I picked my copy up at Best Buy for less than $8 (regularly about $10). Of course digital copies are available on iTunes and amazon.com, but for this one I had to get my hands on a physical¬†copy for safekeeping at home and on my computer. ūüôā Mali Is¬†was certainly worth the wait.