British Soul Music

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I’m a self-professed Anglophile. And what is an Anglophile, you may ask? Merriam-Webster defines it as a person who greatly admires or favors England and things English. I love English tea, accents, British slang and Shakespeare plays. Some of my favorite actors are British: Colin Firth, Idris Elba, Hugh Grant, Naomie Harris, Thandie Newton, Hugh Laurie, Judi Dench, and Rachel Weisz. But where my love affair really began with all things English is with its literature and music. The 80s were such a fun time to be a kid. From Tears to Fears, Culture Club and Wham to Duran Duran, the Eurythmics and George Michael, there was so much good music from English artists it became known as the Second British Invasion (behind the popularity of the Beatles).

Neo-Soul and R & B are two of my favorite genres as an adult so now, 30 years later there are plenty of great artists from across the pond that I love. Some of the most gifted artists hail from the UK. Here’s my rundown of some of my favorites that you may or may not be familiar with. Maybe you’ll find a new artist to add to your music collection.

Lianne La Havas gives me hope for an advent of new artists with a genuine love of songwriting and beautiful vocals. I had the pleasure of seeing her perform last year to a rapt crowd. She is such a humble artist with so much to offer in the years to come.

Hollie Cook is the daughter of Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook and whose mother was a member of Culture Club. Her sound is more pop- and reggae-based, but can be quite soulful too.

James Blake caught me off guard with this one. The young red-haired singer stands 6′ 5″ and his sound belies his appearance. I found out about him when Hollie Cook shared this song on her Facebook page. It just transports me to a place I’ve never been before, but I definitely want to visit again and again.

Daley hails from Manchester, England, and burst onto the U.S. music scene with his break out hit “Alone Together” with Marsha Ambrosius. His 2012 EP is a vibrant new blend of neo-soul sound with his standout track “Those Who Wait” leaving me inspired. His full-length album entitled Days and Nights released last month. His melodic falsetto gives him the ability to sing a range of songs and more than comfortably cover artist’s songs from the likes of Maxwell, Usher and Amy Winehouse.

Speaking of Marsha Ambrosius, she’s made quite a mark for herself as a solo artist since departing Floetry. Her second album is due out soon and her unique vocal style makes every release wring with authenticity. Many of her videos address timely topics, including this one from her forthcoming album Friends and Lovers: 

And if you’re still looking to get your spoken word on with your songs, Natalie Stewart aka Floacist is still your girl. Stewart is the other half of Floetry and I look forward to her next musical offerings.

Estelle has a wonderfully unique style and this old school-feeling song I can let run on repeat on a nice evening, curled up with a good book. Where’s my candle? 😉

Corinne Bailey Rae has been away from the music scene for quite awhile, but I look forward to her third album currently in works. Her sophomore album The Sea was a more muted, thoughtful work compared to her more upbeat self-titled release.

I could go on and on about other great UK artists. Amy Winehouse will always be one of may favs and there are others like Emeli Sandé and Adele who’ve received critical acclaim. Feel free to share any singers I’ve missed that are making great contributions in the music world.

Cheers!

The Uncomfortable Place

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I’m here again. A place I know, but I try not to visit. An area I’ll try to walk around in a fruitless attempt to avoid. Unlike a child at Christmastime dreaming of sugarplums, I envision a one-way ticket to “Anywhere But Here.” It’s one of the reasons I’ve been away and not posting as much. I’ve entered my own Twilight Zone I’d like to call the Uncomfortable Place. It’s not a pretty destination. Sometimes it’s a place that brings stinging tears to my eyes and more often a prayer on my lips. I’m in a spiritual press, with my desires and wishes ground out so that His will can be revealed.

A place of growth rarely is comfortable. Look at any pictures from your childhood and the gap-toothed smile or gangly legs greet you in all their awkward splendor. But it wasn’t the end of development, just the beginning actually. Growing often hurts, rife with unexpected turns and challenges along the way.

When you’re stretched in weak, unfamiliar areas of your life, growth is the best thing to come out of it. Often the natural work of God’s creation mimics the same process humans go through. One such wondrous example is pearls. Pearls are so precious in all their iridescent beauty. They are gemstones that occur when something unnatural invades an oyster’s environment. A grain of sand or floating food finds its way between the two shells of an oyster and as it builds a layer around itself to protect its existent, a gorgeous pearl is created. Without this disturbance to a natural environment, potential can’t be released. Irritation must occur to give birth to something new in the earth.

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It’s believed diamonds are formed in extreme conditions, buried deep under the surface, heated thousands of degrees, squeezed under the pressure of 725,000 pounds per square inch, and then brought to the surface to cool.

I sometimes feel a bit unsure during this process, as if my Heavenly Father is holding my hands as I walk forward like a toddler just gaining her mobility. Each day he tells me to take another step forward and the way opens before me as I go. And I discover new things about myself — strength, confidence, gifts I wouldn’t know I had otherwise. And I’m grateful for an opportunity to be used and transformed to His Glory and Honor. Without His touch, His guidance I am weak, silly and immature. I know one day I’ll look back on this time and see more clearly the work of His hands.

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” James 1:2-4

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Living the Plush Life

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I like nice things. Who doesn’t? Something about a nice pair of shoes or a gorgeous new car that calls out to us. We let it say something about us. “I have means.” “I am important.” “I’m special.” For me I’ve never been into certain brand names. I just like what I like and if it happens to have a fashion label it is by pure accident. It might have to do with my childhood years and my very DNA. Growing up without a lot of money didn’t afford me the chance to live like some of the kids around me. I was just happy with small things. What’s your taste? Vintage? Modern? Classic? Eclectic?

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I do like a little sparkle in my life. 😉

Somehow along the way I’ve learned the value of living within my means, stretching a dollar and though I enjoy nice things, it doesn’t rule me. My mom was delighted with the most simple pleasures: a great meal, a trip to a bookstore or a movie. For me, sitting in a coffee shop with my favorite latte and writing out my thoughts is a getaway for me. A great date to me doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. I’ve had the most fun making a dinner with a guy while my favorite playlist is serenading us through the evening.

The world is just more and more superficial nowadays, but I think the real plush life is one that is cushioned by the love of God. Right now I am nestled in His care and though from outward appearances my life may look lackluster to others, it’s very, very rich in the ways that matter.

Stop Making Plans

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So I’ve had this battle. I am a planner. I am detail-oriented. I love lists. I try to forecast, speculate outcomes and then strategize about possible responses. It started innocently enough. I took care of my mom from an early age and for me to feel like I had some sense of control I would plan for possible occurrences as a way to feel safe and insulate myself from trauma or stress. And I guess I thought it was working well for me for a while, but eventually when life began to throw too many curve balls to be able to predict, it became apparent that I couldn’t handle it all by myself. I’d spent too much time in the mind of my own imaginations and too little in the very real moments of my life.

In the meantime, God had been tugging on my heart for awhile. And when I began to realize how much I was loved by Jesus, I fell for Him hard. Everything that had been dull and flat about my life was now in radiant high definition, vibrant with colors, smells and textures. And although He’d been carrying me through many storms and showed me His grace, I still tried to keep a grip of my days and destiny. I wasn’t trying to pry my life out of His hands, but I was still just holding it a little lightly. 🙂 It was so easy to praise God with one hand and with the other try to mold my situation, projecting my own desires on any given circumstance. I’m guilty. And if anyone is honest, you’re guilty too. It’s just in our nature to want to wield control over our own lives. It’s the American way. We are taught from the beginning that we should have it “our way.” But then after we make hopeless messes of our lives we want to hand it back to the Master and say, “Fix it Daddy.”

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The season that I am in right now is difficult. God has been dealing with my longing to have control and to figure things out. Once I feel I have an understanding in one facet of my life, it changes. And all my feelings of comfort and predictability are thrown out the window. I can’t really make heads or tails of what is going to happen even a month from now. I’m pushed to trust and walk forward into a completely foreign land. And the only one who can give me reassurance is my Heavenly Father. It doesn’t matter how much I study, how many people pray for me or where I’ve walked before. Nothing can totally prepare me for where I am right now. And it’s right where He wants me to be — completely reliant on Him. So I look forward to seeing what God reveals and does in me that will bring Him Glory. I know I’m not alone. Are there areas in your life that you need to let go of?

Is That A Knife In My Back?

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“Not everyone means well.” Our moms and dads tell us the cautionary words in one way or another. Backstabbers. Perpetrators. Weasels. Haters. Whatever you call them, the stories become reality over the years. It happens in every facet of our lives: church, work, school and family. Sad but true your loved ones can break your heart the most. And then there are people you meet at work and school that you gel with or start a great working relationship and then BOOM! Something happens that reveals the cracks and crevices in the alliance that was truly more delicate at deeper inspection.

Think about the moments in your life where you’ve received a breakthrough, a blessing. Maybe you’ve reached another level in life. Everything is so new and exciting, but you realize there’s more to this season than meets the eye. Sometimes you unwittingly walk into an atmosphere that’s a minefield, filled with obstacles. Battles and strongholds are all around. Folks laced in lies, facades and hidden agendas. It’s almost like a fairy tale gone wrong with wolves draped in pretty dresses and pressed slacks. It’s hard to push pass the situation. At times the atmosphere is even palpable, revealing true motives and attitudes. I’ve been there. And often we just want to flee. But what if we are called there? Maybe it’s for a few months or a couple of years. I promise that if God is in the midst, you’re covered. He has your back. It doesn’t mean you won’t suffer some persecution or rejection, but you’ll see His hand lifting you up and showing Himself faithful. You can feel pretty weak and wondering if you can take much more, but if you keep your heart next to God’s and acknowledge Him in each situation, you’ll find yourself living past those moments. You’ll see yourself breathing through it.

jeremiah2911All of us are laboring, pregnant with purpose — but what are we feeding ourselves in the period of gestation? We are all giving birth to something — good and bad. Of course it’s easy to commit to fruitless things and become horrified at the results we’ve produced. While the harder, heavier, weightier things are more difficult to endure. Too often we abandon the process and allow the dreams and promises to die in our arms. But if we can just press in, while focusing on the Author of our lives, we will find ourselves on the other side — better, stronger, wiser, giving birth to destiny and purpose. Don’t give up on desires God’s put in your heart. It truly is not over. Challenges will come. That’s life. People will be unfriendly, hostile, insensitive, but it only matters who’s on your side. He has a perfect plan for our lives and we owe it to God and ourselves to see it through to the other side. Let’s dig in. This song has inspired me over the years. Hope you enjoy!

Movin’ On Up

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I know I’ve been offline for a minute. It was for a good reason. I just moved to a new place and we all know that’s a lot of WORK. Along with adjusting to a new job, I began to get ready for my move. I was intentional about planning it well in advance, being thorough and detailed. As is God’s way, I learned more about myself and Him at the same time. Right now is a season of change for me and I realize that with a shift in levels there comes great effort and real sweat equity.

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Movement to the next level in life does not come without pain, sacrifice and mistakes along the way. During my time of packing, I was overwhelmed with the amount of items I’d accumulated that were either obsolete or no longer useful to me. Many items I gave away or threw out. The process was cathartic for me. It was as if I was shedding remnants of the past and preparing for this new phase of my life. As I look around my eyes are lifted to new vistas with exciting milestones on the horizon. I can’t be sure what I’ll encounter along the path, but I know I’ve pressed my way and that all my waiting and sowing has not been in vain. Through this transition the Lord has adjusted my spiritual astigmatism to see His provision and protection and I am more than grateful to witness His faithfulness.

My Family Is A Trip – Why Me?

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On more than one occasion I’ve asked myself that question. To be honest, my relationship with some of my family members has not always been the best. Sometimes moments have been downright painful. There have been issues and moments of strain in my family that I’m sure many of you can relate to. So many times I’ve wondered why God placed me with the people I belong to and what it all means. Though we love each other and I know there is a greater purpose, I guess I thought I may never know the answer to the question until I saw God face to face.

Our family laughs and fights together (sometimes all in the same night) ;-). We spend holidays, special occasions and birthdays together, but I know that we can all be more connected and just be there for each other. So for many years I have been praying for my family and hoping to see things get better. Several times I debated continuing to be around those that hurt me, but there were factors that made me tough it out. For one, I did not want to miss out on the bonds I could make sharing special moments. Another factor is just not wanting to give up on my family and what I believe God has called them to be. As I’ve matured, I realize more and more this life is not about me. Jesus has accepted me with my faults, flaws and limitations with no hesitation and I would be selfish and vain to not extend that same love toward the people He has placed in my life. There’s definitely been traumatic times were I just wanted to hop off my own cross and say, “Forget it!” but something eternal has been unfolding behind the scenes despite my weariness.

Time has passed and I’ve recently begun to witness things I did not think I would ever see or hear. I’ve heard my father speak of God in a way I’ve never heard before, expressing gratitude for what He’s done in his life. He’s honestly shared the lessons he’s learned in his youth and adult years. I’ve seen a vulnerability and openness in my family that takes my breath away. We had a very painful loss a few years ago, but in that loss I believe God helped us to see Him as our help when our own feeble strength began to crumble. The glimmers of my hope were stoked and the embers of my faith began to glow.

I just recently came back from our family reunion and though it had a pretty shaky start, I saw God moving on all our hearts and I had an opportunity to lead my family in prayer as we worked through a challenging moment. God gave me the words. I had no idea what to say. And over that weekend I was able to see more of God’s purpose for sowing me into the family I belong to. That’s not to say that all our issues are fixed. We are all “working projects” and we will have some slips along the way as humans, but I thank God for revealing just a little more of His great plan for our lives. Most families have dynamics to work through with perplexing situations to navigate, but I believe that there truly is a reason and divine purpose that the Lord is working in us as we walk. #KeepWalking #TrustHim

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I Got It God

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So I’m a teacher in children’s ministry school at my church. My age group is 3-4 years old. They are an eager, energetic, sensitive and funny bunch of kids. They are truly little adults. The boys can be just as rambunctious and competitive as grown men on a basketball court. The girls can be just as opinionated and sassy as grown women at a hair salon. And though physically and cognitively they may not be able to do as much as their will wants, they certainly give it a try.

Even with something as mundane as washing hands, my kids will insist they’ve got it covered. “I got it!” exclaimed one beautiful little girl with big pretty eyes told me one day. As all the soap I just squeezed into her little hands ran off her palm and into the sink, she insisted she knew what she was doing. I usually playfully tell them, “Make bubbles!”

Girl Play by Geww

Girl Play by Geww

There’s just something in us that begins not long after we leave our mother’s womb that demands independence. Unfortunately we often have no idea how ridiculous we look asserting our own authority in the face of mediocre results, at best. How many times have I heard my young students say, “I can do it.” and then eventually after struggling to accomplish a task beyond their current abilities they say, “Can you help me?” What I think we miss as adults is that we look just as ill-equipped and clumsy to God as my kids look to me. We get ourselves entangled in so many situations and difficulties because we have the very same stance: “I got it God. I don’t need you to help me with this.” Days, months, or years later we end up on our knees holding the broken pieces of our lives, asking God for help. We can’t get far in our own strength to make it to the next phase of growth. My babies teach me so much about life and how God wants to truly be Lord of our lives, leading us into good things and a life that will give glory to Him.

Be blessed!

Black and Quirky

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I’m quirky. I’m black. Sometimes people don’t think the two go together. As if it’s like oil and water. But I am certainly evidence to the contrary.

Merriam-Webster defines quirky as “different from the ordinary in a way that causes curiosity or suspicion.” I can say I have been met with some strange comments and reactions over the years, but I wasn’t put here on this earth to please everybody. I’ve never been one to neatly fit into a preconceived box of opinions.

Quirkiness is an intangible quality. Maybe it’s my humor, style, taste in music/food, interests. Considered an oddity in certain social circles as a child and teen, my longing for variety and expression was met with questions and misunderstanding. I stayed up late listening to Sade, Swing Out Sister and Harry Connick Jr. and by the time college rolled around, I rocked natural hair before it was popular. I became my own blueprint because being anything else was too difficult and like an ill-fitting jacket — oppressively uncomfortable.

A few years into college, I was finally able to visit London and indulge in my love of England. I am fascinated with English culture (aka an Anglophile). British accents, teas, slang, music, movies, literature, London, Idris Elba. 😉 And in the same breath I can dedicate a Pinterest board featuring African-inspired fashion and express my longing for a trip to Santoroni, Greece, on another.

???????????????????????????“Santorini” by Evgeni Dinev

I love Caddys and Camaros, action movies and romantic comedies. My Netflix queue has Bollywood flicks, dramas, thrillers, foreign and faith-inspired films.

I’m in love with several types of music: Neo-Soul, Christian hip-hop, reggae, jazz and world music, etc. I listen to Björk, Paula Valstein, Sean Paul, Mary Mary, Yael Naïm, Nat King Cole, Maxwell, Adele, Lenny Kravitz and Zap Mama.

Unbeknownst to many of my loved ones, I have an extensive old and foreign coin/paper money collection.

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My rock collection hasn’t been touched in a while, but I could certainly have a show-and-tell moment with local gemologists.

TiffanyRocks1Part of my stone collection.

I daydream about a South African safari, a stroll in Florence, Italy, and a beach holiday in Rio de Janeiro. Variety is like oxygen to me. But I do love my routines from my cozy spot at my favorite Starbucks to the way I like my hash browns (ketchup and Red Hot please).

Monet and Degas make my heart sing, but I deeply appreciate and love art from my local Detroit artists. Shakespeare to Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston to Jane Austen. I’ve come to embrace my eclecticism and my ability to merge and connect with different cultures and backgrounds. Sometimes people don’t get it and I’ve learned not to care and be true to me.