“Go Back And Move Your Car!”

On yesterday afternoon, I ran an errand to a consistently busy part of town.  For the past month or so, I’ve ran this same errand almost twice a week and dreaded the parking situation.  Rarely have I been lucky enough to find a parking space close to my destination. Most days, I am forced to make a four-time circle around a two-block radius before finding a decent parking space. Fortunately, on yesterday, I found a parking space on the second trip around the two-block radius.

To occupy this parking space, I made a U-turn in the middle of the street, backed in and out  of the  space at least 3 times, and squeezed in between two horribly, parked vehicles. To my left was the horribly parked, forest green minivan and to my left was an equally as horrendously parked, over- the- line, forest, green Toyota Camry.  (For some reason, I can’t remember the make and model of the minivan. I just remember the color and its’ awful parking situation.)  The parking task took me at least 5 minutes. But by the grace of God, I made it. (Isn’t it funny how we insert the grace of God into the most random situations??? Chic-fil-a’s drive thru line isn’t wrapped around the building…..look at the grace of God….Gas prices went down…look at the grace of God….Finding an extra $5 in your wallet….look at the grace of God….LOL…I could go on for days. I’m always deviating. SMH…back to the story)

As I prepared to open my car door, I realized that there was only about a foot and a half of distance in between my car and the horribly parked, over- the- line, forest green Toyota Camry.  Yet, in still, I carefully opened my car door, “squoze” myself out of the driver’s seat, and managed to get out of my car without touching the Camry. I pressed the lock button on my keychain and quickly walked towards my destination.

I glanced back at my car and the minimal space separating it from the other two cars.

I mumbled, “They betta’ not scratch or hit my car!”

I was taking a chance leaving my car in between two, horribly parked, forest green vehicles.  But I was in a hurry. I fumbled through my purse to check the time on my phone. In order to stay on schedule, I literally had seven minutes to complete this errand.

I continued to walk about ten steps. Then, He speaks.

The Holy Spirit said to me, “Go back and move your car.”

I stopped and I looked at the time on my phone. If I went back to move my car, it would take me at least another 10 minutes to circle around the two-block radius to find another space.  That would put me behind schedule. There was no time for that.

“I’m not moving my car,” I thought to myself.

I kept walking and whispered a prayer, “Lord protect my car from these horrible drivers!”

I reached to open the door of the business and the Holy Spirit said once again, “Go back and move your car.”

I paused.

He inquired further, “Why would you risk the damage of your investment when all you have to do is go back and move your car.”

I thought, “Here He goes againnn!!! All that deep stuff. I just want to do simple things like park my car, go inside this business, and go back to work. Now, He’s over here talking about risking damage to my investment… come on Lorddddddddddd what do you want from my life today??”

Aloud and likened to a spoiled brat,  I complained, “Goshhh!!!”

I closed the business’ door.

I pulled my keys out of my purse. I turned back around and headed in the direction of my car.  I shimmied and shifted into between the foot and a half of space between my car and the Camry. I carefully opened my car door, “squoze” into the driver’s seat, placed my car in reverse, and pulled out of the parking space.   And, guest what???? By the Grace of God, I found another parking space closer to the entrance without horribly parked forest green vehicles on either side!!!!!!!!!!!! And I didn’t have to circle the two-block radius!!  Won’t He do it!!!

Although I was off schedule, I successfully completed my errand and got into my car. I did not have to squeeze to fit into my car. Neither did I have to expose “Marlouisha” as a result of my car being damaged.    (“Marlouisha” is my Liberty City/Opa Locka raised, Elouise 2.0, non-surburban, no time for foolishness, still working on my salvation, Jesus is on the mainline and you need to call Him, alter ego. I try to keep her tucked away. But every now and then, somebody tries it….and she MUST come out.)

On the drive back to work, those words played repeatedly in my head.

“Why would you risk the damage of your investment when all you have to do is go back and move your car?”

Again. “Why would you risk the damage of your investment when all you have to do is go back and move your car?”

And again”Why would you risk the damage of your investment when all you have to do is go back and move your car?”

Initially, I pondered the natural component to this statement. I was willing to leave the security of my car in the hands of someone who:

1) apparently could not park

 2) did not following the rules of parking (i.e…stay in between the lines, ensure there’s enough space on each side, etc.)

3) would most likely scratch my car while opening their car door due to the lack of space

 4) had no reason (outside of the golden rule) to care about me or my car

 5) had not contributed one dime to my car payment, maintenance, or insurance

I thought about my carelessness regarding something that we’ve worked extremely hard for, need, and value.  Despite the sacrifices we’ve made to maintain my car, I was casually willing to leave it positioned for damage.  And, if I would have returned to a damaged car, I would have the nerve to be upset.

Then, I thought about the spiritual, physical, and emotional component of the Holy Spirit’s inquiry?

How many times have I “squoze” myself, my heart, or my dreams into positions that obviously were detrimental to my wellbeing?

How often have I dismissed the suggestions or corrections of those who have my best interest at heart?

How many times have I viewed their voices or reason as an inconvenience to my personal schedule?

How often have I received direction from the Lord and instead of obeying, whispered a prayer over it?

How many times have I allowed convenience, false loyalty, misconstrued hope, laziness, or just plain disobedience talk me out of making decisions that were for my good?

How often have I heard God’s instructions or saw warning signs, yet proceeded to keep walking?

How many times have I known about the strong possibility of disappointment or damage that awaited me, but continued to move forward with my own agenda?

How often have I risked damaged to my physical, emotional and spiritual investments because I wasn’t willing to turn back around and make the adjustments that would ultimately protect me?

How many times have I left the fate of my investments (my life, time, emotions, gifts, etc.)  into the hands of someone who had no stake in my welfare or advancement?

How often have I ignored the carelessness of people “parked” in my vicinity and proceeded to remain in their space?

Deep.…So Deep…and all I wanted to do was park my car, run my errand, and get back to work!

 

Dear Lord,

Forgive me Lord for my casual attitude concerning the investment of my life and the things you have blessed me with. Help me to be reminded that You know all, and You see all. May I be aware of your voice and be obedient to Your instructions. Not just in the big things, but even more in the small moments in life.  You are not concerned with my agenda, self- imposed seasons, or my need for control. But You are consumed by Your love for me!! My safety and fruitfulness are of great importance to you! NO ONE has my back like you do! Thank you!!!

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

 

Photo Credit: Xaviar Gray

H.Y.L.A.

Ring.Ring.Ring.Ring.

Operator: This call is being monitored for quality assurance. Hello! Thank you for calling HYLA!

Me: HYLA?

Operator: Yes, I extend my apologies, Ma’am.  I should have explained the acronym. You have called Hardworking Yet Lazy Anonymous.

Me: Oh, yes. Umm my name is Margaret!

Operator: Hi Margaret, thank you for calling us today. How may I help you?

Me: Uhh… I heard an ad for your support group on the radio and I was wondering how I can sign up. I really need some help.

 

OK. OK. To my knowledge, there is no such organization as Hardworking Yet Lazy Anonymous. But I must confess.  I, Margaret Louise Smith-Williams, am hardworking yet lazy.

(Yes, I said my full name. Even my middle name. Louise. My mother, Elouise, was committed to ensuring that I had an old lady name all the way through. I accept that. Took me a while. But I accept it. Especially, now, that I think about how it would sound to mix an old school name with a new school one. Margaret Janae?? Margaret Lakeshia?? Margaret Candice??? Nope. An old lady name all the way through works just fine for me. Margaret Louise. I accept that.)

I, Margaret Louise Smith-Williams, confess that I am hardworking, yet lazy.

Yes. I’m fully aware that this just doesn’t make sense. How can I be “hardworking” and “lazy?” These are two, opposite action words that aren’t usually combined.  It’s impossible for someone to be both hardworking and lazy at the same time, right? Not exactly.

You see, I am undoubtedly a hard worker. Ask any one. My parents, husband, in-laws, sister, friends, past and present employers or clients. Everyone will agree that I am hardworking. I am efficient. I operate with integrity. I am reliable. I am diligent. I work in a spirit of excellence and I produce top notch, lasting results.  I am one of a kind and to have me on your team is to have an irreplaceable, invaluable asset. Not bragging, all proven truth!

But I am also lazy! Not lazy with everyone else. Lazy with myself. And although, Hardworking Yet Lazy Anonymous, does not quite exist, this is where it would come in handy.

Operator: Hello, Margaret, are you still there?

Me: Yes, I’m still here…

Operator: Can you tell me a little more about why you think HYLA is for you?

Me: Ok….I am definitely a hard worker and I have the receipts to prove it. But I’m also lazy.

Operator: Can you expound just a little bit more? I just want to make sure we place you in a HYLA support group that fits your needs.

Me: Yes, I am lazy in my faith, diligence, self-control of all things relating to Margaret. Not Margaret the daughter. Not Margaret the wife, mother, sister, friend, or employee.  I’m talking about Margaret. THEEEEEE MARGARET LOUISE SMITH-WILLIAMS. Margaret the person. Strip me of all those responsibilities and I’m lazy about me.

Operator: (Typing) Lazy in faith… diligence…..and self- control of all things relating to Margaret. What does that mean?

Me: Since I’m being transparent, I will say that I am lazy in my belief that God can do for me just as I’ve prayed and seen him do for others. I can believe for everyone else but I’m not as firm about believing God for myself. Faith, for me, is not as easy as it sounds. Sometimes I can’t see pass the everyday responsibilities or the pertinent financial demands.  Sometimes my perspective sucks and I’m pulled into this toxic ozone layer of unbelief.  I find myself asking God, “Hey, God, It’s Me Margaret. Please, don’t forget about me!!”

Operator: So, you don’t believe in God’s promises or that He has something great in store for you?

Me:  No, I believe. Of course, I believe!!! It’s just that sometimes I don’t really, REALLY believe…

Operator: I’m sorry, but I don’t follow.  Margaret, either you believe, or you don’t. It’s just that simple.  Let’s move on. Now you said, lazy in diligence? Tell me about that.

Me: I’m lazy in my diligence with everything concerning Margaret.  I have a system. A solid schedule and system of strategies, checks, and balances for every other entity of my life. I follow through and execute at all costs. I don’t do the same with myself. I have dreams……some big and crazy dreams. They are in my head, in my heart, and on paper. But I need to be more diligent about making steps to achieve them. I must put in the work to make them a reality.

Operator: So, you don’t have a  strategy or plan in place that causes you to produce  personal results or be accountable for your dreams?

Me: Well, I have tons of ideas that I have written down. I even have a one year, action plan check list that I’ve created.  I just need to focus and actually make some solid moves.

Operator: And, self-control? Do you lack self-control?

Me: Not self-control in the sense you think. I do not always exercise control in how much of myself that I extend to others.

Operator:  So, what you’re saying is that you don’t know how to set boundaries?

Me: Hmmmm….pretty much.

Operator: So Margaret, after listening to your preliminary interview, I’m sorry to inform you that Hardworking Yet Lazy Anonymous is not quite the fit for you.

Me: WHATTTT???? I just spent the last 5 minutes pouring out my soul to you and you’re telling me that you can’t help me?

Operator: Yep. You don’t need our help.

Me: Well, obviously, I DO!!! Your radio ad clearly said, “Are you hardworking, yet lazy? We can help you! Call us now at 1-800-123-HYLA!” I’m hardworking! I’m lazy!  And, I called you! So, what do you mean that I don’t need your help?

Operator:  Margaret, I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience. But you really don’t need our help. You seem to have answered your own questions. From my expert opinion, you aren’t lazy.  You are afraid.

Me: Afraid?????? I’m not afraid.  I’m only afraid of disappointing Jesus or my family, flying bugs and rollercoasters. I ain’t neva’ scared, tho!!!

Operator:  Respectfully, you ARE afraid! You are afraid to place yourself and your dreams as a top priority. You are afraid to step out on faith. It’s actually a common problem amongst women. And there’s really a simple solution to that.

Me:  Really?

Operator:  There sure is. But sadly, this is above my pay grade. If you don’t mind, I’d like to transfer you to HYATLYL department.

Me: HYATLYL?

Operator: Hardworking Yet Afraid to Live Your Life. I will transfer you now. In case we are disconnected, the extension to that department is 3456. Thank you, Margaret for calling HYLA and I hope that you make the necessary steps to Live Your Best Life.

(Insert Phone Hold/Elevator Music)

Me: Hello….Hello???? Hello???

(Insert Dial Tone)
As we’ve already established, HYLA does not exists. But my laziness about me is real. Despite my profession, responsibilities, and all that is required of me, I must get out of this slump and get to work for me. No one else is going to go as hard for me as I go for myself.  It’s just that simple. I must believe God, at all costs!  Despite what I can see with my eyes or the emotions that I feel.  It is an absolute necessity that I devote as much dedication, heart, focus, excellence and time into my dreams and God given abilities.

If not, life will continue to pass me by. And the only person I’ll have to blame is myself…THEEEE Margaret Louise Smith-Williams.

Proverbs 6:6-11

Go to the ant, you sluggard!
Consider her ways and be wise,
Which, having no captain,
Overseer or ruler,
Provides her supplies in the summer,
And gathers her food in the harvest.
How long will you slumber, O sluggard?
When will you rise from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to sleep                                                                                                                                                 
So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler,                                                                                                                           And your need like an armed man.”

 

Photo Credit: Lost Co.

 

One Shot

A sudden burst of crying came from the Ayanna’s room.

My eyes popped open. 2:34AM.

Hoping that it was just my imagination, I pulled the covers over my head.

Five seconds later, Ayanna walks into our bedroom and comes directly to my side of the bed. (Mom Pet Peeve # 621 – Neither of my kids automatically go to Jelani’s side of the bed….EVER. Or ask him to do anything, outside of fun stuff, first. They always come to me first. Why??? It’s like I have magical powers that are unbeknownst to me.)

Sniffling, “Mommy, I had a bad dream.”

Exhausted, I respond, “It’s just a dream, Dew.” (Dew, like the morning dew not the soda, has been my nickname for her since she was born. I don’t know how I came up with that. I just started calling her that. She used to love it. Now she forbids for me to call her that in public.)

“Everything is OK. You can go back to bed now.”

She rebutted, “But mommy, it’s a bad dream. Can you come sleep with me?”

Nestled warmly underneath my blankets, I said “It’s ok, Ayanna. The dream is over.  You can go sleep in the bed next to your brother.”

Jordan has his own room. But, he sleeps in the extra twin bed in Ayanna’s room. Neither of them like sleeping alone, so that’s the compromise. As per Ayanna’s rules, Jordan cannot play in her room, unless she invites him to. But, excluding the occasions when either Grandma or Nana visits, or she has a sleep over, he can sleep in her room. So, Jordan, plays and watches TV in his room and retreats into Ayanna’s room at bedtime.  (A spacious playroom and my own personal office space – with a door that closes and locks- has been added to my personal list for our next home. And the ultimate dream home wish list has a whole floor designated just for me.  My personal “mom” floor, not a cave, will  have balcony, grandeur library/office space, white-luxurious- no-kids-or hubby- allowed furniture, leopard print and gold accents, splashes of deep green, pops of fuschia, endless closet space, and the list of Margaret only details could go on and on. Oh, I’m gonna have this space one day!!! Trust and believe! From my pen…to God’s ears! I’m always getting sidetracked…lol..back to the story.)

Quietly, Ayanna left my bedside and returned to her room.

Ten seconds later, Ayanna appeared at my doorway. “But, mommy can you sleep with me?”

Annoyed, “No, Ayanna, sleep with your brother. It’s just a dream. Please go back to sleep!”

(I hear you over there asking yourself, “Ahh she was crying and she had a bad dream!! Why didn’t she just go and sleep with her?”  Don’t you mom shame me!  I don’t shame you when you forget to pack a snack, show up late to a school event, or raise your voice at your kids.  Why? Because motherhood is an exclusive club and we’re all in this thing together. So, take your mommy shaming comments to the altar and finish reading my story😉)

Ayanna left the doorway and returned to her room once again.

I pulled the covers back up underneath my neck and turned on my left-good-sleeping-side. Back to sleep, I go!!

But as soon as I closed my eyes, I got this sudden tap on my spirit. You know, it’s like when someone taps you on your shoulder from behind? That’s the tap. But, it wasn’t a physical tap. It’s the tap that the Holy Spirit gives me when I need to readjust.

Tap.Tap.Tap.Tap.Tap.Tap. Tap.Tap.

Internal response to the Lord # 1, “Yes, Lord…it is thou servant, Margaret. What do you possibly want from my life at 2AM?”  LOL.

The Holy Spirit responded, “You only get one shot at this. One shot at responding to bad dreams. One shot at being the mom she needs. What are you going to do with it?”   

Internal response to the Lord # 2, “Why you gotta be so deep at 2:00 in the morning? I can’t even see my pen to write all of this down! Do you wake the other mommies up at 2:00AM with spiritual revelations and reminders of how they need to get it together?? Huh? How about Jelani?  What about him, Lordddddddddddd? Why, you ain’t wake himmmmm up and tell himmmmmmm about his one shot????!!!”   

I’m sure the Lord of all creation was shaking his head at all my extra-ness.

Nevertheless, like all good yet petty wives do, I purposely made a whole bunch of moving commotion in the bed hoping that Jelani would get up instead. He was sound asleep. SMH. I grabbed my pillow, blanket and headed to Ayanna’s room. I climbed into the bed with my daughter.

She returned to sleep in a matter of minutes. But thanks be to the Lord of Hosts, I was now wide awake hanging off the side of my daughter’s twin bed and wrestling with the tulle-beyond- the- veil-hot-pink- Justice-canopy that Ayanna just had to have for her birthday. I was wide awake and overdramatically    re-evaluating everything I’d ever done as a parent. From my decision not to breastfeed to Montessori education to allowing her to watch YouTube slime tutorials for 2 hours straight earlier that day.  And then, wondering if my daughter would end up on therapists couch at age 20 because her mom left her crying out of desperation after a bad dream. LOL. I’m sure I took it to the extreme, but you get the point.

As I laid in Ayanna’s bed, one booty cheek off and one booty cheek on, I thought, “How did my mom do this?”  (Hold UP!!!Don’t hate on this black girl’s voluptuous shape! I already know that my girls and my little sister are all laughing at that previous statement. Except for my friends Janelle and Delisha, my booty is smaller than all of theirs. No shade Janelle or Delisha. Just love and facts….LOL)

And the questions kept coming…..

How did my mom manage to produce two practically sane, God- fearing, grounded and responsible young women?”

How do I not mess up my “one shot” as a parent?

How do I know when I should stay in bed for bad dreams or when to let them go back to sleep alone?

How do I maintain a countenance of love, grace, and patience amid frustration and weariness?

How do I stop yelling so much or overreacting?  

How do I prepare them for their future and rear them according to God’s plan for their lives?

How do I pull my mom crazy mode back from a 12.5 to a balanced 6?

How do I loosen the reigns and eventually let them go in such a cold and scary world?

How do I do all of this and still maintain my sanity and individuality?????

To make matters worse, I thought of a quote on Pinterest. Jessica Scott wrote, “You only get 18 summers with your kids….If that’s not perspective. I don’t know what is.”

18 minus 10 equals 8. Which meant I only had 8 pre-adult summers to get my stuff together as Ayanna’s mom. Then I tortured myself even further and did additional math. Ayanna is 10 and she turns 13 in less than 3 years. Which meant I had less than 3 years before teenage independence knocked on our door. Help me, Lord!!!

Instantaneously, I rolled my half booty out of Ayanna’s bed and hit the ground.

With a mixture of tongues and mumbled English, I began praying desperately.  I paced back in forth in between Ayanna and Jordan’s beds pleading, “Help me not to miss my shot, Lord! I can’t afford to make any major mistakes! I can’t afford to mess up my kids and send them to therapy over me sleeping through their bad dreams!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

As He usually does, the Holy Spirit waited until my emotions and overthinking reduced from a 10 to at least a 7.5. Then He began to speak once again.

A pro never takes a shot without understanding the requirements of the game, sacrifice, hard- work,  expert coaching, supportive team. Everything you need to ensure that you don’t miss your shot as a mother, is already or will be provided accordingly. Despite the hiccups you’ll experience along the way, with Me by your side, you’ve got this!”

And in that instant, although the questions remained, the peace of God flooded my heart.

Reassured, I adjusted Ayanna and Jordan’s blankets and gently kissed their foreheads. I could now go back to sleep and confidently awake to face another day of motherhood.

I write this to encourage every mom who feels weary or like they are failing miserably. I’ve been there. I know the feeling.  I was there this morning, on last Tuesday and on December 20, 2018 at 11:15AM.  I’ll probably feel that way again throughout the course of parenthood. But I want you to know, that just as the Holy Spirit whispered to me, You’ve Got This!!! Everything you need to take advantage of your one shot as a parent is within you. With God’s master plan, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, your determination to give your all to the “ministry of motherhood” and with your support team, YOU CAN DO IT!!!!

Know that you are not alone. There are mothers everywhere struggling, balancing, conquering, and simply trying not to forget to sign their kids’ homework or make the morning drop off line just like you! You were made for this! God has specifically assigned you as the earthly warrior for your children. Your work is not in vain.  Your sacrifices are not without reward.  Your children, despite their individually unique paths, shall become everything that God desires for them to be! God hears your prayers. He knows your heart. He desires to see you win as a mother.

The God of the Universe has your back and He has your children!

Pray this with me😊

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for creating me to be the mother of my children. They belong to you, but you have loaned them to me to love, guide, protect and rear. I need you. I admit that being a mother has moments of difficulty, exhaustion, and uncertainty. But grant me the grace to trust You more – to be confident that you have given me everything I need to succeed as my children’s mom. Thank you for your wisdom, your peace and your love. Thank you for my family (husband, parents, in-laws, siblings, etc), my friends, professionals and resources you have provided to support my children and I on this journey. Anoint me afresh each day! May I bring You glory, and may my kids become everything you’ve destined them to be.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

 

Photo Credit:  Jakob Owens

 

 

 

 

 

Playlist 34

 

By the grace of God, I turned 34 this past weekend.  Yet, to the outside world, I look 21 on a good day. I’m talking 21 as if I were my kid’s big sister or hired to be their nanny.  Or as if my husband is robbing the cradle 21. My grandma, Becky, and mommy, Elouise, did their thing passing down these good genes to me!!! This black doesn’t crack honey!  But, despite this fountain of youth that I’ve been blessed with, in my heart of hearts, I’m 47 ½. 47 ½ turning 65  about to draw social security benefits. LOL. I continuously forget that I’m only in my early 30s and often everyone else does too. My close friends are all older than I and my soul is even older than them. 34 appearing 21 but soulfully 47 ½ turning 65. Yep…that’s me!

Within the past 34 years, I’ve developed an infinite love for a good book (currently reading, The Year of Yes By Shonda Rhimes), a profound documentary (last one watched was Netflix’ Daughters of Destiny) and a perfectly mixed iced coffee (preferably from McDonald’s – extra ice, no flavor, just crème and sugar). But most importantly I OVER love music.  Jazz, R&B, Contemporary Christian, Gospel, Hip Hop, Country, Pop. I LOVE MUSIC. (As I type, I’m currently listening to a jazz track called “Sunday Waltz” by Joey Alexander.)

So, to pay homage to my 34th Birthday and adoration of music, I’ve compiled a playlist of 34 songs (or albums) that bring back so many memories. These songs take me to places of randomness, laughter, comfort, triumph, embarrassment, happiness, reflection, solitude, or are just fun.  This list, in no way, constitutes my favorite 34 songs/albums of all time. That would be entirely too difficult to do! I’m literally just writing songs/albums as they come to mind.

PS -If you’re looking for a deep, come to Jesus, get your life together post….stop reading now! There’s no reflective lesson here. Just fun. Trust me! My life is quite interesting right now and I need all of the fun that I can get! So, read (or sing) along and indulge in a few minutes of amusement with me.

 

Here we go😊

 

  1. Let it Go (Frozen Soundtrack)– As annoying as this song is, I know all the words.  I swear I’ve heard it over 1,000 times.  If there is a little girl under the age of 12 in your life, you can probably relate.  But, I must give Disney and Idina Menzel credit. Ya’ll was in the upper room with this song!! Cause’ I’ve had to let some people, some habits, some shoes, some money, a whole lot of stuff go …and probably still need to let things go!

 

  1. Can You Stand The Rain (New Edition) – – Yes, this is New Edition’s song. But ever since the Best Man Holiday debuted in 2013, I cannot hear this song without thinking of the movie. Every single time I hear it, I can see Lance, Julian, Harper, and “Q” in matching all black outfits performing this song in Lance’s living room. Then, my mind goes to Lance’s epic breakdown at Mia’s graveside and how it nearly took all of us out…. not a dry eye in the movie theater.

 

  1. In My Daughter’s Eyes (Martina McBride)– Prior to Ayanna’s 2008 birth, my mom gave me this stuffed white bear. The bear had a wide – brimmed pink hat, ribbon collar, and polka dotted feet. Initially, I thought that the gift was a rather strange present. Neither my mom nor I like stuffed animals.  However, once I pressed the stuffed bear’s heart, it all made sense.  The bear began to sing, “In my daughter’s eyes, I am a hero. I am strong and wise. And I know no fear. But the truth is plain to see. She was sent to rescue me. I see who I want to be, in my daughter’s eyes.”  

 

  1. Pieces (Steffany Gretzinger/Bethel Music) – My sister friend, Meagan, sent me a link to this song about a year ago. After the first verse, tears began to well. I thought of  the people that I had given pieces of myself to who in turn disappointed, rejected,or undervalued me. Then I thought of how I often give pieces of myself to God when He really wants all of Me.  But despite the fragments of myself that I release to God, He gives me all of Him.  You don’t give Your heart in pieces. You don’t hide Yourself to tease us… Your love’s not fractured. It’s not a troubled min. It isn’t anxious. It’s not the restless kind. Your love’s not passive. It’s never disengaged. It’s always present. It hangs on every word we say. Love keeps its promises.  It keeps its word. It honors what’s sacred. ‘Cause its vows are good. Your love’s not broken. It’s not insecure. Your love’s not selfish. Your love is pure.”

 

  1. Entire 24K Magic Album by Bruno Mars Besides being the theme music for  Jelani and I’s staycations, this is one of the best albums of all time!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It teleports me back to the 1990s and gives a vibe like no other album. “Put your pinky rings up to the moonnnnnnnnnnnnn.”  

 

  1. Reckless Love (Corey Asbury/Bethel Music)“There’s no shadow You won’t light up
    Mountain You won’t climb up…Coming after me…There’s no wall You won’t kick down…Lie You won’t tear down…Coming after me.”
    There will never be a love that compares to Christ’s love for me. Each and every time I hear this song, I’m reminded of that. “Ohh the overwhelmeing, never-ending reckless love of God!”

 

  1. Clean Heart (Fred Hammond) –“Clean Heart” is probably on biweekly rotation. Sometimes life gets mucky. I’m talking running in the rain, freshly straightened hair gets wet, favorite leopard flats ruined type mucky. Life causes your heart to hurt and to bleed, anger, resentment and unforgiveness. My continual prayer is that as David cried out to God in Psalm 51, that God will “create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit.” Fred Hammond sings, “Give me a clean heart…A better one I pray to stay on the path You’ve chosen and stick with it all the way. Give me a clean heart and I will serve nobody but You….”

 

  1. Entire Voyage to India Album by India Arie – India is so underrated. The depth of truth in her lyrics….very few write on that level. In 2002, this album was the soundtrack of my freshman year in college. And again in late 2005 it was the soundtrack to my dating relationship with my husband. My friend, Porsche, even sang the track “Beautiful Surprise” as I walked down the aisle.

 

  1. Love On Top – (Beyonce)  “Bring the beat in……….Honey, honey, I can see the stars all the way here………..” The very first time that I heard this song, I fell in love.

 

  1. Hakuna Matata (Lion King Soundtrack) -Can somebody put this “no worries for the rest of your days…it’s our problem free philosophy” anointing in a spray bottle? I’d sure love to spray it on my student loans and every other bill I have.  I’m just saying!

 

  1. Dance with Somebody – Whitneyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This song takes me back to 1987. I was only 3 when it was released. But I can clearly remember my god-sisters, Karen and Valerie, blasting this song from the radio.  I would later grow up and sing it in from my mirror with my hairbrush microphone. “Ohhhh, I wanna dance with somebody! I wanna feel the heat with somebody! Yeah, I wanna dance with somebody. With somebody who loves me!!!!!!!!!!”

 

  1. The Entire, Debut Self -Titled Brandy Album – This was the first CD I ever purchased with my own money.  At the age 10, my biological father, Joseph, took me to a music shop on Biscayne Boulevard just so that I could buy the album. From “I Wanna Be Down” to “Brokenhearted,” I played Brandy’s CD until it couldn’t play anymore! Scratch marks, songs skipping and all.  Brandy remains one of my all -time favorite artists and I must see her live one day!

 

  1. The Entire Waiting to Exhale Soundtrack – I didn’t know NOTHING about love, heartbreak, the power of friendship, or that a man could make you so mad that you’d blow up his car. I mean, I was barely 11 when this movie and soundtrack were released. But this album HERE………………… From “Shoop, Shoop” to “Sittin’ Up in My Room” to “Hurts Like Hell” to “Count on Me” ….one of the best R&B albums ever.

 

  1. Show Up (John P. Kee) – Every time I hear this song it takes me to my days at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. We sang this song in the junior choir! We had hand motions and all. We would put our hands on your heads in a salute motion. Then we lifted our hands up to the sky and sang, “Shoowwww Up!! He’ll showww up on timmeeee!!!” Looking back, the choreography was corny. But we were in sync and singing our hearts out for Jesus!! That’s all that mattered.

 

  1. There Is Hope (Mississippi Children’s Choir)  – This was my first solo ever. Another New Hope Junior Choir hit. No, I do not sing solos today.

 

 

  1. Spend My Life (Tamia & Eric Benet) – My husband and I chose this song for our first dance at our wedding. Every time I hear it, I’m transported back to May 12, 2007. My heart smiles. Then, I wish I could get my parents’ money back. I’d keep my husband, my dress, and ask for a refund of everything else. In my honest opinion, the money we spent could have gone towards a list of other things.  Note: This is all coming from someone who has a Pinterest Board with over 100 pins labeled, “If we were to renew our vows and had an extreme budget…” SMH

 

  1. Peace (Juanita Bynum) – My mom and my aunt, Lucritia, drove my sister, cousins and I crazy with this song. I heard this song almost every day of my middle school and freshman year of high school years.  We could not understand for the life of us why we were subjected to such torture every single day! Juanita would sing/scream/travail “Peace! Peace! Grab a hold of God’s peace!!!!” Now as an adult, who recently played this song last week, I understand the indescribable, saving power of God’s peace. His peace “surpasses all understanding” and don’t know what I’d do without it.

 

 

  1. Stomp (Kirk Franklin/God’s Property) – Before trap influenced gospel music (no shade), Stomp was the first hip-hopish gospel song that I’d ever heard. I was 12 when I first saw the music video. I thought, “Finally someone understands the younger generation!”  “GP are you wit’ me!!!!!!”

 

  1. Too Close (Next) – First. And. Last. Middle. School. Dance. That is all I will say about this! Jelani, my dear husband, I know that you are dying with laughter as you read this one.

 

  1. I Feel Like Going On (Five Heartbeats Movie Version) – When that camera zoomed in on Eddie Cain’s face as he began to sing, my soul leaped!!!  I was rocking back and forth just like Duck in the church audience.

 

  1. I Hope You Dance (Leanne Womack) – I’m sure everyone else who loves this song will probably say the same thing. But this song was written just for me. “I hope you never lose your sense of wonder. You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger. May you never take one single breath for granted. God forbid love ever leave you empty handed. I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean. Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens. Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance. And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance – I hope you dance……”

 

  1. Anything Patti Labelle – Growing up, my mom was a huge Patti Labelle fan.  Patti Labelle is the only secular artist that I’ve known my mom to have a heavy rotation. Patti songs remind me of my mom. Every one of them. They remind me of my childhood, peach cobblers, road trips, and home. I love my mommy!

 

  1. I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing (Aerosmith) – No particular reason for this song other than it is one of my absolute favorite love songs of all time.

 

  1. Always Coca Cola…Yeahhhh (Tyrese Commercial) – The first time I saw Tyrese with that black backpack getting on that bus…I was mesmerized. I think that’s when my fascination with dark brothas began.  (I still have love for Will Smith, Common, and David Beckham) Tyrese was singing his heart out on that bus. “Dahhh dahhhh dahhhh dahhhh, always Coca -Cola…….Yeah.”

 

  1. Bless the Broken Road (Rascal Flatts) – When Ayanna was 7, my sister, Ashley and her two friends, Sharese & Shareese, came to visit us. They spent about an hour teaching Ayanna this song.  Not only did they teach her the lyrics but to also add a country “twang” to it.  Hilariousssssss!!!

 

  1. Wind Beneath My Wings (Bett Midler Version from movie Beaches)Beaches is one of my favorite movies. The original, not the remake. Without fail, I laugh and cry. Laugh and cry.  But when Bette Middler sings “It must have been cold there in my shadow. To never have sunlight on your face.” I cryyyyyyyyy like a big baby!!!

 

  1. Entire Free Yourself Album by Fantasia – American Idol was a weekly ritual for my college friends and me. We would pile in Lauren’s room to watch the magic and foolery of stardom. This was back in early 2000s when there was ONLY American Idol. We watched Fantasia from her initial audition until the live finale shows. She won our hearts and I’d become a fan for life. Fantasia’s Free Yourself Album was my driving music. Repeatedly listening to that album would take me all the way from Oklahoma to our  then family home in Columbia, SC.

 

  1. Entire Gumbo Album by PJ Morton – This album just makes me feel good! It reminds me that soulful, wholesome, hearty music still exists. Thank you, PJ!

 

  1. I Believe I Can Fly (R.Kelly) – Did everybody sing this at their elementary graduation???????

 

  1. She’s Your Queen to Be (Coming to America) – #fortheculture

 

  1. Entire Salt Album by Lizz Wright – My roommate, Leslie, introduced me to the jazz artist Lizz Wright, in the summer of 2003. Leslie and I were worked in Maryland as summer camp counselors. Listening to the sound of Lizz’ voice brought a refreshing, serene, and cool stillness to our un-air-conditioned country style, cicada swarmed, summer dorm evenings.

 

  1. Superwoman (Karyn White) – I’m not sure what memory this 1998 song evokes other me knowing all the lyrics and singing them to the top of my lungs. “I’m notttttttt your superwomannnnnnn….”

 

  1. Anything from the Williams Brothers, Canton Spirituals – My daddy, Lem, loves the Williams Brothers and Canton Spirituals. Every time I hear, “Clean Up What I Messed Up,” “Glad I’ve Got Jesus,”Depending on You,” or “Cooling Water” I think of my daddy.  I love my daddy!!

 

  1. Isaiah Song (All Nations Worship Assembly Atlanta) – This song randomly appeared on my Youtube playlist about two weeks ago. It came when I needed it the most. I’ve played it so much that I hear it in my sleep. “You’re making ways in the wilderness. You’re making rivers in the desert…..” This is all I keep repeating. Over and over.

 

So, here’s to this new year of 34! May you bring me closer to my dreams, great memories, valuable lessons,  and even more life and mood altering melodies!

Photo Credit: Wesley Gibbs

An Intimate Perspective

Nearly two Saturdays ago, I took my kids to a birthday celebration at Chic-Fil-A. As I pulled into west entrance of the plaza, I noticed a shopping cart filled with belongings parked in the corner. In front of the shopping cart, there strategically stood a handwritten sign. The sign was propped against the shopping cart and positioned for all to read. It said, “We are homeless. But God loves us.”

To the natural mind, the statement is such an oxymoron.  How could one be so confident in God’s love in a state of homelessness? How could one be so sure of God’s love that he felt the need to share it despite the severity of his situation? How could this be?

I began to ponder the possibilities in my head.  But instantly, the Holy Spirit provided me with this insight, “He has an intimate perspective.”

The words “intimate” immediately struck a chord with me. For, developing an intimate relationship with God has been a continual journey within the women’s ministry at church.  I was curious to know how a simple sign correlated to such a complex and vital topic.  This is what I’ve learned……

Intimacy is about maintaining God’s perspective.

“We are homeless. But God loves us.”

The individual who wrote this sign was living on the street and all his material possessions were contained in the back of a shopping cart.  To me and everyone else, he was at the lowest of the low.  He was sleeping outside amongst the elements.  Yet, in still, he wanted to share the hope of God’s love with people who drive their cars past him every day and go home to shelter every evening.  To the homeless individual, it was not just about being homeless. It was about having a different perspective.

To maintain perspective, we must stay close to God……

Transparently, the past two weeks have been tough.  I think I’ve cried almost every day. My emotions began to get the best of me. I was all out of whack. My stress and anxiety level were high. My perspective was off.  And to add injury to insult, I couldn’t master this flat twist out tutorial that I found on Pinterest. I was on edge. I could not focus or see clearly.

Once I dried my tears, calmed my mind and spirit, I realized this:  Lately, my time with God was more of an afterthought rather than a priority.

I’m not, in any way, negating my human emotions.  It’s normal to cry and to feel out of sorts. But this sign had a purpose. It was reminding me that at some point, I need to reach beyond the consumption of my natural emotions into a spiritual strength and insight that is only obtained through connection with God.

I couldn’t maintain God’s perspective because I wasn’t close to Him.  Notice the word choice. “I wasn’t close to Him.” God’s word confirms that He will never leave us or forsakes us.  We, however, can walk away from God.  It’s likened to what I teach my children’s church kids. Your actions or inability to act can either take you farther away from God or draw you closer to him.

James 4:8 states, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to us!”

Drawing near to God, draws everything about God (His character, His love, His joy, His peace, His wisdom, His confidence, His perspective) to us.

I had to stop and say, “God I feel like I’m drowning! I’m overwhelmed! I feel insecure! I feel like a failure!  I don’t know what to do! I need you to walk with me moment by moment…step by step…day by day…. I can’t do this without you!!”

(Insert the old school, Baptist church mother’s acapella rendition of  I Need Thee! “I Need Thee. Ohhhhhh I need thee. Every hourrrrrrrr I need Thee….”)

Sadly, we’ve all seen countless homeless signs before.  But no sign has struck me the way this one did.  

We are homeless. But God loves us!

I believe that the individual who wrote this sign had some sort of perspective—an inside perspective that wasn’t based on his outer circumstances. He never asked for anything. He simply made a statement about his current reality and ended with perspective.

How many times do we make statements about our realities but fail to follow up with perspective? Guilty! (with two hands raised in the air)

The gentleman was saying, “Yes, my situation appears bleak! But the love of God is with me! And because I have the love of God, I have hope! I have a promise! I have a future far greater than this parking lot and shopping cart! There is MORE TO LIFE!! It’s only a matter of time!!!”

Romans 8:35 & 37 states, “ Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 3….. 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”

For us to have a different perspective, God’s perspective, we must make it a priority to remain connected to Him. And I’m not specifically referring to spending 5 hours in a prayer closet wrapped in a burlap sack cloth and ashes. (No shade whatsoever!! There is nothing wrong with that. I’m just saying that everybody is not able to do that.)

 It starts with the moment we open our eyes in the morning. “Lord, thank you for this day. I am Yours and You are mine! Walk with me. Talk with me. Anoint me afresh.”

Or the whispers of your heart while at work, “Lord, I need You!”

Or the secret cries of your heart, “Lord, I feel like I can’t go on. Be my light. Be my strength.”

Or the screams of deliverance, “Help me not punch somebody in the face or lose my salvation today!!”

I need a consistently, intimate relationship with God.  I can’t survive this life or be effective in this world without Him. Connection with God helps to guard our hearts. Connection with God helps to secure our vision and keeps ups grounded! Connection with God allows me to maintain a perspective beyond my current reality!

 Intimacy is about believing and receiving God’s love.

Think about the intimacy found in genuinely, successful friendships or marital relationships. To be truly intimate, you must believe that the person has your best interest at heart. To extend the entirety of your being, you must trust them and be confident in their love for you. The same principles apply to God. To be sincerely vulnerable with Him…absolutely naked…to tell him everything…to let him into every crevice and corner of our lives… we must believe and acknowledge His love for us. Without a shadow of doubt, I must know that His overall intentions for me and His plans for my life are good!

This makes me think back to 13 years ago when my husband and I first started dating. (Just typing 13 years makes my eyeballs expand. Where has the time gone?) The first 7 months or so of our relationship was long distance.  He was in Miami and I was all the way in Tulsa completing my senior year of college. We would talk for hours. Even if my day was horrible, simply hearing Jelani’s voice made all things better.   I would speak with him in the morning, during my afternoon break, and for hours on end at night. We would have intense conversations about family, friends, our relationship with God, dreams, hopes, fears and our future together. Other times, we would discuss trivial things like what we ate for lunch, random things that occurred at his job, or how someone stole my labeled Pillsbury chocolate chip cookie dough from the dorm refrigerator and left the empty wrapper.

Even though I’ve never been a night person, I’d stay on the phone until 2AM and talk with him while he worked the graveyard shift.

He’d say, “Babe, are you asleep?”

I’d lie and say, “No, I’m awake!!”

He’d listen to me breathe and maybe even snore for a while. Then, eventually, he would encourage me to go to sleep. I’d reluctantly consent and hang up the phone.  Although we weren’t physically together, we were inseparable. Why? Because we were in constant communication. Our hearts and minds were in sync. We had a genuine connection. We were in lovvvvvvvveeeeeeeeeeeeee….lol!

Certainly, Jelani’s love for me cannot be denied. God’s love cannot be compared to human love. But God’s love for me is far greater, far more powerful, far more cleansing than my husband’s love for me. God’s love is consistent and not circumstantial. God’s love will never fail me.  God’s love can never disappoint me. God’s love is secure.  God’s love never runs out and never gives up on me.  God’s love reaches beyond every fault and sees every need. Every time I miss a mark or make a mistake, God’s love and grace is standing right there. God’s love screams to me, “Dust yourself off! Get back on the right track! Let’s try it again!”

God’s love is so undeserved. Although I will never be able to comprehend the depths of His love, I MUST believe that it exists and truly receive it to be intimate with God.

One day, the Lord said something so profound to me.  He said, “You don’t value communication with me because you don’t believe in the power of it. You don’t tell me everything or include me in all aspects of your life because You don’t trust me.  You can’t be truly intimate with Me if you don’t trust My capabilities or intentions towards you. “

If we truly believe and trust in the matchless power of God’s love for us…if we would earnestly receive His love, we would be running to commune with Him.  We would include Him in everything. We would talk with Him for hours on end – even about the smallest things. Why? Because the realization and consumption of His love draws us to intimacy. His love is the only guarantee we have in life!!!! We can’t guarantee that our spouses will be there or that our friends won’t abandon us. We can’t guarantee that our children will always act right. We can’t guarantee our jobs, our homes, or our bank accounts. We can’t even guarantee our next breath or what tomorrow will hold.  But God’s love is DEFINITE and will always stand the test of time. There is NOTHING that can disqualify or separate us from His love.

Paul writes in Romans 8:38 “ And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.

We must be just as confident of God’s love as the individual who wrote that sign.

“We are homeless! But God loves us!!”

I don’t think that it was mere coincidence that this sign caught my eye that day. I use that entrance at least once per week and have previously glimpsed that cart. But until that Saturday, I had never taken the time to read it. There was something deeper here that God wanted me to see and to, in turn, share with you…

Wherever you are in your relationship with God, He’s waiting for you. He’s waiting for You to acknowledge Him. He wants you to be confident in His love for you.  He wants you to give Him more of You…… more time….. more space…more connection…more conversation.

He’s waiting to take you to a place of intimate perspective………..

 

 

 

Kicked in the Knee Caps

Some days, I wake up feeling like parent of the year. Other days, I go to sleep feeling like I’ve failed miserably. Even though my children are only 5 and 9 ½, I’ve already learned this valuable lesson: parenting can mess with your self esteem and leave you feeling like you’ve been kicked in the knee caps.

The past week or so has been quite challenging for me. Dealing with the dynamics of new school year transitions, tween emotions, and kindergarten woes have not been easy to navigate. These issues may seem small when compared to other parenting challenges. But today, these challenges feel big.

And today, I am overwhelmed and clueless. Today, parenting makes me cry…..

As I sat on our bed, with the room door closed and the sound of “MOMMMMYYYYYYYYYY” filling the hallway, I silently cried out to God. “God, Please, help me. Help me understand what I’m missing…. what do I need to do more…less of… What do I need to start or stop?”

Instantly, I heard the Lord say, “Give them back to Me. They are not Yours. They belong to Me.”

“Lordddddtttttt, MY KIDS ARE YOURS,” I quickly rebutted in my not-yelling-at-the-Creator-of-Heaven-and-Earth voice.

He responded, “They are…..at times. You give them to me. Then you take them back. I made them. I see their beginning and end all in one frame. You can only see yesterday, today, and your hopes for their future. You, in your limited human capability, are with them some of the time. I, in My unlimited, supernatural power, are with them at all times. I know their thoughts, the innerworkings of their souls and hearts. You see the effect…I see the cause. ”

I could hear my mom, Lady Elouise in all her splendor, quoting this scripture inside my head, “Children are a gift from the Lord, a reward from a mother’s womb. A young man’s sons are like the arrows in a soldier’s hand. The man who fills his quiver with sons will be very blessed. He will never be defeated when he opposes his enemy at the city gates.”  Psalm 127:3-5

The Lord continued, “Sometimes, things happen to reveal who is in control and Who NEEDS to be in control. Everything you need to be Ayanna and Jordan’s mom (wisdom, resources, community, support), I have already provided—even when you can’t see it. But it first starts with ME…. connecting with Me, seeking Me, asking Me, surrendering to Me, TRUSTING in me.”

I cried some more.

Everything that the Lord was speaking to me was absolutely, unequivocally correct.  I do take ownership of my kids and often forget that they are God’s gift. I sometimes make decision about their wellbeing based what I feel is best for now. I have also been extremely negligent about my quiet time with the Lord.  The business and exhaustion of life had begun to overshadow my need for connection with Him. My vision was blurred. My hearing was faint. My heart and mind were all over the place.  At that moment in my life, God was not in control. My emotions, my analytical thought process, and my pride were all in the driver’s seat.  God was quietly standing outside of the my car window…arms folded…. just waiting for me to open the door and get out.

I whispered, “I’m sorry God. Please forgive me……”

Then, the lyrics to Bethel Music’s God I Look To You resounded in my spirit.

God, I look to You, I won’t be overwhelmed.                                                                                                Give me vision to see things like You do.                                                                                                      God, I look to You. You’re where my help comes from.                                                                                    Give me wisdom. You know just what to do.

I will love You, Lord, my strength.
I will love You, Lord, my shield.
Yes, I will love You, Lord, my rock forever
All my days I will love You, God.

Hallelujah, our God reigns.
Hallelujah, our God reigns.
Hallelujah, our God reigns.
Forever, all my days, Hallelujah

 And, I cried some more………

With the 2.35 minutes of time remaining before my children burst through my bedroom door, I prayed again. “Father, your word says in James 1:5 that if anyone lacks wisdom, to ask. God grant me Your wisdom. Give us guidance as Ayanna and Jordan’s parents. Anoint us afresh for the task at hand. Thank you providing insight to those within our village (family, teachers, administrators, etc) on how to rear them according to your plan. Help me to not be consumed by myself, my “reputation” as a parent or my own personal desires for Ayanna and Jordan. Help me to be present, not only in body, but also in mind, heart and spirit when relating to them. Help me to truly be led by Your Spirit.  All for Your glory!!! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

The Surrender of Disappointment

About 2 months ago, while sitting at my desk at work, I could hear the Lord speak softly into my ear. He stated, “Write a letter to the college, explain your situation and request readmittance into the graduate program.”

I sarcastically responded internally. “Really, God? After a year of absence, I should write them a letter, explain my life story. And expect, what…..???”

I ignored the request and continued to work.

One week later, I heard God’s request, again.

As clear as day, “Write a letter to the college, explain your situation and request readmittance in the program.”

This time the request was much sterner. I could feel a sense of urgency. I proceeded to turn on my work computer and sat down in my chair. The office phone had yet to ring. No urgent notes of follow-up awaited me. Neither had anyone arrived into the office.There was silence. Just my computer screen staring back at me and a lump forming in my throat.

I clicked on the Microsoft Word icon and the lump in my throat grew larger.  I quickly exited Microsoft Word and returned to my computer desktop. I clicked on the Google icon and chose to check my work emails instead. I hoped to see an email that needed my immediate attention or something that would take away my focus from the letter I’d been instructed to write.

“Only the local city upcoming events circular and advertisement emails. SMH. Ring phone.  Someone will call and require my attention,” I thought to myself.

Five minutes or so passed. Same silence and the task of the letter remained.

UGHHH, THE LETTER.

You see, it wasn’t just a simple letter of readmittance.  It was me having to put words to the emotions that I had bottled up for nearly the past three years. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the power of written words. However, the words in this letter would be different. They would open wounds that I had home remedied and tightly bandaged.

Here’s the backstory….

I had been out of undergraduate school for over ten years. I’d always planned to enter graduate school right after college but…well…life happened.  My focus shifted. I was privileged to obtain employment right after graduation. I married my husband, Jelani, one year after undergrad. We welcomed our first child, Ayanna, one year and five months after marriage. Then, our son, Jordan, arrived five years after Ayanna.   When Jordan turned two, I felt as if I had allowed enough time to get away from me. I revisited the notion of graduate school. This time, I’d decided that I did not want to attend graduate school and obtain a degree just for the sake of it. I wanted to attend school and a study a field that I would truly enjoy and utilize for the rest of my life. I had also decided that I was not going to take out any more loans. I had incurred enough loans with my undergraduate education and was determined not to add to the deficit. I wanted to be able to pay for grad school out of pocket. Cash. No loans…debt free!

Then, I was unexpectedly laid off from my employer of nearly seven years and graduate school took a back seat once again.

In the winter of 2015, despite the layoff, I decided to research possible grad school options and began to submit program inquiries. To make a long story of discovery short, I finally found a graduate school program that sparked my interest and began the application process. After months of correspondence and financial configuring, deposits were made.  I began my first graduate school course in the fall of 2016. My excitement and optimism about returning to school was reignited! I was on my way to obtaining my master’s degree and finally accomplishing one of my major educational goals.

Then life happened once again.  Due to health and financial challenges, I withdrew from grad school. That was that.

Back to THE LETTER…

Dear Dr. (Insert Grad School Founder’s Name),

I hope this finds you well.

My name is Margaret Smith-Williams and I am writing to you regarding my status as a graduate student within the (insert graduate school program) at (insert grad school). I was enrolled during the fall of 2016 but due to unforeseen circumstances……..

I stopped typing. The lump in my throat was now the size of a boulder and my eyes were filled with tears. To prevent the tears from falling, I attempted to take a deep breath. But I felt as if the air was being withheld from my grasp.  I pushed away from my desk. I stood up and walked towards the hallway.

I screamed inwardly, “Someone, please walk through the door! Or phone just ring! Where is everybody? Why isn’t anyone here asking me to do something?”

There was nothing but silence. My computer screen continued to stare back at me. I needed something, anything, to deter me from finishing this letter.

As I stood in the entry way of my office, the tears began to fall. Not those pretty girl tears that you cry when you want to preserve your makeup. I was crying an ugly river.  The Mississippi River. I held my chest and gazed intensely at the computer screen.  Due to the tears, the screen appeared blurred. But the assignment, although daunting, was crystal clear. I needed to finish that letter.

I walked back to my desk and sat down. With a river of tears and streams of snot running down my face, I returned my fingers to the keyboard. I placed on them on the home row keys and resumed typing. The home remedies applied to wounds of my heart and soul began to drip and the bandages unloosened.   I felt bare; as if I was on an operating table and my heart was being repaired. My heart and soul were exposed. My spirit was vulnerable.  This letter was taking me to a place that I’d being trying to avoid going……….

After 4 hours of writing and continuous crying, I finished and emailed the letter.

I felt extremely drained. Empty. Naked. Yet, light.

I took a few moments to gather my composure and reflect on all that had occurred. I internally posed the question. “After a year of my withdrawal from grad school, why would God ask me write this letter now?  So that I could be given another opportunity and be readmitted?

God’s immediate response to me: “So that you can surrender and be healed from disappointment.”

Webster defines the root word disappoint as “fail to meet the expectation or hope of.” I define it as stepping in a pile of crap while wearing my favorite leopard flats. No matter how much I wash them, discard, or even replace them with a new pair, the stench and memory of the crap still lingers. While writing the letter, the emotions that I experienced were from the pain and burden of disappointment. After I withdrew graduate school, I just kept moving because that’s what I do. I’m a natural born mover. You know, those people who keep moving regardless of what’s going on.  You just keep moving because that’s all you know how to do. You rarely stop to think or feel because life, responsibilities, demands or basically self-imposed obligations require that you keep going.   I did what I had to do, and I kept going.  Besides, there were people experiencing far greater disappointments in life than I. My life hiccup didn’t deserve any melodramatic attention. There was no time for me to sit, sulk, cry, whine or complain.  Life goes on and so did I.

Yes, I moved on physically. But emotionally, mentally, and spiritually I was still stuck in the pile of disappointing crap while wearing my favorite leopard flats.

Writing that letter forced me to acknowledge, express and feel the emotions attached to the disappointment.  Not only the disappointment of grad school. But the disappointment of not living up to my own expectations. The disappointment of allowing time to get away from me. The disappointment of not grinding or hustling hard enough. The disappointment of being laid off and not reaching a certain career height prior age 30 and the layoff. The disappointment of having our home ownership plans halted. The disappointment of “watching everyone pass me by.” The disappointment of me not being in control. The self-imposed embarrassment…the self -imposed shame…the fear that I would never really live up to my own expectations.

In the eyes of my parents, my husband, my children, my closest friends, I was a gem.  But in my own eyes, I was a failure. I felt as if I had failed and that I did not “try hard enough.”

I felt as if the disappointment I experienced was nothing compared to the boulders of life that were destroying other people. I felt as if my disappointment did not deserve to be acknowledged. But, no matter the size of the disappointment, it needed to be addressed. The disappointment that I felt was real, and it was festering inside my soul.  I needed to release myself of the pressure and surrender every ounce of that weight. I needed to allow God to heal and renew my spirit. I needed God to renew my faith in His plan for my life.

Writing that letter was my first step in acknowledging the silent, yet detrimental affects that hidden disappointment was having upon my life.  Writing that letter was gateway to a freedom that I didn’t even know I needed.

Thou shalt not down play disappointment. It’s okay to be disappointed. You can be disappointed and content at the same time. It is not the experience of disappointment that defines us but the definition we assign to it. Disappointment leads to destiny, if you allow it to. If you don’t allow yourself to die in the place of disappointment, you will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. “– Pastor Steven Furtick

Step by step, day by day, God is teaching me the importance of surrendering to His will, humility, trusting His process, and that remaining faithful to His instructions. God’s will always trumps meeting my own timelines or the world’s standards of success. I am learning that most of the pressure that I feel is self-imposed and if I don’t keep the pressure to a healthy balance, I will self-destruct.

I’m constantly reminded that God’s ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts.

As with a lot of things in my life, specifically over the past 3 years, I am unsure of the outcome of the grad school letter. Yet, here I am. And whatever happens, whether I’m allowed to re-enroll or not or even if I have to begin a new program, I’m content with that. I must remain faithful, continue trusting God and His plan for my life – even if it doesn’t quite line up with the plan that I’ve imagined for myself. In the end, God’s plan and His intentions for my life, WILL ALWAYS BE GOOD!” 

“Father, I thank you for Your Sovereignty and Your love that never fails and never gives up on Your children.  Today, I specifically pray for anyone reading this entry that may be experiencing the sting and stench of disappointment. Reveal Yourself, Your plan, and Your intentions for them. Help them to release the hurt and the pain that they have buried or are currently feeling.  Relieve them of the self- imposed or situational pressure. Grant them rest in You; For, your yoke is easy, and Your burden is light.  Help them to allow You to redirect and rebuild. Father remind them that despite the magnitude of their disappointment that You are the only one who can bring beauty from ashes and joy from pain! As you are doing with me, teach them the importance of surrender, trusting you and knowing that your intentions for our lives are always good and perfect in Your sight.  Father, remind Your children that there is life and purpose after disappointment! In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#Baecation Withdrawal

It is Wednesday. I have resumed my daily routines. Yet, I have #baecation withdrawal!!!!

This past weekend my husband, Jelani, and I, checked ourselves out of the demands of everyday life and tuned into one other.  We dropped our children to my beloved in-laws, turned on Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic album and started our #baecation. Despite my precision and organizational management overload, there were no solid plans in place. It was likened to a “let’s get in the car and just drive” type-of weekend. We just knew that we both needed a break from everything and wanted a few days to over indulge in each other’s company.

From noon on Friday through 2:00PM on Monday, we spent most of our time locked away in a hotel. I don’t even think our parents knew exactly where we were. Phones were placed on silent and all obligations were placed on hold. Outside of lunch, dinner and exploration at one of the coolest farmer’s markets, our activities were minimal. We simply lounged around in the comfort of our quiet and secluded hotel room. We binged on hours of Netflix comedy specials and the entirety of its’ new released series, 7 Seconds which we HIGHLY recommend.

Three days of uninterrupted, endless conversation, laughter, and marital bliss.

On the last morning of our #baecation, I awoke at 6:30AM. Why? Why? WHYYYYY? Why is that when you’re on vacation, your body still wakes up early?? Forcing myself to stay in bed, I wrapped myself into the finely, chiseled arms of my husband and placed my head upon his chest. I could hear his heartbeat…and in that fleeting moment, all was perfect in my world………TAKE ME BACK!!!!!!!!!

As I cope with the “distant” memories of our baecation and manage my withdrawal, I am left with three reminders.

1) I need another BAECATION!  ASAP! LOL!  As soon as we checked out of that hotel and picked up our kids from school – life instantly resumed as normal.  The floodgates of pediatric doctor’s appointment reminders, complaints of after school starvation, Black History month projects, emails, and texts were released. I immediately wanted to turn around, drive back out of town and recheck into our hotel. ROTFL! I love our kids and have a pretty cool life, but I absolutely look forward to the time that my husband and I can spend together. I enjoy my husband’s company and it is absolute necessity for us to make time for us!!!

As I think about my life growing up, I can only recall one married couple that consistently took time away from their lives to spend focus on each other. I hardly saw date nights or getaways.  This is no disrespect or judgement to the couples in my family. I’m sure they all did the best they could, and it was possibly just their way of life.  But, that’s not my life or my marriage. I know that need is a strong word, but I NEED alone time with my husband. Every opportunity that I can retain a reliable sitter or when our parents come into town, I’m planning a moment for my husband and I to hang out.  I don’t care if we drive around the corner or sit in the Target parking lot to pass the time away. I need his undivided attention as he needs mine. I need moments of solitude, date nights, and romantic rendezvous. I need opportunities to let my hair down, let loose and be continuously reacquainted with Jelani and our marriage.

2)It is a priceless gift to be married to my closest friend.  I sincerely appreciate my husband’s friendship. Don’t get me wrong, this journey called marriage is NOT easy. But despite the instances of miscommunication, disagreements, disappointments, and the fact we probably get on each other’s nerves, I could not imagine my life without Jelani. I could not imagine a life where we could not talk about everything from Jay-Z lyrics to being in the will of God. Or that I could not slide things in his DM or write our own verses to a few infamous challenges. LOL. I could not imagine being unable to text him my random thoughts throughout my work day or not being able to ask him to help me put my braids into one huge ponytail or “grease” my scalp.  I cannot fathom a world in which we were just a husband and wife – a father and a mother – and not friends.

3) “We are far from perfect, but we are perfectly us.”  I could never use another relationship, opinions, or the world’s standards to measure that which my husband and I have. Or that which we are trying to accomplish. Jelani and I are the only ones who will have to give an account to God regarding the stewardship of our marriage.  Our relationship is what we make it and it is uniquely ours. Ultimately, the health and survival of our marriage depends on God’s grace, our daily decisions, and our work!

I wrote this caption for a 2017 Valentine’s Day post on Instagram. It’s a different year, but the words remain true. “Our love could never be fully defined or denied by any single moment, day or time. Complicated like Stevie Wonder melodies…. distinct like the taste of my mother’s cooked food …. contagious like a 90s hip hop beat…….intertwined like the most intricately woven fabric. He. Me. Us. We are a unique conglomerate of two lives that join to make an indescribable and perfectly balanced symphony. Love is he. Love is me. Love is Us.”

 

…….Cheers to my next #baecation!!!

 

“I’m sorry Mommy! I tried to make it to the toilet…”

In the wee hours of a Friday morning, at 3:25AM to be exact, our daughter, Ayanna, walked into our room to inform me that she had vomited. I looked over at my husband. He was snuggled into his blanket and sound asleep.  (Yes, I said “his blanket.”  I have my own set of blankets and he has his. According to my husband, I’m a blanket hog. Certain things are not worth quarreling over, so I have three blankets and he has one😊) 

I got out of my bed, headed into the hallway and then into the bathroom. As I entered the bathroom doorway, I was welcomed by the stench of a sour stomach and an abyss of peach colored vomit. Vomit was just about everywhere. Both sections of the bathroom floor, bathroom door cabinets, tub exterior, the bath toys, toilet bowl exterior baser, walls, decorative hand towels and bathroom rugs were all covered in vomit. Quickly, I left the bathroom and proceeded into the kitchen for the paper towels, trash can, and the line of cleaning supplies that sit in front of my kitchen window.

When I returned to the bathroom, Ayanna had just finished washing her hands and rinsing her mouth with the wash.  Ayanna turned off the faucet and dried the excess water from her face with her arm.  (Why do kids do that????? There’s paper towels and a wash cloth sitting right there, and you’d rather use your arm?? Bruhhh ?!?! )

With the most pitiful face, she turned to look at me and said, “I’m sorry mommy ! I tried to make it to the toilet, but I just couldn’t. It just started coming out too fast.”

I responded, ” It’s ok, Ayanna! It happens. Does your stomach feel better at least?”

She nodded her head in a “Yes” motion.

I said, “Then, that’s all that matters! Don’t worry about it. I’ll clean it up. Go back to bed.”

I took off my socks. I threw them in the corner entryway that managed to escape vomit and began cleaning up. With paper towels in one hand and Lysol and an additional multi-surface disinfectant spray in the other, I cleaned every inch of the bathroom surface. I washed and disinfected the kids bath toys and threw away the bathroom rugs and towels that were consumed with vomit. I’d now have to find new gray rugs and matching towels for the bathroom. But at 4AM, I could care less. Besides, there was entirely too much vomit to preserve anything.  I just wanted to get back in bed.

As I reached onto the bathroom counter for like the 50th sheet of paper towel, I noticed Ayanna still standing at the bathroom entry way.  While I was squatted on my knees cleaning the base boards and corner crevices, she spoke once again.

“I’m sorry mommy! I didn’t mean for you to clean up all this mess!”

For a moment, I stopped cleaning and balanced my weight on the bathroom door (cause I’m so out of shape) and I said, “Ayanna, it’s really ok! I’ll take care of it. You can go lay back down.” (Side Note: Don’t worry about my out of shape status either. ‘Cause my husband, THE TRAINER EXTRAORDINAIRE, is about to get this body good and right—starting next week—fingers crossed!! Trust that! And pray my strength in the Lord!)

Ayanna said, “Okay.” But continued to observe the cleanup process.

I continued my final round of cleaning. From every angle, I scouted the bathroom to ensure I had not missed any ounce of vomit. I tied up the garbage bag, removed it from the bathroom and returned the trash can to the kitchen. I sprayed an additional round of Lysol on every door knob, faucet and visible surface.

I washed and dried my hands.

I turned to Ayanna, ” You can go back to bed now. It’s all clean.”

Ayanna headed into Jordan’s room.  She does not like to sleep alone and is afraid of the dark. She’d rather share a bed with horrible, sleeping Jordan than enjoy the accommodations of her own room.  But, I immediately stopped her and redirected her to her own room.

“Ayanna, sleep in your room. Turn on PBS kids until you fall asleep.”

The thought of a possible stomach bug spreading throughout the house or the idea of having two kids vomiting everywhere was not my vision for my rare, obligation free weekend.

She said, ” Ohhh, because I could be contagious?”

I responded, “Exactly! Oh and take this trash can and put it by your bed in case you need to throw up again.

Ayanna rebutted, ” But I don’t need it. My stomach feels ok now. “

I insisted, “Yes, but just in case, put the trash can by your bed!”

She agreed.  Ayanna got into her bed and pulled up the covers. I turned on her TV and placed the volume down to the lowest possible audible setting.

Mommy, can you get me a bottle of water, please?”

“Ok,” I said

I went into the kitchen, grabbed the bottle of water and gave it to Ayanna.

I could finally go back to bed.  I looked at the clock. It was 4:10AM. I nestled into my three blankets and I attempted to fall right back asleep.  But, I kept thinking about Ayanna’s statement.

“I’m sorry mommy! I tried to make it to the toilet …”

I’m sorry mommy! I tried to make it to the toilet …”

I began to wonder if that is how we relate to God.  We make a mess. Then, we stand back in embarrassment as God cleans up and assures us that He has everything under control.

I began to take inventory of my own life.

What have I knowingly or unknowingly made a mess of within my life?  Second chances, relationships, opportunities, commitments, my communion with God?  And then stood back, helplessly, apologizing for it as God reached down in the middle of my mess, cleaned up and made all things new.

When have I failed to acknowledge Him or disallowed Him to be the eternal Father who only wants to take care of me and ensure my success in life?

Instantly, my heart became overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s infinite grace, mercy and love.

A portion of the song How He Loves and the lyrics to my mom’s favorite hymn, Love Lifted Me, described my sentiments best.

If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking…..”

I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore. Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more. But the Master of the sea heard my despairing cry. From the waters lifted me, now safe am I. Love lifted me! Love lifted me! When nothing else could help, Love lifted me!”

My desperation for sleep immediately ceased. My bedside became a silent altar of repentance and worship………

As I sit in the forefront of this new year of 2018, I am reminded that we serve a God who always has our best interest at heart. Whose infinite love for His children is beyond our comprehension. Although undeserved, the King of the Universe, steps down into our lives and drowns us with His affection.  He never condemns, but convicts…never destroying us, but rather rebuilding…reaching past our exterior facades into the secret places of our souls. He is never too high or mighty to sit alongside us in high places of success and triumph. Nor He is too great to climb into the ditches of life to rescue us from our lowest pits.

Incomparable, His love cleanses, renews, restores, and saturates our lives.  His love never runs dry. There is never a shortage and rain checks are never required. God’s love is never out of our reach.

Through the sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ, God’s love is always present. He is simply  awaiting our acknowledgement, acceptance and dispersal of it.

“Into the deep, I will go with You. Submerge my feet to my head in all of You. As your presence falls I am drowned in Your love. Immerse me, immerse me!” – Citipointe

My prayer for 2018 is that we would be immersed in God’s love.  That we would acknowledge His love…receive His love….be His love…extend His love.

For without His love, we are nothing……

“I Am…….Margaret”

Disclaimer: This is not your typical Strands of Pearls blog post. But more so, an open journal entry – a peak into my never-ending voyage of self-discovery, edification, and preservation.  It definitely lacks the usual sequence, fluidity, and grammatical accuracy…lol…but is overflowing with humility, truth, and transparency. I hope it encourages you to dig deeper, stand stronger and be authentically you!

One Tuesday afternoon, I laid across my family room couch and tuned into the 9/30/17 episode of Iyanla, Fix My Life.  Outside of the usual tears and overwhelming gratitude to God for my parents and upbringing, Iyanla has afforded me valuable life lessons over the years. On this episode, Iyanla takes a journey with Tab, AKA Turk of rap group Hot Boys, and his wife Erica.

During Iyanla’s solo session with Erica, she inquired of her, “My concern for you Miss Erica is that you are losing yourself piece by piece…..But who are you? Who are you without Turk or Tab….or without the kids…so, who are you? How do you answer those questions? what are you angry about? What are you sad about? What breaks your heart? What makes you cry? What makes you laugh…To know that and live that every day, whether or not Turk is listening to you, is what I want for you……”

Instantly, there was a resonation! I don’t know if it was because I was 3 days away from my 33rd birthday or because I’m always placing myself under a microscope.  Or because sometimes every woman that wears multiple hats gets lost in the shuffle and needs to be reminded of her core identity. Either way, an inward inspection of identifying Margaret – outside of titles, responsibilities, relationships, achievements, talents, and perceptions -quickly began. Iyanla was now “fixing my life.” And, my afternoon of rest became a personal evaluation session.  I took a screenshot of the therapeutic questions that Iyanla prescribed for Erica and began “my work.”

Who Am I? – I am Margaret. Not Maggie, Marge, Margie, Margarita, Mags…. Just Margaret. (The rare privilege of utilizing any of those nick names is strictly reserved for few.) Biologically, I am age 33. Yet, I appear to be 22 and am internally age 45. I grew up with “old school” training and I still uphold most of those principles today. I believe that there’s a time and place for everything. I’d like to believe that I  am an old-fashioned string of treasure. I am small in frame, big in heart and fierce in action. I am a stickler for detail, order, timeliness, and efficiency.  I’m an overwhelming, sometimes annoying, realist. I’m all about  facts, logistics, plans of action and outcomes.  I’m full of surprises yet pretty predictable. I love my family and adore my friends…without them my world would be incomplete. Although I appear girly, I’m not a makeup girl and have grown out of the desire to wear heels every day. I have the slightest clue on how to accurately apply eye shadow, blend, contour, highlight or all that other jazz. And, I’m perfectly fine with that! I prefer threaded eyebrows, eyeliner and lipstick any day. I always resort to the color black and that’s simply because I like black. Black is beautiful, classic, timeless and always makes my red Ruby Woo MAC lipstick pop….LOL. If allowed, I would wear my Nike flip flops and a pair of cozy sock every day. I can switch from the dialect of an educated intellect to straight country and hood in a matter of seconds. And yes, I’m a tad bit bougie. From childhood throughout my young adult years, I’ve lived in 6 different states. Thus, I’m not permanently attached to any environment. I could really move within 48 hours if required to.  I’ve been a “church girl” all my life. Thus, there will always be a place in my heart for ministry. I often play it safe, calculate risks, carry my planner and a pencil with me almost everywhere I go.  I am kind, faithful, meticulous, sincere and will go out of my way to make someone’s day just a little bit easier and brighter. I love documentaries, am a Pinterest junkie and I enjoy rearranging the furniture in my house at least 3 times per year. I prefer music over television. Spotify trumps Hulu or Netflix, any day, in my book.  I can flourish in crowds, but the comfort of my home is where my heart lies. I like working behind the scenes but am equally as productive in the spotlight.  I’m not good at hiding my thoughts. My facial expressions usually give away my true sentiments. And, please don’t ask me to read your lips….I’m horrible at that! Just send me a text…. LOL.  I love hard, work even harder and rarely play. (I know…I need to do better!) I ADMIT that I am a control freak….daily striving to remove my hands from steering so that Jesus can REALLY take the wheel! I am proud to be “mixed with melanin and God” and therefore, I exude “black girl magic!” I am undeniably my mother’s child and a daughter of the King. I am a woman of purpose. I am a woman of destiny. Neither I, nor this world, truly knows all the phenomenal plans that God has in store for me.  I am Margaret…and you’ll never meet another soul quite like me😊

What angers or upsets me? –The mistreatment of my family. The mismanagement, unappreciation and or destruction of life, commitments, time, and effort. Entitlement. Laziness. The misrepresentation of Christ……..

What breaks my heart or makes me cry? – Disappointment or unmet expectations…….tragedy…death.…rejection….The thought of failure – not living up to my own expectations. Grey’s Anatomy and This Is Us episodes. Extreme levels of frustration. When my health doesn’t allow me to be great… Not being able to fulfill a commitment.  When, despite wise counsel, I have to watch a loved one head down a destructive path….

What makes me laugh? – My conversations with Ayanna and Jordan and their carpool karaoke renditions.  Jelani.  The text message, DM’s or group chats that I have with my girls.  My little sister, Ashley, and our conversations with and about our parents.  The countless memes produced on social media……….(Like when do these people find time to instantly make memes. Is there a company specifically out there that hires “memers” –IJS) The random moments that seem to only occur in an African American church service…ya’ll know what I’m talking about😊

What makes me smile? –  Knowing that I’ve pleased God, esteemed my family, and honored myself. The sound of my children playing or hearing them say, “I love you, Mommy!” Peeking into the room and watching my children sleep. When my favorite 90s R and B song comes on the radio or when Spotify accurately concocts a personalized playlist.  A clean and organized home. A great outcome on a DIY project. Quietly browsing through the home sections of a department store without time restraints or Ayanna and Jordan’s various renditions of “Can we go now?”.  A weekend without ANY obligations. Fresh flowers in my living room. When my decaf iced coffee is made with the perfect amount of crème and sugar. Publix BOGO specials of Clorox/Lysol wipes, pork bacon, Air Wick Plug-Ins, Capri Sun, and Blue Bell Ice Cream. When my hair products and curls cooperate… #winning. Knowing that I’ve successfully accomplished a task, made someone smile or exceeded a client’s expectations. Meeting deadlines. The morning conversations with my mom. Quiet moments with my husband. Volunteering at my daughter’s school. Writing. The scent of a new DW Home candle burning in my home. When my family and friends excel in life. Knowing that the seeds being planted in my children’s ministry babies are taking root…………….

Where do I feel emotionally safe?  At home (both mine and my parents). In my journal. Also, in the company of the keepers of my heart….

What I need? – I need the presence of God, my family and friends. I need people to show up for me, like I show up for them. ‘Cause even the most reliable people “need somebody to lean on!” I need peace and quiet for at least 30 minutes of every day. I need my own personal space. I need to go to bed by 9:30PM or a dark side of me emerges. I need to maintain my identity and desires outside of family, work and church. I need to be understood, supported, loved and appreciated. I need to be checked on…even though I’m the queen of checking on everyone that I know and love. I need to let loose every now and then…to put aside my rigid and analytical thought processes and let my TWA blow in the wind. I need to trust the process…. to trust God’s process and His perfect timing. I need to (tactfully) speak my mind and show up for myself. I need to know that it’s OK to take a break at times.  To maintain healthy boundaries… to say “No!”… to protect my  peace. I need to be more consistent with my spiritual walk, my writing, establishing my brand and pursuing my dreams. I need to let myself breathe!

What I accept or settle for? I often accept tasks or responsibilities because I “can” complete them…instead of asking myself, “Should I complete them?” Everything that is requested of me, even it is good, does not deserve my time, energy, and efforts. I am only one person and I am ultimately responsible for my preservation.

What I value? I value my relationship with Christ, my family, my friendships …..a great nail tech, brow technician and barber/hairstylist (Shout out to Le, Jozie & Mark!!) . Reliability. Timeliness. Honesty. Second Chances. Respect. Hard Work. Sincerity. Collaboration. Peace of mind, heart and spirit. Hearing the voice of the God. A restaurant that I can pick anything off the menu and enjoy it thoroughly…shout out to Cooper’s Hawk!!

What I ignore? I often ignore the signs that I need to slow down or I that I don’t have to be everything to everyone. I often ignore myself…my feelings….my desires. I sometimes, for the sake of feelings, neglect to truly express my sentiments and hold them in until I eventually explode.  I sometimes ignore that nudge that God gives me to pray, read His Word or to give myself a break.

What I want?  – I want to be content…content with the seasons in my life…content with the knowledge that seasons change. I want to be content with knowing that God is truly the Master of the sea…that Jesus is really on the “mainline” and I can tell him what I want. I want to be OK with not always having a plan A, plan B and plan C. I want to be able to stand upon God’s word without any doubt. I want to excel in life – financially, relationally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.   I want to be a present and attentive wife and mother. I want to be the wife and mother that my husband/children need and deserve. I want to travel the world (and not worry about bills) and go on a Tom Joyner’s Fantastic Voyage Cruise before it is discontinued. I want to learn how to drive a stick shift and take my sister and girlfriends on a destination trip at no cost to them. I want to live a long and healthy life without regrets. I want my children to be God centered, productive and purpose driven people.   I want to have rhythm to dance #dontjudgeme ….not just to do the Electric or Cha Cha Slide….but realllyyyy dance – that’s just wishful thinking here. ROTFL …the Lord knew exactly what He was doing when He made me. Cause if I could dance the way I do in my head…………..ya’ll wouldn’t be able to stand me!!

I want my life – my parenting, my marriage, my relationships and my choices to be fruitful and honor God.

I want to live a life beyond me…….a life beyond my human capabilities.

I want to live a life so full that only God, Himself, can get the credit for it.

What I miss? – I miss my college days at ORU when life was much simpler (and cheaper). I miss living near my parents and sister. I miss the unlimited pre-kids date nights with my husband. I miss my in-laws living 20 minutes away from my home. I miss two of the most reliable baby sitters, Keshia and Briana.  I miss Ayanna and Jordan’s baby stage and baby smell. (No, I’m not up to having another child. Things were just so much easier when they were babies. Their worlds were so much smaller.) I miss hearing my grandmother’s voice……………………………………………….

And at least once per week, I miss having permed hair.
When I look in the mirror, what do I see?  I see an imperfect beauty striving for perfection. Not perfection in the sense of being void of error, mistakes, deficiencies. But perfection in the sense of striving to be complete, whole, and aligned…in tune, in sync, in harmony with God, herself and her purpose.

How do I live and walk in the authentic version of myself each day? I think this is a daily decision.  I’d say that I must live in the God-given grace assigned to each day (thank you Mommy and Pastor Steven Furtick for those reminders)…. to not be consumed with yesterday or tomorrow…..to live in the moment….to stay in my lane and not overextend myself…to show up for myself in an even greater magnitude than I show up for others…to remain connected to the Vine…to know that because of Jesus Christ, I am worthy of every good and perfect gift that He sends my way…..

 

I warned you that this wasn’t your typical Strands of Pearls blog post. But I would admonish you to do the same as I did on that Tuesday afternoon.

Grab a pen and paper and sincerely ask yourself, “Who Am I?”

Separate from everyone and anything else, what makes you, “You!”

Each day, I am learning. I am evolving. I am conquering. 

Each day,  I am embracing being undeniably Margaret.