31st Birthday Life Lessons

31st Bday Life Lessons

Hey, hey friends! I realize that it’s been very quiet on my blog, and I am glad that I have been able to communicate with everyone through my monthly gratitude vlogs. Even though I love doing the vlogs, I missed writing posts. Hence, it is time to give y’all some writing! #Yass

Some of you may know that June is my birthday month! I turned 31 years old on June 7th. It was a busy yet fun day filled with family and friends time. Of course, I ate out twice as I love to eat. I also went to the movie theater and Starbucks with a friend.

In this post, I want to share what I have learned over the last 31 years. God willing, I still have many more years to live and more lessons to learn. For now, I will share five important lessons that I have acquired. Here goes:

  1. Love God: Growing up in church, I heard about God all the time. I went to church with my family. I listened to Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary in my living room. When I finally accepted God into my life at 18 years old, I discovered a full, heavenly love. God loves me and us without restrictions. We can act prideful and feel dirty, but He still loves us. His love is a gift, and I must choose to receive it. I must also choose to love Him with every part of me. In loving Him, I need to surrender my plans and heed His instructions. Is this always easy? Nope!! But I believe that it is a worth following His path of love and peace.
  2. Love others: It can be challenging to love others, especially when it feels like they are trying to annihilate you. Yet, I know that God’s Word commands me to love others. Mark 12:29-31 states:

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

God would not command us to love Him and others if we could not do it. In order for us to fulfill His commandments, we need to rely on His strength! We must keep our ears open when the Holy Spirit convicts us.

Regarding these commandments, I am NOT perfect. I am still striving to love others as God wants me to love them. Besides being a Christian, I know that there many folks out there who need to be loved. As an individual who has worked in the human services field for numerous years, I have heard traumatic stories from clients. I have also heard how various systems mistreated them. But love promotes healing and restoration. And when my clients and folks who are deemed “unloveable” experience authentic love, they begin to grasp onto hope. They are already strong people, but their strength increases when they see that someone loves them despite their inner turmoil.

  1. Embrace community: I’m learning that God ordains relationships. I’m not really talking about romantic relationships. Although, I believe that He does ordain those relationships too. God ordains friendships. In my life, I have met women that I know that God meant for me to meet. These women have witnessed hardships and joys during my journey. And I have been able to witness the same events in their lives too. These women have provided me with a safe and loving community. Without community, life can be lonely and miserable. God’s Word states the following about friendship:

“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.” Proverbs 27:9

  1. Embrace myself: As I have grown older, I have greatly appreciated this lesson. God distinctly created me so when I criticize myself, I am criticizing God’s craftsmanship. As with any human being, I have strengths as well as weaknesses. When I overly focus on my weaknesses, I become dejected. I must remind myself of who I am to prevent those moments of dejection. I have learned that I am a quirky, introspective, creative Black woman. I am a child of God, and my identity rests in Him.
  2. Go on adventures: I love the lyrics of the Rend Collective song, “Free as a Bird.” They sing:

“Let our praises run wild and free

Your lion heart is alive in me

Let our freedom and joy begin

With You, we’re dancing upon our chains

With You, we’re soaring on eagles’ wings”

I should not allow fear to stop me from going on adventures. As the lyrics display, living with God gives me abundant joy and freedom. But the enemy uses fear to doubt myself and my capabilities. While the fear is creeping into pockets of my life, God is urging me to take steps towards that new job or friendship. He is urging me to move higher in my relationship with Him. I must be open to going on an adventure. I have to trust that God has bigger dreams for me than I have for myself. He is the fulfiller of those dreams.

Also, when I think about adventures, I am reminded of physical ones. I think about going to concerts with friends, trying new foods and hobbies, and exploring the world. I have always loved going to concerts and eating, but I haven’t explored the world as much I would like to do so. This world is huge, and I want to learn about different cultures. I want to go to England, West Africa, Australia, Israel, and other regions. God willing, I will go to these places.

As a child of God, I meant to go on spiritual and physical adventures!

Friends, I have only listed a few life lessons, but I could keep writing! 😊 I am grateful for the life lessons as they help me to grow spiritually as well as mentally. I am curious and looking forward to learning more lessons as the years progress.

Friends, what life lessons have you learned so far? Do any of my life lessons apply to you?

Blessings,

Monica aka afrotasticlady

May 2017’s 6 Grateful Things List

May 2017's 6 Grateful Things List

 

“Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind.” Lionel Hampton

Hey, hey! May was such a full and busy month for me! Almost every weekend, I was involved in an event. Yet, I was involved in celebratory events and spend time with family/friends.

How about you? Was your May schedule full? Were you able to spend needed time with family and friends? I hope so!

As usual, I want y’all to share your lists of gratitude! Through these moments of sharing, we greatly encourage each other. Please take a seat and watch the video!

Thanks and blessings,

Monica aka afrotasticlady

April 2017’s 6 Grateful Things List

April 2017's 6 Grateful Things List

Hey, y’all! The month of April was cray cray for me! Translation: Major school work had to get done! Despite the cray cray of it all, I’m grateful for how God blessed me! I accomplished all my school work and received other blessings! Of course, I had to share my list! What blessings did you receive from God this month? Share ’em out!

Blessings,

Monica aka afrotasticlady

 

The Stories That Need To Be Told

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There is a hierarchy within storytelling and the sharing of history. Certain stories are constantly recited while other stories are mentioned infrequently. In my home, I heard my parents tell stories about their childhoods and how they survived attacks on their Blackness. My parents gave me books about Black heroes to read. I learned about Madame C. Walker’s business skills, Marian Anderson’s gifted singing, Shirley Chisholm’s determination, Fannie Lou Hamer’s strength and Charles Drew’s ingenuity.

Yet, in school, Black history was squeezed into February’s curriculum or other holidays of the year such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I absolutely value the celebration of Black History Month in February, as it is a necessary celebration for Black folks and folks of all races/ethnicities to become educated on Black history and culture. But I deem that this celebration should not stop once the month ends.

When I saw how briefly that school teachers would talk about Black history, I knew that my parents and extended family would have to be my primary teachers. Through my family’s stories, I saw that I was Black every day of the year and that my roots were resilient. I discovered that the words “Black” and “smart” could be said together. That Black folks have created inventions and art forms. That my ancestors were warriors and that this warrior spirit swirled within me.

Every Black person should be able to hold pride in their bodies instead of being starved of it. How can this pride become prominent within the lives of Black folks? When Black folks can access their stories of strength, then internalized racism can lessen.

Within the last few months, I have seen three films that displayed the journeys of Black folks. These films focused on the challenges that Black folks have endured while emphasizing their beauty and their accomplishments.

Late 2016, I watched Loving, which is based on the true story of Mildred and Richard Loving. Mildred, a Black woman, and Richard, a White man, got married in 1958 in Washington, D.C. When they returned to Virginia, their home state, they were arrested for miscegenation (interracial marriage). Instead of serving lengthy prison sentences, the court demanded that they live outside of Virginia for 25 years. Although, this case was made into a movie before (Mr. and Mrs. Loving), Loving is a lovely and slow-moving account of this couple’s romance and demand for equality through petitioning the Supreme Court. The Lovings were unintentional activists as their case resulted in the 1967 dismantling of miscegenation.

Before 2016 ended, I also watched Fences based on the August Wilson play of the same name. Unlike Loving, the film Fences is not based on a true story, but it’s a realistic portrayal of life for a Black family in the Jim Crow era. Audiences view the impact of racism on the identity of “Troy,” a Black man, and how his relationships with his wife, sons, and brother became disconnected. Denzel Washington played the intense role of “Troy” and directed the film. Viola Davis recently won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role of “Rose,” the wife of “Troy.”

In January of this year, I watched Hidden Figures which is based on the real-life efforts of Katherine Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. These Black women mathematicians worked at NASA during the 1960s Space Race. I have studied a lot of Black history, but I had not heard of these women before seeing the movie. While I stared at the theater screen in a nearly packed room, I laughed, yelled, and cried. By the end, I thought my tears were not going to stop gushing. I felt like I had seen the triumphs of my own sisters. And I desired that everyone saw this movie, especially young Black and Brown girls who were interested in the math and sciences.

One of my favorite writers, the late Maya Angelou, said “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” I certainly agree with my girl Ms. Angelou. But I also know the agony in preventing an entire group from seeing their stories. From seeing their bravery and their truths in books and magazines. From being able to see themselves on TV and movie theater screens.

When movies such as Loving, Fences, and Hidden Figures are created, Black folks see that they have culture and history. They see the fullness of their stories and how their stories need to be told.

 

 

 

 

A Christmas Reflection

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As a child, I was obsessed with Christmas. I would try to figure out what my parents had gotten me by shaking presents or delicately tearing a piece of the wrapping. I would beg my mom to allow me to open one present on Christmas Eve. I could not wait until Christmas’ arrival. There would be new toys to play with or movies to watch. One Christmas, I wanted a Furby. Essentially, an ugly talking toy that resembled a gremlin. It was the “it” toy to have that year, and I got it. Another year, I wanted the movies “Save the Last Dance” and “Bring It On.” I received my requests. For me, Christmas was about what I was going to get. I had selfish motives, but I truly enjoyed the holiday. Yet, I believe most children enjoy it for this reason. Christmas turns into something else as a person matures.

As I grew older, I became a gift giver. Christmas became a mixture of stress, procrastination, and some joy. I would shop for presents during the week of Christmas. I would contend with busy stores and concerns about what to buy for people. I wanted family and friends to enjoy their presents and to find them useful. I also worried about money. How much could I spend on family members and friends? Who could I realistically buy a gift for? And would I buy them a “good” gift?

When my sister died in July 2013, I witnessed my small portion of positivity towards Christmas dissipate. I desired to run away from the holiday. I didn’t want anyone to talk to me about their anticipation of Christmas. With my sister’s birthday being a few days after Christmas, I couldn’t be enthusiastic. Grief overwhelmed me.

On December 6th 2013, my mom and I went to a Jeremy Camp concert in our hometown. I was originally supposed to go with a friend, but she was unable to attend. I did not feel my mom would be interested in seeing Jeremy Camp as she listened to more old-school gospel music. Yet, she went to the concert with me and enjoyed his music. We were both worn out and needed to be comforted from our grief. Since Jeremy Camp lost his first wife to cancer several years ago, we knew he had experienced the wretchedness of grief. Before he would sing, he usually read Bible verses and offered encouraging words. My mom and I sang along with him. We cried and praised God together. We embraced each other, knowing that we missed Wanda, but that God was with us.

Emmanuel.

This year, I wondered what my response to Christmas would be. Would I continue to be discouraged by the commercialism of Christmas? Would I hide from the reminders of Christmas because of my sister’s birthday? If I’m honest, I still believe that there is a societal pressure to buy the best presents and to go into debt. Despite some of stresses of Christmas shopping, I see how gift giving can be a display of gratitude between people. When two siblings or two friends exchange presents, they are experiencing each other’s thoughtfulness. And when sweet words are planted in a Christmas card, the recipient becomes joyful. Hence, there is significance in our tradition of gift giving; of thinking about the folks that we adore.

And even with my sister’s birthday hovering over this season, the Christmas story engulfed me. Being raised in a Christian home, I have always known why Christmas needed to be acknowledged. I’d heard about the angel Gabriel, Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah. I’d read about the manger, the shepherds, and the wise men. In church, I sung the Christmas hymns with congregants. But this knowledge of the Christmas story did not exclude me from gaining new revelations. Of seeing how Mary and Elizabeth had received miracles. A virgin and an older, infertile woman would bear special infants. God would use them to allow the Savior and the forerunner to come into the world.

As God revealed the magnificence of the story to me, I shared what I had learned with my Sunday School students. I told them that Mary was a teenager when God chose her to be the mother of Jesus, the King. I watched their eyes widen as they processed that Mary was their age. Mary, a woman of God, willingly accepted the news that Gabriel brought her.

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.” Luke 1:38

I chatted with the students about obedience and that God knows what best for us. I explained that it can feel scary and even wild to obey God, but that our willingness yields good things. Jesus’ presence enhances our lives.

In my life, I have been angered, grief-stricken and even excited by Christmas’ arrival. And I believe that it is normal to experience this assortment of feelings during the holiday season. Yet, I know that the re-telling of the Christmas story can exist amongst these emotions. I see that the story shows how human beings were redeemed.

“The world became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. “ John 1:14

Jesus, God in human form, was born in a manger. Hay and animals surrounded him.

Jesus, God in human form, grew into a man. John the Baptist baptized him. He chose disciples and performed miracles.

Jesus, God in human form, was betrayed and arrested. He was ridiculed and beaten.

Jesus, God in human form, carried the Cross and was crucified.

Jesus, God in human form, rose again and ascended to Heaven. He is coming back again.

The Christmas story is about God’s humility and love. And He was born to save us from our sins.

 

 

 

 

November’s 6 Grateful Things List

novembers-6-grateful-things-list

Hey friends! I wanted to release November’s 6 Grateful Things List before Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, but I don’t think it gets the attention it deserves. For example, Christmas music is already playing. Y’all, I love Christmas music, but it’s too early for all of that. Anywho, I’m excited that I have been doing these gratitude lists for a year now! Woot woot! Thank you so much for watching my quirky antics and reflections on gratitude!

I believe in striving to be grateful all year long, but I encourage you to set some time over the holiday weekend to write your own “6 Grateful Things List.” Please feel to jot down whatever comes out of your head. It’s important to be grateful for the things that you deem as small, as those blessings often lead to bigger blessings.  Have a blessed and restful Thanksgiving!

BTW, I have enclosed a random picture of Spanish rice and beans with chicken. Please watch the video in order to learn more about my adoration for this dish. 🙂

Blessings,

Monica aka afrotasticlady

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