Heart Work

Lately, some folks have been asking me the question: “What is social work?” Although, I am in a graduate program for social work, and I have worked in the human services field for several years, I still have to process my answer for a while.  I believe the answer to this question is expansive. The best way to describe social work is to call it “heart work.” I have shared some more thoughts in the following video. And please comment with your answer to the question I have posed at the end!

Love and blessings,

afrotasticlady

Advertisements

Quirky, Brown Love Feature

Well, I am in my third week of my second year of grad school (I’m in a three year program, so I still have more work to do).  Fall has arrived, which brings out one of my favorite articles of clothing: the cardigan. Also, I was featured on one of my favorite blogs today!  Yass! I ask you to please head on over to Quirky, Brown Love for some Black girl quirkiness! 🙂

Grief and the Curves of Life

I have several friends who are experiencing the curves of life. I do not think there is a time where one is not experiencing transition. Despite our feelings, transition comes. Transition does not wait for us to get ourselves together; to prepare. Transition forces us to take what it has brought. Sometimes, transition bring light to what feels like a plain life.

One of my friends is getting married, and I am thrilled for what this change will bring her. My friend, A, has encouraged me through some curves in my own life. I know that God coordinated our first meeting, and our subsequent friendship. A few years ago, I went to a service at another church to hear my pastor preach. My pastor had been asked to preach at this church, and I wanted to support him. After the service, I ran into my friend JM, who introduced me to A. JM knew that I was looking for work, and A was looking to hire someone at her workplace. A and I exchanged contact information. I did not end up applying for the job, but A and I ended up hanging out at the Juneteenth Festival.

At the Festival, A and I discovered that we had both witnessed tragedy in our families. A’s brother had passed away several years ago, while my sister was severely ill and bedridden. Before A, I had not met anyone who could relate to the grief that I had regarding my sister. I did not want her to be ill, but I also did not want death to be the way that her illness and suffering ended. I wanted my sister to be the hip, red lipstick wearing woman that she was before. When I met A, I met someone who “got it.” The loss of a sibling connected us.

God used A’s heartbreak over the loss of her brother to help me when my sister eventually passed away. Along with many of my friends and family members, A came by the house shortly after my sister’s death. When I wanted to swallow my tears and be fierce, she encouraged me to pour out my anguish. Pride did not belong next to grief. I had to become vulnerable, and vulnerability was scary to me, as I had learned that crying was “babyish.”

A accompanied me on my journey of grief. Often, I would reach out to her on those days (holidays, sister’s death anniversary, sister’s birthday) when the grief increased.  A was empathetic and allowed me to share my emotions. While I wish that no one had to deal with the loss of a loved one, I believe that God used the unique experience of sibling loss to build a friendship between A and I.  When I first met A, I did not know that she would be one of the people that would walk closely with me when my sister passed away. God is good, and He knows our deepest needs. In my anguish, God knew that I would need someone who understood the loss of a sibling. I would need someone who would check in with me about my well-being.

I am not even sure if I would have met A if I had not gone to the service that she was attending. I may not have even met A if JM had not introduced her to me. It’s cliché, but I believe that things happen for a reason. To be spiritual with this idea, God allows things to happen for His own purposes.  I went to a specific service, met and became friends with A, and we have encouraged each other throughout the curves of life.

I hold this idea towards each of the friendships that I have. God has orchestrated many of my current friendships. I have friends that I met in middle school, high school, college, and church. With each friend, I have vented, laughed, cried, and celebrated victories with them. I mention A, because of our commonality in having lost a sibling. At any point in our situations, either A or I could have walked away from God and His goodness, from our families and friends, and from opportunities.

The band, Colony House, has a song called “Won’t Give Up Now.”  The lead singer sings the following poignant lyrics near the end of the song:

‘Too many dreams I didn’t want to dream
Too many night alone where I can’t sleep
I’ve got the devil on my back
Trying to take home from me
But I see Jesus out in front
He’s reaching back for the lonely
Reaching back ’cause he loves me
I take his hand because she loved me”

Colony House is comprised of Steven Curtis Chapman’s two sons and another member. One of Chapman’s sons accidentally ran over his younger sister with his car in their driveway. I do not know the amount of guilt that this young man has felt. But I have sat in my grief, “with the devil  on my back” and “Jesus out in front.”  I love the line: “I take his hand because she loved me.”  I am sure A or I could have ignored our destines, but Jesus held out His hand. And our siblings would want us to pursue what makes our hearts jump.

The deaths of our siblings were the transitions we never wanted to endure. We cried sloppy tears and screamed. We prayed loud prayers or maybe we did not pray as much as we should have. With our servant hearts, we loved our siblings, and they loved us. With God’s love, we endured their deaths.

Colony House’s beautiful song is below:

Singleness and the Curves of Life

If you checked out the guest blog post by Nicole, blogger at His Love is Better Than Wine, I am grateful that you did. As a writer and blogger, I believe it is important to support the works of other bloggers. I admire the bravery that Nicole and other bloggers have in sharing their thoughts and feelings. My hope is to have other admirable women share their natural hair journeys in upcoming guest blog posts. Readers, please stay tuned!

Lately, I have been pondering the curves of life. When I say curves of life, I am referring to the transitions that one endures in his or her life. Often, these transitions contain emotions such as anxiety and excitement. In my own life, I have experienced the transitions of my sister passing away and of entering a graduate school program. Both transitions carried anxiety, but my faith in God allowed me to survive them.

My state as a single woman is a part of these curves. I looked at my previous blog posts on being afrotastically single, and I read about the joys that I had about being an afro wearing, Christian, single Black woman.  Somewhere between the Cali trip and now, I have been looking at my state of singleness differently. I am finding that being afrostastically single is annoying, and I do not like that I feel this way.

Previously, I reveled in the beauty of being a #carefreeblackgirl. I loved being able to spontaneously hang out with my female friends at a coffee shop or a Thai restaurant. I loved being able to go to a concert or a movie by myself, because I was an independent woman. I loved not having to stress over those questions: “Will he call me?” and “Does he even know that I like him?”  You know, those questions that repeat in one’s mind in the midst of dating.

And I still love being a #carefreeblackgirl.  I love the fact that I am Black and quirky.

But what happens when #carefreeblackgirl wants to hold the hand of a #carefreeblackboy?

What happens when #carefreeblackgirl finally admits this truth to God?

What happens is that God hears it. In my church, I have heard older folks talk about how God knows what you want, but you have to ask for it. I did not want to ask for marriage, because I did not want it to be an idol. I thought it was better to hide behind my line “if or when I get married.” It was easier to think about marriage as something that may or may not happen instead of it being something that would happen to me. And with being in such a long-term state of singleness, I just was not sure that marriage could ever be a possibility.

Additionally, I know that there are so many troubles on this earth, and my cry of not wanting to single seems very small. When I reflect on bigger issues such as racism, poverty, and war, I deem that there are better things to think about. But then, I enter the cycle again, that my desires are not important. That I cannot pray for my desires.

Quickly, I can go from thinking this desire is very insignificant to thinking it is just impossible. As I read articles or blogs by other Christians, I see that young Christians are pursuing careers and waiting longer and longer to get married. On other sites or blogs, I read about how Black women who are in their mid thirties or early forties are still unmarried.

After reading about such experiences, I tell myself to be open to whatever God has for me. #carefreeboy doesn’t have to be Black, even though I would like him to be.  As long as he loves Jesus Christ and and can appreciate my love for Black culture and history, I will be alright.

I struggle to be alright now. I have grown tired of dating myself. I have gotten very acquainted with my strengths and my flaws. I deem that I know myself. I’m both quiet and loud. And at times, I’m stubborn and independent, because I do not want to ask for help. While I am glad that I know the different aspects of myself, I know that I need more strength in some areas.

So, maybe, #carefreeboy shouldn’t come along yet. Even though, I want him too. Maybe, #carefreeboy still has some areas that he has to sort through. Maybe neither #carefreeboy or I are ready yet, and that is why we haven’t met.

In my chaotic thinking, I fear that I am missing the point of waiting on God for marriage. If I do not wait, I may get what I think I want, but I can also end up on a disastrous path. In my waiting, I have to remind myself that marriage is not the supreme life goal. If anything, God wants me to learn how to love Him and love others. He wants me to learn how to deal with being uncomfortable.

Waiting is uncomfortable. 

I have to remind myself that I will be a better human being for waiting. Even when restlessness, impatience, and fear strive to be my companions, I have to know that the waiting will bring something good.

To my sisters in your period of waiting, how do you deal with your state of singleness? What are your thoughts on dating and marriage?  Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Blessings,

afrotasticlady

Healing and Wholeness in My Natural Hair Journey

A Guest Blog Post by Nicole:

About 2 years ago, I couldn’t have imagined what my decision to do the “Big Chop” would mean. I was surrounded by beautiful, natural-haired women and was literally the “last Mohican” to give up the perm. I took my time and transitioned for about a year, alternating between braids, bantu knots and any hairstyle that would hide the 2 textures fighting against each other during this period of “crossing over”. I did not have the typical unwelcomed comments that some of my friends had during this time. There were no side eyes thrown at me or insults mumbled in low tones as I passed by. Because. Well. I did it well. I was determined to transition smoothly and I succeeded.

Being the last of my friends to make the switch proved to work in my favor. They were there to guide me and help me learn natural hair styles that worked. I quickly became a connoisseur of hair accessories and skillfully worked my bobbi pins into a variety of updos. And then, finally, the day came. My friend came along for moral support. That is how awesome my friends are.

A black woman’s hair is easily a sign of her worth. If nothing is taken care of, her hair is. We will sit for hours in a hair shop simply waiting for our turn, endure the pain of putting chemicals in our hair and shovel out hundreds of dollars on weaves and wigs and sew-ins. So of course we need moral support when choosing to chop it all off. When choosing to let go of those relaxed locks and opt for a kinkier look. My hair dresser was a student at the salon I went to so not only did I get a discounted rate, but her talents were top quality. She styled my new do into finger coils. My friend raved about how great my transition was and social media friends were also very kind.

Some people choose to go natural b/c chemicals have damaged their hair or maybe they feel they need to be more in touch with their ethnic heritage. Those were not my reasons but I can say that being natural has definitely been a vital part of my true identity being revealed in this season. I never would have imagined there would be a spiritual link to giving up a relaxer.

Around the same time I did the big chop I had also endeavored upon a clean eating lifestyle and had dropped about 20 lbs. I felt like God was upgrading me and the lifestyle of healthy living was not just in regards to my eating but also my hair. I realize now God desires wholeness. Wholeness is all encompassing. We can be unhealthy in one area and healthy in others but God wants us healthy in all areas of life. I have learned from my pastor who is also a licensed healthy coach that there are “good, better, and best choices”. The goal is to try to make the better and best choices most of the time. I can’t say that using a relaxer is a bad choice. I didn’t even feel that way when I chose to go natural. It was just that going natural was a better choice for me. And now I know, it was actually the best choice for me.

Nicole M

I can only recall one really difficult moment while transitioning. I was washing my hair and so much of it was shedding. Too much. I freaked out as I watched the clumps fall into the drain in the shower. I sent a text to my friends relaying my alarm. I had already tried different detanglers and nothing was working. Then a friend responded that I needed to separate my hair in sections before washing it. I couldn’t just wash it like I had when it was straight. That only made it more tangled. I remember her sharing this with me before but basically I had been too lazy. You simply cannot be lazy with natural hair. I have learned I need to be intentional about styling and washing consistently or else I will get the side eye looks. I am determined that will not be me.

Being natural is a lot of work. But just as I have been so intentional to pack my meals and snacks daily for 2 years I have consistently twisted my hair every night when wearing a twist out or washing/cowashing every 2-3 weeks and spend an hour washing, detangling, moisturizing, and styling. You simply make a priority for the things that are worth it.

And my hair and my body are worth it.

Nicole is a lover of Jesus. She desires to see her generation walk in wholeness, restoration and healing. She is the author of “How to Overcome Heartbreak: Recovering from Misguided Love” and writes frequently at www.betterthanwine.net.

Nicole M 2