2015’s Bursts of Joy

 “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all of their toil-this is the gift of God.”  Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

Recently, I stood in the music section of Morning Star (local Christian bookstore), and I scanned the  choices of albums. I planned on buying a Jonathan McReynolds cd, as I have been blessed by his real and inspirational songs. Unfortunately, his cd wasn’t there. I finally ended up buying John Mark McMillan’s “Live at the Knight.”

The album contains poetic ponderings of God’s love and His sacrifices for us. McMillian is a worshipper, poet, and storyteller.  Before he sings his live version of “Love at the End,” he talks about his views on true success. For McMillian, true success lies in spending time with family and friends through eating food, laughing, and talking about Jesus.

His short interlude on the album is reminiscent of the above Ecclesiastes verses.  On Earth, we get up in the morning, and we go to work or to school. Some of us even go to work and school at the same time. But throughout all of this work, there are opportunities to be joyful. Sometimes, we can view the Christian walk as serious or even boring. But I believe that God wants us to be merry. To see the bursts of joy despite the “hard things” that life releases upon us.

In 2015,  my main “hard things” were grief and grad school.  I continued to grapple with emotions related to my grief journey. I fought with myself to quell sadness or negative memories associated with my sister’s illness and passing.

I trudged through classes in my graduate social work program. I had days where I questioned if I wanted to be in school, because I felt stressed and inefficient. I wondered if I would be a “good” future social worker, and if I had chosen the “right” career.

But God taught me lessons in these “hard things.” He taught me to pour out my concerns on His lap and to reach out to family and friends.  He showed me that there is truth in being vulnerable. That His healing dwells in my cracked skin and brittle bones. That in my weakness, He is strong!

As 2016 approaches us, it seems worthwhile to reflect on what God did for me in 2015. I experienced several bursts of joy.

2015 Collage

In January, I started my second semester of grad school. I survived papers with long pages limits, a group project, and multiple  readings on social work theory and research. I grumbled about the crazy snowstorms that lasted throughout most of the semester. But I was blessed by stellar grades when May came along. I survived my first year!  Thank You Lord!

In May, I saw two of my favorite Christian rappers, Lecrae and Andy Mineo in concert. I went to the concert with my friends J and E, and we got autographs from these artists. We also ran into them randomly around Beantown. I appreciated how down to earth these guys were whenever we saw them in the city. And they gave us a concert filled with creativity, ministry, and hype that will rank as one of my top concert experiences.

In June, I celebrated another birthday that God allowed me to see. Additionally, I witnessed my strong and beautiful friend get married to her sweetheart. My friend D has contended with chronic illness for numerous years, so her wedding day was a gift she needed to have. Throughout the challenges of her illness, she and her husband have chosen to “press” through their pain and frustrations.  If you would like to read more about D’s resilience and positive attitude, please check out her blog: The Ramblings of a Young Bostonian.

In August, I  was excited about the huge milestone of completing a year of blogging on afrotasticlady.com.  It may have been around this time that I decided that I should focus more on my writing/blogging. I realized that I needed to be more consistent in publishing posts and encouraging others to visit and to subscribe to my blog. As an introvert, I found these tasks a bit challenging as I would rather hide pieces that I have written than to shout to the world that my words are floating online.  But I needed to invest more in the gift of writing that God has given me. I needed to write and to invite others to read what I have plastered on a page.

During my August vacation, I went to San Diego, California with my friend JH.  We enjoyed the ocean and laidback atmosphere of the city. We hung out with my nephew and his wife, and we allowed them to be our tour guides. The California trip was a real vacation for me, which was an experience that I hadn’t had due to my circumstances.

In October,  I was a bridesmaid in my friend A’s wedding! I was humbled that A asked me to be in her bridal party, and I enjoyed meeting her other friends. The bridal party consisted of a beautiful group of women who gathered for a God-given purpose: marriage. We showered love on our friend and her husband, and we wished them congratulations.

In November, I was brave with what I put on my blog. I love creating short stories, and I shared one of my original stories with the blogosphere.  I was surprised by the number of folks that visited my blog to read, and I was overjoyed by the positive comments that were left. I have learned that when a writer composes a story that they are allowing readers to see parts of their imaginative mind. Thanks again friends for reading what goes on in my mind.

I showed my quirky/silly side in November’s My 6 Grateful Things List. In the hopes of being more grateful and aware of God’s goodness, I decided to create December’s 6 Grateful Things List.

In December, I announced that I would complete a grateful things list for each month. Plus, it’s  fun to take a break from introspective writing and be a complete goofball in a vlog post.

As a social worker in training, I am not a fan of the word “resolution.” If I treat myself as my own client, I would say that I should focus on the word “goal” instead.  In my last job, I was taught that goals should be measurable and broken down into steps.

For 2016, I crave to be more joyful. I know that this goal sounds abstract, but I plan to read the Bible more.  If it doesn’t happen daily, I need to meditate on His Word at least four times out of the week. Previously, I  read His Word, but I did not read it enough. I allowed the demands of school to push me away from learning and discovering God’s instructions for me. But I believe that His Word is my sustenance. I cannot become more joyful if I am not even spending quality time in God’s book.

I can be joyful in family gatherings with nourishing home cooked meals and in coffee shop hangouts with friends. In 2016, I plan to attend 1-2 concerts with friends or family members, because fellowship and music edifies me.

Friend, what are your goals for 2016? I would love to hear about them, so we can encourage each other in achieving them!

Happy, happy New Year friends! Thank you for reading my blog and for allowing me to be transparent with the “hard things” while sharing the bursts of joy! And because I love music so much, I have included McMillian’s “Love at the End” video.

Blessings,

afrotasticlady

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

A Prayer of Love

Love

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices when the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

His love is different.  God’s love is different from the love that I receive from my parents, friends, or even church family. His love does not spit at me or reject me like humans have the ability to do.

I have to honest with you all. Sometimes, I have a difficult time accepting love from others, because I was teased a lot as a child. Sometimes, I question in my head when a friend says that they love me. I even find the words “I love you” to be strange words to say to my family and friends. Even though I feel the words, I don’t easily say the words. If I say  “I love you,” will something negative happen to me that will make those words useless? Will I be looked down upon or treated cruelly?

With God,  I am working on this destructive thought pattern. I am worthy of love and to be loved by others. And even if the love of others fails me, which will happen, because we humans are not perfect; I have the love of God.

In Amanda Cook’s song “Pieces,” she sings the following lines: “You don’t give your heart in pieces. You don’t hide yourself to tease us.” God’s love doesn’t play games. He generously gives us His love and tells us to bathe in it. To let His love take over. To let His love overcome anxiety, depression, a broken heart, a confused mind, or a battered body.

When I first graduated college, I spent a few years working in daycare centers. I worked with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Little, little children are interesting creatures to observe. They will play and then start fighting. They will share toys and then take toys away from each other.

God’s love doesn’t behave in the way that little children interact with each other. His love isn’t childish. He is not a toddler that will run over and swipe His love away. He’s doesn’t say to us, “Welp, I need my love back boo.”

He is our loving Father who sits in the room with us when we murmur prayers that are sprinkled with tears. He is our loving Father who sits with us when we are numb and watching joy-filled faces parade around us at church. He is our loving Father who scoops us up in the same way that our mama or daddy did when we cut our skin after a fall on a sidewalk.

I have been repeatedly listening to “Pieces,” because I need it to stick in my heart that God’s love defines my identity. The busyness of life and the hurtful words of other can make me forget about the enormity of His love. On the Cross, I imagine that Jesus took all of the insults that I have ever been called onto His body. That His worn body took every moment someone despised me. These words and moments are not mine, but God’s love is mine.

I want to conclude with a prayer for every woman who is reading this post:

Lord,

We pray that we will fully experience Your love! We pray that we will “let love happen” as Amanda Cook sings. We will let love happen when we feel insecure. We will let love happen when we feel like the gum on someone’s shoes. When we feel like we should just be forgotten. We pray that we will love others as You love us. We don’t want our love for each other to be ugly or crude. We desire that we love each other with a selfless love. But within it all, we pray that You teach us how to love ourselves. Because we need to know that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” as Your word states. Thank You Father for how You love and care for us. In Jesus name, we pray! Amen!

 

*Participated in the following linkup!

Open Mic Monday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December’s 6 Grateful Things List

December Grateful Things List

After I created the My 6 Grateful Things List  post last month, I decided that I would do a grateful things list for each month! So far, I’ve had several things to be grateful for. By the way, I mention in this vlog that I was featured on bleativity.com. Please feel free to check out the site and my post if you like.

And please listen very, very closely to this vlog! I have a question for y’all, and I’d love to hear your answers!

Happy watching! May you and your family have a blessed and joy-filled holiday season!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I Think About Grief

“When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, he said to her, ‘Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” John 19:26-27

When I think about grief, I think about Mary. Mary was standing and watching her son, Jesus, suffer on the Cross. He was bloody and tired. Despite the agony, Jesus prepared his mother, Mary, for the transition. He introduced Mary and one of his disciples as “mother” and “son.” I find this entire conversation between Jesus, his mother and the disciple to be selfless. But this selflessness is who Jesus is. He not only endured beatings and brutality as He hung on the Cross for all human beings; He ensured that His mother would have companionship.

When I think about grief, I think about my mom and dad caring for my sister for over 15 years as she was challenged by disease. When she was first diagnosed with the disease, she was still able to talk and walk. But a few years later, the disease removed her ability to speak, to walk, or to date and get married. I’m certain my mom and dad did not think their daughter would be plagued by such suffering when they rocked her and fed her a bottle as a newborn. Yet, the disease jumped into my sister’s body and forced her to abandon her interests in modeling. And my parents remained dedicated to being her caretakers until her death.

When I think about grief, I think about a picture of my sister, nephew, niece, and me. It was a picture from the 90’s as my sister was wearing an oversized plaid shirt with vibrant red lipstick. I don’t remember what we were doing on the day that picture was taken or who even took it. But we were sitting closely together as family members who love each other do. We were all doing our own poses. With my two little fingers, I was holding bunny ears above my sister’s head.

When I think about grief, I think about when I was a teenager, the doctors said my sister only had six months to live. It truly scared me, and I ended up writing a poem about it. Back then, words were my friends as they still are now. Looking back, it seems odd that I, as a 7th/8th grader, was preoccupied with death and writing poems about it. Perhaps, it wasn’t odd, as my sister’s constant trips to the hospital were a huge part of my adolescence.

When I think about grief, I think about how this month, my mom would have wished my sister both “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Birthday.” A few days after Christmas, she would have walked into her bedroom. And in her cute, Southern way, she would have exclaimed”Happy Birthday Wan.” Then, she would have kissed my sister on the forehead.

When I think about grief, I think about silly memories that I had with my sister. When I was in elementary school, I told my sister that I had a crush on a Latino boy. She looked at me and said that “Spanish boys don’t like Black girls.”  I laugh now, because I was a shy bookworm when I was little. A shy bookworm who had a crush.

When I think about grief, I think about what I have heard preachers say. They speak about how Earth is not our home, and we are only passing through. They’re right. Even on my grief journey, I acknowledge that death is a transition that we will all experience. We will see our loved ones die, and we will eventually die too.

But I am learning that I can still think about the positive memories that my sister and I had. Although, I know that she is singing and dancing in Heaven; I still miss her. But she is experiencing such freedom that she did not experience on Earth.

Forest