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

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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

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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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A Letter to the Grievers

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Dear Grievers,

I have been thinking about the upcoming holiday season and how this time of the year can be challenging for us. Often, I have mixed feelings about the holiday season. While I enjoy digging into Thanksgiving turkey and listening to Christmas music, I begin to miss my sister, Wanda. Indeed, I know she is living comfortably in Heaven, but the fact that I cannot go into her room to say “Happy Thanksgiving” or “Merry Christmas” is tough. Her birthday is a few days after Christmas which worsens the grief.

I wanted to write this letter to folks who grieve, because you may feel misunderstood right now. Your family or peers may wonder why you are not as excited about the holidays as they are. They may wonder why you just want to hide from the world from November-December and return to it in January. Grievers, I see you and I want you to know that your emotions are okay. You do not have to apologize for how you feel. You can just be. You can run to Jesus with your wet faces and shaky legs. He knows what you are feeling right now, and He wants to hug you. He desires to cover you with His love.

Grievers, you may believe that you have no right to grieve because of what society has barked at you. Perhaps, you miscarried or dealt with a stillbirth. You still carried a baby in your womb and waited to hold that baby next to your body. That child’s life mattered to you so you do not have to ask for permission to grieve.

Grievers, you may believe that you have no right to grieve because your loved one died from a substance overdose. Society told you, “Well, he or she shouldn’t have been doing drugs anyways.” Yet, you witnessed your loved one’s addiction and his/her attempts to recover from it. Maybe, you experienced his/her negative behaviors because of the impact of the substances on their mind and body. Maybe, you’ve felt guilty for giving him/her money that would be used to buy their substance. Grievers, I pray that you do not experience shame anymore. I encourage you to express your real emotions about the loss despite the way society ostracized your loved one.

Grievers, you may believe you have no right to grieve because your loved one was dealing with a chronic illness that you knew he/she would eventually die from. You may have even helped them plan their own funeral. Your loved one was ready to pass on from Earth to Heaven. Even though you prepared for their death, you are still allowed to grieve it. You can miss your loved one because their life and their love refreshed you.

Grievers, you may believe you have no right to grieve because you did not lose someone to death. Perhaps, you recently endured a divorce or break-up. Maybe, you were laid off from your job. These events are losses and they elicit various emotions. You’re going to miss not being with your significant other during the holiday season. Or you’re going to feel hurt by how the relationship ended. Regarding your job, you’re going to feel frustrated by your lack of income. You’re probably going to question why you had to lose a job that you have invested several years in.

Grievers, I realize that you feel raw and uncomfortable. In the first year of my sister’s death, I used to tell folks that it felt like someone took my heart out of my chest and stomped it. I don’t know what metaphor you have used to describe your emotional pain. I don’t even know where you are in your grief journey.

Despite the pain, I hope that you are honest with yourself. Let yourself feel the pain, because if you keep it bottled inside, you may burst at an inconvenient time. I pray that God sends you folks that will pray with you and listen to you when you need to talk. When you feel like you have talked about that deceased loved one or that break-up too much, that God-sent person will be patient with you.

Grievers, please be patient with yourself during this holiday season. I’ll pray for you and I ask for your prayers as well!

“Cause I believe always, always our Savior never fails

Even when all hope is gone

God knows our pain and His promise remains

He will be with you always.” 

“Always” by Building 429

God Bless,

Monica aka afrotasticlady