June’s 6 Grateful Things List

 

June 2017's 6 Grateful Things List

 

Hey, y’all! It’s July, and my hope was to post this vlog in June, but life got cray cray busy again. Anywho, I’m posting the vlog now, and that’s all that matters. Last month was my birthday month; my DIVA month! If you know me, you know that birthdays are very important to me. I have to reflect on the blessings that God has given me, but I also have to enjoy time with family and friends. My 31st bday was definitely the highlight of the month. Along with turning older, I also went to a lot of church events. I got hype for Jesus. LOL! Check out the vlog to hear more about my church blessings!

Per usual, let me know what blessings you received in June! Before I go, I’m gonna drop this verse that I have been hearing and thinking about a lot lately. Please meditate on it and let it comfort you in your state of weariness, brokenness, heartache, etc.

“But those who HOPE in the Lord will renew their strength. They will SOAR on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will WALK and not grow faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Blessings,

Monica aka afrotasticlady

 

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 am 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

The Conclusion to the Blog Series: Dear Little Sis

A Conclusion to the Blog Series

Friends, thank you again for reading my “Dear Little Sis” blog series! Even though, I have created a blog series before, I felt that this series was more organized. I actually introduced the series to you instead of plopping it on the blog with little notice. I also outlined some expectations of the series. I am thankful to God that I am growing as a blogger, and I have learned that consistency in your blog sustains your audience.

Initially, I never planned to share these letters with the girls. I know it seems strange that I would write these thoughtful letters and only share them with my readers and blogger friends. But it felt more comfortable to share the letters online with the knowledge that the girls may not ever see them. I was a bit shy with them seeing how I thought about them and what I hoped for them. As much as I encourage other folks to be vulnerable with each other, I am challenged by my own advice.

Yet, one day I was hanging out with my older cousin, and I shared that I had written a letter to her daughter, G. She and G read the letter, and they seemed to have enjoyed it. G even questioned me: “I was a chunky baby?” And I responded with a smile and a “yes.”

I will be sharing the other two letters with JS and BP. I will let them tear away at my vulnerability. I will allow them to view my love towards them. I’m not perfect with loving others, but I constantly pray to God to show me how to love. I desire to love folks powerfully.

Friends, I have a challenge for you. If you have a spiritual or biological “little sis,” I ask that you write her a letter. As you know, this world isn’t easy to live in. I thought I had seen pressure and trials when I was growing up, but the pressure has intensified for our girls today. So, be real and tell your “little sis” what you adore about them and affirm their potential. And if you’re brave, and I know that you are brave, please feel to find me on Twitter to share your letter. You can also send me your letter to afrotasticladyblog@gmail.com, and I will share it as a guest blog post.

Okay, let’s love on our girls!

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2).

Blog Series: Dear Little Sis, BP’s Letter

My third and final letter is to BP! If you need to catch up on the series, please read the Introduction to the Series, the letter to G, and the letter to JS.

Blog Series_ Dear Little Sis, BP's Letter

Dear Little Sis, BP:

I haven’t known you as long as G and JS. You and your family moved up North from Virginia about eight months ago. I’m sure it was a challenge to leave your school, friends, and church. You had to get acquainted with new surroundings. Besides going away to college, I have always lived in the same city. If my parents had moved me away while I was in high school, I would have been displeased, but I would have accepted the transition.

For a while, I felt concerned about how you were getting acclimated. I hadn’t actually talked to you that much, but I wondered if you felt isolated. I wanted you, JS, and G to become friends. JS and G were buddies while you were the “new kid.” Eventually, you all connected at a youth event at our church. We had an alternative to Halloween party. You G, and JS dressed up in goofy costumes. We ate junky food like pizza, chips, and candy. We played charades and a few fierce rounds of musical chairs where you pushed me out of a chair. Ouch…you were determined to win! For the next couple of weeks, we joked about your ruthlessness.

Little sis, I marvel at your boldness! In the fall, I went out with you, your mom, and other women at the church to pray with folks on the streets. Some people accepted Christ while others received prayer for their needs. At seventeen years old, I was more concerned about getting a boyfriend than praying with someone. Though, you approached folks you did not even know and encouraged them to grasp the beauty of Christ!

I recently discovered your love for “Oceans” by Hillsong United. At our church, most people listen to old school or contemporary gospel. So, I screamed when you talked about that song, and we chatted about other Christian artists. I informed you about Needtobreathe and Bethel Music while you educated me on Britt Nicole.

In my letters to G and JS, I gave them guidance on three topics. I will continue in the same pattern with you!

Identity: You were created by God! And since God is marvelous and powerful, you possess those same qualities. If others folks call you plain or insignificant, you can claim the Word: “For we are God’s masterpiece, He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago (Ephesians 2:10).

Dating/Love: When you begin to intentionally date, please be yourself! If you snort when you laugh or you like to binge watch Disney movies, do not hide that from a man. Little sis, he needs to love your authentic self! A man that loves God will appreciate your beauty as well as your flaws! He will pray with you when you are crumbling and cover you in Bible verses.

Creativity: Like G and JS, you are multitalented. You play the violin as well as dance. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any of your liturgical dances yet. I have always desired to minister in dance, so I hope you can choreograph something for me in the future. Little sis, don’t let your creativity die. Finally, I am learning to invest in my writing. To write even when I don’t feel like it or when I don’t think I have anything magnificent to say. I have used excuses to not write. I have told myself that my writing isn’t as stylish as my peers. But I know that I write in my own way, and that God placed this passion in me. I pray that you do not stop playing the violin, because you do not sound like your idol.

Little sis, your creativity has purpose! God can use what looks like trash to you to speak to someone else.

Little sis, you are caring! When service has ended, you ask me how I am doing or if I have written any poems lately. I am grateful for your encouragement.

When you have some free time, look up BarlowGirl on Youtube. They are a Christian band with a rock-like sound. They don’t record music anymore, but their old music videos are online. I used to love their music, and I think you would enjoy them. In their song “I Need You To Love Me,” they sing about how God’s love impacts them! I will leave you with some of the lyrics:

“Your love makes me forget what I have been

Your love makes me see who I really am

Your love makes me forget what I have been”

“I Need You To Love Me” by BarlowGirl

Love,

Monica aka afrotasticlady

 

 

Blog Series: Dear Little Sis, JS’s Letter

My second letter is to JS, a spunky young woman! I realize there was a gap between the first and second letter, so I thank you for your patience. Please check out the first letter to G if you haven’t read it. Blessings, afrotasticlady

Blog Series_ Dear Little Sis, JS's Letter

Dear Little Sis, JS:

I cannot remember when I exactly met you. Yet, I recall when your mama was pregnant with you. I went to another church for a while, and when I returned you were in elementary school. Your distinctive qualities are your glasses and your thick, black hair. You have thick hair like me. Sometimes, you let it hang and you annoyingly whip your neck around. Hehe! Mostly, you wear it in a ponytail.

I am reminded of when I was your age, and my hair was so thick that my mama didn’t want to deal with it anymore. I spent long hours in my cousin/hairdresser’s house or the hair salon so that it could be more manageable. A jar of white stuff, a hot blow dryer, and a curling iron/flat iron became my friends. Well, I was usually frightened that the hairdresser would nick me with the iron. “Hold your ear,” he or she stated. And I obeyed, because I didn’t want to get burned. But I suffered as the metal accidentally touched my skin. I learned that it was painful for your hair to look gorgeous, but I moved more confidently when I left the salon.

Don’t worry; I am not trying to convert you into a naturalista. I am aware that your mama finds it easier to take you to salon. I just seem to go back to my “relaxer days” when I look at you. Those interesting days of glaring at hair magazines and pointing out the style that I desired to the hair dresser. As you sit across from me in Sunday School class, I notice how your hair accents your already beautiful face.

In class, you and G thoughtfully talk about God’s character. Last Sunday, I asked you both, “what are you grateful to God for?” In your diverse gratitude list, you mentioned “food.” You know, I am always grateful for food. You understand how critical it is to thank God for the little things. For those things that nourish you such as Chick-fil-A sauce.  

Little sis, remember to carry that spirit of gratitude throughout your life! When you get older and you’re bruised by challenges, stop and thank God! Reflect on the good things that you have. And yes, you may still be dealing with stuff even after you have thanked Him, but at least you saw light within the mess.

In my letter to G, I shared advice on three topics. I am going to do the same with you.

Identity: You are a child of God. You are definitely a daughter and a sister. Your parents are ministers. Your grandpa is a minister and your grandma is involved with missions work. Some folks will see you as a product of a minister family and not as your own person. They will say, “Aren’t you __________’s daughter?” And you are their daughter, but you are a daughter of the King first. I do not want to discard your roots or your family history. Though, I hope that you are careful about allowing others to put you in their narrow categories. Categories can trick you into underestimating your power. Your power is derived from God.

 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” I Peter 2:9

Dating/Love: Before you seriously date, make sure you love yourself! Love your gifts and your quirks. My next statement is cliché, but I do not believe you can love a man if you despise yourself. If you need to wait a little longer to date so you can become comfortable with yourself, then do it. Don’t force yourself to date someone, because you feel the societal pressure to get married. The world tells you that if you are 30 years old and over and have not married, that there’s something wrong with you. The world will call you a “spinster.” But block out the taunting and follow God’s plan!

Creativity: You sing on the praise and worship team with your mom, aunt, and uncle. During a service, I was awed by your rendition of the Planetshakers “The Anthem.” Your sweet voice embraced the lyrics: “Hallelujah, You have won the victory. Hallelujah, You have won it all for me.” I probably cried as I usually do when a song greatly ministers to me. I know that you want to be an actress, a lawyer, and teacher when you grow up, and I pray that you find the best combination of career(s) that work for you. But I hope that you consult God about being a worship leader. You could end up leading worship somewhere when a person decides to give their life to Christ. God can use you in that lovely way.

Little sis, I love how you interpret Biblical passages as though you are a mini preacher. Your family has certainly influenced you. I enjoy hearing your prayers. At first, you are timid, but then you strongly pray for your family members and the “bad” kid in your class. Once, your mama was surprised that you prayed aloud. I am glad that you are praying in public now, so when you get older it won’t be too distressing to do it.

Little sis, you are a bouncy creative. I chuckle when you sing songs from the High School Musical movies. After a few rounds of singing, I tell you to switch it up.

I know that I am the Queen of Cheese, so here’s a quote for you to ponder:

“A problem is a chance for you to do your best.” –Duke Ellington

Love,

Monica aka afrotasticlady

 

*Participated in the following linkup!

Open Mic Monday

Blog Series: Dear Little Sis, G’s Letter

My first letter is to my second cousin, G! When I first started to write, I didn’t know what to say; but then I was overcome by a multitude of words.  If you haven’t checked out the Introduction to the Series, please read here! Blessings, afrotasticlady

Blog Series_ Dear Little Sis G's Letter

Dear Little Sis, G:

I was a teenager when you were a baby. You were cute and chunky. I hadn’t had many experiences with babies in the family, so I was excited about your existence. I watched you transition into a young child to a preteen and then to a teenager. I have always had family members comment on how much I have changed, and how I have become a young woman. Now, I am repeating those same thoughts about you.

You, my second cousin, are sixteen years old. You have developed into an intelligent, gifted, and beautiful individual. You are much more interested in church and God than I was at your age. I was a sweet, quiet girl who yearned to be a rebel. I wanted to escape the rules of church. I wasn’t allowed to have a boyfriend, but I wanted one desperately. Desperation forced me to have an older boyfriend for about a month. Fortunately, God had my back before things got out of control, and I broke up with the guy.

I also believed I had some street cred, because I knew the lyrics to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and I screamed out songs from Jay-Z’s The Black Album. I lied to my parents to go to a party or two and to hang out at a club. I actually lied a lot. And I know that things could have been worst, but I didn’t ask the same questions about God that you ask now. I didn’t want to belong to God.

Yet, you wake up each Sunday morning to attend Sunday School. You and JS eloquently pray before we begin our lessons. You actively participate in the morning service through giving a few dollars towards offering or playing your flute with the praise and worship team.

Little sis, hold onto that wonder! Your faith reflects the childlike faith that Jesus tells each of us to have. And please keep asking deep theological questions. You ask questions that make me feel like I should have went to theology school. Though, I value your curiosity and your work towards understanding God’s Word.

Little sis, I am not as wise as the older women in our church, but I do have some advice that I would like to share with you.

Identity: You are beautiful. I am not just saying these words, because you are my cousin. The Bible states plainly that “you are fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139: 13-14). TV and magazines will deceive you. They will tell you that you have to be a certain weight and skin color to be considered beautiful. They will set certain fashion styles as the standard. But you can void out those lies by reading what God says about you.

Dating/Love: When you are older and become interested in dating, please guard your heart. I will admit that I never liked reading this advice or having someone say these words to me. It sounded like “Christianese.” But it’s beneficial to reel your feelings in if you have already planned your wedding and honeymoon with a guy who has not even asked you to be his girlfriend.

I’m not saying that you should have a heart of stone. I don’t advise you to act like you don’t like a guy when you really do. What I am advising is for you to be aware of how intense your feelings are and to pray to God for clarity. I am even a fan of asking the guy for clarity. Some folks may disagree with me, but there’s nothing wrong with asking a guy, “what’s going on?” Confusion is not fun and it’s very unnecessary. So, do a DTR (define the relationship) chat if you have to. You are worthy of consistency and commitment from a guy. You are worthy of being with a guy who loves Christ and will encourage you to expand your relationship with Him.

Creativity: You love music. You learned how to play the piano and the flute. You joyfully talk about music soundtracks and your wish to enter a music making career. I adore that you are a creative. I imagine that your brain is filled with chords and music notes. Please don’t get deterred from that love. God has placed that love within you! He has gifted you to play. If you have the opportunity to attend a music school or enter into a music program when you go to college, I pray that you do it. Unfortunately, there is a weird notion in the world that you can’t make money off of your creativity. That your talents have to move to the back. You’ve probably heard your grandpa, mom, or someone else quote this verse: “A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before men” (Proverbs 18:16). It’s true though.

Little sis, you may end up conducting a world famous orchestra or managing the music score of a Hollywood movie. God can put you in those spaces.

Little sis, you are unique and a go-getter! Since I am cheesy as you say, I want you to read the words of  another go-getter:

“Don’t block your blessings. Don’t let doubt stop you from getting where you want to be.” -Jennifer Hudson

Love,

Monica aka afrotasticlady

 

An Introduction to the Blog Series: Dear Little Sis

An Introduction to Blog Series_ Dear Little Sis

Growing up, I desired to have a little sister. The thirteen plus year age gap between my siblings and I felt overwhelming. Of course, I loved my siblings but their lives were different. While I played with Barbies and watched Nickelodeon, they went to work or raised their own children. Fortunately, I do remember hangouts with my sister Wanda, before illness struck her body.

Currently, I view three teenage girls at my church as my “little sisters.” In the morning, I teach Sunday School to two of them. I make the theme relatable to them by plugging in “hip” lingo or an animated YouTube video into the lesson. Since I am not fond of lecturing, I ask many questions. I ask the girls to define words and to tell me who God is. We talk about big topics such as sin, repentance, and obeying God’s will for our lives. These girls chew on these Biblical truths and respond to me as though they are ministers-in-training.

When service starts, the third teenager joins us. All three girls sit behind me and they engage me in their antics. Sometimes, they poke or punch my arm. When I look back, they point fingers at each other.  I also hear the usual question, “Monica, do you have a pen?” They never seem to have a pen, but I let them borrow it.

After the service, they continue to mess with me. They repeatedly say “hi.” I grin and block out their voices.

Sisters are annoying yet sweet to each other.

These girls probably don’t know it, but they are my sweet sisters. I want them to pursue what they love. Whether it is playing the piano or the violin, I pray that they embrace their talents.

I hope that they continue to serve God, even when it’s not the most popular route to be on.

In April and May, I will be writing letters to my “little sisters.” I am thankful to writer/blogger/creative, Lindsey Andrews, who has an empowering series of letters  for girls and young women on her blog!  Lindsey shares wonderful tips on self-love and identity. I was captured by her advice and felt led to share encouragement for my girls.

If you were to write a letter to one of your “little sisters,” what would you say? I would love to hear your answers, and I hope you are able to join me on this upcoming series!

 

*Participated in the following linkup!

Open Mic Monday