Women, Let’s Be Kingdom Builders

Women, Let's Be Kingdom Builders!

(Hey, friends! In June, the church that I was born and raised in, had a Women’s Day service. Annually they have this service, and there is always a specific theme. This year’s theme was “Determined Women: For Such a Time As This,” and the accompanying scripture was Esther 4:14-16. One of the women elders asked me if I could write a piece for the service. I have always appreciated the sweet remarks that folks in this church have given me regarding my writing. They see my writing as a gift, and they always encourage me to keep writing. Thus, I was honored when she asked me to share a piece. I would like to share what I read with y’all! I pray that my women readers are encouraged by my words, and that it leads to introspection. Blessings!)

When I was 18 years old, my dad and I packed up his small car with my belongings and left Worcester for Amherst, Massachusetts. I’d decided to attend Umass Amherst so I could live far from my parents’ supervision and still come home on the weekends. As someone who had been born and raised in church, I desired to escape God and all His rules. At Umass, I could study and party. I could dance with strangers at parties and get drunk. I could truly “live.”

Yet, living without God is not living. It’s surviving; it’s hustling. It’s seeing what you can achieve and where you can go on your own.

In October 2004, my second month at Umass, I went to a Gospel concert on campus. One of my friends was in the Umass Gospel Choir, so I had to support her through my attendance. During the concert, I sensed that God was speaking to me. I was being encouraged to choose Him. After the concert, I returned to my dorm room and called my parents. I told them that I wanted to be saved and they prayed with me. Through God, I changed my lifestyle. I allowed the Bible and worship music to consume me. Despite the challenges that I have encountered in my life, I have remained committed to God.

Women, I share my testimony because I would like you to think about the moment you gave your heart to Christ. Close your eyes if you need to, but please recall your surroundings. Were you at home or church when you became saved? How old were you? Were you the only person in your immediate family that became saved or were you surrounded by God-fearing family members? Were you crying and rocking back and forth? Or were you still when you gave Him your heart?

Women, it’s integral that we remember the moment that we were saved so that we can encourage ourselves. We need to remember the circumstances that God delivered us from. We must understand that God doesn’t save us solely for our own benefit. Indeed, salvation leads us to eternal life with our Lord and Savior. We are also saved to be influencers and advocates of Jesus Christ. We are saved so that other individuals in our environments can receive the gift of salvation.

Our theme scripture for this Women’s Day service states:

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this? Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: ‘Go gather together all the Jews who are in Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” Esther 4:14-16

Esther, a young Jewish woman, was appointed Queen for a purpose. King Xerxes was unaware of her Jewish identity. Mordecai, her relative, refused to bow to Haman, a royal official. Upon Mordecai’s actions, Haman was enraged and plotted to destroy the Jews. Mordecai sent word to Esther of this plot and persuaded her to think about her position in the palace. He said, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

Esther’s God-given purpose was to rescue her people from destruction despite the consequences. She could risk her own life by approaching the king without an invitation to his court or she could remain idle in God’s purpose for her. Esther chose to advocate for the lives of her people. Through her faithfulness, her people were saved.

Women, which people around you need to be saved? Who needs an intercessor? And what will you sacrifice so those people can receive eternal life?

Perhaps, you will not be risking your life as Esther did. You may be risking popularity, time, or money. Younger women, you may be risking the attention of that cute guy who isn’t even a Christian. You may have to stand alone.

Women, no matter your age, your godly riskiness will yield a grand outcome. Your obedience to God will be honored by Him. And your obedience can cause others to reflect on their need for Jesus. By praying with someone or sharing your testimony, you are spreading God’s light.

Matthew 5:14-16 states:

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.”

Women, you were placed in that school, job or apartment building to fulfill God’s purpose! You were created for this time so that the people surrounding you could rise from their depression, their anxiety, and their chaos.

One of the songs that I have been singing during my prayer time is “Withholding Nothing” by William McDowell. I am struck by the simple yet powerful lyrics:

“I surrender all to You

Everything I give to You

Withholding nothing

Withholding nothing”

Women, I encourage you to examine your lives and what you are holding onto. If you are holding onto fame or other lusts of the flesh, I encourage you to surrender those things to God. I assure you that those things are worthless and that the lives of people around you possess more meaning. I pray that you follow Esther’s example and proclaim “If I perish, I perish.” If you lose your social status, please note that you are losing it for the causes of the Kingdom.

 

 

A Christmas Reflection

christmas-reflection

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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A Letter to the Grievers

a-letter-to-the-grievers

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

 

 

 

 

September’s 6 Grateful Things List

septembers-6-grateful-things-list

(Hey y’all! It’s the end of the month, and it’s time for me to talk about what I’m grateful for. Please join in the fun and let me know what awesome things you have experienced this month. Also, I wanted to give y’all a heads up that I won’t be posting on the blog again until the end of October. I usually post twice a month, but I will only be posting once instead. Blessings, Monica aka afrotasticlady)

#Yass: My Final Year of Grad School

my-final-year-of-grad-school

This past Tuesday, I started the third year of my grad school journey. Despite the stress of school, I have enjoyed the learning process. I have learned effective strategies for engaging and assessing clients. I have grown in self-awareness. I would consider myself a self-aware person already, but I have discovered the pros and cons of my thought processes. While I hold high standards for myself and strive to do well in all of my efforts, I need to become comfortable in making mistakes. Several wise instructors have informed me of my role as a student-learner. Hence, I do not have to excel at everything. It’s actually impossible to excel in everything anyways.

Grad school has led to emotional and intellectual growth. I have been given opportunities to explore various clinical interests, and I have met compassionate and intelligent colleagues. I have also trudged through my studies when I wanted to quit. I can recall numerous days where I felt incompetent or I wondered if social work was the right career choice. Yet, my parents and friends looked into my weary face and confirmed my intelligence. They encouraged me to finish school, and they saw me as a social worker when I viewed myself as an imposter.

But social work has become so ingrained in me. Now, it is challenging for me to even watch a TV show without assessing fictional characters for mental health conditions. Whenever I talk to a friend about a problem they are having, I will often use phrases such as “It looks like you are dealing with_____” and “It sounds like you are _________.”

Despite my own insecurities, I believe I am well-suited for this career. I am passionate about supporting clients as they work towards making personal changes in their lives. I am excited about pointing out the strengths of such clients and watching them realize that they have always been beautiful and resilient. Though, I am nervous about which agency, city, or even state that I will be in after I graduate. But I have recently been praying that I will follow Jesus’ guidance. That I will obey if God directs to remain in my hometown for a little while. Or if Jesus calls me to another New England city or even out of the New England area, I will also obey.

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me besides the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:1-3 (KJV)

The above Psalm is a familiar passage to me, as I have read it often in church services. Spiritually, I am a sheep and God is my shepherd. God is interested in answering my questions and helping me with my concerns. But regarding my post grad school life, I see the relevance of these verses. If I allow God to lead me, He will lead me to the job that is best for me. He will allow employers to give me favor. He will give me good things, because that’s what He does. He knows what I need.

 

school-commute

My commute to school

 

I know this last year of school is going to be busy and even grueling, but I trust that God will give me the ability to endure. I will have those letters after my name: MSW, LCSW. Eventually, I will also have LISCW after my name. But I realize this entire journey is not just about having those letters. It is about surrendering every area of my life to God, even when my flesh yearns to live in my own way. My way is not right, but God’s way is wonderful, splendid, and adventurous!

Friends, I would appreciate it if you kept me in your prayers this year and post-graduation. I will be meditating on the following songs about trusting God: “Lead Me” by KJ Scriven and “The Voyage” by Amanda Cook. These songs minister to my heart, and I pray that you find them edifying as well.

Blessings,

Monica aka afrotasticlady

August’s 6 Grateful Things List

August's Grateful Things List

(Happy Wednesday, y’all! As you will see, this month’s edition of the grateful things list was shot on the beach. Also, I enlisted the assistance of my friend to be my videographer. So, if you hear hints of laughter, that’s her. Thanks to JH for holding my phone so I did not have to awkwardly do so. 🙂  Please don’t forget to let me know you are grateful for this month. I would love to hear about the good things that God has done for you! Blessings, Monica aka afrotasticlady)