Daring to Look Odd

When I decided to fully stand for Christ and vocalize our relationship I knew that there would be pushback. What I didn’t anticipate is that it would happen as soon as it did. Being under 30 and openly saved is a very interesting experience. Even more, being within youthful circles with people who may believe in God but not have a relationship is even more challenging. What do you do? Do you scale back your boldness to take a stand? Do you openly express hesitations and decisions to live differently? Do you sit silently and allow them to infiltrate your mind with their ideologies?

Yet, I noticed that no matter what, it would be a matter of time before I would feel empty again.

I once entertained each of these thoughts at some point or another. In the earlier parts of my faith I reasoned with sin. I danced within arms reach of destruction. I sang with the shadows of the dark and found momentary comfort in its embrace. Yet, I noticed that no matter what, it would be a matter of time before I would feel empty again.

Taking a stand to live holy is scary honestly. You might have feelings that you’re missing out on fun. Maybe you might think that you’re wasting your youth and have plenty of time to get it together. Or, you may feel as if people are judging you.

If I said that those things didn’t cross my mind or become my reality at one point or another I would be lying. However, there came a point in my life where I had to make a decision. It seemed as if my life depended on it. Maybe my future and the way I would live after I made the decision were at stake. While I’m not sure which, it was certain that I felt a sense of urgency to decide.

I chose him! I chose to live for God the best way I knew how. I chose to immerse myself in the bible and not try to reason with my own intellect. I decided to be an outcast and embrace the outsider status I always had. I allowed others to cast judgment on me while they secretly admired my tenacity. I walked to the beat of my own drum and it felt weird. So many times as a child I sought to fit in with the cool kids. Ultimately, they were cool because they weren’t me.

It wasn’t until I realized that I was squatting to fit in with them as opposed to challenging to stand and join the ranks with me. Choosing to stand for any cause can seem like standing in quicksand. However, choosing not to is a quicker way to die. Because I chose to stand out among the crowd, yes I get ridiculed but I go home at night knowing that I did what was required of me. I stand knowing that at the end of the day I didn’t compromise my core beliefs.

I chose him! I chose to live for God the best way I knew how.

Contrary to popular belief looking odd or standing out isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is a signal. One that invites joy, attention, criticism, and jealousy. However, riddle me this, what is the alternative?

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Encouragement

It seems that today we have lost sight of the power of encouragement. Not just encouraging others but also ourselves. I reflect on the times where one of my friends would call to vent and instead of encouraging them to do better because of who they were, I would join in the mess or the complaining. Granted, in my mind I was affirming their feelings and assuring that they were valid in their feelings but I went about it in the wrong way. Sometimes we think we are doing the right thing but it isn’t.

Encouragement means speaking positively in all areas not bashing or gossiping.

When you encourage someone, according to the dictionary, you “give support, confidence, or hope” to someone. This does not mean that you join in the gossip, listen to the foolishness and create your own opinions. This is not what we are called to do. However, we should validate the person’s feelings, challenge them to rethink the situation from various perspectives, suggest a paradigm shift if possible, and tell them positively who they are and whose they are. Don’t be like “girl idk why you fooling with him anyway he aint nothin’.” No, that’s wrong and you are wrong too. Instead you should speak life into your sister and affirm who she is in Christ.

Generally when people bring problems to other people they are seeking an amen corner. They want someone in cahoots with them and sometimes that’s ok but a lot of times it isn’t. Encouragement means speaking positively in all areas not bashing or gossiping. Somehow we have gotten these roads crossed and done more damage than not.

Remember that at the end of the conversation you want to leave happy and the person with whom you are speaking with wants to leave happy. Find ways to make the two roads converge.

Self-Esteem

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Self-esteem is a major component to understanding identity. It is that secret compartment that we house our emotions and images about ourselves. Self-esteem impacts our actions, motives and even our words. How does something that is invisible, that is first obvious to us then the world have so much power?Measurement. Whether we realize it or not, we are comparative humans. Think about all the hashtags on social media, all the moments where you were envious of a woman, every time you called yourself stupid. These things add up and you only feel this way because subconsciously you are comparing your life to others.

When people are afraid they sometimes reach out for other people and things. Sometimes those things we reach out for do more damage than good unfortunately. For example, when I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, being obedient to God and just having a good time, there are moments when I feel lonely. Sometimes I can handle them, but my proclivity is to reach back into my past or present and find someone to talk with. Harmless, right? Wrong! A lot of times the very people who I reach out for are the very one’s I probably shouldn’t be entertaining; but because of my boredom I do. At some point or another as the conversations progress I get let down because unbeknownst to me I got my hopes up. Has this ever happened to you? When I get my hopes up and my feelings get hurt it adds another level to my insecurity or chips away at my self-esteem. It is not the other person’s fault but my very own.

At some point ladies we have to stop blaming outside people and forces for our toxic behaviors. We are the culprits that betrayed our own bodies. A lot of time we have the power to change the situation. Every time we have the power to choose.

Battling with self-esteem is not easy and it can be tedious but it is nonetheless a battle. When fighting you have to remain focused on the task and to the problem. Don’t run but fight and fight hard. Your life and happiness depends on it. Self-esteem tends to discourage many, hurt most and isolate several. However, it is not stronger than the God you serve. Undergird yourself in his love and image and you will make it.

Self-R.e.s.p.e.c.t

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Aretha Franklin has this song called “Respect” which debuted in 1967 that speaks to a man not respecting his woman. Basically the woman is begging her man to respect her when he gets home. She laments that she’ll give all her money and in essence everything for him if he’d only respect her. Now the song is catchy and it is very well-known but I pause to think about the implications of it and how it translates in popular culture.

In the age of twerking, instagram queen, slut shaming and everything else that goes, I wonder how do we maintain respect as women. Granted, there are women who do not seek respect, and then there are those who desperately require it. And though the outside forces are dangerous and attempt to skew perceptions of worth, we cannot lose sight of the women we were called to be.

Respect ladies starts with yourself first, contrary to popular beliefs. It begins in the depths of your soul and transfers into the world. While respect should not be weighed upon whether a woman is dressed appropriately or not, it is. So what can we do? How can we show respect and demand it simultaneously?

While there is no formula for this, here are a few things that I’ve done to make sure that I am given and represent respect.

  1. I found my value. Simple huh? Well it’s more complex than that honestly. I had to learn the long hard lesson that my worth was not wrapped up in a relationship. There were moments in my past where I would become desperate for a man and do anything to keep him. Well almost anything. Nonetheless, in those moments I lost respect for myself. I laid my self-esteem down by the riverside and I compromised a lot. He however is not to blame, I am because I willingly did these things. I think back to the Franklin lyrics and she is begging the man to show some respect, stop cheating and recognize her as the woman she is. She is begging. How many times have you begged? How’d you feel afterwards? Desperate? Less than? Unworthy? Possibly. You have to stop the vicious cycle.
  2. I covered up. I always see before and after photos of people on the internet. The before picture would show them clubbing and the after picture would show them in the most holy attire sometimes. While I get the message behind it, the photos don’t really show the transformation. I contend that it is the time in-between both of the pictures that count the most. Now I’ve never been an overly immodest dresser because I wasn’t allowed to be as a youth. However, when I went to undergrad I did purchase club attire: short skirts, tight body con dresses etc. These clothes I wore at night when I went out partying. However, there were moments in my life that I did feel uncomfortable wearing certain things. When I continued to graduate school and became a teacher my attire changed and from there it has become increasingly “adult-like.” I’m not saying that I wear starched dresses to my knees and turtlenecks, but I do dress like a lady should. I see no value in showing off my body to men who only wish to explore the curves of my thighs. Yes the attention might satisfy a momentary hungry but in the end will leave you starving.
  3. I read the bible. Now this is the most cliche thing that someone can say but I find truth in it. Before I became a regular reader of the bible I used to cringe when people would say “you need to read the word.” Ok, yea you might be right but you gotta come with one better than that. When I started reading the bible it seemed to have come to life. I would see women in there and I would put their lives up to mines and find the inconsistencies. In retrospect it was God who was changing my heart through the stories of the women. When God changes your heart it is difficult to go back to what you used to do. Your old ways become repulsive and unimaginable.

The aforementioned things seems simple enough but they took time and in some areas I am still developing. However, if you have the courage you can make to shift as well.

Respect starts within you, you are the common denominator. If you keep this in mind you will be better equipped to radiate and demand respect of yourself.

-Peace xoxo

 

Peace

Peace is something that America needs right now. In the aftermath of the club shooting in Orlando that left many dead, in the face of heated Presidential elections, reality tv, and mass killings in major cities, we need peace. Even more than outward peace though we need inner peace.

Inner peace comes from the Lord. It’s what calms your spirit and allows you to think rationally. So many people are lacking inner peace and it’s manifesting in their actions. We have to learn that while we need peace in the world we also ned peace with ourselves. If you don’t have peace within you then you cannot have peace with others. Things will get hostile and often times unbearable.

I know what it’s like not to have peace honestly. I used to be at war with myself and no one really knew. There would be a battle raging inside me and it caused my to have math towards certain people in my circle. I rarely spoke on it but it was there and I couldn’t deny it. One thing I needed to do was confess that I needed help. I had to admit to myself that the way I was living was not ok and I would not make it long if I continued to be in denial about the brokenness I felt.

Coming to know inner peace felt good!

Think of all the things you could have if you had inner peace. Think of the limitations that would be broken off your life, the what-ifs, the fear, the doubt. If we don’t have peace within ourselves how can we have peace with man? Having inner peace is not a walk in the park though, and I don’t want to mislead you. It’s a lonely walk, one that so few take. It asks you to be honest and transparent. It demands your time and asks for your life. Though it asks for all of these things it also gives you a treasure that is incomparable to the old ways.

-Peace xoxo

The Beauty of Grace

In a world filled with people who have something to prove, grace can be tough. Especially when so many women are attempting to show that they are on equal playing fields with men. However, I’m learning that grace is a virtue, it is the essence of strength. There are two types of strength covert and overt. Overt strength is what you see outwardly. An example would be large muscles on a person. Covert strength is seeing someone who appears to be puny pick up a very heavy object. Their strength is hidden but is still there.

This is how grace works. Grace is covert in that it is like the essence of one’s being. Grace moves silently but its actions are always visible. So many people struggle with grace because they’ve been taught that grace is synonymous with weakness. That is a lie! Grace is equivalent with power. Women we are called to be gracious, to be kind and to be meek. Meekness is power under control. In the same vein, grace is judgment under control.

Have you ever been speaking with a person who was confiding in you and they told you something that they did. In your mind you want to scream “what were you thinking?!!” What would have been the possible consequences of that action? Well you could the potential to hurt the individual who confides in you. You also have the opportunity to damage the friendship. There is a chance that you can come across as judgmental too. All these things are dangerous and not productive to the person. In fact, you might stunt their growth and hurt them more than the situation has. Instead, you have to practice the art of listening. In order to do this you must pay attention, take notes if you have to as well. This action not only validates their existence but lets them know that you have a response.

While every conversation does not require this, it does require you to have a level of grace and patience. Don’t be so quick to speak. God gave you one mouth and two ears for a reason. Grace is beauty, it’s masterful, it’s what we are called to have. Being gracious with others is important but being gracious with ourselves is even more of the essence. I know I am generally hard on myself. I don’t excuse my actions, I don’t pretend or use the phrase “I’m human” either because I don’t think I need to state the obvious. However, I do need to be more patient with myself sometimes. I have to consistently remind myself that mistakes will happen to an imperfect mortal but my reaction is key.

I encourage you to act more gracious today and everyday. Don’t be so quick to snap and go off on people. You will be surprised how much your perspective might shift.

-Peace xoxo

On Loving Yourself

Do you know how it feels to love yourself? I mean  really love yourself! Like every imperfection, every flaw, your awkwardness, your laughter? If you don’t then how do you expect anyone else to? Understand that love and appreciation are two different things. I hair3can appreciate my hard work while not loving the outcome. We shouldn’t collapse the meaning of the two either.

Loving yourself starts with acceptance. One day I decided to stand in front of my full length mirror unclothed. There I looked at myself completely vulnerable and critiqued everything I disliked about my about myself. After that I said aloud “Now that you’ve gotten that out-of-the-way, no more!” This ceremony was a type of shedding away. I needed the space to voice my feelings but also reaffirm myself. I then pointed out everything that was beautiful about myself and needless to say the good outweighed the flaws.

When you are searching for love, you are really searching for yourself. At times we may want someone to tell us we are pretty, want someone to hold us, or someone to depend on. Sometimes those moments show us that we are lacking affection. Not only the affection of another but the affection towards ourselves in the form of self-care. I never knew this until I started spending time with myself. Until I started paying attention to my actions or the lack thereof.

There I looked at myself completely vulnerable and critiqued everything I disliked about my about myself.It takes time and patience to love yourself. Hard work and understanding. Tears and joy.

To love yourself you have to tell the truth on you. You have to be willing to stand firm in your experience and acknowledge your current season. Your skin is your glory, it is the expression of who you are. In order to live a better life one that is more fulfilling, start self self-love