Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday!

Today is Good Friday!  Historically, this is the day that Jesus died on the cross.  I have always wondered why it was called "good" when it really seemed like quite the opposite.  According to my sources (Wikipedia) the origin of good actually could mean holy, which makes far more sense.

For me today is "good" for me for a different reason.  Today, I am getting baptized for the first time!  When I tell people that I have never been baptized they are usually shocked.  I mean most people are baptized as children.  But not me!  I am so excited that I will have friends and family who will be witnessing this very special occasion.

While I am getting baptized they will be reading my story.  Now I am pretty sure that it might get shortened due to time constraints.  However, I wanted to share it with you all because it is something of which I am very proud.  Here it is in its entirety:
 A lot of people were surprised when I told them that I was going to get baptized.  I did not grow up going to church.  Sure I went to Sunday school sparingly, but never on a regular basis.  But in my heart I always believed that God was a presence in my life from an early age.  When I was in college I started going to church more often.  It was actually back then at a gospel concert that I officially accepted Jesus into my life. 
I continued going to church in law school, but it was when I came back home to Maryland that I really started to work on my relationship with God.  When I returned, I began to attend church each weekend.  In fact not a week goes by when my mother doesn't ask me if we are going to church and at what time.  Week after week I would sit listening to the sermon with tears streaming from my eyes.  Many times I had no idea why I was crying, but I knew that a change was beginning. 
For the past few years life has been challenging.  I have struggled with unemployment, taking care of my mother, and the feeling that I am not fulfilling my purpose.  But throughout this process I have remained faithful despite the days when I feel as if I have no more to give.  If anything, my faith has grown stronger.  Each day I try to work on practicing forgiveness, patience, and love for others just as God has practiced with each one of us.  Each day I lean on God for strength and guidance.  In fact my favorite passage is: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1 (KJV) 
Some of you may ask why get baptized now?  Well it is kind of like the line from the movie “When Harry Met Sally”, “Because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”  Long ago I decided to give my life to Christ, now I want to start living the rest of my life with him as soon as possible. 
My baptism has many meanings.  It is a follow through to a decision that I made many years ago.  It is a sign of obedience to God.  It is a sign of progression in my faith.  But perhaps most importantly my baptism represents that I have put my trust in God.  It is a testimony that I am walking in faith and that I am not scared to declare to my family, my friends, and the world that I am a proud follower of Christ.
Everyone have a great Easter!

#HoCoFaith

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Reprogram Your Thoughts



I have always been of the philosophy that your thoughts can control your outcome.  I usually call it positive thinking.  If you think negative thoughts you will have negative results, however if you think positive results you will have positive results.  And I think that for the most part I try to stay as positive as I can.  But there are those times when I feel like my negative thoughts, my worrying, the always planning for the worst cast scenario side of me hoovers like a dark bleak cloud.  It is in those times when it is really hard to think positively.  It feels almost impossible to think of the good side of it all.  I even wrote a little about this in my post Get My Mind Right last year.  But for the past few weeks I have really been making a conscience effort in reprogramming my thoughts.

I don't think it is by coincidence that I had the urge to write about this topic today.  In fact, it was just this weekend when I was telling one of my friends of my efforts to change my thoughts.  But today, God sent me a reaffirmation of this practice.  

All this month I have been reading the book I Declare:  31 Promises to Speak Over Your Life written by Joel Osteen.  My friend gave me this book a few months ago, but I just started it reading it at the beginning of the month.  This book is a powerful tool.  In fact, some of the declarations speak so strongly to my journey right now that I feel like this book was placed in my possession only through God's wisdom.  Today's declaration is to "have a sound mind filled with good thoughts, not thoughts of defeat."  And boy is this a struggle.

A few days ago a friend was checking up on me to see how I was doing.  I told her that I was feeling good and that God was really making some changes in my life and that I felt like I was about to start a new phase. She told me that she was happy for me, but to be on the look out.  That the devil tries to block from receiving our blessings and tries to keep our eyes off of God.  I listened to her warning, but at the same time I was thinking I have been through enough I can take anything.  That same day I found out that I did not get the job that I had interviewed for.  I was a little disappointed, maybe even a little sad, but definitely not defeated.  

Yesterday I took my car in only to get a break light fixed.  I casually asked them to look at the breaks because there was some squeaking.  The estimate came back for over $1400 worth of repairs.  I was sad.  But I also very calm.  And again I was not defeated.  Over my the course of my life, money, or shall I say lack of money, has been an issue for me for quite sometime.  Even before I became unemployed money was still an issue.  However, I am used to this and I realize that I can only do what is in my power. The me from a few weeks ago might not have handled everything so well.  I can only thank God for that.

Financial issues aside, there have been a lot of issues that I have been dealing with the last few months that require me to reprogram my thoughts.  I have been dealing with how others see me and how I see the world.  I have analyzed how I am as a person, who my friends are, and how friendships work.  I have questioned what I am bringing into the world and how I fit in.  At times I have definitely had some stinking thinking.  But I think the difference is that I can recognize it and really work and pray to change those thoughts.  It is not easy.  No it is very difficult to make a conscience effort to change your thoughts.  

Over the past few weeks I have gone through this whole uncomfortable feeling of change.  However, at the same time I have also experienced some peace as well.  I can only think it is partially from working to reprogram my thoughts.  I encourage everyone to give it a try, it might just change your life.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Words Beats & Life

If you went to the University of Maryland between 2000 and 2003 chances are you have heard of Words Beats & Life.  Words Beats & Life (WBL) founded by my friend, Mazi Mutafa, started as a conference at the University and 12 years later it has ascended to an organization that is affecting change around the world!

This morning I was honored to attend the WBL Breakfast of Champions.  I, along with many others, were honored for our contributions to the organization. To be honest, when I received the invitation I didn't think much of it.  In fact, my thoughts were hmm I am off and I like breakfast so I might as well go.  I would have never thought that I would be a part of a breakfast that raised over $73,000 in an hour!

So let me tell you more about WBL.  According the website the mission of WBL is
to transform individual lives and whole communities through Hip-Hop.  We do this through public art creation, teaching courses in the core elements of Hip-Hop, publishing a global academic journal on Hip-Hop, sending artists abroad and hosting Teach-Ins and retreats to build the capacity of scholars, artists and arts educators and arts managers from throughout the country and around the world.
Over the past few years I have seen WBL grow and prosper.  This organization does it all.  They have an academy in which students can learn to DJ, dance, and even paint.  There are parties.  There is an annual teach- in that brings hip hop's finest from around the world.  There is an academic journal.  They hosted the first of its kind hip hop chess tournament.  And if you walk around the streets of DC you will see many of the murals that WBL were instrumental in creating.  Not only is this organization shaping the lives of individuals but communities as well.  It is so exciting to watch hip hop being utilized as an instrument of change!

Today I pledged to increase my monthly donor amount.  I also pledged to volunteer at at least two upcoming events.  But most important of all, I pledged to recruit at least two more monthly donors (called MVPS).  You can contribute as little as $5 a month or as much as you would like.  The organization also accepts in kind donations as well.  So please consider joining me in being an MVP for Words Beats & Life.

To learn more about WBL please go to:  http://wblinc.org/

Thursday, April 10, 2014

God's Conduit

Sunday morning was rough.  My mom was getting on my nerves, as usual, and making  my morning start off the wrong way.  That morning I was debating about which service to go to.  For the past few weeks we had been going to a new service at church where we sit at tables and have a group discussion after the sermon is played on the video screens.  However, I had spent the past few weeks ugly crying at church and I felt the need to be a little more inconspicuous.  But because of the rush of the morning we ended up going to the same discussion service as the week before.

As we walk into the room the usher informed me that our table captain had been waiting for us.  In fact, she had even saved a seat for me, my mom and my friend.  This is the same table captain that was there when I was a blubbering fool the week before.  I definitely felt a little guilty for my thoughts of not wanting to go to this particular service for my own selfish reasons, especially after everyone had been so nice and comforting.

This week at our table there were two unfamiliar faces.  They were a couple who looked like they were probably in their 40s or 50s.  They began to share that they had lost their son to a drunk driver in 2010. While not having had the same kind of loss with my father's passing, I was able to share with them some words of understanding and comfort.  The wife thanked me after and said my words had helped.  We ended up exchanging information a few minutes later.

I left church that day with this amazing feeling.  I thought how awesome is it that I almost missed this opportunity to help someone else who was in need.   I also was so shocked that God had used me as a conduit to help others.  I guess in my eyes I am still that girl who didn't grow up going to church and who has a limited understanding of the bible.  I feel like I would be the least likely person to help deliver God's messages.  But as I have told others this story  they don't share my amazement.  In fact, they have all had a sort of "duh" reaction. The duh, meaning that they have always seen me as someone who delivers words that help others.  I guess I am starting to realize that my desire to help others may not manifest in the way I had imagined.  I just feel privileged that God is using me in ways that I had never imagined nor may I ever understand.

I share this to say don't underestimate the power of words and their affect on others.  Words have the power to make someone's day but they also have the power to break someone's spirit.  You never know when you might be called on to say the right thing, to the right person, in the right situation.  Don't miss your opportunity.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Be Still




Recently I have been practicing being still.  Sometimes I just sit in my room with no music playing and no tv on.  I stop checking my email.  I stop checking my text messages.  I just sit still, in the rare quietness of my room.  And recently this silence has been golden.

Don't get me wrong I am no stranger to the love of silence.  Living in a house with multiple people I appreciate the time sometimes in the dead of night where you can hear only the sounds of a house that is breathing.  It is on those rare occasions that my mother has finally turned off her tv and her snores are so faint that I can appreciate only hearing the natural sounds made by nature during the night.  It doesn't happen very often but when it does I take it in like it is my last breath.

As much as I enjoy the silence it is rare that I am actually still.  I mean isn't rare that anyone is still?  In this age we are are constantly doing something.  We can't even wait at a red light without responding to a text message or checking email.  At least for me, each day is planned.  No matter how spontaneous I try to be to some extent I have a set aside time to be spontaneous.  Each hour of the day is planned for something that I will do or I could be doing.  We are so used to the feeling of being always being busy and shuffling from place to place that we are allow ourselves to be still with our thoughts.

This week I have been practicing this.  And this week practicing stillness has been kind of excellent.  I feel for a brief time that I have actually heard myself think.  I have had the chance to pray freely.  For once in a very long time I have enjoyed letting my thoughts roam free without the guilt of not devoting my attention to someone else or to something else.

In my stillness I am trying to take in more of God and less of me.  I am trying to process all of the feelings and thoughts that I have without the voice of others, just myself.  Try it out and see what you think.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Mom and Me



year marks the 20th anniversary of my mom's diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.  Since her diagnosis and in particular the past few years I have really gotten to know my mother in a way that I had never imagined.  The mom I know and love today is the complete opposite of who she was 20 years ago.  In many instances I am grateful that she is different and does not remember who she used to be.

As I was preparing to write this post I realized that I have talked about my mom A LOT.  Here are a few examples:  Preparing for the Inevitable, Note From Mom, Normal LifeHonor Thy Mother.  I noticed a theme within these posts,  that most of the time I was complaining or frustrated.  Now, don't get my wrong, I am not going to apologize for it.  This blog is about openness and honesty.  Being a caregiver is a big responsibility.  Being a caregiver at an early age is also a unique circumstance.

Despite all of my complaints and frustrations, as I look back I am realizing that my mom is pretty awesome.  In many ways my mom teaches me how to be the type of person who I want to be.  I think sometimes I am moving so fast that despite her deficiencies that she is not a hindrance in my life, she is actually invaluable.

My mom is probably one of the most caring people I know.  She loves to give people cards.  I hate cards so I have not adopted this practice of hers.  But she is always right there with a card for someone for any occasion.  Whether it is a birthday two months in advance, Christmas, St. Patrick's Day, a friend's daughter, or even just once in awhile a card to encourage me through my struggles my mom is there with card in tow.  She teaches me a lesson that sometimes I think I am giving a lot of myself, but maybe I am not really giving very much at all.

Mom also is a fan of giving gifts.  Despite having a very limited income mom always manages to give gifts to friends and family.  A lot of the time I don't know where she gets the money for the gift, where it is coming from, or where she bought it from, but she never fails to celebrate a birthday.

She is very outgoing and friendly.  She always asks my friend how her son is doing.  Which says a lot that she remembers that she even has a son.  Much to my dismay she is constantly striking up conversations with strangers.  And whenever we are out around town she always runs into at least one person she knows who is so excited to see her (despite the fact that she might not remember who they are).  Now this, I know I have definitely inherited from her.  So I guess I understand how my friends feel when I strike up random questions lol.  She is also very funny, although sometimes I don't know if she means to be...

Most importantly, my mom loves me.  She loves me even when I am not at my best.  And she tells me she loves me.  This is huge.  I did not grow up in a family where we said I love you a lot.  We did not hug and kiss each other.  But now, with her MS she always expresses her love.  Sometimes she watches me when I am asleep, or she just wakes me up to ask if I am ok, both of which are creepy but I know that she is coming from a good place.  I know she is not doing this to annoy me, but because she loves me.

So yeah despite her flaws my mom is pretty awesome!  And if you know her you will agree to.

Mom and I will be walking in the MS Walk on April 26th!  Well correction, I will be walking, mom will be pushed in a wheelchair.  If you would like to donate to me or our team, Team Bonbon please go Donate to MS Walk 2014

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Breakthrough

I did the ugly cry at church today.  Sure I usually cry at least once during a service, but today I really outdid myself.  Today, I was too tired to hold back my tears and I let it go.  I suppose a part of me was relieved.  You have no idea how hard it is to fight your body week after week.  This week I let go.  This week was different.

I started this blog about a year and a half ago to document my spiritual journey and whatever life has thrown at me along the way.  This process has had ups and downs for sure, but up until the last few months my spiritual growth had not been where I thought it should be.  For the past few months, God has been leading me on a path closer to him.  Today there was a flash of the light bulb.

This year I decided I really wanted to commitment to growing closer to God.  It all began with deciding to become a partner (member) of the church that I had been going to for the past few years.  I believe that this decision became a catalyst forcing me to do a lot of self-reflecting and caused me become very introspective.

It has been HARD!  I think I actually wrote that in my last post.  Here I was walking around thinking that I was a good person, I followed the golden rule, and I always tried to do the right thing I thought surely God must think I am doing well.  But then when you really dig deep down inside, when you really start paying attention to his word, I realized that I have not even scratched the surface.  And that was probably the reason why I felt that my spiritual life was not growing.

Today, between the ugly cries and the back rubs from friends and the encouraging words from near strangers I realized that I am right where I need to be.  I am finally on the right track toward becoming more Christ-like and in turn becoming closer to God.

But I am frustrated.  To the outside world I look crazy.  Shoot, I even feel crazy.  My tears are neither happy nor sad, they are just there.  I feel a rumbling in my soul that I cannot explain.  I feel thoughts that are in the back of my mind and I am waiting for them to travel to the front.  I have ups and lows that I am not sure that anyone understands.  I feel like I am isolating myself from others and I can't explain why.  To them I think they either think I am in one of my moods again, or I am just a plain jerk.  But I do it because I need to process what is going on.  I need to be still to receive all these feelings that are flooding my heart.  I am changing, and it is hard, and I don't like it.  Well I don't like the frustration, but I do like the change.  But I reminded myself that this is what I asked for!  This is what I have been wanting all of these years.

Someone told me today that God is trying to purify me and refine my soul so I can be prepared to handle what battles I face ahead.  And it all kind of clicked.  I have to go through this to get to the other side.  And on the other side I am going to be better than I ever thought was possible.  But until then, I know there will be more tears.  I know there will be more feelings of discomfort.  I know there will be times when I can't begin to describe what I am feeling.  But it is ok because I know that I am getting closer to being who I want to be.