Placing a cap on emotions is like shaking up a soda bottle. An explosion is inevitable when you stuff your feelings. I am writing this to take the lid off. I am a creative Christian who has often felt like my creativity is a curse. Being a right brainer in a left brain world is like being left-handed in a world that was created with right-handed people in mind. It is possible to navigate, but it can, at times, be awkward.
When I prepared for a recent talk on “The Curse of Creativity” I studied how countless creative lives have ended in suicide. Sometimes their untimely end is our beginning glimpse into their struggle. The actors whose characters became our crush. The comedians who invited us to laugh at their pain. The singers whose songs became our life’s anthem. The writers whose words wowed us with wisdom. How could stars who shined so brightly give into the dark? I think I know how, depression befriended them, infiltrated their thoughts, influenced their actions, and successfully coerced them to do what darkness does. Try to cancel the light.
Depression like darkness conceals identity, which is the very reason that adding street lights to an area can decrease crime. When we shine the light on depression we can decrease suicidal thoughts. Is there a community watch in your neighborhood in which neighbors look out for one another’s property? I think there is a need for a community watch in which we look out for each other’s lives.
Darkness alters self-perception, which is why small children who are trying to get away with doing something wrong often cover their eyes as if they are no longer visible. Depression does something similar, it’s like putting our hands over our faces and thinking that if we can’t see, then we can’t be seen. Just because we close our eyes to depression, doesn’t mean we’re no longer depressed, it simply means we are more likely to bump into something that is way worse than the sorrow that caused us to hide.
If you’re ready to take the lid off, turn the light on or simply uncover your eyes concerning depression, click the link below so that you don’t have to walk through alone.
For months now I have been writing but, I have remained silent. Which is funny because that is the subtitle of my book. “Write or Remain Silent.” I even went away for a silent retreat and wrote my little heart out.
Somewhere along the way, I seemed to have lost my voice, which is ironic because I recently taught a blogging workshop entitled, “Finding Your Voice.” Imagine how confusing it feels to be mocked by your muse. The very thing you inspire others to do is the one thing you wrestle with.
Sometimes I feel crazy. Other times I feel cursed. Which leads to another talk I recently shared, “The Curse of Creativity.” At least no one can ever accuse me of pretending to be something I am not. I struggle with weaknesses and internal insults, just like the people I encourage.
In case you are wondering where I am going with this, I have realized that the only way to truly find your voice is to USE it. What is the purpose of writing if you are going to remain silent? What feels like a curse, when shared, becomes a catalyst for courage in someone else’s life.
Are you a thought leader, motivator, or dreamer who wrestles with indecision, self-doubt, and periodic bouts of silence? Perhaps you know deep within that you are a powerhouse, yet you feel powerless. Be encouraged, your weakness does not negate your greatness, it only magnifies God’s strength. Your desire for perfection, the love affair with potential, and fact that you know you are capable of so much more. Personal persecution steals your joy like silence steals a psalmist’s song.
Dr. Maya Angelou did not know the power of her own voice until after she was silent for 5 years. She knew that words were powerful, and feared that they might bring about death, not knowing that her words would someday add life to the masses.
Your current discontentment can give birth to your table of content. Do not despise your weakness, because it is the very thing that makes you great.
“Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
December 29th, 2016 was the single most dreamy day of my life. More special than graduation or even my wedding. My friends gave me my first birthday party EVER. Every detail was so extravagant, I am still trying to take it all in. It was over two months ago and I still haven’t finished opening gifts and cards. It truly left me speechless.
December 30th was the single most nightmarish moment I’ve had as a mom. More frightening than childbirth or surgeries. Our youngest daughter Amiya was exposed to Tree nuts, which resulted in anaphylaxis.
“Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that needs to be treated right away. If you have an anaphylactic reaction, you need an epinephrine (adrenaline) shot as soon as possible, and someone should call 911 for emergency medical help. Left untreated, it can be deadly.”
Amiya, took two Benadryl, a puff of her inhaler, and I gave her two shots of epinephrine. She still struggled to breathe. We didn’t have much time so I drove her to the ER.
On my way there I prayed that she would live and not die and declare the works of the Lord. I did talk to text in a Facebook Messenger thread to my party friends who had been exchanging photos and fun memories from the day before and asked that they pray for my baby girl. I rolled down the windows and said, “Amiya, stay calm, you’re going to be okay.”
I called a friend who is a nurse, she asked, “Toya, do you want me to call the hospital and tell them you are coming?” We arrived at the ER and saw my husband who had gotten dropped off by a friend waving. I dropped her off and parked the car and walked into the most seamless ER experience EVER. The doctor was pleasant, almost perky it seemed. I could tell how serious the situation was based on how many meds they administered, how he monitored her, how swiftly they were all moving, but the smile on his face didn’t seem to match the circumstance.
I naturally have an unusual calm in emergency situations, watching someone who could deliver Emergency Room service with a smile for me was like watching my favorite public speakers. You know it’s a stressful situation but, because they were born for that very purpose, they perform with precision and supernatural grace.
Watching the doctor and nurses work to open up my daughter’s airways was like watching the symphony. The crescendo of the machines, amidst the clamor of pediatric ER chaos. I sat in a chair and watched everyone play their part. Roles they had rehearsed a thousand times before. A single tear streamed down Amiya’s face as they administered more medication into her body than most 14-year-olds experience in their entire lives.
All the while my friends bombarded Heaven on her behalf. The pretty women who had played princess 24 hours before, transformed into warriors united on the battlefield fully prepared to fight on Amiya’s behalf.
After hours of attempting to keep her airways open the doctor’s smile faded and he said, “Young lady, I can not send you home. You are still breathing 28 times faster than you should.” I text my sister to ask my friends to start praying, within 30 minutes he walked in, and said, “Amiya, you get to sleep in your bed tonight!”
I am just as thankful for praying friends as I am for epi-pens. My daughter is alive today because of the fervent power of prayer.
My seven year old accidentally hit my six year old. He immediately apologized. My six year old responded, “Ow, I don’t forgive you!!!” My seven year old replied, “Fine then, go to Hell, see if I care!”
What the? Did my Jaden Bear just tell his BFF to go to H-E- double hockey sticks? He most certainly did. In case you’re wondering how I handled it, I didn’t. I did not address them about their altercation.
They both shared their truth and their truth made them free. In no time they were playing, laughing and loving. Have you ever been so hurt that you refused to accept someone’s apology? You can choose to hold on to your pain if you wish, however, the gospel according to Jaden states that your unforgiving heart will send you straight to Hell, and though Jaden may not care, Jesus does.
How can such contrasting emotions co-exist within the human heart and mind? My heart is full, yet fragmented. I am exhausted though elated. I am overjoyed, but overwhelmed. Who keeps my hands from shaking, psyche from breaking, and heart from fainting? There is One who can transport me from sorrow and suffering into song. The Prince of Peace who leaves His throne to attend to a little girl with big eyes and heavy burdens.
Pardon me as I open a chapter of my life that I have avoided reading until now. I am blessed to be really good friends with many remarkable women, but I am burdened that I can not be everyone’s best friend. Before you begin to think that this is a reprimand, allow me to state that it is not. It is an insight that I learned from a group of 14 year old girls.
“We can all be good friends, but we can’t all be best friends. And that’s okay!”
Good, but not best, sounds good to me! These young ladies embraced truth that will set them free from scrolling news feeds and feeling rejected. They discovered a friendship principle that can permit them to enjoy that which social media has often convoluted.
If you are guilty of feeling like you were deliberately excluded from someone’s life or an event because of something you saw online, this message is for you. If you have experienced the pure pleasure of a moment fade once you begin to filter it through the eyes of those who weren’t there, this post is for you. The only Being that can be omnipresent is God. He is also the only One who never leaves or forsakes us.
I love LOVE and I love FRIENDSHIP. One of the things I have grown to enjoy more than anything is watching my friends enjoy their friends. We are called to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. But is it healthy to weep with those who weep about the same thing week after week?
I have suffered from depression and I understand that it can take time for darkness to lift. I also understand manipulation and sometimes people will cast a spell on you with their emotions so that they can have someone to keep them company in their place of pain. If you find yourself having to choose between being the life of the party in a pure place or on the V.I.P. list to someone’s pity party my advice would be to gracefully decline the V.I.P. invitation and go live your life. True friends walk in truth, the type of truth that makes us free. Sometimes the very person who makes a huge deal about not being included is also least likely to show up if they were invited in the first place. Sorcery isn’t cute, it is all about control. In such circumstances you often feel as though you can’t win for losing. My 40 year old self, has no interest in winning or losing. I no longer wish to play the game.
Opening this chapter of my life to the world through blogging has caused me to see how I spent so much time attempting to please friends in my first 40 years. If my latter years are to be greater than my former, then the only friend I want to please is the One who gave His life for me, and sticks closer than a brother.
My first post in my “40 Days Until 40 series” was entitled, “14 Going on 40.” In that post I shared that although I was about to be 40, I still wrestled with the emotions of a 14 year old girl. It doesn’t surprise me that a friendship quote from a group of 14 year old girls has become my new mantra.
“We can all be good friends, but we can’t all be best friends. And that’s okay!”
I will be a good friend to my friends. But I will not and can not be everyone’s best friend, and I am OK with that. My friends would probably tell you different… The truest of the true and realest of the real would say that I am their best and that’s OK, just so long as I understand that my role as a friend is to simply be the best friend I can be. But not to be each one of my friends best friend.
Balance is beautiful. The freedom that comes from strengthening our core is well worth all the work it takes to walk upright. As you examine your friendships entering into this new year, allow me to encourage you to go where you are celebrated, and not where you are tolerated.
Remember, in the same way familiarity breeds contempt, honor begets honor. Give yourself permission to embrace those who honor you so that you will have the strength to endure those who have contempt towards you. Show up in people’s lives in a way that liberates. Don’t allow the insecurities of others to become your own.
Jesus perceived the thoughts of all He encountered. Those who celebrated Him, and the one who betrayed Him. Yet, He loved them all the same. That is how to be a good friend. Giving your best effort, and trusting God to do the rest.
Friends whose lives are hidden in Christ cause you to experience life more abundantly. When we focus on cultivating friendship with Christ He can turn one of our foes into the best of friends. Keep believing in friendship; especially, when it doesn’t feel good. You might even discover that the best type of friend is waiting around the corner.
“We can all be good friends, but we can’t all be best friends. And that’s okay!”
40 days ago I set out to blog my way to 40. My goal was to explore 40 different facets of who I am, embrace 40 days of newfound friendship, rock 40 days of fun fashion, encourage 40 days of reflection and enjoy 40 days of photography.
I did write everyday for 40 days and loved every minute. I failed at blogging everyday for 40 days. I published 27 blogs total. I have 17 additional drafts that I started, but I did not wish to produce filler content, so if I did not feel it was ready or worthy, I did not post.
I learned a bunch about blogging and a lot about myself. I have met lots of new people and became better acquainted with old friends. I had fun expressing myself through fashion and loved being in front of the camera instead of behind.
Guess what? I’m 40 y’all!!! Finally, I get to say farewell to my 30’s and embrace 40. It feels good to be here. I never thought I would live beyond 36, so seeing 40 feels fantastic. This year has been filled with some of my favorite memories. Memories I have dreamed of since I was a little girl.
This year has been a golden year for friendship. My friends are more like sisters and my sister is one of my closest friends. My friends encourage and collaborate with one another in wonderful ways. We have supported each other through the birth of both babies and businesses, celebrated the release of albums and books, but most importantly we have prayed for one another through life’s heartaches and headaches.
For today’s post I thought it would be fitting for me to thank YOU. Without your companionship, 40 Days to 40 would have been an online diary, but because of your presence and participation I am an official blogger! Thank you for reading the overflow of my heart. Your comments, likes, shares, subscriptions, and private messages have meant so much to me.
The blogosphere has embraced me with open arms. I have enjoyed being able to peer into your world and savor your words. Open book living is the only life for me! I will continue to blog on a weekly basis. Who knows, maybe even more… In the meantime, keep seeing, saying, and setting people free. The world needs your words, because your words change the world.
Special thanks to my daughter Trinity for editing my blogs, my husband Melvin and friend Beverly, for reading every word I wrote, my friend April for helping me get unstuck if ever I faced a fashion crisis and my fairy godmother Camil for making me feel beautiful from the inside out. My sister Rocky for catching any edits me or Trinity may have missed. My friends Peaches, Rashida, Terri, Katie W., Katie T., CarlyAnn and Chanda for encouraging me to share my truth always and Ms. Evelyn for faithfully being my human filter who makes sure I write from a pure place. I love you ladies to life and I am thankful for your presence in my world!
Time to rock 40!!!
Yesterday I went to a 1980’s/1990’s themed skate party. Prior to then, I am not sure when was the last time I wore skates. It was probably in the 80’s or 90’s. I was praying that skating was like bike riding, hoping that the moment I tied that awkward bow, I would magically know how to skate again.
As a mom of 6, who has had a knee surgery and double foot surgery, the thought of skating slightly terrified me. Allow me to clarify, skating wasn’t what scared me, falling is what frightened me. Memories of air blowing in my face, loud music and laser lights excited me; but the memory of falling made me hesitant. Who would care for my kids if I hurt myself? What would happen if I dislocated my knee? What if I re-injured my feet? Is 40 too old to be rolling around a rink?
All my fears subsided when my husband grabbed my hand, led me to the floor and said, “Come on Babe, trust me, you won’t fall.” Like a goofy, gullible kid, I trusted him and guess what? I did not fall. After rolling around the rink a few times my shins started to burn, but other than that, it was smooth sailing. We had an amazing time!
We shared a memory that would not exist if I did not allow him to lead me. We laughed, danced, rapped and sang as we skated the night away. I wish I could tell you that skating is like riding a bike but I can not. What I can tell you is that life is like skating. Don’t allow your fear of falling to keep you from living.
Falling would not have meant that I was a hopeless cause. Falling would have actually meant that I was one step closer to my goal of finding balance. Seeking stability is not much different from falling while skating. You fall, laugh, dust yourself off and let the lover of your soul lead you back into the circle of life.
Your shins may burn, but that is just because you are exercising (faith) muscles that haven’t been used regularly. Keep trusting, keep skating and fight the urge to focus on falling. Make it your aim to find balance so you can enjoy the experience.
To find out more about our marriage read my previous blog entitled:
I can’t remember when it happened exactly, but I broke up with Christmas. At first I said, “Hey! Our relationship is much deeper than gifts, so let’s write letters to make sure our relationship doesn’t become superficial.” For years I wrote letters and sent cards to hundreds of people. The message was simple and consistent, Jesus is the reason for the season; but, overtime I began to wonder if that declaration was true.
If Jesus is the reason for the season then why do we focus on everything but Christ during Christmas time? Shopping, Santa, stockings, trees, baked goods, gifts, mistletoes, candies… Christmas is one big giant sensory overload. Initially we would do a “Happy Birthday Jesus Party” to keep our focus on Christ. Upon examining Christ’s birth a bit closer, I felt like I had been in a relationship with someone who had been lying to me about their past.
Christmas started to feel more like an arranged marriage rather than the advent of my Savior. Christmas is something my parents introduced me to. I really did not have a choice whether or not I was going to enter this relationship. I never quite understood why adults would teach me not to talk to strangers but would dress me up once a year, take me to a complete stranger, have me sit on his lap, whisper in his ear, and tell him what I wanted. They would even go so far as to encourage me to write a letter to him and include my home address. Is it just me, or is that creepy?
Christmas traditions perplex me. No matter how much I tried to tie biblical meaning to holiday symbols for my children, it just felt like I was doing a different version of the same thing. Revamping Christmas traditions to put a Christian twist on them felt more like embellishment and conjecture.
My favorite non-traditional Christmas celebration was called, “Bring Your God Given Gift.” It was a party in which we encouraged all of our friends to celebrate Christmas by sharing their talents to honor God in lieu of exchanging presents. If a person cooked, they brought a dish. If they played an instrument, they played a song. If they had a gift of speaking, they shared a message. Like the various parts of the body we got to see every joint supply as something significant. For many, I believe it was one of the first times that their God given gift had been acknowledged in a formal setting.
For every stage of my Christmas detox there have been aspects that I have thoroughly enjoyed. I have always loved sending and receiving mail. For years we would write a family newsletter, send a photo greeting, or mail a Christmas poem out to loved ones and friends. It was one of my favorite ways to commemorate the holidays. I think overtime, social media has diminished the impact of photos because we share them so frequently. I still find it endearing to receive Christmas cards, but I did not feel like taking the time to mail cards this year. Time and money saved from addressing envelopes was spent with my family. My only regret is that older relatives (who aren’t on social media) won’t have the excitement of opening an envelope and seeing our faces this season.
I am not a killjoy. My kids do get to experience winter fun. We occasionally accept invitations to Christmas parties and we make memories with our friends. But we refrain from the consumer driven pressure to purchase gifts. Commercialism has not corrupted our kids. They enjoy both giving and receiving gifts throughout the year but we have never done a traditional gift exchange.
Prior to being married, my husband and I witnessed children disrespect their parents over unmet expectations on Christmas morning. We decided long before having kids that we would not create an environment for our children to believe that Christmas is when you get stuff. Our children cherish the gift of presence not just presents.
Breaking up with Christmas is a process. It does not have to take place over night. We have baked cookies for neighbors in pastimes. Passed out cozy socks and blankets at the nursing home, and purchased gifts for single parents. I am not sharing this to brag on our family’s good works. I am sharing this to help someone not feel bad about relinquishing man made traditions. It is okay for you to break free from something that might be perfectly fine for others but just no longer works for you. It doesn’t mean you love Jesus any less. It may mean that you find yourself free enough to love Him more.
My most frequent memory of Christmas when I was younger was a desire to give, but a feeling of never having enough that would follow. These days I rest in knowing that I owe man nothing but love. I find it far easier to love others well, when I can do so in the absence of buyer’s remorse. The only debt I will enter the new year with is a charge of being present in people’s presence, and loving them with the love of Christ.
Do you have a non-traditional way of celebrating Christmas? If so, feel free to share in the comments below.
On December 19, 2016 my husband and I checked something off of my lifetime list. We visited The Whitney Plantation in Wallace, Louisiana. I first found out about it because I saw a video on a friend’s Facebook wall. It captured my attention because the caption said something like, “White Man Spends $8M to Open First Slavery Museum in America.”
I clicked on the link and was blown away by the story of John Cummings, a retired New Orleans trial lawyer and real estate developer, who transformed Whitney Plantation into a deeply meaningful museum. Unlike other plantation tours that focus on the wealthy, Whitney Plantation focuses on the lives of the enslaved who once worked the property.
The tour gripped my heart and mind in a way that no other museum has ever done. Three of the dwellings that stuck out to me were the stable for the horses, donkeys, and pigeons. They were all more accommodating than the structures that housed slaves. I couldn’t help but lay in bed that night and ponder how people could justify treating animals with more compassion than humans.
The Whitney Plantation has researched and recognized slavery in a way that made me realize, no matter how much I think I understand a portion of history, I don’t. Short from time travel there is no way to really know what took place unless you hear it from the people themselves. One of my favorite aspects of the tour is that you get the opportunity to both hear and read quotes from the enslaved in their own words.
I hope to someday return with my children. Being there made me think of them. Not just because of the statues of children in the Antioch Church or the Field of Angels that contained the names of over 2,000 slave babies in St. John Parish who died before the age of 3. But because, if I don’t expose them to America’s true history, who will? If they don’t know their past, how will they be passionate about being preemptive against injustice in the future?
When I was little I remember being told that my grandfather was a share cropper who picked cotton and cut sugarcane. As a kid, the first thing that came to mind was that cotton is soft and sugar is sweet. “What’s so bad about that?” I had no real frame of reference. By the time I was a teen I understood that picking cotton was hard. Whenever we would travel South, I would get an erie feeling as we passed by cotton fields. However, it wasn’t until I listened to our tour guide at The Whitney Plantation describe how dangerous harvesting sugarcane was that I started to get a true glimpse of the bitter side of sugar.
I wondered how I would have viewed slavery as a child had I been able to tour a place like The Whitney Plantation. Would I have worked even harder in school? Would I have taken advantage of more opportunities to be all I could be? I remember hearing stories from my uncle of how my grandmother would have a baby one day and be picking cotton the next. As a kid, I thought, “Wow, Grandmama was strong!” As a mother, I can’t even fathom what it must have been like… Trying to get a nursing baby to latch on after a long day in a hot field with cotton buds sticking your hands and critters of all kind underfoot.
While touring the Whitney Plantation, I read a narrative from a child who described what it was like for their mom to give birth in a sugar cane field. It made me think of my grandparents and the things their parents and grandparents must have experienced. Because we didn’t share lots in common one thing that we did share were moments of awkward silence. Oh how I wish I could go back in time and fill blank spaces with questions like, “Grandaddy, can you tell me about your Granddaddy?”
I would resort to acts of service to show my affection, like rubbing lotion on my grandfather’s feet. It seemed like no matter how much lotion I applied, they always seemed cracked and dry. I once joked with my cousin about how Grandaddy’s feet looked like the feet of a slave. We laughed until we had tears in our eyes and today it makes me want to cry. I am reminded of the times that I laughed at slave references or accepted some glamorized version of our nation’s history. I am not angered by what happened. But I am disturbed by how we have handled history, until now.
I have had friends tell me how disheartened they have been in the past while visiting plantations in Tennessee with their children on school field trips. One mom told me there were actors portraying smiling slaves who sang songs and acted as though slavery was a delight. Whitney Plantation is much different. It shows a glimpse of slavery through the eyes of children. I am thankful for their approach. I think it is time our children began learning truth. Perhaps if we told them what really happened, they would have empathy and compassion for one another and take advantage of education. If we share accurate accounts of history, maybe they will hold us accountable when we go astray.
I woke up with my thoughts consumed by consumerism. If the demand for cotton, indigo, tobacco, sugarcane, and rice, caused people to enslave then, what is the cause of slavery now? Are our trends and propaganda creating pressure that compels people to spend more than they make, thereby making them slaves to debt? Is our lust, greed, and gluttony the cause for modern day slavery? If you find yourself hesitant to answer YES, try explaining forced migrant work, arranged marriages, prison wages or sex trafficking to your children.
If you know of a must see exhibit, please share in the comments below. I would love to add it to my lifetime list. If you have visited the Whitney Plantation, what were your thoughts of the museum and monuments? If you have not visited The Whitney Plantation, I pray that this post and these images pique your interest. It is a must see for all Americans of all ages.