Mission Accomplished: My two-week mission to Kenya

I went on my third mission trip. I’ve been back in the U.S. for a little over a week now. My body is recouping from an 8-hour time change, jet lag, and returning to work the very next morning after my arrival. I should probably be careful how I word all of the above to make sure that I don’t seem grieved by the process. Truth is, I’d do it all over again. It’s beautiful because I feel that way about every mission trip that I’ve taken. I mentioned in an earlier post that I wanted to be a missionary when I was an adolescent. The notion of it seemed so far-fetched in my own mind. God has proven that it wasn’t far-fetched in His.

This trip was comprised of a 3-city tour: Nairobi, Eldoret, and Matunda. Every area offered a different experience and required something different of me. I’m a social worker so I take things in differently. I’m huge on culture and always eager to learn how others live: the language, the decorum, the fashion, music, food, etc. Nairobi is the capital of Kenya.  That was the first destination: We were apart of several services that included day sessions in a church and open-air meets in the city. Seeing people give their lives to Christ or experiencing Him in the way that He wants to show himself never get old. Worship services were in English and Swahili. I find it so awesome and intriguing how the Holy Spirit transcends language differences and barriers. The children (one of my favorite parts of every trip) were full of laughter, life, and contentment. I’m often provoked to reassess my own gratitude after seeing people who live less fortunate than myself live with contentment and focus on the Kingdom.

The next stop was Matunda. We stayed in a village called Soysambu. There was another school there that had over 200 students. They were lively and eager to mingle. It was a blessing to interact with them, ask questions, and share the love of God.

The last stop was in Eldoret. Eldoret was the conclusion of the services. We continued to show the love of God and witness His manifestation to others. It was beautiful. This trip was significant to me because of how I saw the grace of God magnified. I needed God’s grace from start-to-finish and He supplied it. We experienced delays of 10+ hours, another plane crashed that was headed to the same destination as our own, there was an explosive found at one of the airports we were in route to, we were tired and sleep deprived but by the grace and goodness of God, the mission was a success: God touched the lives of others while allowing us to be His hands and feet.

Grace and peace,
Risha

Self-care or Self-ish?

Ps. 90:12 “So teach us to number our days, That we may cultivate and bring to You a heart of wisdom.”

The first few times I read this scripture I took it to mean that we should remember our days are numbered-that we have a limited amount of time on Earth so with that we should inquire of God to teach us to be good stewards over our predesignated days. I have greater revelation since the death of a loved one. Numbering our days shouldn’t just remind us that we have a limited amount of time on Earth. It should inspire us to live to the best of our ability; we should make sure that our days are meaningful and fulfilled.

As I sat in the funeral I listened to their years of service. It was impressive-not because of the quantity but because of the quality. She made time to serve despite her daily demands. I found it even more precious when I considered how things could have been if she would have been selfish with her knowledge, mentorship, or time.

Given the impression that she has left on my life as well as others, I’ve concluded that it’s no longer acceptable to be selfish with my time. As a social worker, I totally get the need for self-care. I get it as a human, but with anything else in life, it’s important to be balanced. Please understand: there’s a need to say no in order to rest, replenish, or decompress. There’s a need for me-time, there’s a need to deprive persons of your time and presence who don’t deserve it. But there’s a vast difference between doing what you need to do to function optimally and depriving the world and others of all your goodness for your own benefit. Declining or failure to multiply your God-given investment is not self-care. It’s selfish. Let’s evaluate life, identify our passion(s) and calling(s), and do what we were born to do. Our days are numbered.

Grace and peace,
Risha

Timeout

I remember the first time I was placed in time out. It was awful. For the first time in my short, little life I would have rather had a spanking to get things over with. There was something dreadful about being isolated from others while life carried on. Those 5, 10, or 20 minutes-however long they may have been, seemed as if they took forever. Timeout with other children to witness only worsened the experience. It was shameful that other children knew I’d done something bad enough to be punished and even worse, couldn’t proceed with playing until my sentence was done.

As a growing Christian, I’ve found myself in predicaments that felt like timeout. Repentance didn’t seem to suffice for sins that I committed. It felt like I was on a probationary period even after I asked for forgiveness, so I would refrain from asking God for anything because I was still in “timeout.”  Along the way, I’ve learned that the times in timeout was condemnation.

God is certainly our father but His ways of teaching and growing us is not like that of natural fathers. Although we may anger, disappoint, or sadden him, He does not hold our actions over our heads when we ask Him to forgive us. Moments that I feel condemnation lurking around the corner, I begin to speak God’s word regarding the situation: 1 John 1:9, Romans 3:23, and Romans 8:1. Sure, people are prone to remember the bad and forget the good things that we’ve done but that’s not God’s way. Ask God to forgive you (and turn away from the sin), forgive yourself, and move forward knowing that God is there to love on you and restore you!

Grace and peace,
Risha

Crafting My Second Book

So... I've written another book! Ain't God good? The writing process for this book was more intense for me because I've stepped further out of my comfort zone. Beauty for Ashes caused me to be anxious about what people would think. I wondered if it was good enough. The process for my second book hasn't been any different.

My writing is typically associated with spoken word poetry. This project will not have any poetry. However, there are some similarities present such as inspiration from God, relatable context, and a creative undertone.

The book is called Close to Home. It presents real-life, original concepts that provoke readers to consider how they would handle situations if they were at their front door. There is suspense, romance, drama, and action rolled into one book. I took a poll via social media recently. I wanted to learn if people prefer happy endings or plot twists. Most people responded that they prefer plot-twists opposed to happy endings. Each storyline provides a reader with an opportunity to determine the ending for themselves.

I don't take it for granted that you all read my work, share it, or show me love. It's never overlooked or forgotten. Thanks for all of the support along the way. Let the journey continue!

Grace and peace,

Risha

JourneysMarisha Mathis
Get Out: Depression and Reality of the Sunken Place

Get Out has been out for a minute now. So technically, this shouldn’t be considered a spoiler. One of the most discussed and intense scenes is when Chris unwillingly sinks into the floor. Once he falls into a dark and bottomless hole where he can no longer be seen or heard from by anyone, the hypnotist informs him that he is in the “sunken place.”  Characters throughout the storyline function from the sunken place: their body image doesn’t change. They look to be the same despite their imprisonment.

I’ve heard many people respond to the scene in the movie with the phrase “that’s crazy!”  What's crazier is the countless people with depression so severe that they're actively in the sunken place.  It’s difficult for others around them to know because they look the same outwardly. Some function in work environments as they always have, post selfies and vids regularly,  dress to the tee for church services, or provide for families all while their emotional health is in shambles. And then there are others with stents of Depression so crippling that they’ve become numb, over or underweight, unhappy, and unmotivated.  It’s misfortunate that Depression has such a negative connotation. Perhaps people would be more willing to seek help if they didn’t fear the negative associations that come with it. Some who've become entrapped don’t know how to get out.

The sunken place can be a very lonely and frightening place. It’s nothing that a trapped person can simply climb out of.  We’ve seen 2 celebrity suicides within the course of a week. Money or any other form of resources are insufficient to address the root of misery. Just as we may look at others and assume their lives are foolproof, we do the same to those closest to us. If you’ve noticed a loved one that doesn’t seem like themselves, check on them. If you know someone who’s lost their mojo or has been sad for an extensive amount of time, look further into the situation.  It’s worth the effort. If you’ve been feeling unmotivated, numb, irritated, discombobulated, or simply different than you’ve known yourself to be, reach out for help.

We’re in this together.

Grace and peace,

Risha

God is Gracious: Gems from a Jewel

Can I embrace my blackness for a minute? Black moms are notorious for sharing unsolicited advice and opinions. It comes with the territory. As my mom and I continue to age, we continue to learn.  We learn more about life, spirituality, and each other. We learn together. As an ode to my mother, I’ve decided to jot down my top 3 gems from her.

  1. Ease your head out of the lion’s mouth: I can admit that my temper isn’t always in line with the word. Although I strive to make great decisions, I sometimes fail to. In most cases, the failure is related to rash decisions.  My mom has always told me to be mindful of how my response to others (in anger) could impact me in the long run.

  2. Have mercy: Without mercy I can’t obtain it.  My mom often emphasized the law of reciprocity-sowing and reaping, and the importance of showing mercy because I need it even more than I need to give it to others.  Recognizing my need for mercy helped me understand grace and how much I need to receive and give that as well.

  3. Always pray: My mom is a woman of prayer, and has been for as long as I can remember. She takes Proverbs 3:5-6 to heart and applies it in every situation.  We can drive around a mall parking lot and she’ll pray that God gives us a good parking space. Sure enough, one opens. She commits everything to prayer. Along my journey, I’m learning to do the same.  

She continues to share her wisdom with me.  I’m forever grateful for my mom as the woman of God and mother that she is. I look forward to the additional gems I’ll gain from her.

 


 

Making God's Voice the Loudest

I remember when I first began listening for the voice of God.  I was hoping for something audible. Something undeniable; the still small voice, I felt, was too easy to be confused with my own thinking. Recognizing the voice of God was often an episode for me because my mind would expand into this adventure map that led nowhere: “what if that’s just my thoughts? What if that really was God? I think that was just my mind…. But my mind wouldn’t think nothing like that. It must be God because I wasn’t even thinking about that topic! What if I’m too late? Why I am feeling sweat buds?” The conclusion was usually  “I don’t think that was God. I’m good.” Or “I’m going to need some confirmation.

At one time, it was grievous to ask a believer for advice and be advised to pray about it. *Long and dramatic eye roll* I was asking them in hopes of God speaking through them,  feeling the confirmation in my heart, and knowing what to do. There were also other factors disrupting my ability to hear from him clearly like doubt, fear, frustration, a hardened heart, and a junky spirit. My spirit would be filled with all types of garbage and it was affecting my ability to hear from God. On top of that, the enemy’s voice would be louder than God’s.

The word of God is literally just that- The WORD OF GOD. His will, direction, and ways are outlined throughout the Bible. So, I started there.  Reading God’s word gave me a better understanding of who he is and desires to be in my life as well as in the life of his people. It became easier to recognize his voice as I continued to read and retain the Bible.  It became more apparent that thoughts like doubt, fear, bitterness, and etc. were contrary to His word so they couldn’t have been from him. Thoughts that encouraged spite, wrath, or ratchetness were certainly not from him. Thoughts to be kind, show compassion, share his love and encouragement were from him. Pretty simple,

As I continue to listen and obey (present tense because this is an active process), God’s voice grows clearer. Does the enemy still speak? Heck yes! But God’s voice is the loudest. Smooth lies and half-truths are exposed when you compare them to the word.

Invest time in the word of God to become better acquainted with him. It will make a world of difference.

The Brace-face and that Pretty Smile

In spring of 2017, I decided to get braces. It was a no-brainer for me because there is a desired look that I have for my teeth. Some have questioned why I waited “so long” to get braces, or until I was well into adulthood. My answer is the same whether they understand slang or not: “I had to get it how I live.” As a child, I wasn’t able to get them. I couldn’t afford them as a college student and was unaware of options available for students. I gained the resources as an adult so I went for it. I had to move based on what works for me. Hence the term, getting it how I live. 

I’d heard a lot of dreadful testimonies about having braces but I decided that I would get them anyway because I was fixated on the projected results. I left early from work to attend my appointment. I was nervous as crap. I wasn’t sure what to expect as it specifically related to how things would feel for me. I’ll skip a few details and say this: by the 3rd day I wanted a refund. My mouth was sore. I found myself, being the foodie that I am, frustrated because of my inability to eat anything beyond soft foods; not to mention the list of prohibited foods that I was given the day I got the braces. I called my sister, also my unofficial peer support, and whined about how tired I was of rice, grits, and applesauce and how I regretted getting the braces. I wasn’t aware that our conversation was via speakerphone and my niece was eavesdropping the entire conversation. She shouted from the background: “Auntie, just think about that pretty smile.” Which was true, the temporary, though intense pain, caused me to forget why I wanted braces in the first place. Thanks to my nieces’ two cents, I continued with the process.

It took a little while to adapt, and the 1st tightening seemed to be a setback. It felt like any progress that I’d made with adjusting to my braces and their changes were lost. And then came the 2nd and 3rd times and things didn't’ seem as bad. My gap was closing, my teeth were lining up and I was on the high road. My teeth were lining up. The braces were doing exactly what they were supposed to do: positioning my teeth to be where they should be; so, the more my teeth obey the plan, the easier wearing braces gets. Even the tightening. Of course, there are new mechanisms and devices that have to be introduced in the process that produce factors of discomfort but I can see the progress they’re making. That’s the encouraging part. As long as I can see the progress I’m okay with applesauce instead of biting directly into apples or tearing my chicken from the bone. As long as I can see the progress.

But what about when it seems that my teeth aren’t responding or my treatment is not moving along as quickly as I’d like? Oh gosh. I forgot to mention I had to get two teeth extracted. As I construct this blog entry I have a hole, in the front, on each side of my mouth. SELFIE GAME SHUT DOWN.  I felt like it was such a set back to go from cheesing in every picture to returning to the “creep smile.” You know what I’m referring to, the wide, closed-mouth smile. But that came with the process, trusting that my orthodontist is making the best decision based on the needs she has determined for me.

I’ve noticed the same pattern in my spiritual life; trusting the plan for my life and flowing with God are a sure way to gain the end results of my “pretty smile.”  I’ve further noticed that just like my teeth, the shifting is easier the more that I get in line -in line with His word, His way, and His righteousness.  

Kicking Bad Habits-including New Year's Resolutions

It seems like New Year’s Day was a few months ago.  Beaucoup of things have happened since the beginning of the year and I have learned lessons that will only better me.

Here are my top 8:

1. Evolution is a part of life. It happens whether I like it or not. Sometimes I trigger it and sometimes it happens without obvious reason(s). Nothing will stay the same forever.

2. There’s no such thing as "good" toxicity. Ice cream with poison is still ice cream… with poison. Ice cream makes it sweeter, but it doesn’t change your fate. Harmful relationships, no matter how beneficial, still have negative effects.

3. The importance of love. We never know what someone else is going through. I’ve sat with families of all walks. Some stories could put Stephen King and Tyler Perry out of business. I’ve seen people cry and pull themselves together just to carry on like they’re fine. There are small acts of kindness that could make a difference in a person’s day or lifetime. Even the most bitter want love. It’s human nature to desire love.

4. Forgiving is more for me than anyone else. I can’t afford to have prayers hindered or burdens. It’s not always a 24-hour process, but being quick to forgive is a step towards happiness.

5. The effects of forgiving aren’t always instant. There are battles of the heart and mind that I will have to fight in order to stay free from holding grudges. No one ever says it, but tables can turn easily when it comes to grudges: it can go from us holding them to them holding us.

6. If I manage my time wisely I don’t have to count down to the weekend [every week]. Time management has been a big task and lesson for me this year; using time productively (instead of snoozing or worthless thinking) as well as using free time to tackle ongoing projects and to-do list items. Using it unwisely has cost me opportunities.  Daily time management has helped me free up work nights; so, I’m literally able to work on projects or spend time doing things I enjoy and have a restful night sleep-opposed to looking forward to weekends to sleep in.

7. There’s always more to learn about me. It’s a cool thing to see youngsters with a sense of self-awareness.  I’m no longer a youngster. I’m happy to know that I have a sense of awareness as an adult, but I've seen and recognized a lot of things about myself this year that I've never noticed before; some good, some bad. I’m now under the impression that learning about myself is ongoing because I’m ever changing.

8. Wastefulness is a silent killer. I’ll briefly re-mention my trip to Uganda this summer without re-blogging the experience. When I was a child and my mom put beans or peas on my plate (which I hated), I would tell her that I didn't want them. She would usually tell me that there were “kids in Africa that would love to have that food.” It was kind of a cliche’ until I saw for myself that there truly were kids, as well as adults, that would love to have food we throw away, clothes and shoes we chunk out, and resources we take for granted. It's caused me to re-evaluate how I spend my resources altogether; leading me to see how I've harmed areas of my life by being wasteful (excessive spending, less restfulness, spinning my wheels, and etc.) I see waste in a new way.

Self-improvement is available 24-7; I’ve decided not to wait until New Year's to start kicking bad habits. I've also decided to kick the bad habit of making annual goals for a new year that only roll into the next.

Charlottesville, Durham, & Me

I can’t say that I’m appalled by the events that have happened within the past week.  I can’t even say that I’m disgusted. Is it fair to say that something (such as racism) "is what it is" while maintaining an appropriate level of concern and desire for change? I hope so; because that’s where I am.  

Just throwing some things out here…
I find it interesting that people in Charlottesville were injured; a life has been lost; but, no one [in the media] has referred to what happened in Charlottesville as a “riot.” I personally believe that the media should be held more accountable for the word play they use when sharing coverage. If a rally hosted by people of color was to grow violent, it would be referred to as a riot. What was so different about what happened in Charlottesville that it didn’t meet criteria?  

Throughout our president’s election I have held the notion that he is not a racist. I believe(d) he was just someone who never really had to filter his mouth because of his wealth.  I also concluded that he speaks of those of lower classes as he does because he has probably never been “exposed” to them or had to relate to them. During his administration, Obama caught a lot of slack from blacks and whites. Some whites were disrespectful because he was black. Some Blacks were disrespectful because they did not feel that the president was doing anything for “us.” The president is supposed to act unbiasedly.  However,  as I consider President Trump’s comment regarding alt-right I haven’t been able to distinguish if he was acting unbiasedly or if he condones what happened. At minimum, there is a way that one can show disdain for someone else without harming others. Why wasn’t that expressed from the platform? What happened to the twitter fingers?

From VA to NC…
I was glad to see that there are people beyond the black race that recognize injustice. I was glad to see that there are some, other than the oppressed, that are outraged and want to do something about it.  I was even happy to see that there are some that are willing to stand “for” us. I just want to see some stand with us. I’ll explain that thought process in a sec., but let me state this [first] for those that don’t understand the negative connotations associated with public display of rebel civil war leaders: it is an exalted reminder of oppression, bigotry, violence, discrimination, and dehumanization.  A statue erected in their honor is beyond disrespectful to those who are descendants of such dehumanization. Some people of the dominant culture suggest that former racism and slavery should be forgotten.  Confederate monuments and paraphernalia make this difficult. It is troubling to see and hear people that can’t understand that. I understand we should be proud of our heritages. However, that doesn't mean we have to embrace the negativity with it. While I previously stated my thoughts on the forceful demonstration and removal of the statue, I do not in anyway discredit our governor for his decision to remove the monuments. I appreciate it. 

So, back to standing with us...
There are some things about being, not just black but a minority of any race, that people who are not involved in the group would not get: racial profiling, stereotypes, discrimination, oppression, cruelty, and etc. Because one does not know how it feels per se, let those that do, do the explaining. Hence my statements regarding standing with us versus for us. Allow the oppressed to have a voice while working together to support the cause. This means taking stands beyond public platforms and using the opportunities afforded to you, but denied by others, to make a difference. I was doing some reading about the heroin “crisis” and came across this quote: “‘Because the demographic of people affected are more white, more middle class, these are parents who are empowered,” said Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, better known as the nation’s drug czar. “They know how to call a legislator, they know how to get angry with their insurance company, they know how to advocate. They have been so instrumental in changing the conversation (https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/31/us/heroin-war-on-drugs-parents.html).’ ” If you have these type of influences and are willing to use them, this is standing with us.

We’ve made a lot of progress but there is more progress to be made. I’m Here for it.

Peace,
Marisha