Posts in Journeys
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.

The Day I Saw What I Said

As an adolescent, I had a few friends from the church that used to call me “missionary.”  I wanted to be one so badly. It was an inside joke of some sort. Years went by and I graduated from high school. I forgot about the title. The desire to help others has only intensified since then. I called an old friend to help me out with some braids and she chuckled as she asked me this: “Do you remember when we used to call you “missionary?” [Laughter increasing] “Now you’re going to Africa.” The irony. I’m not the “name and claim it” type (another blog for another day) but as a wordsmith, it is beyond impossible not to understand the power of words. I’ve seen it throughout my life but there was something about my friend’s reminder that sent ripples of excitement through my soul. This was a week before I was to leave. Spare me a few minutes to rewind a little.

The past 2 quarters of the year have been challenging in nearly every aspect possible. God’s grace is magnified when I look back. The departure date for the trip was July the 15th. 3 weeks before the departure date I had to approach God because I felt ill-equipped and ill-prepared to go.  I believed that it was God’s will for me to go but there was a disconnect-one that I could not safely ignore.  God quickly addressed the disconnect and I was ready. I boarded a plane in Raleigh-Durham, traveled for 25 hours,  and July 16th I landed in Entebbe, Uganda.  We walked out of the airport and were greeted by smiling strangers that seemed familiar; not because I had ever spoken to them, but because of the love of God I felt. I felt their love for God.

The love transcended language barriers, customs, and culture.  I attended church services where I had no clue what they were singing but the presence of God was undeniable. I experienced people so humble that it was embarrassing when I considered my thought life and the contents of my heart. These people had a passion for God that challenged me to seek Him more. Obviously, because I need[ed] him, but even more because it finally clicked that salvation did more than secure eternal life. Life as I know it is bigger than me.

I was apart of a conference, a workshop, a revival, and an open air crusade. I did not see one Ugandan participate rush out of church or concerned with the length of time we were there. I stayed in a guest house in a village called “Kipirio.” It’s located in Tororo district. I became appreciative of everyday commodities. I ate food that I would have declined in America; not because I’m sadiddy, but because I was always a “picky” eater. I developed a new love for children. I see evangelism in ways that I never have.  I got a sweeter taste of destiny. The people of Magodesi and Tororo District have been a greater blessing than they could ever know. I’m in love with the manifestation of the spoken word and I’m inspired to do a lot more “saying.” 

God is awesome.
 "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,"-Ephesians 3:20

Beauty for Ashes: 1 Year Later

I saw a facebook memory recently.  It was a post announcing that I would be releasing my first book.  My mind “timehopped” to how I felt when I posted the cover art for the project. I was literally nauseous. Not that I find one type of nausea more enjoyable than another but, this was a terrifying feeling. I posted the cover art as a form of accountability for myself to eliminate cold feet.  From there I continued the final writing stages and I spoke to God rather frequently regarding preparing my heart and the hearts of the readers. I wouldn’t dare try to front like there wasn’t any excitement in the mix because there was some of that too.

Even as I write there are so many memories flashing that it’s hard to decide which I should describe next. I’ll begin with the process. I was writing the book towards the end of 2015 but got distracted. Once the distraction was gone I put all of my energy and focus into finishing the book.  I was done with everything around April/ Mayish. After that, I submitted it to Ms. Green and we began to talk about book sizes, the number of pages, what I would need… the “logistics,” if you will.  A while later she sent me a screenshot of the anticipated delivery date and the countdown began.  I got home from work the evening they arrived and slid my box into the house. I sat the box in my thinking chair and walked the floor for a couple of seconds. I opened it and there they were: incarnations of my vision, dreams, nightmares, and testament. I was numb-in a good kind of way. It’s like a shock wave came over me. Once I collected my thoughts, I thanked the Most High, laid hands on the box, and prayed for the readers and path of those books.

I began working on getting the pre-orders out and pubbing online.  I think my first post regarding the book was something like… “so these came in the mail today.” Not long after that I had a book launch party. I joke with myself as I look back at the pictures from that event because that was the day I forgot I had a gap. And then life resumed. My indignation was tried and hard times revisited.  Ultimately I learned that convictions are great but they only really exist when we follow through with them. I saw times that I challenged women to know their worth and couldn’t calculate my own. I found that forgiving has challenges of it’s own; I realized the idolatry was more pressing for me in other forms that sleeping. The craziest thing I learned is that every wound seems healed until it’s pressed. I have more soft spots than I knew.

Nearly 1 year later, Beauty for Ashes has been published and I’m still making trades with God… still seeking healing, still seeking growth, and still seeking his redemption.  I’ve come to see that beauty for ashes is not just a one time thing in my life. The exchange of beauty for ashes is constant. It just happens at different times for different reasons. Making a spectacle of one’s self is not easy. Transparency has its risks. Submission to God is no cake walk. But I’m here for it.  

Peace,
Risha

Life Hacks for Depression

Depression is something else! It's something that many people have wrestled with at some point. Either past or present. There are some who are unaware that they are or have been depressed. There are others who are in denial. I’ve heard some argue that they don’t get Depressed. My interpretation of such is that they may not necessarily know what they've experienced; however, I believe everyone encounters Depression at some point in their life.  Depression tends to have a negative connotation within some cultures. Thus, some people are reluctant to share their experiences.

There are several signs of Depression. It can be an isolated incident or a recurrent one.  It can be for a short period of time or over an extended period. It ranges in severity. Some of the symptoms include: feelings of loss/emptiness/sadness/worthlessness/excessive guilt, loss of interest/motivation, a change in sleep pattern-either excessive sleeping or the lack thereof, a change in appetite-either overeating or no desire to, fatigue or loss of energy, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, continued thoughts of death of feeling that one would be “better off” dead. The symptoms can be experienced in a combination of ways.

The good news is Depression doesn’t have to be long-term or recurring. It’s a matter of thinking and will power. A person has to be willing to get past Depression and not be victim to it.  They also have to change their way of thinking. Negative thinking is a sure way of landing in the cesspool of Depression which, by the way, sometimes does not just stop at a "feeling." 

Take a look at a few life hacks for Depression:

  • Positive thinking-thought life is E V E R Y T H I N G! Thinking on the good things in life improves your mood and overall outlook

  • Positive expression-finding a way to communicate thoughts and feelings in a healthy manner; releasing feelings opposed to suppressing them (my favorite is art-written, visual, and audio)

  • A solid confidant- “one good person” you can talk to with confidence in their ability to keep secrecy (and possibly provide sound insight)

  • Guard your heart! Be leery of negativity and do not allow yourself to be around it.

These are just a few hacks. There are countless others. Find one (two, or three) that work(s) for you and start your process with kicking Depression!

 

Peace,

Marisha

My Truth about Small Beginnings

I saw a post on IG recently that read “every great artists started as an amateur.” This spoke volumes because I am notorious for focusing on final products.  I remember when I began writing spoken word, my brother told me that there was two keys to being a dope poet: “prayer and practice.” I secretly thought surely that could not be the foundation of his excellence; there had to be something else he was doing to produce the leaps and bounds in his art like he was.  Time has backed his claim and I have come to see it true in my own life.

I’m a vivid dreamer: night dreams, day dreams, or visions.  I dream big.  This is where my conflict comes in with small beginnings.  It can be discouraging to “see” yourself doing something grand, or expecting something grand and the results yield the opposite.  It has happened to me plenty of times: planning events and the turnout is not as big or aiming for fundraising and gaining small profits, anticipating mass support and landing with a faithful few.  I believe God is an artist: a visual artist, a writer, a poet, a musician, a designer, a sculptor, the list continues. There is nothing that I’ve seen from the foundation of the earth on its axis to the complexities of our creation that was not done in excellence.  Our projects should be the same. This is where it has become sticky for me in the past.

Because of my desire for excellence I have passed up projects because I did not have the resources.  I have later kicked myself because I despised small beginnings. Small beginnings, from a personal perspective, have caused me to be humble. More than likely, I would be feeling myself if everything always lined up the way I dreamed.  They have also caused me to appreciate the “come up” or, “progress,” if you will. They fuel hope, provide an opportunity to think clearly without being overwhelmed and open several doors for learning opportunities that I would not otherwise have had if  I walked directly into everything sitting in my lap.  Small beginnings have given me an opportunity to see God’s power, wisdom, and plans for my life. It amazes me when I think I know which direction God is coming from and he comes from somewhere I didn’t know existed PLUS some details that never crossed my mind.

n a nutshell, don’t be afraid to dream, don’t be afraid to step out, and don’t be afraid of small beginnings. Cultivate what you have from where you are and let God do the rest.

Peace,
Marisha