Posts in Journeys
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

 

Seasons and Cyles, Cycles and Seasons

2016 has been an interesting year for me.  It was far better than the other few years before.  It was full of untapped potential. That is probably the most annoyingly noteworthy thought about 2016: the amount of greatness afforded to me that I did not use. Even though there have been moments of frustration and wasted chances-as well as wasted resources, (time, energy, mental space, and money), there have also been milestones and life changing events to take place. I’m grateful for that.

This year I learned a lot about myself as well as a lot of lessons.  I took writing in my journal to another level and the results were amazing.  I noticed weaknesses that I did not know that I had.  I realized how some of my weaknesses were related.  I was revisited by “giants” in my life that I had not previously beheaded.  I evaluated and reevaluated friendship, kinship, and love. I developed a new theory: the reason the devil doesn’t show you a way out of his traps is because he knows God warned against it in the first place. Yet, the biggest lesson that I learned was how seasons and cycles are not synonyms.  

Sure, seasons are a part  of a cycle but they in and of themselves are not cycles. A season has its time of activity before there is a transition into another time of new activity. A season begins changing and preparing the moment it begins.  A cycle can occur during different seasons but that does not make it a season.   There were things in my life like repeated [failed] tests or self-inflicted opposition that I misinterpreted as seasons.  These were cycles because I was not putting things to death; I rocked them to sleep until I wanted them re-awakened. How foolish! Because I am officially hip to what I’ve been doing wrong. Some things have to change.

I never wanted to be the “new year, new me” type, but…follow me. December 31, 1862 the slaves were on edge.  The next matter of hours and moments were monumental for them.  Every thing that they knew about their lives would be changing. I’m sure it was exciting but what about the other emotions they may have been feeling? Nervous. Perhaps, scared. Curious. Grateful. Skeptical. Maybe a few were in disbelief. This countdown was not just a joyful invitation into a New Year.  It was a countdown to freedom. Freedom to liberties like reading, travel, the right to choices-even the right to say “no,” freedom from beatings and breeding, and a slew of other things.  

That is what this countdown to 2017 is like for me. A joyful invitation to freedom from cycles and a launch into seasons with progress. Similar to how I suppose the slaves must have felt, I am nervous, sometimes scared or skeptical, curious, and excited.  Truthfully, fear and skepticism, would have me stay where I am.  There are things that I can point out and say well at least on this plantation I know I have this or that, but there’s land and rights for miles and miles past my limited vision. I choose freedom. Join me.

Peace,

Marisha

My Two Cents: The Christian Citizen and Politics

My post wouldn’t follow the pattern if I did not lace it with transparency.  I am greatly disturbed by the election as well as the results. It’s not so much that I am concerned with the violence and “racism” that may occur as some predict.  If we allow truth to further prevail there has always been an uncanny way about our government and politics.  I honestly don’t want to make this a “race thing” but let’s skip down our country’s timeline: there was slavery, American-based concentration camps, Jim Crow, the infiltration and destruction of Black leaders, terrorist groups trained by the US government, school-to-prison pipelines, the list continues.  Television has a way of distorting reality; it makes us believe that what we see “live” is real time when there are some conspiracies and actions that were in the makings behind the scenes before the media is ever involved.  Our government has some mess with them. Do I want to “go back to Africa?” Heck no; but let’s face the facts.    
 
My concern with politics and Christianity is the fine line and sole shades of black and white.  I have found myself at crossroads in every election because I have pondered questions such as “who would Jesus vote for?” “Would God agree with the morals of this person or that?”  I have written names in because I did not want to find myself choosing between the lesser of two evils.  I don’t know it all, nor do I proclaim to be “woke” but I have learned a couple of things about voting. While prayer is a fundament of the Christian life there has to also be action.  This concept is true on many levels. First, let’s consider this: what does not voting do?  How does not choosing a candidate help the cause other than help clear the “Christian conscience” of not putting an “evil” representative in office?  While we walk away (myself included) with a clear conscience the election continues and a candidate is chosen.   I understand why it is acceptable to choose a person that reflects Christian values.  I am pro-life and I do not condone same-sex marriages or transgender bathrooms.  I have found myself riddled when a candidate matches my beliefs ONLY in those areas;  I am a social worker by trade so I understand public assistance systems very well.  I have worked with all populations ranging from children to geriatric so I have seen the needs that exist.  I realize that “welfare” has a negative connotation.  I also realize that it is abused but I have concerns with politicians who want to “do away” with them or minimize them.  There are people in our society with dire needs; some children go to school to eat the only meals they will have for the day. Some people seek medical attention with benefits they would not have without the welfare system. I believe it is a disservice to the elderly population when they work all of their lives to live in a nursing home that requires they eliminate all of their resources for health care and $50 a month.   

So in essence what I’m saying is, it’s great that there are candidates that reflect Christian morals but what happens to morals when it’s time to better society and help one another?  On the other extreme, we have candidates that reflect Godless morals but help the people [more] than the other.  So what is a Christian to do?   Ultimately, I believe that we do have a responsibility to vote, and to do so responsibly but if the only time that we speak up about the [despicable] laws of the land is when it’s time to hit the polls, then there was a problem as a Christian citizen before any candidate ever took the podium. I’m still patting my way through this but I’m simply not satisfied with laws enforced while my way of life is negatively impacted because the rich are richer and poor poorer in efforts to make America great again.

One thing I’m certain of: “Donald Trump” has become “President Trump” and we are to pray for those in authority. #AddHimToYourPrayerList
Peace,
Risha

Writing to Heal

I’ve always been better at expressing myself in written form.  I’ve also always found comfort in writing my feelings; while my primary purpose is to encourage readers to consider the power of writing I have to throw a couple of things out there as there is a “pro” and “con” to nearly everything.  The biggest “con” to keeping a journal is the possibility of a breach in confidentiality; as a child I cringed at the thought of someone reading “my diary” with the mini padlock that anyone could pick with a hairpin.  I still cringe at the thought as an adult.  There is freedom when one can express their innermost thoughts and feelings without any inhibition; in fact, I don’t believe journaling can be 100% effective without “the nitty gritty.”  It’s in these types of lines and writing that we are able to remove masks and lie back in honesty. Otherwise, we may as well continue walking around in hiding.

A journal helps keep a timeline for one’s life’s experiences (if it’s kept up). I can go back through my journals and recall where I was in my life at the time that I was writing.  It shows me how God brought me through adversity.  I am able to notice cycles and habits in my life-good or bad. I am able to share revelation from God with myself in my journal too. My journals have served as mirrors in my life: they have shown me the wicked crevices in my heart, they have shown me my struggles, they have also shown me some good things about myself.  I can process my thoughts. It clears up “static...” unclear areas that, sometimes, I did not know were even there. It’s similar to connecting the dots.

The healing that comes from [honest/transparent] writing is phenomenal. It provides a source of closure.  It allows the release of feelings that would otherwise be trapped inside. The healing is thought-provoking and can lead to healing that a person may not know that they needed.  For those that are into therapy and mental health services, it is a positive coping skill.  All that is needed is consistency and transparency.  Write the good, bad, and ugly, and watch how things begin to unfold.

Why #NoLivesMatter

I believe it’s human nature to gravitate towards people we identify with. It’s not always physical characteristics; it can be beliefs, political parties, tax brackets, age groups, and etc.  This is what has prompted me to consider #NoLivesMatter closely.  Some may hate the very thought of such a concept but the issues that we are seeing today present all the facts.  Based on my observation, everyone wants to be acknowledged.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting acknowledgement.  It becomes problematic when one group (or person) cannot allow another group (or person) to “be great.”   There is a growing controversy between #BlackLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter.  In the wake of cries for justice some believe that identifying the significance of black lives is an attempt to omit the importance of other lives.  The very fact that lives matter has to be mentioned should raise concerns.  Our society is self-centered.  It seems that no life can matter without being interpreted as a threat towards another. The problem with “lives mattering” is the absence of balance and consideration for others. As long as humanity continues in self-centered perspectives and actions, no lives will ever matter with the exception of an individual’s own.  We were prepackaged to love and be loved.  Here’s my take:

 

-EACH AND EVERY PERSON MATTERS. When a person says “black lives matter” it does not mean that black lives are solely important.  It expresses the sentiment that some of the injustices we’ve seen were or are racially biased.  Additionally, while we communicate black lives matter, we as African Americans should ensure that we do not focus solely on “black lives” because social injustice is occurring across the board.

 

-There is a vicious cycle occurring.  Citizens become afraid of Police. Police get on edge or “leery” of citizens. Citizens distrust the justice system.  The system distrusts citizens. Does that justify the “trigger finger syndrome?” Absolutely not. But I believe that we should consider two things at minimum: (1) Not all cops are bad cops (2) when they hit the clock for their shifts they want to return home to their lives and families in one piece.

 

-We all have a role to play:
    Parents have responsibilities to teach their children how to respond to particular situations. This statement does not mean that teaching has not taken place.

    We have to know our rights.  There’s no time for assumptions or DIY responses from social media.

    We have to be consistent. What’s happening should not be dropped when the media drops it.

    We have to be informed.  Please understand that the media does its job well. Respond to facts. Let’s not get caught in race wars, hidden agendas, or fads.

    Lastly, although I know people don’t want to read this word: pray.  Pray for justice. Pray for wisdom in how to interact with others.  Pray for government officials to act with wisdom and integrity.  Pray for wisdom in how to promote and execute change.  Is prayer all that we need? Heavens no! But prayer should be in the forefront of our responses as it should be anywhere else (He will direct our paths in all of our ways if we acknowledge him).

Everyone is not going to acknowledge, accept, or agree that the bloodshed is senseless and inhumane.  That’s okay. Stay focused and play your part in bringing about change. Rise above division and fads. Make love and share it.

Two Worlds Collide

May 31, 2016, will be a day that two worlds collide.  I tried to keep them apart as long as I could but this moment is imminent.  The fact that there will be no casualties is a bonus, but it doesn't make me any less anxious.  May 31, 2016, my first book entitled "Beauty for Ashes: The Introduction" will be released.  I use the phrase "two worlds collide" because it means my world of semi-introversion will collide with the world of others: family, friends, colleagues, consumers-everyone.  Quite a few people ask me what I like to do "after hours;" my response is always the same: "writing and sharing poetry."  This project will allow people into my journey, one that was well guarded.  Make no mistake, my book is not a "tell all" but, it shares my thoughts, my heart, life's lessons of tough love, my observations, and plenty more.  I've gone through multiple cycles of giving myself the third degree: "Am I ready?" "Am I dope enough?" Of course, the "what if's" have a series of their own.  

I don't want to give too much away but... It's comprised of my testimony, my struggles, my fears, my outlook on life including society and humanity, as well as my relationship with God.  There are a few excerpts from my journals.  Some of the topics covered are Christian living, greed, love, forgiveness, maturity, and etc. There's something for everyone, I promise.  Although getting to this point was not easy-I'm looking forward to sharing. 

Every now and again I do something and I experience a form of confirmation; it's like my heart gives me a nod of approval.  Despite the barrage of fear and worries I've experienced since I began to focus on this book, once I completed the project my heart gave me "the nod."  Should I never learn of any other gift from God, I know and will be forever grateful for my gift to write.  Sometimes I write purely from emotion.  Sometimes I get the pleasure of being the scribe.  He tells me what to write and I do as He says.  I can only hope that every reader gains more love and adoration of God after reading my book.  I also hope that it sparks hope and catapults others into healing and growth.  I now realize that God wills for me (and you) to be whole.  There are some cracks holes that He's had to fill.  There's breaking and healing that I've had to and continue to experience.   My relationship with God is a journey; I've had my first taste of redemption and in the midst of growing further in His grace and love I have purposed in my heart that I want to bring as many people along as I can. 

Care to join me?

A Letter to my Younger Self

Dear Marisha,

You’re such a sweet heart… I wish you would allow more people to see it.  Imagine how different things would be if people knew how much you laugh and joke behind closed doors and circles!  Sometimes life has a way of hitting hard. Don’t lose that smile. Don’t lose the life in your eyes.  We both know that parents don’t know everything, but they know a great deal. Listen to them. It will keep you out of harm’s way.  It’s imperative that you get to know and accept yourself as soon as you can.  This will prevent you from being put in boxes, seeking validation and acceptance, or all together pretending to be someone you aren’t.  Size 3 or 13, you’re beautiful inside and out.  You have always been a dreamer-never stop dreaming.  Use your passion for words to help you during hard times but more importantly commit that passion and gift to God.  You will encounter malicious people.  The world is full of them.  Some of them will pretend to love you, others will blatantly show that they don’t.  Do not allow them to change who you are unless its for the better.  Otherwise you have let them win, and we both know how much you hate to lose!  Guys are a dime a dozen.  The one that really cares will respect your convictions and will show interest in your goals, he’ll admire your physique without objectifying it, and he will value your soul.  Should you encounter guys that present qualities other than these, and you will, don’t entertain them.  You know your worth.  Do not be ashamed to assert it.  Heartbreak may or may not be inevitable.  I haven’t figured that part out yet,  just know that God heals broken hearts and spirits and you don’t have go through life broken.  It’s okay to cry sometimes.  You’ll find that a “good cry” will do you good from time to time.  Appreciate life, God, peace of mind, family, Godly connections, and even chaos.  Make the best of every situation.  Don’t be lazy-you’ll have plenty of time to sleep.  Love God at your tender age and don’t be so anxious to see what all the world has to offer.  Don’t be fooled by the appearance of riotous and carefree living.  It has it’s consequences.  The devil wants to sift you as wheat.  He’ll try to do anything he can but remember that your heel will bruise his head.  You are a winner through Christ Jesus and every thought and plan He has for your life is good.  Continue through life with hope or you will die without it. Love love in everyway imaginable.  God will see you through every situation. Be courageous. Everything will be fine.

 

Sincerely,

 

Risha

What it's like to be "Cute for a Dark-Skinned Girl"

It's impossible to dig into this post without revisiting the ugly scars of slavery; the primary concept in this context is Willie Lynchism.  For those that are unfamiliar, Willie Lynch constructed a letter to other slave owners that provided insight to ensure division among the slaves by using their complexions, hair texture, and other factors.  This may have been one of the most influential implementations as it is a form of slavery that continues to exist.  There's nothing wrong with preference.  However, there is something wrong when a person's physical appearance causes personal bias.  I have dark skin. Throughout my 30 years, I have experienced the transition of being a "dark-skinned girl" to "being cute for a dark-skinned girl."  Now, being "cute" for a dark-skinned girl is a much more pleasant experience than just being dark-skinned.  Frankly, there are some other complexions that make it seem as if being dark-skinned is a curse or misfortune. Neither of which is so.  Complimenting someone of darker hues by telling them they are cute within their own box or glass ceiling is really not a compliment.  It's a subliminal message that dark skins are naturally unpleasant to the eye with a hint of congratulations.  The congrats is a cherry on top because it insinuates that while you are not quite "pretty," your features helped you when compared to the greater percentage of others who are undesirable simply because they're darker complected.  Although it isn't the case for me, I believe the "curse" of being dark-skinned is what drives some women to self-hatred.  As a child, I experienced it.  I wanted to be lighter because I thought "light" was pretty.  It was that way for many years until I saw Lauryn Hill with her coarse hair and dark tint.   I came to appreciate my features that complimented my skin: my eyes, high cheekbones, full lips, keen nose-whole nine.  Being "cute for a dark-skinned girl" has challenged me to first evaluate my character because a beautiful personality beats all.  Second, it has challenged me to consider others' opinions without always internalizing them.  Third, it's encouraged me to encourage and compliment others.  You will never know what others may struggle with.  I too have been a victim to Willie Lynchism.  There was a time that I totally disregarded others who were light-skinned because I felt they assumed they were better looking.  I glorified being dark-skinned because it was what I identified with. This was one of the very goals of the letter.  As a dark-skinned cutie, I continue to encounter people in 2016 who assume they are better looking, better qualified, and frankly have the right to say what they feel about dark skin because they are lighter. The difference is I don’t go away feeling less of a person or less attractive because of their dispositions. In fact, over the years, I have begun to venture away from boxes.  I experiment with hairstyles and colors that ideally would be untouched from some who are stuck in the groove of their physical appearance.  In all humility, I’ll be the first to tell you that my skin makes mustard, burnt orange, magenta, royal blue, royal purple, and turquoise pop!  I’m ok with needing a camera flash in darker rooms! Being cute for a dark skin girl is an everyday experience, but just as much as anything else its what you make of it.  There aren’t many “Lauryn Hill's" left.  In fact, as time progresses I suspect that self-hatred increases. Self-love and acceptance are better embraced sooner than later. One thing for sure: your shape, size, hair length, and etc. may change, but your complexion will not. Might as well love the skin you’re in and show the world that beauty doesn’t come with categories or stipulations...

JourneysMarisha Mathis
Artistry Odyssey

I have enjoyed art, specifically writing and art for as long as I can remember.  Truthfully, I don't remember when I came to love poetry. I guess it sort of happened sometime in elementary school or something.  My brother introduced me to music; all types of music, which in our home was taboo.  He would play rap, R & B, and oldies.  He also taught me how to freestyle, sing, dance, and beat box.  I think it's where I came to appreciate eclectic music. I've also seen writing as a form of expression.  Even as a child I always felt that it was easier for me to share what I felt through writing it instead of verbally.

Fast forwarding to my adult life: I continued to write poetry in college.  I had a strong interest in spoken word, but I did not know how to make my rhymes so that they reflected a rhythm opposed to a simple rhyme scheme.  In 2010, I went a Power of the Tongue Cafe here in Durham.  There was spoken word artists there.  There was also a group there called, "Sound Word and Holy Strings."  It was a group comprised of four people, two rappers/poets, and two singers, one who played a guitar.  They were super dope.  Later that night I connect with one of the guys there who was calling himself "Preach" at that time (now known as "Pat Junior").  We chatted a bit and I expressed my interest in poetry and spoken word.  I shared with him what I had and he provided feedback.

He later taught me about word play and gave some coaching.  Less than a year later I wrote my first spoken word poem.  It was called, "Wave of Technology."  Pat taught me how to deliver and I debuted at a Power of the Tongue under the direction of Brother Charles Freeman.  I remember being so nervous that when Brother Freeman called my name that for a series of seconds my feet would not move.  I got up, shared my piece and I felt awesome.  I never [ever] thought that I would share my poetry publically, and certainly audibly.  I believe that's one of my favorite memories about this journey.

Later in the year, I began my first transparent piece called "Soul Ties."  It was personal.  I shared it with Pat and he encouraged me to share it publically.  It was very difficult for me because I was a private person.  The other fact about the piece is, I wrote the piece inspired by God, but it took over a year to write.  It was prophetic in that it revealed to me that I was in a stronghold and it became a roadmap to being free of it.  That was the beginning of me as a poet. I'll tell yall the rest in a little bit.  

My Beef with Transparency

I've been mentally vacillating on this topic for some time.  Although I believe it is intended to be simple, somehow, I find it multifaceted.  I understand it to mean being open (to some degree) and honest about what may be occurring or has occurred in one's life. It's a form of keeping things 100.  I have a theory that everyone has been a criminal at some point, its just that not everyone has been caught (littering, dishonoring the speed limit, whatever it may be.  everyone has done something). Nevertheless, sin is the same way. Everyone has been a sinner at some point.  I take issue when some present themselves as they have always be "spotless."  The main reason being that there will never be a time in this life that any of us are completely clean. It's always something. The Bible instructs believers to confess our faults to one another so that we may be healed. The two concerns I'm examining at this moment are 1) false humility projected as transparency and 2) lack of discernment with what is revealed. I believe the enemy can take some of the most beautiful situations and pollute them. This is why he is able to take someone being honest about a flaw or struggle and convince them that their decision to keep it real is worth the pat on the back.  Please understand, it is not my intent to make anyone feel some type of way about being transparent. I am in agreement with transparency in the proper context. I am an avid user of transparency. Its just that as with anything else, the motive of the heart should be examined.  It seems that transparency has become an overused term that is transitioning into a fad.  Again, I'd like to stress that this is not the case for everyone that shares the content of their hearts.  

Secondly, simply put, stop telling everything! There are some things that should remain between a person and their Lord unless he leads them otherwise.  Truth be told, not everyone can handle what some people have to say.  Allow me to elaborate: a person stands up amidst a congregation and discloses severely personal information.  "I'm not ashamed to say that I ..." you fill in the blank. We've all seen this.  Later the person wonders why they are getting side eyes and in some cases, ostracism.  The word tells us that we overcome the devil by the blood of the lamb and testimonies.  Case and point; however, there must be wisdom exercised in what we share.  Lastly, I wonder to myself if accountability and transparency are twins.  If I confess what I have been experiencing to a sister or friend, should it be difficult to accept sound counsel, warning, or the truth? No shade, but I was very disturbed to see the Periscope video of Leondra Johnson and her follow-up interview.  She told the interviewers that she intentionally put herself out the way that she did because she wanted to be transparent.  Time and time again I have flipped that situation in my mind and questioned if that was a situation in which transparency went "too far."  The lines seem to be blurred when deciphering what is appropriate and what's not.  Specifically when interpretations of scripture are the deciding factor as people understand things differently.  However, I can't help but think how many people may be led astray by someone else's transparency with an issue that is unbiblically justified.  The systems of our world and society are changing abruptly and there will be a time that people will no longer be able to hide behind "maybes" or jump sides of the fence. Therefore, there is no longer time to justify our unaddressed weaknesses with "God's knowledge of our hearts."  There must be something beyond transparency, and that's my beef with it.  It's just put out there and left to morph into other things-sometimes a stumbling block.