Posts tagged growth
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

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

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

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.

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.