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

The Struggles of the Working/Middle Class(es)

There was a time that there were three classes: lower, middle, and upper.  Now, there are subtypes such as working, lower-middle, and etc. I’ve done some research regarding my income and come to learn that I fall within the range of “middle” class.  In the midst of research, I also came to learn that “working” class is typically referred to those who make their earnings via manual labor, also known as “blue collar” professions. Let’s not proceed any further on this topic without the understanding that this isn’t a post to slander any income class.  However, there are some things that I’ve learned along the way. One of the most recent learning experiences is the struggle of the middle/working class.

Fresh out of college, no job experience, I was a frustrated member of the lower class-no questions asked. Jobs that offered higher salaries wanted experience (but wouldn’t provide any), and as a single woman without children, taxes were the hungry hippos in my life. Although I have never received public assistance, I believe it can be a huge asset to those who need and qualify for it. I’m so sure of this because I remember a time that dining out was a luxury.  In order for my “adulting” to be effective, I had to cover the necessities; after the necessities were covered, I had a few dollars to spare. There were two things that I learned during that time: 1) education without experience has more “social” weight that economic and 2) a greater appreciation for having “enough.”

Later, I gained more experience and a better understanding of what I wanted out of life. I was ready for my next move.  I transitioned to a job that placed me in a higher tax bracket with job skills that were sure to enhance the future I was dreaming of.  Biggie had it right when he dropped “more money, more problems.”  The more money I made, the higher taxes were. So, I have become “middle” class with continued struggles because I’m fighting against several hundreds of dollars taken out of my bi-weekly income before I ever see it. Years later, I am still frustrated because I have experienced two classes within two economic systems (lower and middle) and while one experience has been far better than the other I still boil over with frustration at times because the middle class seems to bear invisible burdens. The lower class receives various forms of assistance while upper class has no need for benefits but get them anyway. In essence, our economy has formed two extremes and you have to conform to one or the other to thrive. Isn’t that something?

Peace,
Risha

The Heroin "Crisis": Where's the War on Drugs?

I googled two drugs this morning followed by “crisis.” One drug was crack and the other was heroin. There was something interesting that I noticed. Heroin was paired with crisis more frequently than crack. One of the first and only instances that I saw “crack crisis” was directly related to “Black America.” I’ve read several articles and interviews regarding the Heroin crisis. It seems that the crisis is affecting people of all ages. I’ve seen responses from professionals in an array of fields including the paramedics, law enforcement, and social services. Some states have declared the crisis as a state of emergency, providing funds to aid for treatment. Police officers have been said to guide those who overdose or are caught with paraphernalia to treatment centers as a diversion to arrests.

I’m reading the testimonies of families who were grieved to learn that their loved ones died from overdosing. There have been appeals to government officials and other authority entities to request treatment opposed to incarceration or other punitive actions. Drug addiction is an uphill battle that has taken numerous lives. I empathize with families who have watched their loved ones’ lives diminish before their eyes. However, I can’t shake the question: Where’s the war on drugs? Mandatory sentencing? The intentional negative connotations of Heroin use? There are none. The dominant culture, or as some call it “silent majority” is feeling the same shockwaves as those from the crack epidemic and all of a sudden society becomes wordsmiths while touching on addiction. We’ve seen it several times: refugees versus looters, riots versus protests, now epidemic versus crisis.

“Black America” has been handed duds since there was a so-called black America. There are still grandparents raising children of parents addicted to crack. There are still family members grieving the loss of their loved ones to crack. There are children in foster care as a direct link to the crack devastation. In fact, there are still prisoners incarcerated from the selling and distribution of crack. While there is treatment for this new crisis what will become of manufacturers and/or distributors of the drugs? What policies will be implemented to tackle this issue head on? And then there’s my most pressing question: where does “Black America” fall in all of this?

Peace,
Risha

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

 

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

[From] The Mind of a Savage Woman

I’m going to do my best to approach this unbiasedly.  As a wordsmith I pay close attention to words: trends, wordplay, context, things that are said without being said, etc. I remember when something was said to be bad, it was supposed to be interpreted as good. (Ie. “Girl those shoes are bad.”) A person that is “dope” is awesome, when in the dominant culture, drugs are referred to as “dope” with negative connotation. “The B word” was once offensive but now  comes in the form of a double negative “Bad B*tch.”  That’s a woman that has it all together and is especially attractive.  The saying “times are changing” is everlasting. The role and characteristics of women has changed throughout the centuries and as of now it has become agreeable and respected for women to be “savages.”

A savage is a woman that overcomes heartbreak and becomes a heartbreaker.  She may be manipulative, a player, “sexually liberated,” a user, so-on, so-forth.  She’s the embodiment of Steven Harvey’s concept “think like a man, act like a woman.”  It’s disturbing that women have to use these types of mindsets as guards for the heart.  A savage is a woman that can enter a relationship or relationships without emotional commitment and return the favor to the stereotypical cheating man.  While on the surface, a woman who can engage with a man without emotional ties seems praiseworthy, it should be alarming.  The “savage” women is actually a bitter one.

Bitterness presents itself in many forms: grudges, vindication, anger, Depression, pettiness, [covert] fear, jealousy-the list is extensive.  One of the more saddening facts about the bitter or savage woman is how she seems to fail to see the damaged condition she’s in.  Woman was created for the pleasure of a man; not because a woman is a second-class human, but because the man was created first. God is a God of love. I honestly believe that humanity was created to love because man took on attributes of God.  I further believe, it is our makeup as women to love and be loved, nurture, and wallow in the strength of a man.  Unfortunately, the greater representation of men do not always present character that would make a woman comfortable in falling back into the words (or “promises” of a man).  My point: we as women were not created to be savages.  It is unnatural.  We are literally not built for it.  Although the savage mindset is one that seems to be easier and is widely accepted these days, it’s unhealthy and devastating to emotional growth.  All in all, I don’t think there is one savage that can step forward and truthfully express happiness in her state of fragment.  Why is fragment even mentioned? Because a bitter woman is a broken one.  A woman that gives her body but not her heart is only giving a piece of herself.  A woman that gives her time but not her attention is giving a piece of herself.  A woman that offers portions of herself to someone but keeps other portions to herself cannot fully experience love and that’s what the savage woman wants; to control how deep things go and walk away victimizing without being victimized herself. Why? Because the savage woman is a bitter woman with patchwork and self-medicated wounds.

My theory: The newer generations are doing too much. No one wants to show their cards or be hurt.  Former hurts are released because forgiving and forgetting is seen as weak.  Commitment is taboo. Standards are despised. Love is misused and and altogether misrepresented. Relationship goals are based on social media posts and reality shows. People have recreated a facet of God that was here before we ever existed (love). Relationships have been manufactured based on trends.  Pride fuels heartbreak and revenge. However, I can assure the savage woman that life will be much more beautiful when you heal and and move forward with full knowledge of true love and a willingness to embrace it.  I really want to “take it there” and mention the role of the irresponsible man in a bitter woman’s life but I’ll save that for “another day.”  Ladies don’t be afraid to love and be loved.

Peace,

Risha

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.