Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Turn it Over

Some of the greatest advice I ever received was from my big brother, Wimberly. One day we sat in the living room at my parents’ home and he listened while I poured my heart out about some things I was going through. At the time, I was VERY overwhelmed with guilt, sadness, hurt, anger and disappointment. Through tears I told my brother that if I did a few things differently I could make everything better. Although I had been unsuccessfully working on the same problem for a number of years, I refused to give up. I had a plan and I would win!
My brother stopped my ranting and said something that has stuck with me from that day to this—something that has made a world of difference in how I handle situations. He reminded me that I am NOT God and have no control over ANYONE else. He suggested that I stop trying to fix things, stop trying to force people to be people they are not, and COMPLETELY turn my situation over to the Lord. Just because I created the problem didn’t mean I had to solve it. In fact, that was my biggest mistake—trying to handle a situation that God wanted to handle for me.

He was right.

The problem: For many years I had been unsuccessfully trying to fix a problem I had created. My failure made me feel terrible about myself and prevented me from growing and moving forward. I was stuck, bitter, and mad at myself and everyone else. The enemy laughed.

The solution: JESUS!

The lesson: We often find ourselves in quicksand because we ignore the warning signs. We use all our strength to get out, but can’t. Our inability to rescue ourselves leads to more and more frustration. God, however, is standing near holding His hand out and offering to pull us out and safely place us back on solid ground. Yet we look away, flail our arms, and sink even more. How silly is that?

It is IMPOSSIBLE for us to solve our problems better than the Master can. He knows what is best for ALL involved, and He is able to thoroughly rectify problems in a way where there is nothing we can do but give Him the praise. He wants us to give our problems to Him and leave them there. As hard as it may be, you have to! We are His beloved. Trust that He will work it out every time.

My testimony: I am 100% confident that EVERYTHING will be just fine. The stress has been lifted. I am much happier, content, and secure knowing that the One who created the world, the One who holds the future, the One who can do anything He wants to do is working everything out for me. And I give Him the praise! The Devil has been DEFEATED. I have the VICTORY. God gets the GLORY!

“Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” (Psalms 55:22)

“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Music Thing - My Hip Hop and R&B Dilemma

Back in 2000, I was literally addicted to Hip Hop. I had been collecting CDs for a while—DMX, Luke, Ruff Rydas, Nas, Jay-Z, Kurupt, Tha Dogg Pound, Snoop, Dre, Suga Free, Akinyele, Juvenile, Biggie, Pac, Eve, DJ Quik, Trina—you name it, I had it. And if you named it, and I didn't have it, I would have gone and gotten it. You couldn’t get in the car with me without me bumping one of these artists full blast.

One morning I woke up, got dressed, and headed down to my car only to find that it had been broken into and all my CDs had been stolen. I was devastated. The police took a report over the phone, but refused to come out and look for fingerprints or take pictures. In other words, justice would never be served. My CDs were GONE and I would never get them back. I was miserable.

A few days later, I heard that little voice that I hear from time to time and it said that the reason my CDs had been stolen was because I had no business listening to them in the first place. Nothing about my music said that I was a Christian. I argued back and forth with the voice for months and eventually decided to buy ALL the same CDs over again. I was very stubborn…and I LOVED my music. Looking back I can say that at the time I even idolized the music and the artists. Now you know that was not AT ALL pleasing to God...

For nine more years I listened to filth. I thought about the filth that I listened to. And then I engaged in filthy behavior. All the while I knew that it was wrong, but I just kept right on at it--The filth is what made me fit in, right? (Stinking thinking.)

Fast forward to 2009. The little voice got louder. It told me to get rid of the music. Throw everything away…EVERYTHING—even the R&B. It was not conducive to the life I want to live…obedience is better than sacrifice. But, I didn’t want to sacrifice and I didn't want to obey. For the next few months I reasoned with the voice. Could I sell the CDs on Amazon or Craigslist? NO. They needed to be thrown away. Could I give them to someone who would appreciate them? NO. They needed to be thrown away. Could I sell them at a yard sale? NO. They needed to be thrown away. I thought about how much money I had spent over the years. I thought about all the places I had been when I first heard my favorite songs. I thought about all the people I had known. I put the CDs in my changer and played them loudly, but the music didn’t do anything for me anymore…and still the voice said to get rid of them...

God also placed a few people in my life who He knew I needed to hear…one girl who I got back in touch with on Facebook just out of the blue mentioned that a few years ago she had gone through the same struggle with music. We went to high school together and she loved hip hop just as much as I did (and maybe even more). She said she had lots of magazines and all the CDs you could imagine. Her husband was in love with hip hop as well. She said they both decided that the messages in many of the songs did not coincide with their Christian walk and so they threw all their CDs away. They got rid of all their magazines. They turned their speakers to more positive things and they hadn't looked back. She said that she totally understood how I felt and that she would support me and pray with me. Thank God for Sharisma.

Second…God placed a 13 year old young man in my life who proudly blasted Christian artists like Lecrae, Trip Lee, The Ambassador, Fred Hammond, Tye Tribbette, Tha T.R.U.T.H., etc. He was unashamed to tell his father that he didn't want to listen to Jay-Z. I thought back to when I was 13 and just wanted to fit in. I thought about the dances I did and the songs I loved and I hung my head. I NEVER would have asked someone to turn off Ice Cube and put on Kirk Franklin. NEVER. Here was a 13 year old standing boldly and witnessing by standing out from the crowd and proclaiming his love for God and here I was 27 years old and afraid of what a life without hip hop would be. I thank God for Shomari. He has been one of my biggest inspirations and my prayer is that even as he grows older he will stand firm on his beliefs, regardless of what the crowd is doing.

My conviction ended up being so strong that I threw away the CDs…and they were everywhere. Just when I thought I had trashed the last of them, others would pop up in unexpected places and tempt me all over again. But I kept tossing. I deleted my old youtube and pandora playlists.

I replaced the old hip hop and R&B titles with gospel music...and I haven't looked back.

Now if you get in the car with me, if I’m not playing Christian rap I am either listening to a motivational speaker, a message from church, or something else positive and uplifting. I am trying my hardest to keep a right mind. I'm trying to be an example for my children. (You can't imagine the joy I feel in my spirit when my two year old waves her hands and chants, "I'mma Saint, I'mma Saint..." It's too cute.)

Everyone's walk is different. Some people listen to and process music differently than I did. For me, the negative music had me thinking all kinds of negative and ungodly things. It was an idol for me and it HAD TO GO. I am thankful that God was patient with me. 10 years ago, He placed on my heart JUST what needed to be done. For 10 years I didn't want to hear it. I disobeyed Him. Now I have finally listened to His direction and I am VERY happy. My desire is no longer towards dropping it like it's hot or candy shops, and I am NOT missing out at all.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Find a Penny, Pick it Up

My mommy always told me that it’s important to think highly of myself. She made it a point to tell me that she loved herself and thought she was beautiful. She didn’t care what anyone else said about her. She knew who she was and she loved who she was.

With that said, my mom has ALWAYS walked with her eyes glued to the ground—not because she lacks confidence, but because she is looking for money. My mother can spot a coin or bill faster than any other person I know. Her walking buddies are awed by her coin-finding dexterity.

When I was in Junior High it embarrassed me so much. She would literally park her car after school and come on campus to pick me up. She would walk around the courtyard and clean up on all the pennies the kids dropped. She didn’t HAVE to pick up pennies. (She REALLY didn’t.) But she enjoyed it. I remember her going home and excitedly telling my father how much money she would find each day. He would smile. I would hang my head.

To help me get over my embarrassment, my mother explained that it takes pennies to make dollars. Many times it is the poorest people who turn their nose up at pennies (or any other coin for that matter). Often they drop them just because, or leave them when they inadvertently drop them just because, or even step over them because they are too embarrassed to pick them up. That mentality keeps people poor. I paid attention and found that she was right.

15 years later I am an official Penny Picker-Upper. I find pennies everywhere—parking lots, grocery stores, sidewalks, restrooms—you name it. I am ridiculously happy when I find them too. And if I don’t pick them up, I point them out to my oldest daughter and she happily picks them up. Afterwards, I make sure I explain that she has received a blessing. It takes pennies (nickels, dimes, and quarters) to make dollars and that she should never be ashamed to add a little cash to her stash in this manner.

My advice to my children: You are beautiful. Be proud of who God created you to be. You’re nothing shy of a masterpiece. You are a “Designer’s Original…” Keep your head up, but keep those eyes glued to the ground. You never know what you’ll find.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Family Reunion

Last weekend my family and I headed to Waterproof, Louisiana for our reunion. For the first time ever I was able to ride down the Louisiana highways and see the beauty of it all. I usually see the cotton fields and find myself angry. The humidity usually takes my hair to new heights—LITERALLY. This time my hair was already upset with me before I got there, so the moisture in the air didn’t make a difference at all. The bugs, after introducing themselves and scaring me senseless, flew away and minded their business. The cool breeze against my face was so crisp and refreshing. The stillness and peacefulness of it all was so relaxing.

The family barbeque at the park was actually more like a barbeque in the field, but it was perfect nonetheless.

Hardly ever do I see people who look anything like me in L.A., but at the reunion, foreheads and high, bold cheekbones were everywhere and I absolutely LOVED it. I was there with my people in the place where my father called home for many years of his life, and I felt right at home too.

My father took us on a tour on Saturday after the BBQ. We passed by his mother’s home, which he was quite proud of. I could see the memories flooding back while he walked around and took it all in. He showed us the old Negro schools, which were shut down with integration, when separate but equal was ruled unconstitutional. We drove to the top of the levy that he enjoyed standing on as a boy. We visited my grandparents’ graves and said a prayer. We drove through “town,” which consisted of a post office, a tiny city hall-type building, and about three other businesses.

It was very important to my dad that we all be there together, and I’m glad I was able to make it. I did a lot of complaining before I got there—4 airline tickets (because Halle JUST turned 2), a rental car, hotel, and food costs for a weekend trip can really hurt a girl in these uncertain economic times—but it ended up being worth every penny.