Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Peer Pressure in Marina del Rey

As I was praying for my daughters this morning I thought about peer pressure and the importance of being strong enough to make the RIGHT decisions regardless of what those around you are doing. I was reminded of a time when I chose to go along with the crowd and the events that unfolded because of that choice.

Picture it. Marina del Rey. August 1999. I had just graduated from high school and was so excited to be heading off to college. 8-10 friends and I decided that to celebrate we would go to Marie Callender’s. We had a blast—ordering whatever we wanted, laughing about our high school memories, and making fun of the waiter and other restaurant patrons. When we finished our meals it seemed like most of my table stood up and walked out. A few of us sat dumbfounded trying to figure out what was going on. Had they paid without us seeing them? Did they leave without paying? When had they decided to leave and why hadn’t we been given the memo? If we continued to sit at the table, would we have to pay for their meals in addition to our own? Next thing I knew, I too was out of the restaurant—bill unpaid.

Outside the restaurant I felt an extreme sense of guilt. I couldn’t believe that I had walked out. I had more than enough money to pay my bill. How had this happened? I said to my dear friend, who was also a “goodie two-shoes” like me, “We HAVE to go back and pay. We KNOW better than this.”

We discussed the situation a little while before he agreed to walk back with me so that we could pay. We headed in the direction of the restaurant and then out of nowhere he grabbed me tightly by the arm, turned around, and ran towards the waiting get-away cars. The next thing I knew I was in the car and my friends smashed out.

I couldn’t believe it. Just like that I was a thief…and a fugitive.

For the next few days I beat myself up for the poor decision I had made. I confided in my sister, who is ten years older than I am. I told her what had happened and that as soon as I got my new car a few days later, I was going to go back and pay. I told her how terribly guilty I felt and made her promise that she wouldn’t tell my mother.

Of course my sister told my mother (which I realized years later when I thought about the irony in the way the story unfolded).

My mother chose to protect my sister by telling me that a church member had called her and told her that they saw someone who looked like me on the news running through a parking lot with a group of kids. My heart began to palpitate. I was on the news? The authorities must be looking for me. I was going to jail over a $15 meal that I could have easily paid for. Oh God!!! You know I had every intention of going back to pay as soon as I got my car and could drive there without my mother having to know what had happened. I felt dizzy. I broke down and told her everything. I told her that I was SOOO sorry and I cried and cried.

My mom seemed disappointed, but she wasn’t upset. She told me that she would take me back to pay and lectured me about the importance of surrounding myself with honest people. I called my friends and tried to convince them to pay as well. I told them that someone had seen us on the news and that I was going back. They were a little more street savvy than I was and told me that there was no way anyone had seen us and that they weren’t going back. I knew that my sister had promised not to tell my mom and there was no way that my mom would ever stretch the truth, so someone had to have seen us.

When my mother and I got to Marie Callender’s I confessed everything that had happened to the manager. I told him that I was sooo sorry and had no excuse for behaving so poorly. I gave him the money for the food and he told me that he appreciated me for coming back. He even gave me a free pie.

Lessons learned:

• I must take responsibility for my actions. I have options in every situation I encounter. Making bad choices because I feel like I don’t have any other options is unacceptable because if I relax and think clear headedly about what is going on, I ALWAYS have more than one. I could have paid my portion of the bill (or even the entire bill), allowed my friends to leave me, and asked my mom or dad to come pick me up. At the time I didn’t think about that. As soon as I got home I could have told my mother what had happened and asked her to take me back to the restaurant to pay, but I didn’t mention it because I thought she would be upset with me, and the thought of disappointing my parents has always been torturous for me…but in all honesty it isn’t nearly as bad as the thought of disappointing the Master, which had already been done when I followed the crowd.

• Sometimes our sins put other people in uncomfortable positions and can cause them to fall as well. My sister promised me that she wouldn’t tell…but she did. My mom then chose to come up with a bogus story to protect my sister, who was really just trying to do what was best and look out for me. All of this stemmed from my initial sin.

• The restaurant manager taught me a valuable lesson about forgiveness. He could have responded to the situation a number of ways, but he allowed me to pay, spoke very kindly to me, forgave me, and then blessed me with a sweet treat. He didn’t have to do any of that, but he was compassionate, understanding, and even thankful that I had come back to do the right thing. He recognized that I was TRULY repentant and he forgave me—just as God does.

• I should always make sure that I surround myself with honest people. It may be more tempting for me to do what is wrong than it is for them to do what is right…and that’s a chance that I choose not to take. Regardless of who sees or doesn’t see me, God is always watching, and I want so badly to make Him proud. The guilt associated with the sin just isn’t ever worth it. The punishment that accompanies the sin is NEVER worth it. I tell Amari this all the time. The bible is clear. God is VERY forgiving, but He hates sin…and He punishes sin…and the punishment is NEVER worth the sin.

Interestingly I found myself in a very similar situation a few years later. This time I was with a group of people at a Denny’s in Las Vegas. I was a little older…and a little wiser. This time I made the right decision and paid. It was also in that moment that I fully embraced the fact that my associations matter. I had to choose better friends and acquaintances and I made a conscious effort to do just that.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Feeling Good about Myself, No Matter What! (For My CALI Girls)

When I was in high school, you were considered hot stuff if you wore the most expensive and fashionable brand name clothes and shoes. Top it off with a fresh hairdo, and you were really doing big things. If you were dressed homely, you were made fun of. If your clothes were faded, you were made fun of. If it looked like you had on hand-me-downs, you were made fun of. If you wore something too often, you were made fun of. You had to be on point or else you would be made fun of. I knew many people who would literally steal and risk going to “juvie” just so that they could wear “nice” clothes and fit in. It was ridiculous.

For me, dressing the part was difficult. My mother’s motto was, “As long as you’re clean and smelling good, you look fine.” She refused to spend any money on name brand items. This meant that instead of Ked’s, I got Ted’s. (They looked like Ked’s but they were sold at Target). Instead of a Starter jacket, I got a plain one from the Slauson Swap Meet.

If I wanted name brand things my mother didn’t attest to me having them, I would just have to buy them myself. I’ll never forget my first pair of black boots. I had worked hard all summer and saved up enough to buy myself a black Bebe shirt and some dark blue Express jeans. I wore this outfit to school with a pair of black and white Ted’s a few times before my homeboy suggested that I pair the ‘fit with a trendy pair of black boots instead. I was on a budget, so I headed to Payless and bought a pair. When I rocked my new and improved outfit to school, my homeboy (who was also the class clown) immediately noticed my no-name boots. He pointed them out to everyone in the lunch area. Everybody pointed and CRACKED up! I couldn’t believe that something that was supposed to be so right, had gone so terribly wrong. I stood there blushing, embarrassed.

My absolute worst shoe day had to be the day that I wore my brand new Red Cross’s to school. (I’m sure you’ve never heard of those. Neither had I. But they were cheap, they were new, and my mom had actually been willing to buy them for me.) I was trying to be low-key the day I wore them, but they were so white that they caught EVERYONE’S attention. The laughter roared AGAIN! Thankfully, I had a great sense of humor, so I was able to crack jokes about myself and play off my humiliation, but people clowned me about that for the next few years.

Flash forward a few years. College. I was determined that no one would ever make fun of my attire again. My mission was to rock the best clothes and shoes no matter what the cost. If I wanted a Louis Vuitton bag, I would work hard and buy one. If I wanted a pair of Tommy shoes or a Baby Phat outfit, I bought them without a second thought. I spent a great deal of my free time shopping. I tried to make myself feel gorgeous by buying the most expensive clothes and shoes that I could find. I worked hard and then spent my entire checks on junk—hoping to find happiness and acceptance in the things that I wore. Just knowing how much I had spent on my outfits made me feel confident. You couldn’t tell me anything.

One day it hit me. If I only felt good about myself when I rocked a pair of Chanel glasses and had a fresh hairdo, my self-esteem must be really messed up. I had friends who could put together some classy outfits without spending nearly as much as I did and their clothes actually looked better than mine. I felt foolish for wasting so much money on things that wouldn’t last. I was determined to do something to correct my “stinking thinking.” I started buying clothes that I considered quality instead of buying clothes simply because there was a brand name attached to them. I programmed my mind not to focus as much on the label as it did on the fact that I was clean, beautiful (inside and out), and presentable—just as my mother had taught me. In time, I came to know that no matter what I’m wearing, no matter how much it cost, no matter whether my hair is pulled back or down, I am gorgeous!

Here are some tips to help you if you find yourself judging your worth by superficial measures (as I once did). Hopefully these tips will help you to focus on that which is most important so that you can feel great about yourself no matter what.

1. One of Satan’s tricks (that he loves to use on young women) is to make us think that our self-worth and approval are tied up in the way we look. If we don’t measure up to the world’s standards of beauty, often our self-esteem takes a hit. When we are feeling down about ourselves it can potentially hinder our praise. Satan knows this. His goal is to take our focus off of God and then destroy us. Remember that you were made in God’s image as a reflection of His beauty (Gen. 1: 26-27), so you can’t help but to be stunning.

2. Challenge yourself to see yourself through God’s eyes. He’s not concerned with what’s on the outside. What’s on the inside is what matters most. Make sure that the inner you is the best you that it can be and that will definitely make you look even more attractive on the outside as well.

3. Smile at yourself every time you look in the mirror each day. I can’t say enough just how beautiful and unique you are. There’s no harm in acknowledging that and giving yourself a stamp of approval each day.

4. You can make a shirt from Target, Rave, or your local thrift shop look stunning if you choose. Constantly remind yourself that you make your clothes look great. It doesn’t matter how much they cost, where you bought them, or what name is on them. Without you in them, they are lifeless.

5. If anyone ever makes fun of what you are wearing, don’t let it get you down. Say a quick prayer for them and remind yourself that you are royalty. God takes great pleasure and delight in you and His opinion is the one that matters most.

I’m not at all suggesting that you never wear name brand clothes again. As a matter of fact, that would be hypocritical because I still do. The difference between me then and now, however, is that I love myself and feel good about myself regardless of where I buy my clothes and regardless of how much they cost—and so should you!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My Love Re-Connection

Last year, Dahn Elle Dior, began a movement, “It’s You, But New,” to help women revitalize, refocus, and renew their minds, bodies, and spirits. Her workshops concentrate on relaxation techniques, fashion makeovers, healthy living, and other things to help women discover, uncover, and become their best selves.

I attended an “IYBN” workshop a few months ago and while there, Dahn Elle suggested that the attendees tap into our childhood memories and identify things we enjoyed when we were younger that, for whatever reason, we no longer do as adults. She encouraged us to make time to actually do those things because they would help us to experience a little of the happiness, excitement, energy, and pleasure now that we did back then. It didn’t take me long to come up with one of the things I absolutely loved to do as a child—COLOR!

I headed to Dollar Tree and bought myself a coloring book. I also found a pack of crayons on sale for 40 cent at Target. I told my children that this was my special coloring book and although I share everything else, I would not be sharing this. (I felt like the Grinch at first and was tempted to let them color one page, but I stuck to my guns.) I put my crayons to the paper, and next thing you know, colorful masterpieces graced the formerly bland pages of my Winnie the Pooh coloring book.

Thank God! For less than $2, I have re-connected with a former love…and I enjoy it as much today as I did 20 years ago…

For more information about “It’s You, But New,” check out the following link:

Monday, August 8, 2011

I'm So Excited About C.A.L.I. GIRL Newsletter!

Many years ago, the Lord placed a desire in the hearts of a few of my dearest friends and I to share some of the difficult situations and the valuable lessons that we learned as a result of them with other young ladies who might be experiencing similar things. We also wanted to talk with young ladies about the fun and exciting aspects of walking with the Lord and living for Him as well. At the time, we didn’t make our desires a priority. We continued to live and learn, but the need to speak out and share our stories continued to burn inside of us.

We noticed that the magazines on newsstands targeting young women had catchy articles, but the content in them typically didn’t align with the will of God. The enemy was using the printed news media to attack the minds of our young ladies. At a time when young women are so impressionable, we have a responsibility to make sure that we are equipping them with the weapons, information, and confidence to fight the spiritual battle that is raging. (Ephesians 6:11 – 18.)

Earlier this year, my friends and I realized that we could no longer be silent. Sabrina Pierce, Vicki (Pierce) Childress, Eboni (Hemphill) Marmolejos and I joined together to launch Christian and Loving It (C.A.L.I.), Girl Newsletter—an inspirational Christian newsletter for young ladies between the ages of 13 and 24. Our mission is to provide Christian guidance and support to young women by presenting them with positive and truthful information about fashion, self-esteem, hygiene, talents and gifting, relationships, etiquette, Christian living, and other things the concern young ladies in this age range.

We created a blog version of our newsletter.  Feel free to check it out, and PLEASE let me know what you think.  Feel free to pass it on to anyone you think it may encourage.