I’ve Never Been Here Before…But I’m Ready.

The season of Lent is upon us and while many are feeling conflicted about what it is they are about to attempt to fast from, for me I’m dealing with a bevy of other emotions that are rooted in my disdain for the Catholic religion…

When I was 6 years old my parents divorced.  While my father got primary custody my brother Ty and I saw our mother pretty much whenever we wanted which was nearly every weekend, random days  during the summer and many holidays.  My parents were pretty flexible with that.  A few years later my father remarried and Ty and I had to switch school districts.  Since my stepmother had my stepsister enrolled in a Catholic school they believed it would be best for Ty and I to switch to the Catholic school instead of the local public school.  The Catholic school was extremely competitive-as a result there was a waiting list to get in.  After meeting with school administration my parents managed to strike a deal-if Ty and I would be converted to the Catholic religion, we could skip the 1-2 year waiting list.  My parents would get their kids a great education and the Catholic school could count on two new Black students to increase their diversity numbers.

My first year there as a 5th grader was challenging.  In addition to being the only Black student in my entire grade (the second Black student in the entire middle school), I was also bombarded with Catholic policies, rituals, sacraments and classes.  While I had to attend regular religion classes during the school day, I also had to attend a course outside of regular school hours in order to “catch up” with my classmates.  I was in 5th grade and had missed the Baptism, Eucharist (Communion) and Reconciliation (Confession) sacraments that were administered in infancy and second grade.

I felt completely alienated.  Aside from culturally being different (having to explain why I used actual oil on my skin and washed my hair bi-weekly), I found it difficult to relate to their religion.  I had to attend mass two days a week.  It was humiliating to remain seated and not be allowed to receive Communion because I had yet to finish my religion classes that included those Rite of Passage.  My experience in other denominations was that everyone got to receive God’s body and blood…by denying me that privilege, it made me feel as though I was unworthy.  In addition, their masses had none of the “call and response,” animated preaching, or actual Bible-reading that I had grown accustomed to from my days spent going to the Pentecostal church with my mother or Solid Rock Church with Aunt Lynne (Shelby’s mom who I’ve always been close too).

To this day, many concepts in the religion still confuse me.  I’m not quite clear on what the heck that missalette was…it certainly wasn’t the Bible.  And why did I have to spend all that time praying to Mother Mary?  And some sins are worse than others?  Finally, why did I have to confess all of my sins to Father Mahoney, another sinning human…who did Father Mahoney confess too…cuz he’s not perfect, right?

Ultimately I became incredibly depressed.  Incredibly.  By the end of my 6th grade school year the school psychiatrist wound up having to come speak to me…and from then I became known as “that” girl…that had “issues” since I had to speak with the doctor.  It was a very dark time in my life and by the end of the school year my parents made an executive decision to pull me out (along with my siblings) and transfer us to local public schools.  After leaving, I thrived.

All of that to say, since then whenever I reflect on the Catholic church I’m haunted by those memories.  I remember how stringent the insitution is regarding their rules, sacraments and traditions and I haven’t held them in high esteem since.  Lent became thrown into that and it was something that I didn’t have a lot of respect for.   Until last year.

Last year Shelby and I were talking and she let me know what she was giving up for Lent.  I gave her an extreme side-eye.  She’s not Catholic (and to my knowledge never has been).  While Shelby grew up in the Catholic school system and had her own obstacles she had to deal with within it, she attended her family’s church on weekends.

“Cous.  Why are you participating in Lent when you’re not Catholic?” I remember asking her.

“But why not?” She fired back.

I was confused at this point.  “Huh?”  Why participate in another religion’s rituals and traditions if you’re not a member of that religion?

“I mean, sure I’m not Catholic but the purpose of Lent is to reflect on God and to draw nearer to him.  Regardless of who started doing it, a fast is a fast.  I need my blessings!”

Gosh, I love her!  Does that NOT make sense?

Immediately I felt a bit foolish for being so close-minded, especially in matters of spirituality.  While I chose not to observe Lent last year (mainly because it was already halfway over) now that it’s upon us again, I am looking forward to doing my part to form a better relationship with God and also to contribute to the world’s effort of everyone drawing nearer to Him in these troubling times.  Regardless of your own personal experiences with the rules of religion or the denominations that exist, there’s no denying that ignoring the desires of the flesh in exchange for feeding the needs of the spirit is for the better good.

Less of me, more of you.

Sidenote: I will be abstaining from social networking for the next 40 days.  Yikes!  🙂

If 2012 Was The Last Year of Your Life…

Recently on Twitter I found the following question posed to various followers…

If you were notified by Heaven and told this is your final year on earth what are the things you would do this year?

For many, we would chose to aggressively pursue our life-long dreams (whatever they may be).  This would be simple(r) to do because failure would no longer be as big of a threat-we wouldn’t have to deal with the long-term consequences of any of our decisions. For me however, I’ve already pursued my life-long dream.  Since high school (or kindergarten if my mother’s telling it), my biggest life dream was to move to NYC and live my life.  While I haven’t completely taken advantage of everything NYC has to offer, I am more than satisfied with the progress that has been made.  If today was my last day I would ever have in this city, I would be okay with that.  So now that I’ve somewhat fulfilled my biggest life dream, what else is left?

So back to the question…

If you were notified by Heaven and told this is your final year on earth what are the things you would do this year?

The first thought that popped into my head was one word…

Marriage.

While I am currently clueless about which one person I am supposed to be spending my life with, I do have a Mr. Right Now…and honestly, wouldn’t it be great to enjoy married-life privileges with my Mr. Right Now?  Guilt-free living for a freaking year?  Sign me up!!!

  • I could divulge in sex, whenever and however I wanted as frequently as I wanted.
  • I could enjoy dual income! (this is only a perk if you’re broke and the other party is getting money…otherwise it would probably suck)
  • I could allow myself to be super vulnerable and semi-reckless if I wanted (because this would be my husband, not just some Man-Of-The-Week).
  • I could take long, overnight trips if I wanted.
  • I could get pregnant if I wanted.

So yeah, if 2012 was gonna be it for me, and I had confirmation of this from my Father up above, there is no doubt in my mind that I would be walking down somebody’s Christian aisle before Februrary 2012 had ended.

What about you?

If you were notified by Heaven and told this is your final year on earth what are the things you would do this year?

Can I Keep It Real For A Second? About Love…My Changing Perspective.

***This is written as the thoughts are coming…I just got off the phone with V and shared some really deep things regarding my life with her…it now has me thinking…I figure I can’t be the only one in this place right now***

Recently, events in my life have forced me to confront my outlook on love.  L-O-V-E.  I’ve been taking a critical eye, examining it and truly questioning its value…is it worth it?  I suck for that.  The Bible is all about love, God is love and life is…love.

But why does it have to hurt though?  And be so challenging?  Is that not the biggest oxymoron of all oxymorons?  For something like that to be so POWERFUL, so MONUMENTAL, so LIFE-CHANGING, why can it not be simpler?  Easier?  More effortless?  (and no, I’m not speaking on exclusive “romantic relationship” love…all of it.  All of it is rarely ever EASY…at least to me it seems that way)

“I love you” is not a daily part of my vocabulary.  I use it sparingly…too sparingly at times.  Sometimes when it’s time to hang up with somone, I get ready to say it then close my mouth…despite the fact that I love them to death, something in me just won’t let me go there.  I hate that.  And it may be a family member or something…Ty comes to mind lol.

Once you say it, it can’t be taken back.  If you use it, you better mean it…despite my outlook on the topic, to say “I love you” still means a LOT to me and goes a LONG way with me.

So yeah, recently I’ve been thinking a lot about this…the good, a lot of the bad and the flat out ugly.  And then today I was reading Shelby’s blog and she wrote a post on love’s importance.  And man, did it hit home.

Ultimately it’s saying that love and our relationships are what life is about.  All Ten Comandments deal directly with love/respect in relationships and things such as money, future promotions, random interests, building empires and the overall “grind” have NEVER been a proper substitute.  To place those things over our relationships with family, friends and other significant people in our lives is an EPIC fail.  I needed this.  I’ve found myself giving 90% of myself to my “work” and internally, my Spirit has not been okay with this.  My family and friends are my world and my priorities don’t reflect this.

I need to change.

Below is Shelby’s article.  Read it.  This may be the reminder you need to get a new perspective on the life you lead.  I know it has served as a reminder to me.

Life’s Passion-Love

My life’s passion is definitely “love” – I know it’s weird, but I fundamentally believe there is nothing more important than love. With that said, yesterday after having a conversation about “why my passion is love and not pastry arts school” with a few classmates (yikes), Mike and I decided to crack open “The Purpose Driven Life” and by “coincidence” we read this. It literally gave me goose bumps, so I had to share it. So out of love – I paraphrased a section from the book (chapter 16) Enjoy!

The Best Use of Life is Love
By Rick Warren
Summarized by me
 
Love should be your top priority, primary objective and greatest ambition. Love is not a good part of your life, it is the most important part. The Bible says, “let love be your greatest aim.” It’s not enough to say that I want to be more loving as though it’s on your top ten list. Relationships must be the priority in your life above everything else. Why?
 
– Life without love is worthless. Paul says ” no matter what I say, what I believe, what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” Many times we talk about finding time for our relationships – like relationships are something that must be squeezed into our schedules. But God says that relationships are what life is all about. Four of the ten commandments deal with a relationship with Christ, the other six deal with relationships with other people. All ten are about relationships. 
 
Later Jesus summarizes what matters most to God: Love God and love people. Relationships not acquisitions and achievements matter most in life. So why do we allow our relationships get the short end of the stick? When our schedules start getting busy, we start cutting down time, energy, and attention that relationships require. What’s most important to God is displaced by what’s urgent. 
 
Busyness is a great enemy of relationships. We become preoccupied with making a living, doing our work, paying bills, and accomplishing goals as if these tasks are the point of life. THEY ARE NOT. The point of life is learning to love – God and people. Life minus love equals zero.

Are You Farther Away From God Than You Think You Are?

I was confronted with that question recently (as in last night).  The reality is that I am.

If anyone had asked me before last night I would have honestly responded that I have a very close relationship with God, that I speak to Him several times daily and he directs my path.  While it is true, I can do more…a LOT more.

I was on Twitter (when am I NOT on Twitter is the question smh) and around 2 AM one of my followers, @bcrease tweeted something that spoke to me.

“It’s one thing to believe in God, and another to serve Him; It’s an even greater thing to please Him.”

Of course after reading that I analyzed where I fit in that sentence as it relates to my own relationship.  While I’d love to say that I please God, I know that is not truthful.  Nor is it honest to say that I fully serve him.  Ouch.  I do believe in God however and I find myself striving every day to serve Him more than I did the day before.

Sometimes this Christian walk seems so trying and difficult, does it not?  There is no question that God requires much of us if we are to identify ourselves as Christians, to be Christ-like.  Of course he gives of Himself exceedingly in return and the sacrifice is more than worth it.  God’s demands aren’t unjustified.

My primary role on Earth is to promote this Christian lifestyle and it gets so frustrating that I can become so easily distracted.  It’s no wonder why other faiths don’t always take Christianity as seriously as it deserves.  We seem so fickle.  As I have been known to say, I would definitely feel some kind of way about a Muslim who didn’t stop what they were doing to pray several times a day and ate pulled pork sandwiches drenched in barbeque sauce.  As a result I understand why one would want to give me the side-eye when I’m engaged in less-than-desirable behavior and want to follow it up with, “Oh well, God knows my heart…”

While I do desire to please Him and have “good intentions,” I’ve got to be real with myself…the road to Hell is paved with all mine, and everyone else’s, good intentions.  Intentions are rarely good enough among my peers…they surely don’t fly when it comes to God.

I’m embarking on a new chapter of my life and I can’t go forward in it all while I’m making the same mistakes from yesteryear.  Tomorrow is not promised.  I’ve got to do better by Christ, and be a better Christian, today.

Skinning the Cat Versus The Furburger: Female Vaginal Hair Removal

My family has the amusing habit of bringing up some of the most ridiculous comparisons, debating them, then taking them to a whole other level that is deeper and more significant than you could ever imagine.  This past Saturday afternoon, while attempting to enjoy a nice Mexican brunch, the topic of vaginal pubic hair took center stage.  It continued throughout the day and also monopolized our evening conversation as we attempted to enjoy our mini pizza party.

Lol, I’m dead serious.

So there you have it: myself, several of my cousins and my older aunts and uncles seriously debating a fully, hair free vaginal area on women or leaving a little hair behind.  The men were asked, “Do you prefer a fully skinned cat?”  The question would then get flipped to the women.  “Do you maintain a bush?”  It goes without saying that while initially the men favored a fully bare area, the women got them to change their answers in favor of the furburger. 

The men favored skinning the cat for many reasons; included among them were:

  • More aesthetically pleasing (yes, someone used that exact vernacular)
  • Less odor
  • Cleaner
  • Easier for her “juices” to cover “things”
  • Easier for oral pleasure

Women favored smaller runway strips for many reasons as well; included among them were:

  • More protection from the elements (similar to how eyelashes protect our eyes, nose hairs protect nostrils, etc)
  • A signifier to our maturity (we’re not little girls)
  • It’s just supposed to be there

After going back and forth for awhile, Aunt Lynne pulled out the big guns-God, the Bible and religion!  Overall, Aunt Lynne was saying (and that I agree with, and have subscribed to for years wholeheartedly) that trimming is good but removing 100% of all hair is very bad.  The single factor that separates a grown woman’s privates from a young girl’s is the presence of hair.  God intended for this distinction to be made.  Removing all hair presents a breeding ground for pedophilic thoughts and possibly pedophilic actions.  As Uncle Ken was careful to cosign, a hair-free vaginal area can ultimately be a setup for failure when it comes to men.  But as one of my cousins was careful to point out, “I aint tryin to grab an afro pic now!”

They went on to elaborate how difficult it to even remove hair in that area.  “Do you know how troublesome it is to even get bikini ready?!” Aunt Lynne asked (yes, she’s 50+ rocking bikini’s because her body is BANGING!  She’s in the Cincinnati area and teaches aerobics so if you need help, hit her up!). 

From there, overall body-hair was discussed.  Us Yancey/Stone/Steel women are against men shaving anything other than their faces (and sometimes heads).  Men are meant to have hair on their arms, underarms, legs, and chest (chest hair can be trimmed though) and when men remove that, they are reduced to resembling smooth, little boys.  How unappealing is that!?  We want MEN-fully grown, hairy, smelly men. 

This debate is one that I know many have had and now I’m curious as to all of your thoughts on this touchy topic as well. 

Speak on it!

Do You Keep Your Most IMPORTANT Appointment?

I begin most of my days by reading my devotional.  It’s a time for me to get my mind and heart ready for all that I will encounter that day and remind me to always keep my Christianity in check.

Today’s devotional, an exerpt from Joyce Meyer’s Hearing From God Each Morning: 365 Daily Devotions, is one that I have decided to share with you all.

Keep Your Appointment

“You will seek Me, inquire for, and require Me [as a vital necessity] and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:13

We may have to deal sternly with our flesh to resist the spirit of passivity that tries to keep us from growing in the knowledge of God.  A commitment to spend time with God is as serious a commitment as any we will ever make.

If I needed dialysis because of kidney disease and had to be at the hospital twice a week for treatment at 8:00AM, I certainly would not accept an invitation to do anything else during those times, no matter how appealing it seemed or how much I wanted to do it.  I would know my life depended on keeping my dialysis appointment.  We should be that serious about our time with God.  The quality of our lives is greatly affected by the time we spend with Him, so that time should have priority in our schedules. 

Sometimes we become slack in keeping our appointments with God because we know He is always available.  We know He will always be there for us, so we may skip or reschedule our time with Him so we can do something that seems more urgent.  If we spent more “priority time” with God, we might not have so many “urgent” situations that tend to rob us of our time.

When we spend time with God, even if we don’t feel His presence or think we are learning anything, we are still sowing good seeds that will produce good harvests in our lives.  With persistence, you will reach the point where you understand more of God’s Word, where you are enjoying fellowship with Him, and where you are talking to God and hearing His voice.

GOD’S WORD FOR YOU TODAY: Keep your appointments with God.

Friendly Reminder

"It means no worries, for the rest of your days; It's our problem free, philosophy..."

Life is always presenting those annoying little cliche’s that we’ve all heard a million times it seems yet somehow their messages fall on deaf ears.  With summer quickly approaching and the opportunities for human interaction at their prime, let us not forget those lifelong messages we’ve been taught from day one.  Off the top of my head:

The golden rule: Treat others how you would like to be treated!

Common sense isn’t so common.

If it’s too good to be true then it probably is.
 
Think before you speak (I’m definitely working on this one).
 
Never ask for anything you don’t demand of yourself: honesty, loyalty, friends and then wealth.
 
Don’t worry, be happy.
 
Hakuna Matata.
 
And saving the very best for last…
 
Happy moments, praise God.
Difficult moments, seek God.
Quiet moments, worship God.
Painful moments, trust God.
Every moment, thank God.