Category Archives: It’s Me Joc

When The Temptation Is Still There…

I was excited when my Youtube notification told me KevOnStage Studios posted a new video with a really amazing poet by the name of Jackie Hill-Perry!

WATCH THE INTERVIEW: Gay Girl, Good God with Jackie Hill Perry

When Jackie talks about having a correct view of God and being a Christian as it relates to temptation – I AM FOR IT!

Even if I can’t eloquently state it in words, this is what I try to convey to my friends and family…..well, really PEOPLE for that matter….when it comes to the practice of celibacy. Being celibate doesn’t mean you’re not tempted…. just like being in a heterosexual marriage after you’ve left a lifestyle of homosexuality doesn’t erase the thoughts that might present themselves……in the very same way being clean from drugs or alcohol doesn’t translate that you have absolutely NO vulnerability to the temptation to drink or do drugs again.

LISTEN. The supernatural HELP and STRENGTH to flee temptation is one of the MAIN BENEFITS of knowing and believing in God! Life on earth is tough for ANYONE. This is why I am so confident that God is real. I have experienced His power in my life PERSONALLY and no one can take that away from me! I know what life is like going to church just because your parents make you go. I know what it’s like sitting through sermons and VBS every summer without truly understanding that the words on the pages in front of you actually have POWER in real life!

It is NO coincidence that I’ve been celibate for about 10 years. It’s a matter of being intentional not to give in to the temptation that presents itself to me daily.

I have to put parameters in place and UTILIZE the spirit of self-control God has given me in order to stay on the right path. The God path for my life. There are few things tougher than going from being sexually active to doing nothing at all (I’m sure there are but for the purpose of this blog I’m going to say so.) Like many of you all, when I dated in the past, it was expected: you date a guy, you have sex with him because you like him, all is normal. That was until a terrible ending to a bad [relation]ship made me realize that my life was a hot mess.

When I made the conscious choice to change and really live for God, I did so because I loved Him. I wanted to know HIM, and the decision to be celibate was one of the things that came along with it. God’s Holy Spirit revealed to me, in my quest in knowing Him, that in addition to all the practical reasons to abstain from sex as an unmarried [young] woman, sex was preventing me from truly connecting with Him. I can honestly say that this was a seriously wise move. In the years since I made the decision to be celibate, so many blossoms of creative ideas, businesses, authentic ministry, friendships, blessings, spiritual intimacy have unfolded in my life.

Like Jackie expressed in this video, it wasn’t like overnight I had no sexual desire at all and experienced no temptation; but as time progressed, grew closer to God, and utilized his Word living a celibate life got EASIER. To this day, the temptation is still there because I’m human, but I use self-control to suppress it because I know it won’t do me any good to give into it. If I give into sexual temptation right now as an unmarried woman, I risk harming not only myself but being pulled further away from God.

So if you’re out there and you’re feeling defeated or are contemplating giving up on your commitment to abstinence because you still struggle with temptation– DON’T! Temptation is always going to be there, it’s a matter of not letting it win. Here are some things that have helped me and will prayerfully help you in some way!

Tool # 1 — Strategically avoid people and things that are overtly sexual in nature.

This goes for movies, Youtube videos, music videos, music that’s overtly sexual (sorry Meg and Trey fans), and books. No lie, it took me 1 ½ years to watch Girls Trip because I knew at the time it was released in theatres, I wouldn’t be able to handle seeing at night. (I’ll leave it right there. I don’t think I need to explain myself any further about that.) I also had to distance myself from a few friends because we used to cut up with and I knew that I had to back away from all of that if I was going to really be able to give this celibacy thing a shot. I made it known [to friends] when I finally made the decision to be celibate why I was always declining their offers for ‘girls’ night’ or club or kickbacks. I wasn’t strong when I first started this journey. Now, that I’m basically 10 years in, I’m stronger, but I still have to be careful of what I watch and what events I attend. As time passed, certain ‘base level’ temptations no longer tripped me up like they once did because I learned to recognize them for what they were.

Tool # 2 — Get you some accountability partners!

This one is right on up there to the top of the list. One point Jackie made in the video was regarding the importance of ‘community’. We were NOT made to ‘do’ life alone. We have no real strength simply in and of ourselves; we need God’s strength first, but also the support of a trusted community member. This can be a parent, a sibling, a friend, a church friend – someone who will help you in your weakest moments. When I decided to be celibate, I was about a month or two out of a toxic [relation]ship and needed peeps who wouldn’t judge me if I called them to talk/distract myself when I was feeling like scrolling my cell phone for an ex to call. Accountability partners kept me from making some choices I would’ve seriously regretted! But let me tell you all, I didn’t truly see the benefit of accountability partners until I got into my first relationship since deciding to be celibate. It was one thing to deny temptation as a single person but when I actually had a partner PHYSICALLY THERE and available to enjoy – whewwww I was constantly texting my folk just to help keep my mind straight.

Tool # 2.5 – If you are in or get into a relationship, be up front and set boundaries up front!

I wanted to say that when you do end up in a relationship, you need to make sure your partner knows up front what the deal is. Don’t leave things up to assumption and don’t hang your celibacy wholly on them. Your partner may not have been practicing celibacy as long as you have (or even at all) so it’s not fair (or wise) to say to yourself, “…okay, in my weak times I’ll just leave it up to my partner to tell me no because they know that I want to stay abstinent.”

No no no baby, what is you doinnnn?! lol

True, you need to make sure your partner is on the same page as you are, but you have to utilize YOUR self-control and they have to use THEIRS. There will be plenty of times where you’ll have close calls, and when this happens (because it will), YOU have to physically stop yourself, back things up, verbally express to your partner that things are getting too heated, and reach out to an accountability partner to let them know, “…look we almost went there, pray for me!”

Overnight trips, sleepovers, Netflix & Chillin’ is not wise. If you’re going to spend time alone, let it be during the day. If you’re going to go out at night, keep things public and don’t go back to one another’s house. If you’re going to have a chill night at home, do it with a group of friends. If you’re going out of town, get separate hotel rooms or bring another couple. If you’re up front with your partner and set boundaries, the chances of you slipping up will be slim to none.

 

Tool # 3 – Never let your guard down.

This isn’t a tool so much as it is a tip. Depending on how long it is from the time you decide to be celibate to the time you’re married, you may get comfortable in your own abilities. Be proud of the journey you’re on, but don’t get too cocky. I can tell you from experience that it is much easier for me now coming on Year 10 than it was Year 1 or Year 2, but it still takes work. Whatever it is you promised God, don’t relax until you’ve done that thing. I’ll be even more transparent with you all…..when I originally decided I was going to get closer to God and abstain from sex until marriage, I thought I’d be waiting 3 to 4 years tops! I was fresh out of college and figured I’d still be married by the time I reached 25. I’m sitting in this chair typing this blog entry at 32 years of age. Ya’ll. YA’LL. YOU. ALL!!! I had to dig deep and really use wisdom these past 10 years to stay free of giving into sexual temptation. Of course your story details won’t look exactly like mine, but kept in mind, you never know when God will call you to marriage so you always have to make sure you’re alert. When you read this, I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed as if being celibate is another job and that you can never have fun. What I want, is for you to get a realistic expectation and realization that the moment you feel you have things under control and go over to ole dude’s or ole girl’s  house to watch a movie, they will hit you with “…why are you sitting all the way over there?” This will be the moment I want my words to ring in your ear ‘DON’T LET YOUR GUARD DOWN **insert your name here**” You will have to make the decision to put your guard up and allow that wisdom and those boundaries to kick in.

 

Tool #4 – Don’t give up. Know that you can do it.

Celibacy is like birthing a baby. Whether your baby is coming naturally or via cesarean, you experience pains and exhaustion like you probably never experienced before. You feel like your body can’t take any more, but that’s when you remember your ‘why’…that your baby is almost here and what you’re going through is worth fighting past every ounce of difficulty. The journey of staying celibate until marriage isn’t easy and there are times (and nights) where you feel like you can’t do it anymore. You’re not strong enough. When you fall into that mindset … KEEP PUSHING! Pray, listen to Christian music, watch Christian movies or videos until you fall asleep, read Bible scripture on what God promises you. Know that this celibacy journey is worth it – not just so you can finally enjoy married sex – but so you can experience the joy in knowing that you have developed self-control that will help you stay faithful and hopeful whenever you DO actually get married!

Temptation doesn’t end when you get married – it just evolves.

If you can flex your self-control muscles NOW while you’re un-married, imagine how much more of a leg up you’ll have when you DO get married and your spouse has to be deployed for 3 months? Or you have to go out of town on business for a weekend? You’ll know that YOU CAN withstand the temptation to just go out here and cheat out of sexual desire. You’ll be able to tap into tools you’ve gained during your celibacy to keep your desires in check until you can be reunited with your spouse.

So…don’t be hard on yourself if being abstinent is tougher than you originally thought. Even if you slip up, be firm with yourself, don’t beat yourself up and recognize where you need to change. Learn from your mistakes and know what you must do to have the upper hand next time.

 

Point blank….temptation is a beast, but so are you. If your motives for whatever it is you’re giving up – excessive partying, alcoholism, active homosexuality, habitual lying & manipulation, drugs, premarital sex – are rooted in God, you won’t fail. You may feel a little rocky, but again if your motives are tied back to God, He will sustain you. You may experience ‘failures’ but YOU are not a failure. Old desires will always present themselves to you, but through the strength that God gives and will build up in you, you won’t be controlled by them. I hope this encourages everyone who needs this.

Be blessed, Joc

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Everyone’s Dad

I will try really hard not to cry while writing this but I seriously doubt I will be able to. So no promises.

This week, my dad accompanied my little cousin to his class’ ‘Father-Son Day’. My little cousin’s father passed away almost two years ago and my dad has now become uncle-dad. This isn’t a concept that’s foreign to him though. In our family and with many of his students — he has been…dad. Of course, his ‘kids’ have fathers of their own, but when their fathers weren’t available or able to give that listening ear that only a ‘dad’ can — my dad has been there.

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Looking back in retrospect, in the months leading up to my uncle’s death, he STRATEGICALLY made sure my cousin (and his little sister) had an intentional relationship with my dad. I recall spending afternoons at my uncle’s house (especially when he was too weak to get on the floor to play) when he would often retreat and look on while my father played cars and superheroes. My uncle was almost scared to hold baby sister, as if he feared growing attached to her, knowing tomorrow wasn’t promised. It amazes me that in his pain and mental turmoil, he purposely took the time out to make sure his kids knew my dad and had a close relationship with him, because he knew he could trust my dad to help guide them in life. He knew that my dad would not allow the memory of him to fade.

This leads me to this today. (here come the tears and sniffles)

FACT: not being married or having any grandkids for my dad to enjoy is tough at times.

ALSO FACT: experiences like this warm my heart because my little cousin is getting all the love that my kid/s would have been getting.

The magical symbiosis of it all turns me into a pile of silly putty — E-VE-RY-TIME! My father is able to experience building the close relationship he’s always wanted with his grandchildren, while my cousin gets to experience having a strong, wise male in his life. Joshua and his sister now each have their own inside jokes with my dad (no, I haven’t been too salty about it. lol) Some of the same things he did with me — like dancing on his feet, Mr.Two-Fingers, whistle lessons, candy sneaking — he now does all of this with them.

As the pictures of the ‘Father-Son Day’ trickled into my phone, I found that the tears overcrowding my eyes made it hard for me to even enjoy them! Once I collected myself, I sat staring at them, beaming with pride that God blessed me with the father He’s chosen to bless me with. I know he’s not perfect and doesn’t always cross every ‘t’ or dot every ‘i’, but he’s doing a pretty good job at being…everyone’s dad. My prayer is that if God sees fit to bless me with a husband and kids, my dad-ster will still have some more love to go around.

-Joc

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Miracles, Signs, & Wonders

Over the past 2-3 weeks, I have been experiencing hardships on my job and in my health. To sum everything up in a sentence or two: I found myself worn down and on the brink of burn out. It was like there wasn’t enough time to fit everything in my schedule and my health suffered because I didn’t take care of myself or because there wasn’t enough “time” to maximize the resources that could help me get stronger. I was drained mentally and physically.

 

As a Christian, I observe Lent. It takes place 40 days prior to Easter Sunday (aka Resurrection Sunday) and you usually fast and/or abstain from worldly sustenance in honor of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness prior to becoming active in his earthly ministry. To be honest, most Christians observe lent because their pastor “makes them” or because it’s “just what you do as a Christian”. Those people TOTALLY miss the point.  Much like Jesus pointed out while He was on earth, God doesn’t want us to do something JUST BECAUSE…He wants us to fast and pray to get closer to Him! When we are distracted by earthly things like television, social media or food (even though food IS good and is a basic need) it’s easy to find ourselves distant from our Creator.

Think about it. How easy is it to spend 1 or 2 hours straight checking Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Youtube? How hard is it for you to sit and read the Bible for 5 minutes without squirming or feeling like you’re missing out on something? How easy is it for you to binge that entire series you’ve been patiently waiting all year to drop? How hard is it for you to sit in a quiet room in silent prayer before you feel like you’re going to go mad? How easy is it for you to scour Pinterest ALL day long, daydreaming of the amazing dinner you have planned after work? How hard is it for you to do a quick topical search on your You Version Bible app or index search in your print Bible for scriptures on anxiety – which is something that haunts you daily?

Fasting for a certain period of time frees us up from those distractions and allows us to be stripped down to NOTHING and NO ONE but God. We don’t have comfort idols to pass the time or interrupt the silence. Fasting in the wilderness is part of why Jesus’ ministry was SO powerful. His mind was free to soak up ALL the wisdom and great ideas God had ready to download into His heart and mind. He was strengthened.

 

OKAY so back to my story.

The month of April was filled with numerous hardships BUT I can honestly say that participating in lent this year has made the difference. While I didn’t abstain from food (due to taking certain medications) I did make the decision from abstaining from secular television or worldly influences after a certain time. If that meant having nothing to do but sit in my room and stare at the wall – I did it. Fasting from outside influences put me “in a corner” where I had nothing to rely on but God and His Word. If I was spending time with my friends or family, I’d leave at a certain time or go off to myself to focus on God. Sometimes He would say nothing – I’d just sit there in silence or simply fall asleep. Other times He would encourage me and remind me that despite the hectic life I was experiencing He saw me and would give me the strength to make it through.

By the time Easter Sunday arrived (yesterday) I had experienced not one, but THREE miracles in a 40-day period! All three miracles saved me from a hospital stay and/or burnout. I know that miracles happen great and small but this is the first time in a LONG time that I can remember instant miracles like that. I KNOW it wasn’t by happenstance that these miracles took place when they did! I believe that God was showing me what awesome wonders come to light when we depend SOLELY on Him to meet our need. One of the miracles happened through medication and that’s something some people would have missed. GOD WORKS THROUGH DOCTORS. Visiting a doctor does not mean you lack faith, it means you possess wisdom and God-given common sense!

 

Sure I can find myself overwhelmed or worn down all throughout, but I truly believe that THIS time God has resurrected my physical and mental health to on purpose. He has honored my desire to grow closer to him by fasting and He has rewarded me by renewing my strength. Sometimes miracles don’t come through money or possessions but through the restoration of health and peace of mind.

I’m not really sure what the ‘moral’ of this post is, but I just had to testify and share the amazingness that has taken place in my life. I’m looking forward to more miracles, signs, and wonders in the NEAR future!

— Stay blessed,

Joc

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Chad Loves Michelle: Depression, Anxiety & Love

This morning while getting ready for work, I watched Good Morning America and was able to catch the end of Michelle Williams’ and fiance Chad Johnson’s interview with Robin Roberts.
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In the little part that I saw, Michelle spoke on battling depression and revealed that around the time she and Chad were getting deep into their relationship, she checked herself into a hospital for treatment. When Chad came to visit her, she told him “I understand if you leave. I can go to bed at night knowing [it was because] you were praying for a wife, but not a depressed wife.” She had already mentally prepared herself to battle her depression without him but he stayed.
That stuck with me.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that 2 1/2 years ago I was attacked with burnout/anxiety and started having issues traveling distances that I normally wouldn’t think twice about. You will also know that it was TOTALLY out of the blue! AND that means you know that at that time my burnout occurred, I had literally JUST started dating my now ex-boyfriend. It couldn’t have come at a worse time.
So here I was trying to balance a new (somewhat long distance) relationship, ever mounting responsibilities at work, family issues, a photography business, and on top of all of that — anxiety. Prior to that, I had never really dealt with it before aside from stress and it caught me off guard. I was just used to that stress where you can drink a Ginger Ale, take a nap, and wake up fine! What honestly frustrated me about this whole fear thing was the fact that I couldn’t seem to shake it overnight.
FACT….most everything I’d been confronted with in my life (up to then) was always something I could snap out of or shake off. Not this time.
Going from fearlessly traveling ANYWHERE in the world to freaking out by simply sitting in a car is DRAINING, CONFUSING, EMBARRASSING…. you add a new boyfriend in the mix. DISASTER. One of the reasons my ex started dating me in the first place was for my sense of adventure. Huge problem Houston.
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While my ex and I had some really good moments, I truly believe (now and even back then) that anxiety was primarily responsible for our breakup. Sure we had a ton of other differences and probably would have broken up anyway (lol) BUT may have stayed a little longer if anxiety and panic attacks didn’t tag along as the third wheel.
When we broke up I couldn’t blame my ex for not wanting to deal with a woman battling anxiety but deep down I was hoping he would or could somehow help see me through it. It changed who I was. I clung to my family a little tighter, I was a little less adventurous, every trip to visit him wiped out every bit of spunk I had. It was mindblowing for ME to deal with and I was PERSONALLY frustrated BEYOND end. I felt weak, I felt punkish, I felt crazy; basically, all of the above. I didn’t want to be a girlfriend or wife fighting anxiety — I’d never experienced it before in life and was mad at myself for not being able to just ‘snap out’ of it; after all, that was how I usually rolled.
Watching that GMA interview this morning and seeing how Chad truly loves Michelle gave me hope.
“The relationship just seemed to be slipping out of my hands,” Chad said in the interview. “I could see [her] spiraling, but I had no idea that it was depression.”
Seeing how Chad and men like LaGuardia Cross have made the choice to help their women conquer their mental struggles gives me hope that there are people who can handle it.
Let me say this, I have NO intention of allowing anxiety to stress me like it once did forever. I plan to live FREE from this! Since the winter of 2016 – spring of 2017, I began seeking out mental and spiritual help, beginning with a therapist. While I am better than what I was 2 years ago I’m not at 100%. However, what I have learned through this experience so far is that some obstacles don’t fall away overnight. Some do. Some people wake up the next day and the fear is gone. Some have to work to achieve that. It’s a matter of focusing on God in the midst of everyday stresses and taking things day by day. Not worrying about the future but focusing on the victory in today. I am not alone and there are others who sympathize AND empathize with my journey.
I AM MAKING THIS CLEAR RIGHT NOW — I am not trashing (nor trying to trash) my ex because he didn’t have the capacity to deal with my monster at that time; I couldn’t honestly say that I wouldn’t have felt the same way THEN if I were him either! I learned a lot of valuable lessons and gained new insight during the time we dated. I AM, however, expressing the thankfulness I have for supportive friends and family because I now know that everyone doesn’t have the patience/will to interact with someone battling with PTSD or anxiety.
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I know God did not give me a spirit of fear but has given me His Spirit of love, power, and a sound mind…some days it’s just a little tougher to grasp that truth.

I have thoroughly been encouraged today. Michelle and Chad reminded me that all I can do is take each life one step at a time and that I shouldn’t allow myself to fall victim to discouragement whenever I have a bad day. Their words reminded me that this too shall pass. They reminded me that I should be thankful for the blessings of those in my tribe while graciously accepting the exit of those who choose not to be part of it. All in all, I’m good! I am graced for this.
Peace and blessings,
Joc

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Final Verdict on My Recent Anti-Fibroid Diet

This past weekend I let you in on my exhilarating experience in changing my diet to knock out the painful symptoms of fibroids and menstrual cycles while having them.

Day 4 – For breakfast, I found that saltine crackers are working well, so I stick with a few of those. It’s a Saturday so my day is filled with running errands, taxing family members around town and editing more photos from the wedding I photographed the week prior. Thank God I was able to finish off the last bit of salmon leftover from earlier in the week. I was able to pop it in the microwave and go! I felt like I was drinking more tea than water over the past few days, so I opted to drink water instead.  In between running errands, I had some time to reflect on how amazing I felt compared to how I felt a mere three weeks ago. UNBELIEVABLE! For dinner, I wanted to try something different so I decided to get about a pound of lean ground turkey (93% lean), brown rice, and make a Thai curry bowl using the leftover pineapple I had in the fridge. I was a little nervous because I’ve learned that bad fats exacerbates pain and nausea from fibroids but I decided to jump off the food ledge anyway and it paid off BIG TIME! While I finished up more work around town, I had a sweet potato baking in the oven and after sprinkling some plain cinnamon and a dash of kosher salt gobbled it up like it was a piece of cake!

 

Day 5 – Yesterday was the fifth day of my diet and it had the potential to be the most challenging yet. Up to this day, I had “max control” over prepping my food, but Sundays are usually the days where I not only eat two meals a day (before and after church), but I usually eat out with my family to bond. Of course, it felt like I was swatting down offers to try ‘this fried food’ and ‘that buttery roll’, but I made it through! I ordered the baked salmon with grilled mixed veggies and asked the waitress to leave off the lemon butter sauce (which no doubt would’ve tasted SO good!!! Uggghh) I also opted for a plain baked sweet potato with cinnamon instead of my beloved Caesar salad (the rich, creamy dressing is a no-no when it comes to cramps).  When I heard my grandma ask for brown sugar my heart lit up! After a quick Google search, I found that BROWN sugar does not complicate cramps like processed white sugar does. I IMMEDIATELY flagged down the waitress and asked her to add a small side-cup of brown sugar to my order. MAN OH MAN was I a happy camper! Not only was the salmon ON POINT (not as good as mine though.lol) but the brown sugar was the sweetness I’d been craving ALL DOGGONE WEEK! I didn’t even care that everyone else was drinking sweet tea and I had ice water.

 

So now I have neared the end of my little ‘experiment’ and I must say I am in PURE AWE of how God can heal us through FOOD of all things! This week has been the first in a little over 2 years that I have not experienced nausea and cramps during ‘lady week’ and if I will bare the honest truth to you all — I almost cried last night from the joy of it all. There is nothing like experiencing the warmth of the sun after battling through a cloudy, violent storm. So many dots are connecting in terms of behaviors, symptoms, and happenings. While I would’ve preferred not to have experienced the pain at all, I am grateful for what I’ve learned in spite of it and here are my main takeaways:

#1 FOOD… CAN… HEAL! Saying that humans complicate things is a gross understatement. We do it in the worst way and in every way! God is God. Elohim. The Creator of this whole kit-n-kaboodle we call a universe. He created us and knows what is good for our bodies — which is why He created certain foods with certain properties. While I enjoy the convenience of many processed foods and the speed in which I can have them on my table and the length of time they can be preserved in my panty — I now know without a shadow of a doubt, that it is not worth trading organic healing food properties for convenience. Will I drop EVERYTHING and start a farm tomorrow, never to eat at ChickFilA again? Probably not. But I will keep striving to steadily chance my lifestyle so I can make choices that keep my body happy and healthy.

#2 Being mindful of what you consume during your menstrual cycle can make or break your experience. As previously mentioned, the discomfort I experienced this past week was virtually nonexistent. By carefully choosing foods and drinks that were not only healthy but fibroid fighters, I traded in a bedridden week of sickness and gut-punching pain for a fancy-free week of effective productivity.

#3 Fibroids are the worst, but they don’t have to be. When I was diagnosed with having fibroids, I didn’t really know what to think or how to feel. I just knew I didn’t want them. I can honestly say that this week I felt shift internally and won’t be surprised if, after more time walking in this healthier lifestyle, my fibroids shrink away into oblivion. I have a few doctors appointments coming up so we will see how I’m doing! I know women who have had fibroids simply starve themselves off and never had to deal with them. I know women who have opted to have surgery instead. Either way, I am hopeful that fibroids won’t interfere or ruin my life. As long as I focus on living the best life God has for me, and praying for His guidance when it comes to making the wisest choices for ME — I will be alright. I will be BETTER than alright!

As I petitioned before, please keep me in your prayers as I continue to better myself and share the journey with you!

— Joc

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Fear Meets Faith …. Now What?

Good morning, good day, and all that other good jazz. If you visited me two days ago you will have read a very transparent post in where I shared what’s been going on in my life over the past three years. The way it ended however bothered me. I felt like I wasn’t doing a much as I could (from a Christian standpoint) to offer specific tools to overcome and fight fear. Well below is one of the tools that I have personally used recently in combination with my normal bible/prayer time.

What is it Joc?

It’s a list of declarations to help you focus and center your attention on God whenever problems begin to overwhelm you or fear tries to seep into your day. Around the summer of 2016, I came across a testimonial video of this guy named Tony Kell who experienced anxiety to the point he didn’t leave his house out of fear something bad would happen to him. In the video, he discussed that as an alternative to anxiety medication, he decided to take some sound advice and try fighting anxiety in the spirit. I saved the video to one of my Youtube playlists and began listening to it whenever I would feel that “feeling” creeping up again.

To my delight, as I have been growing after my bad experience, so has he; even going so far as to make videos to document what has helped him and how he is living differently than he did when he allowed fear to rule his life. One of the things he recently did was offer to email any who wanted it a list of declarations that he uses daily.

Now of course I’d already consulted my mother (who is a minister) and my pastor, but it never hurts to have more ways to get your mind set on victory! I sent him a message and within a couple of hours, the list below was in my inbox. I printed 3 copies off and keep 1 in my purse, 1 in my desk at work, and 1 to have around the house. You don’t have to do the same thing, but I’m telling you, just like those sisters learned to read in The Color Purple, having God’s Word before you helps it to stick! Having ANYTHING before you helps it stick! As a matter of fact, a ton of personal stuff has been going on in my life and last night  I had a moment. With the snow storm blasting through the state and being inside with my thoughts while looking after my grandmother, things started to (unconsciously) weigh on me and I felt myself slowly becoming overwhelmed. If you have EVER had a panic attack, it is NOT the bee’s knees. If you can stop it before it comes — GREAT! As a matter of fact, that is exactly what I did when I started feeling pressure building up in my chest and my senses tingling and my fingers becoming numb — it was then I remembered this list in my purse and whipped it out!

I began reading down the list (even though I didn’t immediately feel a difference) and it seemed as though the more I read (when I began) the stronger fear began to set it. So I kept reading it like I was looking right at the fear/devil that was trying to overwhelm me and got mad! Cape on the back SUPA mad. By the time I read the list the second time through I was calm.

No meds, just Word.

If you need counseling get it. If you HAVE to take meds, take them. BUT know that that alone won’t “cure” you of your anxiety and overload. You have to attack the root of the trouble and that’s done in the spiritual realm. Having spiritual weapons powering the natural weapons, the natural weapons are much more effective.

Blessings, Joc

I DECLARE AND DECREE

IN THE NAME OF JESUS:

 

-I REFUSE TO WORRY

-I REFUSE TO FEAR

-I DO NOT FEAR AND WILL NOT FEAR

-I WILL WALK IN PEACE

-I HAVE PEACE IN MY HEART

– I HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST

-I’M CALM

-I WILL GET GOOD SLEEP

-I WILL WAKE UP REFRESHED

-I WILL WAKE UP RENEWED

-I WILL NOT GIVE UP

-I CAN DO THIS

-I’M COURAGEOUS

-I’M BRAVE

-I’M STRONG

-I WALK IN PEACE

-I WILL OVERCOME THIS

-I WALK BY FAITH AND NOT BY SIGHT

-I’M A VICTOR AND NOT A VICTIM

-I’M ABOVE AND NEVER BENEATH

-I’M THE HEAD AND NOT THE TAIL

-THE LORD WILL RESTORE ME

-I HAVE A SOUND MIND

-I HAVE A PEACEFUL MIND

-I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO GIVES ME STRENGTH

-I WAS NOT BORN WITH A SPIRIT OF FEAR BUT A SPIRIT OF LOVE, POWER, AND A SOUND MIND

-I HAVE DOMINION OVER MY THOUGHTS AND I THINK GOOD THINGS ABOUT MYSELF IN JESUS NAME

-I HAVE POWER AND AUTHORITY OVER THE DEVIL AND DEMONS AND THEY ARE SUBJECT TO ME

-I HAVE THE PEACE OF GOD OVERFLOWING IN EVERY AREA OF MY LIFE

-I AM NOT AFRAID OR ANXIOUS – I AM STRONG, I AM AT PEACE, I AM AN OVERCOMER

-THIS TOO SHALL PASS

-I AM FREE BECAUSE THOSE THE LORD SETS FREE ARE FREE INDEED, SO I AM FREE!

-NO WEAPON FORMED AGAINST ME SHALL PROSPER

-I’M BLESSED AND HIGHLY FAVORED

-SOMETHING GOOD IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO ME

-MY BEST DAYS ARE OUT AHEAD OF ME

-I HAVE THE LOVE OF GOD IN MY HEART AND PERFECT LOVE CASTS OUT FEAR

-THIS HAS TO GO IN JESUS NAME AND I WILL NEVER DEAL WITH IT AGAIN

-THE LORD WILL NEVER LEAVE ME NOR FORSAKE ME- HE IS WITH ME ALWAYS

-THE LORD WILL NOT ALLOW MORE THAN WHAT I CAN HANDLE – SO I CAN HANDLE THIS AND -I’M COMING OUT STRONGER THAN I WAS BEFORE GOING THROUGH THIS

-THE BATTLE IS HIS AND THE VICTORY IS MINE

-JESUS LIVES IN ME AND GREATER IS HE WHO IS IN ME THAN HE WHO IS IN THE WORLD

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When Fear Meets Faith

I know the title has you all ready and amped for a SLEW of inspiration right? Well that is exac…..sort of what you’ll get.

I believe (from experience) that it’s best to keep some things to yourself. Just for you and no one else. There are other things that I believe you WANT to keep to yourself, but feel compelled to share because it could help someone else. This is one of those things.

 

adultingThe past three years have been my “growing pain BETA” years. Prior to 2015 I was a SUPER optimistic, try anything, risk taking, blind faith having, blissfully faithful woman excited for the future and all that it had to offer her. Today I am still all of those things, but that woman is learning to move forward after have been lied to by fear.

Yep. Fear. One of the most filthy, underhanded tricks the devil uses to keep us stuck. Journeying from high school to college, I’d learned how to be fearless and in 2015 (though life wasn’t perfect) I was on the edge of a MAJOR period of self-discovery and purpose. Then it happened. Fear came gallivanting with its ole ugly self right into my life.

If you’ve read my post What’s the Cost of Carrying Your Dreams? then you know just how loudly it arrived.

So now, going on three years later, how am I doing?

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I’m here.chrissy-teigens-cry-face-was-the-greatest-thing-t-2-12890-1421106645-0_dblbig

I have honestly never fathomed that I’d EVER be as affected by stress, fear, or anxiety as I have been these past few years. Shoot, anxiety was never in my vocabulary! I’d seen others struggle with it but could never really understand what they were afraid of or HOW they could be afraid of something simple as saying hello, going to parties, or road tripping alone. As I type this, still fighting to keep the residue of fear from my life, I can say that I finally understand. I understand how one bad experience can REALLY change your life. I understand the embarrassment of excusing yourself out of plans to places you want to go with people you really want to be around because you’re afraid something is going to go wrong. I know the disappointment that comes along with knowing you’re overreacting/overthinking on paper, but struggle to convince your mind to get with the program. I know the tight, uncomfortable feeling that bubbles up when you begin to analyze a situation too much. I know what it’s like to desperately reach out to God, KNOWING He’s just a prayer away, only to get distracted by the darkness of dread blocking your view. I know what it’s like to feel “stuck” and aimless because you want the past to leave you alone but it keeps driving past your house.

I never wanted to know, but I know.

Before fear crossed my path, I was open to go anywhere with virtually any one and enjoyed every ounce of life – even the bad parts – because I knew it was going to get better. My hope was in God and because I had my sight straight on Him, all of the chaos that was my life never fazed me. At all. Resilience was (and still is) my spirit animal. (cue the track ….can’t nobody hoooooold meeeeeee doooown oh no, I got to keep on moooovinnnnnn’.) But after 2015, I struggled ya’ll. And when I really think about it, the part that makes me so angry is not necessarily that I allowed myself to get so worn down that fear had an entry point into my life, it’s that I allowed it to change aspects of who I am. I’m a godmother, but I haven’t been to visit my goddaughter in over a year. I am an adventure seeker, but lately my adventures have been confined to a 200 mile radius. I was a single, feisty, bubbly optimist looking to get back on the dating scene and make new memories with a great guy, but part of why I haven’t been dating recently is because most of my time is spent trying to get back the spunk I once had before; so WHOEVER I date and eventually marry will know the “true me” – not the anxious, small town, humdrum, unadventurous me.

Talk about MISERY! There are few things worse than a creative soul who feels they are stifled from the world and experiences that inspire them so much. BUT this brings me to today. I am here.

giphyI am disgustingly grateful for the relationship I have with Jesus Christ. As a child of God, I can keep on making daily strides because I know that God sees me and has put enough stubborn strength inside of me to make it through anything! At the end of the day, this experience has taught me to:

 

#1 Rely TOTALLY on God because regardless of how we have our life mapped out, if it doesn’t line up with what He desires, it’s ain’t happ’nin cap’n.

#2 Recognize the spiritual nature of ANY difficult time and know that with the proper understanding of how POWERFUL God is compared to anything being thrown at you, you’ll survive!

#3 Not allow myself to get so worn out that I leave myself spiritually and physically vulnerable to sickness, mental attacks, and burnout.

#4 Continue seeking PROFESSIONAL help! I have NEVER been one to oppose therapist. If I could (and had the money) I would become one myself to help someone else! God gives us spiritual weapons, but He also has given us physical ones too. I will continue to seek help to better myself and be better than before.

#5 Take time to breathe if I need to and don’t feel apologetic. There is only one of me, so when progress isn’t going as quickly as I want or expect it to, I need to just take some time to get some fresh air, not answer non-urgent calls, or take a day to do whatever I feel like doing and not feel bad about it.

#6 Keep going when you have a setback. In the journey to overcome your past you may have a set back from time to time. Shoot, you may go months or years feeling better, then find yourself blindsided by the past creeping up again. I have learned to catch my breath, get my bearings, then keep on moving forward regardless of HOW uncomfortable I feel.

#7 Find comfort in knowing I WILL GET THROUGH THIS! Regardless of how stressed I am or how many times fear tries sneak up behind me, this won’t last always. I know that I am getting better each day and that I am still the same Jocelyn, just different. God will allow me to use EVERYTHING I’ve experienced to help someone else who is just coming face to face with the same thing. I am convinced that considering how MAJOR the devil has been attacking me, I am due for a MAJOR blessing and testimony and purpose.

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So to those who know the LORD and have a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ – keep me in your prayers. To my friends who have kept me encouraged and challenged me to step back out into the unknown, I thank you and am forever grateful for your friendship. Most of all, I am thankful to have supportive parents who have not thrown me aside to fend for myself just because I’m grown. I am still their kid and I know that regardless of what ANYONE says, I will NOT be made to feel ashamed for the blessing of their friendship when I know that most can only WISH for parents like them. Ya’ll keep me lifted in love.

Blessings,

Joc

 

 

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Life-Changing Lessons from A Broken Leg (Part 2 of 2)

(continued from Life-Changing Lessons from A Broken Leg (Part 1 of 2))

 

giphy (50)By the fifth day of week two, my voice was functioning at about 87% and while I was physically tired and still feeling icky, the week wasn’t overwhelming – UNTIL – I walked into my parents’ house to my mother running around frantic and my grandma sitting awkwardly in her chair grimacing in silence. Once I asked my mom what was going on, she revealed just seconds before I’d walked into the house, my grandmother had fallen while exercising and she was contemplating on whether or not to call the ambulance. Since my grandmother is mere months away from her 90th birthday, no chances were taken and in the ambulance, to the ER she went. Mind you, it was freezing cold outside and despite still being sick myself, I immediately began to pray and joined my parents in the trek to the ER behind the ambulance. My grandmother was struggling not to go into hysteria as fears and statistics began to bombard her head. Within the hour, we found out that she’d broken her leg/hip. We were ALL stunned.giphy.gif

 

If you know anything about geriatrics or have been around an elderly person, you know that for a healthy adult, the same injury that could take 4 to 6 weeks to recover from, could take an elderly person a year to heal. I basically spent the night in the ER before going home for an hour of sleep them back to work to finish up the week.

#LIFE-CHANGING LESSON B: you can plan all you want, but you will NEVER be in full control of the future. Tread wisely.

Getting sick totally changed every plan I had in a day. Plans that I had in place for months – including church choir duties – instantly crumbled into nothing more than good intentions. My grandmother (who has NEVER had a major surgery) at the ripe old age of 89 had her life changed IN AN INSTANT as her break required surgery. This further solidified the truth that I always really knew about life here on this earth – we’re not 100% in control of it. Your job, your health, your money, your family, your friends, your possessions, your status could all SHIFT in a nanosecond without any warning. It CAN be a scary reality, but it doesn’t have to be. Being at peace with this life-truth challenges me to give people their flowers while they’re living and treat folks with respect. It challenges me to love the people who are for me and show grace to those who don’t understand me. It prompts me to really be clear about what I want in life, and do what I can and need to live my best life.

 

Well…. it’s now nearing the end of week three and while everyone has been running around getting themselves together for Halloween, I’ve been making daily arrangements to pack for work while staying the night with my grandmother at the hospital as she recovers from her surgery.  I’m dragging from fatigue and I am seriously behind on photography work, but I love my grandmother and desire to do what I can to help.  While I’M still not at 100% health myself, I’ll tell you, the conversations had and the laughs shared between my grandmother and I have forever altered my faith in genuine family connection.

#LIFE-CHANGING LESSON C: family connection in its purest form is more important than anything in this universe (behind a relationship with God through Christ).

My entire life I have never lived in the same town as anyone on either side of my family. My nuclear family (dad, mom and I) have pretty much been ‘loners’ in a sense. This is the first time in my entire life that I’ve been able to physically see someone from my extended family daily, drop in to say hi, eat dinner together, watch a movie, and talk about random memories without the pressure of the sun setting. My love for my grandmother and appreciation for my family, in general, has grown exponentially. Growing up (before cell phones, the internet, and texting)  I depended on my parents to “remind” me to call my family; not because I didn’t love them, but because I would always wonder “what will we talk about? I’d rather just wait until we drive up and visit them.” Which is what would usually happen.  I actually did myself a disservice because while I would eventually talk to my grandparents, cousins, long-distance friends, I missed out on so many opportunities to connect. This week recovering with my grandmother has challenged me to continue to put the phone down when talking with loved ones (because there will be time to business later). It’s also brought on regrets that my other grandparents didn’t live long enough to know me as I am now. A woman who can converse, laugh, take care of, and be there for them as a friend. I can only give what I have to my family now. Which brings me to the last life-changing lesson I’ve learned in the past several weeks….

 

#LIFE-CHANGING LESSON D: I desire to be some man’s wife and somebody’s mama some day and if that has to be later than sooner, I’ll be okay. I’d rather keep moving forward and learn all I can before the next season in my life.

The past year as a single woman has ushered me into a period of reflection: What type of marriage do I see myself having? What type of wife and mother do I see myself being? What type of man do I TRULY see myself marrying? What do I need to work on personally?

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The time spent with my grandmother has answered virtually every question on the list. This week I did things I NEVER thought I’d do and sacrificed comforts that I would rather not give up – but I did them out of my love and respect for family. I’ve confirmed in my heart that if I’m going to be some man’s wife and somebody’s mama, I want to BE present. I want to nurture, support, and comfort my family – even if that means sacrificing reasonable comforts of my own. While it took some time to reacclimate to the ‘single life’, I realized that aside from my ex-boyfriend and I having different ideas, I’m single at this very moment for another purpose – to help take care of my grandmother and to grow more into the woman I say I want to be. If I were married right now, there is NO WAY I’d be able to learn all that I’ve recently learned because I’d be splitting my time with my husband and taking care of my own home. If I was a mother, I’d be doing the same. My mind, and time would be split IF I weren’t in the space that I’m in now. While I do desire to be married before I’m 90, I’ve realized that if I say I truly want to be the best wife I can be and marry the best husband for me and be the best mom my kids could ever ask for – I have no choice but to keep moving forward, take the lessons I’ve learned, get back out there/apply them, and leave the rest up to God.

If you see me around town this weekend let me know what your thoughts are on what I’ve had to say. I know I’m not alone. I’d love to hear your story and cheer you on in your journey to a better you!

 

Be blessed, Joc

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Life-Changing Lessons from A Broken Leg (Part 1 of 2)

These past two to three weeks have been what I would consider ‘life-changing’.

On November 16, I caught a terrible virus from a family member and overnight I was in Urgent Care getting a shot in the ‘hip’ and contemplating if I could push through the work day or not. It turns out (per doctor’s orders.)  I was forced to call it a day HOPING I’d get better soon so I could get back to work.

It turns out, God didn’t plan it that way.

Tuesday afternoon brought on a new symptom (other than the sinus drainage and a terribly scratchy throat/sneezing) ……. one large order of VOICE LOSS! Nevermind that my job as an insurance agent requires me to TALK 95% of the time! ** insert a “what are you telling me LORD?!**

With one fell swoop, my entire year supply of sick days was wiped out and I was forced the following Monday to return to work, with a hazmat mask on, barely being able to speak above a scraggly whisper.d21b601d09f254a6301b0c4004f8045b.620x400x1

Most of you who read my blog know that I’m a freelance photographer and will undoubtedly feel my pain to know that in addition to being out of work and running out of paid sick leave, I also had to reschedule a slew of fall special shoots I’d already rescheduled due to an emergency family conflict. I was calling on the LORD (in my heart) heavy now! Appearing unprofessional and flaky was NOT my goal when I initially set up these shoots months earlier.

**in a 60-something year old black pastor voice** Somebody turn to your neighbor and say BUT GOD!

Thankfully God heard my cry and blessed me with my go-to videographer-friend Rashaad (who is my second photographer on weddings and events) and allowed him to be off work so he could step in for me.

# LIFE-CHANGING LESSON A: Be thankful for the good people God has placed in your life and be good to them.

One of the things that bothers me most as a business person is when a situation legitimately makes me appear as unprofessional or unknowledgeable. I love photography. It will always be in my heart; and while there will always be people who will try to “get over” on me or dislike my art, I don’t always take it well when “life” happens and interferes with how customers perceive my business.  This is why I’m thankful to have someone like Rashaad on my team and I always try to be a good as a friend as he is to me. He didn’t have to take on those shoots for me. He could’ve said “well to heck with you, I ain’t got time for it!”, and watched as I crashed and burned – but he didn’t. The importance of true friendship and partnership was illuminated to me in this moment. I was inspired to try and be there for my loved ones when they really need me (although I may not be able to help all of the time.) God divinely orchestrates certain relationships to help us live our best lives and live great.

 

Back to the sickness.

By the fifth day of week two, my voice was functioning at about 87% and while I was physically tired and still feeling icky, the week wasn’t overwhelming – UNTIL – I walked into my parents’ house ….

(to be continued)

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MY TOP 3 BOOKS FOR FEMALE BUSINESS BOSSES!

Owning your own business can be hard. Like REALLY hard most of the time.

When I first started Joc’s Photography I spent my time scouring the wide world of Google for any insight on how to make it as a serious female business owner; even if I was just starting out. It seemed like it took me FOREVER to track down tangible “mentors” in the art/entertainment industry and I promised myself, that as soon as I began to see progress, I would share my insight one day so other young women won’t have to struggle as hard as I did to find their place in the world.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post. Even though I’m a good few years late, I’ve decided to share three books that have truly changed my life in the best ways! As a single female entrepreneur (also working a full-time job) it’s tough figuring things out on your own. You know, trying to juggle your dreams, with your love life, and friends/family — it honestly gets overwhelming at times; but, regardless of how hopeless the journey may have gotten at times, the insight I’ve gained from these three ladies through their books are always good to re-up my creative tank and keep me pushing towards my goals!

 

#1 — THE GIRLPRINT by Valeisha Butterfield Jones

I must admit, when I purchased this book, I was a bit biased since I have personal ties the author. See, Valeisha grew up in the very same small town as I did and to see her go on working for the likes of Russell Simmons, President Barack Obama, and found her own nonprofit organization was all the testimonial I needed to hit that ORDER button! Though we’ve only had conversations in passing, I inherently expected her to pour her soul onto these pages before opening that Amazon box, and boy oh boy did she deliver!

If you are a woman interested in art, entertainment, or business in general, this book lays out a strategic blueprint (that Valeisha used herself) to help you propel your dreams into action. Even though I had big dreams prior to reading this book, my inner determination kicked up a notch when I closed the back cover. The Girlprint really gave me the push I needed business wise to work through the ups and downs and plan a course of action as a lady boss.

Image result for the girlprint valeisha

You can buy THE GIRLPRINT here:  http://amzn.to/2gfkrv6

 

#2 SUCCESSFUL WOMEN THINK DIFFERENTLY by Valorie Burton

I forgot what initially inspired me to order this book, but I’m thankful for it! This book is laying in my bag tattered and bent up from having been read so much. I remember thumbing through the pages for the first time and thinking “Where have you BEEN ALL OF MY LIFE!?!” Of course, it was an exaggeration, but for a woman in her early 20s at the time, I felt like I was aimlessly wandering around life trying to figure out what it meant to be a woman post-grad. I was just growing in my personal faith/spiritual walk at the time I first cracked this baby open, and I was pleased to find the author discussing the importance of trashing the “‘I’ll do _________ someday” mindset and thriving from setbacks instead of wallowing in them.

When you’re a business owner, you’ll have rough periods. In the 10 years I’ve been freelancing as a photographer I’ve had some pretty low moments (personally and business-wise) but applying principles spoken of in this book has allowed me to grow where I have been planted and renew my love for the art that makes my heart sing! If you want to cultivate the attitude necessary to real kick butt in life, you need to purchase this book like YESTERDAY!

Successful Women Think Differently

You can snag Valerie’s book for yourself here: http://amzn.to/2gfVpfg

 

#3 OVERLOAD by Joyce Meyer

JOYCE MEYER IS MY SPIRIT ANIMAL! If you are a woman of faith (or considering growing in your faith) this book is definitely for you. I know you may be thinking “Um Joc, what does Joyce Meyer have to do with being a female entrepreneur?” My answer to you: everything!

Living in this age it’s easy to become overloaded with the limitless options in food, homes, career paths, men…so being able to center yourself, calm yourself, and focus on saying ‘yes’ to what really matters is vital for a prosperous life. In business as a woman, you are tasked with wearing SO many hats that you need a book like this to help you take hold to your peace of mind and become rooted in your faith. Afterall, what you believe in and think about the most eventually shows up in your life somewhere down the line. If you’re a photog wife and mom struggling to keep your head up. If you’re a freelancer with a full-time job (like me) wondering how on earth you can fit LIFE inside of life. If you work a corporate job and feel like no one really hears your voice. GET THIS BOOK!

You’ll learn how to finally let go of emotional stress, activate peace, and how to apply biblical wisdom in a practical way so you can experience life like you never have before!

Image result for overload joyce meyer pdf

This book was so good, I ordered TWO copies (so I could give one to a friend) and I purchased the audio reading for the car. Go on and get your own copy here: http://amzn.to/2gyM7b5

 

Drop me a comment or email and let me know what you think of these books! I hope they change your life like they’ve changed mine!

Peace & Photos,

Jocelyn

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