Category Archives: Joc’s Observations

Just Mercy – A Call To White Christians

I’ve SERIOUSLY limited my social media and news intake in recent weeks to save myself the PTSD that can come from witnessing violent acts. BUT while still keeping my peace, I have been observant to stay aware of what is happening and the changes that are happening in our society.
George Floyd was not the first senseless black death at the hands of a white man. Sadly, he will not be the last.
If you’re African American or Bi-Racial (especially if your melanin is prominent) you know that killings, murders, and profiling has NEVER gone away. It’s been a constant even after Jim Crow was deemed ‘done with’ 50 + years ago. With the emergence of technology, it’s simply been amplified.
hands_pray_cropGreater than being a woman. Beyond being African American…I am a Christian. Not the ‘religious’ Christian that is prominent today where rules and regulations are followed ONLY in deed and not accompanied by a changed heart. I am a Christian who is a TRUE follower of Christ and have a relationship with God through the grace and saving of Jesus. BECAUSE I am, my heart is changed and I walk in His precepts because I WANT to. I mean if someone saved your life from a certain excruciating eternal death, you’d be inclined to live the best life you can to honor their sacrifice too. One thing to note, however; as teachings of Jesus have spread far and wide [over time], some of the Spirit has gotten lost in translation. Especially in America. For centuries, the Holy Bible has been misinterpreted and misused to perpetuate many evils; including the low down, animalistic institution of slavery. Since then, a few more eyes have been opened and TRUE Christianity embraced, but slavery’s ideals have had (and still has) a stronghold on the way America operates and systematic racism blankets the urgent progress this country desperately needs.
Fact. There are beautiful, truly loving and God-fearing Caucasian/white people who have heeded to what the Word says in Proverbs 31:8-9 ESV “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Fact. There have been small strides made since Jim Crow ran rampant. African Americans are now allowed to (albeit still challenged) pursue a college degree, work jobs other than sharecropping or maid work, and walk into large establishment chains such as McDonald’s, Starbucks and Target for service.
Fact. There are some people who believe slavery happened a millennium ago and don’t realize that it was merely 2-3 generations away. There are others who don’t realize that segregation was only outlawed in the 1960s. Most teens’ grandparents were born BEFORE then.
Due to the last fact mentioned, there are [some] whites (most who profess to be lovers of God and His people) feel like racism truly doesn’t exist today. That the murders of George Floyd, and Atatiana Jefferson, and Michael Brown, and Trayvon Martin, and Tyrique Hudson were simply ‘unfortunate’ or somehow deserved because they were ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time.’ There are [some] whites who ascribe to the last fact mentioned, see the first two facts, and believe the issue can be filed under ‘problem solved’ — despite the systematic racism that plagues the United States. They feel it’s nothing they DID so they are ‘sick’ of being blamed for something they didn’t ‘do’ and ‘simply benefit from.’ They yell out, ‘FORGIVE and MOVE ON!” and, type blissfully ignorant statements like, “God says to forgive those who do you wrong so just pray about it [and silently endure it without causing a fuss].”
Unfortunately, even the most well-meaning white person who says, posts, or thinks like this obviously doesn’t truly understand the biblical meaning of forgiveness.
Drawing9-3Forgiveness isn’t a call to do nothing to change a bad outcome. It’s a call to forgive and MOVE towards removing yourself from the situation as not to fall victim to the same abuse/sin again.
For example….say you’re friends with or are dating someone who constantly steals from you, is physically/verbally abusive to you, and sexually assaults you. You can forgive them for the way they have mistreated you, BUT action is required to change your situation correct?! You need to get away from that friend or leave that abusive relationship and seek lawful action. Even if you don’t feel safe or brave enough to take legal action, you still MOVE out of the house or out of that friends’ circle to CHANGE your negative situation.
Yes, God calls us to forgive those who mistreat us. That’s CLEARLY laid out in scripture. God also tells us faith without WORKS is dead. That is just as clear. You absolutely must forgive but don’t forget, lest you fall into the same abusive or toxic cycle that could lead to death.
So… through THIS thinking and through this lens of Christ is how whites and others who proclaim to be Christian SHOULD view the peaceful protesting and social media outcries consistently filling airwaves and timelines. Black people are being abused and murdered by racism. Peacefully protesting and demanding that systematic change occur is us simply FORGIVING racists and a racist system that has done us wrong while MOVING forward in an attempt to ESCAPE the toxicity of our abusive situation. (and for the not-so-smart alics….no, we will not go back to Africa…due to the documented fact that our ancestors were RIPPED away from their homelands, forced into slavery and raped by ‘masters family’ we have no CLUE where TO go! Also due to systems put in place to disenfranchise the black family, most of us wouldn’t even be able to make the money for airfare or location research.)
Just this week —
I came across a white woman I know in passing. We chatted mostly about the craziness of the pandemic until she began to speak on how unsafe she feels with the peaceful protests going on. She began to tell me of how ‘even Floyd’s family said don’t protest’  and of how she ‘saw on Facebook’ that black people were going out to the country and told to kill or beat up white people on site. She went on about how we should all be scared and how she will be ready with her gun inside her house…waiting.
I prayed before I responded, asking God to give me the words to say and tell me when I should stay silent. It was evident that this woman is simply ignorant. Plain ole ignorant. I say that not in the derogatory way many may interpret this word but from the actual definition of it. She is very nice and is cordial however she simply doesn’t understand the black plight in America. She doesn’t have black friends and grew up in what some may call ‘redneck’ lifestyle. Many of her family members ARE openly racist and prejudiced against African Americans despite growing up right down the street from them. I couldn’t fault her for the family she was born in but knew it was the time to educate her so she will at least BEGIN to see (even if she doesn’t immediately understand) how her views are skewed. She sees me … a black professional.  …and thinks racism and Jim Crow mentalities are over. Nope. They’re still here and are now bubbling back to the top. I spent a little time letting her know in an educated, loving nutshell …
…..GIRL ain’t nobody worried about ya’ll! We’re trying to better the system, not seek out some random white folks in the country just because. We’re better than that.
The FEW folks that are causing bodily harm do not represent the entire black community (especially the looters who aren’t even black!) Secondly, GEORGE Floyd’s family urged people to not tear up their community or resort to the same senseless violence that was enacted toward them. They did not say stop the peaceful protests. Keyword PEACEFUL. Also, the fact that I am a creative professional DOES speak to the progress made but still doesn’t exempt me from experiencing racism in my own life. Racists don’t care where I work, they just see my skin. I would dare go a step further and say that because I’m lighter skinned and have ‘mixed’ features, that some who DO ‘accept’ me wouldn’t accept me if my skin was a darker shade.
heart-of-godThis was one of the longest (if not the longest) blog posts I’ve written in a while, but I needed time to think about what I wanted to say. If you don’t read this entire post, or if it’s too much to remember, remember this: yes, God calls us to forgive those who treat us unjustly. Yes, black people need to and DO forgive whites for what they’ve done (throughout history) BUT we will NOT just STAY in a bad situation. We will not silently suffer when change truly can be made. We are sick of our loved ones being murdered and treated unfairly because they ‘look’ threatening. Even in the old testament — when an eye for an eye was the law — the punishments were parallel to the offense. You never saw someone steal some barley and be murdered for it! If you are a white person reading this post and profess to be a child God and follower of Christ….take a listen to what Pastor Carl Lentz said about standing up for black lives.
If you can’t love (and show love) to your black brother whom you see [every day], how can you love a God Whom you can’t see? (HINT: you can’t)
I’ll leave you with what Jeff (from the KLove Jeff and Randy show) said…..
Micah 6:8 says,
“No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.”
Pride says I don’t understand you, so you’re wrong. Humility says I don’t understand you, can you help me.
–Be blessed, Joc

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Trusting an All Knowing God with An Unknown Future

This morning I woke up groggy and needing a good stretch.

If you’ve been living anywhere with a good ‘word of mouth’ circulation or newscast, you know the world is buckling down in the wake of the recent COVID-19 pandemic. So many things come to mind when I think about it, but one thing I do intentionally try to do is pray every day for our world, the U.S., and for God’s protection and provision in uncertain times.

If you’ve been around me longer than a few hours, you know that I will burst out in song at the drop of a hat. In fact, that’s the way I best commune with God. Yes, I read the bible and have private devotion. Yes, I pray. But many times my prayers are actually songs. There is no rational rhyme or reason to these songs, but they just flow and my heart spills out into the air. Well, as I was praying this morning, a song came to my heart and while it wasn’t an actual prayer, it was a song that I realized is more powerful today than I thought it would be.

The song is “Let’s Just Praise The Lord” by TD Jakes. If you’re of a decent age, you’ll remember when TD Jakes came out with this entire praise & worship album in the late nineties and it was FIYAH!! I began to sing the song’s lyrics as I got ready for the day and headed out for work. (My position is considered essential to the point that I have to physically go to work every day.) Normally by the time I get in my car, my mind will switch to some other thought, but this morning I couldn’t shake the song. I pulled it up via Bluetooth and turned my stereo volume as high as it would go! As the words escaped my mouth, tears began to fall and I just WAILED! I felt God’s tangible presence leap from this song and the lyrics enveloped me in a blanket of security, provision, safety, joy, and peace.  

Why?

Because in the wake of this pandemic, I believe God is calling US as humans to be still for a moment and turn to Him.

How can we POSSIBLY be still when He is shaking this world to pieces and splitting up families?!

The answer isn’t easy, but simple. Just be. Be intentional about calling out to Him. Pray, journal, sing, cry – do something intentional that shows you are seeking Him for guidance.

If you take some time to put God first, HE will reveal so many things to you. If you take time to offer up a simple praise to Him, you can unlock so many hidden revelations that you otherwise wouldn’t understand.

So as I sang, listened and cried to this song, I realized that God truly is worthy to be praised! Even in the midst of this current chaos, He still deserves it.

Praise the Lord,

He has done great things for me.

Praise the Lord,

He gave me the victory.

Praise the Lord,

He is shelter from the storm.

Praise the Lord,

He is worthy to be praised.

Yes, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has affected my family and affected my way of life, but all in all, I still praise God.  I recognize the enormity of His blessings compared to the inconveniences I’ve experienced. Yes, this pandemic is cause for concern, but not cause to stay fearful.  Whether it’s ‘how this bill is going to get paid’ or ‘what meal can I make out of what little I have in the pantry’I trust the All-knowing God in an unknown future.

He has brought me a mighty long way,

(A mighty long way),

He has taught me how to pray.

This little light of mine,

I’m gonna let it shine,

I’ve got to let men know

Everywhere that I go.

We as a world have come to praise so many created things: social media, musicians, socialites, Netflix, relationships, money, status, horoscopes, friends – that we (as a whole) have neglected to reverence God as the CREATOR who CREATED all of these things in the first place! Whether you see it or not – the morality in this world is going down. People are becoming eviler, the climate is perpetually in crisis, and people are fighting to make a case to live how they WANT to live, even if it’s not how GOD wants them to live. We CAN’T keep scamming folk and think God isn’t going to notice. We CAN’T keep glamourizing hoe-ing and pill poppin’ and think God isn’t going to speak up. We can’t keep glorifying selfish, corrupt living and think God isn’t going to act. Like any parent, He isn’t going to allow us to go down the wrong path and not do something to wake us up. He is going to step back a second and say, “…okay, this is what you REALLY want??! Well, I’ll allow the consequences of some of this stuff to knock some sense into you.”

2 Chronicles 7:14 (New Living Translation) declares that, “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” In this particular context of the bible, God is specifically speaking to the Hebrew people BUT this statement spans generations – and definitely applies to us. We (as a whole) have forgotten to reverence God for Who He truly is. He is not some wimpy figment of our imaginations – He is a strong, all-powerful God Who sees all. I know many people still can’t fathom how a loving God can allow people to suffer. I am not going to claim to know the EXACT answer because I don’t, but I do know, from personal experience, that there have been times I have suffered physically and financially due to the actions of the GROUP or WHOLE. I personally had my stuff together, but because of the reckless actions of a particular GROUP, I felt the same pain of punishment as well. I believe that is what is happening to us right now. We are TRULY in this life together and the actions of society as a WHOLE has opened up a box of wrath/punishment that ALL of us are witnessing.

But this leads me back to how I started this post….

I recognize the importance of staying turned towards God in this moment. This is a time to praise Him for all that He has done (great and small) and seek Him for help with the future. Even if this year has been crap for you, there is STILL something you can praise Him for.

So, when you finish reading this post I suggest you take some time to do this:

  1. Write down a list of ANY blessing in your life (ie/ bills were postponed, woke up feeling decent, your family is safe, finished school, had enough food last week, kids are good)
  2. Write down something that has happened in your life you KNOW wouldn’t have happened without God’s divine intervention (ie/new job, bills were paid, found a new friend, didn’t meltdown at work, terrible boss retired)
  3. Sit or lie still. Have complete silence or play an instrumental that soothes you. Close your eyes, or stare straight ahead. Ask God to ‘speak’ to your heart.

 

And that’s it. Stay in it for however you long you feel necessary. He may move your heart in a certain direction. You may feel Him tugging you to change this habit or reach out to that person. You may even feel like God’s not saying anything just yet – but take the time to do it anyway; He may give you a revelation another week down the road. In these uncertain times, focus your attention ABOVE and I’ll pray WITH you that we all come out of this better than we were going in.

–Stay 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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Make Every Day a Thankful One!

If you’ve been living life a while, it’s honestly almost too easy to forget ALL of the ways God has made in your life. On one hand, I would like to think that we can give ourselves a little grace here because when you’re talking decades, that’s a lot of information to hold on to. If you remember the MAJOR miracles you’re probably doing alright.

BUT there comes a time where we truly need to look back year by year and identify the ‘little’ or ‘unseen’ ways the LORD has made for us. Then we need to RECOGNIZE His hand in it all and thank Him for it!

That brings me to this morning. I woke up out of my sleep EXTREMELY thankful and amazed at what God has brought me through. I think about the BIG miracles daily, but the recent murder of an old classmate unearthed the times where I really was ONE moment away from disaster.  But God!

 

I remembered how (after my sexual assault) I came home to rumors spread by the VERY guy who assaulted me. It crushed me because my good name/virtue was (and still is) VERY important to me. I was that girl who was sweet to all and thought the best of everyone; truly innocent at heart. But God…… gave me the courage to press on in the face of attacks on my character all while ultimately vindicating me.

 

I remembered the time I had a severe allergic reaction during a college night of drinking; instead of dying on the spot, my body simply hit snooze and I curled up and went to sleep. I woke up looking a HOT mess….But God let me live instead of go into anaphylactic shock.

 

I remembered the time my pistons blew while I was driving two hours away from home (after a very disrespectful exit from my parents’ house earlier that week.) Instead of the pistons blowing back into the car and killing me, my car simply shut down and conked out. But God….forgave me and saved my life regardless of my disobedient behavior.

 

I remembered the year (not too long ago) I was facing having to pay $300 a month for health insurance due to a company restructure. But God….worked a ‘behind-the-scenes miracle’ and somehow knocked my bill down to under $100 by the time the first next cycle came around.

 

I remembered the times where I felt I would never find godly, goal-oriented friends who still liked to laugh and kid around. It was so lonely and every day felt like I was in limbo. I’m too churchy for my old friends but too worldly for my church friends. But God….allowed me to meet and reconnect with some amazing people who are now part of my tribe. We pray, we study the bible together, we laugh, we dance, we sing our hearts out.

 

I LITERALLY could go on and on; as I’m sure you all could! This week, take some time to really sit in a quiet space and think about your life. Even if it’s only during the 2.7 minutes of alone time you have in the car before walking in to get the kids or if it’s during your work commute. Regardless of how tough your life has been, I know you can find at least ONE thing to be thankful for. I know you can find at least ONE ‘BUT GOD’ moment when inspecting the timeline of your years.

There is no real ‘rhyme or reason’ for this post; I just HAD to publicly say that in the good times and in the TERRIBLE times, God has always given me something to be thankful for. Thanks for reading this little testimony. Happy Monday!

 

— Peace & Blessings, Joc

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Lessons From 35 Years Of Marriage (Courtesy of my Parents.lol)

August 4, 1984 two lives blended into one. I’m sure plenty of couples were married on that very day, but none as important as George and Sandra Drawhorn.

Okay so I’m biased on this – so what, they’re my parents. What did you expect?

 

My parents have been together over half of their lives. They met towards the end of college and pretty much never separated since then. I have learned so much from them – practically and spiritually – and as they return with stories from their 35th wedding anniversary adventure, I’ve been unexpectedly thrown a few things that have caused me to reflect.

 

REFLECTION #1

Romance is intentional.

My parents have been together a total of 41 years and while it was normal for me to see a loving marriage growing up, as I got older and looked outside my house; I saw that it actually wasn’t as common as I thought. ESPECIALLY in other countries. There are some countries where marriage comes first (function/necessity) then the love comes after (luxury). I realized that it wasn’t a ‘natural’ thing to be romantic or do romantic things. It takes work.

From what I’ve learned of him if you give my dad a bucket of popcorn, a pillow, and enough space for him to sprawl out across my mom’s lap….he is SET! He’s very simple and doesn’t really like a lot of flash and flare – though he won’t turn a pair of NBA courtside tickets if you give them to him. Lol, My mom, on the other hand, is big on experiences and travel. She loves discovering new foods and cultures. On paper, they are very different and define romance in slightly different ways. That’s why when they planned their getaway trip to the mountains, it was intentional. It was a blend of low key relaxation (my dad) and exciting excursions (my mom). This trip was intentionally planned so that both of my parents were able to have a romantic time.

REFLECTION #2

Having a reset button IN marriage is okay.

If you’ve been together as long as my parents have, you get used to a certain way of doing things. A certain way he likes his eggs. A certain way she does the clothes. A certain station he likes on tv. A certain way she styles her home. Shoot, even being at the same job can get routine FAST! That’s why it’s good to refresh and reset every now and again. This wedding anniversary trip for my parents was like hitting a symbolic ‘reset button’.

With the responsibility of helping EVERYBODY else and balancing a full-time job or two, it had honestly been a MINUTE since my parents have had time to actually spend TOGETHER.  This trip was a FULL WEEK of the two of them. They had time to rediscover each other and themselves as a couple. Sure I face-timed them at least once a day, but I left it up to THEM to do it. I tried my best to handle things back here in NC so they wouldn’t have to stress or worry about coming to anyone’s rescue. Having this reset to totally download and clear up space to upload new memories and more love was needed. Some marriages grow predictable, and while a sense of stability IS good/necessary for marriage, LIFE can squeeze out all the fun in the process. INSERT RESET BUTTON. This past week I could HEAR the stress melting off and the energy returning with every call. This is something every married couple should be mindful of. If you take a good inventory of the last time you’ve had QUALITY time to spend with your spouse with no interruptions and draw a blank, you should really look into planning something. It doesn’t even have to be expensive. Maybe it’s sending the kids away for a week or using a few vacation days to go road tripping to the city. Go. Do it.

REFLECTION #3

Young married couples have a LOT to learn.

It seems like every day I hear of someone getting married then someone getting a divorce. I can’t help but hear it because I’m now in my 30s. I can’t help but pay attention to it because I’m still unmarried and want to make sure I do this thing right and do it once. I know on paper there are no perfect people but it’s one thing when you actually have to live life out with them. It’s hard enough at times to stay connected to your BLOOD relatives, let alone meld your life with someone with a totally different upbringing and set of values and habits and goals and dreams.

With the social media culture we are in, I think a lot of people who are married fall for the looks and ONLY the looks. Fall for the money, or subconsciously seek perfection. I can include myself in the last loop because this is something I’ve had to work on throughout my latter 20s. I grew up in a semi-traditional household that was God based/nurtured and I expected everyone to basically agree with that type of lifestyle. As I began dating, I found out that this wasn’t the case. Some people aren’t faithful. Some would never think of cheating. Some people believe a man’s only job is to provide financially. Some people want it to be split exactly 50/50. Some people don’t agree with the husband helping with household duties if needed. Some don’t care. Some don’t believe wives should work outside of the house. Some people are fine with the wife working multiple jobs. Some people don’t want kids. Some say no kids is a deal-breaker. Some people drink and curse – a lot – while some don’t believe in it.

You get my point.

I really do HONESTLY believe a lot of people between the ages of 25-40 look at marriage like a fairy tale or hold their potential partners up to the unrealistic standards of social media. If they’re not going about it that way, they end up settling because they feel like they want SOMETHING rather than nothing at all. Some people will marry people to get ahead in a certain social group. Some people will get married to appease family and stop the seemingly unending pressure of “so when ya gonna get married?!”. Some people will get married to the most attractive person they can find despite their personality being trashy or despite getting cheated on because they want pretty kids. I DON’T WANT TO BE ANY OF THOSE PEOPLE. So I look to my parents as a guide. Sometimes it feels hopeless because half of me thinks I’m being picky but the other half of me says “What’s wrong with wanting someone to love me like my dad loves my mom?” Sure it’s very rare these days but a girl can still hope right?!

I’m basically saying WE as 20, 30, 40-year-olds have to REALLY take a good look at how these older couples have been together so long and realize that we won’t always FEEL in love. Things won’t ALWAYS be 50/50. Outside beauty fades with time. A good, lifelong marriage takes time, understanding, communication, and a TON of intentional cultivating!

I’m not sure what my parents will do to celebrate their next milestone together, but my prayer for them is that they will have a fantastic time and that they continue creating memories that give me great things to blog about!

 

Peace & Blessings,

-Joc

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In Pursuit of What HE Says

It’s 2019 and almost half of the year has passed us by! Last year was tough for me in a few different ways: a few family members passed away, I took on a partial caretaker role for a handful of people, some health issues flared up, and fear popped its ugly head into my business. Regardless of all that I fought through — I made it through! I’m grateful that I’m no longer struggling to adapt to those changes and even in that, I’m evolving more and more into the person God always meant for me to be.

This brings me to the topic of today’s post. Since last year, I’ve been grooving to Hillsong United’s “So Will I (100 Billion X) but I’d groove to it and mainly focused my energies on the chorus (because if you know Hillsong, their songs are WORDYYYY.) It wasn’t until January of this year when Cross Worship’s version of it popped into my feed that I REALLY took notice of the words!

The lead singer Osby Berry literally sent me into another stratosphere when he began ministering that song! Apparently, it was at some church conference they were having; and I don’t know if it was because I was having a tough day at work or if it was solely his powerful treatment of the musicality but I was left in AWE! Each syllable he sang brought new life into the song like never before (no offense to Hillsong United) and one stanza, in particular, stuck to my heart like glue.

And as You speak
A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath
Evolving in pursuit of what You said
If it all reveals Your nature so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You say
Every painted sky
A canvas of Your grace
If creation still obeys You so will I
So will I
So will I

WOW! WOW! WOW!

I have sat in this stanza ever since I heard it and every time I think about it, it causes me to really ponder on what I’M doing as it relates to God’s purpose for me! The lines that hit me in my soul EVERY TIME are “…evolving in pursuit of what You said…”. This line speaks specifically to “creationists” vs. “evolutionists”. Since I believe the words of the bible and the truth that we are ALL God’s creation I consider myself a creationist; however, I also believe that we are (flora & fauna included) constantly evolving BUT only by God’s design. No big bang theory. No random, pointless combustion of life. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof (plants and animals) and they (meaning us ya’ll) that dwell therein. This song highlights the TRUTH that God created EVERYTHING for a purpose and that in His magnificent sovereignty, has equipped everything to morph and adapt as He wills it. If animals who ‘wander aimlessly’ can naturally change, shift and evolve as God ordains without question, why is it so hard for us as humans to willingly adapt to the nature of God’s will?

“If creation still obeys You so will I.”

In my own professional life and personal life, I have allowed toxic environments, vampires, self-reliance and fear to take precedence over God’s natural and simplest command. To go where He sends me. To go with His perfect flow. For that, I repent daily! If the animals and plants can go where He sends them and GROW where He assigns them, so can I. This song (and the anointed voice of Osby Berry) has pulled me into a place of deep reflection and I can quickly tell that this will be the theme of 2019. My YEAR OF REFLECTION.

A time to consider what got me to this point. Make the necessary changes to live fearlessly and limitlessly (as Judge Lauren Lake always says) and to thrive walking out the purpose that Jesus Christ died for me to have! It is God’s will that we ALL live a joyful life and an abundant life jam-packed with blessings and worship all in the Lord’s name. Everything exists to glorify Him so He equips us to innately to walk in His precepts, growing from faith to faith and soaring from glory to glory.

God of salvation
You chased down my heart
Through all of my failure and pride
On a hill You created
The light of the world
Abandoned in darkness to die
And as You speak
A hundred billion failures disappear
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here
If You left the grave behind You so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done
Every part designed in a work of art called love
If You gladly chose surrender so will I
I can see Your heart
Eight billion different ways
Every precious one
A child You died to save
If You gave Your life to love them so will I.

So will I.

 

— Stay blessed good people, Joc 

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I Could Have Been Her. [Trauma While Black]

Every day on my way to work I come to a familiar (and awkward) intersection; finding myself face to face with the woman of “what could have been”.

Let me explain.

I work in a small town and often see faces of people from yearbooks past and find out what most I graduated with don’t – what happened to __________?! Back in college, one of my high school acquaintances and I became closer and began hanging out with each other more. This meant meeting each other’s families and knowing parents and cousins on a first name basis. I distinctly remember one special cousin in particular who would come up to the college to hang out in our rooms some weekends. Cousin and my friend were more like sisters really! She was still in high school (about 3 years younger than us) and I remember her being so entranced by the college life. She was tall, skinny and was a really pretty girl overall. She would LOVE getting into some of everything, asking a million questions and sticking her nose into everyone’s business. To her college was another world.

Well, as college progressed, my friend and I eventually went our separate ways and adventured into young adult life. This also meant we didn’t see each other’s families like we once did – including Cousin.

Fast forward 11 or 12 years, and notice a strange woman aimlessly wandering up and down the street not far from where I work. It’s common to see kids skipping school or people saving gas by walking, but I quickly noticed that this woman was different. Not wanting to be rude, I’d try to sneak a glance at her face, but it seemed every time I passed her on the way to work she’d be walking IN my direction, so I’d have to turn all the way around to see her face. One day, I decided to just throw caution to the wind and look around. What I saw broke my heart.

It was Cousin.

She had transformed into someone virtually unrecognizable. Her hair had been shaved. She’d picked up at least a good extra 80 pounds and she had the distinctive stare of someone who had suffered mental trauma. Growing up in and out of hospitals and meeting countless of my mother’s special education students, I have developed a knack for recognizing when something is “not all there” with someone. Cousin had that stare. Since then, I’ve studied her as I drive to work. I’ve even waved a time or two to no avail. Her blank stare and babbling otherworldly chatter leads me to speculate – what happened? What happened to transform this giddy, lively girl into a woman who may not even know where she is most times?

Did she have an accident where she sustained a brain injury that left her incapacitated? Did she have a surgery that went wrong? Did she experience a traumatic experience that triggered the onset of mental illness? Is she under a spiritual attack?!

Looking at her each week puts me into a reflective state of “she could have been me”. She could have been any one of us really. Think about your own life for a few minutes.

Have you experienced a heartbreak or trauma that could have made you “lose your mind”?

Were you ever involved in an accident or event where you could have suffered a brain injury?

Have you ever felt the weight of your problems plunge you in a spiritual darkness, constantly hovering over you?

The truth is YOU and I escaped those things. Cousin, unfortunately, didn’t.

Take time today to really check on your friends, families, and classmates. Offer them an encouraging word if you notice on social media (or in passing) that they are struggling with something. Encourage them to seek professional and spiritual help. Let them know that there is NOTHING wrong with investing in a therapist and spiritual counselor. There is still mass stigma in the black community regarding seeking professional help for trauma.  It’s one thing to not be able to afford it, it’s another to simply dismiss the benefit of it.

As long as I see Cousin, I will continue to thank God that while I could have been her, I am not her! I will continue praying for her…her family…that they get the answers and help they seek. I don’t truly know what had happened to her, but I pray whatever it is, she stays safe, that she doesn’t hurt anyone else and that we all count our blessings!

— Joc

 

ps. Here are some helpful recources for you if you want more information specifically catered for African Americans!

  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/african-american

  2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/culturally-speaking/201111/why-african-americans-avoid-psychotherapy

  3. https://www.therapyforblackgirls.com/

  4. http://bridgehavencounseling.org/counseling/profile-of-omar-king/

 

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Cosby,Trump, Kavanaugh, and Rape Culture

The first time I was sexually violated was when I was around 6 years old.

 

Growing up my parents made SURE I knew where people SHOULD NOT touch me and what was inappropriate. I always thought this type of conversation went on in EVERY household and that I was instantly immune from the negative emotions and repercussions that came along with “being touched down there”. BOY OH BOY was I wrong.

Hearing and reading the various reactions to the Bill Cosby verdict this week have me reflecting on my experience with sexual abuse and misconduct. While I was never violated by a family member or neighbor, my first sexually inappropriate encounter was at the hands of my 7-year-old classmate. I remember how confused, scared, helpless I felt as he and his friends circled mine that day on the playground. I remember being shoved down to the ground as he got on top of me. I remember squirming as he simulated sex all while trying his best to put his hands down my panties. Thankfully I was able to get away before he could succeed. I remember running back to school, dirty from being held down in the gravel and being scolded by my teacher for getting back to class late.

When you are sexually violated (whether you experience some actual sex or not) it messes with you. You ask yourself a million questions and try to make sense of what happened — even as a child. Did you say something to make them mad? Did you do something wrong? Did you in any way make yourself open to this act and make the violator think it was okay?!

You don’t automatically process “oh I should tell someone”. You try to figure things out in your mind and decide how you are going to move forward.

This is what makes me annoyed and upset with people who have made negative remarks about the accusers of Bill Cosby and even Brett Kavanaugh. TRUTH: some women and men who cry rape cry falsely. TRUTH: most of them are telling the truth.

I remember going home that night and having a debate with myself — to tell someone or not to tell? I felt nasty and too embarrassed to tell my parents outright, so I was happy when my babysitter Sabrina Thompson asked me that night how my day was as she was helping me get ready for bed. My nerves were on 10,000 when I finally hinted that something was wrong. If you know Sabrina, you know she doesn’t take mess and is unapologetically bold. I’m so thankful for her persistence that night because I told her what happened and how “a boy jumped on top of me.” I still remember her face — now that I’m an adult I know why it was fixed the way it was — she was ready to jump into action; but she probably recognized that I was honestly afraid and was able to reel herself back in and calmly explain why what happened to me was wrong….. why she needs to tell my parents. At the time she was in 9th or 10th grade by the way.

CAN YOU SAY MATURE!!?!?

Even though she convinced me she wouldn’t tell my parents, she eventually did and I’m so glad. Later that week they sat me down and talked with me about what happened and answered questions I had. Because they knew the truth, they were able to truly put me at ease and I was able to continue my childhood with few lingering effects.

Like the Bill Cosby victims, all victims of sexual trauma aren’t blessed enough to have a ‘Sabrina’ to step in when fear has stifled our own courage.  Even though I was unfortunately sexually assaulted again later in life, I KNOW without a shadow of a doubt that I would be one messed up chick if I hadn’t had Sabrina’s help the first time in speaking out. If she would have not told my parents and allowed me to stay silent, I would have stayed in the bad headspace I was in and probably try to deal with the trauma myself. A child’s mind isn’t set up for that. No one is really.

While I can honestly admit, that first assault still has had some negative effects on my life, my life is richer and healthier than it could have been all because I was able to tell the truth and have a compassionate ear to listen.

Like you, I plan to keep an eye on what happens with each of these #MeToo and assault cases and take note of comments like Donald Trump’s . I know that the world has a long way to go and things are not going to get better overnight. It’s up to us to really HEAR one another and support one another instead of immediately resorting to jokes and harsh criticisms — you never know what victim you may be pushing into hiding.

 

  • Joc

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The Lesson I Learned From A Butterfly

A butterfly is a multifaceted creature. The way it’s born, the way it blossoms into adulthood, and the way it floats on into its last phase of life is all one transient mystery. Dozens of people I know adopt butterflies as a symbol a loved one’s spiritual presence. “OH did you see that butterfly just then?! They must be watching us!” The butterfly is swift yet peaceful all at once.
oThis past Saturday I walked into a hospice facility with my grandmother. My parents and I took her to the coast to visit her best friend in LIFE who was nearing death. Upon entering the main hall, we were greeted by butterflies. Not just one either! The entire wing was flooded with butterfly accents. I immediately took notice but was too caught up in my own selfishness to recognize what these butterflies were trying to teach me. You see, due to some personal conflicts, I haven’t been able to get down to the beach area in YEARS and had already decided that I was going to make my way down to the shore after this ‘quick’ little visit with Grandma. While I was spiritually praying for my grandmother’s strength and her best friends’ family, I was also anxiously checking the clock, becoming more disappointed as the seconds slipped into the next hour.
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As my mother and I sat comforting my grandmother, my dad quickly whisked out of the room and into the main hallway. Saturday was also the birthday of his late baby brother who died in January of this year. As I peered out the doorway, contemplating if I should run out and hug my dad or give him some space, I noticed a gigantic wire butterfly hanging on the wall above him. It was then that I began listening to what the butterfly was trying to teach me all along. It was then that I completely threw out my beach plans and began to totally focus on supporting the one person that needed my support the most — my grandmother. My selfish ambitions of taking a dip in the sea melted away and the power of love filled up every space of my consciousness.
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Fast forward to yesterday morning. My mom preached at her childhood church for their homecoming celebration and even though we had grandma’s best friend in our hearts, we were happy and able to enjoy ourselves. Things were blissful up until the announcement was made at the end of service that my grandma’s friend had died just minutes prior. My grandmother WEPT. She just wept.
As service ended, and as everyone got up, laughing and chatting (as church folk normally do) I sat there beside my grandmother and consoled her. She let the full weight of herself rest on my shoulder. As people were trying to have small talk, TOTALLY OBLIVIOUS to her pain, the lesson of the butterfly came back to mind.
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The butterfly with its complexities is one of the most beautiful creatures you will ever see. It doesn’t make much noise, but with the flutter of its wings — its presence is still felt. While its lifespan isn’t terribly long, it gracefully transitions wherever God takes it. Like the butterfly, my grandmother’s friend went quietly to the place where God was taking her and left a lasting impact by way of the precious moments my grandma was able to spend with her prior to her death. If we wouldn’t have been in town THIS weekend and if we would have gone to the beach and said “we’ll just see Mrs.Eloise tomorrow”, my grandmother wouldn’t have had time with her real-life butterfly before she transitioned.
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Lesson completed. What was the lesson: that like the butterfly, humans are transitory creatures wonderfully made by God yet awfully complexed.  We swiftly transition from birth to adolescence to adulthood and the afterlife almost as mysteriously as we came to be. Compared to eternity, our lives aren’t long at all so each peaceful moment of love should be cherished. Sure there is nothing wrong with wanting to do things for ourselves at times, but when compared to basking in creating memories of love — there is no comparison.
God has humbled me once again and left me in awe of His sovereignty and majesty. This weekend was not ‘luck’. These were not some random series of events selected by the ‘universe’. El Elyon, The Most High God divinely orchestrated each detail of our trip down to the date we chose to visit because He KNEW my grandmother needed that last day with her best buddy; and THROUGH this weekend, He has allowed me to grow once more by teaching me a lesson in love with a simple butterfly.
Be blessed and love more ya”ll,
– 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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