God will give you strength for every battle, wisdom for every decision, the peace that surpasses understanding….
“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting GOD know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of GOD’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when CHRIST displaces worry at the center of your life.” (Philippians 4: 6-7 MSG)
This 4th Day 3 years ago, was overwhelming with FINAL decisions, choices, conclusions, and resolutions. Who, What, Why, When, and How were questions that had to be asked and answered. Every tough, painful, agonizing, gut-wrenching decision made was made with GODLY wisdom, counsel, and much prayer. My future, our daughter’s future, my in-Loves (in-laws) future, our family, and friend’s futures were all at stake in our decisions.
I had to consider and wonder about what that we were robbed of and things that will never happen. Future graduations, birthdays, and anniversaries that would be missing a heart. Walks down the aisles, grandbabies being held and spoiled, days sitting and watching grandbabies play, futures were forever altered, and alternate realities were becoming real.
Day 4 was marked with suffering…
Yet, I was reminded not to fret or worry, and instead of worrying, pray. When I would look at this scripture over the years, I never thought it meant in a difficult circumstance like this. But you know our LORD, HE meant in all circumstances even the painful and agonizing circumstances!
It was not easy, but I had to give it over GOD and lay it at the foot of the Cross. I knew whatever happened. He was in control.
Okay, I know this won’t be the most popular opinion, but…
I try not to divulge into controversial issues on social media, but I felt I needed to speak out in support of a member of the Jean Family.
Amber Guyger is definitely guilty of Murder and should have gotten a longer sentence. There are black and brown people in prison that have received more time for selling drugs than she received for killing another human. Both offenses are wrong, but the punishment should match the crime.
Secondly, Now… Forgiveness….
I look at this from a Christian perspective, because that is what I am first and foremost a child of GOD. You can say I am looking at things through rose-colored glasses, but I am just trying to see people the way Jesus does.
The bottom line as Christians, the Bible tells us, “The Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 3:13
We forgive because God forgives. If He can do it, so can any of us. Right?
I know it is hard because I have had to forgive people for some horrendous things in my life. But you know what? I felt better because once I let that burden go, I left it at the foot of the cross and the feet of Jesus. Until I forgave, I was bitter and consumed with what happened to me and the hate I was embracing. It was eating at me from the inside. It was affecting my family and me. You have no idea how hard it is to grieve and forgive. Once I truly forgave, I was at peace in my heart, my mind, and my soul.
Now with that being said, I have not forgotten because I won’t allow myself to be hurt again, but I am at peace to move on with my life without harboring hate in my heart. I refused to be held hostage or give the power of my thoughts, feelings, life, and soul to anyone, but Christ. When my time comes, and I stand before God, I don’t want to have any hate or unforgiveness in my heart for anyone.
You cannot have hate in your heart and say that you love God. “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannotlove God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20)
I chose to forgive mostly for me, and other people benefited from my obedience.
The Jean family are a Christian family, and I am sure that Botham’s brother, Brandt, prayed and received enough peace and understanding from God to forgive. It was reported that he carried a Bible into court with him most days, and he was seen reading during court. He will never forget, and yes, there is still hurt, questions, and some anger. He is not weak, as some have said, but he is strong because he forgave.
He has decided to have the peace of knowing that because God has forgiven him many times over, he chose to forgive.
Amber has received an amazing gift of grace from Brandt, and the last thing she heard from him was,“I pray you find Jesus Christ”Brandt has done his job and planted a seed for Christ to cultivate it and cause it to grow. We don’t repay evil with evil. If she does not receive the grace and mercy that has been afforded to her and make a change, then that is between her and God.
“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord.On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans12:19-21)
Botham’s mother said that she is not ready for forgiveness, but she is getting closer to it. This is okay and perfectly normal. Forgiveness is a process that we have to go through to get to the point where we can forgive. BUT we must forgive! I can’t stress that enough; from my own experience, we must forgive.
I am not sure if they are going to appeal (I imagine they will), but just the pure act of grace that Brandt showed is not a sign of weakness, but it is an excellent sign of faith in God and the strength he has drawn from Him.
“Holding a grudge doesn’t make you strong; it makes you bitter, forgiving doesn’t make you weak; it sets you free.” (Anonymous)
First, I want to say that I always write and blog when I am happy, and things are going well. As a blogger, I always want to be truthful, transparent, intentional, and upfront. Most days, I am upbeat and ready to conquer the world. There are also “One of Those Days.” Well, I am having one of those “Other of Those Days.”
I am having one of those days where I want to crawl back into bed and have a good cry.
I am having one of those days where everything seems to go wrong.
Woke up late.
Trash all over the yard from the animals.
Back up at the gate
I left my glasses at home.
I am having one of those days where right now, I don’t want to look on the bright side.
I am having one of those days where although it is sunny outside I feel like it is raining.
I am having one of those days where life does not seem fair.
I am having one of those days where I question my past, and every decision I have made.
I am having one of those days where I question my purpose and my existence.
I am having one of those days where nothing at all seems clear or make sense.
I am having one of those days where I don’t want to be strong.
I am having one of those days where I feel that I am not good enough.
I am having one of those days where my dark safe place starts to look good again.
I am having one of those days where I think, “What is the true meaning of life.”
I am having one of those days where old thoughts and fears want to creep back in my head.
I am having one of those days where even though I am having “One of Those Days,” I can’t reside here.
Even though I am having one of those days, I won’t allow the enemy to disrupt my progress.
Even though I am having one of those days, I won’t give the enemy any victory over my day.
Even though I am having one of those days, I won’t fall back into the enemy trap of depression.
Even though I am having one of those days, I can see past the enemy distractions and illusions.
Even though I am having one of these days, I DO know where my help and strength comes from.
Even though I am having one of these days, I am here, surviving, thriving, and I am living.
Even though he may have gotten a moment, the battle is still won by Jesus. Therefore, I am still winning!
Now before I get further into this part of the Blog, you must know that I did not do this by myself. Remember I said above I tried and tried to do this. But we (my daughters and I) were paralyzed and overwhelmed. We could not do anything but survive the pain that consumes our heart. We knew that this was not the way to live, nor was it the way we wanted to live. Our house was not nasty by any means. It was just cluttered and unorganized. I have to give you the back story about who we call our Dream Team and our deep connection to them.
Meet my organizers Lauren Poe & Kike Ojo, Clutter to Clean.
Jose and Elaine Belardo
Elaine Belardo (also my one of Spiritual Advisor) will beautify, and turn your house into a home by making it a cozy, warm, oasis. She is also the founder of the “Deeper Windows Project” that she founded when her husband Jose’ Belardo, was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s. Ironically he was diagnosed around the same time Michael was diagnosed with Lung Cancer in 2016.
Elaine, Mike, and Jose
I want to tell you how God works in our lives. I know for a fact that He knows what we need before we know we will need it. He prepares us for things that we are going to go through in our future, and he places the people you will need to lean on and glean from in your life and specific times. Only God can orchestrate our lives like this.
The book of Jeremiah states, “For I know that plans I have for you. Declares the LORD. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you plans to give you a home and a future.” God knew what was ahead for my life from the moment I was born, and when I looked back on my life, I can see where God was preparing me for such a time. He has always had, and He still does have my best interest always in mind. I prayed for a way out and trusted in the LORD, and He answered my prayers!
Tragedies can pull people apart, but they can also bond you for life!
When I met Elaine, her daughter Lauren was in high school. Looking back, both of our families were in a high season of our lives. Michael was retired after 21 years in the military and had a good after the military carrier going and Jose’ was a distinguished officer with U.S. Public Health Service. We were all very active in our churches and communities. Elaine was in charge of one of our Chapels Women’s group here at Fort Leavenworth, where we became friends. When our husbands were diagnosed with their respective debilitating diseases, we shared the bond of becoming caregivers to our husbands who were both the STRONG head of their household, something at our age we were not expecting!
Unfortunately, as you know, Michael made his transition home to be with God, but we both soon discovered that we were both grieving what was to be our future and we became each other’s shoulders to lean on. She has been there for me even though all of the work, pain, and grief she is going through. We have been each other’s sounding boards because some people, as well-meaning as they are, do not understand this type of grief and what it takes to keep going day by day. She has helped my girls and me through some of our darkest days and is always there to help us celebrate the good times in this new normal of our lives. I hope I am doing the same for her. I am proud to not only call her a part of our village, but she and our dream team are a part of our family. (I am still waiting on my adoption papers to come through)
So, to have them come in a do a total overhaul on our house was more comfortable than having strangers in my home. They had stock in our memories and an investment in our lives. Because they knew us personally, they knew how difficult this was and would be. They were very gentle and loving throughout the entire process, which took a couple of months. If the girls and I had to do this on our own, it would have taken us years to complete this type of project. Lauren and Kike kindly encouraged us to purge and did not push if something was too difficult to process or get rid of; they just found a way to organize it. Wait, now I am getting ahead of myself. Purging and reorganizing in the middle of a difficult situation is very hard and can be excruciating. But our Dream Team made the task bearable and yes, sometimes even fun!
For me, restoration means reestablishingand discoveringwho I am outside ofwho I was. I am learning to find my own way with my rules. I can tell you in the past three years I have made tons and tons of mistakes. There were so many things I was not aware of or had never done. You must realize I went from my grandmother’s home to my husband’s house. My life was completely turned upside down in every single area! There are things I wish I knew, there are things I wish I hadn’t done, and many there are many things that I have done that I am very proud of.But…
For a while, I did whatever I wanted because I seriously was not planning on living for long. (Don’t be surprised or shocked... depression and grief are real, and I was suffering!) But then after hours of prayer and therapy, God convincedme of my worth on my own and thatI was NOT going anywhere! He said He had somethings I needed to do; He wasnotfinishwith me. Now I needed to get my act together! I do have some major cleaning up in my life to do, but I know that I am not alone!
My life now is nothing like I thought it would be. Nothing worked out the way I wanted or the way I planned. However, my life is not bad, it’s not easy, it’spretty good, but I am also learning every day how to move forward with the hand I have been given. God has placed some extraordinary people in my life that pray for me, check on me, and will continue to love me in spite of my defects, flaws, and imperfections.
They are my…
Let me leave you with this: Mostlywe mustknow that God will loveus, forgiveus, never leaveus, and guideusno matter whatwedo.He will always be there for us. Believe me; it took me a while to get back to this frame of mind and way of thinking.
What is left now… I continue to move forward, learn from my mistakes, and operate in the attitude of restoration. Meaning I will not be hard on myself forliving and makingmistakes. I am thankful to be alive, breathing, walking, testimony ofHISgreat love for me. I am a mess,but,HEwill take this mess and turn it into agreatmessage!
Paralyzation is the state of being paralyzed. It derives from the word “paralyze.” There are mixed reviews about whether this is a “real” word or not, but the term was real to me.
Frequently I will have other Christians ask me, “Why are you in therapy.” Can you just pray to God about it? Their questions got me to thinking. Was I a weak Christian because I decided to go the route of therapy and prayer instead of just trusting only in prayer? “Just wait on the Lord.” I really wanted to yell at them, “THAT’S EASY FOR YOU TO SAY! YOUR HUSBAND OR WIFE KISSES YOU GOODNIGHT EVERY NIGHT. I HAVE TO VISIT MINE IN A CEMETERY!” It was not have been very nice, but it would have been what I was actually feeling. But I kept my mouth shut and smiled. I did wonder if my twice a week, and now monthly therapy appointments make me less of a believer and other believers? Does this somehow make my testimony less impressive or less powerful?
The more I have thought about; I have come to realize that I was paralyzed. I was in a state of Paralyzation. Have you seen the show, ‘The Walking Dead”, that perfectly describes this time frame in my life. I was walking around going about the activities of my life, but I was not really there. My body was there, but I was far from it.
I was very good in my paralyzed state. I direct our plays, choirs, ran my different ministries in the church. I participated in community service, and community activities, I worked and interacted with people, and I received my degree, all with a huge fake smile on my face. I WAS IN A STATE OF PARALYZATION! Only by the grace of GOD, I was I able to function. If you paid close attention to my life… you could tell I was falling apart.
Like I have stated in previous blogs, I was pretty good at hiding what was really going on in my head. The reality was the everything in my head was all jumbled up. I prayed, and I know that God heard my prayers. That was not the problem. The real problem was that I could not hear from Him. Our relationship with God is two way. We pray and petition, and make a request, but then we have to listen to His instruction. There lies the problem; I could not hear His instructions. I was having trouble hearing from God. This is where my wonderful therapist comes into my life.
I said earlier that my mind was jumbled, right? It was jumbled with dark, depressing, harmful, and unpleasant thoughts. I did not want to live, I could not breathe, I was barely functioning, and everything led me to tears! I was in my very own state of Paralyzation. This is the reason why I needed to be in therapy. I needed help dissolving the harmful thoughts in my mind. It was as if these thoughts were banging loudly in my head, distracting me from hearing God’s voice. I kept hearing the enemy say that, “I was worthless,” “I was better off dead,” and that, “I was not going to make it!” I felt as if I had lost a big part of my inner self. I felt as if I had failed God, and he left me. This was more than grief I was experiencing. The grief triggered this journey into darkness, but the darkness was starting to consume me.
As I have always said, I was let by God to a Christian, a therapist. When I first met with my therapist, after I had cried my eyes out telling her what was going on in my life she told me, “Lolita, first I want to tell you that God loves you and HE is always with you.” Little by little as we worked through my issues, God was able to make some significant replacements in my life.
My darkness was replaced with HIS light. My depression was replaced with HIS hope and joy! My harmful and unpleasant thoughts were replaced with HIS thoughts of peace, love, and happiness!
Praise GOD!!! The paralysis was gone, and I was able to face what was in front of me. The enemy did not get to have his way, because I was able to hear GOD promises again whispering deeply into my spirit and my soul.
I was able to hear that HE still love me.
I was able to hear that I am beautiful.
I was able to hear that I am worthy.
I was able to hear that I will survive this.
I was able to hear that my life was not done.
I was able to hear that HE has big plans for me.
I was able to hear that I need to help others.
I was just finally able to hear from GOD again.
That was truly the sweetest sound I had heard in a long time.
After all, that I have mentioned in previous posts, you would not believe that my home was my toughest area to purge. I would please ask that this become a no-judgment zone because you can’t imagine what we were going through to function every day. This area is tough for me to write about, probably because for me, it brought me the most shame. I was embarrassed that I let my home get into this condition. However, I did learn through my therapist that this is normal when you are grieving such a significant loss. There was no need for shame and condemnation, and I was taking action!
Purging and organizing was a huge deal and a significant overhaul for us, so I will break this up into parts, showing before and after going room by room after I introduce you to our Dream Team.
A House vs. A Home
There is a big difference between a house and a home. Merriam –Webster stats the proper definition for a house is, “a building that serves living quarters for one or a few families.” The description for home is, “one’s place of residence, a social unit formed by a family living together.” Those are excellent definitions, but, I believe that a house is somewhere you live, you sleep there, but it feels like a residence, dwelling, domicile, somewhere you exist. A home is a family. It is warm, inviting, and it is your refuge, your oasis. It should be your escape from the real world. When you walk into your home, you should feel joy, love, and warmth. My house was nothing like that. I knew I had to make a change in my home life when I wanted to spend more time at work or more time away instead of going home.
I would come home every evening and sigh. This house was not my haven, and it was not my escape. It was my prison. There was a room in my home that we called the “Man Cave” that looked like Michael had just left and was going to return any day. He kept that room immaculate and always told us when he left to go TDY to keep his room together. We all loved to hang out down there. At first, that room was comforting, and we all felt closer to him when we were in there, then it became overwhelming. Other areas of our home were disorganized, nothing had a place, and we needed a change, and we needed to purge.
Before: Man Cave
Before: Man Cave
Before: Man Cave Pictures
I started by deciding that it was time for me to do something with all of Michael’s things. I held on for two years, trying time after time to clean out my closet. Deep down, I knew that he was not coming back, but when I decided to start, I would get overwhelmed, start crying, and then walk out of the room. I knew It had to be done but, I was paralyzed, and I could not do it. No matter how much I wanted to or how hard I tried to do this, I could not! I needed help.
One-day months later, I was finally able to pack up all of most of Michael’s clothes and donate them. We have a free garage sale in our town called “God’s Open Closet,” ran by the Fortress of Faith Church,
2700 Wilson Ave, Leavenworth, Kansas
If you live in my area…
The ministry of God’s Open Closet is to provide clothes, coats, household items, and furniture to anyone who has a need. Individuals who come are never asked for personal or financial information.
Items are donated by local families, churches and from area garage sales. Tax-deductible receipts are available upon request. To donate: bring items Saturday mornings or call (913) 683-3953, (913) 682-6779, or (913) 704-6033. Hours: Saturdays from 8 a.m. to Noon. Closed the 3rd Saturday of each month and Holiday weekends. Subject to weather conditions January to March.
You can donate what you do not need (in good conditions), and they give them away to the community. I know that Michael is pleased to know that someone in need was able to use his clothes and shoes; this made it easier for me. That was a big step in moving forward for me, but there was still more to be done.
For me to move forward, I needed not to let go but discover MY way to embrace my new normal, and I knew that this was one of the areas I needed to conquer. It is not about erasing what was it is about remembering all that was, what I have learned, how I have grown and built upon the strength that the Lord has given me to stand in my current life. I had no choice but to move forward because time was not waiting for me. Jeremiah 29:11 tells me that God has things planned for me, for my future, and I needed to learn how to embrace my past and also embrace my future.
I love you all
You cannot go through and experience what I have experiencedwithout changing. Change can be good and I think that my changes are wonderful, but some may thinkotherwise.Guess what…Not my problem. Iwill continue tolove you,but I must continue to live for me. Those whotrulylove me understand that and continue to stand in my corner and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
You must understand that deep grief and depression will change you and challenge your existence in this world. When you have to fight the enemy so hard just to exist… you change. You do not come out of the battle the same. There are some scars.
When I say that I have changed, I mean that God has made me stronger, resilient, and I realize that I can do more than survive. I can live! By any means necessary I will live.
Let me tell you this if I continue to not only get up out of my bed every morning but also have pure joy in my heart and my soul, those days are allverygood days. I am happy to report the most days are now very good days!
You see I have to change to adapt to the world I am living in, in my present state. Now before you say, “You do not suppose to change to fit into the world.” I am not changing to fit the world I am adjusting to my circumstances. I can no longer afford to be the Lolita I used to be. Financially, physically, or emotionally, my points of views have changed. Let me explain: I wear glasses,so it isas ifI am lookingthrough my eyesand everything is blurry and unclear, but I have worn this same prescription for years. However,now since my vision as changed so doesmy prescription. My prescriptionhad to beadjustedto adapt to the new changes in myeyes.Myvision isvery different thanit wasthis time three years ago.This time three years ago I lived with a different set of circumstances, responsibilities, and hopes, which I still have but they are now different because I am different.
I am continually evolving into something new.God is doing something wonderful in me! God is leading me down a new and different direction, a new path, and I am trying to follow his lead. The Lord knows His daughter, and I may not do everything to his specifications but I am trying. I am still a beautiful masterpiece, yet I am stilla workin progress, God is not through with me yet.
I love you all!!
Have a Wonderful and Amazing Morning!
There was an old song we used to sing in the choirwhen I was younger, by the Rev. James Cleveland;
Please be patient with me, God is not through with me yet. Please be patient with me, God is not through with me yet. When God gets through with me, when God gets through with me, I shall come forth, I shall come forth like pure gold. If you should see me and I’m not walking right, and if you should hear me and I’m not talking right; Please remember what God has done for me, When He goes through with me, I’ll be what He wants me to be.
I am still developing this area; it is a work in progress. This is a two-step process for me. One involves the heart the other involves the physical body. There will be more to come on the physical body. I am working on my plan to become physically healthy. My daughter and I are adopting the Keto Diet and an exercising program. I am doing the meal prep and she is coordinating our exercise program. I will make sure to keep you updated on our progress and what we are doing, and how we are doing. Y’all keep praying for me! (lol)
Now the matters of the heart are different altogether. Shortly after Michael’s transition in 2016, I had a talk with my Pop, (Pop Skipp), and he told me not to close off my heart. I asked him what did he mean by that because surely he did not mean what I was thinking. He did. He said that Michael would not want me to be alone and that he would want me to be happy. I told him I know but that would never happen, ever! It was the furthest thing from my mind. Actually, I told one of my brothers at church that God would have to put someone right in front of me for that to happen. This will have to wait for another blog post discussion at a later date. (Smile)
Matters of the heart involve more than just the love of another person. Yes, that is very important; because we all desire the need to be wanted and loved but matters of the heart also include your passions. What you are passionate about should fuel your heart, encourage you, and stimulate you to move forward. This was a time that I used to work on myself.
Life-Long Goal #1: Bachelor’s Degree
Despite the enemy’s rude accusations and intrusion in my life, in 2017 I DID finish a lifelong dream that he said I could never accomplish!
I completed my Undergraduate Degree!
From the time that I had to leave school in the ’80s, I have always had the desire to finish my degree. I grew up in Highland Park Michigan in a small town surrounded by the Detroit Metro area, with my cousins, the Heaths. My Grandmother’s married last name was Shaw, but she was born in Warrington GA. Yes, she is the one who taught me how to cook.
I had been in school from 2008 to 2017! So yes, I was discouraged and especially then because I seriously doubted myself. I was very close in In May of 2016, but due to Michael declining health, I decided to take a break. This was important for me because I wanted to be there fully for him as his caregiver.
In January 2017 a few months after his transition, I thought I was ready. You know the enemy was waiting on me! I enrolled in classes and I started getting anxious, and the thoughts came that I was not ready, I could not do this, and I was going to fail. I dropped the classes I and I had succumbed to defeat. Nevertheless, we serve an awesome GOD that does not give up on us that easily!
A few weeks later, my academic advisor called me, and he noticed that I had dropped out of classes for this session. His exact words were, “I know you are having a rough time and dealing with many things right now. But I wanted you to know that you only need 3 elective classes to graduate” I said “What!” He said, “Yes ma’am you only need three classes and they are electives to receive your diploma” Let me tell you taking two online classes in an 8-week period is not an easy task and I needed to take three! However, was determined to finish!
One of the last conversations I had with Michael was about school, and how much it was costing and how long I had been going. He said “Lita, I don’t care about all of that, I just want you to finish” I pushed and prayed through those 8 weeks and on May 15, 2017, I received my Bachelor of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies!
I am finally a college graduate!! GOD IS GOOD!!
Life-Long Goal #2: Membership
For as long as I could remember, I wanted to be a part of a Sorority, but not just any sorority. I admired different women in my life that were members of this organization for years. I knew to be a part of a group of strong, extraordinary, educated women; I needed to step up my game. I did not just watch from the shadows, I continued life. I worked in my church and my community among many of these women. They are already my friends and sisters.
On January 13, 2018, I went to a meeting to gather more information and to let it be known that I was interested in starting the application process for membership into their organization. After receiving all of the necessary information, I began to gather my own documents and information needed for the application. Once I completed the application process, I waited and prayed hoping that I was among those selected to be granted the opportunity to seek membership into this illustrious organization. I finally received a call that I was selected, and I was ecstatic!! My 13 line sisters and I entered into an exhilarating, enlightening, and knowledgeable process, and on April 15, one day shy of what would have been my 30th wedding anniversary; I fulfilled a lifelong dream we were granted membership into the greatest sorority on the planet, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Even though it was the day before what was our wedding anniversary, this day turned out remarkable! Here I was still healing and dealing with my grief, anger, sadness, and depression. Thinking about what could have been and once again, God showed up and gave me a new reason to celebrate during this period. It could have been a week before or a week earlier, but it was the same week. (God’s divine plan) From that day on this time from in April will NOT be a source of sorrow and regret it will be a time of reflection, remembrance, and celebration. I will always remember April 16th but I will celebrate the time that I gain not only 13 new sisters, but I also became a part of a worldwide sisterhood.
I was doing more than learning to survive in this new phase, this new chapter of my life, I was learning to live. I am stepping out into new horizons and experiencing things I have never experienced before. I have people who love and encourage me to be myself and not to fear what God has in store for me.
Someone very special told me “I could do anything I put my mind to do.”
I am stepping out on faith and giving this new chapter in my life a try. Does it terrify me to think about putting my heart and myself out there after 30 years? YES, it does. Nevertheless, it is all a part of the process of moving forward.
FAITH OVER FEAR
I am activating God’s plan for the rest of my life. I am plugging into what he has already instilled in me. I may not have known what the future holds but God did, and HE has prepared me for it, and I am ready for whatever HE has in store for me next. Chapter 2 is underway.
My experience with therapy has been nothing but awesome and positive. God had led me to an amazing therapist, which I connected with, and I started my journey to healing and wellness.
Remember those stages of grief I told you about earlier, I have hit them all and I sometimes bounce back and forth between them depending on the triggers or what is going on in my life at the time. In February of 2017, when I sat down with my therapist the first thing she said was, “Lolita, tell me what is going on with you.” I started to tell her all the things that had been going on in my life thus far. After about 30 minutes and many Kleenex later, I finally let her speak. She said, “Lolita, I first want you to know that you have done nothing wrong and God is always with you.” I knew that because she first acknowledged God before anything else I knew that I was in the right place and that God had led me to the right therapist.
I started out seeing my therapist twice a month. I had a lot of things I needed to work out and my emotions, my moods, and my thoughts were all over the place. My therapist was able to give me the tools I needed to combat and battle depression. After attending a few sessions, I knew that there was no way would I be able to do this on my own. Yes, I did pray and I prayed a lot. My village was praying for me and getting therapy was the answer to our prayers. However, I had to get off my butt and seek help instead of sinking deeper and deeper into depression. God would not let me give up, so off to therapy I went.
Session after session I felt myself becoming stronger and coping with my emotions. I was able to be a strong mother for my daughters and others who were grieving along with us. I remember after one of my sessions I thought to myself, “I am going to make it,” “The enemy will NOT win,” “I will survive this,” “Victory is mine because I have victory in JESUS.”
It was because of my therapy that I am writing this blog. It is because of therapy I am alive to write this blog! I wanted others to know that therapy is not a bad thing. Therapy is not the taboo or this evil that has been wrongly categorized in our community for years. Therapy is very healthy and I believe that for me it is essential to my self-care.
I have been in therapy for over two years now. By now, monthly sessions have been crucial to my overall well-being. My head is clearer, I can think straight, and my therapist is helping me to work on future goals, now that I know that I still have a future. Yes, I believe the Lord always had a plan for me but I also know that I could not see past my own hurt, pain, misery, destruction and whatever negative word you can insert, to accept and embrace HIS plan.
Therapy for me is a gateway to help me see past any negative thoughts or perceptions I have about my life or myself. This has enabled me to see the bright and prosperous future that the Lord has intended for me. Remember you are stronger than you think you are. Do not be afraid to seek the help you need. Make that appointment with a therapist today. You should be afraid if you do not seek help and end up staying in the same depressive state you may be currently experiencing, and THAT is NOT healthy!
It is not about “telling your business,” or “keeping things in the house”. It is about making sure you are mentally healthy. It is about taking care of yourself. It is about self-motivation, self-care, and self-preservation. It is about learning how to breathe again and discovering that joy again in your life.
My heart has been breaking hearing about more suicides in the news and even one we had here locally, so I had some things I needed to get off of my chest!
I remember the character of the Joker from Batman. The Joker always had a painted on smile on his face to hide from everyone else what he looked like. He wore a “mask” because not only his face was disfigured, but his past and things that happened also tormented him. I believe that people who are grieving and or going through depression live life through a masked face. I am sad to say that this was true for myself. I managed well to maintain my facade.
A Facade is an outward appearance that is maintained to conceal a less pleasant or credible reality.
This picture was from February 2017. My heart was absolutely broken into a million pieces and I did not know how I was going to hold it together! I wanted it all to end. The pain, the sorrow, and the grief, it all had to go!
This picture was taken a few days ago. I am happy, healing, mentally healthy. I am discovering who I am and who God is calling me to be.
If I did not give you caption to describe what was going in with me… would you have known by my pictures?
Did you know when you ran into me at the commissary, PX, or Walmart.
Did you know when you talked to me on the phone or chatted through Facebook or text?
I am not sure if my daughters knew how low I was sinking into the darkness.
Mental illness, Depression, grief, anxiety, and any other title you want to give it has no face! It has no type, class, race, or religion. It does not favor one person over another. It just devours!
It seeks to kill, steal, and destroy!
Trust me; you cannot fight it on your own. I needed GOD, and yes, I needed prayer! God promised me “I would have life and have it in its fullest!” I also needed someone to help me navigate my spiraling emotional downfall.
This issue has to be addressed in the African American community. This is a stigma that is hurting us. How many time have we heard “we don’t tell our business” “what happens in this house, stays in this house”. “We can just pray it away.” These comments and others similar are killing our communities! STOP IT!!
Don’t ever get me wrong or get it twisted! I am first and foremost a Christian and I believe strongly in prayer and that prayer changes things.
So Yes, pray!
However, you have to pray for God to lead you to a Mental Health Professional that HE has equipped to help you!
Suicide is preventable but unfortunately, when I was dealing with the emotional and mental issues that go along with depression I was not able to pray these feelings away. My head was not clear enough to pray or listen to what God has to say!
Encourage your family to seek help! Seek help for yourselves!
To those of us that are suffering in silence… DON’T! You do not have to do this alone! Find a family member, friend, or a coworker, who will help you get to the proper resources that are out there.
To those of us that are seeing a therapist, we do not have to be hush, hush about it. If we are expected to help others, how can they relate to us if we are ashamed and hiding the fact that we needed therapy. People need to know that seeing a therapist is not a bad thing, and you are not weak for seeking help. In actuality, you are STRONG because you recognize there is an issue.
I personally think EVERYONE should have a consultation with a therapist! I see one on a regular basis and I AM PROUD OF IT!! If GOD had not led me to the right one… I would not be here today!
Purging the Toxins Out of My Mind & Finding Joy Again
May 20, 2019
When you are finding it hard to take your next breath, you have to find a way to move forward and breathe again. Finding the RIGHT therapist was the next move for me.
Finding the Right Therapist
Finding the right therapist is a process and it is not an easy process. You should meet and talk with them to get a feel for their methods and to see if they are the right fit for you. If you can find the right therapist the first time around then you are blessed! I talked with a few therapist before I found the right person. They were all very nice people, but I prayed for God to show me the right one. I was very meticulous, so I also had a few criteria’s that I was looking for in a therapist.
I needed someone objective who could listen.
I needed someone who would teach practical solutions and help me clear my head.
I needed someone to help me find my courage to fight and not to fear going forward with my life.
I needed someone to help me find my way back to my source of power.
I needed someone who would respect my belief system.
I needed someone to help me pick up the shattered and fracture pieces of what was left of my life.
A faithful God believing, Bible believing Christian.
“Listen to advice and accept discipline, at the end you will be counted among the wise. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:20-21)
My faith is very important to me, so I know I needed a therapist I could learn to trust, who was like-minded and has a similar belief system as I do. I knew that God was the source and power of my strength, but the grief and pain in my mind was not allowing me to connect. It is as if you know your cell phone is dying and you need to find a charger for your brand of phone. However, you cannot use any charger, you have to find the right charger for your phone, or it is not going to work. This is why I was having such a hard time dealing with my struggles in my life. I was plugging in to grief, pain, misery, and to an enemy that not only did not care about me but also hated me with every ounce of his being! Who is the source nothing but calamity, chaos, and confusion!
I needed to reconnect to the source of my strength.
I needed to reconnect to the Lord.
What I was not going to do was:
I was NOT going to entertain anyone that went against the word of God.
I was NOT going to entertain anyone that went against my belief in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
I was NOT going to entertain anyone that challenged my faith as a believer.
I was not going to compromise or settle because I knew that my soul would not be satisfied until I had gotten my connection to God back.
Specializes in grief therapy and the processes of grief
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)
How can a therapist give me the proper tool to deal with my grief without having the proper training in grief therapy? My girls and I were deeply grieving and dealing with anxiety regarding our future. I was dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts. We were broken hearted and our spirits were crushed. We needed someone who was going to be able to deal with every spectrum of our grieving process. In my own research, as I looked for a therapist I noticed many standards that classified grief. According to Psych Central, there are five stages of grief:
Denial and isolation
“People who are grieving do not necessarily go through the stages in the same order or experience all of them.”(Psych Central)
However, I think that I more related to the article from Proactive Change, which stated, “This is not a mechanistic model — the stages do not occur the same way for all people; they can last very little time, or a lot of time; and they can be inter-related.”(Proactive Change) These are the seven stages of grief that they list:
Shock or Disbelief
Acceptance and Hope
I know that some people do not hit all the stages of grief but I know that I went/going through them all and not in this order.
I will go into my experience with this later but this site gives you the breakdown of each stage if you want to read more.
My therapist Dr. Jacqueline Pfeiffer has been helping my daughters and myself on all these aspects of this grief journey/process and it has changed my life.
My daughters HAD to be comfortable with the therapist as well
It was important for the continuity of our care that my girls saw the same therapist. She does not discuss our issues with the other, but she use our sessions to help us as a family unit. That is why I needed for each of them to see the therapist as well and get their input and their thoughts. God placed an awesome therapist in our lives. We all liked her and seemed to open up to her easily. It is very important for me to pray for God to send me the right therapist. If you cannot open up to your therapist about what is going on in your head or be able to tell them your deepest darkest secrets, then you are wasting theirs and your time. Therapy only works if you put your all into the sessions.
My daughters were dealing with their own set of issues and they needed someone other than mom to talk about what they were going through. I lost my husband but my daughters lost their Daddy. They will have to deal with the fact that he will not be available for all of their firsts that will continue happened in their lives. This is something that they could not nor could I navigate on our own. We needed help and sound advice on how we could take the next steps to the new chapter of our life.
All those stages of grief we experienced and we still experience are the steps we need to take toward our healing process. We took a giant leap of faith in trusting someone, a stranger at first, with the sanity of our minds, and the fragile contents of what was left our hearts.
Once all the key elements were in order and in place, we were able to go forward with our healing and rejuvenation process.
Human beings seem to strive for this unattainable perfection. It seems to be embedded in all of us to strive for impossible perfection. Yes, I did say unattainable and impossible, because I believe it is unattainable and impossible for us to reach perfection outside of the presences of God. I do not think that we should ever strive for perfection, but until I am with the Father in heaven, I will strive for Grace.
Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; not by works, so that no one can boast.
Growing up I was always told, “Practice makes perfect.” What does that mean? I played violin from 2nd grade to 11th grade and we were told this quote repeatedly. I can tell you I practiced all the time and I was good but I was far from perfect. That was very disappointing to a child to play all those hours and I never reach the perfection that our Orchestra Director told us we should achieve. However, practice does make better or practice does cause improvement.
So whenever I had to speak in front of a group of people I would get very anxious and nervous, because I was striving for this notion of perfection! I know I will not be perfect and I was always afraid of messing up. I was always told more about what I was doing wrong than what I was doing good or right. Some believe all this toughness will make you stronger.
It does not make you stronger it rips you apart little by little and you are then afraid to strive for the greatness that God has planned for you. Worst more of this negative talking and thinking will cause depression and then the thoughts of suicide can follow.
On Saturday, My chapter, The Leavenworth Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma, Theta Sorority, Inc hosted our 1st Annual Behavioral Health Fair. I was asked to tell about my journey with depression. I said I would need to pray and think about it but later I reluctantly said yes, because I was immediately convicted and was told that words I speak can inspire others. God reminded me that He had greater things planned for me; I just need to continue to step out on faith. I needed to step out of my comfort zone!
I have been asking God to use me so I knew that I could not pass up this moment to tell my story. Therefore, I stood up in front of an audience of my sorority sisters and members of the community and told my testimony of how I live with depression. Yes, I did say how I live with depression. I am not over anything, but what has happened is that I have learned to live an awesome life despite any depression. I know what my triggers are and I stay on top of it to counteract the negative and minimize the damage. I was very nervous but I needed to tell my story with the hope that others might be able to tell their own story one day.
I want to be a voice for those that cannot or are not able to speak for themselves until they are able to speak up and tell their own stories. You do not need to wait until you achieve what you feel is perfection to have your words heard. If you are scared, do it scared. Just go for it! I started writing while I was a broken mess. My therapist suggested I start writing, journaling, and starting this blog page. The more I wrote about my depression, grief, brokenness, and the goodness of God through it all, the more the pieces of my shattered life starting mending. I was encouraged to write but more God encouraged me to live., and starting this blog page. The more I wrote about my depression, grief, brokenness, and the goodness of God through it all, the more the pieces of my shattered life starting mending. I was encouraged to write but more God encouraged me to live.
We have to change the narrative. It is no longer acceptable to keep berating anyone and pouring words, criticisms, and negativity into people’s lives. Yes, we should be able to accept constructive criticism, but we also have to look past the errors and reinforce each other with some positive God led affirmations. I would 100% guarantee for every negative we find in someone, we can find a positive. I believe that there are more positives then there are negatives. We need to build each other up not tear each other down. We need to strive even more for GRACE, not perfection.
Purging the Toxins Out of My Mind & Finding Joy Again
May 10, 2019 Good Afternoon Lovelies!!
Here is part 3 of Purging my Life. Sorry for the long break, my life got very busy. Between church and my sorority, I did not have time to blog, but I did write and capture thoughts of how I was feeling. I am continuing in this journey of purging my life to my mental health. I think this blog comes in handy as May is Mental Health Month, and if you have been reading my blog you know, I am a big huge advocate of therapy and taking care of our mental health. Remember if you even think you need to talk to a therapist, do it anyway.
I know my last post was super long so I am going to break this one up because it is getting long as I write.
You have to know that during this time of my Spiritual renewal I was in therapy. Michael transitioned on October 25, 2016 and I went into therapy in January 2017. This was not so hard for me. I have already talked about the need for therapy when you are depressed, near depression, or even thinking about depression. I am and I have always been an advocate for therapy! I believe that God has people he has gifted in this area in dealing with our minds and how we think and act.
I can only speak for me, but I needed someone to help me sort through all the pain, anger, sadness and grief I was experiencing so I could SEE and KNOW that God was still with me.
The pain I was feeling He was feeling as well. Yes, prayer changes things and prayer works. I did pray, however, how could I sincerely pray to God when I was holding Him responsible for not answering my prayer, the prayers of many, and for “taking away” someone I loved? I could not hear from Him because I was closed off. I did not want to hear from Him because I was angry and hurt. I went through all the motions but my mind was everywhere but on God. My prayers were empty prayers that derived from my traditional needs and not from my heart. It was like a muscle reaction, something I always did.
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
What is Grief?
According to Merriam-Webster, “Deep and poignant distress caused by of as if by bereavement; a cause of such suffering; an unfortunate outcome” (3Mar2019)
Greif through the ages:
Latin – gravis-to weight down; gravare- to make heavy
Old French – grever– to burden, afflict, grief – oppress, injustice or misfortune
English – grief – mental suffering & deep sorrow (Loveliveson.com)
For me grief is the painful, emotional, agonizing, loving, heartfelt way to show how much you care for a person that has transitioned out of this life. If you grieve for a person you truly care of loved that person.
I believe how you grieve depends on the person you are grieving for…
My mother Betty Florence (Shaw) Williams died when I was very young from Cervical Cancer when I was 5. Sadly, I do not remember much about her, just few memoires here and there. However, I do remember grieving for her especially in my teen years where every girl wants her mother. Therefore, that grief was situational. My grief for my mom depended on the situation. Some of her Birthdays and many Mothers days were hard and people could be so insensitive. I have heard everything from “Well you did not know her” to “It has been long enough for you to be over it”
My grief for my Grandfather and Grandmothers, Lister Shaw, Hunter Florence (Heath) Shaw, Mary (Hayes) Williams and my Mother in Law Hattie Law (She passed at 55 in 2002), was deeper because I had a relationship with them, but you always expect them to pass before you do.
I cannot imagine the grief of a parent and I am not going to compare it hers, but I did witness it first hand when my mother passed I experienced the aftermath of my Grandmother’s grief. She never got over my mother’s death. She coped with it the best way she could and some ways were not healthy. She would drink her sorrows away, so I lived with a grandmother/caregiver who was an alcoholic. Of course, this had an adverse effect on my life growing up because I never outlived my mother’s shadow and I had to help my grandmother deal with her grief. I knew that I needed help because; I was not going to put myself, or my daughters through this nightmare.
The grief of a spouse at a young age is also an unbearable pain. You expect to spend your life together, you have hopes, dreams for a future, and then in an instant, it is gone and you are left with nothing but a heart that was broken into a million pieces and a broken fractured future. I knew I had to pick up the pieces of my life, and try to put it back together again. This is where I needed therapy. I could not pray, drink, or ignore these feelings away although I tried nothing worked. Therefore, I HAD to seek help but I had to find the right therapist.
Here is part 2 of Purging my Life. As I continue to write about my process, I am gaining more clarification on my purpose, and learning about who I am today. God is still molding me, making me into what he wants me to become. I am still a work in progress.
“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6 )
Spiritual Purge is like the detoxification of my soul. When you go through a traumatic experience, you start to question every aspect of your life. My connection with the Lord is the most important connection I will ever have, yet I was questioning God’s importance in my life due to what I thought he did not do for my family and me. satan made a home for me and he was working in the darkness of my depression. He was trying to keep me in despair. I had to get rid of him; he needed to be purged from my life!
I tried to look for the positive’s aspects of my life, but I could not find any. Yes, I did have many positives in my life. However, I was so clouded with grief that I could not see the goodness of God in my life. I was choosing to focus on the darkness, the negative, my grief, and pain.
Now do not get me wrong I am not saying that we should not experience our grief and pain, but I am saying it is how we choose to go through it. As long as I was enabling the darkness in my life, it was taking over every aspect of my life. My lack of joy and happiness was centered on that fact I was allowing the darkness to rule.
I think that in the depth of our darkness is where depression finds its roots. I was enabling my residence in darkness and despair. This is also where Satan, the enemy of our soul dwells. If he could keep me in this darkness where my focus was only on my grief and pain, he had control over my emotion and thoughts.
He was the cause of my suicidal thoughts.
He was the cause of my darkness and despair.
He was the cause of the pain I was feeling.
He was the cause of my negative feelings
But, I gave him access.
But, I gave him power over me.
I allowed him to keep me in the darkness!
I allowed him to push God further and further away.
I allowed his voice to dominate God’s voice.
I chose not to pray!
I chose not to have faith and hope in God!
I chose to focus on my grief and only that!
Things had to change in my spiritual walk, or I was not going to survive!
The not so funny thing about this darkness and depression was that everyone thought I was fine! I was strong and resilient, but I was screaming and dying on the inside!
I could have been easily one of those scenarios where if I had decided to commit suicide people would have said, “She seemed so together and doing so well” No one knew the real pain and turmoil I was going through!
I have always told my teens that they could get through any adversity no matter how hard it was because God was always with them! Here I was going through the biggest fight of my life and I could not heed my own words!
I was a hypocrite!
I was a living walking facade!
I was a FAKE!
One night I prayed and cried out to God, “I can’t do this anymore!” I wanted this pain to end, but God grabbed hold of me. You see, he NEVER left me. He was by my side, even in the darkness, in the pain, counteracting the enemy’s voice.
When the enemy was telling me:
I was useless.
I was dumb and I would never finish my degree!
I cannot run this house by myself and do the things that Michael used to do.
My daughters do not respect me the way they respected him.
They would be better off without me!
“You are nothing without him!”
“God does not even want you!”
To say that I was devastated would be an understatement! I was broken!!!
My heart was shattered into a million pieces!!
However, God intervened and told me he still had great things planned for me. My work was not done, and my journey is not complete! God was there with His hand outstretched for me to take it. I not only saw my babies; I saw the people who love me, and I knew I had a choice to make!
I HAD to make a choice to trust God and live!
Set your mind on things that are above and not on things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)
I had to purposely set my mind and focus on the things of God. Through a lot of crying, deliberation (with God) and myself, praying, and therapy, I was able to put my focus on the Lord, and not on my circumstance. I was still sad, lonely, broken, and sometimes angry but those are normal feelings when you are going through grief, and I had to go through them, and I am still going through them. Regardless of the deep hole of despair, I was living in, I chose to focus on the positive things in my life.
I had lost focus of the prize.
I had lost focus of God.
I had lost focus of His love for me.
When my focus changed, (Thank you JESUS) I was able to kick the enemy to the curb and focus my concentration on my healing and moving my life forward to the next chapter.
Where the enemy had me convinced, that God had not just forgotten about me but that He had thrown me away, I chose to step out on all the faith I had! I had a foundation that was set long before tragedy had struck and turned my life upside down. I believe that God knew this day was coming and he prepared my family and me! From the time that Michael was diagnosed, we took a stand of FAITH!
“And I will bring the third part through the fire, Refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, They are My people,’ And they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.” Zechariah 13:9
It may not have been the outcome that we wanted, but it was the one that occurred. I was already equipped with the strength and courage to handle this, but not on my own. I had to plug into the source of my strength, and courage. I had to reconnect with the One who created me and knows me like no other! I had to find my focused again. I had to reconnect with my Lord! It was time! Because I had a voice and a story to tell and it was time to use it!
As I move, further in this new phase of my life and have been cleaning not only spiritually and mentally, but physically as well. I will never forget my Michael. I love and miss him and he will always have a special place in my heart, but I am now finding the joy, peace, calm, harmony, and discovering of who I am and who God is preparing me to become. God said I am about doing something brand new in you! BE READY! I am preparing the way for you!
“Forget about what has happened; don’t keep going over told history.
Be alert be present.
I’m about to do something brand-new.
It’s bursting out!
Don’t you see it?
THERE IT IS!
I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badland.”
(Isaiah 43:18-19 MSG)
I am going to break this up into different blogs. I know that I can be very long winded when I write. LOL! However, I want you to get everything I am trying to say. For me, this is a part of my cleansing process but I pray that it helps anyone who is struggling.
I am going to focusing on the four areas that is helping me to move forward in this next chapter of my life.
Finding my focus and finally allowing God to heal and love me
Purging the toxins out of my life and finding Joy again
Purging of my temple to have a healthy heart and body
4. The Home
Purging the House to make it a home of peace and tranquility
This new chapter of my life is requiring me to sacrifice, be committed to His plan, to have faith, and totally trust in God!
I was told, “You can do anything you put your mind to do…and most importantly…be you!” I
I MUST trust God’s freeing process, to be relieved or rid of what restrains, confines, restrict, or embarrassed me.(Merriam Webster, Feb 2019)
So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed! (John 8:38)
It has been a wonderful process and it has helped my daughters and myself tremendously. I recommend it for anyone whether you think you need it or not. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health. We should never neglect it.
There was an article in Psychology Today that talks about how some African Americans view therapy. A 2008 study, by Alvidrez et al., found that, “African Americans, who were already dealing with mental health issues felt that to talk about their problems with an outsider (i.e. therapist) may be viewed as airings one’s dirty laundry, and even a quarter of those consumers felt that discussions about mental illness would not be appropriate even among family.” The article goes on to explain that some are embarrassed about being labeled one of “those people” and this keeps them from getting the help that they need. The article talks about other concerns regarding the therapist themselves, the treatment process, and of course the cost and lack of insurance coverage.(Psychology Today, Nov 2011) (www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/culturally-speaking/201111/why-african-americans-avoid-psychotherapy)
I am sure other ethnic groups have some of the same beliefs about therapy because of the growing rate of suicides in our nation, and I know in my home growing up and homes of others I have heard these phrases many times:
“What happens at home stays at home”
“Don’t put my business out in the streets”
“Nobody needs to know”
“WE can handle this”
“Just give it time, it will get better”
“This is a secret”
Well theses secrets are killing us. Depression, Grief, and Suicide is real and it is on only becoming more prevalent in our society.
You must realize that any type if mental illness in NOT a personal failure. Seeking the right counsel is imperative to our overall health! If anything is a right step forward to your own personal growth!
There are some judgmental people will say and did say, “Well you said are a Christians, just pray about it.” Yes, this is true, I am a Christian and I did pray about it but I truly believe that GOD placed my therapist in my life has a vessel to be used by GOD to pull me out my depressed state. I knew that, when was researching a therapist for myself, I knew that she had to be a Christian and have a love for God. Proverbs states, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.”My therapist helped to pull me out of the dark place that I had been living in for months. She reassured me that GOD was not done with my yet and HE had a plan for me and that HE is with me and HE will always be with me and gave me practical guidelines on how to deal with my grieving process.
Therefore, when I hear that the suicide rate is up among active duty military, teens, and veterans I get alarmed. Why is this happening? What can we do to stop it? We have to check in on each other especially if you know someone has been dealing with difficulties in their lives.
Now with all of that being said, I can only speak from my own experience. When I heard about circumstances regarding the death of Christopher St. John, brought back to my remembrance where I was 2 years ago, and I could have slipped easily! However, God said to me in the midst of my despair… “You are stronger than this!” Yes, you had better believe I am still in therapy after almost 2 1/2 years. When I first started going to therapy after I loss Michael I went every other week, crying sobbing, but never kicking and screaming because I knew it was something I needed. I prayed for GOD to send me a Christian therapist who loves HIM as much, if not more than I did. I said, “if not more,” because at the time God and I were not seeing Eye to eye. I had many questions and I was very angry, sad, disappointed, and depressed. It was very hard for me to see God. I knew that He was there, and I still had a deep love for him.
Imagine if your parents and they love you more than their own life and you love them. You asked or you begged for something for months, and then when the day comes for you to get what you asked for… you get nothing.
Your sister asked your parents and got it.
Your brother asked your parents and got it!
Your friend from down the street asked your parents and got it!
Your parents never outright said you were going to get what you asked for you just considered their record and you knew you were going to get it, but you did not. How do you feel?
That is exactly how I felt. I did not love God any less, I did not hate Him, I did not stop believing in Him, I was just disappointed, for me that disappointment turned in to depression, desperation, and fear and once all of that set in I could not see anything ahead. I knew God had a reason and a plan for all that had taken place, but I could not see that and I felt there was no future for me just death. I prayed for God to help me. I did not want to leave my daughters, but I was too busy thinking about feeling and myself from all the pain. But I knew that God was stronger than what I was going through.
My PCM (Primary Care Manager) suggested that I see the on staff social worker. I saw him a couple of times, it helped a little, and he suggested that I seek out someone more long term. I told Him it had to be a Christian therapist. I saw a couple of therapists but no one I saw was the right person. There was one more on my list and I went to see here. At first, it was the typical visit. We sat down and she said tell me what has been going on (which is how she starts all of our sessions.) Well we get out the tissues and I start talking. There was something different when I started talking with her. When I finished talking, she said, “Lolita, first thing I want to tell you… God loves you and He is always with you”. I knew she was the right therapist for me. Now two years later it is like talking to an old friend once a month. She is helping me reevaluate my life and navigate the new life I was forced to live. Now it does not seem so forced I am discovering many things about me that I like and some I need to work on. I believed that the enemy would have loved to keep me my depressed little ball casted out to the darkness! But I knew that God made me STRONGER than anything that he tried to throw at me!
Therapists are here to help us. They have training and tool that can help us navigate what going on in our head. It is important to see the right therapist. You may have to see a few before you find the therapist that is right for you. Just as you did research to find your family doctor, or a surgeon, it is imperative that you do the same for your therapist.
Suicide is NEVER the answer!
Suicide is preventable, but everyone’s help is needed.
I had a phenomenal weekend hanging out with my beautiful Sorors of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc for my 1st Founders Day Celebrations! We celebrated 106 glorious years of our sisterhood! If you know me, then you know this is definitely a dream come true for me. It was thirty plus years in the making!
This morning I heard such a good word on both of my prayer lines, so I just had to share!
Many of you know I love music and I love to sing. One of my favorite songs that we sing in church is called, “Trading my Sorrows”
I’m trading my sorrows
And I’m trading my shame
And I’m laying it down
For the joy of the Lord
And I’m trading my sickness
And I’m trading my pain
I’m laying it, laying it, laying it down
For the joy of the Lord
I’m pressed but not crushed
Persecuted, not abandoned
Struck down but not destroyed
And I am blessed beyond the curse
For His PROMISE will endure
That His joy is going to be my strength
Though my sorrows may last for the night,
His joy comes with the morning
The words to this song have taken special meaning to me in the past few years.
I can tell you from my own life experiences, I have has my share of difficulties in these past few years but I can tell you this…
I am never defeated, dejected, hopeless, or destroyed. God plucked my out of the darkness, where I wanted to stay and die, and HE broke through that curse of depression that the enemy tired to place over my life. I prayed and I read GOD healing words of love, redemption, and his promises to me.
Minister Kai told us to “Stand on the word of GOD and let it bless you.” He said, “Let the word do what it is going to do.”
“So is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)
Meaning, wait on the LORD and let his word accomplish its purposes for our life.
My Sis Aisha Dudley said in our team prayer this morning, we are NOT to focus on our problems for put our energy and our focus towards the PROMISES of GOD.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)
No matter what the enemy throws at us, no matter what it may looks like, no matter what it may feel like we have to focus on the PROMISES of the LORD and know that HE has already won the victory! Without LORD, we can accomplish nothing. He has HIS plans for our life already laid out for us we just need to continue to hold on and believe that with God NOTHING is impossible.
I know that my LORD PROMISES:
And so much more (read HIS Word)
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with GOD. (Luke 18:27)
I can testify that my sorrows may have lasted for a night but HIS amazing, remarkable, supernatural, joy always come in the morning! I have traded all my sickness, shame, worry doubt, and I have laid it down for the JOY of the LORD
My Brother in Christ that hosts a prayer line that I am a part of, Minister Kai Brown was telling us this morning that is we are waiting on a break through to hold on its coming because GOD is a promise keeper. Now, when I made my prayer request this morning I asked for clarity and direction, I had no idea of the prayer focus. (GOD knew).
When you go through a major tragedy, your life takes on a new life, new goals, and new directions. It seems like to you GOD is placing on a new path. However, if God is the all-knowing GOD that we KNOW HE is… then HE already knows what you are going thorough and what you will go through. Since GOD has all the wisdom and knowledge… HE already has us on the right path!
So, when we have things change in our lives:
We lose a job
We have to relocate due to the military or our job
We get an upsetting report form the doctor
We lose some one we thought we would spend the rest of love with
When we have anything that does not align with what we perceive as our right path
We need to; no, we MUST tap in to the all-knowing infinite wisdom of the LORD. We need to pray and seek HIS wisdom and direction for our life. We do not know exactly what GOD has in store for us, but we do know that GOD is a PROMISE KEEPER and we have to believe that our blessings are on the way. Just has GOD made and fulfilled his promise to Abram/Abraham, trust and believe that HE will do the same for us, because HE loves us with an everlasting love!
I love this song from Sister Act 2, “Joyful Joyful” It reminds of the scripture that says, “Weeping endures for a night, but JOY comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)
“Melt the clouds of sin, sin, and sadness Drive the dark of doubt away Drive it away Giver of immortal gladness Fill us Fill us with the light of day Light of day
If you ask the LORD, he will drive all this sin, sadness, doubt, and roll the dark clouds away and be filled with is marvelous joy, life, and light by the our precious JESUS!
Darkness can and not ever live with the light!
I love you all!
Have a Marvelous, Blessed, and Amazing Day!
There is a song that my teen choir sings called, “It’s A New Season”
“It’s a new season, it’s a new day
A fresh anointing is flowing my way
It’s a season of power and prosperity
It’s a new season coming to me”
When Michael passed, it left a tremendous void in my life. For a while, I did not know what I was going to do or how I was going to survive the next second. Every aspect of my life totally changed. Every dream, every goal, my future plans, even my own purpose had to be reconfirmed, redefined, and reevaluated.
When tragedy strikes in your life, we have to take the time to reevaluate our lives. While I was learning to live through my worst nightmare, I still had to learn who I was without him, and rediscover who I am with GOD.
The year of 2016 was the worst her of my entire life. We went from diagnoses, treatment, and then death. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
The year of 2017 was a year of crying, anger, sadness, depression, love, connection, healing, learning, prayer, and trusting in GOD. “Weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5
SO, last year, 2018, was a season of rediscovery, redefining who I am, and who GOD is now molding me to become. The LORD helped me to make some dreams a reality. “But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)
This year, 2019 is a new year and a brand new season.
BUT, let me tell you what is NOT going to happen.
There will be…
No room for regrets
I will let my faith be bigger than my fears.
I will continue to trust in GOD.
I will be stronger
I will be braver
I will love and love hard
I will be happy
I will serve
I will grow
I will live my life with purpose
I will worry less and pray more
I will expect the unexpected
I will be persistent in my dreams and goals
I will NOT GIVE UP!
I will NOT GIVE IN!
I am not sure what you are going through in this phase of your life but know this… GOD is always in control and he is only a prayer away. Maybe this is your year for rediscovery, growth, or increase.
Is this your year to not only step outside of box but to crush the box?
Only you can look deep into yourself and determine this.
My prayer is, LORD, I know you are always by my side and I know I have a fresh anointing coming! “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
Lord I am ready to move to the next level.
Lord, I am ready to CRUSH the BOX!
As I bid goodbye to 2018, I thank GOD and I look back on lessons learned and the accomplishments I have made.
I have accomplished some lifelong goal in the past two years. God has blessed my girls and myself with some wonderful people in our lives who have become our “Village” and “Our Tribe.” In 2018, they have seen us through and prayed with us through some tough times in our life. They have also celebrated, applauded, remembered, and honored along with us. Never any judgment only love.
We celebrated Michael’s 50th Birthday with a “Thank You Dinner” for our village.
In 2018, I have stepped out on faith and started some new and wonderful journeys. I have discovered my own voice, navigating, and finding my way as the LORD plans the course for the rest of my life. I have said good-bye to more friends and family than I wanted too, but I take joy and I praise GOD knowing they are all in capable hands.
I have also added to my family when my 13 Line Sisters (14 M.I.L.E.S To The Crimson DynaSTy) and I were initiated into the illustrious sisterhood of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Therefore, it is with bittersweet regrets that I bid adieu to 2018, but I cannot leave without mentioning some of the “Blessings in the Storm” I have navigated in 2018…
In 2018, I have discovered that:
I have chosen to come “Out of the Darkness”and live in and with the LIGHT.
I will “Never Ever, Give Up”, because God is in control and HIS grace and mercy surrounds me.
“There is Good News” I have the joy of the LORD in my heart and I am never alone.
Because the LORD is in my life and my heart, I know that “It Is Well with My Soul”
Life is so short, and tomorrow is not promised to any of us so don’t live in regrets, “Love Hard”
God is amazing and His love is unconditional “He Is a Mighty God”
God has great things planned for me and I am ready, so “Fear is Not in My Vocabulary”
I am learning to overcome the obstacles of my life and my past because I know that “I Am a Survivor,” and I know that with GOD I can do anything because Christ gives me the strength.
“Dear Future, I am ready” I can, and I have the right to be excited for the next phase in my life.
“God is in Control” of my life and I have no reason to fear it!
We have taken some knocks and obtained some bumps and bruises along this life’s road, but we still stand strong.
We have walked through the valley of the shadow of death, but we continue to be victorious because, we know to whom we belong.
We will never give in and never give up on what the Lord has planned. We have given HIM all things and placed them under his command.
So come on in 2019 we are not afraid of you, We will wait, watch, fast, and pray to see what the Lord will do.
Family and Friends, all the ones we hold dear, We pray that you have a Very Merry Christmas and a God Blessed New Year! (LJL)
Hey everyone! I have not been writing as frequently as I would like. I think I must have had some sort of writer’s block. I love to write but I have not been able to focus on writing. So, here I am at 2:30 AM and I get an urge to write.
I know all of my writing this year have been focused on grief and my grief journey. Michael’s death jump started my writing because it was fueled by my grief, sadness, depression, and unhappiness. My therapist discovered that I love to write, and this has been a great tool for me, because for two years I had an outlet to pour out my grief, sadness and unhappiness. It has been very therapeutic for me to write about what I was experiencing and feeling. God always has a way of taking your most painful moments, moments you never thought you would survive in a million years. He took my struggles, trials and tribulations, and made them into lifelong learning lessons and testimonies to further encourage myself and others. He is so amazing that way!
I have not always been happy, but I have always had genuine, deep down, soul saving, joy in my heart. Because I made that choice to embrace joy, it never went away, even in the midst of grief my Jesus given JOY never went away. Nothing will separate me from the love of God.
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) God’s unfailing love is amazing!!
My life is happy once again. I am doing and experiencing things that I have never done. I am accomplishing lifelong dreams, and I know there is so much more to come. I am loving life! Life is too short to live with regrets. You only get one life and you must live it to the fullest. I have these past three Christmas Season that life is what you make of it. You can choose to wallow in self-pity blaming the world for everything or you can choose how you live in it with all of its ups and downs. One of my favorite scriptures is “I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13) This means that no matter what I am going through the Lord will see me through it. The Lord is giving me a high-five and saying, “We got this!”
So, I am saying to you for this Christmas Season always remember the real meaning and reason for this season, no matter what you are going through. No matter what road you are on in your life, pray, have faith, and trust God that all roads leads to Him. In Him you will find your joy, peace, and love. Then from there you will find your direction in this life and discover the road to find your happiness once again.
It has been awhile since I have blogged. Life has been so busy and hectic (Not in a bad way) Just no time to write. (Note to self… Make some time)
However, with the Christmas season upon us I am always reminded of the real reason for Christmas. We joyously celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We also must take into consideration our loved ones whose holidays will never be the same. There are people going through a grief journey. You see the smile on their face or the laughter from their mouth and you think they are doing just fine, or maybe you think they should be over this by now, but their reality is…
Some may think “they did not say anything.” Let me ask you this, when was the last time you were going through something and you just volunteered to your loved ones what you were going through?
Grieving is a journey, a process and sometimes depression is a part of this process. I will speak for those like myself, who is still processing life after a tremendous loss. When you lose someone close to you, your life will change you very existence shifts. Your future, your plans every aspect of your life changes, especially if you lose a child, parent, spouse, or a sibling.
When people do not truly know you or know your journey, they are quick to criticize and give you unwarranted useless advice and they think that you are doing fine. However, my journey is mine, and your journey is yours! How I walk it and deal with it is up to the Lord and me. The Bible tells us that, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning!” NO ONE can tell you how long that night will be, or how long to hurt, to be sad, or how long to grieve. NO ONE can tell you how to live your life… it is yours! It is your journey; it is your time to allow God into your heart to heal you from the inside out. “Where the Lord leads us, HE will also provide for us.”
As Christians, children of GOD we all have been given the gift of discernment and the power and authority to show grace. We are to love all people. If you know someone is dealing with some difficulties in their life it is our job/responsibility to check in on them.
Now, with all that being said… If you are the one dealing with some difficult situations PLEASE, you need to reach out. There is someone who care and loves you. Remember, there is no shame in seeking help or assistance. I know what can happened when depression tries to take its grip on you. You feel as if you are sinking deeper and deeper in a hole that is continually closing in on you. There is hope, help and a way out of that hole. I prayed and asked God for guidance and loved on me and encouraged me through HIS words. HE also placed a wonderful therapist in my life and an amazing village I call my family.
Let’s all do better a taking care of each other. We are to minister help where help is needed. Sometimes it is just a hug or just to say I care and I am here. We must show love, grace, and mercy has HE has also shown to us. We only have this one life to live and we can choose to make a difference, we can save a life.
I am not perfect in anyway, but I love GOD and everyday HE is renewing me as HE leads me. My love for HIM is NEVER FAILING!! I am walking in the favor and authority that the LORD has given me, doing HIS will, HIS work, at HIS appointed time!
We are all a work in progress becaue none of us are THERE yet. We still being molded by the hands of the MASTER CREATOR!
I can always count on my brother Minister Kai Brown to give me something deep to think about. He is also one of the reasons I started this blog. I have been excitingly pondering over his nugget yesterday morning, “Get ready for great”.
“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess (strip) nations and settle in their desolate cities.” (Isaiah 54:2-3)
This nugget got me so excited because it falls in line with everything that God has been revealing to me and to others. God is already doing so many exciting things in His kingdom and among his people right now! In so many ways, we are being told to get ready, get ready get ready. I was sitting in a study a few years ago, before the enemy tried to use my pain and suffering to make his darkness settle in my life. We were told that God operates in the suddenlies. Which simply means that things can happen unexpectedly at any moment!
“I have declared the former things [which happened to Israel] in times past;
They went forth from My mouth and I proclaimed them; Suddenly I acted, and they came to pass. (Isaiah 48:3 AMP)
Immediately her flow of blood was dried up; and she felt in her body [and knew without any doubt] that she was healed of her suffering. (Mark 5:29 AMP)
For you yourselves know perfectly well that the day of the [return of the] Lord is coming just as a thief [comes unexpectedly and suddenly] in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:2)
Don’t let the enemy or his minions distract you from the promises that God has for you! Remember he is here to kill, steal, and destroy… our lives… the ones that God loves the most! He hates us and he wants to see us fail. We have to be ready for the out pour that God is going to do in our lives. He promises to increase our territory, the people we come into contact with, the people we that we surrounds us. It will happen all of a sudden, without warning!
Stretch your tent curtains wide… Wait for God blessings to flow! Do not hold back…This is the time to be bold for the LORD GO STRONG! Lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes…You will need a lot of room for overflow! For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess (strip) nations and settle in their desolate cities…Get ready! You are going to take over nations!
You should always make the best out of every situation… You never know when it may be your last opportunity.
Last weekend was homecoming weekend for Morgan. This is our 3rd homecoming at Pitt State University. During Morgan’s freshman year, Michael was able to see his baby girl for her college band experience during family weekend and for homecoming in 2016. During that homecoming weekend we had our challenges with Michael’s (we now know) failing health. He had gotten sick at the stadium. Then after recovering from that incident we went to eat after the game. Although, he was not feeling his best he wanted to celebrate with Morgan, but he had gotten sick again. Then when we returned back to our hotel Michael so exhausted that he could not make it to the room on his own and we had to find a wheelchair.
The reason why I went into a little detail regarding Michael’s first and last homecoming weekend with us, because regardless of the challenges, we made the best out of our situation.
NO, it was not the perfect weekend that we planned but it was a filled with love, promise, and hope. This past weekend was also filled with love, promise, and hope.
Love- because love is family and family is love. I told myself, when Michael passed, that I was not going to miss anything that Morgan needed me to attend, if I could help it. If Michael were still with us, he would not have missed a thing! He may have showed up at an event to surprise him and left me at home.
God loves us unconditionally!
Even with all of the mess in our lives, HE has undying love for us that is Agape Love (unconditional LOVE). Nothing! NO, NOT ONE THING can separate us from God’s Love for all. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39)
Promise- because of His unconditional love for us he continues to rain down his promise on us. Before I experienced some of my darkest days God always promised me, HE would never leave me or forsake me. HE promised me that He would not with hold any good thing from me. HE promised that would always love me. He wants to see me succeed and all that HE has me to do!
The promises of God are many and HE has promised them to all who believe and give their lives to Him. He has promised us a future and hope. HE loves us and HE will never hurt us. “Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefitswho forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord works righteousness” (Psalms 100 2-5)
Hope- Our hope in GOD is our Faith in GOD. To hope for something you have to have some faith in it. Thank GOD, when we put our hope in HIM it activates our Faith. If life seems hopeless…I need you to dig deeper within yourself and reactivate your hope in GOD. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD.” (Jeremiah 17:7)
Now, with all that being said… sometimes what we hope for is not GOD has for our lives or for the life of our loved ones. I stated in the beginning, even though our weekend did not turn out the way we wanted. I can look back on it with a smile pass all the things that did not go our way and remember the smile that Michael had on his face when he saw his baby girl perform with the her college band and how she enjoyed it. How Michael and the girls spend the evening laughing at me because I tried to hold the elevator in a comical position, “NO, they never let me live that one down!” The pictures do not show the pain, weariness, sadness, worry, or being uncomfortable. The enemy gets no glory here!
The pictures show God in the midst of everything. They show smiles, laughing, happiness, love, faith, and hope. Just like this weekend.
We are moving forward pass anything the enemy tried to hold over our heads. We are no longer operating from a place of sadness and sorrow. Yes, there is still sadness and sorrow but we choose not to operate from those emotions. We have chosen to dig deep into ourselves for the JOY/FAITH/HOPE/LOVE that God has deposited into all of us.
As I was reflecting back on this weekend events, I had a great weekend! I had dinner, movies, (anticipated Venom, the critics were wrong!) and games with my girls. I worked my side hustle (Premier Designs Jewelry) and fellowship with some awesome sisters. We also braved the cold weather and participated in a walk that was in remembrance of their dad and my late husband Michael David Law. He was an amazing husband, father, son, brother, uncle, friend, and mentor. He was a big advocate for the education and the empowerment of our youth. His Fraternity, The Pi Omicron Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity sponsors the Leavenworth Awareness Walk, (LAW Walk) this was the 2nd year for this annual event. This event is in two parts, to continue his work for raising scholarship money for deserving High school seniors. Different organizations in the community to network with each other, find out what we do in and for the community, and how we can help each other.
It was very surreal as a looked around during the event. I was in a very different mindset the first year. I was feeling physically and emotionally drained, uncertain about my future and the future of my girls. I was energized at the people who came out to support the walk, donated, and some just because they knew Michael.
This year’s walk I have grown and I am taking control of my life. I have a lot of work to do but, I am stronger, I am confident that I can achieve anything I put my mind to! Because God said that, I can do all things through Christ who gives me all the strength I need. I have an awesome village, my support system of people, who love and care about my family and our well being. Mostly I have my Father in heaven who has always had me in the palm his hand from day one! I was never alone and neither are you!
I saw a quote one day that says, “Grief never ends. Nevertheless, it changes. It is a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith. It is the price of love.” My girls and I are walking with our heads held high into year two of this grief journey/passage. Our faith in GOD is the only thing that has kept us standing along this journey. There were times when I did not know if I was going to make it through the next second not to mention year two! I could not think, breath, and I did not want to live. However, here I am surviving, strong, confident, and I am living the best life that I know how to live. I have reached lifelong milestones in the last two years. Guess what? GOD is not through with me yet! He still has much work for me, but I am ready.
Dear Past, Thanks for all the lessons!
Dear future, I am ready!
I am ready for the next phase, the new chapter in my life!
I am ready for what God has for me!
I am ready to be all that HE wants me to be!
I am ready! Are you?