The Prodigal Daughter

...and I hear God saying,

“It is no longer enough for us to be awakened in the

spirit if we aren’t willing to walk in it.”

Where are my faithful steppers?

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The mental steps out of these four walls became nightly reflective strides. I’d lie awake on my right side at night with occasional tears streaming down my face knowing this thought and  reflection was soon to become a step of faith in the natural realm--for my steps would become, REAL.  We would exist in these four walls with manic highs  of happiness, reflective moments of love, sorrowful and painful moments of “look what she did, look what he did, look at what we did to us” and back to prideful lows--for we knew things were coming to a close.

I remember my prayers consistently ending with,

“God I WON’T MOVE until you tell me to.”

...but this day, this day I received the answer, “GO FORTH” and the word FAITH rang so loudly I stopped toiling and I moved.

My steps were now a physical move of proceeding forward .

That night, we sat our children down declaring our love for them, assuring them of ideas of togetherness, striving for a sense of normalcy, followed by many hugs, kisses and a final goodnight.

...but, there was nothing normal about what was occurring.  

It was heartbreaking.

It was painful.

Neither of us could have imagined this day coming in April of 2008, but here we were.

These steps, that I now recognize as progressive, developmental, and forward movements of faith have nothing to do with love--love is an evident factor. This had everything to do with CHOOSING our hand as the molder of this relationship.  This had everything to do with defining love without God and creating false formalities of what union should look like. This was an subconscious denial to God’s invitation into our hearts, into our spirits, into this “pseudo marriage.” An act denial of so intense that we could not confront the truth of this very relationship being built without God as the compass, the Shepherd, the Foundation, and the Cornerstone.

For His word says,

“But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is heaven.”

(Matthew 10:33, KJV,)

So, as I walked down the steps that night with my belongings I cried tears of trust, of faith and re-commitment to God--because more than anything I just wanted to get back home to my Father.

...and the most freeing reassurance was, “but I promised to never leave you nor, forsake you.”

Welcome Home.

 

FEARLESS

We live in a world where fear has become a force behind any move we are required to take. Fear has saturated the body of Christ with doubt, shame, and guilt—selling false messages about what we can not be. Fear has stiffened our worship and robbed us of joy.  It has convinced us that peace is no longer among us in this world of chaos. Fear has encouraged the abandonment of a once clear vision, and dream—diminishing our FAITH.  Fear believes it has won. Fear says, “Where is your God now?”

 

THE LIFT

...and it began with a simple question, why?

The Lift.

As an adolescent, I always considered myself to be well-rounded and confident. I’d been through various transitions and understood change is only as difficult as you allow it to be. I was a believer in perspective at a very young age and at sixteen I couldn’t wait to make this particular transition in my life--I was finally going to Weaver High School. Oh yes, I was confident and had it all figured out. I was excited. I was finally going to be in a school with my neighborhood friends again--no more CT Transit, no more bus passes, no more dialects that I couldn’t understand--things were about to be familiar.

On the very first day  I remember being overwhelmed by the size of the school, but took comfort in having my best friend by my side. I was greeted by old friends and introduced to new acquaintances. I thought to myself, I’m going to be “good” here. I took notice of interactions. During class changes, the third floor seemed to be the space where groups would gather to talk, laugh and “post up.” I took a listening ear into what was being talked about and how. Being in high school there was often lots of laughter at someone as a result of their appearance. What was discussed never truly bothered me until the popularity of a thicker woman became a noted trend--you know big butt, slim waist, “stomach on flat flat,” you get where I’m going. It became the standard of what women should look like. I didn’t find myself buying into the hype of the “shapely woman” until the day I walked down the hallway and him and his friend said, “yeah she alright, but I need something more. That’s a little onion butt.” Both boys proceeded with laughter. They had to be talking to me. I was the only girl who passed them both in that moment--I felt them staring at me, like they were assessing if my body was a pass or a fail. I continued walking. I tried shrugging it off. I even tried convincing myself I was unmoved by their opinion.

However, days had passed and I noticed my senses became heightened to all the commentary of what all the boys wanted. All of a sudden, I wasn’t enough. All of sudden, my gift of perspective when entering this new school began to weaken. Looking down at myself and hearing the voices that began overpowering my own reminded me that, I wasn’t any of those things--thick ENOUGH and I definitely didn’t have a fat booty.

In most spaces, I was always shorter and small in stature but, it never bothered me until now--until this unspoken standard was put on me as Black woman.

The words slim, skinny, thin, small. “Little Butt,” “Lil Bit,” began accompanying  me on walks home.

The words surfaced so much it became “normal” to discuss my small demeanor and stature. It became so familiar that this was no longer an issue of stature, but a place of self-ridicule--making my voice seem smaller and in that, my presence obsolete. Sports I desired to do became something I shouldn’t do and dance was all I could do. I was accepted in the space of dance, I was loved in this space until even there my size was commented on. It always ended in a laugh and I would join to--trying to digest my own laughter while praying I could somehow silence theirs was painful--and they would never even know. I’d acquired this skill of masking and I did it exceptionally well.

This little girl, whom I still care for today, allowed one pivotal moment to define her adolescent journey--failing to see just how big her presence already was in any space she was in.  This little girl who I know all too well, could never fathom that her growth would be developed in her why. This little girl who took settling as an option, would have never thought to approach a barbell. She could have never envisioned a mind totally fixated on CONQUERING all the weight which lies in front of her.

But, the woman she has become won’t let this little girl down.

The woman she has become will entrust her why with God--for He has even identified the Coach to guide her.   

The woman she has become knows that every lift that is made is even bigger than herself.

For every lift that is made honors that she is more than enough.  

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I lift for the little girl that told herself, “I can’t.”

I lift for the doubters that said, “she’ll never be.”

I lift for the women that subscribe to the enemies plot of settling.

I lift for every girl measuring her status of self by only what she sees and hears.

I lift for the woman that I am.

I lift for the vision of the woman that God says I will be.

I lift because He has assured me,

“I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”

Philippians 4:13, NKJV

...and every time I approach the weight I tell myself, “You can do this. He has given you EVERYTHING you need.”

Shedding Pounds

 

“The day is coming a lot sooner than you think, and you will shed of excess weight.”


 

I lied awake in bed listening to the sounds of my children playing, disagreeing about sharing toys, water running in the bathroom paired with the the sound of brushing teeth. I noticed that

I’d been taking mental note of sound in these four walls lately as if it was a souvenir. I rolled over and grabbed my bible on the window sill nearest  my side of the bed along with some notes I’d been taking on a sermon from T.D. Jakes, earlier that morning. For more than a few nights, I’d been waking up and pacing through these four walls, sitting on the couch and praying, and crying, and reading, and studying, and praying some more. Earlier that morning, I’d realized I was in a fight. Every pace through those four walls felt like a fight--not a physical fight, but a spiritual one--and this was going to be the fight of my life.

 

I allowed my feet to touch the ground. I stretched and I decided to look at the closet mirrors and smile back at me. I was then greeted in the hallway, “ Good morning Mommy, and Mommy, and Mommy, and Mommy, Christian said I couldn’t have his toy and that hurt my feelings.” I touched the top of his head, sat on the ground and hugged my littlest, tight. My oldest began walking over and said, “Mommy, Isaiah isn’t telling the truth and he really doesn’t deserve the toy anyway.” I grabbed him by the waist and pulled him down to the ground with us to join in the hug-fest and both silenced. As I hugged both of our sons, he walked over and said, “Good Morning Simone, did you sleep well?” I responded with a, “yes,” knowing sleep had been a thing of the past this week. The more I seemed to be saying, yes Lord throughout this week, I was consistently met with the challenge of discomfort--knowing a change was surfacing. This thought no longer served as an alarm, only confirmation of the spiritual shedding that would take form in the natural and it was beginning mentally.

 

The morning progressed and the smell of chocolate chip pancakes filled the common areas. We all sat down together and ate. We laughed with the boys. We laughed with each other. I cleared the table and he was right behind me following suit. I began washing the dishes and he right beside me cleaning the counter and stove top. We conversed. I thought to myself, “Whit, you are trippin’, you guys make sense.” I was later reminded, as I quickly paced and shuffled through the house to prepare myself and sons for church, that I was the only one moving, quickly. I turned to him and said, “you’re coming to church, right?” He turned to me and said, “you know what, you and the boys can just go.” I remember being infuriated--not with him, but with myself. I thought, “how did you allow yourself to revisit this same familiar destination again?” I sat on the edge of the couch, looked at the time and began talking myself out of attending church that day. In my anger I began rationalizing, “praise and worship is about to be over. Ugh you're so late anyway, you’re always late.” I almost began undressing myself then I remembered, old cycles, old behaviors and I got back up and I kept going.

 

That day was the first day I was greeted with a snapshot of myself and our sons filling the pews without Daddy. That day was the first day that every step down those stairs I took with our sons represented a testimony that God has positioned me to find words to share with myself and other women alike. That day was the first day I held both of their hands and mentally said, goodbye.

 

The Good News

 …I exited the church doors knowing that I’d made one of the best decisions of my life and in that decision I felt free.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

John 8:36, NIV

I strutted proudly to my car and greeted people along the way. I got inside my vehicle, wound down the driver’s side window and turned up Tasha Cobb’s, “Put a Praise on it.”  I felt so good—I smiled, I thanked God and I couldn’t wait to share with him that I obeyed the spirit and accepted my call into salvation. I was thrilled. I pulled into the parking lot still singing and humming all of Tasha’s Cobb’s adlibs—man, that day I could even sing—yeah, it was great. My pace to the door of our home slowed, and I was reminded in my excitement that my celebration of new life may not seem like a victory to the one with whom I shared these four walls. Before I put the key into the door, I prayed silently and ended with “Devil you will not have my joy, you will not have my joy—you didn’t give it to me anyway.” This time I smiled at myself, and for the first time, I felt God smile with me. It was in that moment I’d realized what it felt like to love someone enough to let them go and in the urge to share the good news, it was no longer for recognition, but my yearning to be the example. It was in that moment I uttered “more than I care about any relationship, I care about your soul even more.”  So, I inserted the key into the lock and I walked through the door and shared each moment, with a smile. I said, “Today I recommitted my life back to God. I was initially nervous, but this welcoming feeling of assurance overcame me, and in that feeling, I knew He never left me.” I continued on with much detail and ended with, “I’ll also be getting baptized after the completion of my new covenant classes.”  He looked to me with a smile, a nod of his head and said, “I’m so happy for you Simone, I’m very happy for you.” We embraced each other.

I walked back into the bedroom and reminded myself to keep my smile. I reminded myself that the goal of the enemy is to lead me back into old habits, old cycles—and what better way to do it than to bring forth truth—living in a relationship that is unequally yoked—so be firm in your posture. I spoke out to God and said, I humbly give up my will for Yours, and I let go of what I’ve idolized as being right, and seek all things right in You. Before getting up from the carpet, my last thought was, “because the truth of the matter is, he may not come with you.” I smiled once more and lifted myself off the ground, and spoke as I wrote, “the day is coming a lot sooner than you think, and you will shed all excess weight.”

Getting Back to Work

My heart was heavy on this night. I asked my sons for five minutes of silence—“Mommy really needs a moment.” Isaiah continues to mumble, sing and ask random questions as a four year old would. Christian looks at his brother in the eyes and says, “Mommy asked for silence Isaiah,” however proceeds with curiosity as to why this silence was needed. He said, “Why do we need to be quiet Mommy?” I paused and thought to myself, “Well Whit, what are you planning to say? Will you give your beautiful, articulate, playful, innocent, male, black sons your reason for this brief silence?” I decided to open my mouth in that instant and said, “Pop, Mommy is having a hard time with understanding why people go to such lengths to hurt people—our people—black people.” He looks me square in the eyes and says so innocently, “Everyone needs a minute Mommy because people can be mean, really mean sometimes and I don’t like that. We should love each other—I don’t really get why we just don’t love each other.”  I meditated briefly on his words of love and said, “You're right babe, people can be really mean and we should always lead with love and love each other.” Of course, after having this small dialogue I reiterated my immediate need for a moment of silence but, both proceeded to whisper loudly to one another. 

I began laughing to myself.  In that moment I clung tightly to their small voices discussing the innocence of their worldly perspective and enjoyments—Pokemon, creating animals out of bubbles in their bath, and plotting on dessert after dinner. I smiled and asked God, how? How do I help to shape their young minds to build awareness without robbing them of their innocence? How do I encourage and appoint your children to safe persons if they, too, want to see us dead? I allowed myself to sit with those questions as I press through my nightly responsibilities—pajamas on, dinner done, story read and now let us pray. Before I could exit their bedroom, Christian said, “but Mommy you didn’t sing tonight, sing that song—“the Lord is my light and salvation whom shall I fear, whom shall I be afraid.” I smiled. I smiled because without fail this child is used to re-shift my focus back on the Source. He is a walking reminder to me that we are indeed in a problematic time, but we need to remain postured, ready and solution-focused. With those words he reminded me of the God that I serve. In that moment I said, “Whit GET BACK TO WORK.” I proceeded to sing that song tonight like my life depended on it—because in that moment it did—I  was making a declaration. As I grew stronger in song my sons joined in unison. 

After praying with my boys, singing with them, I left their room. I walked away reiterating to myself that I am a daughter to the King who sits on the highest throne AND a mother led by God’s word AND an anointed counselor AND writer, Black AND Woman who acknowledges the enemy’s plot to not only dim our lights, but to destroy and demolish our power source—our hope, our faith.  I implore my people to be reminded that the enemy works tirelessly to cause confusion, doubt, anger and frustration, and while we have every reason to acknowledge that, feel that and voice that, I encourage us not to LEAD from that place—don’t give into his plan.  I say these words to myself as well and continuously pursue after compassion AND forgiveness. 

To My People

I denounce and bind up every spirit of fear and every word of doubt and shame we have spoken over ourselves, and consequently over our children. I declare that we will speak life into ourselves and uplift our community with outward expressions of hope. We will rise with a victorious attitude, life on our tongues, love in our hearts, and a relentless pursuit after liberation. Even now I declare a hunger after God’s word, persistence in seeking to hear His voice and an unwavering trust in the promise God has declared over our lives. 
Equip us to serve Your people Father, and give us clear insight on our next ACTION step to bring forth change. Father God, I come against spirits of complacency, hopelessness, stagnation—may You arrest our souls to work our platforms, work our arenas that You have provided to promote long-standing change. I thank You in advance Father for the mighty move You will make and I proclaim that vengeance is already Yours. In Jesus name I pray, Amen. 

Stay prayed up. 
Armored with His word. 
Serve His People. 
Build Community. 
We’ve always needed it—it's just getting detrimentally clearer.  


*Meditate on Psalms 91*

Just Wait.

Just wait, is the sound we hear that gets us to remain complacent in our pursuing after God. Just wait serves as a consistent mumble in our ear--in the ear of new convents in the church and honestly throughout our walk with Christ. It keeps us from unlocking our gifts--it keeps our minds in captivity. Just wait is rooted in the what if's. Just wait is doubt, shame and fear. Just wait is the enemy. Just wait is Satan himself.

 

Tell your neighbor, "the wait is over."

Behind Her Smile

…he was almost everything I yearned for, but none of them at all. 

Arrested in my soul by this list I’d written so fluidly, effortlessly and without hesitation, I sighed with relief—it almost felt like freedom. Freedom from thoughts I kept captive in my heart and entrapped in my mind. These thoughts that have left my mouth and have been written on paper now have life.

I get out of the car and my sons greet me at the door, “Mommy! Where were you?” they said, in what seemed like perfect unison. I smile at both of their excited and concerned expressions as if this inward self-talk, writing and exhaling breath of relief never occurred. The mommy hat was shaken out, put on and adjusted firmly. I said, “Mommy went for a walk with her friend, but I’m back buddies.” We embraced each other right at the door. I continued and asked, “Where’s Daddy?” I smiled again. It was that smile I seem to muster up when I can’t find a better mask to wear. It was that smile rooted in shame and even guilt. I had a list and it felt like another secret.

That night, I continued to press through with the evening routine—dinner, baths, laughs, bed time stories, the entertaining of inquisitive young minds and kisses—a true happily ever after, huh?

The night grows closer to an end. He and I begin to reflect on our day; but today my mind isn’t here. I’m experiencing discomfort in my chest. “What’s wrong Simone?” he says—one of very few who calls me by my middle name. I’m silent. In deep thought about what I’ll say back tonight. Should I tell him my truest thought? I begin feeling guilty about my list. No, no, no! Don’t you dare tell him that Whitney, just WAIT. I look at him with a smile and say, “nothing, I think I’m just tired. I’m going to take a bath.” Man, oh man, I would’ve done anything to step away—away from what felt like pressure, disconnection, and sadness. If only he could read my mind.

I stretched out and laid back in the bath. I allowed the water from my eyes to just flow—I hadn’t cried in what felt like years. That night I prayed until my skin shriveled. I remember saying, “…above all God I want everything I do to honor you, to please you; if it is not pleasing to you Lord, I don’t want it.”

That night I understood that I’d allowed my idea of “happily ever after” to interfere with what God has for me. I realized that my decision to say nothing, smiling in spite of the hurt I felt so deeply, presenting daily with my infamous mantra, “be in this moment Whitney” had been rooted in shame.

That night, I ended with the words and quiet tears, “I am so tired God, show me a better way.”

 

to be continued…

A Date to Remember

I woke up reflecting on this task that a good friend and colleague challenged me to do after releasing some frustrations. She says to me, "Well Whit, what do you want, what do you want in a partner, in a man?" I looked at her and said, "I don't know, I have no idea." I thought to myself, "how could you not know that Whitney. How could you have these complaints and expectations but not have clearly defined what it is you want?"

OPERATION SHAME TALK.

How could you not know? Why don't you know? You should know? You are...

I sat in the car a little longer that day after leaving my friend. I pulled down my visor, reclined my seat back a bit and looked into the mirror and thought to myself, "you get to have expectations, standards...you deserve to make those things clear. Write them down." So that day, that day I wrote my list while sitting in what I most often call my mobile sanctuary; looking into the window pane where I could see my two sons and their father. I took my phone out and mumbled "you deserve this Whitney." I began to create my list fluidly..."a praying man, a believer over an ordinary church-goer or pew-filler, attentive and aware of my feelings even in my silence, a conversationalist...I went on and on and on. 

That day I realized, the man I viewed through the window pane was almost everything I yearned for, but none of these things at all.