Faith as the Ultimate Optimism

“He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.” Psalm 112:7

 

Sometimes it’s hard to remain optimistic—at least for me. One of my heart’s desires has always been to have at least 4 kids. I’m an only child who grew up wishing there was a sibling around that could relate to what it was like growing up in my household; I wanted someone I could say “Mommy [or Daddy] is crazy” and they would understand exactly what I was talking about! Even though, it’s too late for me on the sibling front, I want my daughter to have siblings that she can grow up with. After having each pregnancy after my daughter ending in miscarriage or infant loss due to a rare birth defect, for no apparent health-related reason, I began to wonder if it’s worth it to continue hoping or trying for the vision that I’ve always had for my family. It’s hard to not be afraid of bad news when I even consider trying to have another baby and I imagine for anyone else who feels like God is rejecting or, at the very least, delaying your heart’s desire that it is hard for you too.

Whether it’s just a central topic of Christian thought or because it’s the Holy Spirit at work, probably both, it seems like every sermon I hear talks about how God uses suffering and challenging circumstances to develop and refine us into the people we are meant to be, using our pain and trials to make us more like Him. No matter how many times I hear this, I still need to hear it over and over again until this truth marinates inside of me and replaces my anxiety with peace.

I’ve come to realize that maintaining faith that God is good, that He desires a bright future for me, and that all things really do work together for good is the ultimate form of optimism–and this is the type of optimism I seek when doubts enter my mind. For anyone else of faith that finds it hard to consistently believe that good things are to come despite past disappointments, here are some of the verses that I lean on when I need a refill on faith-based optimism:

When I get stuck on, why did/is this happening?

 “And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:2-3

Is God still good? Does He still love me?

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” 1 Chronicles 16:34

What am I supposed to do with this pain?

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12

Will my feelings or circumstances always be this way?

 “Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you? You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. You will increase my greatness and comfort me again.” Psalm 71:19-21

How do I find peace?

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3

So…I’m definitely not a theologian and I’m a firm believer in doing your research on context when studying any Scripture, but the few above have helped me and continue to help me through many bleak moments and I hope they do the same for you. Selah.

 

About Falling Apart

It’s 18 days until my husband and I will participate in the March of Dimes March for Babies in honor of the life and death of our son Izzy who passed away on January 25, 2016 due to bilateral renal agenesis, a fatal birth defect when a baby lacks kidneys. I’m pushing myself to write and post on the blog each day until the walk—some days a little and maybe some days a lot—in hopes of shedding light on issues like miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss so that other women who go through these types of things know that they’re not alone. Please share this post generously to spread awareness!

There’s no avoiding it.

It may be after being on a motivational high all week. You may feel like you can conquer the world. You may feel like a true badass. You will refuse to be a tragedy. For 13 weeks you managed to carry a baby in your womb that you knew would die in your arms, if not before. You will pronounce yourself victorious because you have been through a type of hell on earth and survived. You will pat yourself on the back for being able to dream again instead of staring in the dark all night. You will declare yourself a survivor because your heart has been broken, but is still beating. You will praise God because you wanted to die, but found several reasons to live. You will tell yourself that you are the real M.V.P.

Then, out of nowhere, you will fall absolutely, ridiculously apart. Snot will run down into your mouth. Your eyes will be bloodshot. You will groan like a sick, old man on his death bed. You will hold your pillow desperate to hold your baby for a minute longer. You will want to crawl as far underneath a rock as humanly possible and completely disappear. You will feel like the trash at the very bottom of an Indiana landfill.

You will fall apart. And it’s ok.

“Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;
    when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
    the Lord will be a light to me.”

                                 -Micah 7:8 ESV

My family and I would love for you to donate to our March for Babies campaign! Any amount no matter how small may help other families of premature infants. Click here and know that we’re so thankful for you!

Beloved

It’s 23 days until my husband and I will participate in the March of Dimes March for Babies in honor of the life and death of our son Izzy. I’m pushing myself to write and post on the blog each day until the walk—some days a little and maybe some days a lot—in hopes of shedding light on issues like miscarriage and infant loss so that other women who go through these types of things know that they’re not alone. Please share this post generously to spread awareness!

Israel=one who wrestles with God and man and prevails

David=beloved

 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Genesis 32:28 (NKJV)

israel without hat memorial pic edited with name

Izzy’s name, Israel David, wasn’t decided upon until the day before he was born. Yet, the name fits him so perfectly. The doctors told us that there was a good chance that he wouldn’t be born alive at all because his condition, bilateral renal agenesis, caused very little amniotic fluid to surround him in the womb starting from the crucial period when his lungs were first developing, thus significantly stifling the growth and maturity of his lungs. Despite the odds, he fought with God and man just to briefly say “hello” to us on January 25, 2016–his grandma’s birthday of all days! We thank God that our “beloved” came to be with us even if just for a little while. This experience has shown me that every life is invaluable no matter how long it lasts.

My family and I would love for you to donate to our March for Babies campaign! Any amount no matter how small may help other families of premature infants. Click here and know that we’re so thankful for you!

Positively Optimistic and Powerful with Crystal Marie

Crystal Bio Pic

One of Crystal Marie’s favorite quotes: “There is no force equal to a woman determined to rise.” -W.E.B. Dubois

Happy Monday to all of my beautifully popped people! Welcome to the 3rd installment of the Positively Optimistic and Powerful Women Series. This month, I am beyond ecstatic to bring you a woman that lives and breathes her faith in God and her passion for mentoring young women. I am privileged to have been one of her many “Little Sistas” in college and can testify that she is passionate about education and helping young women build confidence and self-esteem.

Crystal Marie is a native of North Chicago, IL and attended Wheaton College, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Communications. In 2014, she received her Masters of Business Administration from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management (Magna Cum Laude) and was the recipient of the 2014 Hotchkiss Scholar Award, Lake Forest’s highest honor. In addition to her many other endeavors, she somehow finds the time to blog over at Snapshots of Life.

Just to give you all a little taste of her blog, here’s Crystal Marie’s belief statement for Snapshots of Life:

Speak BOLDLY for Women and Girls! These are the words that guide my life. When God’s most beautiful creation (Woman) begins to question her worth, beauty, and intellect, the world suffers. Society sets unattainable standards for women and we have been trained to sit quietly and accept the extermination of our authentic selves. Who says, “Enough, No More?”

I started Snapshots of Life Blog for every woman and girl who wants to begin the journey of self-acceptance and authenticity. I am not an authority on Women’s Issues. I am just a sister, daughter, and friend who desires to share my thoughts and experiences as I seek to fully embrace the woman I am meant to be. I desire to start a movement of sisters who embrace our authentic selves.

Now let’s get to the interview!

Popped Black Woman Blog: When did you become positively optimistic and powerful?

Crystal Marie: I can’t pinpoint when it exactly happened, by nature I’m extroverted and optimistic; I tend to look at things from the “Glass Half Full” perspective. I do believe that I became most powerful in my life when I made peace with my weaknesses. First, I recognized my need for a Savior and my inability to save myself. Second, I learned to believe that non perfect Crystal is much more lovable and relatable than perfect “image” Crystal. The secret to real power is embracing our powerlessness.

PBWB: I completely agree. We are all imperfect in some way. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be human. Can you tell us some particular challenges or struggles that you have personally overcome?

Crystal Marie: I’ve struggled with unhealthy body image which manifested itself in over-exercising/dieting and many of the behaviors associated with eating disorders. It has taken a lot of prayer, therapy, accountability, and daily, healthy practices to get me to the point that I can acknowledge this was/is an area of struggle for me. But being honest about it, has allowed me to feel stronger and freer than I ever imagined. I actually just wrote a blog series surrounding this issue on my blog. As a Black woman, I wanted to break down the stereotype that says “unhealthy body image and eating disorders are not black girl issues.” We can’t get help if minority women in particular believe we are immune to this issue.

Crystal MBA Graduation

Crystal Marie received her MBA in 2014, graduated Magna Cum Laude #Woot #Woot

PBWB: We definitely are not immune from any of the “not black girl issues,” ranging from eating disorders to depression and everything in between. Besides for unhealthy body image, what do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing young women and women today?

Crystal Marie: Lack of a relationship with God: When we don’t know our Creator and His plan for our lives, how can we truly know ourselves? So much time is spent on relationships that won’t last, while the ONLY relationship that will last, is neglected.

Low self-esteem: We don’t love or value ourselves, so we accept treatment and behave in ways that are beneath our dignity.

Sexting, Selfies, and Social Media: The desire to be told we are beautiful and sexy has grown to such a disgusting and unhealthy level by young women. Countless hours are spent on pointless life updates, manipulated /inappropriate pictures, and private thoughts that should NEVER be published. Personal business is broadcast for the world, reputations are ruined, jobs are lost, and self-respect is lost through false “online” lives, rather than investing in our real lives. Sisters, we are better than this.

Lack of Discipline and Focus: It is disheartening to see how easily many women throw away their futures before they have even begun. If I could tell my little sisters in particular, one thing it would be, “Sit down and FOCUS. Intelligence is beauty; focus on this kind of pretty. One day your education and decisions will play a major role in your life goals, don’t squander it.”

Crystal Marie co-facilitating a workshop with her best friend for over 500 high school girls focused on self- esteem, beauty and media images.

Crystal Marie co-facilitating a workshop with her best friend for over 500 high school girls focused on self-esteem, beauty and media images.

PBWG: You’ve had so many “Little Sisters” over the years that you’ve mentored. I’m blessed to be one of them. When you think about yourself at 20 years old, what do you know now that you wish you knew then? Maybe give some words of advice for your new “Little Sisters” in the blogosphere.

Crystal Marie: “Stop worrying: the degree, the job, the relationship, the house…the desired FUTURE it will ALL come! Just be in the Moment, girl.” “Turning 30 is going to be the BEST birthday of your life or at least so far! Thirty will be so amazing and  freeing!”

PBWB: That is great to hear! For me, by every birthday, I feel so much more comfortable; so much more myself than the year before. I love the wisdom that comes with time. What woman past or present do you look up to the most and why?

Crystal Marie: Proverbs 31:10 asks, who can find a virtuous woman for her price is far above rubies. I can say that I have found such a woman in my mother. I have met many talented and beautiful women but there is no one woman I respect, love, or look up to more than my mom. My mom is the epitome of grace, strength, realness, and beauty. My mother has such a loving and intimate relationship with God and it permeates everything she does in life. It’s amazing to watch the lives she touches and the way she NEVER sets limits on herself or others. I also admire the way my mother views motherhood, she believes it is her greatest calling and that is evident by the way she raised my siblings and I. We were and have always been first. I find it very difficult to watch mothers who don’t act like mothers because my mom made it her life goal to invest in our lives. If I could be half of the woman my mother is, it would be my greatest achievement.

PBWB: Absolutely beautiful. Speaking of achievements and goals, what are your goals over the next 5-10 years?

Crystal Marie: My goal is to start a foundation for underprivileged adolescent and teen girls. Ten years from now I want this dream to be a reality which requires me to invest in its conception now.

PBWB: Love it! I can definitely see that happening! What would you say are your ultimate goals?

Crystal with Jackie Robinson West

The “Snapshots of Life” blogger interviewed Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West Little League Champions for a Black History Month event earlier this year.

Crystal Marie: To be Joyful. I spent many years looking to be happy but I’ve learned that happiness is temporary, Joy is eternal no matter the circumstance. This is the type of Joy only God can give.

To be remembered with a smile. I desire to bring joy to other people’s lives. I want others to feel valued and loved in their interactions with me. If I die and one person is compelled to smile when describing me, than my life will have counted for something.

To enjoy the work I do. No job is fun all of the time but I want to do work that means something. I want to be so passionate about the work that I do that it propels me to keep pushing even on the hard and boring days.

I want to pay the rent of a stranger. For many years, I have prayed that I will be in the financial position to one day write a check for a stranger that completely covers their rent or any other need they may have. I don’t need the accolades, I just love the joy that comes from making someone else smile.

PMWB: Wow, those are some truly inspirational goals. I hope my fellow P.O.P. readers have been even half as inspired and encouraged as I have been by your words. After so much depth and wisdom, how about we end on a lighter note? What are some things that you enjoy doing in your free time?

Crystal Marie: I love listening to music. I have a very well-rounded/slightly eclectic taste in music. Lyrics are a big deal to me; I love a great beat and hook as much anyone else but if I can’t connect with the words, if the lyrics don’t come from a deeper part of the author then I will lose interest in the song. My perfect day is curling up in a comfy chair with a good book, my Beats by Dr. Dre headphones, a cup of Panera Iced Green Tea and a white chocolate chip cookie. I ADORE Alvin Ailey American Dance Company. Front row seats to their annual  performances in Chicago just gives me LIFE! Mentoring is my Greatest passion. I love encouraging and spending time with young women.

PBWB: I will definitely have to check out an Alvin Ailey performance. Maybe that should be on my next 101 in 1001 list! Now tell us…what is your favorite book, poem, song, or quote?

Crystal Marie: [My favorite scripture is] Jeremiah 1:5, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you.” [My favorite book is] We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century by Dorothy Sterling. Presently, [my favorite song is] “Unbreakable Smile” by Tori Kelly.

PBWB: I’ll have to put my library card to use and check out that book. I’m always on the hunt for my next read. It’s been truly an honor to have you on the blog. Thank you so much! I’m sure everyone will want to know where to find more inspiration from you. Please let all my popped people know where to find you online.

Crystal Marie: Check out my blog: Snapshots of Life and my Facebook Group: “Snapshots of Life: United Sisters Group.”

Crystal Global Trip Internship

“A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous. “ -Coco Chanel

Words cannot express how grateful I am that Crystal Marie stopped by to share so much of herself with us. She’s been such a positive influence in my life and I’m happy to share her wisdom with the Popped Black Woman Blog Community. To all my positively optimistic and powerful people, leave your comments below or on the PBWB Facebook page. Keep it poppin’ 😉

Introducing: Fearless Friday

Hey all my positively optimistic & powerful people!

I’d love to try something new with you all: Fearless Friday! It seems appropriate since I am (slowly, but surely) reading On Becoming Fearless…in Love, Work, and Life by Arianna Huffington, which was so graciously sent to me weeks ago by Shahidah of the Properly Improper blog. Once I’ve finished the book, I will write a post on it for sure!

CC Gavin Llewellyn via Creative Commons (CC by 2.0)

CC Gavin Llewellyn via Creative Commons (CC by 2.0)

Fear is a gift and a curse like so many things in life. Fear can prevent us from hurting ourselves, as in the case of feeling heat when next to a fire. Yet, it can also prevent us from stepping out of our comfort zones to be the best version of ourselves that we can be. The goal of Fearless Friday is to stop allowing fear to infest our dreams; to rise above fear so that it doesn’t hinder us from trying new things or attempting seemingly impossible goals. The only failure is the failure to try.

Each Friday, I plan to share something that I was afraid of at one point during (or throughout) the past week. Then, I would like to leave you all with a quote, picture, song, SOMETHING that will inspire you to be fearless not just on Friday, but throughout your weekend and the rest of the week. I hope to gather inspiration from a vast array of sources. If you have suggestions, shoot me an email at poppedblackwomanblog@gmail.com. Please chime in and share whatever encouragement is on your heart to bless the rest of us with whether it be in the comments or on Facebook!

IMG_0901 (2)This week I was afraid of…

Allowing myself to sink into the bottomless pit of regret. I used to allow myself to wallow in regret all the time. That old temptation to let it creep back in came when someone I loved passed away Wednesday at around 2pm, Uncle Curtis. He was the most loving and giving man that I knew. His favorite greeting was, “Praise the Lord” and he was never without a smile. Instead of letting regret over not visiting him as much as I would have liked keep me down, I smiled and remembered that he was able to meet Little L for the first time a little over a month ago. He couldn’t say much, but I could see the wonder in his gray-green eyes and I could imagine him saying, “Praise the Lord!”

Today remember…

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

If fear doesn’t come from God, where does it come from?

Do You Too Love/Hate Facebook?

IMG_1735

Now this selfie is true to life, bad lighting and all 😉

Like many people these days, I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I love the ability to connect with people near and far, as well as the ability to catch up with people from back in the day along with new acquaintances and friends. I also love all the news and positive information I get from various pages that I “liked.” However, my hate for Facebook sometimes overshadows my love for it and I just have to back away. One of the things on my little “Things That I Hate About Facebook” list is how it makes me want to compare myself, situation, friendships, family, and just life in general to other people’s perfectly fake selves, situations, friendships, families, and lives. Sometimes Facebook is just bad for my mental health. Most of the time you don’t see the struggle or pain behind the selfies, check-ins, and party pics. And it just leaves me like “well $&@!” and I want to run off and cry in a corner.

Lately, I’ve been trying to step back from Facebook and dig into the Word for encouragement. It’s probably the only thing that has been keeping me semi-sane these past few weeks. While I’m sure I’ll always have my questions about certain aspects of the Bible because my understanding is so limited being a mere human, I absolutely get and relate to the many people portrayed in the Bible that seem to be just like me in so many ways. I stumbled on these verses below from John 21:

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (‭John‬ ‭21‬:‭20-22‬ ESV)

I love how Peter seems to be just like me. He barely had his on ish together with Jesus after denying him 3 times not too long ago, yet he had the nerve to ask Jesus about another disciple’s situation. Even better is Jesus’ response which pretty much seems to be mind your business and make sure YOU follow me.

Like Peter, I can’t be worried about what God is doing in someone else’s life. I have to make sure that I am following where He leads me. Constantly comparing my path to someone else’s doesn’t get me any closer to where I need to go. If anything, it only holds me up. Can anyone else relate to the need to keep their nose on their own side of the fence in order to tend their own garden? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook (yeah I know…). Stay positively optimistic and powerful folks 😉