Grief lessons: Love is intentional.

Grief is uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable to be around someone that is grieving and it’s without a doubt uncomfortable to be the one grieving. Many parents of loss testify that their friends and family give them the cold shoulder when they have a miscarriage, stillbirth, or experience infant loss. Why is this? Is it that they no longer love the family member who experienced the loss (or never did)? No, I imagine that more than likely the miscarriage, stillbirth, or loss of a child shortly after birth made them feel too uncomfortable to show their love.


But, true love-the 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love-is sacrificial. It means I’m willing to sacrifice being uncomfortable in order to show YOU that I love you and that I care. It’s not thinking about myself for a minute, but putting your possible needs first.

On this grief journey over the past year, I have learned that many people will say that they love you and that they support you, but few people are willing to sacrifice their time, money, or personal comfort to put action behind their words. I spent a good chunk of the past year angry, disappointed, and hurt. But the beauty of it all was when I began to focus on what my experience could teach me about being more loving.

I was forced to do some serious introspection and asked myself whether or not I really show people that I care about that I love them. The answer is most of the time-No. I, like most of the human population, am addicted to my personal comfort and rarely do anything that requires me to sacrifice my own comfort.

This is where intentionality comes in. What does it matter if I tell my daughter that I love her over and over again, but don’t spend quality time with her doing her favorite things? My love for her requires personal sacrifice on pretty much a daily basis-meaning that even if mommy is tired and had a really long day, I’m going to do my best to make sure we read a story before bedtime. It means that even though I have literally ten billion things to do, I’m going to stop and listen when my husband needs to talk about something that’s bothering him. Love requires sacrifice. Love is intentional.

None of us will love perfectly all the time, but I think if we’re intentional about loving, our relationships will thrive and the people we love will feel that we truly care for them.

My family and I will be walking in the March of Dimes March for Babies on Sunday, April 30, 2017 in honor of our angel. We’d love for you to donate to our 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!

Staying High

 

staying-high

Labor Day 2016

Wednesday, January 25, 2017 marked one year since I both said ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ to my newborn son, Izzy, and what a year it’s been. My family will be walking and fundraising for the March of Dimes March for Babies again this year in Izzy’s honor, therefore, here I am starting a blog series on the lessons I’ve learned and the encouragement I have to offer one year post infant loss. I’ve had highs and lows, but most importantly, I’ve grown and learned to keep pressing on through it all.

 

One of the key truths I’ve learned over the past year is that life is both the pain and the joy, the despair and the hope, the tears and the laughter—all of it is entwined and it’s impossible to have one without soon having the other. Somebody once said that if you never have the valleys, you won’t know what the mountaintop feels like. Every day that I find myself smiling or laughing, I’m in awe of the glory of God and the mysteries of life because I remember days when I thought I would never be able to smile or laugh again.

One of my favorite songs right now is “Stay High” by Jonathan McReynolds. Bruh has helped get me through the storms this year. After a friend invited me to see him live, I’ve been hooked on his music. Let me know what you think in the comments!

My family and I will be walking in the March of Dimes March for Babies on Sunday, April 30, 2017 in honor of our angel. We’d love for you to donate to our 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!

 

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.

 

How Losing My Baby Strengthened My Faith

It’s 27 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!

I have always been a bit of a doubting Thomas (see John 20:24-29) throughout much of my Christian walk. I didn’t grow up going to church or in a Christian home. My dad was a skeptic of Christianity, maybe even agnostic, and my mother believes that all church folk are hypocrites (which half the time we are—let’s keep it real here). Considering the disbelief of my family and me being critical and analytical by nature, it surprised my parents, and even myself at times, when I became a Bible-toting and fervent believer of God in the middle of my high school years. Even though I had periods when I felt like I was “on fire for God” as church folk say, I had my moments of doubt, especially when times got really hard. I even considered myself an “ex-Christian” for a while after my dad died from cancer in 2008. I graduated from my small, conservative Christian college depressed, disillusioned, and wondering if I’d wasted the last 4 years of my life getting a liberal arts education.

Israel collage 4x4 memorial pic with name and PBWB websiteBut (there’s always a “but” in a testimony) on January 25, 2016, my baby boy, Israel “Izzy” Miles, died from a birth defect called bilateral renal agenesis (known as BRA or Potter’s Syndrome) and I had no choice but to cling to God and trust Him. I felt powerless and lost—like my heart was literally ripped from my chest, stomped on, and shattered in a million pieces. I can’t imagine any pain that was worse than delivering a baby that I carried for 33 weeks and 4 days, spending just a few precious minutes with him, and having to leave his beautiful, little body at the hospital and go home with nothing but a memory box and the blanket he was wrapped in to show for it. I felt like a part of me died. And it did. I will never be the same person that I was before this happened, but I’m learning that that’s ok.

You may ask, “how could you believe in God more after losing a child when you had doubts before?” The answer is…real trials and tribulations reveal what you’re really made of and I realized how weak and how powerless I really am when I could do nothing to save my son’s life. I am a woman that needs a relationship with God. There’s no other way that I can go with life after watching my very first son take his last breath in my arms and not believe and trust in a Being higher than myself. Over the last several weeks, there were moments when I didn’t want to live, times when I hated everything and everybody, times when I didn’t know how I would make it through the night because the emotional pain was so strong. There were times when I was so angry, pissed really, at God that I wanted to scream and break everything in sight.

Yet through all of the pain, I realized that He was with me in a way that nobody else could ever be. As anyone who has suffered from miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss knows (and I’ve been through 2 of the 3 within the span of 12 months), it can feel like you are completely alone and nobody understands or cares about what you’re going through. Family and friends that have never experienced it (and even some that have) often don’t know what to say or do to comfort you so they distance themselves. They may not say or do anything. Or they may say things that hurt you even more, making you feel like someone is pouring salt on your open wounds. Or they may not do as much to support you as you think they should or as much as you feel like you would do if the shoe was on the other foot. It was the times when I felt like I had no one else to turn to and I managed to not lose my mind that I knew that God was carrying me through it all.

2 Corinthians 1 3 and 4 for the blogEven in my questioning of why this happened to me (and even why there are so many horrible things happening in the world every second), I know that God is alive and still working. I’ve met people who knew about what happened to me and opened up about their own loss and felt comforted because they felt like they had no one else that would understand. I’m a firm believer now that God allows us to go through the most challenging circumstances to show us that we need Him and so that we can support others that go through the same things we have, but feel alone. Lord knows I don’t wish infant loss on anyone, not even my worst enemy, but I appreciate that it is now when I feel so completely broken that I’m witnessing the miracle of God putting the pieces back together, strengthening my convictions and my faith.

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 to donate 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?

Black Women’s Expo (Chicago) Recap

This past weekend, I was grateful to briefly check out the annual Black Women’s Expo in Chicago. Events like this always inspire me to work harder at my goals and to dream bigger. I love to see beautiful black women in a positive environment, celebrating their culture, and serious about their various hustles. There were all types of wares to purchase that were produced by ebony hands–T-shirts, stationery, natural hair products, lotions and other potions, new inventions, earrings (my favorite), and too many other items to name. Although I wasn’t able to partake in any of the workshops or performances, I had a good time and was encouraged nonetheless. I just want to share some of the treasures I came home with.

1. More earrings

My new "kinky hair don't care" earrings

My new “kinky hair don’t care” earrings

As you may have guessed by now from the earrings I showed you all in my last post, I’m not a “regular” type of earring chick. For the most part, I’m not really into hoops and sparkly earrings unless it’s a special occasion. I like my earrings quirky (like me) or different. I love that handmade, one-of-a-kind look. I didn’t plan to buy much of anything at the Expo, but I did find some earrings that I had to snatch up. I’ve been wanting some afro/natural hair pride earrings for awhile and I finally got me some from the MBellished Accessories & Gifts booth at the Expo. After looking around on their website, I see some even cuter earrings that I wish were on display when I purchased mine!

2. Things I’d like to check out/purchase

Out of all of the various T-shirt vendors that were at the Expo, there were only a few that caught my eye and would have got some money from me if I’d had it to spare. One of those vendors was Pretty Girls for Christ. We all know how Christian T-shirts can be kinda cheesy, but these were actually CUTE. They have cute graphics and a little humor sprinkled in there. One day I hope to purchase one. If you have a moment, check out their website.

Gotta check this out!

Gotta check this out!

While talking to a different T-shirt vendor, Asadah, I learned about a book that she wrote called Beating Black Kids. In her book, she discusses the negative effects of beating black children as a form of discipline. When I asked her what her alternative to spanking is, she said, “To use your mind.” This book is on my radar now a.k.a. on one of my Pinterest boards so I’ll let you all know my thoughts once I’ve read it.

Spanking is a hot and divisive topic, but it needs to be discussed. Although we are a spanking household at the moment, I’ve always had plenty of doubts about the practice. A part of me does think it’s lazy parenting because it is a hellava lot easier to spank than come up with other forms of discipline. A part of me also associates spanking with our ancestors being horribly beaten in slavery as one of the many forms of abuse used to control them. My struggle is finding an effective alternative. Some people that oppose Asadah’s beliefs may argue that the lack of spanking or discipline in general is the reason why the younger generations of kids are out of control now. I’ll just have to grab Asadah’s book and see if she sheds any new light on the issue.

3. I bought a new book for Little L!

While speaking to Asadah, she told me about her 11-year-old daughter, Patience, who has been writing books and engaging in photography since she was 9 years old! I was reading copious amounts of books at 9, but definitely wasn’t writing and publishing them! I told Asadah that I have to get a copy of the book for Little L and fortunately she had a few copies with her.

Can't wait to read the other books in this series!

Can’t wait to read the other books in this series!

I’m always happy to see young girls utilizing their gifts and empowering others by sharing those gifts with the rest of us. Patience not only wrote Urban Girls: Adventures of Little Ladies in the City, which chronicles her travels to school and other parts of New York City via different forms of transportation, but she also shot all of the photos for it except for the ones featuring her. Asadah and Patience have inspired me to not only expose Little L to new skills and experiences from an early age, but to always keep learning and growing myself. Something about those New Yorkers! I love their hustle! It’s both contagious and convicting at the same time!

Any thoughts to share? As always, let me know in the comments or on Facebook. Keep it poppin’ folks 😉

Do You Too Love/Hate Facebook?

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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 😉

The Positively Optimistic and Powerful Destiny

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Destiny with her smoothie goodness

I’m humbled to introduce all of my positively optimistic & powerful people to Destiny from the Fit2Luv blog for the second installment of the Positively Optimistic & Powerful Women series. Destiny is a vegan nutrition and fitness blogger and a dear friend of mine. When she’s not inspiring people to lead a more healthy and fit lifestyle, she’s empowering people to demand fair pay and treatment as a labor organizer. Without further ado, let me introduce you to the one and only Destiny who never ceases to make me want to dream bigger and be better.

Popped Black Woman Blog: Thank you for taking the time to inspire us Ms. Destiny. Let’s start by telling us a little about yourself. I really respect the work you do as a labor organizer. Can you tell us about that?

Destiny: As a child I was mesmerized with the “Eyes on the Prize” series. I remember raiding my mom’s closet, donning her dashiki and asking her to cut my hair into an afro. Imagine that! Needless to say, grassroots organizing and political activism is something that has always been close to my heart.

My current field of work, Labor Organizing, has not only given me the opportunity to speak up for those who are not able to speak for themselves but also to empower those who may feel their voices don’t matter. In the future I would like to continue in this field by expanding my knowledge and moving forward within the labor movement.

PBWB: That’s great! I really respect your work to give voice to the voiceless. When did you become positively optimistic and powerful yourself?

Destiny: For me, being optimistic and powerful is an everyday conscious decision to live each day on purpose. There is not one specific calendar date that I could point out and say, “This is where it all began.” In fact, there were many days when I felt inadequate and just simply not good enough. I think a lot of that stemmed from focusing on pleasing everyone and subsequently failing myself in that process. Honestly, I have to say that it was the triumph from those hard and depressing moments that showed me who I really was and what I am made of.

Destiny's Vision Board

Destiny’s Vision Board

I am a visual person so one of the things [that] really helps me to maintain a positive and optimistic attitude on [a] regular basis is having little reminders posted around my home. It can be something as simple [as] an encouraging message on my fridge with alphabet letters or something more involved like a vision board made with cutouts from magazines. Another visual that helps is to have my goals posted somewhere I can see them daily. This visualization method not only helps to reinforce the positives and keep my eyes on the prize but it reminds me that it’s an everyday journey.

PBWB: What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing young women and women today?

Destiny: I think one of the biggest issues that women face today is the battle of the mind. In today’s day and age, the pressure to be the perfect daughter, mother, and wife is at an all time high. With the rise of social media, false images of perfection and happiness are plastered everywhere and unfortunately have become the golden standard. Society tells us that happiness is a husband, two kids, a house, and a car. It shows us that perfection as a woman is determined by maintaining a good waist to hip ratio and making sure our eyebrows, outfit and edges are on “fleek” at all times.

Unfortunately, even after achieving those so-called “goals” it doesn’t bring the happiness that we expected because after a while our mind and our eyes tell us that we still need more.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be successful but when that desire overcomes us and takes control of us emotionally it becomes a problem. The Bible says as a woman thinketh in her heart so is she. Instead of looking to celebrities or Instagram or coworkers for validation of who we should be we should constantly be building ourselves up with God’s word. No longer can we allow the approval of others to dictate our feelings and attitude, we must learn how to encourage ourselves by saying what God says about us.

PBWB: I couldn’t agree more. What do you know now that you wish you knew when you turned twenty?

Destiny at her 20th birthday photoshoot. Workin' it!

Destiny at her 20th birthday photoshoot. Workin’ it!

Destiny: If I could have a heart to heart talk with 20 year old Destiny I would say: No matter what anyone tells you or doesn’t tell you, Destiny you are beautiful inside and out. Don’t be afraid to branch out and try new things and meet new people. Watch the company you keep! Your time is precious, don’t waste it. Don’t let rejection make you stagnant. You will never know what is beyond that door if you don’t walk through it!

PBWB: You just on here preaching today. I think all this truth has just slicked my edges all the way down. Wow. On a lighter note, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Destiny: In my free time, I enjoy doing DIY projects for my house, cooking new dishes and of course shopping! This year one of my goals is to be more “cultured” so I want to do things like read one book a month, visit the orchestra and catch a few Broadway shows. I also started a fitness and weight loss blog called “Fit2Luv” to help me stay motivated in my health journey.

PBWB: Awesome. Leave us with your favorite book, poem, song, or quote and why.

Destiny: One verse that speaks volumes to my life and personal experience is, “The race is not given to the swift but to those who endure til the end.” This verse is very empowering to me because it reminds me that my biggest competition is within. So instead of running myself ragged trying to keep up with the Joneses, I now purpose to live in the moment and focus on completing each task with excellence.

A beautiful vegan dish made by Destiny. Check out more pics and recipes at her blog, Fit2Luv.

A beautiful vegan dish made by Destiny. Check out more pics and recipes at her blog, Fit2Luv.

Wow, thanks so much to Destiny for stopping by and sharing so much truth with us! Be sure to leave any comments for Destiny below or on Facebook. Be sure to check her out on her blog at Fit2Luv. You can also keep up with all things Destiny at fitnflyydiva on Instagram and Fit2Luv on Facebook. Please soak up this encouragement and email me at poppedblackwomanblog@gmail.com if you or someone you know would like to be featured in this series. Stay encouraged folks! 😉

101 Things in 1001 Days Update (February 2015)

Seeing her in the raincoat was just too much cuteness

First trip to the Chicago Children’s Museum: Seeing Little L in the raincoat was just too much cuteness.

Extra! Extra! Read all about this hot ish. So I am proud to announce that I have another update on my 101 in 1001 challenge even though I really just started the challenge not too long ago. (Click on these links if you need a refresher on the list and also check out the 101 in 1001 category on the sidebar on the right of the home page for posts about it.) Here are the items that I feel comfortable checking off:

22. Become a member of a church

On February 8th, I joined a church for the second time in my life. The story leading up to this deserves a post (or book) of its own. However, I will say that I don’t have the typical church girl story by any means. I started going to church on my own as a teenager after being invited by a friend (who I later fell out with), became “super-Christian” in a sense, went to a very Christian college, then got to the point where I didn’t think I would ever call myself a “Christian” again (still prefer saying a person of faith lest I be a hypocrite) never mind actually belong to a church again. But, I do believe God has a great sense of humor, especially when we try to put our foot down.

82. Seriously research starting a food pantry at New Exodus Baptist Church

The church membership update brings me to the next one regarding starting a food pantry at that very same church. Part of the reason I decided to join a church community is for the opportunity to outreach. I finally took an evening to research starting a food pantry at my husband’s family church only to realize that there is a ministry doing what we envisioned and more right around the corner called Shepherd’s Hope. So it would actually make more sense to link up with them or direct people to utilize their services rather than doing the exact same thing from scratch. This research did lead to other ideas for possibly making an impact so there should be more info on that later.

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In the Treehouse Trails exhibit with her new friend. *Please excuse my big ole finger in the corner lol*

78. Take Little L to a children’s museum

My last update is somewhat unrelated to the others, but we got around to taking Little L to the Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier. I think we all were a bit tired by the end, but it was worth it because we had a ball. She was able to put on a raincoat for the first time and play in the WaterWays exhibit, where we splashed each other with water and played with the always popular Mr. Rubber Ducky as well as toy boats. Another fav for her was the Treehouse Trails exhibit where she played kitchen in the log cabin and made a new friend. It was so refreshing to find something age-appropriate for her to do outside of the house that we hope to take her back sooner rather than later.

That’s all the poppin’ updates I have for now on my 101 in 1001 challenge. What’s been up with you folks? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook.