So, I laid my glory down.

So…how much do you want gone?

All of it.

I sat in a barber’s chair for the first time in my life May 2018 and had my hair cut off. (Side note: Thank you Keith! Your professionalism, service, affirmations through the cut and all around experience made me completely settled in and happy with my decision! Also huge thanks to your wife, Chauntay who helped make sure I was squared away in making an appointment.) Although I have been apprehensive to write about this particular subject – for fear of being perceived that I need to justify or explain my decision to cut my hair off – I think this blog post may help people to make unpopular or uncomfortable decisions in an effort to better themselves, when they need to.

I left the barbershop feeling so sure and free. My parents, sister, and nephew were all visibly shocked, but definitely pleased when they saw the result of my trip. I showered, got dressed, and did my makeup. Then, I posted these pictures on my social media accounts, and headed to a service to support one of my preaching friends.

 

I can’t recall a time I’ve been a textbook girly girl. Don’t get me wrong, I love looking my best and feeling beautiful; but, in the past I easily achieved that with sweatpants, hair tied, chillin’ with no makeup on. (Y’all know Drake needs some love.) I have always been part tomboy. My fondest childhood memories include me playing basketball in dresses, climbing trees with my little girly purse, or taking off my starter heels for a footrace. No matter what I was wearing, I was always ready to play. A wise person told me, if you stay ready, you won’t waste time getting ready.

As time passed, trends came and left. Bell bottom jeans decreased in popularity while straight leg and skinny jeans were on the rise. Clothes that were too big were no longer in style. (I know you guys remember the long white tee days. Yup! In my white tee.) I remember seeing the trend change for hair. We all had relaxers and silk wraps. Then, all of a sudden it seemed, everyone was wearing a weave.

At first, I didn’t really have an interest in a weave – or anything extra being done to my hair, at all. I hated to sit for braids, or anything that took longer than thirty minutes. Then I had my first weave installed when I was 20. It was fourteen inches long with a middle part. Someone I loved told me, “I love when your hair is long, like that.” From that point on, my life was forever changed.

While I made sure to take care of my own hair, there was nothing like having a freshly installed weave. I felt so beautiful, powerful, and willing to be present. I turned my head differently when someone called my name. I lead worship differently. My selfie game, and all around picture-taking, skyrocketed.

I woke up some time before turning twenty great (28) realizing that I attributed way too much of my beauty, grace, poise, and power to my hair – and in some cases not even MY hair. I went natural, then relaxed my hair, again, then cut it into a bob. Still, too much of what resounded as beautiful to me was aesthetic. That was the problem. I realized that if I only believed I was beautiful when I had a weave, or when my hair was growing, or when my face was fully made up, then I couldn’t really believe I was beautiful, at all.

The Bible describes a woman’s hair as being her glory. (1 Corinthians 11:15) This is the scripture that kept me from cutting my hair for years – this scripture, and the affirmation of a man who preferred my hair a certain way. I struggled with it. The more I struggled, the more I exalted this faux standard of beauty.

As I was anxiously counting the cost of cutting my hair, a thought crossed my mind that changed my perspective. It was so simple, I hate that I struggled with the decision, at all. The thought was, “if anything attempts to even subtly eclipse God’s glory, why keep it, anyway?” That was the push I needed.

So, I laid my glory down.

I laid my glory down because I want my life to mean something beyond what I look like. I cut my hair because it was too important to me in comparison to what should have been most important. I cut my hair because I wanted to; and, I finally felt worthy of making a decision that went against what the typical guy may like seeing. I cut my hair because I was beautiful, powerful, and deserve to live a life completely present. I deserve to live void of worrying whether or not someone would find me worthy based on how I looked. I stopped desiring to be found by someone else, until I truly found myself.

This process of self discovery reminds me of a particular part in the story of Adam and Eve. The part after Adam & Eve ate the forbidden fruit, heard God approaching, and hid in the Garden. (Genesis 3) While wrestling with myself and my identity, and coming to terms with spaces in my life I had been trying to cover, I felt God asking me the same question he asked Adam and Eve.

“Where are you, Jeraye?”

Of course, in my attempt to rationalize, my life’s response was to keep covering and yell from behind everything I am, “I have to cover up. I don’t want anyone to see me naked –or vulnerable – or defenseless.”

It’s just like God to reach beyond all my defense mechanisms by saying, “Who told you you were naked? Who told you you weren’t worthy? Who told you you weren’t powerful?”

I no longer hide behind my hair. I look in the mirror, and see all of my features. The shape of my eyes, cheeks, lips, and nose are new to me, believe it or not. I see my ears everyday for the first time in my life. I look in the mirror sure of who I am and to whom I belong. I still love long hair, and weaves. I will absolutely wear them in the future, maybewith a healthier perspective.

As you read my reflections on the decision I made via this blog post, I hope you consider things in your life that may have outgrown its place. I encourage you to cut it, even if – especially if – it hurts. It’ll grow back better – when/if you want it to. 

 

With love until next time,

Jeraye B.

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Life Lessons From My Funeral

*An excerpt from my unpublished book circa 2015*

Funerals seem to have always been difficult for me. This one was especially difficult. I wore an intricate black gown with a black lace veil and gloves to match. I walked timidly down the center aisle of one of the most beautiful cathedral style churches I had ever witnessed. I paced toward a blown up picture of a woman who looked familiar; but, I could not distinguish. My chin was parallel to the floor. My eyes were fixed straight ahead. There were so many people in the church. I knew I was at a funeral; but, the people were standing as if I burst through sanctuary doors during a wedding right before the bride began her stroll to Here Comes the Bride. I figured if I could just get to the side of the casket and see her face – the woman we were all here about –  I could identify her. Her picture was right there, plain as day. I all but blinked and it seemed like I was at the side of the casket, peering down at the young woman who lay there sleeping peacefully.

As soon as my eyes met the woman, I was overwrought with anxiety. I began hyperventilating because my mind could not reconcile what my eyes saw in that moment. I felt my chest begin to cave in from holding back a scream that would surely disrupt the lovely service. Every muscle in my body became tense. Anytime I had to stand up for long periods of time people would say, “don’t lock your knees.” I was staring blankly ahead; and, I was not sure how long it would be until I could snap out of the trance. Remember to bend your knees, Raye. I held my peace and took as many deep breaths as I could manage in an effort to compose myself. I stood there scared. I wanted to fold inside of myself, if it was even possible. I was both devastated and confused. I knew I could not give the uncertainty in my mind an audience with those who chose to pay their final respects to this woman. I was stuck looking down at my own body. I was at my own funeral. Before I knew it, I was waking up to my alarm clock.

This dream stayed with me for years. The intricate beauty of the sanctuary, the fact that there were individuals in mourning present, and the fact that I walked down an aisle toward someone I knew was familiar but not sure of their identity all played a major role in how I perceived God’s whisper that said “old things are passed away, behold, all things are new.” This dream showed me that the woman I used to be had to die in order for the woman I am now to live.

Even though many years have passed since that dream, when I reflect on it now,  I am reminded of the pain that ensued from the process of divorce. I remember how many nights I spent crying and pleading with God. It was that same feeling. I was scared that I no longer had a future, or a hope, or a dream, or anything to look forward to. I was overwhelmed because I knew it was too much for me to handle on my own. Yet, I was balanced. I smiled often. I helped, often times beyond my ability. It was supernatural in how this funeral – my own funeral –  mirrored, even metaphorically, one of the deepest sources of pain I had known. This dream revealed important lessons of the dangers of housing trauma, and becoming a museum fit for the public without having healed properly from said trauma.

The individuals that were at the funeral in mourning represented two groups. The first group was those that benefited from my brokenness. They were genuinely sad that they could not take advantage of me, anymore. These are the type of people who will stick around to hear what you bequeathed without having had any real investment in you. They cried the loudest. They seemed the saddest. The second group was there to ensure mortality. They had to make sure the old me was dead, so that the me I would become would never have to rival the times or enemies of old. They tested my responses. They knew me and wanted to see me do well. So they made sure the responses I had were not equivalent to the ones in the past. I had to produce something new and different and good. The first lesson I learned from this dream was, while I may not readily recognize an individual’s face, each person serves to deliver me toward the best person I can be, whether it feels good to me or not.  

The woman in the casket was bitter and callous. She was sad and had no self-control. She did not know who she was, so her identity was often assigned to her. She welcomed defeat as an excuse to not try anything else, ever again. Her gods included: pride, lust, sorrow, sadness and disappointment. She could not help but to cling to hurt – the only constant she knew. It was easier, it seemed, to wade through consistent feelings of despair than to reach toward healing. She was me. I felt so disconnected as I looked down at her. I was so different. I was really a new creation. The second lesson I learned from this dream was, there should always be a notable difference between who I was and who I am. There should always be a marked distance between who I am and who I will be. There has to be a starting point for which we can look back on and measure growth.

I could go on forever talking about how terrible of a person I was. That’s what brokenness can sometimes do to us. When we don’t really surrender those hidden painful parts to God, they often grow bitter and end up poisoning the very root of who we are. In that dream, it was so easy for the healed version of myself to stand over this part of me that had to die and pick it apart. I almost scoffed at the corpse in the dream, “good riddance.” God allowed me to have a funeral, though. After thinking it over for a few months, I felt the funeral was God’s way of showing me the third lesson of this dream:  it is important to honor who I was, even though I was nowhere near the best version of myself. What I went through and subsequently who I became were all necessary for me to stand healed at the casket. This funeral was not a thrown together ode to a forgotten lover. It was meticulously planned and produced. The casket and sanctuary and decorations were all neatly placed with care. The music was played skillfully. This portion of the dream showed me what I already knew; but, often lost sight of – that God cares.

Each part of the dream helped me to realize that even when we die to our old self, God has a way of taking special care of the parts in our past that are not so nice. The parts that we have tucked away so deep inside us that when they are randomly remembered they unravel whatever progress we think we have made. These parts in our past have kept us up crying late nights and attempting to self soothe, self sabotage,  or self medicate. The simple truth is that He handles each part of us with care because He cares for us completely. 

 

With love until next time,

 

Jeraye B.

 

Coronation

They always said, “Let them talk.”

I am irritated by how easy it is to get caught up with what people have to say about me, or my loved ones, or current events, or anything and everything and nothing. I often feel the need to defend, most times to no avail. We live in a time riddled with people who are paid to have an opinion. These, sometimes ill motivated opinions, are broadcast on networks that reach hundreds of thousands of people.

Unfortunately, there are times when an opinion is not congruent with the truth. To say it plainly, there are times when people intentionally misrepresent you. Speaking only for myself, as an individual that actively seeks the best version of myself each day, this triggers the insatiable desire to chase everything that has been said about me. All I have is my name, so I chase it.

Maturity showed me that I was on the wrong chase.

A coronation is a ceremony that involves the crowning of one who is sovereign – a King or Queen, for example. While the picture of a monarchy is vastly different from that of a democratic republic, it is possible that individuals subject to the rule of a monarch may not agree with the choice of the heir that is to take power. Be that as it may, once the coronation occurs, everyone in the kingdom becomes subject to the king or queen’s rule including whatever decrees or proclamations they make.

I believe the same goes for you and me as we step boldly into who we are. Eventually, dissenting opinions, inconsequential issues, and purposeless conflicts will have to bow to the truth of who we are and what we confess about ourselves. The only requirement will be to accept the responsibility of loving God, loving ourselves, and loving people.

The fact is, it does not matter what anyone has to say or what situation you may have been in prior to being crowned and subsequently responsible to lead people who do not like you.

     Although our weight of responsibility  increases as we graduate from who we were to who we are to become, we must wear our crown proudly. Our name is not important, we have to stop chasing it. The proof of our effectiveness is in the security and opulence of the kingdom. 

The truth of who we are will always stand. Lies, misrepresentations, falsehoods, inventions, manipulations, and all other devices used to sabotage our credibility will bow before our truth.

Be encouraged. Stay humble. Forgive always.

 

With love until next time,

Jeraye B

The College Dropout, No Kanye – Navigating Failure

The College Dropout, No Kanye – Navigating Failure

A source of pride in my life has absolutely been my father’s service in the United States Army. He served over twenty years before his retirement in 2005. I lived the military brat life to the fullest – from enjoying access to restricted gyms and shopping experiences, to obtaining discounts for flashing my military dependent ID card . I took full advantage of the privilege that came with my father’s sacrifice.

The military dependent life also came with the consistent transition that occurred every three years, each time my father’s orders were updated. This translated to my attending four different elementary schools, one middle school, and two high schools in my lifetime. Now, if you don’t understand this life, let me ease some of your tension by letting you know I did well in each grade level and subject. I was well-adjusted academically and emotionally by all accounts.

I attribute a great deal of my success, in an ever changing location, school, and environment, to my learning style. I am primarily an auditory learner. Even to this day, in most conditions, I can listen to a lecture, sermon, or presentation,  and remember each component and point. I rarely took notes since they ended up being a distraction from my intent listening. My mom often recounts homework time as the “five minutes I flew through whatever I was given to complete in each subject.” She said she would look over my homework in disbelief, saying to herself, “there is just no way you’ve finished all your homework that quickly.” To her surprise, it was complete and correct. I was always on honor roll, and frequently obtained awards for my grades.

In retrospect, I can see the blessing and the curse in my ability to listen and retain information. On the one hand, I was able to minimize studying to quick reviews prior to an exam. I never had to stay up all night to study for anything in my kindergarten through twelfth grade years. That is a blessing. The curse, however, is that studying ability and motivation is necessary to be successful in college – I lacked in each. In short, nobody told me professors talked for four hours about things not specifically or necessarily covered on an exam – or even pertinent to the class. Tangents, I tell ya.

Either way, my unwillingness to create viable study habits and commit time to learning material on my own ended up costing me. It cost me financially first. I won’t even get into my financial aid loan repayment situation, y’all just pray. It also cost me timethe one thing none of us can get back. I spent multiple semesters on academic probation and was even dismissed from a program due to my grades. I was let back in to another one; but, dropped out after becoming so frustrated with myself.

So there I was, The College Dropoutno Kanye. I didn’t really have a clear plan for my future; but, one thing I did know was that my ticket out of the less than decent paying job world would be an education. I was humbled, and not in the thank you for this award, I’m humbled by your outpour of love, kind of humbled. I mean I was defeated by something I had been considered a master of at every other time in my life.

Then entered the grace to try again.

I enrolled in a Bachelor of Business Administration program with a concentration in Marketing. I didn’t love every class. Actually, I didn’t like most of the classes. I was given the grace to try again, so I harnessed the grit to finish – and I finished. Only now since I have been afforded opportunities to participate in committees for start-up businesses and non-profits do I actually see the benefit of attending school for that degree program.

Slightly less obvious, I understand the reason behind my past failures. Failure points us to our ultimate destiny. While onlookers can be content with only critiquing our successes, we have to remain committed to fairly critiquing our own attempts, each one – success or failure. There is something to be learned in each instance.

The most valuable lesson I have learned is that failure is an event, not an individual. A failure may be tied to a negative characteristic or flaw I have; but, it is not indicative of who I am as a total person. I thank Potential for this realization.

Even if I fail one thousand times, Potential says, “you could succeed if you make your adjustments and try again.”

So, that is what I am encouraging you all to do, today. God has given us all the grace to try again. You may be asking, “well, how do you know this?” You’re reading this blog. Your life is still with you, which means Potential is still rooting for you. It’s important to learn how to navigate your failures so that you’re not stuck in the last place you tried for the rest of your life.

So go ahead, try again. This time could be different.

 

With love until next time,

Jeraye B.

Dear Lover, I can’t love you, right now. [A Lesson in Singleness]

 

It seemed most appropriate to allow Valentine’s Day to soak in the rest of its glory before posting a reflective piece containing a hard learned lesson I acquired during my second ‘go-round’ of singleness. I am for all things ‘lovey dovey’ – the cornier the better, most times. I offer that information to settle any prejudice you may have about a single person taking the time to think, speak, or write about love, relationships, and the like.

So let’s start with the Spark Notes’ version of my back story.

I moved back to Virginia, and was duped into dating who would become my exhusband at fifteen years old. (I’m totally kidding. I wasn’t really duped. Surface pleasantries eventually lead to mutual interest, and the exchanging of numbers and instant messenger accounts – shout out to AOL instant messenger). We wandered from being old friends to an item, and dated on and off for five years. After getting back together following the last of the off periods, we compulsively made the decision to get married. (We were so childish.)

The demise of any union cannot be summed up into one pivotal moment or factor. There are usually multiple occurrences that line up to create the perfect storm that separates husbands from wives from their vows before God. All in all, life took a series of unexpected turns, and after four years, eleven months two weeks, and one day of marriage, we were officially divorced.

They say, after you are divorced, you have to wait at least a year to check single on information forms, in lieu of divorced.

I don’t know who they is, exactly; but, I do know I spent one full year making a valiant attempt to recover – all while checking divorced on forms since that’s what I was told. I figured at one year, I would be well enough to at least try dating, again. So, I did. I met an amazing guy, and for the first time in a while, I felt I could get married, again. That was a scary feeling. Before that point, anytime I thought about my future, I could only see my ex and the children we named as teenagers, but would never know.

Disclaimer: dating is not for the faint of heart. I don’t remember all of the madness the first time I was single. Maybe because I was a child? I don’t know; but, someone could have warned me. The point is, I tried to date. Some comment or situation exposed a sore spot; and, I decided it best that I ceased dating that particular guy. As fate would have it, another great guy came along – same story different face. I found myself feeling like I needed to prove I was worthy of love, commitment, and attention. I found myself feeling like I needed to prove that I was more good than damaged. This took a major toll on me. I rolled through multiple situationships trying to figure out why all guys were the same. I felt God acknowledge the question I posed to the air by replying directly to me.

“It’s not them, it’s you.”

I beg your pardon? It’s me? How? I’m a good girl. Any man would be blessed to have me! Then I thought about what that man would really have, if he had me. He would have obtained an insecure woman, more interested in not being alone than loving, again. I feared becoming a woman who grew old with no children, or grandchildren, or husband. Looking back I could tell the enemy was playing on my fear to manipulate me into mutating a good man into my husband. The enemy wanted to trap me in a relationship that didn’t glorify God. He distracted me by making sure the man was good. (How many know it can be good and STILL miss GOD?)

After taking a second to consider my role in the demise of each relationship, I realized with clarity, that it really was me. As an admirer of love and relationships – especially how marriage parallels to what God wants to show the world about how He loves us, I knew I could not passively date, anymore. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to participate in a relationship, that may have led to marriage, which is no doubt a reflection of God’s love.

I don’t want to give away a knock off version of love. I can’t allow myself to half way love anyone. I won’t do it. The man God has for me deserves better than that. I am his favor. My love will remind him that God cares for him. As a single woman who has transitioned from a marriage that ended in divorce, my aim has been to allow God to complete the work in me. Beyond being healed, I am to be whole – lacking nothing.

Singleness serves self-awareness, self-improvement, and self-esteem. The gift of singleness will, no doubt, produce the best version of me God will have to offer. We can’t afford to skip through this intentional time without a thought or care for its purpose. Wholeness happens in singleness. My future deserves me whole. It’s important to recognize the role you play in the cycles you seem to keep going through, and make the necessary adjustments as soon as possible – even if it pains you.

Dear Lover, I can’t love you, right now.

When it’s time, I will allow God’s love to flow through me as unfiltered as possible. You will know God’s love through mine. Promise.

 

With love until next time,

Jeraye B

 

 

Lost in MySelf(ies) – Understanding Pain

This week’s blog is an excerpt from a chapter of a book I wrote a few years ago, and have yet to release. I don’t occupy the space of this specific pain, anymore. I’ve grieved and gained.

Social media has a way of reminding you, and everyone that can view pasts posts, of who you were before you became the you that you would become. Each past post, especially once grouped together, can provide clarity to the issues that flowed from the heart. From the abundance of the heart, the fingers typeth, sort of thing. It does not take much inspecting or investigating to uncover the truth behind each post, or picture, or meme. The pain is evident in retrospect.  There it was, hiding in plain sight.

Pain is not an evil monster that seeks to rob us of an enriched life. Pain, instead, is an alert system that teaches us how to navigate in the future. Pain teaches us to be careful, next time. I do not avoid ovens that I perceive to be hot because my parents told me it would burn me. I did my best to obey my parents; but, the one time I accidentally got too close to a burning eye on the stove, it burned me in a way I would never forget. The pain of that moment forced me to be mindful and careful around the stove. It taught me to respect the potential of the oven. Eventually, my arm healed without even a trace of having been burned. Still, I never played around a stove again.

Pain has been misunderstood. It can be easy to become careless by making decisions without much thought. In some cases, we compromise the integrity of who we are, who we are to become, and who we represent. Pain does not hurt for the sake of hurting us. Pain serves us. It is important to realize that pain teaches us. Can you trace your pain back to a lesson that shaped your perspective?

In addition to teaching me about myself, pain taught me to see others differently. I knew what certain scars looked like. I knew what the heart looked like when it was limping. I knew because I experienced it. I was able to step off of the “high horse” or posting eloquent statuses that sometimes looked down on people experiencing phases in life I may have never had to walk through (yet….because I’ve found that you just NEVER know what life has for you). There was a time that I could not believe someone would post the details of their relationship on a public forum. While I was not necessarily guilty of that, I could see past the damning words into a soul that was really bruised. I began to help where I could. I administered First Aid to certain scars and could point and accompany individuals to the direction of The Healer. Pain showed me what it felt like to experience a heart under attack. The earlier I saw the signs, the quicker I could pray for and encourage others.

In the past, I wished I dealt with pain privately. I used to feel embarrassed that I was so vulnerable in public spaces. I felt like the athlete that had some major injury take place in front of a stadium full of people being stabilized on half court. Eventually I would be whisked away for x-rays, ultrasounds, a diagnosis, and a plan. The doctors, physical therapists, team trainers, and all involved in my health would lend their expertise in an effort to save my life, and ensure that I am able to eventually return to the court with all my abilities having been sharpened. It does not change the embarrassment of what happens in that moment when injury occurs. Sure, I could bounce back; but, everyone saw what happened. Once I matured, I realized the more people that bore witness to the event, would offer true life perspectives that corroborated the definitive progress I made. They could testify on my behalf.

Are we allowed to be honest about what pains us?

My belief is simple. It is important to tell my truth, free of what any person or anything has done to me. Once I stripped away blame I placed on others, I could own the decisions I made. There was power found in owning my decisions, even though those decisions put me face to face with pain. The stove did not chase me. My decisions and proximity set the events in motion that lead me to get burned. It forced me to pay attention to my habits and character.

My prayer has been that God would allow me to have sweet waters, even when life attempted to make them bitter. Misunderstanding the purpose behind pain is an easy way to incriminate your experiences instead of embracing them to propel you, and a whole segment of people forward. Pain may be hiding in plain sight in your life.

Every injury is required to hurt for a specified time frame. Each time frame varies. Oh, but after a little while…….(Some of you know where I’m going with that one – queue the organ.)

If you are still in pain, can you point to exactly where it hurts? Or are you too distracted about what people say about your injury (how long you are supposed to be in pain, your required recovery time, how others have coped in your same position, etc) to focus on the actual source? In addition, can you as easily discuss the lesson you learned? What did your pain teach you?  How have you used it to become better? What decisions have you made because of your pain? I know it has altered you; but, has it improved you?

You’re better. If you don’t see that today, I trust you’ll see it someday.

 

With love until next time,

Jeraye B

 

 

 

 

 

Eventually

 

What if eventually never comes?

What if all I’ve ever hoped for never makes its way to me?

What if I can only live my dreams while I sleep?

What if I never become who I was supposed to be?

How will I ever know?

Eventually comes eventually.

If what I hope for doesn’t make its way to me, I will make my way to it.

I will rest long enough to live my dream while I am awake.

I will become who I am supposed to be.

I will know because I will consistently be who I am.

I am a gift, a promise, and an answer.

I will be, eventually.

I am.

 

With love until next time,

Jeraye B.