Meaningful Living in the Hashtag Age

Posts tagged ‘love’

Three Things Fear Helped Me Accomplish

Fear is an emotion often associated with feelings of uncertainty, danger, shame, and rejection. It is a dark room where creatures wait to prey on me, a dangerous journey towards the unknown. But every emotion, good or bad, has its purpose, and fear is no different.

Where love brings me joy, warmth, and connection, fear drives me out of my comfort zone. It forces me to fight against my inherent nature to run away from what is unfamiliar. 

Fear is born out of change, and progress cannot exist if we do not accept change. Therefore, if we live trying to avoid fear, we ultimately limit our progress in life.

If fear is designed to hold me back, why did God give me the emotion of fear? And how do I manage my fears and reach my destiny in life?

I’ve asked myself these questions countless times when fear was not my friend when fear caused me to miss out on opportunities in life that God meant for me to experience. But now, after years of learning that every emotion carries good and bad energy, I look back and know that I was better equipped to accomplish my goals when I embraced my fears.

The three biggest goals accomplished in my life were done with love, fear, and change in the passenger’s seat. Below is what fear helped me achieve:

1) Open my life to others.

I am a closet introvert who refuses to hide. That means I love being alone but don’t choose to be alone. Most days, you find me in front of a television clicking back and forth between the news, Lifetime movies, true crime, and Family Feud. I enjoy the sound of my heartbeat in a quiet room and listening to the noise the keyboard makes when my fingertips tap against it. But my fear of true isolation forces me to live out loud. To fight against anything that prevents me from being who God said I am, “the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).” Despite my love of being alone, my life cannot be lived in isolation. Therefore, I live in the open. I write in the open. I love in the open because fear inspires me too.

2) Find true love.

As the story goes, true love is hard to find. This is not only factual, but it is humbling. When the greatest gift God gives us is hard to find, fear, and the anxiety and isolation it often creates, can kick in. Before I met my husband (over twenty years ago), I feared I would never find true love. I’d watched people struggle with fading, wavering, and conditional love, but true love was still a legend. Then I met my husband, a military officer who lived a life that was foreign to me. He was moving around every 3 to 4 years. From city to city. Military base to military base, and he wanted me to be a part of his life. Instead of doing what fear called me to do — stay within my comfort zone, say ‘no,’ remain in my hometown and continue pursuing my career; I pushed against this and instead used my fear of the unknown as my motivation. I decided to join him on his journey, to be his wing-man, his rib, his family. I found true love because my fears allowed me to.

3) Become a mom.

I never played with dolls. Honestly, I never liked them. As a young girl, I would rather play football with my cousins than play dress-up with my friends. So, when I reached my late twenties, and my girlfriends were becoming mothers, I didn’t know how to feel about it. By the time parenthood became an essential part of my dreams, I discovered I could not get pregnant. This sent my husband and me on an 11-year infertility journey with fear and uncertainty. Eleven years! But in the end, regardless of the tears and frustrations, I became a mom. Fear forced me to trust life’s process and gain the patience I needed to overcome longsuffering. It taught me to move in ways that celebrated wins before they became a reality. The day we adopted our son was the day we understood that even in the darkest hours, fear propels us towards our blessings.

Do it afraid. That’s the message. 

Fear should never stop you from moving forward; it should empower you. Let your fears be a beacon of light on your path; let them motivate you to live life out loud, seek greatness in every situation, and trust the process. Because what’s on the other side of fear is true love and achievement.

THE DOOR: A TRIBUTE TO MY FATHER, MATTHEW SMITH, SR.

A BLACK WRITERS WORKSPACE POETRY COLLABORATIVE

Prelude by Michelle D. Jackson

Located in New Birth Missionary Baptist Church (Birmingham, AL)

On Friday, January 28, 2022, my father died.

During his funeral, as I sat staring at his regal bronze casket covered with an American flag, I noticed a beautiful metal door in the church with a three-circle emblem representing the Holy Trinity. Mesmerized by its design, I began to wonder about the door of eternal life my father had now entered. This door represented the pathway from earth to heaven.

Somewhere in the heavenly clouds was my father, a man in his late eighties who survived poverty as a young boy and blatant racism in the south—a complicated man whose love shined through even in the harshest times. I did not always understand him, but I knew and loved his strength, courage, and unspoken belief in forgiveness.

The door that stood before me represented his path to a final resting place, a course we will all one day endure. It was this door that had the last word on his life. Yet, poetic in how its silence spoke to the numbness of my heart, I knew that once he walked through it, my father would receive his heavenly reward for a life well-lived. 

With the help of my friends on the Black Writers Workspace, we crafted separate parts of a story, my story, our story of grief, loss, and the journey from this world to eternal life. Through the beautiful and heartfelt poetic words of writers everywhere, they helped me share my pain, and I am forever grateful. Here’s our collaborative work:

THE DOOR

by The Black Writers Workspace

I.

Entering another day without you

Broken but strong

Your laughter a beautiful memory

Lasting a lifetime long

Remembering how you loved me

Rarely spoken but always felt

Remembering your dreams for me

Tackling the world as it’s dealt

My first Valentine

The man who loved me most

The warrior in my mind

when this life’s beyond reproach

The meals we shared

The smiles we gave

The slightest touch of your hand

Your love pierced my little girl heart

Your love is where I stand

You are, and will always be,

the fire in my belly

The fight in my step

The man who made me, me

The guy who accepted his missteps

A daddy indeed

A rebel

A soldier

A fearless heart

A powerhouse

A complicated soul

The door will never keep you

For your life is still ashore

But the door will let you rest

Share your greatness on high

Remind your earthly family of you

Propel us toward the sky

Sleep, daddy, sleep.

You deserve to rest

You’ll never be forgotten

Your soul is at its best

Michelle Jackson

II.

Entering another day without you,

Consumed with all I’ve lost.

You’ve always taught me to win,

Eventually, I will, but at what cost.

Nothing can prepare us for the sea,

After we pass the door of no return.

Without your covering, who will we be,

Who knows, yet we must learn.

A day at a time is what they say,

When I don’t know what day it is.

With doors closing all around me,

I feel as helpless as a lost little kid.

Even when that door slammed shut,

Inside of me, I still felt your light.

I’ll try to breathe deep to find small bits of peace,

remembering you, day by day & night by night.

Barnard Sims

III.

On solid foundation

framed in love

hung in place delicately hinged

like the wings of a dove

You’ve Always been wide open to me

But today you are sealed tight

And nothing seems right

As I stand here on the threshold of your memory

Thoughts race

My heart flutters to keep pace

Anticipating the turn of the knob

Unopened yet somehow

“un-closed”

In the middle of the end

My silent tears give away to sobs

Lawanda Baker


IV.

Thro’ it we into life are usher’d

Squalling and kicking lustily

Bringing joy to the hitherto bother’d

And thro’ the door out of life

We exit

Lying still and pale and rigidly

After our course of life is run

Leaving sadness and pain behind as we go

Never to return

David Donald

V.

This is the door of forevermore.

On the other side I’m expected to say good-bye to the first man who loved me.

I’m grateful he got to guide me through this crazy awesome journey.

When I leave the room and that door closes, I will not be the same.

I am not prepared for the heartache, the grief and pain.

So please remind me to think of the good and push away the bad.

Remind me of the times when I wasn’t so sad.

Show me a penny, a red robin or rainbow.

Remind me your energy will always flow.

This way I don’t have to say goodbye, instead I’m reminded

You are by my side.

Now, I can close the door to forevermore.

Gina Johnson

VI.

Some people look at a closed door as an end.

But the door doesn’t just close. It opens too.

On this side of the doorway, I saw you Daddy and knew

I would never see you in the form I was used to.

Laughing, telling jokes and being the life of the party.

But as you stood at the doorway, you knew once you crossed over,

you would have to make your presence known in other ways.

So now, I hear you in my sister’s laughter, I see you in my brother’s face

and I feel you every time I go home to visit family.

The doorway isn’t just the end, it’s a different beginning.

Angela Jackson Muhammad

VII.

Open. Open. Open. Please door just open
Let me have one last hug or one last glance
Just one small moment
Just one final chance.

I wasn’t ready for you not to be here
Even though I knew it was now your time
My mind says it’s going to be OK
But every part of me knows it’s lying

This door is the only thing between us now
Separating two hearts that should always be together
But as detached as I may feel right now
I know your love and memories shall last forever

I know this door is forever closed
No matter how much I cry
Life will be forever different without you
But with each day, I know I’ll get by

I will live life grateful for the time we did have
Never to forget your life, laughter, or love
Wait for me on the other side of that door
So when it opens, all I hear is, “Welcome”

Tamecka Knight

Well Done

A Message from an Overachiever with a Restless Heart for God

So often my friends and colleagues ask me, “Do you sleep?” This question is understandable because I can sometimes appear to be constantly working on a new project instead of enjoying my life. Therefore, I always pause before answering because I don’t know if the person is applauding my effort to accomplish my goals, questioning my ability to find peace and contentment in this life or if I look tired and weary from my work. Either way, the question ultimately leads me to think about Christ and his time on earth.

In only 33 years, Christ healed the sick and fed the poor. He counseled people in need and taught those who sought knowledge and understanding. He worked miracles that changed lives and fought for what was right. He loved people who didn’t love him back and he sacrificed his life for our sins. In 33 years on earth, Christ accomplished more than I or anyone could ever accomplish.

So, do I sleep? Yes. Comfortably. Because the things God has asked me to do with my time on earth is worth the sacrifice. It’s worth the long days writing, running my business and nonprofit, and taking care of my family. It’s worth the hard times when I’m unsure of myself but refusing to quit. Don’t misunderstand my work ethic or the work ethic of people in your life like me. I have an amazing life that I want to live like Christ. I’m just focused on one thing, and one thing only – hearing God say to me, “Well Done!” Then I will rest with him in peace for eternity.

Michelle Jackson is an entrepreneur and nonprofit leader and author of fictional novels The Heart of a Man and From Darkness to Night. To learn more about her work, visit http://www.authormichelledjackson.com.

Path to Peace

#1stMorningthoughts

Hero in Me

super hero girl

So many people are in need of a HERO. So many people are waiting on a SUPERMAN or WONDER WOMAN to descend from the sky and protect them from a struggling world.

But what if, there are no heroes coming to our rescue? What if, God provides us with the strength and courage to change the world, and WE were created to be the heroes of our own lives?

God blesses us with the power to come together and build a world comprised of integrity and goodwill. In these unpredictable times, it’s important that we stop waiting for our heroes to rescue us and start living like the responsibility is ours, and ours alone.

Ask yourself: Am I up for the task? Am I warrior-ready? Can I be a hero in my community? What will it take to change the world around me?

Learn to be your own HERO and watch your life soar.

#HeroInME #GrowingBOLD #FaithFUELED

 

You Are A Masterpiece


It dawned on me this beautiful Sunday morning that over the years God has been working to get me to a place where I understand the true purpose for my life. So many times I’ve visited the graveyard to say goodbye to a friend or family member. So many long, sad walks back to my car wondering if that person, who is now with God, fulfilled their earthly purpose.

This journey to live on earth takes us through many peaks and valleys. We struggle with understanding who we are, our mission, our purpose and why God chose us. We see people who appear to navigate life with such ease and grace, and then we witness the fallen – those who struggle with every turn. 

We all have a story; we all have fears, but do we know and accept God’s purpose for our life?

What I am more and more convinced of is that the God I serve whose imagination is as wonderful and brilliant as a bright and sunny sky and as massive as the roaring sea, has molded each of us into a unique piece of art, a masterpiece.

Once we accept that we are God’s greatest work, we can live in His purpose for our life and fulfill our destiny.

You were never meant to be like anyone else. You are an original. You are the first and the last. Your purpose cannot be defined by anyone but God. Your wins and losses are all intentional paths on your personal journey. Every experience was created to help you become the person God wants you to be. 

You are a masterpiece!

Accept it. Live in it. Love with it and be blessed.

Michelle Jackson 

Love Thy Neighbor

mjpic

Growing up I was fascinated with watching my brother, a self-taught artist and one of the most talented people I’ve ever met, draw human portraits. Meticulously, he had a way of capturing the essence of a person’s unique features and through the slight impressions of his pencil and a strong belief in his creativity, he was blessed with the talent to turn a blank canvas into a masterpiece.

Using an array of art techniques, he would always begin his portraits by sketching an oval face on a white canvas. Next, he would draw a vertical line from forehead to chin, one horizontal line across the center, from ear-to-ear, and two or more horizontal lines toward the bottom of the oval. Each line would be used to place the person’s eyes, nose, and mouth in proper proportion to one another. Each stroke was as mystifying as the next. Nevertheless, like magic, as he focused on building the person’s facial features, a beautiful picture would appear.

While watching him draw portraits, I learned to appreciate the beauty of all mankind. From the color of our skin, the shape of our eyes to our crooked smiles and pointy ears, the variations in our physical appearances are what makes us unique but also the same. We all fill our canvasses with an image in the likeness of God; we are more akin than we are different.

For as long as man has been on this earth, society has suffered due to racial and economic profiling. The color of our skin and the amount of wealth we have determines the level of respect we deserve.  People with dark complexions are more prone to criminal activity, laziness and ignorance. People who live in poverty are unwilling to work and accepting of a second-rate life. That’s what profiling suggests. That’s the misperception that focusing on the flesh instead of the heart creates.

Man’s view of man is consumed with the physical. But what does God see? And if we could see each other the way God sees us would racism, sexism or colorism exist? Would unarmed black men be killed by white police officers at a higher rate than unarmed white men? Would people of color serve longer prison sentences for the same crimes as white people?

If God had to draw an image of you, what would it look like? Would he start off drawing an oval face, perfectly placed features, impeccable hair and flawless skin? Would he use his masterful skills to capture everything that makes you unique and physically beautiful? Or would he focus on something deeper, more meaningful than the color of your eyes or the length of your nose?

I believe God doesn’t see our physical bodies. He sees our heart. He knows us by our righteousness and our obedience to him. He blesses us because of our love of others and our reverence to the holy spirit. As his children, who we are and how we live should resemble him. And we are not to judge each other based on worldly standards but to accept each other and to believe that God has the power to change hearts for the good.

The bible teaches us that there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all (Romans 10:12-13). It also teaches us to treat one another equally and to remain fair and just in our interactions. In Romans 2:11 and James 2:9, it states: For God shows no partiality. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

What racial profiling has created is a false narrative about the responsibility God has placed on each of us to care for and love one another. We are each other’s neighbor no matter where we live on earth. And we are our brother’s keeper, even when our complexions, ideologies, and faiths are different. God gave the final word on the matter when he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth (Acts 17:26).

Racial profiling is the belief that white canvasses should never be marked with beautiful colors. That artists should only use single tones and straight lines. And that every picture should be of the same person with similar features, beliefs, and goals. But diversity and uniqueness bring brilliant light to the universe. Different hues and textures create a collage of people that are symbolic of the world God expects us to live in both peace and harmony.

Mark 12:30-31

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.

Leviticus 19:18

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.

Michelle D. Jackson is author of The Heart of a Man, a Christian novel. Follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMichelleDJackson/.

This article was published in the September issue of The Mount Magazine. To view the publication go to: http://mt-ararat.org/images/Mount-Magazine/The-Mount-Mag-Sept-2016-Spreads.pdf. 

The Wait

Slide1

Have you ever played the game Red Light – Green Light? If not, here’s how it works: first, all the players stand side-by-side in a single line facing the person (let’s call him/her the ‘leader’) responsible for giving the ‘red light’ and ‘green light’ commands. When the leader, who is standing at least 15 feet in front of the players, gives the ‘green light’ command everyone must rapidly move towards them. But when the ‘red light’ command is given everyone must stop immediately, assess where they are, then wait until the leader gives the green light command again. The player who reaches the leader first wins the game.

As Christians we often find ourselves in a real-life Red Light – Green Light scenario. Standing side-by-side with people who we perceive to be in competition with us and vigorously working to reach what we assume to be the higher echelon of life.  The journey to reach our goal is filled with stop and go commands given by God that we cannot control or change. And the wait, as frustrating as it can be, is often a period of retrospect that allows us to assess where we are, re-think our strategies for reaching the goal-line and decide whether the journey is worth the wait.

When the green light is given, we are encouraged to run our fastest in order to leave our competition behind. Society teaches us that being first is a noble quest, even if it requires pushing and shoving to get ahead of others. But in Matthew 19:30, the Bible states, “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” Earthly rank does not translate into heavenly rank. And although I believe that being first is not a sin, our focus must remain on God and His destiny for our life.

The most difficult times are the red light, or waiting, periods of life. Throughout the Bible we are taught that patience is a virtuous attribute and the power to wait on God is rewarded in the end. But the fear of never achieving our goals coupled with faulty thinking that God is not with us during our waiting period creates anxiety and uncertainty along the way. Whether we are waiting on an improved health report from the doctor, the healing of a drug addicted child or help with a struggling marriage, the red light periods of life are our most difficult.

In my darkest hours during my waiting periods, I often reflect on Psalm 30: 5: Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. God often uses the transitioning from night to day as an example of how hard times will evolve from darkness to light.

God blesses the waiting period. He stands in the mist of the awkward silence that threatens to make us believe that He isn’t there, and He whispers hope into our ear. Often, we cannot hear Him because of our fears, but God is always in control. He doesn’t leave us in the coldest moments nor does He blow away in the highest winds. He is our rock and our fortress.

The waiting period is a time of triumph. It is during this period that we do our bravest work. We learn to stand still and to believe that daylight is just over the horizon and darkness is not eternal. When we wait – patiently – we learn how to run our fastest without trampling others and to appreciate the journey.

Gods timing is not our timing and His priorities are not our priorities. Therefore, when the green light is on, we must take what we learned during the red light periods and approach our journey with consideration and love if we are to reach the pinnacle of God’s expectation for our lives.

Psalms 27:13-14   I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

Proverbs 3:5-6  Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Isaiah 40:31   but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Lamentations 3:25   The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.

Micah 7:7   But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.

This original article was published in the July 2016 issue of The Mount Christian Magazine.

Michelle D. Jackson is author of The Heart of a Man, a Christian novel.

 

I’m Satisfied

Slide2

I was baptized at 12 years old but I wasn’t spiritually awakened until 23. Young and ambitious, my approach to living was to seek gratification first instead of placing God at the head of my life. I, like many people at that age, struggled to discern what was good for my soul verses what was bad for my salvation.

My experience in building a relationship with God can best be described as finding water in the middle of dry and deserted land. For years, I’d walked through the hot sands weak, dehydrated, and in desperate need of nourishment but God found and restored me. He protected me from my own depraved decisions, He prevented me from walking in the shadows of immorality, and He shielded me from the influence of bad company. It is because of His love that I can testify to the power of His salvation.

While I stumbled through the desert looking for water, God was building wells all around me. One-by-one He filled them with an everlasting flow of His love and strategically placed them in my path. But my fears and worldliness often caused me to overlook the table that he had prepared before me. And as my faith grew, my vision improved and eventually God’s destiny for my life became clearer. I knew, in time, my thirst would finally be satisfied.

What I learned over the years is that there is no well deeper, wider, or more sustaining than one filled with God’s love. He can pour out oceans of his kindness and patience and still have oceans more to give. That’s what makes Him a wonderful Father – His children are incapable of being thirsty in His presence.

The salvation that I needed was greater than the salvation that I sought. God knew this, and He allowed me to experience the faultiness of my small ambitions by forcing me to feel the weariness of a thirsty soul. I was walking in the desert looking for a cup filled with tap water when God had prepared before me a cool and life-sustaining stream.

God is the only one that can satisfy our needs. Scripture teaches us in Matthew 5:6: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.” In Psalms 61:1, it reads: “My soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee, in a dry and weary land where there is not water.” And in Psalm 36:7-9, it states: “How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house: you give drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.”

By drinking from God’s fountain of life we find peace sustained by His strength and wisdom. We are rejuvenated each time we swallow a morsel of His word and drink a thimble of His grace. It is in God’s everlasting waters that we are exposed to His light and provided a clearer understanding of His destiny for our life.

As we struggle to find satisfaction in an insatiable world, we should never forget that God is always at work building wells in dry and weary places. Through faithfulness we will find our way to His sustaining stream and learn to drink daily from His living waters.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)

“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for thee, O God, for the living God.” (Psalm 42:1-2)

“Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture said, streams of living water will flow from him.’” (John 7:37)

This original article was published in the May 2016 issue of The Mount Christian Magazine

Michelle D. Jackson is author of The Heart of a Man, a Christian novel and Founder of The Charity Supper Club, a program designed to raise money to benefit local charities and families in need.

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