About that Girls Trip Movie…

Disclaimer: Spoiler Alert – This blog may dish some details from the movie. If you have not watched Girls Trip as yet, please read at your own discretion.

*Be prepared for outrageous (somewhat stereotypical and excessive) scenes of strong language and sexual content in the film. Let the record show, I gave you notice!

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The latest chick flick landed in our theatres here in Barbados is Girls Trip: a hilarious and revelatory weekend for four reunited besties in New Orleans at the annual Essence Music Festival. A top notch cast of Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tiffany Haddish portray educated women leading vastly different lives, who come together to rekindle their college/university sisterhood days for old times’ sake. The perfect setup for some good-girlfriend-realness to unfold.

The theatre was packed with ladies and their besties (and some boyfriends as well) all eager to see how this one weekend would play out. Dare I say, none were disappointed as this movie did hit some key areas in the female-friendship dynamic that made me go ‘Yea, this is definitely a sisterhood movie!’ with loads drama and saucy bits for much impact in the R-Rated film. What really sparked my desire to write about this movie is to examine a few themes present that were interesting.

A Merge between Life as We Know It and Celebrity Life.

The characters in a nutshell:
Ryan (Regina): Married with no children, relationship coach and bestselling author of the book ‘You Can Have it All’ on a book-tour with a huge secret.
Sasha (Latifah): Single, debt riddled, reluctant Gossip columnist looking for her next ‘saving grace’ story.
Lisa (Jada): Divorced mother of two, nurse, living with mother, shut down her femininity after heartbreak and needs to lighten up.
Dina (Tiffany): Single, recently unemployed, honestly out-of-control in every sense but understands the power and preciousness of friendship. She is the crazy-fun kind!

Give these characters an exclusive weekend in New Orleans at Essence Fest and it’s only a matter of time before the cat-fights, shady comments, tun-ups, old-dirt, hurt feelings, misunderstandings, exposed secrets, honesty, laughter, fun, reconciliation and love happens. Heck, it made me wish I had a girl’s trip planned in my calendar.

Just when you think celebrities (Ryan was fast becoming famous) must experience a different kind of friendship dynamic than you are, this movie explores how similar they can be with the major difference being affluence (which makes the stakes for celebs much higher). The story these four characters share: the ‘Flossy Possie’ dorm room besties, all grown up and attempting to reconnect in a real way after five years of distance; could be the story some of us share with the women in our lives. We were tight in school, graduated, and then life coupled with our own goals made us distant.

Our present friendships could be anywhere on that spectrum today and this movie was an excellent reminder to stay connected with the great women we have in our lives. Women who allow us to be our true selves in their presence, they know us and we know them so we can’t hide, genuine, supportive, ride or die, ‘we aren’t blood but we are sisters’ friends. Bear in mind that maintaining those friendship won’t be easy. Life will definitely test them and impact how little or how much we stay in contact but many times, the staunch women in our lives that we call our besties will always be the kind of woman we can count on when we need them. Time, space or affluence should not change that when lifelong friendships are real.

Affluent or celebrity women need those kinds of friendships as well to help them weather the storms that come with a high-profile status. The tight-knit bees’ nest of the Kardashians is a good example of this. They are not super women, they just face different life dynamics. No wonder Rihanna made sure her entourage carried long-time best friend Melissa and other family members and friends from home that, we can only assume, she trusts with her life. We all need that cushion of female-friendships in our lives.

Ryan’s Façade for the Sake of Her Career

We can tell from the narration that this movie is really about the life of Ryan Pierce. A beautiful woman who married well (retired football player) and they built a lifestyle that hordes of women dream of every night. She is a relationship coach on a book tour that is constantly opening more and more lucrative opportunities for her and her husband. She is practically the bread-winner with her husband as the sidekick for good publicity. Oh yea. Very quickly we begin to catch a vibe from their marriage that rang to the tune of ‘All that glitters isn’t gold’. When the offer to be the keynote speaker at Essence Fest arose, Ryan thinks this is the perfect time to wrangle up the three women in her life that she misses dearly. So that’s the back story.

Their first day in New Orleans started very eventful when Sasha gets a photo from a paparazzi contact of Ryan’s husband Stewart and a woman (who is then found out to be an Instagram model) in an intimate moment. Mutual friend Dina literally blurts out to Ryan that her husband is cheating on her and we all hold our breath for the outcome. Here it is: RYAN ALREADY KNOWS! And has known for two years that her husband has been having many extra marital affairs but she has a coping mechanism which allows her to keep her image as happily married and credibility as a relationship coach. Queue the irony! So does she really have it all like her book states?

The simple answer is no! She is a neatly manufactured façade of a woman in a marriage that is tearing at the core of her soul. She is a master actress and convinces her readers that she is the woman she wrote about: a woman who can have a booming career, happy marriage, great friends and plans to start a family on the agenda. We find out later in the movie that Ryan is also unable to have children even though she has tried everything to make motherhood happen. Rough! She is a beautifully crafted lie packaged and sold to the women she wants to inspire. Does this sound familiar to any of us?

We follow celebs, favourite authors, singers and Instagram motivationalist looking at their lives and desperately wanting it to be ours! We read their books, readily take their opinions and worship the appeal of their image and relationships, never really knowing what the truth looks like for them when the camera is off. It was sobering and made me remember why I took a break from social media for a while. People will show you what you want to see about them because that’s the best way to build a following and keep us loyal. Their ‘perfectly curated’ highlight reel is not the whole truth, only a small part and many of them will admit to that. However, that does not change the effect it has on our minds when that’s all we see. I want to love my own life, not wish it was someone else.

Ryan’s life is plagued with romantic emptiness, teeth-gnashing manipulations and emotional abuse from a husband who does not love her but holds her and her career for ransom to keep him in her life and money. After ‘slipping up’, he would tell her that she needs him because there is “no Ryan without Stewart” (in terms of public image). He is so trifling! Ryan is the image of many successful and not-so-successful women who have lost sight of their worth for the sake of an image of happiness. Women who fear a life of loneliness and make themselves willing to put up with a man and his mess, intentionally hurting them on chronic proportions. They buy into the lie that they cannot succeed without that man or that is better to have a bad man than none at all, so they find ways to cope. This gave me pause.

The movie plays on the notion of women actually being able to have it all and what that could look like. It made me think: Is all what I really want? If so, why do I want it all? Is it because someone made me believe I couldn’t? If I have it all, does that mean I proven someone wrong? Sure, we have heard many quotes from other affluent women saying “Yes. We can have it all, just not all at once” but at what cost? Who is really determining the all that I am supposed to have as woman? Me or a societal precept to make me feel equal to men? Deep questions for the next girl talk session.

A few days ago, I was talking to my leader and he said something simple but true.

Many times, we don’t even know what we really want. We say we do but our hearts can deceive us as well.

Major reality check!

Deep inside, Ryan really wanted to be a loved woman, a genuine inspiration to her readers and a good friend. That doesn’t sound like all but it’s enough for her. Maybe that is her all. I don’t ever want to be a woman who feels like she has to lie to herself to keep the things she has. That is not a full existence and it definitely is not healthy. Living in fear is not a life and many times it will cost you much more than your career or money. It costs you your happiness and peace of mind and they are way too valuable for that!

Marriage – A Union turn Contract

Ryan’s genius coping mechanism was to turn her marriage into a contract. She realized her husband’s infidelity issues were fast becoming the new norm for him and she needed to find a way to keep the façade undisturbed by the truth. Actually, there is nothing that states that she is the one who came up with this cock-a-mi-mi plan. For all we know, her husband could have been the brain child, the movie never makes it clear whose idea it was. Nonetheless, she agrees and is the only one honouring the rules and holding up her end of the bargain. The terms: He keeps his side-chicks under wraps and in order (out of the public eye) and she continues to have her façade intact. It’s clear this agreement is already to her determent from the get-go.

It all comes crashing down when his current side-chick becomes more persistent and begins showing up unannounced and crashing the façade in public. She is pregnant and wants her dues from Stewart. When we think Ryan has had enough, her husband reminds her of all she stands to lose if they don’t make this façade work. Especially when the offer of a well-paying reality show comes on the table. Stewart wants to have his cake and eat it too; side-chick and the spoils of his wife’s hard work. There is no love in his heart for Ryan. Only a contract that gives him what he wants, even when he does not honour his side. This is huge warning for all of us: Don’t try to make a marriage into a business deal. One party will always lose. Where love would give up selfish comforts for the happiness of the other person, business partnerships say ‘You do your part and I’ll do mine. If not, I’m out.’ Even though Ryan was in a contract, she still operated as a woman who loved her husband. The same was not true for Stewart. It was more about business and selfishness to him.

Knowing Your Worth Enough to Keep It

It is time for Ryan to make her keynote speech to hundreds of women waiting to hear what she has to say on the freshly dropped scandal. It’s all planned. The speech denies all allegations of the scandal and Ryan is doing a hell-of-a-job convincing everyone, right up until her three besties barge into her speech wearing bedazzled Flossy Possie denim jackets that Lisa made for each of them. It’s that moment when Ryan has to choose; continue with a lie or regain the woman she once was. Her friends standing in the isle reminds her of the freedom that comes when you can’t hide the truth from those who love you. And so, infront of an entire audience, she recants her speech and tells the whole truth. A riveting speech indeed as she encourage every woman to never let others tell them ‘you can’t’. They are the one who possess the ability to choose and make it happen. She spoke to them but we know she was really speaking to herself. Where Ryan believed that she was not strong enough to face life without her lie, her friends gave her the chance to see how powerful she really was on the inside. She was still Ryan Pierce, a woman, author and relationship coach. This time she learned how take her own advice and trusted the support of her friends. Her honesty and obvious motion for divorce made her even more successful as the single women’s market is a larger demographic. Way to go Ryan!

The moral of this story?

Good girlfriends aren’t perfect but they are women worth fighting to keep in your life.

‘Having it all’ sounds great but always be mindful of how much all can cost you. Maybe you can determine how much all means.

Fear of being alone will paralyze you from living a full life.

It’s important to know your worth and be willing to let go those who seek to undermine it.

#JCMD

 

 

 

“The One” Thing I Can Stand For.

At my youth group’s last Forerunner session, two of my besties shared candidly on the topic “Manifesting the Quest through Relationships”. Indeed, they were a perfect pair to speak on this as we all are eagerly looking forward to their happy transition from good friends to #MillarMatrimony come December. They highlighted on some pillars of relationship, like Trust, Value, Patience all while giving an audience of more than twenty, eyes and ears into their dating life and offering wisdom to our many personal questions.

Now… it really can’t be a relationship talk-shop without these two words coming up at least once: The One. The question usually goes like this: “How did you know he/she was the One for you?” Honestly, these words make all my insides cringe. We’ve heard it in almost every rom-com, chick-flick, romance novel, sit-com, series, poetry, music and everywhere else. These words seem to haunt to the hallowed halls that passionately ache for companionship in the hearts of men and women all over the world and especially now when millennials are anxious to post their #relationshipgoals on Instagram. Oh yes! That question was posed and needless to say, my friends did an excellent job of fielding it with much grace and understanding beyond their years.

To be honest, my aversion to these two words probably started after my last break-up. I know what you are thinking: One bad break-up and now I’m a cynic, trying to ruin the last beautiful thing in the world for everyone! But that couldn’t be farther from the truth! That break up also broke off this notion of “The One” and ushered in some of the most refreshing counsel and perspective on these words. Until then, I hadn’t understood how much trouble I was putting my heart in when I allowed those words to frame my view of love and relationship. I’ve often hoped that this real understanding of “The One” would be common knowledge for all my brothers and sisters in Christ but I’m not certain it is the case. These two words are still deeply rooted in the talk and thought of many Christian young men and women today. Makes me wonder, why?  I believe this is cause for some examination and conversation around this topic.

What is “The One”?

Google plainly describes it as “a person’s destined life partner.” You may have also heard it explained as a soul mate or that one true love. It is really a cute sentiment for hopeless romantics (like myself) to use when the pangs for longing hit the core of heart’s deep desire for a special someone who will love ONLY US and no-one else! The definition suggests that in this great big ole’ world, there is only one solitary love out there that will fulfill all our expectations for what good love is. One person… in 7 billion! Some haystack!

Subconsciously, I think our minds have already done the math and in looking for a more feasible alternative than roaming the length and breadth of the earth searching for someone, it resorts to an ongoing fantasy of strategic picking based on the ‘perfection list’ we have concocted in our heads. If in our minds a particular person, one we know or not, seems to fit the bill, then by Jove, that’s our soul mate! That’s The One! During my early teens, Daniel Radcliffe was my soul mate simply because he was British, a wizard and we both shared the same first name. Box office kismet! As we grow older and our list develops, we continue to pick and choose who to set our hearts on, from celebrities, to the guy at work, to the girl sitting next to you at church. We simply lure our hearts into thinking ‘maybe he/she is the One for me!’

Faulty thinking

The notion of “The One” carries with it some seriously faulty thinking:

The most obvious being that there is only one person for you to be happy with.
This drastically limits your opportunities at happiness while greatly increasing your chances at a life of unhappiness and depression. Joe Solomon had put forward two scenarios of possibly finding and marrying The One: What if they died due to some unfortunate circumstance. Does that mean you can never remarry because you have lost the only person fit for you? Or what if your soul mate married the wrong person.  What would that mean for you? And if other people marry the wrong person then wouldn’t that have a significant ripple effect on all the other people and their chances at being with The right One? Think about it! The likelihood of finding the perfect one is not as practical or as probable as we want to think.

There is no happiness or completion of self without this person.
“You complete me!” is the first thing we are waiting to say when our eyes meet and our hearts know we were made for each other! Before that, we hated our lives, careers, bodies, our hearts filled with deep discontentment until this one person comes and magically takes all of that away with a kiss. That void inside becomes filled… for a moment and then it needs constant refilling from the endless love you two share. However, no man or woman can successfully fill the voids in our hearts.

It is an awful mental default setting when a relationship goes wrong.
If the relationship ends, not matter whose fault it is, that person automatically gets disqualified as being The One for us anymore. So we keep moving on, never fully addressing real issues that may be present in our lives and affecting our relationships. Or they reverse is true, when we are willing to stay in painful, sometimes dangerous, relationships because we believe this person is the one for us! Or we wait for the person who we think is the one to come back to us because we missed our chance with them in the past.

We neglect the many possible hearts that could be “The One” during our ridiculous search.
“I’m sorry Bob! I just don’t think you are the one for me!” We can so quickly over look those who do not fit a stroke on our perfection list as unworthy of our interest. Many times, we are losing opportunities to befriend and get to know all kinds of different people, which is just healthy human behaviour period!

“The One” breeds selfishness and unrealistic expectation in our hearts.
That perfection list will never be met by a real person but our hearts have hella trouble trying to see past it. If we were honest about what was on our list, we would see how perfectly selfish they are, asking everything of the other person but requiring nothing from ourselves:

He/She must be:
Tall, 38 breast, long hair, no moustache, love their family but not too much so I won’t get jealous, sooooooo good in bed, cook, clean and wash, understand what I want before I have to say it, can handle my snoring or designer shoe fetish, reads Scriptures and spearheads our daily devotions. Oh, and must love everything about me… even my flaws! Amen!

Sounds familiar?

We can’t see past our idea of them.
We become walking, talking, somewhat delusional romantics, lost in our own fantasy world and consumed by our pursuit of love. Imagine every conversation leading to the same point… ‘I don’t know who they are but I know someone is out there (staring into middle distance) waiting for me!’ A misplaced hope in the universe to bring this person to us at just the right time. So not matter who we meet, our first impression of them will be judged based on how well they meet our list.

Forgive my sarcasm, exaggerations, melodrama and mockery, but I am trying to put across how wildly unhealthy this way of thinking can be. When every love song throws you into heated flash forwards of running in slow motion into the arms of The One, we have a problem that needs addressing!

Why is the notion of “The One” so dangerous?

Myles Munroe once said (paraphrased):

“If God had one person in this whole world that was perfect for you, he would keep you as far away from them as possible!”

Gotta love his flair for the profound!

He is absolutely right! If God in his wisdom and sovereignty had created a human being whose sole purpose was to fulfill every desire our heart could imagine then what need would we have for the Love of God through the Love of Christ Jesus? And God would have to do everything in His power to keep us from finding such a person! They would inevitably become our god for “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matthew 6:21)” . Everything we desire should not be locked up in any one person, outside of the God-Man Jesus!

In every portion of scripture, the Word of God points our hearts to the passionate sacrificial love of Jesus. The Only One who died for us and is able to touch and fill that God sized void in our heats! Isn’t it odd that nowhere in the Bible are the words “The One” recorded as referring to the pursuit of a mate or marriage? Yes, we can argue that the Bible was written centuries before this jargon came about but still, in any case, the title of “The One” befits only one God (Jehovah), the one man, Jesus Christ (God’s Son) and the one Holy Spirit (God’s Spirit)! (And maybe his archetype Neo if you are into the Matrix!) That understanding alone should begin to put the position of a future spouse into perspective.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37)” –  Our God is jealous of us and desires our hearts to be fully set on Him as The Only One who can satisfy us. Taking that glory and bestowing it in the head of a mere man is a perversion of who man is in relation to God and it will begin to destroy all our relationships, chiefly our relationship with God.

Can “The One” be good?

Advice from my youth leader: “They only become The One on your wedding day!” Within the context of covenant, ‘The One’ you take down the aisle is a good thing! Covenant is what makes the two, one flesh (Genesis 2:24) and the courtship/engagement process should be a prayerful and watchful time to ensue one is making a good/best/right decision on who to marry. They will in no ways be perfect as you will be also but God has given us all free will to choose even down to our mates! Thank goodness He still gives guidance during that time.

Paradigm shift required

In recent years, I have become more aware of what is commonly said. Many times we say things we believe and are unconscious of why we believe them and how that belief is impacting our lives. Human beings love stories and we particularly enjoy the love stories of others. No shame in that! Our curiosity about how others came to know who they should marry fuels our own desire to know who we might marry.  Depending on if we like their story, we can intentionally try to recreate the love story of others in our lives, in hopes to not miss our chance at happiness and bliss. Maybe it is time we trust God to guide us in this area than to make it happen how we have imagined it for years. We submit all things to God in prayer, even ‘The One’, and ask for His best instead. God’s best is Himself first. He is The One our hearts are longing for. He may not look or feel like much at first but with time and understanding, God shows himself to be True. I like to think that when we are willing to accept Jesus as the love of God shown to us in the most unexpected way, then our hearts become willing to receive His version of what Love and Relationship looks like in others. If it’s any consolation, I’m sure all our stories will be romantic ones on our way to covenant.

With that being said,

Let the record show, that Jesus Christ is only version of ‘The One’ worth looking for. #JCMD

Win or Lose…

It has been a few years, nine years to be exact, that I have entered a public competition. My glory days of pageantry have been turned into the training days for aspiring queens and taking the position of teacher rather than student. It is a rewarding shift in position indeed and that gave me all the more reason to believe that I was way too ‘old’ to put myself out their competitively again. If not old, past my season. Needless to say, when one of my girlfriends sent me #TheFaceofCaveShepherd enter form, I was naturally hesitant. I must admit that I maintained a keen interest in the competition but somehow it would always come and go without my notice. This year however, that notice came early.

I gave in to the intrigue and decided to enter, only after I threw out the idea to my mentors. And so the process began and boy, did it wake up my senses. Here’s a list of four personal Fun facts I encountered during the competition:

Fun fact #1: I am competitive. Yup! Really!

The point of entering any competition is because YOU WANT TO WIN! Winning can be one of the most addictive feelings a person can experience and I know how good it feels. Competitions bring out my strategic, charming, ‘I will impress the socks off of you’ side during its exciting and rather nerve racking process. Yes! As long as it is a competition, no matter how big or small, it carries a level of angst to it. When I compete (or when I do anything), everything must be in order, researched, planned and prepared for and ready to be rolled out at the drop of a hat. I will do what it takes to be at my best on show. No matter how crazy things get, I must maintain a calm and collected demeanor, simply because ‘I got this handled!’ or so I tell myself. However, by the time we had reached the last round, the fashion show, I had relinquished the tight reigns of competition mode and made the decision to go out there and have ‘way too much fun!’. When next would I get an opportunity like this to strut my stuff? Secretly, I’ve always wanted to be a Top Model like in ANTM! Love that show and it taught me so much about print/catwalk modelling. I may not fit that industry but it is always so much fun to walk the runway!

Fun fact #2: Being the oldest competitor made me feel insecure.

Age is a beautiful thing. The number suggests the combined years of wisdom and knowledge needed to effectively navigate the world around us. At the same time, that number can also mean the reason for disqualification or acceptance in many spheres. As young as the number 26 is, trust and believe that it seemed to turn on its head and read a lot like a 62 when compared to the obvious youth of my fellow competitors. In both the males and females, I was a whopping 6-10 years older. I battled instant feelings of ‘Oh my gosh… I’m too old for this! What the hell am I doing? I must look like that wanna-be-young-again-chick who needs to get herself a real job and leave this for the young ones to beef out.’ Oh yea… it was that bad in my head. My insecurity often made me feel out of place, sometimes question my own level of maturity and hope that my age would be what sets me apart. I know I hadn’t misread the entry form age category of 18-35 (rather wide I know) but when it came to Top 10, I wondered if I had over-reached and was hoping to attain something other than the win. Validation perhaps? Self-actualization? Or to say ‘I still got it!’? Either way, it gave me pause. I had to be sure that I was still maintaining who I was despite how ‘old’ I felt, simply because I have never felt ‘old’ before lol. When I wanted to withdraw from my competitors, I sat amongst them, made conversation, answered questions, lent a hand and gave them compliments or suggestions. I am not one to shy away or be distant in the midst of people and the more I engaged, the more the age barrier in mind seemed to fade… a little! Heck, they all thought I was 21 anyway. And one girl, still called me old (as a term of endearment I suppose lol). Regardless of age, it is good to know that I have the ability to genuinely interact with any age, younger or older. They were all lovely competitors.

Back in the day, I was a two-time teenage pageant queen and model when I had the body for most things. At 26, my frame resembles that of a blossoming woman, no longer than of a teenager. Oh, did I mention that the other young ladies were trim teenagers! I remember going to our fitting two days before the fashion show and finding out that we would have to model a swimsuit. My stomach sank! And not flat enough to wear a swimsuit! I was so naïve to think that swimwear would not be an option. I dreaded the thought of modelling a swimsuit in public and got super bashful! I immediately expressed my shock and concern. The stylist heard me out and simply said, “Trust me, I got you!”, and so we went on the hunt for my swimsuit. Can I tell you that I thought about not going through with the competition in that moment? I was not prepared for this! I was caught off-guard and feeling completely vulnerable about my body until she gave me option to choose what I felt comfortable in. That was a tremendous help and even more so that the stylist understood my body concerns. Within moments I had chosen a piece that was so perfect for my body that I wish I bought it! Monokinis are life! It even came with a shrug that added more coverage and sass! It is one thing to get comfortable with your body at your own pace behind the closed doors of your bedroom but it is a whole other story to suck it up (or suck it in) and werk it down a runaway like nobody’s business! But I did! I felt comfortable enough to take this opportunity and be confident in my own skin in PUBLIC! It was exhilarating and validating. My first walk down the catwalk was in swimwear and I SLAYED! It was like a bit of my glory days again and I LOVED IT!

Fun fact #3: Not winning taught me the value of having a clear vision of what my personal goal was.

Imagine giving it your all and knowing that you did your very best while you await the results. Maybe you’ve won, maybe you haven’t. If you win ‘YES!’, but if you didn’t, what does that mean? As I tell my trainees many times during their preparation for competition, ‘You must always prepare yourself for the possibility of not winning.’ One’s response to an unfavourable result says a whole lot about who they are on the inside. So I did what I had taught in those quick moments before the result were announced, prepare myself for every possible reality. Sure enough, I was not called as the winner. That was a bummer but it must mean something. My heart sank alittle but it didn’t stay there too long as I joined with all the patrons to clap on the winners. These things happen. We don’t always win but my mind raced to find the significance of this entire process and to not win in the end. The answer didn’t come until about an hour later, after I was saying my goodbyes and heading home after the show. Four very influential ladies I had the pleasure to meet, saw my value and made it clear of their intention to connect with me in the future. That response jogged my memory of the message I had sent to my Youth leader explaining what my real intentions were for entering this competition. The point was to win, but my goal was to win favour. Putting myself into a different sphere to meet and connect with more affluent people was one of my goals, if not the main one. It was more than just a competition for me but a chance to step into new expanding circles. Dare I say, that was accomplished!

Fun fact #4: I can still take it all in stride.

Win or lose, I’ve learned to learn from it all. Thank God for the tougher times in my life when ‘down’ was such a reality that all my eyes could focus on was ‘up’. In those moments I understood that life is more about how you move on and move forward. I’m glad I put myself out there again and went along for the ride. There is no telling where it will lead and even if it never lead past those final results, it was not in vain. Now I refocus and look ahead to my next ‘stride’ into wherever! Not losing momentum but gaining it! #JCMD

Milestone

My 26th year of life has begun.

It didn’t come with a whole bunch of bells and whistles.  Rather it came like that moment you realize it’s exactly 12am and you think to yourself ‘Wow… it’s my birthday. Happy birthday to me!’ Immediately, I was overcome by the feeling of real contentment and  happiness that rises from the inside. Externally, my dad, sister and I had just gotten home from a movie to a quiet house and I was alone with my thoughts after a quick call from my mum. When I took the time to consider my life again, I found that I am actually happy and I have been happy for a while now. Regardless of what I think I don’t have or haven’t obtained as yet, when it all boils down to it, I couldn’t really find much more to ask for than what I already have right now. Even when I tried to tell my friends what I wanted for my birthday, I came up so short for things because outside of one specific thing (God knows what it is and no it ain’t a bae lol), I have all that I need:

My family and all their crazy, not so perfect love and support,

My church and church family as my bedrock,

My amazing, yet ever-so shady friends who I would never trade,

A ‘work in progress’ relationship with my Lord and Saviour that is legit getting better,

Peace, assurance, joy, grit, an ever growing clarity of purpose and determination with little emotional mess.

It feels like a coming of age, a standing in one’s shoes, a sureness of step, a shift into more good things.

I like this person I have become, the woman I have become. She’s pretty cool. Still got a few ducks out of line but she is getting there, bit by bit.

I find myself considering all things including what I look like at 26. Have you ever noticed that when you think of yourself, you look alittle different than in reality? Not totally different but in our minds, we tend to construct the kind of self we would like to see as opposed to what we really look like. Smaller waist, bigger booty, toner figure, longer hair, nails, legs, etc, etc.  I am pushing myself to accept who I am and what I look like right now in the mirror. Big cheeks that transform my face into a full moon when I smile, a people’s eye-brow, thick arms and legs that could only be genetic, every mole, every ripple, every mark… all mine. And I’m beautiful with all of it. Seems like the road to acceptance is a life long journey full of small daily steps.

I’m excited about life and living, even when it gets its toughest because deep down inside I know Who is in control and because of that I know it’ll all work out. My constant prayer has been ‘Lord, just keep me alive. I don’t want to miss anything that You’ve got in store.’ Every moment of this life is precious and I’m truly grateful to look ahead at the many tomorrows of 26. But until those tomorrows come, it feels so good to be 26 today! #JCMD

#icannotwithher or can you?

Scenario #1
“But Danie, you know women like that.”
“Like what?”
“CATTY! Once two women in a room, there’s gonna be competition. Somebody will envy the other woman’s hair, or dress or nails or something.”
“C’mon! It’s not like that all the time. I’m a woman… I know!”
“Right! But 90% of the time it’s like that tho.”

Scenario #2
“You know, I admire your female friendships.”
“Thanks. I love my girlies.”
“You being a genuine friend is impressive. You know, with all the stigma that women can’t be friends or that they are always fighting one another.”
shocked face “Oh… I see.”

These scenarios were pulled from very real conversations I have had with two brothers in my life. Needless to say, in both conversations I sadly realized that men also believe to some degree that the stigma and stories are the part that represents the whole. I have heard and witnessed it said by women but this was new for me to hear that men thought it too. That’s disconcerting! Honestly, the comment about being impressed at my being a genuine friend stung like rubber-band snap to the skin and I was quite annoyed. I know he meant no harm by it but still! Why should genuine girlfriendship be heralded as something almost miraculous? I mean, men have bro-codes and bro-mances tighter than gridlock and it’s nothing that compels people to feel impressed. Cute they are but perfectly ordinary. Aren’t good friendships between women just as normal and common in society?

Women can’t be each others friends!

Look, I get it! Women are emotionally hardwired and can be temperamental with each other. Put any more than one of them in a space and there is a chance it’s going to be a crying, yelling, misunderstanding, negative vibes-catching, all-out scratch-fight mess of a situation that will lead to an on-going feud for years to come. So said The Real Housewives of Atlanta. If that’s how it has been for some you ladies reading this, then yes, maybe it is true to this effect. However, though I have experienced some female fall-out in my life (mainly in my pre-teen and teen-age years), this is not, and I repeat NOT my reality today! And  the same is true for many other ladies out there. But I would be a monkey’s uncle if I go around either assuming or propagated this idea. Women not being able to befriend one another is just not a true reality. I am neither saying nor less counting that many ladies, myself included, have experienced first-hand the hurt and loss of a female friendship we once held dear. ish happened and it was probably the worst kind of ‘break-up’ we have ever had to endure. But, for one to believe that cattiness will be the result of every other female friendship in their life is a limiting and isolating way to live. I want to address this.

As women, we all intrinsically know how incredibly valuable other women are in our lives. We look at our grandmothers, mother, sisters and aunts as pillars of strength, deeply nurturing and full of love and support. We love her because she seems to understand and as we get older, she gets us and we get her alittle more. Why? Because she is a woman and so are you. You are living out very similar situations that she has faced at every stage of life. The same is true for the non- familial women around us. They are women and so are you. In each of them lie the core qualities that make them valuable and so do you. Instead of looking up to her in a vertical mother- daughter relationship, we are looking across to her in a horizontal woman-woman friendship.

We are the same.

There is an activity conducted at a women connect group called Girls Night Out Barbados that encourages seeing the women standing infront of you as your mirror. A simple exercise really but it has a profound effect on the mind. Without going into much detail, two women who are strangers, stand holding hands and speaking to each other as though they were looking at themselves in a mirror. Only positive words are to be uttered. The premise of this exercise is founded on the fact that the woman you are looking at, in more ways than one, is exactly like you and will endure many of the same things you will. Immediately we realize, she is not my enemy but my ally. We may be in different places in our lives but we are fundamentally the same. Through communication and mutual respect, we can gain this understanding and eventually we begin to say thing like ‘if I was in her situation, with her background and her reality, I probably would have done the same thing (or worse lol).’ Or even if we can not see ourselves responding the same way, we can always find a similar situation in our own lives when we had that same response. Identifying with each other on the mere fact that we are women should unite us and being to change our perspective.

If I understand me, then I can understand her.

In every relationship, the one thing we all crave is to be understood. Who better to understand how women function than a woman. Clearly men have a major issue here when it comes to old adage ‘woman are so complicated’ and they are some delicate areas of womanhood that men will never truly be able to relate to. It’s not their fault. They are just solaces that can only be found in female friendship. Bae won’t always get it but your girlfriend might! Being able to rest some of our heaviest burdens and questions on the shoulders of girlfriendship requires trust and transparency. Many times it is when we are vulnerable with our hearts that we find understanding hearts coming to our rescue. Where I may have an issue, someone else may be able to shed some light and that works both ways. When it comes to good protocol, do what you would like others to do for you. We all want the same things: share, listen, be heard, be understood.

So if we are the same and we fundamentally want the same things, then by theory a mutual coming together in friendship should work, right? Yea, but friendship like every other relationship is a two-way street that demands action on both sides. Each of us is responsible for our own actions toward the other woman and that we have to be mature about.

And on the point of maturity, allow me to offer a few words.

To the woman who is female-friendship jaded: FORGIVE HER!

Whoever she was and for whatever she did. Forgive her! Own the hurt you feel and then actively address it. It may mean you get to have a civilized conversation with her or you may have to forgive her on your own without the apology you want. Needless to say, it is on you to do something constructive about the hurt you feel. Let it go, change your perspective and give other women a chance to affirm the benefits of good girlfriendship.

To the woman too afraid to be hurt again: ASK!

Ask for what you want. If you see a lady you admire or would love to connect with, muster up some courage, get off your butt and go introduce yourself to her. Let her know what you like in her and then ask if you can be friends. I have actually had to do this exact step before and fortunately, to this day, I have not regretted asking. A humbling step but so worth it.

To the woman who feels like good girlfriends are a myth: CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE!

Stop allowing yourself to revert to stinking thinking. I personally will not allow myself to give into the notion of women not being able to get along, especially sisters in Christ! I actively refuse this idea every time in comes into my space. They are just some thoughts I don’t allow and that is one of them. You can choose to believe in the good of people rather than assume the worst.

To the all of us who want good girlfriendships in our lives: BE THE FRIEND YOU WANT!

When misunderstands come, deal with them as you give each other the benefit of doubt until clarity can be found. Check offense when it comes and examine it before you fuel it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to apologize at very honest girl chats. There is a whole lot that can be said here but it can me summed up like this: Add and be added to. Give and be given to. Support and be supported. Care and be cared for, etc, etc, etc.

I think it’s time this false idea died or fades into background of the bright examples already around us. Shout out to all you ladies living this out! We are doing this! Let’s Girlfriend together! #JCMD

 

The High Standard Reality: Part 2

Guarding our heart helps us to be wise about the relationships we engage that will ultimately impact our lives. Now that’s serious business! Simply because with time, we get to see the impact of those relationships in our lives. Choosing a spouse is a really big deal but let’s not look pass how important it is also to choose good friends or mentors. A spouse is not the key to a happy and fully life, Christ is. And the Spirit of Christ is in you and many people around you. Therefore, happiness is always possible, regardless of if bae is in or out of your life. So, it goes without saying that ‘high standards’ are applicable to every kind of deep, meaningful relationship in our lives.

The High Standard of Character

There is the sense that a good standard has a holistic aspect to it that requires integrity in ever area of our lives where we seek to experience lasting relationship.

A few things to consider when it comes to standards in general:

A. The higher the standard, the more we are required to uphold it. We should never hold people accountable to a standard we ourselves are not striving for. That’s straight-up unreasonable and sort of trifling. We have to be the ones who personally bear our standards. However, we tend to judge people wrongfully when they don’t measure up to our expectations. If we can stay cognizant of the fact that we must uphold our own standards first then, more often than not and if we are honest, we can see where we are lacking and probably where others will lack as well. Let grace abound… refrain from knocking people over the head with the standard stick. A good way to even out the ‘measuring stick’ for your standards is to determine what or where you are basing them on. Is it a philosophy or world wide? A person or an opinion? Figuring this out will also help you connect with other persons who have the same source or basis for their standards.

B. If you have established that your basis is Jehovah God and His Word, know that God often checks our hearts for motive or intent:
What is really driving us to make the decisions we make and do the things we do?
Motive is a direct reflection of character and God is very interested is forming/re-forming our characters. Understanding what God is looking for in all of us can help cast vision on what kind of standards we should be interested in upholding, i.e. the type of standards that encourage good, godly character in us and in others.

A few things I’ve notice about godly standards for romantic relationships:

  1. Godly standards do the weeding for you.

We all know that godly standards are naturally high (to stretch us and not to condemn us) and it takes the work of Lord to help us accomplish any of it. That is the saving grace of godly standards. For any man to live up to them, he would have to have to the work of the Lord in his life, helping him to accomplish it. Everyone else, will fall by the way-side sooner or later. Like us, he won’t be perfect but if he is genuine, his efforts to aspire to that of a godly man will prove his merit. Whoever that man is, he should at least feel a personal responsibility to God and then to himself to be a good man to the women around him. Be observant and watch him carefully. You will know him by his fruit. Hopefully!

Real talk: I must admit, very recently I found myself contemplating dating unsaved men when the time came, somewhat convinced that there was little difference between them and saved men.Thank God for the many examples of godly men in my life and church that remind me that they are still men out there willing to honour God in how they treat their sisters in Christ. Good men are out there and around you. Don’t believe the lies that say otherwise.

2. Godly standards will make you *wait. (waiting suggests abstaining from sex and sexual activity until marriage, whether you’ve indulged before or not.)

I know, I know! This is the part we absolutely hate to hear. But look on the bright side… Patience is a virtue and “who can find a virtuous woman? For her worth is far above rubies (Proverbs 31:10 NKJV)”. May we all be found by good men! Let the church say, Amen. Yes! We will have to wait for this man, so resolve that in your own heart right away. I encourage you not to see waiting as just the time between singleness and getting a boyfriend but a season that is a gift from God to you. While patience is doing its work in your life, get busy doing all the things you have in your heart. Get fit for yourself, read the books on your list, travel and meet new people, volunteer or start the business you’ve dream of. Get to work on you and live a full life. See Philippians 4:6-8. This waiting period is for you and for him. Sometimes, we are the ones who need convincing first that we are worth waiting for.

Real talk: I want to add that we will have to face the possible reality of waiting for the rest of our natural lives. Any good thing is worth waiting for but the best thing we could ever want, that brings satisfaction to us daily, is an intimate relationship with God through Christ Jesus. In the event the wait proves longer than expected, we have to make a resolve as to what you will do. Continue to wait or not. The choice is yours.

3. Godly standards mean you are bringing something to the table.

No one wants to come to the proverbial relationship table with nothing of merit to offer. Outside of being debt-free, owning your own car, apartment or home; well developed character traits can definitely flip the script. Honesty coupled with integrity, compassion, patience, kindness in anger, not holding a grudge, generosity, an encouraging tongue – all these things and more help to bring incredible value to a romantic relationship. Once some of these qualities come along with the practical ones in the lives of both persons seated at the table, then we can argue that the table is worth sitting at in the first place.

4. Godly standards can save and preserve you.

Imagine having the freedom to date at safe enough distance that still allows you and your prospect to remain friends even if you never decide to pursue a romantic relationship. A standard usually implies some measure of boundaries that will need to be established and respected. You become the watchman of your own fence, which means you get to decide what and who you let in and leave out. Not every prospect we meet will be bae, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a valuable asset to our circle and visa-versa. Refraining from physical and emotional activities that come with romantic relationships tends to alleviate much of the drama that can come from getting-involved too quickly with someone. The time you might have taken to figure out you and your prospect are on different wave lengths before hitting second base on date three, could have been spent in rigorous conversation about life and the world. If it’s not working out between you and your prospect, say so and give both of you the opportunity to part ways amicably. Less knots to untie, if you catch my drift.

5. Godly standards are for every relationship – platonic and romantic.

Going back to what I mentioned earlier about God’s real interest in the state of our heart and character, we are not supposed to relegate godly standards to only dating relationships. Godly standards do not exist in a vacuum but are applied daily to each and every kind of relationship we currently have in our lives: familial, friendly, professional and church. These relationships are like training grounds. At least we get to put in good practice with these platonic relationships for when we do manage to start a romantic one.

All in all, high standards are not the enemy but a tool that can assist in building stable, solid relationships based on more than just emotion, sex, common interest and everything else. Plus they give us the ability to be good stewards of the well-spring that is our heart. Singleness is REAL so we’ve got to be just as REAL with how we setting up our lives for the best kind of relationship success. #JCMD

 

The High Standard Dilemma: Part 1

Over the years, women all around the world, especially those sisters in church, have been encouraged by friends, ministers, public figures and people of influence (usually happily married or unhappily divorced), to keep their standards of self and the requirements for a ‘good enough’ bae high. Very high! It sounds a lot like this:

“Men are chasers. You can’t make it easy for them. You have to give them something to pursue”,“Be a woman of value”, or “Keep your standards high so he will have something to aspire to.”

However, many women who have attempted to establish these high standards in their dating lives have quickly found out the reality of those standards… Ain’t no reasonable man be trying to slide up in their dms EVER! These women now face a new dilemma – stiff criticism from the same men, friends and whoever else telling them flatly – Your standards are way too high! It sounds like this:

“You’re intimidating men”, “You come across too high-maintenance”, “You will never find a man that meets all the points on your checklist”, “Don’t ask about his convictions on sex-before-marriage on the first date, you’ll scare him off!”, “Ever thought about maybe lowering your standards alittle?”

Oh, the irony!

So what is a self-respecting, purpose- driven, ‘don’t want no mess in my life but really would love a good relationship’ kind-of woman supposed to do? What is she to make of this apparent lose-lose predicament of having high standards for potential boyfriends but no real prospects willing to take her on?

She says: High standards only work for some women but it won’t work for me.
Some women have given up completely on this notion of standards, let alone high standards, convinced that the era of noble gentlemen has long passed with the idyllic fields of Jane Austen novels.

She says: Since the situation is hopeless, the least I can do is have alittle fun, right?
The result is women having subconsciously surrendered themselves to the depths of settling, willing to aggressively capture their career but passively allow the next cute guy that smiles at them to get some goodies*.
(Goodies could mean sex or the emotional benefits of a relationship without actually being in one.)

She says: This is the real world. 21st century men are only looking to have a good time at the expense of my heart and resources while nimbly dodging the slightest hint of ‘commitment’.
The prospects for marriage have become so ‘grim’ that more and more women are investing in freezing their eggs and checking out donor clinics as an act of preserving any opportunity to have children if they are not wed or in serious relationship by the age of 35. Others make sure to have their trustee sex toys near to hand, to relieve themselves when there is no lover who can. Many beat themselves up emotionally, gorging on so-called self-help and quack ‘3 steps to get a man’ advice columns that tend to suggest the onus is largely on the woman to make herself into a real life, sexually experimental, male-fantasy in hopes of getting the relationship she wants because everyone knows that if you don’t want to have sex with yourself then no one else will want to either!  *eyes rolling*

I hear you ladies. It is tough out-in-these-single-streets but maybe I can offer another perspective on those standards. Before you order a new ‘personal toy’, give over to a life of meaningless-flings or a reckless ‘rat-boxy’, hear me out.

High standards won’t get you a man! Period! Yea, I  said it!

If they did, more of us would be booed-up by now. No matter how ‘noble’ they are, if your standards are not your convictions (the things you personally feel strongly about) then there is no-way you or anyone else will take those standards seriously. High standards are important but they are a means to an end. The end is the woman who carries herself as a standard bearer for what she believes in and is willing to safe-guard her heart at all costs. Which, when we think about it, is much more significant. The purpose of a standard is not to be the bait on the end of a fishing line, helping you hook a man. Rather, a good standard will help you establish your own worth to yourself and others; i.e. less for drawing him in and more for setting you apart. Seeing yourself as valuable can determine what kind of situations (or misters) you allow into your heart and that puts the ball squarely in your court for choosing who can approach you.

Didn’t see that one coming right? Neither did I.

When I was growing up, my Mathematics lessons teacher often gave life lessons in the middle of class. It was a welcomed break from the rigors of trigonometry but this time he got caught on a tangent that literally stuck with me to this day.

“Young ladies, guard your hearts.”

Ofcourse, his mini lecture carried more details but that one sentence branded me. I had never heard that before.  A part of me always felt that that was a man’s job. I mean, that’s what fairy tales propagated anyway. “Man is the protector,” isn’t that what society says? So why was he telling me to guard my own heart?

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

Oh… right!

Contrary to popular belief, your heart is your business. No one else. The only person more interested in your heart than you, is God. This is because our hearts hold ideas, opinions, emotions and free will. From our hearts we act out how we feel about ourselves, people, and the world around us. And what we do, says alot about what we got going on in our hearts. So if you think there is no hope for you romantically, then that’s exactly how you will act and that’s exactly the kind of bitter results you will get. It’s only when I got older that I truly understood how important it is for a woman (and men) to actively guard her heart like her quality of life depended on it; because in a lot of ways, it does!

A big part of guarding your heart is addressing what is already in it. Some people call this soul-searching or heart-checking, which is the process one takes to unpack and examine the things that are currently stumbling blocks or cornerstones in the walls of their heart. Investing time to gain clarity about why we function the way we do and then experience real healing from the wounds in our past can assist in laying a stable foundation for Love to rest on.

Have you ever asked yourself any of these questions:
What is my concept of love and relationship and where did I get it from?
Why do I want a relationship?
Do I even know what I want out of a relationship?
Do I possess the qualities I value most?
Am I emotionally, mentally and physically ready to engage in a romantic relationship? Why yes or why no?
Is it a relationship that I want or is it a better me that I want?

If not, definitely take the time to do so! This is not an exhaustive list and the questions can touch ever aspect of life to ensure a better grasp of self. I’d encourage you to seek out a good counselor who can help you through this exercise.

Starting with YOU is a good way to identify what really matters and what you feel most strongly about. Once you come to a place where you are clear and comfortable with who you are and what you want, then the option to settle will drift into the background. Your standards will become a part of you.

Being honest with yourself first allows you to be authentic in the presence of others without feeling like you have to hide or change to capture his heart. A happy, balanced ‘you’ is IMPORTANT and beautiful. If his eyes can’t see that, then keep moving.

Acting out in frustration is one way to deal with the dilemma but you do have choices. One is the chance to improve your concept of ‘you’ from a holistic perspective. You won’t guard what you don’t think is important and maybe that is why so many of us ladies have allowed despair to set in and skew our idea of relationships and men.We have lost sight of how valuable we actually are.

I know we all would love to find the perfect guy but he really doesn’t exist pass the ink on our checklist. We’ve gone as far as trying to make a guy into what we want or putting up with who he is because we see potential. Both of those attempts are futile! But the good news is that you can receive a different result if you pay attention to one variable… YOU! Before you drop the standard, try being the standard for your own sake. #JCMD