Thank God for the Challenge #Sunday

Sometimes I read mini-devotionals from the Bible app, and I came across one a few weeks ago that had a sentence in it that resonated with me: “Thank God for the challenge that exposed the giant.” It’s from a book called Unashamed written by Christine Caine and it totally sums up the ways in which my life has been shaped over the last few years, and why. Sometimes we don’t even know the issues of faith we have until the giants in our lives are exposed. So today I want to encourage you to thank God for the things He’s allowed to come your way to show you who He is and what you can overcome through Him. Your problems may loom large in your mind right now, but remember, giants do fall. Happy Sunday, everyone!

 

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Home is Where the Heart Is #HomeDecor (Pic Heavy)

As you can see in the picture, there’s about an inch of snow and ice around my way. Which, in the South, means that we’ve been staying inside for the most part. Thankfully, I’m not prone to cabin fever. In fact, since I work from home now, I pretty much spend every day in the house. It makes me think about home, and what that means. To me, home is supposed to be a safe haven. A place you can’t wait to get to on days like this, when it’s cold and dreary outside. Home should be a sanctuary and a place of supreme comfort and joy. My point is that you should never underestimate the importance of creating a space that is not only functional, but aesthetically pleasing as well. It can do wonders for your well-being. The best part is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to make it happen. I shop discount stores and second-hand shops to make the space I live in a place that I actually want to be in.

Keep it tidy. This is a challenging part of making home comfortable for me. I’m a creative by nature, which means that sometimes I spend so much time in another world that I forget about the humdrum part of taking care of this one. I tend to leave a few pairs of shoes in one spot, and some shirts hanging off a door knob in another. But, when I take time to straighten up, I feel so much better. Plus, I get to see my home the way I envisioned it when I bought the stuff to put in it in the first place.

Choose colors that evoke the feelings you want to fill the room. For instance, cool tones like blue tend to lend a calm feeling. It’s why my bedroom is accented with it. Yellow sparks creativity and lifts the spirit, which is why by office is predominantly yellow. Think about what you want to feel and the mood you want to create, then choose colors and textures that lend themselves to it.

Art matters, and so do other aesthetics. I like to surround myself with things that are pretty and make me smile. It’s rarely ever fancy or expensive things that do this. Mostly patterned prints, whimsical curtains, candles and sentimental pieces. Pick objects that you fall in love with at first sight, or that hold special memories. Some things in your home don’t need to have a practical function, they just need to bring you joy. Art is one of those things. They provide warmth and dimension to any room. I have four pictures of art in my bathroom alone, all of them made of word art with phrases that inspire hope. It may be a little bit of overkill, but I like it, and that’s all that really matters.

Make sure it’s functional. I struggle with this, because I’m quick to get furniture or other objects that are pretty, but maybe not so functional. Case in point, I have a desk and a bookshelf that are too small, but look great, and a desk chair that’s gorgeous, but sits too low and isn’t ergonomic. I also don’t have a space for my printer. I was so focused on creating an open feel in my small office that I neglected to think about things from a practical standpoint. Make sure that the room you’re buying for will function like it’s supposed to, and add to that with things that are beautiful.

Live plants make a world of difference. This is something I’m still working on. I have a green thumb, but my sister doesn’t. When I had surgery, and then we moved, she left one of my plants at the old house. When I was sick for a few weeks last Spring, she killed my other plant. Now I’m plantless and seeking, lol. But anyway, plants give life and vibrancy to any space. They’re also a natural air filter, so if you can, get some plants. They’ll make you feel alive.

Everything doesn’t have to match. I grew up in an era when everything had to be coordinated to a ‘T’. The 80’s were all about matching accesories and tube socks. So it took a while for me to get out of that way of thinking and enjoy mixing, colors, shades, metals and textures. When you do, it makes for a much more interesting room, offering dimension and interest.

A coat of paint makes a world of difference. And it’s an inexpensive way to quickly transform any room in your house. Stick to muted, light colors if you’re a novice painter and planning to do it yourself. It’ll hide your mistakes and beginner’s technique better. Light colors also make rooms appear larger, while darker colors do the opposite. Factor in the amount of natural light available and remember that colors tend to look a shade darker once they dry. Patch tests are a must if you’re picky. Also, keep in mind that painting is a lot of hard work. The movies showing a very pregnant woman painting her baby’s nursery are a joke. My sister and I painted when my mother moved back in with us last month, and we were both sore and jacked up afterwards. If you can afford it, pay someone else to do it. It’s worth it!

I hope you all enjoyed my little tips. I don’t know where my desire to write about home decor came from! I guess it has a lot to do with the fact that I’ve spent the last several months at home pretty much all of the time. What’s that? Oh, yeah, I know. Getting a life is most definitely on my to-do list.

Any decorating tips for me? Where are your favorite places to shop for home decor deals? Mine are Ross, Target, Salvation Army/Goodwill and Wal-Mart.

And here are some pictures of my unfinished office space. I still have a few little touches to add (like pictures of my family and wire hiding baseboard thingys), but it has been a space that has inspired me to start writing my novels again, amongst other creative undertakings. 🙂

Office Couch: Craig’s List. Yellow pillows:Target. “Believe” pillow: Ross. White Mirrored Clock: Ross. Empty frames: Michael’s. I spray painted them with gold glitter and a matt light blue. I may put pictures in them later, but for now I like them empty.
Yellow curtains: Target. White Privacy curtains: Target. Stool/Ottoman: Ross. Dream picure: Ross
End table made of various crates: Wal-Mart. Lamp: Ikea Frame: Ross
White Shelf: Wal-Mart. Vases: Ross. Decorative risers: Hobby Lobby. Jelly Mason Jars: Amazon. Battery operated tea lights: Amazon. Glass frame: Ross. My ugly printer that I don’t know where to put: Best Buy. (I’m thinking of getting a decorative scarf or something to put over it.)
Tray: Ross. Joy cup: Bed Bath & Beyond. Word Art/Frame: Target and Ross.
Chair: Ross. Desk: Target. Mason Jar Pencil Holder Set: Target.
Pin Cushion Board: Ross
A painting made for me by my therapy group. It’s of one of my favorite scriptures, with a heart made out of their hands. Absolutely priceless.
Textured rug: Ross

 

 

Jen’s Secret #ShortStory #Series

I hope y’all are ready for another installment of our short story series. I need to think of a title for it, but for now let just call it “Jen’s Secret”. If you missed Part 1, you can check it out here

♥♥♥

My legs feel like lead. I struggle to pull myself from the deep sleep I so desperately needed. Surviving on fours hours a night is catching up to me big time. A spring from the thin sleeper sofa mattress juts into my hip, but still, I don’t want to get up. What I wouldn’t give for five more minutes of peace.

I gingerly disentangle myself from Sienna, her moist skin sticking to mine as I slide my arm out from under her. Why do children sweat so much when they sleep? She sighs, and rolls over towards her sister, automatically seeking the comfort of another warm body. My youngest has always been needy. I’m pretty sure it’s my fault. Ever since she was born, things have been tough. Working odd jobs and keeping crazy hours doesn’t allow me to spend much time with her. I may not have a college degree, but I work with kids every day and I know how important it is for them to have a secure attachment and a routine.

I also know how important it is for them to have a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs.

Which is why I’m tiptoeing around my converted garage apartment, trying to get ready for my overnight shift at Wal-Mart, without waking up my kids. I stub my toe on the metal bar at the bottom of the bed and puff out a breath of air from the pain, stifling a groan. I’m inspecting my foot for damage when I hear a soft whisper, “Ma? You OK?”

Theresa’s face is illuminated by a halo of warmth from Mrs. Posada’s back porch light. She’s half sitting up, resting on her elbows, a look of concern etched across her pretty face. I reassure her, “I’m fine, baby. Go back to sleep.”

“I told you to get a night-light.”

She had, because she’s the kind of little girl who thinks far too much about practical things. “I know. I’ll pick one up from work tonight.”

“And some wood glue for my project?”

Shoot! I’d forgotten she was supposed to build one of the California missions. “Yeah, that too.”

“Thanks.”

“Sleep, missy.”

She settles back onto the bed, but a few seconds later, she announces, “Mrs. Stevenson said that a chronic lack of sleep increases a person’s risk for heart attack, stroke and a lot of other illnesses.”

I finish pulling a navy blue polo shirt over my head, my shoulders slumping. My daughter shouldn’t be concerning herself with things like that, and obviously her teacher, Mrs. Stevenson, doesn’t have kids of her own. Otherwise, she would know that a lack of sleep is part of the parental job description. “I’m healthy as a horse. Now, Go. To. Sleep.”

She’s silent, so that’s a start. I finish getting ready, then kiss each child on her forehead. Theresa’s only pretending to be asleep, so I pat her cheek, and she looks up at me solemnly. She’s so serious, this kid. I tap her nose, “Tomorrow’s Saturday. I promise I’ll sleep in. OK?”

“OK.”

I grab the monitor and set the alarm on my way out. Like clockwork, Mrs. Posada opens her back door, and takes the monitor. She hands me a travel mug of coffee, “You’re sure you don’t want to borrow my car?” she asks, her lilting accent rolling the R’s.

“No, thanks.” Just the thought of getting behind the wheel of a car makes my throat dry.

“You know I would at least give you a ride to the bus…but the girls.”

“I know, Mrs. Posada. You watching them is more than enough. Listen, I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Be careful!”

I smile and head down the long drive way towards the street. If I time it just right, I’ll get to the bus stop moments before the bus arrives, decreasing the time I have to sit and wait. Hopefully, no one will harass me tonight, and I can get to work without incident.

♥♥♥

Even as I stock the shelves, I can’t stop thinking about Mrs. Posada’s offer to drive her car occasionally. It’s not the first time Mrs. Posada has made such an offer. She even said I could buy her deceased husband’s car, on time, when we first moved in. It would be so much safer than walking the streets at all hours of the night and early morning.  I don’t mind catching the bus in the daytime with the girls. By myself at night is another question. But, I can’t drive again. The thought of it is terrifying.

My pulse increases and my hands shake as I line up packages of Oreos. I can’t believe I even allowed myself to go there while I’m at work. I concentrate on filling the shelves in front of me, hoping to calm myself.

“Hey, you all right?”

I look over my shoulder at Jared, one of my co-workers. “I’m fine,” the lie slips out haltingly.

He glances at my trembling hands, then looks aways when he sees me noticing. “You need a minute?”

“Yeah.”

I expect him to walk away and leave me alone. Instead, he gestures for me to follow him. I glance at my cart full of go-backs, then at the aisle void of people. I guess I’ve got a minute to see what he’s up to.

I follow him to the warehouse area at the back of the store, past towers of metal shelves, boxes and pallets wrapped in shrink-wrap. He turns down a narrow passage way, which leads to a door. When he opens it, I see an office of sorts. There’s a beat up old desk, along with a smattering of chairs.

“You can chill here for a while. If anybody asks, I’ll tell them you’re picking up some stuff from the warehouse.”

I sink onto one of the chairs. “Thanks.”

“You cool?”

I nod, and put my hands under my thighs.

He exits without another word, and for the first time in months, I’m alone. Tears well up in my chest and leak from my eyes. I’m so tired. My chest and face heat from the effort of holding it all in. Finally, I give up and let it all out, my body hiccupping from the force of my sobs.

I don’t know if I can do this anymore. Should I turn myself in? What will happen to my kids if I do? I have to pull it together. That little boy is dead, and there’s nothing I can do to bring him back. There’s a mother out there. Someone like me, who loved that child with all her heart. And she’ll never hold him again. Never see him grow up. Never know what animal ran him over and kept driving…Never see justice served.

What kind of person does that? What kind of person am I?

♥♥♥

Whoa. Look, I’ma be honest and say even I didn’t see that coming! I know this installment may not seem all that inspirational, but stick with me and it will be. What do you think about Jen’s secret so far? Did you see that coming? Does it fit with what you thought of Jen and her story after the first installment of this short story series?

 

© Faith Simone 2018

 

 

 

OK, So I’m a Little Embarrassed…

I have a confession to make: I’m embarrassed that my second book hasn’t come out yet. I published my first book at the start of 2015 and here it is, 2018, and I haven’t published my second book. It doesn’t matter that I was cut open twice, in and out of the hospital, etc.  No matter how valid my excuses, embarrassment still lingers. According to my plans, I should have published two additional books and be writing the fourth.

Then I saw this quote and it put things in perspective. “It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.”

One thing I can say about me is that I’m not a quitter. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, has come to me easily. I’ve failed more times than I can count, but I never give up. And I think that’s the only thing that separates those who eventually succeed from those who never do.

So if you’re like me, and you feel embarrassed by your lack of progress towards your goals, creative or otherwise, just remember to keep plugging away at them. Rome wasn’t built in a day, my friends. As long as you’re still breathing, there’s hope!

Oprah for President!

With all the talk about the possibility of Oprah running for president in the 2020 election (whether that’s true or not is none of my business…yet), I thought it only fitting to highlight one of my favorite quotes from her. She perfectly summarizes what I strive to do every time I post to this blog. “Living from the personality of your heart and giving what you have been given.”–Oprah Winfrey

How Dare You Speak to Me That Way! (Only I Can Do That)

I’m going to be a little vulnerable here today. If you’ve ever read my blog before, you’re probably wondering how much more vulnerable can a sista get? I’m really pushing that envelope, aren’t I? But I have this deep feeling that there are people out there that need to hear what I have to say. People who feel like they’re alone in their struggles. People who feel like no one understands. I’ve been there. It’s by the grace of God that I made it through. So I consider it my duty and my privilege to help someone else do the same.

Which is why I feel the need to discuss negative self-talk. In case you’ve never heard of the term, I’ll explain what it is. You know how you have a bad day, you get home and maybe you think, “I’ve had a horrible day. I’m going to bed.” And that’s exactly what you do. You know tomorrow is probably going to be better, the day’s behind you and you move on. Someone who has a problem with negative self-talk might think, “I can’t believe I spaced out like that during that meeting. And everyone knew it. Plus, Martha from accounting didn’t say good morning back to me. I’m such an idiot. What’s wrong with me?” And so it would go for hours and hours. That’s negative self-talk with a big dose of rumination to go along with it.

Nobody likes to admit they have weaknesses. Especially in a society like ours where confidence is prized and egos are celebrated. Some people can’t even fathom that anyone can be so overly critical of themselves that it becomes dogma. Something that haunts them and slowly erodes at their self-esteem. It get’s to the point where there’s no disputing it and what they think about themselves is the absolute truth. As you can probably tell by now, I’m highly familiar with the phenomenon.

I first began to struggle with negative self-talk when I was about 10-years-old. Despite its descriptive name, negative self-talk does not originate from within. The seeds of it are typically planted by someone in a position of authority, such as a parent, teacher, older sibling, etc., who is highly critical of an already extremely sensitive person. Eventually, the outside opinions and voices develop into an inner critic. It gets to the point where even when no one else is perpetuating the abuse, the victim does it for them.

I’m not explaining all of this to put you in a ‘woe is me’ frame of mind. I’m telling you this because getting to the root of things helps me figure out how to get over them. Or even better, through them. Once you understand that the anxiety and criticism you feel is not who you are, but simply an outcome of circumstances, you can let those feelings go, making space for what was truly meant to be a part of you in the first place.

This is a mantra that I say to myself now, “Make sure that the language with which you speak to yourself is reflective of your intent.” I decided to live my life with intention. For me, that means living out the goodness and mercy that I know God promised to me. He intends only good for my life, so that is what I accept. And I make sure that the way I speak to and about myself, reflects those intentions.

When you believe that you deserve goodness and kindness, you change the way that you think of yourself. It’s wasn’t easy, and trust me, it didn’t happen overnight. It took a major overhauling of my life to get to a place where I refused to be anyone’s victim anymore. But, I wouldn’t have it any other way because now my life, and the people who are in it, reflect my intent. And so does the way with which I speak to myself.

If you struggle with negative self-talk or low self-esteem, I really think you should look into this challenge. It involves a simple 30 day exercise to help you see the value in you. It’s a start in the right direction. I promise you won’t regret it!

Focus On the Good…And Watch It Multiply

Last week we talked about how to avoid negative people. Today, let’s talk about what we can do to not become one of them. I’m a big believer in having an attitude of gratitude, which most of you know. Gratitude can take you places skill never will. A wonderful side effect of gratitude is that you’ll begin to automatically focus on the good. When that happens, the good in your life will grow (or at least your awareness of it), thereby giving you more to be grateful for. It’s a beautiful cycle of cause and effect.

We become what we think we are. Whatever our heart is full of, whatever we focus our thoughts and attention on, becomes bigger in our lives, because it becomes bigger in our perspective. The bible advises us to think on whatever is good, whatever is holy, whatever is of good report. That admonishment is not just about getting the feel goods. It’s about a simple premise: what we focus on changes who we are, and who we are is built upon what we believe in. In other words, focusing on the good increases our faith.

I’m not saying we should walk around with our heads in the clouds, totally unaware of what’s going on in the world around us. I’m saying that we should be mindful of how much negativity we take in on the daily. The world won’t end if we turn off the news, put down our phone, disconnect from social media. In my personal experience, I’ve found that it keeps right on turning. The difference is that I’m a better person for guarding my heart, mind and spirit from negativity and opening up to the good around me. I think you will be, too.

I can feel some of you thinking, “But what if my life isn’t full of a lot of good right now?” I hear you. I totally understand that feeling, especially when your gratitude muscles aren’t that strong. So I’ve got a little story for you.

When I was a young girl, I used to sit in testimony service at church. Inevitably, various members of the congregation would rise to their feet and proclaim, “I thank God for waking me up this morning and clothing me in my right mind. I thank Him for the activity of my limbs.” And so on, and so forth.

This is the part where I would roll my eyes. Because how can a mind be clothed? And what, exactly, are limb activities? I’m older now, and just a little bit wiser. You see, I now understand those turns of phrase for the traditions they are. I come from a long line of Southern born African-Americans. I don’t need to go over the history of what that means for my historical lineage. Suffice it to say that we were no strangers to lack, and fear and injustice. And so it makes sense that in a world where many did not wake up in sanity, nor with the full movement of their limbs, that my ancestors’ version of focusing on the good was to call out the basic human rights that many take for granted.

So, if they found a way to focus on the good, what’s our excuse?

Choosing to focus on the good has less to do with your circumstances and more to do with the way you view them. There is always some good to be found. Train yourself to see it, cling to it and watch it spread. What would happen if you spent a little time every day listing three things you’re grateful for? No matter how big or how small? You’ve got nothing to lose, and a whole lot to gain.

What are you most grateful for today?