Father’s Day Reflections

For Demetrius:

Growing up, I always felt fortunate to have lived in a home with my father. Having a dad gave me the ability to navigate through life without having to question certain things. It gave me a boost of confidence that allowed me to move through life with 10 toes down (RIP Nipsey Hussle) and know that I would be okay. It gave me the ability to turn down guys who wanted too much, to know the story behind my last name and to have my existence as a Black woman validated. As a child, I watched my dad do whatever was required to take care of us. I watched people rave over his meals and even try to get his recipes out of me & my sister after church dinners. I watched him teach himself to repair things around our house. I listened to his stories about growing up in Philadelphia in the 70s. I laughed at his funny stories while learning to respect whichever old school artist was playing in the background. And I enjoyed my first bean pie from the brothers with the bow ties when he taught me about how other Black people experienced God. So many of the things I love (cooking, history, Philadelphia Eagles, music, learning anything new) and care about have their root in our shared story. As someone who never spoke positively of their experiences with their own dad and who still carries lots of pain from that relationship, I’ve often wondered where the drive to keep his family going and thriving came from. My dad is in no ways perfect. Our family has had some very dark years over the past couple decades related to my parents deciding to divorce. Our relationship has had so many bumps, twists, turns and even dead ends at points. It’s been the cause of many a conversation with my therapist, tears, phone calls to my mom, and even difficult sacrifices for me. No choice made by a parent is without consequence and I have had to bear the weight of those consequences. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen what the alternative could have been. I am grateful for the positive I experienced and I am grateful I grew from the negative I experienced as a result of my relationship with my dad. I believe that at 29 years old, I can finally understand Joseph’s position. Sometimes what is meant for evil God can work out for good. To my dad, Demetrius, Happy Father’s Day. Thank you for stretching yourself to love your children. Thank you for learning to love even when you hadn’t seen it before. Thank you for showing me that Black fatherhood could be more than what the stereotypes said. Thank you for being so excited about your newest grandchild. And thank you for always telling me how proud you are of both me & my sister. We’re proud of you, too, and we know that the best is yet to come for you.

For Anthony:

As I sit in bed 31 weeks pregnant with our first child, I am in awe of the miracle of life growing inside me. My husband and I have been given the most precious gift in the world. This child that we are waiting to meet is our greatest responsibility and joy. Yet no responsibility comes without sacrifice. When we found out I was expecting in December, our joy was abundant but the reality of what would unfold hit us very quickly. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, my body started to feel like a death trap. A few days before Christmas, I went to get a massage, ate something light and made a mess all over my clothes, my husband’s car seat and a random parking lot. As someone who hasn’t experienced much illness and has been incredibly healthy and honestly, independent for most of their adult life, this was quite a shock for us both. Shortly after this, we traveled out of state for my husband’s work, only to experience the same illness magnified over a week’s time. We quickly learned that the crackers, peppermint and ginger were not helping, and that this might be more than we both expected. By the time we returned home, I had lost significant weight and needed an ER trip for dehydration. My husband stayed by my side, advocating for my care and ensuring that both I and our baby were being appropriately treated. Since our baby began growing inside me, our life has changed dramatically. Work, grocery store, home, repeat. No more dates with friends, no more hanging out after work just for the heck of it, a lot of frustration and a lot of anxiety around every meal. Sometimes tears even. That became our life. Morning (and noon and night, if I’m being honest) sickness took over to the point where he had to become our personal nurse. Constantly moving me from couch to bed to bathroom, to holding me up and bathing me in the shower, to repetitive grocery store and food runs to try to get whatever would stay in my stomach and allow our baby to grow. I’m sure he broke a record with the number of visits he made to my school this year to bring coconut water and turkey jerky, dry pasta and rotisserie chicken, Lara bars and two peaches, breakfast sandwiches and an orange juice, a toothbrush in case I left mine and bottles of alkaline water because all other water tasted bad. Driving to school became impossible for me because (you can’t vomit and drive) so he dropped me off and picked me up every single day. Some days when I felt particularly crummy, he came inside and walked me to the car. He never became upset when I wet the bathroom rugs he had just washed, when smelly things from my stomach ended up on his feet or the floor, or when I didn’t cook for 4 months straight. His prayers, hugs, wiping my tears, and understanding my moods kept me going when I questioned my body’s ability to support this child. My husband is a very private person when it comes to our family and he would never tell anyone all the things he’s done for us this year. But he has sacrificed a lot of opportunities for greater personal success to stay by our side during the day while working tirelessly through the night to make sure that both his wife and baby flourished. I know that this is what men should do, but so many don’t. They see the challenge and go the other way emotionally or even physically. I’m thankful that he didn’t. Anthony, you are the father I prayed my child would have. You aren’t afraid to say “I love you” and show your love. You are consistent and spontaneous. You are supportive and unselfish. You are gentle and strong. You are hard-working and humble. You are creative and controlled. We wouldn’t have survived this year without your love. You are an answer to my prayers and I know that the only person who will even come close to loving you as I do is our little Pumpkin. Happy 1st Father’s Day and thank you for loving us so well. The best is yet to come for us.

Marriage Musings from a New Wife + Wedding Photos

My husband and I recently celebrated 6 months of marriage. It has been 180 days since we said “I do” and we are very grateful for this small milestone. What I find funny about being married is that it doesn’t feel that new. In fact, I hardly remember what life was like before waking up next to him. It’s like he’s always been here. However, there have definitely been areas where we have both needed to adjust.

Living with another person is not always the easiest, but if you are committed to loving your spouse, you find ways to make your lives work. We are believers and have faith that God has placed us in each others lives for many reasons, with the primary reason being to help each other grow in our faith. When we keep this in mind, it keeps us focused on why we are together besides just love. There have been some adjustments that we’ve had to make, however, to ensure that both parties are happy.

The first adjustment was to make sure we are speaking to each other as kindly as possible. My husband is a natural at this. He naturally really kind and polite (unless he’s your basketball trainer). On the other hand, you have me. My only major punishments as a child were for talking back and for being rude when speaking. My parents were very traditional in their view of what children should be able to say and had no problem letting me know when I was out of line. I have made major strides in learning how to speak without being passive aggressive or condescending, but at times, it quite literally slips out. These are the moments when I have to say “I said that wrong. What I should have said was…” and apologize to my husband. When I was single, I was never as comfortable with another human as I am with my husband, but even as a wife, I have to make sure that my comfort does not allow me to become abrasive. We continually work to speak to each other with love and words that will make the other feel cherished.

Another area that we’ve had to adjust is our time. Before I married my husband, I pretty much lived at my job. Although I have exclusively been a salaried employee for the last 4 years, I am the type of person who would spend hours in my classroom perfecting bulletin boards or creating new projects. I was known for calling parents at 7pm and replying to e-mails well after 8pm. This is just the type of person I am and time flies when I’m having fun. Being married means that I can still work, but my husband definitely wants to spend time with me each day. Our schedules are quite opposite during the school year, and sometimes this means making adjustments so that we can spend time together. We have learned to do this and it has helped us so much.

One last adjustment is actively looking for opportunities to serve one another. My husband is a remarkable person in so many ways, but I’m especially thankful for the ways that he serves me. While reminiscing with a friend recently, I shared with her about how when I became ill with food poisoning once while we were dating, my husband served me in a way that really showed me his heart for me. He continues to do this even now. When I wake up for work each morning, he will go start my car, fill it up with gas or even make an early store run if I need something. He helps me by making sure I have my lunch, my keys and anything else I need on the daily basis. I can count on one hand how many times I have pumped gas or carried anything remotely heavy. These are just a few of the ways he serves me. I also look for ways to serve him. Whether it be making sure he has healthy meals, helping him manage social media for his business, shampooing his hair or just bringing him something special home for dinner. We have started asking each other “how can I make your day better” and it has truly helped us.

Being married has been a beautiful experience thus far and I cannot wait to see what God has in store for us in the future. Below are some of the wedding photos that I think capture the feeling of our day the best. As always, I have question for you.

If you are married, which lessons did you learn early on in your marriage? And how do you keep your marriage healthy? If you are not and desire marriage, what do you think will be an area you must work on when you become married? Please share your thoughts below in the Comments section. 

In pursuit of all things green,

Brittany

 

5 things I wish someone told me about college

“…we should remember that good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation.” – Thomas Edison

If you are reading this, congrats are in order because you are likely a new high school graduate! So congratulations! I hope that graduation was wonderful and a worth every sacrifice you made to finish high school. As someone who has graduated high school, undergraduate and is hoping to be graduating again in the next couple years, I know how important this time in life is for you. There are so many choices to be made, things to ponder and situations arising every day as you prepare for your next step in life. If you are going to college/university, you have a lot to figure out. From solidifying your major, choosing living spaces and roommates, selecting courses, sending in final paperwork and actually getting to school, you’ll need to get a lot done before fall semester begins. When coming in contact with high school graduates this summer, I automatically began to impart what I wish someone had told me before I started college. There were many people giving me good advice, but for some reason, some of these things didn’t seem to make it to me. So, I will be giving you 5 things I wish someone told me about college. This post is long, but please read until the end. Let’s get started.

Read the Drop/Add policy

Unlike high school, changing or dropping courses is no simple feat. Back when I was in high school, changing classes was as simple as speaking to the counselor or having your parents come in for a meeting. Even now as a middle school teacher, I’m always amazed at the ease with which students can switch teams or classes with their parent’s help. However, college does not work this way. Most colleges have something called a Drop/Add policy. This policy is what will tell you when it is too late to get out of a class and what your subsequent grade will be if you drop – or get out of – it. For example, let’s say you get into Philosophy 101 and you realize that you are in way over your head after taking the first exam. If you check the Drop/Add policy, you’ll find out whether you’ll receive a grade of W (withdrawn) or if it is too late to get out of the course. You’ll also want to find out how long you can stay in the course before you are permanently charged and if your school has any special policies for if you want to retake a course. Some other great questions to ask are: 

Does my school have a repeat-to-replace policy?

How many credit hours do I need to be full-time?

Do we use a plus/minus grade scale or a standard grade scale used in most high schools?

Take care of your yourself

Every year of college is busy, but none as hectic as your freshmen year. With all of your new classes, friends, assignments and social activities, it is very easy to let yourself go. Overeating in the cafeteria, staying up late and waking up early and eating whatever you can find are a perfect combination for unhealthy weight gain. A 2012 study conducted at Auburn University found that almost 70% of students gain weight in college. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Commit to these 3 things for better self care.

Eat well. Yes, the ice cream machine and toppings bar in the cafeteria looks very appealing, but do you need it? If you have a meal plan, find the healthy alternatives. Almost every cafeteria I’ve seen has a salad bar with lots of fresh veggies, fruits and lean meats. Go for those meals that you will keep you full longer and feeling good. If you have your own kitchen and are into cooking, there are some great meal prep options for college students on a budget. Give them a try. 

Exercise. If your college is anything like my alma mater, it has a beautiful recreation center. If your school does indeed have one, guess what? You’re paying for it. Every semester, my school charged me over $100 for the recreation center. If you think about it, that’s a built-in gym membership. Many recreation centers are open 24 hours a day so you can get your work out on whenever you want. If you prefer outdoor or team workouts, see if your school has intramural sports teams. They are a ton of fun and a great way to meet people. If you don’t make time to work out, there are other ways to burn calories. Instead of catching the shuttle, walk. Instead of driving to campus, ride a bike. Just don’t be sedentary. Endorphins are good for your brain. 🙂 

Be kind to yourself. You are in a brand new place with a brand new goal. You have never been to college before, so you will make mistakes. College is supposed to be harder than high school, even if you did extremely well in high school. You may not make comparable grades right away, but you can if you stay perseverant. Study and work hard, but when your body tells you to relax, do it. Take breaks, watch a movie, read books, nap, do your favorite hobby and just love on yourself. The responsibilities will still be there when you get done, and we all work better without stress.

Seek out community

Being in a new environment can be incredible, but it can also bring upon a lot of stress and new opportunities to explore the world. And for many of you, this will be your first time living away from your family and support system. It is very important for you to find a community of people who share your goals, beliefs and dreams so that you can have a new support system. This is especially important for Christians. When I was in college, I was blessed to be apart of not only on-campus Bible studies, but apart of ministries in local churches. These groups of women (and sometimes men) helped me through some difficult times and helped me to keep strong faith in Jesus. Seek out community groups, small groups, on-campus Bible studies or even organizations on your school’s campus to be apart of because no man (or woman) is an island.

GPA, GPA, GPA! 

This one is so important, I had to say it three times. GPA. Also known as Grade Point Average. Also known as a major determining factor for your life after college. Many people who attend college think that social time is what matters most at the beginning. Staying out late, attending social events and hanging out with friends. Now realistically, most people will do this while in school, but it’s very important to keep your priorities straight. Your first year’s GPA will determine whether you spend the next three years working to maintain it or working to pull it up. As college goes on, classes only get harder and your responsibilities become greater. Also, many scholarships depend on your GPA. In the state of Georgia, students who maintain a 3.0 average and meet some other requirements can go to state schools with tuition and books covered. This could be the difference between paying thousands of dollars in students loans when you graduate, or being able to immediately do the things you love after graduation, like traveling, buying a home or starting a family. College is not high school and your grades now have financial implications so take things seriously.

Safety first 

When you get to college, there will be a lot of changes for you, especially if you live away from your parent’s home. If this is the case, it means that your safety will no longer be something your parents can guarantee. You will need to make choices that help you to stay as safe as possible. Here are a few ways to stay safe.

Traveling and transportation. If you find yourself in a situation with friends who are ever unable to drive, do not ride with them. The same goes for times where you may be on campus and don’t feel safe walking home alone. There are many options available for transportation that are much safer. Whether it be calling a ride from Uber or Lyft, or even contacting Campus Security for a police escort (a service you pay for). Think about the implications of your choices and if taking a chance is really worth it. 

Social settings. If you find yourself out and about in a social setting where food and drinks are out, which is common, be very careful about leaving drinks out. Recently I saw a thread of tweets on Twitter from a pastor who shared his story of having his drink drugged. This is not something that only happens to women; it can happen to anyone. Be aware of your surroundings and for added safety, go everywhere in groups as much as possible. 

Intimate settings. This last section is probably the most difficult for me to write about because it is so extremely important. College is a place where many people will live without physical boundaries.  As a believer in Jesus Christ, I will always advocate living a sex-less, abstinent lifestyle until marriage. I believe that this is God’s will for our lives and serves to protect us from heartache, pregnancy, diseases and emotional ties, until we are united with a spouse. This is, in my opinion, the best way to experience life and love. And as someone who has been abstinent for many years, I am very much looking forward to experiencing this intimacy with my soon-t0-be husband next year after our wedding. Everyone does not believe this or subscribe to this belief system so I will say the following: if you find yourself desiring to be intimate with another person and you make that very important choice, please protect yourself. It does not matter if someone looks healthy or clean, and it does not matter if they tell you they are STD-free. Never engage in any sexual act unless you are using protection. The emotional connections created from sex can be broken with the blood of Jesus, but the physical implications can be much harder to erase. 

I hope that this post has been helpful and I pray that it reaches every student who needs to read it. College will be an incredible season of growth for you, but it all depends on choices. Please be wise. 🙂 If you are heading to college, please share on your favorite piece of advice in the Comments section. If you have already been to college, please share a piece of advice you would give to new college students in the Comments section.

All the best,

Brittany 

my current favorite podcasts

Hi friends, 

I hope that you are well. I wanted to come to you to share some of my current favorite podcasts. Like most of you, I am a very busy person. Between my job and a number of other things going on, I am often on the move but I still like to get things done and consume useful information. I have been an avid listener of podcasts for many years and I thought it appropriate to share some of my favorites. Here goes!

 

1. His & Her Money Show 

Personal finance is a real interest of mine. From wanting to clean up my own finances to sharing information with my students, I am always able to take something from lessons on money. His & Her Money Show is an incredible, informative podcast hosted by Tai & Taalet McNeely, a married couple who are passionate about faith, finances and family. They share their strategies for getting out of debt by making wise choices. Not only that, but they highlight other individuals and families who do the same. I enjoy learning about money with the McNeelys and hopefully you will, too. 

2. Boundless Show

Boundless is a ministry of Focus on the Family, whose emphasis is on helping young adults to grow up while glorifying God. The Boundless Show generally starts with a group of young adults who discuss current issues in Christianity. These discussions include topics like education, choosing a church, getting married, singleness and much more. Listeners can also write into the show and have questions answered. The Boundless Show never gets old to me. Check it out.

3. The Dave Ramsey Show

I became a fan of Dave Ramsey a couple years back when some friends introduced me to his book, “The Total Money Makeover.” The book was very eye-opening and it helped me to really start to formulate a plan on how to handle my finances. Dave Ramsey also has a radio show where callers ask him questions about how to get out of debt, live within their means, retire and sometimes to do the highly anticipated Debt Free Scream. I have listened to the show consistently for about a year now and it has gotten to the point where I can hear Dave reprimanding me if I think of making an unwise purchase or move. The show has taught me so much and I enjoy learning new ways to steward what God has given me charge over.

4. Fusion ATL

Fusion ATL is the young adult ministry of Victory World Church. Having actually visited this church, I was excited to check out the messages that come from this ministry. I was pleasantly surprised to hear the wide range of topics that are addressed through preaching. The young adult pastor, David Stephens has a way of making complex topics very simple to understand and is also a very engaging speaker. I really encourage the podcast to anyone who wants to get more truth in their lives. 

 

I hope that this post inspires you to subscribe to some new podcasts today. Please feel free to comment or share your favorites in the Comment section!

 

Thanks for reading, 

Brittany 

 

my response to “We All Have Sexual Baggage”

Yesterday, Relevant Magazine contributor Natalie Floyd shared an article called “We All Have Sexual Baggage.” The article addresses an idea that many young Christians have grown up being taught: that having pre-marital sex leaves you as a permanently damaged commodity less worthy and capable of a happy marriage. Although I do agree that pre-marital sex is detrimental to our relationship with Christ and our livelihood, I don’t believe that that abstaining or engaging will either leave us as either perfectly pure and whole OR destroyed and desolate. Sex is bad for us if done at the wrong time, but so are so many other things. Many sins that we commit are as simple as doing the right thing at the wrong time.

In the article, Floyd said many great things, but one in particular that I believe is so important. She states, “The truth is, we’ve all got something in our hearts that probably needs to be addressed. We all have an issue, a hang up or an expectation that could stifle our personal growth or prevent us from entering into a relationship like marriage as a healthy and whole person.” I love this quote because she is correct. She goes on to share that there are many physical virgins who haven’t had intercourse but who have other sexual issues that can be real problems in marriage. Some people may not have as many sexual issues but possess many other issues that can prevent us from enjoying and growing in marriage the way that God desires. I believe that there must be more attention on these issues so that future heartache is avoided. After all, I’m sure that Christian marriages fall apart over more than sexual baggage. There are personality conflicts, money issues, a lack of respect or love shown, infidelity and so many more issues that should be addressed on the heart level. 

More than anything, I am thankful that Floyd’s article shared the fact that there is grace for times when we fall. There are so many people who live in the prison of their own guilt. They hold on to their sins, refusing to hand them over to a sovereign who paid the price for them over 2000 years ago. Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”  The world and long-time Christians alike need to understand that there is love, grace, forgiveness and hope for those who feel burdened down by their own life’s baggage. Jesus is the one who lightens our load, removes our burdens and sets us on the path to “go and sin no more.” So if you find yourself in that place, please remember that you are never too broken or too damaged simply because God restores. He is well qualified in redemption, restoration and doing a new thing. 🙂 

If you get a moment, please check out Floyd’s article and share your thoughts on it in the Comments section below.