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A Letter To My Younger Self

This week God revealed some things to me about myself that touched me at my core. He told me to STOP shrinking my abilities and that it was time to step into all of me!

Whoa! What a word. Tears immediately began to fall down. This is an area that I’ve been working on lately and that I thought I had tackled. In my previous post Take the First Step, I wrote about facing fear and taking the first step and when I first heard this I thought, “but I thought I was over that?” But as with anything we are working to let go of, it doesn’t happen overnight and many times there are layers that we must conquer.

So in my sadness and frustration with myself, God immediately showed me areas where I knew I could be doing more. I saw how I allowed years of disappointment and fear and worry shrink me back in such a profound way that it didn’t even occur to me that I’d been doing it. The Lord also brought to my remembrance of when it all began.

When I was in junior high, I was apart of a Sports Academy. It was located on the campus of my local junior high. During the day we had class as normal and after school we played basketball. We had separate academic classes and teachers from the rest of the school. When I started, I wasn’t a sports player at all. My mom put me in the program because I could stay after school. But being in the program was the best experience ever. This is where I developed my love for basketball. It’s where I formed close relationships of friends that I’m still connected with. I learned so much about myself and I really enjoyed my time in the program.

Since the program was a sports academy, the coaches stressed not only sports but academics as well. At the end of every semester and year, they acknowledged and celebrated the students who were excelling in academics. I was one of the students who excelled. I was on the honor roll every semester and was the recipient of many awards. At the end of the year, we celebrated with an annual awards banquet in which the program celebrated athletes and scholars. I was awarded Student of the Year in both 7th and 8th grade and received a beautiful, huge trophy.

Sounds wonderful doesn’t it? Well at the time, I didn’t think so. Winning the awards, being singled out when scoring high on a test or being the only one who completed their assignment or earning student of the year every year didn’t make me feel good, it made me sad. I was sad that there weren’t more like me. Sad that I would get teased for being smart and made fun of. I didn’t like feeling different. I didn’t like being singled out. I didn’t like being seen as “the smart girl.” I wanted others to be great. I wanted others to be on top with me.

So what did I do? In high school, I began to shrink. I started not giving my all. I allowed myself to not be singled out in whatever way I could. Now I still did well, I just didn’t do my best and this has carried over into my life now. Knowing what I know now, I so wish I could go back and tell the 12 year old Jonetta so much. And then it hit me!

It’s not too late. That 12 year old Jonetta is still in me. She’s still there protecting me from that sadness and the feeling of being singled out. And although I love her, it’s time to tell her what she needs. It’s time to write a letter to my younger self. So here it is.

Dear 12 year old Jonetta who is still living inside of me scared and sad,

JONETTA, be confident in who you are and your abilities. God made you uniquely you. Shine, it’s all for His glory. Do not allow what others say dictate what you do or who you are. Be the amazing woman, leader , person that God made you to be! I forgive you for shrinking back but now it’s time to live big! Live like no one is watching. Live in faith. Live without limits. Live! Live! With All My Love, the Confident, Joyful and Courageous Jonetta

Wow, that really just put a smile on my face and freed me from so much. I encourage whoever is reading this, if there is an area in your life that is being hindered due to something from your past that you wish you could change, know that you have the power right now to change it. Stop and write a letter to your younger self, I promise it will begin to set you free.

Take the First Step

For many years I’ve had desires in my heart to do things but was just too fearful and/or wasn’t sure if I could manage.

For example, starting this blog. When I really stop and think about it, its been over 10 years since I have wanted to write a blog. As I just wrote that last sentence, I find myself in shock. 10 years! How did I let so much time go by? Well, if I’m real with myself then very simply I can say it was fear.

Fear- A little four letter word that challenges us all daily. Fear can be defined as a “panic flight” or “withdrawal.” “It’s a strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.”

There are some ways we experience fear very overtly. We watch a horror movie and the sound of the “somebody is about to get hurt” music comes on and we know that danger is coming and we either watch or close our eyes in fear.

Then there is the fear that we don’t always see but will face daily. The fear that will cause us to run and withdraw.

Even though I knew God showed me that I was to write, the feeling of not being adequate had such a great hold on me. What I felt I lacked, seemed so much bigger than what I possessed. Instead of focusing on what I could do, I focused on what I couldn’t do. As a result, I ran away from it. I withdrew, shut down and convinced myself that it wasn’t for me.

So as the years went by, the fear stayed. I believe a part of me actually began to feel comfortable with the fear. Another part of fear is that it protects us. Our body feels fear when it senses danger. This feeling then gives us a choice to assess and we either go into fight or flight. When we choose flight, we are choosing the way out and we don’t feel. And that feeling of not feeling, felt great. As I would get a nudge to start the blog, my body felt as if it were in danger and fear made me feel safe. I would allow those thoughts of inadequacy to trump. And year after year I would just convince myself it wasn’t meant or would think, “maybe one day.”

Well as you know, that one day did come. What was the difference? Well I chose to fight instead. My mind was transformed by the renewal of my mind through the Word of God. Instead of focusing on my lack, I focused on the one who was full. I focused on God and his promises. I no longer felt inadequate because I learned who I am in Him. I learned that I am an ambassador for Christ, fully made by the Creator in the image of the Creator. Therefore, I’m already equipped. What I don’t have, He supplies. Perfect love casts out fear and knowing that I’m loved by Jesus, is all that I need.

The most beautiful part is that when I made the choice to fight, I didn’t have to do much. God has already won the victory and all I had to do was make the first step. And guess what, it wasn’t even as scary as I had made it up to be in my head. So I encourage you today to search for any fear that may be causing you to hold back and instead take a step forward. I promise it will be the best move you’ve ever made.

Leading My Children to the Fire

I heard a quote today about parenting from Glennon Doyle that I wholeheartedly agreed with. She stated that as a parent, it’s not our job to protect our children from feeling pain. It’s our job to point them to the fires of their lives and then walk them through those fires so they can figure out they are fireproof.

Wow!

Yes!

As an educator and mother I completely know the importance of teaching your children how to live life rather than living it for them. Innately we want to shield them from experiencing pain. We want them to feel comfortable as they are growing. As a preschool administrator, I often teach parents the importance of allowing children to make mistakes. It’s an important trait as a parent. It’s from those mistakes and experiences that build character.

However, there’s a little part of me that feels rebellious to that advice. I agree that we all have the power to be fireproof and it takes being in and getting through fires to know that it won’t overtake us. On the other hand, how do we know which fires to go through? As a parent, at what point do you point them through the fire and know which one is for them? What happens when you aren’t sure which fire to put them through?

Right now we are looking to apply for middle/high schools for my 11 year old daughter and it has been tough.

As someone who has been through the elementary school application process and who teaches parents to apply to elementary schools, I came into this process feeling pretty confident. I created a notebook with color coded tabs for each school I planned to visit and notes for each school and I felt prepared. I had a strategy, I knew who Eryn was and what would be good for our family and I wasn’t stressed at all.

Fast Forward to today, two days away from an early admission deadline and about 4 weeks away from regular deadlines; I feel completely the opposite. I’m unsure. I’m insecure. I’m worried and I’m second guessing every decision.

This process has forced us as parents to look within in a way that I wasn’t expecting. I’ve been forced as a mom, to look within at my beliefs, at my desires and at my shortcomings. Although it’s about getting Eryn into a good school, it’s really been about me and I’m struggling.

When I heard that quote today it helped me realize why it’s been hard for me. I feel pressure to make sure I’m not sending her to a fire that will overtake her. Or if I’m really honest, I’m concerned that I won’t know how to help her walk through the fire.

Choosing a school for my 11 year old for what I desire for her from 12-18 years old is difficult because I have questions. Is who she is now going to be who she is then? Am I sending her down the right path? Will this fire consume her instead of strengthen her? Is she ready for these fires? Am I ready for these fires?

When I write I usually have an answer. Today, I do not and although I feel uncomfortable about that I’m okay. I’m excited because I’m allowing myself to be raw and vulnerable. I’m allowing myself the space to grow and ask questions. I don’t have the answer today but I know I will soon. The most important lesson is that I know I can’t be afraid to lead my children to the fire and I know I will find my strength.

This is My Confidence

A little over a week ago I was sitting in my living room while Malcolm was putting MJ to bed. We’ve learned that MJ loves listening to music as he falls asleep and periodically we try different songs. On this particular day, Malcolm began playing a new song and as soon as I heard the lyrics my spirit immediately nudged me to stop and listen.

“Your promise still stands; Great is Your faithfulness; Faithfulness; I’m still in Your hands; This is my confidence; You’ve never failed me yet. I’ve seen you move; You move the mountain; And I believe I’ll see You do it again; You made a way; when there was no way; And I believe I’ll see You do it again .”

I stopped and I listened, and as I heard the words, tears began to fall. The past month has been one of the toughest times I dealt with spiritually and emotionally. I’ve been learning to lean into the pain and it has been stretching me. In that moment I was reminded that this pain is worth every groaning. I was reminded that God has moved every mountain that’s ever been in front of me. He kept me through the darkest time of my life. He continues to give me the gift of life each day and I am confident He will do it all again.

Confident?

There’s one line in the song that says, “This is my confidence.” When I say those four little words, an unwavering feeling of uneasiness comes over me. For majority of my life, I’ve lived in a way that was complete opposite of confidence. I lacked confidence. Being secure in myself and my abilities were a challenge. Believing in myself was often non-existent. Instead, I believed a lot of what others thought about me. So saying that I was confident seemed like a challenge at first.

But as I began to meditate on those words, I realized that the confidence I must possess, the confidence that I have access to, is not confidence in myself but rather confidence in the one who created me.

My confidence is that my creator knows me. He created me with my own unique design. Therefore how dare I compare to others. How dare I feel as if I’m not good enough. I’m just the way the creator designed me.

My confidence is that God will defeat the battles for me. Therefore, I confidently go into battle knowing I have the victory and not afraid of whatever comes my way- sickness, disease, hardship , loss, pain- it doesn’t matter. Why? Because I am more than a conqueror.

My confidence is that God is my rock and refuge, I can trust in that. I can rely on Him. I stand on His Word. For when I am weak, He is strong.

You see when I release myself as the focus of my confidence and focus on God and His Word, I’m allowing my life to become more stable, strong and poised.

When I release my desire to do things my way and instead be obedient to the Word of God, I can live in the assurance of my salvation.

When I stop listening to the doubting voices in my head that tell me I’m not good enough and instead start listening to the faithful voices that remind me of who I am, I can fully walk in what God has called me to do.

This is my confidence.

Get to Know Joy!

Since beginning this blog 6 weeks ago, I’ve found a greater awareness in the importance of stopping to reflect and it’s been so liberating. Ironically, as someone who has made a pact to be joyfully raw, I’ve been challenged lately with the word joy.

My oldest daughter is preparing to graduate 6th grade and enter middle school and we are looking at different schools for her to attend. I visited one school a little over a week ago and as I sat in the library interacting with one presentation, I heard a question that surprisingly had me stunned.

Presenter: “ Can someone tell us why they think joy is an important value for a child to have at school?”

Me:

I completely went blank. I immediately passed it to the woman sitting next to me. I could not believe I didn’t have an immediate response. I could not believe I couldn’t articulate what joy is. Me, Joyful Jonetta, could not talk about joy!

As I reflected on the moment days later, I wondered what happened. I wondered if I really knew joy. I wondered if I knew what it looked like. Was I able to recognize it? Am I modeling it for my family? Does my family have it? How often am I accessing it? And after a for real search within, I came to a daunting conclusion…

I

don’t

really

know

joy.

Wow!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m familiar with joy. I’ve had great moments of joy. I’ve lived with joy. I know the dictionary definition which means the emotion evoked by well being, success or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires or feeling of great pleasure/happiness.

But…

I desire something deeper and so does Joy.

I desire a close relationship so does Joy.

For all that joy does…for all that joy is…for all that joy brings…we deserve to be connected. It shouldn’t be something that I just say I am. It should be something that I know that I am.

After talking with someone a few days after this revelation, I was reminded of a daily challenge that I participated in with my wonderful neighbor/friend, Cynthia of RawJackson where she challenged herself and others to live 90 days of Happy. During this 90 days, we posted daily in regards to something that we were happy for. It was such a beautiful time and I learned the importance of stopping daily to acknowledge what is around us. It allowed me to develop daily habits that have carried me today.

Life is truly about the daily choices that we make and as I remembered this challenge, I immediately was inspired to challenge myself again. This time in the exploration of joy. I’ve decided I’d like to explore Joy more. I’ve decided I want to Get to Know Joy!

So I’m doing a countdown from today until my birthday : October 16- January 2 of getting to know joy. My goals are to know Joy deeply; to connect with Joy; to understand when and how Joy is accessed; to learn how Joy should be embraced; and to look for Joy everyday.

So over the next two and a half months, I will be connecting with Joy and choosing Joy with a daily intention. On my Instagram page, I’ll be posting my daily interactions with Joy. Here, I’ll be diving deeper in my findings and I look forward to what’s to come. The best part about it, I won’t be doing it alone! I’m inviting you to take this journey with me. Hold me accountable, challenge me, learn with me and let’s all get to know joy. And just like the message inside this lemonade top, accepting this challenge may cause JOY! Are you ready for it? Will you come with me?

Don’t Fight the Feeling

The last two weeks

have

been

hard.

Weaning MJ from the breast and facing the necessity to begin a new stronger medication for my autoimmune disease has brought challenges I never knew I would face. In my last post Put the Oxygen Mask on First…Do I Have To? I wrote of my hesitation to begin this next step and the gratitude that brought me to understanding what needed to be done. I knew it would be hard but I don’t think I was quite ready.

The hormones hit me in a real way. I cried all the time. Watching tv, driving, cooking, looking at the sad look on MJ’s face, it all made me sad. I would have moments of triumph and then moments of defeat. I had made a decision but doubts would enter my mind constantly. I was familiar with the easy route and that made me want to turn around. I was headed down a path that was unknown, dark and felt lonely. And all I wanted to do was to find another route.

I reached out to a friend and her wise words were chilling but something I knew would be true. “It’s going to get harder before it gets easier,” and boy was she right.

Last night was probably one the hardest moments. I felt so helpless, so sorry for my baby that I couldn’t give him what his body desired. As he cried and pecked his mouth to my chest trying to find the breast, I cried with him. All my feelings came to a head and I began weeping aloud. It was over. I could no longer connect in that way. I felt like someone had taken away something from me and I wanted so desperately to take it back but I couldn’t.

In that moment I did what I could. I held him close and let him know how much mommy loved him. I held him close and embraced him with my love. I held him close and reminded myself that he would get through it, that I would get through it. I held on to the vision that one day soon we both would be good. I had to…

Stop

Fighting

The Feeling.

During one night as I was putting MJ to sleep, the sadness of his cries made me cry. Every attempt I had of soothing him didn’t work. Rocking, walking, talking, singing, patting, nothing worked. I knew what he wanted and I knew what would work but I couldn’t. As I sat patting him on the back, I cried out to God and asked, “Can I have some reprieve?” His immediate response, “No, relax in it.” And in that moment I let go. All the tension (pain, worry, stress) that had been stored in my body was released.

In that moment I realized I had been fighting. I wasn’t fighting to win but rather fighting to get out. I’ve learned through scripture that God tells us that there will be obstacles, struggles, hardship. Instead of allowing my body to work through the pain, I was trying not to have pain. I was fighting the wrong fight.

There is a natural feeling in all of us that cautions us to stay away from pain. However, as I thought about the words, “relax in it,” I could no longer stay away. My body was desperate. I had to rest in the pain. I needed to relax my grip and stop trying to push away the thing that I needed. I knew that submitting to the pain would produce a far greater result than fleeing from it.

Tribulation is the thing that produces perseverance; perseverance produces character; and character produces hope. Romans 5:3-4

Pain is what a woman goes through before a child is born.

Pain reminds us that we are alive and connects us to others.

Pain gets our attention and is followed by healing.

This pain has been tough and in some ways will continue to be. But through it all I will Rejoice! I will no longer fight it. I will embrace it and allow my body, mind, emotions to be strengthened to the end. The battle has already been won for me.

This is my hope.

This my peace.

This is my joy.

Put the Oxygen Mask on First…Do I Have To?

“Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.”

Ever flown a plane? If so, then you have definitely heard the words above from flight attendants all over the world. It’s a concept that we have heard so many times and may even have become mundane but what is the importance? Very simply, you can’t help someone else with their breathing if you aren’t breathing yourself.

Through the years people have taken these important instructions and used them as metaphors for life. In general, we are to make sure that we are taking care of ourselves before we can take care of others. Why the reminder? Well, I never quite understood the concept as much until I became a mother. When I became a mother 11 years ago, my role shifted to caretaker. I no longer lived for just myself. I lived for my children giving physical and emotional care and support, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Last week I received news that challenged me in this area. My Sjögren’s syndrome (autoimmune disease) is causing an inflammation flare in my body. During my visit, my doctor decided that it was time to put me on some stronger medicine. After hearing her discuss the facts and symptoms of the medicine, I reminded her about my breastfeeding which she replied that I cannot do the both at the same time….. immediately tears began to flow. My goal was to breastfeed for at least one year. MJ just turned 8 months. It’s not time. Thoughts of sadness began to creep in.

Breastfeeding is an indescribable bond between mother and child. Research shows many benefits of breastfeeding for not only the child but the mother as well. For babies, breast milk is highly nutritious, it helps fights off infections, it may reduce disease risk, it promotes healthy weight. For mother’s it helps loose weight through calorie burning, increase of oxytocin which encourages relaxation, caregiving and bonding. And finally, it may present menstruation. Sounds wonderful? For me, it has been.

With my other children I wasn’t able to breastfeed for long. For my first, I made it about 6 months. For my 2nd , 3 months. So here I am with my third and excited and determined to make it to at least 1 year.

When I heard the doctor’s message, I knew immediately in my heart what I needed to do. My mind on the other hand, had plans of its own.

My heart knew the necessity of my need to put my oxygen mask on first. My mind questioned it.

My heart knew that 8 months is a substantial time to breastfeed. My mind wanted to complete the task of checking off the one year box.

My heart knew that the best way to love MJ is being my best self as healthy as I can be. My mind wanted to be the best through our breastfeeding bond.

My heart knew that MJ has received everything he needs thus far and will continue to get what he needs. My mind wants to feel like I didn’t do enough. It doesn’t want to give up.

For the last five days, my heart and mind have been going back and forth. One minute I’m ready for my oxygen mask, the next minute I’m telling myself I’ll be alright. Maybe I can wait four months. And even as I write this, there is a tug of war going on. The heart is pulling and gaining momentum and then the mind gets stronger and pulls harder. ‘Do I have to take this medicine?’ My mind says. ‘Yes you do!” Says my heart.

As much as I’d like to keep the picture of making it to a year in mind, I know what’s more important.

As much as I’d like to keep our bond when he gets fussy or sleepy, I know what I need to do.

So when I ask do I have to put the oxygen mask on first, I can confidently say “yes, I do ” and “yes, I will.”

I know for a fact, that if I am not good, no one in my family is good. This is a moment of self care and self love. I cannot and will not settle for less than I deserve. As much as I love my children and my husband, it starts with loving myself. I love myself enough to do what my body needs even if it means sacrificing another love. I love myself enough to forgive myself, protect myself and live joyfully at all times.

I had to come to a decision and that is to start taking the medicine and stop breastfeeding. I am giving myself one week for gradual weaning. I am giving myself the space to cry. I am giving myself permission to rejoice. This time with MJ has been great and will continue to be so.

This decision has not been easy but I asked myself one thing, “what in this moment can I be grateful for?’ And when they say gratitude will shift your altitude, it did. Instead on focusing on what I was going to miss, I focused on what I had. Glass half empty or half full? For me, my glass was just full. My cup runs over with God’s goodness and mercy. I am grateful for:

1- Regular doctor checkups and a doctor who is caring, thoughtful and kind.

2- Prevention- It could’ve gotten worse.

3- 8 months of breastfeeding. It’s my best record!

4- No more pain from MJ’s teeth . He has 6 teeth, need I say more!

5- God’s wisdom to listen to what I know and not what I feel.

And most of all…

My oxygen mask. 💕💕🦋🦋

I Am Not Afraid

I am not afraid… four words that rang loud to my ears one day as I was driving. As my apple playlist went through it’s random rotation, this song from Jesus Culture began to play. A song that I had heard before. A song that on this particular day, had a new meaning and met my ears with a deeper understanding.

My life is in deep transition and I have been faced with looking within. About 8 months ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, Malcolm Jr.(MJ). My third child after two girls and it’s been a joy. As I was beginning to come off maternity leave, in the midst of searching for childcare, something began to happen inside of me. I had this deep yearning desire to stay home with MJ. With a background in education and a recent career in early childhood education, I was the most qualified. At the same time I loved my job as a preschool director. I felt so conflicted.

I began fervently praying and asking God for His guidance and He answered. It was time to step down as director and focus on taking care of family. I had peace. The next part was to decide when to step down. The decision came to me in May and my desire was to stay until the end of the school year at the end of July. That felt safe, comfortable. Well, God doesn’t always work when we are comfortable. One week into June, my autoimmune disease flared up and I was forced to stay home for two weeks and then three months.

So here I am, in the midst of my three months trying to navigate this new life and at the same time learning to rest. Some days I feel like super woman; other days I feel so defeated. Some days I know the way; other days I’m so lost. This is where the song brought deeper meaning for me. There were unconscious fears that were trying to take control over my mind.

Deciding to leave a position I loved and cherished…scary.

Learning to live and rest with an autoimmune disease…scary.

Starting this blog…scary.

Worried about the possibility of our finances not surviving this new life. Wondering will I be okay? Do I need to be doing more? What will happen if I don’t? All scary thoughts.

However, there was an even scarier thought, not operating in the fullness of God. Not living as the Word directs me. Not utilizing the full power that God has given me. When I compared all those scary thoughts to the faithfulness of God, they didn’t compare. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible clearly shows us all of God’s faithfulness. He is exactly who He says He is. From 1982 until now, God has shown himself to me. I have no reason to doubt. His love for me is great and I feel it everyday. I Am Not Afraid.

“When I walk through the waters I won’t be overcome.

When I go through the rivers I will not be drowned.

My God will make way. So I am not afraid.”

Jesus Culture, Not Afraid

Fuel Up

This past weekend my husband and I went to a wedding that was about an hour away from our home. The bride and groom had a room block at a nearby hotel and we decided to make the trip a staycation and I am so glad we did!

For those who have never heard the phrase “staycation” before it’s like a vacation but in a place that is close to home. Some people visit local attractions that they have never visited before, take a drive for sightseeing or just spend time overnight at a local hotel. If you’ve never done one before, try it!

Initially our desire was to book a 2 night stay. However, as the date approached we began to realize that two nights away from our seven month old wasn’t quite a good idea yet. I even had moments where I doubted the one night. I thought “maybe we should just go to the wedding and come back later in the night.” “Will he sleep okay not in his crib, in his surroundings?” With all those thoughts running through my head, there was another thought that was even bigger, “fuel up!”

My husband and I just celebrated two years of marriage in July. Yay! When we married, I had two daughters and now with our new addition, we have three kids…Three! It’s more than a notion but I love every minute(I could do without some of the seconds lol). So with three children, finding time with each other that doesn’t involve some type of aspect involving children can be challenging. Although challenging, it is not impossible. It takes a desire, a commitment and intentionality.

With all my doubts and worries about leaving the baby, my desire to spend time with my husband was greater. The commitment that was made to each other to love and cherish was important to me. We had an opportunity to have some alone husband and wife time and we had to be intentional about taking the time. During this time, we had to fuel up.

Fueling up is a phrasal verb that is associated with putting fuel in a car. Fuel is a material that is needed in order for a car to run. The fuel is mixed with air, atomized and vaporized. The engine then converts the gas into energy which causes the car to be in motion. Without the fuel, the car would not be able to run. The same is true for a marriage. Without fuel, the marriage will not work. It is very important for couples to stop and take the time to fuel up.

For Malcolm and I , we fueled up by taking an overnight trip away from the children. During this time, we were able to have some alone time. We were able to cater to one another in an uninterrupted space.

Fueling up doesn’t require only overnight trips. Fueling up can be done daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc. Whatever is needed for your marriage. The main point is that you stop to asses and fuel up accordingly. Here are some other ways to fuel up:

What are some ways that you fuel up? Leave a comment. I want to hear from you!

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