31 days of prayer

Typing in the title to today's blog post, I think I had to run through that whole days of the month song in my head, 30 days has September, April, June and November...

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I think I got it right!

My prayer life has struggled a bit lately, and I thought taking the month of August to get back on track would do me some good. In many ways. 

I've noticed an upsurge in traffic to heartfullybuilt.com lately, and for those of you who read regularly I truly thank you!

This month, I'd like to pray for you. I don't have to know you personally, but if you need prayer of any kind, please leave a comment, you can make it anonymous, or just leave a first name, in the comments section, but know that your situation will be prayed over.

God's word says in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 to, "Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus."

In doing what God's word says here, we are taking advice from Paul on how to live in a way that pleases Christ as we prepare for his return. I didn't realize how much I needed these verses today as I've read them and settled some things in my own heart, but I think that's how our God works sometimes :) 

"Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people," (1 Thessalonians 5:14-16).

I needed a heavy feeling in my heart gone this morning, as I've been focused on wrong being done to me. I'm so thankful for God's word to settle myself when I need it the most!

xoxo

marlena

 

*I'm waiting on your prayer requests :) 

worry turned prayer

I've not not felt the best lately. Honestly, I'm not sure if I'm experiencing a sickness, stress, spiritual warfare, depression or just a long-lasting mood swing. I just know that I've been down and there are stresses that I am experiencing and I don't even know if I am fully aware of what they all are. My heart just feels heavy. Have you felt like this before? This morning I had the urge to pray, and since I didn't get down on my knees this morning when I first woke up around 4:30 am  (likely God's nudging for me to get up and get into His word) but instead went to sleep, I felt it imperative that I just thank God for everything. Right now. 

Sometimes we just have to thank Him. He is so good. No matter what our ailment is, or our worldly concerns are, sometimes we just have to thank Him that gave us breath in our bodies to wake up this morning. 

So if you're feeling down, different, unsure, unstable...or like anything other than yourself, take time outside of your worrying and say a prayer of thanks.

Heavenly Father,

Thank you. 

Thank you for sending your son Jesus to have his body broken and die for my sins, even though I could never deserve it or earn it. 

Thank you for the people you have placed in my life to love me, grow me, and teach me.

Thank you for my health, my home, my family and most importantly of all, my salvation.

Thank you for each provision that I know comes from no one else but you.

You are so good, better than I deserve. Thank you for your goodness!

Father, thank you that your love is abundant and far-reaching.

I pray that I continue to grow in Christ and continue to mature as a woman of faith.

In Your Son's Mighty Name I Pray, Amen.

 

xoxo

marlena

summer camp frenzies

There was a movie I loved when I was younger, it was called Heavy Weights. I didn't really struggle with weight when I was young, and although I knew the camp was about kids at fat camp, I ABSOLUTELY WANTED TO GO. I wanted to stay in a cabin, swim in a (dirty) lake, and stay up all night with my friends. Hiding junk food in crazy places within our cabin would have been quite awesome too :)  

Now I have a son. He's five years old and he went to camp today. FOR THE FIRST TIME! Thankfully, my friend and neighbor allowed her five year old to go too, and I think amidst the chaos of checking in we both had doubts. Are the boys safe? Kids are EVERYWHERE. The counselors looked like babies. One of our boys' counselors has braces!!! OMG. I know I'm 33 now, but goodness, that made me feel 65! 

The boys with their new camp t-shirts on after checking in at my church's "Out of this World" summer camp!

The boys with their new camp t-shirts on after checking in at my church's "Out of this World" summer camp!

Sweet boys posing before the auditorium doors open. Kudos to our friend Nick for dressing up in this costume and setting himself up for likely kid attacks! 

Sweet boys posing before the auditorium doors open. Kudos to our friend Nick for dressing up in this costume and setting himself up for likely kid attacks! 

In the Jeep on the way to camp, my little asked if he was spending the night. No. Thank goodness! I'm not ready for all of that. But, as I watched him enter the big auditorium once the doors opened (after running back a few times for hugs he knew I needed :), bouncing/dancing with a friend, and later as I drove away, I began to wonder if I was ready for it all. Mama growing pains. 

Heavenly Father, 

Thank you for blessing me as a mommy. This morning I pray for safety,  and most of all, open ears, eyes and hearts so these sweet boys can hear and learn your word and know you better. 

Amen!

xoxo

marlena

throwin' out some more seeds

Rod and I took our Little to the Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, AL, on Saturday and it was fab. Like really, it was quite awesome!

If you've taken the time to read a few of my more recent blog posts, you'll see where I have had some worries about my Little's confidence in who he is, and what he looks like. My aunt's good friend has raised a young, brown boy all by himself for nearly thirteen years, and while I never grew up with the mind to really talk to others about my feelings, the older I become the more I feel obligated to reach out to those wiser than me. So who better to talk to about my parental worries than this friend? Exactly, no one. After calling him up and discussing the conversation I had with my Little, one of the (many) tidbits of advice that he gave me was this: responsibly bombard my son with people who look like him that will start the conversation, and keep the conversation going about his black history and culture. We discussed doing this in the form of television, but mostly importantly, in art work and more mainstream environments. 

A huge fan of reading books, I already have an array of great books for my son to read when he gets just a little bit older, so I thought a museum environment would be a good first attempt at being more proactive in giving him some culture :)

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The statue and literature regarding Rosa Parks was our first Ahah! moment. Not only was this an AMAZING image of Rosa Parks, but it sparked such great conversation with my son about segregation.

My sweet Little looking at the literature regarding the burned Greyhound bus in Anniston, AL. 

My sweet Little looking at the literature regarding the burned Greyhound bus in Anniston, AL. 

The Greyhound bus was probably the most touching exhibit for my son. He's a lover of all things that move, and he was captivated by the fact that people burned the bus down on purpose. He repeatedly asked if everyone made it out okay, and while I could tell that it made him sad, I think it made him feel good knowing that no one was killed in this particular act of hatred.

The Greyhound bus was probably the most touching exhibit for my son. He's a lover of all things that move, and he was captivated by the fact that people burned the bus down on purpose. He repeatedly asked if everyone made it out okay, and while I could tell that it made him sad, I think it made him feel good knowing that no one was killed in this particular act of hatred.

One of the things I enjoyed during this quick trip to Birmingham, AL, was the Institute's gift shop. Furing our weekly trips to the library, I always make sure to grab at minimum a few books with characters that look like my son amongst the many that we read each week. The gift shop was a smorgasboard of these same books, posters for bedrooms (because I truly think, deep down, that all nineties kids can remember loving a good poster on their bedroom wall), coffee mugs (I found a great one with a pretty brown girl with natural hair!) and even bowties with African print fabric. My son was ecstatic to choose a necklace with an excerpt of text from W.E.B. Dubois and has worn it constantly since our trip. When I say he was proud, Littlebit was proud! I think with me being such a lover of writing and literature I was pleased with his choice as well. Even more so, seeing his eyes light up in a place where he was engulfed with even the simplest of things, like coloring books and stickers, that showcased black America, was one of the best moments of our trip.  

As Christians, I think we are all well aware of the phrase "planting seeds," and I felt my husband and I did just that on Saturday. While we hope that our discussions regarding church, God's word and our own actions that our son sees each and every day plant seeds of God's truth on a regular basis, aiding our son in growing up to be a true lover of God and people, I hope we planted some seeds this weekend that will start an ongoing and continuous discussion about who our Little is and why God created him to be exactly who he is.

xoxo

Marlena

and the conversation continues...

So if you didn't read my last post, my new goal in life is to make sure that my five year old learns more about his history, and is proud of who he is and what he looks like.

I started reading Gabrielle Union's book, We're Going To Need More Wine, weeks and weeks ago at Barnes and Noble. Basically, I was intrigued from the beginning. I mean, anyone who has a chapter in their book titled Celebrity Vaginas Itch Too... had me hooked. Judge me if you'd like, I'm a Christian woman, but sometimes the raw, real deal is what we need to hear. The title is blantantly crass, and personally, I would never say it (write it?) but it is what it is. Point blank period. So back to this day, weeks and weeks ago, my reading lasted a grand total of about seven minutes. I had little man with me, and he wasn't having it. Mama reading and not giving him full attention? No, ma'am! So, to make a long story short, I found myself reserving this same book at the library about two weeks ago, and in the midst of little man and I reading our books weekly for the public library's summer reading program, I finally got the email that the book was in!

 One of the things I love the most about this book, aside from its rawness, is the fact that despite her success, Gabrielle truthfully details her own personal struggles and insight into an industry that utilizes her, but at the same time does not always necessarily appreciate her, and certainly does not (and will likely never) appreciate her blackness. Digging into the first few chapters about her childhood, I found so many relatable instances in her growing up in a prodominately white environment, from trying to mask her "blackness" to fit in, to constantly striving to be better, faster, stronger, etc., just to be noticed and considered equal.  God works in ways we do not understand, but I feel like I'm meant to read this book during this season as a mom for insight that is not my own. Reading these pages, I immediately thought about my little boy. Are my husband and I just like Gabrielle's parents in that we've found ourselves in circles where his culture is suppressed to the point of being non-existent, easily escapable and not strong enough foundationally for his five year old self to grasp onto? Or am I just overthinking the fact that my child is growing up and at age five he is just beginning to notice things for the first time, and as serious as they are, his statments and questions are just a part of his learning development and growth? And, as we searched for a new home in months past, were we wrong to look at the neighborhoods that upgraded us into the home we've worked toward, or would it have been best to find a home in a neighborhood strictly for its diversity? At the end of the day, a non-diverse neighborhood likely leads to a non-diverse school.  How this is fair that I have to all of the time consider my child's mental and psychological wellness against his best opportunities for education is beyond me. As a matter of fact, it is a constant worry. It is also a constant worry that race is even a factor in my life. God made us all in His image, what would the world be like if EVERYONE could just accept the fact that we are His, He loves us, and He made each us of the way He wants us to be. Ugh. The answer to these questions are still TBD. Should I miraculously have answers, I'll be sure to share of course, but if you're a mother, I think you know deep down that "results" of our teaching and raising pertaining to the health and wellness of our children show over time. So yes, TBD.

I'm not too sure where this post was supposed to go, usually I have plans before I begin typing and sharing thoughts, but I just had to give props to Gabrielle. She raises black boys like I do and sees the obstacle the same way that I see it. And for all of the similar feelings about myself that I experienced growing up, seeing them in someone so successful kind of made me feel good. We all have struggles, and problems and insecurities so I guess it is just nice to see that I'm not the only one. This book is just another reminder that money can make it possible to move into better and bigger neighborhoods, or aid the affordabilty of private school, but wealth is not the same as the mainstream privilege that we sometimes feel we have to assimilate to.  But why should we have assimilate to "mainstream" culture to fit in and be noticed and relevant for the normal everyday things so many people take for granted? (I can't wait to read more about this very idea in Gabrielle's book!!!) Better yet, who's to say that what is "mainstream" is really even mainstream? Perception of anything and everything is how you yourself see it, right? So doesn't that mean we can change what our "mainstream" looks like? Questions that need answers people. Questions that need answers now.

xoxo

marlena

 

so i had a talk with my son last night

My little man and I went to Barnes and Noble last night, and after he talked me into buying legos (again) instead of a book, I decided to grab another Kindergarten level workbook for our evening study time.

One of the first pages in the workbook has a blank picture of a child where the workbook owner is able is to draw himself. We layed on one of the rugs in our living room, grabbed a new box of crayons that were bought specifically for these summer study sessions, and got to work. He started coloring his face brown and he looked at me and said, "I want to be white."

What? He pointed to the white crayon. After I recovered from the shock I asked him why. "Because all of my people are white." I thought about my son's school and once again, for the upteenth time since last August, I wondered if I was making the right choice. He's super smart, thoughtful, obedient for the most part and we can converse with one another about simple biblical concepts. And honestly, HE IS JUST SUCH A SWEET, SWEET KID!

My sweet, beautiful, brown boy!

My sweet, beautiful, brown boy!

NONETHELESS, MY HEART BROKE. Sometimes I look at him and get teary-eyed because he is soooo beautiful. I used to joke with my husband when I was pregnant, telling him that if we had a little boy that I wanted him to look just like his daddy. Big pretty brown eyes that have a slight slant, super long eyelashes that will remind you of the prettiest dolls’, and even, beautiful and blemish-free brown skin. So many times I have felt like God favored me by deciding to allow me to be my little man's mom. There are so many people who try for years and years to have children, and, unfortunately, never do. I have began to understand this on a whole new level as my husband and I have tried to have our second baby for well over two years now. Imagine going a lifetime trying to become a mother, wanting to have a baby to love on and raise? My heart sincerely goes out to every woman in the universe who hasn't felt her baby's hand in hers, or little lips brush her own cheeks. It is such a gift. 

My son attends a small school, and while his particular classroom was prodominantly white during his first year (pre-k), overall, the racial diversity in his school is quite fabulous. I knew that race would play a big part in his schooling eventually, due to none of the children in his class looking like him. I figured I would have to answer questions as he gets older and more mature, and in anticipation of these questions, I thought well, maybe I should take him out of this school and put him in a more "mixed" environment, or, maybe I should homeschool him, making it so much easier to avoid akward situations. At least at home I could better control who he is around on a regular basis. But who am I to say that his being around different is wrong? Naive thinking of a first time mother. We can always change schools, but racism is still racism and there are racist parents who send their children to public schools and private schools; and, just as importantly, just because he is the only one that looks like him doesn't mean that there would even be anyone racist in the general environment, realistically, it would be more of an identity issue. I could home school, and while things would be "easier" now at age five, what happens when college comes, and moving away and the shock of a diverse world is staring my son in the face? Thankfully, we've not encountered racism in our current school, and when concerns were brought to the Principal, it was nice to know that she doesn't see color and stresses that "we are all God's children," but honestly, it's easy to say that and speak in generalities when you child has never been the only one who looks like him (or her) in their classroom.

I feel very strongly about raising a son who is proud to be who he is, not only because of our black history, but because he is who he is because God made him to be that way, BUT how can I do this without changing the environments that we are deeply engrossed in? I've felt very lucky in these last five years because my son is HAPPY. And when I say "happy," I mean he has been able to be an innocent kid, which is all we've ever wanted for him. Here are a few things that I've made sure to do, in order to keep him this way...

1) We've talked to our son about God from the beginning. I didn't grow up in a churchgoing home, and, as a believer who is actively chasing a relationship with Jesus, I always wonder if some of the mistakes I (stupidly) made would have been reversed or made different if I knew myself as a daughter of the Highest King. I mean, there used to be so many things that I was afraid of before actively following Jesus that I can now view for what they are: minor things. I want my little boy to know that although he has an earthly daddy, he has a bigger, perfect daddy in Heaven who made him who he is for a reason. 

2) I've always told him how special and beautiful he is. Most importantly I call him a champion, because he really is quite awesome. I want him to always remain humble, but at the same time know that it is okay to be confident and proud. 

3) Until now, I've never really spoken with him about race. Sometimes, it is easy to identify others by their race, but that is something my husband and I have never done. We are all God's children, and while it may be easier to categorize someone by their looks, it is also just as easy to not do so. This may not be a realistic decision for an older child, but at age five, I do think a large part of these words my little spoke yesterday have to do with his truly noticing outer appearances of others more as he grows up.  

As I work on incorportating more racial pride into my normal everyday and conversations with my son, I will share and post more regarding this topic! (I hope I have lots to say in the next few months!)

In my online search this afternoon to find parents who are facing this same issue, I came across a TED talk, and, basically, it was beautiful. Check it out!

 

https://www.ted.com/talks/clint_smith_how_to_raise_a_black_son_in_america/discussion

 

 

xoxo

marlena

living new when others see the old

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I planned to write this blog post yesterday.

I was too busy wallowing around in my feelings to write so I went to sleep. I woke up with a heavy heart still. Put it like this, my joy was erased and the enemy was delighted!

Sound familiar? If it does, why do we allow others to take our joy away???

I was in a great mood yesterday. It was one of those moods that almost makes me feel like I must be trying too hard because I'm trying to overcompensate for something (but I wasn't). Then, in a split second, I was quickly reminded of a past situation. One where I wasn't who I am today, and the downward spiral began. 

Who am I fooling? 

Yea, I'm doing great now, and my past is still in the past but it seems as if it is the present

Does trying even really matter?

Why do they see me as I used to be, as opposed to who I am now, in Christ?

WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO????

These are all questions that came to mind, and I'm sure in many situations, those who are new in Christ find themselves battling how others think of them. I mean, they knew you before you were a believer and became a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), but why should they assume you haven't changed? 

Honestly, they shouldn't. I think the most unfortunate thing about those people who aren't as mature in their faith is this: they feel like judgement is theirs.

Those who are a little more mature understand that judgement is for God only, and most importantly, that through true repentance of sin (actively working toward and turning away from our sin nature), God forgives us because of the blood of his son Jesus. Most importantly, since we are new creations, as the verse in 2 Corinthians states, "the old has passed away and the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT).

How do we live like the old has passed way?

Show others the kind of grace that God shows us. Ultimately, it is up to God to determine judgement, so if we know this, let's not allow others to condemn us, but instead forgive them for not showing grace. There is no need to fall into pity, self-despair or hatred toward anyone. Everyone has an opinion, and quite honestly, as long as you know that you are a work in progress, who cares what they think?

Know yourself. God is good all of the time. People aren't, it's a fact. Whether you are undergoing spiritual transformation as a new believer, or whether you are still deciding what to believe, trust that you know you in the process. Other than God, you are the only one who knows what is truly going on in your walk with Jesus. Continue to make it count, no matter who wants to give their opinion, or rain on your parade.

How do we live like the new has come?

Live in Relationship, not by the rules and expectactions of this world. Being a believer gives you two things from God that non-believers do not have: His Holy Spirit within you, and His son Jesus. Grow to know Jesus on a relational basis, as Elohim (our Creator God), or Jevohah (our personal God), amongst His many other sides. Because we are in relationship with God's son, and are continuously learning the different sides of Him during our personal growth in Christ, a huge part of living "like the new has come," is our day to day interactions with others. How would Jesus handle himself in your situation?

Key Takeaways?

We have to know ourselves in Christ before we can truly understand our relationship with others; and,

We have to learn how to handle their judgement without grace by showing them grace.

 

Joy belongs to believers because we have hope in Jesus. If anyone has the ability to take that away, we need to dig even deeper into His word.   

Rejoice always (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

xoxo

marlena