What Do You Want?

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“Whatdya want?” is the reply I always get when I call my youngest sister’s name. She says it so tersely that I make sure I have an answer even if I called out her name in jest. I heard “Whatdya want?” even more loudly–albeit with my spiritual ears–when I watched a great Denzel movie, Roman J. Israel Esq., and its eponymous character passionately expressed that a person’s greatest fear is looking in the mirror and asking themselves what do they really want. I meditated pon dat and challenged myself to answer that question. Then I posed it to a couple of other people who said, “Hmmm” just as long as I did. After a good, long, pregnant pause, I decided that the mirror of true aspiration would become my bedfellow. Although I am one to always go after what I want no matter what, there is always another level of getting that may ask for more than before. And that can be scary.

Why the fear? After all, the concept seems simple enough, right? However, the reality is people are often afraid to go after what they really want because the price is too high. Rejection, disappointment, the passing of time, things being harder than one thought, etc., are the stuff of the troll under the bridge, and sometimes there is not enough gold in the land to pay that giant goober off.  Ignoring the Peanut Gallery is expensive for

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some, being status no instead of status quo is pricey, and maybe disappointing family who expected a person to remain in the six-figure job versus leaving it all behind to backpack through life may surely come with no discount.

Probably the most blinged out item on the list is change. To want what one has never had means to do what one has never done. It means getting on the grind without apology or explanation, and having a laser-like focus that may make life a little stiff, sacrificial, and supremely utilitarian for a season. It means to acknowledge the deep restlessness inside has nothing to do with wanting to impress, over-compensate, or make up for a childhood filled with a whole lot of criticism, but rather to fulfill one’s true calling.

I’m here to share that at the end of all of that is the pay off of fulfillment and fearlessness that is absolutely empowering. In Christ, that is a guarantee. Where God guides He provides, and if He points in a certain direction, He should have the privilege of knowing someone is going to pack and ride. There should be no genuine concern over not being good enough, strong enough, brave enough, or even perfect enough. He knows what He’s getting into every time.

So the next time life asks, “Whatdya want?” don’t let it waste its words. Have a ready answer and prepare, by any means necessary, to march to the beat of your own drummer. And when you do, that’s when you really get to dance.

Count it off…1-2-3-4! *fiyah horn section*

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The Silent Sufferer

Grandma2 (2)Some time ago I wrote a short story about my grandmother, Alfleet Pender McNeill (1932-2002). I wanted to pay homage to the woman who raised me, and often without words taught me everything she knew, to acknowledge the fact that she was not just “Grandma”. She was a woman who had aspirations, yet they went unfulfilled because she was busy serving others. During my time in her household, not one time did I realize the gravity of her sacrifice. It wasn’t until after her death that I saw what she did for me and others as something she didn’t have to do, but she did it so that the rest of us wouldn’t fall apart.

As I’ve matured, I understood the full weight and meaning of my grandmother’s sacrifice, and lamented over how I should have done more to show appreciation. It didn’t occur to me that being at everyone’s beck and call with no days off was something she didn’t have to do. Like many grandmothers I know, her acts of kindness and sustenance  were seen as her reasonable service. If she cussed and fussed about all that she did, it was viewed as just another one of her rants instead of acknowledging they were moments of extreme frustration. She was frustrated as she watched everyone else live their lives while she stood in the background feeling unfulfilled, taken for granted, and maybe even unloved. She was frustrated because breakfast, lunch, and dinner were prepared like clockwork for kids and grown folks alike. She was frustrated because she was always expected to be on post while everyone else got a pass to do what they wanted to do. It wasn’t fair but I don’t think anyone really saw it that way. While she was able to help everyone fix their problems, who fixed hers?

Grandma4There are many of you out there like my grandmother who are selfless. You are always helping someone and never want to see anyone suffer. You will give anyone–even a stranger–the shirt off your back without blinking. You have even been there for people who, when you needed them most, turned you away yet you still came through when they needed you. You are the person everyone can depend on and who people expect to always be “on” and say “yes”, never thinking about what you are giving up or what tight space you may be putting yourself in to be there for them. At times you may even feel discarded, that after people get what they want from you there is no more need for you.

People may be so used to you being the one to fix things that they don’t hear the depth of your pain when you say you are having a bad day, don’t know how to do something, or are afraid. You’re seen as a super human who can do anything, so while others get the full Monty of a listening ear and repeated checks, you just get told you’ll be fine. The fact that you’re strong does not illegitimize your pain. Sometimes you get so tired of telling people the same thing over and over again that you just go silent because no one wants to believe you have limitations just like them. And in the case of my grandmother, instead of me asking her what was wrong during those times she went zero dark thirty,  I just thought she was acting funny. I didn’t know that she had gotten so tired of talking that she had to be put on antidepressants just to get through the day. If I weren’t so busy being offended, I would have read between the lines and realized she was crying out for help. She wanted to go to Red Lobster. She wanted to go shopping. She wanted a visit so that she could feel that she mattered. She wanted someone to talk with about what happened on the Soaps. I was so busy taking that I didn’t occur to me that it was my turn to give.

If there is one thing I would ask God to give me, it would be to have my grandmother GrandparentsMcNeill(and grandfather) back. Even if for a minute, I would spend those 60 seconds telling her the many ways my life has gone right because of her. I would tell her I appreciated all the cooking, cleaning, food shopping, giving me money for no reason at the times I could really use it, stories about the old days, admonitions to do the right thing, and all of wonderful memories she created for me. I would tell her I’m sorry for treating her like a vending machine, and that I wish I was mature enough to see through the loud voice and strong words to realize she was hurt and sometimes didn’t even know why.

I’d like to give a word of caution to those of you, including myself, who have someone in your life who have laid themselves on the line for you; don’t take them for granted. As adults it is no one’s job to make sure we’re okay, fix our problems, or be there for us every time we ask. It is very easy to fall into the trap of seeing a person in terms of  their do and not their who. No one has to pray for us. No one has to do favors for us. No one has to do a random act of kindness just to let us know they’re thinking of us. No one has to say they love us, they’re proud of us, they value us. No one. Yet when we are on the receiving end of that kindness, we think it’s nothing special because, after all, that person is always doing or saying something like that. And when they stop, we have the nerve to take it personal and become offended. STOP. IT. Maybe it’s our turn to sacrifice, to pray, to do something nice without the requirement of an occasion. Maybe we need to take our heads out of the sand and realize it’s not all about us and what we need all the time. Everybody got problems.

Today, right now, ASAP, tell your grandmother, your mother, your sister, your cousin, your friend, maybe even your jefe, THANK YOU! Two small words that are really two big deals.

Amen.

You Never Know

“I didn’t hear from you. That’s not like you,” said one of my closest friends who was so used to me texting back right away that after two days passed and no word, she made a call to another bestie to see if she knew I was still breathing. I was nothing but flattered and thankful for her maturity. She could have easily felt some kind of way because I didn’t reply back, but instead she relied on the fact that she knew me well enough to know that if I break routine, something must be wrong. With friends like that, the whole world would be alright.

I replayed that day in my mind as I heard the news of the CEO and founder of Golden Krust, Lowell Hawthorne, reportedly committed suicide. News outlets reported that he was found in his Bronx warehouse with gunshot wounds. Employees were quoted saying he was a great guy.  Commenters on discussion boards expressed disbelief that someone who seemingly had it all would end his life. It leads people to wonder if they missed any signs, or did he say anything that would have given a clue something was wrong. Was it a financial issue? A bad diagnosis? Masked depression?

I really felt some kind of way upon hearing such tragic news because one of my constant prayers is for the Lord to make me sensitive to people who are suffering, especially those who are to the point of wanting to commit suicide. I especially pay attention to people who are strong, who appear to never need anyone, who is the one praying for everyone and spreading sunshine, yet in the wee hours of the night may be sitting up wondering if living another day is really worth it. I know people who have been through horrendous things and no one ever asked how it impacted them. I’ve talked with people who tried to share with others they were struggling with depression only to be told to get over it. People tend to think depression is just a bad mood or something happened that made someone sad. The real deal is sometimes depression is caused by hormonal imbalances that can only be controlled with medication. Some people have been severely traumatized and need serious deliverance through prayer and counseling in order to believe there is still good in the world. A person can’t just get over that; it requires real help.

All I can say is we never know what a person is going through, and we should never take it for granted that someone is so strong, so okay, so on top of things that there will never come a day when that person feels the crushing weight of holding it down. I would like to encourage everyone to take time out of their busy schedule on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, texting, etc., and ask at least two people how they are doing, if they need anything such as prayer, a listening ear, and yes, even a bill paid. You never know who is waiting on someone to show they care. In some cases it could mean life or death. Let’s help people live.

God bless!

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Just Do It

American Flag Sunny“I don’t know how you do it!” I hear this all the time. In my attempt to be the consummate maverick, I am constantly finding a way to challenge myself to grow, reach a goal I’ve set, or climb a mountain so that the person behind me can see it can be done. Seven countries and another degree later, the past year has pushed my faith in God to the limit and opened my eyes to the joys of world citizenship. An expat in a country I’ve only visited twice, had no roots, and didn’t know a soul, I stepped out on faith knowing that every place I set foot belonged to God. And if He’s in charge, I’ll be okay.

I do not consider myself to be a person with innate bravery who charges headlong into the UK Flagunknown. I am just a woman with a whole lot of faith. I used to be a scary little thing. Job interviews terrified me, I had a fatalistic world view, and felt guilty for not having conventional desires that equated to the American Dream. Through doing the hard work of self-reflection and challenging myself to debunk the myths I believed about what I should want, do, and be, I decided that if God said I can do it, then it’s getting done. Full stop. It didn’t matter if someone I knew had done it or not. It didn’t matter who agreed or not. I just  knew that if I was certain the Lord revealed it was His will for me, an alternative outcome was non-negotiable. You simply just don’t tell God no.

Spain FlagIf I were to share my two pennies about how to be like Nike and just do it, my first piece of advice would be to know yourself. A lot of us don’t know who we are because we’ve been trained, often at a young age, how to perceive ourselves. We place limits on our talent because at age 10 someone told us how far we should dare to go, and we enter into adulthood with those limitations going unchallenged. Even if our potential is greater than what we’ve been told, that leash remains around our necks telling us to stay with the pack and don’t dare pull ahead. There are many people living UAE Flagbeneath their privilege because of that leash, and without realizing it their perpetual discontent and unrest is due to living under the constraint of a delusion imposed by someone who truly didn’t know enough to speak on anyone’s potential, let alone their own. That was a mouthful! In the words of Iyanla Vanzant, “Breathe! Stay in it!”

I read a quote the other day that reminded me of a question I often ask those in the younger generation so that they can challenge themselves to debunk their personal mythologies, “How can you let someone who doesn’t know who they are tell you who you are?” We sometimes give people too much power and too much credit because we may tend to think they know more than we do, including about ourselves. However, we must Malta Flagentertain that many people engage in what I call “mental sorcery”; they give the appearance of knowing much because we may hold them dear or they have a place of authority in our lives. However, the reality is they may actually be like the Wizard of Oz–a little man behind a velvet curtain pushing buttons, sometimes at random. Let that sink in. The devil will use anyone to speak the leaven of limitation into our spirits, and from my experience it is often due to their own fears , disappointments, and lack of faith.

When we know ourselves, we can also assess what our gifts and talents are and how we French Flagcan best see them applied. Whatever we are called to do, we must know that we know that we know what God is saying to us. I cannot stress this enough; people may look at our lives and see certain things, but they may not really know what they’re looking at and how those gifts should be used. Everyone with a speaking gift is not a preacher. Everyone who loves to travel will not be a missionary. A person who loves to debate may not necessarily be called to the field of law. We must be careful that we don’t put our gifts in a box and think there is only one way to go because we have received counsel from a limited perspective. There are many ways our talents can be used, but ultimately God directs our paths.

Once we know who we are and what we can do, we must chart our course. While faith is the foundation, without works it is dead. It may not sound spiritually glamorous, but the reality is all the faith in the world does not exempt us from the works of preparation, assessment, counting costs, and receiving wise counsel. God would not have us ignorant. Belgium FlagWe may not be of this world but we live in this world, and that means we have to develop a skill set to help us navigate everyday life. If something is revealed as God’s will,  we have to do our part to be in a place to receive else we either delay or abort the mission altogether. That’s why we cannot simply say, “If it’s meant to be, it will happen.” Not necessarily. It can be meant for us to buy a car, but if we don’t go to the dealership, guess what? If we didn’t budget for the car note, factor in insurance, and that in addition to obtaining we must also be able to maintain, well, you know the deal. Our destiny in Christ is not fulfilled on autopilot. We have to cooperate and do our part as expressed in His Word.

Doing all of the above takes hard work and focus. We must understand that things will Barbados Flagnot always be easy, and difficulty is not an indicator that we are going the wrong way. Despite the challenges, when we see growth we know we are on the right track and it will be worth every second. Stay positive, stay grounded, and stay in faith. God will not fail !

 

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The Devil’s Foothold

Angel on shoulderSo I’m in a deep conversation with my BFF and we talked about watching characteristics that could sabotage one’s future. I told her if it’s not a pattern maybe there’s nothing that needs to be said just yet. She said not so because she is looking way down the line and can see the self-sabotage on the horizon. When she put it that way it became very clear what God was saying as she spoke. She saw where the devil could create a foothold that would eventually become a stronghold. In order to stop it from coming to pass, it has to be nixed while it was still in seed form. It made a whole lot of sense.
It has been made evident through the actions of every person who has ever walked the Earth (with the exception of Jesus), that imperfection is something that can’t be avoided. In spite of that, Galatians 5:22-23 makes it clear that as believers, we are expected to cultivate the fruit of the Holy Spirit in order to consistently work towards becoming Christ-like. Now this is not about being good so that we can get to heaven because our righteousness is not in ourselves but in Christ (Romans 3:21-22), but rather understanding that a life in the spirit requires the death of the flesh (Galatians 5:24). It doesn’t happen all at once but it’s a lifelong process that takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.

In addition to what we must cultivate in our character, there are certain traits that are emphasized we must not espouse; unforgiveness (Colossians 3:13), anger (James 1:20), and pride (Proverbs 8:13) to name a few. When we stew in those characteristics we create an environment where the flesh rules and the spirit has to jockey for supremacy. The Bible says a little leaven leavens the whole lump (Galatians 5:9), so all it takes is a drop of negativity to go unchecked to create a whole loaf of jacked up bread.

And this is where we have to keep it real. A lot of us are too comfortable always being angry, bitter, resentful, unforgiving, attitudinal, manipulative, over-emotional, ungrateful, entitled, violent, and a host of other things that erode the goodness we have worked so hard to cultivate. This is not to say we aren’t human and feel some kind of way from time to time, but when we allow that negativity to take up residence, we roll out the red carpet for crop failure later on. The wheat and tares will grow together!rusty-winter-wheat

A lot of you may be wondering why you used to be happy about life and now you feel numb inside. Is there a negative emotion you refused to pry out of your heart because you let it sit for years thinking it was okay? Or what about always needing to take someone’s head off for a minor offense? Is it because you didn’t work on emotional discipline so that you can stick with the “That’s how I am” false narrative? Negative emotions can give birth to mindsets and emotional patterns that could arrest our development, ruin blessings, and hinder goodness from coming into our lives. Remember the story of King Saul in I Samuel 17:57-18:16 where he was so jealous of David that his intentions for him grew murderous? Instead of Saul enjoying the blessing of being king, he allowed his heart to be hardened and set himself up for failure. Like Saul, when good things happen we may not even recognize or enjoy them because we are so busy scowling in Jesus’ name. One day we may look up and wonder how we got to such and such a place, not realizing it started a long time ago going along its merry way unchecked. We may say that life is no longer exciting or positively eventful without doing some self-work to see if we are actually repelling serendipity. It’s like people who complain of not having any friends, not realizing they carry a constant aura of mistrust and suspicion from past hurts.

Lastly, this is especially for those who are called to–or are active in–ministry. Let me tell you, I have seen this dynamic happen with my own eyes where leaders who do not cultivate the fruit of the Holy Spirit in their lives wind up perverting their gifts. My uncle told me that we all have something inside of us that can operate righteously and unrighteously, so we most work hard to err on the side of the righteous. If not, the trustworthy pastor can operate like a witch. Instead of leading he controls and manipulates. The prophetess can be given to a lying spirit because her heart is not right and she is too puffed up in pride to work on her shortcomings. I’ve seen many people with good intentions pervert their gifts because they allowed dangerous emotions and lines of thinking to enter their space and stay there. No bueno.

That’s about all I have to say. I’m going to take some time tonight to reflect on areas I need to work on, watch for weeds, et cetera, et cetera. This life is work but it’s good work. And keep the devil’s feet off your couch!

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Amen.

Marriage Series Part V: The Good Wife

BrideHello Readers! In this final segment of the marriage series I interviewed a very good friend of mine who is the epitome of a good wife. She sticks by her husband through thick and thin, prays for him, and makes sure her house is in order so that there is peace in the home. Despite her busy life as a professor, writer, and doctoral student, she embraces a traditional marriage life by cooking great meals, keeping a clean home, and looking good for her husband. And because she clearly shows her devotion to the health of their marriage, her husband does his share as well to make sure he has a happy wife so that he’ll have a happy life! Let’s get into the interview.

 

How long have you been married?

I have been married for 3 years now.

How did you two meet?

We met at church on several occasions however we finally communicated when we happen to be seated next to each other one Sunday morning. We were both surprised! Then during the service the pastor said turn to your neighbors and say I love you. I hesitated but he said it quick, lol! The pastor said you never know that may be your husband or wife. After service we exchanged numbers and later he arranged to meet for lunch. God is definitely in the details!

What did you do prior to meeting your husband in preparation for marriage?

In preparation for marriage, I asked God to prepare me through prayer. I also took several months looking for scriptures in the Bible that pertained to marriage and studied them in order to align myself. I spoke to several married women that I respected and who were at different levels in their marriage to gain some knowledge/advice. Finally, I cleaned up my credit (besides student loans) and started cooking more so my husband wouldn’t starve.

Share some things you learned about marriage growing up.

Growing up in a Caribbean household I learned the importance of prayer, communication, partnership, providing affection, and caring for the household in marriage. My dad would often share how to care for a man and what not to do. My mom would often say you better learn how to cook and clean but she never spoke of intimacy in marriage. That was taboo for her.

How did those perceptions change after marriage?

After marriage I tried to be this super wife and apply all the advice I was given, which did not work at all. I became overwhelmed trying to impress my husband and he hated it. I realized that I had to create my own story and including my husband was key. My husband grew up in a household where he saw his mother cater to his father and he always said he did not want his wife to do this. My husband asked me to tell him how he could help me because we were a team and in this together. In the beginning it was tough for me because I could be a bit controlling when things are not done my way or in the time I expected. I had to let go and when I did it paid off.

What does it mean to you when the Bible states a wife should submit to her husband, the husband is the high priest of the home, etc.?

To me it means I am to respect my husband and remember that he is the leader of the home. I am not to try to take or replace his role. At the end of the day it’s all about the chain in command. My husband will have to answer to God and I will also have to give an account for my role as well.

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Explain your role in your marriage as it relates to supporting your husband, household duties, etc.

My role in my marriage is to support my husband. I do this by praying for him, being that listening ear, working with him and not against him, and providing constructive criticism that will better him. I also make sure that my home is a place of peace. When it comes to household duties, we share the roles. However, the kitchen is my domain. I do all the cooking but I make all efforts to teach him how to cook as well just in case I am unable to.

As a professional woman with a doctorate degree on the horizon, how do you feel playing a traditional role in your marriage with your spouse as the head?

My professional advancement is certainly for the betterment of my family. My spouse has been there for me from the start of my degree. If I advance he advances as well.

In every marriage there will be times when a spouse experiences disappointment, anger, resentment, etc. How do you manage to deal with things when they are not so perfect?

Hard times can really bring much stress to a marriage. At times they are unpredictable but require lots of patience. To manage we pray, at times fast, and find scriptures to cope. I also speak positivity and remind my husband that trouble does not last always.

How is your relationship with your in-laws and how do you manage to be involved with your spouse’s family without having anyone overstep their bounds in your marriage affairs?

One thing I was very specific about when I prayed for my spouse was the relationship with my in-laws. I asked God that I would fit in and forget that they were in-laws, always remembering that they are family. I can honestly say that the Lord answered my prayers. Nevertheless, space is important. There is a good balance.

Does your spouse have children?

Yes, just one.

Explain what it’s like being a stepmom?

Being a stepmom is not easy. However, the key for me was to establish respect on both ends and to build a relationship with my step daughter without trying to over step my boundaries. In respect to my step daughter’s mother, I am courteous. If there is interference or no cooperation, my husband handles it. There are times when you can tell the child is being influenced being a teenager by the words used or actions taken. In such cases I take the opportunity to speak to my step daughter and allow her to process her actions and make it clear that it will not be tolerated. One thing I remind myself is “It is not the child’s fault”.  That is why I make efforts to help her feel comfortable and treat her like she was my own.

Is it really a big deal to not be the first to give your husband a child? Why or why not?

For me it’s not a big deal. As long as there is a balance of time given to each child, I’m fine.

Share the importance of your spiritual life in your marriage.

Having Christ as the foundation of my marriage has certainly assisted me. Marriage is a beautiful thing but can be very challenging, especially in the beginning. I believe my marriage is definitely a ministry and it is all about how God can be glorified in it. I also believe God allows us to go through certain situations to use us as vessels to help someone else.

Based on your experiences mentoring women who are newly married or engaged, what do you find to be the most common impediment women have when it comes to how they treat their significant others?

Every experience is certainly different. However, based on my experience common impediments include the lack of communication and intimacy. The smallest things can cause a major argument. For me, in the beginning of the marriage the major issue I had with my husband was the fact that he never put the toilet seat down. I did not realize how much I was annoyed by that until I started slamming the seat and yelling at him. I had to understand that when he was a bachelor he never had to share the toilet seat with anyone. I had to decide if I was going to let it affect me or if I would simply take a piece of toilet tissue and put it down myself. Once I started to put it down myself and totally let it go, my husband started to put it down. He doesn’t remember to do it every time but when he does I appreciate it and thank him for doing it. Lack of intimacy is also a major issue which can cause problems. Sometimes the woman expects the man to read her mind to know exactly what she is thinking at all times (I was guilty of this). I find that it is important to share with your spouse what you like and don’t like. Knowing your spouse’s love language is also helpful and will allow you to comprehend where he is coming from.

Why do you think those problems are prevalent?     

I believe these problems are prevalent because of a lack of patience and the refusal to remove self from the marriage (Me-Me-Me mentality). Many individuals come into a marriage with preconceived notions and expectations of what it should be like, and later realize marriage requires work and patience. Others view the marriages of friends and wish that theirs were the same, but don’t realize that no marriage is perfect and all have issues. The key is the way you decide to handle the issues, whether it be family meetings or counseling, something needs to be established early on.

Let’s shift to the fun stuff. What special things do you do that make your husband want to come home?

My husband loves to eat (what man doesn’t). I would prepare his favorite meal plus dessert. I also make efforts to keep up with my looks. I think this is very important because it is so easy to get comfortable and forget that men are visual. Keeping up with your looks also gives you confidence. I also like to plan something small whenever possible to make him feel special like a trip or a small gift just because. I realize that men like to be appreciated just as much as women do, the smallest things go a long way.

What things do you do outside of the home to keep things fresh? 

Exercising is huge for me to stay toned. At times I would invite my husband to join me in a walk or run, and it really gives us a chance to reflect, plan, and bond. Going to a nice restaurant and getting dressed up is something else we enjoy and allows for more bonding. Sometimes I look for free or cheap events around town to get us away from the day to day.

Any final words you want to leave with readers?

Marriage is a beautiful institution that God has created and does require lots of work. No marriage is perfect because no individuals are perfect. You will certainly learn more about yourself in addition to your spouse daily. Communication is certainly important. However, trust must be established. Having God as the foundation will not make everything go smoothly, but it will provide you some reassurance that everything will work out according to God’s purpose as long as both husband and wife are aligned in His will.

Marriage Series Part IV: The Good Husband

Hello Everyone! Let’s take a break from the ladies and hear a man’s point of view on the topic of marriage and what it means to be a good husband. And before you think this brother is too good to be true, I have known him practically all of my life and can attest to the fact that he is who he says he is.

Shawn WeddingElder Shawn Everette Rogers is a singer, songwriter, and audio engineer residing in Baltimore, Maryland, but his edgy, in-your-face lyrics still carry the aroma of Long Island, New York where he grew up. Shawn Everette Rogers combines urban contemporary Christian music with a quiet storm brand of soul and worship music. With influences from a variety of music styles such as R&B, gospel, and praise and worship, his signature sound is destined to capture the mind, soul, and spirit of people from vast musical taste bringing them to a common point of truth.  Check out the links after the break for great music. Let the interview begin!

Share with readers what your spiritual beliefs are.

I am a Christian.  In today’s society that statement has become very blurry. My definition of a Christian is one who follows Jesus Christ, the Jewish teacher from the 1st century, and lives a life that reflects the whole of the biblical account in modern society.  I accept the scriptures he taught from, which we call the Old Testament, hold them to be truth and depend on His Spirit to teach me how to live them out today.

How did your beliefs factor into your search for a wife?

I prayed for a wife.  I was hanging with a young lady as friends for a few months before I started dating my wife.  My spiritual father at that time pulled me to the side and said “You need to pray for a wife and tell God exactly what you are searching for.” I thought that was bold but I listened.  I prayed and asked for some specific things.  Now I have to admit some of the things I asked for were, well, shallow. But come on I am a guy!  We do need to know what interests us.  Now my Godfather was a Pastor so I thought this was crazy but he said “Be specific. You want to wake up in 10 years, roll over, and stare at your wife and smile.”  Yes, I too thought to myself “Ummmm WOW!” So I knew I wanted a Christian wife.  There was no desire in my heart to marry someone who did not love Jesus.  That is just asking for heartache and conflict.  As I look back over my marriage, I can clearly see it was God who knew much better than me what I needed.

When you met your wife, how did you court her and what things did you do or say to let her know you were serious about her? At what point did you know she was The One?

Now this is where the fun begins!  Can I say from the start this is my story and it may not happen like this for everyone?  The point is when we trust God He knows exactly how to pull it all together. As I stated earlier I did pray about finding a wife.   I have to say I always loved the idea of being married and having a family.  I first met my wife about three years before we got together. Fast forward two years, she began attending the same church I attended and I watched her dance on the praise team. I remember being in the sound room and one of the guys said, “She is a sweet and beautiful girl, and some dude is going be blessed to marry her.” The thought, “Wow, the man that marries her will be a happy dude!” was in my head every time I saw her.  At an organizational function I mentioned to one of her sorors how beautiful I thought she was and she said “You know she is single now.” I did not think anything more about it because she always gave me the B.L. (blank stare). Now I told you my Godfather told me to pray and I did! I was specific saying, “Jesus please let my wife be someone committed, who wants children, loves you, loves me, and all the spiritual stuff.” Finally I said, feeling sheepish, “I like long hair, fair skin, and it would be interesting if she had brown eyes.” A few weeks later God gave me a dream. When I awoke I knew the dream was about my wife.

It may have been a few weeks later, I was getting on the bus to go to work and as I stepped on my future wife was on the bus. Now we had never talked since the first day I said hello when we met three years prior. She really didn’t notice me at all at church.  This day on the bus when she saw me, she said her heart jumped.  She smiled at me with the most welcome smile. We sat and talked for the first time on that bus ride.  That same night after church we got the same ride home and I asked if I could call her.  She said yes and we began to talk on the phone.  After about three months she asked if I thought she was my wife.  I said yes.  She said “how do you know?”  I told her about the dream and all the things God showed me so I would be clear when my wife came into my life. That dream was a confirmation that put in my spirit the assurance of who she was when we got together.  I really believe she was my miracle from God to tell me no detail in your life is to small for Him to be involved in. We were married in six months after meeting on that bus.

Now in the 20 years we have been married I have found that I was clueless to what I really needed in a spouse.  There are so many things that have come up in our lives that have been trying.  In every circumstance we have found we are just what each other needs.  Only God can do that.  He looked into what I needed and provided that along with the things that were just heart desires.  What an amazing God we serve.  I did learn after we were married that my friend I talked to at the organization function told her I was fond of her.  I had no clue she would do that or any hope this women would fall in love with me.

What things did you do in preparation for being a husband and father prior to marriage?

First let me say if someone is not at an age to get married there is little point in dating.  The process of underage dating is a set up for emotional barnyard rides, unneeded heart decay, and hurt that constructs moats and castle walls in fields of mistrust around the heart that may take years to undo.  It can be the foundation of major issues in marriage.  The potential for promiscuity sky rockets because intimate relationships will progress.  It is the natural order of them. Make lots of friends, go out in groups, and get to know people, their personalities, keep your emotional wits, and pray. It is then you will have a broad canvas to work with when you are of age and mentally ready to find your spouse.

I can’t stress enough how detrimental premarital sex is even if it is with the one you marry.  Saving yourself (as the first) for your spouse will give you years to learn and explore new things for the first time.  There is an amazing spiritual and emotional bond in that.  It will also save you from fighting demons of your past, abortions, shame and mistrust.  Now I want you to know that the above is what I learned through experience after the fact. In the midst of a wonderful marriage I so often think how much richer it would have been had I known then what I know now.

As a husband of 20 years and a father of four teen-aged boys, I can say the only thing that prepares you for the journey of marriage and family is Jesus.  So, often I feel unprepared, lost, inadequate, unworthy, clueless, blindsided and dumb.   Through all that I know God loves me, loves my family and because it is his will that we succeed. I can hope in Him despite all the above.  The sweet, teeth jeering icing on top is that I LOOOOOOVE my wife and kids.

How do you problem solve in your household and who has the last word? Why?

We spend a lot of time together watching TV and eating dinner as a family.  We attend church and do family stuff.  Dating is a consistent part of our marriage even if it is a date night at home with a movie and some popcorn.  We argue and learn how to resolve issues and through that we have really come to understand that we are committed to one another.  We don’t always have to agree but my wife is big on order and will say to me, “God has set you as the head so it is your final decision.”  She says, “These are my thoughts but the outcome rests on you as the head.”  I have learned to consider things much more carefully because I realize my family will be affected by my poor or great decisions.  I thank God for a wife that does not try to take over, but lovingly and with great wisdom shares with me her thoughts and then prays for us.  She has really helped me to understand what true love is in marriage.  I don’t have a problem saying my understanding was severely lacking.  One of the greatest benefits to marriage is it will show you who you really are.  God through marriage helps us to cultivate humility.  We realize our faults and imperfections as our spouse is a mirror reflecting back our image.   We need to use those truths not to build walls but to build bridges and doors to our inner most person and to our spouse.  We should allow our spouse to point out those rough edges and help us become what God wants us to be.

What things do you do to make your wife feel special?

I make her feel special by buying her flowers, watching movies/ TV shows that she likes, listening to her (as best a man can), praying for her, working hard to provide for her, being compassionate to her, coming home to her and only her, making the Bible my road map to life, including her in decisions, trusting her, holding her in my arms as they were made for her, and every day trying to love her better then yesterday.

What things do you believe a wife should do in general to make her husband feel needed and wanted?

I think the Provebs 31 woman is a good example.  1 Peter chapter  3 is great. It states:

“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives,when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”

If more women understood that the above is what a GODLY MAN needs, life and family would be good.  Now I capitalized GODLY MAN because the Bible says husband love your wives as Christ loves the church and (gave himself for it) died for it.  As husbands we should be treating our wives as our own flesh.  We don’t hate ourselves or abuse ourselves or cheat on ourselves.  Why should any man expect reverence from his wife in whom he is not being loving to? Remember marriage is a mirror reflecting back at you.  Now men give love (women want to be loved) and wives give respect (men want to be honored).  That is the broad stroke and there is blending of other stuff in those two things.   If we look out into the world men don’t love their wives and women disrespect their husband, and that is really the root of problems in marriage.

Share with our readers what it’s supposed to look like when a man is into a woman.  

This is a hard question because you have to spend time finding out what makes your woman feel loved.  It is most important that you are willing to take the time to find out what makes her melt like warm honey. It is time consuming and frustrating sometimes because women can be emotional.  That’s not a bad thing; it is by design.  We as husbands need to be man enough to take the roller coaster ride and hang on for all the steep dips and head snapping turns knowing all the while that that is part of the fun.  It is a journey well worth taking.

Please give advice to the brothers who need to understand what they must do if they are serious about finding a wife.

  1. I think men who are serious about finding a wife need to first pray. Be serious about finding God’s purpose for your life and then allow God to bring you someone who will complement that. Examine your calling and ask if you do get married will it add to or take away from your purpose.  For example, it will be hard to raise a family as an entertainer.  If you are never home or don’t have time to be there, is it really smart to start a family you will not have time for?
  1. Deal with your demons. Be real with God and yourself about your past and let God heal you from it. Don’t bring mess into your marriage. Get rid of the ideas of old girlfriends, secret rendezvous, and pornography (marriage is soooooooooo much better), and be ready to commit to one woman.
  1. Be determined to submerge and stay in the water (water meaning marriage) no matter what or don’t bother getting in. Never have a plan B for your marriage.
  1. LOVE HARD. BE HUMBLE. I cannot tell you the amount of things I found out after getting married–both good and bad– about myself, my spouse, and life.  I don’t think one can ever be prepared because there are so many ways life can come at you.  What is most important is to STAY COMMITTED, TRUST GOD, PUT GOD FIRST, YOUR WIFE SECOND, AND LIFE THIRD.

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