I’m Moving to Africa.

If you’re reading this, I’ve already made the announcement to my family and friends. I’d like to share a bit more and I’m hopeful that you’ll take the time to read it and see how you can be a part of my service to God.

For the past few years, I’ve watched my educational career transform into something that I refused to believe was my future. There were days when I was unable to serve, love, and encourage my students in God’s truth because of circumstances beyond my control. Fortunately, I’ve never been a quitter. I wouldn’t let my personal frustrations be the reason why I walk away. I waited on the Lord. I fervently prayed, meditated, and studied about the trials that come with service and ways to submit that hurt to God and my family. It gradually got better. I was able to walk on campus and love my students relentlessly, BUT I was left with a yearning for more.

On February 26, 2018, I was informed that I was accepted as a missionary in Jos, Nigeria with The Rafiki Foundation. I am sure you’re wondering what this foundation is and what that means for me, so you can click the link to know more… In short, The Rafiki Foundation is a non-profit, faith-based organization. It focuses on two main ideas, one of which is teaching the Bible and discipling Africans, while simultaneously increasing their standard of living and level of education. It also focuses on the upkeep of ten training Villages (in ten different African countries) that teach, encourage, and are living, breathing examples of God and His truth. Unlike some international missionary organizations, Rafiki Foundation is extremely transparent about what they do and the importance of preserving African culture and integrity.

I do not think I can adequately put into words how humbled I am to have been chosen by God to take these steps, but I am confident that He has been preparing me long before I knew it to be so. Many of you have watched me serve our community. You’ve watched me get declined time and time again for adoption. You’ve watched me prepare for a hysterectomy at the of 26. You’ve watched me engulf myself in education and mentorship to love, serve, and encourage my students long after graduation. You’ve watched me hunger for maternity without being a mother. I ask that you not merely watch this part of my journey but walk alongside me as I take these next steps.

I am asking that you pray with and for me and the continent of Africa. Pray that God provides in ways beyond my imagination. The Rafiki Foundation is a non-profit organization, so I will need financial support. I am asking that if He calls you to give financially, you joyfully obey. I ask that you see it as a service to the people of Africa rather than a “donation” to Shakiyla. I am confident that prayer and encouragement can be physically felt, and I ask that you wrap me up in yours. I would like to leave by this time next year, or sooner, but that is dependent on the rate of financial support and God’s timing.

I will be hosting a Q & A in May, and I would love to see you there. I will answer any questions and give as much information as possible. Please send me your contact information in  the “Connect” section of my blog, and in the comment box write “Rafiki Information/Sponsorship” followed by any questions that need immediate answers. You can also add me on Facebook and message me! If you think your church or personal business would be interested in me visiting, sharing God’s calling, and ways they can serve the nations, please contact me!

If RIGHT NOW you are confident that you would like to join me in serving the country of Nigeria, feel free to go to my Missionary Profile and click “Donate to Shakiyla.” On this site you can set up monthly donations, so i can send you my monthly newsletters and you can choose one amount sent the same day each month. A student of mine has also set up a GoFundMe. This account will specifically cover international insurance, and my travel Visa. This is more for my students and friends who are unable to do a monthly donation. Just CLICK HERE No amount is too small!

Often when I think about foreign missions, Acts 1:8 is at the forefront of my thoughts: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” To my frustration, and ultimate comfort, for the past few years, I have had an overwhelming pull to Galatians 4:27 For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.” I have been called to serve the children of the desolate, please join in my assignment.

Thank you for reading.

I love you.

Hello, Arkansas. Goodbye, Arkansas!

We are saying farewell to March with a short and unexpected Travel Blog. After having the catheter, managing pain, and many unwarranted doctor visits, I was sure I wouldn’t be able to afford a March trip. If you haven’t been following my website, you likely have no clue what I’m talking about. I don’t usually do New Year’s Resolutions, but this year I decided to write down 5 Goals for 2018:

  1. Visit a place outside of Louisiana every month.
  2. Graduate with my Master’s Degree & have my family present.
  3. Take tangible steps toward living overseas.
  4. Save $10,000.
  5. Forgive three specific people.

These are not the most common, at least not for me, but I can honestly say that I’m doing well in my attempt to make them a reality. With that being said, I was convinced that I wouldn’t be able to leave the state this month, and thankfully, Elijah proved me wrong.

To re-cap, in January I went to Houston, Texas. I know it isn’t far nor is it new, but it sufficed and I had some necessary alone time.

In February I went to Eustis and Orlando, Florida. I also visited Detroit, Michigan, District of Columbia, and Maryland. I’ve already posted the travel blogs for Michigan, Washington, and Maryland (all in one) but I have yet to post about my trip to Florida… I promise it will be worth the wait!

This month, I took a trip to Louisiana Tech University to spend some quality time with my brother, and he drove me across the Arkansas state line. We didn’t go too far into the state, nor did we see what made it famous. This trip was merely my baby brother doing what he could to help me reach a goal I’d set for myself. On the way there, we talked about more things than I can remember, but one thing that stood out is our conversations about how we see ourselves. I didn’t realize how much I’ve grown until I was answering random questions from a “Roadtrip Questionnaire” and it was a beautiful realization.

I think it’s essential that you surround yourself with people who will not only be a part of your journey but are willing to challenge your thinking along the way.

Maybe it sounds silly, but I refuse to surround myself with people who are hesitant to challenge me. Encouragement is a beautiful thing, but in a relationship, any relationship, it just isn’t enough. Question me. Correct me. Test me. He spent most of his Saturday in the car with his lame sister picking her brain and talking about life, love, God, family, anger, forgiveness, fatherhood, friendship, and much more.

I’m not sure what Arkansas had to offer, but I’m okay with that…. for now, …

Here is a map of the United States I’ve visited so far. Clearly I need to get away from the Southeast. I’ve also visited Germany and Turkey (not shown) …

Places up to March

Meet Elijah.

 

I haven’t posted on my “Meet a Friend” page in quite some time, so here goes:

Elijah is my little brother. He’s the oldest of the two but will always be my baby. I’ve watched him go from being a complete MUTE, to shining light in people’s lives with his love and encouraging words. I realized how much I admired Lijah when I was about 18 years old. I was going through some things and I found myself blaming my father, or the lack thereof. I sat down with Elijah, 13-year-old Elijah, and just said I was angry. I’m not sure if he remembers it, but I always will. The only thing he said was, “We supposed to forgive.” I was pissed. I didn’t know how to respond or react, and I don’t think he understood the level of wisdom those words carried. We weren’t necessarily “close” at that time, and he very well could have been trying to shut me up, but it was in that moment I realized, he was going to change me.

I know all of this may sound corny to some of you, but maybe you have to know my battle with forgiving my father and understanding my relationships with men to understand that this was something I did NOT want to hear, let alone from my little brother.

About ten years later, and he’s my best friend. He picks me up when I’m down. He carries my burdens like I will never understand. He hurts when I hurt and rejoices when I rejoice. He talks to me about the ugliest of sins and the most beautiful victories. There are times when I confide in him with things that most people wouldn’t believe, and I do it with the utmost confidence and delight.

He often tells me how much he looks up to me, and to be quite frank, I don’t know why. He’s seen me at my worst. He’s watched me weep over things and people that I can’t change. He’s watched me lose myself in anger and emotion. He’s watched me break myself and other people down. I think the beauty in our relationship, though, is that he’s watched me grow. He’s taught me that I have to stop pushing people away. I have to be devoted to the best and worst parts of my relationships. He’s taught me what love looks like and I’m thankful to call him my brother and my friend. He sees a kind of beauty in me that I don’t see in myself. He’s set the standard for any man in my life, and I’m thankful to have had him do so. His love is overpowering and I know not to settle for anything less than that.

Elijah was our little miracle baby, he barely made it out of that hospital alive. With IVs in his head and tubes all over the place, he came out fighting, and I’m confident that’s exactly how it was supposed to happen. Long before he knew it, he was the epitome of strength, and to me, he always will be.

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The Silver Lining.

Hey family! I think that’s what I’ll call you from now on. I’m learning that family is so much more than blood relation, and my readers have walked with me through things that only family would.

 
Last time I wrote, I described my trip to D.C. It was full of medical terminology, tears, and headaches. I found out about the uterine tumor, cervical fibroids, and mass on my kidney. I was full of emotion and frustrations seemed to be at the forefront. Since then, my doctor decided to put a catheter in which lasted for about three weeks. I have never been more humbled in my life. I’m fully aware of how prideful I can get, but when I tell you that catheter bumped me down a few notches, I mean that. Without saying too much more, it was removed on yesterday, and we took steps to handle what seemed to be a recurring problem. I was relieved (pun intended). I caught myself thanking God every time I went to the bathroom which may sound silly, but I think we forget about the little blessings, and I’ve been reminded of them lately.

 
The goal is that my new medication will calm my reproductive system down enough to postpone the surgery until May. I have to re-apply for new insurance, and I couldn’t leave my students for the last two months of school. I’m learning to put my health first, but some sacrifices just have to be made. I know this isn’t the most exciting blog, and it may not be the most interesting one either, but yesterday was the first time in about a year that I didn’t leave my doctor’s office in tears. I walked out alongside my mama overwhelmed with hope.

 
I am encouraged, and I hope this encouraged you. Throughout this entire process, I’ve tried my hardest to stay positive and find the “silver lining” in everything. My joy hasn’t wavered, even if happiness eluded me. I fought. I persevered, and I was thankful to have an afternoon that seemingly relieved some of the pressure I have built up. Even if this new “attempt” doesn’t work, and I end up with a catheter in the next month or so, I can always reflect on the fact that this joy I feel right now, at this moment, has allowed me to step back into my classroom and serve my students with every fiber of my being. It has allowed me to be an encouragement to my friends. It has allowed me to remain steadfast.

 
Thank you for reading
I love you

 
P.S. I graduate next month!!!!!

I’m ready.

This weekend was one that I’m sure I will remember for the rest of my life. I’ve gone through it not being able to walk, crying in front of friends who I’ve been my “strongest” for, and having to physically be taken care of by my family.

Without saying too much, the largest tumor decided to do its own thing, and the result was a Foley catheter. I seldom get embarrassed, or feel a sense of “anxiety” in public places. This weekend was different, though. I didn’t want to walk into Wal-Mart. I didn’t want to walk my dog. I didn’t want to walk to my car. I didn’t want to WALK.  Coincidentally, the day before this, I was praying for the ability to do just that — walk. I went Thursday and Friday without being able to stand up on my own, let alone move about, and here I was, too ashamed to use that gift. After a long night of profane prayers and silent weeping, I was relieved at the fact that I was well on my way to perfection. I know it sounds silly, but that’s all I see in my head.

Two years ago, my heart was broken down and battered. Not only by the man I loved, but by many of my family members’ selfishness, unexpected murders, unexpected death, and the absence of old friends through it all. It was soon after rebuilt.

Last year, my mind was broken down as I realized that my job, my health, and my insecurities had completely stripped me of any mental peace. I was consumed with dark thoughts and a scary lack of hope. I was depressed and lonely, and my mind was the root of it all. It was soon after rebuilt.

This year, my body is being broken down. I’m having to remove, repair, and rethink what I thought its purpose was. I’m being prepared, and as the days go by, I’m able to find the joy in that.

I don’t know what God is preparing me for, but in Hebrews 2:10, it reads

“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation PERFECT through suffering.”

That verse has penetrated my entire being in ways that never made sense until now. It reminded me that suffering isn’t always what I see it as. It’s not the absence of God, as much as it is a small dose of His powerful presence. I’m being molded into the woman I am meant to be. That woman serves others relentlessly, sees beauty in herself, and will be a mother of some child that has been abandoned and neglected. There is more to come, but I think that’s a good place to start.

Today I find out when the hysterectomy will be. I schedule the surgery, and although I’ve come in contact with MANY people who disagree with my decision, my health has become an enemy to my service to God, and whether or not you understand that, is outside of my power. Not being able to have children will never define me. Being a mother is more than natural birth. I’m ready. I’m ready and willing to be whoever it is that God has for me. I will walk in obedience and I’d love it if you walked alongside me. Remember to add yourself to my email list so I can encourage you PERSONALLY in your life, as you have done for me by taking the time to read my posts. Please feel free to ask ANY questions, remember, my life is open so we can grow together. I’m confident there are people praying on my brokenness, but I have faith that I’m protected.

Thank you.

I love you.

The Diagnosis.

It’s 3:26 am, and I can’t sleep because my body won’t let me. I realized that I’ve been avoiding all of the things that bring me joy, and writing is easily in the Top 3. In my last blog, I gave you the run-down of what my trip to D.C ended up being, and never actually gave the details of my doctor visits.

In short, those tumors have steadily grown over the past six months, and I have to get them removed. Many people have told me miracle stories of how they shrunk and disappeared because of faith, but I know my faith, and that just hasn’t been my story. They are still growing, and my doctor is ready to remove them. The one on my uterus, which was said to be 5.5 inches is now 6.25. The one on my cervix is still 3 inches, and the kidney tumor hasn’t grown much at all. I have nights like these when I feel like there’s a spear pushing down into my abdomen and I can’t get comfortable enough to sleep. I will soon get up from my desk, get dressed, and go to work, and I pray for the strength and ability to see past pain and be what my students deserve.

The thing that makes me most anxious about all of this is my doctor’s recommendation of a full hysterectomy. Again, people love to tell me their miracle stories, but my body and my God has yet to move in the way theirs has, so I’m trusting my process as is. A hysterectomy changes the plan I had for my future. It makes all of my friends’ pregnancies painful and beautiful all at once. I’m able to pray for them in ways I never thought I could or would. I’m able to appreciate the beauty of childbearing and childbirth while being an encouragement to them. Lots of my family members tell me not to get the surgery, but they don’t have to endure this pain. They don’t feel the tumor when they lie down to go to sleep. They don’t take 15-20 minutes to urinate because their bladder is constricted, and I’m tired of living life this way. I want to enjoy my body again. I want to work out. I want to jog with Aries. I want to live, and these ailments are making it impossible. No doctor has been able to guarantee that they won’t come back, so I’m no longer interested in living my life on the basis of possibility.

I want my freedom back.

Freedom to travel. Freedom to move. Freedom to exist in a way that I desire, not a way that my body allows.

All of this to say, it has been an exhaustive process. My brothers have seen me more broken in the past month than they have my entire life. My mama has had me curled up in her lap more than I think she did in my adolescence. I’m being humbled, and some days, I hate it. I have lost lots of friends, and many of them just don’t know what to do with this, but that’s okay because my love won’t waiver, and I’m thankful for my support system which continues to GROW.

I’m waiting for my insurance to approve the surgery, and upon approval, I will be back here- sharing my journey to recovery. Hopefully I will have more exciting and less medicinal news soon. In the meantime though, whatever it is that’s weighing you down, whatever is stealing your joy, tell it NO. Temporary brokenness cannot define your permanent joy. Refuse. Fight back. Submit it and leave it where it lies. You are not alone, at least you don’t have to be. I’d love more ham anything to walk alongside you. Thank you for walking alongside me. Thank you for hearing me. Thank you for reading.

I love you.

Not so D.C.

This week I headed out to Washington D.C. Unfortunately, this trip was far from anything I could have thought up on my own.

Well, my first night was fairly slow-paced. I spent the evening with my host discussing things I could do for the next few days and places I absolutely needed to visit. I danced in the living room, ate pizza, and did yoga. Eventually I did homework, and read a few chapters of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. It was sweet time by myself, to focus on myself.

I woke up for day one with slight pains in my lower abdomen. I wasn’t too concerned at first, because one of the effects of Endometriosisis is regular UTIs. I went to CVS, grabbed some cranberry juice, a few pain killers, a gallon of water, and shook it off. I’d requested my ride on Lyft to the D.C. Metro and was ready to see the National Museum of African American Culture and History. I went to get my clothes out of the bedroom and noticed a puddle of blood. I’m not sure how I didn’t notice it as soon as I woke up, but then it dawned on me that I never went to the bathroom. I’d gotten up, brushed my teeth, and walked to CVS in blood soaked sweats. I was completely oblivious to what my body was telling me. I was in awe. There were no tears, and no immediate reaction, I just looked at the puddle. My body was burning hot, and I could hardly stand. I sat on the floor (in the same spot I’d done my yoga) and begged God to heal me. I’d never prayed that before. Even with the cancer, even with Endo, I’d never blatantly asked God to stop it. I felt myself feel with rage when i realized it wouldn’t happen that way. I lied down there until the pain subsided, then I got a Lyft to what I THOUGHT was the nearest Urgent Care. 20 mins into the ride, I realized I’d taken myself to Maryland (so I mentally marked another state off my 2018 list) and sat quietly in frustration and pain.

I know you may be thinking, THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE A TRAVEL BLOG, but if you look on my Travel Tour page, I told y’all I will give you my experience as it was. As unfortunate as it may seem, this was my trip to Washington D.C.

At Urgent Care, I sat silently. The pain had increased, and it was unbearable. I ran to the bathroom and for the first time since 10pm the night before, I peed. By this time it was about 11:00pm the next day.  I know you’re probably like “ugh…why’s she telling us this” but honestly, I’d ever been so excited. The doctors ran a UA and immediately had me go to the nearest Emergency Room.

My Lyft driver Abdul, was perfect. Abdul heard me crying in the backseat. So he pulled over, gave me a bottle of water, and asked if he could do anything. I simply responded “please get me to the hospital.” Once we got there, he asked if I needed to call someone to come meet me. I said no. He asked if I had someone coming. I said no. He went park the car, came into the ER, and sat with me until I got called back. I was stunned. I’d never been loved like that by a complete stranger. He sat next to me for a solid 30mins in silence and concern. I will forever be thankful for Abdul.

Upon going to triage, the nurse, Barbara asked why I was alone. I said I was traveling, and we discussed the power of perseverance. She was super sweet. She told me that when I walked in, the first thing she noticed was my smile, then I sat down in her chair and it disappeared. She said, “You don’t have to pretend to be okay for me. It’s okay to be afraid. Now give me some blood.” Lol. I thanked her as well.

Once I went to the back, the doctors ordered the CAT scan. They said the UA, my CBC, and all of the other lab work came back fine, so they wanted pictures. My nurse, Justin asked if I needed to call anybody, I was so sick of answering that damn question, but I realized that was their approval to console, in each case, they did just that. Justin rolled me to the CAT scan, rolled me back, gave me meds, and I tried falling asleep. I can recall about 10 people who would NOT stop texting me. My mama and Elijah were a constant presence and peace, Aunt Trill with her strength, Lindsay with her encouragement, Bri with her maternity, Shelby and her PURE love for my well-being, Jared, Tim, Tiara, Stacey, Jammerio and so many more. I was overwhelmed, but I can spout off names, because it penetrated my heart. My phone died, and I finally fell asleep. When he woke me up, he said, and I quote

“Ms. Solomon, you have a tumor on your uterus that is approximately 12.5 cm long. You also have one on your cervix that is 5cm long, and one on your right kidney that’s 4.5cm long.”

I sat there. I didn’t cry. I was honestly still waking up. I asked if this was some sort of practical joke and he lowered his head. I put my head in the other nurse’s lap, and wept. I can vividly remember the silence in my cry. I remember the stillness of that hospital room and the raw fear that was oozing out of me. She let me cry. I sat up. They read a stack of paperwork and made arrangements for me to be flown back home.

I want to point out a few important details. The people, the circumstance, and the future. I was surrounded by some of the most beautiful souls I think I’ve ever encountered, and I truly believe it was purposeful. I believe it was orchestrated that way because it needed to be. Not just for me, but for the people in the hospital watching Abdul console me, for the nurses in the back, watching Barbara confide in and Justin encourage me, for the nurses and patients passing while I cried in the lap of my nurse, and for the people on the plane who were stunned by the fact that the hospital would do such a thing. I haven’t lost my faith in the beauty of all people, but PEOPLE have lost faith in the beauty of people and I feel like if even one person was able to watch these days play out, they were powerfully affected.

The circumstance: I got back home the next day, and upon my arrival I went to my mom’s and let it all out. I was afraid of a hysterectomy, and they started recommending it again. I wanted children, but I also wanted a normalized reproductive system. I was afraid the pain would be chronic. I was afraid I couldn’t go back to school. I was basically a ball of fear, and I needed to release. I curled up inside of her, and left it there. I could have held on to that. I could have decided that I was the victim, that my circumstances were undeserved and definitely unwarranted. I could have lost all joy in life itself. In that moment, with my mama underneath me and my brothers around me, I decided that would not be the case anymore.

The future: Today is February 17, 2018, I have my first appointment with my gynecologist on Monday and I’ll find out when my surgery to remove the tumors and/or my uterus will be. I’m not as afraid as I was, but I am instead hopeful. I’m hopeful in the doctor’s ability to remove them safely. I’m also confident that this is a small piece of preparation for a much bigger story to be told. This week reminded me how important it is to continue putting others before myself. It reminded me of the power in self-sacrifice. It reminded me that we do live in a broken world, but it is filled with beautiful and loving hearts. I appreciate all of your sweet words. Thank you for reading.

I love you.