I know I know, I am supposed to feature a “Meet A Friend.” I promise I will, sooon! I’ve decided on the person and it seems like the more I pray for her, the harder it is to make my words come together. In the meantime, I had a new Nigerian dish today! Egusi Soup.
I didn’t prepare it, so I’m confident it’s much better than my first try would have been, lol. The ladies in the dining hall on our compound cooked it and were willing to let me watch. Egusi soup seems to be the children’s favorite and honestly, may be mine, too.
The History: Initially, I wanted to know from which West African tribe did Egusi soup originate. As I read, it became quite a challenge. Some people said Igbo, some said Hausa, and others said Yoruba so I decided that I’d leave it up to my readers to tell me! What I did learn, is that egusi soup’s main ingredient is the seed of the egusi melon. These melon seeds are ground up, and used in many West African dishes, specifically soups. They look much like watermelon, but the inside is actually a soft yellow and the seeds are off-white.
The Process: I love watching the ladies use the pestle and mortar, so that obviously was my favorite part. They ground the seeds up to a pretty fine consistency. The base of the soup is red palm oil. This is the same oil based they used the first time I watched them make stew. The seeds are mixed in, and they gradually add dried fish, beef tips, and stock from those proteins. It honestly looks more like a chowder, but I’m not Nigerian, so my opinion doesn’t matter LOL. The ladies also added chopped spinach, which, if you know me, made my entire day. They cooked it down and BOOM. Now, this process sounds super short when condensed into a paragraph on my website, but it was SO. MUCH. WORK. De-boning the dried fish, DRYING the fish, cooking the beef, making the broth, preparing the base, chopping the vegetables, and doing whatever else they knew needed to be done. One of my favorite aspects of Nigerian culture is the food. This isn’t simply because I’m greedy, but because of the time and care that goes into creating each meal.
Swallows: Swallows are a pretty common Nigerian side dish. Each of them differ in flavor, but the texture seems fairly similar. They are what seem to be the “starch” of the meal. They are cooked down, pounded, mashed, or mixed, and molded into a ball shape to be eaten with various soups. With the egusi soup, the ladies prepared Tuwo Shinkafa Rice. I’m going to be honest and say that I missed watching them prepare the rice, but went to the website I’ve been using for trying different recipes at home, and found this quick video.
When I first saw the soup, I was nervous. It’s not the easiest on the eyes if it’s something you aren’t used to seeing. The texture tasted much different than it looked. I couldn’t stop eating it, y’all. It was sooooooo good. It’s like the fish and beef flavor did the gwara gwara in my mouth. It was legit.
Now, finally, the eating! Grab a spoon and go crazy, right?! WRONG. I’m intentional about asking the ladies how to eat certain foods. I’m fairly shameless in my lack of knowledge and am always eager to learn. It is to be eaten by “collecting a small amount of the rice, and using it to scoop the soup out of the bowl…” They wanted me to use a spoon, I said “NEVERRRRRR!!!” and everybody smiled and laughed. I know it may seem small, but that showed them immediately that I respected and was intrigued by the culture. They called me their sister, and I’m loving how our relationship is beginning to blossom. Here’s a SHORT clip of me eating the soup and swallow. I had to stop recording because baby I went to TOWN on this food.
I hope those of you following my website are enjoying the small pieces of Nigeria I’m able to share as I serve here in Jos. I promise to keep it up. My greatest desire has been to show my students from the states that they are, too, capable of experiencing a life outside of what society deems their standard. I hope this does just that.
Thank you for reading.
I love you.
Today marks one month of being in Nigeria. I was going to post a beautiful picture of the horizon and put my favorite Bible verse in the caption like most people in this sort of position, but quite honestly, I don’t feel like it. I know, I sound like a bratty teenager. I’m content with that. This was one of those times when I had to bury myself in order to see God lift me up.
I woke up this morning and began a long list of things to do instead of just sitting around the compound because the kids are gone. I cleaned. I read. I cooked. I painted. I wrote. I ran. I danced. I looked at the clock and it was only 1pm. I woke up at 5:30am because I’m still fighting jet lag and can’t afford to sleep in. I paced around the house for longer than I’d like to admit and eventually broke. When I say “broke” I don’t mean broke down and started crying. I just lacked functionality. I didn’t move. I didn’t talk (to myself of course). It felt like I didn’t breathe. I felt like a Nintendo 64 (when it’s time to take the game out and blow inside of it because it just froze in the middle of fighting Bowser for Princess Peach). All of these feelings were rushing through my mind and it was like I couldn’t do anything about it. Maybe that’s a bit dramatic to you, but this was my reality.
Today has been nothing short of an emotional roller coaster. At one point, I just sat on the floor and stared out the window. I think it’s tempting to have fairy-tale expectations of what it feels like to be obedient to God. The reality is, sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it’s so hard that we stop in our tracks and think of all the things we could be doing INSTEAD of what He says. Fortunately, feelings are temporary, and I’m finally at a place in my life where I don’t make decisions based explicitly off of how I feel. I’m learning the difference between temporary emotions, and truth. The truth is, I love Him and am thankful to be His broken and rebuilt cistern.
Before you say, “GO TO YOUR TEAM!” or “Why didn’t you talk to anybody or reach out to somebody??” understand that this was not a cry for companionship or community. I could have been in a room full of people, but that, too, would have been a failed attempt to be my own Savior.
Eventually, I sat down, and talked to my Daddy.
Why do we wait until we have no other fleshly option to go to God? This is not a rhetorical question. I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments. I know the typical answers “that’s what the flesh does” and “pride, Shakiyla, PRIDE” but today it felt like my heart and spirit had a disconnect. It was like I had to intentionally ask God to unite Himself with myself in order to feel purposeful again. It was nothing like I’ve ever experienced. I’d gotten so robotic in my worship that I was relying fully on feelings, emotions, and outward expression as a source of fulfillment. It was like I was in High School all over again. I was unknowingly floating at a surface-level devotion to God, and had no idea how I’d gotten there.
There is an evident difference between personal desire, and God’s command to do something. Today, it was like He stopped me in my tracks and said “Come to me…FULLY” It was an overwhelming reminder of just how much we need Him. I don’t know where I’m going with this. I think I just wanted to encourage you to Go to Him. Don’t wait until you’ve exhausted all other avenues to go to the King of Kings. I tried a million and one things, before I went to the author of my life (silly girl). We are indeed broken vessels in need of His grace, and today, I felt it pour over me.
I pray He does the same for you.
Thank you for reading.
I love you.
I’m finally sharing. Initially, I planned to post on the website the day I landed in Abuja, Nigeria, then I realized how useless that would be. I decided to give myself time to experience the city of Jos before I shared. That was the smartest move I’ve made in a while. Other than, of course, updating the website it! Make sure you click around a bit. (it looks better from a desktop) lol. If you’re new to the blog, click here to hear more about how I ended up going from Lake Charles, Louisiana to Jos, Nigeria!
Well, I landed in Abuja on my 27th birthday, and it was a beautiful way to start a new year of life. After having given Aries away, having had the surgery, and having left my family, I felt a sigh of relief at the thought of newness rather than loss. We drove through countless villages and I was able to see the variety of cultures throughout the five hour drive. I think it’s tempting for people to see Africa as just “Africa” but each country has its own culture and within each country, each state has its own culture. Each state has villages and each village has its own culture, and it’s been surreal to watch them all unfold. Here’s our village. It has many cottages, school buildings, a dining hall, central gazebos, a basketball court, and a soccer field for the kids (and myself) to play on. It’s a beautiful site to see in the morning.
I’ve decided to eat mostly Nigerian food. I say mostly because on Sundays my team and I go out to eat and it’s generally an American-ish restaurant. So far I’ve had, gari, pounded yam, stew, sweet potatoes, suya, bean cakes, buns, and of course, JOLLOF RICE. I try to make a Nigerian recipe at least once a week and ask the cottage mamas their opinion on what I should do to make it RIGHT. Today I made meat pies. These were pretty easy, primarily because we eat them in the south. The biggest difference was the seasoning. Curry is so popular here and I’m honestly not a fan, but Mama Hanatu said I can’t leave it out, so I didn’t. Here’s the final product. I’ll post the recipe link with more pictures and a series of unfortunate events later this week:
The 11th grade class invited me over one afternoon to help them bake cookies for Teacher’s Appreciation. It was there I learned what a pestle and a mortar were. I recently followed a Nigerian chef, Nma, who has captured my heart with her love for Nigerian food. Click the link for her AMAZING blog on the pestle and mortar. I’m addicted to these tools. I want to pound EVERYTHING in sight, lol. Faith and I crushed some ginger, cinnamon, and other spices for the dough. You basically just throw it in the bowl and get to work. The trick is to twist, and move with a downward inward motion. Idk if that makes sense, but that’s what she told me, and Aunty Lydia said I was doing a good job so I’m gonna keep doing it. My arms were definitely sore the next day but it was totally worth it.
I’ve also been pretty intentional about going to the market. This weekend I went to the “Main Market” and was honestly blown away by the Christmas rush of it all. Just like anywhere else, people wait until the last minute to get what they need and pile up on the streets and in the market. It was crazy. This picture does it little justice, but imagine miles of this full of people, children, stalls, and food. Once I got this picture, I ran to the side and refused to step foot on the road again. LOL. Every umbrella is a different stall (or two):
I was able to get a few groceries to last me through the holiday, and some makeup to try instead of getting it sent from home. We stopped for a bit and waited for the owner to get some of his “good stuff” so I was able to catch this lady braiding baby girl’s hair for the first time. At first, she wasn’t having it, but it was so sweet to watch the stylist not only comfort her, but encourage her to think fearlessly. The mama allowed her to do so, and for me, that was just a sweet picture of community. People don’t do that anymore. We can’t tell other people’s children how to feel, because they will either take offense or become defensive; it reminded me of Crowley. I was thankful to have seen it.
I’ve spent so much time with the kids that I can hardly stand them being away right now. They will be gone for about 3 weeks, so I have time to hopefully create some normalcy as I transition in. There are 6 girl cottages, and I think 4 boy cottages. Each has 6-12 children/young adults. In my head I was like “LAWD THAT’S A LOT OF CHILDREN” but y’all, the kids live so harmoniously. Obviously, they’re teenagers, so of course they fuss and fight, but every night ends with devotion alongside one another and a prayerful transition into the night. They are full of laughs and love, and I really am excited to get to know them even more. I’ve had a few stick like glue, and those relationships are blossoming more each day. It’s nice to be able to love on them in a different capacity. No classroom, no lesson plans, no school board, just love with God at the center. Here are a few shots from time spent together:
In creating this blog, I wasn’t sure what I would say. I didn’t sit down and outline any main ideas or write an essay like I usually would. I didn’t pin point specific encouragements or lessons learned, and I didn’t really introduce any new ideas. I did what I said I would, share. I know it’s pretty shallow compared to most of my other updates because they tend to be deep and sometimes dark with a light at the end of the tunnel, but that’s not what this blog is. This is more like a reflection of what has happened and what makes it special. This time around I was really able to feel what was around me and I felt a sense of freedom in that. I will FOR SURE give you more details and tell you the lessons I’ve learned, but today, I just want to encourage you to allow yourself to experience life. I have pictures, but it is very seldom I bring my cell phone with me anywhere. I really just grab my bag and GO. It’s refreshing to feel less attached. So I think that’s what I recommend; detachment.
Whatever you feel like you can’t be without, let it go for a minute and experience life in all its rawness.
I recommend all of my followers to follow me on Instagram! I post DAILY and go LIVE weekly so people can get a taste of what’s around me and what life looks like. My name is shakiylas click here to FOLLOW ME and join us. I hope you enjoyed this small taste of Jos, Nigeria. I can’t wait to share more.
Thank you for reading.
I love you.
If you’ve been following my website for more than a few months, you know that nothing is what it seems. Thankfully though, when I share a recipe, it’s an actual recipe-not a rouse to get clicks. Look out, it will be full of unfortunates and silly truths, too. Today is Christmas Eve. Most years I would wake up, drive over to my Mama’s with presents to slide under their tree (because for whatever reason, that’s where they belong), “help” her cook desserts for Christmas and get on my brothers’ nerves. Not this year, though. This year I am in Nigeria. I woke up this morning and didn’t want to get out of bed. I guess I underestimated how hard this would be. A few people have said “YOU LOOK SO HAPPY!” and of course I am! I love it here. I love learning more and I love getting to know the babies, BUT my goodness do I miss my family and friends. I think that’s just a part of the process. So I got out of bed, prayed for some understanding, and ran to the kitchen.
Today I made Banana Bread Pudding, but obviously that’s not the recipe I’m sharing. I just thought I’d share the results before moving on to meat pies!
So here we go:
First, I started on the filling. The recipe called for chopped onions, potatoes, and carrots, but I decided to add bell pepper and garlic; fight me. I chopped it all up pretty small because I wasn’t sure how big I’d make the pies. Here’s a picture for your visual satisfaction. (I also preheated the oven at 350 degrees or #4 for my gas stove folks)
I went ahead and grilled the onions, garlic, and bell pepper before adding the ground meat and potatoes. I seasoned it with onion powder, black pepper, salt, CAYENNE, curry powder, and thyme. Once the meat was browned the potatoes still had a ways to go. Add 1 cup of water and about 1/4 cup of flour to create a chowder- like consistency. I’m sure you could dump it all in there, but I gradually added the flour to avoid clumping. I let that cook down while I prepared the dough.
The dough was pretty simple. 2 cups of flour, a teaspoon of baking powder, 1 cup of butter (room temp), and 1/2 cup of water. Add the water gradually because you may not need it all. It was in this moment that I realized I didn’t have enough butter. I actually had WAY less than a cup, so I dumped half of my flour into that plastic container and reconsidered life as I knew it, lol. Nevertheless, the show went on. Mix it up really well, roll it into a ball, and refrigerate while you check on that beef. I think I left it in for about 15 minutes.
I recommend doing the dough FIRST. Then you won’t have to aimlessly wait for it to sit while you have a pot of cooked filling just chillin on a low fire. I, on the other hand, did not take my own advice. Instead, I danced around the kitchen listening to Janet Jackson and eating 3 day old muffins. See below:
The dough came out, and it was time to make the pie crust. I should’ve used bigger circles, but again, I’m a stubborn cook, so I did not. I ended up flipping a small bowl and using it as my cutout for the circles. Use what ya got to get where ya goin’! Don’t forget to add flour to your roller or the dough will, in fact, stick…Disregard my last cutout. I was running out of dough, but “Ohana means family and family means no one gets left behind, or forgotten” -Stitch.
I put about 2 tablespoons on each circle and of course it spilled out once I forked them closed because they were too small. Yet and still, we pushed on. They all were stuffed, and popped in the oven for about 30 mins. They’re not as pretty as I would’ve liked, and that’s probably because they are missing 3/4 cups of butter BUT this is a place of transparency, so I figured I’d show my first failed attempt before I practiced and got it right. We shall meet again.
Cooking is always super therapeutic for me. I do it when I’m feeling down, I do it when I’m having a good day, I do it when I’m with family, or by myself. I wasn’t sure how I would fill my time while the kids were gone, but I think I’ve found it in the kitchen. I hope you enjoyed my not so traditional recipe. I’ll post a quick list at the bottom for my folks who ACTUALLY want to try them. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let me know how they turnout and what I could do differently.
As always, thank you for reading.
I love you.
1 lb of gound beef
1 irish potato
Chicken broth cubes
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup water
1 cup of butter
Thanks to the owner of sisijemiah.com for such an easy recipe to follow and implement.
Today marks ten days. It was a bit surreal once I realized that I’m less than two weeks away from calling Nigeria home. It feels like it was only a few days ago when I made the announcement. I’d gotten so used to saying “I think I’ll head out at the end of the year.” Then that turned into “I think it’ll be closer to November.” Now, I sit at my computer, with confidence that in 10 short days, I will board a plane, another plane, and drive right into the sweetest gift from God.
This will not be a super long blog about how sad I am,because quite honestly, I’m excited. I’m excited about being obedient. I’m excited about tapping into the culture I’ve obsessed over for so long. I’m excited, and sometimes I feel like I can’t say that. I compromise self-expression for the sake of protecting the people I love. I know how most loved ones handle things like this, and I sit in my excitement alone.Fortunately, I’ve realized (and have been advised) to stop that. When God calls us to change our lives, for Him, we can’t compromise our joyful obedience for the sake of trying to play God. How is that “playing God”? My desire to manage how everybody handles this move is just another way Shakiyla is trying to control EVERYTHING around her. It’s not for me to control. It’s not for me to manage. It is for me to bring to God. I finally trust His ability to change their hearts from a spirit of neglect, fear, and sadness to one of hope, trust,and celebration. Of course we must feel. We must process the things life throws at us HOWEVER we need to, but we mustn’t forget that we serve a sovereign and powerful Father. He is more than I ever could be for any of my family, friends,or students. I finally believe that.
It’s tempting to wallow in the reality that I’m leaving everything I’ve always known. Two years doesn’t sound like a long time, but two PLUS years has a different ring to it. I’m not sure how long I’ll be gone, but I’m confident that I will never know love like my family’s and I’m forever grateful. It stings when I think about it for too long. I talked to my sister this week and she said, “We don’t think about the possibility of not being able to just invite each other over whenever” and now, that’s all we think about. It’s tough, but they are the most supportive and uplifting, it’s surreal. Anytime Elijah or Jamaal texts me, I get all giddy, and this is nothing new. They’ve always been the greatest examples of loyalty and life. I love my babies, y’all. I’m not even going to mention my Mama (lies) she is, has always, and will always be the driving force behind my love for service, people, God, and myself. I jokingly call her perfect. I’m aware of her imperfections, but the way she surrenders them to God screams perfection in my eyes and nobody can tell me differently.
I can’t wait to share this journey with you. Like most things, there will likely be hard days, but I’m learning that I didn’t commit to a life I surface level happiness, but one of soul quenching-joy, and I crave it. If you are not following me on Instagram, I recommend doing so. I will likely have more updates there, and DEFINITELY go to the sight and sign-up to receive my monthly newsletter.
I will send one soon after my arrival. I usually have a “main idea” for each of my posts, I guess this one is to remember who you are in light of who God is.
Thank you for reading.
I love you.
Today makes a week without my baby. I love talking about the good things that come with moving to Nigeria, but the tough stuff seems to lay low. I’m having to break ties that I thought I could manage. In this case, though, I was fully aware that I Aries wasn’t coming to Africa. I knew when I got accepted into the program that I would have to find a home for my best friend. He’s grown to be such a loving and compassionate dog. I know it may seem silly to some, but when I first got diagnosed, he was my personification of peace and rest. If you’ve read my blog about him, you get an image of the way he emotionally, spiritually, and physically took care of me before my surgery. There were nights he sat still enough to help me get up off the floor if I’d passed out from blood loss. There were days when he became my pillow by the toilet because I couldn’t keep anything down, but my body wanted to sleep. There were evenings when I just couldn’t move, and shouldn’t have tried, so he didn’t let me. He’s was my protector. He’s the most energetic and hyper ball of ridiculousness, but when I needed him to be my rock, he was.
Sleeping without him is gonna take some getting used to. I promised authenticity throughout this journey, so that means not every post will be a beaming ray of sunshine. That means that I may have days where obedience to God hurts. I’m finally starting to understand what it means in Matthew 10:39
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
I could easily go over and visit him, but he is now able to serve elsewhere (just like mommy). I have to start detaching eventually, right? He’s become that same source of serenity for a young woman who needs him. I’m thankful that it has all happened that way, and I don’t count it a coincidence. I won’t type a crazy long blog about how hard it is learning life without Tut, but I will say that I’m thankful to have had such a sweet friend in him. I think this is the beginning of an extremely hard transitioning phase. I’m ready. This isn’t the most profound piece I’ve ever written. I don’t have any special nuggets of knowledge to share. I didn’t have a revelation of any sort. I simply miss my dog. I think missing people, and pets alike, is okay. It shows us that we’re still human. It shows us that the ways of the world don’t have us so emotionally calloused that we can no longer feel. I can experience a loss of any kind and mourn it freely. I’m thankful for that. I know so many people who are breaking down unthinkable walls, including myself, so it’s encouraging to be reminded that every brick …
no matter how small …
is being removed.
Thank you for reading.
I love you.
6 minutes and 51 seconds. That’s how long it will take you to read this, I ask that you take that time to hear what God commanded me to share.
I’ve started selling things, I’ve quit my job, and it is confirmed that my next destination is Nigeria. These past few months have felt like an absolute blur; an exciting and exhilarating blur, a blur nonetheless. I’m thankful for those of you who have patiently (or impatiently) waited for me to sit down at this computer and SHARE. I didn’t want this blog to be completely focused on my African progress, because its purpose is personal growth through Christ, so I’ll share that and more. Over the years, I’ve seen the sense community on my website grow deeper, and when I move, I’d love for you to move with me. Some of you may already know, via Facebook, but the position I’ve been offered is the Primary School Principal and Assistant Dean of the teacher college. My desire is to go long term, so I need long term partners. I’ve found that when I say “partner” the first thing that comes to mind is money. Yes, money is a part of it, but more than anything, I crave relationships with the people on my TEAM. So far, I have 3 former students committed to $5-$10 a month, and it makes such a big difference on paper and in my heart. I want to be able to share in joyous and not so joyous moments when I’m gone. I’d love a family to return to on furloughs. When God orchestrated this, it was never an image of me collecting cash and dippin’ the country. It was Him using me and my community to push the Gospel forward in service and love. The past 8 years of my life have been devoted to Southwest Louisiana and the lives of the children and families I was entrusted with. Now, God has created an avenue for me to expand beyond Lake Charles, and I’d love your support. If you’d like to partner, please contact me email@example.com Here are the websites if you feel led to join!
https://donations.rafikifoundation.org/Step1.aspx?varid=241&amt=25 This is the online registration. It asks for “Introductory Information” simply so I can know who you are and send thank you letters out.
https://www.paypal.me/shakiylas This is the Pay Pal account. Some people have asked how I’m doing right now financially, having begun the transition. Some days, I eat Ramen Noodles and thank God. Other days, people unknowingly send me groceries. If you’re interested in helping me as I transition OUT of the states, here’s a good place to start.
This is an image of where I am in monthly donations, verses where I need to be in order to go.
Now, for the lessons. That’s my cute way of saying, God went upside my head because I didn’t listen. Y’all. WHY DON’T WE LISTEN? I was offered a position at a local Middle School, and when I tell you I was R E A D Y to return to a classroom, I was READY. I prayed about it and felt uneasy. I talked to a few friends and they felt uneasy. The uneasiness wasn’t because I was anxious about teaching, it was because I knew the devotion necessary for a long-term sub position. I know the way God calls me to love students, all students, and I knew that with this quest to Africa, I wouldn’t have the time or resources to be effective. Well, I decided I wouldn’t. I told Mrs. B “God said don’t become a mediocre teacher just because you don’t trust my financial and emotional provision.” In a podcast I was recently on, Tim Talks, Justin reminded me of the man going BACK to bury his dead father after Jesus told Him to move on and follow Him (Matthew 8:22) Not that the students are “the dead” but I’d finished my work in CPSB, and I was supposed to be focusing my heart and devotion on Africa. I was sure that “NO” was the answer. I walked into the Principal’s office. I told her why I couldn’t take the job. I started the next day. Stupid, right? I know. It was like, my flesh wanted to serve as many children as possible while I’m still in Lake Charles, but my Spirit had confirmed that my work here is done. I went home after day one in tears. I walked Aries, and fell asleep on the floor. I woke up at 3am and realized that I’d set up a meeting with a possible partner at 5pm that evening and slept/cried straight through it. You’d think I’d learned my lesson huh? Nah. I went back the next day and when I tell you God got me TOGETHER. Here’s what I learned:
Yes. We are vessels of His truth and love. Yes. He uses us. NO. He does not need us. I’ve had so many people tell me how much CPSB “needs” me, and it makes me pretty uncomfortable. It should, though. If in your service you’re busy throwing “I”, “Me”, and “My” around, I beg you to be cautious.
Dear servants of the Lord “HE DOES NOT NEED YOU!” He chooses to use you, so when He tells you to move, MOVE. I’ve had so many conversations with people making me feel guilty for my obedience to GOD. As crazy as it seems, most of them are believers, so it just reminded me that we are all broken vessels, being refurbished everyday.
Do not, I repeat, do not let the guilt of man drive you to disobedience to your Father.
We are often called to do things that this world can’t quite understand. God may tell you something clear as day, but because your family and friends can’t quite wrap their minds around it, you put it off. You postpone it. You ignore it all together. Stop that. Stop moving with the ways of this broken world and bask in the fact that the God of the universe is giving you direction. He is worthy to be trusted and entrusted with your life. I’ve been stuck on
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; holdfast to what is good. Romans 12:9
It may seem like a stretch, but I’ve decided that anything outside of God’s goodness is evil, and refuse to let it dictate my hope in His will for my life. Every day when I wake up, I want to be purpose driven. My service here is changing, but it will never cease. I’ve just decided that I will be hosting one last “good-bye” fundraiser and as silly as it may seem, if you are reading this, I want you to join me. Some of you live in other states, some other countries, so I’m more than willing to video cast you in. This fundraiser will be community-focused and produced. I will auction off items donated from LOCALLY owned businesses and have LOCAL talent remind us of the beauty that comes out of Louisiana. If you or anyone you know is interested, please email me. I want this to be authentic more than I want it to be “big.” I will give more information on my next post, but in the meantime, and in your life, be consistent. Love so intensely that people don’t know what to do with you. Serve when it hurts. Be influential.
Thank you for reading.
I love you.
The informational is less than one week away, and I’m so excited about meeting with future partners. If you have any questions, PLEASE don’t hesitate to ask. I will be sharing even more information once I return from training on July 24th.
If you are not a local follower of mine, but would like to get involved, CONTACT ME. Every bit helps and makes a huge difference. Thank you all for being such sweet lights of encouragement during this process.
I’ve decided to refrain from posting Africa updates on Facebook. Most of my posts go directly to my Facebook page anyhow, and I won’t have as much access or TIME once I’ve gone. It’s been weird. Some people are super interested and want me to keep them updated, but today someone asked “why you keep talkin about it?” Initially I sat there. If you know me, you know that’s impressive. Then eventually I responded with, “because I’m supposed to” and left it alone. I completely understand that there are people who could not care less about this part of my life, but I’m also aware of the young men and women watching me. They’ve watched me since I stepped foot in their classrooms, and these stories are for them. These post are for the hopeless. This blog is designed to be an encouragement for anyone in need, for anyone feeling trapped by their circumstance, for anyone settling. I know where I came from, and I refuse to shut up about where I’m going.
Anyhowwwww, I had my last doctor’s appointment today and he was really excited to clear me. I’m free to start working out and jogging again. Aries is in for an early morning. My body and incision are healing beautifully from the surgery. I can wear my heels again, y’all. I have a few more months with my clothes before they’re sold, so I’m cuttin’ up!
I also got 3 of the 7 shots I need before I officially head out. It may seem silly, but I felt one tiny bit closer to where I’m supposed to be. The Walgreens pharmacy technicians were awesome. They cracked me up the entire time. My Pharmacist was a hoot, too. He said,
“Look at me! I’m the doctor giving you your shots to go live your dream!!!”
and cracked up laughing. Every person I’ve met in the past year has made a lifelong impression on my heart. I’ll never forget Dr. Peter and that goofy laugh of his. We took a selfie.
I haven’t had any pain, and I’m feeling more and more prepared for training next month. July is creeping up and I’m finally ready. Our last day is July 25. It’s at that time that I will know where I’m going. I’ve had a ton of people ask about WHEN I’m leaving. There are a few things to consider here:
1.I’m going alone.
2. I’m working at a non-profit orphanage/school.
3. I make a teacher’s income, which conveniently stops this month.
So, until my partners and I raise funds, I’ll be right here with y’all. In the beginning I was super anxious about raising. People get uncomfortable when money is involved, and I’m a prideful lil somethin’. A friend of mine reminded me that I’m not asking people to give ME money. It’s not about me. That money is God’s. It goes to His service and to withholding His commandment.
“Shock, you can’t decide whether or not they want to walk in this truth with you. It calls for obedience that you can’t control and hope in what isn’t always clear”
…she said. Ever since then, I’m hopeful that He will use who He pleases whether or not I persuade them.
I’m thankful for this journey. I hope this post helps those of you trying to stay up on my progress. I appreciate every reader. Thank you.I love you.
I haven’t posted a recipe in a while, so I figured I should share my most recent one. Y’all, it was so much better than I anticipated. I’ve been trying to find recipes for my favorite “cheat” meals so I can make them myself rather than eating out. I’m still transitioning into what I’ll have to expect in Africa, but man, I love me some pizza. It can be pretty cheap, but saving $10 is helping me manage my money as I raise funding and prepare to leave!
So this recipe was given to me by my friend, Patti. She has always blown my mind with her love for cooking and the talent that goes along with it. I changed some things in the recipe, so I’ll post mine and if you’re interested in the original, leave a comment!
1 Package (10 ounces) refrigerated pizza crust
1/2 lb ground turkey (SEASONED)
2 Cups (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese broken up
1/4 Cup Parmesan cheese
4 FRESH basil leaves or 2 teaspoons of dried basil leaves (but honestly, fresh is the way to go)
2/3 cups of Plain Greek Yogurt (I added a little more, I like the consistency that way)
1 garlic clove pressed (I used 1 tablespoon of minced garlic, because I was too lazy to chop the clove)
4 thinly sliced roma tomatoes
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Using lightly floured dough and a pizza roller, roll the crust on a 12×15″ rectangular baking pan. I based the pan with a bit of olive olive before, you don’t have to. Sprinkle the crust with 1 cup of Mozzarella cheese. Snip your basil into the size that you prefer. I left mine a little thick, because I really wanted the basil flavor to stand out on each slice.
In a 1 Qt. bowl combine the remaining mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, basil, and the yogurt. Mix well. Add the garlic and blend it in.
Here’s where I took the recipe and did what I wanted, lol. I took about 1/2 lb of ground turkey, seasoned it, and cooked it down until it was almost crispy. I put that to the side to somewhat cool down before adding it to the pizza.
Cut the tomatoes into super thin slices and place them all over. Take the topping mix that’s in your bowl and using a small ice cream scoop, or in my case, a SPOON, dollop it onto the pizza and spread it evenly across its entirety. Sprinkle the turkey all over, and pop that sucker in the over for 15-20 mins or until golden brown. Cut and Serve.
Yield: 20 servings or 10, depending on how many Shakiylas you have joining you. Seriously, I could’ve eaten the whole thing…
The recipe said it was approximately 130 calories and 9 grams of fat per slice, BUT, my recipe replaced mayonnaise with yogurt, and regular mozzarella with low fat. I also added ground turkey. I’m not sure of the differences those make, but I felt better about eating it that way. Y’all know my rule in cooking is make it work for YOU. Recipes are fun, but they don’t always have to remain as it. Play around!
Please please please let me know if you try it. Post pictures and leave comments. It’s the summer, and before I head out to training, I’m taking some time to bask in silence. Cooking does that. It gives me a space to think and reflect, maybe that’s cheesy, but I needed it today.
Thank you for reading.
As always, I love you.
This is my first time posting on the website since I made the decision to have a complete abdominal hysterectomy. I felt myself walk away from writing. I felt myself walk away from opening my heart to the world (or at least the small section of you who follow me) and I was confident that this was okay. Not anymore. In creating this blog, I vowed to share the authentic pieces of life that most people cower away from. I promised my readers that no matter the circumstance, I was their open book. My sole purpose is to reach at least one person who is encouraged enough by my story to either share their own or break free from bondage. This blog was supposed to be a source of service, and service does not stop when it gets hard, so neither will I.
I had the surgery on May 9, 2018. It wasn’t until 9 days later, at exactly 3:19pm that I pressed my head up against my mama and wept. I wasn’t naïve enough to think that I would be okay immediately after, but the crying was so raw, so intense, so painful, that all I could do was sleep after. She held me. I’ve never been held like that before, and I’m thankful that even in the depths of my brokenness, her love prevailed.
Fair warning: this may be a long post, but as these tears rub against my cheeks, I’m confident it’s supposed to be shared in all its fullness.
I won’t talk about the sleepless nights, the desire to walk on days I couldn’t, or even the physical pain that came with surgery. I’d like to talk more about the mental battle I’ve been fighting; the battle for my joy. There were a few words I wrote over and over again in my journal. I went back and highlighted them so I could visualize their continuity in my heart. These words have led to more personal growth than ever, and I’m excited to share. The pictures in this post are a product of a photoshoot that was supposed to exemplify the beauty in my growing pains. There is beauty in my process, and although many people may not sit and wait for it to bloom, I know it’s coming. I thank God for sending Emily , her camera, and her love for service in truth my way.
LIFE+ POWER + WOMANHOOD
Life: This one has been fairly new in my journal, and conversation with friends. I’ve written life 78 times since the morning of my procedure. Many of those times, it was paired with the word “Create.” I felt like I’d completely relinquished my ability to create life. I felt broken, but more than that, I felt like I’d broken myself. Maybe I should have taken better care. Maybe I should have had kids sooner. Maybe I should have done things differently, and I would be able to do one of the most beautiful things this dark world has to offer; create new life. I gravitate toward nature. Flowers, trees, animals, generally anything that goes through a process most people won’t sit and watch– in order to become what it is intended to be. I found life in myself. I saw growth that I’d started to ignore because I was losing a part of me that I’d cherished for so long. I learned that I have the ability to breathe life. My words have power, and in using them to glorify God and serve His people, I can rest in the fact that losing the ability to give birth naturally is a loss, but a gain one in the same.
Power: Since May 9th, I’ve written the word power in my journal a total of 157 times. Power is simply defined as one’s ability to do something. It almost seems silly to say it, and quite honestly, when I mentioned having struggled with power very few people understood. I’d felt like I lost power over my life. Not only was I unable to decide whether or not to have children, I was at a place physically where my body didn’t allow me to do anything. There were days I couldn’t stand up, walk, bathe, bend, stretch, and I never realized how the ownership over my physical self was being stripped away. It hurt. I felt useless, and more than that, powerless. It took weeks for me to finally sit down, anger in my heart and fear in my eyes, and admit that this power was never mine. Time and time again I tried to justify my brokenness with half-hearted encouragements. I needed to fully rely on God, and so I did. The power of His love has slowly been restored in me. I’ve never felt more empowered and driven to bask in the fact that even I am precious. I am fierce. I cannot be duplicated, and there is no woman like me. He created me uniquely beautiful from the inside out, and I love it.
Womanhood: Since April 9th, I’ve written the word womanhood in my journal 198 times. Clearly, it’s been heavy on my mind. Dear people in this life, when a woman is faced with barrenness, please, I beg of you, do not say “Well there’s always adoption…”
In addition, I felt like because I’m unmarried, and childless, my worth in society somewhat plummeted. Hi, I’m Shakiyla Solomon, an educated Black woman and whether or not you want to admit it, that means nearly nothing in American society today. Few people will get excited or even encourage women in their careers, traveling, personal growth, or entrepreneurship because those things don’t make a “woman.” GRANTED, these are not absolutes, and I’m thankful that there are some exceptions, but for the most part, marriage and children define womanhood. I love my life. I love the direction it is going and I’m thankful that I’m finally at a point where the world’s desires for me don’t align with mine and that’s okay. I didn’t realize how much society had molded my own thinking, and in this silence, I found freedom. Does that mean I won’t adopt? Absolutely not. Does that mean I’m shunning all men? Not at all. What I am doing though, is living life at the pace its moving and learning to embrace it. I’m growing.
These three words continue to penetrate my mind and heart, and as I sift through my personal healing, I’m learning that there is peace on the other side. I will soon be in Africa, and there I will have the ability to love, serve, and lead children and young adults in the ways of love and life. I have been granted the opportunity to serve in a capacity I never thought possible. I’m thankful for these lessons, and more than anything, I’m thankful for the evident growth that has come along with them. Find your truths. Find the things that are hiding behind the lies that have slowly drowned you. Cover them. If you feel like you can’t find them. If you feel like you are an exception and that there is no peace awaiting you, message me and we can work on finding and/or creating one together.
Thank you for reading.
I love you.
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.