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 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.

Rainy Day Chronicles

CHo-3TzWgAEXDQ7It’s storming; I’m writing. Initially, I was in my journal, but I figured “why not make this a blog?” It was recently brought to my attention that I don’t make my relationship status clear on social media, that if I have a boyfriend, I should be proud of it and post pictures and statuses that make it clear that he’s mine and I’m his. Instead, I post things that allude to it with little clarity. My question to that is why do I owe a stranger clarity? Are you going to pray for us? Are you going to encourage us in the ways of the Lord? Are you going to go bowling with us? Or are you just entitled?

In the event I find myself committed to a man, my priority will be to share it with my family and friends. Mainly because those are the people who will do the things previously stated. I put a lot of my personal life online, but it’s always in MY timing. I don’t like to date. If marriage isn’t the end-game, I have ZERO desire to become intimate, so dating weighs heavily on my heart. I was in the adoption process for almost 6 months before I posted it online and the small percentage of people who knew prior to then is the same small percentage who know my current relationship status. With that being said, if you are not a friend, i.e

Someone I continue to confide in and confides in me. Someone I trust with the burdens of my heart. Someone who understands the woman God has and is molding me to be. Someone who has been consistent in my life as well as my family’s. Someone who can curl up on my couch, dive into scripture, and cry with me as we figure out how to serve God in spite of what Satan has cookin around us…

 or family, you won’t know until I decide to tell you. 

I personally think that’s okay. I’m not “hiding” the real me from the world. I’m pretty open about my brokenness and God’s healing power. In some instances, I’ve simply decided to share what I’d like, with who I trust, in the timing that I see fit. I’d love to hear what y’all think!

This made me reevaluate my use of social media. It made me look at all of my profiles to see WHY I have them and WHY they take up the time they do. I read some scripture, prayed, and listened to a couple of sermons before I started this blog, so I’m hopeful that it glorifies God and doesn’t stroke Shakiyla’s ego. I also scrolled through my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. This is what I found:

Facebook: I use Facebook as an avenue to uplift my students. I post pictures of myself and my family with statuses that tell a bunch of random people what they mean to me. I don’t generally rant about anything other than my feelings and what God does in my heart throughout the week. Working at a high school that is often under the “radar” has made it easy for me to post a ridiculous amount of statuses that prove preconceived Washington-Marion assumptions wrong. Sometimes I post selfies, too. I tag my Carla in those. 

Twitter: I talk about my students, my friends, and my diet. I ramble. If something “dawns” on me, I tweet it. If God shows me something, I tweet it. If I get a sudden urge to go jogging, I tweet it. If Lydia sends me a picture of Colby Jr., I tweet it. It’s nothing really major. Just sort of a time killer.

Instagram: This one was the most interesting. Mainly because people seldom read Instagram captions. They seem to just scroll and double-click as they see fit. So my captions on Instagram are sometimes RIDICULOUSLY long. I like to see who reads them. Those people generally leave comments. Hey y’all! I like y’all! Here I also found the most allusions to a relationship, or pictures of men (Steph) saying really sweet things. I think this is where the situation in the beginning of my blog came from.  I also post selfies with captions that explain everything wrong with me but how I don’t love myself any less because of those things, pictures with some of my students after they’ve made me cry, pictures of my friends with some sort of LONG drawn out story explaining why I love them, and art. I love posting art on my Instagram. I tag the artist, and the caption generally says something that relates to what the art meant to me and a thank you to them for creating it.

Each social media outlet seems to do different things. As I was reading and listening today, I realized that if I am honestly living for God, my sole purpose should be to encourage, educate, and serve. That sounds really cheesy, but I think it’s true. I’m not here to condemn. I’m not here to save. I’ve been placed on this earth to show Christ to a broken world by way of service and love. I don’t think I do that often enough on social media. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s more of a leisurely activity, but that shouldn’t separate it from my purpose. I just want to get to a place where everything I say and do is either encouraging, Truth saturated, or promotes peace. Working in the field that I am, I’ve learned that negativity is contagious, and it’s hard to bear witness to the light (John 1:8) while sulking in darkness.

“So whether it is a blog post or whatever it might be, I want to sustain with a brief word the one who is weary. I want to maximize what I can impart to them with a minimum of commitment on their part. So I don’t want to be the online watch dog of the Christian Church and the corrector of everything that is wrong. I want to be an encourager. I think the Lord is….”

-Ray Ortlund

Every day this year, before my students started their journal writing, I told them, “Your words have power, tap into it. Don’t just meet the quota, change my expectations” I know I have the power of Christ in me to encourage, heal, and mend. I don’t want to get to a place where I’m just wasting words. (Prop)

Y’all please please please don’t hesitate to give me feedback. I don’t write just to get my voice heard; I do it because it promotes growth and enables me to see things from a different perspective. I won’t lie and say “I promise not to take anything you say personally” but that comes with the territory. My prayers are that you see what God has put on my heart and we can come together and begin to serve Him better. That entails dying to the flesh, and I am ready to do so.

Shakiyla

art by, Debra Cartwright

 

 

The Adoption: Homestudy #1

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That’s a picture of my certificate of completed preparation courses 🙂

I’ll try to keep this blog as short and to the point as possible. Firstly, it has been one heck of a journey getting my apartment ready for this child. Emotionally, spiritually, and physically I have had my strength tested. Before I say anything else though, I feel the need to make something clear.

I’m not adopting this child to fill an empty void in my life. I feel as though some people are worried that I’m lonely because I’m single, and don’t have children of my own. Contrary to popular belief, I have lots of children in my life that feel like mine, and I am thankful for the undivided devotion I have to God in my singleness. I’m going to be working as a 12th grade English teacher and am still devoted to my local ministries. All of that to say, I’m not bored. I am confident that this was a calling from God to follow a specific commandment to seek the fatherless and love them with the love of Christ.

Now, I HAD MY FIRST HOME STUDY TODAY! I was terribly nervous last night you guys. Like, sick to my stomach, couldn’t get to sleep til 3am, throwing up on in the night- kind of nervous. I think it’s because I haven’t been submitting my anxiety about this whole thing to God like I promised Him I would. Silly girl. Well, my social worker came over and made herself comfy. We talked for a while about each other just so we could become more at ease. I’m sure she could see that I was still a bit on edge. She checked the apartment and made sure it was “child” friendly. I need to get a few things, but for the most part she was thoroughly impressed. I’m still not sure if I’ll be getting the young boy I’ve been praying for, but he’s definitely still in the system. After she measured his room and checked water temperatures I felt a weight removed from my heart. I think that in that moment I realized something sweet; if this is what God would have for me, there is nothing on this earth that can stop His will from being done. After that, it was smooth sailing. I’ve turned in all of my paperwork, I’m finishing my photo album, and I have to wait 3 weeks before we meet again. In that time, she’ll be reading over my biographical information and joining with other workers in an attempt to determine what child (if not the one I’m praying for) will be the BEST fit for Ms. Solomon. Right now, my age range is 4-8. I know that’s a huge gap, but I feel a sense of peace with that as well. In short, that was the visit. She said the first one is generally the shortest, and I assume it’s because she hasn’t read through my paperwork yet. The next one will probably be the longest, but I don’t feel nearly as anxious as I thought I would. There is one more after that, then I will be qualified to foster and/or adopt a sweet child.

I want to sincerely thank all of you who called or texted me some form of encouragement this morning. It meant the world. It’s so special to know that I have a body of family and friends that are experiencing this process alongside me. I will continue to thank God for your selfless heart and constant prayers, and I have no doubt that He will be glorified in my life as well as the life of whatever sweet child He blesses me with.

P.S.

I have new furniture in my apartment and it is by far the most precious thing in my life. I need help decorating the child’s room, and I am taking volunteers if anyone would like to join me in this portion of the process. I haven’t started work yet, so financially I’m still stuck in this limbo of a time frame. No worries though, I am making due with what I’ve got!

I love you guys

The Adoption: Welcome

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Firstly, I really just want to thank everyone for the ABUNDANCE of support and prayer thus far. It’s only been a few days and I am still overwhelmed with thankfulness. My family and friends have for the most part been extraordinarily supportive and with the hand full of responses that somewhat hurt, God has provided peace as the days go by.

I’ve decided to just keep you all informed on my blog. It seems a bit easier. Also, they’re really informal and can often be wordy. This is primarily because I ramble, so if you’re just like “No Shakiyla, Stop” we’ve probably never held a conversation. This is Just a warning.

Today was a big day. I had my last observation in Student Teaching prior graduation, and it was a breeze. I very seldom get nervous, but I guess that with all of the other things on my mind, I began to crumble under pressure. Even still, my Supervisor was moved at the way my students respond and interact with me after only a few months and that was super encouraging.

Today was also officially the beginning of the adoption process. We had orientation and I met the sweetest girl who is also attempting to adopt for the first time. So do you want to hear about how I almost had a heart attack? Of course you do. I looked at the list of dates for training and the first one of three was on May 16th. Yep, May 16th. Which happens to be my college graduation date. The only training dates after those were in November. Yep, November. So I legitimately took a deep breath and asked the instructor if there were any other options. She said, “Well Ms. Solomon, those classes are the CPR courses and although you won’t be certified, it’s mandatory that you be there. You would just have to re-take that course in mid-July to late August” My response, “What if I’m CPR certified until 2017?” “OH GIRL, YOU’RE FINE THEN!” I’m pretty sure I almost had an accident when she said that. I’ve never felt such a rush of relief. We talked about pretty general things. It consisted of paperwork, our personal objective, and the asking of questions that we’d been holding in the entire time. The most amazing thing about it all though, was the fact that there were so many interracial couples. I forget how sweet racial harmony is because it’s clouded by racism and the hate that it entails. I couldn’t stop smiling at them. They could very well think I’m a complete psycho, but I guess we’ll get past that. May 23rd is my first training session and I ask that you guys continue to pray. Last week I started writing letters to my son/daughter and I didn’t fail to mention, by name, the amazing people that prayed for him/her long before we ever locked eyes.

I’m finally doing this, you guys. Two years is a really long time of having to plead and beg and just wait for God to give me clarity. In that waiting though, I’ve grown in more ways than a few. I don’t think I could explain in words how much peace I have in my being. I’m not sure if that made sense. I just finally feel like I’m on the path God has always had for me, not my own, not rebellion, not walking in fear, just sweet obedience and I love Him for granting me it.