I’m Moving to Africa.

Photography Basics (1)

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.

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.

An Epiphany…


I don’t have very many people who stick around. I don’t mean people who know OF me, I mean people who know my heart and all of its hurt. People who know my mind and why it works the way it does. People who help me be a better me for the sake of my students and service to my community. I’m thankful for those people. They’re the ones who read what I’ve written because they know how insecure I am about my art & will give honest feedback. They’re the ones who make me feel like a friend when I’m troubled, not a burden. Those people are treasures, and I couldn’t imagine life without them. If you’ve ever tried getting close to me, you know that I preface the relationship with “I’m too much to handle” and I don’t say that because I’m dramatic, I say it because I’m broken. I get irrationally angry. I take many things personally. I isolate myself. I struggle with forgiveness. I’m very self-aware, but not enough sometimes. I’m sensitive AND stone cold. I’m humble in love but prideful in progression. I’m a walking oxymoron, so if I’ve submitted my heart’s truth to you it’s because I trust that God has placed you in my life. It takes so much for me to admit that I NEED companionship, and God is continuing to humble me. Today I had a friend tell me that I do too much sometimes and it’s pushing him away, but 3yrs ago I wasn’t doing ANYTHING. I didn’t know what it meant to express myself, let alone with confidence. I was locked up and full of emotion and anger. I was a ticking time bomb, so being able to honestly share my feelings and boldly ask for reciprocity is a milestone for me as a woman. I guess I’ve yet to find a perfect balance, but I’m not sure it exists. I’ve finally stopped blaming my circumstances for my lacking as a person, and that means that I’m left with no excuse. My desire is growth and freedom in self-love. I’m to the point where I can honestly say I don’t want to pursue that alone. I know that there will be people who walk out of my life, but I guess all I’m trying to say is that I’m thankful for the ones who see me, inspite my imperfections, as worth the fight. 
*Photo by Debra Cartwright*

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

 

 

Where Did the Auction Come From…?

Markia Stevens

Lately I’ve been asked where the ‘Abraham’s Tent Love Auction’ came from, and I guess I don’t really tell the “backstory” that often… Well, here’s a condensed version:

3 years ago Justin and Emily Martindale had this calling from God to have a fundraiser that would be beneficial to Abraham’s Tent. But different from most other fundraisers in the community, they wanted the main focus to be ‘The Arts’. Life did what it does, and Arty, their absolutely precious son, decided he wasn’t waiting much longer to come smiling into this world. The Martindale’s then asked myself and DeMyron if we would like to take the ideas to Abraham’s Tent and get the voices of the people. So, what we did was take clipboards with us to the Tent and after we played with the children and visited with the people we’d had relationships with, we asked them this, “What does love look like to you?” We took each of their quotes, gave them to local artists and the artists created a piece that was inspired by the quotes we’d gotten. For our VERY first auction, in 2013, we only interviewed children and I must say that it was the most amazing experience of my life. The picture that you’ll see on this post is one of the children that were interviewed; Markia Hicks. Markia is currently an Honor Roll student and is blooming into one of the most unique and loving people I know. She also gives the most marvelous hugs…
Well, we raised over $4,000 and that money went to whatever it was Ms. Pearl needed for the organization. For obvious reasons, we decided to do it again. Except in 2014 the theme was community. Instead of only interviewing children, we made it our obligation to interview people from as many different races, socioeconomic backgrounds, and age groups as possible. The question was, “When you think of a loving community, what does it look like?” We followed the same basic order of events and raised nearly $3,000. That year we auctioned off art, electronics, raffled gift baskets, and had poetry and musical performances. It was so sweet, you guys. We made a significantly smaller amount of money but I have no doubt that God was glorified in the fellowship that spewed out of that building.

In short, the reason this event is so close to my heart is because it started with a push from God to do something that would bring Him glory. There have been a few changes and shifts in ideas but the MAIN purpose still stands, to make God’s name glorified by way of coming together as one and serving one another. This year the theme of the auction is change. Without saying too much, I’m super excited about what’s cookin’.

I hope this small blog gives you a pretty good understanding of what this event stands for and if you’re in the Lake Charles area, I hope even more to see you there.

The Scrouge of Racism

The Scrouge of Racism

Ravi Zacharias gave his input on the racial “scandal” pertaining to Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. Last night a couple of my close friends and I were discussing the complications and ambiguity in racism. By the end of the conversation it was established that there’s nothing complicated or ambiguous about the matter. It’s a matter of acceptance and controversial, yet expected assimilation of most people. This blog was a beautiful depiction of what God proclaims as the status of His people, “In heaven, every race and tongue and tribe is seen in their beauty and splendor because we will see them through God’s eyes.”

I’m always really appreciative of Ravi’s heart for God. Hope you can do the same by way of my sharing his blog. Have a good evening you guys!

Real Quick.

Image

So I not too long ago got off. I was sittin in bed texting Josh and Gabrielle, then BOOM, I dozed off. I had a dream I was in a restaurant with a man, whose face I couldn’t see and he said,

“I want you to reassure me that you’ll never expect me to love you as much as God does, trust that i’ll try my best to do it the way He does & promise me that you will always run to Him FIRST…”

Then I cried.
I put my head down on the lil table and proceeded to just weep.

I’m delirious.