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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Today, I Cried.

This is not some rouse to get you to read my blog. Today, for the first time in a long time, I uncontrollably cried.

Here’s how it started:

Last night, around 10pm, I was overwhelmed with insecurity. I felt like I was an embarrassment to a pretty close friend, and I didn’t know how to handle it. I felt like I wasn’t good enough. I felt small and irrelevant. I ended up praying until I fell asleep, woke up around 4:30, prayed more, and got ready for work. Now, that insecurity manifested itself into something much more than I’d thought it was. All day at work today, I doubted my ability to serve my students, and work alongside my co-workers. I doubted my own growth and the growth process of my students because of me. Simply put, in less than 12 hours, I’d completely lost confidence in myself and my abilities. At this point, it had nothing to do with the initial hurt, but the fact that all of these underlying feelings even existed. I hated that I still had feelings like those toward myself, and felt like a hypocrite. I teach my babies to be bold, brash, and confident in who they are and who they’re becoming. In my head, I saw the opposite in myself. It was during my 6th hour class, now if you’re a teacher, you know that sixth hour periods generally pack some punch:

  • They’re my largest (27)
  • Most of them are athletes (they don’t sit down)
  • They just left lunch (psychotic)
  • They have 1,573 stories (from lunch)

Now, don’t get it twisted, I LOVE them, they bring me LIFE, but they equally wear me out. I was fighting for them to focus, and I caught myself getting super frustrated. I’d never struggled before, yes, taken a different approach, but not STRUGGLED. I sat in a corner behind my desk and prayed. At this point they were all doing their Bellringer assignment, so most of them didn’t notice. I just asked God to give me some sort of peace and strength. I asked Him to help me serve my kids. I got up, and continued the lesson.

Here’s how it ended:

Terek Warren, a former Senior of mine- and of course one of my babies- came knocking at the door and when my baby opened it enough to see him, I ran out. LOL. I gave him the biggest hug (because I hadn’t seen him since he left for college) and told him I loved him. He proceeded to say, “Ms. Solomon, I’m fareal teachin my roommates how to write essays! Like my grades are so good! Thank you…” I started weeping. Y’all, he was so confused and legit had no idea what to do with me. I explained to him what my night was like, what my day had been like, and the current frustrations in class. He told me he loved me and to “push through, they’ll see.” I continued to cry LOL. I went back in class and the kids said you miss him that much? I responded with, “I needed him more than he knew.” I had a long talk with my class about how my love for them will never waiver. No matter how angry I get. No matter how lazy they get. No matter how lonely I feel at school. I will never compromise my love. It was so pathetic, authentic, and sweet.

So, I cried today, and I think I needed to in order to be reminded that I need to be broken  more than I’d ever admit. My students NEEDED to see me broken. They needed to see me struggle. They needed to see ME. I try my hardest to be authentically Ms. Solomon, but there’s something magically real about a teardrop. Dear educators, let them see you be you! I understand professionalism. I understand boundaries. I understand authority, but my students have a love for me now, that I didn’t think could be established in 55mins.  I’m thankful for them.

Thank you for reading.

I love you.

The Year of Growth.

I’ll go ahead and get right to it. I haven’t posted in about a year, and the last time I did, it was a short poem about an exhaustive break-up. I made the conscious decision never to go back to that place. I decided that I would start fresh emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and bloggally. (I know that’s not a word) LOL.

Last year was, in short, one of the most devastating and exhilarating ones I’ve ever had. I felt pain that I didn’t know existed and experienced freedom I didn’t know was inside of me. I could meticulously break it down, and tell you my lowest and highest points, but this isn’t my diary, and I think that until told otherwise, I will be conscious about keeping certain things between myself and God.

With that, I wasn’t sure what the topic of this blog would be, but as I tried to narrow it down to 3-4 ideas, I found that GROWTH was a recurring theme. I’ve been talking about growth all year, and today I went ahead and looked up the formal definition:

“the process of increasing in physical size.”

I was pissed. I mean I knew that growing had something to do with size, but I think the idea of growth has been much more than “increasing in physical size” in my personal life. I decided to define it for myself, because choosing another word would be too easy.

“the process of refining; flourishing.”

The question is, how do we do that? As people, how do we intentionally put ourselves in a position to become more refined and full with beauty? How do we make the necessary changes in our lives in order to become who we are intended to be? I think we’re supposed to just do it. I often hear people say, “easier said than done,” when I advise them to do things they may not want to do, but I don’t think that’s true anymore. The action isn’t always the hard part, it’s the emotional effect of those actions that are hard to handle. DO IT. Break off the relationships that bring all glory to anyone but God. Do away with the self-hate that you’ve justified for as long as you’ve known you didn’t love yourself fully. Remove yourself from people. Remove yourself from things. Put yourself in a position to hurt a little, that lack of comfort may be the push you need. There is nothing wrong with breaking down in order to rebuild.

Growth is a constant and it is imperative that we never think we’ve finished. There is always room for progress, and my past relationships taught me that I am often tempted to stop my growing process for the sake of someone else’s. For years I thought that was love. For years I thought that’s what true sacrifice was supposed to look and feel like. I thought that in order for me to completely and fully serve the people around me- I had to accept them destroying my personal peace. Lies. I listened to a podcast a few weeks ago, and the author stated,

“Fear and anxieties create this world where the only thing that exists is myself and the threat to the thing that I love..”

I wasn’t sure how that related to my life until now. There was an underlying fear that I may not have been loving intensely enough, and that fear convinced me that the only thing that existed was Shakiyla, and whatever was hurting the people I cared for. In that state of being- I lived a life of combat. Every day my sole purpose was to defeat the threat, in hopes that I’d come out alive. It was exhausting. It was impossible. I had a God-complex. I wanted to be the savior of all people I held dear, and in that pursuit, I died.

I say all of this to say, love is a call for sacrifice, forgiveness, and an unconditional presence in the lives of broken people (us). At some point, though, we have to stop and reflect on whether or not we are actually loving and being loved. We have to be sure that we aren’t sacrificing and being broken down for the sake of loyalty to someone/something that isn’t grounded in true love. It’s a complex thing; love. I think that the more we slow down in an attempt to understand it, the better we’ll get at expressing it.

I’m growing. I have forgiven people who ruined all that I thought made me who I am, and I have grown to love the woman I’ve become. I am walking in obedience. I am protected. I am growing.

Feel free to comment, and share.

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*

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.

I Won’t Tell My Single Mother Happy Father’s Day.

Let me preface this blog with a couple of things:

1. The title wasn’t meant to trick you into reading it. No where in here do intend on twisting my words and giving my moms any recognition dealing with Father’s day. I titled it that way because it’s true and we both hold true to that truth.

2. This blog is intended for Christian women. If you’re not a Christian woman, stop reading it… If you are constantly seeking God and His will, as well as things that bring Him glory, this blog is for you. I’m not looking for arguments or controversy, although they may come, I’m simply speaking from the point of view of a 22 year old woman with two brothers who has watched her mother independently prepare a family for this life.

Now, with that being said, I do not wish my moms a happy father’s day. One reason being, well, she isn’t my father. It’d be really easy for her to completely do away with my dad’s existence and have us all acknowledge her as the father figure but truth be told, she isn’t. I think it needs to be known and understood that children need a father. Women that boldly state they don’t need a man are seemingly prideful or hurt by some absence. Now, I’m probably biting off more than I can chew but watch me chomp. Young boys need a man that can adequately show them what a man is supposed to look like. In the same token, young women need a man that can love them innocently and unconditionally. Again, this is me speaking from MY OWN experience. Father’s Day has always had this sort of stench in my heart. It weighs heavily on my emotions and insecurities. I know this to be true of my female friends without fathers, as well as the men. I have been more than blessed with multiple father-like figures teaching and loving me in a way that my moms simply can’t. Of these men, 3 are pastors and 1 is simply amazing. This same truth is evident in both of my brothers’ lives. We all need Godly men and my mom knows that and humbly let’s them guide us, not because she’s inadequate, because she’s practically perfect, but because that’s not the role given her by God. THIS IS ANOTHER OF THE MANY REASONS WHY WE NEED MEN IN THE CHURCH TO BE MEN. Not simply to go to meetings or play leader but to actually step in where they are needed and engage with the body.

In Ephesians, God shows the roles of believers and as far as Fathers to children, it reads very clearly, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Eph. 6:4

Growing up I always applied that verse to whatever man decided they wanted to be a “fatherly” figure and if the shoe didn’t fit, he got the boot. Children needing a father isn’t the only reason I don’t celebrate my moms being my dad. The primary reason for my not doing so is because she has so eloquently taught me who the Father of my heart is. She made it evident in her life and ours that no matter what earthy figure ceases to exist, our Heavenly Father is everlasting, unchanging, and will always love me and my brothers unconditionally. Perfect right? I know man. She’s amazing. I do thank her for that though, I sincerely thank her for not being a typical, angry, single mother. I thank her for trusting God with her children. I thank her for trusting God with her own heart. I find myself thanking her a lot. In my thankfulness, she still points me to my Father. Again, in Ephesians 1:3, God is blessed for His giving us, His undeserving children, Jesus as an atonement so we can rest in His presence and glorify His name. I love my Father. My pops, dad, papa, whatever you wanna call it. He is my all and my mother got to use my earthly father’s absence as a testimony of the faithfulness of our God. She did it. As hard as I’m sure it is, she continues to do it.

Ok. I have one more reason why I don’t do it, then I’ll go away. I know a lot of men who are spitting images of what God the father is to His children to their children. I think they can have the same recognition I give my moms on Mother’s Day. I grew up around very few men, let alone good ones so it’s weird seeing the “bash brigade” on Facebook and Twitter every Father’s Day, knowing the De La Rosa, Shepherd, Edwards, Davis, Robles,Thomas, and many other men that are MEN. Appreciate them. Encourage them to continue to raise their children up in the way of the Lord. Use this day to serve in love and peace.

That’s pretty much all I’ve got. God is my Father, not my mommy. My father was imperfect, similar to all of us. We are called to forgive, love unconditionally, and live a life that brings glory to God. So, CHRISTIAN, single mothers, what better opportunity to bear witness the the Father in Heaven to your children, than this?

-Shakiyla.

For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” [Genesis 18:19 ESV] – See more at: http://www.gospelherald.com/articles/51605/20140613/fathers-day-bible-verses-and-quotes-christian-history-prayers-for-dads-husbands.htm#sthash.GUGbA7Ym.dpuf
For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” [Genesis 18:19 ESV] – See more at: http://www.gospelherald.com/articles/51605/20140613/fathers-day-bible-verses-and-quotes-christian-history-prayers-for-dads-husbands.htm#sthash.GUGbA7Ym.dpuf