The Countdown.

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. 

https://www.rafikifoundation.org/missionary/shakiyla-solomon-241

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.

Africa Informational

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.

Doctor’s Orders.

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’m Moving to Africa.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading.

I love you.

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.

Going, going, GONE.

February 2018

The week has started, and I’m pretty anxious about my upcoming trips. I decided that with all of the traveling I did last year, I wanted to keep up the momentum. Today is February 5, 2018 and I’m taking my first couple of trips starting this Friday. The goal has been for me to leave Louisiana at least once a month, and visit somewhere new, with or without a travel buddy. I’ve been hungry to experience new things, new places, and new people.

So, the first part of my trip will be in Florida. I’ve actually been to Florida once before, but never by myself, or at my own pace. I will be staying in Eustis, a small city in Lake County FL. I don’t know much about the place, or what it has to offer, but I’m eager to find out. I’m specifically going there for a job interview, and if all goes as planned, I’ll be sharing that with you all soon. If you have any suggestions or recommendations of places to see while I’m there, PLEASE drop a comment. I can easily Google it, but it’s just not the same as a personal recommendation.

My second stop will be Washington D.C. I’ve never been, so I’m super excited about all of the historical artifacts, museums, and food I plan to take in while I’m there. I haven’t gotten any suggestions on places to visit, and my priority is the National Museum of African American History. I will obviously be spending time other places, but my list is fairly short. I plan to visit the national monuments and The Ethiopic Restaurant, an African restaurant in the city.

I’ve set a personal goal to meet at least 5 new people and try 3 new foods- I’ll be sharing that with y’all as well. I haven’t made a decision on where to visit in March, so I’m attaching a poll that I’d love some feedback on! I will be posting my “Top 10 Tips for Solo-Female Travers” soon, and hopefully that’ll encourage you to take the world, country, or even your state by storm!

VOTE HERE

Thank you for continuing with me on my journey. There is so much more to come.

I love you.

Istanbul, Turkey.

 

My goal with the “Travel” page on my blog is to give you all an insight on the things I see and experience when I leave home. About two years ago I felt a yearning to see more of the world, but not just see it, experience it and impact it. This was my very first of what I hope will be many international trips. Throughout the blog, I have attached links that apply to pieces of the culture, CLICK AWAY.

My friend Sultan and I met my Junior year in college and it was love at first sight. She ignited a sort of joy that not many people have. She was so sweet and sincere with the woman she was; such a gentle spirit. After being friends for about 2 years, we wept at the thought of her returning home. I promised her that as soon as I was financially able, I would visit her. 4 years after she left, I graduated college, got into my career, and jumped on a plane to Istanbul.

Not only was this trip my first international one, but it was my first time flying. MY FIRST FLIGHT WAS 14R HOURS. Who does that? Apparently, I do. In addition to that, my plane was scheduled to leave the day after there was an outrageous terrorist attack on the Ataturk Airport that took the lives of 41 people. Good thing that wasn’t mine, right? WRONG. I was petrified. My mama was hell bent on me staying home. My friends threatened to steal my passport. Needless to say, it was not looking like I’d see my friend. After crying in my closet like a small toddler, I found myself talking to God about the power of fear. Everyone had decided on MY future, because of their own fear, and I’d slowly started to give in. I had one day. One day to decide whether or not I’d take this life altering trip to the other side of the world or let fear dictate my life decisions. After hours at the cross, I packed my bags, and left.

There were guards everywhere. I wasn’t able to walk through the airport without seeing at least ONE M16. I was terrified, and my phone was dying. I eventually met up with Su, and we were on our way.

I’ve attached images of my most impactful experiences at the bottom of this post, but they are nowhere near everything I saw and felt in the 1 week of visiting. I’ll try to be as concise as possible with my description of each, but if any of you are interested in an in depth explanation PLEASE feel free to comment. I never get tired of talking about it. The culture was so rich and my emotions were ALL OVER THE PLACE.

Before I begin, I feel the need to add that this molded my spiritual walk in ways that scared me to my knees. I had never been in a pl ace where my words held ZERO value. Nobody could understand me, I was unable to express myself, and I felt that my autonomy had been stripped away. For the first time in a long time- I was fully reliant on God, and it was a liberating and frustrating feeling. I had to submit my pride and STILL teach my friend about Christ because on many occasions, He commanded it. Those emotions instilled in me a passion for traveling and teaching, not only English, but God’s truth.

Well, let’s begin:

The Coffee: It took about 30mins to brew that small pot of coffee pictured. It was a delicacy to be prepared by the women of the house for the men as a part of Ramadan. I love cooking, so I was honored when they asked me to do it, but petrified when they told me if the men didn’t enjoy it, they would send it back. I was also taught that in Turkish culture, men could DIVORCE their wives if they were unable to prepare it to their liking…uh….BYE. I was stunned, but they were accustomed to it and Su’s father and Brother-in-law were there so clearly they’d been doing something right. I’m not sure if they really enjoyed it, or didn’t want to hurt my feelings, but they finished their cups and what was in the pot. There are MANY other Turkish traditions and old myths linked to their coffee. I’ve attached a link here.

The Corn: I know you’re probably like, “Why is this fool posting a picture of corn like it’s not in America?” Well, it was special, because I picked and husked it, LOL. So yes, it deserves its own feature. We sat on a blanket on the floor, separated it, and barbecued it outside. We, being the women.

 The Mall: After dinner, we all piled up in the car and went to an outlet mall nearby. The prices were to die for, lol. Mainly because the American dollar was worth three times more than their currency. I felt rich, to say the least. We also visited the Mall of Turkey (Sultan and I) Where I spent about $200, as 600 Turkish bills… it was wild.

The Ferry: I’m standing in front of the ferry that took us on a 30 minute ride to Heybaliada Island in Istanbul. It was absolutely beautiful. I sat next to a girl named Ann, and she shared her cookies because she could hear my stomach growling. I used Google translate to tell her I loved her LOL.

The Language: Sultan’s baby sister took it upon herself to teach me about 20 Turkish phrases to help me as we traveled. It was very seldom I left Su’s side, but in the event I did, I was a bit more confident while encountering natives. She was only 15, and we basically became bestfriends.

Turkish Engagement Party: When I posted this picture on Facebook, most people assumed it was a wedding. It was actually an engagement party. There was easily about 300 people there. We were in a 3-story complex with an outside area. The party consisted of celebrating the couple by watching them dance, then joining in. There was no meal or drinks, just dancing. It was precious. There is so much that goes into Turkish matrimony, so click the link to get a more in depth look!

The Blue Mosque: Last, but certainly not least, I’ve included a picture of us standing at a fountain in front of the Blue Mosque, or Sultan Ahmed Mosque. I didn’t have my Hijab on in the picture, but we both were pretty covered the evening we entered. There were THOUSANDS of people there for worship and celebration of Ramadan. It was breathtaking. We sat in the grass and ate a light supper before entering and there was life ALL around us.

I think I covered each of the pictures, and I hope I gave you just a small glance of what Istanbul did to my heart. I recommend visiting, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it alone. There are programs that offer Turkish tours for prices from $300-$1,000 depending on preference and desire. Thankfully, I have a sister who is a native, but I think that’d be a pretty legit vacation spot.

Until next time!

I love you.

 

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