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Worship Songs Getting Me Through This Season

Worship music is an essential element of a relationship with God. The great King David who was described as being a man after God’s own heart regularly sang praises and danced to worship the King of Kings. His spirit of praise lives in each of us as persons of faith.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

Psalm 100:4

I love when I’m facing a trying situation and a song pops into my head that ministers to me on such a deep and personal level. In fact, God primarily speaks to me though song lyrics and the successive or even simultaneous confirmation of the Holy Spirt (often felt as a feeling of peace or strong conviction).

When I was going through a hard time emotionally, the lyrics of “Hold Me In Your Arms” by Mr Lynx popped into my head: “Hold me in your arms, never let me go. Lord I love you so, just have to let you know!” As I played the song, it felt like I was receiving a virtual hug from God and it truly helped to put my heart at ease.

When God puts song lyrics into my head, I immediately read the lyrics of the song and play the song in full because I have learned that there is a message or lesson in the song for me.

Another occasion God used a song to speak to me was when a very dear friendship fell away and I heard in my head, “There’s beauty in my brokenness, I’ve got true love instead of pain.” It’s like God was saying I have you exactly where I need you. You don’t need that person in your life because keeping them close to you will only bring more pain. I played “Joy” over and over and over and over and over again until my heart was healed.

I can go on and on about how much worship music means to me, but let’s jump into my current favourites.

My Current Faves

Promises (feat. Joe L Barnes & Naomi Raine) – Maverick City

Every year I choose a soundtrack for my birthday that will be the theme of my “new year”. This year, I chose “Promises”. I cling to every single word of this song: “Your history can prove there is nothing you can’t do. You are faithful and true!”

“The Blessing’ by Kari Jobe & Cody Carnes

My husband and I love this song. We brought in his birthday with a beautiful worship session and this was one of the key songs.

It starts out so calming and beautiful, real morning Bible study feels, and then it transitions to a powerful praise break!!! “The Blessing” is a beautiful prayer of blessing that you can pray or sing over yourself, your loved ones and even strangers.

“Pray’ by Koryn Hawthorne

This one has been on repeat for weeks! So often I’m scream-singing, “If You said it then it must be truueeeeeee!!!” When you remind yourself who God is, it really stirs up your faith.

“Just For Me’ by Kirk Franklin

The part that really gets me is, “It don’t feel good, but growing never does / It don’t feel fair for you to call this love, but if necessary pain is the ingredient for change even when life may be bittersweet / it’s working just for me.”

2020 has been such a hard year. Outside of the racial injustices and tragic deaths, I have experienced painful personal tragedies. Hearing this song gave me the courage to hold on and keep it moving, step by step.

“Intercession’ by Tasha Cobbs Leonard

This is close to 20 minutes of praise. It would be the perfect backdrop to your late night study session, Saturday morning cleaning or even during a traffic jam.

“Looking for You’ by Fantasia

Back in February/March, this song was on steady repeat. I would play this song and just cry. Only God knew what I was going through and only He will ever know.

“Doxology” – David & Nicole Binion ft. Tasha Cobbs Leonard

“Praise Him who hears our faintest call!!”

What this song did for me was take my eyes off of my situation and placed them where they should be: on God.

Ian’s Faves

As a bonus I’ve added in some of my hubby’s faves below, and when I say faves I mean I have literally heard these songs 100 times or more! In fact, as I embedded them into this blog, he asked me to play them haha

Let me know if you enjoyed this blog and if you’d like more like this in the comments.

Talk soon!

Love,

Zemi

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Celebrating Special Occasions During COVID-19

Strict social distancing rules are forcing individuals to find creative ways to celebrate special occasions as the pandemic continues to impact the world. With lockdown measures seeming to be extended, more and more special moments risk being celebrated within the four corners of the home. Birthday trips? Cancelled. Anniversary outings? Impossible. Baby showers? Unsafe. Weddings? Downsized. But just because these events look different amidst the current health pandemic doesn’t mean they cannot be meaningful. With creativity and intentionality, you can make these events more memorable than ever, and when I say memorable, I mean in a good way!

Here are seven tips for celebrating special occasions during COVID-19.

#1 Keep it meaningful.

It’s time to really dig deep to uncover what really matters to those you wish to celebrate. What is their love language? If it’s act’s of service, clean the house. If it’s touch, give him or her a full body massage. If it’s words of affirmation, write a beautiful letter. Does she love flowers? See if you can find flowers outside or at your local foodstore. There are so many ways we can celebrate our loved ones if we simply think outside of the box and truly reflect on what matters to them.

One of my favourite examples of meaningful quarantine celebration is the birthday surprise orchestrated by Lincoln Deal. Lincoln celebrated his expectant wife’s birthday in such a beautiful and sentimental way.

Lincoln entitled the event, “Beth’s Surprise Birthday Bashment (Lockdown Edition)” and writes: “Just because we all have to stay home for a while, doesn’t mean we can’t still make beautiful memories. I took Beth out to the living room for a surprise Birthday Lunch. Handpicked flowers from the porch, and a delicious meal (allegedly prepared by yours truly.) In addition, Baby Deal signed their first card to mom expressing birthday greetings and her favorite cake was all in place. ”

Mom-to-be, Beth Deal, looks absolutely radiant as she enjoys her Surprise Birthday Bashment.
Source: @lincoln_deal

#2 Engage the community.

Without school and regular social engagement, kids are missing their friends and, due to strict social distancing guidelines, the elderly are missing their regular visitors. In fact, anyone who thrives on social contact, which we all do to some degree, is feeling a bit out of place and longs for community. Well, guess what?! You can still incorporate your neighbours, friends and loved ones in your celebrations. Here are a few examples that I love.

Schedule a birthday parade by asking friends to decorate their vehicles and pass by the house.
Source: @nneksmurray

A Parade

Invite friends and loved ones to decorate their vehicles and do a drive-by. Guests can drop off cards and gifts (obeying safety protocols of course) or simply shout “Happy Birthday!” from a safe distance. Kids especially love this approach because they get to see their friends and feel celebrated. Decorate the yard for an added touch.

Collaborative Birthday Song

Invite your neighbours to sing “Happy Birthday!” to your loved one. She or he will be sure to blush and have a memory to last a lifetime! See the videos below for some inspiration and a feel-good moment.

#3 Leverage your space.

If you have an spacious backyard, now is the time to make use of it! You can plan a picnic, scavenger hunt or even a wedding by leveraging the space that you already have.

The Grimwades, a popular YouTube family based in the UK, planned a Easter Egg Hunt in their home & yard space which their children absolutely loved! Now, we aren’t expecting to be in lockdown until next Easter, but you can apply this very principle to a scavenger hunt.

Don’t think a lockdown anniversary can’t be romantic! Celebrate with a beautiful candlelit dinner in the backyard or at the dinner table.

Celebrate your anniversary with an intimate backyard dinner.
Source: Pinterest

What about weddings? The global lockdown has forced many to shift gears regarding their wedding plans. Yes, weddings have to be a lot smaller than perhaps originally planned, byt they can still be absolutely beautiful, meaningful and incredibly romantic. Take this couple for instance who chose to get married on their doorstep. Yes, you heard me right, their doorstep!

For more about this beautiful love story, read their VOGUE feature here.

VOGUE Wedding feature.

#4 Make use of technology.

You can also use technology to host teleconferences and family nights, put together videos and collaborative songs for your loved ones, or to simply FaceTime or video call to say, “I’m thinking of you on your special day!”

Zoom

Zoom, a teleconference application, has just taken off during this pandemic. For my husband’s birthday, we hosted a Zoom Birthday Party and Game Night. It was so much fun! We played games like Family Fued and Pictionary, all over the internet!

As you can saw with the wedding previously reference, their reception took the form of a Zoom block party. What will you need? A bomb playlist (or live DJ), a MC to keep everyone engaged and a basic schedule. (Zoom calls can get awkward pretty fast if there is no structure.)

Instagram & Facebook Lives

Over on Instagram, I’ve seen livestreams of all kinds: birthdays, anniversary Q&As, gender reveals and even baby showers. Here are a few of my faves!

Upset that your baby shower got cancelled? Why not plan a virtual one? Many of the shower games we know and love can be performed virtually with a bit of prep and a heads up to guests.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B_Z-6S_FZwa/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Cameo

I stumbled onto the Cameo app just before my husband’s birthday, and let me tell you, it was a God-send! On Cameo, you can pay to have celebrities send shoutouts. There are athletes, singers, actors, wrestlers and almost any category of person you can think of represented on the app, and for any budget! I paid a nominal fee for a former Greenbay Packer (my husband’s favourite football team) to give him a birthday shout on and he absolutely loved it. (Wife win!)

#5 Focus on key details.

When it really boils down to it, what really makes an event? For birthdays: birthday cake, a bit of decorations, games or activities and maybe music. You can get your hands on those things, even in quarantine.

I love how the JnBaptiste’s celebrated their daughter Joy’s birthday. The original plan was a pottery paint party at an art studio with all of Joy’s friends and then a trip to Disney World for the weekend; however, with the lockdown in full effect, Joy’s parents had to think quickly and pivot. They started off by surprising her with a princess dress ( a gift from grandma) and then celebrated with a cake, a family picnic and pool party. Joy told her mom, Telia, it was the best birthday she’s every had! Why? Because small details matter!

Photos courtesy of Telia JnBaptiste.

Telia writes: “Joy was BEYOND excited for her birthday. After she changed out of her princess dress into her new swimsuit, she ran up to me and gave me the biggest hug and said, ‘Mommy, thank you for my party!’ And as she walked away, she said, ‘This is the best party EVER!’ It was all worth it to give her fun memories of her special day.”

Another tip is to invite the honouree to participate in the prep. Allow your child to help bake his or her birthday cake for example.

Allow the child to be a part of the baking process and create memories to last a lifetime.
Source: Canva

#6 Make it personal.

Customize anything and everything you can: shirts, face masks, etc. Whenever he or she looks at the item, they will be reminded of their first, and hopefully last, quarantine celebration. For our anniversary, which happened to fall during quarantine, I had shirts made for my husband and I. We both attended work (remotely) that day and joined all of our Zoom calls in our anniversary shirts. It was sweet.

#7 Break routine.

My final tip is to simply break routine. Do something a little different that day. If you’re married and celebrating an anniversary, dress up or pull out some lingerie. Perhaps try a “Yes!” day where the honouree gets all of their (reasonable) requests fulfilled. If mom is busy all the time, encourage her to take a day off to relax while you care for the kids or clean the house.

Days can just mull into each other during this time so any change in routine can add a much needed change.

Yes, COVID-19 has changed our plans in a MAJOR way, but you can still celebrate special moments in a way that is both meaningful and memorable. As Telia JnBaptiste put it, “Be creative with your approach, and if all else fails, messy is fun!”

I hope these tips inspire you to make the most of every moment.

Love always,

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Combating Loneliness During COVID-19

As the current health pandemic stretches longer and longer, the resulting isolation and social distancing may be causing feelings of loneliness to feel stronger than ever. We innately crave human connection, which means loneliness can strike at any time, with or without a global health crisis, but there’s something about words like “isolation”, “lockdown”, “social distancing” and “quarantine” that seem to be bringing these feelings to the fore.

One of the tell tale signs of loneliness is feeling desperately alone, even when surrounded by people. Your desire for true connection, companionship and oneness may not match your reality, and, as a result, you may feel unsettled, unpleasant, sad and even distressed. In fact, you may find that being “blue ticked” hurts more than ever because the connection and engagement you crave just isn’t there.

looking-for-a-friend-bear-165263

Loneliness Defined

Loneliness is described as a feeling of sadness because one has no friends or company.

More formally, according to the American Psychological Association’s Dictionary of Psychology, loneliness is defined as follows:

loneliness (n.): (i) affective and cognitive discomfort or uneasiness from being or perceiving oneself to be alone or otherwise solitary; (ii) the emotional distress that results when inherent needs for intimacy and companionship are not met; (iii) the unpleasant and unsettling experience that results from a perceived discrepancy (i.e., deficiency in quantity or quality) between an individual’s desired and actual social relationships; (iv) an inevitable, painful aspect of the human condition that nevertheless may contribute to increased self-awareness and renewal.

Like_a_prision

Loneliness can literally feel like you’re imprisoned, unable to connect with others.

Why are we lonely?

There are many reasons we can feel lonely during this time. These include, but are not limited to:

  1. Feeling misunderstood or that no one can relate to you
  2. Being afraid to reach out to form new bonds
  3. Having difficulty adjusting to the digitisation of relationships
  4. Confusing being alone or bored with loneliness
  5. Feeling far away from God

We’re going to walk through each of these reasons and provide relevant solution strategies.

1. Feeling misunderstood or that no one can relate to you

Feeling misunderstood can definitely lead to feeling emotionally isolated. The underlying reasons may be hidden hurts, past or present sins, feeling like the black sheep of the family, grief or self-centredness.

You may be going through something so personal and hurtful that you feel you simply cannot reach out to anyone: “Will they even understand?” “I don’t want anyone to look down on me.” Or, you may feel your sins and wrongdoings are so dark and heinous that you have to hide them, and also yourself, from others. You may feel no one can see past what you’ve done or that your sins make you unrelateable or even unworthy of friendship. It’s important to understand that God is always with you and that no sin is too great for His grace. Centuries before Jesus’ came to earth, he was considered Immanuel, “God with us”. At times when you feel like you can’t turn to anyone, know that Jesus is always there.

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Matthew 1:33)

Others may feel like the black sheep of the family. You’re stuck at home, unable to go anywhere, with a house full of people who don’t appear to relate to you at all. Your attempts to be “known” or understood may seem like complete fails and you have retreated internally, accepting loneliness as your fate. It is important that you find ways to disconnect to reconnent. Do your best to reconcile with your family to keep the peace. Find ways to de-stress and connect with your friends via audio/visual platforms like WhatsApp video calls, Facebook video and Zoom.

Some may have lost loved ones during this period or are still grieving the loss of loved ones who passed on prior to the pandemic. Grief is a very unique and personal experience. Your mind may be filling with a series of “no ones!”: “No one knows how I feel!“, “No one knows what I’m going through!”, “No one understands me!” This may very well be true, but only in part. Grief is a unique experience, yes, but when we open up ourselves to others and share what we are going through, we may find that there are similarities across experiences. I may have lost my mom at 12, and you may have lost your dad at 30, but there are similarities between the two. We both can relate to elements of our individual losses and find common ground for bonding.

2. Being afraid to reach out to form new bonds

Betrayal in past relationships can wreak havoc on future relationships, but only if you choose to allow fear to reign. In the past you may have been gossiped about, lied on, and misused, but leave that situation with Wisdom, not Fear. The Bible says in 1 John 4:18 that there is no fear in love. Fear should not operate in our relationships. Again, fear should not operate in our relationships.

But how do we prevent the fear of being hurt again from causing us to shy away from forming new friendships? Three words: prayer, trust and discernment.

Pray for God to send you meaningful relationships and true godly (purposeful, positive, sharpening) friendships.

Trust that God has your best interests at heart and that He would never give you a snake when you asked for a fish (Luke 11:11). And even if you are hurt again in another relationship, trust that He will work all things together for your good. Sometimes pain is necessary to purge our hearts of the mess (harmful thoughts, toxic patterns, etc.) we have accumulated over the years.

Secondly, when selecting new friends, discernment is always key. If you observe a person long enough before you invite them into your inner circle, you’ll be able to spot their character traits. Are they kind? Do they gossip? How do they treat their enemies? Are they loyal and trustworthy? Are they a good influence? These are just a few of the questions you should ask before forming any relationship.

Knowing who a person truly is before you label them your friend, much less your “bestie”, will help you to walk confidently into the new relationship.

3. Having difficulty adjusting to the digitisation of relationships

No lie, this is a tough one! COVID-19 caused the almost immediate shift from face-to-face engagement to primarily digital interaction. For some this shift proved to be incredibly difficult.

It’s great to have a virtual tribe but it can also create a sense of false confidence. As your followers and follower engagement grows, you may think you have hundreds of actual “friends”, but in reality how many of these can you call when you’re sad? When you’re happy? When you just caught a big break?

Still, on the flip side, many wonderful relationships (even romantic relationships!) have their foundations in social media. But the key thing is for the relationships to leave the app. Connect across multiple platforms, exchange contacts and truly deepen the relationship. Some influencers have found that interacting with their followers via email (e.g. subscribers or mailing list) verses social media platforms (e.g. Instagram) has created more meaningful conversations. If you are an influencer, you may observe the same. If you’re a regular guy or gal and just want to deepen your cyber relationships or simply navigate this season of digital-only relationships, then let social media work for you. Try voice or video calls (Instagram and Facebook offer these), schedule a cyber date or family gathering on Zoom or, if the relationships are based on social platforms, simply exchange numbers and chat over WhatsApp or traditional phone call instead. Get creative and remember, you operate in Wisdom, not Fear! (See #2 for context.)

portrait-photo-of-smiling-woman-in-black-t-shirt-and-glasses-3769022

Digital friendships can still be authentic. Connect across multiple apps and forms (e.g. audio and/or visual as opposed to just text).

4. Confusing being alone or bored with loneliness

As we have seen, being surrounded by people (whether at home or in cyber space) doesn’t mean you’re not lonely. And conversely, just because you’re alone right now, doesn’t mean your lonely. Said another way, being alone does not mean you’re lonely. There is a distinct difference (remember the definition of loneliness?).

Some people are just not used to having this much time on their hands and it may be leading to feelings of anxiety and distress. The truth is, you may just need a hobby. Go for a walk, develop a new routine, read a book, Netflix and chill with just you, you and your family or via a Facebook watch party, schedule cyber dates with friends, and the list goes on!

I personally suffer with an overactive mind that seems to be programmed to navigate to depressive content and thoughts. I know that about myself so I do my best to stay engaged. I am very rarely not busy. Either I’m creating content, engaging with friends, reading a book, cooking, exercising, playing with my pets (which have really helped me by the way!) or spending quality time with my husband. (Note: Just because I have a husband to quarantine with, doesn’t mean I can’t be lonely. Many spouses are experiencing deep-rooted loneliness, especially now.)

If you feel you just cannot be alone, it may be time to do some serious self-evaluation. Try to identify the root cause. Do you struggle with abandonment? Do you crave attention? Do you not know who you are when you’re not with someone? Do you not know who you are when all of the extras are taken away: work, social gatherings, clubbing, smoking, drinking, etc.? It’s time to really face REAL YOU and do the self-work required to free yourself of people bondage.

Jonathan McReynolds seems to understand loneliness and people bondage on a personal level. Here’s a short playlist for you.

Sidenote: What if God took away all of your distractions and influences so that you can hear Him, spend time with Him, learn about Him? That brings us to #5: feeling far away from God.

5. Feeling far away from God

It can be said that all forms of loneliness are linked to this very experience: feeling distant from God. Silent seasons – moments when you feel that God has hidden His face and covered His ears from you – are some of the hardest seasons to experience. However, quite often, we are responsible for the silence.

Feeling far away from God can make one feel empty, depressed, lost and purposeless. The word of God gives us a solution:

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

It is literally that simple. Go back to God. Find your rest and contentment in Him. It can be argued that that is what COVID-19 is all about: holding onto God, resting in Him and rebuilding the relationship that may have gotten so broken and lost due to busyness.

Secondly, it is important to ask yourself, is sin separating us? Is my lifestyle pleasing to God? Am I honouring the Holy Spirit living within me? It may be that we have followed our own lusts and desires so long that we became deaf to the voice of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that His sheep know His voice and the voice of a stranger they will not follow (John 10:27). Number one, are you His sheep? Would you consider Jesus your shepherd, guiding you across life’s terrain or are you leading yourself? Are your lusts leading you? Are your friends leading you?

If you find you are serving God, you are praying, you are reading your Bible and still feel far away from Him, then I offer you this. What is the last word God gave you? Quite often God gave us a word that we have failed to act on. Maybe it seemed too simple, maybe too hard. But the point is, He gave you something to act on. It’s important to start there. God responds to obedience. You’ll be amazed at what He can do with an obedient heart.

My mind instantly gravitates to a man called Naaman who we encounter in 2 Kings chapter 5. Naaman was a wealthy man who had a prominent position as a commander of a king’s army, but he had leprosy, a dreaded skin disease in his day. Lepers had to live separate from others and so it can be inferred that Naaman was no stranger to the concept of isolation.

One day, he sought out the prophet Elisha to be healed and was angered when Elisha told him to dip seven times in the Jordan river. Why was he angry? This seemed simple enough right? Well, that’s the point. He was angry because he felt the solution to his problem was too simple. He felt his healing should require more effort and thought the River Jordan was inferior to rivers in his own homeland. Funny how we can often look down on the simple. Naaman’s servant finally convinced him to listen to the man of God. He did and guess what? He was healed! Skin like a baby’s bottom! But what did it require? Listening, acting, and obedience. Sometimes the cure for our loneliness is right there in our obedience.

Sometimes the cure for our loneliness is right there in our obedience.

Ways to Combat Loneliness

Below is a summary of the solution strategies discussed above.

  • Know that no sin is “too great” and that you will never be “too far gone” for God.
  • Know that God is always with you. Jesus is “God with us”, and He left His Holy Spirit with us to be our friend, advocate and comforter, always.
  • Feel like the black sheep in the family? Try to let peace reign in your home. Reconcile where possible. Try to obtain peaceful distance where not.
  • Take time to step away. Take a walk, listen to music, take a bubble bath or exercise to clear your mind and then attempt to connect again with a clearer mind.
  • Find common ground for bonding.
  • Remember that even though experiences differ, there are always commonalities.
  • Leverage social media (e.g. Facebook video, Instagram video, Zoom, Skype, etc.) and schedule cyber dates.
  • Choose to operate in Wisdom, not Fear when seeking new relationships.
  • Pray, trust and use discernment when seeking new friendships.
  • Use discernment when selecting friendships and when opening yourself up to others.
  • Observe his or her character before you invite him or her into your inner circle.
  • Find “your tribe”. This may be a single person or even a group of people (e.g. a Facebook group).
  • Have a tribe? Opt for a voice call or video call over just text messages and DMs. This will deepen the relationship and help you both to feel connected.
  • Find ways to engage your body and mind: a hobby, exercise, reading, etc.
  • Feel like you just can’t be alone? Perform a self-evaluation to identify the root cause.
  • If you feel far away from God, ponder on these questions: Have I moved? Is there sin separating us? Did I act on the last word God gave me?

Bonus: Adopt or foster a pet! Adopting a pet (well actually four!) really improved my quality of life and works to combat feelings of loneliness. There is always a fury friend around to love on.

Purpose for Loneliness

Even though loneliness may seem painful, it’s important to really evaluate the purpose of the season. Maybe you need a new group of friends. Maybe this season is stretching you to creatively find ways to connect with others. Maybe it’s time to truly get to know the real you. Maybe God wanted to remove all of the distractions because He wants your attention. Maybe He wants relationship with you.

woman-in-white-scoop-neck-shirt-and-blue-denim-jeans-sitting-3978302

Waiting for outside to open back up? Try to reflect on the purpose for this season and to reap all the benefits you can from this time of isolation.

I remember when I first became a Christian. I started to crave sisters in Christ and desperately yearned for fellowship. You know what God did? He sent two newly saved women my way (via social media) to truly grow and walk with. One of those friendships did not last very long, but those friendships were God-anointed and helped to fulfil a desire for companions on the journey. But before those friends came along, what did I do? I waited in faith and learned who God was, and reaped all I could from that season of being alone with God.

Reap everything you can from your current season: locked down during COVID-19, single with no kids, single with young kids, married with no kids, married with older kids, married with an empty nest, in school and unemployed, graduated and working, etc. Every season brings it’s own challenges, much like seasons of loneliness do, but there is much to learn and glean from each stage and season of life. Don’t waste the time by simply waiting for the days to pass on by.

Know that lockdown is temporary. There is life during this and there will be life after this.

Know that lockdown is temporary. There is life during this and there will be life after this.

Memory Verses for Combating Loneliness

Here are a few scripture verses I cling to in periods of loneliness (or just low moments in general):

  • “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)
  • “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.(Deuteronomy 31:6)
  • God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.” (Psalm 46:5)
  • “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14: 18)
  • The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)
  • “You are my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me.” (Jeremiah 8:18)
  • Psalm 23 (I recite this often!)
  • Psalm 139 (Special attention to verses 7 to 10.)
  • “‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means “God with us”).” (Matthew 1:33)

Until next time, I love you. Be well.

Truly, Zemi

Struggling with negative thoughts? Check out my video on Adjusting Mindsets & Thought Patterns.

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Int’l Conferences and Events in my 2020 Lineup

This year, I had the pleasure of attending two amazing conferences: the Baw$se Conference by Courtney Adeleye and the Coterie Retreat by Munaluchi Bride. Both of these conferences inspired me, educated me, empowered me and provided an amazing community for creativity to thrive. I came home from each experience energized, refreshed and ready to bring my ideas to life.

Photos from the 2019 Baw$e Conference in Miami, Florida

After posting of my experiences on social media, I received several questions about how I choose which conferences to attend and what’s on my agenda for 2020. This blog will seek to answer both of these questions and hopefully snag me a roommate for some bomb experiences next year!

How To Choose Which Conference To Attend

There are several things I consider when choosing a conference:

What do I wish to learn?
This year it was important that I learn more about the entrepreneurial space as I recently launched a business (check it out here) and wanted to learn key tricks of the trade regarding social media management, marketing, sales, client on boarding, etc. It was important that I chose conferences and events that aligned with the skill set and knowledge set that I wanted to learn.

Are the speakers credible?
Always review the topic line-up and, if available, the speaker line-up. You want to be sure that subject matter interests you and that the speakers are subject matter experts and/or are successful in their fields.

What type of environment am I interested in?
I love to be around creatives and am highly partial to experiences involving black women. I also gravitate to events that are well-executed, detailed-oriented and appear to be executed with excellence. Normally, you can gauge this from the social media account, pricing details and by searching the hashtag for photos of the event in years past.

In the case of the Baw$e Conference, I had been eyeing it since 2018 and saw that it was executed to a high standard. For the Coterie Retreat, the Munaluchi brand is quite reputable and I gravitated to the idea of an event catered to black men and women in the wedding industry…plussss this year’s retreat was hosted in Nassau, Bahamas. How could I miss something so epic being held in my very own back yard?!

Does the event and/or the organizers have a strong social media presence?
I touched on this above, but I have actually decided against attending a conference because the social media was lacking. The website seemed old and outdated and the posts were infrequent. I want to be wowed by the conference experience end-to-end because one of my goals is to replicate the execution at home for my own events (e.g. for my women’s organization, Wife HER!).

I admit, this is somewhat of a shallow consideration, but if I am going to drop coin on an event, it needs to WOW me in every way.

What is the size of the event? How many attendees are expected?
It is easy to get lost at a conference. I prefer intimate conferences or conferences that allow for periods of intimacy (e.g. small workshops). I don’t want to feel like just another number in a sea of people or be unable to ask a burning question because the volume of questions and opinions is just so great.

Where will the event be held? How far do I have to travel?
It is incredibly easy to attend local events, such as this year’s Coterie Retreat and events in direct-flight cities such as Miami (where the Baw$e Conference was held) and Atlanta (where the Pinky Promise Conference is typically held). Since more than likely you will have to travel for the conferences on this list, location matters. It would be easier for me to attend an event in a US city for example, than to attend a conference in Singapore. But, Singapore may be on your bucket list so you may prioritize that event higher than others.

How much are the tickets?
Price is a key factor in which conference I attend. You have to weigh the benefits against the cost: What will I learn? How many workshop/conference hours are provided? Who will I network with? How can this benefit my business, career, person or relationship?

$1,000 may not seem too expensive if, as a result of attending, you can increase your sales ten fold. I also seek out payment plans. Breaking a payment down into small, monthly payments makes attending an event more acheivable.

When is it being held? Do I have other plans during that period?
Date is a huge consideration because you may have other things going on. For example, during my anniversary week, I’m not going to a conference of any kind unless it’s a marriage conference! Your girl wants to be boo’d up with bae every single April 28th that the good Lord grants us.

Who is speaking at the event? Do I really want to meet someone, purchase their book or have them sign a book I already own?
Being an island girl, there are many women I admire from afar and would love to meet. If these women are speaking at a particular conference or event, I am more inclined to invest in the opportunity. This is a Ruth mindset where you just want to be able to glean from women (and men!) who are thriving in their fields and who know their stuff.

Can I afford to go? How many conferences can I fit within my budget?
Realistically, you nor I can attend all of these events. Set your education/empowerment budget for the year and see how many events you can work within that budget taking into consideration costs like the ticket price, accommodations, outfits, travel, hair and make-up, etc. (as applicable).

Other considerations:

  • Will hotel be included or are accommodations discounted?
  • Is food included in the price?
  • Can I easily find a roommate if necessary?
  • Is the area safe?
  • Is the venue relatively easy to get to?
  • Does the event align with my beliefs?

Now that we’ve addressed the how to choose, let’s take a look at the conferences and events I’m eyeing for 2020. Of course I won’t attend all of these, but this list will serve as a starting point which I will reduce given the above considerations. It primarily boils down to cost-benefit analysis and return on investment (ROI).

Remember, many of these conferences are annual so if you miss it in 2020, you can plan for 2021.

International Conferences in my 2020 Lineup

Create & Cultivate
Date: February 22, 2020
Venue: Rolling Greens, Los Angeles, California

A one-day conference filled with panels, pop ups, mic drop moments, mentor power hours, delicious food, cocktails and all the things you have come to know and love from C&C. The core focus of Create + Cultivate conferences is to help take your career to the next level – to entertain, enlighten and inform women around key topics surrounding #sidehustle life, the ever changing digital landscape, entrepreneurship, and the real talk that comes with being a modern working woman.

Summit 21 2020
Date: June 5-6, 2020
Venue: AmericasMart Atlanta Building 2, Atlanta, Georgia

Summit 21 is a 1-day Influencers + Creators conference for women of color. Attendees can look forward to workshops and conversations with industry leaders on how to grow partnerships to secure that bag!

Pinky Promise Conference
Date: July 30-August 2, 2020
Venue: Atlanta Marriott, Atlanta, Georgia

The Pinky Promise Conference, hosted by Heather Lindsey, is a power-packed weekend filled with worship, great speakers, sessions, and an opportunity to fellowship with your sisters in Christ!

The Baw$e Conference
Date: August 21-24, 2020
Venue: Hyatt Regency Orlando, Orlando Florida

The BAW$E Conference is the premier business conference for entrepreneurs, change-makers, go-getters, creatives, industry leaders, dreamers, and any woman who has a dream and a mission to turn her ideas into reality. This conference equips women with the knowledge, tools and connections to take their business and life to the next level.

Woman Thou Art Loosed
Date: September 10-12, 2020
Venue: Atlanta, Georgia

This is the FINAL Woman Thou Art Loosed conference, ever!

Since 1996, Woman Thou Art Loosed has been at the epicenter of women’s empowerment. This event, the brainchild of Bishop T.D. Jakes, was created to speak to every woman in the room, to elevate your influence in spheres that were once seemingly unattainable.

Business Boutique Conference
Date: October 22 – 24, 2020
Venue: Madison, Nashville, Tennessee

The Business Boutique Conference is a 3-day event in Nashville, TN where thousands of women gather to learn how to launch and grow their own business. You’ll learn from the best in the business on topics like marketing, sales, social media, pricing, budgeting and more!

If you’ve ever dreamed about working from home, earning an extra income for your family or starting a business to make a difference, this conference is for you. N

We Rise Experience Toronto
Date: October 25, 2020
Venue: Toronto, Canada

This private, emerging community event is for ambitious women who are looking for networking and mentorship opportunities personally, professionally and beyond. This event, specially curated by a luxury event planner, is designed for women who believe that true success can never happen in isolation, but rather, when we all rise.

* We Rise is also planning a Miami retreat in July.

AfroTech Conference
Date: November 12 – 15, 2020
Venue: Oakland, California

What is AfroTech Conference? 10,000 Black Techies in Oakland. This is a groundbreaking, revolutionary experience for Black techies, startups and entrepreneurs returns! 10,000+ of founders, entrepreneurs and engineers gather together to scale their collective power in culture, innovation and tech.

Photos from the 2019 Coterie Retreat in Nassau, Bahamas

The Coterie Retreat
Date: Unannounced, typically early December
Venue: Unannounced

Launched in 2014 by the founders of Munaluchi Bride Magazine, the Coterie Retreat is an annual 3 day conference for wedding and event professionals that service the multicultural market and are looking to fine-tune their businesses, master best practices and enjoy some down time connecting with the best of the event and wedding industries.

Engage!20 @ The Breakers
Date: December 13-16, 2020
Venue: The Breakers Palm Beach, Palm Beach, Florida

Engage! Summits are designed for committed wedding industry professionals who are looking for innovative ideas and practical solutions for strategic growth. Engage! is dedicated to gathering the best of the best, and is limited to 350 speakers and attendees. Careful attention is paid to creating an intimate atmosphere that blends structure and down time, allowing for candid networking in a non-client, non-competitive environment. The open exchange of ideas, information and strategies for facing the challenges of the luxury wedding industry are a hallmark of the event.

Honorable Mention

These events are great to consider if you happen to be in the host city. I am keeping my eyes on them for future years, but don’t plan to attend in 2020 (excluding Soul Circles which I would attend in a heartbeat if an event was in The Bahamas this year).

The Momference 2020
Date: May 16, 2020
Venue: TBA

The Momference™ is the premiere, one-day conference for motivated, magical moms of color boasting regionally and nationally acclaimed mom influencers, panels, celebrity keynote, workshops, vendors and top-tier, multi-cultural focused products.

The 2020 Great Girlfriends Conference
Date: June 12-14, 2020
Venue: New York, New York

The Great Girlfriends Conference is dedicated to igniting great girlfriends, putting their ideas into motion and moving the needle to get the results they desire out of life. At the conference, great girlfriends gather for workshops, panels, connect groups, dance breaks, light bites and more while getting tips and resources to fulfill their passion in their careers, businesses, relationships, and more.

Women Evolve 2020
Date: July 10-11, 2020
Venue: Denver, Colorado

Woman Evolve 2020, hosted by Sarah Jakes Roberts, desires to create an environment that is a safe space where God connections and sisterhood are created and will flourish.

Soul Circles
Date: Various Dates
Venue: Various Locations

Soul Circles, led by Jennifer Lucy Tyler, are meetups over coffee, or food where women come together to learn, discuss and apply basic Bible Study principles. It’s also a time to connect, grow and flourish with other women who are just as passionate about Bible study as you are!

Black Girl Magic Tour by Boss Women Media
Date: Various Dates
Locations: Various Locations (e.g. Dallas, Atlanta, Houston, New York)

The core focus of Black Girl Magic events is to connect, engage and inform women around key topics surrounding entrepreneurship, side hustling, tools and resources you need as a modern working woman.

Stay tuned for Part II and III of this blog where I highlight local events and marriage conferences I am eyeing for 2020!

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God is Still in the Resurrection Business

Once upon a time, God raised His son Jesus from the dead. Jesus was not the first to be raised, and neither was He the last.

Today, I want you to know that God is still in the resurrection business. He is resurrecting dead marriages, dead attitudes, dead businesses and barren wombs.

While I was in Sunday service, I saw a total remodel. I saw an interior and exterior remodel. God gutted the entire building and was applying plaster to the wall. It led me to believe that God is at work in our situations. He is healing from the inside, out. He is beautifying from the inside, out. He is resurrecting what we have long thought was dead. He is rejuvenating what we thought would never be inhabitable again.

What does God require in the process? Mustard seed faith. Mustard seeds are usually about 1 to 2 millimeters (0.039 to 0.079 in) in diameter. Yes, that small. That is all God requires of you.

If your faith needs a boost, like I know mine sometimes does, play this song by William McDowell. It is the equivalent of an AED machine–used for patients experiencing cardiac arrest–ready to send shock signals to restore your faith.

Lord, I pray for your people. I pray for those who are experiencing dark situations. I pray for those who truly believe they are walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Lord, I pray that you speak life over their situations. What seems dark, may you shine your light. What seems barren, from it may you bring forth life. What seems dead, may you resurrect. We believe in your power, Lord God. We believe that your Son, Jesus Christ, arose from the dead. We believe in the power of miracles. We believe in the Holy Spirit. We believe Lord. And where our faith may fail, Lord please help our unbelief. Please speak into our minds and our hearts and cast out all doubt. Help us to believe in you again. Renew our zeal and our thirst for you Father. Draw us in and renew our spirits. We thank you, and we praise you, for we know that it shall be done. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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12 Ways to Make Additional Income as a Bahamian Entrepreneur

Are you an entrepreneur who wants to increase their revenue streams for a little stability? Have a 9 to 5 and want to start a side hustle? Or do you just need some extra cash?  Whatever your employment status, I have put together a list of 12 ways you can make additional income as a Bahamian entrepreneur, or Bahamian in general.

The Central Bank of the Bahamas recently reported that the unemployment rate in New Providence is 11% (with the Bahamas overall at 10.7%). Compare that to Canada which comes in at 6.11% and the United States which has an unemployment rate of around 4%. Admittedly, our market is quite different from our North American neighbours. The opportunities, limitations and economic barriers are startlingly different as well. Therefore, when this question was posed to me, I thought it was important to conduct research and to explore local “side-hustle trends”. With that said, let’s jump straight into the list!

Tutor

As a mathematics tutor, of course I am going to start here! If you excelled in a subject in high school and/or college or have a particular skill-set, teach! Tutors make anywhere from $15 – $50 per hour.

Must-have: Patience and knowledge of the material. A degree in the subject or relevant experience is desirable.

Teach

Many Bahamian entrepreneurs and artists are actually full-time teachers. Why? Because you finish the day at 3-4 PM (usually) and you have entire summers off. Admittedly, the salary for teachers in the Bahamas leaves much to be desired, but it is a steady income for creatives.

Must-have: Passion (please!), at least a Bachelors degree in the subject and a teaching certificate (usually).

Sell Your Stuff

You can either sell items on Facebook Groups like Mama’s Marketplace, in local consignment stores like Rack Consignment Boutique or at a good old fashioned yard sale. Can’t bother with any of these options? Sell your gently used clothing or household items directly on your personal Instagram or Facebook pages.

Must-have: Internet connection or accessible venue (depending on your choice) and haggling skills (because you will get haggled!).

Host a Workshop or Class

If you are a subject matter expert in a particular area, teach on it! If you do not want to commit to tutoring or being a full on teacher you can host a workshop or class. Venture Coworking and Incudesk are great options for hosting workshops. You can also look into online options. Google is your friend! 🙂

Must-have: Knowledge, a marketing plan & public speaking skills.

Make or Grow Something

Bahamians are so creative! I see custom candles, handmade jewelry, clothing, purses, straw-work, and the list goes on. I am also happy to see so many farmers participating in Farmers’ Markets. If you make crafts or true, true Bahamian products, you can sell them at a local craft fair (Jolification is one of my favorites!). If you grow food or make/repackage food products like jams, nuts or dried fruits, you can sell them at one of the weekly Farmers’ Markets, which are actually becoming quite popular. For more information on local Farmers’ Markets click here.

Must-have: A green thumb or a single creative bone in your body, customer service skills and marketing skills.

Write a Book (or eBook)

Want to make money while you sleep? Write a book or eBook and sell it on Amazon or on your website’s store. If you need a ghost writer or editor, contact Terrenique Bastian at iPromise Media.  I self-publish my books through CreateSpace (now Kindle Direct Publishing). Check out my library of books here.

Must-have: A story or something to teach, an engaging writing style or a skilled ghost writer and professional-looking document formatting and printing.

Trade ForEx

I do not personally do any foreign exchange trading; however, I have friends  (in the Bahamas) that have been very successful doing so. I will try to gather more information on this option as it has proven to provide quite modest returns for these individuals.

Must-have: Internet access. (Will update as I receive more information about trading in the Bahamas.)

Provide a Service

Suggestions include: messenger service, delivery service (please deliver my groceries to my door!), resume writing or editing, business plan drafting, copy writing, speech writing and the list goes on. Think about your current list of skills or your current business structure and how you can expand your offerings across all income levels.

Must-have: A skill, creativity and willingness to work.

Create Printables

The printable market is a growing market and one that should not be overlooked. If you are a teacher you can sell your lesson plans and assignments on Teachers Pay Teachers. If  you have a tourism background or love to visit various attractions and restaurants, you can create printables for tourists and locals. If you have an accounting or financial planning background, you can create expense trackers or zero-balance budgets. The options really are endless and I encourage you to get into this!

Must-have: Knowledge, ability to condense information, graphic design background, graphic artist assistance or strong visual aesthetic. (I do a lot of my work in Canva or in Microsoft Word.)

Manage Social Media Pages

In the world of the digital consumer, businesses know that they need a digital footprint; however, most are too overwhelmed with the day-to-day management of their companies to give their social media accounts the attention they so desperately need. That’s where you step in! To get into the market, volunteer to manage a page for a friend or family member’s business. Track and present your metrics (i.e. followers gained, engagement, etc.) and then pitch your business to larger or, at the very least, paying customers.

Must-have: A strong visual aesthetic, some design experience, strong command of grammar, customer service skills and understanding of key analytics.

Start a Dropshipping Business

Dropshipping is a business model whereby you sell products without having to carry the actual inventory. Essentially, you have a virtual storefront where customers purchase directly, but you do not house the inventory. The orders are fulfilled directly by the wholesaler. Read more about dropshipping here.

Must-have: A practical dropshipping business idea, a strong and/or supportive social media following or strong marketing skills and basic knowledge of the dropshipping business model and supply chain management.

Become An Influencer

Have a social media following of 3,000+? You may be able to pitch your platform to companies as an influencer. There are some established names in the Bahamian industry with 10K+ followers, however, recent research suggests that micro-influencers (1,000 to 10,000 followers) are also effective and sometimes more so as their platforms are often more relatable to the consumer.

Must-have: A strong and growing social media presence, a completed media kit, basic marketing skills and (ideally) an authentic, relatable brand.

Well, there you have it friends: a curated list of ways to make a little extra income in this here Bahamaland. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments and if I missed any options in the list.

Here are a few more tips:

  • Save more, spend less.
  • Cut your expenses.
  • Get a second job.
  • Never stop learning.

I hope I did this question justice and look forward to next month’s #AskZemi segment.

Talk soon,
Zemi S.

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He Cheated on Me, But I Want to Stay – How Do I Do This?

First of all, I have to ask you a question: are you dating to marry or dating for fun? If you are dating to marry, which I believe the intent of dating and courtship should be, then is this man someone you see yourself marrying? Could you see yourself bonded to him forever and always? Could you see yourself having children just like him? If you answered, “Yes” and truly wish to continue this relationship then here is my advice.

  • Stop rehearsing the event. Yes, this is extremely hard because the memories sometimes come out of nowhere, but it must be done. What worked for me, not just with cheating but in overcoming unhealthy thoughts in general, was to apply a Biblical truth to every thought. I created a table of common thoughts I was battling and the Biblical truth I would use to combat it. If I felt afraid that every man would hurt me, I replaced the thought with 1 John 4: 18 “There is no fear in love…” If I felt I was alone and helpless, I would cling to verses like Psalm 18:2 “The Lord is my protector; he is my strong fortress. My God is my protection, and with him I am safe. He protects me like a shield; he defends me and keeps me safe.” What ever thought arises, there is a scripture to defeat it! (See Colossians 3:2 and Philippians 4:8.)
  • Stop punishing him. I know, sometimes you don’t even mean to, but this has to stop. Forgiveness means to cancel the debt, cancel the resentment and cancel the anger. That means you cancel the punishment! Luke 17: 3-4 says, “So watch yourselves. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” Notice, that is one rebuke and a whole heap of forgiveness!
  • Pray intentionally and unceasingly. I encourage you to pray for discernment, pray for wisdom and pray for the truth to be revealed. Pray for the Lord to reveal to you plainly if this man is or isn’t the one. Pray to know if you are wasting your efforts and trust that God will reveal the answer to you. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” You have to trust that God has your best interests at heart, that He sees your hurt and that He will provide you with direction if you seek it. See also James 1:6-7.5
  • Stop having sex with him. Sex clouds your mind and clouds your judgement. You truly want to hear from God here. If you feel you cannot stop having sex with him because he will go out and cheat on you then honey, please let him go!
  • Don’t blame yourself. His lack of self control has less to do with you and more to do with him. Women who cook bomb food have been cheated on. Women who take care of their man’s every need have been cheated on. Women who have amazing bodies have been cheated on. Women who give great head and mind blowing sex have been cheated on. Women who are drop dead gorgeous have been cheated on. Do not blame yourself…instead, let’s move to my next point.
  • Perform a self evaluation. Whether or not your significant other has cheated, a self evaluation should be part of your annual regime. Are you selfish? Are you too accepting? Are you controlling? Do you lack trust? Do you try to control and monitor his every move? Okay, so he may not deserve your trust or respect, but the latter is not conditional (Ephesians 5:33). Before I was married to my husband, God called me to submit to and respect him. Even without a ring, he was my husband! and therefore the requirement was different. Now, before you wonder how God would join you to a cheater, I want you to read Hosea from start to finish. If this man truly is your husband, God is birthing something in you and pruning you and your eventual husband for far greater. Your relationship will save marriages one day.

Overcoming cheating is hard, but it is also possible. Women have married men who made mistakes during dating and now have amazing, faithful marriages. Still, there are some women who left the cheater behind (like I did) and went on to marry someone new. Allow God to chart your course: not your emotions, not soul ties, not good sex, not his “endowment”, not a large bank account or a sexy car –> GOD! Your future is too important to risk on the wrong one.

My final question is this: who is your man submitted to? If not to God, who will hold him accountable? Where is his accountability? Is it to you, what’s in his pants, his upbringing? You have to know his WHY (as in, “Why won’t I cheat? Why won’t I risk losing her? Why should I be faithful?). If you don’t know his why or he doesn’t have a clear why, then he shouldn’t have you. Again, discernment is key.

This is a hard topic that is very close to my heart. I pray God’s best for your life, always.

Truly,

Zemi

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7 Days of Heaven on Earth

Have you ever experienced the joy of an answered prayer? The child-like scream? The joyful thrill? The unashamed shout? The praise? The worship? The joy? The love?

On October 26th, God answered a very simple prayer of mine in less than 48 hours. Two days prior, my husband and I were returning from an impromptu date night when we saw a white and black kitten on the side of the road. The kitten was about 6-8 months old and stood frozen as the rays beaming from the headlights reflected from her eyes. Within seconds I opened the car door and muttered excitedly to my husband, “If she comes to me. She’s coming home!” My husband held his breath and silently prayed that the cat did not come to me. We had two dogs after all. Cats were selfish after all. (Or so he thought.) The kitten did not come towards me. She allowed me to approach, but the moment I reached my hands out to pet her, she darted off into the bush. Lost amidst the branches. Lost into the night.

I sighed, but accepted her departure. Still breathing loudly from my dart to the cat, I climbed into the jeep, turned to my husband and said with full assurance, “If I find a black kitten, and she comes to me, she’s coming home.” There it was, set in stone, my simple prayer voiced out loud to my husband: I wanted a black kitten.

Now back to October 26th. My husband and I were headed to church for the weekly Purposed Youth meeting. We left early this time to ensure we had time to set up. As we drove down the road, I noticed what looked like a black ball on the side of the pavement. Stunned and curious, I hurriedly asked Ian to turn around. He obliged, equally as curious. As we made our way down the road again, I could not believe my eyes. There, right on the side of the road was a little, black kitten — maybe 3 to 4 weeks old. Again, I darted out of the jeep and reached out my hands, careful not to frighten her away. She looked up at me and walked eagerly forward, no hesitation at all. My husband looked on in amazement. Just like that…not even two full days later, my humble prayer was answered. It was my first day of Heaven on Earth.

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My husband, Ian, holding Heaven as I went into the store to get supplies.

Still on our way to youth group, I began praising God and exclaiming just how good He is and how loved I felt. I was full of the excitement of a child as I looked down at the little black kitten in my lap or heard her little screams of hunger. After going onto Facebook Live to share my joy, a slight tinge of panic hit me. What do you feed a young kitten? She’s so tiny! What do I do?! I began to feverishly perform Google searches and found that kittens shouldn’t drink cow’s milk and that young kittens should be bottle fed and would need my assistance to pee and poo as they could not do so or their own nor regulate their own body temperature. This was serious business! But I felt ready and up for the challenge. We stopped at two stores along the way. I got her a blanket, cardboard box, kitten food, a small silver dish and a newborn pipette, you know, just in case.

20181029_213249Each day with Heaven was beautiful. My heart swelled each time I saw her little face. She was so much more than a kitten. She was a symbol of God’s love and faithfulness. She brought back my joy and my child-like faith.

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The entire week was heavenly, and then Thursday came along.

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I came home for lunch that day and was so excited when I checked on her and saw that she had pooped normally. In the days prior, she had diarrhea which is a concerning sign for a kitten. She was mellow – not her usual playful self – but I thought nothing of it in my fury of excitement that she was doing just fine…litter box trained and all.

When I returned home that afternoon it was obvious that something wasn’t right. Heaven was very mellow, she refused to eat and at times she wheezed when she took breaths. I knew these were bad signs that could be fatal for a kitten. But this was my promise! God wouldn’t take her from me, from us.

I contacted three vets in my desperation. I felt so helpless knowing Heaven was not feeling well. It was passed their hours of operation and so they each recommended I wait overnight and take her to the vet’s office first thing in the morning.

The next morning I awoke relieved that she had made it through the night. I had a speaking engagement that morning so I took time off work to prepare. Heaven’s breathing was more laboured so I was even more concerned. I made up in my mind that her little life was my priority and postponed by speaking engagement by an hour in order to take her to the vet.

Ian and I knew the situation was serious. He sped down West Bay Street as I frantically searched for a vet’s office that was open at that hour of the morning. The closer we got to the vet’s office, the more Heaven’s condition began to deteriorate. I prayed, “Lord, please don’t do this to me. Don’t do this to me!” Heaven cried two meows. She was so tired. She had not eaten in close to 20 hours due to the upper respiratory infection. She was in pain and she was tired. As we neared downtown, we noticed that Heaven stopped breathing. We tried everything: chest compression, CPR (yes, CPR!), but nothing worked. I knew she was gone but still walked into the vet’s office with her resting on her blanket.

The vet confirmed…no heartbeat. God took her back.

Ian walked back to the car as I continued to question the young veterinarian. How could this happen? Why did this happen? “We can’t really tell,” she said. Kitten’s this young hardly ever make it. It could have been a virus. It could have been bacterial. It could have been parasites. We will never know.

Heartbroken, I exited the door, walked slowly down the stairs–still holding Heaven on the blanket–opened the gate, closed the gate, opened the car door, closed the car door and cried. I cried rivers of tears. Quiet tears at first until I dropped Ian off at work. Then loud tears. Then shaking tears. I could not understand why God did this to me. Why let me experience such joy, such happiness, all week long only to take her breath away, my breath away?

As I drove and cried and walked it over with God, I felt He saw my pain. I felt He hurt as I hurt. And I learned my very first lesson from this experience: be ready for what you pray for.

I prayed for a black kitten and received one in less than 48 hours, but was I ready? No! I didn’t have cat food, a litter box, kitty litter, a heating pad, knowledge, nothing! Nothing but a desire for a little black kitten.

Don’t let desire coupled with ill-preparation be the cause of a premature death: the death of a dream, the death of a vision, the death of a promise, the death of a gift.

When I pulled into my driveway and was finally able to put the jeep in park. I looked down at the little, lifeless black beauty in my lap and wept. Zemi wept.

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I was forced to bury what had brought me such joy. I wrapped her in her blanket and placed her in a little white box. Along with Heaven went the silver bowl, her bottle and the newborn pipette. I did not want any additional reminders.

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I closed the cover of the box and paused, looking down at my freshly painted, black nails. Painted in honor of Heaven the day before. Tears.

When Ian came home we buried her in the backyard. I wanted her in the backyard. I wanted to know where she would be. I couldn’t stand the idea of throwing her into the bushes to rot. She had to be buried close to me, close to home.

 

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It’s been over a week and I still look at her pictures and cry.  I now know oh too well the feelings of the widow in 1 Kings 17 who watched as her son grew ill and stopped breathing in her arms.

17 Now it happened after these things that the son of the woman who owned the house became sick. And his sickness was so serious that there was no breath left in him. 18 So she said to Elijah, “What have I to do with you, O man of God? Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to kill my son?” (1 Kings 17: 17-18 NKJV)

The widow’s story is a tale of redemption, restoration and resurrection. I knew in my heart that would not be Heaven’s tale.

We have a new kitten now. His name is Solace. A friend knew of our loss and indicated that her neighbour had a black kitten available for adoption. We have had 7 days with Solace, and although he is sweet, playful and good-natured, a slight pang remains.

Heaven was special, she was God-sent, she was irreplaceable. Heaven was just a kitten, but she change my life — our lives — in many ways. Through Heaven, God performed a major work in my heart and so I had to come and share some of the messages with you.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55: 8-9 NKJV)

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  1. God hears and answers prayer.
  2. He answers prayers on His timetable, not our own.
  3. You’re prayer request may come swiftly and suddenly. Are you ready? Will you be ready?
  4. When your prayer is answered, protect your promise.
  5. Cover your promise in prayer and safeguard it until you have full release from God.

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I leave you with a passage of scripture that God keeps calling to mind and which I am currently meditating on, Jonah 4: 6-11.

6And the Lord God prepared a [a]plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah [b]was very grateful for the plant. But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered.And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!”

10 But the Lord said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?”

Remember, God knows best. Prepare for what you pray for and be grateful for each gift.

All my love,

Zemi

Heaven-sent, heaven returned. God hears and answers prayer.

 

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10 Ways to Manage Period Pain without Pills

If you experience dysmenorrhea (dys meaning “painful” or “difficult” and rrhea meaning “a flow”), you are not alone, An astounding 8 in 10 women experience period pain at some point in their lifetime.

8 in 10 crams

8 in 10 women experience period pains at some stage during their lifetime.

Personally, I have experienced period cramping and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms that have disrupted my day-to-day life and significantly impacted my ability to be both productive and social. Period cramping and back pain associated with PMS constipation have impacted my sleep and my ability to walk straight, sit in a chair for long periods and concentrate on work tasks. The pain has been so severe that I have had to take sick days on the first day of my period. Sadly, what I experience during my period is not even the worst of the worst as I know of women who have had to take prescription muscle relaxers and even be admitted to hospital due to severe cramping.

I once thought the only way to manage my period pains was to stay heavily medicated for the 36-48 hour window that represented the most painful days of my period. Thankfully, trail and error has proven me wrong as I have found ways to manage my pain with only slight shocks to my productivity. Please note, however, that what has worked for me may not work for you. If your pain seems severe and none of these methods work for you, please consult your doctor or a trusted healthcare practitioner to rule out more serious underlying health issues.

1. Exercise.

Exercising throughout your menstrual cycle helps to counteract cramping for various reasons:

  • Exercise helps to relieve stress, including the stress hormones that manage the menstrual cycle.
  • Exercising during your period releases endorphins that help with period cramps.
  • A stronger core (abdominal muscles) helps with back pain overall.
  • Exercise can aid in constipation relief thus relieving constipation-related period pain.

Women's Assorted Sports Bras Raising Their Pink Dumbbells

2. Drink more water.

I know you must be tired of hearing, “Drink more water!” But really…DRINK MORE WATER! During the menstrual cycle, our cells retain more fluid than usual causing us to bloat. The bloated feeling typically makes one want to avoid drinking liquids in fear of enhancing the bloat, however, water is essential for our bodily functions. Once menstruation starts, your body will need all the help it can get to expel the tide of hormones that have accumulated. Warm or hot water is usually best. Try drinking unsweetened teas like mint, green tea and chamomile.

 

White Ceramic Cup With Brown Liquid on Brown Wooden Table

3. Regulate your body temperature.

Our body’s heat-control mechanism is influenced by our hormones. Though many women have a stable heat-control or homeostatic mechanism, some women have difficulty coping with cold or heat during their periods and during menopause. I am particularly sensitive to temperature changes and was even told by an allergist that I am “allergic to hot and cold temperatures”. One moment I want the car air conditioning on, the other minute I’m turning it off or I’m closing the vents. This method works fine in my own car or home, but what about work where I do not control the temperature setting? Here are a few methods that work for me:

  • Drinking tea or simply wrapping my palms around the hot mug.
  • Bringing a small blanket to work to cover my legs.
  • Going for brief walks in the sunshine.

At work, the issue is normally trying to get warm. When I am trying to get cool I either stay indoors, drink cold water or frozen drinks or go for a swim.

4. Avoid salty foods (and sweets).

High-sodium foods cause you to retain fluids which impacts your bloating. This paired with low water intake can lead to dehydration. Dehydration can lead to abdominal pain, joint pains and headaches.

Sugar, on the other hand, should be avoided because it is inflammatory and may increase cramping.

Image result for no salt no sugar

5. Say no to chocolate.

This includes chocolate bars, chocolate cake and hot chocolate. Now, I don’t know the science here, but I do know that eating chocolate makes my cramps worse almost instantly. This may be due to the high sugar content as I am able to eat pure cacao (an ingredient in chocolate) without issues.

6. Opt for non-synthetic pads and tampons.

After researching the synthetic chemicals used in typical pads and tampons, I was overwhelmingly compelled to switch to more natural products. Though the changes were not significant in terms of cramp alleviation, I did notice a reduction in pain.

The pads and liners I use are from a brand called This is L. Inc. You may view or purchase their products here. The brand and natural pads in general are not readily available in the Bahamas so I grab a bag every time I’m in the US or Canada.

Image result for l. pads

7. Change your pad or tampon often.

I know it’s not always feasible, but it is a good idea to change your pad or every 3 to 4 hours. Not only is this good hygiene as it helps with odors and leaks, but it also decreases the chances of bacteria build up and can prevent “pad rash” and Toxic Shock Syndrome.

In addition, changing your pad can help you feel more fresh and comfortable. During the first 2 days of my period, I often observe blood clots. This is normal as during menstruation the think lining of your uterus breaks away. Pads cannot adsorb blood clots and therefore they rest on the surface of the pad. I don’t know if its psychological or not, but when I change my pad after passing clots I feel more comfortable and have less pain in that region. Though changing your pad regularly may or may not have an impact on the pain you experience, it can make you feel more comfortable and who doesn’t want a little bit of comfort when it feels like their womb is punching them from the inside?

Image result for period pain comic

 

8. Wear comfortable clothing and underwear.

Avoid clothing that is tight on the waist, e.g. tight jeans and tight skirts. Again, this may not directly impact your cramps and period pain, but loose fitting clothing will help you feel more comfortable. And remember, being comfortable doesn’t mean you have to look frumpy — particularly around the office. At home sweatpants and all-day pajamas are more than okay, but in the office opt for swing dresses, slacks and anything office-appropriate that is not constricting. I normally opt for dark skirts with an elastic waist like the picture below.

Office Style // Long sleeves top with black pleated skirt.

9. Drink fresh juice and smoothies.

Fresh juices and smoothies have proven to be a game changer for me during my period! Not only is fresh juice incredibly good for you, but it also helps to keep you regular and regular means no constipation and no constipation means no constipation-related pain. (Can I get come confetti or what?)

Drinking fresh juice 1-2 days before your period and during the first 2 days of menstruation, can have a similar effect for you. Celery juice and beet juice are particularly helpful, but I also drink carrot juice and really anything that can be juiced. (My husband and I received a juicer as a wedding gift. Similar available on Amazon here.)

Vegetarian Juice on Table

For celery juice, I simply cut and wash a full stalk of celery and juice for one glass. For beet juice, I peel about 3 large beets, cut in slices then juice.

Since I strongly crave chocolates and sweets during my period, I opt for a ice-cream like smoothie: frozen bananas (about 2), cacao nibs (about a table spoon full), cocoa powder (about a teaspoon full) and almond milk.

10. Try ThermaCare Heatwraps.

Ladies, I have literally saved the best for last. Before I discovered these, I relied on pain killers, hot baths and day-long naps to get me through my period. I literally could not make it though an entire work day without being medicated until I tried ThermaCare heating pads.

My husband can testify that this invention has changed my life. I spent one night of our honeymoon on the hotel floor crying in pain as cramps tore my abdomen apart. The next day, I struggled my way to the pharmacy desk and begged for help (no, literally). The pharmacist recommended ThermaCare Heatwraps to me and voila, my life has changed!

ThermaCare Heatwraps

I typically use the wraps specifically for back pain and wear them to the front and back throughout the day and night as my pain dictates. Recently, I tried the wraps specifically for menstrual cramps. Though they were helpful, I was a bit disappointed as they did not get as warm nor cover enough surface area for my needs. They were, however, discrete and perfect to wear under my clothing.

ThermaCare Heatwraps are available at your local pharmacy (yes, even in the Bahamas) and online. I pick them up in Walmart or CVS when I travel, but have also found them in Lowes and various smaller pharmacies in Nassau. I typically buy S-M, but I have bought L-XL by mistake with no issues (I just wrap it tighter or tie it to fit).

Hopefully these tips help you to manage your period pain naturally. I know it is so easy to pop a pill and be done, but why surge the body with additional chemicals when alternatives exist?

Additional Tips:

  1. Daily vitamins
  2. Evening Primrose Oil supplements
  3. Relaxation, prayer and meditation

What methods do you use to combat period pain? Let me know in the comments below.

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On Her Bookshelf: Preparation Season

If I could name the current season of my life, I would call it “Becoming”. I am in a season of becoming and I just love the feeling of not knowing what’s next, but preparing for it anyway. This season of preparation has been filled with much planning and gleaning. For me, gleaning means taking in information from as many sources as possible: the example of godly women, sermons and YouTube videos, blog posts and, good old books. It feels so good to be reading for leisure again (as opposed to for examinations or work). So good in fact that I just can’t keep my books to myself. Check out the books on my bookshelf below.

(1) “Millennial Modesty” by Jennifer Spears

About the Book: In a world where it is popular for women to expose their bodies and get thousands of likes on social media and attention from people, God is raising up a generation of women that are showing that you can be modestly stylish and look fabulous. Though styles have changed from generation to generation, modesty is still what God intended it to be. In her book, Millennial Modesty, Jennifer goes deep into a woman’s journey to modesty. Modesty is more than a change of clothes, it is a change in your heart. This book will challenge you to surrender every area of your life that does not honor God. It will challenge you to be the woman that God has called you to be. Along with real-life illustrations, Jennifer also includes a practical guide on how to unlock the natural beauty that God has given you that reflects dignity and class.

(2) “The Deborah Anointing” by Michelle McClain-Walters

Note: This book also has an associated devotion on the Bible app YouVersion.

 About the Book: The Old Testament describes Deborah as a mighty combination of judge, intercessor, prophetess, mother of Israel, and military strategist. Deborah broke outside of her culture—not out of rebellion, but in obedience to God to set her people free.

As in biblical times God is calling today’s women to a purpose greater than themselves. The Deborah Anointing shows you that although you may have been trapped in tradition and locked into captivity by cultural and gender prejudices, God desires for you to break through these barriers. Now is the time to embrace the fullness of your purpose!

Whatever your sphere of influence at work, at home, or at church—will you accept the challenge to be a modern-day Deborah, stand for God, and boldly lead others to Him?

(3) “Becoming a Woman of Excellence” by Cynathia Heald

About the Book: Society beckons us to succeed―to achieve excellence in our appearance, our earning power, our family life. God Himself also beckons us to be women of excellence. But what exactly is He asking? If you’re hungry for God’s perspective on success in a society that bombards you with conflicting demands, feed on the truths of God’s Word that you’ll discover in these pages. You will not only learn to “approve the things that are excellent” but will also experience the joy of becoming God’s woman of excellence. This bestselling topical Bible study has helped over one million women over the past 30 years, and is newly revised and updated so today’s women can discover who God designed them to be in this day and age. Written by Navigator author and Bible teacher Cynthia Heald, the 11 sessions in this Bible study explore what your identity in Christ is and how you can best serve Him.

(4) “Sexual Intimacy in Marriage” by William Cutrer & Sandra Glahn

Note: This book can also be read by singles or engaged couples. Though I was not a virgin before marriage, I was ill-informed about sex. This book has been helping to dispute myths and to understand myself and my husband more.

About the Book: Updated and revised, this highly acclaimed, medically and biblically accurate book covers all the bases about sex in marriage with a sensitivity and frankness that every married couple will appreciate.

 

(5) The Gospels.

This month I am dedicated to reading each of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) in order to refocus my mind on Jesus: His words, His works, His ways, His life. I alternate between the New King James Version (NKJV) and the New Living Translation (NLT).

Do you feel as if you are in a season of preparation? If so, what are you doing to prepare? What books are on your list?

Talk soon!

math tutoring (3)

Feature image sourced from www.pexels.com.

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Blessing the Blog

“Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”

Isaiah 43:19

Father, I thank you that now has come. I thank you for making a way in the wilderness and for directing a river through the deserts of my life. You have done a great work in me and have established so much newness that my heart cannot contain the joy. Today, another new thing springs forth. Today, I launch my website and write my very first blog post: a prayer to you. Father please bless this blog. Please bless my audience, visitors and viewers. Please guide them to truth. Please give me words that edify, words that heal, words than empower and words that restore. I thank you for now Lord. I thank you for keeping me and for preparing me for such a time as this. May your will be done, now and forevermore. Amen.