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Got Wings? Don’t Be Afraid To Fly…

Got Wings? Don’t Be Afraid To Fly…

I honestly can’t believe how fast this summer is flying by.  I have many home improvement activities that I would like to complete, and last Thursday a lot was accomplished.

Trees trimmed, large items removed from the home for donation or trash, prepping for a new coat of paint on the house, and then we see something in the bush.

A baby bird sitting on the bush, and another baby bird about five feet away in the grass.  The kids that were working in the yard looked around, and noticed the nest in the tree.

THE BIRDS WERE LEARNING HOW TO FLY!

One of the kids grabbed a ladder to place both birds back in the nest.  I checked on the babies about a minute later, and one of them had already hopped back on the nearest branch.  I heard a few **chirp chirps** then mama bird arrived.  I came back before leaving for work, and the bird on the branch was gone.  That baby bird kept inching to the edge of the branch, almost as leverage or a PUSH to use those wings. Now, there was only one bird left in the nest.  I knew when I returned that evening that everyone would be gone.

IMG_3557

I was right they were.

The empty nest symbolized that every bird was equipped with what they needed in order to venture out on their own.  It’s funny because my dad would always say that it was so hard to get his girls out of the nest.  We were comfortable and we knew that daddy was always there to protect us.  One thing for sure though we were prepared for the real world, and knew the importance of trying to fly on our own even before his passing.

What do you feel is keeping you in the “nesting” stage?  I would say that I’m the bird that’s literally scooting to the end of the branch, and every week I’m reminded that my WINGS DO WORK! GONE AND FLY GIRL!

It’s amazing how God will send reminders such as the birds to show us that he has equipped us with everything we need.  Don’t be afraid to FLY.

Red Bull isn’t the only one providing wings. 😉

Use them!

XOXO,

RJ

Day 23: Faith #SteeleThankful Challenge

Day 23: Faith #SteeleThankful Challenge

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

When I tell you that the FAITH WALK is not easy. Baby…let me tell you. Even the believers of Jesus Christ get weary in this walk. And if you don’t, I’m gone say what kinda faith you got cause I want some.

The path can be lit with only a flashlight; meaning you can only see so far down the path. I was traveling down the path of the largest slave plantation in North Carolina when I took this photo.

All I could ever think about when I took this drive every morning to report for my internship is that the slaves could see the plantation home from the slave quarters, but how many had to travel this path. This path that lead them to circumstances that were often times unknown.

On this path called life’s journey you have to trust God. That’s what Faith is all about. When you can’t visibly see the end of the road you believe that God has already worked it out.

Well, that’s the faith I believe in on this day. When the future seems bleak, I find peace in knowing that the path that God has me on is orchestrated by Him. He is the GPS of this journey. I know that the path is leading to unbelievable opportunities.

I’m #SteeleThankful for faith the size of a mustard seed.

What are you #SteeleThankful for?

Steele Thankful 2016

Day 5: Support (Freestyle) #SteeleThankful Challenge

Day 5: Support (Freestyle) #SteeleThankful Challenge

I can’t believe it’s Day 5 already, and if you search the #SteeleThankful tag on social media you will read some truly inspiring stories.

When I decided to use the freestyle option every five days I wanted everyone that participated to put their own spin on what they are #SteeleThankful for.

So, today I’m choosing SUPPORT.

I’m still unpacking at my new crib, and I came across this letter.  It was my acceptance letter into my graduate program.  I remember being hesitant about applying because of my previous situation.  Will they accept me?

Well, if you know I like to take risk.  Actually riding the wave of faith I would say.  I decided to move back to North Carolina with no place to stay.  That’s how bad I wanted to finish grad school.

Now this is where the support comes in.  One of my closest friends says to me, “Use my mother’s address until you can get yourself a place of your own, and she said you can stay with her.” Let me tell you when we had this conversation I was not accepted yet.  I packed up all of my belongings, drove from Michigan to North Carolina.  Made an appointment with the Dean of the School.  Met with her, and she had her assistant type up this letter on the spot.

None of this would have been possible without the support of my adopted families in North Carolina.  I originally moved to North Carolina in 2008 by myself, but when I tell you that will always be home because of the strong support system I have there I mean it!

I’m #SteeleThankful for the Support of my friends and family.  Both near and far.  They are the reason I am here today!

What are you #SteeleThankful for?

Steele Thankful 2016

Dear Benton Harbor, You will always be my secret place…

Dear Benton Harbor, You will always be my secret place…

Population of over 10,000.  Predominately black in population.  Some would say that most are living at the poverty level.  It’s home to the Whirlpool world headquarters.  Right on the shores of Lake Michigan.  I’ve taken you for granted before.  I must admit.  I love you.

I’ve lived and worked in many cities across the country.  I’ve traveled.    At the end of the day, there’s no place like home.

We all need a secret place.  A place to regroup.  It’s always been my secret place.

I can remember living in Raleigh, NC, and I would be itching to go home when things became absolutely unbearable at work, or in my personal life.  My friends would joke about my retreat back home would leave me recharged.

But sometimes home changes.

After my father died I knew that home would change.  I just didn’t know how it would change.

I often ride by the old family home, and think about what could have been.  What should have been? What was?

Home isn’t the same, but it’s up to me to make new memories.

This week I will embark on a journey that will absolutely blow my mind.  I will be traveling to the World Burns Congress.

Being a burn survivor has become a part of my life now, and so I’m traveling to a secret place to regroup.  I didn’t intend to make this a long post today, but thought that I should prepare you for the what is to come.

I will be looking forward to sharing all of the upcoming events that will come out of this week excursion.

I’m leaving my secret place in order to bring more love and inspiration to you.

We shall chat soon.

Benton Harbor, I love you.  That will never change.  It’s time for change, and a remix to my secret place.

 

Xoxo,

R.J.

Will the gate (door) always be OPEN?

Will the gate (door) always be OPEN?

New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans, Louisiana

Can you believe it’s August 1st???  At the beginning of the month I like to make adjustments to my budget, and check my goals checklist.  What do I need to follow-up on, and what opportunities have I missed?

Yes.  You read that correctly, what opportunities have I missed?  Whenever I visit New Orleans I’m always fascinated with the rich history, but in the feature photo I was mesmerized by the gate.  The gate is open, right?  Could I take this picture if the gate was closed?  Well, I could, but that’s not the point.  If the gate was closed I wouldn’t be able to walk through the park.  Now, if the gate was closed it could also mean that I arrived to the park too late, and would be denied legal entry.  In the past seven months how many times have you allowed the gate to close?

Think about it.  **Jeopardy Game Show Final Round Theme Music**

Do you have an answer?  You can leave your answer in the comments section if you’re bold enough to do so!  Be accountable that you’re going to do better in the remaining months.

I would say that it’s happened at least a couple of times, especially with social media.  I can let an opportunity go cold because I didn’t follow up, and when I decide to reach out again, well you know what. It’s TOO LATE.

That gate may not reopen, and I simply must find another avenue.  It is life.  You live, and hopefully you learn.

A couple of weeks ago I commented on a thread on a Linkedin page about a podcast that interviews authors.  Well, I honestly abandoned the post after I commented because I didn’t get a response right away.  And then…I heard a clear voice that said, “go back to that post.”  I did.  The author of the post responded at the very bottom.  I emailed her, and she responded to me right away.  I received the interview information this morning, and looking forward to getting on her calendar in early 2017. (Yes, she’s that popular, and booked until 2017)

So, you see I almost let the gate close on that opportunity.  Who knows there could be some other opportunities out there waiting for me.  I mean I did have a dream that Oprah and OWN endorsed Adventures of Alleykats last week.  Anything is possible right?!  I could be on Ellen talking about my projects, and chopping it up with Steve Harvey about my purpose and passion.  Sky is the limit.

Just don’t let the gate close, and lock.  If you do look for another gate!

Xoxo,

R.J.

Surrounded by Dream Chasers: Trust the process…

Surrounded by Dream Chasers: Trust the process…

I almost said, No.  I almost missed the opportunity.  I almost decided to play it safe.  I almost missed the chance to leap.  Oh, but my faith wouldn’t let me do it.

When I heard one of my childhood friends was hosting the annual event for the International Natural Hair Meet-up Day in my hometown I couldn’t wait until tickets went on sale.

I wrestled with the idea of being a vendor before purchasing my ticket, but didn’t think I was ready.  I waited until it was too late to inquire about the opportunity, and missed out.  So, I thought.

I was contacted a couple of weeks later about being a vendor for the event.  Was I ready?  I was scheduled for a separate event at the local library for authors and illustrators.  The library event was in the morning, and her event was in the evening.  I could do both, right? Again, I asked myself.  Was I ready?

Next thing I know, I said, “Girl lemme do it.”

**Exhale**

Vista Print was having a sale, and I thought oh my goodness this is PERFECT!  I can get a banner made, and look into getting a personalized t-shirt.

Promo Alleykats T-Shirt
Promo Alleykats T-Shirt

Alleykats Banner

Highlights from Saturday:

Library Professionals unite, and a cool member of the Alleykat Club!

Benton Harbor Public Library - Local Authors & Illustrators Reception
Benton Harbor Public Library – Local Authors & Illustrators Reception

I was able to connect with one of my favorite elementary teachers, Mrs. Elwell at the event Saturday evening.  She was so moved that I had written a book, she began crying.  We shared the emotional moment together, and parted with this picture.

Mrs. Elwell and I - INHMD

 

What if I would have said, No, I don’t think I’m ready to be a vendor.  This was my first event being a vendor, and connecting with so many cool people was truly a priceless experience.  I’m so proud of my childhood friend Dashuna, and the success of her event along with her Serenity’s Hair LLC staff/volunteers.

I’m #SteeleThankful for my strong support system.  My mom and sister do whatever they can to make sure that my dreams come true.  They are definitely my cheerleaders.

I scheduled an interview between both events on Saturday for the Final 48 Project. I was sitting in the car playing around with SnapChat reflecting on my morning, and preparing for my interview.  My morning went to a whole new level after a phone call from my mom.  Here’s a snippet of the video I recorded.

Squad Goals - R.J., My Sister, and My Mom
Squad Goals – R.J., My Sister, and My Mom

 

Amazing weekend! Thank God for the lesson and testimony.  Trust the process, keep the faith, and JUMP! It’s worth it.

Don’t forget to grab your copy of the hit book, Adventures of Alleykats – The Missing President!

Xoxo,

R.J.

Life is the Dash…

Life is the Dash…

“Here today, gone tomorrow…”

I remember hearing that a lot growing up.  Now, I’m looking around and realizing, gosh my elders were right.

Last week was quite an emotional week.  I talked about “Blue Monday,” got through Monday, went to the gym on Tuesday morning, hopped online as usual and began reading a story about a possible homicide-suicide that occurred in the next town over from my hometown.  When I initially read the story the names had not been released.  Later on in the afternoon I received a text from a friend, and I politely told him, “Yeah, I read the story, but no names, yet.”  I guess he thought R.J. CLICK THE LINK.  Well, I didn’t click the link, so he decided to do a screenshot (screen grab, whatever) to show me that the names had been released.  It was someone I knew.  In fact, I spoke with this person about a month ago, and some of you were able to witness it.

It was Denise.

98.3 The Coast

I sat in silence for 30 minutes after reading her name in that text message.  She was tragically killed by her husband, and leaves behind three young children.  Even though we never met in person, she had a huge impact on my life.  It’s amazing the effect that people can have on you in such a short amount of time.  During our interview last month on the air I promised I would include her and Jonny as characters in an upcoming book in the series.  I promise not to disappoint.

I did say that it was an emotional week right?

I wanted the passing of Prince to be a hoax.  I remember waking up Friday morning thinking it was still a dream.  Can we agree that Prince was amazing?  He was musical genius, but what really stands out to me is that Prince was an UNAPOLOGETIC BLACK MAN.  He didn’t mind telling you what he thought, and never apologized for it.  He worked tirelessly behind the scenes for the rights of his people.  He was a cheerful giver of his time, knowledge, and resources.

You never know what someone is dealing with, or how much time they have on this earth.  Life is the dash.  We are gifted this life on this earth, and we must determine how we choose to live it.  The outpour of love for both Denise and Prince last week was mind blowing.  There was no need to question how much they were loved.

My takeaway from last week was that we all need to start giving people their flowers while they are living.  I can only hope that they were shown the love that was displayed last week while they were living in the dash.

I decided to go over my grammy’s house on Saturday morning since I was in town filming for The Final 48 Project.  I spent two hours with her, and it was honestly one of the best visits we’ve EVER had.  She told me that what I was doing with the “Final 48 Project” is what God birthed in me, and I have to keep pressing forward.

I went over there to check on her, and received a mighty Word.  That visit with her is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

What are you doing with the dash?  It’s Monday.  Another opportunity to push towards the purpose that God has birthed in you.

“We are gathered here today.  To get through this thing called, life.”  ~ Prince

Xoxo,

R.J.

Recognition and Acknowledgement; There’s a difference?

Recognition and Acknowledgement; There’s a difference?

The first day of Spring was yesterday, and I received a nugget to start my life over.  In a good way of course.  Spring symbolizes everything that you worked so hard for during the harvest season will come to fruition.  If you are in the Midwest don’t pull out the sandals yet, but I do recommend sunglasses.  Always have them! 😉

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, we are in Passion Week, leading up to Resurrection Sunday.  If you are a follower of Jesus Christ you are celebrating the reason for this season.  Can I get an Amen?

Seriously.  So the new word is “lit.”  You’ve probably seen me use it before in a title.  A quick definition would be;

lit: to be crunk, on fire, a high level of celebration.

Anyways, I would say that the message from yesterday was very LIT!

The visiting pastor broke down the difference of recognition and acknowledgement.  I mean it was amazing.  My sister and I had a discussion about how we grew up in the church.  The elders always said, “God is good,” but what does that truly mean?

I recognize that God is good in my mental, but do I acknowledge God’s goodness?  Think about that.  Do I acknowledge that his grace and mercy has brought me through some things, and will continue to do it.  Let me check my faith chart.  Oh yeah, it’s a little low.  My faith is telling me to recognize that God is good but I’m not acknowledging his goodness.  How did that happen?

I recognize that God has given me gifts to work with others that suffered the loss of a loved one,  and to educate the masses about history especially in my home country.  I have not acknowledged that God is going to keep me and take to the next level to do so.  If I keep my mouth shut how will anyone know what I’m doing.  I’m not saying give away my ideas.  I’m saying if I don’t let people know every time I interact with someone about the gifts that God has blessed me with I have only recognized that they are present within me.  Ironically, I have chosen to dismiss the part to acknowledge the power that they hold.  Come on now, R.J. Sad but true.

Hold on.  Did I lose you?  I have an example.

I recognize (mental) that someone left their bag behind at the grocery store.  The cashier noticed the bag, hesitated, and said nothing.  I called out to the lady (acknowledged-action).  As she was walking away and said excuse me, you left a bag behind.  She was grateful, and proceeded to the exit.

We have to speak up and take action.  I recognized that my creativity has been suffering in other areas of my life, and I’m acknowledging that I need help.  So, I want you all to hold me accountable, and on my social media sites I’m looking for feedback. I’ll have more details for you later.  When you get free time I would love to hear your feedback on the new site for the grief platform, Final 48 Project.  I’ve revamped some things, and a new story launches every Tuesday for #GriefTalkTuesday.  I’m looking forward to working with a new mentor in May, and bringing you more amazing  content.

 

XOXO,

R.J.

 

Why we all need to choose forgiveness…

Why we all need to choose forgiveness…

“You don’t know who you are until God sets you free.”

When Pastor Austin said this in church yesterday I was stuck to my seat. It’s so very true. Have you ever been lost in a situation that you don’t know who you are anymore?

That was my story a year ago.

When I was in church yesterday I was convicted. I’m absolutely grateful that I’m not in the same place I was in a year ago, but I haven’t completely forgiven the people that treated me terribly from Summer 2014 – 2015.

I’ve never hated anything or anyone so much and I know that the key to all of my dreams will only be revealed once I forgive them.

How can I be grateful that I’m no longer in that situation but I choose not to forgive them. How does that work?

How they treated me was not for me to understand. It was for me to grow deeper in my faith. Jesus is the only reason why I kept my cool. I’m serious. Not laughing or giggling. I’m being real here. The situation was unbearable at times. I constantly asked myself, “What Would Jesus Do?”

When I received my walking papers last year it was a month earlier than MY PLANNED departure date.

Now…that…was…God!

I was so miserable, and my mental state was at risk. My plan was to exit stage left and just consider the situation a BUST. I was completely OVER IT. God had a better plan (Always better than our own right) and allowed me to exit with style and grace. They were stunned, and I was rejoicing on the inside with a smile on the outside. I felt like breakdancing!  The peace that I received on that day was so calm.  That storm was officially over.

Even though I left that place and never went back. I didn’t forgive. That’s on me. I’ve talked about bitterness and not forgiving can block you from your blessings. So, I had to take a long, hard look in the mirror. The negative energy was still present, and I needed to let go.

I decided to purge those feelings, and leave them on this post:

I forgive those that tried to rob me of my joy and smile. 

I forgive those that tried to hinder my growth. 

I forgive myself for allowing others to mistreat me. 

I know that God has set me free, and everyday I’m trying my hardest to glorify God’s Kingdom. I know sometimes it’s hard to forgive but if Jesus can forgive, so can I. One day at a time.

Today, I am able to focus on my many projects, and I honestly couldn’t be happier.

I know who I am, and I’ve never felt so free in my life.

**Chains Broken**

From Victim to Victorious: Falling in love with a burn survivor

From Victim to Victorious: Falling in love with a burn survivor

Out of all the topics that I’ve discussed this is definitely the hardest. Now, there will be some things shared here that are exclusive to my personal archives. Viewer discretion is advised.

Just got paid. It’s Friday night. I decided to go from shoulder length hair to a bob cut. I would say a good 4 inches of my hair was on the floor at the beauty shop. I was FREE! I was ready for a weekend in Charlotte, NC with my girls for the annual CIAA tournament activities. It was our first year, we were single, and ready to paint the town red.

We mingled with people in the lobby of our hotel, laughed all night with strangers, and even marched the streets of downtown Charlotte in 4-inch heels. We had the time of our life.

Back to work and school on Monday. I walked into work feeling like a new woman. I worked late on Tuesday, said my “good nights” to every one, hopped in my car and made my commute from Durham to Raleigh. I didn’t show up for work on Wednesday morning.

I got home Tuesday night exhausted. I had homework and I needed to eat. I decided to cook a quick meal and call it a night. I placed the pot on the stove, had a seat on the couch, and snapped a few selfies.

I dozed off.

I woke up to smoke, and then flames. I panicked. I grabbed the pot of hot grease, and ran to the door. Too late! The damage was done. It was raining outside so of course grease and water doesn’t mix. Next thing I know the pot falls from the second floor balcony and flames engulfed the stair well. I shielded my eyes with my left arm, and ran back inside of my apartment.

I didn’t call 9-1-1. I called my friend Shanita. I was numb. I stood in the bathroom, and ran my fingers through my singed hair. My hair was transferring from my fingertips to the floor. Shanita picked me up and took me to the hospital. In her words, “it smelled as if you cooked the whole way there.”

Shanita would have to make the phone call to my family and friends about my condition. To this day she says that’s one of the hardest things she’s ever had to do.

After hours of not being able to move I finally wobbled to the bathroom after the suggestion of not looking in the mirror. I did it anyway. I needed to see what the road looked like ahead. I thought, “eh, I’ll be okay.”

 

My features began to transform over night. I took the above photo(s) because I believe in results and of course I’m a visual person. Very visual. I needed those photos during the recovery process to prove to myself that God had this situation under control.

I was in therapy 3-4 days a week for mobility in my right hand and my leg. Changing my own bandages, and sleeping most of the day.

My support system though. My God. My mom and sister were there during my entire hospital stay. My friends were delivering food to my family while I suffered with hospital food. My brother was receiving updates from my father (who arrived the day I was discharged). Everyone had a position, and I’m still blown away by their love and support.

The therapy wasn’t the hardest part. I had to learn to love again. I was a new person. Falling in love is hard, but loving yourself after a traumatic experience is harder.

When you’re faced with insensitive questions you become very defensive. I know I did. “Well, what were you doing trying to deep fry your hand?” Or, “Well you know you could’ve put floor or sugar on it to put the fire out.” Until you’ve experienced the shock of something like that, YOU have no room to judge. Those questions crushed my pride and self-esteem. Yes, I understand I didn’t think clearly in the moment but who would? I was exhausted and delirious. Imagine trying to adjust to having NO HAIR, spots on your face, and a glove that someone asks “what happened?” every five minutes of your “new” life. You can grow even thicker skin to deal with it or you become a recluse. A lot of burn survivors prefer the latter. There were times I wanted to go in hiding, but my personal care giver (Aka my dad) wouldn’t let me do that.

Years later I realized that this whole experience was not about me. When I tell you it strengthened the relationship with my dad and I, I mean my God it did. He brought his clippers with him from Michigan to North Carolina and shaved my hair so it was even. He kept reassuring me that my hair would grow back.

The faith walk wasn’t just for me, it was for my dad too. He was able to witness the transformation of my face. He was BLOWN AWAY. I would hear him in the other room on the phone, “Man, when I got here she looked pretty bad leaving the hospital. She’s looking better and better everyday. Up walking around, and her color is coming back. I mean, man, it’s unbelievable.”

Weeks after the hospital discharge.

God did that. My faith was shook, but my dad’s was questionable. He witnessed a miracle happening before his very eyes.

Loving myself after becoming a burn survivor was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. If I could go back to March 2, 2010 and change what happened, would I?

Answer: Nope.

That experience blessed me with three things: Strengthened my faith, learned how to love beyond the physical, and a priceless relationship with my father.

Back to work. Months later…Glowing!

So, on the 6th anniversary (or BURNiversary) of a life changing event, I am encouraged to keep going. The hedge of protection is real, and God ain’t finished with me yet.

P.S. My hair grew back. 💁🏽

#SteeleThankful