Doctorate Mom

For years I have been struggling to complete this doctorate.

Nothing has been so frustrating or so lonely. So while browsing on Pinterest, I came across this picture:

dissertation

At first, I laughed because I thought that the idea was preposterous. Soon the laughter transformed to intrigue as I wondered about the possibility of this occurrence. Uncertainty is the motive behind my initial laughter. I am uncertain about the completion of my studies. How will I apply the doctorate to my life? What do I hope to get from the doctorate? Of course it could be prestige or respect among family members and peers.

Follow my doctorate pin: https://www.pinterest.com/lrnicholls84/doctorate/

But it goes beyond that. That is the surface meaning. The deeper meaning is what matters. The answer is I need this doctorate to allow God to work through me. Every morning I devote time to God no matter how harried my schedule appears to be. Put God first and you will never be last. That’s my personal motto. The prayer went like this:

Lord, I want to move forward and take hold of all that You have taken hold of for me, but sometimes I have trouble letting go. Help me to release all that hinders my spiritual growth and intimate relationship with You. I open my heart, my hands and my eyes to all You have for me. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

After that heartfelt prayer, I surrendered my will to God and asked him to use me on a deeper spiritual level. He opened my heart, my hands and my eyes. He answered, answers and continues to answer my prayers in the right time, in  His time.

True, there are many obstacles and at times it feels like the journey’s progress is difficult. Yet perseverance seldom fails. Keep chipping away at that mountain, remove the tiny pebbles, which fill up the mind with negativity and let that Goliath of an obstacle fall. Things do not always work to plan. That’s where faith intervenes. That’s where hope intervenes. That’s where love intervenes. Nevertheless they all work out for good. God’s will is always good. Obstacles can be good in a way for they help to develop an appreciation for that which is there. Your heart is open. Your hands are open. Your eyes are open. For the possibilities exist everywhere. Make the most of them.

Natty Dread Dem

Natural hair is not only a decision; it’s a process.

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My journey began when I saw my processed hair on the floor of the natural hair salon. I felt a mix of emotions: regret, sadness, fear and happiness coursing through me. How would my parents react? How would my family and friends react? Will I be treated differently? My parents’ reactions varied from outright loving my new look to nonchalantly shrugging the shoulders and saying: “Your hair will soon grow back.” My close friends’ reaction was similar. In fact they inquired: “Why did you cut your long hair?” But society treated me differently with short hair than with long hair. With short hair, I was perceived as a rebel, afro-centric and artistic. I was viewed less feminine and treated differently to my counterparts with longer tresses. I believe the photo above summarises the views. Yet at that point in the salon chair, all I experienced, was the wind blowing across the nape of my neck for what felt like the first time in years. I felt exhilarated, like I was about to start a new adventure.

 

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Comb twists style (Note: this is not the author)

My hair was an inch and a half long and the hairdresser did it in comb twists. She used holding gel and the end of the rat-tailed comb and twisted it. My hair looked different, lively and natural. Before my chemically processed hair was flat and dull. Every three months I had to submit my hair to chemical torture. Between the smell of the straightener and the burns on my scalp I had to take action to reclaim my natural hair.

 

 

natural-twists

Artificial shoulder length natural twists (Note: this is not the author)

 

For months I hid it under the guise of artificial shoulder length natural twists. My hair grew and had to be treated again every three months. Then I found a texturiser which was less damaging to my hair. My decision to loc my hair came around after the death of my father. Out of respect and also out of fear of disapproval from my father, I started the process of locking my hair. It was an amazing feeling. Natural oils replaced the harmful chemicals. My coils were liberated and celebrated. The downside to it was that society expected me to act a certain way: be a vegan, not wash my hair, be artsy, smoke weed, listen to Bob Marley!?!

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When asked why chose this hairstyle, my response is comedic: I don’t like to comb my hair. What surprised me is that this hairstyle is a lifestyle. Yet it teaches you that people’s opinions belong to them. Don’t adopt them or take them on as your own. It also challenges the perception of beauty. Natural beauty goes beyond hair, skin and nails. It is a holistic experience. It is a conscious decision that is made every  waking moment of your life.

My natural decision also goes to wearing makeup. For me, makeup is for special occasions. As my lifestyle is hectic, it is difficult to factor in the necessary time for makeup. My hope is that when my lifestyle slows down, there will be an opportunity to incorporate time for makeup. I am of the view that makeup should enhance your natural features and not cover them up. My makeup celebrates my ebony skin, my small almond shaped brown eyes and my full luscious lips. It does not cover up my flaws, which make me unique. It compliments them. This vision allows a sense of freedom.

visionToday, decide to live your life free from grudges, free from the drama and in peace. And remember that we are not perfect, only our Maker is perfect. We may strive for perfection but we must not let our perception of perfection take over our lives. Those persons whom you have issues with, or disagree with on points, that is acceptable because we are all different naturally. So when you see them smile at them because we are all fighting the same struggle which we call life. If someone does you wrong or if you wrong someone, step back and karma will do the rest. Life is too short to be worried about someone else. Strive to be better than you were yesterday and always put God first. Don’t try to live another person’s life. Live your own. Make the decision and go along with the process. Only God knows the destination at the end of the road of your personal development.

Be natural! Be beautiful! Be you!

Caring Culture

Quite recently my  career has shifted from the public sphere to the private domain. At the end our day of professional development, the participants were of the same opinion: it was not only informative but it provided the platform to build vital skills in our discipline, which is that of education.

tribesMy introduction to the system of Tribes agreements was quite recent. These Agreements stand upon four pillars: mutual respect, attentive listening, appreciations (no put downs) and the right to participate/pass. When practised within the learning experience, the result is a safe classroom environment where every stakeholder in education (students, teachers, parents, administrators and investors) can benefit. The principles of Tribes extend beyond the classroom and can be utilised in the home and the community.

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Upon arrival to today’s session the first thing that stood out was the seating arrangement. The chairs were arranged in a continuous circle to demonstrate the preference of the “guide on the side” instead of the “sage on stage”. The presenter effectively disseminated informative resources that would assist within the session and were transferable to the classroom.

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The session began with a definition of Tribes and the ensuing powerful influence it would have in delivering the written  and the hidden curriculum. Through Tribes, the information in the various subject areas would  be covered. The participants were urged to ask the students to describe what the four pillars of the Tribes agreement would look, sound and feel like. By doing this issues relating to classroom management will significantly decrease. In addition the facilitator introduced the statement of appreciation. This exemplifies the affective aspect of the lesson plan as most of the focus is on the cognitive and psychomotor skills. It appears in some cases that affective skills are all but forgotten or neglected. For instance, to inculcate the feelings of kindness the concept of “Have you filled your bucket today?” was introduced to aid appreciation and attentive listening. Furthermore, there would  be a significant development in the  emotional intelligence within the students, which is crucial to success for the future. It must be noted that most successful persons have a high level of emotional intelligence.

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Inclusion, Influence and Community were the components on the Tribes Trail. For Inclusion, the participants were sanctioned to implement group work and cooperative learning into the lessons. It is imperative that students learn the life skill of teamwork. In fact, the most common question asked on the job interview is: “Are you a team player?” The Inclusion activities promoted teamwork and could be incorporated with the written curriculum. Some of these were I Like My Neighbour, One Ball Pass, What’s in my wallet?, Bubble letters and the ever popular Rock, Paper, Scissors.

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Through these activities, the participants experienced the benefits of cooperation. These benefits could be transferred to the students’ emotional intelligence for they boost academic achievement, constructive thinking, social competency, social support, psychological health and a positive self esteem. Also connected to emotional intelligence were reflections which strengthened content, behavioural and personal growth. Through the examination of emotional intelligence the participants encountered Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardiner. This reiterated the blanket statement that “learning is a process of making connections to previous experiences and interests”.

multiple-intelligences

On approaching the end of the session the participants were inspired to examine the ways how the development of emotional intelligence can work for the students, the parents and the faculty. All in all, the assessment of emotional intelligence centred on self-perception, self expression, interpersonal, decision making and stress tolerance. All of these life skills would result in a Beginners’ Mind as our students will be viewed from a fresh stance. By believing in our students so they can believe in themselves, our future will be transformed. The past cannot be undone, however the changes in the present will have long term effects on the future. Therefore make the most of today. Today for me was thought-provoking, validating, refreshing and inspiring as through bonding with like minded educators we filled our professional skills bucket so we can take on the role of education one student, teacher, parent, administrator and investor at a time.

 

Valentine

Love is in the air

Flowers, chocolates and roses

A red and white affair

One chapter opens, another closes.

 

The real story behind St. Valentine leaves us with the adage that true love never dies. Bishop Valentine believed in marriage in a society that believed that marriage weakened the resolve of soldiers. He continued to marry those and when it was discovered that he was acting against the Emperor’s orders he was told to desist. When he refused he was detained. The jailer’s daughter was blind and Valentine healed her sight. They fell in love, but it was ill fated for Valentine was sentenced to be beheaded the following morning. The night before his death he wrote her a letter and signed it “From Your Valentine.” Despite his unfortunate demise, this tradition of love, though be it materialised and commercialised is celebrated today. Permit me to share with you another memorable Valentine’s day story:

Her body still ached from the surgery she had two weeks ago but she was determined to go. Dressed in her best, waiting at the entrance of the restaurant, she leaned in and whispered into the host’s ear: “Table for one”.

The host took in the stunningly attractive young lady and thought to himself that it was ludicrous that a delicious looking lady should be by herself especially like a night like tonight: Valentines night. Before he could stop himself, he said: “Where is the young gentleman?” to which she calmly replied: “Where is the table? I just want to be treated like a Queen tonight.”

The host completely understood. Instead of sitting her at the bar as she had requested, he insisted that she sit at one of the finest tables in the restaurant. She complied. He showed her the wine list and she waved it away to expertly order a bottle of the Blackwood cabernet sauvignon. As he left, she opened a book and began to read a novel by her favourite Nigerian feminist author.

No children, no calls from work, nothing but peace and quiet. No awkward pauses in fake conversation with a date alongside her. Another waiter came to serve her wine and expertly poured it into her wine glass. She looked on appreciatively at the technique and the waiter’s physique and leaned in ever so slightly to make a request. “May I see the menu? I would like to order.” He quickly returned with the order. She set her novel aside and she perused the menu. After making her selection, she enjoyed the relaxing lounge music and the crashing of the waves on the boardwalk outside of the restaurant.

Thinking to herself, she realised that this was truly the reward for the dramatic and traumatic year she had: a turbulent pregnancy, a broken marriage and an unfulfilling career. She was beginning a love affair. A love affair with herself. She took care to arrange her clothes, her hair, her accessories before coming out on her own this Valentine’s night. She did not need to fit the mould of the other couples around her. She was responsible for her own happiness and as the main course arrived, she sipped her wine and took a cleansing breathe into her body for her mind and soul were content. She would not have it any other way. She took another sip of the wine and as it coursed through her body, she thought love lives on. Though it may appear that this is the end it truly is a wonderful beginning. She lifted her glass halfway in the air and whispered: Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

The Reason for Being

My Father is the reason I am here.

For those readers of the blog, you may have realised that I am taking a spiritual journey through the visiting of different Anglican churches across the island of Barbados. Right now I am in the island of St. Lucia, vacationing with my sons. The decision only seemed obvious to visit an Anglican Church.

I know that it is away from the original plan to visit Churches highlighted in the calendar. But there is a connection. Allow me to give some background to this visit of Holy Trinity Church in Castries, St. Lucia.

One of the churches which I covered a few months ago was St. Leonard’s Anglican Church. Quite recently the priest-in-charge was the Reverend Sonia Hinds, one of the first female ordained priests in the island of Barbados. For some time she was the priest of Holy Trinity Church. I communicated with her the desire to visit an Anglican Church on my visit to St. Lucia and she organised it well. My earthly father was also an Anglican priest and he was influential in the life of Reverend Sonia Hinds. He and my mother mentored countless young people during the 1970’s at the All Souls Anglican Church in Barbados. Reverend Sonia Hinds attended that church. She adopted me as her sister when I was born and our relationship continues with that connection of my earthly father.

Never was there a person to emulate our Heavenly Father like my earthly father. The way he lived his life was always to the glory of God. He was a simple and humble man, who never cared for a position or promotion given by man, but cared about the spiritual well being of God’s people. This was reflected in the sermon given by the Canon Curtis Robinson, from the Bahamas who officiated the service at Holy Trinity.

Canon Robinson meaningfully directed the service. He implored the congregation to stop reciting the words and to slow down and meditate on the beautiful meaning behind the prayers, inspired by scriptures which were nestled in the pages of our Book of Common Prayer. His sermon was themed: “Humility brings favor with God.” All of the Bible passages of the service were related to the theme, especially the one taken from Hebrews 13: 1-8 and 15-16. Incidentally it was read by the sister of the lady who brought us to church. Our conversation on our ride to church exposed a challenge of the Anglican Church which I will conclude this blog.

However with reference to the sermon, Canon Robinson stated that we should not be concerned with what others have. We should only be concerned in our identity in Christ. Climbing the social ladder and not having Jesus in our lives is reflecting the proverb that pride goes before a fall. Hopefully there will be some Christians below to catch you when you fall. Even one of the songs which the congregation sang lustily was “I’d Rather Have Jesus”. The second verse expounded upon the fact that being the king of a vast domain paled in comparison to having Jesus. The simple things in life feel so much better. Like a small two bedroom home with family to make it warm or eating a simple warm bread and cheese. Pride and comparison robs you of joy. Finally Canon Robinson ended his message with this gem of knowledge: be careful how you treat people in this life, for you never know that you may be down and out and the person whom you dislike may be the only person who can help you.

It all comes down to this simple truth: Treat people as you would want to be treated. This variation on the golden rule gives a platform for the conversation on the drive to Church, which would make for an emphatic conclusion. St. Lucia is predominantly Catholic and the lady who drove me to Church revealed the strategy. The Catholic Church did a survey and asked the young people what they wanted out of church. For instance some young people complained that Church was too early since they had to get ready for school during the week and do lessons on the Saturday, so getting up early for Sunday was a challenge as well. They needed a later service. The lady also made the point that the Anglican Church has less youth and more people on the “way out” as she referred to the older section of the congregation. If only they would change. Just implement one or two ideas from the young people for they are the essence of the Church. Without them there will be no future.

Yet it is because of pride those in power in the Church would not change. Change is constant and it needs to be embraced even though it may be difficult at first. That links us to the essence of this blog. We are here because of Our Father. He wants us to live lives that bring Him glory. Instead of seeking power and position and what others have, we should seek out ways to help out each other and develop our relationships to reflect the grace and mercy of God.

 

 

 

Pause, Stop and Think

christian_tommy

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged and this one is long overdue. This is about a question I have been asked: how long have you been a Christian? Whenever, I’m asked that question, I pause and I stop and I think. I do that because I’m trying to remember, when did I ever start being a Christian. Truthfully I don’t remember.  A song that comes to mind is one that we sing in Church. The first line is: “I became a Christian when my  name was given.” We also call our first name our “Christian name.”

I think it was way before that. God ordained you to be. He put you in that position for a reason. He had our whole life planned out even before we were conceptualized. That’s amazing to even fathom. That’s found in Psalm 139. Even before you were knit together in your mother’s womb, all of your days have been written in His book. That feeling that you are fulfilling God’s eternal purpose.

 

being christianNow back to that question: how long have you been a Christian? I think about that and I think that being a Christian is an everyday decision. It’s not like you can say I became a Christian on this specific date and year. You have to decide every single day. You’re going to live a life that is pleasing to God and that takes courage and tenacity. You may go against everyone that you consider to be a friend and at the end of the day you are living a more uplifting and fulfilling life, that is positive in every way. No matter what.

So that’s my blog. Hope you like it. Hope you enjoy it.

Communication is key

As I continue my sojourn of churches in Barbados this year, I visited the church on the hill St. Silas. st.silas.jpgWe spent a good 15 minutes searching for this elusive place of worship. We drove on and on looking for a sign and those whom we asked told us to continue driving through g through the affluent district of Apes Hill St. James. It was through perseverance and faith that we found the Church and it was worth the search. The refreshing breeze came across the hill and cooled our fevered brows as we alighted from the car. The service was well underway at 9:15. We had called the day before to enquire about the service times and the person informed us that church began at 9:30. Imagine our surprise as we were ushered to our seats in a well packed church. Two reasons accounted for the packed congregation. First they were celebrating the Church’s festival and second one of the members of the congregation was turning 50 years old. He had invited several family members and friends, including the Barbados cricketing legend Desmond Haynes. gordon.jpg

For those readers of my blog who are not aware of Desmond Haynes, he was a talented Barbadian cricketer who was one of the opening batsmen for the West Indies cricket team. His was a golden age as the opening duo of himself and Gordon Greenidge saw the West Indies team to many victories during the 1990’s.

Yet I digress, for the theme of this issue is communication. Communication is displayed in the rambling nature and lack of road signage to mark the location of the church. Communication is experienced by the people telling us to keep driving and we will get there. It is further seen as miscommunication by the mixup in the starting times of the church service. Communication is the purpose of the many people who were worshipping. Communication is seen in celebration of the Church’s festival, the gentleman’s 50th birthday and the contribution of Desmond Haynes to West Indian cricket. All stem from the same source: communication is key. longfellow

The priest in charge Reverend Desmond Ward used the platform of the Gospel reading which was themed: Lord teach us to pray. Reverend Ward highlighted that Jesus led by example which was more effective than leading by opinion. Jesus was a man of prayer. On various occasions in the four gospels in the Bible, Jesus prays. He prays for his disciples, He prays before performing miracles and He prays in times of trouble and need. Most importantly, Jesus sets aside quiet moments for prayer. He extracts himself from the crowd and busyness of His life and strengthens His Spirit through prayer. We who call ourselves Christians must follow the example of Jesus.teach-us-to-pray

Prayer is communication between God and person. How do we pray? When should we pray? Why do we pray? These questions are pertinent to our spiritual development. We remember that God answers prayer and the hinge of that answer is according to God’s will. So as Reverend Ward implored us, I ask you to take some time out of your busy schedule and pray to God.

We must not only speak our prayer but take time to listen for God’s voice. In order for communication to be successful it must have these elements: a sender, a message and a receiver. In order for that message to be clearly received distractions need to be ignored and focus planted firmly on the sender. Prayer is a conversation between God and person. God speaks to us in a variety of ways: nature, His Word and people in our lives. The key is to listen for God knows what is best.

 

Take Everything to God

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Ever had a recurring dream? Some may go so far as to call it a nightmare. Yet this dream is a manifestation of your subconscious working out an unresolved mental challenge.  Your challenge may be based on valid or invalid anger. Whether valid or invalid, the issue haunts you even in your dreams while you sleep.

This dream becomes a vivid memory, as exact moments, colours and feelings associated with this dream can be easily recalled. Within the mental anguish, questions torment the psyche. Lord why me? Why am I unable to get over this? Where is the escape route for these overwhelming emotions? At what point in time will this situation be conquered?  There is a way to get over this. There is a means for escape from these emotions. This is a fortifying process that will lead you to your life’s ultimate purpose which has been set out for you by God.

These trials and temptations provide the opportunity to fine tune your fighting skills. Either you train your body to fight them physically or you train your psyche to fight them on a mental level. Ironically the mental training is reflected in your physical prowess. The attitude of believing in yourself serves in good stead in this mental combat. A psychological fight requires the weapons of patience and endurance. These are activated through the remembrance of God’s grace and favour. Your resolve is strengthened as the courage is built up to face this and all of life’s challenges.

What a friend we have in Jesus! God is your FFL (Friend for Life). He is by your side and He is always present. Take everything to God through the channel of prayer. Consistent prayer strengthens your connection with God. Wait quietly for God , as you put your trust and hope in Him. The Lord is intentional for the promise remains that everything works for the good of those who love Him. Your heart will grow stronger through the working of the Holy Spirit. While you wait, while you endure, stand strong. These challenges in life are the opportunities to make you stronger and draw you closer to God, for He’s intentional.

 

Labels: Why?

label jars

From the inception of the human race, the Biblical story of creation paints the image of God giving the man the task of giving names to everything. Labelling is in our DNA for we need to label to create awareness and achieve understanding. Labels provide definition and meaning and purpose is the central crave of the human race. Everything in life was made for a purpose. We spend our whole lives searching and fulfilling our purpose that it encompasses our daily activities.

Therefore the aim of this final part of the labelling series is to tie up any loose ends, by using the main points expressed in the previous articles. The labelling of women and children is a primary focus in many academic studies. That is not to neglect the matter of the labelling of men. For men endure many stereotypes, through the medium of labelling. Women have been labelled from the inception of time as man noted that she was from him. Woman was created from man initially as God performed the first surgery. God was the anaesthesiologist as He put the man to sleep during this procedure. Man was created from the dust and woman was created from the rib of the man. In fact the origins of the word woman gives the impression of a man with a womb. The initial saying could have been “womb-man” which converted to “woman” over time.

Fast track to the present day, where the female stereotype permeates all media sources. Women are expected to live up to that ideal. A decision which they choose to wrestle with in their lives. Children are related to woman. It is through woman that children are formed, birthed and nurtured. Children are labelled from the knowledge of their existence. At each stage of a child’s life he or she is categorised according to gender, health and possibilities. Again there is a wealth of literature on the labelling of children as these different labels create awareness of learning and developmental irregularities.

Yet the question remains: to what extent should we let labels define us? If we do not meet those ideals imposed on us through these labels does it make us any less of a person. An old adage says: “To thine own self be true.” Labels should create an awareness yet it should not be a complete definition. As we embrace the ingrained feature of labelling, there should be a balance as we use those labels in a positive way. If the case is extreme and this label causes great consternation do away with it. Yet we must strive to learn about this circumstance surrounding that label in a quest to be honest and true to ourselves. For once we do that we can be a great influence to ourselves and others. Through this influence we can magnify the glory of God and truly achieve our unique purpose in this lifetime.

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