Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Continent #6: A RADIKL South African Journey: Part 3 of 3/Johannesburg

Sunset on the panoramic tour from Kruger to Jo'Burg
Sawubona! (This means, "I See You," in Zulu)

Jo'Burg's transit system
(Note: We returned to New York 2 and half months ago. Sorry for the delay!!)

We haven't stopped traveling since we got back, so the 3 weeks feels so much longer. A part of me wishes we could take more than souvenirs and even memories from South Africa. These entries and the pictures will always hold special significance in my mind and heart along with the life changing lessons.  Join me as we complete an unforgettable journey...
On the Freedom Tour

Our last leg in South Africa concluded in Johannesburg, the equivalent of New York City (Manhattan). Jo'Burg as most residents and natives call it, is SA's big metropolitan city. They even have a newly built, underground rail system that we rode called the Gautrain. It reminded me a lot of the tube in London. It doesn't come as often as NYC's subway and still has a limited service line.

Jo'Burg was the perfect ending to our trip. Here we took in the history of South Africa and learned much about their first Black President, Apartheid, Soweto, Bishop Desmond Tutu, the 1976 uprisings, and more. Up until Jo'Burg, all except the mugging, the trip was peaceful and fun. While Jo'Burg was fun too, we needed to walk away with a deeper sense of the historical events that made South Africa unique. This leg of the trip was the bowtie and addressed some of the pain still felt by the people, the land and the culture. 

We arrived in Jo'Burg around 8pm, after a 12 hour Panoramic Tour between Kruger Park and Jo'Burg. The tour was amazing. Our guide kept us on a tight schedule and made sure we saw all the important sites. He was the most gracious and humble person I'd ever met. In order for him to drive us the whole way, he stayed over night in Jo'Burg at a hotel not far from ours. Our parting was bittersweet. He had been a fixture in our exploration for the last 3 days from sun up till sun down. His storytelling and description of everything brought the journey to life. Once we checked our utlra modern, loft like room at the Radison Park Inn, Richard and I said our goodbyes to Robert and began the last leg of our excursion. 

Our day started around 6am and we were sleepy. We opted for dinner in the hotel restaurant. Our server had a great wit and his jokes were well received by us. At this point we were blown away by the outstanding service on the entire trip. In NYC, we may not have entertained off beat humor from our server, but we totally embraced

Kids in Soweto
We stayed in a suburb of Johannesburg, called Sandton. It's one of the more wealthy and considered "safer" areas. Interestingly, we were warned over and over about our safety in Jo'Burg. People in Capetown made Jo'Burg sound very dangerous. We were told we shouldn't keep our big camera in plain view; we should never go out alone at night; always take a secure car when we travel--all sorts of precautions. While most of these we followed (not all), we were never mugged. Not saying that it couldn't have happened, but compared to Capetown, that it happened in the much safer of the two places was very ironic. 
Mandela Museum

On our first full day we visited Nelson Mandela Square, Sandton's big landmark mall. You could easily get lost in this mall. There were about 12 eat in restaurants surrounding the mall and almost 100 stores. I enjoyed looking at all the different fashions. My friends know, dresses are my thing. I LOVE dresses! All kinds of dresses and I'm not ashamed to play dress up in my own dresses and in stores, just because.  The dresses in store windows were so extravagant and ceremonial. It almost seemed strange to see a regular, simple dress. It's also my custom to buy at least one dress from every international city I visit. This trip was no different. I scooped up a cute sun dress that I got the chance to wear in sunny Florida. We took pictures in front of the almost 3 ton bronze statute of Nelson Mandela. As a side note, Nelson Mandela is revered as a King in South Africa. I'll get to that a little later. 
Happy Birthday to me!!
My King!
Future dinner for residents in Soweto
Taxi Ranks in Soweto

The next day guessed it, MY BIRTHDAY! I got up early, said my prayers, gazed out the window for a while and hit the gym. The gym had a great view and it made the workout even more enjoyable. Afterwards, Richard and I had breakfast and made our way to the craft market. No different from China Town in NYC or Shanghai, China, the sellers were aggressive, but there was a difference that I had not experienced before. This time the sellers worked together. If one merchant had an item we liked, but the merchant next door had an item we wanted, the merchants would negotiate together to sell us the item. It was pretty cool. We got shopped for family and headed back to the Mandela Square for our dinner reservation at a super swanky restaurant. The only thing missing was cake. The only thing I love almost as much as dresses is cake. Before we dined, we bought a birthday cake from a store that stayed open just for us. While that made us feel special, it wasn't nearly the end of the special treatment on this new decade. The restaurant Richard chose was designed so modern and artsy. The main colors were white and black with a huge spiral staircase connecting the two floored eatery. When we sat down, we sat outdoors under the heating lamps, our main waiter took our cake and kept it in the refrigerator. We enjoyed our meal and when it was time for the cake, our waiter did something neither of us requested nor expected. It took him a little while, about ten minutes to return with the cake. For most of the night he was very prompt, so this instance felt longer than it probably took. When he returned, he explained why his delay. He had gone back into the mall to get candles for my birthday cake. Whoa...Richard and I were stunned. Up until now, the service in South Africa had been far beyond our expectations and definitely above anything we were used to in America, sad to say, but true. Even with all the outstanding service, this was over the top! I don't think we'll every forget that royal treatment. From there we went back to our hotel and packed for our last day in South Africa. It had come to an end. This was by far the best international/continental trip I had ever taken and leaving would be bittersweet but it was time to go home.
Taking notes in the Mandela Museum
Our tour guide Percy explaining a medicinal plant in Soweto

On our last morning in Jo'Burg we took a Freedom Tour. Up to this point, our trip was pretty lofty and leisure even with all the physical activity and sightseeing, minus the mugging. We needed and intended to make that connection to South Africa's history.  The Freedom Tour was exactly the anecdote. The tour started on one of South Africa's most famous streets - Vilakazi street. The only street to house two Nobel Peace Prize winners: Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. On Vilakazi street, we visited the Nelson Mandela Museum. The museum is actually Mandela's former house that is now serves as a historic site. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable about everything regarding the Mandela family highs, lows and details of the house and its original use. It was such a heavy experience. Walking in the same house that the Mandela's lived in and raised children and began their dual freedom fighting legacy was such an honor.  

After the Nelson Mandela Museum, we visited Soweto, which is short for South West Township. The area is split amongst chanty towns, match box houses and more affluent residences. The residents in the chanty towns and matchbox houses are known to steal electricity. Even more ironic, the power plants and grids are on the side of Soweto that doesn't provide service. 

Richard on the Freedom Tour
Hand signs for the taxi ranks
We toured the markets, taxi stands called "taxi ranks" and open air butcheries with our guide Percy. He lived in Soweto with his family. The taxi stands were most fascinating to me. The taxis are vans (similar to the dollar vans in Queens, NY) that take off from the stand once they're full of passengers. Patrons use specific hand signals to let drivers know where they're going. 
Richard and a store owner in the Soweto Mkt

Our next stop was the grievous and intense Hector Pieterson Museum, a memorial for the 13-year-old boy who was the first killed when police opened fire during student protests in 1976. The students were protesting against the enforced use of the Afrikaans language in schools, and started the beginning of the Soweto Uprising. This controversial picture captured a classmate carrying Hector's lifeless body, away from the violence. The picture sparked so much discord, the author went exile and his family never heard from him again. He and the young classmate carrying Hector could been killed for their actions during the protest.

Before the last stop on the Freedom Tour, we had lunch at the famous African experience, Moyo.We ate outdoors and feasted on a succulent buffet of African cuisine. To truly make it a one of a kind dine, I got my face painted while we ate.

Iconic picture of Hector Pieterson's lifeless body being carried
Shortly thereafter we hit the last stop on our tour, the Apartheid Museum. Here we learned of the many years of segregation, more the Soweto uprising, ANC history, Nelson Mandela's young years as an attorney, solitary confinement, rule as President and birth of a new democratic country. We received entry cards based on our skin color and entered through steel gates specifically designated to us. We visited for about 3 hours and it still wasn't enough time to cover all the museum. The entire tour was a lot to ingest. We were silent for a while afterwards processing all we had read and experienced. It was indeed the perfect way to say goodbye to South Africa. 
Outside of the Hector Pieterson's Museum

We head to the Jo' Burg airport enriched and enlightened from the experience of a lifetime. My trip to South Africa was a spiritual journey like no other international trip I had taken. Sure I turned 30, but more than that I connected with my ancestors and their humble, courageous fight for freedom. I connected with my husband and gained new appreciation for the value of our lives. I disconnected from our wired world to listen, breathe and inhale the peace and nature God created. Everything small or big was eye opening. 

My first trip to South Africa is to be continued. The exploration and discovery has just begun...

I hope it was worth the wait :)


Friday, June 1, 2012

Continent #6: A RADIKL South African Journey: Part 2 of 3/Kruger Park

Goeiedag! (This means Good Day in Afrikaans)

Propeller plan landing in Kruger Park
It is indeed a good day! The sun is shining  and it's a new day full of possibility. As not to skip over the elephant in the room, IT'S MY BIRTHDAY!!! The beautiful landscape that greeted me this morning outside our hotel room was such an amazing gift. I'm blessed.

A happy hubby arriving in Kruger Park
The second leg of our trip was a retreat I wish for everyone to experience. Kruger Park covers almost 8000 square miles. People travel from all over to get up close and personal on a safari tour featuring the 'Big 5:' lions, leopards, buffalo, rhino and elephants. We were fortunate to see 4 out of the 5.

Lodge in Kruger Park
For 3 days we stayed at a rustic and fabulous 2 bedroom chalet as part of a larger property, 20 minutes from our chosen safari route. The chalet was deep in the wilderness steps away from the main house. The architecture and detail pulled together all the elements of the surroundings. Before I get too deep into this part, I will pick up where I left off in Part 1.

We arrived at Capetown airport at 4:30am for a 6am flight to Kruger Park with an hour layover in Johannesburg. The ticket booths were all closed. They slowly began to open about 15 minutes after we arrived. Our hope was that they would check our bags through to Kruger since we only had an hour to arrive and check into the next flight. In the US, an hour layover would be sufficient, but we were unsure about this set up. Our check in process was tedious. The airline website listed each passenger could check two bags person, but when we arrived with 3 bags total, they said we needed to pay for the additional bag. No biggie, but the process to pay for the extra bag was a shenanigan. They sent my Richard running between two ticket counters about 5 times. They were unable to check our bags through to Kruger or check us into the next flight. With all of the commotion, we still made our flight, just in time. Our experience at Capetown airport didn't leave us very confident that our transfer in Johannesburg would be smooth. Still, I had peace all would be well in our next destination. I knew we were headed to the best part of the trip. 

When we arrived to Johannesburg, we walked the 10 minutes to the baggage terminal and as we walked up...our luggage was circling the belt. With smiles on our faces, we grabbed them and quickly headed to the terminal. After checking in at the kiosk and dropping our bags at the ticket counter with no issue, we were on our way! Next stop, nature, wildlife, tranquility and total retreat. We boarded the propeller plane (our first ever) and 45 minutes later we arrived to the warmest weather of the trip.

Zebra crossing the road
Our tour guide for the next three days, Robert, met us at the airport with a sign ready to expose us to a whole new world. His world...he was born in a small village a couple hours from Kruger and pretty much grew up with the animals. His knowledge of the history, culture, traditions, animals, etc was astounding. The drive to the lodge gave a glimpse of what splendor was ahead. Beautiful Zebra and leaping Impalas crossed the roads just a few miles from our destination. We had officially entered the jungle.

Inside the chalet
Upon arrival to the lodge we were greeted by a lovely young woman we called 'NoNo' for short, who would serve us in the dining room for most of our meals. We checked in at the front desk and signed our life away on numerous forms. All I kept seeing was..."we're not responsible," "injury," "death..." As a proud "water walker" and "adventure seeker," I thought, I couldn't have picked a better way to welcome my 30's!  After we ate lunch we checked into our chalet and took a nap. The night ride or night safari was the next item on our itinerary and the 3am wake up call was still lingering. 


Team Pope!
Elephant emerging from the bush
Like most people, I've been to the zoo, but nothing compares to seeing 5 ton animals staring you in the face up close and personal. The night ride was incomparable to anything I've ever experienced. For 3 hours, our tour guide drove an open roof truck explaining the types of animals we might see. Within 10 minutes on my right we see the biggest elephant I could every imagine emerging out of bush. It still blows my mind. On the right his kin was grazing. It was totally surreal. From there we saw more impalas, zebra, giraffe, and more.  The inn keepers told us travelers come and safari 4 or 5 days straight to see the lions and never see them. We saw them on our first night! 18 lions in the middle of the road. It was unbelievable. The sun set an hour into our ride. We had to use spotlights to identify animals. The most shocking, even beyond the lions were the porcupines crossing the road. Their quills looked like wigs or extensions attached to their backs. The tour left me in total amazement.

Family of impalas
Back at the lodge we ate dinner and reflected enjoyed the tranquility. To our surprise (but knowing my husband, I'm not convinced he didn't arrange this) we were the only ones staying in the 8 chalet lodge. The lodge had a full staff and they were waiting on us hand and foot. Between our nap and returning from the safari, the attendants prepared our room again. We were warned that if we heard growling at night it was most likely a wart hog under the chalet. The thought was more funny than scary. 

The King of the Jungle and his family
Half past 5 (as South Africans describe the half hour) was our wake up time the next day to begin the 8 hour safari.  Robert warned us the mornings were very cold and to layer up. When started the day drive it was still dark and the sun was peaking through the clouds. I had on 3 of everything. As we drove through the open roof truck, the wind was beating our faces mercilessly. We had blankets as well, but it was hard to keep warm. We cuddled, kissed, blew hot air on each other, but it barely penetrated the cold. The only warmth came when we stopped to look at a fascinating species. Impalas could be seen all over, so we didn't stop for them unless they were crossing the street. On this ride we were focused on seeing rhinos, buffalo, rare birds, hippopotamus, leopards and more. We saw most everything but the leopards, which completed 4 of the Big 5.  We even saw a pregnant elephant who could give birth at any time. She was not in a happy mood. The gestation period for an elephant is 22 months. 22 months for one baby elephant. I think most of us women would be in a bad mood under those circumstances. 

Dinner with the Pope
We stopped once nearby a heavily inhabited area of birds. While looking at the birds, the different plants we saw a family of impalas running through the bush just 100-200 feet away from us. We had become so comfortable, we forgot we were still in the middle of the jungle with wild animals who saw us a predators. We quickly hopped into the truck and returned to the lodge. We enjoyed our last lunch in the secluded oasis. The rest of the day we inhaled the clean air, listened to the silence and soaked up the peace. After dinner we warmed ourselves by the open fire burning outside the dining room and counted the stars. Seeing the stars at night was a favorite pastime of mine growing up in Chicago. Living in the North East, the stars aren't always as visible. It was a small moment, but a great ending to an out of this world kind of day.

Small village
The next morning we had breakfast with 5-7 people waiting on us at a time. The name of the inn is Grand Kruger Lodge and the service was just that, grand. We said our goodbyes to the wonderful staff and started on our next journey...a 12 hour panoramic tour through the mountains, villages and hills of South Africa to Johannesburg. We stopped at 3 major places: God's Window, Potholes and the 3 Wives mountain. All of the scenes were breathtaking and shattering to the mind's imagination. I felt like we stepped into the book of Genesis. The glory of what we saw could only be described by the creation story. It took millions of years for these formations to become what they are now. Larger than life. 
My love

As we arrived into Johannesburg, we were coming down from the climax to our trip. We had certainly hit the peak. Since Jo'burg is a metropolitan city of business, development and industry it's a fitting transition back to the states. Our disconnection from outside world came to an end and it was time to plug back in. I re-learned the value of stillness, pausing, tranquility and total retreat. Those memories, I want to hold for when life is running faster than I can keep up. 

We're here in Jo'Burg till tomorrow and then we journey home. Stay tuned for Part 3 of 3. 


PS - See below for a few more pics!

Our tour guide Robert

Overlooking God's Window

God's Window


Overlooking Potholes



Thursday, May 31, 2012

Continent #6: A RADIKL South African Journey: Part 1 of 3/Capetown

Goeiemôre! (This means Good Morning in Afrikans; a main language spoken in South Africa)

Five years ago, I set a goal to visit the 7 continents of the world by age 30. Africa makes 6 and for all intensive purposes, I've met my goal. (Antarctica while not impossible will take a lot more planning and a lot more money). Tomorrow, I turn South Africa! Even with this goal in view, I hadn't imagined turning a new decade in a continent different than the USA.

aboard the flight to South Africa, first stop Amsterdam
The true hero of this journey is my husband Richard. The goal was mine, but the flawless planning was all his. For someone who has never been to Africa, he figured out the most important targets to hit. I'm forever grateful to all the love and care he took making sure this trip was unforgettable.

With all the traveling I've been fortunate to experience, this trip ranks #1. From New York, through Amsterdam we arrived in Capetown last Friday, and stayed through Monday. The greatest highlights of our stay was the service, view of Capetown and other parts of South Africa even to the direction of Antarctica from Table Mountain and the lessons learned. But, I'll get back to that shortly.

living room in the suite in Cape Royale
For about two weeks, I've grown increasingly excited about this trip. So much so, I lost my appetite and couldn't sleep. By the time we arrived in our 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom ultra contemporary, luxurious suite
at the Cape Royale that Richard selected, I was through the roof. This may sound strange, but in my mind I prepared myself for one argument between my sweetie and I on this trip. Not the end of the world, but 9 days in a foreign place and two strong, very different, yet similar personalities, passion and could happen. And it did, shortly after we arrived. It stung for both of us into the next day, but we tried to shake it off. My feeling was now that, that was out of way, the rest of this trip would be amazing...and it has been.

Africa is currently in Winter. The mornings can be very cold, nearing 40 degrees and highs of 65. We spent the second, first full day in the city center. The colors, beautiful people, shopping and laid back pace reminded me a lot of Rio, Brazil. We ate lunch at a cute restaurant called 'Roberto's' on Long Street. The waiter was from Jo' Burg (Johannesburg) our final leg on this trip. His level of service was top notch and the food was a great start to our ethnic endeavor.

a sign in the Capetown airport fitting for this trip
During our walk through the streets of the city center we were approached by people asking for money and food. We took one woman asking, grocery shopping. She picked out whatever she needed and we took care of the bill. She was extremely grateful and respectful. We all hugged and Richard and I went a separate way. For one or two more we gave some small bills and to others we declined and kept going.

outdoor market shopping
After lots of pictures, sight seeing and outdoor market shopping, we walked to the convention center where they were hosting a Food and Wine Festival. The CC was packed! Local vendors, international retailers and television networks with cooking shows all had booths. We tried everything from African mineral salt to loose leaf tea. Once we had our fill, we made it back to the hotel to pick a place for dinner. We chose the waterfront, which has shopping, restaurants, boating of course and other tourist attractions. Instead of taking the complimentary shuttle provided by our hotel, we decided to walk the 10 minutes.

Food and Wine Festival
The area we stayed in Capetown is statistically the safest with little to no crime. Unfortunately, we became part of an almost non existent statistic. On our walk to the waterfront, we were approached by a young man who asked Richard to give him some money, specifically a small bill. Richard gave him the smallest bill he had, 100R (Rand) bill. That equals about $12. He then asked for all of our money and flashed a knife at Richard. He continued to say, 'don't try to run.' I never took my eyes off of him or his red book bag. It was happening so fast, it seemed like time stood still. So fast that until he said don't try to run, I didn't differentiate this occurrence from the previous encounters when people asked for money. Richard gave him the rest of what he had and still he didn't believe it was everything. Richard showed him the inside of his wallet repeating he had no more money. Finally, the mugger walked away.

picture of Nelson Mandela in a storefront window
Richard and I continued our walk to the waterfront, visibly shaken up. We stopped at a hotel a short distance away to explain what happened. Their desk attendants were shocked by our story. The area has hidden cameras lining the street and armed police patrolling the block. Technically, this shouldn't have happened, here.The hotel called one of their cars to drive us the rest of the way. We went to the ATM, sat down to dine and shared our feelings about the incident. All we could think about were the people we told no who asked for money or food for money. We said no to people in need and someone came and took what we chose not to give. That broke our hearts the most. God had spared us, kept us safe and we were thankful. Any remnant of the argument we previously had was gone immediately. The lessons were clear and deep.

We reported the mugging to our hotel who were also shocked and terribly sorry it happened. The police were made aware and we moved on.

Richard atop Table Mountain
We spent the next day exploring Table Mountain and the surrounding area. The Mountain looks over the city, the ocean and the neighboring islands. It looked like the sun and the sky had no endpoints. One begins where the other ends. The remainder of the day we took advantage of our expansive hotel services. I enjoyed the spa and Richard rested in the room. With a 6am flight the following day to our next destination, we stopped by the lounge next door, ordered room service and called it a night.

Our driver upon arrival into Capetown airport returned the following morning to take us back and we bid farewell to the beautiful city. Now off to an unparallelled retreat of total seclusion, nature, wildlife, history and culture, our adventure was just getting started!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of 3 in Kruger Park!


Friday, May 11, 2012

When Trying to Fit Into Someone Else's Box...DON'T

It's been almost two months since my last entry! I've missed you! I'm getting back on the wagon. There is a ton of exciting new developments on the horizon and I want to share them with you. This journey is continuous and ever evolving. This blog has been my lifeline at times, the outlet of healing, growth and restoration. Neglecting it, is neglecting me. Let's GO!

One of the many reasons I started The King's Daughters, Inc. was to celebrate collective individualism. That sounds like an oxymoron. What do I mean? I mean we are all part of a bigger picture, but the detailed uniqueness of who we are is on purpose. Our personality and physical features separate us and make us different and special.

I once dated someone who tried to put me in their 'box.' They critiqued how I looked, how dressed, my personality and the list goes on. For a while, I tried to alter and edit myself to fit in their box. Until it became apparent, their dimensions didn't match my uniqueness.When I stopped trying to fit, I realized I had become insecure. I was constantly second guessing my decisions, unsure about my appearance and confused about my personal goals. I was unsure of who I was. The King's Daughters, Inc. grew out of a place of hurt, but became a channel for healing and restoration for me and others.

Through TKD, I learned how to re-accept myself. I also learned that others had similar challenges. I wasn't the only one struggling with loving myself fully. 

It's great to be friends with people of similar interests, but it's normally not what makes the most dynamic relationships. That comes from people of different backgrounds, different experiences and different skillsets. You'll never be ALL that someone else wants you to be. The greatest and most honest gift we can give to anyone is our self. It's cliche, but there really is no one like you. Not exactly... There may be some striking resemblances or uncanny similarities, but you really are one of kind, made in God's image. Matthew 10:30 says even the hairs on our head are numbered. God cares about our uniqueness. He loves it and celebrates it.

Knowing that in God's eyes, my 'make-up,' is accepted took a long time to sink in. Growing up, you have so many people telling you what to do and unfortunately too many outlets telling you how to think. If you follow them all to the letter without ever raising questions, you'll become a robot. Someone who just does what their told.

People can either chose to accept you...or not. And if they chose the latter, oh well. You're special enough that if someone chooses you, YOU should be enough. One thing I love about Jesus is that He accepted people He encountered, but didn't leave them that way. Every one in relationship with Jesus was changed. The same is true for great friendships. Great friends accept you for who you are, but after the experience, you're not the same. You're better, wiser, and stronger.

Don't miss out on the fullness of great relationships by trying to 'fit in.' Bring your full self. Don't short change others, by holding back or editing yourself. The authenticity of who you are can't be replaced or copied. Love yourself for exactly who God made you to be.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Is Your Private Pain Trying to Become Your Public Battle?

Most of us struggle with some sort of private pain or as the Apostle Paul calls it, his thorn. For some it's wounds inflicted by another person. For some it's self inflicted wounds. For some, it's the issue we just can't seem to shake. I haven't hardly covered everything, but no doubt most people have endured a private struggle with some kind of pain or hurt.

In my past, I've tried to press through my private pain by distracting myself  or shifting my attention on other things to cope. My ultimate goal was to keep the issue covered and contained as not to spill over into my public life. However, it always surfaced in the form of health issues, withdrawal from people and undefined anger. My method of coping wasn't really effective.

There are so many stories in the Bible where we read of a person's pain or need for healing. Their journey of struggle to healing and faith to fight encourages us to do the same. For me, it wasn't until I created The King's Daughters, Inc that I had a personal experience with my private pain becoming public and its ability to help others on their journey to healing. I also learned that trying to cover pain, does me as well as those watching my life no good. We're living testimonies and every day someone is watching us and maybe even taking notes. When they see you overcome, it gives them the strength and faith they need to conquer their issue.

Two artists that continue to inspire me are Singers Jill Scott and Mary J. Blige, mainly because of their ability to feel every emotion, move on and come out stronger for it.

For life to be lived in balance, we have to be honest and face the issues we encounter. Ultimately, a relationship with God is the way to healing. It's imperative that we lay our pain and hurt at his feet and leave it there. Carrying the weight of pain is another way to see private pain spill into our public life. We're not able to move as freely through life. We make decisions based on an altered reality marred with the pain.

Don't be selfish with your pain. It's not something you have to go through alone and someone is hoping you win your battle so they can win theirs. Isaiah 54:17 says: No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their righteousness is from Me,” Says the Lord.

Public or private, your pain can be healed and you'll come out in the words of Singer and Preacher Marvin Sapp, 'stronger, wiser, better!'


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Accountability For Your Message

One of my favorite scriptures can be found in both the old and new testaments in similar forms:

Isaiah 61:1-2 (NASB) states: The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor...

Luke 4:18-19 (NASB) states: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.

The first was stated by the prophet Isaiah and the second by the Christ, Jesus from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.

Once upon a time few people had a worldwide or internationally known platform to "preach." Today, with technology and broadcast media, technically everyone can have a platform to disseminate their message to the masses. As a young child, I knew that I probably wasn't called to the pulpit as a preacher, but that I was called to broadcast media, i.e. the television, the stage, the airwaves with my unique message.

The Apostle Paul talks about the gifts Christ gave as He ascended to Heaven. 

Paul says in Ephesians 4:11-12:  And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;

As a connoisseur of knowledge, comedy, music, books, the arts, etc; my realization is there are preachers, prophets, evangelists, teachers of all kinds with different messages. The poor in Isaiah and Jesus's message are not only talking about the poor in wealth, but mostly the poor in spirit. Teachers, Rappers, Comedians, Storytellers, Pastors, Designers all have the ability to bring the good news, proclaim freedom to prisoners and prophesize the year of the Lord's favor. This is mainly determined by the message they choose to broadcast.

All messages need to be filtered and vetted for truth, and as more outlets are created to spread people's messages, there has to be a higher level of personal scrutiny for the words we consider "good news," or the Gospel.  If messages go unchecked, they have the same power and ability to put people back in the prisons, mental prisons that they are fighting their way out of. In context, Paul is mainly talking about our thinking. I don't necessarily want to edit myself when talking, but I do realize that I like many others have influential power. I have friends that are tangible, strangers follow me on Twitter and people who ultimately look to me for guidance and wisdom. Therefore, I accept a certain level of accountability for the messages I share with the world. 

Christ and Paul knew their ability to affect people's lives, change every space they inhabited or dwelt and they used their space to spread the good news. Many times tough and challenging, but altogether character building and life changing for the better.

My question to you, is how do you use the space you've been given. What message are you spreading through the light of your life?


Friday, February 24, 2012

Music News: Conversation with Singer and Songwriter ~ KJ Rose

When I begin to question the passion and soul of Rhythm and Blues today, it's people like KJ Rose that encourage me to believe. 

As the world speeds up to keep pace with the changing trends and advancements in technology, passion seems to be placed on the back burner. Not for KJ Rose. My purpose for sitting down with her was to get a glimpse of her musical career journey, but she gave me so much more. She gave me herself, the soulful person. It's with this soul she sang on stages around the world and recorded her own full length independent album, "All Heart, No Regrets." The title alone lets you know she's giving it her all. 

We found that we had much in common, which made our chat feel more like old girlfriends catching up. Join our conversation below!

Who is KJ Rose?
I am a blessed Chicago girl who has found purpose in performing and songwriting.  I'm also one who believes in the Sydney Harris quote "Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable." ~ as this is my benchmark for living.

How did you get your start singing?
My singing career began at my college Alma mater FAMU - I was fortunate to have extremely supportive friends and sorors (Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.) that rallied behind my voice although I found myself fighting them most times!  They encouraged me to sing for music publishing executive 'Big Jon' who then put me in touch with my management team First Artist ( Dave Nelson and Irskine Isaac) - they provided the tools needed to hone my skills and it wasn't long before I had the opportunity to record on the albums of Heavy D (Big Daddy) and the Notorious B.I.G. (Playa Hata) and a host of others.

I further attribute my touring opportunities to Recording Artist Kelly Price who I had a chance encounter with on one Friday evening and a week later she asked me to go on the Puff Daddy World Tour (P. Diddy).  I knew that my steps were surely being ordered and I had to develop an unwavering sense of faith to finish what she started. 

What inspires you?
I'm inspired by passion that is unapologetic, deliberate, relentless, and fearless - Delusional Optimism - People that Champion themselves - Realized Potential - and Love that has the ability to defy time also inspires me!  Ok, I think I'm done!:)

What are you most proud of accomplishing on this journey?
I am most proud to finally understand what it means to Champion one's self while relying less on the validation of others - this is what lead me to create my debut album "All Heart, No Regrets" as an independent artist.  This breakthrough has also allowed me to infiltrate areas that were otherwise reserved for artists with major record deals.  I'm proud that my experiences have given me a wealth of knowledge and sensibilities that you can not find in any book - there is no getting around the hard work nor the failures that are necessary to sustain in the business of performing.  And lastly, I'm proud to have met new people while on this journey and perhaps inspiring them to pursue their true life as well.

Where do you envision yourself in the future as a singer?
I pray that I can continue to lend my voice to platforms that are empowering, impactful, and transformative. I also believe that singing has been the catalyst for my writing and I hope to pen songs/ stories for other vocalists, films, commercials, television, etc.  I've realized that my purpose is bigger than myself and directly aligns with the assignment of being a blessing to others.

Check back regularly from some extraordinary artists sharing their gifts with the world!

Love -