Dear Union, I am concerned…

Dearest Union,

My alma mater. My first academic love.  I am very concerned about the well-being and success of your students and your legacy. On Friday, I had the opportunity to talk to two classes of students and a few other students walking around in the halls, and I was shocked to hear their stories. They are not happy with their college experience. They feel that you do not care about them.

One student shared with me that there has been rat infestations in MacVicar hall and spiders in the living and learning center. One student was bitten by a spider in her bed and had to go to the emergency room. Another student shared with me how a student had her arm broken when an elevator door shut on it.

The students feel that you take their money and that they have nothing to show for it. Some students shared with me how they were charged lab fees for biology and chemistry courses that never occurred. They feel that our Board of Directors are embezzling money and would like to have a better understanding of how their tuition money is spent. I must say, I agree. I would like to understand where the money that alumni donate goes. We definitely have had a few presidents that have misused funds.

Dearest Union, the students that I talked with expressed how much they would like better guidance on how to succeed post-college. They want to have more interaction with alumni that are successful in career paths that they aspire to. I definitely agree that this is needed. The students do not seem to have the same drive and excitement about college like my fellow classmates and those that blazed the trail before us.

Dearest Union, in light of what I just shared about my student interactions on Friday,  I would love to offer some recommendations that might improve things. First, engage your younger alumni to give with their time and not money. There are a lot of alumni that would come back to campus and interact with students if they were just asked. A lot of younger alumni would mentor from afar if they couldn’t make it to campus. The point is other universities do a better job than you at engaging their alumni base. They realize that if they engage their alumni well at all ages, they will donate when they are financially able to do so.

Secondly, I recommend that you chose the next president of Virginia Union University well. The president has the ability to set a new tone on campus. One that could inspire faculty to work at their optimal best and encourage students to have faith in their education. Virginia Union University needs a person that realizes that things cannot continue to be done in the same way in order to continue to exist. A fresh perspective and clear transparency is needed to help Union Thrive.

Lastly, get beyond the pomp and circumstance and hold your administrators, board members, and faculty accountable for the success of our university and our students. The student body should not feel that many faculty members do not care about their success. They should not feel like their money is not actively improving the school and they should not feel like their voices are not being heard.

Dearest Union, I am not saying that the students I talked too are reflective of the larger student body, but to hear this message from more than 30 students is concerning to me as an alumna. It makes it worth checking out and confirming that you are indeed doing your best for the student body.

Dear Union, I still love thee but you have to do better for your students. Please take this as constructive criticism and make steps to improve the university I hold so dear.

Signed,

Dr. Shanta Whitaker, Class of 2002

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Make America great again?

I have to believe that Trump’s election will not harken 4 years filled with hate and discrimination based on a person’s race, sexual orientation, or faith. I have to believe that he will not completely ruin our country. Yes, I know there are many people out there that are happy that he won and think he will “make America great again”, but I cannot join their excitement. Honestly, I could care less that he is a Republican. We have had many Republican presidents before that did not give me that same trepidation. My main concern with Trump has been his incitement of hate crimes around this country. Many people that I know fear for themselves and their friends and family. Will it be safe to wander down the streets?

But I have to believe that as a collective body we can chose love. We can bond together and not stand silently when we see an injustice. We can try to empathize with people who many not have the same life experiences as us. We can not just talk about our frustration but ardently seek to make this world a better place moment by moment, day by day. Because it isn’t in the grandiose “camera ready” moments that we make a difference, it is the small things. Its a smile you give a stranger, it is opening the door for a person that might be struggling, it is sticking up for someone that you see is being discriminated against.

I chose to believe that if you woke up this morning, you still have a purpose to fulfill. You still have lives to impact. You still have the opportunity to make a difference. So what are you going to do with this new opportunity you have today? How will you chose to contintue to make America be the great nation that it is? Because I don’t believe we need to make America great again. I believe it already is great because you are living in it. Don’t waste your opportunity to make a difference.

Be thankful to be alive

Be thankful for friends and family

Be thankful for your opportunity today to impact someone’s life

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There is blood on the ground

Howard-John Wesley (my pastor) preached a mighty word today out of Genesis about the first murder that occurred in the world–when Cain Killed Abel . As he related this biblical story to what is going on currently in this world, it made me very upset and brought tears to my eyes. Black men and women are being murdered because of the color of their skin. We have a candidate running for office that is doing nothing but inciting racist behavior and thinks that all Black folks are living in hell in the inner city. We have people that think of nothing of killing children or walking into a church and opening fire.

How do we get people to operate in love and not fear and hate?  Black skin should not elicit fear or prejudices. I think of my nephew and nieces and my future children. I am afraid for them. I am saddened that they will learn how to properly respond to police officers or carry themselves so they are not threatening.

And even if they are not perceived as “threatening”, it doesn’t protect them from the microagressions that they will face daily:

I remember the first time I was called a ni–er. I was in third grade and this boy was mad that I knew an answer that he didn’t. He also thought it would be cool to throw in bastard. Being taller and stronger than him, I remember immediately jacking him against the locker and asking him in a calm voice if he knew what those words meant. I think I completely scared him because he timidly said no and started crying. I quickly let him go and went about my business, but the words stuck with me….

When I started my PhD program at Yale, I thought to myself, “I finally made it” I have proven my intellectual capability and got accepted to one of the top institutions in the world.Here, I would not be defined by the color of my skin.  I wrongly assumed that my brain could protect me. We would have weekly speakers that came to my department to give talks on their research. Before their talks, the students would have a chance to engage with the speakers over lunch. At one such lunch, I made the mistake of getting to the lunch early ( I was hungry..lol). The speaker was alone and we struck up a conversation about his work and then he started to ask me questions about my research and where I went to school. When I told him that I went to Virginia Union University, he was like, “What kind of school is that and where is it located?” I told him it was a historically black college in Richmond. Then he had the nerve to say, ” Well I do not think Historically black colleges adequately prepare students for graduate school”. I immediately said, “Well, obviously that is wrong, otherwise I wouldn’t be here having this conversation with you.” It immediately got awkward.

During my time at Yale, I had people ask me if I was there because of affirmative action or some other low income program. Many of my fellow black, hispanic, and other friends of color experienced the same things. I really find it hurtful that my race is stereotyped by a few bad examples shown on tv. All of us are not lazy, living in the hood, and selling drugs.

Those are just a few examples, but of course there are many others. Being followed around in the store because people think you will steal something. The shopkeeper that will not speak or be helpful when you enter, but will speak to the white person that walks in behind you. The waiter that will only show you the wine by the glass menu because they assume you can’t afford a bottle of wine… or being the only black person in spaces and being expected to speak for all black people.

Being the only black person in spaces can be very mentally taxing. You always feel that you have to perform better then your peers because you are being defined by stereotypes. Why can’t I be looked at as an individual, rather than as a representative of my entire race?

Anywho, I can go on and on.

But back to my original question. When will we as a country learn how to operate out of love, rather than fear?  Black skin should not incite fear. Like Pastor Wesley shared today, When will we become our brother’s keeper? Because everyone deserves the right to live and not be gunned down because of their race, religion, or any other factor. When will WE  learn to operate out of love, rather than fear?

 

 

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The gift of goodbye

“There are people who can walk away from you. And hear me when I tell you this! When people can walk away from you: let them walk.

I don’t want you to try to talk another person into staying with you, loving you, calling you, caring about you, coming to see you, staying attached to you. I mean hang up the phone. When people can walk away from you let them walk. Your destiny is never tied to anybody that left.

The Bible said that, they came out from us that it might be made manifest that they were not for us. For had they been of us, no doubt they would have continued with us.[1 John 2:19]

People leave you because they are not joined to you. And if they are not joined to you, you can’t make them stay. LET THEM GO!!!”—-TD Jakes 

When a relationship ends, it can be hard to see the beauty and opportunity that lies immediately beyond that. I recently had a relationship end and I find myself strangely at peace with it. Maybe it is because after all of these years, I have finally realized that I am the prize and a child of the most high God and should be treated as such. At 35, I do not have time to deal with any one who doesn’t see my value and worth in their life. I can definitely be unhappy alone rather than being in a relationship where the guy treats me less than I deserve.

So now I find myself single and trying to understand the lessons that God wanted me to learn from this experience. Over the past few days, I have found myself listening to Bishop T.D. Jakes’ sermon, “Nothing Just Happens”. He posits that everything, both the good and the bad things, are allowed by God to happen in our lives. He tells the story of Ruth, Naomi, and Orpah and the trials that they faced. The part of the sermon that resonated with me the most was when he started talking about Orpah leaving Naomi’s life. He talks about letting the people walk away when they want to. Don’t beg them to stay because your destiny is never tied to anybody that left.

Whoa.

When my ex decided to walk, I let him. I have never been the kind of woman to beg any man to stay. But it was helpful to be reminded that there is a reason for this relationship closing at this time. It means that his part in my story is over. That his chapter is closed in my life. Maybe he will be a future chapter, or maybe he won’t. But for this season, his role is over.

It is so interesting how much I prayed for the success of that relationship. But God did not answer those prayers. He closed that door. He told me no. Although it is disappointing, I do not want to be out of God’s will for my life. I want God’s best. He obviously was not God’s best if he chose to walk away.

At times we women will stay in relationships that are not as ideal because we feel the clock is ticking and we really want to get married. We don’t stand up for ourselves and express our emotional needs.We are so afraid of being single and alone that we stay in situations that are not the best for us. We are willing to sacrifice real happiness for the appearance of happiness and the chance at getting married. I do understand. At 35 and soon to be 36, I find myself wondering at times will I ever get married? Will I ever have children (in the context of marriage)? I do yearn for the experience of building a life with someone. But at the same time, I do not want marriage enough to be unhappy in it. I do believe it is God’s will for me to marry, but he wants me to marry HIS CHOICE, not mine.

So I enter this new chapter of my life happily single and completely open to what God has in store for me. I know it will be better than what I can hope or dream of.

xoxo,

 

Cosmo

 

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Trusting God

I can’t believe that a quarter of 2016 is almost over!  This has made me think seriously about the goals that I set in January and to assess if I was really making strides in this year of “becoming who God has called me to be” (check out my post from New Year’s eve here). I realized that I definitely have been making some serious strides in the vulnerability department (my third goal) and working on being wholistically healthy (my second goal), but not as much in my first goal, which is:

  1. To get really serious and focused about my prayer life.

I’ll admit, I haven’t completely dropped the ball-I have been praying for myself, my relationship, and friends and family, but I haven’t been as good with completely turning EVERYTHING over to God and trusting in his ability to work everything out for my good. So this week, I have been seriously meditating on what it means to truly trust God and to allow Him to work it out vs. me trying to always take the reigns and control things.

If I am honest with myself, I can admit that alot of my inability to completely trust God with ALL of my life stems from a place of fear. For some reason, I sometimes doubt that God is truly concerned with all aspects of my life. I believe that I NEED to step in and control things because that is the only way things will happen. However, when I truly reflect on the parts of my life that I have relinquished control to God, he has done exceedingly and abundantly more than I could ever hope or wish for.

To truly trust God means I have to give up the illusion that I am in control. What a scary thing for an overthinking control freak like me. But if I really think about it, it is very egotistical to think that if I let go of control things will not get done or work out. That I need to provide input in order for things to come to pass. But what would happen if I just surrendered EVERYTHING to God and trusted that he would make things happen?

Over the past few months, I have been amazed at the people that have crossed my path. All have come from different walks of life, but yet have delivered the same message: have faith, let go, and have fun. If I really pause, God has already been showing me His will for many aspects of my life and it is truly amazing.

So why can’t I just let go, and let God?

Fear is a powerful thing. Letting go is scary. Being ok with the unknown is frightening. But I also realize I can’t keep going on the way I have been. It isn’t changing anything in my life. All it is doing is stressing me out and wasting energy.

But I realize that I can’t do it on my own.

I think I erroneously believed that once I decided I would change, that it would come naturally. But, boy was I wrong. I cannot do anything apart from God. So I realized that praying to God to help me to release control has to be a priority. Daily, I have to die to myself and my normal way of thinking. I need to stop fighting to go upstream and just enjoy the cruise downstream.

So I exhale and ask God to help me in this area. Because, when I look back on my life thus far, God has never steered me wrong. He has given me beauty for ashes. He has done exceedingly and abundantly more than I could ever hope or dream of.

So like Dewayne Woods’ song, I am committing to focus on praying to God to give me the strength and ability to “Let go”(lyrics and video below) and get my peace back.  If you are like me and struggle in this area, consider dying to yourself and joining me in this prayer. Ask God to give you the ability to trust Him in ALL things. Let go of the thing(s) that you are holding tightly to and let God work a marvelous thing in your life.

[Verse 1:]
I couldn’t seem to fall asleep
There was so much on my mind
Searching for that peace
But the peace I could not find
So then I kneeled down to pray
Praying helped me please
Then He said you don’t have to cry
Cause I’ll supply all your needs

[Chorus:]
As sooon as I stop worrying
Worrying how the story ends
I’ll let go and I let God
Let God have His way
That’s when things start happening
I’ll stop looking at back then
I let go and I’ll let God have His way

[Verse 2:]
There so much going on
Sometimes I can’t find my way
And often times I struggle
Struggle from day to day
I have to realize that it’s not my battle
It’s not my battle to fight
I have to know if I put it in Your hands
That everything will be alright…..

 

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Not my will, but thine

Wow, it is that time of year again! For Christians like me, today (Palm Sunday) marks the start of Holy Week, the most important week in our faith. As I reflected on Christ’s triumphant ride into Jerusalem, I wondered what he was thinking?

By the end of the week, He would be crucified for all of our sins. To know you were marching into the city that you would ultimately die in, had to be interesting.  I can’t even image the weight of it all.  In anguish, Jesus found himself in Mt. Olives praying passionately to God:

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:42-44, NIV).

Jesus was tasked by God to carry out a specific assignment. But yet, He didn’t really want to do it. He knew his death would be horrible and drawn out. Crucifixion is not a quick death. After being nailed or tied to a cross, it typically takes several hours or days to die. Usually a person will die from a combination of heart failure or suffocation.

If I was Jesus, I would have been praying earnestly and sweating profusely.  But Jesus was resolute.

Not my will, Father, but thine.

Like Jesus, there are many times in our lives when we will have to “die to ourselves” and do things that we really don’t want to do. However, those very things show that we are in obedience to God and operate in His will and not our own.

What do I mean?

Well, sometimes you will need to get up early and go to the gym, study, etc. even though your flesh tells you to stay in bed.

Sometimes you will have to be a bigger person and extend an olive branch to the person that wronged you.

Sometimes, you have to eat a healthy option versus the junk food.

You get my drift. That still, small voice will speak to you and encourage you to be obedient.

Will you heed the call?

During this holy of holiest weeks, I encourage you to join me in obeying the call. Please take time to sit in quiet to hear what the Holy Spirit would have you do.

Not my will, God but thine.

Being in the will of God is the very best place to be in life.  I have made many mistakes in my own life doing what I wanted and then asking God to bless it. Begging him for it to be in His will, even though my gut was telling me no. I have learned that the times that I do step out of my own way, have a seat, and remain at peace, God has worked a marvelous thing in my life.

Wonderful experiences

Wonderful relationships

Exceedingly and abundantly above all that I can hope or ask for.

But it is something that I daily have to do.

Daily, I place my relationship, my worries, my fears, my hopes and dreams into God’s hands.

So come along with me on my daily walk this week. Let it Go and Let God show you His will for your life.

There are times when it won’t be pleasant, but God ultimately promised us that he would make everything work together for our good (Romans 8:28).

Have a wonderful week!

xoxo,

Cosmo

 

 

 

 

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Confessions of a recovering overthinker

I can admit, I am an overthinker. I can think of thousands upon thousands of ways things could not work out. I can think about how a person may or may not react to something I may say or do. Most of the time (well, all of the time I can admit..lol) I end up spinning around and around in my head burning needless energy like the man in this video (click here).

But when I really think about the root cause of this “overthinking”, I realize that it stems from a need to have control of the outcomes in my life. I figure that if I can think and determine how things will turn out, then I will not have to deal with uncertainty. That I won’t have to be disappointed.

Somewhere in my childhood, I learned to protect myself by thinking that the worst things would happen, so I wouldn’t get disappointed when the things that I truly wanted didn’t come to pass.

Not healthy, I know.

However, over the years I have been really trying to fight this way of thinking and have been getting better everyday. But every now and then, a new experience, person,etc., will trigger that part of me.

When I make a mistake, I overthink.

When I find myself developing deep feelings for a man, I overthink,

When I am not sure which way to go, I overthink.

The list can go on and on.

But this morning, I was reminded again of the words Paul so eloquently wrote in Philippians (3:12-14):

 “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal,but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Paul is so right. I haven’t become the best me yet. But everyday, I wake up with the intention of being the best me.

I am not perfect, but I press on.

I may stumble, but I press on.

I may even fall, but I dust myself off, pick myself up, and press on.

Every morning that I am blessed to open my eyes serves as a “reset”.  Daily,  I strive to forget all of my past mistakes that are behind me and strain towards the things that God has in front of me. All of the blessings that He has in store. Consistently asking God to help me to release control to Him and trust that all things will work together for my good (Romans 8:28). Ultimately, trusting that in the end, I will win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

xoxo,

Cosmo

 

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