Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Lessons I Learned From THE WIZ

Lessons I learned from THE WIZ


That movie is my all-time favorite. As a 7 year old girl, I was mesmerized by the music and costumes. I ran around my home singing the songs at the top of my lungs. I knew the dance moves like how I knew the dance moves to every New Edition music video years later.

The Wiz was my first experience with positive black images in a movie. The family dinner scene was my favorite and thinking of it, brings tears to my eyes. There was such love emanating from the matriarch towards all of her loved ones. You could feel family unity in that entire portion of the movie. Those were the days.

I loved the scarecrow most of all, and not because it was Michael Jackson’s character, but because of the gentleness of the character. Imagine my happiness when I found out my parents were taking me to see it live. We saw it on stage when Stephanie Miles was Dorothy. At the show, I sat on the edge of my seat the entire time and fell in love all over again.

When the movie came out on DVD, I immediately purchased it to share with my, then 7 year old daughter. She didn’t care for it, but I watched the DVD often from my own enjoyment. Several years later, I was able to introduce my youngest daughter to the movie and she instantly connected with it. Here I was with a 2 year old, singing my heart out to the songs and working on the choreography once again. She’s 15 years old now and still pulls the DVD out to watch by herself. I love that.

Needless to say, when I found out the WIZ would be on television, live, I was elated. I set my DVR to record it in case I wasn’t able to watch it at that very moment. The excitement and anticipation I had was almost too much to contain. My daughter reminded me often to make sure it was set to record.

When we watched it together, we sang, once again, at the top of our lungs. Needless to say, she were pleasantly surprised to see iPads, the Nae Nae and the Quan in the movie. You know that gave us an energy boost. We had the television volume set up high and danced in the middle of the family room together. My husband and son were quite annoyed that all of this was going on while they were trying to watch football on the television in the basement.

In the midst of watching The WIZ, God started speaking to me. I thought, “Wow, God! Really? You want to show me some things about my life through The WIZ? That’s cool.” These are the things I learned and I hope they bless you too.

·       Dorothy, identity crisis: She was in a new place but wanted to turn back. She wasn’t willing to give her new life a chance. Her desperation to turn back led her into big trouble and heading in a new direction. That was a place where she was not able to leave easily. She then longed for the very place she initially despised. How many times have you done that? I know I sure have and regretted it every time. What are you trying to hold onto that needs to be released in your life? The other day I clearly heard, “you have to release something to receive something’. What/who do you need to release to move forward?
·       Scarecrow, no self-worth: He was surrounded by naysayers and folks who wanted him to stay stuck. He eventually believed their lies about him and the lies became his reality. He sang “You Can’t Win” with all his heart and believed the words to the song. It wasn’t until Dorothy came along and told him otherwise that he have an epiphany that he had value. I’m learning that I have to surround myself with positive and forward thinking people who will encourage and propel me to a better future. It all starts with belief. Who is speaking into your life? What are they saying? Is their voice bigger than yours? Is it bigger than God’s?

·       Tinman, heart issues: He thought he needed a heart but he already have one, he just didn’t know it. He shared how the “witch” changed him from a person to his current state. He believed he did not have the capacity to love. He too needed a surrounding change. He was put in numerous situations where he had to activate the love he already had to save Dorothy. At the end, he realized that love was in him, he just had to act on it. Are you holding onto pain and hurt from the past? What has made you put up a wall to your heart? Who do you need to forgive to begin the healing process? Is it yourself?

·       Lion, fearful coward: He needed courage to overcome his daily life circumstances. He was afraid of everything and everybody. He, too, needed to see that he was not defined by his situation. Lion is who I related to the most. I had to realize that God has given me the grace to endure and overcome everything that comes my way. I found my voice when confronted a supervisor who literally harassed me daily. Once I spoke up for myself, she stopped. Doors began to open and eventually I found the courage to quit that job. Then I found courage to start a nonprofit. As I took steps towards what God had for me, I had to dig deep to grab courage and to rely on faith to get me through those scary times in my life. What are you fearful about when it comes to moving forward in your life? What is one simple thing you can do to get you closer to becoming an overcomer?

·       The Wizard, phony fraud: He gave the appearance of being ferocious, all mighty, dominating and one to be feared. Everyone in OZ knew to stay away from the wizard because of his reputation. In reality, the wizard was lying to himself and others. He used scare tactics to hide his insecurities and to keep others from getting close to him. Having been a failure made him resort to lying about who he was. Once the veil was removed, we saw immediately that this person used deception to be accepted and even worshipped. I remember being in Germany and surrounded by some mighty women of God. I quickly took on their mannerisms and their way of doing things. Soon after, my husband would check me on what I was saying and doing. He continued to remind me that I was not being true to myself by mimicking them. I didn’t want to do it but I felt that if I didn’t, they would think I was not as holy as they were. I praise God I have a husband who set me straight and eventually those friendships faded. Are there mannerisms that you display that are not the true you? Are you doing and saying things that are not you? Pray and ask God to free you from that. Be the REAL YOU! Your blessings come to you this way.

Quick recap:
·       Leave the past in the past. Let it GO!
·       Exchange the devil’s lies for God’s truth about you. His truth will set you free.
·       God is LOVE! Love is your foundation. Let it fuel everything you do.
·       Take courage! God is with you! He will never leave you nor forsake you.
·       Stop playing charades! Be authentic. After all, you were created in His image.
·       Once you find out who you are and where you belong, you now have an obligation to help others. You are blessed to be a blessing for such a time as this.

You can win!

Friday, September 4, 2015

I didn’t mean to quit my job; purpose made me do it.

As I sat in the parking lot of my good government job, I wrestled once again with going back home or going inside. I cried out to God and told him I couldn’t do this anymore. I hated my job with all my heart and soul and my supervisor was the absolute worst. She prided herself on making people cry and I prided myself on never letting her see me cry. I filed two grievances against her already but her behavior didn’t change. She had three years left before retirement and I realized upper management kept her there because of this. I knew I was wasting my time and energy at this job. Over and over again, day after miserable day, I sat looking at my computer screen wondering why I was even there. I had no purpose there. I was doing like most of my friends, working a job I hated. I worked nine to ten hour days just to have every other Friday off in conjunction with taking the opposite Friday off using up all of my sick leave. My friends made fun of me and always asked if I was ever going to work a Friday. I called them my mental health Fridays.

Shaking like a leaf and sobbing uncontrollably, I called my husband from my car. I told him I was putting in my one week notice and he was speechless. I asked him not to question my decision but to trust that I heard God. Thankfully, he said, “okay”. I got myself together and thanked God for a husband who trusted me when I said I was making a faith decision. I went inside, sat in my cubicle and turned on my computer.  Once again, I was bombarded with yet more of her childish and condescending emails. I turned off my monitor and prayed. In the midst of me praying, I clearly heard, “I am with you. I will never leave nor forsake you. Before I formed you, I knew you. Be of good courage. Lean not to your own understanding but acknowledge me and I will direct your path.” I went to the ladies room to praise Him for His Word and the peace that came over me. I knew I was not serving my God given purpose at this job and that it was time to move on.

You see, I took this job because money was tight for my family and it was the first job to call me since being a stay at home mom for 5 years. My last home day care child left to attend preschool and people were pressuring me to now work a “real job”. While at home, I was happy and loving the children God blessed me to watch while their parents worked. I was able to homeschool my kids for 2 years during which time, we did not have money issues. I had peace with what I was doing and the families I served loved the atmosphere of my home day care. I was here when my dad was discharged from the hospital from kidney cancer surgery and was able to take care of him until he felt strong enough to go home to recuperate. I was available for my brother and his kids when they needed me most.

Sitting at my computer, I told God straight up that I was putting my trust totally in Him to provide for my family. I was so sure of this decision, I typed my one paragraph resignation within five minutes. It was Monday morning and Friday was going to be my last day. I had no idea what was in store for me as I took this leap of faith, but I knew it was time to trust God 100% and not myself. I said one more prayer in the elevator, hoping that I would not pass out from hyperventilating. That walk to my supervisor’s office was long but I made it. I handed her my resignation and she didn’t even acknowledge it, so I turned around and walked out of her office.

Two days later, I received a phone call from the local public schools to ask me if I could take a long term substitute position. It was for a first grade classroom teacher and would be for at least three months. I excited shouted, “YES!” and thanked her profusely. I called my husband with the good news and he was once again, speechless. I actually called my supervisor and told her I needed the rest of the day off. I was overwhelmed that God came through for me once again. I had no idea this leap of faith was setting me up to be an entrepreneur. It was in this classroom that God showed me my purpose: to be a blessing to children. In trusting God, my nonprofit, Forever Free Books was born.

I didn’t mean to quit my job; purpose made me do it. I found that when you seek God in every area of your life, He brings your purpose out of you. We have a mission on this earth and so many of us live our lives trying to live up to other people’s expectations. This leaves us empty and void so we become shopaholics and addicted to things that aren’t good for us. I am speaking from experience and it was a miserable existence.  Now, I’m not saying, that living a life of purpose is easy, that would be a lie. What I am saying is that living a life of purpose gives you a sense of wholeness that is unexplainable. It’s something that can’t be faked. It is something others can see without you opening up your mouth. Purpose will make you do things that don’t make sense to the average person, your loved ones or even to you. This is where your faith has to kick in and take over. I am thankful that since taking that leap of faith, God has placed some amazing women in my life to help me walk out my purpose. That’s the beautiful thing about God, He will give you the tools you need to fulfill the purpose He has given to you to be a blessing to others. If you are feeling empty, pray and ask God, what your gift to the world is. He will reveal it to you. Your life will never be the same, you will have peace and you will be free to be who He has called you to be. I promise.

Tanya Barnett was teaching her brothers to read when she was 7 years old. She is the founder of Forever Free Books, a mobile nonprofit that delivers FREE books to children in need. She's the creator of Books, Boys n'Cuts, an initiative that brings story time and FREE books to boys in African American barbershops. She wants all children to have access to books regardless of the background, so her motto is "Take books to where the kids are".  She is an avid reader, aspiring author and loves to garden. She and her husband have 3 children and a cute little doggie.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Trusting my 12yr old son to do the right this is a life long lesson for me

My son is at a pivotal point in his life; 12 years old. Before my very eyes, he went from wearing anything I purchased to now only wanting certain styles and brands. I lectured him for months about not letting your clothes and shoes determine your worth and how your brain will get you further in life than your gear. I will not say it fell on deaf ears but reality hit me that he was now beginning to form his own opinion about himself and that I had to give him the freedom to do that.

With that being said, I began to ask myself “what do I want for my son’s future?” Do I want him to be a mini me or do I want to raise a man who can be a free thinker and a positive influence in his community? How do I keep him safe yet allow him the freedom to be an African American male child? Daily, these questions weigh heavy on my mind but I realize that I must trust my instincts, trust what I, as a mother, have instilled in him and last but not least, trust God.

As a strong African American woman, I would bombard my son every day, prior to going outside to play with his friends, with all the do’s and don’ts of looking suspicious. I told him to always rush home if anyone made him feel uncomfortable or if his friends were choosing to make bad choices in the neighborhood. One day, he told me I was stressing him out. He actually said he felt like I didn’t trust him to be a good kid and flat out said, “Mom, I need you to TRUST me”. In my mind I thought, “WOW, did he really just say that to me?” but out of my mouth, I said. “I do trust you, it’s the other folks out there who I do not trust”.  

After he walked out the door, I cried. I couldn’t believe that I was having the same conversations with my son in 2015 that my deceased grandmother had with my now 85 year old uncle when he was 12.  I cried for all the African American boys and men who lost their lives at the hands of people who feared them for no other reason than the fact that they had brown skin. I cried for the mothers who buried their sons way too early. I cried for those who had been terrorized by those who feared them simply because of the skin they were given by our Creator. I cried for my son.

I eventually pulled myself together and prayed earnestly. I prayed for not only my son but for all of my friends’ and family members’ sons and my son’s friends. I prayed for President Barack Obama and our new sheriff, who is the first African American to hold that office in the history of my county's 356 year old sheriff's department. I even prayed for the negative ideals and the hatred to be changed towards our brown skin. 

Lastly, I prayed for myself to TRUST my 12 year old son. 

Tanya Barnett was teaching her brothers to read at 7 years old. She is the founder of Forever Free Books, a mobile nonprofit that delivers FREE books to children in need. She's the creator of Books, Boys n'Cuts, an initiative that brings story time and FREE books to boys in African American barbershops. She wants all children to have access to books regardless of the background, so her motto is "Take books to where the kids are".  She is an avid reader, aspiring author and loves to garden. She and her husband have 3 children and a dog.