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MT – Day 2, Reading by Fabian Engelbertz

Day 2:  Thanks for Shelter

Melissa’s Thank – Day 2, Read by Fabian Engelbertz.

Fabian is originally from Germany and has been by inspired Melissa’s Thanks journey.

Happy Second Day of Thanks 

A few years ago, I was living during one of the best and worst of times in my life. My daughter and I became homeless and had to live within the NYC shelter system. (Although I did not know or understand the purpose of why I had to be there at the time, in retrospect, it was absolutely necessary for my character, vocational development, and God’s purpose to be fulfilled.) It was the first time that I had seen poverty rear its ugly head and understood why and how cycles of poverty were perpetuated within generations of a family.  Our shelter in Harlem had some of the most deplorable conditions of black mold, asbestos, lead-based paint and hazardous materials, which directly affected the health and well being of the clients and their children, especially the asthmatics. My first room there was mice infested because there were so many uncovered holes in the walls and floors.  We barely got sleep the first week, because “Jimmy and his cousins” decided that they would use our SRO (single room occupancy) as a playroom when the lights went out. A significant portion of the room’s ceiling had fallen and was never replaced.  They covered it with a false ceiling that would fall when there was flooding from the room above. In the summers, there was an overwhelmingly, exhausting heat because the old building had no air conditioners. In the winter, when the boiler broke, we had no water and some rooms, were extremely frozen because there were no working electrical radiators to provide heat.

One of the young girls living in the shelter kept getting bit by the cockroaches that infested her room, which was converted from a hallway closet and had no bathroom in it. Because she was allergic, her body had whelps all over it.  When her dad, an undocumented immigrant, begged for a change of rooms, he was threatened with deportation from his case worker. The manager of our hotel was a working “junkie” and gang leader who was also the drug dealer and supplier for our shelter’s residents. There were a few drug raids, one which occurred during our second week in the shelter, which involved all but two apartments on the second floor section of the shelter where Lilah and I lived. I remember asking God to always keep Delilah from seeing and experiencing anything negative while we lived in that place. Thank God those prayers were answered! She missed every drug raid, every falling ceiling, every room reconstruction, and the clearing of our room from the mold. (My friend has a jar that she puts money in for her son’s future therapy. I’m sure that I’m going to need a trust fund for the experiences Lilah did have in that place!!! LOL!)

With these existing horrible conditions, can anyone explain how the Department of Homeless services allowed this shelter to pass inspection each time? How was it possible that this shelter, like many others pimping off someone’s poverty, made $2133 per month for each room to house a family in those conditions? Market rate value for many two and three bedroom apartments in the city didn’t even cost that kind of money during the time. So, why couldn’t families in shelters have access to real apartments and affordable housing if the city was willing to pay a slumlord for them to live in a dump? (Shaking My Head!!!!!)

Living in a shelter was where I learned, for the first time, that all the statistics about starving and impoverished children were actually true.  And I was enraged!!!!!  (I fight to the death for a child!) It was where my roots as a social activist/organizer came to a full circle and I became more involved with and deeply entrenched in the issues that affected the families living in that shelter.  I would teach the families how to advocate for better living conditions in their spaces and write letters for the families whose head of households were illiterate.  I’d cook and make sure there was food and formula for some of the mothers by connecting them with a pantry who could supplement food when their food stamps ran out. Many of the families, with neonates, would get turned off of welfare and have no formula for their children.  I arranged a Thanksgiving dinner for the families in the shelter. I’d always bring back several copies of housing applications and resources for the families and the case workers to give to their clients. I connected with a local church to supply toys for all the children in the shelter during several Christmases, even after we moved out. I arranged a hair and make-up day for the mothers within the shelter during Mother’s Day weekend, which increased the morale of all the woman who participated, incredibly.  The caseworkers (except one) and staff loved me because I was basically an addition to their team.

I learned that so many myths about people who lived in shelters were untrue.  You are required to have a job while living in a shelter–no one free loads! The city/state forces you to get on welfare to live in the shelter system.  Although I did not want to be on welfare, I had to get on welfare to live there.  Can you believe that I received $15 per month of food stamps for my daughter and I to eat? If I didn’t have a job, could I have ever survived on that? Most people who know my daughter, knows she can eat that for snack!

As terrible as it was to live in that shelter and experience the horrific day to day of poverty, I had a clear understanding that my situation was different than most of the families there because that place was just a pit stop for me.  I don’t even want to  imagine what it would be like for the shelter system to be a forever station for me.  But, unfortunately, it is just that for many of the families who are there.  The bright light of hope in my eyes still managed to have a flicker and stay lit, while it had completely left many of the eyes I encountered in that shelter daily. Let’s just say that the manager, the caseworker who hated me, and the assistant commissioner of the department of homeless services were tired of me and wanted me out of the shelter much sooner than later, when I got done wreaking havoc.  I reported the shelter to HPD so many times; each time the agents came to inspect the apartments, they fined the landlord over $10,000 per room for the atrocities they found in each room  and gave him a strict deadline of when all the repairs had to be complete.  Of course, I taught all the residents how to do the same reporting. I was told by staff that the manager had a meeting with them and told them to find every possible way to get me an infraction and kicked out. But, when God has you covered, “No weapon formed against you will ever prosper!”

Delilah and I finally got our own place to live (our current domain) as an early Christmas present in December of that year (by accident). My caseworker got an anonymous call from an assistant administrator who worked at DHS one day, saying that she couldn’t reveal who she was but God had told her to call my caseworker to  inform me that I had an interview the next day for my current apartment.  She said that there was a plot by her boss to “punish me” for all I had done in the shelter that I was in. Although I got interviews for several apartments earlier (and would have been accepted), they purposely didn’t call me to let me know. Thus, I couldn’t move out of the shelter and stayed much longer than I had to. This lady said she was told to warn us so that I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to live in my new apartment in a new building in a great location, which would be perfect for my family.  The rest is history (almost!)

The lessons I have learned from the shelter were invaluable.  Not only did I know that everyone, no matter who they are, should have access to a decent place to call home; I learned that with some real political will they could have access to a decent place to call home. If I didn’t learn anything else, I learned that I am a survivor who keeps my joy in all circumstances!!! (I survived my own hell on earth experience!) What killed and destroyed others, emotionally and mentally, gave me the strength and determination to keep pressing towards the mark. I also learned that no one can or should be defined by his or her situation. (People will try to keep you in your past if you let them!)

I love, appreciate, and treasure my apartment. Although it doesn’t always look like it and could definitely use some cleaning and much more organization (don’t even think about judging me!)– I am always looking for volunteers to do this work—It’s ours and a really decent place to call home. Delilah and I have peace of mind. After seven years, we have never had to share it with vermin and “jimmy and his cousin” have never laid foot in it. (Thank God for angels that secure the place!)

During my time in the shelter, I was working with a group called “The Poverty Initiative,” at Union Theological Seminary (Kairos Center) which works on global projects to eradicate poverty in the world. I became published with one of my poems being selected in a book created by the Poverty Initiative called “Out of the Depths: Poetry of Poverty, Courage and Resilience.” I sold a few copies of the book to donate the proceeds back to the Poverty Initiative. I still have a few copies if anyone wants to buy them. All proceeds will go to the Poverty Initiative which is housed by Kairos the Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice (https://kairoscenter.org/poverty-initiative/). I also worked with and became acquainted with a great organization called Picture the Homeless (http://picturethehomeless.org/) and began to advocate more for the homeless and children because I realized how they were truly the voiceless in our society.

Today as I give thanks for shelter, I ask that you remember that there are millions of people who you pass on the streets, in the trains and in subways who don’t have it and are longing for a hot meal, clean clothes, a nice bath, a bed to lay their heads and a hope for a better tomorrow. Help in the small ways you can! A smile, an encouraging word, and some change go a long way, but advocating to change policy with elected officials to clean up the shelter system and provide affordable housing for families that need it is the lasting change that we need to see.

Love ya,

Have a great day of Thanks!

Melissa

 

Contact Melissa Below

 

 

When Poverty Rules…and rules

These two reports are worth reading/watching together. Start with the Cato Institute’s senior fellow Michael Tanner’s  talk about his new book on Building an Inclusive Economy.  The video is relatively short at 26:45.   Then, go on to the New York Times article by Ashley Southhall and Nikita Stewart on Jazmine Headley’s arrest.

1. https://www.cato.org/multimedia/events/catoconnects-building-inclusive-economy

 

2.

 

AfroBeat Radio Critical Joy (Third-Wednesday) Series

Join the final

AfroBeat Radio Critical Joy (Third-Wednesday) Series of 2018

December 19, 2018

(Dance Class – 7:00 – 8:30/ CJ Workshop – 8:30 – 10:00/Music & Dance – 10:00 – Midnight)

Register

Location:  Brooklyn Commons, 388 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217

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MT day 30 – Reloaded with audio reading by Melissa

My friend Melissa has been doing a 30 days of Thanks journey in which  she shares her reflections on her life.  It is with her permission that I have created this blog post.  This is the final installment of her 30-day journey, and with it she reveals new levels of vulnerability.  Her writing is powerful.  Be prepared to cry, laugh, be confused, get frustrated, and be caught up in deep hopefulness.  And, of course, she gives suggestions on where to direct your financial activism.   All that follows is Melissa. 

Follow along as you listen to Melissa read Day 30.  You are invited to post your comments and contact Melissa through the contact form at the end of this reading (at the end of the page). 

Day 30: Revelation (Knowledge of God)

It’s a long, real good, going-to-make-you-late-for-everything, reflection. Consider yourself warned.

 

 

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Happy Thirtieth (And Final) Day of Thanks!

I am so thankful for revelation and knowledge that comes from God. It is truth. It’s accurate. It’s specific. It’s precise. It’s irrefutable and always brings clarity. It has been the guiding light for each stage of Delilah’s healing.

Disclaimer: This reflection is a little different (and much longer) and may be slightly difficult for some of you to understand because there will be spiritual nuances, biblical references, and foundational concepts that you may not know that concern the ministry of deliverance.  I am also admitting here that I’m a “Jesus Freak,” love to read and understand the Word of God (the Bible), and sometimes a little weird (even in my loveable-ness) by most people’s standards. And since I came to grip with my difference, peculiarity, and set apart-ness at such a young age, now it doesn’t bother me so much when others discover some of the God given qualities that give me my uniqueness too. There may also be times in this piece where my frustrations with God and/or the church (Body of Christ or People of God) as they are expressed will shock you. Hopefully, you will understand that their expression is not to cause you to judge or form erroneous opinions of God or His church, but they are just the emotions, frustrations, questions that form outwardly as one walks through a dark hour, desperately waiting for the joy of the morning to come.

From the time I was three years old, I remember God speaking to me. His method of speaking to me at that time would almost always be either through His audible voice or through my dreams. But, as I have matured in my walk with Christ, his method of speaking through His audible voice has evolved to speaking through his words as I read my Bible. God still regularly speaks to me about current or future situations, events or people and guides me through my dreams and in my prayer or meditation time.  It is through my very communion and communication with God that I have been led to parent, heal, and deliver Delilah Christina.

Part I

As I mentioned earlier, God spoke to me about the coming of my daughter, Delilah Christina, every two months through my dreams almost one year before her birth. As she was in my womb, God began to speak to me about who she was and her purpose in the earth. Thus, I have been very aware of how I raise her and the influences I allow in her life. When Delilah was about two years old, he showed me a dream of her on a stage as a young adult in a packed out stadium. As she opened her mouth to speak and sing, the range and depth of her voice was so piercing and similar to that of the late Darryl Coley (if you don’t know who he is, you betta ask somebody! He was a singer who has a killer voice and range.) that the ground under the stadium and all of Hell begin to shake and crumble. I won’t get into the full details and interpretation of the dream but just know that Delilah will slay the kingdom of darkness as she sings and worships God. 

I woke up from that dream so excited and full of hope and expectation about Delilah’s future. I had no idea that this dream would be one bread crumb among many that God would use to maintain my faith as He took us through the step-by-step dark season in the journey of her life.  I had no idea that two years later, she would become completely mute and that we would have to spend the next twelve years of her life fighting for her to learn language and to speak. I was so angry at God, especially in the moments when no matter how hard we worked, she still didn’t say a word. I yelled, “why would you show me a dream of her speaking and singing and then give me a baby that couldn’t speak? Is this some kind of cruel joke?” When I finally got my emotions in check, I realized two things. One was that I needed to use music to get her to speak. The second was that if God showed me Delilah as her older self speaking and singing, then it had to come to pass and eventually she would do just that.  I had to keep fighting for and standing on the vision that God had prophetically shown me.

A few years after battling her lack of voice, somehow, it felt like we walked a few steps out of the darkness only to be kicked back ten steps further into it. Before Delilah turned eight years old, she started having her menstrual-induced seizures. Because of my medical background, I was able to come to some conclusions about her condition, but needed some follow-up labs to confirm my suspicions. I went to Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, which is supposed to be a world renowned pediatric hospital, and encountered some of the worst pediatric neurologists and horrific patient care and treatment I had ever seen in my life. I thought I was going to kill one neurologist when, without explaining or giving me a diagnosis for what my child had and without even looking at me, she started writing out a prescription to drug Delilah beyond any vegetative state I had known and sent me home to do follow up in six months. The next neurologists told me that they could not perform simple blood test to determine the root cause of her seizures, but could only do an MRI or EEG from his department. I quipped, “so you prefer to spend $2000 for imaging test that will not tell you anything about the root cause of her condition to stop it and have me running in circles for my child not to get better rather than take a $20 blood test that could reveal everything that is wrong with her?” I gladly let him know that he would not be paying for his Mercedes Benz and kid’s college tuition at the expense of keeping my child sick and left. (SMH!) I never wanted to go back to that Hospital ever again.

I looked for weeks to find an herbalist, Paakobena Korankyi, who helped to heal my sister of Rheumatoid Arthritis many years ago but, after exhaustive searching on media platforms and near the location of his old shop, came up with nothing. Delilah’s seizures, which looked like every seizure type, were coming in two hour clusters every night for whole days at a time, steadily getting worst and nothing was helping. I remember the first time that I saw Delilah almost lifeless in my arms turning blue was in the middle of Hurricane Sandy, when hardly any ambulances were being dispatched and no help was in sight. I took her emergency medicine and administered it to her, while crying and screaming for God to help her.  As she was in her post-ictal state, I was crying uncontrollably as Lilah sat in my arms and I felt so helpless to her.  Any mother knows the feeling of how you rise up like a bear or a lion to defend and protect your cubs. I was angry. I started yelling at God and asked, “Where are you? I don’t care about your glory! Why are you letting her suffer like this? How could you let her suffer like this? Can’t you see I need help? Help Me!” Every tear that I had was poured out over Lilah’s face and body that I had soaked the t-shirt that she had on. I cried so hard that night, I cried myself to sleep with her in my arms.

When I woke up the next morning, God’s audible voice, which I hadn’t heard in such a long time, told me to get up and search my computer for Paakobena again. I got up and there he was. His Facebook page with all of his information was there. I searched for him for weeks and in one moment at the instruction of God had encountered him.  I called Paakobena and told him who I was, what I needed, and asked him how soon he could come. When I told him that I had even went to where his old shop was looking for him, he told me that he now focused on home visits and got rid of the shop several years ago. He said he would come to my home the next day. He came and told me all the things that I would need to do and buy to start Delilah on her journey to healing. That very night and the next day I exhausted almost all the resources that I had at that moment to order everything that she needed and made sure there was enough supply. We stayed on Paakobena’s regimen for quite some time and through prayer, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, begin to add supplements and vitamins as necessary.  She had reached a place of stability in most of her endocrine organs, especially her thyroid, and her seizures at menstrual cycle time started decreasing.

One night, God gave me another dream, showing me a vivid image of a doctor’s name on a brown wooden hospital door and then a book with a brown cover that had the title ketogenic diet in white letters on it and told me that he wanted me to put Delilah on the diet. I had never heard of a ketogenic diet before neither did I know that it was a successful treatment method being used for refractory seizures. The next day, I found the book online, ordered it and express shipped it to my house. I also started researching ketogenic diet centers and it turned out that there was one in the Bronx at Montefiore hospital. (Go figure!) The doctor’s name that I saw on the door in my dream was the neurologist at Montefiore who ran the ketogenic center. Very spoiled by the accessibility of doctors at all levels in Cuba, I called her office several times to see if I could have a consult with her to ask her questions about the diet. She told her receptionist to tell me that she wouldn’t talk to me since Delilah wasn’t her patient. 

Since the last neurologist that Delilah saw at Montefiore scheduled for her to be admitted to run a sleep EEG, we had (and what I decided would be) our final visit to Montefiore to complete this test. On the same day that Delilah was admitted, the neurologist who ran the ketogenic diet center was on call. She was the biggest witch (I want to change the w for a b, although I never like to refer to a woman by that.) and so nasty. When she saw me, she literally said to me “you and your daughter being here is a big waste of my time! You need to put her on meds because I am not administering the keto diet to her.” (Yes, those were her exact words to me.)

I had to kindly let her know that she didn’t know who I was and that she needed to leave out of the hospital room and come back in, acting as if she knew that I was not only my daughter’s parent and advocate but someone who would write the CEO and board of the hospital, the NYS Department of Health and JHACO to report her and make sure that she didn’t have a job or a license when I was finished. (Why do some people always have to make you go there?) She was shocked as hell that I wasn’t who she thought I was. (It really messed her up when I made her address me as Dr. Barber.) I gave Montefiore three chances and their neurologists struck out every time. (I’m not that person who says “never” but I will say that hell will probably have to freeze over before I opt to ever take Delilah back there.)

At that time, I contacted John Hopkins, the main ketogenic center in the US, and their waiting list was years long.  Lilah was on her regimen of alternative medicine and I knew that I was not putting her on the pharmaceutical medicines that they were trying to prescribe because I knew what they were and I saw first-hand the effects that it had on her classroom peers, who were also autistic and in a vegetative state for most of their academic day. (Ask yourself this question. Would you give a child street narcotics? If you wouldn’t give them street narcotics, why is okay for a doctor to legally prescribe those same narcotics to them? I don’t care what anybody says, that crap destroys children’s brains way more than it helps most times. There can be safer medicines and more effective ways to help children than turning them into vegetables and damaging their body organs and giving them all of these other side effects in the process. The political will is not there to do it because people care about money and profit more than they care about lives!)

I researched everything I could about the diet, although there was not nearly as much information as there is today. I started buying all of the materials that the book told me that I would need to start preparing for the monitoring aspect of the diet. But, I still had to find a doctor (neurologist)/nutritionist team to prescribe the diet. I could have basically done everything myself, which I did anyway, but I wanted Lilah’s journey to be legitimately recognized, since everyone told me that they wouldn’t help us and that I couldn’t treat her solely through diet. (I knew what God told me so I set out to be obedient and prove them wrong.) I also needed someone to be accountable for ordering and monitoring all her labs.  It took four years to get a neurologist, outside of Montefiore, who could/would administer the diet.

We ended up at NYU Langone and seeing Dr. Judith Bluvstein, a pediatric neurologist there.  Initially, she was not very encouraging.  When I told her that I wanted to put Lilah on the ketogenic diet and that I didn’t want her on pharmaceutical medicine.  She said, “well, maybe you need humble yourself and put her on the medicines.” (Yes, her exact words were for me to humble myself.) And when she saw the Melissa death stare that burns fire through your soul and warns you that the wrath of me is coming for you and then heard me reply, “I’m going to give you a few seconds to clean that up,” she knew that it was not the best course of action to stay in that vein of the conversation. She then set out to discourage me. “Well, the diet is really expensive.” My reply, “I didn’t ask you how expensive it was. Who are you to assume what I can afford?” “Well, many of my patients have not stuck to the diet because it is very restrictive.” My reply, “my daughter is not your other patients. I’m here to put her on the ketogenic diet.”  We did that song and dance for a few more minutes until she realized all her efforts were futile. (I understand that in her ignorance, she didn’t know me well. I don’t back down from fights when I am on a mission to preserve, help, and protect my gift from God (Delilah). She didn’t know that she couldn’t stop me but I played her game for a little while to let her think she would get somewhere before I completely shut her down.) “Can you put her on the ketogenic diet or do I have to go find another neurologist?” Her answer was, “Okay. We can put her on the diet, if that’s what you want. I’ll schedule an appointment with the nutritionist.” They still gave me the run around for another two months. When I scheduled an appointment with another nutritionist in their system, who I didn’t realize was not specialized in the diet, she basically called them and asked why they had not given Delilah an appointment yet. They told her they did but I showed her proof that there had been no follow-up or anything scheduled in her patient portal, after calling several times. The ketogenic nutritionist scheduled her appointment that day.

Fortunately, because I was so well versed in the diet by the time I got to the nutritionist, I noticed all of the flaws in the delivery of care, the lack of patient education, and all of the reasons why Dr. Bluvstein’s patients never stuck to the diet.  The initial method in which John Hopkins used to start patients on the ketogenic diet would always be key in the success of the patient. They admitted the patient and their families to the hospitals for three days.  While they induced ketosis for the patient, they gave families workshops and educational sessions, teaching them to cook for the patient and how to maintain the state of ketosis. I was given two thick handouts and left to figure out everything on my own. (I’m sure this was their other mechanism to discourage me or any other patient from using the ketogenic treatment method because most doctor’s pay and incentives come from their collaborations with pharmaceutical companies.)

We started the diet. I educated all of the academic and recreational staff members who worked with Delilah about it and had them buy in to maintaining her on her diet and giving her only the foods that were cooked and sent with her, since her diet was a nutriceutical, a treatment, like medicine, to reduce her seizures. Within months, Delilah shed about 60 pounds and we eradicated the drastic water weight gain during her menses, her seizures clusters reduced drastically (I could finally get at least a 4-5 hour night’s sleep when she had her period), and the duration of her seizures reduced by half. We also saw the duration of her menstrual cycles lengthen. They went from 14 to 18 day cycles to 21-24 day cycles.  The same doctor who told me to humble myself stands in amazement at the miracle. She said, “I can’t believe how amazing she looks and how you have maintained this!” I sarcastically remarked, “So, you don’t think I should humble myself anymore?” (I was not going to let her get away with it!)”  I told her, “Perhaps, the next person who comes to you who looks like me and is just as determined as I am will get better assistance from you next time.”  Through Dr. Bluvstein, we were referred to an endocrinologist in the NYU Langone system and ended up with one of the best pediatric endocrinologist on the planet, Dr. Jason Klein, who we got to by “accident.” (If you remember Day 22 nothing is an accident, it’s God’s way of getting you to His perfect destiny for you.) We were supposed to see another endocrinologist who was triple booked with clients that day. Dr. Klein did the necessary blood testing that I was asking the neurologist in Montefiore to do and confirmed the diagnosis (I was not at all crazy!) of Delilah’s hormonal imbalance, which was the cause of her catamenial seizures. He asked if I was willing to try oral contraceptives to see if it would help to balance her hormones. We tried Yaz. (I thought that medicine was a medicine directly from hell! Delilah had her period for 4-5 days each week for a whole month. She was angry, irritable, and combative.) Hell to the no! We were not taking that medicine any more.

I called Dr. Klein and told him that we tried it and we were not doing it any more. When he heard the affects of the medicine he quickly agreed. He was a really great, young doctor who listened and was definitely not tainted by the system yet. He was such a breath of fresh air.  Dr. Klein said that every time he saw me that I reminded him of his mother (she was health professional who did alternative medicine) and thus, it made him heed to the information and education that I was giving him when I walked in his office. After two years of being with him, Delilah got so well he said, “I’m releasing her as a patient because you have done everything to get her to the perfect bill of health as far as my expertise goes.”  (I was so happy!) It was through Dr. Klein that we were then referred to Delilah’s pediatric gynecologist to handle her hormones to control her seizures.  Dr. Cardamone is one of 14 pediatric gynecologist in the state of NY. (If any of you are thinking of doing OB/GYN, there is a desperate need for more pediatric ones. Please consider this specialty.)  Dr. Cardomone agreed to see Delilah.  I called her Manhattan office to set up an appointment only to discover that the office didn’t take Delilah’s insurance. (My heart dropped!) I emailed her to ask how much a consultation would be, asked if she could do a sliding scale fee for me or let me volunteer to work off the debt in for her office (I was desperate and I asked about every possible option I could.)  She said that she had just started to work at Sunset Park in Brooklyn earlier in that month and that she knew for sure that they took Delilah’s insurance. If it wasn’t too far for me to travel there, she would definitely see me at that office. If that wasn’t convenient, she presented me the names of two other colleagues that were relatively much closer to the Bronx.  When I looked up those doctor’s patient reviews they had 3 stars and Dr.Cardamone had 5 stars across the board in all her reviews. (You know where I was going, right?) We trekked to Sunset Park for her treatment.  Since it was discovered that Delilah had significant estrogen dominance, and little progesterone receptors, we decided to try the Depo-Provera shot to see if it would help to counteract the estrogen in her body.  Delilah is a really interesting case.  The Depo has lots of progesterone in it so it works enough to stop her periods, but doesn’t have the full dosing capacity to stop the pre-menstrual symptomology of her cycles nor does it completely stop her seizures. But, it has reduced them significantly.  Because Delilah’s body quickly metabolizes the Depo medication, it only last seven weeks, instead of its twelve-week coverage. (Go figure!)

After almost four years of being on her diet, some of Paakobena’s regimen, and treatment from a book that I was given when we lived in the shelter, she has been basically stable and has never had to be on an epileptic pharmaceutical drug. Her doctors have to always prescribe emergency medicine (Midazolam given intranasally) to give to her school and nurse but, thank God, she has never had to use it. She still has one or two (rarely three) brief seizures during the week of her menstrual cycle.

From 10-15 seizures down to 1-2 seizures; from 230 pounds to a consistent 155 pounds for four years; from basal temperatures of 92 degrees and lethargy to consistent basal temperatures at 97.7 or 98 degrees; from absolutely no sleep during menstrual cycles to at least 5 hours of sleep per day, with no epileptic drugs. This is definitely what success sounds and looks like and God gets all the credit for it.  It was by His revelation that we got to each step in Delilah’s process. I’m also thanking God for the strength, endurance, and consistency that He has given me to press forward to see the fruition and the blessing of this healing process.

But, my faith and hope is not for this level of healing (partial healing). It never was! It’s for complete healing—No seizures, No autism, No hormonal or menstrual irregularities, No muteness. I want everything completely healed and whole, with nothing missing, and complete restoration of ALL the years that were lost! (It has been 12 long years of suffering that we have endured!) And just like the woman with the issue of blood for twelve years, who exhausted all of her resources, went to many doctors and healers and still was not whole, we are at that place, crawling to get to the hem of Jesus’ garment to obtain mercy and healing, because I want Delilah to be whole.  I also want complete healing because that is exactly what God told me (and many other people) that he was going to do for Delilah. And I am confident, according to the word of God, “that he who began a good work in [us] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) God doesn’t do partial work and His word never goes forth void; God does everything to completion and His word accomplishes ALL that it has set out to do.

I know what I am saying may confuse some of you because you can only perceive Delilah’s situation and health through your own lens and experience and by the reality of what you see. You may not believe that there is healing for autism or epilepsy because your mind’s perception can’t grasp it or maybe because you have a relative with the same medical condition(s) who is an adult and has never received healing for the same conditions. And that’s okay. I only ask that you stay connected so that when God completely heals Delilah, you see that healing of ALL diseases and conditions, as are all other things, possible through Jesus Christ.

Part II

Thus far, I have only mentioned the physical nature of these twelve years of darkness.  But, one should know that manifested sickness (ie. cancer, lupus, epilepsy, autism) almost always has a spiritual cause or root.  And the spiritual aspect of this journey has been even more fatiguing and full of much more despair. I have tried to hold on to every ounce of my faith, even in the midst of no or little shimmering lights of hope. I manage to do it, although this journey has been very hard (especially since I am one person fighting a significant share of this spiritual battle by myself).

Here is where I begin to talk about the spiritual nature of Delilah’s sickness and my observation about today’s church.  I will try to explain everything in the simplest way that I can but, as I said it will be a little difficult for some of you because some of you may not believe in God; you may not believe that there is a devil, who is the prince of this world, and a cadre of his demon spirits that inflict suffering and oppress people (even God’s children) when there is an opening for them to do so. You may not even believe in a heaven or hell or an afterlife. I hope that this helps you to believe that it is all real.

The bible is such a living word and through its study and my dreams, God has revealed so many things to me about the spiritual (demonic) nature of autism and epilepsy that I did not know before.  I gained so much knowledge about double-mindedness and schizophrenia in the spiritual/biblical context. I realize now that, although I was praying and fasting for Delilah’s healing, I was somewhat praying amiss because I didn’t understand the depth of how strongholds worked and some of the roots that allowed them to persist. I knew what a “legion” spirit was, cognitively, but I had no idea that a “legion” was operating in and oppressing my daughter until God told me so.  (Legion means “many.”  A legion spirit is one that usually has a cadre of at least 1000 demon spirits that work and are grouped together to oppress a person.)  From the time, she was diagnosed with autism, I saw different spirits manifest at different times. And it seemed like the moment I prayed against, binding and casting out one spirit, another one would appear. This happened one after another. So, just when I thought I could get a breather from dealing with the last spirit, I couldn’t rest because another spirit would appear.  We have been dealing with twelve years of not stop invasion of these spirits. We are currently dealing with the two legion spirits of rejection and rebellion.

(For those who may not understand, I’ll give an example. When Delilah was first diagnosed with autism, she had a suicide spirit that was oppressing her. It would always cause her to try to run into a huge street with oncoming traffic to get hit. Since I wore sneakers all the time and had a background in track, most times I would catch her before she got to end of the sidewalk.  One time I left her with a caregiver to make an errand, the young lady called me twenty minutes later terrified telling me that I had to come back to get Delilah because she could and would not stay the rest of her shift. Delilah, almost five years old, laid in the middle of the crowded, heavy traffic laden street on Burnside and Morris Ave, with oncoming traffic.  Luckily, my friend Raul, who knew and spoiled Lilah, saw her and the home health aide and helped.  It took four really strong men to pick her (a 4 year old) up from the concrete ground and get her out of the middle of the street.  One time she tried that on the Grand Concourse on our way home from church. When I got home, I began to pray and cast that spirit out of her. I was so fatigued and fed up with it and having to chase after her. It left. Shortly after (may be two days), we started dealing with a spirit of insomnia. And after insomnia, we were dealing with the next spirit.)

Most of my spiritual journey with Delilah’s condition has been filled with lots of reading my bible, constant prayer (in the late to midmorning hours), praise and worship, studying books on the ministry of deliverance and fasting to break the grip of the many spirits that have attacked her life. Through the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit, I’ve read several books in the last three years that explain how demons (and demons through people) operate, the tiers of the kingdom of darkness, and how to get free from demonic oppression. (Talk to me offline if you want to know what those resources are.)  I recommend these books wholeheartedly for those of you who want to learn more about deliverance but I have to warn you that it is a great deal to stomach them.

The other part of my spiritual journey has been filled with frustration, heartache, and disgust.  Each time that I lived outside of the US, I saw the Christian church operating in a power that the Bible conveys. There were signs, miracles and wonders; I saw people be healed supernaturally through prayer and by faith. I saw the church operating in a power that should be a natural occurrence for us. The ministers taught the word of God, and the church members were unified in a way in which God could and would command a blessing. There were actually prayer services and “shut-ins” that would give the kingdom of darkness huge knuckle sandwiches. (Shut-ins are when we spend the night in the church to have all night prayer services.)  And everything that wasn’t of God got shut down real quick.

I call most American churches, the watered down gospel (and most times would rather stay home and watch an online-streamed service of one of my favorite churches that is not in NYC than be in a church building). Many are full of ministers/pastors/apostles who don’t teach the unadulterated word of God and lack faith; they have Christians and people who are sick and dying, with the nastiest attitudes I have ever seen and attacked by demonic influence, and lack the power of the Holy Spirit.  When you read the Bible and believe what it says about our identity in Christ and how we are supposed to behave and you are a member or visiting a church that doesn’t reflect anything that you are reading in the Bible, it can be very frustrating (I’m sure devastating for those who are new Christians).  Some of you would sit in horror at knowing how badly many people who professed to be Christians treated my daughter in a church building (SMH!). The solace I have is that God was watching. And even when they tried to isolate us or make Delilah feel like she didn’t belong, I stayed right there! (How dare anybody tell me that my daughter can’t be in her Father’s house! You must be crazy! Especially when she can dance circles around of us when she gets to praising and worshipping God!) As I stayed, many of the naysayers had to watch as God transformed her.

Several years ago, years after Delilah started suffering from her seizures; God began to reveal another level of knowledge and understanding about Delilah’s medical conditions that a lab test or a doctor’s visit would never reveal.  God began to show me a series of dreams that would be followed by interpretations of those dreams to get Delilah and me closer to working toward her deliverance and the complete obliteration from her sicknesses.

One night, God showed me a dream. In the dream my daughter and my little brother were kneeling around an open bonfire in the middle of a ritual. Although they were kneeling, their upper bodies were upright and their hands were stretched upward and tied to a wooden pole.  I heard and saw drums being played and shortly after I saw this dark spirit horizontally sweeping towards them until it entered into their bodies.  I don’t know exactly how I knew the dark spirit in the dream was the spirit of epilepsy but I knew that it was. It turns out that both Delilah and my little brother have epilepsy and they both got it around the same exact age. (Interestingly enough, I had bad seizures at the age of 3 or 4 years old. After one of my seizures, my pastor, Elder Ricks, prayed for me. I felt power shoot into my body and after that day I was completely healed.) The interpretation of the dream revealed a great deal to me about how the spirit was introduced, where it came from, and who introduced it into Delilah’s life. Not only did I pray and fast heavily for healing for Delilah and my brother and against that spirit, I begin to pray cleansing prayers for my bloodline and break generational covenants and curses that were made in my ancestry.  I also became even more watchful and careful about with whom Delilah got to spend time.

The revelations continued to come.  One night, I had a dream about two cats, one black one and one white one. In the dream I was in spiritual warfare with the cats and I told them that they had to go.  Since they kept nodding their head that they weren’t leaving, I intensified my warfare and the black cat completely disappeared.  The white one still wouldn’t leave. I told it, “You are going to leave!” I intensified my warfare against the white cat and it left. But, it didn’t completely poof-into- thin- air disappear like the black cat. (In the spiritual realm, cats signify witchcraft or witches/warlocks.  Each cat dealt in a different type of witchcraft—one in black (dark) magic/witchcraft and the other in white magic/witchcraft.)  When I woke up, I asked God for the interpretation of that dream.  Several days later, I met a young lady who I didn’t know.  We started talking and somehow it came up that I had lived in Cuba for six years.  She asked me what I thought about Santeria. I was a little taken aback by her question but I told her that I thought it was witchcraft, that its evil was real and that many people used it for demonic purposes. She told me that before she could speak what she was about to say, she had to preface its context and make sure that I understood what she was going to say.  She began to tell me things she could not have known about one of my experiences in Cuba. 

The lady said, “She [meaning Delilah] is going to come out of that! Two young ladies were doing witchcraft on you while you were in Cuba.  Because they didn’t realize or understand who you are in God and how powerful you are in Him, they kept intensifying the witchcraft they were doing on you and were completely surprised each time that nothing worked. But, because you were way to powerful for it, their witchcraft bounced from you to your daughter.  Since you are raising her [Delilah] to carry your mantle, she is starting to get too strong for the witchcraft they did and it is going to break off of her life.”   The lady didn’t know it but she had given me the interpretation of my dream. Spiritually, Lilah’s medical conditions were not only the result of generational curses and covenants in my family, but the result of witchcraft also. (I may not get into this later but, you should also know that the spiritual root of her menstrual and reproductive issues is the result of her father’s open rejection of her.) What she was saying was spot on. While I was in medical school, two girls (Sophia and Mirtha) were using Santeria to try to hex me and God revealed their actions.  At the time, God told me to be in a mode of heavy fasting and prayer and I obeyed–that is what covered/shielded me from the danger of what they were doing.  After the fourth or fifth time of dealing with the two girl’s crazy, one day I got back to my dorm and commented to both of them, “My God is so much greater than that mess that you are doing! You better be real careful at who you are playing with and what you are doing. I’m not playing that game with either of you and I send back the fire of God to boomerang back everything that you sent to me.”  Shortly after our encounter, Sophia got kicked out of school.  When she arrived home a few days later, she had a head on collision with a truck and died instantaneously. (She was the black cat in my dream that poofed into thin air.) 

Mirtha either left the school or got kicked out a few weeks later.  (For those of you who did not read Day 29) Before she left, she tried to instigate a fight with me. She started screaming at the top of her lungs, which gathered a real crowd.  At that point, I was so fatigued and weary of their assaults, i drew a line on the floor and I told her that if she came passed it she was going to breath her last breath. That was the first time I felt hate, rage, and the spirit of murder run it’s course through my body and I’m sure that everyone around us could see the violence in my eyes. Everyone who stood around us, including school staff, were so scared for Mirtha, because as calm as I was in my speech and demeanor, they could see how serious I was.  In all Mirtha’s screaming expletives and vulgarities they were trying to talk her down from her demise.  I stood there still but ready to attack if she moved into my space. I also told her friends real calmly, “if she’s your friend, you may want to come get her, because I meant what I said!” After several minutes a young lady named Nadege grabbed her and escorted her from the bathroom.

Mirtha was the white cat in my dream.  I have no idea where she is and if she is still doing the same activity she was doing over 16 years ago.  What I do know is that I have forgiven her and have released her to the judgement of God. I hope that she has repented for all that she has done because if not, God will avenge what she has done to my baby.

It was now clear more than ever that I had to intensify my prayer against the witchcraft that was done towards me that bounced to Delilah and really get deliverance for her. As I intensified my prayers (spiritual warfare), one day God spoke to me and said that this was the season of Delilah’s healing and deliverance. (I was excited! It was news that had been long awaited.) Since God had told me to leave my previous church, I was waiting for Him to show me where he wanted us to be next. I was gathering a list of churches and making plans to visit them at the beginning of the month of March 2017.  I was on a phone call with a friend and began to tell her what I was looking for in my next church and she told me to research a specific church.  She told me that I should watch the apostle’s YouTube videos to see if it was a church I could see myself attending.  Several days later, I put the apostle’s name in the YouTube search and several videos appeared.  As I watched the video, there were a few things that the apostle said which really spoke to my spirit, and I said, “God if this is where you want us to be, show him my and Delilah’s face and let him know that we are coming for deliverance!” I fleeced God and said that if he did four specific things (I never give God easy fleeces; I give him the impossible), the final thing being a random woman walking up to me in the street to say specific things to me, would be the sign that the following Sunday would be the day that Delilah and I were supposed to go to the church. I told God that if we were supposed to be at that church, when we got there the pastor would pray in the three specific areas for Delilah—he would pray to heal her biologically, he would break the generational curses that were the root causes of her sickness, and then he would pray against the witchcraft.   Lo and behold the lady walked up to me on February 25th and said the exact words, the way they were supposed to be said, and we ended up visiting the church the last Sunday in February instead of March.

The Sunday we were supposed to go to the church, everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong.  The electricity and the internet went out in my house so I couldn’t look up the address to the church. My phone wouldn’t even work. When I was finally able to look up the directions to the church, the computer gave me the wrong directions.  While I was sitting on the bus heading to the church, the Holy Spirit told me to look up the directions again. When I realized, we were on the wrong bus, I got off and we had to walk over 30 minutes to get to the right bus.  When we got on the right bus, it was so late, I started to turn around and go back home because I thought church would be over.  I told the devil, “we are still going because I know you want us to turn back.  You wouldn’t have thrown us this many impediments if there weren’t a blessing on the other side of this.”  When we finally got to the church, the pastor had just started to preach. (We weren’t late at all that day! Imagine if we had turned around). After he preached, the pastor asked for everyone to come up to the front for prayer. When he got to me and Delilah. The pastor said “Do I know you?” I replied “No.” In front of the entire congregation, he said “You sure I don’t know you? From Facebook? I have seen you and her face before. The Holy Spirit showed me your [meaning Delilah and my] face and said that you were coming for deliverance.”  I told him, “no you haven’t met us before but that is the exact prayer I prayed when I was watching your YouTube video.”  He began to pray for Lilah. He prayed for her biological healing and to break the generational curses off of her life and walked away.  In my mind, I told God, “this must not be where you want us to be because he didn’t pray for the third thing!” The pastor walked back over to her and said, “and I break the spirit of witchcraft off of her life!” I started to tear up because God answered my fleece– there was no way that the pastor would have known to pray specifically for those three things unless by the Holy Spirit, because I never told anyone else and I never met him before. The pastor asked to speak with me after the church service.

After the service, I explained to him about me praying that God would show him our faces while I was watching the Youtube video. I also talked about the fleece and how he prayed for all three things.  I told him about our previous church experience, about Delilah and that we had come for deliverance. He said that his church had just finished a round of deliverance sessions and was taking a break and that they were going to start back up in March. He said that he wouldn’t pass me to another of his ministers, but that he would do Delilah’s deliverance session himself.  I asked him if it was okay to visit his church until they started the sessions again and he said that it was fine. Little did I know that I would spend more than a year in the church with the pastor playing mind games with me about doing a deliverance session.  After a few weeks, I asked if he was going to do the deliverance session, although he said that he was going to still do it, he completely changed his tune.  The pastor told me that he did a deliverance session with an autistic boy that didn’t go well. He said, “I can’t afford to get anything wrong since the circle of pastors that I am around now wouldn’t allow for my name to be tarnished;” and mentioned how he was speaking at Manpower that summer. (SMH! Since when was the opinions or accolades of men, greater than being on assignment, being obedient to God, or just completing a task you committed to do?) The pastor said “he” couldn’t afford to get anything wrong. (Wait a minute!  But, I’m pretty sure that my bible says that God is the healer. Men do not heal or deliver anybody; they are vessels that are used by God to do that work.) His conversations reeked with fear, a lack of faith, and, once again, pride. I went home and prayed for him, about his response (most people forget that the bible says that we will be judged for the idle words that come out of our mouths), and for the whys of it all. I said God, “why would you send us here if he lacks faith for her healing and deliverance and has all this pride and fear? (All a deadly combination to prevent healing and/or deliverance.) Didn’t you say this was the season for Delilah’s healing and deliverance?”

My new mission was to continually pray for this pastor and that the fear and the lack of faith be removed from Him. My job was not judge him, because we all have flaws, but I was very concerned that he had a large following of Christian folk with those deep issues affecting his character. Each encounter I had with him, asking if he was now ready to do the deliverance session, got worse. There was way more fear. He mentioned another case of an autistic deliverance that he tried to do that went wrong too.  I realized that he was having these “son of scheva” moments with all these autism cases because he was not adequately prepared in knowing what he was dealing with as well as not spending enough time in communication with God to be led by the Holy Spirit on what to do for the level of deliverance needed for these children. I asked him if he had done some research about autism and he said no. I suggested that it would be helpful to research autism but he said he wasn’t going to do that. Later, he tried to convince me that Delilah’s condition was purely biological and that there was no need for her to have deliverance (Didn’t he pray about the generational covenants and witchcraft on our first encounter? Somehow, now she didn’t need deliverance from those things or in those areas of her life.)  Then, just as most people do, he started using defense mechanisms to project and say that I was trying to manipulate him into doing a deliverance session.  He avoided me for weeks at a time. Each time, it provoked me to go home and pray more about the situation, asking God to guard my heart, and pray for the pastor too.

One week, after asking about the deliverance session for Delilah, the pastor got up before the entire congregation and said that the church was shifting and not going to do deliverance sessions like that anymore. (I had to chuckle at that announcement because I knew it was for me. Suddenly, after our conversation about a Delilah, the church, which was known as a deliverance ministry, wasn’t going to be doing deliverance any more. He is usually a pastor who talks to people after service. That Sunday, he bolted from the pulpit and went straight to his office.) Although I was shaking my head in amazement, I felt bad that he had cowered with such fear and shame at failure. (I later told him that he had to realize that it wasn’t him who did or would do the work.) The second to last time I met with him, I asked him if he would be willing to pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit on how to proceed in doing a deliverance session for children with autism and suggested again that he read a little more about autism.  He told me that he still wasn’t going to do either. His exact words were, “I ain’t doin’ it!” I knew that Delilah and I were leaving that church but I felt sad that the children with autism in his church who remained would not have the opportunity to receive what God says is the children’s bread– healing and deliverance– because the pastor didn’t see it necessary to make time to study and discovered the tools to break that condition off of their lives.

I had to eat some serious humble pie throughout that whole experience and kept my mouth shut, because not only was I more than disgusted by his manipulation and his spirit of pride, I was actually really embarrassed for him. At times he was lying in my face when he talked to me and thought I did not know it.  One of the main reasons that I was pressing for him to do the deliverance session for Delilah is because, as he was trying to impress me in our first encounter, he said that he would do it. A pastor (or any person for that matter) ought to be a person of his/her word. And when he realized that he couldn’t do it or didn’t want to do it, he should have been honest enough to outright say that and he didn’t.  The excuses came, he did a great deal of projecting, and then I became the problem and the manipulator.  He made some blanket, erroneous statements about autism and other medical conditions not even realizing that he was talking to a doctor. (Because I’m really quiet, unassuming, and never use a bullhorn to announce my assignment or anointing in the kingdom of God or my title and accolades of the world, many people make huge assumptions about my credentials, my level of discernment and my relationship with God.)  This pastor always assumed that I would be so impressed with his title, his book deal, his being able to speak in front of large crowds, not realizing that I did, lived, and had all those things already, on a regular basis outside of the church, and didn’t care about them like that at all. While I am very happy that he has accomplished all of those things, those things were not greater than God, and he having those things didn’t mean that he could forgot about being led by the Holy Spirit.

I gave him plenty of chances and waited patiently. I prayed and asked God for the release because I knew that I couldn’t stay in that church neither could I trust the pastor with carryingout something as important as a deliverance session for my daughter. (It felt like I was in a spiritual Montefiore hospital again.) His fear and lack of faith would have impeded the deliverance from occurring in the first place.  He avoided me for several more weeks. One Sunday, I asked him to meet with me one last time after service. When I mentioned that I was a little disappointed that we would never get the deliverance session that he said he would do (He then begin to act like he would do it right then and there if I still wanted him to do it. I wanted to call his bluff but since I was already really embarrassed for him I decided to leave it alone), I thanked him for letting us visit his church but let him know we were leaving. He said that he was disappointed because he thought we were going to become members of his church.  He also said that several of his members got to know us and were already attached.   I don’t know why he could think that I would be a member of his church after going through that whole year of mind games. He never did what he said he would do.  He told me that he wasn’t willing to study about autism or pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit about how to get deliverance for Delilah. If this was my baby’s season for healing and deliverance, I need to be in a church with like-minded folk who were serious about getting me to a place and teaching me the tools to get real deliverance for her. I don’t play games with church and I do go for it to be a social club.  The bible says that God healed and delivered people from ALL manner of sicknesses; it didn’t say he was exclusive to some. To me, it meant that there was healing for autism. And since God told me that He was going to completely heal Delilah we needed to get to that place.

I was invited to a church that was heavily into the deliverance ministry by another good friend. On my first visit, I saw many people being delivered there. After church, the pastor meets with all the new visitors and greets them.  There were about eight rows of new visitors.  The pastor prophesied for EVERY visitor except for me and Delilah. (SMH!) I thought to myself, here we go again.  We were completely ignored.  I was starting to see a theme and pattern, which really didn’t feel good to me.  Since I saw real deliverance taking place and demons being cast out of people,  I continued to visit the church because I knew that even if they didn’t decide to do a deliverance session for Delilah, I could at least learn some of the tools that I needed to get us closer to what God had spoken (complete healing).  Each week, I was learning to exercise my abilities in praying warfare prayers for deliverance and every day I was coming home using those tool when we got home to do self-deliverance and cast out some of the demons influencing Delilah.  One week the pastor at the new church, told me that he helped a mother who had a child with autism before.  He said that each week, God had him meet with the child and mother and he had to keep praying and chipping away at the fortress (stronghold) of demons that influenced the child until it completely broke.  (This was a long-term process and not something that happened instantaneously.)  He also asked me, “What did God say to you about autism?” When I began to tell him about what God had shared with me, he nodded his head as if I was correct. (I was on to something!)

What I noticed/realized from that encounter and what the pastor had said is that since Delilah’s healing was a long-term process, most pastors/ministries were not going to volunteer to take it on, even if they knew what to do. It would truly have to be a labor of love on their part.  How many people do you know who consistently walk out life with you? How many pastors do you know who actually walk out life with their parishioners? Was there really someone (a pastor) who would commit every day or every week to fasting and praying with me for deliverance for Delilah? The answer was no. (Not even this pastor who had told me that he’d done it before said that he would commit to help me.) I was on my own to do the work that I had already been doing.  Of course, some of that knowledge hurt but it was reality and no different than what I had already known from our twelve year journey.  So we press.

After all of the progress that we have made in Delilah’s healing, on October 6th of this year, Delilah had a really bad seizure in her sleep like the one she had during hurricane Sandy.  I was woken up suddenly at 4 am that morning and decided to check on Delilah because I heard voices and New Age music playing in house (which is extremely and utterly impossible). When I got to her room, her body was completely blue and she was having a seizure. I worked quickly to try to get her breathing because I had no idea how long she was like that. She started breathing and came out of her seizure and immediately went to her post-ictal sleep phase.  I was shook because I slipped!  I got too comfortable! I was so unusually tired the night before that I didn’t stop her from going to her room to sleep.  (I usually make her sleep in my bed during her cycle time.)

 A second more and my baby would have been dead!

After the initial shock! I was livid!  I texted every intercessor who prayed and was up at that hour and told them I need them to pray with me immediately because I wanted and needed answers as to why my baby was on death’s doorstep that morning.  I told God through my uncontrollable tears in my prayer, “I need answers now! I need revelation now! Before this day is over, I want to know why we are still here! Why is my baby still suffering like this AGAIN? I need this to break now! I can’t live like this anymore!” Immediately, at that 4 o’clock hour people were texting back that they were praying. I kept praying. When Delilah woke up, she was slightly smiling at me, although her affected voice was still very low and raspy. (My baby was alive taking another breath.) We started using the gift of song to bring her to recovery mode. We started singing and praising God and a song, “Great are You Lord,” whose lyrics were so fitting for that very moment began to play.” It was God’s breath in her lungs so we pour[ed] out our praise.  I told her that the song would be the next song to learn on her piano. (She is currently learning to play it now so that she can perform it for her spring recital.) We sang for about an hour and then Lilah wanted to rest again.  As she rested, I went back to warfare praying.

Within a few hours time, a Youtube video by a pastor named Guillermo Maldonado, who I had never heard of, popped up on my phone. The title was “Breaking Strongholds and Deliverance from Bitterness.” Omg! That video was answered prayer. Glued to principles and knowledge that were coming from his teachings, I got my notebook and basically transcribed the video.  It outlined just about everything I needed to know about the “root” of bitterness (causes, what it was rooted in, how to break it, the characteristics and behaviors of a bitter person). When Pastor Maldonado began to talk about the three main causes of bitterness (abuse, profound loss of something, and encountering, continuous, overwhelming situations or circumstances), God revealed to me that how and when Delilah was affected by each of those causes. Delilah was in a verbal, emotional and psychologically abusive environment while I was away studying. I left her in the US while I was studying and she felt abandoned and rejected by the loss of her mother. There were plenty of continuous, overwhelming circumstances but one stood out. Although I had asked my mom not to give Delilah the flu vaccine when she was little, my mom let her get the vaccine. Delilah was allergic to something in it; it caused her tonsils and adenoids to swell significantly, cutting off her airway and air supply, she had to have surgery. My baby and I were dealing with bitterness. The video also shed light on the fact that we had to really forgive some people. God let me know that I had to order some of this pastor’s books immediately, which I did, and start studying them. Interestingly enough, a day or two later, as I was studying my notes from Pastor Maldonado’s teachings from the video, I went back to find the video from the link it came from and it was no longer there. The Youtube page said “this video is no longer available” and that it was taken down by the person who posted it. (No lie! See for yourself. https://youtu.be/ZQZW7oK0eaM) God is good!

The next day when we went to church, the pastor (a prophet of God) revealed that yesterday’s attack came from Delilah’s father and asked if I knew how to send back the fire to him. (Oh it was on! The enemy and the kingdom of darkness and every person who they decided to use in their attempt to kill my baby was about to get a serious beat down in the spirit! I was and am ready for war, especially when it comes to my gift from God!

We began to pray and fast to destroy the roots of bitterness that allowed for the demonic influences to enter in and attack Delilah and my life. (Every day we have been getting free!) I didn’t know it at the time but when God asked me to share the Thirty Days of Thanks, I had no idea that he was using this journey as a mechanism and vehicle to purge me more and seal my freedom from some of that demonic influence. As we prayed and fasted, when we got to church service, where warfare for deliverance was taking place, the demons were coming out of Delilah and they grip was being broken off of her.  One Sunday as the pastor prayed for, he started praying over her ears and some of those demons started manifesting. The minister told me later that I had to continue to pray over her ears because the demons were trying to use voices to speak to her, which is why she covers her ears with her forefingers so much.   

The revelation was pouring in like a flood gate. A few weeks later another Youtube from a school of deliverance ministry popped up.  The lesson was “Deliverance from the schizophrenic pattern.” This was going to be the meat and/or hearty portion of my education.  God had revealed to me several years ago that autism was spiritually under the same umbrella as schizophrenia.  I started to study schizophrenia more to really understand all of what He met. In increments, God was revealing all of the books and information that I needed to read and study to understand more. I read the books “Pigs in the Parlor” and the author’s follow-up books ages ago and totally forgot all about that knowledge.  There I was watching the Youtube video and everything was coming back to me. The teachings in that video gave me the step-by-step manual of how to receive complete deliverance and healing for Delilah. (no lie! Step-by-step)

The presenter explained it in such a good way. He said when you think of a stronghold, imagine a pyramid structure. The ruling spirits are at the top (highest pinnacle) of the pyramid, while all the low-level demons, which are in rank (similar to an army) from smallest to greatest, make up the foundation. Since one cannot go directly to the head of the army (the ruling spirit), he has to first kill/destroy all of the lower-ranked demons and keep moving up the chain until you finally get to the top, the ruling spirit. Before you even start to attack and destroy the lower-ranking demons, you have to use the tools of binding and loosing, which God has given us as his children to stop the activity of demons. (So, just as you would bind the hands of a criminal by putting handcuffs on him to stop his activity and haul him off to jail. You have to bind, through your words in prayer, the ruling spirit so that its activity and how it operates can cease.) As you stop, nullify or bind the ruling spirits’ ability to operate, you can now attack the lower-ranking spirits without much hindrance.  Then, as you are attacking those spirits, you want to loose or release the sword of the Lord to execute judgment on that spirit to destroy it. (I hope I’m explaining this effectively through my words for you to understand.  If not, here is the video so that you can really dive in https://youtu.be/leQ4F8kyNe8 later.) Almost every night, when we get home, I have been using my step-by-step manual to break those low-ranking spirits and work my way up the chain to the ruling spirits. The three ruling spirits in the schizophrenic pattern are rejection, rebellion, and bitterness. And they each are legions with their cadres of demons.

I can’t even describe the anticipation in my mind and heart to know that we are right at the cusp of Delilah’s complete healing and deliverance and that very soon (sooner than I or you can think) she will be free, speaking (and will probably never shut up, my friend warns), with her whole mind and complete cognitive ability. She is going to be a genius! (As we have declared it verbally from the time she was little.) She will be fulfilling her task of slaying the kingdom of darkness with her voice and her words.  It’s going to be incredible! And I’m so happy that you will get to witness it so that you will know and understand just how great and amazing God really is. That day, the journey through these twelve years of darkness, will be well worth it. And I know that I will have achieved the “well done, my good and faithful servant” badge of honor from my father, which will mean more to me than anything in this life or the next.

If I ever needed any more confirmation that I was on the right track, it came yesterday. I wanted to play a song by Juanita Bynum as I was working. I put her name into the Youtube search filter and one of her sermons, “Don’t Quit! Your warfare is God’s process to promote you beyond your Imagination” (https://youtu.be/BgiZPAKFHj0), appeared. I felt led to play that video instead of the song. She was speaking my life’s story (really this whole twelve year journey). Have you ever had someone do that to you without even knowing you or what you been through?  I almost couldn’t stay in my seat. And to top it off, she declared a prophetic word that I’d see the turn around by Dec 31stof this year (meaning in 19 days). Now you know that I was receiving and claiming that word over my life from the core of my being! I’ve been fighting too long for the vision and the word that God gave me for it not to come to pass! I’ll send you my report back on December 31st.

This was an incredible thirty day journey. Thank you so much for taking it with me and sharing it with others. It was so freeing and provided the much needed healing and deliverance that I need in specific areas of my life. Based on the level of warfare and how much fighting I had to do to get these reflections to you on some days–keys on the laptop not working and having to switch back and forth from my laptop to phone; sometimes a sharp pain trying to attack my back as I would type; the shame factor of some of my reflections. You name it, it was happening—I know that some of you received the much needed blessings too, on those days of this journey.  I’d love to hear from you about how this journey has impacted you. I’d also like to know of the donations that you gave during your journey. As I said I want to do a report back and share our impacts on the many organizations and highlight the testimonies and victories received. Today I don’t feel so much led to highlight an organization for you, I’d like for you to find and highlight an organization to which you feel drawn and give to it (Yes. It can be one of the organizations that have been previously mentioned.) I’d also like you to reflect on your revelations and where they are leading you. What vision or word has God given you that you are fighting for? Make sure that you don’t give up! Your warfare is promoting you beyond your imagination.

Love Ya,

Have a Great Day of Thanks!

Contact Melissa Below

MT days 26 – 29

My friend Melissa has been doing a 30 days of Thanks journey in which  she shares her reflections on her life.  It is with her permission that I have created this blog post.  Her writing is powerful.  Be prepared to cry, laugh, be confused, get frustrated, and be caught up in deep hopefulness.  And, she gives suggestions on where to direct your financial activism.

Day 26: Kind, Thoughtful, Inspirational Words

Happy Twenty Sixth Day of Thanks Everyone!

I don’t know what it is but, I have always had this special kind of mojo which attracts senior citizens to me. I’ve come to conclude that there may be a long list of things responsible for this attraction which range from my big, bright smile (which you already know radiates light) to the kind check-in on how they are or their need for some medical advice. Whatever it is, the attraction is always strong. (Now if I can just get that mojo to attract me to my amazing, intelligent, God-fearing, loving, worship-the-ground-I-walk-on chocolate prince, I’d be set! I’m just saying!)

I’ve known an elderly gentleman who works at a senior citizens center close to my job for about four years now. We met, initially, on our daily commute to work on what you know I call the God forsaken bus, the Bx19.  After seeing each other for a while and coming to the conclusion that we were basically going to the same place (our work is literally right next door to each other), we struck up whole conversations about our lives and how we were, our relaxing weekends, books that I was currently reading, and our families, without even knowing each other’s name. 

It was probably two months or more after our initial meeting that I realized, I had no idea what his real name was. (I felt horrible!) Can you imagine! I was having in depth conversations with this person everyday for months and we didn’t know each other’s name. His morning greeting was, “Hi beautiful” (it still is) and mine was “hey love” and the rest was history. I finally asked him, “what’s your name?” and he replied “Gypsy.”

Gypsy is such a sweet soul. He is really shy (at least around me) and a little anxious. He has a little feistiness to him on occasion but overall  is so unassuming and quiet that you could almost forget that he is there. He is very humble and never complains. He is very observant and pays very close attention to detail. He has such an impeccable work ethic and works so hard (like a slave), all the time, for him and his girlfriend’s dream house down south. 

If I’m being honest, I’m always a little worried about him. First, it was the chain smoking, which I always pestered him to quit. (Thank God he finally got rid of that habit!) Now, it’s more of his general health that worries me.  Each time I see him, he looks more and more fatigued and weary, although he still musters up a big smile for me. I worry that he, who is such a deserving person of a great retirement, will never get to enjoy it because he has worked himself to the bone (and probably doesn’t know anything else). 

Sometimes, I wish I had Oprah money and endorsements so that just as she says, “you get a car, and you get a car, and you get a car!” I can say to Gypsy, “you get a house and you get a car and you get rest and you get retirement!” All just to ease some of that worry and weariness I see on his face. I pray for him all the time, asking God to preserve his strength and make him a Caleb so that he can see, have, and enjoy his mountain before he takes his final rest. 

What Gypsy lacks in his short stature and frame, he makes up for with his big heart, his kindness and thoughtfulness. One day for Valentine’s Day, he bought all the women at my job these beautifully hand-crafted and scented artificial roses and lunch (so sweet!). We both have birthdays in June about a week from each other. I don’t know how he knew my birthdays are so important to me, but he has never missed a beat!(He has to teach some of my other friends some things!) On my day, he is always waiting outside for me to get off the bus, and with a smile, hands me the most breath-taking, thoughtful, awe-inspiring Blue Mountain cards. (I always tell him to take back his money when I find it because I don’t want him working harder on my account.) They are amazing cards! (Whoever owns this company, i would love to buy shares!) The words in those cards speak so much life to my soul. It’s almost like the person who wrote the card had a magnifying glass to my life and new every detail about me or knew exactly what I needed to hear. And knowing Gypsy, I’m sure he stayed in the store and scoured every card until he found the “perfect” one just for me. He always has this genuine way of doing his best to make me feel special. (Some of you should take notes and learn a thing or two!) What he doesn’t and can’t say on his own, the card says for him. And his words are the most thoughtful, kind and inspirational words that anyone has ever said to me. 

For the past three years, his words (once you buy something it’s your to claim) in those cards have prophetically declared career moves and choices, provision, complete shifts in my life and the best well wishes ever. In some of the darkest moments of my life, without him even knowing it, Gypsy’s cards and words have given me the hope to endure, pierced light through the darkness and brought the ultimate joy, making me smile. Getting my birthday cards from Gypsy has become one of the most anticipated moments of my year.(I’m sure he has no clue just how much his simple gesture means to me, although I convey my thanks and try to do double for him the following week for his birthday.) Each year, I feel like a little child on Christmas day opening my most prized and desired gift, anxiously waiting to read the new card’s content. And each year’s card surpasses the last one and completely blows me away. I smile so big for weeks, knowing that someone cares that much about me to be kind and so thoughtful enough to speak life into me. (Gypsy is my unsung hero!) I’ve held on to each card like it is my most prized possession. I only hope that my presence, my words, and my acts of kindness toward him come nearly as close to the joy that his bring to me.

I give thanks for Gypsy and those like him in my life who are kind, thoughtful, warm, and awe-inspiring with their words. If you have people like him in your life, you know just how much of a treasure they are. (Make sure that you appreciate and value them. Go back to Day 15!) If they work as hard as Gypsy does, be mindful to make sure they have real rest; do your best to make sure their loads are much lighter. 

Today, I also highlight the organization, Random Acts(www.randomacts.org/), which is a nonprofit that is dedicated to random acts of kindness worldwide. The work that they do and the projects of kindness that they fund are incredible. Just reading the stories on their website of the acts of kindness that people have done through them will inspire you to do more to conquer the world with one random act of kindness at a time. Please support them in all their endeavors and donate.  If you have a cool idea for a random act of kindness, they are willing to fund it up to $499 for first time applicants. Go for it! You’ll impact a life or lives for an entire lifetime with just that one act of kindness. 

Love Ya,

Have a Great Day of Thanks!

Day 27: Creativity 

Happy Twenty Seventh Day of Thanks

I am so thankful for creativity and the many ideas that God has given me to financially sustain my family, bless others, and provide balance when the scientific and more analytical portion of my brain tries to encroach upon and dominate the artistic portion of it. 

I don’t know how to explain it but God created me to be both heavily scientific and artistic at the same time. When I do more of one at any given time, I feel so imbalanced and have to do the other activity to bring me back to an equilibrium. (I’m not sure if anyone else is built like that or if it’s something that’s unique to me.) So from an early age in life, not only did I create with my hands and my mind, I was also a critical thinker and heavily into studying sciences. I am always looking for ways to combine those two passions of my life. 

I have created songs, poetry, and short stories that have filled my childhood and adult journals. I created choreography for talent shows and cultural nights. When Lilah was little, I sewed her several skirts and a pair of pants by hand. (I can’t wait to take sewing lessons with a machine. Watch out world!). I create essential oil mixtures for different medical ailments.
I usually make earrings and other jewelry to match my shoes, bag and outfits or to make as birthday or holiday presents. Delilah and I have just about every craft tool and item in my house and we get busy on a frequent basis to create our own masterpieces. I created what I call a “Love Box” for married couples who participate in the “A Love Affair: The Ultimate Date Night Experience” event. I crocheted pendants for Breast Cancer Awareness for the Uniquely Abled Girl Scout Troop. Just recently, I made her a money cake for her sixteenth birthday.

One year, I saw a lady on the bus crocheting a blanket and I asked if I could watch her. She taught me the single and double stitch and I came home with some yarn and crochet needles determined to create my own scarf and blanket. I did it! (Little did I know that I picked up a skill that relaxed me and bought me so much peace of mind.) One Christmas a friend told me that her co-worker volunteered in the hospital and was collecting toys and gifts for children who had HIV/AIDS in the hospital. The young man commented  that there were always toys and gifts given for the young children but the teenagers usually went without gifts because most people didn’t donate for their age group.  So with my single and double stitch skills and no pattern, I set out to crochet several colorful bags and scarves for those teenage patients. (If I say so myself, they came out really nice. I almost wish that I had kept one from that batch just to show you how my skills have perfected over the course of time.) I was able to give bag and scarf sets to six teenagers with HIV/AIDS in the hospital that year. 

Since I only have time to crochet during the holidays, when I need something done outside of that time frame, I’ll create a pattern or design of what I want and I pay my aunt to crochet it for me. She always complains when I send her my elaborate designs and creations to crochet (and she claims she can’t do them because she wants to be lazy and give me what she wants instead of what I ask for) but her skills are ten times better than mine in crocheting and she is quicker because she has an abundance of time and is always practicing and perfecting her craft. With a little nudging, I always get her to create my designs(or should I say masterpieces) exactly the way I want them. Just last spring, she completed a line of autism awareness apparel that I created and designed for Lilah (see pics). I wanted Delilah Christina to be the first and only person on the runway to have and model her own line of crocheted apparel. I didn’t disappoint and my baby rocked her outfits on that runway so lovely. (I think God gave me a girl because He knew that I’d be so excited practicing my fashion skills on her.)

I don’t think I confessed this secret yet (y’all are making me tell all my business!) but my other back-up career was being a fashion buyer. I am completely head over heels for a great outfit that has all the bells and whistles of some great accessories to match. Yes, it has to have the earrings, the bag, the glasses and the shoes to make it outstanding. This brings me to my next confession. I’m a slight shopaholic, which I totally blame on growing up poor. Now, most times when I see something that I want or really like, especially if it is within my budget, I’m almost always going to buy it. I spent so much time hearing that we couldn’t have something because my mom couldn’t afford it growing up, that I don’t want to hear that now. (of course within reason. I am not buying any thousand dollar pocketbooks or anything crazy like that. SMH!) However, since I work hard, I want be able to splurge on what I want and like, occasionally. I also hate the regret of not having bought something that I really wanted afterwards. When I go back to buy it, 99% of the time it’s gone. That really sucks and always makes me want to stomp my feet! (Don’t judge me!)

Growing up, although we were poor, my mom always dressed us really nicely on a budget. Most people in our neighborhood were always so surprised at how nice we looked because they knew my mom was on welfare like they were; we were always impeccably clean and presentable and our hair was always elaborately braided into some unique style every two weeks. What they didn’t know is that most times my mom paid fifty cents to $1 for our tops, no more than $2-3 for our bottoms, bought our under clothes in irregular sizes by bulk (which is always cheap) and we had skippies, the fifty cent to $1 no name-brand sneakers, in every color to match our outfits.  We got sturdier footwear for school and winter but most times we had skippies. My mom dressing us the way she did is probably where my knack for matching my outfit colors with the accessories come from (in addition to me working in retail at one point.) 

In the summer and when it’s warm I like to look well put together and you see all of my creativity spill over.  (I clean up real nicely. It’s one of my things.) Most people are surprised that I like to look nice, without it being to impress a man, but it’s what I like to do for me. I love explosive colors in everything and layer of colors to complement each other. My eyewear is always popping and I love flowers in my hair because they always enhance elegance. (right, Donnie?) Now, the winter, that’s a whole other story.  Jeans or sweatpants and sneakers or boots are my preferables. (It’s too cold for nonsense!) But, I still manage to get creative for the cold. 

Today, I give thanks for creativity and hope that you are thinking of all the ways to be creative with your thanks, creative with your affection toward your loved ones and creative in your gift giving as the holiday season is approaching. I’m highlighting the nonprofit organization, Kids Enjoy Exercise NOW (KEEN USA) www.keennewyork.org/ because of their creative programming for persons with disabilities. They empower them and always make them feel welcome in the world.  They have arts and sports (baseball, boxing, swimming, yoga, fitness). Because the program director saw the beauty in some of the participants and noticed their flare for fashion, she arranged a modeling day, where Lilah realized discovered just how much she loves to model.  Please donate or volunteer to help with their many programs.

Love Ya, 

Have a Great Day of Thanks!

[Preface December 9, 2018]

I’m so excited! Can you believe that we only have two more days to go? I’ve been doing some praying about our finale. (It’s going to be big! Brace yourself!) God told me to do some specific things and I totally want to be obedient to His leading. Although Day 30 is our last day, if it’s okay with you all, I was thinking that I would send out a separate email (maybe later in the week or next week) to give a report back of all the wonderful work we did on this journey and to do the specifics of what God told me to do. I have had some great reports from some of the organizations that were highlighted during our Days of Thanks that I want to share with all of you. (If you haven’t given yet, you need to get in on the action!) If possible, I would love to give you all a chance to write some of your testimonials or thoughts to tell us how this journey has touched you, changed you, inspired you, (or even got on your last nerve!) and possibly share it with the rest of the group. (I can leave your comments anonymous if you don’t want people to know who you are.) The point is to give your testimony because we are overcome (victorious) by the blood of the lamb and by the words of our testimony. This is also an opportunity/attempt to destroy the devil by getting rid of that shame factor that has held you in bondage for so long.  Enjoy the next few days of our journey. I’ll miss you!

Day 28: Traveling

Happy Twenty Eighth Day of Thanks Everyone!

I give thanks for traveling and the memories that are forever recorded in my mind and the indelible footprints those experiences have left in my heart.

I love, love, love to travel! Traveling is actually in real close competition with my love for singing (and you already know how much I love singing) and fashion.  My first whiff of traveling left me so high and wanting more; it was almost like addiction.  One year, I was visiting and/or living in a new country for several weeks to months at a time. I hope to be one of those persons who can close my eyes, put a pushpin on a map, and go to wherever that place is at the drop of a few weeks’ notice. (Stop being a kill joy! It may not happen soon, but a girl can dream!)

I’m remembering the smell of salt water and feeling the hot white sand on my feet and legs, while I was drinking the water from that freshly picked just chopped coconut or licking the juice sliding down my hands and arms as I was eating that sweet, ripe, juicy mango. That is what I experienced in Veradero, Cuba, Tenerife Islands, Aruba, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, The Canary Islands and Bahamas. My dream places are always hot, island destinations (it’s that 80% percent Motherland blood running through my veins!). But, I occasionally throw a couple of cold places in the mix for cultural exchange. I also love being among and fitting in with the town’s people. Since I tend to have this familiar face and have a really bright smile, I usually fit in everywhere I go. And there is nothing like learning about a new culture, its traditions, dances, folklore, and let’s not forget good food (Ahhhhh!). Oh and to add this disclaimer before I continue, there were no ignorant, rude, (privileged) “American” tourists who swear someone should bend over backwards to cater to them and their every need everywhere they go allowed.  (If you are that “American,” shame on you! And you can never come with me anywhere so don’t ask.)

I remember walking down a cobblestone street of Sevilla that led to this open space where several gypsies had settled for the night.  Surrounded by a bonfire, they had a guitarist and this beautiful gypsy woman singing in the guttural, crying sound of flamenco music. There was another lady in all these cute, colorful (I’m attracted to anything colorful), what I would call “vintage” clothes who started to dance flamenco in the street. I felt the strumming of that guitar and that women’s voice in my soul so much so that I needed to get in on that action. I didn’t know how to dance Flamenco, but since I have rhythm and can shake my hips real good, I decided to fake it and make it. The dancer slowed down just enough to show me how to twirl my hands and move them in sync with the rest of my body. (Ya’ll, I worked it out!) I was learning how to dance flamenco in the streets of Andalucia from a gypsy woman who said I reminded her of someone. (I told you I have a familiar face!)

Now, I have to take you to Cuernavaca, Mexico to the Zócalo (public square) or Cancun, Mexico where you can get the best tacos that you have ever tasted in your life. They are cooked to perfection, well seasoned with the right amount of spicy sauce and all the toppings that your heart can desire. Nothing can beat it! (I have never understood how people can ever think a taco bell would be anything close to what a real taco should taste like. Ugh!) And don’t worry if your stomach can’t take spicy or you get sick; the medicine man is in the same square or the pharmacy is selling the anti-ulcer, antibiotics, and anti-parasite medicines. If you are like me, you love to see the artisan work of ceramics and traditional clothes, and there is plenty of it. Mexico, I love for their sun and moon ceramics, color clothes and accessories, the Aztec pyramids and the hand-made wind chimes.

In Morrocco, three different men said they would offer my father several goats, cows, dromedaries and farmland for my hand in marriage. (What an honor! I almost considered it, especially since I barely get that kind of treatment at home.) We travelled through the cold mountains to find the best woven wool sweaters and clothes made from sheep and goat hair. I still have my favorite, cream-colored, warm wool sweater, whose price I bargained down. I plan to pass that down to Lilah when she gets older. (They weren’t ready for my bargaining skills! But, I knew I wasn’t walking away without my sweater.) The carpets there were so exquisite too.  I rode on dromedaries (one-humped camels) for transport for the first, which was so cool. 

And my secret place . . . It has a field of the largest growing sunflowers on the planet that I could hide in. (In case you haven’t guessed it, sunflowers are my favorite flower. Not roses!)  Walking pass that field brought me so much joy. Every time I hear India.Arie’s song “He Heals Me,” she reminds me of the love I discovered and felt in my secret place. I also remember the sun kissing my face every morning. And sometimes, I could see the sky bleeding as the sunset from a specific spot.  It’s magical and has a large body of water, where I would lay all my burdens down, to never pick them up again. That memory just reminded me that I have to plan another trip there sooner than later. (No, I can’t tell you where it is because then it won’t be my secret place anymore.)

What place have you travelled to that left footprints on your heart? When are you going back? (Better yet, when are you taking me on an all expense-paid trip to go with you? I had to slip it in. I told you that I love to travel. And I promise that I’m not that “American” and will make the trip quite pleasant.)

Today, I give thanks for the ability to travel and for the wonderful cultural exchange that goes with it.  I am highlighting the organization FLYTE (The Foundation for Learning and Youth Travel Education), which is a nonprofit organization that empowers youth living in underserved communities through transformative travel experiences.  Please donate to them (https://www.takeflyte.org/) so the many young people in our communities have the opportunity to gain a global experience and education.  For those of you who are English speakers and love to travel, you may want to check out organizations live Diverbo (www.diverbo.com) which recruits English speakers to help foreigners in Spain and Germany practice their language skills through cultural exchanges. (Most times, you only have to pay for your flight to the country and everything else is covered.)  If you are willing to put in a little sweat equity on your next vacation in exchange for free meals and accommodations Workaway and HelpX connect travelers with locals around the globe looking for volunteer help.  Have fun traveling!

Love ya,

Have a Great Day of Thanks!

Day 29: My heart (of flesh)

Happy Twenty Ninth Day of Thanks Everyone!  

I am thanking God today that He was able to restore my broken heart, filled with millions of tiny pieces, and make it completely whole again. It was a very hard and long task, but because of His love for me, God never gave up on me and did exactly what he said he would do. He removed my heart of stone and gave me a heart of flesh. And as he pieced every tiny part back together until it was whole again, he was putting a completely new spirit in me. (Ezekial 36: 26)

 I was born a natural giver. I love to give and to help people.  I think that was another unique quality that God gave to me when He thought me up because I’ve always genuinely prayed that God would give me the capacity and “seed” to sew into and bless the lives of others. However, I have noticed that when you are a giver, God always blesses you abundantly. And that abundance doesn’t always come in the form of finances.  It may be an abundance of blessings in a natural gifting or talent or skill set. And this abundance ALWAYS attracts the haters, who will seek to destroy you, because they are jealous or envious. So most often, givers and kindhearted people deal with ignorant, selfish people who see their giving and kindheartedness as a weakness and will always try to take advantage. (SMH!) Givers often deal with people who use them, intentionally or unintentionally.  I’ve seen it happen at jobs, in churches, and in relationships.  We already talked about the giver (“the friend”) in relationships on Day 22 in Story 1.  You remember the protagonist who will identify the giver as “a friend” who they use for their emotional value, while dating and having sexual relations with other people, never realizing how loveable the giver really is.  (To heck with that “save the best for last” mentality! Beware of it and stay far away from it. If you are in it, break the tie and run the opposite way fast!) 

I have had more than enough of my share (actually, too many to count!) of people who have tried to take advantage of or use me. I have also encountered many of my own story 1 experiences, being both the protagonist (I never claimed to be perfect!) and the recipient. It’s okay, though, because every last one of them male “friends” regret how they passed over this fine, thick, intelligent, ‘da-bomb,’ six-foot, loveable woman right here. (Don’t hate ‘cause I’m all that and a bag of chips!) And they’re going to keep regretting it because they can’t come back. And when I was the protagonist of story 1, I regretted it and really hurt at the thought of knowing that I hurt someone that I really loved.

But somehow, the heart break of a lovership, although it hurts, has never broken me like that of friendships gone wrong by betrayal, usually due to a deep-rooted jealousy or envy of which I was completely unaware. I had an experience with a “friend” like that and it almost catastrophically destroy my entire life.  

When I arrived to medical school in Cuba, I was so excited because I was going to have one of my really good friends, Mirtha, who I had known since fourth grade, in school with me. This friend had spent holidays with my family, hung out with me and my cousins for our girls’ night outs, stayed in my home when her mom kicked her out the house, slept in my bed and even wore my clothes.  (We were that close!) She was actually the one who called me and told me when the scholarship opened for my medical school, because she knew I wanted to study medicine, internationally, especially in a Spanish-speaking country.

 I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when Mirtha quickly and completely turned on me after arriving to Cuba.  She had a new set of friends, which under normal circumstances would be completely cool, but these new friends negatively influenced her behavior.  One of Mirtha’s new friends Sophia, (the ring leader), on her first encounter with me on my first day in Cuba called me a “b—-ch” for no reason. I had to excuse her and let her know that I didn’t tolerate anyone calling me outside of my name. When I asked Mirtha, “what’s the matter with her your friend?” She said, “oh, she’s like that.” I didn’t know what was wrong with Sophia but I knew that we needed to stay away from each other because there was something that was not right with her.  Mirtha and her new friends would provoke unnecessary tensions. They stole a young lady’s (Monique) pair of shoes when I was not in our dorm and told her that I took them. Although it made no possible sense for me to steal Monique’s shoes (the young lady’s shoes were a size 4 ½ children’s size and I wear a size 10 in woman’s shoes), they drilled in her mind that I took her shoes until it provoked a physical altercation between me and Monique and several of her friends who “thought” they were going to jump me. (Never let my niceness or education ever convince you that I can’t and won’t whip some a—to defend myself! Nobody is ever going to “jump” me without me putting up a good fight to defend myself! And they ALL learned that lesson that day!) All of a sudden, Monique’s shoes suddenly appeared when Monique and I were both in class and the other girls were not.

After the altercation, Mirtha and her friends stopped going to class and held our dorm hostage to psychological warfare for several months. They stopped going to class and would play hardcore violent gangsta rap all day and night until about 4 am in the morning, knowing that those of us who went to class had to get up at 5 am. Then, Mirtha and her friends would steal my clothes and either throw them out of the window or put them in a toilet that was filled with urine and feces. (yes, you read that right.) People would ask me what I had done to Mirtha because they said if they mentioned my name around her, she would go completely mad and lose it, screaming at the top of her lungs. She once told someone that I cut all her hair off because I was completely jealous of her. She fabricated stories, telling people all kinds of ludicrous and fictitious things I had “done” to her, which I never did.  As angry as I was, I felt sorry for Mirtha because it became evident that she had given up on herself and couldn’t hack medical school.  I became her “scape goat” because she needed an excuse and someone else to blame.

During that time, God told me to stay in intense prayer and fasting and showed me that Sophia and Mirtha were using Santeria to hex me. Every time they would try a new level of their activity and it did nothing to me, they would intensify it against me.  After their fourth or fifth attempt, I let them know that nothing they were doing would ever work because I was covered by the God I serve.  I also told them that they should be careful because I was praying that all of their activity would get sent right back from where it came.

Mirtha made a nasty remark and for the first time I saw her blood-shot eyes and it was pure hate looking back at me. She was intent on destroying me. Seeing the hate in her eyes shook me. I was so distraught.  I didn’t understand how someone who called herself my friend since the fourth grade and who broke bread with me on so many occasions could look at me with such hate in their eyes. I shared everything I had with her! She was a Judas—my Judas.  She really wanted me dead and had used all manner of Santeria trying to make it happen.  It broke my heart completely. In that moment, I knew what Jesus felt. I’m sure He felt the same way when He received that kiss. Complete brokenness and heartache. 

No matter how bad things got, my loyalty to Mirtha for all those years kicked in and I told myself that I would never touch her and walk away because “nah, love wouldn’t disrespect!” But my brokenness and heartache, at knowing she was trying to kill me, unleashed anger in my core that stayed bottled up for only a little while longer.  One day, I was in the bathroom washing my face when she walked into it. I didn’t have my glasses on so I couldn’t really see her. (I rock glasses not just for fashion but because I really can’t see! -4.50 in both eyes.) She starts screaming at the top of her lungs saying, “You f—ing b-tch! When you eat and sleep, you dream about my p-ssy! I made you! You’re going to be a doctor because of me, you stupid b—ch!” She went on like this for about five minutes and I stayed there continuing to wash my face as if nothing was happening. I found my glasses on the sink and put them on my face and started to stare at her.  She continued to repeat some of the phrases she previously said between her even more vulgar ones.  Really calmly I said, “you’re saying a lot but you’re not doing anything. I’m sure you wish I was thinking about you when I eat and dream but I don’t. I’m also sure you wish you did make me, but you didn’t. God and all the years of work I put in is why I’m going to be a doctor. I’m sure you would love to take the credit, but you had nothing to do with it. You should stop wanting to take credit for someone else’s work and do your own.”

What I said must have really struck a nerve because she started screaming her vulgarities and expletives even louder and was now blocking the doorway of the bathroom so that I couldn’t get out without touching or passing her.  We were surrounded by a crowd of people who were trying to get her to calm down.  She started moving closer and put her hands up, as if to point with her forefinger, at my face, as she was screaming. Her circus act stirred the rage in me to a level of uncontrollability; I had to literally pray in my mind, asking God to calm me down, because I was ready to unleash a wrath that neither of us would come back from. The whole year’s worth of anger and retaliation that I kept bottled inside started to erupt.  I remembered all of the accusations and lies she told on me, the stealing of Monique’s shoes which provoked the first fight, the many nights for months I lost sleep, my clothes being thrown in the toilet, and so many other things that I haven’t even mentioned and now I was standing there taking blow by blow of her verbal abuse.  I took my feet and I drew a line in front of me and I said in a really calm voice, warning her. “I’m done! I told myself that I wasn’t going to touch you because I’ve known you for so long. But, I’m done. If you come pass this line, you won’t be breathing another breath when I’m finished.”  (During that time, if you ever got me to a place where I was really angry but I manage to stay calm and talk in a calm voice, you were treading in dangerous territory and in serious trouble! Thank God for deliverance from rage!)  I knew that every word that I had spoken in that moment was true and that the minute I touched her, I wasn’t going to let her go until she was lifeless. I looked at the crowd of her so called friends and said, “if she’s really your friend, you should come get her now because I meant every word I said.” (I believe in warning people when they are in danger.) One of the young ladies in the crowd, Nadege, who later said that she saw the rage take over me and the look of violence in my eyes, started yelling at Mirtha and begging her not to move closer to me. Mirtha screamed expletives for another two minutes or so. I looked at Mirtha and said, “you plan on moving closer? because I’m ready for you!” In all her screaming, she stayed very still and never dared to move closer.  Nadege finally grabbed her and escorted her from the door of the bathroom to her room. (I can’t thank God enough for Nadege being there at that moment because she really saved me from myself and a lifetime in jail for murder. She really did. There was a moment where I only saw red and my body was intensely hot with rage and I was ready to commit murder.)

Mirtha finally left school or got kicked out. (I was never interested in learning about any of the details.) But, the affects of her betrayal were longer lasting. The anger and rage and hate that I felt in my heart towards her and Sophia (who was at that point dead) invaded my heart and spread like a wildfire until it was all consuming; it caused my heart to go completely numb, turn cold and change into a stone for an entire year. There was nothing and no one getting in and nothing was getting out. My ability to trust anyone else had completely diminished.  Since Judas infiltrated the ranks of friendship, I examined all my friendships to determine if the people were exactly who they said they were.  Since my core group of trustworthy friends was at home, I remained isolated in that state for almost a year.

I can’t even begin to describe how damaging the spirits of hate and anger were to me. Those spirits replayed the level of betrayal I had undergone to fuel their power and almost destroyed my heart’s capacity to do or feel anything. I couldn’t and didn’t want to read my Bible any more. I could barely pray. There was this strong dark cloud that hung over me and was little by little sucking all the life from me. I was so crushed by Mirtha’s betrayal and actually seeing the hate in her eyes toward me.  I still couldn’t understand how and why she could/would do that to me when I had been like family to her for all those years.  

I later found out that her mom had spent years comparing her to me and telling her that she should have been more like me. All those years there was a brew of jealousy, hatred, and anger due to rejection that had been stirring, which came to a head in medical school, because she had once again been forced to live out and up to my dream and not her own. I couldn’t believe that the jealousy and envy toward me for all those years provoked Mirtha to not only hate me but attempt inflicting dangerous harm upon me.

Although I put on a façade that everything was okay, on the inside I was damaged. A year later, my friend Jimmy said that he was praying for me and could sense that something was terribly wrong. He invited me to his church and after nagging me repeatedly I agreed to go with him. I felt the power and anointing of God so strongly in that church the minute I stepped into the door; that the dark cloud hanging over me broke. The pastor was ministering and it was like every word he said was piercing into my heart; I began to weep uncontrollably.  When the pastor prayed for me, he repeated the words of Ezekial 36:26 (I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you heart of flesh) and said “you have to forgive and release that hurt” so that your heart can be set free.  Since I could sense that God had already started doing the work of restoration on my heart (the moment I walked in that church door) and I was feeling freer than I had in that past year, I asked God to help me forgive Mirtha and Sophia. I had to ask for that help to forgive every day for years before ALL of the tiny pieces of my heart were fully restored.

I never allow or will allow that level of hate and rage to steal my heart again. I’ve learned to forgive, which does not mean that I forget or that I and my offender will go back to how things used to be between us. Forgiveness means that I release the offender from my judgment and vengeance and allow God to handle them.  Sometimes forgiveness is instantaneous. But, sometimes it’s progressive and a daily process with which I have to walk out and ask God to help me until I can fully release the offender and the situation.

Now my heart has the capacity to fully love and still love, even when people hurt me. (Forgiveness doesn’t take as long to do anymore! Even asking for forgiveness when I commit the offense doesn’t take as long to do because I want my heart to be free from all the excess junk.) My heart is malleable; it’s fleshy and because I cover it consistently under the care, leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit, it does a lot less of deceiving me and I can discern to do the right thing.

 I thank God for my heart and that he trusted me enough to give it back to me brand new. Now it’s open and ready to always give and receive love, the way it should be.

 Take some time to examine your heart. Is your heart a heart of flesh? Or has it become stone because of all the devastating blows of hurts, disappointments, and heartaches that have invaded it. Do you want it to be free? If so, then you know what you have to do. Forgive and release it. Go back to Day 19 of our journey of Thanks and complete the prayers of release.

Today, I also want to share with you a song that beyond blessed me. It’s called “Necessary.” I had no idea at the time why I had to live with the aftermath of that betrayal. It didn’t seem fair nor did it feel good going through any of that situation. Do I wish that I had never gone through it? Of course! But, would I know how to love as deep and how to open my heart the way I do, if I had not experienced how hate almost destroyed it? Would I know or understand the extent of God’s love and how He fought through the darkness to snatch my heart back?  Probably not. That situation made me run to the mercy seat of God and showed me just how much of a wretched person I was in need of a Savior, to save me from myself. (I was a murderer in my heart and mind and could have easily carried out the act, since “as a person thinks, so is he!”) The experience and the lessons were necessary! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3xXxXu1Kfc&index=26&list=RDT-SQFJX3Pk0

 Today, I am going to highlight the organization, Iraq Veterans Against the War, (http://www.ivaw.org/). We know that the people who pay the greatest price of war are the everyday people (civilians) of occupied nations.  Please donate to them for their great work and continue to protest U.S military intervention which often exacerbates and further militarizes conflict overseas.

 Love Ya,

 Have a Great Day of Thanks!