Wow, has it really been five (5) years since a small group of my friends and I gathered in my home to start this wonderful sisterhood, called “I Am My Sister’s Keeper? I am humbled and honored to mark this great turning point in our organization because as many of you know, iask was first formed in my heart, long before it was formed as an organization. The concept of "keeping your sister" is not a new one, but it wasn't until the early fall of 2003 that I really learned about sisterhood and what it means to have truly good women of faith, character and devotion surrounding you. I learned firsthand the value of having women in your life who are willing to walk through the fire with you, and be there without hesitation when called upon morning, noon or night.
It is here that the iask journey began.
My Testing Season
I once heard someone say, "God wants our mess, to become our message".
In July of 2003, my life was forever changed when I abruptly developed a chronic auto-immune illness that took some of the best doctors around more than 18 months to properly diagnose. At the time just before this happened my life was pretty good, (at least on the surface) I had a handsome, well educated, and successful African American boyfriend who I had been dating for 6 months, my small business was thriving, I was getting ready to build a new home, and I had extricated myself from a previous long-term relationship that was very unhealthy for me emotionally, physically and spiritually. Things were finally looking good with hopes of marriage and children on the horizon. All my hopes and dreams were finally within my grasp.
But God had another plan, or let's say He allowed another plan to unfold in my life. That fall, when things with my health had hit a crisis point, I confided in one of the sisters in my church about what was going with me. She called an emergency prayer meeting on my behalf and asked women to drive out to my home which is in rural Virginia on a Friday evening after work. Many of these ladies had small children and families of their own, they worked full-time, or were caretakers for elderly parents. The last thing they needed to do at the end of a hectic week was add an hour long drive (each way) to Virginia to try and be a support for me.
Yet, come they did.
And they came in large numbers. It still humbles me to this day. Some of the ladies were among my closest friends, but many I had only met in passing. We ate together, prayed together, sang songs, and read scripture together. The outpouring of love that I received at that time and each year ever since has been simply heart lifting and valuable beyond words. I could not have made it this far, without the love of my "sisters".
So you see iask was formed in my heart on that cool fall night in 2003 when the sisters came to take care of me and surround me with love. I had never experienced such love. I will remember that night forever.
When I was finally properly diagnosed in late 2004 with my medical condition, I had to come to terms with the fact that I would likely live with this condition for the rest of my life. That I would have to take medicine, and work on changing me in order to have a fighting chance. That was a hard pill to swallow for someone like me who is always bouncing around, laughing, throwing parties at my home, and doing 100 things all at once.
Yet God knew I was "hiding", I was "masking" as so many of us do and He had been firing warning shots at me since about 2000 when my health started to slowly decline. I kept ignoring the underlying root causes of my affliction: Stress, unresolved hurt, and anger. Let me be clear, damaged emotions, broken-heartedness, old hurts, un-forgiveness, fear, anger, and guilt will destroy you emotionally and physically. I may as well have ingested a bottle of poison because that is what not dealing with my hurts had done to my body. I was holding onto a lot of stuff that went back to my childhood and college years, and I just kept pushing it down as so many of us as “strong” black women are taught to do from the time we are little girls.
The problem is people only see what we allow them to see. People thought I had a great life. They thought I had it all together. After all, I had perfectly coifed hair, perfectly manicured hands, a great smile, nice clothes, nice car, nice house, attended church, taught Sunday school, and on and on.
We know how to hide don't we sisters?
But, let me tell you I had some "stuff" going on with me that was deep, dark, and lonely. I was embroiled in a mess that only God Himself could fix.
Long story short by the fall of 2004 all hell had broken loose in my personal life and I had finally watched the bottom drop out from underneath of me. I was truly heartbroken, crushed in spirit, and devastated. My dating relationship ended due in part to the strain from the health challenge and a long-term sister friendship I had for years ended very hurtfully.
People that I thought would always be there walked away, and it hurt a great deal. I felt truly lost for the first time in my entire life. I truly felt as if my life was over, but the truth is it was just beginning. God was weeding folks out that needed to be out of my life, and ironically, he was bringing folks back in who had been away for a season.
So be clear, I started iask from a place of need not of ingenuity. I know firsthand what it feels like to be chronically and physically ill for days, weeks, months and years at a time. To feel so depressed that you cannot get out of bed, but you have to because someone has to work and pay the bills. To feel so rejected, lost, hurt, alone, afraid, and weary that you fear there is no God. I know what it is like to cry out audibly and ask "Why me Lord"? No words can describe for you the emotional and physical hell I have endured these past years. Yet, it is in my brokenness that I learned to serve others. It is in my brokenness that this organization came to be what it is today.
My Growth Season
A dear friend who is on our men's advisory board gave me a sermon once titled, The Order of Breaking Bread. In the sermon the Pastor made the point that when Christ broke bread at the last supper; He did so in a distinct order. He took the bread, He blessed it, He broke it, and then He used it for the nourishment of their bodies.
Similarly, Jesus does that with us as His followers in order to exemplify His life changing power in our lives. Christ takes us from our fallen life of sin, He blesses us once we confess Him as Lord and are Baptized into his death, burial & resurrection (Romans 6:1-4), He then breaks us by allowing trials, adversity and hardship that we all must endure in the flesh, and finally He uses us for His good purpose, so that we will comfort others, and bring a testimony of hope to those who are likewise enduring suffering, hurts and trials.
Friends let's be honest: It is so easy to praise God and love Him when all is well. But the test for the person of faith is will you praise Him when you are broken. I can honestly say that the past 5 years of my life have been the most challenging, difficult, faith stretching, faith testing, faith building, heart wrenching, and yet, emotionally liberating years of my life. What a paradox.
I recently heard two great sermons on the life of Abraham and Sarah and their faith walk with God. We all know the story. We all know what the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 4 and Hebrews 11 about Abraham's faith, and how he trusted in God for the promise of an heir despite being 100 and Sarah being 90. Yet, I would commend to you Genesis chapters 15-18, emphasis on chapter 17:15-22 and again in chapter 18:9-16. You see, Abraham was a man of great faith, but friends his faith was "imperfect" faith just like ours. What do I mean you ask? I mean Abraham and Sarah did not wait on God, they intervened, they used human reasoning, they decided God needed some help getting them a son. So, they got Hagar to be Abraham's wife and she begot Ishmael and the rest as we all know 4000 years later is history.
When we are focused on our desires it is hard to see God in the midst.
But notice in the story of Abraham that despite his imperfect faith, God was still perfect. God still delivered what He promised. God was still able to bring about Isaac and ultimately Christ through his lineage. God can do the same for us even when we get off track. I am definitely living plan B of my life. I messed up plan A sometime ago and I can see it now so clearly. But, if I had not gotten off track so badly I would not be the woman I am today. And there would not be a wonderful organization such as iask, Inc. which has helped hundreds of women and men across the nation.
Bottom line: I am a better woman all the way around. There is purpose in the pain. God is our vindicator and He deals with those who have hurt and wronged us. We need to trust Him and let go. So, I made a bargain with God. If He would help me to not just survive my situation, but learn to thrive in it. I have dedicated the rest of my life; to helping other similarly situated women avoid my mistakes and avert a sudden crisis of health such as what happened to me six years ago now.
My Life Today
I have carried for years in my wallet, a quotation that reads:
"Sooner or later, you start taking yourself seriously. You know when you need a break. You know when you need a rest. You know what to get worked up about, and what to get rid of. And you know when it’s time to take care of yourself, for yourself. To do something that makes you stronger, faster, more complete. Because you know it's never too late to have a life. And never too late to change one."
Fast forward to the year 2009, I still live with a rare condition that affects less than 3% of adults in the U.S., but I am on the road to much better health, and if God sees fit to bless me even at this late stage of my life, I still hope for children however they may come.
Ironically, I am in many ways better than I have ever been. I don't work crazy hours anymore. I get paid money to do what I love as a Freelance journalist for many media outlets and publications. I sold my first book to Hay House (Smiley imprint) late last year and it will be in print in the summer of 2010. As I write this right now, I am literally sitting off the coast of Charleston, S.C. at a fabulous resort working on my book. What a God I serve!
My life now, is my life. I have come through the storms better, faster, stronger. I play my guitar I ride my bike, I eat better, I rest better, I laugh harder and louder, I spend quality time with family and friends, and I like to be barefoot as much as possible. I am slowly becoming someone more like me. Most importantly, I pray every day and study God’s word not as the religious, legalistic stuck in the mud Christian I once was, but as a faithful, seeking, open human being.
I have my top 10 “bucket list" posted by my bed. I have already checked off at least three things on my list. I am presently learning to play Spanish/classical guitar which is something I have always wanted to do. Sometimes before bed at night I sit out on my deck with a glass of red wine and just play my song.
Most of all though, I am blessed with great women (including my mom) who are helping me to build this organization which has helped scores of women & men who are in need of prayer, friendship, financial support, counseling, mentoring, and healing. 1 Corinthians chapter 1 verses 3-7 has become my life mantra: “We are to comfort those in trouble as we ourselves have been comforted by God in our trouble".
When I let go, God took control.
Finally, I am blessed because I am alive. I am blessed with wonderful, deep, meaningful friendships that have stood the test of time, a great family, two beautiful nieces who I adore and who adore me. And best of all my heart is truly open now and that means the possibilities for my life are endless. Love is the most healing balm of all. Love covers all and it changes things. Once you grasp that truth, everything else in your life begins to fall in line.
Bottom line: I "asked" God for help and He has answered. The best is truly yet to come for me, because I know God loves me and I can trust Him.
Amazing Grace how sweet the sound. . . that saved a wretch like me.
Be blessed and thank you for stopping by our new website. I hope you will consider joining the sisterhood that is iask!