Strictly for the Ladies #10: Word is Bond

Here we go again ladies. You've met this man, he's growing on you, you like him, and you think you may even be falling in love.  He's proven himself in so many ways. He's the one. By now, you've pretty much decided whether or not you're going to allow him to stick around. But, hold on, wait. There's more. "What else is there to look for?" you ask. He manages his money, he's respectful, and ambitious. He treats you well, wants to have a family, and even believes in monogamy.  All of that may be wonderful, but let me ask you something, "Does he keep his word?"

Ok, now that you've picked your lip up off the floor, let me explain what I mean by that.  When he tells you he's going to do something, does he do it? When he makes plans, does he keep them or does he cancel for one reason or another?  Can you trust and believe that everything he's told you so far is true or have there been signs that he's lied to your about small things here or there? I don't know about you, but the natural observer in me pays close attention to not only a person's actions, but the words that are coming out of their mouth.  I hate being lied to or patronized.  Like, it causes this demon to rise up and want to hit you with a powerful punch like Mike Tyson.  Yeah, liars make me angry, but subtle liars are even worse.  To me, if you'll tell me a lie about something small, I most definitely can't trust what you have to say about something important.  In general conversation, play close attention to things that change or explanations that don't seem to add up.  Trust your gut. If something seems like it's not quite right, it probably isn't.

Why is it important that your man keep his word?  Why does it matter if he has to cancel plans?  I'll tell you.  Each time a man tells you that he's going to do something and he doesn't follow through is a let down.  What's so bad about that? Things happen...shouldn't I be more understanding?  Yes and no. There is a difference between being understanding, and being naive.  Sometimes as women, we feel like we don't want to pressure a man or make him feel like we are being demanding.  I can tell you that this approach will lead you to heartache quicker than holding him accountable ever will.  Holding a man accountable for what he tells you and what comes out of his mouth, shows him that you aren't just some quick and easy fix, that he can tell any lie to and you will believe it.  Calling him out when he misspeaks or asking for details on something that doesn't sound quite right is your duty as a woman. Especially if you have children.  Think about it, do you want to devote your heart to someone who will disappoint you and your children.  Do they deserve that? Nine times out of ten, they have probably been disappointed enough...and so have you. In closing, I judge a person by their ability to keep their word.  If you are flaky, always have excuses, and you never follow through on anything that you proclaim from your mouth, then you can expect that eventually, you will become a non-factor in my life.  I have no time for liars. Also, as a parent, I never promise my children anything unless I follow through with it. Even something as small as a trip to the Dollar Store is an important enough event for me to make sure that I take them when I say I am.  There is enough disappointment in life to not have to deal with it constantly from someone you are in a relationship with. I'm not saying that things don't happen, or that issues don't arise in laugh that may cause you to have to change plans, but if it is a consistent part of a person's character, it has no place in my life.  Be careful ladies, and always trust your gut.

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Strictly for the Ladies #9: Money Management

So I'm back from vacation and ready to keep these lessons coming. We have discussed many things so far and we left on evaluating a man's 5-year plan. Now, you need to see how this man manages his finances.  Talk is cheap so, if he isn't living the words he is speaking, you need to raise a white flag and take a pause for the cause. No matter what anyone tells you, yes a woman can have her own but, a man's finances are important.  Why? This man will eventually be the head of your household and making decisions about your overall finances as a family unit.  You say, I can teach him how to manage money or I can be the money manager.  This is also true but, if you are on two different pages when it comes to finances, you won't manage these finances without a struggle.  No matter what anyone says, you both have to be on the same page.  Although you can identify who is the "spender" and who is the "saver", if he is the saver and he isn't willing to change his habits or compromise, then your relationship will not last.  Finances is the #2 reason why people get divorced. Don't believe me? Research it for yourself. 

You must also think in the back of your mind if you really want to struggle or if you want to live a reasonably comfortable life.  How can you fully turn over your financial state to a man if he would rather make frivolous purchases like sneakers and rims before the bills in your household are taken care of?  A man who would rather look the part than play the actual role is not even worth wasting your time on.  I would rather have a man who doesn't wear the latest fashions or drive the latest car but has stacks upon stacks in the bank than be with someone who stands in line for the newest Jordan's then can't help me with his share of the mortgage.  I can be broke and struggling by myself.  Now, I am not saying that you  aren't supposed to date a man if he doesn't make tons of money or has a blue-collar job.  You can both make the effort to elevate your current situation and, if you have been following my previous posts, you know that a man with ambition, drive and a plan will not remain at his present life station for too long.  In the words of my husband, 'It's not what you make, it's what you save' and, if a man doesn't handle his priorities first; saving, paying bills, and taking care of the people in his home, then he is most certainly not worth the time or energy.  My husband always says that you can work at McDonald's and save money as long as you are living well below your means and not trying to keep up with the Joneses.  Stay in your lane. Live your life within your tax bracket and always strive to better your situation.  As always, watch for actions, never words. Love and be loved.

Strictly for the Ladies #8: 5 Year Plan

So far, we've talked about examining ourselves, believing actions instead of words, and truly figuring out if we are thebest person for the man in our lives.  Now, it's time to talk about dreams.  We all have them, even billionaires.  The urge to be better, to be greater, to realize our goals, to aspire to accomplish all the things we thought about doing when we were a child.  Having vision is an important part of making ones dreams come true. Helen Keller once said that, 'The only thing worse than being blind is having sight with no vision.' What does this have to do with finding a mate?  I will get to the point. 

A man doesn't have to love you to share his dreams with you.  If he's passionate enough, he will tell them to almost anyone who will listen.  He will talk about them constantly; like a teenage boy talks about his first car.  He may want to be an athlete, a lawyer, a banker, a designer, or even a rapper.  Whatever it is, he will light up at just the thought of doing the thing he loves and, when he is expressing his love for that dream, he will have a glow like Bruce Leroy on The Last Dragon.  When a man reveals to you his dreams, what you must pay close attention to is does he have a plan that will cause his dream to come to fruition.  As the quote states above, a goal without a plan is just a dream therefore, you must ask (and yes, I am telling you to be nosy) what steps has he taken to make this dream become a reality.  Ask him where does he see himself in five years but, most importantly, what has he done or what is he doing at the moment (RIGHT NOW) to get there.  If his answer is nothing, (***clears throat***) turn and walk away ever so slowly.  Any person who has dreams and goals will have a plan, will have already started enacting steps within that plan, and will have set a deadline for themselves when each step should be accomplished.  Otherwise, you're just a dreamer with a head full of dreams.  Sleep walking.

The next thing you need to do is make sure that his goals and dreams are realistic.  If he tells you he wants to be a professional athlete but has never played a sport or doesn't currently workout nor practice (***clear throat***) he needs a reality check because that is a dream that will never become reality.  If he tells you he wants to be a doctor but is afraid of blood, doesn't take interest in any medical journals or even associate with medical people, he's just selling you  dream.  If he mentions that he wants to start a business and be his own boss but he doesn't know how to manage his money and has even borrowed money from you, his chances of being successful in business without some serious education, training, and a business plan are slim to none.  Let's remember ladies, real men are men of action.  If they have a dream,  no matter how far-fetched, they will be taking steps to make that dream a reality.As I have stated before, his actions will always speak louder than his words. 

Lastly, you need to evaluate if the dreams he has and the plans he has include you.  Ok, take a deep breath. I know I just knocked the wind out of you.  Yes, you need to know if, when he finally makes it and achieves his goal, will you be the person he sees sharing in that success with him.  You can invest years of your time and all of your money in this man's goals and dreams but, if he doesn't see himself sharing in his success with you, you have wasted your precious resources because he will leave you and have the good life with someone else.  How can you tell? Are you his partner? Are you the person or one of the main people he consults when making decisions about the next step on his journey? Does he see you as an integral part of his success?  Does he make it clear the that his triumphs are yours as well? Does he allow you to see him in action when he is pursuing his dream and does he invite you to become educated about his dreams and know just as much as he does?  Answer these questions and there you will find the answer.  I'll give you an example, my husband can sell cars like nobody's business.  He would take me with him to see cars and negotiate the price.  He has taught me what to look for to know if a car is worth buying or not.  He consults me before he makes any purchases. I know more about cars then most men and all because the businessman that I married loves me enough to share in his dreams.  Understand?

Before I close, I also want you ladies to keep in mind that, you should have dreams and goals of your own.  You should have your own five-year plan to better yourself, your life, and your situation whether you are with this person or not.  You should be actively pursuing your own goals, not waiting around for your man to realize success.  If you do, you will find yourself harboring resentment because now, your man is a success and you haven't done anything with your own life.  Plus, successful men love successful women whose drive, hustle, and ambition compliments their own.  Not saying you have to be Miss I Don't Need A Man but, you should be Miss I Can Bring Something to This Relationship. Keep your eyes open ladies.  Continue to seek God for the answers you needs and remember, pay attention.  Strive to reach your goals and leave a legacy.  Until next time, be blessed. 

Strictly for the Ladies #7: Jail

Now, don’t take this the wrong way.  I know that brothers are often victims of the judicial system and can get caught up in situations that are beyond their control but, let’s just be honest, a criminal record can affect your life in various ways and, before you say that in the black community it is hard to find a man who has not been to jail, I say, I beg to differ.  Life is about choices and responsibility and, if one of the consequences of that choice involved the man you’re dating spending more than a few nights locked up, then you have to decide whether you want to spend the rest of your life living with the consequence of that choice.  We all are aware that a criminal record can have many negative effects on your life; the inability to vote, having to declare yourself a convicted felon on job applications and risk not getting hired, and the ever-present risk of one bad choice or mishap sending you back to jail. I am in no way saying that a person cannot turn their lives around, quite the contrary. What I am saying is that, even though a person has changed and turned their life around and no longer chooses to do illegal things, society doesn’t necessarily forgive them nor wipe their slate clean and, when thinking on the type of life that you would like to have, you have to decide if you are willing to go through the hardships with this person because of their criminal record and, if the life that you want aligns with the things that they are able to provide for you. Let’s be honest with ourselves, a criminal record limits education opportunities and career choices to say the least. Overcoming the foe of a criminal record takes determination and sinew therefore, you must decide if you are willing to wade through the storm or be the main breadwinner even.

My purpose here is to give you a hard dose of reality.  I am not a brother basher.  I love them, for I am a mother of sons and the only girl child of three.  I have a passion for black men and I want to see them succeed.  Now, when dating, I evaluated the type of life I wanted to have and the type of future that I wanted for myself and my children and, being that I saw my life as limitless with endless possibilities and, having had some experience with a street dude and the type of life dealing with one of them can bring, I chose to focus on dating a working man who had a career and a record free from the blemishes of the law.  I couldn’t see myself explaining to my coworkers and colleagues how this New York Times best-selling author and college professor hooked up with a drug dealer who goes in and out of jail and decided to “make” a family.  What type of role model could I be if the principles that I taught on a daily basis were not the same ones I lived by? How could a man who is not pursuing his dreams, furthering his education, or bettering himself have anything in common with me once I have progressed to a certain level?  I can tell you, he will not.  As you grow, change, and progress, your vision of the world around you changes as well and, if your love if the one you love is not progressing and elevating with you, you will soon grow to see him as a burden rather than an asset.  This is not just a statement, but fact. Furthermore, I didn’t want to run the risk of the changes I make in life causing him to be resentful of my success.  2 Corinthians 6:14 warns us against such when it talks about being equally yoked.  This doesn’t just apply to religion but to every aspect of life.  I can tell you first hand that, one of the main reasons I have made it this far is because my partner in life, my husband, has always been behind me, pushing me forward, making me strive for more, and not allowing me to settle for the mediocre.  His encouragement has produced a blog and  two books so, how could I be upset.

Ladies, the purpose of this entry is to make you think about the consequences of your choices.  Envision the life you want and then decide if the person you are falling for and the life they have lived fits into your perfect Picasso.  Why? The past always comes back to haunt you and, if you are not willing to help this person, deal with the consequences of their past choices, or face any present issues, then you need to tell your flesh and heart to have several seats while your mind takes over and makes the decision.  I am not saying that a relationship with someone who has a criminal record could never work; many brothers I know have changed their life for the better and are successful entrepreneurs or have a career after fighting long and hard to overcome the stigma that having issues with the law may bring.  What I am saying is, if you think that you can be the one to help him on his mission to change to make them fit into your vision of a perfect life but you are faint of heart and not willing to go through the struggle, then do yourself and that man a favor and bow out gracefully.  As I have said in previous posts, look deep, ask questions, and evaluate the person you are with.  Don’t let those muscles, tats, and that sexy smile cloud you vision and cause you to make a decision for you and your family that you will regret. As always, continue to pray and ask the Lord to guide you towards the person that He has for you and to prepare your heart and mind to accept His answer.  See you next week sisters.  Be blessed.

Strictly for the Ladies #6: Vision of Family

Pay close attention to what I am about to say. A man can have nice shoes, a job, his own place, an awesome relationship with his mother and is an excellent example of what a man should be.  What else is there? I'll tell you. What is his vision of family?  When he envisions a picture of his family hanging over the mantle place, what does he see?  Are you in that picture with him?  Are your children?  These are questions that one must answer before fully accepting that a man is for you.  I shouldn't have to reiterate my feelings and beliefs on the male and his role in the home.  If you follow me, then you already know.  The man is the leader, the head, the captain of the ship, and the driver of the bus.  He is a person of vision, the one that your entire household should follow.  It is his God-given role and, if he does not have the vision of family that matches yours, you are not going to be compatible, no matter how much you try.  Before entering into a serious relationship with someone, you must ask some hard questions; how many children does he want? What roles should there be within the family unit and who should fulfill them? How are children viewed? What discipline methods does he believe in? Most importantly, what is his definition of family?  If he defines family as just the two of you and you have children, then you have a problem.  If he says that you must incorporate his mother, father and siblings and allow them unfiltered time and space in your lives and you don't agree with that, then you have a problem.  If he feels that, because he has four kids by four different women, and that you and all his babymamas are required to get along or hang out at family events but you hate their guts, you have a problem.  If he doesn't feel like your children's father should have a place in their life once he is there and you disagree, then you have a problem.  Get the picture.  People often say that family is not defined by blood but what you perceive it to be and, although I agree, I also feel that wasting your time with someone who has a completely different idea of what family is or should be is definitely not worth it.  How can you find out his vision of family? Ask.  As I stated previously, ask him to picture his family portrait hanging on the mantle and to tell you who is in it. Don't just listen though, watch his actions as well. If he tells you that he sees you and your children in the picture but doesn't actually show you that is how he feels, you need to reevaluate whether or not you believe what he is telling you.  Discernment is not just a gift, use it as such.  If there are red flags appearing and flying overhead, please make sure you pay attention. This message is short and to the point. There is nothing else that needs to be said.

Until next time. 

Strictly for the Ladies #5: Job & Drive

You’ve done your soul-searching, prayed, and gotten yourself together.  So far, the man who you are with has done a fairly good job of keeping you interested and occupied.  You may have gone on several dates or maybe just talked on the phone but you think you are ready to give him more of your time.  You ask me, T, what’s next? What should I be looking for? The next most important thing you should look for in a man relates to job and drive.

Why must he have a job? How easily we forget.  You are a single mother (or single woman with no kids), you have children, you have responsibilities, and most importantly, you have a job therefore, your man must have a job as well.  Now, the job that he has may not necessarily be the job that he plans to do for the rest of his life but he is gainfully employed and that is a start.  I have always said that, McDonald’s or Wal-Mart  (It’s not what you make, it’s what you save) may not pay him a salary to allow you to live in the lap of luxury but, it is a job nevertheless and, it says plain and simply in 2 Thessalonians 3:10For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.’ With that being said, it has been established since the beginning of time that, if a man desires to eat and be fed, he must be able to provide.  Now, when it comes to working, sometimes, we as women put too much emphasis on the type of job that a man does and we make outrageous requirements of men when we haven’t fulfilled those same requirements ourselves.  You want him to have a certain degree, have a certain type of career, drive a certain type of car, and make a certain amount of money while we ourselves are still in school, working a regular everyday job, and trying to better ourselves but have not gotten to the point in life where we want to be.  I have always said, any job is better than no job, and no matter what anybody tells you, the working man will always beat out the street hustler in the long run because he doesn’t have to worry about being a burden on someone or starting over when (not if) he gets locked up. As I have stated in previous posts, any man you allow into your life will serve as an example for your sons and, do you want that example showing them how to be a criminal, run from the police, and poison people’s lives with drugs or, do you want them to learn that hard work pays off and that working a job and taking care of your family is the right way to do things.  Remember, every decision you make should not be for the satisfaction of your own flesh, but a business decision that is best for everyone in your family. Mainly your children. The working man is the true neighborhood hero. Always remember that.

Now, drive is something different.  Street people may call it hustle but I purposely avoid that term because it has a bad connotation.  Drive is driven by your why; why you do what you do; why do you get up everyday; the reason why do you go out and get money will always take precedence over any issues that may come your way.  Especially when working on someone’s job. Drive is your man’s inner yearning to go out and make things happen for his family and is defined by Webster as an innate, biologically determined urge to attain a goal or satisfy a need.   His willingness to work tirelessly to pursue his dreams, make power moves and business decisions that will be beneficial to the ones he loves. Whether it is starting a non-profit that mentors other young men, spitting rhymes in the studio, or working on the weekends selling barbecue out of your front yard, his passion for providing takes over and supersedes all else.  His why and his drive is what encourages him to not give up.  If you and your children are not that why, he is not the one for you.  If his why is material possessions, putting on for the streets or drugs, then he is definitely not worth wasting your time with, no matter how many promises he makes you.  If his goal is to go places beyond where he is now, make sure that he wants to take you and your children with him.  If he’s driving alone, have him drop you off at the corner because, that’s a ride that will surely lead to heartache.

Until next time ladies.  Be ever vigilant and make good choices.

Strictly for the Ladies #4: Mama

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Just to recap, we’ve covered evaluating yourself, praying, and making sure that a man matches up to the things he proclaims to be.  The next topic in finding your ideal mate is, examining his relationship with his mother.  Just as fathers are an important part of shaping a person, mothers often have even more of an impact.  In this day and age, many of our men are lacking in the area of manhood and knowing how to treat a woman. Why? Because they were reared in an environment lacking of male influence.

A man’s relationship, thoughts towards, and feelings for his mother are a key ingredient in your relationship.  Does he adore her? Does he despise her? Has he never met her? Does he still consult her when making major decisions in his life? Does he seek her approval in everything that he does?  Addressing each of these separately, will allow you to understand my thinking and reasoning behind this.

Does he adore her? A man who holds his mother in high regard, has lots of respect for her, and has had the privilege of being raised in a home where he saw his father treat his mother like a queen should know how to treat you.  He will have a better understanding of his role and position as a man and act accordingly. If he and his mother have a great relationship and he’s had an example of what a successful marriage should be, he will do his best to have that same relationship with you.  Children mimic what they see.

Does he despise her?  If a man has issue with his mother.  If he doesn’t like her and has some resentment towards her for things like keeping him away from his father or any other number of ills then, when you get into a relationship and something goes wrong, all of those feelings he has for his mother will be projected onto you.  Why? Because the first woman that he established a relationship with and, since his relationship with her wasn’t the best, he will unconsciously see you in the same light.  He will compare you to her often but, especially when times are hard or things are not going well between the two of you.  If you choose to stay with him, you will forever have to make him believe that you’re different than his mother.

Or, he could be the quintessential mama’s boy.  He consults her for everything, seeks your approval, and keeps her deep in your business. When dealing with a mama’s boy, you will continuously be compared to her and everything from your cooking to the way you fold your sheets will scrutinized.  You will have to deal with her opinion, her knowing your business and, him often accepting what she says over what you want.

I’m not mother bashing him but, what I am saying is, you have to pay attention to the relationship that a man has with his mother because it will surely make a difference in your life.  Just as a girl’s view of her father manifests in her relationships with men, so does a boys relationship with his mother.  So, once again, make sure you have conversations about the important things, learn about his family and his view of relationships before you get too deep.  It could make all the difference in your relationship.

Strictly for the Ladies #3: Shoes

So, you’ve done your homework; you addressed your issues, you’ve self-evaluated and you’ve prayed and been specific. Now, you’re ready for a little action.  Not a day goes by that you aren’t approached by a man and you are so tempted to give in and hand out your number but, you want to stick to your guns and not rush into things too fast and this being single and working on yourself things is getting a bit old.  You feel like you’re ready to entertain some company and you feel like you’re ready to put yourself to the test and see if you can really hold on to the standards that you have set for yourself.  You go about your usual schedule; working, school (maybe), picking up your kids, activities, dinner, church, grocery store and all the usual places and finally, you see a fine man who catches your eye.  You smile, he smiles back and, from your spot behind a cart in the vegetable section of the grocery store, you pretend to be intrigued by the lushness of collard greens as you see him approach from the corner of your eye.  What do you do? How can you tell if this person is someone you want to give the time of day to? I have one word for you, shoes.

On twitter, there was a retweet about the Capricorn horoscope. No, I am not one to follow astrology but this post hit home so hard that I had to favorite it. It stated that, ‘if you are the type to wear old, beat up sneakers, forget about dating a Capricorn.’  The funny thing is, that is one of the first major details about a man that I notice (after giving him the full once over, of course).  I analyze his shoes.  How clean are they? Are they run down or run over? Are they the color that they are supposed to be or are they dirty? Does it look like these are the only pair of shoes that he has? Do they complement what he has on? I know, I know, shoes may seem like a superficial thing to judge a person by but, they can instantly give you a lot of insight into a man’s character. Keep reading and hear me out.

Here’s an example:  I am at the mall and a guy comes up to me and tries to spit his game.  Not only does he give me a corny line and the True Religion jeans and t-shirt that he has on are following the latest fashion trend while the white Nike Air Force Ones he has on are damn near grey, his big toe is pushing the size limits, and they look like they have had better days.  We have a short exchange and he finds the need to tell me that he owns his own business.  I listen to his lies while thinking to myself, ‘Yeah right. What business owner wears a new outfit and busted shoes? What kind of business do you run and where is it cause I sure as hell won’t shop there? If you own one, it must not be doing well because you can’t even buy some decent shoes. Any businessman knows that when you are out and about, you are selling your business as well as yourself and presentation is everything.’  The point I’m getting at is, the shoes he is wearing have not only let you know that this man is perpetrating but, that he is a liar as well.  What should you do? WALK AWAY!  Why even try to get to know him when, from your initial meeting, he has already proven himself to be untrustworthy? The new outfit with dirty shoes just cancels out the façade you are trying to portray.  Also, any man, and I do mean ANY MAN that remotely cares about his appearance would take the time to clean his shoes, especially if they are the only ones he has.  If he can’t take care of a pair of shoes, how can he possibly take care of you, or your kids?  Let that sink in for a moment.

Now, I have much respect for my working brothers, who may have to stop by the store on their way home from work still wearing their construction Tims covered in dust. There is no way that their shoes are going to be clean and, the plus to this is, at least you know he has a job.

Now, let’s be clear, I’m not telling you that shoes should be the ultimate judgment of whether or not you should deal with a man but, they are a great place to start.  The lesson here is learning to pay attention and scrutinize.  Never take someone for their word, their actions and lifestyle must match up to the things that are coming out of their mouth and, if they don’t, then you need to be able to see that and act accordingly. As women, we can’t allow ourselves to be so ready to be with someone that we forget to listen to our gut and address the obvious.  Shoes can tell you many things about a person; whether they care about their appearance, if they take care of their things, their financial status, and what they value.  Shoes aren’t everything but it is where I start.  Yes, you could get someone who spends money on their shoes and the rest of their life is messed up so, next week’s installment will be a continuation of what to if you feel like the shoes match the man.  

Strictly for the Ladies#1: Self-Evaluation

Finding your mate starts with self. You have to truly and critically look in the mirror and examine the heart and soul of the person staring back at you. What types of men have you chosen in the past? What mistakes did you make with them? What happened in your past relationships, whether it be with a parent, sibling, or a person of the opposite sex, to damage your current psyche?  What baggage do you carry from childhood into your adult life that is preventing you from having successful relationships with those of the opposite sex? For me, it was the fact that I felt abandoned by my father as a girl. I spent a lot of my teenage and young adult years trying to replace the love I felt I was missing from my dad, with the lustful infatuation and lies of boys and men that meant me no good. Once I decided to no longer allow the fact that my father was not a good parent to me affect my self-worth, my ability to love myself, and my ability to love and trust men, my life dramatically changed.  Ladies (and gents if you're reading) we all have something in our lives that has damaged us in a detrimental way and we carry that damage and project it into our current relationships, many times unknowingly.  Once you self evaluate and really dig down deep to get to the source of some of your issues, your next job is to address the source head on.  Address the person or persons that hurt you, then forgive them, not for their sake but for yours, so that you can move forward with your life and not carry around the damaging filth that has so far invaded your life. I called my dad, told him how his many lies hurt and damaged me and how my bad choices in men stemmed from the many lies that he told me, the times he made me wait for him and he never showed, and the fact that I never truly felt loved by him. A father should be a girls first love and her example of what a man should be.  He totally missed the mark.  Most importantly, I expressed to him that his abandonment made me feel unworthy of a man's love and lastly, I forgave him because he was a drug addict and I could in no way continue to hold a grudge against a person who is clearly damaged and needs help himself.  I didn't talk to him for another three years after that. If you can't address the person personally, then write them a letter (even if you never mail it) or record what you want to say in your cell phone and play it for them, so that you can rid yourself of the pain and hurt they have caused you. Once you have examined yourself, commit to making a change and refuse to even entertain a man's company until you've fully dealt with your own issues. Value yourself and love yourself first before you even attempt to try to love someone else.

Strictly for the Ladies #2: Above All Else, Pray

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So, you’ve got yourself together.  You’ve prayed over your issues and you confronted the pain that you carry inside.  You have decided to not make the same mistakes that you have in the past and you've made a conscious decision to take your time and wait for the right person to come along.  Your pain may not have fully subsided but, you can feel your heart starting to heal. What’s the next step? What should you do to further prepare yourself for the love that is meant for you?  The answer is simple.  Pray.

Many of you already have a prayer life. You seek God for every decision and aren’t afraid to go to Him when you are in need or to intercede on behalf of someone else. In a previous blog post, I’ve addressed the fact that, as women, we need to pray and seek God before entering into a relationship with a man.  It is the only way that we will know if this is the person He has chosen, or the person that we are choosing for ourselves.  Often times, we chose someone; love them, marry them and have children from them and, it doesn’t work out. Know why, because that person was not our God-given person, it was the person that we chose for ourselves.  When He gives you the one who should hold your heart, loving them will be easy.  It will be like taking a breath; effortless, natural and pain-free.  Love shouldn’t hurt or cause you continuous distress, especially if you are aligned with the word of God and keeping his commands (ex. Being faithful, committed, and loving your spouse as the Bible tells you too in Ephesians).  Until you get there, and until this person comes into your life, you should fervently pray for God to not only allow the person that was meant for you to come into your life but, ask Him to open your eyes, your mind, and your heart to receive that person, no matter what package they may come in.

Sometimes, the man of your dreams won’t come in a neat little package.  He may not look the way that you expect and, that is why, you must seek guidance from the Most High in order to make sure that you do not miss your blessing.  As people, we can be very judgmental and closed-minded.  For example, when I met my husband, I absolutely was not looking for anyone.  I was in a funk and still trying to heal from the pain of a previous relationship.  I didn’t even want a man to look at me.  I wasn’t bitter but, I certainly didn’t want anything serious and, I was taking the time to heal myself before being with anyone else.  I would see him when I worked my second job; sitting by himself, reading the Bible to the inmates in the lock-down unit or standing with me as I passed out medications.  I didn’t make small talk or even address him with more than a ‘how are you’ but, what I did do is be the person I am and treated every inmate with respect regardless of the fact that they were incarcerated.  To me, they were still people and deserved respect.  Then one day, there he was, inside the medical unit playing cards with a female deputy (who had a crush on him so big it covered half of the Western hemisphere) and he was losing badly.  Sarcastically I said, you need help, and proceeded to tell him which cards to play in order to win.  After his victory, he smile up at me and said, ‘Would you like to go to breakfast with me sometime?’ Now, remember I said sometimes the person you want doesn’t come in the package you want. Well, I looked him over; he was cute but very skinny, and further more, he looked to be all of 18 and he wasn’t the animated type I have always been drawn too.  He was a little too quiet.  My head was telling me, ‘Hell no, you just got rid of one whack job, do you really want to open yourself up to this? Look at him, he’s 12. He’s too young to deal with a woman with a child and responsibilities.’  My heart was saying, ‘Oh no, not again. I haven’t healed yet and here she is trying to cause me more pain.’ Then, my spirit said, ‘Take it slow. This may turn out better than you think.’  My mouth asked, “Are you asking me out?”  “Yeah, I am,” he said with confidence.  That Monday, we went out to breakfast but, not before I texted his picture, license plate number and a full disclosure of his name and where he worked to three of my family members. (Hey, people are crazy. I wasn’t taking any chances). The rest, is history.  He courted me like a man should; meeting me at the hospital just to talk to me on my breaks before he went to work, took me to dinners, movies, and once he finally met my son, he embraced him as well.  He never once pressured me or rushed.  We were friends before ever becoming lovers. I continued to have my doubts but, he never once let me down and eleven years later, here we are.

Before meeting Gary, I prayed for discernment.  True discernment that would allow me to know and listen to the voice of God when I heard it.  I no longer wanted to make the choice for myself.  I understood that I needed God to show me the way because the decisions that I have made regarding love in the past ended in utter disaster and caused wrecked my heart and my life.  So ladies, your homework for this week is to pray.  Pray, pray again and then pray some more and continue live your life on the right path.  Don’t allow loneliness to possess you and cause you to make a rushed decision that you will regret later.  Consult God first and, if you are struggling, ask Him to help you.  Be patient. The person that is meant for you may not come over night.  It may take time, even longer than you may want, but continue to work on your issues and better yourself so when the person that God has designed for you comes along, you will be ready.  Ask God to prepare your heart to receive true love and to not allow old issues like jealousy, mistrust, infidelity, and sometimes the expectation of mistreatment to cause you to drive that person away (that’s an entirely different post for another day), and to prevent your children from being hurt and seeing you hurt again.  Continue working on yourself, and I will continue to pray for you as you continue to pray that God gives me the wisdom I desire and the message to bring you each week.  Do your homework and pray without ceasing.