Sometimes I Wanta HOLLER!
By Rae Lewis-Thornton
November 18, 2011
This piece originally appeared in Rae's blog, Diva Living With AIDS.
Everyone has a purpose this I know to be true. I laid it out in Monday's Reflection. But Sometimes I just wanta HOLLER!! I wanta Holler at the world, Don't You SEE what I SEE? The goodness in my work and purpose? Then I wanta HOLLER at myself, Black Woman have you lost your freaking mind getting yourself out here on limb and now you have to man up or sit the hell down. And then yes I even wanta HOLLER at the Lord; Why is this shit so hard? And don't act like you all prim and proper. Sometimes the Lord drives you just as crazy as that man you once thought you loved.
Like For Real! Why does everything seem to be hard? I mean EVERYTHING! God told Jeremiah, that He had planned Jeremiah's life while he was still in his mother's womb. That's some heavy shit. For Real! Yeah I said it! Heavy to think that God has planned your life while yet in your mother's womb. But sometimes you want to ask, "Did you plan the hard stuff too?" Think about it, just about everybody in the Bible that God Planned, also had a rough time getting there.
So one of my readers asked in the comment section on Monday, "How do you keep going when the present doesn't." It's a hard, but yet simple answer, you just do. Now I know some of you are saying she's on some bull, look at her fame and look at mine. "Just do," Is easy for her to say. But honestly, I'm being for real. Last night I sat at my counter and cried; And had a why me party. WHY DOES EVERYTHING HAVE TO BE HARD?
But looking back, it was HARD from the very beginning. Let me back track from Monday's Blog, I quit that well paying job and at first things were great! I was all smiling; Look at God blessing me out of my obedience. That's what I said. I became one of the hottest speakers on AIDS in Chicago high schools. Other activists would come up to me and ask, "How did you get them to let you speak, I've been trying to get in that school for the last 3 years?"
I was on fire! I could see God moving! Yes, I could! Then within 6 months I met Susan Taylor, the editor and chief of Essence Magazine and she asked me to be on the cover. Magazine preparation is months ahead of time, so I took the photo shoot in June for the December issue. That summer, I spent resting up for what I thought would be my fall speaking season, but September came and no one called. NO ONE called.
That fall my ex-husband lost his job and money was tight. December came and I hadn't had a speaking engagement since last May before the summer school break. Essence hit the news stands and I became the most talked about Black Woman in my community.
And that December, I couldn't afford to pay my rent. Yep, I was being talked about nation wide. Essence sold so many magazines that December, it became one of their highest December sellers and I could NOT pay my rent! The housing assistant program for people with AIDS paid our rent and I got a thank you letter from Essence with a picture in a frame.
Press is FREE. Every magazine article, newspaper article and every TV interview is FREE. You do them so that the issue can get more visibility. So for me, paid gigs seem to come in cycles that I've never quite understood. And that's how it is and has been for me since the very beginning. I think it has something to do with you, God, and the world all as actors in your life.
God has a plan, but so does man and sometimes we get in God's way and He has to take a longer route to get us to that destination. And then sometimes, man jumps all in God's business and then God must first undo the mess or reroute you in order to get you back on track. Free will is deep. And While God Plans, so does man and they sometimes collide. Of course God is the best planer, but man makes things messy. The economy for example, has affected me these days. And of course the fact that AIDS is no longer a sexy topic. I could go on with different examples, I hope you get the point.
But then God never said it would be easy. This name it and claim Prosperity in Christianity is theologically unsound and flawed. Everyone in the Bible from Genesis to Jesus had it hard. And God had expectations of everyone from Abraham to Paul. The Prayer of Jabez is often quoted as a guide for prosperity (1Chron 4:9) But we fail to see that the overall importance of this Biblical text is to show the lineage of Judah and God as an actor in this lineage.
Secondly, there are no easy rides, even Jabez was born in sorrow and pain. Lastly, the prayer is more about being in relationship with God, than remembering and reciting a prayer. God wants you to pray your prayer. But they have set us up to believe, if we pray Jabez's prayer that God will bless us just like Jabez, when in fact God's blessing for Jabez was his, as is yours, is for you. The territory that God blessed Jabez with wasn't just about land, but about his lineage.
Ok, what am I saying, don't get it twisted. Life is hard and even carrying out God's purpose for your life will have challenges. When I worked for Rev. Jesse Jackson's presidential campaigns, reporters would ask him, "Do you think a Black Man Can Win?" Rev. Jackson's answer was simple. "If I don't run I'm guaranteed to lose. POW!! You have to step out there on faith and do the work. Sitting at home debating to do it, will get you nothing.
The bottom line, life requires of us to do something. Nothing is free, nothing. And God's call on your life is just that. God does not say, if you do my will you will get a certain reward. That's your shit. God calls you to do the work. Paul did it, as a man depending on others for his livelihood, with a physical illness that debilitated him at times.
Paul never stopped, not even in prison. His most profound and important theological writings were in prison. Martin Luther King, Jr., most prolific writing, Letter From A Birmingham Jail was while in prison. Jesus' most profound lessons were while on the cross dying. His last words have been the most preached of all He did or said.
I hope this helps. God knows, it's helped me today. I'm crying as I come to a close. I've struggle so much financially these last 4 years. The last 3 have been the worst. But even though speaking engagements dried up, I continued to do the work. Through Social Media I have touched thousands. The e-mails, the tweets and facebook messages I get tell me so.
I didn't stop doing the work because people stopped inviting me to speak, I just found a new way to do it. It has not paid me one dime, but I continue to plug away. I know bloggers who have advertisers on their blog and the content is like Huh?
But I can't get stuck hating their blessing, I just gotta keep doing the work; Blessing people through my blog because it's another way that God allows me to minister. And honestly is free, the only thing it costs me is time. I got that right?
But sometimes, my spirit takes a hit. As my fall speaking season closes I have taken a hard hit. I had the possibility of five speaking engagements for World AIDS Day week and only one came through. All looked great and in the end, something fell through on their end with funding. So yesterday when the University of Alabama cancelled just two weeks away, I thought I was going to lose it. I needed it to get out of this hole, shoot I really needed all five to get out of this hole. I've invested EVERY extra dime I had in my new bracelet collection. The trunk show was great, I mean I was able to prove to myself, if no one else, that I'm capable of producing a full line of bracelets. But it rained at the same time, so while friends came to support me, I was short on sales.
I keep asking will it ever get easy? I work 10-12 hours a day, just about every day of the week. For Real! Tweeting, writing my blogs, which takes time, making bracelets, taking pictures of the bracelets and then putting them on the website. I mean I'm the poster child for one-woman show over achiever.
I work so freaking hard, but it seems like I can't get out of this hole I'm in financially. In these last 3 years I've sold over half of my clothes, hand bags, shoes, jewelry. I downsized my life, For Real!
I've thought of every idea that I can to make my brand the best. And I think I've done a great job, so why won't people invest in my brand?
Lord, I say what more does a sista have to do? I mean Magic is a millionaire already and pharmaceutical companies continue to give him contracts. Great for him, but I think I have the same value. I know my bracelets are fab, but what will it take to become a success.
But in the end, every wonderful e-mail I get that says I've touched them, that I've prepared them in some way for something, is worth the hard work.
When someone tweets me a picture of them wearing one of my bracelets at that moment, I'm grateful for the people who do, rather than focus on the people who don't wear them. Thank you!!
When one of my Followers on Twitter makes their profile picture of me and them, I'm so honored that they are saying in a very public way, my work matters. And with these things in mind. I just do! I keep doing the work.
So to my wonderful Andrea who asked, How Do You Keep Going When the Present Doesn't, I say, you Just Do. That is all God asks of us. Moses walked in circles for 40 years, but it all had a purpose. I cannot promise that you will become a millionaire. I don't know why some do and some don't. But I can say that if you just continue to do, lives will be touched. And in the end, your reward she be in knowing that you helped somebody; That you were a drum major for life.
So my prayer today is that God will help me and you to get to that place of contentment like the Apostle Paul, He says, "I've learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want, I can do all things through Him who gives me strength." (Phil 4:12-13. And with that Strength, Paul continued to do the work. Just Do!
Rae Lewis-Thornton Speaks
Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist who rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with AIDS in a cover story for Essence Magazine. She has lived with HIV for 27 years and AIDS for 19. Rae travels the country speaking and challenging stereotypes and myths about HIV/AIDS. She has a Master of Divinity degree and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Church History. Rae has been featured on Nightline, Dateline NBC, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as in countless magazines and newspapers, including Emerge, Glamour, O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Jet, Ebony, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. She earned the coveted Emmy Award for a first-person series on living With AIDS for Chicago's CBS News.
Rae is an active user of social media -- read "Long-Term HIV Survivor Discovers the Power of Twitter," an article on TheBody.com about Rae's social media activities.
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