Do you understand this difference?

Prepare yourself for the tests. Learn the lesson, preferably on the first attempt, because who really likes taking tests over and over again? Get out of your head and get out of your way. There’s so much to see, do, experience, feel and explore in this vast world; we’re wasting time and precious moments re-taking tests!

~Natasha L. Foreman
P.S. Thank you Arleen for sharing this image with me this morning. As you can see, I’m paying it forward!

I love this quote from Hannah Whitall Smith. It is featured in the book, 100 Days of Grace for Women [published by Freeman-Smith].

I keep reading these words and visualizing my circumstances from the outside looking in.

Try doing this.

How many times did your mind wander from your visualization? Did you lose focus?

It requires the ability to be both patient and present, to tune out the clutter that normally distracts us, and tune in to what’s before us and in us.

In every spiritual text that we read we’re taught to be patient and to be present. We ignorantly avoid both instructions. They require stillness to not wander, faith to believe in better, strength to persevere, and courage to embrace the unknowns and face the fears that surface.

Yes, it’s difficult during trials and tribulations to stand in the presence of now, look around and see and feel the hurt and anguish that our present provides. But there’s no escaping it. All of the options of escape are not healthy and don’t allow us to live fully in our current bodies. We can attempt to run and hide, barely existing in a constant state of depression, a dark cloud surrounding us; we can try to escape through alcohol, drugs, and sex—all have temporary highs and long-lasting lows. The attempt of escape is wasted energy; it is futile; it is pure insanity. We will always be returned to our present, to the now, and faced with the reality of what is and isn’t. When we measure the pain of the trials and tribulations in comparison to the self-inflicted pain we bring upon ourselves through the constant acts of escapism, the wise can see that the latter is far more painful than the former—and oddly enough, the route of escapism takes much longer than had we just been patient in the present state of tribulation and waited for the gateway to be revealed to us so that we could walk from here to there without chaos. Our depression is caused by chaos from our past that was never resolved and healed. We’ve brought our past into our present, and if we don’t resolve it now we are destined to drag this bag of crap into our future—never escaping it, never being free, just allowing ourselves to be drained by it day after day until we take our last breath. Misery exemplified.

Spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle teaches that our past is only a series of moments that were at that time the “now”. They are no longer. We mentally and emotionally dial in and access those records to connect with what used to be. An occasional reference point is fine, especially if we learned lessons from that time. An attempt to dwell in that space means that we are no longer present in the now, our backs are turned and our focus is on what was and most likely will never be again, which is a waste of energy—-and steps closer to our spiritual and physical death.

You probably just gasped when you read those last words, but let’s consider something. What happens to all batteries that are drained of energy? They die.

If they aren’t rechargeable batteries, we discard them. That’s most of our batteries. Used up and tossed out. A great number of our batteries die from our improper use; we leave them engaged inside objects that we rarely use and those objects simply drain the batteries day after day, sometimes even forcing the battery to leak acid (creating a mess for us to clean up).

We leave batteries in flashlights, toys, kitchen gadgets, and the like. We don’t think to remove the batteries after we use the item and before we put it back in a drawer, closet, or container. We know that the battery will die at some point, but we still waste its life, unnecessarily, by leaving the batteries inside and walking away. We move forward to leave those batteries behind us, in our past, as we now focus on our new present. But that doesn’t stop the batteries from using energy, even at a reduced rate. They are still connected to a source that is slowly draining the batteries of energy.

We are like those batteries. Energy continues to be drained from us when we’re still connected to things from our past. Those sources still engage us and day by day we lose more and more energy. Because of improper use we drain too soon and just like those batteries, we’re removed—no recharging, just removed and not reused in the future; unless you believe

in reincarnation, but even then, you aren’t coming back in the same body picking up where you left off with friends, family, work projects, and goals. That life is the past.

We choose which sources we want to engage with. We can also choose to disconnect and go elsewhere. We can learn how to properly use and recharge our batteries.

Tolle also teaches that trying to keep our heads in the future for too long, (usually because we’re dreading our present and hopeful that the future has all that we don’t have in the now) is also harmful, because the future is not possible (it will not one day become our ‘now’ if we aren’t dialed into and focused on the current now.

We can cast a dream of a better tomorrow, but don’t get consumed by and lost in the dream. Smile upon it for small moments and then return to your present experience.

Be present.

Be in the “now” as Tolle teaches.

Looking at what is taking place right now, at this very moment, and not fixated on the past—and how we got to the present—or obsessed with a future that we hope is better than our present; but instead, just taking in our present and seeing it for what it is—an IS—and navigating through this present state as an observant and alert captain; not over-processing what is seen, heard, or felt; not trying to rush the moments to get to the next days; just being in the here and now, and at some point realizing that this inconvenience, this trial, this discomfort may just be a necessity so that your learned lesson may open a doorway or window to something else—possibly better, more comfortable, less trying.

Maybe.

But it’s not about looking for the doorway or window. It’s about being present, observant, emotionally in tuned, mentally decluttered, and not distracted. It’s about finding, realizing, and knowing who you are as a spiritual being. It’s about knowing that you are the “I Am” and that your ability to see and embrace the blessings in your present moment, to be grateful for even the smallest things, means that you are (or almost) prepared for what lies beyond the gateway, the door, the window. Then they will not only appear but you will see them, you will know what to do and when to do it, and then you will do it. There won’t be doubt. And even if fear rises up to resist, you will walk through the opening anyway, because you are ready—and you know it. But it’s not possible if you have one foot in the past, one in the present, and trying to dangle your arm into the future. That’s like trying to be in three rooms at the same time. You’re going absolutely nowhere and accomplishing absolutely nothing, while learning, at most, that you’re good at being stuck.

Our feet must be planted and sturdy in the now, in today, in this very moment—controlling our minds, not being controlled by them, connecting to and channeling the positive energy that flows around and through us, and letting go of the excess that would prevent us from one day before forward effortlessly.

Take care of today, today, or tomorrow you will be struggling with juggling the now and the past, while desperate for the future. What an insane merry-go-round that we choose to ride. Get off of the ride. Choose internal peace. Choose joy. Choose health and healing. Choose to be present.

You never know what gateways, doors, and windows may open for you.

~Natasha

Thanks to my sis-in-love Arleen for sending this to me yesterday. Please take a moment to pause, read, reflect, and fully ingest this message:

Source: Unknown

This is a call to action.

Get up, get out, live fully and intentionally, do something positively different, heartfelt, encouraging and inspiring. What are you waiting for? Bye!

~Natasha

Copyright 2018. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

There’s a quote by an anonymous author that perfectly describes the relationship between fear and faith. It reads:

Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. No one was there“.

When we walk by faith, fear has no place near us let alone in us.

It’s like the deadbeat loser who rings your doorbell and sees through the window Mr./Ms. Awesome walking towards the door to answer. Deadbeat loser isn’t going to wait and be confronted by awesomeness. Deadbeat loser doesn’t want to be further embarrassed by the lack he/she possesses, so they quickly run away from the front door and they dive into the nearby bushes to avoid detection. The deadbeat loser is no match for Mr./Ms. Awesome.

Since I was a small child I’ve been reciting the famous quote, “fear is false evidence appearing real” and in many instances I’m able to face my fears and walk through a situation. There are some instances that involve creepy crawly bugs where I haven’t yet walked with faith to stare down those fears. But I’m getting there [*smile*].

There are times in my professional world as well as in my personal life where I’ve allowed fear to conquer and enslave me. I’ve been running from some major fears for the past few years and now they have grown so large, and I’ve been running for so long, that I’m tired of running. I wasn’t made to be a punk. I wasn’t raised to be a punk. So why am I acting and living like one? Fear is a punk yet I’m allowing it to have dominion over me, how idiotic is that?

Yesterday, I finally made the decision to stop running and to instead turn around and walk towards my fears. I’ve decided to face each and every one of these fears that have been chasing me.

What’s the worst possible outcome of my challenge? I know for a fact that none of my fear bullies come with a death penalty, so maybe I get a few bumps and bruises, or I fall down and get injured—all that I need to do is get back up, brush myself off, and keep on swinging (translation: “fighting”). I have enough faith to believe that I can at least do that. I’m not sure if I will be victorious but I’m willing to fight anyway. “…Faith of a mustard seed…” isn’t that the minimum of what Jesus said we need?

Fear is like kryptonite, it’s present and part of the environment that we occupy but if not managed and properly handled, it can destroy you.

When we walk with faith in our heart and mind we have a reinforced armor of hope, courage, and confidence. Fear can’t handle faith. Fear can’t penetrate that armor. The only way that fear can conquer us is if we take off the armor or never wear it.

So rather than continuing to run from our fears, why don’t we put on our armor and walk towards our fears! That my friends, was a statement not a question. Consider taking at least one step today and see if you can get a reaction from the deadbeat loser who’s standing at your door.

Have a super awesome day!

~Natasha

Copyright 2018. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

Audio Message

What I’ve shared below can also be heard through this audio message. Click play and enjoy.

I’m sitting here at my desk reflecting.

My reflection is focused upon my life, specifically my love life.

I’m a romantic. I’ve always been. I don’t need the big and grandiose. I love the simple things in life and love. Oftentimes it’s the smallest of gestures that have the biggest impacts, the smallest packages can contain the best of gifts—and that, for me, brings me the greatest joy. A handbag has a price tag and can be damaged, lost, stolen, sold, or given away; sitting by my bedside holding my hand, rubbing my head, kissing me and telling me that all will be well, while I’m in the hospital fighting fear and whatever else—that’s priceless and can never be damaged, lost, stolen, sold, or given away. That time, attention and affection is for me and only me. That is precious and everlasting in my heart and mind.

(more…)

Today I shared a message on my Breaking Bread With Natasha blog. I had brought back to life a message that I had written on April 17, 2013. Today I added more content, more ‘meat and potatoes’ to the table. I then recorded an audio message to accompany the written one. It’s easier to ‘take it all in’ if you listen to me speak rather than read the lengthy post. Unless of course you love to read.

As I sit back and reflect on a large bulk of the message, I can’t help but to think that the things that I called on people to question, analyze, critique, and ‘check’ about ourselves and others—are the same things that have turned people away from organized religion.

The hypocrisy, lies, negativity, and toxic situations and environments that have been created by so-called religious people, are the ingredients that have grown putrid in the minds and hearts of people who see the hypocrisy, lies, negativity, and toxicity and they say, “how is that a loving religion?” and “how could God allow these people to use his name and abuse his word this way?

I can see why people slowly but surely throw their hands up and choose to not invest time and energy in a religious institution; why they have no desire to spend time in any house of faith—except for the few moments in life when called on to attend a wedding or funeral. I can see why people balk at those who proudly walk around with a religious label or title—-yet they don’t walk the walk of their God, their Messiah, their Creator.

So many of us would say that those who reject the church are blind. But I would say that with all of the darkness found in many houses of faith, those who walk away and choose to have an independent relationship with their Creator, those individuals are actually the ones who can see clearly the difference between dark and light, good and evil, lies and truth. They understand that they do not need man to have a relationship with God. They understand that they do not need man to communicate or translate to and from God on their behalf. They understand that they can ‘tithe’ through giving to charity, nonprofits, or directly to a person or family in their community.

When we put more trust, faith, honor, love, value, and respect in man than God, in the creation instead of the Creator—then we create these toxic environments, these pimping pulpit purveyors, and deceptive practices that stand opposite of the very principles, precepts, and commandments of the religion that was formed and of the God that reigns over all.

We must question, challenge, ‘check’, and call to action those individuals who claim to have been called to lead us, those who have a sworn allegiance to their Creator, and we must hold them accountable to leading through service—ensuring that they take care of first the least of those within their doors and the least of those outside of the doors where their house of faith is nestled—then they walk and lead the service of all others.

It can’t be poverty preaching that keeps us all destitute and rejecting of God’s blessings. That goes against the word as outlined in the Bible. It also can’t be prosperity preaching that tells people that everyone can be financially wealthy if they give more to the church and pray to God to take care of the rest. The Bible highlights that God expects people to work hard for what they want, and He will reward you according to your efforts. We have to plant the seeds, water and nurture them, take care of them, keep the weeds away, and then timely harvest them as we grow our crop. None of that is simple. The harvest is never an easy process. It doesn’t just happen.

There is no better way of knowing and seeing what God has for you, or is trying to share with you, than to stand still in your aloneness, to listen and be guided by what comes to you naturally. What works for one may not work for all, and we can never be sure what actually took place behind-the-scenes for the manifestation of the results that we see. I can have the same seeds as the farmer next door but for whatever reason I’m not producing a crop as big or as yummy as the farmers.

How you become wealthy may not be like anyone else. Maybe someone’s wealth came from having enough of the right relationships with people who opened doors of opportunity for them. While someone else picked the right stock or made the right investment. Maybe someone built a business or a product and later sold it. Maybe someone built their wealth from flipping houses. Each of these people take different routes, exert different levels of energy, and there is no one-size-fits-all. So it is wrong for a person, in the role of leader of a religious congregation, to sell a reality that they don’t even know to be true or right.

Maybe life is meant for some of us to live fully and richly but with less finances. Maybe excess is just that. What if many of us find greater contentment and peace in a home with two bedrooms rather than eight? If your life is full, rich and rewarding, are you not wealthy? Do you not then possess, exude, and live in abundance?

We have turned the pursuit of things as having greater importance than pursuing the immeasurable space of joy and peace. We’re constantly chasing rather than simply being. We have focused on being separate religions of separate denominations with so much division—even internally—rather than being religions of love and inclusivity. We tell people who can and can’t attend our house of faith, join our religion. What happened to welcoming everyone whose heart has been pulled to join?

We have placed greater value in the human leader than the One who created that leader. This idolatry and deification of humans in fancy robes, with special titles, with large buildings–who possess more wealth than most that follow and financially support them—is sinful and disgusting. There’s nothing wrong with becoming wealthy, being wealthy—but at the expense of your congregation, who is also not wealthy, is a sin.

When will we remove our blinders, take out the earplugs, unstrap the muzzles on our mouths—and finally see, hear, and speak the TRUTH so that we can be free, alive, and truly blessed in all ways?

Every day I strive to be a better person, servant of God, and Christian. Every day I pray to leave a positive impression on each person who meets me, reads my words, hears my voice, sees me briefly or for an extended period of time. I am flawed and I make it very clear, publicly and privately. I would rather someone embrace me because of the love and respect that I share than because of the Christian title that I attempt to carry and fall short of being each day.

Jesus taught love, acceptance, forgiveness, grace, humility, kindness, and inclusion. How many of us can say that we live our lives like this daily? How many of us can say that we attend a house of faith that lives and practices this daily? So then who do we think that we are to judge others when we can’t even measure up in our own daily walk? We must be mindful of the people that we follow. We must be mindful of the responsibility that we carry and assume when we make the decision to lead others.

I don’t know about you, but I want to enter four walls that are filled with people who preach, speak, think and practice love of all, not few—all, not some—ALL.

~Natasha

Yesterday was part one of this discussion. Hopefully not too many toes were stepped on. For those who felt offended or slighted in any way, look within to see why my observations bothered you so deeply.

Are they not accurate?

I would be interested in furthering our dialogue to examine any points that I made and why you disagree, in whole or in part. Feel free to post your comments below.

Today we begin with part two, which delves into the offspring and legacy of our male-female relationships. Today I will speak to and with the men. Ladies don’t get all high and mighty. Tomorrow, we will have a heart-to-heart.

To the men. To my brothers. I say…

black fathers matter

Stop Being Baby Daddies

Fellas, I understand that sometimes this is the title that you have been designated by a woman who is hurt and angry about something you did and did not do, and so now you’re just the “baby daddy” in her mind.

You can’t control her mind but you can control yours, and your words and actions, and how you interact with your child.

You have a choice to be a father or a baby daddy.

You make the choice to be involved in your child’s precious upbringing or to be a deadbeat.

Let’s “keep it real” Shall We?

You made the decision to have sex with this woman, understanding the potential consequences of your actions. She was good enough to risk conceiving a child with (and please don’t say you didn’t know the risks of having sex), so now you need to do whatever (positively, ethically, and legally) it takes to positively co-parent with her.

Don’t let her foolishness sidetrack and deter you. If you want to have a healthy relationship with your child then do your part to legally and ethically be there in every way possible for your child.

Don’t let her use sex to move the “pawn” (your child) on this “chess board” and don’t you do it either.

Don’t manipulate this relationship with money, through offering or withholding it.

What you do in these instances of using sex and money to see your child is create an environment where you both are participating in pimping and pandering.

It sounds sick doesn’t it? That’s because it is.

If after great effort a woman won’t let you see your child then take her to court and legally fight for your right. But whatever you do, don’t get ugly with her. Let the court see her trickery. When you lower yourself the eyes of the law grow to despise you. The law expects more from you because you are a man, so when you begin acting like a child, doing tit-for-tat with the mother of your child, the court punishes you. Why put yourself through that madness?

Get Your Money In Order For Your Child

If this has been an ongoing battle, make sure that you have already established an account with a bank or credit union where you have been saving money for your child. This money can be used to pay for their daily needs, future needs, or both. It also shows good faith to the judge that you can and are willing to financially provide for the wellbeing of your child and that you have funds designated especially for your child’s needs. It can also grow and expand to be an extracurricular or education fund for your child. It can be an emergency fund for them.

Whatever purpose it serves make sure it’s clearly defined. You’re not obligated to do it, but you should. Your child’s needs should be factored into your personal budget. No one needs to know how much you deposit in the account. A judge may inquire, but no one else needs to be privy. It’s your account for your child.

Create a Nurturing Environment For Your Child

You also need to show that you have a safe and healthy environment for your child to spend quality time with you. Where will your child be sleeping, playing, and learning at your home? Who else lives there? Who visits your home on a regular basis?

Don’t have your child around a bunch of people that don’t make up the village who are sworn to protect your child. So that includes the women you are casually dating, as well as any men you wouldn’t bring to your own mother’s or grandmother’s home. If you wouldn’t bring someone over to your mother’s or grandmother’s home then keep them away from your child. Why leave the wrong impressions on their minds?

It’s simple. Be the father and the man that you say that you are. I’m not saying that a judge will rule in your favor all or most of the time, or at any time—but it’s not about the judge. It’s about you and your child. It’s a pact that you formed the moment that you knew you were a dad, that even through the obstacles, you did what was necessary for your child.

That means child support shouldn’t be something that has to be dragged from your fingers.

No One Should Have to Force You to Be a Father and Provider

Before that even becomes a piece that your child’s mother moves on the chess board, you need to step up and already begin supplying diapers, formula, wipes and other supplies, clothing, furnishings, equipment, and other things that you know your child needs. If you have money for overpriced shoes, smart phones, tickets to your favorite event, to buy the newest video game, or whatever else tickles your fancy—then you have money to set aside to provide for your child. Provide as though the child lives under the same roof as you.

Don’t Punish Her

Don’t punish your child through its mother. Yes, that’s what you do when you withhold and ration money to the mother of your child. That’s what you do when you have women coming and going from your life like a parade, and each one has spent time leaving impressions on your child’s mind—and then you arrogantly throw your “conquests” in the face of your child’s mother.

Hurting her hurts your child. Don’t forget, your child was formed and nurtured inside of her for nine months (on average). They have a bond like nothing you can imagine.

So that also means, don’t try and be vindictive and sue for full custody of your child. Snatching your child away from their mother will have an impact that you never want to experience.

Hurting her hurts your child. Hurting them hurts you.

Control The Flow of Your Money in a Productive and Healthy Way

If you’re concerned with how she’s spending the money that you normally give her for diapers, clothes, etc. then invest the time and money in shopping online for everything your child needs, have it shipped to their home, and then any actual money that you provide to the mother will cover incidentals that you did not allocate for in your budget.

What do I mean by this?

That means if you spend $300 for incidentals online and have those items shipped to her and then you give her $200 in cash (with a signed receipt), is that still not $500 that you invested in your child’s wellbeing? You can even go so far as provide her with a gas card that has reloadable funds available, so she’s not spending money that can go towards rent and utilities on things like that.

Honestly, you should consider doing this even if you aren’t concerned with how she’s spending the money. You actually save her time trying to shop in-store or online with your child in-tow, who of course is constantly needing attention and care. By you shopping online you save both of you from a headache. Most online stores keep track of your previous orders so reordering is fairly easy; and some even have auto-ship options that allows you to schedule shipments to automatically be shipped at a specific period of time, and your card on file is charged once shipment is complete. This can be a great option, and it makes budgeting and bookkeeping easier because you have proof of where and how much money was spent, and on what items.

Why did I say to have it shipped rather than you delivering it personally?

It’s simple. It reduces possible conflict, especially if your relationship with mom is fueled by conflict rather than mutual respect. Additionally, shipping saves you time. You have a job and other responsibilities, it’s about time and money management—it’s about being efficient and effective.

The steps and ideas outlined above are some of the things you can do long before courts get involved. If you’re already financially, emotionally, and physically taking care of your child then any claims the mother has will carry less weight. But you can also implement these steps even after judicial intervention.

Your Primary Concern

What the judge and everyone else will see and know is that you are not a baby daddy, you are a father; you are not a deadbeat, you are a father. A father who is no longer in an intimate relationship with the mother, but is focused on doing his part to help raise a healthy well-rounded child.

Your primary concern and focus should be your child. To do so you must be respectful to the mother of your child, even if she’s being disrespectful to you. Don’t allow her foolishness to impact the relationship that you are trying to have with your child, your heir, the one who will carry on your legacy. Continue to do your job, keeping your word, making sure that you stay informed about your child’s health and wellness, and their education and social upbringing. At the same time, making sure that you respect the mother of your child and her home.

Yeah let’s talk about that real quick, shall we?

What Co-Parenting is. And What It is Not.

Fellas I need you. No. Correction. You need for you to stop thinking that you are still a couple and that you “run things” as it relates and pertains to this woman who is no longer your girlfriend or wife.

Just like she shouldn’t be dictating to you who you date or marry you shouldn’t try to dictate, control, and determine who she dates or marries. The two of you should respectfully discuss how starting and blending these relationships should take place, when your child should be introduced to a potential mate, and how their parents (you and her) will address concerns such as disciplining, caregiving (babysitting), emergency situations (where one or both parent is not available), and other things that you agree are of importance.

This is a conversation that needs to happen early and frequently throughout the growth stages of your child. Not once one of you becomes involved in a relationship. No. No. No. That’s when fireworks start flying everywhere and tempers flare. That’s when the hurt person hurts the other person, and your child is ultimately hurt.

Remember, the number one priority is the health and wellbeing of your child.

I Know She Can Be “Crazy”

Now I know about the belligerent, out-of-control “baby mama” who flaps her gums and bad mouths you as though you’re the seed of satan. I’ve seen them. I’ve heard them. She’s so mad at you for whatever you did to her, real or imagined, and now all she sees is red, and all she wants to do is hurt you in every possible way that she can. The fastest and deepest way to hurt you is through your child and the second way is through your wallet.

Now hopefully some of the suggestions that I mentioned above help to resolve the “through your wallet” dilemma that you hyperventilate over. As far as “through your child” goes—I know that pain. I’ve witnessed and consoled the father who painfully watches as the mother of his child works tirelessly to turn that child against him. It tears at your heart and soul, it bashes in your spirit and your hope.

I know that what I’m about to say you have probably already heard countless times, but I’m going to say it again because I’ve seen this play out full-circle numerous times. I’ve seen what happens when you trust in God, in the Universe to handle those things that you can’t. I’ve seen how by doing what is right as a man and father, by doing all that you can to provide for your child, that child eventually sees the truth and they ultimately cling to you.

Something Your Child Will Cherish Forever

Start writing your child letters now, make a copy of the letter (I would even make a copy of the stamped envelope), and mail the original to your child. I don’t care how old they are. Send those letters. Keep the copies in a folder, envelope, box or whatever. It doesn’t matter how long or how short the letters are. It doesn’t matter what you say in them. Speak to your child through a letter, as though you’re only apart because you’re away on an extended business trip. Tell them how much you love them. Tell them how proud you are. Tell them about how excited you were to see their achievements.

When they are older and you’re given the opportunity, hand them the letters. If their mother is a true mother (and hasn’t transformed to “Mamazilla”), then she shared these letters with your child. If not, you now have the time to share months and years of letters with your child.

Don’t scoff or roll your eyes when you read this. Nothing is more powerful than the expression of love.

It doesn’t matter what the mother says and does, your child will grow up to learn and know the truth and when that time comes your child will cherish everything that you did for them, and will learn from your actions on how to be the best parent they can be with the hand that is dealt to them.

You Are The Example. Set It.

Let them see from you what it means to be a man, father, dad, and parent.

No, you didn’t stay with their mom. You didn’t keep the three of you together as one family unit. But you did everything that you could to make sure that they had all that you could provide, with the resources that you had at your disposal.

Don’t listen to your “boys” and others who would convince you to lower yourself to baby daddy or deadbeat status. None of those people have a legacy to consider tied to that child you helped to conceive. Your child could grow up to be a successful entrepreneur, scientist, engineer, educator, author, chef, architect, designer, mogul, entertainer, athlete, or politician.

All of those people who tried to convince you to do the bare minimum or nothing at all for your child, will be the first lining up with their hands of expectation stretched outward—looking for the “hook up” from your now-successful child. But your child will look at them and look at you, and based on your role in their upbringing they will determine how best to treat you now that they have reached a level of success.

You determine the kind (and quality) of relationship that you will have with your child.

I love you my brothers.

~Natasha

Copyright 2018. Natasha Foreman Bryant/Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

March 20, 2018 would have been Brandon’s 36th birthday. I can never forget my friend’s birthday. My iPhone calendar reminds me one week before and also on the day of. Also, his birthday is the day before my paternal grandmother’s.

This week I’ve spent each day reflecting over my memories of Brandon Clarke, aka “B Clarke”.

I couldn’t yet formulate the words by Tuesday, his birthday, but today they have settled and come together.

I watched Brandon grow and evolve into a man, accepting the ups and downs of love and life.

He started out as being a “youngster” with a crush on me, as we worked together promoting and helping our friend Kristian run a club night (“Club Wet”) at Bar 330 in Brea, California. Brandon was one of the promoters, along with my friend and his best friend Brandon Shelby (in the picture above), and Kristian’s brother Anthony. I was in charge of the door, paying the DJs, and overseeing the promoters and their guest lists. I also helped to serve as a liaison so that club goers, the security, the venue owner, and our club promotions team were all satisfied. Once we reached our “cut off” time at the door I would divide the money, give Kristian the splits, and then come inside the club and party with everyone.

The night always ended with our crew reflecting over the success of that night and then leaving together. At least one of the guys would walk me to my car. Once I left I almost always stopped at Carl’s Jr to grab a famous star with cheese combo, and stuff my face in the parking lot. Brandon and the guys would drive by in their cars honking and waving at me and laughing at my weekly routine.

Brandon would try his best each week to convince me that I should be with a younger man (7 years my junior)—that man in his opinion would be him—but I would spend those moments redirecting him towards women his age. I would give him dating advice and show him how to make his Side Kick passcodes stronger. He was dating a girl that was obsessed with trying to break his code. Brandon would say to me “I bet you can’t figure out my code” and in less than a minute I would hand it back, code broken, and watch his gaping mouth hang in disbelief.

Side note: Fellas, your birthdate, child’s date of birth, year you pledged a fraternity, year you graduated from high school or college, and jersey numbers are easy code breakers….

Brandon evolved from “youngster with a crush” into a dear friend and younger brother, in a way. I’m sure the crush was still there, but the respect and friendship weighed heavier and had greater value. He did give me a side eye when years later I started dating a guy 7-years my junior.

Brandon’s cancer diagnosis hit him hard and nearly destroyed his hope and faith. It caused those of us close to him to surround him and lift him up in prayer, and to counter every argument or gripe he had with an affirmation that he was and always would be in God’s hands.

He had been playing basketball at LA Fitness and he kept feeling a pain in his knee. This pain got worse and wouldn’t go away, and initially doctors were clueless as to what was causing the pain. I remember when he told me about it and we were tossing around what could be causing it. He loved playing ball and the pain was keeping him off the court.

Eventually it became clear what was attacking Brandon.

Initially for him the news meant life was over, his dreams were shattered, and those of us without cancer (or never had it at a young age and overcame it) couldn’t relate to his fears, pain, frustration, and anger.

We don’t know what it’s like to face the news of potential death, especially at such a young age. Until we get news that we too would rather forget.

I remember vividly going to the hospital center and rubbing lotion on his legs and feet, and teasing him about his “crusty feet”. I would rub the temples of his head and tell him to just breathe. We would sit and watch television, talk for hours, crack jokes and “trash talk”, until it was time for me to go, or the nurses needed to do something for him, or he fell asleep.

I used to have a Blackberry back then but now I have an iPhone (I converted in or around 2011) and what is amazing is that my address book in my phone still has Brandon’s name but the picture isn’t of him, it’s the one I chose years ago of his puppy that he loved so very much. He took the picture as soon as he got the puppy and he texted it to me. That’s what I used to identify him in my phone book.

I wonder how many people remember Brandon’s dog. I always called him his “Taco Bell dog” and we would laugh.

Below is the actual picture Brandon sent me of his puppy “Kanye”. He used to say I would find a girlfriend for Kanye. Sadly, I never did.

Brandon and I shared some precious moments together as he fought his cancer. He wanted so much out of life. He was just getting started, only the young age of 23, and life was clobbering him.

Brandon wanted a child—a namesake—someone to leave behind a legacy that could be lifted and magnified—someone who would look like him, always remember him, and always cause the rest of us to smile and reflect on the great boy who grew into a great man—who touched so many hearts and lives.

I remember partying with Brandon after his first rounds of treatment were over. It was so awesome seeing him smiling, dancing and laughing. We celebrated his birthday. He and Brandon Shelby came out to celebrate with me for my 31st birthday.

He even came to my going-away-party, November 2007. I was leaving California and heading to Georgia. Brandon looked stronger and hopeful. It gave me an added boost of hope.

Even when I relocated, Brandon and I would talk by phone and chat through text, and at that time we all were deep into MySpace. Our friendship wouldn’t wane because of distance. Whenever I came home to California for a visit I always made sure to spend quality time with Brandon. Our last time together was amazing. He took me and my sister to one of his favorite restaurants for lunch on the Newport Beach-Laguna Beach border. He wanted to talk about everything but his nemesis, cancer. So we did just that.

Whenever I go home and spend time in Orange County I try to have a meal there and stare out at the ocean waves, just like Brandon and I did that day. My sister still fondly recalls that day. It was bright, sunny, and beautiful. It was a perfect day.

I don’t think I will ever forget the day Brandon contacted me.

The cancer was back with a vengeance, it had rapidly spread, and he didn’t see the possibility of bouncing back. Matter of fact the doctors prognosis was clear that he wouldn’t.

Brandon was dealing with that news.

I wasn’t.

The first diagnosis, Brandon only told a select few of us and we were sworn to secrecy. Now he was telling me awful news again but this time he had waited to tell me. He knew something wasn’t right the last time we had spoken and even when he took me to lunch in California. He didn’t want me to worry. He said “I didn’t want to be a burden“.

I was crushed.

For me, the people that I love are never a burden. Family or friend, when I give you my word I keep it and there’s never a burden when you’re doing something out of love.

I had relocated over 2,000 miles away to Atlanta, Georgia and that day I stood in the home of my childhood friend, Ericka Sampson Smith (as I watched my Godson Kegdrick) and I quietly cried as Brandon and I communicated for what would be the last days. Unlike in the past I couldn’t just hop in my car and come over.

Brandon was trying to hold on but he was also saying “see you later“. He didn’t want to leave without reaching out to his loved ones. Brandon was letting go and I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t there. I told him I would look for a flight for the next day or two to come see him. He told me I didn’t have to but soon said “okay“. He knew it didn’t make sense to argue with me.

But also Brandon knew and accepted something that I couldn’t.

He said he was tired. He said he was okay and content with his reality. He had made peace with God. Oh it crushed me to process those words. My heart was so heavy. I wanted to be by his side as I had been in the past. I knew his family was there and our friend Brandon Shelby was there, but I wanted to also be there. I was the friend that wasn’t there that day. I had promised him that I always would be. I felt I had let him down and no matter how much he tried to convince me that I hadn’t my heart so heavy that I was convinced that I had.

We said “I love you” and then hung up the phone, and I immediately scrambled to look online for flights. I couldn’t afford the tickets and I wouldn’t get paid for another two weeks. But I kept looking.

Then I got the call that I dreaded the most.

It was May 13, 2009.

The person on the other end this time was our friend Brandon Shelby. He was letting me know that his best friend Brandon Clarke had passed, had transitioned.

I just burst out in tears.

Days later would be the funeral and I had reached out to my uncle Ricky to use his credit card to buy my ticket. By the time I went to purchase my ticket the prices had increased significantly. I was so stressed out and so sad that I didn’t know what to do. I remember contacting Brandon Shelby and he comforted me and reassured me, and told me that I had not failed our friend Brandon, but that I had been a true friend—-the type of friend that I wanted to be for him—the type of friend that he needed me to be.

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about Brandon Clarke.

I see young men and I think about him. I hear someone’s laugh that sounds familiar and I can’t help but turn to look for him. I see a guy dressed as Brandon would and I smile. I sometimes have a student in one of my classes with the same first name and I tell them of my friend Brandon.

I know he’s smiling and pleased to see that his best friend Brandon Shelby got married and started a family, and has a blessed life. He would be pleased to see how I’ve handled the ups and downs of life, but remain hopeful for better and brighter. He would be pleased to see how his other close friends have gotten married, started families, grown in their careers, traveled and experienced many of the things they would daydream and talk about. He would be proud to see our growth and evolution.

I know he’s pleased. I know he’s proud. Because that’s Brandon.

As excited as he would be about his dreams and goals he would be excited about the dreams and goals his friends had. That was Brandon. That is Brandon.

So much life, light, courage, and love in and through one person. He left a beautiful imprint on my heart that I will always cherish.

I’ve learned and continue to learn from Brandon. I share his story with people who need added courage, who need motivation to fight, who need to know that they aren’t the only one to be blindsided by bad news—it’s what you do with that news that matters.

Brandon chose to live his life, spending time with loved ones, and sharing light with everyone who needed it. He chose to not waste precious moments with drama and drama-motivated people. He was intentional with the time he had left here.

It’s not how he planned his life but he made the most of it.

I’m grateful for my friend Brandon and our friendship. He went from being my “student” to unknowingly being my “teacher”.

I love you Brandon and I will never stop sharing your story, for what many would see as a shortened life you have left behind a strong legacy that those of us still here have a duty to ensure has a long and lasting reach. Continue resting in peace Brandon. I know you’re balling it up where you are!

~Natasha

Copyright 2018. Natasha Foreman Bryant/Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

Do you hear that? Listen closely.

That is the sound of a door to the past closing.

You have the options of locking it and storing the key or tossing it to never be reclaimed. You can also choose to keep it unlocked, knowing that every time that door to the past opens a flood of things you tried to leave behind come rolling out.

Now let’s be clear, this isn’t the door to fond and beautiful memories of your life and loved ones from years ago, no no no, this door represents the pain and shame, the let downs and setbacks, the hurt caused by others and even by you. This door represents the fear that kept you paralyzed from making forward progress; the doubt that told you that you weren’t good enough, smart enough, wealthy enough, attractive enough—that is what this door represents. It’s the past relationships, old lovers, friends turned foes. It’s everything that held you back and held you down. This door and what lies behind it represents everything that was keeping you from being the best you that you could and can be.

So the door is closed.

Did you hear the mechanism click into place as it found the groove of the threshold of the door jamb?

If not, check again.

Today you can close that door to your past then open the door to your future, and take a peek inside.

Breathe in the life, light, positivity, and possibilities.

Your present state is a hallway between two doors.

Do you begin your new chapter or do you keep torturing yourself to re-read old chapters over and over again? You can’t rewrite those old chapters. You can’t make them better. They are as they are.

Let me clarify something else that I know can be a sensitive spot for someone.

I’m not saying that your past is not a reference point for your present and continued healing.

It can be.

I’m not saying that it is not a reference point to guide and inspire others toward reconciliation and healing.

It can be.

I’m saying, don’t obsess over your past, don’t let your past blend with your present so that is becomes your present, and it slowly draws you farther away from that door to your future.

Your past can be so toxic that it can create a house of mirrors and doors that will keep you in a constant state of confusion and chaos, that you can’t find the right door to free yourself and get out.

The longer you spend dwelling on the past, focusing on the what-ifs, how-comes, and why-me’s, the more it drains the life out of you and the older you become; the longer you dwell behind that door the longer your journey to return to the present, and even longer journey to get to your future.

Yes, my friends we age rapidly when we are stuck in that past darkness, because there is no light and life to uplift us—we are stuck in a quicksand of misery and grief, and the longer that we stay there the more aged we become.

Have you ever seen someone who is or is around your age but they look 20-plus years older? We may silently make the comment “wow they’ve had a hard life!” and wouldn’t it be interesting to observe them to see how much time they spend in the past compared to the present? If I were a betting person I would say that most of their time is spent in the past, obsessed about what went wrong that could’ve gone right. Every woulda, coulda, shoulda has aged them by several years.

Our lack of faith keeps us from closing that door, locking it, breaking the key and tossing it. There is absolutely no reason to continue walking through that door except that you feel that you don’t deserve better than that pain and misery. You don’t believe that better is possible or that better is possible for you. Because if you truly believed in better (for you) and truly had faith that better is waiting for you through another door, you wouldn’t hesitate to look at your past, say goodbye, and walk boldly and confidently away.

I have big, bold dreams that God has placed in my heart and on my mind. I’m inspired and motivated by these dreams. I believe that they can come true. I have faith that as long as I stay in my lane and run my race, committed to doing my part, with my eyes focused straight ahead (and not behind me), that God will bless me with these things, people, and experiences.

I don’t know about you, but I know darn well that my past has no place in my present or my future. I know darn well that there is nothing that I can do to change my past for the better. I can learn from it and leverage that learning for better and greater. But hanging out behind that door would be the quick death of me, and my future is bright, long, and exciting.

My future is waiting for me and I know how it feels to be kept waiting. So I’m walking forward into my next chapter. I don’t need to open the door of my past to remember what’s behind it. My memory is sharp and when it fades, I have plenty of people around me who will be quick to remind me and turn me about-face.

Your future is waiting.

What choice will you make?

~Natasha

Copyright 2018. Natasha Foreman Bryant/Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

A few years ago I was cycling with a group of friends on the Silver Comet Trail in Georgia. Someone said to me that they admired that I wasn’t concerned with keeping up with the fastest, more experienced cyclists—that I always remained focused on riding at my pace. I told him, “I’m focused on me and my race. I run, in this case, ride, my race. I ‘stay in my lane’ so-to-speak. If I’m concerned with what other people are doing then I will lose focus on what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m not focused on who’s ahead, behind, or beside me—just me and my bike.”

I learned that lesson the hard way as a track and field sprinter. Every race that I focused on one or more other sprinters, I never finished the race as I desired. Either I got a slower time, had a bad hand-off in a relay, or came in a place other than first. When I focused on me and my personal race, my form was always strong and relaxed, my stride opened up, I felt good, and it showed. Even if I didn’t get the time or place that I desired, I knew that I ran a strong race. It’s about my self-improvement, my ability to challenge and push myself past my comfort zones, my ability to test my strength, power, and endurance. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to win every race that I ran, but as I matured I began to see that it wasn’t about the other sprinters—it was about and for ME!

That day on Silver Comet, I rode 15 miles faster than any of the more experienced cyclists expected me to do. I never cycled that far so I had no reference point. I told them that when they reached their resting points, not to wait for me to catch up, and if they reached the turnaround point and were passing me on the way back, then I would simply turn around and follow.

They thought I would slow down the rest of the group because I was new to cycling, and unlike the rest of them I didn’t have cycling shoes and clips. But what they didn’t know was that as I cycled my body felt like it did when I sprinted. Many of the same techniques and dynamics are at play, and the same muscles are utilized in the same way in both sports (it’s difficult to explain this concept at the moment, so just believe me when I say it’s true). They also didn’t know that these thunder thighs are powerful and strong, and that my core is stronger than even I know. That day, my pace was actually complementary to theirs, I was always only a few minutes behind them (so I always arrived at the rest stops moments after them) and their shock to see me rolling in strong put a smile on my face that remained all day.

The interesting thing is, all of them started cycling faster trying to keep me from catching up—because if the newbie could catch up then they were slower than they thought. Now they were riding my race. I was in their heads.

Imagine if I was obsessed with keeping up with them at their much faster pace. I would’ve ran out of energy; risked injury, falling, or both; and I wouldn’t have had a great day.

When we returned to our starting location the other cyclists were worn out. They were racing each other (the men mostly) and they all were racing me—whether they would ever admit it or not, you could tell by the looks in their eyes. If you have ever competed against someone, in anything, you know that look. I just smiled.

Being so obsessed with me even caused one couple to argue, which threw off their ride and messed up part of their day. When the group asked me my technique I simply said “I rode my race, at my pace and comfort level”.

After that day they looked forward to riding with me. Without trying, I pushed them, and with intention I focused on me and my ride—each time getting better and stronger.

This is my mindset and focus in all things. When I lift weights, drive race cars on a track, go cycling, or set my course on a path to achieve a career or life goal, I never do well if I’m focused on other people.

I am my biggest competition.

I am my biggest obstacle.

I am the one who either gives my all and leaves everything on that track, or the one who half-steps and gives the bare minimum. My race. Not theirs.

This translates into and transfers over to my personal and professional life.

Sure I can say aloud or think to myself about where I could or should be in my career, but what purpose does it serve? That only depresses me. For a long time. Which is counterproductive.

Looking at friends and associates who have soared to great heights in their career should serve as encouragement and inspiration—highlighting their testimony, and that we all have the ability to rise above and over life’s obstacles. It however should never lead to the utterance of words or the formulation of thoughts that say that I should strive to meet or exceed their accomplishments.

I’m not competing with my friends, associates, acquaintances, or even complete strangers. I’m not trying to be or outdo Oprah Winfrey, Joel Osteen, Tracey Edmonds, Mary Kay Ash, John Maxwell, Steve Jobs, Maya Angelou, Sheryl Sandberg, Magic Johnson, or Mark Zuckerberg, or anyone else.

I’m trying to be me.

The best me that I can be.

I’m running my race, at my pace, with my eyes focused ahead. I definitely need encouragement and to be challenged—especially and with great intensity when I slack off—but it’s never with a focus to get to where someone else is or to run past and edge them out.

I would always be behind someone (as they started out on their race years or even decades earlier) or I would be extremely exhausted and irritable if I did somehow catch up and surpass them. I’m risking my health and much more, trying to keep up with and pass by the Joneses.

If I’m focused on someone else then I’m distracted, and we all know what happens to many distracted drivers—they crash or they cause a crash. Crashes can be expensive. Recovery can be long and painful. Why risk it?

Every time I sat behind the wheel of a car on a race track, I wasn’t concerned about how fast or how experienced the other drivers were. I didn’t obsess with trying to outrace them. I was and always will be focused on me, my skills, the car that I’m driving, and the lessons that my instructors, coaches, and mentors taught me. My safety and survival depends on it. The goal is to have a great day, enjoy the ride, challenge myself, hit those apexes, and get back to the paddock safely. If I get great lap times and place well, that’s a huge bonus.

Don’t get me wrong, I love competing—but mostly against myself—against the fear and doubt that wants desperately to take root and form in my mind and heart. If I can conquer that each and every race, then I’m always the winner. If I do better than I thought I would, then I’m a winner.

In the pictures above and below you see me at the Ford Performance Racing School in Utah—racing Ford Mustangs (which runs through my familial veins for three generations). In both pictures I’m smiling brightly because I had an awesome day and it was filled with accomplishments. Everyone else on that track drove or had experience driving manual transmission cars. I didn’t. I was the only person who had little to no experience. A little back in the mid-90s but that’s all. My then-husband gave me two driving lessons before our trip to Utah. You don’t know how much I appreciated him for taking the time to really teach me.

His teachings and what the instructors taught us about the track and the school rules is what I focused on when I climbed behind the wheel. I didn’t focus on the other drivers and what they thought about me, or even about their skill level. I let drivers pass me on the track and there were times that I passed other drivers on the track. Sometimes I played “rabbit” for other drivers and at times when I needed to challenge myself I would find a “rabbit” to catch, so I could see how well the car handled and how well I handled the car.

But I won’t make moves based on someone else. I must focus on my race and adjust for conditions and strategic conservation of resources. But never because of the other competitor.

Imagine climbing up the side of a mountain. You have on all of your gear and the higher you climb the greater the risk that if you somehow fall, you will die.

So what would happen if you began to obsess about the climber ahead of you or next to you? What if you were so focused about reaching the top of the mountain first that you started spending less time securing yourself each step you climbed? What would happen if you stopped paying attention to your ropes and the surfaces of the mountain? What would happen if you weren’t paying attention to your equipment and supplies, the changes in altitude and oxygen, and weather conditions?

We all know what could and probably would happen, and it’s not a welcoming thought. But so many of us do these same things when we’re too focused on everyone and everything else but what we’re supposed to be focused on.

Earlier I mentioned Joel Osteen. Here’s an excerpt from his book “The Power of I Am: Two Words That Will Change Your Life Today“:

I decided that rather than typing that entire section, I would just share a snapshot for you to read, zoom in on, and focus for a moment. I hope you don’t mind. If you do, then please go purchase the book and enjoy reading it at your leisure. It’s available in many formats.

My aunt Valerie bought this book for me in October 2016. She bought my sister Alexandra one as well. My sister hasn’t embraced the love of reading books as I have, so her copy is at my home waiting for her. I truly believe that one day she will be inspired to read it. I’m positively speaking this into existence. Yes, it’s just that great of a book that I would love for her to read and reflect upon it. Hmmm does Joel have an audio version of this book? Maybe she can ingest this powerful message that way. Okay so I digressed. See what happens when we get distracted? Back to what I was saying….

This section in Joel Osteen’s book inspired me to write today’s message. Many of us feel like hamsters on wheels because we keep running in life like Joel did in his story, so focused on someone else that we miss our turn, opportunity, etc. I can always tell when I’ve lost focus, when I’m distracted—there’s uneasiness in my spirit, I don’t sleep well, I’m unsettled and anxious, and fear creeps in and drops off seeds of doubt—and then my eyes start looking around at what I lost, didn’t accomplish, let go, didn’t follow through on—and then my eyes focus on what others have, what they have accomplished, and where they get to go. It can be difficult to catch yourself from spiraling out of control. But it’s vital that you do.

Your life depends on you running your own race, staying in your lane, climbing your line, and making sure that you celebrate every achievement no matter how small and insignificant it may appear. It’s your achievement!

I wrap this message up with some final words from Joel Osteen’s book. Enjoy!

Celebrate you!

Thank you Mr. Osteen for sharing these moving and powerful, yet simple words. It’s amazing how simple can bring the boldest blessings.

~Natasha

Copyright 2018. Natasha Foreman Bryant/Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.
Joel Osteen excerpts are copyright protected by Joel Osteen 2015. FaithWords. Hachette Book Group.