Saturday, January 23, 2016

Rosiesandz Guest Post: Truth Speaks... by Marla P.

On the one hand, I am Mommy to my 3 #Littles, diligent and hard working woman who managed to find her voice as the baby of the Prater 14 clan. On the other, I am simultaneously standing strong while being reconstructed from the ground up. It's a strange phenomenon but it's the only way I can describe this constant state of being & becoming. Somewhere in the middle lies a heart that pumps hard to supply life to both sides.

Oh, and my name is Marla ☺️


“Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it—not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives—and we publish it”
~2 Corinthians 3:3The Message (MSG)

“The number one job of the mind is to protect the ego.”
That's what my Godfather always preached. I've been saying for such a long time that I will write my story…I have written so many things but none of them felt authentic & complete reflection of my hearts sentiment.

One of the things that irritates me the absolute most about people who use social media as a platform to publish their lives is that they only share what people want to see and hear. Not many people are 100% authentically true to self on social media, in my opinion. Myself included…hence why so many people were devastated by the news of my divorce.
So many people would comment to me privately, “… but you two looked so happy!”
And with each person that commented to that effect, I realized just how deceiving looks can be without even intending to be. I also realize just how much of an effort I put toward looking like I was okay. Not that the 50 pound weight loss was any real indicator of what was happening in my heart. My marriage and everything that I built for nearly a decade was falling apart and there was nothing I could do about it.

For the past few months since my divorce was made final, I wordlessly vowed to myself never to speak my ex-husband name again on social media. I made that vow as I felt he no longer deserve airtime in my life and that, somehow, would be a living example of how to move forward with dignity and grace. But somethings got lost in the shuffle…
Now, in retrospect, it is so abundantly clear why I felt like my story was not ready to be told.
How could I tell a story about how I know God has kept me and covered me without ever mentioning my ex-husband?
What kind of justice would I ever do to my story without mentioning one of the key players? None!

So I apologize in advance to anyone who may take offense to this narrative. But, writing is cathartic 🌹

There are not many things to say about my marriage as a whole. We didn’t have a perfect marriage. Not even close. But I was not discouraged because I loved him and was convinced that hard work was the only thing that could change that. So I worked. I prayed and fasted. I stayed when there were not many reasons to stay… I stayed because that’s the job as I understood it.
Though I lost my mother at a nine, I have vivid memories of my parents shouting life out (arguing) early Saturday mornings and mixed emotions about what that meant for their future but, they stayed until my mother drew her last breath. And more importantly, I watch my parents pray. I saw my Godparents make love and marriage look appealing. They made falling in love and staying there seem effortless. I use to love watching my Poppa grab my Momma’s hand while he drove, kiss it and sing ‘Stay with Me’.
I didn’t romanticize the idea that THAT kind of love would materialize simply by finding the right one. I knew how to work…and that’s what I did.

Someone told me that we have become so accustomed to hearing the traditional wedding vows recited like a poem that we don’t really listen to what we are agreeing to. Living life brings these certainties:
Better and worse days.
Health and sickness (both expected and unexpected)
Rich and poor seasons
Until death stops the cycle…

So on our worst days; navigating the discomfort of step-parenting a child I felt like I could never relate to…
The seemingly endless cycle of living paycheck to paycheck…
The isolation, rejection and embarrassment of being in a sexless marriage, and I wasn’t withholding…(not a potshot…just the truth)
The burden of carrying a household financially…
The depression and bombardment of thoughts to end my life…

I fought.

I fought until I started to perceive I was the only person fighting. I knew our relationship was fading. I watched and wondered if I had done everything I could to make it work. Wondered if I stood before God in judgement, if I could say I gave my marriage my all…so much so that I withdrew the petition from the first time I filed. Yes, this was not the first time… Our marriage technically ended February 25, 2014. When he finally did stray, I decided that it was one thing to fight through the worse and poor seasons alone, but to fight another person was out of the question. And THAT was when it was time to “protect the ego”.

This is the part of my “story” that gets a little hairy. This is the part where I have to take a deep breath because I don’t want to bash my ex-husband as in my mind, we were over. And the divorce process (which I sincerely hoped would be amicable) was what took us from being two people who decided they could no longer build together….to (for a season) being mortal enemies. And that was heartbreaking… To tell your heart to stop loving someone you’ve loved for nearly ten years was challenging. To stop myself from kicking him in the back of the head with a steel toe boot on… (true story) took all my strength.

Anyone who was a mutual friend of ours knows the name “Maria”. That wasn’t a secret to those close to the situation. Having credit cards run up, being handcuffed and spending a night in jail facing “domestic violence” charges, having my bank account emptied, attempting to make a judge make me sell my home for $45K come-up and ultimately watching him act out on social media was quite a devastating aftereffect. I imagined he would take his ‘get-out-of-jail-free card” and tell his story walking. I wasn’t concerned with how he would tell his side. He just didn’t leave fair. And the social media carnage everyone witnessed the day our divorce was final was a positive proof that I made a good choice. Those were the cloudy days where I was unsure of HOW to make heads or tails and WHAT the lesson in all of this was. Cause I sure as hell wasn’t going to let this happen ever again! So beat that mugg, curl that hair, EAT and show these jokers how to LIVE! Right??? Nope.

In the following hours, days, weeks and months my inbox started to fill with request from other women for support, and prayer. Their marriages were in jeopardy and they were asking for help. If you could’ve seen how twisted my face was! (Now let me interject here something that my Poppa used to say quite frequently “People tend to experience life and God in ways and feel suddenly compelled to build a “ministry” around it, and it becomes so self-involved”. I was not interested in being the poster-child for divorce! So I would encourage, pray with and for these women and move along. But EVERY SINGLE TIME I’d turn around, I was being admonished to write!
Writing meant facing the emotionally gory details and reliving the pain. I mean, I’m an open book to anyone who’d ask the right questions. But turning back and facing this again was not an option.

But within those days of heartbreak and uncertainty, I literally watched God do some tremendous things in my life that I would be remiss if I didn’t share. I was unemployed when I filed, and found a 3rd shift job that was barely getting the job done during the first few months of the divorce. And I would wake up, pray, worship and spend time with God, go to church and be handed an envelope filled with cash from women who felt burdened by the Lord to give. Friends that had traveled down this road would deposit money into my bank account. I wrote a list of things I felt I needed to prepare for life as a single mom, one in particular, a better paying job making at least $15/hr. so I could “make it”. I applied for a job that, I understand to be extremely difficult to get a call back from. 6 hours after I submitted the application, I was interviewing.  Landed a job I had absolutely ZERO prior experience in, making more than I thought I needed and to do it all from my home. I never missed a mortgage, car or utility payment. I would think about how, when I got on my feet, I’d buy Bella pretty girlie outfits, and out of the blue, people would hand me BAGS of clothes, dresses, shoes etc. for my children. I LITERALLY did not buy diapers for Sebastian for the first year of his life. Thanks to the efforts of some extreme coupon and bargain hunters, my personal toiletries and household necessities were covered.  And most importantly, at night, I would open my mouth and sing ‘Already Here’ by Brian Courtney Wilson, and could FEEL the manifested presence of God cover me like a blanket. One night in particular, during our weekly family prayer, the Lord visited me in my car while I was driving to work, I was screaming to the top of my lungs “You’re HERE! YOU’RE HERE!!” I couldn’t see from the tears streaming so fast down my cheeks that they saturated my shirt by the time I made it to work. God saved me. He saved my life all over again.

Going forward I wasn’t trying to prove that I was better off, I was just…better.
The goal was not to say, “Hey! Look at me, being happy without you!” The goal was… to live. To do what I couldn’t see myself doing well post-divorce. To do it without finding myself bed hoping and drinking myself to death (cause TRUST, I had days where that seemed to be more appealing than actually feeling and processing what was happening. 💯).
For those that believe I did this graciously and with dignity, I’m flattered but I didn’t. I did the best I could with what I had. And the crazy thing is I don’t know what I would’ve done differently…
I learned somethings about myself I would’ve never known otherwise. I put years of hearing about God to use and came to know God in ways I KNOW I wouldn’t know Him if I didn’t go through this process. I gained wisdom, experience and 3 #Littles. I found that covetousness is a deadly state of mind that will keep you constantly searching for happiness someplace outside of what’s in your hands.
And I rediscovered that my life doesn’t belong to me. My whole life belongs to the Lord. And I can only hope that when I stand before Him, He is pleased.

I wrote a song during this process and one of the lines says, “…there is not a thing that you could ask that I’d refuse. And there is nothing in my hands that you just cannot use. [It’s] silly of me to believe that I have anything inside of me that isn’t yours. MY LIFE IS THE LORDS.”

If this serves to do nothing more than to punctuate this chapter in my life, so be it.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Watching. Wanting. Waiting. Ready to Start...

“I think that the best thing we can do for our children is to allow them to do things for themselves, allow them to be strong, allow them to experience life on their own terms, allow them to take the subway... let them be better people, let them believe more in themselves.”
~ C. JoyBell C.

I am so amazed with the brilliance, prowess, and overall level of talent the younger generation (typing that made me feel like I am 100 years old!!!) that surrounds me has.
That inner competitiveness that makes them want to be better than… or just pushing them to make their mark; to make us proud…
And I truly thank God every day, that I am able to live life alongside my nephews and nieces (both blood and adopted) as their journeys have taught me parenting lessons no textbook could have.

It has taught me the importance of trust…
It has taught me the importance of listening and not judging…
It has taught me how unconditional love and consequences have to work well together (in harmony)…
It has taught me to properly offer guidance, yet patience needs to come first…
But most essentially (and importantly), it has taught me that in time of incertitude and misunderstanding,  LOVE is a deep feeling that has to be creeping around at all times, so it can insert itself (when the other party is open to receiving) for its true meaning to never be lost.

Last night my family and I spent the evening at my sister-girl’s house with her family. Her beautiful kids range from 21 to 26 and as usual, we were having a great time around good food. The “baby” is back in town from college and I couldn’t help but stare at her. I was dumbfounded as I couldn’t get over how beautiful of a young woman she has become… inside and out. Because of her parents, because of her personality, I had a definite inclination of the person she would become but it is a priceless thing to see it taking place in front of you…

Over 3 years ago she wrote an essay for school that I ended up asking her if I could post as my Wednesday guest post section of my blog but I never did, as the more I read her short story, the more I wanted to hang on to it for myself until I could validate the meaning; the lesson I was taking from it. Last night, I looked at her and said, “You remember that essay you wrote years back? Well I am going to publish it if you’re still okay with it.” At first she was a bit surprised, not remembering. She was even more surprised as I was able to pull it off my phone right away for her to read it again…

The class stared blankly at Ms. Brown, contemplating the impossible task that had been appointed to us: “Write a six word memoir.”
            After several jabs like “Please put pickles on that sandwich,” and “I don’t know what to write,” my friends and I really began to consider our memoirs. The example memoirs Ms. Brown had provided were profound, holding deeper meanings like “Mom and I only share genes.” My life had been as deep as a puddle: no chaotic memories, tragic incidents, or exciting adventures to draw from.
            Ashley and Norma, just as stumped as me, looked down at our hopeless papers, awaiting the brilliant words of wisdom. Being the youngest of three children, embarking on adventures of any sort proved difficult, and more importantly, expensive. Writing my memoir about hiking up Everest, skydiving, volunteering in third world countries, and traveling the world were memories I would hope to one day be able to include in my memoir.
Members of my family had visited and explored some of the most amazing countries. Partaking in activities like ocean diving, underwater cave exploration—the whole kit and caboodle.  A majority of my closest friends spent summers in the wilderness or in South America. I always hoped that one day I too could visit new places, see new things, and meet new people. 
Returning to my work, I wrote the word Watching on my paper. For years I have watched people embark on the adventures I had always yearned for. Appropriately leading to my next word choice of Wanting.  Middle School and High School were not exactly suitable years to be the next Christopher Columbus, so like I had been doing most of my life, I wrote Waiting on the purple paper. Writing these words made them all so real: they were from the deepest part of my mind-- the part that cried out to start its life. The eager girl, who seemed to be on the sidelines of life, was ready to begin. I was ready to start my adventure, ready to learn new things and try everything. 
At first summing up one’s life in six words deemed impossible, nevertheless I was able to write my memoir. The words Watching. Wanting. Waiting. Ready to begin strode elegantly across my paper. Though the words were not quite poetry, they symbolized my life: who I was, who I am now, and who I hoped to be.  Within these words was a young woman who finally was ready to start her life, and more so, feared nothing.

I remember when I first read this, my kids were barely 13 and 10 years old and I had already at that age pictured, and planned out what their futures would be… should be. I knew what would be best for them, since I birthed them, knew their personalities and interests.  I mean - I knew what their success would look like.
Reading my niece’s essay made me realize how much like my parents I was. My parents had a career chosen for each one of their 11 kids. Some would be doctors, some would be nurses, and some were to be lawyers and some accountants. And while they ended up being on target for most of us, I was one among the few who completely strayed from their vision for my future… I was the “black sheep” they loved but couldn’t control. And while I couldn’t understand how they thought they could decide my future for me, I was somehow doing the same with my kids… somehow.

My babies have constantly shown me a desire to achieve greatness, and I might have slightly ruined it by setting expectations for them that were more mine than theirs and at times forgetting that they are individuals with their own goals dreams. And while we might be in agreement on what their potential is, their journey in getting there might be completely different than what I pictured for them…
So three years ago when I read it, I decided to make a few changes. I decided to emphasize some of my behaviors that I felt would be important for them to notice and want to emulate. I decided to continue surrounding them with only positive people –read me well, I said positive and NOT perfect people- to expose them to different ways, cultures, experiences so even though I could make decisions for them, by Watching and absorbing their environment and all they were exposed to they would end up aspiring for goals I would not only be happy with but stand up for alongside to them.
And while I secretly hoped in addition to their intellect, my son would have been the best basketball player in his school and my daughter the fastest track and field runner (when neither the hubby nor myself accomplished anything remotely close to that) I realized taking pride in the experience and Wanting it would be the key to achieving any of it.
So I promised to guide them and show them the possibilities by way of being their unconditional cheerleader so they can build their own fearless goals. I vouched to pull back and not pressure, so what they want would take priorities to what we want for them and finally teach them to be patient, to know that their moment is to come. Waiting because all that could be done to prepare them for their goals has been done… I want the hubby and I to be the springboard for our kids when the right time for them knocks and they are Ready to Begin.

So last night, around their dining room table, she shared that in 2 weeks she will be heading to Bali (Indonesia) for a 4 month study abroad. Announcing that simply validated what she had wrote over 3 years ago… It not only validated her dreams but it gave true credibility to the fact that even at a young age, you can be in tune with who you are or aspire to be, if only given the proper tools…
It was time for me to share her essay. As parents, we have a proclivity to want to raise our kids in a bubble, sometimes shielding them from the most important life lessons in fear that they will not know how to cope, how to manage or how to bounce back from deception or maybe in fear that their choices will not be our choices… Often times, we confuse guidance with obstruction, discrediting their sense of self…
She validated what I took away from her essay 3 years ago, which is our kids deserve more credit when it comes to building their tomorrow, and this if we do our part which is given them the right foundation!

“Try as we might, we cannot force our children to reach their full potential. Theirs is the life that they alone must live. The role of the parent is to prepare the most fertile soil and appropriately water the seedling so it can most fully blossom.”
~ Gabriel Cousens 

To the next big designer
To the next executive chef
To the next archaeologist
To the next singing sensation
To the next medical prodigy
To the next face of beauty

To all who are working at their way, their calling, their voices…


Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Never Ending Goals...

2016…365 days…
How do you start when you haven’t planned? How do you start the first page of the new volume, the new segment of your life’s journey without a detailed blueprint?
Volume 44 (if you could see me, you would see a big smile on my face as I wrote 44)

This year is starting so differently.

Typically, the weeks and days preceding the New Year, I have self reflected while taking into account all of my successes, shortcomings, failures, and significant milestones. I look at how far I’ve come and decide if I moved the needle, which is my life, toward “THE RIGHT “direction, or if I am at a standstill. Considering where I am, mentally I take note of what in the following year has to be accomplished and how will it manifest throughout that year. It’s very simple, as soon as the ball drops at midnight on 12/31, I would already have a detailed calendar and outlined plan of how the upcoming year will be a success in all front.

But as I was saying, 2016 is going to be unique as I came to the realization of 2 things while reflecting… So many things in my life that have seemed of little significance when they happened, appeared to be of greater importance as I walked in the growth of my journey. I took notice to them, and when entering adulthood/womanhood/motherhood those insignificant “things” turned into the goals that I needed to reach toward a better me. In the past 15 years these big goals/resolutions haven’t changed. Granted I had to adjust them, but they remained the same. Throughout all the setbacks and the accomplishments, I had to readjust them and this is when my first realization came to light… the aha-moment…
Until the day I am no longer, these goals are not just meant to be achieved, they are meant to guide me through my life journey… they are the foundation, the basis of the person I want to be and the  life I aspire to live.
My second realization came when I was reading this lovely woman obituary (which she wrote and requested to be read upon her passing). She was over 100 years old. She wrote: “So, I was born; I blinked; and it was over. No buildings named after me; no monuments erected in my honor. But, I DID have the chance to know and love each and every friend as well as all my family members. How much more blessed can a person be?
So in the end, remember, do your best, follow your arrow and make something amazing out of your life. Oh, and never stop smiling”
I translate: Live your life the best way you know how. Time is not on your side so maximize in your enjoyment of life. Know the person you want to be, the life you want to live and above all be responsible of your happiness…

I woke up on the first day of 2016 happy with how I now view things…

So have I made some headway toward the person I’m ultimately meant to be?
Well I hope so…I think so…No Actually I know so!
Here is what I’m taking with me as my most #2015LESSONLEARNEDDEARLY

In Love
4 years ago I wrote in one of my post “This journey has been a work in progress and in the scale of where I want it to go and end, we are still at the early stage of our relation. Every day God will allow me in this world I will pray that I enjoy “working” in making it through the promise I made… Till Death Do Us Part…”
I've come to a place in my life where, I’m learning that whatever my body, mind and heart desires, whatever makes my heart skip a beat and smile, when given into, will only bring me true happiness.
Whether your "Ever After" is happy is pretty much up to you. I have found that most of mine is happy. Is my life a fairy tale? No, but it is a tale, my tale!
Today I’m here, working towards my ever after, feeling blessed and appreciating all my happy moments, while working through the challenging ones.

In Parenting
I’m ending 2015 with 2 teenagers, a boy and a girl. Both with their own personalities and their interests which somehow manage to constantly keep me on the edge. Not too long ago after hearing one of my kid crazy story, a friend told me (while laughing hysterically), “Rose, you are not raising angels, please remember that”.
I have realized that parenting is single-handedly the hardest and longest job that I will ever hold as it has no end. I can’t speak on how I/we are doing when it comes to raising our kids nor the definite essence of who our kids are or will turn out to be. This probably until it's too late to change anything. So I enjoy every moments of their lives. I love every moment with them. I love them in every moment. And in every moment I make sure to remember that my best is all I have to give to them. There will be plenty of guilt to go around but I will continue to wake up every day with one of my lifetime goal of raising wonderful children.

In Friendships/Relationships
“Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values.”
With growth, experience or simply because of this thing call life and its unpredictable pathway, friends will start having different needs, different habits, and different paths. And one day you look back and realize how distant you’ve grown, how different your values are.
It is at time difficult to accept that someone you had for a big part of your life might not be there tomorrow, so you start thinking this might be a good time to mend fences
But don’t… Let it be… Let this be…
I have realized there are “battles” that are not meant to be. It is okay to let go. Not because the relation is unimportant or minor, but in the idea it is important to hold on and keep the memories of love, joy and comfort you’ve shared as the lasting image. The memories I'm taking with me now are so precious and have more value than all the gold and silver in my jewelry box.
With age and experience it’s okay to tighten up your circle and surround yourself with the people you love and inspire you the most, the people who understand, encourage and accept the person you’ve become with no judgment.

Overall, I have stepped into 2016 feeling lighter than before. Not feeling that I was starting over but instead moving onward through my path. I have taken the good and bad experiences of the prior year as dearly learned life lessons and as shaping tools for the best me. There is no status of limitations in achieving any goals or in becoming the best you, remember time is only up when you are seven feet under!

Cheers to a Happy New Year!
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