‘The Year of Shaniqua’

The end of the year is getting closer and closer, which always puts me into reflection mode.  If you know me, you’ll probably know that I never reflect more than when my birthday and the end of the year come around – for some reason, they always feel like new chapters.

If I was gonna give a title to 2018, I’d call it ‘The Year of Shaniqua’.  As much as I prefer to put others first, this year was about me and putting myself first, particularly through the second half, which I haven’t been doing a whole lot of in recent years.

A few months into this year, I came to the realisation that I had been seriously struggling mentally and emotionally for a long time, but had rarely given my mind and heart time to catch up.  Looking back, I can now see how broken I was, meaning that I was not giving the best of myself to others.  If I wanted to truly make a difference in the world and find my love for Young People Insight again, I needed to take time out and give myself the opportunity to heal.

I took a two month [semi] break this year, which was exactly what I needed.  I was able to enjoy time just being ‘Shaniqua’, rather than being ‘Shaniqua the Activist’ or ‘Shaniqua the Facilitator’ or ‘Shaniqua the Youth Advocate’.  I was also able to spend some more time developing as ‘Shaniqua the Poet’, which was amazing, as well as having more time to be ‘Shaniqua the Friend’.  It was great, although I would have loved a little more alone time, but you can’t always get everything you want.

Having time out made me realise that I need to take moments away from all I’m doing when necessary, which may mean cancelling a meeting when I’m feeling mentally unwell or putting aside work for an afternoon when I’m feeling emotionally drained.  I am just important as the people I want to reach.  I also decided to remove my Yahoo Mail app on my phone for good, as I did not want to be consistently checking it anymore.

I also wanted this to be the year of the ‘Single Shaniqua’, after coming out of a toxic relationship at the end of last year.  He came at one of the worst years of my life, when I was unknowingly incredibly broken, and still not over Charming, who I had really fallen for and had broken my heart.  It was like he was preyed on my brokenness, which enabled him to exploit my vulnerabilities and weaknesses, causing me to behave like someone I’m not – I never want to be that person again.

It was a horribly negative experience, which put me off relationships, but it was also a learning experience.  I learned how much I do enjoy being single and that a full-blown relationship really wasn’t for me at this time of my life.  I have so much going on that I want to apply my heart, mind and time to, without the addition of having to give so much intentional consideration and love to a boyfriend.  I also knew that I had a whole lot of work to do on myself – and also get over Charming – before I could even consider getting into a relationship again.  Although I have had some involvement with guys, I can happily say that I am still ‘Single Shaniqua’.

More than anything though, I’ve grown a lot this year and been able to move forward in a lot of ways, which was necessary after an awful 2017 and very trying 2016.  I’ve learnt a whole lot about myself, mainly through looking over my prayer journal and speaking to my amazing God, which has enforced how resilient I am and reminded me of how much I’ve achieved.  I’ve come to see that I need to be a lot less hard on myself, which I’m still finding difficult, but am working through.

I’m also continuing to ask God to help me work on my other negatives.  I’m trying to eliminate my frustrating inner narcissist.  I’m still fighting against comparing myself to others.  I’m continuing to work on being more patient, managing my time better, and most of all of, being more temperate and consistent with eating healthily, exercising and going to bed early.  Consistency is seriously one of my biggest vices.

This year may not have started off 100%, but it’s been a good one as a whole.  I’ve enjoyed 2018 and I’m looking forward to seeing what 2019 brings, which I am already coining as ‘The Year of Young People Insight’ – I am definitely taking my baby to the next level in the new year.

However, despite it being ‘The Year of Shaniqua’, there have been amazing people that have contributed to my year and it would not have been the same without them.  Of course, there are always too many to mention in one post, which is why I plan to do something I haven’t done in a while and write a series of posts about some of the beautiful people who have played a special part in my 2018.  Keep any eye out for them – you never know, I could be writing about you.

My Top 5 Gospel Songs (right now)

Last week I left you with my Top 5 Months of the Year, and today I’m back with my Top 5 gospel songs.  However, they’ve got to be my Top 5 gospel songs as of right now, because there are regularly songs that I come across which take up a special place in my heart and become my favourites.  Here are the ones that are currently my favourites.


5. Healing – Richard Smallwood

Healing is a song that I’ve known for a long time, but only became one of my favourites recently after watching Madison Mission Seventh-day Adventist Church services online.  The words in this song are extremely powerful and soothing, providing encouragement and reassurance for many situations in our lives.  I’m glad that there’s a “balm in Gilead”.

4. Take It to the Lord in Prayer – Nolan Williams Jr.

“When we’re weak and heavy laden / Cumbered with a load of care / We should never be discouraged when we / Take it to the Lord in prayer”.  I could write out all of the lyrics for this song and it would say it all.  The words in this song are more than beautiful and filled with a sea of emotion, which speaks to my heart every single time and can almost always bring me to tears (especially when sung by The Aeolians).  The keys are also pretty effective as well.

3. It’s Not Over (When God is in It) – Israel Houghton & New Breed

The first time I heard this song, I had so much love for it.  It’s Not Over has been one of the go-to songs for me when I’m going through a difficult time and need a little reminder that God will get me out of it like He always does.  The encouragement the words give me is amazing — I can be singing my heart out with tears running down my face and have a smile on my face by the end.  When God is in it, there definitely is no limit.

2. What Can I Do – Tye Tribbett

I think this song is amazing; I just love it so much.  Again, the words say everything, because I genuinely cannot live without my Lord.  What Can I Do resonates with me, because I’ve tried to have complete control over my life and make it on my own, but it doesn’t work, because the fact is I can’t make it without God in my life, leading me in the right direction.  I also love the voices, the perfect use of instruments which build as the vocals build, and the vamp at the end which wraps up the song perfectly.

1. Closer/Wrap Me in Your Arms – William McDowell

This has to be one of the most beautiful songs ever made.  I fell in love with Closer/Wrap Me in Your Arms on the first listen and I’ve stayed in love with it ever since.  The musicality is stunning and the vocals are gorgeous, but again, it all comes down to the words, the beautiful words that say so much.  When I can’t come up with the words to say, this is a song that I’ve sung as a prayer on a number of occasions, and just like It’s Not Over, this song has been a comfort in some difficult times.  All I ever want is for my Lord to wrap me in His arms and take care of me.

I’ve also got to give a special mention to the beautiful and powerful Before The Throne by Shekinah Glory, Invitation by Byron Cage and A Beautiful Exchange by Hillsong.  I love gospel music; it is like medicine for my soul and these are simply a handful of the songs I enjoy listening to on a regular basis.  Do you have a favourite gospel song?

Being Different and Making a Difference

Last week I was in Sussex to attend what you might call a religious gathering or retreat, which came at the perfect time for me.  Again, God came through for me and sent camp meeting just when I needed it.

I needed healing – mind, body and soul – which my week at camp meeting provided for me.  I found myself being temperate and going to bed at a time that I see as early, which was great for my health and I aim to keep it up now that I’m home.  I also ate three, relatively healthy meals each day, while drinking lots of water.

I was able to stay on my own, which gave me some time for self-reflection and self meditation, which I have been in desperate need of and enabled me to come to some decisions about my life going forward.  Although it will be difficult, I will have to let go of some people in my life and step out in courage rather than living in fear.

God was able to provide some healing for my soul, mainly through the messages delivered by Pastor Davis and Pastor Kelly.  Pastor Davis delivered some powerful lessons during morning devotion that made me re-evaluate my life and look hard at some of my actions.

Despite having heard Pastor Kelly’s sermons before, it was good to hear a refresher and again take a good look at myself and some of the situations I have found myself in.  By the end of the week, I found myself in tears as my emotions refused to stay buried away.

This camp meeting was a blessed experience for me, for a number of reasons, and I refuse to remain the same way I was before I came.  Pastor Kelly made a great point about us being different and making a difference, which is exactly the aim for my life.  I want to be the person God intended for me to be and make a real difference in this world.