Chocolate-Covered Nut

Terri W. Jackson

© Copyright 2018 by Terri W. JacksonX

Photo of a chocolate-covered nut.

You never realize how many lives are touched by the testimony that you share in an autobiography. I am sharing my story because it is my hope that bondages will be broken and people will be freed from a life of despair and their own veil of madness which haunts them daily. I once lived a life without hope. God led me straight to where I needed to be for my life to change dramatically, at just the right time. Somehow, when life seemed impossible, and I wanted to give up, He sent a life boat to rescue me. God truly “never leaves me, nor forsakes me” and has proven that, time and time again. He is a Waymaker, a Promise Keeper. This is a personal account of His faithfulness.

I have always felt like “everything happens for a reason”. This quote was the title of my essay for my application to pharmacy school and it is applicable to how I feel about most of the twists and turns of my particular journey of life. After the flood waters completely inundated my neighborhood in August of 2016, my husband and I had to find a church home that was convenient for our temporary home with his mom and sister. I had visited this church before, for a New Year’s Eve service but had never attended for an extended period of time. Terry is from the area, so he knew many of the members already. Somehow, I was drawn immediately to want to serve in the ministry in some capacity but, at the moment, I didn’t know how. Eventually, I could almost feel like I was being called to my purpose in the ministry, the praise team.

I don’t quite remember when I first fell in love with music, but it has been a part of me, like my heartbeat, like breath. Music gives me life, it calms me, it gives me hope. Much like music, I have also been involved with dance since I was very young. My mother placed me in ballet and tap at the age of seven. I continued rhythm and movement throughout my life. I have joy when I can get with my family members and groove to various tunes and I get lost in the beat. I can escape from my troubles. Music can bring us together, it can soothe broken hearts and relieve the pain of our daily struggles. So naturally, as a member of the praise team, I feel led to give my all to help usher in the presence of the Lord. I feel blessed to be used by the Lord for this purpose. I believe that it is still music that helps me overcome the darkness of depression and stress that plagued my life for so many years.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1991, shortly after I began college at Xavier University of Louisiana in pre-med chemistry. Because of the shame and embarrassment of my first experience with mania, I did not want to matriculate at the same school where the episode had occurred. There was so much uncertainty and confusion associated with mental illness at the time. Back in 1991, the public did not embrace persons that suffered with bipolar disorder in the same way that they do now. It was not “popular” and “fashionable” to express to someone that you or someone in your family could be experiencing any type of mental illness, especially in an African-American household. To understand how devastating this illness was to my self-esteem, it may help to know what life was like before the illness.

Prior to 1991, there was absolutely no sign of mental illness in my life. I had a normal, happy childhood. In fact, I began reading at an abnormally early age. My family still jokes about how they found out that I could read at the age of three. My mother discovered that I could read because I began telling her that I could spell the word “terrific”. I expressed that it was my name and you just add the letters “f-i-c” to the end. While the other students in my kindergarten class were sleeping, my teacher would allow me to read to her. Now, my extended family just would not believe that I could read so they wanted me to prove it. Families in the era of the seventies remember that we would have a set of encyclopedias in the home. The younger generation may not be familiar with this set of books, but they are complex and pretty advanced, especially for a young child. So, my older cousin could not imagine that I would be able to read from the encyclopedia. He grabbed one and there I was reading aloud. Point proven.

I never had to prove how smart I was, it was understood. There was quite a bit of confidence that began to develop throughout the years. By the time that I started high school, I had developed leadership skills and was well on the way to becoming a thriving academic machine, ready to take on anything that came her way. I felt like I was unstoppable. I guess that is why the mania was able to take root and escalate. The first episode took place during orientation week for college. I had numerous activities scheduled that week and got little sleep, as a result. I was running for student office, going to parties, hanging out with my new college friends and just having fun. I did not realize that the lack of sleep and stress of the new environment were setting me up for a manic episode. Then, finally, at the pool party at the end of the week, I became delusional, something I had never experience before. No one knew what to do. Back then, people were not familiar with how to handle a crisis involving mental health.

I was able to regroup and even matriculate and receive my undergraduate degree in microbiology. I was very active in my new environment. Despite a few setbacks, I concentrated on getting back on track and continuing my quest for a medical degree. I graduated with the highest accumulative grade point average in my department. Before graduation, I served as the Honors College Vice President, Honors College President and earned a seat on the Collegiate Honors Council.

Before finally, taking a second leave of absence, I was accepted to and attended Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, DC for about three years total. But I never received that medical degree, unfortunately. It was hard to return home after leaving DC that final time. I felt defeated and went into a deep depression. Thankfully, God always opens a window when he closes a door. I just didn’t realize it at the time.

Even years and years later, people still joke about me having bipolar disorder. But I have gotten to a point in my life now that I don’t care. I really, really don’t care. I live my life for Jesus. I regard the opinion of only a few people. And even their opinion doesn’t affect or effect how I feel about myself anymore. I’m free – finally. Yes, I’m a little “Chocolate-covered Nut!” But, I am fearfully, and wonderfully made. I am just the way that God wants me to be. And I love myself just the way I am. In fact, I find that the two qualities – my “chocolate-hued complexion” and the challenge of my mental state, are the source of strength and resilience that has kept me throughout the years. I spent the first half of my life regretting being the darkest of my siblings, regretting going in and out of the hospitals, not realizing that God was equipping me with the strength that I would need later in life for the trials that were to come.

As I ponder the article written ten years ago, featuring the first book that I wrote about my diagnosis with bipolar disorder, I am reminded of the frustrating experiences that I had through the years. Those moments fueled the determination that led me to my occupation, my home, my husband, my third Mercedes, and many other pursuits that I have had through the years. I see now that my primary struggle, helped to open the door to my “promised land”. I am referring to what God has destined for me to achieve in this life, financially, spiritually, physically, as well as concerning my marriage and career- my “promised land”. God could see just where I needed to be to get everything that I desired. I give Him all the glory, because if I had relied on my own senses, I may have messed things up. But I finally decided to follow God’s plan for my life and everything fell into place. There was nothing magical or super-spiritual about it. I pray and ask God for direction and He gives me an answer. He may speak to me through His Word, I may listen to a CD in the car, or hear God speak through a message at church, someone may say something to me, or the Lord may whisper something sweetly that ministers through the spirit man inside of me, but He always gives direction.

Knock and the door will open, seek and ye shall find.

The Mirror

I’ve always struggled with my appearance. It surprises some people but I think it stems from the fact that I compare myself to others, especially the members of my family. When I think back to high school, even though I never had a problem with getting a boyfriend or people being attracted to me. In the back of my mind, I really didn’t like what I saw looking back at me in the mirror. So when I had weight issues because of the medicine that I was taking for bipolar disorder, there was an escalation of a problem that was already there. And to top it all off, I didn’t love myself and was in the midst of a deep depression. God had a lot of work to do and I am still a work in progress! After the depression was resolved, I was still dealing with bitterness about the past. I kept blaming everyone for my situation, pointing the finger at others for what I was going through when they had done nothing wrong. It took years for me to realize that God allowed me to go through what I had gone through for a unique purpose and it happened for a reason. It wasn’t a punishment. It wasn’t designed to keep me from becoming a doctor. It happened because it is a part of his plan for my life. It was designed to build character and shape and mold me into the person that I am today. I am grateful that I finally realized that I am the beautiful, and unique creature that He wants me to be and when I look into the mirror, God’s masterpiece is looking back at me.

When I finally became comfortable with my weight, I lost twenty pounds! I had complained, compared myself to my sister and mom, given up on losing weight and basically threw my hands up. Then, after my gallbladder surgery, I decided to stop drinking soft drinks and cut down on my sugar intake, not realizing that the end result would be the weight loss that I had been desiring for years. The weight loss was slow initially, but I have begun a lifestyle change. I read labels. I have cut down on carbs significantly. I have decreased the portion sizes of the meals that I intake. I drink large amounts of water while I am at work. I use a water app to monitor the amount of water that I drink and send reminders to drink water. I have stopped drinking sugary drinks throughout the night. Also, I try to take fiber supplements to decrease cravings between meals and I have started eating breakfast on most mornings. I look like a different person now. It’s wonderful! And it came out of left field. Total surprise! I had been focusing on remodeling my home, not realizing that I was constantly dropping pounds along the way. The weight loss has served as a catalyst for an overhaul in healthy living. As a Christmas present, I bought a subscription for myself and my sister to a healthy cooking magazine. At my leisure, I watch all of the popular cooking shows on television. This has resulted in an overhaul on the way that I approach the way that I prepare meals for me and my husband. Not only have I decided to cook more often instead of eating fast food, but my meal choices are colorful and fun. Preparing meals are not so much of a chore. Finally, I have turned one of the extra rooms in my home into a workout room. And I plan to start walking when it gets a little warmer outside.

I actually had the nerve to give someone advice about loving themselves no matter how they look the other day! Talk about a change. I once was ashamed to try on clothes every time my sister and I went shopping. Now, I embrace my body. No, my body is not perfect, but I don’t expect it to be either. My weight fluctuates. And, I don’t pay much attention to what the media portrays as far as body images because that is not practical. Most women are not a size 2 or even a size 8. But I love what I see in the mirror. And she’s pretty okay.

My Soul-Mate

So many people search for love, but love found me. Terry came at a time when I wasn’t really looking for a mate. My mom didn’t even think I was going to ever get married, and to be honest, I had gotten comfortable with thinking that I would be alone for the rest of my life too. To have known the kind of love that I feel for my husband, I am so grateful. Jesus is the answer to a void that has been in my heart since the days that the veil of madness entered my life. When Terry came back into my life, I knew that he was my soulmate. Terry is not your typical “knight in shining armor”, but he knows my love language and I have learned his. We complement each other and maintain a healthy line of communication.

Most people find it interesting that I have known my husband since I was in high school and that I have had a crush on him since I was 15 years old. He is my best friend’s cousin. I’ve known my mother-in-law longer than I’ve known my husband. We actually did not start dating until my last year of pharmacy school at the age of 33. And yes, legally we have the same name.

We share similar interests and he makes me laugh all the time. When I am down in the dumps, Terry is my live-in comedian. I have never been with someone that I can be so comfortable with. We can talk about anything. Terry is my best friend, my confidante, my protector, and my soul-mate. I love Terry more than words can ever express on paper. And I never thought that I would ever love him so much because I rarely let anyone into my “inner court”. Few people experience me in my comfortable, natural state. Not many people see “Terri Lynette”. Terry gets the real deal and he loves me just like that. He loves and embraces the raw, uncut version of me, and that makes me love him even more.

It hasn’t always been that way though. Like most relationships, we had our rough patch. There were a few years when l really thought we weren’t going to make it. I mean, we had screaming matches. I would follow behind him like a little gnat, nagging and taunting him. I was so mean to him. I think I would have left me, if I were him. But for some reason, he thought enough of me to stay. We found out that we really loved each other. My aunt, the one that performed our wedding ceremony, intervened and met with us separately. His mom came over and prayed with me. During one encounter, the Spirit of the Lord was so thick in the house that his Mom and I both felt a little disoriented after we prayed. I told Terry that I felt like Jesus himself was in the house that night. It was shortly after that I began to pray for our marriage in a different way and not focus so much on what Terry was doing wrong but on what I could do to change myself and make myself better. I used to make little notes and tape them on the back of the door and intercede for my husband. I prayed that one day he would love me as Christ loves the church and that he would put God as the head of his life. When we went to bed, I would lay hands on Terry and pray for him as he slept. I don’t think he even knew that I was praying for him. This went on for years.

Now, Terry and I have gotten into a rhythm. We have gained trust in each other. We can both look our best and we feel comfortable enough that we don’t have to wonder if we’re out cheating on each other each time we leave the house. I don’t constantly check my phone while he’s gone. Terry and I can have our time with friends and family on our own and not be bothered by each other. That’s something that some couples don’t have and I count it a blessing. In the beginning of our relationship, I was insecure and felt the need to “check in” while he went out. I would call when he left. Then I would call every hour or two until he got home. I know that this annoyed Terry, because he would stay out even longer. After many years of struggle and agony and talking to my mother-in-law, mother, and father, I finally realized that I needed to give him some space. Then my eyes were finally opened when I started to go out myself and gained a little independence. I saw that it’s not fun to receive calls every few minutes while you’re out trying to have a good time! And you’re not doing anything wrong! Wow! I have really been doing my mate a disservice. Then I dialed back on the calls. And eventually Terry stopped going out so much and eventually we started spending more time with each other. And when we are not with each other, we text to say hello or check in, maybe once or twice, but that is basically it. We enjoy our time apart and we look forward to seeing each other when we get home! Now that we have gotten a little older, we are starting to change a little and we look forward to spending more time, just the two of us.

Love and marriage are like the tide, they ebb and flow. Throughout the years, our marriage has gone through highs and lows. We have been married for seven years now, been a couple for twelve years, and have known each other for almost thirty years. I look back and I see that the struggles that we have encountered have only brought us closer. I think back to when I quit my job or when I was hospitalized for depression. It was at those lowest points that I saw just how much my husband loves and cares for me. Terry is not very emotive, but in his own way I can see the contents of his heart. Likewise, he has mastered the art of suppressing the constant storms of anxiety in my life. We complement each other. Soul-mates. Friends. Wonderful together.

The Thorn

In 2007, I graduated from the Xavier University College of Pharmacy in New Orleans, Louisiana. My journey as a pharmacist was not easy. But today I realize that every struggle has taught me to be a better pharmacist along the way. I look at pharmacy as being similar to the “thorn in the flesh” that Paul speaks of in the Bible. It was almost something that I just inherited once I knew that I was not going back to medical school. So many times, I asked the Lord why He had chosen this path for me. And His answer was similar, that “My grace is sufficient for thee: for My Strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Honestly, during my earlier years as a pharmacist, I still had a strong desire to go back to medical school and I never really appreciated the role that the Lord had given me. Although I was blessed with a doctorate and a six-figure salary, I longed to fulfill the dream that I began so long ago, the dream that I felt had been snatched from me because of the illness that plagued me on a daily basis. I still wanted to be a medical doctor, an MD. I never really wanted to be a pharmacist, actually. In pharmacy school, I found myself often skipping classes, but somehow I would still pass my exams! Rest assured, if the Lord wants you to “do” or “become” anything, no matter how hard you fight it, IT WILL COME TO PASS!

I worked as a pharmacist for many years, going through the motions. Sometimes, even though you have everything you could ever think or ask for, you still don’t feel complete. This was my dilemma and this was the reason why I was unhappy and unfulfilled. At least, part of the reason. My faith needed to be increased, as well. So the Lord would take me on the ride of a lifetime. I needed to buckle up because things were going to get pretty hectic before it was all over with.

I was struggling as the pharmacy manager at a major retail pharmacy. Terry warned me not to try to become friends with my subordinates. I, of course, ignored him, because at the time, I thought I knew more than he did, especially about my job. That was probably the biggest mistake I could have made. Not listening to my husband. This man had my best interest at heart, but at the time, I could not see that. This was the first time that I would miss my chance to enter my “promised land”, and I would have to wait a long time and suffer many setbacks before I would ever see it or get a chance to enter it again.

I was told that I needed to discipline my technicians, write them up and then they would comply with my demands and my pharmacy would run smoothly and I would not have any more problems with insubordination, but time after time, I would end up like a deer in headlights when I faced this daily dilemma of personnel problems. Then, to make matters worse, I was having panic attacks due to the stress of the position. I was transferred to one of the worst stores in the district and it would go downhill from there. At one point, almost all of my technicians were terminated and I would sometimes have to work shifts at a 24- hour store extremely short-staffed. I had not learned the art of working with personnel in a way that encouraged my team to respect me and work at their optimal level. Some days, I would run the entire store by myself. The district manager was also calling me every day on my days off to work at other stores, so I could never catch up on my rest. I would get physically ill every time a work week would roll around. Eventually, I just threw my hands up and quit. I had had enough, I felt defeated but if I would continue working there, I would have probably had a mental breakdown.

After I left my first retail pharmacist position, it seemed like I had been “black balled”, no one wanted to hire me. It took a few months before I could get anything. Finally, I took a position with a community college as a professor. I was making the salary of a technician. But, I was content. I began to develop a sense of humility that would follow me and stick with me. It was refreshing to be valued and appreciated. I actually had people greet me at work and I did not feel like they were talking about me or laughing at me. I didn’t feel like a loner or feel isolated anymore. I wasn’t overworked and the stress was no longer there. I didn’t see it at the time, but the Lord was also equipping me with strength and endurance as a leader in the pharmacy. I was learning more about dealing with people, all kinds of people. I took on another position with a retail pharmacy to supplement my income and I finally met my current boss. Now my boss is a little different, but he told me that there may be sometimes when I may not like him but he would turn out to be the best boss that I ever had. I can attribute that to the fact that above all, I could trust him. He was the most honest boss that I ever had.

My pharmacy manager was just about the nicest person I had ever met. She was liked by everybody including my sister-in-law’s little sister. And little did I know the impact that she would have on me in my faith journey. She is a Christian, but she is tough. Don’t mess with her, she will get you told! But she is so sweet. I never knew that you could be both, at work. Wow! Never knew that was possible. How I wish I had known that for my first retail pharmacist experience, it could have solved so much. Maybe I wouldn’t have been a doormat. I could have been a warrior. And kept my job.

Because the pay was not quite right, I left that job for my next opportunity.

The next challenge was driving all over the state of Louisiana for another major retail pharmacy. The benefit of becoming a travel pharmacist was, of course, the unlimited hours and the fact that there is little chance of technicians finding fault with you if they don’t get a chance to know you. This ideal situation worked for quite a while until the company started cutting corners by placing me at horrible and unsafe hotels and scheduling stores in several different cities within one week. Sometimes, I wouldn’t even see my husband for days. The final straw was when the company booked a stay at a “seedy” hotel in Ruston, LA. There were patrons hanging outside, in the lobby there were old boxes stacked up in the corner behind an old vending machine that looked like it hadn’t worked for years. The signage in the lobby looked like something from one of those vintage vacation TV movies from the 70’s. I had driven from Lake Charles, LA and had been on the road for about three hours and had already worked a ten hour shift after driving three hours from my home. Even though I didn’t feel safe and I wasn’t too sure about keeping the assignment to the hotel, I reluctantly entered the room. I WAS SHOCKED and humiliated! Unfortunately, I had to drive all the way back to Alexandria to get proper accommodations for the night. I was so exhausted that I had to keep calling my mother-in-law to make sure that I made it to the correct hotel safely. I had another ten hour shift to work the next day. Shortly after that, I decided to stop driving long distance for that company and chose to stay local. They retaliated and decreased my hours from 80 to 90 hours every 2 weeks to six to 12 hours or hardly any hours at all. I had to drain my retirement from my previous job to make ends meet. That is how devastating the reduction in hours was to my household. Somehow, I thought the solution was to do something so radical, so “outside of the box” that it seemed like the right decision at the time. I decided to go back to medical school and pursue the dream that I started twenty years ago.

The Dream

I have known a certain friend and her sister since the third grade, we were in “gifted and talented” class together. We also attended the same magnet high school and danced together in a modern dance group that we formed during school. And finally, this friend and I started medical school around the same time. Naturally, it was very hard for me to watch how successful my friend has become. She is now the owner of her own thriving medical practice. My friend is also my doctor and has been for years. Shortly after I began having problems at work, she and I prayed together after a visit, which she does not mind doing with patients. She asked me if I was familiar with naturopathic medicine. I had no idea what it was, but was willing to try anything at that point. So, I looked it up and just like that my excursion with holistic medicine began.

I moved to Arizona in 2016 to attend naturopathic medical school and follow my dreams of finally becoming a doctor. Terry was supposed to come with me to Arizona. I had everything planned, as usual, or so I thought.

When I arrived in Arizona, it seemed like everything went wrong from the start. I did not feel comfortable in my apartment. Now, let me explain. This was an upscale area in the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona. I lived in a gated community with a spectacular pool area, fitness room complete with your very own yoga instructor, and even a club house that could be used for parties. But unfortunately, I would hear unfamiliar noises at night. Fear set in, and without my husband, I was terrified. I couldn’t get any sleep. Without sleep, I couldn’t function and focus on my curriculum at school. My aunt would pray with me every morning for the next few months to help me make it through school. This is the kind of support that I have. My family and Terry’s family stepped in to help me make it. They are my angels. God always sends help. He truly, never leaves me, nor forsakes me.

Journal Entry – May 18, 2017

It’s amazing that I still struggle with the fact that I didn’t fully matriculate through med school. God reminds me of how successful I am, yet, it’s at certain moments when I am vulnerable and compare my life to others, that I feel somewhat inadequate and like I have failed in some kind of way. Last night, I recognized my uniqueness and celebrated it only to find myself being negative again today. Sometimes I can’t SEE myself. I think I need to ask God to show me my strengths and help me not to magnify my weaknesses. But I guess I will be very humble if I keep going the way I’m going because I don’t look at myself as some people describe me, or show envy towards me. I just don’t see it.

As I look back, I can see the “footprints in the sand”. I moved thousands of miles away from home by myself. I discovered that I had strength that I didn’t know that I had. Years ago, while I was working as a traveling pharmacist, my strength had been tested. I was travelling all over the state. My boss was avoiding me after my hours had been reduced. I had to drain my savings in order to pay my bills while I was trying to prepare to move to Arizona and there was no mercy on behalf of the company that I had been working for the past year. Sometimes life can be difficult, but the Lord gives you strength that you don’t even realize that you have.

While I was in school, I had the opportunity to meet many people, but by far the most memorable includes two of my classmates. Medical school will make or break you, so often you cling to your strongest source of support. We drew closer to the Lord. We started meeting for prayer before class. So, I would get up at five o’ clock for prayer with my aunt and then join my classmates for prayer on campus. Even though they perceived me as some sort of spiritual prayer warrior, internally I thought that I fell short in so many ways. When I was alone with the Lord, I would ask the Lord some serious questions about faith. What is faith? Do I have it? The Word says that it is impossible to please the Lord without faith. I longed to have the type of faith that I have always read about, and eventually, my faith grew. It took a while, but that little mustard seed, has become a little bigger.

Faith Journey

In July 2016, I decided to come home from Arizona, I missed my husband so much and I just couldn’t take it anymore. The financial aid officer was trying to work with me to keep me in school. I called my Daddy first and then I called my mother-in-law crying about how I had failed at taking care of both households and how our money was running out. I was also disturbed about the fact that there was no licensure for naturopathic physicians in Louisiana. The uncertainty of how I would practice once I graduated from school in 2019, left a bitter taste in my mouth the more I learned about the new profession that began to unfold before my eyes. I remember sitting there on the couch in my apartment, one evening after classes and within the next hour or so, I had decided that I would leave the next morning to take the 1400-mile drive to get home to Louisiana. I couldn’t get home quick enough. I stopped over in San Antonio to take a brief rest and then I finished the last leg of the journey. There was a sigh of relief when I made it. I’ve never been so glad to see Terry.

Unfortunately, our reunion was greeted by the peril of destruction. August of 2016, our home was submerged in eight feet of flood water. We lost everything. The water curled up my four-post king sized bed like a potato chip. One of the few things that I salvaged from the house was my wedding photo from my aunt, which sat on a table in the middle of chaos, untouched. After remediation, we were left with bricks and studs. No ceiling, No walls. We moved in with my mother-in-law for six months.

Shortly after I returned to Baton Rouge, I was able to email my old boss and get my job back at the retail pharmacy that I loved so much. In order to get a permanent position with the company, I agreed to take a position at a store that was one and one-half hours from where we were staying. However, I knew that this was my opportunity to become a staff pharmacist, so I put on some good music and enjoyed the ride.

Journal Entry – December 26, 2016

Yesterday was Christmas. So much has happened since I last wrote in a journal. I am the head pharmacist at a store in Franklinton, Louisiana. I drive 89 miles, one way, approximately, four times a week, to the store where I am referred to as the “colored pharmacist”. But I actually like being there so far. It’s no different from the pharmacies that I visited in other parts of the deep South. I’m just taking it one day at a time and I keep looking in my rearview and I always make sure that I have plenty of gas.

We’re trying to rebuild but the bank is holding our money hostage and the first draw check hasn’t come yet. Terry thinks we won’t get back in the house until summer. Somehow I think he may be right.

My best friend thinks that I ought to start public speaking again. I believe it would help a lot of people. She says that I have something to talk about, something to share, a story. God has blessed me, to be a blessing. God has opened doors for me. I would like to teach others to learn how to make their own “doors open” in their lives. God can work miracles, you just have to follow the rules and walk the path that he has set for you. Yield to Him.

Journal Entry – January 5, 2017

Luke 19:40-42

Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him “What do want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see, “he replied. Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight, your faith has healed you.” Immediately, he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.

I read this passage during church on Sunday, and when I read it, I cried. It summed up what I’ve gone through for the past few months in my spiritual life. I spoke with my sister and another friend about how I felt like I was searching for faith and I didn’t have any faith. I’ve been on a faith journey. But now, after all that I have been through with becoming a student, living on my own in Arizona for four months without my husband. Becoming broke and having to truly depend on the Lord. I became “healed” in the process. I’m not the same person I was this time last year. But nevertheless, my money has been restored, my marriage is stronger, I have a better job, and to top it all off, I have a stronger measure of faith. God knew that I would get to this point, but I didn’t. I “see” things so much clearer now. But the best thing of it all, is that I can see myself. Now, I can get to praying and let God continue to work on His masterpiece because He’s in control, He’s been in control and now I am “seeing” that for what it is. Jesus says “Receive your sight, Your faith has healed you.”- Not will heal you, it has already happened. It’s a done deal. I believe, and I receive.

I finally got the drawcheck yesterday, Hallelujah! Praise God! And the FEMA trailer is finally onsite! Boy, God is good!

Shortly after we moved back into our home, after the flood in 2016, Terry would give his life to the Lord. To say that I was shocked is an understatement, I was completely caught off guard. Mind you, this is something that I had been praying for since Terry and I met. And all of a sudden, my prayers were answered. True, signs that it was coming were there. But one Sunday morning, I was standing at the front of the church, singing with the praise team, as usual, my pastor gave altar call, and there is my husband walking past me! You would have to know my husband to truly get the magnitude of the subtle manner in which my husband treated his salvation. According to the rest of us, you would have thought that we had all won the lottery! I didn’t know if I should do cartwheels or burst out in tears. Maybe I should have done both. But I didn’t want to make too much of a fuss. So, after church I just congratulated him and cooked the best meal that I had in me, full of love and warmth. My covering was complete. Hallelujah! My husband was not the only one that was changing along this journey. I realized that as I came to the point of beginning this manuscript. Sometimes, we are so quick to point out the faults of those closest to us that we miss the “plank” in our own eyes. God was quick to show me that I was a work in progress as well. I am so glad that I was able to stop looking at my husband all the time and focus on how I can change, instead. That was when my marriage really began to blossom and become fruitful and reflect what a “Christian” marriage should look like. My personal goal of becoming a “supportive spouse” was transitioning from a goal into existence. Proverbs 31:11 “Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life.”

Journal Entry – October 6, 2017

Today I rested most of the day. It’s been a rough week, since so much has been going on. There have been images of the shootings in Las Vegas and now there’s a hurricane on the way here in a few days. I appreciate and value life. There is a lot of uncertainty in my life right now but I must rely on faith and know that God has everything under control. This is certainly a way to increase my faith by having to trust in the Lord with my finances, my health, my home, my career, my endeavors with my book. I just don’t know what the future holds with so many things right now. But the Word assures me that everything works for the good of them who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). The Word also says to trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not to thine own understanding, in all thy ways acknowledge Him and he will direct thy path

(Proverbs 3:5-6).

The uncertainty that I was feeling at this time was because I did not know how to recover from the problems associated with not having a job in Arizona while in school as a medical student, then having to deal with the flood of 2016 and rebuilding my home when I returned to Louisiana. For months and months, my husband and I continued to struggle financially. Then, we both started to have problems with our health at the start of 2017. I had a gall bladder removal surgery and Terry also had minor surgery that year. Then, the bills started piling up. We started having more “month” than “money”! Somehow, the bills would all get paid. I was amazed. I knew it was the Lord.

Journal Entry – October 15, 2017

My prayers have been answered already! That was quick! When I got home from work yesterday, I called the pharmacy manager to give her an update on the store and she texted me later to let me know that the pharmacist at another location broke her foot so, low and behold, the district manager needs someone to cover her shifts! She contacted him and I became the lucky recipient of the Monday shift. If everything goes okay, there’s more where that’s coming from plus the pharmacy manager at the St. Francisville location needs help. God is good. So just like that, a door has been opened! I really didn’t see this coming. After my no show, no call technician on Friday at work, when I had to do everything with just a cashier, when I came home, my sweet thoughtful husband invited me to the mancave to watch a movie together. He was soooo accommodating. He even brought my chair in to the mancave for me. Talk about a gentleman! Is it the hair? I don’t know. But I hope he keeps it up. I felt so special. He was even concerned about the temperature in the mancave and was wondering if I was comfortable. I could get used to this. I love my husband. But I always have. It’s just a lot more fun and easier now. It’s like breathing. I don’t have to work as hard at doing it right now. I know what Terry likes and what he doesn’t like and I put forth more effort at doing the Lord’s will and the Lord helps me remember and be able to have the energy to do the right things now. I guess that’s the biggest difference. And I definitely listen to Terry more.

We were having financial trouble since I returned from Arizona. I did not have any employment while I was in school but we still had the same bills that we had while I was a pharmacist. It seemed like every time we seemed like we were coming out of our slump then we would get another challenge to our finances. Just to get a break from the norm, I decided to take a trip to New York with my mom. I knew that she could help me pay for my expenses and I needed to get away to help relieve my stress from the rebuild.

Journal Entry – October 20, 2017

Many things are going through my head today. I finally stopped that doorbell from ringing in our house so I can have a little more peace in my home. As I prepare to go on my trip to New York I am anticipating a trip of fun but also of some much needed rest. And I want a taste of the luxurious life once again. After having to cut corners financially for the past few weeks and months, I would like to treat myself to a little something nice but in moderation of course. The Lord has blessed me but I feel like I haven’t been able to enjoy the fruits of my labor lately. I would like to go out to eat, get a pedicure and a massage. Get pampered like I used to. But the money just hadn’t been right. I didn’t appreciate what I had, when I had it. I guess I took my lifestyle for granted. But now I see that I way I live is not afforded to most people and that it does not come cheap. To secure my future, I must do what it takes to secure it. And that starts with putting the Lord first in my life and following His Word. And everything else will be added unto me. I’ve got to keep God at the forefront of my life this time. I can’t keep going around this mountain. God is so patient and faithful. He gives me grace and forgives me for my wrongdoing. I am far from perfect and I make mistakes all the time but the Lord takes what I offer and uses it to His glory anyway.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if my money would stretch for the trip, but I went on a “wing and a prayer”!

Journal Entry – October 21, 2017

I thank the Lord for making a way out of NO WAY for me. I “walked by faith and not by sight” where this New York trip is concerned and I just finished looking at our finances and God has provided just enough money for me to be able to go and enjoy myself while I am there! He is so faithful and merciful! I give Him all the glory and honor! Once again, I didn’t see a way but I pressed forward and now, BY faith, God has made provision for me. All the bills have been paid for this month and all of my desires have been granted. Just like that! I had the nerve to doubt the Lord. I need to put my trust in Him. Like the Word says, He will never leave me, nor forsake me. And if I acknowledge Him, He will direct my path. If I call on Him, He will answer me.

Earlier I mentioned the pharmacy manager that I began to work for that was admired by so many customers and the impact that she would have on my faith journey. I found out that she was a Christian shortly after I was transferred to her location on a permanent basis. Although we are not the same ethnicity, we never let it stop us from being close knit from the start. We often find ourselves not only talking about the store but we started developing a friendship. Pharmacists often don’t get the chance to fellowship outside of work, so I invited her to my home for the Super Bowl. Not only did she come, but she was joined by two other pharmacists and their spouses. Just recently, my pharmacy manager experienced some turmoil in her family, as a group, we all prayed for her and supported her to get her through this tough time. It is hard when you think that you may lose a parent. It is so nice to see that we are all seeing faith in action and brotherly love in the work place. After sending up many prayers, my friend said that she felt like she had witnessed a miracle. Her father was okay.

Psalm 1:1-3 – Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf shall not wither, and whatsoever he doeth shall PROSPER!

The “Chocolate-Covered Nut” strikes again this week! Not only did I get into it with my pharmacy manager (Yes, the nice one), but I blew up at one of the praise team members too. You would think that an intelligent, spirit-filled, ministry leader would never have a problem with self-control, but after working tirelessly at the pharmacy all day and not getting any nutrition (like most pharmacists!), I ran completely out of steam. The two-hour rehearsal, following church service that night, put the nail in the coffin. I don’t even recall what was said, I just remember that it was not pleasant and it left me quite embarrassed. The good thing was that I went straight to my pastor the next morning for advice and I was deeply remorseful for how the conversation had transpired. I must say, that along my faith journey, the week before Resurrection Sunday, taught me a tough lesson on forgiveness. As the saying goes, “Christians aren’t perfect, they are forgiven!” I learned that although, I have the obvious flaws of often jumping to conclusions and misinterpreting situations, there are some pretty awesome people in my life that follow God’s Word and are “quick to forgive” and embrace me with the love that our Heavenly Father shows each and every one of us. I value the way that God has revealed to me ways that I can accept others and reciprocate that acceptance. I have decided to take a break from the praise team for a while and focus on myself, get some much needed rest. I learned that sometimes you have to learn to say “no”. It’s okay to step back and reassess. And God gives do overs.

Matthew 18:21-22

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

While I was working a shift at the St. Francisville location, someone walked in the door and enthusiastically called my name. I looked, and to my surprise it was my district manager from my first retail job as a pharmacist. She was now my new boss! I was completely caught off guard. Wow, sometimes God is a little funny! But somehow, now she is my boss again. She switched companies! At first, I didn’t know how to approach this situation since I quit that “other” company and left her without a pharmacy manager at a very busy location. However, after years had passed, I hoped that she had forgiven me and saw how difficult that store had become for me and how the stress of the job was affecting my life. After all these years of being bitter about my first retail job, God was going to really work on my heart in a major way. After a few months, my hardened heart began to soften and the bitterness subsided. I was able to let go of my past and the negativity that I felt about my previous pharmacy experience. I began to see the strength that was gained from what I went through, and that maybe I perceived a few things in error. God is so awesome; she is even going to work side-by side with me as my pharmacy technician trainee! You just never know what God will allow in order to mend relationships and open our eyes.

Journal Entry – March 29, 2018

I have never quite come to terms with the word “crazy”. People laugh and call each other crazy. I get offended when I hear it. And every day, I am fighting to make sure that I don’t become that awful word, “crazy”. I take medicine, I pray, I listen to music, some of all of the above. And now I am even quitting something that gives me life, the very thing that has brought me so much joy the past year or so, because I was threatened with an attack of becoming “crazy”. C’est la vie! Like a wise person told me, I will have some good days and some not so good days, but I must accept my calling. I realize that God has called me to more than ministry. I am a wife, a pharmacist, a sister, a friend, a community leader, an author, a mentor, a prayer warrior, an entrepreneur, a dreamer, a speaker, and an overcomer. I am all of these things, and whatever the Lord brings my way. And I STILL have unspeakable joy.

Journal Entry – April 5, 2018

I had one of the worst panic attacks that I have ever had yesterday, after work. It scared the ever living day lights out of me. And Terry. I have not felt that vulnerable and scared in a long time. It’s like everything that I have learned went out the window. What happened to that unshakeable faith? Where was the Lord yesterday? Last night? I felt awful and I felt lost. All at the same time. Then today, everything calmed down and the pieces began to come back together. I’m starting to see how the enemy can make it seem so hopeless and terrible and things just get worse and then you just lose it. That’s when some people take their lives or take other’s lives. It’s a shame. I’ve got to make a difference. Use my experience to benefit others. Make my pain, my passion. But right now, I’ve got to get my strength back. I’ve got to build myself back up. I’ve got to get strong again, so I can fight. I can’t battle wounded. I’ve got to be at my best. Lord help me! Build me up. Guard my heart. Guard my mind. Gird up my loins. Build up my defenses against the enemy. Make me a better warrior. Make me offensive so I don’t have to be on the defensive. Make me ready for the attack that comes at me. Prepare me, Lord.

It took a few weeks for me to recover from this mild case of mania and subsequent depressive episode. As I sat in the chair at the spa, I ironically read an article about mental illness in the African American community. The article spoke of the unexplained pains that one can feel during depression. I think back to the severe back pain that I have felt over the past few weeks. I have taken oral analgesics, laid on a heating pad, used a roll-on menthol salve, all to no avail. It was not until the depression subsided that I felt relief. I’m singing on the praise team again. Everything is just about back to normal. I even have a sixty-minute massage scheduled next week to ensure that my stress level is at a minimum. It is comforting to know that my support system knows exactly how to deal with my episodes. They don’t overreact or make me feel ashamed or anything. Just like any other illness, I take my medicine and wait for my “mental state” to heal or get better. When things got out of hand for me recently, I called the doctor and got advice on what to do, and then once we knew that a hospitalization was not necessary, we relied on faith, medicine, and stress reduction to get me through. It takes all of those things together to help me through difficult times. It never fails, God always, always brings stability. It just takes time.

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