Author Archives: Bernetta Williams

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The Shack; Worth a visit

 

I personally believe that in a lot of cases organized religion has done more to turn people away from God than anything else. People tend to view the church as God and that could not be further from the truth. Charles and I are blessed to be a part of an amazing church one that teaches about being on a ‘Jesus Mission’.    

With that said, as an avid reader as well as a writer, I’m sad to admit that I did not read The Shack by William Paul Young. With the release of the movie, by the same title, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see what all the hype was about. I knew some of the narrative behind the story before purchasing my ticket. However, I was totally unprepared for the uplifting emotional roller coaster that I experienced.

The Shack is the story of one man’s journey to find God after a horrific family tragedy. The narrative is told by Willie (Tim McGraw) and stars Sam Worthington, who many may recognize from Avatar and Terminator Salvation.  Worthington does an amazing job as a grieving, guilt ridden dad. His portrayal of Mackenzie, a man wrestling with his own personal demons and religious paradigm is compelling. Young Mackenzie grows up in a bible-believing family, one in which his father is the elder of the church, a closet alcoholic and a wife and child abuser. To say that Mackenzie’s view of God as a loving father is skewed by his abusive relationship with his earthly father is an understatement.

The adult Mackenzie is blessed with a beautiful faith-filled wife, portrayed by Radha Mitchell, and three amazing children. As the story unfolds, the loss of one of his children leaves him spiraling out of control until he receives a letter from ‘Papa’. Papa is a nickname that his wife and youngest child have for God. What an amazing way to think of God!

During his visit to The Shack, he comes face to face with Papa (Octavia Spencer), Jesus (Avraham Aviv Alush), and Sumire Matsubara (the spirit), thus making up the trinity. As he gets to know each, he learns more about himself, loss, hate, forgiveness, love and acceptance. The movie takes you on this amazing emotional journey with just a glimpse into our chaotic world, our judgments and preconceived notions of ‘Papa’ only to shake you up and make you realize the unrelenting love that ‘Papa’ shows to each of us.    

Whatever your spiritual journey, I highly recommend taking a trip to The Shack. It is one of those movies that not only entertains you but leaves you to ponder the questions, “What if God is real?” and “What if He does love me with this unrelenting kind of love despite my numerous mistakes?” If that is the case, then am I then challenged to show love and forgiveness to others?

 

#TheShack


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Make It a Wonderful Life Together

We have been blessed with thirty-two years of an awesome marriage. For those that are not married or those struggling in their marriage, allow me to tell you that having a successful marriage takes work and commitment. You can’t just say “I do” and then stop doing everything that made you a couple.

Once the ceremony is over, real life begins. You are now living with a person 24/7 and those little imperfections that perhaps you tried to hide while dating can no longer stay under-wraps. Perhaps your partner squeezes the toothpaste from the bottom and you prefer to squeeze it from the top, maybe they snore or perhaps cannot balance the budget. Some fixes are so simple that people overlook them. If the toothpaste thing is an issue, buy two – his and hers. Snoring? no problem, most people that snore (unless there is a medical problem) can simply readjust their sleeping position (i.e. try sleeping on your side, or stomach or back and see if that resolves the problem). If you are better at balancing the budget than your spouse, then do it. Otherwise have separate checking accounts. Agree on who will pay which bills.  Remember the love and respect that you promised to show? Well now it’s your time to live up to those words. Marriage vows should also include the line “Be patient with one another.”

You have to learn to embrace your differences, appreciate a good compromise, stop trying to have the last word and always keep in mind that this is the person you chose. Marriage is such a special gift and it should be treated as such. Go out on dates, dance and sing around the house. Those activities that you enjoyed doing while dating, continue to do them. Schedule time to enjoy each other, listen to your partner, and pray with and for your partner.

Enjoy the journey that the two of you have embarked on together!


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Family, Friends and Traditions

As the holiday season quickly approaches all thoughts turn to family. I’m blessed to have a wonderful nuclear family in the form of my amazing husband and two awesome sons. It’s difficult for me to believe that after high school and during the college years, getting married and starting a family was not something that I thought I would ever do.  I’m so grateful that God knows me far better than I know myself and in His infinite wisdom He blessed me with my three guys.  

I did not have great role models growing up when it came to marriage. My parents separated, but never divorced. My mom was this super phenomenal woman whom I still miss daily. And believe me, she and I had our share of disagreements, but at the end of the day she was still my mother and always in my corner. Children need to always feel like their parents will show up for them and mom did that in spades. My dad was an okay guy and as I have gotten older, I have tried to see him in a clearer light. My dad was far from perfect. He was a lousy husband, but for the most part he was a decent dad.

Charles and I have tried to instill in our sons a sense of who we are as a couple and how we all fit into this fantastic family that God has blessed us with. This includes uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends who are more like family. I’m blessed to still have the privilege of getting together with my siblings throughout the year. When we get together either at the beach or in the mountains over a huge country breakfast or a game of miniature golf, I feel this overwhelming sense of gratitude for the times that we still have together. I can imagine the smile on mom’s face as she looks down from heaven (you did good mom).

Keeping in line with the traditions of family, I was asked to submit a recipe along with a story for consideration in an eBook cookbook. I decided to go with what I lovingly call “Grandma Hattie’s Christmas Soup.”  Nothing beats a hot bowl of soup on a cold winter’s day as loved ones gather around the table to share stories, fellowship, love and laughter.

Check out the cookbook link below and look for my recipe on page 73.

http://www.oldwayspt.org/system/files/atoms/files/OASIS-OldwaysAfricanaSoup.pdf


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I Feel Like I’m Living a Lie

I recently had a friend make that statement to me. To say that I was taken aback would be an understatement! On any given day, this friend can run circles around me. She is married with two children, a dog and lives in a lovely home. If you can imagine a Norman Rockwell picture perfect family, there you will see my friend and her family.

I was intrigued by her comment so I pressed for a little more information. She finally said, “I just feel like something is missing.”  Typically when someone says something is missing from their lives, I think Jesus.  So I asked, “How’s your spiritual life?” This is when she gave me the look followed by, “You know we attend church.” As I stepped further into this quicksand, I once again responded, “How is your spiritual life?”

For those of you that know me, you know I can tell you where to find the best sale on anything and will offer you a coupon. But, with something as important as where those that I love will spend eternity, I become kind of a wimp. After all, nothing clears a room quicker than talking about politics or Jesus.  A few years ago our Pastor did a series called Living on the Jesus Mission. Living on mission includes spending time in the Word, connecting with others and sharing your story. Not in a pushy way, but hey, when you have an opening like the one my friend just presented, you step through it.

After several long minutes she stated, “I’m a good person. I don’t curse, steal, cheat on my husband or lie. So I would say that my spiritual life is just fine.” “Yep,” I replied. “You are all those things. So what do you think is missing?” Her response, “I’m just not happy.”  Okay, so how do I get off this roller coaster, I wonder. Finally, I shared some of my story with her. Keep in mind this is a friend of over twenty years so we know each other pretty well, considering people really only know the side of you that you want them to see. You truly have to trust someone completely to show them all of your warts and bruises. On this day, I shared with her my frustrations, disappointments, fears, failures and insecurities. Talking about being unplugged! After listening to me she finally said, “I never knew that!”  How could she have known? Again, we only share with others those things that we are comfortable with sharing. We want the world at large to see us as these wonderful, almost perfect human beings living in our dream homes with few cares in the world.

Then I finally said the difference for me happened when I stopped being just a good person and started living on Jesus mission. Not just reading my Bible as something to check off my to-do- list but, reading for understanding. Charles and I now have our Bible time together and then we have a discussion about what we read. This is one of the best parts of my day. There is no magic pill for happiness. We all have jobs (some we enjoy more than others), we have families, some with older children and some with younger children and some of us have elderly parents. Life can become a haze of moving from this to that on automatic pilot. The trick, I think, is having Jesus as the center of our lives. For me it helps to keep me focused and allows me to have a peace that only comes from knowing Him.

 I suggested the following verses for her to read all of which come from New King James Bible (NKJ):

Rev. 3:20              “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” 


John 10:2
            But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.


John 10:11
          I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

 

Psalms 23:1          The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.


Luke 24:36
          And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto                                

                             them, Peace be unto you.
Romans 5:1         Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord JesusChrist:

 

Wishing all my readers the peace that only comes from knowing Jesus.

#Peace


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What if I screw up my kids

What if I screw up my kids?

Welcome to parenting 101. Almost every parent at one time or another has uttered those words. We all come into relationships, including parenting with our own set of baggage. In some cases it’s a set of his and hers luggage. Hopefully, some of us were raised with awesome parents and we learned a lot about parenting from them.

As for me, half of my parenting equation growing up was amazing; my mom. What my mother brought to the table was a healthy supply of unconditional love, boundaries, structure and discipline. And lest you think my dad was not in the picture, he was. He just did not play a vital role in my upbringing.

Now that you are a parent and that question, “What if I screw up my kids” has reared its ugly little head, what do you do? The first thing you realize (spoiler alert) you are not perfect and neither is your spouse or partner. Being a great parent means being there for your children and trying to instill a sense of who they are and whose they are into them. Children need to be encouraged and praised for their accomplishment, gently chastised when they are misbehaving and always loved.

As parents, we take the world on our shoulders. When our children are hurting we feel the pain more intently them they do because we wonder how we could have helped to prevent their pain. When they fail, it is our failure too, because perhaps we failed to equip them with the tool(s) they might need.

When our oldest son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 12, I replayed over and over again in my head all my prenatal appointments, his delivery and our eating habits. Then there was the fall that I took when I was about five months pregnant. I remember to this day the sheer panic I felt as we went to see my doctor. My doctor assured us that the baby was fine.

As a parent it’s not easy to realize that you cannot prevent every injury, sickness, failure or disappointment. Our children with make plenty of mistakes, no matter how awesome we are as parents, because they have their own individual personalities     

When you think about raising your child try to remember a time when you taught them something. Perhaps how to read. When our children are young we read them bedtime stories. As they become a little older, they begin to say a few words as we read to them. As they continue to grow they begin to read those same stories to you, perhaps just by memory, but nonetheless, they are beginning the foundation of reading and comprehension. Then instead of you picking the book to read, they begin to select their own reading material. The next thing you know they are enjoying reading time without you. Job well done, you have just equipped your child with a skill that will last them a life time.

Parenting is a life long journey and along the way you will mess up. Not intentionally, but hey, we just covered you’re not perfect.  Charles and I have tried to raise our sons within a spiritual environment. Therefore we believe in Proverbs 22:6 , “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (KJV)  

After speaking with several of our friends who happen to have children at different ages, I have come to the conclusion that most children will go through one, if not all of these phrases:

 

I need you

I need you, but I don’t know I need you
I need you, but I need my friends more

I need you, but my friends are smarter than you

I need you, but I don’t want to need you

I need you and when did you become so smart

I need you and I appreciate you

I have it on good authority that those last two phases don’t occur until your children reach their mid twenties. The great news is that you will all survive those years if you remember to incorporate a lot of love (it’s good for the heart), laughter (it’s good for the soul), patience and understanding (it’s good for your sanity), and forgiveness (it’s good for every one).

Parenting is such a wonderful experience. I hope you remember to breathe and enjoy the miracle of life that you have been blessed with. Yes, babies grow up and occasionally we think they have sprouted horns, a pitchfork and a tail. They’re not always our little angels, but they are our blessings.

#ParentingIsAGift


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Communications

Communications is more than just a word in the dictionary or on Wikipedia. Have you ever truly watched your children when they were small; their emotions showed across their tiny little angelic faces. When they were happy they smiled and giggled, when they were upset they stomped their little feet or in some cases had temper tantrums. How many of you can remember telling your children to use their words.

We all communicate in various ways from our body language to the words that we verbalize. Cher released the song, “If I could turn back time” in 1989 (Okay, so I just dated myself with that song). Part of the song lyrics said, “Words are like weapons, they wound sometimes.”  That is such a true statement.  Unfortunately, we can’t turn back time once hurtful words leave our mouths in the heat of the battle, those words can’t be unsaid.  Thus, what started off as a simple disagreement has now become a full blown fight!

 

We all become angry, upset or just generally frustrated by our spouses. The key to a lasting and happy relationship is to communicate those feelings in a way that does not alienate your partner. Your partner is not your enemy and should never be treated like one. Your job then becomes how to communicate with your spouse in both a respectful and loving manner. Your response to your spouse should not be done in a manner that conveys you are right and they are wrong. A good marriage requires the ability to compromise. No one person in any relationship is always correct (this includes you) nor does that person have all the answers (this also includes you). Therefore your job then becomes letting your spouse know that you are upset and the best way to do this is to make statements like, “This is what I heard.” Or “Can you tell me what you mean.”  Never make any assumptions, ask questions and if this is not something that your spouse is willing to discuss (keep in mind that it takes two to communicate); then take a mutually agreed upon time-out. But, agree to return to the discussion at an appointed time. Don’t allow misunderstandings to linger or fustier.

 

Lack of clear and honest communications is the first step to the demise of a marriage.  If you can’t speak kindly to your spouse, how then can you create a strong and lasting relationship? Your spouse should be the one that no matter what your day looks like, you can’t wait to share the joys and the disappointments of that day with him/her. This can only occur if the two of you have no misunderstandings or excess baggage riding in the martial vehicle between you.   

 

Keep the communication lines open. Learn to listen and respond to disagreements in a thoughtful way. Don’t shut down and don’t issue ultimatums.

#GoodCommunications


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Forgiveness

I was recently reminded about the need for forgiveness. Have you ever been in one of those situations where as soon as you opened your mouth and the words came flying out you knew you had made a mistake? A BIG mistake! This recently occurred with our sons. There is a seven year age gap between our two young men. (Why seven years you may be asking yourself? Because they call it labor for a reason! Giving birth is no day at the beach.)

For the most part, the two have always gotten along. More like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid with one getting into mischief and the other following along.  Through the years they have had their share of loud disagreements and an occasional shoving match. As a parent, especially, a mom, you are always wrong no matter what side you come down on and as much as possible you try to stay neutral so that you are not accused of loving one child more than the other.

Children, whether young or old can not phantom how a parent can love them equally and completely with all their complications, disagreements, and occasional disrespectfulness. I too, remember telling my mother she loved my sister far more than she loved me. Yes, I went through my insecure years as well. I’m sure my mother probably called me a brat on more than one occasion, but she never called me this to my face.

Hence, with my two young men, I understand their disagreement got ugly to the point of both of them storming out of the house. I was not present for the battle, but from hearing both sides of the story; truly ugly and hurtful things were said. No one can cause pain like that of a loved one because they know which buttons to push. In the wake of this battle, parents are left to pick up the pieces and send up prayers that you have raised them right. Trusting in the fact that they know how much you love them and that down the road they will remember how much they love each other. I have heard too many times about siblings that have gone for years holding a grudge against each other only to get to the end of their lives and not even remember what the disagreement was about. Think of the wasted years and the memories not shared. Because neither wanted to be the first to say, “I was wrong,” or simply “I love you.”   

To my two amazing sons, remember this; Life is short, family is precious, memories are to be kept and love is to be treasured. The bond of siblings may be tested, but they should never be broken.  When I think about forgiveness I turn to my Bible and the following verses from the book of Matthew: 6:14-15 – (14) For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

References for Matthew 6:14

15) But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” 

 We all make stupid, reckless statements and impulsive decisions. Those times are not our fineness hours nor are they the sum of the relationships that we have built. Our lives are made much richer by those that we call family, friend, brother, sister, spouse and parents. Those are the binds that should last throughout our lives.

#FamilyTies #Forgiveness #LoveOneAnother     


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You know when it’s working and when it’s not

Most couples enjoy spending time together. So unless your spouse is in the military and serving their country overseas (thank you for your service) you should be spending quality time together. This is time that should be important to the both of you. If this time together is not important to both of you, then the handwriting is beginning to appear on the wall and you need to pay attention. Those things that we value are where we tend to put our time, energy and effort.

Chauffeuring the children around together, although necessary, is not quality time together – it’s mommy and daddy time.  Start to think of your marriage as a lifetime investment; the more that you pour into it the more that it will yield just like a bank account. You wouldn’t open a checking account and not make regular deposits, check on the interest rate, or review the daily activities on that account to ensure that there is no fraudulent activity. If you can give your money that kind of respect and attention; why would you not give your most valuable asset that same kind of attention?

Couples who echo the sentiment that “I didn’t know my spouse felt that way” or “that they were unhappy” had to have seen some warning signs. The truth of the matter is they were just too involved with the busyness of life or other things to pay attention to the erosion that was occurring within their relationship. We tend to devote our time and energy to the things that are closest to our heart whether that is the pursuit of money, our job, friends, sporting events and other social obligations. The spouse God so lovingly chose for you should only take a backseat to God. You have heard me say before that a good marriage takes three; you, your spouse and God. That does not mean the various obligations that you have within your church or community should keep you from spending quality time together with your spouse.

The reality is that your spouse needs to feel like an important part of your world. This cannot be accomplished if the two of you become polite strangers living under the same roof. One of the best ways to honor God is to honor your spouse. Speak lovingly to your spouse, spend time with each other, and communicate honestly in a non-critical or accusatory manner.

Enjoy doing the little things together which will pay huge dividends
in your relationship. Go grocery shopping and hold hands, listen to music that brings back special memories and feelings, take a walk, play a board game or while the children are in school, take a longer lunch break and catch a movie. Take the time to make the time for the most important asset that you have – each other!

That’s when you know it’s working!

#WorkTogerther            

 


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The Legend of Tarzan

The Legend of Tarzan, despite starring Alexander Skarsgard, who was excellent in True Blood and Samuel L. Jackson (who among us was not happy when Samuel’s character finally got his comeuppance in Django Unchained?) was not on my summer movie viewing list. Imagine my surprise when while on vacation in Myrtle Beach with my husband, sister and brother-in-law that the opportunity to catch a movie arose.

To be fair, my husband and I had selected the activity for the previous day so it was only right that my sister and her husband should have the opportunity to choose the movie. My brother-in-law mentioned two movies, neither of which I wanted to see, Tarzan being one of the two (the other movie shall remain nameless because I still don’t want to see it).  And in truth, The Legend of Tarzan only won this time because of the availability in our schedules and its starting time.

So armed with my resolve to suffer through the movie and take a nap, if necessary, we headed off to see what I was sure to be a waste of time and money. And just to make sure my initial impression from the trailer viewed was correct, I took to the internet to read the reviews. For the most part, the reviews were unfavorable. Don’t you just love those moments when you are patting yourself on the back for being correct?

In this case, that pat on the back soon turned into a slice of humble pie.  I’m not a movie critic, and for me a movie should entertain you and invoke an emotional response. The Legend of Tarzan delivered both of theses in spades.  This Tarzan keeps to the historical depiction of a child raised with wilds animals.  Because of his tough formative years he develops an understanding and a respect for the animals, the Congo and its people. He knows about hardship, pain, suffering and classism. After all, being raised by the Apes with the obvious differences that exist between him and his adoptive mother and brother makes him an outcast in their world. Yet the young boy adapts. Yes, the movie is dark, but it has a good story-line which tells the tale of a child raised in the wild, his struggles to survive and to grow into the man, the legend that is Tarzan.

Then to add to the already impressive cast is Margot Robbie’s depiction of Jane Porter. This Jane is no damsel in distress, but rather a thinking, strong -willed and independent woman who is cable of taking care of herself and surviving the dangers of the Congo. Together, the cast brings to life the story of survival, loss, love, greed, loyalty and revenge.

So, to my brother-in-law, I say thank you for selecting a movie that was not on my radar, but one in which I thoroughly enjoyed. This is a movie that I would recommend to my friends and family and yes, even add it to my movie collection. 


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Perfection is a Myth

Growing up my generation had such shows as Family Times, Growing Pains, and yes, The Cosby Show. We all laughed along with the family drama of raising children and the teachable moments which occurred by the end of the thirty minutes episode. Those television shows made being a good parent look easy and dare I say fun. And ultimately those families made us hope that our families could also have some glimpse of perfection.

The truth of the matter is being a parent is a scary journey. We began to pray for our children from the time we learned that we are expecting. And once that little bundle of joy comes along, we know what it feels like to wear our hearts on the outside of our chest. And here’s the kicker; unlike that smart phone or that new slim-line HD television that you have, your little bundle of joy does not come with an instruction booklet. How easy would it be if each baby came with a little instruction manual attached to their umbilical cord at birth? And to make things even easier, that little booklet would grow and change as our children grow.  

But, alas, no such booklet exists! So as parents we stumble along trying to make the best decisions possible for our children and for our family. The kids don’t get a bath every day and the house is not always spotless, but what does exist is an unrelenting love for that little bundle of joy that we have been blessed with. Those protective instincts that we feel the moment our children are born will last throughout our lifetime. It’s a good thing that it does, because that love will endure through the teenage years when your children have more mouth than common sense and through the driving years when you are in the car with them trying to tap on imaginary brakes on the passenger side.  

 Unfortunately, sometimes with the best intentions we screw up royally. During those times when you mess up, don’t get so caught up in being super mom or super dad that you are afraid to say to your children, “I’m sorry.” The mistakes we make are truly teachable moments for us and our children. If we can admit our mistakes it signals to our children that it’s okay for them to admit their mistakes.

Our family lives are not sitcoms. They are much better with no commercial interruptions.

Wishing you love, laughter and a remarkable journey through this thing called family, parenting, and life!

#NotPerfection