I've always been told to never underestimate the power of prayer.
I've been a witness to answered prayers in forms I never would've imagined but I must admit, there were times I felt as though my requests were falling on deaf ears.
One day I came across an image on my Instagram feed that promoted a 30-day prayer challenge. The theme was to pray for someone that we may not have the best relationship with. I had just moved back to St. Louis after graduating from college and the people that I had the luxury of not “having to deal with" while away, were now in my space at any given time. Something prompted me to look more into this prayer challenge, as I wanted to have a stronger prayer life and get rid of the negative energy that I was exerting towards other people. The challenge, included a "30 Day Power Prayer Packet" that helped guide me through the challenge, as well as a scripture, a matching prayer prompt and devotional to assist in writing my prayers for the day. The challenge called for prayer for one person but instead, I chose three people: one being a married couple.
I purchased three cheap binders, two packs of college-ruled loose-leaf paper, and some fancy pens. I'll be honest, the first few days felt more like an assignment that needed to be completed before the day was over as I was filling out three different prayer journals. The journal consisted of me pouring out my emotion about why I felt the way I did about these people and why I wanted it to change--a lot of me admitting my frustration and bitterness of why we couldn't essentially get along and why I wanted to get to the bottom of it. As the days passed and the more I incorporated scriptures about peace and forgiveness into my prayers, the easier it became. I wanted to clear the air and initiate the reconciliation of our relationship.
The creator of The Prayer Project, Saunya Shelise Hudson, created the Prayer Project 30 Day Written Prayer Challenge to help people “push past their normal everyday prayer routine and help them begin praying more focused and specific prayers for others just as people do for themselves."
If taken seriously, there are three things that can be accomplished by participating in the 30-day prayer challenge, and I can attest to this.
Strengthening of your prayer life and your relationship with the Lord.
This challenge held me accountable in reading the word and making sure I was spending much needed time with the Lord. I had been so focused on completing everything I needed to do in order to graduate that my prayer life had been put on the back burner. I still acknowledged Him in the morning and sending up some prayers over my food, but was nowhere near the type of prayer life that I desired to have. Setting aside that time had to be intentional: just like school and work.
It softens your heart to hurt and anger by allowing you to release those burdens to God.
Shifting the focus from self and what's been done to me to how I can intercede on behalf of others was a game changer. By taking the time to concern myself with the problems and burdens of others (not in a worrisome way), it allowed me to shift my focus from anger to actually wanting to see this prayer get answered for someone else. There is power in forgiveness and it is way more than just a word. Forgiveness is a daily act and that intentional pursuit of forgiveness helped soften my heart one day at a time. Besides, staying angry requires too much energy.
“Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken."– Psalm 55:22
It helps your attitude toward people improve.
Listen, praying for people whose ways I am not too fond of was and still is one of the hardest things I could ever do. It is much easier to talk down to and complain because that's the first thing my mouth wants to do. Directing the conversation from gossip to prayer helps remove the tension and shifts the atmosphere. The people I chose to pursue this challenge for were people that I had the hardest time with, but as a believer, it is my responsibility to intercede on behalf of others. These individuals were so used to conflict being the theme of our relationship that when my reaction became prayer and peace, it softened their hearts as well. God knows good and well that all these people He put on this earth that we all are not going to get along but He also made it a point to say, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." – Romans 12:18
At the end of the 30 days, I presented the journals to all three parties for their own keeping; All of which were very grateful that I had taken the time to pray for their needs and wants, some of which they never told me directly, but the intensity of the prayers touched on every need they were seeking. It helped me view them in a different light and see that our “conflict" wasn't because we wanted to be in conflict, but largely attributed to what was going on in our lives and how we responded to it. And to be honest, a lot of the conflict came from miscommunication. So many times we assume the intentions of other people and can be completely wrong. Most of the time we are completely wrong. After giving these people the journals, they were able to expound on their current situation so I could understand more and vice versa. I can't say that we all are the best of friends today, but the challenge helped me see past the problems and focus more on mending relationships and reconciliation.
How we react to certain people says a lot more about us than the person we are reacting to. This challenge will provide so much clarity about your self. It really does work.
If you are interested in joining the Prayer Challenge, you can sign up www.aloveperfect.com.
Follow the founder of The Prayer Challenge on IG @Saunyaaa and on FB at The Prayer Project.
Featured image by Getty Images
Prior to becoming a mother, my idea of Postpartum Depression (PPD) was what I saw on TV: the story of Andrea Yates who drowned five of her children in 2001, and the one of Laurel Michelle Schlemmer who also drowned both of her sons in 2014. I remember thinking that PPD was extreme and only consisted of rare cases that happened to white women who just had children. This is not something I easily identified within the Black community, nor would I be able to acknowledge it if it was right in front of me. It was not until I had my encounter with pregnancy and routine check ups with my doctor who later explained PPD and the strong possibility that I could develop this shortly after birth.
Fresh at the age of 18 and a few weeks after my high school graduation, my high school sweetheart and I made the irrational decision to bring a child in this world as our plan to “stay together” due to our upcoming separation. He would be leaving St. Louis in a few days to begin summer classes on a basketball scholarship, and I would be heading 90 minutes outside of St. Louis, three-and-a-half hours from his school, that upcoming August to begin Fall classes. We were uncertain about the status of our relationship and came up with the brilliant idea to create a child, our child, as a means to always be in each other’s lives. Much to no one’s surprise, our already toxic relationship grew even more detrimental as my belly got bigger and we didn’t even last for the delivery of our daughter.
I spent majority of my pregnancy trying to come to terms with the failed relationship, seeking comfort elsewhere, crying and holding my belly telling my daughter “sorry” for making her feel this way, and waking up hoping that I would wake up to blood insinuating a miscarriage because I no longer wanted this.
[Tweet "I didn’t want this baby anymore because he didn’t want me. "]
Fortunately, God had other plans and He carried me to full term where I gave birth to a beautiful, happy, and healthy baby girl two weeks prior to her due date but free of all problems. Her life was just beginning, but mine was just going into shambles. This life that was just making my stomach move into funny shapes was now a human that I held in my arms all throughout the day: feeding, changing, bathing, soothing, and nurturing. I tried my best to follow the suggestions given by my mother, but I was not my mother. I was not any woman that had taken the time to give me any type of parenting advice. Me being without him and my lack of parental awareness were strong enough triggers to send me into a looming depression. I was now responsible for a new life in which all blame would be on my hands if anything were to happen to her. My life had completely changed from the plans I had made prior to graduation.
I was only able to breastfeed for three months due to my rapid weight loss and me not being able to keep up with how much my child demanded milk, and I would start crying at any point and time. I couldn’t stop my child from crying but my mother could soothe her, which left me feeling inadequate. I didn’t feel like me anymore. I can remember countless times that I would leave my phone on the dresser and hand my child over to my mother and leave the house not even informing her of my whereabouts. I never went far; always drove around the surrounding neighborhood, blasting music that would help push me into a heavier state of depression.
It wasn’t until her first birthday that I came to terms with my role as a mother and all that it entailed. “I kept my daughter alive for a whole year” was my thought. Not that I thought I would do something to her, I just didn’t know what I was doing.
This experience taught me that PPD does not discriminate whose life it decides to invade. Any woman who is about to bring forth life into this world is at risk. It also taught me that PPD is not just one blanket experience. It can range from “Baby Blues,” which are associated with moodiness and fatigue shortly after delivery all the way to “Psychosis,” which is associated with frequent thoughts of harming self and/or child. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 80% of new mothers experience Baby Blues while the more extreme end of PPD occurs in nearly 15% of all births.
[Tweet "PPD does not discriminate whose life it decides to invade."]
I reached out to some other mothers about their experience with their PPD and how they handled it:
“It started with feelings of inadequacy. I would be at home with our daughter all day while my husband worked but one could only imagine how I felt when he would come home and I see our daughter favoring him. It worsened when I returned to work. Not only was I not the parent she loved most (in my mind), I felt like I was neglecting her since I'd been away from her all day. I felt so guilty for not being able to stay home and care for my child” –Tania“I moved slow with be everything I did. I wouldn't bath or shower for days at a time, I cut my hair really low because I felt ugly and dirty and filthy and I just made myself look like I felt. I was in cosmetology school at this time and I couldn't focus in school from constantly vomiting and not being able to really participate and be present in my class, so I had to drop out of school and that made my depression worse” –Christin
“I had to have an emergency C-section due to our daughter's heart rate. During the surgery, I passed out. I felt like a bad parent. When my husband brought our daughter to me for the first time, I was disappointed. I thought to myself, she looks NOTHING like me. When my husband returned to work at night, it was just our daughter and I. Those nights were hard. My appetite was all over the place and I became addicted to Sunkist orange soda”- Joi
Either we as mothers or mothers we know have experienced the symptoms of PPD that are considered normal and a part of the new mother role. Symptoms including: feeling sad, hopeless, and overwhelmed, excessive crying, loss of appetite, withdrawing from friends and family, feelings of guilt and inadequacy, etc. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, don’t take it with a grain of salt. A new mother’s body is going through extreme changes after giving birth and the hormone levels drop rapidly, triggering all types of moods. Every mother is different, so combine this body change with several external factors (broken relationship, history of depression, or addiction to substance abuse). To a certain extent, there is normalcy to experiencing PPD, but be mindful that it could swiftly shift to a serious mental health concern.
It is okay to seek help. As the saying goes, there is no manual to parenting and it truly does take a village to raise a child. Seeking help does not mean we are weak or incapable of raising a happy and healthy child. With acknowledgment, PPD can be treated and overcome.
“I remembered hearing my grandmother say not to allow anything or anyone steal your joy. I started to remember what it was like to be genuinely happy. I wanted to show God I was grateful. I then began to write myself into my calendar. I took time out for me. I took swim lessons, I started Zumba, I started art projects. I opened up to my husband about how I was feeling. Now, I enjoy every single second of my life and of my daughter. She LOVES mommy. And I know that I'm a damn good mother too. I couldn't be more blessed” – Tania“I can’t tell you how, but I felt myself trying to hold on to what and who I thought I was, in every way possible. I got over those initial feels and learned to embrace my baby”- Joi
As a family member or friend wanting to know how you can help, encourage new mothers to seek and receive help, assist with daily tasks, provide opportunities for new moms to get rest. For more information about PPD, visit National Institute of Mental Health and if experiencing PPD, schedule a counseling or therapy session to begin treatment and contact your physician to discuss and/or receive medication.
Have you suffered from PPD? How did you learn to overcome it?
I’ve been hurt before.
I’ve been hurt several times.
I’ve experienced heartache in a way I wouldn’t recommend for my worst enemy.
It was the origin of all feelings of self-doubt, unworthiness, and hatred.
I allowed heartache to be a heavy influence in the decisions I made. Most of which carried greater consequences, but at the time, I did not show any concern.
After the last break up with my child’s father, the time where I said “this was it” and actually followed through with it, I found myself making very careless decisions: engaging in relations with other men I never really took interest in, picked up a habit of smoking and drinking (more), and always looking for a babysitter to go out. Many would describe this as just living the college lifestyle, but for those who truly knew me, that was way outside of my character. I would blame my behavior on our broken relationship. He did this to me, therefore, this is why I am acting this way.
Little did I know how much power I was relinquishing from my own hands by succumbing to irrational emotions. I allowed the baggage from my former relationship to dictate my thoughts, actions, and behaviors from then on out.
I was avoiding accountability of my own flaws and wrongdoings.
I wanted to heal and recover so bad, but was going about it completely the wrong way. I was voluntarily ripping open my wound over and over again. With time, I did begin to heal and forgive, but I do know I am not all the way there yet.
I grew defensive VERY easy. The time it took to gain back self-respect, self-love, self-value, I’ve actually developed a very hard exterior that I don’t like peeling back. It is my protection, my covering. I developed a mindset to never let a man say certain things to me anymore or do certain things to me anymore. If I ever did have and interest in a guy and he did something as small as a mustard seed to offend me, I used that as my cue to drop him like we never met.
That was my repetition. No feelings. Things worked out better for me that way, I thought.
Until May of 2014, I entered into a relationship, and a serious one at that. I had already been friends with him for some years as we both went to the same university. This is my first relationship since my child’s father (even though I dated regularly but nothing official) so everything is completely new to me.
When I say everything he said and did was cause for me to jump to the defense, I mean EVERYTHING. It didn’t matter what it was, but I always found a reason to feel attacked by him. The first eight months of our relationship I always drove him to say,
“I DIDN’T DO THIS TO YOU!”
I was unfairly putting him in a position to mend a heart he had no parts in breaking.
It’s been a little over a year and a half in this relationship and I am beyond grateful for him, grateful for his love for my child, and grateful that he is willing to put up with my baggage. He is so patient with me. The crazy thing is if roles were reversed, I would’ve called it quits a long time ago.
Here are a few things I’ve learned about letting go of my emotional baggage in the time we’ve been together.
Look at the person and NOT the act
In the times I feel offended by something he has said or done, I have to keep him in mind as a person. Do I trust his intentions? Yes. Do I think he would ever set out to hurt me? No. If he did offend me, do I think it was on purpose? No. I make it a constant effort now to remind myself of this, and I’m doing A LOT better (well, you’ll have to ask him).
Remember the foundation of friendship
He is a very giving, selfless, and loyal individual. When we were just friends and I wasn’t checking for him (all of undergrad), he was always a good friend to others and me. Whether it was taking me to lunch, putting together furniture in my apartment, helping me move, or listening to my goals and aspirations! I can truly call him my homie, lover, and friend.
Learn to love past the flaws
If people just up and decided to leave us where we lay based on our flaws and shortcomings, all of us would be lonely individuals. He shows me my value as a person and that I was greater than my wrongs.
[Tweet "“I’d rather go through all of this with you than with anyone else.”"]
I don’t have it all together, but I do believe I have a healthier mindset and spirit because of him. I can honestly say I’ve loosened my grip on a lot of bags that Mama Erykah was speaking to me about years ago in her song 'Bag Lady':
Bag lady you gone hurt your back
Dragging all them bags like that
I guess nobody ever told you
All you must hold onto, is you, is you, is you
One day all them bags gon' get in your way
My partner has even taken some bags from my hands and tossed them to their rightful place.
Peeling off this hard exterior is not easy, but because I know I am genuinely loved and cared for, it makes it a little bit easier. Those bags aren’t worth passing up opportunities for healing, redemption, and newness. And they definitely aren’t worth losing his friendship.
Do you have baggage that almost ruined a good relationship?