“Christmas Won’t Be The Same This Year”

Ya’ll… It’s Christmas time!

So, for now let me say: Without any hope or agenda– just because it’s Christmas (and at Christmas you tell the truth)……………….

IT’S TIME FOR A BLOG!!

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If you don’t know the reference above…click here and I’m sad for you.

 

*ahem* Today, I’d like to chat with you all about Christmas, my grandma and Peabo Bryson.

 

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It’s been a minute, I know.  Just bear with me.

Christmastime:  When it’s finally acceptable to listen to The Jackson 5 Christmas Album (the greatest album of all time).  Chestnuts roasting by an open fire (being sung by Nat King Cole–you don’t actually think I’ve roasted chestnuts do you?!)

Sorry, I digress.

Christmas is cozy, comfy and crisp all at the same time.  There’s a beauty and romanticism about snowfalls and being with the ones you love.  And trees– the LIGHTS on said treees!  There is nothing like a dark room only lit by a decked out Christmas tree.

Oh, how I love Christmas!

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Nuff said.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember much about my Christmases growing up (except for the Jacksons of course!)  But I do know, somewhere in the photo albums, there’s a Polaroid of me on Christmas day when I was about  6, 7 or 8? Maybe 12?! Who knows?!  In the picture, I’m leaned over on my brand spankin’ new bike.

And I’m pantsless.  Pantsless by the Christmas tree. Yes, even at 30, this pic sums up my life pretty well.

Pantsless by the Christmas Tree_ The Imani Payne Story
Coming to a Barnes & Noble near you. Use code: PANTS for a 100% discount…

What I love about this Polaroid is that my grandmother took it.  She loved taking photos.  In fact, she loved artsy things in general.  Crocheting (I still can’t do it),  painting (she was the one that introduced me to the LEGENDARY Bob Ross) and music (I can’t tell you how many times she bought Whitney Houston’s Star Spangled Banner on a bootleg cassette.  That and the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack.  DON’T NOBODY CAN SANG LIKE PEABO CAN SANG!)

Sorry, again, I digress.

Anyways, if you’ve been following my inconsistent blog for some time now, you’ll know I wrote a pretty deep cut, super raw blog about my grandma in one of my first entries.  I  cried the entire time I wrote it.  Up until that point, I hadn’t really shared with folks about how close I was to her.  (You can read it here, but prepare yourself.  It hurts.)

At the end of the day: I loved and still love my gram. Even though she passed over a decade ago, it’s still something I never really, fully dealt with– until recently.

What had happened was…

Lately, I’ve been going through quite the doozy of life.  I’m 30 now.  So, ugh.

Even so, at this time, a couple years ago, it was MUCH worse.  My job was IN-SANE and driving me up the wall.  I was about to leave my church that’d I’d been in since I was 12.  I was going through some crazy legal troubles.  My BFF was planning to move down South.  I was having a severe identity crisis and so much more.  It was a lot.  So much of a lot that I tried my hand at therapy.

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What can I say?

Yes, ya’ll.  I went to a therapist.

Listen, I’ve always believed everyone should go to counseling at least once in their lives.  For me, at that point, my life was spiraling and all I wanted to do was vomit–so it seemed like the right time to go LOL

I’ll share more in the coming months on how my lovely counselor, Sue W., changed my life and then retired (that really boded well with my abandonment issues) but one of the things we walked through was value.

My value.

A Monzi’s Worth

You see, as a recovering People Pleaser, there’s much to unpack as to how/why you started to People Please in the first place.  For me, one of the things was a lack of value for who I was a person.  I valued everyone above myself externally.  And internally– I had no value or care for myself at all.  And it bled into everything.

But then came Sue.  And Jesus. Mostly Jesus.  But we will get there!  Shhh!

Sue and I started figuring out ways that I could begin valuing myself, not only as an individual, but also in the Lord.  Since then, I’ve been going on a journey with Jesus on what it all looks like.  I mean, Who best to journey through how to value your entire being than the One who values you the most, am I right?!

So we’ve been working through this since then; and yeah, its been… rough.

Real rough. Lots of “tears and gnashing of teeth” rough.  But Holy Spirit’s been doing a considerable amount of heart work.  One of the things we (me and the Lord) realized was that I have a serious issue with faith (which we knew).  But the lack of faith stemmed from an ongoing issue of unforgiveness (oh, that’s new?!).

These are my confessions…

I made a vow when I made this Monzi Memoir, that I’d always be honest.  So, here we go!

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Don’t judge me, Grinch!

In my gran’s last days I was so terrible and mean to her.  A downright, evil little brat! At the time, I was teenage’d ball of disillusioned mess– angry and depressed because I knew I was losing one of the most loving, important and impactful people in my life.  And what’s worse, I took it out on the same person I was losing.

Side bar: Now granted, as I said, I was a teenager.  That whole time in history was challenging for many reasons and there were MANY variables that went into my behavior.  We’ve all been there–when our behaviors are the effects of toxic catalysts.  Even so, I still have to take ownership for what I did, regardless of what the catalyst was.  Yes, something or someone else may have “made me do it”– that still doesn’t make it right.  I did what I did.  I said what I said.  I’m accountable for it! So, for someone out there reading this, Sir and/or Madam:  Be an adult. Take responsibility.  Move on. End of speech.  End of side bar. Peabo Bryson.

So, yes.  I was a super “betch” to my grandmother and I couldn’t forgive myself for it!  For years, I would replay bad arguments with her over and over until I was sick to my stomach.  Whenever I was feeling good, I’d think about how I ditched her so many times when I should have been there for her.  Resulting in my good mood turning to trash.  In fact, when I was feeling bad… I’d start to think about how many great memories I’d unintentionally blocked out because I didn’t want to deal with the pain of losing her,  just so my bad mood would get worse.

Of course, I’d ask the Lord for forgiveness– eventually, sort of.  Yet, whenever these memories came back up– I would keep dwelling on them and beating myself up.  It was an endless cycle.   As bad as it sounds, it was almost like I needed to feel bad and/or guilty.  Like a penance for how terribly I behaved towards her.  Ugh.

But then this happened:

Me: Father, please forgive me for yelling at my gran so many years ago!

Father:  Okay, you’re forgiven 

Me: In Jesus name, please forgive me!

Father: Yep!  Did it.

Me: Forgive me, Lord!  I need your forgiveness!

Holy Spirit: Uhhhh….friend. What are you doing?  You know, you’re forgiven, right?

Me: I know, but like… I don’t know!  I was just so hurtful?! 

Holy Spirit: Well, I mean… on Our end, you’re straight forgiven!  Jesus did it. You’ve confessed. Just accept it and repent!

Me: I don’t know… I’m sick of this though! 

Holy Spirit: Maybe you’re having trouble believing and accepting forgiveness over this because you secretly think God forgives like you forgive.

Me: *crickets*

Holy Spirit: And if we’re being honest, you haven’t forgiven yourself for how you treated your grandmother.

Me: *tears*

Holy Spirit: So now, when God says “you’re forgiven” you don’t take Him at His Word.  But just a reminder: God’s not you! 

Me: *weeps*

Holy Spirit: I’m just saying, God– you know, GOD. The ONLY Perfect. Amazing. Righteous. Eternal. All Knowing. All Powerful. Solid Rock. Unconditional Loving. HOLY Being in the Universe.  That God.

HE has forgiven you first, for the worst of the worst of the WORST.  Things even worse than how you treated your grandma–it’s time to believe it.  And if this Holy, Perfect God can forgive you, you can forgive yourself for your mistakes.  I mean, how DARE you NOT forgive yourself? 

Me: *sobs*

 

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Yeah, it was a lot.

You see, friends. I’m a Christian, yes! I believe Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords  and died on the cross for my sins,washed me clean by His blood and rose again, living today and forever!  Yes,yes, yes!

But somehow, in my brokeneness and mere humanness,  I hadn’t allowed God’s perfect forgiveness to pierce and permeate the depths of my soul.  It just stayed on the surface and I failed to surrender EVERYTHING to Him.  I refused to let His forgiveness and grace fully take root in the deepest, most hurt and scarred parts of my heart because I didn’t feel like I deserved it (ergo: my value problem).

Side bar: Now, let’s be real… none of us deserve forgiveness– but it’s not about US.  It’s all about Who God is.  We will never do anything to earn His grace, he just gives it purely because He is love.  And He IS grace.  At the end of the day, because of WHO He is, The Lord valued and loved us enough to send His Son to provide said forgiveness and give us the free gift of grace! End of speech.  End of side bar.  Peabo Bryson. 

Back to my pitiful story…  I wouldn’t let myself take God’s amazing grace because I couldn’t forgive myself for my rotten, past mistakes– I refused to.  I needed to feel hurt.  I needed to feel guilty.  In my mind, my sin warranted the pain  (ergo: my forgiveness problem).

Not matter how pretty I dressed it up, this was all a lack of faith. I knew in my mind that God forgave my crazy but, I didn’t really believe it.  I carried the weight of my poor choices and punished myself for years because I failed to believe!  Punished myself by sabotaging my own success and running away from my calling.  Punished myself by refusing to see my value and pushing good people away who did.  Punished myself by simply not letting things go and granting myself or others true forgiveness. And the most painful: I punished myself by not fully accepting God’s perfect grace, His unconditional love and His eternal, everlasting forgiveness.

I know, SO MANY LAYERS. Hot messy layers.  Until Jesus stepped in.

Jesus Stepped In

Friends, there’s no doubt: I was a mess.  Still am LOL However, even in the midst of my insanity– Jesus met me right in the thick of it, stepped in to quiet my soul and remind me of the amazing truths of the gospel.  Foundational and powerful truth that I slowly let become blase, basic and plain.  He stirred up an awe for Himself that I could not quench when I thought it was nearly impossible.  How you may ask?  He simply gave me the faith I needed.  Faith to believe that He, indeed, was Who He said He was and, indeed, did what He said He did.

And when I finally surrendered and let this truth, HIS truth actually hit me in the hardest parts of my heart, where my hurt and pain resided– places where I never thought I’d let Him go; when I actually began to believe that I was ACTUALLY forgiven because grace was ACTUALLY real and applied to EVERY area of my life,  I saw it.

My value.  There it was.

You see, Jesus saw it all along. Before I even saw it.  He still saw my sin.  He still saw my hurt.  But before all this, He first saw me.  ALL of me. And loved me for who I was, before I loved myself, because that’s Who He is.

Suffice to say, my whole world changed once I saw what my Savior saw!

I could finally forgive myself for all the sinful, heinous things I’ve ever done, including treating my favorite person in the whole wide world like such a jerk, because Jesus Stepped In. 

He forgave me first.

I could finally stop holding myself back from my calling, my purpose and the blessings of my Father because Jesus stepped in. 

He chose me first.

I could finally stop punishing myself for all the sinful wrongs I had done and take my place as a daughter of the King– because Jesus Stepped In. 

He took my place on that cross and saved me first.

It was so simple, but oh so powerful!  Everything started and ended with Him.  He is truly the Alpha and Omega and we can *insert what you think is impossible* because of Him!

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AHHH! I know, so crazy!

So what’s the point of all this? As I said in the beginning, this convoluted blog is about about my grandma, Christmas, and Peabo Brysom (DON’T NOBODY CAN SANG LIKE PEABO CAN SANG!)

Sorry, I digress.  Here we gooo.

Jesus ain’t basic!

When you’ve grown up in the church or have been a Christian for a while, we can let UNFATHOMABLE TRUTHS become blase, basic and plain.  It shouldn’t… it’s messed up, but it does happen. It happened to me as you can see! In the storms of life, we can especially let the miracle of Christmas lose its shine.

But this year, I think it’s important for all of us to take a step back from the shopping, the parties, the lights, the special church services, etc. to remember what ACTUALLY happened in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. I won’t get into it allllll right here, right now (there’s a Bible app for that, read it!), but knowing that Jesus came to earth, you can’t deny the whole ordeal is ridiculously incredible!

God. You know, GOD. The ONLY Perfect. Amazing. Righteous. Eternal. All Knowing. All Powerful. Solid Rock. Unconditional Loving. HOLY Being in the Universe.  THIS GOD humbled Himself by wrapping every bit His GODness in humanity.  And not just a short stint in humanity.  HE CAME AS A BABY and lived a full 33 years of human life.

The miracle of Christmas is the marvelous fact that, in that moment:

Jesus.

Stepped.

In.

Yes, the virgin birth was crazy! For sure, the angels cracking open the skies was super dope! AND FINALLY the once in a lifetime prophecies from the Old Testament were fulfilled! For real.  Amazing. Nevertheless, the phenomenon that a Holy God would step up and step in– so we, sinners on our way to Hell, would know grace; would know life, would know love, would know HIM– that alone should bring us to our knees in worship…  We should legit be taken aback and beside ourselves! It is truly mind blowing!

Jesus stepped in: even knowing the beginning from the end,  even knowing every bit of our crazy, even knowing that we would sin and hurt His heart again and again and again, even knowing that He would be betrayed by the ones He loved– even knowing that a painful death on cross was waiting for Him at the end!

“But for the joy set before Him…” He stepped in and endured it all!!  And He continues to step in today and FOREVER.

And you know what? That, right there, is the gospel.  That’s salvation.

That’s Christmas.

…Oh, how I just love Christmas!

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…and so does Peabo!

So, in conclusion…

This blog is about Christmas, my grandma and of course, Peabo Bryson.  But really, if you made it this far… Let it serve as a reminder to never let the the miracle of the Gospel lose its impact.  Some miraculously, unbelievable stuff happened so Jesus could step into your life! Surrender your everything to Him (the good, the bad, the ugly) so His truth and His power can get into the deep nooks of your soul.

Whatever it is that you’re holding back… stop.  Stop running away, stop blocking transformation and stop punishing yourself by refusing all that God has for you!

There’s a peaceful and wonderful eternity in Him for the taking.  An eternity with genuine life.  Life full of adventure, acceptance, grace, trust, blessing, honor,  forgiveness and love.  A life knowing Him. He loves you.  He’s always loved you.

It’ll  be hard… but Let. Things. Go.

Let. Jesus. Step. In!

I finally– FULLY have and it’s real, amazing out here.

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Indeed, Scrooge.  Indeed.

That’s all I got, folks.

Oh, wait no.  Apologies for using the phrase “super dope” earlier in this entry.  My Millennial was showing.

Oh, and also… DON’T NOBODY CAN SANG LIKE PEABO CAN SANG!

Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals!

 

 

Until next time,

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new glorious morn
Fall on your knees, O hear the angels’ voices
O night divine, O night when Christ was born
~~~~~~~~~~~~

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.  The government will rest on his shoulders. And He will be called:

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His government and its peace will never end.  He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity.  The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

~Isaiah 9: 2, 6-7 (NLT)

Here’s some pics for your enjoyment:

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My and my gram. ❤

 

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Me with pants by a Christmas tree… a rare occasion.

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