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Welcoming 2023 with Faith

Taking the Time to Reflect 

January 2, 2023, at this time I take the time to reflect on my journey. I reflect on 2022 and I am moving forward in 2023. I am not one to make resolutions, but I do make goals. What I really like about writing my goals, is that I can focus on making each goal a plan, a guide of where I see myself going. To get somewhere, you require some sort of direction and goals provide me with direction. By writing goals, they are visible to me. The same goals I write, I can refer back to them throughout the year and see how I am working to achieve each one. I also love vision boards because again, it is a visual that reminds me of the things I want to achieve. I believe that in life, we can do what we love, although many may disagree with me. However, I am grateful to do what I love. Over the past years, I have learned that it is important to do what we love, but even in doing what we love, there must be a purpose and there must be intentionality. As I think about 2023 and the message I have, I know reflection and introspection is important. I, therefore, take take time to reflect. I reflect on what I have learned from 2022. I reflect on how I have grown. I reflect on the mistakes I have made. I reflect on where I go from here. I reflect on purpose and intentionality. Purpose and intentionality for 2023. As I reflect, I ask myself, what were some of my goals for 2022? How did I show up for my family? How did I show up for my community?  How did I show up for my friends? What relationships did I or did not cultivate? What spaces did I occupy? How did I become a better person? How did I grow personally, professionally and most importantly spiritually. As I think about who I am from a holistic perspective, I reflect on my life. For 2023, how will I show up for my family? How will I show up for my community?  How will I show up for my friends? What relationships will I cultivate? What spaces will I occupy? How will I focus on becoming a better version of me? How will I show up for me?

Self-Reflection

Self-reflection is critical for growth. Although, based on my profession, I am trained to self-reflect, self-reflections goes beyond my professional career. Self-reflection is personal to me. I remember when I sat in one of my undergrad classes, and the professor stressed the importance of being a reflective practitioner, she reminded us that for us to serve children, youth, families and our communities, we must self-reflect on who we are, what contributed to who we are and continue to work towards growth. I believe that with self-reflection comes that responsibility to acknowledge where I am, what has influenced me to be who I am today and reflect on where I am going. By doing so I am able to focus on becoming a better version of myself. In my opinion, we should all want to be a better version of ourselves daily because there is always room for growth. I have learned that I should never allow others to tell me I shouldn’t work on becoming better each day. I should. We should. Imagine being the same person you were two years ago. Imagine being the same person you were five years ago without any growth. Just imagine that for a second. As the world changes, we too have to evolve into our best selves and that includes continuous growth.

Goals for 2023

As I reflect on 2023, there are many things that I have begun to think about. For example, I like to set SMART goals, which helps me to map out my path, the steps I need to take in my life, being mindful that life comes with interruptions. I am mindful of how I will respond to interruptions. For 2023, I pause. Yes, I pause. I pray for wisdom and God’s guidance and direction. Even if it is just to say, “Lord, please help me, I pray,” then I must do that. I cannot continue into a new year without seeking my creator. I believe, I am at that point, where I need to draw closer to God. So, Lord, I ask, please help me, this is my prayer, please help me.

As I reflect on my SMART Goals. I begin with the end in mind and work backwards as to how I am going to achieve my goals and tasks. I am also mindful that I must put God first in everything I do. So, even my goals, I am dedicated each one to him. As long as I am still breathing, I acknowledge and hold space, that there is room for improvement, growth and there will be things I need to do to ensure I am developing. I acknowledge, I am an ongoing learner and the process of learning is everyday. 

2023 is here and I’m striving to be better in all areas of my life, which includes: mind, body, and spirit. Mentally, physically, emotionally, personally, professionally and spiritually. I hope you will also strive to be the best you can be. I am surrounding myself with positive people and I will be in positive environments, where I am encouraged, empowered, and have the opportunity to flourish. 

Community Connection

My message to myself and to you for 2023, is to strive to be better in all areas of our lives, including spiritually. Prioritize your mental health. Say no, when you need to. As I reflect on connecting to communities, we are created to be in a community, not in isolation. We are the community. Communities are different, but they are essential. These communities include: social communities, church communities, physical development communities, book communities, seniors communities, entrepreneurship communities, etc., the list goes on and on. We need to be intentional into plug into communities, like we plug our electrical cords into outlets. By connecting to communities, we are building relationships and have the opportunity to empower each other. 2023 includes connecting to communities, and not operating in isolation. For example, I have a church community, a women’s meetup community, and other communities I connect to for different purposes an intentions. As I began to connect to different communities, I am able to also see different needs and responded to some of the needs I see. I continued to pray for God to help me see the needs and use me in the community, to help me see this world for what it is, so I don’t just go through this world like everything is okay, when in reality it is not. Through this process, I realized that my education is not only for me, it is for me to use what I have learned to help others to build and create. As I reflected on one of the first video I saw with Dr. Umar Johnson a few years ago, I watched his interview, and his words have never left me. He says, we have the resources to help our communities. We can use the resources we have to either build or create. Therefore, I as I reflect, I am asking myself what I can do to help build and create in community through collaboration. At the end of 2022, I began to reflect and learn more about the seven principles of Kwanzaa and the first principle is unity – 

“Umoja (unity)-  to strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race, 

Kujichagulia (Self-determination), – To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) -To build and maintain our community together and make our community’s problems our problems and to solve them together.” 

Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)- To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Nia (Purpose) – To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Kuumba (Creativity) – To do always as much as we can to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Imani (Faith) – To believe with all our hearts in our people and the righteousness and victory of our struggle” (National Museum of African

Kwanzaa Reference: https://nmaahc.si.edu/explore/stories/seven-principles-kwanzaa

So for me, for 2023, it is imperative I take these seven principles in consideration not just during Kwanzaa, but throughout the year. 

Digging Deeper

As we are in the first month of 2023, I want us to dig deeper into what we want for this new year. I want to dig deeper into what I am asking for. It’s not about acquiring materialistic things because I can guarantee that when you and I leave this earth, we are not going to be remembered by the cars we drive and what we have. I am not saying those things are bad, they are not, but don’t allow your focus for 2023 to be only on acquiring your wants, make it deeper. We just cannot afford to worship materialistic things for 2023, and make those things our God. Again, don’t get me wrong, we should want to acquire things, they are not bad, but they can become an issue when we only focus on our wants and ignore our whole development.

As I reflect on 2022 and what it has taught me, I realized that I have more compassion, more love and I have learned to be still in moments in my life. There were moments, I needed to be alone and meditate. I learned about the importance of silence from my spiritual development class. My spiritual development director, saw all the work I was doing, she prayed with me, and asked me to pause. I remember, telling her, I didn’t have time to pause, but we discussed the importance of being in silence and just not doing anything. The first time, I sat in my room for 10 minutes in silence, it was difficult. I had to report my experience back to mt spiritual director and I shared what it was like to take time and just be in silence and meditate. It wasn’t easy, but it allowed me to clear my mind for those 10 minutes. I needed to pause to hear from God and spend time with God. My spiritual development coach and I discussed the importance of resting and self-care. I learned the importance of pausing.

Who will we help while we are occupying this space called earth? How will we impact our community? These are questions, I ask myself. I am not just here to obtain materialistic things that depreciate. The lives we touch will not depreciate. Having a relationship with Jesus will not depreciate. God equips us in many ways. We need to sometimes take time to reflect. 2023 I am reflecting, but I am activating, I am moving forward with purpose and intent. I parented with intention. I didn’t just wake up and say I would be doing whatever with my son. I was intentional with my parenting style for example, I wanted him to know about the God I serve and I taught him to the best of my ability. I prayed with him and asked him to pray for us and he would pray over both of us as a child. Together we read the bible and together we prayed, as I prayed for him as well. I would choose a scripture to read and when he was younger, he would have to choose a scripture to also read. I tried my best to be purposeful in his development. For example, his physical development was also important to me, so I intentionally never placed a TV in his room when he was a child (this was my personal choice). He played outside most of his childhood and we went on hikes to different parks. We rode our bikes and I participate in extra curricular activities. I focused on ensuring he was active. I even remember the first family day we had in Canada. I had to put on my snow pants because he insisted we build a snow family like our own family. So off we went to the backyard to build in the snow. The point I am trying to make is that in anything we are doing in 2023, let’s do it with purpose and intent. How can I be intentional and purposeful when it comes to my whole development – personally, professionally, spiritually and mentally – mind-body-spirit. It takes intentionality and purpose to work towards becoming our best selves. For this year, if we choose to set goals around materialistic things let’s delve a bit deeper into who we are and who we want to become. Let’s take time to think about how we are caring for our mind, body and spirit. What will I do for you this 2023? What will you do? What communities do you need to connect to? I pray for wisdom for 2023. I pray that God will guide and lead me, lead us, as we walk through 2023. I pray for discernment. I pray that I will continue to walk in love. That I will not just love my family or friends but I will love others the same way I would love my family and friends. For 2023, I pray that God will enable me to help others abundantly in my community. In my opinion, when we see the world for what it is, we will understand the importance of prayer. We will also understand community. We are created to be in community. We are apart of the community. Rather it be a social community, a meetup group, a self-help group, meeting up with friends, a church, a seniors group, a teens group, those are all communities. We are surrounded by different communities and we operate in community, we are not separated from community, we make up our communities. So do not distance yourself from the communities around you, find those positive communities to be in. Ask yourself how you have changed from 2022? What have we learned from 2022? Reflect on how you can be more positive? Focus on what you need to do to grow? Write it down and get ready to activate. Do not let fear consume you. Fear can allow you to be stagnant. As well, if you fail at something, get up. If we fail at something, we can revise the plan and try again. For 2023, as I start the new year, I focus on my growth personally, professionally, and most importantly spiritually.

The pandemic was difficult for many of us. We experienced isolation, loss and even trauma. For some of us 2022 also had its challenges and 2023 may have its challenges too but be intentional in what you say and what you do. Join a community where you can grow and evolve because we are not meant to stay the same each year, we must see some growth. Take time for you as well. Practice self-care. When 2022 began, I began to focus on my self-care and gratitude. By doing so, it has changed the way I see life. First and foremost, gratitude has allowed me to appreciate what I have. I appreciate my family, my friends, I even appreciate having the ability to walk in the parks and go hiking. Hiking and walking is one of my biggest self-care routines and riding my bike. Appreciate where you are coming from, appreciate who you are and who you are becoming. Remember, that you have so much to offer this world. What you have been through wasn’t just for you. I was once told by one of the pastors that visited the church I attend, that I should plant seeds. I have finally begun to own the words she spoke over my life, I am asking God to help me to plant seeds. I’m planting the first seed by sharing this message to you. I know that anything I am blessed with is not for only me or my loved ones, it is for me to help my community. So for 2023, I’m praying for God to lead, direct and help me, for his word is clear. I am seeking his will not my own.

Psalm 119:105 “ Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light on my path” KJV, – I am reminded by this scripture, that it is within Him, that I will continue to find my purpose.

For several months, God gave me the scripture to focus on Psalm 119:105, I wondered why I kept coming back to the scripture at the end of 2022. As I meditated on Psalm 119:105, I realized that the same effort I make to read many books a year, the one book I must meditate on and read, is the word of God. I must go back to the word of God for 2023, not only should I read the word, I must apply the word to my life. So, I continue to pray for guidance and I pray for wisdom. I end this with writing piece by John F. Kennedy quote 

“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,”

Based on my research I learned that John F. Kennedy’s quote challenged Americans to see the country from a different perspective. To be involved – civic engagement. It’s not so much about what we can get, it was more about what we can give, even, if it is giving to just one person. Depending on where we are, what your experiences are, some of us may not be able to give much, however, there are so many ways we can give back. For example, we can check on a friend. We can cook a meal for a family less fortunate than our family? Can we donate some of our clothes? If we are able to, can we volunteer once a month. What can we do for our country? Let’s bring it closer to home. What can we do for our province or state? Let’s bring it a bit closer. What can we do in our cities? What can we do in the communities we are in? And we do to need to do it alone, we can work together in unity – Umoja  

As we set goals for 2023, as we set new year’s resolutions, as we attend vision board parties, let’s challenge ourselves to do something for someone else this new year. At the same time, focus on becoming the best version of you. – Written January 2nd, 2023 by Naj (Natalee Antoinette)

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Finding Your Rainbow in 2020

Niagara Falls August 2002 by Naj Writings – Natalee A. Johnson

Like many people, I also started 2020 by making a list of goals and planned three Vision Board parties from the months of January 2020 to March 2020. The March Vision Board party was canceled due to the pandemic and the rental facility closing. For so many of us, we are unsure of what the remainder of 2020 will be like. To be honest, no one knows. We can only hope for the best. If we are honest with ourselves, many of us, will admit, 2020 has not been the best year so far. Take for instance, my example, although I run a small business Passion 4 Dreams Inc. I started a part-time job in January in hopes of paying for my student loans. Well, that part-time job laid people off, including myself. I had to revisit my goals to pay my student loans off based on my deadline. I also had to find alternatives options for the part-time job that I was now laid off on. I did all my calculations in January and had a great plan to tackle this student loan. Higher education comes with a cost, as we all know. What I decided to do, is focus more on my small business Passion 4 Dreams Inc. and begin a plan for online delivery of services. I had no choice, because the part-time job, I thought I had secure, was not secure due to Covid-19. However, I became highly creative and researched what I could do for my small business. This is my example, as I said, I planned everything out Jan.2020 but things did not go as I planned. I had to look at other options and be flexible.

I know 2020 has not been the greatest year for many of us. I have decided to try and make the best out of what 2020 has given me and I hope you will too. I have been focusing on all the positive things in my life. This picture reminds me, that if we look deep enough, even in our situations, we can find rainbows. I do not know what your 2020 has been like thus far but maybe you had plans like I did. Every year I go through my goals and revise, and cross out what I have achieved. This year is a bit different, I have committed to learning as much as I can as it relates to business, financial education and reading books of different genre, as well focus more on my writing. I do not know what is next in 2020 and neither do you. There has been a shift and the shift will continue. The pandemic has brought on many challenges. But what will w do to make the best of 2020? There has been wins and possible more disappointments than we bargained for in 2020.

If anything, I have learned, is that there is only so much that we can control when it comes to the universe. For some of us, we made many new years resolutions. We made a few goals and revised the other goals we were working on. However, things have slowed down. Some of us are not working, while others are working from home. We have learned that even our careers can and are temporary based on situations beyond our control. It has been a year. Unprecedented times for many of us, with uncertainties. I want to encourage you, do not give up. Whatever your dreams and goals were for 2020, you may have to revise them, and that is okay, do so. But do not give up. Keep on pushing forward. Have hope, walk in faith, and expect only the best. While your doing that, encourage others in your networks and be encouraged yourself.

Our lives have changed due to the pandemic. Our routines have changed. Our mindsets have changed. We have learned that we can plan, and planning is good, but things do happen, that is beyond our control. We cannot do much, but we can control our thoughts, actions, and behaviors and how we respond to situations. Here are a few tips to manage through 2020:

  1. Continue to be responsible and practice social distancing
  2. Think positive thoughts
  3. Be grateful for what you have and show gratitude daily
  4. Encourage others in your networks
  5. Ensure you are around others that can encourage you during this time
  6. Do not give up on your goals and dreams, revise them if you must, but don’t give up
  7. Focus on what you can control and not what you cannot control
  8. Make it a habit to find something to smile about
  9. Be intentional in what you do
  10. Declutter

Find the rainbows in your situations. Going forward let us focus on what we can control today. Remember 2020 has been a year of uncertainties but continue to have hope, walk in faith, and do not give up on your goals and dreams. Think positive thoughts. Be positive and find the great things in life to celebrate. – Naj Writings. © 2020. All Rights Reserved. | Privacy Policy and Terms of Use

What Do You Do, When Life Gives You Lemons?

How many of us have been given lemons throughout life? What do we do? “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” is a powerful proverbial phrase. One of my favorites, that remind me that things are not always perfect. Our plans do not always go the way we want or expect. In that case what can we do? What do we do? Well, the proverbial phrase makes it clear, that when things get bitter and sour, we can make the best out of the situation. The phrase speaks to the realities of life. We encounter difficulties, things may not always work out. As I reflect on this phrase, my thoughts go back to Stephen Covey teaching on the Circle of Influence. Which relates to what we can control, as per the Circle of Concern (What we cannot control). Our decisions are based on the choices we make daily. The lemon represents many different situations that may go wrong in our lives. However, the lemonade is our response to receiving the lemon. What matters is not the fact that we have received lemons? What matters is how we use the lemons. What matters is how we respond to receiving the lemons. We either accept the lemons, complain, wish for better or we move forward. One thing I have learned over the past years, is the power of mindset. Our mindset will determine how we respond to receiving the lemons. Our mindset will determine how we respond to our situations. In the context of the proverbial phrase, we would respond by making lemonade. Which represents having a positive attitude, being optimistic and despite what we have been giving, we try to make the best out of what we have. It is not what we receive, it is how we respond to what we have received. It is our reactions to our experiences. As per the proverbial phrase, which has such a strong meaning, let us make lemonade out of the lemons we receive. – Natalee A. Johnson – Naj Writings. © 2020. All Rights Reserved. | Privacy Policy and Terms of Use

“Queen”

So why are my new designed Queen T’s important to me?

Queen let you light shine and you do not need to apologize.

My new queen T-Shirts remind me of the journey I have been on as a woman and mother. The journey is never easy and many will never see the roads you had to travel on to get to where you want in life. I also know from my experiences, that we don’t always understand everything we had to and have to go through. That’s why it was important for me to find my “why”.

Life is about learning. I strongly believe that learning happens daily. We receive what the universe wants to teach us, only if we are open to receiving. I know from my personal experiences that going through situations are not always easy. I also know that there are many things we have to go through in life, and we can come out victorious. What’s more important than coming out victorious is what we have learned from a particular situation or experience. Let me remove the filter. What have I learned after separation? What have I learned from my experience of being a single mother? What is next? What did I learn when I was a Black youth labeled as an at-risk youth growing up in priority communities in Toronto? I was labeled and at-risk youth living in the inner-city, in neighborhoods tattooed by crime and violence. As a teen, I did not care for the label, nor did it bother me, until I went to college and started to learn about at-risk youth. In college, I was learning how to support at-risk children and youth in the Early Childhood Education Program. Apparently, I was fortunate that I even made it to college but as a child, I always wanted to attend college and university. As a teenager of course, like many teenagers, you sometimes get distracted. I got a distracted but my goal to attend college and university never left me. My mother drilled higher education in my schema from a young age.

In college, everything, I learned intrigued and piqued my interest, I wanted to absorb more information and learn. That is how I knew I had signed up for the right college program. While in college, I was never bored and always passionate to learn about children, youth and families. I was always learning, which allowed me to further develop. I learned that a label is just a label. It does not define your life. It does not mean that one day, you will not be able to peel that label off. I was able to peel the label “at-risk” off my life by accessing resources that could help me and having mentors, that helped me to become successful. As I mention the word successful, I want to make it clear, that in my view, success looks differently for everyone. For some people based on their circumstances, success is getting in college and graduating with a diploma, or university degree. That is okay, because success for each of us is different. So, I never try to define what success looks like for others. I know my perception of success is different, especially noting I was labeled an at-risk youth. Where I am today is only through the grace of God and the many people that rallied around me to support me, which sometimes, I had to seek out those persons. What I can tell you, from my experiences, is never allow other people’s opinions of you to determine who you should be. Never allow society to label you, where you give up your dreams and goals. Never allow others to tell you that you are not good enough or that you cannot achieve something. What you can be and want to achieve is in your control, you have to find a way to make it happen. It does not mean the way will be easy. It will not be easy, but I believe in possibilities.

Now that I have shared that I was an at-risk youth, you are probably wondering what relevance does my Queen T’s have? Well, the Queen T’s remind me that queens travel on journey’s too. Our journey’s can sometimes break us, or they can build us to be stronger and better. I have gone through many journey’s, like many other people. At times, some of the difficult situations allowed me to doubt my own ability. Yet, I could not give up. I found my why, my son. Each person, must find their own why and hold on to their “why”. Going through our journey’s is not always easy but to overcome, we have to go through them. It wasn’t easy to go to university as a single mother, on one income, but I had to do it, again because my “why”, was my son. I saw the long term benefits of completing university. As I wear my Queen T-shirt, I am reminded of my journey, strength, resilience, perseverance, and the ability to overcome. Again, I am not saying anything I have been through was easy. It was not. I dedicate this peace to all women. You are a queen. As you reflect on your own life and journey’s, you have to find your “why” to motivate you and keep going. Regardless of what you are going through or have been through, I want you to know that you are a Queen. Do not quit. Keep on going and when you get through and you are able to, build another Queen by encouraging her. Queens hold each other up. Queens are not afraid to share that things are not always perfect. Queens are not perfect, because none of us are. Queens speak up when they need help. Being strong is asking for help. Queens understand that everyone grows at their own pace. Queens are non-judgmental. Queens walk in love. They get back up when they fall. Remember you are a Queen. Wear your crown. Share your glow.

– Naj Writings. © 2020. All Rights Reserved. | Privacy Policy and Terms of Use

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