Early last month, the U.S. was impacted by the coronavirus and the diseased it causes, COVID-19. Other nations had been and have been impacted as well and it is a global pandemic. States, including North Carolina, where I live, have issued stay-at-home orders to help stop the spread of the deadly virus. Schools have been closed. Courts have been closed. Retailers, that don't sell necessary items, have been closed. Thus, for months, we have primarily been at home and I have actually had time to write. I had been working on a second book for years and I am actually about to finish it and possibly release it this month. Wow.
More personally important, about 5 days before the stay-at-home order was issued, on March 9th, 2020 at about 3:30 a.m., my daughter Kelyn, pictured to the left, went home to be with the Lord. She was diagnosed in November of 2017 with a genetic disorder called, Niemann-Pick Disease Type C (NPC). For more information, you can read here (https://nnpdf.org/overview/#NPC). For almost 3 years we watched her health decline as she struggled with the condition. I had another daughter, Amira, who passed away from similar symptoms in 2010. We had no idea of what the condition was back then, but found out upon Kelyn's diagnosis.
I miss Kelyn. She was my beautiful baby girl. Unlike with Amira, I remember everything about Kelyn from birth to death. During Amira's life, my wife and I dealt with so many other family emergencies and situations that I had to fight for memories after she passed. I've been grieving, but I honestly began the grief process when we got Kelyn's diagnosis.
The picture on the left below, while sad, is beautiful. It reflects my family's new normal of enjoying each other while holding on to the memories and what we have left of Amira and Kelyn. You see Amira's beautiful headstone, Kelyn's beautiful casket and floral spray, and my other beautiful children blowing bubbles commemorating Amira's birthday. On March 14th, 2020, Amira would have turned 14, the same day we buried Kelyn.
Of course, there's comedy. The bubble over my eye as I give someone a sarcastic smirk. Joy in the midst of pain. Beauty and fun intertwined with sadness. LIFE. No matter what, because God has made us strong, we are alright and it will all make us better. It's purposed adversity. Speaking of purpose, I recently released a second book called the Fight for Purpose that discusses finding and fulfilling purpose. Check it out.
Over the years, I have been reluctant to celebrate myself. Often, if received too much attention for doing something good or celebrated myself too much, people close to me would do the following:
I’m 40. Wow. I remember when my mom turned 40 and I thought it was old. I even threw her a party and looking back, considering things she's undergone since then, I'm glad I threw the party. In fact, one my dearest family member and best friends, my aunt died at 40. So, I'm just glad to have made it! And I'm going to celebrate!
In the Bible, 40 is a time of testing and trial. Certainly, I have come through many of those and I won't recount them. Yet, in spite of it all, God has given me everything I’ve wanted or went after in the midst of it. Particularly, I got my own family and a best friend in Francemise to redeem any of my dysfunctional family or bad relationship experiences.
I was telling a millennial once that I felt like I had lived about three lives reflecting on the time I've spent as a pastor, educator, and attorney. When people ask me why I am so educated, I tell them it's not because I necessarily wanted to get so many degrees. I had to get the degrees for the particular jobs I had and to take care of my family. (Except pastoring: I got that degree because I just wanted to know what I was talking about when I stood before God's people.)
The best part of this turning 40 thing is that “I don’t looks like what I’ve been through.” I actually have been told I look younger than 40, although in my twenties I was told that I looked old. It’s not a cliche or a catchy, emotion-grabbing song for me. I really don’t look like what I’ve been through and “I’ve been through too much not to worship Him!” God has kept me. I’ve had to be a lot and do a lot and be responsible for many so young; actually well before the time for certain things. However, it’s made me savvy, wise and experienced.
I’ve been excited about this birthday because in my pursuit of purpose and living out God-given purpose, I’ve endured process. I didn’t always endure it with the best attitude, but I endured it. And in the process, I didn’t mentally faint or give up on God. I haven’t always understood and I’ve had to readjust, but I went on anyway. Yet, one day, I realized that much of my purpose and God-given assignment I’ve been after has been fulfilled. I relocated to fulfill a purpose and to be a blessing to where I’m from and I’ve done it.
I'm so excited about turning 40 (as you can tell!) However, there is a part two to me. This next half or more holds so much more and in this part, I’m confident about being me and comfortable. My attitude, stances, impetuousness, boldness, loyalty, wit, things that I am, I will be more assertively. Over the years, I’ve had to fight for my person-hood in various other areas of my life. I now understand, appreciate, and have accepted certain things about myself and now it's time to fully release myself and offer a complete and uninhibited me to the world. I have learned that time is precious and life is to be lived fully with the time you have. Thus, I'm giving y'all everything this next half!
To celebrate me and this new phase of life, I had my first photo shoot. I am excited and pleased and highly recommend the photographer, Ken Bledsoe. So, here I am. Happy Birthday to Me! Everyone deserves a day and a season, so celebrate with me!
So, I felt a need to do a turning 40 blog post. I have always been a little impatient and impulsive so when I feel something, I generally go for it and do it. I plan and think things through, but I go on and do what's in my heart and mind. So, while I have time and good scenery, I figured I'd write about 40 lessons I have learned over these past almost 40 years of living. Hopefully, the blog won't be too long and you'll glean some things that will help you in your life's journey. So, here we go...
1. Do what's in your heart and mind. As I said above, that's generally how I live. I have tried to have no regrets about things I've wanted to do and the few things I haven't done yet are the things I always wonder what-if about. Plus, after living these almost 40 years, I know life, time, and good health are precious commodities. So, don't waste time and think you have time to do what's in your heart and mind. Plan and do it!
2. Make a plan and write it. Planning is important to anything you want to do. You have to think things through, weigh options and courses of action and see what resources you need to make your dreams happen. I've always been a journal writer and over the years have found that the things I have written down, I have done.
3. Know and keep your values. You need principles and values to live by. Often what you may want to do or plan to do may not be in agreement with what you have been taught, aspire to be, or choose as the values you live by. For me, I've always cherished the following things: love, integrity, faith, and excellence. I seek to measure everything I do by these things and when my aspirations or plans don't line up with these values, I abandon the aspiration or plan in order to keep my conscious clear.
4. Mind your business. This is harder said than done, especially when it comes to those close to you, but I've learned that people have to make their own decisions. You can provide them with information, encouragement, or support if they ask, but even then they may resent you if things don't turn out the way they want and they took your advice.
5. Root for the underdog. I've had so many odds against me and I always love to see those with odds against them win and overcome. I've found that adversity often is what pushes people to be great and develops the character needed to achieve our dreams.
6. Don't be stuck to a plan or course of action. If you've been going in a direction for a while and see it's not working or going the way you planned, don't be scared stop and/or start again in a new way. I've had to do this so many times and it took courage to admit that something just wasn't working.
7. Take good advice. What you don't learn from listening, you will learn from experience. Listening to proven, sound wisdom can save you time, money, and mistakes.
8. Don't be scared of conflict. You'd rather say how you feel and deal with a conflicting point of view or disagreement than keep your feelings bottled up. I've been a volcano myself and often once you overreact, you don't get an opportunity to fix what's been messed up.
9. Everything others do, you may not be able to do. You have to accept that you can't be like everyone else and do what everyone else does depending on your own purpose and goals in life. I've had to deal with this every since I've been a serious Christian and pastor. You have to live according to your principles and the dictates of your God, faith, and conscious. Others may not agree, but they will respect it.
10. Another's emergency and poor life management cannot be your issue. As a responsible person, I've always felt I had to help others and often fix messes they made. You cannot do this. Some lessons people have to learn on their own and if you are always there to bail them out, you enable them and they never get better.
11. Save money and plan for the unexpected. I've had so many emergencies and issues that were ultra me or anything I could control and I know this first-hand. So, you have to have resources at hand for unexpected illness, bills, death, etc.
12. You cannot care what everyone thinks. No one will always agree with you. People will often dislike you and your ideas and dreams and sometimes for no reason. Thus, you have to do and say what your convictions direct and be bold if you're going to do so.
13. Don't keep expectations of people unless you have to. We expect certain things of family members we care for or who care for us, people on our jobs, close friends, etc. However, other than what people explicitly say or commit to, you cannot expect more. You end up with unmet expectations and hurt feelings.
14. Everyone is not your enemy. Everyone is not your friend. Discern the two and keep information until you discern correctly. You have to take the time to get to know people and classify relationships accordingly. I've heard many different categories, but you have to just make sure your closest friends are tried and true and that you really trust them before sharing information and your life with them
15. Be honest and don’t be fake. Lies always come to light and if you don't want to answer, just don't answer unless you have to. However, you have to be honest with those closest to you! Also what you feel about people and circumstances will eventually come out so just be honest up front.
OK...I only made it to 15 lessons. I'll have to continue the rest at another time. Until then, LIVE your best LIFE!!! Enjoy some pictures from my 40th birthday party!
LOVE INTEGRITY FAITH EXCELLENCE
It delights me, as a father, to give my kids exactly what they want for Christmas. As parents, we make them wait for weeks or days to open their presents on Christmas Day. Then, to see their faces and hear them say, “Thanks, Daddy! I love you” makes it all worth it: the long store lines, the overpriced toys, etc. Even when you threatened not to get them anything because they were bad, you break the rules for your children. This is how our Father God is with us.
I had to learn this by having children because, honestly, many Christmases sucked for me. For a long time, growing up without a father, I never had this experience. I would look at the J.C. Penney Wishbook with all the toys and imagine I’d get this or that. My mother did her best, but many Christmases I either got nothing or found myself at the mercy of extended family for presents. I remember her aunts and uncles chipping in to get me a bike and one Christmas where they drew names and exchanged gifts and I got a flannel shirt. See, I was needy and had to get clothes while all my cousins got toys and clothes. When I met my paternal grandfather, he took up some of the slack. Yet, to this day I still don’t have a normal relationship with my own father. So, now that I can, I give my kids almost everything they want.
I didn’t plan to go too deep in this blog, but since I’m writing... My mother did her best. Even though we didn’t have often, when we did have, she would make up for the times I went without. In fact, she taught me a lot about giving and character in hard economic times. She was deep. She wrote a poem that many people know and exclaim called “Three Days Before Christmas” where she speaks against the commercialism of Christmas and snobbishly giving handouts to the poor. She taught me to find and know the history behind Holidays like Christmas, Easter, and Halloween and I question everything and challenge stuff that makes no sense to this day. In fact, we didn’t celebrate some of these holidays many years including Christmas. I applaud her depth. However, as a child, I still would rather had gifts. One Christmas she gave me $20 dollars and made me spend it on others. Yeah, it taught me character and I got it, but...
I am so very thankful for Francemise, Hassan II, Keren, and Kelyn Kingsberry and being a father. I am glad to have them and glad to give them whatever they want, including myself. It feels good to be loved and appreciated not because of what I do for them, but just for who I am. That’s a special gift there that makes you give. I cannot wait to see them open these gifts!
Here are a few things I love in this world from birth and as I've journeyed through life. I'll put them in the order in which I experienced them.
1. My Momma, Sheila Kingsberry-Burt. (Everyone loves their mom, but "mines" is one of a kind! She made me who I am. When people say I'm smart, it's because of her. When I open my mouth, they hear her. We've have had our changes because she spoiled me and wanted to undo it when I got grown, but... Another, digression. I can talk about her, but NO ONE ELSE CAN! Remember, that! That goes for all the other things I'm about to name as well!)
2. Gospel Music and Singing. (particularly Karen Clark-Sheard and hearing my maternal family sing visiting and growing up in Jordan Chapel Missionary Baptist Church on the border of Warren and Franklin County, NC. Good singing brings me alive!)
3. Pizza with Black Olives and Italian Sausage. (I know y'all may not like olives, but taste and see!)
4. Warren County, NC! (I came to Warren County from Vance County in the 6th grade and matriculated through Warren County Schools until I graduated as Valedictorian of the Warren County High School Class of 1997. Other than my family, this is my most prized achievement. Someone had to fight me to take it off my resume! I achieved to make all my teachers and the community proud because they built a bullied and torn down, but assertive and smart kid up to be proud of being smart and being himself despite my prior experiences in school.)
5. Warren County High School (As stated above and oh, I love my classmates! It's a deep love and we have a 20 year reunion coming this year! Turn up! Ayyyeee and all that stuff!)
6. UNC-Chapel Hill. (Yes, I am an unapologetic Tarheel! The only portion of my education fully paid. I thank them!)
7. Francemise St. Pierre Kingsberry! (My baby! I'm about to tear up. She just gets better and better as we grow together. When I first saw her, I knew something special about this woman and I thank God she's mine!)
8. World Changer's Church International and Pastor Creflo Dollar. (Say what you want about the Word of Faith movement and prosperity gospel, but God changed my life and some of my thinking there. Yes, He did!)
9. Amira Elyse Kingsberry (I will not cry today. RIP. Love you, baby!)
10. Hassan Terrance-Craig-Kingsberry, II; Keren Alyssa Kingsberry; Kelyn Anissa Kingsberry!!! (All me! Mines! Love them more than life. Grind for them! Spoil them! Now, I'm crying! Just a little though. I'm ok.)
So, there's much more that could be on this list, but this blog is not about this list or what I love. It's about a "shift" that took place in my life recently that I must share. You see Warren County is up here quite a bit. Why? Because I love it! I love it! I love it! One of my deepest core values is LOYALTY and I'm always loyal to those that were there for me or that helped me along the way. So, it is with great pride and honor that I can say I was appointed the County Attorney for my beloved and dear WARREN COUNTY!
Now the blog gets serious: Since I got the news of my classmate, colleague, former parishioner, and friend Jamie Wilkerson's passing, I've been trying to process and discern many things about it and life and purpose. Jamie was the County's first full-time attorney and she loved it! When the opportunity first arose, she came to me and told me she wanted the job and we prayed and "believed God" for it and she got it and she did a great job. I'm still a little perplexed by her passing and the events following, but I know she's resting with the Lord.
Like Jamie, as one acquainted with the emotional and mental pain of dealing with sickness, loss, and grief prematurely, but yet still having to go on with the business of and enjoyment of life, I've learned to seek the Lord. I've learned that wisdom, comfort, and solace from people just does not do it when you deal with certain things. It can actually leave you feeling judged and criticized and even more burdened. Yet God always knows and cares and can answer and not answer in a sovereign, loving, and all-wise way. So, I sought the Lord and when I seek Him, He seems to roll back the curtain of my life and remind me of some things.
Over the past ten years of my life, I've had many inexplicable things happen to totally shift my life and plans unexpectedly, good and bad. I won't recount them all, but if you know me you know them. However, something always keeps me going in pursuit of the purpose of God for my life. So, when many would have lost their minds or given up or allowed the bitterness and disappointment with life to set in, God has kept my mind and heart even when I just wanted to go off or flip out! A piece of what has kept me going has been what Warren County put in me and the people from "Dub-C" that encouraged me along the way and believed in me as a child, teenager, as a teacher, as an attorney, as clients. Remembering that I'm special to an entire place has carried me. The love. God's love expressed geographically.
Recently, as I've sought the Lord, God's sovereignty and Proverbs 19:21 have sprung up to remind me of some things. Proverbs 19:21 says, "Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails." I've tried to figure my life out and chart my own course so many times. I've been so certain and yet so uncertain. As people know occupationally I'm an attorney and pastor. I've been an educator and that started in my dear Warren County. Those close to me know that above all I prize my pastoral and ministry calling so much that I've never settled with the other two occupations. This year I was going to walk away from law and just focus on church and ministry. That was my plan. My wife warned me when I blogged and announced it to social media about it back in March not to make such final declarations! (I told you my wife is the best! But, you know us men...)
But, when Jamie died, I had a feeling that I needed to go back to Warren County. My home needed me. I may even need my home. Often the Kingdom needs you to fulfill a role other than I what you plan or want to be at a certain season of life. It had been stirring in me that a shift was coming and I'd been preparing for something, but just didn't know what. In the midst of what I'd been facing even personally this season, I sensed God saying press through it and get flexible. So, here I am at the shift...
Regarding purpose, as humans we always want to know what's next and make a plan and control our lives. I've learned you can't do that especially if you belong to God. All who know me know that Warren County is special to me. The people and place built me up when I was torn down and comforted me in my weary times and I've lived to make it proud and show people that no matter where you are from, you can be great. I've found that definition of great changes depending on where you are in life. I'm in a place where "great" for me is being used maximally for the Lord at the right place and at the right time.
It all leads to "not my will, but thy will be done." Thus, I am honored and humbled to go home to Warren county and serve. Always remember that God is sovereign and purpose is consistent, but may have many manifestations.
Forgive the long blog with many various ramblings and thoughts, but I think it will make sense...
Two days ago, my wife reminded me that my first child, my daughter, Amira Elyse Kingsberry's birthday was today. Normally, I remember it before it comes each year, but when my wife said it, it caught me off guard. I've been so busy with work stuff. Most times, it would make me sad or I'd fight tears, but this year it startled me. It just shook me a little. I said, "whoa" and before I could really think about it or reflect, I had to go attend to my children who were avoiding going to sleep like I told them!
Amira's life and death always make me think about my purpose in life and whether I am living it. I think the reminder startled me because I recently did some soul searching about one of my occupations and decided it just wasn't my destiny. It shouldn't have startled me because I have learned to live by faith and trust God. However, you do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.
People always told me I would be and It had always been prophesied to me that I'd be a preacher, but I didn't want to do it. In my mind, preachers made no money and I grew up in the land of preachers and churches where everyone went to church, but had the same problems everyone else did (I mean even the hype, Charismatic, Pentecostal, sho 'nuff Bible-teaching, churches). Thus, I never wanted to be labeled as a hypocrite, even though I had times in life where I was... Lord, help.
Eventually, I accepted the calling. It was just who I was: a preacher. And I wanted to be living this purpose as my daughter and children grew up. So, in 2007, my wife and I moved back to NC in pursuit of purpose. We planted the church that God had put in my heart. I pursued my purpose to be the preacher I had always knew God had called me to be and it was because of Amira.
I encourage you, if you're nosey enough, to buy and read my book The Fourth Man Principle. It's an easy read about purposed adversity and our struggle with Amira's health, decline, and eventual passing. It was the greatest challenge of my faith and life, but I have learned so much from the experience. It has has fueled my heart and passion as a purpose-driven preacher, pastor, and servant of God in ways that I never imagined.
So, when my wife reminded me of Amira's birthday, I was startled because I knew that it was time to gauge whether I'm living out my purpose again. This is the same purpose that brought us back to NC and fueled the resilience to weather the storms of life and ministry. I asked myself, "Are you doing what God told you to do? Did Amira die in vain?" And in recent years, God called me out of public education, though I tried to stay on that pay scale with those benefits. I tried to make it my purpose because it had become comfortable, but in 2014 He shifted me. I didn't know what to do when I left education, but God led me back into law practice and supernaturally touched my firm as I trusted Him.
Now, it's time for me to make another change and to refocus. I don't think I'll be able to completely come out law practice, but I must press into Kingdom advancement more. Although I've been in ministry for eight years, there's more to do.
It's one thing to know, but to really know is another thing. Years ago, in 2010, while trying to get answers about Amira's illness, the Lord told me and reaffirmed my life purpose to me. I'll never forget it. At my dentist's office I heard in that deep place: "Your purpose is to be my mouthpiece, you will use your creative and artistic gifts, but the main purpose is to speak for me—You and your whole household after you." And I promised to do just this: Speak for God! So, today, I reaffirm this purpose and commit to it more fully in honor and memory of my baby girl, Amira Elyse Kingsberry.
38) Being Valedictorian of the Warren County High School Class of 1997.
37) The birth of my first child, Amira Elyse Kingsberry at Cobb Wellstar Hospital in Austell, Georgia.
36) The morning we woke up to find that Amira had passed away in her sleep, October 15th, 2010.
35) The birth of my son, Hassan II, at Wake Med Hospital in Raleigh, NC, November 30th, 2012 after my wife’s nurse told her to push with her bottom and not her mouth! I hollered inside, but did not say a word…
34) Watching them pull my twins, Keren and Kelyn out of my wife via C-section on September 10th, 2014. Wow.
33) My wedding day, July 19th, 2003. I cried like baby. Francemise was so beautiful and the singing ensemble took me in!
32) The first time I saw Francemise Kingsberry at Hill Hall at UNC in August of 2002. She would look at me then hide her eyes like she wasn’t looking.
31) March of 2007 when I found out my mom had had her first stroke.
30) The first church service we had for Rebirth and Renewal Church International at the Ambassador Suites Hotel in Henderson, NC in October of 2008.
29) Singing “Dona Nobis Pacem at a 3rd grade Recital in Aiken, SC. I was fancy singing opera!
28) Singing "It Will Be All Right" by John P. Kee in 5th grade with Jordan Chapel Baptist Church Youth Choir. I had to think real hard to change the lyrics because I was not born in Durham, NC outside the county line nor was I the 15th child of 16 children.
27) Passing the Georgia Bar exam in 2005.
26) Passing the North Carolina Bar exam in 2009 and all the many things that tried to keep me from studying that summer and my friend who went over with me all the topics that happened to be on the test and the flat tire I had trying to leave the test the last day!
25) "My Boo" and "Come on Ride That Train" and the Nutty Professor soundtrack at Governor’s school in the summer of 2006!
24) When I first heard Karen Clark-Sheard in concert at World Changers Church in ATL and met her and was star struck!
23) The first time I heard hundreds of people pray in tongues at WCCI at once. The Holy Ghost! The Holy Ghost!
22) Dancing with Francemise at the Coronation Ball in 2001 and trying not to touch her hip, but wanting to touch her hip.
21) Buying my first car, the Black Geo Metro. I and others folded up in it a many a day and flossed just like it was a Benz!
20) Smoking my first cigarette in 6th grade trying to fit in.
19) Smoking my last cigarette in February of 2007; that deliverance took a long time!
18) Buying our first house in Austell, GA. It was the first house we saw, but looked for a long time after seeing it like we weren’t going to come right back to it.
17) The big window in Mece's apartment when we first married where we watched the city lights and listened to Chocolate Factory by R. Kelly. My Lord!
16) My first trial in Clayton county, GA. I was so nervous, but I won. I think the jurors took pity on me.
15) Learning to ride a bike in Twin Oaks Trailer Park in Franklin County, NC. My cousins pushed me down a hill/dirt path and did not care if I fell! But, I learned how to ride that bike that day!
14) My first plane ride from NY to AZ by myself as a child.
13) The many laughs I had teaching social studies in Warren County with my crazy classes (particularly when one of my students was drunk and told another he had slept with her momma! His commentary led to our discovery of intoxication.)
12). My first day at my first job as an Asst. Principal at Bunn High School and the petition the kids sent around the school to get me fired because they thought I made all the changes that year.
11) When all my kids walked for the first time.
9) Seeing Europe and being able to visit several countries in one day.
8) Flying to Japan and the plane ride I had to get intoxicated to take. Saki is nasty, but it got me there and back.
7) Meeting my father's father (grandfather), Swade Exum for the first time and remembering how tall he was. I never thought I would get that tall, but did.
6). Laughing and busting 'tines (routines) with Dorie Davis and that video we made at King’s Dominion to “Cool Like That” by Digable Planets. Burn it, Dorie! Burn it!
5) When I tried out for basketball in middle school and threw up every night after practice and let that dream go…
4) Figuring out that I was going to have to cuss and call names to make it on bus 116 to make it. One day I called somebody an "ashy back heiffer" and they stopped picking on me.
3) Eating authentic Mexican food in Tijuana, Mexico and the police telling us not to cross a certain street or else...
2) When I got saved at 5 years old at a revival in Phoenix, AZ.
1) Yesterday, when my mother gave me $5 for my Birthday and hugged me and told me she loved me. I cried like a baby.
When people ask me how I got to be so smart, I give credit to my mother, Sheila Kingsberry-Burt. All of my life she has been a very vocal, articulate, intelligent, singer, poet, writer, educator, advocate, preacher, and fabulous lady. No matter where we have lived, no matter the condition of the dwelling on the outside, she kept my home very neat, artful, and filled with books of all kinds. She encouraged, no demanded, that I be smart, educated, and able to mentally and orally defend what I believed and fight for others when they were done wrong. So, I guess it’s inevitable that I’d be an attorney and preacher.
When people call me handsome or say I look good, I tell them I owe that to my mother as well. She had her hand in my physical attributes, naming me Hassan, which means “handsome” or “to make beautiful.” Instinctively, people ask am I Muslim or Arabic because of the origin of my name. When they ask, I know they definitely don’t know Sheila Kingsberry-Burt and my Christian, Baptist, Non-denominational, Charismatic roots. She raised me to love the Lord, Church, and Gospel Music. She raised me under the church, as people say, and in a home filled with The Clark Sister, The Winans, Walter Hawkins, Andre Crouch, Fred Hammond, Hezekiah Walker, James Hall, and all the contemporary Gospel and choir music one could ever know. I smile thinking of so many songs and her beautiful alto voice.
My mother also taught me to love my family and be a good man. Even before I knew what sex was, my mother told me to wait until I got married to have it and have it only with my wife and she meant it. I try to be a good husband and father because she encouraged me to be what I did not see growing up. I always promised myself that I’d have a good family and thankfully, God has allowed me to see this dream come true despite many challenges.
So, I owe a lot to my mother, but I also owe a lot to my beautiful wife. You see, I have a sure enough good woman who gave me four beautiful children (RIP Amira) and takes good care of me and them, sacrificing her own career, because she’s Dr. Francemise Kingsberry, to nurture and care for our kids while they are young. She is the strength of my home. She’s my voice of reason who encourages me to do what God tells me and to live Godly no matter how hurt or offended I am or no matter how tired I get of doing for others with no outward reward.
I know first-hand that “he who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” I’ll never forget meeting her in music class at UNC and our eyes trying not to meet, but still looking. I remember her encouraging me to “Sing, Hassan” in various singing groups. So many good times we have shared! I still enjoy our walks and talks about life and where we are and what we want from life. We make plans and go after them together.
I am most thankful to Me-Ce, my wife’s nickname, for just being there for me through the hardest times in life--things I never thought would happen to me with all the promise my education held. Like when my mother had several massive strokes leaving her without the ability to walk or talk as she used to. My wife held me and helped me adjust when I realized things would never be the same. She willingly let me use all the financial resources we had to care for my mom and she stood up for me when people had things to say about what I should have did and will fight for me in a minute!
I can’t help but cry when I type this because I LOVE FRANCEMISE KINGSBERRY LIKE THAT!
She’s been with me through every transition. We went from thinking we adjusted to the situation with my mother to caring for a sick child, then losing a child. I watched Me-Ce hurt, but still say, “It will be alright because God will fight for us!” She persevered to give me children through miscarriages and rough pregnancies and she never objected or said I’m not doing this anymore. That’s my Me-Ce, a woman of character and faith.
Every day, I pray my children are like their mother and grandmother and we strategically named them, as my mom did me. And before I had a family, I promised God that after Him, I’d make them the highest priority and create an environment to make them strong, Godly people who accomplish all their goals and impact this World for Christ. I thank God for the foundation my mother laid and the one my wife is helping me lay.
Happy Mother’s Day to my two special ladies! I love you forever!
So, I have not written in this blog for a long time, but I had to start again because so many things have been on my mind! Prince died 4/21/16 and I am still a little messed up by it. I began my day 4/22/16 hoping it was all untrue, but no, it was real. My son had been asking me for weeks to take him fishing so I decided to take him and I am not a fisherman! In fact, we caught not one fish, but it was fun because he was so excited and happy about it. So, although the day began a little blah, it ended quite well. Even as I watch all the tributes and stories about the artist Prince, I’ve made my peace with it all.
It’s funny how everything in life is so connected. Even those seemingly totally unrelated things somehow intersect each other. My son is 3 years old and I don’t remember much from when I was 3, but I do remember not being able to say “three” and saying “tree.” I also remember singing Prince songs because my mother and aunt loved him and as I grew up I remember wanting to be a singer like Prince and dancing like him. I immediately grow nostalgic when I fondly remember Purple Rain, 1999, Sign O’ the Times, Under the Cherry Moon, so many albums and songs! Growing up in Arizona in the early 80's, he was one of the only black singers we had radio access to! Ironically, my maternal grandmother’s birthday is 4/20 and she lived in AZ until she died and now, Prince dies the next day. See, the connections!
Anyway, I kind of fell off listening to and following Prince as I grew older. My generation wasn’t too big on his music as we got older, but by my teenage years, Prince was already an icon. Plus, when I got “saved” I moved away from secular music all together just because my “interests” changed. However, I am still a fan and his music and life have moved me and been part of the soundtrack of my own life and I cannot be sad about Prince being gone for this reason: He made his mark! I’m not sure what he set out to do with his life, but I know if it was become a musical genius, he did it. Although, he died at 57, even if he never released another album or set another fashion trend or made us think “why is Prince so strange, but his music so bomb?!”, he made a undeniable, authentic, and unique mark . Of course, he had more he could do, but what he did was monumental. So monumental, that I am up assessing my own life.
Have I been going after what I really want in life? Have I carved my own path, not just the path I think sounds good or what I think others would like. Have I become the singer I always wanted to be? I’ve had several careers, experiences, friends—a very full life, but have I been true to myself and set a course that would at least get me close to the desired result of a life well lived. I can’t answer this fully now, but as I lay beside my son after a day of helping him accomplish his goal of fishing and making a memory for his life motion picture, I say “Thank God!” I wanted to be a father and do things like this with my son. And when I go, among many good things I want said about me, I want it to be said that I was one of the best fathers people knew and most importantly, I want my children to say it.
So, RIP Prince. Thanks for your life and music. We are reminded to shoot for the stars and reach our goals and to enjoy life, the people in our lives, and to make good memories.
In 1997, when I graduated from high school, I had to go on a wilderness expedition for a scholarship I received to attend college. It was three full weeks of hiking with a heavy backpack, no bath, sleeping out doors, using the bathroom outdoors, rattlesnakes, high mountains, etc. However, it was one of the best experiences of my life. I learned that I could be pushed beyond any mental limit and overcome fears to achieve anything.
As a part of this adventure, I had to sit alone for 3 days by myself, which you know was hard for me. It was myself, God, and nature. In that time, I remember writing some very compelling things in a journal that I still own today. I wrote prayers and plans. I prayed to God that He would use me to be a role model and example for the youth of my family and the place where I was from. I even received the vision for the ministry I pastor today. I prayed for one little cousin in particular: Dartez Wright. I prayed that God would bless him to make good choices, be great in whatever he did, and that I would be an example for him. God has been doing just that. He's a young adult now, an ambitious actor, and a soon-to-be family man. I am humbly proud of Him and to see that God is answering my prayers for Him and my other little cousins.
Years later, in 2003, Dartez played a special part in a big day in my life: the day Francemise and I got married. He was a jovial, little Jr. Groomsmen. He and my other little cousins had a good time meeting famous people in the lobby of the hotel where we stayed and Dartez, as usual, brought everyone joy. It as a good time!
Today, Dartez is getting married to a beautiful young lady named Philreca Martin. My wife and I have had the honor of being their friends and counselors through their journey of becoming one. I can't help but cry thinking that God answered my prayers over 18 years ago. I am thrilled to be one of the officiants for their wedding today and know that the blessing of God is on their lives and marriage already! So, we celebrate marriage and Dartez and Philreca's union and thank God for answering prayer and being the foundation of great marriages. Make it last forever!