Eighteen. Adolescents eagerly await this year for the proclamation of adulthood. Eighteen is the day that I had my first open heart surgery. At the tender age of 12, I wondering if I would in fact live to see my 18th birthday. My childhood cardiologist, whom is now deceased, assured my parents and me that I would see that day and many more. He was right. Thank God I am still standing. Please bear with me as the tears rolling down my face makes it difficult to see the keyboard.

November 20th is the 18th anniversary of my second open heart surgery. I remember every detail. It is and will always be a monumental, emotional and bittersweet recounting of how beautifully difficult life is. Proof that there is a metamorphosis that must occur in every human being. Bearing witness that just as caterpillar becomes a butterfly, we too transform into something greater than we could ever imagine. A testament to the power of love, faith, prayer, purpose and perseverance. I’ve gone though a physical and spiritual awakening. As a child I felt limitless, thanks to my awesome parents. As a teenager I felt limited, thanks to the realization and restrictions of chronic illness and peer voices. As a young adult I felt damaged, compliments of society, other people’s expectations and an illness induced compromised self esteem. Today I feel enlightened and empowered thanks to every experience that forced me to seek, love and validate myself. I feel proud to love and embrace every bit of me. The imperfect, emotional, passionate, loving, stubborn, ambitious, vocal, and authentic person I am. Today’s woman arrived at great cost. The tariff was expensive. I recognize the value of what the past has taught me. I acknowledge that hurt people hurt people. I realize that just as I seek forgiveness, I have to forgive others. I acknowledge that forgiving someone does not offer them a seat into my life. I am grateful for the covenants between God and my mother as I was forming in her womb, my father as he loved, provided for and protected the two of us and for the calling that was indeed placed upon my life before I was born. I rejoice in the fact that I have been set apart. My parents ALWAYS spoke life into my spirit and so did many others. I stand as a revelation for the masses.

On today, My 18th anniversary I want the world to know that in staying true to my troth, I will fight the good fight. There were sacrifices made so that I could live. Four of my siblings are not here to live and tell their stories, so I must. Millions of prayers were sent and answered on my behalf. Certain obstacles were allowed to position and prepare me. I never would have chosen this path of Chronic Illness. Who would? It can be said that as a result of my illnesses, periods of loss and all the lessons that accompanied them, I have been blessed beyond measure. What I perceived as my end was a new beginning. What I thought would break me subsequently made me stronger. The enemies that sought to kill, steal and destroy me led to the discovery of my light and metaphorically, my life.

I am overjoyed and overwhelmed. My spirit feels as if it has been renewed even as I travel through a difficult season. It is the culmination of the maturation process. I am beyond grateful to have grown so much, humbled for the experience to live, love and share, excited yet uncomfortable with all that is yet to come. I often wear black and admittedly it’s my favorite color. It is beautiful, complimentary, makes a statement and it cannot be defined or reduced to one thing. That is the description of me. In addition, black depicts life, death and the journey in between. I am where purpose and privilege coalesce to form a heart that matters.

Thank you to everyone who has traveled this path with me. If our time was short, there was a reason for our encounter. If our time has or will end, it was for a season. If you are here and will remain, you are a part of my lifetime. I am thankful for all of it. To my husband, my family, friends, my entire support system, warriors, survivors and followers, celebrate with me on this day! Be inspired that nothing is impossible. Happy 18th to me!!

“For I know the plans I have for you.” (Jermiah 29:11)