31 December 2008

"the plans I have for you..."

My all-time favorite Bible text and promise is Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." What an amazing promise to hold onto - especially in uncertain times like the ones we are currently living in. Inspirational writer Corrie Ten Boom puts it this way: Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

In just a few hours, we will welcome in a New Year - 2009. Wow. Who woulda thunk it? I remember when Prince released his song "1999" and how we thought that by the time 1999 rolled around, the world would end, Jesus would return, cars would be obsolete because, like the Jetsons, we'd all have jet paks. And let's not forget all the hype around Y2K - the world was really supposed to come to a crashing halt then, but it came and went without even a whimper and now we are almost a decade past it. And here we are - still standing, no jet paks, and while I believe Jesus' return is soon, in mercy, He delays His return so that we can get, no - be ready.

I don't know what challenges you may be facing as we approach 2009, but I do know that God is in control of your (and my) situation. When I cannot see His Hand, I'm learning to trust His Heart - which is always full of only good things for me. The future is uncertain for a lot of us: the housing market is in the tank and our houses are being devalued by the minute; the unemployment rates nationwide are higher than they have been in decades; the stock market flucuates daily in a way that reminds me of my favorite rollercoasters; the whole "wars and rumors of wars" prophecy is fulfilled every time you turn on your TV - and YET, God's promise is that He only wants good for you and me. I have to trust that even when I cannot trust anything else.

I pray that you and I will approach 2009 with a new attitude of trust, hope and confidence that all things will work for our good in the days, weeks and months ahead. I wish you all of God's richest blessings: peace, prosperity, good health, abundant love and laughter, and anything else your heart desires. I thank you for all you have meant to me in 2008 and look forward to more good times ahead in 2009. And however you plan to celebrate the entrance of the New Year, I wish you safety and common sense. (hahaha)

Be blessed.

29 December 2008

Introspective Retrospective...

There are only three days left in 2008, and like everyone else, I am taking some time to reflect on 2008 - what I did (or didn't) do; what I accomplished; what goals were achieved and which were not; what friendships were strengthened and which ones underwent major changes; losses and gains (and not just financial); what I plan to carry with me into 2009 and what I really and truly need to let go of. I think the end of the year is a time when most people really look at themselves and the world around them and take some time to reflect - set some goals for the 365 days ahead - wipe the slate and start over. But before I embrace 2009, I want to pay tribute to 2008:

TRAVEL: Yes, I did a lot of that in 2008. Palatka, FL; Houston, TX; Gatlinburg, TN; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Washington DC; Huntsville, AL; New York, NY - (I think I'm missing some) - lots of good memories and fellowships with family, friends and loved ones. Being able to spend time with friends in good times and bad - as we celebrated lives lived, visited with friends who were ill, explored new venues and locales - all will serve as memories when I'm sitting in my rocking chair in the nursing home one day in the future.

GIRLS NIGHTS OUT: Hats off to the girlfriends (and guy pals) that I spent time with this year - usually somewhere eating! - whether at work or around the city or country: Conrad, Melvin, Julie, Lisa, Metha, Robin, Debbie, Ginny, Carol, Cheryl, Alice, DJ and the "best girlfriends in the world" crew; Linda, Hillary...and I am sure I am forgetting someone - charge it to my head, not my heart.

CELEBRATIONS: Kudos to my cousins who did their thing and graduated from college this year (Candace and Caron); to my friends who found their soul mates and jumped the broom this year; smiles and memories for those who were laid to sleep this year; joy for those who added children to their lives - whether through adoption or birth; praises to God for those who were healed or otherwise overcame medical hurdles and obstacles; thanksgiving for those who went through trials and tribulations and came out the other side stronger and more resilient.

RELATIONSHIPS: 2008 has been a year of change for a lot of relationships in my life. Some have gotten stronger because of the trials and tribulations of the year, while some have undergone a metamorphosis and have changed. And change doesn't necessarily mean bad, just different. I praise God for the friendships that are new and still exciting and waiting to be fully explored; and for those that are like a worn, comfortable pair of slippers - no matter when you "slip into them", they are always warm, inviting and enveloping.

TRIALS: Yes, I had those in 2008 as well. We all were hit in the pocketbook this year with the dramatic changes in our global economy - but God sustained. Even though this was the year for filing insurance claims for me (car, house, and house again), God sustained and blessed. And even when the enemy tried to take my life (Sept 2008), God protected and blessed. Amen! And despite higher unemployment rates than have been seen in decades, I am still blessed with a job that I enjoy 99.9% of the time. I am blessed to work with really great bosses who appreciate me and tell me they do frequently. I don't take that for granted.

POLITICAL CHANGES: Since I have friends on all sides of the political fence, I'll keep this brief. November 4, 2008 will go down in the history books for a lot of reasons, but I will always remember where I was, what I was doing, and how I felt when it was announced that Barack (and Michelle) Obama were headed to the White House. 'Nuff said.


So, what do I want in 2009? Peace, goodwill and prosperity? Of course, but I want more of the same of what I was blessed to receive in 2008. Good times and bad, throughout the year, I truly saw God's Hand at work in my life and the lives of my friends, family and loved ones. I pray as you reflect on the year past and look forward to the year ahead that you will put your trust in the only One worthy of it and trust His Heart, no matter what.

Be blessed and Happy 2009!

27 December 2008

"I have prepared a place for you"....


My mother has a goldfish bowl. She is currently out of town and it has fallen upon me to feed the little jokers. And if that is not bad enough, their water has gotten a little murky, so I needed to change the water. Ok, anyone who knows me knows that I am not an animal (and yes, that includes fish) person. I don't get the whole "I gotta feed you but you ain't bringing no money into the house" thing...may be why my brother doesn't live with me, but I digress. (and I am kinda joking...no, not really.)

So, back to the goldfish. I got the new vase to put them in all ready for them. Rocks on the bottom, cool water that had been sitting for at least 24 hours so that their systems would not be shocked by the change in environment...their new home was prepared and ready. So as I get the scoop to transfer them, do you think they swam peacefully into the scoop to be transported to their new home? OF COURSE NOT! They ducked and dodged and swam as near to the rocks as they could to avoid being caught. I eventually caught them all and they are now swimming happily in their new abode (as evidenced by the picture I snapped and attached.)

But you know this made me think about how we react when God puts us into "new environs" - it may be a new job (or the loss of an old one), or a new relationship or something else that is different. Do we act like my mom's goldfish and resist the change? Or do we trust that He has promised to "prepare a place" for us BEFORE He moves us? I know I am not always as trusting as I should be, but I am striving to change that. I pray that you are as well.

Be blessed.

23 December 2008

"Ma'am"? Do I look like a "ma'am" to you?...

McDonald's has a commercial running where a woman goes in for breakfast and as the server finishes serving her, he says, "have a great day, ma'am." - and she spends the rest of the commercial murmuring about how she is not a "ma'am", she still feels like a "miss" (or "Ms."). At the end of the commercial, a mailroom guy in her office says, "Good morning, Miss" and she feels better - all because she ate a McDonald's chicken biscuit for breakfast. Now, when I first saw that commercial, I laughed...and then, twice in just as many days, two random people called me "ma'am" and I totally understood what she felt and went through. I mean, I remember, as a child, my parents teaching my brother and I to address our elders as "ma'am" and "sir" as a measure of respect - and I remember babysitters rebelling at the very thought of being thought of as an "elder" - now, I know how they feel.

The first incident happened in church when I asked a young man if he would be assuming leadership of the youth program at the church and he responded, "Yes, ma'am." OUCH! Then, yesterday on MARTA (Atlanta's public transportation system), I asked the young man sitting next to me if he was about to exit the train at the next station and he turned to me and said, "Yes, ma'am" - OUCH again! Now, I know both of these young men were just exhibiting home training and praise God for that, but do I look like a "ma'am"?

Putting this question to a (used to be) very good friend of mine, he said I had indeed passed into "ma'am" territory because I could answer "yes" to 3 out of the following 4 "official ma'am status" questions:

1. Are you over 40 years old? (Actually, he said, "well, you ain't no spring chicken no more", but...whatever!) Yes. I am over 40 years old...

2. Do you wear your hair cut short? Yes. I just cut it all off on November 8th as a matter of fact. According to him, young girls want long hair so they can flirt with it by flinging it, playing with it, etc. Older women ("ma'am"s) have realized the value of short hair - no fuss, no muss, no stress.

3. Do you wear hats? No. Apparently, older women embrace the wearing of hats. We might not want to mess with hairstyles, but we want to be fashionable. After discussing this with him a little, I had to admit that I did like seeing other women in hats, but hadn't worn them because of the bulkiness of my locs for the last six years. He intimated (and I secretly agree) that I'll be a hat wearing sister soon, which will again prove that I am officially a "ma'am".

4. Do you wear comfortable shoes? YES. I am a shoe fanatic (as my shoe closet is a testimony to), but I believe in wearing comfortable shoes whenever possible. I keep a pair of office slippers under my desk just in case the "super cute, match my outfit" shoes get to be too much (usually after lunch) during the day. And I keep a pair of running around shoes in the car just in case a quick trip to the mall turns into a day long adventure.

So there you have it. According to my friend, I am officially a "ma'am". I didn't feel like one before. I don't feel like one now. And I don't think I look like one. Do I have to embrace being one? I don't think so. I think I'm going to head to McDonalds, get me one of those biscuits and wait for the mail room guy to walk by. (and if he knows what's good for him...)

Be blessed.

19 December 2008

Resolution: C.A.R.E.

We are 12 days from the end of 2008 - and people are beginning to think about resolutions for 2009: lose weight, exercise more, save money, clear up all that credit card debt (that reminds me, I need to call John Camuda back...)...you get the picture. Good intentions that last...maybe to MLK Day (if you're lucky). I stopped making lists of resolutions years ago. I tend to pick one "flaw" and focus on that for a year - and let me tell you, God has used that to teach me some valuable lessons about myself! There is a lot of truth in the saying, "be careful what you ask for" because, just because you think you've thought it all through doesn't mean you see it as God sees it for you...

But for the last two years, I have kept returning to the same resolution - well, actually, it is more of a mission statement for the person I want to be - and I think I will be embracing the same resolution for the coming year - 'cause I don't think I've got it all together just quite yet. C.A.R.E. is an acronym for:

C: Communicate generously. Use letters and other forms of communication to let friends, family and loved ones know their importance in my life. In this day and age of the quick email, text message, Facebook and Twitter - we are losing the art of the written word - the note card that shows up unexpectedly in the mailbox with a stamp on it! I know I love getting mail that is not asking for a donation or soliciting for something I would never support anyway, so wouldn't my friends get the same joy from walking to the mailbox? I am pretty good at doing this, but I could be better. (If you want a card sometime in 2009 - other than your birthday - send me your address and you never know!)

A: Accept people as they are. Stop trying to change people to be who I want them to be and just accept them as they are - warts and all. Yeah, that one is kinda hard for me because I think I know what is best for everyone...must be the Scorpio in me (if you believe in horoscopes and all that stuff). But, if I would just do this, it sure would save me a whole lot of frustration, headaches and tears in the long run. Patience, grasshopper, patience.

R: Return gratitude for every act of kindness. Treat others as you wish to be treated and express gratitude to those who are kind - in expected and unexpected ways. I may have this one (almost) under control. I do tend to do the "thank you" thing almost too well. But, I think what I need to work on is the "treating others how I want to be treated". More patience needed here as well.

E: Embrace every blessing...that God sends my way - even when the blessing shows up in a different form than I expect them. I think we limit God when we only want blessings the way we want them. We pray, "Dear Lord, give me a man 6'4", 200 pounds, athletic, a good singer, nice looking, kind to children and animals" (and no Wayne, I am not talking about you! hahaha) - and instead God sends the 5'6" Christian brother with a good job, good credit, but maybe he has bad skin, bad breath or a crooked, jacked up smile and you are like, "uh, thanks but no thanks"... sometimes our greatest blessings come in the plain brown paper wrapper and not the shiny package with the bow on top.

So, that's my resolution (again) for 2009. What are you resolving to do (or not to do) in the year ahead? Whatever it is,
Be blessed.

12 December 2008

Remodeled...

As a belated birthday present, my brother surprised me by remodeling my bathroom while I was vacationing in Mexico. This is not the first time that my brother thought he was Ty Pennington and took it upon himself to change something that I thought of as fundamentally "mine" without my permission...a few Thanksgivings ago, he bought me a bed and while I was gone, he removed my old bed and set up a new bedroom for me. Maybe I just need to not go on vacation...yeah, that's not going to happen! While I greatly appreciate the love that motivated my brother's actions, I really wish he'd discussed colors and my vision for my bathroom with me before he took it upon himself to remove the layers of wallpaper and linoleum that clogged the walls and floors of the old bathroom. I hate to sound ungrateful, but Brillant White is so NOT the color I would have painted my bathroom walls. Do you know how bright that color is at 5:00 in the morning? I was thinking more of a peach or sage or blue (I hadn't decided yet) theme, but now have adjusted to a cream, chocolate, beach kind of theme in the bathroom - which is nice, but not my vision for the bathroom. I am sure that I will grow to love it - I did with my bed...eventually...

BUT...

How many times does God need to "remodel" us to make us more in line with His vision for us? Granted, He doesn't necessarily do it by means of a sneak attack, but there have been times when He has molded and rearranged some stuff in my life in ways that I thought made no sense or were not in line with my vision for myself. I mean, PRAISE GOD He did because His way is always best, but the very human side of me often goes through the whole "But I didn't want to do it THAT way" temper tantrum phase before I calm down and submit to the perfectness of His Will. My favorite example of this was a resolution I made a few years ago to "practice the art of patience." In my mind, I was asking for patience when it came to speaking my mind - you know, open mouth, insert foot syndrome - I had it bad (some would say, I still suffer from it, but if that is true, I am a LOT better now than I was a few years ago). Well, God's plan to teach me patience took a whole 'nother direction - I got sick and the doctors didn't seem to know what was causing the myriad of health problems. Can I tell you - when the doctors are just "practicing" on you with no answers in sight, you learn patience! It wasn't the way I thought I needed to be molded, but it turned out for the best.

I don't know what "remodeling" you might need in your life, but my advice: don't fight it. Surrender to God's will and I promise, it will all turn out right.

Be blessed.

11 December 2008

I don't do Christmas...anymore...

In January 2007 - at the beginning of the year - I sent an email to all my friends telling them that, disillusioned by all the commercialism of the holidaze, I was no longer celebrating the season in the way I had been accustomed to - no more mass holiday card mailings, no excessive spending to make sure that everyone known to me and my family had some token of love or appreciation to open on December 25th - no lights, no stockings, no tree. I further decided to ditch the family and take myself away on a "holiday by myself retreat" (that's the subject of a whole 'nother blog!) Bah-humbug became my new favorite phrase...what a backlash that decision caused! Even though my friends were given a 365 day warning, with a subsequent follow up reminder in early November of 2007, I still had people inviting me to parties and sending me their holiday wish lists and mailing me holiday greetings. Not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings, I decided to honor the holiday greetings I received by sending personal notes of "thanks for the card, here's what your friendship means to me" - but after I spent two hours on a Saturday night doing that, I felt like it would have been better to just send holiday cards instead! Writing the notes became a tedious, time consuming chore and seriously, after note #25000 (ok, slight exaggeration, but it sure felt like that many!), it was getting really really old..


And you have to know, I was one of those "everybody gets something" type of holiday people. I would buy presents all throughout the year - hoard them and hide them so that I could spread cheer to EVERYONE - from the bank tellers at each of the banks I have funds to each and every co-worker on my floor to my bosses to the older members at church and the list goes on and on. But when someone said to me once, "so, what are you getting me this year? you always give such good gifts.", it turned my stomach. Is that what the meaning of the holiday season had become? How much loot you could rack up?


When I announced my decision not to do Christmas anymore, I was called "Grinch", "Scrooge" and all other kinds of names. I was asked (more times than I could count), "why aren't you celebrating Christmas?" as if it were a personal affront or a denial of my Christianity. I had to "defend" my position over and over again. I suffered through, thinking, "Ok, this is just the first year. Next year, it will be easier because everyone will know how I feel and why I am boycotting..."

Uh...NO! This year, it seems even worse!

Today our firm is having our holiday party. Due to economic concerns, instead of the two lavish parties that the firm throws every year (an evening party for those who want to get dressed up and drink free alcohol; and an afternoon luncheon for those (like me) who don't do the drinking, dancing, dress up affair) - the firm has opted to do one on-site, heavy appetizers and free alcohol event. I am not attending because (1) I don't do Christmas; and (2) my cousin Candace is graduating from college tonight and I am attending her special event in honor of this achievement. (Go Candace!) But I digress. Any guesses on how many times I have been asked today if I'm going to this afternoon's event? And how many times I've had to explain why I don't do Christmas (in the traditional sense) anymore? Too many to count.

So, for the record, here are my main reasons for not doing Christmas anymore: (1) I strive to honor the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ EVERY DAY, not just December 25th - which ain't really His birthday anyway, but that is the subject matter for another blog at another time!;

(2) my love for someone is exhibited all year long, again not just on December 25th. I am a big celebrator of birthdays. I figure a birthday is the one day of the year where you specifically honor a person for what they mean to you. If I remember your birthday, why do I need to show my love for you again on December 25th? And if I don't hand you a present on that day, does that mean all the other times I showed love throughout the year all of a sudden are invalid? Whatever!

(3) do you know how much money I save by not having to buy holiday cards, wrapping paper, bows, stamps, gifts...it is ridiculous that amount of money I used to drop during the holiday season. Now I can use those funds to bless others - friends who are struggling financially due to job layoffs or other economic impacting factors - and isn't really what the holiday season is supposed to be about?

So, yes, I no longer do Christmas - not last year, not this year and I don't forsee me changing my mind in 2009 either; and yes, I will be "abandoning" my family again from Christmas Eve until the day after Christmas by going away (again) for a "Kristina time retreat"; and no, I don't feel guilty at all about doing it. (wink)

Be blessed.

What a way to spend the day...

One of the loves of my life is live theatre. Jonathan Larson, who gained fame and recognition for writing the play RENT before he died, also wrote a play that I was able to see called TICK TICK BOOM! On the eve of his 30th birthday, Jonathan questions if he has made the right choice in pursuing his dream of fame and fortune as a playwright when it seems as if he has failed over and over and over again. In a song titled WHY, he writes: "With only so much time to spend, Don't want to waste the time I'm given, Have it all, Play the game...some recommend. I'm afraid it just may be time to give in." Shortly after writing TTB, his play RENT was noticed by the powers that be (including musical genius, Stephen Sondheim) and we all know what a success that show became. Unbelievably, Jonathan Larson died on the night of the dress rehearsal of RENT and never witnessed the phenomenon that the show would become.

I'm writing about Jonathan Larson because as I listened to this song on my iPod this morning, I was envious of his discovery of the passion of his life. As he contemplates the joys and struggles of making his dream come true, he pens the chorus of the same song which states: "Hey, what a way to spend the day...hey, what a way to spend the day. I make a vow, right here and now, I'm gonna spend my life this way." It made me wonder about the passion of my life. Do I really have something that motivates me to get up and move every morning? Is there anything in my life that I enjoy so much that I'd want to spend all day doing it? I mean, I love to travel, but would I want to do it ALL the time? I love to write, but I am not disciplined enough to do it EVERY day as I would need to be in order to be truly successful doing it. And there are other passions I have as well - but nothing that moves me with such dedication and fervor that I cannot think of anything but that one thing to do with my life.

At the suggestion of a dear friend, I am reading a book called THE SHACK. The book is a story about a man named Mack who has an encounter with God after a brutal tragedy hits his family. (Bear with me, I'm going to pull this all together, I promise). The book expounds on the love that the Godhead has for Mack (and mankind) in general. And how it is love that motivates everything that God does for us - from Creation to Christ's birth, life, death and resurrection to the daily trials and tribulations we go through - it is all based on the principle of love.

So, I think God's favorite way to spend the day is to shower us with His love, grace and mercy - if we will just stop, look around and appreciate all that He has done (and continues to do) for us. I believe it is God's passion and motivation every day to show us His love for us. I pray that we are taking the time to see it, experience it and then share it with others.

I don't know if you know what your passion is, but if you do, I hope you are doing everything within your power to pursue it. Life is too short for regrets. If you don't know what it is yet - ask God for direction - I bet He'll let you know.

Be blessed.

06 December 2008

Living Single...

According to CNN, there is a new prejudice on the horizon: singleism - or the prejudice against people because they are single. CNN is WAAAY behind the times because I have always been convinced of this fact. CNN came to the realization of this "new" prejudice because of a comment made by someone that Barack Obama's choice for Secretary of Homeland Defense (or whatever the official title is) is a good one because she "has no family and (therefore) no life, so she can devote the 18-20 hour days that will be necessary to do the job." (OK, that is my paraphrase of what this idiot, I mean, gentleman statesman, said...but you get the picture) My response: What the heck?

As a single woman of a certain age, I have also run up against this often thought of, but rarely spoken about in mixed company, kind of mentality. When the overtime requests go out at my job, there is a subtle implication that because I don't have a husband and kids to rush home to, I should be willing, ready and able to stay late to help out the secretary who does have a husband and kids to go home to. And for major holidays, when the vacation requests are being discussed, the comment has been made or implied, "Well, all of your family is here and you don't have to travel, so why are you taking the week off?" Or my "favorite" is when people use their husbands or kids or pets as the reason for calling in sick or coming in late and no one EVER questions it - but let me say I'll be late coming in (or heaven forbid, call in sick!) and I get the 5th, 10th and 20th degree line of questioning from well meaning co-workers - as if single people never run late or get sick...I mean, after all, we don't have kids spreading germs or husbands who need to be babied.

And let's not even get into the whole "what's 'wrong' with you? why haven't you settled down? you are such a nice girl - why haven't you found the right man? why are you so picky? why are you depriving someone of how wonderful you are? (and my personal favorite) are you gay?" lines of questioning that you go through, especially if you reach my age and have NEVER been married. ARGH! Like there is something inherently wrong with me because I never settled ... I mean, because I never settled down.

Why can't I just be single? And happy? And productive? And responsible? And content? And fabulous? Because I am truly all those things - with or without a mate/companion/significant other. I am a firm believer that until I am happy with myself/by myself, I will never be happy with anyone else. And I know there are some things that I still need to work on (ok, God needs to work on) within me before I would ever be able to be happy with someone else - or to truly make someone else happy. Talk about baggage, I got some. (Maybe that's why I travel so much! Might as well put it to good use.)

And in case no one has told you, I am a little selfish. I mean, I know that about myself. But it truly came home to me on vacation when my godsister told me that a woman observing her buying some ceramic bowls on the beach remarked to her: "I love those bowls, but my husband won't allow me to buy any." (Ok, first slamming on of the brakes: won't ALLOW you? Uh...ok, let it go - move on) When Lin replied, "Well, I don't have a husband to ask permission of," the woman replied, "Lucky girl." (you got THAT right!) I don't know. It may have a lot to do with how I grew up, but I believe that if I work hard for my money every day, I shouldn't have to ask permission on how to spend it, but that's just me. (And the same goes for any man who would be crazy enough to be my husband - as long as the responsibilities of the house are met (by both of us - I am NOT looking for a sugar daddy), the bills are paid, etc., I could personally care less about how he would spend his money. If he wants to blow $1000 on season tickets to his favorite sports teams, go for it! Life is too short to deny yourself.)

And then I have my friends who love to throw scriptures at me: You know, God says it is not good for man(kind) to be alone. We are built/made for companionship. And I agree with that statement - in principle. There is also a commandment that says, Thou shalt not kill - and if I was with the wrong person, I might be tempted. So, isn't it better (for me) to live my life as I wish - within the confines of God's laws (as much as possible) and be happy/content/free - than to become part of a couple just so that society can be satisfied? I think so.

And let me say this for the record: I have NOTHING AGAINST MARRIAGE. If it works for you, more power to you. I have friends who were blessed to find the right person for them and they are truly happily married. Lin and I met several couples on this trip who have been married for 30, 35, 40 years who when asked the question, "Would you marry your spouse again?" resoundlingly, quickly and without hesitation, said Yes. (and sometimes their spouse was nowhere around when the question was asked). I love hearing stories of how people met, how they "knew" their spouse was the one for them and how they've made it work through trials and tribulations and joys and happiness. It encourages me that maybe, someday, somewhere out there, there might be someone for me. But I am not putting my life on hold as I wait for that person to show up...what if he never does?

I am SURE that this blog will set off a firestorm of comments from my friends - married and single. (It always does...) That's fine. I can handle it. Feel free to let me know how you feel. I look forward to the conversations.

Until then, be blessed.


PRAYER REQUEST: Lin and I are leaving Puerto Vallarta, flying back to Seattle, WA and Atlanta, GA respectively. Would you please send up a prayer for safe travel? Thanks and God bless.

02 December 2008

Vacations are necessary....



I am convinced of this fact. We all need time to get away, step out of our routines, and enjoy what life has to offer. I am always reminded of this when I go on vacation and talk to other people who are also on vacation. And after yesterday, I am even more convinced of this.

You mighta heard a rumor that I am on vacation in sunny Puerto Vallarta Mexico with my godsister, Linda. Yesterday, we journeyed off the resort and took a "Tropical Tour" of the city of PV with the touring company, Tani Buses. We met some very interesting people who just confirmed my belief about vacations being necessary.

Like Chuck from Sacremento, who was traveling alone, but who joined Lin and I for lunch. In his early 40s, he travels a lot and like me, looks for little adventures along the way. He regaled us at lunch with his story of his first skydiving experience in Hawaii this past March. Both Lin and I want to do that, but will probably have to settle for parasailing on this trip. (That's the plan for today anyway!)

And like Vernon and Virginia from Canada, who retired five years ago and are my new role models when it comes to traveling. Virginia says they have been non-stop with back to back to back trips all this year. She says that they travel all over the world (their next stop is Thailand for three weeks) and go home to Canada just to wash clothes and repack their suitcases. A nice life if you can afford it, but how enjoyable for them. Married for 35 years, they seem to still have a good rapport with each other - share the same interests and were genuinely nice people to hang out with.

And like Collin, his domestic partner (whose name escapes me) and their friend Cassandra, who told us about how they travel to places like PV and actually volunteer to sit in on timeshare presentations at as many hotels/resorts as they can for cash and tours and gifts - always with the intention of saying no and basically, "trying to make enough money to make not working for two weeks worth it". Of course, they were very young and so maybe that works for them, but Collin says that they agree to do a minimum of two presentations a day which ties up their mornings, EVERY MORNING, but they are usually done by 2:30/3:00 in order to do whatever tour they got as a gift or to hit the beach. He told us that they can sometimes "make" over $1000 in a week, so that more than pays for the time he takes off from work in order to do this. I guess that is one way to vacation...sounds too much like work to me.

And then there's the group of six men that Lin and I met on the beach the other night and you know me, Ms. Photographer that I am, offered to take a group picture of them together for their photo memories. Turns out that for 17 years, these men - most of them friends since high school - have left their wives at home for a week to ten days for a "once in a lifetime annual vacation" to bond and re-cement their friendships with each other. How cool is that?! You don't often hear of men doing that, but they have done it for 17 years! Every year! And don't feel sorry for their wives - while the men are away, the women get together and do their own "girls vacation" - usually in Hawaii.

I am glad that I am blessed to be on this vacation - especially with my godsister. We are having so much fun. But I wonder - does God ever wish He could go on vacation? And if He did, where would He go? When You are Creator of heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is - do You have a favorite spot to visit? I know, I think weird things sometimes, but I do wonder...

When you can, take some time out for yourself. A vacation doesn't have to be far away to some exotic climate or location - it can be a picnic in your own backyard with your dog and kids - or a drive to a nearby state park for the day - or a weekend getaway to a local bed and breakfast. There are plenty of ways to "vacation" - find one that works best for you (and your budget) and do it.

Be blessed.

01 December 2008

God is all around us...


"God is all around us, Even when we feel we're all alone. Can't you hear Him whispering your name, telling you that you're His own?"

Me and my song lyrics...this one from a song by a group called Anointed from their album, THE CALL. Beautiful song and so appropriate to what I want to write about. Lin and I were sitting on the beach yesterday and we started talking about how here we were sitting on the beach in Mexico, basking in 80 degree weather (I know, I'm rubbing this in just a little too much, huh? Sorry.) while our families back home in Atlanta and Seattle were suffering with cool temperatures and rainy weather - and yet, God was watching over them just as He was watching over us. That even though we were separated by thousands of miles from our loved ones, He was not separate from any of us at any time. How amazing is that?

I don't take it for granted that God is constantly, consistently and always blessing me and my loved ones. I thank Him for all the blessings He pours into my life, and while I get much grief all the time about claiming to be His "favorite" child, I honestly believe that because things happen to and for me all the time that prove to me that I am important to Him. Look at the sunset in this picture - God's personal "good night" to me (and my godsister) just because we took the time to stop and look and thank Him for it. He'll do the same for you if you let Him, but so many of us get caught up in the daily busy-ness of our lives and don't acknowledge the "little" ways in which He blesses us every day. We thank Him for the "big" things - jobs, family, finances, health - and forget that the ability to move, breathe, appreciate, love (or hate if you so choose) are all blessings as well.

I pray that you will take time today and acknowledge His presence - large or small; still and quiet; loud and booming - however, He comes to you - acknowledge Him and say, Thanks. He is worthy of that, don't you think?

Be blessed.

A brief tribute...


I am currently on vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico with my godsister, Linda Anderson. My grandparents were/are Linda's godparents. Linda is the youngest girl of nine children and before I was born, my grandparents (who had no grandchildren at the time) showered her with clothes and purses and shoes and love and ... you get the picture. Two years later, I was born and the clothes and purses and shoes and love shifted to me. Needless to say, the first time I visited Hartford, CT and all the attention was focused on me and not her, little Linda Anderson made the comment: I don't like that lil ole girl, when is she going home? Over the years, as we grew up, that sentiment changed and she'll tell you herself: I just love that lil ole girl now!

Have you ever had a friend/sister that you could tell ANYTHING and know you would never be judged for it or that it would be held against you at some later time? Have you ever had someone in your life that you can just look at and both of you bust out laughing because you were thinking the same thing at the same time? (Like: "Lin ain't no deaconess"; or "they send them back to Africa when they are bad"; or "And they thought I was such a cultured woman until..." (Sorry, inside jokes, but I bet Lin as she is reading this is busting a gut!) Or with whom you say the first two words of a story/memory and they know EXACTLY what you are talking about? That's me and my godsister. Whenever we are on the phone and my mother walks into the room and sees me laughing hysterically with tears running down my face, she just shakes her head and says, "you must be talking to Linda" and walks out the room. Whether we are in our respective homes in Atlanta GA and Seattle WA talking on the phone - or writing each other via email - or praying with and for each other as one of us (usually me) is jetting from one place to another - I know Linda has my back and loves me regardless. And the most special thing about her: She truly truly loves the Lord, and encourages me to do the same every time I speak with her or am with her.

She is an amazing singer, motivational speaker, single mother of one daughter, great friend, lover of her family and mankind and each and every day, inspires me to be a better person and a better Christian and lover of God. She has truly been and is a blessing in my life. Now, she is not without flaws - don't get a sista wrong: she never cleans out her voice mail inbox so you always have to call her 5 million times to get through to her, but even if I call her at 3:00a (which I do not do often!), she will pick up the phone and talk me down from whatever crisis I think I am going through at the time; she is TOO addicted to TV and the Internet - I won't tell you how many times I've had to pull her away from the laptop on this vacation already and we've only been here two days, but she's doing much better than I expected! hahaha; and I don't think she knows how truly beautiful and "stunning" she is inside and out, but I hope she realizes it one day...soon. I mean, look at that smile! She is amazing.

I believe in giving people their flowers while they can enjoy them. When Lin reads this, she will be slightly mad at me, but she'll get over it. Hey, she got over my birth 44 years ago, surely a little blog post won't be a deal breaker!

I pray you have a Linda Anderson in your life. Everybody should.

Be blessed.

24 November 2008

Taking a bite..out of the Big Apple

It has been six years (almost to the day) since I last "went home" to New York City. I went back in November 2002 to attend my 20th high school reunion and haven't been back to visit since. While that was a happy occasion, the reason for this visit was not as happy. My best friend in high school, Melvin, lost his brother Michael to a brief battle with liver cancer and I journeyed to New York to attend Michael's memorial service on Friday evening, and then stayed for the weekend to visit with other old friends who still call New York home.

First, what an amazing thing to be able to be there to support my friend Melvin and his family in their time of need. While I feel like I didn't "do" anything while I was I there, I was told several times how important it was that I cared enough to show my support in such a physical, tangible way. Well, I believe Melvin would do the same for me if the situation was reversed...but even if he wouldn't, I am glad that I was able to be there with him and for him in his time of loss. And while I didn't really know Michael (I mean, who has time for your friend's younger siblings when you are growing up?), hearing the testimonies and tributes of the men and women who gathered to pass tribute to his life was amazing. When attending services like this one, I always wonder what will be said of me when it is my time to die. Nice things, I pray, but in order to ensure that, I have to live my life in such a way that those are the memories that people will have when I am gone. Yeah, I need to start working on that!

Then, I was blessed to be able to attend the church that I attended as a teenager and where I was first baptized into the Adventist faith. What a blessing to see old friends who are still actively involved in the church (although it is very interesting to see my contemporaries holding the offices that our parents held when I attended!) I am so glad that my friends are holding on to their faith and to the Hand of God decades later. Amen!

Saturday evening I was able to spend time with a high school classmate who reached out to me five years ago with an amazing story that I cannot share here, but suffice it to say, from that story, we have developed a friendship that has only been nurtured by phone calls and emails for five years. Saturday evening, we were able to sit down, face to face, and break bread together at Cheesecake Factory. I love stuff like that.

And then Sunday before I left to fly home, I was able to spend time with a couple who sowed kindness, love and friendship into my brother and I at a time when we needed it desperately. They provide a refuge from the madness that was our home environment at the time and, for years later, were a source of encouragement, friendship and parenting for my brother after I was long gone to Atlanta and my mother had followed me south. What a blessing to be able to visit with them and tell them "thank you" for what they did for us. And finally, I was able to spend time with two other high school classmates and share stories about our joy at being alive at such a time as this - more good food - Thai food!, yum! - fellowship and conversation before one of them drove me to the airport and I flew home.

It was a packed weekend - and now I have to unpack one suitcase and immediately begin packing it again as I am flying away to Mexico on Saturday for a week's vacation with my godsister - don't be jealous! I'll think of you often as I sit on the beach and drink various and sundry drinks brought to me by gorgeous Mexican men...hahaha. I am glad I had all the experiences I had this weekend. I am glad I am home safely.

When will I visit New York again...? Have no idea, but the memories of this visit will long remain with me. I pray you had a great weekend as well - wherever you are, whatever you did.

Be blessed.

20 November 2008

Reaching a milestone...blog #100

It was March 27, 2008 that I began my blogging adventure. Hard to believe that in eight short months, I found 100 different topics to talk about, express my opinion and basically bore my friends to tear about. And hopefully, somewhere along the way, was a blessing to someone as I shared my love for the Lord and His love for me (and you). It is an accomplishment - one I am proud of, especially since a recent online quiz said that it is within my personality to start something very enthusiastically and then just drop it. (Yeah, that resembles me...) But so far, my love of writing (and my desire to express my opinion) has helped me stay motivated, and God has blessed.

So, today I want to talk about "storehouses". Malachi 3:10 states, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it." (New International Version) I am sure you are familiar with that text - you are beaten about the head with it every time there is an offering plate passed in church, and the indication is that if you don't give your money to the church, you are not being faithful in your stewardship. I have recently begun to question/have a problem with that philosophy. While I agree that it is our duty as members of a church to support the church, I wonder if the "storehouse" can be something other than the physical building in which I may go to worship. Could the "storehouse" be the friend who is jobless and needs assistance putting food on the table? Could the "storehouse" be the single mother who has unexpected car troubles and needs gas or repair money? Aren't we also admonished, as Christians, to do unto the "least of these" when we see someone in need?

A situation recently occurred in my life where I was impressed that I needed to help someone in need in a very meaningful, tangible, sacrificial way. And the only way to do this was to use the money I had designated for my tithes and offerings. I had two conversations with two women who I consider to be spiritual giants and well grounded in Scripture. Both of them encouraged me to follow the unction of the Holy Spirit and to sow into this person's life with the money. So, I wrote the check, prayed over it and put it in the mail. A few days later, I had the opportunity to speak with the person who I sent the check and he told me the following story:

Times had been hard for his family. It seemed like time they got through one crisis, another would arise. The most recent mishap was that his wife's car had some major repair issues. The first mechanic they took the car to told them that it would be $500 to repair the car. They did not have $500 - in fact, all they had was $180. They took the car to a friend who worked in a car repair shop who told them, I'll do it at my employee discount and it will only cost you $275. Not knowing where they would get the extra money, they stepped out on faith and told him to go ahead and repair the car. When he got home from the repair shop, he checked the mail and there was my check which was sufficient for him to get the car repaired! God is good! Not only was this person blessed to get his car repaired, but God (I believed) blessed me by telling me this story and letting me know that He used me as a conduit of His blessings! What an honor!

And I could go on about how I have been blessed this month - in tangible, financial, spiritual -"save me from myself" - ways...but that should be the subject of another blog...or two.

All I want to say is, follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit...you will be blessed for it and not only will your "storehouse" overflow, but so will the storehouse of others.

Be blessed - and I look forward to the next 100 blogs, don't you? (smile)

19 November 2008

Reunited...

I have said this before but, I LOVE FACEBOOK! I am such an addict. Being on FB (as it is affectionately called) has connected me in new ways with people I see everyday (shout out to Alvin and Libby!); with people who I used to know but who have moved away and we are not as close due to lack of proximity (shout out to Janice M and Leah M); introduced me to new people who have become meaningful in their own way (shout out to Charlie G and Janice E); allowed me to show off my competitive side with Word Twist and Scramble challenges (shout out to Beth W and Everet L); and just yesterday, reunited me with my stepsister who I have not spoken to, heard from or otherwise had contact with in at least ten years.

Ok, those of you who know me well are like, "YOU, not be in contact with someone for a decade of time! You are ALWAYS in contact with EVERYBODY!" Yeah, I know...hard to believe. I still have address books with peoples' contact information from high school and that's been over 25 years ago. But the situation with my mom and stepfather, and consequently my relationship with my stepsister and stepbrother, is complicated. Without going into family history and skeletons and ... mess, suffice it to say, our parents' breakup and divorce was not amicable and when you are children/young adults - you take your parent's side...no matter what...and that is the way it was...and is. And I honor and respect that.

However, about six months ago, I was impressed to pray for Nicki and Todd. Every morning. "And bless Nicki and Todd, wherever they are." Every morning. Even as our parents recently headed to court to hash out a property settlement agreement that was 20 years in the making - and a lot of old feelings (read: negative) about my stepfather resurfaced - I still prayed. Every morning. And God answered my prayer with a friend request on Facebook from a name I didn't recognize and a picture too small to verify if it was indeed the woman I had been praying for. (did I mention: I was praying for her every morning?)

We haven't talked yet. I gave her my cell phone number and I hope she will call me. So we can talk and catch up. I didn't have a sister growing up - never really wanted one. She never had one either - until our parents married in February 1978, and we were "forced" into each other's lives. We had fun, as only children can have. We had conflicts, as only children can have. We had the whole "jockeying" for position that siblings have. But, when I think of her (and Todd), it is always with fondness. When I think of how their mother, Toni, included me and my brother Kevin in activities and events, it makes me smile - because she didn't have to do it, but she did. She was very kind to us...even when we probably didn't deserve her kindness.

Reunions can be difficult - especially when time has passed and people have grown up, apart and away from each other, but I am praying that this reunion will be wonderful and that a new, mature friendship and "sisterhood" can be forged. I hope that being in contact with her will help me get in contact with my "other brother" Todd. That would be great. I'm praying to that end. Won't you pray with me?

Be blessed.

18 November 2008

Unused blessings...



I hope you can see this picture. This is the view from the bed & breakfast where I celebrated my 44th birthday weekend. The view of Stone Mountain Park is not truly done justice by this picture, but you get the idea. It was a nice, relaxing, restful time away from home where I could "relax, relate, release" and spend some "me time" rejuvenating my spirit...all desperately needed.

One of the reasons I picked this bed & breakfast for my "in town getaway" was the advertisement for the room, which included an in-room fireplace, veranda and whirlpool jacuzzi tub! Woo hoo...yeah, I took advantage of NONE of those amenities! It was too cool to sit out on the veranda - although I did walk out there to take this picture (hahaha). I was out too late both evenings to start the fire - I have this thing about not going to bed while there is a live fire burning...I know, you have the fireplace guard and you can be safe, but I ain't going to bed while there are open flames burning...call me crazy if you want to...And even though I kept saying, "I should start the water in the Jacuzzi and go swim in it for a minute (it was HUGE!)", that never happened either. I kept putting it off and off and then, voila! the time for my retreat was over and it was time to return home to reality.

It got me to thinking though. One of my favorite Adventist writers, Ellen G. White, talks about how when we get to heaven, God will reveal to us a storehouse of blessings that we did not receive because we didn't ask for them or, we didn't tap into them when we had the opportunity. How stupid of it was for me NOT to take advantage of the very things I went to the B&B to take advantage of. Now, don't get me wrong - I have a very enjoyable, relaxing time - it just could have been better. I have a wonderful life now - but it could be better if I would just lay hold of, take claim of the blessings God just has waiting for me if I would just ask. What about you? What blessings are you not laying claim to? Wouldn't today be a good day to start?

Be blessed.

13 November 2008

Amazing Grace...

Song lyrics: Amazing grace shall always be my song of praise; For it was grace that bought my liberty; I cannot know just how He came to love me so; He looked beyond my faults and saw my needs. I shall forever lift mine eyes to Calvary; To view the Cross where Jesus died for me; How marvelous the grace that caught my falling soul; He looked beyond my faults and saw my needs.

Now, I am sure that if I got those lyrics wrong someone will correct me! hahaha. That's ok. I can take it. Tomorrow will be the 44th anniversary of my birth - also known as a birthday. Wow. 44! I don't feel 44, and if you say I look that old, you ain't really my friend. (fake stamp of the foot on the ground.)

Birthdays always make me stop, look around and reflect...mainly on the goodness of the Lord. When you calculate it out, I have been alive for more than 16,000 days! Another WOW. It makes me think and wonder: how many of those days have I totally wasted? How many of those will be remembered forever? How many of those days were spent being mean to someone who truly needed kindness - or being kind to someone just because? Looking back, how many people did I love truly - and did I tell them somewhere along the way? How many flowers did I not stop to smell - or give - or receive graciously? I think the answers are more positive than negative. I mean, there is a reason I claim the moniker "God's Favorite Child." (smile)

Already the cards and gifts have started coming in. Shout out to my dad (and stepmother) for the beautiful musical water globe that encases a cross with the Serenity Prayer engraved on it and plays the "other version" of Amazing Grace. (Lyrics: Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound; That saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I'm found; Was blind but now I see). [I know a LOT of song lyrics!] Shout out to my mom who bought me the lovely gown I was wearing in the picture posted with the last note "Transformation" - I got LOTS of compliments on it - in person and online. That was "grace" - and amazing.

But, birthdays have never been about the gifts for me. To put it bluntly, I have enough "stuff." I have enough bath stuff and candles and books and stationary and music and movies and ... well, you get the picture. Last year, I sent out the email blast to my friends saying, "don't spend your money on a gift - let's spend some time together and make a memory instead" - and that's what some of them did and what a great year I've just had as a result. That's "grace" in another form as well, and just as (if not more) appreciated than something that is used quickly and/or soon forgotten. It is always nice to be remembered on November 14th, don't get me wrong - but it's truly not about the gifts.

Grace = unmerited favor. I am so glad that God has blessed me with it for the last 16,000+ days. I am glad that He loves me...in spite of myself. And I look forward to the next 365 days He has planned for me. Full of His love, GRACE and mercy.

Amazing.
Grace.
Be blessed.

11 November 2008

Transformation...

So, after six years (almost to the day!), I decided to cut off my locs. Now, since I'd been thinking about it for a while (and even hinted of my plans to a few people), I was AMAZED at how people reacted when they saw me for the first time "post-locs". While the comments for the most part were positive ("Oh, you look so much younger...and slimmer), there were a few comments and reactions that ... I cannot, even now, explain how they affected me. There was my fellow church member who called me to say, "I heard the good news...Praise the Lord!"; and the co-worker who said, "Now you have SOPHISTICATED hair"; and another co-worker who, throwing her hands in the air, exclaimed, "Thank you Jesus, she's finally seen the light and come to her senses." Really? Was it THAT deep? And what do you mean, "NOW I have sophisticated hair?" Is that to imply that before I was less than that? Or the comment, "you are so beautiful", implying that I wasn't just as beautiful with my locs. I beg to differ. It astounds me how my cutting my hair impacted other people. Some people took it personally. "But you looked so good with your locs." So, I don't look good without them? I just wonder if people think before they speak sometimes...and if I am guilty of the same thing when I think I am complimenting someone who has done something different - with their hair, or their clothes, or whatever.

Hmm....

And then I thought about this: when I truly gave my heart to Christ, did people notice? Was the transformation as obvious as when I cut my hair this past weekend? Did people (want to) say, "Wow, you are so much nicer, kinder, sweeter, (insert your favorite Christian attribute here)"? I don't know. I don't remember. But I hope so. Because that is really the ONLY transformation that really matters - the transformation of our characters to be more like Him and to reflect Him. Just something to think about.


Be blessed.

05 November 2008

This one is for...


I will always remember Tuesday, November 4, 2008. It will rank up there in my personal lexicon of great days - as momentous an event as my birthday (which is only 9 days away - so get those birthday cards in the mail people!), or September 11, 2001 or November 2, 1990 or January 20, 2001 (days of personal significance for me). But I write this blog (and it's probably going to be a long one - just a warning), not necessarily for me. This blog is for...

...my co-worker, Geri, who asked me yesterday afternoon, "Where is your blog? I cannot wait to read what you have to say about your election day experience." I told her then that I couldn't write it because I was too overwhelmed by the emotional significance of the experience I had at the polls on Tuesday morning. (I still cannot write THAT blog, so you'll have to settle for this one);

...the woman who, with her friends, gathered at 2:30 in the morning so that they could be first in line at my polling place;

...the people who were ahead of me in line yesterday morning, who didn't know me from Adam, but who willingly shared with me why they were in line at 5:00 in the morning to cast their votes in this election;

...my brother Kevin, and my cousin Kelly, and the millions of other people who cast their votes for the first time EVER in a political election because it finally mattered enough to them for their voices to be heard;

...my mother, my father, my stepmother, my grandmother, my cousins, my friends - who vote in every election no matter what because they realize the importance and power of your vote;

...every person - Black, White, male, female, young, old, slave, free - who gave their life so that EVERY American could have the right and privilege to vote;

...all of those who have gone before who didn't live to see this day;

...Justus, who still "gets" me almost 30 years later (thanks for listening and understanding);

...Janice, whom I have never met face to face, who woke up at 4:00a in London England when the announcement was made and who was just as excited for me as I was for my country;

...Julie, who immediately agreed with me this week that we HAD to take a picture of me wearing my Obama button and her wearing her McCain button and that the caption for the picture would be "We may not always agree, but we always love each other" (or something equally sappy);

...all of my friends who disagreed with me politically and felt comfortable enough to share with their fears, concerns, and plans to leave the country if Obama won - whether they were joking as they said it or not. For my friends who got on their soapboxes and vented to me and then apologized (you know who you are) - I still love you and know our friendship is strengthened by the fact that we can agree to disagree and still call each other "friend". I put myself in their shoes and know how I would feel if the results had been different, so my heart truly goes out to them. But I pray they listened to McCain's concession speech and Obama's acceptance speech and that they will heed the call that each candidate put out for unity as a country from this point forward;

...John McCain and Sarah Palin and their families. It doesn't matter that I didn't agree totally with their ideas and their vision for this country. They ran a campaign based on their convictions and desires for a country that I truly believe they love as much as I do. Maybe more because you could not PAY me to run for President. (or any political office!) And that is the true beauty of the democracy in which I am blessed to live. I listened closely to John McCain as he spoke to the American people last night and I applaud the way he handled what had to have been a heartbreaking loss for him. I pray for him and I truly hope that he meant what he said when he said he would throw his support behind the new government because it will take all of us working together to make this work;

...everyone who stood in the long lines for early voting or cast their votes via absentee ballots - and it is even for those who, despite the "hype" of this election, decided not to participate and didn't vote;

...every person who marched or was hosed or sat down or rode a Freedom train or bus in order that we all have the right to life in a country undivided;

...every solider in every military installation around the world who fights for the freedom of those they have left behind on American soil - thank you for your service - now let's bring you home as quickly and responsibly as possible;

...every tear that was shed at 11:00 EDT as the race was called in favor of Barack Obama. Whether they were tears of joy or despair, I firmly believe you didn't cry if you weren't invested in the outcome. The passion with which people followed every move every candidate made, every word they spoke, every outfit they wore - was amazing and inspiring and gave me hope. I appreciated every conversation I had during the last 21 months - especially those where we were not in agreement - it showed to me that people were taking it seriously and not just voting because he's Black or she's a woman or "well, I've always voted (you insert the political party of your choice). People cared and that was huge! In a nation known for its apathy and "who cares" attitude, people proved that when it is important enough to them, they do care and they will show up.
I could go on (and on and on), but I have to get ready to go to work. (Yes, I am going to work today, no matter what Chris Rock said!) Five and half hours later, I am still overwhelmed by seeing history made in my lifetime. I wish everyone I knew would embrace the awesomeness of the moment. Whether your candidate won or not, this election is going down in the history books like none other before it. And you and me - we are alive to see it! How amazing is that?! What a blessing to be living in these times.
I wrote a blog last month about what I thought would happen on November 5, 2008. Let's see if my predictions come true. Be blessed.

PS: As much as I am THRILLED that Barack is our President-elect, my greatest joy is that Michelle is our First Lady! I LOVE HER!!!

03 November 2008

Experience the Joy...of Grace

I know - two posts in one day, but I have to share the lesson I learned from the sermon I heard in church on Sabbath.

The story is told of two gentlemen from Rhode Island who visit Georgia for the very first time. They come to Atlanta to attend a business meeting and as they get up in the morning, they decide to go to a local restaurant and order breakfast. After perusing the menu, they decide to order chicken fried steak, scrambled eggs, toast and coffee. The waitress takes their order and within minutes comes back to the table with chicken fried steak, scrambled eggs, toast and coffee...and a bowl of white, creamy stuff with a big ole pat of butter swimming in the middle. Well, these two gentlemen from Rhode Island who have never been to Georgia before turn to the waitress and say, "Ma'am, what is that? We ordered chicken fried steak, scrambled eggs, toast and coffee." And the waitress says, "Well, sirs, them's grits." "Grits?! We don't want any grits. We didn't order 'em, we don't want 'em, and we will not pay for them." "Well sirs, you in the South now and you don't have to order 'em, you don't have to want 'em and you don't have to pay for 'em - but you gets 'em with your meal."

Grits are sort of like grace, which is defined as "unmerited favor". We didn't ask for it, we surely don't deserve it, we may not even want it - but with Christ's sacrifice on the Cross, we all get it. We are all given the gift of grace.

The pastor went on and gave another example - one we all have probably experienced...the speeding ticket that you deserved but didn't get because the police officer showed mercy and grace. When I went to visit my cousin Kelly and her family in Washington DC for the 4th of July holiday, I experienced this. I was headed back to the airport to catch my flight back to Atlanta and I pulled off the highway to get Starbucks and gas so I could return the rental car with a full tank of gas. Not familiar with the area, I was ZOOMING down this windy road when I saw the cop sitting off to the right. Yeah, I was busted BIG TIME! He pulled me over (into a gas station) and you know the drill: "Miss, do you know why I pulled you over?" "Yes, sir." "You were doing 45 in a 25 zone...I'll be back." Well, I got on the phone and was complaining to my mother, "You will not believe what is happening to me...I cannot believe I got pulled over...I don't even know this area, I didn't see a sign..." (you know the drill.) Anyway, I'd just said to my mother, "Well, he's coming back to ruin my day" when the officer (who overheard me say that) said, "No. I see from the registration papers in the car that you are visiting the area, so I am just going to give you a warning. Be safe and have a good flight back to Georgia." GRACE!!!

Three things immediately happen when you are given grace like that: 1) you immediately fall under the law. You best believe I did not go above 25 mph until I got on the expressway and then I stayed within the speed limit until I got back to the car rental plaza at BWI Airport; 2) you immediately feel joy; and 3) you cannot wait to tell somebody about how you were delivered. That is the way we, as Christians, should be when we experience the joy of salvation and the receive the gift of grace from the Lord.

So whether you like the grits story or the speeding ticket story as an illustration of God's love and grace - I hope you will experience the joy of grace for yourself and that you will share it with others whenever, however you can.

Be blessed.

The longest day EVER!

I don't get why people get so excited about Daylight Savings Time and time "falling back" for an hour. Yesterday was the longest day EVER in history! Because my body clock didn't know time fell back an hour, I was wide awake at 5:30a! (yes, I normally wake up around 6:30a on Sundays because I have a weekly phone call with my 88 year old grandmother on Sunday mornings that starts at 7:00a.) WIDE AWAKE and could not go back to sleep - I went online to Facebook, I sorted through papers, everything - anything in an attempt to fall back asleep. Didn't work.

And then, throughout the day - no matter what time I looked at the clock, it was 1:00 in the afternoon - or so it seemed. Time just did not move! It was dark at 6:00p, so that threw me even more off whack - and in an effort to "reset" my internal clock, I forced myself to stay up until the new "11:00 p.m." (which in reality was midnight), only to be wide awake again at 3:00a! The LED display on my clock just mocked me as I lay there trying to go back to sleep. I finally just got up, did my devotional study, got on the computer (yes, I was on Facebook before 4:00a! There is just something wrong with that on so many levels!) - only to get sleepy as my alarm went off. Of course since I'd already done everything I normally do in the morning, I had to pitter patter around for an hour before finally leaving to catch my bus to work. And you know by 3:00p this afternoon, all I will want to do is put my head on my desk, close my eyes and take a nap. Think my bosses will go for that? Yeah, I don't think so either.

Maybe it won't be too bad.
Maybe.

Be blessed.

31 October 2008

It's Halloween...again



Yesterday, all the kids belonging to the attorneys and staff of my group came to the office to "trick or treat" in a safe, loving environment. (Pictured here is one of my attorneys' son, little Master Reese.) Ok, I don't have children - so, after about 20 minutes of them running around on the floor, I jetted! But, they were cute...they had a great time...and I guess it was worth it.

As a child, my parents didn't play the whole "trick or treat" thing. As Christians, we didn't believe in the whole "ghosts and goblins" thing - and as (what would now be called) overprotective, psychotic parents, they totally didn't buy into the allowing my brother and I to roam the neighborhood streets begging for candy. In fact, I can only remember one time that my parents allowed us to dress up and participate in a Halloween event and that was when we were living in Japan and there was an activity (a parade) on the Air Force base where we were stationed. I was a princess and my brother was a hobo. (When you think about that, not much has changed. - hahaha, just joking...a little)

As an adult, I hold to the same principles. As I said I don't have kids - but if I did, I would be one of those "mean mommies" who probably wouldn't allow them to participate in such events. I have always questioned the weirdness in teaching your kids all year long that you shouldn't take candy from strangers - only to allow them to do so - with great glee, greed and anticipation for one day a year (and let's face it - between going to Mom and Dad's job(s) and church functions called "Fall Festivals" or "Harvest Nights" (that's a whole 'nother blog in itself!) and other neighborhood or school "safe" events - Halloween has become a month long event!). What are we really teaching our kids during the month of October when we "celebrate" this "holiday"?

Just something I think about.

On a different note: Tomorrow is November 1st. The year has just flown by. I begin the two week countdown to my 44th birthday. (I know, I look so young in my pictures! hahaha) And my four week countdown to my trip to Mexico with my godsister Linda. I apologize now - in advance - for any obsessive "nah nah nah nah nah"s that ensure as I look forward to these two major events in my life.

Be blessed.

30 October 2008

Girls Night Out...

I want to pay homage to friendships. We all have 'em. (At least, I pray that you do). I am blessed to have some of the best sistagirl friends in the world, and last night, I got to hang out with three of them - and saw some additional ones along the way.

In April 2007, my friend, Dorothy Johnson (aka "DJ") organized a day trip from Atlanta GA to the north Georgia mountain town of Dahlonega. She pulled together a diverse group of women - some who knew each other; some who knew her and no one else; and one who knew me and no one else. Five women - different backgrounds, beliefs, ideaologies - pulled together by one woman. Since then, we have made a point every other month or so to do something together. Usually DJ organizes it, but others of us have stepped up to the plate and come up with some really interesting things to do as a group. It usually involves food (and wine) and picture taking and lots and lots of laughter. Sometimes, all of us make it - but can you imagine trying to get a date when EVERYONE is available; over the course of the year, we've added another woman to the mix and a few months ago, we temporarily lost DJ to a move out of state. (but she will be back in Atlanta soon! I cannot wait!) DJ said her motivation for doing it was that she has "the best girlfriends in the world" and she wanted us all to meet each other.

Last night, four of us got together to attend an event geared towards women and their friendships. It was an evening of shopping and a goodie bag stuffed full of gifts and shopping and some really hot men pushing gym memberships and serving margaritas and mojitos (I shoulda taken some pictures!) and shopping and food...and did I mention, shopping? We had a blast. We laughed and giggled and scoped out the "competition" and shopped and..as we sat and ate a late dinner at California Pizza Kitchen later, I realized, she does have the "best girlfriends in the world" and because of my friendship with her, so do I.

Be blessed.

29 October 2008

Less than a week...

We all know what will happen in less than a week...in the United States of America, we will choose the next President of our country. We will decide who will lead this country, at least, for the next four years.

Yeah, the President of the United States of America...and yet, we really are not UNITED at all. I have never in my life seen one political race cause such division and dissension and controversy and name calling and ... I could go on and on. And I'm sorry - no matter how people try to couch it in difference in "issues" or "policies" - deep down in my heart, I truly believe the division is caused because of the color of one man's skin.

Now, whether you agree or disagree with me, I say this because never before have I had to "defend" my candidate's heritage when discussing political issues with friends. Never before have I had to break down what it means to be "Black" when it comes to politics. Never before has a candidate had to have Secret Service protection EQUAL to the current President since early in his campaign. Never before has someone come to me and said, "Well, I guess you are happy now" when discussing the political race. (I will never forget the Republican friend who on the day of the first primary race in Georgia - not knowing if I was a Hilary or Barack supporter - just assumed it didn't matter one way or another to me...because hey, there's a woman running and there's a Black man running - so I was covered no matter who won the Democratic nomination) I just don't get it. I even had a dream about it - the race - the political ads - the debates; how different it would have all been if Hilary had gotten the nod instead of Barack...hmmm....but that didn't happen and I wouldn't want to speculate on where we would be now if that had been the case.

And then this week, we hear the reports that some misguided men (and of course they HAD to be from the South!) decided that they want to "take out", not only Barack Obama, but 88 random people who look like me... JUST BECAUSE they look like me! Not because they did anything horrific, or posed a threat to them or their family in a personal, in your face way - but just because they have melanin in their skin and their skin is not lily white. I don't get it.

No matter who wins on November 4th - we all still live in the same country. Unless there is going to be a mass exodus of American citizens to Canada or Mexico or Europe - on November 5th, when we wake up, we will all still be here. We will still be American citizens. We will still ride on the same streets to go to the same jobs. We will all still be here. We will all have to pull together and make it work. One man, one party - cannot do it alone. If Obama wins, and you voted for McCain - I am sorry. Complain for four years and start now to support a candidate who can step up to the plate in four years who can effectuate policies more in line with your beliefs. Because if McCain wins, that is what I am going to have to do.

And let me say this right now - if you do not exercise your right, your privilege, your obligation to vote - whether early or on November 4th - don't say nothing to me about the results on November 5th! If you don't vote, you have no voice about what happens!

I pray every day for the Obama, Biden, McCain and Palin families. For whatever reason, these men and women ('cause the spouses are in this race just like the candidates) have been chosen for this purpose at this time. Regardless of who wins and who loses, there will be people in this country (and let's face it: in the world) who will be ecstatic and there will be people who will be devastated. And there will be people who will react inappropriately - whether from joy or anger. I pray every day for my country.

Because it is MY country.
Because it is YOUR country.
Because it is OUR country.

And we are ALL in this together...


Be blessed.

28 October 2008

Validation...

God loves me, oh yes, He does!

For the last two weeks, I really have not been feeling well. I am not a "complainer" when it comes to how I feel - mainly because that leads to the inevitable "how are you feeling?" and other hovering questions by well-meaning relatives, friends and loved ones. And while I know they mean well, I am a bad patient - I hate when people hover - and get very irritated when people do. (Sorry, Mom and Grandma and Julie and ... well, you know who you are...) And yet, when I get in my self-pity mode, I want to scream that no one seems overly concerned that I am sick. It is a vicious, vicious cycle.

But God showed me today - actually, over the last week - that He loves me, that He is concerned and that He cares. "Out of the blue" (and I say that in quotes because I don't believe anything is truly random, but all a part of His plan for our lives), the following things have happened:

- a phone call from my former pastor, who just called to say Hello and ended up encouraging me in ways he will never know.
- a phone call from my father in which he literally said, "I just called to say 'I love you' and that I really mean it." - which if you knew my father, you would know this is HUGE. (and he's reading this, so I ain't talking about him behind his back...)
- a co-worker of mine told me today (when I was relaying to her my distress about how fat I feel and about the size of the gown I just bought for my church's anniversary gala that I will be Mistress of Ceremonies for next weekend) - "stop it! You are beautiful just the way you are!"
- an email from a high school friend who hadn't heard from me with the frequency that she normally does who wrote me to say, "I just wanted you to know that I've been thinking of you and that I care tremendously about you."
- the phone call from my brother this morning expressing his concern about all the medical tests my doctor keeps running (with no seemingly good results) - and if you knew my brother, you would know this is HUGE also...
- the comment to a blog I wrote that said, "keep up the good work" - (and I'm feeling all guilty for not writing all the blogs God has put on my heart to write...
- and there have been other things....too many to write about - and some too personal to share.

All I am trying to say is this:
Often we get bogged down with the "busy-ness" of our lives
and feel overwhelmed
and that things are out of our control
and that nothing is going right
and that everything is going wrong

God knows
God cares
and if you stop and listen, He'll let you know that He does
in just the way you need to hear it.

God loves me, oh yes, He does! And He loves you too!

Be blessed.

18 October 2008

Smorgasbord...

Wow. I knew I hadn't written in a while, but didn't realize it'd been almost a month! And I have no really good, viable, reasonable excuse. I could blame it on my laptop being out of commission almost since I got back from my Gatlinburg vacation (but I do have a computer at work and I get in early enough that I could have written before I started my work day.) Or I could say, I have nothing to say, but anyone who truly knows me would bust a gut laughing if I ever tried to say that about anything. I could say I was so caught up in the election debates and pundit reviews that I haven't slept and therefore, couldn't put two or more coherent sentences together in order to write anything - and while true, not necessarily honest. I could also blame my inattention to my blog to my attention on so many other issues: friends who are battling illnesses and personal issues - celebrating the joys and sorrows of my friends' lives - trying not to freak out over gas prices that hovered and then topped $4.00 a gallon - and let's not talk about what the stock market has done and continues to do. And I could say concerns over some recurring medical issues have been the reason, but that would totally negate all those blogs I wrote about why we, as Christians, should not worry - so, I cannot use that .... hmm... I think I've run out of excuses about why I have not written and just have to say: I didn't make the time to do it. I missed it. Want to start again. Hope you will forgive me. Now, let's move on.

Because it's been a while, I have a million (ok, slight exaggeration) ideas swirling around in my head to write about, but don't want to bore anyone with several blog postings all with the same date. How boring (and confusing) that would be. So, here's a quick snippet of some things I have been thinking about:

1. The election: with (you insert the number) of days left before we vote for a new President of the United States, I am anxiously awaiting Tuesday, November 4th so I can stand in line, cast my ballot and pray that my guy wins. I know both parties are pushing early voting - and my friends who have done it say that, even now, the lines are ridiculous. That is WONDERFUL! I am glad to know that people are voting, that people are getting involved in the process. People, like my brother who has never voted in his life, are involved for the first time. And no matter who you are supporting, that is important. But I find it interesting that some people are taking this so seriously that friendships are strained because of people being on different sides of the political fence. Tempers are flaring over stupid stuff and I know people who are not speaking to people that just months ago, were considered "best friends." Foolishness. And yet, in a spiritual sense, this is only a foreshadowing of things to come. In the Bible, we are admonished that husband will turn against wife, parents against children, friend against friend - all of this will happen in the days right before Christ returns for His Children. If friendships are strained because of a difference of opinion between Obama and McCain - can you imagine what the conflict will be when the difference of opinion centers on religious freedoms and/or belief in Christ and His redemptive power. Something to think about.

2. Worry v. Prayer: My godsister and I recently had a conversation about the "Mt. Carmel" experiences in our lives. How we will have an experience where we have seen the glory of God manifested in our lives, only to be immediately followed by a temptation that has previously been rebuked and overcome - or a new trial will befall us. And how that is a ploy of the enemy to distract us and make us doubt. The last few posts I wrote were all about "if you worry, why pray. If you pray, why worry?" And I believe that - honestly, deep down, I do. And then the stock market crashed. And I saw financial security slowly seeping through the cracks. Money set aside in my 401K gone. Personal stock portfolios reduced overnight. And I would be less than honest if I denied that for a minute, I worried. I fretted. I talked to friends who were more financially savvy than me. I cried tears of anguish and "why me?" (Poor Linda...) But eventually, I pulled myself together and realized, just as I'd been saying over and over and over again - GOD GOT THIS! He has promised to provide our NEEDS, He blesses us with "the extras". And there is a promise in the Bible that "His seed will not go begging for bread." I know this to be true - so, I'm back on the "trust Him" ship and not worried about what is going on around me. I am being prudent...not doing too many stupid things with my finances (smile) ...but I am also not sitting up at night, watching the NASDAQ and other stock indices to see what they are doing, which direction they seem to be moving in. I am trusting in the Lord.

3. So let's count those blessings: I have a measure of good health. I have a (most days) I enjoy going to and am paid a salary that is more than sufficient to responsibly take care of the needs of myself and my retired mother, as necessary. My house, while still without the skylights that I have been trying to get installed since late June!, is standing against the weather and keeps me, my mother and my vast array of stuff protected against fire, flood and invasion. And although it seems like $1.00 goes no where as far as it did a year ago, I still have a few of those laying around somewhere - enough to provide for some "wants" in the near future. I am blessed with family, friends, and acquaintances that love and support me - in my good ideas and the ones that make them scratch their heads and go, "are you sure you want to try that?" And I have a loving Saviour who died for my salvation and loves me - even when I miss a step and am not the best of example of who He wants me to be. And that is blessing enough!

Be blessed. I'll write again...soon!

24 September 2008

Standing on the promises...

There is a hymn that we sing in church all the time whose refrain is "Standing, standing, I'm standing on the promises of Christ my Savior..." This is NOT one of my favorite hymns, but as I get older - and especially in these days and times - I am learning the value of those words.

Yesterday, EARLY in the morning, I received a phone that shook me to my core. When I realized that my godsister was up at 4:30a to make a phone call and heard her voice, I knew the news was not going to be good. As she told me the news that her sister, Sylvia, had been diagnosed with cancer, we both broke down and cried. I wanted to scream as Evilene (the wicked witch of the West in the movie THE WIZ) did - "don't nobody bring me no (mo') bad news!" It seems to be coming at an unrelenting, unending, constant stream - bad news, mo' bad news, and then even more. How do you survive when it seems every email you receive is a prayer request or every phone call is news that is less than pleasing? How do you stand?

You stand on the promises of God.

So, I thought about that. What are some of the promises we can stand on? Are there verses in the Bible that I can immediately think of when times are tough and all the ground around me seems to be sinking sand? Is there something, some hope, I can cling to when there seems to be nothing to hold on to? Yes! There are several promises throughout God's Word that are there for times like these - when hurricanes/tornados rage one after another after another; when illnesses hit the young and the good and the kind while it seems like the old and the evil and the mean prosper and flourish; when gas is scarce and if you can find it, the cost is high; when choices have to be made daily between buying food to eat and buying the gas to get to work so that you can buy the food to eat; when it seems all hope is gone; when you feel like you cannot stand and must sink to the floor under the weight of the burden - there are promises you can stand on. Here are a few that I claim:

Jeremiah 29:11 (you knew that would be there!): For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Psalms 91:1,2: He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in Whom I (will) trust.

Psalm 121: I lift my eyes to the hills-where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip-He who watches over you will not slumber: indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you-the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm-He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Isaiah 65:24: Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear. (Deliverance is coming!)

You may have another one - there may be a promise that you hold onto in times of stress and grief and uncertainty. Whatever that verse is for you (or verses if you have more than one) - hold on to it. The days ahead will be bumpy ones. Finally, there was a song from my freshman year in college (decades ago!) whose lyrics were: "After you've done all you can, you just stand..." I encourage you to keep standing.

Be blessed.

22 September 2008

It's been a while...

...so let's just catch up:

1. My dad and Linda survived Hurricane Ike with little damage and many praise reports. Thanks to everyone who prayed for their safety (and the safety of others) during this time.

2. Even "God's Favorite Child" has challenging days - last Thursday, September 18, 2008 was such a day - but even through the trials and challenges of the day - God proved how faithful He is to His Children - even wayward, disobedient, rebellious, hard headed ones like me. Years ago, my New Years resolution was to "have an attitude of gratitude". What a blessing it is to strive to be in a constant state of gratitude. Over the years, I have moved a little away from that, but after last week, I am moving back to that. It is a little hard to focus on what is going wrong in your life when you focus on what is going right in it instead. Try it and then, if you wish, share some of your praise reports with me so I can be encouraged as we move through some very discouraging times.

3. The political season is underway and I don't know about you, but I personally cannot wait until November 4th so I can cast my vote and then wait to see what God has planned for this nation. See, while I believe that I have a responsibility to vote in the election, I also believe that no matter who I believe to be the best candidate for the job, I KNOW that God is in control of the situation and however this election plays out - HIS WILL SHALL BE DONE! And for those who are still sitting on the fence - or even taking the stand that voting is not important and/or unnecessary - I implore you to remember the sacrifices made by others in order for you to have the right to vote - especially if you are a person of color and/or a woman. My father told me years ago, "if you don't vote, you don't have a voice." That stuck with me and if you know me at all, you know that "having a voice" is very important to me. Bottom line: if you don't vote, you do not have a right to complain or commend whoever is elected on November 4, 2008.

4. Prayer requests: There are numerous requests that I could post here, but the following are the ones most pressing on my mind right now:

a. Hailey Trainer: the 9-month old baby of one of my attorneys who was diagnosed with two massive tumors in her brain. Surgery was done on Friday to remove the largest of the two masses and praise God, the surgery was successful, but now she has to undergo chemotherapy to remove the other. Please keep this family in your prayers.

b. Valley of decision: I have been asked to serve in a capacity at my church that surprises me and my initial reaction is "NO!", but I am trying to do what is truly the will of God. Pray for me as I need to make a decision today.

c. Without details, please pray for: Mother of Tamika Walters; Kaye Combee; Carmen Mouzon; Wanda Carter; Cecile Martin-Banfield; Robin Wagner; Chelsea (last name unknown); and a whole host of others who have asked me and while I may have forgotten - God knows.

Be blessed.