29 August 2008

I'm not taupe, I'm Black

It all started a long time ago and innocently enough. And I have to admit, I played a big part in allowing it to happen, but things have changed recently and I have to stand up and make a change.

It started when I was a sophomore or junior in college and I had a conversation with my roommate, Reta. We were discussing Spike Lee's movie, SCHOOL DAZE, which was causing such conflict at the time - "jigaboos" and "wanna-bes" were the lines being drawn among the Black race. Reta and I discussed how slaves were designated as "house" or "field" Negroes based on whether they could pass the "paper bag" test. [If your complexion was lighter than a paper bag, you could work in the house - if not, to the fields you go.] So that was our conversation, when Reta (who is darker than a paper sack) said, "yeah, Kris, you would definitely be a "house Negro", you are the color of pasty wheat bread." Great...according to my friend, I'm not even the color of cooked bread, but yucky-still-to-be-baked dough. Years later, I related this story to my very good friend and co-worker Julie (who is White) and she responded, "But you are not 'pasty wheat bread', you are more of a 'taupe' color...and when you come back from your trips to the islands, you are really more of a 'caramel' color". And that's how it started.

In my closest group of friends at work, I am the only person of color. Let me say for the record, even before I started working where I work, I have maintained a position of distance when it comes to identifying with my racial heritage. Too many years of cringing whenever the news media shows an African American person doing something amazingly stupid have made me often deny my race by saying things like, "I'm not Black, I'm Indian" - which is not a false statement - my parental grandmother's grandmother was a full bloodied Creek Indian. [Ok, you can say that is a stretch, but it is still true!] Having been raised in a home where my parents didn't allow slang, and to this day, my mother gives me strange looks when I use words like "ain't" and "nigga", I shudder whenever I hear a person of color on TV slaughtering the English language. Why is it that I would take upon myself the weight of every Black person's public failures as if they were my own and then turn around and say, "well, that's them, not me, 'cause I'm not like them." So, when issues of race would arise at work, it was easy for me to say, "I'm not Black, I'm taupe." And it became a standing joke...a commentary...a "thing"...and I was fine with it.

Or so I thought.

I guess the uneasiness about the "taupe" joke has been simmering since February 2007 when Barack Obama threw his hat in the Presidential race. Pride in seeing a Black man run for the highest political office in the land made me want to declare my "Blackness" again. But, in February 2007, who really thought that he stood a chance? I have watched him over the last 18 months to see if he would be weeded out, cast aside, dismissed. But as I said in an earlier blog, he's a rock star and last night, I watched with pride as he stood before 84,000 people in Investco Field in Denver, CO as he accepted the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. It is significant that it was 45 years to the day that Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the national lawn in Washington, DC and gave his I HAVE A DREAM speech.

Last weekend, I went to see an exhibit at the High Museum of Art entitled THE ROAD TO FREEDOM. This photographic essay on the Civil Rights Movement literally changed my life. I never knew or recognized, or maybe I just forgot, just what my ancestors went through during that era (and let's face it, the eras preceding). I never knew or realized, or maybe I just forgot, that less than 40 years ago, there were laws in place that said that no matter how much I might proclaim "I'm not Black, I'm taupe", if I'd tried to drink out of a certain water fountain, I could have been jailed...or if I tried to sit in a certain section of a bus, I could have been arrested...or if I dared to speak back, raise my voice, or just look the wrong way at the wrong person at the wrong time, I could have been killed...and no one would have been able to do anything to stop it...and most people would not have even tried. Because of the things I saw in this exhibit, the emotions I experienced, the tears that I shed...I can no longer cavalierly deny the sacrifices of those who went before me. I can no longer neglect my responsibility to reach back and help those who are coming behind me. Yes, there are problems within the Black community...I can either continue to complain about it and do nothing - or I can take a stand and try to stop the foolishness within the realm of my influence.

Earlier this week, I made my friend Julie cry. I didn't mean to, but I did. When I told her that I didn't want to be referred to as "the taupe girl" anymore, I didn't explain to her what I hope I have explained in this blog. As she reads this (and I know she will 'cause she reads EVERY blog I write and provides me with invaluable, loving, supportive feedback - good and bad), I want to publicly tell her what I've already told her in private. I am sorry I made her cry. I want her to know how much I love her. And she needs to know I know she never meant to hurt me or cause me any harm whenever she called me "taupe". She is the most genuine, loving person I know (next to my godsister). In the years that I have known her, she has made such an impact on my life that everyone in my family knows her. Whenever there has been a family crisis, Julie has been there. She prays with me and for me on a daily basis and her friendship is one of God's greatest blessings towards me. 40 years ago, we would not have even been allowed to be friends.

We are living in an amazing time of change for our country. I am not naive enough to believe that when Barack Obama is elected President in November everyone in this country will be happy. Julie and my core group of friends probably will not be happy. In order to maintain our friendships, we don't talk politics - but I know they are not Obama supporters. That is their right and I respect their choice, even if I don't agree with it. I believe they feel the same about my choice. I am not stupid enough to think that years of prejudice - Black v White; Republican v Democrat; straight v gay; rich v poor - will suddenly just disappear. It won't. But I do know this: I can change. I can make a difference. I can declare, loudly and proudly: I'm not taupe. I'm Black.

Have a happy, safe, wonderful holiday weekend.

Be blessed.

28 August 2008

Thank you Bill and Hilary!

It is unbelievable to me that I have been staying up night after night to watch the Democratic National Convention. While I have my political views and opinions, I have never been one to go for all the "rah-rah" of the conventions and the long list of boring speakers and speeches...but this election is different in so many ways and I find myself, not only watching the convention, but TiVo-ing it just in case there is something I missed. As a Barack Obama supporter, I was especially interested to see and hear what the Clintons would do and say at this convention.

For the record, I LOVE the Clintons. If Barack was not in the race, I probably would have been a Hillary supporter - any thing to get Bill back in the White House. No matter what opinion you have of his personal foibles, he was a great President. I know that I was able to save more, purchase my house and clear up some credit card debt during his administration, and next to Jimmy Carter, he is my favorite President and one I proudly voted for...twice. Personal opinion here: Hillary and Bill thought they had the nomination wrapped up. They waited 8 long, hard, excruciating years under the Bush administration before making their move to run a campaign to get Hillary elected into the White House. And out of nowhere, here comes this young upstate senator from Illinois who upsets the apple cart. In their human-ness, they made some mis-steps...said some things they should not have...did some things that made some of their loyal supporters stop, step back and scratch their heads...well, at least I did. And while I understand it, I didn't appreciate it.

So, when I heard each of them would be speaking at the convention, I was very excited. I wanted to hear what they would have to say - and I NEEDED them to "redeem" themselves. If you are watching the convention, you know that there was a lot of tension between the Clinton delegates and the Obama delegates. Would the Clintons "split the party" or would they thrust their support behind Barack and his candidacy? I was very interested to see and hear for myself what they would do.

On Tuesday night, I waited with great anticipation to hear Hillary speak. I watched the montage narrated by Chelsea and sat through the applause as Hillary took the stage. Within the first five minutes of her speech, Hillary did what I personally NEEDED her to do. She declared, "Barack Obama is my candidate and he must be our next President." As I have said to several people since then - the rest of her speech was just gravy. I feel she HAD to be emphatic in her statement of support and she did that. On Wednesday night, I watched the roll call of the states and saw Hillary make the motion to "let's stop all this casting of votes and just nominate the man" and I feel she HAD to do that - it was the right move.

And Bill also did what I felt he HAD to do. Unlike Hillary, he made me wait for my piece of meat (which was when he compared Barack to himself: "16 years ago when this convention nominated me as the Democratic presidential candidate. At that time, lots of people talked about my youth and inexperience...sound familiar?") after making me swim through all the "gravy" first. Don't misinterpret what I'm saying, he made some good points throughout his speech - but I needed one of the Clintons to ... apologize, if that's the right word ... and although Bill didn't say the words, I felt it was implied and that was enough for me...personally, as a Obama supporter.

So, thank you to the Clintons. I am not naive enough to believe that the support of the Clintons didn't come without some strings and political favors...but in order to get Obama elected (which I think is VITAL to our country), it was necessary.

Just my opinion.

Be blessed.

25 August 2008

I just LOVE her!

I have NEVER watched a Democratic (or Republican) convention speech - EVER! I have never wanted to sit and listen to all the speeches. I mean, of course, you hear the highlights, the sound bites, what the news media and pundits want you to know. But I watched tonight because, as much as I love Barack, I have been fascinated by Michelle Obama since they, as a couple, entered the political fray. I wanted to hear what she had to say and how she would introduce her husband to the American people. I LOVE hearing the stories of how a couple meets and how they maintain the relationship over (in this case) 15 years. I LOVE how she spoke so lovingly about her parents and their influence in her life. I LOVE how she talked about her brother and their relationship. I LOVE how she talked about how her father's legacy shadows her daughter's future. Point is: I just LOVE her!

And she is BEAUTIFUL! Inside and out. Her giving up a high profile career as an attorney to dedicate her life to public service; her love for her children and I ain't mad at her for saying (several times), "I love my husband"; "this is why I fell in love with him" - that's right, girl! Stake your claim, stand by your man. Let all the floozies who are plotting their moves know there will NOT be a repeat of the Clinton debacle. (and you know there are some skeezers out there that are just waiting to be the next Monica Lewinsky of history!)

I liked her classiness in her speech as she paid homage to Hilary Clinton, who did put "18 million cracks in that glass ceiling so that others could follow". In a convention that is still fraught with Clinton supporter who may or may not support Barack's presidential race, I thought that was a classy move.

I think if we could elect our First Lady, Michelle Obama would win hands down. I mean, I would be willing to bet less than 20% of the people reading this can even tell me what John McCain's wife's first name is. Michelle was beautiful, eloquent, elegant, inspiring, humble and everything this country needs as we move through the next four years.

Only God knows what will happen in November, but I know who I'm voting for on November 4, 2008, and I cannot wait to see Michelle Obama in the White House as this country's First Lady.

Just my opinion.

Be blessed.

PS: Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. made a significant impression tonight, as did Senator Ted Kennedy. I will be watching again tomorrow night to see what Senator Hilary Clinton has to say.

If I could turn back time...

Almost six years after it left the airwaves, I became a fan of the TV show FELICITY (thanks NetFlix!). In this drama about college student angst, the main character, Felicity (played by Keri Russell) spends four years trying to make a choice between two men: Noel (played by Scott Foley) and Ben (played by Scott Speedman). At the end of four years and graduation, the producers/writers throw the viewers a curve and Felicity is given the opportunity to go back in time to a pivotal incident, make a different choice and see how it all pans out. (I have 4-5 more episodes to go, but it ain't looking so good.)

This weekend, an ex-boyfriend of mine was in town. For over 20 years, we've had a tumultous, back and forth, forth and back, type of relationship. We are still really good friends, but we have both moved on. He is now married and living in Jamaica. But he was in town because his father recently overcame a year long medical crucible and the family was gathering for a big celebration. [I'm telling you, his father is a medical miracle! One year ago, he weighed less than 75 pounds and the doctors were encouraging the family to consider hospice for him - and yet, on Sabbath, he stood before his church and gave his testimony about the goodness of the Lord - but I digress]

Anyway, as my mother and I visited with the family after church on Sabbath, the question came up about why he and I never got married - why our relationship never made it past the courtship stage. I mean, we never would have had any in-law issues - his parents love me and my mother thinks he is the most wonderful person ever; his brothers love me and have always considered me their "sister"; all the parents get along and enjoy spending time with each other. But there are reasons why we are not together. Good, valid, important reasons. Of course, he has his version of why we are not together and I have mine - isn't that always the case?] And while our lives have taken very different paths, it was interesting (FOR A MOMENT) to play the "what if" game. What if we had gotten married? What if some of the choices we made back in the late '80s/early 90's had been different? Would he still be in the church? Would I still be living in Atlanta? Would we have had children? LOTS of questions.

But the reality is this: unlike the TV show FELICITY, in real life, you don't get to go back and "re-do" your life. You don't get to see what would have happened "if". You pretty much have to suck it up. You have to live with/accept the choices that you made in life and as much as possible, be happy with those choices. This ex played a very important part in my life for YEARS (decades even) and as I said, we remain friends and he (and his family) will always be important to me and have a very special place in my heart and my life - but time marches on - and you have to accept the consequences of the choices you make.

It was good to see him.

It was good to see him go.

Be blessed.

22 August 2008

Appearances can be deceiving...

"But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7

This is a much rehashed theme, but this text is so much a part of my psyche today that I had to write about...AGAIN! In the text above, God commissioned Samuel to go to the house of Jesse to find the replacement king of Israel (because, frankly, Saul was messing up!). As Jesse brought his sons forth, one by one by one, Samuel would look at them and think, "Wow, he's tall - he must be the new king - he has a kingly stature"; or "And this one, look at that smile - he would be a good diplomat". Over and over again, Samuel would look on the outward appearance of Jesse's sons and deem them "appropriate" for the job. BUT God had a different plan and way of looking at Jesse's sons. He was looking at their hearts, their motives and motivations.

I wish I had the ability to look at people's true hearts and characters as I interacted with them...and sometimes, I wish people could do the same for me. To know that, generally, I want the best for people and mean no harm. A remark, given in love and kindness, shouldn't be the start of an argument or friction. But sometimes that is what happens. Because I am NOT God, I don't know what trials, tribulations, struggles a person may be hiding behind a smile or professional demeanor. I cannot tell by looking at someone if they had an argument with their spouse before leaving the house that morning - or if the baby threw up on them as they were walking out the door - or if they missed their morning devotion and gave the enemy a way in...I don't know all these things - just as, by looking at me, they don't know any of these things about me.

I think we sinful, selfish, soul-scarred, battle weary humans are sometimes overly sensitive to words said and the tones in which they are said - sensitive to body language - sensitive to everything. I had a situation this morning with a co-worker that just blew out of control because I believe both of us were coming from a position of defense instead of compromise. She didn't know what I'd already been through this morning - just as I didn't know what she was going through - and in anger, we both lashed out at each other. Luckily, eventually, calmer heads prevailed and I hope we both walked away with a better understanding of the situation and with our working relationship and personal friendship intact.

Smiling faces often cover a multitude of wounds. Just because someone appears to be standing strong doesn't mean that, in reality, they are barely standing at all. Let's all strive to be more compassionate with each other. One of the prayers I strive to pray every morning is: "Dear Lord, thank you for the forgiveness of my sins and for the gift of salvation at Calvary. Help me as I interact with my friends and co-workers today to remember that they also are Your Children and are forgiven sinners just as I am. Help me to be as patient with them as You are with me." That's my prayer. I ain't always successful - but I'm trying.

As the Sabbath hours approach (AMEN! HALLELUJAH!), I pray that you are blessed. I pray that you find some time to rest, relax, release...and I pray that as you interact with the saints at church, you will remember that the pretty dress, the beautiful suit, the smoking shoes may all just be a front - that person may just barely be making it through - pray for them and be patient.

Be blessed.

20 August 2008

Home ownership ain't for sissies...

The saga of my roof repair (or not) continues. If you have been following this drama, you know that it was in March 2008 that my roof was apparently damaged by a hailstorm following the tornado that struck my fair city. It was in June that my mother and I started gathering information about roofing companies and in mid-July, after an extensive round of interviewing companies and meeting with roofing company representatives, we picked a company, hired them and waited for our roof to be repaired.
...and waited
...and waited
...and waited.

Finally, one day in August, the materials to do the work on the roof were delivered to my house. Excitement reigned in the house because we'd been told, "the materials will be delivered one day, roof put on the next day, cleanup the following day". Yeah right. Materials were delivered on a Wednesday...Thursday, no roofers...Friday, no roofers...Monday, no roofers...and no matter how many times I called the contractor and/or the roofing company directly, I could not get anyone to answer one simple question: "WHEN Y'ALL GONNA COME AND FIX MY ROOF?"

Finally, one Tuesday morning, the roofers showed up. My old roof was torn off - a new roof put on...well, most of it anyway. Apparently, you have to take BOTH skylights off before you realize that the size you bought was too small and that you need to order the right sized skylights. So, you cover the holes with flashing (some aluminum type stuff) and duct tape and say, "yeah, that should hold it until we get the right sized skylights up here." And then you drive away...and the wait begins again.

It has been almost two weeks since the roof was put on my house and still...no skylights. Again, calls to the contractor net no response. I am sure that when I left the message for the contractor that the only reason I wasn't being "angry Black woman" with him was because no money had yet changed hands, he either got scared at the thought of my metamorphosis into such a creature, or he laughed at my feeble attempt at keeping my cool. When he finally did call me back (TODAY!!!), he told me that he'd just found out that the skylights may take up to FIVE WEEKS to be delivered from the distributor! FIVE WEEKS! Are they crazy?! He did offer this disclaimer: your roof should be secure, but if it rains and there is any damage, our company would be liable and will reimburse you any damage...UH DUH!

So, the wait begins again. I truly appreciate all my friends, loved ones and just generally nosey people who continue to ask me "So, what's going on with your roof?" - Well, here's your answer. NOTHING!!! Pray for a sista, will ya? I am really striving not to go "angry Black woman", but there's only so much a woman can take.

Be blessed.

19 August 2008

Membership has its privileges...

Remember when that catch phrase was synonymous with American Express? We all bought into the hype - wow! with this credit card, you are a "member" and there are certain privileges that only members of this club are afforded. It made you WANT to carry that credit card because that meant you had ARRIVED, you were a "member" of the club. [I know I sure felt that way the day I was approved for mine. I was an "adult"].

But now, you can be a "member" of almost anything: shopping clubs like Sam's, Costco or BJ's; book clubs; social networks; health clubs; even websites now have "memberships" where if you are a member, you are allowed access to more information than the general viewing public. I should know - I am in the process of designing some personal and family websites and setting up the permissions and privileges for "members" has been one of my biggest tasks. I mean, everybody can't see everything about you. Some things need to be shared with only the chosen few.

And then, there are the different levels of membership. You can be a regular member, or a gold member, or even a platinum member - depending on the different levels determined by the host entity. Of course, each level has different (and presumably better) benefits the higher you climb up the hierarchy. Of course, the cost associated with each level is exponentially higher. It is great to be platinum level with your frequent flyer membership - you get higher priorities on standby lists and sometimes, automatic upgrades to first class - but you have already paid for those benefits many times over every time you flew coach (and sat in the middle next to the screaming, hollering baby or were talked to incessantly all the way from NYC to LAX by the seat mate who just would not shut up! - sorry, flashback), or every time you got bumped from a standby list. Believe me, you've paid for that status or level of membership by the time you get it.

Another thing to remember: membership is always a choice. You don't have to accept an invitation to join when the offer is presented. I am a avid Facebook member and I get requests frequently to join various groups online based on my list of hobbies and interests. I join some, but not all...it is a choice. There have even been groups that I have joined impulsively only to realize "Hmm, maybe this group really isn't for me". [That is especially true with applications to add to my profile...I mean, do I really want my friends to send me online strippers?!]

There is one "club" where the rules above do not apply and that is membership in the family of Christ. There is no hierarchy at the foot of the Cross - it is a level playing field for all who come. It doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, male or female, young or old, Black or White (or taupe - inside joke)...we are all the same: sinners saved by grace. The price was paid for all of us by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. All we have to do is accept His free gift of membership. And you even have a choice about that...the invitation is extended ("Behold, I stand at the door and knock"), but you don't have to accept it. What a loving God! Even knowing that our lives are better or would be better with Him in it than without Him in it, He still gives us a choice to accept or reject "membership" into the family. I don't know about you, but I am glad to be a member of His family. I mean, how else could I be the "favorite", right?

Be blessed.

PS: Information about my personal website coming soon. Website http://www.godsfavoritechild.com/ still under construction, but I hope to have it up and running soon. Pray for this effort. Thanks.

17 August 2008

It's the pattern, not the incident, that counts...

For the past week, I have been studying about the disciple John - first known as one of the "Sons of Thunder" (along with his brother James), but who, by the end of his life, was known as the "Beloved Disciple" of Christ. At church on Sabbath, we discussed how Christ looked at John at the beginning - looked past his brashness and quick temper - and saw the man he would become. [Did you realize that John was the only disciple who did not desert Jesus when He was put on trial and eventually crucified? John was also the only disciple at the foot of the cross when Jesus drew His last breath...no wonder he was called the Beloved]

The thing that struck me was this: Jesus never takes one incident in our lives and judges us based on that sole incident. John and his brother, James, came to Jesus and brashly asked to be set up as His "right hand" and "left hand" men when He established His kingdom. They also asked Jesus to rain down fire from heaven when the Samaritans didn't treat them the way they felt they should have been treated...I mean, these were some feisty brothers! Yet, Jesus looked past that and saw John's heart...saw his willingness to change...his desire to be more like Jesus.

I am glad that Jesus treats us all that way. There are things in my past that (praise God) only He and I know about - and He ain't telling nobody, so neither am I. I am also glad that, for whatever reason, He didn't take me while I was in the midst of my "wilding out" phase of life...that He looked at my heart and saw that, deep down inside where it really counts, I do have a heart bent towards Him and that I am striving every day to be the woman He wants me to be. He sees the pattern of my life and not the incident(s) of the past.

Thank God.

Be blessed.

13 August 2008

Under His Wings...

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge (Psalm 91:4)

I usually write straight from the heart, but today, my best friend from college sent me a story that I'd heard (several times) before, but which was right on time for me today, so I want to share it in this forum:

A little something to put things in perspective. An article in National Geographic several years ago provided an interesting picture of God's wings. After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno's damage. One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree. Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with astick. When he gently struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother's wings. The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies. When the blaze had arrived and the heat had scorched her small body, the mother had remained steadfast. Because she had been willing to die, so those under the cover of her wings would live.

WOW! Talk about love. What a glorious story about the sacrifice that mother made for her children, but what about the baby chicks who were safely nestled under her wing? Did they appreciate her sacrifice or did they peck and claw at her to get out? Were they aware of the impending danger or were they only aware of how heavy her wing was as it pressed against them? My point is this: often I am in the midst of an inferno of strife and stress and danger - [more often than not caused by something of my own doing] - and God tries to gather me under His wings in order to safeguard me and protect me - only to have me fight and fuss and rail against Him for trapping or hindering me from doing whatever it is I want to do. How often do we take His protection for granted or even resent Him for protecting us?

And notice, when the chicks were set free - they scurried off. The story does not say that they lingered around to grief their mother's sacrifice, they didn't stop and say, "thanks Mom for giving your life so that I could live"...they just went on with their lives. Just as I tend to do when God delivers me...sometimes, I am negligent with my praise and thanks...and just scurry off without looking back.

But the most amazing thing: the next time danger approaches, God doesn't stand back and say, "Shoot! She didn't say thank you last time...she's on her own this time." He lovingly gathers me under His wings again to offer shelter and protection through the inferno. What a wonderful God!

Be blessed.

11 August 2008

Relax, relate, release...

So, I ditched church on Sabbath and headed to Stone Mountain Park instead. The weather was beautiful - a little warm with temps in the low 90s, but I have a "spot" in the park that I frequent that is off the beaten path - right by a body of water where there is a cross breeze and you can feed the ducks and immerse yourself in the solitude of nature. I packed up a picnic basket with some good food, my blanket and a pillow, a good book and my laptop (which did not work - I couldn't get a good strong signal) and spent a good, solid four hours in the park. One of my "spots" in the park is near a carillon - a pipe organ that was built for a World's Fair (I think) and donated to the park. On the weekend, Ms. Mabel Florence (a cute older Southern lady - complete with floppy straw hat) plays selected hymns and songs at preset times. Ms. Mabel knows me and everytime she sees me at the carillon on Sabbath, she will interperse her playing with lots of hymns, especially "It is Well with My Soul", which she knows is a personal favorite. There is nothing like it. It is a wonderful Sabbath experience and one I try to take advantage of at least once a quarter or so - whenever duties at church don't tie me to the building and the weather is cooperative.

And I am sure you are not surprised to know that I speak to the other visitors to the Park who wander by my spot by the water. There were the two guys who went fishing in the lake, caught some bass and were headed home to fry them up and eat 'em. [I tried to give them a healthy grilled recipe alternative, but I know they fried those jokers up and ate 'em!] Other tourists wandered down to take pictures by the carillon or of the paddleboat, the Scarlett O'Hara, or with a view of the mountain across the water. [Of course, I offered to take group pictures so that EVERYONE was in the picture 'cause I'm notorious for being the photographer and not in the picture] There was the group of six from Louisiana in town for the weekend, and the couple and their daughter visiting from the Bay Area in California. There was the group of women who wadded out into the water to get their toes wet. And invariably, I heard the comment (over and over again), "Now SHE has the right idea...a picnic in a shaded spot...I wish I could do that...I wish I'd thought of that".

Why can't they? Why didn't they? When did we get so caught up in "life" that we forgot how to slow down...to relax...to take time to relate to the world around us...to release ourselves from our pent up tensions, worries and cares? Is it part of being an adult? Of being responsible? There are enough hours in the day when I have to focus on going to work, paying the bills, washing the dishes, taking out the trash, cooking, cleaning, organizing...it is a never-ending cycle. But I have learned that if I don't take time to "stop and smell the roses", I get sick...mentally, emotionally, spiritually. I have to find time to "recharge my batteries" - whether it is going on vacation or finding a quiet conference room at work to journal at lunchtime or checking out of church to go spend the day at the park - in order to keep up with the busy pace demanded of me by life.

God didn't create us to work ourselves to death. I think that is why He created flowers and birds and beautiful vistas. So that we would have things to admire if we would just take the time to do so. As I stated before, He built a day of rest into the week when He created the world so that we could take advantage of it. Your way to "relax, relate, release" may not be the same as mine - you might like gardening or skiing or bungee jumping - I don't know. But take time to recharge your batteries. Take time for you.

Be blessed.

08 August 2008

It's the weekend, baby...

...and I, for one, am glad. This has been a long week. I don't know why - it hasn't been particularly busy or trying or traumatic...although, if you count the ongoing issues with the repair of my roof - maybe I should rephrase/rethink that statement. It is not like suddenly there were more (or less) hours to the week - each day came with the same 24 hour period to it - and there were only six days since Sunday - but for some reason, I am just TYE-RED today...drained, exhausted.


A built-in day of rest. For those of you who may not know what I am talking about when I say the word "Sabbath", I'll explain. As a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, I believe every week ends with a 24 hour period of rest and relaxation in the Lord called the Sabbath. This 24 hour period begins at sunset on Friday and ends at sunset on Saturday. (Granted, some Adventists would disagree with that statement since it seems like more and more stuff gets stuffed into the Sabbath when you consider church and potlucks and AYS and "a quick five minute meeting in the mother's room after services" and..well, if you are Adventist, you know what I'm talking about...) But it is my belief that at the end of Creation Week, God took time to rest and He hallowed the day of rest which we now call the Sabbath. [See Genesis 2:2,3] I further believe that when He wrote out the Ten Commandments and gave them to Moses at Mount Sinai, He specified that the Sabbath as a day that we should come aside and commune with Him...in fact, it is the ONLY commandment that starts with the word "Remember", so it must have been pretty darn important. [See Exodus 20:8-11]

But on a more personal level, I think God (who sees all and knows all from the beginning of time to the end of time) - when He was creating the world looked down through the annals of time to August 8, 2008 and said, "you know, my daughter is going to be tired around 4:30p when it's time to get off work. If I don't set something in place that will give her "permission" to put her cares and worries aside and come and rest in Me, she will work herself into the ground. I think I'll set something in place that will make her pause and think and regroup and rest. I'll call it the Sabbath and maybe, just maybe, she'll appreciate it. Maybe she won't, but why don't I set it in place anyway, just in case she will."

He knows me well, don't He?

He knows you in the same way. I personally believe in the seventh day Sabbath - that means, for me, my "day" of rest is from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. This is not the time, place or forum to get into a discussion about Sabbath worship v. Sunday worship. I just suggest to you to find some time this weekend to commune with the Lord. Whether you do it in a church building - or out in nature - or in the comfort of your own home - I encourage you to take some time to get back in touch with your Creator, commune with Him and find rest for your weary spirit.

Be blessed and have a great Sabbath.

07 August 2008

Forgiveness ain't about "them"

...it's about me.

Have you ever really thought about forgiveness and what it means in the scheme of things? There have been a few times in my life when God has brought this subject before me as a topic of study and for some reason, it is back in my life again. There must be a lesson I need to (re)learn about forgiveness. In my morning devotions, I am reading a book entitled WALKING WITH JESUS ON THE MOUNT OF BLESSING by George R. Knight. In it, he is dissecting the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7 - literally, verse by verse. And this week, the focus is on the portion of the Lord's Prayer where Jesus teaches that we should pray "Forgive us our debts (sins) AS WE FORGIVE our debtors (those who have sinned against us)." That is powerful when you stop to think about it.


Hmm, I think I might be in trouble here, because I don't know about you, but it ain't always easy to let stuff go. I wish I could forgive others as my Heavenly Father forgives me - throw it into the depths of the ocean - as far away as the east is from the west - never to be brought up again. Uh...yeah. It is a goal to strive for, ain't it? I mean, some things are easy to forgive. It is easy to forgive the idiot driver who cuts you off while you are driving, but what about the friend who betrays a trust? What about a family member who steals from you? Or the pastor who betrays a confidence? What about a spouse who cheats - again and again? Or the child who disrespects you and your teachings? How do you forgive those things and move on?

Obviously, without the help of Jesus, it won't happen. But one thing I have learned over the years: forgiveness is less about them and what they did to me, but more about me and how I react, anyway. As long as I hold onto the hurt feelings, the sense of betrayal, whatever it is that is stopping me for truly forgiving someone - I am the one who is being affected. The person who did me harm has moved on and is living their lives without thinking about me - yet, I am the one mired in the "I cannot believe she did that" and the "what did I ever do to him to make him treat me that way" feelings. But once I forgive them, I am the one who is released, who no longer has to worry about ulcers and high blood pressure. If I TRULY forgive them, then the anger and frustration and hurt disappear and life is good again.

I am glad that God doesn't take as long to forgive me as I take to forgive others. His forgiveness is instanteous - as soon as I ask for it, He does it. AND, He never brings it up again - even when I continue to beat myself up about things I have done, He doesn't. He forgives and forgets. Oh, to be like Him and to treat others as He treats me. That's the goal, isn't it?

Be blessed.

Happy Anniversary!

Today marks 8 years on the job for me at the law firm where I currently work. WOW! 8 years! That's over 2,900 days of my life - a mere drop in the scheme of things when you consider how old I am, but still - the longest that I have ever worked anywhere on a consistent, without a break, daily basis. And for the most part, I still love my job and where I work. There have been some challenges recently, but God is in control of those challenges and I am just waiting for deliverance, which I know is sure to come. (Remember, I AM His favorite...hahaha)

In eight years, there have been a LOT of changes in my work environment - we have added 5 new office locations (including two on the West Coast); I have changed attorney pairings often enough that I no longer work with any of the people I was originally hired to work with - they have all left the Firm to pursue other options; there have been weddings and funerals and births and retirements; there have been pay raises (AMEN!) and schedule changes and 401K adjustments; friendships made and lost; hair style changes (I started locking my hair while working here); good times and bad.

It is a testament to God's goodness and love that I have reached this milestone in my professional career. It is a blessing to have a job to go to every day - especially in THIS economy. It is an additional blessing to love the job you go to every day. It is a blessing to work with people who edify, support and value you as my attorneys do. It is a blessing to have friendships at work that do that same. Now, I would never state that everything is perfect (I do live in the "real world"), but given the choice to be where I am or anywhere else working, I know I am blessed.

Here's to anniversary #8. Thank you Heavenly Father for the blessing. Now, help me use this blessing to bless someone else. 'Cause that's what it is all about anyway.

Have a great day and be blessed.

05 August 2008

Too much information?

A really good friend of mine recently commented to me that he didn't understand why women felt the need to "tell everything" - to put too much information (about themselves, their feelings, etc) out there into the universe for everyone to read, hear, digest and comment on. Ok, I expanded a little on what he said, but it got me to thinking...I mean, it's not the first time that I have been questioned about "Why are you doing a blog now?" - my mother and my grandmother REALLY don't get it, but yet they enjoy reading them. What is the motivation behind putting my thoughts and feelings out into the public realm? Does it do any good? Does it serve a purpose? Maybe not in the grand cosmic scheme of things, but this is what I have found out about blogging...for me:

1) It is a creative release. I have always (tried to) keep a "daily" journal, since I was a preteen. Writing stuff down that I could not talk about out loud was a way for me to deal with the things going on around me over which I had no control. My parents' divorce, living with my maternal grandparents for a while when my mother first remarried, going through cultural shock when this very Southern girl was transplanted to the concrete jungles of the Bronx NY - all this stuff I could write about - even if I couldn't talk about it. Going back and reading some of the stuff I wrote back then - always interesting. [Yeah, my journals are in my will, entrusted to someone who will keep my secrets even after I'm gone! But if Hollywood comes knocking, do you think Halle will be available to play me on the big screen? hahaha]

2) Hopefully, it is a blessing to someone. I grew up not knowing my parents' stories from their childhood, teen years, early adulthood - and therefore, was doomed to make some of their same mistakes in life. Not their fault - the older generation in which they grew up functions under the perception that "private things are private" and "home stuff should be kept at home" [which ain't necessarily bad], but if I had known some of their stories, maybe I could have avoided some of their mistakes. I am sure that I would have made my own mistakes, but maybe they would have been different ones than the ones they made - 'cause as I grow older, I have discovered, I am definitely the child of BOTH of my parents!! If by telling my story (or stories), I can help someone else from making a mis-step - or help them see something in a way that they never thought about before, that is great. We are here to help each other along the way. Sharing our life experiences is one way to do that.

3) God is amazing. And I want to share that with people. While it is important to reverence Him and praise Him as our Creator/Father/Redeemer/God, it is equally important to KNOW Him...to understand His love for me, for you - on a up close and personal basis. So, that is why I talk about rainbows showing up just for me; flowers that bloom on magnolia trees and then disappear; lessons that He tries to teach me...because it is personal and it is just for me...just as it is personal and just for you.

There are a lot of blogs out there. There are a lot of people talking and discussing and sharing their lives - often with total and complete strangers. I am often amazed at what people are willing to share about themselves, their lives, their hopes and dreams. I am amazed at what I am willing to share...but I truly feel "called" to do this - and until such time as I am led otherwise, I pray God to be a blessing to anyone who takes time to read whatever God places on my heart to say.

Be blessed.

04 August 2008

Motives and agendas...

Question of the day: Is it more important to be willing to do something or to do something because you are willing? Ok, I know that sounds like "circular reasoning" [as my logics teacher tried to teach me about in college decades ago], but there really is a difference. Even the Bible talks about it. [Read Matthew 21:28-30] In that Bible passage, Jesus tells the parable about a father asking his two sons to go work in His vineyard: one says, I won't go, but repents and goes; the other says, I'll go and yet never does. The first son did the task because he was willing - it took him some time, but he did. The second son was willing to do it, but never followed through with it...never did what was asked of him. Jesus then posed the question, "which son did the will of the Father?"

I am pondering this question because sometimes I feel like I am more like the first son than the second. I will initially resist doing a task asked of me, but then when no one else will step up to the plate [or, in all honesty, if I think they are messing up and I think I can do it better], I'll step up and help out or take over - basically, get it done. I might resent being put in that position (or more honestly, putting myself in that position), but in the end - whatever needed to be done is done. My brother, on the other hand, is DEFINITELY the second son. (I ain't judging, I'm just saying). My brother, Kevin, is a charmer who, early in life, realized that it works for him to say "yeah, I'll do that" and then apologize later when he drops the ball and doesn't do it. By the time he gets around to apologizing, someone (usually me) has already fixed the problem or handled the situation. Who is right - who is wrong in this situation?

I think it all boils down to motives and agendas. I do not mean to imply that my brother does not have a good heart or good intentions. He does. He means well. At the moment he says he will do it, he probably means it with all his heart. But time and experience have taught me that just because he says he will do something, don't be foolish enough not to have a backup plan in case he cannot (or does not) come through. But what about me? What are my motives for always being the one who gets the job done? Is there some secret glory in the "martyrdom" of being the "go to" person at home, work, church, the school board, friendships and relationships? Is there a level of vanity in knowing I'm the "responsible" one in so many aspects of my life? It is a slippery slope and one that I have to be very careful about.

Even with writing this blog, sometimes I have to question my motives. Am I writing for praise and accolades and "Girl, you sure blessed me with what you said/wrote"? Or are my motives pure? Am I writing because I know God has blessed me with the ability to write and I am just trying to use this talent to praise Him - in my own unique and quirky way? I know what I think is the true motivation - I just pray that I am not deluding myself. 'Cause it really ain't about me. It is about Him. I am glad whenever someone tells me that they are blessed by something that I write or say or do. Praise Him that He is willing to use a faulty, cracked vessel like me to bless someone else, but if I ever get the "big head" about, I hope my friends will pull me up short and say, "hey! It ain't about you." [And believe me, I have friends who I KNOW will do just that!]

As you move through this day (and through life), my prayer for all of us (especially those of us with ministries that God has placed on our hearts and in our lives) is that our motives are pure and our agendas are in line with His plans for our lives.

Be blessed.

01 August 2008

Roof repairs, rollercoasters and rain delays

God has a funny sense of humor. I hope you have experienced this for yourself, but can I say: sometimes when it happens to you, it ain't so funny.

In March of this year, Atlanta was hit by a tornado, and then the next day, there was a hailstorm in my neighborhood. As a result, I suffered some damage to my roof. We contacted State Farm and filed the claim and after interviewing five different roofing companies, two weeks ago, I picked a company and told them to come on and repair the roof. I thought it was all fortuitous that I was already scheduled to be on vacation this week and asked them to do the repairs this week - you know, so I could be home when the repairmen were crawling around on my roof. So, Monday came, nothing...Tuesday nothing,...Wednesday, the roofing supplies were delivered and I thought, "surely, this means the work will begin". NOPE. Thursday, I waited (im)patiently for the workmen to arrive, but nope...no one showed up. And today is Friday...supplies still in the driveway, no repairmen on the roof. Several calls to the roofing company netted no results and now, with the Sabbath approaching, it looks that the repairs won't be done until next week when I am back at work. That wasn't MY plan, but it obviously was God's.

And did I mention that it has rained almost every night this week? So, every night, there is the scramble to put down the towels and/or cardboard to catch the water from the leaks caused by the damage to the roof. And new leaks are springing up with each downpour. Or maybe it just seems that way.

Every morning this week, I've prayed that God would work it out that the roofers would come, fix the roof and life would move on. But I've also prayed that His will be done, and obviously there is some reason why, on this nice, beautiful, crisp, summer day there is no work being done on my roof. I am trying to be patient and let it all work out in His time, but I haven't been 100% successful - I haven't gone "angry Black woman" (yet), but I've come close. Pray for me, won't you?

So, where do the rollercoasters come in? I was supposed to go to Six Flags yesterday and ride rollercoasters with my cousin Jill. But she called me last Wednesday night to say that she would not be able to go. Turns out that right as we would have been standing in line for the Goliath (or any one of the other 9 rollercoasters in the park), the heavens opened up and rains came down. There was a reason that Jill and I were not out there when it happened. I was teased a lot by friends who said maybe I was too old to be doing rollercoasters anyway...guess we'll never know...although Jill and I have plans to try and go later in the summer. I'll keep you posted.

I have stated before that my favorite text is Jeremiah 29:11: "for I know the plans I have for you saith the Lord..." Some times those plans include rainstorms, delayed roof repairs and (not riding) rollercoasters.

Be blessed.