31 December 2008
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)
29 December 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
23 December 2008
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...)
19 December 2008
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,
12 December 2008
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.
11 December 2008
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)
06 December 2008
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
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.