31 January 2009

I'm so motivated!

(This was actually written earlier this week, but posted to another blog I contribute to in error. Oops! - Enjoy!)

Some of you may know that I am a diabetic, so losing weight this year is important to me on a number of levels. As a diabetic, every three months, I have to have a specific blood test done (called an A1C test) that basically takes measure of my blood sugars for a three month period and then gives a result. My doctor wants my A1C to be in the 5.0 to 6.0 range. At my worst, my A1C was a 11.4, but sort of stabilized for the last year or so in the 7.2 to 7.8 range - not bad, not great, just ok.

On last Thursday, I had my A1C test done and for the first time in the three years since I have been diagnosed with this horrific disease (ok, when you LOVE food like I love food - you don't want any disease that demands that you watch what you eat!), my number was below 7.0: 6.8!!! That is MAJOR! I am so proud of myself that I think I've hurt my shoulder reaching back to pat myself on the back since I got the news. AND this morning, for the first time in a long time, my fasting blood sugar was below 100! (It should be between 90 and 110 - it is usually 120 to 140).

BUT this has motivated me in ways I cannot even begin to explain to you. My doctor has been preaching to me for three years - "Exercise, watch what (and how much) you eat, exercise, control your sweets" and I heard, but didn't listen...if you hear what I'm saying. Now that I see that the results of controlling my portions, eating more vegetables, cutting back on the pasta and rice (which is major for me), and especially putting exercise into the routine - all of this is making a difference - and I want the differences to continue.

Sometimes we want to see BIG results immediately in order to stay motivated to do the things we know we need to do for our good health. Let me encourage each of you that it is in the consistent, baby steps and small changes that we make every day that will add up and make the difference. And this applies to our spiritual lives as well. (Just thought I'd throw that in there...)

I am involved with a group of about 15 women at work who, as a group, have decided that for the next five months, we are moving from "Fat2Fit" (ok, I HATE the name of the group, but love the concept behind it). Everyone is doing their own thing - 'cause let's face it, every thing don't work for everybody. Some are doing Weight Watchers, some NutriSystem, we even have one woman who is skinny as a rail to the rest of us who is just there for moral support and encouragement. But the group support - the "thumbs up" in the break room at lunchtime - the smiles of encouragement - have all been a blessing to me and keep me pumped as I move towards my goals.

Finally: just a warning to all the men out there: If you didn't love me when I was "fat and fabulous", don't even TRY to step to me when I am "fit and fine" - which I will be...sooner than you think! So, show love now! hahaha.

Be blessed.

22 January 2009

Glued to the TV...

It has been almost 48 hours since Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America and I am still reeling from the emotion, pagentry, symbolism - everything about the day. I, along with my 66 year old mother and 89 year old grandmother, sat glued to the TV from 8:00a until late into the night. (They stayed up later than me because (1) I got up at 5:00a to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner so it would be ready WHENEVER anyone wanted to eat; and (2) I needed rest for the drive back to the airport the morning after.)

I have always voted in the Presidential elections - my dad told me early on: If you don't vote, you have no voice - and picture me with no voice! Horror of horrors! BUT I have never in my life watched the inaugural proceedings that would put the person I voted for (or didn't vote for)into office. Just wasn't interested. But this time, cell phone was ignored, I was away from the computer, and I yelled at my brother Kevin when he called at 11:45a just to say, "are you watching?" Of course, I was watching! What a knucklehead!

CNN News asked viewers, people there in DC and at home, to take a picture of what they were doing at "THE MOMENT" Barack was sworn in. I aimed my camera at the TV and the picture attached is the outcome of my moment. [It was the ONLY picture that I took on the TV that came out - the rest (of the parade, of Michelle and the girls, of the Obamas and Bidens watching the Bushes leave the Capitol) all came out blurry and out of focus.]

The whole world was watching as history took place. And whether you agree with his political agenda, whether you thought his speech was inspiring or insipid, whether you liked Michelle's dress or not - for the 20+ minutes that he was speaking, he had our undivided attention. And as I watched, I thought (again), he's a rock star. He is a cultural icon. For the next four years (maybe 8), he is the "face of America".

Now the real work begins. The hard tasks in front of him are daunting. Two wars, global financial crisis, health care, global warming, the education system, the housing crisis, joblessness, hopelessness, despair - all rest on his (as one commentator put it: very well defined) shoulders. He cannot do it without our prayers, support and help. As he said in his speech, it is time for us to pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off and get to work. I am prayerful that we, as a country - UNITED in our goals - will do just that. We have come together before in times of great hardship and crisis, we can do it again. I have hope. I have faith. I have confidence. Don't you?

Be blessed.

19 January 2009

Celebrating 76 Years...

In less than 36 hours, I put over 500 miles on a rental car - all in order to pay tribute to my mother's eldest brother, Elder Hector M. Mouzon, Jr. "Uncle Heckie" celebrated his 76th birthday on 14 January 2009 and as a family, we traveled from Atlanta and Birmingham to celebrate his birthday and what he means to us. It was a grand occasion, attended by over 30 family members and what a surprise to him, since we actually pulled this off without his knowing. The picture is only a partial group picture - we never did get a full "everybody in" picture - and I am kicking myself for not getting a picture of the five siblings who were present (missing: my Uncle William, who is the only sibling who is deceased; and my Uncles Al and James.)

We have a big family - my grandparents had seven children and then later adopted two additional sons. All of my uncles and my only aunt all took to heart God's command to be "fruitful and multiply", so I have cousins out of the wazoo! And when you add spouses and the second generation - well, you can just imagine. And, then on top of all the family that attended, there were friends who think they are family (and they are) who joined the mix...it was a wonderful celebration. Gathering all of these people together in one place on time took lots of time, coordination and Calling Post calls - and while there were hitches and glitches - when it was all said and done and over - what an amazing time we had. Good food (thanks Olive Garden!), great fellowship, lots of laughter, time together to hug and tell each other one mo' time again that we love each other and how important we are to each other. It is so important to do that because who knows when THIS exact group of family and friends will gather again. And I am thanking God that everyone traveled back home safely and there were no incidents, accidents or tragedies.

Thank God for family - even when they get on your nerves (and we all know family knows what buttons to push! - but praise God, not a single button was pushed during our celebration on yesterday). Love them, embrace them, celebrate them every time you can!

Be blessed.

17 January 2009

Have you heard...?

He's coming!
He's arriving today!
It's been months since we were told he was on his way, but today is finally the day.
Are you going to the celebration?
Will I see you in the crowd?
I heard people are traveling from all over to be a part of the event - I wonder if (insert name) will be there?
Did you buy a new outfit? a new hat? gloves and shoes and purse to match?
They say he will bring a change and Lord knows we need one.
The faithful few who stood by and waited patiently will be joined by brash, young upstarts and returning members to the fold - all because he's coming!
I better get there early in order to get my spot.
Have you heard?
Are you excited?
Or are you going to watch from the sidelines, contemptuous of all the hype and noise?
Will you embrace the change - run to it or run from it?
Are they playing drums?
Are they singing songs?
What's going on over there?
Man, I cannot see a thing.
I should have stayed home and watched this on TV or the Internet.
Have you heard?
He's coming!
Today is the day.

I wrote this in recognition of the arrival of our new pastor at my church today - but as I wrote it, I realized it could be taken in several different ways. On Tuesday, we will inaugurate the first African-American President of the United States and the buzz around that event could make even the most skeptical of critics of him stand up and take notice. [I have a DIE HARD African-American friend who is a Republican and voted for McCain who would barely talk to me during the entire Presidential race because of our differing political views who admitted to me that she will be watching on Tuesday - her "excuse": Well, Kristina, it's history in the making. Yes, it is.

But as I wrote the above, I thought about the pending (and prayerfully soon) return of Jesus Christ. Will we all be just as excited about His return as we are about Pastor Wesley Knight's taking of the pulpit at Decatur SDA Church today - or Barack (and Michelle)'s induction as the 44th President of the United States on Tuesday? Or will we be running to the hills saying, "hide me from the One Who sitteth on the Throne?" I pray I am one of those running TO Him and not FROM Him.

Be blessed.

16 January 2009

Traveling after a potential disaster...

So, we were all glued to CNN or CNN.com yesterday to watch as over 140 people and crew members were rescued from the cold, murky waters of the Hudson River after their flight took off from LaGuardia airport. Reports state that a flock of birds may have been sucked into the engines of the plane, causing the plane to malfunction. Through the grace of God (and let's not diminish that it was truly HIS mercy that all lives were spared) and the skill of the pilots, the plane landed in the Hudson River in such a way that people were able to stand on the wings of the plane until rescued. What a miracle! The plane didn't hit any of the bridges crossing the Hudson, didn't crash into any of the downtown NYC buildings, and then, most amazingly, no loss of life! As one of my prayer partners said this morning, "someone on that plane was praying..." [Side note to Marquis: probably more than one.]

On Monday, I have to get on a plane. Am I nervous? Uh...no more than normal. I am an Air Force kid, I have been flying since I was six months old, so I know planes are capable of flying, but as I get older and think logically about it: how the heck is it possible for tons of steel, tons of human weight, pounds and pounds of luggage, food, water and snacks to make it up off the ground and thousands of feet into the air, blast away at hundreds of miles an hour, and land a few hours later hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles away - safe and sound. Because, when you think about the numbers of flights that take off and land safely everyday around the world - it really is amazing. But anytime there is an air incident, it makes you pause and wonder, "Hmm...do I really want to get on a plane right now?" I think about my attorney, Robert, who was in NYC at a meeting and was actually sitting in the LaGuardia airport when the plane went down yesterday. How much faith did he have to have to board a plane later that evening to fly back to Atlanta? I know I might have had some second thoughts...

BUT, God willing: I will get on that plane Monday morning and my mom and I will travel to Palatka, Florida where we will watch the historic inauguration of Barack Obama with my 89 year old grandmother and commemorate the eighth anniversary of my grandfather's passing. I am placing my trust in Him, even today, that we will take off and land without incident. I am prayerful that we will have a nice visit, enjoy our time together, and then on Wednesday, get on another plane and head home to Atlanta. Yep...it will be alright.

Whatever you are doing during this holiday weekend, I pray God gives you and yours safe travels as well.

Be blessed.

15 January 2009

Taking artistic license...

I have never seen the play JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR GOSPEL. I went last night to see the production currently being mounted at the Alliance Theatre here in Atlanta. I spent six seasons working at the Alliance as a house manager and was thrilled to see old friends - both in the front of the house and backstage. The production is HUGE! The set is multi-tiered with moving balconies and stairs that extend into the audience (if you have front row seats at this production, you should be paid for being part of the show...kidding, just kidding.) The cast, which includes several local Atlantans making their theatrical debuts as choir members, is one of the largest I've ever seen - next to the annual classic, A CHRISTMAS CAROL. And the talent - amazing! Some of my favorite acting and singing talents - Bernadine Mitchell, Chandra Currelley, Eric Moore and Valerie Payton - are all a part of this amazing cast and newcomer Nicole Long - let's just say, you ain't heard the last of this bank teller turned actress, not by a long shot.

BUT...(you knew it was coming, didn't you?)

I sat through 75% of the play squirming in my seat at how the last week of Christ's life was being presented on stage. I understand all about "artistic license" and I am not a Bible-thumping censor that thinks that the way I believe is the only way to believe, but ... where do we draw the line between telling the truth of the story of Christ's sacrifice and the story of salvation and "doctoring it up a little" so that it is ... sexier, edgier, more appealing to the masses? I couldn't finish reading Dan Brown's book, The DaVinci Code, for the same reason. No where in the Bible is there an intimation of an intimate and/or sexual relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene - and yet, Dan Brown's book and this play (albeit in a subtle way) both touch on those themes. No where in the Bible does it imply that Christ, while in the Garden of Gethesemane on that fateful Thursday evening, blamed God the Father for the path He was about to trod. It just made me uneasy...and here's the reason why:

What if someone has never heard the gospel story of Jesus and this is their first exposure to it? If you take away Jesus' divinity and only show His human-ness, then He becomes nothing more than a "good man" who did a few miracles - as opposed to the Son of God Who became flesh so that we could have salvation and a right to eternal life and communion with God. I don't mean to preach my beliefs, truly I don't - but I just think some lines shouldn't be crossed...not even in the name of "artistic freedom or license."

Be blessed.

13 January 2009

16 Random Things...

Ok so my Facebook friend Janice from England started this, so here goes...Rules: Once you’ve been tagged on Facebook, you are supposed to write a note with 16 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 16 people to be tagged, including the person who initially tagged you. So, here goes:

1. I am an Air Force kid, not a "brat", a kid
2. I am spoiled, but not rotten
3. Purple is my favorite color with green as a close second
4. I really can survive on 5 hours sleep a night
5. If I could spend all day doing one thing, it would NOT be what I spend all day doing
6. I am a firm believer in the "stop and smell the roses" philosophy of life...
7. ... and while you are smelling said roses, stop and take a picture!
8. Friends are important and necessary and should be cherished
9. I don't plan to leave my beneficiaries anything but good memories. It's my money, I earned it, I plan to spend as much of it as possible.
10. Being responsible is over-rated (and yet, I am)
11. I really am not as "together" as everyone seems to think I am - I just use the right tools to keep track of stuff and get things done
12. If you juggle too many balls, eventually you will drop one
13. I have an addictive personality - good thing I never tried drugs
14. The soundtrack of my life is found on my iPod
15. If I ever write that novel, I promise to change the names of the innocent ... and the not-so innocent
16. There's a whole lot of world yet to discover - hope I get a chance to do so.

So, what 16 random things do you want to share?
Be blessed.

11 January 2009

I am a food snob...and proud of it!

Today I went to one of my favorite food shopping places - the DeKalb Farmers Market, affectionately called the DFM by those in the know. What an amazing place to shop if you are a "foodie" like me. Fruits, vegetables, produce from all over the world - they got stuff there that I don't know what it is or even how to begin to prepare it. And I am not yet brave enough to go up to complete strangers (as my mother has done) and ask, "what is that and what do you do with it?" (but I feel the courage to do that coming...) As I shopped today for things to prepare a healthy, nutritious and delicious meal for the evening, and as I got home and started chopping and storing and otherwise immersing myself in all the stuff I bought, I realized and (finally) admitted to myself that I am a food snob. My cousin Kelly and I discussed this a while back - she is one as well - and I didn't want to admit that I was a snob when it came to food, but I am finally able to admit it...and here's why:

- I will probably NEVER eat jarred salsa again. After eating fresh pico de gallo every day while I was in Mexico, I got spoiled. I came back home and tried to eat some chips and salsa and totally gagged. If I cannot make it fresh, I won't be eating chips and salsa. So, now you will always find roma tomatos, cilantro, fresh garlic, red onions, limes and fresh peppers (jalapenos, habeneros and green) in the fridge. Yes, it is more work, but SO TOTALLY WORTH IT!

- I like limes instead of lemons

- I like pepper jack and smoked gouda cheese and prefer those on my sandwiches over sliced American cheese - and I will NEVER eat Swiss cheese again - stuff tastes like plastic

- Fresh garlic is the only way to go - unless you are making a pot of brown rice, then dried minced or chopped will do

- I want to know how I ever lived 43 years of my life without knowing the pure joy of cilantro. I have years to make up.

- Fresh herbs are the way to go. I want one of those herb container gardens for the kitchen. I'll have one before the year is over.

- I like salmon more than tilapia or whiting or croaker or any other fish on earth

- Grilling on the George Foreman is the only way to cook said salmon. (Ok, my grill is a George Foreman knockoff, but it serves the same purpose)

- Marinades make everything - salmon, chicken, beef, vegetables - taste better. Go crazy and experiment, you might be surprised.

- I like grape tomatos - not cherry, grape tomatos - on my salads

- Pink olives in corriander sauce are better than black or green olives any day. (But yeah, that is a DFM speciality...) And they make a much better (and healthier) late night snack than potato chips or ice cream.

- And speaking of potato chips, they have to be rippled - and please, NO BAKED! What is the point of that?

- Cashews are the ultimate when it comes to nuts - although pistachios, almonds and dry roasted peanuts are ok as well. And all of these: lightly salted please

- Kosher salt brings out the best of everything, but use it sparingly

So, there you have it. My off the top of my head list that proves that I am indeed a food snob. Oh well. What are you a snob about? Have you admitted it to yourself and/or to others? You should try it - it is very liberating.

Be blessed.

10 January 2009

Greener on the other side? Maybe...not

Yesterday I confessed in a Facebook status that I was feeling a little bit jealous of some friends and their happiness. It was a momentary (and relatively brief) period of feeling sorry for myself [Yes, even as God's Favorite Child I have those moments!]. And it wasn't really so much about feeling jealous or envious of what was going on in my friends' lives - I AM happy for their successes and dreams achieved and loves and triumphs and positive things happening in their lives...TRULY!

BUT for a minute, I got caught up in the "well, why aren't my dreams being realized? Why haven't I achieved the goals I set for myself in 2008? How come I haven't found the man of my dreams and immersed myself in a relationship? And why isn't the bank account just a little bit more flush? And..." Ok, you get the picture...we all go through those periods of questioning and doubt and self-recrimination. And when you are in that dark place, it is easy to look at someone else's life and, without knowing the truth of their situation, making the assumption that they've got it going on and it's all roses and champagne for them.

A friend of mine (my twin) reminded me (ever so gently), that from the outside looking in, I don't know what they have gone through to reach that goal; they might be in a relationship that looks all bright and shiny from that outside, but is full of torment and torture; the bank account may be flush but the health is shot...the grass often looks green from the other side of the fence, but the water bill is probably a lot higher also. Thanks, Shun!

As I type this, my iPod suddenly started playing Martha Munizzi's I KNOW THE PLANS - a praise and worship song based on my favorite Bible passage, Jeremiah 29:11. I think that was God's way of reminding me, even today when I am past the state I was in yesterday, that He has wonderful, marvelous, fabulous things in store for me...if I will just patiently wait on Him and stop looking at what I perceive as going on for others. His plan for my life is perfect and in time, I will come into my own.

And so will you.
Be blessed.

08 January 2009

Making the most of it...

My morning devotion this morning included the following quote: When you look at life's adversities as adventures, life becomes much more interesting and exciting. Wow. A simple statement, but it packs a punch. I mean, don't get me wrong - I've heard similar quotes in the past (as I am sure you have): "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." "Your attitude determines your altitude", etc. etc., blah blah blah. We've heard it before, but do we put it into practice?

It is very easy when you are going through a trying situation or time in your life to want to play the "woe is me" pity card...and for a minute, you may need to do that. But at some point, you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and analyze the situation to find out what lesson you need to be learning. Got a bunch of financial woes? - maybe the lesson is that you need to be more frugal with your spending. Having relationship issues? - maybe it's not all about him or her and maybe you need to focus on YOU for a minute. Body riddled with health issues? - maybe you need to get up off the couch, put down the potato chips and TV remote and go take a walk and then reward yourself with some nice refreshing carrot sticks and/or grapes. OUCH! That stepped on my own toes.

I'm just saying, whatever the situation you find yourself - good or bad - make the most of it. When it's raining, think about how you are being saved from watering your lawn. When the sun is shining, enjoy the warmth. When your baby is screaming its head off, be thankful that the child has good lung capacity - they may grow up to become a famous gospel or jazz singer. And when there are trials and tribulations (and there will be some), stop, look, listen and learn the lesson you are being taught...then move on.

Be blessed.

07 January 2009

The Bucket List...

Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman (two of my favorite actors) recently did a movie together entitled "The Bucket List". The premise of the movie: two old farts, who meet in the cancer ward of a hospital as they are about to die, decide to make a list of all the things they want to do before they...(wait for it)...kick the bucket. As I sat in the movie theatre and watched this movie, in the back of my head I kept thinking, "hey! that's a good idea. I need to make me up one of those lists." And then promptly forgot about it...although, the idea kept coming back and retreating and coming back again - even this morning, my devotion was about things the author wanted to do before she died. I remember when my stepmother was approaching her 50th birthday, she had a goal of visiting all 50 states before she turned 50. I think she made it. Now her goal is to visit all the continents (except Antarctica) before she turns 60.

I think it's good to set goals and to dream big, so here's my off-the-top-of-my-head "bucket list"...no set deadline (pun fully intended):

- visit the pyramids
- go view the glaciers before they melt away
- go to Australia
- stand at the top of the Eiffel tower
- meet an old boyfriend at the top of the Empire State Building (just because they did it in AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER and SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE)
- visit all 50 states before I turn 50 - I've got 5 years...and probably 15 states to hit - better get cracking
- go to a really fancy restaurant, order anything I want - from appetizer to dessert - and not cringe when I get the bill
- see Roberta Flack in concert
- learn how to juggle
- learn how to dance salsa and ballroom
- go skydiving and hang gliding
- meet Lisa Bonet in person so I can see if we really look THAT much alike
- save enough money so that I really do have three months of living expenses stacked away somewhere for a rainy day (yeah, good luck with that!)
- become credit-card debt free...again! And then, stay that way.
- be kinder
- love more openly and freely
- tell the people who are important to me how and why they are in a tangible, long lasting way

OK, that's enough. That's 17 things...a good start. Some are realistic and definitely do-able...others may take a little bit of planning ... and courage. As I mark things off, I'll probably share, so keep your eyes and ears open for progress reports.

What is on your "bucket list"? I'd really like to know, if you'd like to share.

Be blessed.

06 January 2009

Spiritual GPS...

They are EVERYWHERE: GPS or global positioning systems. You know a woman had to have developed this gadget because (Warning: sexist remark coming!) men won't ask for directions, but they sure will buy a gadget that will give them directions - especially if it will talk to them in a sexy, seductive, female voice. UGH! Nuni, Garmin, I am sure there are others, but ... are they really necessary? I know for my brother it is, and my friend Conrad used it as a backup when we got "slightly" lost headed to the restaurant when I visited with him in NYC in November. I sat there in amazement as he hooked up this little gadget that, after he entered the address, told him stuff like, "make a left in 200 yards"...ok, I don't know about you, but do you know how far 200 yards is? I'd rather it say stuff like, "at the next light, hang a left." That's what I do when I'm giving out directions from the passenger seat (although I have to admit, I am usually driving and impatiently waiting for my mother to serve as navigator...) I doubt that I will ever get a GPS for my car. Call me old-fashioned, but I'll go to aaa.com and get directions there or horror of horrors, actually pick up a phone and call for directions! (Although, sometimes that will make you want to poke a stick in your eye if the person on the other end doesn't know how to give good directions..."turn left at the Big Chicken" doesn't mean anything if you are not familiar with the famous Marietta GA landmark.)

Aren't you glad that when God gives directions, they are usually pretty straight forward? If you are listening for them, that is. I know there have been many times when God has given me a clear direction or instruction and I failed to listen - and ended up paying for my disobedience. Sometimes He speaks in a still, small voice and sometimes it is through the counsel and wisdom of His children. I will never forget the time my godsister tried to pray me out of a situation and in my desire to do my own will, I would not heed the counsel she was giving me - and in strict defiance of what I knew was the right thing to do - I ended up driving around, lost and without direction, in a neighborhood that I thought I knew like the back of my hand. God truly has a funny sense of humor when dealing with His favorite child sometimes...but it was a lesson learned.

Isaiah 30:21 admonishes us, "...your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, 'This is the way; walk in it'..." That's your spiritual GPS at work. I know I need to tune in more often and not only listen to what is being said, but to act when moved. I wonder if you do as well. I pray that as we move through this year, we will listen more to the instructions being sent to us from above. I know it is for our good and in our best interest.

Be blessed.

04 January 2009

Undivided attention...

Ok, I have a confession to make. I am a multi-tasker...yes, it is true. It is very rarely that I devote all my attention to a single task. While washing dishes, I'm on the phone. While on the phone, I may be doing laundry or getting ready for work or...well, you get the picture. In today's society, this can be seen as a good thing to be able to do and accomplish. I mean, there are only 24 hours in every day and there are things to do, people to see, tasks to complete - you need to have the ability to do more than one thing at a time, right? Hmmm.

I just wonder: how much am I missing out on by not truly focusing on one thing at a time? How many nuances in a conversation do I not catch because I am busy focusing on getting the temperature of the water for the dishes just right? How many silent cues that something is not quite right are flying over my head in the hustle and bustle of my trying to do this while doing that?

Lately I am convinced that maybe I need to slow it down a little. Stop and give some people in my life my undivided attention. Listen more to that "still small voice" that is telling me to focus on someone or something. And when prompted, move into action. I believe that one of the spiritual gifts that God has given me is the gift of encouragement - but how can you be an encourager if you are unaware of the area in which a person truly needs to be encouraged? You might look at a person's situation - i.e., they are in prison - and think "aha, that's what I need to encourage them about", when their true need is not a focus on WHERE they are, but on WHAT they need - support, kindness, a hug...something more tangible and real.

So, I need to focus. I need to follow up on conversations where a hint may be dropped about a situation or a need. I need to stop trying to do it ALL and just do what is truly important. I need to stop and listen to conversations - truly participate in them, instead of doing the "uh huh", "really", and "wow" automatic responses as I try to complete my "to do" list of the day. I need to send more cards, write more letters, get more involved. It won't be easy, I know. Old habits are hard to break, so pray for a sista, will ya? Thanks.

Be blessed.

03 January 2009

The Circle of Life...

"To every thing there is a season, and at time to every purpose under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted. A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance...." Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

A very familiar Bible text. One I am sure you have heard before. What a promise though when you think about it. It is a promise that, no matter what is going on, how chaotic things may seem, there is still order. There is still control. Everything happens as it should in its time and place. Spring will always follow winter. The sun will always rise in the east and set in the west. At least once a month, there will be a full moon in the night sky. Some things just will happen whether I want them to or not. I found that out in a very profound way on the first day of 2009.

The day started off with the great news that my high school friend, Alex, and his wife were celebrating the birth of their daughter, little baby Grace. Alex is currently stationed in Afghanistan, but through the marvels of modern technology, he was actually able to hear Grace cry for the first time shortly before 9a on New Years Day. I was blessed to be the first one to comment on his Facebook status after he posted the news. Congratulations to the entire family as they celebrate this wonderful event.

However, by the end of the day, another high school classmate, Susan, called me to inform me that her father suffered a massive heart attack and died at the age of 77. I never had the opportunity or privilege of meeting Susan's dad and listening to her reminisce about who he was and what he meant to her - I truly feel like I missed out by not knowing him. My heart goes out to her family as they gather to celebrate his life and say their goodbyes over the next week.

As I was talking to Susan and trying to provide comfort in a time of sorrow, I remarked to her, "you know, this is just the circle of life. There was the miracle of birth and now the sorrow of death, literally within hours of each other." As one life began, another ended. There is a symmetry and beauty (is that the right word?) to it, when you think about it. I know that Susan is comforted by the thought of her relationship with her father ("I was his favorite") and is secure in the knowledge that he loved her and knew that she loved him as well. That will help sustain her in the days ahead when she is missing him...and those days will come. Believe me, I know. I pray that Alex and Terri will every day let baby Grace know how much she is loved and wanted and how blessed they feel that she has joined their family. Based on the pictures already posted on Facebook, I am sure that will happen.

Things happen. In their time. In their place. As they should. I hope that as you face the challenges, trials, sorrows and stresses that are sure to come in the 365 days that will make up 2009, that you will remember that there will also be times of joy, happiness, laughter and pure unadulterated pleasure. I pray you have more of the latter than the former.

Be blessed.