31 December 2010

RESOLUTION 2011


It’s only hours away from the New Year – 2011 – Two Thousand Eleven (or do you say, Twenty Eleven?) No matter how you say it, on December 31st, all over the world, people take this evening as a time to take stock, re-evaluate, look back on the year behind them and look forward to the year ahead. Still full of Christmas cheer and merriment, people are gentler and kinder as they greet each other – in their office elevators, on the street, and even on their favorite social network sites. (My Facebook News Feed is full of hearty salutations of good will and wishes for the New Year.)

I don’t go out on New Years Eve any more, so it usually is a night of quiet reflection (well, at least until my neighbors start shooting their guns in the air or popping off firecrackers – hey, I live in the South – nothing comes between Southerners, their guns and some good ole fireworks!). And in reflecting on this year, it has been a mixed bag of good things and bad. The year started off with layoffs on my job (I survived – Amen and Hallelujah) and ended with me receiving the first two copies of my published blogs in the mail. In between, I took a few trips, had some wonderful lunches, brunches and dinners with friends and family, counted my blessings (almost) every day and took countless pictures along the way. I witnessed the gathering of the world church here in my own city this summer, and grieved the loss of my grandmother in the last quarter of the year. Made some crucial and critical decisions about some relationships that were stagnant and unrewarding and met some new friends who were blessings disguised as people.

I don’t know what the year ahead holds. There will be joy (and sadness); happiness (and grief); weddings (and funerals); births (and deaths). There will be good days (and bad); sunny days (and rainy ones); days when the bank accounts balance will be fat and healthy (and days when my financial software spreadsheet will bleed red); days when I feel like me and God got this and everything is peachy keen fine; and days when the enemy of my soul will be sounding his evil cry of triumph because I will have done messed up one mo’ time again – and in reality, sometimes, that will happen in the very same day.

But even knowing all that – I look forward to 2011 and all the great and marvelous things inherent in a spanking brand new year. I claim, even now, my favorite Bible promise: “For I know the plans I have for you, saith the Lord. They are plans for Good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). In other words, NO MATTER what 2011 holds, God is holding 2011 – and that is all good in my book.

Be blessed and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

© 2011 Kristina E. Smith
Friday, December 31, 2010

25 June 2010

The Desires of Our Hearts


Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. – Psalms 37:4

So, how long have I been proclaiming that I am “God’s Favorite Child”? Probably longer than any reader of this blog wants to admit, but there is some truth to the statement (in my opinion) and this week, two things happened that validate that claim (again, in my opinion).

The first incident happened on Wednesday when, after a brief summer sunshiney shower, a rainbow (actually, twin rainbows – but one was very faded) appeared briefly in the Atlanta skies. I am a big fan of rainbows and even as a child, I would stand amazed whenever I saw one – even the ones I would make for myself on a sunny day with a garden hose in the backyard. I know that for my gay, lesbian, and transgender friends, the rainbow is a symbol of pride for them, but for me, the rainbow is God’s Biblical promise that He will never again destroy the earth by flood. (Genesis 9:13). What a wonderful promise to Noah and his small family. Imagine their fear after spending all that time in the ark with all those smelly animals – to step out to a brand new world, wondering if they would ever go through an experience like that again, and then, to look up and see this marvelous arc of seven bands of color in the sky. And then to be told, by God, that He did this just to alleviate those fears. How kind and compassionate He is. For me personally, there have been times when I needed to feel His presence and I have looked up and seen the rainbow in the sky. I take it, each time, as His personal message to me that I am not alone and that He cares.

The second incident happened today. But first, a little history and the backstory. In 1998, our church held a worldwide evangelistic campaign called “Net ‘98” and the speaker for this campaign was Pastor Dwight Nelson who, at that time, was the pastor of the Andrews University Church in Berrien Springs, MI. I’d never heard of this pastor before and probably was dragged, kicking and whimpering, to the first meeting. However, after his very first sermon, I was hooked. I attended EVERY meeting of the crusade and when it was over, I had a new understanding of what my Christian walk should be about: namely, my relationship with Jesus Christ. I am a 4th generation Seventh-day Adventist Christian and I never understood, in the way that he explained it, that it wasn’t necessarily about the doctrines of the church (although they are important), but more about my relationship with Christ that was going to matter in the end – AND THAT, no matter how much I wanted a relationship with Christ, He wanted one with me even more. Hearing this, understanding this, and accepting this as truth literally CHANGED my Christian life and how I relate to Christ. I told my mother then (and several times since) that one of the people I most wanted to see and meet in heaven was Pastor Nelson so I could tell him the impact he made on my life. I don’t know why I didn’t just write him a letter and tell him, but I felt like this was something that needed to be said face-to-face. And today, I got my chance!

Our world church is convening in Atlanta, GA for the 59th Session of the General Conference (it only happens once every 5 years and jumps around the globe each time, so it is a big deal that over 100,000 Adventists are expected to invade the city of Atlanta over the next 10 days). Imagine my heart-stopping surprise when, while walking around to take some pictures, I run right into Pastor Dwight Nelson and his lovely wife, Karen. I know he thought I was a crazy woman because I immediately launched into “stalker fan” mode and started talking at 100 miles a minute. Poor man, he kept saying, “oh, that’s nice” and “Praise God” and “I’m just trying to get down on the floor for the general session” – but in spite of my craziness, he graciously posed for a picture with me, taken by his wife.

All that to say: God knew that the desire of my heart was to be able to tell my story to Pastor Nelson and He decided I didn’t have to wait until heaven for that to happen. He put me in the right place at the right time and made this dream of mine come true. It is through instances like the rainbow and the “random” encounter with Pastor Nelson that I have come to learn that nothing is too small for Him to notice – and in reverse, no situation/crisis/issue is too big for Him to handle.

Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith
Friday, June 25, 2010

04 June 2010

The Circle of Life

“There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die…” Ecclesiastes 3:1,2

This is a very familiar Bible text, but never did it home more to me than last week when on Thursday, I attended a funeral service for a dear friend’s husband – and then less than 48 hours later, went to the hospital to welcome to the world a brand new “niece”. As I said goodbye to a man I only knew through the stories of his wife and daughter – and then said Hello to a beautiful chocolate drop of sweetness, I was reminded of the fragility of life and how we need to embrace every moment of it with both hands.

That’s why I take pictures of EVERYTHING. There is an importance in recording the events of life. There is value in recording the memories in a tangible way. I was talking to an ex-boyfriend today and we were discussing some of the many experiences we have shared in the decade that we have known each other. Recalling and reminiscing made us both laugh and smile. As we get older, it is important to be able to recall good times – they sustain us during the dark times. (And we all have dark times). Another friend reached out to me tonight to remind me of the last time she visited my home and what a wonderful evening we had looking at old home movies, laughing, talking and eating. We didn’t know when we gathered at that time that within six months, her sister would be dead and that would be the last time all of us would be together – well, the last time together on this side of heaven. A great memory – and yes, I have pictures, but looking back, not nearly enough.

Life, by its very nature, is a cycle of good times, bad times, happy times, sad times – repeat, rewind, and do it again. If right now, you are going through a bad/sad time, remember joy comes in the morning. Hold on – good times are coming. And if you are going through a good/happy time, enjoy it – take the pictures – record the memories. They will sustain you through the trial that is coming. Because, unfortunately, trials always come – it is a part of the sinful world in which we live. But, even bad times are only temporary. And praise God for that.

Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith
Friday, June 04, 2010

22 May 2010

The Tire Story


I have an annoying character trait. I am a bit of a “know-it-all”. If a plan is to be implemented, my plan is the best (or that is my opinion). I have looked at all the angles, plotted out all the foreseeable possibilities and therefore, my plan is the one that should be followed. Add to that a certain level of impatience and you will see the humor in the following story.

I was driving home from work last night and was almost home when I hit something in the road. I thought it was just a pothole and kept on driving, but soon I heard a noise from the rear of the car that didn’t sound just right, and the car started dragging a little. Ok, when it comes to automotive mechanics, I will make the following sexist statement: I am a girl. I don’t know nothing about no cars, despite the good willed intentions of ex-boyfriends, my uncles and brother. I know how to put gas in, check the oil and transmission fluids, put air in the tires, and that may be about it. Otherwise, that is why I pay my AAA club membership every year, so they can help a sista in vehicle distress out.

So, I am only about a mile from home, it’s late, it’s raining, I’m on a dark, deserted, two lane road – I decide to just keep driving. It is only as I am pulling into my subdivision that it clicks that I probably have a flat tire. (Hey, the noise was more like a humming, not a thump-thump, so it took me a minute to put it all together). Sure enough, I pull into my garage, get out the car, walk around it – tire FLAT. Great. Just great. Now my concern is “I hope I didn’t mess up the rim driving on a tire this flat – just what I need – another major car repair expense”. I come inside, tell my mom what happened and we begin discussing what we are going to do when day breaks to get this fixed. I go to bed and just figure I’ll deal with it in the morning. I mean, I was thinking of a plan of attack, but truly, my brain was fried and I was tired. So I went to bed.

Now, if you know my mother, you know “taking charge of a situation” is not her forte. She is more of a “stand back and let Krissy handle it” partner in our relationship. So imagine my surprise when I woke up a few hours later to “handle” things to discover the car missing from the garage. A call to my mother’s cell phone revealed that she’d been up all night figuring out a plan: She called AAA, they came to the house, changed the tire and told her that apparently whatever I hit popped the air valve off the tire causing it to go flat, and that she should go by a tire repair shop to see if the tire could be fixed (as opposed to buying a new tire). Mom knew exactly where to go since we’d had to have a tire repaired for another car a few years ago. She drove over to the shop, they fixed the valve and for $15, the problem was resolved. GO, MOM!

All that to say: that was not the way I was planning to attack the problem. My way would have worked, but so did my mother’s. And by her implementing her plan, (and it being successful), I found out that by always “taking charge”, I have been handicapping her. She was so proud of herself, and deservedly so. I am proud of her too.

“I know the plans that I have for you, saith the Lord”…my favorite Bible text. The lesson learned this time: sometimes MY plan is not God’s plan, but He is working it all out for my good – even when I’m asleep. And praise God for a $15 solution to the problem as opposed to whatever the cost of a new tire would have been. (I keep telling y’all, I’m His Favorite Child!!)

So, as you move through whatever challenge you may face in the days ahead, here’s a piece of advice: Turn your plans over to Jesus – let Him work them out for you – or use your momma if He needs to. Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith
Friday, May 21, 2010

09 May 2010

Happy Mother’s Day


It happens every second Sunday in May – Mother’s Day. Now, don’t take the following -note in the wrong way: Mothers are wonderful – none of us would be here without one, but there must be some special lobbyist organization for the Mother’s Day celebration and if you are a woman of a certain age who, for whatever reason, has not given birth…let me tell you, Mother’s Day is BRUTAL. It is probably unintentional, but people are cruel if you are not a mother. It’s the pause when you wish someone “Happy Mother’s Day” and they start to say “Same to you” and then realize, “oh yeah, she doesn’t have a kid, now what do I do?” (It ain’t that deep, just say, “Same to you” and keep it moving – just a suggestion)

It happens every year. Our church passes out flowers to the mothers on the Sabbath before Mother’s Day. You come through the door and the hostess greets you with a smile and starts to hand you a rose or carnation or whatever the flower of the day is – only to draw it back and say, “Oh, I’m sorry – these are only for our mothers.” Or worse, after all the “real mothers” have been given flowers, the hostess says to you, “well, we have extras, I guess you can have one now.” Uh, no, thank you. I’ll pass.

I mean, excuse the heck out of me. I am a “mother”, even if I have not had the “pleasure” of enduring hours of excruciating labor to push forth a child from my womb. See, there are women who “mother” who have never given birth. We are the women who step in and take care of our aging parents – or to care for the children our siblings are unable to raise or unable to raise alone. We are the women who foster the children who have been abandoned by their natural mothers, either by choice or circumstance. We are the godmothers who support and cherish the children of our friends. We are the women who support the children in our lives in immeasurable ways – praying for them, encouraging them, providing wisdom when they need to speak to someone other than their parents. We are the women who send birthday cards, sometimes with cash enclosed, each and every year. We are the women who are flooded with invitations every time there is a graduation or a birth or a wedding because somewhere along the way, we made a difference. And yet, on Mother’s Day, we are ignored, undervalued and pushed aside. Where are our Mother’s Day cards and roses?

And what about the men who have to step up to the plate? Men, who because of divorce or death or other circumstances, have to be “moms”? They learn how to do hair, tie hairbows, buy training bras and horror of horrors, deal with menstrual cycles and failed loves. What about them? Where are their roses on the second Sunday in May?

I try my best to honor my “non-traditional” moms. While I have been blessed with a phenomenal mother, there are other women in my life who have helped to shape me and mold me into the woman I have become. I thank my godmother, Annie Ruth Thomas, who is always a sounding board when life gets crazy. I thank women like Dolores Kelsey and Leah Merrifield, who were co-workers that mothered me when my mother was hundreds of miles away. I thank all my aunts: Patricia, Inola, Dolores, Ramona, Sible, Sharlyn, Glenda and Essie, who each, in their own way, fed into my life. And I thank my numerous friends who are “mothers” (traditional and non-traditional) who show me every day what it means to be a woman.

Happy Mothers Day to them all. And Happy Mothers Day to me too. Maybe next year, I’ll get a card or a flower at church. Maybe.

Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith
Sunday, May 09, 2010

04 May 2010

Happy Birthday Mom!


It was 68 years ago today that the union of Hector and Thelma was blessed with their fifth child and second daughter, Rachel Ruth Elise. This child grew up to be my mother, whom I reluctantly share with my brother, Kevin. Just as I did a tribute to my father on his birthday, I must do a tribute to my mother. And just as I did not tell his story, I won’t tell her full story, but I would like to share some of what this amazing woman means to me.

My mom was very sickly as a child and that, unfortunately, has followed her throughout her life. Asthma and bronchitis plagued her childhood, so her brothers and sister always protected and fawned over her. Delicate and “girly-girl” all her life, she grew up kind of spoiled. That followed her into adulthood. (She’s still spoiled – this time, I’m the culprit behind the carnage.) Before she was 30 years, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Although benign, this tumor sat on her optic nerve and for years was misdiagnosed. It was 1970 when all this happened – before laser surgery and MRI imagining. My mother went through this surgery in a semi-awake stage. When the tumor was finally removed, it was the size of a small grapefruit – or my father’s balled up fist. As a child, I was fascinated by the scar that ran from the middle of her head to the nape of her neck – and several times, used the picture of the tumor (yes, we have a picture of it) as my “show and tell” piece at school. It has been decades since I’ve asked to see the scar, and it has been a while since I pulled out the picture to look at the miracle God wrought in her life. My parents divorced shortly after that. They were young (I never realized HOW young until I turned the age they were when they divorced) – maybe going through such a traumatic event was too much – I don’t know. (Again, that’s their story, not mine). My mom, who’d always been a “stay at home” mom, suddenly had to go to work. It was dramatic for all of us, but she did it and Kevin and I survived. She remarried – it wasn’t a good marriage, so she eventually divorced again. In 1989, seven years after I left New York for college, my mom followed me back home to Atlanta. Thirteen years ago, I bought a house, Mom moved in and we have been “roommates” ever since. It has been an interesting journey as mother and daughter. But here we are.

I am NOTHING like my mother. I have never been married. I don’t have children. I finished college, where she dropped out of nursing school to get married and have kids. I have bounced around a few times in my career. My mom held three jobs her entire working career. Once she got a job, she stayed there until she moved away from the city where she was employed. I am adventurous with my food choices – my mom could eat the same three or four meals every week and be happy. I will venture to foreign countries armed with my Fodor’s travel guide and a map – my mom rarely goes to the grocery story by herself (although, since her retirement a few years ago, she’s gotten better). My mother has a love of family and a commitment to all who are related to her that amazes me. I tend to love people, including my family, with a long-handled spoon approach. I don’t really allow a lot of people to get too close to me. My mom is a hugger and very “touchy feely”. I am not – long-handled spoon syndrome. I am more of an extrovert who never meets a stranger, whereas my mom sits back and waits for people to approach her. Yeah, I am NOTHING like my mother.

I am EVERYTHING like my mother. We look alike. We walk alike. We both LOOOOOVE shoes, although I just grew into (and admitted) my shoe fetish a few years ago – and our tastes in shoes are vastly different. We both have freckles. We both love the color green. We both can cook meals that will make you slap your momma. We both are loyal friends, even when the friendship doesn’t necessarily deserve the loyalty shown. We both love older people and the wisdom they impart. We both have a talent for singing that we are hiding under a bushel. We have the same deep abiding love of God (although I claim to be His “favorite” and she just laughs when I say it). We both set a goal to read through the Bible this year – she is on track, I’ve fallen a little behind. We both want to be ready to meet Jesus when He returns. Yeah, I am EVERYTHING like my mother.

Right before my mother went into her brain surgery that long ago day in 1970, after the elders from the church anointed her, she prayed a prayer. In that prayer, she asked the Lord to heal her IF she was the person He wanted to raise her two children. If someone else could do a better job, she would trust Him to see about their care. God saw fit to spare her life and almost 46 years later, I have to say she did a marvelous job. We don’t always see eye to eye – we are more different than we are alike, but I have never had a more supportive or loving cheerleader, and the woman that I am today is because of her. Thank you Mom and happy happy birthday.

07 April 2010

An Angel named Jonathan


Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2

Ok, maybe not exactly an “on point” scripture for the story I am about to tell, but it will have to do. Yesterday, I met an angel sent by God just for me.

I work an alternate work shift, and as a result, I go into work when most people are on their way home. This usually means that I am going against traffic during my commute to work, but yesterday, due to an accident on one of the major highways in my city, I was travelling in a bunch of unusual traffic. In retrospect, that was a blessing since traffic was slowed to a “normal” pace as opposed to the usual Autobon-like traffic most Atlantans are used to. But I am getting ahead of myself and my story.

About three months ago, I was in a car accident. A minor fender-bender that should have been a quick fix by a mechanic that ended up totaling out our car. Blessed to have a second car, I kept moving forward, but noticed that a “check battery light” was continually lit on my dashboard. I took the car to two mechanics who could not find anything wrong with the battery, but told me to keep an eye on it, and that if I noticed my dashboard lights dimming, I should be careful as it would probably indicate an alternator issue. Shortly after this diagnosis, the light went off and life continued. Until about a week ago, when the light came back on. Mindful of what I was told before, I kept an eye on the dashboard lights, but everything seemed fine, so I kept driving.

Then spring-like weather hit the city of Atlanta. Overnight, temperature soared into the 70s and 80s, which meant air-conditioning became a necessity during my commute to work. Yesterday, as I was driving to work, I turned on the air-conditioning and noticed that the light to indicate it was working did not turn on, and the air was not blowing as cool as normal. I wasn’t overly concerned until I noticed the arrow on my RPM gauge acting kind of funny – flickering back and forth – and then suddenly dropping to zero. Then the speedometer arrow did the same thing. Ok, now I’m getting nervous and start moving toward the right shoulder of the highway. The car is still moving and I’m not really THAT far from work, so maybe I’ll be ok. Right? Wrong. Remember, I said there was an accident ahead. Yeah, traffic slowed to a stop and when I stopped, the car stopped…dead…as a doornail…in the right travel lane…on a major Atlanta highway. NOT GOOD.

But I had my cell phone and help was only a phone call away. I called 911 dispatch, only to be dropped and disconnected before they could get all my information. A second call to the 911 dispatch yielded better results, but no indication of when help would arrive. By now, I’m causing a traffic jam because, since I had no hazard lights or any other way to let motorists behind me know I was in trouble, many of them were coming all the way to the rear end of my car before realizing that I was not moving and then they couldn’t get over into the flow of moving traffic. And can I just say, people can be so mean – I got dirty looks and I think there were even finger gestures … like I wanted to be stuck on I-20 with out proper hazard lights flashing. NOT! And then my cell phone rang. It was the Georgia Department of Transportation…they were trying to send help my way, but couldn’t locate my car on the traffic cameras. Oh joy. By now, I’m more than just a little nervous and probably on the verge of mild hysteria. Phone calls to my mother and my co-workers hadn’t help since their hysteria only fueled my own. Anyway, I’m talking to the DOT representative when I see a tow truck getting off the exit and pulling behind me. Due to his flashing lights, motorists coming up behind me now know that I’m in trouble and are a little kinder as they zoom past me on the way to their destinations.

My angel’s name was Jonathan and he works for a towing company, A Tow located in Alpharetta, GA. He’d just left having lunch with his wife and was on his way to a call of another stranded motorist when he sees my car stopped on the highway. He tells me that as he was exiting to get onto I-20, he wondered why I wasn’t moving when it hit him that I was in trouble. He calmed me down, he called me “ma’am” (yeah, I have a little issue with that!) and then drove me to my uncle’s mechanic’s shop – which “just happened” to be at the same exit off of I-20 as the other stranded motorist he was on his way to help. I told him that he was an angel sent by God to assist me in my time of distress. My uncle told him the same thing when we arrived at his shop. I am sure, when he woke up yesterday morning, he didn’t know he was going to be used by God to be my angel. But I am sure glad that God knew I would need one around 3:00 yesterday afternoon and He sent Jonathan just on time, right on time, just for me.

So, as I said when I started this, my scripture above may not be “right on point”, but I believe there are angels walking among us to do God’s bidding. Maybe there are even times when we are used as angels for God. Just a thought. I’m glad Jonathan was there for me. I hope I can be there for whoever God needs me to be an angel for.

Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith
Wednesday, April 07, 2010

02 April 2010

Jealousy is so unbecoming…


According to dictionary.com, jealousy can be defined in four ways. Here are the top two: 1. jealous resentment against a rival, a person enjoying success or advantage, etc., or against another's success or advantage itself; and 2. mental uneasiness from suspicion or fear of rivalry, unfaithfulness, etc., as in love or aims.

I’ve been thinking a lot about jealousy lately – and the things that I find myself being jealous of. A friend’s new romantic relationship. The pomp and circumstance of another friend’s wedding. Another friend’s recent vacation to an exotic beach location. A friend who scored tickets to a hot NYC concert. The hug that one friend got from the cute attorney who used to work in the Atlanta office, but has now been transferred to another office location in the firm. That house. That car. Her clothes and hair and athletic, fit and nauseatingly skinny body. That seemingly carefree lifestyle with little or no – ok, without my personal responsibilities, cares and woes. Yeah, I’ve been feeling a little jealous lately about a lot of people and a lot of trivial things.

But upon close examination, my jealous feelings are not (necessarily) about wanting those things listed above: I have no desire to put in the work necessary to make a relationship work. And some exotic beach vacations come with sunburn, weird foods, and scratchy hotel sheets. Those concert tickets might be nosebleed seats where the acoustics are bad. Bigger cars and houses come with larger car payments and utility bills. I KNOW there are drawbacks to every scenario – the grass may look greener, but the water bill to keep that grass green may be higher than I want to pay. Deep down, where it counts, I KNOW all that. But it still doesn’t stop the moments where I feel my skin turning green and my thoughts turning … well, evil.

Saul had this same problem with that young upstart, David. I mean, here he is … king of Israel. The first one, at that. He was specifically chosen to lead the children of Israel when they decided God wasn’t leader enough and they wanted / desired / needed a king of their own so they could be like all the other nations around them. (SIDEBAR: Weren’t the children of Israel called to be different, though – didn’t I read somewhere that they were supposed to be a “peculiar” people? How you gonna be “peculiar” if you just like everybody else? Hmmm…let me get back to you on that one.) Anyway, so here’s Saul, sorry…here’s King Saul – in his palace, feeling like the great one that he is, when he hears the women out in the courtyard singing, “Yeah, Saul is great and all that, but David…now he’s the MAN!” The Bible says that Saul was “tormented” when he heard this and at that moment, began to plot against David. In other words, his “jealousy” of David moved him to think evil thoughts and eventually led him to begin to plot David’s murder. Wow.

Don’t condemn Saul too much. After all, he wasn’t the first Biblical character to feel this way. It started in heaven. Lucifer was jealous of Michael (Jesus). It wasn’t enough that he was the covering cherub and spent every day in the very presence of God. He got all bent out of shape because he wasn’t in the “inner” circle with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. When the Godhead was planning creation, he wasn’t included in the conversation and it ate at his soul. When the plan of salvation was being formed, he wasn’t offered the role of Savior and Redeemer and this made him angry. So he began to plot to “murder” Jesus. Ok, sure: in heaven, it was just the assassination of Jesus’ character, but when that didn’t work and he got booted out of heaven and banished to earth, when he saw his opportunity, he did murder Jesus. Hung Him on a cross, between two thieves, on Golgotha’s hill. His jealousies in heaven led to death here on earth.

Now, I am probably not going to "take out" any of my friends because they drive a better car, live in a bigger house, go home with a fine man every night. (Probably not – let’s pray to that end!) But if I harbor too many of those thoughts for too long a period of time, it will affect me from the inside out and may manifest itself in outwardly harmful actions.

There is a saying, a portion of which states: Be mindful of your thoughts for they become actions. Jealous thoughts harbored and revisited over and over again, can lead to actions with disastrous results. Is it really worth it? Ask Saul – he eventually lost his mental capabilities and the kingdom. Ask Lucifer. It might look like he’s winning right now, but the Bible tells me that he is already a defeated foe – it’s just a matter of time. I don’t think it’s worth it, do you?

Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith
Friday, 02 April, 2010

01 April 2010

Sunday’s on the way…


Easter is coming and as Christians, we know this coming Sunday is not about a big bunny rabbit hiding eggs and chocolate in the grass. It is not even about the new outfit that you purchased to wear to church this weekend. Easter is about a Christian’s greatest hope and about God’s greatest gift to His children. It doesn’t matter that Christ gave up heaven, took on the form of mankind by being born as a baby, lived a perfect and holy life for 33½ years, was tortured, despised, spit upon and hung on a cross: none of that matters if Sunday didn’t happen. It is with the resurrection on Easter Sunday that the plan of salvation for my soul (and yours) was completed. It is with Christ’s victory over death and the grave that our salvation is ensured and guaranteed, if we accept it. But to get to Easter Sunday, Christ had to go through Friday night.

The gospel group TAKE 6 has a song on their second album called, SUNDAY’S ON THE WAY, that takes a kind of comical look at what Satan and his angels go through on that Easter weekend over 2000 years ago. Having crucified Christ, the enemy and his imps are celebrating – having a little party at their victory. But Satan isn’t as into the celebration as one would think he would be. We often diminish the enemy by putting him in a red suit with a pitchfork in one hand and a silly smile on his face, but the Bible tells us that he was (and is) a scholar of the Bible, so when Christ hung on the tree on that fateful Friday evening and cried out to the Father “It is finished,” Satan may have had a moment of patting himself on the back thinking he’d accomplished his goal to destroy Christ, but he also remembered hearing Christ say, “in three days, I will rise again.”

So, picture the scene: it’s Friday night. Christ has been crucified. His body has been quickly laid to rest in a tomb borrowed from one of His disciples so that, even in death, He could rest and celebrate the Sabbath. The disciples are scattered because of fear that they, like Christ, will be put to death. Mary, mother of Jesus, is grieving the inconsolable loss of her son. The priests in the temple are trying to figure out how the curtain between the Holy and the Most Holy place got torn from top to bottom like that. People are all shook up from the earthquake that just hit. Judas is hanging from a tree in disgrace for his betrayal of an innocent Man. It is just bad news all around. Seems like there is no reason for hope.

I know there have been times in my life when I have had a “Friday night before Easter” experience. Relationships torn asunder, bank accounts depleted, utilities turned off, no food in the fridge, and every prayer sent heavenward appeared to bounce off the ceiling – unheard and seemingly unanswered. In the lyrics of my friends’ song, the chorus says:

On Friday night, they crucified the Lord at Calvary
He said, “Don’t fret because in three days, I’m gonna live again
You’re gonna see
So, when problems try to bury you (six feet deep)
And make it hard for you to pray
May seem like that Friday night
BUT SUNDAY’S ON THE WAY

And therein lies the greatness of that Easter Sunday morning long long ago. When Christ rose EARLY on Sunday morning, He rose with victory and “resurrection power” – and the enemy of our souls was defeated. With His rising on Sunday morning, our salvation was…is assured. That is much more important than dyed eggs, chocolate bunnies or new outfits for church, don’t you think?

If you are going through a “Friday night” experience, I encourage you to hold on…Sunday…and your victory over whatever you are going through…is on the way.

Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith
Thursday, 01 April, 2010

29 March 2010

Only the freshest ingredients…

Yes, this is another food related blog. You can stop reading now if you are hungry. But I write about the things that are of interest to me, and food is right up there on the list.

Most people who know me (either in real life or from reading my blog) know that one of my weekly routines is shopping at the DeKalb Farmers Market. This used to be a first thing in the morning Sunday morning journey, but last week, it was a mid-afternoon Friday event. (There is a TOTALLY different vibe at the Market depending on when you go, but that probably should be the subject of another blog/note.) Usually when I go on Sunday, I spend a couple of hours after my trip cutting up veggies and herbs and putting them in the freezer for later use. I couldn’t do that this past Friday afternoon because the Sabbath was fast approaching by the time I got home, but Sunday afternoon found me standing at the kitchen counter, sharp knife in hand: chopping, dicing, cutting.

Cutting up the three types of peppers, the onions, the leeks and herbs each week can be mindless and dull work. (I enjoy it, but I can see the “boriness” of it) But as I was chopping and dicing and cutting, I was reminded that starting with great ingredients at the outset will ensure great meals in the end. There is a value to going to the farmers market and spending the money for fresh(er) veggies and herbs.

Case in point: December 2008 – my godsister and I took a “girls vacation” to one of my favorite spots in the world: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Every single day that we were there, we ate fresh salsa on the beach. The blend of tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, lime – oh my! Nothing like it in the world. And with salted chips, warm from the brick oven – that was some good eating! So, when I came back home, I had to replicate and make salsa of my own. (To this day, it is very hard for me to eat jarred salsa – even PACE which is very good salsa. I just prefer to make my own) And I make a mean delicious salsa, if I must say so myself. BUT if the ingredients aren’t right from the start: if the tomatoes are watery, if the cilantro is not right, or the limes are not tart enough – the end result dish can be less than satisfactory.

It’s the same way with us in our Christian experience. We have to put in the right ingredients as we make the recipe known as our character. If you put in good stuff (Bible study, prayer, good Christian friendships), you will get good results. If you put in bad stuff, you get less than desirable results. And guess what: if you put in a mixture of good and bad, the results are still unsatisfactory. Half stepping, whether in cooking or in your Christian walk, is always evident in the end product. I want my character to be full of the finest ingredients, don’t you? Let’s pray for each other to that end.

Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith
Monday, 29 March, 2010

24 March 2010

Appearances can be deceiving…

There are some trees in my neighborhood that bloom every spring. I am not an arborist, so I may be wrong, but I think they are dogwood trees. (I had a picture to post, but it is not loading for some reason, sorry.) These are some beautiful trees when they are full of blooms – white (or pink) and fluffy and a true sign that spring has sprung and warmer weather is on the way.

BUT THEY STINK TO HIGH HEAVEN!!!

Today I took a quick walk around the neighborhood because my doctor is making me exercise (again). For better health and in order to get my out-of-control diabetes back under some control, he has asked / pleaded / begged that I TRY to get in 30 minutes a day, at least 3 times a week. So, one foot in front of the other, I got up this morning, put on sweats and sneaks, and walked out the door, down the driveway and down the street – only to be assailed by this … smell. It’s not overwhelming, but it’s just a scent that makes you go “did someone just pass gas?” or makes you want to check the bottom of your shoe to make sure you didn’t step in anything (you know what I’m talking about!). It wasn’t until I was right up under one of the trees that I realized where the smell was coming from. Yuck, so pretty…so stinky.

When I was a little girl, my mother used to always admonish me “Pretty is as pretty does.” This was usually immediately after someone had just said to me, “Oh what a pretty little girl” – I guess she was keeping me grounded. (It worked. To this day, I do not receive compliments without hearing that admonishment ringing in my head). We all know beautiful people with stinky attitudes that we don’t think are that beautiful once we get to know them – and vice versa, some “physically unattractive” people become beautiful in our eyes because of their personalities, attitudes and behaviors.

I wonder how many times God looks at us and thinks “Beautiful but stinky” because we don’t follow His Word or listen to His instructions for our lives. It is my goal to be the type of person that when He looks at me, the outside matches the inside - and the scent is a pleasant fragrance in His nose.

Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith
Wednesday, 24 March, 2010

16 March 2010

Exercising faith


I was listening to my iTunes on Friday night and a random song popped up with the following lyric: “If we just have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains.” Now of course, this is Biblically based (Matt. 17:20)c, but have you ever seen a mustard seed? That thing is TINY, miniscule, microscopic even! And yet God tells us if we exercise that small modicum of faith, He will help us do amazing things. As a child, I wanted to have “big faith” – you know, like David facing Goliath – or the three Hebrew boys facing the fiery furnace. But God doesn’t require that…and we exercise “mustard seed” faith every day. Think about it…

- every time you flick the light switch and expect the lights to come on.
- every time you push the button on the garage door opener and viola!, the garage door opens.
- how ‘bout when you go to the bank’s drive-thru window. You send your money or other transaction through that little tubey thing and expect the teller to actually put the money into your account and not into their pockets.
- turn the key in your car’s ignition and you expect the car to start up and drive away
- go to sleep at night, you expect (hope, pray) you will wake up in the morning
- buy a pint of strawberries – you trust that the ones on the bottom will be as red, delicious and nutritious as the ones plopped on top.
- getting a prescription filled? You trust that the pharmacist knows his or her drugs and is giving you the right dosage and quantity of the drug.

See, we exercise “mustard seed” faith every day. So, the question is: where is my mountain? I got some moving to do!

Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith
Tuesday, 16 March, 2010

15 March 2010

Sing me a song…


Music is fundamental…well, to me it is. I am willing to bet that my momma sang to me while I was in her womb because I cannot remember a time when there was no music. Whether sacred or secular, our house was ALWAYS full of song and singing. Sam Cooke, all the Motown groups, and Nat King Cole played right along with the Blendwrights, the Faith Quartet, and Walter Arties. My mom has a beautiful soprano voice and when I was a child, she and my aunt would often sing duets for church services. I have already confessed to singing as a child and throughout college. I haven’t done it in a while – unless you count those two times I broke out in song while doing the welcome at my church – yeah, that caused some comments. (hahaha)

Music is traditional. Once a month, my family gathers for family worship on a Friday night. One of my favorite parts of this worship experience is when we sing together as a family – we have great harmony (most of the time). More precisely, I enjoy watching my mother and her siblings sing the old hymns from their childhood. They tell us the stories of long ago Friday night family worships with my grandparents and great-grandparents. They tell hilarious stories of their aunts and uncles singing and their impersonations of these elders of our family are hilarious. In telling us these stories, my cousins and I not only learn our family history, we are exposed to new hymns and songs that enrich and sustain us.

Music is for sharing. Lately, a lot of my friends have taken to posting music videos on their Facebook pages – and through these postings I am finding out a lot about them – and their friends as well. Some songs I am familiar with and have my own immediate feelings about. They may remind me of a lost love or a more innocent time in my life (yes, there was a time when I was “innocent”) or even take me to a place of sadness. Then there are the new (to me) songs that are either so enjoyable they added to my music collection via iTunes or so horrible that they are stopped midstream with the thought ringing through my head: “does s/he really listen to THAT? Yuck!” Of course, music is subjective and to each his or her own. No judgments…well, maybe a little.

Music has messages that are timeless. This past weekend, at a local church, two childhood friends of mine sang special music. A very spiritual rendition of the old church hymn WILL YOUR ANCHOR HOLD? I was not present, but thanks to a YouTube posting, I was able to enjoy the song later. This is a hymn that I remember being sung all the time in my childhood. The lyrics didn’t make sense to me then, but they sure do resound with me now. I am glad to know that we have an anchor that is “steadfast and sure while the billows roll” – especially now, when life often seems shaky and uncertain. “Fastened to the Rock which cannot move, Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love” Now THAT is a promise to hold onto.

Music will get you through. In Psalms 137:3-4, David talks about the children of Israel being taken away as captives and being required to “sing [us] one of the songs of Zion” and their reply to this request being “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” My question is “How can you NOT sing?” Sometimes the only thing that will get you through a hard time is remembering the lyrics to a song, a hymn, or some piece of music. Or maybe that is just me. A word of caution though: just like Bible promises, if you don’t hide them in your heart now, they won’t be there in your times of need. I urge you to store up some good music now. You’ll be glad you did.

Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith
Monday, 15 March, 2010

14 March 2010

Off Kilter


Clocks are tricky things. Every spring, they “spring forward” an hour to make up for the hour they “fall back” on in October. This is done to maximize the amount of “daylight” hours we experience each day. (Or at least that is the theory behind “daylight savings time”) You’d think we as humans would be used to this behavior, but every spring, you hear people bemoaning the fact that they “lost” an hour of sleep. Really? Where did the hour go? Isn’t it still there?

I am not one of those people who cries for the “lost” hour in spring or praises the “extra” hour in the fall…truly, I am not, but I must be getting old ‘cause today threw me for a loop. Like most people, I set my clocks forward last night before I went to sleep so that this morning, the new time would not shock a sista when she woke up. But I had to be up early this morning because I needed to get my car tuned up – and I wanted to be at the mechanic’s shop first thing. So, while the clock said “9:00a”, I was up and out the door at what my body still considered “8:00a”. (Which really is NOT that unusual for me – I tend to be a night owl who is also an early bird). But errand after errand, plus an impulsive 5 mile walk to visit a friend and her brand new baby girl, wore a sista out. By the time I finally got home at “3:30p”, I needed a nap…and that turned into a “sleep”. So now, at “10:30p”, I am WIDE AWAKE. Oh joy.

Routines have their place. Normally, I wake up on Sunday morning and call my grandmother. It is our weekly time to “catch up” on all that is going on in her world. After getting off the phone with her, I usually do my morning devotions and write my blog or journal. In my rush to get to the mechanic’s, I didn’t call her. Because I didn’t call her, the two other things didn’t happen either…until post-sleep/nap. And even though nothing major went wrong today…all day, there was this “disconnect” going on – I felt “off kilter”. Like I’d forgotten to do something…like something was missing. It was only in the last hour, as I FINALLY had my devotions, that I realized what it was. I hadn’t started my day by connecting with the Lord, and so while I functioned, I was not at my optimal best. Like I said, routines have their place.

I am glad that Jesus is never “off His game.” His example shows us that EVERY MORNING, He got up and communed with His Father. He connected and got His marching orders for the day – and it didn’t matter if the clock had marched forward an hour or fallen back or anything. His priorities always were, and still are, “right on time.” Oh, to be like Jesus. That is my prayer and I hope it is yours as well.

Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith
Sunday, 14 March, 2010

13 March 2010

The Prodigal Son


We are all familiar with the Biblical story of the prodigal son. (Luke 15:11-31). Younger, rebellious, irresponsible son goes to his father and demands his inheritance. Father gives it to him. Son runs off to the big city, blows it on women, booze and whatever else he can find to blow it on. Ends up sleeping with the pigs. Decides he is too good for that, but maybe his dad will forgive him and let him work on the family homestead as a servant. Dusts himself off, journeys home – only to find his father waiting for him with a warm robe, a ring and a big party to welcome him back. Yada yada yada - yaay son. Don’t get me wrong: the story is a wonderful metaphor for how God treats us when we stray away from His love and protection – I get it. Love the analogy that no matter what we do, God is willing to forgive and will welcome us back with open arms. Amen and Hallelujah.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER SON?

Even as a child, I always had empathy in my heart for the elder son. You know, the one who stayed home. The one who was the responsible one. The one who never strayed and never had his “wild time in the city”. The one who stayed home every day, tending the sheep and goats. Where was his party – his robe – his ring? What about him?

I have been on both sides of the story. I’ve been the “prodigal daughter” – thinking I was big enough and bad enough to do whatever I wanted with my life. Praise God I came to my senses before it was too late. I am, by no means, claiming complete victory over anything because the scars of those experiences manifest themselves in ways only God and I understand and deal with on a daily basis. But, I have also been the “elder son”.

It is a known fact that I am the “responsible” one in my family. It is almost a running joke. If something needs to get done, EVERYONE calls on me to get it done. Need a family member’s phone number, address, photograph: call Kristina. Want to have family worship or any other family meeting: call Kristina. (although, my cousin Yulanda has taken over that “chore” recently – thanks BuPee!). Want to plan a family reunion: Kristina can either do it or be the representative on the committee. Holiday meal planning: Kristina. Taking care of my mom: Kristina. Overseeing my grandmother’s medical care after her accident: Kristina. (I’m thinking about changing my name…any suggestions?) And even outside of my immediate family, it’s the same thing. A friend of mine recently sent me an email saying, “You know we need to get together and plan how we are going to feed our families during General Conference in June.” REALLY? Why does this fall on me? Oh yeah, I’m the responsible one. Ask me to do it, and if I say I will, you can bet your bottom dollar, I’ll “get ‘er done”.

I guess all the fuss is made over the prodigal son because it is easier to “reward” someone when they make a radical, obvious change. I mean, if you never show up at any event, of course you are going to be the center of attention when you do walk through the door. It is the people who are “always there” that get overlooked and taken for granted. And as one of those people, let me tell you: that grates on your nerves after a while. In my opinion, the parable never addresses the elder son’s complaint. Yes – I get that we should rejoice over the return of the son…but shouldn’t the elder son get more than just a “you are ever with me and all I have is yours”? I mean, I know I will get my reward in heaven, but can’t a sista get a little love and appreciation here on earth as well? I’m just sayin’.

Further study of the story reveals that there was a lot more going on behind the scenes with the elder brother on a spiritual level. He pictured himself as a paragon of righteousness and responsibility. (Ut oh, is that a mirror God is pointing at me? Although calling myself a “paragon” might be taking it a little far). He relishes his role as the “good” son. (I wouldn’t say I “relish” my role…really, I don’t). The hardness of his heart is revealed in his reaction to his wayward brother’s return. (Hey! My heart is not hard!...is it?) But when the Father orders a joyous party for the younger brother he probably never even asked for (sorry, small digression there), the elder son’s resentment boils over. In the parable, Jesus is pointing out the Pharisees’ resentment over sinners repenting and being welcomed into God’s Kingdom. In my life, what is God trying to point out to me? Hmm…something to think (and pray) about. Pray with me that it will be revealed and then rectified, won’t you?

Until then, be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith
Sabbath, March 13, 2010

11 March 2010

Some stories…


Life is interesting. As you meet people, forge relationships, co-exist on this planet: your life forms a rich tapestry made up of stories and experiences that are shared with other people. But sometimes, just because you SHARE an experience, doesn’t necessarily give you the right to SHARE the story. Some stories are just not yours to share, even if you were an active participant in the events. I am slowly finding out the truth of that.

About most things in my life, I am an open book. I figure if I went through it and overcame it, maybe telling of my struggle will help someone else going through the same, or even a similar trial and tribulation. Of course, there are some things in my life [covered by the blood of Jesus – can I get a “Hallelujah!! Amen!!”?] that are not for public consumption or gossip fodder. That is ONE reason you will never hear about me running for public office or pursuing my career as a celebrity figure. Some bones need to remain in the closets where they are buried. On the other hand, there are some stories that I really want to share, but out of respect for the other participants in the events, feel that I cannot.

How do you draw the line between giving your testimony – and outing a friend or relative who was along for the ride? After all, there are only so many times you can couch a story with the ambiguous “friend” as the sidekick. And most times, if people REALLY know you, they can figure out who the “friend” is anyway…or they will make their own suppositions and run with those. We are all guilty of it. If you ever read a book written by an author who has access to celebrity, you wonder: I wonder who s/he modeled this character after? (or maybe that’s just me) AND you also have to wonder (as you give your testimony), who within the audience hearing the testimony is judging you or otherwise changing an opinion they may have had of you. (again, that may just be me).

I weigh all these things when I write. Or give a testimony in church. Or tell a story to a friend going through a trial or tribulation. Sometimes, I have the PERFECT story to tell – but it might not be solely mine to tell. It’s a fine line to walk as a writer who is trying to be honest and express herself honestly. Pray for me as I strive to find the perfect balance.

Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith
Thursday, March 11, 2010

10 March 2010

Public smiles, private pains…


Today news broke about the death of actor Corey Haim. Only 38 years old, his life has been cut short. Initial reports said that his death might be related to a flu-like illness he’d recently been suffering from, but later breaking news seems to indicate that his death might be drug-related. Whatever the truth, 38 is waay too young to be dead, if you ask me.

For the record, I am not a big Corey Haim fan. Like every one growing up in the 80s, I remember him from movies like LUCAS and LOST BOYS (his two biggest films) and his exploits with his buddy and ever-present sidekick Corey Feldman. Almost interchangeable, the two friends even did a reality show (that I never had the “pleasure” of watching) called THE TWO COREYS. Reports of his drug use and partying lifestyle stripped him of reaching his full potential as an actor – and a person. In fact, when I first heard the report of his death, I stopped and thought, “I thought he was already dead.”

We live in a society where we glorify celebrity. Whether it is your favorite actor (Shemar, Denzel, Boris…I digress), or athletes or even the “stars” of those toxic reality shows that are so popular these days (really, Kate Gosselin or the “OctoMom”?)…if someone is on TV or in the movies, all of a sudden, their life is open fodder for review, speculation and gossip. All their private hurts, disappointments and failures become talking points over water coolers, in break rooms and even status posts on Facebook. Is it worth all the money, fame and accolades? I personally think not. It is difficult enough to live your life as a person without everyone in the world chiming in on how you are acting, how you have failed, whether you have low self-esteem or not (sidenote: can we just leave Mo’Nique alone? Geesh).

I didn’t know Corey Haim (obviously). Unlike him, I did not live my life in the public spotlight since age 10 (which is how old he was when he started doing commercials). I didn’t have hit movies to put on my resume, only to see work dry up and be called a “has been” before the age of 30. I have not squandered millions of dollars in income and royalties to die almost penniless with nothing to show for a lifetime of work. I haven’t turned to drugs as a way of escape. How sad that this is the commentary left behind on his life. I wish somewhere along the way, someone had pointed him to Jesus. Maybe the commentary would be different.

We are all going through something. We all, celeb or not, at times, mask deep private hurts with very wide public smiles. It is my prayer that when you are feeling overwhelmed and burdened, you have a Friend to turn to Who will see you through. While human friends are nice and can be ambassadors of God’s love in times of need, they are not always around when you need them. They, occasionally, have their phone ringers in the off position and their computers turned off. Or if your time of crisis is 3:00 in the morning, they might be asleep. I am learning to “go to the Rock” when the burdens of life get to be too much. Praise Jesus He “never sleeps, He never slumbers.” If you don’t know Him, get to know Him. He can turn those private hurts into true public smiles.

Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith
10 March 2010

09 March 2010

Charlie and Eleanor…


Sometimes God puts you in position to be blessed and you don’t even realize it until later. That happened to me today. I was at home, feeling a little under the weather with a sore throat and some achiness. I was really debating whether I should call in sick or not. (Now, if you know me, you know that NEVER happens. I will show up sick and then go back home before I call in sick, so that is some indication of how I was feeling). Then my phone rang and it was my supervisor asking me if I could not only come in, but come in early. As one of the few notaries in my department, my services were needed in order to go to a client’s home to get some legal documents executed. Now, it is an “honor” to be needed, but I have to admit to some griping and grumbling at the thought of having to go in early when I wasn’t really feeling well…but I’m a trooper and it’s a blessing to have a job, so I gathered myself together and headed into work.

I won’t go into some other frustrations that happened along the way, but suffice it to say, there were several things that happened between the time I arrived at the parking garage of my office and before we arrived at the clients’ home that made me really mentally pray that I didn’t lose my temper and go off on some people. But I pulled it together and put on my game face by the time we arrived at Charlie and Eleanor’s house. And that is when I discovered that God wanted me there for a specific, not necessarily related to my job, reason.

Let me stop to say: I’m a little jaded when it comes to “true love” and “relationships” and all that mushy stuff. (See my previous blog about Valentine’s Day if you don’t believe me.) So that may be the reason God wanted me present to witness these documents for this couple. Married for 60 years, they are trying to get their affairs in order before something happens to one of them. More than likely, it will be Charlie, since he has some serious health issues and just got out of the hospital recently. Going blind at age 84, he is a very cute bald-headed Southern gentleman, very courtly and obviously used to deferring to his very bubbly, energetic, pistol of a wife, Eleanor. Watching them interact and seeing the love they have somehow managed to hold onto for six decades literally brought tears to my eyes. As Eleanor helped Charlie find the lines where he needed to sign, she was never exasperated when he missed the mark; she made jokes about how she was going to take all his money and run away with it; and made us all laugh by calling him “Daddy” throughout the session. Like I said, she was a pistol.

But it was Charlie that almost made me lose it. As we were about to leave, out of the blue, Charlie asked the attorney who drew up the myriad of documents that his wife just helped him sign: “So, are you enjoying your life these days? Are you finding a reason for joy every morning?” I think it stunned the attorney as much as it shocked me because he just stammered and mumbled a generic “Well, some days more than others” as his response. Despite his handicaps and whatever health issues he was going through, Charlie was still optimistic about life and what it still has in store for him – for however long God should continue to grant him life.

I left their home with a better attitude. Here I am – blessed with all my mental faculties, able to care for myself and my loved ones, employed for 10 years at a firm in a job that I truly to enjoy and love – and yet, I was grumpy and complaining because I was slightly inconvenienced when I didn’t want to be. And here’s Charlie, who has a lot more to honestly complain about, and yet, he was an encouragement to me without even realizing it.

Yeah, God puts me in some amazing places to reveal Himself to me. Maybe one day, I’ll go willingly and without complaining – not waiting until He reveals the blessing to appreciate it. Maybe.

Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith
Tuesday, March 09, 2010

08 March 2010

Taking care of myself…


One of my favorite “just for me” activities is massage. Due to a really bad car accident in November 1990, I have lower back issues that can sometimes stop a sista dead in her tracks. As a result, once a month (at least), I go and get a deep tissue or (my personal favorite) a hot stone massage. I have been blessed to meet some amazing massage therapists who have great hands and I walk out of the massages relaxed and loose and feeling great. And because I cannot be anywhere without talking to people, it was through my interaction with my masseuse, Jarrett, that I found out about a Korean wellness and health center here in the Atlanta area. Jarrett kept telling me that I needed to check out this place: JeJu Sauna and Wellbeing Center in Duluth. Since Duluth is a bit of a hike from my house, I kept putting off going to visit. Then a co-worker of mine mentioned that he was going to JeJu in celebration of his 40th birthday and I was like, “Ok, this place keeps crossing my path – I must need to go.” I mean, if GUYS are talking about a place of relaxation as a destination – it MUST be worth the trip.

So, yesterday, I made the time to drive out to JeJu Sauna. Can I just tell you: The Korean culture KNOWS how to relax and put aside the cares of the world for a moment! It was wonderful. From the moment you walk into the place, you can feel your tensions melting away. For the low admission price of $25, you have full access to hydro-therapies (like hot, warm and cold Jacuzzis), dry and wet saunas, and then there are the co-ed sauna igloos – I cannot really describe it – you have to experience it for yourself. There is a restaurant onsite in case you get hungry or dehydrated. A swimming pool if you want to workout while there. And for additional fees, there are massages, sea salt scrubs (which one lady told me I HAVE to try, so you know I will on my next visit), facials, mani-pedi – I mean, talk about pampering yourself – you could definitely do it here.

I have to admit, I don’t feel like I maximized the benefits of my visit. I was so excited to be there and wanted to try everything and didn’t have as much time in my schedule as I initially planned. While I had a great experience, I felt like I rushed through my relaxation time. We "Westerners" don't know how to relax relax anyway, but I think I am ready to learn. JeJu is probably the place to learn. I was admittedly surprised, but pleased, by the vast diversity of the clients. I met people from as close as Stone Mountain and as far away as Poland. (I told you I cannot go anywhere without talking to people!) Young, old, Black, White, male, female - nice.

Talking about my experience later, a friend congratulated me on “taking care of myself” and I responded, “well, if I don’t do it – who will?” Every Christian knows that our bodies are supposed to be the temples of God – we are responsible for taking care of our temples. Exercise, diet, rest, (and in my case) massage – all of these are ways in which we care for our temples. We (especially women) have to do these things for ourselves in order for us to be able to take care of our families, friends and other obligations that pull and tug on us every day.

As I was laying in the salt sauna igloo, sweating a lot of toxins out of my system, I was thinking of friends and family who could benefit from an outing to JeJu, but who would probably not be interested because it is a little outside the “norm”. How many blessings do we miss out on because we will not step outside of our comfort zones? I’ll be extending some invites for people to join me at JeJu (already have) and let’s just see who will take advantage. If you are in the Atlanta area, I encourage you to check it out for yourself – and if you want a partner when you go for the first time, just call me up! I am sure I will be out there again…soon.

Website: www.jejusauna.net.

Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith
8 March 2010

05 March 2010

Prep work


Yes, another blog about food and cooking. Sorry, it’s just one of my “things”. One of the things that my non-cooking friends always ask me is “How do you find time to do all that cooking? It just takes too long to cook like that.” I’ll let you in on my secret: prep work. I could soooo be a sous chef. I truly don’t mind doing all the cutting and chopping and prepping it takes to make food taste the way it should taste. In a way, it is kind of relaxing – and a great way to work out any frustrations I might be feeling.

I was supposed to host a dinner party this weekend. It was going to be my way of saying thank you to the people who serve with me as host and hostess at my church on the first Sabbath of every month (with a few extra special people thrown into the invitation mix). However, I had to postpone the dinner due to an unexpected upper respiratory infection in the house. Unfortunately, this diagnosis came AFTER I’d done all the shopping and purchased all the produce and veggies I needed for the menu I had planned in my head. So, in order to preserve my investment, I needed to chop and freeze my vegetable bounty. Yes, this can be mindless and boring – and potentially tearful, if you are cutting up onions and don’t do it right (cold water is key). I am a firm believer though that the 30 minutes of effort it took me today will save me hours of time later. With the right tools: a flexible cutting board, a good knife, and freezer bags in quart and gallon sizes – it is a relatively painless task.

As I cut up the veggies, I was mesmerized by all the pretty colors, textures and smells and thought what a wonderful God we serve. Can you imagine how boring life (and food) would be if everything was bland and colorless and boring? I thought about how much fun God must have had as He designed red, yellow, orange and green bell peppers. What made Him think of the purple hue of red onions or the small tubular shape of scallions when cut on a diagonal? How did He decide that cilantro would have one smell and basil a totally different one? And how did He know that this particular child of His would love and appreciate it all on a sunny Friday in March 2010? I am so glad that He is a God of details, because details make all the difference. Especially in the world of food and food enjoyment.

I was also struck by this thought: building a relationship with God takes “prep work” as well. It is the little things we do on a daily basis that form the fabric of our entire relationship with God. Daily study of His Word, prayer and communication with Him, witnessing to others of His love – this is all “prep work”. Day by day, it adds up and eventually, those habits form the character that reflects God. And isn’t that our ultimate goal?

The time is coming (soon and very soon) when we will each be challenged to defend what we believe and why we believe it. Doing the work now to prepare for that time will make the reality of that time less stressful, scary and traumatic. Just as cutting up the veggies today will make preparing for my postponed dinner party in two weeks a lot easier as well.

Be blessed and Joyeux Sabbath.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith
Friday, March 05, 2010

04 March 2010

Making a choice…


I really need to make exercise a part of my routine. It has all kinds of health benefits, I usually feel good when I do it, my doctor doesn’t fuss at me as much when I can tell him (or otherwise prove with pictures) that I am exercising…there are benefits. BUT I HATE IT! Even as a child, the whole idea of exerting so much energy doing something that you would break a sweat?! Pure torture. I hated PE class, which is usually every child’s favorite subject (next to lunch). Not me! Send me to the science lab instead…PLEASE! The idea of getting undressed in a locker room, changing clothes, going outside to play handball or run or do gymnastics, getting sweaty or worse, clammy, then going back and doing it in reverse, and then sitting up in class for another 2-3 hours – YUCK! And while most kids exercise for the benefit of weight control, as a child, and even as a young adult, my metabolism was pretty high, so I could eat any and everything I wanted and it never showed.

AND THEN I TURNED 30!

Ok, did some switch inside my body just shut down, turn off, and stop working? My metabolism quit. It didn’t help that I also had major surgery at this time and part of the post-operative treatment was steroidal shots once a month for six months. Can we say uncontrolled weight gain? I cannot remember if it was 40 pounds in 6 weeks or 60 pounds in 4 weeks, but whatever ever it was, it was horrific. As was the way people started treating the “new, more voluptuous” me. My beloved grandfather stopped calling me “Sweetie Face” and started calling me “Moon Pie” or something equally disgusting. My grandmother would start every Sunday morning conversation with, “So how much do you weigh now?” and for the first time in my life, I was really uncomfortable in my own skin. People who didn’t know the medical issues I was having would say such kind things to me…like: “why’d you get so fat?” or “when is the baby due?” or “maybe you need to start pushing away from the table quicker”. Yeah, people can be cruel and insensitive and stupid. And it hasn’t stopped as I got older. A dear saint at church told me just last week, “I remember when you first came to this church (back in the late 1980s), you were so cute and skinny, but now you are so fat. You need to change your diet and lifestyle.” Really? Yeah, I’ll get right to work on that. Thanks.

A few years ago, I was diagnosed with diabetes. Ok, the absolute worse disease that can befall a foodie like myself. Suddenly, food (always my friend) is now my enemy. EVERYTHING I eat affects my health. This will make my blood sugars go up. This is what to do if your sugars ever drop too low (ok, never my issue. Mine are always high, which puts me at risk of eventually needing insulin shots to maintain good blood sugar health.) And the pricking of the fingers to tell where you are – yeah, not good. Of course, the easiest way to bring blood sugars down (and still be able to eat what you like to eat) is to get the blood moving, circulating and flowing. How do you do that? Yeah, that four letter word that has eight letters in it: exercise.

Now at 45 years old, when habits are ingrained and stubborn, I have to make a choice: fight this disease with all that I have – or let it win and end up with more issues. When I was first diagnosed, I used to say stuff like, “I’m gonna beat this because I love to read and cannot lose my eyesight” or “I have too many shoes in my collection to be an amputee”. I still feel those sentiments, so I have to do what I gotta do. It’s hard. Did I mention I hate to exercise? I will find every excuse in the book NOT to do it. “I’m too busy”, “My work schedule doesn’t make it convenient to exercise”, “I need a partner” (which is really NO excuse because I have several friends who are willing to meet me and go walking. Thanks Judith and Brittany and Ife and BuPee and…) I am the one who has to find the motivation to get up out of the bed, get dressed and out the door to do it.

So, I’m turning off the computer, throwing on some sweats and walking out the door. I’m going to walk around the neighborhood, take in the sights, and come back home. I’m not going to call it exercise because I hate to exercise. I’m going to call it…hmmm…making a choice for better health. Let’s see how long that motivates me. I solicit your prayers and encouragement.

Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith

03 March 2010

Plugged in…


My Netbook is one of my favorite electronic gadgets (and I am a “gadget girl”). Smaller than the average laptop, it only has a 9” screen, which took some adjusting to initially – my eyesight ain’t what it used to be! But, it is more portable and the bright kelly green cover always makes me smile – it is such a cheerful color. It makes other people smile and take notice as well. I was recently at a restaurant working on something and a waitress remarked on the color and size. We had a brief conversation about cost and the benefits of having the smaller computer. I revisited that same restaurant about a month later and was served by the same waitress. She had forgotten me (imagine that), but she remembered the Netbook.

When my external hard drive and SmartPhone are connected on the left side and the memory card from my camera is plugged into the right side USB ports – it looks, acts and performs like its larger, more cumbersome “brother laptops”. It is command central. I can write my blogs, jump on Facebook, respond to emails, upload pictures, maintain my various calendars – all the “stuff” I do on a daily and regular basis. All of this works wonderfully well – especially when the Netbook is fully charged and/or plugged in.

Last night, I was working on something and I got a “battery warning” message that my battery was only 14% charged and I needed to change my power source or risk losing all my work. Now, from appearances, I was plugged in. The power cord to my Netbook was connected and from where I was sitting, it looked like the power cord was plugged into the electrical outlet. So, I ignored the warning and kept on working…until the next message popped up, “you only have 7% power – find a new power source.” A red light started blinking on the front of the computer and I figured “Ok, this is serious.” So I unplugged the power cord and plugged it back in. Nothing – red light still blinking. I got up and followed the power cord to the outlet and discovered that the power cord was not plugged into the electrical strip properly. Once I plugged it in correctly, lights stopped flashing on my computer and all warnings ceased and desisted. I was able to keep working on what I was doing without any loss. (and Amen - Hallelujah for that!)

How many times do we “appear” to be “plugged in” when we are really running on batteries? From where I was sitting as I worked, everything “looked” right. It looked like the connections were as they should have been – and I initially ignored the warnings. Sometimes, we “look right” – we are going to church, we are returning our tithes, we are eating vegetarian – but if we are not doing these things with the right motives, it is a false look. Maybe that is why God looks at our hearts, not our appearances.

My good friend Shana told a childrens story at our church about being plugged in. She used a lamp to illustrate the point that unless the lamp is plugged into an electrical outlet, it is not fulfilling its purpose to shed light. Likewise, if we are not plugged into the Power Source of God, we cannot fully live up to our purpose in life.

It’s time for us to stop running on batteries. We need to heed the warnings and plug into the Source of all power, wisdom and might.

Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith

02 March 2010

We’ve come this far by Faith…


If you are blessed, you have a church family that upholds you, nourishes you and supports you as you grow in your relationship with Christ. IF you are blessed, you might have one or more church families that do that for you. But if you are TRULY blessed, you have a connection with the Faith SDA Church in Hartford, CT. This is the church of my childhood summers and Christmas vacations and let me tell you – ain’t no church family like the Faith Church family!

Yesterday, I returned ‘home’ to Faith SDA to attend the funeral of my godsister’s eldest brother, Jacob Almus Anderson. Now, I could write a whole ‘notha blog about Almus (or Al) and the legacy he left behind – the life he led – the service that was had on yesterday – it was beautiful and we had CHURCH up in that place on yesterday! Whoever said that Adventists did not know how to praise the Lawd shoulda oughta been up in Faith on yesterday! From the music to the testimonies on Al’s life to the sermon by Pastor Marcellus P. Howard – I’m telling y’all – CHURCH! But that ain’t what this blog is about today.

It’s about the Faith Church family. My first introduction to the Faith Church family (that I was remember) was the little church on Cornwall Street, which was actually the second of three locations for the church. I am sure that I attended the Vineland Terrace location with my parents as a child ‘cause I’ve heard the stories, but my first memories of Faith are not until my parents are divorced and my mom shipped my brother and I off to visit my grandparents every summer and Christmas vacation. Contrary to popular belief, I am NOT a “son or daughter” of Faith, I’m a “grandchild” of Faith…but you would never know it by how I am loved by the members of that church (as I found out on yesterday). I didn’t grow up in Faith – my contact was annual, but brief and intermittent. I haven’t been back to visit since my grandparents retired to Florida in 1979, but you would have never known that based on the love, hugs and support shown to me yesterday.

My memories of Faith SDA Church are so much a part of who I am. They suffered through (and even applauded) my childish singing renditions of every Blendwright song I thought I could sing (especially IT’S RAINING JOY). They encouraged me to get up front and lead out during Vacation Bible School, which gave me the “confidence” to get up in front of audiences now – whether at church or work or in my career in the theatre. They fed me (and fed me well ‘cause Faith got some cooks up in that joint!) and taught me how to stretch a meal made for 4 into a feast for 10 – salad, lots of salad. They taught me that adults love children and just because they chastise you doesn’t mean they don’t love you. Where would I be without the loving chastisement of Sis. Pearl, Sis. Bell, Aunt Joanie, Uncle Walter, Aunt Deanna, Ms. Nancy, Sis. Howard, Aunt Lucy, Uncle Jake, Sis. Betty Sutton, Sis. Betty Mack, Kitson and Deb Richardson, my grandparents? The list goes on and on. Some of these saints have been laid to rest to await God’s (soon and very soon) return, but what a great joy to see and hug and kiss on the ones who are still at Faith – still faithful and still holding on to God’s unchanging hand.

There’s no church family like the Faith church family. They love you and support you no matter where you are – or how long you have been away. They show up in times of happiness (graduations and weddings) and in times of sorrow. I will never forget looking up at my grandfather’s funeral in 2001 and seeing the contingent of Faith members who traveled from all across the country to be there to support our family. Palatka FL ain’t easy to get to, and yet they came or called or otherwise showed their love and support. And they still do it to this day. My Sunday calls with my grandmother are full of reports of the calls she gets on a weekly basis from the members of Faith SDA Church.

Faith is not just what they named their church when they started it years and years ago. Faith is something that the members exhibit in their love for each other and their love for God. I am glad I am part of the Faith SDA Church family. I promise it won’t be another 32 years before I visit again. I pray you have a church family like this. And if you are ever in Hartford, CT, stop by 474 Woodland Avenue and tell ‘em I sent you. I am sure they will welcome you with open arms.

Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith

28 February 2010

Torn between two cities…




Ever wish you could be in two places at one time? That’s how I’ve felt all day today. I need to be in Hartford, CT supporting my godfamily in their time of loss, grief and despair and yet, I am anchored here in Atlanta due to weather, overbooked flights and other obligations. While I know I made the right decision to stay in Atlanta and delay my flight until tomorrow morning, I still feel “guilty” and sad that I am not in Hartford.

The question has been asked before: If you could choose any super hero power, which would you choose? People choose invisibility, X-ray vision (although this seems to be a more male driven choice, wonder why?), super strength…I think I would chose teleportation abilities. Even as a child, I loved the fact that Samantha from BEWITCHED could just twitch her nose and go wherever she wanted to go – and that Jeanie from I LOVE JEANIE only had to cross her arms and nod her head and off she went! I’d sit there, watch the television shows, and think, “Yeah, that’s the super power I’d want to have.”

My heart goes out to my godfamily, the Andersons. They know that I wish I were there in person and not just in spirit. I pray that all will go as planned when I get to the airport in the morning – that we’ll get on the flight, that there will be no delays and that the flight will arrive on time. It will be an intricate dance of timing, but I’m putting it all in God’s Hands. He knows my heart’s desire – and if it is within His will, everything will fall into place. Pray with me to that end. (Thanks!)

Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith

27 February 2010

Earthquakes, Tsunamis and other Natural Disasters


Earlier this year, we all heard the horrible news of the earthquake that hit Haiti – and the world responded: with doctors, with water, with money, with a new version of the song, WE ARE THE WORLD. Some would say we didn’t respond quickly enough or we are throwing good money after bad or any number of things. Reports flood the airwaves of earthquakes in southern Japan and Chile and tsunami waves as tall as 9 feet headed towards Chile and Hawaii. Icebergs breaking apart in Antartica, which could lead to changes in the currents of the oceans. And let’s not forget the record snowfalls all across the country this winter – it even snowed in Georgia! It seems like the world is coming apart at the seams, and we are trapped here helpless because there is no place to go.

How do we deal with this? How do we deal with our innate desire to help our brothers and sisters around the world who are suffering due to things beyond their control – while at the same dealing with your own “natural disasters” in your life? Because most of us do have our own “drama” to contend with: the death or illness of a loved one, joblessness, familial strife, anorexic bank accounts. If you don’t have one or more of these things going on in your life, you are blessed. (And let me pause to say: even if you do have one or more of these things going on in your life – you are STILL blessed.) But times are hard and sometimes, it seems like the waves of bad news are relentless and unending. How can you find peace in the midst of the storm?

My advice: Turn to the Rock. (and although I love me some Dwayne Johnson, he is not “the Rock” of whom I speak.) I’m talking about going to “the Rock of my salvation, I go to the Stone that the Builder rejected” (according to the song). I’m talking about Jesus. It seems simple for me as a Christian to say that – but that is my reality. If I didn’t know Jesus, I don’t know how I would personally make it. I am not negating other people’s belief systems and mores – if you believe in Buddha, cling to him. If you believe in Mohammad, hold fast to him. I am just saying, if you don’t have something solid to hold onto, you will be adrift, sad, battered and worn. You HAVE to have faith in Someone, for me it is Jesus, to help you get through.

The Bible warns us that things are going to get worse before they get better. Believe that. I believe God is still holding back the full effect of the winds of chaos and strife that will precede His second coming – so I believe that we still have time to get it right with Him and with our souls. But I also believe our time is short and quickly fading. Is your relationship with Him as it should be? Will your anchor hold in the stormy days ahead? I am praying that mine does – and that yours does as well. Heaven just wouldn’t be heaven without you there.

Be blessed.

© Kristina Smith 2010

26 February 2010

O Day of Rest and Gladness


Some things you just don’t appreciate as a child. Some things you can only learn to appreciate once you become an adult. That is how I feel about the Sabbath. As a child, I won’t say I “hated” the Sabbath – but it certainly wasn’t my favorite day of the week. It was a day of “don’t”s and “can’t”s. You can’t watch TV, you can’t go outside and play with your friends, you don’t cook, you don’t listen to the radio, you don’t have no fun from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday. Yeah, as a child, the Sabbath was NOT the highlight of the week.

I fault my parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and the Adventist Church as a whole for my childhood outlook on church as a whole and on the Sabbath. They didn’t necessarily know any better – after all, that was the way they’d been brought up to view the Sabbath as well. When I was growing up, Friday nights lasted FOREVER because you couldn’t turn on the TV (and you know that is when all the BEST shows were on!). So to pass the long hours away, you joined the choir (even if you could not sing) so you could at least see your friends who were stuck in the same boat with you. On Sabbath morning, you missed out on all the cartoons because you were in church, where all the sermons were “hell fire and brimstone” teachings of how if you didn’t immediately give your life over to God, you were gonna be burnt up in hell’s fire with Satan and all his devilish angels and you betta make up your mind quick to follow Christ because His coming was right around the corner, yea, even at the door. It was enough to either scare you into heaven (well, at least for as long as the sermon lasted) or run you right outta the church, screaming for your life. The services lasted ALL day long – because you HAD to be at church for Sabbath School at 9:15, divine worship hour from 11a – 2p (if you were lucky and it wasn’t some “high day in Zion” – you might NEVER get home then!), then back at the church for MV or AYS one hour before sunset. It was an alllllll day event – full of long prayers, scary sermons, and old ladies pinching your cheeks. (or maybe that was just my experience).

So, as a teenager and young adult in my early 20s, I rebelled. Oh, I still went to church. I sang in the choir, served on various committees and in various departments (deeply engrained habits die hard), but as soon as the sun went down, I was out the door doing any and everything I thought I was big enough and bad enough to do. One foot in the church, one foot out in the world, and not really feeling comfortable in either place. Revivals in the church would lead me to the baptismal pool again and again, but no real conversion ever took place until an evangelist crusade run by our church called Net 1998, led by Pastor Dwight Nelson from Andrews University. He taught about the importance of having a “relationship” with God and suddenly, it clicked. I found out that as my friendship and love for Him grew, everything else seemed to fall into place. It wasn’t about doctrine – although doctrine is important. It wasn’t about what I “could” or “couldn’t” do as an Adventist Christian. It wasn’t about my friends or my family or the pastor or anyone else. It wasn’t even really about me. It was about Him and my relationship with Him. It is about His sacrifice for me and His unwavering, undying love for me. And once I realized THAT, the Sabbath (the time I come aside to meet with Him) took on a whole new meaning and richness.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There have been missteps along the way since 1998. I may proclaim I am His Favorite Child – that doesn’t mean I don’t mess up (all the time. It definitely does not mean that I always live up to what I know to be right, true and honest. It is a daily journey. I am still learning my way – even after more than forty years of wandering in the wilderness. But, I don’t approach the Sabbath hours with dread anymore. I now understand why my grandparents, aunts, uncles and parents would be happy to see the Sabbath hours coming. I know and understand why the lyrics to some hymns declare the Sabbath the “best” day of the week. And while I may not always be prepared and ready to greet my Friend when the hours approach, it is becoming more and more of a priority for that to be the reality each week.

Yep, there are some things you just don’t appreciate as a child. I am so glad that I am learning to appreciate the Sabbath as an adult.

Be blessed and have a great Sabbath.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith