30 January 2010

You look just like...

For the last week, my friends on Facebook and I have posted pictures of celebrities that people often tell us we look like. It has been funny to see how other people see people and the reactions people have had to the posts. I put up LISA BONET because, ever since the first episode of THE COSBY SHOW that is who I have been compared to. There was even one Christmas when, while shopping in the mall, a gentleman approached me and asked for my autograph. It took me a good ten minutes maybe to convince him that I was not “that girl from that show on Thursday night” – and even then, he insisted that I give him an autograph. So I did. (I wonder if he kept it). I have also been compared to Tisha Campbell (Gina from the show MARTIN), Janet Jackson (when she played Penny on GOOD TIMES) and Kim Fields (when she played Tootie on THE FACTS OF LIFE). Of all those very beautiful ladies, I can only see the resemblance to Ms. Bonet – and then, only fleetingly.

On a non-celebrity basis, it is always my mom that I get the “you look just like” comment. And as I get older, it is more pronounced. It is very weird to see it coming to fruition cause I used to always think I looked more like my father, but as I get older, the RACHEL in me is truly coming out. I even see it myself these days, but there was a time when I was in deep denial about it. “I don’t look like her” I would say, stamping my feet in frustration…”why can’t I just look like me?” Not that my mother is not a beautiful woman – I just wanted my own place, my own identity in the world. But too many times (especially lately), I have been approached by people who say, “without even asking you, I know who you belong to ‘cause you look just like your momma”. I just accept it now – and sometimes, I don’t even sigh about it. Sometimes.

I am waiting for the day for someone to say to me, “You know…you look just like I expect Jesus to look like when I see Him in heaven.” Now THAT would be compliment beyond measure. Wouldn’t it be nice for someone to recognize and see Jesus in you? As Christians and children of the King shouldn’t that be our aim and goal? I think so. The “trick” is to live your life in such a way that this becomes the reality.

The sermon I heard in church today (by the younger brother of our pastor) was entitled JUST KEEP SHEEP. One of the main points of the sermon was “greatness doesn’t come without faithfulness.” Meaning, it is by being faithful in the “small things” that God prepares us for the greatness that is within us. If I want to reflect and “look like” Jesus, I have to be faithful in the small things – in the places where He puts me or allows me to be placed, I have to reflect His character. For me, that might mean smiling a welcome to the visitor sitting next to me at church. Or sending a get well card to a random person on the sick and shut in list. Or picking up the phone and calling the church member you haven’t seen in the last two or three weeks. That might be the “small thing” that God is asking me to be faithful in…you have to determine where He is calling you, because we each have a call. What is yours?

“You look just like Jesus” Yep, that would be the greatest compliment ever, don’tcha think?

Be blessed.

29 January 2010

Jigsaw puzzles...

A little known fact about me is that I LOVE to do jigsaw puzzles. Don't have the time (or space) to do them as often as I would like, but I love them. All the little pieces that, individually don't make any sense, come together (slowly but surely) to form a picture of beauty, peace, serenity. I am big on puzzles that can be framed after completion and put on a wall somewhere as a piece of art. And occasionally, if I see a puzzle that will have "meaning" to someone else, I will put it together, write a message on the back of the puzzle and then put it in the mail to them for them to put together and enjoy. (But you can only do this for certain people - and the puzzle has to be fairly small and easy to put together - or the recipient might get frustrated by the gesture, not intrigued)

Everyone who does puzzles has their own method of attack to completing the puzzle. I, personally, am a "get the frame together first" person. The frame pieces all have the straight edge to identify them and therefore, they are easy to pick out of the bunch. Once you get the frame together, it is "easy" to fill in the puzzle from the outside in. Others like to get all the pieces that look alike or that make up an easily identifiable part of the puzzle together first. Whatever floats your boat.

And the puzzle business is big business. You have all kinds of puzzles to buy: big ones, small ones, themed ones, challenging ones, 3-D ones, circular ones (yeah, I haven’t tried any of those yet). And there are puzzle accessories – glue and storage mats and tables…well, lots of stuff to help you with your puzzle making fascination. The point is: it is a cool hobby to have (in my opinion). You can do it alone – or occasionally, a friend may come over and “help” – adults can do it as well as children – it’s nice and quiet, doesn’t disturb anyone while you are doing it. And at the end of the process, you have something long lasting to show for it.

People are like jigsaw puzzles too, if you think about it. Some of us are still at the “framing” stage – waiting to be filled in. Some of us have chunks of ourselves well defined and just looking for a place to land in the total scheme of things. And some of us are just out of the box: a straight up mess that looks to be without rhyme or reason. But God is the ultimate “puzzle put-ter-together-er”. He sees the big picture of our lives and is making the moves within our lives to make us whole – to make our puzzle perfect – if we will allow Him to. Sometimes, it takes time…the pieces that look like they should fit together don’t and you have to adjust and rearrange – you cannot “force” a puzzle piece to fit – not if you want the picture to be complete in the end. I have learned that patience is a skill any true puzzler has to develop – be patient with yourself as God puts you together as He sees you.

Be blessed.

28 January 2010

It's the little things in life...

We are all familiar with the quote “It’s the little things in life that count”. I have heard that saying several times in the last few days and it has struck a chord in my soul. I am a big proponent of “little things”. I still think it’s important to say “Please” and “Thank you”. I think birthdays and anniversaries should be celebrated – with gifts and cards – even if they are from the dollar store or are “recycled treasures”. I think “random acts of kindness” go a long way to making people feel better about themselves, and maybe even about you as the person who blesses them in that way. That’s just me. If I am out and about and see something that I think a friend, relative, co-worker might enjoy or benefit from, if it is within my means to get it, I usually do. Many of my friends have received the phone call, “Hey, I’m at so and so and I saw this and I know you like this, do you want me to pick it up for you?” (The recent Blockbuster store closings brings this to mind – LOTS of my friends got that call and got blessed by cut rate deals on their fav movies and/or TV series) And it is nothing for me to write a quick “thinking of you” card and drop it in the mail to a friend who crosses my mind. Nothing like going to the mailbox on a random day (not your birthday or anniversary, you’re not sick, nothing major going on, just an ordinary day), opening it up and seeing a handwritten note from a friend – just my opinion. And so I do it – not as much as I am prompted by the Lord sometimes to do it, but more and more these days.

Because, I’m finding out, in these days of tough economic crisis, horrific natural disasters, illness running rampant and death after death after death: it is the little things, the personal touches into a friend’s life, that are important. Sitting down and sharing a meal – important. Picking up the phone and actually having a conversation – important. Listening to someone vent – important. Making someone smile – important. And you know what? Most of this can be done by anyone, anytime, anywhere, at no (or little) cost. Some of the best gifts I have ever received, and that I cherish the most, are the ones that didn’t cost a thing. It’s all about paying attention, being aware, stepping outside yourself sometimes. It is often easy to get caught up in the “big things” going on in our lives and around us (see first sentence in this paragraph). Maybe by concentrating on some “little things”, the “big things” will fall more into perspective and focus.

And I am finding out that paying attention to the “little things” is Biblical. I have a goal to read through the Bible this year. (Thanks to my new Facebook friend, John E. Parker, who has started a group, READ THE BIBLE THROUGH IN 2010 – become a fan if you are on FB – you will be blessed!) And for the last couple of days, the reading has come from Exodus, where God is giving Moses the instructions on how He wants the sanctuary built. Ok, talk about attention to detail – attention to the “little things”!! From how the anointing oil is to be mixed to the dimensions of every piece of furniture to the design and placement of the washbasin – everything is meticulously detailed. So, there must be some value in paying attention to the details – to the little things.

I pray you will make time in your day and life to cherish the little things that make life worth living. I know that is my plan, aim and goal. Join me, why don’tcha?

Be blessed.

27 January 2010

What is your plan?

Recently, I had a random conversation with a dear friend of mine from college who is approaching the "end" of her academic career and who is in the "final" stages of preparing to receive her doctorate in the field of communications. We were discussing what that means to her and what her next steps would be when I made a statement that stopped her in her tracks, but which I have kind of settled in my soul for a minute: I don't have any long-term goals for my life right now.

Yeah, that is cause for a pause. In our goal-oriented society, that is a startling statement to make, but if someone were to approach me and ask me what my "5 year plan" for my life is right now, I would have to look at them with a blank stare and admit I did not have one. And truly, haven't had one for a while. I remember when I first started my career at the law firm where I am currently employed, the gentlemen interviewing me asked me where I saw myself in five years if I were still with the company - and I gave him a very lofty, self-important answer (which actually came to fruition long before the five years was up). I recognize that there is "value" in having goals - visualization helps you move from where you are to where you need to be - I get that...so, why do I not currently have a vision of where I want/need to be in my life?

It is something to truly ponder, but I am not "worried" about it. In time, I am sure it will be revealed to me what it is I am supposed to be focusing on, striving towards, setting my sights on. This is the time of year when most people sit back and take stock and set their goals. We are only 27 days into a new year, new decade - and lots of you (cause I did not) set resolutions as to what you were going to change or do different this year - and I have watched (on Facebook) my friends who are eating better, exercising more, being creative - all wonderful things IF you can sustain them - reach your goal and full potential. Some will, and some won't. Some will trumpet every success and some will sink into depressions about their "failures". But regardless of the successes or the missteps you will make along the way to your goals, I am proud of you for at least starting on the path. And I will applaud loudly when you reach your goal because that is what friends do: they cheer you along the way and then stand behind the finish line with roses, support, and cups of water.

I DO want to have a "plan" (on some level). I mean, there are things I want to achieve: lose weight (isn't that everyone's goal these days?); secure my financial stability (again) by becoming credit card debt free by the end of the year - ok, realistically, the end of next year; achieve and maintain better health and get off all these (insert expletive) diabetic medications; write more, love more, etc., etc., but what I am talking about is something that is deeper, more fulfilling, more....something.

Goals motivate you and help you focus on the important things in life - but what that plan will be, and when I will find time to implement it (cause that is the other side of the battle)...that is something we will all have to wait for God to reveal - and then for me to accept into my life (and schedule) and then to move on as I work towards that end. If you know what your plan is, I encourage you to "work it". If you don't, I implore you to find it - as I will strive to find mine.

Be blessed.

26 January 2010

Letter from my Grandfather...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 marked the 9th anniversary of the death of my paternal grandfather, Edward Julian. I have written tributes to my grandfather before just because he was such a wonderful person in my life. Not that I didn't love, honor and respect my mother's father (Hector Melvin, Sr.), we just didn't have the relationship that I had with my other grandfather. Maybe the fact that I was the ONLY granddaughter and FIRST grandchild on my dad's side of the family - while I am only one of many and "nothing special" on my mom's side of the family has something to do with the quality and depth of the two relationships. Maybe.

Ever since my grandfather's death, I always take the week of the Martin Luther King holiday off as a vacation. This year was no exception. I don't usually plan anything during that week, but for the last two years, I have actually been blessed to be in Palatka, FL where he lived, ministered and died, on the anniversary of his death. It is always surreal to me to be in his city, his house, his study (which is where I usually sleep when I visit my grandmother) and know that he is not there. And this year was no exception - I don't think I will ever "celebrate" the anniversary of his passing in that house again, but only God knows the future.

After I returned home, I decided to do some "spring cleaning" - even though spring is still months and months and months away. While clearing out an old file cabinet in my den, I came across a redweld labeled JUNK WORTH SAVING and within that redweld, a file folder subtitled: LETTERS. In the folder was a single card. A thank you card dated October 1997. It was from my grandparents who had just visited me in my brand new home for 11 days. Inside the card was a two page letter from my grandfather.

Now, you have to understand: MY GRANDFATHER WAS NOT A LETTER WRITER! This is the one and only letter I ever received from my grandfather in my (at the time) 33 years of life. EVER! My grandmother was (and still is) the card sender, signer, communicator, letter writer. She would sign all my birthday cards, Grandma and Grandpa (yeah, he never - or rarely - even signed the cards). Every written communication in my life with my grandparents was by, to and from her. So, although I don't remember my feelings when I initially got the letter from my grandfather, even then, I recognized the importance and significance of the letter and considered it "worth saving" (although WHY I called it "junk" is my own twisted sense of humor. And NO, I did not change the name of the file folder!)

I will not share the contents of the letter - that is between me and my granddaddy - but suffice it to say, I welled up with tears as I read his message of blessing and love and encouragement. What a treasure to have found and to have. You see, at the time he wrote the letter, he was dying. Dying of the bone cancer that would eventually kill him. None of us knew it at the time, I just knew he was sick and not himself. It took 3 years and some months before he died, but that trip was the beginning of the end.

I miss my grandfather almost every day - and often wish I could speak with him one mo' time again. He "got" me when most people sometimes don't and always had words of CHRISTIAN counsel to give me when I doubted myself or was going through a crisis. He celebrated my accomplishments, shared my joys, prayed when I was sick, encouraged me when I doubted myself and my decisions, and loved me for me. Now, he was not perfect, but he was the "perfect" grandfather for me.

I look forward to meeting him in the clouds when Jesus returns to take His children home. I look forward to hearing his baritone voice ring out in song (that brotha could sing!). I don't know if we will have "guest speakers" on Sabbath, but if we do, I hope there is a "church" somewhere in heaven where the "local elders" get to speak so I can hear one of his down home, full of love for God sermons once again. I look forward to sitting at a table in heaven eating watermelon (which I am allergic to here on earth) and hearing him say, "Deee-licious!" with that twinkle in his eye. And one day, in heaven, my grandfather is gonna sing "Happy Birthday" to me and I won't cringe or cry as I wait for the song to end. Yeah, there are a LOT of reasons to want to go to heaven - hanging out with my grandfather is definitely one of them.

I pray that you have an Edward Julian in your life. And I pray that even if they are no longer living, you have some tangible proof, memory of them that helps you to hold on to the hand of God so that you will have the hope, the promise of seeing them again someday.

Be blessed.

PS: The attached picture of me and my granddaddy was taken in 1978 when he retired from his job and left Hartford, CT to begin a new ministry at the Bethany SDA Church in Palatka, FL.

08 January 2010

One week down, 51 to go...

Hello friends, family and other readers of my notes and this blog. I pray that as you read this, you are experiencing good health, the love of friends and family, and basking in the security and knowledge of God's love for you. We are 7 days into the New Year, the start of the second decade of the 21st century. Wow. Amazing when you think about it. Do you remember where you were 10 years ago when everyone was predicting that Y2K would be the end of the world, the death of all of us? And yet, here we are - ten years later - still standing strong. What a blessing.

My first seven days of the New Year have been pretty eventful. I have already taken my first trip of the year - traveling from Atlanta GA to Palatka FL in order to visit my 90 year old grandmother who is recovering from hip surgery. God granted safe travels to and from - approx. 700 miles or so, roundtrip. Ain't He good? While in Florida, I had the opportunity to have a face-to-face meeting with one of my Facebook friends whom I'd never met before - only to find out in conversation that our families have long-standing ties and that his mother and my mother know each other! Talk about a small world! The six degrees of separation are quickly shrinking to just three and four degrees. (Does that mean that my meetings with Shemar Moore or Michelle Obama are just around the corner? Maybe.)

In the first seven days of the year, I have already found out that this year, God is going to use me as His conduit of love, kindness and compassion. (Hope I'm up to the call!) Already I have been called upon to listen as a friend mourned the end of a 21 year marriage; to offer sympathy and words of kindness to a friend who lost her father to diabetic complications; to offer words of wisdom to a young lady in a relationship that she KNOWS she needs to get out of and yet, feels she cannot move from; and been placed in a position of referring others to professionals who can help in situations that I am not equipped or skilled enough to assist. It has been a busy year y'all - and we are only seven days in.

So how do I handle the "pressure"? "I go to the Rock of my salvation, I go to the stone that builders rejected...when the earth all around me is sinking sand, on Christ the Solid Rock I stand, when I need shelter, when I need a Friend, I go to the Rock" (are you singing yet?) I ain't (by NO MEANS!) trying to say that in these seven days I haven't faltered, sinned, cussed, shouted, screamed, holla-ed - yeah, I've done all that (and more), but I will say that - even with all of that, I have found myself more in a state of prayer than I have been in a long time. And THAT is a good thing.

I hope and pray that you are starting your New Year off in a state of prayer. That is the only thing that is gonna get us through the days ahead. All of the days ahead of us are NOT going to be sunny ones. Some of them will be stormy and overcast with no forecast of sunshine anywhere. Some of the days ahead will be so bumpy, you will wish your bottom had shock absorbers. But if we just hold on and go to the SOURCE of our strength, power and might...we will make it through. We will survive. Get to know Him - it will make a difference, I promise.

For those of you reading this on Facebook, I encourage you to join the group READ THE BIBLE THROUGH IN 2010. Administered by John Parker, this group has already been a blessing untold. Even if you don't want to read the Bible with us, join just for the daily thoughts, comments and other inspirational information you can find there. You will be blessed, I promise.

We have 51 amazing weeks ahead of us. Let us determine now to use them to their fullest. As the saying goes, prepare for the future, but live each day as if it were your last.

God bless!