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

25 February 2010

Too much “noise”


I am a “gadget junkie”. I love my iPod, my Netbook, my BlackBerry – oops, my Motorola Cliq – all the gadgets that keep me plugged in, connected, and entertained. I have been known to turn around and go home if I have left any of the above at home – and this is even during a simple run to the grocery store. And being in places where one or the above doesn’t work as it should (like my grandmother’s house in Florida) drives me absolutely bonkers. With all the gadgets comes all the things they keep my plugged into: Facebook, email (of which I have several accounts), NPR, music, calendar reminders – the list goes on and on. Five years ago, most of these things didn’t even exist and yet now, I (along with LOTS of my friends – and you know who you are) cannot survive. (or so we believe).

Lately though, I am getting tired of all the “noise” associated with being as plugged in as I am. More and more I find myself turning the ringer off my phone because I am irritated by the buzzing that occurs to let me know I have yet another incoming text or Facebook message. I have missed many phone calls as a result. I recently made a young friend of mine laugh when, while trying to set up a time to talk with her, I told her that I needed to make a note to myself to remember to turn the ringer back on my phone so that I would not miss her call at the appointed time. Yeah, it can be THAT bad sometimes. So, how do I balance my “need to know” with my “need for peace and quiet”?

I haven’t found the proper balance yet. I am still searching, so if anyone has any ideas, feel free to share. But don’t get crazy with it. My dad doesn’t believe in text messages, but that is not an option for me. Sometimes, I truly don’t have time for a telephone conversation – and neither do my friends. A text message helps us get the important information across quickly (if I can remember to read the message.) My mom doesn’t believe in Facebook, but again, my addiction won’t let me (easily) give that up. I am learning how to slowly carve out blocks of “quiet time” just for me. I don’t turn on the computer in the morning until AFTER I’ve had my morning devotion. I don’t log on to Facebook as early (or as often) as I used to. The iPod is not clicked on while I’m still bleary-eyed. And the ringer on the phone doesn’t get turned on before noon. That’s just how I’m handling it … for now.

I wonder how God handles all the “noise” He hears – from our prayers, petitions, and complaints. Because of Who He is, I know He handles it a lot better than I would. He is ALWAYS available and His “phone” is never turned off. And ain’t that good news?

Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith

24 February 2010

Your name is safe…


There are a lot of people talking about “trust” these days. Lots of my Facebook friends are putting up quotes about “trust” as their status comments. People are talking about whether we can “trust the government” or not – whether we can “trust” what we are hearing from the news media (and I personally think that depends on which news sources you rely on). Can we “trust” the food we eat, the products we buy, and in light of the recent Toyota debacle, the cars we drive? And then there is always the question of “trust” when it comes to our interpersonal relationships with family, loved ones, co-workers and friends.

I recently had a conversation where the name of a friend I hadn’t spoken to in a long time came up. After finishing my conversation, I sent my friend a text message telling him that I had been talking about him and it made me think of him and that I hoped he was doing well. It was not very long afterwards that I got a phone call from this person wanting to know who I was talking to you and what I had said. I shook it off at the time, but when I thought about it later, my feelings were a little hurt. Did he not “trust” that anytime I spoke of him, it would complimentary and with love? Of course it would – he’s my friend. And shouldn’t it be that way with all true friends?

I read a quote once (and I wish I knew it or where I saw it so that I could quote it properly, but) it said something like: I know you are my friend because I know I can trust my name in your mouth. Wow. Think about that, because that is powerful. I have friends in my life that I KNOW I can trust them with my name in their mouths. Unfortunately, I also have acquaintances and relationships where that is not a statement I can make with the same level of certainty. And in all honesty, there are some relationships that I have in my life that I have to bite my tongue in order for my words to be trustworthy. I am not always successful in my attempts to bite my tongue, but I am working on that. (Pray for a sista, will ya?).

There is a book (that I have never read, but that my brother keeps pressing me to read) called THE FOUR AGREEMENTS. Apparently, there are four things you should do in your life in order to be happy and successful. One of the agreements is that you should be “impeccable with your words.” I take this to mean, say what you mean and mean what you say. But I also think it means that, when talking about someone, you shouldn’t say anything behind their backs that you couldn’t (or wouldn’t) say to their face. Let your words be “trustworthy” at all times.

In a world that has proven that we need to be careful where we put our trust, I want to remind you that there is one thing you can ALWAYS trust in no matter what, where or how: the love of God is constant and true. You can ALWAYS trust your name in His mouth. You can ALWAYS trust your life in His Hands.

Be blessed.


© 2010 Kristina E. Smith

23 February 2010

When God sends potatoes…


Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE to cook. It is just a part of who I am and what I do. I am often told that I need to author a cookbook, but since I never go by recipes, I don’t know how that will ever be possible. Part of my joy in cooking comes from all the smells associated with cooking: garlic, onions, cilantro, basil, tomatoes – ahh, I could go on and on and on. Smells are a big part of cooking in my book. So imagine my disgust when I came home one night only to smell rotten potatoes in our pantry. Yuck! That smell ranks right up there on the “worst smell list” with burnt popcorn or scorched collard greens.

I immediately located the culprit of the smell: a 5 pound bag of potatoes that had been brought inside from the screened in porch and that slowly began to rot. Unnoticed by me, the potatoes had been sitting in their mesh bag and since air was not filtering around them as it should, they had begun to spoil – and as the saying goes: one bad apple (or in this case, potato) can spoil the whole bunch. I quickly tossed the entire bag into the garbage and relocated the smelly mess to the garage to await pickup by the trash men the following day.

This now left me in a quandary. No potatoes in the house. And can I just say this: there are some things that are just staples in my kitchen and pantry – potatoes ranks right up there on the list. But because of my work schedule and other appointments on the calendar, I wouldn’t be able to go by the farmers market or grocery store until the weekend. What’s a cook to do? I wish I could say I prayed about it, but I didn’t. I just resigned myself to no potatoes – which meant no hash browns for breakfast – and don’t you know that was my immediate craving?

Fast forward a few days. Due to a busy schedule on the weekend, I was not able to swing by the farmers market or grocery store and the house is still without potatoes. On Tuesday morning, we attend a Power Hour prayer meeting at my church. After the meeting, I am standing around talking to some of the other attendees and happen to glance out into the church lobby and guess what I see? You got it – bags and bags of potatoes! One of the elders in our church who works with our community service outreach program had been given 2 large bags, each containing approximately five 5 pound bags of potatoes and he’d brought them to the church to share with the members attending the Power Hour. Talk about an unexpected blessing.

As my mother grabbed a bag of potatoes for our house, I couldn’t help but think of God’s promise found in Isaiah 65:24: Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear. We serve a mighty good God, y’all. Sometimes He will send you potatoes, even when you haven’t asked for them…yet.

And guess what I’m having for breakfast…(smile)

Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith

22 February 2010

“For I know the plans I have for you, saith the Lord…”


My maternal grandmother came from a large family of siblings. 5 girls, 3 boys. I cannot imagine growing up in such a large family since my running joke with my siblings, even to this day is, “You know I shoulda been an only child, right?” But my grandmother, Thelma, was one of eight children growing up in Charleston, SC in early 1900s. I remember as a child journeying to the family homestead and visiting my great-grandmother Rachel and my Aunt Inez in Charleston. (The house was always “spooky” to me, but hey, I was just a child and you go where your parents take you.)

I didn’t really get to “know” my other grandaunts and uncles until I was grown. Of course, I knew of them, but didn’t really get to “know” them until I was older. The first real interaction I remember with them was at a family reunion we had in Atlanta in 1990, and then a subsequent family reunion we had in Charleston, SC in 1997. It was at the Charleston reunion that I was drawn to and intrigued by my grandmother’s sister, Dolly. A short little lady with sparkling eyes and a sweet high pitched voice, she regaled us with stories from her childhood – and surprised us with her skills at the Electric Slide on our family dinner cruise. I remember remarking to her (and my Aunt Julie, her partner in crime and ace buddy), “I didn’t know you knew how to dance, Aunt Dolly!” “There’s a lot you don’t know about me, young lady”, she responded with a laugh and a smile. She endeared me to her from that moment on. After all, she’s a woman after my own heart.

Yesterday, I got a phone call that my dear Aunt Dolly has been diagnosed with breast cancer, and has decided to undergo a radical mastectomy next week to rid her body of the disease. When I heard the news from my mother, I wondered “Why?” and “Why now?” Not that it’s any better to get the diagnosis when you are younger, but surely, when you have already lived 70+ years, shouldn’t you be spared the drama, expense and invasion of such a surgery? Shouldn’t your golden years be just that: golden?

As always, when faced with a sad situation, I turn to my favorite Bible promise and passage, Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” (KJV) I may not understand why this is happening to my Aunt Dolly now – but God does. I may not want this to be going on in her life – and ultimately, in the lives of her husband, daughter and the rest of the extended family – but I have to trust that God knows best and that He loves her more than I ever can and that His plan for her life is perfect.

I solicit your prayers next Tuesday as she goes underneath the surgeon’s knife. Pray for her faith and trust in the God she has loved and proclaimed to love all her life. Pray even now that the doctors, nurses and technicians will be successful in removing all traces of the cancer and that she will not have to undergo radiation and/or chemotherapy treatments. Pray for the peace of her husband Palmer, her daughter Gwen and the rest of the family. But most importantly, pray that God’s will be done in this situation. Pray that the outcome of this surgery will be an ongoing praise report to His love, mercy and care for His children. I thank you and my family thanks you in advance.

Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith

PS: The above picture shows my grandmother’s siblings who are still with us: from left to right: Aunt Julie, Aunt Dolly, Uncle Billy, Aunt Glo and Aunt Dolly’s husband, Uncle Palmer. What a great looking group of “old folks”!

21 February 2010

Gather up a stone…


Have you ever noticed that life is a series of random moments strung together to form a day, a week, a month, a year? Random moments that if you don’t take the time to cherish them – record them in your memory banks – they will fade away and soon be forgotten. Maybe that is why I take my camera with me EVERYWHERE I go – so I can record the moments of my life for future reflection and recollection. My friends indulge me when I bring out my camera and start shooting pictures (although lately, I get more and more admonishments: Don’t put this up on Facebook! What is THAT about?). But it is important for me to record the moments, because life is fleeting and recording the good times helps me through the bad times.

In the movie, WITH HONORS, Monty (Brendan Fraser) sees Simon (Joe Pesci) playing with some rocks that he keeps in a little felt bag. When Monty asks him what the rocks are for, Simon replies that they represent his life and proceeds to tell a story about some of the rocks in his hand. It had become his habit that whenever he was in a “situation”, he’d pick up a rock and put it in his bag. Now, at the end of his life, when he wanted to remember something, he could look at the rock and remember his first date with his wife, or a friend who died in the war, etc.

In Joshua 4:5-8, God commands the children of Israel as they are crossing over Jordan, to stop in the middle of the river and pick up 12 stones (one for every tribe). And they were to keep these stones as a memorial for when they crossed into the Promised Land. Generations later, when their children saw the stones and asked, “what is the meaning of this stone?”, they’d have to tell the story of their redemption and of God’s deliverance and that way, the memory would never fade.

I encourage you to record the moments, take the pictures, gather up your stones. As sure as the sun will rise in the east and set in the west, there will be days ahead when you will be glad you did.

Be blessed.


© 2010 Kristina E. Smith

20 February 2010

Resilience


I am NOT a gardener. Playing in the dirt has never appealed to me, and the whole idea of worms, fertilizer, and mud makes me want to go running inside the house for safety. My mother, however, is a flower fan, so in front of our house, there is a patch of dirt that she plays in every autumn in the hopes of spring bloomings of daffodils, lilies, tulips and other colorful “weeds”. Last week, when winter weather brought snow to our area, my mother expressed sorrow at the potential loss of her budding plants. “They are never gonna make it through this cold weather, and with the snow – yeah, I guess I won’t have any flowers this spring”, she lamented.

Imagine my surprise when I drove into our driveway this afternoon and saw blooming daffodils! A total of five hardy flowers not only survived the storm, but seven days later, brought a smile to my face with their bright yellow bell-shaped flowers. Some were pointing towards the sky, while others had bells that were drooping down towards the ground. There are probably more flowers to come based on the buds on the stems. This will make my mother very happy.

I thought about those daffodils as I later ate my Sabbath dinner. What a testament to their will to survive. Despite the cold weather and the unseasonable snow, they stood tall and fulfilled their purpose in life. Last week, they shivered as the winds buffeted them and the snow blew around them, cooling their roots and freezing their buds. This week, in defiance to what happened in the past, they lifted their heads to the sun and proclaimed, “Yep, I made it through and I’m still standing…so whatcha got to say about that?”

We can be like the daffodils. Buffeted in our daily lives by the strong cold winds of strife, joblessness, family discord, economic struggles – we can be tempted to just bow down, give up and give in. Say, “ok, you win. I’m not gonna fight any more.” Or, we can buckle down and know that eventually the storm will pass over. (Our winter wonderland of snowiness lasted less than 24 hours.) We can hold on to the fact that, while we may be experiencing a “winter” in our lives right now, “spring” is coming. But even before it comes, we can, like the daffodil, lift our heads to the sky and proclaim, “I’m still here and I’m still standing.” It is our choice.

Be blessed.

PS: The picture of the daffodil above is from our yard.
© 2010 Kristina E. Smith

19 February 2010

Picking Your Battles


My mother and I live together and have managed to do this (most of the time, successfully) for the last 12½ years. As a result, I have LOTS of humorous stories I could tell about how we survive, manage and interact with each other. (I do a lot of praying, and so does she!) One of the things I have learned is that the wisest course of action is sometimes as simple as knowing which battles are worth fighting and which are not. I am not always wise, and we will leave it at that. But sometimes I am wise, and as a result, I am blessed. Case in point: today.

In my house, on the kitchen wall, there is a large wall calendar. On this calendar, I faithfully note all appointments, engagements and reminders that are vital to the smooth running of Chateau Smith-Mouzon (the name we christened the house with almost 13 years ago). I pay more attention to the details on the calendar, but my mother is slowly coming around to looking at the calendar before she makes commitments for herself, for me, or for us jointly. So, she knew that I had a 1:00p appointment today to meet a girlfriend for lunch. That did not stop her from asking me to run a small errand for her on my way to my appointment.

Let me pause here and say for the record: I didn’t mind running the errand for her. We didn’t fuss about it, I didn’t throw a temper tantrum. I initially told her that I could not do it because of time constraints, but as I moved through the morning, I realized that I would have a small, miniscule, minute, tiny amount of time to run this errand for her. The “battle” over the errand was because: (1) the errand was one that she had been saying she would take care of for at least 3 weeks, so there was no urgency to the errand and it did NOT have to be completed TODAY; (2) the errand would take me a good 10 miles out of my way on a day when she knew I was already pressed for time; and (3) frankly, I just didn’t want to do it! I wanted to go meet my girlfriend as scheduled without having to rush around to make the appointment. BUT because I am a “good daughter” (most of the time), I caved and made the drive to the ABC Book & Bible House per her request.

Second pause in the story: I have several Facebook friends that I haven’t talked to in a while. Over the last few days, I have randomly sent out some emails to some of these people saying, “Hey, I was just thinking about you. Hope you are ok. Write when you get a chance.” Some people responded immediately, but some (who obviously are not Facebook addicts like me) have yet to respond. One of those friends who I had not yet heard from is a former elementary school classmate – actually, she was a senior when I was in 7th grade, but that is our connection. I have not seen this person in over a decade, so I was very excited when I found her on Facebook and she accepted my friend request. Imagine my joy when I walked into the ABC Book & Bible House and there she was! In person, in the flesh, within hugging distance!

We had a great long conversation, catching up with each other. I was able to express to her face-to-face my sympathies about a recent loss of a loved one, and she shared with me some insight on a prayer call/Bible study that she thought might be of interest to me. In the end, an errand that I grumbled about doing turned into a bright spot in my day and a blessing that I wasn’t even aware I needed. But God knew, and He placed her there, just for me, at just the right time, in just the right place.

As I drove away from the store, I called my mother and told her about the chance encounter I had with this friend. And while I stopped short of apologizing for doing the errand with a less than willing heart and spirit, I did tell my beautiful mother that I was glad for the blessing I received. And all because I picked my battle wisely … this time.

Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith

18 February 2010

100 Days


It was November 2009 that a Facebook friend challenged me (and all her other friends) to write what they were thankful for as their status every day. Her challenge, in commemoration of the Thanksgiving holiday, was supposed to be for the month of November only. I remember thinking, “Wow. That is a great idea” and so, I took up the challenge. I figured it would be easy to do and fun to look back at later, so not only did I post my thanks as status updates, I kept a log of my posts. It became a habit and such a great reminder of God’s goodness to me, that I kept up the practice long after Thanksgiving and the challenge was ended. Tomorrow will mark day 100 of my “thankful” notes to the Lord. It has been interesting. In re-reading my notes in order to write THIS blog, I was reminded again of God’s faithfulness to me through the last 100 days.

Some of the entries are funny: Day 10: Wed, Nov 18th: "Today I am thankful that:...my co-workers helped my personal caloric intake by devouring the box of dessert treats a friend dropped off at my house on yesterday." And Day 26: Friday, December 4, 2009: "Today I am thankful that..." I was able to help stimulate the economy...and re-stock my closet at the same time!"

Some were tributes to friends who were/are doing great things, not only for me, but for others: Day 48: Sabbath, December 26: "Today I am thankful for...John E Parker, who following the unction of the Holy Spirit, has started the FB Group, READ THE BIBLE THROUGH IN 2010. Praying for him as he allows God to minister to the masses, including me, throughout the coming year." And Day 96: Monday, February 15, 2010: "Today I am thankful for...the book FRAGMENTS and the reminder to stop and pause every once in a while to enjoy the small things around me."

There were entries to thank Him for safe travels and commutes. Day 36: Monday, December 14, 2009: "Today I am thankful for...a commute through the fog ... and not the rain!" and Day 78: Thursday, January 28, 2010: "Today I am thankful that...angels work overtime and don't take coffee breaks early in the morning. "I got angels watching over me" Amen, y'all !!"

Entries that said “Thanks” for healing during illnesses – mine and those of my friends. Day 38: Wednesday, December 16, 2009: "Today I am thankful that...my 19 year old friend who had brain surgery last Wednesday went home today - healed by the Great Physician. Y'all betta praise Him!" and Day 33: Friday, December 11, 2009: "Today I am thankful that...my grandmother is "busting out" of rehab (with her doctor's permission). Still a road of recovery ahead, but at least she will be home. She is so excited! Thank you for all the prayers and love shown during this time."

Veiled comments about blessings that only I understood what I really meant. Day 86: Friday, February 5, 2010: "Today I am thankful that...sometimes you can move past a past mistake and come out on the other side a bigger and better person."

This project has been easy (because there is ALWAYS something you can say “thank you” for) and yet difficult as well. The commitment to find the time to do it every day has been challenging and there have been days that I “missed” and had to go back and fill in a “thanks”, but fortunately, those have been few and far between. So, now the question is, will I keep recording my “thank you”s? Probably. Going back to re-read the entries blessed me in ways I cannot explain. It reminded me of God’s love, goodness and mercy to me, my loved ones, family and friends since November 10, 2009. And sometimes, you need the reminders.

In case you were wondering: my favorite “thank you” post? The one when I really didn’t know what to say: Day 40: Friday, December 18, 2009: "Today I am thankful for...shoot! What is there NOT to be grateful / thankful for...?"

Be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith

17 February 2010

Confirmation and an Unexpected Blessing


Have you ever been in a situation where God just confirmed that you are where you are SUPPOSED to be and that He is moving and present in your life? When the universe seems to keep saying to you, “yep, you are on the right path”? When all your conversations with people seem to revolve around similar themes and points? It is an amazing thing when it happens and lately, that has been happening more and more for me. I am so thankful for the experience and the reminders that I am in the care and arms of a loving God - and pray you are experiencing the same thing in your life.

I have been pretty forthcoming about my goal to read through the Bible this year. So far, I have been faithful with my daily readings. (Praise God!) Some days, it has been easier than others. Re-reading some of my favorite childhood Bible stories: piece of cake. Other times: Lawd hav mercy! Talk about boring! (although, should I really say anything coming from God is “boring”? Seems kinda disrespectful – and that is sooo NOT my desire, but … some of it, well, there is just no other word in my vocabulary.) I felt this way as I was reading about the very exact, precise, “this is the way I want it done” instructions God gave the children of Israel as they were building the sanctuary in the wilderness. I mean really. Was it really that important that this peg be made of brass while another was made of gold? Or that the table for the showbread be on the right side of the courtyard and the candlesticks on the left? (or is it the other way around?) See what I mean? Tedious and what is the point? I was questioning all of this as I read through the chapters regarding the sanctuary earlier. Yesterday, it all was revealed to me in a way I never expected and wasn’t anticipating. But to explain what I mean by "the confirmation and the blessing", I have to go all around the mulberry bush, so bear with me.

A couple of weeks ago, our pastor announced a new way that we are going to handle the midweek prayer meeting at our church. In an effort to encourage people to attend prayer meeting just like we attend divine worship services on Sabbath, for the next couple of weeks, the church, as a whole, would be meeting in smaller groups within the homes of members as we revamped the prayer meeting service. The pastor encouraged us that midweek prayer service (a time to come aside and study, pray, and encourage each other half way through the week) was just as important a meeting in the church as coming together on Sabbath morning. Ok, I get that, but some of us (me, for example!) work an evening shift and cannot come to prayer meeting at 7:00p on Wednesdays. Fortunately, it is a blessing of my church that we have a “Power Hour” prayer meeting on Tuesday mornings at 11:00a. This service is primarily attended by our senior citizens who are unable to or do not like to drive at night. After discussing it with my mom, we made a decision that we were going to try to attend this service on a weekly basis. Mom used to attend regulary, but hadn't been in a while, but yesterday was my first time going and hanging out with the Jet Setters. Let me just say: what a blessing those old people were to me!

First of all, they greeted me like a rock star! I’m telling you – I have always been aware of the value of having friendships with the older members of my church, but yesterday, it was confirmed again. If you are ever going through something, let the Jet Setters know and those old people will PRAY FOR YOU! I cannot tell you how many times they have prayed me through some stuff. When I had surgery in 2004, almost every day, I got a phone call, card or visit from someone in the Jet Setters club. I appreciated it then, and have never forgotten it. And old folks are funny, y’all. Listening to their stories and life experiences has added a richness to my life and my Christian experience in ways I cannot explain. The wisdom they can share with you, if you will just sit down and listen to them: nothing can compare. If you don’t have an old person in your life, I encourage you to “adopt” one – your life will be all the richer for it.

Anyway, back to the Power Hour, the confirmation and the blessing. Guess what they were studying? Yep. The sanctuary. Unh huh. Yesterday was the closing study on the sanctuary. One of the local elders went through a PowerPoint presentation prepared by another one of the members. Those slides brought the whole “boring” subject to life. I always knew that the sanctuary service, with all the animal sacrifices and priestly duties, pointed to Christ, His sacrifice and His priestly duties as He intercedes before His Father on our behalf – but let me tell you: I gained new insight and wisdom about it yesterday and I just cannot tell it all! I wish I could share the PowerPoint presentation with all of you. I am working to get a copy of it and if I do, and you want it, just let me know. It will BLOW YOU AWAY! God is a God of order and NOTHING He does is happenstance. Everything He does has a meaning and purpose.

And guess what? That includes every little thing going on in your life and mine. Every blessing: there is a reason for it. I believe each blessing to you gives you an opportunity to be a blessing to someone else. (Pay it forward). Every trial: there is a reason for it. There is a lesson to be learned and then hopefully shared with someone else who may go or be going through the same or similar trial. Every hurt, triumph, loss, gain, smile or tear – again, there is a reason for it. I need to remember that - especially as I continue to read through the “boring” parts of the Bible.

Be blessed.

(c) 2010 Kristina E. Smith

15 February 2010

Another milestone reached…


Not that anyone is counting but Blogspot, but this marks the 200th blog that I have written since I began this experiment on March 27, 2008. That’s a lot of writing! Some of you have been following my musings since the first one entitled WHY I CHOSE THIS NAME FOR MY BLOG. I thank you for your love, support and comments. Some only became aware of my writing when I started “feeding” my blog to my Facebook page as NOTES and again, the feedback has been invaluable.

I have written about … well, everything. Personal struggles and accomplishments. Random views on current local, national and worldwide events. I have expressed my thoughts and opinions on everything from holidays, love, and my relationship struggles with family, friends and God. Sometimes I've written with great gravity and tears behind the writings, but for the most part, I have tried to inject some laughs and humor along the way. Most importantly, I strive with most writings to point to my Heavenly Father, because it is because of Him that I am who I am – His Favorite Child.

Finding topics to write about hasn’t always been easy. This fact constantly surprises me because I ALWAYS have something to say about something. However, I have found that, in an effort to be aware of my audience, and to make sure that feelings aren’t hurt or that what I am saying is not misinterpreted: I sometimes have to shift, adjust and change what I TRULY want to say. Some days, it is easy to write: I wake up and the blog is fully developed in my head and all I have to do is put it down on paper. Sometimes, I think I know what I am going to say, but I'll start writing and the blog takes on a life of its own. And then there are the days when I got nothing. Boot up the computer and the cursor just blinks at me – waiting, waiting, waiting. In the past, the waiting cursor would discourage me and I’d walk away and just not write – some times for days or weeks on end. A prime example was 2009, which was a challenging year for me on sooo many levels. I found that I just shut down and could not put the hurt and pain to paper. In fact, I only wrote 66 blogs in the entire year. Looking back, that was not the correct way to respond to the challenges and I wonder about the lessons learned that were not.

It has only been in the last few weeks that I have made a dedicated effort to write every day. I am praying that God will guide my steps as I continue this journey. I am confident that my words are not going out into a vacuum because the feedback I get from my readers tells me that someone is reading and listening to what I am rambling about. I pray every day that someone is blessed by something I write. And as I write, I pray that I grow closer to my Father as He shows me His love for me. I solicit your prayers as I continue this journey and as I make plans to follow His leading and promptings for me to step up my game. (But more about that later)

Again, thank you for reading and listening. And a special thanks for those of you who take the time to respond and comment and encourage. It means more than you know. Stay tuned and as always,

Be blessed.

PS: If you “missed” some of the earlier writings and want to check them out, the website for the blog is www.godsfavoritechildspeaks.blogspot.com.

14 February 2010

Hallmark’s Favorite Holiday


February 14. A day that most men and women, whether they will admit it or not, dread. The dread starts early … in grade school ... when everyone passes out Valentine’s Day cards. You wait in anticipation to see if the little boy or girl you like will hand you a card asking you to be their Valentine – or dreading that the fat, stinky kid that NO ONE wants for a Valentine will be fixated on you and follow you around all day asking you to be his (or hers). [No offense to "fat, stinky kids", but you know what I'm saying and you know who that kid was from your childhood] Nowadays, I think parents avoid all this by buying Valentines for the entire class – but then again, why is THAT even necessary?

And it doesn’t get any better as you get older. In high school, I know guys (and girls) who wished that Valentine’s Day fell on the weekend so that the pressure of “so what did he get you?” or “what did you get her?” wouldn’t be the question you were asked 5 million times a day. I always felt bad for my guy friends because the pressure truly was on them to “get it right”. It couldn’t be too small a gesture because then “you don’t love me”, but it also couldn’t be too grandiose a thing because then “how am I supposed to get candy, flowers, the teddy bear and the balloons home on the bus and train?” (Hey, I went to high school in NYC – most kids didn’t have cars or drive to school!)

College: the horror of the Valentines Day dance. Who is going to ask you? And if the first guy that asks you really isn't the guy that you want to ask you - do you say "no" hoping that the guy you want to ask you will - and risk the chance that NO ONE ELSE will ask you and then you'll have to wander around campus the night of the banquet, lost and forlorn. OR worse, how 'bout being the guy who has to ask the girl of his dreams of right now to the banquet, only to be shot down cause he ain't the guy of her dreams? Too much pressure, I tell you.

Fast forward to adulthood and working in corporate America. If you are single and of a certain age, the torture of seeing all the flowers delivered to the married, engaged or “in a relationship” women to the office is indescribable. Everyone wants to show off their flowers and chocolates while giving you the look of pity because you didn’t get any. Or “worse”, all you get is the carnations that the little flower vendor sells for $1 in the lobby of your office building that your other single girlfriends send you so you have a flower (or two) on your desk. But God help you, if you are a woman involved with a guy who either refuses to play the Valentine’s Day game – or who breaks up with you right before the “holiday” so that he doesn’t have to go through the motions. (And don’t play, some of you guys know EXACTLY what I’m talking about!) There are more breakups in relationships in the early part of February than any other time of the year.

It’s just too much pressure for one, arbitrarily picked day of the year, if you ask me. (And yes, I know the history that Feb 14 was the birthday of St. Valentine for whom the holiday is name, but you get my point) Here’s my philosophy – and I have been told I “think like a man” in this regard: If you LOVE me, show me 365 days a year (366 in leap years). Don’t show it ONLY on February 14th because that is the day that Hallmark decided was the day you should show love. Randomly send me flowers on April 20th when I am not expecting to get flowers. (and guys: here’s a tip: roses aren’t the only flower out there – be creative and adventurous: tulips, lilies, bird of paradise, even sunflowers are nice and sweet (and cheaper usually)). Send a card expressing your love and desire that we stay together forever on July 9th. And teddy bears: they are good ANY day of the year in my book. That would mean so much more (to me) than the “forced” outpouring in mid-February. But then I admit, I’m a little bit different than most women.

On a side note, today would have been my grandfather’s 91st birthday. I asked him once how he felt about always having to give the women in his life gifts on HIS birthday. After all, your birthday is supposed to be the one day in the year when the focus is on YOU – yet, that NEVER happened to him. It was always about the women in his life: his momma, Ma Beaulah, and my grandmother, Miss T, and then later: ME! (hahaha) He just laughed quietly and said, “Ah sweetie-face (yes, that was his nickname for me), it’s my joy to show my love to all of you. It never phased me at all.” What a sweet sweet man.

Have a happy Valentine’s Day. Happy Anniversary to those of you celebrating such an event today. I encourage you to show love to those you love. But when the sun sets, and the day is over, continue to show the love. That’s all I’m saying.

Be blessed.

13 February 2010

Snow bound Sabbath


It snowed in Atlanta on yesterday. And let me say: while the 3 inches we received is NOTHING compared to the 54 inches some of my loved ones and friends in the Maryland and Virginia areas have experienced in the last week – the impact has been equally “devastating” because Atlanta – the city and its citizens – ain’t prepared for no snow!!! Even though, at least once a year, we experience snow dustings which paralyze the city – the municipalities that run things have not invested in the proper equipment to get rid of the snow or, more importantly, the ice that occurs when said snow melts and then refreezes. I think I heard a report that there are a total of 9 trucks to service the entire city, and when snow fell last month, half of those trucks were not in proper working condition. Like I said, the city ain't prepared for snow.

To make matters worse, you have the idiot drivers (yes! I called them IDIOTS!) who feel like even though it is snowing, they should still continue to drive at high speeds, ducking in and out of slow moving traffic, and then ultimately causing accidents that slow down traffic to complete stop standstills. Is it truly worth risking your life (and more importantly, MY life) just to get there five minutes faster than everyone else? I don’t think so.

I am blessed to have a work schedule where I don’t work on Fridays, so when the snow started (around 1:30p), I was safely ensconced in my warm house, looking at the falling snow from the inside. Being a beach bunny at heart, I had NO plans to go out in the foolishness, until I was reminded by my Facebook friends to take pictures. Oh yeah. I might want to record this for prosperity. So, around 2:30p, I bundled up and took a bunch of pictures of the 'beginning to fall' snow and how it impacted the landscape of my neighborhood. Wanna see the pictures? If you are on Facebook, they are posted as an album. If you are not, get in touch with me and I’ll send you a link to the album. I went back inside thinking, my job is done. I can take any further pictures from inside.

Two and a half hours later, at the prompting of my child … I mean, my mother, I was back outside. “It looks like a Christmas card down the street. You should go get a picture of that.” Now, it is WELL documented how I feel about Christmas. WELL documented. Going outside at 5:00p, to take pictures of a “Christmas Wonderland” did not do ANYTHING to change my feelings about that holiday in December. (hahaha) In my opinion, snow is only pretty on postcards and from inside the warmth of a cozy house. I guess it never occurred to me that in order to get those pictures for the postcard, some idiot (this time, me) has to go stand out there in the cold, wind and snow to get the shot! Fifteen minutes of photographic excitement turned in a second album (because, after all, I am a wannabe photographer at heart). This album is also posted on my Facebook page. Most of the shots still show a pristine landscape of the neighborhood because my neighbors who did have to work, had not yet come home. (Once they did come home, my mom lost interest in looking outside because “her” snow had been defiled by tire tracks and footprints and it no longer “looked pretty”).

NOTE TO READERS: There are a whole LOT of object lessons and spiritual points I could (and want to) make here, but for sake of the length of this post, I'll refrain (for now). But if the snow don't melt over the weekend, guess what I'll be talking about. Stay tuned.

It’s Sabbath morning now. I just looked out the window. Snow is still on the ground. For safety reasons, church has been canceled. (another object lesson for a later date.) I was not planning to go driving in the snow anyway, so this decision by our pastor and the local elder board didn't impact me at all. Even though I learned to drive in snow while living in New York City, this ain’t NYC. And while I may be confident in MY abilities, I am not as confident in the abilities of the other Atlanta drivers. Furthermore, it is not safe or sensible to be out there until the roads are clear…and right now, the pretty snow on top may be hiding treacherous ice beneath – and no matter how good a driver you think you are, NOBODY can drive on ice!!!

So, I’m staying in today. Using the good common sense God gave me. Booting up the computer and finding a church service online – preferably in some warm(er) climate – where I can enjoy the blessings of the Lord. And I’ll look out at the snow…maybe.

Be blessed.

12 February 2010

Attitude is paramount…


We are halfway through the second month of the year/decade we know as “2010”. Hard to believe this is day 43! A lot of people made resolutions as to what they would do or stop doing in their lives this year. I wonder how many resolutions have now bitten the dust of reality and no longer are pursued or actively implemented as planned. I stopped making resolutions a few years ago. I only make ONE resolution a year – and actually for the last three years, it has been the same one because I have not yet perfected every aspect of my resolution. But before the current ongoing resolution, I made a resolution that I think I have “perfected”: Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. It is an underlying principle in my life. Be thankful – for EVERYTHING – things that are perceived as “good” and things that are perceived as “bad”. If God allows it to come into your life, my life – then there is a reason for it, and ultimately, that reason is for your/my good. That’s my philosophy on life and how I try to live it. Not always successfully, but I would say 90% of the time or more, I’m there.

I have found that having that “attitude” has colored how I see a lot of other things in life as well – and how my life has been enriched because of it. See, I truly believe your “attitude” about life determines the type of life you will have. YOU control the beauty and value of your life by your attitude towards it. May sound “Pollyanna-ish” in theory, but in principle, it can works wonders. I believe this wholeheartedly and apparently, more and more people a lot smarter than me are coming to the same conclusion. A very good friend of mine just sent me an article written in SUCCESS magazine in August 2009 by Jim Rohn. This article is entitled: TAKING CONTROL OF YOUR ATTITUDE: Your happiness is in your hands. I believe you can find the article on Mr. Rohn’s website (jimrohn.com). Or you can contact me and I’ll shoot you a copy via email or snail mail. But here are some of the points he makes that resonated with me:

1. Attitude determines how much of the future we are allowed to see. It decides the size of our dreams and influences our determination when we are faced with new challenges. No other person on earth has dominion over our attitude….no one can control our attitude unless we VOLUNTARILY surrender that control.

2. If we care at all about ourselves, then we must accept full responsibility for our own feelings. We must learn to guard against those feelings that have the capacity to lead our attitude down the wrong path, and to strengthen those feelings that can lead us confidently into a better future.

3. When you have the right attitude, you can do the remarkable.

4. With the right attitude, human beings can move mountains. With the wrong attitude, they can be crushed by the smallest grain of sand.

Wow.

Let me say again: I truly believe that having the right attitude as you go through life will determine the type of life you have. I will admit, there will be good days when this is an easy philosophy to keep in place. It is very easy to be positive when the sun is shining, there’s money in the bank, your family and loved ones are healthy, employed and self-sufficient. Yeah, it’s easy then. It’s a little harder to do when it’s storming outside and in, when there is chaos in all your relationships - important or superficial, and you have just received yet another notice from the bank that your account is overdrawn … again! – harder to see the “bright side” of the picture then, isn’t it? Been there, done that. But I have also found that if your underlying principle is “cultivate an attitude of gratitude”, you don’t wallow in the “here and now” of the immediate circumstance. You look to the God of the bigger picture and say, “Ok, God. What is the lesson You want me to learn here? Because I want to get past this so I can say ‘thank you’ for the lesson learned.” At least, that is what I (am learning to) do.

It ain’t always easy. For the record, let me say this: I am not making judgments or making light of people who have medical conditions that make it hard for them to develop or maintain positive outlooks on life. Depression, bipolar conditions, low serotonin levels – lots of things can impact the way we “deal” and how we look at life. I’m just saying: wherever possible, if you can – look at the bright side. Develop the skills you need so that you can look at things in a positive light instead of searching for and seeking out the negative aspects of every situation. I bet you a dollar, it will change your life. (smile)

Have a fabulous weekend and a magnificient Sabbath.

Be blessed.

11 February 2010

Taking Inventory


Last week, a family in my church suffered a total loss to their home due to an overnight fire. Like most of us, they did not keep good records of their possessions and in the aftermath of the fire, were finding it hard to move forward with making insurance claims that would help restore them back to some sense of normalcy. As a result of this calamity, a friend of mine from church, who works for FEMA, sent out an email admonishing everyone that we should take inventory of our homes and gave a checklist of how we could start the process. (If you want a copy of this checklist, let me know and I’ll get it to you – good useful information for every responsible adult to have, know and implement). I am a packrat, so this is a daunting task to put on my to-do list – but it must be done. Maybe this weekend – on Valentine’s Day. (hahaha)

Today I began reading the book of Numbers in the Bible. The book starts out with God commanding Moses to take a census of the people. In other words, to take “inventory” of who was in the camp. This would enable Moses to know the number of troops he had in case of war or conflict – and because God divided the camp up into clans and tribes, Moses also knew who was where within the camp. Moses was commanded only to count and record the names of young men (20 and older) who were able to go to war. The number came to over 600,000 men. Can you IMAGINE how tedious and boring that job was?

God instructed the people of Israel to do the tedious work of taking a census so that they could capture the bigger picture. When our daily tasks seem dull or tedious, identifying the purpose and importance of our work can breathe new life into an otherwise boring job. Just as Moses needed to know the number of men available for duty in order to do God’s work, so also we need to take inventory of our resources. Setting aside time to take a “census” of all you have – your possessions, relationships, spiritual condition, use of time, goals – will help you serve God more effectively and prevent the boredom that often accompanies tedious tasks. (Touchpoint Bible, p. 117)

I love when God “confirms” things for me. What I keep hearing Him tell me is that I need to stop and take inventory - of my life, my relationships, my spiritual walk. I desire to be within His will at all times (not always successful at doing it, but I am striving to that end). Maybe you need to stop and do this too. Let’s encourage and support each other as we move forward to this end.

By the way, the U.S. government will be “taking inventory” as well. You may have seen the commercials. This year, I believe beginning later this month, the government will be taking a census of the American people. I hope you will participate and be counted. Another tedious, boring task: to fill out the questionnaire or answer the questions posed. (Do they still have census takers that come to your house to ask the questions? I don’t know.) Either way, I hope you will stand up and be counted. It is important. Just a short public service announcement.

Be blessed.

10 February 2010

Friendships are Important


Friendships are important.

That is a broad blanket statement, but it is a paramount foundation of my life. My friends are important to me. I applaud their accomplishments, I support their dreams, I hurt when they hurt, and I spend hours on my knees and in my head talking to God about them. In an age of fast-paced technology and the instant gratification found in emails, text messages and Facebook posts, I still strive to take time and write notes, send cards and care packages, pick up the phone and call – because my friendships are important to me. In a world of busy schedules and upside down work schedules, I still try to reach out and make lunch appointments and weekend brunch dates and to invite people over for Sabbath dinners, because friendships are important to me. Granted, I don’t all of these things all the time – and I have a LOOOONG list of people who I need to make those kinds of dates with, but I am slowly working through the address book and putting dates on the calendar, so be patient with me.

I have learned over the years the value of TRUE friendships and unfortunately, more recently, the hurt of “less than truthful” friendships. Let me stop and say, I have been blessed with some amazing friends in my life: past and current. I have a friend who literally calls me EVERY weekday just to say Hello and encourage me to “make something positive happen today.” He does this every day without fail. I have an insomniac friend who, any morning that I need it, will sit up with me on my early morning drive home and talk me home just to make sure my sleepiness doesn’t result in accident or injury. I have a friend who proclaims that she has “the best girlfriends in the world” and am blessed that she counts me in the number. I have more than one friend that, because of shared experiences together, we can talk on the phone, say one word or key phrase, and INSTANTLY know what the other is thinking and feeling – there is no need for expansion or explanation – we just KNOW each other. And I am blessed with friendships that call me on my foolishness – and how many of us will admit that we need friends like that as well. Yes, I am blessed with great friendships. And I strive to be a good friend in return.

But recently, I have also been deeply wounded and hurt by people that I consider my “close circle” of friends. People that I feel should KNOW me - my heart, my motives, my intentions – despite any evidence to the contrary. People who, when told a story about me that does not sound like something I would think, say or do, should immediately stand up for me and defend my name and character. “No, I know her and I know that is not something she would think, say or do.” People who should know my heart, even if they cannot see my hand. People who I have been there for in the past, over and over again – even when the relationship has not been 100% reciprocal. People who do not seem to value my friendship to them in the same way that I value their friendship to me. It is painful because friendships are important to me.

Last year, I lost a lot of people to death. It seemed like every time I turned around, I was receiving word of yet another person, important in my life, that was gone. I cannot tell you how many funerals and memorial services I attended last year – I stopped counting when it got past 20. But the constant losses opened up my eyes to the value of the relationships I have now, and midway through last year, I made up in my mind that while there are some relationships I am “stuck” with – there were a lot of “dead weight” relationships in my life as well. Friendships that were not as supportive or nurturing as I needed or expected them to be, and I proclaimed loudly and pubicly that I was going to “purge” all such relationships from my life. I even wrote a blog about it. (THE VALUE OF MY FRIENDSHIP)

Around the time I was coming to this conclusion, God opened a door to a job opportunity at work. After much prayer and consideration, I decided to take this job – even though it would mean working an alternative work schedule that would turn my life upside down. I recently looked at the “pros and cons” sheet I produced while making this decision and one of the top items on my “cons” side was “changes to many friendships because of my new schedule.” I knew, even then, that some of my friendships would dissolve and fade away because they were superficial or based on convenience. What I didn’t realize was how quickly some of those friendships would dissolve. Friendship is a two-way street and I QUICKLY discovered that, in some relationships, I was the only one doing the work to maintain the friendship. As a result, some of those “friendships” were the first to be purged. The last six months have been a painful process and admittedly, I didn’t purge as deeply as I could have because, as stated above, friendships are important.

We have all heard the adage that people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. I have all of those types of relationships going on simultaneously in my life – and am sure that I am a “reason, season or lifetime” in a bunch of peoples’ lives as well. The thing I have had to learn (cause I can only speak for myself) is that I need to be honest enough to know where each relationship is and then figure out when/if it is time to let go of the relationship. To use a popular theatre metaphor: Everyone doesn’t deserve to be in the front row of my life – some people don’t even deserve a ticket to the show. And just because at one point, you had an “all access” pass – even those can be revoked.

People have heard me make the following statement before “just because we have been friends for forever doesn’t mean we have to be friends forever.” For my own piece of mind, there are some relationships/friendships that I need to step back from, set up new boundaries and new expectations. It sounds harsh to me, cause I don’t take my friendships lightly. But this is necessary - and it is Biblical … remember when Jesus told His disciples to “brush the dust off [their] feet” – sometimes, you just gotta keep it moving – move on from a relationship that no longer fulfills and nourishes and find a new path in your life without that person. For me, it won’t be easy because (say it with me) friendships are important. But then again, so am I.

Be blessed.

09 February 2010

Find your voice…


“Lift every voice and sing, ‘Til earth and heaven ring…
Ring with the harmonies of liberty
Let our rejoicing rise, High as the listening skies
Let it resound, Loud as the roaring seas..”

These words are the opening stanza of a song known as the Negro National Anthem. I love the words of this song which speak of the triumphs of the African-American people as they overcame slavery, hardships, the Jim Crow laws, the unfairness and unkind treatment of the pre-Civil Rights era – a time that in our current state of prosperity (and yes, in comparison, even with the recession, we (as a people) are much more prosperous than most of our slave ancestors could have ever imagined being), we forget. We place all this in the back burners of our minds – until February of every year. Black History month. A month to celebrate the triumphs, contributions, and impact that coloreds, Negros, Blacks, African-Americans have made on this country. There are heroes that are pulled out and admired every year: Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Harriett Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and now, of course, Michelle and Barack Obama. The achievements of these people are great and should be remembered.

But there are “little” people throughout history who made impact – and there are those of us making impact today who are often unsung and unnoticed by popular media or the history books. Like Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, NJ, who took the initiative to turn his city around because he believed in the greatness of his city and the people who lived there. Like Mary Eliza Church Terrell, who in 1896 founded the National Association of Colored Women to assist colored women with financial assistance and a voice on the national stage for issues like segregation, bans to voting, economic inequality and lynching. And like Robert S. Abbott, who founded the Black newspaper, The Chicago Defender, because he felt the Black population in the Chicago area needed a stage in which to air their grievances.

We each can make an impact with our voices. Some of us have already found our voices and are doing the things about which we are passionate. I think of my good friend, Victoria Joiner Miller, and the work she and her staff are doing at WJOU out of Huntsville, AL. I think of my college classmate, Hallerin Hill, and his radio ministry and work out of Knoxville, TN. Of course, I think of my godsister, Linda Anderson, and her work as a lay minister and motivational speaker as well as her new found acclaim as author of a devotional book, FRAGMENTS. I think of my girlfriend, Hillary Roy, who, in her quest for love and all its many facets, co-authored a book entitled JOURNEYS OF LOVE, VOICES OF THE HEART that is an awesome and inspiring read, even for the cynical and love-challenged reader, like me. And then there is my girl DJ, who inspires me with her “foodie” blog and the unending battle we suffer when our love of food impacts our health, fitness and mental well-being. I think of my cousin, David Watkins, and my friends, Rashaad Pressley and Jeff Taylor, who every Friday night work with the young people in our church, honing their voices to sing praises to our Lord and Savior. I see them encourage unlikely candidates to sing solos and as a congregation member, I cannot tell you how many times I have been blessed by the music of our youth choir, Majestic, since these men took over the leadership of the choir. I think of my young(er) friends who are making an impact with their blogs and other online musings: Theron Thomas, Edward “IV” Goodman, Joice Kelly … making a statement now in their corner of the world as they matriculate through college before they “blow up” in whatever professional fields they choose to pursue. I have faith in them and will be watching.

We all have a voice. We all have a passion. God made each of us with a purpose. Our duty and responsibility is to discover what that purpose is and then to fearlessly step out, speak up, write, sing, mentor, blog, take pictures, advocate, preach, whatever it is…do it. And even if you don’t live to see the fruits of your labors, know that God is recording it in heaven – and His reward system is out of this world! (hahaha)

Be blessed.

08 February 2010

Calendars, Scheduling and Syncing…


I have previously confessed my fascination with calendars and schedules and my inherent desire to be “organized”. I must now confess that sometimes I feel this is an unobtainable, impossible, “pie in the sky” wish, goal and dream. Trying to reduce life into one hour blocks of time – and keeping track of it all – doesn’t seem realistic and do-able at times. And I am just a busy single woman – I don’t know how moms of active children do it. I read my friends’ blogs and Facebook comments about forgotten recitals, missed homework deadlines, scheduling conflicts between football games for their sons and dance classes for their daughters – and think, “Whew! And I thought my scheduling mishaps were frightening.”

I must not be the only one who faces this challenge. After all, there is a million dollar business out there to help us over-scheduled people try to keep track of what is going on (or should be going on) in our lives. You have paper calendars, you have online calendars, you have Outlook and Google calendars, DayTimers and appointment books and planners and random scraps of paper marked “to do” … the list goes on and on. And I think I have tried all of these methods – sometimes simultaneously – and still dropped the ball on a lunch date or a play or a deadline at church or work. Because what good is it to have a social engagement noted on your work calendar when you are at home? And vice versa. So, I am striving to have one main calendar that I can go to as my reference, my source, my guide.

Right now, my calendar of choice is my Google calendar. In theory, once I get all my other calendars linked up to this calendar: all of my appointments, social engagements, church duties, birthday reminders, financial deadlines – all the minutiae of my life – will be available in one place and accessible no matter where I am. See, Google will sync to my Outlook calendars at home and work. It will sync to my new Motorola Cliq phone. It will not sync with the big paper wall calendar at home, but theoretically, everything on the wall calendar is in one (or more) of my Outlook calendars anyway. That’s the theory – let’s see how it works…once I get it set up. Yeah, that’s the hard part.

It gets a little overwhelming – juggling work and home and church and a social life. Coordinating my appointments and the appointments of my mother. Carving out time to meet with family and friends and to grow my personal relationships. Finding time for devotion and study of God’s Word. And then there are the things that never (or rarely) make the calendar that still have to be done: grocery shopping, laundry, cooking, cleaning … the list goes on and on.

I wonder if God has a “master calendar”. Since He knows all things, I doubt that His is written down anywhere, but if He did, how big would His calendar have to be? And what would be on it? “Send a rainbow to Atlanta to remind My child of My promise”; “Set the sun and moon and stars in place”; “Respond to prayer requests”; “Go to the operating room and perform a miracle of healing”; “Go to the funeral home and pour out comfort and peace”; “Keep the planets moving in their rightful orbits in space”; “Prepare mansions for all My children”; and somewhere on the calendar, “Go and get My children and bring them home” …

You know, when I think about God’s calendar – mine doesn’t seem so hectic and overwhelming anymore. What about yours?

Be blessed.

07 February 2010

“There’s an app for that…”


After YEARS of being a BlackBerry girl, I just switched over to an android based phone, the Motorola Cliq, and am learning my way around the touch screen and slide keyboard and all this other new technology now available at my fingertips. For my friends on the “dark side” (iPhone aficionados), I am one step closer to “crossing over”, but I am still resistant. I have a personal grudge against AT&T and right now, they are the only phone company supporting the iPhone, so … no iPhone for me in my near future. (And yes, I know Verizon is supposed to be next to support the iPhone, but I am a T-Mobile girl. I have my loyalties!)

The most fun part of my new phone is the app market….(cue background harps!) We've all seen the commercials: "Wanna know what the latest review of today's hit movie is - there's an app for that." Can I just say: what a joy it has been to go “shopping” on my phone! I mean, there is EVERYTHING you can imagine available in the app market: ringtones, movie quotes, clip art, games, movie showtimes, restaurant reviews, star gazer information, breaking news reports – you name it, and there is probably an app out there for it. And most apps are FREE!!! Yes, I said it, FREE. And even the ones that cost are usually only $1 or less. And there are “meaningful” apps as well – I downloaded the King James version of the Bible to my phone – haven’t checked it out for use-ability yet, but its there if I need it. And there is a Conflict of the Ages book series available as an app as well (and all my Adventist friends go…Oooo!) Gotta get that as well.

I was recently at a wedding reception where a table of friends were comparing, swapping and discussing the apps on their phones. (Hey! the wedding party was taking pictures and the buffet wasn't open yet - we had to do SOMETHING to pass the time!) It was funny to be a part of the conversation and to see what apps people have on their phones. Some people are very secretive about their apps, others more open and sharing. People were sharing apps (or at least sharing the news about their favorite apps) and I hear that you can even sync your phones in such a way that you can easily swap apps from one phone to another. And this love of apps impacts young and old. This past Sabbath, I handed over my phone to a young(er) friend of mine and he immediately started scrolling through my apps page to see what apps I had. Not that I have anything to hide, but for a second I was like, “uh…what are you doing?” “I’m just looking at your apps, Miss Kristina” Like I said, glad I didn’t have anything on there that he couldn’t see…well, maybe there is that one app that I’m glad he didn’t see…hahaha

Got me to thinking though: what if there was an app for salvation? Would we all be quick to download that to our phones? Would we spread the good news to our family and friends? Would we share the app with others? Would we sync our phones to ensure that our friends and loved ones had the app on their phones as well – because what would heaven be like without our friends and loved ones there? Why don’t we get as excited about sharing God’s love with our friends who may not know Him yet as we do about the latest new technological gadget or idea or app? I just wonder. God’s love is free and available to all of us – whether we have an iPhone or some other droid-software-based phone. All you need to do to connect with Him is think a thought, say a prayer, read your Bible – He is always there, always available, always free and there are never any downloading issues or problems. Just a thought.

Be blessed.

06 February 2010

A Chance Encounter

We have all heard the saying, “You only have one chance to make a first impression” – sometimes, it is a good one. Some times, not so good. And if it is “less than”, some times you are giving the chance to rectify it – most times, you are not – because, once that opinion or impression is formed, it is hard to change it. Think about it: you go to a restaurant for the first time and the food is horrible, the wait staff is rude and the bill was more than you expected to pay – what are the chances that you will go back to that restaurant? Yeah, slim to none. (or maybe that is just me) The same can be true of our interactions with people – mess up the first time you meet someone, and you may spend a lifetime trying to rectify a bad opinion.

Once a month, on the first Sabbath, it is my job, duty and honor to serve as a hostess at my church. You know – the greeter – that person that you meet at the door as you enter the church. That person (in my opinion) sets the tone for your worship experience. I happen to work with a great group of people: shout outs to Anthony Roy, Sheryl Rogers and my mother. Each person who serves with me is a valuable team member and I enjoy serving with them each month. As a group, we strive to greet everyone coming through the door by name (if possible) and with a bulletin, a smile, a hug, and/or a warm greeting. For visitors to the church, wendirect them to the bathrooms, the mother’s room, or even the pastor’s study when necessary. We strive to control the level of conversation in the lobby (not always easy) and direct the flow of traffic into the sanctuary. We each have our “designated” stations and we work well together as a team. (My opinion, again)

It was during one of these Sabbaths on duty that a young mother and her two children visited the church for the first time. I was on duty in the lobby and I vaguely remember her stating to me that she was visiting for the first time. I saw that she had her hands a little full as she tried to rein in her kids (both under the age of 6, I’m guessing) and find out where the bathrooms were and where her children needed to be for Sabbath School. I vaguely remember directing her to the Cradle Roll and Kindergarten classrooms, and may have even walked her downstairs to escort her daughter to her Sabbath School class. I really don’t remember clearly. I was just doing my job for the day.

Today, I saw that same young mother and her two children in the Mothers Room and she said to me, “you know, you are the reason I keep coming back to Decatur for church.” “Huh? What are you talking about?” “You might not remember, but the first time I came to this church, I asked you a whole lot of questions and needed a lot of assistance, and you were so kind and patient with me and I really appreciated it and that is why I came back to this church.” WOW! I played it off and told her I was probably on duty that day and that she caught me on a “good day” – to which some of my friends in the room, hearing this, quickly agreed. I don’t know what THAT was about (rolling my eyes and shaking my head), but anyway…what a nice thing for someone to say.

There is another old saying, “You may be the only Bible someone ever reads”. You never know how your interaction with someone impacts them. As Christians, we are always to reflect Christ. Not always easy – everyone has a bad day every now and again. But as a rule, when people meet you, they should know there is “something” about you that is different – that you are kind, loving, patient, and caring. I am glad that an encounter I don’t remember in great detail was such a positive one for this young mother and her two children. I am glad that they have found a church home at my church. I pray that our friendship in Christ will grow as we await His soon return. And I pray that all the first impressions you (and I) make in the coming week will be positive ones.

Be blessed.

05 February 2010

10 days straight...


I like to write. I like expressing my thoughts and opinions of a variety of subjects and that is primarily why I started writing a journal when I was a child, and why I write my blog. I have been told (several times) that I have a book inside of me and asked when am I going to write it. And you know, the thought percolates in my mind every once in a while. But writers have to write - most tell you they write every day - and the "pressure" of writing every day has always been a challenge for me. ALWAYS. Who has the time? And what can you POSSIBLY write about every single day?

Today marks the tenth day in a row that I have taken netbook in hand and typed something. As my cousin Kelly so eloquently pointed out to me ("That's all?"), it is not a major, overwhelming, give the girl a prize, number of days - but for me, it is significant because it is something that has never been done - or at least, hasn't been done in a LONG while. Life gets in the way of "meaningless" pursuits like writing. I mean, someone has to go to work, cook the meals, pay the bill, buy the shoes...ok, maybe not...but carving out time each day to write: that takes conscious effort and dedication.

So, I've changed my routine. In the morning, after I've had my devotion for the day, before I get out of bed, before I log on to Facebook, before I turn on the phone - I write. Sometimes, the idea of what to write about is there: right in the forefront, already fully developed; other times, I have a “theme” and I just go from there (those writings usually take twists and turns of their own – it’s fascinating); and then, there are mornings like today when I have absolutely NO IDEA what to write about – so I just pick a subject and run with it. It makes for an interesting hodgepodge of thoughts and ideas though and I, personally, love it.

It takes dedication to do this writing thing every day. There are mornings when I feel rushed – too many things on tap to do to stop and spend 20 minutes writing – and am tempted to put it off until later in the day. How many of you know that if I do that – the writing doesn’t get done? And if you miss one day, it is easy to miss the next and then another – and before you know it, a month has gone by and you get a call from your father saying, “I notice you haven’t written any blogs lately” – and then the guilt starts. (Sorry, maybe that only happens to me – hahaha)

And have you seen the competition? EVERYBODY has a blog these days. Or at least it seems that way. And with all the "noise" out there, what value does anything I might say have? I have several friends who write blogs - and I read their stuff and sometimes am "intimidated" by the wealth of talent out there. Some write very simple, short (yeah, I haven't mastered THAT yet), meaningful, walk away with something messages that stick with me throughout the day. Others, like me, write stories, mini-books, with a theme/thought for the day. All have a place. All have value.

I have found that dedication to the task and perseverance no matter what each have their reward. Sometimes my “written ramblings” touch a chord in someone else – the human experience is linked in fascinating ways – and they are blessed. And sometimes, they are moved to make a comment - sometimes positive, occasionally negative, but ALL feedback is good (my opinion). When someone writes and tells me their feelings about something I wrote, I am blessed by it - so keep the comments coming.

I’ma keep on writing. And the daily toll and count of blogs will (prayerfully) continue to grow. I'm only 10 submissions from blog #200!! That is amazing to me - and it challenges me to stay on track. However, if I miss a day, will you encourage (and not condemn) a sista to get back on track? Thanks in advance.

Be blessed – and have a great, fabulous, marvelous weekend.

04 February 2010

Cloud formations…


I am a big fan of sunrises…and sunsets. On vacation, I have been known to get up EARLY in the morning, grab my camera and go find a spot to watch the sun come over the horizon. It is always remarkable to me to see the light change in the sky as the sun makes its appearance for the day – usually the colors of the sunrise are paler, more subtle and harder to capture on film. The subtle transformation from darkness to pale greys and pinks and blues – just beautiful to behold. And the world is usually quiet then – watching the sunrise tends to be a solitary event as most people are still snoozing, especially when you are on vacation.

Sunsets, on the other hand, are usually more vibrant in color. Bold reds, vibrant oranges and sometimes bright pinks dominate the sky at the end of the day. Nothing like being at a beach, looking over some water, as the sun slowly descends and kisses the horizon goodnight. (Did you know that there is an ancient saying that if you listen really really closely as the sun sets, you can hear a “click” as it hits the horizon? Yeah, I’ve never heard it, but I think that is fascinating.) While on vacation, you can usually get someone to stop for a moment and watch the sunset with you – but oftentimes, back at home, in the everyday hustle and bustle of life: sunsets are missed and/or ignored.

Unless they are just amazingly spectacular or different. I work on the 40th floor of a high rise building in a metropolitan city. The orientation of the windows of my office is westward, so every night (if I take the time), I can see the sun set. Now, with all the building clutter, I cannot see the sun hit the horizon, but I can see and appreciate the colorful display that God blesses us with each evening…if I take time to get up and look out the window. My desk does not have a window view, so unless I get up, I usually miss it. UNLESS one of my co-workers (who are blessed with windows) makes some noise about the sunset. That is what happened on yesterday. “Come see! You have GOT to see this sky tonight!”, my co-worker exclaimed. Dutifully, I got up to see what he was talking about and grabbed my camera. The attached picture is the result. (If you look really closely at the picture, you can see my camera reflected in the window)

When you see something like that – how can you NOT believe in the awesome and creative power of God? And that LITERALLY was my immediate reaction to seeing this cloud formation in the sky through my office window. God is amazing – He puts this in the sky for our enjoyment and I wondered how many people, driving home on I-75/85 last night, even took the time to look up and notice? How many were too busy concentrating on what their plans were for the evening, or yelling at their kids in the backseat, or being despondent over something that happened at work – to even notice? I know I have been guilty of not noticing. I wonder if it makes God sad that we take sunsets for granted?

We should really pay more attention to the sky. Take the time to stop and look up every once in a while. Bible tells me that there will be a day (soon, I hope) when everyone is gonna be looking up – whether they consciously want to or not. There is going to be a cloud formation that shows up in the eastern sky that is gonna be unlike any other cloud formation ever formed in the history of man. See, this cloud won’t be made up of water particles, but of angels – coming to take us home to live with the Lord. The Bible tells us that EVERY EYE is gonna see this cloud coming…EVERY person will stop and take notice. Some with great anticipation – some with fear and trembling. I’m praying to be a part of the first group. I’m praying you are too. Maybe stopping to look at sunrises and sunsets is one way to prepare for that event. Maybe.

Be blessed.

03 February 2010

“We are the world…”


A girlfriend of mine told me last night that musical artists have come together to make a remake of the 1985 charity phenomenon WE ARE THE WORLD in order to raise money for the victims of the Haiti earthquake. I had a couple of reactions to the news: the first, “Man, I’m getting old! Was that song really released 25 years ago?”; the second, “are they bringing back all the ‘old’ musicians who sang in the original song or using the talents of the newer musicians of today?” and lastly, “Snoop Dogg, LL Cool J - a rap section? Really?” Hmm. The list of artists to participate in this project is … amazing and I look forward to the premiere of the song and video during the Winter Olympics.

I remember 25 years ago watching the video of this song play – and tearing up at the lyrics – looking at all the musicians who took the time out to record what became a historical, musical, phenomenon that raised money for hunger relief in Africa. The simple words “We Are the World” reminded everyone that we are all in this together. If we have been blessed with abundance, we have a duty to help our brothers and sisters who have less. And people stepped up to the plate. In 1985, the song was played constantly on the radio and made it to #1 on the charts – but the charity founded in support of the song raised over $30 million for the hunger relief effort. $30 million is a lot of money today – but it was a LOT of money a quarter of a decade ago.

But the lesson inherent in this type of “coming together for the common good of all people” is not a new thing. We should be doing it in our every day lives. Especially now when our neighbors and friends (and even some of us) are going through tough economic times and trials. Those of us blessed with jobs and/or financial security have a responsibility to those who may not be in the same position. I am not saying you have to give a handout to EVERYONE who asks, but we have to show compassion in all of our dealings with people. I recently received an email from a dear friend and his family where they just laid it on the line about their financial struggles and where their family is right now. And while they asked for prayers, they were also asking for tangible assistance. My heart was immediately moved to respond and after a telephone conversation with the wife, a plan was put in place to assist them.

There are simple things you can do to assist your friends who may be struggling right now. Things that can be done anonymously and/or without stepping on prideful toes (‘cause yes, it is hard to admit that you are in a position of need – been there, done that). Here are some simple suggestions: cook a meal and invite them over to eat. Once they come over, open up your pantry and refrigerator and invite them to “go shopping” in your house. When you are shopping, if something is on sale, pick up extra and then give the extras to the one in need. Send coupons in the mail of things you know they enjoy. Gift cards (gas, prepaid, grocery) make excellent gifts that can be slipped into a “thinking of you” card – or can be sent anonymously. And include fun stuff too: just because you are going through a rough time doesn’t mean you don’t like to still do fun stuff: send movie ticket passes or information about free events going on around the city or host a game night at your house.

Most importantly, once you do these things: keep it to yourself. You don’t have to go around bragging about what you did and how you helped out and how so-and-so would have surely perished without your assistance and contribution to their life. The Bible admonishes us that we shouldn’t always let our right hand know what our left is doing. And encourages us that what we do in private, God sees and honors. When … if He feels you need public recognition for your actions, He will make that come to pass. Until then, do it from your heart and believe me, as you bless others, you will be blessed. I’m a witness to that.

We are the world. It starts with you. It starts with me. I encourage you to be blessed…and then, be a blessing.