When we see something awesome, we gaze. We don’t stare as if we’re trying to figure it out. We behold it. We soak it in. That’s what I did this week on my way home.
I gazed at twinkling stars for about 5 minutes at a desolate exit ramp. Don’t worry; I was safe. But boy did it feel good to just sit and watch.
When is the last time you star gazed? What about gazing at the Stars in your life? Those special people are worthy of beholding. They are amazing creations fashioned with the amazing hands of an amazing God. What would it cost you to acknowledge their greatness for a few minutes?
Thursday, November 23, 2017 = Thanksgiving. You know what that means. Football, Food, and Shopping were the menu for most people. Me? I was just glad to make it to the day.
I didn’t know what it would be like having the first family holiday without my father. Would I write about my feelings I dreaded to experience? Would I cry and sluggishly get dressed? Would I opt out of attending Thanksgiving dinner altogether? All three options were fair game.
I was used to monitoring his plate and cleaning his face. Massaging his neck as his head sunk into deep slumber. Holding his hand so his spirit knew I was there. Making sure he was positioned in the car just right so the seat belt would go over him properly. He wasn’t there, but I was making it. It was then, at the dinner table when I looked over at the chair where he would normally sit, that I said to myself – “Thanks for letting us have him.”
He was truly a gift, and the gift wasn’t taken away. He continues to live every time I think about him.
I hope you had a great Thanksgiving, Sweethearts. A special prayer went to heaven for those who are missing loved ones too. I got your back.
In one day, I felt loved, supportive, proud, sad, exhausted and grateful. On, Sunday, November 12th, I was full.
My agenda consisted of waking up to a smile from being enveloped with Love from God Himself. I was daughter that felt safe in the arms of her Father. It was good to be alive. It was good to be loved.
I went to church with my teammate/sorority sister. It was her last Sunday due to a move and I promised that I would attend with her and it was nice to be in her world and nice to see people I knew that attended the same place of worship. I love it when someone finds their fellowship home and I love being supportive.
Next, I drove to my late grandparents’ church for their 85th Church Anniversary Program. My grandmother was a pillar in her community and at her church. One of the members invited me to attend and I was so glad to be able to make it, even for an hour. I sat on the back pew and listened to the guest minister preach with heart and conviction. I kept glancing over the pews in the front right wing seeing my grandmother’s presence sitting proudly at the progress of the church’s history. I was proudright along with her. Proud of her legacy and her investment in me. That was the piano and organ that I learned to play… the choir stand my elementary school friends sang in… the fellowship hall I where I ate with cousins. It made me proud to just be in the building. It made me proud to represent my family.
My father’s hospice service memorial program was the next stop. A sweet friend gave me all the giggles and endorphins I needed before I approached the door where the service was held. The company that helped our family had been more than gracious during the last few weeks of my father’s life and I was happy to support my mother in person. But my mind wasn’t ready to travel down memory lane. My glass of emotions was getting full and I didn’t know it. My mother asked me to light the candle when his name was called, and I felt the loss of his presence. I wanted him, not the sound of his name. It was odd to be in that space, in this sweet mourning society, for someone that seemed so super human. I didn’t feel that being sad was a transparent option at the moment, so I tucked it away and saved it for later.
Next up was dress rehearsal for my Troupe’s performance. Wow. What a change of pace. Music, laughter, people… it was a barrage of sensation and I was in the middle of it. Final touches, band run-throughs, and technical notes were in full effect. I was exhaustedby the end of the night, but I sure was grateful. My team was ready and in sync with each other. I was doing what I loved in the place I wanted to be with the people I wanted to be with – not to mention, it was the Founders’ Day of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. (#EEYIP). Yeah, I was full.
Have you ever had one of those fulldays? I compartmentalize pretty well so the residue doesn’t transfer to the next place, but it doesn’t come without some pause buttons along the way. How do you handle multiple emotional states in a day?
I have the best creative team in the world. Give us space and time and we do extraordinary things, like create moving water, tumultuous trees, and a visual Bible story in seconds.
On last Sunday afternoon and into late that evening, my performing arts troupe, Workmanship Incorporated, rehearsed for our upcoming performance at the UAB Gospel Choir Reunion Concert to be held at the Alys Stephens Center on Monday, November 13, 2017. I was torn between physical pain and supernatural will, but I made it. One of my teammates lives in another state and she drove into town to join us. Other teammates came from church, work, and family duties to give their sacrifice of dance as well. To check out a short clip of the rehearsal, click here.
At one point in the rehearsal, I stepped back and just marveled at how fantastic they were. Willing and diligent to get it right so God could have complete control on performance day. No one complained. No one was belittled. No one was anxious to leave. We were on one accord. Everyone was pressing toward the mark and it was beautiful. I loved beholding the glory of God working in them behind-the-scenes.
In a bigger perspective, many will never see what we go through at home in order to produce the fruit on our limbs in life. We have structured areas and danger zones where we get our lives together before heading out into the world. In the performing arts arena, the audience may see 10 minutes of creativity for 10 hours of preparation. It’s a labor of love and a gritty process, but well worth it in the end. That’s the essence of your life, your relationships, your dreams, your responsibilities. If you do it right, grit becomes part of your daily diet. It’s good for you and for those around you. It doesn’t let you quit or whine. It pulls you over the humps and having others with you that chew on the same stuff makes all the difference.
So, there I was… with a front row seat looking at a dream realized from my 14-year-old self. Rehearsing with all of the energy we could muster. Laughing through trials and sharing our victories. And I realized then,the aftertaste of grit tastes good.
Peace & Thanks for listening!
And to my Troupe, Workmanship Incorporated, thank you for being my muse. I love y’all. Xoxo
His goodness is not contingent upon my feelings, reactions, or justifications. He is good. Period. And His mercy endureth forever (Psalm 136:1) – which means whatever I’m going through, whenever I’m going through, wherever I’m going through it, He is still good. He transcends time and situation. There is nothing too far where God’s mercy can’t reach; He’s already tHEre. There is nothing too hard for Him where His goodness will not reign.
I have a list of things that went wrong in the last 7 days, but I also have a list of what went right. They combat each other, and then they balance each other out.
How can you laugh when your license plate was stolen off of your car in broad daylight? You get grateful that your car wasn’t missing too.
How do you not be upset that you have to work on your day off? You become grateful for employment.
How do you breathe when someone leaves your life? You begin to thank God for the time you had, knowing that s/he could have been born on the other side of the world and you would have missed out on her/his awesomeness.
I’ve grown in this area, this No Matter What territory. Life’s challenges continue to improve my agility. I’d like to think that I came straight from heaven with it, but it was forged in me through my parents and mentors that served as night lights along the way.
CAUTION: This No Matter What mentality is not for the faint of heart. It comes with distractions sprinkled like glitter on a carpeted floor, luring your focus away from your purpose as you attempt to walk forward. It has splashes of anger as you recall the sacrifices you made while fighting your demons… alone. It requires you to acknowledge the bad stuff, square up, and say that all things work together for the good of those that love the Lord and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)… and believeit. It means crying tears of courage that leak from your broken heart.
No Matter What takes practice. Expect bruises. Check for sores. They’ll be there, but keep walking, keep praying, and keep fasting from the feast of your fears.
Believe, no matter what.
Give, no matter what.
Go,no matter what.
Love, no matter what.
And while you’re standing there braving the winds or bent over wounded from the blows, remember that Jesus is Immanuel. He is with you… all the time…
In March of this year, I witnessed a beautiful blend of past and present.
My fraternity brother was inducted into the Birmingham Police Department after graduating from the academy. Be it that he is my little-big brother (he towers over my 5′ 4.75″ frame), I was so proud when he shared the news and invited me to come to the ceremony. I had attended military and law enforcement events before, but unfortunately, most of them were funerals. This time, I was in the audience as a member of his support team and I was honored.
Upon arrival to the designated room, it was clear that this was a family affair. Many people were just as excited as I was to be present for such a special occasion. Even children that may not have understood the magnitude of the moment were all smiles seeing blue police uniforms everywhere. There were sergeants, captains, and city officials waiting to honor the new graduates with their new badges and priceless pearls of wisdom. I found a good seat and waited with expectation for what would happen next. I’m used to attending events by myself, but this time was different. I felt out of place for a minute because I wasn’t with a pack. I didn’t come with a 15-piece cheering section, yet, I cleaned the lens on my camera phone and checked the front and back doors in hopes of getting a good photo on the first try.
Families and friends were buzzing around like paparazzi waiting for celebrities. To us, that’s exactly what they were. They were our heroes and we were excited to see their debut. A short, petite female officer stood in front of the cadets like she was six-foot-four.
I was immediately proud and wanted to raise my feminist fist. As she gave orders to stand at attention, recite prolific promises, and march forward, the room absorbed her command as well. Everyone seemed to be at spiritual attention.My fraternity brother marched by and I felt the wind of his maturity and pride. He was seriously motivated to uphold his vow and relieved to finish the first leg of his municipal marathon.
Then, I got emotional.
The tears almost fell from my face when I realized that this was the same police department that tormented his ancestors – with water and other horrible means. The history of what I was watching flooded my soul and a for a brief moment, I was overwhelmed. Dignity arose within me for every freedom fighter, foot soldier, and civil rights leader ever to grace this God-given Earth. I didn’t feel militant. I felt regal. I felt strong. I felt American.
My vision was blurry with teary pride as I watched each officer shake hands with superior officers, some of which were parents initiating their children with a solemn salute. This was the dream so many slaves had when their heads fell upon their pillows made of dirty cotton after surviving lashings they didn’t deserve. When marchers stood in the streets locked arm-in-arm, singing and chanting in the blood thirsty faces of evil, they imagined a mirror image of liberated faces on the other side.
I couldn’t breathe easy for a few minutes. I couldn’t stop smiling for a few more. There was nothing more American than what I was feeling right then – a dream realized and an honor bestowed simultaneously. I blessed them in my spirit and prayed over their lives… that God would keep them alert and ready at every call and even when no one was in need of their service. I prayed for protection and wisdom and for the understanding of their families.
The fact that something so ugly could metamorphosize into this moment made me proud to the recipient of their sacrifices. It was a social spit in the face of centuries of racial injustice.
I was grateful. I was proud. I was filled.
What makes you “feel” American? Moments like these do it for me.
I started this trip a bit frustrated with some people that call themselves family. I had been holding in a tumultuous flow of words for a month. Unfortunately, people think that if you aren’t belligerent with colorful words spewing out of your mouth, that you aren’t capable of being such.
I am happy to inform you that this is a lie.
That quiet worker or positive colleague can be a verbal assassin with plenty of artillery to annihilate your heart, but s/he chooses to smile instead. This was me for a month. The term familyalmost seemed like a dirty word that left a foul taste in my mouth when I thought of certain people. My circle got smaller and some of it was involuntary. So, needless to say, I was a bit sour.
Then, my sorority sister lent her ear for what was a tsunami of “Why’s,” “That’s just stupid’s,” and “I just don’t get it’s.” My mother and aunt tag-teamed to ensure I caught my twilight bus. A sisterfriend checked for my travel safety. Another sisterfriend of 16 years transported me to bookstores to inquire about book signing opportunities before heading to the airport. One sorority sister extended herself with hospitality that could rival any 4-star hotel and another sorority sister hosted me with patience as I coordinated visits with DMV friends I had not seen in 10+ years. My big brother is always one call away when I’m in town and my mother always seals my travel with prayer.
God brought all of these things back to my remembrance and I am sitting on this plane marveled at how flimsy we view the f-word and how quickly we throw it away.
It doesn’t matter how many genetic or blended relatives you have,
God will give you the family to fill the need.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs indicates that we have a need for connectedness, love, and belonging. I believe that wholeheartedly. After all, God created the ultimate adoption plan through His Son, so we were not designed to “do life” alone. Even a mean senior citizen has a plant, pet, or something they can care for!
You may have a sister you can’t stand or an uncle you don’t like, but for every ounce of foolishness and discord, there is someone spiritually-related for you to do life together.
I am so grateful for my family. I pray that God shines a spotlight on yours so you can see them when life gets dim, too. Don’t think that familyjust encompasses a group with the same last name. It just requires a circle of people connected by the same heartstrings.
It’s easy to convince yourself that they will be around forever. The truth is too ugly to face, but it’s not leaving. When it involves losing someone you love, truth’s invisibility materializes. If the loss is in the news, somehow it’s a foreign reality. But when death walks down your street, the chill is undeniable.
On Monday, November 14th, I watched the honor of others and beamed. It was a beautiful thing to behold. Smiles. Love. Respect. Humility. Priceless jewels that anyone would be proud to wear.
That night, I wondered how often people leave this world without knowing how pivotal they are to the lives they’ve touched. Not to sound sad or morbid, but why wait until a memorial to cry out words that could have saved a life? Created a blanket of joy? Soothed a scared spirit?
On a day like today, thanksgiving is in the air and it would behoove us to be grateful for each other and everything that brings. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Honor anyone you deem important and cherish the memories of those that are no longer in your life.Delaying your love expression inadvertently says that you take them for granted and that their presence does not take precedence in your life. That’s not what you want to say… repeatedly. Extend honor. Extend your voice. Extend your hand. Extend yourself. Today.
I thank military service personnel every time I get the chance. Today was another day to pay my Vet-debt-a.
My prayer today was that love would override hate. And it did. I saw kindness everywhere toward veterans and civilians alike. At the grocery store, the crosswalk, the parking lot…everywhere I went today. For every neurotic comment I heard this week, there was someone smashing the paradigm instead of shifting it around and casting the blame.
I am grateful today for the balance of selflessness to the cancerous ignorance that abides nearby. Most importantly, the Vet-debt-a is an extension of ourselves that is required. I cherish the truth that individuals decided to live a life of selflessness as a profession.
It is our duty to pay our bills of gratitude and honor to these angels in uniform. If you see a soldier, say thank you. I’ve never had one disregarded. Your payment will go further than you think, so pay it as much as you can.