Tena Wilson. Annie Joe Edwards. These ladies are legends and I can’t talk about them without beaming with adoration. Honestly, I’m a fan of their artistry and their queendom. Whenever I can watch them perform, I treat myself and marvel at their creative excellence. Then, when it’s all over, I get to hug these two powerhouses and they shower me with wisdom, humor, and love.
Queen Tena (as I call her) is on the far left of the photo. Actor, music educator, and vocalist extraordinaire – opera, jazz, spirituals, you name it – she can sing you into euphoria.
My SoRHOr Annie Jo is in the middle and she still hand-scores her music. *insert emoji face with heart eyes here* Music educator, actor, songwriter, playwright, pianist, and comedienne.
Between them, they have decades of entertainment experience and touring under their belt and they’re also great friends.
Sit under wisdom and stay there. “Yes, ma’am” freely leaps from my lips and pride is nowhere in the room. I listen. I learn. I obey. I accept. I pay attention and I leave richer than I came.
When you see wisdom walking, stop and soak, especially when someone wants to share her with you. Proverbs 1:20-29 says that wisdom cries in the streets with the hopes of gaining your attention. Too often, we’re just too stupid to listen to Her. Consequently, we succumb to negative effects and wonder why they happened to us.
Wisdom is not far away and you may be surprised at how freely She flows when you ask for Her.
#10 – I was able to celebrate the life of my SoRHOr and witness the baptism of her son.
It was bittersweet, but I was honored to attend both occasions. My Sorority Sister passed away in January and my SoRHOrs gathered to support her family and each other. Four months later, I listened to her son express his pain and revelation before being baptized by my pastor. The Good was simply being present, to celebrate life on both accords.
The life we live has the opportunity to affect others for the rest of their lives. We only get one chance to walk this Earth and what we do with it is crucial. There is equal opportunity to help and hurt everyone we meet. Perfection is not promised, but authenticity is attainable. We should live this life to enrich the soil of other souls. Why else would you need to breathe? Every breath is a chance to make something better. My SoRHOr Nicki did that. That’s why I was able to learn Legend in the process of becoming a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. and feel the essence of her passion, hug her and experience the love of one SoRHOr to another, and shed tears at her funeral. Her life impacted mine and when I see her husband and children, I speak. I hug them too. She multiplied herself in them and in me.
For this year’s See Jane Write #bloglikecrazy challenge, I am sharing 30 Days of Good that happened this year despite the not-so-good. There’s no use in throwing a whole year away when 1) there were definitely happy moments in it and, 2) the year isn’t over yet! So, each day will have a brief synopsis of the experience (what I like to call the good) and the lesson that tagged along with it. Ready? Let’s go!
#1 – I was able to attend therapeutic massage school at my place of employment! Why is this a big deal? I’m glad you asked.
Unfortunately, soon after I was hired at my institution, the policy that allowed employees to attend classes on their campus was overturned and I would have to either pay higher tuition somewhere else or drive 1.5 hours to another campus every week day for 9 months. My father was sick at the time and being over an hour away Monday-Friday from 8:00 AM until 3:00 PM was not complementary to being a caregiver. I needed to be closer to my parents. After 5 years, I was convinced that the protocol had a permanent place in the books and I gave up on that dream. Then, the Holy Spirit nudged me to ask again to see if the rule had changed. It was a Monday afternoon and I was completely disobedient. I walked by my friend/ financial aid representative’s office (only 3 doors down from mine) without stopping. I didn’t want to be disappointed… again. See, my former supervisors and the therapeutic massage program director had pleaded on behalf many times for an exception and each time, we were denied. I didn’t see the point in asking, but truthfully, my attitude was “Fine. Whatever. I’ll ask her.”
So, Tuesday came. I picked up my little yellow notebook, walked toward her office, then turned the corner like I was an undercover spy. This time, the Nudge was more like a shove and I took a few backward steps and walked inside. I sat across from her desk and watched her face light up like the 4th of July. “Actually, they changed that yesterday!” she said, smiling at me. My face? Fallen and flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe what I heard, so I asked to her to repeat it. She said confirmed that I wasn’t being punk’d and I sat there speechless. I asked her when was the next class and she said January 3rd. The whole trajectory of my 2018 was about to change and I had no idea it was coming, but as we sat there and crunched some numbers, my dream-deferredwas becoming a plump and juicy reality and I got excited like it was harvest time.
Open doors are everywhere, but they have their own timing. So, don’t get discouraged by closed doors. Just be ready when it’s open season. I was reminded of the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4:8-37. If you’ve never read that chapter, do it. It’s dope. She had let her dream of having a son die over time and when it was time to believe again, she reminds prophet Elisha that she didn’t want to get her hopes up again (verse 17). All it took was one more ounce of belief + action to change the story.
What in your life needs a breath of fresh air? What is your dream-deferred? What action is needed to move it from conception to delivery? Pray about it and listen for the answer everywhere you go.
Can you see the problem here? One of the fallacies of Christianity is that once you accept Jesus into your heart that everything you want will come to you. I (and millions of others) will beg to differ. The Truth is, God the Father has His hands open to you and while the most convenient option would be to simply give you everything, the most effective action is to balance between Him extending to you and you reaching out to Him.
Think of a father who has everything his daughter desires, yet she sits her room waiting for him to bring it to her. He’s in the kitchen, creating a meal from the heart and she can smell the aroma creeping underneath the door and through the air vents. He brings the plate to the entrance of her room, but she refuses to let him in. This goes on for days, then it continues for months.
Now think of the same individuals, only this time, the father makes sure that the kitchen cupboards and refrigerator are full of food.
At some point, the daughter has to express the will to reach out and be humble enough to accept the provision and the security that is readily available. Moreover, if he ensured that she had money to purchase the groceries, it is still reiteration that his promise to take care of her is true.
That’s what we need to do in our relationship with the Father. The Blessing, the Provision, the Security, the Peace… it’s all readily available for the taking, but we sit back and get bitter that those gifts and necessities did not “find” us. How lazy is that?
This week, ask God about your responsibility in His equation. Ask yourself – what is the Father telling me to “come and receive?”
I intend to come to Him like a daughter and receive what He has prepared for me. What about you?
Wind down safely and I am grateful for you! Peace & Thanks for listening!
Does out of sight, out of mind apply to you? Let’s see.
Do you know why babies are easy to distract? They have not built the knowledge base to know what is important. They know what they feel, know what they want, but they don’t know where their focus should reside. All it takes is something shiny, noisy, cuddly, or yummy, and it’s a wrap. You can even hide something behind your back until they have a sense of object permanence (Thanks, Piaget). Try fooling them then. You will epically fail.
You know I’m a word nerd, so when I heard the whisper of God turn into a loud assertion about distractions two weeks ago, I had to dig deeper into the word distract. It derives from a Latin word distrahere, meaning to “draw in different directions.” That’s exactly the goal of any deceptive being. Horrible customer service, mistreatment at work, an argument with your loved one, a kiss from an unwise crush… there are distractions everywhere and they can appear at any time. Trust me, I know them all too well.
There is nothing that the enemy of your life wants more than to distract you from what is important. Just like babies, we can be easily distracted… if we allow ourselves to be. There are plenty of Bible verses I could throw at you, but let’s be realistic. Distractions don’t stop; you have to stop giving attention to them. This is where my prayers started to change recently… Lord, distract me.Distract me from the opportunities to feel sorry for myself. Draw my focus away from shiny temptations in life and draw me into your Word for guidance and strength. Enchant me with your Love so that I can’t sprinkle my attention on things that simply do not matter. Distract me from my wayward thoughts and what isn’t going right. Let daily miracles keep me focused on Your Grace every day. I want to be drawn in a thousand directions in how awesome You are. I want to remain amazed and dazzled by You and You alone. I do not want another. You are my focus. You are most important and I follow You.
Perhaps this is a prayer you can adapt to your life as well. I’m learning what to gravitate toward and what to lay aside. Everything simply doesn’t garner your attention. Beware of the distractions and let the Father lead. He always has the best in mind.
Last week, I mentioned that I’m in the final countdown of my therapeutic massage program (33 days to be exact, and I’m including weekends). While it is exciting to prepare for the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx), our study sessions have also made me nostalgic and full of wonder all over again about how intricate God made our bodies.
Did you know…
The biconcave shape of your blood cells increase its surface area for oxygen consumption, yet remains flexible enough to squeeze into tight spaces?
The sarcomeres in our muscles facilitate muscle contraction (and look like a subway system, if you ask me)?
Aromatherapy is an actual form of therapy because your brain and muscles create and recall memories as you inhale an essential oils?
Your sternocleidomastoid (SCM) has a clavicular and sternal head to stabilize your neck when you tilt it back. Remember that little tidbit the next time you doze off in class?
Your body will always attempt to achieve homeostasis (balance), even at the expense of your free will?
The lymphatic system. Respiratory system. Cardiovascular system. Autonomic and Somatic Nervous Systems. There are many more collaborations that keep you alive and massage therapists can affect every last one of them through the power of touch. That’s how cool God is.
He touched us first. His fingerprint is on our hands. No matter how many people are born in the world, no one can duplicate you. Can you believe that such an incredible God thought enough of you to breathe into you and form your body Himself? All of those cells, muscles, and systems were fashioned with your purpose in mind. I am fascinated by that even more now that I am adding a new career industry to my journey.
Now, here’s the disclaimer. I don’t know why some of the systems malfunction or why parts of them are deformed or missing, but I know God still had every detail in mind when He made you. Everything else in creation was called to be, but you? You were customized with ocular muscles around your brown eyes. The zygomatic bones on your face are perfectly curved to create your cheekbones. You have the cradle of life sitting between your iliac crests. There is no mistake in you.I have had to remember that as I face health challenges myself. Even the parts of me that don’t function properly still exude His glory because I continue to fulfill my purpose on this Earth. I’m here to tell you… He thought of everything about you and you were designed with Love in mind.
Wind down safely, Dear. I have some reading to do before class in the morning, but don’t forget our chat, OK? *smile* Look in the mirror or check yourself out with a selfie to admire the greatness in you, on you, and shining through you.
A spiritual message has come up in recent conversations since Sunday –
“You have to go through the cave to get the crown.”
Recall the story of David before the glory days of kingship (1 Samuel). Faking insanity to prevent being killed on site… hiding multiple times from King Saul of Israel who was determined to see him dead… being best friends with King Saul’s son, which caused its own set of challenges and grief as he dies in battle. This is a difficult road for someone who was promised a crown.
So, what does this say about us? Can we not fathom the possibility that we may experience a cave before the crown? Is it crazy to think that we will obtain a promise unscathed? Just look at Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle. Her marriage into the British Royal Family is still undergoing mudslinging from some disgruntled family members. There is no shortcut to the promises of God where there is more responsibility waiting. You can’t wear the crown if you can’t handle the weight of it. There’s a process in the cave that prepares you like no other journey would. We can hear the lament and rawness of emotion in David’s voice in Psalm 142. He was confused, angry, and humbled and being in the cave felt horrible and safe simultaneously. Somewhere in the midst of hiding and fighting, his faith and fortitude birth the muscles capable of ruling a kingdom. Because of the cave, David was able to hold his head up as King of Israel and extend mercy to the man sought to kill him… more than once!
The cave sucks, but it can also bring the very people designed to fight with you. So, this week, I encourage you to embrace your cave. It won’t last forever. It’s not your landing place. You’re just paused there, not stopped. Darkness is not your enemy because it’s where you learn to shine.
I believe that God is still awesome and He continues to amaze me even though there is much I do not understand. As I move forward through my cave, I can confirm that He is a keeper. You are not there alone. I’m right there with you and I’m praying for you all the way. Get your #LATSOL notebook or your online notepad and write what you hear during this time. That’s the good stuff coming out.
Peace & Thanks for listening. Let’s keep shining together.
It’s been two weeks since I’ve blogged because my reservoir of words was empty. Now, I can connect again, so here goes. As always, I hope my transparency can help you as it is helping me heal and grieve.
Peace & Thanks for listening in advance.
I’ve only had two boyfriends in my life and the second gentleman became my husband. That should tell you how stringent I am when it comes to making decisions. My forever made it a point to let me know that he was intentional about me and what can I say? He passed my tests and I said yes.
So, when the best friend of my former husband called on Father’s Day and said “It’s not looking good and…,” my answer was the same. I knew I had to be there. No matter what. I immediately adjusted my route and was at the hospital in about 25 minutes. It was the least I could do. The least I could be for the man I vowed to love forever, regardless of what those papers said.
We had a beautiful beginning, a sweet middle, an amicable denouement, and a beautiful friendship all over again. It’s not what normally happens, I know, but it was us.
Was everything perfect? Of course not, but we had a love and respect for each other that wouldn’t disintegrate. And I appreciate that part of God’s plan. The fragments of questions that float around in my mind, I will never understand and I try to not to marinate on too much. It was devastating to say the least, watching him fight and knowing he was going to let go. As I walked into his hospital room, my heart began to throb in pain. I felt like someone had loosely stitched it together in light of my father’s passing less than a year ago, but the inner part of me was about to make it burst. We had gone through this before, he and I… the undulation of health. Like a Pavlovian subject, I switched into “wife mode” – talk to God, talk to him, touch him gently, kiss his face, rub his head, listen to the nurses, watch the monitors, ask questions, remember names the medical team, notate medicines given, nap during sponge bath, keep up with anything he needs to know when he wakes up… Something was different this time. Every beep echoed sadness in the hallways of my soul and the tears just wouldn’t stop stampeded down my face.
Being a Christian, of course I was hoping for a miracle of any kind, but I could feel that prayer request being removed from my fingers every time the medical team told me differently. I took a picture of me holding his hand so I could show him when he woke up. We were supposed to have lunch that week and I thought it would be a great topic of discussion. A part of me wanted to ask him over shrimp and grits to describe what he saw, felt, and heard as he lay in that bed. Did he hear us? Could he see angels? Was he talking to God Himself? Silly, I know, but I wanted to chat all about it as we laughed about another school year down in the books. Singing and praying and crying and meditating, I held his hand along with Mark and his wife. The lower the blood pressure, the less strength in those stitches that held my heart together. At the last beep, they couldn’t hold any longer and my heart bled mercilessly.
Needless to say, I’m letting myself feel everything now and staying soaked in prayer along the way. I couldn’t start grieving for my father until months after he passed away and this time, I am allowing myself to just be. If tears fall at school, so be it. Just the other night, I screamed and cried out in anguish on my way home from work. The outpour of support has been amazing, but some fail to realize my spirit has an open wound that resembles more of a widow than an ex-wife. And that’s OK. It had only been a little over a year since we divorced and we weren’t bitter. We weren’t angry. We were simply us and I now understand what he was trying to do. I hate the pain, but I get it. Before, during, and after our marriage, the most important title was Friend. Such a rarity it is to come full circle with someone. I couldn’t have asked for a greater honor in this life.
It was a pleasure to love you, Shawn, and that love extends beyond the grave. My heart cries into the heavens as you enjoy your new home, but I’m so happy for your relief. The world may have lost your beautiful mind, body, and spirit, but your legacy will live in us all. Always and forever grateful.
I share this not as a lament, but to encourage anyone who is grieving a loved one anywhere in your soul. Be present. Be human. Be tender. It doesn’t mean you’re not a “good Christian” (whatever that means anyway) and that you just need to “get over it” (insert same sentiment here). Jesus cried too and He understood what it meant to grieve the inevitable. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Yes, joy comes in the morning, but there is a new morning everyday, so it’s OK if you have to get a refill on that joy more than once. He has plenty and will never run dry. That’s what I’m leaning on right now.
I love you and I’m praying for you. Keep me in prayer too, please. In the words of my mother, God’s got a whole world out here, so let’s make the best use of our time while we’re here, OK?
We learned something cool in therapeutic massage class about the heart and I underlined it in my book as a reminder to share it with you. I remember learning it in college, but something about this time around was louder.
Did you know that the heart has its own rhythm? As in, every organ is co-dependent except the heart, which can beat (for a short time) outside of the body. It has a natural pacemaker (the sinoatrial or SA node) that initiates the electrical sequence for the heart beat, and that the blood turbulence in the atria and ventricles create your heart sounds. Neat, right?! So the SA node kicks off the rhythm of your heart like a drummer giving the band 4 counts to start a song and your valves keep the sound flowing in the right direction – in, out, up, down, arms, legs, lungs, head… it’s all coordinated with the heart’s rhythm. And if the beat is off, well… that’s not good.
What I extracted from that lesson was God made us with our own rhythm. We walk around with this customized drum set in our chests at all times. Never do we say “Hold on, let me check my pulse. It may have stopped today.” No, we just keep going through life – talking, laughing, living. We trust the rhythm and it keeps the rest of our body on beat. So, what happens when the rhythm changes? Then, my friends, there is arrhythmia. Not all rhythmic changes are fatal, but some warrant close attention.
Some arrhythmias are so brief (for example, a temporary pause or premature beat) that the overall heart rate or rhythm isn’t greatly affected. But if arrhythmias last longer, they may cause the heart rate to be too slow or too fast or the heart rhythm to be erratic – so the heart pumps less effectively. (American Heart Association)
In life, the very same thing happens. We can be on a path that feels so good and then something small can throw us off. On the other hand, that steady pulse of life can be disrupted by something large and it can feel like the entire band needs to walk off stage and go home. Whatever the sound, you’ll feel the rhythm of life change. Maybe it changes your daily routine at home or your financial distribution. Maybe it skews your speech or the way you see someone. I believe we experience spiritual arrhythmia and I am convinced that we either learn to adjust or, like the heart, we simply stop. We wander through life on autopilot and wonder why we don’t feel anything. Maybe it’s because our heart is offbeat and we need a pacemaker to jump it off. Well, God is the ultimate heart regulator. I know this from personal experience. When I felt like the walking dead, he resurrected me to see life through different lenses and I haven’t forgotten that gift, even if my heart skips a beat or two along the way.
You don’t have to die from arrhythmia of the mind, body, or spirit. If you find yourself reading this and you are in need a heart check as you wind down tonight, I am praying with you. Contact me and I’ll pray with you via email. Just don’t live off beat and by all means, don’t stop. You are needed in the symphony.
Want to learn more about the heart? Check out this link from the American Heart Association. It has explanations, videos, and downloadables. A nerd’s dream come true!
Sheila E. photos courtesy of moi at the Sheila E. Concert (epic.) Joy photo courtesy of: NBC News