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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me

My actual birthday is November 21, but I've adopted the practice of celebrating all month.  This means each day I take time to do something for myself (read a book I've want to read, call someone I've been wanting to speak with, purchase a new nail polish or simply do nothing at all). On yesterday a young lady asked me how I felt about turning 40.  I was reminded of a conversation I had with my friend Brenda almost a decade ago.  Brenda told me that you don't really grow up until you turn 40.  I told that young lady that I now understand what she meant by that comment.  I find that I'm now at a place where I'm comfortable with me and comfortable with those who are not comfortable with me.  I'm not going out of my way to be a nuisance to others, but I fully realize that when I've not wronged an individual and they have a problem with me...well, it's just that - their problem.  I'm also not given to building/seeking relationships with those influenced by group think. I find that having a circle of friends with different opinions helps to broaden my mind and forces me to look beyond my own likes and dislikes.  It's unfortunate that many people are not comfortable with being who they really are or simply don't want to put in the work to find their authentic voice/self.  Far too often, people are okay with basing opinions of something/someone because of what their "friends" say or think about the thing or person. I'm over that!!! I'm understanding more and more the saying that some people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.  The ebbs and flows of relationships can keep us on an emotional roller coaster.  There are some people that have come and gone and I breathed a sigh of relief and there are others that when they departed it was over many tears. Nonetheless, I've learned that the gift of goodbye is a helpful tool to have in the toolbox. I've learned how to accept the the comings and the goings and appreciate the special times in between.  I've come to embrace the fact that I'm flawed and subject to missing the mark, but that doesn't mean that I can't make course corrections along the journey nor does it mean that I have to accept less than what I deserve from others.  I'm too fabulous to give up on me and my dreams to gain another's approval/acceptance (by the way, so are you)!!!!  This journey has taught me that both blessings and tribulations can come from out of nowhere, but I have it within me to handle whatever may come.

So, how do I feel about turning 40?  Pretty darn good!!!!

Abounding in Love and Growing in Grace,


Monday, November 12, 2012

Beauty for Ashes

Yesterday I attended a housewarming for a friend whose original home was destroyed by fire.  She gave us a tour and we were all "wowed" at the beauty of the rebuilt home (most of us ladies were enamored by the master bath and walk-in closet with built-in shoe rack....actually the tour stopped right there). My friend began to describe the day when she received that call from her neighbor, while she was at work, saying that her home was being ravaged by fire.  One person in the group responded by saying, "And look, now you have 12 people standing in your bathroom with room for more".

Her story reminded of the call I received on September 19, 2009 at 4:00 am.  I answered to hear my niece  on the other end telling me that my parents home was on fire.  After getting confirmation that they made it out safely, I began the mad scramble to get a plane ticket, pack my bags and head home. When I finally arrived, I first had to lay eyes on my parents to make sure they were safe and then I went by the home.  My heart was overwhelmed with emotion.  First and foremost, I was extremely overjoyed that my parents made it out of what I would describe as complete rubble safely.  Then I was hit with an indescribable sadness as I examined the damage. As we waded through piles of rubble, trying to salvage whatever we could, I was amazed at how the small things (old photos, my old baby blanket....) brought so much joy. 

I'm not sure to what extent my friend had to "battle" with insurance companies and contractors, but in my parents case it felt like an uphill battle. These two situations caused me to reflect on the valley and mountaintop experiences life can present. We can be going along with our daily routines and receive one call that can change it all.  We can be living life, making plans and it can all be taken away...relationships are broken, health begins to deteriorate, finances end up in gets messy and we are left sifting through the rubble for something to hold on to that gives us a sense of normalcy. 

What I've learned through these and other difficult moments, is that even in the midst of what seems to be utter turmoil, God can still restore.  God restores what was lost, but we've got to go through the process of rebuilding. Along the way, God will allow us to find small things that will help to stabilize us. God will point out or provide the simple things that we can hold on to until we get to the other side. One thing I know for sure is that when God restores, when God rebuilds - it is magnificent!!! This does not negate the tragedies we may experience, it does not mean that our lives may not be forever altered, but it does mean that after the pain, after the tears, after the devastation, we can once again experience joy.  God has a awesome way of turning rubbish into a beautiful masterpiece.  I look forward to seeing final masterpiece that I shall be!!!

Abounding in Love and Growing in Grace


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Waiting In The Wings

“For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” (Hebrews 10:36 NRSV)

I have a confession.  For the past few months, I have been under heavy conviction. Most of it was a result of my morning drive to work.  I have taken the same route since February, but the past few months it appears as if the morning traffic jams have been the absolute worse.  My morning ritual usually consists of feeding my spirit with worship music. However, once I’m on the road it doesn’t take long for me to be taken out of that mode and become irritated and frustrated.  I’m saying things that aren’t holy, blowing my horn and giving people my “why are you so stupid glare?” One morning during my road rage, I clearly heard God ask three questions:
            Aren’t you still going to get there?
            Why are you so frustrated?
            Is your attitude making traffic move any faster?

I tried to put myself in check, but I felt my insides boiling.  All I wanted to do was get to work on time and these people were in my way.  Every morning, I’d find myself in this battle, until the conviction came.  As I was on the verge of once again getting upset, God asks “How do you so abruptly change from worship to wrath?”  OUCH!!!!!

Do I consider myself a mature believer?  Yes I do, however this clearly shows that I’m still a work in progress.  This was soon followed by an incident on my job that didn’t turn out quite like I’d envisioned and it left me rather salty to say the least. I had done everything I was supposed to do and then some.  I had done everything right, so how could it not work out for my good?  I have to admit that my attitude was completely awful and it showed to everyone.  However, within a few days, a greater opportunity presented itself and conviction set in once again.  I was embarrassed by the way I behaved.  I just wanted what I wanted, when I wanted it and how I wanted it.  My two year old self had raised her tempestuous head.

God has been dealing with me in the area of patience. Ironically, this pointed to another area that I needed to address – my faith.  Am I going to believe God for what God has promised, when it looks like it’s not going to happen?  Will I wait for the promise to manifest? Can I trust God for better when it looks like what was good has passed me by?

I was having dinner with a friend one night and she called me on the carpet.  She had a real honest discussion with me about what she saw and how my attitude was impeding what God was trying to do in my life.  Even though it can be a bitter pill to swallow, I’m grateful for a God who loves me enough to not allow me to be comfortable with my faults and friends who love me enough to pull my coat tail. 

So where does this leave me?  I leave home ten minutes earlier, which actually gives me more time to worship.  I also hold onto the words of the Hebrew writer in the midst of uncertainty and what looks like defeat, that doing the will of God requires patience/endurance if I’m going to receive the promise….so, I wait with confidence.

Abounding in Love and Growing in Grace…..


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Memories of Mikayla (Lessons Learned)

A few weeks ago my friends experienced the sudden and tragic death of their four year old daughter Mikayla.  When I received the news, a profound sadness overwhelmed me.  I vacillated between grief and simply being numb.  I couldn’t wrap my mind around this, it was too surreal.  The only thing I could do was pray.  I understand that there is power in prayer, but I must admit that there were moments when I desperately wished that I could do something else to fix this situation.  As I began to pray for the parents and extended family, I found myself asking God to show me the lesson. I was compelled to learn something from a situation that was so undeserved, so completely mind boggling, so painful.  Over the past few weeks, through the sentiments expressed from others and my own memories of Mikayla, that is exactly what God has done.  I’d like to share some of the lessons I learned from a four year old.

1.       Be Present in the Moment
For such a small frame, Mikayla had a huge personality.  Her infectious laugh, bright eyes, radiant smile and raspy voice were undeniably heartwarming.  Whenever she was present, it was known.  There is one particular instance that came to mind as I listened to her teachers give their reflections on Mikayla as a student.  Their memories pointed me to a personal encounter I had with Mikayla when she was just an infant.  She was attending church with her father.  He was about to make a presentation from the pulpit and he passed her to me for me to hold.  I can’t even remember what he was talking about, because I was captivated by those eyes.  I know most babies look around with a certain curious wonder about what they are seeing, but Mikayla looked as if she was really taking it all in.  It wasn’t just wonder but intentional, careful observation, it wasn’t simple curiosity, but rather it was more of a scientific examination and then she did it….she smiled.  I was sold on this precious being.  I believe we shared a God moment – realizing the awesome power of creation and life. As a baby, Mikayla knew how to not just see her surroundings, but see into them.  Mikayla taught me the importance of being aware of where I am and with whom I share those moments/that space.

2.       Ask Questions
During the funeral, many people expressed the same sentiment about Mikalya.  She was certainly inquisitive. She asked questions, but she also had the ability to connect those answers to other realities/experiences.  I want to believe God used her probing nature to inspire the eulogist.  He took his text from Psalm 22 and raised the question, as did the psalmist, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”  I was encouraged and I believe others were enlightened by his message.  For during the days leading up to the service, I held conversations with several friends about this tragic circumstance. Many said that they knew we were not supposed to question God, but they were trying to find some answer to why this happened.  My response to them was that we can indeed ask questions of God and we should ask questions of God, especially in light of times/situations we don’t understand.  The eulogist took the same stance.  He told the congregants that in times like these we need to ask God questions.  It is in the process of asking the questions that we rid ourselves of the pain, doubt and the frustration that can keep us from the only one who is able to comfort us.  While I cannot understand why Mikayla was taken away so abruptly, I can understand why I need God.  I need God because life presses us, life troubles us, and life presents us with conundrums and difficulties beyond our capacity to grasp.  When I’m in these spaces, I need to be able to ask the Creator of all things – why?  Even if the answer never comes, in the asking I yield myself to be open to God’s presence. Mikayla taught me to ask questions and to seek to connect the answers to greater realities. 

3.       Celebrate Life
One of her instructors described how much Mikayla loved dance.  She stated that Mikayla would go into the bathroom and change into her dance uniform and once she did she would dance all the way down the hall back into classroom.  I love to dance, but I realized how little I do it.  Life gets in the way.  As we grow older, we become more cognizant of who may be watching us.  We allow disappointments and frustrations to take the place of joy and happiness.  I’m more determined, through the brief life of Mikayla to celebrate- take the time to revel in the small things and dance. There are blessings that we encounter everyday that are worth celebrating.  Mikalya taught me that life may be too short to miss the small things, so while I have the opportunity I will dance down the hall in spite of who may be watching.

I hope that everyone who reads this blog will be impacted by Mikayla, no matter if you knew her or not.  I hope the memories of her that I've shared with you will cause you to be reflective on your own lives. Precious, princess Mikayla your life, in my opinion, was way too short but nevertheless impactful.  During your four years, you taught the adults in your life great lessons.  That was a great burden for such a small being, but “well done, little one, well done.”  Keep your eye on us from that heavenly perspective and remind us to be good to one another.  You are forever in our hearts.

Abounding in Love and Growing in Grace,


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Look Again

Friends, this passage has me so engrossed that I know a sermon is in a just a few of my thoughts.  I pray that it is a blessing. 

“They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, ‘Can you see anything’?  And the man looked up and said, ‘I see people, but they look like trees, walking.’ Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.” (Mark 8:22-25)

I know all too well what it means to struggle to see clearly.  It started in the second grade, when I began having trouble seeing the chalkboard. Even now as an adult, if I’m not wearing my contacts or my glasses…well, just forget about me seeing anything clearly.  In addition to my experiences with struggling to see in the natural realm, I find this text particularly intriguing because I’m in a space of (re) discovering, (re) examining and (re) imagining divine possibilities and promises. 

The text says some people brought this blind man to Jesus and begged Jesus to touch him.  We have no indication from the text that the man had any desire to be healed.  It could have been that he was comfortable in his condition. It is very well plausible that he was content with the status quo.  However, there were some in community with him who apparently saw (no pun intended) what this man needed, even if he did not want to / could not / or had no desire to.  Thank God for those who care enough to lead us to a place of healing, even if we are too weak to admit, too proud to confess it, too ignorant to be aware of it or to blind to see it.  Thank God for friends who plead to Jesus to touch us.

As much as his friends wanted to help him, there was only so much they could do.  There was only so far they could take him. They recognized their limitations and provided what they could, but ultimately took him to the one who could do what they could not.  Jesus responds to their request, takes the man by the hand and leads him out of the village.  How comforting to know that in the midst of our condition, Jesus reaches out to us.  The text says that Jesus leads the man away from the crowd.   Sometimes our healing will take place in isolation – away from those who are familiar with our condition…away from those people and places with which we are familiar…away from the situations that lull us into complacency. This man trusts Jesus to take him to an unknown place and to do an unusual thing to bring about his healing.  Jesus puts saliva on the blind man’s eyes and touches him again.  Sometimes our healing comes through humiliating experiences.  Imagine this man not knowing how this healing would take place, unable to see what Jesus was actually doing.  He could only feel the wet sensation on his eyes.  Jesus then asks the man if he could see anything. The man replied I see people, but they look like trees.  We have our first indication that he was not always blind.  He was able to see before, but something happened.  What is blinding us from seeing the promises of God?  What prevents us from clearly seeing the possibilities for our lives?

Jesus had to touch him again, the text says, he looked intently and his sight was restored.  Sometimes we expect our breakthrough to happen instantly, but just like our sanctification, there needs to be a process.  The text says he looked intently (other versions say he made him look up).  His vision was restored and he saw everything clearly.  Experiences have a way of clouding what we see. Disappointments have a way of blinding us to what God has said.  Interestingly enough this text comes after Jesus has taught crowds, performed miracles and yet the disciples still have difficulty perceiving (seeing) what is happening. What happens when life presents us with situations that appear contradictory to what we believe God has promised?  My prayer is that we are in a community of believers who will lead us to where we can’t take ourselves and ask God to touch us.  My prayer is that we are not so consumed, depressed or overwhelmed that we can’t take look again.

I pray that whatever we have allowed to eclipse our view of you and your promise for our lives be removed.  Forgive us for focusing so intently on that thing/those issues that we have lost sight of you.  Take us to a place where we can be intentional about seeing you again. 

Abounding in Love and Growing in Grace,


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Remembering Whitney

On yesterday, we were shocked by the sudden passing away of Whitney Houston.  I am still trying very hard to process it all.  I did not know Whitney Houston personally, but there was still an impact on my life.  Ironically, while I cannot recall the show I was watching, but I remember her performing on a daytime television talk show that came on right after the soap operas went off.  I was a child, but was in awe of this young woman whose voice commanded the attention of all within range.  She graced the stage with such poise and confidence. She was not scantily clad, there were no bells and whistles necessary to enhance her performance; she just stood there and sang.  She stood there in the authority of her vocals and sang.  She stood there and the gift God blessed her with was on display and none could deny its power. From that moment, I was a fan.

When the phone calls and text messages started to pour in, I was in such a state of disbelief.  I turned on the television and my computer wanting to discover that this was a cruel hoax.  Even though it was confirmed, I still sat waiting for some announcement that a mistake was made.  I shared with a friend that I know some will think me over spiritual, but I cannot but help but to consider the forces that were warring for Whitney’s soul. This woman was clearly anointed with that beautiful voice, but she grappled with the vices and vicissitudes of life. Her songs touched many in ways that some sermons preached from the pulpit have not, but those virulent things that oftentimes come along with fame and fortune overtook her.  From the number of people (self included) who stopped what they were doing to reflect on her life, it is apparent that she had an impact on many.  Unfortunately some took this occasion to highlight the negative/painful moments in her life.  I don’t deny that she had struggles, but she was still someone’s daughter, mother, friend – she was still human.  The difference between Whitney and the rest of us is that her “stuff” was lived out on a very public stage.  We are all giving the freedom of choice. However, we don’t really know until faced with the challenge whether or not we will give in to the pressure and make the choice that will leave us with regret.

I spent some time in prayer and meditation with God asking what is it that I am I to take away from this moment. I do believe there are some lessons we can learn. The first is obvious; we must all number our days because time is indeed short. The second lesson is that we must be vigilant about protecting and nurturing relationships (including fostering a healthy relationship with our own selves). Where reconciliation, restoration, healing and/or forgiveness need to take place let it.  The third lesson is we must be grateful for and aware of the grace and mercy of God that covers us and keeps us in the midst of our own struggles. 

I pray that Whitney has found the peace that she could not find in this world. I pray that God brings comfort and healing to her mother (Cissy), her daughter (Bobbi Kristina) her ex-husband (Bobby Brown).  I can hear the gasp of some now, but before we judge and assume let’s pray.  We don’t know his personal grief, regret and pain; we only see what is portrayed in the media. I pray for the host of other relatives, friends and fans who are grieving.  I pray God extend both compassion and conviction upon those who would relish in judgment and condemnation. Ms. Houston, no one will ever be able to say it better than you, for you sang it best, but I (along with millions of adoring fans) will always love you!!!

Abounding in Love and Growing in Grace,


Monday, January 30, 2012

Handle with Care (Pt. 2)

“People just don't know what I'm about...
They haven't seen what's there behind my smile...
There's so much more of me I'm showin out...
(These are the pieces of me)

When it looks like I'm up...sometimes I'm down
I'm alone even when people all around
but that don't change the happiness I found...
(These are the pieces of me)

So when you look at my face...
You gotta know that I'm made of everything love and pain.
(These are the pieces of me)
Like every woman I know...
I'm complicated for sho...
But when I love, I love til there's no love no more...
(These are the pieces of me)…” 
Pieces of Me - Ledisi

Yes, it is clear that I’m back on my music kick again this week.  My first blog dealt with how God handles us carefully, even when it feels as if life is killing us. God does indeed know how to properly insulate us against the pressures of this journey. I’m certain that we can learn lessons about how to treat one another if we would just examine how God handles us.  It doesn’t matter the socioeconomic status, level of education, marital status, gender, religious affiliation…we all struggle with something. There are areas where we are broken, struggling, bruised and confused. I’m unsure as to who first coined the phrase, “Hurt people, hurt people and broken people, break people”, but it is a harsh truth. We offend and we are offended. I’ve come to learn that when we offend or are offended, oftentimes it’s a result of the broken/bruised areas of our lives that we have avoided or refused to admit exists.  At some point, we must confront these areas if we are to be made whole and stop the cycles continuing to live in hurt as well as hurting others.  I love this song by Ledisi because it shows the complexities of our lives.  We can experience loneliness in the midst of a crowd. When it looks like we have it all together, we are sometimes operating in “fake it til we make it” mode. The cover of her cd is also genius.  It is a puzzle picture of her face which is still being put together. We are still works in progress. The picture that’s being put together will reveal who we are; it is made up of all of victories and defeats, who we’ve loved and who we lost, our greatest fears and biggest dreams.

Writing this blog compels me to evaluate my own relationships and experiences. I’m drawn to a moment when I facilitated a small group at church.  The author of the book asked us to write a letter to self we were ten to twenty years ago. This is an excerpt from my letter “…you will learn and you will grow…you will learn that while the relationship may not last, the lesson will, you will learn to see in yourself what others see and sometimes what they cannot…While there are some moments that will challenge everything (and sometimes everybody) you believe in, know that you will make it. I’m amazed at your resilience…When you are challenged there is something I want you to remember…Remember God always sends people to come alongside to be a support, remember to seek those little things that warm your heart when life gets cold, remember that every day you survive brings you closer to your victory/destiny, remember to laugh (being silly is one of the things you do best) and oh yes, remember to flirt with the cute guy.  Veronica, there is a community who is waiting for you, they will embrace your story and your gifts and you will in turn embrace their stories and their gifts. You will be amazed at the new home you will find, so much so that it won’t matter who walked away or what you lost.”

This process revealed to me areas of tremendous growth, but it also showed areas that are still underdeveloped. It revealed why I offend others and why I’ve been offended.  It made me smile, but it also made me shed a few tears. It forced me to vacillate between introspection, retrospection and extrospection.  I once again came to the conclusion that “Hurt people, hurt people and broken people, break people.” It’s up to the individual to decide if they want to remain in that state or move toward healing/wholeness. I choose healing.  In healing, I must forgive myself and others.  In healing, I must be honest about what I chose to allow and the red flags I ignored. In healing, I must learn the lesson so as to not repeat the course. In healing, I discovered that people (self included) can only give what they have to give. What will you choose? I encourage each of you to write a letter to yourself.  I encourage you to discover and remember. Discover what experiences have brought you to your current space. Discover what is making up your picture. Remember that others are too discovering what makes up her/his picture. Remember to handle each other with care, even in times when tough love is necessary – let’s remember to not break what’s already fragile or leave bruises. Remember to not only handle others carefully, but treat your own soul/self with a special care.  You not only need it, you deserve it!!!

As God continues to divinely orchestrate the pieces of my puzzle, I continue to sing….

“So when you look at my face...
You gotta know that I'm made of everything love and pain.
(These are the pieces of me)
Like every woman I know...
I'm complicated for sho...
But when I love, I love til there's no love no more...
(These are the pieces of me)

I'm a woman...A woman... a woman, woman, woman
Yes I'm a woman, a woman…
these are the pieces of me... Yeaahhh”

Abounding in Love and Growing in Grace,


Friday, January 13, 2012

Missing God

This is a devotional that I was honored to have published in Journey to Wholeness: The Immersion by Dr. John E. Guns.  I hope it blesses you!!!

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek Him" Hebrews 11:6 NIV

This passage urges those who encounter it to understand the premise of accessing God --faith.  Critical to the implementation of faith is that we believe God exists and rewards those who seek His presence.

While visiting the hair salon one day, I was reading a book for a homework assignment. I came across a passage that caused me pause. Author Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz wrote, "True spirituality has to do with living a reflective life, knowing that we are guided by God from within, that we are loved and admired by God. This God who falls in love with us over and over again...waits for us to reciprocate."

As I reflected on the words of the author and the goodness of God in my own life, I became aware of the times we miss (overlook) God.  God's presence was so real to me at that moment, but yet everyone else was absorbed in the happenings of the salon.  I was greatly moved by the heavenly visitation, but grieved by the lack of awareness. I was convicted.  How many times have I missed God? Have I been so busy and so overwhelmed that I have overlooked the divine? God falls in love with us over and over again. The proof exists in the new mercies we receive every morning. As people of faith, we must seek God. We must look for God's presence everyday in various ways, even in the mundane and chaotic. Otherwise we will simply continue to miss (overlook) God until we miss (have a longing for) God.

Abounding in Love and Growing in Grace,