The Blessing of COVID-19

How does one call a pandemic a blessing? How does one look a death count that seems incomprehensible and see a blessing? How does one watch people struggling to survive as they no longer live paycheck to paycheck and see a blessing? One looks for it.

Yes, one looks for it because in our world’s current crisis it is impossible to find a blessing in the midst of this tragedy, pain, and sorrow without being intentional about finding it. During week one of this crisis in the United States (or whatever we are, because I think we are far from united), I was hopeful we would see a quick snuffing out of the cases in a relatively short period of time. Now we are in week eight and the news is heartbreaking. While I only know a few people whose lives have been greatly impacted by this crisis, a few is more than enough. I pray for the health and safety of my family and friends regularly. I fuss a bit with those who I love the most who are a bit too casual with social distancing and masking up for my comfort. I want my family and friends to live, and in some ways I want them all to remain in quarantine until a vaccine is developed. I know that is an unlikely desire, but it is my truth.

While I mourn the life I no longer have—outdoor concerts, in-person dinner parties with friends, cheering at my nephew’s sporting events from the sidelines, visiting my parents for the weekend—I have come to see so many blessings in this pandemic.

  • Life slowed down. My life has come to a screeching halt and my eyes have been opened to how busy my pre-pandemic life was. I had become so accustomed to juggling work, school, life, and church that being slightly tired on most days was my norm. I have learned to produce high quality work under pressure and pull through at the last minute. I was so conditioned to this life that it was not problematic for me. Now, eight weeks into this crisis, my body feels well rested. I think about what my weekly meals will look like. I have watched television shows not for entertainment purposes, rather I have sought to broaden my horizons by watching “boring” channels like PBS. I have read books. Life slowed down and I feel far more enriched.
  • Family became more connected. I know we think Zoom is going to be the end of us, but this pandemic has caused my family to become so much more connected. Nearly every weekend I have had a Zoom call with a group of family members. We’ve had a wine party, a tea party, a birthday party, and Bingo night. I also went to a dinner party with friends whom I consider family. If this pandemic had not come up, I would not be so connected with my family. I would’ve seen most of them at Christmas and maybe at a summer gathering. Other than that, I would have gone on with my life without giving touching base with family much thought. This pandemic has challenged me to pause and question why our family never used Zoom to connect with one another before. I wonder how often my cousins in New Mexico, Florida, and North Carolina feel disconnected from us when we hardly ever reach out and never virtually include them in family gatherings. In the future, we can do so much better to remain connected as a family even if distance keeps us apart.
  • Self-care and self-work began to matter. Over the last eight weeks, I have had a lot of time with me. Whew . . . it’s truly been something. I generally think I have my stuff together (cuz who doesn’t internally think highly of themselves), but there are some things I have needed to slow down and work on. I have learned and been reminded of some things about me. First and foremost, I lack motivation in some key areas of my life. Second, I have poor follow-through (my talk and walk are not necessarily on the same page). I need to work on these things. Selah. Despite my shortcomings, I have begun to do some work on self during this crisis. I needed to declutter my house to help declutter my mind—I cleaned out my storage room and began giving things away. I needed to rethink my personal and professional goals—I found a journal template to follow because I really have to take things one day at a time. I needed to spend some time thinking about if the life I am living aligns with where I want to be—I decided to stop being afraid of my own shadow and do some of the things I’ve been talking about (like writing a children’s book…yay!!!).

COVID-19 sucks, there’s absolutely no denying that truth, but there are still glimmers of hope and blessings in the midst of a pandemic! Stay strong, stay hopeful, stay blessed.

An Introvert Fail . . . I Guess

Despite what some people believe, I am a classic introvert. I have learned to love people and I can even mix and mingle with folks, but on many days I still reach a point where I need alone time. My mother and I often debate about my desire for this alone time. Sometimes it takes the form of her asking me why I’m so eager to go to bed when I’m home visiting for the weekend; other times, it takes the form of her directly telling me my introvert ways are a bit ridiculous. I let her talk, but am intentional in not diminishing the value of the introvert in me. I’ve learned introverts have many great qualities, we are deep thinkers and incredibly loyal friends. We give good advice and are incredible problem solvers. We just need time and space and alone moments.

And while I’ve come to learn and appreciate the great things about being an introvert, there are moments like tonight when I feel like my introversion leads to failing moments. After a long week in the office, I decided I needed some self care. I found out about an event a few weeks ago that I was going to attend tonight. So . . . I left the office on time, came home to change my clothes quickly, got in the car and headed out. I knew I’d be about 15 minutes late arriving at the event, but that was no big deal, it wouldn’t be a problem. Then, I missed my turn and got delayed another five minutes. That was the trigger. When I arrived, there were lots of cars in the parking lot and no one else seemed to be late getting there (sure those people existed, I just didn’t see them). I panicked, I couldn’t get out of the car. I tried really, really hard, but the thought of people looking at me as I walked in the room was so terrifying that I circled the parking lot, paused in a parking and ultimately left. I drove 30 minutes for self-care, panicked, and left . . .

I was disappointed in myself, but my response wasn’t shocking to me. This used to be my norm. I remember driving to the gym on many occasions, parking my car, turning off the ignition, then leaving because I couldn’t pull myself together to get out of the car and go inside. It’s been a really long time since this has happened to me, but for introverts, this happens. And while I am completely comfortable with being an introvert, I felt a great deal of shame of tonight because fear and anxiety won. I could physically feel the shame gripping my body (there were almost tears) because I didn’t have the strength to overcome the fear and anxiety I was feeling. I felt like I failed, but I didn’t. I honored my truth in the moment and opted to protect me. My emotional safety was more important than being out and about tonight.

There are some who would shame me for my response tonight. You see, in response to things like what I went through tonight, people have a tendency to say things like, “God has not given us a spirit of fear”. And while I respect that line of thinking (and trust me, I’ve been told this exact thing before, along with depression is not of God), I do not agree with it. What happened tonight is no reflection of the God in me, it is a reflection of my humanness and my human need to feel safe and be away from the crowd at times. Yes, in some ways I feel like I failed majorly tonight, but in other ways, I feel like the crowd just wasn’t what I needed to be restored on this night. Whatever the explanation, I wouldn’t wish this off the charts introversion on anyone . . . it’s a challenging space to live in.

I’ve got another event next Friday night. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been feeling a bit of anxiety about it all week. Deep down I want to go and be present, but I’m just not sure I can do it . . .

Le sigh . . .

When Ready

Most mornings, it takes me about 40 minutes to get to work. The drive is typically peaceful and gives me sufficient time to prepare for the day ahead. I usually alternate between audiobooks, music, and podcasts to get my day started. Today I listened to a sermon entitled, The Detour is For Your Destiny. It was just the word I needed to hear.

I have been feeling sorry for myself lately. Life’s seeming setbacks have quickly been turning into painful disappointments. In my alone moments, I have cried and formed stories to help explain what God is doing in my life. Nevertheless, I have become discontent. I have found reasons to be discontent about the home I recently purchased, a friend not taking responsibility for his stuff, me not being at the next level on my job, and others getting more public accolades for their work than me. My truth … I’ve been hurting while trying to serve God and others with a smile on my face. But, the weight of my hurt has finally broken my spirit. My emotions are not directed at a person, I’m not even convinced they are directed at God, they just exist in a gigantic way. And, I have reached the place where I accept that I need to feel what I’m feeling and be okay with it. It’s a vulnerable place, but it’s also therapeutic.

In listening to the sermon during my ride this morning, the pastor said something I desperately needed to hear. “More than God wants you in the season now, God wants you in the season ready.” I’ve been fixated on now. I want to be married NOW, I deserve a promotion NOW, I want to be finished school NOW, I want to be at my next place in ministry NOW, I want my dream home NOW, I need this, that, and the other NOW. Time is quickly passing by and I do not have time to wait, so I need things to happen NOW! But God is not concerned about me existing in my desired season now, God wants to me reach the season designed specifically for me when I am ready. That kinda sucks, right! Obviously, God forgot I have an opinion on the matter.

I don’t like this truth. It doesn’t take away my sadness. This truth makes God seem cold and heartless, but God’s detour is God’s way of showing the depth of His love for creation. God’s love for me runs so deep that He will lovingly watch me get angry, throw a temper tantrum, privately cry, and give up on seeing the incredible promises for my life, all the while knowing what the end will be. God looks with a bird’s eye view; I look at the here and now. God knows the exact moment when I’ll cross the threshold marked ready; I think I’ve already made it. God knows the magnitude of what I have not yet seen; I have no idea what God has in store for me. So, God lets me struggle and wrestle with my emotions as I wait until I reach that place called ready. I don’t like it, and I’ve not been so patient, but I’m thankful God still loves me and still wants to bless me as I wade through the meantime. One day, I hope I’ll make it to ready!

My Hair!

I am super proud of my AMP roommate and Morgan friend, Samiha! She published her first book, My Hair, a few months ago. As usual, I was a little slow ordering it, but I made up for it by buying two copies of this incredible book! If you have any young Black children in your life, you should get a copy for them. You’d be supporting my friend, but more importantly you would be affirming the beauty of the kinks and coils of our Black hair for a young person. This story highlights the beautiful things about black hair without diminishing the characteristics of others’ hair. We need to hear more of that in this world, we don’t have to put down others to build ourselves up. We can coexist and love one another genuinely through all of our differences.

Sharing this message is the essence of what I do these days. I try to get people to appreciate the diverse nature of humanity. It’s not a threat. It doesn’t make me less important and you more important, it simply diversifies one’s thoughts, conversations, and experiences when one is open to it. Too many of us aren’t open to it, whether it be in relationships, at work, or in organizations, we’re closed-minded. Yet, I believe a healthy amount of self-love, a bit of courage, and an appreciation for what others bring to the table makes us all better people.

A Strange Road!

I’m always amazed when people mention they’ve missed reading my blogs. Because I am who I am, I generally think people aren’t all that interested; however, given that a few folks have mentioned the silence of my voice here lately, I thought I’d find some time to write.

Man . . . it’s been a messy and strange road these past few months. I’m plugging away at seminary. After my summer courses, I will be at the halfway point . . . I never thought this day would arrive, I’m thankful! If I’m completely honest, when I started this seminary process, I’m not quite sure I even cared if this day would arrive because I was still fighting God . . . A LOT. I used to be a combative and rebellious seminarian, now I am in love with the process and experience. Studying and learning matter to me in a different way. It’s no longer the fulfillment of a requirement someone is requiring of me, rather it’s a willing response to God’s incredible call to serve.

Then, there’s work. Work is good, but work is strange. I feel like I’ve become quite comfortable and confident in my voice and value in this space. That’s great for me, but doesn’t always fit pretty in a box and there are moments when I feel incredibly stifled. Opportunities have been opening up for me in unexpected ways. I’m grateful, but I’m very mindful and view each experience as a God moment. I consider it a privilege for God to give me a chance to share my voice with others on a larger platform; therefore, I’m intentional and deliberate in what I say. On the surface, it may seem as if I’m simply talking about my career path or some diversity/inclusion topic, but with each experience comes with the opportunity to speak life to someone, a stranger perhaps. That’s not a light assignment, it’s just as important as preparing and preaching a sermon for me. It’s my opportunity to encourage someone in their journey and I feel honored to be called by God to do such work. It’s not about me, it’s about availing myself to be used to be a blessing on whatever platform presents itself to me.

Today, I received an interesting e-mail from someone who attended an event I spoke at last week. I know it’s a compliment, but it was framed in an interesting way. It was the reminder that my work matters.

“Oh boy, here come the ‘Big Wigs’. Aint nothing they can teach me!” They couldn’t relate to me, they’re too far up.  And one by one, as each of you told YOUR STORY, of where you came from, how you got there, and where you wanted to go, each one of you Giants shrunk to normal sized people, walked right off the stage, came and sat down beside me, took my hand and said “Fret not, we…are you!…yes we’ve traveled different paths but our stories are the same in a lot of ways”.

And into my heart each of you went.  So, after I buried my especially judgmental thoughts of you being “the black sellout” of the bunch, when you had the unmitigated gall of saying “I’m a black woman and she’s white woman” out loud… in front of tons of people(????) and telling the audience how its ok not to jump right into an opportunity JUST because it presents itself, and how it’s ok to stay where you are, master the current position RIGHT NOW, then move on, I said to myself, “I really like her…and I need her to mentor me, she gets me…lol!”

When I read the e-mail, I chuckled, then I smiled. I don’t know this person at all, but I am so thankful I said something that resonated with her. I thrive on being just an ordinary, everyday person who can connect on some level with all who cross my path. Maybe it should be flattering, but I’m no giant, I’m just regular and will always be just regular no matter where life may take me.

So, I’m on a windy, messy road at the moment. There’s been no progress on my 101 list, but I’m growing in so many other ways. I’m excited about the future.

A Journal and Journey Through My Past…

GodIsAbleTemplateSaturday was a big day in my life—MOVING DAY! There were stressful and intense moments, but I’m settling into my new space and loving it. I love the neighborhood and the neighbors whom I’ve met so far have been great. I’m super happy and excited about this new season in my journey.

One of the greatest parts of this move has been stumbling upon my old journals. It’s amazing how some of my feelings have remained the same, yet in other areas, I’ve changed so much! One of the musings that struck me deep was written on June 18, 2011. I remember that day so clearly. My church had just finished a Bible study series entitled Experiencing God and we spent that day together on a silent retreat. I was quietly struggling greatly with God and ministry in that season, I was determined to do things my way, yet I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling of God calling me to do a greater work for Him. I’m the fighter who thought I could wear God out with all of my punches and running. God won, and the winning sorta, kinda started on June 18, 2011!

It was that day when my former pastor sought me out to be her partner during the morning icebreaker. I was so distraught about this happening . . . I tried to avoid my former pastor at all times like the plague. God was working on me and I had heard through the grapevine my pastor had her eye on me (Translation: God had probably put something about me in her spirit, and she was trying to observe and see what God was talking about. I wanted no parts of such.) I had planned to leave the retreat super early to go to a friend’s birthday party in New Jersey, but this icebreaker partnership messed up that plan. Fast forward several years and my former pastor has become a mother to me. Together we share a wonderful bond and I’ve stopped fighting God. Certainly, He and I still have differences of opinions, but I don’t have the same level of fight towards Him in me. Praise the Lord!

This is what I wrote on that day:

I must trust God completely and believe that if I remain in Him and stay obedient, He will grant me the desires of my heart. He will bless my life beyond belief, He will provide for all of my needs. I will not be lacking in any area and, in due season, He will give me overflow. I will not struggle to pay bills, everything will not be perfect, but in Him I will not have earthly worries.

Like the tree, I’m [God] too big for your to grasp. You can’t wrap your arms around me, so stop trying! What God’s doing is something I can’t analyze my way through. Stop trying to figure out what I’m  doing and just do what I tell you to do. I’m trying to prepare you for the end result and I need you to do what I’m telling you to do. Stop trying to figure out what the end result is. It may or may not be what you think it is.

I’m stuck to you like glue. It must be done My way.

Reading this, given where I am in my present life, is a refreshing reminder of God’s sovereign power. I had no idea what God had in store for me then, but everything He put on my heart that day has proven true. He is truly blessing me beyond belief . . . the home I was blessed to purchase is certainly a “beyond belief” blessing. This job I’ve got is a “beyond belief” blessing. No matter how hard I try to figure it out, God still confuses me and others in my circle. He’s beyond my grasp, but He’s faithful and just. And, He’s shown me time and time again that He’s stuck to me like glue. God truly loves me and I absolutely love Him.

I wonder what the remaining journals have in store for me.

Until next time . . .

You’re Kidding Me!

One of the venues I’ve come to enjoy in the District is Sixth & I. Not only is the space itself beautiful, but the author talks I’ve attended there have always been great. (Random fact: The space was the home of Turner Memorial A.M.E. Church for over 50 years.) While scrolling through my e-mail this afternoon, I was checking out some of the upcoming talks and to my surprise, I discovered one of the facilitators is a former intern in one of my labs at the NIH. I was shocked. I never doubted his ability to do great things, but the Sixth & I platform is a pretty big deal. I’ve seen Brené Brown, Susan Cain, and W. Kamau Bell speak there. These are all big names, mainstream authors and Vann is facilitating a discussion there. Wow!

I thought about it and began to wonder if this was an answer to a giant prayer he once prayed or just a random happening. I will never know, but I’m reading a book that’s had me thinking a lot about the size and expectation of my prayers. A passage I read today said sometimes God gives us thimble-sized blessings because we have thimble-sized prayers. The author suggests in the midst of the vast ocean of blessings that are available, we can limit ourselves to a portion as small as a thimble simply because we fail to ask for more. I’m guilty! I don’t dream or pray big enough. At work, I give my all and can always push the envelope, but in my personal life, I’m often a lot less comfortable walking on water.

Yet, given where I am in my current thoughts, it’s interesting that I would run across this e-mail today. Comfortable hasn’t been all that comfortable lately. And, even though faith walking is hard, I’ve been forcing myself to trust God more. I’ve recognized that I can’t stay where I am, God has more for me, but I have to embrace faith walking.

About two weeks ago, I spent part of an afternoon writing in my journal about some big life goals. I’m talking, I dropped the thimble and wrote out my biggest and wildest God-sized dreams. Things that only God can do. The day after I wrote them, someone invited me to lead a workshop at a training for leaders in the federal workforce next fall. The invitation was random and completely unexpected, but in my journal I’d written that one day I wanted to be a workshop facilitator. I didn’t know the topic, didn’t know the audience, but I wrote down this big dream, and a day later one path to realizing that dream revealed itself. My initial response was, “God, you’re kidding me, right?” But then I decided to act like the child of God that I am and remember that God’s not kidding around with me. He wants to do major things in my life, but He’s waiting for me to release the brakes. It’s acceptable for me to be nervous, but I ought to pray with the expectation that God is going to answer in the here and now.

I’m nervous about this workshop, if I’m honest I don’t have a clue what I’m going to talk about, but I know it will come together. God did not create me to shy away from opportunities He presents in my life. Things have to work out because God answered my prayer. Now, I’m challenged to trust Him with more. Up next . . . registering for the Publishing in Color Conference. It makes no sense to me, but I stumbled upon this opportunity and writing a book is on my list of God-sized dreams. I’m going to go to the conference AND I’m going to force myself to be brave enough to trust God to let my gifts make room for me. He’s not kidding me, just as God is opening doors for others, He’s willing to open up gigantic doors for me too!

Riding with my camera…


Loch Raven Reservoir, February 2018

Have you slowed down lately? I have! Yesterday, I decided to take the scenic route home from church and drove up on this amazing scene. The picture doesn’t do justice to the beauty of nature, but it was my best try at capturing the awe of the moment. My camera was in my trunk, but a drained battery only allowed me to get two quick pictures, so the above image was captured using my cell phone. One of my former photography instructors said the best camera is always the one we’ve got! So true!

Anywho, yesterday served as a reminder that I should always keep my fully charged camera with me. You never know what beautiful scenes we may encounter in our daily routine.

Make it a great one today!

In All Things Give Thanks!

LIfe is a beautiful struggleThis Thanksgiving week has offered me lots of time to sit and reflect about the wonderful things unfolding in my life. From a genuine and sincere place, I can thank God for how He has orchestrated my life in the most interesting way. I’ve not always felt this—no, if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I’ve often been angry with God about the things He’s allowed to happen in my life. My first post on this blog spoke of me emerging from a dark season and just hanging in there. Yes, things were challenging in that moment, but the disappointment I was feeling wasn’t as bad as it seemed. And the life hiccup that proceeded that post certainly didn’t equate to God’s absence or lack of protection. I was overreacting. When I look back on my attitude and behaviors, I sadly realize that I’ve been unnecessarily bitter about so many things for too long. Instead of seeing the good, I’ve seen the bad. Rather than seeing the blessing, I’ve focused on the momentary pain. In place of “thank you”, my mouth has uttered the words “why me,” “I don’t deserve this,” and “God must hate me”. I have been a really negative person, but I’m so thankful I am no longer!
What happened? I’m not sure. Maybe I got older … maybe I learned how to be a bit more patient … maybe I feel better about myself in general … I really don’t know. It may simply be that I’ve learned how to give thanks in all things. I’ve come to appreciate the work of God’s hand behind the scenes in my life. While I’ve often been willing to settle for mediocre, I now understand that God only wants the best for me, so He’s taken me through some things to strip me of those hindrances in my life. He thinks I deserve better even if I’m too foolish to realize it!
This past year has been a challenge, but I’m thankful for every aspect of it. I couldn’t understand what God was doing as He was breaking me, but it was for my good (and I don’t mean that in a cliché way, I truly understand and appreciate this truth)! If I knew the magnitude of the blessing that was in store for me, maybe I wouldn’t have been so angered, frustrated, disappointed, and hurt by the difficulty of the season! I’d like to believe I would’ve responded differently and done a better job of speaking life to me and my challenges. I know hindsight is 20/20, but I just believe if I had known where things would end up, I wouldn’t have fought God so hard. But I’m human, so maybe I still would have failed. Regardless, today I appreciate my struggles and how they forced me to grow to this place where I find myself today.
So … in all things, I choose to give thanks. The good, the bad, the challenging, and the confusing. The delays, the denials, the blessings, and the victories. All of these things are working together for my good and my response is “thank you”.