Journeying to 101: What’s Going On…

beige analog gaugeI’ve been silent here lately. Lots of things going on and I’ve just been allowing life to unfold. I thought I’d jump on and give a few quick updates on my 101 list tonight. To my shock, I started this list just over a year ago! Time flies . . . it’s been a challenging and fun time for me. I’m excited about being even more intentional in working on my list in the days to come.  So, what’s been going on . . .

Launched a new website. I took the leap and finally checked this off the list. My original plan was to relaunch this blog with a new web address, but plans changed. After dragging my feet and contemplating how to approach the new website, one afternoon while standing in the basement of my former pastors’ home, I got the idea to use the new website for the sole purpose of writing and sharing devotions. This new website is truly a ministry platform for me. On occasion, I may share a bit of my daily musings there, but it’s primarily a platform to share my writing. That’s the area where God has been dealing with me a great deal lately, so I’ve chosen to be obedient to that call in this season. When you have a minute check out the new site, Between Faith and Fear. Feel free to sign up to receive a weekly devotion while you’re there.

Attended the Publishing in Color Conference. In line with my focus on writing, I was privileged to attend the inaugural Publishing in Color Conference last week at the New Brunswick Theological Seminary. What an awesome experience? I’m fairly new to this writing thing. I enjoy this work, but the world of publishing is foreign to me. Last week, I met some incredible people who poured wonderful blessings into my spirit. I’ve not had a chance to fully process the experience yet, but I’m certain great things are in store for me. Before it’s all said and done, I think God is preparing to blow my natural mind.

There are a few other things bubbling up, but they’re not quite on the surface yet, so my lips are still sealed. Life is so good. God has been more than faithful. Church folks often say, “I don’t look like what I’ve been through.” I used to think that phrase was cliché and meaningless, but now that I’ve lived a little and survived some real challenges and tests, my true confession is just that . . . I don’t look like what I’ve been through! God has been better than good to me, and I’ve got a strange suspicion that He’s just getting started in my life. My prayer is that I will always stay humble, remain rooted, and be eager to live a life that pleases God alone.

I’m looking forward to the journey in front of me . . .

 

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Journeying to 101: High Tea

0512181641Would You Like An Adventure Now, Or Shall We Have Our Tea First? – J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

I love tea of all kinds, particularly unsweetened tea with a bit of lemon. For Mother’s Day this year, I enjoyed high tea at Turnbridge Point with the ladies of my mom’s family (another check off my 101 list…yay!!!). We had a wonderful afternoon of laughing and sharing together.

I’ve heard lots about Turnbridge Point from my Eastern Shore friends. Their reviews are definitely on point! This was my first time visiting this quaint bed and breakfast, but I can assure you it won’t be my last. Chef Steve put together an amazing menu—cucumber sandwiches, chicken salad croissants, quiche, apricot scones, and a variety of desserts. I have a very strong hate relationship with cucumbers, but I ate the entire sandwich. It was amazing! To make the day even more exciting, we all dressed up and wore our fancy hats! We were preparing for the Royal Wedding . . . I wore one of my grandmother’s hats. Of course it barely fit my head, but I rocked it to remember her anyway. Life always seems so busy and stressful. High tea was the perfect opportunity to just relax and have fun with the ladies.

It wasn’t the grandest of Mother’s Day celebrations, but we had lots of fun.

 

When Hate Knocked On My Door…

I’m not sure what I want to do right now . . . cry, scream, punch the wall, or lay into all of those people who try to make me believe the false narrative that racism isn’t real! During my lunch break today, I decided to ride to the Trader Joe’s just up the street. Before heading in the store, I was sitting in my car reading a text message from an old co-worker. Out of the blue an older white man pulled up next to me and began hollering at me calling me a n$%#@! The rant went on for several moments and I sat there in disbelief and shock. I was frozen and scared. I WAS SCARED! I had no idea what this man was going to do next . . . was he going to get out of his car and approach me . . . was he going to attempt to run into my car . . . was he going to park his car in the distance and follow me? It was a terrifying moment for me, and I didn’t know what to do. So I called my Dad not just because he lived through the civil rights era that seems to be present again, but also because he’s my father and he will always seek to protect me whether he’s in my presence or with me in spirit. My Dad stayed on the phone with me while I walked in the store to pick up the one item I intended to get and as I began my journey back to the office. And then, I was left to sit, think, and process what happened to me when HATE knocked on my door today.

You see, people get upset about the Black Lives Matter campaign, people get upset when men of color take a knee during the playing of the national anthem, people get upset when I call 45 racist and a disgrace to this country, but do these said people really understand what it feels like to be a minority in this country! Do they know what it means to get nervous if stopped by a police officer? Do they know what it feels like to question whether it’s safe to stop in specific areas to grab a bite or use the bathroom when travelling? Do they know what it means to not be given a chance when you’re more than deserving of it? I do! Until you’ve walked a day in my shoes, no white person will ever know how it feels to be Black in America! That statement does not mean I dislike Whites. That’s far from the truth with me, there are many White people in my circle who I call “friend”, but this does not negate the reality I experience as a minority.

I’ve been falsely accused of being disrespectful because I’ve been bold enough to ask tough questions in workplace meetings . . . I’ve been told “well, you don’t seem black, you’re just one of us” . . . I’ve been overlooked for positions that I am more than qualified for . . . I’ve been followed in stores so people could “ensure I was not stealing” . . . I’ve been asked to provide additional identification and proof of insurance for car rentals when others have essentially just been given the keys . . . I’ve had to work so much harder for everything I’ve gotten, and it pisses me off that people still find it acceptable to hate me or mistreat me because of the color of my skin! It irritates the heck out of me that I have high school classmates who wanted to be “down with the brown” 20 years ago, and now hateful words roll off their tongue with ease. If you’ve never been an oppressed person (not a black person, an oppressed person because oppression crosses color lines), you don’t know how it feels!

I’m mad about what happened today! Let’s be real . . . I’m cussing mad! Yet, today’s events remind me that this dark world needs to experience the Light! The Light that causes so-called Christians to come to their senses and recognize that we ought not say people who spew hate from their mouths and show it by their actions align with our Christian values! There’s NO WAY Jesus walked in hate and I’m certain what’s happening in this country right now is not pleasing in His sight! The time has come for us all to begin to call HATE what it is. It’s time for people to stop co-signing on hate . . .  if it’s your family member engaging in this nonsense, call them out! If it’s your friends, call them out! If it’s your former classmate, call them out! If it’s your co-worker, call them out! Don’t settle and be a listening ear to this nonsense, take a stand, be the light, and decide to make a difference in this world that’s decided to give hate another chance to live!

 

New Year, New Theme…

trust

trust: firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

Ahhhhh..the beginning of a new year, what a joy! It’s a wonderful time to reflect on the year past and it yields an exciting opportunity to ponder on the year ahead. For me, 2017 proved to be interesting—it was a year that became an unexpected, divine watershed moment in my life. Yet, it was a year that I wouldn’t trade for the world. It was a really good year! I got connected to a great writing group, I began to pursue a major life goal (that I’m believing will soon come to pass … exciting!), I left a draining job, I let some people go, and I spent a lot of time focusing on my personal growth! I learned to genuinely love me last year … I needed that in ways I never knew! The Lord proved to be faithful in my life and I’m so thankful!

Fast forward to 2018 and I’m over the moon and filled with excitement about what this year will prove to be for me. As I did last year, I’ve decided to identify a theme to guide my life this year.

Trust.

I thought jump was hard, but I’m pretty sure I’ve lost my mind with this year’s theme. Yet, in a devotion I read by Pastor Rick Warren earlier today he said, “God blesses people who are not afraid to trust him completely.” It kinda confirmed what I’ve been thinking about these past few weeks. This is a theme that I don’t want to guide my life this year, but it’s the right theme for me in this moment. Yes, it’s too hard—it requires this control freak to release the grip on more than what feels comfortable, but, perhaps, this is why trust needs to be my theme for this year. As is the case for all of us, I have absolutely no control over my life. I think I’ve got control, but everything depends on God waking me up in the morning and allowing things in my life to remain the same or get better day-by-day. If one of these variables changes, so does my life, and I’m left realizing that my only choice is to trust God with everything.

Trust is hard for me, being calculated is so much easier. But without trust, I’ve learned that one doesn’t do much living. So, this year I’m embarking on a new and challenging journey. I will strive to do a bit more trusting. And this time next year, I hope to look back and reflect on all the wonderful lessons I learned along the way.

Time to live…

Journey to 101: Pay Off My Car!

paying-off-my-car-loan

Another work week in the books and while a cold may have had me down for a bit, life is on the up and up! The new job is going great, an article I wrote was published in The Christian Recorder last week, and I paid off my car! I PAID OFF MY CAR! I know one day I’ll have to buy another car and I may inherit another car payment, but I hope to enjoy many months of not having this monthly expense.

In the meantime, I won’t be wasteful, I’ll repurpose this money in a way that aligns with the Dave Ramsey philosophy. He has a very common sense approach to money management that sometimes feels overwhelming, but is generally manageable. It’s helping me slowly reach some big goals, so I’m willing to tough it out.

Until tomorrow…gotta have a Thanksgiving post. 😉

And You Say You Are a Christian…

Disclosure: My blood has been boiling since yesterday afternoon.

Love-unconditionallyFor several months, I’ve been a member of a local writing group. It’s composed of Christians of varying ages and gender. While there are a few Black Americans in the group, lately I’m the one who attends most regularly. Yesterday, an older white gentleman shared a devotion entitled Loving Black Folks. As soon as the devotion was circulated among the group members, the other members shared with me that they had some real concerns about the devotion and told the gentleman that he needed to make some revisions and bring it back to the group before it would be accepted for publication. Then they proceeded to ask me to provide my honest feedback on the devotion because the other black ladies in the group had been non-responsive to their request. So, with an open mind and heart, I read the devotion and tried my best to give it a fair shot. But, can I tell you that I was cussing mad when I finished reading the document! I didn’t cuss, but I certainly shared with the group exactly how I felt. One of the ladies stood up and clapped. I’m not sure that was necessary, but I appreciated it!

You see, my anger with the devotion began with the title…don’t call me folks! Personally, I find the term “folks” to be degrading when referring to a group of people! I wouldn’t say, let me go love those “crackers”, so don’t call me “folks”. My other issue with the title is that as Christians we should focus on loving ALL people, there was absolutely no need to single out a specific group (unless, of course, that’s a group you silently have a problem with). In John 13, Jesus says, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” We are to love all people regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, income level, ability level, and family structure, among other things. We are to love those who are different from us, we are to love those who have not come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, we are to love those who have done wrong to us, we are to love those who engage in sinful behavior…we are to love all because while all of us are different, we are all valuable in the eyes of God! So, as nicely as I could (it took real effort) I told the gentleman, “This title makes it seem like it’s work for you to love black folks. For the record, I want you to know that I don’t need anyone to feel burdened to love me. I’m alright being loved by those who accept me as I am. Please don’t feel obligated to love people of color!”

But my frustration did not stop with the title, the devotion was five paragraphs and two sentences. Of all the words he wrote, five paragraphs discussed his personal experiences of Black people serving him and his family and two sentences contained a reference to the love Jesus has for all of us! I was blown! I mean, this guy didn’t find anything strange about what he had written, so I proceeded to tell him that his devotion talked nothing about loving people, it talked about his personal experiences with Black people. And honestly, I found nothing loving about the experiences he described. I don’t think it occurred to him that most Blacks who worked in the houses of Whites did not do this because it brought them joy or was the fulfillment of a life goal! NO…they did it because they needed to feed their families and they wanted their children and grandchildren to have an opportunity to pursue the dreams that were left deferred in their own lives! I was personally offended because some of my relatives served Whites but could’ve done so much more if segregation weren’t the law in their day! I was offended because the church where he attends and where the writing group meets is one of the most diverse congregations I’ve visited in my life…the pastoral leadership is diverse, the musicians and singers are diverse, the greeters are diverse…this place is the epitome of what I think a worship environment should look like! And yet, there was THIS experience with a guy who clearly just doesn’t get it! I went and checked out his blog and Facebook page after the meeting (because that’s where people share their real views) and there he made a statement about how individuals in same-sex relationships need to take their problem to God and deal with it by themselves because it’s not his burden. While I respect his views, I swear we are called to love those who live a life that we find offensive. For me the offense doesn’t really matter because I’m certain my Bible tells us that the person without sin should cast the first stone, and the last time I checked all of us have engaged in some type of sinful behavior, so how about we love on each other and help one another strive to honor God completely with our lives!

So, my blood is still boiling because in my book it doesn’t matter how many mission trips one takes or how many souls one leads to Christ or how many sermons one preaches if one forgets that commandment that tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves! If you don’t love ALL people regardless of their stuff, then shame on you and ask yourself the question…am I really a Christian.

Until next time…show love!

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.                1 Corinthians 13:13

Journeying to 101. Global Leadership Summit

Have I ever mentioned just how much I love creating a 101 list! It’s one of the greatest motivators in the world for me. I’ve been working my current list since June 1st and I’ve managed to place a check next to five things so far. Not a bad start in my opinion.

Today, I had the opportunity to attend the Global Leadership Summit. Until a few months ago I’d never heard of this meeting, but I’m so glad I stumbled upon this information. Without a doubt this is the best leadership event I’ve ever attended. At 5:30 pm, I was still wide awake, taking notes, and fully engaged in the final talk of the day! I’m excited about taking things from the training back to my circles in both my professional and personal lives which is far from my norm, but the summit has been just that good! The beauty of this event is that while rooted in Christian values, the speakers are not limited to faith leaders. Yes, there were two pastors that spoke today, but the majority of the speakers were business leaders and everyone focused on leadership lessons, there was nothing “churchy” about the event. I’m definitely looking forward to tomorrow’s sessions.

So, what are my personal action steps from today’s session…there’s so much, but I know I can only do a few things!

  1. I need to determine who I will plant leadership seeds in. People did it for me, now I need to do it for someone else.
  2. I will create a leadership betterment plan that outlines how I will take responsibility for improving my leadership skills over the next year. Everyone wins when I get better!
  3. At the end of each day I will write 3 moments of joy!
  4. I will be more intentional in giving people a chance. Despite how things may seem, I don’t know everyone’s story…I must be mindful of this.
  5. I will stay hopeful and I will be present with those I am trying to lead.
  6. I will choose to be a student, not a critic. I will choose to keep my eyes and mind open. I will choose to replace “How” with “Wow”.

The last goal, replacing “how” with “wow”, is probably the point from the day that resonated the most for me. The lecturer challenged us to “wow” ideas to life rather than “how” them to death. I think this hit me so hard because I see this exact scenario unfold in so many areas of my life all of the time. When presented with a new idea, individuals in my space are quick to respond with questions that ask how we can afford something or how can we find the people to do that or how can find the time to make that work or how do we think this small church can do that. While individuals hearts may be in the right place, I’m so sick of hearing excuses framed as “compassionate questions”. I really just want everyone connected to me to think outside the box and dream bigger!

With that, I’m looking forward to what tomorrow’s sessions will be…

Why Not?

This weekend I spent some time flipping through my grandmother’s Bible…it was filled with lots of good things – pictures, wedding announcements, funeral programs, newspaper clippings, etc. One of the things I stumbled upon was a poem written by a local artist entitled, Why Not. It was an amazing piece that I read at the right moment in my life. There have been lots of changes and transitions for me over these past six months…I’d say all of them have been positive…but change certainly is not always easy. I started the year declaring that my theme was to Jump. I was very clear in January that I was committed to dreaming again and pursuing bigger goals, and yet while I was excited about doing new and different things, apprehension and nervousness has crept in as the months have gone by. The beauty is I have not stopped crawling forward (that book that I decided I would write is taking shape ever so slowly and the new website is on the way), but on numerous occasions, I have questioned why I thought these big, crazy, wild dreams that I have were feasible for me. And then I stumbled upon this poem in Mom-Mom’s Bible that let me know that it’s okay to jump out and chase a dream that is one size too big! So, I leave it with you today, as perhaps you question some decisions that you need to make for your own life. Perhaps all of us should refrain from asking why and push ourselves to ask, Why not give it a try?

Why Not
J. Joy Matthews Alford

I knew I’d never do it.
I couldn’t.
I always wanted to,
But didn’t know how.
Didn’t even know where to start.
All my life I’d been told,
“You can’t do that”,
So I never questioned why.
Just accepted that I couldn’t.
“Til one day I asked myself, “Why Not?”

“Nothing beats a failure but a try.”
How often I’ve heard those words recited.
Is that all they are; empty words?
Or could they hold the key?
Ok, so, I can’t do it now.
Does that mean I can never do it?
What part can’t I do?
What part can I do?
Will my ego stop me from trying
Because I fear I might fail?
If I get over this fear,
How far can I go?

Until now, I never believed I could do this.
Never believed in myself enough to try.
What else might I try if I succeed?
What other fears might I conquer?
Even if I fail
Will things be worse than before?
Maybe that’s the key –
That by challenging myself
I can discover new facets of me.
Maybe venturing beyond the safe and charted route,
By striving towards goals once believed unattainable,
I can achieve successes I never dreamed possible.
Successes that I could never have known
Without have tried, or having asked, “Why Not?”