The Doggone Corona…

An outbreak is an infectious disease epidemiologist’s dream and nightmare. Even though, I don’t work in the field anymore, I’m still close to the sciences and this pandemic is mind-blowing. We studied this stuff, we were told another pandemic would happen one of these days, but I certainly did not expect it to happen in this moment. Honestly, are we ever prepared for stuff like this? Ummmmmm…no! Nevertheless, we are here navigating in an interesting world.

It’s a hard time for a lot of people. Social distancing is hard and it kinda stinks. Perhaps more than anyone, I know this incredibly hard on parents with children who are used to be active and socially engaged with their classmates and friends. The introvert in me is quite happy to be able to stay home without having to come up with an excuse for why I will be late or miss a function altogether. Yet, even for me, the notion of being in the house most of the day, every single day of the week is a bit challenging. Reading, watching TV, working, and taking a walk around the neighborhood gets old after awhile. So, I skipped the walk around the neighborhood for the past two days and opted to go on a neighborhood tour by car instead. If I’m just riding in the car, I’m still socially distanced!!! I’ve been avoiding going into public places as much as possible (except yesterday when my washer decided to call it quits and I had to buy a new one real quick, I made a necessary exception to the rule and went to the store).

How are we going to make it through this pandemic situation? I’ve got no good advice or real words of encouragement for how we will make it mentally and emotionally. I’m going to start video calling people because I think we need that human interaction. Physically, I sincerely believe if we will stay home, wash our hands, and clean highly touched surfaces often we will be a lot better off. Unless one’s job will not allow them to stay home, there’s really no need to go out right now. My going out consists of going to the grocery store, period. And frankly, I don’t need to go there more than once a week and I wear gloves. I have a whole routine: gloves, hand sanitizer, then wash my hands with soap and water as soon as I get home. Beyond groceries, I don’t need anything at the moment, so I’m not going to church, I’m not going to anyone’s backyard gathering, I’m not even going to visit my family. It stinks, I know, but flattening the curve is really that serious for me. I want people to live, not just my family, but the families of my friends and people I go to church with and my coworkers. The best way to do my part in ensuring this, is simply staying home. It’s that simple.

I know we will get through this, just as we have done before. We got through the Spanish Flu pandemic, and we’ve gotten through smaller epidemics like SARS and the swine flu pandemic (which was just 11 years ago). Things are tough right now, but this is when we put our trust in God and listen to the expert advice that is offered to us. Our faith is not minimized because we trust the wisdom of humankind, instead we are exercising our obedience to God by seeking wise counsel.

This doggone virus needs to go, but until it does, let’s all be safe! Let’s not just think of our own safety, but let’s think of the safety of all the people around us. Together, we’re gonna kick Corona’s behind!

Counting Down to Another Birthday…

It’s December … my birth month. Typically, this means very little to me. I’m not big on birthday celebrations. But a few weeks ago, while putting up my Christmas tree, it occurred to me that this past year has probably been one of my best yet. I have a tendency to focus on the negatives in my life and rarely celebrate the positives, but this year I have to smile as I reflect on all of the great things this year has brought my way.

After dragging my feet with seminary, I managed to complete nearly half of the degree coursework in three semesters while working full-time. I’m not saying it wasn’t crazy, but I managed to get mostly As, get all my work done on my day job, and not lose my mind in the middle of it all. Not only was it a great year academically, but so many unexpected doors opened for my writing this year. My mind has been blown. A somewhat challenging article, Yet God Called the Sinner, was published in my church’s newspaper. It was just an ordinary article, but individuals from 39 countries on five continents subscribe to the newspaper, so the distribution was wide and broad. Another writing was published in a book of liturgy, which was also distributed rather widely, and I was selected as a featured contributor for GovLoop (300,000 subscribers…it’s a kinda big deal). I’m grateful for these things and also challenged to find time to publish my own book.

On the home front, I’ve finally found time to begin adding some character and charm to my home. Much of this has been in my mind, but I at least began working with someone who has the gift of interior design and decorating. Soon my home will be filled with all of the things that make my heart smile—pictures of family and friends, artwork, and a few family heirlooms.

And work, well, it hasn’t been bad either. I think great things are yet in store there.

This year reminded me that I wasn’t created to be ordinary. I don’t say this to be arrogant or pompous, but I’ve always struggled to see the greatness in me. I’ve allowed moments of defeat to become defining and paralyzing when they should have simply been learning moments along my life journey. This year, I think I finally learned that lesson. Life happens, some things are out of my control, and when bad things happen it doesn’t diminish my value. I was still created to be great and it’s my time to live in that truth. I heard something tonight that sealed this for me … “it’s a sin for me to be good when God ordained me to be great.” So in my next journey around the sun, I’m ready to go all in, dismiss my fears, chase all of my dreams, and live my best life!

It’s been a good year…

Refreshing…

I want to write more than I do. That’s fact. Another fact … I’ve not made blog writing a priority in my life in this season. There’s school, there’s work, there’s the growing list of personal goals, and the truth is I’ve been experiencing lots of fatigue lately. I’d just brushed it off as my overextended life catching up with me. I’d started taking a new multivitamin (cuz apparently the gummy vitamins don’t include iron) and I feel worlds better. Apparently iron is really important in one’s life. So, with four weeks left in school, I’m climbing out from under a rock and am beginning to feel a bit refreshed and rejuvenated. I’ll be glad when school is over…Lord willing, three more semesters is all I have left!

Anywho, fall has been filled with great fun. I took a weekend trip to Western MD that proved to be very therapeutic for me. I’d reached a place where I was just going through the motions in many areas of my life. My desire to be present was real, but I’ve just been emotionally and mentally spent. I couldn’t hear God and couldn’t really feel God, so spiritually, I felt stuck. Work has been filled with lots of transitions and the adjustment has been met with some tough moments of challenge. And school, well, a full-time course load paired with a new position leading a team of five people has been interesting.

Nevertheless, Western Maryland was good for my soul. I feel like the Living Water began to drip drop in my soul again. I felt alive again. But more than anything, the sisterhood I found in the trip made my heart smile. I don’t have biological sisters, and while I love my brother a whole lot, he doesn’t understand what it means to be a woman. Sometimes, I wish I’d grown up with a sister who could relate to my journey or offer a listening ear, but that’s not my life story. I do have a cousin or two that I talk to a lot, but I just wonder how life would be different if I’d had a sister. While I didn’t do a great deal of talking on this trip (because the introvert in me finds talking to be too much at times), I left knowing, I’ve got some sisters who have my back, are rooting for my success, and are committed to pushing me towards my goals when I’m ready to give up. Sisters that aren’t threatened by my gifts, but sisters who see something in me that they refuse to let die. I’m thankful.

I also had a chance to check out The Underground Railroad Experience Trail. It was lots of fun and a great learning experience. I walked the trail in the comfort of daylight and kinda warm weather. The docent leading my small group shared most slaves escaped under the cover of night during winter months, particularly between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Given my experience on the trail, I cannot imagine. The trail was narrow, there was a good bit of climbing, without signage I wouldn’t have known which direction I was traveling. The experience gave me a greater sense of appreciation for the courage with the slaves who journeyed on the underground railroad. I definitely need to add seeing the movie Harriet to my list in the coming weeks.

Of course we know, it wouldn’t be fall for me if there wasn’t at least one day of apple picking. So, I visited the farm a few times to pick lots of veggies and apples. I made a large batch of applesauce (to share with family and friends of course) and an apple crisp for the office. I really enjoy baking and sharing the goods with others. I’m looking forward to the farm opening up again in the spring.

So, it’s been a refreshing fall for me. Did a few new things (I’ll talk about being the featured guest on a Sunday morning radio show a little later) and a few old things. I’m looking forward to what the remainder of the year has in store!!!!

Celebrating Survivors

We celebrated cancer survivors as a part of this morning’s worship service at my church today. After we’d finished praying with those who have survived their bout with cancer or are currently fighting cancer, I returned to my seat where it occurred to me that I never thought about the struggle my grandmother faced as she battled cancer multiple times. It hit me in an odd way, in some ways leaving me with feelings of shame and guilt and in other ways it made me smile because she truly was a survivor. Mom Putt was incredibly sick, but I never considered the struggles and challenges that came along with her cancer diagnosis. In my 18-year old youth and 30-something young adult minds, I only saw the fighter and the survivor in her. She was my strong-willed grandmother who would live. That was the bottom line, death wasn’t an option, until death was certain without divine intervention. Cancer treatment was just something that had to happen, but in my mind, it never affected her. She went, stayed there for a few hours, came home and life moved on. That’s what I saw, but I’m certain that was the wrong understanding.

Because I never saw cancer affect my grandmother until the very end, I never thought about her needing a blanket to take with her to treatment because she may have been cold. I never thought about picking her up some soup because it may have been soothing to her stomach. Even though I knew my grandmother was sick, I never viewed her in that light. She was my grandmother, the one who fixed all my favorites when I came home from college for a weekend visit. She was my grandmother, the one who always managed to make everything alright. I mean, she and my grandfather could solve any problem I had! She was my grandmother, the one who defied the odds and kicked cancer’s butt twice before God said, “No more.” I saw my grandmother and I saw the survivor, but I never saw the pain and stress of the fight. For that, I’m sorry. In writing this, I’m not guilting myself, I just wish I would’ve known better and been more supportive of her in the moment.

As I was sitting in church, my mind drifted back to when my grandmother’s home flooded during my freshman year at Morgan. She lost so much. While undergoing treatment, she had to move in with my aunt, yet she was still so concerned about others having everything they needed. With a bandana or twisted wig on her head (cuz only she could walk into church with a wig on backwards with not a care in this world), she just kept on living like nothing changed. If she was in pain, she never said anything . . . I never heard her complain. Perhaps in her mind, she was simply protecting me from the realities my young mind couldn’t handle. I’ll never know, but as an adult, I can say with certainty she showed me how to face one’s greatest challenges with confidence and faith. She showed me that when all we have is a prayer to stand on, we stand on that prayer with complete confidence of God’s ability to work in desperate situations.

Back in 1998/99, we never celebrated my grandmother being cancer free with the ringing of a bell or a party, but I remember after her home flooded, my family worked tirelessly to get my grandmother back into her home before Christmas. This was no minor flood, the water was waist high, the hardwood floors buckled, the river was truly in the house. The house had to dry out completely and be cleaned throughly, so I couldn’t understand the rush. But maybe, this was our family’s way of celebrating my grandmother’s survivorship. Christmas was her favorite holiday, so being able to celebrate Christmas in her home after she’d been through so much was the least we could do to make her smile.

I may be rambling a bit tonight, had lots on my mind as we come to the end of breast cancer awareness month. That wasn’t my grandmother’s cancer, but that doesn’t really matter, cancer is cancer. And so, it’s been six long years since Mom Putt passed away, yet sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday. Today was one of those days . . .

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 . . .

 

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. 😉