Moments of Pause

Several years ago, I learned to pause. I would intentionally stop and do nothing, even if just for a minute or two. Over the years, this time has proven to be an amazing reset and reprieve as there’s always something to do in a house of 7.

During these moments, I rarely actually pray. I simply turn my heart and mind towards God and am open to hearing from Him in these moments. One of the things I have noticed is that it has caused me to be far more in tune with Him. At the busiest points of my day, in the midst of all the noise, I can still hear Him clearly. It’s as if, in the intentional moments, I am tuning in more pointedly and as I leave that moment, the tuning that I have gained remains, only to be improved with the following intentional pauses.

I love and appreciate that in the midst of anxiety ridden moments, I can still hear Him. I love it when He asks me, “What are you looking at?” in those moments, jarring me from sinking further into despair. I am able to shift my focus and look at Him because He is just so beautiful. It feels like such an amazing cheat to have in life. We never have to wallow in despair and anguish. What a gift!

My time of pausing typically includes me just listening to whatever sounds are around me. Right now, my children are asleep and I hear my cockatiel Birdie, singing and chirping beautifully. I hear planes flying overhead, cars whizzing by, birds outside, the hum of the refrigerator and the clicking of my fingers as I type this. I really enjoy the simple beauty in just being.

God is changing my pauses now in an interesting way (for me). My pause now includes worship music at times. Being a classically trained coloratura soprano who has sung in church for most of my life, one would surmise (incorrectly) that I listen to music all the time. Music is a sore spot for me. Oftentimes, it is very triggering, especially now. It takes me back to times that I had forgotten about, feelings I’d buried because I couldn’t deal with them at the time. It brings too much to the forefront, too fast and too intensely and I hate it. Most of the time, I don’t mind when my husband and children play music around me. We have fun singing during road trips and have frequent dance parties in our living room, but sometimes, depending on the type of music being played, I can’t handle it and seek to escape. On my own, I am far more prone to listen to books or lectures than music. Now, God has me actually wanting to hear music at times during my pauses and it is quite glorious.

I would like to share one of my current favorite pause songs by Rick Pino called Pour My Love On You. Click here for the link. I hope you enjoy it. It really blesses me every time I listen.

I’m still not listening to music in the car as I drive, though. Don’t want to. Love you…

Waking Up to Love

Part of what makes me who I am, is that I am a story teller. I thoroughly enjoy hearing and telling stories of events that happen in life. I also know full well when I am being “watched from afar”, so I am mindful about how much I share and when. I may not say much at times, but I’m no one’s fool. People give lip service to loving and caring when, even if they aren’t aware of it, they just don’t. I have always noticed this, but I just hoped for the best and kept quiet. Now, I am more mindful than ever of how I conduct myself as I face what simply is, in life with various people.

I never realized how cynical I can be until now. I thought I was overly trusting but I am finding that’s just not true. One area that I am waking up to true love in, is with my husband. Although we have our fair share of issues and disagreements, I believe I have held him at arms length to a degree, expecting him to change up on me at any given moment and display the toxic behaviors I grew up with and am still very much accustomed to.

The fact that he has not ever done those things, has done nothing to dissuade me from that expectation, even after 24 years together. I expect him to be selfish, heartless and mean and when he doesn’t, I’m confused.

When he does behave selfishly, I think, “See? I knew it!” Recently, I messed up royally and fell asleep when I was supposed to be letting him in the house. He stood outside calling me and our daughters, getting no reply until he tried our oldest, who let him in. I’d literally just gotten off the phone with him, fell asleep and had my phone on silent. Needless to say, he wasn’t pleased to be stuck outside after midnight when we just got off the phone.

When he came in, he woke me up and told me what happened. I apologized as he went to brush his teeth. I stayed up, worried, and on alert. I was waiting for the cold shoulder. I expected him to ignore me for a while whether that be hours, days, weeks, or more. It didn’t matter that he’s never done this before in our lives together. I waited. When he came back into our room, he looked at me, gave me the prettiest and most genuine smile, and said, “Happy Anniversary.” I was stunned and said, “You aren’t mad at me?” He said, “Not anymore. That’s over.” I was shocked.

I mentioned in my last blog post that part of an anniversary gift was his bringing home my dear cousin Tami and her 4 daughters for 3 days. He said he wanted to make me happy. As they were leaving, Tami told me there was more to come. I felt so happy with her and the girls’ visit, I couldn’t really imagine what more he could do to top or come close to that. I am very sentimental. Details count with me. He drove over 200 miles to get them and take them back home. That’s a lot, especially when he is not a fan of road trips. Anyway, he declared this anniversary was his year to plan for us and really went all out in celebration of our 20th year of marriage.

He told me to block out specific dates and pretty much demanded that I not mess up this one rule. One year, he surprised me and took me to Hawaii which I almost messed up. Ten years ago, I completely botched a trip to Paris for our 10th anniversary. I’ve grown in wisdom since then, lol.

This time, he told me not to even pack clothes, as he wanted to buy them at our destination. I complied this year, thankfully. He had a harder time keeping where we were headed a secret this time, and I just smiled when I saw Las Vegas on the screen, printing our boarding passes at the airport’s kiosk. I didn’t really care where we went, as long as we were together. He’d been away a lot and I miss him. We spent our first day in Vegas, taking walks and seeing some of the sights. The next day, we rented a car, drove to San Diego, and spent a day and night there. On the way back to Vegas, he messed up. While shopping at an outlet, he asked about one daughter’s shoe size. I told him and then said I’d call her to check to be sure. I couldn’t reach any of my 3 girls. I began to freak out. Long story short, I called, left voice messages, text messages, emailed each, sent messages through What’s app, Marco Polo, Google Duo, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram. I was soon convinced that my 5 children had been trafficked and began freaking out- all the way.

Eventually, my oldest sent me a text message, asking about some soap I made. Still not convinced they were OK, I demanded they call me. Another daughter text me saying sorry and giving some lame excuse for not being reachable. After an hour, one finally called. As we spoke, there was suddenly a weird echo. A moment later, I heard the door to our suite open and saw all 5 of my children and my niece Jeteya walk in! It was all so surreal. They laughed, saying they’d planned everything out except how to account for going missing for about 6-7 hours. Again, Jermaine said that he wanted to do what he knew would make me happy.

We rented a van the next day and visited the beach, Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and more, in LA. We had an amazing time.

My prayer is that I would continue to be open to true love and accept what I have in and with my husband. This man very obviously adores me as I do, him. I don’t want to miss out on a thing. I want to soak it all up and enjoy our life together. I feel so grateful and fulfilled.

Our Tami (Really mine, though)

I recently experienced a loss. It was the kind of loss that feels very alienating. At the same time, my husband has been away quite a bit, helping his dad, so, the temptation to feel alone has been great at times. Thankfully, I hear God well and often enough that it hasn’t been very difficult.

My husband and I will be celebrating our 20th anniversary on July 21st and I am looking forward to the intentional time with just the two of us. I need it. I have been missing him a lot.

Sometimes, our loved ones know what we need before we do. As one who has felt that I needed to anticipate and meet the needs of others without them saying a word, that foresight being turned towards me is absolutely… humbling.

My husband was to return home on Wednesday. When he came in the door, I was thrilled to see him and then was stunned to see my cousin Tami and her 4 daughters come in soon after.

Tami and I grew up together. When she was 8 and I was 13, she came to live with my mother and I. Tami and I have always been very close. We are more like sisters and best friends. Our lives are beautifully and traumatically interwoven. We love and seek to protect one another fiercely. She was the first person who I felt truly knew me. She can even taste food and know if I would like it. She has always been nothing but loving and accepting of me, no matter what, even when we don’t agree. She was the first to feel like home to me. She was the first person who I felt really saw me, understood me, and still genuinely liked me. I didn’t have to do anything to earn her love. It was a free gift. I have always and still feel extremely protective of her and our relationship.

From the moment she and her girls walked through the door, we enjoyed each other. We cooked, baked, laughed, shared memories, danced, skated, walked, shopped, did fireworks and more. At some point, she smiled and said wistfully, “I really needed this.” I did too. The three days went by too quickly.

We embraced and cried a little as she left. I told her and our girls that my husband said to me that bringing her here was a part of his anniversary gift to me. He said he wanted to make me happy. He knew that for me, Tami is happiness. She told me that he has more amazing things planned for me. If he did nothing else, this would be more than enough. He sought to bring me happiness and he did. Anything else he does will just be icing on the cake. I am so grateful.

Harmful Perceptions and Mindsets

In Disney’s Pocahontas, when they sang, “They’re different from us, which means they can’t be trusted”, it was easy to see how self-righteous they were. I believe it was easier for viewers to see because we got to see both sides.

We got a glimpse into how both sides lived and thought and had a picture that was more broad. From what I can see, the sentiment from that song has permeated a good deal of people in America.

On one hand, we say we love freedom and free speech, but the moment someone says something in opposition to the narrative we have chosen to believe, we damn them. They are wrong, we are right. We condemn what we don’t understand and label people accordingly. We call them hateful names, believe them to be deceived and worse, all while missing the venom spewing from our very pores. All this, because we don’t understand their point of view. How childish… How self-righteous… How, narcissistic.

Our thinking and comprehension is finite. We have little more than tunnel vision when it comes to many things. We need each other to see things more clearly. We need God. In some instances, we seem to be able to face this fact, but the idea that someone you don’t understand is suddenly deemed whatever horrible label you want to assign to them, is sheer lunacy. Just say you don’t understand! You know your side, how about you listen to another side? You just might learn something.

People’s hearts are so wounded. It grieves me to witness the horrific things that come out of those I previously thought were mature, balanced, and kind. I am even more amazed as I see that they are completely blinded to their hatred. It is true that when pressure is applied in one’s life, what’s inside comes out. For some, it is a shining moment, where obvious inner beauty shines forth as with diamonds that have endured tremendous pressure. For others, what comes forth is simply rancid and ugly.

My prayer today is that we can all learn to look inward. As I type, Michael Jackson’s Man In the Mirror plays in my mind. We truly need to be the change we wish to see. Many of us have heard that often, but how many of us actually live like that? If you have hatred and are holding grudges, spewing all forms of malice in anyone’s direction, you are bound and only hurting and deceiving yourself. Galations 5:1 in The Passion Translation reads, “Let me be clear, the Anointed One has set us free– not partially, but completely and wonderfully free! We must always cherish this truth and stubbornly refuse to go back into the bondage of our past.”

If you see yourself still bound, still as a victim, still being oppressed and depressed by some elusive other, you won’t experience the freedom Jesus died and paid for. As long as you see yourself this way, yeah, you are oppressed. You need little help from anyone else to keep you that way too. You do it yourself just by your thinking. You turn your back on what the Word of God says, in favor of… what? As my dad, Russ would say, “How’s that been working for ya?” We have to stop putting all the focus on some elusive other, look inward, get real with what’s there, and seek to heal. Famous Actor Denzel Washington said, “We can’t blame the system. It starts at home. By the time the system is involved, it’s already too late.”

Truly, it starts with that “Man In the Mirror”. As long as we are looking outward for others to fix our issues, we will only be as good as they are to us, moment by moment. I don’t know about you. You are free to do what you want, but I am not set up for that kind of bondage. I am free.

Who Is Responsible For My Wounds?

We live in an unjust world. We live in a world where people, for whatever reason, can do us wrong, wreak havoc in our lives on many layers, and simply walk away without ever taking any responsibility at all, never making any attempt to make amends or right the wrong(s).

I believe, a very difficult truth to stomach, is that our wounds are our responsibility. Recovery from any wounds is never easy, although some wounds are easier to recover from than others, but if we wait around for the offender(s) to make things right for us we may very well wait until we die, all while we sit, feeling justified and angry or pretending our wounds don’t exist.

Some of us actually allow ourselves to get comfortable in our pain, preferring the position of victimization, taking it on as an identity of sorts, nursing and in some cases, deepening our own wounds without any further help from the original offender(s). We can make things worse for ourselves and be completely deceived all the while.

I believe this isn’t necessary. Jesus said he came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. It was for freedom that he has made us free but we have a choice in the matter. At every turn, we have free will. We can decide to just stay enraged, hurt and grow more and more bitter, or we can take him at his word, move into experiencing all he paid for on the cross, and actually be healed.

The path to healing is not linear, easy or fun, but it is far better than remaining stagnant, steeped in anger, fear, frustration, and confusion, all while trying to make someone else take responsibility and make things right for us.

I am not saying we should be an open door, allowing any and everything to come our way without us seeking to protect ourselves. That should be common sense. Most of us, when we come home for the day or before going to bed at night, lock our doors. Boundaries are necessary. We must guard our hearts in the same way or we will slowly allow what the enemy has sent our way, to utterly destroy us.

I don’t say any of this from any sort of rosy position. I say this as one with experiences, many times over, where I have been mistreated without any sort of recompense.

I say this as the 14 year old girl, whose mother decided to leave her and her 9 year old cousin home alone overnight while she went to on a trip to a casino and rape occurred when we allowed neighborhood friends over that evening after school.

I say this as the one whose rapist told many that “He had her”, never making any sort of amends ever, even up until he died.

I say this as the girl whose mother, when she learned of the rape, said, “I thought about whether I may be responsible for that happening to you, but I decided I’m not. I deserved to get away.”

I say it as the Black woman who has been the token in several workplaces, knew it, and has personally experienced racism and discrimination.

I say this as the woman who, with God’s leading has decided to stand up and say, “No more!” to years of abuse, betrayal and more from the very person who should have protected me, loved me and cared for me, all while my character is being tarnished to all who will listen behind my back because I have stepped out of my “proper” place.

Of the few who dared approach me upfront, only one has asked me why I backed away. The others who approached me came to try and convince me to fix what I did not break. I feel they came to me because they know I am the safer one to speak to in such a manner. Others just talk about me behind my back, believing whatever is being said about me.

There is no responsibility being taken. There are no apologies, no changed behavior. Nothing. So who will fix this? Who will fix me? Should I go around enraged, unloading my anger on any and every one who hits one of my many raw nerve endings I possess and sometimes nurse as dear friends? Should I wait for the day they will see their errors and seek repentance? Would that fix me? Would it make me brand new if they did? Who will fix it all for me? Who will take responsibility for me?

I won’t go to my offenders for help in repairing my wounds. It doesn’t work. They are massively wounded themselves to even have the self-awareness necessary to even glance my way, and I know this like I know my name. I choose to take responsibility for my own wounds, face what is, and go to The Great Physician. I won’t go to people to do for me what I know, only God can do for me. I take full responsibility for my wounds. My position, my confession, and my declaration over my life is that with God’s help and by Jesus’ stripes, I AM HEALED.

Simple Things

The simple things in life really get to me. They make me feel happy, content and even excited to be right where I am in life.

I awoke fairly early this morning and before getting out of bed, my toddler came into my room. He checked to see if I was awake- if I was asleep, his habit is to leave and allow me to sleep (amazing right?). When he realized I was awake, he climbed in bed with me and lay in my arms. All too soon, he was fast asleep again. I lay in bed, just holding him and feeling his little arms around me as well. I thanked God and thought to myself how grateful I am that this isn’t my life because of the pandemic, this is and has been my life for many years now.

Eventually, I had to get up. I decided to go check on the raw goat cheese I started the dripping process with the day before. Then I decided to finally make the lip balm, lotion and goat milk soap I’ve been putting off making. As I gathered items to make these products, I was blessed 4 times over as I stayed in tune with all that was going on around me while I worked.

I could hear our 2 doves cooing. We also have a cockatiel, but he’s still covered so he isn’t making his noise. The doves have a more muted smooth sound that is kind of nice. In addition to their cooing, I could hear my husband’s voice as he spoke with friends. I love his voice.

I could also hear foot falls from upstairs. I could tell it was my youngest daughter waking up and heading down the hall. Then, I could hear the muted sweet voice of my oldest daughter who is stationed in the basement each day, working.

At that moment, I stopped what I was doing and just listened, enjoying the songs of the birds and my daughter, the laughter of my husband and the foot traffic above me. It was every day, simple. Nothing out of the ordinary. But, it was oh so glorious. I pray you notice these things and more in your life. There’s always something to take note of and be thankful for in life. Don’t miss it.

The God Cheat

There have been so many times I thought to write. There have been many things I thought to write about, but each time, I just didn’t. I have had so many different things on my mind. I have several new things I am already doing and a few others that want to get into, so, as usual, I’m all over the place.

I pray all is well with you and yours during this time. For many, it is fraught with fear, uncertainty, sadness and more. I pray often for us all, and especially those having a tough time as we wait out this pandemic.

I never want to appear callous or as if I take grave things lightly, especially when others around me are clearly suffering. I am sensitive to that as I have been told throughout my life that I didn’t take things seriously because I wasn’t perceived to be worried enough.

The fact is, I trust God. That doesn’t mean I don’t have bouts of fear and He doesn’t have to pull me back into sanity, but as I heard a doctor say on a video, (paraphrasing) “If I can’t trust God to protect me from this virus, how can I say I trust Him for salvation and an eternity with Him in Heaven?”

In the beginning of this, I remember a moment where I felt fear creeping in. It was because of false information being circulated. Thankfully, God set me straight and showed me where I was to get my information. Ever since then, I have felt hope and peace and even joy in the midst of it all.

In this moment, I sat to write because I suddenly turned my attention to Abba and said, “Are you serious? Am I really sitting here happy and making plans and enjoying this time? It seems like I am cheating. It seems kind of wrong.” I am enjoying time with my husband and our 5 children. I am planning and delving into new things and old things that I used to enjoy, like rollerskating. Numerous blessings have come about because of and in spite of all that is going on. Things just look, hopeful and bright. I won’t apologize for this, and I refuse to allow anything or anyone rob me of this.

A former pastor of mine used to say peace isn’t the absence of conflict. You know you have peace when all hell is breaking loose around you and you’re good. I am using wisdom when I have to go out, but I am grateful that I am not afraid. I see this as an opportunity to grow deeper in intimacy and trust in God. I remember when I felt that first bout of fear coming on, I asked God to help me to trust Him because I didn’t really know how. The really cool thing is, even with Him saying we are to trust Him, He is the one who helps us to do it. He does it all. I pray you are well.

To Be Seen

I really thought I was hard to see but I am realizing with great surprise that this is another big lie I have believed.

I have felt misunderstood by my mother for the vast majority of my life. She would tell me that she knows me best and would also say I was things like selfish, rude, manipulative, etc. Now, in truth, I didn’t think I was these things and didn’t intend to be any of them either, but when you’re a child and you’re taught these things about yourself, you believe them.

I thought, if my mother can’t see that I am really trying hard to be perfect, something is wrong with me. If she can’t see that I’m trying hard to do my very best to make her and everyone else proud and happy, and it isn’t coming through, something is wrong with me. I’m not doing it right. Being massively misunderstood is no fun at all. Being told you are the exact opposite of who you are is devastating and degrading. In my mind, since my true intentions weren’t obvious, I just needed to try harder, do better. That was my thinking for most of my life.

Now, I am coming across more and more people who are telling me things about myself, things that are actually true of my character, and I am dumbfounded. I wonder, “How do they know?”, they seem psychic or something. How is it that they see so clearly what my own mother, who says she knows me best, doesn’t see?

It didn’t dawn on me until recently that perhaps I am not at all difficult to see, I am who I believe I am and maybe the problem begins and ends with my mother. Maybe she does in fact see who I really am but doesn’t want to admit it to me. I don’t know.

Regardless, I am experiencing shock after shock as people I am friends with on social media describe me perfectly.

I posted about missing my oldest who just moved out, and one dear Facebook friend said to me, “You are so close with your kids, so intentional, you’re such a good mom, you’re real friends. I thought this was going to be really hard for you.”

Another dear Facebook friend wrote, “To not ache, I’d be concerned. I know you well enough to know she’s your sidekick. Your babies are your friends… and it’s beautiful and painful and messy and wonderful, and all the things. This is a testament of what an amazing mama you are!”

I am an open person but even with what I do share, I don’t share everything. To have these two women see the real me like this amazes me. I have only met one of them in person and that was only one time, probably a good 10 years ago, but they see me. And now, I understand that it isn’t that I am hard to truly see. They see me because they want to and the real me doesn’t present some sort of imposition for them in any way. They don’t feel the need to tear me down in order to feel better about themselves. It’s good to be seen for who I am. It’s good to know that I don’t have to try to be perfect. It’s good to know I can just relax and be myself and that is not just enough, but it’s plenty. It really feels good. Actually, it’s not just good. It’s great.

Valuing Relationships

Last week, on my Facebook page, I posted about valuing people over differing opinions, theirs and mine. I said, I value relationship, and I do.

In the not too distant past, I have loved people and valued relationships in very unhealthy ways and to my own detriment. I am not doing this any longer.

If I am dealing with a person who is unwilling to take responsibility for their actions, I am able to eventually forgive, but a necessary shift occurs.

I am at a point now where in such a case, I can and will go on loving the person. I am wise enough to understand that I cannot make anyone change and/or see what I perceive as reason. We have all been gifted with free will from God. Who am I to think I can override another’s will? Why would I want that responsibility? It’s too much, not to mention, unreasonable.

In this instance, the relationship I am choosing to value changes though. I will still honor and value the relationship. The one I am now choosing to honor and value, is the one I have with myself.

My Jaiela

I think what I will miss most is my daughter’s laugh. From her first laugh out loud moment, I remember feeling I never wanted to miss that. I dreaded when I’d have to send her off to school. I didn’t want to miss a thing with her development. I knew that in school, her teachers would miss or dismiss that laugh, maybe even find it disruptive and punish her for it in some way. Thank God for unschooling and divine appointments.

I was unschooling Jaiela (pronounced jay-la) before I knew what unschooling was or that it had a name. I was simply living and learning alongside my baby girl and enjoyed every moment of it. I was shocked when a woman, after watching our 2 children play together at an educational booth (at an expo of some sort), came to me and said, “You homeschool her, don’t you?” I had no idea what she was talking about and was astonished to learn that she was doing it, it was legal and I had this option as well.

My husband thought it was a phase when I came home with a bunch of books about homeschooling that day, and declared, “This is what we’re going to do!” My mother told me I was going to make her granddaughter stupid. My daughter was in a teaching daycare when I told my grandfather my plans. He said, “Get her out of there quick and do it.”, and I did. At 4 years old, when she would have been about to head to kindergarten, I quit my full-time job, took her out of the school-ish daycare and never looked back.

I have done my best to be the type of mother to her and my other children that I would want at any given moment. Not knowing how to do what I wasn’t taught, presented challenges along the way but it has been nothing short of amazing. My children have taught me far more than I believe I have taught them. Growing alongside them has enabled me to reclaim various simple aspects of childhood that I missed, things like getting muddy, playing in dirt, running, hiking and wearing t-shirts that weren’t dressy enough, right out the front door.

Today, I sit in my oldest daughter’s living room and type this. My children and I will travel home tomorrow and leave my daughter for the first time.

Others have said they feel like she is theirs. They feel happy and proud and sad, all at the same time. I don’t feel the sadness at this point, just happiness and pride. I would love it if others could take up all the sad on my behalf so I don’t have to deal with that. I am grateful that I have had her for 21 years. She could have left sooner, many do.

It all happened very quickly. She was offered a job out of state and needed to start 17 days after the offer was made. She was on it. By day 7, she traveled here and visited several apartment complexes that she’d researched and narrowed down. By day 12, she moved into her new apartment. On day 14, she purchased her first vehicle and was ready for work on day 17.

My sister jokingly asked if my daughter had a sugar daddy she was hiding somewhere to get so much done in such a short span of time. I told her she has 2 things, favor and financial savvy.

My daughter was accepted into an apprenticeship program that only 15% of applicants get into. She worked for 7 months and saved up all of her tuition money. She put aside money for buying us all Christmas gifts -this child bought me almost $70 hiking boots! She set aside money for when life throws that curveball and she saved a chunk of money to use for the inevitable move she knew was coming at the end of her apprenticeship program.

The company that hired her, did so immediately and because they aren’t actually affiliated with the apprenticeship program, she wasn’t offered the typical 6-month apprenticeship but a full-on position in the company. This was a clear case of favor and opportunity meeting the prepared.

I am so proud of her. I am excited to see where she goes and what she will accomplish because she has some serious plans for obtaining financial freedom. So far, she loves the job. The people she works with are silly too, which is right up her alley. I am going to do my best as always, to enjoy this new phase of our relationship. I couldn’t be happier or more proud.

Opening the door to her first apartment, with no coat. Freezing, lol.
New vehicle and plant!