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Eyes To See

As I mentioned previously on this little blog things are moving quickly.  Yesterday we did the inspection on the house and while there were several things brought to my attention I was assured by the professional (the inspector) that these items were a given for a house of this age.  In fact, it was in good condition given its age.

An interesting phenomenon occurred yesterday.  I found that while the inspector was highlighting certain things my eyes became open to them also, either while he was speaking and sometimes even before he spoke.  I told him that just being around him was giving me “eyes to see”.  It is an interesting occurrence that we can be influenced to that capacity by people around us, even those we have just met.  I can see this as being symbolic of my spiritual journey.  Being “around” Christ these 15 years has greatly influenced me and helped me to “see”.

Recently I had an interaction with a family member and I was greatly discouraged to find that they did not “see”.  It had been a while since we had spoken and the reason for our disconnection was due to their own narcissism and selfishness.  I felt that I was called to implement strong boundaries to focus on my own health and healing during a season of recovery.  I had hopes that one day the relationship could be restored, so when they reached out I was surprised, but hopeful.  Unfortunately upon interacting with them I soon learned that they had not grown.

They had not healed.

They were (still) toxic.

I did not understand why they were still in the same place.  How could all this time have passed and they did not see?  But I was reminded of the gift I have in community and the teaching I am under.  I am surrounded by people who value healthy relationships.  I am surrounded by people who desire to grow and change for the better.  I am influenced by those around me.

Maybe one day that relationship will be restored but for now I must continue on my own path.  The Father has given me all the tools needed to accomplish His purpose on this path and I am grateful for the greatest tool He has given:

His love.

Now I understand so much why He revealed Himself to me as He did.  He told me years ago He would be anything that I needed and I so have needed Him as Father, Husband, & Family.

I pray that God brings forth His desires in the earth.  As an intercessor I can’t help but to do so.  But I also understand we all have choices.  And I choose to value myself above someone else who will try to devalue me.

I choose to protect myself from others who may bring me harm.

I choose to see myself as He sees me.

SHALOM

His Answer

Hosea 2:21

“In that day I will respond,”
declares the Lord—
“I will respond to the skies,
and they will respond to the earth;
22
and the earth will respond to the grain,
the new wine and the olive oil,
and they will respond to Jezreel.
23
I will plant her for myself in the land;
I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’
I will say to those called ‘Not my people, ‘You are my people’;
and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”

I have had this word on my heart for a while and felt that I needed to write it down.  In my process of recovering from a very difficult season, I often look back (almost daily) and I wonder why the Father orchestrated certain events in my life in the manner that He did.  I all too often compare and see how He blessed “so and so” with this or that and yet chose not to for me.  I am very well aware of the scripture that cautions us not to compare, yet and still, it happens.

It’s so easy to quote scripture when you are growing in your faith.  It’s easy to know the word logically, it’s quite another story to actually walk His path out.  To apply His teachings to your life’s journey.  Day in.  Day out.  For years.

I remember when my friend started dating her now husband, she talked about having all of this book knowledge about dating beforehand, but how difficult it was to use that knowledge when she finally had the opportunity.  She said it was like being on a sports team and learning the plays before the game,  then she got in the game and forgot the plays.  That resonated with me.  How often do we forget to apply the knowledge that we have accumulated in those “high” season of faith, when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death?

And maybe it’s not that we forget.  Maybe its just that we are in too much pain to do so.

I have sought the Father on His way of doing things in my journey, even so recently as this morning during quiet time.  “Father, why did you do it this way?  Why did you ‘bend’ to your people in times past and not for me now?”  Indeed, I could think of several scriptures where I saw that He would give the people what they wanted, even if it was not what He wanted.  Never mind that they ended up being worse off in the end.  I just wanted some kind of relenting from this thorn in my side.

But in my time of prayer I was reminded of what He is teaching our fellowship in the spiritual school we are in.  He is teaching us, that in all things, to give thanks.  So as hard as it was, I started doing that.  Memories of how He manifested Himself in those final days with my mother flooded my heart.  How He led her to repentance.  How He gave us time.  Every trip she made us go on.  The Bible Study He gave that we attended together.  His presence during that time.  He made Himself so manifest even though I didn’t know why.  Now I can look back and say, He did it for me.

He did it for us.

There is so much pain still in my heart that I am working through.  So many mornings I wake up and think of them.  My family.  My mom.  My grandmother.  I am still in shock that this is the path.  This is the outcome of all those years of faith.  And yet, when I give thanks, I see that He did not forsake me.  He did not leave me alone, even though I have felt so very alone.

I wrote in a journal entry recently, “Singleness has been a thorn in my side these 15 years, but it has not killed me”.  That was the truth.  It has been difficult and challenging.  Painful and lonely.  Hard and led to much hope deferred.  But it did not kill me.

He does things His way.  That is what I am learning.  He answered in His way.  He gave me my own business in response to my former employer persecuting me.  He gave me time with my mom when I didn’t know our time was limited.  He gave me an amazing companion in a season of singleness when loss was faced on several fronts.  He gave me sisters when I did not have close family.  He gave me financial provision when I didn’t have steady income.

He answered.  He just didn’t answer in the way I wanted Him to.  He did not take away the thorn.

Instead He gave grace for it.

I’m grateful for His provision.  I’m grateful for the women in my life who are there through thick and thin.  I’m grateful for the Holy Spirit who’s mercies are new every morning.

He does not give up on us.  He does not leave us alone.

Thank You Father for Your answer.

I know that I am not worthy of even that.

SHALOM

Walking Together

ECCLESIASTES‬ ‭4:9-10‬ ‭AMP‬‬

“Two are better than one because they have a more satisfying return for their labor; for if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and does not have another to lift him up.”

Over a year ago I watched my friend minister to her mother.  She hovered over her hospital bed, fed her with spoonfulls and played sermons from her favorite preacher online.  They prayed together and she tended to her every want and need.  I watched from my side of the hospital room in awe, knowing their history, knowing God was teaching me something.

He was teaching me forgiveness.

I knew in my heart that at that point in my life, I could not do what she was doing.  I could not tend to my own mother with such care and intimacy.  I had too much pain in my heart.  Little did I know, I would actually experience the loss of my mother before she would lose her own.  While my friend was in a long-term care situation, my experience was sudden and unexpected.  Yes, my mother had been sick for a long time, but that was nothing new.  She had been around for the last 20 years with her illness, why would I expect her not to be around for 20 more?

This weekend was my friend’s first Mother’s Day without her mom.  It was on my heart to spend the weekend with her.  I really only had 8 months under my belt of walking this unique path before her, but that seemed to be enough for Holy Spirit.  Indeed He had used me to walk with her last year through this experience, while I myself was still grieving.

I myself am still grieving.

But we made it through.  We attended a women’s event that talked about friendship and sisterhood and God’s intent for both.  We dialogued about our mothers and how we were continuing their legacies.  I was in awe to see how many similarities we had with our journeys.  In so many ways we were experiencing the exact same path.

She had a list of what she wanted to do and I strived to make those things happen.  Good food, good movies, good company.  I only had one thing on my heart and that was a 90’s R&B throwback concert from a group I grew up enjoying.  I knew that if my mom were here, that’s what we would have done.

So that’s what we did.

I’ll be honest and say I cringed every time I heard those words, “Happy Mother’s Day!”.  I was annoyed every time I saw others posting their pictures of their happy families that were so full and overflowing.

There was no way around it, their cups were overflowing in an area where mine ran dry.

We made the best of what we had.  While at the concert the group we saw talked about family and having your family here with you.  Well, my friend and I had unique situations with our families.  I placed my hands on the women beside me.  They were now my family.

This season has been eye opening on many levels.  I have learned not to be presumptuous with God (a continuous lesson).  I have learned that the borders to His way are much farther out then I would have dreamed.  He does things in the way He chooses.  Especially with His chosen.

While at the church service we went to yesterday a young mother and wife shared her heart about what God was teaching her in this season of motherhood.  She had devastating events happen with her children and was wrestling with fears and insecurities and hurt.  But in the midst of those circumstances she was learning joy in the journey.  That was exactly what He has been teaching me.

Joy in the journey.

I realize He can teach His children the same lesson while walking through extremely different circumstances.  We can feel the same pain, the same loss, even though we do not have the same journey.  We are individually made and need different things to grow.  My heart is now tender towards those who experience suffering and pain from whatever source of devastation in this world.  Indeed, there seem to be so many sources.

While standing there yesterday at the church service, I marveled at God.  He walked me to this place in my journey I never thought He would allow.  My friend felt the same.  He walked us to this place and we were in shock.  Had we not been faithful?  Had we not been promised to reap?  But instead we were called to continue being pruned.  To experience what some will never experience.  At least in this area.

I worshipped at the service.  My friend did too.  We worshipped our way through the service celebrating mothers.  And when the worship leader asked only the mothers to sing, I listened for my own.  I know she is in the eternals, cheering me on.  I know she is more alive than I am at this time, and I know she is singing over me, joining all the mothers, singing over their daughters.  I had to believe that in that moment, because I did not have her to experience it in the natural.

I realize I am healing now.  There is no way I could have raised my hands the way I did at the service a year ago or even a month ago.  I would have been too afraid.  How could I open my heart to surrender all when now I know more of what the cost entails?  But I was able to.  And it is because I am healing.

He did not do things at all the way I expected.  He did things His way.  He provided family His way.  He gave provision His way.

My heart still longs for those promises He gave years ago.  It still desires what I see so many around me receiving.  But I am realizing what I have been being taught for so many years now.

I am an eternal being.

I am a citizen of heaven.

This is not my home.

But one day I will be home.  One day I will experience the fulfillment of all I desire, all that He promised.

And that has to be enough.

He has to be enough.

SHALOM

 

Unwrapped Gifts

It’s been a whirlwind of a year and though I received so many presents during my last birthday I wasn’t able to enjoy them all.  It wasn’t until I found a few in a drawer that I even knew some had been forgotten.  I texted a friend asking if she was the one who had given me the beautiful necklace made in Africa, thinking that only she would.  She confirmed in response that, yes she did.  I have been intentional about wearing it this week.  Along with the necklace I found a couple of empty journals, a super cute luggage tag and a traveler’s guide for black women.

My friends are great.

I wrote in the journal and made a mental note to use the tag on my next trip.  I have so many gifts and yet haven’t taken time to enjoy them all.  And that led me to thinking about the spiritual applications of this natural occurrence.

What gifts am I not enjoying now?

In this season?

In these circumstances?

I started a practice of gratitude a week ago.  I decided to be intentional about being thankful for just one thing a day for 30 days.  Clearly there is more than just one thing to be thankful for daily but I felt overwhelmed and pressured with that truth.  Just choosing one thing felt doable.  I have been doing good so far, and participating in this practice has helped me to focus on the good (Phil 4:6).

I recently read, It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way, by Lysa Turkerst and in it she talks about her decision to look for something good in her season of suffering.  She physically looked around her environment until her eyes landed on something tangible.  Something that reminded her of the strength and courage she would need to face her current circumstances.

It can be challenging to look at the good when your heart is aching from various heartbreaks.  When grief and sorrow seem to follow you wherever you go, and it surprises you because it never did before.  But even when telling my story to a friend just yesterday, she reminded me of the testimony that came out of this season.  The testimony of the restoration of a mother and daughter.

Our testimony.

I was putting a gift together for a friend, and I was so excited.  I was so proud of the creativity and thoughtfulness that went into the gift.  I knew it was the Lord for me to pull it all together.  I was searching for a box to mail it in when I came across a box full of stuff my mom had.  Some things she kept.  Some keepsakes.  There were gifts I had given her for Mother’s Day and it touched me so much that she had kept them.  And that I had honored her and showed love while she was still with me physically.  I then came across a dear picture of my grandmother.  She was a teenager and oh so lovely.  I had always loved that picture and remember seeing it hanging on my nana’s (great grandmother’s) wall as a kid.  Now it’s mine💕.

In truth it had been mine for the last year, but it was hidden in a box somewhere in the basement.  Unopened.

I know I can get into this habit of asking God for more.  More of what I feel was lost or taken or withheld.  But how much would it pain me if my friend, (who I just mailed their gift to), stashed it away and left it unopened? And then asked me for another gift? When I had went through such great lengths to show her my love by giving things that would be dear to her heart?  It would be disappointing to say the least. I would definitely be hurt.

So I want to be more intentional to look around in this season and see the unopened, unwrapped presents.  I already know about the gifts I didn’t get that I wish I had.  I have expressed my sentiments on that enough.  But what about the ones I have been given that I’ve neglected?  Like my grandmother’s picture?  Why should I be given more when I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed all that I already have?

Father help me to thoroughly enjoy the gifts You have chosen to give in this season.

Amen.

 

SHALOM

The Beautiful Challenge

I’m in Arizona right now visiting friends. The same friend I was maid of honor to just last year. The same friend who has relentlessly pursued me in the course of my grief and devastation.

When I learned my mom passed away she flew in from Haiti within days. 1,633 miles. She was on a business trip and instead of returning home to be with her new husband she came to be with me.

I’ve known this woman for several years and knew that her heart was of a rare purity, one that those who have it, also have a promise to see the Father (Matt 5:8).

During a time of recovery and healing my emotions have been everywhere, my thoughts equally as such. Her understanding and loyalty have been a great comfort.

These last few days we lived. We went on a Gondola ride with her hubby. We climbed the bear willow canyon on a fierce Jeep excursion. We laid out by the pool they have in their own back yard.

In addition to that I was treated to deep pools of bubble baths, wine and delicious meals. I have been catered to. And all in the name of my birthday.

E told me a while ago that when he has a difficult day, instead of using the word difficult, he says, “It was beautifully challenging”. I can look at my life and see that same theme. So many unexpected difficult hard parts. So many amazingly beautiful ones.

Yesterday while we made our way up the mountains my breath was taken away with the deep red browns, sharp rich greens and picture perfect blue skies. If I didn’t know it before, I know it now.

God is an Artist.

I knew what I was experiencing was something my mother and grandmother never did and maybe only dreamed of. I knew that my life was touched with beauty and that beauty was connected with the people He had sent to me when I didn’t know that I would need them.

I previously asked a question, “Lord, why did you take away Your presence when I would need it most?” But now I see He provided me people when I didn’t know that I would need them. And that now is when I would need them the most.

The Father places the solitary in families. I remember reading that passage of scripture years ago. I remember back then appreciating it, but still my heart yearned for my own.

It still does.

I’m realizing this life is “both and”. It is both the highs and the lows. It is both the light and the darkness. It is both the cross and the resurrection.

I have been in a season of recovery and therefore am more sensitive than normal (who knew that was possible?). My heart is tender and I need to be handled with care. God is so good at that, handling us with care and putting us around people who get our journey. Even if they don’t understand it, they love us enough to try.

I can look back on my life and see His intent towards me. He made His call clear from day 1. The call was to die. He is intimately acquainted with all of our ways. He knows those things that are near and dear. He knows when we are truly sacrificing.

I haven’t experienced this amount of pain ever, at least not without His presence.

But even that isn’t true.

His presence is everywhere…

I am grateful for these people who call me family. I am grateful to be adopted into the Father’s household of faith.

To have Sunday dinner and eat birthday cake and hear loved ones celebrate me. Like family. That is the care and tenderness of Him.

My heart is still aching every moment of every day. But part of that I know is good. It means I’m feeling when for so long I wasn’t.

It means I’m closer to healing.

My counselor has been so great and my friends have been so great and even though I don’t know when my healing will come I know He is surrounding me with His care.

At 36 my life doesn’t look at all the way I anticipated. Still, there is beauty in the midst of brokenness.

There is love in the midst of pain.

There is hope.

SHALOM

A Sunny Day

Today is my 36th birthday.  When I look back on my life journey these 35 years (and 1 day) I have lots of thoughts and feelings.  I am in awe of how the Father manifested Himself to me as a 19-year-old.  Even though I believed since I was a child, it wasn’t until college that my intimacy with Him exploded from being a believer, to becoming a follower.

For 13 years straight, everyday, I woke up to intimacy.  It was an intimacy I had never known.  It was what caused me to leave my fiancé, move in with my mom, and wait for the next steps.  As a college grad that is what He told me to do, so that is what I did.

I did not know then, that that was just the beginning.  That along with His intimacy, I would learn sacrifice.  I would learn that,

Love.

Is.

Sacrifice.

I am so blessed to have had such an amazing experience with the Most High.  That He would count me, a lowly black woman of a single parent home, born out of wedlock, to a hardworking family who made ends meet by whatever means necessary.

That He would call me, Daughter.

I counted it an honor to be His child.  To receive His love when I was so undeserving.  I counted it an honor to be His.  And in the midst of a dark and broken world full of pain, I was sheltered.  Not that I myself hadn’t experienced pain, but He was always there.  Showing me how to overcome it.

Applauding me when I did.

In the midst of that journey, He was producing something in me.  He was creating wholeness and a legacy that is still to be revealed.  At the same time, He was teaching me something.

He was teaching me how to suffer long.

In this season the lessons have intensified.  The stakes have gotten higher.  No longer have I wanted to be a student in what felt like an advanced course.  No longer did I want to die.

I realized, while standing at my mother’s grave last month that the path will always be too difficult.  There is a strength in me, an inner strength.  And it has been passed down in my bloodline from one woman to the next (our family is made up of strong women).  But no matter how strong I have been, I do not have the capacity to make this climb in and of myself.  It will always be too difficult for me.  I need Him.

In so many ways, now is my future.  As a teenager when I laid down my life for Him and surrendered my passions and desires, I hoped for my future.  I hoped for what is now.  I had an idea and an expectation of what that now would look like.  I believed “If I do things Your way, then eventually You’ll do things my way”.  But He doesn’t.  It is His way.

Always His way.

This last season has changed me.  Trauma does that.  In some ways it is a good change.  Now I know the compassion of Christ like I have never known it before.  Now I know what grace really is.  It sustains you when you face your darkest fears.  It covers you when you make your greatest mistakes.

I was talking to E recently and I told him that every year it rains on my birthday.  As much as I love birthdays and I love to celebrate, its discouraging that every year it either rains or snows in Cleveland, Ohio.  “It is at least always grey,” is what I said to him.  E being the eternal optimist responded, “But what if it isn’t?  What if its sunny and warm?”  I just shook my head at him and rolled my eyes.  “I have been on this planet for 35 years and every year it is rainy and cold.  Trust me.  I know.”

It is going to be 52 degrees today and sunny.  52 degrees in Cleveland, Ohio on April 3rd.  It has never been 52 degrees in my recollection of birthdays.  Ever.

I miss my mom.  I miss her because she was always the one who celebrated the loudest.  I miss her because I never imagined she would not be in my future.  She would not be in the now.

But it is 52 degrees today.  And I am enough of a prophet to know when He is showing me something.  “The season is changing”, E said.  And my heart lifted a little.  But not too much, for fear that it would be broken again, but just enough to where I was open.  Kind of like me saying, “If that is the case God, then show me”.

I welcome a change in season but struggle with expecting it.  I have had so many false expectations and did not realize it until they did not come to pass.  I guess that is apart of maturing.

I will spend time with loved ones today.  I’m keeping a small circle because my heart can’t handle a large one.  There are already people celebrating my birth and that is such a blessing when the one who gave birth to me is no longer present.

I’m grateful for His provision and His sustaining power.  It really is supernatural that I have never went without, even when I have not had a job.  I’m grateful for Him teaching me so many things in the past and maturing me to this point.  I would not have become the woman I am today had I not listened to His leading, especially when I didn’t agree with it.

I know that He is faithful and right and true.  It has just been difficult after such a long journey to trust.  Job was able to trust even though he was being slayed.  That is the level of faith I feel He has required.

I’m grateful He is more gentle with me than with Job.  He handles me with care.  Even in the midst of the storms and tests, He protects, only allowing so much, though it was more than I would have preferred.  He surrounds me with His people and meets me with His Word.

He guides me with His eye.

I am grateful for the foundation He laid, to sustain me through the journey.  We can never fully comprehend what lies ahead.  But we know that He is there.  Always there.

Now is my future.  And I don’t know what the next season holds.  But I can look back and see He has always sustained me.

And I know that is one expectation I am safe to have.

SHALOM

 

 

 

 

I Wish That God Would (Just) Say Yes

There are memories now. They catch me off guard when they make their way from subconscious to consciousness. From the recesses and dark crevices of my mind. From back then to now as if now were  just minutes from then, instead of years.

The memories consist of her and I, always alone. And though the situations and circumstances change, the thing that stays the same is my longing for more.

I remember we were at someone’s wedding reception. It was one of her friend’s kid’s. We had been to so many it’s hard for me to remember who’s what we went to. But I do remember we were there, and how much I wanted my own.

I was 27 then, around the age where elders told me I was an old maid, but when the average of my generation were just pairing up. Marrying off and settling down to have their children. Apparently millennials were waiting longer to get married.

Still, I’m pretty sure they didn’t wait this long.

At this particular gathering we had a good time. We put on those silly costumes and masks and dressed up for the photo booths so many people have at these parties. We were mother and daughter and this was a moment of bonding. It wasn’t easy back then, celebrating for others when my own desire nawed relentlessly from the inside, but I did it. Because I had hope.

I remember sitting by her side, at the park, discussing our future. Or rather my future. It was unsaid that mine was really hers and that she would be there when our dreams were fulfilled. My dreams were her dreams so I think it’s safe to say they were ours. We sat there and talked about my grandma and I felt the pain of there just being us 2. I thought nothing could be worse then there just being us 2.

I was wrong.

I read C.S Lewis’, “A Grief Observed” recently. I read it within 2 days. I highlighted every other page, text messaged my friends the parts that resonated and then gifted my pastor her own copy.  She is grieving too.

I was so in awe of Lewis’ transparency. I couldn’t believe a theologian scholar could be so in touch with his emotions, and that he could adequately express exactly how I feel in this season. (To me) It’s like he’s swinging at God, taking punches. The religious mind would be horrified at such a picture but I think once a level of suffering is experienced, one understands that God Himself gets it, allows it, and just dodges the swings.

A flood of questions have come to my mind since I stopped running. They take turns pouring out like the memories that push themselves to the front of my mind. Mostly they start with, “Why”.

Why did You do it this way?

Why did you take Your presence away when I would need it most?

Why could you not have just said ‘yes’?

I’ve been on this journey long enough to know He is not entitled to us.  He does not have to answer to us. But sometimes, He wants to. Sometimes (and in my case, most times) He responds because we are in relationship together. So I keep asking the questions even though I don’t have many answers. Still, I think apart of Him (and maybe all of Him) is happy I have made this step.

Now atleast we are talking and I am not running.

At least not as fast.

SHALOM