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Years ago, I did what fools do. I planned out my life.
Ever heard that joke that says, “Want to make God laugh? Then tell Him your plans for the future!”
Well, I did. But I still didn’t think the saying was applicable to me. In my delusion, or umm, pride…or maybe, naivete, I thought God and I were so tight that, well, “He wouldn’t play me on my plans.” I had some learning to do about God, and, well, life in general.
The thing is, I had my life planned out, but I left room for waiting. Or so I thought. After letting go of the man I loved, I prepared myself for a “time of singleness”. Even a very long time, by some people’s standards. Still, it was not long enough.
I was taught that I should be “doing something in the meantime” while I waited for this man to come along, and so I set out to “do those things”.
I wrote books. Got my MBA. Started a business. I did speaking engagements. Counseled others who needed to “overcome heartbreak.” Went on trips. Spent time with friends. Bought a home. I created a full life. And still, no husband.
Then, the unthinkable happened. 35 hit. I was officially in my mid 30s and single. But worse. I was alone. Really alone. Not like the alone I feared (like I was just single), but the alone that accompanies loss and grief and no kids, when you are fastly surpassing the child-bearing age.
I was blessed with plenty of people who surrounded me. They were there for the times they could be, but I was no longer “someone’s only”. I was no longer someone’s point person. The way that I had been for nearly 35 years of my life. And that reality, has been a hard pill to swallow. I, in fact, have been trying to swallow it for 2 1/2 years now.
I have enjoyed the gifts God has given over the years of following Him. He has been very intentional in His blessings. The thing is, those blessings do not remove the constant ache for what I gave up all those years ago. And what was removed just 2 1/2 years ago (which was family).
Still, I wait.
Thanksgiving was a hard one. I have struggled every holiday for as long as I can remember. I was just re-reading a journal entry from several years ago where I admitted this. But I had never been truly alone. I just seemed to have less (in this area) than what others had. What my friends had. What society had.
I did have a friend eventually join me for Thanksgiving, though he was delayed. And the food was good, along with the company. So in that sense, it worked out. But those hours leading up to it, well, they were just painful.
I say all this to say, the journey is hard. I have tried for it not to be hard for so many years. But it just is. At least, in this area.
Today I was reminded that even Jesus needed help carrying His cross.
I had this thought out of nowhere, and I like to think that it was from God. Certainly it was full of grace and compassion. So the fruit of it, at least leads, back to Him. My interpretation of that thought, was that it is ok to feel weak. The word He keeps sending me in this season is actually that He is perfect in our imperfection. He is strong in our weakness. When we fail His love never does. That is a blessing, because I am unable to be strong. At least, in the way that I used to be.
Years ago, friends and I watched a documentary of black women in their 40s who were single (and did not want to be). I looked at these women who were successful in business. They were homeowners. They took trips. They lived very full lives. But, they wanted love. A romantic love. I looked at these women, and I thought, “That won’t be me!”
Now at 37, I admit to myself. It is me.
I sit here in my new home, with my cat at my feet and my wine in my glass, and I see. It is me. It is the life I did not want.
I suppose that’s what sacrifice is. Laying down what you want, for what He wants.
Choosing His way over your own, in hopes that one day there will be a reward. Either on this side, or in eternity.
But I have met my match with this path. I have realized it will always be too great for me. I guess that means He will get the glory if I overcome. He will get all the praise. It will only be Him.
I miss my mother everyday. I miss the parts of her I did not appreciate when she was here. The consistency, the devotion, the hope she had for my life. I struggle to remember that she is full of joy and love in a way that she could never be on this side. I give in to those feelings of grief and loss, even when they are untrue. I simultaneously feel grateful and disappointed with God’s plan for me. It is not like that for other people, at least, per social media. They do not mourn the way I do. They bounce back from hard things. They let it roll off their backs.
But that is not my way. And At 37, I realize, life is simply never what you expect it to be.
Here is me and BJ, after I decorated my tree with loved ones.
Sometimes God is just funny. Like, I normally think about Him in terms of being loving, and gracious, and kind. Caring, and gentle, and intimate…but not really funny. Today, I had to literally laugh out loud though, because I realized, He really does have a sense of humor. The Guy is a straight up comedian.
About a week ago, I was not in the best mental space. Let’s face it, we’re in a pandemic, and no one really knows how long this thing is going to last. 2020 has been one shock after another, and I feel like, as a collective whole, humanity just could not catch our breath. We took one big gasp in January, and have been holding it ever since.
The first shock was Kobe. I sat there on the couch in my well-furnished basement, with a good friend, and watched CNN, for hours. We were told that Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter had died with several others in a helicopter crash. We were horrified and entered into a period of grief along with the whole world at the sudden loss of a well-known superstar. We were all suddenly reminded of the brevity of life, even if we weren’t avid sports fans. For months, Kobe and his family, (and those other poor souls), were the talk of our conversations. Were the topic of our heartfelt prayers. But then, the senseless injustices of the Black community came to a head, (once again). For me, it was Ahmaud who gripped my heart. Ahmaud Arbery was a young Black man who was gunned down while running in his neighborhood by three white men. He was unarmed. He was vulnerable. And he was killed. I laid out on the floor, weeping profusely. I could not stop. I couldn’t believe he was so young, and I kept imagining his mother finding her son. Dead. Bleeding. Lifeless. But then I didn’t have much time to even grieve that, because George happened. George Floyd, whom the nation responded so loudly to, was murdered by a white police officer, while his fellow officers stood by, and watched him kneel on George’s neck, mercilessly, while George cried out in agony, weeping for his mother. I could only watch (stomach) some of the video footage.
And somewhere in between these men, was Breonna. Breonna Taylor was gunned down in her own home, by police officers. A horrifying case of mistaken identity. The police officers were released by the way. No charge. No justice.
Throughout these atrocities, there were riots, and looting, and chaos. Grief, and fear, and sorrow. Not to mention, a recent presidential election which usually has folks up in arms in general, but would now have them even more so, during this particular election.
And all of this has happened in the midst of a world wide pandemic, of which the United States is leading in cases. I don’t even want to get into my own feelings of personal loss. My own personal grief. I just shared all this to explain why finally, after the last eight months of walking around with a mask on and dousing my hands in hand sanitizer at every moment’s chance, I felt the heaviness seep in. I felt it, and I recognized it from a past experience I didn’t think I would make it out of.
Well, that particular morning while feeling the heaviness, I decided I needed a pet. I have looked a few times in the past for one, particularly a kitten, but every time, it just never panned out. One time, my bestfriend and I went to the animal shelter near me. This was right when the pandemic hit, but they were closed due to the new crisis. Another time, I looked on Craigslist, but whenever I spotted a cute furry creature I could fall in love with, they would already be sold, once I reached out to the seller. I remember even over a year ago, my old roommate and I looked for a pet, but I didn’t find one I connected with, so I waited.
This particular morning while looking online though, I figured it was time, because of what I was dealing with. But I had a lot of work to do, and so after 20 minutes, I needed to switch gears from online perusing for a furry companion, to bookkeeping for clients. 5 hours later, I was spent. I actually remembered that I was looking for a kitten that morning once done working, but was too tired to go back online. I just wanted to veg out. Interestingly enough, within minutes of me having that thought, I heard a knock on my door. I was confused. It was the middle of the day. Who could it be? Anyone who visits normally calls first. Why didn’t they do that? Why didn’t they ring the doorbell? These were all the thoughts swirling in my mind as I made my way, cautiously, up the stairs, to the door. I peeked out, and saw this little light brown kid. He was holding a black kitten in his arms and peered up at me with large eyes and disheveled black hair. “Hi. Do you want a cat?” he asked.
Now, call it my upbringing with a single mom who was from the streets of Toledo, but my brain was racing. Is this kid in cahoots with a rapist, or mugger, or killer who is going to pop out while I’m distracted by his cuteness with this kitten and knock me out cold? So I start praying, Lord, please don’t let me be a victim in my foolishness to open this door to a stranger! (I’m serious too. I really did pray that.) Then I’m channeling my discernment, feeling for God, because what are the chances that someone is going to offer me a kitten on the very day I was looking for one? I looked at the kid, confused, and he explained, after glancing over his shoulder down my driveway, “My aunt is giving them away.” I stood back, assessed him some more, and knew I had to make a quick decision. I also knew it was God, and that this was my time to commit—or not to commit—to being a pet owner. Did I really want this? But never one to miss out on a blessing, I opened my hands, and he dumped the scared little fluffy bundle into them. I said, “Thanks,” and that was that. He left, and I was in awe.
I have been the proud owner of a small black kitten since that day (it will be one week tomorrow). His name is BJ and I named him that after the suggestion of a good friend who said to name him after a character in my book. (That is, my newest book, and first novel, that I’m still working on.) But people kept asking me what “BJ” stood for and I would cringe because I really didn’t know. It bothered me greatly because I’m someone who values words, values names, especially. I wanted some weighty, deep name that meant something, but all I came up with was, “BJ”. I loved BJ in my novel because he is a loving male friend to my female protagonist, but that couldn’t be enough. I needed a deeper meaning.
So here is the funny part. Remember, I said God was funny? I was driving today from making my normal daily Starbucks run (this began during the pandemic to get out of the house). A venti coffee with light cream sat in the cup holder, while I was thinking about God giving me a black cat, and thinking about how He had done the same thing before and gave my old roommate a black cat. She had named him Benny (short for Ben-Samuel, a nice, strong, Jewish name), and if you’ve been following this blog for a few years, you’ll remember a couple of blog posts about him. He was definitely an interesting character! So I was thinking this, and not for the first time you see. I was thinking about its significance. That God was doing something twice (usually in the Bible when He says something twice like, “verily, verily”, this means to pay attention). And then I thought, Isn’t it funny that God gave us two black cats whose names both start with B? Then it dawned on me! I had to laugh, and I had to share the laughter with someone whom I knew would understand its humor, so I called my old roommate Lianna. I told her how I just realized what “BJ” stood for! “Benny Jr!” I exclaimed with glee, and she laughed with me, and told me that was what she had figured when I initially shared his name!
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked. Of course she thought I already knew, but I didn’t. It was plainly in my face and I couldn’t see, I guess, until the time was right.
I laughed hard, and it was a good laugh. A needed laugh. And I think God held that little secret from me for a whole week just so He could see me laugh that hard. Just so He could see my face fill with joy.
Which it does, every time I look at BJ. AKA Benny Jr.!
God is so significant in ALL things. He is an amazing provider, and loves giving us the desires of our hearts. He also loves a good laugh, I’m convinced.
Meet BJ (Ben-Samuel Jr.)
Yesterday I made the move. And it was right after I spent the holiday out of town with dear friends.
I had packed everything ahead of time because I didn’t want to be stressed the night before trying to get things together (after my flight got in). I am a great planner and I knew planning was going to be key to getting ready for the new season. Still, there are some things you simply cannot plan for…
The night before the move, my good friend picked me up from the airport and we enjoyed our fleeting moments together. She will be entering her own new season soon which also involves moving so I am savoring all of my time with her. She agreed to spend the night and we started the next day at 7 am. I needed to pick up the U-haul truck and make it to my house by 9am. We were making good time and decided to stop for coffee and breakfast. Little did we know we were going to need the sustenance! I had a few other friends coming to help but I was relying on the movers I had hired to be the real muscle. In the past my mom and I always hired movers. We did this because we did not have family, or men, to help. We were always doing things on our own and independence was ingrained in me at a young age. I had friends who had large families and men in their families that would help them relocate. I always envied that about them…
Well about 30 minutes after my friends and I started moving I realized the movers I had hired were MIA. I called them and was initially told they had the wrong time down (even though they were the ones who had chosen the time). Then I was told they were stuck in traffic (which I knew was a bold face lie because we had been out and there was no one traveling the day after Black Friday). So I cancelled the movers and my friends picked up the slack. They were amazing. For 2 and a half hours we created assembly lines, passed boxes to and fro and took trips back and forth between houses. We even stuffed ourselves in the front of a U-Haul truck due to lack of space! (Shout out to Lo for being a real G) LOL. And the crazy part about it all is, WE HAD FUN. We laughed and sang to the music and talked. It was a great time of fellowship and comraderie and I knew it was the Father. He was giving me people. He was giving me a longtime desire of my heart.
There have been several things that have happened in this moving process that has shown me His love and one of them is His use of people. There were some things I simply could not plan for and He has shown me He is the ultimate planner. People would pop up at just the right time. My neighbors who I needed to borrow plyers from. My pastor who’s time is already limited and yet has made it a point to fix anything at my house and breakdown the large items I need to get rid of. His sister who has been so much like a mom to me in this season has been present to look at houses and rejoice with me when I found the right one. My friends, who cleaned the house and helped me physically move. My realtor who took some appliances I needed to dispose of last minute (not to mention the one who actually found this house when I had given up). Even my personal trainer who was squeezed in front of the U-Haul who I’ve only known for 2 months. People, people, people. God has given me people.
God will fill up the lack. He will provide and meet the need however He so chooses. And this is how He has chosen in this season with me.
There were some hard times this week emotionally. The holidays usually are hard for me and now even more so. I am still working through my grief and disappointments. There are changes in my relationships due to the new seasons. There are changes in my relationship with God. But every morning I wake up in this new house and I feel His peace. I walk upstairs and my breath is taken away all of over again. This house is symbolic of hope for the future.
My friends and I are walking out a different path then those who are not chosen. We struggle with how different it is. We so want to be “normal”.
“Singleness is getting awkward,” she said. I laughed but I knew it was true. It has been awkward, I thought. I am a little older and so I knew that that played into my perception. It is also painful, I thought, but didn’t share. I didn’t want to project my pain onto her although, I have so appreciated that I have been able to be completely honest with her in my journey. I have so appreciated that while others transition into building families and focusing on their loved ones, I have people around me who are still in it. They are still walking out this path of waiting. It is comforting to have others who understand and empathize with the journey.
I am grateful for how the Father has moved in my life. He has been very intentional with what He has blessed me with and the opportunities He has given. He has also been intentional with what He has not allowed. Only He knows how we are wired. The intimate desires of our hearts and what will bring about His best in us.
I have changed a lot in this season. Life does that. While some may think it is not for the good, I disagree. I think we need to be balanced out in our perception of life. I think we need to understand the sufferings of humanity to understand the compassion of Christ. If we don’t go through dark times we will never be relatable. I have had to learn how to be relatable.
Thank You Father for how You have moved in my life. Thank You for showing Your Hand and making it known that I am Yours. Even when I feel alone. You are always there.
This weekend I got the keys to my new house. I am still in awww. It does not seem real and I keep marveling at how FAST everything happened. My friend asked me last night what were my first steps of obedience that led to this gift? Thinking about it for a minute I shared about making the decision to move in with my mom. That was such a leap of faith. At the time I had been living on my own for 10 years. The place I was residing in was quaint and cute and comfortable. I had no real reason to leave and was enjoying my time in that city. I was also enjoying my time with a new roommate.
But when my mom asked me to live with her to help her financially to transition from her job I said “yes”. My friend marveled at my response and felt like it showed great faith, but for me I had heard God. How is it faith when He is making it clear what He wants? Either way that was one of the best decisions I had ever made. I had no idea the Father was giving us time.
After her passing I knew He would be sensitive to my time in the home we had shared. I was in no rush to move even though I knew eventually I would. That house served as a great comfort to me in my grieving process.
The next step of faith was probably choosing to end my lease and pay month to month. My pastor suggested it and although I did it I still thought it was very unlikely that I would move anytime soon. I just new I was overpaying and would need to move at some point. There were a few things going wrong with the home and they were indications that I could not stay there. The desire of my heart was to have my own which would also fulfill legacy.
And then I met with my friend’s realtor who I had underestimated. I did not know what a jewel she was and how divine our connection would be. I had given up on the home buying process and she was the one who kept the faith. She was the one who found my home.
“So how did you know this was it?” My friend asked. “I didn’t.” I replied. I explained it was everyone around me. It was the open door after open door. It was seeing God’s hand in the people and the process.
I fully expected to fall in love at first site with my house. There was one house in particular that I did that with. I was so giddy over that home I couldn’t sleep the whole night. But the day before I was going to put my offer in it was taken off the market. I was so hurt. It wasn’t mine.
“So when did you fall in love?” Another friend asked. “Now,” I said. I am falling in love now. I go from room to room in joy and awww. I discover so many little things that bring me joy and make me smile. I can feel the Father smiling with me. It is like He is discovering through my eyes. It is new to Him because it is new to me.
This home brings me comfort. It gives me rest.
I asked the Lord why did He choose this one and not the other one? “Intimacy”, He said. This home is more intimate. It feels like it is embracing me and hugging me when I am in it.
I am so blessed by the people and the process of buying a home. God is truly in all things. And now for the first time in 3 generations we are homeowners again.
May He receive all the glory in this home and may it be used for His good purposes.
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.
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