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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.)
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.
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.
Once upon a time I believed I could not and would not date. If dating was the antonym of courtship, then I chose courtship. I even share this in my first book. But then things changed. I changed. The years rolled on and I found myself walking out what my friends and I call, “extended singleness” (dun-dun-dun).
God says very clearly in the opening book of His Word, “It is not good for man to be alone”. Then He brings Adam a help mate. We can interpret that statement many ways. Was He saying it’s not good for man to be without a spouse? Or was it not good for man to be without a community in general? If the latter, then why wouldn’t He just create a community (a group of people who can support and relate to Adam) instead of a spouse? But let’s not get too far off topic. Having a theological discussion is not my intent. I simply want to share how my ideas on dating have morphed…
This last year has been interesting. Early at the beginning of it I ran into “the ex”. You know the person it didn’t work out with but it was so significant that now they own a piece of your history and even a title: “the ex” (dun-dun-dun). So I ran into the ex. And he had a date. And I was feeling some kind of way about that. Because I myself did not have a date. Instead I had a friend. (AKA, I had community). So I let Jesus know I felt some kind of way about that. It involved some tears and venting and frustration on my part. Which is nothing new for Him because I feel that’s the benefit of being His kid. We can be REAL. Even when REAL isn’t as pretty as we want it to be. So I vented, and the response I got was, “I am already moving”. Hmmm, what does that mean? I wondered. Well that was early 2017, and here I am at the end of 2017 and I think I have an idea of what He meant:
In the course of this year I have had more dates and dating activity than I have had in the whole 13 years of my singleness. I can’t say that they were all positive experiences. There were definitely times He had to deliver me from my foolishness and heal me from my pain, but there was movement nonetheless.
I talked to a friend recently and his experience of singleness has been the opposite of mine. He has spent most of it dating and now he just wants courtship. He wants to just meet the person, commit to them and get married. In a perfect world I think that is ideal. But we do not live in a perfect world.
As one who spent most of their singleness not dating and being a proponent of courtship I told him I see the benefits of dating. Dating teaches social skills. Dating teaches you about the opposite sex. Dating, if done with respect, can help both parties develop emotionally, mentally and maybe even spiritually.
I look back on this last year and I think of the joy I had when I was pursued. It was affirming. I got to see how men rise to the occasion when they see a woman of value. It was a reminder that I am a woman of value. I got to enjoy companionship from the opposite sex. I got to learn more about a man’s world which can be very different from a woman’s. And I also got to see the Father’s desire to give me good gifts. Even when He knows I will ruin them.
In the garden Elohim tells Adam not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He tells him this knowing he will do it anyway. Knowing that once he does he will have to be kicked out of the garden. But for a period of time Adam and Eve enjoy the garden. They enjoy the gift. In my own life I can see how the Father gave the gift knowing that it wouldn’t last and I think He did that because the joy I experienced in the interim was so great it outweighed the grief that would eventually entail. That speaks to me how much our joy means to the Father. As difficult as this path has been for me I can see many times where He has brought me joy in the midst of it.
Dating has had purpose in this season of my life. I have not expected it too. I did not think I would be one who would date. I also did not think I would be single this long. But alas, life is never how we think it will be and the evolution of who we are continues to unfold as the years go by. At least, I hope for me that is the case.
My inner circle is changing. I have close friends moving into different stages of life while I stay in this one. And in the midst of the pain I experience from these changes I see the Father’s compassion. He has never left me alone. There are many times I feel alone however I have never lacked in the area of companionship these 13 years.
One of my very good friends confided in me about how difficult this season has been for her, especially around the holidays. In the midst of our conversation she realized it was in part due to a lack of friendship. Yes she had community, but she did not have peers who were in the same season who could empathize with her pain. I have had that in abundance and talking to her made me even more grateful for this gift.
It is not good for man to be alone. Thankfully I have yet to have that experience.
There is a quiet these days. Each morning I wake up and its not like the mornings of years past but its not like the mornings of months past either. Instead of feeling overwhelmed with the Father’s love, or being tormented with fear (which has been the case), I feel–quiet. I feel stillness. I feel a victory from overcoming this season and an encouragement to keep moving forward.
I’ve been writing a lot lately. Not on this here blog, but on my laptop, with the cat, under my fleece. My roommate has been so gracious to listen each evening as I share the short story I’ve been working on. She is so affirming. A fellow writer and with much more experience, her compliments and feedback hold even greater weight. This story I’m writing (which is actually almost complete) brings me such joy. There are some prophetic elements to it as well which has been very interesting. Hopefully I’ll be able to share more on that in the future. I’m reminded that a while back Jesus told me to fight for joy. He said, You need to find things in life that give you joy. A naturally melancholic personality, this didn’t come easy. But we can do all things through Christ and I have learned (am still learning) the art of joy.
Writing brings me joy.
My bestie visited me recently and we stayed up ’til 4am. I haven’t done that in YEARS. We reminisced on college days, when we were just teenagers and in love with Jesus. Now we are in our 30s. She’s a mom and a divorcée. I’m an author, still single with no children. We have come a long way. “We are the best of the best” I told her. And I meant it. I believe God desires His best to be manifested in our lives. And I believe that best can only be manifested if we stick with the path He created for each of us.
She and I have stuck with that path.
It has not been easy. Anyone reading this blog sees clearly my ups and downs, but always He sustains me.
Writing my short story shows me how the author uses circumstances and people to get the protagonist to where she is going. I’m sure that’s how the Father is when He writes our story. He puts people and situations in our lives, ultimately to bring out the person He created before the fall. Before the womb. Before the dysfunction.
There was a period of time where I was shocked by the storm. Shocked by the darkness. Now looking back, I can see that it was just a shadow, it was not death itself. If it were death it would have taken me out. I thought it almost did, and maybe it almost did but I know to Him, it was just a shadow.
Now that I’m on the other side (still fighting of course) I can see I was bigger than that storm.
And I wouldn’t be a better version of myself had I not gone through it.
I pray the same for you.
A few things that bring me joy…
Each morning I wake up to sunlight cascading into my bedroom window. Birds are singing songs of praise and everything is light and airy. Summer came swiftly and I found myself hurrying to catch up with the new season. I put away my sweaters and pulled out my sandals. Summer is here! Only a few weeks before we had snow! Such an odd occurence but a reminder to me that each day is new. I can’t remember a time when there was snow and then 80 degree weather in my city. God makes each day its own.
I scrubbed the house from top to bottom in preperation for a special visitor. All the windows are up and the back door is left open. I spend most mornings having quiet time on the porch. My Bible and journal wait in expectation.
It’s so much easier to feel joy when there is sun. It’s so freeing to not have on layers. But would I really appreciate this season if not for the cold?
I’ve grown to love Fall. I’ve grown to love layers. But I don’t know if Summer will ever be a bore. It is always a welcome refreshment from the times of hybernation.
This week will be one month since the lay off. It has flown by. My how I have grown! 8 years ago when I faced unemployment I was ready to cash out my savings from fear that God would not provide and everyday that eeked by felt like eternity. I was so stressed I lost my hair and felt like God had abandoned me. Now my hair has been its own source of joy.
When I first graduated college I was so worried about my lack of experience. I did not have the internships lined up like my peers or the savvy business connects. I felt like a fish out of water. All I had was a very expensive college degree and a call from God. Turns out that was all I needed. Actually, I didn’t even need the degree-He was enough. So now 10 years later I marvel at His hand. I marvel at His provision and how He is transforming me and writing a story I never knew I wanted written. He is now even using me to write other people’s stories. I tried so hard to box myself in. I felt boxed in that cube for 3 years and thought it would be the death of me. But I learned joy. I chose to make the best of that cube and that was what He was waiting for. So often we think we are waiting on Him. I bet you He’s waiting on you even more!
I met with my career coach and let her fine tune my resume, my cover letter and my Linked In profile. My business cards for both my professional endeavors as well as my book are on their way. It all looks so amazing and yet it doesn’t even cover all of the other professional experiences I am getting with writing in this season. Whatever God has for me is going to be phenomenal.
10 years ago I couldn’t see my future. I couldn’t see where I was going. I had a totally different view of how my life would look and who would be in it. I thought I knew myself. I had no clue I would keep changing. That much of what made me “me” back then was actually not me at all. It was brokenness, wounds, pain, and lies believed since childhood. There is still brokenness, and there is still pain, and lies, but He has made it His mission to keep making me better.
The pruning is worth it. It’s hard, but so worth it.
I finally see now that the path God creates for each of us is to bring out our best. He does not allow us to stay immature and selfish and needy. He keeps us walking by faith so that we are being developed into His image. This image for me has been long luscious locks of natural hair, a 25lb weight loss, clean eating life style, improved fashion style and a radiant dark chocolate skin tone. And that doesn’t even cover my improved character!
I thought I needed a man to make me worthy. I thought I needed a relationship to have value and be beautiful. Actually it was a relationship I needed to make me amazing. But it was a relationship with Christ.
If you are on Periscope please check out my guest spot on TriF.Y.R.E’s “Transparent Tuesdays”! I will be weighing in on the topic of “Christian Singles Being Sexy”.
I have been listening to a woman’s testimony online who has been single 57 years and is getting married today. You may know of this woman. Her name is Nancy De Moss. I haven’t really followed her ministry “Revive Our Hearts” too much in the past but given she has lived a full single life for 57 years and is now being called to marriage, well, that is a topic that greatly interests me! I definitely tuned in b/c I wanted the wisdom she had acquired for nearly 60 years that didn’t just allow her to live an abundant single life, but that allowed her to thrive in the will of God for her life. Much of what she shared in her series “Before I Become a Mrs.” really resonated with what God has been teaching me in my journey and especially in this season. She shared that we should “live as we are called” just as Paul admonished (1 Cor 7:17). But she elaborated on that teaching and said that until God calls you to something different, keep doing what you are doing. So until God calls you to marriage, remain single. It really is about the will of the Father. We should not seek to be outside of His will for any reason, but remain as we are called.
Some other great tips she gave were to be content regardless of one’s circumstances and to live our lives as unto the Lord. I have learned recently how important contentment is regardless of my circumstances. I had to fight for joy b/c I was unhappy in both my personal and professional life. That meant most days I was unhappy! I realized I had to find this joy on my own and not seek it in another person otherwise I would be needy and dependent. I had done that enough in the past. It was time for something different.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak with a group of teenagers about having healthy relationships. I shared from my book, my own story and all that I have been learning in this season about emotional health. I was in awe that God had opened this door for me when this has been my area of weakness. I did not have examples growing up of healthy marriages. I would have benefited greatly if I had someone to come alongside me and mentor me in the area of emotional health and healthy relationships. But yesterday I was able to speak to people around the same age I was when I found misguided love. In a sense I was able to mentor my younger self. And just as a new friend recently told me, though I did not have this guidance myself, I can now guide others.
I was speaking to a fellow single sister about relationships over lunch after sharing my teaching to the kids. We both have experienced God confirming marriage in our future. But I asked her, how should our single sisters feel about marriage if God has not confirmed to them that this is in their future? The statistics are against us as African American, educated women. Should they have hope for marriage? She made a really great point. She said that we should want the Father’s original intent. In the beginning He made them both male and female to reproduce His image throughout the earth and establish His kingdom. That was His original intent. We now live in a fallen world and there is dysfunction and people have choices. But as new creatures in Christ we should desire the Father’s heart as it was in the beginning.
This too pertains to calling. In the beginning men and women were called to be whole people, know their identity in Elohim outside of the relationship and come together for a purpose. That is the Father’s heart. We should live as we are called. And when He changes our calling, we should live in that too.
Regardless of whether our calling changes, there is One who stays the same. It is the One who stays the same that matters most.
Here is a great blog post that I have really enjoyed that encourages us when we are facing odds that seem to be against us: “The Odds Are Against Us, But It Don’t Even Matter”.
I’m reading a book called “Single & Free to Be Me” by Dr. Clarence Shuler. In it he shares a counseling session he has with a 40 year-old single, successful business woman. She tells him she does not feel successful as a person and he helps her to see that she feels like a failure b/c she is basing her value on her relationship status. He then leads her in redefining success in a sense. This takes several sessions I’m sure but his approach at “peeling back the layers” assists me in my own self-evaluation.
How do I define success for myself? Instantly I know that I would easily define success by my career. Yet God has led me these 10 years on a path to remove that type of thinking from my mindset. I cannot feel successful in my career even though I really would like to. And of course, there is the relationship status. But since I cannot go to those things to find success, b/c Holy Spirit has been and is teaching me those are not sturdy foundations, I went to Him.
How does God define success? And here is what I wrote:
1) Success to Him is doing the Father’s will (obedience).
2) Success to Him is perseverance (long suffering, patience).
3) Success to Him is faith.
And after discussing these things with a friend, I will add that success to God is when we evolve and manifest wholeness. When we learn and grow each day.
Upon further reflection I realize that my tendency is to place value on temporary things and the outward demonstration of talent, gifts, and accomplishments. Yet God values what is inside. The inner being. He values character and maturity and mindsets. Understanding His definition of success makes me feel like more of a successful individual and I’m sure helps to expose lies I have believed, just as I’m sure Dr. Shuler’s client experienced in his office.
3 days ago I woke up full of joy. The whole day I had such joy and it was unexplainable. I had a very “normal” day, like many days in this season. I went to work, ran a few errands after work, cooked, did dishes, and watched a movie. But every single event was filled with joy. I was enjoying the Lord. I was enjoying myself. I was in such a great mood and I knew it was the joy of the Spirit. I knew God was teaching me that the fear and anxiety I have been battling in this season is the real enemy. My circumstances had not changed one bit yet I was able to feel elated and led to celebrate the day. I’m learning that I have to fight for joy. My personality is more melancholy, serious and reflective which serves its purpose in my own self-evolvement but also can lead to pessimism and anxiety. Being type A does the same thing. Knowing this about myself, and realizing b/c I have absolutely no control over changing my circumstances in life, well, I must choose joy if I want to enjoy the life I have been given. I actually have to fight for it as joy is not a natural tendency for me.
You have probably heard me talk a little bit about grace on this blog lately. That is another revelation I have been getting. I am seeing it is the Father’s grace that I have had joy these 3 days. I realize that whatever life He has called me to, He has given me grace to walk it out. He has given me grace to stay and wait. That grace can look like joy in the midst of frustration. It can look like the disappearance of anxiety and sorrow. It can look like peace where there used to be fear.
His grace is amazing.
I was caught in such a dark place of anxiety and I did not know how to escape. Anxiety gave me a false sense of control and it was an illusion that entangled me in an addiction of worrying. But He humbled me which allowed me to release control.
He met me. He heard my cry. And He showed me the way to peace. And hope. And joy.