I had a quick chat with a perfect stranger today. She is 20 years my junior and has the great privilege of sharing my birthday month 😌. Though we didn’t talk long, the conversation was still significant. I told her not to rush turning 18, even though I felt really old saying it. “Once you’re grown, you’re grown,” I advised, in my now late 30-somethings’ voice. She laughed and nodded, then said, “I just hope it’s not as horrible as everyone says it is.”
Hmmm…interesting. I interpreted her to mean that “growing up” was horrible. That “being an adult” was horrible. Speedily, memories raced in my mind of my own experience, and in the little time we had to chat at the Walgreens register, I shared, “I definitely don’t think it’s horrible, but there is responsibility. You will, however, have opportunities that you wouldn’t as a kid, and hopefully you’ll grow and mature.
We went our separate ways shortly after; me, to my 2017 Ford Escape, her to her register as a cashier at Walgreens. Still, her statement lingered with me. I reflected back on the last 20 years, which were far from horrible. I felt that most of my greatest experiences were actually happening now, in my 30s. I realized that, though life has been far from easy, the experiences and opportunities I’ve had are probably very unique from many outside of my community, and academic acquaintances.
Even during the pandemic, I went whitewater rafting with the guy I was dating, spent Thanksgiving cooking a full course meal for him and another loved one, decorated my home and Xmas tree with the same guests, in addition to my new kitten, and even last month, hosted my dear friend of 18 years, along with her lovely family. For a single living alone, it’s been pretty action-packed, (even if there were ample lonely nights and grief stricken days woven in between the action.) And, let’s not forget I have written over 900 pages within the last year! Yes, life has not been stagnant, even if it hasn’t been what I imagined.
So, what would I tell my 18-year-old self who was engaged to a man she thought was the man of her dreams, but who ended up being just short of a nightmare? Well, probably that things do get better. God has a way of answering prayers in His own way. Life will be filled with people, and love, and really good experiences. There will be more heartbreak, more pain, more laying down of her desires, but she would grow, and evolve into a classy, sweet, compassionate individual who somehow, someway, was still walking with Him. And really, He was still walking with her.
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.
Before this season I knew next to nothing about getting a book publishing deal. And can I tell you a secret? Even with two self-published books under my belt, I still didn’t consider myself “a real writer”. I mean, I’m a good writer (in my opinion) but I did not study writing or major in journalism (except for that brief time period freshman year, but God told me to “x” that idea). I mean, I’ve attended a few writing workshops but honestly, most of my training has come from, well, completely, Holy Spirit teaching me. 😁💕
I have read countless books and have always been an avid reader 🤓. Books were a safe haven growing up for me. I was a loner. Born an only child and struggling in the friendship department (my how things change). Most of my pre-teen years were spent with my nose in a book. I would get so excited when my mom would take me to the library to pick out a few books that I could spend the weekend reading. (Yes, I spent my weekends reading, LOL!) And even though she herself was not a reader, she supported me in my reading. She supported me in everything…
It’s funny how fast God can move in some things. Like this writing thing for example. I was just reading about a writer (one of those real writers, I mean) and how she kept submitting her manuscript and query letter to publishing companies and then getting rejected. Over and over. Until finally, she got accepted. In my mind it was a given she would get accepted. I mean, she was a real writer. (Any writer who knows how to do a query letter, and submit their work to a publishing company, well, that is a real writer to me, LOL.) So that’s why the last couple of months are astounding to me. Because out of nowhere I got a message posted on my social media account from a distant relative (someone I hardly interact with) about a publishing opportunity for black writers. Well, I’m a black writer (I use that term loosely as I’ve already explained my perception of myself as a writer), so I should definitely look into this. Well, I did, and they wanted the first 30 pages of a manuscript. Now, I had resumed writing once the pandemic hit, but had no idea how much I had written, and I wasn’t so sure I had enough written. To my surprise, at the time, I actually had 150 pages written! SMH. So, I quickly started working on my book project to get it submitted. But the company also wanted a query letter included. Hmmm, here we go with that query letter again! Well, shortly thereafter a friend slid into my DM’s with contact information for a well known published author who was offering her services (free of charge mind you) to help black authors put together a query letter for this very opportunity! Crazy. Could God be anymore obvious? LOL. So, I jumped on it, and she really was a godsend in every aspect of the word. Within a few weeks I had my query letter! Then it came time for editing. Or so I thought. I turned back to social media, put out feelers for an editor and reached out to one in particular.
Now, I am a no nonsense type. I like to get stuff done. Give me a project, I’ll knock it out. I love productivity. So when this person suggested we wait to do the editing and that I should revisit the story and dig deeper (without actually having read the story) I was a little annoyed. Come on lady, I’m tryna give birth to this thing and you telling me I’m not done carrying yet! 🤰🏾🙄. Now, she felt this message was from God and that she was hearing something. I’m not one to tell someone else what they are hearing or not hearing, but I know that if it is a word for me, then it is going to have to resonate with me. So I agreed to wait, although I was skeptical 🤔. But I didn’t have to wait too long. I sat with the story again, and Holy Spirit moved quickly. I began writing, and so much more came out of the characters. I was in awe. I sat with the story for a whole month after that and am finally meeting again with the editor (today actually). Hopefully we are ready for the editing stage (fingers crossed). I also submitted those first 30 pages and am awaiting a response from the publishing company. They have 3 months to respond so we have time (2 months left actually).
God has given me several words about this book project. I don’t know how much of an influence it will have but I know that it will have an impact. I love that it reflects my growth spiritually and where I have evolved as a person. It is relatable, down to earth but still revelatory. And to think, when I began writing it, I had no idea it would actually be a published work. I only started writing out of enjoyment.
I am looking forward to the outcome and to see the expression of the Father’s creativity through me in this season. And through so many others.
I was standing near her grave feeling a little awkward because he was standing there too. Never could you have told me we would be in this position (on speaking terms, let alone at her grave). I had come there a little early with a friend so I could have alone time to think about them; the women who had gone before me. The ones who paved the way.
Years ago when my grandmother passed I never visited the cemetery. I didn’t see a need to, she wasn’t there. Instead she was with her Maker. Now that both of them are gone I have found the grave to be a place of connection. I connect with Him.
I connect with them.
So when he asked me if he could come too, well, I was understandably hesitant. We hadn’t really spoken in two years, when everything happened. When I shut the door to further communication. So meeting with him in such a vulnerable place would be a risk. But one I felt Holy Spirit was leading me to take.
My bestfriend was there with me. And really she is my sister. She’s been by my side since I was 14 years old. We fell out in college (over what, neither of us can remember) but she was already grafted into my family by then. My mom and gramma held on to her. I think they were saving her for me for when I would be mature enough to value her.
And oh how I value her…
It was a rainy day, although it wasn’t currently raining, and I was fighting a fierce cold. So inconvenient considering the world was dealing with a pandemic with the same symptoms. We kept taking my temperature and I was assured I didn’t have this illness, this COVID-19. But I did have a cold and it wasn’t letting up. I was just going to have to push through.
He and I didn’t embrace when we met out of precaution because he’s older, but I felt his love just the same. We stood there and talked and it was clear to me he finally had gotten it.
“Thank you for calling me out on my sh$t,” he said. I appreciated his frankness. He was finally demonstrating those qualities I had desired for so long: humility, ownershipof wrongdoing, maturity. These were qualities I had wanted in a male counterpart. In the past I had wanted these men to see that me walking out of their lives was the worse thing to have happened and they needed to get it together to get me back. But they wouldn’t. Now standing here in front of this man, my own father, I realized he was the one who really needed to get it. And he did.
He finally did.
I was guarded but he still made me laugh and even tear up. “You are mine,” he said. “You will always be mine. You can hate me but that will never change.” And I was immediately reminded of the Father’s love, and of my mother’s (both are the same really). It was evident that was the love that was in his heart.
He and I are closer in physical distance than we have been my whole life. I told him God was giving him a new beginning. Now I can see that He is giving us a new beginning.
I feel the Father has said the warfare that has come against our relationship these 30+ years is finally over. He is giving us time. Just as He did with my own mother.
The Father has been so merciful with me. I have experienced great pain and heartache within the area of relationships and family, yet He has chosen to move and bring restoration and redemption.
It has not been easy, nor will it be. But He has still been working, bringing about His promises in His own time. And for that I am grateful.
He is still producing miracles.
Even in the mundane.
P.S, Here is a pic from my 37th b day! Fierce and Fabulous 😊😉
It’s been 2 years but it feels more like one. Every day I think about you and since that day life hasn’t been the same. Things moved swiftly foreword yet at the same time stood still. So many days I thought the pain would never end.
It hasn’t ended but it’s dimmed.
I see you at the store, on tv, while running errands. You are everywhere and anything can trigger a memory; a time when we were together in the physical. I realize how quickly my childhood passed and how you and gramma were the bulk of it.
And its over.
Somehow God saw fit to surround me with so many who are not blood related but who love me just as fiercely. Sisters who are steadfast, spiritual parents who fill the gap, brothers who care… I still yearn for my own but I so appreciate that they are there. I never would have made it if they weren’t there.
Just a few moments this past year…
I moved. And moving was bitter sweet. I laid in your bed for as long as I could before I had to pack it and relocate. I kept the mattress. It’s like laying in your arms. And literally this home is hugging me with its warmth and comfort.
God is the best comforter.
He comforted me these last 2 years for sure. Using people and circumstances and financial blessings. I have been so blessed. But there has been so much emptiness and loss. It feels like the holes are just now being filled.
And now we are struggling with a virus. The whole world is struggling. They call it a pandemic. And it’s kind of crazy to me its a virus that is related to the illness that you yourself battled some 20 something years. Those last few days were horrible. I don’t even like to think about them. And some would say you lost the battle, but I know better.
I saw you in your glorified body in a dream I had right before your passing. I had no idea what was to come, but the dream has been one of many comforts.
Thank you for being great. I would not be who I am without you. I wouldn’t have made it this far. I’m so grateful for your sacrifices and how you poured out your life for me. Even when things were rough between us, you were always for me. I appreciate that now. I didn’t know our time would be so short and the only regret is that I didn’t know.
But even in the not knowing we knew. And spent those last few months together. And I will forever treasure them. It is a gift of the Father who knows when we don’t know. Who sees when we don’t see. And who is always for us.
Thank You Father for providing these 2 years. For keeping my mind and teaching me mental strength. For being with me even when I felt alone. For being the net when I jumped by faith. For catching me when I fell. Over and over again.
Your love is miraculous. And it is that love I pray that somehow others will experience in the midst of such uncertainty. Such difficult things happen in this life and yet You are the hope.