Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Art Imitating Life

Years ago (lol) when I was a Junior in college, I participated in the Ms. Junior Pageant-"Dare to Be Different".  It's funny, I still have the VHS tape to prove it. One of the requirements was to perform a talent.  Now, I am not a singer, don't play an instrument, nor am I a trained dancer.  So I decided to do an oration for my talent.  Why not?- I had the gift of gab, and I had won an oratorical contest in high school for a scholarship....Well, who would have thought, that that oration would speak volumes and imitate life and resonate so truly in my adult life, years later.  I spoke the poem written by Ntozake Shange, in her collection of poems published in her book, For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf.  The poem?--somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff.  If you are familiar with her work, or the poem, (maybe even the movie) it speaks to the fact that somebody almost walked off with all of her stuff....they took advantage of her goodness, her love and kindness and her goodwill.  They played her for a fool and THEN had the audacity to try and steal her stuff.  Now, physically, sometimes we do lose our material things.   Sometimes we don't even realize someone is  stealing from us, they are slick, with their sweet talk, their stealth like behavior, their chameleon ways, and truthfully, our rose colored glasses, firmly affixed.  Until one day, we wake up, roll-over, the rose colored glasses are shattered and now clear and we realize our stuff is missing....stolen.  We are sitting in an empty room wondering, thinking, contemplating, what did I miss? how did I get here? In life, people steal from us, but the important thing to remember...they can not steal our authentic identity, our dignity, our joy or our worthiness. They can not steal our GOD GIVEN right to be loved, respected and treated honorably in a non-abusive environment. They can not steal our story or our destiny or the blessings God has to give us.  They can not steal, what we do not continue to give....Once we realize there is a thief amongst us, we can put into place theft deterrent devices.  Set your alarm to alert you to an intruder, change the locks...Take measures to protect what is yours--truly yours.  And fight to keep it.     In my case---somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff, but he can't sell my worth on the street, he will not get a return on his investment and what he took don't make it his---it makes it STOLEN! 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Voice

I've had laryngitis for a while--not physically but metaphorically.  Everyone knows what laryngitis is--it's a physical inflammation of your voice box, from over use, irritation or an infection--it causes you to become hoarse or lose your voice and your throat hurts. Sometimes you feel as if your throat is closing in on you.  Yes. I had laryngitis--I lost my voice-I couldn't speak up for myself.  Somehow, my words wouldn't come forth.  My voice longed to speak, scream even, but nothing would come out.  Now it's strange, I love to talk.  I am outspoken, I'm a fighter, I speak out for what is wrong.  I will even write a letter to show my distain for something in a heartbeat...but somehow along this journey of life, in this particular situation ---I lost my voice. I allowed something to quiet my voice, I allowed a situation to shut my voice up.  Somewhere, somehow, laryngitis took hold and it became chronic.  Chronic situations are long-lasting and difficult to eradicate. The medical treatment for laryngitis is usually silence and rest...but I had had ENOUGH silence.  My treatment was to get my voice back... I had to get a shovel and dig, dig deep and find that voice that was so vocal in all situations expect the one that stole my voice.  Something about digging--the more you dig, the more you find and the more you find--the stronger you get. Slowly, my voice got stronger, it got louder, oh, you hear me now....  You never know what you have, until you lose it and you are desperately trying to get it back.  In my case, it was my voice--it's back--can you hear me now?

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Pack Light

When you travel, whether by car, bus, plane or boat, you have to be somewhat conscious of your baggage, not only do you have to keep track of it, you have to be aware of the size and weight.  This is especially true now since the airlines charge for each bag and sometimes charge extra for a heavy suitcase.  How many times have you said, "I'm going to pack light"?  However, once you add your outfits, your back-up outfits, shoes, accessories and toiletries, your suitcase is busting at the seams.  At that point, a decision needs to be made; am I going to drag this heavy suitcase or "lighten" the load.  When you travel, you typically check your bags, sometimes we keep one as a "carry on".  This is a similar philosophy we need to consider when we are approaching and entering a new year.  We should take inventory.  What do we really want to carry over into the new year (carry-on baggage) and what do we need to leave behind in the past (baggage check-except you won't be picking it up on the other side.  Think of it as Un-claimed baggage.  After a while, the airline gets rid of un-claimed baggage).

Typically at the end of the year and into the new year people take time for self-evaluation, reflection, goal planning, and resolutions.  I don't want to focus on resolutions, but I do want to focus on letting go.  Have you taken time to reflect?  Have you taken inventory?  Do you know what you need to keep and what you need to let go?  I learned a valuable lesson from my 11 year old, everyone lets go of things when they are ready. A week ago, he cleaned his room (without being told)...and when I say clean I don't mean, move one pile to another pile. He actually cleaned his room and had 4 bags of trash when he was finished.  His trash basically consisted of old papers, broken toys and things that were no longer of use to him or anyone else. My point is, letting go can't be forced, but it is necessary.  Letting go is a process.  Holding on to certain things, weighs you down and prevents room for new and better things. 

I want to encourage you to take time and take inventory.  Grab a journal and write the good, the bad and the ugly.  Evaluate 2013.  Evaluate the accomplishments, what made you happy or sad, what made you feel like you had achieved something, lessons learned, what could have been done better, what could have been said differently, what didn't work.  What has been in your "carry on" that needs to be checked at baggage check? Whether it is guilt, fear, unforgiveness, self-doubt, a broken relationship, financial woes - make a plan and let it go.  Identify your baggage, acknowledge it, pray about it and what ever is in your "carry-on" - lighten it up.  To help with letting go, I suggest this releasing exercise.  On a note card write "I'm letting go", write down what you need to let go, get a helium filled balloon, tie the "I'm letting go" note to it, go outside and Let It GO!!!! 

Here's another reminder...think of (listen to)  Erykah Badu's song "Bag Lady." 

Bag lady you gon hurt your back
Draggin all them bags like that.
I guess nobody ever told you how
You must hold on to issue, issue issue

One day all them bags gon get in your way
One day all them bags gon get in your way
I said one day all them bags gon get in your way

So pack light, hooo hooo

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Turbulence

Years ago, when my sons were younger (and lighter), we would play a game we called turbulence.  It was really a way to get them out of bed in the morning.  Here is how it worked, I would pick one of them up out of his high platform bunk bed, bounce him around and then "land" him safely on the floor.  Every morning my oldest would say, "Mommy Turbulence, More Turbulence!"   Now, this was a fun morning routine game and I have very fond memories.  On the flip side, everyone knows that turbulence on an airplane, is nothing but a game, nor is it fun.  A few years ago, I had an experience with turbulence that is forever etched in my brain.  I think I actually kissed the ground when I got off that plane.

I was on a flight to Pittsburgh.  For short trips like this; between D.C. and Pittsburgh commuter planes are used.  (not a crop duster with a propeller, but close)   Our flight started off fine, nice and smooth; the fasten seat belt sign was turned off,  flight attendants started serving drinks and snacks,  then BOOM...a loud  rattling sound echoed through the plane.  From that point on, it felt like the pilot, the plane and the air pockets were fighting a revolution!  Glasses were sliding off the trays, the plane was being tossed around,  and I double checked to see where the emergency exits were as I scrambled to get my bible from my purse.   I just KNEW the plane was going down....  I called out to Jesus and started to pray OUT loud.  The passenger next to me grabbed my hand and said, "Are you all right?" I said, "NO, but I will be".  I continued to pray and read my bible as he looked at me in shock.  The flight continued for what seemed like eternity and we finally landed safely in Pittsburgh.  At the end of the flight, passengers were hugging and thanking the pilot.   However, there was one passenger, also a pilot, that confronted the actual pilot of the flight.  He said, "that was awful, you couldn't have prevented that, there was no way around that travel path?"  The pilot said, "No, I had to go through it and I did all in my power to get us through it and get us through safely!"

We all hit turbulent points in our life.  There is no vaccination to provide immunity to challenges, turmoil or life's stressors.  However, with God, nothing is impossible.  The turbulence in our lives comes to provide a lesson and draw us closer to God.  When it hits, we get desperate, we pray more, cry out more, we are trying to get God's attention.   Think about it--sometimes He is trying to get our attention.  We have to go through trials and tribulations to appreciate and realize God's power.   It teaches us to rely on God's word and promises, not just when things are going well, but during the more difficult times too.  Sometimes turbulence cannot be avoided, you have to buckle up, hold on and go through it.  Remember, God is our Pilot and He has the power to get you through.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Reach Out and Touch....

Remember the most popular football player in high school?  Charismatic, good looking, cool clothes.  He had a lot going for him, he was smart, had a lot of friends; everyone wanted to be him or be seen with him. What if you found out he was homeless?  Imagine an adorable baby boy, full of excitement, cooing and babbling, playing with a toy.  Think about a little girl, dressed like a princess, full of excitement, playing with a doll, without a care in the world.  What if you found out these young children were homeless?  Typically when we think of the homeless, we think of the old man standing at the stop light, with a sign that says "will work for food" or "homeless veteran, need work"  We think of beggars.  We think, why don't "you" get a job.   We often see homeless people digging through trash cans, dirty, unkempt, with torn and tattered clothes.  In reality, these are all images of the homeless, but what we do not see, what we can not imagine, or maybe do not realize is that there is a large population of homeless that are under the age of 16.  Yes.  Children under 16 are homeless at an alarmingly increasing rate.        1 in 45 children are homeless.  The economy as well as other factors has struck a devastating blow to families across America, and for a variety of reasons, families are ending up homeless.  Some children remain with their parents, other children are on the street.  

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to serve at a local homeless shelter (it is a residency facility).   I knew that there might be families there, but the reality is, it didn't HIT me, until I actually saw the children.  I talked and interacted with an Ethan - 11 years old,  Juliana - 4 years old and Jordan - her 2 year old brother.   (Yes, the 2 year talked)   I was shocked that Ethan, also has an 8 year old sister, a 4 year old brother and a 8 month old baby brother (Leslie, their mother was there also).  ALL were living in the shelter, Homeless.  Stop for a moment, and imagine, seeing a family, with children, in a shelter.  No permanent home, no privacy - except the room they stay in, with thin walls, they share a bathroom/shower area, a kitchen and common areas.  Imagine being a middle school boy, with no home; he can't have "his boys" come over to play video games, because, he doesn't have a home, or access to video games.  He can not go next door to see if his buddy can play ball, because, he is homeless.   Think about a teenage girl that wants to have a sleepover for her birthday, but can not, because she lives in a homeless shelter.

The mothers looked just like me.  Loving their children, nurturing, laughing and playing.  The mothers didn't look "homeless".  But they were.  Candace, drives her daughter Juliana across town so that her daughter can get a good pre-school education.  Not any different that what I've done for mine.   Leslie said she has been praying for Ethan, with regards to him and school.  Not any different that what I do for mine.  One common thread--we are all human.    A kind word, a gesture, an extended hand can really make a difference....One thing that really made me go hmmmmmm, was, any of us, can end up in a situation, and be where these families are.   At any time, we all might need help, significant help.  Do not look at others who have fallen on hard times and judge or make assumptions.  Instead, look and them and say, what can I do to make a difference.   I encourage and challenge everyone to look around you.  Look for someone to help.  Look for an organization to volunteer your time.   Take your children - teach them about community service and a world outside of their comfortable bubble.   Look at ways to make someones life and situation better.  Help does not  have to be financial (although if you have it--give it).  Help can be a prayer, it can be spending time with someone, running errands, or a listening ear.   It could be cooking a meal for someone that is elderly or just had surgery.   The possibilities are endless.  In 1970, Diana Ross released a very thought provoking song--Reach Out and Touch.  Take a moment and Google the lyrics.  The words still ring true 42 years later....Reach Out and Touch, Somebody's hand, Make this world a better place, If you can.....       The names have been changed to protect their privacy.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Define Yourself

Just imagine for a minute, that you opened Webster's Dictionary and looked up your name....What would the definition say?  In life we have a lot of definitions.  Here are just a few of my personal ones:  early in life, I was defined by whose daughter I was;  Mrs. Leftwich's or Rev/Dr. Leftwich's daughter.  During high school I was the "only black person" in the school.  In college, I was defined by my major, my friends, who I dated and what sorority I wanted to pledge.  Surprisingly, I was also defined by where I was from.  At Spelman and Morehouse, they had clubs, like the DC Metro Club, the Philly Club, Detroit/Chicago Club, etc.  To this day, I am still defined by which Freshman dorm I stayed in (shout out to those that stayed in Howard Harreld!)   As I moved into later life, I became David's wife....and then I became Myles and Adin's mom (one of my favorite definitions).   As we go through life, a lot of factors "define" us.   People are defined by the type of car they drive, the type of house or neighborhood they live in.  Others are defined by their clothes, their hair, their physical appearance. We all know someone who is defined by their husband or wife.   I am so and so's wife/husband; I am the pastor's wife (the first lady); I am married to a lawyer; my wife or husband is a CEO, you get the picture.  We also know people that define themselves by their career and the burning desire to climb the corporate ladder and make a lot of money.  For those, I would try to encourage them that they are not their career, however, their definition of who they are is so tightly bound to their  "career",  they can't truly see the deeper meaning of who they really are.  I am not knocking careers, climbing the ladder or being successful in a career, it can be an important facet in our lives, but it is not who we are.  At times we allow our spouse/significant other, parents or friends to define who we are and we stray away from our authentic, genuine self.  We all have to fit into some type of definition during our lives, but, I am here to encourage you that we are SO MUCH MORE.  God designed us to be MORE.   If you stripped away other peoples definitions or roles of who you are, what would your definition be?  Once the children move out, you change careers,  retire,  or you sit quietly alone, who are you?  Outside of your outward life- what people see or think, who are you?   When you think of your inner self, deep down on the inside who are you?    What are your dreams, aspirations, likes and dislikes?  What inspires you???  Grab a pen and paper....  Don't let anyone define you.  Write your own definition.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Your Footstool

Read Psalm 110:1
What do you do, when you can't reach something in your kitchen or you need to change a light bulb?  Do you climb on a chair or get a stool? (hopefully a stool, it's safer)  Did you know that stools are made for the purpose of reaching something otherwise unreachable.  Have you ever thought that your enemies have a purpose in your life?  Aside from causing us grief, frustration, anxiety and maybe some tears; think for a minute to the real God given purpose of our enemies.  Our enemies come into our lives in a variety of  forms: friends, families, job, financial and health issues, well, you get the point.  However, ultimately, our enemies job is to help us.  YES our enemies job is to help us.  I heard a sermon the other day, that encouraged  and reminded us to embrace our enemies, pray for our enemies and to thank God for our enemies.  In the flesh, this sounds "crazy" but in the spiritual is makes sense.  The vast majority of people, find it very difficult to pray for their enemies.  I will admit, I do pray for my enemies, but it is a God driven conviction and not one that I ignore, but it "ain't easy".  Those who know me well, know I will face my enemy with a smile and I frequently turn the other cheek; I'm often questioned, why do I do that.  I have learned from personal experience, that God is my protector and the enemy can only do so much to me.  In the flesh and to the "naked" eye  it may seem like I'm being destroyed and defeated, but there is a battle taking place in the spiritual, that will defeat what is taking place in the natural.  God has designed our enemies to become our footstool.   If you think back to the days of battle in biblical or gladiator times, when the battles where over, the victor would go and place one foot on the back of those killed in battle.  This was to show, "I have won the battle, defeated you, and I will step on your back, raise my sword and show myself victorious."    Think back to the stool---a stools job is to help you reach something other wise unreachable.  The parallel, the enemies job is to help you reach something otherwise unreachable--Victory!  When the enemy is attacking, it means that particular situation is preparing you for elevation, and you can't reach the new height, without a stool.  The enemy will become that stool.  Remain strong, steadfast and follow God's wisdom and battle plan.  Remember: "sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." Psalm 110:1 NIV.  Be inspired.