Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Heartfelt Concern

I have been debating about whether I wanted to blog on a certain dilemma that is going on in my family for the last month because there are a lot of legal ramifications surrounding it and also because I didn't want to reveal too much personal information about my baby girl. So, I decided not to disclose too much of the story except to give some meat to the topic so you can understand where I am coming from.

My 16 year old niece is the love of my life, along with my three other heartbeats (as I talked about in an earlier post). Our relationship has had its share of ups and downs, but I have always fought to remain in her life. You see, my brother and her mother were never in a real relationship and her conception was not planned (to say the very least). But I believe that her existence on this earth was no accident, and she was a thought in the heart of God long before she made her debut.

Long story short, she was raised in her mother's household but my mom and I have always tried to provide a second place of respite, a second home for her - so much so that when she was having trouble at home, my mom got guardianship of her last year. For nine months we were in and out of court, fighting against sending her back to her mom because of the drug abuse, domestic violence, and alcoholism taking place in her mom's home. The judge agreed with us and we kept her as long as we could. But then, a CPS worker in the county where her mother lives recommended that the guardianship be terminated and my niece be returned home, although every other authority figure involved felt that it would be a huge mistake.

It was.

My niece and her two sisters were placed in foster care three months after my mom's guardianship was terminated by recommendation of the CPS Worker. They were taken from her mother because of the same reasons we had raised in court - her mother;s lifestyle and her mother giving my niece controlled substances. The CPS Worker that removed my niece from my mom's care was the same one that removed her from her mother's and placed her into foster care. He never informed us of this and we found out four months after the fact that my niece was no longer in her mother's home. We had tried to maintain contact with her, but her mother had intercepted us each time and by the time this took place, we were almost too late. My niece got in touch with us after being bounced from one foster home to the next.

Now, despite the pleas for her return to our care and our interactions with case workers and CPS workers and supervisors, my niece and her sisters still remain in foster care, in the home of strangers. There is more to the story that I cannot get into right now, but one issue that keeps coming up is that we, my niece's extended family, has no rights, and in fact, my brother, who is also demanding for the return of his daughter is being ignored by the foster care system.

It makes me wonder how many other fathers and how many other families are losing or have lost children to the system that really wanted to retain custody of those children. Of course every story is different, but the jist of it is this: the system that is supposed to be all about protecting children and also the reunification of families can also be guilty of destroying families. We were told that my niece's mother picked where her children would be placed with no regard to my brother's rights or the rights of the other fathers/family members that wanted their children with family. And this was okay and permissible.

I have realized that there are many levels of institutional racism and paternal discrimination that are at play in my niece's situation. I do not like to play the "race card" as they say, but it is very obvious that race has probably played a factor in the disregard for my niece's placement. Her mother and the family chosen to house my niece and her sisters are Caucasian. The authority figures deciding if we can even have contact with her (which we have not been allowed to, for no apparent reason) are Caucasian. And my brother unfortunately has played the role of the Black deadbeat father in the past making it easy for decisions to be made without a say-so from him or us, but at this point he is stepping up to rescue his child because his rights may be terminated too if he does not.

Tomorrow we are meeting with a lawyer and also going to a meeting between my brother and the Case Worker assigned to my niece's placement. He does not want his daughter staying with the family her mother chose because there have been many lies told and attempts by this family to keep his daughter from visits and phone calls with him. He wants her to be returned to our family's care. I believe things will be changed. But all of this raised a lot of questions in my mind about the role of the foster care system in destroying families, instead of protecting children.

I have some questions for anyone that reads this post.

How many of you know of children or teens that were placed in the foster care system, in the homes of strangers or unrelated families, when their biological families were readily available to take them?

We were told that my niece and her sisters were placed together, even though they all have different fathers and families that wanted to take them. There is a federal law on the books that CPS has to abide by that states in brief that children should be placed together, even if it means they are placed in the homes of complete strangers and not with family members who want them (if they have to be separated amongst family members). As in the case of my niece and her sisters, children who have different fathers may have to live with complete strangers just to keep them together, and those biological families may risk losing them altogether.

That is the place where we are, and we are fighting with everything within us to keep my baby from rotating through the system. I know so many children that have been in foster care and have not been allowed to see family (family that should have the right to love those children and be in their lives).

There are many stories about children taken from their parents that had families whom wanted to work together to keep the children, perhaps in different houses but still maintaining contact with their siblings. But CPS would not allow that because the children were not physically living in the same house and ended up putting the children in foster homes. There are very few foster homes that can house three or more children and inevitably children are separated anyway - most of the time with foster families and not with biological relatives. What sense does that make?

If you have experienced the loss of children to the system or know of any families that were not granted custody of those children due to the laws that are on the books that dictate that fathers rights may be disregarded for the good of a flawed system, please let me know. I am very concerned that there are:
(1) children that should be with their families but have been placed in foster homes unnecessarily;
(2) fathers rights are being overlooked, disregarded, or trampled on when children are taken from their mothers;
and (3) racism is affecting the placement of children in the foster care system.

My family is prepared to fight for my niece to the fullest extent of the law, and most likely, she will be returned to my family once her mother's rights are completely terminated in February. But truly, children should never be placed in the homes of strangers over the homes of family members simply to fulfill unrealistic laws established by the federal government at all. I know that this law was written with the best of intentions but no law should override what would be in the best interest of children.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Brilliant Idea!!!!

Okay...I was blog-browsing via my girl FullComplexity's blog and I realized what I have been missing all along. Another fellow blogger has a blog solely focused on a book she is writing in the blogosphere. So my new idea is just that: I am going to start two new blogs - one for my novel and the other for my memoir. Please check them out and let me know what you think. I love to write and it really isn't as important to publish as it is to build an audience. So please help me out and let me know what you think...

Myowneworlddestiny will remain the same as always...stay tuned...

Nice to Be Noticed

I was named an Honest Blogger (really?) by FullComplexity. I love that. So I am to name at least 7 bloggers in return that I think are honest as well.

You can link them below but I will highlight the ones I think you should look at:
Shauna Niequist
One Good Reason...
Jonalyn Grace Fincher

I got this from a blog I was reading today and decided to copy it.

10 Things you wish you could say to ten different people

1. Take care of your kids so I can focus on having my own.
2. Don't try to manipulate me because I used to be stupid enough to let you.
3. If only you weren't married. Actually thank God you are.
4. I love you more than life itself.
5. I am NOT the token black girl; I am the token CHURCH girl.
6. NOW you want me. TOO LATE!!!!
7. I don't care if you don't like me. I certainly won't cry over that.
8. At the rate you are going, you will never be Father of the Year.
9. Can you hurry it up?
10. You need to go on "What Not To Wear" yesterday.

9 Things about yourself

1. I give up my life for other people quite often and sometimes I get sick of doing that.
2. I love my short hair.
3. I wish I was married.
4. I miss my dad.
5. I love to cook new things - especially from scratch.
6. I hate being looked at like I am a piece of meat.
7. I wish I could write and do art full time.
8. I love being with my friends and family.
9. I do not think all men suck. Just the ones I somehow ended up dating...

8 Ways to win my heart

1. Love God and family like life depends on it.
2. Be present; be there.
2. Focus on building a real relationship with me and not just try to get in my panties.
3. Make me laugh until my stomach hurts and I can't breathe.
4. Listen to me.
5. Talk to me about the things that matter to you.
6. True, legitimate, lucrative employment
7. A sense of humor
8. Strong sense of family

7 Things that cross my mind a lot

1. God
2. Writing
3. Marriage
4. My future
5. My career
6. My family
7. Change

6 Things I do before I go to sleep

1. Brush my teeth and wash my face.
2. Kiss my mom
3. Drink some water
4. Pray
5. Go to the bathroom
6. Take off my nightgown and slide under the covers

5 People I couldn't live without

1. My mom
2. Erika
3. Shalantae
4. Davon
5. Anthony

4 Things I am wearing right now

1. My night gown
2. ?
3. ?
4. ?

3 Songs that fit my life perfectly

1. Get Up - Mary Mary (I think that's what it's called)
2. Play Your Cards Right - Keyshia Cole
3. Beautiful - Musiq Soulchild

2 Things I want to do before I die

1. Get married and have a family
2. Travel to a foreign country (Italy or Sierra Leone)

1 Confession

I think I am beautiful. I didn't always believe that. I also believe that I matter. Didn't always believe that either.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My First Babies Are Growing Up

I blog alot about my friends babies and put pics up of the adorable bundles of joy quite often. But many moons ago, there were four other babies that had my heart all wrapped up in their little fists.

I have four nieces and nephews (and a great nephew) that have always been the lights of my life. They were my babies then and they still are now - although they are approaching adulthood pretty quickly.

The youngest one turned 12 yesterday, and my heart skipped a beat. They are all pretty much teenagers and are no longer the little children they once were, growing up so fast. Two are in high school and the last two are in middle school, beginning to expand in the knowledge of good and evil (just kidding).

They have already seen a lot and experienced a lot in their lives. Sometimes I worry about them more than I probably should but as I always say I want them to make it to adulthood (out of high school) in one piece (in one peace). It is difficult to watch them suffer because of parent issues and family turmoil, but I know it is all for their making. They will be great adults if they overcome the issues life will throw at them.

More than anything, I want to be a good aunt to them, even as they become adults. I want them to know that I care very deeply about their futures. I pray that they will be the people I know they can be, that they already are.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Family's Nonexistent Christmas Dinner

My family used to be really close. Every Holiday Season we made our plans to connect at my grandma's house for dinner and to open presents. I looked forward to seeing my cousins, my uncle, my aunts, and my nieces and nephews along with my mom and brother at the home of the woman we adored more than life itself. We would enjoy the delicious turkey, dressing, greens, mac-n-cheese, and other sides. I would secretly hope I had enough room for one of the desserts waiting on my grandma's kitchen counters for someone to dive in. There would be laughter and story-telling and football on television that was barely watched but became the background music to our festivities. And most of all there would be the unity that God shines on in every family.

But now...

Since my grandma's departure from this life and our world three years ago, things haven't been the same. To be honest, we haven't had a real Christmas since she went home to be with the Lord. The Holidays are so hard now because all I can do is think of what used to be and also how lonely I am. I miss being surrounded by my family. I miss the beauty of seeing my grandma's eyes sparkle when she watched her grandchildren and great-grands open presents, sitting around her feet. I miss my uncle's awesome stories and the way my stomach would hurt after laughing so much. I miss snuggling with my mom's older sister and talking about everything under the sun with my mom's younger sister.

Christmas is not the same for so many reasons. And there is this sense that I am nostalgic for a new tradition; I want a husband and children to build a new family tradition with. I even want in-laws to spend the Christmas season with like so many of my friends (have to) do. But for now, I am in a position of waiting for something to change. This is the season of advent and I think that in this time of waiting and reflecting I am truly waiting for love to surface in my life. I want a family more than any gift I could ever be given. That is what I desire, deep down, but I don't really say anything about it when people ask me what I want for Christmas or what I am getting for Christmas. I rarely get gifts anyhow and truly don't care about material stuff (though I would like an iPod).

Christmas used to be a wonderful time for gathering together for my family. I wish more than anything that I could still relish in the light of my family's presence. We all go our separate ways during the Holidays now because it is too hard to celebrate without my grandma. This year will be no different. We won't see each other, though we will call each other on the phone. I may cook but not the extravagant feast like we used to eat. My mom and I will spend the Holidays together without a tree or lights or wreaths decorating our surroundings. There will only be one present - a new place to call home. We are moving to a new house the weekend after Christmas.

But I really wish there was a family filling that home with all the good things that made the Holidays what they were before. I hate to sound so depressing but this is where I am at right now. Every year, as lame as it sounds, I tell myself this will be the last year I will celebrate the birth of Christ without a man in my life, a family to love, a place to belong. But this year, my prayer is still waiting to be answered and I am sad.

Monday, December 8, 2008

More Baby Pics and a Hair Cut

I decided to do a relatively smaller post today. What's most important are the pics. I am once again in love with babies. In two of the pics I am holding my friends Laneisha and Richie's new baby. I wrote about her when she made her debut seven weeks ago. Now she is definitely growing into the queen of many hearts. The third pic is of my little prince Josiah, who is seven months now. I think this pic is absolutely gorgeous. I still haven't met him yet but during my Christmas Break from work at the end of this month, I am hoping to see him and be introduced to his highness...

And as you can probably tell from the picture with me and Queen Zariyah, I cut my hair a little more. I knew it was going to happen. I really did try to grow my hair out but it just didn't look right, so I went back to my comfort zone. Sorry to all those men that think women should have hair down to their behinds; that will never be me. Love me or leave me; take it or leave it. I think I look good with short hair. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


A friend of mine asked me in an email what I am thankful for this year. With Thanksgiving Day's arrival tomorrow and my plans for the weekend looming on the horizon, many of the blessings I am thanking God for are in the form of the people I love the most. I will be spending time this weekend back home in Grand Rapids with "my babies" - my Tae and Erika and Vonnie and Anthony and Squirmy. I am truly thankful that God uses them quite consistently to change my mind about being self-centered.

I am thankful that God has healed me enough and is still healing me enough to be a good aunt/surrogate parent to my brother's children. My plans have momentarily changed in terms of moving out of state right now due to some issues that have arisen with my youngest niece. The truth is as much as I wish I could just pack up and leave them all, I am not released to do that JUST yet.

And I thank God for that, even though I do feel a bit boxed in at times because I know that I could be doing a lot of living somewhere else. But, I thank God that I can impact their lives as much as I impact the lives of the young people I see everyday at work and the lives of the young people I will one day touch. I want to start at home, with my own babies, and I thank God for the chance to be there for these children who need my brother's love and presence but do not truly have either. But they do have me, and I am not fighting that anymore.

I also thank God for my mother, who is still in the land of the living. We don't always see eye to eye on things but mostly we are comrades-in-arms when it comes to our family and most specifically her grandchildren and great-grandson, whom she adores. We fight together for their futures, and I thank God I am not alone in the struggle to change their lives.

It may seem wierd but I am thankful that I am needed by my family, that my nieces and nephews love me, that I have people to care for. If it were not for them I would be the loneliest woman on earth. So many people in our world do not have family. So, I am thankful for their smiles, their laughter, their passions, and their dreams. I am thankful even for the times when they try to assert their independence and I have to rein them back in ("You ain't grown YET!). And I am thankful for their futures, and I cannot wait to see the kind of men and women they will grow to be.

For this, I am thankful. My life is so full.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Few Indiscretions

So...I have a couple guilty pleasures that I'd like to tell you all about. I am not a perfect person, so I'll throw that out there as my disclaimer. I love God, go to church (not always every Sunday, but often), I read my Bible, and I try to live as drama-free a life as I can. As I always say, there is no need for unnecessary dramatics in my world, and I'd like to keep that way for as long as possible.

But there are a few things that might be considered not so Christian that I either enjoy watching, reading or doing. The first thing I enjoy doing is going out with friends for food, drinks, and karaoke. That may or may not be a good combination but I tell you what, it makes for a rip-roaring good time and I walk away feeling totally free and uninhibited. I enjoy being with people that don't take life too seriously, and I think once you've been in the church for a long time, people start to assume that you aren't supposed to enjoy life, laughter, and singing 1980s R&B.

My next "indiscretion" is something I am reading right now. The thing is I have been waiting a long time for either a movie or another book from Sister Souljah, and when I saw in either Essence or Ebony (more reading indiscretions) that she had a new book out I was really hyped about the whole thing. So, when I went to the library last week and saw her book "Midnight" on the shelf I almost broke down dancing right then and there.

(Let me just say this: Here in Port Huron, Michigan (or Port Boring, as it is so affectionately called) where I am temporarily residing until something better comes along, the library very rarely orders books by African-American authors. So when they do I am very pleasantly surprised. The library gods must think that Black folks don't read. Well, honey, let me tell you - I DO read. A lot. And I read several different types of books as you will hear about in future posts. But...I digress.)

Anyway, I am reading this book right now. I am amazed that it is 500 pages. It has started out a lot different than her first book "The Coldest Winter Ever" which I happened to love, by the way. That book was great, but the problem I found out later, is that it paved the way for a lot of poorly written "ghetto" books that landed on bookstore shelves much to my chagrin (a writer that is fighting to get two books commercially published right now). Again, I digress.

"Midnight" is my book indiscretion, sitting alonsgide Erwin McManus' Soul Cravings, Barack Obama's "Dreams From My Father", Stephen Mansfield's "The Faith of Barack Obama", and last but not least my worn Amplified Bible. It is living on my bed's headboard bookshelf in obvious mixed company. But the reality I tell myself or the excuse I give anyone else is that I am learning something life-changing from each book. I will give a more thorough critique of "Midnight" and the other books I am reading right now when I finish them, but I had to give some sort of explanation as to why this book is being read so voraciously by the Church Girl, right?

My next indiscretion is something I liked to watch on television. I say liked because the season finale just aired Tuesday, although there is one more show next week that will uncover some apparent dirty laundry and one more delectable tidbit of drama. The wierd thing is my godmother actually hipped me to this show and she is a pastor herself. She liked it because it showed Black women that didn't live in the hood and had money to boot. I do get a bit tired of seeing Black women on television that are standing in the welfare line or having babies out of wedlock with every Tom, Dick, and Harry. That being said, there isn't much else to be proud of in a Afrocentric kind of way with this show.

I just flat-out enjoyed this crazy mix of weave-wearing, sassy, rich femme fatales on this hour-long laugh fest. The Real Housewives of Atlanta became a guilty pleasure of mine the last few weeks of the show. I even started engaging myself so much with NeNe, Sheree, Kim, Lisa, and DeShawn that I started declaring to anyone that watched the show and would know the characters who I liked or disliked more. I very rarely get that involved with a television show (except Grey's Anatomy and sometimes Keyshia Cole's show).

I could not STAND NeNe. A lot of people said they liked her because she kept it real and she seemed the most down-to-earth. (What kind of real are they talking about?!?!) I personally thought she was the fakest, most two-faced one of them all because she kept up so much dissension with all the women - women she was supposed to be friends with. She reminded me of women (females) I have known both in high school and (dare I say) in church (but I won't talk about that) where I came face-to-face with the rawest qualities of humanity. And I am being real here when I say that I will not befriend (at least on a deep level) a woman like that. She will keep up too much chaos.

NeNe is the type of female that thinks (in layman's terms) she is this angelic representation on earth and is ignorant enough to believe that gives her the license to talk about other people as if she is better than them. She is the person that can be the loud-mouth, the life of the party, but can also be the one that everyone wants to fight. I literally wished I could jump inside the television and whup her tail and then jump back out before she could understand why she was lying on the concrete.

(I know...that is not a very lady-like or Christian attitude, but I am being honest here.)

This type of female was personified in many girls in my high school back in Grand Rapids and it makes me wonder if they still act like her today. I know back then I would not deal with them. NeNe was superficial and fake because she would smile in her "friends" faces and then would run them down in the next breath - once she got a few drinks in her. I know I said earlier that I like to go out and have drinks but not to the point where I am saying something I will regret later. I don't believe in getting twisted and then letting it all hang out. Once again, I apologize...I digress.

To me NeNe was not a viable symbol of true womanhood (not that the rest of them were in all areas; she just stood out the most). She is the person I point out to my nieces and say "Don't be like her. Somebody will want to beat the brakes off you if you turn into THAT. And it just might be me."

She is a symbol of a woman out of her element that does not fit in the classy world her marriage evidently placed her. Her attitude exemplified the fact that money certainly does not buy class. I think a real woman is born with a certain pedigree, a certain quality, and NeNe did not have that and she certainly was not trying to develop it.

So those are my little indiscretions. What are yours?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My Little Girl and Her Baby

The pictures I have posted with this entry is of my little girl Tae, otherwise known as my niece, and her son. Since the moment she was born 17 years ago I have loved her so very deeply. The second I laid eyes on her I knew that I would never be the same. She would change my definition of love and family. My brother's ex-girlfriend had her when they were both 19 and were totally not ready to be parents (and in many ways they still aren't - sorry, I hate to say it, but they are both 36 year old kids). But she appeared in our worlds anyway - ready or not. And she is still here doing her thing as only she can do it - making us all re-think our perspectives on life. And in the midst of it, we can't help but love her. I know I can't.

She is now 17, a junior in high school, and is a mother herself. It rocked my world when she got pregnant at 15. I was so scared for her and for her child. Mainly, I was scared that she would never shine as brightly as she was born to do. But she is shining. She IS shining like a star despite the difficulties being a teen mother can bring. I love her so much for her resiliency, and I never fail to tell her that.

The picture shows my little girl's beauty; it also shows what I saw the first day I ever met her in Butterworth hospital 17 years ago. It shows a beautiful girl destined to change the world. And she will. She was born to be a trailblazer and a world-changer, and part of my plans in myowne life is to help her do just that.

The little boy in the first two pictures (with all the beautiful hair) is her son. She loves her Squirmy as she calls him. His name is Jeremy and he reminds me so much of her when she was his age - same eyes, same smile, same personality. I am nostalgic for those days; I really am. No matter what, I know that she will be as good a mother as she can be because she knows how to ask for help and she doesn't want her son to be anything less than the best. She will be graduating high school next year, and I wonder what her life will be like when she enters adulthood. I want her to be successful; I always tell her this. And she is determined that she will be. That's all anybody can ask. Really.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Need a New Place to Call Home

I drove to work with one thought on my mind this morning:

"I've got to have a place to call home...a place of my own...a place for me."

I had a brief mini-spat with my mom last night because she is apparently getting tired of me crashing at her house until I am able to move to my own apartment in Port Huron or hopefully, another city. Things are not going according to plan since I had to move out of my last place, and I am ready to just go somewhere for me for once. I came to Port Huron to help my godparents and have hated the stay.

I also am staying with her because she is planning to move to the Phoenix, AZ area, and I wanted to go with her. I didn't want her to go alone because we have no family in that area (most of our family is either in Michigan or down South.)

But she doesn't seem to want me with her, and I don't want to be miserable or to make her miserable since really this move to the Valley of the Sun is her dream - not mine. I don't mind going to Arizona but I have some concerns with how she will treat me if I am not able to find a job right away or an affordable apartment there. My mom can be mean sometimes, and I hate it.

But the truth is, I do need my own life. The problem is I don't know where to go. I don't particularly want to return to my city of origin (Grand Rapids), and right now, Michigan really sucks as far as jobs and housing and men and good times go.

So my question to anyone reading this post is: Where is the best place for a 30-something, single, African-American female with an education and no kids to establish a home? What location should I set up residence in, where I can take part in artistic endeavors, meet new people, find a great church to attend, possibly get a graduate degree, and where I could potentially meet a great guy to settle down with?

Maybe a lot of women in my shoes are asking this, and I am not alone. But if you, O Reader, have found a happy place, please let me know about it. Please let me know if the city you are living in is working for you and why. I am pretty stumped as far as my next move is concerned.

Places I may be interested in going:
(1) Nashville, TN
(2) Chicago, IL (although it can get friggin' cold there, but I love the Chi)
(3) Phoenix, AZ
(4) Somewhere usually pretty warm most of the year

Places I am definitely not interested in going:
(1) Detroit, MI
(2) Somewhere people are not doing anything positive
(3) Somewhere cold (besides Chicago)

That leaves a lot of room for choices. Let me know!

Monday, November 10, 2008


Okay...I need to do a few updates since most of my posts lately have been about President Obama or the election campaign issues I was having or other people's babies. When I started this blog, I had intended to write about the class I was teaching at church and some changes I am making right now in my personal life. Well, some things never change.

I may have intended to teach these kids at church, trying to motivate them to live out their faith in a more intelligent, learned way. So, what happened? They stopped coming. A couple times my class got cancelled. Then I would show up on Wednesday nights and they wouldn't, for various reasons. And then, I just decided that this inconsistency is proof that some things never change. One of the issues I have with my church is the inconsiderate way things set up for the teens are viewed. And I am so sick of it. I have tried setting up tutoring programs, youth activities and classes. Nothing ever continued after the first month.

A lot of it has to do with the parental involvement. The parents are not very involved in anything that has to do with their kids - at church and at school. I know because I have worked with them in both places. I am not just drawing an unfair conclusion. And if the parents don't make certain things a priority, the kids won't either.

So this was my last shot at trying to do something life-affecting at my church. I have tried many, many times, and although my pastor doesn't agree with this, I don't believe in beating a dead horse. of right now...the class "Own Your Faith" is on hiatus (maybe, permanently). It's too bad really; it was going so well. But I don't have the energy to beg people to bring their kids so I can teach them about the things of God and faith. That's not my job.

And then...something else has happened that has caused me to really take a look at relationships and even how I may be viewed by men. Most of my friends are married - except for one. All of them have gotten married within the last 6 years. So, I have had a good opportunity to see how relationships are built and what makes them work (or not work, in some cases). I have had the chance to interact with these couples in a variety of different ways, and I have drawn a lot of conclusions about what I want and what I don't want.

And one thing I don't want is to learn that one of my friend's husbands thinks I am beautiful and wishes that we could be together in some way, form, or fashion because my friend is not doing her wifely duties.

Yes, you heard me. One of my friends' husbands, in a feigned attempt to ask me for help in understanding his wife (like I can help with that; I don't KNOW her like THAT), also released some real talk in my ear. I am surprised that he would admit this but I am not surprised that married men are so intrigued by me. I am not saying this in a proud or conceited manner. But I have had married men (some married to my friends and others, complete strangers) look at me inappropriately or even try to hit on me in some way.

And this solidifies why I keep my distance when my friends get married or get into relationships. It's scary first of all to be the only single one in my groups of friends. And it is also scary that when you try to befriend and be helpful in any way, you are looked at as a potential jump-off. I am so freakin' sick of being viewed as a great distraction or so empty-headed that I would be willing to kiss, sleep with, or even carry on indepth conversations with my friends' significant others.

Not cool. And not happening again.

I want my own husband - not somebody else's and especially not my friend's. I told my mom that I get tired of men just wanting to sleep with me but not wanting to marry me (either because they won't or because they obviously can't). It was just so selfish of these married men to try and trap me into something that would ruin my friendships with their wives. And it is so selfish of some men to try and bed me down and then walk away.

I'm not a ho, and I never have been. I'm the church girl (not innocent by any means, but really trying to live right). So (excuse the french, but) what the hell is this? Do I have a sign on my forehead that says I am easy or desperate or stupid? I'm just wondering.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Night

My mother and I stayed up late to watch the election results, and when they came in, she screamed in disbelief. Then she began to cry. If you have ever seen my mom cry, you will know that it is not a pretty sight. But, I wept real ugly, right with her. I'm sorry...I came undone...

I wept because she was remembering a day I was blessed never to see. I have faced some levels of racism and prejudice - called "Nigger" right to my face, denied jobs I was clearly qualified for, treated as an outsider even in my undergrad studies when I thought my intelligence and love of Christ indicated that I deserved to be treated as an equal.

But she has seen so much more. She has experienced some things she has never shared.

She has seen her father and mother's determination to give their children a better life than they had. She heard the account of her father's ambush by a group of young white men when he was young and the way his life was spared by an elderly white woman that refused to see "Mandie's boy" harmed in any way. (Mandie was his mother.) She had witnessed the hard work and harsh treatment her mother sometimes endured at her job as a nurse's aide in a hospital years ago. My uncle had told her of the difficulty she had growing up in the South, along with my grandfather. And she herself lived the life, along with her brother and sisters, of a member of the third generation of an African-American family this side of slavery.

I cried with my mother as she sobbed her father and mother's names, wishing they were here in the physical to see such a monumental occasion in this country. I wept with her as she dialed her brother and sister up to celebrate long distance.

But I also cried as I looked at the pictures of my nieces and nephews adorning every available surface and showcased on the walls. They have always been very important to me, to us. I did not pursue goals outside of Michigan until they were all out of the formative years and entering their teen years. I wanted to make an impact on them while they were little.

As I gazed at their smiling faces in retrospect, I realized that no matter what happens in this presidency, they will always have the reminder that they can shoot for the moon and hit another solar system. They can separate themselves from the stigma of racism and overcome that demon.

We are doing that now for the next generation. And no, we are nowhere near being totally fulfilled. We have some people out there that are very angry that we have a Black (bi-racial) President in this country and are planning to kill him. There are people that wish him dead - him and his family, simply because he is of African and Caucasian descent (perhaps an anomaly in the White House?). There are even people of color (I know a few) that are not glad that he and his family will grace the halls of that mansion.

But I am praying that the beginning we had yesterday will continue for the sake of the children whose lives have been affected from the first day until now. I am also praying that God will have His way in this country. I happen to believe He will. He has heard the cry of the oppressed and the day for vindication is today, right now.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

ELECTION DAY 2008 - A Historic Occasion, Indeed

I voted for Barack Obama this morning to be the new President of the United States. As I drove from the voting precinct I was assigned to, my thoughts were on my grandparents and how proud they would be to potentially have a Black President in this country where our ancestors were shipped as slaves, mistreated for generations, and treated as second-class citizens. I did not, believe it or not, ultimately focus solely on his similar ethnic identity in my decision - as I fear many in my culture have. I voted for him because I believe that even despite our opposing views on certain issues we are more alike than we are different; we are closer in our hopes for this country, where we both hold claim to so many freedoms once denied my grandparents.

I am still very curious about this man, Barack Obama, and with that in mind I have decided to begin reading more about him and some commentaries concerning who he is as a person. Obviously books only tell partial truths, but I do not think I will ever get the chance to know him indepthly or personally (at least not right now). But I am definitely sincere in my pursuit to understand this amazingly intelligent, passionate man that may, after today, be leading our country.

With that as my basis, I have agreed to review a book written by Stephen Mansfield, published by Thomas Nelson Publishers. The book is called The Faith of Barack Obama. I will post my comments about the book here and on the websites Thomas Nelson has requested.

This is indeed a historic day in our nation, and I am literally shaking deep within at the thought of the changes that could be taking place in this country starting January 29, 2009. Happy Election Day, all!

Friday, October 31, 2008

My Little Angel-Heart

The picture I have included with this post is of another special little lady in my life. This is a more recent picture of my goddaughter Terryl-Lynn, whose picture I drew a couple months ago. She is a year old in this picture, and the smile she gives is genuinely HER. She is such a little character and I love being around her. She makes her Tee-Tee's day. (Tee-Tee is the name I have given myself for her to one day call me.) This will probably happen soon as she is starting to associate names with faces and is also saying loads of stuff a one-year-old probably shouldn't be saying yet - like "See you later" and "Oh, yeah, Baby" and "Hello?" when the phone rings. She loves to talk on the phone to her Grandma, by the way, and that proves to me that she will likely have her own activated cell phone by the time she is three. She has a cell phone now but it is not turned on. But when she is capable of carrying out full blown conversations, I think she will demand her own phone.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Theological Differences

I did not go to church yesterday - the first time in a really long time that I took the Sabbath day off from a formal religious gathering. There were many reasons that I won't get in to, but there was one in particular that was solidified later in the day. I knew that this was the Sunday that the 2008 election would be discussed.

My mom came home very nearly irate that some members of the church leadership staff had declared some unrealistic stances on the upcoming election. I had known that our pastor would announce to the congregation the person she was voting for, and although I totally respect her decisions and opinions in most things, I was a little concerned. Her decision to vote for a candidate of choice was not based on sound principles, and as I told my mom, I do not have a right to take issue with anyone's election choices. This is our personal right as American citizens and as Christians.

However, my only issue lies in how we as Christians form our opinions and decisions. We have a responsibility to be informed. We have a responsibility to make those decisions fully engaged in the process. We definitely should not make choices based only on one level of life (just the spiritual level, which does intertwine with all the others). We should not just focus spiritually, racially, economically, or intellectually. We have to take into consideration every facet, take serious thought on all levels, and be fully ready to make any move.

There were a few areas that my mother reported to me that raised some major concerns for me in terms of how the members of our church were directed to vote this year. The following are a few statements that were announced by various members of the leadership staff across the pulpit yesterday:

1) "I am not telling you who to vote for but you should vote righteously. It's about Kingdom."

2) "You can't be concerned about color (race)."

3) "Don't worry about the economy. God will take care of us. We are of a different Kingdom."

4) "I used to be a Democrat but now I am a Republican."

5) "Obama is for abortion and gay marriage."

6) "Palin is a tongue-talking believer."

Let me say this. Each of these statements does have some element of fact to it. My concern is that I worry that although the disclaimer was made that no one is saying who to vote for, there is no doubt in my mind that there is a lot of subtle advertising going on. I think the reality is a subliminal message is being promoted. And as much as I love my church and my people, I am having a hard time stomaching the message.

And I also want to say that each of these statements have caused me to raise my eyebrows at the silent justification behind each of them. I worry that who we are as Christians is being misconstrued and the one thing everyone needed to hear was not said. I will address the above statements, but I want to direct your attention to a blog-article I read this morning by Jim Wallis on the Sojourners' website. The jist of it was this: We as Christians have a duty to remember that when we vote we have to vote not just for ourselves but for those who live in the margins, the ones that will be more directly affected by the outcome of this election, and (dare I say) those who do not know this Christ we hold claim to.

That is my segue into my responses to the above statements, and I will try to be as objective as possible in case someone that attends my church is reading this blog. I do not want to be guilty of the same issue I am highlighting - trying to persuade anyone of who they should or should not vote for. (I doubt anyone will read this, but I have to be careful as a writer and a thinker that I do not necessarily put my opinions into it too deeply.)

Statement 1: When someone is Kingdom-minded, they must be very careful not to forget that the Kingdom of God is not merely an opposite of this earthly kingdom. It is the Kingdom that is ultimately meant to show these earthly kingdoms the reign and rule of our God. We are not to separate our own experience on this earth from the experiences of those who live outside the parameters of God's Kingdom. We also must remember that voting righteously means voting not only with integrity but voting for integral people. I leave that for now - subject to interpretation.

I realized too that when this statement was made that this was almost a bit misleading because the people (me, included) in this church (and in most churches) depend so heavily on the opinions of our leadership staff. And well we should because they are our spiritual leaders. But that dependence can be faulty too because what if, as in this situation, those opinions are not well-thought out or are based on the opinion of someone else (that may not truly understand the plight of the people in our church or in our neighborhoods or in our city)? And also, I hate to say it, but those opinions can actually be more harmful than good if they are not based on investigation and definite evidence.

In this case, yes, we definitely need to make righteousness the rule. But we have to at least listen to both sides before we make a choice. And my fear is that this has not happened. Even King Solomon listened to the two mothers fighting over one baby even though he knew that only one woman had given birth to the child.

Statement 2: This statement burned me a little because as much as I want to forget about the race issues that have surfaced in lieu of a possible Black (bi-racial) President, how can anyone - Christian or otherwise be so blind to the obvious? Of course this is about race. Of course we have to be concerned about race. God clearly had a reason for a Black (bi-racial) man to be running in this race against a White man. Though we know within the Body of Christ there is no male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or free, that does not eradicate the existence of the mosaic of mankind.

And then, I have to think in terms of the more recent past and the many, many African-Americans (my grand and great-grandparents, included) that went through so much for us to get to this point. No, we definitely should not vote according to race, but we have to remember where this country was even 40 years ago. Come on, now. Where this country was not only affects where this country is now but where the Church in this country is now. Race is important, not only to this election but to what happens - even in our churches - after this is "over" next week Wednesday.

Statement 3: God is taking care of us - His Son's Body and Bride. We are the blessed and beloved. But while we may be covered in this season of economic struggles and pains (though, I know that even in our church there are many that are living paycheck to paycheck, if they are receiving one at all), where does this leave this world we are called to reach? There are so many marginalized poor families and individuals that do not have that assurance. There are people I meet everyday that live below the poverty line, and while we may not have to be concerned for ourselves, we do to be concerned for them.

What is our responsibility as the Church during this hour? We are called upon to be concerned for those who are disadvantaged, disenfranchised, and disabled. We have to be concerned about the widow and the fatherless. And we cannot forget that we do in fact know them, and in some cases have been where they are. To not be concerned about the state of this economy and vote with that reality in view is not only un-Christian but it is irresponsible.

Statement 4: In one of my earlier posts (The 2008 Elections: A Christian Response?) I talked about this very issue. I was concerned about how Christianity and Republicanism is at times looked at synonymously. And this statement made yesterday made me wonder if that same fallacy had crept into the philosophy of a man I have respected since I met him. I still respect him, immensely, but I have some questions that need answering.

I do not have a problem with him for voting for McCain, whom he is campaigning for and is in fact going to his previous church in Ohio to try and influence minority voters to vote for him, too. I have decided to respectfully disagree with him on many of the issues he raises in his arguments for this candidate. However, I find it hard to believe that he would affiliate himself with any group or party or faction.

You can vote for who you want, but your primary allegiance and vocal affirmation must be to Jesus Christ alone. For me, saying that you are or a Republican or a Democrat or an Independent or a Green Party Member raises a lot of questions for me in terms of how far should Christians go into the kingdom systems of this American society and government. Should we be willing to label ourselves? Should we side with any party or simply stand on the principles of the Kingdom of God (which may in fact be totally opposite of any party's standards and principles)?

Statement 5: I will not get into the details of this statement. The only thing I will say is that generally speaking these concerns are definitely reasons I gave initially for not considering Obama. But then I listened to the debates and the conventions for both sides, and I knew that if what was being said was indeed true standpoints and not just a bunch of hokey to get votes, there is more to it than what we generalize.

My problem in this general statement is it shows that there was no investigation into what either candidate said and meant. The person that made this statement never watched one debate or viewed either convention. And that means the explanations were never considered. This does not mean I agree with Obama's stance, but I do agree with parts of it. I have to say that the only Person I have to fully agree with is God Himself. I can disagree with a man and still respect his views in certain things (and not completely follow him), but I believe that the only way I can totally be united to the cause of Christ is to agree fully and completely with His view.

I am a bit disappointed as I am sure you can tell from the length of this blog in the disregard for obtaining all the facts and the decisions made as a result. I believe and have been brought up to believe that the best way to live this life is to be fully engaged in it and not just accepting the disparities of life at face value. I do not believe in making decisions any other way. Be fully informed and then act prayerfully.

Statement 6: This last one really bothered me. Am I supposed to base my final vote on this woman's ability to speak to God in an unknown language? Am I supposed to say that if something were to happen to McCain (God forbid) while he is office, I should be totally assured that because she comes from a Charismatic Pentecostal church (apparently somewhat similar to mine? not sure, really) that she is definitely a shoe-in for the inheritance of the American Presidency?

I'm sorry, but I think not. My question will always remain, Is this person totally qualified to run this country if McCain is no longer able to? Is this person the one I think should make decisions for my future, my family's future, my country's future, or even the future of the church in this country? Does she walk in integrity? Does she care about the poor, the broken, the hurting? Is she the one to carry this country on her shoulders?

I cannot base the answers to those questions (and many more) on the basis of whether or not she speaks in tongues. The truth is, while that is a great spiritual gift to have, for me her ability to lead with integrity is the more beneficial of Christian attributes that I would look for in anyone that is going to help lead us to a new place. This statement showed me that perhaps my reasons and the reasons others in pastoral leadership gave are definitely contradictory.

As I stated in earlier posts, I have been strongly considering the next phase of my life and this includes moving on to a new spiritual landing place. My consideration in leaving this church does not solely rest on the issues I have raised in this blog, but I have to say that I do not share a common vision anymore with the leaders of this house in many ways. I love this church, have been a member for 11 years of my life, but I realize that perhaps my heart for ministry and the direction this church is going is too far removed from each other. Perhaps it is indeed time for me to move on, but I still love very deeply these people that God has used to help mature my faith.

I truly hope the members really think for themselves who they will vote for this year. I certainly have thought through my decision and plan to vote for the person I believe is the right leader for this country. And I hope that we all realize the value in not just going with the majority or even with what others may think. The only Person whose voice counts in the end is God's. And we need to trust the Spirit of God for ourselves.

Friday, October 24, 2008

MOSAIC Day @ Clintondale

A wonderful woman (who just happens to be a Christian - YAY!) at the high school where I work presented a really nifty idea to the staff there some months ago. Her idea to help build school community was to have an afternoon of workshops taught or lead by individual staff members focused around hobbies that could be presented to the students. Most every staff member excitedly agreed to lead sessions around the school - from bowling to sudoku, poetry to quilting. The afternoon's festivities would be called by one name - MOSAIC.

A mosaic is a puzzle with many intricate pieces that once formed presents a beautiful picture. Each piece brings uniqueness to the puzzle. The picture above was the logo printed on tees that the staff members wore, showing what Clintondale's definition of MOSAIC day meant to us. So many different people, with all manner of gifts and talents were opening themselves up to kids that otherwise wouldn't know the hearts behind their teachers and school staff members. I think it was a great idea, personally.
Yesterday was the big MOSAIC day at Clintondale, and I participated too as a way to draw into a more cohesive bond with the students and the staff since I am still relatively new to the school and one of the few African Americans on staff. I chose to teach a poetry workshop, where students would learn about performance poetry and would be given the opportunity to read their own poems in front of the group. As with each MOSAIC session, kids were assigned according to their preferences, and I had a whole group (except for one) of young people that love to write. They brought their poems and were ready to roll.

It was a great opportunity to talk about writing, present great poetry, and get to know others. The kids seemed to enjoy it, and my belief was solidified that my truest ministry to youth does involve writing and art. I can't wait until I can start that ministry. I am truly looking forward to making sessions like the one I led yesterday my way of life (besides creating and presenting my own work). I really felt like I was finally at home. And the truth is I believe those young people felt like they were at home, like they had a safe place to land too. I truly thank God for being part of His Mosaic.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Josiah's Eyes, at Six Months

I guess I should really re-name my blog Josiah's Page (or Myowneworld's Beautiful Baby Blog) and just say the rest of the entries are add-ons between baby arrivals and changes. Here is the beautiful little man again, and I believe the older he gets, the more he matures in his look, the more in love I am. He apparently has quite the personality, and it is evident in some of his other pictures where he is smiling and drooling and playing with his Mommy or Daddy. But the pictures I have posted on today's entry show his more regal side. I love the black and white and sepia pics of the little prince, and I truly cannot wait to meet him. This boy has the most passionate eyes ever. I love him and his mother so very much, and I hope that he brings her as much joy in real life as his pictures do for me - in distance.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Children Killing Children

(This picture was taken last evening of family members, teachers, and friends outside Providence Hospital in Southfield, Michigan after a young man was gunned down outside his high school. I believe the woman in the dark blue shirt being hugged is the boy's mother.)

On the news last night, there was a story about a shooting at a Northwest Detroit High School. As with any school shooting or any act of violence involving children or teens that I hear about or read about, I find myself sitting with tears in my eyes. A 16-year-old basketball-loving young man was shot three times and died. His mother and then his sister tearfully explained how he was taken from then so senselessly, and I was reminded of why my passion for young people is so strong.

So many young people are struggling. They are struggling to live; they are struggling not to die early and unfulfilled. They are fighting a battle that many were set to lose before birth. And the root cause of the struggle is the absence of fathers (and sometimes mothers). I encounter so many teenagers in my daily work at Clintondale High (and in other environments where I have staked my claim) who battle with not having (especially) a father to love them, guide them, and validate them. So they battle with life. And in the case of the boy that was killed, it can be at times a losing battle.

Yesterday afternoon, about two hours before that 16-year-old was killed, a young man sat in my office. We talked for nearly two hours about the direction his life was going. He graduated from the high school last school year and is planning on attending an area college for Computer Engineering. We started with talking about his future and ended up focusing a lot of our discussion around his past, around his beginnings. We focused attention on his relationship with his parents.

He told me he was very angry as a little boy because his father was not there. He was hanging around the fringes of his life but was not actively a part of the everyday times. This young man expressed that now that he is older he is not so much angry as he is realizing that his father had his own issues that kept him from being the kind of father he needed.

This young man also talked about his mother and how he could not figure out how she had raised him and his two siblings on her own without intervention from their fathers. The truth was all three children were turning out far better than statistics dictated, and the truth was they recognized their futures - unlike so many young people today that do not even think about the future because they do not believe they have one. But these three believe they have something to look forward to because their mother made sure that their futures would be protected no matter what.

When I got home and heard the report about the school shooting, all I could think about was the young man in my office, the teens that travel the halls at my school, and even the young people in my personal life that I care so deeply for. And I began to cry. I cried for how our babies are suffering and struggling and need their fathers. I cried for the souls of the children and teens that leave this earth so prematurely. I cried for the young man whose life was so tragically ended in gunfire.

This morning as I drove to work again, as I returned to the trenches again, I thought about how important fathers are. I did not have mine growing up and a lot of the teens I encounter in some way, form, or fashion do not have active father figures in their lives either. And it is not fair. I wondered where the fathers of those shooters were. The shooters yesterday were children themselves (15, 16, and 18) and the targets that were hit besides the young man that died were also 15 and 16 years of age respectively. Where were their daddies???? Were there any men in their lives at all????

To be honest, God sent men into my life to save me from a life of the streets, of sexual immorality, of poverty. If I had not had them - my grandfather, my stepfather, my uncle, my youth pastor, and my godfather - I may have ended up as a tragedy myself. I needed those men, and the children that do not have their fathers need men to stand up too. I grieve for this generation that does not have father figures to teach them - especially our young men. They are teaching themselves and living by the laws of the streets...kill or be killed.

There is a new song titled "My Life" put out by The Game and Lil' Wayne that is playing in heavy rotation on area radio stations. (Sidebar: The anthems of hip-hop are the songs of this generation. Their whole philosophies of life are based around the words of these artists that talk about the hard life of the ghetto, of the poor, of those who are indeed in the marginalized areas of all of our communities. The Game and Wayne are just examples of this. I have heard their music - have listened to the harsh poetry of the life I know but was blessed to escape.)

In this song, The Game says these lines: "...Like I needed my father, but he needed a needle." People ask why the young people love rap so much, why they repeat the lines, but won't pick up a book to read. The answer? Because they can bear witness to lines like this one and books may seem so far removed from the life they see everyday.

The young man in my office yesterday told me that his father drinks every day, gets "blowed" (smokes weed and drinks alcohol). Even now, he can't believe if his father calls him up (which he has been doing a lot more lately) to tell him that he loves him. He wants to believe that his father does love him but it is hard to believe when it seems like the father that should have helped raise you loves alcohol and weed and women and everything else in the world more than you.

The kids sing the songs because they know that what they hear is the only truth they will ever know unless someone enters in to change their perspective. Specifically, they need father figures to teach them about life and the correct battles to fight. Angry kids are fighting false battles - against other angry kids and that means lives are being lost in the crossfire.

So...I endeavor to be here for the young men and women like the ones that sit in my office to talk, that share with me their stories, that unburden their pains in my lap because I am woman enough to take it (straight to Jesus) and woman enough to care what happens to them. That is why I am here. God please help our kids. Please save them.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A New Little Princess To Adore

A really good friend of mine, Laneisha, and her husband Richie welcomed their first child, Zariyah Jewell two days ago. I was so mesmerized by their baby's beautiful face that I just had to write about her.

I love babies, and there are times I wish I was a wife and a mother. But nevertheless, although I am not, I try to love my friends' babies as much as possible. Zariyah is a new addition to this baby fan club. So I am already planning to buy dresses and little jeans and hair ribbons and shoes. But since she just got here, I know that I have time to love her, too, God willing.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me

I celebrated my 31st birthday this past Saturday, and I have to say that I do not feel older, per se, but I do feel wiser, more retrospective, more settled in the fact that my life is heading into a new season. I am truly in my 30s now, whatever that means, and I know that this decade will be pretty life-changing.

I will likely change locations (moving to another part of the country and not just another part of Michigan), get married, obtain some graduate degrees, have children, buy a house or a condo, buy another car, start saving more money than I spend, make more life-affecting decisions, start my ministry endeavors working with kids, publish a couple more books, and begin traveling more after those books are published - all in my 30s. That is a lot to look forward to, a lot of goals to strive for. I am excited because engaging in all these things does bring more responsibility but also there will also be a lot more freedom to grow and change and allow God to affect the decisions I have to make. I won't be making them alone, but I won't be making them with the total input of other people, either.

It's not that decisions were made for me in my 20s but sometimes I do not think people viewed me as an adult. Sometimes, I think I was "monitored" a little more concerning the decisions I tried to make for myself. But now, I feel this sense of freedom that says I am able to change directions and go where God wants me to go without the approval of others, necessarily. Of course, we all need godly counselors in our lives but we really need to learn to trust God more than we trust the voice and opinions of others. I listen to the mothers in my life that speak what I may need to hear but I am at the point where I have learned to weigh all the options in my life along with what God is saying as well.

And that feels good.

I love being in my 30s. I didn't cry Saturday at all about turning 31. I appreciated the moment. I appreciated the freedoms being "grown" allots.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

New Pictures

For my 31st birthday, my mom decided to pay for me to have professional pictures taken. My plan is to use these pictures on marketing material and on back cover copy for my books. I think they turned out pretty well and have decided to paste a few on the blog for some feedback.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Saying NO to Others While Saying YES to God

I said "No" yesterday.

Wow. Prolific, huh?

It is when you never say it. It is when you always make yourself available to meet the needs/wants/demands of others with little thought to the repercussions of what saying yes will mean for you.

One thing I have learned in this season of change and metamorphosis is that I need to make sure that whatever my answer will be, it needs to line up with what I believe God is saying to me. I have to admit that sometimes I make decisions with the best of intentions, with my heart in the right place, but I did not stop to consider what God had to say. I am so guilty of this - in a lot of areas in my life. But I am especially guilty of saying yes to people when I should say no and vice versa.

And the truth is...I am tired of putting myself in that position of not saying what I mean and meaning what I say. My stepfather always told me "Say what you mean and mean what you say." I guess what he was really hinting at was the importance of being sure.

One thing I am sure of is my relationship with God needs a makeover. I need to give that same level of commitment that I give to others in my life - that same yes - to Him. No one else really deserves that much loyalty. Of course being loyal to others is important. But not at the risk of missing out on what God really wants for you.

I made a decision 9 months ago that now I regret. I said yes to a good intention and now my life has been completely inconvenienced. Now the things that are important to me have been sacrificed again. I made a decision to help someone without asking God if I should. There are times when our attempts to help are interrupting what He is saying for those that we are trying to assist. And the person I tried to help ended up abandoning me to the winds of change, to the loneliness that I was trying to rescue her from, and to the realization that I should have gotten an "all clear" before I moved out of my own place of rest.

So, it is not her fault. She never asked me to help her; I took it upon myself to be made of steel - to be Superwoman, to be the one that could be relied upon. What I didn't realize is that God may have wanted her to live through a tough season in her life with Him alone.
Yesterday, while I was considering the next move I have to make, she called for a favor oblivious to the fact that I am all tapped out at the present moment, that I tried to give her before what she was asking for (and more) as a daughter, that I tried to be present for her, and she apparently no longer wanted what I had to offer when it was being offered or she simply was so wrapped up in her own cloud of misery, worry, loneliness, and stress that she couldn't pay attention to what was right in front of her. So...although I felt bad for saying it, I knew that I had to say no.

The long and short of it is because I have had to move on, I do not have time to return to the person I used to be. Nor do I want to. I can help her, assist her, say yes later.

For's no. I have to say no because I said yes prematurely last time and have had to pay the cost for moving, albeit with good intentions, outside of God's will for me. The truth is the grace to be the one consistently called upon only when needed has lifted for me. I am not readily available for everyone - not if I plan on becoming the woman of purpose I have to be right now. Because in the midst of trying to intervene and make everyone else's life easier, I forgot about me. I forgot that my focus has to be God and fulfilling what He is requiring.

And sometimes that means I have to say no sometimes.

Own Your Faith - Class #3

This week's class started a little late because of my late arrival, but when I got there I was pleasantly surprised that more students had shown up. LaQuita, Brinn, and Mya were waiting with Bridgette. Chris came in a few minutes after I did. We headed to the gym, had a snack and then got started.

This week was a bit distracting as I had to rehash some of the details of the lessons we'd discussed in the two previous class periods. This is why I wanted, from the beginning, some level of commitment from the students so it wouldn't slow down the pace of learning. But, begin again we did. We didn't get away from the main character Abraham though we did begin talking about Isaac and his marriage to Rebekah, the continuance of the promise God gave Abraham, and Abraham's re-marriage after Sarah died. We stayed on the topic of marriage for quite a while, though I did try to rein it in.

I learned one thing this week - TEENAGERS HAVE A LOT TO SAY ABOUT EVERYTHING! This is why my class works as more of a dialogue class, but I really have to keep them on track or we will be in Genesis until December.

About halfway through the class another student showed up. Marcus is one of the young people at the church that did a complete 360 degree turnaround when he gave his life to Christ. He became very serious about reading his Bible for himself, learning about God, and what a true relationship with Him has to look like for him to be successful in his Christian walk. He is truly one of the leaders of the youth ministry, and my hope is that I can keep him interested in the discussions as well as keep the others engaged. I pray God will help me teach all these students that are on different levels of spiritual growth. I hope that this class adds fuel to their spiritual fires blazing within.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Own Your Faith - Class #2

The second class of "Own Your Faith" was such a tremendous blessing for me and for the kids too. I am not hung up over the amount of kids that showed up, honestly (only two this time - Bridgette and Chris again). I have been so inspired to keep conversing with them and teaching them about the Bible and what faith really means.

After debriefing for a bit about their day at school and what the best parts of their separate journeys were, I asked them a simple question about their favorite fairy tales. They named a couple - Chris even mentioned a myth he had learned about in his mythology class that day (Hercules). Then I asked them what a fairy tale actually was, what it was meant to do. We came up with the conclusion that fairy tales are stories that could never happen but still deliver a message for little kids to learn. My next question, as I placed my finger on top of my worn black leather Bible, was why is the Bible not a fairy tale?

Bridgette shrugged her shoulders and said as simply profound as any teenager ever could: "Because it really happened."

I smiled at her and knew then that she remembered the first lesson I taught them when the class began. The Bible is not simply a book you read and put back on the shelf. You read about the lives of real people that walked this earth and the God that intervened into their lives, desiring relationship with the men and women He made.

Then we dived in. Our character this week was Abraham. We had left off with Noah last time, and instead of reading the geneological listing of his offspring, I segued into the lesson with the message that God allowed all these generations to exist after Noah and the flood and you don't see Him selecting another man to carry out His mission on this earth. And then all of a sudden God decided to choose Abraham (then named Abram) out of his whole family along with his barren wife.

I asked them what they thought about that - the ability for God to choose a seemingly insignificant person out of a family and use him or her in such a tremendous way. I told them that they, like Abraham, were called by God to fulfill their own special missions on this earth.

After getting introduced to Abraham (Abram) and reading of God's designation for him to travel to another place away from his family and all he had ever known, we read and talked about God's promise to give Abraham and Sarah a son in their old age. Because we had already determined that the stories we were reading really happened and were true, we dissected what that had to mean to Abraham and Sarah to produce a son in their later years. I kept highlighting their ages - when God first gave the promise and when the child was finally born. Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 when their son Isaac was born.

And the kids got stuck there for a minute because after all, as I said over and over, 100 is still 100. Old is still old. I had the kids imagine a 90 year old woman giving birth to a child. That rocked their boats and got their minds to spinning. Those two kids really contemplated what a miracle that had to have been. We talked about the power of God to do the impossible in really difficult circumstances, and they really started to get it.

The next landmark we stopped to look at was the story of Abraham's willingness to obey God again and sacrifice his son. Chris said, "You mean to tell me the son that God promised, the son a 100 year old man was given, God told commanded that father to kill him?! No way! He didn't kill that boy, did he?"

I didn't answer his question; just told him we would find out. I laughed at his expression, his words, the way Bridgette shook her head in disbelief as she poked her nose into the pages of her Bible to see for herself if what I had said was true. The ironic thing was that the minister that spoke this past Sunday came from the same Bible passage (Genesis 22) and talked about the sacrifice of true worship. We began to dissect this passage indepthly as the kids contemplated what God was really asking Abraham to do to this promised child and Abraham's decision to obey.

They read for themselves, not waiting for me to read with them. They wanted to know the answers. And when they reached the part of the true miracle, I knew it. Chris sat back in his chair, smiling and breathing a sigh of relief that Isaac ( the promised seed) was spared. We talked about how God waited until just the moment Abraham was about to kill his son and then stopped him. God waited to see how far his obedience would take him.

This class was amazing, with just these two teens. They asked so many questions, I gave so many analogies and modern day as well as personal applications to the Words we were reading. And I could see the light bulbs go on. I believe they learned a little more about what faith in God really means. The disconnection between real life and "church life" was reconnected just a little bit when we began to talk about what Christianity has to mean.

I told them we as Christians believe in a God that can do the impossible, that has loved us so much that He gave up His Son in much the same way Abraham was about to, and that commands us to show that same measure of love to a dying world - to the people around us that are depressed, lonely, scared, isolated, and hopeless. That is our call.

I brought it home that way after talking about my own mistakes in this area. I told them how God taught me this same lesson the week before when I took a tour of a morgue in Macomb County and heard the story of one of the deceased men in that morgue that committed suicide, I could tell from the tears in Bridgette's eyes and the solemn look on Chris' face that I had touched them in some way. I can't wait to see the end result. I can't wait to see the Word of God germinate in their own lives.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I Am Not Sure Where I Stand

I am a Christian. I say that from the start. I have truly been a lover of God and His Christ since I was a little girl. So there is no issue there.

But as I have been thinking about the changes my heart and my life need to make while I climb deeper into my 30s, I am not certain of the "other things" that being a Christian in this world means. We are identified by the churches we attend, the ministries that we affiliate ourselves with, the denominational platforms up on which we stand. I have attended three churches in my entire lifetime, rooted in different ways in the African-American community out of which I was culturally and spiritually born: African-Methodist Episcopal, Full Gospel Baptist, and Church of God in Christ. And on top of all that, I attended a colleged immersed in Reformed theology - which is a predominantly White denomination.

I never understood or wanted to understand any of the philosophies that make these churches or the school I attended so different from one another. I never wanted to be a part of separatism in any form, due largely in part to the isolation and loneliness of my upbringing. For me denominationalism breeds separatism which in turn breeds loneliness, isolation, and mistrust for others that may or may not believe the same traditional things. I always stood on the belief that as long as we agree that God is Who He says He is, that Jesus is Who He says He is, the Holy Spirit does what He was sent to do, and the Godhead Trinity still invades our sinful lives through a Bloody Redemption, there is nothing else to be concerned about.

Perhaps that is naive, but I am not comfortable looking for any other reasons to be defined as separate from others. Humanity divides enough by color, classism, racism, economics, and even demographics. The Body of Christ has no right to do that; we are supposed to stand on Kingdom Principles. That is our call.

Somehow that has gotten missed in the whole scheme of things.

I am encountering some truths right now about this. I am not so sure of what my commitment must look like to the world. I am not sure of the faith circle that I am to enter after my season is up at the church I attend right now. One resolution I am certain of is that my choice must resonate with God's will for my life, and I believe that He wants me to step out of the box of denominational walls.

I have been studying and seeking for about six months now. I am not seeking faith, in and of itself. I am seeking a place, a church that is not interested in being separated from other members of the Body of Christ. I have courted some expressions of Christian faith, such as the Emergent Church Movement and although I admire the stance some of the leaders of this movement take on social justice and faith matters, I am not completely convinced that is the place I need to be either.

There are so many elements to joining a ministry that people fail to understand. The one basic element is whether you feel comfortable, accepted, and yet appropriately challenged enough to grown in your faith in the church you choose to attend. I know too that most importantly is God's voice in the matter. I am a firm believer that if you are a Christian, you have to let God lead you in the right direction. Attending church is right up there with all other important decisions we are supposed to make.

So, right now I am listening and praying and seeking. I am reading a lot of books with my Bible, primarily ones that talk about journeying to new places in God, the search for a more grounded faith, and the importance of relationship with God. It is my prayer that in the end, I will know exactly where I am to be and who is to care for my soul in this next phase of my life.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My Return to Myself as Artist

I haven't drawn pictures in so long that I almost forgot the enormous thrill of pressing a stick of charcoal or a colored pencil against a blank creme colored page of a sketch book. I almost forgot the almost out-of-body experience of getting lost in a picture - ignoring everything going on around me in order to capture the essence of that which I was reproducing on the page. I could stay there for hours as a little girl and then a teenager.

About a month after my mom's friend Jo died, I went to the Michael's Craft Store not far from my house and bought a 9 inch x 12 inch sketch book with those same familiar creme pages and a package of charcoal pencils. I already had a pack of colored pencils and a tin of pastels waiting at home. I waited a couple days before I started a picture. I wanted to remember the artist I used to be - the one that took art classes as a child, the one that pinned pictures to every available white space of wall in her bedroom as a teen, the one that painted pictures with acrylics and watercolors, the one who designed papier-mache' sculptures, and the one that loved the feel of cool clay in her hands as she shaped balls of clay into animals, people, vases, bowls.

I remembered her, and I knew that I had to embrace her again. I believed that I had received something from Jo as the last person to touch her face before she departed for heaven. I believed that I had received a mandate to return to myself, to return to the artist hiding deep within and covered up with so many other concerns - concerns that truly did not belong to me.

So I began to draw. The first picture I drew was of a woman's face. I felt like I was just practicing, to see if I still had the gift. I did. The next one is the picture that accompanies this post.

This picture was drawn as I watched my god-daughter Terryl-Lynn crawling around on her grandmother's bedroom floor. The picture was supposed to capture her as an 11-month-old, but the end result was of how I believed she would look within a year. And I realized that I was able to see as I used to; I was able to tap into that creativity and produce a work of art again.
This is one of my favorite pictures for now, but I know that this will not be the only one. The artist within is surfacing again. Jo would be so proud.