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Sunday, August 16, 2015

What I Learned This Week: Beyond the Stop Sign

When we were kids we played on our grandmother's street. We rode bikes and roller skates and skate boards, we had foot races and played chasing games. The only restriction to the scope of our play was the stop sign at the end of the street. Grandma said that we were not allowed to go beyond the stop sign. We played content within the confines of the block, the signs at either end being the imagined forcefield that kept us safe.

The other day I climbed onto my bicycle to take a ride. I was by myself. I packed my cell phone, a speaker, a bottle of water and a towel in the basket on the front of my bike and started to ride. As I neared the end of the block I looked up at the stop sign and remembered Grandma's street. I remembered how it felt to be held by the red and white octagon. Secure.

Several miles down the road I thought about that sign again. What was it protecting me from? 

The symbolism in that sign and my ability to ride past it became more and more evident with every pump of pedal and brush of wind against my face. There was a training ground inside those signs. It was a place where I would learn to look out for cars, the safety of the sidewalk. In that space of one block I explored who I was and how I fit in the world. I wasn't old enough to explore beyond that space. Grandma knew that. She knew that confining me to the amount of freedom that I could handle would later prepare me for the blocks beyond, the new stop signs, the yields and the no-parkings.

As I slipped past five miles I started to pick up speed. I started breathing deep. In those freeing moments I began to look around at the world beyond the stop sign. I started to see the different people smiling and waving as I rode by. I started to notice the flowers on the side of the road and the way the trees built a canopy overhead. I stood on the pedals and used my strength to climb, something I hadn't had to do on the block in front of Grandma's house. Pulling the bike on the will of my own strength.

The eight mile marker was at the top of a hill. I slowed my feet as the bike took off on it's own in the pull of gravity. My shirt pressed against my body and I breathed in the cool air as it pulled loose hair behind my head into the breeze. I was floating. The wind brushed against my arms like feathers. I couldn't help but to smile. This was an incredible freeing experience. There was nothing holding me. There were no stop signs as I glided down the hill. This was the place where I wanted to be. It was what I had been preparing for. 

Leveling off and dropping into a steady rhythm of push and pull I pedaled my bike. The ride wasn't over but I had a new understanding and appreciation for the stop sign. It wasn't the thing that held me back, it was the thing that, when I was ready, would release me. I don't begrudge the training; the world is beyond the stop sign. 

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Monday, July 20, 2015

What I Learned This Week: Something About Tolerance

It is a crazy change of character. It's a morphing of who I was into a wiser version of myself; someone who has a longer fuse and takes the time to ponder before speaking. Not that I have become less "assertive" but I have learned to add the dimension of strategic thought process to my assertiveness. I measure things now with a large, clear measuring cup. It has a handle so that my hands don't get in the way of the numbers. I look through the glass and gauge the level. Sometimes I pour into the glass with myself already occupying the space, watching the addition of any other substance spilling over the sides. Other times I pour freely from a large pitcher until I reach the top, holding steady, as not to spill even a drop. I believe this has been interpreted to be tolerance. Tight lipped I don't speak right away giving people pause to believe that I am in agreement with whatever silly nonsense has been breathed into the atmosphere. Nothing could be farther from the truth. My reality is that this "tolerance" is actually the time that I take, and the resulting less-reactive me.

There are so many things that, once I stopped running my mouth, with both fists in the air, and anti-whatever shirt on my back, I realized are better dealt with, with all the facts in tact. It is only then that I am able to surmise those things that are truly worth the rise in blood pressure and the impending migraine. It is then that I can form words and sentences that matter, encourage thought and provoke change and that I can keep my focus on what's truly important without the distraction of my own breathing.

I do know, however, that there is some danger in the assumptions about my tolerance. The silence you want to share with me invites you to come close where you might find that I whisper things to myself and my thoughts are loud. It is the place where my opinions dwell and my beliefs wriggle between my fingers and toes. When you come close you may find that I'm much more opinionated than you imagined. You will also learn that you are much more important to me than the tolerance that you think I exhibit.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

What I Learned This Week: Something About The God in My Kids

I learned that VBS is fun for my kids no matter how many times they go and that my children are learning much more from God than seems evident most of the time.

This week I packed the kids in the car at 8:30 every morning to take them to a local church for their Vacation Bible School program. Even though it wasn't our church and even though they walked into the sanctuary on Monday knowing no one but each other, they had fun. On Friday, we pulled out of the parking lot, children waving from every open window in the car screaming at newfound friends and VBS leaders that they may not see until next July.

Chattering from the time I picked them up at noon until we arrived back home, lunches eaten and bicycles pulled out of the garage they told me every single detail even rattling off scriptures and new songs. Then, as if the entirety of this scene weren't enough when the house was quiet and I thought that the lessons from the week had started to wane one or the other started humming a song about the Jesus who saves and restores.

Days after VBS is over, as I experienced one of the many minor irritations of being an adult, one of my kids told me, "Mom, it's okay, God knows what He's doing." And that was when I had my aha moment and my eyes were opened a little wider and the fussing and fighting of everyday with them got a little quieter and I could see His face in my rearview mirror singing a song about the Fruit of the Spirit.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

What I Learned This Week: I'm Tired of Listening to Your Hate

This week I learned just how hateful people can be. I listened and watched as people complained and argued and wagged flags of hatred at one another. The funny thing is, even the flags that were supposed to be declaring love proclaimed in loud voices and upraised fists hate for their oppressors and a vanity in overcoming them. The flags I saw this week wore stars, bars, stripes and rainbows,  silver and gold crests pinned to uniform shirts, N-words, and black leather covers. Each of the flags flies over hearts of hatred. 

Inasmuch as people continue to exert their right to fly the flags of hatred, I have decided not to fly my flag at all. My flag is no better than any of the others. It displays a one sided view of what and whose I am. So instead of flying a flag of self-admiration. I have decided instead to carry an ever changing and morphing flag of you. My determination is to bare a flag of affirmations for the people around me. They are not my beliefs and ideals that I need to force into your life and into your airspace, it is my love. I chose to move under the flag of you and let it be filled with my adoration of you. I chose to operate all of my business under the flag of you and truly it doesn't even matter what you are, what you believe, what you identify with, or what you don't. This week I learned to love you in spite of our differences. I learned to love you no matter what you believe. I learned to love you no matter what you do. I may not like your actions and you may not like mine, but under the flag of you it's not about me. It's only about the love that I must have in my heart for the people around me.

The Bible says to love my neighbor as myself. So I have decided that the words that come out of my mouth and influence people will be loving words, uplifting words, empowering words. I will share words of love and compassion. Your flags are not symbols of nations, they are symbols of separation. I no longer chose to acknowledge them. We are much more than a nation under God, we are a people under Him, neither Jew nor Gentile, slave or free, male nor female, we are one under Christ (Gal. 3:28). 

So when you see me, don't be surprised about the flag that I have raised high above my head and how it seems to resonate in you. It won't be a flag that you recognize but it will be oh, so familiar. 

1 John 4:19-20, "19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen,cannot love God, whom they have not seen."

1 Timothy 2:1, "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."

Saturday, June 13, 2015

What I Learned This Week: I Can Be What I Want to Be

Actually, I didn't learn that this week. I knew that I could be whatever I wanted to be. What I really learned is that I can choose not to be who I am. It is a confusing thing I may have to explain to my children one day with the hashtag #transracial.

For the last 22 years I have been trying to teach my children to be proud of who they are; the beautiful and talented creations that God made. I have encouraged them to reach into themselves and dream. To think the possibilities endless. I have encouraged the drawing of cartoons, the telling of stories, the bouncing of balls, the blowing against reeds, the testing of new recipes, and the bellowing of songs. What I have failed to encourage is the denial of self. I have failed to teach them to make changes to God's perfect creation. I have failed to tell them that sometimes God makes mistakes and they have every right to correct Him. I have failed to encourage them to turn their noses up against everything that they are for their own infinite knowledge and for the succession into what they feel is best.

Unfortunately, I have taught my children that their hair and their skin are beautiful. That their culture is theirs to embrace. I have taught them that we have a history embedded in a history and it is rich and dynamic and nothing to be ashamed of. I have taught them that they can unashamedly be all of who they are. I never told them to try to be anyone else.

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Sunday, June 7, 2015

What I Learned This Week: Something About Reaching My Destination

It isn't the determination required to get there as much as it is the destination at which you arrive. We are all going somewhere. Some faster, some slower, some with detours and some straight away. It may be with and it may be without determination, knowledge and forethought. Some travel through life going with the ebbs and flows, never paddling with purpose, but being pulled by the tide. Others stroke with ferocity, fighting every wave, pushing through.

This week, I learned that I am somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. I'm motivated to move myself along but when the current is rough I float. Feeling defeated and deflated I float along waiting for the next move of the ocean. Something that piques my interest and inspires me once again to take up oars and paddle. Moving toward an unknown mark. Feeling like Abraham; not knowing but trusting and enjoying the course.

What I learned this week, as I stepped out of the boat and into my current destination, is that no matter what the seas may seem like, no matter how deep and wide, no matter how tall the waves, I will get there. I will stand on dry land and bask in the sunshine. I will, no matter how hard the world tries to tell me different and prove me wrong, in spite of my own doubts and fears, be where I am destined to be. It is a comfortable place. It is a place that has been prepared for me. It is a place where I realize all that I have been given and I am able to bring all that I am.

I also learned to anchor my boat at the shore. This isn't my final destination. Much more and much greater landing spots are ahead.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

It's Not a Diet

But that's just what I keep telling people about the change I have made in our eating habits.  I guess it was the lure of a meal plan that would affect me for the next 30 days. Something that I could hold on to. Something that is long enough to make me feel like I have put effort into it but still short enough to feel like I could surely make it to my next piece of 31.

Tonight I was encouraged to prepare a meal that mimicked the comfort food that I crave but remained true to the restrictions of the meal plan. My dinner included no sugar or sweeteners of any kind, no grain, and no chemical additive.  (Sorry no pics)

My recipe served two adults and 4 kids. Everyone was full.

Fried Catfish, Sweet Yams and Roasted Green Beans (serves 4-6)

1. Peel and cut two large yams into large cubes.
2. Place in a pot and cover with water.
3. Boil until soft.
4. Drain and sprinkle with All Spice.
5. Mash and serve hot.

Roasted Green Beans:
1. Preheat the oven to 350° f
2. Wash and snip the stem ends of about 1 pound fresh green beans.
3. Place on a cookie sheet.
4. Sprinkle with basil infused olive oil.
5. Sprinkle lightly with salt and garlic.
6. Cook until fork tender. Serve hot.

1. Heat two tablespoons of coconut oil in a heavy skillet.
2. Season 2 pounds catfish nuggets with salt, pepper, garlic and paprika.
3. Scramble one egg and pour over catfish.
4. Coat catfish in mashed potato flakes.
5. Pan fry catfish in small batches until brown and crisp. Add more oil if needed.
6. Drain on paper towel. Serve hot.