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Living My Life

Another blast from the past! I still feel this way about ministering to women! Anyone interested?

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Some years ago, I did the stereotypical single woman Saturday night thing for dinner. I walked over to the neighborhood Safeway and brought a huge slice of chocolate fudge cake. I also bought two single-serve cups of ice cream, one Haagen-Dazs Vanilla and one Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie. I returned home with my wares, sat in the middle of my bed and enjoyed every mouthful.

It came back me a few days later, the idea that I had spent my Saturday evening alone in my bedroom, just me and a few thousand calories. This reflection got me to thinking even further. I have not been a single woman very long, just a little over five years since my husband’s death. The first four years do not really count since I still felt married and acted like a married woman. I was not looking for a companion and apparently no one was looking for me since no one came along. In the last two years, however, I have become more sensitive to the alone moments, the times when I feel isolated and separate from the rest of the world that must be out there somewhere having a great deal of fun without me. No, I am not so naïve as to think that this is really so, but when I am alone with me, myself and I, it just feels that way. What’s a single woman to do on a Saturday night other than eat herself into sugar oblivion?

I think it is time for me to move outside of myself and reach out to the women who may feel the same way I do and just don’t know which way to turn. True enough, the world does offer alternatives, but do I really want to subject myself to everything that is a part of those alternatives, most of which do not line up with my faith? Yes, I know that I should be confident enough to go out by myself and treat myself to a dinner or a movie or a play or even a stroll on the beach without feeling self-conscious; I can and I have. Still I have to wonder if my life is just about me or is God calling me to reach out to someone else who is feeling the same pangs of “aloneness?” Has he allowed me to be alone so that I might live the lesson before I try to teach anything?

I sense a ministry growing out of my experience and not just one for single women but one for women of all ages who feel stuck in a rut and just don’t know how to get out of that rut and get on with their lives. It would be a ministry for that woman who thinks she must have a man and for that woman who has a man and wishes she didn’t. It would be a ministry for the young adult woman who wants to jump start the rest of her life and for that seasoned woman who needs a charge for the final years of her life. This ministry would be a union of the married and the unmarried, a ministry to address the social as well as the spiritual, though I don’t think that the two can or should be separate. This ministry would be a ministry that would encourage all women to come together, as our female ancestors once did, for the common good of every woman. This is, after all, a Christian edict, the idea that we should esteem others more highly than we do ourselves. Isn’t it time that we, as Jill Scott sings, help one another to live life like it’s golden?

Stay tuned . . .

CONTENTMENT

A friend said to me that people seldom believe they are where God wants them to be. Her point was well taken. As I think about her statement, I see the issue as not whether or not we believe we are where God wants us to be, but rather the real issue is acceptance, can we calmly accept being where God has allowed us to be, especially when the state of our affairs conflict with our expectations.Such a conundrum almost always makes us think we are out of God’s will.  

While it may be true that we too often make choices that can delay God’s plan for our lives, those choices do nothing to negate God’s power to intervene and reconfigure our very often dumb decisions. Good, bad or indifferent, God is still in control, therefore however we get to a place, it is not out of the purview of God.

 The Apostle Paul said, “Whatever the state in which I find myself, I have learned to be content.”

This is what I get out of this statement: “Contentment is not the absence of aggravation; it is the decision not to be aggravated (donnaproverb).” It’s a big learning curve, but I believe it can be learned.

Here is the life lesson, as I see it. I accept that I am who I am, and, that I am where I am by God’s Divine Providence. I believe it is only when I come to this conclusion that the question is no longer “Why?” but rather “Now what? Now that I am in this place and this space, Lord,  what would you have me to do?” 

Grace and Mercy

I wrote this piece over 6 years ago, but it seems like a timely reminder for these days in which we find ourselves.

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She stood in front of us in the cashier line at the grocery store. Pushing a baby carriage with her right hand in which slept a beautiful newborn, she held some slips of paper in her left hand. Quickly taking in everything, I surmised the papers she held were WIC slips (women/infants/children). Immediately irritated, I thought, and expressed sotto voce to my friend, “Oh, man, it always takes forever for the processing of these things.”

He, having just a little more grace than I in that moment, said nothing to me but expressed to the young woman how beautiful the baby was. I, immediately convicted by his quiet rebuke and my sour attitude, asked the baby’s age. “Two months,” was her reply. 

We stood there and silently watched the cashier (who appeared to be management solidly out of his element) bumble his way through the processing of the WIC coupons as the young woman quietly watched him and answered the questions he asked. She only had a few things, a couple of bags of frozen fruit, I think, but there was a third item that the management cashier told her she could not purchase, a bag of fresh cherries. I asked my friend to let him know that I would pay for any difference. 

True to my original thought, the WIC transaction for two items took forever (my hyperbole, of course), but as we waited, I watched the young lady. Her expression never changed as she stood at the counter. She never raised her voice in frustration as she answered the questions. I now realize that this was probably her shield against any potential judgement of the people in line behind her, too wrapped up in their own world to care about any distress on her part, something she had probably experienced too many times before. 

As we moved up with my full conveyor belt of food, including a bag of fresh cherries, the Holy Spirit whispered to me, “Do more.” I asked the young lady to wait as I presented to management/cashier a gift card and told him the amount I wanted on it. 

I pulled out my debit card to pay when he announced, “You have to pay for these with cash.”

I gave a quick retort, which I can’t remember now, but I opened my wallet praying I had enough cash since in these days of easy access by technology I very seldom have any money on me. I found just enough to cover the gift card when I was then told I would have to pay an activation fee as well.

“Do I need cash for that, too.” I did not, “Thank you, Lord.”

I handed the gift card to the young lady and true to the demeanor she had displayed at the counter, she quietly thanked me. I asked her name. She told me, and as she walked away, I silently prayed for her. I pray for her now. 

I turned back to the task at hand, the processing of my groceries, and as the management-cashier swiped items across the scanner, he said, “”You guys are awesome.”

I do not know if he will tell this story to anyone else. I do not know if the young woman will tell anyone else this story. What I do know is that in moment of going from irritation to compassion, the Lord reminded me of those days when I was that young woman with a baby wondering how I could make those ends meet.

My response to the man’s comment was “There but for the grace of God go I,” but it is really much more than that cliched response. God’s grace is extended to all. The fact that I am now a woman of faith is not defined by my economic status. Salvation does not come with dollar signs attached. That moment in the grocery store was really about how God could be glorified in that moment, how I would wrap the tenets of my faith in flesh, and no, I did not think these high and lofty thoughts in that moment. I just felt her heartbeat and in it I heard my own. I am, by no means, flush today. I still pinch a few pennies and my retirement years have the potential for some financial question marks, but I am not afraid. God is still provider and I am learning more and more every day how to give out of my need. 

I do not write this to impress. I share this story to remind myself, and any others who will hear, that our pasts should compel us to act out our faith, a humble thank-you for the “where” from which He has brought us. After all, we really are where we are today only by the grace of God.

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Take care of yourself. Be kind to yourself. Be safe.

WHAT DID YOU DO TODAY?

Remember when we wished we had the time to do our own thing, time to pursue dreams and fulfill purpose?

Yeah, me too, and now that we have that extra time, how are we managing it?

What did you do today?

Woke up (Yay!), and laid in bed for a while.

Mindlessly scrolled through social media.

I do have a plan in mind; Just need to execute it better.

Maybe I should create a schedule.

Recorded video for read-aloud page, “Storytime With Ms. Donna.” I enjoy reading out loud and today shared one of my favorites, “The Paper Bag Princess.” Hope my viewers enjoy it!

Daily conference call check–in with school CEO and a colleague.

Toasted English muffin, brewed Keurig hot chocolate for breakfast.

Too much unscheduled time on my hands.

I should create a schedule.

Created FB Live to create more community as we SIP (kind of an appropriate acrostic, isn’t it).

Wi-fi is slow in the bedroom. Go into the living room to upload videos.

Had a funny idea for a video series the first of which I create on the spot and post to my social media platforms. I think it’s funny.

Lunch, chicken sandwiches made by daughter. It’s good.

Chips and salsa snack.

Daughter asks “What are you doing?” Huh?

“I’m on two conference calls daily.” Duh!

Tuned in to a new favorite British reality show (Netflix) about interior design.

Mindlessly scrolled through social media.

Post to blog.

I really do need to create a daily schedule.

What day is it?

 

My links:

Storytime With Ms. Donna

DonnaNotDiva Facebook Page

 

 

 

 

 

WHEN LIFE SHIFTS: The Gift Of Desperation

The first week of Consecration week was challenging; everything went to the left and I could control nothing (as though I could even control anything)

In 1992, Queen Elizabeth used the phrase annus horribilis to describe just how tough that year had been; in other words, that year was a hot mess.

I looked up Latin for a horrible week and it is iter sabbati.

My intent was to walk into Consecration like a boss — Instead it was my iter sabbati; it was a horrible week.

There is a Facebook page titled “Humans of New York.” A line from a recent story caught my eye. A man described his coming to gasping for air in an ambulance, most likely the consequence of a heroin overdose.

As he recounted his story, and the decision he made to be clean and sober for 160 days, he said, “There comes a point when you’re given the gift of desperation.”

I instantly connected with that phrase and stretched it out even more, that sometimes God allows us the gift of desperation. We are at our wits end; we are facing tough challenges; the ends don’t meet, the finances run out, the spouse takes an extended hike, the job locks its doors and we are left holding the gift of desperation.

What do you do when you’ve done all you can and you’re left holding the gift of desperation?

I say hold on to your hope in spite of this because this gift just might be the push you need to make a decision you may never have made but really needed to make. .
Here’s the thing:
Desperation can either push you into a positive space or it might lead to self-destruction.

Desperation can make you look inward to reassess the choices you have made or it can make you look outward to blame people and circumstances, to act out, to implode.

Handed the gift of desperation, the Facebook man chose to turn away from heroin in order to reclaim his life but he could have just as well celebrated being revived and then returned to the needle.

He chose life. He opened the gift of desperation and chose life.

Have you ever found yourself in a state that literally sucked the wind out of you, where you found yourself wandering around in an emotional fog because you didn’t know where to begin, what step to take next?

What is one to do when you find yourself holding the gift of desperation and you find yourself holding it between a rock and a hard place and when you open it you are faced with hard choices, neither is pleasant but one is better for you than the other.

Whenever I’m in the car, I have the radio tuned to listen to the different (and sound) bible studies. This time, however, tuned to a station which airs, most of the time, hymns and contemporary gospel and this one hymn came on that I have not heard in years:

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold
I’d rather be His than have riches untold
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or land
Yes I’d rather be led by his nail pierced hands
Than to be the king of a best domain and beheld in sin’s dread sway
I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today
Continue reading

Impostor Syndrome

Have you ever felt as though you were not the person you presented to the world, the genuine and authentic you? I’ve felt that way a few times, times when I’ve stood in front of a group of people or sat at a conference table in wood paneled room or just shared in a 1:1 conversation.

It turns out there is a name for this “dilemma,” Impostor Syndrome, defined as a psychological pattern in which one doubts one’s accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud.”

Impostor Syndrome, those moments when your represent yourself as someone other than yourself, repped a relationship that looked ideal but was in reality tore up from the floor up.

What happened along our life’s journey that short-circuited our authenticity, forced us into a “suit” that does not fit yet we squeeze into it each and every day. We are uncomfortable but we’ve worn it so long, we’ve convinced ourselves that it does not limit us and how we relate to the world.

What will it take to strip ourselves of that suit, to move into the ease of our true self?

Well, I think it takes my no longer lying to me about my value or worth, to affirm that I am fearfully and wonderfully made by a faithful and true God. It takes my waking each morning to affirm my faith in God, in me and in my ability to create and achieve. It takes me celebrating every scar that speaks to healing, and embracing the flaws that makes me unique. It takes becoming friends with my body and my mind, to no longer compare myself in any aspect to any other self. It takes, moment by moment, daring to look each challenge in the eye without blinking or flinching. It takes my letting go of that which I have convinced myself is just right for me, be it a job or a relationship or any prestige or status, to take the chance to walk away without a backward look, to relinquish any controls I thought I had. It may take a moment to get past the pain of letting go, but each day of courage and resilience will be reward enough as I, as you, as we, step into the new, real, authentic self we were designed to be!

Let’s do this!

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Posing outside of Southern University, Baton Rouge

Once Upon A Time When I Was Colored

I was not born by the river in a little tent, but I was raised in the Jim Crow South. I was never the object of taunts and racial epithets, but I did drink out of the water fountain marked “Colored” and I did see food handed out to my grandparents from the side window of a “Whites Only” cafe. We had no buses in which we had to sit in the back, but I do remember road trips with my parents where the bathroom was the side of the road because we could not use the restrooms at the gas stations from which my father purchased gas for the car. Our teachers taught us well in our segregated schools, but I often wondered who were those kids whose names were written above mine in my text books. My baptist church was all Negro and His race was never an issue, just the condition of my heart. I learned to be my best, to do my best in that marginalized community because everyone from the maintenance man in the school to the preacher in the pulpit and, all others in between, expected nothing less. I was not taught to hate people but I despised the system that tried to force their definition of me on me. No, I was not taught to hate, but I learned to be discerning. I learned to be twice as prepared and to speak up when I had something to say. I learned to pay attention and when the time came, to apply what I had observed. I learned never to blink, especially in those moments when it was expected that I would. I learned to never let them see me sweat even when all I wanted to do was scream out my frustration.

I remember my first experience in an integrated restaurant. The woman/mentor who took us there noted my folded arms and told me to unfold them because I had a right to be there. I never folded my arms again in a new experience again, no matter how different the experience was to me. I always looked like I belonged, which was unsettling to some but it worked for me, always. I have had conversations with people who truly wanted to know, not for curiosity’s sake but because they wanted to do better, be better. I’ve had a jr. college civics professor (my first integrated experience), who pronounced “Negro” “Nigra,” apologize in front of the class to the three Negro girls in the class and then ask us for the correct pronunciation. I’ve had a California colleague exclaim over my natural hair, “Oh, I just want to touch it,” but quickly thought better of the idea when she caught the look in my eyes.

I haven’t seen it all but I’ve seen enough to know that all this back and forth will accomplish nothing. Until genuine courageous conversations begin to take place, we will all find ourselves waving our banners at one another while the beat goes on!

Happy Birthday To Me

My birthday was November 24th. It seems, these days, that birthdays are on speed dial, that just as soon as the last candle is blown out on the birthday whatever, the earth double times its 365 and as I’m adjusting to that new age, it’s time to say “Hello” to a new number.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; there are more years behind me than there are in front of me and, yes, I do have a few “I wish I had” thoughts as I travel down memory lane. But, this has been an intentional year of courage for me, a year to say “Yes” to the adventure of walking into the unknown for discovery, revelation and life lesson. I never imagined that freedom could be a by-product of daring to take the next step without an outline, agenda or commentary (figuratively speaking, of course) but that’s exactly what I’ve experienced.

In years past, I would have said “No” to new relationships, travels to new places, stretching a talent or embracing a new skillset. This year, I’ve stretched and reached for the stars just out of of my grasp. I’ve taken the next step even when I did not know where it might lead. I’m learning to quash those negative voices that demand I return to the safe and comfortable. This year I might even begin to share my age (don’t press me, though).

Here’s the point I’m trying to make. You will never discover who you are until you dare to step into who you think you aren’t! I know, it doesn’t make sense but it really does. I defined myself by who I thought I wasn’t rather than embracing who I might become. I am still God’s blank canvas, His painting of the me He designed me to be is not yet completed. I can’t wait to see what the next stroke of His gracious brush brings about in this chapter of my life.

I began this piece last week, seated at a table in a Louisiana Library that was swathed in southern accents as two dueling gray haired librarians debated the merits of this, that and the other.

It was quiet. It was southern. It was heaven!

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Posing outside of Southern University, Baton Rouge

 

 

GENIUS!

I originally posted this as a comment in a Facebook thread about people throwing shade. I want to share it with those of you who have had shade thrown at you, been ignored or overlooked, or just downright kicked to the curb.

This one’s for you:

“Genius attracts detractors like a magnet. Genius reminds people of their lesser strengths and insecurity pushes them to act out in arrogance aka shade. The sad part is when they are eventually shaded by the person they so admire (and it will happen), they will be crushed but unfortunately they will not see it as a reflection of their own behavior.

Genius does not have to announce its greatness, it just shows up. The arrogant work hard to prove they are great because otherwise, in the face of Genius, who would know or even notice them?

Genius does what it does without attitude or self-constructed hoopla because, well, it’s Genius. Those who throw shade can only do so because they are standing in the light of Genius. There can be no shade if there is no light.

Keep moving forward, Genius. There will be more shade as your light grows brighter but just remember, their shade can never diminish your light.

Genius’ “weakness” is that they almost never see themselves as Genius because they just do what they do, but others see it and covet it to the extent that they seek to diminish it.

Bottom line: Do You, Genius, and stop giving free press to the carriers of shade. They do not deserve your acknowledgement nor benefit of your light!!”

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#donnanotdiva #awomansplace

Not Again!

Earlier this year (2017), on a Sunday morning, I drove to Church, bounced out of my car and before I walked into the building, I looked down at my feet. To my chagrin, I had on mismatched flats. Both pairs were black but each had a different embellishment so I knew the difference would be noticeable to the inquiring eye.

I dashed back to the car, fervently praying that I had left a pair of matching flats in the trunk! No such luck. The only pair of shoes in the trunk were a pair of my daughter’s stilettos.

Now I love a pair of stilettos. I have written about my womanish stilettos. But, it had been over two years since I’d worn heels (hip and knee issues eventually replaced), so I shuddered at the thought of putting on those shoes. But, in my mind, I had no option, so I teetered my way into the sanctuary.

Everyone expressed surprise that I was not only in heels but in those heels! As I contemplated twenty minutes of standing in those heels, I blurted out my truth, “I wore mismatched flats to church this morning and these were the only shoes in the car!”

After the laughter died down, one young woman said, “I might have some flats you can wear.”

Those flats turned out to be slides topped with fuzzy stuff. At this point, I did not care what anyone might think. At least my feet would be flat on the ground. Fuzzy slides it would be!

Since the day of that mismatch mishap, I make sure my flats match before I walk out the door.

Let us now rewind to this past Sunday.

I again was a part of the Praise/Worship team. I pulled out my flats and intentionally made sure I had matching shoes. When I arrived at the church, I stepped out of the car and looked down at my feet.

Yep, you guessed it! Mismatched. Again. What. The. Hades!

I walked into the church and the first person I encountered, I pointed to my shoes and said, “Yes, I did it again.”

Same mismatched flats! Yes, we all laughed. Again.

I did my best not to care. Didn’t work. I felt like those shoes were screaming, “Hey, look at us! We don’t match!”

When sound check was done, I rushed out of the building to the car to search through the car trunk.

One stiletto that belonged to my daughter, no mate. One black flat, no mate. One black patent leather medium heel, wearable, no mate. One black kitten heel, no mate.

I am not frantic. I am determined. I open a car door to the back seat and I search under the seats. I seem to recall the mates to those wearable heels under the car seats.

Nothing, no mates, no flats, no thing! When did I clean out the car?

I go back to the trunk and begin to tear it apart even more (thank goodness, I don’t have much in my trunk).

After much tossing of stuff aside, I find the mate to the medium heel (at least I hope it”s the mate but at this point I do not care).

Wait. I have not worn heels for Praise/Worship for almost three years. What if I trip! What if I stumble! What if I topple over?

No such incidents, I’m happy to report. I also now realize that I can wear heels on those Sundays I am on the team. However, I am in the comfort-first stage of life, so flats it will continue to be (with an extra pair always in the trunk, just in case).

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