Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Time to Pray – Thoughts on Alton Sterling

Photo credit: © Nouubon |

Photo credit: © Nouubon |

Each time an incident like this happens I struggle.

I look in the mirror at my own brown skin, and I struggle.

I look at my husband – six feet five inches tall and nearly 300 pounds. He’s the gentlest giant I’ve ever known. And believe me when I say I’ve been far too up close and too personal with non-gentle men a fraction of his height and size in days gone by. His stature alone gives pause. Men look respectfully and joke about how he makes them feel small. Women (especially older white women, for some reason) in department stores and grocery stores are thankful for his presence when they enlist his help to reach items on high shelves. It’s quite cute to witness. Kids…Well, I love to watch them the most. They fix their gaze on him in awe, especially the little ones. He towers over them and, in their eyes, he probably resembles their favorite super hero – strong and mighty.

But there’s a special segment of the population that lately gives me cause for concern. What do they see when they see a towering black man like my love? Do they know he’s a a husband, a son, a brother, an uncle, a friend and a Christ follower above all? Do they know he spends his days working and his evenings pursuing higher education? Do they know he loves basketball, sports in general, hip hop (the good stuff) and the word of God? Do they know he awakens each morning and begins most of his days listening to his favorite ministry’s podcast? What do they see, when they see him in his sweats and t-shirt, headed to or from class, the gym, or a basketball game – in a ride that doesn’t scream “Hey! Look what I have!” Is he safer if he always looks like he just walked out of church, left the golf course or is headed out for date night?

So I pray. Constantly. For his protection and the protection of others who look like him. I’m not talking stature now, though. Just skin color…

I’m moderately active on social media when I choose to be. But I get especially silent during times like these. So many voices crying out in what feels like a vast wilderness. Maybe I don’t want to get lost in the crowd. Or maybe I just don’t wan tot be a part of it. Not that crowd. There’s been a lot of “shouting” on Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram. Some even suggest if you’re not shouting along with them (on social platforms) you’re asleep, unaware, not moved or troubled by the images of yet another black man losing his life, senselessly, at the hands of law enforcement officers. Their assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. After all, I have young nephews, uncles, cousins, in laws, and oh…I did mention my love earlier, didn’t I? 😉

Our struggle as black people is ongoing, confusing, complicated, escalating and very real. Even those of us who, in the past, may have felt incubated from it all by our degrees, white collar jobs, integrated neighborhoods and middle class lifestyles, are now more aware than ever of our collective struggle – inherited at birth.

The reports about Brother Alton Sterling carried my thoughts a multitude of places: Why was he selling CDs out there? Were they bootleg? Did he really pull a gun on someone (before the cops arrived)? How on earth must that person feel now? Relieved – like he got what he deserved? Remorseful – like “if I’d just let it slide.” But who lets it slide if someone pulls a gun on them? Would you? Would I? My thoughts continued. Why such force (by the police officers)? I watch nature shows with my love, and I swear the takedown of Alton Sterling rivaled that of a lion in the fields of Africa. Brutal. But what led there? And why did he struggle? I know he didn’t want to go to jail. Who would? “But you’re a black man,” my thoughts screamed. Don’t you know you almost need to play dead to get out of this encounter alive. Sad, but seemingly true.

I wondered about his life. His chosen “hustle” (what selling CDs in front of a corner store would be called in our neighborhoods). Did he have another job to support his family? And as the information unfolds, we learn more. Why the run-ins with the law? Why give them a story to tell – one that subtly distracts the public from the incident in question and paints your life as less than important? My struggle for motive and explanation is futile.

The cries of his oldest son still flood my heart. What will happen to him now? Social media has reduced “Jesus be a fence” and “Jesus take the wheel” to mere hashtags, but I make these pleas from the depths of my heart. For five children who will plead the question, “Why,” and for a wife and mom burdened to try and answer them.

The simplest, most perfect answer is sin.

Sure there are systemic injustices. But it’s still sin.

And having a gun is vastly different from waving a gun, brandishing a gun or pointing a gun. Was it in his hand, barrel pointed at you? Or was it in his pocket – easier for you to reach from your position on top of him than for him to reach? Did you yell, “He’s got a gun” to cover what you’d choose to do next? I don’t know the answers. The facts will soon flow. The evidence will be revealed. The story will evolve. But will change come?

I didn’t watch the entire video. Heck, I check websites like Rotten Tomatoes to see if a movie’s rating (PG-13, included) is due to violence. If I can’t watch it fake, I certainly can’t watch a 37 year old husband and father of five be killed in real life. Not me. But the little I saw led me to here, to this writing, and to you specifically. I could share my thoughts with the masses on social media, but my heart draws intimate at a time like this. I can’t trust that 400 Facebook friends or Twitter followers will hear my heart and join in prayer, but I trust you will. Because, at the end of the day, all of the “whys” I had about Mr. Sterling are irrelevant. They speak to a culture that still has a long way to go and many obstacles (internally and systemically) to still overcome…someday. In the meantime, I remind myself of the blood of Jesus Christ. When things like this happen, I may look AT my timeline, but I look TO Jesus.

“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” – Psalm 121: 1,2

Will you pray with me? It’s easy to wonder why our Lord allows such nonsense to persist in the world. But I try to move beyond “why” to the knowledge, the assurance that our God reigns. He rules over the good, bad and the ugly in all of us. Let’s lift this and situations like it up to the Father, the ultimate Judge. Let’s ask Him to guide us in our responses, conversations, judgements and actions and remember that if we are followers of Jesus Christ, we’re still commanded to LOVE, even when hate seems to abound.

Let’s pray for a family who lost one they deeply love.

Let’s pray for our brothers to be covered and protected by the Father.

Let’s pray for a scales that are unbalanced and seemingly uncaring.

Let’s pray for the truth to prevail.

Let’s pray for a culture, wrought with broken homes.

Let’s pray for the vast majority of law enforcement officers who risk their lives to protect ours and actually do so for ALL people, honorably. They get caught in the crossfire of their comrades who may go the other way.

Let’s pray against a code of silence that sometimes protects perpetrators and punishes victims.

I feel it’s my duty to pray. Will you join me? Leave a comment here or shoot me an email to let me know if you will. Together, let’s turn our eyes and our hearts to the mountains, to the only solution there is. For our perfect (note the word “perfect”) help can only come from the Lord.

P.S. I have a small email list. So I chose to send this message to you because I know most of you and believe you will pray. Now, let’s invite others to do the same. Share this message with your friends, family members, coworkers, clients, colleagues, classmates, church members, sorority sisters, supper club friends, book club buddies and gym partners. Encourage them to pray and share. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

I Worked Out Today

© lzf |

© lzf |

It’s been a few months since my last workout and oh my…. Let me tell you, this blog isn’t the only thing that’s fallen by the wayside. I mean, girl, it was crazy. When I got home, the sky looked angry. So instead of walking the neighborhood, I popped in a 30 minute total body workout DVD. All I can say is thank God I made it through.

CONFESSION: I’m a little out of shape these days.

You don’t believe me? Well, the other day my husband and I went for a short evening walk. A good rain had just passed through, so the air was sticky yet fresh. We were walking up a hill to head back toward home, and my heart was pumping and I was breathing – HARD. Next thing I know I blurted out, “Whoa! I’m out of shape.” <–See! Told you! Seriously, I just had to laugh at myself. I mean, granted the hill is a pretty steep incline, as are all of the hills in our little community. But it seemed only a few months ago I was taking those hills like a BOSS.  Not on that day, though…

I could say that short walk was a wakeup call, but that wouldn’t be completely true. Actually, I’ve been trying to get my workout groove back for a while – trying to figure out a routine that would work. Eventually, I realized I was doing too much processing in my head and not enough moving of my feet. So what do I do?

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely hate gyms. Either they’re too big, so it’s overwhelming. Or they’re too small and eventually I feel like the sweaty walls are closing in on me. We do have a gym membership, though. When I had a long commute, I left work early, reached the gym and snagged a treadmill (and a television remote) before the rush. Now with a short commute, I leave work later and (if I went) would arrive at the gym in the middle of peak hours. That’s a no go for me. Can’t seem to pull myself out of bed to go early, so needless to say I’m still working on an exercise routine I can stick to. I love to ride my bike, so that’s a start. At any rate, pray for your sister, please. 🙂

As I worked mentally and physically to rescue my health and try to get back on track, I first had to just settle on the truth that life happens. And sometimes, as life happens, things in our lives get a little off track. We get so busy with home, marriage, children, work, school, volunteer activities, church activities, bills, projects, etc. Next thing you know months have passed without a workout in sight. Your cute jeans don’t look so cute on you anymore, and that nasty scale is tilting ten, twenty or thirty pounds to the wrong side (and that steep hill in your neighborhood, well it’s laughing at you, too). We deal with loss of loved ones, aging loved ones, challenges with our childrens’ schools, challenges with school children, unexpected expenses that lead to unwanted debt, and the list goes on.

So, which of the items on the list can you relate to? Probably a few of them, right? I know I can. You know the other thing about me and working out? I do better with a partner. Now I know we’re not in the gym together, but we’re certainly in this thing called life together, right? So let’s encourage one another. I’m trying to do better – one day at a time, one meal at a time, one workout at a time. And at this stage in my life I’m becoming more comfortable with the truth that if I fall, I can get back up, dust myself off and start again. I did it with the blog, so I certainly can with my efforts at good health, right. Will you join me? Let’s support each other in our good health efforts. And hey, you may not need the support or encouragement. You might have this healthy living thing down to a science. Maybe you’re the coach and encourager. If that’s you, then those of us who need a little push definitely could use you on our team.

Where are you in your healthy living journey? Are you a well-oiled machine or a startup company? 


Sunday, June 5, 2016

I’m Back!

Hello…it’s me…You heard me singing that in my Adele voice, right? Ok, cool. I know. I know. It’s been a long time, so I expect this message to reach your spam box. If it actually reached your inbox, I’m super grateful.

I can’t believe I’ve been M.I.A. since January. And I’ve been literally off the grid since March. You see, I forgot to pay the annual fee for my hosting package, and well, they shut me down. Lights out. Zero dark whatever you wanna call it. So if (and that’s a pretty big “if”) you happened to miss me or my sporadic posts and ventured here to look for me, you were greeted with nothing.

I let the site stay down for a while, while I contemplated the crossroads before me. Over the years, I’ve shared about my struggle with discipline and focus; my perfection paralysis that often keeps me from starting projects, and my inability to finish when I do start. Reality is today I still struggle with focus and still hoping to be more disciplined…eventually.  So while the site was down, I had to decide to either get up and try again or just let it all go.

A week from today marks my seven year blog anniversary. Yep, it’s hard for me to believe I’ve been doing this thing for seven years. When the site was down, I took time to reflect on the past few years. I started this space with no clear direction or goal other than to share my thoughts, feelings, joys, sorrows, growing pains, triumphs, failures and lessons learned – my life – as authentically and transparently as I could. By being completely me, my hope was that some woman out there (maybe even you) would find the courage to be completely you or, at the very least, find some  faith, some encouragement and a little bit of laughter to complement your daily life.

I haven’t done a stellar job. Instead, I got bogged down with trying to curate just the right content on just the right topics, because that’s what the “experts” say do, right? *Enter Perfection Paralysis.*

Some years ago, I worked for a gospel music record label. There I met a young songstress with dreams of making her mark in the music industry. I had a few opportunities to chat with her, and some of our chats included talk about the “independent artist” route. At the time, she was a young single mom, so that route for her would have been hard work, to say the least. But sometimes the rewards of a journey down the road less traveled are greater than one could imagine.

And that was just one of the messages I got during my time of “lights out” on the blog, but it was a pretty darn good one. All these years, I’ve been trying to find my voice, my style, my purpose for this site, but I’ve been chasing others’ paths to do so. My encouragement to that young lady way back then was probably to ask God for His plan and to follow His path. It may not look like someone else’s and may even appear to go rogue from the path everyone says is “the way.” But it will be the best for you. It seems in all my blogging years I’ve failed to take my own advice. I’ve failed to write posts when ideas came to mind, because I thought they’d be too corny, too simple or too transparent, which would make me too vulnerable. Maybe, just maybe that was the haphazard, unclear, adventurous, just enough light for the step you’re on, road less traveled I was supposed to take.

If you continue to hang out with me on the journey, I can’t promise what it will look like. But I guess that makes sense since my goal for this blog site now is to go rogue, and let the Lord lead me down the road less traveled.