America: Who We Really Are

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Here we are as 2017 comes to a close. Wow. Time is amazing. This time last year, many were either still reeling or celebrating after the election. And so many other shockers — the loss of David Bowie, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Maurice White, Alan Thicke (Growing Pains, ya’ll!), Carrie Fisher, etc. By Christmas, my beloved George Michael passed and I was done, son. Protest after protest, hashtag after hashtag in memory and anger over needless deaths. Get out –> 2016. For real! Along with so many others last year, I was too through. But we were truly just getting started.

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2017, you’re one cold piece too (peep my Tony Baker reference ūüėČ ). I guess I was prepared for the roller coaster ride since we’ve seen the trajectory for a while now. So as the stockings are hung at the Starbucks with care (literally at the one I’m at right now), I’m reflecting pretty hard. Breaking news every 2.5 seconds, scandal here, scandal there, scandal everywhere. Allegations galore and our anthem have us even more divided. Everybody tweetin’ everywhere, even the POTUS. Sigh. So many new “normals” that feel absolutely uncomfortable. And I have to fight getting tired of being uncomfortable so I don’t just go along with the crowd, become numb and turn into the walking dead. Many of us for years walked around like this country was a bastion of democracy (albeit flawed with imperfect human hearts), but we were a living framework of what a democratic country could become. Years ago, I met some young boys who were from Poland when I was in France. One exclaimed, “I want to be in America!” I wonder what that young man thinks of the United States now. So as this year began to unfold, many saw how delicate and flawed our system is or rather the people are. I won’t lie. I’ve had my own firsthand experiences and observations to inform me that life in America is far from perfect. But I think most prognosticators could have not predicted the carnage and collateral damage of this hour.

I consider 2017 to be the year of the “Real.” Between the dizzying array of events that no one can keep track of, filled with political and social revelations, it’s become pretty clear no matter what you believe — America is not everything it has pretended to be. Journalists for years have reported on deeply corrupt countries all over the world, and I think many of us thought we were better than that. I think we were just better at hiding our messes, and now everyone in the world is just finding out that the Emperor has no clothes. So many icons, noted celebrities have fallen from grace that we need a timeline to keep up. And guilty or not, no one can fully recover from luster lost because Wikipedia will always catalog that “Controversy” back in ’17. So underneath all this craziness that make me think I’m in the Stranger Things‘ upside down or in a really long episode of Black Mirror, God is really just peeling back the curtain, giving us a front-row view to what He’s known all the time. The rug’s been lifted and all the ugliness that’s been hidden from public view is all on display for the world to see. And some little nasty bugs and critters are running and scrambling to be in the dark, to hide from surprised and prying eyes. But it’s too late for all of us to say we never knew. God often works in seasons, and it’s pretty obvious that during this dispensation, He’s turning over some stuff, bolted down or not. So we have a couple choices: See what’s happening or walk around in a cloud of cognitive dissonance until what hasn’t effected you comes knocking on your door. It’s up to you.

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Thoughts in the New Year

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So I can’t speak for anyone else, but 2015 was a challenging year for me. There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding my circumstances. It LOOKED like I was losing.¬†When I¬†recently saw the movie¬†Creed,¬†it reminded me of the battles we all face. When I say I took some blows… I was face down on the mat. There were some deep disappointments I encountered. So many doors were shut with seemingly no real reason or¬†logic behind it. For me, it’s been a multi-year struggle in a lot of areas.

And when my Pastor passed, my spiritual father and the man who helped shape my faith, I was shocked and devastated. I’m still reconciling the fact that this is the new normal for me and so many other dear loved ones because of this loss.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned to really walk out and experience in this season is that God is Sovereign. The definition of sovereign is¬†supreme power or authority. He makes all things and He does not need our permission or to consult/discuss with us His perfect plans. Those who believe marvel at the greatness of God. He is all at once magnificent, beautiful, majestic and worthy of all reverence and power. There are not enough words in all the languages of the world to adequately describe Him. So we can pause and scratch our heads and wipe tears because the God who has all power in His hands allows things to happen that shake our very faith. All I can say is grip His hand tighter, be more than real with him in quiet times of communion, and hold on to His promises with all the strength left within you. I know that’s helped me in my season. And there may be other things God would have you do to build yourself while you are in a valley. I still have goals and situations in play for 2016. I can’t have all the answers because I was never meant to. I was meant to worship God and keep my eyes fastened on Him like a baby trains her eyes on her mother. He is our source for everything we need. Sometimes we’ll run, limp, walk, stumble,¬†crawl through our valleys. Let’s¬†keep moving¬†for¬†He’s surely¬†with us. His love and sovereignty kiss and though we won’t understand it all, His eternal presence is a promise to us.¬†This song really helped me have a deeper understanding of the deep love and sovereignty of God. Happy New Year to you as we trust God for His best for us in 2016.¬†‚ÄďTH

 

Valentine’s Day Edition: Love Song Playlist

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As Valentine’s Day is upon us, I thought I’d share some love songs that celebrate love and¬†the¬†significant others¬†we have or look forward to having in our lives. I’m a romantic. Ever since I was young girl I’ve loved a good romance novel or rom-com¬†movie. And though I don’t have a boo currently, there’s nothing like a great love song to¬†make you reminisce, think of your love or daydream about the one to come. So I’ve compiled a list of songs to groove to for this V-day¬†based on my own personal favorites and ones submitted by my friends on Facebook. ‚̧

1. No One in the World — Anita Baker (Classic)

2. Love —¬†Musiq Soulchild (He originally titled this song “Lord”)

3. Just As I Am — Ingrid Michaelson (I love this simple song about unconditional love. The video is pretty different, but I like the quirkiness.)

4.¬†Simply Beautiful — Al Green (This song just oozes soulful love. Though I don’t remember the 70s it makes me miss it. ūüėČ )

5. “Fall For You” — Leela James (I don’t know how I’d never heard this song before, but I thank my friends Mishira and Jennifer for submitting this song as a fav. It’s now going into my own personal rotation. It’s such a sweet, vulnerable song.)

6. “Ribbon in the Sky” — Stevie Wonder (There’s nobody like the genius¬†who’s given name is¬†Stevland Hardaway Judkins. I will definitely use this song in my wedding playlist and he just happens to be¬†my mom’s favorite singer).

7. “How Do I Live Without You?” — LeAnn Rimes (This is one heartfelt song with a country flair.)

8. “All I Do” — Troop (A 90s hit for those remembering their school days. Lol)

9. “Fortunate” — Maxwell (It’s one of my all-time favorite neo-soul love songs from my favorite male singer. I could listen to this song on repeat all day.)

10. “Spend a Lifetime” — Jamiroquai (This more little-known song from British soul singer¬†Jamiroquai is just achingly beautiful to me.)

11. “I Have Nothing” — Whitney Houston (Her voice is truly a national treasure and she’ll never be forgotten.¬†This song is easily one my top 10 songs from her tremendous canon of work.)

12. “Just the Way You Are” — Billy Joel (Another beautiful unconditional love song. I remember hearing this song as a little girl and knew it was something special.)

13. “Hopeless” — Dionne Farris (Whenever I hear this I think of Love Jones¬†— it has¬†such an old-school¬†vibe.)

14. “So Amazing” — Luther Vandross (Where’s the fireplace and candles?)

15. “The Way” — Jill Scott (From her first album, this song makes me¬†think about¬†the rush you get from the blush of new love.)

16. “Must Be Nice” — Lyfe Jennings (For the ones who like a little thug love. Operative word is little.)

17. “Nobody But You” — Algebra Blessett¬†(She’s got some attitude and style to match her decisive stance on her love for one and only.)

18. “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” — Aerosmith (Steven Tyler has a soft spot too and it’s a great timeless hit.)

19. “Traveling Like the Light” — VV Brown (So¬†dreamy…)

20. “Sensuality Part 1 and 2” — Isley Brothers (For the fans¬†of old school ballads.)

21. “Distance” —¬†Emily King (Long-distance lovers can relate…)

22. “Love Calls” — Kem (To wrap things up, I had to bring it back to the D since Detroit has created some of the best love songs in the world.)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Lift Up Your Head

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Alright, it’s tough right now. Maybe not for you, but you know someone who’s having a rough time or an extreme life challenge right now.

We should¬†take a page out of the book of those who’ve faced some of the scariest times in history. What inspired me to write today’s post is a book I’ve been reading called¬†You’ll Get Through This¬†by¬†Christian author Max Lucado. It details the story of Joseph from the Bible and the lessons we can gain from his story. If you haven’t read about Joseph and his journey from family, slavery, prison and finally becoming the highest official in Egypt, please do. It’s a great encouragement illustrating how¬†God can use any situation for His and our good. Lucado¬†also shares many other historical stories and testimonies from friends in his book. One story in particular prompted me to do some digging. We’ve all seen the “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters or images online. As far as I knew, it was a recent creation.

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Actually the phrase and its image was created back in the late 1930s in England during the days leading up to the war with Germany. It was a third poster that was never released and only recently rediscovered when it was in a box of old books a bookstore owner in northeast England had purchased at auction.

As it turns out, there was one image I found when looking up the origin of the phrase that struck me.

© Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

Talk about carrying on!

This young woman’s house had been bombed during the war. Ena Squire-Brown was an international dancer and she didn’t let that deter her from having her wedding day. Even though the shot catches her from the side you can still tell she is smiling. How many of us have that courage to continue on and just LIVE¬†in the face of a literal or figurative bomb dropping into our surroundings? Do we cry, forgetting that our lives may be a bit broken even though we still have breath in our bodies and still reasons to smile? I have to check myself too. I can get so inward and forget about the God who is truly in control. I have to lift up my loved ones, many of whom are facing great challenges right now. That means I really need to Keep Calm and Carry On. It’s not always easy, but we’re not the first to go through or the last. Someone will face the same situation one day, and we’ll need to be able to tell them they can make it — because we will —¬†if we faint not. Psalm 27:13

We Can’t Ignore the Race Issue Anymore

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I can’t say I was surprised about the decision by the grand jury¬†in¬†Ferguson. I’d heard from news outlets that more than likely Darren Wilson would not be indicted for weeks. So when the decision finally came down after an agonizing, bristling wait, the response from protestors was also not a surprise. The orchestration of the whole process spoke of the lack of sensitivity and wisdom that’s needed for such a hotbed situation. And the overall racial tension throughout the country has been brewing, considering the events of the past few years that brought our underlining problems to the surface.

But what I really want to do is talk about the average experience of a black American, speak to the root cause of this quagmire and what we can do now in a practical way to become an active participant to¬†make a difference that can benefit our future generation. Right now tensions are high throughout the country,¬†we’ve almost finished the holiday season and¬†not everyone has a reason to feel real “merry” or “happy” right about now. Not everyone has a job, a loving family or even a pillow to lay a weary head upon. Personally I’ve seen more homelessness now than I can remember in all my years before in the state of Michigan. All the complicated issues — domestic and international — that we¬†deal with in a more fast-paced and¬†social way sometimes make us more lazy or tired to do the necessary work to make our own corner of the world a little brighter and enlightened.

We as a nation have not fully dealt with the sins of our¬†nation. First, the Europeans who came here took over the country and forced the Natives of this land out by excruciatingly cruel methods — almost to the point of decimating the population to near extinction. I love my country and I am an American through and through. There are so many freedoms and blessings this country affords that can be found virtually nowhere else on this planet. Though we are a very young nation by comparison to so many others, there’s no doubt that many countries look to us with admiration, jealousy, and hope or¬†often a combination of all three. But I cannot turn a blind eye to the injustices that began during the brutal birth and journey of this nation. Think about it — do you know any Native Americans? Are you friends with a Native American? It’s pretty sad. Reservations still exist in this country. The damage to this race reverberates throughout North America.¬†I did have a friend in middle school who was part Eskimo and French. I was also friends with a girl from Laos at the same time named Kamohn.¬†Having friends from a different race in Detroit Public Schools was pretty rare back in the 1980s, but I was never one to shy from others who didn’t look like me. Back then¬†in Detroit the population¬†was pretty¬†segregated and I had plenty of friends who were black, but I never set an invisible race boundary around myself.

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What happened at the inception of what we now call “America” is a horrific beginning that does not simply disappear because it happened hundreds of years ago. This trauma has reverberated through the country and was compounded by the enslavement of a whole race of people for profit. It was to many of the forefathers and founders of the nation a common practice and¬†it was¬†a business pure and simple. It didn’t matter that people from England came here to escape the oppression of a monarchy. They went on to commit more atrocities against others they branded as “savages” and “less than human.” Whole families were ripped from their homes, fathers and mothers separated from their children. The basic desires to marry and create a home of their own were considered a fairy tale at best. Learning to read were reasons to be whipped or killed. The level of emotional, psychological, mental, sexual and physical abuse that occurred went on almost uncontested for centuries. And then it was over. How does one process “freedom” after knowing nothing else? How do you “start fresh” when you’ve never been given the tools to succeed and constantly reminded you are less than in other’s eyes? There were no programs in place to help anyone build. No 40 acres and mule to start a life. Hostility, hate and anger greeted anyone who did not stay in line and many¬†experienced a¬†new form of slavery during the Jim Crow era and lynchings were common practices. The laws were enforced¬†until 1965 in the south and other regions of the U.S. Yes, 1965. That was 50 years ago¬†— within so many of our lifetimes. In modern-day society, those who’ve experienced trauma are usually encouraged to go through therapy, join a support group and/or take drugs to counteract the effects of a devastating situation/occurrence. We hear it on the news pretty frequently: a shooter goes on a rampage at a school and counselors and therapy dogs are dispatched to help people cope with a tragic event. People that come out alive from those circumstances are expected to not have the best sleep, experience depression, have problems functioning in every day society and maintaining relationships, etc. But for some reason, whether it be guilt or insensitivity, a whole race of people who went through almost the unimaginable are supposed to walk out of the circumstance whole¬†and¬†capable now that they’ve been afforded “freedom.” And never mind it didn’t really happen overnight and there are still many instances of racism and injustice still today. My people have triumphed in many ways, considering the roadblocks and plans and schemes along the way, but this was all with many unresolved issues within the fabric of America. I’ve had my share of negative experiences based on the color of my skin or just plain rude, oblivious behavior, but it’s the expected lot that folks of a darker hue endure.

When I started working my first job at 16, I became more aware of the racial divide and the perceived view of others around me. I was a shy, nerdy girl working my first mall job. I worked with mostly white girls. One girl I worked with named Carla was Middle Eastern¬†and white. There was also another white girl I worked with who only dated black guys (by her admission) and dressed and talked in a perceived ethnic demeanor. As me and several coworkers left for the evening, Carla felt necessary to point out that myself and the white girl should switch places. The other coworkers (who were white) did express surprise and protest over her proclamation, but the statement was already “out there.” I think that was the first time someone very pointedly made a declaration on my behavior, personality and somehow came to the astute conclusion that I did not truly represent what they perceived as the black race. So is the lot of blacks across the nation, especially in corporate America. There you will experience a microcosm of this capitalistic¬†society where blacks, whites and others are brought¬†together and have no option¬†to stay in a¬†comfort zone where everyone thinks and looks like themselves. This little micro-society is an environment where odd comments, questions and awkward conversation abound. And silence¬†—¬†lots and lots of silence. I’ve had more than one co-worker ask me if I tan. Yup, I do. I tan just like you do. It’s as if black skin is impenetrable¬†to the sun with some strange set point that will never change. I’ve had people from work suggest I go out with the only black dude¬†or the mail room guy they’d never set their daughter up with. Because I guess I wouldn’t be interested in dating anyone of another race or they couldn’t imagine it, I suppose.¬†One day I brought my baby sister to Kids’ Day at my workplace. I look young for my¬†age and my sister was a young teen at the time. I guess a¬†white woman, who worked at my company, assumed she was mine though some people bring nieces and nephews as well to the event. She gave such a look of incredulous disgust as if she was horrified I’d had a child so young. Ironically, I was in my early twenties when my sister was born, but this woman assumed the worst. So on many occasions, we don’t get a pass. Perception is their reality and what many in white America see on TV, in movies are the only education they’ll ever know about black people. It’s a scary prospect. It’s as if you allowed a child to be educated only by watching TV instead of going to school as a means of understanding¬†the world. How can you expect them to be able to function in society without sounding like a bumbling idiot when encountering someone from a different background/race? Oh boy America, we’ve got some work to do.

Back in the summer of 2008, someone broke into my apartment in the early morning hours. Though I was¬†asleep in my bed¬†at the time, they did not harm me. Thanks be to God! They did take my car keys and steal my car, but I was just thankful I was in one piece. But what I experienced after I called the police reinforced my perception of how some white police officers deal with blacks. I lived in a suburb at the time and was given a heads up by my girlfriend (who was not black) that white cops in the area did not like the fact that blacks rented apartments in this city versus owning a home. I guess that’s a justification for bias. That’s what it sounds like to me. It’s not like people are just squatting and not paying to stay¬†where they live (shrugging my shoulders). So rewind¬†back to that fateful night. When the cops arrived I was pretty shaken up to say the least. I am a woman living alone and someone came into my home and could have done anything to me. One of the police officers (in his 30s) began to question me very aggressively. The line of questioning quickly turned to me, asking if I knew anyone that would commit this crime. ¬†He just continued to badger me and at the end of it all I felt violated and doubly traumatized from the events of that early morning.¬†My boyfriend at the time showed up and they confiscated his car keys. His vehicle was not the same make as mine, but he was looked at suspiciously as well (incidentally, he’d just finished medical school).¬†Even in that scenario it was perceived to be my own fault.¬†My only crime that night was being black when a crime happened to me. It was sickening and it made me so angry.

Racism in America is one of the few strongholds in this country that’s never been tackled. It sits fermenting¬†like the crazy uncle locked in the basement that never shuts up. You periodically hear fits and spurts of him rumbling below, but most just¬†hum louder and louder to drown out the noise that never really goes away until¬†it almost becomes white noise (no pun intended).¬†Our nation is still very new and for those who may want to try to brush past wounds¬†under the rug, to God one day is but an hour. In¬†Psalm 90:4, Moses used a simple yet profound analogy in describing the timelessness of God: ‚ÄúFor a thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.‚ÄĚ There are¬†so many conservative, white Christians who¬†continue to condemn¬†abortion and homosexuality, but ignore the blatant injustices that happen everyday. Jesus not only called out people to repentance but also¬†addressed the¬†issues of the day.¬†You can’t turn on the TV nowadays without being confronted with the crazy uncle in the closet, but no one wants to talk about. We’d rather stick our fingers in our ears and declare everything is fine in this grand melting pot that really resembles a stew full of seemingly¬†incongruent ingredients. It’s time to get out of our seats, get in our cars, walk across the street or whatever it takes to¬†connect with your neighbor, your coworker whether he or she is in a different city, professes a different faith or¬†background. We need to start linking and aligning our lives with others and by doing so have a greater understanding and¬†an honest, real dialogue about race. Stop the silence that’s killing us as a nation and widening the gap of understanding and sensitivity. How many times have I seen two different newsfeeds when significant racial issues are playing out on the world’s stage. My friends who aren’t black are talking about what they’re cooking or some inane topic while some of the most timely and important conversations and critical moments are happening around them. We don’t have the luxury to ignore what is going on anymore. The face of the country is changing and we need to leave a legacy and example our children can be proud of and really live out more fully the creed of America being the¬†“land of the free and home of the brave.”

Beauty Finds

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I found some really cool products lately and I thought I’d share. I signed up for Ulta’s loyalty reward program (no cost to join) and I got a FREE full-size Signature CK One Mascara for my birthday month. I was pretty excited because I knew I needed to get a new mascara anyway. It has a feature that allows you to expand and contract the brush to try different looks,¬†and¬†I’ve liked the look of my lashes so far. So sign up for the card¬†for points, special coupons and to¬†try out a new makeup item risk free during your birthday month.

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Another sweet find that I am really excited about is Revlon’s ColorStay Gel Envy. I can’t keep color on my nails for more than a couple days with any type of brand without chipping for some reason. My toes fair better in the summer, but I like to have pretty shades on my fingers all year long like the next girl. I don’t do professional manicures so one day I had a $1 coupon for Revlon and decided to buy one of the polishes just to try it out for myself.¬†It goes on pretty thick and drives fairly quickly too — which is great for when you need to head out and you don’t have a lot of time to wait. I put on two coats. Three coats would be too thick I think. Then I top it with just a clear coat to add some shine.

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In the picture above I’d been wearing this color for almost two days. I’ve been buying my bottles at Target for $5 which beats Etsy any day¬†even though I love their colors too. It’s gets the Tiffany Seal of Approval. ūüėČ

If you’re a fan of Bath &¬†Body Works fragrances that are sweet¬†and¬†sultry, then you may just enjoy their new Wild Madagascar Vanilla product. They premiered this new scent for the fall season. I picked it up yesterday and the saleswoman told me it has a vanilla extract that’s exclusive to their stores. It has top and middle notes of fruit and flowers such as pear, plumeria, jasmine and apple that settles with dry notes of white sandalwood, Madagascar vanilla and creamy musk — reminiscent of incense without the heaviness.

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I enjoy the scent and layer the fragrance mist with the lotion that leaves my skin feeling silky smooth. You may only need to wear the mist or lotion, depending on your body chemistry, but I find it works together to hold the scent for a longer period of time. Fans of vanilla can enjoy a little twist on the standard scent and enjoy smelling more like a grown woman versus a cupcake. Ha-ha!

Hope some of these shares are helpful and enjoy the beautiful fall season!

For Late Bloomers and the Awkward at Heart

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I was awkward and shy growing up. Okay, I’m still awkward and pretty shy now, but now I’ll just say I’m a little introverted and quirky. Those are the grown-up euphemisms I use now. Bookish by nature, you’d find me engrossed in a nice piece of fiction¬†or watching a romantic PBS mini-series with my mom. But like any other kid in the 80s, I also watched The Cosby Show, the A Team and The Jeffersons.¬†I never had fly style as a teenager. Every once in awhile, I rocked a cute outfit because of my little mall rat job, but my hair was very rarely professionally done until college. When I started school at Marygrove College, I experimented with wearing my own curly texture and have¬†adopted that style for most of my life now. And I was a late bloomer when it came to dating, getting my own place, having my own computer, etc. It’s just a¬†recurring theme God has running through my life. But I’m glad I didn’t run out of steam early, looking back at my high school and time in college as my “golden years.” I didn’t peak early so I’ve lived a life of slow blossom. Sometimes I’ve kicked away at that scenario but after really only stubbing my toe, I’ve had to cut that out — for the most part.

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So now as I’ve reached my 40th year on the planet, I’ve quite settled into myself. Though I am adept at being okay with “me,” I’ve had my struggles with where I find myself and learning to make peace with the change of seasons, relationships¬†and the situations that appear to be immovable.¬†Public speaking is still a bit of a phobia to me and I’m just glad when I can spit out some semi-intelligent words in a professional group setting. But I don’t starve for the attention from others that happens from having a great car, a beautiful wardrobe or the perfect man. I don’t envy those in their 20s just beginning their journeys into adulthood. I know more, lived a little and have much more to see from life but without the filter of being that wide-eyed young woman I used to be. I’ve got scars, some parables of my own to tell and love for God and who He’s been to me through it all. I’m learning to live at the pace of His grace. ‚̧

Table for One, Part 2 (Living In The Margins)

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I haven’t reached the generally accepted milestones or highly¬†lauded successes (finances, advanced degrees, a mate and kids) of some others in my age range. So¬†though this season¬†leaves me at times with feelings of immense freedom, I’m also challenged at times¬†to find a niche for myself among the changing landscape of the environment around me. Playing it safe or “saved” has been my calling card for about 12 years now. I was never a Sex In the City type of girl, but more so Coffee or Tea¬†with Girls Downtown. I am not about to turn¬†around¬†now when the road is now less traveled by my friends and¬†some I no longer connect with regularly, if at all. Some of it is just natural with the gradual change of lifestyles. While¬†with others¬†it’s more about¬†clearing the path¬†that would eventually hinder either one or both of us along the way.¬†Certainly I’m not spiritually, mentally or emotionally in the same place so it’s never best to hold on to bonds or situations that are not thriving.

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Living in the margins of the mainstream existence made me more sensitive to those who people consider live on the outskirts of “normal” life, living. I see a homeless man occasionally in a downtown area I visit often. I’ll call him “Barry.” He is a slight man probably in his early 60s. His bearing is quiet, dignified and unassuming. This time Barry¬†was sitting at a bench eating cat food. Yes, cat food straight out of container like it was a fine delicacy. The sight¬†broke my heart. I was shocked, saddened and felt a little helpless at the same time. And to make it more thoroughly sickening were his “neighbors” sitting next to him. Both we were rather large women blissfully enjoying their yogurt treat. The juxtaposition was disturbing and the image¬†stayed with me. I later gave him some money and his eyes lit up and he said, “Bless you.”

At the moment I face some¬†challenges right now, but I’m not the only facing an uphill battle. Right now there are so many people around me (family, coworkers and friends) who are experiencing some very heavy trials. I wonder if I weren’t where¬†I am right now if I would be as sensitive or care as much. In the bluster of youth, life seems so bright and boundless. The positive focus is great, but rarely tempered with enough wisdom or character to withstand the blows of life. I’ve now seen enough sunrises and sunsets to have faced some mighty trials and stupendous blessings. Right now as I wake everyday, I try my best to keep the Lord and promises before me — through a song or a devotional. There’s truly nothing to go back to. As I traverse a path less taken, I must press on to see what the end shall be. Despite any superficial and temporal¬†standards¬†of the world, the¬†full destiny that’s been prepared for me is here, more real than anything I’ve ever seen or heard.

 

Mali Music Makes R&B Debut “Beautiful”

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For most promising Christian¬†artists,¬†taking¬†music into the secular realm is met with judgement and¬†suspicion by others in the¬†Gospel music community. There’s little doubt Mali Music faced some opposing views or advice going into little-ventured territory with his gifts. He’s had a couple of favorable releases in previous years¬†as a standard gospel artist with a neo-soul flavor. I became aware of him when he was featured as a BET Music Matters artist on the BET Awards show a few years ago. His delivery and unique vocal abilities had me excited for the new generation of Gospel singers. And I, along with many other music fans, anxiously awaited his next album. When he teased the world with “Beautiful” earlier this year, it quickly became a hit, but it did not have the heavy gospel message many may have expected him to publish. So Mali Music may have had some doubters and haters along the way with his newest album,¬†but his faith¬†is paying¬†off handsomely. Mali Is¬†is¬†receiving many¬†accolades¬†and¬†praise while currently holding a¬†top spot in its debut week.

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“No Fun Alone” is a good first track to introduce his latest offering. He describes his life as an artist, reconciling his humanity and vulnerabilities in the spotlight of fame. “Ready Aim” and “Fight For You” are¬†bangers displaying Mali’s hip-hop skills. To me I hear such an undercurrent of Holy-Spirit-influenced musicality using a format that grabs the ears of any music lover, regardless of spiritual persuasion. His music just brims with a fresh way of expressing a new life in Christ without the boundaries of conventional expression. “Walking Shoes” is a clear nod to old school sounds of the 1950s and 60s, beckoning us all to move forward against the currents armed with the truth of¬†Psalm 119. “Little Lady” samples the phenomenal Nina Simone while serenading the stories of girls we see everyday in need of real love and the reassurance that¬†men of integrity still exist. “Johnny & Donna” tells the story of a young couple and the complications of love, family, and life¬†and¬†demonstrates¬†Mali’s range and masterful vocal manipulation. In the¬†last track “I Believe” there’s a clear declaration of his faith and hearkens back to the old days of believers who unabashedly shared their belief in song. I believe is a theme that runs throughout the whole album. It’s clear Mali has not departed faith-based music as much as redefined and expanded it while challenging his contemporaries and those aspiring gospel artists to carve out a niche that’s not bound by invisible dos and don’ts. This young believer has thrown down the gauntlet and speaks to a lost generation where turning up and twerking is the preferred and expected everyday social norm.

I picked my copy up at Best Buy for less than $8 (regularly about $10). Of course digital copies are available on iTunes and amazon.com, but for this one I had to get my hands on a physical¬†copy for safekeeping at home and on my computer. ūüôā Mali Is¬†was certainly worth the wait.

 

Table for One ‚Äď Comfortable By Myself

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As a long-term single person, doing things solo has become a practice for me. I have friends, family (by blood relation and from church) that I hang with on a regular basis, but I’ve never really shied away from participating in activities where one table or seat is just enough. My cousin Jacque said years ago that when she travels or goes out without a companion, she knows that when she’s fed, everyone is fed. She likes the fact that she doesn’t have to consult with someone else¬†before picking a place to shop, eat or browse. I also grew up my mother’s only child so my imagination was my friend when there were no neighbors to play with or the weather was bad outside. I remember one day reading to my dolls¬†on my bed and pretending we were all on a boat together. Reading books that took me to faraway places made me feel alive and never, ever lonely.

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Just like anyone else, companionship is important to me, but I won’t wait for my friend’s schedule to be¬†free before going to a concert or buying a movie ticket. I am a social person and make conversations with complete strangers pretty easily, but I’m able to switch gears if I want/need to. Some people think it’s strange sitting at a restaurant booth alone ¬†or watching a movie solo, but there is a different dynamic involved when there’s no one around. I notice more things around me.¬†When I take a walk I see trees swaying, babies laughing, flowers beckoning for my¬†gaze. If I’m always around someone, I don’t ever get a moment to see the world buzzing around me. And as a creative person, I often use¬†scenery to ignite my imagination. One of my ways to spark my creativity is to sit at a coffee shop, listening to music while words flow from my heart…

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I read an article recently citing a restaurant in Japan that seats a stuffed animal at your table if you don’t have a companion. Sounds a little ridiculous to me, but I’m sure many people would rather stay at home then take a walk, eat a dinner or visit a mall without a buddy. Why are some people so uncomfortable doing everyday things by themselves? I think sometimes if you’ve never had to walk the journey of singlehood for long periods, grew up in a big family, or just need to have someone around all the time, it’s a little more difficult to understand.

So I’ll be the pioneer, the fearless adventurer who takes the road less traveled. It’s my goal to LIVE NOW. Sometimes being single¬†for long spells¬†can be a bit tiresome, but appreciating my company and the season I’m¬†in is crucial for me to grow and mature. I won’t wait to dance, to taste, to savor all of life. I’m really ready for¬†all of the amazing experiences the future has in store for me — no matter if it’s built for two or just me.