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Love and Hate

I attended church yesterday with a heavy heart, the events of Saturday in Charlottesvile, VA at the forefront of my mind. I was not however surprised. Racism is something that will always exist in this broken world. My pastor spoke that love and hate are intertwined. I cannot disagree, love is powerful and can be good. It means caring and wanting the best for the thing I love.

But

What do I love so much that I would hate? It’s a valid question. If my family or friends are hurt, I hate what hurts them.

So

As I look at my newsfeed on various social media outlets, and I look at the chilling photos of well dressed white men holding torches and seig heiling ( not sure of the proper verbage for it). I wonder how much do they love the idealogy of whiteness to hate the rest of God’s creations?

For we are all image bearers. My saviour was not white. He was on earth a middle eastern Jewish man who brought salvation to all.

One cannot be of two minds. You either love God and therefore love all. Or hate God and love the few. What you love is what you are most passionate about, what you expend time and energy on. If you are more passionate arguing on social media about things that attack your comfort than  in working to love God and others than perhaps its time to reevaulate what you are truly loving. The heart is a decitful thing, and idol maker and can lead people away from God.

This weekend’s past events in addition to other events have made it evident that there are many who love the idealogy of whiteness over all. The death of Heather Heyer happened because a man so full of hate drove into a crowd on purpose. Because what he loves overrides the diginity of others. Because what he worships was being attacked in his mind.

I pray for him to repent and have  a Paul moment ( Act 9:1-19). Paul was a man called Saul who persecuted Christians until Christ intervened, causing him to be blinded for a period of time. When he was able to see again, he saw the truth of who he had been and became someone new. I truly believe that people can change, to learn to love something beyond their own comforts.

My first inclination is to hate these people right back. I am angered and saddend but not surprised. I must fight against this because how can I claim to love Christ if I hate who he created? How can people meet Jesus if I am not willing to see them as people in need of Him?

I love God and therefore I fight against hate. I will do so by how I know best, my words. I will continue to work in my community loving people because they need love. I will engage in hard conversations and not back down. I will listen and read as I have been. I have much to learn and much to love. Most of all much to be in prayer for my own heart, my community and this nation.

I pray for there to be more love of God then of self preservation.

Books I have been reading

Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler

When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Bryan Fikkert

The New Jim Crow – Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

White Trash  The 400 year untold story of class in America by Nancy Isenberg

 

Holy and Good

Yesterday I celebrated the Resurection with all my family. It was a great day all around. Full of laughter, friends, food and most of all a needed reminder that I am living not for today but the promise of everlasting life. This is why I am a Christian.

I cannot explain the mystery of why I am so certain that all this is real. All I can say is that I have felt since I was small child that there is something bigger than myself. Watching over me, caring for me, loving me. No matter what has was going on in, I was protected and safe.

You can read more about my journey in this post

I am in a posture of learning for this year and from this place I see I am surrounded by so much pain. We all carry unseen scars that lay hidden behind learned coping mechanisms. In this pain that I too carry, there is Holy and Good.

I have always believed in the Holy and Good. In something greater than myself, a mystery beyond my full understanding. Even in the midst of my hardships and pain throughout my life, this I have always believed in. It has been nearly ten years since I stepped forward during Easter services longing for Christ. In that time I have faltered and failed God many, many times. The struggles and hardships have shown me the Holy and Good.

When the noise from the world seems only full of vitral and anger, I believe in the Holy and Good. It is there, in the corners that are not easily seen. I think too there is confusion over something being hard, and if its hard it cannot be good. I have walked through hard and seen my friends and family do so too. Hard does not mean that good work is not being done.

[Tweet “By leaning into the pain of my life, holy work is done and good has come from it”]

By leaning into the pain of my life, holy work is done and good has come from it This is the work that sanctifies me and prepares me for what is ahead in this journey for me. My life is not just about today but also tomorrow. Today will be forgotten and I shall be made new. So I live for that day in great anticipation, in the Holy and Good.

Isaiah 65:17

“See, I will create
    new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
    nor will they come to mind.

 

 

Unexpected Places

I never once imagined that I would end working with kids. I played teacher as a kid but I also played doctor, super hero and WWII spy. ( In a way it’s understandable to see why I enjoy writing fiction so much!). But working with kids as a career? NOPE. Or at least that was what I believed. Until I met my friend Mary Ann who works with Greater Miami Youth For Christ in a program called KIX ( Kids in Christ). It is an afterschool program (among several ) that reaches into a few neighborhoods throughout Miami. Through my friendship with Mary Ann, I started to volunteer off and on over the years. Helping out with homework or being there for the teen program on Friday nights.

Last year though, I was offered a position as staff. It was an answer to a prayer, a second source of income and feeling the God moment in it. Have you ever had a moment where there was no hesitation to say yes because it just felt right? This was one of those moments for me. I knew I was going to say yes to this and I began work with the second and third graders three days a week.

Let me tell you something, it has been the hardest job I have ever had but by far the most rewarding. These kids they just get into the heart. One in particular reminds me of myself. She has a bit of imagination and I see the story teller emerging in her. I get her, I was her at her age. I lacked confidence in my abilities with Math homework ( and I’ve only just begun to encounter this Core Math stuff too). Working each day with my girl is one of the highlights of the day. Seeing that moment when she gets it, especially after fighting hard for the answer is a victory. Her victory.

I have been told that God qualifies us for the work He needs us to do. This is why this time in my life could not have been planned by myself. I did not feel confident in being able to do something like this in my life. But God is greater than my doubts. This is where my trust in Him comes in for my life. Trusting Him in this place has been a huge lesson for me. I’m still learning and I’m not the greatest every day but there is grace in this work. As I learned a few years ago, work is worship and worship is work.

The desire and heart of Greater Miami YFC ( and YFC nationwide and international) is to reach the youth. Kids and teens in communites of all kinds bringing the love of Christ into their lives. The neighborhood that we minister  in is one of the largest Habitat communites in the country. It is a tight knit community that often has dealt with crime and violence. A few weeks ago a young lady was shot in the face by her ex boyfriend waiting for the school bus. She survived but she may lose her right eye.

This is the reality of what these kids deal with day in and day out. But by being able to come to KIX afterschool or  for teen events gives them a respite. It gives them a place to point to and say there is safety and love inside that building. I am grateful to get to be part of it. To plant seeds of hope in Christ and loving on these kids. I look forward to the next victory my girl has this coming week.

I would love it if you could dear reader take a moment to click on the link for Greater Miami Youth For Christ to learn more about what we do in our vast city. Perhaps you would like to get involved with your local chapter or even donate to KIX ( just look for my name under the donate tab). Most of all I would like your prayers for this neighborhood and many like it through out our country. For these kids to find a place of hope and love in the name of Christ.

 

 

Learning to Love

Recently my church has started a new series in the book of Jonah titled Called To Love. The timing of the start of this series could not be more apropos in my view. As a Christian I have been taught by Jesus and others in my walk that we are called to love. It is after all it is the commandment that Jesus says we must follow.

Matthew 22: 37-40

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and the first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

What I see is  discomfort at being called to love, to love God and to love others. Because it is easier to not love everyone and choose to love a few. But we aren’t called to love just the few but all we encounter.

It’s easier than saying that at the end of the day all of us struggle. [Tweet “All of  us have a need to be loved and to love. To feel like we all matter, to be heard and cared for. “] All of have a need to be loved and to love. One life is not less valued because of differing views or circumstances. It saddens me when I read comment sections and people demand  deaths or bodily harm of others because of what exactly? A shared post on social media?

We must choose to love others because God loves us. God loves me through the darkness and my straying heart. We must love the person who chooses to sit out or kneel during the anthem, not call for harm for them. Love the person who protests police abuse, Love the police officer on the job. By loving them I mean to see beyond the surface, to see their soul that God too loves. To sit down and have a conversation, to listen to them. Listening to someone can at times be the single biggest act of love.

Love others by listening. The art of listening has fallen to the wayside. Too quickly we are simply waiting to say what we have been waiting to say instead of hearing the other person ( often, this has been myself). By listening to others, learning their story and what they have endured and why they are where they are in life. Before anything can change, we must first love without placing requirements upon it.

It takes work.  It is hard to love another who perhaps has far different views that we can hold so dear. In loving others is not about making people believe as you do. Or that only those who wholly agree with everything you believe are worthy of your love. I am learning how to love people who can be frustrating or not easy to get along with in the first place. I have had to admit my failings here and seek Jesus’ strength to love as I have been commanded.

Love is not easy, can often seem a far out concept and hurts. In the end, love is worth the effort.

Missing Hershey, Loving Nala

A year ago, I said goodbye to my Hershey boy. It was a strange moment for me, losing him. Part of me had expected that the be the end result of our visit to the pet emergency room ( which I chose only because my friend worked there at the time) which was comforting for me. Part of me was also hopeful that day, that all he would need was some medicine and he would be just fine.

But the poor little guy was not fine. He was old, losing weight due to not being able to eat or keep much food down. He was in much pain and discomfort and so I had to make the hard choice. I asked the vet if doing further blood tests would do him any good. In her gentle way she told myself and my sister no, no it wouldn’t. I didn’t want Hershey to spent a few days scared and alone in the hospital, though well cared for by the compassionate vets and vet techs. Especially since in the end the result would have been the same. I had to say goodbye.

That night when I got home, I threw out his food, litter box and favorite toy. I was dealing with the loss by being practical. I didn’t need these things anymore after all. Might as well get rid of it all. I have kept his bed though. That I washed and placed inside my closet. It is still sitting in there as I write this post.

Those first few nights of falling asleep were hard without him. Hershey had been such a cuddle bug, I held my pillow tight to my body that night and for a few nights afterwards. Coming home with his mewing chastising me for being away was a tough adjustment. I had friends ask me about adopting another pet and I was not sure about doing so just yet.

Until

Until one day while scrolling through Instagram I came across a post asking for someone to take in their cat. At first I scrolled past it, then back again, then past it again. I exited the app and then went back in. Looking at the photo of the cat, I knew she was mine. I messaged her mommy, a mutual acquaintance about taking in the cat. By the end of the week I was meeting Nala and taking her home after an hour or so.

Poor cat had no idea what was happening, meowing the entire drive home, finding various hiding places at the house. I knew to be patient as she adjusted to the change, there were a few hissing incidents during the times I overstepped her boundaries. But, as time went on she became comfortable, allowing me to pet her and even sleeping on the bed with me.

I put out Hershey’s bed for her but she never used it. Perhaps she could smell Hershey’s scent despite all the times it had been washed. She preferred instead the couch in the living room or my bed to sleep. Still I kept the bed, even though it is not being used.

Nala is different from Hershey, more independent at times. She likes her alone time wheras Hershey could not be alone for too long. I wonder though how the two of them would of gotten along, how long it would of taken for them to learn to live with each other companionably. I still miss my Hershey boy but I also love my Nalalulu too.

That is what grieving does. I have lost family members and I remember when our beagle Pumpkin was gone. But she really was not my dog. Pets are an important part of our lives, we care for them and love them and they care for us too. Not only because we feed them either, though that is a big part of it.

It is learning that it is alright to miss the ones we have lost while having new joy and love in our lives. Learning to care through pain. That has been the biggest lesson in this year for me.

 

Celebrate Love

Next Sunday is Valentine’s Day. This is not the typical singleton view point on this day. I’ve treaded down that road before. This year I have a different perspective.

I’ve come to see it less as an attack on single people.[Tweet “I’ve come to see it less as an attack on single people.”] And more so a  day where many of my lovely friends get to celebrate their relationships. As they should. Any time to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of the  everyday is a good thing. For a couple to stop and spend time together is important.

It is not an indictment against singles. That somehow by not being in a romantic relationship to celebrate, we are less than. This is an absolute lie. This is a lie I once believed. Feeling embittered as each year passed and still single. The wondering of when or if that would change. Then never having anything changed.

We have plenty to celebrate. Not just on Valentine’s Day but every day.

We too have special people in our lives. People who have poured into our lives. Loving us when it was not easy. People we have loved well and cared for in turn.

When was the last time you told someone how much they mean to you?

Celebrate that. Celebrate that love is far bigger than the a narrow definition. Celebrate that you are loved. Celebrate the immense, complicated,messiness of real love.

Remember this as you attend services and the sermon focuses on marriage and love. Remember as you feel that tinge of loneliness seeing couples around you. Remember you are loved greater than anything you could imagine. Because you know Christ.

I’ve been in that jealous place, of longing for a relationship. Believing it was the missing piece for my life. The truth though is that only Christ  makes me whole. While I still long for marriage some day, it’s not my only hope. I’ve come to terms that perhaps it might not be the plan for me. 

This post is where I’m at right now. In this moment. I cling to the truth that I am loved, by God, by my brothers and sisters in Christ, by my family. There is so much love in my life.

Not acknowledging it, by saying that this other kind of love is somehow better, I’m essentially spitting in the face of the love in my life.

That, my single friends is the biggest truth of all. You are loved ,we are loved, I am loved. [Tweet “That, my single friends is the biggest truth of all. You are loved ,we are loved, I am loved. “]

 

 

 

 

Meet Nala

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Earlier this year, I lost my Hershey boy. His loss hit me harder than I realized until weeks later. I honestly didn’t think I would get another cat.

Then an acquaintance posted on IG needing to re home her cat. I didn’t hesitate to message about her. I knew Nala would become my girl.

It’s been a few weeks since I brought her home. I’m learning about her personality, how different she is from Hershey. She has found her favorite places to make her own.

It’s nice to come home to sweet meows. To have another presence nearby. The love of a pet is priceless after all.

How To Pray For Singles

This is a repost

Lately, something has been bugging me about praying for the marriages in our churches. Not just because it is yet another reminder of my singleness. A question formed in my mind, Why aren’t singles in the church as specifically prayed for? I don’t believe that this is because we are thought of as less than marrieds. This may have more to do with the mentality towards singleness. Even from those of us in the midst of it. That somehow our lives and struggles are not as important as those who are married. Or that this state of being is more private to be prayed about so publicly.

It is of course important to pray for marriage. It is hard, challenging, full of trials and blessings.  It is a beautiful example of Christ’s love for us.

But so is singleness. Being a single in the church today is more of the norm than not. A pew poll from 2012 found that this group is in fact growing. For a number of reasons people are waiting longer to get married. Or are recovering from past relationships. Or like me have never been in a relationship.

In fact most churches are having to adjust how to minister to us.

Which is why it is just as important to remember to pray for us. Singleness can be challenging, full of trials and blessings. Pray not only for our potential, future marriages but also for our lives right now.

The majority of us are searching for our spouse. Pray that we be discerning in pursuing a spouse .  Pray for us as we try online dating and get to know new people. Pray for us as we pursue our dreams and establish ourselves. Keep in mind too not necessarily all of us are looking for that in our lives. Marriage, like college may not be for everyone.

Read the rest of this entry

Post Vacation Thoughts

I am sitting in the Newark Airport waiting to board a plane home. I cannot quite believe that it is over! This was more than just a vacation, it was also precious time with family. It had been at least fifteen years since I had seen my cousins. A lapse I am determined to not allow again.

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My parents & I enjoying a lovely Italian meal at Giovanni's in Belair, Maryland

I rode with my parents up to New Jersey. This had to be the most amount of time I ever spent with them. It was just wonderful! Having that time with them, something we can look back on in the future, is just awesome. Even sharing various hotel rooms was just fine.

We arrived in New Jersey, heading right over to my Aunt Kathy’s house. Where we stayed except for sleeping at our hotel room. Other families go hiking or camping. Mine makes great sport of eating, drinking wine and conversation.

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Cousin Jenn, Caroline & I

I love my family. I loved reconnecting with my cousin Jenn, meeting her husband Robbie and her adorable kids. We got caught up with our lives. Reminisced about old stories. Discussed our food at length.
I got attacked with water guns by one of my other younger cousins. Not to worry, I got him good.

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It’s a good thing we enjoy each others company.

Some trips are about being the tourist, getting to know a city. Others are just spending time with people. Time with our loved ones is not guaranteed.

This trip was such a blessing. I am grateful to my parents for allowing me to tag along. For the laughter and conversation. For holding my three month old cousin.

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Saying Goodbye

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I said goodbye to a friend the other day. My dear Hershey boy was an old man at 24 years old. He had not been eating much and had gotten down to a tiny six pounds. And so I made the best decision for him, to let him go. To end his suffering and to prevent any unnecessary poking and prodding.

The first night home was strange. His favorite resting spot was now empty. I found myself petting it a few times during the night. No more will I hear his gentle purring next to me. Or his begging meows for his weekly serving of wet food. No more scolding meows when I would come home and not immediately pet him.

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He was my best friends cat first. The first time I met Hershey he was teasing her blind dog Woofer. His constant companion was another cat named Jake. The two would get into trouble outside. Hershey starting up fights, leaving Jake to finish them.

By the time he came into my care, he was older and more settled. My friend could no longer care for him and I offered to take him home. I had never owned a cat. He was wary of me as he did not know me. But soon we found our way.

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That was about eight years ago. In that time he became my ride or die. It was him who was there for me when sick late at night. He gave me cuddles when it hurt just a bit too much to be alone. Having him in my life was an assurance of love. In turn he showed me what it was to love.

Right now, I feel alright. I do not think it has fully hit me that he is gone. Sunday after I got home from church was when he got his wet food. Maybe it will hit me then. My only regret was not wiping away the gunk from his eyes one last time. I did kiss him and stroke his one ear just so. Quickly the anesthetic was injected, and he lay down. Then he was gone, free from pain.

I am not sure about adopting another. It will not be for at least a few months at least. If I do it will definitely be from the local shelter.

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