Mini Get-A-Way

Hello everyone! I’d like to extend my sincerest apologies for my absence. I recently spoke with someone about how our fellow bloggers suddenly disappear without a trace and I always pray for their safety. Over the last few days, I’ve attempted to write a brief explanation for my upcoming get-a-way, but I can’t seem to find the words. Although as a whole, everything is actually good. I think this all boils down to my bi-polar diagnosis. I’ve noticed some changes in myself for months now that I don’t like and have been trying to fight. It seems as though “Big Sexxy” (previous post) has temporarily lost her superpowers, but I’ll be back in a couple of weeks. Until then, this is the best way I can describe my mood as of late. I hope you enjoy this song from one of my all-time girl crushes, lol. It always makes me cry because it’s so deeply felt, but they’re good hopeful tears that drive me to not only keep pushing but also a reminder of all the times I’ve been knocked down and got right back up. Having faith that things always work out as long as I don’t quit!

Witness Marks

This message spoke volumes to me for several reason. The main reason being that I recall a time when people went above and beyond without motive or expectations of being rewarded, but simply out of kindness and consideration. Even the slightest act of kindness at one time was greatly appreciated and those on the receiving end would usually pay it forward. Although this does still happen with some, unfortunately we are currently living in a time where many will only offer the bare minimum be it in service or kindness.

Daily Devotional:

“See that?” The clock repairman pointed his flashlight beam on a small, fine mark roughly engraved inside the old grandfather clock he was working on in our home. “Another repairman could have put that there almost a century ago,” he said. “It’s called a ‘witness mark,’ and it helps me know how to set the mechanism.

Before the age of technical bulletins and repair manuals, “witness marks” were used to help the person making a future repair align moving parts with precision. They were more than just time-saving reminders; they were often left as a simple kindness to the next person doing the work.

The Bible encourages us to leave our own “witness marks” as we work for God by serving others in our broken world. The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome: “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up” (Romans 15:2). This is the example of our God, “who gives endurance and encouragement” (v. 5). It’s about being a good citizen of both earth and heaven.

Our “witness marks” may seem like small things, but they can make a vital difference in someone’s life. An uplifting word, a financial gift to someone in need, and a listening ear—all are kindnesses that can have a lasting impact. May God help you make a mark for Him in someone’s life today!

Reflect: What “witness marks” have others left in your life to encourage you? What simple kindness can you do for another believer today?

Prayer: Almighty Father, thank You for the loving-kindness You’ve shown me through Your Son, Jesus. Please help me to reflect Your love in even the smallest things I do today.

Hanging Fire

Featured Poetry of Audre Lorde: An American writer, feminist, librarian and civil rights activist. She was self-described “warrior poet, black lesbian and mother who dedicated both her life and creative talents to confronting and addressing injustices of racism, sexism, class and homophobia”(1934-1992).

I am fourteen

and my skin has betrayed me   

the boy I cannot live without   

still sucks his thumb

in secret

how come my knees are

always so ashy

what if I die

before morning

and momma’s in the bedroom   

with the door closed.

I have to learn how to dance   

in time for the next party   

my room is too small for me   

suppose I die before graduation   

they will sing sad melodies   

but finally

tell the truth about me

There is nothing I want to do   

and too much

that has to be done

and momma’s in the bedroom   

with the door closed.

Nobody even stops to think   

about my side of it

I should have been on Math Team   

my marks were better than his   

why do I have to be

the one

wearing braces

I have nothing to wear tomorrow   

will I live long enough

to grow up

and momma’s in the bedroom   

with the door closed.

An Influential Poet

In honor of National Poetry Month, I’d like to introduce those of you who aren’t familiar, to a poet I greatly admire and who has in many ways influenced my writing.

Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1950, poet, teacher and activist Carolyn Forché has witnessed, thought about, and put into poetry some of the most devastating events of twentieth-century world history. An articulate defender of her own aims as well as the larger goals of poetry, Forché is perhaps best-known for coining the term “poetry of witness.” In her ground-breaking anthology, Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness (1993). In 1998 in Stockholm, she received the Edita and Ira Morris Hiroshima Foundation for Peace and Culture Award for her human rights advocacy and the preservation of memory and culture.

In 2015 I was fortunate in having the opportunity to not only meet but also learn from such an inspirational poet. While attending her workshops and listening as she spoke about what she’d witnessed while spending two years (1978-1980) in El Salvador investigating how human rights were being abused, left me in awe. I was intrigued by her story telling of the events she witnessed which is in part what has influenced me to write mainly about what I know, by sharing my lived experiences. (Featured in the photo below: Me, author/musician Christian Kiefer and Carolyn Forche).

The following is a brief preview and analysis of Against Forgetting according to “poets.org”.

Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness collects poetry by over 140 poets who, according to the anthology’s editor Carolyn Forché, “endured conditions of historical and social extremity during the twentieth century—through exile, state censorship, political persecution, house arrest, torture, imprisonment, military occupation, warfare, and assassination.” By gathering work that she defines as, “poetic witness to the dark times in which they [the authors] lived,” Forché intended Against Forgetting to reveal the ways in which tragic events leave marks upon the imagination. Even in poems that do not explicitly take historical events as their subject matter, tragedy’s after-image floats beneath the surface of the language.

Against Forgetting is organized according to historical tragedy, starting with the Armenian Genocide and proceeding through the twentieth century to the pro-democratic demonstrations in China. Each section is preceded by a short statement that gives historical background for the events in order to place the poems in a proper context. Within the sections, the poets are organized chronologically according to their year of birth and Forché presents a brief biographical note elucidating the poet’s personal experiences with the historical situation.

Quotes regarding her work:

In the dark times, will there also be singing?
Yes, there will be singing.
About the dark times.
—Bertolt Brecht

Ecclesiastes 5:2

Do not be rash with your mouth…

My spirits have been somewhat broken this week. Something I’ve noticed about myself in the last year are so that for some reason I’ve allowed certain things to get to me in such away they didn’t before, even though what I continue to witness is nothing new. I’ve had my share of talks with young mothers over the years regarding what not they say to their children, but also how they say things. These have been women who were neighbors, or at least we knew each other to some extent one way or another. Earlier this week I witnessed a woman spewing the most horrible vile comments to her child who couldn’t have been no more than 4 or 5 years old. Aside from repeatedly telling him how stupid he is, she went on with expressing to him that she wished he was never born. I desperately wanted to intervene, however my instincts told me that was not a good idea. Perhaps that’s one reason why it’s bothering me so much and I can’t stop thinking about it because I did nothing about it. I told myself that it was none of my business when actually I feel it is my business. If that child continues to endure that type of abuse what will his role be in society late in life? Will I cross paths with him again if by chance he grows to be an angry adult? It reminded me of a passage from long ago that I keep written in my bible on an index card. I’m not certain where I first came across it, but I have shared it with others from time to time when I saw fit.

” Whenever we speak out of fear, anger, ignorance or pride-even if what we say is true-Those who listen will hear more than our words, they’ll hear emotion. They don’t know whether emotion comes from love and concern or disdain and disrespect, risking misunderstanding”.

This passage doesn’t necessarily apply to this particular situation, but when it comes to what you say to a child, those words stay with them and it’s no different than physically beating them down. The scars are still there. Regardless of who I’m communicating with, friends, my children, co-workers, I do my best to stay mindful of this passage. I don’t know what that mother this week may be dealing with or if that is a normal behavior for her, it isn’t my place to judge so instead I simply said a prayer for her and her son.

Lived Experience (Part 2)

The first time I witnessed someone having an epileptic seizure I was 10 years old. Although never imagining that one day it would be me, I never forgot what I saw. Aside from the woman’s body jerking uncontrollably, what I recall the most is that no one standing around knew what to do to help her. I’m not sure why but over the years after that experience, I’d often still think about the woman. The next time I encountered a stranger having a seizure I was 29 and prepared in knowing exactly what to do; however, since then certain techniques have changed for such as what to do in preventing a person from swallowing their tongue. Since my episodes began (just before turning 40) some professionals say not to put anything in the mouth while others continue to agree with using a cushioned tongue depressor.

There are different types of seizure disorders which also have various causes. The most common form and one people are most familiar with are “grand mal” seizures. During my research and interviews I’ve learned that many are not aware of what’s known as “focal seizures” also called “aura’s”, which for me didn’t begin until about 6 years after experiencing the grand mal seizures. I was unaware of them occurring until my children began to notice and ask questions. An “aura” can best be described as a warning of a seizure approaching. It’s like an unusual sensation or feeling. In my experiences I’ve noticed my thoughts shifting and racing consistently. My senses are triggered by certain noises like a loud pop or motorcycle revving up and even certain odors such as fuel or the exhaust from a vehicle. Then at the same time I have a brief moment of Deja vu, panic or an overwhelming sense of doom. I describe it as memories of being a kid when I was in trouble and knew I was about to get a whipping, having that feeling that the world was coming to an end. These aura’s can last anywhere from a few seconds to 1-2 minutes as I go directly back into conversation or whatever I was doing previously without knowing it even happened.

I’ve been on the phone with someone, and they’ll call back to ask, “what happened”? Initially I’d be confused unsure of what they meant. Now, however I’m aware after I think for a moment and realize I have no recollection of saying “goodbye” or ending the call that it was due to me having a focal seizure. I’ve been out at gaming events and restaurant’s, thankfully with my children who recognize what transpired. I can only imagine how scary it must be for them even though they don’t show it and choose to put on a brave face. What scares me are the episodes of being in public by myself and losing consciousness. So far there have been three in the ten years since the seizures began. The first, which was about a year after they started, I walked out of my home about a half mile and only half dressed with bare feet (something I never do). I remember being at the corner of one of the busiest intersections in the city watching the light signal with the tiny silver man, not sure how long I simply stood there. I had/have no memory of going or coming and I only recall being barefoot because of the rock company between the intersection and home as my feet hurt traveling over the rocks that constantly spill over onto what hasn’t been a sidewalk in years. When I finally returned home, my children met me there in a panic due to folks in the neighborhood knowing me well enough to realize something was odd. At first glance around the house, it appeared someone had broken in. The screen was torn off the patio door, my coffee cup and a lamp were turned over on the floor, yet a break in didn’t make any sense because nothing was missing. Sadly, whenever I attempt to relay this event to my doctors, they look at me in disbelief or with a blank stare dismissing it without questions or any signs of concern. Eventually, I stopped making trips to the ER or mentioned it by the time I reached my third neurologist.

It’s disturbing that my children feel helpless and don’t realize they have been for the most part my main source of support. My son walks on eggshells around me, afraid he may say or do something to trigger a seizure. As much as I try to reassure him that leaving an empty glass on the table or walking on the carpet with his shoes on are not causes that trigger me, I clearly see it makes him nervous. Though since they’ve been doing their own research and now have a better understanding, they still worry because specialist have yet to and may never pinpoint the cause. It has ruined what I thought were friendships (see Green Eyed Monster). Some assume that because my memory isn’t what it was, they can manipulate and take advantage of certain situations. While I may not recall specific details word for word, I know what makes sense and what doesn’t. It’s not as simple as forgetting a name. The effects of my seizures are much more complex when it comes to fucus and learning new concepts. Sometimes it feels as if my head will burst like a balloon when taking in new information or struggling to remember things I’ve mastered, done hundreds of times over the years and was once extremely skilled at. Whether my lived experiences are with regards to epilepsy, mental health or trauma, it’s important for me to share because although I’m not a specialist or fully understand the science behind it all, unlike most professional, I certainly know the impact it has had in my own life which allows me to relate with others firsthand on a level they can’t. The goal is for my V.O.I.C.E. to provide hope for others who share my experiences. Aside from my children, my faith in God is what keeps me going so I’d like to share this devotional as I pray it gives you hope like it does for me.

Never Say Can’t

(Daily Devotional Feb. 21st 2022)

Jen was born without legs and abandoned at the hospital. Yet she says being put up for adoption was a blessing. “I am here because of the people who poured into me.” Her adoptive family helped her to see she was “born like this for a reason.” They raised her to “never say ‘can’t’ ” and encouraged her in all her pursuits—including becoming an accomplished acrobat and aerialist! She meets challenges with an attitude of “How can I tackle this?” and motivates others to do the same.

The Bible tells the stories of many people God used who seemed incapable or unsuited for their calling—but God used them anyway. Moses is a classic example. When God called him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, he balked (Exodus 3:11; 4:1) and protested, “I am slow of speech and tongue.” God replied, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? . . . Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (4:10–12). When Moses still protested, God provided Aaron to speak for him and assured him He would help them (vv. 13–15). Like Jen and like Moses, all of us are here for a reason—and God graciously helps us along the way. He supplies people to help us and provides what we need to live for Him.

Reflect & Pray

When have you felt incapable or ill-equipped for a task or role you felt God calling you to fill? How did God help you?

God, I’m so glad you didn’t leave me here on this earth to do it all on my own. Thank You for Your love and guidance and the people You’ve placed in my life

Lived Experience (Part 1)

      Hello everyone, I've missed you. Some of your posts along with my "Daily Bread" devotional are a huge part of what helps me get through my days so I'm excited to be back. For those of you who don't know, last Tuesday I had a "clonic" seizure, more commonly known as "grand mal" which caught me by surprise because it has been well over a year since I'd had one and I was hopeful that they had become a part of my past. Since I began having them in 2012 (cause still unknown), I've always bounced right back after having one which then occurred about 2-3 times a month. Normally a quick nap and I'm back to business as usually as if nothing happened. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case with this last one. I laid on my kitchen floor 15-20 minutes before gaining my balance along with enough strength to get myself up. Aside from the nerve damage on my left side, likely due to all the seizures over the years and on several occasions in some very tight spots, I was also unable to shake the dizziness this time. Sitting absolutely still, not looking at any constant movement like the T.V. or computer screen seemed to be the only thing that helps. 
       Usually, I can pinpoint exactly what triggered me and can sense when a seizure is coming and prevent it. What I wasn't aware of until about a month ago is that I've also been having "focal" seizures more often, which I'll most likely further with details in a future post. When the focal seizures were brought to my attention by my children and a few others over the phone when we'd suddenly get disconnected, and I had no recollection until the individual called back to ask, "what happened". I would remember being on the phone with them, but not saying goodbye or ending the call so there is a about a minute or two where my body is not having spasms, but I'm losing consciousness. These focal seizures have only been occurring within the last 2 years and they were either far and few or I simply wasn't always aware when they occurred. Now for some reason (and I believe I know what that is), the focal seizures are more frequent. I've begun to grow concerned once again.
       It's not something I necessary get stressed about. It's more so a matter of wanting to understand, find a pattern in hopes of being able to control if not prevent it all together. This also brings me to the reason why I share my experience. "Lived Experience", although the doctors are the professionals, if you're lucky to get one that listens, they still can't fully relate unless they have personal lived experience or that of a family member. It is certainly NOT for pity nor sympathy, especially knowing others are suffering greater hardships. I share because doctors have not given me any explanations and aside from the help of my children (grandson is mine as well, lol), I've gone through this alone. I can't help but wonder who else out there may be struggling with a similar issue as well as thinking they too are alone. I want you to know that you're NOT! Not having anyone to turn to, seek advice or fully understand has forced me to suck it up, deal with it the best way I know how and continue to move forward never giving up hope. Every day is a struggle even when it comes to simple tasks. It's not only about my memory loss, but now processing new information and concepts differently than before. I've had to adapt to a new style of learning and looking back, I refuse to believe that after all I've survived, that epilepsy is what's going to take me out. I also feel strongly there is a reason God steered me on this path. We've all heard the saying "what doesn't kill us makes us stronger" and that's exactly how I feel. Whenever I have those brief moments of doubt, He always comes through by speaking to me, telling me to keep going and showing me the way. During one of those moments recently after learning about the focal seizures, in an attempt to start my day with the right mindset and a positive attitude, I'd like to share how He spoke to me and was right on time as always.

                             Leaning Into God
                    (Our daily Bread Feb. 20th, 2022)   

Harriet Tubman couldn’t read or write. As an adolescent, she suffered a head injury at the hands of a cruel slave master. That injury caused her to have seizures and lapses of consciousness for the rest of her life. But once she escaped slavery, God used her to rescue as many as three hundred others.

Nicknamed “Moses” by those she freed, Harriet bravely made nineteen trips back to the pre-Civil War South to rescue others. She continued even when there was a price on her head and her life was in constant danger.

A devoted believer in Jesus, she carried a hymnal and a Bible on every trip and had others read her verses, which she committed to memory and quoted often. “I prayed all the time,” she said, “about my work, everywhere; I was always talking to the Lord.” She also gave God credit for the smallest successes.

Her life was a powerful expression of the apostle Paul’s instruction to the earliest Christians: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).

When we lean into God in the moment and live dependently in prayer, praising Him despite our difficulties, He gives us the strength to accomplish even the most challenging tasks. Our Savior is greater than anything we face, and He will lead us as we look to Him.

REFLECT: How does spending time in God’s presence make you stronger? In what ways will you “lean into Him” today?

PRAYLoving and Almighty God, please help me to live every moment with You today and to receive the strength You alone can give.

Good Intentions

            There is nothing more annoying to me than poor customer service, especially when attempting to accomplish a task over the phone and there's no eye contact.  Recently I had a refreshing experience when visiting a particular retail store for the first time-EVER! I had put it off for quite some time because although I'd done my research, I was still not confident in my ability in purchasing a precise product. Thanks to the lovely employee who assisted me, the otherwise dreaded chore was a success. Once the sale was finalized after I'd expressed how much I appreciated and admired not only her professionalism, but most importantly her customer service skills by listening to my concerns, she was very enthusiastic in expressing how I made her day. The entire scenario actually went a bit deeper to the point where our conversation continued once I made it home and there may have been a few tears, but I'll spare you the details. Aside from a job offer a friendship developed as well, all due to her exercising the basic skill of listening. 
       We often forget how important it is to offer a listening ear whether in our work environments or socializing with friends and family. Even our significant others when we know they have good intentions, but listening is not a skill that everyone possesses. I willingly admit that I have been guilty of this over the years. We have good intentions as it's our nature to want to help others be it in a customer service situation or a loved one. The issue is that first of all, we can't be of assistance when we don't take time to listen in an effort of discovering the actual need. Often in our haste, we begin throwing out suggestions and advice before acquiring the necessary information. I'm certain that at some point we've all experienced both sides of this scenario.  I've been quick to offer advice when it wasn't being sought as well as receiving advice that had nothing to do with what I was saying because while the person may have been hearing my words, they weren't actually listening. It can be extremely frustrating, especially when I know that individual thinks they're helping. In recognizing that feeling, I do my best to stay mindful of how vital it can be to simply offer a listening ear.
       Obviously, there are various reasons we can be so quick to give advice. Some believe they are what I like to call "fixers", thinking they have all the answers to fix the problems at hand. The reality is no one can nor is the other party (in most cases) expecting us to solve their problems. Then there are those who for their own reasons feel it gives them purpose, those who yearn to feel needed. Unfortunately, the downside (speaking from personal experiences) is that when people feel they are not being heard it can cause them to shut down and become withdrawn. They begin to hold things in which as we know can be unhealthy. We all want/need to be heard to an extent. Every V.O.I.C.E. matters, which is the beauty of it. When we truly listen and engage by not necessarily offering our opinions or advice, but by asking questions and being present in the conversation, we provide encouragement and hope in the form of empathy. Along with that provides a sense of comfort by establishing trust, because regardless of who's doing the listening or the talking, we have now become equals. Neither person is greater or less than the other because we've established what I refer to as a safe zone. When we listen it's also an opportunity to learn and grasp insight for ourselves. That's not to say the two parties need to agree, but by listening we can discover a person's train of thought, perhaps a broader perspective on the matter or simply acquiring a better understanding of the relative/friend we care about. 
      Through all my social engagements with employees, co-workers, my children as well as friends regardless of which side I'm on (listening or talking), I've learned that the biggest gift of having a listening ear can also have a huge positive affect. During these chaotic times when many are facing mental health challenges, suicides deaths are increasing and those who are depressed due to current circumstances, let's keep in mind that although we have good intentions, now more than ever we can make a difference. We never know how close to the edge someone may be and may possibly even save a life when we offer a listening ear to our loved ones and those who may not have options for other outlets.   

Spotting God

A pirouette is a graceful spin that’s executed by ballerinas and contemporary dancers alike. As a child, I loved to do pirouettes in my modern dance class, whirling round and round until I was dizzy in the head and fell to the ground. As I got older, a trick I learned to help me maintain my balance and control was “spotting”—identifying a single point for my eyes to return to each time I made a full circle spin. Having a single focal point was all I needed to master my pirouette with a graceful finish.

We all face many twists and turns in life. When we focus on our problems, however, the things we encounter seem unmanageable, leaving us dizzy and heading toward a disastrous fall. The Bible reminds us that if we keep our minds steadfast, or focused, on God, He’ll keep us in “perfect peace” (Isaiah 26:3). Perfect peace means that no matter how many turns life takes, we can remain calm, assured that God will be with us through our problems and trials. He’s the “Rock eternal” (v. 4)—the ultimate “spot” to fix our eyes on—because His promises never change.

May we keep our eyes on Him as we go through each day, going to Him in prayer and studying His promises in the Scriptures. May we rely on God, our eternal Rock, to help us move gracefully through all of life.

Reflect & Pray

What problems have you been focused on lately? What has God revealed in Scripture about the trials you face?

Dear heavenly Father, forgive me for focusing on the problems I face each day. I know You’ve conquered the world and remain bigger than my trials. Help me turn my eyes and heart to You in every circumstance.