For the past few weeks, I have been experiencing being in a holding pattern in my life. There are many changes taking place, but with change comes not only waiting for things to work out the way that God has planned, but also TRUSTING that God will answer your prayers. If I said it was fun, I would be lying.
But this period of waiting has caused me to draw even closer to God. I pray more. I write more. I spend more time being quiet. And I think it has made my faith even stronger!
Remember when Moses was kept hidden for 3 months after he was born? No one saw him. He was literally hidden away (Heb 11:23). But three months later he was floated out onto the river and was discovered and raised by the King’s daughter. The KING’s daughter.
God doesn’t say that everything in our lives will go smoothly. He doesn’t promise to make each transition seamless, either. There will be bumps. There will be disappointments. But we can rest on the knowledge that He will never leave us.
How do you feel? Is your life progressing and moving forward? Or do you feel stuck in a holding pattern? Feel free to comment below!
By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict. (Hebrews 11:23)
For performing artists (and most people, I believe), social media serves as a highlight reel for our lives. We usually only share the best performances, largest crowds and cutest outfits.
We never show the performances where we flub our lines, or the times we perform to an almost-empty room.
Well, I wanted to share something very raw with all of you.
Last Friday, I attended the funeral of one of my closest friends. I spent most of the day (and a good part of the entire week) crying. I am absolutely heartbroken over her death, she was only 50 years old and still had so much to do in this life! Any time I cry excessively, I also usually get sick and lose my voice. So of course I ended up with a sinus and ear infection after crying so much.
When I signed up to tell a story on 3/31 at the MOuTH at the Mark Twain House & Museum a few weeks ago, I didn't know the event would fall on the same day we would be laying my friend to rest. Who could have known? But if I say I am going to do something, I am determined to do it. So, after spending the day at her wake, funeral, graveside service and repast, I went home and got myself together so I could drive an hour away to tell my story.
I always practice whenever I am driving to a performance, and as I rehearsed on my way to CT, I realized my voice was leaving! I thought about turning around and driving back home. But I heard Tracy's voice in my head saying "Do it Anyway." So I did.
And I am so glad I went.
I was able to spend 90 minutes listening to stories about first bikes and winning $10,000 in a cookie competition. The theater was packed with people who tell stories and those who enjoy hearing them. I left the Mark Twain House feeling refueled and full of joy.
What did this teach me?
When we are feeling our lowest, just look up. Look for a friend, an open mic, an ice cream partner or a loved one you can talk to. It’s okay to grieve! Just don’t let your grief stop you from doing the things you love to do.
By the way, how did my story sound? Click below to hear it for yourself. Thank you Chion Wolf for sending me the MP3!
I really want to write a book!
So, you want to write a book? Great! November is your lucky month! But before you begin, here are five tips to help you write like a pro during the month of November! Be sure to register over at NaNoWriMo.org so that your writing will be "official"!
1. Decide what kind of book you want to write
Maybe you want to write a workbook, a self-help book or comic book. Or maybe you want to write a novel, a devotional, or a children's book. Whatever you decide, do it by Nov. 1 so that you can hit the ground running right away!
You may also want to download my writer's guide!
2. Write for at least 30 minutes each day, no matter what!
I know what you're thinking: "I don't have time to write a book." But if you have time to read this post, it means you spend some part of your day online! And we all know how much time social media can take out of our day. So unplug! And use that extra 30 minutes to work on your book!
3. Stick to the basics
We all love a shiny new laptop, right? But you don't need fancy tools to write a book. In fact, all you need is a notebook and a pen or pencil. This will allow you to focus on your writing, and not get distracted with other online stuff.
4. Find your tribe
Reach out to your friends to see who else may be writing a book during the month of November, and then set up time to meet with them in person to write together. Also, check with your local library to see if they are hosting any NaNoWriMo writing workshops or gatherings during the month of November. Meeting other authors will inspire you to write even more!
5. Celebrate on Nov. 30th!
Whether you write 50,000 words, or 500 words, celebrate what you accomplish during the month of November. Each word you write will be more than you would have written had you not done this challenge, so be proud! Celebrate the finish line!
I used to base my decision on whether I attended an event or not on what kind of chairs they had. I knew which venues splurged on "heavy duty" chairs and which ones spent a few dollars as possible.
I was overweight (I still am, just not AS overweight as I was before), so my weight put more stress on chairs than other people would.
This chair is one I used to cringe at when I had to sit in it. I would attempt to "sit light", thinking that would magically make the chair more sturdy, or make my body lighter. But it never failed: the chair would pop and creak, and cause me to have anxiety about whether or not I may end up on the floor at the end of the night.
But not anymore.
I spent the weekend volunteering at an event and they had the chairs I used to hate. When I first sat down, I did my usual "bird on a wire" routine, balancing myself on the edge of the chair. But then, I realized the chair was not popping. It was not creaking. It was holding my weight just fine. So I dropped my bird routine,
relaxed and sat regularly.
I have released quite a bit of weight since March, and this is the first true Non Scale Victory to report!
Do you have a victory to repoet? Share!
For most of my life I have believed that my seed to plant is the seed of the performing arts. I love to see people exposed to painting, dancing, writing, etc for the first time. Even adults! Their eyes light up and suddenly they are in love with creating.
I have been blessed to witness seeds I have planted grow into something that is so amazing! Some of these folks who have experienced workshops or open mics I have hosted are now teaching others how to write a poem, or hosting their own open mics.
But on a bigger scale, I think I can be doing so much more.
In Mark 4:26-28, Jesus is teaching about how God’s kingdom grows and grows once the seed is planted. I want to be a part of kingdom building too! But how? Where?
I know one thing for sure: I want to have a hand in CHANGING LIVES and changing my part of the world. Either through small group facilitation, public speaking, etc. I know God is preparing me for a role that will suit me just fine. But I also know He is making sure my soil is healthy and thriving so that when He plants it in me, what I scatter to the world will also grow.
Do you have a calling to serve? Maybe you were a young single mother but you were able to build a life for you and your children without falling into 'baby-mama drama.’ Or maybe you were a 'troubled’ teenager but now you’re on your way to earning a college degree. Whatever your seed is, God will prepare you to spread it to others who need to hear it.
Think about how you can serve. Pray about it.
And then make a plan to start spreading the seeds!
And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. Mark 4:26-28
Over 1,000 people were in the room and eyes were on me. At 6 years old, I didn’t care about much beyond what Strawberry Shortcake was up to or what I wanted for my afternoon snack.
But I did know one thing: I loved poetry. I also loved being on stage.
After that Black History Month performance of The Negro Mother by Langston Hughes, I was hooked. I performed every chance I got!
Now I’m a lot older and a lot has changed in my life. I’m a mother. A wife. An employee. An aunt. A best friend. And hundreds of other things. But one thing has remained: I still love poetry and being on stage.
I used to compete in poetry slams and loved the rush I would get when I would win or at least place in the top two or three. But immediately following the slam I would begin to compare myself with other poets. Was I as good as they were?
Did my words flow as smoothly?
Was my stance as confident as theirs?
Even if I was the winner for the night, I still spent a lot of time wondering if I’d ever be a ‘good’ poet, a poet like the ones on Verses and Flow or Def Poetry Jam.
In Galatians 6:4-5 we learn that we are never to compare ourselves with others. No matter what! God made us unique, one of a kind. He didn’t make us to be carbon copies of others. We are called to grow our gifts in order to represent who we are in Christ Jesus. I had it all wrong before, back when I thought my gifts didn’t measure up to the gifts of others. When in reality, I’m the only 'me’ I can be.
Now I accept invitations to perform but it’s no longer about being in the hottest 'poetry spot’ or earning the biggest honorarium (although money is good too!) Instead I put my all into creating and performing what comes from my heart, so that my story and my words can possibly inspire, encourage or maybe even heal another person. I don’t even consider who performs before or after me. All I focus on is ME!
What gifts do you have? Think about it for a moment. Are you a great singer, writer, dancer or painter? Do you like to cook, organize events or visit with others? Whatever your gift is, don’t waste another day without putting it to use. Be the best 'you’ you can be! Don’t worry about how someone else does it, God blessed you with your gift for a reason: to share it with others.
Scripture: Galatians 6:4-5 MSG
Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.
I cook dinner most nights.
After we eat, no matter who cooks, I clean the kitchen.
Some nights I’m tired, and all I want to do is come home and rest. But I am a mother and a wife (both choices I made) and I feel it is my duty to cook dinner (and do the dishes) for my family. I’m old-fashioned that way I guess. Sure, I could insist that my son or my husband cook and clean up after- but I actually don’t mind.
But then there are the OTHER nights.
The nights where my work day stretches well into the evening.
The nights where my ‘people meter’ has been drained to zero and all I want to do is go to bed.
What do I do then? Do I call my personal chef to whip up a four-course meal?
Do I call a maid service to wash the dishes?
Do I throw the dirty dishes against the wall? (Sometimes I DO want to do that!)
No, I stand quietly in prayer, asking God to settle my overwhelmed spirit. Sometimes I even leave the dishes for the next morning, when everything is suddenly new :)
If you are a mother/ wife, do you ask for help from the people who live in your home? What happens when you do? If you’re like me, you probably don’t even ask because when you do, you’re met with moans and groans. Or if they do help, the work is half-done. I don’t have time for that! I’d rather just do it myself.
But by asking God to help with how I am RECEIVING the workload I have ahead of me, I’m able to remain calm without blowing a gasket as I have many times in the past.
We can go to God about anything! We can ask Him for guidance, counseling, healing, strength, you name it! He is the ruler over everything in your life which means he can change anything that is concerning you! No need to waste your breath complaining to friends about how no one helps you, instead go to God and ask Him! He will never leave you feeling overwhelmed, and He will always be there to listen.
All you have to do is ask.
Scripture: Isaiah 30:19 NIV
How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you.
I’m sure you’ve thought it.
Maybe you're going through a rough patch financially, and you don't know how you're going to make ends meet.
Or maybe a close friend is diagnosed with a serious illness.
Or maybe you're watching the news and you see yet another act of violence in our country.
Three words have come to your mind: Where was God?
I used to feel that way too. Until I learned to find the joy on the other side of pain.
That overdue light bill still needs to be paid, but I will praise the fact that I have heat and lights in my home.
My friend being ill may be hard as well, but I can support him during his illness by letting him know I care and I am available.
And that act of violence we have almost grown numb to hearing about? We can use as an opportunity to shine God's light to ALL people.
And why would we think we should live our lives without suffering? Have you thought about how Christ suffered for US? He was beaten and nailed to a cross! But you remember what happened three days later, right? He rose again! And you will too.
Whenever you are experiencing a rough patch in your life, use the excess energy you’d usually be spending on complaining and worrying and instead use it to pray. Come to God with your requests. He is always there, ready to listen! Turn your pity party into a prayer and praise session, and watch how your circumstances and the way you view them begin to change.
Scripture: 1 Peter 4:12-13 MSG
Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.
What did your parents teach you about debt? More specifically, what did they teach you about credit cards, student loans, etc. Was your home an environment of ‘plenty?’ Or were shut-off notices, empty pantries and evictions a common occurance?
If your childhood included times of poverty and 'not-enough’, there is a good chance that you don’t make the best decisions when it comes to money. You probably think "Well, as long as I have a car and a place to live, and as long as I’m able to buy the newest tv/games/purse/shoes then I’m doing pretty good!" But if your mailbox is filled with the pretty pastel notices threatening disconnection, or if your credit cards are maxed out, you are NOT living the life God planned for you.
Spend some time reviewing your bills. Not just your household bills, but also car notes, mortgage statements, student loans, etc. Figure out just how much you owe. Then make a plan to begin an aggressive payback. Don’t just pay the 'minimum’ because if you do that, you’ll take forever to pay everything off.
And not only that, your happiness will be reduced with each and every bill you receive. The higher the balance, the less peace you will feel in your heart.
As you create a new spending plan, be sure to get rid of the extras you find yourself spending lots of cash on. Lunch with friends may have to be put on hold for now, as will your daily store-bought coffee. Instead, invite your friend to bring their lunch and take a walk afterward. Fire up the coffee pot at home and make your coffee every morning instead of hitting up your local coffee spot. And if you have children, begin to lead them along the right path to financial security.
I pray that you will have a productive and peaceful week, and that you are able to be a blessing to someone in need. I also pray that your money worries are reduced and that you are able to feel God’s presence in your life with every step you take this week.
God bless you!
Scripture: Psalm 37:21 NIV
The wicked borrow and do not repay.
I used to be a junk food junkie.
If I had a choice, I would have had cake with every meal and a chocolate rice krispie treat before bed every night.
And for a long time, I did just that. Growing up in upper east Tennessee, I spent many days with my grandmother and I enjoyed her big meals of biscuits and gravy, fried chicken and mashed potatoes, etc. After every dinner we would have a slice of cake. Her covered glass cake plate always had a cake in it.
But one day I woke up and realized just how poorly my diet had become. It started with my first airplane trip in many years, when I had to squeeze my “ample” bottom between two people for a four hour flight. That was my “tipping” point.
Because I live such a busy life, for many years I ignored my weight. My extra pounds never interfered with being an awesome mom, finding a wonderful husband, earning two degrees, writing six books, teaching, or receiving a promotion at work. I still had an active social life, too, with every weekend filled with activities with my friends and family.
But eventually I had to own up to the fact that I am getting older, and excess weight has been the cause of early death for many of my family members including my aunt Ella, my grandfather George and my cousin Eugene.
Once I made up my mind to make a change, I cringed at the thought of going to a gym. And while I love being around people, I couldn’t see myself sitting in a weekly meeting surrounded by strangers talking about my food issues. So instead, I talked to God. I asked Him to give me the strength to make this change, and almost immediately I began to feel empowered to make it happen.
Suddenly, I am in control of my life.
Galations 5:22 teaches us that the fruit of the spirit is not eating whatever we want and abusing our bodies. The fruit of the spirit is self-control. It is having the power to make a change to be healthier for ourselves and our children.
I didn’t need a celebrity in skinny jeans to tell me I have the power to change, my Father stepped in and made me realize I could do it on my own.
Maybe your lack of self-control isn’t food-related at all, maybe you shop a little too much or you lose your temper easily with your children. Whatever your issue is, know that God has already given you the strength to overcome it. All you have to do is admit there is a problem and ask for His help.
As you spend some quiet time with our Father today, what are some of the issues you can ask Him to help you with?
I have been a Justice of the Peace for the past 15 years, and 99% of the weddings I have officiated have taken place in a chapel, a conservatory, a park, or someone's home.
So when "J" asked me to officiate her outdoor wedding, I wasn't concerned. She was one of my favorite coworkers and she was marrying the love of her life! But then she added “it’s on top of a mountain” and my heart dropped. She didn’t know this, but I was afraid.
I had been carrying around extra weight for many years. Usually this isn’t a problem, it doesn’t interfere with my daily activities. I can dance and go walking and do what everyone else does. But hiking is something I hadn’t done since I was a teenager.
During the days leading up to the wedding I was my own worst enemy. Over and over I told myself “you’ll NEVER make it to the top of that mountain.” But I went to God and asked Him to give me the strength and the courage to complete the hike.
But the wedding day came and off we went, making our way through the path as we climbed higher and higher up the mountain. An hour later we were at the top! We had such an amazing view we had as I officiated the wedding in the midst of eagles swooping down to greet the bride and groom.
Once the wedding was complete, I thought about how scared I had been the day before. But then I remembed Philippians 4:13, which says: I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
As soon as I realized how scared I was, I immediately went to God in prayer. And now I don't worry when I face something that may have scared me in the past. Even when my heart races, I do it anyway, asking God to help me along the way.
Are you facing a challenge and you don’t know how you’ll make it through? Have you asked God for help?
The first thing I noticed were the cuts on her knees.
Then I noticed her blackened right eye. It was blood-shot and bruised, and she was holding a ziplog bag filled with ice cubes against her face.
“If I were you, I’d KILL HIM!” her friend said to her. The battered woman just sat there silently.
I minded my business at first, but once her friend stepped away, I couldn't help but to start a conversation with her once her friend left.
As we sat and chatted she began to tell me about how she ended up at this shelter.
“I hated my parents,” she said. “They were really strict, you know? They wouldn’t let me do ANYTHING!”
She left home on her 18th birthday and soon realized life on the outside of her home was anything but easy. Within a few weeks she was living in a shelter.
She’s 19 now.
“How do you earn money? How do you survive?” I asked her.
“Dancing” she said, pointing across the parking lot to a strip club. It was a little after noon but there were plenty of men milling around out front. Her shift began at 3.
After spending most of the day with her, I began to think about the choices she made in her life. Somewhere along the way she lost a part of who she was. She went from being someone’s “baby girl” to someone’s doormat. Stripping was the only way she knew to get by. She told me her faith in God was long gone. “He forgot about me, I guess,” she said. Boy was she wrong!
I didn't want to preach to her, but I couldn’t wait to share Jeremiah 1:5 with her because she needed to know how special she is! She needed to know God formed her in the womb, not because He had to but because He WANTED to! She had a whole life ahead of her, and all she had to do was take the first step toward a change. I didn’t want to come off as one of those pamphlet-distributing Bible thumpers, I just wanted her to know how good God had been to me. Yes, I made (and still make) lots of mistakes, but my connection to God means by His grace alone I can get up every single day knowing I will do my best to serve Him.
When I went back a few weeks later, she wasn’t there. I immediately thought something had happened to her- but her friend told me she had reconnected with her parents and was now back at home. I was overjoyed!
Sometimes we lose sight of who we are and WHOSE we are, and this is when we start the spiral downwards into a life God never meant for us to have. God wants the best for us! He sets the plan in action but it’s up to us to be obedient and follow what He says. If it means we have to tolerate strict parents, a micro-managing boss or a teenager who thinks we know nothing, then so be it. This is the path God chose for us!
If you are struggling with getting back on track with your life, ask God for help! He is always available, all you have to do is ask. You don’t have to spend another moment waiting for things to “turn around”- you can take control right now and make it all right again.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.“
Mama. Wife. Poet. Teacher. Maniac.