I Opened My Eyes and Saw You

I have many titles/roles in my life:  wife, sister, daughter, friend, “boss,” employee, etc. etc.  One of the most rewarding roles and titles I have is that of simply “Mommy.”  There are so many things rolled into that.  You are parent, disciplinarian, confidant, friend, protector and so many more things to your children.  My role is particularly special, because I am really 2nd Mommy.  My girls I love as my own, though I did not birth them and do not see them every single day. But every summer, I get to spend extra time with them, and that is very special to me.

For the past two weeks, our youngest, Miss Lady, has been with us.  It’s been hectic:  balancing camp drop off and pick up schedules with work and after-work responsibilities; ensuring dinner was ready at a decent hour and creating some semblance of a schedule so things weren’t chaotic in the mornings.  Whew, I’m exhausted thinking about it.  Even so, this summer was probably one of my favorites with Miss Lady.

About a month or so ago, I started a new bedtime routine with Miss Lady.  I would say her prayers with her (well, listen while she said her prayers), tuck her in, and then she and I would just talk for about 10-15 minutes.  Nothing major, I always ask the same questions:  “What was your favorite part of today?  What was your least favorite part of the day? What are you looking forward to tomorrow?”  At first, she would answer the questions then I would kiss her goodnight and that would be that.  It was a nice way to wind down the day and she would go right off to sleep.  It set the stage for a restful night’s sleep.  Then, over the past two weeks, something cool happened.

Our bedtime routine evolved from being questions I asked to her asking me bunches of questions and just being a conversation between mother and daughter.  Miss Lady started asking about my day, and some of my life experiences.  And I began to see the world through her eyes.  She wonders what college will be like, and will she be ready for college.  She is curious what our house is like when she isn’t there, what kinds of things Daddy and I do when she isn’t there, and is it boring or fun?  She cares deeply about family, and whether people are happy or sad, tired or work too hard.  She reminds me of me, because when I am working late, she always says “Don’t work too hard, Mommy.”  Those are words I’ve spoken many times to both my mom and dad, and I know that they are genuine and heartfelt.

When it was time for Miss Lady to go back to her mom and stepdad, I was a little sad. And on Sunday, when I was leaving for church, I felt like something was missing.  I didn’t have to fight to wake her up and get her going, or make sure she’d put on lotion and lip gloss (she is a very girly little girl).  And while those things can be draining to any parent, I missed them.  I miss that little voice in the house, her huge smile and giant hugs; the joy and laughter that she brings into our home and family.

Parenting is both enjoyable and draining.  But there are few things more rewarding than being a parent.  I’m thankful for my girls, and for the opportunity to spend some time with my baby girl the past couple of weeks.  She turns 8 tomorrow, and it’s a little bittersweet.  No more car seat (under VA laws), which means she’s really a big girl now.  But she’ll always be my baby girl, and I’ll always be her Mommy.  And I am grateful for those special moments we share, when everything slows down, and it’s just the two of us, talking and learning.  It is in those moments that I see Miss Lady and the young lady she is growing into, and I am grateful and proud that God blessed me with the privilege of knowing and raising her.

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Reflections of Another Year

November 21, 2011

10:15 pm

As I sit here, the last hours of my 33rd year on this Earth are winding down.  2 hours from now will mark the moment that my mother began going into labor with me, and 5 hours and 35 minutes from now will mark the exact time that I was born.  Yes, I know the time, and it will be the exact day, too, Tuesday, November 22, 1977 at 3:50 am, a star was born.  That’s what my birth announcement says, I didn’t make that up!  Alas, I digress.

When I turned 33, I had a moment; an epiphany, if you would.  I thought to myself, “When Jesus was 33, He had fulfilled His purpose on this Earth and was crucified on the cross for our sins.  What in the world am I doing with my life?”  It’s not that I felt I’d wasted 32 years of my life.  In fact, I feel like I am on a continual path to fully understand and discover my purpose.  As part of that journey, I’ve had some hiccups and some moments where I wavered, but I was never too far from the path that God ordained from before I was ever even born.  The thought, though, was more about pushing myself to the next level.  So, I embarked on that journey this year.

Welcome to my world of reflection.  Here’s what I am proud of from this past year:

  • Do What You Say You Will Do.  I started my husband’s annual 120 Day Challenge, and am well on my way to completing it; on time.  The 120 Day Challenge is reading the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, in 120 days.  I got behind several times, and am currently behind, but I have a plan to finish on time, and am actually ahead of that plan.  So on November 30th, I’ll be done.  At the beginning of the challenge, I purposed that I would finish on time, and I am doing just that.
  • Be Disciplined.  Okay, this hasn’t been my best year for discipline, but I’ve made my way down a path to doing so.  As you’ll recall from some previous posts, I had to let go of some activities in my life so I could take care of basics.  I had to shift my schedule around so I could work some things out.  And I’ve done that.  I have a regular workout routine (with makeup sessions when I need them), I have a schedule for cleaning the house that I generally stick to.  I feel like I’m finally getting into a groove, even if it did take most of the year to get there.
  • Give of Yourself.  I’m hard.  I’m hard on me, I’m hard on others.  I’m even hard on my kids.  But I am aware of it, so I work on it.  This year, I especially gave more to my youngest daughter, who I am the hardest on.  That has played out in our relationship.  Over the year, I’ve gone from being “Rasheeda” (the step-mommy) to “Momma” (because she’s determined she has two mommies, her mom whom she sees most days and who  loves her dearly, and her “other” mom who loves her dearly as well).  You have to understand that, as a step-parent, having one of your inherited children choose, on their own, to call you Mom or Momma is one of the most precious, giving and rewarding feelings you can ever have.  So, as I’ve given her more of me, just hanging out, having fun, learning about each other, I’ve gotten so much more, though I expected nothing.  And that has been worth it’s weight in gold.
  • Discover Yourself.  I’m always on a journey of self discovery.  This year has been no different.  I’ve had the privilege of participating in a coaching program that has allowed me to learn more about my work self and my personal self.  Through what I’ve learned in that program, I’ve defined more what my goals, plans, and steps to get there are.  It has made me more sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and I believe I am truly on the path God has set out for me.  I am walking this life out.
  • Enjoy the Moments.  I’m a planner by nature.  I plan the route I’m going to take when I take errands, working to maximize the number of right turns I make (YES, I do that).  My husband, by contrast, is a “go with the flow” type of guy.  He likes to take things as they happen, which often makes me batty.  But I’ve been learning to go with the flow.  Okay, let’s just chill.  Yes, it’s okay that we don’t have plans.  Let’s just enjoy the company of who’s around us or enjoy the peaceful solitude.  You don’t always have to be going somewhere or doing something.

Thirty-three has been good to me. I am excited about 34, and know it will be even better.  I’m not intimidated that I’m entering the mid-thirties.  After all, you’re only as old as you act and, well, in that case, I’m really 14.  So I thank God for this year, and I thank Him for every moment that I will get to live out my purpose on this earth.  I pray that I used every moment well and, where I missed it, let me not repeat the mistake twice.

Happy Birthday, Rasheeda Niambi!

A Parent’s Love

Momma!!!!!  Momma!!!!!  I had a bad dream!!!!

My husband and I were jolted awake Saturday morning around 5:00 am.  Our 7-year-old, “Miss Lady,” had come into our room crying uncontrollably and yelling for me.  I was so exhausted I could barely open my eyes, and sat up a little and motioned for her to come over. She came straight into my arms and I pulled her up and hugged her.  Her breath was heavy and jerky, you know, the kind of breathing you have when you can’t stop crying and you’re a bit hysterical.

I finally found my voice and just rubbed her back and kept saying, “It’s okay, baby.  It was just a dream.  Everything is okay.”  I could feel her breathing ease back to normal, and within a few minutes, she was calm again and just laying on me. Soon, we walked back to her room and I prayed with her and helped her get back to sleep.  I laid in the bed with her until I heard her snoring and was assured she was sound asleep, and then went back to my own bed.

For the past few days, I’ve been thinking about that experience.  This was the first time Miss Lady has had a nightmare and asked for me.  She usually asks for Daddy (she is a Daddy’s girl).  But that’s not what has stuck with me.  What has stuck with me was the panic that was in her voice, and in her breathing, and how, as quickly as it woke me, it was soothed by simply being in the arms of her “Momma,” who she knows loves her and will protect her always.

Our children look to us to protect them. They look to us to keep them safe, and to always make sure we look out for them.  When things go wrong, they look to us for comfort.  Our job is to love them always, to teach them and to protect them.  And once they are sure that we are going to do our job, their worlds are better by simply the presence of Mom or Dad.

It made me think about that day we found out our son passed.  My husband obliged my request to go to my parents’ house, and in their arms I felt some comfort, but it wasn’t quite enough.  Not because my parents didn’t love me enough, but because this was something that, even with all the love they had for me and pain they were experiencing at the time, they weren’t the parents I needed to take away the pain.  I had to turn to my first Father, my heavenly Father.  And that night, as I lay in my bed, wrapped in the arms of His love and His peace, my panicked breathing slowly eased and became a calm in the midst of a raging storm.

So often, we run away from the place that can give us comfort.  But, as Miss Lady has reminded me, we need to run to the place of comfort, because it is there that we will find the peace and healing that we need…quickly.  So in times of trouble, I encourage you, run to the arms of the Father, not away from them. Because His love will always ease your pain, hurt and panic.

A Change is Gonna Come

About a year and a half ago, I bought some wall decals for my youngest daughter’s room (Miss Lady).  She was five at the time, and very into the Disney Princesses and Tinkerbell.  So one day, while strolling through Target, I saw both Fairy wall decals and Princess wall decals on sale, and picked them up.  The next time she came over for her weekend with us, I showed her the decals and she selected the fairies to put on the wall.

You have to understand, Miss Lady is a girl’s girl.  She loves pink, princesses, dresses and dolls.  Her room is “Bunny Nose Pink” (gotta love those fancy paint color names), and, while she has it setup with all her toys and photos, it was missing that special touch that told us all it was her room.  Clearly the pink wasn’t enough of a statement for me.  When she saw the wall decals, she was elated and immediately selected the Disney fairy decals.  There were like 50 stickers in this packet (I should’ve read it more carefully), some small, some large.  We literally spent an hour placing each and every sticker, no matter how big or small, around her room.  Admittedly, when it was done, it was just what she needed to complete the look of her room.  She thought it was, “Awesome!”

Now, Miss Lady turned 7 last month (I know, she’s growing up before my very eyes).  I’ve been trying for the past few months to get her to take down the fairy decals and put up the princesses.  But whenever I asked (and I didn’t ask very often), she would say, “No, I’m not ready yet, Momma.  Maybe when I’m 8.”  So I let it go.  The last time I asked was in May after we returned from Disney.  After all that time with the Princesses, I just knew she would be ready for the fairy decals to come down.  But, no, she wanted to wait until she was 8.

Understand, I didn’t ask about the decals because I was tired of looking at them.  That really is her room and her space, so, unless she is there, I don’t spend much time in her room (our girls don’t live with us, for those who are looking confused right now).  But I knew that she had outgrown the fairies and moved on to the next thing, as evidenced in the things she chose to play with and liked to do.  So I wanted to support that in her living environment as well.  Growth is good.  At the same time, you have to know when to use a gentle nudge, and when to step back.  So after I nudged, I stepped back.  And a funny thing happened.

I was coming out of my bedroom on Saturday, and was met at the door by Miss Lady.  “Momma,” she said to me, with that look that told me she wanted something.  “Miss Lady,” was my reply.  “Momma, I want to take down my fairies and put up my princess stickers.”  I smiled to her and said, “But I thought you wanted to wait until you were 8.”  “Yes, but I changed my mind.  I’m ready now.”  I just smiled and said okay, and off we went to her room to work on our new project:  taking down the old stickers and putting up the new ones.

An hour later, all of our work was done (and the paint on the walls remained perfectly in tact . .. those decals are GREAT!).  As I walked out of Miss Lady’s room, I looked back at her.  She was staring at the walls and spinning and laughing, which is what she does when she’s REALLY happy. The next day, I asked Miss Lady about her “new” room, and if she liked it.  Her response?  “I love it, it’s awesome, but I kinda miss my old stickers too.”

I thought about the process of her changing her mind about the stickers.   I gave her a gentle nudge, but didn’t push hard when she felt she wasn’t ready.  And yet, she was ready, which I knew all along, and when she finally realized it, the change was made.   But even after the change was made, she still missed, just a little bit, what she’d left behind.  How often does God, through the Holy Spirit, give us a gentle nudge to make a change or adjustment?  And how often do we push back on it, feeling that we’re not quite ready, even though we know inherently that He knows all and is doing what is best for us.  But eventually, God works on our hearts, and we walk the path we’re supposed to be on.  And even then, we may look back longingly at the past, but we must realize that the past is behind us, and we have to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling (Philippians 3:14).

What lies ahead of you?  Has God been speaking to you about doing something that makes you nervous or apprehensive; feeling that you aren’t quite ready?  Why are you waiting?  Just as parents do with their children, He knows best, and we must trust God and walk the path that He has set before us.  So step out of your comfort zone, there are better things ahead of you.

Live Your Life

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I took a sabbatical from Facebook (“fb”) because I felt like it was becoming a time suck.  Too much time spent on social networks, not enough time spent on other things that are important to me.  I rejoined the world of  fb earlier this week, but haven’t really been on there much.  Why?  Because my sabbatical taught me a few things.

First, you have to live your life, not tweet or fb about it.  I joined fb to reconnect with friends and family who are scattered literally throughout the world.  It helps me stay in touch with them without feeling like I’ve missed a beat.  Through fb, I’ve become closer with some of my cousins, who I used to only see every other year at family reunions.  I’ve reconnected with childhood friends, and have even met new family members.  It’s become a platform for my husband’s book and for this blog.  it is a great way to connect.  What it is not, though, is a way to live life.  How can you kick it with your friends and really enjoy the time if you’re constantly on your phone tweeting, updating fb statuses and commenting or re-tweeting?  And no, I’m not pointing fingers at you (but if the shoe fits, wear it).  I’ve been guilty of the same thing.  Which is why I’m writing about it.

Second, who cares what time you went to bed or woke up?  I mean, really?  Does EVERYTHING need to be tweeted?  Do you realize that social networks have become a recruiting tool for companies?  So do you really want everyone to know that the Thai food you ate last night didn’t agree with you?  Or that, in a moment of frustration, you said some rude things about your boss or your job?

Finally, who you are in social networks has quickly become the definition of who you are as a person.  And we all know people who are one way online and are nothing like that in real life.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen tweets of, “People need to remember that some of your followers know you in real life.”  That person that brags on how much “swagger” they have (can we retire that term, by the way), really has none.  People that have things don’t brag about them.  I’m just saying.  Your FB and Twitter profiles are your brand.  So what does your brand say about you?  If you were to read your status updates as someone who didn’t know you well, what conclusions would you draw about yourself?  Sure, we shouldn’t care about what others think of us.  But there’s one flaw in that:  we live in a world where first impressions are often lasting.  And in this digital age, the first impression can often come online.

I was out of the country last week in Ireland.  It made it difficult to update people, and frankly, I didn’t want to.  I didn’t want anyone to know that I was out of the country, they had no reason to know where I was or what I was doing.  Those who needed to know, knew.  When I got back, I hung out in DC at the Nation’s Classic game between Howard and Morehouse.  It was like a mini-homecoming for me.  Yes, I tweeted, but largely because it helped me connect with folks that I went to college with who were at the game.  If you look at Saturday’s timeline, it’s filled with random questions like:  “Where are you?” “Where’d you park?” “What time are we meeting up?”  But I lived, I laughed, I had fun.  I even managed to take a few pictures.

Social networking is cool and fun.  It helps bridge gaps and reconnect people.  But don’t be fooled.  It can’t be a substitute for life.  So please, live your life, don’t just tweet (or fb) about it.

Train Up a Child

 

Growing up, whenever my brother or I would get in trouble (usually him), Daddy would sit us down and go over his 3 rules.  I always remembered 2 of the 3; that third rule would elude me every time, which just irritated my dad.  The three rules were simple:

  1. Don’t lie to me.
  2. Don’t play games.
  3. Be responsible

That “Be responsible” rule and I just didn’t like each other.  I couldn’t remember it at all, and never really got the whole thing.  At least, not until I got older.  Now, as an adult, I find myself reciting Daddy’s 3 rules.  Funny thing is, I don’t recite them to my children very often.  I recite them at work.  They’re pretty basic guidelines for any interaction.  “Don’t lie to me.”  It shows a lack of integrity and character, and tells me that you can’t be trusted.  “Don’t play games.” Nobody has time for foolishness.  Be straight with me, and I’ll be straight with you.  In my opinion, playing games puts you on the borderline of lying to me, and puts you in the category of someone I have to watch, because playing games puts you too close to lying.  “Be responsible.”  Do what you say you’re going to do.  If you can’t, acknowledge it, own up to your mistakes.  Man (or woman) up.

I’m sure there were points in my childhood that my dad wondered if I understood the three rules.  I mean, outside of the times in trouble and the subsequent lectures and spankings, I don’t remember hearing the rules all of the time.  And considering I had a hard time remembering “Be responsible,” I wouldn’t blame him for wondering if I was “getting it.”  Yet, here I am, at 33, not only remembering the 3 rules, but reciting them and applying them in my own life.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Proverbs 22:6.  Whether you are a Christian or not, Bible reader or not, you’ve heard this scripture.  Our job as parents is to teach and train our children.  Sometimes, we question whether they get it.  And yet, you have to trust that they do, either then or later on.  And at some point in the future, be it tomorrow, next week, next month or next decade, they will go right back to the foundation that we give them.  The question is, “WHAT are you training your child?”  Are you training them to be responsible adults contributing to the world around them, or are you training them to be manipulative?  Are you teaching them according to the Word of God, or are you teaching them to rebel against the Word?  What you teach them today will be seen again in the future.  let’s make sure they can return to those teachings and use them to make themselves and those around them better.

My dad taught me the 3 rules, among many other things.  They remind me to walk with integrity, to have good character, and give me a baseline with which to interact with others.  I share them with friends, with co-workers, and even my direct reports, so they understand my basic needs and expectations.  The 3 rules, which I learned 20+ years ago, continue to carry me, and I am thankful for the foundation my Daddy gave me, as it has helped me grow into a woman of integrity and character.  I pray that, as we continue to instill lessons into our girls, my husband and I pay it forward to them.

The Lights Went Out

It was Saturday, August 27, 2011.  The power had been flickering off and on for a few hours, and I was desperately trying to finish the laundry and heat up the baked spaghetti I’d frozen the week before.  The wind was blowing, the rain was strong, and trees were coming out of the woods behind our home and landing in our backyard.  No, this isn’t the intro to a novel I’m writing.  This is what happened to us this past Saturday, thanks to a hurricane named Irene.  So now, 5 days later, we are still without power.  We have a generator someone loaned us, which is helping salvage our food.  We also have amazing neighbors who have come together to look out for one another, salvage food, and grill together :-).  The neighborhood that grills together stays together?  Perhaps.  I know I wouldn’t trade my neighbors for anything.

But, I digress, there are a  million and one thoughts flowing through my mind now, and they aren’t really all coming together.  I intended to post that we are without power so there won’t be a full blog post today.  But then, I read a blog that touched me, brought tears to my eyes, really, and I wanted to share it with you.

So, in lieu of my personal writing today, I ask you to go read this AMAZING and INSPIRING blog post from fellow blogger and friend, Venus Bolton.  It is called, “God’s Abundance,” and, if you’ve been following the posts and stories about their daughter, Mireya, you won’t want to miss this update. 

Have a great week, and be safe!  If you are still without power in the Richmond, VA area, or know those who are, Faith & Family Church (7900 Walmsley Blvd, Richmond) will be giving out lunches at 12:00 noon today (Wednesday, August 31, 2011). 

Oh, and before I forget, I want to acknowledge my Baby Girl, who turned 7 yesterday!  She’s a big girl, and I’m so proud of her!  Happy birthday, sweetie, Momma loves you so much!

 

 

Author’s Note:  The picture featured in this week’s post is a real image of trees lying behind our house.  It has not been altered in any way.