Life Happens

From the Heart of Grace Waters…


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No Apologies

I remember a time when it was normal for me to harp on my low moments. It was how I shaped my existence and how I determined whether I was coming or going. I never thought that glorifying the negative would be how I functioned, but doing so became a place of comfort and familiarity for me. It was easier, in those moments, to accept what was rather than believe that there was better. So, instead of hoping, I succumbed to the cycle of low moments, defeat, doubt, and fear.

It wasn’t until I began to realize that it is not just the low moments that define who we are. Yes, those moments can change the periphery of our lives, but it is also those moments that take our breath away and bring us joy which change our lives. For a long time, I was focused on negative, so when good things came, I often hid them or tried to downplay them. I went to the other extreme of “hiding my good fortune” because I didn’t want others to think I was rubbing it in their faces. I wanted to still be accepted and not seen as “better than.” But, then I thought about the years of negativity, and the times when it was my daily struggle getting past certain things, and my mindset shifted.

No longer would I hide the blessings coming my way, and no, I wouldn’t be arrogant about it; however, I know that my blessings can indeed encourage someone else. No longer will I apologize for the highlights in my life. I dwelled on the low moments, so it’s time to focus on something else.

Too often, we are so concerned with how others will see us when we talk about the good things in our lives, but just as we harp on the negative, we also have to talk about the good. Never apologize for blessings. Every single one is another one to be thankful for.

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Enough

We all have feelings of inadequacy…that overwhelming feeling that we’re not good enough. Many of us have spent years of our lives trying to prove to others that we matter, and daring anyone else to call our bluff. In our quest to prove our worth, sometimes we have sought validation from those who really don’t matter and we have pushed away those who do. This never-ending quest to prove ourselves usually only ends in disappointment, and that disappointment is not so much with others as it is with ourselves. At one point we should have realized within ourselves that no matter our shortcomings, we are still more…

For years, in one way or another, I struggled with my feelings of just not being enough…in friendships, with family, in my marriage, on my job…and the list goes on. Now, there have been people who have told me and intimated their belief in my inadequacy, but much of my struggle was about me; however, there comes a point when regardless of the things about you which are still a work in progress, you can look at yourself and say, “I am still enough.” Maybe I am not everything “they” want me to be. Maybe I am not the image of whom even I thought I would be at this point in my life, but “I am enough.” Tell that negativity party going on in your mind that the party is over. There is another part of your story waiting to be written. You are enough.


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What Kind of World Is This?

I had an interesting experience recently, and it made me really start considering the world we live in. Now, I am not in the least bit naive, nor do I walk around with rose-colored glasses believing that “everything is awesome;” however, I tend to believe the best in a situation as much as possible. Recently though, my optimistic nature took a crushing blow as I had to consider some unfortunate realities. Now, what I say in this post is not to be inflammatory or place blame on anyone. It is, however, the reality I had to face. Unfortunately, I had a death in the family and had to make plans to travel with my family for the home going service (funeral). Of course, with a new baby there are many things to consider. What I did not expect to have to consider is the safety of my family just because of the color of our skin.

As I began to plan the route and hotel stays, etc, I found myself googling “safe cities to stop in for black people,” and considering when to travel in an effort not to be on long stretches of highway at night. I started thinking about how to stay under the radar as to not draw the attention of police or anyone looking to cause trouble. It is not that we would be doing anything wrong or even going where we were not supposed to. I was considering our world’s climate. I vacillated back and forth, knowing that not all cops are bad and all people are not driven by hatred based on the color of someone’s skin; however, the fact that I even had to consider our safety JUST BECAUSE of the color of our skin hurt my heart.

I know racism and hatred have been a part of our society for years, but the blatant issues of the last few years have constantly drained me. When did it become acceptable to hate someone and show that hatred because of the color of their skin, nationality, sexual preference, gender, etc? Just because I don’t agree or have differing opinions regarding something should not give me a right to act inappropriately towards another. What happened to love, to giving people a chance, to being better than our base instincts? What would happen if we chose love?

How unfortunate it is that people have to consider their safety because of their difference, and that being able to live is seen as a privilege, not a right. What happened to our world? As I type this, my heart bleeds for those feeling marginalized, oppressed, disregarded, and unnecessary…for those who silently wonder if the person next to them secretly hates them…for those who just want to enjoy life but are constantly on edge. My heart hurts for you.

So, my experience of planning our trip brought up some deep feelings I did not realize were present to that extent. This makes me know that there are many people struggling with their own feelings. It may not be about race. It could be about gender, or sexual orientation, or age…either way, people are struggling, so when do we decide to change our world?

Maybe what starts in the mind and heart can transition to action…just maybe…


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Fruitful Barrenness

I remember it like it was just yesterday…”you have PCOS…” Then, I remember as the doctor’s, year-after-year, told me that I would need medications to regulate everything. As time went on, doctor’s begin to talk about infertility. I watched them make faces each time they asked about birth control and I denied using any. They asked about how long I had been married, and they made more faces. I saw it in their faces before they told me it would be highly unlikely that I would be able to have children due to my condition. Then, my last doctor stopped returning my calls, letting me know there was nothing else she could do unless I opted for an experimental surgery that could possibly help. So, there I was, at the end of the line, or so I thought.

But during the journey, despite the heartache and struggles, in spite of watching so many others get what I so desperately desired, I was planting seeds. I encouraged others. I pushed others to believe. I wiped others’ tears. In the back of my mind I knew that even in my heartache, others still needed me to be who God created me to be. Slowly, I began to see the fruits of my labor. I saw people at the moment they chose to keep believing. I watched as others saw their dreams realized, and I rejoiced. Aching inside, I celebrated the fact that while my body appeared to barren, my spirit was alive and well. It was a daily battle, but one I chose not to lose.

Just as I remember the doctor’s telling me about the blemish in me, I remember the day I started feeling a bit “strange.” It was an uncanny feeling, and I took a pregnancy test more to rule out the possibility than to affirm it. To my surprise, what I had almost given up on had become a reality. Three more tests later, I finally believed. My body had rejected what the doctor’s told me.

Ten years later, I am finally seeing what was becoming a distant hope. This was a reaffirming moment, a necessary moment.

So, today I come to encourage you. Maybe you have some things you are believing will come to pass. Maybe the naysayers are more rampant than the encouragers. Keep believing even if the belief shrinks to just a glow in the corner of your heart. In the waiting season, sow into others. Be to others what you sometimes need people to be to you. In your barren place, be fruitful. Let your spirit flourish in the midst of. This is not the end.


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Tangled Up

I was minding my business when a colleague approached me asking for a favor. I used to automatically respond, “Sure, what do you need?” Not anymore. I have gotten myself into some sticky situations by automatically agreeing. 🙂 So, as I waited for her to tell me what she wanted, she held up a tangled necklace and asked if I could fix it. Now, staring at the mess in front of me, I wondered how in the world she thought I could fix it, but she had faith in me that I could. So, I watched myself (kind of an out-of body experience) reach out my hand to accept this jumbled mess. I told her I would get to it in a bit, but as I stared at the mess before me on my desk, I could not resist at least trying to get it right. The going was intense. Every time I thought I had fixed the mess, another tangle seemed to appear out of nowhere. At some point, I felt myself getting frustrated and almost deciding that it was not worth trying, but I kept going. When I heard myself in my head giving myself a pep talk, “Slow down. You’re going to get it. Just one loop at a time.” the chore became more of a puzzle. I love puzzles, so that worked for me. Finally, I got to the last knot, and I began to hurry because the suspense was almost over, but then it seems the necklace got more tangled. So, I remembered my advice to myself and I slowed down. After what seemed like forever, I finished untangling the mess, and came out with a beautiful necklace. Now, I am patting myself on the back for a job well done.

As I untangled the necklace, I thought about how life happens, and sometimes the decisions we make or the decisions others make regarding us leave us in a bind. We get tangled up and frustrated, and many times it may seem that we will never be able to straighten out the knots and twists that life has brought to us. But, just like the necklace took time and patience to untangle, so do our lives. The great thing about life is that things can always get back to “normal”, but it is the twists and turns that make it a bit more interesting. Even when our lives get jumbled up, there is always an opportunity for us to get ourselves together. Just as I had to help my colleague, sometimes, we have to help others untangle their lives. Even if it is left to us to fix the “mess” of our lives, we have to remember that some messes can’t be fixed immediately, but they take time, patience, and some setbacks. The blessing is that when we work to fix it, we appreciate the finished work.

Maybe your life has seemed like that necklace. A mess.  Tangled up. Confused. Maybe it seems impossible to fix. But, I challenge you to take it one “knot” at a time. Keep working at it. Don’t give up when things seem to get more difficult. Just keep in mind the image of what you want your life to be, and work towards that goal. After all, we are all “a mess”, but we don’t have to stay that way.


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My Truth

I am socially awkward. I am that one who CAN talk to everyone in the room, but probably won’t. The wallflower that is vibrant and vivacious, but would rather stay to myself. That one who loves everyone, but still gravitates to seeking my own company. I used to wonder why God gave me the personality He did. Why did he make me quiet and observant as opposed to outgoing and the life of the party? Why couldn’t he make me to be the one with a whole lot of friends and associates, rather than the one with very few friends and even fewer associates? I have watched those who seem to be well-liked by everyone, and I wondered about their secret. Then I tried to mimic who they were, but it made me feel fake and out of pocket. Eventually, I came to realize that the me the way God created me to be would have to do.

If you think about it, all of us having the same personalities would make for a very bland world. No differences. Same way of doing things. There is a place in society for all of us. For the quintessential wallflower, the gregarious life of the party, the easygoing in-the-moment participant…all of us. Now, I know that our lives sometimes shape who we are. Looking back at my childhood, my experiences shaped me to be unnaturally suspicious of anyone I encounter. Trusting someone is not always first on my list. Then as I grew older, my own mistakes led me into hiding. I used to think, “What if they knew all the things I have done. The wrong I have done to others…THAT mistake? Would they still think I had value?” But that is a mindset that has to be broken. Our lives lead to us portraying ourselves in certain ways, then we project that on others and stop being true to ourselves. I decided I would live my truth.

So now, when I say I am a wallflower, it is not out of fear of what people think about me. It is because I have learned to speak when I have something to say. But, I am the one in the gathering who will most likely be off to myself. Not antisocial. Not standoffish. Just comfortable in who I am. It took years to get here, but it has been worth the journey. Spend time getting to know yourself, and being comfortable with who you are. Your experiences shaped you, but they don’t define the rest of your story.


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Dream Killer

“Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?”

This is one of my favorite short poems by one of my favorite writers, Langston Hughes. It says so much in such a succinct way. Every time I read it, it challenges me to think about my dreams, and consider what has happened to them. Have I let them dry up or fester? Are my dreams rotting or sagging, or are they on the verge of exploding? Have I stopped believing?

It’s easy to stop believing. When life comes at you from every angle…heartache and pain…friends and family walking away…emotional anguish…feeling unsupported and unseen…loss of loved ones…it can seem that your dreams move further and further away until they are gathering dust on the top shelf of the deepest crevices of your heart. I have felt the pain of dreams seeming to dry up. One moment things seemed to be going in the right direction, but then it seemed like out of nowhere, nothing was working. Whatever I tried failed. No one could really understand when I talked to them about it. I was on the proverbial island all alone with my thoughts, and my thoughts were not the best companion. I saw before me the vast horizon in which I had cast much of my hopes on this particular dream, and then I saw myself almost being catapulted in the opposite direction of my dream. Then I saw how repeated failures and attempts, and repeated frustration brought me to the verge of calling it quits. To that point where you say, “I just don’t care”, and you throw in the towel. I started trying to convince myself that my life would be so much simpler if I just decided to give up on that particular dream. I would have more time, more freedom, less stress, less people watching, and I could get back to my life before I decided to believe. Oh, how simple it all seemed BEFORE this dream. So, that was almost the end.

But then I remembered the purpose placed on the dream. My dream was not to benefit just me, but to influence and change the lives of those connected to me. I had to throw some “water” on that dream and give it life. So, as much as I did not want to, I decided to breathe into the dream again. Now, things have not turned all the way around. Some days, I long for the more “simple” times, but I know there is a mission to tackle. Someone is waiting on me to walk into my dream world so they can know that it is possible. It is possible. Living in dreamland IS possible. Maybe you are like I was right now. You have watched as your dreams have seemed to shrink or turn to dust. You have tried everything you know how to get them to breathe again, but it seems that maybe you should give up on this dream. Don’t. If it was placed in you to believe in, then keep standing on it. Dust it off and try it all again. Some things don’t work right away, but we have to believe that they will. We have invested too much to let our dreams explode, so what do you need to do today to revive that dream? Get to it.