People over things.

A page from my private notes.

It took me a while to understand what was happening within myself in response to the horrific event on February 14th.  I had the experience and presence of mind to know that we were all navigating through a collective state of shock in the immediacy of the shooting.  I know some of us still are.  As my true feelings began to permeate the shock, my mind was forced to face the sadness of the finality and reality of what had occurred.  These beautiful souls were no longer here in the flesh for their loved ones to interact with, kiss, hug, touch, watch grow.  Though their spirits will always be here,  family and friends have to adjust to their physical absence.   As much as I knew that in my mind and I experienced the deep sadness that it brought, I knew there was another level of pain waiting for me when my heart and mind would connect and I would truly begin to feel.   The longer it took to connect, the more I knew I was in a funky state of waiting.

Eventually it clicked —my heart and mind were having trouble reconciling this horrific reality, because it never should have happened.  This great loss wasn’t due to a sickness, a natural disaster or an accident (even unexpected).  This was preventable, and I know I am speaking for many when I say that it made it more difficult to accept.  Sure, we were initially met with incomprehensible grief, but there was also a righteous anger that came too, competing for its place in our hearts and minds as we processed this loss.

I have not watched the news.  I typically read the news versus watching anyway.  For the last month, I have purposely protected myself from watching, because I was living the news.  I didn’t need any outside source to tell me what I was watching, experiencing and processing first hand.

But just because I didn’t watch, that didn’t mean I didn’t hear.  I heard of young voices demanding change.  I heard of angry parents publically demanding answers.  I’m glad that they’re using their voices, but I worry about their healing in the midst of it.   They shouldn’t have to choose between fervently putting energy towards their battle for healing and their battle for change — their battle for something like this to never, ever so easily happen again.  It was too easy.  I have a problem with that.  It should never have been that easy.

I had a conversation with my sister a couple weeks ago.  She lives in Massachusetts, is a trauma nurse and knows first hand the destruction the path of a bullet can leave.   She also works as a bereavement counselor for parents who have lost children.  She has taken the losses she has personally experienced and directed that journey of enduring heartache to finding hope and healing into helping others walk through theirs.   While catching up with her, she noted that many of these families are challenged with what she terms as “distracted grief”.  I was immediately marveled by the label that so accurately described what our community was experiencing.  The sudden or any loss of a child is hierarchically the greatest pain experienced in life.  Losing a child and having other things interfere with wrapping one’s mind around that loss, impedes on working towards healing.

A message.

Through my processing, I wondered what would happen if we all took 10 seconds to attempt put ourselves in the place of these parents’ shoes, these wives’ shoes to receive such devastating news.  Even in the greatest contemplative conception of that nightmare, we wouldn’t be able to truly touch the pain they are feeling.  And we would barely be able to bare the heartache our imagination would produce.   If this had been you, would you fight with a righteous vengeance to ensure it didn’t happen again?  Fight for the implementation of increased safety measures — tangible improvements on the ones that failed your son, daughter, spouse?  Through the pain, yes we would choose to live on.  We know deep down our loved ones would want that.   We would not, however, be permitted to forget how their lives changed, how our lives changed, and take action to ensure that they were not lost in vain – we’d fight to find purpose through our pain.  As we seek to heal, please do not forget the horror we felt on that day.  It really could have happened to any one of us.

Some encouragement to our tenacious fighters.

Common sense would tell us that this fight has little to do with an elephant or a donkey.  With so many battles in our country to argue or debate over, we shouldn’t argue or debate over the protection of life at all levels.  People should always matter over things.  It seems foolish to argue over what I get to have versus who gets to live.  That will never be a logical argument to the sane.

I want to encourage the fighters who feel like you are in a war zone fighting for the simplest and most fundamental rights we have – you are not ill-equipped.  Your fight is right and it is just.  Thank you for allowing your youth to remind us of what we lost on our journey to adulthood – fervor, zest, hope in our unified power for change.  There is no argument that can stand against the right to protect your life and win.  I understand and value our historical right for freedom, but there is no good win in a fight for freedom that values things over life.  Our constitution was created and progressively amended to ensure inclusion of rights for all, not for some.  The fight that you are in, has been modeled before you and the resistance that you feel has been overcome before you.  Keep fighting the good fight, you’re on the right side of this and you are not alone.  Your courage is contagious and moves those in the back row further towards the front, as they become empowered by your relentless effort to keep pushing forward and your tenacity in not succumbing to distraction or resistance.

Final thoughts

This battle of the human heart has just begun its restless struggle of wrestling with the convictions we used to so easily pacify with apathy.  My hope is that we are not comfortable with remaining passive and do whatever we are uniquely called to, to fight for what is right.

One week from now, people will gather worldwide with a singular message.  A single agenda.  People matter more than things.  They should have always mattered more than things.  Somewhere along the line we got this out of order and now these kids are leading us back to the place where we got lost, simplifying the direction of our narrative.  We are sorry that we did not fight for the children of Sandy Hook like we are fighting now for our own and those to come.  I implore every reader to fight with conviction as if this had happened to you.  I cannot imagine a household that would stand for inclusion of access to this type of weapon if it had indiscriminately taken the life of your child or spouse.  There will always be sickness and evil in the world.  To say this was a painful wakeup call for all of us is an obvious understatement.  Now we are faced with responding – would you rather fight for evil and sickness to lose ground, or selfishly hold onto your “mine”, ignorantly thinking you will be protected the next time evil indiscriminately strikes?

I’ve been humbled to join the fight begun by others, #neveragain.

 

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Irma’s Gone, but the Keys are still Strong

Today I had the opportunity to come alongside my Rockstar friend Raquel as she continued her work this week as a first responder assessing and meeting the basic needs of the residents of Key West.  Upon entry to the upper keys, the devastation depicted in photos  was now stretched out before me for miles and miles.  This was going to take a long time to rebuild.

The streets were lined with the debris that Irma had dropped like splintered crumbs on her war path.  As I continued the ride down south, I noticed cars parked like a drive-in theatre along the median.  After watching this scene play out several times along US-1, I began to realize these vehicles were intentionally positioned to ride out the storm.  Raquel later informed me that drivers chose higher ground to leave their cars in hopes Irma’s winds would have mercy.

Entry into the lower keys, brought more of what the upper keys forewarned.  Cudjoe and Big Pine Key seemingly suffered some of the hardest blows.

…I could continue share much more about what I saw, but I would rather share what I felt.

Driving in solo, I felt surrounded by a sense of protection, purpose, a drive to take care of this community by the governing bodies who stepped in to secure the islands and prepare for their residents’ return.  From caravans carrying port-o-lets, to telephone and cable companies working overtime to re-establish connections for their customers.  The Florida Highway Patrol, and the surrounding counties’ law enforcement united forces to set up perimeters ensuring safe environments for this work to continue.  The large-scale military presence was comforting to those there for good will and a strong deterrent to those with other plans in mind.

Free water, ice, meals and even tire repair was offered by locals, in addition to what the Red Cross and FEMA provided.

I had the chance to chat with a principal of a private school in Key West.  He shared that 90% of their families had evacuated and now in preparation for their return were asking what they could bring back.  He was hesitant to make requests, knowing these families had yet to see what they were actually returning to.  Still, I love that their desire was to care for the needs of others, before they had the ability to assess their own.  This was the overarching spirit of the Keys.

Florida Keys you have served as a refuge, retreat, a beautiful escape for us for so many years —now it is our time to give back to you.  We will rebuild and we will see an even brighter, stronger community in the months and years to come.  Though the damage is great, the heart of what makes you our favorite getaway still beats strong.

It may take a long time for the Keys to look like it used to, but it will not take that long for it to feel like home again.

September 11th: Destruction can serve as a Distraction or an Opportunity

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Today marks the 16th anniversary of September 11th.  I will always remain grateful for the officers, firefighters, city officials and now utility workers that are out in the streets today working tirelessly to keep us safe in the wake of this storm, as they were 16 years ago.

September 11th.  I remember the conversations I had in the immediacy of the knowledge of the attack.  The fear of the unknown was palatable.  After checking in with family, I called a childhood friend that worked for a Congressman in DC.  A moment of relief washed over me, as I heard his voice answer the call.  He answered,“What happened?!” He had just deboarded a plane.  Together we pieced together the news of what had just occurred.

Even amongst the brave, widespread fear had settled in the hearts of Americans.  I recall a sign posted with red solo cups on a nearby private school for Muslim children.  This was not a declaration of a “DRUG FREE SCHOOL”  or a push for their local “PTA”.   Their sign read, “WE LOVE THE USA”.  This was their white flag declaring we are not them – the extremists, the terrorists

We survived the attacks of September 11th as a nation.  The by-product was a sense of unity during this season, a unity our nation desperately needed at the time.  The enemy lost again.

On this September 11th, we remember the fallen, the brave, the thousands of lives lost 16 years ago and the families that lost them.  Today we begin our own restoration in light of the natural attack we just endured.  In the absence of a personified target to blame – our focus is still on rebuilding and restoration…and formulating a new foundation.


As Floridians we took heed of the destruction this type of danger brought to Houston just weeks prior with Hurricane Harvey.  Although we had been down this road before with Wilma and Andrew and those in between, the dodging that we had been blessed with in recent seasons, did not seem promising this time.  We evacuated out-of-state, to shelters or bunkered down in homes shielded by shutters and hurricane proof glass to ride out the prolonged symphony of rains and the taunting pervasive winds.  Alarms pierced through our homes in the wee hours to prepare us to brace for the strikes.  We prepared for the worst and prayed desperately for the best.

The storm has passed.  Miraculously we made it through, given its true potential.  Our hurricane season is not over though ––it has actually given birth to yet another season of opportunity for bridge building.  Beneath the distractions our world may bring, lays the spirit of humanity.  The spirit that compels us to not just see, but in times like these, earnestly seek those in need and find a way to meet it.  During these times strangers become neighbors, neighbors become friends and friends become family.

Let’s make the most out of this opportunity to give back.  Enroll with your local Red Cross, connect with a food bank or homeless shelter.  Join forces with your local church or synagogue that are collaborating to provide relief to ourselves stateside and to the surrounding islands ravaged by this storm.  Feed a firehouse, police station, bless a utility worker, meet your neighbors :).

I would love to hear your stories of community and connection in the days and weeks to come.  In a time when we sensationalize divide, let’s override the system with stories of humanitarian pride.

Praying safety for you all!

Joycy

 

What a year may bring

Last year around this time I was in great anticipation of my 40th birthday.  I had planned an intimate gathering, but I was excited for life beyond the celebration.  I was excited to live out the mantra that had first entered my mind in my late teens/early twenties, "when I turn 40 I will become a woman".  It was an odd thought I knew, but I knew it to be true.  It was a thought that would continually present itself over the course of the next two decades.

I hadn't deferred my growth leading up to this year, but I will tell you I've known for nearly two decades in my spirit that my life would take a dramatic shift…and it did.

40 was immediately met with the death of my father, which unearthed a hunger for authentic living.

40 brought a little less patience for nonsense, but an unbridled boldness for walking in truth.

40 solidified the importance of planning aggressively for what's to come, while living actively today.

At 40, I reminded myself of the value of doing one thing at a time.  Multi-tasking dilutes performance.

Leading up to 40, I learned to fine tune my ability to drill deep into the singular voice of Discernment over the chaotic volume of the masses.

I moved beyond just trusting my gut, in my personal life, to blindly following my gut.  In turn, I found myself constantly walking in the blessing of doing what discernment called.

At 40, I learned that the overnight changes in my metabolism only created necessary changes in my overall view of health.  From there I found food freedom and it was just that — freeing.

This year I made time to write, to write, to write and to share.

I took the time to send that text, make that phone call, have that coffee, show up for the things that mattered and gave myself a break for not always being available for the things that I could not.

I purposed myself to plan time to rest my mind.  I prioritized decompressing and refueling daily as highly as I did sleep, and I reaped the benefits of renewed energy each morning.

At 40, I sought out new challenges and adventures and chose to do them even if I was afraid.  I intuitively knew each accomplishment was enabling me to achieve higher heights.  I know I am still climbing.  I hope to always be climbing.


My hope is that each of you finds your '40', and purposes yourself to live your best life knowing there is no ceiling that limits you other than the one that you create.  I hope you break through and break down the obstacles that stand in your way — that you not be content with remaining hopeless and muted, knowing there's a world that awaits your participation.  Your participation may just be the game changer the world needs.

Joycy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rainbows, Confederacy and the Cross Part 2

In this two part series on some of the hottest topics dressing the front pages, I addressed the fall of the confederate flag following the slaying of nine African American church members at the hand of a young white male.  You can find that post by clicking here.

Today I seek to address another polarizing topic of discussion – rainbows and the cross, the Christian response to the legalization of gay marriage.

I recall the day that the Supreme Court ruling came down.  It was the same day as the funeral for the slain Senator Clemente Pickney.  Before proceeding to deliver a powerful eulogy, the President sent out a tweet, I imagine to summarize the sentiment behind this ruling: #LOVEWINS.

Rainbows highlighted avatars and profile pics for days across social media from Huffington post, to the White House, to your average citizen in support of the ruling.  It was a colorful week to say the least, as the multicolor symbol of “love” was not exactly embraced by everyone.  Many that stood in opposition spoke loudly on social media, declaring their disagreement with the ruling, citing scripture as their defense.  And what may have previously become a blurry divide, became distinctly clearer that day as the large majority of the voices challenging the ruling were laced in anger and again identified with being Christian.  As previously posted by a fellow blogger, I strongly agree that this message is not the message of love that Christ followers have been instructed to live out:

“12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14.

I have been known to boldly speak the truth in love…in love is the key phrase.  Love does win when it is clearly communicated.  I think the words expressed out of anger from those identifying with being Christian were spoken out of fear.

Fear of what?

Fear of change?

Fear of losing the value of traditional marriages?

Fear of decreasing the number of traditional families?

Newsflash!  That is happening anyway and gay marriage and gay rights are not the cause.  We are.  We are the ones that are representing the traditional marriage, we are the ones that are representing the nuclear family, and we are the ones who are not holding this institution sacred.   And to further our relational demise, we do not make these relationships seem appealing and worth fighting for because we are so quick to dismantle them.  In writing this I hate that there exists statistical validity to this thought that comes to mind: Divorce is a disease that holds no prejudice, not even in the Christian home.

As Christians I would say that there is something to learn from watching the reactions of those who fought and won the legal right to marry.   One does not have to agree with the ruling to note the sad reality that they fought for a blessing we so clearly take for granted.  Even if our marriages do not end up in divorce, they are not representative of the image that was given to us to represent.

“25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…33…each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”  Ephesians 5:25,33, NIV.

Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church —sacrificially; He died for His people and wives respect your husbands.   Does this directive match the image of marriages of today?  Ashamedly not, and that is no fault but our own.  So fellow believers, please save the energy used to speak against gay marriage and turn it inwards towards enhancing our own.   We need to fight to do exactly what Christ called us to do and demonstrate love…first in our homes and to each other and I believe from this overflow, the message of true love will win.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16, NIV

Rainbows, Confederacy and the Cross Pt. 1

Today marks an historic event, nearly one month after the slaying of nine African Americans as they gathered to pray, South Carolina removed the confederate flag from the state capitol grounds.  And I am glad.

I was on vacation in the mountains of North Carolina, when I first heard news of a shooting.  We had traveled from Florida with five other families to disconnect and recharge for a week.  With very little cell coverage, if any where we stayed, we heard bits and pieces of news of a shooting in a church, but knew very little details.  The following depicts our conversation in the early part of our ride home as we became privy to the reality of what had occurred.

“People died in that shooting.”

“What?!  How many?”

“Nine. The shooter intentionally left one alive to relay a message…and he’s still at large.”

There were four passengers in my car, two black, two white.

My son, fourteen years old, removed his headphones to ask, “Can we stop to use the restroom?”

My immediate response was, “NO!”  My eyes had just caught sight of the sign declaring our official entry into Charleston, South Carolina.  IMG_3529 Unfortunately, out of necessity we had to make a stop, but I warned my young backseat travelers that it needed to be quick and why.  I recall the emotional temperature of that gas station distinctly.  Managed by both black and white employees, the vibe was still…sullen, eerily quiet, a stark difference from the culture we’d left behind in North Carolina.   

As we returned to the car and resumed the conversation, I found myself saying immediately to my friend, “This guy is not well.”

In the days that followed I pondered upon how quickly I ran to that conclusion.  As a disclaimer, I would not say this was due to the nature of my profession, but to the natural observance of the capacity of human nature.  I had to make sense of this tragedy quickly and my first response was to find him sick, not full of hate.  Later on I understood that I couldn’t allow my mind to entertain that level of evil, therefore I gave him another label that quickly put the scarier thought to rest — he was sickThat was that.  He couldn’t really have wanted to kill those people who kindly invited him into their prayer group, whose presence he sat in for an hour, who likely showed him God’s love during their last moments on this earth.  NO, he was sick, not hateful.

And that was the delusion that I chose to take comfort in.

Our nation has been on the verge of racial unrest as we are questioning the responses of our men in uniform as black men are dying, in circumstances where their white counterparts are not.  We debate the minute details on social media platforms to determine if fair treatment was given to those held in custody, while raw video footage tells a different story.

A fraternity out of Oklahoma State University is removed from campus and its members expelled after it is revealed they boldly recited a racist chant in unison en route to an event. (CNN OSU).

The attached link shows William Bruce James II, an alumnus of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, visibly burdened as he shares his disappointment to hearing the news of the lack of character demonstrated by the group of men associated with his chapter. CNN – William Bruce James II

Stories like this reinforce the reality that we are in danger of a term I call — ignorant ignorance.  Ignorant, out of innocence because you simply aren’t aware, coupled with ignorance because you speak words you do not care to educate yourself about.

I am believing this is part of the problem.  We may have fast forwarded through the ugliness of segregation and racial inequality so quickly, that we have new generations that are not completely void of racism, yet do not truly understand how far we’ve come because we do not want to talk about it…and potentially admit it still exists.  Racism does and will continue to exist, if we do not continue to take active stances against it.

President Obama’s eulogy of the late Reverend Clementa Pinckney, quoted the state senator saying, “Across the South we have a great appreciation of history — we haven’t always had a great appreciation for each other’s history.”

Today the flag came down and I am glad.  As a child this was a symbol of hatred and something I feared.  As an adult I understood other layers of symbolism behind it, but the undertones still remained.  Let’s not wait for another undeniably hateful tragedy for movement to continue forging in the right direction.  We cannot continue to brush this problem under the rug, we are indebted to those who fought so hard to bring us to where we are today.  Let’s set the fear of “stirring the pot” aside and work together to radically change our future.  We owe it to our past.

This is OUR FAULT, Not Theirs (repost by Caroline H. Hendry)

The decision has been made, the law has been set into motion…and the world is watching.


Now how will you choose to respond?

To all those who are upset with this week’s Supreme Court ruling on Same Sex marriage, I offer you this compelling post from a fellow blogger, Caroline   Please feel free to share your voice and comment below.   My personal thoughts will follow shortly.

Beautiful Life with Cancer

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This article is written to Conservative Christians.  It is written for people that oppose homosexual marriage. All others, come back tomorrow, or read on if you wish, but I am addressing those that are in opposition to the Supreme Court’s decision to make gay marriage the law of the land. If you stop here, I hope to see you tomorrow and I love you.

To: Caroline and Conservative Christians,

If you have a problem with the Supreme Court’s decision to applaud gay marriage, if you disagree with gay flags bombarding Facebook and all other social media, if you see gay marches and shake your head, THIS IS YOUR FAULT!

Do not quote Bible verses, do not shout at them that they are sinning, do not cry that it is their fault that our morals are headed for destruction, do not yell that every TV show has its symbolic gay couple…

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