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.

 

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

 

Don’t compare yourself to the devil to make yourself look good!

Before I dive into unpacking this phrase with you guys, I am inclined to remind you that you are about to get the “Unplugged Joycy” – direct, unfiltered and to the point.  For those that know me in person, this would consist of a calm, eyes-locked-in, admittedly intense demeanor as I deliver this phrase, “Do not compare yourself to the devil to make yourself look good!”  I’m getting fired up even writing this!

What do I mean?  I find that we can easily short change ourselves by comparing ourselves to mediocrity in order to boost our self-image.  We don’t ever hear the phrase, “Aim low!” So why would we entertain a thought that allows us to compare ourselves with mediocrity to make ourselves feel good.  Be honest!  Assess yourself!  Identify your strengths and your weaknesses.  Set your goals, make a plan, give yourself grace when you mess up, but KEEP MOVING!  Be the best you that you can be and you will be surprised at what you can achieve.  You know your gifts, you know your talents, you know what you are naturally drawn to — develop those and see where that leads.  Do not fear the unknown.  Today was unknown until you got here and you survived it!

Often times when we are fearful of stepping into the places where opportunity has been created.  We create excuses to rationalize and justify our stagnancy.  BUT please know you are only holding yourself back from the best of wherever and whatever God has for  you…i.e…if God has called you to the mountaintop, do not make your tent by the hillside and call it cozy.

I am speaking from experience on this and likely why I am so passionate to motivate you all.  If this describes you, know that I have been where you are and I challenge you to join me on the other side.  You can be fearful as long as you move through your fear and press on – your best life is yet to come.  Go seize it! Start by taking one courageous step at a time :).

Who is your hero and why?

10858522_10204965536612048_6909761851437394513_nMy obvious earthly hero would be my mother, Saintalia Lozama.  Today she is 70+ years young!  She is a pioneer, becoming the first person -not just woman- in her small town in Haiti to learn to ride a motorcycle.  She was a teacher, a missionary, directed plays, had her own radio show (whose influence remains today), a nurse.  I could cite any or all of these reasons as to why she would be my hero – but it is her faith and resilience that makes her my number one.  I love you and cherish the legacy of faith and perseverance you have left for us.  Thank you!! Happy Birthday!!

Please leave your comment below or join us on social media @joycyaunplugged on twitter or Joycy Ann Unplugged on Facebook.  One special hero will be chosen from the comments submitted and highlighted here on this blog.  I look forward to hearing about your hero!

A copy cannot produce the original

In having a conversation with a friend recently this phrase found its way out of my mouth: A copy cannot produce the original.  This is true, we cannot fashion ourselves off of any other person and produce anything greater than the original.  What we need to do is improve on who we are as individuals, looking to the only person we should imitate —Christ.  Even in that He created us unique — with unique gifts and purposes, ultimately for His purposes.

My pastor David Hughes said it succinctly this weekend, “You are an innovation not an imitation.”  I don’t think it’s wishful thinking to think that if we all spent more time dialing in on our identity, celebrating our uniqueness and less time playing the comparison game we would progress as a people.   What are some of your gifts and talents?   When did you first discover them and how?  Although I always recognized a uniqueness in myself, my confidence to display and develop my gifts came through the support and encouragement of good friends and family.  People that saw something in me and were not threatened by it, but instead celebrated and encouraged me and for that I am eternally grateful.  Who are your cheerleaders in life? More importantly, who are you a cheerleader and encourager for?  If you find that vicious jealousy bug popping up when you witness the success of others, chances are that you are not upset at the success in their life, but disappointed in some area of your own.  Yikes! Did that strike a chord?? Good!  If you’re reading this, you are still living and breathing and that is great news!  You have the basic criteria to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.  Start today, spend time journaling, dreaming, talking to people who know you well and step deeper into those areas you know you are gifted in and see where that leads.   Your life is truly what you make it – live well.