Lessons From 2020

                2020 has been a year to remember.  For many, it is a year they hope they soon forget.  The ravages of 2020 began for me a few months prior to the discovery of COVID-19 within the borders of the United States.  2020 greeted me with a funeral for my beloved husband who died the day after Christmas.   It was and is still surreal.  I was thrown into a crucible heated with a flame fueled by grief and isolation.  I have endured this process for the entire year and am sure even now that it is not complete.  Like many others I have experienced the death of loved ones.  I have seen the effects of job loss.  I have been in food lines as both the giver and the receiver.  I am fortunate not to have a mortgage but have been engaged in a court battle to keep the home in which I have lived for almost twenty years. 

                 I find myself reflecting on this year to extract the lessons it contains.  This year has taught me a plethora of things about myself, my relationships, and the world in which we live.  While some of the lessons were difficult and even hurtful, all were necessary for the transformation I see taking place. 

  • God is Faithful

When my husband died, one of the first words I heard in my spirit was, “God has not been unfair to me.”  That was comforting because so often when someone we love dies, we feel as though we have been treated unfairly.  At that moment I was quickened to understand that death is a part of life on earth and that what I was experiencing others had already experienced and still others would experience.  Amid it all however, God was faithfully to me as God has always been.  God is always faithful to ensure that I am not unfairly treated.  For what I experience in my life is simply what is common to humankind.

  • Family Should be Loved and Appreciated

I am blessed to have two sons, five grandchildren, three brothers and two sisters.  In addition, I have a huge family of aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews.  I am fortunate to have always known the unconditional love of family.  Loving my family is something that I have always known to do.  However, before this year I am not sure that I deeply appreciated them for who they are and how they enrich my life.  Each family member brings a unique flavor and perspective to the family dynamic.  No one family member of group of family members possess the right to determine what the family should be.  The family just is and being a part of it has provided me with joy that has sustained me through not only this year but my entire life.

  • Peace of Mind is Worth More Than Riches

My husband used to say that the reason rich people commit suicide was because they had things but did not have peace of mind.  He would always ask God to give him peace of mind above everything else.  My mind is extremely important to me.  It must be kept whole and sound.  This year, minds have been bombarded with so many horrific images.  Images of people dying from COVID-19 alone and without family support, images of police brutality and murder, images of people in food lines, and many others are enough to cause minds to snap.  Yet, while we acknowledge the images we see and create the images we long to see we gain peace in our minds.  Putting our minds and hands to work to make the world better gives us peace of mind that extends far beyond anything acquired with riches.

  • Faith and a Faith Family are Important

I had just joined a new church congregation when COVID-19 hit.  I had only been a member two week when churches were shut down.  Our church like many others decided to utilize social media platforms to provide a virtual worship experience.  Determined to make that experience as close to a face-to-face experience as possible, our pastor conducted each Sunday Service from the church sanctuary.  With only himself, the minister of music, the media ministry and sometimes a soloist or small group of singers, our pastor preached from the church pulpit every Sunday.  He taught Bible Study and Weekly Teachers’ Meeting virtually from his church office.  We came together using COVID-19 precautions to feed the hungry, appreciate our youth and minister to the community.  “Church” burst out of the building and found its way into the streets of the community. 

  • Forgiveness is Key to Survival

My pastor called for 21 days of fasting and prayer from December 11-21.  One of the items on our prayer list was forgiveness.  One day, I was made keenly aware that although I was asking for and extending forgiveness in my prayers, deep down I was harboring unforgiveness towards someone that I felt had betrayed me.  For several hours, Holy Spirit dealt with me concerning this.  I realized that the only way to know for sure that we are practicing forgiveness is to allow Holy Spirit to examine our hearts and minds.  Unforgiveness can derail dreams and cause distractions that disrupt focus.  To survive and thrive, I must be made aware of hidden resentment and submit to forgiveness for others and accept forgiveness for myself.

  • Mental Therapy is a Gift

This year I began seeing a counselor.  I have known for years that I needed it.  I would research and read but never make a commitment.  When my husband died and the full onslaught of the pandemic occurred, I realized that my mental stability was at stake.  Grief affects people in unimaginable ways, and I wanted to be fully aware of what was happening to me and posses the strategies to move through it.  I think therapy in some form will be in my life for the rest of my life.

  • Self-Love is the First Step to Loving Others

Someone once sang, “Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.”  This year I have learned that my ability to love others is predicated on my love for myself.  Like so many others, for years I did what was expected without giving much thought to how I was affected.   I have gained revelation that requires that I care for all aspects of my health. To accomplish my purpose in the earth, I must posses a sound body and a sound mind.  How I eat, what I drink, how I sleep and what I take in through my senses either enhance or deplete my life.  This awareness has pushed me to love myself.  That is the only way I can be beneficial to others.

  • Life is a Precious Gift

Not just because so many people have died from COVID-19, but because of the many other struggles I have endured in addition to that reality, I realize that life is a precious gift.  So many things that I thought were important are not.  Things that I would normally engage debate about are not even worth discussion.  This blog was started to help us live life in a manner that is inspired, free and enthusiastic.  As I have journeyed through this year, I have learned to seek out the inspiration in my soul that allows me to live free and enthusiastic. 

This year has been filled with constraints that citizens of a free country never thought we would have to endure.  Ours eyes have been forced to view and speak out concerning conditions like homelessness, educational disparity, political malfeasance, and food insecurity.  These conditions have always affected those living in the margins.   Hopefully, this new year will garner the unity necessary to bring about lasting change.  The beauty of life is each day we choose to live it.  As we enter a new year, my hope is that we help others find the beauty in life and that they choose to live it.

To Whom Do I Matter

LIFE Requires That You Love Yourself First

                During these times of isolation and irritation many are seeking to understand to whom they matter.  Times are stressful and people are tightening their circles of friends and influencers. Social media sites are filled to with comments of people “cutting people off.” People are evaluating the significance of each relationship in which they are involved.  Trust issues are rising as instincts move toward self-preservation.  Still others do not seem to be concerned with their own preservation or the preservation of anyone else as they flaunt their bare faces in public, declaring their right to be free from mask wearing and social distancing.

                Things are weird.  People are dying slow, painful deaths alone in hospitals and nursing facilities.  Others have not been outside their homes for months and long for the accustomed visits from friends and loved ones.  Media stories giving conflicting information, render sound decisions difficult to make.  Those who thought they would live forever have come face to face with their mortality, sometimes questioning how they have lived their lives thus far and how they can live better if the future is granted to them. 

                Life has become a rollercoaster of change.  Up, down, twist, turn, loop the loop; what we rely on as facts change with the blink of an eye.  As soon as we are sure of the right thing to do, news reports inform us that we must do something different.  In this great time of tossing and shifting many people are finding it troublesome to hold on to familiar bonds.  Simply trying to survive the arduous stress of these times has left some so tiringly exhausted that they lack the vigor necessary to maintain relationships.

                These times have left and will leave many alone and without connections on which they have learned to depend.  Death has invaded many families, violently taking away loved ones that members refer to as “the rock,” or the “backbone,” of the family.  Financial strain has caused husbands, wives and lovers who swore their love was unbreakable to trade partnership for separation and disregard.  One is easier to feed than two or three or five. 

                Many are alone, afraid, distressed, anxious and unhappy.  They are in crisis.  Yet, there is good news.  Although crisis is a time of disaster and calamity, it is also a time of opportunity.   Times of crisis can serve as a catalyst that help you to realize your own value and your inner ability to not only survive crisis but to thrive at life.   This time is perfect for self-examination; not to figure what is wrong with you but to better learn what is right with you.  This is the time to discover or rediscover your gifts, skills and talents and make them work for you.  Once unveiled, you can develop your gifts, skills, and talents to the level of excellence.  This might mean taking classes, watching videos, spending time in prayer, meditation, and discovery.  What if this is the time for you to do what you have always dreamed of doing? 

                Spend time improving yourself.  If you have always wanted to be writer, then get a notebook or computer and start writing.  Write every day.  Read books about a variety of things including writing.  You must spend time practicing your craft.  One of the wonderful things about this time is that many universities and colleges are offering courses for free or little pay.  If you have always been curious about something, maybe now is the perfect time to learn about it. 

                Set goals.  Have grand expectations for yourself.  It may sound outdated but making a list for the day can be motivating by keeping you on task and providing data for daily accomplishments.  Computer apps can record your progress on goals that you have set from the number of steps you walk to the number of calories you have eaten to the number of books you have read. 

                Maybe before this pandemic you were the go-to person.  They called on you for everything and you were always there.  Truth be told you basked in what you thought was your importance in someone’s life while at the same time you were wearing yourself out as thin as a sheet of rice paper.  This time of isolation is the time for you to learn to say, “No.”  Just face it.  Oftentimes others use us, and the benefits are not reciprocal.  And we allow this to continue as we, in a state of sheer exhaustion, complain of not being loved or cared for.  This is the time for that to cease.

                During this pandemic you are learning how strong you really are.  You are discovering your resolve, your stamina, and your perseverance.  You are also discovering that you were sent to earth with specific gifts and talents just for this time.  All the things that are happening to you, in you, and around you are showing up your own uniqueness and value.  They are also forcing you, if you take time to notice, to see these wonderful gifts in yourself.  Now, the question is will you love yourself enough to cultivate your gifts, talents, and skills, and live in the purpose for which you were born?

                God and the entire universe are waiting on you to understand that the person to whom you matter most must be you.  This is not selfishness; it is self-love.  Selfness means I love only me.  Self-love means I love me and therefore I possess the capacity and the strength to love others. You must love yourself to the point where every gift that is in you is displayed and every purpose for which you were born is accomplished.  Be number one to yourself and watch your dreams come true and the entire universe stand up and take notice.