Sigh. A lot’s going on in America. Again. Black folks are dying. Again. Must be summer. But I’m still exhausted from last summer! I resolved that this time, I would not allow myself to be pulled into the abyss of hopelessness. Yes, I feel – and strongly – about so many things. And I have many thoughts that I will not express except to say, in summary: I feel awful. My brothers and sisters are being used for target practice and it sickens me. I’m not ok, whether the perpetrator is one in authority or a member of the black community. A recent Facebook post screamed: How can we say their names when there are so many? Social unrest, coupled with COVID, threatens to send me into a downward spiral. Emotionally, I’m stretched to my limit at such times and become most unproductive. Definitely not what I need right now. But I read a statement from a young lady, Greta Thunberg, who helped put it in perspective for me. I hope it helps you, too.
“If you feel bad today, so many people are so sad and so depressed but that’s a good thing because that means they still have empathy and they don’t want to live in this world where we have lost empathy,” Thunberg said while fighting back tears. “So many people come up to me and say they believe that there’s something wrong with them because they are feeling like s***. But I think it’s the opposite. It’s the rest who can maintain living in this society where we only care about prestige, and these are shallow things that don’t matter, and being the best and so on. Those are the people who are not normal.”
So very young, she is. And so very right. The rising tide of frustration, despair, anger, and hopelessness – it all makes sense now. I’m supposed to feel this way and anyone with an ounce of humanity remaining should be disturbed, also. So it’s ok to not be ok with what’s going on. From that place of despair can come a strength, either to endure and outlast or outright fight against heinous injustices even if the odds seem insurmountable. And perhaps, as long as we have empathy for the struggles of our fellowman, perhaps the world is not so bad as it can seem.
“His wings are clipped, and his feet are tied, so he opens his throat to sing.” Excerpt from Maya Angelou’s poem, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
From time to time, I get asked this question. It’s usually voiced by someone who doesn’t know me or has never worked near me. To their query, I just shrug. Meh. Yeah, I sing. Most folks have found that I always sing, even when I don’t realize it. I sing as I work and as I play. I may even do so when things aren’t going well, to forcibly inject some gaiety into my day. I’m known for humming tunes in the middle of meetings and at the beginning of my workday. (I even occasionally whistle, though I don’t have a talent for that, to my lasting regret!) Singing is my way of announcing to everyone, Loria is here! Not only have I arrived, but I am focused and ready to work, not just piddle around. It sets the stage for my day and says: I am determined to have a good mindset and be productive. So, singing is kind of what I do, nearly always.
When I was a child, my older brother would call for me. He’d lift me up and set me on a coffee table and have me sing for his friends. Far as I could tell, I put on quite a show back in the day, LOL! But not so much these days. I’ve been on hard times before, certainly worse presented than my current circumstances but through most of it, I’ve kept my voice. In fact, I didn’t really know anything was wrong until it occurred to me one day: I didn’t sing anymore. Nor did I want to. WOW.
Maybe life was heavier than I had allowed myself to believe. Surely, a pandemic of the likes I had never expected to see in my lifetime, riots, shootings, uprisings, and just general mayhem – surely, they can’t have worn me down to a nub. (And stop calling me Shirley, ala Airplane!) The lockdown, a year of working from home – something I’d always longed to do but now has lost its luster – and limited access to my favorite leisure activities began to have a negative effect. Not only had depression set in but anxiety, as well. Staying at home turned out to be exhausting. I tired more easily and only the most beautiful and sunny day could coax me outside. Moreover, a year of doing nothing led to more worries over doing more than nothing. Should I be doing this? Is it safe? Previously I thought, if I and my loved ones survived, if we could just weather this storm, everything would be fine. But as Michelle Obama said recently, “none of us will come out of this unchanged.” I realized, unsurprisingly, I was not OK.
Music – of the portable variety, meaning, just me and my pipes – has been my constant companion for my whole life. Singing has always given me great joy, often allowing me to transcend my situation. But more than that, it’s been somewhat of a temperature gauge. A way of checking in and knowing how I’m doing. Of communicating that mood and passing that joy on to others. If I can sing, things are not so dire that I cannot overcome them. But with my wings clipped and my feet tied, could I find it in me to sing again? Then one day while out doing routine tasks, suddenly and unexpectedly, I found my voice.
I received my first COVID vaccine two weeks ago. Perhaps it was that hope of freedom that loosened my vocal cords. I can potentially see my loved ones, travel, engage in corporate activities, and maybe even one day be unfettered by a mask altogether. It was something, at last, for which to look forward. Winter is gone. Spring has come and life is being renewed. Not just in the plants around us, but in the awakening animals and insects. Better days are ahead. So, I sang of freedom, even though I haven’t realized it yet. I sang for the promise of that one day when I would. I sang though I’m still bound as if I were already free. And I found myself lifted, exalted, above the confines of my prison, on the wings of my voice. Wings that have not been clipped after all. Not as long as I can sing.
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Jesus humbled himself, even unto death … Philippians 2:8
UGH! I wanted to tear out my hair in frustration! Nothing was going right. Or, write. I just couldn’t seem to get it together, my thoughts, my plans, my life. The things I knew I could do, suddenly, I could not. Everything was falling apart. I wanted to scream. Mentally, I did. The layout of my book mocked me, taunting me. I felt defeated. No matter how I came at it, I was no closer to a solution.
After beating myself up for several attempts spread out over many days, I finally asked God for help. Then I wondered why I hadn’t done it before. I knew that He could and would. Please, I prayed, at my wits’ end. Help me. And then the answer presented itself.
“You should try …” the voice began, only I knew it did not belong to me. I gasped as everything fell into place, just as it should. I did it!
Elated over the wonder of my accomplishment, it occurred to me the true reason for my success after failing so many times. Not only did I ask for help, but I was so frustrated that I admitted my helplessness in the face of my problem. I surrendered it to One I knew could help. And this is how I came to realize I’ve never truly surrendered my life to God. With my mouth, I had. But on that day, I truly did. Take it, please! I cried, realizing that I was ultimately helpless. Do with me what you will, Lord! I don’t want to wrestle with my life’s problems any longer.
If you’re like me, you may have fallen for the trap of being strong in the face of the many obstacles that life may send your way. I kept telling myself to push forward. On the other side of that barrier was the very thing I wanted if I was only strong enough to persevere. But as I basked in the afterglow of my victory, I realized I won not because I was strong but because I surrendered. And therein lay my true strength, His strength, made perfect in my weakness. He was just waiting to save me. All I needed to do was surrender my ego, my right to say I overcame in my own power.
Similarly, Jesus humbled Himself to the cross. When the Pharisees came for Jesus, Peter jumped to his master’s defense and cut off the ear of a soldier. But Jesus admonished Peter. “I could have a legion of angels at my beck and call,” he basically said. If he’d wanted. But it was not for Jesus to gain an advantage over his persecutors that day. He couldn’t win in that way. Chess, not checkers. He resisted the human ego that said he must be in charge, that he must triumph, and any urges to display his power. He surrendered to his fate, knowing that there was where the true power laid. He surrendered because of the glory set before him and the promise of deliverance for us all.
P.S. Look for updates in the coming weeks to anticipate the release of book four in the Touched series! New website, new look, new book, COMING SOON! Click the link to access the entire series and get ready for the best sequel EVER! I’m excited and I just know you will love it!
Also, I’ve partnered with Story Origin and other authors to get the word out about Touched. If you’re looking for more good reads, check them out here:
It’s been a while, Wordies! Like most of you, I’ve been bogged down with the cares of this world during a pandemic. However, that hasn’t kept me from writing! I’m so excited about upcoming events and just wanted to share a few updates:
Be on the lookout for a new website, new look, and maybe even a new web address!
I’ve partnered with Story Origin! I’m exploring new marketing opportunities to get the word out about the Touched series. Key links will be posted at the end of the newsletter going forward.
AND … (drum roll, please!) I’ve nearly completed the finishing touches on my upcoming novel, Pale Rider! I can’t wait to share it with you.
Of course, it’s holy week and I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t share a word from scripture with my fans. It continues to be my goal to make God’s word relatable for it is truly needed during troubling times.
“So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”Matthew 7:11
On Good Friday, Rocco, the wonder dog, fell sick like he’s never been before. We (my daughter, his doggie mom, and I) were helpless in the face of his illness. For me, it was reminiscent of the days when my children were small and couldn’t tell me what was wrong. Our playful pup (though he’s eight years old now, he still has boundless energy) was rendered lethargic and wouldn’t eat. Off to the ER he and my daughter went, for that was the only place that would take him on such short notice, and we knew the bill would be hefty. But she couldn’t let cost be a deterrent. We would do whatever was needed to heal our doggie baby.
Thankfully, he’s home now and expected to make a full recovery. Once the immediate danger had passed, I was drawn back to my reflections for this time of year. Of all Christian holidays, this is the most important and always humbles me. That God would do this for me. To save me. He thought I was important enough to die for and that no cost was too great. Immortal God, who cannot die, wrapped himself in flesh so that he could. He paid the penalty in such a complete fashion that he announced, “It is finished.” Forever finalized. No reneging. No take backsies. Done.
Thinking of Rocco and how my daughter would not rest when she saw how sick he was, how she couldn’t stop until she had found a remedy for his situation, I was reminded that she is now a mom, too, if only to a canine. His life is just as important to her as any child she could bear. She thought he was worth anything she could do to save him.
I think it’s important that we relate to Jesus, to put ourselves in his shoes, and understand why he did what he did. He went through a whole lot of trouble to identify with humanity so we could do just that. He became human and lived as one of us, died as one of us, but with an important difference. He rose victorious, with all power, and conquered death, for our sake. So there’s really no mystery why God set a plan for our salvation in motion from the foundation of the world. God is our Father. He loves us, immeasurably. And like earthly parents, He would do anything to save us. And he did, not stopping at sacrificing even his own skin.
I’m thankful for His example of love during this most holy week. We’ve been through so much with the pandemic and the loss of loved ones during the past twelve months. To be reminded that his love endures is powerful. I see it in my love for my children and my daughter’s love for her furry baby. Rocco, like all of us, is much loved.
P.S. Look for updates in the coming weeks to anticipate the release of book four in the Touched series! New website, new look, new book, COMING SOON! Click the link to access the first novel (FREE!) and get ready for the best sequel EVER! I’m excited and I just know you will love it!