Recently, I received some difficult medical news. I experienced many emotions about it. One, I didn’t like the idea of a physician cutting out a bunch of my lower jaw (sorry to be graphic). Equally so, I didn’t like the idea of my left jaw bone being replaced with a donor/cadaver’s bone. And three, the 7-Phase treatment plan and the price tag of 19k really threw me for a loop! Now, granted, I would only be responsible for $8,500 – but still! The good news was that this 5 year old infection deep in my gum tissue (which has been draining into my body for 5 years and could have killed me) from a bad root canal just might be the culprit in my slew of health problems over the years, including but not limited to the fact that my skin on the back of my thighs and buttocks - again, sorry to be graphic- if you don’t like unhindered discussions that may be disturbing, you may not want to read this one) had still not healed from their exposure to toxic chemicals in 2013!
Whenever we compare ourselves to others and conclude that we don’t fit in, we are less than, and we’ll never measure up, we have positioned ourselves on the outside looking in. Sure the circumstances of life can put us there too, but once we realize we are there we can then do something about it; and we MUST do something about it.
I think in images a lot of the time….so in order to describe this outside-looking-in feeling, I visualize a nice restaurant with a dance floor, and someone standing outside in the rain with their face pressed into their hands in a cupped shape position against the glass. However this feeling can occur in a million scenarios: a middle school lunch room, hallways in high school, a new student on a college campus for the first time, day one of boot camp and one’s first duty station, watching a group of ladies laughing and having coffee together at the mall, at church, at lunch in the middle of a busy work day, moms play date days at the park, a group of men hanging out and watching sports, a board room business meeting…. I think you get the picture.
Today, I am reminded of the journey, the challenges, the hope, and the determination that comes when one has a dream that is bigger than themselves. I think about my children who are working and going to college in Georgia. I remember my long journey of working and going to school for 20+ years… I wrote God & Coffee: in that order;; II;;; a fresh edge of faith in the midst of reality, in my 20’s while working and going to school full-time.
To anyone who is persevering amid the challenges of life’s daily grind, I encourage you from South Carolina; you got this!
CHAPTER TWO of God & Coffee: in that order;; II: TODAY
Today I called Georgia State University with the simple plan of enrolling for classes. It didn’t go quite as well as I had hoped it would though. I was on hold for twenty minutes at a time, usually only to finally have a recording pick up and say, “We’re sorry, but the customer services representatives are experiencing higher than normal call volumes; please call back later.” I was hung up on by a machine too many times to count, and when I would finally get a real live person, they usually weren’t very helpful either. They, in turn, would connect me with their boss’s voice-mail, from whom I would never receive a return call. Everyone basically told me the same thing. Their memorized line in this movie of my life went as follows: (Script verbiage: person who plays this character has to be swamped, tired of taking phone calls, insensitive, and they must fail to put themselves in the other person’s shoes - - if they do all this they may earn an academy award in this movie of my life.) “I don’t know who told you that you could go to school in August, but you can’t. You can’t come back until January 2001 at the earliest. I don’t know who told you that you could, but they were wrong.”
My husband took the above picture the other night in our backyard. His ability to see beauty, even in the midst of growing darkness, is an inspiration and source of strength for me.
Several months ago, I put in for a week of leave during spring break. My plans were to spend it with my husband who enjoyed spring break every year as a teacher. We would also be celebrating our 26th wedding anniversary. Plans to exercise together as well as to plant new dogwood and cherry trees, some flowers and flowering bushes were on the agenda too. Our anniversary tradition is to buy a tree and plants for the yard. I also had the ambitious plans of painting my living room, kitchen, sitting room, bedroom, and bathroom as the hideous colors from the previous owners had offended my eyes long enough; thus, the reason I took an entire week off from work.
But, I blew out my left knee(s) exercising and simultaneously blew all my plans to smithereens.
Timing is everything. Oprah once said that success is when preparation and opportunity meet. I completely agree. I also know that our perfect timing and God’s officially perfect timing are not always in synch. Our time table is based on our wants, needs, fears, hopes, dreams, emotions, and our physical sight. God’s timing is based on things we can’t even begin to fully understand and it operates based on eyes of faith, ensuring that it is not limited by mere physical sight, circumstances, and human-reason.
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. Living a Life of Faith requires that one not base their identify, their destiny, or their worth on what people say or do to define them. If you want to see what Living a Life of Faith looks like, look for someone who refuses to let circumstances dictate their destiny. In fact, look for someone who looks Circumstance straight in the face and says, “This is not the end of the story; this is where my story takes a turn for the better because I will not settle for ‘this’!” When people and circumstances attempt to taunt them into a breakdown, they take it as an opportunity to break through! You know when you are witnessing such a glorious event when the person acts in a way that confirms that they believe they have what it takes to do what they need to do to push through, move through, and overcome. Additionally, they do this for the greater good of others. As a result, at just the right time, those who live by faith do receive their breakthrough.
Be the kind of friend you need, and start at home. In a world where a lot of people are talking and a lot of people can hear, who are the ones who are truly listening? Good friends listen with their hearts. You can tell they are listening by their reply. Their words echo something you said, but they add meaning, compassion, validation, and clarity to them. You can also tell that they pay attention and listen by the things they do in response. Do they follow up and follow through?
Growing up, my brother had my back, and I had his. In the military, my Air Force sisters had my back, and I had theirs. I met the man who would become my husband when I was 17-years-old, wearing braces, at a phone booth. I’m serious! For those of you who don’t know what a phone booth is, Google it. And, I’m still BFF’s with my best friend from high school, but we’ve been separated by distance ever since I left for the Air Force in 1991. Needless to say, my husband has been my constant and closest friend for 26+ years. I didn’t start having more quality girlfriends until around the age of 36, and as I look back and as I look around at the Warrior Moms and Warrior Wives that surround me now, I don’t know how I ever survived without them. They inspire me to be the kind of friend I need.
Fear lies to us in order to attempt to hold us in a prison cell of self-doubt. With this doubt-filled mind-set we find the answer to our questions:
“Will I fail? Do I have what it takes? Will I lose everything? Am I destined to be alone forever?”
It yells, “Yes, you will fail; no, you don’t have what it takes; yes, you will lose everything, and of course, you are forever destined to be alone.”
Why does this happen? Because none of us like not having control. So, we ask questions and then we answer them in fear so that we will at least have an answer, which gives us the façade that we have more control. After all, at least now our questions are answered. But, if the answers we have are of poor quality – filled with doubt and fear – how the heck is that helpful? It’s not. Further, control is a façade anyway. Sure, we can control our responses, but we cannot control all the things we can’t control. When we try, we increase the likelihood that we can’t control the things we can’t control. Essentially, we start out with bad odds and we end up with worse odds…. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?! And, this vicious cycle causes anxiety and fear to taunt us all the while telling us to chase our figurative tails! We don’t accomplish anything worthwhile this way. Fear, on the other hand, is successful at effectively keeping us in the prison cell of self-doubt. And, the benefits for us is that at least the cell is familiar.
Why do we settle for Familiar when Familiar is less than optimal?! I think it’s because we like the known things – even if the current known environment is a poor quality prison cell of self-doubt. At least there’s no surprises here. Seriously? We settle for this?!
Ahhh, but Faith – Faith is a Warrior! Let’s ask Faith those same questions and compare responses.
While working full time, going to school full time and taking care of a family, people would ask, “How do you do it all?” to which I would reply, “God & Coffee: in THAT order” with enough prayer and caffeine anything is possible.
When I was a senior at GA State University, I became pregnant with my surprise blessing of a son, Jacob. I continued to work and attend classes – that is until the day I paid my 5 bucks and parked in the 5 story parking garage only to find I was so huge, I could not get out of my car!
Turns out compact parking spots are for compact cars and people!
So, I decided to take a quarter off from college and write a book. Yes, it is entitled: God & Coffee: in that order.
But God & Coffee: alone are not enough. In order to tap into the power of God & Coffee one must be as bold as the God they seek and the coffee they drink. One must partner with God and persevere. In order to do so I encourage you to learn about and implement three principles in your life.
Anything is possible if:
1: You believe
2: You refuse to quit
3: You do the next thing
A true friend is closer than a brother. A true friend can sit with you in silence because they know that is the best that they can offer and it’s more than enough. I lost a close friend recently, and the only way I am enduring it is to focus on the fact that love transcends time and space, life and death, and everything in between.
I find peace in the fact that Love Lives:
Love lives beyond our temporary time here on earth. Love encourages in exceedingly overflowing amounts in the midst of despair; Love invites us to look up in hope and receive a peace that surpasses ALL understanding.
And the word “understanding” stops me in my tracks because I don’t. How then do I – or any of us – go on without answers?
The answer is we don’t.
Rather, we hope on IN LOVE every day, moment by moment, second by second as well as by every second thought and second thought that follows.
In order to know who we truly are, we must know what we are NOT.
I received profound evidence of this Truth when at the age of 7, I woke up stuck in a coma.
Stuck? You ask?
Yes, stuck – temporarily anyway.
I remember telling my left arm to move, but it would not.
I heard recognizable voices but it was a 100 times more muffled than watered down words in a pool.
Stuck in that coma, I could recognize voices but I could not fully comprehend the words spoken. For example, I heard Mary Poppin’s voice, whom I would later learn was Julie Andrews. I knew puppets were there with her – cute friendly puppets that I could not reach out and touch.
I knew I was stuck in my body. Shockingly enough, I was not terrified. I felt Peace Beyond Understanding for the first time in my life.
The coma was 100 times more safe, loving, and comfortable than the abusing, terrifying, drinking and drug dealing step-father ruling home I was temporarily hid from inside the coma.
Bob the Bastard was his name! He used to have just a boring plane, Bob name, but at the age of 5, I heard my Grandma call him a Bastard while standing under the basketball hoop in our driveway in Everett, Washington, gripping her cigarette with her lips tighter than her clenched fist – and Bastard is what I would call him from that day forward.