Brown Sugar Relaxes

My work week leading up to Fall Break was like nails on a chalkboard. Not that annoying feeling that makes you want to stop your ears up and cringe, but more like that blank face, “why?” feeling.

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We experienced blow after character-attacking blow, so by Friday I embraced my break with open arms! I may have even shed a tear from the excitement.

The first quarter of the school year had been a demanding one. I’ve had a lot of late nights and early mornings that required lots of caffeine “for the juice,” and several erasers for the mistakes. I don’t even think I realized just how mentally, physically, and emotionally bankrupt I really was from it all. I remember waking up Tuesday morning leading up to Fall Break, and the moment my feet hit my plush carpet, the words, “I know I’m not just suppose to work and pay bills all my life” escaped my lips. Seriously, I wasn’t even aware that I said them until I plopped down on my yoga mat. I made a mental note to tune up my self-talk.

20170929_061014.jpg During yoga that morning, I always whisper to my heavenly Father, and I remember saying, “Daddy, I need rest.” Well, Abba keeps His promises ya’ll, because a church friend invited my daughter to go along with her daughter to an indoor water park for the week, and my son spent the week with his dad. Which left me all alone…. Yep, you guessed it: To rest! \0/

I had a few odds and ends to tie up the first couple of days of my break. Unfortunately, I’m still going to court dealing with unfinished business from my divorce (seriously peeps, REALLY pray and put some thought into who you’re deciding to spend the rest of your life with before exchanging those vows. At times, this divorce has felt like a chicken pox scar – impossible to get rid of). But eventually, my bag was packed, my room was booked, and my itinerary was set! I headed to Hot Springs, AR. The drive up was a regular dysfunctional concert. If there was a genre to choose, I chose it, and I knew ALL of the words to every song. #GoMe

Hot Springs has a Martin, TN feel to it, so I actually felt right at home. The hotel room faced east, and overlooked Lake Hamilton. That first morning, I literally woke up to the sunrise bursting into my room. I really wanted to see it too, but… rest won. So I caught the sun spreading it’s ostentatious beams throughout the sky around 8am. It was still just as beautiful and breathtaking though.

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After grabbing breakfast, I headed to the trails for some hiking. I don’t think I’d wrapped my mind around the fact that I was hiking until I reached the trails and saw these three “Paul Bunyan” looking dudes with their equipment, and hiking boots, and stuff. I looked at them, then I looked at my Nike warm up and sneakers, and said, “Meh.” I wasn’t here for them. #YOLO

The hike through the woods was honestly life-changing. I replaced roaring cars for a babbling brook, loud voices for chirping birds, too busy people consumed with their cell phones for the rustle of the wind dancing in the trees, pungent trash for fresh air. I don’t think I’ve ever been as at peace as I was in that forest.

After crossing streams, and hiking up hills, and doing the tango with a bed of boulders, I reached this landing. The cliff looked real “Circle of Life-ish” when they were doing Simba’s baby dedication on Pride Rock-ish. I stood their overlooking the trail I had just crushed and was in awe of God. As I sit in my bed typing this blog, I can still smell the rich scent of pine trees and feel the warmth of the sun on my face. In that moment, I found peace. I never knew peace could make you so hungry though… #ijsIMG_20171014_164645_720.jpg

I stayed there in that atmosphere a little while longer, then made the trek down the mountain. There were a few other memorable moments from my stay in Hot Springs, but the fact that I was able to unplug from everything, and find peace in the midst of what felt like a Hurricane Katrina type storm (work stuff, death a student, personal stuff, just life) surpasses my understanding. I’ve taken for granted how attainable peace can be, and how important it is to make self-care a non-negotiable.

Fast forward. I made it back to Memphis, and ironically, I crashed. I slept a few hours, and woke up feeling more rejuvenated than I’ve felt in months! Like MaDear used to say, “I slept for old and new!” My self-talk is back on track, and most importantly, I achieved what I set out in search for in Hot Springs; I feel rested. There’s wisdom in knowing how to listen to the sometimes subtle, and sometimes screaming cues your body gives you. Moving forward, I’m not operating from a place of “burnout” that causes me to shrink back when faced with a challenge. I’m ready to push through any growth barrier I come in contact with to reach my destiny.

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“We humans have lost the wisdom of genuinely resting and relaxing. We worry too much. We don’t allow our bodies to heal, and we don’t allow our minds and hearts to heal.”  

-Thich Nhat Hanh

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Brown Sugar Purges

“All emotions, even those that are suppressed and unexpressed, have physical effects. Unexpressed emotions tend to stay in the body like small ticking time bombs — they are like illnesses in incubation.” -Marilyn Van Derbur

After the wide emotional terrain the team and I covered yesterday, we met last night to debrief. We saw despair, darkness, trepidation. But we also saw hope, joy, and love. Several of us attempted to talk through those emotions, but although the words escaped our mouths, the emotional baggage held on tight. It wound around many of us like an anaconda preparing to feast on our remains. We couldn’t fight it. The emotional weight was so heavy that I couldn’t even blog, I believe we all slipped into a deep sleep that night.

Saturday morning, I wasn’t feeling so well. I was moving slowly and had an extremely light breakfast: a boiled egg, a spoonful of yogurt, three sips of coffee. I filled my water bottle with two cold bottles of water and dashed off for the bus. We were all beyond excited because today was the day we would see the Taj Mahal! Once we loaded the bus, I curled up in a corner with my back facing the window and opened my laptop. I sat there unsure of where to start with yesterday’s blog, so I paused and grabbed my phone. I started the devotional The Esther Challenge at the beginning of this mission trip. Today’s devotional talked about how Mordecai refused to bow to Haman and remained loyal and faithful to God regardless of the grave consequences. It went on to talk about how King Ahasuerus had forgotten how Mordecai was the one who helped spare his life from the men who were plotting to kill him.

I was so tickled after reading this devotion because what God was clearly telling me was to remain faithful to what He sent me to do, and part of that obedience was to not forget all of those who had helped me attend this mission trip fully funded and were reading my blogs daily.

So, I unloaded on my laptop. The commute to the Taj Mahal was 3.5 hours. I blogged for the first two. Ever so often, I’d lift my head to see our surroundings. When the village we were riding through caught my attention.20170701_152701

I’d seen these huts before in my history books, but in my mind they only existed centuries ago. Not today just 10.5 hours away. There were families out hanging laundry on a line, and children playing. My heart stung a bit, but I smiled and waved to the little boy standing on the side of the road. He was amazed at the big bus barreling by.

Once I finished my blog, I got up to go sit with a few others to jump in on whatever they were talking about. I needed adult conversations. This group of professional women had such insight on various topics. It was great to discuss college with one of our Axis students, careers, what our communities lacked, and ways to bring what was lacking to the communities since we can’t take the community to the resource.

The bus came to a sudden jerk (remember the traffic, right?) and I could tell we were close. The city of Arga looked a lot like Delhi. When we reached the entrance of the Taj Mahal, we all grabbed bottle water as we exited the bus. We were told that we would be surrounded by beggars, but not to make eye contact, and not to purchase anything.

We were given shoe covers for the Taj Mahal because you must either remove your shoes or cover them as a sign of respect, and our tickets for entry. Well, at that moment, the heat hit me with a quick right, left, uppercut combination and I bent over and placed my hands on my knees. Emilio asked if I was ok, and I told him I just needed a minute. We walked to catch a small shuttle to drive us closer to the entrance, and as soon as I sat down, I laid my head on the seat in front of me. I felt bad ya’ll. Stomach cramps, nausea, and I had sweat literally pouring from my body. Katie poured water on the back of my neck to help me cool off, and it seemed to help. We got off the bus, and I told Deirdre I was about to puke, and as if on cue, right there at the entrance of the Taj Mahal… Brown Sugar begins this violent projectile vomiting… Again, and again, and again.

I puked my way to the sidewalk, being mindful of the cow manure along the way, and squatted there for a sec. I was ready to crawl up and die in my embarrassment and that unnecessarily aggressive Indian heat when this eclipse happened, and the sun was blocked! I looked up to see Rohim standing over me with his cane and his best concerned father’s expression. He was holding a bottle of Indian lime soda, and told me to sip it. I didn’t want to, but at this rate I was willing to try anything. I sipped the lime soda and the stomach cramps immediately subsided! What tha??? So a few minutes later, I stood up and told the group, “Let’s mob.” They were all like, Are you sure??? We traveled 14 hours just to get to India, and 3.5 just to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World. We. Were. Going.

Once inside, we met our tour guide who was AH-MAY-ZING! I sat down to hear the rich history of the mausoleum and the love story behind it.  In 1631, Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, a Persian princess who died giving birth to their 14th child. Construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1632. Shah Jahan’s grief after the death of Mumtaz Mahal illustrate the love story held as the inspiration for Taj Mahal. It was hot. I felt like crap. But this story was one that simply captivated me.

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Here we were about to head through this temple to arrive at the Taj Mahal. It was 46,239 degrees, and apparently a quarter of the Indian population decided to visit the Taj today. The inside of the first temple was beautifully constructed.

I was thankful for this protection from the sun, but the humidity was another story. As soon as we exited this temple, I was taken aback by the beauty of the Taj Mahal. The massive ivory white marble mausoleum sat snuggly amid a beautifully manicured garden.

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The Taj Mahal (Crown of the Palace) was being cleaned for the first time ever! As you can see in the above photograph that the other three pillars are much brighter than the one with the scaffolds. The workers used clay to clean the marble. The tour guide told me to come stand near him, give him my phone, and hold my hand up. When I realized he was talking to me, I remembered he wasn’t there for the pukefest, but I went anyway. I was pleasantly pleased with the result, Mane! HAHAHA

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A few others snapped pics while I sat along the edge of the garden and took in my surroundings. How did I become so fortune to be here at this very moment? It was time to move along. I had a couple of people to tell me to wait. Anita told me she would sit on a bench with me and we could catch up to the group later. I told them I would rest when we got closer. But when I saw a monkey ran across my path, I wasn’t sure if I was hallucinating or not so I decided to rest then. While resting, I saw Rafiki was real…

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I glanced up, and knew I had to go see what I came for, so we put on our shoe covers, avoided Indians wanting to rudely take pictures with the “Americanos” and ascended the stairs of the Taj Mahal.

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Once we made it on the first level, the way the brightness and heat radiated off this building felt like the end of the road for me. It was blinding! Photos were prohibited inside, but our tour guide showed us where the guest house and tombs were, and which stones embedded in the walls illuminated with light. Just then traffic police apparently came through blowing their whistles and telling us to keep it moving. We maneuvered our way through until we reached the back of the mausoleum. As we exited the doors, I felt like we were on display. Indians are most attracted to white women with blond hair, and the darkest black people. It felt like paparazzi out there and we just wanted to hear the history and enjoy the architecture and design of this amazing structure.

We stopped for a restroom break, then headed to the exit. We waited there for our tour guide to catch a shuttle for us to take us outside where our bus was. Once on the bus, I changed out of my soaked Mane shirt into a dry fit long-sleeved shirt and curled up in Anna’s shawl. I fell asleep instantly. I woke up to Ananya giving us all pumpkin candy. i believe she said once the pumpkin has grown some, they put sugar cane in it and allow it to grow more. It becomes sweetened that way. I immediately drifted back to sleep again.

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When I woke up, we were at the hotel. I went through the security checkpoint, shuffled to my room, dragged myself into the shower, and collapsed in bed.

I can’t help but wonder what caused me to get sick this day. Some said I was overheated, or dehydrated, or it was simply the food. But sometimes, our bodies reject bad energy and the wrong emotions. I had not recovered from the emotional ailments from the day before, but in order to do the work I was destined to do here, I had to cleanse myself. I wasn’t sent to India just because it was a Damascus Road requirement, I was sent there for reasons that were being revealed in a manner that was similar to the peeling of an onion. This whole revelation reminded me of the promise of the Lord’s presence in Exodus 23:30, “Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.” If He gives it all to me at once, it’ll be too much and I wouldn’t be able to give my purpose the attention it deserves.

I couldn’t physically handle the it all yesterday – physically, emotionally, spiritually, or mentally. Now that I’ve purged myself of how to see these people and their lives through my personal eyes, I’m excited about being awakened to the fact that I should look at them through the eyes of the cross.

“Tenacity is setting a goal so BIG that you can’t possibly achieve it… then growing into the person who CAN!”

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Brown Sugar Found Hope…

“Sometimes you just need an adventure to cleanse the bitter taste of life from your soul.” Brace yourself for this long post though….

Yesterday, we traveled to the slums to see the children! Traffic in India is nothing like you’ve ever seen before. We sat in it for TWO hours.

 

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Remember how I told y’all that lines don’t mean a thing, and they drive in the space? Here ya go! We drove through the city of Delhi, and words cannot describe the level of poverty I saw today.

The streets were severely flooded, homeless people were cooking on the sidewalks, the streets were littered with piles and piles and piles of trash, and we literally saw a dude run across the street with a monkey! Now you know that’s too much for us Memphis folk’! Seeing the resilience of the people here was absolutely enlightening. A lot of us found ourselves asking, “How do they live like this?” People walk through trash like it’s not even there. One man on a motorbike attempted to ride through what appeared to be at least 2-3 feet of water, and his bike stalled. He just hopped off into the knee deep flood waters, and proceeded to push his bike uphill. Again, how do they live this way?

After two long eventful hours of Delhi traffic, we finally reached the slums. We apprehensively climbed off the bus to head into the third largest slum area in Delhi that is populated with over two million people. Let that sink in. Looking at what was before us would’ve made many people say, “Nah… I’m good fam,” but we were there to bring hope to children. When you say yes to God, you will have say no to yourself.

Treading the terrains of the slums on the way to the school was scary, mysterious, and intimidating. We were clean tourists, and stuck out like sore thumbs. In the states, when we see people from India, they are generally docile and non-confrontational. Here, the men travel in packs. Their overall demeanor kinda reminds me of the Capulet Boys in the ’96 version of Romeo & Juliet. With each turn we made that led us deeper and deeper into the slums, I felt my countenance shift. I felt… lost. Not geographically, because I was surrounded by my team and the leaders of the school, but in my spirit, I felt lost. That’s the best word I can think of to describe it. It was as if we were being swallowed. The sky became darker. The homes of the residents were two and three levels high. There were woman hanging clothes on lines overhead. There were men doing construction work on small rooms, children were playing (we were headed to a school, but there were still several children who were not in school), horns were blaring, and motorbikes were whizzing through the alleys of the slums. All I knew was to move as I was told, quickly.

On the way into the slums, I didn’t see much. I walked with my head down to see where I was stepping. Before we entered the slum village, we overheard our leaders discuss how they would strategically place themselves around the sixteen of us, who would lead, who would bring up the back of the group, who would walk within the group. We were told to stay together, and walk fast. The only time I lifted my eyes was to check to be sure Samina was still close behind. There’s something symbolic about casting your eyes downward along your journey, but God revealed so much to us in this moment.

Psalm 121:1 says, “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come?” God will shift your vision when you least expect it. We didn’t know where we were headed, and had no clue where the school was when suddenly we were being covered with petals of Marigolds falling from the sky. We all stopped suddenly and looked up to see children throwing petals from the top of the school and holding signs that read, “We love you!” and “One Child Matters gives up hope to grow!” That was when we noticed we were in the front of the school.

 

The entrance was lined with the most adorable children dressed in school uniforms and waiting to greet us with bright smiles and a rose. I can’t lie… Ya girl was in tears.

You’ve always heard that the eyes are the gates to the soul. I’ve seen so many children, and adults for that matter, in the states with beautiful smiles, but the saddest eyes. That wasn’t what I experienced here. These children radiated joy! Their eyes were filled with hope, and I instantly became overwhelmed. We were led into a room that had chairs lining the back wall for us. The children entered the room, each coming to adorn us with a perfumed scented lei that they had made out of crepe paper.

The little boy who brought mine couldn’t have been older than eight. He was too adorable! He kinda reminded me of my own son. He was very disciplined, but looked a little mischievous. Ya’ll know I have a heart for hard-headed kids! LOL Then the director explained that every teacher in the building attended the One Child Matters facility as a child. The children entered again and brought us the most beautiful beaded bracelets.

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UGH! Here I go tearing up again… My little boy came looking for me, but someone had already given me a bracelet.

The younger children sang a welcome song to us. It was so sweet and cute. The Americanized momma in me was happy to see all of these little girls wearing ponytails and hair bows. I stood there with my arms folded talking about “uh huh… that’s cute.”

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Next the tweens came in and did a dance for us! Those lil babies WERKED! The song they danced to translated into English as For One Night Only in Jesus’ Name. A few of us got up to dance with the girls and they loved it! I particularly enjoyed the pop ya collar and bankhead bounce parts… You had to have seen it to know that’s what it was… For real!

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Then we headed up to the separate rooms to do the lesson and crafts. They brought all 110 children in the school into the entryway so Anna could do the lesson. Pastor Roger had to translate for them, but what was so apparent to us was how attentive they all were. They were leaning in and their heads all went from Anna to Pastor Roger during the lesson. A great reflection of how we should be for the word of God, hungry!

While Anna went through the lesson, I was able to step out onto the balcony area, and take in where we had come from. Not a single child in that center looked like what they had been through to get there. These pictures show just outside of the center where we entered.

When we got to our room, we made Salvation Bead bracelets with the older children. The black bead represented sin, the red bead represented the blood Jesus shed, the white bead represented how we are washed clean when we accept Christ, the yellow bead represented the picture of heaven, and the green bead represented our physical and spiritual growth as Christians. We had fun doing that, and then we took pictures with them. I was tickled because we needed someone to translate the entire time, but the second I asked those tweens if they knew what a selfie was, EVERYBODY struck a pose! LOLOLOLOLOLOL That’s one word that crosses all language barriers I suppose.

 

We spent a little more time with the children, then it was time to leave. None of us wanted to leave. I know that we each left with a little more confidence than we came with. I didn’t walk with my head down this time. I noticed that this village was indeed a village. You could get food, clothing, a shave, everything! These people were surviving with so little. The maze on the way out became congested with motorbikes. So much so that our group got separated. Deidre told us how a few men tried to encircle them, and Pastor Roger shook his finger, said no, and the men went on their way. I thought about just how favored we were because we were in the presence of God’s favored. #message

We came out of the village and had a short walk to principal’s house. It wasn’t far. For about 5 minutes, we walked the life of the people here, and it was the picture of hell. It was so chaotic. Horns blaring, cows were strolling the streets alongside us. The smells were so pungent that I gagged a couple of times. The streets were crowded with people, cars, motorbikes, and litter. I couldn’t take it! The pollution was so thick I could barely breathe.

Just when I thought I was about to break, we made it to her home. We walked through this iron gate and turned into this narrow walkway. It was lined with the most beautiful backsplash, and as I ascended the stairs I could feel this spirit of peace just wash over me. It was like the noise seemed to melt away with each step. That’s symbolic of our walk with Christ. We went upstairs to hear her testimony, which was absolutely amazing, and had lunch (SO. GOOD.) She gave us this ice cream that had actual red velvet cake in it… babi!

After lunch, she escorted us to the roof of her home and we could overlook the slums. My heart broke for these people. You could see children playing, dancing, and flying kites on the roofs of each home. I was blown away by how these children found love, hope, and joy in the midst of one of the most impoverished areas I’ve ever seen. It was such a humbling moment that many of us stopped taking pictures and just looked into a life we could never even imagine. As if nature reflected our mood, a light rain started to fall from the sky. We were told to get inside quickly. We prayed for the family, said our goodbyes, and headed to load the bus. I was so emotionally drained that I dozed off on the bus.

When I woke up, we arrived at the mall. We had to walk through a security check, and stood in the middle of a 4 level mall. This is what we were used to. I came all this way just to end up inside H&M LOL. It was a hard pill to swallow to go from such a poor area (the picture on the left shows the size of one home on the top level) to a place where people were spending hundreds of dollars so quickly.

We were still so sensitive. Katie must have felt our energy because she told us to be sure to guard your hearts. Anna came behind her and said to always see the helpers and the hope in these situations.

Tiffany, Jessica, and I walked to MAC so I could get more Plumful lipstick. As soon as we entered the store, we were immediately surrounded. Literally. Three workers and a security guard not-so-discreetly encircled us. I asked Jessica and Tiffany aloud, “Are we being profiled?” Tiffany and Jessica both said “Yes.” Racism varies from continent to continent, but fact is evident; it does exist. I paid for my lipstick, and we walked out. We met with the rest of the group, and headed back to the hotel for dinner.

Memphis hasn’t seen poverty like this. We have our bad areas, but what resonated with me is the fact that the mindset of the people is so different here. They don’t operate as if someone owes them anything. They make the most out of what they have. This trip opened my eyes to a lot. I never realized how selfish I was and how little my problems truly were. I have so much to be grateful for, but I’ve taken it for granted because I’ve allowed it to become an expectation rather than a gift. I  couldn’t blog last night y’all. I was too tired. I have a responsibility though. “Responsibility is learning how to budget your time and talents. It’s knowing when to work an when to play. It’s knowing that work is good and should be done to the glory of God. It’s knowing that play is also good, and is to be used for refreshment and renewal, not escapism or idleness. There’s value in accepting challenges, taking risks, and doing hard things. Push yourself, and allow others to push you, too. Sometimes, the easy road is the right road, but sometimes it’s just easy. Know the difference.”

I’m not truly living unless my success helps others succeed. My success has to give others hope…

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Ezekiel 37 (NIV)

The Valley of Dry Bones

The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commandedme, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”

 

 

Brown Sugar and the City!

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Blogging from the hotel pool…

“Always take the scenic route…” It’s 10pm, and I’m sitting out by pool while a few of us are preparing for VBS with the kids tomorrow, and one is swimming. I can’t even begin to describe how beautiful this bungalow is, and how pleasant the weather is right now… #favor

The team went out today! Here are my findings:

  1. Street lines are apparently decorative. Chile it is every man for himself in these Indian streets!!! I don’t understand how there aren’t 9 car pile ups at every turn! It doesn’t matter that there are lines in the streets, here they drive in the space!
  2. When a driver uses a turn signal, that basically means it already happened. Our driver merged onto the interstate without looking and I had a mini-panic attack! Never mind the guy who was already driving in the lane we “merged” into on a motorbike… Jesus take the wheel… No, really, take it. Baby, our driver flipped that signal on after the fact as a way of saying, “Yea, I did it, now what?” Horns were blowing like crazy.
  3. Blowing car horns is possibly a form of communication here. Pedestrians heard horns, and didn’t move. You hear horns blowing the ENTIRE time driving, and no one cares. Dogs and pigeons don’t even move when they hear a horn! Which brings me to my next point…
  4. It is completely normal to find a cow sitting in the middle of the street, and all of the drivers will respect the cow’s fresh. Everyone drove around the cow. Nobody bothered him. Could you imagine a cow chilling in the middle of Tchluhoma in Whitehaven??? Yea, me either, but it happened.
  5. It’s completely normal to stand on the side of the interstate. People were sitting on the rails, talking and having a cigarette! And I’m all like 😮 I still hadn’t figured that part out yet… Give me a couple more days.
  6. One of the catwalks had an escalator. We can put one in South Memphis if we bad… We would absolutely tear that up… On site. #ijs #GritGrind
  7. Children hustle, early. It’s what we call in Memphis, “working the blades.” These little boys were so unbelievably adorable… They would’ve had all my rupees. Seriously, how are you charming when you sale flags, ink pens, and wash windows?! What I found most heart breaking was the life expectancy of these children is mid-twenties because of the fumes they inhale being around cars all day.

     

     

 

 

Our first stop today was Life Centre Academy. As soon as we entered the doors, we were greeted with bright smiles, and adorned with marigolds. I loved how print rich the school walls were! You knew immediately that this was a place of learning. Sitting in that room today felt like I was in a PD that blended my school and my church! #Mindblown! This past school year, we focused a lot on the “Why” behind the work. Often times, it’s easy to get caught up in the complaints of the work. It’s amazing how the message is the same, even in India.

The director made a statement today that made me take out my pen and pad.  He said, “Your why sustains your effort.” I wanted to wave my hand! Next, one of our team members, Melissa, came behind him and opened her devotion with the Rick Warren quote, “You become what you are committed to.” Then the Vice Principal here said, “first you have to learn how the student learns, then you can teach him.” Here I am, 8,000 miles away from home, and God is using this space to confirm some things He told me a year ago. Mane listen…

We had some time to talk with the teachers, and introduce ourselves. Of course, everyone wanted to know how old I was when I told them I was an assistant principal. I was like, “It’s in the genes, boo!” The director asked me, “How does such a little woman get the attention of so many?” I showed him that Trezevant cheer voice! LOL We played team building games with the teachers of Life Centre (that’s where all the womenfolk were by the way), and we had lunch with them. One thing I especially love about Indian food is they are not afraid to add some spice! Phew! We got a chance to talk with them about their school and the work they do (school hours are 8am – 1:30pm see what I did there?). Those stories blew my mind, and sounded oddly familiar…. “It’s exciting when you find parts of yourself in someone else.”

After fellowshipping with the director, teachers, and other leaders at Life Centre, we ventured to Lodhi Gardens.

That pic didn’t quite come out as planned, but it’s one of the only ones I have before I’m sweating profusely… All of these buildings were built nearly 5,000 years ago and are still standing! The director’s daughter was with us today, and she was so sweet and funny. Apparently, staring is common here. Staring too long is disrespectful. We were in the middle of the garden waiting for a few others from the Life Centre to join us when the director’s daughter saw these two men staring at our group and asked them, “What’s your problem?” *insert North Memphis* He sassed her back, and she. went. off. Baby! She gave it to him in Hindi, with a whole lot of attitude, and the neck roll to match, then finished with, “Thank you. You can go now.” All the saints were standing there like her goons. HA! It was awesome.

Today was good. I learned a little about the culture and the city. Our team connected in a major way today, and my team leader, Katie, is out here killing it! It takes a lot to lead a team, but to be able to lead a team into the unknown shows influence and grace. This morning, Katie led us in devo about Saul. She came from 1 Samuel 10:21-24. Verse 24 says, “Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.” Then the people shouted, “Long live the king!” Let’s look at that word chosen for a sec. The definition says having been selected as the best or most appropriate (y’all are a smart group… You see were I’m headed, right?). Katie encouraged us to operate in the simple fact that God handpicked us to do this work at a time such as this. That was so powerful! I’m His masterpiece, His 1st round pick, and there is none like me. Knowing that God orchestrated all of this so I could do the good things He planned, long before I even reached this moment leaves me speechless. He’s an awesome wonder…

Ephesians 2:10 NLT “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

 

Brown Sugar Arrives in India!

“For the sake of your soul, venture out…”

We boarded in New Jersey at 9:45 pm, and settled in. I scrolled through the movies, TV shows, and audiobooks that were available for this 14 hour international flight over the Atlantic ocean…. Yep… Ya girl felt the exact same way…

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I settled for Fences and giggled at how cute Denzel and Viola looked together. Everything about them made me want to have Sunday dinner at their house. Speaking of dinner, around this time, the airline served dinner. Of the chicken and vegetarian selections, I choose chicken… It wasn’t bad. Not really sure what that cold, sweet corn concoction was in the center, but I prayed and got some Ginger Ale to wash it down.

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At some point in the film, I drifted off to sleep. I was up and down for about 7 hours. After hour 7, I got up to walk around a bit and talked myself into staying awake because I knew it would be bedtime when we landed in Delhi. So I got another show going. I tried to watch Game of Thrones, but I couldn’t stay awake (sorry GOT fans. I promise I’ll try again on the flight home). Chile, I saw they had Friends! So, I’m watching Friends and CRACKING UP when I noticed people staring at me… I forgot they could hear me and not the TV show… my bad y’all…

A few people had their windows open, and I could see we were flying through a LOT of lightening. Whenever we hit a little turbulence, two small children behind me (one of which, who was probably the sweetest one, kept kicking my seat) giggled. I got through at least 6 episodes of Friends, and drifted off to sleep again. The airline woke us up for breakfast, and I was tickled because the flight attendant looked a lot like Ernie from Fox 13 News. I had turkey bacon, eggs, breakfast potatoes, and orange juice. I mixed some Emergen-C in my orange juice to help boost my immune system and watched Friends until we landed. It was 9:45pm when we left the states, and 9:45pm all over again when we landed in India… 😮

When we got off the plane, we all went to the rest room. Fam…. What was I supposed to do with this?! Which is exactly what I asked myself when I entered the stall. But if you know me, I said “YOLO” and went for it…. Don’t ask.

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Sooooo….. When in Rome?

The airport process took us a little over an hour because of the lines, but it was actually a really smooth process. Everyone was friendly, but moving! We met with more of our team leaders, and they were both older men who were warm and cracked jokes. I think it made us all feel more welcomed.  The shuttle that brought us to the hotel was cool. The gentlemen didn’t speak, but were hospitable. But let me tell you, he was whipping that bus!

When we arrived at the hotel, it was raining really hard, but the hotel was absolutely beautiful! Check-in was a breeze, but our team was completely exhausted by this point. It was midnight here (There’s a 10.5 hour time difference for us).

I just realized that everyone we encountered was a man… Hmmm… Where are the womenfolk? I’ll keep that in mind for tomorrow. We were escorted to our rooms, where I showered, and typed this quick blog for y’all to let you know that God kept us safe, and we arrived.

“God not only sees where you are, He sees where you can be…”

Brown Sugar’s Mom Lesson #317

As a single mom, I try to be sure I spend alone time with each of my children. I always want them to feel special with and without their sibling present.

So this past weekend, I took my son to breakfast. Just the kid and me. We played Rock, Paper, Scissors. We played Heads Up. We sang songs. We danced to the soothing warmth of our hot chocolate (mine may have had a tinge of Kahlua) caressing our throats on that snowy day.

I noticed a male friend (let’s call him Daniel) had come in and the second my son saw him, he immediately invited Daniel to eat with us. No harm, no foul, right? We ate, laughed, and played games.

As sudden as the ice storm of 1997 covered the Mid-South, my son blurted out to Daniel, “I wish you were my dad.” It was so innocent. I was so embarrassed. If this #melaninmagic had been a few shades lighter everyone would have noticed that my face had grown hot. Although Daniel thought it was funny, I was mortified! After we left the restaurant I took a moment to calm down so I could talk with my son rather than fuss at him.

So I asked probing questions. I asked him why he said what he said to Daniel when he has a dad. My son sat in the back seat of my car starring at me fearfully through the rearview mirror.

Me: “When your dad asked you if you were coming over this weekend, you told him no. Why didn’t you want to go?” My son replied, “Because the only thing I do over there is play the game and watch TV.”

I knew that, but I thought that was just the way those two bonded… #NOT

Me: “Well baby you have a daddy, so why did you tell Daniel that?”

My son replied, “Well Daniel talked to me. Daddy doesn’t. When I try to talk to him, he’s either playing his game, on the phone, or on Facebook.”

So I asked him if he had ever told his dad that (because this kid is pretty outspoken), and he replied no. Then asked if I could tell him. #ThinkingFace

So then I asked why he was always so angry, and he didn’t reply. So I said, “Well baby you’ve gotta tell mommy something because you’re always angry with your friends and your sister. What’s going on?”

That beautiful little brown boy dropped his head and burst into tears. I could feel my heart breaking… no shattering, by the second.

He eventually choked out, “I just don’t feel respected. Daddy never talks to me, my sisters only want to talk to each other, and they’re mean to me whenever I try to come in and talk to them, no one listens to me! I know you’ll listen mommy, but I just want my daddy to listen to me too!”

Now this blog is not meant to bash my ex. I would hope that he talks to our son, but I’ve known him since we were 12, so it’s highly unlikely, but I am aware that he’s not much of a talker. My son, in a sense had given up on his own father being able to openly communicate with him, and decided to try to latch onto another male who provided him with what he so desperately longed for……. #scary

With tears brimming my eyes, I swerved into a Target parking lot, and reached back for my son. I told him to come sit with me, and I let him cry it out. I hugged him. I listened. I had no words. All I could do was what most mothers would do. I silently prayed over my son. Just as soon as the silent Amen floated from my lips to God’s ears, my son perked up. We hopped out of the car and somehow got sucked into the black hole that is Target.

When I was there, he wanted to hop his heavy 88 lbs self on the front of the basket and talk to me about how Power Rangers was a thing again, and how bacon couldn’t be real food, and how cool boys wear blue jean shirt, and how science was really cool, and how he wasn’t sure if he could still go to Christian Brothers University because he didn’t know anyone who was drafted from CBU. I realized that maneuvering the basket with him on it was much harder than it used to be, which meant he was bigger than the last time we did this, so I decided to get him more socks, t-shirts, and underwear (this will play a part in this story momentarily). He enjoyed that moment so much!

My mom would always tell my sister and me, “don’t have kids, cause once you have ’em, they’re yours.” So, I’ve embraced the fact that I’m a single parent. It’s March, and my ex hadn’t given me any money to support the kids since January. I don’t call. I don’t ask. I leave him be. I had an event yesterday, and asked my ex to keep the kids. I could’ve gotten a sitter, but considering he hadn’t seen them in two weeks, I figured #YOLO, right? He agreed, and came to pick them up. I stood in the door and watched them get to the car safely.

My son comes running back up to the door with a slip of paper. I got the paper along with a quick peck on the cheek, and my son was off. I looked at the money order my son I given me from my ex that was dated 2/10/17 (well over a month ago) in the amount of $19. I promise you, if his name and mine weren’t on it, I would attach a photo of it to this blog.

All I could do in that moment was laugh. He doesn’t see them. He rarely calls them. He actually spent money to give me a $19 money order that he’d held for over a month that couldn’t even cover the amount I spent on socks, underwear, and t-shirts (told you it was coming back up)! He got $30K from his mother’s life insurance policy, and I received a whopping $19 to take care of the kids? Turn up! Bottles for everybody! Shots on me! Ok… My bad ya’ll. I may have gone a little overboard with the sarcasm. 🙂

What I did realize was this: for the first time, in awhile, I wasn’t angry by his actions. I’ve been blessed enough to care for my children without his support. By no means has it been easy. I’m grateful for my best friend, family, and others who have helped along the way for being my village. Mom lesson #317 brought an increase in growth and a decrease in pettiness!

Brown Sugar’s Sandstorm

“Like sand in the hour glass, these are the days of our lives….”

Each fallen granule is evidence of yet another non renewable experience that has shaped who we are.

Some particles, more than others, dedicate more time, effort, and mass to certain seasons in our lives.

See there’s the finer sand like friends, our interests, our free will.

Then there’s the more course type like politics, religion, love.

That final coarse granule (love) doesn’t seem to slip through the womb of the hour glass as easily as the others though does it?

It’s forced like a predator aggressively raping a victim.

It bites like your very first shot of cheap liquor.

It burns like the hot scorching oil that leapt out of the skillet and scalded your skin the first time you fried chicken on your own.

That love granule is a course one. Course enough to cut you.

It’s the kind your mother told you not to get in your hair when you played in the sand box.

It’s the kind you carry with you days after leaving the beach.

It hurts and it lasts.

“Like sand in the hour glass, these are the days of our lives….”

My first love sandstorm started so quietly that I didn’t see it coming, you know how these storms are.

Then it picked up speed that was so forceful, I couldn’t see, I couldn’t hear, I couldn’t think.

I could only feel.

Fear and pain.

I left that sandstorm in high school only to willingly walk into another similar sandstorm in college.

This one was more intense because it followed a thunderstorm.

This wind velocity was increased.

I struggled to breathe in this storm, but there’s a Chinese proverb that says mothers are stronger than any other woman.

I had to survive that storm. There was someone else depending on me to survive.

Or so I thought.

Years later, I went back to where my first sandstorm happened.

I revisited that season.

For some reason I couldn’t remember the pain it caused.

So I stayed.

A sandstorm couldn’t hit in the same place twice right?

Or was that lightening?

This love granule was so coarse that it cut every inch of me.

I stood there bleeding and wounded and exposed

And at the worst possible moment, without warning, the worst sandstorm of the century ensued

It engulfed me and left me for dead

I lied there coughing up blood from the brutal attack of this storm

When the next two granules that slipped through the hour glass and landed next to me were my children…

The two sweetest, finest, most unique granules sat atop the mound of my mistakes, successes, wins, and losses starring me in the face

Needing me. Depending on me. Shaping their own life experiences after me.

So, I picked myself up.

I nursed my wounds

I healed

I prevailed

“Like sand in the hour glass, these are the days of our lives….”

That sand granule is unavoidable.

This last love sandstorm came dressed in a nice beard. An extensive vocabulary. A charming exterior.

This sandstorm slithered like the snake it was into my space

It graciously took down the quartz walls I had built around my heart

What felt like the smooth colorful glass that protected me and kept each granule contained in a beautifully shaped piece of art.

This sandstorm convinced me that this art was in fact a cage.

This last granule came in and annihilated me once and for all from the inside out.

When I regained consciousness

I was left lying there

Unable to move

Gasping for life

Lying on my back looking up at the swirling vortex of my life’s experiences

Grasping at the memories that brought joy

Grasping at the memories that brought pain

Grasping at all that makes me… me

“Like sand in the hour glass, these are the days of our lives….”

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