Aftermath of Chaos

Friends, y’all know how frequently I get on FB. If you don’t, let me tell you: it’s rare. But I decided to see what folks were saying after this crazy week! I’m emotional too, but as a Black woman who was an officer for over 8 years, I was sickened by the amount of trash & ignorance fillingthe pages. Venom! 


 Even as I smh, I went outside and was startled to see one of my neighbors staring back at me. The storm blew over one the trees in our yard and it had fallen on our carport. Because I usually get in when it’s dark outside, I didn’t see it. But she did when she drove by this morning. She was out there with her grandfather’s old saw sawing that tree trunk to get it off our carport. We never did anything beyond wave in passing before today, but I thanked her she said, “I had a saw and you had a need. It was least I could do. We all matter.” She finished sawing and we both dragged that tree to the end of the road.
That spoke to me. Most peeps are busy talking and not doing anything, but running their mouths! You’re right- there needs to be a change. Injustice, ignorance & fear are eating our communities alive. Maya Angelou (one of my favorite poets) once said, “Nothing changes unless we do.” The true display of strength is when you act nobly and do what’s right even when you want to do wrong. And right now we need people of strength, not people who are only satisfied to spit venom and run their mouths, doing nothing to provoke change around them.
BE the change you want to see, BE the example for our children & CHOOSE to allow godly love and peace to keep & preserve our hearts. Gots to do better!! Even in dire circumstances like now where things look impossible to resolve, I do serve the Most God where all things are possible! I choose not to relinquish my hope because this chaos isn’t the best we can have! God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love & a sound mind! It’s gonna take all of the latter three to turn this around! Keep praying, keep standing and stay hopeful! #2tim1:7 #choose life

New Drawers??

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Joshua 1. It’s about the transition from the wilderness into the Promised Land. For years upon years, they were promised this land, but because of a generation’s lack of gratitude, their failure to acknowledge & appreciate divine intervention and their own murmuring & complaining, they turned an 11-day trip into 40-years of the longest “donut” ever. As a matter of fact, God was pretty clear that they couldn’t enter the promised land until a whole generation died. So, that’s what happened and Joshua 1 picks up with Moses, the previous leader, dying & Joshua, the new leader, taking over.

Now, in my family, “growing up” has always been coupled with the metaphor of getting new undies (AKA “a new set of drawers”). It’s true- “new drawers” has taught this SUSTAH a number of life-lessons.

A) I remember around the age of 3 that the transition into undies meant I was “big girl” and had responsibilities. I had to help feed my baby brother & baby cousins, be a big sister to Cat, making sure that she was protected & watched, and build “important” things in Grandpa’s tool shed. Whenever I acted contrary to being a big girl, one of my relatives would quickly remind me that I was NOT wearing a diaper anymore. My drawers had changed and I needed to also!

B) In elementary school, my Mia Ma, Pop, grandparents, older brothers, cousins, aunts & uncles used undies to teach me that “change” was a good & necessary thing.  “If you don’t freak out about changing your drawers everyday, Little Vickie, then don’t freak out about other changes.” That typically led to a monologue about how some changes resulted in death, despair, chaos . . . and more death.  They often responded quickly and explained how change could result in something that could really be good for you, referencing a sport, a “Rocky” movie or a “back in the day” tale that ended in victory. “Wait it out . . . and if it doesn’t end up being a good situation, then change your “drawers” again, baby. You know how to do it!”

C) My all-time favorite “drawers” lesson was in my early teens when I would get into trouble. In those days, it was something new everyday. I was a leader, a scientist, a teacher, a rebel with a cause . . . and that often meant that I was gonna do exactly the OPPOSITE of what Mia Ma told me NOT to do. Despite being recognized for the creativity & innovation that went into the the escapades, I was always grounded. The explanation for my punishment was the same simple reason each time: I was trying to wear “grown folk” drawers when it suited me to keep the “teenager” drawers that I had. And, if that didn’t sink in, it was Mia Ma’s infamous declaration that she was the ONLY ONE who was gonna wear the “grown up” drawers in HER house and we the kiddos had better take note.

I could keep going on and on because I’ve been recalling these life-lessons lately. I’ve recognized that, like Joshua 1, I’ve been in the process of a transition in my life. In other words, I’m coming into a new set of drawers. Like Joshua teaches me, in order to lay hold of the things ahead, some things must “die” and be left in the wilderness. I have to leave the soiled things that I’ve overused- excuses about why I’m not doing what I know I need to, complaining about the things that I’ve been unwilling to change, lack of trust, lack of forgiveness, pride & fear- and put on a fresh pair! The truth is that I cannot transition into the new phase with the waste & crap of the old phase. 

Maya Angelou once said, “Nothing changes unless we do.” That’s true! What is TRUTH is that God wants to do a NEW thing in our hearts, in our lives and in our generation, not another “played out” version of the old thing. He gets the NEW thing when we, through the blood of Jesus & with the help of the Holy Spirit, willing transition into the NEW!

So, listen to a Sustah & do yourself a favor as you’re transitioning into a better you- CHANGE YOUR DRAWERS, HONEY! Bigger & better things are to come!

Much Ado About Trash

When I was in elementary school, I joined a club called the K.C.E. (Kids for a Clean Earth) Club. Our mission was to spread awareness about how litter made our community a nasty place and by recycling/reusing we could save our schools, neighborhoods, parks and etc. I don’t know if it was the inspiration I gleamed from one of my favorite cartoons, Captain Planet & the Planeteers, or if the mission gave me something purposeful to focus on, but I took that club seriously!!!

Really . . . before Captain Planet & the Planeteers (and yes- I still know all the lyrics to the theme song!), I was just like everyone else. A piece of trash on the ground was ordinary. Don’t get me wrong- it bothered me that I lived among slobs! I would pick up that piece of trash& toss in the nearest trash can. But what about the other trash? I was like most others: out of sight, out of mind. It wasn’t until the K.C.E. Club that I was challenged to change my “trash” mentality and put effort behind a purpose I believed in.

Do you have a “trash” mentality? All the people, purposes, places & things that once mattered fell victim to your “out of sight, out of mind” thinking? Of all the things I can live with, it truly hurts me to think that those I cherish- God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, my loved ones, my friends, my framily, my “ride-or-die” peeps- would be deserving of such treatment.

We’re all guilty of a “trash-thinking,” which often leads to truck loads of “trash-talking.” It doesn’t usually happen overnight. We all slowly trade our gratitude & thankfulness for self-centeredness & pride and forget the very elements that yielded us strength & support. That’s easy to do. Most of the time, we don’t know we’ve made the unfair trade until we need the strength & are grasping for the support. 

BUT THE REMEDY IS EASY ALSO!!!! It’s simple: REmember those wonderful, beautiful and wonderous people & encounters, your veins of strength and bring those to the forefront of your brain! Open your mouth with gratitude and thankfulness and choose, if only for one day, to keep what is right & good “in our sight, in our minds.”

From the mouth of Captain Planet to your ears, remember, “The power is yours!”

The Best “F” I’ve Ever Made

Ecc 4:9-12 (Amplified version)~ “Two are better than one, because they have a more satisfying reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

Have you ever had a show of REAL support shown towards you? I mean, REAL support . . . not the kind when the other person(s) wanted something in return? I have.
As I have emerged into the world of teens today (thanks to mentoring & being a youth pastor), I have such an urgency to share with these wonderful, hormone-filled beings what REAL SUPPORT looks like. They’re so hungry for it that they are willing to do anything, endure anything, suffer anything to know that they’re not alone in this world. We’ve all been there. You know what I tell them? I received support . . . and it didn’t cost me my character, values or heart. In fact, it added to them all because that’s what it’s suppose to do.

I could give story after story about my Mia Ma!! Sigh- she really is the best Mama in the entire world & I’m pretty sure that anyone else would have hog-tied Ann and I left us in the middle of the desert. So, ummmm . . . thanks, Mia Ma, for NOT doing that. Today, the story will be one that I don’t know that I’ve told before.

I was in 6th grade. Purple Hall. First awkward semester of Middle School. I loved all my teachers, but I was deathly afraid of Mrs. Betty McFadden. She just looked like she didn’t play games and I saw her tear into a few of my friends when they had decided to act in her classroom. Needless to say, I was gonna be the QUIETEST person alive in her class.
Well, I also had band that first year. I started out wanting to play saxophone, but later decided that I wanted to tighten up my drummer skills. Sure I was the only girl drummer in that class, but I had played drums since I was seven. Ok, by “drums” I meant that I was playing with pencils, a hair grease container and our hair bow box, but I was full of mad skills. No matter which instrument I had chosen, the grim truth was the same: Mia Ma couldn’t afford to rent the instrument for me. I didn’t care really. I wanted to play and learning was free, so I paid extra attention and played on the back of a chair & smiled the whole time! My friends let me play their drums when we had tests & sight-readings and I passed with flying colors.
Β The moment came- PROGRESS REPORTS. I went to band class confident that day. I knew how to read music, could sight-read at the drop of a dime and knew I was first drummer material for the next half of the semester. But, despite all that hard work, I emerged from band class with a bright, red “F” on my progress report. I was devastated. I had never had an “F” before and that grade didn’t reflect the progress I knew I had made. I felt as if it was unfair. The grade reflected the fact that I couldn’t afford an instrument, not the progress I had made. I guess a part of me resigned to being ok with that failing grade because it was yet another piece of evidence that I was not going to succeed in this harsh world. I went to the bathroom, fixed my face as best I could and went to my next class, Mrs. McFadden’s class.

When I got there, she looked at me and asked if I was ok. I quickly nodded, handed her my progress report and ran to my desk, keeping my head down. A few minutes went by and I heard my name called. Mrs. McFadden asked me to step into the hallway. I stepped out obediently and watched as she clasped my progress report in her hand. She asked me about band and I just let it all spill out. I explained how I wanted to play drums, how Mia Ma couldn’t afford to rent the instrument and how, despite that, I was working hard to learn. She nodded and said she would hold onto my progress report until later in the afternoon. I nodded and went on about my business. Later on that afternoon, Mrs. McFadden found me and she was bearing gifts: a progress report with a “B” where an “F” use to be, a beginners book and a pair of sticks (one of which I still have today). I was so overjoyed that I cried and hugged her as tight as I could. I don’t know what she did or said . . . I really don’t care. It wasn’t about band, sticks or a book. What I know is that that moment was all the support I needed to muscle through adversity. Someone, without prompting, saw the progress and hard work I was putting in and supported me. There are no words to describe how much she meant to me and how that moment was so pivotal in my young life. Needless to say, Betty McFadden had gained a friend that day and I dared any adolescent to talk trash about her in my presence.

I turned into quite a decent drummer over the years and still find myself in love with the instrument to this very day. It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Betty McFadden. When I have a moment to train other drummers, mentor a teen or have an opportunity to support someone who I know is working hard and making progress, I seize the moment. This passage of scripture is known as the “Value of a Friend” and recants the importance of having real relationships. There are examples upon examples before and after that passage in the Bible that further adds to its message. The experience of receiving such support equally adds to its truth. Β I know firsthand how real support can make a difference.

Quick thoughts from a SUSTAH:

1) Thank you, Mrs. McFadden! I’ll never forget that moment.

2) Sometimes the support you NEED isn’t always packaged the way you want it.

3) Don’t thumb your noses at the principle of “sowing & reaping!” A seed’s greatest purpose is to die to itself so that the life it possesses may fulfill a greater purpose. It can’t be ALL about YOU! Give REAL support to REAL folks and I bet you won’t find yourself lacking the benefits of a good friend.

3) Well . . . I feel like throwing down a groovy beat! Imma rock out with these 7As and holla at you another time!

The Last Evening of 2015

Ann and I took a moment and stopped by our Pop’s house this evening. Oh, John Thomas- you gotta love him and we do!! We usually take our time and reminisce about the old times- our small family of four living in Athens, GA for a VERY short time, Ann and I gagging at the ripe age of roughly 20-22 months old after he & Mia Ma gave us some of Cat’s Similac formula and smile at the family photos (like the one inserted below) we took over the years. Conclusion: life was good back then. And he’s right! 

He has a birthday coming up in 3 days and, as he reminded us, has had alot of life experiences. In a 45-minute visit with him, he gave me a lot to think about here at the close of the 2015 year! Whether he said the actual words or not, this is what I heard; so, thanks, Pop, and . . . this SUSTAH is grateful & blessed to have your lessons that I can LEARN FROM and not have to recreate. Gonna take these into 2016 with me:

1) Take care of your body when you’re in your 30’s and you’ll be glad you did at 65.

2) Even though it can’t change past situations, circumstances or decisions, sometimes “I’m sorry” is the best you can do.

3) ACCEPTING help from others isn’t going to bring about the end of your world.

4) It’s never too late to make amends, but make the time you have RIGHT NOW count. It can save a lot of time & energy.

5) Stay out of the “Bad-N-Busted” pages . . . pictures are better on the other side.

6) Keep the Polaroid camera close & take as many pictures as you can!! Capturing a smile and a happy moment are worth it when you find yourself in the midst of challenging times.

7) Remind yourself to be grateful for what you have- don’t be consumed by your losses, your shame, your regrets, your guilt or your envy. 

8) A good pair of shades & a good hat never hurt anybody! Look good, baby! LOL!!!

9) As much time as you spend working, make sure you work JUST AS HARD to let the people who love you know how much you love them! Staplers and paperwork don’t hug back so warmly.

10) “Changing” isn’t the same as “having good intentions.” Respect the fact that an honest and sincere person can see the difference a mile away.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, GOOD PEOPLE!!! Be blessed! Phil 4:8-9

One Day at a Time

Matthew 6:34~ “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time occurs.” (The Message Bible)

One day at a time.
24 hours. 1440 minutes. It’s what we all have in common each day.
I’ve heard this phrase quite a bit in my line of work. I’ve heard it out the mouths of people who meant it, lived it and breathed it . . . and I’ve seen their lives transform as they healed and recovered. I identify with those folks because that’s the person I strive to be; faith, character, hope and love all grow within a day’s work. However, just as often, I’ve heard this phrase from the mouths of those who wanted the “appearance” of doing the work, but had no intention of putting forth effort or changing. Those provoked frustration in me as I watch them do the same things over and over and over again expecting different results.
One day at a time. It’s the rate at which we all grow, develop and age biologically. So . . . what are you developing?

I have a niece who just turned a year old. Since the day we found out she was occupying our younger sister’s womb, Ann and I have done all we could to cultivate a love of music in that baby (as we have done with our nephews & younger cousins). We sang songs to Cat’s tummy. We didn’t know if we were making headway until Cat said she kicked & “danced” to every song when she saw “Get On Up” in the theaters. Cat was uncomfortable and convincing baby girl not to kick a hole in something, but Ann and I were super proud!! 😊 When she was birthed with her eyes wide open, I sang a quick karaoke mix-up of “I Can See Clearly Now.” When she was six weeks old, crying for someone to pick her up, I would be-box and Ann would sing a remix of “Wheels On The Bus,” and she would quieten to see what her crazy aunts would do next. Every chance we got to expose her to 12 notes, we did; and daily, she listened as I played piano, Ann played guitar and was super attentive each and every time we sang. The time came and my sister, brother-in-law and niece moved to Indiana. Do you think that stopped the music? Not even a little! Even via Facetime, Ann and I will burst out with “If All The Raindrops” from Barney & Friends or Mickey Mouse Club House theme song and watch her face light up. Music is what she knows. Music is what she’s had since day one. So it isn’t hard to comprehend why, even when she’s anxious about being around a lot of people she doesn’t know, the baby will sing and get some hand, hip & feet action in when music comes on.Why? Because it is apparent what we have intentionally poured into her one day at a time.

The same principle applies when it comes to other intangible areas of our lives. Healing, faith, recovery, growth, proper self-care, strength, wellness and character all happen one day at a time. And so does greed, selfishness, arrogance, strife, regrets, insecurities, shame and guilt. Life, and all the trimmings that come with it, ALWAYS occurs one day at a time. Each day, what we feed upon, what we place in front of our faces and what we really believe (not the facade we want others to see) eventually manifest!!! People don’t become strong overnight. People don’t become selfish brats overnight either. People don’t go from having poor character to good character overnight. All those things occur one day at a time after patience, long-suffering, joy and discipline (consistency) has their parts to play. 
Yes, it’s true- it doesn’t always work as fast as the microwave and “instant results” culture we’re use to. But, believe a SUSTAH when I say, “one day at a time” builds us from the inside-out. One day turns into three days. Three days into a week. A week into two weeks. Two weeks into a month. A month into four months. Four months into nine months. Nine months to a year and so on and so forth. Even in the most difficult situations, in the most impossible circumstances, in the driest & lowest of places, what we’ve cultivated one day at a time becomes our tipping point!! 
Good peeps, let’s stop taking our days for granted! Let’s stop wishing them away. Instead, let us put effort into living and have faith in God, faith in the body of Christ, believe the best of every person & situation, faith in ourselves, love & hope . . . all ONE DAY AT A TIME! Make today count!

Do You Want to See?

Matthew 6:22-23~ “The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear [and sound], your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad [and unsound], your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you (your conscience) is darkness, how great & dense is the darkness!”

I remember when I started wearing glasses. I was in sixth grade.  As a matter of fact, I remember the moment when I realized I needed & wanted glasses. True- I was squinting, straining and blinking hard to read things far away, but those things didn’t win me over. It was the speech I got from Mia Ma.

See, Mia Ma didn’t play about many things and “good eye sight” was at the top of the list! It was because, for most of her childhood, her eyes were severely crossed after she accidentally pulled a jar of canned hot peppers off of a table, onto her face and directly into her eyes. She recants the incident as one that was marking, very painful and left her so cross-eyed they didn’t know if her eyes would ever straighten again.

They did. And she always took the opportunity to express the importance of sight, seeing and the woes of not valuing either. After taking the time to help me acknowledge the fact that some people were born blind while others endured trauma that limited or took away their ability to see, she drove home that sight was a gift that I could choose.

“Do you want to go blind, Sustah?” She asked me with her hand on her hip.

I quickly shook my head.

“You sure? Cause it would help the world know the difference between you and your sister,” she teased.

I shook my head again and took a deep breath.

“I just don’t want other kids to pick at me, Ma.”

Mia Ma exhaled a deep breath, walked over to me, put her hand underneath my chin and lifted my head to look into my eyes.

“It doesn’t matter what others say, darling. You can’t use their eyes to see. God gave you two of your own and you get to decide how you use them. So . . . do you want to see or do you want to be blind?”

Mia Ma and Apostle David’s (through a sermon on blindness) words marked me and has me continually pondering that choice. It seems like a “no brainer” to a person that values physical sight. The question is significant to me- a stubborn, strong-willed, fighting, prideful SUSTAH-  when it comes to the “sight of maturity, growth and personal & spiritual development.” See, blindness in this area can occur when I choose to focus on and value these things above sight:

– Betrayl: how someone did me wrong;

– Desertion/Abandonment: how others left me

– Failures

– My own wants, desires, lusts & appetites consume me & become my life;

– Familiarity: “same old, same old” mentality that limits value, new expectations, innovation & creativity;

– Compromising my core values for the sake of approval from others around me;

– Carrying of Care/Anxiety;

– Unexplained experiences in our past (i.e. Loss of a loved one, abuse, trauma);

– Being willfully Disobedient & Rebellious: defiant without a cause or purpose.

– Unforgiveness

Really, this list can go on and on. The point is that blindness is the absence of light in regards to our ability to see. These things named above are things that we encounter daily that has the ability to limit and/or obstruct our ability to see God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, ourselves, others and the life-lessons around us as we should. What I “saw” at eleven years old is that God & Christ SAW me for the truly hot mess, broken, stubborn yet beautiful & sincere gift that I was and CHOSE to love me unconditionally anyway. That gift of sight- to see & love myself and others as God & Christ see & love me- is what I labor to value over the obstacles (some named above) before me daily. I say LABOR because it absolutely requires me to do some hard work!

More now than ever, I’m convinced that the “blind is leading the blind” in so many sectors of the world & church. Peeps hand in hand, as blind as a bat, traveling in circles as their good intentions, pride and ignorance would have them. However, just one by one, if we choose light & life, if we choose to see, if we value the gift of sight on the deepest of levels (spiritual, godly wisdom & understanding), we have & become the light that penerates darkness. And, people, we so need that light!

I want to see. But your choice is yours. Do you want see . . . Or do you want to be blind?

The Hotseat

“So faith comes by hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by preaching [of the message that came from the lips] of Christ.” Romans 10:17

I had a dream a few days ago.

There was an activity called “The Hotseat” that our youth group did a number of times back in the day. It consisted of one person sitting in a chair at the front of the room (or top of the circle) and everyone else giving them positive affirmations. No one was allowed to say anything ugly and EVERYONE had to take a turn. The comments couldn’t be anything shallow, like “I really like your shoes.” All the comments had to be sincere about what we truly appreciated about that one person. Some days were more challenging than others. Some people were more challenging than others. But we all did it and it made a huge difference.
In my dream, I was sitting in the “hotseat.” I was sweating. I was nervous. My heart was pounding against the walls of my chest. I could feel tears streaming down my cheeks in the dream. Why would I feel such a way when faced with such a positive affirming activity? Well, it’s because I always found this activity to be challenging. Not because people said ugly things; there were only good things said about how I excelled in what I was doing and what I did for others. Nope, it was because I had to hear people say nice things about ME. I had believed so many lies about my self-worth- that I was unworthy to be loved, that I was too damaged and too broken to be anyone of importance, that others were better off without me- it was challenging to hear anyone say anything besides the lies.


Most of the time my internal turmoil made it difficult for me to hear the actual words that came out the other peeps’ mouths. More importantly, I couldn’t hear God’s word and that stalemated my faith and I found it a challenge to obtain it’s life. My friends knew this so they did whatever they had to do to shake me up & get my attention when it was my turn to sit in ” The Hotseat.” While some told me things like “You inspire me to love people & life as deeply as you do” and “I admire your unwillingness to compromise what you believe in,” others said “If you get out that chair, I will hit you so hard Ann will feel it” and “I don’t care if you sit there and cry all day, you’re gonna let us love you; you’re gonna hear us say these positive things to you because you need to know that we don’t believe you’re the abandoned, “piece-o-trash” you think you are.” And that’s what used to happen & that’s what I did in my dream- I sat in that chair, cried and listened as they told me everything EXCEPT the lies I’d told myself. It made all the difference in my young life- my faith increased and it gave God, Christ and Holy Spirit the access they needed to begin healing me.

When examining my own testimony, I’m reminded that our society today is in serious need of healing in the “self-worth” department. Some of us were abandoned by our parent(s) and/or loved one(s). Even if they were there, some parents & guardians weren’t emotionally available to us. And, maybe for some, years of neglect & abuse took its toll. No matter what the trauma was, self-worth was damaged and it changed how we saw ourselves. We even add nicknames, like “The Outsider,” that continue to echo the damaged self-worth and our ability to hear is compromised.

In the name of transparency, that is my walk of faith with God: to tip the scales daily by trusting & accepting His words MORE than the lies. “The Hotseat” interrupts the cycle of feeding ourselves lies and provides opportunities to replace them with God’s word, truth & agape love. I’m so grateful for those people who sat in those circles years ago. Those words, even echoed in a dream, have been such strong reminders to increase my faith and strong motivators for me to continue being healed, especially when I find myself in faint-hearted cycles.
There are 101 lessons to be pulled out of this Sustah’s dream. For now, I would just like to say: look in the mirror, put YOURSELF in “The Hotseat” today, receive more words of Love & life than the lies you’re accustomed to! I promise you, despite what lies you may believe about yourself, you’re not the worthless, abandoned, “piece-o-trash” you think you are.

Ride or Die….Ummm

There are many “big sister” moments I remember. None of them top Cat’s first driving experience.
First, you have to know that Mia Ma’s car at the time was a little, white, 2-door, 1980’s-something Turbo. We called it “Kitt” like the talking car on “Knight Rider.” It always told us when the fuel level was low and when the car doors were ajar. We loved Kitt and he was a member of our family.
Second, you have to know that all 7 of us (Mia Ma and we six kiddos) crammed up in that little car like clowns: Mia Ma in the driver’s seat, one of the girls (because we were older) rode in the front and the other five packed snug in the tiny backseat. There was the typical complaint that “someone is touching me,” which was VERY true, but we got around and everyone was in a seatbelt. 😊
Ann and I loved the drive to visit our grandparents in the country. We were going to run, play & eat coconut cake (our grandmother’s favorite cake and we didn’t like it at all) until we could hardly stand. We also knew that meant that Mia Ma was going to knowingly face danger to give us what parents have given their kids for years: driving lessons. When we got to the long, long, dirt road that led to the family land, Mia Ma would let us practice our driving skills. Ann went first and did well. I went next and got a thumbs up. This particular day, it was Cat’s turn.

We were all nervous to begin with because Cat was . . . well, Cat was Cat. She was already jumpy, cautious and didn’t take a lot of risks. We knew adding a wheel and two foot pedals may increase the share of challenges. To our surprise, Cat accepted the challenge and got behind the wheel. I put God on serious speed dial that day because I prayed every ten seconds. I prayed hard because Cat’s hands were already shaking before the car was even moving and I could see my young life flashing before my eyes. Mia Ma calmed Cat down, got her to hear her voice and, within moments, Cat shifted the car into drive and we started the move forward very slowly. You could hear a pin drop the other five of us were so quiet. Honestly, everything was going fine on the even dirt road . . . until it dawned on Cat that she had to drive down 3 steep hills to get to our grandparents’ driveway to park the car. That’s when the freak out happened.

When the car went over the first hill, Cat lost it! She yelled, screamed, started crying and her hands came off the wheel and were flailing above her head in panic. Hands off the wheel?  Oh no ma’am! To top it all off, the car was speeding up . . . because Cat was pressing the gas pedal instead of the brake pedal during her freak out. We were packed too tight for me to hit the fetal position as I envisioned the car hitting the rows of trees on the bottom level. So, I grabbed one of my younger brothers and prayed, preparing to high-five Jesus when the car reached the bottom. 

I remember Mia Ma’s calm voice coaching Cat while we were all screaming and begging God for our lives. “It’s all right, Cat. I’m right here. I need you to put your foot on the brake pedal. Come on . . . you can do it!” But was Cat listening? Not at that moment because her “freak out” had hit an all-time high!! Kitt went bouncing over the second hill and it seemed we were headed for a crash when Mia Ma’s cool and collected voice somehow managed to get through to Cat and she stomped on the brake pedal. The car jerked to a stop and Mia Ma hurriedly put the car in park. While Mia Ma was calming Cat down, the other five of us cleared out the backseat in less than 5 seconds and stood outside the car breathing hard & celebrating as we realized we had lived to see another day! When Cat came to herself, she apologized to us all and we went inside our grandparents house. That day, I thanked God that I was alive to eat another piece of coconut cake!!! (*Finger pointed to the sky!*) Praise Him!

I was reminded in a simple Sunday message that your faith affects HOW you hear and WHAT you hear! I’m going to be transparent with you: that message spoke mounds to this Sustah!! And it’s because, here recently in my life, I have been Cat freaking out behind the driver’s wheel, yelling, screaming crying, hands flailing above my head because I’m encountering some challenging life circumstances, intense emotions, running into my own walls as I examine my ugly, seared conscious & pride, enduring situations beyond my control and imminent fear of facing “giants” that seem impossible to beat. And God, Jesus & the Holy Spirit? Well, they have been the calm voices at my side, ensuring me that they haven’t nor will they ever leave me. Real ride or die peeps right there! 

What I’ve noticed as I’ve assessed my “listening” skills lately is that I’m barely passing and, if that’s the case, my faith needs a boost!!! I’ve jumped out of many “cars” in my lifetime. Some hills were cliffs and I didn’t want to meet my end being an impulsive fool; that was the case most of the time and I’m grateful for wisdom. However, some hills weren’t cliffs. They were just paths to help me journey to a deeper phase of my relationship with God, trust Him and increase my faith. That happened often also. I couldn’t always tell the difference freaking out behind the wheel . . . because, well, it all looked the same. The tipping point was whether or not I listened to Wisdom’s voice. I passed sometimes and I didn’t others. Surely, I don’t have to tell you the scenarios that had better results, do I?

Faith comes by hearing and hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). As I’m reflecting, whether I interpreted correctly or not & hard-headed or not, what has saved me ALL the time was my ability to hear God’s voice, listen and simply do what I knew to be right according to His word (the rhema & logos). I’m going back to the basics when it comes to listening and my faith because this freaking out business is wasting a lot of my precious energy! 😊 

This experience has taught many life lessons & I wanna thank you, Cat! πŸ˜† All I want to say today is this:

Life is precious, but short. Don’t waste time riding to destruction and accepting lies that keep us panicking behind the wheel. Value your life. Have the faith of God. And lets all have enough sense to listen.


Matt 12:33-37 (The Message)- “If you grow a healthy tree, you’ll pick healthy fruit. If you grow a diseased tree, you’ll pick worm-eaten fruit. The fruit tells you about the tree. You have minds like a snake pit! How do you suppose what you say is worth anything when you are foul-minded? It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words. A good person produces good deeds and words season after season. An evil person is a blight on the orchard. Let me tell you something: every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can be your damnation.”

When I learned about the “Trail of Tears” in U.S. History, it marked me! I took it VERY personal because it WAS personal. See, I had always been told by my maternal grandmother that her great-great-great grandfather (it may be one more great in there) was a Cherokee Indian who had children by a Black woman, and thus, started her family’s lineage. I absolutely believed it! My grandmother’s words and my mother’s high cheekbones were all the evidence I needed! I considered (and still do) myself to have Indian heritage and felt like I was taking a hike with the Indians when I read about it.

When I tell you I was tore up, I was tore up!! I was so upset that I watched “Dances With Wolves” a few times, vowed to marry “Smiles A Lot,” placed “go to Indian reservation” on my bucket list and demanded justice for my people before I would have peace again that day.

Indian-Givers. I. Cannot. Stand. Them.

More importantly, I don’t want to be one.

The term is associated with a person giving something and taking it back, like a gift. But it isn’t about materials at all. Like the hundreds of broken treaties made with the Indians before the “Trail of Tears,” it’s more about our word(s)- the things we say and offer to others- and failing to do what we said we were going to do. An Indian-giver.

The people who are close to me know that I’m borderline excessive about keeping my word (and about paying people back when they buy me something). Like most of you, I’ve had people let me down. Tell me something grand, make me a promise, present a flawless first-impression, give me some A+ grade level lip-service only to never follow through. I call it “lying” and I don’t like to be lied to!!!

I don’t like being the liar either! When I miss it, and I do sometimes, I have to repent, seek out my loved one, friend or acquaintance for forgiveness and make it right. It’s necessary if I want godliness in my life. It’s necessary if I want to have peace before my head hits my pillow each night. It’s necessary if I want others to trust me. It’s necessary if I desire to have good character and want others to accurately access my character.

Apostle David Coker said “Once you give someone thing, it no longer belongs to you.” We must truly be good stewards of what we give to others. Especially our word. Commitment is doing what you said you were gonna do long after the feeling you felt when you said it goes away. Folks get on “soapboxes” when it comes to judgment, often misquoting scriptures and taking scriptures out of context to say “don’t judge me” when they are wrong. When you don’t keep your word, you invite judgment. If you don’t like it, change it.
Listen to a Sustah, please! Don’t be an Indian-giver. Be a good tree. Have good fruit. Commit. Keep your word.
Or just shut up. The world has had enough “trails of tears.” Just saying….