The past couple of weeks have been stressful and I have been extremely emotional. As I have drawn closer to God, my mind has been attacking my peace, and my once-pleasant demeanor has been covered in clouds of sadness and confusion. This whole Out There thing is overwhelming.

I mean, I put myself out there, and my mind keeps bringing up the past — recent and distant — and I allowed myself to have expectations. As much as I say I want to trust in the Lord, I find that I have been more people/ person-focused than God-focused during this waiting period. As a Christ-follower, I know that there’s nothing worse than to be person-focused, so I have been struggling.

But then I started thinking about the waiting. The waiting is brutal. Waiting on someone else to come to the same decision I have. Waiting on someone to try to see what I already see. Waiting on someone to give more credence to the good years and not the bad year. Waiting on someone to decide, to choose, to apologize, to forgive, to try…

Waiting is rough, especially when you are waiting on a person. And that’s when the light bulb flashed on.  God has called on His children to wait… yes, but to wait on Him. The Bible says to Wait on the Lord and be of good courage. It does not say Wait on this person, or wait on that person. God says to wait on Him, and that realization has made the difference for me.

I believe in my heart and mind that God is in control, and that nothing happens without God’s knowledge or without God allowing it to happen. He allowed Job to lose everything, and to be restored. God allowed Lazarus to die, and to be restored. God allowed the pain and the healing, the sadness and the joy, the death and the birth, the despair and the hope. God has allowed it all, and that is why I can do nothing but wait… and trust.

So I will continue to wait, but now I am waiting on God and God alone. I’m waiting for His peace to cover me, for His comfort to surround me, and for His plan to be laid out for me. There is no person who has my heart and my future in his hands. God’s got me. He’s not dangling His love or His promises or His plan. He knows my weaknesses, my shortfalls, my sins, my pains, my joys, my strengths, my mistakes, my everything, and yet He still deems me worthy of His love and His time and His plan. He’s reaching for me with open arms, welcoming me to Him, forgiving my wrongs, championing my strengths, leading me to a life rich in His love.

God is so good.

Isaiah 40:31 —But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

Ps. 27:13-14– I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.

Lamentation 3:25 —  The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.

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I’m out there… I put myself out there and I am scared as hell… scared enough to use the words scared as hell. I am determined to keep my eyes up and focused on God, and I will continue to take care of myself regardless of what comes next.  I am out there.

As a writer, my goal is always to be out there, to lay my soul on the table, and deal with what comes. I think that’s one reason why I took a far too long hiatus. My heart has been heavy for a number of years… for a variety of reasons. I’ve often said that I love hard and deep. When I love, it is fierce, and I love a lot of people. I love my parents, my sibs, my extended family, my dear friends, my godbabies, and even a few who don’t appear to love me anymore. I ache when they hurt, when they are sick, when they are struggling, and I cheer when they are trying, when they are fighting, and when they are happy. And even though I haven’t mastered the art of loving without ever making mistakes, I will continue to love the best way I know how.

So, I’m out there, and it is hard, and each day gets harder. I cling to my faith in God during this struggle, and I am so often reminded that God is so very faithful to me. God has picked me up from the ground where despair was my only constant, and His love has not failed me.

In the summer of 2013, my family was hit with some hard news that would engulf us for years to come, though we had no inkling of the full extent at that time. I was on vacation with my husband in Key Biscayne, Florida, and despite the beautiful surroundings, my heart was so heavy, and I was slowly becoming undone. One of the things I did on that vacation was to sit on the balcony and look at Biscayne Bay in the distance. I could see these colorful buildings all the way down the coastline — pinks, and greens and blues — and the cloudless sky, and the refreshing water of the bay. It was so peaceful, so I would sit and pray and cry and pray.

One day as I was sitting on the balcony looking across the bay, I noticed that the sky was slowly getting darker above the colorful buildings I’d been watching. There were boats in the bay, and the water started to look a bit aggressive, and it was clear that we were in for an early afternoon storm. I remained on the balcony, observing all that was happening. The wind picked up, the dark sky started masking the colorful buildings, the boats in the bay started moving closer to the other side. From where I sat, I could see rain in the distance, but my side of the bay was dry. Southern Florida is known for short bursts of rainstorms. For more than a few minutes, I didn’t think that the storm was going to even affect our side of the bay. (Just call me Pollyanna…)

Eventually, the darkness and the storm were so intense that I could no longer see across the bay. It was as if there was an impenetrable wall of weather that was set to do nothing but destroy the other side of the bay. Meanwhile, where I stood, the rain and the wind were showing more force on our side of the bay. I should have gone inside to the room if only to save my hair from the madness of the humidity, but I remained on the balcony. The storm came closer, and I slowly backed up, but I remained outside mesmerized by the storm. Ultimately, I moved to the corner of the balcony closest to the door — the only spot that remained dry.

I vividly remember marveling at what I was seeing at the time. I had been praying and crying over what I didn’t know was ahead of me and my family, and I was asking God for a miracle … a miracle of unknown dimensions, a miracle I couldn’t even define at the time.

The storm eventually stopped. People were no longer running for cover. The water in the bay was back to the peaceful flowing. The sun was bright and hot. And as I ventured from the safety of my corner, and moved towards the railing of the balcony, I looked across the bay and I was amazed. The brightly colored buildings were even brighter than before the storm, once again showing off! The sky was clear. It was just gorgeous… almost as if no storm had come at all. The only evidence that a storm had even come through the area was the presence of a few displaced branches and abandoned bikes in the resort, and a huge rainbow across the skyline.

I thank God that I had the presence of mind to stay on that balcony for the duration of the storm. I am so glad that I took pictures during the entirety of the experience, because I have a record of this event that had such an impact on my mind from August 2013 to this very moment. I never doubted that the whole event — from peaceful view to the storm to the bright sunshine — was God presenting me with a sign of His power and grace. At the time and for years after, I believed the sign was specific to the situation with my brother.  I repeated the story to him, to our family, to his friends, and to others as proof that God had a plan for what was to come, for what we were going to endure. I truly believed that though a storm was coming and things would look bleak, that God would make a way, and it would be as if the storm had never happened. That event was powerful for me.

I never shared any of this with the one person who would have understood me better had he known what I was going through, and now, as our lives have taken an unfortunate path, I wish that I had. I wish that we could have been looking at the same symbol of hope.  I now understand that the storm in Key Biscayne was not solely about a singular finite situation.  I now understand that God was showing me a sign and lesson that was deeper than the small frame on which I was focused at the time.  There will always be storms, and sometimes the intensity of the storms will cloud our views — views of the beautiful, views of the possibilities, views of what is far, and views of what is near. We may want to run inside to avoid the discomfort and potential frizzed out hair, but if we can just trust God to put us in a place to watch Him work, we will be rewarded with something beautiful and unexpected.

I am waiting on God to end the storms. I’ll admit, I did not anticipate such a long storm or so many storms. I have ventured from the safe space a few times, and the wind and the rain have pounded me, but I am back in the safe space. I know that God still has my heart. I know that whatever happens at the ending of these storms, God is still in control. He’s helped me grow and learn to trust Him and His ways. He’s also worked enough in my life that I understand that the miracles I think I’m praying for may or may not be in His plan. I truly have no idea.

I am out there, but I am not alone. God’s got me.

 

 

 

 

 

Blame it on Shonda and Elizabeth… We all know that I love Ms. Gilbert for the brilliance that is Eat Pray Love. That book helped me come alive after years of just floating. It spoke to me and many others in ways that no other book had done, and I am forever grateful that she presented her truth in such a way that it seemed natural to look inside myself to see what I had in there. My copy of EPL has so many notes and highlights that just a glance will give anyone an insight to who I am.

Shonda Rhimes, well, she’s new for me. I was never a fan of Grey’s Anatomy, mainly because of the unfortunate presence of Ms. Heigl, so there’s a great deal of Shondaland that I have not seen. I am a fan of Scandal, but I never really focused on who was writing those amazing storylines. It was the actors that presented them that thrilled me. That is, until, I listened to the audiobook version of The Year of Yes, which I first found incredibly annoying until I realized that the person reading the book — Shonda — sounded exactly like me, and her thinking was so much like mine that there was simply no way that she wouldn’t have some knowledge that I needed.

The fact is, both of these books and authors resonated in my life because they stepped from behind their curtains to share the truths of their respective journeys of self-discovery, and I am a person who craves to get to the bottom of the truth of who I am and how I can be the best version of myself. What I’ve learned is that there is no “best version” of me without the honest look at what my life looks like, and how that makes me feel. I will not stop trying to be the best version of Reese, and this is another step forward in that journey.

I love hard. If there is confusion about what that means, read page 65 of EPL. I grew up in a loving home with wonderful people, and that’s the foundation of my life. There was no tragic childhood trauma for me. I was a happy kid with happy circumstances that were expected to lead to an inevitably happy life.

Of late I have been struggling to maintain that so-called happy life. There have been several big, grown-up, adults situations that seriously compromised that so-called happy life, and, without going into great detail, I can say that the wounds are deep, the scars are visible, and the pain does not really go away.  My focus has been to find a way to cope rather to find a way to heal. Until recently, that is.

Life can be deeply challenging to navigate. Just when you get used to things being one way, the wind blows or the car spins or the dog bites or the computer freezes, and then everything has to change. And sure, I’ve read Who Moved My Cheese countless times, and I know that change is inevitable, but sometimes, I just want to go back to way I was, the way I felt in my perfectly uneventful happy life.  Of course, I was under the age of 10, so things were much different. Still, it is change that inspires us all to grow, and so I’m working on finding my way to healing, not just coping.

And this process is not easy, so I have enlisted the help of a “healer”. Okay, she’s a therapist, but I call her the healer because she listens which makes me listen, and I see myself moving beyond the coping stage.  I look forward to the healing and the growth.

Today was a good day.

 

 

What if I choose myself? What if I choose to do the things that I know are right for me? What if I stop sabotaging myself? What if I stop letting myself down? Just what if…

It’s spring. The sun and my toes are out, the air is fresh, and I’m feeling pretty good today. My world is filled with possibilities and hope, and I feel like it’s time for me to start blooming. It’s time for me to choose me.

Whenever  I start writing on this blog, I am so very hopeful that I will make writing a priority in my life again. I used to love to write. Scratch that — I used to make time to write. I used to speak of my muse, and I used to take fingers to keys and let my mind go crazy. I used to exhale onto the page, and I could feel the physical relief once my thoughts were expressed. I used to pursue my passion…

But then…

I used to go to the gym for hours a day on my way home from work. I used to ride the recumbent bike for 45 minutes, then take a 45 minute step class.  I used to take kickboxing classes where the sweat would pour off my body, and then go home and make a healthy dinner.  I used to have a coordination and stamina that made me feel alive. I used to put the effort into getting stronger…

But then…

There was a time when I visited a naturopath to find healthy ways to improve my health. I used to spend days at a yoga retreat in Massachusetts, walking barefoot in the grass. I used to eat only natural foods, and I stayed away from gluten. I used to drink water and all kinds of tea and organic goodness. I used to care deeply about protecting my body from toxins…

But then… but then… but then I stopped. I stopped exercising and I stopped thinking about how different foods affected my body and health, and I stopped writing. I know when it started, but I am still not certain — or ready to admit — why I stopped choosing Reese. What I do know is that I am so terribly sorry I did.

It’s easy to blame this whole demise of caring for myself on my womanhood. It’s so easy to say that marriage and motherhood took my eyes away from me.  It’s unbelievably easy to blame my husband’s kidney failure and the challenges of my four stepchildren, and everything that goes along with being the second wife and the stepmother for my choice to nurture others before myself. It’s easy to blame the hormones and the madness of womaning for all the ills of my life.

It’s easy to say that the long, daily commute to work and the long work days have taken a toll on my free time. It’s easy to say going out to lunch every single day makes it acceptable to make bad choices. It’s so easy to come up with excuses. Why isn’t it just as easy to choose what’s best for myself?

I have definitely made some bad personal choices in my life. I have chosen bad friends, bad foods, bad churches, and a host of bad mates, and suffered the many and varied consequences of each bad decision. And I am so very tired of wallowing in puddles of mistakes.

I am a self-help junkie. I love the inspirational quotes, motivational weight loss transformations, any book written by Elizabeth Gilbert, recommended by Oprah, or mentioned by Glennon Doyle Melton.  I love watching people pursue their passions, and I’m interested in books and articles about how artists of all kinds have followed their dreams. There’s a reason I’m drawn to stories of growth and transformation.  My heart craves growth. My mind desires renewal. It’s simply time to choose goodness for myself.

So… today, I count as my day 1 to finding out what happens when I choose me. In the recent months, I’ve taken baby steps towards bettering my physical, mental and emotional health, but today I’m committing to choose me, and I’m committing to make time for me, and I’m committing to do those things that benefit my health. And to keep me on track, I’m coming back to my happy place  ( no, not the mall…). I’m coming back to writing.

Today is a good day.

You know when a bunch of women in an office or church seem to announce that they are pregnant, and someone says, “Must be in the water”, and you’re like, “Please don’t let that water come near me.” Well, recently, every time I turn around, I hear about some woman getting blindsided by her husband with divorce papers. Each story is more disturbing than the next.

“We were laughing and joking last night. And today, I get served papers.”

“I know we had a bad argument 2 weeks ago, but I thought things were fine. Who knew he’d be the one to open the door for the police and take my daughters.”

Each story I hear is more heartbreaking than the next, and all I can do is wonder:

“Did they really not know what he was capable of?”

and

“How far am I from getting blindsided myself?”

The sad truth is you really never know. There is a level of complacency that settles in after you’ve been married for a while… and “awhile” is different for every single person. Eventually that complacency leads to neglect and then regret. We’ve all heard of the 7 year itch, but for some people, that itch starts before the first anniversary. Still others make it beyond the 20 year mark, and as soon as the kids are out of the nest, someone starts leaning on the ledge getting ready to fly.

Perception is another real problem. It seems like these women who have been blindsided weren’t picking up on the signs that their men were posting all over the place. Maybe from the inside of the marriage, his actions or statements didn’t seem aggressive, but everyone outside could see that things were more than a little off. I heard of one guy moving 3 states away, and because he visited every month for 3 years, his wife assumed that they would remain married indefinitely. Sure, who among us doesn’t crave an empty house once in a while, but wouldn’t we all get suspicious when our mate moves to another state?

Perception is a funny thing. There are times when I’m in conversation with the person to whom I’m related by marriage, and I am baffled how his perception of a statement or a situation is so vastly different than mine. Here we are — two relatively intelligent people with 3 degrees and many life experiences between us — and we can look at the same television program and take away two opposing messages. We don’t come to the same logical conclusions, even though we would both insist that we are using logic. And I know that we are not the only couple in the world like this.

Let me be clear… I am not trying to build the case for blindsiding my husband or for him to blindside me. I know that if asked, we would both agree that we love each other, and want to be together. But didn’t all those other couples say the same thing? I suppose there are people who walk down the aisle thinking that they don’t want to be with the other person, but those folks shouldn’t be surprised when things don’t work out.

I have a godson who married the wrong person. They don’t even seem to like each other, and every step of the planning process was like climbing Everest, and every single one of us at the wedding knew we were watching a relationship destined for nothing but misery. I was, perhaps, the most vocal in my disapproval, and even though I was wedding coordinator, tears poured down my cheeks as I directed the bridezilla down the aisle to my child. When the officiant asked “Is there anyone here who knows a reason why these two shouldn’t get married, please speak now or forever hold your peace”, all eyes turned to me. But I remained silent, and like everyone else, wondered why they were doing this. At least neither of them will be blindsided when this union ends. They know what they walked into.

But these women I’ve heard about recently, they simply did not know who they married. One said she didn’t even know this man, in reference to her husband. I guess evil is easy to conceal. Or perhaps the desire to be married trumped the desire to be happy since so many women were taught that they were one in the same. Thank God my mother didn’t do that. My parents made it clear in my childhood that they would never push their children into marriage. Even though they have a beautiful marriage, they have seen a great deal of unhappily married people, and they never wanted that for their children. They always said, “Make sure you marry the right person.” That’s great advice, but it’s still ambiguous. Right for what? Right for the bank account? Right on paper? Right for the 20s? Right how?

Over 15 years ago, I was dating a man (let’s call him JD) that I just knew I wanted to marry. Despite being a different race and religion than me, I believed in my heart that we were meant to be together because we clicked so well so quickly. We had what I believed to be an intense, once in a lifetime love for one another, and that no matter what paths we traveled, whether separately or together, we would find our way back to each other eventually. We went through several small breakups, but managed to somehow reconnect and rekindle our romance. Then one morning, after kissing each other goodbye for the day, something in JD switched, and within 4 hours, completely out of the blue, he ended our relationship, saying, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” I was completely blindsided, and I knew that it was not like one of our previous breakups. I knew it was over and there was nothing I could do. It took me 2 years to finally accept in my heart that JD really was not the right one I was meant to be with.

I remember the pain of being blindsided. I remember sitting on the couch for 3 days, not eating, not sleeping, just crying and wondering what I had done wrong. JD was not my husband, though. He hadn’t put a ring on my finger, and he hadn’t stood in front of God and country to pledge his love for me. We hadn’t tied our money together and we didn’t have children, so even though I know what it feels like to be blindsided, I cannot imagine what these women I’ve learned about today are enduring. I cannot imagine the betrayal, the theft, the lies, the madness to which their husbands are subjecting them. These women have to prepare to fight for their finances, fight to see their own children, the homes they created, and more simply because the men they married have chosen to subject their families to unbelievable turmoil in an effort to get rid of their wives, and they have chosen to end their marriages like cowards. And make no mistake, they are not cowards because they no longer wish to be married. They are cowards because they smiled in the faces of the wives, and they went about their business as though nothing was wrong only to have a process server be the first person to let their wives know they were about to lose everything.

I hope these women can move beyond their hurt and disillusionment, and stand up and fight. I hope the cowards don’t win. And truth be told, I hope that I never have to endure what they are enduring.

Maya Angelou died yesterday. I didn’t know her personally, but I feel like she’s been a part of my life for a long time. Her influence and inspiration in my life started when I was child, and even though I have drifted away from what I learned from her — for whatever reason, her name reminds me that what my life has become is not all that my life is supposed to be.

When I was young, my mother used to assign me book reports during the summer. She was an English teacher in her former life, and she always encouraged learning. I have always been an avid reader, and an aspiring writer, so I enjoyed these summertime reports. My mother gave me Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings one summer, and I was captured by the writing. Despite attending a private school, the highly conservative and moderately racist nature of the organization did not promote non-white writers during my education, although I think that changed during the months of February when I was in high school. Needless to say, it was nice to read a book written by a person who looked like me. But more than that, so much more than seeing another brown girl was reading about a passion I had inside of myself. With nearly every word, Maya Angelou was the real life embodiment of the freeing of the caged bird. She pressed everyone blessed enough to listen to her that we are the keepers of the keys to our own cages.

I enjoy writing. I love words, and I have so very much inside to say, but I have let life — my life, my troubles, my minutia put me back into a cage. I have stretched my wings occasionally in facebook posts, minimally in emails, and frequently in lunchtime discussions, but even though the door is open, I have sat on my perch silent for too long. I want to sing again. I want to give myself the freedom to speak and the time to do it well.

Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” I have many stories inside of me. I will admit that some of my stories are not flattering, and could be seen as hurtful to some, and I have censored myself because some truths aren’t pretty. But I am reminded that the unpleasant truth still deserves to be heard.

Get ready for some singing.

Juicing is still a part of my every day life. Since my last post (God only knows when), I have had several starts and stops. Right now, I’m on day 1 of my latest Reboot (eating fruits, veggies and nuts only), and I have some hope that I have a better grip on what’s at stake now. What’s at stake for me is my life.

Being overweight is a punchline for many people, but for those of us in the world of chunk, being overweight is a struggle. There are so many downsides to being overly large, and for those who want a detailed list, here are a few:

1. Clothes cost more money. Now, it does make sense that the more fabric you use to make it, the more money you spend to buy it. But it seems to me that if we use that logic, shouldn’t a size 10 cost more than a size 2? Well, that’s not the case at all. It’s only after one reaches a manufacturer/society-determined size that they are punished with paying extra cash.
2. The selection of clothing diminishes significantly. When I go to the mall for clothes, I have 4 or 5 stores from which to choose in a sea of retail shops. What’s worse, all big girl clothes can easily fit into one of 3 categories — Old Lady, Clown Chic, and Fat Hooker. If not for the fact that I have gotten into makeup and skin care, trips to my happy place would be pointless.
3. No more sleeves. This sort of goes with #2 above, but it’s important enough to deserve a special mention. Plus size tops rarely offer a full sleeve. For some reason, nearly all of our shirt options are 3/4 length sleeves, regardless of the season or the type of top. Now, maybe the designers are trying to tell us something, but this fat girl gets cold! What’s a girl got to do to get a full sleeve? Oh, wait — she has to lose weight.
4. Zoo animals effect. Regardless of whether or not they know you, people feel free to point and stare. They judge your worth based on the size of your stomach. If people are truly honest with themselves, they would admit that when they see a fatty, they assume the person is lazy, possibly dirty.

I really hate having this same conversation over and over again. It’s truly frustrating to be the cause of the problem, too. I was in Wegmans recently, and as usual, I ended up talking to some random stranger in line. During the course of stacking her groceries on the belt, she mentioned that she had lost 130 pounds. (I’m like the CIA in store… I can find out anything!) When I asked her for “the secret”, she said that nothing worked until she fixed herself. That’s deep, and truth be told, I have some fixing to do in my world.

I have to stop sabotaging myself, and to start committing to my well-being. I need to stop taking rest breaks, because what I’m really breaking from is the better version of myself. It’s time for me to meet the Reese that isn’t a quitter. It’s time for me to no longer be swayed by the smell of junk food. It’s time to choose my life and living over everything else. It’s time for me to stop looking in awe at those who’ve succeeded and to start being the success that I know I am.