Saturday, December 31, 2011

My 2012 Resolution

It's been too long since I've blogged. As the second half of 2011 swung into full gear, life seemed to get in the way. Between ministry assignments, business travels, holiday activities, and family functions, I found my attention being stretched in many different directions, and my blogging was placed on the back burner. But there is no way that I can allow the year to fade into a past memory without one more installment to bring 2011 to a proper close on the Blessed2Write Blog. So here I now sit, enjoying The Williams Brothers' new "Live At The Hard Rock-Part 1" DVD while I type this final entry for this year.

For me, 2011 seems to have passed at lightning speed, but not so fast that God didn't grant me the opportunity to celebrate some memorable personal and professional highs--my baby's graduation from high school, my firstborn's induction into her sorority of choice (Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.), my parents' 50th wedding anniversary, the release of my 18th published work (Upon This Rock), the opportunity to take the message of my empowerment ministry (The I.S.L.A.N.D. Movement) to several cities across the United States, the fourth successful launching of my at-sea ministry (Cruisin' For Christ), the birthing of a national writers fellowship (M-PACT Writers) and a Facebook-inspired women's spiritual empowerment group (Gospel Girls Group), and the chance to finally meet, talk to, and take photos with a living legend that I have admired for more years that I can recall: Ms. Ruby Dee.

Of course, just like everyone else, my year came with its share of low points as well. I lost both friends and family members (some because God removed them from this earthly life and called them into eternity, and others because God allowed me to see behind the masks that they wore, and they were simply removed from my inner circle). How ever they were taken away, it caused some level of pain and sadness, but God has been faithful and has given me the strength to triumph. I truly love the LORD!

Annually, as a tradition, people all over the world take this time to make resolutions that often fail before they can even give it their best try. An acquaintance told me (for the fourth year in a row) that she is going to get back to her pre-motherhood weight. I heard a radio disc jockey say that he was going to stop smoking. He admitted that two earlier attempts were unsuccessful, but he's sure he can do it this time. When I hear of people making promises of what the New Year will bring, I always wish them well, but for myself, my only resolve is to please God. I know that if I do that, all the other godly things that I wish, hope, and pray for will come to pass (Matthew 6:33).

The year 2011 has been a trying one for me, but as I bid it farewell and prepare to embrace what God has earmarked for my 2012, I am also saying goodbye to the troubles that came along with it. I claim them all washed away! I am preparing for a fresh start; one that will bring about major changes in my professional life as well as my personal life, and I'm putting God in the forefront of all of it. As I continue to walk the path of my purpose, I have learned that change and transformation, as uncomfortable as they may be, are a part of the journey, and we must be prepared what whatever God presents. When we tell God to "make me and mold me," we'd better know what we're asking Him to do. It's not all going to be pleasant, but it's all working for our good.

Thank you, LORD, for allowing me to live to see the brink of a brand new year. Thank you for all that you gave me and all that you allowed to be taken away from me over the past twelve months, because I realize that you do everything for a reason . . . and whether I can see it in the natural or not, I know that it is all for your glory. Thank you for preparing me for the next phase of my life. Thank you for the spiritual SHIFT. I look forward to all the wonderful things that 2012 will bring to me and to your people all over the world. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cruisin' For Christ IV - God Did It Again!

I have recently returned back to U.S. soil after a glorious week on international waters where I, along with nearly 100 other registered guests celebrated Cruisin' For Christ IV aboard the Carnival Liberty. For seven fun-filled days (September 17-24, 2011), we fellowshipped and worshipped as we visited the beautiful Eastern Caribbean, making stops in the Bahamas, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Grand Turk. And just as with every launching before it, Cruisin' For Christ IV was a labor of love that came forth by way of blood, sweat, and tears. But despite that, all I can say is HALLELUJAH, because God did it again!

If I dared to compare the launching of each Cruisin' For Christ mission to the child birthing process, I would have to say that the delivery of Cruisin' For Christ IV was the most difficult to date. The labor was longer, the contractions were harder, and the process that requires pushing beyond the pain was far more challenging.

What some have always known (while others have not) is Cruisin' For Christ does not have the corporate or individual sponsorship that many other similar gospel cruises have. God handed this ministry to me in 2006, and the first CFC mission was launched in 2007. That inaugural sailing (as well as every one that has gone forth after it) was funded almost solely from the limited resources that God has allowed me to take in from book sales and speaking engagements. In the four years that we have taken this celebration of Christian artistries to the seas, I have only had one monetary sponsorship, and that was a $1,000 token that was so graciously given to me in 2009 by a local Atlanta pastor. No other business or person that I or any member of the CFC Board of Directors have approached has agreed to being a financial supporter.

I won't even try to tell you the bottom line of how much it cost to put together a cruise of this quality and magnitude, but just know that it is monumental, and as a starving artist, I know that it is only by the grace of God that Cruisin' For Christ has been able to stay afloat (pun intended) over the years. I call it a labor of love because that's exactly what it is. God has given me a passion for ministry. It's not just something I speak with my lips, but it's demonstrated in my actions. I'll put it all on the line for the sake of the gospel. But it's not easy by any stretch of the imagination. The undertaking of CFC is so massive, that after the completion of each launching, I vow that I'll never do it again. But the Lord has repeatedly proved me wrong, reminding me time and time again that it's not about me, but about HIM. It's not about my limited capabilities, but about His infinite provision. And this year, more than any other in the past, God made that abundantly clear.

Proverbs 18:24 tells us that a man who wants friends must show himself friendly. Additionally, a popular common quote says, "a friend in need is a friend indeed." Both the scripture and the quote were put to the test for me as I struggled to get the funds together for Cruisin' For Christ IV. When I didn't receive a check I was hopeful of getting by a certain date - the check that would have covered the final outstanding expenses for CFC IV - I turned to people that I dubbed my closest friends, requesting 30-day loans that would help me get the balance paid. I'd shown myself friendly to so many. I'd been there when they needed me. I'd given of my time, my knowledge, my business, my support, my resources, etc., and I thought that for certain, they would remember those things in my time of need and provide the temporary assistance. I was not ready for the closed doors, and in some cases, doors on which my knocks were never even acknowledged. Outside of friends, even many associates who I've given business to and recommended business to over the years would not even support with even the smallest ad in the souvenir booklet that was being put together for the cruise. It was heartwrenching and heartbreaking to say the least. Please understand . . . I never do for others so that they will do for me, but being one who rarely asks for anything at all from anybody, I didn't expect to have so many of those I categorized as nearest and dearest to me to totally shut me out. I'd made it clear to friends that it was a make it or break it moment; that if I didn't come up with the required balance, CFC IV would not take place, and a hundred people who were already fully registered were depending on it to take place. It would have been embarrassing and humiliating for it to fold last minute, not to mention all of the money that registrants would have lost. They knew my desperation, but outside of one person, no others offered to assist on any level. Not a dollar. Not a penny. If the saying of "a friend in need is a friend indeed" held true, I was virtually friendless. I felt like a woman who had been thrown into storm-tossed seas with many of my friends standing on the shore with folded arms, watching to see how I was going to get myself out of this one. Perhaps seeing if the God I spoke of and prayed to so often was going to rescue me from this den of lions. And yes . . . God did it again! He didn't come when I wanted Him to, how I wanted Him to, or through whom I expected Him to, but GOD DID IT AGAIN and I thank Him!! The enemy didn't appreciate how God came through at the 11th hour, and he continued to try and trip us up even after we returned from our mission, but the devil is a lie and God is almighty. I celebrate in victory regardless!

Cruisin' For Christ IV was a great success. Our headliners, Stellar Award winning gospel legends, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, and Melvin Williams, along with international gospel/jazz saxophonist, Antonio Allen, and national comedian, Small Fire, were a tremendous blessing to us all. Other featured artists included national comedians Willie Brown and D.L. Henry and award-winning mime minister, The Master's Mime. Additional ministry was provided by those who performed on our Rising Artist Showcase: recording artist, Mark A. Smith; mime minister, Felicia Harmon Brown, and "Soetry Music" artist, Kenny Lofton. The Word of God was imparted to us by our two special guest speakers, Bishop Oliver Smith (Mending Hearts Ministries; McComb, MS) and Pastor Adrian Bellamy (Central Bible Fellowship; Perry, GA), and it all was hosted by our primary emcee for the week, Rhodell "Rhodell in the ATL" Lewis.

It was a journey to remember, and I am thankful to God for allowing us to continue to take this powerful ministry internationally. God is so good! And yes . . . though I again said that I wouldn't do another one, I know that God isn't hearing it. So I might as well get ready for the blessings (and the challenges) to come. My prayer is that Cruisin' For Christ V (our 5th launching) be a phenomenal one. Dates and details will be added to the website as they become available. I have no idea how it's going to happen, but someway, I know that God is going to DO IT AGAIN!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Dear Anonymous...

As I type this relatively brief entry into my online blog, I'm listening to the sounds of fireworks that are being set off at Stone Mountain Park. Although I'm not in the park itself, I live close enough to hear the noises, and if I stand in just the right place on my back deck, I can see some of what's causing it all. All these loud popping sounds are in recognition of Independence Day, a time that our nation sets aside to celebrate the time, in 1776, that the thirteen colonies separated themselves from the Kingdom of Great Britain. That day marked an historic time, because had that breaking away never taken place, there may have never been a United States of America.

On my Facebook page today, I quoted John 8:36 in my status, which says, "If the Son therefore makes you free, you shall be free indeed." It was so befitting of Independence Day, because what we, who have accepted Christ know for sure is that had we never separated ourselves from the bondage of sin, we would never have known what God had in store for our lives, and we would never have become all that He designed us to be.

I've never before written a blog posting that was addressed to any particular person before, but today, I felt compelled to do so. In recent days, someone, who chooses to keep themselves "anonymous" has attempted to leave two negative (personal attack) comments on my blog. Without getting into any of the details, I just want to let "Anonymous" know that her (because I know it's a woman) comments do not shake me in the least, nor do they make me desire to change the way I do things. What I do as it pertains to my writing career and my life as a whole is ministry. As an outsider, you know nothing about me, therefore it is highly presumptuous of you to think otherwise. And just like the case with the fireworks that I'm listening to right now, while I'm not in heaven, I can hear the voice of God, and if I position myself in just the right place, I can see His hand of direction for my life. He is with me everywhere I go. And because He has set me free from the bondage of worrying about what people think of me, I can declare in Jesus' name, that your attempts to unnerve or unravel me have failed. As a matter of fact, your attempt at launching a verbal attack has brought a smile to my face, because I realize that it is only when a person is stiving to do a work for God that the enemy feels the need to rear his ugly head in such a manner as this, in hopes of throwing God's people off course. But sister...MISSION UNACCOMPLISHED! Your seeds of discord have fallen on stony ground and have not taken root. The sun (and the SON) has dried them up, and they have whitered and died.

If you ever have anything further to say to me, please feel free to come out of your hiding place. When used in the case of sending unpleasant notes, the word "Anonymous" is just a longer way of spelling "coward." I pray for you, my sister, because very few things are more dangerous than tampering with God's anointed ones. Although I don't know your name, HE does, and there is no better time to ask His forgiveness for your misguided assumptions and impure thoughts than now. What better day to free yourself from the bondage of being used as a tool of the enemy than on Independence Day? Free yourself from the bondage of your own mind and your own twisted imaginations. The freedom you'll feel once you've done so will be more refreshing than you've ever dreamed. God bless you. He loves you unconditionally, and so do I.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Write. Dream. Remember.

I'm convinced that there's just nothing like the simple things in life. For me, today has been one of the best Memorial Days in recent memory, and it has nothing to do with the typical celebrations that consist of grilled food, cold drinks, or dwelling among a host of friends. As a matter of fact, I never got out of my pajamas today, and there wasn't a pork rib or a piece of barbecue chicken anywhere near my house. Today, for me, was a day of reflection and memories...and all of it was unplanned.

My day started with a very late arising. I was up until almost 4:00 this morning because the writing bug bit me very late last night, and the creative juices were running so freely that I didn't want to stop until the river slowed. That was the reason for my late bedtime, and ultimately, it was the reason for my eyes not opening until 12:02 this afternoon. Once I got up and moving, I fired up my computer and began returning personal and business emails. Yes, it's a holiday, and technically, KNB Publications was closed for business, but I found myself working in spite of today's date.

After an hour or so, I took a break from my computer and began doing a little house cleaning. My husband was on his laptop taking care of a little business in his space, and I gave my daughter permission to attend a cookout at a friend's house, so my house was very quiet for most of today. As I was cleaning, I ran across a few greeting cards that I'd recently received for Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, and I as I pulled out the drawer in which I normally file away keepsake cards, I noted that it was too full to accomodate my latest collection. I hadn't gone through this drawer in years, so I thought I'd take a moment to do so and perhaps, throw away some things in the process.

As I embarked on what should have been a small and short-order task, the drawer became a treasure chest of memories for me, and for that reason, Memorial Day seemed like the perfect time to have decided to do this impromptu cleaning. I smiled jus tabout the entire time as I pulled out stuff that I didn't even know I had, such as the original graduation invitation and graduation program that dated back to June 11, 1995, the date that my firstborn daughter (now a 21-year-old rising college senior) graduated from the daycare center where she got her earliest learning experiences as a toddler. Although that paperwork is now sixteen years old, it wasn't the oldest keepsake item that I found in the drawer. Soon after I discovered her daycare graduation papers, I found the cement handprint of a child. My first thought was that it was either something that one of my daughters had done in grade school, or it was a mold of my 14-year-old godson's hand, since he often came to stay with us when he was much younger. Well to my shock, I flipped the mold over and saw my name and the date of 5/72 (May 1972) carved into the molding. That little hand was mine at the age of five. I almost got emotional at the sight of it. That was my little hand! How cool!

Other things I found actually did make me a little emotional. There was a 220-page wirebound notebook in the drawer that had 219 blank pages. Only one page had words on it, and they were in my hand writing. It was a documentation of the last three days of my first husband's life. He was bedridden at the time, and I was his primary caregiver. I was administering his medicines and was keeping written documentation of each med I administered, the doseage of each that I gave him, and the time that I gave them to him. It was a bittersweet find, but it is still a memory that I would dare not discard. As a matter of fact, very few of the items that I pulled from the drawer were disposable. The memories they brought back were too fond. There were report cards from my daughters' school days, old printed programs from my childhood church home, newspaper articles that I wrote (as the reporter of my high school's FHA club) for the city newspaper, and an August 1981 edition of Ebony magazine with Jermaine Jackson on the cover(because when every other little girl in the world was in love with Michael, I was crushing on his older brother). I even found the printed program from my own high school event that took place almost 27 years ago.

The find that held my attention the longest was a Dream Journal that I'd totally forgotten I had. My first entry in it is dated for January 5, 2003. Over the course of 30 days, I wrote in that journal almost daily. I don't know why I stopped, but as I read through all of the entries that I made, I was amazed to find that God has turned many of those dreams I had into reality. From my "dream" of being able to leave my 9 to 5 to become a full time writer, to my dream to becoming a national bestselling author, to my dream of seeing my daughters grow in grace and became beautiful women of God. All of those dreams that I put in writing back in 2003 have come true, and I'm grateful. Inside the journal, I also have documentation of some actual nighttime dreams that I had back then, and I'm thrilled that I wrote them down because I'd forgotten about them over the years, and being reminded of them through the words in the journal has been a refreshing experience.

Memorial Day 2011 has truly been about memories. Life is fleeting, and time passes so quickly that more and more, I am learning to cherish memories for the priceless jewels that they are. Happy Memorial Day to me...