Brief Reflections from The Shack

Brief Reflections from The Shack

There are books that have been on my reading list forever and ever. I even think of some of them when I’m moving on to my next book, but somehow I never quite choose them. The Shack was one of those books until last month, someone special told me I should read it and that she has reread it multiple times because it really speaks to her. This someone was one of the first to share with me her personal story way back when I was preggo and hadn’t yet fully accepted what my life was turning into and still very much ashamed, terrified, and hopeful that maybe once my son was outside of my body that his father would choose to be a daddy. That particular morning, I just so happened to be volunteering and ended up in a small room organizing clothes with two women, whom I always just considered strong and dynamic women without a thought that they could possibly have had major strife in their personal lives. I learned that morning, after I dropped the veil of excitement about my pregnancy, that they both raised their children alone, and while of course, they acknowledged the hardships, they felt blessed through it all. That day was just one of many that was set up by God to get me through the turmoil. The respect I have for them magnified that morning, and it was a reminder that you really just don’t know what people have gone through. So, two years later, her suggestion that I read The Shack bumped it up to the top of the queue.

And it was a blessing. Last year, I read more Christian fiction books than I probably ever had before, and I think what makes this book different from some others that I’ve read is that it’s not preachy. I found it very inviting and paradoxically, light in the way that a heavy box is light if you have a dolly. And as I traveled with the main character through the story, I ended up highlighted tons of phrases and quotes. So, with that, I just want to share a couple of the parallels of my life and Mackenzie’s.

1. The Great Sadness is real. It’s frustrating to know that some people think “Just get over it” is sound advice. Some tragedies in life affect you so deeply that it feels like something wraps around you and even when you make a concerted effort to look on the bright side, this blanket is still just there no matter what. And some tragedies never go away because either it or the consequences are never-ending. I can’t really “get over” being a single mother, even if I have gotten through the grief and anger of the initial abandonment, because I am confronted daily and monthly with decisions and tasks as a single parent. So every time I pay the daycare bill or see that Frederick has outgrown something or the countless other things that parents encounter, I am reminded that I’m by myself–but I am learning to refocus my thoughts instead of reliving the initial trauma. Mack couldn’t really “get over” his tragedy because even if losing a child wasn’t enough, he was having to deal with the daily task of trying to help his other daughter. I’m happy that I was able to lift my Great Sadness some by seeing a counselor. But it wasn’t an easy process.

“Mack, pain has a way of clipping our wings and keeping us from being able to fly.” She waited a moment, allowing her words to settle. “And if it’s left unresolved for very long, you can almost forget that you were ever created to fly in the first place.”

2. One of the most difficult things in life has been accepting that I don’t control much of anything. Mackenzie and I share a tendency to take credit for things we can’t control if we tried. It took me a looooooooong time to stop being so hard on myself and to really release myself from punishing myself for someone else’s choices (think about that–the negative consequences that exist just by virtue of the bad situation PLUS self-inflicted punishment because somehow in my brain, it’s my fault). Just like Mack kept trying to recreate his situation in head, thinking of what he should have or could have done differently, I have done that  countless times too. At the detriment of peace of mind. Even if we could go back and do something differently, it’s not up to us. It’s not in our hands–so there’s nothing we could do in either of our situations to make it turn out better. When that happens in life, you have to trust and believe that the part of the story you can’t see yet will use that craziness for some bit of good.

“Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.” – Thomas Moore

3. As hard as it is to forgive, I’m sure it was as comforting to Mack as it was to me that forgiveness is not an automatic “poof, you’re forgiven” act. It’s a process that you have to work at, and it doesn’t end in forgetting what happened. In the same way that tragedies are not it happened today and by some expiration date it’s over and the impacts that result disappear, it’s okay to be angry, it’s okay to have whatever natural emotions arise–you don’t have to buy into the notion that something is wrong with you because you feel “some type of way” about how someone mistreated you. The emotions are there for a reason. And actually, I’ve found that many times there is wisdom in my anger–if I allow myself to analyze it and not just blow up. It’s just not okay to let those emotions consume you and take over your life because when that happens, it affects no one but you and possibly the people who actually care about you, which many times does NOT include the offender.

“It does a soul good to let the waters run once in a while–the healing waters.”

4. Pre-Shack Mack and I think too much. When Jesus told Mack to start walking on the water, I kept thinking what would I do? I honestly don’t know. I’d like to think I would have just stepped in on impulse, but who knows? I also probably would have thought myself into a frenzy over the author of the note that led Mack back to the Shack. Talk about paranoia. I can’t tell you how much I’ve thought about a negative comment on Facebook or subtweet on Twitter that I felt certain was aimed at me. Sometimes I can laugh it off  and say to myself “I know you think this tweet is about you, don’t you, don’t you, don’t youuuuuuuuuuuuuuu,” but other times I actually craft what I would say if I felt like the person was worth knowing how I feel. Or if the person was worth it, if I felt that our already clearly shattered relationship could handle it. See, thinking too much. Aye-yi-yi.

“Well, I am afraid of looking like an idiot. I am afraid that you are making fun of me and that I will sink like a rock. I imagine that—” “Exactly,” Jesus interrupted. “You imagine. Such a powerful ability, the imagination! That power alone makes you so like us. But without wisdom, imagination is a cruel taskmaster.”

5. We need closure. We’re human. We need someone to apologize. We need a resolution at the end of a contentious discussion. We need to know we’re understood, or at the very least, listened to. We need the funeral. And although it may not be the easiest thing to accomplish, it’s so necessary. It did MY heart good to read about Mack burying his daughter. Sometimes  letting go just isn’t official until you get that last note. And it might not even involve the person who caused you the anguish. That’s why many people do the burning paper with their negative thoughts thing. Closure is a beautiful thing.

“Today we are on a healing trail to bring closure to this part of your journey— not just for you, but for others as well. Today, we are throwing a big rock into the lake, and the resulting ripples will reach places you would not expect.”

I would share a bit more, but I want you to read it. If you have read it, please share with me some of the nuggets that touched you. Happy reading!

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Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship

Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears. – Les Brown

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. – Winston Churchill

I dunno if you noticed but if you scroll down and look on the right side of this page, you will see a list of black-owned businesses that I support. I add to this list from time to time based on my own experiences and from recommendations of others who have patronized these businesses and want to spread the word. So feel free to click, click, click.

And if you are in Atlanta and interested in starting or growing your business, please check out this event. The Women’s Entrepreneurship Roundtable features a panel of successful business owners who will tell us about their journey and answer questions from the audience. It’s always a very worthwhile event, so come on out!

Women's Entrepreneur Roundtable

Till Debt Do Us Part

Till Debt Do Us Part

If you’re available and in Atlanta this Saturday, come out to my chapter’s economic security workshop about money and relationships. It is free and open to anyone who wants to attend (whether single, engaged, married, etc.).

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For more information about this and other community events, please like us on Facebook!

And I’ll be back soon posting. I have lots of updates to share. 🙂

An American Legend on the Big Screen

An American Legend on the Big Screen

Wednesday night I had the opportunity to attend a screening of 42. The movie wasn’t the greatest of all time, but it’s definitely worth going to see.

42-posterLast weekend, I told my daddy I was planning to see it and asked him if he was going to go see it. He said no to my surprise—my dad is a baseball fanatic. But his reason made perfect sense… Although he is beyond proud of Jackie Robinson, his pioneer move into the major leagues marked the end of the Negro Leagues, in which my dad had always dreamed of playing. My granddad was a manager for a team, and my family is entrenched in baseball. Before dad’s shoe shop burned down, it was ground zero for Negro Leagues memorabilia—the walls were stocked with posters, jerseys, caps, and even flyers from back in the day. My dad, uncles, and aunt all played baseball/softball. My brother played. All my aunt’s grandchildren play. I have played softball and keep wondering when I’ll start back. A couple of the things I’m most looking forward to is taking my dad and son to a Braves game and sitting in the stands when my son starts playing. I say all that to set the tone for why I was so excited to see this movie. Baseball is a living and breathing entity to the Robinsons.

So here goes—a brief review of the movie. Bottom line: Go see it!

The Good

  1. I could just nod my head when Mr. Rickey (and no, it’s not lost on me that Rickey and Robinson make up my dad’s name 🙂 )  told Jack when he was offering him the chance to go to training camp with Montreal: [paraphrased] Do you have the guts NOT to fight back? To win, you will need to be two things: a fine gentleman and a great baseball player. One thing my ma has told her children time and time again is that it doesn’t matter what other people can do and get away with. As a black person you have to be twice as good and you have to keep your hands clean. People will be watching you, and they will punish you to the fullest extent if they can. So it was nice to hear it on the big screen. These folks can scream at you and demean you, but if you fight back, all they will say is “He couldn’t handle it.” And this is a guy who was discharged from the army because he wouldn’t sit in the back of a bus. He had been fighting for a long time, so I found a little inspiration in that he was strong enough to pick his battles.
  2. I loved loved loved how important his wife was to him. This movie really highlighted how a strong man can lean on his woman to get through trials. She was allowed to be the only wife to go to training camp because Mr. Rickey knew he needed her in his corner. Every time he looked up in the stands for her from the field, my heart melted.jackie and family
  3. Even though it was one of the cheesy moments in the movie (that I’ll discuss a little later), I really was moved in the scene when he talked about how his dad was never there for him—he didn’t have good or bad memories because he just wasn’t there, but he vowed to be there for his son. What an image to display on the big screen—a black man who loved and cherished and anchored his family. Thank you, Hollywood!
  4. Best casting: Alan Tudyk for Ben Chapman, manager of the Phillies. Boy, if no one else was believable as a racist redneck, he definitely was. I mean, his character alone is reason for me not to want my dad to go see this movie. I know he’d be steaming mad at this one crazy azz guy. I did appreciate finding out where this pic came from: Chapman-and-Jackie-RobinsonIt is amazing how the green of money will make folks change their tune, at least in the public.
  5. I appreciated the story of Wendell Smith, who was a hero and pioneer in his own rite in journalism. It’s amazing to see all the moving pieces that have made history what it is. No man is an island. We all need help along our journey!
  6. Last (for this post—there were a lot of good moments in the movie) but certainly not least, shout out to the good looking stars of the movie. Boy, Chadwick Boseman is a tall glass of refreshing water. Hubba hubba!! And the Nicole Beharie was gorgeous! Any seamstresses out there need to hook a sister up with some replicas of her wardrobe!

chadwicknicole

The Not So Good

  1. There were TONS of cheesy moments where you know good and well it didn’t happen in real life. The cinematic effects were on 10,000 in some scenes. Like gimme a break. Ain’t nobody said that in the 40s in the South. I won’t give examples since I don’t want to be a super spoiler, but I’m sure you will side eye or laugh like I did.
  2. There was a scene with Rachel and her baby that was super climactic, and I was on edge for the whole scene waiting for something to happen. It never did. Maybe because I’m a nervous, overprotective mom. I am happy nothing happened, but it just wasn’t cool for that scene to do me like that. LOL

Like I said, you gotta go see it. I’ll definitely be purchasing this when it’s released on DVD. Of course there was a little bit of rose tint on the glasses, but it didn’t take away from the reality that you know Jack Roosevelt Robinson went through to become the icon he is. All he wanted to do was play, and play he did!! Salute!

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2013 Reading List

2013 Reading List

I love finding out what I don’t know. Questions start swirling through my head, and I get childlike excitement about what I might possibly do with the new knowledge. Most of the time when I find something out, my first stop is google, then it’s Shelfari or Amazon or the Atlanta-Fulton Library System to find a book about it.

Now that I have a child, I have a lot less time to read, and when I do read, it’s 64th Annual Tony Awards - Showusually something that gives my brain time to relax. But last night, I went to see Fela! and my interest in African and African American history and world religions was piqued again (as well as my interest in yoga and getting fit–those dancers were amazing!). I decided that I needed to dust off my Shelfari bookshelf and spend a little bit of my non-work, non-baby, non-sleep time learning by reading. So my list is pretty short, just because I try to be as realistic as possible. And note that I do learn through fiction along with nonfiction because story lines can invoke questions or topics that I can go research later. If you’d like to join me with any of these, let me know.  I’d love to chat about each one after I finish. Also, if you need to purchase any of these, go through my new online store!

AngelaDavis

Angela Davis: An Autobiography

(Because I’m sooo excited about the upcoming release of Free Angela!)

MalcolmX

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Butterfly

My Name is Butterfly by Bernice McFadden

And if I get more down time, I’ll squeeze these in. Otherwise, the following list is a rough draft preview of 2014.

Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Ways of Dying by Zakes Mda

What are you reading? What Afro-centric books do you recommend?

I Love Books

I Love Books

Today is National Book Lovers Day, so I decided to go over to my Shelfari page to reminisce on the books I’ve read recently. Here are the books I rated 5 stars (“I loved it”):

The Alchemist by Paul Coelho – This book just makes you put your path in life in perspective. It’s a book I probably need to read quarterly to remind myself that just because you can’t see the happy outcome doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Desert Flower by Waris Dirie – I prefer fiction, but I love a good autobiography. This book is about a Somalian nomad/runaway who becomes a supermodel and human rights ambassador. Very inspirational story.

Catfish Alley by Lynne Bryant – I almost didn’t read this one because it was a recommendation for those who loved The Help, which I didn’t love because of the rose-colored perspective of the author. This book was refreshingly balanced, though. Set in the Mississippi Delta, the characters, both black and white, really explore what it meant to live in Mississippi back in the day without a save-a-race white heroine. Matter of fact, there were many mutual benefits to the relationships created in this story.

Ninth Ward by Jewel Parker Rhodes – I actually picked up this book to see if I wanted to give it to my niece and ended up captivated. Written for younger audiences, its main character is a little girl who lives in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans with her elderly guardian, who has visions of Hurricane Katrina. This book illustrates how strong love can be and how strong kids can be.

32 Candles by Ernessa Carter – This is a book that is kind of like those old Rikki Lake “You bullied me in high school… well look at me now” episodes. It was a quick read, and I enjoyed the characters. It was lighthearted but reminded me that some people (like me) have to struggle to find their voice sometimes.

Makeda by Randall Robinson – This one piqued my interest in all things ancestral and African. This story of a boy in the 70s whose blind grandmother has dreams about her past lives set in places she’d never know about if they really weren’t her past lives had (has) me doing all kinds of research. It’s intriguing to read more about African culture, and this is a great intro if you never really delved into it.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – Okay, if you don’t know what this one is, you’ve been hiding under a rock. The movie was good, but the book was even better. I read it at lightning speed. I read the whole series, but book #1 was just superb. It was gruesome, yes, but it really makes you go hmmm and think about what a “civilization” is or means.

I may come back tomorrow if time allows to highlight a few books I rated 4 stars (“I really liked it”). In the meantime, how many of these books have you read? Do any of them strike your fancy? What have been your favorite books in the last year?

The Newness in 2012

The Newness in 2012

Many of you have been wondering what in the world is this password stuff Nada Jo has been on lately??? Well, I just wasn’t ready to share with everyone yet. Here is my news:

I’m expecting a little boy in June! I have definitely gone (and am going) through a myriad of emotions. This journey has definitely been completely new, but I’m looking forward to seeing my baby’s face in about 4 months. And sometimes when I’m not feeling my best, the amazement from seeing this little Jackie Chan who weighs only one pound make my stomach move makes it a little better. I can’t express enough how great my family is and has been from the beginning. I’ve needed a support system more than ever, and although it’s really really tough living away from my parents, my family has done everything it can to fill my space with love and encouragement. And they have been instrumental in helping me with my focus and perspective, which can be tough but it’s necessary.

So now I’m back. Of course, you will probably get more posts about my pregnancy than current events, but I’ll try to be versatile in my writing. I haven’t gotten my RRR plans for the year together yet, so just stay tuned. I’d like to do a couple conference calls of some sort since I end up talking about the books and films online with folks who don’t live in Atlanta and thus, can’t come to the discussions. I think that would be fun, but of course, I have to explore technology possibilities. I have a couple in mind already, but I have to get the motivation to make it all happen. And I have to get a webcam (yes, in 2012, I do not have a webcam). In case you’re interested, I’m currently reading Catfish Alley by Lynne Bryant. More on that later.

I do hope that you are following me on Twitter or liking me on Facebook! I post lots of articles on there and would love to hear your thoughts and feedback. And although I don’t always blog about various topics, I do comment on many of them, particularly on FB.

So I hope all of you are well and that your life is balanced and pleasant. Until  next time!

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