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!

Postpartum Musings

Postpartum Musings

Coming home to Mississippi is the best thing I could have done while recovering from having my baby. I really don’t know how I would have made it the past several weeks without my mom’s love and support. And being home just reconnects me to who I am at a critical time when some days it’s hard for me to see goodness in my life and makes me appreciate and savor the days when all I see is goodness.

Since a week or two before having my baby, I have experienced what it feels like to sit down, lol. First, because I was forced to healthwise, and now because of the old school notion that a mom needs to stay inside as much as possible during the first six weeks. At first it was super easy because I was still in lots of pain, but as the pain wears off and I only have short time periods of ailments, it’s still not so hard because being able to sit down and think through things is sometimes welcomed (and other times, I think myself into negativity, so not so good!). And of course, there’s just nothing like being around people who have known and loved you for as long as you can remember and who remind you what’s important in life and how we;ve already overcome so much and will continue to. Here, I can lay some of my burdens down and get myself together before I face the real world again.

And when I do enter the real world again, I have some things I need to change. I’m no longer a single gal doing whatever she wants when she wants. There are several things I need to get done to reorganize my life now that I’m a mom. Here are some highlights.

1. Getting my finances in order. Before I dropped out of my Ph.D. program in 2005, my financial health was pretty much pristine. Then I dropped out, forfeiting the grants I was receiving, leaving me with one part time job to choose which ends to meet. Although I haven’t been doing shabby nowadays, I’m definitely not where I should be to make sure this lil guy is comfortable and well taken care of. So, I’ve logged on to Mint, which I’ve used before but kinda ignored for the last couple of years to retrack my accounts, started on a new budget, and set some goals. I also renewed my LearnVest subscriptions. Now I just need to finish my budget (which includes the new massive childcare expense–I never knew how much it cost!), make sure my different forms of insurance are sufficient and in order, start an actual tax file folder so that I won’t be scrambling next year, and finally look into modifying my mortgage since I took such a hit in value like so many others in this nation (and especially in GA).

2.  Getting my eating habits back on track. There was a time that I was pretty healthy and cooked many meals from scratch (I was a size 4 then). Now that I have this guy, I not only need to eat much better than the routine I had for a while–skipping breakfast many days, eating not so healthy snacks for lunch, eating maybe one real meal a day, which would prolly be from a restaurant on the go–but I also need to make sure it fits within the budget I’m creating in #1. I definitely will have to cut out the eating out so much, just by virtue of budgeting and prolly time management, but I’m much more in tune with what I put in my body since it then goes into his. And I want to go ahead and get reacquainted with cooking regularly again since I will need to be in the habit once he’s eating solid foods. I’ve been collecting recipes (from countless books, websites, and blogs), and I’ve gotten an account on Food on the Table to help me take advantage of deals when I’m creating weekly meal plans (that I pray I stick to).

3. Making my schedule less hectic. I have to let go of some things so that I can have time to myself. Before I had Frederick, I may have gotten up 30 minutes before I needed to leave for work and I may have stayed awake until midnight or 1 am. Now I need to get up much earlier, and I hopefully will, in turn, go to bed much earlier. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to streamline things that aren’t work or taking care of Frederick, but we’ll see. I mean at the end of the day, my home life has now become #1 so anything I can’t get done will just have to wait or disappear. Right now, there’s no new resource for that besides me taking an inner oath to put everything (i.e. appointments, meetings, deadlines) on my Google docs and set a reminder!

4. Making my house a home. Now that I have a baby, I will actually be spending quality time at home. So I have to include in this new schedule of mine time to do a little bit of cleaning each day, including washing dishes and *gasp* doing at least one load of laundry daily. Getting my house to where it is (although I still have a ways to go before I’m proud of it) was overwhelming so I definitely have to keep that up as well as inch toward making it a place where I find peace of mind each day. Watching my mom since the week before I gave birth has been a lesson because it’s amazing how much she gets done each day.

5. Working on my pretty. My mom told me the week after I had Frederick that I have to work on getting my pretty back asap, and she’s right. Weight wise, I didn’t have any to lose (I gained a net of 10 pounds, and he weighed over 8.5), but I definitely need to tone up and work on my skin quality (in the last couple of weeks of my pregnancy I got stretch marks! and since I delivered, my tummy is discolored!) and I wouldn’t mind losing a couple more that was on my to do list before I even got pregnant. I also need to make myself get on a schedule with my hair (instead of waiting until I can’t stand to look at it anymore to do something to it) and go through my full regimen each day instead of going all day if I’m not going anywhere or just running errands looking busted (or my version of busted–I think I can still find a little solace in knowing my busted looks a little better than some people’s best but that’s neither here nor there–we’re talking about self-improvement here) or not fully put together. As my mom says, “There’s nothing like a pretty mama with a pretty baby.” 🙂 And with this also comes inner pretty. I’ve had some good and bad days mentally and emotionally, and I have to try my best to make an effort each day to do what I have to for good days. Learning to forgive, ignore, and focus on the positive isn’t as easy as it can sound, but I have to do what I can to make sure my full person is pretty.

So those are my new goals for the next few weeks. I may even throw in writing a few pages of the book my mom and I started years ago and set aside. But we’ll see. That’s the busy body, gotta pack my day Ranada trying to push through. Being home has taught me to enjoy time, so I need to make sure I incorporate that going forward even when I get back to the A.



This afternoon, a friend of mine and I went to the Alliance Theatre and enjoyed a great production written by the great August Wilson called Jitney.

Set in 1977 in a jitney stop (car service) in Pittsburgh, this production explored a range of topics still relevant to the black community, including the disconnect between generations, alcoholism, the role of men in households and families, love and forgiveness, the importance of communication between romantic partners, the effects of war on young soldiers, the lack of support for small businesses in some cities, and the list goes on.  This would have made for a great Reads and Reels discussion!

In addition to the  great music played between scenes (classics like Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up”), I really enjoyed the light banter and surefire black lingo infused into the script. The characters were real to me because I could definitely hear my daddy talking like these guys were. Although the plot was very heavy overall, the production made good use of comic relief.

It made me smile to see so many black folk at the theatre, supporting the arts. If you haven’t seen it, make sure to put this on your list of things to do this month. Jitney runs through June 27.

Brain Dump

Brain Dump

Whoa nah!  I have tons of stuff on my mind, and I don’t even really know where to start or what I want to get off of it.

So this post may end up being total stream of consciousness.  And I’m random like that, so that’s a-ok with me.

I’ve said on multiple occasions that I tend to have a grudge-holding problem, but I’ve been actively trying to combat that because as we know acknowledgement is the first step, but there are still other steps.  So after prayer and meditation, I made some steps toward reconciling with an old friend.  The convo started off kinda tough because expressing pinned up emotion and listening to other people tell you want they think is wrong with you usually are, but I was able to put the right amount of compassion into my responses to her, and I think we’re on our way to being friends again one day.  BUT the good news is that I have let go of my lingering frustrations and bad vibes over that situation.  I was able to release it, and all it took was allowing myself to express my feelings in a constructive way–despite what she said to me.  No yelling, no blowing up.  Stay cooool. 🙂 *Progress!*

Speaking of old friends, one of my childhood friends emailed me yesterday morning and let me know that her nephew is having brain surgery.  You know, the stuff you kinda just think happens on TV.  So she, her nephew, and their family have been at the top of my prayer list.  She sent me an update this morning and he made it through the surgery fine, and now we’re waiting to hear what the new test results are.  I really hope he makes it through, ready to enjoy a full, happy, inspired life.

Inspiration… What inspires you?  What inspires me?  Feeling like I’m making a difference inspires me.  I had a hectic week at work last week, but it was all to the good because I really feel like my job is setting me up to make some real impacts.   Even seeing a reference in a newspaper article to a research document I created set my spirits on fire.  I’m not just working everyday to earn a paycheck (although that is oh so necessary lol)–my work is being prodded and probed and considered and acted on.  It’s because of my long hours that somebody somewhere made a decision that will have far-stretching impacts in a city, a county, or even a region or state.  That matters to me.  I’ve come to learn that I put in my hardest work when I feel like I or it matters.  If I don’t see the significance, it’s hard for me to buckle down and get er done.  Knowing that is helping me to prioritize and better use my time (and say a much needed no more often).

And a certain something has me daydreaming and grinning.  Buuuuuuut I’ll let that stay in my head for awhile. Just for superstition’s sake.  No jinxes please.  Just fun times ahead.  Hmmmmm…

Speaking of fun, softball has been kicking my lazy, out-of-shape butt, but being around black folks in a ball park has done something to me.  It makes me feel more at home.  I can remember going to the ballpark with my mom to watch my dad play.  It’s a really vague memory, lol, but I remember, nonetheless.  My aunt would be keeping score or somewhere near us.  And it was just fun times with laughter and sometimes the smell of food on the grill filling the air.  It took me 8 years to find that in Atlanta!!  And right in time for the summer.  Yippie ya!

I don’t even know what else is swirling around in this complicated mind o’ mine.  Besides that something I don’t want to deliberate on. 🙂  lol you want to know, don’t you? Too bad, so sad!  haha  Anyway, there have been lots in the news I could talk about, but most of it is negative and I’m in too good of a mood to get on my soap box today.  So maybe tomorrow.  In the meantime, get your groove on with one of my newest jams.  I know you want to…

P.S. If you don’t have one–get a mantra or two.  Mine are “Positivity prevails” and “Focus on the miracle.”  They come in handy!!  You gotta align your perspective up with your circumstance to make it through tough times.  Remember that your attitude is often your testimony.  Ok, I’m done for real this time.  Tootleloo!