Peace in the Midst of Uncertainty

This morning I drove Grandma and Uncle Roy to Gaston Hematology & Oncology. As we pulled into the parking lot, a lady and who appeared to be her father were exiting the building. His tall, frail frame caught my attention. He reminded me of my Uncle “Knot” who courageously battled cancer before his death a couple years ago…


It wasn’t long before my uncle was called to the back for his tests. My grandmother sat in a sturdy arm chair in the waiting area. I took my place on a surprisingly comfortable sofa alongside a large window. Patient after patient came and went through the heavy wooden doors. Men, women and children filled out forms, flipped through magazines and watched the same pharmaceutical commercials loop on the small flat screen TV. One man in particular, who appeared to be in his mid to late forties, walked in and went to the front desk.

Medical Office Assistant: “Hello sir, how are you?”

Patient: “Well…I’m actually pretty nervous.”

It’s unusual to hear any response besides the usual “fine, how are you.” But, he was being honest and transparent. Sitting in a facility where people are diagnosed with cancer other life-altering ailments, and receive chemotherapy and other treatments, I could only imagine what was going through their minds.

But, in a room full of worried faces and nervous hearts, a soothing sound seeped through the quietness. It was the tranquil, welcoming melody of four little birds chirping in a big, beautiful display nearby. The colorful birds fluttered around singing happily, nibbling on tiny seeds. I imagine the addition of the beautiful birds was just a part of the design plan, and they chose birds over fish perhaps. However, I see them as peace in the midst of uncertainty. If only for a few minutes, someone’s weary mind can be distracted by the beautiful, playful beings.

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I believe that if we’re intentional about what we allow in our mental space, we can find a glimmer of hope in despair, a ray of light in the darkness and serenity in the storm. It could be something as simple as the sound of rain on a tin roof, the soft cuddles of a newborn, a babbling brook or the innocent laughter of a child.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NIV

Peace.

Tranquility.

There is still love. There is still life. There is still hope.

God can calm any storm in our lives, no matter how rough the waves or how strong the winds may blow. May we always see beauty in the battle.

Feel It, to Heal It

“…he/she must attend directly to the wound, dig in it, open it up, clean out the dirt, perhaps the pus and infection, dead skin, etc.  So likewise, it’s the same emotionally. We can’t deny, avoid or neglect our hurt. Instead of running away from it, we have to go to the source of our pain and attend to the wound, then we will begin the process of healing. ” Uncle J

I love my Uncle J. Though time and circumstance keeps us physically apart, our bond keeps us near at heart. He’s my best friend.

I’m thankful for our correspondence and how he keeps it real with me. Growing up without my father, I will never have that all-important connection that I longed for, but I’m grateful for the ever-growing relationship I have with my uncle.


It can be easy to notice when someone else is carrying a heavy load or burden. They may seem tired, angry or anxious. But often times, it takes someone else to come forward and express concern about grief that YOU have been carrying.

I hadn’t realized that I’ve been grieving all these years. Grief is an emotional and sometimes physical response to loss. But, how can I miss something/someone I never had? It’s just that. I constantly grieve the absence of my Daddy, wasted time, and familial relationships whose seeds should have been planted years ago.

I have a bad habit of dwelling on lost/wasted time. My Uncle J reminds me that we can’t go back, but we can make the best of the time we have left.

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Dear Me…

Uncle J encouraged me to do something I had never thought of, though I’ve always found writing to be very therapeutic.

“Little Courtney is still hurting…that precious little girl with the chubby cheeks. You know better than anyone else what she needs. Give it to her.”

My uncle told me about visual imagery and how it could help to heal my emotional wounds. He encouraged me to close my eyes, mentally go to a special place that I liked to play or pick muscadines, notice the sounds, sights and smells. Pick little Courtney up and talk to her.

I would tell her all the things I wished someone had told me growing up.

Uncle J also encouraged me to write a letter to my younger self. In his words, “she needs to hear what you have to say.”

I couldn’t agree more.

I haven’t sat down to do this exercise yet, but I will. Soon. I have no doubt in my mind that it will be tremendously beneficial to my emotional healing.

Open up. Let it all out.

 

 

A Living Canvas: God’s Artwork

1446145690103There’s something about autumn that soothes the soul. Something magical in the reds, yellows, oranges, and browns, as the leaves shake and dance in the chilly air, before floating to the ground.

Autumn has always been my favorite season of the year. It’s not only the season in which I was born (September 27), when the most horror movies are on TV, or the time that we gather together and express our thankfulness…but, it’s just the feeling of fall itself. I look forward to the crisp, clear mornings when dew gently blankets the earth.

It’s refreshing to inhale the autumn air, free of summer’s suffocating humidity. Friday night football, hot chocolate, s’mores, pumpkins, ghosts, goblins, turkeys, sweet potato pie….autumn! 1446925817025All of God’s marvelous creation is beautiful, but it seems He took a little extra time on the autumn’s canvas. A few more layers of color, a couple extra strokes of the brush. It’s hard not to stand in awe of its loveliness. People travel for miles to sit in traffic and view the scenic artistry of the Blue Ridge Parkway. I haven’t had the opportunity to witness the sights, but it is definitely at the top of my list!


1111151451It’s important to take the time to just…be. Take a break, look around and soak up nature’s splendor. Take pictures, have a picnic, go to the lake. Make it a priority to get away and just enjoy God’s masterpiece! It shouldn’t take the rain coming and “ruining” our plans, just to notice the weather and what’s going on outside of our homes or jobs. We must take advantage of the sunshine, cool breeze and God’s palette of perfection.

The Courage to Feel

12193725_10153109446782539_7191528142289883211_nMy mind tells me I didn’t know him long enough to be sad, but my heart knows better. Of my grandfather’s 91 years, I knew him only 8. But, I am grateful for the moments we shared.


I think it was 2007 when I first met Papa John, right before I started college. There he stood, all 6 feet something of him; towering in stature and strong in personality. Though his eyesight was steadily fading, he’d always rise to greet me, grab hold to my hands or pat me on my back. He knew who I was and that’s all that mattered.

Papa John told me stories about how he used to work with my mother. He called her his “girlfriend.” 🙂 Putting a roof on every building in Hickory was his claim to fame. If anyone could do that, I know John Henry King could. Much like my father, I never knew much about my grandfather, and didn’t have the opportunity to grow up with him and my paternal family over the years. I have a handful of captured memories and exchanged conversations that I cling to. 1030151744-1

As I slept in his old bedroom the past few days, I wondered if there were any keepsakes in there to remember him by. I somewhat longed to feel his presence in the room.


When it came time for the homegoing service, I wanted sunglasses to hide the tears. I don’t think anyone likes feeling/being vulnerable, especially during the sickness/loss of a loved one. There is an inevitable feeling of sympathy from others. Everyone wants to know how you feel, how you’re doing and how you’re holding up. “I’m good.” “I’m doing okay.” “As well as can be expected.” At some point, the very mention or thought of that loved one’s name chokes you up. On the brink of tears I still mutter, “I’m fine.”

FB_IMG_1446342721250Texting my mother before the funeral, she told me I “didn’t have to hide.” Having to sit right next to the casket with the flower girls, I was forced to feel. In that tiny church, I had a front row seat to sadness. As sister, daughter, son, grandchild, niece, nephew and friend filed in the sanctuary and laid eyes, hands and lips on Papa John for the last time, the grief overcame me. Ugly faced, whimpering and all, couldn’t be contained as the funeral director closed the casket. I cried. In a church full of people, mourners all around…I cried. I felt.

I thought of how my mother must have felt in that very church back in 1990, staring at my father’s closed casket; burned body inside.

I know Papa John is resting with Daddy, Grandma Marie and countless others who had gone on before him. He’s at peace. Body healed. Eyesight restored.

I may not know as much about him as everyone else, but I know that he loved. In few words, but in many actions…he loved. And he will always be loved. Forever and always.

I love you, Papa John. Rest in Paradise. 1031151522a-1

iAmSomebody: It’s a Movement!

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“Losing my brother a little over five months ago has really had me doing some thinking about my life and others that may suffer with different issues in silence. I’ve spent time praying, crying, and wondering how I can help others, who battle with issues daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. For almost a week every time I’ve prayed it’s like God has been saying ENCOURAGE OTHERS…” Brittany Too-Fly Staley (Facebook-July 14, 2015)

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Brittany and Jaheir

Countless lives were forever changed on February 8, 2015. At the young age of 22, Mr. Jaheir Ford ended his own life.  Like so many today, Jaheir suffered from something that is widely overlooked, often until it is too late. Mental illness. The daily struggle is one that most can’t imagine. Though symptoms can be physical, depression is often hard to detect in friends and family around us. Those silenced by the weight of mental illness may find it hard to express what they often don’t understand themselves. Sometimes it is those who seem the happiest and most loved who struggle the most, leaving those left behind to wonder… Why?

It’s easy for us to sweep issues under the rug, especially if it doesn’t affect us directly. That is, until we are forced to stare it right in the face. Brittany Staley wanted to make sure something positive came from her brother’s death. On July 14th, Brittany started the iAmSomebody Movement. This growing campaign seeks to raise awareness about mental illness and in turn, aid in the prevention of suicide. This movement is a voice for those who suffer in silence. It offers encouragement, love and an opportunity to give back to others through an uplifting word, a shoulder to cry on or simply a listening ear. Love, support and knowledge of this very real issue is essential in the daily fight for joy, peace and understanding!

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Tamara and Jaheir

Since its birth, the iAmSomebody Movement has reached many and continues to grow. Brittany posts encouraging messages, pictures and videos on her personal Facebook page, along with the movement’s page, iAmSomebody Movement. We never know who is reading our posts, or who counts on us for a much needed laugh or smile.


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Suicide Prevention Walk/Remembrance

On September 13th, the 1st Annual Suicide Prevention Walk/Remembrance was held to honor and remember those who have ended their suffering, to recognize the survivors and support those who continue in the struggle. Meetings are held at a SC high school where students are encouraged to speak openly about what is going on in their lives, including problems at home, bullying at school, low self-esteem…anything and everything. Sometimes all it takes is to know someone cares.

Depression, anxiety and all forms of mental illness are VERY REAL. Signs and symptoms should never be dismissed as “just one of those days.” Don’t be afraid to talk to someone.

Let’s all make a conscious effort to smile at a stranger today. Hold the door open for someone (male or female). Make every day count. Jaheir and many others will live on through the iAmSomebody Movement. Even if only one person has been uplifted or saved by Brittany’s movement, it matters. This movement matters!

If you would like more information, or are interested in purchasing a t-shirt or bracelet, contact Brittany Staley via the Facebook page, iAmSomebody Movement. BE the difference!

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Jaheir Ford

There is HOPE.

YOU matter.

YOU are important.

YOU are loved.

YOU are somebody.

iAmSomebody!