Saturday, June 20, 2015

Sunday Morning

"one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity,"
Martin Luther King JR (referring to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombings in Atlanta in 1963)

This morning I woke up and after reading more information on new details from the Charleston shootings, my mind started thinking about tomorrow morning...Sunday morning.

You see, the night the shootings happened, when processing such clearly racially motivated hate, with my sister, we both mentioned how this was a modern day move that takes you back to the church bombings during the fight to end segregation. Thus the quote that I used to start. Of course in 2015, the weapon was advanced and deadly destructive, but the motives were alarmingly similar. Just like in the past, this man knew exactly where to go to make his horrible point known. Not into the streets, because with the current situations going on in this country, he might not be heard amidst rioting and looting. He didn't go into the home, where brokenness and confusion seem be louder than unity and commitment. No, he went into the church. Take a minute and let that sink in. It speaks both to the power of the message of God, and to the utter depths of depravity of the shooter. And to be humbly honest, it is really hard to grapple with both of those things, when presented so close together.

Yesterday, the victim's families got time in court to speak to those assembled and a killer. The reports show that many of the messages included forgiveness, repentance, and the power of God to transform a life. That was not the human nature talking, that was the faith, love, hope and Holy Spirit; leading mere mortals to speak and act in a way totally and completely opposite from the way in which their loved ones had been treated. It reminded me again that God calls us to journey with him along a different way, and though you might lose your life, if you are his, you will never lose your "life" (Matthew 16:24-26).

Tomorrow morning is coming though. The first time since the whole country was rocked by vicious and blatant hate (and if you don't see what happened as a hate crime, then we are coming at this from vastly different perspectives) that the faithful will gather to worship God. I am African-American, I am Christian, and I am Southern. So, tomorrow morning I will meet, as is my practice, with my brothers and sisters in Christ. We will sing, and listen, partake of communion, worship, give, and live out the calling of Christ to love deeply. But at the same time, I can't lie and say that I won't cast a brief but suspicious glance around near the doors of the church. I am human, and there is weakness in me, but I know that to not attend tomorrow, or to walk in scared and afraid would give Satan a sense of triumph. Maybe he is thinking even now, maybe I have sounded my message of death and despair so loud, that finally those believers in "the way" will give up, give in, run and hide.

No, this is the time to stand on the "rock" (I Sam 2:2) like never before. To read your Bible, to go to worship, to pray for this wicked, fallen world and the "lost sheep" (Luke 15:1-7) who are in fact being sought by God the Shepard even as I type this. Now is the time to remember that the "harvest is plentiful but the workers are few" (Matthew 9:37). In your own path of life, as you walk with Jesus along the road of faith, you are being called to be light, salt, peace, love, hope, forgiveness, calm, joy, gentleness, and most importantly.... strong in the strength of God, the creator and the ultimate judge of the entire world.

Whew! I  have been trying to get some of these ideas out for days. I am thankful if you made it all the way through these sincere but rambling kind of thoughts.

I still believe in love, I still hold fast to my faith, I still struggle to live in such times as these. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

30 before 30 Part 2

Schools out for summer.....and I can finally get to finishing up my inventory of my 30 before 30 list. I did not get to everything on my list, but it was the effort that counted most, and this list was still one of the most fun things I have ever done!
Goals 11-20

11. take a surprise visit home to see my parents
I planned this one before I turned I will still count it as complete. I went home to Jacksonville for Mother's Day. I knew in my heart that I would make the trip this year as soon as my grandma passed. We enjoyed a mellow and memory filled time. It was sweet and somber, but still very very good!

12. maintain my weight, below a "magic" number  
(Gotta get my motivation back on track)
13. plan a trip just for the sister and I

14. read through the New Testament

I started co-teaching Ladies Bible class on Wednesday night in April, but did not meet this goal. I still want to however!
15. clean out my email ( all 3 accounts)

My email is definitely a bother. One personal account, one junk account, and one work account. All overfull. But I did spend hours on this little project. I unsubscribed to many companies, deleted and deleted til my eyes were blurry. All that and I will for sure need to clean them out again soon....yuck!

16. buy a pedometer and track my steps
My parents got me a Fitbit for my birthday! I love it! I just clip it on each day and the motivation is gives me is excellent!

17. adopt a classroom for a school year 

18. update my scrapbook

This one changed a bit...I started using the Snapfish app and getting free prints. So now I have actual "old-fashioned" photo albums full of amazing memories! 
19. use the scanner I got and really organize old memories, pictures and papers

20. go to a concert
On the Friday before Easter, Kenneth was my last minute date to a gospel concert. We both had a wonderful time! We heard the delightful voices of J Moss, Jessica Reedy, and Mary Mary.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

30 before 30 Part1

I am a few days into this 30th year! Yay!!!
I was going to include pictures for my 30 before 30 goals, but if you are my Facebook friend or follow me on Instagram, then you have seen them already. I posted along the way:)

I have loved my 30 before 30 list and the purposeful life of my 29th year.
Over the next few posts, I will reflect over this list, and how it was so much more than a list.
Also, somewhere along the way, the goal morphed not into getting everything done exactly, but savoring the actual experience of these wonderful accomplishments (both small and large). So here we go....

Goals 1-10
1. start the birthyear with the 29 gifts challenge (Day 1- April 28th 2014)
I did not even start this one. But I will say that I highly recommend the book 29 Gifts by Cami Walker. It is a quick read, and the idea of giving to others; giving of our time, talents, resources, etc is inspiring.

2. host a dinner party to welcome in one of the seasons (Fall is my favorite)
As my favorite time of year came to Tallahassee, I had a few friends over one evening for a Fall Party. We had a blast! Snacks, and conversation, and the best part....painting pumpkins! I am a multifaceted type of girl, and I love getting crafty! I would definitely do it again!

3. go on a cruise

I did not get this one done. But, now I have something fun to look forward too in my future! My parent's AARP magazine suggested river cruising through Europe....a girl can dream right?
4. celebrate 30 in a BIG way

I had the BEST time celebrating 30! Movies, getting taken out for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners by wonderful friends and family! There was also shopping for myself, reunions, lazy days, beach trips, gifts, and more. Of course there was my pre-birthday weekend where we painted, enjoyed a fish-fry and bonded more! I would not describe it as glamorous, but my birthday was full of big fun, big laughs, and big contentment all the way around:) 
5. celebrate 30 in a quiet way

I enjoyed treating myself to a birthday gift. It was my way of celebrating 30 in a quiet way. Manicure and pedicure. A few other assorted beauty treats rounded out my day. It was perfect, to sit back and steep myself in quiet and some girly, beauty prep.

6. travel to 5 places that I've never been before

Check, check, and double check! My favorite goal! My travel-bug was satisfied in my 29th year. I am so blessed to have the ability to travel and broaden my horizons, and collect memories along the way. I went to; Niagara Falls, Canada, West Chester, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Falling Waters State Park in Chipley and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.I enjoyed each and every location!

7. sleep under the stars

I really put my mind to this one, but just could not get it done. Especially because in my head, I want to sleep under the stars, but not on the ground!
8. watch a full sunrise and full sunset from the beach

The beauty of this goal makes my soul glow. It was an experience to see the day wake up and then settle in for the night. If you have never done this, I would recommend it as the beauty is untouched and perfect, just as God created it to be.  Also, sharing the sunset and sunrise with Kenneth will always be a special and very fond memory.
9. finish reading Julie and Julia and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

One freeing part of this "project for self" was that I have not been stressed about anything on my list. If I got it done, great, if not, no problem. I am more high strung in real this 29th year has been a sigh of relief as I have used the moments to enjoy. This goal morphed a little, and that is just fine because the spirit of the goal stayed the same...I was reading! I did finish Julie and Julia and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle....but I also finished Outliers. Outliers is so wonderful, one of my favorite books! 

10. cook or bake 24 "new to me" recipes (2 a month hopefully)

This goal is right at the heels of goal 6 above! The new things that I cooked made me happy! I was in the kitchen and loving it! Making myself get out of my comfort zone and trying new recipes was a tasty adventure. I should do it again, just for the plain joy it bought me. 
Here is a list of what I cooked or baked....
Peach beehives (Thanks Connie), oven roasted yellow potatoes, baked peaches served with ice cream, creamy mint Oreo brownies (bake-off at church), apple/pineapple dumpcake (just OK), sweet potato pound-cake (Ah-mazing!), apple pie cookies, copycat Tuscan soup ( boyfriends favorite), cinnamon sugar Chex-Mix (made this one a lot...easy), tortellini lasagna and cheddar biscuits, ham, corn and potato chowder (another favorite), cheesy veggie pasta, hot corn dip, green beans and potatoes (Thanksgiving in Tally), sugar cookies and royal icing (fantastically fun night with my roommate and our guys), Thanksgiving leftover soup, cranberry white chocolate cookies (Christmas in Macon), cinnamon rolls (Christmas in Macon), veggie beef soup, pecan pie cookies, cubed steak (chewy..not my favorite), Mexican chicken bake (feeds an army and delicious), strawberry rice krispies (Valentines 2015), heart inside cupcakes (Valentines 2015, baking with Rhonwyn, awesome!), and brown sugar, bacon little smokies (a fan favorite).

7/10 goals completed....not too shabby!
*Part 2 to come (goals 11-20) *

Monday, April 27, 2015

The work of my hands

 Remember this, that very little is needed to make a happy life.

Lately, I have been craving connections with the past. With how things used to be done and what used to be reliable. Just the old soul in me, feeling left out in this fast paced, ultra modern, yet ultra disconnected (from authentic people) world of ours. I am sure this also has something to do with this new need I have to discover fresh ways to honor my grandma.

There is this gratifying satisfaction of working with my hands. I have known it for what seems like forever. Cooking and baking have been important to me for years and years.  I get in the zone and relaxed as I whip up yummy meals and sugary desserts. I love mixing, and measuring, and preparing. Cutting, tucking, and frosting are favorites as well. I am a girl who cooks from recipes but always adds in a dash or splash extra. I am a girl who cooks from scratch and believes that you really can't ever completely ruin a meal.

The work of my hands, resulting in food that satisfies, that is an instant recipe for happiness in my book. Simple, but not common anymore is this kind of "old-fashioned" kitchen work ethic.

On another side of the coin, I have started a humble, pallet garden! I already love it. Yeah, I tend to jump right into things. But, really I have been observing my mama garden for years now  (her garden grew and flourished after Mel and I left for college). She is a gentle yet through master of her domain in our backyard and the blossoms that grow for her are absolutely beautiful! I have seen the seasons come and go, so I have a sneak peek into the seasons of gardening. I don't have to fret when the leaves drop off and the green turns to brown. If I stay careful and also let nature do its thing, life and Spring will hopefully bloom again and again in my garden. Can you feel how over the top excited I am?

I also really enjoy when my hands work on hand-written cards and other forms of creativity, such as painting. So far I have 4 Sabrina originals gracing my home. Bringing color and form to a blank canvas relaxes me and stretches my mind in all the right ways. There is a creative gene in me that yearns to show itself. Sometimes I give it full and free reign.

The work of my hands is intimate and personal. It is a connection to my sometimes too soft heart and the things that make it beat. The work of my hands is tactile and life-giving. I am focused on the work of these hands and the difference that they make in my little world. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

More Family

My home is quiet now, after a long weekend filled with such fun and family that I can't even begin to describe the goodness.

The grown-up Sabrina continues to see so many things with a depth that the younger me did not comprehend. And that is fine, because that is how life works. Seeking more wisdom that often only comes with time and life. If you do it right, more birthdays, should bring more wisdom. Should, I say...

Anyway, my ideas about family have taken flight over the years. I have lived near and sorta far from my family and felt the independence and the loneliness. For me, I needed to get back closer to the love and stability of the people who know me best. So, I moved back (after much prayer) closer to home, and it has turned out to be just wonderful, and I know that God heard me and answered all of my prayers, both spoken and unspoken. Praises!

This weekend, my biological family, and my Tallahassee family all came together to celebrate my almsot 30th birthday. It was amazing! I am still so content and glowing with happiness. I had many of "my people" together in one place, and we all had a blast! My biological family is a large unit; I have gained an Athens family that I still love dearly from my grad school years; and I have this Tallahassee family that is precious to me in so many ways.

At this point of life, when my journey does not yet encompass some of the milestones of some of my peers, it can sometimes feel like I have gotten behind in the game of life. Meandered down paths that were right for me, but as the clock ticks, maybe costly in other areas. But, I was reminded this weekend that my beautiful, unique, wonderful, blessed life is just exactly what it was meant to be. No changes needed, only the strength to stay humble and happy, content and Christ-like, smiling and true to my own Sabrina self. 

I have always been a girl who loved travel and also loved home. Who loved people and also loved family. Well, I see it and I feel it in my soul that more family, more support, more love, more care; all of that "more" makes for an amazing life! I have an amazing life! To be getting ready for 30, and to be reminded of that fact, is a wondrous thing!

Dear Self,
Always remember this weekend, and these times of great growth and great faithfulness. And as you receive such amazing love, continue to live a life of giving and sharing. That is what really counts!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Assumptions and Protection

Sometimes I wonder about the silence. I wonder as national and local news unfolds, and protests flare up and then back down, I wonder about the hush that seems to come from certain areas.

Are people not interested in the news of unrest? Are people quiet because some news has zero relevance to their lives? Are people unsure of how they feel, unsure of how to even begin to combat such huge problems as prejudice and they choose quiet instead. Maybe quiet is safer....but maybe it is not.

But I also have to remember that quiet people are still thinking. In todays 24 hour news jungle, it is hard to escape the current stories of anger, death, and force. The stories that again and again more recently involve black males and police. Today, I won't go into the unreported stories of gang wars and other crimes that zing back and forth and are killing thousands a year.

I am no expert. I am a 29 year old African American woman. Living in the South. Loving my life.
But I have gone to graduate school and spent time studying social justice. I had to search my own soul many, many times to even begin to try and tackle some of the complexity that lies behind race and prejudice and assumptions. And in life most people are just not going to do that. Who has the time? Who has the passion it takes? Who has the compassion it takes too?

I have had exactly two run ins with police in my life. But you know what, I have worked at schools where my students had run ins with police ALL the TIME! If you have never had an incident, small or large with an upset or angry police then you might not get what I am about to say. But, maybe you will still keep on reading. My two run ins were minor, and I do mean minor. One, an alleged shoplifting accusation during my teens at Walmart, and one a very brief interaction as I was driving in a construction zone. But in both cases I had a fear in me. A fear that the police did not see me as Sabrina Stewart, but rather as "another" young black woman. And all the assumptions that come with that label. Kids but no husband. Attitude but little education. I am neither of these, but when you are in certain groups in this country, and you encounter certain police, there are sadly certain assumptions that are made.

Why I keep wondering, do the recent news stories have people running from police, fighting with police, arguing with police? I could never dare to answer for anyone but I know that if I could feel this small fear, that others have felt far more. What if during a routine stop, the voice that is only supposed to be authoritative, what if it starts asking you demeaning questions, questions that hint that you are "just another punk", "just another man or woman who deserves to be in jail, like the other men and women who look just like you and therefore must be just like you"? What if what is supposed to be protection, you feel is far more than that? Judgement replaced by protection perhaps. And what if the judgement is dead wrong (the wording was completely intentional there)?

The thing is, the time to have these discussions on race and violence is now. It is not later, when you have been stopped for an alleged crime. Now, we have to open our eyes to some truth. Someone has to talk about the fact that there is a generation of young black men who are seeing lives like theirs killed repeatedly by police officers. We don't yet know, how that will play out psychologically. We have to talk about the mothers, daughters, and friends who carry a worry in them that their family member is going to have a run in, and they won't live to tell the tale about what actually happened. Certain families are having difficult conversations all over this country, and those conversations are very rarely crossing over racial and socio-economic lines, so the chasm grows and deepens. The misunderstandings blossom more and more. Confusion and silence reign.

I get scared and I get angry during these cases. Because one person is alive and able to testify and give vivid details of an encounter, able to describe their feelings and their concerns. They get a chance to reel in positive public opinion and support. And the other person, they are silent, because they have been killed...not just injured but KILLED. And no one, no bystander, no video camera, no nothing can speak the entire truth of a dead man.

It's heavy stuff. I feel it stirring up all sorts of emotions in me even as I write. Emotions that are not shared by everyone, even though we so desperately want others to rally together with us for change. But is it possible for a family who looks a certain way and earns a certain amount of money, who has never and will never spend one moment worried that their child will make a mistake and encounter an angry police, let alone come into any contact with the weapon that the police carries; is it possible that, that family and another family who looks a certain way and earns a different amount of money, who has and will continue to worry constantly that their child might not make it home because they made a mistake and encountered an angry police, and came in direct and terrifying contact with the weapon that the police carries; is it possible that both can understand the other? Join together and say somethings are wrong no matter how you look at it? I believe it is possible, but it will be difficult.

Whew! This is one of those times where I just needed to write to get it out. Not to offer solutions, and not to cause unrest. But to clear my head and heart so that I can keep on believing in change and having hope that life will be seen as precious and created and purposeful verses a burden, nuisance and unnecessary.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

April April April

April is here. Spring has sprung. Times of refreshing and joy are arriving.

Whew! I am relived to be here during these times. Yesterday, I saw two community groups outside working the earth and building gardens. I loved it! Probably because I am trying really hard to finish Animal Vegetable Miracle. A well-written book of one family and how farming and wanting locally grown food changed their lives. No matter, I can apprecaite the idea that putting our hand to the plow yields results, the circle of crop life if you will.

My mother and so many others are backyard workers, maintaining gardens that are full of the myriad of colors and scents that tell of the Spring. To look over the land in Winter has its own kind of beauty, but that is not the full story. The story bursts forth as week by week the Spring rains and the Winter chill and the Fall planting all work together to bring forth blossoms, flowers and fresh green leaves. Branches straighening and alive again after the cold and dry Winter.

And I appreciate how Spring is here in my personal life as well. Color, life and the results of the previous season. I am smiling because I welcome my 30th birthday this month. I sing joyfully off key as we enter the last nine weeks of school. I imagine sweet summer and enjoy getting creative in the present day.

This month is full of celebrations, dinner and movies, and worshiping God. Parties and prayer groups and welcoming the fun of grown-up life. Family and friends and yummy birthday cake! Days off from work and walking around and being present in this life that is daily a testament to how good and full of grace God is.

April, April, April....I love ya:)