Write On! Chronicling the Journey

Writing: The # 1 Way to Review and Reconcile Your Life

My first book signing in 2011

 

As I celebrate almost six years as a published author, there are times to reflect back on the evolution of this goal.  Below are some excerpts from my first book, Navigating Life’s  Roadways, which chronicle the process of birthing those words.

A good memory is a blessing and a curse.

            Growing up during an era of shifting social trends in my family and society has made me attentive when it comes to listening and observing others. I remember a lot—stuff lingers in my brain’s recesses. Some described me as ‘quiet’ but I’ve always had a voice on matters. This trait at times has served me well or done me in. This blend is evident as you read my stories. The blessing has been in recalling these memories, allowing me to share my insights. Hanging on to these same memories has at times blocked possible moments of my inspiration.

This is not a perfect book because it’s written by an imperfect person —I’ve tried to do my best in imparting what I hope are helpful narratives. Readers may or may not see the relevance in some of my stories. The ways in which I present positive things from my life are ‘no brag, just fact’. Painful times of my journey still sting, but have proven instructional and strengthening.  Some redundancy can be found in the lessons and concepts, but that’s what happens in life sometimes—we hear and see things a few times before we get it!

Discovery

I’ve discovered that discovery is a good thing; particularly discovering how your life works in terms of its unique cycles and circumstances. Why so? Knowing the design of our flow helps us navigate and heed the messages in the ebbs and flows of our seasons.  I have come to realize that my life has to hit the low place before I slowly make my way out to higher ground and another level that God has waiting for me.

Also moving through the roadways of our journey we have different emotions and experiences that bring out our strengths as well as our frailties. This history accumulates, becoming cargo as we launch in another direction. Whether it’s good or bad we carry this load.

Within those pages my life is carved into metaphors that portray these discoveries, seasons and cargo as I’ve navigated challenges using my God-given gifts, while displaying the emotions of my flaws. My hope is that readers will find correlations through our shared humanness.

Once I was led to and committed to writing, energies from everywhere cooperated—seems like phrases, memories and lessons abounded at every corner. My mother knew of my writing aspirations and I feel this creative force was her way of working through God to stir up my spirit. While out walking, ideas would flood my head as I looked at the sky or the landscape around me. I’d hurry back to my office and quickly capture the thoughts—adding fresh words to the manuscript on my computer.

Nature abhors a vacuum. Latin proverb

We give to fill a void. I am single and don’t have children, so birthing  books is one of the ways I hope to leave a footprint on the world. After my mother passed in March of 2010, I’ve felt a chasm of many emotional proportions. Yet the process of grieving her transition gave to my writing books in ways I couldn’t recognize at first. She left a legacy in the circle of life.

The journey continues, well worth navigating the hills and valleys.

Excerpted from my motivational autobiography, Navigating Life’s Roadways: Stories of Insight from My Odyssey and Inspiration for Your Journey in print and Kindle eBook http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008FQDPYE

 

 

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The Gold Standard Test of Faith

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Whether we like it or not, life demands some type of tests, to meet requirements or standards. For example the education system requires us to pass standards of learning to graduate, employers evaluate our performance, and some professions administer fitness tests to check our physical and mental stamina in order to serve. And the reality is that some tests are not fair. Educational testing standards have biases.  Supervisors set-up employees to fail. Now also, a test is defined as a means of trial, those events which ‘challenge our mettle, the core of who we are.’ Tragedies happen, illness and suffering, abuse and violence abound. Then there’s the ultimate unfair test, a confrontation with evil or an attack. As this is Black History Month I’m reminded of how The African American story speaks of this type of trial, beginning with slavery, an excess of evil, permeating mind, body and spirit. Our faith gets tested as well. In the scripture, Job was someone who faced this type of trial; with loved ones, livelihood, and livestock taken away to see if he would remain faithful to God. His body festered with sores, friends of comfort turned into purveyors of their own brand of theological blame. Even sometimes others may blame our trials on ourselves. When I was diagnosed with cancer 12 years ago, some folks said I must’ve done something wrong to incur this horrible disease. My faith waivered. As the ancestors did, I did, we all might ask as Job did,Why Lord?

Well, in the text we find some ways to think about the tests and trials we encounter.

Job exhibited what I see as a gold standard of faith during his tests of excess suffering. As he states in verse 10 speaking of God ‘when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold..’ You see gold is a precious metal of great value or something which exemplifies a high standard. Think about it, Teachers give gold stars for getting an A, employers gold watches for long-term service, Olympians compete for a gold medal. In medicine or economic systems, the gold standard is one that has to hold up under the toughest of circumstances, such as a market collapse, or rare disease. It is the best available thing of its kind. And that describes God period. I know I’m still here having received God’s grace along with the gold standard of medical treatment. But most importantly I’m under God’s Affordable Care Plan and Actions. Your story, my story and our ancestral story of survival to thriving is a gold standard of faith; coming this far and leaning on it, praying to be delivered from evil, and keeping hope alive. Hebrews 11 tells us that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. No matter what’s going on we need some substance for the stuff of life, an assurance in our nature, that we’re clear on what we’re working with, a firm foundation in our trust in God.  We need substance to meet the standard. And during our trials this is not the time to run from God. Job said he wouldn’t turn aside from God; he was committed to God’s word and his way. And so were our ancestors, to hold out and hold up. Somebody persevered through the horrible ship’s hull of the middle passage with a resolve and strength of character, their substance evident. I often say if ancestors got through what they got through, I can surely get through this mess of today. This testing gives us as 1 Peter states an authentic faith–more precious than gold.

So how do we, like Job, pass the gold standard of faith test?

First, Job was certain of God’s presence and plan in the outcome. Back to v. 10, Job states that after the test…’I shall come forth like gold.’ He didn’t say I think, I might, he said I shall.  Shall is a word of intention for a future situation.  Job also would not waiver from God’s order of his steps, further stating in v. 11. ‘My feet have closely followed his steps; Job did was he was supposed to do and didn’t get ahead of God.  So even in the toughest of tests, we must trust in God’s order of things. Our foreparents did the same in the midst of oppression. We Shall Overcome was the song of the Civil Rights Movement, as they kept on marching even if somebody let the dogs out or turned the water hoses on. They sang as a way to encourage themselves and tell the world about the expected results of this way too long final exam for equality.

Next Job was competent in his faith walk. He’d heard and internalized God’s commandments that kept him pressing forward. He didn’t go looking in any other books or trying to find a popular motivational speaker. In v. 12 he states, ‘I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread. God’s word is an authoritative treasure trove, with instructions for us on how to pass the tests of life.  When our ancestors weren’t allowed to read, they heard God’s word and kept it close daily. During my treatment, I’m grateful for visitors who sat with me and read scripture. I needed to up my competency level to make sure I could pass the standards of learning for this trial. Then I could agree with what the Psalmist wrote, it was good for me to be afflicted so that I could learn His statues. When you know Him, you can speak of  and to Him.

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Family Love: The Ridge for Restoration

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My siblings and I through the years with and without our beloved mother Mary, most recently Christmas 2016

The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul

in drought, and strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden,

and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. Those from among

you shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the

foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the

Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.

Isaiah 58:11-12

 

Former President Bill Clinton referenced parts of this scripture in his 2nd inaugural address in January 1997. I remember hearing his charge to this country from this reading and experiencing feelings of hope while ever thankful for these words of God.

Triumph over tragedy, change, staying true to the promises of freedom and continuing to find ways to bring people together and not apart were themes represented in President Clinton’s speech. The applications of these words to my faith have continued to resonate throughout the years, the themes represented in Clinton’s speech and the scriptural verses speaking a special truth.  Ultimately they are about our mission in this earthly odyssey.  There are times when the breaches to repair are in family and relationships.

Finding ways to apply these truths show up in my life

For my sister, brothers and I, the loss of our mother back in March 2010 left a serious crack in our life’s foundation. We’ve grieved— but there was also work to do to close up her earthly journey. My siblings and I argued a lot over this division of labor— our riffs vast and wide. One of the tasks to take care in settling my mother’s affairs was the selling of her home, which actually legally belonged to us. A few structural issues surfaced with the house and hampered the sales process. Next we had to think about: Who’s going to handle the tasks before us, like getting inspections or estimates on repairs, etc.? The situation in dealing with these questions was not pleasant between us.  Finally the repairs were done and house sold 18 months later in September 2011.

As the oldest and the administrator, I felt separated as the divide continued.Trying to stay on the ‘high road’ is hard as a way of moving past our differences. Love finds a way.

One morning while I was out walking, I felt my mother’s presence, leading me to later share this scripture with my siblings. We need to ‘repair our breech.’  Continually working to keep our relationship bonded in the absence of our mother’s cementing walls is important—family continuance.  Releasing slowly, we’re still recovering from these gaps.  She wants us to. And I believe all will happen as they should. This Christmas of 2016 I heard my mother’s voice even stronger, telling me to host the family at my home.  I did and it was a wonderful celebration of peace and memories. We stood on a ridge of restoration.

What’s the learning here that can be useful in other parts of our lives?

  • Life has its bumps, bruises, and battles. We will get damaged.
  • Find a place to repair our soul and soles. Climb high to heal.
  • Learn to do patchwork. Change streets or make a new one.  Begin again.
  • Keep passing on lessons of strength to children. Old can be made new.
  • Knock out a wall to make space for something wonderful.
  • Take the high road sometimes. Decide to fix the divide.

Parts excerpted from my motivational autobiography, Navigating Life’s Roadways: Stories of Insight from My Odyssey and Inspiration for Your Journey in print and Kindle eBookhttp://www.amazon.com/dp/B008FQDPYE

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Passing Through Rejection for Purpose

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An image of purpose in the mirror

‘Sometimes you have to encourage yourself, speak victory during the test.

Words from a gospel song

There are few of us if any that can go through life without being on the receiving end of rejection or the rage of others. However when we pass through these situations, we can be on the way to our God revealed purpose, while He protects and positions us, to build possibilities.

I preached a sermon on the topic of rejection in one of my seminary classes, taking the scripture from Luke 4:28-30 (NRSV) where Jesus dealt with this issue, called The Rejection at Nazareth. When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and                                          went on his way.

Yes, life does present circumstances where we face rejection. My mother Mary was someone who encountered this as well, especially being a single parent.  Even now for some of us the dis might be no response to our emails, texts or calls, no invitation to a meeting at the church, or the lunch gatherings at work. There are also times we’ll be denied the job we applied for, the relationship we desire, or gain the acceptance we want. If dealing with those plights weren’t enough, still we may encounter the rage of others because their perception is that ‘we think we’re something’ with our nice words or big ideas.’

In the text, when rejection happened to Jesus, but he passed through it and went on His way to fulfill his purpose. Because God had other plans for His only begotten son. Sometimes we too have to be rejected to get on our way to something better or bigger that God has in store. Once His plan is in place, we’re anointed and favored for the right season of all working together for good. Now we can probably look back and see how that person, situation or position was not for us or in line with God’s purpose for our lives.

Once Jesus passed through the crowd, He could then go about His Father’s business. For now he had GPS, God Provided Safety, for the completion of His destiny. Jesus didn’t try to get back at these folks, which He had the power to do. We too may encounter enraged people who will gang up on us to run us out of the relationship, family or church. But we can’t let their emotions or mold of us mess us up and divert us from purpose.

So think about how you will pass through those situations of rejection.  My mother did this from a place of sheer faith and determination, not letting doubters detract her from raising us the best ways she could.

And now I do as well, not letting naysayers or others keep me from doing the work God has purposed me to do. Yes, the struggle to do so remains but I stay tuned to my personal GPS, God Purposed Salvation.

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On Woman’s Warrior Pond: Personal Reflections on Service

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As an army reserve officer, circa 1998

Below is an article I wrote of my personal reflections on seeing a friend, fellow army officer and woman go off to war for the first time back in 1991…

With the acceleration of Operation Desert Shield in late November 1990, I had the opportunity to experience a combination of feelings that I hope not to have again anytime soon.  One of my dear friends, an Army personnel officer, was going to Saudi Arabia.  She was a wife, (her husband also on active duty was not going) and the mother of a nine year old son.  Feelings of disbelief, sorrow, and confusion tempered with pride overcame me.

I felt it hard to believe that this was happening in my lifetime, during my military career.  I had been in the army for twelve years, as an active duty officer and a reservist.  I had been through the Iranian desert catastrophe, the Beirut bombing, the operation in Grenada and Just Cause in Panama, but this was different.  A formidable opponent stood to inflict much harm and danger upon my fellow soldiers, sailors, and airmen.  I could’ve found myself headed for the Gulf as well.

To show my support and concern for my friend, I took her and her husband out to lunch prior to her departure.  It was nice, relaxing, full of laughter, reminiscing about the past and planning for the future.  I felt it was important to do all of those things, particularly planning for the future.  We played tennis and partyed together, and spoke of looking forward to doing those things upon her return.

After lunch, it came time to say goodbye.  We hugged, and I was hit with many emotions.  It was mid December 1990; preparation was under way for the most joyous season of the year, the country was on the verge of war in the Persian Gulf, my friend was leaving for a potential war zone, the possibility loomed that I may have to go at some point as well, and we were both women.

When the mass deployment of the military began in mid-August, America and the media were overwhelmed with the quickness at which all this happened, the enormity of the operation, and the technology involved.  There were constant reminders that “this is not an exercise, this is real.”  Sociological and demographic differences between this military operation and previous ones were immediately noted; two primary ones being that we are deploying an all-volunteer force and a significant number of them are women.  Documentaries and articles immediately appeared surrounding the effectiveness and willingness to fight of an all-volunteer force as well as prospects of women and mothers at war.

The firsts of this war were very real, piercing the minds of all Americans.  Concerns voiced surrounded the reinstitution of the draft, women in mass coming home in body bags and abandoned and psychologically impaired children due to the numbers of single parents and dual status military couples/parents stationed in the war zone.

As I watched the news, totally absorbed in the reality of this crisis, I cried often.  The possibility of death by the thousands frightened me.  The potential losses for families, spouses, children, and friends were looming.  The threat of terrorism here in the United States was real.  “War stress” had claimed me as well as Saddam Hussein’s propaganda war.

These are just some of the thoughts and observations that I have made during this international yet very personal crisis.  Questions as to my own future as an army officer have presented themselves.  Reevaluation of the goals of the organization I volunteered to be a part of, in conjunction with my own goals and beliefs as an individual, have occupied a portion of my special reflection time.

Where we go from here as a nation, as a military force and as women in the military is topic material for much congressional debate, legislation and general conversation by the public.  The impact of Desert Storm will be felt for many years to come.  It will certainly go down in history for many reasons.

 

 

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Bound Up in the Bog

 

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time,

O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your

 saving faithfulness. Deliver me from sinking in the mire; let me be

delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters.Let not the

flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up,

or the pit close its mouth over me.

Psalms 69: 13-15

 hopewellwater

I have a brother who is homeless. Having lived out most of his journey drifting in and out of shelters, jail and other unfavorable situations— his choices have accumulated into an ineffective yet settled way of navigating his avenues. People I’ve shared his story with always basically say the same thing: “Every family has one.”

As his sister, I pray for him and when I do see him make sure he has money to eat, as does the rest of the family. Through the years I’ve purchased bus tickets to get him to another shelter location if that was in his best interest. Other money has also been sent his way to help for clothing, jail bail or other incidents. It doesn’t feel great, but that’s all we can do. He has vices we can’t accommodate.

When our mother was alive she’d let him stay with her for a while, then he’d move on for various reasons. He won’t work and his life has been a quagmire of excuses. Asked why, he’ll say that growing up without a father is the cause of his position in life— his justification not totally without merit as there are acidic effects to some degree for anyone who shares this life fact. There are parts of that issue that affect all of us in some way as his siblings. At over 50 years old my brother has been unable to break out of that pattern of thinking and can’t seem to drag himself out of the hole he’s in. I have tried talking to him about making a change, as have others. We remind him that our mother isn’t here to throw him a life preserver any more.

The Salvation Army has a six-month effort designed to help their homeless clients eventually move into responsible living. Other family members and I have suggested to my brother to try and at least stay within that type of shelter program for his own safety and well-being. He would be fed and have a bed to sleep in every night in addition to the other skills services this Salvation Army program offers. He hasn’t stuck with it—gotten as far as four months. Then my brother returns to the streets for a while—gets tired and then finds another temporary shelter (sometimes). There are those that won’t let him return.

Having dealt with my own limitations, which have at times bound me emotionally, I do identify with certain aspects of my brothers condition. Unchecked, bad habits can take us down deeper and deeper—sucking us into an awful hole. But God’s power is stronger than that negative gravity. He has cables of love, grace and mercy that can pull us out of those bottomless pits. When it’s time, the wheels of His power go to work. I keep hoping for my brother—and for me. While writing this book, I shared with my brother this part of my story about his life. He was okay with it and wished me the best in my endeavor.

Praying for each other to be released from those things that keep us dangling over the muck, in the ‘acceptable time,’ helps the release.

 

Excerpted from my motivational autobiography, Navigating Life’s Roadways: Stories of Insight from My Odyssey and Inspiration for Your Journey in print and Kindle eBookhttp://www.amazon.com/dp/B008FQDPYE

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Information Sources: Building Your Reserve

 

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“Those that don’t got it can’t show it. Those that got it can’t hide it.”
~
Zora Neale Hurston, Writer

  As we march forward in reaching our goals, professional and personal, there are stakes to put in place. Stocking these attributes constantly will keep us be built to last, whether we’re operating in a paid or volunteer situation or managing our lives.

  • A Little But Good Attitude

The rules and conditions will keep changing. There will be failures and setbacks.         It’s easy to become bitter. Staying focused and positive is essential to present              ourselves well and concentrate for the best decision-making. There may be times        to fight the –isms noted earlier. Gratitude, for whatever the situation, is necessary as well.

  • Get It Together—Organizational Skills

Rounding up all needed documentation, such as résumés (old and new), transcripts, evaluations, job descriptions, and letters of recommendation may be time consuming, but it has a huge return on investment (ROI). You don’t want to go on a fishing expedition when something is needed right away. Next, put them in some type of logical order. The same tactics work for tracking any financial expenditures, especially for tax purposes.

  • Who Knows You? References

Have you ‘done good’? Can anyone attest to that? Compile a list of people   who’ve known you in a professional setting, such as supervisors or co- workers. Also include those who can speak to your character. Include personal friends with a solid background; teachers, professors, or family friends.

This who-knows-you concept isn’t just for job situations. Many community and professional associations may also require references. Due to the worst of human nature (molesters, scammers, and the like) background checks, of the financial and character type, are now the norm.

Ensure that your social media presence reflects an image that’s aligned with who you are professionally, especially on LinkedIn. Recruiters and others, including plain nosy folks use Google to check out prospective hiring candidates. Censor your tweets and Facebook posts based on the type of opportunities or community positions you seek.

 

Excerpted from my book, For People of Strength, Soul, and Spirit: Seven Guidelines for Life & Career Success: Deborah L. Parker: 9781479237012: Amazon.com: Books

https://www.amazon.com/People-Strength-Soul-Spirit-Guidelines/dp/1479237019

 

 

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