I remember the first time I posted a Valentine’s Day poem declaring my love to the world. Well, not really the world. It was more like the city. You see, decades Myspace, Facebook, Instagram and twitter, every year in February, the Philadelphia Daily News allowed you to ‘post’ a Valentine’s Day ad in their paper for all the world to see. It was the early 90’s and I was excited about reconnecting with this guy I had broken up with in the 80’s. It was all my fault, too. I had trust and commitment issues and they drove us further and further apart. But the year before, we ran into each other at a youth service and realized we both still had feelings for each other. I was so surprised that after all those years and how I had done him wrong, he said he never stopped loving me and that wanted us to get back together. He didn’t care that I was a single parent of twins, either. He said he’d accept them as his own and love them like a father. I was so overwhelmed. And realized I still loved him too, and had gotten over my issues of the past and was ready to settle down and, well, the rest is history. We’ve been together ever since. Anyway, below is an excerpt of that poem. I pray it touches you as it does me, even after all these years.
I’ve found a love I cherish,
Far more than words can say,
A sweet, kind and precious love,
That takes my breath away.
This love I can depend on,
No matter what I’m going through,
This love guides and directs me,
So I’ll know just what to do.
This love is an ageless love,
It’s been here since the beginning of time,
From everlasting to everlasting,
It will live on even after I die.
This love is a true love,
It’s the love that saved my life,
This love is unconditional,
It’s the love of Jesus Christ.
Poetricia Publishing © 2017
"I thank God for every remembrance of you."
God used Shawn Morrison to cause our paths to cross in 2013 when she organized The Apostolic Poets Society’s, TAPS - The Apostolic Poets' Society event in Boston. You had a book signing, I taught a writers workshop, and together we mentored young poets for Christ that were in attendance.
But before we even met, I went online and purchased your first book, first book, My God, My Song, My Praise, and was in awe of your testimony, your gift, and your work as an author. You agreed to be a guest on my Christian poetry radio show for a live interview and reading from your three books, plus the fourth one that you were working on at the time.
To say that you were a real life hero in my book would be an understatement. Woman of God, mother, grandmother, retired teacher, poet, and Christian author. I soaked up everything you shared, both during the interview and at the event in Boston. You encouraged me during that session and afterwards. I shared with you that I had several not yet published manuscripts of poetry that I had yet to publish. You told me how God had blessed you to publish one book per year since your retirement, and that if you could do it, so could I.
I left the conference energized to get back on the wheel and continue my assignment from the Lord. That was 2013. Once home, I tried to follow the advice you gave me on how to do it, but at the time I couldn’t understand the program you used. I was so embarrassed and disappointed I let defeat win and promptly gave up. ‘I can’t’ became my inner motto, each time I tried to go back to the program to figure things out.
Almost three years later, my daughter Angella Middleton, published her first, Life Lessons I Learned in Law School through the same operating system and also told me ‘Mom you can do it’. When she did, it was like everything you told me came back to mind, and something inside me just clicked and said ‘You can do it’.
So I sat down and got to work. That was January of this year. I had a goal in mind, and praise God this weekend I will am attending an author’s expo featuring my first book, plus FOUR additional titles. On top of that, three of my other yet unpublished manuscripts of poetry are scheduled to be released in November. TO GOD BE THE GLORY FOR THE THINGS HE HAS DONE!
JoAnn, I want to thank you for the seeds you planted. Angella,I want to thank you for the watering you did. And most of all, God, I want to thank You for giving the increase!
“I CAN do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13
"It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23
One year ago today a had a near death experience, but because of the grace, mercy, and faithfulness of God, I lived to tell the story. So that's what I'm doing, I'm living and telling the story.
About a year before "the incident" my pastor, Bishop Isadore Grant, Jr., preached a sermon on the topic "God's Preceding Word." It was all about how our tests and trials are often preceded by a prophetic word from God of warning, direction, faith, comfort, or instruction. Often we don't realize at the time why the particular word is being given, but as circumstances begin to unfold, it becomes clear why. I never forgot that message.
Two years prior to that message, on January 25, 2012, I posted the following words on my Facebook wall: "This morning as I meditated on grace, and all that grace is, the spirit of the Lord whispered to me, 'Every breath you take is grace'."
Fast forward to Mother's Day Weekend 2015. On Saturday May 9th, I'd been invited to serve as the guest speaker at a Pre-Mother's Day Luncheon at the Ambassador Seed of Love Church in Philadelphia. The theme was "Still Standing, Still Strong: I Don't Look Like What I've Been Through." I shared what the Lord had given me to share on the topic and we were blessed. On the next day, Sunday, May 10th, my daughter Angella took me to a Mother's Day Concert at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, PA. That night was the first time I heard the group Anthony Brown & Group TherAPy (they capitalize AP as a way to remember their previous name, Answered Prayers). I was so moved by the lyrics in the songs they sang, Testimony and Worth, that I immediately purchased and downloaded both songs. For the next few days, all I listened were those two songs - over and over and over again.
Four days later on Thursday May 14th, at approximately 5:45 pm I suddenly began experiencing shortness of breath. For the next 50 minutes, as I struggled to breath, I prayed, cried, sipped cold water, took my hair down, and loosened my clothes, but it was still a struggle to breathe. Finally at 6:35 pm I called my brother to pick me up from work (yes, I was still at work) and take me to the hospital. As soon as we arrived at the ER, I was given oxygen, an EKG, and several tests. At first they thought I'd had a mild heart attack because there was damage to the right side of my heart. But it was later confirmed that I was suffering from acute Bilateral Pulmonary Embolisms or, multiple blood clots in both lungs. Later that night I was admitted to a room on the Cardiac floor of Jefferson Hospital, connected to machines that beeped all night and specialists who visited all day. I stayed there for 5 days and 5 nights while my body was nursed back to health.
When I think about those 50 minutes from 5:45 pm to 6:35 pm when I did everything but call for help, tears well up in my eyes. I was told by the cardiologist that "you shouldn’t be here". That usually a patient like me "wouldn’t have made it". That I was "pretty lucky". But rather than luck, I like to call it my ‘50 Minutes of Grace.’ During those 50 minutes, even though I was anxious and afraid, I never stopped praying. Even though I didn't realize it at the time, God's preceding word had already answered my prayers ("Before they call, I will answer" Isaiah 65:24).
His word had already gone out - God's preceding word - through the words the Lord whispered to me two years prior; through the theme I was asked to speak on; and through the lyrics of the two songs that had ministered to that whole week. Yes, God's word had gone out of His mouth - just like my pastor preached and just like the scripture says - His word "did not return to Him void but accomplished the purpose that He intended" (Isaiah 55:11). And three years later to the day that word is still true. Every breath I take is Grace. I am Still Standing. I am Still Strong. I don't look like what I've been through. He thought I was Worth saving. And I gotta, I gotta, I gotta Testimony.
God has led me share my testimony in spoken word, here on this blog, and in an upcoming book entitled "Fifty Minutes of Grace: A Testimony of Survival". Keep checking this blog for the release date and continue to keep me in your prayers!
“O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” Psalm 136:1-26
For information about Blood Clots click HERE.
For information about my church click HERE.
For information about Anthony Brown & Group TherAPy click HERE.
For information about The Ambassador Seed of Love Church click HERE.
January is National Mentoring Month and this is my story: After 20 plus years at Verizon, I spent almost a decade working on the administrative side of mentoring at risk youth. After that I spent another almost decade working in Christian radio. This past November I returned to the field of at risk youth, only this time I'm working on the other side: the front lines side. The side where I have direct day-to-day interaction and connection with at-risk girls of various ages, cultures, experiences and expectations. It has been challenging trying to get past their tough exteriors, the tests they put you through to see if you're for real, and the ability to know instinctively what to say, how to say it, and when to say it. However, what has become evident to me is that when it comes down to it, like all of us, at risk youth just want to be loved, understood and accepted. But because of life's circumstances, many of which they had/have no control over, how they express that is marred with the stain of their upbringing, their environment, and their lineage.
Recently I found this picture of me and old memories surfaced of myself at their age - a church girl who got into smoking, bullying, and other very risky behavior. Inside I was angry, hurt, disillusioned and confused because of the lifelong secret I carried of growing up in an abusive household. Behind all my risky behavior, I just wanted to be loved. To be protected. To be safe. To be understood. To be accepted.
So as I return from our holiday break, I pray for the strength and the grace to listen between the profanity, to see behind the anger, and to feel beyond the defiance. I pray that I remember that first and foremost these girls are souls, and they are precious in God's sight, and that He has allowed our paths to cross for a reason. I pray that I remember that I am called to love my neighbor and that these girls, in God's eyes each one of them is my neighbor. And while they are in my presence, I will do my best to teach them - with patience, determination and hope - how to respect, value and love themselves. Because God and me, we already do. And once they learn that, all the other lessons like life skills, social skills, tutoring, creative expression, etc.. will be just a little bit easier.
For more information on mentoring visit:
Poetricia Publishing © 2016
Last week after parking my car at work, a thought penetrated my brain. "Take your pocketbook inside today." I immediately answered and said, "No. Why should I do that? I never do that." (Because of the nature of my job, I always left my pocketbook in my trunk.) I jumped out of the car and went inside.
At the end of the day, I grabbed my coat, hat, scarf and gloves. Like I did every night, as I walked out of the building, I reached my hand inside my coat pocket for my car keys. Only this time, my coat pocket was empty. It didn’t take long for me to realize that when I got out of the car earlier that day, I put my keys in my pocketbook instead of my coat pocket. As a result, I spent 30 minutes waiting for AAA to arrive. All because I dismissed that earlier thought, “Take your pocketbook inside today.” While I waited in the cold, my mind flashed back a couple of decades when a similar thing happened.
We had traveled to Lexington, Kentucky for a church convention. One evening I was running late for night service and the elevator was taking forever. My hotel room was on the 20th floor. Even so, I decided to take the stairs. As I was walking towards the exit sign at the end of the hallway, a thought occurred to me. "Take your shoes off."
My response was immediate. "Why would I do that?" As I opened the door to the stairwell and stepped onto the platform, the thought came again, "You should take your shoes off."
I looked at the floor, the steps, then my feet. I was wearing light colored outfit, white stockings and beige Bellini pumps. I said, "I am not taking off my shoes and walking barefoot down these dirty steps!" With that retort, I quickly began going down the steps.
As I rounded the landing of the 5th floor, my heel got caught on the raised tread on the stop step. I tripped and plunged head-first down the steps onto the next landing. Stunned and afraid, I laid there in pain, crying, stockings torn, knees bleeding. I couldn't move.
Not long after, a group of young people from a sister church rounded the top of the same landing, looked down and saw me lying there. Immediately, they came to my rescue, picked me up, carried me to the elevator area of the 5th floor, sat me in a chair and went to get help. A couple of them waited with me until the ambulance arrived.
No bones were broken, but my bruises were bad enough that I had to wear a leg brace for the rest of the convention, and all the way home on the bus trip back to Philadelphia.
As I continued waiting for AAA, I realized that God was trying to show me something. I didn't realize all those years ago that those thoughts to take my shoes off were actually the voice of the Lord. But I answered back and dismissed it as a silly thought of my own. My response showed my pride and my lack of maturity in God. Had I stopped to consider the possibility that it may be God, perhaps I would have 1) walked back to the elevator on my floor and waited for the elevator; 2) took my shoes off; or 3) been more careful rounding each landing.
Jesus said, “Sheep know the voice their shepherd and a stranger they will not follow….My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:3-5; 27) The devil is always credited as being the stranger in this passage, but I have learned that sometimes this applies to our own voice, our own will, our own thoughts, and our own desires. That was a simple test for me, one that since then, I've taken and passed again and again. Until last week.
I had to ask myself when does one not recognize the voice of a loved one? When they haven’t talked to them in a while. When they’re in a noisy place and there are other voices clamoring for their attention. When they’re not listening. And when they haven’t heard the voice in a long time. We all fall short of God’s glory from time to time, but He gives us gentle reminders and that's what last week was for me. A reminder to keep the lines of communication open between me and my Savior. And a reminder to stop and consider in certain situations, "Just where is this thought coming from?"
Poetricia Publishing © 2015
"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you."
On April 13, 2002, I put in my papers, took the early buy out package, and resigned from Verizon. I was ready to begin “Life After Verizon.” In addition to my dreams of becoming a published author, I also had another dream. It was to have a poetry radio show. I even had a name for it: “Voice the Vision” (a spin on the name of my publishing company at the time, “I Write the Vision”). I wrote the down the dream about the radio show in a little notebook, put it away, and shifted my focus back to my dreams of becoming an author. Later that year I opened an online store with CafePress, Inc. and created a line of poetry products including calendars, post cards, greeting cards, and journals.
In 2006 I began looking for a part time job because I needed supplemental income. Wherever I went I always had resumes with me (I kept them in my car). By that same time, I had relocated to New Jersey and moved my church membership from Philadelphia to a church in Camden, New Jersey that several of my former church members also attended, including Dan Murphy.
One Sunday we were all congregated in the parking lot after church just talking like saints do, when I mentioned that I was looking for a part time job. Dan perked up and said, “My manager is looking for someone to work a shift on Saturdays at the radio station.” You see, Dan had been working at 800 AM WTMR “Where the Master Reigns”, a local religious radio station for years. I gave him one of my resumes, and the next Sunday he told me that his manager said whenever I was ready, I was welcome to join the team!
Eventually I said I was ready and began training right away. Lo and behold, Dan was my trainer. During the evenings, after my full-time job, I would stop by the station for training to be a board operator. It was very challenging for me because although I had been behind the mic practically my whole life, I had no former training on the technical side of broadcasting.
I will never forget the night I came home from work and fell to my knees in prayer crying to God because I just couldn’t seem to retain what I was being taught about the studio equipment, the board, which knobs did what, etc. I was crying out to God in frustration wondering if maybe I had made a mistake. Maybe this vision wasn’t for me. I asked God what I should do. He spoke right back to me and said, “I opened the door.” That was all He said, but I knew what He meant. He had opened the door, my job to walk through it. And walk through it I did. I returned to the station determined to succeed. And with God’s help, I did just that.
This blog is a trip down memory lane and “Thank You” to Dan Murphy. God used him not only to give my resume to his boss, but also to train me for that job. God turned my dream of having a poetry radio show into having a job at a the radio station. From 2006 to 2015 I created and hosted several shows, including three poetry/spoken word shows. I interviewed and showcased many Christian poets, spoken word artists, authors and even a few singers.
I am so thankful for the people behind the scenes in my life that God used to propel me to my purpose.
SUGAR PIE, HONEY BUNCH
Fifty-three years ago, the Motown Sound boomed out a song by the Four Tops that would become one of the most popular songs of the era: Can’t Help Myself. Walk up to just about anybody in any town in America today, and sing the first line, and you’re sure to find someone who will join in smiling all the way. The first four words “Sugar pie, honey bunch” are synonymous with quick movements, rolling of the hands, swaying back and forth and belting out “You know that I love you” with the best of them.
I felt the same way about sugar, pie, and honey buns. That is until that fateful year in January when I was told “You have Diabetes” by my primary doctor. In my 40’s for several years, I tried to make a point of making that annual physical, come what may. October of the year before, life finally let up enough for me to go in. Everything seemed fine. I was looked over and given the usual referral for the lab work. Well, life set back in and I found myself greeting in the new year with those referral forms still stuffed somewhere in my tote bag. Feeling more sluggish than usual, and a trip to Atlanta looming on the horizon, I finally went in on January 8th to get the lab work done. That was on a Friday. I honestly didn’t give it another thought until the following Monday when I received a frantic call from one of the receptionists exclaiming “You have to come in as soon as possible. The doctor wants to talk to you about your blood work.” This is the wrong thing to say to someone like me. I began grilling her, but she wouldn’t budge on the details. I made an appointment for the next day. Twenty-four hours later I found myself being introduced to a new doctor (my former doctor moved to Florida at the end of the year) and being told “You have Diabetes.”
No more sugar, pie or honey buns for me!
YOU KNOW THAT I LOVE YOU
That wasn’t all. This new doctor was just full of good news, wasn’t she? My cholesterol was also high. High enough to put me on a statin right away. Everything else she said would have been a whirlwind had I not remembered some wise advice my sister-in-law once told me. “Take someone with you because very often you won’t remember half of what you’re told. If you can’t take someone with you, then write down everything the doctor says.” She should know, she’s a nurse. So, there I sat, writing down everything this new doctor was saying, my head spinning the whole while. I was being signed up for nutrition classes. I had to see a Diabetes Specialist for a one-on-one consultation. I would have to stick my fingers several times a day to check the levels of glucose (sugar) in my blood. My life would never be the same. There is no cure for Diabetes. I wrote it all down, the AC1 levels, the LDL numbers, all the while mentally ordering the tears welling up in my eyes not to fall. I breathed in and out as I made my way past the reception area down the elevator across the parking lot and back into my car. There, the tears spilled. Fear, confusion and gratitude. Gratitude? Yes, gratitude. I did not have cancer. That was all I kept telling myself. At least I don’t have cancer. These diagnoses are things I can control. Just change my eating habits, that’s all. No sweat, right? I mean, I have no choice. And that is that.
Or, so I thought.
CAN’T HELP MYSELF
The few years were a breeze. Literally. I went to the classes, met with the specialist, began poking my fingers, reading everything I could get my hands and eyes on concerning Diabetes and Cholesterol. I began cooking, baking, and actually eating green food. I could do this! I even started losing weight! I shared my diagnosis with family and friends. My family showed their love and support in leaps and bounds.
Then little by little I began cheating. First at work, where no one could see me. Then in the car on the way home. First it was just the fried foods, not sweets, breads, or other carbs. But then I began cheating on those too. I stopped practicing all the good habits I learned and forgot all about trying to live a healthy lifestyle.
I was in deep-dish denial.
I LOVE YOU AND NOBODY ELSE
That was almost 4 years ago. My numbers and my weight have fluctuated greatly since then. But a health scare earlier this year made me finally face the facts that I am not that Stringbean sized teen age girl who can eat what I want and stay thin. I am a 50 plus African American woman with more than one health issue that must be taken seriously.
Today my numbers are fantastic! I’m 20 pounds lighter than I was when I was first diagnosed, and my smile is a whole lot brighter.
Almost as bright as the glazed icing on sugar pies and honey buns!
Poetricia Publishing © 2015
Almost every year around this time I am reminded of the time my children and I survived a serious brush with carbon monoxide poisoning back in December of 1999. As a single mother and new homeowner, at the time I didn’t know the importance of annual chimney maintenance. When my son’s headaches started, I attributed it to the sinus problems that my daughter and I suffered with for so many years. But then we all started getting sick. Someone at work mentioned that it could be carbon monoxide poisoning. I went and bought a detector, plugged it in and within 20 minutes, the alarm started going off. I called the gas company. They came and shut off the gas and began checking things out. Turns out a couple of squirrels had gotten stuck in the chimney and died. Inspections were done, repairs were made, but most importantly, my children and I lived to see another day. I was overwhelmed with how God protected us and used my coworker to encourage me to buy the carbon monoxide detector. God’s love never fails. His mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. Shortly after that experience, God blessed me to write “Another Day, Another Chance.”
Another Day, Another Chance
Poetricia Publishing © 2014
How do we keep the faith in the midst of an economic crisis? Economic hardship may not be a strong enough term to describe what’s been happening in our country in the last few years. We have all heard the horror stories of foreclosures, repossessions, downsizing and the loss of insurance coverage. Many of us have experienced those horrors first-hand. We have witnessed companies being bailed out and individuals receiving handouts while we weather these storms alone, taking cover and waiting for the tide to change. There have even been tragedies by those who lost everything including their lives.
So how do we “keep the faith”? First recognize that this well-known phrase implies that you have some faith to begin with. Next, take a moment to reflect. Remind yourself that this is not the first time you’ve been in a storm. When looking ahead seems scary and unsure, momentarily looking back has its merits.
“I’ve been here before” is a phrase I had on repeat a few years ago. As a single mother working full time in corporate America and in the church, there were many times it was hard to make ends meet. While in the storm, it may seem crazy to be so positive but hey, that’s how I “keep the faith”. Whenever I faced financial famine, those four little words (“I’ve been here before”) reminded me who I was and where I came from. I was an Overcomer and I came from a place called Victory.
There was a time when my company went on strike and I was not management at the time. We received an allowance from the strike fund, but it came nowhere close to making up for our lost wages. As the strike entered the third week, I began to feel the pinch. With my children in school, and my shift of picket duty over I headed home. Once I closed the door my eyes filled with tears, and I began praying and crying out to God for help. After a few moments I heard the words “All your need.” I knew then that I would be okay. God was reminding me what Apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:19 “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Although we remained on strike another two weeks, God kept His word and met my needs.
It’s easy to lose faith when what’s in front of you today is so painful you can’t see tomorrow. In those times I encourage you to take a look at yesterday and remember that you can make it now because you made it then. Keep the faith!
Poetricia Publishing © 2014
About This Blog
This blog is inspired by my first book, A Time To Write: Inspirational Poetry for All Seasons. Thank you for visiting!