GPS – Plan B

I am in awe sometimes at how the universe works its way in and out of our lives.  I use “universe” as an all-inclusive way; Father-Mother God, angels, spirit guides, transcended loved ones.  I think they all move in and around us, guiding us, showing us, and speaking to us in unorthodox ways.  Sometimes some of us may get caught up in the literal and not fully comprehend when someone is being led by some unforeseen guide.  The spiritual words and lessons are more like codes and it is up to us to pay attention to the details.

Let me give you some examples.

I’ve had some pretty amazing synchronicity experiences or coincidences over the years.  And after I met Brian, my children’s father, things really began to kick up a notch.  I always felt as if we were being drawn to each other.  When we met the first time, I felt as if I knew him, as if we had shared worlds and lifetimes together.  When he looked at me it was as if he could read my every thought and feel every emotion inside my body.  I wasn’t always comfortable with that.  Out of that deep connection and passion we felt for each other, came my first born son, Jaren.

The first time I remember something extraordinary at work in the universe was about six months after Jaren was born.  We were still living in downtown Dallas at the time.  There were four malls that were about the same distance from us; one to the east, one to the west, one to the north, and one to the south.  We’d been to all of them.  This day, I drove to the one west of us which was in Irving.

It was close to the holidays so the mall had extra vendor booths set up in the center of the passageway selling their specialty items.  These booths are seasonal.  Some only come for a day or a weekend.  With Jaren on my hip, I strolled through the mall.  Soon, we came upon a booth that had four rectangular tables in a box formation with two ladies in the middle and binder folders with clear sleeves lying out on all the tables.  Their sign showed they had biblical names with poem meanings.  As I walked closer to look, one of the ladies asked me what my son’s name was.  I told her that I was pretty sure they would not have his name, especially since they were pre-printed inside the clear sleeves.  So she asked me again.  I told her, “Jaren.”  She smiled confidently and pointed to a binder book with the “J” names.  Then I told her she probably had the original spelling of his name.  So she asked me how I spelled it.  I spelled it for her.  J.A.R.E.N.  She again reassured me that they did in fact have it.

I was in awe for many reasons.  First, I didn’t know that Jaren’s name was biblical.  I had not seen it in any bible and when we think of biblical we think of names in the bible.  The second thing is the name Jaren was derived from Jaron, a Hebrew name meaning, he will sing, he will cry out.  And thirdly, I had not seen or heard anyone with the name Jaren or Jaron for that matter so it was an uncommon name.  How often does a person with an uncommon name find their name spelled the way they spell it on something that is already pre-printed or pre-made, not a specialty item made uniquely for them?  I can tell you that I have not since ever seen Jaren’s name pre-printed on anything in any store that I have shopped at.

When we name our child, we want it to fit them.  It’s such a powerful thing to give your child a name.  It becomes a part of them and we want it to say something special about who they are.  I thought long and hard about the name I chose for my son.  This confirmation gave me reassurance that I had listened to my spirit guides and chose the name that was meant for my son.

A year later, our office moved from downtown Dallas to Irving, which I talked about in another post.  Jaren’s daycare was also located downtown a few miles from our downtown apartment.  I would drop Jaren off at daycare and then drive to work in Irving.  Well, about a year later, the downtown daycare closed at that location.  However, the teachers were moving to another location located in a large office building for a well-known, world-wide corporation.  This daycare was designed to serve their employees.  Want to guess where they moved?  Yup!  Irving.  Of all the cities this daycare facility could have been relocated to in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex, they moved to Irving.  Sure, I could have found Jaren another daycare in downtown Dallas and had considered it but I thought if I moved him with his current daycare at their new location, he would at least have many of his same teachers.  I thought that would be better than having a new building, new teachers, and new classmates.

I began to see a trend.  Something was drawing us to Irving.  And while we didn’t move right away, it wasn’t long after we did move to Irving.  Now, while that is pretty awesome in itself, there is still more to the story.  I would later learn that Brian’s sister worked for that well-known corporation, in that very building that the daycare moved into.  Just to put that in a little perspective:

DallasFort Worth, by population, is the largest metropolitan area in Texas, the largest in the South, and the fourth-largest in the United States.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dallas%E2%80%93Fort_Worth_metroplex

These messages were clear to me and I was able to easily see the path.  All of these choices guided me and my family to our highest good.  I felt optimistic and confident after making these choices.  I didn’t doubt my decision nor felt regret or remorse because the way was clear.  I felt the universe guiding me.  However, I will tell you that has not always been the case.

Example, when I was pregnant with Noah.  My vision was clouded, my ears had a hard time deciphering the truth from all the noise, and my mind was filled with images of doubt.  It’s hard to make a clear choice in this environment.  It’s like sitting on a cliff and people are yelling at you to do this or do that and your mind is filled with chaos.  And any move could be dangerous.  Each person has their reason or motive for wanting you to make one choice over another.

People often simplify adoption and try to sum it up as better or worse, selfless or selfish, brave or weak.  The positives are focused on the relinquishment, implying your child will have a better life and the negatives are fixated on parenting with false unforeseen assumptions that your child’s future will be bleak or worse off.  So, what choice do you think a mother will lean towards?  Something negative or something positive?  Fear can lead a person down a dark path.

The choice that separated me from my second born son was a devastating one, one that I sometimes wondered if I would ever recover from.  I was not at peace, although I acted and thought I was and tried to convince others that I was good with that choice.  I believe it was the denial, the numbness that took over.

When we are no longer able to change the situation – we are challenged to change ourselves. – Viktor Frankl

So here is my take on divine intervention and what is meant to be will be.

Anything that God has intended… is for our highest good.  And I personally believe that if a choice or decision gives you doubt, despair or a negative impact, then it probably was not the path that God had planned for us.  That’s not to say that some choices won’t be challenging or have challenges.  Our daily life has challenges.  Work can be challenging.  The bible is filled with stories of people overcoming challenges.  But something that gives you a bad feeling inside is different than something being challenging.

Jaren and I were talking about this and I said it came to me like this.  God always has a Plan B.  When I mentioned this at a women’s group, one of the ladies said that God has the “Master Plan”.  Well, that’s true.  However, humans do not always follow the master plan.  It’s called free will.  I certainly would not think that God’s master plan is murder, or rape, or child abuse, or slavery.

After watching the movie Lion, it instilled this knowledge deeper within.  Saroo made some choices that separated him from his family.  After deep despair and the point of no return, he had to rely on his choices and fate.  At a very young age, he learned to follow his gut instincts along with his survival instincts.  He was listening to the voice within.  At the same time, God was putting His Plan B into place.

I have a Garmin GPS.  I put in the address and it is pretty good about getting me where I need to go.  Usually I follow it but there have been times when I chose another route.  And what happens when I do that?  It says, “Recalculating.”   The GPS then recalculates the next best direction from my altered direction.  Sometimes when it is really cloudy outside or there is a bad signal, the GPS will go blank and then recalculate.

When I think back to that time with Noah, I don’t believe it was God’s plan one way or the other for me to parent or relinquish my rights.  God gave me free will.  I also don’t believe it was God’s intention for my children’s father to abandon his kids and me during a time we needed him most.  But God gave Brian free will also.  However, I do believe that God was putting into place a family for Noah in the chance that circumstances and choices would prevent Noah from remaining with his original family.  God was preparing for Plan B.  I truly believe that God’s Master Plan is not designed to hurt one to benefit another.  That plays into the whole chosen one mentality.  God is much bigger than that.  Humans hurt.  God loves.  And love does not hurt, despite that old popular 70’s song.

I asked a friend of mine for her thoughts on this.  While her situation is a little different, I thought she could add real perspective.  Kim, her best friend and twin brothers were in a fatal car accident while on a double date during our freshman year in high school, leaving one twin and one friend alive, and one twin and one friend dead.  It was a very traumatic event that shook our small town.  This is what Kim said:

Well you know I’ve thought a lot about that. And of course people told me that I was spared to go on and do great things…which of course didn’t turn out that way. My life is wonderful, but quite ordinary. But I’ve wondered why God spared Ricky and I and how different the world might have been had the outcome been reversed. And you know what? I’ve come up with zilch, nada, nothing. When I think about it from God’s perspective it seems like a Sophie’s Choice. I don’t know why I lived and Linda didn’t. My gut feeling is that she would’ve gotten married and had kids and grandkids just like I have. But who really knows. But I do know that God is omnipotent. Perhaps God saw in that brief moment something in the future that made a difference to the world. Perhaps one of my descendants will work on something that alters the course of humanity. Or maybe one of Ricky’s descendants does something game changing. I have to have that faith, because anything else just seems too random. And given the complexity of life on this little Rock of ours, I just cannot believe in serendipity. I have to believe that God’s purpose for the outcome of that accident wasn’t just chance, even if it remains a mystery to me.

 These are the great mysteries of life.  But one thing that I am certain of, is that God and the universe are truly active in my life and whether I am following the Master Plan or God needs to put Plan B in place to recalculate my trip, I am glad I have God and my guides to navigate my journey and guide me to my highest purpose and good.

Look Deeper

In the Lion King movie, there is one scene where Rafiki finds Simba and tells Simba his father is alive. Rafiki leads Simba to a watering hole. Simba looks into the water and only sees a reflection of himself. Simba becomes disappointed and Rafiki tells Simba, “No, look harder. You see, he lives in you.”

Just like Simba’s father lives within him, God also lives within each of us. And sometimes, we not only need to look harder within ourselves but sometimes we may need to look harder and deeper past the surface of others as well. Like that all too familiar quote by author, George Elliot, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” If we choose to open the book and begin to read the story, we may or may not become more interested. But we have to look deeper or harder to discover that there is more to this book than it’s cover or it’s title and there is more within each person than what meets the eye. Our eyes and ears can only see and hear but they cannot make judgments or assumptions. It’s what happens after the experience leaves our sight and sound and ascends to our brain where we process this information when we need to look deeper.

To further explain this concept, think about the first time you saw The Breakfast Club or The Green Mile. These movies are about perceptions. Think about how we as a viewer initially perceived these characters. For many of us, our reflection was mirrored on screen through the perceptions of particular characters portrayed in the movie. We shared their preconceived notions and their premature judgments. Then as the movie continues to roll, we slowly begin to see how our initial perception may have been wrong, we didn’t have all the facts, we weren’t looking deep enough. In the movie Philadelphia, it’s a little different. This time, our perception is quite different at the opening of the movie. As the movie rolls on, our initial perceptions become diluted. We may recognize ourselves portrayed in these condescending disapproving characters. Maybe not every detail of those characters but at the least, some of us had some of those perceptions inside us. In all three movies, the writer and the director were creating an experience that illustrates something about ourselves that we may or may not have even known existed within us. They were triggering us to look deeper.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are times when we look deeper we may see things that aren’t very pleasant and situations might get messy or may get a little ugly in order for change to occur. Sometimes, change may need to occur within ourself and other times, change may need to occur within our society. I know people with disabilities or special needs have been confronted with issues that were solely based on their appearance or someone else’s perception. And I’m certain that when Dr. King, Malcolm X and Rosa Parks were standing, speaking and marching for Civil Rights, “some” members of our society were saying, “So what you can’t sit in the front of the bus. Who cares if you have to drink from a different water fountain? At least you have your freedom now.” But what is freedom if limitations are imposed on you solely because of your race or skin color. Members of both of these societies were thinking, “Look deeper.”

In my book, One Woman’s Choice, I discuss how my family felt about black and white couples. These same views extended out to the people of my hometown. So when I conceived my baby and decided I wanted to give birth and be a mother to my bi-racial son, I had concerns. How would my family treat me? How would society treat me and my new family? Would I be loved or hated? Would we be accepted or detested? I was wondering if others would look deeper.

My step father was one of those people who refused to look deeper initially. He did not want to be in the same house or social occasion with me or my son, Jaren, which lasted for twelve years. When Jaren and I went back home to visit our family, it was carefully orchestrated so there wasn’t any conflict with planned family events that would hinder their festivities. As a result, we were excluded from Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter holiday dinners that were hosted by my parents and we were not invited nor welcome at other social gatherings.

Seven long years after Jaren was born, his father introduced our son to his family. Right away, Jaren’s grandmother conveyed her outpouring love towards her new grandson and was very nice to me. However other family members were not as gracious. Like the time we went to an amusement park with Jaren’s paternal family. My son’s uncle came along with his wife, both of whom I had not previously met. Jaren’s uncle and I walked up to each other, introduced ourselves and shook hands. However his wife walked the opposite way and refused to acknowledge me or my son. She walked ahead of me, engaging in conversation with other members of the family while keeping her distance from me and Jaren, eventually walking off in another direction. Now I can’t say for sure why she disrespected me and my son, but I can assume. I felt like she already had her mind made up about me and I was thinking, “Look deeper.”

I was watching 20/20 one night and they had a story about gay couples with children. They were interviewing this one woman who told of a story about how her and her family has gotten interrupted while trying to eat their meal in a restaurant. From time to time, a fellow patron would walk over to them and ask them about their family and their lifestyle. She said they’ve had to ask themselves “Do we ignore it or should we use this as a teachable moment?”

I guess that’s how I have tried to live my life. I’ve often told people there is a difference between racism and ignorance. Example: I had a co-worker call me an n#@ger lover, one time. That’s racism. Another time, I had a very dear and old friend who loves my son with all her heart refer to my son’s paternal grandmother as his “black” grandmother. That’s ignorance. Sometimes we just need to teach people and explain how some comments or actions can offend or hurt others. Sometimes we need to look deeper.

I’ve also had to use this technique in other areas of my life. More offensive comments have been flung at me related to my hearing impairment than racial comments. Partly because ignorant people will speak without thinking and may state something offensive unintentionally. But racist people (all races included) oftentimes will leave their harsh comments idling in their mind or release them in their “safe place”. Although, there are a few who have no problem allowing offensive words or judgments to easily glide off their tong.

Yes, I’ve learned that we cannot look at people with preconceived notions. We cannot determine our relationship with them by our first impression, by their insensitive comments or their ignorance and sometimes we may need to look past their hatred. Like the time I started a new job and the white coworker who befriended me only to become cold and unfriendly a few weeks later after I displayed my family photos on my desk. Or the black coworker who said, “I didn’t know you have a biracial son,” and became more welcoming and sociable. Both of which now saw me differently.

Nevertheless, I will tell you that I have been pleasantly surprised by numerous people that I have encountered who chose another road, a higher path of brotherhood. People that I initially thought would judge me and my interracial family but did the complete opposite. It was during these times I was assuming. I was judging a book by its cover. They were looking deeper and I wasn’t looking deep enough.

Just to name a few…I’ve seen a true Texas Cowboy, who honors the history of the Confederate Flag, and his family welcome me and my son into their home and show respect. I’ve seen a wealthy, elderly man engage in an intellectual conversation with my adolescent son in a furniture store and then hand him a $20.00 bill and say, “Treat your mom to lunch.” with nothing expected in return. I’ve been in the check-out line at the DMV and seen a lady pull out a Ty beanie baby from her purse and hand it to Jaren as a gift to keep his hands busy. I’ve seen a server give my son an extra scoop of ice-cream with no additional charge. I’ve seen a co-worker hand me $600.00 to help me pay my over-due bills because she knew I was a single mom without child support. I’ve beheld my son gather around the table in the homes of our black, white and Latino friends’ who welcomed us in their home for the Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter holiday celebration, bowing our head in prayer.  And I’ve had old childhood friends extend their friendship and loving support to me and my son and I would think to myself, “Why me? How am I any different than those who came before me?”

More importantly, I’ve seen my son look deeper into the souls and warm the hearts of the old-school, senior citizen to the narrowed minded co-worker; the honky haters to the radical racist and everything in between with his smile, his hand shake, and his lovable eccentric personality. And we’ve both seen members of our own family turn their heart full of hate and judgment into a heart filled with love and acceptance.

No, we cannot judge a book by its cover.

Prejudice appears in many forms. It’s when we have a pre-conceived notion about a person just by looking at them or listening to them. We’ve all had moments of misrepresentation, words that came out that were not intended to be received in a negative or hurtful way. But true bigotry is not defined by words but rather by action and thought. In the end, how we choose to react is truly what defines us. Sometimes, we may need to educate, and other times, we may need to be patient and allow ourselves to see more than what appears to be showing or expressing on the outside.

It’s during these times when I hear God say, “Look deeper.”

Mary, The Unexpected Mother

The Madonna in Sorrow

The Madonna in Sorrow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I often think about Mary, mother of Jesus, and how she might have felt when she learned of her pregnancy. It was a little different back then. In modern times, we have a blood test or a pregnancy kit to help us decide the fate of our future. Mary had an angel. However, even with that, hearing it and knowing it are two very different things.

When God chose Mary, she was a single woman. I find this to be interesting. Why did God choose an unmarried woman? Some may say that God needed a virgin. Well, if this is true, God could have chosen any virgin bride to conceive the prince of peace, right? Nothing is impossible for God. He is the great creator. If God needed Mary specifically, why not wait until Mary’s wedding night? Mary was already promised to Joseph. So I still ask myself, why God chose Mary, an unmarried virgin.

Did you know that Mary is considered to be one of the most righteous women in the Islamic tradition? And she is mentioned more in the Quran than in the New Testament? This historical fact is also very interesting to me. She must have been an amazing woman. God thought so; Joseph thought so, and her family must have thought so. Furthermore, I believe that Jesus thought so. And when the writers were keeping their records for the Bible and the Quran, they apparently thought so as well.

I have come to the conclusion that Mary must have been very special. I sometimes wonder what it was about her that God loved so much. What did Mary possess within her that the other virgins or women did not? Of all the women in the world at that time, God chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus. What made Mary different? She must have had some unique inner quality that God saw, right? Maybe it was her faith or maybe it was her inner strength? God knew the task He was placing on Mary was going to be one of her most important and challenging roles as a human being and as a mother. God knew that Mary would be faced with opposition and disbelieving antagonists. Can you even imagine?

I wonder how I would react if God sent an angel to descend upon me. How would I feel knowing I was carrying a child that would be known as the Son of God? How do you parent this child? How do you explain to your child his conception? How do you prepare this child for what is ahead or expected? How do you encourage him to make a new path, to see a new vision, to listen to a higher voice and to teach a new lesson? And upon doing that, your child leaves home to become the master teacher, sharing God’s message, leading by example and you breathe a sigh of relief only to witness your child’s fate, his prosecution and his sacrifice.

Yes, Mary had a great task placed upon her. But God must have known she was up for the challenge.

As mothers, we have all been given a gift. No, they may not have been conceived through an immaculate conception but they are still one of God’s creations, a gift of the most high, a spiritual being with unlimited possibilities. As mother’s we have been called to grow and nurture mystical souls that came through us or came to us.

Don’t be afraid of what lies ahead of you. Be strong and courageous but most of all, be faithful. Know that God has a purpose for you and your child. Whether you’re a married mother, single mother, birth mother, adoptive mother, step mother, foster mother or a widowed mother, God chose you, of all the women in the world, to be the mother of one of His tender souls. You must be very special!

Happy Mother’s Day!

CHOICE OR MISTAKE (You decide.)

The Tree of Knowledge, painting by Lucas Crana...

The Tree of Knowledge, painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This may very well be an age old question.  Many wonder what the difference is.

I find it very interesting that the Bible speaks about a choice in the first few pages when God’s creating.  In the Book of Genesis, Chapter two, Verse nine, God creates all the trees, including the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Then man, called Adam, is created and God quickly offers the law of the land; God’s commandant.  God tells Adam that he may eat of any tree of the garden with one, and only one exception.  He commands Adam that he may not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  God also offers the consequence for breaking this commandment or rule.   (Genesis 2: 9-17)

God places this tree within the garden, within reach of the man.  God is the great creator, the all-powerful.  He could have removed this tree or planted it elsewhere so that the man would not be tempted but God chose to plant it within Adam’s reach.  That right there is what you call an option, and a choice.

Choice is about having freewill.  God gave Adam and Eve and all living things in his kingdom freewill.  If one has no freewill or no choice, then wouldn’t that be similar as one being a slave?  A slave can take on all sorts of forms.  A spouse could be a slave, a child could be a slave, a gender could be a slave, a race could be a slave, and a religion could be a slave.  And in my opinion, the master of any slave is not expressing love but rather control and power along with human domination and supremacy.

God is a loving God.  Right from the beginning, when God created man and woman, He created them out of love, to be loved, and to love and live freely.  He loved them so much that He gave them freewill.  Unless anyone has ever experienced a form of slavery or oppression, which personally, I have not, we may not truly understand or appreciate this precious and very generous gift.

Now with freewill, comes an option or a choice, a responsibility, and possibly, a consequence.  Adam and Eve only have one rule by which to live by.  Do not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Compared to the rules and regulations we have today, this one rule seems fair enough, wouldn’t you agree?

So the story moves on and now the serpent enters the pages and he whispers to Eve.  And apparently the serpent has the same freewill as Adam and Eve.  We know this because when God learns of the choice made by Adam, and then unravels the whole story and discovers the turn of events that caused His commandment to be broken, God begins to disperse His punishment to ALL THREE beings.  Even though the serpent didn’t eat the fruit of the tree, he is still subject to punishment, just the same as Adam and Eve.

When reading this scripture of this story of that time and place, I find it interesting that the author does not ever mention a mistake.  Adam, Eve and the serpent each made a clear choice, not a mistake.  They were aware of what they were doing and what the options were.  God makes it very clear to Adam that he broke His commandment.  God lets each one of them know that a choice was made, God’s commandment was broken and a consequence is distributed appropriately to each being.

A mistake is something we do unknowingly, by accident.  A choice is the power of choosing.  A mistake is when we did not intentionally choose the action.  A choice however, is an option that has presented itself and a choice was made.  Forgiving someone for a choice they made may be more difficult than forgiving someone for a mistake they made.

To provide an example to this concept, let me share this story.

I was raised Catholic.  During Lent, Catholics are not allowed to eat meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and every Friday between those two dates.  Considering I ate meat nearly every other day of year except during this time, I sometimes forgot.  I was informed that if I truly forgot, than that was okay because I did not intentionally choose to eat the meat.

Now let’s take it one step further, from making a mistake, to making a choice.  One time, I was eating a hamburger on a Friday during lent and halfway through the hamburger I remembered that it was lent.  I now had a choice to make.  I could swallow my food and finish the rest of my hamburger or I could discard the remaining food in honor of my Catholic Lent tradition: my choice.

Now, in the bible, we know God did forgive Adam and Eve and even the serpent.  How do we know this?  First of all, God did not terminate Adam or allow him to die as He had previously informed Adam would be the result of this action.  Instead, God gives each of them their punishment.  Then He clothes Adam and Eve before sending them out of the garden and into the world.  Those of us who are parents understand this gesture.  If we did not love or forgive our children, we wouldn’t provide anything for them.  God seems to know their needs before they even know their needs.  And isn’t that still true today.  God knows our every need.

We are responsible for our choices and we may endure consequences that we would rather not experience but the quicker we own up to our choices, not mistakes, we take responsibility.  When we take ownership of our choice, good or bad, right or wrong, we begin to learn and grow.  And just as Adam and Eve were guided out to explore their new path, we, too can move forward from any limitations or poor choices and continue on our path of enlightenment.

Thank you, God, for loving us, for providing, for forgiving and most importantly, for giving us the gift of freewill and choice.

Unexpected Mother

 
We shared our love so gingerly
As many times before
With smooth strokes and soft kisses
A heart beats for more.
 
My eggs were patiently waiting
They had a hungry need
You generously left your legacy
You deposited your seed.
 
I waited and I waited
For that special time to come
Until I finally realized
The deed had been done.
 
I called you and told you
We conceived our first child
The words that came out your mouth
Were now words of denial.
 
You loved me so generously
So many times before
How could you not love me
When God has provided us more?
 
I now have a choice to make
God, what should I do
This man that you created
I’ve learned is untrue.
 
He denies me his love
He denies his own child
What kind of life can I create
God looked at me and smiled.
 
Dear child, do not worry
About the one who refuses
For my love is greater
Then any man who bruises.
 
This child you have conceived
This child is My creation
This child you have given life
This child is a new generation.

1998 Jaren's birth

__ Written by, Karen Whitaker