Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11 -- 10 years later

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I just returned home from my job at an IT call center in Houston, TX, and learned the World Trade Center Towers had been attacked. I left my living room and came back just in time to see Tower 2, the place where I worked before leaving New York City to move back to Houston in May 2001, get hit live on TV.  Obviously the nation as a whole has changed since then in so many ways.  Every year since then, on this date, I am reminded of the enormity of what happened. The rest of the day is mostly a blur.  However, I do remembering staying glued to the TV and taking phone calls from family and friends who heard/saw it as well and knew that I worked in the WTC before leaving New York.  My father, who suffered 3 heart attacks from late 2000 to March 2001, said to me that he would have had another heart attack if I was still in New York working that day. The gravity of his words are with me even to this day, but to fully understand it, I must give a brief background of my 9-11 story. 

I moved to New York in May 1998 to start a new life while I was in my mid-twenties.  Three years later, I was living on my own, had made new friends, was active in a local church and truthfully wanted no part of returning to Houston, but God had other plans.  After my Dad's third heart attack, I received a warning from two separate pastors that I should leave New York and return home.  I was really conflicted about what to do, because one of the last things I wanted to do was give up my job and my apartment to go back to Texas to live in Houston again.  I also felt like I should have heard from God for myself about such an important decision.  However, the only thing I would hear from Him when in prayer about it was two words: “Trust me”.  One of the ministers also said something in a conversation I had with her about grappling with the warning she gave me that really grabbed my attention: “What if something happens and you can’t leave New York and will be full of regret.” Truthfully, that got to me, and I didn’t want to take the chance on not heeding their warnings. My last week of work, I look pictures of the view from the floor that I worked on, which was the 97th floor, and a picture of the towers from the ground floor, not knowing that would be the last time I saw them in person.


So, I quit my job, gave up the apartment, packed up all my things in my apartment, and hired a moving company to drive them to Houston. With the help of one of my cousins, I also drove my car from New Jersey back to Houston, Texas the first week of May 2001, almost three years to the day of when I left Houston to go to New York.
I wish I could say that I was elated about being back home, but I was far from it.  Fortunately I found a job in a month, but it was working the graveyard shift at night 4 days a week.  I struggled with depression, questioning why I had to come back to Houston, even while reuniting with my family and long-time friends. Fast-forward to 9/11/2001 and I was still struggling with being back home and depressed.  I called a friend while driving home, and just before I reached home, said to him “ I feel restless”.  A few minutes later, the USA as we all knew it, was forever changed.

Less than a year later, I met with an acquaintance at a youth conference in 2002, and when I shared my 9-11 testimony with her, she said something that I haven't thought of very often, but it stayed with me nonetheless.  She wondered out loud what caused God to get me out of New York 4 months ahead of time?  I realize that I had made the decision to stay and not return home, stayed on my job at the WTC that God may have still spared my life.  But what if I hadn’t? I would have missed out on so many things.  Some of them that stand out to me:

-- Getting to see my parents become grandparents for the first time, and then welcome a second, third fourth and a little over a month ago, a fifth grandchild

-- Seeing my brother Maurice get married four years later and celebrating his new life with him and his wife

-- I would have missed meeting my brother Perry

-- Going to Jamaica for the 2nd and 3rd time and witness my youngest brother seeing it for the first time since leaving we left as a family back in 1980

-- Getting to spend time with my young nephews and watching them grow up

--Witnessing a man of color elected as President of the United States of America and watch as the world rejoiced on Election Day in 2008

-- Getting to be a part of immediate and extended family celebrations

I mentioned wondering why God sent me that warning way ahead of time on Facebook two years ago, but hadn’t really stopped to ponder that question until this weekend . . . my friend's words echoed in my ears yesterday.  The truth is, I really don’t know.  I know people who worked on the same floor (the 97th floor) that I worked on that perished that day.  I’m earnestly asking that question of the Lord this year.   I believe that as I continue learning to trust Him beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it will be revealed in the fullness of His timing.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Breaking the silence . . .

I have a playlist on my 4 year-old creative zen vision:m mp3 player called “songs of the moment”, obviously named. From 2006 to early 2007, one of those songs was Kirk Franklin’s “Let It Go”. I played it over and over, reflecting on what was going on in my life at the time. I even used a line that spoke to me for my email signature: “ . . .the pain was preparation for my destiny . . .“ A little later in 2007, it was replaced by Tonex’s “Make Me Over”. It too got played over and over, while I was dealing with more pain, especially on my lone rides to and from work. Two years later the song that got repeated over and over was “Moving Forward” by Israel Houghton. Its still there because I need that reminder sometimes: “Not going back/moving ahead/her to declare to you, the past is over in you/Things are made new/surrendering my life to Christ/I’m moving, moving forward”. I listened to it over and also because I believe it will get down in my spirit, and because frankly some days it doesn’t feel like I’m moving forward because I can’t see it.

I haven’t written a blog entry in over two years….mainly because I hit a huge brick wall that almost shut me down. Most of my previous entries here were like essays about things that I came across, some with obvious “religious/spiritual“ overtones, but others not so much, but still a part of being a “Kingdom citizen“. Some of them were commentaries on aspects of life or things that happen that affect the experience of being an eternal spirit living a temporary human experience. But now, the themes are going to take a personal tone, and perhaps that’s part of the reason why I’ve delayed so long in starting up again. Over the past few months, I’ve had a few brainstorming moments of new topics to write on, but still wouldn’t sit down to do it, because I felt stuck.

So here I am about to get personal, on the internet . . . about to become one of those people who I’ve shaken my head at while reading their personal private thoughts about goings-on in their life: weight-loss challenges, in-law problems, job woes, marital pressures, sexual habits/confessions, etc, posted online for anyone in the world who comes across them to read. Taking the risk that one day, after a job interview I’ll get a call from a hiring executive saying, “We’re sorry Miss May, but we found out that you have a blog online, and we think your views are religiously intolerant and don’t think you will be a good fit for us”.

So the main reason why I haven’t been writing is that I got hit with not one but two emotional freight trains in the fall of 2008: I was laid off at the end of September, and two weeks later heard a marital confession that resulted in my decision to file for divorce a few months later. I tried to keep up with my entries, and even wrote about my observations of the 2008 presidential election, in the midst of all that, but that was my last post. I’ve had a few comments on that post, some from anonymous cowards, but I was too busy coping with my life to bother to respond.

If someone had told me 10 years ago that in my late 30s (getting closer to 40) I would go through a 16 month layoff, a divorce, delayed motherhood, move back in with my (very loving) parents to re-build my life, I wouldn’t have believed them completely, but would have stored it away in the back of my mind. I would have dreaded it, and tried to pray it away, keep it from happening, wondering what I could do to make sure none of it came to pass. I guess its another reminder that none of us goes through life’s journey totally unscathed. No one. Some things happen because of choices we make, some things God allows to build us up and draw closer to Him, and some things are the work of what some Christians call “the enemy”, targeted attempts to derail us from our God-given purpose for being on this planet. If the past 2 ½ years are any indication, there must be something really great God has for me to because they sure have been horrendous to say the least.

But, as only the Lord can do it, in the past two years, I’ve also saw Him answer some prayers, and grant heart desires even while I’ve struggled with continuing to trust and believe Him, while I grappled with pain that sometimes seemed to hover like a cloud in those antidepressant commercials. Even while I’ve struggled inside with not giving up on my heart’s desires to come true. Even while I’m rejoicing over yet another promise about my family happening before my very eyes, and God gets all the glory.

So, what got me to break my silence? For one, a conversation with one of my brothers about two weeks ago had me confessing out loud to him why I have avoided fully re-connecting with some people that I love dearly -- I dreaded having those talks because I knew sooner or later, the topic of getting divorced, and what led up to it would come up and along with it feelings of inadequacy, comparing myself and my life to theirs and risking being subjected to well-meaning advice (what I sardonically call “forced encouragement”) that might touch a nerve. I also realized later while reflecting how that made me feel and the painful emotions it brought up, that avoiding some my friends and family was ultimately adding more to my hurt, and in turn keeping me stuck at this stage of healing. I can admit now out loud that I am still healing, and that’s OK. While I’m healing, I continue to remind myself that although I am in my late 30s, now divorced, with no kids, with dreams not yet fulfilled, I am re-building my life. The other thing that spurred this is I learned, via the wonderful world of social networking late last week, that “the ex” has done the ultimate “moving on“. Admittedly it came as a surprise, but as I always say, “life goes on“, the world didn’t stop when I found it, and isn’t going to stop.

In the meantime, I must continue to move forward, with God’s help. That has to take place if I want God’s purpose to come forth in my life. I must allow Him back in the places where I have shut Him off, albeit un-intentionally. While I'm re-building and renewing my relationship with God, I will rejoice in the success and victories of others, knowing that when mine manifest, they will celebrate with me as well.

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