New Years Day 2015 and 2016

As I entered 2016, I was wrestling with a situation that was causing me considerable stress. I had prayed for clarity but until New Years morning, I was still very much embroiled in the emotion of it. I’d asked God a few days prior to help me trust His will with regard to the situation, but I was still wrestling. This morning, however, I resolved to trust God with it and remove myself from that roller coaster of emotions. God’s peace then showed up a little while later as I perused Facebook. Following is what I posted after reviewing events of New Years Day last year:

This was my situation on New Years Day last year—spending the morning on Tybee Island after bringing in the new year in Savannah with my sister Lyn and her family. I also got to spend wonderful time with cousins I hadn’t seen since the early 80s when they were in elementary school. Last night I brought in the new year in Maryland with my other sister Sheila, her family, my nieces Jennifer and Kariesha, and their families.

My journey since June 2010, when I resolved to learn to trust God completely, has been an amazing one, and I’m grateful every day for the adventure that is my life. I’ve released things I never thought I could live without and in return I’ve gained much that I can’t imagine living without. Letting go can be hard, yes, but I’ve discovered that trying to hold on to what we need to let go is much harder. It took me a few “minutes” to get that but the moment I accepted that “God’s got me”, the skies opened up, and I began to soar!

I may not know what tomorrow brings, but I know who brings tomorrow. What I know, too, is that God loves me and as His daughter, I’m destined for His absolute best; all I need do is allow Him. My new year wish for everyone is that you let go of the fear, trust God, and let Him do what He does: equip us to live our best lives and take us places we’ve never imagined!! Happy New Year, everyone, and more of God’s peace and His many blessings!!

After writing that, I came across the following on the wall of life coach Cassandra Nkem-Nwosu:

“Whenever you find yourself doubting how for you can go, just remember how far you’ve come. Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won, all the fears you have overcome.” –Unknown

Then there was the Marianne Williamson’s quote I posted on my wall last New Years Day:

“Think of one person you are tempted, for any reason, to withhold love from, and pray for their happiness. In that moment, your pain will stop.”

I closed my eyes, prayed for happiness, and was enveloped in peace.

Journal entry: “Powerful! Amazing! God!”

A freedom journey

Nearly five years ago, I chose a lifestyle of freedom that was brought on by a desire to, as Wayne Dyer put it, “travel light”. I discovered along the way, though, that traveling light involved more than ridding myself of possessions: of getting rid of those three closets of shoes; the five closets and drawer upon drawer of clothes; the shelves and cases of CDs and DVDs; all of the gadgets, doodads, and knickknacks I’d packed away decades earlier; and most difficult of all, my library of hundreds and hundreds of books.

I discovered that I also needed to rid myself of attitudes and beliefs that no longer served me; of emotional voids that dictated a search outside myself to be filled; a deep-rooted fear that didn’t allow me to see the possibility of anything beyond what I was capable of doing myself; and the anger and sadness that revealed themselves in ways I was unaware. I NEEDED TO BE FREE!

So, after two years of gradually getting rid of stuff and wrestling with the fear of living without a steady income, I gave up my job of almost fifteen years; a job that was challenging, rewarding, and had terrific benefits. The problem, though, was that I’d begun to feel as though it were sapping my life blood; I only had energy enough every evening to eat and sleep. So yes, it was definitely time for a change.

Sure, I could’ve looked for a different job, but there was something deeper at work than the call to freedom and minimalism, and it was my need to trust God in a way I never had before. So, I heeded the call and began what I’ve recently begun referring to as my freedom journey.

For the most part, the journey has been one of revelation and adventure. A review yesterday of just a few of the thousands of pictures I’ve made along the way reminded me of just how blessed I am. I’ve explored parks, rivers, oceans, streams, mountains, canyons, flatlands, and badlands in towns and cities from the east to the west coasts of the United States.

I spent a month recently in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) marveling over its deserts, sand dunes, camels, and mountains; the food, coffee, and tea; the Persian Gulf; the Sheikh’s palace and mosques (both regular and Grand); as well as the country’s reverence for God as evidenced by the calls to prayer that go out five times a day everyday.

Those are the fun times…the times when I feel the most free and the most blessed.

Other times, however, I’m required to look within for the reasons why I’m feeling what I’m feeling. The past several days was one such time.

First of all, my car was stolen and recovered right before I left for the UAE. As I processed through the emotions of that violation, I moved from shock to disbelief to anger to grief then back to anger again. But when I boarded that plane for the fourteen-hour flight to Dubai that Sunday evening, I resolved to leave it all behind. No, that violation would not be interfering with this trip of a lifetime, and it didn’t.

Back on US soil a month later, however, I was confronted with my car situation as well as the jet lag from the nine-hour time difference, and it was not a pretty picture. As I made call after call to resolve repair of my car, my emotions were all over the place. I was so frazzled that I finally decided to just rest and allow my body clock to sync.

More than a week later, I started the process again, and again my emotions were all over the place. Thus began my journey to get to the bottom of what was really going on.

I had to acknowledge first that I was dealing with the shame of not having full coverage insurance on my vehicle. Why I’d be ashamed of that, I don’t know…well, yes, I do know. It’s not uncommon to carry only liability coverage on older vehicles and since my car was sixteen years old, I’d cancelled the comprehensive part of my coverage. But the Lydia who always made sure her ducks were in a row in the past now found herself needing to repair a vehicle and not having the funds necessary to do it. That, too, would’ve been unheard of for the Lydia whose life was planned out and lived in the fear of “what ifs”; that Lydia made sure she was prepared to handle every “what if”.

I decided a few days later, though, that it wouldn’t be prudent to repair the car; the repairs would cost more than the car was actually worth and beyond that, I couldn’t be certain the repairs would resolve all of its issues.

“What to do now?” I asked. I can’t afford to repair the car, and I’m certainly in no position to buy a new one. My journal entry that day reads, “My question then is what will I do without a car?” As I wrote that entry, I heard, “What are you doing without it now?” I chuckled because I was, in fact, doing ok without it and even had access to my sister’s car for the next several days while she was in Los Angeles.

Yes, I knew that God would provide what I needed–He’d proven that many times already–so I didn’t go into panic mode as would have been my first stop a couple of years ago. That’s progress!

As I type this today, I’m also “recovering” from the further realization that I still had shame attached to my lifestyle choice. I discovered in the process that my old voice–the voice that’s strong, loud, critical, and condemning–is very much alive and that we’ll have to battle from time to time.

Yes, hers is the voice of fear, shame, and condemnation and while I may be unable to silence her completely–and may even fall victim to her sometimes–I know that I’m equipped to overcome her jabs.

I’m in good hands–the BEST hands; the evidence is all around me: in the family and friends who’ve supported and blessed me in ways too numerous to mention; in my sisters who assure me that the judgment I sometimes feel isn’t from them; in the fact that I always have what I need; in the many places I’ve visited and the photos I’ve made since embarking upon this journey; and in the fact that I live a lifestyle of freedom in not only a state of belief and trust, but in complete knowing that everything’s gonna be ok. The evidence, too, is in God who made all of this possible.

A friend said to me the other day that, “I have no desire to step out on faith like you did.” I totally understand that. I don’t know exactly why I was called to do it but what I do know is that it gives my life purpose; it gives me the opportunity to inspire others in ways I would’ve been unable to otherwise; and it gives me the opportunity to relive–or live for the first time–the times I missed because of fear and adult responsibilities as a child. 

Another thing my freedom journey has taught me is that it is never too late to live my dreams and for that, I’m immensely grateful.

On my birthday

As I awakened to the dawn of my 54th year, I lay there reflecting on my one life and all the challenges, changes, and beauty I’ve seen during the course of those years. It hasn’t always been easy, but I’m thankful to have recognized that I wasn’t alone on the journey. I’m thankful to have recognized, too, that the journey wasn’t all about me.

I’m thankful to have realized that for all the times I may have fallen and come short, I can finally acknowledge and accept that I did the best I could with what I had at the time.

I’m thankful for the release that came from hearing Mother Maya Angelou when she told us that “when you know better, you do better.” I’m so thankful that as I have learned better, I have done better.

No, it wasn’t always easy, but I’m forever grateful for the heart and mind for transformation with which the Almighty graced me. It was He who helped me see myself and others as He sees us, a gift that gave me understanding and compassion during those times when I didn’t understand who I or they were being…during those times when all I wanted to do was just cuss and say, “to hell with you!”

I’m thankful for the many days and nights of tears, tears that freed me from decades of repressed emotions and that freed the butterfly I always knew was trapped beneath all the pain, fear, anger, inadequacy, and insecurity. It was a cauldron of emotions on which I’d spent many years keeping the lid tightly sealed, but as that little girl demanded her freedom, it became more and more difficult to do so.

Then, one day in 1996, while confined to my bedroom after surgery on a broken ankle, that little girl’s demands became more than I could repress. At the insistence of my big sister Sheila (Stanley Bowser), I made the call that set in motion the transformation of a lifetime! I obtained the name of a psychotherapist from the insurance company, made the appointment, and began the reclaiming of Lydia. It would be a few years before we got around to releasing the emotions, but we did that, too.

When I look at my life today, I am thankful for the peace, the contentment, the happiness, and the passion I feel. My life today is the opposite of the life I was living in 2010 when I gave it all up to begin traveling light. I’ve had moments—ok, weeks, maybe even months–of fear and panic, wondering what was going to happen to me, where I was going to end up. Thankfully, though, I found my way when God showed me the beauty of the season I’m in right now. Through Joel Osteen, He implored me further to focus on the beauty and all that I do have instead of the burden of what I don’t.

What I see now are the blessings. The blessing of family and friends who love me, support me, and who have opened their homes to me during this continuing season of growth and change.

I see the blessing in experiencing God in nature almost daily in parks and by rivers and lakes in various cities.

I see the blessing in being able to photograph those God moments in ways that will inspire others. How satisfying to hear from a viewer that those photos are a source of inspiration, peace, and calm.

So, while my life may not be what it used to be, I am eternally grateful for what it is. I am thankful, too, for every person who has supported me in ways too numerous to mention as I move through this season, which, quite honestly is the second best time of my life!! What’s the first, you ask? That would be my cross-country road trip.

Oh, there’s one more thing that I’ve realized, and it’s that I’ve embarked upon yet another journey that I know will take me places spiritually—and probably emotionally and physically, too—to which I’ve never been, and I’m very excited about it!

As I end this post, I’m reminded of a line from Gil Scott-Heron’s song ‘I’m New Here’. In it he says,

“No matter how far wrong you’ve gone, you can always turn around.”

I hope I’ve said something today that will inspire you to turn around.

With this post, I’m including a few random photos I made over the last few days. I hope you enjoy them.

What is this thing?

It’s 30 degrees today, the ground is covered with ice yet I’m compelled to venture out, cameras in tow, to capture the beauty that’s in the ordinarily ordinary.

What is that thing that awakens me on a cold rainy morning, calls me to grab my cameras and hit the road before daybreak, donning long johns, sweats, coat, hood and slicker to feel the cold on my face as the wind and rain envelope me in a cold yet soothing embrace?

But perhaps that’s it—the closeness I feel to God, the satisfaction it brings to a soul that sometimes yearns to feel a palpable connection to the Divine, that sees Him in the beauty of nature be it on a bright, warm, sunny day, or a day that’s freezing cold and wet.

I hear the call, and I answer. But today, because the roads were icy, I contented myself with the beauty that was around me.

Changes

After leaving Wheeler County Library a few weeks ago, I was inspired to do some exploring and took the long route home. Instead of turning left on CR-78, I followed Highway 126 from Alamo until it converged with Highways 19 and 134. It had been many years since I’d driven Highway 126 and even longer for Highway 134 so I was excited to see the changes that had transpired over the years.

On 126, I passed a field of sunflowers and a little further up the road, the house where Mama worked as a private nurse for many years. I barely recognized it, though, because the house seemed a lot grander back then than it does now. A few miles later, I came upon the house were friends once lived. It looked the same as I remembered but another family lives there now.

Storm clouds had formed during my drive so I stopped to photograph them before proceeding to what was once Singing Pines Plantation, a performance horse farm. It’s still a horse farm but a sign announces that it houses a men’s ministry now, too. While at the horse farm, I spotted a couple of dilapidated houses on the road to Towns, GA and decided to get pictures of them as well. I tried recalling the houses from yesteryear but couldn’t remember anything about them except that they were there.

A few miles from Towns, I decided to save that trip for a clear day when I’d have time to visit so at Cattle Road, a dirt road I was sorely tempted to explore but didn’t because it was muddy and unfamiliar, I made a u-turn and headed home.

That July day was a wonderful trip down memory lane but what I’m remembering most is the day a week or so before when I left the library and debated driving through the neighborhood where I’d spent time growing up. I’ve done this drive-through many times over the years and even though cousins and friends lived there, I seldom stopped to visit. But while I’m debating whether I’ll drive through that particular day, my car is heading in the direction of the neighborhood as if it had a mind of its own until we, my car and I, eventually end up in my cousin’s driveway.

That wasn’t the first time this had happened to me, though. I’d had a similar experience in Atlanta several months before my road trip. I was deciding whether to drop off a donation at Christian City or go to the consignment shop first. During the course of that debate, my car was heading to the consignment shop, the opposite direction of my inclination towards Christian City. Even though it was unplanned, the stop ended up being a divine appointment. While there, I had a most amazing conversation with Linda, a woman I’d never met and whose shop would ordinarily have been closed that day.

A few months before, I’d heard Wayne Dyer lecture about “traveling light” and the idea so resonated with me that I was practically shoutin’ as I drove down the 85 freeway! On the fateful Monday in Linda’s shop, I was thrilled to be decluttering my life but not quite sure how far I wanted to go with it. As it turned out, she had been traveling light for several years and loving it. And although I was a complete stranger, she shared all the details of how she’d come to that point and how her life had unfolded afterwards. It was an awesome couple of hours that confirmed that I was indeed on the right path.

But back to the visit with my cousin. She’s 80 years old and even though I’d spent the night with her daughters several times as a child, she and I had never talked. That day, however, we talked for over two hours about her child- and adulthood, work, marriage, raising children, my road trip, and God. Aside from sightseeing on my trip, it was the best two hours I’d spent in a long time.

By the time I left, our experiences had uplifted and encouraged us both, and her pains had dissipated. It was a wonderful afternoon and a perfect example of divine providence. It also exemplified the benefits of following Spirit’s guidance, going with the flow, and the transformation that’s possible by surrendering to both.

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March 5, 2012: Phoenix to Las Vegas

1:17 pm: I left Phoenix, AZ this morning shortly before 11 and am now on Highway 93 heading to Las Vegas. The roads wind through canyons, up hills, down hills, grades, curves, everything and as I look around, it almost brings me to tears. Oh heck, it IS bringing me to tears!

I mean, when I look at the scenery around me–the terrain, the mountains, the canyons, the growth, the plant life–it’s all just awesome, and it’s almost too…well, it is too beautiful for words, and I can’t capture it! I just wish you could see what I see! I would encourage everyone to make this drive at some point in your life, especially if you’re feeling stuck, if you can’t see, if you’re feeling hopeless.

I’m out here witnessing the miraculous works of God…and all I can do is say thank You; thank You for the opportunity to see Your magnificence. I wish I could bundle it all up and share it with everyone!! As I’m riding along here, it makes me realize just how much bigger, how much grander life is than those few miles we travel everyday…how we get stuck in that little box when there’s so much more to see…so much more to live, to experience! And all we need to do is give ourselves permission to break out of that box, to open ourselves up to the new experience, to open ourselves up to a different perspective on life, a different perspective of God. Then all the small stuff that trips us up becomes nothing and you wonder why you spent so much time and energy dealing with minutia when there’s so much beauty in the world; when there’s so much here that can make you happy; when there’s so much that brings you closer to God.

And I can’t capture any of this in a picture! There’s no way to share it! This is something you have to see for yourself…a journey you have to experience for yourself. It’s just incredible and the beauty of it all, the absolute wonder of it all, is overwhelming! There really are no words to describe it! The terrain is so different–the plant life, the ground, the dirt–it’s nothing like anything I’ve ever seen. The wonder, the beauty… just opens you up. Amazing, amazing, amazing!!

I’m out here in the middle of nowhere now with no cell reception but they have emergency call boxes every several miles. I think I’ve crossed over into the Pacific Time Zone now, too, and it looks like I have about three hours to drive.

What you just read was a partial transcript of a recording I made during the drive from Phoenix, Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada. I did make it to Las Vegas that day probably because I couldn’t stop to take pictures for the majority of the drive and because there wasn’t lodging along the route where I would’ve been comfortable.

With this post, I’m including pictures of Hoover Dam, Lake Meade, a portion of Lake Mohave in Black Canyon, and highway scenery that I took later in the afternoon. None of the pictures compare to actually seeing the sights in person but I hope you enjoy them nonetheless. I pray, too, that you’re inspired to break out of your box and expand your border, if only by a few miles; it’ll make a world of difference.