A weekly blog, by author Leslie K. Howard, filled with spiritual, uplifting thoughts to help you get through your week

Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

#RealGirlfriends

#RealGirlfriendsDuring the 2015 Emmy Awards many touching moments occurred: Viola Davis’ speech was phenomenal and seeing Tracy Morgan walk on that stage was inspiring.  But for me, one of the most meaningful moments came during a commercial.  “A commercial”,  you ask?  Yes.

Apple Music did something I had to stand up an applaud.  They showed a commercial featuring powerful African American Women, Kerry Washington, Taraji P. Henson and Mary J. Blige.  The three Women not cussing out one another, not putting each other down or fighting and pulling out weaves, but they are friends, having fun, singing and dancing.  They are doing what women like to do; laugh, giggle like girls,  having fun and sharing a good thing.

All three women are accomplished in their own right and ought to be celebrated. In an age where social media has been trying its best to pit Washington and Henson against one another It’s good to see them, even if only acting, as friends.

So the Apple commercial inspired me to write this poem titled Real Girlfriends (See video below)

Real girlfriends complement not compete. They celebrate not hate. Real girlfriends lend a shoulder to cry and pull you off the edge when all you want to do is die. Through chemo, they hold your hand with loving care. And when you puke, Real Girlfriends hold your hair. Real Girlfriends stay through good times and bad, thick and thin, happy and sad. They will stand by you through and through. Because… Real Girlfriends are forever true. ~Leslie K. Howard                

Hey Sisters, I’d really like to hear from you. Share your stories and testimonies about your #RealGirlfriends experience. Post them here or  on my Facebook page, Leslie Howard Ministries and I’ll put them on my website. Don’t forget to send a photo of you and your girlfriends. And be sure to (#) hash tag Real Girlfriends.

Check out my site Lesliehowardministries.com for  updates and events. I’ll be working with women and girls in 2015/ 16 celebrating #RealGirlfriends. We’ll start at the Sister Circle Girlfriends Getaway Weekend.  Seats still available. See my website.

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Reaching Through Forgiveness & Finding Love

HugAs I sit listening to the rhythmic sounds of the respirator, there appears to be a musical timing to the machine that is keeping my father alive. Dad has severe health issues.  The first to come was Alzheimer’s disease.  Then four years ago he had a series of strokes that have left him totally bedridden.  His body is now constricted and weak.  No longer able to swallow, he is being fed through a tube implanted in his stomach.  During a recent surgery he went into cardiac arrest which is why he is now on the respirator.

I can’t help but shed tears for the frail man, a former likeness of himself, lying in the hospital bed.  I remember him young, strong, and robust.  Dad was a snappy dresser, with his own sense of style. He was a smart, educated man who had an extended knowledge of jazz.  Ask him anything about the old masters:  Duke, Lionel, Miles, and of course, Lady Day.  They were like old friends to him.  They were part of his rhythm, his heart beat.  To him they were like family.

All my life we’ve had this on again off again relationship. After five years of marriage, three children and one on the way (me), my parents figured out that they did not belong together. I did not see him much. Visits with him were far and few in between. I was lucky if I saw him during the holidays. I never saw him on birthdays, school plays or sporting events. He just simply was not there. And, if by chance on a rare occasion we were together, the amount of time he spent with me was shallow and brief.

I was about five and my brother had just turned seven, mom told us that dad was coming for a visit.  Dressed in our best clothes, we were so excited that our father was coming to take us out.  Mom instructed us to sit on the sofa and watch TV while we waited for him to arrive. She did not want us to play for fear that we’d get messy.  After two hours had passed, mom told us to change into our play clothes. Just then there was a knock on the door. It was Daddy! Of course we tried to tackle him in our excitement, but he was much bigger and stronger than we were.  He grabbed both of us in each arm and we kissed him on both cheeks. I remember how special it felt walking up the street with Dad. I’m sure my brother felt the same way.  None of our friends had ever seen our father.  I guess he was an urban legend come to life. As we walked hand in hand, we vied for dad’s attention chattering on about this and that.  When we arrived at the corner store dad told us that we could have what ever we wanted. My brother asked for a bag of potato chips and a grape soda.  As usual I asked for the same. What ever my brother did I tried to do too.

We left the store and continued our journey on foot.  Before we knew it, we were back at home.  Dad said that he had to go. Mom told us to go into the kitchen to eat our snack. Although the door was closed, we could hear them arguing. Mom did most of the yelling. She was upset that dad’s idea of taking us out was a walk to the corner store. The entire trip took about a half hour. Over the years when mom would talk about her marriage to dad, she would often refer to that incident. When she spoke of it I could still hear hurt and anger in her voice.

After our outing, I can’t say that I remember when I saw dad again. You see, my dad was a prodigal father.  Just like the parable, he wasted his youth on drugs, women and song.  He totally neglected his family and lived the life of a bachelor.  Instead of spending those precious years with his children, he practically ignored us.  He left behind a broken, bruised family and an angry unforgiving wife who transferred her feelings of sadness, anger and bitterness onto her children.  We grew up pursuing his love and attention.  We wanted to bask in him. We wanted to feast on him and all we received was a table of crumbs.  As a consequence of his neglect – without a father’s guidance my brothers made terrible choices.  They too fell into a life of addictions and crime.  I, on the other hand, sought his attention and approval.  However, without the protection of a father, I was sexually abused by my mother’s boyfriend.  After, I became promiscuous and soon found myself a teenage parent and a high school dropout.

When I got married I wasn’t sure he’d show up for the ceremony.  I was overjoyed when he did.  The photos are lovely but we were far from having a real relationship.  Through the years I’d phone dad to invite him to family outings, he’d either evade the subject or promise to come but never show.  During one of our phone conversations I told dad that he had missed all of my growing up.  I told him that he had two wonderful grandchildren who love him.  I asked him, “Don’t you want to be a part of their lives?”  His answer hurt me more than anything I had ever experienced up to that point.  His answer was total silence.  If only he had lied to me and promised to be part of the family for the sake of the grandchildren.  Knowing it was a lie, I would have accepted it.  But his total silence – I just could not take.  I said a tearful goodbye and rushed to the comfort of my husband’s arms.  Completely shattered, I finally knew.  I told my husband, “One day my father is going to need me and I will be there for him.”  How could I have known the depth of such a promise?  I had no idea that my father’s health would deteriorate.  I did not know that I would be the one he would have to depend on to care for him.

 From that day on, I began to ask God to change my heart from an angry,

needy one to a completely joyful heart. “Let all bitterness and wrath and

anger, and clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you,

with all malice: And be ye kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving

one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).

God began to minister to me and just like a loving father He comforted me.  He began to heal me.  He started teaching me to love unconditionally.  After all, didn’t He do the same for me? While I was yet in the bondage of sin, our loving Father forgave me.  How awesome!  If He did it for me, then He expects me to do the same for others.

“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 

But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your father

forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).

 He showed me how to look past the faults of my father.  He showed me how to maximize even the smallest amount of time we spent together.  The few occasions that dad spent with our children became pleasant experiences.  I learned not to expect more from my father than he was capable of giving.  I learned not to hold his past up in his face.  All that mattered was the present.  In return God gave me a sweet relief.  He took away the sorrow.  My children did not inherit bitterness and disdain. They simply learned to enjoy Grandpa.  What I learned was to forgive him of his wrongs and love him.  I think that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it so well:  “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive.  He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love….”

Update:  Dad went on to Glory January 20, 2007, shortly after this article was submitted.

 This article was first printed in Extreme Woman Magazine June 1997.  It was reprinted in Connections Newsletter, January 2010. It was a catalyst for my book Sisters With SASS, available at Amazon.com or on Kindle.  Click book to follow link.SASS Book

Riding With Ms. Rosie

Blue CarI Don’t Drive.  I admit it.  I don’t drive, don’t judge me.  I am born, bred and  raised  in Newark NJ.  I am a city girl.  I take the 25 and 70 busses.  I ride the city subway (okay that makes it sound bigger than it is.  It’s really The Lite Rail.) I enjoy it.  I like to people watch. I like talking to folks. It’s my thing and I love it. But this day a stranger just wouldn’t do.  I didn’t realize that what I needed was a friendly face and as God would have it, He provided just the right one for me.  Let me explain.

I was called to duty. Jury duty that is.  YaY!  Don’t get me wrong I’m one of those people who really doesn’t mind serving Jury Duty…. if I have to.  Just not right now.  I thought I could do it.  I had all intentions of doing it, but once I got into the courtroom I found I just couldn’t handle it.

My first cousin was in a domestic violent relationship and two years ago around Valentine’s Day, she was murdered.  I’m not at liberty to share details nor am I ready to do so right now.  I along with her brother am representing the family.  We are at the very beginning of court proceedings, and lately I’ve been to that court house more than I care to say.  After being excused from jury duty, I headed home.  I decided to go to Newark Penn Station to grab a slice of pizza (I know, I know. Don’t tell me how fattening it is.  If you felt the way I did you’d have had pizza and a whole lot more.)  So here I am in Penn and who do I run into but the effervescent Ms. Rosie.  It was 2:30 pm….

I met Ms. Rosie some 14 years ago through a mutual friend.  We aren’t real close but I consider her very, very special. She’s one of those people who knows everybody.  She is extremely knowledgeable but not a know it all.  Ever willing to lend a helping hand, if she can’t assist you she certainly knows someone who can.  As always she was a wealth of information about the good things happening in the community.  We talked about health and hot flashes.  (By the time we finished that part I felt real guilty about my pizza- jones.)   After connecting me with a sister who teaches health and wellness, she offered to take me home. I accepted and that’s where our adventure began.

We picked up her vehicle from the parking lot and headed up Market Street. “I’ve got to drop off some mail.” She said.  Parking at the Springfield Avenue Post Office she said “I’ll be right back” I waited in the car wondering what was taking her so long. I had seen the envelope and it was ready to mail. My thought was broken when I saw her walk out the door.  Although she went in the post office alone she returned  with another passenger.  Ms. Rosie ran into another weary traveler and decided to give him a ride home.  It just so happens he lives in a senior building where her mom used to live on Irving Turner Boulevard.  “Come on” she said, waiving me toward the building entrance. She took me on a tour of the beautiful lobby and the deck where the seniors like to barbecue during the summer months.   The building was clean and very welcoming.

Back in the car, we continued our drive and wound up on West Kenny and Howard Streets.  I hadn’t been in that area of the city in some time and it had improved greatly.  Once laden with projects, pimps and prostitutes, this part of the city has experienced some true revitalization.   We stopped at Vonda’s Kitchen located at 183 West Kenny Street on the first floor of a building complex.  Vonda’s Kitchen is a delight in the city. It is a Soul Food lover’s dream with traditionaResturantl dishes such as fried chicken, macaroni and cheese and greens.  She serves up delicious seafood dishes, baked and barbecued chicken, fresh vegetables, salads, traditional burgers as well as a selection of vegetarian burgers. But Vonda’ s Kitchen is not a neighborhood greasy spoon. The pristine brightly colored decor is only out shined by her friendly staff.  Vonda has nothing to hide either.  I just love the window where the customer can look directly into the kitchen to watch the chef and staff at work.    I’ll have more to say about Vonda’s kitchen in the near future.

Back in the car again: Ms. Rosie chatted on about how blessed she and her husband were by ministering at a local nursing home. She bubbled with delight as shared stories of her weekly visits; how she truly enjoys sharing the word of God with them.  We talked about vision, goals and her desire to open up a business that would really serve the needs of Senior Citizens and their families.  She shared her newest passion, coin collecting and selling them on Ebay.  All I can say to you is this, by the time we arrived at my house, my whole mood had changed. Earlier In the day I was on the brink of tears now I was filed with laughter and joy. I realized I had been coddled and comforted by a very special angel.  By the way it was close to 5:30 when I got home.  So a 15 minute ride turned into two hours.  Thanks for the ride Ms. Rosie.  It was a trip well spent.

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I Remember Momma

As a very young child I wanted for nothing. Everything was provided by my mother. When mom was pregnant with me, my parents separated  and dad had  little to no dealings with the family. So, mom raised  us as a single mother. She cooked, cleaned, cared for us and held down a job so we wouldn’t be hungry or homeless.  She was indeed an incredible woman.

I remember her voice, her touch, even her smell.  A gifted story-teller, I loved to listen to her.  She had a way with voice inflection that was simply unmatched.  It’s a wonder I’m not a “Goth” seeing she introduced me to Edgar Allen Poe when I was just about four years old.  I remember many nights after her reading to me either from a book or a scary story from her own  imagination, being afraid to go to bed.  She’d let me crawl into bed with her.  I’d snuggle real close. Sleeping with her made me feel so safe.

I remember her straightening my hair on Easter Sunday so I could get all dressed up and go to grandma’s house.  She’d put hair-grease on the back of her hand with a cigarette dangling from her mouth she’d meticulously get every hair on the edge of my head. ( You know in my “Kitchen.” Smile) I’d hold my ears down so as not to get burned by the hot comb.  It was to no avail, because she’d slap my hands away and tell me,”I’m not gonna burn you child.” 

I remember learning to cook under her tutelage. I’m not even half the cook she was. Oh the joy I’d get watching her beat cake batter by hand and laughing as  her hips moved in rhythm.  How I find myself today mimicking those moments as  I whip cake batter or stir up cornbread mix.  

Dancing at my wedding, holding my children for the first time, praying with me, and even on occasion crying with me; all of these memories and many more will have to sustain me until I see her again.  I look at my daughter and granddaughter, and once in a while I’ll see my own reflection in the mirror and I remember Momma.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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