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The insidiousness of distractions

Distractions are interesting. Sometimes we seek them out. They may appeal to our sense of independence and adventure. Sometimes they are unexpected. They can illicit frustration and anxiety. Other times they provide the change we think we need, the future we thought we sought, the opportunities we thought we were lacking. Distractions are insidious in that they present as innocuous happenstances. Nothing major. Perhaps a slight detour. Nothing that can damage a life, relationship or future. But any distraction is a gateway to many more distractions. Through the only, the few and the many, your life will change course in unimaginable ways.

Pain is a distraction. Anger is a distraction. Lust and romantic ideals of love are distractions. Perhaps all of life is a distraction. For what purpose are we here anyway? What assignment have we been tasked with? Few of us can definitively state what we believe the purpose of our life is. Yet even those few will be distracted to the point of neglecting whatever they claim their true purpose is.

Then many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Matthew 24:10-13

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Find Your Place

Many of us go through life thinking a dream is all we need. With a dream, anything is possible or rather the impossible becomes believable. Dreams are fun. They motivate and invigorate. Once you’ve achieved your dream, then the real work begins.

Often times we move through life focused on accomplishing goals that move us closer to the image of our life we’ve created for ourselves. Some people accomplish their dreams and keep working on it for the remainder of their lives. Others of us manifest our dreams and wonder what’s next. What will my life be now that I’ve done everything I envisioned? How will I continue to grow? What will I develop into? Is there a need to keep pushing forward? Why can’t I stop now? What’s wrong with digging in and perfecting the imperfect dream?

When I moved to New York City, it was an essential part of a much larger dream. Big city, larger opportunities. Within a year of being there, I re-imagined I would exit the city in three to five years but certainly under ten. All told, this September marked the thirteenth anniversary of my arrival in the Big Apple. The dream was great when I was young. In some ways, it never manifested fully into my vision. In other ways, it surpassed my own expectations for my life. As good as the City was to me in certain respects, it never felt like my place.

For years, I forced it. I was determined to make it work. Until I was simply done. And no longer interested in trying. At that point I decided I was ready for what comes next. My readiness allowed the world to open wide for me. Which led to me finding my place in an area I didn’t even want to visit. A new challenge with no dreams attached. No built in disappointments. Simply the opportunity to greet each new day with joy and adventure for the manifestation of endless opportunities.

This year has has been an open-hearted welcome of everything to come. The future is not a dreaded thing. It’s welcomed with anticipation.

A former co-worker, Gee, shared his migration story with me a few years ago. He was possibly in his late sixties or early seventies. He spoke of how when he came from Thailand, he first moved to San Francisco. Within a short time he said he realized, “This is not my place.” He moved to Los Angeles. Again he said, “This is not my place.” He moved to Oklahoma then to New Jersey. Neither were his place. When he arrived in Queens, he said he new immediately, “This is my place.”

Your place may not be the dream. It may not be one of the first five locations you try. But it will be something that speaks to you directly and immediately. It’s never too late to evaluate where you are and make any changes accordingly.

Be blessed as you go.

Then the high priest asked him, “Are these things so?” And Stephen replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me. The God of glory appeared to our ancestor Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Leave your country and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you.’ Then he left the country of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After his father died, God had him move from there to this country in which you are now living. ~ Acts 7:1-4

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Road trip: Riding shotgun

Travel was one of my first loves. I remember telling my mom at a young age that I wanted to visit all the states, each continent and as many countries as possible before I die. The desire to see the world likely comes from the frequent moves my family made in my youth. So much so that folks often ask if my parents were were military. They weren’t. They were simply okay trying something new for a better life. After making life moves with family, school trips with classmates seemed to be a good next step. Which led to vacations with friends throughout my twenties. My thirties was dedicated to exploring myself and solo trips became my therapy… until the therapeutic benefits disappeared. After a while, asking strangers to take horrible snapshots of me in front of historic landmarks lost its charm. I was tired of group travel with various personalities because the first couple of days were usually spent trying to get to know each other, while the last few days were spent putting distance between self and everyone else so we could all enjoy our own personalized experiences.

When solo travel fell out of favor with me, the only pleasure trip I could talk myself into for a five year period was a self-planned hop-on/hop-off train tour along the French and Italian Riveras to celebrate my 40th birthday. Absolutely no complaints about that trip. As the mother of all vacays, it was also the first time I consciously road shotgun with God. The whole trip was about embracing my solo status and a reminder to celebrate myself even in the absence of others.

Over the last two years, my life has been all about transition and transformation, which are happening at multiple layers currently. The biggest layer is moving from New York City to a suburb of Tucson, Arizona. Throughout the last year, I’ve traveled between the two cities preparing to end my life in one and begin anew in the other.

Because August is my birthday month, I view it as my primary new year and a symbol of renewal. For that reason it was important to spend August in the new place. It proved to be a much needed gift of time and space to myself. Before returning to New York City to sell my apartment in the autumn, I decided to take a road trip. The idea started off small-ish. A quick – perhaps overnight – trip to the Grand Canyon. Five hours each way split over two days seemed almost leisurely to me. It turned into a six day excursion I now call my Grand Tour of Arizona. Road trips and national parks are going to be a huge part of my future. 😌

At the beginning of my trip, words began settling in me. These words were a medition throughout my travel.

Pilgrimage.

Communion.

Silence.

Peace.

I felt a need to declutter my mind, my heart, my soul. A need to be more purposeful about decluttering my life. I didn’t think about fasting until I was on the road. At that point I was already tiring fast so not eating was out of the question. As I reflect back, the week before I began my road trip, I did indeed fast from life. I shut down. I refused to check email or follow up with the major stressors in my life. I decompressed. I vegged on tv. I did some gardening, some cleaning. Generally, I allowed myself to simply and quietly occupy my space.

That was a beautiful gift.

The Grand Canyon has become a symbol of perseverance and focus in my life. When I lived in Arizona as a child, we never visited the Canyon. For my relocation, I wanted to be a tourist early on, to see the wonder of my new home state before I fall into new routines.

I am so grateful for the time and opportunity to see some of the amazingly beautiful National Parks and monuments throughout Northern Arizona and the stunning landscape variations from the south to the north of the state. (Many photos will be shared on my Images + Life photo blog under the tag “Exploring Arizona.”) My Grand Tour of Arizona consisted of stops at Sunset Crater Volcano, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Navajo National Monument, Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell and the dam that created it, and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I camped in my car for the first two nights, found a bed and breakfast on the third night, then splurged on hotel rooms. Nearly three days were spent on Navajo Nation Land. My first camp fire was started at Grand Canyon Desert View camp site. I LOVED that spot! My fire burned for less than five minutes total, despite lighting it up about twenty times. Most amazing and unexpected was the boat ride I took on the lake in the middle of the desert! Who knew? There was so much natural beauty over such a vast amount of land, I grew tired trying to chase it all.

Within the first day or so, I knew this would become a regular, most likely annual, trip for me. Acknowledging that allowed me to relax a bit. There was no need to try to see everything or do more than my body was prepared to do. I made the trip all about photography. Capturing sunrises, sunsets and dark skies were my primary goals each day. The secondary photo goal was to capture some decent self-portraits. Note to self: hair and make-up should be part of the routine when attempting self-portraits on vacay. 🤭

This year has been exhilarating in many ways. I’ve purposefully taken action to change my life into something that represents my heart, spirit, vision and purpose. It’s taken a lot of energy and focus, so much so, I keep thinking I’m failing when I allow too many distractions or eagerly change or adjust plans as things come up. However, when I look around after detours, I see that I have not been pushed off-course. I’m exactly where I need to be. I’m developing and moving at a pace that has been calibrated for me. After all, I am not behind the wheel of my life. I’m riding shotgun. It may appear that I’m in control, but I’m not. It may seem like I can screw all this hard work up, but I can’t. I’ve already surrendered to the one who controls the universe. Any moment of uncertainty or chaos in my life is not going to disrupt the plans He already has in motion for me. Believing that, knowing it, and remembering it brings comfort and peace in a solitude full of communion with my Heavenly Father. My life, my pilgrimage, my journey is unfolding before me. With each step, I discover more and more good things that have been deposited in me for my good.

Be blessed as you go.

Working on my selfie game!

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Sermon: I’m Hurt, So What Do I Do Now?

By Pastor Tim Dilena

This is a very good teaching on the principle of seeking and giving forgiveness. There are a couple of things I disagree with. For example the layout of the sermon. Pastor Dilena begins with a very profound and life altering and impactful example about the difficulty of forgiving. Throughout the bulk of his message he focuses on slight offenses (someone snubbing you in the street) and how it’s important to let those things go. He’s not wrong, but I think the volume of references slight in connection with the process of forgiveness undermines the impact of his opening example.

The other thing is that he insists that forgiveness means forgetting. It does not.

I believe a lot of people have issues forgiving because they know they won’t forget, or would have difficulty forgetting, a harm or violation. People don’t naturally want to be hypocrites. Some may think they are doing a service by NOT forgiving a conflict until they lose their memory. But truly, how common would that be?

I have never come across an instruction in the Bible to forget offenses, wrongs, harm or violations committed against you. All of life is an ongoing lesson. We can choose how we respond throughout the lesson, but what will have been learned if we can’t pass any test because we forgot everything that molded us in this life? The offenses, responses or reactions and possible resolutions are all part of our cycle of learning. They are all part of the things we bind or loosen here on earth that will follow us to heaven. (Matthew 16:18-19)

That being said, things will naturally fall from our memory. Offenses will loose their weight and sting. Time changes us. Life stages adjust us. Also forgiveness is a healing balm. It’s an act of love that works both ways. Those who ask for forgiveness are declaring they value the relationship they are seeking to repair. Those who offer forgiveness are not saying they are no longer hurt. They are willing to work through the hurt to resolve the conflict and move forward in the relationship.

GotQuestions.org explains it this way:

Isaiah 43:25 says, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

[…]God’s “not remembering” is not what we usually think of as forgetfulness. God is omniscient. He knows everything, and He forgets nothing. However, He can choose not to remember something. In human relationships, we can choose to remember the offenses someone has committed against us, or we can choose to forget. To forgive someone, we must often put painful memories out of our minds. We don’t actually forget the sin, and it’s not that we are unable to recall the offense, but we choose to overlook it. Forgiveness prevents us from dwelling on past troubles.

That being said, enjoy the sermon. My scripture notes are below along with a few quotes.

Would you rather be right or reconciled?

  • Being offended is a choice. You don’t have a choice about what others will do you, but you do have a choice to be offended.
  • Hurt is porportional to intimacy. The closer you are to someone, the deeper the hurt.
  • Any hurt not dealt with will turn to bitterness.

It is not enemies who taunt me— I could bear that; it is not adversaries who deal insolently with me— I could hide from them. But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend, with whom I kept pleasant company; we walked in the house of God with the throng. Let death come upon them; let them go down alive to Sheol; for evil is in their homes and in their hearts. ~ Ps 55:12-15

For your relationships, you have two options when you’re hurt:

  • You can cover it, or
  • You can confront it.

We base our forgiveness on what God has done for us not what the other person has done to us.

  • He who repeats a matter separates intimate friends.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. ~ Matthew 5:7

Those with good sense are slow to anger, and it is their glory to overlook an offense. ~ Proverbs 19:11 

Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. ~ 1 Peter 4:8 

One who forgives an affront fosters friendship, but one who dwells on disputes will alienate a friend. A rebuke strikes deeper into a discerning person than a hundred blows into a fool. ~ Proverbs 17:9-10

Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. ~ Ephesians 4:31-32

Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. ~ John 3:4-5 

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Paint & Praise: Your Blessings Require Work

I’ve been in several transitions this year. All big deals. One transition is moving from New York City to Tucson, AZ. I began the process nearly two years ago and I’m now approaching the final curtain call on my time in NYC. This week I’ve been painting and prepping my Harlem apartment for viewing and sale.

I’ve been so busy this year that I have not focused on sitting at Jesus’s feet and soaking in the Word. I’ve been busy running here and there, doing this and that, thinking through scenarios, trying new things, letting go of everything that doesn’t work, quitting my job in NYC, moving across the country, looking for work in Tucson, returning to NYC to manage issues, taking a summer temp job in NYC, starting a national call for submissions for a new book project, launching a pro photographer career, etc. Just stuff. But this week, enclosed within the four walls of my East Harlem apartment in Manhattan, painting and prepping it for sale, the transition became a concrete change. This process is near completion. There’s very little else to do on my end. The to-do lists have stopped clamoring in my head. It was just me and the walls. And gospel music.

And God. He just came on in.

I’ve been assuring people there is nothing I will miss about NYC once I’m gone. I didn’t want to return. In fact I was quite despondent for a few weeks when I got back to the City. The peace of the desert was simply glorious. So no, I won’t be missing NYC. I don’t plan on looking back after I’m gone for good. Neither has leaving my apartment been necessarily sentimental because I didn’t think I had made any special memories here.

Over the last few days, God has reminded me why my time in NYC has been sacred. I’ve long considered my time in NYC to be on-the-job-training for whatever God has in store for me. This is the place He chose to bring me to an understanding of Who HE IS and Who I AM in HIM. He’s been romancing me this week. Gently walking me down memory lane.

Sometimes all we remember are the hardships or the sour taste difficulties leave in our mouth. I know I’m blessed, but I rarely think on the many ways God has blessed my life. He’s given me many hardships. I remember those. He’s brought me through them all. I praise Him for all that. But the intricacies and intimacies are forgotten. He reminded me that He doesn’t only perform His Word when I call on Him. His Word is performing in my life every moment of every day. He is present always. He wanted this time with me. He wanted to end this season the way we began – with me looking to Him, focusing on Him and His Word. Seeking His guidance and instruction every morning through each evening.

The last few days have been sprinkled with spontaneous worship and deeply moving intercessory prayer. I didn’t see any of it coming. But I know it has all been by His design.

The below video is one of the spontaneous praise moments. I knew it was time to share a portion of this process with the all-consuming goodness of God. Be blessed.

Your blessings require work. Please excuse the loud off-key contributions to the song playing in the background. 🙂 The message is worth the wait. Snippet of Trust in You by Anthony Brown & Group Therapy

 

Trust in You by Anthony Brown & Group Therapy

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Reader Review by Kayla: Desert of Solitude

Kayla Pompey of Milwaukee, WI reviews Desert of Solitude: Refreshed by Grace written by LaShawnda Jones. Kayla openly shares how the book has helped her in her life.

“In this book, LaShawnda explains how she felt she was not enough. I think a lot of people feel like that and they don’t even realize how much they really are. They are enough. I realized I am enough. This [book] just came out a few months ago. Within that time I have been able to completely change my life around. A lot of choices I make now don’t revolve around what other people will think. I’m not trying to be so much of a people pleaser anymore. I am learning to please myself and be happy with the choices I make. In that, other people are feeding off my confidence.”

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Vlog: Reflecting while moving forward

For several years now, I’ve been creating video logs while traveling and for new projects. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten around to editing and posting them. For my I AM WOMAN Portrait & Essay Project, I occasionally video the women’s introduction. The desire to get these short clips about womanhood posted has led me to figure out the basics of editing video on my mobile devices.

This video message is about the movement and transition of life and the importance of reflecting on where you come from but not getting stuck in the past.

Be blessed,

LaShawnda

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Harvest Update: Summer 2018

July 5, 2018, Volume 3, Issue 2

I AM WOMAN: Photo & Essay Project

Through SH-Images, I am developing a photo and essay book with the goal of sharing a collective story of womanhood. The first phrase of this project spotlights the Black Woman’s experience of womanhood in America. There is an open call for written submissions via Submittable.com. Submitters can live any where in the United States. You must complete a profile on Submittable in order to submit your work for consideration. There is no charge for the profile. The submission fee is $25.

Even though Phrase 1 is about Black Womanhood in America, we are embracing women of all ethnicities who want to participate in this project. Our goal is to develop multiple sister projects based on the themes that emerge from the our conversations with participants.

Women of all ethnicities are welcome to participate in the FREE mini portrait sessions that will be held in Chicago, Milwaukee, New York City, Phoenix and Tucson through August 2018. Though the sessions are open to the public, women are encouraged to register for a time slot on Eventbrite. Each open portrait sessions is scheduled for 2-3 hours. All photographs for this project will be taken by LaShawnda Jones.

For more details, please visit the announcement page.

Free Mini Portrait Sessions

Women of all ethnicities and faiths are welcome to participate in the free photo shoots. However, the first phase of the project is dedicated to capturing, cataloguing and presenting a collective story of experiencing womanhood as a black Woman in America. The portrait session schedule is below. Click a date to reserve your spot on Eventbrite.

NEW YORK CITY

Sunday, July 8, 2018 1:00-4:00pm

Battery Park @ Bowling Green

Theme: Liberty & Water

Sunday, July 22, 2018 1:00-4:00pm

Central Park @ Columbus Circle

Theme: Nature & City Images

Thursday, July 26, 2018  7:00-9:30pm

59th Street @ Columbus Circle

Theme: Night & Subway Images

MILWAUKEE

Thursday, July 12, 2018  7:00-9:30pm

Location: Burke Brise Soleil

Theme: Sunset & Twilight

CHICAGO

Saturday, July 14, 2018  12:00-3:00pm

Location: Cloud Gate (Bean) at Millennium Park

Theme: Old School Glam/A Day in the Park

TUCSON

Saturday, August 18, 2018  8:00-11:00am

Location: TBD

Theme: Desert Refreshment/Renewal

PHOENIX

Saturday, August 25, 2018  8:00-11:00am

Location: TBD

Theme: Grace in the Valley

Please subscribe to https://SH-Images.com for updates.


Desert of Solitude: Refreshed by Grace Trailer


BOOK REVIEWS NEEDED

If you have read, or plan on reading, Desert of Solitude: Refreshed by Grace, please share your thoughts in a review on: Amazon.com, BN.com and Goodreads.com. Reviews are a form of “street cred” in the industry and are EXTREMELY important for indie authors. Additionally they are helpful with future endeavors. Many thanks in advance.

Excerpts from Desert of Solitude

Preface: A Note About Desert of Solitude

Introduction: Wonder-Filled Living

Verdant Valley/Faith Challenges

Love Anyway: Things I Learned During My Harvest

Set Fire to the Rain…

Supporting Multimedia Links

Contents & Themes

Soundtrack & Sermons

Referenced Bible Verses

Video Messages


 

SOULFUL CHICAGO BOOK FAIR

Sunday, July 15, 2018

10:00-8:00pm

Vendor and Presenter

image-9

HARLEM BOOK FAIR

10:00-6:00pm

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Vendor and Presenter


 

FOR SALE: EAST HARLEM CO-OP

(Please share!)

If you, or someone you know, is in the market for a one bedroom, one bath apartment with an attached terrace, please let me know.

My apartment is on the first floor of a twelve story building on 111th Street between Park and Madison Avenues. It faces the back of the building (south) and looks out onto the building’s community terrace, which is enclosed on all sides and has no street access. The terrace attached to the apartment is fenced within a larger community terrace. There are oversized windows in the living/dining area and the bedroom which allows for amazing light throughout the day all year round. These two rooms also have high ceilings (nearly 10 feet) which make the space feel extremely spacious. Wide plank, honey oak floors throughout, except for the tiled kitchen and bathroom.

There is an income limit on the unit, 130% AMI, however there is no asset limit. Board approval is not required, but financial elements will be verified by the management company.  The maintenance fee is low, and should remain affordable (with modest increases) for the next ten years due to special status of the building.

Stats:

Apartment: 750 sq ft, 1 bedroom, 1 bath, wheelchair accessible
Terrace: 150 sq ft (pictured)
Amenities: Laundry, Gym, Bike Storage and Community Room on the same floor.
Trains: 2, 3, 6
Buses: M1, M2, M3, M4


Indie Author, Publisher, Photographer

About LaShawnda Jones

LaShawnda Jones eagerly embraces the process of her personal evolution and the results of her choices. She is the independent author and publisher of Spirit Harvest Publishing Company. She maintains several blogs which focus on spiritual growth, social justice, women and photography. She speaks nationally on self-image, self-esteem, identity in Christ and living the life you envision for yourself. Prior publications are Love & ForgivenessMy God and MeClichés: A Life in Verse and Go, Tell Michelle (State University of New York Press). She holds degrees in Marketing Management and Political Science as well as a MA in International Affairs.

Thanks for reading! All my best,

LaShawnda

Shawnda@Spirit-Harvest.com