Monday, January 2, 2017

Home Sweet Home

One of the best parts of the Stories That Teach Girls Book Reading Tour so far was being back home in Louisiana. Before the 2 tour stops in LA, it had been a little over a year since I'd been physically present with any of my family, so naturally, I was excited to see them. I was even more excited for them to be with me as I poured God's word into girls' hearts. My family knows what God has called me to do, and they see some of it through social media and hear of it when we talk, but because I've lived states away for almost 14 years, they never really get to share in it with me.

I was honored to share with a group of super excited girls at the first Louisiana stop, and grateful that my mom's church, The Living Gospel Church of Harvey, so willingly opened its doors to host that book reading session. My mom was there to assist with whatever I needed before the session, and she was my right hand girl as we were bombarded at the book signing table after the session.

The icing on the cake, though, was having my older sister and my 2 nieces, her daughters, there. They even brought a friend with them! One of my nieces, Tari, pitched in and helped as well. I was so grateful to have the girls there because, finally, after all the girls the Lord has had me to minister to over the years, MY GIRLS got to hear from the Lord in a large girl group setting, which was worlds different from those one-on-one talks with their Tee Tee. They got to interact with God's word and get involved in the lesson in a way that they definitely hadn't done with me before. I loved every minute of it!

Then, it was time to go to Lake Charles, LA, and I was more excited about this stop than I could even explain. Not only would I be visiting my college friend, Milena, whose husband pastors the church that was hosting the book reading session, but I would be bringing my first niece, Jazmin, along with me as my assistant. I couldn't wait! I'd been longing for months for some quality time with my girl.

See, Jazmin, who also happens to be my godchild, was born when I was in high school, so by the time life started "moving" for her, I was 5 hours away from home in college, and then, immediately after college graduation, I was states away into adulthood and beginning ministry. I would see her and the rest of my nieces and nephews when I'd visit home ever so often, but that was it. Sure, my visits were regular enough that I didn't miss them growing up, but there were definitely some gaps; I missed a lot.

As Jazmin and my other nieces and nephews got (and get) older and mature enough to handle conversations about the route their lives were taking, I became intentional about having those conversations, and especially with Jazmin. She's so much like me, it's scary, but that's all the more reason for me to use whatever wisdom I have to help guide and direct her. When it was time for her to apply for colleges, I couldn't be there physically, so I prayed about the best way to guide her from afar. I made it my business to be ALL UP IN her business so she can avoid unnecessary pitfalls and walk wisely through her years in school. And I'm SO proud of her! She killed her first year and she's handling the second year well too! Even more than that, though, her character is intact and her head is on straight. She sets goals and works hard to reach them. She's sure of herself and doesn't need others' validation to feel secure. She walks with her head held high, and her eye is on the prize. I count it my responsibility to cover her how the Lord leads me, and since her school is only an hour away from where the book reading session was in Lake Charles, I wanted her to see how the Lord tells me to cover other girls too.
My girl was the PERFECT assistant! We gelled like we'd been working together for years. From setting up for the session, to handling book sales...from taking pictures and getting video coverage, to packing up and shutting down...I had the best help!

And every time I looked over at her while I was teaching, I know the Lord was teaching her too. I watched her countenance as He spoke to her heart, reminding her how precious she is to Him. I saw her taking in the scriptures and planting them in her heart. I watched her eyes and knew that God telling me to bring her with me was a divine assignment. I may never know just how much our day trip impacted her, but I know it did; I know seeds were planted that will blossom into greatness. I love how this trip surpassed my visit to her campus last year, and how next year's trip will top this one. I look forward to continuing to pour into her life (and my other nieces and nephews) the way the Lord leads me. I treasure every laugh and every word of every conversation I had with my girl. She sure made Sweet Home Alabama Louisiana reeeeaaal sweet!

And she didn't go to sleep on me in the car. Major points!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Meet Kembrel

"If I can reach just one, it was well worth it.  I've done my part."

I've heard this said many times by those who have committed their lives to reaching, teaching, and guiding others. Preachers, motivational speakers, coaches, teachers... they all understand that when they're fishing to catch the masses, not everyone will "bite". They know, though, that after preparing bait and prepping the boat and waking up early in the morning to get the right catch, there's beauty and fulfillment in pulling in that right one, even if it's the only one.

Such has been the case with me on the Stories That Teach Girls Book Reading Tour. At every book reading session, many have taken the bait, but there has always been, on every stop of the tour, that one girl who I was able to pull in and know that my day of fishing was just for her.

Meet Kembrel.

I met Kembrel at the book reading session in Lake Charles, LA. As is the routine for each book reading session, I read a portion from one of the stories in the book, The White Scarf, and I teach a lesson that ties in with the story. The girls do a couple activities inside the lesson and then we end with a book signing, because after getting only a portion of that story, THEY CANNOT WAIT to purchase their books to read the rest of it.

As girls come up to the book signing table, I ask their names and ask them to spell it for me. Several girls had come through before Kembrel, so by the time she got to me, I was in a groove.

I asked her her name. She said, "Kembrel." (prounounced Kim-brell)

I heard her, but I didn't really, because even when I ask their names, my ears are already tuned in to hear the spelling of the name so I can write it and then write their personalized messages.

I said, "Okay, spell it."

She spelled it. And I stopped in my tracks. I looked up at her and said again, "What's your name?"

She said it quietly. 

I said, "One more time?"

She repeated it.

I said, "Okay, spell it for me one more time."

She did, but she did it very quietly. I barely heard her. There were people all over the room, talking and laughing. I asked her to spell it again, and she did. And it finally clicked.

I looked at her and repeated her name back to her, and then asked, "Your name is Kembrel?"

She shook her head yes, and a chill raced through my body.

What KEmbrel didn't know, but was about to find out, was that there's a story in Stories That Teach Girls whose main character is named KImbrel. Before writing that story, A Special Design, I had never even heard the name. In fact, I didn't even want to use that name. The story had been completely written with another name for the main character that I can't even remember now, and the 7 lessons for the story had been written too. But one morning when I entered my writing session to draft some other portion of the book, the Lord was tugging on my heart to change the character's name, and Kimbrel was the name He gave me.

I fought with it. I kept saying, "Lord, why? That's not a common name. People won't be able to relate to that name when they read the story. I never even heard of that name. Why Kimbrel?"

I didn't want to do it. I liked the name I had. I tried to move on and write other things, but I couldn't even focus. Nothing was happening in that writing session, and the Lord would not let it rest. He kept telling me to change that name, so I went through the entire story and all of the lessons and changed the name from whatever it was to Kimbrel--IN EVERY PLACE IT WAS WRITTEN.

I said to her, "Girl, do you know that there is a story in this book whose main character's name is Kimbrel?" I had chills when I said that to her!

I said, "I've never even met a Kembrel. I had never even heard that name before I wrote the story, and I didn't even use that name when I first wrote the story. I used some other name, but the Lord told me to change it to Kimbrel."

She smiled. I sat there and shook my head. I had an encounter with the Lord in that moment that no one else would even be able to understand. 

I said to her, "My God! This story was written just for you, girl! I don't know what the Lord is going to teach you in those lessons or what, exactly, is in there just for you, but I believe with my whole heart that IT'S JUST FOR YOU. He wouldn't even let me rest until I changed that name."

She smiled some more. I was stunned! It took me a minute to even get myself together to write in her book.

While I was talking to her, her grandmother was standing off to the side. As I handed Kembrel her book and got up from the table to hug her and get a picture with her, her grandmother said to me, "And she wasn't even supposed to be here."

I looked over at her to read her face and see what she meant. She went on.

She said, "She's from Texas. She is visiting us, and she wasn't even supposed to be here."

I could've cried! I had "gone fishing" that day in Lake Charles, LA just for that moment, to "catch" Kembrel.

See, there was so much more to that moment than just the shock of knowing that her name was KEmbrel and that there was a story in the book about a girl named KImbrel. 

There was more to that moment than learning that Kembrel wasn't supposed to be there, but was there anyway because it was ordained by God. 

What that moment was really about was (1) the joy of knowing my obedience to the Lord created that moment. It was a private celebration between God and me for the fruit of obedience. (2) It was also a celebration for knowing the Lord was about to use that very moment, created by my obedience, to "catch" Kembrel.

I don't know. Only God knows. 
My job is to just be obedient.

God could've wanted me to put KImbrel's name in the book because maybe KEmbrel doesn't like to read. Maybe knowing her name is in the book could be the "bait" He uses to pull her into the stories that were written to teach her. Maybe this is how He wants to draw her closer to Him.

Maybe the situation that KImbrel faces in the story is similar to something KEmbrel faced or will face, and the Lord wants to use that to encourage her heart and/or teach her how to handle it, which will draw her closer to Him.

Maybe KEmbrel wasn't hearing a thing I was saying while I was teaching that night, but because she learned that there's a story with her name in it, she may feel like the whole book could actually have something for her. She may decide to read back through what I said and what I taught and get a grip on it because she now knows the Lord hand picked her to be there that night.

There are endless possibilities for why God chose to use KImbrel to "catch" KEmbrel, but whatever it is, I KNOW it's marvelous! He confirmed that in my spirit just as sure as her name is Kembrel! 

And her name is definitely Kembrel!

Umph, umph, umph! KEmbrel, KImbrel, KEmbrel...