Mississippi nights (and days)

I have been trying to remember when the last time I came to Mississippi was. Certainly, over ten years ago. If I had to guess, I would say somewhere between thirteen and fifteen years ago.

 

It has been great seeing everyone. From my mom, sisters, aunties, cousins, and friends. I have been told more than once to not let that much time pass by again. My family is just a little zany, so I got it honestly. But we have fun. For example, my aunt was in the hospital, and we were up there reminiscing and laughing and the room a few doors down complained.

 

A few things stand out to me:

  • It feels so slow. Not in a bad way, but time certainly seems to move like molasses.
  • The stars. The stars are so visible here.
  • People sitting on their porches. If I were to buy a house, I would want it to have a big porch where I can have a rocking chair and watch people ride by.
  • When people are passing by or you are passing by, you wave and/or honk.
  • It’s hot during the day, but so pleasant in the morning and evening.
  • Watching lightning bugs dance across the yard is magical.
  • There are two, old “plantation style” homes that I have loved since I was little that are side to side. It was great to see them and take pictures.
  • There are more of the homes a little further down. I found out that some of my ‘blood kin” bought one of them. I was able to go inside. It was so beautiful and there is a big pond in the back and plenty of land. The home was built by a black man who looked white. When the neighbors found out he was black, he was run off, so it’s fitting that a black family lives there now. It was built in 1920, but it was still equipped with a secret room to hide people who were running away.
  • My great-grandparents had property that was 11.5 acres. My cousins bought acreage adjoining, and it is quite amazing to imagine how it looked when my great-grandparents owned it, and it had animals and a farm. It is overgrown in the back, but there is a creek back there.
  • I loved seeing the homes of two of my grandmothers (I have three…it’s complicated) and home of my great-great aunt. My great-great aunt’s house has an old portion and a portion that was added on. I have never been able to sleep in the old part. There are way too many shadows, but I can sleep in the new part fine.
  • As good of a dominoes player I think I am, older players have a way of schooling me.
  • I am confused by who some of my relatives are. All this time the woman I pictured as my Aunt Fanny is my cousin Sylvia…shush…don’t tell anyone. LOL!
  • I still have tons of relatives I have never met.

 

Since I have been here, I have been reminiscing about the summer my sisters and I spent here visiting my mom when I was 14.

  • That summer, I spent a lot of time with my girl cousins around my age. We each had a “boyfriend.” One night, we went for a walk (probably to look for the boys), and we ended up walking by (maybe in) the cemetery by my great-great aunt’s house. The boys scared the life out us by jumping out of a tree, and we all went hollering down the street. At some point we started laughing, and we laughed even harder when we discovered one of my cousins (who will remain unnamed – lol) peed on herself.
  • I remembered the time I almost received my first “real kiss.” What had happened was we were sitting on the bench at my grandmother’s house. I was sitting with my friend, and he starting to lean in to kiss me. I jumped up so fast, and I ran into my grandmother’s house and jumped into bed with my mom. It was a mess.
  • I can point at the spot of where the first “real kiss” happened the night after.
  • I can remember my grandmother’s neighbor peaking out at us every night to see what we were up to. She would have her hair bonnet on, and I thought it was the funniest thing ever. She was very nice…just nosy. She would also be out sweeping her porch all day keeping an eye on us during the light hours.

 

The stars are so visible in my small country town in Mississippi. I was siting with my sister looking up at the stars. We began reminiscing about summers in Moses Lake watching the stars with some of the neighborhood kids. Then we started remembering other things:

 

  • Going far from home with our pillow cases to go trick or treating.
  • Going to pick plums from this tree near a doctor’s clinic.
  • Throwing tomato worms off a bridge onto cars going down I-90 with the neighborhood kids. One time a car came off the freeway to come looking for us, and we ran to the Green’s house to hide out.
  • We would be gone all day playing during the summer time. There were a lot of kids in the neighborhood to play with.
  • We talked about all the neighborhood kids from the Guerrero’s to the Vasquez’s to the Green’s to the Gleed’s.

 

Overall, I remember that it is good to reminisce sometimes.

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The Importance of International Trade Act III: Nobody Wins a Trade War

As most of you know, I have worked in international trade for 21 plus years. Last year, I wrote posts in March and September on the importance of international trade because of anti-trade rhetoric I was hearing.

 

Despite “alternative facts,” real facts prove what international trade does. It increases jobs, increases income and reduces prices.

 

I attended the Transpacific Maritime Conference (TPM) in Long Beach. Leading industry economist Dr. Nariman Behravesh talked about the U.S. and global economies. One thing that stood out was the potential for the U.S. unemployment rate to reach 3 percent, which would be quite amazing. His caveat: If we don’t enter into a trade war.

 

Enter Trump’s tariffs on aluminum and steel. A few questions to ask yourself. What percentage of aluminum and steel imports come from China? The answer? Not a lot. There are other countries that one could argue dump more of these products than China, so how does this really impact China? The answer. Not much.

 

Since the tariff announcement, I have attended a few other trade-related conferences. I would like to share some highlights from those conferences. To sum it up: Nobody has ever won a trade war.

 

Enter China’s response. Those tariffs will impact farmers, some in Washington state. This is one of the reasons I never understood farmers voting for Trump (and part of the reason I could never fully get behind Bernie Sanders). They heard his anti-trade rhetoric, yet they voted for him. Trump promises to “make it up for farmers.” But his policy has the potential to cause China to look for other sources for their agricultural needs.

 

Trump has promised more tariffs and China will respond in kind. These tactics are not the right approach. They will escalate, and the big losers will be everyday people in both countries. Hopefully in the end sanity will prevail, and we will make progress on NAFTA and TPP.

 

Now is there a China problem in terms of intellectual property rights? Of course, but that problem needs to be solved with a world-wide effort. In fact, the administration could have addressed it in a more productive manner if the U.S. had stayed in TPP. But alas, the administration decided to pull us out, which only helped to decrease U.S. influence. I wonder if the administration thought the world would stop if the U.S. pulled out. As predicted by myself and others, the world went on without us (as they should), and America is left at a disadvantage.

 

It takes years to build relationships. Tariffs will make American goods more expensive, and you can believe that delegations from other countries are already marketing for their products to fill the gap. We are not the only country in the Northern Hemisphere that grows apples, soybeans, wheat, etc., so there is a fallacy in the belief that China needs our products. China and other countries can look for other sources, and once that business is lost, it’s hard to get it back.

 

China (and Asia in general) is where the middle class is growing. It would be a shame to have trade policies in place that would price American goods out of those markets. The U.S. and China have the largest economies of the world. In the end, the health of both countries would be better with cooperation. Trade relations are complex. Agreements (or disagreements) between two countries have a ripple impact on the rest of the world.

 

It is important that people who understand the importance of international trade tell the story. People need to know what erecting trade barriers does and what eliminating trade barriers does. The majority (85 percent) of manufacturing job losses have been lost to automation not globalization. Putting up trade barriers is not going to bring the jobs back. Decisions need to be made by people who understand the bigger picture and can look at trade from a holistic viewpoint.

 

As a person living in Washington state, I understand all too well what can be lost and what can be gained in terms of international trade. For example, Mexico is the largest market for Washington apples. NAFTA opened those doors. Whether TPP or NAFTA or trade wars, it is important to not put agriculture at risk because it is always the first area targeted. Trade wars are nothing to celebrate or boast about. Nobody wins.

LBC/St. Patrick’s Day Dash

My blog, social media (Facebook and Instagram) and the camera on my phone give me ample opportunity and ability to document a lot of my life. It’s a blessing and a curse.

 

A do love to document travel and races, but I have been negligent.

 

I went to Long Beach in March. Originally, I was going to fly down on a Saturday, so I could spend Sunday in Los Angeles. So, Saturday I headed to the airport. When I tried to check in at the kiosk, it said it was too early for me to check into my flight. I thought how odd. To make a long story short, I went to the counter to discover my flight had been canceled, and I had been booked for a flight on Monday. I needed to be there Sunday, and I was able to change my flight to then.

 

I had such plans and dreams of spending Sunday in Los Angeles. Having brunch. Going to the beach, walking around and people watching. Hitting up some favorite neighborhoods. Getting in some much-needed Vitamin D. But alas home I went to return to the airport to fly out Sunday morning.

 

I was able to check into the conference and unpack. I attended the opening reception then met Samarah for dinner, and we were able to catch up. When she left, I realized I had no pictures. And this theme carried on the for the entire trip. Outside of attending the conference and conference-related events, I was able to spend time with my friends from other ports. The picture posted was taken by a friend of Louanne’s, and she sent it to us. I was able to have dinner with Louanne and Randy. Hit up the beach. Go on walks with a few of my friends and catch up. I was able to see the Queen Mary. The day I left, I was able to grab a quick coffee with Mary. It was nice to catch up with her.

 

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In March, I did the St. Patrick’s Day Dash. I normally try to get a picture of myself at the start and finish of my races, but alas no pictures. I actually got a pretty good time. Around 50 minutes walking. I was a rule breaker, and I ended up starting with an earlier wave. Everybody else was doing it. LOL!

 

I have not signed up for the Rock and Roll. I really hated the Seattle so much that I might take a break from the half marathons this year, which means I should probably do more 5Ks. I missed the Mardi Gras 5K, which I think was in February. I meant to sign up but what had happened was. Then I missed the Brunch run that happened earlier this month. I actually like that one quite a bit. Such delicious food! So, I need to figure out Plan B.

PCC Scroll: Editor’s Corner

Around 14 years ago, a friend gave me an African violet for my birthday. I kept her at work, and we named her Violet. Fast forward some years, and Violet was dying. She had stopped producing flowers, and her leaves were turning brown. I was ready to let her give up the ghost because I thought it was the end. Truthfully, she had lasted longer than I thought she would because I do not have a green thumb. Another friend looked at her, and he offered to take her home with him. Months later, he brought Violet back to me, and she was alive and thriving. As a matter of fact, at the time I am writing this article, she is in bloom.

 

I was amazed, and I asked him what he did. If you are a gardener, you can probably guess what he did. He replanted her with new soil. He chose soil that contained extra nutrients. He pruned away the dead leaves. He placed her in direct sunlight, and he watered her as needed (I had been over-watering her). He brought her back from the brink of death by creating an environment for her to thrive in, and he gave me clear instructions on how to care for her in the future. As a person without a green thumb, it never occurred to me to change her environment (the soil). I had been doing everything else (but watering too much).

 

The story of Violet reminds me of the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree that is found in Luke 13:6-9. Like me, the owner of the vineyard was ready to cut the fig tree because it had not produced fruit for three years. But the vinedresser (gardener), who was skilled at caring for plants, offered to give the tree extra care. The gardener was going to do all he could do to make the barren fig tree thrive and bear fruit.

 

In the parable, the owner represents God and the gardener represents Jesus. The number three is significant. In the Old Testament (Leviticus), there is a scripture that forbade eating fruit from a tree during its first three years. In the fourth year, the fruit would have been given as an offering to God. It was not until the fifth year that the fruit could be eaten.

 

This brings me to a conundrum in life. How do you know if something is dead versus something that just needs a little bit of extra care to bear fruit or something that needs to be offered up to God for another season?

 

In this season of my journey, my goal is to position areas of my life (from relationships to job to goals) in such a manner that they are in the best environment to thrive. This may mean giving extra care. To follow the violet analogy, it would be watering and fertilizing. In life, it would be giving my time and energy. If after extra care and attention, there is still no fruit, then it would be a clear sign that something is dead, and it is time to remove the dead thing from my life.

 

My focus will be to cultivate all that is alive and thriving. Life is precious, and it is time to focus on cultivating relationships and endeavors that will bear fruit. If things are dead, they need to be removed. I invite you to join me in removing the dead things.

 

PCC Scroll: Word of the Quarter

Here is the Word of the Quarter.

In this issue of the Scroll, we are continuing with the overarching theme of “Preparing for the Harvest: Positioning Ourselves to Grow.” The overarching theme began in the fall issue with the theme of “Preparing the Soil” and continued in the winter issue with a theme of “Positioning to Thrive.” In this issue, we continue the overarching focus with a theme of “Removing the Dead Things.”

 

As we enter into spring, we are reminded of the beauty of nature. Trees are budding and producing beautiful flowers. Flowers are in bloom. Animals are coming out of their winter resting places. We are awakened by the sound of birds chirping in the morning. New life is blossoming and growing before our eyes, and it is beautiful.

 

In order for new life (leaves) to spring forth from trees, the tree sheds itself of dead leaves in the fall. It is ironic that the beautiful and colorful leaves of the fall were a symbol that the leaves were dying. In the forest, the dead leaves fell to the forest floor around the tree. They decomposed and added nutrients to the soil. The tree did not try to hold on to the beautiful fall leaves that needed to be shed. The tree knew that after a period of rest, new life would come. The shedding of the dead leaves positioned the tree to thrive in the spring.

 

There are times when a tree is pruned. This pruning often cuts the branches so far back, and we may think that the tree was pruned too deep. But, as the tree grows back, it grows back healthier than it was before. Sometimes letting go is more than the shedding of leaves. Sometimes letting go is a deep pruning that strips to the core.

 

Through nature, we see a natural evolution. There is a time of birth, growth, shedding and rest. Our lives follow the same pattern as nature, and it is crucial that we embrace the process.

 

We are not sure what those dead things in your life are. They could be dead relationships, old hurts, past regrets, unhealthy habits/routines, insecurity or draining emotions. Getting rid of dead things gives you freedom and removes a burden you are carrying. Think of yourself as a prisoner and letting go as chains falling off.

 

The dead things in our lives can become comfortable or just accepted as part of who we are, but we invite you to let go so you can live life more abundantly. You can’t move forward if you are still holding on to dead things.

 

In the future, let the fall be a reminder to look at your life and remove things that are dead. As mentioned in the “Editor’s Corner,” there is a process to knowing what is dead and what needs care and attention.

 

But if you know something is dead, let it go. It opens you up for the new things God wants to do in you. He wants to cut away all in your life that is keeping you from fulfilling your call.

 

In closing, let us remember Philippians 3:13. It reads, “…forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”

 

PCC Scroll Men of the Bible: Achan

I wrote about Achan for Men of the Bible.

Name: Achan

Meaning: Trouble or Troubled

His Character: Achan was a man who was driven to obtain more and more.

His Sorrow: Achan’s greed caused God’s wrath to be kindled against the children of Israel.

His Triumph: Although he knew there were consequences to his actions, Achan was able to confess the sin he committed against God.

Key Scriptures: Joshua 6:17-8:2

God gave Joshua very specific instructions as to how Jericho was to be conquered. God was also very specific on what was to be done with the “spoils” of the city. God’s orders were to stay away from the devoted things so that they would not bring about destruction. Silver and gold and articles of bronze and iron were to go into the treasury.

 

Achan, who was listed as Achar in 1 Chronicles 2:7, was a rich man of the tribe of Judah who was among the children of Israel during the seize of Jericho. He had more than enough. Despite the riches he already had, he sought to increase his wealth by taking material possessions, which were spoils from Jericho, that were set to be devoted to God.

 

After the battle of Jericho, Joshua sent men to Ai. This should have been an easy victory for Israel, but the Israelites were defeated at Ai. This defeat caused fear in the hearts of the people because the Israelites feared this defeat would bring their enemies against them. Joshua and the elders sought God.

 

God was swift with His answer. God would not be with the Israelites until they destroyed who among them had stolen and lied. In the scripture, it is clear than the sin of one person was viewed as a trespass from all of the children of Israel. Achan’s disobedience brought the wrath of God to all of Israel.

 

When Achan was discovered, he confessed his sin against God. He admitted that he coveted what he saw. He had taken a Babylonian robe, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold that weighed fifty shekels from Jericho. He had taken them and had hid them in the ground beneath his tent. Achan, the items he had stolen, his family and possessions (from his cattle, donkeys, sheep and tent) were taken to the Valley of Achor. Achan was stoned to death, but it did not end there. His family and livestock were also stoned, and their remains were burned. Achan was buried in the valley and a large pile of rocks were heaped above his remains.

 

After his death, the Israelites were victorious in their second battle at Ai.

 

Achan’s life is a cautionary tale of what happens when we are consumed with greed. He had more than enough, but he wanted more even when knowing what he wanted was taboo. Although in Achan’s case what was desired was silver and goal, the moral of the story can relate to anything that we desire and crave that is not for us. God will not withhold any good things from us. If there is a possession you desire that has been withheld from you, there is a reason.

 

The sin in Achan’s life did not just impact him. It impacted everyone in the camp. Because of the sin of one, the lives of those in the entire camp was impacted. What I do in my life impacts the body just as what you do in your life impacts the body. But we are all able to be restored back into fellowship because of God’s mercy and grace.

 

 

PCC Scroll Women of the Bible: Lot’s Wife

I wrote about Lot’s Wife for this issue of the PCC Scroll.

Name: Known as Lot’s wife

Her Character: Lot’s wife is believed to have been a woman who enjoyed the luxuries and pleasures having a rich husband afforded her.

Her Sorrow: Lot’s wife did not want to leave her home. When she looked back, she was turned into a pillar of salt.

Her Triumph: She was among the few God attempted to save in Sodom.

Key Scriptures: Genesis 19:26; Luke 17:32

Sharing the story of Lot’s wife seemed fitting with this issue’s theme of “Letting Go of Dead Things.” The instinct and impulse to hold on to things is human, but we see from her story the negative impact holding on to things that are dead, especially things that God has marked as dead.

 

The story picks up after Lot separated from his extended family and settled his immediate family in Sodom, where Lot became a city official. The family was wealthy, so Lot’s wife had a luxurious and happy life. According to scripture, Lot was visited by two angels who warned him to flee the city or be destroyed. When Lot and part of his family (wife and two unmarried daughters) reluctantly (the angels had to lead them out) left the town, they were told to not look back. Lot’s wife, however, looked back and became a pillar or salt. She was not ready to let go of her old life.

 

The story of Lot’s wife is often told as a cautionary tale on the dangers of looking back (and not letting go). In Luke 17:32, Lot’s wife is mentioned by Christ. Christ told His disciples to, “Remember Lot’s wife.” Prior to these words, He had been speaking of Sodom and how they (the inhabitants) ate, drank, bought, sold and planted, but fire and brimstone rained upon the city destroying all.

 

We do not know much about Lot’s wife. We do not know her name. We do not know where she came from. We do not know her family, her age or much about her character. We can get a glimpse of her nature through her story in the Bible. Her story is one of the most well-known and taught stories. Quite simply, she is known as the woman who looked back (or the woman who could not let go).

 

Do we know why Lot’s wife held on to her old life? Did she look back remembering the luxuries and gaiety of her life there? Did she look back thinking about her two married daughters (who stayed with their husbands) still in the city? Did she look back because it was home? We simply don’t know. From her action, we know that she was holding on to her past.

 

I can easily understand Lot’s wife’s impulse to look back and hold on. Even though she was living in a city of sin, it was what she knew. It is natural to want to cling to the familiar rather than face an unknown future. It’s easy to look back on the past and dead relationships, habits, etc. and remember luxury, glamour and good times, but I often forget the painful aspects of it. Luckily for me, when I do look back or try to hold on, I am not turned into a pillar of salt.

 

Truly, whatever is before us is greater than anything we left behind when we started this journey. We cannot have new life if we hold on to dead things. As we enter the spring months, I challenge you to let go of anything God is pressing you to let go of. Do not be a woman who holds on to dead things. Be a woman who looks toward where God is taking her.