Time for Self-Examination: Are You Camera-Ready?

Self-examination: Are you camera ready?Yesterday, during a women’s ministry event, we participants were instructed to gather into groups based upon our birth months, and then, determine some things we had in common. The leadership team also encouraged us to take group selfies and share them on social media. Most of us went a step beyond and began taking selfies with smaller subsets of women in our groups. We really embraced the idea of getting to know each other.

What a great ice breaker…except I experienced a hitch as I gathered two other women to snap a selfie. I kept repositioning my smart phone but couldn’t fit myself into the picture. Actually, after a couple of seconds, I realized none of us were in the picture. The background I captured was strange, to boot. Obviously, I take selfies so infrequently that I hadn’t remembered to switch to the “selfie camera” mode. The women in my group chuckled and gave me a hard time. It was all in love and fun.

Like me, have you gotten candid photos of unsuspecting bystanders instead of taking the selfie you really intended? Many of us have. Sometimes, we even act like a camera facing in the wrong direction; instead of examining ourselves, we zoom in on others’ faults. Before long, we concoct strange or distorted pictures of those in our midst.

For example, some women berate their friends’ parenting styles, but refuse to acknowledge and correct their own children’s faults. Others complain about a spouse’s obsession with technology—all the while they use their own electronic devices at bedtime, while eating family meals, and even during a night out at the movies. Still, a few ladies complain about how no one listens to them; however, they don’t consider how often they unapologetically interrupt others. When things like this happen, we might as well smile and say, “Cheese,” because it’s time to turn our “cameras” on selfie mode. We need some serious introspection!

If you were to take a snapshot of your life right now, what area might require improvements? What area is “camera-ready?” How does Matthew 7:3 speak to you personally?

Real Love, No Masks

When parents take a mid-day snooze, their kids get involved in all sorts of mischief. My sisters and I sure did. When we were little, we’d section off our dad’s small afro and begin plaiting it while he slept. Of course our work wasn’t done until we put barrettes on each section. Dad would wake up and get quite the surprise. Besides, who needed a Barbie Deluxe Styling Head when Dad’s was available? Plus, his expression afterward was priceless. Too bad there were no camera phones back then to capture it all.

So, yesterday, when my husband (Thabo) agreed to let our youngest daughter and me slather a facial mask on him, we had to capture the moment. Thabo was a good sport and allowed us to publicize his picture. Within minutes our daughter posted an image of the three of us on Snapchat with blue, masked faces. Almost immediately, one of my daughter’s acquaintances replied, “This reminded me that love is real.”

Because three of us Bopapes decided to be vulnerable by showing a less than perfect image of ourselves, someone else was blessed. My heart melted when my daughter told us that the teen who responded had suddenly lost her father about six months ago.

Consider what might happen if you allowed others to see a few of your “ugly” moments along with the good. When our family did, we potentially uplifted a bereaved teenage girl’s spirit. How about you? Are you being transparent when you feel the Spirit leading you to do so? Or, does your Facebook page read like a fairytale? Have you doctored your Instagram photos?  Do your tweets reveal a life of perfection? Remember, Christians aren’t flawless, we’re simply equipped to make victorious comebacks. So, this week, let’s try to drop some of the masks we wear and show others real love that has survived rough patches, illnesses, and hardships because “love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:8, NKJV).

What’s something unique, fun, or heartwarming about the love you and a family member share?

An Alarming New Year!

An Alarming New Year 2018When our security system began beeping a few mornings ago, I sprang from my bed. Someone had either entered or exited our home around 7:30 a.m. In a few seconds, the alarm would be blaring if I didn’t act fast. I figured our high school sophomore had simply forgotten to disarm the system before leaving to catch her school bus. (Obviously, I’d overslept, because I’m typically awake to see the kids off to school and speak a short blessing over them.) Nonetheless, I disarmed the alarm and went to my daughter’s room to ensure her bed was empty; surely, she was the one who triggered all of this. Surprisingly, she was nestled under the covers. Uh oh, what an awful way to begin a morning!

Soon after, I heard my son—the freshman college student—stirring in his room. I quickly remembered he had been out all night at a friend’s church for a teen lock-in. He was the one who entered our home that mornining. Whew!

My mind didn’t stay at ease for long, though. I realized my high schooler was about to be late for her first period class. “Get up!” I said excitedly. “You missed your bus!” I was frantic and confused.

My daughter woke up in a daze. She peeled her torso off of the mattress and gazed around the room in bewilderment. “Wait,” she murmured and frowned, sweeping her tousled hair away from her face. “It’s Saturday.”

Immediately, I paused and took a deep breath. She was right. I apologized, and eventually, we chuckled. She went back to sleep. I retreated to my room to mull over what had happened.

Perhaps you can relate. You might not have mistakenly rushed into a sleepy teenager’s room on a Saturday morning and burst into an accusatory rant. But, maybe you’ve entered into a new year with some of the confusion and ill-formed assumptions you had in 2017. Like me on that crazy Saturday morning, have you gotten out of the bed ready to fuss, complain, or point your finger? If so, know that you’re not alone.

However, let’s do something more productive instead. Forget what’s behind and look forward to the future—a new year, a new day, and another chance to get things right. When you mull over your situation and review the facts like me, maybe you’ll even chuckle. Besides, complaining does nothing but bring us down—it never resolves the problem. So, this week, when you hear unexpected news, become confused, or feel alarmed, look to God for security and peace. We can all be thankful He gives us new beginnings.

What have you chosen to be content about in 2018, despite what it may have looked like in 2017?

The Sunday Wobble: A Lesson on Detours

Broken ShoeA few Sundays ago, I sat down in my car, cranked it up, and put it into gear. I expected all systems to work. They did. Likewise, when I got to my destination, I expected to get out of my car with just as much ease. Sadly, I didn’t. Exiting my car with 3-inch heels, I expected to sashay across the parking lot into the sanctuary. But, here’s what really happened: I swiveled my leg outside of my cherry red Chrysler 300 only to have my foot wobble as it rested on the ground. I tried to put weight on it, but the shakiness only got worse.

I was curious. My foot was fine. However, my designer shoes were not. (See the picture above.) Surely, I couldn’t sashay anywhere with the heel separating from the rest of my shoe. Still, I briefly considered hobbling across the parking lot. After all, I didn’t want to miss the Sunday service.  But, I didn’t want a broken ankle, either. Eventually, I decided to drive back home and check my closet for another pair of shoes to match my outfit. Thank God I had options!

After resolving my wardrobe malfunction, I realized I would be incredibly late if I tried to return to my church. The entire sermon would be over. What a bummer! The good news: I’d be right on time to worship with my college-age daughter. The church she attended that day had a noonday service. A broken shoe couldn’t steal my joy, shake my patience, or keep me from attending a worship service. It simply led me on a detour to hear a sermon I wouldn’t have otherwise heard—and a good one at that!

Similarly, we all have experienced scenarios that have caught us by surprise, tested us, or racked our nerves. For you, perhaps it was a shocking family announcement. Maybe a doctor gave you an unfavorable report. Perhaps your job interview was followed by yet another rejection letter. Like me, was your mishap a simple wardrobe malfunction? Whatever the circumstance, though, we can trust God. The route He chooses may be different than what we expect. But, be encouraged; His way is best. With that in mind, life’s detours are easier to accept—even when our feet wobble and our plans get changed.

I’m always eager to see how God is going to work everything out … in His timing, according to His perfect plan, and for His glory. Despite what things look like right now, what are you trusting God to do? What Scriptures give you hope in the meantime?

Finish Well

Finish WellDuring my walk on the Noonday Creek Trail today, a boy about five years old rode his bicycle while his dad jogged alongside him. But, I noticed the duo stopped at the top of a small hill. That’s when the dad began coaching his son; surely he didn’t want the child to crash into the nearby rock pile, bump into the side rail, or collide with oncoming pedestrians.

In passing, I heard fragments of the father’s hilltop lecture. I imagined the entire talk went something like this: “Take it slow, and remember to use your brakes if you need to, Son. If you follow my instructions, you’re going to soar to the end. It may seem scary, but don’t worry. I’ll be right beside you. Just enjoy the ride.” Then, with his father’s gentle nudge, the boy headed downhill. Because he listened and obeyed, the boy not only started well, but he finished well, too.

Like the elementary school boy I encountered on the trail today, maybe you’re sitting “at the top.” Perhaps you just met your weight goal. You may have just paid off a large debt or purchased your dream home. Maybe a relationship took off to an exciting new level or your family has recently been restored. Regardless, life is good. You’re confident and feel unstoppable. You’re eager to find out what’s next.

So, what’s a woman to do? For starters, we certainly can avoid taking matters into your own hands. Running ahead of our heavenly Father’s instruction could be devastating. Listening to and obeying His instruction is crucial if we want to soar to the end with little (or no) detours. Only God knows what’s next. It could be a valley, plateau, a new hill to climb, or even a cliff. Are you ready? When we travel with the Lord, we’re equipped for anything. Even a downhill ride with Him is amazing. Just remember, whatever we encounter in 2017, our ultimate goal is to finish well. Enjoy the ride. Blessings, peace, and prosperity to you this year and beyond.

Don’t Put Off for Tomorrow…

Last week (December 30, 2016 to be exact) my husband and I celebrated the day we both said, “I do.” Because of God’s grace and mercy (and some compromises and hard work on our behalf), I can safely say we’re in this thing for the long haul–16 years and counting.

However, we didn’t actually celebrate our most recent wedding anniversary. Instead, weGeorgia Snow January 2017 spent the day traveling back home from our annual Christmas trek to see extended family a few states away. Consequently, my husband and I postponed our celebratory plans. Although we had high hopes for a make-up date this weekend, Georgia’s freezing temperatures and icy roads have unfortunately kept us indoors. Our plans to commemorate our nuptials are temporarily foiled. We’ll try again next weekend.

Like my belated anniversary celebration you may have postponed something in 2016, too. Perhaps it was a book you neglected to write, a career opportunity you didn’t follow up on, or an “I love you” that you never verbalized. Regardless, 2017 is your chance to make things right. Find out what’s hindering your progress and then take action. In other words, what will you say “I do” to in 2017? After all, we believers can do anything in Christ who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13).


In my Twitter poll, I ask folks to share why they procrastinate. Consider participating in the poll (if you have a Twitter account), and then, see how your answer compares with others’ responses.  Act fast though, the poll will close in six days.

Roadblocks: Getting on the Right Path

Roadblock: Fallen TreeMost days, I go for therapeutic walks; however, Georgia’s “winter” weather introduced challenges to my morning regimen a few weeks ago. In Cobb County where I reside, residents experienced unseasonably high temperatures, rain, a tornado, and then, an extreme drop in temperature the very next day. What a surprise!

The debris I saw during my trek was evidence that strong winds had ripped through the area. But, my morning journey halted as I approached a tree that had toppled over and blocked my path.  It was too large for me to consider moving—that was a task for the county cleanup crew. I didn’t want to go around it because the ditches on both sides of the path were slick with mud. I even considered cutting my walk short and turning back around. Eventually, though, I decided to step through the branches and maneuver my way to the other side. (I’m glad I wore my thick sweat pants that day. Otherwise, I’d have the scrapes on my legs to prove it.)

Our lives can sometimes feel messy like the trail I encountered. Sometimes, it’s a sudden illness that turns our life upside down. At other times, a disagreement with a friend or family member dampens our spirit. Perhaps hierarchical changes, downsizing, or plummeting sales threaten our careers and leave us concerned about the future.

Whether our hindrance is a literal obstacle like the fallen tree I encountered or something intangible, our options are similar. We can wait for someone to resolve our problem (or try to fix it ourselves). We can maneuver around it. Or, we could do an about-face and declare the issue too big to tackle. Like me, though, some of us have navigated through our rough patches and have emerged unscathed.

Still, you may wonder what’s right for your unique situation. For starters, with a thankful heart, you can present your requests to God (Phil. 4:6) and trust Him to reveal your next steps. When He does, will you be willing to follow His lead? Know that if God allows you to encounter a “roadblock,” He can also equip you to come through it—sometimes without the tiniest scratch. So, get your big girl sweat pants on, and be prepared to step confidently wherever the Spirit leads.

An Unfamiliar but Safe Place

safe-spotWe often share our home address with great caution. After all, addresses help us to locate friends, relatives, and enemies. Consequently, this week, I was surprised when nearly 10 pieces of mail from three different locales were mistakenly delivered to my home—all on the same day. Although some of the pieces were junk; others (bank statements, bills, etc.) were part of the mix-up. So, I scribbled a note on the envelopes for the mail carrier and assumed he’d deliver them to the right location.

Like those lost pieces of mail, sometimes we end up in strange spots. Over 20 years ago, while sizing up an unfamiliar place, I hoped my stay would be brief. According to some stereotypes, I didn’t belong there anyway. Many folks wondered why a woman with a good-paying career, security clearance, car, and nice apartment on another side of town would give this residence a second glance.

But, I did. After months of spousal abuse and overstaying my welcome at friends’ homes, I temporarily relocated to my new digs: a domestic violence shelter. I realized it was the safest place for me at that moment. And, much like the contents of a stuffed mailbox, pieces of my life needed sorting; I had to separate the important stuff from the junk.

Ladies, no one aspires to be abandoned, rejected, abused, or neglected. Still, these awful things happen to people—sometimes through no fault of their own. If you live at an address where the real “you” can’t emerge because you’re constantly living in fear or are distressed (physically, emotionally, sexually, etc.), perhaps a relocation is in order. But, planning is key. (See my October 27 post, In a Dark Place, for links and information on safety plans.)

In the meantime, know that God can deliver you and set you in a new location—one that’s safe and where your mind can be quieted long enough to hear His voice. While there, with a grateful heart, pray for direction, heed the Lord’s response, and trust that He has everything under His control. Soon, you’ll realize God’s “delivery” system is better than any postmaster’s.

As Good As New

Good As NewI knew I should’ve been grateful. Still, I complained about my Toshiba touch screen laptop. Although less than a year old, it seemed much too slow. My applications didn’t work according to their design. And, I grew weary of the daily pop-ups suggesting I accept the free upgrade to Windows 10. I decided to make the switch to the new operating system—as soon as I wrapped up a writing contract due just weeks later.

But after the upgrade, my laptop stopped functioning altogether. (Ok, occasionally, it would boot up after 20 or more minutes, but its capabilities were severely limited.) Microsoft’s phone support couldn’t provide an immediate solution. Consequently, the customer service rep suggested I take my laptop to a Microsoft store to be inspected. The nearest one was more than 20 miles away. Ugh!

With that, I complained some more—to the person on the other end of the phone, to the folks in my household, and to anyone else who’d listen. I wanted to trash my laptop and start over with a new one. The past several months had been a nightmare. After all, a writer needs her laptop, right?

After visiting the Microsoft store, I was glad I’d backed up my data because the prognosis was grim. The technician needed to wipe my laptop clean and reload the operating system. My equipment would stay in Microsoft’s capable hands for a couple of days. I signed a few papers and said, “Good riddance,” to the computer.

To my surprise, when I went to pick up my equipment, it worked better than it did 10 months prior when I first brought it home. It was equipped with Windows 10, ran more quickly, and had a few new features that I grew to love. Plus, as I reloaded my data, I got to reorganize everything for optimal accessibility. All was well.

The folks at Microsoft were a joy, to boot. Of course, their services were free of charge. I couldn’t get enough of these folks. The next day, I even drove the 20+ miles again to attend a free workshop they co-hosted with another company.

Folks, sometimes we simply feel like complaining. We dislike the way things are headed in our lives. We want new homes and cars or perhaps better wardrobes. Maybe we’re new parents and just want a little extra sleep. Some folks even consider ditching a marriage or some other relationship that’s hit a hard patch. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the “stuff” that’s ballooned alongside the 2016 U.S. presidential election—the complaints, taunts, and divisions—oh my! 

My advice: Hold on and know that God is the One who will one day “make all things new” (Rev. 21:5, KJV). In the meantime, He can revive marriages, renew our love for an estranged sibling, and help us to appreciate the things we already have. He can bring judgment upon a nation and expose sin. He unites people for His purposes, and He can also change hearts. Whatever He’s up to—whether it’s something as simple as working out an issue with a laptop or handling a nation’s crises—I trust Him.  Will you?

Divine Interruptions

Divine InterruptionsI was supposed to be preparing dinner; after all, we needed to get to Bible study in 90 minutes. But, I got distracted. Ahem…Facebook was to blame, in part. There, in my news feed, was a much-desired report:  A child on my prayer list had experienced a breakthrough in his health. Then, a startling post surfaced; an acquaintance of mine announced her husband had died several hours prior. 

While still pondering my online discoveries, I was interrupted by loud knocks.  (Why some people avoid using the doorbell baffles me. Whew!)  Before long, my husband and I found ourselves sharing God’s Word with the misguided evangelist on the other side of our front door. Though the woman attempted to share her faith with us, we imparted truth to her, instead.

Things began to settle in the Bopape household. I sighed and used the remaining minutes to pull together a home-cooked meal. I realized that although my distractions seemed to inconvenience me, they had also incited me to praise the Lord for a young boy’s improved health, pray for others’ comfort, and share God’s Word with a stranger.  Plus, my family ate a balanced meal and made it to Bible study right on time. God worked it all out.

During busy times, it’s easy to allow our schedules to dictate how we respond to others. Perhaps we make empty promises and say, “I’ll be praying for you.” All the while, we continue to chase the next item on our to-do list.  And, when a young child approaches us with her “major” concern—a broken toy, a paper cut, or a request for feedback on a book report—do we offer a pat answer because we have “more serious” issues?

Simply put, our schedules have fallen prey to rigidity. Will we make an attempt to be more cognizant of others’ needs and exhibit more compassion—even in our busyness? When we do, we might notice that some of our distractions are divinely orchestrated. Who knows, the right interruptions could leave you praising, praying, or sharing God with others…just like me. As the Spirit leads, let’s be on the lookout for opportunities to better handle our distractions this week, and then, trust God to work everything out.