That time you were reminded
to walk your life in faith and joy

I was awakened this morning by best alarm clock, my dog, Desi. When he’s ready to go, his whine sounds almost human. We bundled up and headed out into the snow, and today, he decided he wanted to trot. So we trotted. I was moving with my head down, my eyes on the ground and suddenly, my face and shoulders were filled with snow. I had walked right into a low hanging branch. It was a skinny one that did no harm, and suddenly, I found myself laughing out loud. Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 8.53.10 AMI was a child again, and I’d just been hit by a very loose snowball. I was overwhelmed with memories of growing up in North Carolina . . . the foot races, the snowball fights, the snow cream my grandmother used to make with a little vanilla extract and milk. I was still laughing when we arrived home. We opened the door to Joel Osteen on the  television. He was giving advice to his congregation, which is the size of the crowd at a basketball game or a prize fight. But suddenly, I realized he was talking to me, reminding me that I should not always ask God for things, but that I should thank Him for the things He already did. I should thank him for the joy. Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 9.06.38 AM “If you remember the victories,” Osteen said, “the times God healed you, the times He promoted you, the times He stopped the accident, the times He turned the problem around – when you’re remembering the right things, you’re going to move forward in faith. You’ll see more of God’s favor.”

I stopped for a moment and thought about the times when I was so low that I couldn’t think about anything but that lowness, the burden of it like a weight on my back.

I wish I had heard Osteen in those low days. But then I realized that I didn’t need Osteen to remind me, although he’s a great reminder. I needed to remember for myself. If used a dual scale with problems and challenges on one side and victories and grace and, quite frankly, the times that God saved me, on the other – that scale would tip over because the good so outweighs the bad.

“You don’t have to look for a miracle. You ARE a miracle,” Osteen said.

Suddenly, I smiled. It was a big ol’ smile that no one but Desi could see. I looked around at the house. I thought about the car in the garage. I thought about the job that, most days, I really, really love.

I thought about the young man I wrote about today in my column, and the people just a few years older than he who call me their mentor, who call me for advice, who value my judgment.

I thought about my grandparents, both gone, who put so much spirit and character and resilience in me.

Osteen was closing his sermon and said “Keep God first. He’s going to take you places that you never dreamed.”

He already did.

Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 8.55.45 AMI thought about the trips I’ve taken to Argentina and Australia and Canada and England and France and Holland and Italy and Kenya and Mexico and Myanmar and New Zealand and Senegal and Thailand and most of the Caribbean Islands…


If I really don’t dwell on the challenges and problems and focus, instead, on the victories and joy, I am relieved of any mental pain, and my spirit is filled with amazement. Relive the miracles, Osteen suggested, rather than dwell on the dark moments,

Dang. Why didn’t I think of that? I guess it’s because sometimes, when it’s dark, you forget to turn on a light.

I’m turning on the light, and I’m going to try to keep it on all the time. I will learn to rise each day with a focus on the victories and the accomplishments. that time God did this, or that time God did that. Those times far outweigh the pain. I can live with the thing that most worries me not filling my day. Focusing on the good can make me stronger and better able to handle the challenge. “Go look at yourself in the mirror,” Osteen said. “You’re a trophy of God’s goodness … don’t lose the awe at what God has done.” Osteen provided a reminder  that I should walk, not just in faith but also in joy, at the good things that are too numerous to list.

Thanks, God. I needed that.

ROCHELLE RILEY is a writer whose essays here are about her personal thoughts and adventures. No reprints without permission. You can read her columns at and follow her on Twitter @rochelleriley.


Still reeling. . .

I have been back for seven weeks, and I can still feel Africa on my skin and in my hair and up and down my arms.

I spent nine days in Dakar, Senegal. After taking my first steps – and then thousands more – on African soil, I am still moved by the experiences I had and the people I met. Dakar, an international city of one million residents, has an unemployment rate that remains between 30 percent and 40 percent. Its marketplaces teem with residents trying to sell wares, mostly to tourists. It is a dry collection of cement structures (It is the cement capital of western Africa). I don’t think I remember seeing grass outside the hotel grounds.

It is a city in a country that is seeking change, like many African nations moving away from colonialism and toward independence. Senegal’s president advocates a plan for a United States of Africa, if he can get countries to become states and the West to embrace an effort that includes Mohammar Khaddifi, who spoke at a festival-related forum at the base of the African Renaissance Statue.

It was my first trip ever to the African continent, (My goal is to visit every continent before I die; I have three to go (if you follow the model taught in most English-speaking countries and China, that there are seven continents: North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia Australia and Antarctica). Latin American children are taught that there are six continents (There is only one American continent.), and the Olympic ring depicts five continents (Antarctica doesn’t count)

How many planets are there again?

I was invited on this journey to attend the second World Festival of Black Arts and Culture, an exuberant and expansive celebration of music, painting, sculpture, photography and fashion.

We even ran into the president, almost literally, when his limo just stopped outside a gallery we were visiting, and he just got out and walked around. Can’t imagine that ever happening with President Obama.

But I went in search of ghosts, of the missing history in my life, of the gaps in my past. I saw Wyclef John and hundreds of dancers and local artists perform. But history was always in the back of my mind.

In the end, I didn’t find ghosts. I found life – and people who were exciting and funny and talented and inspiring. And I found friends.

Now after my first trip, I plan many more. To read more about this one, please visit