Sunday, December 17, 2017

Deliberate Gratitude

I love to write. It’s my passion, my purpose and my calling. I’m sure of it. However, when we hold our gifts to the world and ask permission to be heard or seen, we often find ourselves in stiff competition with others who have the same purpose, which can and sometimes will, drain our creative energy and leave us feeling like a number. Then we draw back in fear of failure. Comparison is our enemy. Pushing past it takes effort.

The question for me was: How do I share my work in a way that is attainable for me right now? I'm a working mom who simply wants to live out her passion, but cannot abandon her career to do so. What resources do I have?

Writing a mini ebook was the answer to those questions and I am grateful. The idea that I could sit down and just let the creativity flow and write under my personal theme made me happy.  The theme that I write under is freedom, and I believe that this was given to me as a gift. 

At this stage in my life, I must live free. Free of the constraints that could silence my writing voice and keep me hidden for the rest of my life. I could always find a reason why I couldn't go further to pursue my passion, but today, like the man at the pool of Bethesda, I will take up my bed and walk into my purpose. (John 5:1-9)

Writing this mini book is the first step in a continued journey of becoming an author in my own way. Things don’t always happen the way we think they will, but if we’re willing to be flexible and creative, something amazing will happen.

About the book: Some would say, judging by its length, that it is a quick read. I would not. I would say that what it lacks in quantity, it more than makes up for in dense quality. It is one of the richest, most earnest and heartfelt pieces that I have ever written. It’s meant to be meditative and healing, to be visited over and over again at any phase of life. Read it when you’re lonely. Read it when you’re grateful. Read it when you are believing for the best. Read it when you’ve found out the worst. Read it when you’re seeking. Whenever you do read it, I hope that it speaks to you deeply and peacefully. I feel a divine connection to every word, and I pray that you do to.

Who is this book for? This book is for anyone who has ever felt locked in or out of religion, when all you want is an honest encounter with God.

Thank you to Ja’el Andrea Knott for pushing the momma bird out of her nest…

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Continuous Demotion of Black Women

There are some writing assignments that move me into action out of a sense of duty and responsibility as a citizen of this world. I often consider my creative voice to be mission driven and a necessary tool for processing life’s challenges.  But then there are some topics that, just in contemplation, leave me feeling naked to the world and extremely heartbroken.

This is one of those topics…

I hate more than anything else right now, that after all of these years and so many blogs, essays, poems and even one woman shows, I am at the place where I can no longer avoid writing about the continuous demotion of the black woman. I loathe that this is the blog that needs to be written more than any other piece that I’ve embarked on so far. In fact, when I woke up this morning and realized that this raw truth was welling up inside of me, preparing my mind to put pen to paper, I cried and truthfully as my fingers press these keys now, tears are still falling.

These tears are for every black woman that has ever arrived at the numbing conclusion that your best, in the eyes of many, will never, ever, ever, be good enough. These tears are for my beautiful, classy, shy, intelligent, witty daughter, who on the cusp of turning 21, knows this all too well. She, like so many other young black women who constantly find themselves in predominately white settings, will experience more microaggressions in one semester of school than we can imagine all year. May I just add that her sense of awareness, quiet resolve and resilient energy, is what makes her emerging beauty so powerful to me as her mother, and I often glean from it. Staying in tune, informed, and in love with who you are and how you were made  is how one survives the ugly truth of constant doubt, suspicion, and demotion.

I’ve been deliberating on how to broach this subject for the past few hours, a subject that has been written about and discussed for decades now, without sounding like a wounded victim. You see, black women do not have the luxury of being victims, ever. In fact, if and when we do suffer at the hands of injustice, we quickly become suspect to being an accomplice to a crime that was committed against us. We are often blamed for injustices towards us, our children and our men. We are considered by many in society to be lazy, uninformed and disinterested in the lives of our children. In fact, once a black woman looks for outside assistance in any way, perhaps because of job loss, divorce, illness or simply needing help, she often falls under the interpretation of wanting a hand out and not being worth the investment. Because of our constant portrayal in movies or television of being angry, violent and unnurturing, we are not even allowed to be outraged when something is in fact an absolute outrage. We must remain calm and keep our demeanor at all times, because rest assured if this doesn’t happen, we are labeled, punished and dismissed as “the angry black woman.” Consider the careful demeanor of the mothers and wives of the slain black men and women who suffered at the hands of police violence.
Their pain is measured in suspicion. Sympathy or condolences are given in limited ration from the outside world and many do not acknowledge these grieving families at all.

I know all of this first hand, as do many of you who are reading my words. For every classroom, break room or, God forbid, courtroom that we enter, there is a pre-determined stigma waiting for us, to question our validity in society. Whenever I entered into a parent conference on behalf of one of my children, I had to come armed with my very best information about my child’s needs, personality, accomplishments and home life, in order to prove that I was in fact an informed and capable mother who cared deeply for her family. Whenever I interview for a position and want to be seriously considered, I have to pull out all of the stops, from my appearance to my command of the English language, there is no room for error.  Because of this, I have often been considered “very articulate”, which usually lands me high praise and a consideration for what would normally be handed over to my white counterparts. I must enter the room with poise, while doing my best Bruce Lee impersonation in my mind to fight off low expectations.

Again, none of this is news to a large majority of us. This, and much more, is the thing that makes us stronger, even when we feel as if we have gathered the strength of Samson and would rather be damsels.

And speaking of damsels, one of the most heartbreaking discoveries for this divorced woman is how grossly demoted we have been by black men in our society. Again, I hate that I have to talk about this publicly. It doesn’t do much for the ego, nor does it make us shine as a culture, but not discussing it is like ignoring a dancing elephant in the middle of a coffee shop during the morning rush. It’s an epidemic that at this point in my life potentially affects me. Disclaimer: I am not against interracial relationships. I truly believe in the power and force of love bringing two souls together to connect on an organic level, while pushing all obstacles aside. I do however, despise the concept of dating someone because of a racial fetish. It’s objectifying and belittling to only pursue someone out of curiosity about their skin tone. It diminishes the concept of seeing someone for who they really are and getting to know their personality, likes and human struggles. I can’t imagine deep abiding love being born from a fetish. Fetishes began on the plantation, and we all know that black people were only considered three fifths human beings during slavery, which means when a woman or man was taken by force for sexual purposes, they were not even looked upon as being worthy of a choice, but rather useful and exotic while being considered subhuman at the same time.

That being said, I have noticed first-hand the difference in the responses that black women get as opposed to white women from black men. While a white woman with a serious or intense look on her face may still be spoken to and encouraged to smile through recognition of a door being held open or a good morning being offered, a black woman with the same facial expression can easily be ignored or barked at for not smiling, because we are considered to be evil or angry at the world. Both women may be carrying the same concerns with them throughout the day but only one will be penalized for having the audacity to show it.
In my younger years, while walking in my own neighborhood, I was often assaulted with the words “damn baby, smile!” thrown at me on any given day. I always felt like apologizing for allowing my inward pain and angst to show to the world and not knowing how to mask whatever was plaguing me at the moment. I rarely, if ever heard, “how are you today?” or “are you okay?” I learned early that how I felt did not matter to the males in my community outside of my own mind.  I was constantly labeled as evil looking or angry.

Fast forward many years later, and I often feel as if I have to say hello first to my black brother whenever I encounter him in public. It’s as if to say: I’m safe, I’m not angry, I come in peace, in order not to be judged by him. Even still, it’s a short lived interaction that makes absolutely no impression on him from what I can see. Perhaps I’m jaded and I’ve learned to live on the defense. Or, perhaps I see correctly and this brother is loaded with his own impressions of me already. Perhaps it’s because he dated or married a black woman that turned out to be “angry” i.e. wounded by life’s experiences past the point of his patience and understanding. Perhaps, because he himself struggled immensely with a life or a childhood that was not that kind to him at all, he harbors self-doubt and confusion about his own worth. Sadly, perhaps he decided to buy into the notion that black women were too much work while white women were a kinder gentler and even easier alternative. I’m embarrassed to know that such mindsets exist within black men but they do and short of wearing signs that say “I’m not a stereotype, I’m just living out my life the best I can, bruises and all”, I don’t think there is anything we can do about the population of brothers  who have chosen to look away from black women all together. Perhaps, we remind them of a pain that they do not know how  to heal…

I am consciously trying to avoid sweeping generalizations on this subject because I am all too aware that in doing so it shuts the listener down and my very vital points will be muted out by the sound of “Not all ___” .However,when I speak about the experience of the black woman, those who can and will attest to what I am saying would also admit that our experiences make up a collective, dreadful norm and not an exception. Because of this, black women experience emotional fatigue in our daily lives that would otherwise be reserved for mid to high level crises for most other people.

As sad as it makes me to have to admit that we have lost the love, adoration, and support from a lot of our black men, one of the greatest tragedies that has come from being constantly minimized by society is how a great deal of black women minimize one another on a daily basis by refusing to speak to each other in passing, failing to support each other’s endeavors or lend a hand to one another when needed.  We have allowed the green eyes of jealousy to be our tour guide through our own communities when viewing one another. We have taken to allowing our hair length, quality of our manicures, value of our cars, houses, jobs and education status determine how we interact with each other. I think of this as class separation within the black community. Again, a mindset that was arranged for us during a time when blacks were property and not people.

I am amazed at how we judge one another even during a struggle.

I was recently reminded of how painful it can be to go through an all-time low in life and be told by one of my black sisters to basically “get over it.” Her comment went something like, we’ve all been there and we all made it out and you will too. I expected this “pep-talk” from everywhere else but it deeply hurt coming from another black woman, someone who I witnessed going through her own personal struggles, tears and all, for many years. I remember thinking about how hard a person would have to become to blast another hurting human being and what mindset lead up to her response to my situation. I concluded that in her mind she had arrived and nothing else needed to be said to me but  “you will too”.

The sad truth is that some of us black sisters are not accustomed to hugging one another, comforting one another or crying together for too long a period of time, if at all. Unfortunately, you cannot model what was never modeled to or for you. While resilience is an important quality to possess in this life, there are often many facets to overcoming tragedy, pain or affliction that we must process through in order to get on the other side. In Christian circles this is often overlooked or not understood. Some black women however, may not have the luxury of therapy, counseling or processing through pain for very long. We have too much to do with very little support, and cannot afford to sit or lay on a counselor's couch for weeks or months on end, if we are able to have the opportunity in the first place. Those who center their lives around the church may heavily rely on the counsel of a pastor or spiritual mentor who means well, but has no counseling experience whatsoever or even worse, a deeply flawed interpretation of scripture. Some sisters use scriptures to hurl at each other at top speed to shock one another out of depression or anxiety. We use the idea that one is lacking in faith or scriptural knowledge if they are sinking too low into a pit of despair. Church attendance, sin, and just a lack of salvation or spiritual maturity are continuous characterizations that the super spiritual use to thwart at vulnerable aching souls who simply need love and compassion. But again, how do you show what you do not know, especially when strength and resilience is often the most praised quality for a black woman?

Sisters, can we just “be” around each other? Can we relax and release our stress and concerns with one another without judgement? Do we have room for one another in our own hearts? If not, who does?

Excellence is exhausting

I often credit my father for much of how I carry myself through life because of the standards that he had for us at an early age. He was the father of six daughters, and as a black man who came from humble rural beginnings during the Jim Crow era to acclimate into a mostly white professional world, he wanted us to know how to present ourselves at all times. A neat appearance was huge with my parents. Our clothes, shoes and hair had to be at near perfection before setting foot outside our house, particularly if we were going somewhere special. Proper grammar was not optional, mainly because my parents knew all too well the assumption of being considered ignorant before having the chance to make a good impression. I was born in the sixties just at the turn of the civil rights movement, so you can imagine what my parents went through just to own a home and strive to further their education, let alone land a government job like my father eventually did. Excellence was a must for us and we all tried as hard as we could to live up to those standards on a daily basis, even when I was accused of acting white by my peers.  In our house, the test of being presentable in every way was pass or fail on a daily basis.

I do not fault my parents for my upbringing, nor am I resentful of my father for his harsh critics of my hair and clothes during my youth. I don’t fault him because I now realize the pressure that he felt to be excellent at all times. It wasn’t easy for me to live under constant scrutiny and I still have to give myself permission not to be ‘just so’ all the time. But I can honestly say as a mother that I understand him now more than ever.  I understand the feeling of walking into a room and taking on the responsibility of immediately breaking every stereotype known to man before even saying hello. Especially because I may have been the first or only black person ever invited into that room. I understand how it feels when I (at times) look into a white person’s face and see the look of utter surprise at the quality of my conversation and the depth of thought I put into every single word. I understand how it must have felt to know that you will never outlive racism and the overall idea that you are a minority in a majority world. My dad was concerned for us, much like I am concerned for my children. The amount of preparation that it takes to consciously raise a black child in America can be exhausting. Being a black woman with years of excellence demanded on me during my upbringing, while constantly feeling like I was falling short, has led to a chronic case of perfectionism in my adult life that I am still working through today. But such high stakes would have never been raised if we were ever seen as equals by our white counterparts.

The Dream
I would love the opportunity to try and fail and try again like everyone else, without harsh conclusions being drawn about my failures. I would like to be seen as an individual and not a demographic. I would love to be treated like a lady by men, seen as beautiful, and be perceived as a valuable partner, lover and friend just as much as my fairer skinned friends. I don’t always feel like being strong or sassy.  I mostly prefer the softer side of me whenever possible, but circumstances don’t allow me to relax enough to show that side, and I cannot afford to let go of the strength that I have obtained through years of struggle and hurt. It is a necessary tool of survival,  even for one who prays and deeply believes in God.

More than anything else in this world, I would love, even if it’s just for a season, to relax, laugh out loud, enjoy my life and allow my soul to be a free spirited, uninhibited black woman who desires to contribute to her family, friends, faith and country just like any other woman…

Friday, November 18, 2016

We the People Have the Gift of Resilience

I have told you these things so that you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble but take heart, I have overcome the world. John 16:33

In the past week since the results of one of the worst election periods in recent history, I have read articles and listened to reports of a surge in racial hate crimes and sexual assaults on women as well as LGBTQ bullying in alarming proportions. The loathsome mindset of white supremacy and misogyny has gone from hateful verbiage to outright physical attacks. All the while, I wonder if many of those who thought that they were voting their conscience are in fact conscious of the results of their decisions. I wonder if many conservative Christians have openly denounced racism, sexism and homophobia in order to begin to heal the gaping wound that is seeping out and infecting this country. I hope so.

I wonder if they care about the state of this nation as it stands today, or if many would rather look the other way and pretend not to notice the aftermath of siding with extreme hatred. I’m trying to remain hopeful that there is a segment of that population that is on its knees praying for justice and equality in America, even if the hate crimes and attacks are not affecting them. Are there conservatives who care about the rest of us and the daily angst that comes with being a minority in America? I pray so.

I’ll be honest, I have planned a reasonable distance between myself and those who do not seem to notice or show concern that we are at war against hate in this country. I just can’t seem to wrap my head around the notion that there can exist within oneself a duality of viewpoints when it comes to love vs. hate. Cognitive dissonance is not a workable reality for me when it comes to the marginalization of entire communities of people. It’s not a matter of moral superiority but compassion and empathy. 

The Good News is:

There is a gift of resilience that has been given to the marginalized in this world. We have survived with remarkable odds, many attempts at total ethnic cleansing and the desire to silence anyone who is different from the majority. The sickness that infects the mind of the man/woman who believe that there is a superior race of people, has not managed to succeed at total domination. That is not to ignore the massive damage that it has done, as well as the many lives that it has taken. It is just to say that we the people have persevered beyond the unthinkable, again and again. It’s what we do. It's how we're made.

Personally, in order to stay hopeful, I draw my strength from the person of Jesus Christ, whom I believe was the example of the greatest humanitarian known to mankind. He had the ability to stand up to his enemies, expose religious hypocrisy and love the marginalized from a heart ignited with a passion for humanity. That divine action, is what is desperately needed in our grief stricken world today.

If any lesson bears repeating in the seminaries of Christianity, in order for it to maintain any semblance of credibility, it is the lesson of Jesus Christ and love thy neighbor as thyself. If we dare to believe any one doctrine, it should be the doctrine of equality through the love of God.

Within a segment of the population:

Somewhere beneath the mere surface of humanitarianism, lies resilience that is primed through love in action. When we are in motion, caring for one another and standing in solidarity against the evil that comes as a result of festered hate, we grow stronger, see clearer and resemble more of what is needed in this earth. We are actually lending a hand, as well as a heart, to the efforts of diminishing hate.

We the people, who are the ancestors and by-products of all those who have ever been the target of racism, sexism and exclusion of any kind, are inherently strong, undeniably brave and unapologetically fervent in our stand to live in freedom and justice. We may stumble, for just a moment, as a result of inhaling the noxious fumes of hatred that pollutes our country from time to time, but we don’t stay down for long. We draw fresh breath and strength from the example of a time when love clothed itself in human flesh and walked the earth to silence hate…

Friday, November 11, 2016

We Are Better Than This...

Three days later and the unthinkable is still a reality.

How do we begin to recover while living in a country that now suffers from self-imposed tragedy? For anyone who has ever suffered hatred, economic and racial injustice, oppression, sexism, violence, loss through unjust murder or is a victim, in any way, of the rape culture, the devastation is tangible. Collectively, none of us can ever breathe the same again. And to clarify for the ones who love to use religious platitudes in a time of profound suffering, we know that the President is just a man. We know that God is still in control and we know that Jesus is still Lord, for those of us who choose this as our belief system. Thank you for your pep talk, it won’t help in our grief however. Now let’s get down to brass tacks. This mortifying election was truly about love vs. hate, unity vs. racism and freedom vs. oppression. The outcome was the symbol of our nation’s heart… and what a sick, fragmented, hateful heart it has become. But that is not who the majority of us are. There is still much hope, if we ban together.

The healing:

On Tuesday morning, as my mind began to spin out of control, I heard the villainous jeers whispering in my ears: hate won, hate won, what are you going to do now? I cried, not soft quiet tears, I cried from my belly with guttural moans. The prophetic resides in the belly. I cried for every Native American ever terrorized and murdered on this land. I cried for every slave ever beaten, chained and whipped. I cried for every body that ever hung from a tree from senseless hatred. I cried for every immigrant used and abused by this country. I cried for every woman humiliated and discarded through sexism, misogyny and rape. I cried for our children who have to bear the weight of a careless and greedy nation.  I cried over graves with no headstones because the bodies within were never considered human beings. I cried for every gay man and woman disowned from their families and attacked by society, both physically and religiously. I cried for our elders who worked so hard to bring us to a better land only for us to wake up on the same bloody soil.  I cried for our first Black President and First Lady, who endured hardness like good soldiers and still managed to maintain dignity and grace. I cried for the deceived religious elite, who really believe that they can reach the world through hatred and division. Oh, did I cry…

I thought that it would take days to collect myself. I couldn’t tell my youngest son the results on my own. My despair was too heavy, that’s when I reached out and the healing began. I began by group texting my older children along with their father. Help, I said, I can’t tell Tim. I don’t want him to see me this way. One by one they began to respond. Tim’s dad called and explained the results to him in a way that wouldn’t worry him. We all kept texting, expressing grief, anger and sadness. The healing was beginning. By mid-afternoon I had texted, called and messaged several of my friends from various backgrounds and ethnicities. Their voices were important to me. I needed my community of diversity to help restore my faith in the world. We grieved together, we encouraged each other. Love was working. I began telling my friends that I loved them in one form or another. Each time the words came out, my heart grew stronger. I felt less faint. Love was healing. I slept that afternoon for the first time in days. That evening I had dinner with friends who represent interracial love. We talked, laughed and grieved together. We sought out the light in the darkness together and I felt lifted. Love was winning.

May I encourage you to seek others who love humanity with the same intensity as you do? When my daughter said that she was nervous about the climate on campus Wednesday, I told her to look for the people who had grief in their eyes, they’re hurting like you and can be trusted to mourn with.

The separating:

During the last few days, through much thought and prayer, I have come to the understanding that there is a time in life that we all must assess the people and ideologies that we surround ourselves with. This election, along with the pressing social injustices that have flooded our news in recent history, has uncovered the darkness in the hearts of many, along with the unwillingness to admit to the faults of this country and its sins. It has been open season for all who wish to express in clear undeniable detail that social injustice persists. Many have clung to a belief system that was rooted and grounded in the Jim Crow error and the church that turned a blind eye to hatred for people of color. I have read commentary from those who blame the victim and claim ignorance at the same time. The hypocrisy is astounding and I can no longer bear witness to it, nor befriend it in the hopes that such hearts will change. It is obvious that the line in the sand of good and evil has been drawn and many wish to dwell in the land of evil claiming it as their birthright of patriotism, while defiantly ignoring the call to love your neighbor as yourself. And just to clarify, this does not mean that I choose to separate from anyone who doesn’t share my same belief system in all aspects of life, this separation is about far more than a mere differing of opinion, anyone who has been trying to tap below this granite surface for any length of time understands that.

The revelation:

These are the words that have resounded in my ears within the last few days:

The American church has lost all credibility with the world. It will never be viewed the same again. This has been a long time coming. Slowly but surely those who warmed the pews have spilled out into the streets joining those who have never entered its doors. The American church has revealed the highest level of hypocrisy for the entire world to see. The by-standers are just as accountable as the perpetrators. By refusing to speak up and to cry aloud and spare none, many have sown hatred where there should be peace as well. There is no such thing as a neutral stance between good and evil. Remove yourself from the appearance of religion completely because it is an empty and lifeless exercise. It will simply prove itself as a display of an antiquated behavior, producing no real results for the world. I am ignoring the religious and the loveless of this land. Rise up with the poets, the prophets, the teachers, the singers, the dancers and the artist. Become an activist pursuing love at all costs, especially for those who do not share your culture. Come out from your sterilized surroundings padded with people who look and act like you. Abandon the notion that I don’t hear the prayers of the entire world and all those that seek me in ways that are foreign to you. Stop trying to get people to come into your buildings and go into the streets, the cities and the highways to live amongst the seekers, while asking me for wisdom and guidance along the way. Choose life, outside of religion and receive new life.

Lend your church buildings to recreation centers, daycares, after school programs, employment agencies, food pantries and civic centers. Offer your lavish establishments and your storefronts to community needs instead of hosting your own weekly club meetings.

The rebuilding:

Tuesday morning’s resounding question was: what are we going to do?  There is rioting, kkk rallies and harsh dissension all over the country. People are afraid of being attacked on the streets. How do we live amongst such hate and go on with our daily lives?

My personal directive is to dig deeper and stand my ground with civility and knowledge. Ignorance and hatred is what got us into this mess and it’s going to take higher thinking to get us out. We don’t have to be doormats and accept the visceral behavior, we just have to outsmart low level thinking. They want us to display the same hate that they are showing. It thrills a racist mind if we choose to become fearful beyond words and angry with rage. Fear yields power and tells your enemy that you believe that they are stronger than you. Refuse to be intimidated by the men in white sheets and the shaved heads. Refuse to let them steal your peace and relinquish your power. Stand strong and fight the power of hatred with civility. Head up, chin raised, eyes toward heaven, with an un-flinchable resolve, that’s the stance that we need to take against the self-appointed oppressors. Dignity is not a language that they can understand or war against.

Take that stance into your workplaces and communities. Teach your children how to walk with authority and wisdom. Read often and speak boldly about the history of this nation and its slow moving demise from its inception. Create a new language of unity and acceptance. Broaden your social circles. Stop just having that “one friend” who’s (insert ethnicity here.) We can’t keep thinking that this movement will only be advanced by one particular race of people and others cannot be trusted. For those that like to quote Malcolm X by saying: By any means necessary, remember that his life changed when he traveled to Mecca and began seeing men of other races who believed the same as he did. Only then did he understand the error of what he was taught to believe and that the “blue eyed devil” is a misnomer. Remember there have always been abolitionists who aided the oppressed at the expense of their own lives. They are still alive and well today. The movement is love vs. hate, not black vs. white.

There will only be a remnant of Christians that answer this call and leave their Sunday morning rituals for action that makes a difference. The majority will be people who do not claim to belong to any one belief system but who do have genuine love for their fellow man while desiring nothing more than to ignite a love revolution. If that shocks or bothers you, just remember the church has had more chances than we can count to come out of its lifeless ways and to actually live as Christ. This is the final result of seeking after its own self-interests and ignoring the greatest humanitarian ever known…Jesus Christ.

If you belong to a ministry that actively seeks to model Christ’s behavior in its ENTIRTY, then you are part of a much needed remnant in the earth. But make no mistake, this is only evident to the world by how you treat your fellow man.

The hashtag:

#lovealution (love revolution)

I hope it catches on…

Monday, November 7, 2016

Are you a river, a well or an ocean?

I wake up to many thoughts and questions in the early morning hours when I would probably prefer to be sound asleep, if I didn’t know any better, but I do know better. I’m not new to the fact that the whispers of my Creator come in the hush of the darkness, before daylight, before business. I also know why. It is at this time that my mind and body are most surrendered and willing to move beyond the natural into the eternal and receive in a deeper realm. I know too, that I am not alone at this hour. Many awake to the still small voice and assured presence of a God who knows no space or time. It is a privilege.

 So, when faced with what appears to be a philosophical question, with one ear on my pillow and the other towards heaven, I tuned in deeper.

Am I a river, a well or an ocean?

I knew the answer immediately and was more eager to find out from others how they saw themselves. This might have been one of my favorite questions to ask of all time. I may never stop asking.

Here are just a few samples of what some of my friends said:

I would lean towards ocean because I think I unite large land masses (ideas) and am full of experiences (as oceans are full of life) and depth. It’s not always safe out here, where you can’t see land and not everyone is comfortable with that much freedom. I like the expanse of an ocean and the sense of adventure in it.  - Mike

At first glance of this question, I’d have to say a “river.” A river’s source is from somewhere else, it feeds into other tributaries as it moves toward its final destination. Particularly after seeing footage of the recent floods, a river has a destination, it’s moving toward something and it cannot be stopped. – Ken

A well goes deep, a river is constantly moving and ever changing, and an ocean undulates in a gentle manner and touches nations. I am an ocean. – Eden

Others offered their answers in the definitive with no explanation:
A river –Bruce
Definitely feel like a river –Gabe
An ocean –Tim

Some leaned towards their answer:
A river, I think –J
I’m probably most like a well. –Lottie

Some were not sure at all and will have to think on it a bit longer before deciding.

This subject fascinates the philosophical geek in me. I love all of these answers and can’t wait to hear more. But mostly, I love where this question takes us. How it makes us look at and appreciate our place in this world, while helping us study how well we all relate to the healing power of water in any form it takes.

Water is necessary for life and so are we.

A well provides a pure source of water from beneath the ground. To access this water, wells are drilled deep into the bedrock. People are constantly drawing from wells and it causes folks to gather. Well water is worth the effort to retrieve, but not everyone can manage that effort. Wells require work.

A river flows smoothly, until interrupted by nature. It rises and falls, expands and extends. It can be an endless source. People are drawn to rivers for rest and relaxation. Rivers can also go beyond their boundaries and overtake dry land.

An ocean can have boundless energy. It roars at times with high tide and passively paints the sand ever so gently during low tide. An ocean can incite and excite the senses. People are drawn to the ocean mostly for its wonder and expanse. It is unpredictable and fascinating all at the same time. Some, who cannot swim, are afraid of the ocean because it can be so powerful.

When I was younger, I was an ocean, probably more for my unpredictable nature than anything else. I felt boundless and strong. I was good at being an ocean but not necessarily for all the right reasons. On my high tide days, I challenged the world and everything in it. On my low tide days, all I wanted to do was to be a part of the landscape with little effort. I was often overwhelmed with my own vast interest and I didn’t know how to begin or end. The creative in me will always be drawn to the ocean. I believe that’s where it all began for me.

There are days when I miss the energy that I had then and the excitement with listless freedom I displayed. But through adversity, much pain and loss along for the need to be hidden and grounded, I have become a well, for myself and those who are closest to me. I’ve learned how to be subtle and quiet and I’ve traded my boundless energy for rest. Being a well has allowed for me to become more thoughtful and disciplined. I consider a thing more before moving or speaking. My quiet days far outweigh my outspoken days. 

I love spending time with the rivers and ocean friends in my life however because they bring a new experience to my underground existence. My river friends feed and comfort me. My ocean friends stir up the creative in me and provide an escape. I need them both.

Perhaps, when I begin to travel, I will revisit my ocean season again. But if not, I am content in being who I need to be for the purpose that it serves my time on this earth. After all, it is well with my soul. Get it?

So now it’s your turn. 
Are you a river, a well or an ocean? 
Take your time and get to know you. There is no wrong answer…

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Balance is the key...

Okay moms, back to school season has arrived, so I thought I’d tell you a little story that may help you find balance in your life if you’re struggling to find it.

I’ve had experience in being both a working mom and a stay at home mom and I can honestly say that either choice/necessity has its challenges. The biggest challenge for me was my total lack of balance in both cases.

As a working mom, I felt a lot of guilt leaving my very young children every day. Daycare was not my favorite option, so after a while and some asking around, I hired a mother’s helper who saved my mommy life for a period of a year. I am grateful for this young lady to this day.  She came to my house every morning and took over while I finished dressing and getting ready for work. She made sure that the kids were fed, changed, read to, entertained and happy when I came home. My kids loved her. I loved her. She was young and energetic and they needed that with two working parents.

At the time, I had a bit of a demanding job working for a non-profit school for pregnant teens. We had three sites, which means I had to travel for work at times. Not only was the job demanding but it was stressful…very stressful, crazy boss stressful. I was in a struggle to navigate through the trials of my work life and the demands of my home life. The only solace that I had was that my mother’s helper was taking great care of my two youngest children, while my oldest was in a good school. There was something to be grateful for, until she announced to me one day that her gap year from high school was over and she wanted to join the military. I almost begged her to reconsider, okay I did. In retrospect that was selfish thinking on my part but in all honesty after her, I’ve never met anyone else who I felt as comfortable with taking care of my kids.

After Camille left, I tried preschool for my two younger ones, which didn’t work out well for the baby, who by now was a toddler. He kept getting ear infections. When the doctor told us that he would need tubes put into his ears if they kept getting infected, I decided to quit my job. From where I stood, there weren't enough paychecks in the world to justify putting my baby through that discomfort. I understand that not everyone would have been able to make that decision and I respect the moms who have to do what they have to do, the decision is not always that cut and dry. At the time I was married and we worked through the sacrifice, sort of.

My favorite memory from that time in our lives was the day after I quite my stressful job and sat on the floor with my two toddlers watching Sesame Street. The phone rang and it was my boss (crazy lady) asking me if I could come back in to work from time to time to help out. I gladly told her no and hung up the phone.  I felt so much freedom in that moment. I felt like I had control over my life again.

But did I?
What I didn’t realize with having hired help at home was that I was missing more than I wanted to at such early stages of my kid’s lives. I was glad to be back home and having one on one time with my kids…most days.  Of course, the challenge I faced after that novelty wore off, was feeling invisible in the house all day with the kids and not having enough grown up time for myself. I realize now that I didn’t know how to strike a balance between the two worlds that I lived in while my children were young. I was either all in and working all day, sometimes extra hours trying to breathe huge gusts of independent air before going home, or I was closed in my house most days on a rigid routine attempting to make my kid’s worlds feel completely protected and safe. In short, I extreme mom’d.

I thought that in either situation I had so much to prove to everyone around me. Growing up, the notion of an at home mother was very different than it is today. Anything modeled on television was between June Cleaver and Mrs. Brady, and she had Alice. (Some of you will have to google those two references.) Neither woman represented me at all.

My mother stayed at home on off when we were children but I never asked her what she did while I was in school all day. That question would probably not have gone over well anyway. It always ends up sounding like: So what do you do all day while the rest of the world is working hard at keeping the earth rotating on its axis? It’s one of those implied questions that can sound insulting to any busy mom.

At this point, I didn’t have a good support group for what I needed to know about staying at home with my kids in this season of my life and I needed to strike a balance in my life badly.

This leads me to the discovery of learning how to be still when necessary and my second favorite memory as a young mom.

It was when my youngest son was finally ready for preschool. This particular child was a DOOZY!!! He ran instead of walked, shouted instead of talked and knew his way through a temper tantrum like a pro. I was tired all the time with him, even when he was just waking up in the morning. But on this glorious day…the sun had a special shine and the birds seemed to achieve a rare harmonious pitch. I could have sworn I saw rainbows without rain. Even though I was a bit nervous that he was leaving the safety of home that day, I felt good about the preschool that he was attending and they came with the gift of all gifts…THEY HAD A VAN THAT PICKED HIM UP IN THE MORNINGS!!!

Que the theme to the sound of music complete with birds flying above and me spinning on the top of a mountain…

After kissing my rambunctious toddler bye-bye and standing on the curb watching him being fastened into his car seat with other oblivious toddlers who had no idea that their mothers where probably at home in a semi-conscious state of glee, I stood there listening to the soothing sound of his driver’s southern voice. He was in good hands. I then wiped a tear or two from my eyes and went into the house to begin my full day of being a productive mom.  (Notice I didn’t say a productive person? I never thought of myself outside of my roles at home then. Take note.)

I had plans and they were big ones. I was going to start cleaning at the very top of the house and finish in the kitchen as any good mother should. I was about to delve into my extreme mode on a whole new level. No yoga pants and ponytail for me thank you. You can keep the Starbucks and Target lines for this mom. I was going for the gold in housekeeping Olympics and you couldn’t stop me!

I went back upstairs to my bedroom and made the maddening mistake of turning on the television out of curiosity. Toddler shows at this hour were all that I was accustomed to. What grownups talked about in the morning was a mystery to me at this point.

We had just moved into our home and our cable service was new, which of course came with a free preview of HBO. I stood there for a moment looking at Tom Hanks. I like Tom Hanks.  I’d never seen Castaway but I had heard it was a good movie. Before long, I was stretched out across the bed glued to this movie feeling like quite a castaway myself at home alone for the first time in years. I kept checking for guilt but it seemed to have taken the day off. 

After the movie, I fixed myself lunch. It was intermission and I was hungry. The previews said that The Legend of Bagger Vance was next. I like Will Smith and I had never seen this movie… Okay, I may have folded clothes through this one but I realized what I needed more than anything was a day of nothingness, or close to it, to recalibrate my mind. It was wonderful and I was relaxed and excited to hear how my kid’s school days went when they came home. And while I cannot claim that I had achieved this level of relaxation all the time (a neat freak has to do what a neat freak has to do) I can say that I learned the art of mommy naps, reading and quiet time that carries over until today…even as the kids are all grow up and I am no longer answering to just the title of mom. As wonderful as that title is (and it is my favorite) through the years of learning how to take time out for myself, I have discovered my many interests and titles that go along with me just being me.

I had to learn to balance work with play and that I could have both in my life in order to be at peace. This however, is a lifelong lesson for all of us in all seasons.

Balance is the key…

Monday, August 8, 2016

You become who you resent...

Think of this in terms of your parents or whoever the caretakers in your life were.

You become who you resent. This was taught to me by a counselor years ago and it is a lesson that I will never forget. When we hold on to unforgiveness for those who have hurt us throughout our lives in any way and we refuse to forgive, resentment fills our hearts. This occurs through a series of judgments that we hold over our family members for their unhealthy behavior. We become so judgmental of the person or people who caused us pain that we silently fixate on all of their wrongs to the point of obsession. We think by doing this that we will be able to avoid the same behaviors, but this is not true. Obsession keeps us staring into the past. 

When this happens we inadvertently begin to duplicate the very behavior that we are fixated on because it’s all we see in our minds eye. We have not changed the scenery of our thoughts making it impossible to produce a better life for ourselves, because we are constantly staring at an old blue print. So if there was alcoholism, neglect, abandonment, extra marital affairs or overall irresponsible behavior coming from our parental figures and we have never fully been able to forgive them, we are in grave danger of repeating the sins of the past by way of resentment.

Lord, unveil the hidden pains, hurts and devastations of my past that may keep me emotionally stunted and turn my voice into a bitter instrument of contempt. Help me to heal, reach inside of my heart and remove the hardness that has occurred through suffering. Free me Father, from the past so that I may be prepared to live anew and practice forgiveness in my future. I cannot do this without you…