Today I received a message in my dm on Facebook from a person I do not know.
Today is International Women’s Day, and I don’t believe that I could have received a better gift. You see, I speak a lot about seeds and weeds. What seeds are we planting? Are we planting any at all? Are we allowing weeds to choke out the seeds we do plant? I thought I was planting seeds and maybe I was…but the weeds man. Those weeds are aggressive. They hog all the water and choked out the seeds I hoped would develop into fruit bearing plants.
In my life, the weeds represent many things, but the one thing that stands out is sin. I have at times allowed racism(weed) and a myriad of other inequalities that have been passed down systematically to harden my heart, and when that has happened the seeds that I attempted to sow were merely choked out by the weeds. I was suffocating and those seeds were falling on infertile soil(deaf ears) partially because of my approach.
But then my heart was softened. I come from a unique perspective of understanding a variety of people. Even those who are fast asleep looking at #wokefolk like we crazy. I understand them because I used to be them. It’s that in between stage that can be a beast. That stage where you are realizing that you have been in the “Sunkin Place” most of your life and then when you exit that place, life(for lack a most fitting description)…”bitch slaps” you with reality….AND. IT. SUCKS.
But over the year my use of the words, weeds(problem) and seeds(action) have helped me gather a proper understanding of what the fruit(solution) should look like.
Well, I know that I am a hot mess when I’m not led by the Spirit. So, with that said the only fruit I want to produce comes from the Spirit and that is… “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
– Galatians 5:22-23
I’m writing this so that we all can take note as to what seeds we are planting. What is the weather like in our lives when we sow? What weeds do we need to uproot so that our seeds can produce beautiful fruit? Do we even recognized them? Because the truth is, you never know how one interaction you have with someone can change the trajectory of their life and yours. You never know if they will be led into self-reflection or destruction. You never know…unless somehow in your lifetime they are led to share how you impacted them, just like this stranger did from a thread on a mutual friends timeline…on Facebook…over a year ago.
I thought I would republish the journey of motherhood on my new site. Here you go.
So this is not about the act of making a baby 😉 This is about God’s plan in the development of our child.
I always knew that I wanted children, so in all seriousness I had no problem getting started with this process the moment Ramon and I got married. We were married August 25, 2007. I was on birth control for health reasons and we prayed about me getting off of it. We didn’t feel it was necessarily right plus we wanted to have children and we knew that my body would have to adjust to being off the meds in order for that to happen. Coming off of the contraceptive would mean that I “risked” having major health issues. Well, we took a leap of faith and came off of it in February of 2008. My body had no reaction! Praise the Lord.
For two years Ramon and I didn’t necessary “try” to conceive but we did not prevent. We wanted to put our children in the Lords hands. Well, that was easier said than done. All along Ramon is pretty calm and patient and is trusting our Father that it will happen while I on the other hand was wondering whats wrong with me.
September of 09 -After conversations with my OBGYN they set up an appointment for me to have some die pushed into my fallopian tubes(for lack of the original term). Boy was that painful. The result was that one of my tubes was completely blocked and no egg was able to be released due to polycystic ovarian syndrome(PCOS). So, as devastating as that was at the moment they reassured me that I only need one fallopian tube in order to have a baby. So, I’m good. However they did refer me to an infertility doc…oh joy!
So at this point we decide to wait it out. This process was emotionally heart wrenching. This was the most difficult time for me. Everything bothered me. If I saw or heard of a pregnant teen or someone unwed getting pregnant I would lose it. Because Ramon and I decided to wait until our wedding night, I had this false sense that I’d done everything right(A bit self-righteous when I think about it). By no means was I perfect but Ramon and I had made a commitment to one another and we wanted to start our relationship off right. As hard as it was we obeyed the Lord in saving ourselves until our wedding day. I wondered why. I had always wanted to be a mother. Heck, I wanted five children but I’ll take just one. why, Why, WHy, WHY!?!?!? was the question I had for God.
January 2010 Ramon and I visited a church in our community. It was early January because he was off of work and hadn’t seen any of the Fortress kids in a while. As we are walking in and finding a place to sit a little boy comes up behind us that he recognizes from Fortress. He was only about five. After asking him a few questions we came to the understanding that he is there all alone. He just strolled into church. Ramon left with him to see if his mom knew where he was. They returned and we were sitting there like a cute little family with the little boy between us. After about 10 minutes three more youth show up. So, Ramon scoots on down. Praise and worship is in full effect and two more children show up. At this point we have six children sitting between us. Some we know and some we don’t. I’m in tears. No…I’m bawling. I considered this scene that was happening before my eyes a huge revelation. I wasn’t crying the oh woe is me tears. I was crying because I saw our future. If this wasn’t a sign of what God had planned for us then I don’t know what it was. All I know is that He taught me something that day.
In February of 2010 Ramon and I decided to see the infertility doc. We both had to go through a series of tests. Um it sucked. I had a sonogram and I was so nervous at this point because so much had already gone wrong.
I lived in Fort Worth while my doc was in Frisco. We were on our way to the appointment and the verse Jeremiah 29:11 came to mind. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans of good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope”.
I had in my mind that God wants to grant us the desires of my heart…so …why isn’t it happening? It took a 45 min drive for my eyes to be opened to Gods will for my life. He had been waiting on me to surrender my will to Him. He had been waiting on ME to desire HIS will for my life. At that moment I knew that although my desire for children where valid as a woman, God wanted me to truly seek, honor and trust Him with my LIFE. He wanted me to get to a point of COMPLETE TRUST. Because of this I had to come to grips with what He may allow me to go through even with the results of the sono.
I had to put the worst scenario in my mind in order to fully cope with this.
This is my scenario. In my mind the worst thing they could say is that I would have cancer. Sitting there in my car I came to the understanding that if that was so then God has a plan not only for me but for many others. I felt an overwhelming peace over me that simply gave me all the confidence I needed to walk into that doctors office and say “bring it”. And that’s exactly what I did.
My sono turned out clear and I was told I was healthy however, do to the results of Ramons test and with the combination of my having PCOS which caused me not to ovulate and having only one functioning fallopian tube, our only option was to go through in-vitro fertilization. He offered no other option to us and made it clear that this was the only way we would ever conceive. As the doctor looked at us expecting us to hop on board with this new-found news Ramon and I held hands and knew that it was not an option for us. We decided to truly let God have this. We were done with the doctor visits and tests. We also knew that doctor did not have the final say in our life or the life of our child. We walked out of that office with confidence that the Lord had given us our answer…not yet.
Not yet? What does that really mean? It means that despite what the doctor said, He our Savior has the final word and if we are meant to have children then it will come whether from my own womb or from another. I have never felt more comfortable with the answer “not yet” before in my life.
Did I share that in two years I had only had four cycles total? Every year in January and September.
Well, in April of 2010 I had one and I had one for every month after that until July. I do not think I was EVER more excited to have a period. I would text Ramon and some of my close girlfriends every month it would happen. The Lord answered my prayer. I had been praying that the Lord would just restore my body to its natural order.
During this time Ramon and I were researching adoption. It was already something we wanted to do and something we still desire so we looked into the “foster to adopt” program. The organization that we went through eventually didn’t settle well with us so we decided to research other avenues.
So, August comes around and…nothing….I didn’t worry about it because after the last four months of things going well I considered it another skipped month. It wasn’t until I started craving pinto beans and cheese and my girls swelling that other people started wondering hmm are you pregnant? I denied it up and down. I have had every symptom of pregnancy known to man when I didn’t have my period before, so this did not raise a flag for me. Plus, I said that I was not going to take another test unless I knew. The more people raised questions and the longer it went by without me starting a period the more curious I became.
I woke up early September 14 (the day before my birthday) and took a test. It came out positive. I didn’t believe it…no seriously, I really didn’t believe it. I went to the store and bought a digital test. Took two and they where both positive. I called my friend Michelle to see where I could go to get a blood test. I finally just calmed down and I knew that I was pregnant. OMG!
I woke up Ramon and took him to a park that my dad use to take me to as a child. We laid out a blanket and began to talk about our future…our life…what God is doing with us. At this time keep in mind that Ramon had been laid off and I had not been working. We still chose to trust God in where we were. At that point I asked Ramon if He believed God has a plan for us and that His timing is perfect. His response of course was Yes. Well, and then I lay the tests on his chest. It was such a sweet moment. We knew that God had been working it all out and that despite us being unemployed and living with my parents, He had something big around the corner.
This child is a blessing, a gift that we are giving right back to our Savior. A child that doesn’t really belong to us to begin with. A child on loan to teach, train, rear in the knowledge of Christ. The baby is just part of our story. One chapter in our life. We have many more to tell. Until then…
Be Blessed and Be a Blessing!
Ramon, Cessilye and Peanut
Recently I decided to participate in a poverty simulation with Unite Greater Dallas. It was called COPE, The Cost of Poverty Experience. I was given the role of a 10yr old AA boy. My character(who is a real person) has African-American mother and father. His mother is a stay at home mom and expecting another child. His father is employed and rely’s on public transportation to get around. The family can only afford a one bedroom apartment so therefore my character sleeps on the couch and to top it all off has ADHD and is beginning to act out.
*From this point on I will type as if I am in character.
We were told to get in character as much as we could. All of the families where taking an hour of our day to fast track what it is like to live a month in poverty. We were given folders which outlined our assets, expenses and activities that needed to happen that month. For instance, my families assets where a T.V. and Stereo. My mother had to go to a prenatal appointment, both of my parents had to make it to AA and they had to get my ADHD medication. That’s just a few of the responsibilities my parents had. Each 15min equaled one week in the life of my family.
The first week I had to go to school first. Meanwhile my parents were running around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to pay bills, purchase bus passes, work, buy groceries, go to AA, Pawn shop, prenatal ect. I was let out of school 6min into the “week” and told to go anywhere. I chose to go home and wait on my parents to get home. As soon as they got home they were trying to figure out a plan to get through the next week while assessing what they did and did not accomplish. I just sat there.
*The facilitator got everyone’s attention and asked who fed their family that week. Out of 10-15 groups only 2-3 families raised their hand.
The next week I went to school again and instead of waiting until I was released I left early. I went straight to the food market and stole a banana. I was then arrested for stealing. Time was up. It was time to go back home and prepare for the next week. I let my parents know that I was arrested and they continued trying to figure out what to do for the next week.
*The facilitator announces that it is spring break.
My parents look at each other and are like “what are we going to do with him?”. They are planning to pawn the stereo and the t.v. so that they can pay the electric bill and then realize that they shouldn’t pawn the t.v. because I’ll need something to keep me occupied. They figure out the plan and in the meantime are “gifted” with a free voucher for my ADHD medication. Let week three begin.
Well, while they are trying to pay the electricity I am left with nothing to do so I take it upon myself to find something to do. I stole food from strangers(wasn’t caught), smoke cigarettes with the local dealer. My dad catches me on the street and took me home. He gives me a lecture on drug usage and I throw it right back in his face. I get back out and steal money from the local store and then I am arrested…..again. My mother noticed that I was in jail and comes to try to get me out. Due to my parents not showing up to my last hearing(because they were unaware) they could not get me out and CPS got involved. TIMES UP!
Week four happens…..
By then end of the month I was arrested twice, only my father made it to AA, my mother had to choose between going to her prenatal appointment or getting my ADHD medication because each required a co-pay that they could not afford. She went to her prenatal. CPS was involved. My dad tried to by alcohol but they were closed when he went. I remember my mother telling me to go the faith center after school in week four. I did not. Why? Because at this point I did not trust adults. I kept getting in trouble for doing things that I felt I needed to do. I was hungry and my parents needed money. I was off my meds for the entire month and there was not a single fun thing that I did with my parents. I felt like a burden and I’d be even more of a burden once my sibling was born. I even remember how if felt hearing my parents rejoice when school was back in session. They had somewhere to put me.
*I’m stepping out of character now.
Each time I was arrested I was bawling. This wasn’t an act. Like I said, the character I was playing is an actual child. That alone is what pierced my heart to the core. As I described my experience I could not stop crying. My husband and I have worked with at risk youth for over ten years. We know what they are going through. We know youth who have gone to juve. We hear their pain and we have walked with them. But this…..
This situation broke me.
I saw a child who felt alone but I also saw parents that LOVED this child but had to do what they had to do just to survive. I saw parents who are battling addictions and the system only perpetuated it. I didn’t mention and we did not know, but we, as an African-American family were treated differently. The people who played my parents where white but we all had to wear red bracelets which signified that we were an African American family. The people who played “resources” had to treat us with various biases. We did not know this until the end.
I chose to participate in this experience because of Abide. As I’ve been looking more closely at my community I realize that things must be handled even more delicately and the people must be central to any programs in place. South Dallas has a history that is filled with a tremendous amount of pain via segregation, racism, corruption and sheer hatred of its people. Dallas has a treacherous history of KKK involvement and Fair Park(an entertainment hub for people in DFW) has a history that screams of White Supremacy. But this is the history and history impacts our future. So as I look at the past of my community I can see better how to serve in the present. One way is through relationships. Breaking patterns of distrust is a key element here and I know that it’s going to take a solid foundation in biblical truth that will help guide us.
“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” – Romans 13:8
And just as it took generations of oppressive systems to create this beast, it will require a tremendous amount of time and patience to heal a community that has suffered much trauma. But let us not put God and His capacity to bring about restoration in a box. I have much hope for Sunny South D. The poverty experience did what is should have done. It broke me and it should break you. My hope is that our hearts will break for what breaks His so that we may be driven to seek racial conciliation and the physical, financial and spiritual restoration of our city. My hope is that God will use the people of South Dallas(fellow image bearers of Christ) to heal the hearts of those in positions of power and cause everyone to pursue further introspection of ones own heart.
Someone asked me recently, if I could share one thing about South Dallas, what would it be? Today my answer is that South Dallas consists of your brothers and your sisters who are worthy of dignity, love and respect. We are image bearers of Christ and we must not be forgotten or looked upon with pity. We are Sunny South D a place where hope lies and dreams can come true. We seek gospel centered justice and that power lies in not us alone….but you.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. – Romans 12:3-8
Every person who works with people needs to experience COPE. Every teacher, politician, government employee, healthcare worker…everyone. Please find one near you and register. http://www.unitethechurch.org/cope
Remember that we can take a vacation from work, a break from reality but you cannot take a “break” from poverty.
I’ve had my share of disagreements and I will admit to having some very passionate moments where I have lacked sensitivity with my words. I remember those days because they weren’t too long ago. 2016 was a beast for the black community. We literally wanted it over and then 2017 proved to be just as traumatizing. I suppose with cell phones, social media and the internet, accessing information that was intentionally and unintentionally hidden has created an awakening of sorts.
What awakening do I speak of?
Have you heard the term, “stay woke”? Well, It means to be aware of or actively attentive to important facts and issues of racial and social justice. I know that many of us(people of color) have experience a great deal of trauma since waking up.
I once lived in this bubble. A bubble that “protected” me from my culture…black culture. I blame the devastating impact that white supremacy has had on the psyche of many poc in this country. This idea that “white is right”. I mean, who can deny that this country was founded on this mentality and practice? It was NOT founded on biblical principles otherwise we would not have had chattel slavery. Don’t start with “but the Bible had slavery,” because if you have a proper understanding of biblical servitude you will know that American slavery was a whole notha beast. They are not the same, not even close. My pastor who is also a dear friend, broke this down recently and it made so much sense.
My ancestors were not people according to the founding fathers. They were cargo that could be tossed overboard at any point, beaten within an inch of their lives, raped by their “masters”, bread to create more slaves for their personal profit and the economic gain of this great country. And centuries later we see how it has had an active role in breaking down the family because, to make a slave you break the mind, body, trust, unity….you name it.
We have generations of people who are only known by the person that owned them. My last name is Smith, my maiden name is Spencer. My sister recently tracked our name back to our slave owner and it listed all the slaves he owned. We do not know EXACTLY where we come from. Africa is a Continent, not a state or country. It seems many people forget that somehow. This great continent where we seek diamonds, oil, coffee, cocoa, you name it. This RICH continent is where my ancestors were stolen, stripped of person-hood and then created into chattel. And now, here we are still slaves via the 13th amendment. Even more now than back then but I digress…..
Shall I list the systemic ways in which poc are discriminated against? How about via…Housing, Education, Healthcare, the Wealth gap, Government Surveillance, Drug Arrest, Immigration Policy, Infant Mortality, Maternal Mortality. etc……
So….here I am. Reconciling the fact that I know of so so so many black people of whom I call my brothers and sisters that have done phenomenal things for this country. I mean they literally built this country….MY ANCESTORS along with immigrants and native people….the myriad of “HIDDEN FIGURES” that include doctors, scientist, inventors, politicians, soldiers, activists, feminists, you name it. Many of these people are eliminated from the history books(even executed) as if they did not exists.
So, do I have the right to get angry? THE HELL I DO. But how dare anyone say that I am a “deliberate divider”. I can show you division. Division would be like a war zone. The black voice and body coming unhinged would destroy any chance of unity this country has. We are walking around in systems that were never meant to benefit us and facing deliberate racism DAILY and implicit bias DAILY and we are dying DAILY.
What do we do about it? Well, we push all that rage and tremendous amounts of hurt down to deepest part of us and it comes out in a couple of ways. One being that our health is severely impacted by it and second(which is personal)…our activism or advocacy. The past year has proven that I have been impacted in both ways and I have realized that radical racial reconciliation is the calling the Lord has on my life.
I may offend, I may make people uncomfortable and I may very well call you out on racism. BUT I work hard to keep myself in check via accountability and staying connected to the Father, so that bridges may be built. Just as I mentioned in my last blog post “Am I a house negro or a field negro?”
I am neither,
I’m just a woman seeking justice through the lens of the gospel.
*This comment is tame compared to what many of my brothers and sisters in the faith experience. They experience death threats for doing the exact same thing(by advocating Gospel centered social justice). I suppose I should expect the same in the future.
*If you would like to contribute towards my efforts you can make a monetary donation via paypal by clicking Donate
Am I a house negro or a field negro?
I will boldly say that I am neither.
I stand in a position that is often times…..lonely.
A position that on one hand those who hold a form of privilege by having white skin are offended by my blackness and on the other hand the very brothers and sisters that I fight for, question my blackness. I’m either “aggressive” to some or a “token” to others.
As my girl Destiny said…
“Oppression is oppression is oppression. Anytime we dehumanize members of the human family, it is dangerous AF.”
So what are we going to do about it?
I refuse to live in the echo chamber of pro-life politics which fuel the policies that have little regard to the actual PEOPLE affected by those policies.
And I refuse to be in the field screaming, “YES! LET MASSA’s HOUSE BURN!!!!”
Don’t be fooled by my pro-life feminist stance. I stand in a position that highly respects those who are fighting for the lives of the unborn AND respects the many black women who are fighting for reproductive justice.
Don’t peg me as someone that’s ignorant.
I’m just a unicorn who actually is more interested in building bridges and finding common ground.
I’m going to scream this…
PRO-LIFE ACTIVISTS! THERE IS MUCH TO BE LEARNED FROM BLACK FEMINISM AND REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE ACTIVISTS!
PRO-CHOICE ACTIVISTS! THERE IS MUCH TO BE LEARNED FROM MEMBERS OF THE PRO-LIFE COMMUNITY!
PRO-LIFE, PRO-CHOICE, BLACK, WHITE, LATINX, DEMOCRAT, REPUBLICAN ETC. THERE IS MUCH TO BE LEARNED FROM THOSE WHO UPHOLD A CONSISTENT LIFE ETHIC!
Back to me….
What I am doing is standing in the middle attempting to be authentically me…
And that me is a black woman breaking free from the influence of white supremacy. A Black woman who will call out bigotry and racism, a black woman who is constantly seeking to understand MY culture and MY history and the impact the past has on the present. A black woman who seeks to dismantle systems fueled by hate and create a world where every.single.human being is valued.
A black woman who can forgive and think independently from the tribe.
Today my pastor had a great word coming from Colossians 3:12-17
“12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
How do we bring about change? How? Without compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience we may as well keep doing what we are doing.
The divide will continue and people will die.
I’m sitting in the middle with the complete understanding that without Christ…
I’d be in the field.
Don’t get it twisted. There is such a thing as righteous anger. I’m choosing to combine the rage that the field produced, with the compassion, kindness humility, meekness and patience that only Christ can provide. This combination shatters walls of oppression and only then will we see radical unifying change take place.
Listening to respond does nothing. Listening to understand saves lives.
Holding this ethic can be tough if you’ve been trapped in an echo chamber of religious and political rhetoric most of your life. But once the layers of revisionist history had been torn from my eyes and I saw the beautiful history that had been hidden from me and many others, I began to see life differently. I see Christ even more fully, I see Christ as JUST. The true SJW…only His justice extends into eternity. I see a God who has given us all the tools we need to be consistent. To uphold his values AND love our neighbors.
You’d think, ‘how difficult can that be?’. Well, for many, religion has people worshiping and idea wrapped in nationalism, colonialism, racism, hedonism and dare I say capitalism(all the ism’s)….instead of Christ.
Christ is JUST. It’s all over the scriptures.
The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed – Psalm 103:6
As I walk into the calling on my life it is becoming more and more clear that JUSTICE is central in the gospel message. So when you see this outpouring of pro-life activism sandwiched with social justice it is because of the gospel. The gospel which inherently is calling us all to be CONSISTENT.
What does it mean to be Just? How will you seek justice for your neighbor? Who is your neighbor? Would you listen to your neighbor and hear their story? Would you invite them to dinner? How about this, if you know your neighbor is hurting would you help them? If you do, is it self-serving? Does it give you all the warm and fuzzies and make you feel good? Now ask yourself this…what does it mean to be consistent? Let that question stretch you in ways you never imagined. Then let the gospel soften you and help you work through it.
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
– Galatians 5:14
My hope is that as we grow in the Lord, our hearts will continue to break for what breaks His. It’s painful…but as He performs open heart surgery to revive us, He’ll fill us with the unmerited favor He pours on us daily so that we may be equipped to pour it right back on others.
For insight on what I speak on check out my latest Q & A with Charles Camosi with Crux Magazine Pro-life and Racial Justice
In July I had an anxiety attack that landed me in the E.R. It was brought on after listening to the amazing women of a podcast called Truths Table. The episode was called “Strange Fruit”. I had also been reading up on a lot of information on racial injustice. I remember the subsequent days vividly. My breathing was shallow, chest felt tight and just not right. These episodes lasted for a couple of days until I found myself in the E.R. This was the beginning…the beginning of me understanding my transformation.
If you have read any of my previous blogs over the past year you will see that I have gone through an identity crisis of sorts. It’s been an incredible year. I’ve been exposed to so many different people and I’ve been given a platform that I never asked for and certainly never expected. For some reason people have found that I have a message that is worth hearing.
I’m going to spare you the details of my past, but in a nut-shell, the identity crisis that I speak of comes from a past that was filled with a colonized, revisionist and hidden history that created a woman who did not see color and wondered up until four years ago why there was a Black Breastfeeding Week or black anything for that matter. I was clueless when it came to systematic inequalities and institutional racism. I lived in a bubble and I most definitely was not #woke. Not at all. I was just as blind as the many ytpipo that so many talk about.
But I woke up.
The past few years have been a roller coaster emotionally. With so many POC dying at the hands of people who are supposed to protect them, I’ve become desensitized to news of another death of a person of color. None of it surprises me. At times I am enraged. The more I learn about the history of my brothers and sisters of the diaspora and the senseless deaths of black women and children at the hands of careless medical practitioners who hold implicit racial bias, the more driven I become in doing something about it.
Don’t get me wrong, I have had some very dark moments. I pride myself on my bridge building reputation but I must be honest. There are times when I want to be just like some people who I know. I want to throw my hands up and say to all white people, “I DON’T NEED YOU”. But it’s only by the grace of God that it has not happened, and it won’t. Why? Because I don’t believe that any one person is beyond redemption and I believe that racial reconciliation is yet another beautiful representation of Christs love for His bride…the church.
I was telling my girl Destiny that not a day goes by without me thinking of my race. She asked me if I wished I could go back to how things use to be and I said, “No”. I said no because in the past I was like the walking dead, completely unaware, and with that lack of awareness came a tremendous lack of true identity, empathy and compassion. You see, before I was conditioned to think and be a certain way, but now it’s like….damn.
Where do I begin.
Nothing is mine. My true culture was beaten out of my ancestors. My last name comes from the people who owned my family. I had my beautiful thick and long hair relaxed as a child because my God given hair was too difficult to manage(society). That’s just .00001% of what I could share about me. What about all the black women injured or dying in childbirth at 4x the rate of all other women, or black babies dying at 3x the rate of others before age one. What about redlining, black cemetery’s desecrated to build shopping centers (Lemmon Ave.), black communities moved to flood zones(West Dallas and Bonton)? Food deserts? How about the fact that if it weren’t for my ancestors, this country would not be what it is economically. Yet, what do we own? And I still get people mad because I want to support black owned businesses? Ya know, like we are on even footing. If only we would just work hard. How about the prison industrial complex aka The New Jim Crow?
Oh and #thesunkinplace…..I have found myself in it often this past year. It’s a horrible place to be and it plays a major roll in the struggles I’ve had.
I listed those things because I want you to know where I’m coming from. I live in the south. As I reflect on my history, it’s not golden. When I go on road trips my mind literally looks out at the trees and imagines the strange fruit that once hung from so many that are still standing. That’s MY reality. So yes, I get mad. But more than anger I get filled with a pain that is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. My mind has been overloaded with so much that it came to a point where my heart literally hurts.
Everything above is raw, but the reality is this. My identity has always and will always been found in Christ. Now, I know I may have lost some of my atheist and agnostic friends, but the thing is, if you have known me… you know that transparency is EVERYTHING to me and transparency is what you will get. The past couple of months God has been doing something in me. Calming me…slowing me down and helping me to see that there is a reason I was blind my whole life to injustice of so many kinds. It was so that I can hold compassion in my heart towards those who are still walking in darkness, as I did for so long. It was so that while each layer of ignorance is stripped from me, I can then still remain humble. It was so that I can truly feel what he feels.
May my heart break for what breaks His.
My heart is broken, but my will is strong.
I’m still healing, in fact I’m certain I will always be in a state of healing. But as I learn to navigate this world in a constant state of transformation, my hope is that I become a woman who seeks radical racial reconciliation that results in bridges built and walls of oppression torn down.
My prayer is that hearts are healed, lives are transformed and God will use His people to bring Shalom to my community and beyond.
As I sit here alone in my room listening to India Arie’s “Beautiful”, while enjoying the rain and grey sky, I find it fitting to write about my life…in the grey.
I want to go to place where I am nothing and everything
That exists between here and nowhere
I want to got to a place where time has no consequence and oh yeah
The sky opens to my prayers – India Arie, “Beautiful”
The grey is a tough place to be. That black and white life that I used to inhabit was actually a pretty comfortable place. It was was very me vs. them, right vs. wrong, no matter the situation. I had a cut and dry no nonsense type of mentality. Over the years I have learned that my heart was pretty hard and I lacked a tremendous amount of knowledge. I most definitely was not an independent thinker.
I was the first to say “embrace relationship (with Jesus), reject religion”, yet religion still had me bound. It had me so fixated on looking right, living right, giving no appearance of the mess that I really was. I was one way in the public eye but quite another behind closed doors. Over the years my faith has been tested on a massive level. Spiritual warfare is real. A few years ago I was brought to the very edge of losing it all. But something happened. I was reminded of God’s faithfulness. This changed my life. Now I know what it truly means to “embrace relationship, reject religion”. I see the word of God through a new lens. I no longer see black and white ink. I see a God who walked among the broken and was the perfect example of compassion and empathy. Where black and white ends at salvation and grey begins at living life in a fallen world.
The example was right in front of me all these years but I was so focused on being right that I did not take in to account the human condition. We are all a mess! Every single one of us. The Lord knows this, which is why He gives us examples of His mercy and His grace throughout His word. He knows we are complex individuals which is why the relationship is so vital. Imagine a world where we loved as He loved His disciples time and time again. They walked with Him and yet some rejected Him, doubted Him and were flat out cowards even upon His death. But you know what? He loved them with a love I will never fully comprehend.
I want to go to a place where I am suspended in ecstasy
Some where between dark and light
Where wrong becomes right – India Arie “Beautiful”
How do we go about cultivating relationships with each other that lead to reconciliation?
How do we find the bridge between polarizing topics and reconcile them?
Step into the grey
In the grey you will see the person behind the policy.
In the grey you will feel what they feel.
In the grey you see the layers, and work to peel them back.
In the grey it hurts because it’s not about you, but about everyone else.
In the grey you become compelled to seek justice and believe it can be done righteously.
In the grey you see Christ in a whole different light.
In the grey you deeply desire to build bridges and tear down walls.
In the grey compassion and empathy drive you.
In the grey you learn to lament.
In the grey you don’t quite fit in.
In the grey transparency is vital.
In the grey you seek consistency…..
Living in the grey can be challenging because in your attempt to comfort the disturbed, you also disturb the comfortable. People don’t like that. They hate being uncomfortable. They don’t like the nice little bubble they live in poked and prodded. But in our mind we aren’t poking and prodding for nothing. We are simply trying to get people to look beyond their perspective. To step into the grey.
Shades of grey
The grey that I live in is formed by my experiences as a black woman, mother and wife who is still trying to figure out her identity. Decolonizing my mind from a particular standard of beauty, thought and action all while embracing a hidden history, stripped culture and new perspective.
This separates me from my white counterparts living in the grey.
The grey I’m in has it’s challenges because in an attempt to be a bridge and bring about racial reconciliation, healing and truth I’m are also faced with the brutal truth behind white supremacy and the mess that it has created within society’s structures. The grey helps us to see how things intersect and it’s heartbreaking. It takes every ounce of grace from the Most High not to give every descendant from the oppressor a big fat F U.
I understand why some of my beautiful melanin rich brothers and sisters turn their backs on even the white ally. Because some, still refuse to just listen to the black voice.
Our voice is still silenced, questioned and ridiculed. Our experiences are not taken seriously and in the end #whitefragility is the biggest hurdle. If only those who live in a constant state of fragility at the mere mention of white supremacy would stop, listen and understand that they are contributing to the problem by refusing to comprehend that what we are dealing with is systemic. We’ve all been infected. It’s not a surface wound, it’s in the blood. White supremacy (the disease) has affected EVERYTHING. The descendants of the oppressors were gifted with privilege. Imagine what would happen if that privilege was acknowledge and used for good. All of us have some form of privilege and reconciliation can be determined by what we do with that privilege.
One thing I know about my ancestors is that they were and we are a resilient people. We have no time to be fragile. There is much for everyone to learn from POC and the immigrant.
Please understand that it’s not that I don’t care
But right now these wall are closing in on me
I love you more than I love life itself
But I need to find a place were I can breathe
I can breathe
I want to go to a place were I can hold the intangible
And let go of the pain with all my might – India Arie, “Beautiful”
I will end with this. The potential for beauty is there if we can all take off the shades that blind us to other people’s pain. When I say all, I mean it. All people across racial, religious, socio-economic and gender lines. Let’s begin to see each other, rather than discuss each other. When we step into the grey we see humanity. It comes with a tremendous amount of pain but the pain is much like a mother in labor, it has purpose. It makes us more compassionate and, in the end more like Christ whether you choose to believe He exists or not. It will make you want to stop and retreat back to your bubble (trust me) but you can’t. Once you’ve entered the grey there is no turning back, no matter how hard it may be the truth compels us. Pull out your inner woman and push through, for the results are nothing short of…beautiful.
I must admit, when I learned of the Build a Better Us(BABU) marriage conference, I was in a funk. It was one of those days or weeks where I was SUPER cranky. I flat out told my husband that if he cared about our marriage he would register us. I had full intention of letting him take care of it but then the part of me that has a hard time relinquishing control kept forwarding him reminders of the event, then little messages telling him how great the conference would be for us and then I just flat out asked him if he registered us….so much for leaving it in his hands huh? I’m laughing at myself now.
I am writing this so you all have a proper understanding of just how trans-formative this conference was (without giving away any spoilers….I know, I know….good luck with that right?)
The conference was amazing. I had an idea of what it might be like but it was nothing like I expected. Not in the slightest. In fact, I wondered where it was going at first but then the pieces started coming together and it left me incredibly encouraged. Have you ever experienced something and then it takes you a while to realize the impact it has had on your life? Well, this was my experience. My husband(Ramon) and I discussed and reflected on our time but there was something inside of me that was itching to get out. I had to write my testimony. You see, I have shared my story many times but this time was so different. After I wrote it I asked my husband to proof it and get his thoughts. What I found so wonderful was his incredible support in me pouring out my mess for the world to see all while he was included in that mess. That is another blog entry though. This one is about Build a Better Us.
Build A Better Us focused on the transformation power of the gospel and it truly changed me. This conference revealed a part of me and my past that I had not put together. It helped me to reflect and in that reflection I have seen healing beyond what I have experienced in the past.
This is no secret, because BJ Thompson presses this point often on Twitter….
I am a mess.
Yet deeply loved by God.
I want you to let that sink it.
If that is the only thing you learn from the Build a Better Us Conference, then that is enough. For that alone can not only transform you individually, but it can transform marriages and all kinds of relationships. Let go of expectations and allow yourself to experience a conference unlike you have ever experienced before. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Unpack the baggage and peel back the layers that may have been holding you in some form of bondage. I am thankful that my husband registered us for this conference and I’m beyond thrilled that I have been able to share this message outside the context of marriage, but also in unique unexpected relationships that beg to ask the question “How do we build a better us?” Agh! I’m screaming with joy!