Am I a house negro or a field negro?

activism, advocacy, blacklivesmatter, Consistent Life Ethic, corruption, feminism, pro-life, race, Racial Reconciliation, racism, Transformation

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.
Well, damn.

As my girl Destiny said…

“Oppression is oppression is oppression. Anytime we dehumanize members of the human family, it is dangerous AF.”

It is….

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!!!!”

NO.

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.

#recess

So you mean with a consistent life ethic you must be consistent?

activism, Consistent Life Ethic, Faith, God, Jesus, Racial Reconciliation, Transformation

Yep.

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

 

My Transformation

blacklivesmatter, Faith, God, hope, humanity, hurt, institutionalracism, pain, Racial Reconciliation, relationships, Transformation

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.

But now…

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.

#recess

words

 

Living in the Grey

activism, advocacy, Faith, feminism, Focus, hope, humanity, institutionalracism, Jesus, Racial Reconciliation, racism, relationships, Uncategorized

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.

Build A Better Us – Pursuing the Extraordinary, Marriage Conference

marriage, relationships, Transformation, Uncategorized

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?)

#realtalk

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!

 

#recess

Varying Truths

activism, advocacy, assumptions, blacklivesmatter, feminism, God, humanity, LGBTQ, pro-life

As I sit here in a relatively empty house feeding Ezra while drinking my coffee and hearing the birds chirping outside, I am suddenly reminded that this is not my daily truth. My truth is beautiful in a different way but it’s still…..so different.

This reality further helps me to understand that we all are living a truth that many are unaware of. I was just talking to my sister about how at times I wish we could live in a place like this that is incredibly peaceful. A place surrounded by God’s creation. A place where I hear a variety of birds and a stream over the sounds of cars, horns and gun fire. A place where my sensory’s are more inclined to experience the creation of God rather than the creations of man.

This leads me to further thought on key issues that become polarizing within varying movements.  Social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter, feminism, LGBTQ awareness, trans rights , abortion etc…..

I find that there is something that we all could use a little bit more of and I’ve learned this through not only having children of my own, which challenge me to ask “what if?”. But also through having conversations with people, which in turn pulls me into their truth and forces me to empathize. I have felt the Lord strip me of my dogmatic approach and fill my soul with a heart of compassion towards the complex nature of humanity.

I challenge you all to get from behind the movement(s) and be intentional about having personal encounters with people who you do not agree with or lack a tremendous amount of understanding. Reading articles isn’t all it takes to understand the complexities of human nature. If we could only begin to see people over rules, laws and policy. Let’s see how our decisions and the lives they affect intersect.

As I finish my time here in PA I am further encouraged by the many truths I’ve experienced here. Those of my sister, friends and myself. They vary on so many levels and they are real. Now take a moment to not only be aware of your truth but step into some one else’s.

It’s easy to put in the work to maintain your own lawn while simultaneously criticizing your neighbors over run yard across the street. Why is it so easy? Because we are viewing their lawn through our own personal lens. I guarantee you would be more compassionate and understanding once you saw things from their perspective. The thing is, we have a history of not doing this. We want to fix things to fit our agenda and line up with our own perspective all while ignoring the very valued human being behind the over-run yard. How about we slow down, breath and take a moment to value all life over the messed up lawn. Let’s….#rehumanize.

#recess

home-design

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who’s my Hero?

depression, hope, hurt, Jesus, mental health, pain, rape, suicide, testimony

This weekend Ramon and I went to a marriage conference called, Build a Better Us, Pursuing the Extraordinary http://buildabetterus.com/ . To be honest I thought it might have been like any other typical marriage conference with break out sessions with your normal topics such as “Let’s talk about sex”….”Submission and Respect”…”Identifying your Love Language”.. etc. You catch my drift?

Well, it was not that……at all.

With all the rich material we learned at the conference there was one thing that pulled everything together.  One thing that is the solution to pretty much every conflict in and outside of marriage. One thing that if we truly believe and apply to our lives can truly bring about radical transformation and reconciliation. One thing that had me thinking about everything that has made me the woman I am today.
I just needed to admit and believe that…..
1. I am a mess.
2. And yet deeply loved by God.
3. Grace transforms us.

With that said…..here is my testimony.

I will preface this by saying that I grew up in a wonderful working class home with a mother and father who love each other dearly and were extremely present in my life.

College

Sucked.

Can I just leave it at that?

No, because what happened there plays a huge role in who I am today.

I went to college straight out of private school with a high moral compass. In fact I would dare to say that I was pretty much known as the prude one. Maple Hall was the bomb that year because it was the first year that it was co-ed. There were block party’s all the time that year, right in front of my dorm. I was a dance major so I was always in my dance gear and socializing with other artists. Let me keep it real. There is a lot about college that I do not remember. I think over the years I tried to forget but as I type, some things are coming to remembrance. I feel like I’m in a therapy session.

Let me just cut to the chase. There was this one guy who caught my eye and I guess he had his eye on me. We were NOTHING alike. Maybe that’s what attracted me to him. He was “risky” for lack of a better word. Anyways, we started “talking”, I can’t say dating because we never ever went anywhere, we just hung out and made out a bit. I made it clear from the get go that I was saving myself for marriage. I mean I had the purity ring and everything. Well one day he didn’t listen, he ignored me. I could have yelled, I could have pushed harder for him to get off of me…..but I froze. I was embarrassed….and he knew I would be. I got up and went to my dorm room and cried in my shower washing all of him off of me. I don’t recall praying so hard. I went days without talking to him and he insisted that we talk because he knew what he did was wrong. It was a subject we never really discussed and we never said the “R” word out loud to each other. You see, I was incredibly naive and gullible. I also had this twisted idea that whoever had that special part of me needed to be special to me. So I continued in an on again, off again relationship with him for years.

Not all of college sucked. I mean I was part of the gospel choir, dance was great and I had CLU…I thought you knew ;)(Christian Ladies United). I also met my now husband there.

But this is the deal. That night changed me. Not only did I endure an emotionally abusive relationship for years with this guy but my self worth became based on the attention that guys gave me.  I became very promiscuous. Don’t think for a second that I’m downplaying it. Pretty much if any guy gave me attention, we were going at it. I’ve had my share of broken hearts and morning after pills. I didn’t have a “type” per say.  My “type” was whoever gave me attention….until I became too much to deal with. Emotional immaturity was running a muck!

I remember one year in college I laid every pill I had on my bed and I was going to swallow them. Then the fire alarm went off and I thought to myself, “well, I don’t want to burn to death”, so I went outside and I called a fellow dancer friend and I told her exactly what happened. She helped me that day.  I also have my late cousin Bill to thank for being available to me in the middle of the night when I wanted to die. He talked me off the edge and I went to sleep that night feeling alright.

To spare you some details, college and my early twenties where just a mess with many suicidal thoughts, therapy and meds….

Until my Hero showed up

Ramon Smith (my now husband) showed up one day with “The Crew” at my job at Pottery Barn Kids. Ramon was the first friend I met in college. Freshman orientation First Flight to be exact.
I was a mess. I was broken and had pretty much given up on God, and in the spirit of transparency, I just didn’t give a shit. We sat outside Stonebriar Mall in Frisco, I lit up my cigarette and for the first time I witnessed him see me, the “messed up” Cessilye. But all along he saw the me that he always new to be true. He listened to me. He empathized and loved me in spite of my mess. He had his Bible with him but I don’t recall him actually opening it. He listened and he then spoke life over me. I don’t remember the details of what he said but what I do know is that he genuinely heard me and responded with compassion. He was gentle and for the first time I felt valued. That day I believe God used him to save my life.

Three months later I call him to the hospital to be with me because my cousin Bill had an accident. This was the beginning of us pretty much not going more than a day without speaking to each other. To this day it saddens me that Bill and Ramon never really met. That Bill doesn’t know that his accident actually brought Ramon and I together. That Bill also saved my life.

This can get long ya’ll. But I’m going to try and condense.

Ramon and I pretty much knew we were going to be married, we dated for two years and it was wonderful! I remember us falling to sleep on the phone with each other, he was always taking me out to some open mic or jazz club and we just had loads of fun. The flowers never stopped coming, it was amazing! This is how a woman is supposed to be treated? I can get use to this…..and I did. We got married, first year was awesome, second year was cool then we had our issues with infertility(that’s another blog – Making a Baby) and figuring out how to not lose our identity as individuals in a marriage that meant we were one.  Oh boy! Let the issues begin shall we?

Ramon and I will be married ten years in August. It’s been a roller coaster of a ride. There have been times where I’m like “Who the hell did I marry?” and there are times when like, “I’m an emotional idiot……so get away from me, I mean…..come here” – Maggie Estep (Def Jam Poet) video. Again, emotional immaturity.

Over the years we have had many conversations about how things use to be and why they aren’t the same. We’ve had issues with intimacy and identifying each others love language. One of mine is physical touch(ya don’t say!). Which is why I believe that played a role in how I viewed love in past relationships. But anyhow, recognizing that change is good and healthy, we would eventually get through whatever dilemma we might have been facing and grew from it.  It’s been a journey for sure. A major part of the healing journey was when I faced my ex with Ramon by my side, and I forgave him. Talk about a burden lifted.

Today tho….

Today was a revelation.  I remembered about a week ago I was laying in bed crying thinking about all the counterfeit relationships I’ve had, and then grieved because I felt like “damaged goods” and weary due to all of the baggage. But this is one of the lies that the enemy was whispering to me. Today as I was reflecting on that pain I was also redirected towards the hero that never should have been. The hero I found in my husband and the hero who will always fail me because even he is a mess.  He was always my hero. The one who saved my life and treated me special. The one that truly loved me. He wasn’t completely ignorant to this. He came in and swept me off of my feet. He knew about all of my baggage and he was determined to be what those other men were not…….but things got real. Life happened, the honeymoon phase was just that…a phase. The realities of life living with someone forced us to see under the mask we wear. This is where the Lord revealed our true selves and we had to face it.

My true self was needy, selfish, emotionally fragile and desperate for someone/something that would not let me down.  All of those counterfeit relationships were like me searching for that hero. When my husband stepped in he was unlike anything or anyone I had ever experienced. But it’s taken all of this time of pruning within the institution of marriage for me to realize that the real MVP, the true Hero is in Christ. That this entire time He was trying to show me that man will ALWAYS fail me in some way because we are all…A MESS.  I’m actually chuckling now because Ramon and I have been through so much and there have been many times where he just has not met my expectations. But thinking back, my expectations of him were self motivated, irrational and performance driven.  Oh goodness!

I’m smiling because in recognizing that we both are a HOT mess and reflecting on how the Lord has brought us through it all, it further shows me how deeply loved we are by Him. The pruning process can be so hard but when we are able to combine the two, this messy deep love produces something incredibly beautiful….

Transformation. #thatgracetho

I love how the Lord’s grace allows us to recognize our need for Him. How I can look back and see one constant. The real Hero is the one who brought me through it all. The one who keeps showing me that His love cannot be earned, but is freely given.

Matthew 11:28 says
“Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

I choose to rest in my mess and know that I am deeply loved by God, who’s grace will continue to transform me.

#recess

 

 

 

 

The Arrival of Emmanuel Josiah

Uncategorized

So, after weeks of waiting on my baby to arrive I was finally at my breaking point. On May 11, I laid down and spoke with Peanut and God to please come soon. I just couldn’t see myself going another three weeks.

Sure enough, at 6:15am I got out of bed to go to the restroom and there goes my water…right down my legs. I was pretty surprised because only 12% of women actually have their water break before labor. It was a moment of complete relief and joy because I knew then that I was going to see my peanut sooner rather than later. I did not have to wait another 1-3 weeks! The look on Ramons face was priceless. You could tell he was excited. It was a refining moment for our family. We are now two on the verge of becoming three. I sent my midwife Laura Cochran  and her assistant Amy Berrelli a text letting them know what was going on. Laura was calm cool and collective. I just continued to keep her updated.

I did not immediately go into labor. In fact I was feeling cramps but I didn’t recognize them as labor pains until 11:45am when they got more intense. At that point Ramon began timing them. They fluctuated between 4-22 minutes apart for 25hrs averaging at times between 4-10minutes apart. During this time Ramon and I labored on our own. In fact it was really amazing. I baked chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies and had the most amazing cheese steak w/cheese wiz for dinner and we went to bed. The contractions at this point were strong enough that I could not sleep throughout the night. I slept in between contractions and while a contraction was in effect I would moan or vocalize to get through them. I constantly kept Laura updated and she would continue to encourage me and tell me to be sure to sleep because I was going to need it later. She also wanted me to call her when I needed her presence.  Well, I felt pretty darn good on my own. With Ramons help it was painful but manageable so I just kept on laboring. It wasn’t until 5ish am that things started getting a bit more intense and Laura suggest Ramon fill up the tub. I tell ya, when I got in the tub the pain decreased by 50%. It was amazing!!!!!!

Amy arrived first then Laura shortly after around 8ish that morning on May 13. Around 10:30am Laura checked me and then told me that she would like to give me on some herbal remedies to try to speed along the process, she asked me if I would like some benedryl too so that I can get a few hours of sleep. Of course I said yes to that. I ended up getting about 2 1/2 hrs of sleep and boy did I need it. About an hour later she checked me again and at this point she gave me two options. #1 to continue laboring like I was which I could do however it was unproductive or #2 enjoy a delicious peanut butter, chocolate and castor oil milk shake 🙂 Oh joy…No seriously…That shake was DELICIOUS! Obviously, you know what option I chose. As I sipped on my castor oil shake Ramon and I went on a walk around the neighborhood. Did that shake work or what because soon enough I was having contractions every 10-15 steps! We only walked around the block and we went back into the house. At this point I was on fire and I felt like I needed to go poo really really bad…but I couldn’t. That’s when Laura told me that its my baby descending and that’s how it will make me feel. I hopped in the shower to cool off and deal with the pain.

(Did I mention that during the 25hrs of early labor I hadn’t dialated past a 2. In fact I was barely a two and boy am I glad Laura never told me.)

Ramon wanted me to rest seeing as that I was wiped out. The moment I had a contraction I hopped up and said “Get me in the pool now!” I literally could not stand another contraction outside of water.

I got into the pool around 2:30 and this is when my “active labor” began. I labored for 6 intense hours. I remember at some point asking Amy and Laura when it was going to be over. I remember Laura saying “Cessilye, now this is labor”. Those 25hrs prior to this moment was a breeze compared to the real deal. Ya wanna know my secret to getting my mind off that pain….lol. I just had a Major Pain flashback. Ok, seriously. I stopped vocalizing and began internalizing all of my pain directly to my uterus. I remember the first time I did this I was in the bathroom with Ramon and I envisioned my uterus pushing my baby out, Ramon catching Peanut and then handing me our baby. It brought such a huge smile to my face and I was able to cope with the contractions much better after that. I also, spoke to my uterus. I know it sounds weird but towards the end of labor you just simply want your baby!!!! So, I would mentally tell my uterus to give me my baby. I was yelling in my mind.

The wonderful thing about my labor is that I didn’t have any distractions. I did not have anyone directing me. I had my husband who continued to encourage me when he felt I needed to hear it and rub my back with olive oil. I can remember like it was yesterday my husband telling me “You’re a G”. I had Amy Berrelli who would look at me genuinely and tell me how wonderful I am doing and Laura Cochran who would offer guidance whenever I needed it. I had a birth mix cd my husband hooked up for me that had various artist on it such as Kari Jobe, Lauren Hill, Chrisette Michelle, Maxwell and Tre Nelson and many others. I had silence, peacefulness and most of all I had Jesus.

There were just a few times where my mind would wonder if I could compete this task but those moments were literally seconds. I knew that God created my body to do what it was designed to do and that was carry and bear a child. I could do this.

I knew something was up because when I would briefly open my eyes I would see Laura and Amy doing things. Putting gloves on, Amy would have a flashlight aimed and the GRAND EXIT and I remember hearing Laura whisper to Amy and Ramon to switch places so that Ramon could catch the baby.

There came a point where my back was killing me. Laura suggested I get on my hands and knees. I leaned over the pool and thus began the pushing phase. I did not have anyone tell me to push. My body just knew what to do. With each contraction I found myself pushing with it. It wasn’t intentional I just had to. After a while Laura said, “Cessilye reach down and feel your progress”. I reached down and felt the top of my baby’s head. It was amazing. Here I am doing the very thing that I have witnessed in a multitude of home birth videos. “Thats my baby, I said.” I knew then that the end was literally around the corner. Lets get this done is what was going on in my mind. The funny thing is prior to her telling me to feel by baby, I had no idea just how far along I was.

I kept at it and soon enough my babies head was out. Another contraction went by however it didn’t seem as strong. Laura asked me “Cessilye are you going to push your baby out during the next contraction?” I said, “Im gonna try”. It came the most important contraction of them all, the one to bring by baby’s entire body into this world. It was HARD!! Laura told me I had to push harder than I was and I did. I pushed well beyond the contraction and finally gave birth to Emmanuel Josiah Smith at 8:37pm May 13, 2011.

My husband Ramon and Laura caught Emmanuel and Ramon handed me our son.  The first tears of this entire event were tears at the arrival of our son. As we held our son Ramon prayed over our family. It was the most special moment that our family of three will ever experience. One that I would experience all over again in a heart beat and not change a single thing.

Emmanuel =The Lord is with us

Josiah=The Lord Heals (Read blog entitled “Making a Baby”)

8:37 – the time Emmanuel was born

8=New Beginnings

3=Trinity

7=Completion

So as we begin this new journey, I now know that my family of three is now complete. All thanks to Jesus Christ our Lord and our Savior.

P.S. HE HAD A KNOT IN HIS CORD AND WE NEVER KNEW.

Identity Crisis

activism, blacklivesmatter, feminism, pro-life, racism

Who am I? My name is Cessilye Smith. I am a black woman who grew up in an amazing two parent household with a younger sister and a dog. My life as a child was pretty much drama free. My parents are two beautiful human beings who are still married and very much in love. My mother was my most spiritual influence and my father was present and affirmed that I was both black and beautiful.  My sister and I fought a lot but now we are closer than we have ever been. I am now married to an amazing man and we have three children.

The uncomfortable stuff

Growing up I was surrounded by white people. There are only a few instances of racism that I recall in my life but my first was when I was in kindergarten. A little red head girl did not want to hold my hand on a field trip because she thought I would rub off on her. My parents handled that. No doubt.

I remember going to a convenience store when I was in middle school in Sulphur Springs, TX. and the cashier didn’t want to touch me so I was forced to put my cash on the counter. No one had to tell me what happened was racist. In fact, I don’t know if anyone knew what had just happened. But what I do know is that I felt it…and it felt horrible.

My sister from another mother, father and culture lives outside of San Antonio. I met her at track camp at UT in Austin when we were teens. We hit it off and we have always called each other sisters. Not friends, but sisters. We were so innocent about things such as race. I remember us putting on each others makeup to see what we would look like(that evidence will never go public;). I would go visit her and vice versa about once a year. Well, in 1998 I went to visit her and I found myself terrified. You see, my sister friend is from a small Polish town and although I grew up very comfortable around white people I was actually scared of them for the first time in my life.

Why all of a sudden?…..

James Byrd Jr.(Jasper,TX)

I’m actually in tears typing this.  I’m thinking about my sons. I’m thinking about the loss of innocence and the current reality of not going a day without thinking about the color of my skin and how it affects so much around me. From the way I raise my sons and my daughter, to activism.

In my early twenties I dated this white man about 16yrs older than me. I managed a store in Granbury, TX and we were hanging outside the Walmart there when a group of white men in their car yelled out “Nigger Lover!” to my then boyfriend.  I was terrified to drive back home that night…..so I didn’t.

I grew up protected from the world around me, completely unaware of the realities that people of color (POC) face every single day. Due to the “protection” that I received from my parents I believe it contributed to the happy, healthy, relatively uneventful pregnancies and fat babies that I birthed at home….for that I am incredibly thankful.

Protection=ignorance

Ignorance regarding my culture. Black American Culture.

I was teased a lot. I “talked white” did not understand slang or much about my history beyond MLK, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman….slavery.

“What school do/did you go to?”…private school…”Oh!…..THAT explains it”…yeah…it did.

*Side note. Have you ever researched the history of private schools? I’m not saying they are all like they use to be, but private education was a way to defy integration. It was a way to keep us brown people away and to some extent it still is. They let us in if we have the money to attend and/or the athletic ability to make their schools look good(it’s so obvious). This goes into the inequalities of education based on socio-economic status which ties into racism. That’s a rabbit trail I’m not going to lead you on right now.

I was a conservative, right winged, Bible thumping, Obama hating(not quite hate, just dislike) woman. I talked about the black community negatively. “They only vote democrat because mama did and granny did, so on and so forth.” It was a lot of “they” talk. There was such a disconnect.  I was pro-life because why wouldn’t a Bible believing Christian be? Funny how I attributed the behaviors of a specific community based on how they were raised without looking at myself.  This is in no way intended to paint my parents in a negative light. I will to this day attest that they are the most incredible parents I could have ever had. Flawed? yes, and so am I. I apologize to my children almost daily.

The thing is…..it has taken me becoming a parent for my eyes to be opened. I believe we are products of our environment. Our parents influence us in so many ways. I still do believe that often times people vote (among many things)based on what their mama did and their granny did and it does not matter what socio-economic environment or political affiliation you come from.

Open eyes create relief and heartache. 

My season of infertility was the beginning of my birth work/activism journey.  You can read that here  https://xrossxulture.wordpress.com

But let’s go back a little. The very beginning was Project M.I.C.A.H.(Molding Identities in Children through Art and History). The mission…”Project MICAH  is dedicated to enhancing the lives of low income and under privileged youth by providing quality education in the area of dance and various art disciplines while promoting creativity and spiritual growth”

You can see the old site here http://projectmicah.blogspot.com/

I founded a non-profit….WHAAAT! I truly had a passion for dance and I LOVED youth that looked like me. I wanted them to have the same opportunities that my parents offered me. Project MICAH was my first child and I believe it provided me a door into the realities of black life and essentially parenting. Looking back, it also revealed a “savior” complex that I was unaware I had until I began reflecting.  You ever hear the term “white savior”? Well, obviously I’m not white but what did I really know about the community aside from how “under privileged” it was?….nothing. But I say that not to discredit the work that was done. It was beautiful and I believe there was purpose behind the organization and it’s telling by how far I have come today.

I can write about this stuff because I am not the person I once was. In fact I can say with confidence that my intentions were pure.  I just didn’t know much. Through years of my husband working in youth ministry, living in the hood, witnessing the gentrification of our communities, learning of the preschool to prison pipeline, the prison industrial complex, having children of our own and learning of the disparities in maternal and infant mortality of POC…. I was forced awake!

With this new found wokeness came relief and heartache.  Relief because I now know who I am. I am confident in myself as a black woman and I am continually empowered by the long lineage of black women and men that made it possible for me to be who I am today. The #hiddenfigures in my ancestry. The black bodies that literally built this country. This is exciting because I’m learning daily and my children will know their history and will be part of it.

#thatheartachetho

It’s awful. The more I learn the more pain I feel because of what I see around me. My community is riddled of generational poverty and oppression. I see how the past affects us. Just as in feminism we fight against the view of holding the male body as normative, we as POC are fighting against whiteness as being viewed and held as normative. I feel like screaming! Some days I just want to go outside and scream until the whole world FEELS not only my pain but the pain of every oppressed person in this country. Every dead black mother and child due to systematic inequalities that span generations.

I want people to understand that “There is neither shame nor glory in being among the privileged/powerful (who can do great things when they become accountable stewards of their power/privilege) or among the oppressed/marginalized (who are a prophetic witness to injustice in the world, as well as the justice and mercy of God)” – Judy Wu Dominick

Who am I now?

I’m still trying to figure that out. I know that Christ is continually pruning me and making me new. I know that I don’t quite fit in anywhere and I suppose that is ok. For many I’m a bit TOO BLACK and for some I am not BLACK ENOUGH. I’m behind the ball and there is still so much that I have yet to learn.

Because I identify as a pro-life feminists with a consistent life ethic, people aren’t sure what to do with that. But the cool thing is that people are a beginning to at least listen to me….which is weird.

You CAN be both Pro-life and Pro-black….in fact you should be. In other words you can be both Pro-life and have a clear understanding of the oppression of people of color, marginalized people groups and see how things intersect.  You CANNOT be Pro-life and ignore the very laws that make it impossible for people to choose life to begin with. You CANNOT be pro-life and not be actively dismantling the structures of white supremacy that essentially kill black babies whether that be through abortion or through food desserts, gentrification and institutional racism. We have a national crisis at hand within the black community. Infant mortality, maternal mortality and abortion are linked in more ways than many care to realize and I believe we all can choose to be part of the solution or be part of the problem.

What am I saying?

I mentioned above that I’m not quite sure who I am…Well, I’m learning. I know that I’m not the person I once was. I know that I can generally bounce between heavily saturated black and white environments with ease and I have my upbringing and life experiences to thank for that.  I know that my life’s purpose goes beyond being a wife and mother. I know that part of my purpose it to leave a legacy of truth, freedom, justice and mercy.  I know that I am a sponge and I want to surround myself with empathetic, compassionate and most of all transparent people who seek to be consistent in their life and the lives of others. I know that I love to garden and I have this backyard that keeps growing weeds. And I believe these weeds are symbolic of the work that still must be done. That…

“In order to get rig of the weed you must pull it up by the root. Let’s uproot the system and plant a seed that bears fruit.”

I pray my seed (children) see my rooted faith along with the efforts that have been made and choose to be fruit bearers for future generations.

But most importantly……I pray that my children live.

#blacklivesmatter #representationmatters #prolife #prochoice #prowoman #newwavefeminist #doulaforlife #consistentlifeethic #trueprolifefeminist #rehumanize

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Home Water Birth of Ezra Jeremiah

Uncategorized

Today last year my #3, sweet Ezra, was born and it was a phenomenal day. I would do it all over in a heartbeat.

Xross

Where do I start….

Each of my childrens births have been special in their own right. However this one was special because we finally have roots. We have been a family on the move ever since Ramon and I said “I do”. Constantly moving nearly every year. Well, with the help and prayers of many friends and relatives, we purchased our first home in Oct. Because of this I was determined to have our baby at home.

If you read our previous blog entries you will see the history of how the Lord has been in every aspect of our fertility. Every single child we have has been a “surprise” and every child has been knit and woven in my womb by the Lord above, even when the doctors said it would never happen. There is no denying what the Lord has done in my family and I will always…

View original post 1,666 more words