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

 

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.

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

 

 

 

 

2016

Birth, blacklivesmatter, corruption, Faith, Food, God, health, hope, hurt, institutionalracism, Jesus, Motherhood, pain, Parenting, race

What comes to mind when you think of 2016? Is it the Presidential election, Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood, senseless deaths….Haiti? Is it social media, bathroom rights, Cosby, Kanye, The Kardashians, and Katherine Jenner? How about mommy wars, breastfeed shaming(to cover or not to cover), GMO’s, Vaccines and all those holistic dr. deaths being suspect.  What about police brutality, riots, Dallas, the New Jim Crow, Flint and …the wall.

I know, I know, some of you are probably thinking….damn.

Some of you are probably wanting to stop reading right now, but wait.

I know that this year has bene rough to say the least.  I personally left tha book(you know what I mean) right before the election. I needed to. As much as I wanted to change the world for my children the world was wrecking me.

I’m an empath.  Google it….With that said this year has been a tough one.

I initially thought that this blog entry would be about how amazing 2016 had been. Because when it’s all said and done there is a laundry list of things that I am so thankful for. It’s been a whirlwind but a good one. The tough times have brought me to a place of self reflection and healing.

The thing is…I want to encourage you. Instead of marinating on the brutality of this past year or wishing for it to be over I want you to close your eyes for a while and peel back all the thick layers of hurt and pain until you come to something…beautiful.

Keep peeling….

Peel it off…

keep on going…

almost there….

Have you found it?

Now once you’ve found it I want you to reflect on it. Go deep. See if anyone else could have possibly been affected in a positive light. After that I want you to go searching for more. It should get easier. Pretty soon you just may be focused solely on just how amazing 2016 has been. Notice I didn’t say “was”. Because 2016 is not over. You still have a few more days to make incredible memories.

Can I share something beautiful with you?

In Oct. I found myself on the verge of a mental breakdown. My husband and I were not speaking each others love language, I was overwhelmed being at home all day with three kids under five. I was always tired, I missed being fit and dancing like I use to, I was sad. Sad because my family life is not how I imagined it would be. Sad because of all the tragedy in the word and my eyes being opened to oppression and institutional racism. People of color feeling hopeless and babies dying in the womb because women feel they have no way out and a government that keeps people trapped into an oppressive mindset and way of life. I could go on and on at the things that were plaguing my mind but let me get to the good stuff.

The good stuff is that I know for sure that I needed help. I’ve suffered with depression on and off for years. And post partum depression can develop anywhere from a few weeks to a year after delivery. Is it possible that if you have your babies every 2-2.5 yrs like me, that you never fully kick it? Maybe, all I know is that with a little help from some natural supplements(I’m not talking about the ganja 😉  Although, that stuff has some amazing properties if you can get it legally(obey the laws of the land ya’ll).

Anyways supplements helped me and dare I say it(to all my agnostic and heathen friends, don’t tune me out) Jesus. I’m serious ya’ll. If there is one thing that has remained constant in my life it is Christ. The one that saved me. The one that listens even when I may not feel He is. The one that keeps me going. The one that I will always and forever give glory to. I’ve joined a local BSF where we study the Word. Not devotional, no….BIBLE STUDY. It’s been amazing. But most importantly, my relationship with God is growing. I’m grounded or shall I say rooted.

I encourage you to give up the desire to be “tha man or woman” and lay your burdens at the cross. Just lay it out. Everything……then wait. Wait for His direction and be prepared for whatever that is. Sometimes it is in line with what you want and then sometimes it reminds you that your desires aren’t His desires. People often misquote Psalm 37:4

“Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

They usually take out the first part of that sentence and say “Girl you know God will give you the desires of your heart”…………..WRONG……but right. Who or what do you delight in? If you aren’t delighting in the Lord then……marinate on that for a minute.

My husband teaches our children this saying. “I am what I am by the grace of God, by the grace of God”. Now repeat that.  Rap that piece. Add a little shoulder bounce and beat to it. I’m here to remind you that “You are what you are by the grace of God, by the Grace of God”.

So if you don’t take away anything from this year, take away that…and carry it into the new year.

Romans Road – Romans 3:23, 3:10, 5:12, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9-10, 10:13, 10:17

John 3:16

Ashe,

Cessilye

#RECESS

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