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

 

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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