Publications

Author of: The Notes They Played - a lyrical collection of short stories & The Impossible - a what-if story of the triumph over fear

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

So Timely!

It has been an absolute pleasure to be a part of the Summer Loving Blog Tour. It has also been very humbling, as Melony Teague lovingly and patiently walked me through every aspect of my participation. It's no secret by now, I am no technology whiz. I'm blessed to have the opportunity to join other authors in promoting our books, introducing ourselves through our blogs, and GIVING AWAY SOME EXCITING PRIZES!

“So Timely”
Petrified Flowers was released on Tuesday, June 16, 2020 during a time in our country’s history that has been referred to as Racial Restoration. I would like to call it Racial Reckoning, but I don’t believe a full reckoning has come. In my mind, true restoration hasn’t been fully realized either. My word choice might be attributed to that fact that my tendency as an African American woman is to consciously choose verbiage that won’t be construed as threatening. “Reckoning” has an ominous ring to it. I’m constantly fighting the urge to be fully emotive for fear of being labeled as an angry Black woman.
Petrified Flowers is about a grief and disquiet that permeates the life of an African American girl until God enters her purview and cloaks her anxiety in His love and His wisdom. He restores Iris and her entire family.  In the span of just two years Iris travels through three different spheres of American life – she is an upper middle-class minority, then she walks as an impoverished majority member. Finally, Isis is propelled into a utopian school where children are seen for who they are inside, and directed to work hard, serve, and positively impact society. I believe every child should exist in that third sphere.
As people begin to read Petrified Flowers, I keep hearing how “timely” the publication is. And, since I’m being brave and fully vulnerable here, I must confess. I hear the characterization “timely” differently, depending on who says it to me. The first time a white sister complimented Petrified Flowers that way, it was like a lash on my heart. It split me wide open. I wanted to reply defensively, “Yes. It’s been timely since 1619.” 
My good friend Laurie O’Connor, author of Live ABOVE the Chaos, recently gave a talk as part of a Bible study series she wrote - One Gritty Blink. I always learn something new when Laurie speaks. And, this time I learned about the “Six Selves” Communication theory. The theory goes like this; there are six selves involved in every interaction:
·       A
·       B
·       what A thinks of B
·       what B thinks of A
·       what A thinks B thinks of A
·       and what B think A thinks of B
I don’t know about you, but that feels exhausting to me. It reminds me of when I was a kid. If another kid tried to interrupt a conversation, we’d sassily say, “This is an A, B conversation, you can C your way out of it.”
All jokes aside, while even reading this theory feels way too entangled to me, I recognize it’s also totally accurate.  For example, when a white sister tells me Petrified Flowers is “so timely,” I immediately think issues of racial injustice have just now sprung up for her because she saw a news clip, or read an article on the internet. The inequality my people have been experiencing for centuries is new to her. She thinks this is the perfect time to publish a book about it because she is finally interested in reading that kind of book. The truth is, I have no idea what my white sister is thinking, or whether she has been attuned to racial injustice for her entire life.
When a sister with African roots tells me Petrified Flowers is “so timely,” I assume that she is thinking what I am thinking – enough white people are finally waking up, and so they will be more likely to purchase Petrified Flowers, and to sympathize with the plight of Iris and her sisters. This book is yet another avenue toward the recognition of, rejection of, and reparation of racial justice.
The truth is, I have no business interpreting these statements differently based on the color of my sisters’ skin. When I do, I am no different from the people that I accuse of seeing me as Black first. The truth is, Petrified Flowers is timely for all of us – Christian, Black, white, young, old, female, and yes, even male. It is timely for poetry lovers and those who have been reluctant to delve into the complicated web that poetry weaves, with its multiple definitions and myriad interpretations. Petrified Flowers is an illustration, inspired by God for such a time as this.   

Check out the entire SUMMER LOVING BLOG TOUR here: 
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Special Note: Laurie O’Connor graciously allowed me to use her name and her teaching in this post. Laurie is a dynamic teacher of the Word. You can follow her, subscribe to her blog, and purchase her book at https://www.oaksministries.com/ 

Friday, May 29, 2020

Ahmaud Arbery 2.23

On May 8, 2020 I set out to run 6.69 miles in honor of a life despicably cut short. Ahmaud Arbery was gunned down by a murderous, racist father/son duo as he ran through the streets of his neighborhood. It was his regular daily run. Some people have characterized his killing as a modern day lynching. There was no “mob action,” in the death of Ahmaud, but there is no doubt he was put to death without legal authority.

May 8, 2020 would have been Ahmaud’s twenty-sixth birthday. I am a runner, so the call to run 2.23 miles (because he died on February 23, 2020), on his birthday, in his memory, appealed to me. I have four Ahmauds – children born with beautiful mahogany skin and kinky-curly hair; children that you only have to look at to know they are descendants of Africans brought to this country to build it for free; to be raped, tortured, lynched, and maimed. To be owned. Four hundred and one years after the first Africans were brought to this country, African-Americans are still being put to death for being brown. An entire country that brutalized and destroyed generations of people - Native Americans and then Africans - has now disguised itself as the victim (google the name Amy Cooper for one recent example), and created the image of African-Americans as predatory and criminal. My children are Ahmaud.

So I set out to run 6.69 miles alone, knowing that later I would run the final 2.23 with my four children. 2.23 times 4. In honor of Ahmaud, someone else’s baby, and in recognition that I have four just like him. Only I could not stop at 6.69, so I ran an even 7. It was one of my strongest runs in quite some time. But, it was one of my most mentally painful. I ran and I prayed. I ran and I sang along to my praise music. I ran and I fumed. I ran and I cried. Tears spilling onto Georgia asphalt as I wondered how much blood and sweat and tears of slaves and freedman was spilled on my route, and long forgotten. I grappled with the issues that brought on Ahmaud’s demise, and I wrestled with the sovereignty of God.

I only just learned Ahmaud’s name the day before. And, the more I learned, the angrier I got. I talked to both of my boys. They have been working hard to stay fit during the time of social distancing. They have been going out a lot, running for speed. Ahmaud was out running too. Minding his own business. Trying to stay fit. In his own neighborhood. It was not the first time I talked to my boys. I have been talking to them since they were little, about how to respond to police or angry strangers, if confronted.

I tell them to stay calm when confronted by police or regular citizens. Black men who raise their voices are perceived as threatening. I tell them to put their hands up in a surrender stance, even if they have nothing to surrender. “Your job is to come back home alive,” I tell them. I tell them to never, ever run. Black men who run away are seen as threatening, and often shot in the back. I tell them that if they ever find themselves with a group of friends and someone comes up with a stupid idea, they are not to follow the crowd. They are to come home, immediately! We live in a predominately white neighborhood. Most of their friends are white. I tell them that if they are out participating in some dimwitted prank, as teenagers have been known to do, and someone with a gun wants to teach them a lesson about mischief, in the sea of vanilla running away, the gunman will aim for the chocolate. I know this. I want them to know it. They need to know it. To survive. I tell them very simply, “You are not permitted to make the same idiotic choices that your white counterparts can. So, just come home.”

In my dismay, I confided in a very close friend about how sad I am about Ahmaud. This friend whom I love, who I know loves me, proceeded to tell me about another tragic case; a security guard that was shot in the head for insisting that a customer wear a face mask. As she told me the story, my mind immediately went to cynicism. Immediately. I wondered to myself, Is she telling me this story because it’s a tables turned kind of thing? Is she telling me this because a white security guard was killed by Blacks? Or, maybe it’s an all Black situation; another case of ‘them killing themselves.’ Why is she telling me this story? Is it to mitigate Ahmaud’s death in some way?

Understand, this is a beloved friend that I know, without a doubt, would put herself in between any one of my children and any harm that threatened them. She is also a minority, but you might not be able to tell that at a glance. And, her children have blond hair and blue eyes.  I will likely never have to protect them from danger.

I did look up the story she was talking about. The victim and the perpetrators are all Black. The perpetrators were arrested immediately and charged immediately. Ahmaud was killed on February 23, 2020, and until May 8, 2020, the two white men that murdered him were still living freely in their homes, with their families.

Dylan Roof, the white supremacist and mass murderer who perpetrated the Charleston church shooting in June, 2015 was arrested peacefully by law enforcement, and escorted to and from court appearances wearing a bullet proof vest for his protection. Dylan Roof is just one example of the differences in the way white suspects are treated and apprehended. According to the website mappingpoliceviolence.org, unarmed Black people were killed by police at five times the rate of whites in 2015. So, my children are five times more likely to be seen as threatening and shot by police than my friend’s children.

Except, Ahmaud Arbery was not killed by the police. He was killed by vigilante white men who thought he resembled a robbery suspect. Vigilante whites have been rounding up and killing my people for suspected crimes, for fabricated crimes, and for the purposes of intimidation for 401 years. According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, Georgia’s documented lynch toll is 458, exceeded only by Mississippi. This number is likely inaccurate, as there was no docket to officially record lynchings, and lynchings were often public events that racist white families attended in a celebratory fashion; bringing blankets to sit on while they ate their lunches and spectated, heckling the victims.
But, the evidence is there – white perpetrators of crimes are apprehended and tried for their crimes; and even protected from physical harm during the process. White lives have value and deserve fair proceedings. Even mass murdering whites are not as threatening as Black suspects. Black suspects are fair game for anyone with a weapon. They can be run down, gunned down, dragged through the streets, and beaten for looking like someone who may have committed a crime. Because, Black people are inherently threatening. 

I ended my talk with my boys with these four words, “So, just be careful.” But, as I turned to walk away, my youngest son, who is only thirteen and quick to question, quick to challenge, and quick to speak up, stopped me in my tracks. This child is not one to put his hands up in surrender when faced with injustice. God, please protect him!

“What do you mean, ‘be careful’? How will being careful help us? Ahmaud didn’t do anything reckless or careless. He was just out running.”
All I could say was, “You’re right. We have to just pray for protection.” I cannot promise my son that he will not be murdered while minding his own business, simply because his skin is brown. 

I do pray, obviously. And, I did. I prayed every time I thought of Ahmaud, for God to watch over and protect my children and all brown children as they go about their daily lives. I prayed and prayed and prayed and then God whispered. He brought Abraham and Isaac to mind. Abraham would have sacrificed his son - the one he had prayed for, the one God promised him, the one he received miraculously – at God’s command.

“But, God,” I argued. “This is different. I am asking you to protect my innocent children from unjust killing by evil enemies, not godly surrender and sacrifice.”

“Trust is an act of surrender. And, godly sacrifice.” He said. “I want you to trust me. I want you to say, ‘I trust you, Lord, no matter what happens with my children. I trust you.' Give them to me because they are mine. And, Joiya, your prayer should be, ‘Help them to love You, to dedicate themselves to You, to know You and surrender to You so that when they die, they will be released back into Your loving arms.’ Teach them that their lives should be like lighthouses, showing others the way to Me.”

Even as I struggle with Ahmaud’s story and keep track of his case, I have to be ever-mindful of the flesh in me that wants to hang on to bitterness and resentment. I have to remember that He did not create me to be anxious. I have to send my children off into this world with confidence, knowing that I have given them the tools to make a positive impact, and surrendering them into God’s will and plan for their lives. Even in my anger at the actions of racists, and my fury at a justice system that has two different sets of laws, depending on victim/perpetrator race, I have to trust God that justice will be served by His mighty hand. I cannot see beyond this mortal world into the eternal. The totality of existence has not been revealed to me. So, I must pray. I must trust. I must surrender. And, I must forgive.




Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Resistance and Resilience, Part 1

GUEST BLOGGER, NICOLE JOHNSON


Last month I was asked to speak to a group of students on the theme of resistance and resilience. Since then, I've reflected on the ways my resilience, defined as my ability to spring back into shape; my elasticity, has been strengthened through personal, professional and spiritual challenges.

I find peace in knowing, though trouble will come in my life, when I trust God and am obedient to His voice, trouble is not my demise. I am resilient, and I can endure in any situation. I will be the first to admit that, while the storm is brewing, it does not feel like I will make it. I hear the thunder roll and see the lightening flash, and my first instinct may be to HIDE and HIDE NOW! But, time and time again, the aftermath has shown me, nothing I thought would ruin me did. Or can. In fact, everything that could have ruined me made me better.

I've adapted Jeremiah 29:11 as my life verse, for the time being, as a reminder that God has a plan for me.

     For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

The context of this verse is important. The Israelites were carried into exile, away from the promised land Jerusalem by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. In Chapter 28, Prophet Hananiah tells the exiles they would be free from bondage in two years. He then dies, for preaching rebellion against the Lord. Now, here comes Jeremiah, whose prophecy (word from the Lord) says the Israelites will remain in exile for seventy years. Seventy years?! I am struggling with the COVID-19 shelter-in-place safeguards, and it's only day twenty-five of working from home.

Though God's promise of a plan and hope for the future is great, there is also an instruction to the Israelites to make the most of the exile experience. Though you are not in the place I promised for you, and you probably do not want to be here:


  • Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Jeremiah 29:5
  • Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Jeremiah 29:6
  • Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper. Jeremiah 29:7
During the pandemic and in everyday "normal" life, many things are not as I want them to be. But, I am encouraged that God continues to sit on the throne in heaven and wants what is best for me. God is not telling the Israelites to settle, but simply saying "Not yet. I am preparing the place for you and you for the place." 


My prayer:
In the places we are, on the journey to where we are going, Lord help us listen for Your voice and find contentment and peace; all the while knowing we serve a God who has plans for our future; plans to prosper and not harm up, giving us hope for the future.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

MAXimilian Efemini 3/7/18 - 10/29/19

We lost our beloved puppy MAXimilian nearly a week ago.

He was such a sweet, sweet boy. He was smart and patient with the kiddos. He had abundant energy. He cuddled with us all, but loved me best. He was a pleaser, so perpetually obedient that I often joked, "he's my favorite child."

One minute he was here, being taken for granted by us all. And the next, he was dead in the street. Hit by a car. Lifeless on impact.

Because Hubby was only almost home, I had to pick up his limp, still warm body from the road. I had to wrap him in the blanket he came home to us in. The one that had the scent of his mother on it.

Yet, almost immediately, I thanked God. The thankfulness confounds me a little. Yet, there was so much to be thankful for, even in our devastating grief.

I thanked Him that my children did not see the actual impact. That his precious thirteen-pound body remained intact. That he died instantly. That he looked like he was peacefully sleeping in the road. The only thing betraying that illusion; the tiny pool of blood at the corner of his mouth. We were all home and able to cry together and each hold him in our arms one last time. We buried him together as a unit, each of us shoveling a scoop of dirt or two over him, in the hole that Hubby and my eldest dug. We mourned together - crying and hugging and speechless. For all of that, I thanked The Almighty.

Two of my children blamed themselves. Still blame themselves. They have taken it the hardest. They left the door open to go play outside and he followed them. They saw him in the road first. They "should have done something."

This is what I told them:
There was nothing to be done. God gives us all a number of days on the earth. No human hand can stop God's perfect plan. His timing is perfect. We had all grown comfortable in the fact that Max no longer ran away. And, we were all guilty of leaving that particular door open when it should have been always shut. Any of us could have left it open that day. It just happened to have been them.

I told them in the human mind, life is short. Way too short. Our loved ones are sometimes taken way before we feel it's time. Before we've said I love you, again. Before we've done one last wonderful thing for them. After we've said or done something horrible to them that didn't seem very horrible when we assumed they'd live forever. When they are gone, it seems like the most horrible thing we've ever done in our lives.

Privately, I thanked God for this too - the chance that my children had to see dead up close and personal. Painfully. Regretfully. Heartbreakingly. For the chance to see just how fleeting life is. I remember when my beloved Aunt Helen, sick in the hospital after her first major stroke, heard that her husband had lost his battle with cancer. Her first words were, "Gone with the wind." Such is life.

And, much the same way that I was able to observe my aunt, my kids got to see me mourn Max; to sob for him and hold gently a dead body. They saw my husband, who is often stoic, cry like a baby in front of them, caressing the remains of a dog that often annoyed him, who he mostly ignored. Emotions, they learned, are complex. And, then he shared with them, again, the tragedy of his life - when eighteen years ago he left for work and the brother he lived with seemed perfectly healthy. A few hours later he got a call that that very same brother, at twenty-six, was gone.

My kids, at fourteen, and twelve, and nine and seven got to experience all of that. I pray that they will now be more conscious of the things they say to others. That they will cherish the moments and be less annoyed with the ordinarily annoying ways of others. They will be more aware of the mortality of us all and the importance of loving everyone, every second they get to do so.

I thank God. I do. Even in my grief. My own sadness confuses me. Of course I cared for Max, and I truly I enjoyed him. I did not know the extent of my love for him, that it would be so difficult to fathom his mortality. That I would take a nap on the couch and think I felt his weight and warmth at my feet, even though he'd died the day before. He was a little over a year and a half. It's numbing, really, to remember that he is gone each time I consider him. My stomach still clenches when I pass the spot on the road in front of the house where he was found, where I had to pick him up. My heart aches for our sweet, sweet puppy, who loved us all, and who we all loved.

Still, I am so grateful.

In my desire to assuage my childrens' anguish, we've prayed unceasingly for comfort. I told them that God has a plan for us all and that His plan is perfect, although often impossible for us to understand. Then my flesh jumped in and I said one of the stupid things that humans often say when death strikes, I told them that we don't know if maybe God was trying to protect us from something that could have happened if Max had stayed alive; maybe he had some illness that would have caused us to watch him waste away and suffer for many months. This way, I told them, was instant and far less painful. Of course, it's ridiculous. I cannot even pretend to understand the ways of God or make sense of His plan.

But, my eldest made a much wiser application. He asked me if I'd noticed that Maxie was lighter after he died than he had been when we was alive. Yes, I nodded slowly. Yes, I remember he was. Although, at the time I hadn't paid attention. Yes, he was significantly lighter. It's proof, he said, that we do all have a spirit. And, Max's was gone. Our spirits have weight. They are tangible even if invisible.

One more thing I'm thankful for - confirmation. Here is this young man that I am trying to mold into a man that believes in and submits to and loves Jesus. And, in the moment of his greatest sorrow he to Jesus. He settled in proof of Him.

I love Jesus and thank Him for life, however fleeting, and the lessons that we learn from children.

1 Thessalonians 5:16 - Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. - Romans 8:28

Do We REALLY Know This?
I do know this. I do...But often I get so caught up in fleshly principle. I find myself saying, "I know, God, I know but he/she/they..." I fill in the blank with the ways that others have fallen short and need my guidance. I play God. I pretend that I know what's best for myself and for others. I fall back into my habit of fixing. 

He is the Miracle Maker!
But, when I truly surrender, miracles happen. I calm down. I speak love into someone else, even when they are making it hard to love them. I let go of my pride. I make an effort toward being like Him. 

Life Application I have been so frustrated with the process of getting my first novel published. Like so many people, I find comfort in the familiar. This process is remarkably different from my first publication experience. I have not, for the majority of this time, put my trust in Him. Instead, I have focused on all the ways that this probably won't work out. There have been many bumps along the road that have caused me to question my decision to put my book in the hands of this particular publishing company. 

Don't Judge a Publishing Company By It's CoverWhen the first book cover was submitted to me for my review and approval, it became painfully obvious that the persons responsible for the selection hadn't read my book. And, since the cover was passed on to me by my publication assistant, it became obvious that she had not read it either. What a bitter pill for me to swallow - that the people involved with the finishing touches meant to dress my book for the world hadn't even bothered to read it. Talk about hurt pride! 

I sent an email letting my assistant know that the cover would not work, and why, and waited for another cover. All while I waited, I worried and grumbled. I told myself that I would not be so patient next time. If the next cover was not appropriate, I would call her and give her a piece of mind.

When the next cover came, just as inappropriate as the first, I picked up the phone immediately. At some point between the dialing of the number and the voice on the other end of the line, I allowed His patience and peace to prevail. I asked important questions, but I listened more than I talked. My voice was measured, sweet even. And, not that disingenuous, condescending tone that I can be so masterful at. After the conversation was over, I sat stunned for a moment, wondering how I'd gone into the conversation with self-righteous anger and come out with a plan to help in the designing of my book cover. I know nothing about book cover design! 

I went into my photo gallery to find an old picture of my grandparents. If nothing else, I could at least show them the time period in which my characters lived. My book is very loosely based on their life, after all. In the process of searching for that old photo, I came across a picture and heard a voice say "This is your cover!" I nearly shouted for joy. 

Miracles
First of all, I had no recollection of ever having seen that picture. I remembered that one of my cousins once did extensive research on our family history and sent out a few legal documents he found, and some pictures from newspapers and such. But I had no memory of THAT picture. It was like I was seeing it for the very first time. And, there is only on explanation for it - GOD.


I could have gone with my flesh; insisted that they were in the wrong, insisted that they find me a cover appropriate for my book, insisting that I'd done my job by writing and that they needed to do theirs. I could have shouted and demanded and threatened. I am capable of that kind of prideful behavior.

I believe I would have missed an opportunity to have the God-chosen cover for my book. I believe that when we submit to His example of peace and patience, we fend off the enemy, who seeks to destroy everything. 

I am here to be His reflection. I know that when I aim for that, amazing things happen.  I pray that I will try, continually, to keep my focus on loving Him and serve His purpose, instead of mine.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Balance, Pedal, Steer!

Sometimes I think about the pleasure I'll have, when I FINALLY have an empty nest, when I reminisce about all the little things that I took for granted, or even grumbled about; the day-to-day things that are just part of raising kids. All the trifles that felt mundane or weighed on me. Teaching each of my children to ride their bikes without training wheels will be one of those things.


I taught all four of them. We live on a busy street, so our driveway only serves to help with the beginning stages of the learning process. I always used the mantra "balance, pedal, steer." You've got to do all three at the same time. You stop any of them, and you fall. Once they got the basics down, I'd take them to a larger area. 

The boys learned on a day that promised a 100% chance of thunderstorms. But, I'd planned to teach them, and by golly, they would learn! So, I packed them up, along with their bikes, their infant sister, and her stroller. We headed to their elementary school. They were learning together because 1) my eldest really should have been taught already, 2) the youngest was ready so why not just do it, 3) they are only 16 months apart, so it wasn't THAT bad that I'd waited until they were both ready. 

Unfortunately, they learned with an impatient mother who was worried about the impending storms, worried that they would not learn before those storms rolled in, worried I'd have to do all the heavy lifting another day, worried that the baby would fuss and cry and not sit patiently, worried that I didn't have it in me to teach them and they would end up like me - not learning until they were 12! I let worry dictate my state of mind. The entire experience was miserable and exhausting for all of us, with me insisting and impatient and them frustrated and afraid they'd disappoint.

They did learn that day, both of them. Before it started raining. With their baby sister looking on in her stroller, patiently. And, their joy (and mine) almost negated the terrible way I'd taught them.

My eldest daughter learned in another elementary school parking lot. The boys and I were running pacers every morning during that summer with my friend Rod and his boys (their friends). We had been late meeting them that morning, rushed and frazzled. The boys got started on their pacers and I tried to get daughter #1 on her bike. "You didn't bring the knee pads!" The look on her face made clear that she was not getting on that thing without them. I left all the kids with Rod, and rushed back home to get the knee pads. I came back to a child who knew how to ride. Just like that! In 10 minutes. I suspect Rod had something to do with it, but he maintained that she'd done it on her own. She agrees.

With my baby, like everything else from potty training on, she'd decided well before I was ready to teach her, that it was time for her to learn. We practiced in the driveway for several sessions, as I'd done with the other three, and Hubby and I had taken her to pick out her very own bike. She walked up and down the aisles in the store over and over, inspecting each bike carefully before she finally decided on a purple matte finish. It was a beauty! 

And then when it was time to go out and learn, she'd balked. She was afraid. She didn't want to fall. So I responded the way every patient and loving mother does - I referenced the amount of money we'd paid for the bike because she'd said she was willing to learn, and I threatened to give the bike away to a little girl who deserved it.

And for several days, we didn't mention it; I in my frustration and her in her fear. And then my sweet youngest came to me and said, "Mommy I prayed to God and now I'm brave. I want to learn to ride my bike." 

I'm so thankful that God steps in to manage the situations that I botch. I'm also pleased that my kids can harvest from seeds I've planted, even when I've neglected to water them. 

So, we started in the driveway. Balance, Pedal, Steer! As with the other kids, she needed a bigger space to master the pedal and steer. I told her that she needed to be focused and look ahead to where she wanted to go. Because when she got distracted by the puppy or her sister, or anything (and everything) else, she would look there and go there instead of where she meant to. We went to her elementary school. Balance, Pedal, Steer! And then she did it! Oh, the joy!!!

It occurred to me as I watched her balancing and pedaling and steering, and as I gave her the direction to LOOK where she wanted to GO, that life is a lot like riding a bike...

My lack of patience with my children often comes from the pressure of things to be done. I have a running list of things to do each day and my pleasure often comes from getting them done, instead of how I got them done. Their busy schedules make life even more chaotic. Balance means putting what is essential FIRST, placing what is optional next, and wiping away or limiting the things that don't matter. In Matthew 6:33-34, we are instructed, "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. "Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow..."

It's so typical of me to be overwhelmed and preoccupied by what things are to come when I'm supposed to be focused on God first! His timing is what I have to focus on. To trust that the rain will come when it's supposed to, and that if it does come, time will be granted later. There is nothing wrong with later. I have to do better at trusting God to make sure that everything will work out, when it should (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) because when I trust Him, it does. When I trust Him, patience abounds. I can speak to my children in a way that is good for building them up, with grace (Ephesians 4:29).

Pedal. Oh, how easy it is for me to wish that my life was easier - less cooking, less cleaning, less chauffeuring, less homework review, less refereeing. Galatians 6:9 says, "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." The truth is that I'm investing in my family. What a blessing that I can! And, if I'm going to do it, I might as well do it joyfully (Galatians 5:22). I love these 5 heartbeats that I live with. LOVE them. Love bears, believes, hopes, and endures (1 Corinthians 13:7).  

And, let's be real - my life really is easy, even on the days it feels hard! No matter how overwhelmed I get about cooking - Thank God I have food to cook. Cleaning? Praise the Lord for this house with heat and lights and running water. Driving my kids around? Blessings abound - money to pay for sports, a safe place for them to do it, a vehicle to get us there. 

Where we look is where we go. It's true with bike riding and it's true with life. Proverbs 4: 25-27 instructs, "Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil." 

The best example I can be for my children is of a mother with focus; who looks directly ahead to God as my guide. I must be mindful of the path that I take, and wise in directing my family's path. Prayer about all things brings wisdom. Wisdom brings clarity and surety. There is only one way to be sure that we are going in the right direction. And, once we're headed there, we must pedal with everything in us, and maintain balance. In this way we won't need the knee pads! 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Whitest Blacks

I went to bed sad a few nights ago. Sometime during the night the sadness I slept on morphed into anger. It was the snarling, smokey-eared, red-eyed, flared nostril kind of anger that every Mama reserves for those who hurt her children. And my child had been hurt. He'd been called a name that he hadn't fully understood. And, he'd questioned his identity. And, he'd come to me to help him navigate it.

I did not thank God, right away, that he'd come to me. But, I should have. These years are the years where kids are trying their hardest to pull away from us while all the while wanting desperately to cling to us for dear life. They choose their friends over their parents. They experience a roller coaster of emotions that they don't entirely understand. I would not go back to adolescents for any amount of money. It's harder even still when you a minority, of any kind. That my kids still come to me with the things that are big to them is a blessing!

I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood and went to a predominantly white elementary, middle and high school. I never had a teacher that was not white until I went to college. I was, often, the only Black person the kids in my school knew. My family was often the only Black family the people in our neighborhood knew. We were upper middle class. Both of my parents are college educated and they both held high level executive positions. My sister and I were both expected to go to college, and then graduate school. And, we both did.

When deciding where to buy a house, Hubby and I looked for top performing elementary, middle and high public schools because we didn't plan to send our children to private school. What we found was a beautiful home in a predominantly white neighborhood.

I was taught by my parents that some white people expect Black people to act a certain way - to be loud, to speak improper English, to be poor, to be uneducated, to be impulsive and ignorant. They taught me that Black kids often had to outperform whites in order to be noticed and to get ahead. They taught me to never act the way some white people expected me to, but to instead always act with pride for myself and my race, with dignity, and with God's light shining from me.

I have done my best to raise my children the same way. Almost. I do not tell them they have to outperform white kids. To me, white kids are not the yardstick by which to be measured. I tell them to live up to their own personal potential, and to the purpose that God intends for them. Their only goals should be living lives of purpose and living lives that glorify the Almighty.

I knew that my children would face racism. It has not gone away. Plus, we live in Georgia. My first job out of law school was in Swainsboro, Georgia, where the prom was still segregated. In 2003. But I thought that their generation was more enlightened. They would have been exposed to Black people, they would know that you can't judge a person solely by the color of their skin. Right? Wrong! Despite what I may have thought, the way the world at large sees Black people really hasn't changed that much from when I was a kid.

At school, my eldest son is quiet. He follows the rules. He does his best. He is kind. And, the kids he is drawn to for friendships have these same qualities. He learned recently that, to some, he seems to be an anomaly. Some ignorant kids called him "the whitest black kid" in the school. He was told that since he doesn't use profanity, isn't loud, and doesn't get in trouble ever, he acts like a white kid. He came home mostly confused and also a little hurt.

When he  told me, I was shocked. Certainly in 2018 my son's generation didn't still hold the cookie cutter idea of the Black man. I mean, these kids have witnessed Barack Obama - articulate, intelligent, dignified - as President of the United States.

I told Hubby about it because he is the household expert on what it means to be a Black man in America. He would have his talk with his son. And, I asked my Dad to talk to my son as well, because he has been close to my children since they were born, and he is an excellent role model for them all. 

But, I am his Mama, and I needed to talk to him too. I allowed myself to feel the anger, to stew on it for a few hours, and then I prayed for wisdom. I called him into my room for a talk.

Here's what I told my son;

It's the Great American Fallacy that when God created people in general he created each one to be unique and spectacular. But when he created Black people, he made them all the same. You can be whatever and whoever you choose to be. I hope you will choose to follow Jesus. I pray that for you fervently. I know that you will never forget that Daddy and I raised you to be strong and courageous, hard-working and kind, forgiving and loving. And I know you have what it takes to be all of that. You are not what the world tells you to be. You are you. The you God made.