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Wednesday Wind Down: Full Circle

Good Evening, Sweethearts!

So, a beautiful thing happened this month and there were 3 messages that were so clear to me. I chewed on them a bit before sharing them with you and now I’m ready. But first, the context.

On Saturday, February 16th, the Birmingham Committee for Truth and Reconciliation hosted A Conversation with Dr. Angela Davis at the historic Boutwell Auditorium in Birmingham, Alabama. I had the honor of performing Glory (from the Selma movie soundtrack) with my childhood friend G.I. Magus in front of Dr. Davis and a potpourri of historical and political pillars. I was appreciative just be a piece of the puzzle and I couldn’t have written a better chapter in my life story. Besides the obvious prestige, let me tell you why this was a jewel of a moment.

In elementary school, I saw a photo of Dr. Davis and was entranced. She was a beautiful mix of political prowess, academic excellence, and natural beauty. I loved the way she wore her freedom like a long technicolor cape. Her hair, her voice, and her facial expressions screamed confidence. It was official – she was a shero. The more I read about her, the more fire I felt and I was proud to know that she was a native daughter. I was convinced that I would have an afro just like her when I found the courage to do so. For over 10 years, I did and still do.

Seeing her this month was the culmination of multiple dots connecting to create a beautiful experience, which leads me to the first message – your past can touch your future at any moment, so spend your present well. You never know how hello’s can turn into a double helix of lifetime connections. The people I met in 7th grade, high school, and college would become creative geniuses, community organizers, academic powerhouses, and prolific speakers. Any way you slice it, the fingerprints of my past were all over my future and I was in awe of the masterpiece.

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It’s a blessing to genuinely develop relationships over time, which leads to the 2nd message I heard that week –  your character will follow you wherever you go. This past weekend was a reminder that how you treat people goes far beyond the present moment. I’m not perfect, but I am so grateful that my rapport was strong enough to last a decade or two and some awesome individuals thought positive of my footsteps. That is a gift I will never take lightly… as long as I live. I hate it when people size me up based upon what I can do for them. That’s why I love learning about the spirit behind the job title and socioeconomic status.  In the end, we all appreciate being seen as a person. We appreciate a chance to disrobe our character and let it walk freely ahead of us.

The third message was just as loud – your help is waiting on you. I couldn’t have performed with confidence without the support of my tribe. The prayers from my mother, the love from my small group, the perfect track from my friends, the training from my mentors… there were familiar faces in every facet of this opportunity, each of them believing in God’s gift in me. I am forever grateful. Forever appreciative that when I asked for help, many hands opened wide. Pride keeps a lot of people in the jail cell of their souls’ contempt. I was once a prisoner of that warden and never will be again. This experience was a reiteration that some are still held captive.

Sweethearts, you are exceptional. Stop trying to be perfect. See everyone around you as an individual, not as a marketing tool. Try to be a better version of yourself than the day before. Whether you know it or not, everything will come full circle if you let it. I am so glad I did.

Peace & Thanks for listening!

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#bloglikecrazy: Day 28 – Speak Up

The Good

#28 – I performed spoken word pieces at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

There’s something you should know. I don’t like to share all of my words. Yes, I’m a writer and public speaker, but sometimes I hoard my words like a squirrel stores acorns. I know why I do it too. It’s because I don’t want to be disregarded and misunderstood. That residual flaw still lives in my bones when it comes to sharing spoken word pieces. Well, this year, I decided to begin the extraction process by accepting the opportunity to perform at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute for a social justice event. One piece commemorated the Children’s March of 1963 and the other addressed the water contamination in Flint, Michigan. My friend was supportive and the best part was having my mother there to witness my nervousness and my courage when she had the same emotions living through the Movement. I won’t lie to you, it was difficult to stand there and perform as museum attendants waited for something profound to fall from my lips… but I did it and I walked out of the BCRI 7-feet taller knowing that I was standing on the backs of those of which I spoke. Many people of different colors said how much they enjoyed my craft and who wouldn’t feel the Good after that?

The Lesson

You have a voice and it’s worth hearing. You don’t have to scream and shout if you don’t want to, and to the same degree, you don’t have to be quiet either. Just use your voice in the capacity that God gave you. That’s how the world gets better, feels different, and becomes an enriching place to live. Your voice may be through your pen, your tablet, your sewing, your outreach, your teaching, your janitorial work… speak up so everyone can have the opportunity to better than they were before they joined your company. In light of everything going on locally and nationally, it would behoove us to speak up in as many ways as possible and not judge the sound of each other’s voices. I learned that my voice is light, but it is strong. It is assertive and it is compassionate. However I choose to use it, I have nothing to be ashamed of and neither do you.

Peace & Thanks for listening. Don’t worry… I’ll share them online in February 2019. See you then.

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#bloglikecrazy: Day 2 – Do It Afraid

The Good

#2 – I danced and mimed at Dance Across Birmingham!

Why is this significant? Because I didn’t die doing it!

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Dance Across Birmingham is hosted by the Alabama Dance Council (ADC) and is a creative ritual for me. My adventurous self gets to frolic between any dance genre that tickles my fancy. For one Saturday out of the year, members of ADC provide free dance classes for the Birmingham community and beyond. You can learn everything from ballroom dancing to salsa to belly dancing to Bollywood. I love it! It gives me a chance to stretch my dance limits and be uninhibited with a group of strangers. No one judges your stumbling feet and flailing arms as you also learn with those who are classically trained. The instructors make sure that you have fun in all of your awkward glory and you meet some incredibly cool people in each class.

During lunchtime, the instructors become the performers and you watch them explode with excellence in their respective genres. Asian-inspired awesomeness, hip-hop glory… it’s a beautiful parade of talent, skill, and passion.. and I’ve always wanted to know what it would feel like to be on that stage.

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Dancing with Nathifa Dance Company & Outreach, LLC

Well, that dream became a reality this year thanks to Sistah LaVondia Smith, Founder and Artistic Director of Nathifa Dance Company & Outreach, LLC and Rosemary Johnson, Executive Director of the Alabama Dance Council. I was elated to dance with Sistah LaVondia and NDC because of their powerful and colorful African dancing and drumming. They are a sight to behold and a force to be felt! I had admired them since they began 25 years ago. If that wasn’t enough excitement, I performed a mime piece with my Troupe and was infused with strength! What an awesome 1-2 punch of goodness!

The Lesson

Fear is the only thing standing between you and Glory.

For decades I was scared of African dancing because of my respiratory issues. I was haunted by a fear of having an asthma attack mid-performance, so I cowardly never tried to learn it with full capacity of heart. Wow… to think of how much I was missing out! After that performance with NDC and a few others, I was offered the opportunity to join the Company. I was grateful and honored, to say the least.

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What can I say? We get down and dirty for the sake of the Message.

The other fear I had was that my Troupe wouldn’t appear good enough to perform on that stage. We are a comprehensive powerhouse, but I honestly wasn’t sure if we would be accepted as equals. We are a group of faith-based performing artists that come from various backgrounds and our puzzle pieces fit perfectly to create movement that touches the soul. We unapologetically seek to reach an audience of ONE, but I couldn’t help but think that our colleagues wouldn’t understand us. I was emphatically wrong. Not only did they get it, but they enjoyed it!

All it took was a resolve to stand in the face of fear, push it down and walk over it. Sounds easy, but it wasn’t. I just did it anyway. If I had not done so, I would have missed out on two beautiful milestones and someone could have have missed a moment they may have needed to experience.

What is one thing that scares you, but you want to do it more than you’re afraid of it? I stand with you and pray for our boldness to run right over it. Will you get the tingle of timidity every now and then? Maybe. That doesn’t mean that you can’t conquer it, again and again.

Peace & Thanks for listening and “see” you tomorrow for Day 3 of #bloglikecrazy!

Birthday & The Beast: Part I

Have you ever felt full, like you were about to pop? Well, me, my Converse sneakers, and my school uniform made a break for it this week.

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Gotta love my therapeutic massage family. That cake… *hands up*

 

It was Monday and I was full of everything – grief, fatigue, anticipation, excitement, concern, questions, tension, gratefulness… I was just full. After all, it was my birthday and that came with a cacophony of spiritual noise. I had been fighting to stay afloat in the midst of recent rip tides and I was doing a pretty good job, but when you wake up on your birthday and wish you could just sleep in, that’s when you know the jig is up. I couldn’t do most of what I wanted due to surgery recuperation and two financial surprises, so I had to make some adjustments to keep my annual self-care ritual.

Each week in August, I do something that fills me with joy, then I continue the celebration once per month until the end of the year. It’s like my body and spirit know it’s August as soon as July ends. Well, with a few modifications, I still managed to uphold my law.

Week 1: Weekend road trip with Mommy. Music, laughs, and priceless convo.
Week 2: Ate pancakes the night before surgery. Binge-watched Blue Bloods and The Resident from the beginning. Man, I love those shows.
Week 3: Sister Time with sisterfriends. Ate half of a Ribeye from the Hickory Chip.
Week 4: Drove to Noccalula Falls (Gadsden, Alabama)

Now, about this drive… it was a serious mission. I almost didn’t make it in time due to my car repair, but I’m so glad I kept going. When I arrived, I had 25 minutes to make my birthday wish come true, then when I got there, I didn’t follow the map correctly and got set back 6 minutes. Noccalula Falls is special to me because it is one of two places in the world (so far) where I can breathe without respiratory rudeness. Something about that Gorge Trail makes me giddy like a school girl waiting on a glance from a crush. I don’t have to scale or climb, but a fall can easily be in anyone’s future along those jagged rocks. It had been years since I stood beneath the falls, but I never forgot the way I felt taking that deep breath in without clearing my throat for the first time. (A picture of it is on my About Me page.)

I know God is everywhere, but it seems like that is our sweet spot. I just have to push beyond the tough part. On the way to the cave beneath the fall’s cliff, it was difficult to breathe and believe me, there were plenty of opportunities to give up and turn around having had surgery 10 days prior. The impending thunderstorm, the 5-minute grace before getting a ticket, the throbbing headache and sore muscles, my ill-prepared attire… I could have easily said forget it. Not to mention that I kept hearing a loop of negativity in my head along the way. But with every step, I felt the reverberation of my soul making a judgment call to not accept no as an answer to my prayer request. Needless to say, I hustled in all of my sweaty glory to reach the cave by 5:00 PM and made it on the dot. When I finally reached the spot, I took that deep breath and teared up. 20180820_170342Everything that filled me up finally had a place to go and I could empty it out before His perfect blend of peace and power. There I was, looking up at God’s natural wonder, and once again His Word met me there. Here’s what I heard. I hope it helps you too.

  1. Pride, like a tumor, must be removed – not ignored.

  2. Like a tumor, pride metastasizes and blocks your divine purpose.

  3. You can’t ask God for miracles and control how they arrive.

  4. You have to go low to be lifted high. You can’t start at the top.

  5. God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. If you never admit your weakness, there is no room for His strength to take over.

  6. Nothing can stop water and nothing can stop God’s grace and Love toward you. Just let it flow.

  7. Water smooths the rough edges. So do life’s challenges shape you.

No, there was no surprise party waiting for me when I got home and just 10 years ago, I was celebrating my birthday with my fiancé. I had plenty to swirl in as I recalled my battle scars, but standing there made everything feel small and made me feel safe enough to receive His strength. The exchange was available, just like air, and all I had to do was let it happen.

You know that exhale you do after ripping and running all day or removing an overcoat after a long day outside? That’s where I was. Pure relief.

And what was that overcoat? Pure Pride.

I hate asking for help to carry my bags during recuperation, accepting kindness in resources and deeds, or saying “OK” to a surprise provision that I prayed for…. how ridiculous is that? So, just like the benign tumor that was removed from my neck recently, it was imperative that God was still working on me and my foreign-body attachments.

Now, check out an excerpt of what I journaled in September 2016.

“My mantra in August was to unleash the beast.

Each birthday month, I vow to do something I enjoy and spread it out across each week. Sometimes, it’s small like a milkshake or a little bigger like a solo road trip. Well, this year I decided to embrace something that I don’t like…and it hurt like hell.”

Isn’t that crazy? Well, Sweetheart, that’s where Part II comes in. It’s great to celebrate and it’s beautiful to exhale, but we must deal with the Beast within us in order to be healthy.

Peace, see you next time on the blog, and thanks for making it to the end of this post. lol I love y’all. Let’s keep walking. If you have a birthday ritual, let me know. If you don’t, make a pact with yourself to start one. It will bless you more than you can imagine. XO

Wednesday Wind Down: On the 6

Good Evening, Sweethearts!

Tonight, I’m sharing an open letter to my performing arts troupe. As you read it, think of how you can inhale and exhale more efficiently with your squad. If you don’t have one, you got me. Here we go…

ON THE 6: an open letter to Workmanship Incorporated

The number 6 represents the imperfections of man, labor, and is often used to indicate symmetry.

There were 6 days of creation and the Creator made man on the 6th day.

A family table often hosts 6 chairs.

What a unpopular, yet fitting number to celebrate.

In 6 years, we have disrobed and unmasked before each other, revealing the vulnerability of ministry – raw, beautiful, and free. Our paths were forged long before we formed a crew, and so were our tears. The struggles, the laughter, the prayers, the outpour of anointing… all of which encompasses the journey we chose to take together 6 years ago. I wouldn’t trade anything for June 5, 2012, when my hands shook with nervousness before each call to request your time and energy.

Now, we breathe as a family of imperfect people on fire for God’s Love and Creative Expression. We are His Workmanship and it’s an honor to serve with you.

Let’s keep going.

XO, Christina

Peace & Thanks for listening. 

#bloglikecrazy: Day 6 – Reunited

My last Monday night rehearsal with UAB Gospel Choir was last week. Due to my work schedule, I couldn’t soak in all of the goodness of the director’s farewell semester, and honestly, I was sad and sentimental about it every Monday night for 3 months.

You see, for a period time when I wasn’t going to church, Monday was my Sunday. It was my exhale of the week and my musical family reunion ritual. We learned music and history, but most importantly, we learned friendship and camaraderie. Students were treated like professionals in training, not underlings. It was rigorous, but respectful. The Class called UAB Gospel Choir turned from a mere repeatable credit hour to my saving grace and I was missing out on forging the last moments of it. 

So, last Monday, I soaked in the truth that for 16 years of my life, I was connected to this choir’s legacy as a student and an alumna. My heart poured there. My tears ran freely. My skills were sharpened. I was made into a better version of myself. That Monday night, I saw people I had not seen in years and laughed until my face hurt. It was beautiful. I guess you can say, I was reunited, although my heart never broke away. 

What or who are connected to spiritually that you can’t reach physically? Does the distance hurt? Do you feel inadequate without interaction? It’s OK. I get it. 

Set a date and reunite. Feed your soul with the goodness of fellowship. Invite the intimacy of connectivity. I don’t care of it’s a phone date, video chat, or grocery store run… reunite. Whatever the sacrifice, the result is priceless.

Thank you, Bishop Kevin P. Turner, for providing a safe place for us to grow and develop into the purposeful people we were designed to be. The harvest of your academic and musical seeds will multiply forever.

Peace & Thanks for listening!

#bloglikecrazy: Day 5 – Grit

I have the best creative team in the world. Give us space and time and we do extraordinary things, like create moving water, tumultuous trees, and a visual Bible story in seconds.

On last Sunday afternoon and into late that evening, my performing arts troupe, Workmanship Incorporated, rehearsed for our upcoming performance at the UAB Gospel Choir Reunion Concert to be held at the Alys Stephens Center on Monday, November 13, 2017. I was torn between physical pain and supernatural will, but I made it. One of my teammates lives in another state and she drove into town to join us. Other teammates came from church, work, and family duties to give their sacrifice of dance as well. To check out a short clip of the rehearsal, click here.

At one point in the rehearsal, I stepped back and just marveled at how fantastic they were. Willing and diligent to get it right so God could have complete control on performance day. No one complained. No one was belittled. No one was anxious to leave. We were on one accord. Everyone was pressing toward the mark and it was beautiful. I loved beholding the glory of God working in them behind-the-scenes. 


In a bigger perspective, many will never see what we go through at home in order to produce the fruit on our limbs in life. We have structured areas and danger zones where we get our lives together before heading out into the world. In the performing arts arena, the audience may see 10 minutes of creativity for 10 hours of preparation. It’s a labor of love and a gritty process, but well worth it in the end. That’s the essence of your life, your relationships, your dreams, your responsibilities. If you do it right, grit becomes part of your daily diet. It’s good for you and for those around you. It doesn’t let you quit or whine. It pulls you over the humps and having others with you that chew on the same stuff makes all the difference.

So, there I was… with a front row seat looking at a dream realized from my 14-year-old self. Rehearsing with all of the energy we could muster. Laughing through trials and sharing our victories. And I realized then,the aftertaste of grit tastes good.

Peace & Thanks for listening! 

And to my Troupe, Workmanship Incorporated, thank you for being my muse. I love y’all. Xoxo

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