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.
I have a confession to make. I dance around the house for no reason other than it makes me happy, and sometimes, I do it in heels. My dog looks at me funny from time to time, but I think he’s gotten use to my random bursts of movement.
I step, I salsa, I groove, and I do the running man when it hits me. I’m a dancer, through and through. No, I wasn’t classically trained in ballet. No, I didn’t participate in summer dance intensives. I hear music in my head and I move to it.
Growing up, I listened to jazz, gospel, rock, heavy metal, blues, R&B, hip-hop, country… you name it. Thanks to my family, I was exposed to some good stuff and that goodness would seep beneath my pores and I would be compelled to let it out. Any Man of Mine by Shania Twain would get a mix of hair swinging and stepping. Don’t Worry, Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin would get head bobs and horrible attempts at whistling. Going through my uncle’s cassette drawer was like eating at a musical candy factory. I was in heaven every time I could sneak a listen.
Now the cassette and headphones have been replaced with streaming queues and bluetooth speakers, but I dance just as hard. Music will always be in my DNA no matter how old I get. It makes me feel alive and healthy, running fine on all cylinders – even if but for 3:32. Diving into my audible ocean means everything to me and I always resurface better than before. I think the freedom makes me a better choreographer.
What do you do that gives you unadulterated happiness? Is it bike riding? Rollerskating? Painting? Cooking? Whatever it is, I pray that you get to do it before the year ends and whenever the mood strikes. Get some happy in your life!
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
The following events happened within a 8-hour time span. Crazy.
Lunch with a beautiful twist
I had lunch with someone that I didn’t know as well. She had experienced a death in her family and I had given her some time before encroaching upon her grief. I was in mourning as well and we discussed our journeys toward the sunlight. We left the lunch spot laughing and vowing to meet again before the year ends.
What I heard: You never know who’s in it with you. Somebody gets it.
Somehow, with our nightlights, we found each other and embraced the space we were stumbling in because we knew there was a way out. That day, lunch was so much more than a meal.
Tutoring with a beautiful story
I left the lunch with a beautiful twist to tutor a pre-teen. He had a book report due in a few days and his father asked for my assistance. He and his father were frustrated in the process of creating a rough draft. I love those kinds of challenges. As we talked about the book, the student revealed the storyline in a way that made me want to check it out. Then, I asked him about a part of the story that I didn’t understand. His response? “Well, memories don’t die with the person.” Not knowing anything about my state of heart, this young one pierced it with an arrow of truth. I am so grateful that memories don’t die with the person’s body. I can feel sad forever, but I have memories. I can’t say the same about my biological father as I only have two memories of him, but he lives in the stories I’ve heard from those with whom he spent time. Memories have a funny way of sneaking up on you and grabbing you out of your current world. Sometimes good, sometimes in a bad way. For me, that tutoring session was a good moment… a reminder that I can enjoy the recollections gifted by the person well after the lifetime expires. We finished the rough draft, I consulted with the client, and all was well in their world… and in mine.
Rehearsal with a beautiful message
So, now it was time to be creative. It was time to put flesh and bones to a song that my performing arts troupe would record and post online. It was inevitable that this would be a joint effort and as the leader of the team, I was determined to let their minds run free with ideas as I did during the brainstorming session. Rehearsal can get gritty and your mind and body can take a beating, but it’s all for a good outcome.
There was a part of the song where we are on our knees in humility, but spiritually, it depicted where I had been for the past couple of weeks. I felt helpless and pressure-squeezed like fruit in a winepress. I knew something sweet and refined would come out of everything, but I couldn’t see it and all I could do is say “Whatever You want to do, just give me the strength to do it.” Instead of leaving rehearsal drained, I left encouraged. Encouraged to minister the piece to myself and anyone else who needs a thy will be done in their spirit.
Sometimes we think that beauty comes upon instantly beholding something, not realizing what it took for the artist to create what we see. It’s beautiful because it was first messy. Cloudy. Muddy. Confusing. It was beautiful after the work and the darkness.
I experienced a beautiful surprise that began as not-so-pretty moments. All with a similar theme. Who knew?
If you’re like me, you’re used to being strong even when you don’t feel like it. Requests fulfilled, electronically attached, and problem-solving skills at the ready. But, ocassionally, the bough breaks and I feel like a 5-year-old. A pouty little human that doesn’t want to carry out her grown up duties for a few minutes. There’s no sugarcoating it when I get that way. I just don’t wanna do it right then.
You may have moments when you just feel a strong toddler “no” in your spirit…but it’s not holy. It’s human. I have them often.
They may be small spurts of time, but they can be lethal to your mission.
At some point, you gotta just suck it up. Whatever it is. Just think: What would happen if we let our immaturity show like a satin white slip during a southern church service on a regular basis? Nothing would get done in its necessary timing and other’s lives could be affected.
So, I have a formula for the “I Don’t Wanna” moments you secretly experience. When faced with a responsibility that isn’t attractive or enjoyable, give yourself no more than 5 minutes of toddler time. Calculate how much time it will take to carry out the it. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Before you get started on the it, let the kid out. Whine, pout, growl, doodle, jump around, do whatever you need to release the kid you are inside. Go hard in paint. Scream if you need to. Run around in your undies (in your private residence, not at work please). Let it out. After 5 minutes, give yourself the boxing ring pep talk, throw on your cape, and suck it up. You’ve got a life that will eventually turn into history. Plant your feet and make a resolve that you’re the best person for the job. You’re the only one that can do it like you and you must be awesome enough to do it. God built you as a Masterpiece. That task has nothing on your beautiful mind. You’re going to smash that to-do item and celebrate with a high-five, happy dance under and a smile to yourself.
The case of the “I Don’t Wanna” is a plot from your inner child, but it doesn’t have to deplete your productivity. Let her out then put her to work. You’ll be better for it.
After an invigorating dance-in-the-dark party in February, I was all about having my private party on the night before my August 20th birthday. What better way to celebrate my fresh wind of feminism than with other Wonder Women? I hand-picked a few close friends that I thought would appreciate the unique experience and invited them to dance their heart in with me. When the dust settled, seven ladies were confirmed and I was elated to rock with them.
Related Sidebar: I’m an Olympics fanatic. Seriously. I try to watch everything. You know how the U. S. Women’s Gymnastics Team is usually earmarked with a nickname? We’ve witnessed the Magnificent Seven (Atlanta 1996), the Fierce Five (London 2012), and recently in Rio, the Final Five to commemorate the retirement of legendary gymnastics coach Martha Karolyi. Epic.
I decided to jump on board and nickname these seven sisters + our beautiful host Shannon. They were the Exceptional Eightand this new band of supersheroes were about to embark my birthday SOL ship voyage. Sidebar complete.
I’m a thinker, so I reviewed the dynamics. Three of the attendees were my sorority sisters. Two of the eight ladies I knew since grade school. The remaining two women, I met in college. And Shannon? She was a sister on-site. Our kindred spirits kindled a positive energy that burned over emails and spilled over into our face-to-face encounter. I loved how she fit right into our type of crazy. I even had an icebreaker planned just in case my multiple circles needed some communicative coaxing, but as Shannon pointed out, they already had something in common…me. Each one of them represented a part of me that identified with them, so why wouldn’t they blend? I must admit. I was nervous because I wasn’t sure how the session would turnout for them, but it resulted in an explosion of laughter mixed with bursting sounds of pure joy and freedom. I couldn’t have asked for more. It was a beautiful blend.
Soon, it was lights out and we danced the night away to a perfect mix of my favorite jams (Did I mention perfect?). We ate until our sweet tooths were satisfied. We shared words of love and humor and you could see the strings of sisterhood weaving among us. We were SOL-tied, a band of professional women that had worked hard during the day, but needed the unique forge of fortitude that night. One of my sisters even had to get up for work at 3:00 AM the next day, but was still energized when she woke up. It was that electric. I saw their faces relax and for a moment, we weren’t wives, mothers, students, caregivers…we were an assembly of queens drinking from the pool of cooling strength and being fitted in new armor for the world that awaited us. The shattered stress from our daily roles lie on pieces of pink paper around us and no one walked out in the same manner in which they entered. Everyone returned to the lobby a little taller, brighter, and ready to obliterate any obstacle in her path.
We were walking with sunlight in our pockets and positivity in our hearts.
Our steps had rays of sunshine beaming underneath as we matriculated to our night-kissed cars.
To say that those dance steps charged our feminine energy packs would be an understatement. We may have put on the same shoes, but they didn’t feel the same.
There are few times when I travel backward in my mind and find nuggets of perfect synchronicity in a fraction of a second. Saturday was one of those times, so allow me to walk you through the steps. Bear with the chain link of events below as I bare my soul.
STEP 1: THE PLAN
It all began with an idea to have a fun-filled, let-your-hair-down kinda day for my performing arts troupe, which consists of experienced professionals in various industries. They’re amazing superheroes in their respective fields and on any stage of creativity. A beautiful dichotomy of talent if you ask me. This delicate balance needed a breeze of fellowship, so August 13th was set for Summer Fun Day at Avondale Park. I could hardly wait.
STEP 2: THE CONSIDERATION
One of our members attends graduate school out-of-state and was making the trek to spend time with the team, so I watched the weather closely to ensure that she could travel to us safely. I didn’t see some responses from my crew (which I later discovered was due to a technical glitch), so I considered canceling it altogether. After all, we had received bursts of thunderstorms every day that week and Saturday was going to follow suit. I decided to keep the plan based upon the forecast, and added some extra prayer to the meteorologist’s news. So glad I did. The weather was perfect.
STEP 3: THE IDEA
On the previous evening, we held rehearsal and one of our members brought up the notion of eating at Saw’s Soul Kitchen in Avondale, Alabama. I had never been, so I immediately was intrigued and ready to go. The dance of overcasting clouds and sunshine made for a mean game of volleyball and Uno. We were having fun, exactly what I prayed for. It seemed only fitting that we carry the good vibrations over to the restaurant.
STEP 4: THE GOODNESS
The food was delicious and so was the laughter. We sang along to the old school soul music showering over our cozy little table of five. We were enjoying each other’s company, exactly what I prayed for. Then, enter a smiling stranger who politely asked us if we were about to leave and if he and his family could have our table. If you’ve been to Saw’s in Avondale, you know the severity of this request. There are less than 10 tables in this eatery and the line to obtain one when they open at 11 starts at 10:40 AM at best. I’m ashamed to admit that I shook my head “no.” Thank God for my friend, who apparently was closer to Jesus than I was in that moment, that said yes and my stone-faced look morphed into a smile and a nod. He was kind and respectful, and I was proudly selfish. I’m usually the person that is cognizant of busy hours and needed seats, but on that day, I didn’t want to be considerate. I was marinating in the loveliness of time that our team rarely experiences without the demands of a deadline. I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want it to end…
but it was time.
STEP 5: THE SUGGESTION
After releasing our table, the same friend that suggested Saw’s pointed our attention to a thrift store nearby that she loves to visit. Sozo Trading Company was the destined place. Being the economical giants that we are, we jumped at the chance to embark on another adventure. Like giddy children filled with wonder, we walked inside and immediately felt peace. Dakota greeted us with a smile and noticed our matching shirts. She inquired of our talents and we agreed to perform a human video before we left.
STEP 6: THE CRUX
Remember when I gave you the demographics of the team in THE PLAN? The challenge that comes with our creative make-up is that schedule clashes are inevitable and not everyone learns the same piece at the time it is taught. In this instance, there was also the factor that one of our members had not performed with us in over a year. So, the suggestions started flowing. “What about this?” “Were you here when we did that song?” “I don’t know that one, but I can learn it.” The communication about the business at hand resulted in my spirit being nudged to return to the first song I heard in my soul stereo – How He Loves Usby Jesus Culture featuring Kim Walker-Smith. It fitted the mission of Sozo perfectly, so I shared those thoughts with my team. So, in true Workmanship Incorporated anointing, we quickly forged as a unit and half of our quad learned the piece in the back of the store. The funny part is that no one batted an eye of curiosity or annoyance. They just shopped around us as if our full-bodied belonged in the setting. In less than 45 minutes, we were all caught up and ready to serve.
STEP 7: THE BLESSING
We ministered. Right there inside of the front entrance doors.
If you’ve never performed a human video, it requires all of your muscles to cooperate and be in sync with those around you in order to present the storyline clearly. Two of us were negotiating with our bodies about previous injuries, two of us had learned the piece in minutes, and all of us were in sync. It was beautifully amazing. As usual, we performed for an audience of ONE – the ONE who gives us Life and the ONE who needs it. Dakota recorded and took pictures. When the song was over and we expired all we had, Dakota was teary and patrons were nearby. A man approached us with watery gratefulness in his eyes and hugged us, thanking us for the message of Love. His courage to be touched is what sincerely touched me. An open masculine heart is said to be soft, weak, or feminine by society’s standards unless they’re crying about winning a championship, but at that moment… he felt loved and reminded, and that was all that mattered. Then, it dawned on me. He was my blessing. Dakota was my blessing. Austin and Amanda (fellow Sozo staff) were my blessing. The gentleman at the restaurant was my blessing. Steps 1 through 7 were the blessing that led to the makarios moment… this man hugging people he didn’t know because of a Message that we said silently. We were presented with the opportunity to eulogeó (to speak well of, praise, or bless) God in the presence of His people and it resulted as a makariosexperience for ourselves and others (refers to the believer in Christ who is satisfied and secure in the midst of life’s hardships because of the indwelling fullness of the Spirit).
What did I learn that day?
That your plans are never yours. They always affect someone else, even when you don’t know it. And you’ll be better off letting God lead the choices you make because He always has a two-edged blessing waiting for you. Blessings are always simultaneously designed. They are never unilateral.
To learn more about Greek words related to “blessing/blessed,” click here and here. I hope you enjoy the insight as much as I did.
Peace & Thanks for Listening. (I know it was a long one this time, so really… thank you.)
Each quarter, I challenge my first-term students to engage in “15 Minutes of Fame.” This is where they find an emotionally-safe spot (closet, car, bathroom, etc.), turn on their favorite song(s), and absolutely lose themselves in the music. No pressure to dance or sing, just the dropping of caked-on inhibitions for a few minutes in order to refuel the soul. Well, I clocked in my 15-minutes this week… and then some.
For 55 minutes, I danced my heart IN
after pouring much of it out for the last few months
and I loved every second of it.
It began with an invitation to participate in a “Dancing In The Dark” party with my writer’s group. Just the thought of it made me excited to attend. The energy was loving, encouraging, and full of camaraderie when I walked in. We wore what we felt was comfortable and the care for body-type was null and void. After a round of laughs, a few photos, and a quick rundown from our facilitator and it was lights off-music on.
The mix of audible goodness fertilized our eagerness to let go of the day’s demands and celebrate our group founder’s birthday. Immediately, my arms flew up and my eyes adjusted to the un-need to close them. I had moves that made the angels blush. They probably covered their faces with their wings. It was great. I was alive and electric. No one could see each other, but everyone could feel their own light shining in the room. We screamed, chanted, and sang our way to liberation in the middle of a workweek. It was a fantastic relief. My body was sore, but I didn’t care. The moment was about me, not what happened to me physically, spiritually, or mentally.
If you had the honor to peek into our session,
you would have seen the weight of social roles breaking around the room and shattering like glass shackles on the dance floor.
For almost an hour, we weren’t wives, mothers, employees, supervisors, etc. We were all-shades-of-woman gaining control of our existence. It was evident on our faces when the lights floated back on and we resurfaced from our pools of freedom.
I began the evening with the thought of “I’m going to dance my heart out.” I said it to myself, but stopped at the word heart and instead of saying out, I heard in. I was determined to dance my heart IN that night. It reminded me of Proverbs 4:23 –
“Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life.”
Everyday I pour my heart into the things I do, because they are extensions of who I am. I teach, tutor, sing, dance, serve, and speak because it flows from my heart. It’s not a bad thing, but it does take a toll if I don’t refuel and regroup. In my freshman orientation course, we discuss “who you are” versus “what you are.” Easy is the road to becoming engulfed in the roles you play in life without filling up the bucket of what makes you awesome.
Pouring into multiple vessels can only occur if your “who you are” bucket is full; otherwise, you’ll end up still trying to pour with a cantankerous pail from a barren well.
God is pretty cool at this task. Fill up with His view of you. You’re an awesome creation with beautiful springs of life. I encourage you to refuel with your own “15 -Minutes of Fame” some time. You could do it in your living room, but there’s something special about being in good company as you disrobe your soul. SOL Dance Exchange is the perfect segue way to unravel the ropes of personal and social constructs. Say hi to Laura and enjoy.
Go for it. Dance your heart IN and let me know how it goes. *smile*