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#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #18

To my Church Families:

Lee’s Chapel Baptist Church in Brookside, AL
First Baptist Church Graysville East in Graysville, AL
St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church in Graysville, AL
Mason City A.O.H. Church of God in Birmingham, AL
First Baptist Church Carver in Bessemer, AL
Cathedral of the Cross in Birmingham, AL
Gateway Family Church in Trussville, AL
Zion Church in Landover, MD

In some way, shape, or form and at some point in time, you completely changed my life for the better. Each church listed up there hosts memories from my childhood to now and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything.

Cold ankles in lacy socks at Sunday School. Red Baptist Hymnals. Your sense of community. The smell of wooden pews. The whir of the Leslie when I turned on the organ. Music bouncing off the walls. Sausage and biscuit breakfast before worship service and free lunches every summer. The smiles on your faces and the sternness of your voices. Sequins and pearls adorning your suits. Tie pins and cufflinks that could rival any corporate executive’s attire. I remember thinking that you were the smartest people in the world when you read verses aloud. You were walking art and I was your canvas.

Photo by Dan Whitfield on Pexels.com

I call you family. Whether you prayed for me at the altar or laughed with me in the church parking lot, you played a major part in the woman I am today. You taught me that community is more than a word, it is an action that is always in season. We fed the poor, tutored children, taught God’s Word, and consoled each other at funerals. We forgot about the troubles of the week together. We danced until we felt free. Our hands lifted up and so did our hearts. God met us both inside and outside of those buildings.

Thank you.

I appreciate your light and life lessons. I pray that you continue to shine just as brightly as you did in my life. Keep smiling. Keep saturating yourself in the Word. Keep being a light. Keep encouraging youth so they can grow up to be grateful like me.

Sincerely,

CJW

#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #3

Mommy, you’re a real one.

No, seriously… you are. I can’t think of many people that have endured what you have and still laugh as heartily as you do. You created opportunities for me and others to flourish at your expense and those decisions must have been difficult to digest at times. The reality is that your plans had to be altered because of a little one that looked like you and I appreciate every decision you made.

I know you say that I wasn’t a burden and that I was a gift from God. You’re so kind. I can’t help but think of the moment you found out and just be grateful that I’m here.

Although I’ve told you numerous times, I want to tell you again — there is so much to admire about you and you are blessing to my world.

First, you’re the best cheerleader anyone could have. Period. In all of my creative endeavors, academic achievements, professional frustrations, I stand tall because I know you’re in my corner. No matter where I am in life, I hear you in my heart. Your voice stands out like Love in the darkness. I appreciate that about you… that your arms are always there, straight up and victorious. And you not only do this for me, you uplift others just as high. One phone call from you and that person can’t help but feel like a champion. You hold no love back from anyone who needs it. I get that from you indeed.

Photo by Luke Webb on Pexels.com

Next, I am so proud of the woman you have become. The Holy Spirit once said to me, “She was a woman before she was your mother.” That sentence enlightened me. It carried so much truth. Before your title included another, you were a young lady navigating through life and now, as time brings about changes, you are a woman still. How you’ve learned to embrace your natural hair again, understand your body, and improve your health… it’s all fascinating and inspiring. Watching you take care of Pop was like watching Jesus in action. You went from pastor’s wife to devoted caregiver in less than 2 years. On many days, I was simply awestruck. I can’t wait to see how you evolve even further into your seasoned self. You still get excited when you learn something new and it brightens my spirit to see you elated. You’re exceptional in my eyes already, but I know you are nowhere near your peak season.

Lastly, thank you for always thinking of me. That may seem weird to say since you’re my mother, but all mothers do not think of their children. I do not take that for granted. You always say “We help each other.” We’ve had our communication challenges, but we did the work and look at us… on the other side of all that mess. When we decided to listen to each other’s heart and put God in the middle, fresh wind resuscitated our relationship and I’m so grateful for it. We know when each other needs a break. We ask for clarification. We catch each other’s tones. We check each other when we’re wrong. We accept one another’s personality types. You don’t try to make me like you and I don’t set you upon unrealistic pedestals. We learned how to grow together without infiltrating each other’s gardens. You trust God’s Word in me. I trust Him in you. Just like our twilight conversations, it’s a beautiful exchange between kindred souls.

Mommy, I appreciate the powerhouse you are. I always ask God to give me even richer experiences with you for as long as possible. There’s so much more that I want us to share. More travels. More laughs. While I know death is inevitable for either of us, I know heaven is too. That’s the best gift you could have given me — Christ. I will always be grateful for that decision too.

I love you/Talk to you soon,

CJW

#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #1

Well, here we are.

One day, I was questioning Your existence and the next, You grew to be the most intimate Friend I could ever have.

I remember those confusing days. Going to church not knowing if You loved me the way You loved the people around me. Wondering if the sometimes-wild-yet-intriguing “Holy Ghost shout” would hit me next. I knew You were real; You just didn’t feel real to me. Then, I prayed earnestly with the fervent hope that You would answer in some way, shape, or form. I wondered… I waited… I wanted to experience what I heard every Sunday. I didn’t want to just read the stories, close the Book, and leave the faith between the pages.

I was hungry for it.

I was hungry for You.

I had questions and everyone kept saying You had answers. So, one prayer led to another… then another… and another…

Photo by Aslak Su00f8nderland on Pexels.com

Now, my faith encompasses everything I do. My identity, which once felt foreign, now is the super-suit in which I walk because I am confident in Your Creation. I am confident in You. My skin, my voice, my need to understand the world around me — all of it comes from You. They not only make me unique; they are proof that You exist. Who else could generate such biological genius that we have yet to discover? Who else could create underwater miracles that have yet to be named by scientists? No one. No thing.

So, my letter to You is one of Love, Gratitude, and Honor. I appreciate my mother for saturating our home with Your Word. I appreciate my father for allowing me to write down his sermon thoughts and outlines. Those were the best bible studies. Asking questions of my pastor and researching psalmic histories made me thirst for intimacy between us. No longer were You a long-distance love, but an everyday companion. The Greek. The Hebrew. The context. The maps. I found it all fascinating yet so expansive that I would get overwhelmed… but it left me wanting to know more. When I cried alone, I began to feel the warmth of Your comfort. When I was scared and needed a miracle, no explanation would fit except that You heard me.

Thank You for hearing me. Thank You for being with me. Thank You for being in me. I couldn’t do this life without You and thanks to our relationship, I never will.

Sincerely,

CJW

Wednesday Wind Down: Not It

Hi, Sweethearts!

You made it to another week. How are you? I’m glad you’re here.

I have a thought for you. Ready? Let’s go.

Once upon a time (in real life), there was a grocery store called Food World. In Food World, there was a bakery and in the bakery was a woman with confectionery superpowers — at least that’s how I saw her as an elementary-aged child. While my single mother meticulously made sure we were fed by scouring each aisle for the best deals, I was fascinated with the sugary symphony on the other side of the glass window.

First, her skin was brown like mine, so I saw my reflection. Her smile was wide and sweet. She always acknowledged my presence and didn’t seem to mind my wide eyes glued to her work as my mother shopped. Mind you, this was when you could somewhat safely leave your child at a small town grocery store bakery window and knew she would be there when you returned. Talk about visions of sugar plums… I didn’t have to wait until my dreams to see the magic. She would sprinkle powdered sugar like fresh snow. She might as well have been a samurai with the way she sliced cake rounds in half and waved frosting between each layer. Her wrists carefully swiveled as frosting oozed out of the piping bag forming flowers and leaves. I especially liked the pink frosting. It complimented her skin so well. As I’ve said before… I’ve always been an observer. Many trips later, I could guess the end result of her creations before she finished the process — a boy’s birthday, a wedding, a strawberry shortcake… they were all gorgeous to me, but maturity started to tap on my shoulder to remind me that they were intended for specific people. They were all beautiful, but they were not mine.

How often do we become enchanted with something or someone who does not belong to us? The perks of the job may be perfect or his smile may put you in a trance, but have you considered whether the design is for you? Sure, it is lovely, but is it yours? See, every cake had a name. Each dessert was crafted with a request in mind. Sometimes I would even see her place it in the box and put it in the commercial refrigerator. I could admire as much as I wanted, but there was no way those sweets were coming home with me.

Courtesy of my YouVersion Bible App

Sweethearts, God has crafted opportunities and relationships just for you. Every open door is not the perfect door for you. It could very well be the answered prayer for someone else. With that in mind, it is imperative that we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us through decisions. Yes, we have free will, but we also have a Guide. Who couldn’t use a Guide during times like this?

I’m praying for you out there. Keep staying safe and stay grounded in what you know. You are a beautiful creation and it’s OK to say “not it” if necessary.

Peace & Thanks for listening!

Wednesday Wind Down: Vitamin Boost

Hello, Sweethearts!

I wanted to share four verses that may help you get through this week or this season. Think of them as vitamins for your spiritual immune system. You may be taking a hit between current events, homeschooling your kids, caregiving for a loved one, or juggling work deadlines. Your spiritual armor may have a few dents in it and that’s OK. That means you’re fighting. That means you’re surviving. That means you’re winning. So, let’s power up a little. There’s nothing wrong with taking your vitamins.

  1. “But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress.” – Psalm 59:16 NLT

    When we drench ourselves in Love, He makes our hearts impenetrable to anything that looks otherwise. It’s a way to gear up with what’s true instead of the fiery darts melting away your joy. Clothe yourself in what’s true. Armor yourself with the Truth that you are loved. Reach out to someone that loves you to circulate that superpower.

2. “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

His bowels were hanging out. They had beaten him beyond recognition. He wasn’t as white and clean as we’ve seen in pious paintings. He was bloody and his hair was matted from to his scalp underneath the crown of thorns. After all, when blood dries, it isn’t glamorous. Jesus knew what it was like to be deemed inferior, yet He tells his disciples to take heart because He already overcame the world… before He is arrested to die for it (John 18). You have the right to take heart too. I promise.

3. “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” – Ephesians 6:12

It’s hard to look someone in the eyes and know s/he/they are lying to you. It’s frustrating to explain why you’re wearing your protective mask when it seems obvious. It can make you angry for someone refuse your help. Let me help you, Sweetheart. You’re fighting a spiritual battle. The quicker you remember that, the less those darts will hurt. Does this mean you’ll be invincible? No. It means you won’t let those darts stick because you’ll separate the person you love from the behavior you hate.

4. “Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade. That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed.” – Ecclesiastes 10:10

Boost your spirit with wisdom. Now, in order to that, humility must come with you. To gain wisdom, you have to admit that you are not all-knowing. Pride damages armor. What a foolish decision for a soldier to run in front of a formidable straight line of opponents without protection. This is how we look when we leave wisdom behind to pursue items on our own accord. Like the Word says, sharpen your ax. When the ax is sharp, the skill is able to shine.

Well, Sweethearts, I hope these vitamins help you go a little further on your journey. I love each and every one of you, so if you ever feel like you’re drowning in your situation or that your suffocating under the “I’m fine” syndrome, call the number — 800-273-8255. Counselors are available 24/7.

Peace & Blessings! Thank you for listening and stay well out there!

Wednesday Wind Down: Great Expectations

Happy Wednesday, Sweethearts!

How have you been? Glad you made it.

Let’s look at the connection between what we pay for and the quality we expect.

At a restaurant, we will return an unsatisfactory plate. We will refuse a hotel room that is subpar. We will share a social media post about incompetent service from a clothing store associate. Our extension of payment is related to our expectations. We like quality. We like an even or greater exchange.

Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com

When it comes to voting, I see it as civically paying for an expected service. We expect for elected officials to represent our voices behind closed doors. Here’s the thing — I don’t think we truly expect what we pay for. Maybe it’s that they are out-of-sight and out-of-mind. Perhaps it’s because we’ve lost faith; nevertheless, they are our representatives. You may think all politicians are evil or incompetent. You may believe there is no point in voting because your voice will never be heard. You may think that faith transcends politics and voting is futile. I don’t know your reason, but I encourage you to use your expectations as your weapon. If we can expect divine promises from God, why can’t we hold our fellow humans accountable to our civic expectations?

After all, American colonists fought for their right to make their own governmental decisions and various ethnic groups have even died in the pursuit of this opportunity.

I’ve often wondered what my ancestors would think if they saw some of us not cashing in their blood, sweat, and tears. One of my favorite movie lines could possibly describe their sentiments. If you’ve seen Madea’s Family Reunion (2006), you must recall Cicely Tyson’s invigorating soliloquy on the steps of their ancestors’ home. It was sparked by the following question from the Simmons’ 96-year-old matriarch named Ruby who was disappointed at her family’s behavior.

“Is this what we paid for?”

– Ruby (the late Actress and Educator Georgia Allen)
Madea’s Family Reunion
Photo by Victor Freitas on Pexels.com

Lately, I’ve asked myself this question while imagining my elders’ perspectives. Their civil rights marches. Their sit-ins. Their clocking into work for disgraceful pay. Their face freshly spat upon. Their back sprayed with lashes from their masters. The lies defaming their character. The many times nothing was done against their accusers. Then to look into the future to see people say they aren’t voting or that they don’t care; they’ll just pray about it and love everyone. We must not forget that the church was the heartbeat of the American civil rights movement approximately 60 years ago. They prayed and they organized. They prayed and they boycotted. They prayed and they voted. Their faith and their movement went hand-in-hand. They held the government accountable to its purpose and the elected officials to their word.

Sweethearts, let us be motivated to get what we civically pay for — to receive the quality of service we expect. If we can do it for tangible products, we should expect as much for the greater good. Simply put, we can’t expect more from a restaurant than we do from our elected officials.

Peace & Thanks for listening! Stay well out there!

Wednesday Wind Down: See The Proof

Well, Sweethearts, we made it to another week!

I’m glad you’re here and if no one has told you — you did a good job making it from last week to now.

With the news of ongoing injustice about our sister Breonna Taylor, it is easy to ask what more is needed beside the obvious to escort justice to the front row. It’s easy to feel the effects of gaslighting because that’s exactly what this is.

If you’ve never heard of gaslighting, let me tell of its evil doing. Have you ever been mistreated and the offender did not take responsibility for the offense? When you brought it up, s/he said you misunderstood the action. If you react or respond, they said you were wronging them. You begin to question whether you experienced what you did. The offender inadvertently tells you that you’re at fault or that your feelings are insignificant… that what they did is acceptable. Sound familiar? Congratulations — you’ve been gaslit.

Photo by suludan diliyaer on Pexels.com

It causes you to question your sanity and it creates a pipeline of exhaustion in the relationship. Then, as soon as you stand up for yourself, you’re the bad guy. You’re the one with the attitude. You’re the culprit. Well, you’re not alone, Sweetheart. I’ve been there.

What gets me through those moments of anguish is this new fact that I learned during the pandemic — I have the power to absorb the proof. Overall, I always ask God to show me what I need to see. This year, I had to learn to include gaslighters in that prayer. When they show you who they are, start thanking God for the proof.

Yes, be angry.
Yes, be annoyed.
Yes, be tired.
Yes, be confused.

Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.

Galatians 6:7

After you’ve been all of that, tell God that you appreciate the truth in front of you. It truly is a present. That’s what I have had to do to keep from exploding during those moments. Remembering that Truth aerates freedom (John 8:32) and that gives me the authority to release the reins of manipulative powers. I no longer have to be inflamed by their invisible fumes. I don’t have to play the game. I see the proof and it’s all I need to make a healthy decision.

I pray that you find your proof during these unprecedented times, Sweetheart. It’s easy to get lost in the waves of despair, but the Truth stands between Breonna Taylor and her murderers. He stands between you and your offenders. He is Jehovah El GemuwalThe Lord God of Recompense – and justice is never pristinely wrapped. Don’t let current events sweep you away from the Truth. See the proof and move forward in your freedom.

I love you and pray that you are staying safe out there. Peace & Blessings!

Wednesday Wind Down: Give Some Grace

Hi, Sweethearts!

I have a reminder for you as we embark upon fall responsibilities.

As the school year is underway, there are so many puzzle pieces at work. So much grace to give out. So much love that’s needed.

I keep imagining the 60-year-old educator doing his best to teach with virtual tools he just learned from his daughter last month. I see a first-year teacher on revision #5 of her weekly lesson plan. I’m thinking of the administrator who is juggling conference calls, professional development meetings, paperwork, and emails then going home and doing it all over again tomorrow. The parent helping her child before heading to work. The grandparent trying to read the teacher’s instructions.

Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

Behind those screens, there’s a person. Behind that cell phone is a life. A human that may need a peek of Light to brighten up the day.

Sweethearts, be that Light. You have a responsibility to share the God in you. The goodness in you. The greatness in your heart. It’s easy to cop out and unload your frustration on the nearest soul, but it takes incredible substance to share grace instead.

Let’s remember that we’re in this together.

We’re not enemies. We’re a tribe.

A group of people, not individuals in silos.

We can do this. We can make it through this… with grace.

Peace & Thanks for listening, Sweethearts! Stay well out there!

Wednesday Wind Down: Shift

Hey, Sweethearts!

I have a shortstop for you this week.

Brace for the shift.

Yep, I said it. I know people want to cancel 2020, throw it in the trash, and light a match, but I believe we need to be preparing for a shift. A good one.

A shift toward a better version of ourselves.

A shift to drop the weights that easily veer us off the purpose path (Hebrews 12:1)

A shift to receive the love we deserve

A shift to throw away procrastination so we can level up our businesses

A shift to collaborate in uplifting families and communities

Photo by Gotta Be Worth It on Pexels.com

September is the perfect time to write down what you want to leave behind and notate what you want and who you want to become. Why? Because it’s before the holiday rat race when work and home tug at you on both ends. Take 5 minutes on your lunch break or pull over during your commute and write it down… unfiltered. Give yourself the grace to change. Grace to evolve. You do have the ability to shift into another gear.

I know I am… and it feels good. It feels right. It feels holy.

I’m praying for your shift, Sweethearts. I pray that you do not lose hope in whatever situation you are in. I pray that you continue to dream, build, and rest. I believe your shift is coming and it starts with you.

Peace & Thanks for listening. Stay well out there! I’m rooting for you!

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