My heart has been heavy for those left to bury their loved ones at this time. If you’re in that number, I can’t shake the insurmountable inconvenience this pandemic poses on you. Final arrangements being curated over the phone. Creating streaming capabilities for such a personal moment. Sitting six feet apart from each other during the eulogy. The inability to console your family with the warmth of your arms. And for the ministers, funeral directors, morticians, and cemetery workers… I can’t imagine the stress and emotional boundaries you must maintain right now.
It’s horrible and I’m sorry.
While we walk in the faith of healing and restoration, sometimes the steps we take do not reach that happy ending. It’s difficult to experience and I don’t have the answer as to why it happens, so I won’t offend you by presenting a false rationale or a super churchy response. As much as it hurts, the truth is our loved ones die when we thought they would come home from work. When we didn’t know they were sick. The day before their birthdays. When we thought they would see the end of this pandemic. The timing is never perfect for us. Never.
Place this gravitas in the middle of a worldwide initiative to minimize touch and you have a recipe for grief to yell loudly or muffle the mouth of the sufferer. A wall of emotions hovers at this physical impasse. And while I could give you a plethora of Bible verses to soothe your pain, all I want to do is stand next to you and hold your hand as your loved one is lowered into the ground. I want to have tissue on-hand as we sit together. I wish I could hug you. Yes, all of you. Whether they pass away from COVID-19 or not, it’s just a crummy time to not be close.
So, I had to write this post to say I’m sorry you’re going through this and I’m praying for you. Every day. You are not alone and I love you.
Here’s a shortstop for your week. I hope it helps!
I work in two career paths that require interaction with people in vulnerable positions. As an educator, a student’s esteem can be elevated or obliterated in one assignment. During a massage therapy session, a disrobed client is trusting me to be knowledgeable, skillful, and respectful. In both seemingly non-related professions, I had to consider the same question: “How do you help them without hurting you?”
That’s the conundrum, right? In light of recent health precautions, many must consider this item for physical reasons, but I am challenging you to look at your relationships and pose the same question.
Familial: Do you have a social circle outside of your family? How do you refuel in order to pour out to them? Do you suffer from parental guilt when you’re not with your children?
Professional: Are you a workaholic? Do you need to reassess your work-life balance? Have you created an on/off switch for your work mode? (Trust me. There is one. Celebrities and executives do it all the time.)
Personal: Do you have friends that only communicate with you when they need something? Are your bills behind because you keep loaning funds or playing taxi?
Be honest with God. Be honest with yourself. The lie is that if you don’t almost die in the process, then you didn’t give it your all. You didn’t truly sacrifice until you pass out trying. Let me help you, Sweetheart. Stop living (and almost dying) in that lie.
Every ounce of you does not need to be squeezed out before God honors your faith. There is rest. There is fun. There is help. Pour all of that into a beautiful mug of humanity and it will make the rewards of your relationships taste so much sweeter.
Here’s some Bible verses to guide you through those questions up there.
Stay balanced out there, Sweethearts. Remember… you should not be dying so others can live — Jesus already did that. I love you all!
In times like these, we desperately grasp for shredded remnants of words and memories to stuff into the holes of our despair. We don’t know what to say. We don’t know what to do. We don’t know if we want to breathe. We just know what we had, what we wish was left, and what we never want to let go.
Times like these also force us to do things. They make us pause, be more grateful, drop the petty ish (hopefully), and love deeper. The pain is horrible, but it does make us pour. We release empathy, tenderness, compassion, and camaraderie. Right now, I’m thinking about that outpour. The tighter grip we place on what we value most… each other. I’ve seen hashtags, photos, and videos that celebrate family, fatherhood, motherhood, athleticism, discipline, achievement, entrepreneurship, teamwork, leadership, and friendship — all the things that surpass materialism and fame.
So, let’s take note of what matters… what makes us tick day-to-day. We don’t get to let up on that outpour. If anything, tragedy should encourage us to increase Love to maximum levels. Could any of us leave Earth at any moment? Sure, but more importantly, we have the gift of family, friends, and networks that can house incredible memories that outlive our mortality. We have passions that could leave a perpetual imprint on the world.
Make your mark, Sweetheart. Savor opportunities to create meaningful relationships. Capture moments to love on people. Pause to admire God’s handiwork. Do random acts of kindness. It’s not about beating the clock of death; it’s about expanding and producing within the time you have. I, for one, plan to continue that mission.
Peace, Blessings, and Thanks for listening! Let’s go!
Hello, Sweethearts! I hope you’ve had good days between last Wednesday and this one.
My late father’s birthday was this week and instead of writing a lamenting post, I want to share three lessons Pop taught me in word and in deed.
– LESSON #1 –
You are not responsible for how people treat you, but you areresponsible for how you treat them.
My father was a pastor and before that, he was a deacon. For the majority of his life, he was in a position of servitude. I watched him load his pickup truck with lawn tools to cut the grass of those who couldn’t do it themselves. I heard him pray for people who cursed him. I saw him use kind words as weapons. He would share vegetables from his garden. He would always tell me “You don’t have to give an account for how folks treat you. You got to give an account of how you treat them.” And you know what? He was so right. Every time I wanted to say something hurtful to someone that hurt me, I remembered Pop’s words. To this day, his voice resides in my ears and acts as a stop sign. A gentle reminder that I am only responsible for myself. Someone can treat me horribly, but I don’t have to accept her/his behavior on my plate. I do, however, have to take responsibility for how I respond. That is the only thing that will require an answer from my Creator. (Sidebar: Pop loved to cook and was excellent at it.)
– LESSON #2 –
Say what you mean; mean what you say.
When he married my mother and we became a blended family, he made a point to show me that he was trustworthy. This meant having my mother’s meal ready when she came home for lunch. He also picked me up from school when I was on the floor debilitated from extreme menstrual cramps. With a limp from a stroke, he still rushed to the door of restaurants to open it for me. When my mother and I were mistreated, he was our defender. Immorality was not his cup of tea and spoke up when necessary. Pop’s lesson took root into my spirit because his word was everything. Whatever he said was authentic and solid whether it was encouraging or corrective. The more birthdays I have, the more I absorb this quality.
– LESSON #3 –
Preserve your name.
I have a fond memory of Pop sending me to the local feed store to pick up food for the 20+ hunting beagles in our backyard. I didn’t need money. I didn’t need a note. I just needed his name. My dad had a tab that he settled every month with the owner. They had an understanding that only worked because Pop displayed good character. How simple, yet priceless that is. He was that way about everything though. If something did not align with his moral compass, he did not engage in it for the sake of his reputation. If he was wrong, he admitted it and asked for forgiveness. I try my best to maintain the same decorum. He taught me that your name is the only thing you truly own. Everything attached to it determines your altitude, connectivity, and longevity. I can only hope that when I die, my name is preserved in the heart of those I served just like Pop.
Sweethearts, I pray that you are hugged by loving memories if you’re missing someone right now. I want to also give you permission to miss her voice, his smile, her laugh, his snore… everything. It doesn’t mean you’re weak in your spiritual beliefs; it means you’re a spiritual being in a human body that longs for another spiritual being outside of her/his earthly frame. That’s all. This week, I heard my dad’s chuckle and felt his love all around. I cried a little and let myself marinate in his sweetness. It was a beautifully intimate moment. So, the next time you’re experiencing a memory of your loved one or you miss them so much that your heart aches, just close your eyes and say “I feel you.” Once for your loved one and once for the God who allowed you two to merge moments in time.
Today is Father’s Day in America and since I had already written an homage to my late father and to my friends who are fathers, I decided to post a special message to men everywhere.
Men: Generally speaking, you get a bad rap when it comes to the family circuit. You thrive in the business and economics (hence the glass ceilings that still exist), but when it comes to matters of the heart, you don’t receive your spotlight when you do well. If you have received shade all day, all month, all year — let me be the first to tell you, thank you.
A deeper look: You may be discouraged to extend your love for fear of being rejected or emasculated. Perhaps you were dismissed when you tried to hug your parents as a child or attempted to kiss your significant other. When affection is rejected, it can cause men to shut down and not feel emotionally safe. The result can be an adult male who does not know how to adequately express his feelings. This can manifest itself in destructive or distant behaviors and your family suffers the most from those inaudible blows. Furthermore, you may have a positive father reference to model, let alone a positive friendship with other men to keep you lifted. I encourage you to not to shrink into the shadows. No matter what you think, it won’t make things better.
From a daughter who experienced an estranged father and later an involved one, please consider the following for your future:
Never underestimate the power of your presence. Whether your reputation is tarnished or squeaky clean, your love will shine through anything when you decide to show it. Let them say no, but don’t let them say that you didn’t try. I believe my biological father did the best he could within his capacity. The father who raised me simply had a deeper well from which to draw.
You’re the blueprint. I’m a firm believer that a man’s interaction with his child(ren) can create a customized definition of provision and protection. Sons and daughters tend to use their fatherly relationships as reference points for platonic and romantic relationships. You’re more than a sperm donor. Your fingerprint is part of their growth. You’re a life-giver and women grow what you plant. We nurture what you give, so remember that as you interact with your family.
You need a team. In the name of sports, be humble enough to be a team player. If you have friends who are also fathers or men that you will take you seriously when it’s time to confide, let them know what you need in order to stay on track. Whether it is an addiction, temptation, or a knot of anger you can’t comb through, talk to your tribe. Just like on the court/field, everyone plays a role to win the game. Let your friends play their roles.
I encourage you to breathe through each attempt to be better and if you are already doing those items listed, offer to be a safe space for another man as he grows into a better version of himself. Mentor a neighborhood child who could use a father figure. Offer to make amends with a family member. Just don’t stop trying. Let them say no. You can live with the peace of knowing that you extended the opportunity for them to meet the new you.
Hello, Sweethearts! I know it’s Thursday, but this one took some simmering… and you may be wondering where I’m going with those two letters. I’m going exactly where you think I am.
In the world of social sciences, there’s a term called emotional dishonesty. Various definitions exist for it, but in essence, it is when someone does not own up to their feelings or needs, yet s/he holds the other person accountable for the offense. This can manifest itself as passive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive behavior.
When I taught adult education communication courses, we would always engage in authentic and lively dialogue about relationships (platonic, professional, romantic, familial, and social). Every quarter, someone would attribute a lack of intimacy to dysfunctional communication. Every quarter, someone would tell me how lack of trust was the undercurrent in their relationship deterioration. After my first year of teaching, I learned to carve out two days in my lesson plan to discuss the conflict chapter because it always birthed the fruition of self-discovery among my students. The chapter also landed in the middle of the textbook, so by that point in the course, they usually displayed sharpened self-awareness and reframing skills. They were not only able to professionally assess and verbalize the conflict but also express ownership of its escalation which was often via emotional dishonesty. You can bet that made me one happy educator. 🙂
To listen to a man say “I see it now. I’m not helping the situation.” To hear a woman say “Yeah, I don’t really listen to my kids. I need to do that more.” That was what kept the blood flowing in my teaching career. That is what produced life within those four walls and fortified adults to engage in healthy relationships of all kinds.
Speaking of blood flow… let’s talk about that ED.
When a man experiences erectile dysfunction, it can be emotionally crippling. He may not be able to communicate how emasculated he feels and his behavior can be misunderstood and misdirected toward his partner. Multiple factors can cause ED and one of them is decreased blood flow.
How interesting it is that a lack of life in one area can be the cause of death in another? If blood is not allowed to flow and recycle through our bodies, we experience death. Then again, there are two types of death… two organs that are vital comrades in the cessation of life – the brain and the heart. I believe the effects of dysfunctional communication resemble the intimacy breakdown that can occur from ED. Emotional Dishonesty can lead to Emotional Dysfunction. One deters the physical production of life while the other deters the flow of spiritual exchange. In both instances, there’s a broken piece – trust.
And let’s be real… What good is a relationship without trust? How can a relationship survive without the trust that all valves are open… that the flow is free and clear? After all, there are 4 valves in your heart – two for incoming blood and two for outgoing blood, so obviously God knew that circulation and regeneration were vital in keeping you alive in both your head and in your heart. Why don’t we give it a try in the spiritual realm as well? Why not gift that freedom to each other and to ourselves? Be emotionally honest with yourself and with those you love. When you don’t, it hurts yourself because you’re blocking healthy intrapersonal communication, and it hurts the other person because it creates a disconnect from the intimacy you desire from her/him. As I mentioned to some friends this year –I’m in the business of having real conversations with real people that want real relationships.Sweetheart, can you say the same thing?
This doesn’t mean that you need to bleed your heart 24/7 to everyone you meet. As in physiology, that could leave you spiritually drained and unable to function effectively.
Ask God to balance this spiritual flow as you learn to communicate truthfully in HIs Love from one person to another. It can be done; I promise. I have witnessed and experienced it. You may have to be gentle or set some ground rules, but allow truthful communication to flow between your lips. Cherish those in your circle who provide opportunities for that to happen. No matter how messy or how awkward it may be, it is worth the trust structure. Letting communication flow between two hearts creates freedom amidst two people… and that’s the pinnacle of God’s Love toward us and Christ’s sacrifice for us. Freedom in mind, body, and spirit. The kind that can only come from the Prince of Peace and the Author of Love.
For more information about emotional dishonesty, check out this article. It’s one of my favorite classroom references.
Peace & Thanks for listening. Have an awesome week and I love you all!
Today is Mother’s Day in America and I decided to post a special message to my mother; my family and friends who are mothers and mother-figures; and my family and friends who no longer have their mothers here on Earth. I pray these words will reach you wherever you fit among them.
These 3 words come to mind when I think of you – courageous, relentless, sincere. I could write a million words and they would still fail to capture the power of that trifecta. I’ve watched you peel back layers of motherhood to reveal the woman within. The bravest part was allowing me to be part of that journey. In this phase of our relationship, we are discovering the latest version of ourselves. I love it. In our rawest state, we unfold unapologetically and I love that too. We aren’t afraid to grow in front of each other and I am so grateful for that gift. From wearing your natural beauty to your larger-than-life laughter to your fervent and effectual prayers, you are the epitome of a spiritual soldier and I appreciate you with every fiber of my being. Ain’t no mountain high enough.
I love you, Mommy.
MOTHERS & MOTHER-FIGURES = THE WARRIORS
You are fierce. I can’t imagine what it is like to be you. Throwing on your armor every day to ensure your tribe is enveloped in love. You are nurturing, protective, and flexible. You don’t break; you shine. Through the mud that life throws on you, the unkind treatment you receive, the dirty looks from religious hypocrites… you wake up with a back full of bruises and start over. Some of you have let me into your village and it has been a hilariously beautiful experience. Your children will always be family, just as you are to me. I stand with you as you fight for them. Some of you have children who are no longer here and, my sisters, I admire your bravery and your humanity. You were entrusted with a forever gift and you will forever be a mother to me. Warriors, I see you and I salute you. Thank you for being your beautiful self.
SONS & DAUGHTERS
Whether your relationship with your mother was positive or negative, I am so glad she birthed you into the world. You are part of my circle because of her and I couldn’t imagine experiencing life without you. So, while the world celebrates mothers here on Earth, I also celebrate who your mother left behind for me to cherish – you. Consider sharing one thing your mother said that positively steers your life with someone younger than you. If this isn’t applicable, choose one negative behavior from your mother that you refuse to perpetuate in your circle. Either way, I encourage you to breathe through today and every day. I love you.
This post is dedicated to my aunts and uncles. How many of you can attribute something you do to a family member, better yet, a family member older than you? I can. The older I get, the more I realize how much of my behavioral traits can be directly traced to my family and I’m proud of that truth.
Aunt Janice – She’s so creative and resourceful. I have fond memories of helping her create flower arrangements and searching for just the right item to make it perfect.
Uncle Buck – Supa fly. Had style and swag like no other. Military veteran, strong confidence, and a breezy disposition. We could talk about anything.
Uncle Mack – Passionate and resilient. It is what it is. When I broke my arm as a child, he was limping but carried me down about 15 steps. When I rode in his car, we always listened to R&B classics, and I fell in love with them.
Uncle Bo – Any question you have, he has a wise answer. Practical, a well of knowledge, and can get along with just about anybody. Taught me how to change my brake pads too.
Uncle Greg – The life of the party, daring, and devout in his faith. Always smiling and laughing. When I was a kid, I remember wanting to be fearless like him.
Aunt Lisa – Full of joy, intuitive, and a garden goddess. Pure horticulture athlete. I get my playful side from her. She always looks at the bright side and helps people along the way.
Uncle Ed – The debater. The intellectual. The Bible scholar. His drawer full of cassettes compelled me to dive in and listen to everything, then try to put all of them back before he came home.
Uncle Ced – Courageous. My first superhero besides my mother. Military veteran and family man. My fondest memory was him returning from deployment and me acting like he had just come from the moon.
My musical love affair comes from my family. My fierce ride-and-live (I don’t say ride-or-die) loyal spirit comes from my family. My insatiable appetite for learning, desire to enjoy life and relentless drive comes from my family. My grandfather and grandmother empowered their children with life-long skills that have reached throughout generational branches. I am so blessed to be part of this family tree and I encourage you to dive into yours and explore yourself. You may be surprised by what you find. More importantly, I encourage you to pour into the fruit around you. Don’t leave a person in your home in the dark about something that you’ve learned from your elders. That water needs to be pulled through the roots in order to drip from the leaves. It’s valuable. It’s what make you rich. It’s what makes you live forever.
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.
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.