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!
The worst feeling for me is wanting to provide assistance but something is blocking me from doing so. I’ve experienced blockages of both distance and spiritual directives when it came to those situations. There were times when I truly wanted to extend myself and God told me no. That hurt just as bad as not being physically present in their time of need. Now, my friends (and I don’t take that term lightly) know they can call me at any time. If I can, I will — they know that too, but what do you when your hands are tied? When you know that this is a lesson they have to learn on their own? When you want to do it for them, but you know it will handicap them instead? When you’re hundreds of miles away? I had to learn to release that control freak to God too.
I say this often — I’m not Jesus, but I do listen to Him. I can’t be everywhere for everybody. I can’t make every baby shower, wedding shower, bridal party, funeral, birthday party, retirement party, hospital stay, court hearing, church event… you get the point. Trust me, I tried and it was an exhausting lesson of my finite abilities. I had to make peace with that unfortunate truth and send prayers where my hands couldn’t reach. Sometimes, I’ve sent prayers and a PayPal blessing where my pockets permitted. Other times, I stopped what I was doing, tucked away in an empty classroom or closed the door to my office and interceded on their behalf. Whether through my hands or my lips, through a text message or through a hug, my friends are always on my prayer list and I have learned to let God move through me however he wishes in order to confirm His Love in their situation. I’ve gone through some doozies with my tribes, but they always appreciate prayer… and so do I.
Peace & Thanks for listening, Sweethearts! Keep praying for your friends and listening for your next steps! I love y’all!
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.
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.
Well, that’s not her real name, but it’s what I call her. She began to know me as her high school teacher and now she’s my performing arts troupe teammate and sister. Sounds weird? Not really once you know the backstory. I don’t make a habit of turning former students into friends, but this one? A rare occasion that was worth every step of the journey. The result was the opportunity to celebrate her birthday with food, exercise, and fun this year and I couldn’t have asked for a better time. We had excellent conversation and I was so grateful to celebrate her life.
Be willing to walk the journey.
I didn’t expect to be on the same team when we met, but I truly believe that God knitted us together as family. Despite her youth, she has been as loyal and encouraging to me as one that has known me for a lifetime. What she doesn’t realize is, while I mentor her, she fortifies me every time she overcomes an obstacle… and trust me, she’s had more than her fair share. She is my mentee, but she has proven to be my friend in sensitive times. On the phone when I was studying or grading papers late at night, calling to see if I made it home from work when she knew I was sleepy, and checking to be sure I ate when she knew I didn’t want to – these are just the minor leagues in comparison to the sincerity, joy, and downright determination she gives to those around her. My life has been enriched because she’s in it and going forward, I will continue to be appreciative every step of the way.
Peace & thanks for listening, Sweethearts! “See” you tomorrow!
Laura is my secret weapon. If you pass by her in a hallway, she has so much wisdom and humor in 1 minute that it will leave your head spinning. She’s witty and brilliant and has beautiful salt-n-pepper hair. We were co-workers for 5 years and that title morphed into friends over my teaching career. You know how you say “Keep in touch! Let’s have lunch!” and you truly mean it, but you never do it? Well, we grabbed intention by the ears and actually did it and I enjoyed every minute.
Friends can be found anywhere and age has no boundary when you have kindred spirits. Kindness can exist among generations and workplaces. Laura and I would check on each other throughout the workday and combine our educator superpowers to increase student achievement. I didn’t know I would have a friend like her in my life when I accepted the job offer, and now I can’t imagine my life without her in it.
Be on the lookout for authentic people. They truly are everywhere.
#15 – I had sister time with my sisterfriend Carrie!
When you’re in high school, the days seem to fly by as you approach graduation. Some people you will remember your whole life because you just… connect. Meet my sisterfriend Carrie. We were marching bandmates and stayed connected ever since, but decided to set a date to catch up on each other’s lives this year. She’s soft-spoken, kind, powerful in standards, and mighty in faith. Then, to top it off, she’s an audiology doctor, exceptional in pediatrics, and always has a cool hair color. I’m amazed by her on a regular basis. Seriously.
There’s nothing wrong with catching up. Sometimes we feel pressured to be involved in every little detail of people’s lives, and while that is ideal, it simply doesn’t happen. Life events continue, you smash goals, change cities, etc. You can stay connected, but it takes effort. I learned that even though I had not taken part in her graduations and career accomplishments, I was still proud of her and she felt the same. And on that lunch date, we simply enjoyed each other’s company and caught up. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Is there someone that you need to catch up with before the year ends? Make the effort and do your best to keep the date like you would a doctor’s appointment. The dividends are priceless laughs with your friend that can’t be erased.