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Listening at the Speed of Life

– by C. J. Wade –

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real talk

#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #9

To my awesome Grandparents:

I must say… *sigh* I am soooooo glad that you were my grandparents. You did an excellent job! Ahhhh!!!!!

I am the daughter of so much coolness. Military and entrepreneurial blood move through my veins. Intellectual stealth crowns my head. The relentless pursuit for better fuels my tank and that’s because of you.

My observational skills were on point whenever you were around. I loved your laughter and your wit. They worked seamlessly together every time. Watching you cook, listening to you dissect newspaper articles (giving me the comics, of course), and rummaging through your music collections were the highlights of my day… and when we “went to town,” I was in heaven. That backseat of the Cadillac was my cozy little makeshift office with paper and books strewn across it. You never bothered me about until it was time to go inside the house, then you would say “All right now, clean up your little house.” That’s how you all were — teaching me lessons along the way for my tiny feet to follow. I remember competing with you in wordsearch battles to see who could finish the book first. I was fascinated with your mathematical wizardry; you could count anything in your head. You knew phone numbers of almost everyone in the neighborhood. And let’s not talk about the way you dressed… Whew, you could put a runway to shame. You only bought quality. Period.

Photo by Raphael Brasileiro on Pexels.com

Because of you, I’ve never been afraid to take public transportation. You taught me how to read the bus schedule and highway signs so I wouldn’t get lost. We walked the streets of Downtown Birmingham like it was Times Square. I watched the cobbler fix your shoes. I noticed how you spoke to the pharmacist. I saw you mourn with friends and feed the poor. You taught me loyalty, integrity, and how to be part of a community. Those sentiments still run deep in me.

I truly believe you were undoubtedly made for me. All of my quirkiness didn’t scare you. My shyness was your friend. You knew how to tap into my heart when I wanted to keep it closed for safekeeping. Somewhere between time and love, our souls met in the middle and my life is richer because of that sweet collision.

On many days, I wish you were here, then on others, I’m glad you’re not. You would probably hate being here right now, but the selfish me would love having you near. As grown as I am, I would most likely be at your houses every week talking smack, listening to wisdom, and cooking on your stoves. We would play cards or board games as usual and I still wouldn’t mind helping you with anything.

I miss you so much, but I’m glad you’re safe. I’m glad your souls are at rest and I can’t wait to enjoy heaven with you. I love you forever.

Sincerely,

CJW

#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #6

Hey, Sweeties!

You already know that I love you to the moon and beyond. I think all of you are absolutely exceptional. Your minds work so fast because you grew up in a world where it had to. Your creativity is so diverse that I’m just grateful to have a seat in the audience.

Unbeknownst to you, I loved you before I saw you. For real. In most cases, I was with your mother and/or father up to the final hours before you graced us with your presence. It was so cool to stroll down the memory lanes of our friendship as I held you for the first time or shared our first conversation. It was official — you were an addition to my village too. It’s difficult to fathom, but your parent(s) actually had a different life before you got here and I was in it, so by default, you’re part of a tribe. A loving tribe.

Let me tell you some things that you may forget later.

First, the world owes you nothing, so do not hold back who you are. Do exactly what you were born to do — no exceptions. If that’s being a mechanic, you better shine doing it and let me book a service appointment. If that’s being a fashion designer, you better throw your whole self in it and let me buy one of your pieces. Remember that you will always have access to me. Some of you already have proof of that as we’ve laughed, learned, or navigated difficult conversations. Others have yet to redeem that perpetual offer, but you know it’s there. Either way, you have a support system, Love… a whole tribe. Don’t let anyone or anything make you feel alone.

Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

Next, work smart and play hard. Laziness will get you nowhere and you know I will call you out on it, so don’t slip. I’m hard on you because I know what you can do. I know the stock you came from. I know how serious your parent(s) was about your health, safety, and education before you were a teenager. I know how hard they studied in school. I know how many times they picked themselves up after being knocked down, so I know what’s in you. I accept nothing less your best.

Lastly, I hope you soar beyond thunderstorms of negativity and that every word against you bounces off your Loving armor. Trust me — more clouds are coming but they don’t have to be gray. The lightning bolts of unexpected failures don’t have to take you out of the game. When you feel overwhelmed, remember that moment is just a blip on your life spectrum. It does not define you and it will pass. I promise.

I’m so proud of you already. You are exquisitely created to go beyond this generation into the deep waters of progress. Move forward and know that I will always have your back.

See you around,

CJW

#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #5

Hello There, Thinker.

There are so many avenues in you. I do so much without your permission. From creative to correlative, I stretch you more than Elastigirl’s arms.

One of my fears is that you will forget everything. I’ve seen it happen to my loved ones and it was detrimental to the spirit of their existence. They forgot who I was. Their temperament changed at the drop of a dime. Sometimes they would stare off in the distance and I longed for them to return. So, I stretch you — daily. I weave the needles of my to-do lists in and out of you like a skilled seamstress. I hope it works in our favor.

Remember when you couldn’t grasp the concept of negative numbers, but you easily understood neurological transmitters? I was so frustrated with you and I thought you were defective. I didn’t know that I was gifted. I simply felt weird and out of place.

Photo by Ololade Masud on Pexels.com

Remember when I prayed that God would make you normal so I would stop being teased? It took awhile, but I learned to embrace the way you work. You compute situations in futuristic tense yet turn off before you overload. How exceptional is that?

Remember the first time I envisioned choreography while my eyes were open? Wow, did it take my breath away. It felt like I was teleported into a creative universe. You tried to process so many pictures at once, so much movement in a moment. I pray we never forget it. I pray we never forget anything.

Store my memories well.
Hide them safely.
Let them roam free if the dark times are coming.

I don’t speak the worst over myself, but neither did my loved ones. It just happened. So, when no one is watching or while everyone sleeps, tiptoe to the file cabinets and pull out whatever tickles your fancy. You hold great things in the folds of my humanity and I have experienced incredible moments.

Here’s to you remembering them all. Here’s to recalling names, places, and things. Here’s to laughing at old jokes and dancing to my favorite tunes. We’ve got a ways to go, I believe, so I’m asking God to keep you safe and sound. In the meantime, thanks for all you do. Thank you for processing critical thoughts. Thank you for digesting everything I slam on your plate. The various mental tabs that open throughout the day. The big ideas. The little details. You do great things because a great God created you. For that, I will always believe that He will take care of us.

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 #2

I really do believe you did the best you could with what you had; nevertheless, I have so many questions.

First, thank you for serving our country. I appreciate you for signing up during a time when Black men were still seen as inferior in many places. You volunteered to serve anyway and I will never forget that.

I see similarities in us and wonder if we would have been a winning team. Your laugh, according to others, was bright. I don’t know what it sounds like but I do remember your smile. I remember your embrace in the two memories I can recall. You seemed like the life of the party. I found out that you were so musically-minded that you scratched records like a disk jockey just for fun.

You wrote poetry. The only one I remember had a line about a tree in it. Grandma had it framed and it sat on the coffee table well after you were gone. The syntax was too complicated for my pre-school-aged mind even though I had written my first short story in Kindergarten and it won a place in a state competition. I was so proud of that —- that I could write just like you— and I wanted to tell you, but I couldn’t. I had grown accustomed to your absence.

It’s easy to create an alternate ending to our story without the dark fibers woven in between. I can’t paint you as a villain because again, I believe you did the best you could with what you had. You were dealing with a lot. Processing a lot without allowing it to digest through your soul.

What I do appreciate is the way you would bring me chocolate cupcakes when you came to visit. It let me know that you thought of me while you were gone. Your nickname for me always made me smile too. Your skin was chocolate… like mine. I wanted to touch your face many times just to test the smoothness of your cheeks and the roundness of your nose.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

The genetic material that makes up half of my existence is filled with parts of you. Your passion for life. Your spontaneity. Your friendliness. Your lightheartedness. Your poetic pen. I believe I get that from you. Some days, I wish I could go deep sea diving into your psyche… to see your heart space through these adult goggles of mine and find where my spot was located in the darkness. Since you left Earth early, I’ll never know except what others tell me and that will have to be enough. It has served me with rich information so far yet left me yearning to fill the canyon of emptiness.

God knew what He was doing. That’s how I have to think about it. God knew there was trouble ahead and that Mommy could handle it. I have to admit — it was weird grieving over someone I barely knew. I remember going back into my grandmother’s living room to watch television after she and my mother broke the news. I could hear them talking in the kitchen, but it faded into a muffle behind Nick At Nite. I didn’t know what to feel, so I felt nothing. I remember my mind going blank as the black-and-white images flickered on the screen.

When I returned to school, a teacher passed out an information sheet for us to complete. I raised my hand when I got to the line that said “father” because I didn’t know what to write. I was only in 2nd or 3rd grade. I learned that day to write the word “deceased” whenever I saw “father” on documents. It was an odd revelation for a kid. I knew the meaning of the word “cease” from the soulful Douglas Miller tune My Soul Has Been Anchored In The Lord, but de-ceased made no sense to me. The prefix was supposed to cancel out the root word, so I thought. Confused, I wrote it anyway because that’s what I was told was proper. That was one of the distinct moments I realized you were gone forever, and a part of me that I would never know went with you.

All in all, I know you would be proud of the woman I have become. I know you would be reading every word I write and we would talk about it over the phone. We would probably laugh a bit too. You just seemed to be that type of guy. I don’t know if we would have seen each other often, but I’m certain we would have talked. I believe you would have tried to make every graduation and tried to call for birthdays. I believe you would have done the best you could. I’ll hold on to that. Forever until.

I love you and thank you for what you’ve given me.

Sincerely,

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: 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: Birthday Week 4

Hello, Sweethearts.

We’re in week 4 and I have to admit — it was rough. If we keep it authentic (which I always do with you), the whole month has been a fight to find my happy. I had valleys and mountains in clusters, but I meant what I said last week — you have the authority to do something you love every week. So, I did.

I got a legs/feet massage with my pedicure.

It costs a little extra, but it was so worth it. I’m used to getting 1-2 massages a month to maintain the physical demands of my work life. Well, COVID-19 has trashed that schedule, so when I saw the chance to upgrade my pedicure to include the massage, I snatched it. Unapologetically.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I spent quality time with one of my village kids.

She has a beautiful smile. She let me shampoo and detangle her hair. She cried a little. She let me hold her. We had a dance off. She won.

I caught up with my big sister.

The alumnae and undergraduate members of my sorority do our best to keep in touch. Sometimes, life events create some cracks in communication even though the bond is still there. I had a beautiful and hilarious conversation with one of my big sisters and it was epic.

I kept my hair appointment.

OK, this seems trivial to some, but I felt like a dirty Q-tip with a worn Brill-o pad sitting on top of it. Based upon those valleys and mountains, I had every reason to cancel it, but I didn’t. I stood up for myself and said “I deserve it.” It doesn’t hurt that Desiree Danielle turned my head into a masterpiece (yep, the same creative that took my blog branding photos).

Photo by Mateus Souza on Pexels.com

I let myself speak… and cry.

I’m pretty good at pushing through, but the morning of my birthday, I received difficult news. My default setting of “quiet” was wrestling with my need to emotionally vomit. I didn’t want to say anything, but I needed to say everything. So, when one of my friends called and asked “How’s your day going?” I gave myself permission to cry and untwist the pressure valve a bit. I needed it. You may be thinking — how does this fit in the birthday mantra? Because I allowed myself to do something that would usher relief and joy. It was totally worth it.

I provided someone a chance to relax.

Everything that could have caused a delay or cancellation tried to occur, but I was determined to provide time and space for her to exhale and regroup. It brought me joy to hear her appreciation and for me to say “No problem. You’re worth it.”

I drove over an hour in silence.

I have a worksite that is over an hour away and I usually listen to a sermon, something meditative, or pray. On this drive, I did neither. I let my mind breathe. Every time I wanted to think about something particular, I let it wander. It felt amazing.

Remember what I said, Sweethearts. Don’t get lost in the hamster wheel. People die there. I pray that you discover that you can do something you love every week. I was determined to do that no matter how many audibles I had to call.

Here’s to you having some positive moments of your own this month. I look forward to hearing about them soon. If you already started, drop one of them in the comments. Peace & Thanks for listening! Stay well out there!

Wednesday Wind Down: I Say A Little Prayer

Hey there, Sweethearts!

We made it to Thursday (it’s after midnight here) and I’m proud of us. So proud. I hope you’re doing well. I’ve been praying for you.

Tonight, I want to share a few prayers that I’ve said to cover you over time.


“Father God, I pray their hearts are healed and whole.”

“Lord, please be with them wherever they are.”

“Lord, keep them safe.”

“God, I thank you for them all.”

“Hold them close.”

“Lord, give them everything they need and more.”

“Remind them that they’re beautiful today.”

“Help them hear Your voice.”

“Give them something to laugh about today.”

“Let them know that they are special to you.”

“Lord, wrap them in Your Love right now.”

“Please give them strength, in the Name of Jesus.”


I pray that you felt remembered, motivated, strengthened, or calmed at some point while visiting my writing home.

Just like I hoped one of these prayers reached your need, I encourage you to say yours to do the same for someone else. We need each other now more than ever and this is not the time to withhold a prayer of any size. All are welcome and necessary.

“Prayer is simply talking to God like a friend and should be the easiest thing we do each day.”

– Joyce Meyer

This week, try exhaling a line of prayer from your heart. Don’t tell yourself that it isn’t good enough to say aloud. Those are lies from the pit of hell. Breathe it. Speak it. Whisper it if you have to. Just don’t trap it inside because of the lie. It could be the very prayer someone is praying for.

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

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