I’m sure that at some point in U.S. History class as the era of slavery was covered, most teachers mentioned the fact that some slaves were allowed to work in the house while other slaves were forced to work in the field. Educators would also go on the explain that this was a tactic used to foster division between the slaves. Slaves that were allowed to work in the slave master’s home were treated as superior to the field slaves, so although the slave population increased, they’d always be too divided to stand together against their masters.
Now, let’s fast forward a few hundred years.
Both of my parents grew up in Baltimore City. When they got married, they decided to grow and raise their family in the suburbs of Baltimore County. Being able to move to the county was the goal of most families. It meant you were “moving on up” like the Jefferson’s!
Although our primary residence was in Baltimore County, my parents still needed the assistance of my grandparents for childcare, so we remained enrolled in the Baltimore City school system while our grandparents provided our before and after care during the school year.
When my sister graduated from the elementary school we were attending, my parents decided this would be a good time to transition everyone to the Baltimore County school system. My sister could start middle school near our home, I would transfer into the local elementary school, and my little brother would go to a licensed childcare provider. My sister and I were devasted. We didn’t want to leave our friends and the comfortable environment of our grandparents’ neighborhood. Our parents insisted that we’d be fine.
I was nervous about starting this new school, naturally, but the teacher did her best to help me feel at home in the new environment. She introduced me to the entire class on the first day and asked everyone to help me get acclimated. The students seem totally prepared to do the complete opposite.
Based on the barrage of questions, I gathered that their impression of city schools was that the students fight each other constantly, the buildings were falling apart, we barely had food for students to eat at lunch, and the education provided was substandard. They didn’t believe me when I told them my old school had an auditorium that was separate from the gymnasium. That was too fancy for a city school! They didn’t believe me when I told them that our school took an annual field trip to Sesame Place amusement park. No school was allowed to do that! They didn’t even believe me when I told them I’d never been in a fight before. They just assumed I got beat up all the time and didn’t want to admit it. My sister’s experience was about the same as mine.
Despite my parent’s effort, the suburb was a more jolting environment for us than the city ever was, and it was based in the divisive culture.
Years later as an adult, I was working as a housing inspector for the city where I was living. My office was located in the headquarters for the housing department. The professional environment thrived off the division between inspectors located at headquarters and the ones working at satellite offices. It got everyone working harder for a spot in headquarters. I was talking casually to a fellow inspector one day as she was explaining how she felt about her position at the satellite office in comparison to my position in headquarters using the house slave/field slave analogy. Completely offended and without hesitation, I asked her…
“Did you just call me a house nigga?”
Believe it or not, this isn’t a message degrading the Black community. It’s a message of unity. I’m so proud of the Black community right now. We are standing together in solidarity. We are using our existence to fight for one common goal. We are not standing for the division that kept us bound for so long.
They knew that if we came together, we would change life as they knew it. They were deathly afraid of this moment. They fought it tooth and nail. This is why they are so hell bent on normalizing our extermination. They are fighting for the frailty of their privilege, the only life they’ve really ever known.
Yes, the police system is here to serve and protect…everyone that isn’t Black.
Yes, the political agenda operates to serve public interest…of everyone that isn’t Black.
Yes, communities exist to support and uplift its members…that aren’t Black.
It’s been like that historically and to claim that that culture no longer exist is a level of gaslighting that is about to set this entire nation ablaze.
Some of my people are peacefully protesting. Some of my people are using their platforms to educate the masses about injustice. Some of my people are using their voices to call elected officials relentlessly to demand justice. Some of my people are refusing to spend their dollars with any business that isn’t Black owned. Some of my people are even rioting, and I’m here for all of it.
From the acreage of rural farms to the high rises of concrete jungles to the multimillion-dollar mansions in the hills, as the wise Tupac Shakur once said “ain’t no one man above the crew.”
I’d been caught. I was 16-years old standing in my father’s bedroom listening to a lecture. I was guilty as charged, so I just sucked it up and tried to at least appear attentive.
I was sexually active, still. I’d gotten pregnant, again. I’d even gotten another abortion all without my father’s knowledge. Well, until now. I wasn’t necessarily scared of my punishment. I was mostly feeling irritated with the scolding I was getting. I tried to remember enough key points to be able to respond if necessary. The premise of his reprimand was that God didn’t like pre-marital sex. Ok. Got it!
He concluded with no punishment for the offenses. However, there was a pop quiz. My father asked me, “So what did I say?”
“Pre-marital sex is bad,” I replied.
From the standpoint of a teenager that was already living a destructively dangerous life, the pop quiz was just validation that I was enrolled as a full-time student in the school of hypocrisy. It became even more difficult to take any of the educational material I was receiving there seriously.
You see, my dad was a single father at the time. He and my mom were already divorced, and my father was in a committed relationship with a wonderful woman. He loved her very much. His plan was to marry her someday and they spent a lot of time together including overnights with each other. Their sex life was nobody’s business, especially mine, but even I was pretty sure it was healthy and thriving.
I think had my father used an approach that wasn’t biblical his point may have had more validity. However, using a biblical principle to condemn my sinful actions while using the pop quiz to excuse his own undermined everything he’d said to me, valid or not.
Sometimes that is a mark we often miss as parents. As adults there are absolutely privileges we enjoy that our children don’t. However, it doesn’t mean that our children won’t try to mimic us. How many parents have caught their toddlers “playing with the stove” just to have said toddler correct the accusation by confirming that they were indeed cooking? We know that what they are doing is dangerous but to them they are just doing the cool and amazing things they see us doing.
So, what do we do as parents?
In this instance, we tend to use it as a teachable moment. We explain that the stove can be dangerous when children use it, especially alone. If they have a play kitchen set, we encourage them to cook there until they are old enough to cook like Mommy and Daddy. We may even let them help us stir cake batter or pour the milk into a recipe to give them that sense of accomplishment as we guide them through the progression of cooking responsibly.
You can say that you don’t want your child to pick up bad habits but if they are exposed to bad habits, they are likely to pick them up. It’s the reason we strive to live in safe neighborhoods with a high-quality education system. We may even screen their friends or place them in enriching community programs. We understand that their engagement with positivity and excellence will likely cultivate positivity and excellence within them.
When our kids see drug use in their immediate environment, be it marijuana or heroin, they are more likely to pick up the habit. If our kids see flared tempers and hear abusive language used in their immediate environment, they are likely to normalize the behavior inciting them to fits of rage as well. They’ve been officially introduced to those behaviors by their environment, and well…
Monkey See, Monkey Do.
At some point we may want our children to cook, so we groom them for the experience. However, if we never want our children to use drugs, it isn’t realistic for us to do it and condemn it at the same time. You can certainly express your displeasure to them, but your contradictory actions will negate your message every time. There is no grooming your child for a life of abstaining from something that you clearly engage in yourself.
Finding that your child has adopted a habit or lifestyle that you wish they never would’ve even discovered is sometimes disappointing as a parent. As you guide your child down the path that you know will be fruitful for them, don’t neglect to examine and prune the path that you are walking as well. They could have harvested those fruits from the seeds you have sown yourself.
I was scrolling through Instagram one quarantine 2020 evening when I saw the caption of a video that read “THIS IS MURDER!” Well, I’m not watching that video!
I had no desire to watch a cell phone video of someone being murdered. Not another one, so I kept scrolling and moved on with life. However, it was hard to participate in social media without being bombarded with the news of George Floyd being killed by Minneapolis police. I continued to turn a blind eye and engage with more upbeat content like funny memes and inspirational quotes. Then I was sent a link to an Instagram video recorded by a pastor and decided to watch it. This white pastor talked about his feelings on the George Floyd incident while getting emotional. I finally decided to watch the murder video.
I couldn’t get through the entire eight-minute video of a handcuffed man lying on his belly begging for his life while a police officer casually suffocated him with his knee on his throat and his hands in his pockets. I watched as much as I could until I became sick to my stomach and turned it off. It was truly sickening. The murder, the murderers, the state of the world was utterly sickening.
But I needed to see that video.
I live in a small town. It’s very conservative and predominantly white. I think about how uncomfortable I feel when I see the Trump 2020 flags waving proudly from the back of pick-up trucks, or the white couples sporting their matching “I stand for the flag and kneel for the cross” t-shirts to Walmart. I feel like the racism here can best be described as “The Emperor’s New Clothes” type of racism. There are a people walking around town scantily clad in their racism, but believing they are fully draped in the finest garbs of acceptance. Other members of the community who do wear their acceptance are still afraid to tell their neighbors that their racism is showing, because if they don’t see that they are proudly wearing their acceptance, then they are fools!
You know the story.
I’ve already had a few racist experiences in this town (my toddler twins have too) so I spend most of my time trying to conform. This black girl from Baltimore, tames her afro, tucks away her “Black Girl Magic” and “Melanin Queen” t-shirts, and uses her code switch voice 24/7. I can’t afford to bring any more attention to myself than I already do being a black girl in a white world.
I can be black. I just can’t be “black” black, right?
But as that sick feeling in my stomach started to dissipate, I realized that I haven’t done anyone any favors by silently conforming, especially myself. I feel like God is asking more of me. He’s ready to present opportunities to me that will require me to be unapologetically Christian, or unapologetically female, or unapologetically black. AND…AND there may even be a situation where I have to be unapologetically black, Christian, and female. I can’t walk into these spaces cowering for others, afraid to step with confidence. I can’t be afraid to be who I am and what I am. I’m a black woman? Wear It! I’m a Christian? Proclaim It! I battle depression? Own It! I survived domestic violence? Use It!
As I prepare to attend school in the fall, I felt like God was trying to tell me that it’s time to be unapologetically dope; unapologetically me. My new ministry/career is mental health, and my days of mental bondage have to come to an end. It’s my personal Juneteenth. I can’t run from any of it; the good, the bad, or the ugly. It’s time to proudly embrace America being the land of the free and thee home for the even the descendants of slaves.
Oxygen and the air pressure are always being monitored. In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person. Keep your mask on until a uniformed crew member advises you to remove it.
- Airplane Safety Protocol
If you’ve ever taken a flight anywhere, you’ve heard this advice. You’re advised that in the event of a decompression, you are to put on your own mask before assisting anyone else, including your own children. That advice use to sound absolutely insane to me as a mom. As a veteran mom, that is some of the soundest advice I’ve ever heard!
I am a mom of four amazing children with a large age gap between most of the them. My sons are age 23 and 16. My daughters are both 3. When my oldest son was small, I believed that my primary job was to sacrifice. I should sacrifice my time, my talents, my desires, my life in general for him. He didn’t ask to be here, right? Therefore, I had to make sure his existence took priority over my own. In the event of decompression, in air cabin or in life, I needed to ensure his safety first. I mean, that’s what good mom does!
Now that I find myself 20 years older (and wiser) with twins, I understand the importance of my own well-being. There is no way I can single parent twins without having a level of balance with my own self-care. This has been amplified during the global pandemic of 2020. One day I told my toddler, “Where is your iPad? You need some screen time!” just so I could have a moment. I began to accept that while others searched for structure and routine, my sanity rested in releasing myself from the pressure of being “mom of the year.” Hell, I wasn’t even gunning for mom of the block!
Speaking of pressure…
My youngest son, who had lived in another state with his dad for almost his entire life, moved in with me less than a year ago. He wanted finish his last two years of high school with me saying that he needed a change. It was not a clean transition from the instability he called home for so long but I got him here and tried to get him rooted as much as I could. I knew that he was in a fragile state. I wanted to be the parent he needed. I wanted to be encouraging and motivating while also being sensitive and empathetic. He was damaged and I wanted to handle with care.
Things started out well! He made new friends, joined the football and wrestling teams, made the honor roll, and even met a girl. However, his unwillingness to address his underlying issues lead to dishonesty and mistrust. He began staying out late (if he came home at all), not keeping up with schoolwork, smoking marijuana, and God knows what else! His therapist was unable to get through to him as his attitude and behavior got worse.
The more I tried to address my concerns with him the more push back I got. His attitude worsened, the lies and deceit became more frequent, and him locking himself in his bedroom became the norm. It effected my mood too. Fighting my own depression started to become an epic battle. Therapy wasn’t helping me. I began taking anti-depressants just to stay afloat. The shelter-in-place order intensified everything. I didn’t feel trapped in my home. I felt trapped in my life.
Early one quarantine morning, I woke up before the twins and told my son to listen out for them. I was going to pick up a few groceries and would come right back. While I was out, he accidentally started a fire, and because lying had become so commonplace for him, he wouldn’t even tell me the truth about what happened.
I didn’t know what to do. I felt like the plane was going down. The cabin was losing pressure. The masks had long fallen from their compartment and appeared in front of me. And as I was struggling to secure my son’s mask first, I was suffocating.
I had to talk with my son again after yet another teacher called about his grades. In that moment, I decided to secure my mask. I prayed for God to speak through me to him. I prayed for God to open his heart. I prayed that God would forgive me for anything I’d done against my son and that my son would forgive me also. I prayed that whatever the outcome of the conversation was, I felt at peace. I wanted to accept that his reception of the message had nothing to do with the deliverance, and I couldn’t take that personal.
I secured my mask on first.
The outcome? My son has decided to go back to living with his dad. I don’t think it’s a good decision. I don’t think it’s the answer. I believe he’s still running from the real issue, but I am at peace.
And my mask is still secure.
I can breathe. I can home school my twins. I can love my sons. I can be a good friend. I can smile and sing. I can sleep at night. I can read my bible. I don’t have suicidal thoughts, and I wasn’t able to do these things without securing my mask, FIRST!
My mask is my faith. What is your mask? Find it and put it on. Trust me, it will save more lives than just your own.
So, I just found out that April is sexual assault awareness month and I want to have a discussion about it. I would like for you to comment, email, message, and engage with me on this topic. In fact, I’d love it!
I would love some engagement because I don’t want to just talk about why sexual assault is bad. We all know sexual assault is bad. Even the people that do it know it’s bad. I want to talk about things that us regular folk do every single day, without even thinking, that keeps rape culture thriving.
While in a discussion forum about a year ago, I said something about not wanting to have sex until I was married although I was 40 years old and had four children already. I didn’t go into detail about why though. The participants in this conversation ripped me a new one! I was told everything from not being ready to seriously date to being emotionally unstable and in need of psychotherapy. However, the more sensitive participants were curious as to why. Why didn’t I want to have sex?
Are you serious?
Are you telling me that not wanting to have sex with someone must be accompanied by a good reason? Is it not viewed as a personal decision? Well, a lot of people seem to believe that. And that, my friends, is the foundation of rape culture.
We live in a very capitalistic society, so money is highly regarded. If after taking a man out and paying for four dates, I asked him to start paying my rent he’d be appalled. But if I then demanded an explanation, he’d probably be insulted. Most would agree that his response is justified as well. It would be insane for me the expect a man that I haven’t committed to, don’t see a future with, nor do I love or even live with to regularly pay my rent. And somehow, as a society, we’ve accepted that his money is more valuable than my body.
The idea that a woman would view her body to be just as valuable, if not more, as that man’s money is ridiculous. As a society, it is perfectly normal to question a woman that is not having sex about her motives. I don’t want to leave out the men though, because even I have been guilty of the reverse. We aren’t even supposed to have to ask men for sex, so a man abstaining from sex is just unheard of! He really has some explaining to do. Why doesn’t no just mean no? We make it the “me too” or anti-rape advocacy mantra, but do we truly live it?
Should a person feel obligated to explain their abstinence as a vow of celibacy or a religious practice? Should they have to “blame it on God” before their boundary is respected? What if it’s not religious? Does that invalidate their decision? And then what? What happens if their excuse isn’t good enough?
That fact that anyone must have an excuse is a part of rape culture. It lays a foundation for people to dismiss the stories of victims and the trauma of the experience, as well as give assailants less of a deterrent to commit the crime. No should be a complete sentence, but there are certainly times when it’s not, and sex quite often is one of those times.
Sex is one of those topics that can be broached at any time without much consequence. It can be solicited after one date or through something as impersonal as a direct message. The recipient can certainly decline, but the fact that the proposition was made is seen as normal. The same can not be said for marriage, cohabitation, merging bank accounts, or anything else that may signify commitment or intimacy. It’s almost as if sex has very little to do with intimacy or the commitment level of a relationship. Maybe, two people could have sex with no commitment or feelings at all, or worse, two people could have sex even if both parties don’t want to.
It’s dangerous when something like physical intimacy is seen as an entitlement. Quite frankly, if a person doesn’t want to have sex with you or anyone else, the reason is none of your damn business. I’d love to hear what your thoughts are and if there are any other factors that contribute to rape culture that you’d like to add. I feel just saying that sexual assault is bad isn’t enough to fight the battle against it. We have to start having the uncomfortable conversations that address the problem at its root. What are your thoughts?
Hypothetically, let’s say your friend called you and asked if you wanted to hang out. But you had to decline the invitation because you had come down with the flu. Your friend would probably ask if you needed anything or how they could help you. I mean, you are under the weather. The thing your friend probably wouldn’t do is start saying things about your condition that would make you feel scolded or judged. They wouldn’t question who you’ve been around or your personal hygiene. They would just want to help.
However, when a person finds the courage to tell someone that they are depressed, that same support isn’t always available. Why do you feel so bad? You aren’t alone. You have so much going for you. I’m here for you. Why didn’t you call me? Sometimes the circumstances have nothing to do with the diagnosis.
My first time ever seeing a professional for depression was at age 13. At age 41, I still battle depression. No matter how many family members I have, friends I have, or therapist I see, I still battle depression. It doesn’t mean I’m losing the battle. It simply means I fight, and win, my battle regularly.
This year for Easter Sunday, a day that I would usually host a large family dinner, I was respecting the guidelines set under the quarantine of 2020. I missed my family. I missed cooking. I missed fellowship. I missed the chaotic normalcy that I had fallen in love with over the years, and I felt depressed. I still video chatted with my son. I spent time with my younger children at home. I even video chatted with my siblings, nieces, and nephews. However, I still battled my depression that day.
The diagnosis of depression doesn’t mean a person’s life is bottoming out and they’ve lost appreciation for the wonderful things around them. It means their reality has become painful in some respect. Just as a person sick with the flu would want the non-judgmental help of a loved one, a person battling depression could use the same.
April 27, 2020 marks the three-year anniversary of losing my boyfriend suddenly. There’s a chance it will be a depressing day. It could just be sad and cause me to shed a few tears. Or it could be depressing and cause me to feel mentally and physically drained. Either way, I know that I have family that loves me. I know I have friends that care. I know I have resources available to handle the grief, and I’m confident that I can win the battle against my depression, yet again.
When the child psychologist that was a part of the team evaluating my daughter’s developmental delays disclosed that she saw some red flags for autism, I wasn’t shocked. When I started looking into services for her speech delay and her ridiculously picky eating habits, my research steered me towards that possibility. And even then, I wasn’t scared. I just wanted to make sure I did everything in my power to connect her with whatever she needed to succeed.
It was the stark contrast between her development and her twin sister’s development that let me know there could have been an issue. Ironically, it now meant that I’d have to make a conscious effort to not compare their progress, and make sure that they weren’t comparing themselves to each other either. It was a juggling act to find the balance between not displaying favoritism while giving each uniquely developing two-year-old what they needed. It definitely got easier when my typically developing daughter started understanding and accepting their differences.
It was cute to see how my typically developing daughter started helping her sister with speech and fine motor functions. She even got to a place where she would praise her and tell her “I’m so proud of you!” when her sister would learn a new skill. It warmed my heart as their mom, but I believe it also encouraged my daughter. In spite of her limited speech she didn’t through tantrums in frustration. Add to that an encouraging and patient environment, I felt she was bound to thrive!
My greatest concern for her wasn’t her limitations. In most cases it was my limitations. She didn’t have what her therapist called functional speech, but she was clearly learning. She knew her colors, numbers, letters, animals, as well as being able to identify numerous other things despite her not making request for food or even saying “mommy.” I just wanted to make sure I gave her everything she needed to continue progressing. Making sure she got the right therapy, thorough evaluations, and exposure to environments that would foster her growth was so important to me. Her? She was so carefree. She was so mild-mannered and happy. She seemed to not have a care in the world. I never looked at her a saw frustration in not being able to talk or climb the stairs even when her sister seemed to be doing those things effortlessly. Trying to get her to try the foods that her sister was willing to eat was pointless as she cared nothing about having a “peer model” in the house. The mom that wanted her to do that things that the “typically developing” toddlers were doing was anxiety inducing, but I found so much peace in her, what appeared to be, acceptance of who and where she was. Then I found a new fear.
Who told you that you were naked?
What was going to happen with she entered classrooms, after school programs, camps, dance classes, or other types of social setting where kids start making fun of her differences? What happens when people start to tell her that something is “wrong” with her? What happens when people start to point out the things she should be doing that other kids are doing already? But even worse, what happens if their words start effecting her joy?
The scariest thing for me in this journey isn’t my daughter falling on the autism spectrum. It’s knowing that I will be fighting the battle to make sure she never feels inferior to anyone or anything. It’s making sure she never feels afraid to try anything simply from a fear of inadequacy. It’s the same fear that I have for both of my girls, just intensified.
In Genesis 3:11 God asks Adam “who told you that you were naked?” Adam had always been naked. So was Eve. There weren’t even ashamed of it. Genesis 2:25 made that clear to us. But something happened in between those few verses that caused them to become ashamed, ashamed of the very way God made them.
I don’t want my daughter to encounter the serpents of the world that will try to convince her of the lies that will keep her from knowing her worth. I want her to live her life feeling confident and capable of anything God puts on her heart. The truth is we are all naked. God made us that way. I just pray that my daughters’ beauty is never overshadowed by their individual “nakedness.”
Lately, I’ve been getting more intentional about growing my relationship with Christ. I feel my life is testimony after testimony, and it’s time to start truly walking in faith. I decided to start taking advantage of online church services after having no luck with finding a local church I felt comfortable calling home.
Right now, the church whose services I’ve been watching is preaching a series on finances and tithing. Under normal circumstances this would have been a complete turn off for me, but I’m trying to be obedient, and God was telling me I needed to hear this message. I even joined an online group for support and accountability with my spiritual journey, including my reservations with tithing. I was pretty sure God was calling me to start tithing but with my already tight budget I was feeling apprehensive.
I didn’t grow up in church. Even when my family started going to church regularly, it was treated like an obligation. The importance of returning 10% of my time, talents, and income to God just wasn’t impressed upon me. Even now, members of my family who consider themselves to be devout Christians still turn up their noses at the very idea of tithing.
And here I am about to cough up what little money I have and give it to the church.
So far, this church had preached four sermons in this series with the previous three being Secure the Bag, Heart Check, and The Principle of First. As I was listening to the most recent sermon in this series The Bag with the Blessing the pastor commented that this isn’t about the money. Oh really? Then God reminded me of a life experience that clearly demonstrated this principle that had NOTHNG to do with money.
When my boyfriend and I met, we hit if off almost immediately. It was great! Then about four months into the relationship I could see he was bad with money, and even worse he was dishonest about his poor decisions. Initially I refused to tolerate such immaturity, and we broke up. However, I did care for him deeply and could see he was genuinely trying to change for the better. I followed my heart and gave him another chance.
We eventually moved in together and within a few months he was back to his old ways. I felt hurt and betrayed. As I was planning my exit strategy, I was also realizing that I might be pregnant. Once I confirmed the pregnancy, I told my boyfriend. He excitedly assured me he’d be by my side every step of the way and promised things would improve. Still feeling betrayed, I ignored him and almost immediately started googling abortion clinics.
The tension between us grew undeniably toxic and I didn’t care. When we got to the clinic the nurse discovered I was pregnant with twins. My boyfriend broke down crying and finally, so did I. I was crying because I knew how much I was hurting him. I never wanted that. I loved him. I just couldn’t see bringing a baby into our situation. We were sent home and advised to talk about whether this new information changed anything. If it didn’t, come back another day. If it did, best of wishes.
We talked at home and I was still uncomfortable with his ability to step up. I couldn’t in good conscious bring a baby, let alone two, into this mess we’d created. We went back the next day and I terminated the pregnancy.
A little over a year later we were still together, and our relationship was more dysfunctional than ever. We agreed to start couples counseling in a last-ditch effort and a few weeks into counseling I was pregnant with twins, again.
We decided to push through and make it work this time. We faced adversities from health scares to job loss with quite a bit of miscellaneous drama in between. When our twin daughters were finally born, we were filled with about as much fear as we were joy. Our relationship was nowhere near perfect but for the first time in its history, we were headed in the same direction with the same goals.
Then, in the middle of the night not even three months after our daughters were born, my boyfriend died suddenly at home. I was devastated.
What does all this have to do with tithing?
The single stay-at-home parenting journey with twins, one of which has special needs, has turned my eyes to God. Through this unthinkable tragedy, God has still blessed me. I know that my ability to navigate this space I’m in is nothing but God’s grace and mercy. Refining my relationship with God has made me a better person for everyone in my life, including my children. My growing faith in Him brings me peace and I’ve been able to find joy in a life that grows more challenging daily. But what if the first twin pregnancy was “The Bag with The Blessing” on it?
What if the first twin pregnancy was the blessing that was going to grow OUR faith in Christ? What if that new relationship with God was going to be what mended our relationship with each other and blessed our growing family? Regardless of how sinful our lives were, we were given two blessings from God, and we threw them away. We didn’t steward over it as we were called to do. Although we were given another twin blessing, not valuing those first fruits came with a lesson of what happens when you don’t honor the bag with the blessing.
I was struggling with the idea of giving God the first 10% of my income. Now, I’ve opened my heart to the idea that the money should be the least of my worries. I have to make sure I’m honoring all the first fruits that God blesses me with and continue to be obedient to His commands, because indeed it’s not about the money.
I moved to a small, relatively rural, and not very diverse town from a larger city. When I saw that a local organization that offers mental health services was having a panel discussion about working with African American individuals and families, I was intrigued. I was already on my third therapist in less than a year and still not feeling completely satisfied with the level of care of was getting.
What would such a discussion sound like?
I didn’t know what to expect but I never would have expected what I saw. It was a room full of white therapist asking a panel of two black people what it is like to be black. What was it like growing up black? What values do black families have, and similar questions. I wasn’t able to stay for the whole thing, so I don’t know if the questions got any more complex, but it was an eye opener for me. I went back to my own therapist a few days later ready to talk more candidly about some things that had been on my mind.
In my next therapy session, I rehashed an incident in which my son didn’t come home from a sporting event at all, staying out all night without a call or text to let me know where he was. When it happened, I emailed his coach to see if he knew the last person my son was with after the event. I then talked to my son’s teachers to see if they noticed changes in his behavior at school. Everyone I spoke with was shocked that someone as respectful and well-mannered as my son did something like that and was sure there had to be a good reason. The school staff and administrators were his biggest advocates. One of his teachers expressed that she was glad we moved to this small town because he was such a pleasure to work with!
For most parents, when your child doesn’t come home, you’re in a panic. You’re scared that something happened. You hope they are ok. You’re angry that they could be so irresponsible and inconsiderate, but there are some cultural concerns that I’m sure none of his non-black teachers and coaches took into account. One of my primary fears was that my 16-year-old son would become the next unarmed black person killed by police or some neighborhood watchman protecting their fine community. And I didn’t doubt for a moment that all the teachers and administrators that were so quick to advocate for him would remain silent while his character was assassinated by the community to justify the act.
I opened up to my therapist about my fears; those cultural fears that can be the blind spot of a white mental health professional working with black clients. To talk about my fear of racial profiling and injustices would be like trying to convince someone my son not coming home made me afraid that he had been abducted by aliens. To someone that can’t or won’t take the time to acknowledge racially motivated triggers as a legitimate concern for African American families, they both sound equally delusional.
My fear was probably no different than my father’s refusal to allow me to have a pager way back in 1996. He told me that only two types of people have beepers, doctors and drug dealers, and since I was neither, I didn’t need one. I thought he was being unreasonable but I’m sure in his mind he was just trying to keep me alive. Even if we go back centuries, I’m pretty sure there was a slave or two that complied with the master’s demands because they prayed the conformity would save their families from the inhumane torture that no slave was truly exempt from. As "cringey" as this panel discussion seemed surface level, it could have been on the right track by looking at black experience and black families. It could be what potentially opens the door for the conversational depth needed to have compassion for the African American experience.
Inclusion is often a discussion where the concept of conformity is purposely omitted. Conformity buys black people a seat at the “I don’t even see color” table of America. That seat is your reward for your willingness and effort to comply. With the appropriate amount of conformity, you might even earn the title of “not really being black” because you are so much like them now. What an honor, right?
It’s been a model that has kept the oppression of America running pretty well. Now, with talk of diversity, the country is taking an unexpected, and in some circles unwelcome, turn. Diversity encourages more than just inclusion. It promotes acceptance of differences. That acceptance requires changes in tradition, shifts in power, and compassion for others. This country was built on the antithesis. Although I’m sure that can be a scary thing for groups that have benefitted greatly from the system, we can no longer applaud our diversity when what we are really pushing is conformity and not recognize it as the racism that it is.
I commend those white therapists and black panelists that participated in the discussion. We have to start somewhere, and they started where they were. We’ve all been taught the model of inclusion through conformity. We are now trying to learn inclusion through diversity. It’s probably going to look really ugly before we can see its true beauty, but the beauty will be just as uniquely amazing as the melting pot of diversity that makes it up.
It was the day before New Year’s Eve, and I was feeling a little lonely. Both my sons were out of town and would be through the new year. I was home alone with my twin toddlers and they were wearing me out! I had a cousin in another state celebrating a birthday that day and decided to text a simple happy birthday message to my him. He texted me back but decided to use the opportunity to ask me how I was doing and to let me know that if I ever needed anything, even just to talk, to just call him. It started a daily text banter with the occasional phone call that really helped me.
However, in the back of my mind I couldn’t help but think that he wants something. What could his angle possibly be? We’ve never really had a relationship before. Why now? I even talked to my therapist about my apprehensions and my suspicions. We both chalked it up to my lack of trust because of a traumatic past.
But it was still eating away at me. I wanted to believe that his gestures were altruistic but because I felt unsure, I wouldn’t allow myself to make a real connection with him. It made me feel like a horrible person. He would text me bible scriptures and words of encouragement every single day. How could I think so little of his actions or his character? But after some real soul searching, I realized that it wasn’t him I didn’t trust. I wasn’t worried about what he wanted from me. I was actually scared of a totally different dilemma.
What did I have to offer him?
I was a broken woman. I was burnt out. I was in therapy. I was a sub-par Christian. I felt mentally drained and physically exhausted. What could I possibly offer him?
That’s been my whole life really though. Wondering what I really have to offer decent people. Then surrounding myself with people who don’t value me because even they can see that I don’t value myself. And I accept their disrespectful behavior or condescending ways because I don’t actually believe I have anything to offer either. I don’t like the relationship but I’m also sure I can’t do any better.
I started thinking about this as I approach another Valentine’s Day as a single woman. What would my dating life look like? What would a relationship look like for me? What would a marriage look like for me? Do I know that I have so much to offer someone or am I still stuck in the place of hoping that they will love/respect me in spite of?
It forced me to look at the relationships I have now. My current relationships with friends, old and new, and realize that I still don’t value what I bring to the table. I still undervalue myself and so do some of my “friends”.
As much as I love the idea of dating right now, I’m not ready. It is a harsh reality. I had to accept that I would settle, just as I have in all of my past relationships. All of them. ALL OF THEM!
I still have some work to do.
Clearly, I still struggle with my self-worth and self-perception. I don’t see the intelligent woman that can add wisdom and insight to even basic conversation. I still believe that my life experiences, my journey of healing, and even my college education don’t qualify me to share what’s on my mind. I’ve convinced myself that it is insignificant. If my life and its lessons are insignificant, then I probably am too. I need to respect that I may not be as versed in the bible as my cousin, but my testimony can still be a blessing to him. I need to understand that I may be a single woman, but it does not mean that my experience in relationships, good and bad, disqualifies me from knowing how to love someone else. And more importantly, it does not disqualify me from deserving the love of someone else. I need to be the first one to show respect to myself and my place in life. I set the tone for what I receive and what I accept. Until I am comfortable and at peace with who and what I am, I need hold off on anymore new relationships.
I need to work on trusting my discernment. I need to use the wisdom I’ve gained and appreciate my struggles. I’ve grown. I’ve learned so much from what I’ve been through. I’ve even done the work to heal from the most traumatic events in my life. There is nothing for me to be ashamed of. My poor judgment in the past does not mean I am weak. It means that I was given the insight to become stronger. I can trust myself. I need to accept that I know. I know what genuine looks like now. I know what fake looks like now. I know what deception looks like now. I know what insecurity looks like now. I know what it looks like in myself and in others. I know how to check myself when necessary and I need to respect my right to check others when needed as well. Now I need to respect the process and use my training.
I need to understand the difference between accepting someone’s flaws and settling for someone’s faults. It’s all about setting boundaries. What are the things that are unacceptable to me? No one is perfect. That I know, but if I don’t like it, and I don’t want it, then I don’t have to accept it. I don’t need to settle for something I know will keep me unhappy later. I can accept a short coming that I can complement with my own strengths, but to settle for a fault that will ultimately be the downfall of us both should be unacceptable. I can have standards and boundaries without feeling guilty about it. It’s hard to break down a wall that’s been built to last, but it’s also hard to tear down a wall and become vulnerable to the pain you know exist. My therapist told me I needed a gate, something to keep out the wrong people but still give access to the right people. A simple, but effective boundary. What can I live with? Me. Not society. Not most people, but me. Accept, not acquiesce.
I need to understand my worth, respect it, trust it, and never compromise it. Then I’ll finally be ready for the love that isn’t broken, the love I truly deserve.
After spending a year in grief counseling, I started to see that my life needed a major overhaul. Yes, my boyfriend died making me the single mom of our infant twins, but I was still grieving my loss of innocence from decades of abuse. I decided to turn my pain into a new purpose and to share this journey with others that may need some motivation.