So, I’m back talking about plants again. Bare with me please! And if you are asking about the last plants I talked about, where I said I would find out the names of the plants…well, I haven’t yet. Don’t fuss, it’s on my to-do-list. I just want to tell you about my morning glories I planted last spring. They were absolutely beautiful, trailing up my deck and then cascading across the top. But, since I don’t know much about plants, I did not realize these were annuals, meaning they were not going to grow back on their own again. I am having to plant these beauties again, hoping I will get the same results as last spring. We will see. But yep, you should know me by now, it got me to thinking; in my amazing southern voice!
When winter comes we all hibernate in our homes, close the door and see no one until the season changes. We may see our neighbors only because we have to shovel the snow from our sidewalks, but once that is over, slightly waving to our neighbors, we enter back into our places, close our blinds and pull the cover over our lives, making sure there is enough popcorn, bourbon for the cold that is, and Netflix; these will be the things that will keep us company through the winter months. I’m pretty sure I am not speaking about myself here! What happens when we finally emerge from our dark places? Will there be some who will emerge full blast with so much enthusiasm that they can outshine the sun? Will there be some who it will take a few moments to peep out and find their grounding? Will some need to be nurture more demanding new seeds to be planted before they can see their beauty?
My daffodils, which are perennials (I’m working it y’all) burst through the cold ground and had no problem, bright yellow and stems so strong. My purple flowers ( don’t ask) peeps behind the daffodils but you notice they are there! The morning glory seeds sit in the unopened packet, waiting for me to plant them in their special spot and once they are nurtured, watch out! Like the song says, “ain’t no stopping us now, we are on the move”.
However you come into this season of Spring, enter in knowing that you are your own unique awesome self. Have a conversation with your neighbor and hey, maybe we can start a garden party!
Bravery must be practiced. In the past I have shied away from confrontations and conflicts. I am one of the people who like to make sure everyone is pleased. Pleasing folks was important to me. I don’t know why; maybe it was something I learned from childhood, possibly just wanting to be loved and appreciated. I don’t know the origin, but pleasing folks was hurting me and honestly even hurting the same folks I was always trying to please. How would they get to experience my weird sense of humor and how would I hear their laugher; me offering a gift of joy and they receiving that joy with gladness, all because we fear our own light. Bravery must be practiced.
Last week I attended a meeting with some difficult people. I have always wanted to impress these difficult folks. My heart was racing, my hands sweaty and my mind racing. The night before I could not sleep because I kept trying to figure out how can I get these folks to see me; how can I get them to listen to me; how can I get them to see my worth. Every idea I presented was always overlooked. I sat listening, with a big smile, pretending that all was well. An hour past. All of a sudden, there she was! Before I knew it, my voice burst out of her hiding place, burst out of her cocoon, burst out with a loud pride and spoke with so much force, “I AM TIRED OF GETTING ALONG JUST TO GET ALONG AND I AM NOT DOING IT ANYMORE!” I said nothing else. I didn’t need to.
The Sunday morning hymn played today was, “Brave’, song by Sara Bareilles. Apparently I have been practicing bravery and even though I was scared, bravery showed up, stood by my side and gave me my voice. Go and practice your bravery. Your bravery is always there even on the days your voice is low, squeaky, soft, meek or silent. Keep practicing your bravery and I promise you, one day your voice will come through with so much power, you will even surprise yourself! As the song says:
"You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody's lack of love
Or you can start speaking up
Nothing's gonna hurt you the way that words do
When they settle 'neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you
Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave."
It’s sunny in Philadelphia! And I am glad that the snow is melting, not to say we won’t see snow again before Spring, but this sun is absolutely beautiful. It shines on my dusty floors and dirty windows, displaying that my cleaning days have been void or none really. But the ray of sun makes the dust dance with joy.
We have been inside our homes for a long time. We have been with our children, spouse, friends, and unfortunately even enemies, in the same space, every second, every minute, every hour, every day and to be honest, we are sick and tired of it. Some of us have made our way to the outside, just not to the grocery store or to take a walk, but courageously to do normal things we use to, like siting in a restaurant, eating and drinking cocktails. I’m not there yet, but to those who have done this fabulous thing, I salute you; keep your mask on please! But if I may, let me point to something we probably never paid much attention to and have taken it somewhat for granted. Dust!
Who thinks about dust?! Well apparently I do? Sounds like I may have too much time on my hands. Anyway! The sun shining on my hard wood floors, that are about a hundred years old, displays dust that rolls from one corner to the next. But the dust is a reminder that life is steady happening around us. The dry skin cells that falls from our bodies, the environment that leaks through the old windows; the last bit of snow we shake off our boots and cracks in our house we don’t even recognize is there, shows us that inside the places we live are really the places we really live! The dust shows us the place in which we are showing up in our lives and in the lives of others. In the homes we have built, the places where we are our truest selves. The dust reminds us that the laughter we shared on a ZOOM call stays in the air of our home and bounces from one wall to another. The dust reminds us of the living room sofa, sitting with the whole family when everyone finally decided on the same movie to watch. The dust reminds us of the tears our older child shed when her senior class dance was canceled and the comfort offered by our hugs and brushing the tears away. The dust reminds us of our partner saying how much they love us and the dust also reminds us of our saying goodbye to loves ones through a cell phone or laptop screen as we gently brushed away our anger and loss.
The dust reminds us that we are still moving, still striving, still crying, still laughing, still grieving and still being. Yes, I must sweep up this dust; it is allergy season! But I know the dust will return. We will return again to a life free from a pandemic. We will return to a world that is new because we have discovered that dust looks the same, feels the same, blows the same and is relentless! So I’m hearing someone say, “we were created from dust and to dust we will return.” Okay, but don’t get too caught up on that please!!! Just appreciate that when the sun shines on your dust, it sparkles and rises up in the air, dancing before you, letting you know that life still happens, because of you!
It finally happened! Seriously! It did! I don’t know when it happened but that’s it! Yep! I am now 61 years old and I choose to not care what others think of me. Whew! For most of my adult life it mattered what others thought of me. I carried myself as a person who always smiled and people said, ” She is so kind” or “She has such a sweet spirit”. I met the needs of others by being what they wanted me to be. As long as I stayed in my place, did not make a fuss and spoke softly to the naysayers, I was welcomed. I don’t know what took me so long and it really doesn’t matter what or why, but baby I’ve arrived! Yep. It happened!
Now I’m not sure if I have said this before. Maybe?! Maybe last August turning 60 I said it? If I did, well, it didn’t stick apparently. But now, I’m sure. Don’t second guess me!! Now I’m sure that I choose to be authentic to who I am. This is the way I see it. If I walk around pretending to be what you want, then I am not only hating myself, I am hating you. Yes, I am hating you. I have lied to you. I have smiled in your face and pretend to laugh at your jokes. I have gone out of my way to provide things that you need at the same time blessing you out under my breath and returning the thing that you need with a fake smile and a dangerous graciousness that may have made you feel like you were on top of the world. And you fell for it. Oh my! That was not nice of me after all. Wait! You’re waiting for an apology?
This is what I know for sure now. After turning 61, you can not please everyone. You can not pretend to be someone different in order for others to love. You cannot keep up an appearance that drowns your true self because what will happen, is that one day, that shell will break. And either you will choose to live free, broken shell and all, or you will die never knowing how wonderful and marvelous you are.
I’m serious! This time it really did happened!!! I’m broken for the better and I’m loving it!
We woke up again to a cloudy, cold and rainy day in Philadelphia. It is Sunday. This day we would usually find ourselves in our perspective church buildings gathering for worship. My husband and I attend different churches. We are both ordained clergy, he in the Lutheran tradition and me in the Methodist tradition. We practice our faith a little differently, but we come back to the centering of our faith, which is Love. This quiet Sunday has provided me the opportunity to meditate on why this particular day of the week is so needed during this pandemic crisis the world is experiencing.
It is becoming difficult to get up on Sunday mornings and not be able to head out to the church building where I get to see people like Sister Woods, who has a way of correcting and loving you at the same time. For those of us who grew up in the black church, you already can imagine a Sister Woods, so you know she don’t play! Sister Robyn, who is that true black “sistah” that carries the justice torch and will stand toe to toe questioning the scripture, forcing pastor to deal with the injustice so many don’t like to take in the pulpit; the young children and teens inspiring adults to do better because, well you know, we really don’t have this spiritual thing all together and the children are there to remind us that we are not all that smart. I miss sitting and singing songs of Zion with my folks! Now, don’t get me wrong! I do like the fact that I can stay in my pajamas all day, look at a virtual worship service, sing off key in the privacy of my bedroom and make ugly faces if I kinda don’t agree with the pastor’s sermon. And now, I find myself surfing on Facebook Live for community, for belonging, for hope and in my search, I have found so many wonderful worship services that have sparked me to think differently about Sunday mornings. And this is what Sundays bring.
Sundays offer us the opportunity to start over again. It is a beginning of the week where we can decide to do things differently than the previous week where we may have experienced stress, the frustration of seeing the hurt in people eyes as they formulate lines to either go in grocery stores or stand in food lines for long period of time; anxiety that is heighten when another first of the month is about to roll around reminding us that mortgage and rent are due soon. Sundays offer the chance to seek compassion and acceptance. Sunday offers hope, dreams and rest as we prepare ourselves for the coming week. We get another chance, to try again, to study again, to live again, to take another step and just maybe we will experience new possibilities, amazing adventures because embracing Sundays gives us clearer vision and strong will to continue on.
So I offer this to you. During this time where we are staying home, which is the most loving thing we can do for everyone right now, find a worship service online that speaks to your authentic self. If you come across a worship service that preaches hatred, racism, homophobia, sexism, white supremacy, log away! Find a worship service that speaks of love and only love. I am a Christian. But you don’t have to be. A community that embodies love is all that matters. Allow Sunday to become your new beginning that happens over and over again, gaining strength over and over again, growing in grace over and over again until Sunday is everyday.
A favorite song from my Christian tradition, written by Daryl Coley, speaks this way:
When Sunday comes My trouble gone. As soon as it gets here I’ll have a new song. When Sunday comes I won’t have to cry no more.
Every trial, every tribulation will be left behind – When Sunday comes.
I started writing this piece on February 20th. I stopped for some reason, but I find it to be relevant as we are in the midst of a pandemic with Covid-19. So from where I left off…
I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the National Faith Forum 2020 in Las Vegas, NV. I was overwhelmed with joy, seeing people operate in their perspective faiths, for the goal of liberating the oppressed; the low-wage worker, the transgender, the single parent, the uneducated child, all of God’s children that we pretend not to see. And what a place to gather, a city where residence struggle for housing and living wages. The moment we got into the Uber, the driver asked us whether we were there to party. Once we told her the reason for our visit, to be in a space with other like-minded loving people of God, she immediately said, “I am taking care of my friend’s four children, because she is homeless and her children were taken away because she had no place for them to live.” One of us gave her information to contact an organization in her city. I don’t know how anyone else felt in the car, but I wanted goodness to happen immediately. I wanted those four children to have their own rooms and a big backyard to run and play. That would not happen today. Unfortunately for many poor families in our country, playing in a backyard is a far away dream. We were dropped off in front of this glamorous hotel. The driver offered us free water just for being a customer. I’m sure each of us offered her a silent prayer.
During the forum, we had the opportunity to hear what others were doing in their perspective communities, transforming neighborhoods, prison reform and speaking to government officials concerning fair education funding. I felt proud to be among what I called great prophets, speaking to the Goliaths, telling them that all people are to be treated fair and these prophets would not back down. It was amazing! But then I had to deal with my shit. As I sat listening, I wondered where have I participated in transforming power. Wanting the four children to have their own room is one thing but how have I helped back home, creating space for prosperity among my neighbor, speaking on behalf of the voiceless? Realizing at that moment, that my wanting was a far away dream as well. Yeah, I could imagine it, the beauty of raising my power fist in the air, the feel good feeling of sitting at the table with all these strong prophets, but I wasn’t doing shit to make a difference. Seriously, nothing!
It dawned on me that I was invited to this table. Invited by good people who believed in the work of justice. Growing up in the 1960 South, whenever you were invited to someone’s house, you were taught to be respectful. You were appreciative and you smile a lot, nodding and being quiet. I understood from this moment that every table I’ve been invited to, if it’s a new job, a new church, a new community, a new school, a new oppressor, whatever. The mere fact of me believing that they invited me in, I should be nice and respectful, quiet and appreciative. At least I was surviving at the benefit of their invitation. I realized that I’ve been sitting at the table all my life believing that I should just be glad to be at a table. God forgive me. I screamed with joy in front of those prophets who invited me and said, “I have a right to be at this table, I don’t need to be nice or kind!” I’m so glad at this table they comforted and smile and said… “We would be glad to be invited to your table!” These were the most powerful words I had heard in my life time. I didn’t know what to do next! But at that moment, I mattered! All the injustice I could never explain, all the pain and guilt of growing up in an oppressing time and accepting scraps from the table because I just wanted to merely survive! At that moment I had power. My table was worthy enough.
As we all go through this pandemic we need to be aware that others will invite us to their table, not physically of course. But they will invite us when they are trying to figure out how to make a living on an unemployment check. They will invite us when there is not enough food in their cupboards, they will invite us when their communities experience gentrification, they will invite us when their health care no longer exist, they will invite us when they are unable to bury their child due to senseless gun violence. And they will invite us as Covid-19 tears apart all they have worked for. I never sat down at the table of the Uber driver taking care of four children. I heard her and smile, nod. Maybe none of us that day, actually took time to sit at her table. It requires the discomfort to leave ours, knowing that we may not have all the answers or knowing that maybe just sitting with her trouble is all that’s required. Maybe we didn’t think her table was worthy enough or maybe we just wanted to feel good, smile, nod and dream of what can be instead of dealing with the ugliness of what is. The Uber driver table is worthy. The four children’s table is worthy. The homeless mom’s table is worthy. Sitting at the table means that you will probably get food thrown on you, you may not like the main dish, the kool-aid may not be sweet enough, but hey, deal with! Don’t you think they’ve sat at your table long enough?
Sit at someone’s table where life happens and trouble comes. Don’t rush through the meal and conversation; it is a worthy table with worthy people.