I never thought I’d find myself writing about death, at least not in such a public space. But, as entering into conversations of death has become somewhat of a weekly norm in our house, I’ve found myself in a new place.
So, today, I’m excited to have my first piece up at CT Women, which also happens to be a piece that points to talking to my kids about death. I know it’s a week of pointing you here, there and everywhere around the inter webs, but that’s sometimes how it goes when various articles all seem to run at once.
Conversations about death have become the weekly norm in our house.
This hasn’t always been the case, of course. It started last March when our family of four flew on a small regional jet from Jackson, Mississippi, to Atlanta, Georgia. Upon landing, my husband, James, did what any normal person would do on his or her birthday: He powered on his iPhone and opened up Facebook, expecting comments and well wishes of another year lived to the fullest. But none of us—not him, not me, not our sons, and certainly not the 40 other passengers on the plane—expected his tears.
Oftentimes, I feel like I’m catching up on all the history I neglected to put to memory in Mr. Backlund’s 11th grade history class.
It was my privilege not to know, not to have to remember, not to think that the events of our past have anything to do with the events of today. But, just like you, I’m learning and growing and changing – and the article I want to point you to today proves just that.
Head over to For Every Mom and read about how it took 39 years for justice to come for the four little girls killed in the Birmingham church bombing. Otherwise, you can read a little bit here:
Cynthia Wesley. Carole Robertson. Addie Mae Collins. Denise McNair.
Chances are, you’ve never heard their names. But we should all KNOW them, and make them known. They are American martyrs, children killed by adults filled with hate.
On the morning of September 15, 1963, less than a month after Martin Luther King Jr. led more than 250,000 people in a march on Washington, DC, the phone rang off the hook at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The southern town had seen its share of violence during the Civil Rights Movement – after all, in this hotbed of segregation, the Ku Klux Klan, a morally corrupt government, and the voices of whites with deeply rooted Confederate ties called the shots. But the church secretary and her junior assistant, Carolyn, couldn’t figure out why callers kept hanging up, menacing voices threatening to bomb the church.
Then the phone rang one last time.
Curious as to the rest of the story? Head over to For Every Mom to read more about Cynthia, Carole, Addie Mae and Denise.
Because, y’all: it’s an honor to learn.
What stories of America’s past are you still learning today? How does hearing the first name of those young girls killed change YOU?
There are some books that get me right where I need to get gotten.
Brian Bantum’s The Death of Raceis one such book. What does it mean to explore Christianity and faith and theology not in a world divided by issues of race, but in a racialized world? How do we then still see and appreciate and value the differences alive within one another, and begin to embody a new story altogether?
I’d quote the entire book to you if I could, but I won’t. Instead, I’ve got three nuggets for you to chew on – words that changed me, and that I hope encourage you to pick up and read through the book on your own.
“Retracing our beginnings is a kind of resistance” (26). For Bantum, embracing his black heritage was key to his growth as an individual and as a Christian. It’s easy to live unexamined from our cultural backgrounds, but to truly embrace the stories that make us us, means that we are fully participating in resistance (and many of us, I dare say, find ourselves in places of holy resistance now). We’re going against the status quo. We’re challenging assumed narratives. We’re moving forward in a new light, as new people.
“We are formed by a society’s assumptions, by the neighborhoods we grow up in, by the ways people see us, and the way we see them” (53). I’m going to go all teacher on you, but break the sentence up: what assumptions has society made on you? How did the neighborhood you grew up in form you? And how did the way people see you and the way you see others form you? None of us are individuals on an island, but part and parcel, we are formed by the world around us.
“Whether in the bodies and lives of women subjected to the terror of male power or to a nation that gives itself over to idols, Israel’s God redeems through the curious body, the foreign woman, the prostitute, the prophet, the foreign kind, a teenage girl in a poor colonized town. God redeems by coming near” (77). Do you not want to sit in Bantum’s class and learn from him? Can you imagine the passion with which he teaches his students about God Come Near? As his book continues, our stories further weaves with God’s story, and with his love of all, no matter the color of their skin.
If you’re a theology nerd in need of a book that deals with issues of faith and race, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy.
Otherwise, whether you’re a blogger or a reader, leave a comment (with link to your review) in the section below. I can’t wait to read your thoughts! Up next week: Belovedby Toni Morrison. It’s been on my list to read forever, because, it’s about time.
One of the greatest gifts of writing is getting to tell and honor the stories of other people. And, generally speaking, the people I write about also happen to be my friends, so it’s a win-win to listen to the narrative of their lives and show them off through an article here or there.
We miss Oakland something fierce, but getting to see the faces of Josh and Riana (as pictured above), reminds me that we landed there for a specific reason, purpose and time. I’m grateful for their influence in our lives, and today, I’m especially grateful for how my friendship with Riana made me a better person.
Head over to Christianity Today for the full story, or read the first few paragraphs right here:
Sometimes God makes himself most known in the in-between moments of our lives—in times of uncertainty, tension, or waiting. This has certainly been true for Riana Shaw Robinson, a mother, wife, pastor, and seminary student from the San Francisco Bay Area. And my guess is that you’ve experienced this, too.
Born in Richmond, California, Robinson grew up in the church, but met God for the first time as a pregnant 15-year-old. Although she experienced intense feelings of fear, guilt, shame, and isolation, she felt God telling her to trust him. And it was there, in the depths and darkness of the in-between, that Riana was restored by the love, acceptance, and care of her family and community.
“Each year on my daughter’s birthday,” Robinson told me, “I am overcome with emotion as I remember all of the ways that I have [experienced] and continue to experience God’s grace, mercy, love, and provision.” Not only did the Spirit provide her with unexplainable peace during that uncertain time, he also changed the trajectory of her life by giving her a heart for coming alongside people who feel disconnected and unworthy.
Eager for the rest of Riana’s story? It’s pretty inspiring, to say the least. Head on over there, and give her some encouragement!
Otherwise, might your ears be attune to the narratives of your friend’s lives, as you enter in and listen for threads of inspiration.
Know Riana? Encourage her by sharing today’s article! Otherwise, how does her story inspire you? Also, if you know any women leaders in the church I should interview, shoot me a message!
My inner poet screams when I read the words of Jacqueline Woodson. It screamed last year with Brown Girl Dreaming, and it screamed last week with Locomotion, and it screamed two days later when I read the follow-up to the first, Peace, Locomotion.
Now, hear me out: but for her newest read, Woodson is a children’s writer. Should you choose to read them as intended – aloud, as a piece of poetry – they might take you a couple of hours to get through; but if you just read them, it only takes the average reader a little over an hour to devour (or so says the reading tracker on Kindle).
Regardless, this time around, Woodson weaves the story of a young boy, Locomotion (short for Lonnie Collins Motion), who lost his parents in a fire, and finds himself in the New York state foster system. He misses his sister, who’s with another family, but as he begins to lean into life with his new mama and older brothers, he comes to life through poetry.
Writers, after all, write about what they know – and Jacqueline Woodson knows poetry. I can see this being the perfect fit for a poetry unit in a middle grade classroom, but it’s also a cozy winter read.
Whatever it is for you, I’ve got three favorite lines of poetry for you:
Writing makes me remember.
It’s like my whole family comes back again
when I write. All of them right
here like somebody pushed the Rewind button
Was it a big sacrifice to give up your life
if you knew you was gonna rise back up?
I mean, isn’t that like just taking a nap?
This day is already putting all kinds of words
in your head
and breaking them up into lines
and making the lines into pictures in your mind
And in the pictures the people are
laughing and frowning and
eating and reading and
playing ball and skipping along and…
spinning themselves into poetry.
Like I said, gush, gush. Just as we all need to slow down with a little bit of poetry in our lives, we all need a little bit of Jacqueline Woodson’s storytelling ways in our lives.
Pick up Locomotionif you haven’t already. Give it a quick read-aloud and see if the kid in you comes alive once again.
Otherwise, whether you’re a blogger or a reader, leave a comment (with link to your review) in the section below. I can’t wait to read your thoughts! Up next week: The Death of Race. And people, it’s phenomenal.
So, what’d you think? Locomotion: like it, love it, want some more of it?
If you’ve studied behavior or personality tests, you may nod your head when it comes to today’s story. I’m a seven on the Enneagram, which means that I love life! I love exclamation points! When I’m in a healthy spot, joy abounds and beauty is found all around me.
But getting there is not the easiest thing for me, because I’m prone to overextending myself, to a scattered disposition, to flying by the seat of my pants.
So, I’m learning, as always, and I’ve got some words up at The Mudroom for you today all about it:
I want it all.
I want to do it all, I want to have it all, I want to be it all.
The problem, of course, exists in the fact that not only is this way of thinking absolutely impossible, but it’s also wholly unrealistic and unhealthy. So, I’m learning, as a late thirty-something year old woman, to set boundaries. I’m learning to say no once again and I’m learning that in order for me to see and relish and believe in the Beauty existent all around me, I have to listen to my insides.
And I have to stop and do some navel gazing of my own.
Perhaps you’re a little bit like me: a Seven on the Enneagram, an ENFP on the Myers-Briggs chart. I relish in a full schedule, in appointments and meetings and assignments – but as much as I love the look of business, of the aforementioned “all,” when I neglect to leave room in my life for quiet, for rest, for slow, stress and anger rear their ugly heads.
I mean, it’s something I’d love to speak on the next time I stand in front of a group of people, but for now, you, my dear readers, are sufficient enough.
Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy poses this question to her readers annually, and today’s the day we get to answer it. So, tell me, what is it for you? What’s saving your life right now?
I’ve got ten things that are saving mine…
1. Free childcare at the grocery store. Some people say that you should do all of your grocery shopping in one big trip, once a week, but let me ask you: why not do your grocery shopping three or four or five times a week when the store offers free childcare? The childcare workers love my boys. My boys love the childcare workers. I love ninety minutes of solo writing and shopping time. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
2. A sugar-free diet. I know. What’s happening to me? First gluten, now sugar – but friends, the results have been off-the-charts phenomenal; the inflammation in my back went away overnight. I’m still experimenting to see what I can and can’t have, but for the most part, cutting refined sugar out of my diet has been my body’s ticket to success.
3. Being back in the classroom. As most of you know, I picked up a class teaching research paper writing to international students last month. This much is true: I love teaching. Standing in front of a classroom, getting to know a group of sixteen individuals, talkin’ writing and reading – love, love, love. (The grading, the grade book system and the traffic, I do not love, for your information).
4. No alcohol. I KNOW. I know, I know, I know. I’ve had one glass of wine in the last month, because along with cutting out refined sugar, I decided to see if cutting out alcohol – which naturally has a whole lot of sugar in it – did the trick. And, somehow, it seems to be helping. Say it ain’t so!
5. Reading The Skimm every morning. One of my goals in the new year was to be “up” on the news even more; especially when it comes to writing and publishing in the online world, you have to know what’s going on in the world. That’s what people want to read. That’s what editors want you to connect the dots with. So, every morning, between my Jesus book and my cup of coffee, I get my unbiased read on, and I read The Skimm (which I’m loving and highly recommend).
6. Mason jar salads. Is every other item going to be food-related? Yes, apparently. It’s the year of health, mostly to get All Things Back figured out so I can live without pain – so one of the things I’ve been incorporating into my diet, along with no alcohol, sugar and gluten, is lots and lots of greens. Every Sunday, I put together a batch of five Mason jar salads. Not only am I so very hipster, but I’m loving having salads ready and waiting for consumption.
7. Yoga. I have dreams of being Super Bendy Girl, but according to my physical therapist that will not be happening any time soon if I continue the current trajectory of stiff muscles and joints. So, I’m listening to my body and doing yoga every night; for the record, I am really, really good at Child’s Pose and really, really bad at most everything else.
8. Sitting on the floor with my boys for 15 minutes every night. I featured the article here last week, but it’s true: choosing to tune in to our children for what ultimately amounts to 15 minutes every night (before they get bored and move on to playing with each other), is saving my relationship with my boys. And you guys, I’ve found that I’m actually kind of fun to play with. Who knew?
9. Team Shalom. Y’all, along with the brain child of the Shalom in the City operation, Osheta Moore, there is a fantastic group of women who’ve come together to make Hopeful Resistance a reality. I can’t wait for the new season of the podcast to air (which starts in less than a month), and love where and how we’re moving forward in the new year. Stay tuned!
10. Making sure I have help, everyday. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but I’m a better mom when I get time away from my children. On average, I only have about 15 hours of childcare a week – but those 15 hours are gold to me. Additionally, in this season of travel for the HBH’s (Hot Black Husband’s) work, I’m learning that I have to line up some form of help, be it a babysitter/nanny, childcare at the grocery store, a friend coming over for dinner, so that I’m not depleted at the end of the day – or by the end of his time away. It takes a village!
So, that’s it. That’s a short list of what’s saving my life right now – and you know I can’t wait to hear yours. Also, head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s site to read how other bloggers are answering this question, too.
What is it for you? What’s saving your life right now? What of the above just tickles your fancy? Engage, engage, engage!
You and I, we’re sitting down at my dining room table. I’ve cleaned it as best I can but crumbs from dinner reside on one side of the wood, along with a jam smear from yesterday morning’s breakfast. I put a steaming mug of mint tea in front of you, and we warm our hands over the tops of our cups – which might just be one of the greatest simple pleasures on a cold day.
Because here’s the deal: we’ve come together, tasked with the request to plan the best dinner party known to man. Our bookish selves have more connections than Linked In has job resources, more retweeting compatriots than the current administration has dissenters.
We can invite any authors, preferably living, to join us around the table. So, who’ll it be?
I’ve got some ideas for you, and I’d love for you to chime in with your ideas, too!
Zadie Smith, author of Swing Time and White Teeth. The woman is brilliant; her knowledge of politics, of race relations, of religion, of relational dynamics are off the charts. I find I have to be in a certain space to really be able to enter into her books; while they don’t always make me laugh – which I really, really love to experience when I read – they do make me think, deeply. So, I’d sit there taking notes under the table while she talks, most covert in nature, of course.
Mallory Ortberg, author of Texts From Jane Eyre. Like I said, I need some funny in my life, and Ortberg brings it like none other. She’s sharp. She’s witty. She’s unapologetic in her opinions. Tasked with the much-needed sarcastic side-comment, I’d make it my goal to sit directly to her left and listen for every under-the-breath utterance – while I wipe tears of laughter from the side of my eyes.
Nicola Yoon, author of Everything, Everything and The Sun is Also a Star. Y’all know I’m going to need a YA author sitting at the table, because we’ve got to have that element of youth. While we must take life seriously, we need to be reminded that we must not take ourselves too seriously. So, this woman is going to sit at the dinner table with us, and when she begins to tell stories, we’re going to breathlessly listen for the poetic prose woven into each sentence.
Mike McHargue, author ofFinding God in the Waves. Science Mike, brain behind The Liturgists (which is one of my favorite podcasts) is definitely taking a seat at our table. He, too, is brilliant. He seems to know something about everything (especially in the sciences), but will also naturally bring an element of faith and spirituality to the conversation. So Mike, pull up a chair.
Desmond Tutu, author of No Future Without Forgiveness, among others. Hey, you said I could invite anyone, right? So, the former Archbishop of Cape Town is joining our table. With him, comes reverence. With him, comes much-needed wisdom, especially within conversations of race and forgiveness – which the United States, at least, desperately needs to take steps forward in.
A bowl of questions would sit in the middle, words scratched on one side of each folded piece of paper. What’s giving you life right now, today? Would you rather have a sparkly unicorn horn growing out your belly button, or a chain of lima beans cascading from your ears? How do you find beauty in the midst of darkness? Who is God to you?
But eventually, we’d stop drawing questions from the bowl, and conversation would happen naturally, organically, as it always does.
We’d sit around the well-worn table, late into the night. We’d eat. We’d drink. We’d laugh. And at the end of it, we’d thank each other for a most delightful time together.
Don’t you think?
So, what (living) authors would you LOVE to see around your dinner table, in your living room, or at a conference event? Do tell! Also, Eventbrite posed this question to me – check out their conference management page and check out local events. It’s a great resource, readers included!
Some years, I’ve been the biggest proponent of saying no.
I’ve cheered for boundaries, and I’ve encouraged others to do the same. I’ve felt like “no” is the most constant word that’s rolled off my lips. I’ve uttered phrases like, “Say no to say a bigger yes…”
And while saying no is 100% true and necessary, we’re turning a corner this year. Maybe it’s because of the move. Maybe it’s because of the newness all around us. Maybe it’s because Osheta and I read Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes,and can’t stop thinking about it. Maybe it’s because we’re just in a different season altogether.
Whatever the reason, the HBH (Hot Black Husband) and I are making this the year of yes – with each other, with ourselves and with our children. So today, I’ve got a story of yes for you, and one that involves keeping my phone in the other room and sitting on the floor of the playroom with my children for 15 whole minutes every night.
“Why don’t you ever play with me, Mama?”
My son’s words pierced me, his sentence an emotional dagger to my heart: sometimes, all my kid wants to do is play with me, but play in and of itself isn’t always my go-to way of being with him.
It doesn’t come naturally to me, I suppose.
I heat up water on the stove and cook copious amounts of macaroni and cheese for him and his brother. I wash and dry and fold obscene amounts of laundry for the whole family. I relish in reading books to him, in acting out voices until my throat is hoarse and my legs grow numb under the weight of his body.
But I don’t feel like I’m very good at sitting on the floor, zooming Hotwheels, over and over again. I don’t understand how to properly construct and fly airplanes out of tiny little Legos pieces, or how to puff steam out of tiny wooden trains with Thomas and his friends.
By far, one of the best reading choices I made in 2016 was to only read books by black authors during the month of February. Alongside some of you, we honored black history month by entering into the stories, experiences and perspectives of blacks, both in American and beyond.
Because here’s the thing: it’s really, really easy for me to only read books written by people who look like me, act like me, believe like me and think like me.
But when and as I do that, I don’t grow. I stay the same. I engage in perspectives that don’t challenge me to see the world in new ways – and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to learn. I want to grow. don’t want to stay the same but I want to be transformed by the voices of my brothers and sisters, so I can seek not to be understood but to understand.
In that way, I can’t wait to make this reading choice again this year, and I’d love for you to join me.
I’ve chosen four books to read in February, so snag these titles at your local library or on Amazon, and get to reading! Then, check back every Tuesday for my thoughts, and add your own in the comment section or (for bloggers) using the Link Up tool that will be posted that day.
Week 2, by Tuesday, February 14th: The Death of Race(Brian Bantum) – Bantum asks the question, “What does it mean to build a new Christianity in a racial world?” If you’re a Christian living in the U.S. right now, I can’t think of a better book you should be reading right now.
Week 3, by Tuesday, February 21st: Beloved (Toni Morrison) – the English teacher formerly known as myself can’t believe she’s never actually read this (adult fiction) novel. Knowing most of you have likely heard of it, if not read it, hold me to reading it and being changed by it, will you?
Week 4, by Tuesday, February 28th: The Warmth of Other Suns(Isabel Wilkerson) – No other book, besides The New Jim Crow, has been recommended to me more than this one. I’ve had it in my Audible queue for awhile, and it’s time to give this particular non-fiction read a try.
While I’m sure I’ll read additional books by black authors in February, these are my top four – and again, I’d love for you to read along with me.
So, reading for change: are you in? Want to read any of the above books with me? Otherwise, what books do you consciously choose to read next month?