Strong Women (Part 1): Glasses

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One of the first things I associated with strong women growing up, was the way they pushed there glasses back onto their heads. That, and the way their “grown-up” shoes clacked on the floor when they walked. (I love grown-up shoes!) Maybe, I didn’t realize that glasses on top of the head was the superhero signal that strong women wore, but I believe the first time I saw it happen, that time that left an palpable mark, was in elementary school.

little-girl-wearing-glassesRamona Shannon. She was my principal at the elementary school I attended in Birmingham, Alabama. I remember her glasses as if she was sitting across from me today. I remember knowing that she was walking through the hallways of our school because of the sounds her shoes made on the tiled floor. I remember how I would cry every day in the third grade for my mom/to go home. Eventually, my teacher had been instructed to put me in the hallway. Sobbing, I would end up being rocked by the school secretary. Smelling of her perfume, I would eventually be walked back to class by Mrs. Shannon. I remember her telling me that I had beautiful eyelashes. I remember how I grew there from the girl crying in the hallway to the one running for SGA Vice President, becoming co-captain of the Academic Bowl, winning the school spelling bee, and my last year being presented with the Principal’s Award for my growth as a student and for overcoming. I can still here the sound of her voice as she called my name.

Needless to say, when kids my age thought getting glasses was nerdy, I thought they were the coolest. I wore my cousin’s, I wore my best friends in middle school, and now, well, I where my own because I messed my eyes up being “cool” in everyone else’s glasses. I have always had a love affair with strong women without even realizing it. It was an admiration that caused me much pain in my late teens, early twenties when I grabbed onto them too tight and a gut twisting lesson that taught me so much about others and myself.

When I went away to college, I broke into pieces that I didn’t quite know how to put back broken-heartinto a whole. I had once been taught that if you see people that you admire or that do what you want to do, to learn from them, ask them to mentor you, and to set goals with habits that would help you be more like that yourself. It took me a long time to stand on my own and to learn who I was as a woman with strength. Being able to push your glasses back onto your head, it’s kind of like being able to where one of those cardboard hats and move your tassle to the other side. The road to get there is steep at times. When I was sick with depression, an eating disorder, and during the time I self-harmed I grabbed on to women I saw as strong because I thought the could keep me safe when the world I was living in was spiraling. Especially, because I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. I was scared of myself.

It was during one of the darkest times I’ve ever experienced, that I had to let go as some of those women who become huge idols in my life and some even had to be ripped away from me by people in authority. One of these women, who wore glasses on her head, and at times forgot they were there … she explained to me that I was gravitating toward these strong women because I wanted to be close to these things that I admired that I couldn’t see yet within myself. Yet, they were there. It was a painful season of growth. I learned on a real level about my own identity, how dependence on people will always let you down, and how my true strength was in God. I learned where my strength came from and how to walk in it.

I said to a friend, last weekend, that I believed that the beginning of each decade has been a time of growth for me. I crumbled in my early twenties. It was a falling apart that helped me to stand firm in God and to realize the unique way he’d made me and the gifts that he’d given me as an individual. It didn’t happen overnight this graduation of glasses pulled back to rest on my head, but what a blessing it is the day you look back and reflect on all you’ve learned. The beginning of my thirties have been another dark and painful season, however, because of what I went through before I am able to be excited about a season of learning and growth … maybe that next level, where you get to put the glasses on your head and then forget about them.

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It took me a long time to be able to separate the woman I admired from the myths I had created about them. When, I look back, I think about all the pressure my admiration caused. I also, see their flaws. I’ve learned what real strength looks like and I think these women are even more beautiful. I realize the women I admired for their strength had their own struggles with marriage, death in their families during those times, stressful jobs, probably family drama, and yet, somehow they made time for me. It is vulnerability, perseverance, and being raw in the flaws you have as a woman that make you strong. It is sharing your story without a mask, it is the puffy eyes behind the makeup, and the power in letting yourself be.

A strong lady, that has been in my life for quite some time, said to me recently that when we embrace the things about ourselves that maybe aren’t all shiny or things we might not like best about ourselves, things others might see as imperfections, that we are being healthy. It is when we resist them that it becomes unhealthy.

I’m glad as I’ve gotten older that I’ve learned to embrace who I am and to see strong women as they are (it’s a process), without projecting some type of fairytale on them. I think that we have to continue to refresh this lesson even as we get old. It is easy when you’re going through as difficult or exhausting season in your life to compare yourself to someone you see as strong, especially people on TV or in magazines. We look into the mirrors of writers we adore, women that run nonprofits that we admire, or even that have already reached where we want to be someday.

I think that you have to sit back and remember everyone is struggling, everyone has that thing in the mirror that they don’t like, everyone is looking to someone else at times and thinking they have it all together. Celebrities are real people.  Every strong woman is flawed. The beauty in strength is the embracing, walking in and through the difficult, and being transparent.

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It’s this strong women truth that I learned. This secret that had light shined on it so that I could see the flaws. It’s the myths that I learned to untangle that has helped me be able to walk in my own strength, even if on days that doesn’t look very strong. I am seeking to be supportive of women that I’ve met and may never meet, that just aren’t the stories we right on them. They are so much more powerful when they tell the stories themselves.

This week I got to lean back from a particular obsession and practice the skills I learned going from the girl clinging to strong women to the woman who sometimes pushes her glasses back onto her head without even realizing it. (See Part Two of Strong Women)

 

woman-making-listPut yourself at the top of the list of strong women you admire. – Kaye F.

 

 

 

 

 

Strong Women Pt. 2: What I Hope For Gillian Anderson

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 I am in no way acquainted with Gillian Anderson. This was meant as a blessing to her as well as a reminder to all women to unravel the myths we project onto one another. 

Wallpaper-star-trek-the-next-generation-32404551-1280-720This week I was reminded of an eleven year old girl that fell in love with Star Trek: The Next Generation one summer, became obsessed, and began to write. Through this process I learned that positive things can come from passion over something  you love and then you can fangirl too much to your friends and they never spend the night at your house again … that happened too. Then, I stepped into middle school the following autumn and at times was grounded from the X-Files because I kept my parents up with nightmares. That little girl who still resides somewhere in the spirit of this 34 year old woman has become re-obsessed with the X-Files, only without the nightmares this time. When I became a fan of ST:TNG it was because of a strong woman by the name of Marina Sirtis. I couldn’t get enough of Counselor Troi. Back then, you had to buy Communicator magazine or wait for a special on E! to fangirl over you favorite actress/character.

Now, I can overwhelm myself and wake up the next day with an X-Files hangover strong-womencourtesy of Tumblr, YouTube, Twitter, FB, and the list goes on. It’s fun to lose yourself in something you love for a bit. The trick is lassoing yourself back to reality. You have to observe yourself enough to realize that a bit of balance is in order. I think we go through seasons of our lives when we’re exhausted, when we want to rest into something comforting from our childhoods or getting excited over something you never thought would happen (like Season Ten of X-Files).

daveandgillWhile there was no indelible harm, I did learn some neat lessons from the X-Files Revival press week. I remembered that there are so much more important things in my life such as my writing, my relationship with God, and my ministry to the outcast … it sure would be nice to pour into them in the way I scrambled to scroll through everything I could about a show I love on TV. When I want to read a fanfic, involving Mulder and Scully, I have the beautiful lips of my husband to kiss right here that I could kiss a bit more often. I also had the chance to remember that the strong women we admire even on TV are very real, carry their own flaws, and when we write myths upon them we do them a disservice.

X-Files Revival press week was exciting, fun, and rough. I was beat, and I am only a fan. Then, last night I read a post on Tumblr and realized that Gillian Anderson had gone back to London. I was reminded it was just a week and Friday marked it being over. My life could get back to a norm. My next thought about Gillian — I hope she’s sleeping.

I love strong women. This week, along with many other fans, I watched a strong woman. Today, I hoped for her.

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I hoped that Gillian Anderson slept for much of the day, if not all of it. Because really I don’t know how she was staying on her feet all week anyway. As an introvert, myself, a full day or two and I’m mush for like a week. I thought about how heavy it must feel to have so many eyes on you. How at times you must want to let yourself bend under the honor of being personified as a strong woman, when so many times what we view as strength in public figures is not giving credence to their true strength at all.

When do I think she was probably at her strongest this week? I think maybe that thirty gilliananddavidfoxtcaminutes or so she had to herself in a bathroom when her sugar was low or her body didn’t want to go another step — that was strength. I think if she shed a tear or more to vent the stress — that was strength. I think the millionth time someone asked her about her chemistry with David Duchovny and all she could think about in the back of her mind was wanting to snuggle her kids — that was strength. I think when she sat in one more chair across from an interviewer and she struggled to get any words to come — that was strength. I think that when all of us were in good nature were reading into body language between two people who have known each other for over twenty years and a wrist was grabbed or a body leaned into because of understood anxiety you were pushing through or how difficult it is to grow in public, keep your life private, and be true to yourself when all kinds of expectations are pushing your way — that was strength.

I hope that Gillian Anderson arrived home today and realized when she felt like all her strength was gone … that there was strength in that moment, too. I hope that she stayed in her pajamas all day — maybe a too big but extra soft T-Shirt, lounge pants, a robe with holes that felt like a security blanket, and the most comfortable house shoes in all of England. I hope that she took naps, had many cups of her favorite tea, took a long bath, and played light sabers with her kids. I hope that all the questions from a week of being looked at underneath a microscope fell away, and all she could hear was the unconditional love of those who really know her. I hope she wiped off her make-up and felt even more beautiful than when she was made up over and over again for interviews in the U.S., seeing each wrinkle as a miracle, memory, or a season of overcoming she could cherish. I hope she rested. I hope she rested in the humanity of who she is and realized that it is enough. I hope she gave herself the gift of finding her strength in her vulnerabilities. I hope she is telling bedtime stories to her sons — hugs and kisses from the people that love her without unrealistic expectations. I hope she is still after the whirlwind, giving grace to herself for wherever she is at this moment.

This is what I hope, because if press week was rough on those that admire, it had to be heavy on her. And we strong women, have to support one another.

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If by some chance she were to read this, I hope Gillian would be blessed. I also hope that every time you see her on your Tumblr feed, on Twitter, or a replayed interview you wouldn’t stop admiring her strength but see truth and remember that your own vulnerability makes you a strong woman, too.

 

“A strong woman is a woman strongly afraid.” – Marge Piercy
“… let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love.” 1 John 1:3

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May The Force Make It So

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I popped my Star Wars cherry on New Year’s Day. Well, I let my husband do it. I mean it isn’t that scandalous. We are married now. cherryheart

Here’s the story. The summer before sixth grade I fell in love with Star Trek: TNG. When I say that I fell in love with TNG, I mean I saw Counselor Troi and I had a favorite character and a TV idol. I loved her. That summer, I got a desk in my room and I began to write a TNG novel b/c the show was going into it’s last season and I hadn’t had enough time to love it. Now, I suppose it would be considered fan fiction, but then I thought it might really be published someday. So, I developed these principals as I began to obsess over my new found love of Star Trek.deetroi

There would be no Star Wars. It was either/or for me. I did not want Star Wars getting my money or attention. I was a devoted Trekkie. Also, I wasn’t really a sci-fi fan before this. I was only 11. I also boycotted Voyager when it came on in the stead of my show leaving. You know, like we had a Nielsen box at our house and somehow I’d help take the show down and they’d put Picard and crew back up on the screen.

Every guy I have dated since then has tried to get me to watch Star Wars. It drives them insane to the nth degree when you do not agree to watch the movies. They’ll argue and whine. It’s so good. You’ll like it. Do it as a couple’s thing. No, I would say. It’s just a weird thing I decided as a kid. I will not watch it for anyone. It doesn’t matter if it is good or not.

Last Christmas, I allowed Heath to put in the first movie, because in marriage you want to show someone you love them. I had waited a long time to be with someone I respected and treated me well and finally, much like my virginity, I would give this gift to someone I loved deeply and was married too. I also think it was because he promised to watch Gone With The Wind. Anyway, I fell asleep really soon after it began playing. I suppose we can call it the Star Wars “pulling out” method.

However, a new movie with the original cast came out and it was Christmas … then New Year’s. Our New Year’s tradition is to get up, eat breakfast somewhere, and then spend the day at the theater watching movies. So with much thought and wanting to do something with him that he loved … considering he has been so amazing to me this year, he loves me unconditionally, and I have been binge watching X-Files like crazy since August — I went.

The theater was packed a month after a release, we sat in the third row right in front of the screen. I thought I’d be cross-eyed, but that turned out okay. It was a good movie. Most of the way through, I thought of things I liked and could talk about with him when he wanted to discuss it in the car later. Here’s something he loves, I can fangirl/fanboy over with him. Then, there was this one scene.

dekelleyDid I ever tell you that I didn’t watch or like original trek (except pieces of the movies), but I love Bones? I love DeForest Kelley. I wanted to be his granddaughter, his friend, and his mentoree. In the same way, I don’t like Star Wars. However, I do like Hans Solo (and Yoda) (and now BB8). Do you see where I’m going? I had so much to enthusiastically talk with Heath about, even considered becoming a fan, then … Hans Solo … Well, Harrison Ford stipulated … Hmm, let’s just say *spoiler alert,* it’s sort of like when Brent Spiner wanted Data to get blown up in the last ST:TNG movie. I turned to Heath in the theater and said with a pouty face, “I hate this movie.” I’d done this once before when a similar thing happened to Gandalf in one of the Lord of the Rings movies. Gandalf came back.

So, here is what I have concluded from my “first” full encounter with the force. It’s entertaining. There are good themes and metaphors. I shipped Han/Leia until I couldn’t anymore. I had fun with my husband. I want a BB8.

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On a sidenote, I do love Carrie Fisher! I’ve been watching every YouTube interview I can.

I am still a Star Trek: TNG fan through and through though. I’m in it for the character development. I’ve loved those seven characters since I was a little girl. I write fan fiction. I’ve been to cons. They are part of my story. I am a writer because I got serious about writing after the show went off (God gifted me too, I had amazing teachers, but my enjoyment started then).

Besides, it’s 19 days! 19 days until X-Files. Do you know how huge it is to lose something so great and get it back even just for six episodes? And not just the show … the press promotion before the premier next week, the new fan fiction that will drop after … I mean may the force make it so.

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“The truth is out there.” – Malcolm Reynolds

 

 

Counting By Threes

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downloadI don’t know if I’m quite finished with 2015. Everything has been a little off and being the perfecionist I can sometimes be … Well, I don’t like to leave things behind until I can “fix” them or make them like “they should be.” I know I have no ability to redeem this year. That ability is solely God’s.

It was a year that began with a desire to heal and to be able to do more activities with my husband and friends. I was so ready to start over from 2014. However, two months later I experienced a loss that I still have not recovered from fully. I probably never will. No matter how hard my brain tries to right what it still cannot take in … I will never be able to bring back my friend. The last time I will see him in the physical world will be 2015. Even, the seasons did seem to know how to change this year. The were late changing hue, it was hot and stormy on Christmas Day, and Spring, well Spring is always short in the South. I have been changed this year. Some for the better, some for the worst, and some I’m still processing. Yet, God has chosen to bless me with another year. I am still breathing. With joy (the proper use of the word), I am looking forward to what a new year brings.

What I can say is a lot of life happened in 2015. I wanted to share some of it in 3s. Of course, there is always more, there will be more than three hard things that happened this year, much more than three good things, there will be more than three good books that I read or hugs that I had …

Three Fun Things

  1. Husband and I took ballroom dance lessons for several months. It brought us a lot of joy, helped us engage in a hobby together, and increased our intimacy as a couple.
  2. Kayaks! We finally got to be out on the water this summer after living by the lake for a little over a year. It was relaxing, fun, and just what we needed. I grew up on the lake and I felt closer to parts of my life that I really like.
  3. We went on our first family vacation with my parents to the beach. It was such a blessing because we haven’t been able to go in two years. It was a wonderful, relaxing time. Sand on my feet, a book in my hands, the ocean, seafood, and binge watching the X-files.

Bonus: Going to Dixie Carter’s hometown with Heath and visiting her grave.

 

Three Hard Things

  1. One of my favorite people to joke around, who I had known and had been in my family for thirteen years, unexpectedly took his leave of this world and went to be with Jesus. Young and healthy, he was torn from his life and his family. This brought sorrow, doubt, fear, stress, panic attacks, and more into my life this year. I still haven’t grieved the way I need to and my mind strains as does my body to will him here, to produce him before my eyes, and to make him be here when I want to spend time with him. I have learned beautiful things from God during this time of loss, have seen my family work as I believe God meant it to during times of duress, and have seen God be glorified in amazing ways through my cousins life. I learned more about him, I’ve held his wife in my arms, and I’ve loved on his kids. These are blessings that I’m grateful for … Darin, George Strait Music, and Amanda, another thing that comes together in his memory in threes.
  2. Learning to find joy, despite living with illness. Last year around the holidays, the doctor found a lesion on my brain. Much of the holiday was magical b/c husband and I sought to take everything in and live in the moment. Eventually, the stress of four MRIs, a spinal tap, IV infusions treatments, and waiting for results wore down my body and my spirit a bit. I had chronic headaches and was learning to deal with other chronic illness in my life such as hypothyroidism, mitral regurgitation, low bp, and fibromyalgia. I felt like my days were being wasted, I felt isolated, and was disappointed that I wasn’t able to do as much with husband or do as many activities with friends. I had to go back on an antideppresant for a short time this year because of the physical stress on my body and the way it had tired out my mind. Eventually, we got the okay from the doctor on the brain lesion. We prayed and God blessed us with a good report, the okay on having kiddos, and after June 2016 never having to see the nuerologist again if no more lesions appeared.download (1)
  3. Struggling with my creativity. I have been resissting my writing. I find with God and beauty when I create. I have missed putting words on the page as often as I have in the past.

Three Beautiful Things

  1. I got to work for a few months this year with an organization called Backlight Productions, Inc. It is a theater company comprised of special needs adults. I got to watch talented individuals reach goals, be blessed, express their gifts, and conduct themselves with love towards others, and complete positivity. It was a great privilege to be in their midst.
  2. I made a friend who is a beautiful survivor, a currently unhoused individual in Nashville, and is an amazing poet. I was glad to have her in our home and get to spend some time with her.
  3. I got to see my husband’s face light up as God began bringing people into his life to minister to in the avenue he was called to minsiter and as it came time each week for him to do his seminary class.

Three Accomplishments

  1. I had a couple of poetry features this year, one in which I got to be part of a podcast with an amazing singer/songwriter. I got to be apart of a great community of playwrites and actors when I had my play performed at the Dark Horse here in Nashville for the Ten Minute Playground. I went to as many readings as I could, some when I was sick but sought to overcome.
  2. I gave baby Easton his bath the night after his daddy went to heaven. I got to see the joy in the smile and feel the bittersweetness of knowing that thought he was smiling he didn’t know the enormity of what was happening around him. I felt like this was an honor to make him smile and be blessed by his joy. Something I could do for his dad — love his baby boy.
  3. I think, though I’ve listened to so many untruths, and acted off of those that I have been a much better wife this year than the first year we were married. I became less scared of intimacy with my husband, I am trying to let down my walls and love more without protecting myself too much, and although there is so much more for me to learn and impliment. I think our marriage is growing.

Three Changes

  1. My sister got married and moved to California. I’m so excited for her new adventure and to go visit her there.
  2. We sold our house and will be moving in the new year.
  3. I decided to move on from a job where I loved the people, where I enjoyed working, and where I stretched myself professionally to take care of my health. It wasn’t easy to leave when it wasn’t a negative situation, but I had to do what was best for myself and my family.

Three Hobbies in 2015

  1. Housesitting
  2. Video Games with Heath
  3. Kayaking
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    I was blessed to see this fabulous lady in concert for the 2nd time. So, that’s a hobby now.

     

Three Stand Out Quality Times

  1. Tea and poems on Ciona’s porch. This was a day I needed words, a good friend, and to overcome. Such a peaceful day of fulfillment.
  2. Gena, Ella, and I eating breakfast together.
  3. Flannery and I catching up when I went to Birmingham on my red dirt jar journey.

Bonus: Cooking with Ruru. All the amazing time with family and friends during October, especially for my Birthday.

Three Lessons From 2015

  1. bestillpiccopyYou are a human being, not a human doing. Just be where you are and let God be powerful in your weaknesses. “Being.”
  2. Joy looks different at different times and circumstances in your life. It’s not always laughing, dancing, and smiling. Sometimes it’s a heartbeat.
  3. Life is short.

Three People I’m Glad I Met in 2015

  1. Nate Eppler, Rebekah Durham, Rachel, and the team from Ten Minute Playground. Amazing experience!
  2. Gerty! I never was a huge animal person. However, this little rescue, with the soulful eyes, has become a great friend and source of joy.
  3. Kirsten. (Although, we’ve technically met before, I have been blessed to be around her this year)

Three Suprises I’d Like to Have In 2016

  1. A baby.
  2. A trip to New Mexico.
  3. A visit from a special friend I haven’t seen in a while.

Three Goals for 2016

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  1. To write everyday in some capacity, not because someone will see it or it will be published or to have something to read at a reading but because I love it.
  2. Spend more time with God in all different kind of ways. No expectations or limitations of what that should look like. Just Him and me figuring that out. Listening to Him.
  3. Be kinder to my husband and love him more daily.

Bonus: See the adventures and miracles around me that are already there daily. Learn what it means to be in my thirities — saying no to things without regret, taking the best care of myself, not comparing myself to others or their expectations, and letting go of the things I can’t change.

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Three Hopes for 2016

  1. More prayer.
  2. The ability to continue to share my story and serve.
  3. That the X-Files Revival is just as good as it seems when it gets here January 24th. ;) Can’t wait!mulder-and-scully-in-the-x-files-revival

Three Thankfuls

  1. Our church that I will miss greatly when we move, the things I’ve learned there, the people, and the outreach we’ve gotten to participate in. Serve – A – Lution!
  2. That I’ve gotten to stand behind an mic as much as I have here and have been givine the opportunity to share my words, thoughts, and gifts from God. I LOVE the writing community in Nashville!
  3. The homeless community that has made my life a better place here in Music City.

Three Things I’ve Learned From My Husband in 2015

  1. The beauty in how he leads with vulnerability, humbleness, and unconditional love.
  2. The importance of Bible Study.
  3. Not all men walk away when things are hard, when they’re scared, or when things don’t look like they thought you would. And he still thinks I’m beautiful when I can’t shower or wear makeup every day. Grace.

Bonus: I am an admanent snuggler and whether it’s a snuggle hug, snuggle nap, or snuggling during a movie … He snuggle more than I’m sure he ever expected in his life.

I know all of you have had “much” life this year. Good or bad. Misteps or triumphs. Gains or losses. I just want you to know you are loved. You are important to me. AND if you’re reading this … you made it! So, you’ve accomplished much more than you realized. Here’s to breathing in and being this 2016!

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I Am Gomer

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A few weeks ago our youth pastor shared a message at church on the subject of “God So Loved.” Meaning that we are “so loved” by God.

He stated that God’s loved is obsessed with us. In a flash, I thought about what obsessed means in my life. How obsession has played a key role in my journey since childhood when I was diagnosed with clinical OCD. Sometimes obsession in my life has been a huge struggle or a vice. However, God has also used it in His brilliance to bless me, to aid in the gifts He’s given me, and to help me to be more compassionate and loving towards others. So, I thought as I sat there in the elementary school gymnasium where we meet, “God’s love is obsessed with me like I am obsessed with the X-files.”

imagesNow, a few thoughts later the other implications of that statement became apparent, but at the moment it helped me understand the depth to which I am loved by God. Not just loved or loved on a page, but “so loved(!).” It also has shown me something else. Had I never understood the great depths obsession can take you to, the sacrifices you are caused to make because of that characteristic, or the absorption that comes with it, maybe I wouldn’t have been able to understand to a deeper degree how much God loves me. How much He has, will, and is sacrificing to have an all-consuming love for His child. (I’m still learning.)

 

The message continued by amplifying scripture — the story of Hosea andhosea Gomer in the Bible. It could have been easy for me to tune out. I mean I resisted for years reading, Redeeming Love. A fictional novel based off of the truths found in Hosea. It was such a big thing and Christian women in my life were telling me how much it meant to them or changed their lives. However, I believe a book comes to you when you need it most and so years after first asked, I read the book. I thought I knew how special the story of what God did in Gomer and Hosea’s lives truly was. I knew the story/novel came during a time of great loss in my life and great conflict with someone I loved and it reminded me to love unconditionally at a crucial point in our relationship. I cried in moments and felt very loved in moments, and there were moments that I just had to talk with God while reading it.

 

However, I stayed open to the moment, and I listened. As the pastor spoke, I stayed engaged. In case, you may not know the relationship between Gomer and Hosea, I’ll describe it simply and let you discover it’s depths. Hosea was a prophet. God asked Hosea to marry Gomer who was a prostitute. Dwell here for a moment.

The part of the story I listened to in the service shared light in a spot I didn’t expect a glow to fall. After, Gomer and Hosea were married, had kids together, and he continued to seek to love her unconditionally as God asked him too — she still left him. I knew this. I knew that Hosea had to go back into the dark area where he found Gomer and he sought to bring her back. Yet, that day I heard more. Biblical scholars believe that when Hosea who was well known in the town as a man of God went to find Gomer she was being bid on by men at an auction. Imagine her there on a wooden box … someone has paid for her and was now auctioning her off to the highest bidder. Here is Hosea walking in to see his wife probably being sneered over, lusted after, and treated disrespectfully. She chose to go back to this over the love he had so deeply and freely gave to her. Hosea has to buy her back. This woman who was already one with Him in marriage. Hosea “so loved” Gomer.

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Chris, our youth pastor, told us an interesting detail. He shared that the name Hosea means salvation in Hebrew and Gomer completion. So, if we peer deeper into this beautiful and yet heart-wrenching story. Jesus is Hosea. I am Gomer. God works with me with images. In my mind’s eye, I saw myself on that auction block. I saw Jesus coming in to buy me back … He was there paying for something that already belonged to him. Only the image I was shown, was me at six years old. I first saw myself in a blue dress with a white color and pink flowers. I saw myself with bright white shoes and socks. It was an image I recalled from an Easter photo. It quickly changed. There I was at six on this auction block. Dirty. So dirty. People bidding to pull me this way and that, to steer me away from the future I was meant for.

154764_10150333112960258_466833_nThis was the moment the light came in on the dark that I didn’t expect to have a glow on that day at church. You see, for a big portion of this year I went through a strong struggle with salvation. At times, I have struggled with the sin nature and if God knew everything and made people who were going to sin, that were going to be separated anyway … Well, I’d had a lot of questions about being a sinner. Doubts have come as spiritual warfare, from a place of fear, and from seeing someone I loved a lot lost when he loved and served God in a great way. God let him die in an incredibly painful and scary way. It left me in a place of knowing that just because I loved God and followed Him, it didn’t mean that something horrible couldn’t happen to me, too. That was scary and maybe it shook my trust.

God has “so loved” me in a great way and during that time (and still when I doubt), He has gone out of His way to show me I am His and to reassure me. On this day, He showed me a new image of salvation. Is Jesus on cross dying for my sins still powerful, meaningful, and so sacred to me? Yes. Did my God that “so loved” me know even when I didn’t that I needed a new picture of salvation? Yes. Did He know it would heal?

I saw myself standing on a wooden block being auctioned off as a six year old. It brought to mind images of human trafficking. This is the image I saw. The pure torn away and something meant to be pure so unclean. Always.

You see, when I was young something happened to me. I don’t remember. I may never remember. I’ve felt the pain. I’ve wondered. I’ve dealt with the aftermath. I’ve accepted. Only God, could have known how deeply replacing me with Gomer in this image He showed me would help me understand how dirty I was and even at such a young age how much I needed Him. He bought me back. He came to get something that was already beautifully His because he “so loved.” She who was broken, dirty, and never quite pure. (Sexual abuse is not the victim’s fault. Do not misunderstand me here.) He knew that I needed to realize how even at a young age I needed to be free of that which bound me. It was healing in my salvation struggle and healing by way of reaching into a painful part of my past.

I am Gomer who was completed in her Hosea — Christ.

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Remember, today, why he came. He sacrificed so much to get something back which was already His. He paid greatly. This is a time when we celebrate and remember Christ’s birth. Let us not forget the importance of why He came and how much He loves you.

God loves you so deeply. He is obsessed and consumed by His love for you. No matter who you are. No matter where you’ve been. No matter what you look like on that auction block or who is bidding over you.

He came back for you.

You are “so loved.”

“For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] [a]only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him[as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

 

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#reddirtjarjourney Explained

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rootsRed Dirt Jar Journey. I once heard a fellow poet from Alabama reading at an event here in Nashville. She read a poem about Bryce, the state mental hospital. The poem intrigued me because I had always been quite afraid of the institution myself. It was an amazing piece. However, it was something that she shared at the end of the reading that stuck with me. She talked about a rough season she’d walkedwhere she’d gone through a long period of creative drought. Someone advised her to go back to her roots. At some point, she got into her car and went on a journey alone back to where she grew up. While she was there, she filled a jar with red dirt – the same dirt her roots ran from. When she got back to her adult home, she put the jar on her desk. She began to write.

At times, living in Nashville, I’ve felt like I live in a jar. I get well and I make friends and jarthey see me in the jar, the top off. Then, I get sick again and have to stick at home and the lid is back on. I’ve made a few changes, I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone at times, but I’ve usually ended up feeling isolated, unsure of how to walk this decade of my life – even just today. Who am I now? Why am I always sick? How do I make a life for myself? Why is there physical resistance to everything that feeds life into me? Please tell me the 30s are for figuring out.

I got out of the jar that really isn’t a jar … it’s just stuck. It’s just a sense of waste. It’s a sense of time moving and life wasting. I seek to give up control because it’s exhausting. I try to stop putting pressure on myself but at times I feel like a teakettle that won’t allow itself to release the steam.

I went on a journey. My mom was in the hospital, I’d missed seeing everyone in Alabama for so long, and I’d had a difficult time leaving after my cousin passed away. Two weeks. I asked for two weeks of community, of stability, and to love on others while soaking up the presence of people who’d always spoken light into my life. I was going to get away and listen to God and write more. It was a two weeks. It didn’t cure everything. I wasn’t all that better physically but it was a beautiful journey.

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The Drive

The drive to and from the red dirt jar journey destination were big victories for me. I hadn’t driven the three hour drive completely alone since probably, well, maybe a year or more. I made three CDs – songs with Alabama or Birmingham in them/folksy songs, girl power songs, and praise songs. The drive felt like knowing myself again. It felt like being brave with God. It felt freeing and hopeful. The drive home was good because I’d had some medicine changed and had been nervous of dizziness, heart palpitations, and feeling out of breath, but I did it and when I got home there was my beautiful husband and my doggies.

The Room

It’s never healthy to be dependent on your past for your current happiness, but being in my old room again showed me a few things. It reminded me at how much I need to be alone at times. Not isolated. Solace in solitude. It reminded me of the things that I need to feel relaxed and happy. It also reminded me of a place that wasn’t always perfect – I’d struggled in those four walls, I’d made mistakes, I’d triumphed, but I new it. It was there then and it was there now and I knew what it was like there. Sure, the walls are brown and not blue. Of course, I’m a different lady. However, I remembered how much I like to light candles. I diffused some essential oils every night. I felt like I could just work, watch a movie, read, or just be how I needed to be without thinking about how it effected someone else or without putting pressure on myself. It had taken me a long time to figure out how to do independent and I was happy there pursuing God and leaning on Him. Mistakes, mis-steps, learning how to do something you’ve never done before … it’s easier when there isn’t someone always watching even if they’re new to this season too and they’re not judging. I made a sanctuary for myself for those two weeks in my old room. I found places for my books, I changed the blankets, and I set up a computer at my old desk and watched the birds. There was so much quiet. I didn’t stay on edge wondering if I’d be interrupted. I lived. My jar was filling even without the dirt. The interesting thing was that my health was not perfect and the things I needed answers for in my life were not gone. I was able to see how to be me again. God helped me. I didn’t give up.

Community

CommunityAs much as I love being alone, I love community. I know it doesn’t really make sense. I do enjoy the balance of being with myself until I need to go be with others. I love the benefits of it. I love the spiritual connections behind the idea of it. I love that community is how we were meant to live. I love people. I have missed community so much in the past three years. At times, I’ve had community and then I’ve had to retreat. Deep down I think that I’ve missed the community that knows me deep, deep, deep. The kind that you can just hug, sit with and say nothing, and just be where you are in that moment. I got a lot of beautiful community when I was in Birmingham.

Sometimes, it’s just nice to be around your parents. It’s nice to be able to go downstairs and have a conversation and act goofy without heaviness or to go hug my mom in her room. It’s nice to feel their presence. It’s also nice to have a vacation from the pressures of “shoulds.” Let’s not forget the great food.

Family! I love my family. I’m a family girl. I never fit completely in Birmingham and maybe I’m different than most of them but if I’m not with my family for extended periods of time, I tend to lose my footing. Best friends included. I was so excited to see my cousin and her kiddos. I’d missed them so much. I’d wanted to play and catch up. There is something about the kids of the person you were with the most, close to your age … you know, your first best friend – their babies. It doesn’t hurt that they’re awesome kids. I miss babysitting them and being in their everyday life. So, I enjoyed spending time talking about school, books, and eating Mexican with my favorite teenager. I enjoyed getting to see the little have his 2nd Birthday party and getting lots of hugs from him. To see the baseball player’s practice and how talented he is and sweet he is. Then there’s Charlie Brown who I love to just observe. Spend the nights at my cousin’s, turns out they’re still one of my “best” things.

I got to have another wonderful spend the night with one of my best friends since high school and it was just what I needed. “Life-giver.” It should be somewhere in her name or her resume. I felt joyful and happy the whole next two days visiting with my husband and I believe a big part of it was having some girl time with one of the people I’ve missed being around. She makes my life a better place. She make me a better me. She remembers me when I forget. She put some laughter in my jar.

I met new friends doing the freelance job I was doing, I got a hug I’d needed for maybe a year from a special friend who I hadn’t seen in awhile, and lots of love from the people who helped me step into adulthood at the paper I used to work for. I got to have a whole day with grandparents. When I married Heath, I received the great gift of having grandparents again … great talks and cooking lessons were a great part of the red dirt jar journey with them. I had a wonderful morning with my 2nd Mom and I treasure the quality time I get to have with her, I got to go get my haircut by my aunt with my Mudder, and I had the privilege of being able to pick up the phone, call my sister, and do things with her right then! I also had a wonderful night getting to know a new friend who loved words, too. I got to work two floors down from my best friend who made things better just by her mere presence. My community cup was full.

The Cemetery

black_wire_coat_hangerI got lost going to a friend’s house one day while I was on the red dirt jar journey. Howdo you get lost when you’re going somewhere you’ve been a million times before? Not sure. I think at times it’s more of a, “I thought I knew where I was going but God was really driving the car.” The car turned into the cemetery gate. I wasn’t planning on going. In fact, I wasn’t sure I could still make the turn. Maybe, I thought, my cousin is there visiting and she’s hurting and she needs me. Maybe that’s what the pull was. So, I drove. I drove past where my grandparents were buried to a new grave, to a grave where I knew there was red dirt. My muscle memory got me most of the way there. It was a cold, cold day the last day I was there. The day they’d lowered his body into the ground. It was summer now. I knew what the grave should look like from photos and there it was. No one was there. Just me. So, I spoke. I watched the pinwheel turn consistently when I would end a sentence and it was almost like a conversation. I told him how proud he would be of his family. I told him he shouldn’t be there. I asked him to help if he was watching over me, to help me stop being such a worrier and get on with life, to help me be a better wife, and to hangout with Lily and Jack until we got to have them here with us. I told him I felt it was unfair that my two favorite people to misbehave with were up in heaven now. As I went to leave, I tripped. I knew that I didn’t trip over me foot. I knew that the ground wasn’t unlevel. I looked down and a coathanger had wrapped around my foot. I stopped and looked at the gravestone. I laughed and sobbed at the same time. In my spirit I felt two words, “Be happy.”

The Jar

I’d had a plan. I was going to fill the jar up with dirt from my childhood home, from the playground of the church I grew up attending, maybe from my mom’s house, and possibly from my grandparents’ grave. On the way home, I had in my car an empty glass jar with a lid on it. As it is, God’s plans are always much larger, much better, and come in perfect timing. What I realized on the drive home is that I needed to start something new. Take the past and the present that I couldn’t quite grasp and begin. I had the journey. I am learning not to live between two states but to be whole. Let go. I think the jar will soon have some planter’s soil and a seed. The journey continues.

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Photo by Skip Nall 

 

Classified Ad: Light-Giving Writer Wants a Job

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Thirty-three-year-old woman writer wants job. In her dreams, she wishes she could make enough to contribute to her family by serving soup to the homeless every day. She has an old soul, desiring a working world that was still run on apprenticeships. In which case, she would love learning floral arrangement, cake-decorating, and archaeology. She desires a job without a desk. However, if a desk is required, decorations will ensue and hopefully, the work environment will be life-giving. Because she will enjoy putting life into her work and in lighting-up those she is working with. This woman has worked in administration, book-selling, custom framing, web design, ecology, teaching, the barista field, the nonprofit sector, event planning, customer service, food, clothing retail, journalism, and in words. In fact, she loves words. First published at sixteen, she began writing as a little girl who missed her favorite TV show and received the gift of a desk in her room where she began her first novel. She speaks publicly, is a gifted storyteller, and thinks well on her feet. A gifted memoir writer, blogger, novice playwright, and a beautiful poet, she is now putting herself out there to be accepted as one who has leaped and wants to trust her God as well as the dreams she was taught her country was founded on. This strong, compassionate woman hopes to someday serve the homeless on a more prominent basis, encourage and give Truth to those who read her words, and someday open a nonprofit for girls to know their true worth and heal through creativity. She believes in stepping stones. Today she just wants a job. Contact via email beautifulinversion@gmail.com or by phone at 615-924-4203.

the american dreamWhen I was much younger, I began reading books by a specific author that wrote all about creativity. In the first book, I remember reading about a time when she had dreamed something and placed an ad for that thing in which she desired in her local newspaper. The request was not small. However, it was fulfilled.

Sometimes, I think that parents, bosses, or even just those of earlier generations see “Gen-Xers” and Millennials as lazy or believe that we think we are entitled before we’ve done anything to earn the things in which we desire. You can always find an exception, but on the whole, I don’t believe this is true. I can only personally speak for Generation – X and more specifically for myself. We wish to encourage, we wish to be allowed to have our own journies, and we wish to work to change the world. However, we didn’t graduate into the world that the Baby Boomers walked into when the were given a diploma and permission to move over their tassels.

illustration__1243534584_3772Today, unless you are very lucky, you come into the working world with so much debt already weighing you down. Many college graduates are forced to immediately move back in with their parents because of the immense amount of debt they carry on their shoulders. We are a group of well-meaning human beings, that were taught growing up to dream big, want something bad enough, work hard, and you could have it. Yet, we made great grades, scored amazing on standardized tests, and went to school on scholarships that didn’t cover tuition or we made honorable decisions and still graduated college with 30,000 or more in debt. This does a lot to your self-esteem when you’re looking for a job, this does a lot to make you feel ashamed when you go into a marriage and are the only one with college debt, and this is not the America we were taught about in grade school.

Also, at the time many of us graduated the economy was in such a rut that there were no jobs. Those with college degrees were having to take the jobs normally given to people with a high school education, those with masters degrees taking positions that normally would have gone to people with bachelor degrees, and almost everyone was hookajobstruggling. Maybe we were prideful, but we listened when we were told to finish college because it would help you get a better job and then we were let down when we had all this money to pay back and no job to reflect all the hard work we’d done for not just four years but from kindergarten through college. Most people you could survey today would still be found working in jobs that are unrelated to the things they went to school for and although we are able to find meaning in supporting our families or encouraging the staff we work with there is still that whisper in the back of our minds. Why did I work so hard? Was a college education as important as my parents believed it to be? Will I pay this debt off before I die? Life doesn’t look like we thought it would and although we adapt, it hurts. It doesn’t just hurt our professional lives either. It hurts our relationships and sometimes our spiritual walk.

Job hunt? While we’re being labeled as lazy or unmotivated or a generation without passion, I’d hope that those of earlier generations would remember this is not the same culture in which you searched for a job. We grew up in the internet age. Look in a newspaper for a job? Most newspapers are not even printed anymore. Apply in person? Even the large retail stores have you only apply online. Apply online? Most jobs on the internet are already filled by the time that you send in your resume or go through the tedious multi-screened application. Also, most of the jobs you’re applying for online have thousands of people applying for them at the same time. Thousands of people to apply at Books-A-Million, Walmart, or the grocery store. And we do it. We search and we try and we work at things that don’t bring more strife than life. It’s not complaining. It’s just a different world and we’re trying to adapt. We’re trying to dream in our personal lives and still in our professional without hearing we’re irresponsible from some of the same people that told us to dream as children.

So, in my case, I made all A’s in school, I was involved in clubs I enjoyed, I loved learning, and dream11891224_10155971925935258_3081643644963324039_ned big. In 5th grade, I sat beside a teacher on a yellow bus as we traveled to a field trip destination. I always sat by the grown-ups. They used bigger words, they had bigger ideas, and I could learn from them. I told this teacher that I wanted to go to Harvard. She didn’t doubt for a second that I would make it there. Dreams changed. Goals changed. Ideal colleges rotated. Life hugged me, kicked me, and challenged me. My road looked different than others. I chose to follow a gift that wasn’t as clear cut as getting an education degree and being a teacher or getting a degree in medicine and being a doctor. I’m glad. I’m happy at times to work in areas that have nothing to do with my creative gifts. I’ve learned so much, been blessed and have been honored to bless others, and I’ve grown in character and experience.

I’m 33 now. I just left a very good job, on very good terms, and with honorable intentions. My husband and I made a decision to seek God, volunteer more, and walk more in what we’d been gifted in. I needed to heal from two years of chronic illness. I need to heal from major life changes that happened so close together. I needed to grieve and restore. So, I am in the search again. I want a job. I am in the search again to rediscover my dreams and goals in my thirties. I am in a search where dreams come by faith alone but asking never hurt anyone. The writer I mentioned earlier had a print newspaper to place her desire and put it out into the world. Her dream was fulfilled. I have my own sphere of influence. If I grew up in an internet world, why not dream through the internet? If I want to walk in my giftedness, why not use an avenue in which I display my gift? My own classified ad.

 

Please share. Also, if you are searching, please never give up.

AOH

If Only Taking Down a Flag Could Erase History

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“You had the same argument they put in South Carolina, that this is part of their heritage,” Holmes said in a phone interview. “And I told them it was part of your heritage that your forefathers fought under the Confederate flag trying to keep my forefathers in slavery.” – Rep. Alvin Holmes (D) Alabama (1988)

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Male workers took down the Confederate flag at the Alabama capitol building quietly and without fanfare at 8:20 AM the summer of 2015. The South Will Rise Again. These are words I saw on T-Shirts and as an acronym in yearbooks growing up in Birmingham, AL. A “privileged” few, but it was there. I was taught that I was no different than anyone else at a very young age. “Nigger” was a curse to me as hateful as “motherfucker” or the one we abbreviate with a “GD.” The confederate flag was something that hurt me, maybe, in the way I thought a swastika was a symbol from the devil and a Nazi flag something I didn’t want to take in with my eyes because I knew I couldn’t get the images back out of my mind.

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Can you understand that? A flag. Whether you wave it or hang it outside your door, you do so with a sense of pride, it’s something you’re passionate about, it’s inspiring you to battle, and it moves through the air with all the images from the past painted into your memory.

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There are many people that are angry that the confederate flag was taken down not just in Montgomery, AL but in South Carolina and Tennessee as well. “It’s sensationalism.” Something tragic and violent happened at the hands of someone waving the stars and bars once again and everyone jumps on the bandwagon to rip down the flags, a flag that should have been down long ago. “It’s a heart problem, not a flag issue.” Yes, but you do not remove the connotations from something that is symbolic, representational. Whose blood are we dipping the confederate flag this time to erase enough of its history so that it is only a history lesson, not a scroll that lists the names of the dead and words of hatred. dt.common.streams.StreamServer.clsAnd what about the problem of the hearts of we who hurt because it was up on government property at all. “It’s a southern thang, ya’ll wouldn’t understand.” Like sweet tea is southern. Like being southern means being kind. Like fried foods are southern. Like southerners are seen as slow talking drawl, people that live in a single wide trailer with tireless cars bricked up in their yard, bare feet and cutoff jeans, smoking Marlboros while talking and never losing the cig, unintelligent hillbillies, flying their confederate flag in a yard that needed mowed a month ago – understand?. “It’s our heritage.” It isn’t my heritage. It’s a generational curse I’d like to break in my family. A curse that started shattering years ago. In fact, it surprised me that these flags were still up to take down. Are we all walking around in civil war garb reenacting a historical event on a weekend with respect and pride to the pages of a history book? Marching in a Veteran’s Day Parade? Maybe a confederate flag might appear there, in a tableau of the past, where it should have stayed.

imagesSince, the flags shimmied down the flag post, the biggest shows of angry rebellion has come from big trucks with lifts, mud riding-jeeps, and strangely enough – some Christians. I’ve seen people driving that went and got extra-large flags and propped them up on both sides of the truck so they could drive around town and show them to everyone because they’re proud, respecting history, because they want to remember their heritage? There are questions I want to ask. What are they proud of? What are they fighting for? What does it mean to them when they put their hand over their hearts? Because I’m southern “ya’ll” and I don’t get a “thang” about it. Especially, when it’s a string bikini barely covering a women’s nipples and “hoo-ha” as she honors the rebel flag while being objectified by men. Try being a rebel by learning history. You cannot fly a flag and only remember one piece of its past, it represents all who stood under it throughout history. Dipping it in all the blood that was shed for it and in the name of it black and white will never erase the pain. You remember.

20000119edhan-aWhile you do, I wish I could forget. I wish I could forget black soldiers that were forced to fight in wars and kept segregated by whites. I wish that I could forget the KKK marching with the confederate flag held firmly in their hands. I wish I could forget the graphic of a rebel flag hung over a cross, a cross burned in the yard of a black family who could go nowhere for protection. I wish I could forget the sounds of whips from movies, photos of those scarred at the hands of their “masters.” I wish I could forget the day I learned that lynching used to be watched by white southerners who would bring a blanket, a picnic basket and watch a hanging, while their children ran and played like it was “dinner on the confederate-flag-klansman-noosegrounds” after church. I wish I forget Emmett Till’s body as it lay in a casket swollen, beaten, castrated, and without life circulated by his mother so no one would turn an eye away to what was happening in the south. It is not farfetched to think the men that drowned him and maimed him owned a rebel flag or two back at their house. I wish I could forget that slavery isn’t over. 35.8 million people estimated to still be enslaved in our modern day world.

imagesYou remember that flag. The one that is no longer flying over the capitol of the state I grew up in. In fact, I’ll try to forget that it was ever there in the first place while my heart sinks every time your horn whistles Dixie while we’re stuck in traffic, and I have to stare at the enormous confederate flag flying from your truck. Knowing that nothing ever truly forgotten still has its on flag. I will choose to remember the most important thing about the confederate flag. The battle flag so “treasured” in the south was the flag General Lee surrendered under. It stands for surrender. That day they rolled it up. appomattoxsurrenderDefeated. If anything should rise again in the south, it is pure love … it is the mending that began long ago, it is sacrificing your history to realize someone else died horribly under the same flag. Remember together, in handshakes, conversations, and reconciliations of the past. Rise in love.

It was love they were praying in and for. Love that welcomed a young white man into a predominately black church with a beautiful history of its own. They were praying. He that held the gun, held the flag.

What do you want to be remembered for?

I choose praying.

Only, the color of my skin doesn’t put me in danger when I bow my head … not to someone who clings to that flag.

The flag you’re fighting for.

The battle is over.

Keep your hand over your heart

put down the stars and bars.

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Love must be sincere, hate what is evil; cling to what is good. – Romans 12:9

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. – Matthew 7:12

Surrender your heart to God, turn to him in prayer, and give up your sins — even those you do in secret. Then you won’t be ashamed; you will be confident and fearless. – Job 11:13-15

 

Happy Birthday,Granny! Happy Birthday to you!

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The anniversary of my grandmother’s birth was July 6th, 2015. I was thinking about her a lot yesterday afternoon (the 7th). She would have been 95 years old. I’ve heard that in Heaven you’re your most vital self … so who knows what that looks like or what age she actually is today. Since I couldn’t wish her a “Happy Birthday” face-to-face, here are 50 memories, thanks, or things I loved about my Granny.

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  1. Skeeterbite (“Skeeter”)
  2. The best tuna fish salad with eggs and huge macaroni noodles. Something like this –http://www.food.com/recipe/tuna-macaroni-salad-238951?photo=93022.
  3. Valentine’s brunches at her church.
  4. Her snoring.
  5. The way she taught me that ladies say “restroom” and always wash their hands.
  6. Sitting in her lap when I was younger and pointing to all the colors on her “mother’s ring” and asking her to tell me the story of everyone’s birthday.
  7. Her blue car with the “Violet” tag.
  8. When people called her, “Vi.”
  9. Her showing me her scar from her open heart surgery. How bubbled up it was, how large it was, and how monumental a thing it was to me as a child.
  10. Peach pie/peach cobbler.
  11. The only bathing suit I ever remember seeing her wear in 22 years.
  12. The fact that she couldn’t swim but still went to the lake and to the beach.
  13. When we’d spend the night when we were younger and she’d have Nesquik in those tin boxes strawberry or chocolate for our milk.
  14. The many Christmas Holiday’s she spent the night with me on Christmas eve and it was her job to keep me in bed when I kept wanting to get up out of excitement that Santa came (or fear of the dark – never quite sure with me at that age)
  15. Her laugh.
  16. Making her laugh was my favorite thing, probably since I was tiny.
  17. That she was from Kansas when all I had ever known was Alabama.
  18. Grandparents’ Day in elementary school and being excited to see her outside the door when we lined up for lunch. She was there every year.
  19. Her middle name was Rosebud.
  20. Delivering flowers that were broken down from the Lord Supper’s Table and individually potted to take to nursing home bound members. I remember getting to go with her and her friends to do this one day when I stayed home from school and she watched me.
  21. Being impressed by how quickly she could count money and other things when I was little b/c I didn’t know yet about counting by 2’s and 10’s and such.
  22. No hats on in the house.
  23. When my mom and I got into a fight at dinner and she left, my granny opened up her arms and hugged me and let me cry on her.
  24. The way she picked up my Aunt Myrtle for all those years to take her to church or too her hair done b/c Aunt Myrtle never learned to drive.
  25. When Aunt Myrtle and Granny went to Hawaii and we got grass skirts and lays and had to get our picture taken in them at Olan Mills.
  26. When her 2nd husband died and we took her to get her nails done. I helped her pick out “Violet” for her color. It made her smile. And it made her smile to tell people.
  27. When she was getting worse with her Alzheimer’s and we lived at the apartment in Center Point. The tornado siren went off and she, my mom, and I got into the bathtub with pillows and blankets. After the storm, we couldn’t get her out of the tub because she always were nylons under her slacks and she kept slip sliding around.
  28. How pretty she looked at her wedding to my step-grandfather.
  29. That time when she bumped me with the car when she was taking me to school and she told my mom her foot “slipped” off the pedal. J
  30. That she and L.A. still had fun even at their ages after they married doing things like riding a camel or was it an elephant?
  31. When she was dating L.A. and she would come into my room at her house and ask me if what she was wearing was cute and act like a teenager.
  32. Rook parties.
  33. How much she loved her church.
  34. When she was in the nursing home and she spoke to me after she’d stopped talking for a while, naming people in old black and white photos and giving me her stuffed monkey which I later found out was her roommate’s monkey.
  35. Thankful that she let me hang out with her friends who were amazing. Ruth, Myrtle, Peggy, Marie … Like twenty year olds they were in their 70s, 80ss and 90s.
  36. The radio she had on her TV that had a record player and 8 track and the Johnny Mathis Christmas 8 track.
  37. Going on walks with her around her neighborhood when she had to walk every day after her heart surgery.
  38. When she lived by the lake in Center Point.
  39. The hat boxes she had with real hats some with veils from the 40s and 50s.
  40. When I was little we were in a car accident delivering food to someone who was sick, had surgery, or had lost a loved one. Green beans, I think. I was in the back and the windshield shattered all on top of me.
  41. Going to the chiropractor with her when I was younger and sitting in the waiting room.
  42. She went to church even after she was sick with Alzheimer’s and couldn’t drive herself and would have to find a ride home. She loved God and her church and for us to go to church with her.
  43. The first night at her house when my parents got divorced. She let us move in with her. My mom and I slept on the couch bed that night and watched Funny Lady.
  44. Her soaps. Young and the Restless and Bold and the Beautiful.
  45. Lipstick all over my face when she’d kiss me.
  46. When I was little and my Grandpa passed away. I told her that I hadn’t cried much at his funeral but I would make sure to cry a lot at hers. I guess I felt bad, but I guess at 5 you just don’t quite get it.
  47. Her hair was always the same.
  48. How much I like holding her hand.
  49. How I got to remember her words for her when she was sick.
  50. The last time I saw her at the nursing home when she pulled me down on her chest and patted my back and when I lifted up and was crying she looked at me in my eyes and pulled me back down.

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Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

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I very much dislike what has happened to my attention span.

I don’t know if it’s that I can’t focus, per se. Mostly, I think that because of technology and social media my brain makes me think that I’m supposed to have something exciting popping up and be completely entertained by something every few seconds.

Think about it.

Have you every just wondered why you feel bored? You want to get home from work and then you get home from work and you don’t know what to do with yourself. I don’t know about you but it makes me feel yuck and also a bit guilty. I had a wonderful teacher that once told me, “Saying you’re bored says more about you than your circumstances.” I’ve never forgotten that.Friends-Hugging

And what is it about me? I’m entirely convinced I’m addicted to the internet. Let’s be honest. My name is Amanda and I have a problem with social media. I don’t even like it that much. I mean right this moment as I sat still to think, I had to resist the urge to type “Fa” at which time my internet title bar would automatically fill in the rest of the letters and take me directly to Facebook. Do I want to go to Facebook? Not really. I think I’ve reprogrammed my brain.

I’m not putting down technological accomplishments. The internet is good for research (it’s great for reading Star Trek: TNG and General Hospital Fanfiction). Social media can be good for promoting creative endeavors, keeping in touch with friends, and being tagged in photos where you have two chins. *smirk* It was amazing yesterday that I could Skype my Mom who lives three hours away on my phone while we were getting the kayak ready to put in the water at the lake. It made me feel like a lot of my trek dreams had come true. However, a man drove by while I was on the phone and stopped his car. “Can I ask you a question?” I agreed to listen. “Why are you up here on the street holding your life jacket instead of at the lake?” I answered that I was waiting on the boat to be ready, but as he left his look was one of bemused scrutiny. Why was I missing out on moments with my husband to Skype or in other times in our marriage, to scroll through Facebook or Instagram or whatever social media site that had posts that I hadn’t seen five times already in the last few hours?

I read on a site this statistic — People who use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter will use 10% of their entire life time on these sites. (www.londoncitygirlmagazine.com) I also read somewhere recently that we receive in one day more news than some people do in a lifetime. We are overloaded. 10% of your entire life on social media? (I dare say it is more for people that feel isolated, are chronically ill, or maybe just nosy.) 10% might not seem like a lot but let’s think about it this way … What if you’re not meant to be here for a long time? What if your “forever” with a husband or partner is much shorter than you imagined? What if all a friend, grandparent, parent just has 10% of their life left? What if that 10 % was all you needed to put in the extra work to start that business, finish the book you’ve always wanted to write, begin an exercise program, read to your child instead of handing them a tablet to watch a movie? My big ones that come to me while I’m staring mindlessly at a screen for most hours of a day – Why am I looking at a device while I’m praying? If 10% of my income is to go back to God? Shouldn’t I also be giving Him at least this 10% in Bible study that I’m too tired to engage in for more than 30 minutes while I can lay in bed and scroll through social media past my bedtime.

We compare ourselves nonstop on social meMobile-variousdia and the internet to celebrities, other couples, other women/men. It is damaging to our marriages. It is damaging to our friendships. It is damaging to our relationships with God because really we’re measuring ourselves against social standards and other people. Not that we don’t do that at times but (Wham!) here’s an even easier way to do it on a larger scale. It’s easier to be mean to one another because we feel disconnected. It is also harming our families.

We think that social media creates community, but it is actually stealing it from us. Do we realize how many people feel isolated? How many people feel unsuccessful because they are gauging their lives against the photos and comments people choose to show the world (at their best!)? I have felt it being long distance to my family. Everyone sees what’s going on with you on Facebook so they think they know and so they never pick up the phone, hardly come visit, don’t write letters (oh, my goodness, what’s a letter?) There is no community engagement. Now if you talk to someone regularly and have coffee with them regularly without checking your phone every five seconds … then, maybe. Admit it though, what percentage of your information that you get about your friends and family is gathered from checking their Facebook page?

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I miss nature. I miss phone calls. I am a lover of quality time and I feel ashamed of myself that I stare at a screen more hours a week than I would like to admit. Tally it up. Texting, internet on phone, taking photos of a moment you’re not really experiencing, working by looking at a computer screen, if you watch TV when you get home, reading on a tablet. How many hours do you spend looking at a screen? How many hours do you spend looking into the eyes of the one you love or talking to your child? It’s false community based on false truths and people are not feeling loved (some but not most).

As a community, we need to be taking care of one another. If everyone helped someone that was downtrodden, going without food, or needing encouragement … how much better would the world be? Community gardens, walks, talks on the back porch until the fireflies come out? Maybe it’s just me who is beginning to feel robbed, mechanical, and like I’ve developed a problem that I really never should’ve had. I’m a reader. I’m a writer. If I could take back all the hours I’ve spent without purpose on the internet because my mind is so used to being overly stimulated … how much writing could I have produced? As an introvert, it is no longer just talking and putting myself out there that wears me out. It’s being overstimulated daily on the internet. We have been taught that “multitasking” is something to be commended. However, it is a lie. Our brains were not meant to multitask. Something is losing out.

What is the answer? I’m not sure. I can change things in my own life. Be outside more, contact more people, stay away from devices when absolutely unnecessary to be on them, and engage in the life I’ve been given while I have to blessing to do so … but if everyone else remains the same. Who am I going to commune with? We are vulnerable when we become dependent on anything but let’s not crumble because we’re rebuilding community on quicksand instead of a strong foundation with a sturdy cornerstone.

Just think.

How many conversations have you started today that began, “Have you seen Facebook today?” “I saw on Facebook that so and so is having a baby.” “I saw on Facebook that so and so lost their father to cancer.” How many begin with how are you and then giving the gift or your fighting with all you have to give them your full listening attention?

I want to change — even just in baby steps.

If only Mr. Rogers were still here. Well, maybe I’m glad he doesn’t live in this virtual neighborhood.

__DanielStripedTigerAndMisterRogers_______________________________________________________________________________________

“You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.” – Mr. Rogers

“I’m proud of you for the times you came in second, or third, or fourth, but what you did was the best you had ever done.” – Mr. Rogers

“There’s a nurturing element to all human beings, whenever they themselves have been nurtured, and it’s going to be expressed one way or another.” – Mr. Rogers

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