The Skin I’m In

I was called an oreo when I was growing up. In the African American community this was not a term of endearment. It didn’t refer to how sweet I was. Rather it was social nomenclature that described my perceived character. In layman’s terms this word described me as one who, though I was black on the outside, was really white on the inside. As you might imagine this was not just about color. This term and those who used it were referring to my physical appearance and my norms, behaviors and mannerisms. For some reason I was viewed as an outsider within my own community and to this day, I am teased by family and friends alike in regards to my seemingly “non-black” behavior. Truth be told, this had a devastating effect on my identity…

This way of thinking brought so many other things to mind. For one, I wondered what it meant to be black and how someone like me who comes from a black family and was raised in black neighborhoods and went to predominately black schools (even graduating from a Historically Black College & University) was seen as not “black enough”. Black history and knowing my roots was very important in my home. My mother was an educator who took seriously her role in passing down traditions, knowledge, and untold stories of our culture.

I often thought that maybe peoples’ interpretations of me were connected to my faith tradition. I was raised in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which is a predominately white denomination; however the churches of my childhood were black Lutheran churches. Many friends in Texas asked if Lutherans were Christians (to this day the irony of this question makes me chuckle) and when I invited them to church they were taken aback by our worship style when compared to their Baptist/Nondenominational/traditional black denominational way of worship. But once again, even in my church community, black traditions and culture were important and uplifted.

Education was very important to my parents and I was a voracious reader. We traveled extensively during my childhood, taking a family trip every year. My parents made a point to include historic sites and cultural information on every trip. I was well spoken and well rounded, being involved in everything from academic enrichment opportunities in the summer to the requisite tap/ballet/dance trifecta. I finished high school with honors, graduating number eleven in my class of 454, was a Varsity Cheerleader, National Honor Society member, and belonged to host of other clubs and organizations.

Going to an HBCU was important to me. I wanted to be a part of an institution of higher learning that infused African American history, culture and traditions into the DNA of their curriculum. When I arrived at Spelman College in the fall of 1999, I finally felt like I found a place where I belonged. I was surrounded by intelligent, articulate, and vivacious BLACK women. But I soon realized that the world outside of our gates still viewed us as the other.

This “otherness” has been with me as long as I can remember. In my darkest hours, I’ve begun to realize the damage that was caused by those who ridiculed me for who I was, making me question my identity, my worth and my purpose. I’m now at a point in life where I fully embrace the skin I’m in. I fully embrace who I am as one who has been crafted in God’s very own image, gifted for a purpose.

My hope is people judge less and love more.

My hope is that we can broaden our perspectives on what a particular race/ethnicity/culture is like.

My hope is that we realize how damaging it is to ostracize and criticize anyone because of their individuality.

My hope is that we all can grow in love, grace and acceptance of our selves in order to fully love and accept each other.

Love,

Me

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Music Mondays: Break Away by Hunt Ft. Jae Michelle

Click here to see the powerful video for Break Away by Hunt Ft. Jae Michelle.

Abuse, bullying, drugs, alcohol, peer pressure, self esteem…

The list goes on and on and on…

Many try to ignore their reality.

Others try to be something or someone they aren’t.

So many of us who suffer from depression have also experienced one or more of these things during our childhood and youth. I love this song because it highlights some very real issues that young people face today. I also applaud artists whose music inspires… Hunt is one such hip hop artist who has continued to write powerful lyrics that capture the nature of human suffering. Check him out at http://iamhunt09.wix.com/iamhunt.

This song inspires me to continue to fight and face my demons. Maybe it will do the same for you.

Love,

Me

Giving Thanks for the Angels Among Us

October 1, 2012 would have been my grandmother’s 82 birthday. She died 14 days later last year on October 15, 2011. It’s crazy the difference a year can make. This time last year I was literally incapacitated with grief. My separation, grandma’s death, issues at work and my dad’s diagnosis took the life right out of me. My depression had taken over. I couldn’t get out of bed. I felt so lost and incapable of getting myself together. I lost 3 months of my life. I literally can’t remember some days. But I remember the people and how they cared for me and loved me back to life. For that and for each of you, I am eternally grateful.

Each of you has played a special part in my life and I am convinced that your presence is divinely inspired. Thank you for showing me what it means to be a friend. Thank you for walking alongside me. Thank you for not holding my inability to always do the same against me. My prayer is that I can be the same friend to you and I thank God daily for each of you.

Whenever I hear “Never Would Have Made It” by Marvin Sapp tears come to my eyes. You embody that song for me. I know what it means to experience the real and loving presence of God in the valley of the shadow of death. Thank you for walking with me. You are my angels…

Love,

Me

Music Mondays: Never Would Have Made It by Marvin Sapp

I am unapologetically Christian. Even as I type this truth, I cringe because I know the perceived implications that may be assigned to this statement. I should follow up and say, that I’m not your average Christian. (To get a sampling of my particular bent of Christianity, visit my congregation’s website – House of the Rock). I practice this religion because of one simple thing – the notion of God becoming human and walking among us literally overwhelms me. And I mean this in a good way. Everything else that is associated with modern day Christianity, I could take or leave. I’ll write more about that in another post…

What I love most about this song is that it speaks about relationality and being present, which for me, is a central tenet of Christianity. I read that the artist Marvin Sapp wrote this song as a tribute after the death of his father. The song is very repetitive but I think that it’s divinely inspired. Hearing the words over and over again reminds me of the importance of those who have supported, loved, nurtured and challenged me throughout my experience with depression. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I would not be here today without my community of friends and family.

My favorite part of the song is when he sings,

Never could have made it without you
I would have lost my mind a long time ago, if it had not been for you.
I am stronger
I am wiser
Now I am better
So much better
I made it thru my storm and my test because you were there to carry me thru my mess

I could say more about the theological implications of this song but I’m going to leave my comments at this – I never would have made it to where I am today without someone helping me.

I pray that you have someone or many ones who do this for you. Give them a chance. They may surprise you and literally save your life…

Love,

Me

Click here to see the video for Never Would Have Made It.

Fear of Silence

I drove home the other night in complete silence. I worked a 16 hour shift and left my job at midnight. It had been a difficult week but before I knew it, it was time to leave. Walking to my car I noticed how cold and dark it was outside. We were told to anticipate freezing temperatures and I planned accordingly, wearing my winter coat and gloves. The sky was clear and I couldn’t see the moon. It was very quiet.

I never drive in silence. I’m normally listening to NPR, my favorite Pandora station or the top 25 tunes on my iPod. On this night, however, something within me needed silence.

I don’t like to sit with myself – with my thoughts and my feelings. The silence scares me but on this night I took a chance.

I know my medication is working when I can be aware of my thoughts but not be overrun by my thoughts. I can reflect on my day. I can feel the sadness and loneliness. I can grieve for the people I’ve lost. I can FEEL without spiraling into the depths of despair. My time in silence tonight reminded me that I have nothing to fear.

I think I need these moments of silence more often, not only to be in tune with myself but to listen for the still, small voice within that reminds me not to be afraid. Maybe one day you’ll be able to take some time to just listen.

Love,
Me

Music Mondays: Alright by STARBOARDERS

Today’s song holds special meaning for me for a variety of reasons.

The first reason is that the title, “Alright”, is a reminder to me in that I am not alone and that one day, everything will be alright.

The second reason is that it is written and performed by some of my best friends. Starboarders is comprised of Matt Simpkins, Bill Porter and Greg LaRose, three men that I was introduced to almost three years ago. These guys have not only become like family, they are instrumental in providing support and encouragement in my darkest moments.

The third reason that I love this song and this band is that they have managed to do something that very few people ever achieve – embrace their gifts and make a difference in people’s lives. This band writes excellent music that is not only meaningful but purposeful. The band decided that all proceeds from their first album Chroma would go to purchase LifeStraws, water filtration devices that can be used in places where people suffer from a lack of access to clean water.

This band is focused on something other than themselves, and I am learning that when we do this, our own healing takes place. So the lesson I’ve learned not only from this song, but from these guys is that we are called to care for and love one another. This brings about abundant life for everyone and helps make everything alright… Thanks guys.

Love,

Me

STARBOARDERS Links

Letting Go

Letting Go

People keep telling me that the best way to find peace is to let go. I’m reminded of the wisdom articulated in the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change

The courage to change the things I can

And the wisdom to know the difference

I feel like the first line in this prayer is my focal point in life right now – accepting that which I cannot change. I’ve been challenged to reside where I find myself, which is extremely hard for me. I don’t want to sit with my feelings of disappointment. I don’t want to stay in a place of sadness. I don’t want to let the things that have happened sink in because I’m afraid that I won’t come out on the other side. But everyone keeps telling me that I will and that the first step is to let go of all the things I want and the things I try to control. Let it go and just be…

For me that looks like:

Letting go of this overwhelming desire to be in relationship.

Letting go of the demise of my marriage and the death of a dream.

Letting go of my drive towards perfectionism.

Letting go of my need to move from one thing to the next and never fully enjoying the moment.

Letting go of my shame and guilt.

Letting go of the pressure I put on myself to have it all figured out.

Letting go of who I thought I should be.

It’s been pointed out to me that transitions are difficult. A part of me is dying and I am grieving. But with death, I know and believe in the promise of new life. So something is being birthed right now. Even though it’s painful, even though it’s out of my control, I know that God is doing a new thing. Today I pray for the patience to accept the things I cannot change and the ability to just BE.

Love,

Me