Well today is my Birthday! I'm not one to bring that much attention to my day but I wanted to do a post to reflect on where I am in my life at thirty-four. I've learned a lot along the way and I'd say even in the past year I've grown tremendously. I definitely have a long way to go in my journey but I also need to celebrate my small successes, something I don't do very often because I am hard on myself.
Any of my close friends, who know how the last eight or so months of my life have been, could tell you that my faith has grown to a new level. It has been challenged beyond what I thought I could bear but I'm still standing and smiling. I've shared of my life, resources, love, and friendships to a new level over the past year, when I know just how often I felt depleated in many of those same areas...but God!
I think I'm becoming more comfortable with being myself, Im ok if I don't measure up to the expectations others place on me. I am appreciating more and more where God has me not trying to compare myself with others. Now more than ever I value quality friendships over quantity. I'm also more heightened in my awareness and passion for what is going on in the world around me. There is much more to life than a focus on myself, my wants, and desires.
Less than a year ago, I decided to write this blog...something that terrified me. I have to say at times I'm still a bit nervous to hit the post button or to share my topics on social media but I'm slowly conquering that fear. The support has been beyond what I ever expected. I'll be the first to admit my blog still needs a ton of work. The design of the pages, formatting, etc. I've even looked back at some of my posts and cringe at the grammatical and spelling errors. Shoot you may even find some in this post. Ugh! I'm passionate but definitely not always grammatical! However, I'm thankful to my readers who continue to support and see that my goal is to share my heart and God with others. Thank God he can still use me through my imperfections.
This is another area I've grown in. I used to be a perfectionist to the point where it would cause me to be stagnant. If I didn't have everything in perfect order then I wouldn't proceed. Well I'm glad that I stepped out to write even when I didn't (and honestly still don't ) really know what I'm doing. ;) I'm also moving forward with that in other areas of my life (stay tuned!!) which is exciting.
In the end my thirty-four years consists of many peaks and a ton of valleys which I'm sure there are more to come, but I'm blessed!! I have an amazing and loving husband Wesley, who is EXACTLY the same person at home that he is in public. What you see is what you get with him and I value that beyond words!! I have two beautiful, sweet, and exhuasting little girls who bring joy to my life everyday!! I have friends, family, and a wonderful support system but most of all I have a Heavenly Father who loves me more than I could ever be loved or love myself. So no matter what is going on in my life- I'm definitely winning!!
Maybe God is constantly testing me, because I always seem to be in the mist of an awkward situation where I typically resort to just "holding my tongue." If I'm offended by someone, I will more than likely not say anything about it and just smile it off just to keep the peace which isn't always the best.
Here are some examples of situations that I've held my tongue on that maybe I should have spoken up about...
1. Negative comments I've seen about refugees. Stop assuming and start healthy conversations. You'd be surprise the love and level of hospitality many have to share if you were open to starting a friendship. I've personally been blessed beyond words by a budding friendship with a (new to US/nashville) Syrian family!!
2. Asking a stay at home mom "if they are bored being at home yet?" This annoys me especially since I hear it all the time. It's like staying home is synonymous with staying locked in doors or something. I actually get to spend much more time now participating in my passions, like volunteer work. Yes some moments arent as exciting, but let's just be real, I've had boring days when I worked a job but interestingly enough no one cared as much then!!! I've been bored in school, bored at EVERY graduation, bored in conferences, and seriously I've even had some boring moments in church before.
I don't question a mom's choice to work outside the home so please respect my choice to be home with my kids. I'm doing what matters to my family whether or not it sounds glamorous. (What? Cleaning up messes and hearing fifty requests for snacks each day doesn't sound glamorous to you?? ;) I can get a job when I want to, but I can't ever get my time back, so no worries I'm good with my decision. Thanks
3. When someone says something that could be perceived as racially insensitive and when confronted they mention the friend they had in grade school or wherever that is "X,Y,Z race". Please stop. I've witnessed this and it's embarrassing and getting pretty old. Its perfectly ok to just say sorry I didn't intend to sound offensive or just talk it out and move on.
4. Specific comments made about people who rent vs people who buy a home. After going on several mission trips, you come to realize just how blessed you are without labels that we place on ourselves in America. I rent currently. I want to buy, and trust I will buy a home one day when God sees fit for me to do so (claiming it). It's not a race so I try to focus on where God has me now. I'm just grateful to live indoors, in a clean, loving, and safe place. Thank God!
5. Once I had a white male Doctor put his hand in my hair and said its interesting you are wearing your natural hair. You don't see this much nowadays because everyone wears weaves and fake hair. Talk about a bite my tongue situation! I smiled...thinking to myself-Doctor how about we just focus on my throat pain.
I really wanted to say to him, black women wearing their natural hair is actually VERY common now. Seriously it's much more common now than I remember when I first started my perm free life about thirteen years ago. I love my hair. I also enjoyed wearing my hair colored, in braids/twists w/ extensions, and it was cute when it was permed too ;). Hair is just hair...
These examples are not huge mind blowing situations but my prayer is to not shy away from opportunities in the moment to speak up. I want to find a balance in my life with speaking up when necessary and knowing when it is best to just shut my mouth in order to keep the peace as well.
Lord, set up a guard for my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips. Psalm 141:3 HCSB
Let me start w/ a self disclaimer. Yes, I am an African American however I don't speak for the whole African American community. These are just a few of my own views and experiences.
For the longest I've always been intrigued when someone would say, "I don't see color." I believe people typically mean well by this statement, but I honestly just don't get it. It sounds like something said by someone who may have never had color or race used against them. I've talked w/ family and friends about this and some are just like me and can't stand the phrase, and some say its a cliché way of saying I don't judge or treat people differently based on race. Yes, this is the ideal way to live and our world would be a much better place if we all exhibited this in our actions, but lets be real we DEFINITELY see color.
I think my biggest issue with this statement is, why is it really such a big deal to not see color/race anyways? God created each of us the way he intended and it is beautiful that we come in many different shades. I love being around people of all different cultures and I love seeing our differences. About a year, a little girl who was white, was sitting next to me and she held out her arm to mine smiling and said I'm vanilla and you are chocolate. She wasn't judging or being rude just stating what she saw. We are going to naturally notice what makes us different, but it's what we do with that information and how we should also seek out more importantly, the characteristics that bring us together as one.
My fear at times is preparing my girls for the world that we live in. I desire for them to be surrounded by a diverse group of people. I teach them to love and treat everyone with respect but I can't control what others may be teaching their own children. If you don't believe race still affects the world then maybe it's because it just doesn't affect your life and that's all that matters. I get frustrated when people say that someone is "playing the race card." For many, unfortunately it is their reality. Over the past couple of months I've seen many articles about the rise in hate groups and that Tennessee ranks fourth among states with the most hate groups. You and I may not be the ones contributing to this divide, but we can't pretend as if it is not affecting someone, somewhere, closer than you may think.
I recently watched a documentary about race in America and it showed an old clip with black children being asked questions about white and black dolls. The kids would point to the black dolls for any negative description (which doll is ugly, bad, etc) and point to the white dolls for all the positive descriptions (which doll is pretty, good, smart, etc). This was heartbreaking and disturbing to watch. Well shortly after I saw this, an elderly neighbor brought by some dolls she was getting rid of. There were two white dolls w/ colorful nice dresses and hats and one black infant doll. The black doll had wrinkly infant skin, no hair, and just a plain white shirt and diaper on. No frills or accessories. I showed the dolls to my daughters (no questions asked) and I kid you not both of my girls fought over the little black doll. Although trivial in the grand scheme of things my heart was warmed especially after seeing that documentary clip because my girls seemed to have positive feelings towards the black doll.
I pray that my girls choose their friends and people they associate with, not based on color but based on character and morals. This is what I mimic to them in my own life, however this doesn't change the fact that I absolutely see color on a daily basis. Trust me, I know when I'm the only black person in the room. I see color every time I drop my daughter off at her Mother's Day out program. Its an excellent program filled with Christ's love, with little to no diversity when it comes to students and staff. I've seen color my whole life in church. I'd say every church setting I've ever been apart of has either been predominantly black or predominantly white, with little to no diversity in members or staff. I chose my college to attend and my Sorority to join because it was Historically Black filled w/ deep rich history and culture. Color unfortunately even determines when driving out of town, whether or not I will stop off at an exit for gas late at night in a small southern town I don't know.
I'm not at all complaining about my situation as they make up some of the very unique parts of my life. So what can we do to move forward? Ask yourself how often do you expose yourself to anyone of a different race, religion, and/or economic background than yourself outside of work or places you have to be? Although uncomfortable at times its a blessing to get outside of your comfort zone. Instead of making assumptions, maybe ask a person of a different race what affects their lives and be open to understanding. The conversations don't have to always be about race however its always refreshing to me to be around people, who even if race doesn't affect them personally, can understand and be sympathetic that it does affect others. It's humbling to me for them to be open about what they have experienced and seen themselves and I appreciate it. Yes, I see color everyday but I can't let it define me nor affect how I show the love of Christ to others.