Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Yin & Yang

Growing up, mad love was all I knew. Physical abuse. Verbal abuse. Manipulation. Domination. Control. I learned that love was heavy handed, not something to be enjoyed. There was no room for soft love, touchy feely love, smiles or kisses. And sex... Sex was something you endured to acquire love - even if that love hurt, caused pain, betrayed or turned into an elusive illusion. 

At 15, I fell into bad love and stayed entangled in his web, on and off, until freshman year in college. Bad love punched me, beat me, pushed me to the ground and cheated on me, boldly all while laughing in my face. But I resolved that bad love, mad love, a love that hurts was better than know love at all. This happens when you don’t know you’re worth. You’ll give away for free what you deem cheap. And so I stayed, worthless me, worth a booty call with no self-worth at all. 

When things got really bad, I’d hop in my Plymouth Horizon and drive almost 50 miles to RDU and stare at the airport lights. Grounding myself - dreaming, wishing, longing for the day when I could leave my life behind and reinvent another one. The lights seemed to promise a do over, a fresh start. 

But at the time, I had no idea darkness and light are one. That wherever I ran to, no matter how light the light, I’d take my darkness with me. All that negative energy. All those false beliefs. All of my doubts and fears. And when the Light sent Doug with his kind love, fun love, safe love, I didn’t know what to do with his goodness. So I tried to introduce him to my mad love, bad love. To reorient him to my normal. And, it almost worked a couple of times. But pure love is nothing if not persistent. 

It will anchor itself to Truth and burrow into the depths of you, purifying and cleansing like a rinsing agent. Pure love cannot be tainted. It is a force. It has a power all of its own. As bright white as pure light, translucent and sure, pure love just is.  

I didn’t know that by running to the light, I would be invited to face my darkness. I was told the two could not co-exist. That light casts out darkness. I was made to believe my darkness was bad, something I needed to cut off, purge, do away with. I thought if I ran to the light, every bad thing about my life, my history would disappear. But this is impossible because all natural light casts shadows. And there the light shines for us to see. To acknowledge. To sit with. To lament. To heal. To reconcile. 

Light and darkness is every human being’s yin and yang.

Friday, June 29, 2018

One Defining Moment

While Clayton isn’t the land of my birth, it is the town in which I came of age. The town of my firsts
First friend.

First shared secret.

First drink.

First enemy.

First frenemy.

First experience with racism.

First kiss.

First sexual encounter.

First rejection.

First betrayal.

First loss.

Clayton defined me, oriented my life’s existence. It taught me “othering” – classism, division and boundaries. Clayton had two faces. We were two worlds separated by train tracks. On our side I learned, we only have each other. Clayton taught me to fear the Confederate flag, that “friends” in class by day could very well be the children of men in white hoods who threatened to terrorize our side of town by night. Clayton taught me to know my place and to always be invisible. In Clayton, I learned the art of code switching. Clayton taught me that every black person is your cousin and to be careful doing it with your cousin ‘cause your baby could be retarded or deformed.

Clayton handed me everything bad that I wanted to escape. Heart ache. Heart break. Family drama. Abuse. In Clayton, I saw the best and the worst of people. Too young to know how to hold the tension, I didn’t understand how family members could talk about each other like a dog the minute a person walked out their grandmother’s door and hug each other and laugh and joke the next time they were together. This happened too amongst peers, and my black and white makeup didn’t know how to hold the gray. Too often I tipped the cup spilling the secrets, exposing the whispered gossipbecause I didn’t realize there was some code of behavior that we were to actualize. I am no saint. I made tons of messes, tons.

It wasn’t until I was grown that I realized I too was not safe. If they were talking about other folk to you, you can best believe they were talking about you to others. No one was exempt – not your momma, your auntie, or the person you call sister or best friend. Clayton is a town where everyone talked about everyone. You too were free game.

There is no love loss in my heart for Clayton. It symbolizes every bad thing about my life that I want to forget. And yet, until my momma joins my dad, I will keep coming back. But that’s actually NOT a bad thing.

Today, while riding through the town of Clayton, I noticed some brilliant city manager had launched a pride campaign. Banners in vibrant, primary colors hang on street poles that say: Think Clayton. Think Living; Think Clayton. Think Dining; Think Clayton. Think Night Life. My initial gut response to those banners was to snicker. Why would anyone want to move to Clayton? I thought. And what, besides fast food or BBQ could one possibly find to eat in Clayton? I derided. Night life? Don’t even get me started. This little po’ dunk town closes up like Fort Knox at 10pm. That quick. Within the span of two seconds, my entire being had seized and closed up, all while driving through the town. And there…there in the pit of cynicism, my pain that is my Clayton(noticed I said my because perception does not equal truth), I had an epiphany.

For decades now, I have been holding Clayton hostage to my pain and my judgment. Even though Clayton has undergone its own reformation without my permission, in my mind, Clayton would always be some small, rural po’ dunk town. My past experience clouded my perception and prevented me from accepting Clayton’s evolution. And today, in that moment of derision, I saw so clearly the brokenhearted, betrayed, rejected little girl and her Clayton chained together and stuck in a time warp from the 70s and the 80s. Clayton is my America that I do not want to make great again. At least the Clayton as I knew and experienced it. But today, I realized my lens was so cloudy with the past that I could not see the truth of today. And there, stuck in time, cemented in my pain and hellish memories, how I chose to interpret what I was seeing led to me not honoring or celebrating Clayton’s progress. And in the pause I had to wonder, if I can admit that the town has grown and changed and developed, how much more have the people in it evolved as well?

How often do we chain people to the perception of our last encounter with them? How often do we wrongly perceive others based on how they showed up when they were at their worst? How often do we not celebrate and honor change in people? What is it about a person’s evolution that frightens us? Or are we afraid of letting go of what we once believed to be true?  How challenging is it to let go of the past and allow something or someone to move on? Sit in that for a moment.

I will forever be a truth teller. I refuse to hide the ugly, messy places of my past. They are as much a part of me as the good. And I want to own them all. But I don’t want to be trapped there nor do I want to define anyone or anything by where they were in life when our past intersected.

Think about that town or that person. Hold them in your heart and offer a blessing to the Universe on their behalf. You go, ____, may you grow beyond my worst perception of you. ___, may you shatter every fallacy I’ve contrived in my mind about you. ___, may you glow as you grow.
You go, Clayton. You grow beyond my worst perception of you. I bless you to shatter every fallacy I’ve contrived in my mind about you. Here’s to letting go of my negative image and embracing you where you are today. Namaste.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Redefining Normal

If I've lived my life drinking coke and kool aid, eating fatback, neckbones, bologna and pig feet, I don't know that my diet is nutritionally hazardous. To me, it's normal. It's just what I eat.

It isn't until someone introduces me to better nutritional options and begins to teach me about the effects of inflammation has the root of all disease and healthy, living foods that I know differently. 

With this information in hand, I now have a choice. I can continue to consistently eat the things that endanger me and could possibly kill me. I can choose to solely eat things that bring me life. I can even mix the two "in moderation", if I so desire. 

Dysfunction is much like this. I didn't know my normal wasn't normal until I saw a healthier model for doing life and relationships. I didn’t realize the people and situations I was constantly exposing myself to was directly affecting the amount of inflammation around my heart. In a constant state of turmoil and emotional upheaval. So much unnecessary pain.

A friend suggested I follow a GAP diet for 30 days. Essentially, it’s an elimination diet that removes potential sources of pain, inflammation and allergic reactions to allow your body to get clean enough to notice and be aware of how it responds to certain foods. Sometimes we have to do this with toxic people and toxic situations, eliminate from our diet for a period of time before slowly reintroducing them to see how our heart responds to their presence.

After being introduced to and taught a healthier way of connecting, I now get to decide if I remain in dysfunction; if I choose solely to live in and cultivate healthy relationships; or if I live moderately, mixing the two. I’ve also noticed that after a period of extended elimination, while I can’t overindulge, I can tolerate some things that I once couldn’t stomach. 

The truth, whether food or relationships, remains the same. Only you get to decide how much dysfunction and unhealthiness you're going to participate in. Be kind to you and choose well.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Beauty for Ashes

“...this is what loss has taught me of love. Our house isn’t simply empty, our home has been emptied. Love makes a place in your life, it makes a place for itself in your bed. Invisibly, it makes a place in your body, rerouting all your blood vessels, throbbing right alongside your heart. When it’s gone, nothing is whole again.”
- An American Marriage

On the anniversary of my father’s death, nothing captures my last 365 days of loss more poignantly than this passage. Our home has been emptied. Dad’s room no longer holds his energy. Though last night in the dark, I was certain he stood in door, I felt him that strongly. The truth is, it has taken much of this year for us to find a different rhythm, and today, I feel like I’m exhaling for the first time since hospice rang my phone on Friday, May 19, 2017. I was convinced my mom would pass within this year of losing dad. Her own health issues and the way their lives had gnarled together over 48 years, I never envisioned a scenario that didn’t end with both of them lost to me. If I’m honest, in a lot of ways her dying would have been the easiest thing. It would have freed me from my obligations as a daughter and let me off the hook relationally. And yet, the Universe in all of its Cosmic Goodness handed my mom and I an invitation to participate in our own healing. In 365 days, I’ve watched my mom through sheer force of will and determination progress from being primarily bedridden to getting into a wheelchair with the assistance of home health aides to walking with a walker to walking with a cane to sometimes doing a quick shuffle with no assistance of her own accord from her bed to a chair. And like her physical progression, she and I have went from combative to distant to tap dancing fragility to cordial to warm and sharing laughs and conversation. I’m scared of the word friendship. It’s not a word I ever thought I could possibly use with my mom, but we both look at each other and know loss has handed us “something”. I never imagined a time when I could be in my mom’s house more than 3 or 4 days without alcohol to get me through. I never imagined a time when I could willingly pick up the phone and talk to my mom for more than 10 minutes without rolling my eyes in the top of my head. And I certainly never envisioned a day when my story would have any parts of restoration or contentment, and yet I feel like this is the gift the loss of my dad has handed my mom and I. We’ve intentionally had to choose not to come at each other from pain or the past or fear. And this is a different choosing. One where we are choosing each other and in doing so, restoration is unfolding. Will the emptied places left vacant by my dad ever be whole again? For sure, no. He was the constant that we all loved. But just as your senses tend to compensate for loss by strengthening another sense, my mom and I are compensating - and in this place, who we are together, who we are to each other is being strengthened day by day. Today, as I lay flowers upon my father’s grave to mark this one year anniversary of his passing, I will thank him for the seeds of life his death birth in mom and I. Truly, this is the nature of grace. Beauty for ashes. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018


Either Christ is Truth or He’s not. Either we are one with Him or we’re not. The lie of separation has perpetuated bad theology for far too long in our civilization. There are absolutely things we cannot make sense of and things we cannot explain, this is the mystery of life. The wonder of love. This is faith.

Things do happen that we can’t explain. That’s life. Too often in the vacuum of reason, we blame God. But even God said, “in this world you will have trouble...” Our hope and very breath is the affirming encouragement he finished that pronouncement with, “take heart. I have overcome the world.”

Yes, suffering, illness, pain, tragedy, evil are all a very real part of our existence. But God has no ego that demands or requires our idolatrous worship. He’s not some cosmic deity spinning bad tapestries to draw you closer to him or grab your attention.

This is the truth available for us as humans that are one with God, and once you see you can’t unsee. This is the love of God, the restoration and renewal of all things. This is redemption. God is with you. God is in you.

I am one with God and one with creation. Together, may we embrace all that life has to offer. May we celebrate our joys, mourn our sadness, grieve with those who grieve. May we love well and overcome evil with good.

Monday, April 23, 2018

I’m In

One of the best days of my life was the day my heart agreed with the intro to Element by Kendrick Lemar. I use to live waiting for the nod. You know what I mean? Wanting to be accepted by this group, acknowledged by those people, given a platform by that ministry. I lived on the edge of the inner circle, almost just in but never quite. Always  waiting for the invite into a position of prestige. “Pick me. Pick me. Don’t forget me.” The heart cry of an oft forgotten little girl who still just wanted to be chosen. 

Then one day Spirit offered me a golden ticket. It said simply, “You’re Invited.” And the wind agreed, “You’re in. You’re in. You’ve always been in.” But it didn’t feel like...enough. My ego longed for the validation of others. To be seen, to be known. To be welcomed. Without the approval of man, the I AM NOT roared louder than I AM. Then one day Truth asked, “What is it about their invitation that’s more important to you than mine? If you achieve said position, will you be more happy than you are right now? Will the ability to name yourself such and such grant you more fulfillment than you have in this moment?” 

Identity without belonging will always leave you wandering about the wilderness feeling insignificant. But that’s the thing about Truth. Once you see, you can’t unsee. 

The wind held the note that resonated with the truth of my being. The greatest position I can hold is being 100% true to my being. The greatest power I can wield is to love as the Divine loves. The most prestigious gift is being one with all creation. I belong - not merely to one tribe, one group, one particular ministry or organization. I belong in the Universe. 

I’m in. I’ve always been in. Now here’s  to your golden ticket. May your heart know this truth. That you too are invited to be and to belong. Hat tip to Kdot. May your heart keep making music that unveils Truth. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Awakening at Advent

At the sea
Before day breaks
Under the cover of night
The sky meets the sea
And you can tell they were 
Once one
Like the gong of a tuning fork
The ebb and flow of the waves resonate
Calling us all back to union
Awake, O sleeper
You too were once one
Arise and remember 
Your true position in the earth
Separation is an illusion
Your fragmented soul but a myth
In Him you live and move and have your being
The Divine among us
Within us
One with us
His name Immanuel
To remind us of what we have forgotten
To awaken us from our slumber
Peace on earth
You are joined to all
Goodwill toward men
Creation is begging 
For us to remember 
This moment requires
That we get it right
Even as light nears on the horizon
Through the lens
It still looks dark
Perceived as the end of a thing 
Yet we know it to be more
An invitation 
A door
What will you see when you look upon the darkness
Pause and remember 
What is easily forgotten 
In the light of day
Immanuel has come
Immanuel has risen
Immanuel is one with us