I found myself in a bad situation the other morning. Today I said goodbye to a rather sweet work at home job. I knew it was coming long before the hammer dropped. The signs were there and despite the fact that I was falling in my stats I held out hope. I am not a person to give up easily when faced with adversity. I will be honest though I have been known to gripe along the way. So today when the hammer finally hit closing a chapter in my life I had to stop and think.
There was a part of me that wanted to scream to the heaven why me because I really liked my job. But there was another part which is often quietly whispering (perhaps because I think so much). It was a quiet calmness that caught me off guard. Aside from the emotions of having to change things around in my life I was okay. I had things basically figured out I just now had to walk in them. You’d be amazed at the things we put in front of destiny due to fear or just plain old procrastination. For me it was a little bit of both. I had flirted with the idea of stepping out on my own and really working at my business but at first fear had me within its grips. Once I got past fear and had good footing in the idea I procrastinated. I figured I would always make my way back to getting it done because I had already figured it out. Well the funny thing about procrastination is that the issue you are putting off always comes to sneak up on you. Today was that day.
Good for me that I was ready. Not completely though, I won’t lie. But I heard the call for months to move and I ignored it. A job is a sure thing, its a sure check and pretty predictable. Even when my job changed from being “predictable” I stayed with hopes of riding the wave out. I guess my little surf board landed back on the beach- the wave was over. So now I put my focus on where it should have been the whole time-on God, on his plan.
To step slowly out to the edge of the water with hopes on not drowning, today I act in complete faith. To walk boldly with no idea of where the destination will take me, I go eagerly. Sometimes you hear God speaking but you are afraid to move. In a sense even procrastination is fear to act. I am going to move, to act, to run toward whatever destiny God has for me.
On Saturday I met up with my cousin. I was so excited to see her because she seems to have a hand in all things beauty. I confess she is my go to person when I want to know anything about glam. Now I had been having a small craving for lashes since before my birthday and this seemed like just the time to get them done. Of course she obliged and I was over the moon. My lashes were so nice and I felt so pretty. I think my head might have swelled to the size of the sun. Nothing could take away the pep in my step…that is until Sunday.
My husband and I were in a rush for a new church we wanted to try out. I was shoving a million things in my purse but I could see my youngest daughter staring at me. I should have known right then that something was up. I just assumed that she noticed my lashes. I paid her no mind when I saw her and her sister playing with their lashes in the rear view mirror. I should have paid attention. I wish I had paid attention.
Church was winding down by the time the devastation was about to play out. I was so busy listening to the preacher that I didn’t really care that my youngest was stroking my face. She has this way of being extra tender (her love language is touch) that nothing seem odd about it. That is until she reached up and pulled my lash. Not only did she pull it but she tugged at a few times. I quietly swatted her hand away but she reached up again. “Mama, what is on your eye?” she said to me. I gave her the shush!!!
I’ve got to say that this false confidence I have rolling at times has often come back to get me. This was one of those times. I refocused back on the preacher and put her little inquiry behind me. The mom intuition did not kick in for this one. She reached up once more and pulled hard. Off came the lash. Not only that but part of my real eye lashes as well. I snapped my head down to look at her and the lash. She looked up at me stunned and had the nerve to frown at my eye. She looked back down at the lash and tried to put it back on my eye. I took the lash back. All of a sudden there was something very interesting in my bible, so much so that I needed to keep my head down for the rest of the sermon to examine it.
I managed to get the lash back on. However I could feel it flapping about- something was wrong. I couldn’t get my hands back to the lash because I was now busy holding hands and carrying all of my junk I brought to church. I just hoped that I was presentable. On the way out I noticed the preacher standing at the door. Most of the time I love seeing churches where the preacher still meets his congregation- today was not that day. He shook Hubby’s hand and wouldn’t you know it, he realized he didn’t know him. They struck up a small conversation in which the preacher asked how we found out about the church. My husband, always the honest one pointed back to me. The preacher looked at me and smiled. He stood back a bit and we began to chat. My typical behavior set in,
the kind when I am nervous, I began to look down. I wanted the conversation to be over so bad. I apologized in my mind if I seemed rude but I had this odd feeling that this lash (that had now started to burn my eye) had gone haywire.
Our conversation finally concluded and I bolted for the car. I didn’t want to meet up with anyone else until I could check out this eye. Once we got in and settled down I flipped open the visor. To my surprise my makeup was still nice. However there was an eyelash on my cheek. I could see my youngest in the mirror pointing at me to her sister laughing.
I remember there was a time where it seemed like all of my stresses were coming at me at once. I couldn’t focus on much of anything that wasn’t negative. Even more sad was that I am pretty sure that I was not a good friend to chat with. One particular day my home-girl gave me a call. It just so happens that it was one of the days that my stresses came to cash their checks. I couldn’t say too much of anything positive or wasn’t filled with some sort of victim mindset. Like a true friend she redirected my focus. Instead of calling me out for my poor thought process she told me that I was letting my feelings win.
Something in me was triggered when I heard those words. I got off the phone with her and got really quiet. Sometimes God is talking we just have to shut up, and that is exactly what I did. When my mind stopped racing I began to think more clear. It wasn’t about my problems but about my current situation. Not my current issue but what I was actually doing at that moment. I standing in the kitchen cup in hand fretting. But my current situation was even more than I had thought of in that moment. There I was up running my motor mouth full of emotions and I had not realized that I was alive, I was well, and although things weren’t perfect I was able to use my motor mouth to give praise in the midst of my storm.
My mouth was shut- I could not believe that I had forgotten that one tool in “battle”. Sometimes we are so consumed with the defeat we think we have that we cannot see what is really happening. Don’t let the troubles of this world stop up the praise of your mouth. I felt immediately ashamed. I opened my mouth and said, “Lord”. One word to describe the magnitude of grace I felt was more than enough. It was as if the troubles of my life were slowly trying to put glasses on my vision. When I opened my mouth the shroud of defeat left.
The funny part was this was not the only time that day I would have to redirect my focus. After I left the kitchen I found myself in a deep praise with God. I was so excited and happy that those earlier issues seemed small. I didn’t take my mind off the stresses but I did make a point to see them differently. I put my focus on God. A bit later my friend ended up calling me back. She was stunned at how overjoyed I sounded. The praise break was just that great. I began telling her how wrong I was in my focus. I ended up thanking her for getting through to me with love.
Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. Psalms 8:2
If anyone knows me personally then you know the current struggle I face. It is a hard one and while I put my best foot forward I will admit that it is a daily struggle. It seems and it may just be me, but it seems that I can trust God with a matter of all things but I have the hardest time giving over matters of the heart. But in this matter I am forced in a way I have never been before. The irony is even when we struggle God has a way of reminding us that he is always near and does care.
The other day I was wrapping up a bible lesson with my girls. I was trying to stress the importance of having complete faith in God and what it meant to trust in him. I was trying my best to level out the very serious subject of faith in a way they could understand. I wanted them to understand just how powerful a weapon they were given. I wasn’t sure if they understood. My youngest repeated everything I said back to her with a smile. My oldest just looked at me with a blank stare. I’ll be honest, I felt like it wasn’t my brightest moment as a parent. I was sure that I had talked my head off for the last thirty minutes in vain.
So you can imagine my surprise when my oldest decides that our walk to the bus stop would be the perfect time to resume bible study. I listened to her speak trying to see just how much she had retained from the night before. I was surprised (I have to stop looking at her deadpan face as an indicator of her reception). When we finally stopped at the bus stop my phone rang. I picked it up and began talking to my grandmother. I could see my oldest out of the corner of my eye playing around with sticks and leaves. I became so engrossed in my conversation with my grandmother that I turned my back to her for just a few moments. I even began to pace the cul-de-sac.
In one moment of what I liked to call (at that time) maternal instinct I had turned around just to see my daughter diving backward toward the pavement. I ran over to her and caught her in mid fall. The mother in me asked her what on earth she was doing. How did she know I would see her? I asked if she was willing to take the risk that I wouldn’t. Her response was the best I have ever heard. She said to me, “I knew you would. No matter what I am doing you are always watching me”. Then she told me that she knew that even if she could not see me that I could see her. She said she had faith in me to catch her.
I laughed to myself because I knew it was true. I didn’t know quite how it was true but I knew it was. You see as a kid I was a prankster. As good as I was I could never sneak up on my mother. It would drive me insane. No matter how quiet I was or how stealthy I was at creeping up behind her she would catch me. One time I got so close I could touch her. Right when my hand reached to get her she turned around at looked at me. I was frozen in mid-air. I could not figure out how she got me. Later she would tell me she could feel me breathing on her hair. LOL.
The point I am trying to make is that even in times when we feel like we cannot see God moving in our lives doesn’t mean he isn’t. We get so caught in our trials and stresses that we forget an important thing. God is always watching. It doesn’t matter how close we are to the pavement or how swift we are seemingly falling. We need to remember that his eye is always on us. We need to remember that the same love and surety that allowed me to run and catch her are the same traits that are active in our father. I thanked God silently in my head for the lesson she taught me about the bible study. Sometimes it takes a child to help you remember the most basic things about God. How could I forget? All the times God held me in his hand to keep me from falling-had forgot to trust him now when things seemed to be falling.
I thank God for children. They take what you teach them and give it back to you when you need it most. While she grabbed her backpack and head for the bus steps I waved bye and held back tears. I needed that gift that morning. And while the bus took off down the street I took that quiet trek back home to spend time with him.
It was a typical day with my little ones. We were in the living room taking in my favorite show of all time, My Little Pony (side eye, rolling into my head). The TV was low enough that while I was scrolling an endless list of unanswered emails I could hear the small talk of little ones. I’ll admit while I wasn’t totally paying attention to every detail of their conversation I noticed nothing amiss, that is until I heard it. My head popped up from the computer screen and I locked eyes with Big L. Her face was innocent enough, proving to me that she didn’t know the magnitude of what she was saying. She looked at me, waiting, waiting on an answer to her innocent request.
“Mama”, she said to me. At this time Little L turned to me as well. They sat looking expectantly at me. I stood somewhere in between complete awe that the question had arrived this early in her life and wonderment of where she could have heard the word. But before I could speak she said it again, “Mama, let’s talk about NI99As”, she smiled. I looked from Big L to Little L. In that moment nothing on the computer screen was as important as this conversation.
There was an odd sense to the irony. Most African American parents would be furious to have the word come from a four year old. They would assume that the four year old heard it because someone said it to them or they overheard people close by. None of that was important to me. Why? Well for starters we live in a world where that word is commonplace whether it’s our own people who use it in music, television or in passing conversation. Furthermore, it is still a derogatory word used by people with the intention to hurt, shame, or belittle. I decided to focus on making sure that word was never said again in my house or out of her mouth.
I realized that as she aged she’d come into contact with different people. While I’d love to be there to protect her from everything malicious in the world, the reality is I can’t. And as I watch her grow older I know that the things I teach and implant in her now will guide her when she is out of my reach. The goal was not to scold her. I’d be gentle in helping her understand not just the word itself but how to recognize anything that felt similar. Because sadly enough, I knew she’d hear it again.
I told them to come close to me and sit at my feet. I told her to look at me. I asked her what she saw. She replied, “You look sad, are you going to cry?” That was the exact reaction I wanted her to see. I asked her if she knew what it meant to pick at people or what it felt like when people made fun of her. Then I asked her for an example. Once she gave it to me I asked her how she felt when that happened. Her reply was sad and lonely. I then shared with her why I was sad. I told her the word is used to make people feel sad and it is used to pick at people. I told her that if anyone used that word toward her then it was not in a nice way and that the word should never be used again because it hurts. She then told me that she was sorry that it hurt me and that should would not use it again. But her next question was all the more important, “What does it mean?”. I couldn’t have been happier that she asked.
I was glad she asked what it meant because just saying a word is bad does not guarantee that it will remain unspoken. I do understand that some feel like using it takes the sting out of the initial meaning. However, if the initial meaning can still be used to completely humiliate another person then did you really disable it? I personally do not care about the word, it’s meaningless to me because it has no power in my life. My strength comes with God not mans perceived worth of me. My individuality and uniqueness are a badge not a disgrace. A word can never incapacitate me. However, I understand that people hung and marched so that I could arrive at it being useless. For that I am grateful but I will not allow my child to be oblivious to its meaning while she is not old enough to consider its worth.
I redirected her to my skin. She and I are colored differently. While I and Little L are what some would consider light, Big L and my husband are browner. I asked her what she saw as I pointed to my skin. She said light brown (she has grown, because at one point she said I was dark pink, then orange). Then I pointed to her, then asked about different friends and family members. I told her that we were all different shades of brown. But the word is used to group us all as “One”. One group not good enough, not measuring up, not like the rest. I told her that because we are not like others it is a word used to show that we are different, to make fun of being different.
Always the kid with a million questions, she went on, “Why are we different?” So without getting into genetics and things that the four year old mind cannot understand I did what most parents do. I told her a tale and made it good!