Initiating a Reconnect


I always despair of the world returning to “normal” after Christmas time. I just love that, for a while, it seems as though beauty and magic are evident to all. It is unavoidable for a while, glowing on every street corner, in the stores, neighborhood, and from many homes, whether or not they are decorated on the outside. It feels easier to believe in the wondrous and in people’s ability to be awed by the world around them during the holidays. And, yes, I do mean all of them: Christmas, Hannukah, Solstice, Yule, Kwanzaa, etc. They all have to do with light, miracles, better things; and, for a little while, hope feels tangible.

The work of Christmas feels harder when the lights are dimmed and decorations put away for another year. However, I know that the work of Christmas continues, nevertheless. That work of bringing light and love, encouragement and edification to the world around me, that is my purpose. However, I find that I have felt disconnected from that purpose in a way recently. I feel it as I struggle with time and space for reflection, with late nights in the blue light of my computer screen as I grade, the days that fill with needs and responsibilities and small metaphorical fires to be put out. I find myself struggling for connection. Not just connection outward to others but also inward to my own gifts and ministries, namely words and writing. I miss it. I want that connection back. I want to think deeply about the things I hear, read, and experience, contemplating their place and effect on my life—what it is and what it shall be.

I am feeling tugs and pulls on my heart to even newer chapters within this new course of our life. It’s life-giving and terrifying. But I have been praying for God to prepare me for whatever He has next for me.

I want to reconnect. I do not know how much easier it will be this year than last, but I want to try. I want to get back to that place where I am tapped in, to myself, to God, to my purpose in this world. Because there is still more out there for me: to learn, to give, to be, and to do. There is still more for you, too. And I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that the world needs the more we can connect to and become.

Photo by Getty Images

Advent 2020 ~ Wrapped in Love


As Advent wanes and Christmas draws nigh, we look to the pillar of love. Where does gentle love begin? Is it in the things we buy, package, and donate? The wishes we try to fulfill? Is it in the hours we give to rehearsals and practices? Is it in the presents tucked away with all the hopes for them bringing joy when opened? Is it in the moments when we let the To Do list fall by the wayside, when we just sit in the glow of the lights with the warmth of our dear ones in our arms? Is it in our voices lifted still with cries for mercy and justice?

Yes. This is where gentle love begins. In any of it. In all of it. In the small moments, the little things, in the corners of our hearts that we open up, in the generosity that we show, and in the quiet moments that we are mindful of and cherish. When we open ourselves up to let these beautiful things out, we let love and gentleness in as well. It refills us, reinforces us, and reminds us that we are dealing with very human hearts in a very humanly-flawed world.

The world, as we look at it today, is hard, uncertain, and frightening; it batters and beats and berates and bruises those who most need its mercy. We take that in day after day after day and fight not to let it make us hard in turn. We fight back with love and mercy, grace and gentleness. Let’s hold tightly to Love and hold each other gently, Friends.

As Christ showed love to the lost, the rejected, the ill, and the forgotten, let us do the same in this Advent season and on forward forever. Let us not lose that gentle love that makes humanity humane.

Let’s remember the love of our Lord who gave all He had for all of us. May we accept that fierce and gentle love, press its flame to our hearts, and share its light with those around us. May the world, and our Lord, know us by our Love.

Advent 2020 ~ Surprised by Joy


Have you been surprised by good things this year? In those moments when we laugh and smile and, for a glorious little while, things feel…normal? The word normal feels like a dangerous one these days, as though we are afraid of it because it might not be graspable, at least not the way we remember it. But, even if normal feels fleeting, joy is still here. Advent is a season of hope, of expectation. What are we expecting, though? We are expecting joy. Whether it be in the transcendent meaning of the Christmas season, the beauty of our homes, neighborhoods, or houses of worship, or the elation of children on Christmas morning, we normally expect joy to come from somewhere. This year, perhaps we are hoping rather than expecting. Perhaps we are praying, pleading, yearning for joy. Romans 15:13 blesses us, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

No matter where we are in our lives this year, joy is still here. It may not be where we expect it to be. Rather joy can be where we choose it to be, where we need it to be.

Joy can be in a child’s thoughtful prayers for others who are suffering or have less than they.

Joy can be in the belly-laugh of your partner, their face bright with a smile.

Joy can be in the wrapping of the perfect gift for a loved one, no matter how simple it may be.

No, Friends, joy may not be where we expect it this year, but it lingers where we need it.

Joy is still here.

Advent 2020 ~ Fashioning Peace Piecemeal


In the world in which we live, peace seems like a far-fetched dream. Peace in a world of sickness, fear, worry, and dread? Peace in a world of struggle, suffering, loneliness, and inequity? Yes, peace is hard to find. Yet it can be found. Jesus holds it in His hands, its tiny flame dancing and throwing just enough light to glow in our eyes. Here, His heart says to ours. Here is a bit of peace.

A bit of peace in a glorious sunrise filling the sky with painted fire and jeweled clouds.

A bit of peace in a quiet house after little ones are abed, the fireplace or the wind outside the only sounds for a few moments.

A bit of peace in an unexpected card or gift that brings a smile to our faces.

A bit of peace in that favorite comforting song coming on the radio.

A bit of peace in the right words said at the just the right time.

Here is peace built piecemeal, one bit at a time. We may not be able to see peace on a large scale, but we can find it in its bits and pieces all around. We can find the tiny dancing flames and press them warm to our heart and soul. If only we know how to look for the little bits, the hidden bits. We can cup our hands around Jesus’s hands and smile with Him over peace built piecemeal. Together all those little flames can cast light in the darkness, enough light to warm every heart.

Advent 2020 ~ The Flicker of Hope’s Flame


2020 has barreled its way through our lives like so much of a stampede, seeming to batter and crush anything in its way. Our days have often been swathed in worry, upheaval, pain, and grief. We have spent this year living in the space between breaths.

We acknowledge the losses, the pain, the change, the struggles, and the sadness of this year. We take 2020 to heart because it has affected every corner of our lives.

But there is something else that we take to heart, Friends. In all of the struggle, in all of the hard, we take Hope to heart. We grasp the Hope that we now celebrate today. We grasp the Hope of Jesus’ Coming. We grasp the Hope furnished by His birth, His life, His death, and His rising again. We take to heart the Hope that is grown and nourished by His Love, His Joy, and His Peace.

We can take that Hope to our heart and soul. There may not be much or anything that we can do on a large scale to stem the tide of struggle seemingly inherent within this year, but we can do our best to live in Hope. We can do our best to live in Peace. We can love, hold, do good unto, and care for others, for those who surround us. We can forgive. We can give grace instead of sinking into bitterness and despair.

We can hold on to Hope.

Decking New Halls


I am finishing my coffee before my TO DO list for the day begins and I start prepping for my first holiday season in our new home. I have the food to cook for my little family tomorrow as we tamp down our Thanksgiving celebrations. But now comes the tidying, the cleaning, the preparing, and, after tomorrow, the decorating. I still do not have all the Christmas decorations that I could desire but I know that such stockpiles take time, as I am rebuilding them from scratch since the move.

It feels odd to be preparing to dress up a new house for the first time in twelve years. In our old little cottage–which, by the way, we signed the final sale paperwork for last night (big feels!)–I knew where all my decorations went. I knew how I liked things set up and where things had to go in my living room configuration. Nothing was huge or elaborate, but they were there, a constant reminder of stability. Our tree with its silver, blue, and white ornaments, spattered with sentimental ones, glowed in the living room, crowed with its silver star that Ben and Elizabeth put on together every year. It must be the absolute last thing on the tree. I had the same wreath with its silver and white ribbons and flowers for fourteen years. It had had multiple birds’ nests built into it in early springs and then cleaned out once the babies and parents had vacated. The little potted pre-lit tree (that had been our family Christmas tree while we had a cat and small baby) sat faithfully on the front porch, decorated with flowers, leaves, Easter eggs, etc., throughout the differing seasons by myself and my daughter. The silver stockings hung on their snowflake hangers from the dvd shelf, under the compilation frame of family photos and frame by fir branches with silver poinsettas. The nativity scene that my Erin brought back for me from Malawi was set up on the bookshelf, the camel I found at Levi Coffin Days (an almost-perfect match) tucked in amongst the wise men to complete the set.

This year, I will need to figure out just how things will fit in this new house with its new rooms and spaces. I know where the tree is going, and we have a “glowy star” this year, per my daughter’s request and choosing. I haven’t bought any stockings or hangers for the mantlepiece yet (I have a real actual mantlepiece, you guys!), though truly the only one whose stocking gets stuffed any more is my daughter. She has her new one for her door already picked out. Harry Potter, of course.

So this will be a year of starting new in more ways than one. I am trying not to think about not having “enough” to decorate my house this year. What I really want is for my home to be warm, welcoming, and soothing because this will be a holiday season that is already missing some very important people. So I want my home to be a place of uplifting, hygge, and comfort for those hard moments. I want that Christmas-y feeling. Not to avoid the hard moments necessarily but to help them perhaps be not quite so heavy.

I’m trying, dear ones, I really am. But Target is calling my name…

I Remember November


I am missing a lot this November. I don’t just mean our normal holiday plans being curtailed because of the pandemic. I missing my November school routine. I am in a new position and school this year, as you know, and I find myself missing the routines and traditions of my previous community.

Right around now, my students and I would have been finishing our drama reading of A Christmas Carol. We would have talked about empathy, kindness, self-isolation, social duty, being a part of the world instead of closing ourselves off from it. We would have put our discussions and my admonitions into action by collecting food for local families to give them a hearty Thanksgiving meal when they might not have the means to do so for themselves, students sitting in our very period having sometimes been the recipients of that generosity. It made an impact for my teenage heroes to know that their schoolmates, classmates, a person sitting next to them could either benefit or go without as a direct result of their action or inaction. It was their chance to be Scrooge, either his old self or the new.

Then, next week, right before Thanksgiving, we would all dress up, pack our lunches, and pile on the buses to head into downtown Indianapolis to watch this story brought to magical life on the stage of Indiana Repertory Theatre. It was the official start of the holiday season for many in our school, that trip to the theatre. I got to take my students, many of whom would not have been able to afford it otherwise, to one of the most beautiful theatres in the state to view professional and young actors alike bring to life characters into whom my own students had breathed over the past few weeks as we read the play aloud.

I miss that this year. I miss tearing up as I broke down Marley’s monologue for students, his regret, his remorse, his wish he had done more but was now powerless to do anything at all. I miss hearing the sniffles scattered throughout my classroom upon Tiny Tim’s death and his family’s grief. I miss clapping my hands on my hips with my best Cockney accent and bantering with the student playing Old Joe as one of the washerwomen pawning Scrooge’s belongings after his grim future death.

I miss talking to my students about love, compassion, gratitude, generosity, starting over, doing better, having courage, and being kind.

“But you can still do that!” voices around me cry.

Ostensibly that may be true, but, right now, in the world and schedules in which we live, it feels as though there is no time. No time to stray down these paths of social-emotional encouragement, wellness, and growth. No time–regardless of what we have been told to the contrary–to set aside the academics and teach my students was is true and good and most important in the world. While intentions may be good in telling us that academics can be set aside, that sure is not the way it feels to me as a teacher. The impetus and imperative to produce grades and results feel as heavy and insistent as ever.

I am trying to tie these important values and character practices in to what we are discussing now in my new classroom, when we connect our readings back to our first quarters’ themes of Values and Justice, courage, integrity, and equity. I am trying. I promise you, I am trying.

But it’s hard. The soil of many souls feels frozen, walled off, and protected in these difficult times. We are facing more illness, more death, and even more separation as the times of coming together draw nearer and nearer. It’s hard.

I miss November.

Come Rest Yourself


It’s been an exhausting year, hasn’t it, capped off by an even more exhausting week? We are not at the end yet but I can definitely attest to having let out a huge breath earlier this afternoon. Then I promptly dozed off in the overstuffed chair in which I sat, the background noise of conversation on the tv finally lulling me off.

Rest, though my goal for this year, has been extremely hard to come by. I thought I had struck a better balance with it during the winter and then again during the stay-at-home orders, but, ever since then, life has felt more frenetic, frantic, and fraught than ever. And the year isn’t over yet.

Thankfully, though, the election is. Yes, I know that there are processes and protocols left to complete, but, for now, it feels as though we can sit for a moment, place our swords and shield and bows one the ground beside us, and breathe.

I have set up the blanket fort (bigger on the inside, of course) and filled it with soothing, comforting things. Come rest yourself, dear ones. There is still work to be done but, for now, put your armor down and rest.

The Netflix Category We All Desperately Need


A few weeks ago, The Great British Baking Show returned to Netflix, and I sat down to figuratively devour new episodes and just bask in the “nice-ness” of it. If you have been reading my blog for a while now, you may have run across my post For the Love of Sweet (Baked) Community where I detailed my love for GBBS and the impetus for that love, which is the sweet community they have built and maintain on GBBS. People being genuinely kind and encouraging and helpful to each other, never mind the fact that they are in competition, that just fills my softie Hufflepuff heart.

As I began to watch this new season of GBBS, I found myself crying and babbling soggily to my husband about how much I had missed this, how much I needed this, something this sweet and good and kind in a world that feels as though it’s constantly falling apart. It felt like the sweetest of steadying hugs in a time that is consistently leaving me wobbly.

“This is what the world needs!” I exclaimed, “Netflix should have a category JUST for shows like this!”

“Write it,” he replied matter-of-factly, Write up the listicle then. What shows would you put in that category? Write it.”

And while I am sure it has been done already, perhaps even many times, I think I shall.

Netflix, you are hereby on notice! I expect to see a category of this type populated with the loveliest of shows before this hellish year is over.

**Shows with Relatively Low Stakes Where People Make Beautiful/Delicious Things and are Genuinely Nice to Each Other.**

The Great British Baking Show – people making delicious baked goods; challenging their skills; encouraging and helping each other.

The Great British Baking Show: Masterclass – Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry: baking together for everyday and holidays, cute quips and delightful conversation; genuine friendship shining through.

Lords and Ladles – world class chefs and friends Derry Clarke, Catherine Fulvio, and Paul Flynn: sharing duties, learning about food and its relationship to history and different families, historical research and context to make a meal memorable.

Making It – hosted by real-life and on-screen friends Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman (Parks and Rec): DIYers come together to make gorgeous, imaginative homemade projects, helping and encouraging each other along the way with their creations, as well as being encouraged and cheered on by their genuinely kind and enthusiastic hosts.

Hollywood Game Night – hosted by Jane Lynch: a fun, silly 45 minutes with celebrities and their fans having ridiculous fun, snacks, and laughs, just like friends, at a raucous game night that would be the embarrassment of ever progeny (because you know how we adults can get).

The Voice – well-known vocal artists encouraging and coaching talented, brilliant new ones who, undoubtedly, leave the show better than they arrived; lots of cheering on, ego boosts, encouragement in growth, and emotional uplifts from both coaches and fellow team members.

Sarah and Duck – While this is not a “creative” show, per say, it is definitely one of my absolute favorite feel-good shows. Created by the BBC, little Sarah and her best friend Duck, accompanied by a caring Narrator, traipse through a beautiful animated world of diverse characters, problems to be solved, and simple, wonderful moments to be enjoyed. It is the ultimate quiet time show with soothing music and the sweetest scenarios.

This is just a handful of the shows that, over the past seven years, have made me incredibly happy and that can always bring a smile to my face. They have been blanket-forts of solace and comfort in the midst of the crazy of life, something that we all deeply and dearly need right now, as much as or even more than ever before.

So…what do you say, Netflix? Hook some happiness junkies up?

Not Black Enough for Magic


There are days when I look in the mirror and I am troubled by what I see, or, rather, by what I feel at what I see. My skin is the color of Cadbury’s milk chocolate where the sun hits it regularly; the skin hidden under my clothing is more caramel, though it looks like cafe au lait next to my arm. My daughter, when she was little, would pretend that I was chocolate and she was going to gobble me up. It has hit home for me, though–harder in recent years–that I have never felt “black enough”.

When I was little, I was teased by kids at school for my celebrity crushes: boys like Jonathan Taylor Thomas (“Home Improvement”) and Nick Carter (Backstreet Boys). I was told that I wished I were white, the idea voiced for me as though it were a pronouncement handed down from the mount. I was thin as a rail growing up; I didn’t have a body built for curves until almost 30 years later. I have been relaxing my hair since I was twelve and have worn it this way for now twice as long as I had it natural. I like it, but, sometimes, I can keenly feel the lack of my “blackness” because I don’t proudly wear my hair natural and free or intricately, traditionally, or boldly styled. In my first classroom as a full-time teacher, I had several black students who were, as I overheard, quite excited to have a black teacher. The disappointment and even confusion on their face when I opened my mouth and started speaking, was starkly visible to me even though they may not have realized it. I can only hope it didn’t stick.

When “Black Panther” first came out, I scrolled through the joyous pictures of people attending screenings and premiers in all their traditional African finery. It was amazing and beautiful and triumphant. But, somewhere in the midst of it all, I beheld their glory and felt the worm in my heart that whispered, “This is not for me. I have no place here.”

I am a brown-skinned, American-born, full-blooded Caribbean woman from a melting-pot island where I never felt black enough for many of the people around me. Now I live in a place that demands the necessary acknowledgement that black lives matter. (Spoiler alert: we do!) But, again, that worm in the apple in there:

“None of this is for me, or maybe I am not for it. I’m not black enough for this to be for me.”

My curves don’t shine like midnight or my skin glow like dawn. My hair doesn’t surround me in a crown of ombre curls or fall like watered black silk over my shoulders. I haven’t had to power through discrimination and prejudice in my higher education or workplace world (at least not consciously or overtly) in order to be successful. I have lived the most privileged of lives of color, for which I am immensely grateful. In other words, however, I haven’t had to fight for every inch like so many have been forced to do.

There are days when I half-wish that I had no color to feel less than, days that I just don’t feel black enough for any of this black girl magic to belong to me.

But then my daughter says, upon hearing the book Brown Boy Joy read on Netflix’s Bookmarks series, “I wish there was a brown girl joy.”

And so I put my queen-mom heels on and trot out Black Girl Magic Sprinkles (Chaunetta Anderson and Trinity L. Anderson), Honeysmoke (Monique Fields), and Sulwe (Lupita Nyong’o) for my little mixed beauty. My little girl who calls her summery skin “tan”. My little girl who needs to know that all the magic is hers, all the dreams are hers for the taking. She wants to build robots and go to Mars. I want her to build the robots and rockets that will go and then accompany them to Mars.

I want my girl to work and strive and do her best and achieve all the amazing dreams she has. I am doing my best to teach her openness and love, that hard work is nothing to be feared, and that there is always something to be learned, ways in which we can be better. As Princess Shuri (the officially most brilliant mind in the Marvel Cinematic Universe) admonished her kingly brother T’Challa, “How many times do I have to teach you? Just because something works, that does not mean it cannot be improved.”

I want my daughter to tap into her magic every day, to feel it in every way! I will nurture and defend her black girl magic and her right to it until my dying breath.

I may not feel black enough for my own magic, but I damn sure have enough for my daughter and any other black, brown, or mixed kiddo who may walk through my door. I will fight tooth and nail for their magic even though and while I may be iffy about my own. It’s complicated and called being human, I guess.