Blooming into May


All around my house right now are flowers. I have baskets of impatiens hanging from the top of my porch in brilliant purples and oranges. There are braided hibiscus trees in plots just before the porch, one with a bright yellow bloom already nestled among its green. And standing sentinel by the side of the house are brilliant red mandevilla, already heavy with blossoms on their little potted trellises.

I do not usually have so many plants about because, to tell the truth, I have a black thumb and cannot raise anything flora that depends upon me for survival. But I am so glad to have these flowers and their glorious colors around to brighten my spring. I miss my hardy, self-sufficient annuals at our previous home and how the little garden plots in the front and side of the house would bloom with snowdrops, daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, and lilies every spring and summer, and it gave my heart such joy to see such gorgeous life filling my little world. I love flowers and their elegance, their detailed meanings, heady and intoxicating aromas, even though I am not the best at cultivating them.

That’s rather like life, isn’t it? I do not have to be good at everything or an expert in the process to be able to appreciate the beauty of the result. I do not need to hover over and control every little detail for a venture to be successful; there are some things that really do take care of themselves. Things do not always need to be perfect for me to be grateful and plans do not always need to be laid out to produce a wonderful result. I am not good at raising or taking care of flowers or plants, yet they cover my head in beauty and fill my imagination with gorgeousness, and for that I could not be more grateful.

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Taste of Memory


Have you ever tried to recreate a taste memory? When I was picking up a few things from the supermarket this week, my eyes fell on a package of English muffins. Instantly, I had the starkest memory of bread, butter, and strawberry mingling together in an amazement of breakfasty deliciousness. The memory was so strong that my stomach growled in want.

Yes, Dear Reader, I bought the English muffins. On Saturday morning, I toasted one nice and crispy, slathered the halves with butter and strawberry jelly, and settled down with my coffee. That first taste…ohhhhhh! It was the beginning of summer all over again! Creamy, crispy, and sweet, it poked just the right spot in my brain. It is rare for taste to have that strong a memory power over me without having actually tasted anything. I love food but scent has always been the most closely-tied sense to memory for me. So to have such a poignant taste-based memory was both striking and startling, and I’m finding myself wanting more of it. More of tastes that poke my brain and connect me to nostalgia and comfort so strong that all I can do is devour what’s in front of me.

It happened again yesterday afternoon as my family and some friends met for dinner at a local Latin cuisine restaurant. As I tucked into Venezualan beef, white rice, black beans, and sweet, soft plantains, that first bite of meat and rice hit so hard that I felt the taste memory of it in my sinuses. I stopped participating in the table conversation and concentrated wholly on the food before me, reveling in familiar flavors, perfect textures, and comforting combinations.

In days that are still indelibly difficult at times, moments like these have become equally, unspeakably precious to me. Moments of tumbling into happy and remembering that, yes, life is full of good. The world may be on fire, or we may be angry at it, or cowed/beaten down by it, but there is still brightness, still moments of light. Maybe it is in a familiar bite, a comforting sweet, a warm cuppa cradled in your hands, or the smell of popcorn reminding you of fun nights at the movies or fair. Let’s savor those moments of brightness, of comforting deliciousness, hold them close, and devour them down. May they become new memories that comfort us and make us smile on the harder days.

Doing the Work of Resting


I fear at times that I have lost the art of rest. I do try, certainly. I attempt rest, but I am never quite sure that I have accomplished it or even neared it. I do all the “self-care” things, I treat myself, but they are often a fleeting comfort at best. A hot bath or shower here, a nap or massage there, but the peace found there does not last.

Some of the best “rest time” I have gotten lately was standing before the screen door of my front porch early of a Saturday morning, the winter-cool air pouring in and causing my fresh coffee to steam, and watching the early-morning light sparkle over the frosted grass with my cat. Those few moments felt like breathing in peace with the cold in my lungs and the warmth of the coffee in my belly. Like Jesus was stood right there beside, His arm around my shoulder, and His chuckle in my ear at Jack’s chattiness about the Outside.

Perhaps I am re-learning that rest is not a wholesale destination but rather a cycle. A cycle of finding quiet pockets of rest. Maybe it is not constantly feeling zen and at peace. Maybe rest is just settling into those moments that surprise us with their quietude and allowing ourselves to be quiet and still, too. 

So I will try to sink into those soft moments, on my couch before my fireplace, when the library is empty, or when my bathtub is full and steaming with my cat curled up alongside to chaperone my immersion. I will do the work of rest, of shutting out the world for a little while, because I am allowed to. Because I need to.

Photo by shutterstock

My Candle Wish for the New Year


As I sat down to have my coffee this morning, I found myself staring at the words on the back of my badger crest mug, the traits of the house. Loyalty, kindness, honesty, friendship. As this year starts to see itself out with all its difficulty tonight, I shall light my candle and place it on the porch table again, just as I did at Winterdark (winter solstice), to lend its light to the night as the year slips around the corner. But, as I looked at my mug, I found myself composing my wish. I don’t think it breaks the rules to tell you what this wish and, ultimately, prayer is, as it is for you. For all of us.

I wish you Loyalty, dear Reader. I wish you the loyalty of chosen family, of the dear ones and neighbors with whom you have surrounded yourself and built your little world. I wish you the loving loyalty of any blood family who has stood by you in all and sundry. But, most of all, I wish you the loyalty of empathy, of someone who is as willing to put themselves into your shoes and walk that mile with you (or carrying you) as you would be in your turn. I guess that wish also places a responsibility on you and me, but…that is how it works, isn’t it?

I wish you Kindness, the kind of kindness that wells up from unknown places, the action that springs forward without second-thought or consideration. I wish you the kind of kindness that comes naturally along with the willingness to accept it from others. May you receive kindness without the burden of “paying it back” settling on your shoulders and soul. May you give kindness without the disappointment of expecting reciprocation. I wish you kindness without strings, ribbons, or tags. May you give and receive it in free measure in the coming year, each to each as the moment calls for.

I wish you Honesty, dear heart. I wish you the honesty to admit when things are hard. I wish you the ability to be honest about when you don’t know what to do, what to say, or how to feel. I wish you the honesty to sit in the discomfort without the need to fix things or make it better because, frequently, that is not what we or others need. I wish you the honest boundaries when you cannot take on any more emotional weight and to be able to say so. I wish you the brave honesty to admit when what you are feeling needs more than a “self-care day” or when your sadness needs more than just “a nappy-nap or a snack to get yourself right”. I wish you the honesty to reach out your hand in your struggling and say, “I need help.” And when someone else says so to you in their own desperate turn, I wish you the honesty to see their hurt and their pain, keep trite sympathy behind your teeth, and walk with them in that hard place to their needed next step. I wish you the honesty you need in the moments you face.

Finally, I wish you Friendship. I wish you the type of friendship that rings or texts your phone in the middle of dinner to check in on you, just because. I wish you the type of friendship that holds sacred space for you all to speak into and be heard. I wish you the type of friendship that provides a balm for the hidden wounds you are carrying and recognizes when you just do not have it in you to be effusive. I wish you the quiet friendships that are always there and do not require you to be “on” all the time, but allow you to flop into the pathetic little potato (or, as Gemma Correll puts it, “permanently exhausted pigeon”) you need to be at times. I wish you the soft hands required when your dear one comes to you with their wounds needing tending. When I think of deep, abiding friendship, often the spoken words of Sara Bareilles’s song “You Matter to Me” come back:

I hope someday, somebody wants to hold you for twenty minutes straight
They don’t pull away, they don’t look at your face
[…] All they do is wrap you up in their arms and hold on tight without an ounce of selfishness in it
[…] I hope you become addicted to sayin’ things and having them matter to someone.

I wish you to be able to be the friend that is needed and to have the friendship that you need, dear Reader.

As 2021 turns the far corner and 2022 peeks around the near one, I wish all of these things for you. I wish you these pillars that hold us up in the hard times. As I light the candle tonight and set it against the darkness amidst the turning of the world, I pray that you will feel a warmth…somehow, somewhere…and you will know it to be someone who cares about you. I wish you the gentlest of New Years, dear one. May it be blest.

Advent 2021: The Beginning of Christ (Christmas Eve)


Despite the well-known Christmas song, we can be fairly certain that the night that Jesus was born was anything but quiet. Between a city full of people, a stable full of animals, a sky full of angels, and a woman full of pain, “silent” was likely not a word one would have used to describe that night in Bethlehem. And yet, into all that noise, the Lion of Judah came in the form of a tiny, squawling, lambsoft baby. In the midst of her exhaustion, I imagine that Mary cuddled him close, using what she had learned from helping her cousin Elizabeth to clean, swaddle, feed, and rock her holy son to sleep, her lamb slumbering in a manger. Amidst all the clamor of that night, this most important of events was definitely not center-stage, but, tonight on Christmas Eve, we celebrate it first and foremost. We celebrate the work of Christ that was begun on that night in a solitary stable and ended on a seemingly hopeless hill 33 years later. Tonight, as Advent ends, we celebrate Christmas’s beginning. We have expected, we have prepared, and now we rejoice.

Let Heaven and Nature sing, joy to the world. The Lord has come.

Merry Christmas to you all, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.

Art by Jay Bryant Ward

Advent 2021: How Great Our Joy


My mother’s favorite Christmas carol is “Joy to the World”. Joy to the world! The Lord has come! This is one of few triumphant traditional Christmas hymns. Most of them are songs of hope and expectation, but this one…oh, this one! This is a song of celebration! Of adulation of God’s plan accomplished, of the banishment of sorrow, and the raining down of blessing. It is a song of literal joy, both in its tone and in its directive.

As Advent comes to a close this week with the beginning of Christmas, let’s allow ourselves some joy. In the midst of all that must still be done, let’s pause and breathe and let joy glow within us, no matter what form it takes.

As I put my daughter to sleep recently, I sat on the edge of her bed and, before I could sing her a lullaby, my mind cast itself back into my childhood Christmases — the concerts, the programs, the recitations — and, automatically, a familiar childhood voice began to remind me of just what Christmas is all about: “And there were, in the same country, shepherds abiding in the fields…” As a child, I memorized this section of Luke 2 through Linus’s recitation in A Charlie Brown Christmas. Charlie Brown, frustrated by his seeming failure at Christmas, demands to know just what Christmas was all about, and so Linus tells him. As I recalled his smile at “I bring you tidings of great joy…a Savior which is Christ the Lord”, I felt my heart swell with that self-same joy. And I found myself wanting to linger there in that silence, in what Shakespeare calls the “perfectest herald of joy”. 

As we embark upon the beginning of Christmas week and celebrate the work commenced by Christ’s birth, in all the hustle and bustle, let us not lose sight of the joy — both silent and exultant — that filled that corner of the world and Heaven on that night. If we allow it, it can overflow our hearts today. Let Heaven and nature sing: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men.

As you move into Christmas, dear Friends, “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” (Romans 15:13).

Card image by Hallmark

Finding my Voice in the Silence


It has felt as though my voice has gone quiet, that there is just heavy silence where my soul is. Heavy, exhausted silence. Many often wonder at the silence of God. I wonder at my own silence. I am on auto-pilot. When I respond enthusiastically in a conversation or to a request, part of me is standing back, staring in awe and often shock at this person who is just continuing on with life. Or at least it’s the part of me that best knows, ostensibly, how to play this game called life. The other part of me, though, what feels like most of me, is silent.

I want to speak. I want to write. I want to have conversation. I want to laugh. I want to be silly. I miss all these things, deeply and dearly. Yet I struggle. When I do engage in them, except with my closest of people, I feel that emotional separation again. As though I’m sending a social golem out with my voice while the real me stays back in silence.

I know my voice is still here. I hear it every day. I hear it in the words I say and the encouragements that I give to my students. I hear it in my FB and IG posts and in my message to friends to check up on them, I hear it in the cards and letters that I tuck into the mailbox. Using my voice for others feels like the easy job, a performance and practice that I know well enough to make it muscle-memory, strange as that might sound. Using it myself, for what I love, for what I want…that feels infinitely harder.

How do I coax my voice back out? Not just for others but for myself? I want to get back to using my voice for me, too. Not just for God and for others, but also for myself. To ask for what I need, say what I want, speak truth without fear.

My voice can be a thing of beauty, of power, of gentleness, and abject love and grace. I want to find it and the courage to use it again. Not just for others but also for myself. Because I deserve all that, too.

How do I do that again? Am I doing it right now? I honestly don’t know. But I am going to try.

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

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…

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.