Little Brown Girl

I remember the day my daughter was born like it was yesterday.

The first time I held her I thought for certain she was an angel.  She didn’t seem real.

I had a miscarriage in between her and my son, and to hold her after carrying her along with my hopes and dreams for 9 months; I was undone.

She was a beautiful olive color.  Her skin wasn’t quite brown, but darker than white.  She was like a scoop of pralines and cream ice cream, and I was smitten.

I remember the first day I noticed her skin changing.  She was about 2 weeks old and her once caramel complexion was morphing into a “potato skin” brown.  Her eyes were still golden , and I remember holding her close and praying, “Please don’t let her skin get any darker.”

But it did.  And now she’s the color of a hershey’s bar…rich, sweet and chocolate.

I grew up in a neighborhood where we were the only black family until…well until about 3 years ago.  Until middle school I was the only black girl in my class.  Once in high school I had a hard time fitting in with the African American kids because they said I was an “uncle tom” because we lived in a nice neighborhood and my parents were still married.  But, I didn’t fit in with a lot of my white friends anymore either.  They would talk about the other black kids like I couldn’t hear them.  Especially the black girls.

“Did you see her hair? It’s so greasy and nappy!”

“She smells funny”

“Her skin is so DARK!”

The black boys didn’t get talked about so badly because a lot of them were star athletes and dating white girls.

I often found myself eating alone outside.

I was the most unpopular popular person I’ver ever known.  I knew everybody and everybody knew me.

But I didn’t have a “crowd”.

When I went to college it was no different.  I went on a blind date with a guy who played football for Ohio State.  When we sat down to eat he said, “I noticed you with your friend _________ walking across campus the other day.  She’s more my type….tall and thin with long hair.  But you’re light skinned, so I picked you. I don’t date dark skinned girls”.

I sat there in utter disbelief.  And if I hadn’t been a starving college student who hadn’t had a meal that didn’t come from the cafeteria in over 2 months, I would’ve left.

When you look on the cover of a magazine it is RARE to see a woman of color.  And if you do see a woman of color gracing the cover; she’s usually light skinned with long hair or “good hair”.  You hear men talk about Halle Berry, Sanaa Lathan, and Jennifer Lopez….but I have yet to hear a man of any color refer to Lupita Nyong’o or Alek Wek as beautiful , sexy, or attractive.

You see….when I held my baby close….it wasn’t that I was ashamed of her color.  I was afraid for her.

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I was afraid that she wouldn’t make friends easily because she’s a little brown girl.

I was afraid she would struggle with low self-esteem because she’s a little brown girl.

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I was afraid she wouldn’t be invited over for sleepovers because she uses oil in her hair and she’s a little brown girl.

I was afraid she’s be overlooked as a date to homecoming or to the prime because she’s a little brown girl.

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I’ve even been afraid that she’ll be treated differently at our predominantly white church because in her class she’s only one of a few little brown girls.

It hurts my heart sometimes when she comes from playing at the neighbor’s house and says “I wish my hair was yellow and long like Bailey’s”.

It makes me sad when she takes notice of the fact that I am much lighter than she is.

But it makes me proud when I catch her looking in the mirror smiling at herself….twirling in her skirt, dress or leggings, scrunching up her puff ball, and singing in a pretend mic, “I’m prettttaaaaayyyyy yeah yeah…and I know I’m prettaaayyyy cause my mommy said I’m pretttttaaaaayyyyy”.

And I do.

I tell her she’s pretty.

Because she is.

Her pretty brown skin has been a joy to have in my life.  I have learned that I can’t keep my children from heartache, but I can build them up enough in God’s word and in their esteem that heartache doesn’t stop them.

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She may have brown skin, but her smile is the always the brightest in the room.

She is my jewel…my pretty brown girl.

 

When The PERFECT will of God ain’t so perfect

For at least 4 years since returning to Michigan from L.A. , we have been praying for God to send us to the right church for our family.  I know some people who have been at the same church for 20 years.  I think that’s awesome and a true blessing to find the place where you belong and grow, serve, and persevere where you’ve been planted.

When I was 23 years old, I remember a woman of God whom I admire and respect but don’t often talk to, walking up to me and telling me that she felt that God was going to use my husband and I (my husband whom I hadn’t even met at that time) to travel and minister for years to come — sometimes planting churches, rebuilding music departments, and in some seasons being planted in specific churches for training and polishing.  She said we’d rarely feel at “home” for a long period of time.  But not to worry – this was a part of God’s plan.

This has literally been the description of the last 6 years of our life.  We’ve helped ministries get back on their feet, we’ve rebuilt a music department, we’ve trained and taught some vocalists and musicians, and we’ve been aching for a home.

In January we found that home.  In March I actively started serving in that home church.  In July I was asked to become one of the worship leaders.  And here I am in September…on bedrest….not able to attend let alone lead worship at the place that we call home.

Some might say , “Well , maybe it just wasn’t God’s timing yet.”

But, I know better.

It was God’s spirit that nudged me in March to stop using old hurts as an excuse and get active in the place where He was planting us.

It was God’s favor that nudged my worship pastor and led him to come to me and say that he recognized the anointing , understanding and heart of a worship leader on my life and wanted me to step up.  He was not aware of my previous experience as a worship leader or a minister of music at that time.

It was God’s timing that allowed me to get pregnant in this season.  We hadn’t been “trying”, but we hadn’t “not been trying” either.  And because we’d endured 2 miscarriages, and we already have 2 beautiful children, we’d decided and prayed that if we were to have any more children God would only allow it in  HIS TIMING. 

So here we are right smack dab in the middle of a season we know is God’s will, but it would seem unfair that now that we’re in it, things are not going as planned.

I’m on bedrest and for the time being cannot lead worship or be on my feet for a long period of time.  I’m used to teaching at least 4-5 vocal students per week , and its been 3 weeks since I’ve been able to teach voice lessons. I’m used to traveling 1-3 times a month singing background or doing studio work, and I’ve had to turn down those opportunities because of a pregnancy complication.

I was obedient.  I stepped out.  And now Im sitting on the sidelines.

Often times the perfect will of God ain’t so perfect.  His plan is perfect, but the circumstances He uses to bring his plan to fruition can be confusing, disappointing, and difficult.  God is not the author of confusion, but He can certainly use confusion along with any other life element to work for not only our good, but our best. 

I find encouragement in the word of God as I look at the story of Abraham , who was promised a son.  Upon receiving his promised son, God then asked Him to lay Isaac on an altar to be killed.  Abraham had no foresight to see that God would allow a ram in the bushes to be used as a sacrifice instead of Isaac.  Abraham simply obeyed.

I find encouragement in the word of God as I look at the story of Hannah, who was barren and unable to conceive a child.  Her husband loved her deeply, and his other wives made fun of Hannah because she could not bare children.  She wept sorely before the Lord and prayed desperately for a child.  God gave her a promised son; Samuel.  And when Samuel was weened, she left him at the temple to serve in the house of the Lord for all His days.  Hannah gave up the very thing she’d prayed for.

I even look at David, who was an unlikely choice, but nonetheless chosen to be king.  Yet, being God’s chosen also meant that he spent many days and nights running from Saul who was jealous of and hated him.  David had to hide in caves, go without food or water for days at a time.  Lived in fear of His life all because He was God’s choice.

I have a few promises that God has manifested in this season.  A church home.  An opportunity to serve in my church home.  And now, a baby.  I’m in a waiting pattern concerning all 3 of these manifested promises.  Waiting to see when I can go back to church.  Waiting to see if I’ll be able to lead worship again during this pregnancy, or if I’ll have to wait until next spring after the baby is born.  And I’m waiting on bedrest…..to see if this hemorrhage between my uterus and the placenta is going to dissolve on its own so that the baby I will no longer be in danger, and the remainder of this pregnancy will be healthy and care-free.

It’s hard.

I’ve cried.

People forget about you.

Sometimes I feel like I’m missing out.

It’s scary.

It ain’t so perfect.

But I have peace when I lay my head down at night because I’m in the perfect will of God. 

 

Faith VS Fear

For the 2nd time in 8 days, I found myself in the emergency room.

Bleeding. 

This time there were no tears or very many uncertainties.  There was one thing on my mind only.

I want to see my baby.

After a rather uncomfortable pelvic exam (seriously hate those), I was wheeled down to ultrasound.  The same sweet ultrasound tech; Marsha, was the tech on duty.  “Missed me, huh?” she said as the male nurse wheeled me into the room.  I smiled.  “Let’s get this baby on the screen so your mama’s hear can be at peace.”

Right away before she took any measurements or analyzed the various things going on around my uterus, she showed me my sweet baby. Alive and kicking…literally. 🙂 From that moment on it didn’t matter what my blood work results or ultrasound readings showed. My baby was alive and I was ready to deal with whatever came next.

This morning as I was reflecting on what happened last night and the moderately scary news the dr. gave me as I left; I thought about how different my disposition was this time as I waited in the lobby, waited for the ultrasound, and ultimately waited for the outcome.  The first time I went, I was overwhelmed with fear.  I was convinced that I was having a miscarriage.  I could not even fathom the possibility that the baby was okay because of the vast amount of blood I was losing.  It was fear that drove me to pray.

But because I had that experience once before….the bleeding, the not knowing, and even the fear, I was more equipped to deal with things this time.  I knew which tests to expect, which symptoms to look for, and I prayed because I knew God could keep the baby safe just as He had before.  

Often experience is the best teacher.  We may not enjoy the feelings and pressure that comes along with enduring a series of trials.  But each experience can groom us in ways “Sunny days and roses” cannot.  I found out last night that I am much stronger that I’ve been willing to accept.  My husband wasn’t able to get off of work due to the amount of time he has already taken off for our move in 2 weeks.  My big sis who would normally sit with me had my kids, and my sister who would’ve dropped everything to be with me is on bedrest at 21 weeks dealing with her own pregnancy complications.  The strength of God had already been fortified within me during the previous experience. 

I was reminded of this passage…..

….’because we know that suffering produces perseverance, character; and character, hope. And this hope will not lead to disappointment.  For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.” (Romans 5;4-6 )

Suffering (experience) produces character.  And our character (which is fortified through experience) ultimately produces a greater hope.  The Holy Spirit is such an insightful teacher that His desire is not just teach us line upon line and principle upon principle.  He teaches us through experience.  He builds us through experience.  He shows us the love of Christ through experience.

This morning my experience has led me again to a place of unexpected growth.  Last week I was afraid, and in the midst of that fear I grew.  This week I am standing firm.  My muscles are a bit stronger and experience has birthed in me a deeper trust.

I will be on bedrest indefinitely and I’ll be forced to rely on a lot of people for simple things like cooking, laundry, and cleaning.  But I am totally dependent on a God who has all power and is unfailing.  My faith (through experience) is greater than my fear.

Bedrest : And the world keeps on turnin’

I didn’t expect to be tied to my bed and couch this weekend.

I was all packed for a weekend trip to Kansas City , MO to perform in a play I’ve been rehearsing for for weeks.  After a nap I took a quick shower; all the while talking to the baby in my belly.  As I dried off and began to dress, I felt it  — blood running down my leg like a leaking hose.  “Please God….no.” I said over and over and over again.

I can’t describe the crippling fear that overtook me as I raced to the hospital with my children in tow and my pants soaked with blood.  “Please God…no” I whispered time and time again.

There was no peace when my sweet friend came to pick up my children and blew me a kiss through the lobby window as I sat waiting in a wheelchair.

There was no peace when my husband was stuck in traffic and I laid in the sterile bed gripping the sheets and mentally willing the bleeding to stop.

There was no peace when the sweet PA Megan said, “You’re not cramping.  That’s a good sign”.

There was only peace when I heard the Holy Spirit speak to me….”All is well. ”

I didn’t know for sure that those words meant the baby was ok.  I just knew God was with me, and I knew He would walk me through whatever came next.

Two days later ….I’m sitting here on my couch on bedrest.

The ultrasound showed a healthy, ACTIVE baby.  And while we have no concrete answers for the origin of the bleeding, I’m thankful my baby is okay.

“Get some rest”. “Let people take care of you”. “Be still”.

I can’t tell you how often I ‘ve heard these phrases over the last few days.  Quite frankly, it’s hard to be still when your husband is at work all day and you have 2 kids at home.  It’s hard to get rest when you’re uncomfortable and no position eases the soreness.  It’s disheartening to try to “let people take care of you” when no one is.  Because the fact is…I’m on bedrest, but the world keeps on turnin’.  My friends are busy with their families, rushing to soccer games, feeding their brood. Some are even working, and honestly some are in their own beds resting and enjoying a day off.

I may be bored, wishing for a visit, a vase of fresh flowers or a phone call from a particular person whom I haven’t heard from in over a month over a silly disagreement.

But I’m on bedrest…and the world keeps turnin’.

It’s not a cry for attention.  It’s a head on head collision with reality.

We all care in different ways.  Text messages have handicapped us and made us assume that sending a text carries the same weight as a hug or a visit.

And today I’m reminded that I’m just different. When my friends are going through something, I’m going through it with them.  I’ll rearrange my schedule, drop my own children off with a sitter and put my needs to the side to be there for my friends without them having to ask.  But that’s ME.  And I can’t fault anyone for not being ME.

So it’s here on bedrest that I swallow the truth that I’m okay.  I’m okay with my pile of books, my journal, netflix, and a pile of snacks nearby.  I’m okay because when I was grasping for peace just 2 days ago…it wasn’t a human being that brought me peace….it was the unfailing love of God that carried me.  And that love is here in this room with me now.  photo 5

I’m on bedrest and  the world keeps turnin’.