Homemaker

Featured

Church free up! And finally I am able to fellowship with people I haven’t seen in over a year. There were lots of teeny ones that I hadn’t seen since the pandemic and I even got to hold the sweetest little one. A friend of mine took a picture of me feeding her and sent it to me. When I looked at the picture, I smiled in my heart because of all the recent work God had started in the area of family and homemaking.

A few weeks ago my mentor and I were talking. At the beginning of the session I was asked to state the pillars of my life. As I listed things, family came to mind but I shoved it back and told myself not to say it. As we continued to discuss other things I was asked to define success. I stated all the things I wanted to accomplish and ended with, “but of course, not at the detriment of my family.” At this statement my mentor reflected on the dissonance.

Not knowing what transpired in my head, he highlighted how interesting it was that I stated not wanting to accomplish things at the detriment of my family but when I stated the pillars of my life he observed and even mentally noted that I hadn’t said family.

He was right, I didn’t and I couldn’t. But why? I pondered on it all evening. What was this incongruence on the insides of my own heart. As usual I went to talk to God about it. I told him I wanted to have a family but something hard on the insides of my heart had demanded that I steel myself off from the prospect of it. I was made to feel I couldn’t and so I decided I wouldn’t.

You Can’t
I love serving at church, being around my friends and being out of my house. Most of my life that was me. I was active, involved in everything. I thrived in the spaces God placed me and was constantly out. This was what I was told to do as a single Christian – serve. The truth was outside of that mandate, my extravert-self wanted that lifestyle.
Because I was constantly out I was made to feel that I cared more for those things than home. I had been told that my outside accomplishments and friend involvements were way more important than my home commitments and that I probably wouldn’t be able to do homemaking well. Plus, I didn’t cook as much as others, and I didn’t feel free to experiment. A caricature of myself was being created with each pronouncement. The storyline was you can’t do outside and inside; one or the other. This combined with disappointments with family I had began to develop a narrative – “I can’t do homemaking”.

It Is WORK
In addition to all of this was the reality that doing family -like everything in life – took work. It could be satisfying but also grueling. The challenge I had was that I had become used to prioritizing work and serving. With a super busy week, I would be fine with a bowl of cereal at the end of the day for dinner. In my mind family meant having a full meal ready for breakfast lunch and dinner. That seemed impossible with my present life.

I had also seen so many successful black women struggle with both. If they were driven, then they were single or divorced (not every one of course). Every time I heard of a successful black woman getting divorced I shuddered. One research site stated that black women in the States have a higher divorce rate than any other demographic and a person with a first degree gets divorced at a higher rate than those without a degree. While I was a Caribbean girl these numbers and my observations impacted me. I am a black, Caribbean woman with two degrees.

I laid out all of this in journal and wept. I had closed out a God given desire in my life because of the narratives, examples and words spoken over me. That entire weekend I was either crying or praying.


God began to heal, reminding me of truths and dispelling fears. He reminded me that I was not what was said about me. He reminded me that as the author of family He was the person to look to and not my fears. He was the one that gave me all I needed for salvation, He would do the same in all areas of my life. My responsibility was to trust and obey Him.

Betty Crocker
Little changes happened after that. I began cooking more, sheepishly calling my “wife” friends to teach me over the phone. I realized I loved learning new recipes and seeing the final product. I researched décor for my space and made adjustments as I could. I began taking weekends off and signing off completely by Friday afternoon unless I had something pressing. I sought out mentorship and books to learn more and renew my mind. I released the toxicity that I had allowed in my heart that came from fear and lies and it felt more like the authentic me.

When I held the little one that Sunday I smiled at the journey. I stared at the picture with joy that God had begun a work in my heart ? One day, God willing I could be a wife, mother, Director and writer and He would guide the balance needed. He continues the work and I continue to stay steadfast.

  • a Heart Committed

When I Thought I Lost Me

Featured

It’s been an interesting five months of recovery from a car accident I was in. New normal for me is less about masks and social distance and more about length of time in a position and type of weights carried.

The first month after the accident I was the hardest patient to have. I didn’t take my injuries to heart as I was under the belief that I was going to bounce back in no time. Its always at the beginning of a struggle that you feel most motivated that this will pass.

Friends, encouragement, prayers, visits, and gifts enveloped me in a shroud of hope and I felt impermeable. I would make plans to go the the beach, worship nights, bowling, meetings, bible study – all of it. Life was the same just take your time and go was how I was treating it. I was undeterred. I was polite to the persons with their recurrent protests to my ideas. “Stacy, you need to rest.” They were so caring.

Rest!

I don’t rest. If I stop I take forever to start back or I don’t start back at all. I was determined that this year I was going to be disciplined, hardworking, consistent. It was my Instagram pre-new years post, and that is a good as a contract, right? Furthermore action is what I do. Action is who I am.

I barely obliged the reminders to rest. No, I didn’t go to the beach. I didn’t go to the worship night… but I still had meetings… WIN: ..Right?.

Covid-19 Blessing?!?

I could do all I could and be all I could be via technology. I set meetings for outreach. I attended meetings for church. I took on virtual speaking engagements. I can do this!

But my body protested and the pain got worse.

False Starts and Hopelessness

I finally began physical therapy as one medical professional braved the first wave of the Covid scare. I aggressively sought out therapies online. I preempted almost every visit with ideas I got from YouTube. Friends offered suggestions and articles made promises. I researched and prayed, and believed and encouraged (myself and others). I changed my diet, began taking supplements and exercised twice a day for strengthening.

Every inch of relief brought hope. I was excited at the prospect of healing. I would always report progress and never setbacks. I didn’t want to let anybody down. They believed so hard. They prayed so consistently. My recurring pain would only cause them doubt. I would bear it myself.

But as the months continued and the pain was still my reality I began to doubt. My hope was faltering. Was I to stop beleiving for healing and start praying for grace to live this reality? The over thinking began.

Dont Take Who I am

What if I can’t do anymore? What if I can’t do the adventurous activities I always planned to do? What if I can’t go back to my daily jogs? What if I can’t dress up and be fabulous in heels? What if I can’t stand or sit at concerts?

Just like Peter on the waves, the gumption to jump out that ship was losing its effects and the water splashes, wave heights and evident distance between me and the finish line began to make me doubt.

Some days I watched dance videos. But with each music video I bemoaned how my once agile body couldn’t even rock from side to side without causing discomfort. The long lost love of dance loomed over my head. I felt ashamed for having delayed on prophecies to get back into it. “What have I done?” I thought. “Is this my consequence for waiting too long?” “God, I’m sorry.” I pleaded. “Please give me another chance.”

Value Plummet

Hope continued to be shaken as other questions loomed in my head. Still the proverbial single Christian girl I analysed my “marketability“. “Who wants to marry the girl who has back problems? What kind of fun would I be?” Rolling on the floor with my kids; a romp in the bed with my husband, all might cause me pain and in the present state seemed improbable. “Who am I with this injury?” My value on the market seemed to plummet in front my eyes.

Oh the folly of the double-minded woman.

During this time I was still at the helm of my organization. We were in the line-up for a grant and I was working assiduously to put things in place. I had zoom meeting after zoom meeting laying down most of the time trying to be a good patient. I created protocols, set up teams, engaged vendors, outlaying a year long plan, researched things I never knew off, completed paperwork.

But one day I attended a training on trafficking, and it looked like they were doing the same program with the same people. I panicked. I felt the wind leaving me. What was happening? We may be working in vain.

Trudging Along

My strength was there. God was keeping me going and I was being encouraged by community, divine recollection of songs, and quiet comforting words of the Holy Spirit. However, the disappointments wouldn’t stop. Pain was determined to manhandle my heart. I wasn’t prepared for the next section of this mountainous terrain – the worst relapse in pain and the resignation of a valuable team member from Pursued . I was pushing but now barely.

The devotions got dryer. I kept doing it. At least I was present. I knew that it was in the times we least desire to be in the Word that we need it most. But the physical pain kept coming in intermittently and sleep was becoming delayed, days were being missed and I was losing connection. I was there but not there. I couldn’t connect with God and I couldn’t connect with people.

It’s easy to look the other way when confronted with grief or to busy oneself so as to not sit with grief long.”

Jay Wolf (Hope Heals)

I wanted to keep doing but there was nothing left to “do”. No Pursued, no meetings, no socializing (thanks COVID!). One more disappointment came and it was the final straw that broke the camel’s back.. (the irony).

I had no more. No more. I could only just lay there on my bed. I played worship music to soothe my spirit. I couldn’t muster a word. I laid there motionless. In retrospect I can say finally, I suppose. Now I was still.

Journal Entry -August 19th

“I have never not wanted to talk to you, God. I have never lacked motivation. The truths are falling flat on my chest and not sinking in. I am not mad….

I am mad this happened. it never had to. You are Sovereign.”…. .

” I have perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it so that people fear before him. ” Ecclesiastes 3:14

“Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.” Ecclesiastes 4:6

What a response. It was the beginning of me being still and allowing God to process. And what He showed me I needed to see.

Lesson 1: Stopping is Hard

The reason why I couldn’t stop when I got this back issue was because stopping was hard.

Stopping was hard because what I did, my accomplishments all of it became who I was. It was my way of saying, “hey, I don’t have the money like this one, or the looks like that one, but I am doing things for the kingdom”. It became my way of saying to every rejection I have ever experienced that I was worth something. “See, I did it!.”


Not only was it what I used to define me and qualify me, it was also what I used to distract me. With it I could avoid pain. Every accolade and well done was my drug. He didn’t like me, that’s okay, I helped a young girl at school today. I don’t have the house and car, its fine I own an organization. I was addicted to it. It meant more than God. Worse yet I believed it meant God favoured me.

I don’t believe I even knew this. I was too busy doing to see it. I don’t even know if it began this way but that was not important.

My deeper issue of validation and worth was still in need of a Jesus fix. It was just taking a different form. Being still God was able to do His work.

Lesson 2: Boast in the Lord

Journal entry August 28th
Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches,  but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” Jer. 9:23-24

“Boast in me. Boast in knowing me. Not intellect, looks, accomplishments. You know Me. That brings you before Kings, opens doors, validates you. I am ALL you need, babygirl. I love You.” These tender words drew me in to the the one who delights in me. It convicted and encouraged. Like the psalmist I delighted in His discipline.

..perhaps in the breaking of precious things, somethings even more precious than we can imagine might be unleashed. Perhaps in the breaking, we can find the healing we long for.”

Jay Wolf Hope Heals.

I scheduled a week off from the world. No social media, no meetings, no plans. Just me and God, tempted though I was with thoughts in my head of things I could be doing. His kind words began to reverberate in my chest. Repenting, forgiving, processing and healing I surrendered expectations, disappointments, rejection all of it. All of which I don’t think would have happened except in the silence of loss.

Journal Entry August 31st
“We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. People may be pure in their own eyes but the Lord examines their motives. Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed. The LORD has made everything for His own purposes…” Prov. 16:-1-4.
God, you don’t ask for perfection, You ask for submission. Give me the grace to rest and be in submission., Father

Plans, People, Purpose there is a market to get right, get with and get at all of these things. Good things, some even God things as these gifts are given by the Maker. Some of them being needful and necessary but how quickly they become primary.

This struggle is as old as Genesis where the perfect gift was in a garden centuries ago. Without warning, without the many present day distractions, hard life experiences or disappointments the recipients of this gift turned their eyes towards the things making the temporal their ultimate delight.

The perfect Gift was never the the garden, its trees, and all its delights. It wasn’t their purpose of being fruitful and multiplying though a God given and blessed ordinance. It wasn’t even each other as divine their alignment and a certain gift from God. The gift was always the Garden Giver. I had lost sight. But God came in the stillness of my life to remind me nothing outside of Him is worthy of being primary.

Nothing is.

Its not so bad to be still.

Saving Face: The Church’s Response to Sexual Abuse

Featured

She slept the sleep filled with little girl’s dreams, or so she believed. But those dreams were interrupted by his body pressed against her back as he rubbed himself against her. She tried desperately to get lost in dreams but the nightmare of reality clung to her consciousness, rendering her helpless.

So she surrendered, laying still once more as the monster, called protector, scarred her innocence with his pleasure.

She sat in the sanctuary as the congregation applauded and lauded praise on him. As the service ended he walked to her, smiling with congeniality to the congregants he greeted. Frozen stiff with a plastered smile of religious right behavior and overwhelming panic, she was swallowed into him, arms around her with a “church greeting”- the ‘ of his sin laying on her body.

She affixes a smile on her face because she is expected to forgive. The church leadership spoke with him and… he sorry.

The story varies but the experience is real, countless victims laying waste at the mercy of others who overlook their travesty, misunderstanding of the nature of God’s justice alongside repentance and forgiveness.

Rachel Denhollandar made a statement that hit believers to the core. A survivor from the sexual assault travesty caused by US Gymnast team coach and osteopathic physician Lawrence Nassar, she expressed that the church was the worse place for a victim of sexual assault.

As a Christian this statement disturbed me. Is this true I wondered, and if so, how could this happen? All organizations want to pull ranks and cover their own, but I was perplexed that we weren’t different.

Biases and Blind Spots

In the article, Jem Zamzow postulates that there are internal biases operating when the church takes full responsibility in handling allegations of sexual assault amongst their own. Research showed that even when trying to be as accurate as possible, if we’re already on a particular “side” of an issue, our ability to view the situation objectively is hindered.

This bias can also increase the likelihood that we put away the bad behavior. It can permeate the entire evaluation of the situation and the decisions made. “People who have an interest in seeing data in a particular direction have a hard time being objective about a range of judgments and in a variety of contexts.” The greater danger, she posits, is the risk of justification because the accused is doing the “noble task” of working for the “Kingdom of God.”

The Problem of Forgiveness and Repentance

Forgiveness is good, right and true. The gift offered in salvation and eternal life is based in part on the forgiveness offered to us when we place our faith in Jesus. By grace we received forgiveness for our sins and are adopted as co-heirs with Christ. This same measure of grace is required of us, as we are charged with the mandate that we forgive as Christ forgave us.

Repentance is an awareness of the extent of your wrong, and the dishonouring of a holy God. This acknowledgment of wrong, and realization of the the need for God’s grace, should result in subsequent surrender and turning away from the wrong.

I believe victims are freed when they are able to forgive those who have wronged them. Holding on to vengeance, hurt and shame leads to self-destruction. I also believe that the accused needs to come to a place of repentance and seek forgiveness from God and the ones they hurt. The problem with treating this as the be all and end all, however, is that the church runs the risk of abuse of power and the perpetuation of victimization.

What Does Scripture Say

Sean Taylor, a pastoral intern said this: “The scriptures are filled with passages which call us to protect and rescue the vulnerable in society; those who are weak and voiceless (see Proverbs chapter 31 verse 8). Abuse cases for example, stand out as a great example of people who are weakened and silenced as they are being broken by abusive power. God’s heart for them requires us to pursue such individuals with protection from various forms of domestic abuse and violence. This would involve utilizing the God-given resources of State to care and protect.” (see Romans chapter 13 verse 4)

The biblical stories of Dinah and Tamar are definitely not scattered across the pages of the photo-bible children get at birthdays and baptisms. It’s not the story gravitated toward for Easter or Christmas services. However, the injustice of being victimized for sexual pleasure resulted in civil war. There was an evident response to their injustice. (See Genesis.34 and 2 Samuel 13)

Sean Taylor points out that forgiveness, repentance AND justice are not mutually exclusive. “Victims should forgive the perpetrator and the perpetrator needs to repent. The perpetrator also should submit to the earthly legal justice system or penal code. Where there is no penal code or earthly justice system in place the needs of the oppressed needs to be taken care of by the church.”

He further cautions that these four things should not be “pitted against” each other. They are not mutually exclusive. He explains that we are to pursue all of these simultaneously, trusting that these directions given by the Lord do harmonize and serve to strengthen and protect people. 

Public Relations

Why do we not report? Is it because we are scared of how it will make us – the body of Christ – look? Are we protecting God? Timothy Keller in his book says, “Israel was charged to create a culture of social justice for the poor and vulnerable because it was the way the nation could reveal God’s glory and character to the world.” In discussing Deuteronomy chapter 4 verses 6-8 he highlights that it was Israel’s example that would be what the nations looked at as an example of justice and peace and that this resulted in them being attracted to Israel’s God.

It’s not because we act perfect or look good, that people are drawn to God. Our “perfectness” is not God’s P. R. It’s our response to justice, our love for one another, and our adherence to truth that will point the world to Him. Covering up and hiding does nothing for God, the broken victims or the fallen perpetrators.

republished from Press Service International, received the Basil Sellars Award
unsplash-logo
Annie Theby

Ghosts of Church Boys Past

Featured

You cannot stay where you are and go with God. Henry Blackaby

This morning I went to have my usual morning devotions and I felt led to get out one of my old journals and read. August 2008 was the start date of that journal so I read intrigued as of course here I am in 2016, approximately eight years later in the month of August. I figured it would be interesting but I was not prepared for the rollercoaster ride to epiphany that I was jumping on.

What I read had me go from feeling shocked, to dismayed, to disgusted and then militant. I read and saw how I allowed guy after guy to draw me from my secure place in God straight to despair, low self esteem and second guessing myself. I prayed for God to guide me but when He did I tried to keep them (the guy) and Him at the same time and eventually He was proven as right as the relationship went up in flames as they moved on to some other version of their ideal Christian woman. Then I sank. I sank into a death spiral of self loathing and sadness wanting to know why not me, who was she and what made her better, more beautiful or more qualified. Why did this look like 2016? Had I not learned?

Give your heart to Me

There is a poignant skit used to share the gospel at a street outreach event I was a part of on the east side of Houma Louisiana. In the skit this lighthearted, carefree girl danced and pranced and enjoyed her life. On the stage entered a guy who mimed his affection and eventually asked for her heart. The girl in the skit freely “opened her chest” and handed him her heart. To the audience and the young lady’s dismay he took her heart gave it a precursor once over then… stomped on it. The young lady was left in a crumpled heap crying on the ground as he left the stage all too pleased with his devious and detrimental act. As she lay on the ground wiping her tear streaked face she heard God whisper (from backstage) give Me your heart. She slowly got up and mustered all her strength threw it up to him (remember this was a play for children so it was all imaginary) and He dropped down a new and refreshed heart. Restored and at peace she began to skip happily around the stage her joy intact.

Like a bad rerun, on to the stage enters “boy” again. This time she is watchful of him but he offers her nice things and mimes the right words and asks back for her heart to which she slowly but surely gives it to him. He takes it and proceeds to play basketball with it decimating the young lady, laughing as he saunters of. Again the Lord prods her to give her heart to Him, she does and He lovingly and gently restores. The play continues with this same scenario and time after time her heart got shattered, dirty, and even annihilated (one actor pretended to hurl the heart in the air and shoot it). I remember the children on the street laughing at the goofiness on the stage, as the actors tried to explain the dangers of giving away your heart to others instead of to God .The problem was… and still is that in reality there are so many stomped on, played out hearts on the ground, one of them being mine. I was the girl in the play. I gave my heart away to the charismatic church boy, the silent contemplative leader, and the enthusiastic artist minister and every time God was there whispering give your heart to Me.

I will advise you…

At the beginning of my college career I read Proverbs 4:23-27 and highlighted it as my mantra.

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

Avoid all perverse talk; stay away from corrupt speech.

Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.

Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path.

Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.

I wish I could look back at my eighteen year old self and say yay girl, you did it… but I can’t. I flung open the hedges of my heart, I looked away from Jesus and made attention and approvals deter me. I got sidetracked over and over again from my purpose and God’s voice because I would rather hear the lulling voice of the young man over the phone than to tell him this is not God’s will I must step away. I got caught in the web of he’s a Christian, he serves, this must be right and got left with empty arms, the cackle of voices saying I was there and they engaged only because they were lonely, and my favorite, “you will be a great girl for someone else one day”. I couldn’t blame God, because as His child and according to His promises, He did advise me and guide me. He did warn and admonish me to let go of each guy I turned to, but my heart was before them placed ever so delicately or shoved so unheedingly into their hands as I fool heartedly ignored His wisdom and relied on man instead.

See, I am doing a new thing

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing.”

It’s interesting a verse to ponder on as I write this. I am reading the book of Deuteronomy and the book opens with Moses relaying to the children of Israel the folly of their forefathers in choosing to not go to their promised land because it looked daunting. He gave them a play by play of the mishaps, wrong turns and warnings they received. Like a coach watching a game lost to a previous team to point out pitfalls and missed plays Moses places before them what they did wrong in order for them to do better.  It was time to enter the land promised, they are now having to fight yes but it was time to move, forget the former things, learn from the past and get on to a new thing.

I can’t help but see the parallel to my own life in this scenario. This reading of my journal from 2008 was my play by play. My re reading of history that is so strikingly similar in some aspects to 2016. I can’t and by God’s grace won’t be that girl anymore.  I have grown in some ways in this area but I know I have much more to growth to experience. I think back to a post on Facebook talking about August being the eighth month and expressing that eight is the number of new beginnings. Well, it’s that time. My journal entries from this August and the Augusts to come will be different. It’s time for me to not only have a new beginning but maintain what God has done. I encourage you women to do the same. Choose to guard your heart. Don’t spend so much time with the guy who hasn’t committed to you. Step away if you feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit even if on paper everything about him looks “right”. Choose to honour God with your heart and your time and let Him guide you safely to what is yours. Return to being in awe of your Creator and not get sidetracked by the shiny and the spiritual.  Learn from me and my trip down the ghost of church boys past. J

Death to Life

It’s dead,
But what you look at hides what you can’t see.
Because the person looking at you hides the cold carcass and debris.

It’s lost,
The little child that is inside.
The part that dreams of laughter and playing with barbie dolls outside.

It’s real,
But she has practiced fantasy and make believe.
Because truth is harder than fiction and ignoring it is her reprieve.

It’s subtle,
The memories vague but not forgotten.
A flurry of thoughts shoved to the back in hopes it that it will be forgotten.

It’s a maze
From what you see to what is.
So locking out the weak and fainthearted is easier than letting them in.

It’s true,
But no one can know..
Cuz the weight of that truth is heavier than the lies that have been told.

It lives
Ever present on the inside.
The shame and pain she tries to forget linked to the horror of those nights.

Relentless
The way He pursues the heart.
Jealously He comes to snatch from the grave and mend the broken heart.

He loves,
It’s powerful and strong.
And when there is no will to try His comfort keeps her holding on.

He does,
Take the pain away.
When others get tired of hearing it, He listens every day.

He lives
To show her there is a way.
That even when no one else knows her angst His peace is just a prayer away.

 

-photo credit @Stephaniereneeart