The Night We Met

I wasn’t expecting much when I walked inside. I like making people happy and ensuring that they’re comfortable—I especially felt inclined to do so for Alex. There isn’t anything I can do to bring his mom back, but if accompanying my friend to a party full of strangers would bring him some joy, then I’m happy to oblige.

Talking to people is usually pretty easy for me. I used to meet people for a living, after all.

The door opened and the host greeted us. Kind. Charismatic. An older gentlemen with just a touch of gray. It was as if his hair were the only indication that he was no longer 25.

“Mmm…he seems great,” I thought to myself.

Normal introductions followed. “Hi, this is my friend. She’s visiting from out of town.” I shook a series of hands and heard a number of names I don’t remember. But I remember yours. How could I forget? We met in the kitchen, technically. It was an awkward encounter actually because when it was our turn to shake hands, your eyes darted to the friend behind me. Apparently, you both weren’t expecting to see each other, and so your interaction was a literal pleasant surprise. But I hadn’t been forgotten.

“B, this is my friend, Elena.”

“Hi, Elena. I’m, B. Pleased to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you too.”

I don’t remember anything about the handshake. I don’t remember how your hand felt in mine, but I do remember your eyes—dark and warm, framed by glasses that added just the right touch of sophistication. I also remember you hair—styled and silky. “I wonder if it’s as soft as it looks,” I thought. I remember your face, clothed in skin that was familiar with the sun, caressing a smile that invited me to look just a little too long.

But then the moment passed. Everyone started mingling and I got lost in the shuffle. I found myself at a table of women who I didn’t care to necessarily engage. They were nice enough, of course, but our common interests extended as far as the latest Rom-Com that was recently in theaters. I’d seen the movie and was internally begging to connect with someone at this party, so I chimed in. “Yeah, I saw it. It was okay. Funny enough, but a little too raunchy for my taste.” The women agreed, reciprocating my words in a different order. It’s funny that we do that, isn’t it? Repeat what we hear as if we’re saying it for the first time. Everyone just wants to relate and be related to, I suppose.

As I was sitting at the table, my eyes kept darting across the room to find you—first, the kitchen, behind the island, enjoying the buffet of food; next the living room, near the couch, enjoying the company of men that I assumed were your friends, but maybe not? Perhaps you were just being polite and friendly; finally, the space in between the two rooms, across from me. You were holding a goblet of whisky, or maybe it was bourbon. I guess it doesn’t really matter, but I do remember thinking how childish I felt as I sipped on my ginger ale in a styrofoam cup. I wanted to be drinking alcohol. I wanted to join in the fun, but my stomach wouldn’t allow it. There was even a moment where I wished I had indulged before I’d come to the house, then maybe I wouldn’t feel so skittish and aloof in the corner, alone.

But I’m glad I was sober. I’m glad I wasn’t influenced by anything other than you. I’m glad the most intoxicating experience I had that night was our conversation. But maybe I was inebriated. Maybe something had been slipped into my drink. It was all too enchanting; it didn’t feel real. Maybe you meet people in this manner all the time. Maybe having such riveting conversation with strangers is a hobby of yours. I’m sure people try their hardest to talk to you wherever you go. Americans are funny that way. We love foreigners, but only the right kind of foreigners. Your British accent was exactly right. But how cliche, huh? Of course I’m attracted to your accent. How could I not be? It doesn’t matter that I’ve always had an odd affinity for England. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t been to London, but have spent several days in Newcastle (a town not known for tourists). It doesn’t matter that my heritage can be traced back to England and that my last name sounds like it could be on the front of a beautiful stone building with the word “Manor” following it. Whittemore. None of it matters because in every other scenario you are the character that all of the girls fawn after. You are the character that is fascinating and intelligent and witty and winsome, but that’s it—you’re just a character.

This wasn’t every other scenario. And I’m writing about it now, because there is a part of me that feels as if I dreamed all of this up in my head. So I have to record it. I’ve been afraid to, though. Usually writing something down is what gives it life, but when life has enough to sustain itself, how can my mere words capture a night that feels too charming to explain?

“But that’s the narrative we’re told, right? As millennials…” I don’t remember the first part of our conversation because I was trying to remind myself to breath. “Yes, Elena. He’s talking to you. Speak to him. You’re fine.” Deep breath. Why were you talking to me? Did you see me staring? “Forgive me, I couldn’t help it. I was just so curious,” I thought.

“I have a theory about our generation, actually…”

“Really?” You paused. Interested? “I’m going to take this seat.” Right next to me.  “Okay, go on.”

I explained my theory. I fumbled over my words a bit. Admittedly, I was nervous. I know what I had to say was of value and merit, I wouldn’t have brought it up otherwise. But I wanted you to remain interested. I wanted to keep talking to you.

You nodded. You smiled. You agreed. Safe.

And so we continued to converse. Back and forth. You would speak and I’d feel the same way you did. I would share my thoughts and you’d enthusiastically respond in agreement. There was a consistent serving and receiving. Surely, our understanding would end. Surely, you’d get bored. Surely, I’d realize that you weren’t actually as intriguing as I’d thought. The hammer never fell. The curtain was never pulled back. Intricately, delicately, intentionally, we pursued a myriad of topics—literature, film, music, politics, psychology, religion, human relationships.

“Elena, let me ask you a question…” The words fell off your tongue and spun around my ears. I was on the edge of my seat. “Ask me anything. Let me in on what’s peaked your curiosity,” I thought.

“Do you think opposites attract?” you finished.

I wasn’t sure how to respond. What answer were you looking for? Surely, you didn’t see us as opposites. We’d found so much common ground. Do I say, “yes” because that’s how the age old adage goes? Do I say “no” as to seem unmarked by what culture tells me is fact?

“Let me think about it.”

“Okay.”

I had to be honest with you. I couldn’t lie. I didn’t want to lie. I’d been honest up until this point, and it had worked in my favor. There was no need to change who I was so that you might find me more attractive, and I wanted you to find my attractive. You seemed to be attracted to my honesty.

“Yes and no.” I concluded.

Your eyes turned toward me and seemed to ask, “What do you mean?”

Before you could audibly inquire, I answered. “Let me explain myself.”

“I think opposites attract to some degree. I mean, they have to. We’re so interested and curious about other people, people that are different than us, right? Its fun. So they attract, yes, but they don’t sustain. Beauty fades and looks don’t always say the same, but companionship, common interests, that lasts. There needs to be some level of common ground in order for a relationship to work.”

“Oh, that’s brilliant.”  You let those three words escape and then you let them escape again.

“I think, you’re absolutely right. You’ve put it brilliantly. Opposites attract, but they don’t sustain. And it’s that sustainability that a relationship needs, isn’t it?”

“Yes.” I said.

I’d hooked you. No traps, no nets, but you were now engaged in our conversation differently than before. I’m glad I was honest. I wanted you to be hooked because you were pulling words and thoughts and ideas and narratives out of my broken barrel of a mind. You were pouring water on a garden that had seen a rough winter. You were tending to my curious flowerbeds with questions of of care and weeding out unnecessary small talk with poignant subject matter. I was growing and changing. There. As we sat in two chairs in between the living room and kitchen I was reminded of what I love, what inspires me.

I wish I could make this sound less dramatic. I wish I could make this sound less poetic. Sort of. I wish these things because I want to be believed, but I’m not lying. There’s no over exaggeration, but I suppose until you have an unexpected encounter such as ours, this will all sound as farce.

I don’t know what you do for a living. I don’t know how old you are. I don’t know the name of your English hometown. I don’t know what kind of car you drive. I don’t know what your favorite sports team is. I asked if you liked sports, and you said yes. I asked what your favorite sport was and you replied with “politics.” I smiled. You’re a fan of mind games—not manipulation, but you enjoy engaging in thought. I do too.

As we continued to talk, I did my best not to look at the clock. But we were at a party for a purpose. There was a big sports match. Pay per view. America vs. Europe. Us. But we weren’t rivals, we weren’t opponents. We weren’t trying to best each other…

It was almost time for the fight to start and I found myself begging for time to turn back. Internally, I was pleading for everything to slow down. All I wanted to do was keep talking to you. I wanted to keep asking you questions and I wanted to keep answering yours. I wanted to know more about your mom—it’s obvious that you care for her deeply. You said she was “your heart.” I wanted to learn more about your brothers—you’re all close, yes? I wanted to understand why you didn’t have the best relationship with your dad—do you want that to change? I wanted to know why you studied engineering in college when your heart rests with psychology and literature. I wanted to know where you personally stood when it comes to matters of God an the Bible—you know much about religions and faith, but what wakes you up in the morning?

I wanted to know why, in the most random of places, in the most spontaneous of manners our moments in time intersected. I wanted to know why talking to you felt like listening to my favorite song and why being near you, while entirely new, was as comfortable as my favorite sweatshirt (the one that’s been with me through a lot, the one that I know is reliable, the one that makes me feel good about myself even if I’ve just rolled out of bed). I had so many questions for you, B, and I still do. I have an aching desire to know you and I’m undone because I don’t know if I’ll have the chance to truly do so.

But I want to.

It’s been five days since we’ve met and you’ve been on my mind for every last one of them. I feel silly. You’re just a boy and I’m just a girl. We met and shared a wonderful evening. That’s it. Then why has my mind begun to create pictures and scenarios and stories that star us as the protagonists? Why do I keep checking my phone to see if you’ve written me a modern day letter, (as you called it)? Why do I want to share and experience my life with you? I hardly know you. Are you even thinking about me? I don’t think I believe in love at first sight, but the last boy that I connected with in this way had a heart big enough for me to fall into and I loved him with everything I had. I never told him, though. He’ll probably never know, actually. But my connection with him wasn’t anything like ours. Ours was better; richer; more thoughtful.

B, I hope I talk to you again. I hope I see you again. But if not, thank you, thank you for a wonderful evening.

Excited. Expectant. Unafraid.

Duck #113

Have you ever re-fallen in love? With a person, a thing, a season, a song? I feel like that’s where I am right now. I find myself re-falling in love with charms and treasures of this life that had seemed to lose their…shine. Truth be told, they were still just as shiny, I was just scared. And when looking at anything through the lens of fear, all you see is dark and gray. It’s quite miserable.

But the thing about the human body is that it is capable of far more than you think–even when it comes to the unpleasant. For nearly two and a half years, fear and I had become good pals. The glasses it shoved on my face, while heavy and uncomfortable, just became a part of my normal routine. Every where that Jayna went, fear was sure to follow. Much of this fear took shape as my unwanted partner in crime–anxiety. In fact, my last blog post (written over 6 months ago) was the aftermath of a panic attack. It has been so hard for me to blog since then because there’s been so much swirling around in my head. I wasn’t much able to get a grasp on my thoughts. My counselor has since told me that it’s called obsessive thinking. I just called it the loop. And I thought it was normal. It just happened. A lot. But like I said, the human body is capable of far more than we think. So I would just obsessively think myself into a panic. Often.

Shortly after I had written that last post, I got tacos (my favorite) with a friend. I was trying to explain to her how I was feeling and what was going on in my head. I kept saying, “I can’t tell what’s the Lord’s voice and what’s the enemy’s. They sound so similar.” It was unbelievably isolating. The friend I was sharing with has become a safe haven for me in Atlanta. I can’t thank the Lord enough for her. As I cried and spilled my fears to her and explained how absolutely horrible I had been feeling (for the past 2 years), she met me where I was. With kindness and love. What a gift it was to let a bit of my burden go.

….and after that everything got better. I never had another panic attack. And all my fear dissipated!!!!

 

 

 

 

FALSE.

I had a panic attack two weeks ago. On my birthday.

And that brings me to the meat of this post. My birthday. Number twenty-five. For the first time, in a while, I have great anticipation and expectation for this upcoming year. I’m looking forward to what’s next, not because I need the previous year to be over, but because I’m excited and I’m not…afraid. Like I said, i’m re-falling in love.

On the eve of my 24th birthday, the Lord clearly told me that I was going to be entering a year without fear. This absolutely terrified me. Fear and I were basically best pals, remember? I didn’t really believe God. My argument? I wasn’t worth the time. It was too much to remove fear from me. I was convinced that if God was going to remove fear from me, the way he was going to do it wouldn’t be kind and it wouldn’t be loving. It would be full of suffering and surprises and “see, I told you so’s.”

So for about 11 months of my 24th year, fear gripped the mess out of me. My anxiety was manifesting in new ways (yeah, apparently that can happen) and I was overwhelmed.  Throughout these 11 months, I would kind of snidely bring up to God that promise He’d made me. Where’s this year without fear, huh? I’m almost 25, Lord? Where you at? 

His response. “Right here. As I have been all along.”

Over the summer during a worship night that a friend invited me to, I prayed a prayer. A bold one. Why? I don’t really know. Call it desperation, call it the prompting of the Holy Spirit. But I prayed. Lord, I need you to show me who I think you are, who you really are, and how the two are different.  Almost immediately, my prayer was answered. If we meet for coffee, I’ll be happy to share with you the specific answer.  (It’s intimate, so I’d rather save it for a face to face convo. Plus, I’d love to get coffee with you!) In sharing this with my counselor, she said, “…I don’t even know what to say. That feels too holy to step on.” I wept. The answer the Lord had given me was completely uprooting my categories for him. It was rearranging “truths” about his character.

Part of what he told me was, “I’m so proud of you. You’re safe with me.” I wept. Again.
What I hadn’t realized is that so much of my fear and anxiety stemmed from a belief that God is not safe, that he couldn’t be trusted. I had no idea how far down this belief went.

Since that moment of clarity over the summer, Jesus and the Holy Spirit have been in cahoots to capture my heart. I know, I know how cheesy that sounds. I just honestly don’t know how else to describe it. Purposefully, passionately, and persistently I am becoming more of who the Lord is calling me to be. I have stood up for myself, I have stayed quiet when I would normally feel the need to speak, I chased a BIG dream and published a book, I let myself be seen by my friends and let them know it means the world to me that they see me, I have apologized, I have repented, I ran a 5k (lol. I consider this a big deal), I started to believe that God is who he says he is and not who I had formerly thought him to be. And oh, am I so thankful. He’s good, y’all. And kind. And BIG. And loving. And hilarious. And adventurous. And faithful. And EXACTLY who Scripture says he is.

Never before had the lyrics of “I asked the Lord” made so much sense to me. In my begging and pleading with the Lord during my deep fits of anxiety and fear, I didn’t realize that what needed to happen was that I needed to see the depths of my heart. I needed to see what I was projecting on the Lord. I needed to see my need to find my all in Him, not who I thought of Him to be.

…I hoped that in some favored hour
At once He’d answer my request
And by His love’s constraining power
Subdue my sins and give me rest

Instead of this He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart
And let the angry powers of Hell
Assault my soul in every part

Yea more with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Cast out my feelings, laid me low

Lord why is this, I trembling cried
Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death?
“Tis in this way” The Lord replied
“I answer prayer for grace and faith”

“These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free
And break thy schemes of earthly joy
That thou mayest seek thy all in me,
That thou mayest seek thy all in me.”

I’m still learning. I’m still processing. But I am so excited. I am expectant. I am re-falling in love with Jesus and with myself and with this life that He’s given me. I’m no longer a slave to fear. Sure, I know that I will again be afraid, but I also know that fear is not my God. Hallelujah for that!

All right year 25, let’s get it!

 

[THANK YOU, JESUS!]
❤ Amen

“If you’re not done working, God, I’m not done waiting”

Duck #112

When I was in high school, the idea of allowing myself to cry over just about anything seemed ridiculous. I allowed myself to play into the ideology that tears made you weak and being perceived as weak was a fate worse than death; therefore, no crying. Granted, in high school I didn’t feel like I had much to cry about. I remember sometime during my junior or senior year standing in the kitchen with my mom. She was making dinner and I was standing behind her, probably dancing, as that is the primary purpose for kitchens (cooking is a very, very close and immediate second, though). With a smile on my face, I looked at my mother and said “Hey,  Mom…do you have have those moments where you just stop and think, ‘man, I just love my life!’?” I’m not entirely sure what I assumed her answer would be, but I remember being disappointed with what she said. At sixteen or seventeen, everything in my life felt…good. I loved my friends, I loved my church, I might have even had a boyfriend at the time. I was playing sports, I was involved in the arts, I was well liked. My understanding of how I related to Jesus (while tender and earnest and beautiful) was a bit naive, but it was good. I had no category for suffering.

Now, six to seven years later, I find myself asking the same question, only this time I’m not in the kitchen. My mom isn’t standing in front of me cooking. I’m not dancing. I’ve gotten over the idea that tears equal weakness and I’m laying on a yoga mat in the middle of the floor in child’s pose. Sobbing. “Jayna…” I think to myself, “Do you have those moments where you just stop and think, ‘man, I just love my life!’?” My answer furthers my tears and aches for the bliss of my high school optimism. This is not to say I am unthankful or unhappy with my life. Quite the opposite holds true. However, there is something that happens as you begin to settle into the bones of adulthood. You see things you might not have been privy to as a teenager.

Suffering moves from this fictional monster to a tangible beast. You can’t prepare for the attack. You’ve never doubted his coming, but each time it feels like an unexpected blow to the gut. He shape-shifts. He sets up camp and stays for a few weeks, maybe even a few years. Sometimes he just passes through and leaves you with a minor scratch. Other times his wounds are so deep it seems like that’s all people notice when they look at you.

Romans 5:1-5 says this:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that but we rejoice in our sufferings knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Last week at my church’s Sunday gathering we sang a song with these lyrics–“the only words my soul can find to sing are ‘hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah my King.'” As I stood among the body of believers, my church family, the people with whom I’m one in Christ, I wept. I wept because I couldn’t find the strength to believe the words on the screen. As the voices around me swelled with earnestness, doubt washed over me.

Lord, I’ve been battling with anxiety for the past four years and it seems like it’s getting worse. I am scared all the time. I worry constantly. My friends have been raped. Family members have died. People I love have lost children. I’m exhausted. I feel like I constantly have to prove my worthiness to you. Your word says that I am justified and free and so loved, but I can’t seem to remember that long enough to believe it for myself. Why do I feel like you’re not who you say you are? Why can’t my faith be strong enough to trust that you are good and kind? HOW THE HELL CAN “HALLELUJAH (PRAISE THE LORD) be the ONLY song my soul finds to sing?

And then the Holy Spirit whispered, “because it is…”
For a moment, it felt like my soul and my flesh separated. It was like my soul said to the rest of my body, “it’s okay, little one, I believe these words. You are okay. Let me sing for you. Let the body of believers around you sing and believe for you.” Tears stained my face and laughter filled my lungs. It was weird and lovely.

So here’s the thing: I don’t know a thing, but I believe that God is good and that even if I struggle to love my life, I know that He loves it. Suffering in its various forms are not a waste. A promised monster, though it may be, a victorious one it will never become.

 

[Dear Lord,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, my King.]
<3Amen

SOS! All of My Friends Are White!

Duck #111

“I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. . . . Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less. No, I do not weep at the world—I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.” – Zora Neale Hurston

I’ve gotten compliments on my skin for as long as I can remember. It’s not abnormal for strangers in grocery stores or coffee shops to comment on its clarity. My mother would tell me how much it reminds her of her mother’s skin. “You have such a pretty pecan color–just like my mom,” she would say.  When I was a teenager this lead to me freaking out if I noticed a pimple on my face. I’ve never struggled with acne, per se, but I’m not immune to biology. Blemishes don’t play favorites.

As a young adult, my blemishes are probably the worst they’ve ever been. My pigmentation is even, but there are some marks and a few scars on my face. Sure, they’re small, and I’m thankful for that. But because my skin was so complimented (and often still is) I learned to wrap up much of who I was in my skin tone. Not too dark, not too light, but a “pretty pecan color.”

My identity as a Black person became wrapped up in my melanin level. This, of course, led to the sin of colorism. A sin to which I thought I was immune, but was lovingly shown that I, in fact, am not. That is hard to admit. I don’t want to admit it. Even after repentance, I still struggle to own up to a way of thinking that labels me as “sinful,” or more currently, “un-woke.”

When I was 11, my parents and I moved from New York to North Carolina. It was then that that the conversation really started. If you’re also Black, you know exactly which conversation I’m talking about. The, “you have to work twice as hard for half the credit”, and “be sure to always use your manners when speaking to adults,” and “your friends might be able to do things, but you can’t,” and “if people say the N-word to you, don’t fight back, ignore them and tell a teacher,” conversation. I don’t remember all the details of this particular conversation, but I do remember being shocked by it. Up until that point in my life, I had absolutely no category for racism. I’d grown up in a beautiful and ethnically diverse neighborhood. In fact, in elementary school I could count the white friends I had one one hand. Never once did I look in the mirror and feel shame because my skin wasn’t white.

But in the same way that I freaked out about blemishes in high school, I freaked out about coming across as “too Black.” On the first day of school in North Carolina, I was hit with the harsh reality of being the only black girl in 7th grade. There was one other Black boy whom I avoided like the plague because I was afraid that everyone would assume we liked each other (which they did). The idea of liking boys, while appealing, was not something I wanted thrown onto me. However, part of being Black in America is learning that so much of what you don’t want is thrown on you for no other reason than that you exist.

One day, in math class, a boy stood up on his chair and proceeded to make a declaration to everyone in the room. He said, “Jayna, I know who you like! You like ______ because you’re both black!” The class erupted with laughter and I was mortified. My teacher told my classmate to sit down and I awkwardly smiled, not because his accusation was true, but because I was uncomfortable and didn’t have anyone else in the classroom that looked like me to back me up or at least empathize with how I was feeling.

*Side note: Sometimes women smile in awkward  and uncomfortable situations. This doesn’t mean that we are necessarily enjoying the current situation we’re in. If you’re unsure, ask. We’re certainly happy to clarify if you give us the chance.
**Another side note: the only other Black kid that everyone thought I liked and I avoided like the plague throughout most of middle school is now one of my best friends.  Naturally, we were voted “Cutest Should Be Couple” our senior year. We loved it though, because of how close we’d gotten. Now that we’re older, we can laugh about the silliness of our adolescence. This summer I get to watch him marry the love of his life and I couldn’t be more excited.

Throughout middle and high school I became obsessed with fitting in. Sometimes that looked like going along with racial pejoratives thrown my way. I wore a baggy jersey to a friend’s 13th birthday party. It was a costume party and there was  going to be a prize for the winner. I went claiming to be a “gangsta” instead of wearing my 70s hippie costume. My mom suggested I wear the tie-die shirt and pant combo, but I made a fuss about how I didn’t want to. I never told her why. I let a friend borrow the costume and she ended up winning the contest that night. Other times that looked like researching bands my friends liked and trying to know their music so I could talk about it at school the next day. I don’t want to thank assimilation for my deep, deep love of pop music–because I probably would’ve fallen in love regardless– but the thrill I got when listening to America’s Top 40 on Sunday mornings before church was not a passion my parents fostered, I can tell ya that much!

Regardless, as I navigated the waters of junior and senior high I swam mostly alone doing whatever tricks necessary to make sure people liked me. (I say mostly because in 8th grade another black girl joined the school and by senior year there was a grand total of 6 Black students in my class!! Alert the media!!) And so began my overwhelmingly white-washed friendships. These relationships, at the time, felt normal and good. I realize now that they were good, but not normal. In college, I would brag about how wonderful my friends were…are. Some of the bonds I made during my time at Appalachian State University are ones that I am confident will last a lifetime. (I’m the Maid of Honor in my best friend’s wedding this spring. I met her during my first week on campus.)

I didn’t understand my need for black friendship until I found it. The summer after my sophomore year, I became a Student Orientation Undergraduate Leader and quickly bonded with the two other black SOULs. We’d all grown up in similar environments and been told similar things by our white peers. These common experiences led to conversations of empathy, nostalgia over common black childhood memories (a personal favorite being seeing the movie Set It Off at far too early an age), and endless nights of watching Kevin Hart’s stand up comedy on Netflix. I loved it! I had found a group of people that got me without me having to explain myself. They understood a part of me I didn’t realize was begging for someone to listen.

But we each had our already established friend groups. While the three of us did hang out outside of Orientation, our home bases were amid our predominantly white relationships. Often times, that’s where I felt the most comfortable. I had been navigating having mostly white friends since I was 11, I knew how to do it.

I’m 24 now, living in the city affectionately called “The Black Mecca,” and I have two Black friends. When I moved to Atlanta, I had all these expectations of finally being able to be in consistent community with people that look like me. Since graduation I’ve learned so much and I need my people to help me process through all of this. In college, I wafted between wanting to join the Black Student Association but thinking I wasn’t Black enough and thinking that BSA was altogether stupid.  Now I wish there was an all Black organization I could join.

I attend a trans-cultural church under the pastorship of a Black man, and yet the majority of people I’ve connected with since attending are white. My roommates are white, all of my co-workers are white, and most of my seminary classmates are white, too. Are white people just drawn to me? Do I have a scent that attracts them? Is there some invisible beacon I posses that repels Black people? Why do I have to work so hard to find community amongst people that understand the hesitancy I had in wearing a head wrap to work the first time without me having to explain it? Am I not Black enough to have Black friends?

These are questions I ask regularly, to myself, and to the Lord. I wouldn’t trade my friends for anything. Please don’t hear me shame them. They are beautiful and wonderful and have been with me through some of my best and absolutely worst times. And I don’t wish they were Black. I think I more so wish that I felt confident to be who I am in the spaces I frequent. In middle and high school I ran from anything that would make me too Black, but at 24 I find myself running towards those things. The changes I’ve made have been minimal, but to me they feel life altering. I love being Black and I want people to know that, but sometimes I fear that because I’m rarely seen with other Black people, my love is illegitimate.  So to counteract my lack of melanin filled friends, I feel like I constantly have to prove my blackness.

The thing about trying to prove yourself, though, is that eventually you will grow tired. I’ve realized recently that I’m not trying to prove my blackness to other people, I’m trying to prove it to myself. It’s not that other people don’t believe I’m black enough…I don’t…and I’m exhausted.

A good friend asked me what I thought it meant to be Black. I haven’t come up with an answer I’d be willing to die for just yet, but here’s what I have so far:

Maybe being Black doesn’t have to do with the friends that I have. Maybe being Black has nothing to do with the way I dress or talk or what music I listen to. Maybe being Black isn’t something that must be achieved. Maybe being Black is just being me…because I am Black. No questions asked.

 

But if ya know of any Black people in ATL that are lookin’ for a fellow, Black gal pal (who’s young and fun) , let a sista know! 😉

[Dear Lord,
Thanks for making me Black. Thanks for choosing my specific skin tone to be one that reflects a part of your nature. That’s pretty cool and kind. I love you.]
❤ Amen

The Greatest Showman: A Celebration of Humanity

Duck #110

If you know me, you know that one of my favorite pastimes is going to the movies, preferably alone. I often refer to the theatre as “my happy place.” It’s a place where, yes, I can escape my reality momentarily, but more so live in the juxtaposition of my world and the one I’m watching on the screen. Art imitates life and life imitates art and there’s something magical about experiencing the marriage of the two. I go to the movies often because I want to to laugh, I want to cry, I want to think, I want to dream… If I could bottle up the feeling I get as I settle into my seat, the lights dim, and the first preview starts, I would. I would bottle it and drink it every morning like a doctor ordered prescription. To me, the movies hold a magic that remind me of how exciting it is to be alive, to be human. I love it.

Recently, my parents and I went to see Michael Gracey’s The Greatest Showman. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the film, TGS is a bio-musical that somewhat details the life and early career of P.T. Barnum, the man we know and love as the “founder” of the American Circus. Barnum was a lover of the arts, entertainment, hoaxes, the peculiar, and certainly a lover of money. Born a poor boy, Barnum worked hard to build a life for himself and his family, most notably via a show starring men and women that were considered community pariahs.

With music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, The Greatest Showman, elevates the exciting and highlights the hideous. A movie released at the end of a polarizing political year, the messages it communicates are ones of inclusion, family, love, and friendship. In many ways, TGS drips with a classic rags to riches plot, akin to the Cinderella story our country loves to rally behind. The scenes pull at your heartstrings. As an audience member your heart soars when Barnum marries his childhood sweetheart, when he creatively builds a present for his daughter’s birthday after he loses his job, when patrons attend his show and give a standing ovation. And how would you not? Hope lives in our core and we believe a little more that maybe—just maybe—we can make it through this thing called life if there’s evidence of someone else’s hope coming to fruition, even if it’s just on a movie screen. We all want a hero we can root for, someone we can cheer on, someone we want to do good. Early on in the film, Hugh Jackman (Barnum), slips into this role. With vocals and acting, that I think surpass his last Christmas blockbuster, Les Miserables, Jackman convinces the audience that “…the world becomes a fantasy/ and you’re more than you could ever be/ ‘cause you’re dreaming with your eyes wide open/ so, come alive!” per the pivotal fourth number in the film, “Come Alive.”

However, while the spotlight obviously shines and Jackman’s portrayal of P.T. Barnum, I believe the real heroes lie in the characters that star in the circus—The Fattest Man, The Tallest Man on Earth, Dog Boy, an African American brother and sister trapeze artist pair, The Bearded Lady, among others. Without them, Barnum’s show falls flat. When trying to get a loan from the bank to open his show he says, “people are fascinated by the unusual and the macabre.” Of course, watching this, I’m torn. The saying is trustworthy, people are fascinated by the unusual, but these “unusuals” are people, people being put on display for the entertainment of others. Barnum’s character puts it this way, “…people are going to be laughing anyway, so you might as well get paid, right?” It’s a fascinating scenario, to exploit the odd and yet simultaneously give them a place to belong.

What is so beautiful about these “unusuals” though is that while Barnum gives them a platform, they take that platform and make it home all on their own. It’s almost as if they take back what it means to be exploited. Together they form a family and accept one another. Each night they come together and put on a show that brings joy to an audience of curious, skeptical people. How? By celebrating exactly who they are, no apologies. There is a particular moment in the film when this theme shines brilliantly. As not to spoil the build up or it’s impact (because you should most certainly go see this film for yourself), I won’t go into detail, but I will quote the second verse and chorus of This Is Me, the song that director Michael Gracey considers the movies’ anthem:

[Verse 2]
Another round of bullets hits my skin /Well, fire away ’cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in / We are bursting through the barricades / And reaching for the sun (we are warriors) /Yeah, that’s what we’ve become

[Pre- Chorus}
Won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious

[Chorus]
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down/ Gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out/ I am brave, I am bruised/ I am who I’m meant to be, this is me/ Look out ’cause here I come/ And I’m marching on to the beat I drum/ I’m not scared to be seen/ I make no apologies, this is me

The first time I saw the film (yes, I saw it twice within a 3 day period. It’s fine.), I cried. I cried the second time, too, actually. If I’m being honest, it’s hard for me to listen to the song and not get emotional. I couldn’t help it. This anthem wasn’t just for the characters in the movie, it was for the viewers as well. It was for the teen that’s long been ashamed of his/her body image, it was for the kid that would rather sing than shoot hoops, it was for the person that’s been picked incessantly, it was for those that have never felt like they fit in anywhere. It was for me, a young, black, Christian woman learning what it means to be proud of who she is. This song, as well as the film itself, is truly “a celebration of humanity” as stated by one of the theatre critics in the movie.

In its essence, what TGS communicates, isn’t a message of fitting in, per se. It’s message is more about finding a place in the world to call your own, a place where you feel safe to unashamedly be who you are—human, uniqueness and all. I left the theatre proud and inspired. Proud to be human and inspired not to hide that.

Entering the theatre human, but leaving proud to be so is a great feeling. As I took to social media to sing The Greatest Praises, I commented to a friend about how timely it was for the movie to be released at Christmas. Sure, the aforementioned themes of acceptance and family fit in well with the holiday season, but as Christian I couldn’t help but whisper a silent prayer of thanks. Christmas is the day that we celebrate the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the day we marvel at the dual nature of our Savior–God and man. He is a Savior that empathizes with our human condition not only because he created it, but because he lived it. He understands what it means to be human and celebrates that our humanity reflects his nature. Together, we are broken fragments of his glory, created for his good pleasure.

It was both empowering and convicting to watch a spectacular joining of peoples of all shapes, sizes, colors, and backgrounds coming together to create something beautiful. Sometimes it takes a dark room, popcorn, and a spectacular movie with lively music and striking colors to remind us of who we are. We are brave. We are bruised. We are loved. We are human.

The Need for People with Sight–Part 1

Duck #109

“If you were like that, I’d be very interested in how you live your life…”

This was the response to a comment I made at a party on Saturday night. I don’t really remember what we were talking about. Party banter tends to vary.  At first everyone’s a little nervous, scanning the room for familiar faces, searching conversation for subjects that feel like the shoes you decided to wear that night. You know the ones. The ones you slipped on as you told yourself, “Well, if I don’t end up having a good time at least I’ll be comfortable and relatively stylish.” We all have a pair. Mine are pair of black booties. Attractive, yet basic, but not boring enough to be completely overlooked. They’re somewhere in the middle, depending upon the rest of my outfit.

I wear them often in the fall/winter because they’re in. And I want to be in. I want to be seen. We all do. We all have a desire to be noticed, cared for, loved…

Remember the first time someone noticed you after you’d been silently begging and praying to be acknowledged? Maybe it was during lunch on your first day of middle school, or maybe it was by the guy or girl you’d been crushing on, maybe it was by a teacher or coach you’d been trying to impress. Regardless of where, regardless of the person that did the noticing, being noticed felt good. That moment told you, “Hey. You matter.” It’s empowering and dignifying.

Because I know what it’s like to be seen, I continually feel convicted about ignoring other people. So when the news of another senseless, hateful, mass shooting took place on American soil, I cried. I couldn’t help it. The most recent slaughters via a gunman happened at two of my favorite places to attend–a concert venue and a place of worship. (I hate everything about that sentence. *sigh*). In a matter of minutes stories broke and social media was flooded with news about what had happened. Amid the carcasses of paragraphs wet with words like, “opened fire,” “death toll,” “loud screaming,” “music,” “church,” was this repeated phrase: my thoughts and prayers…

I scrolled Twitter. I lost count of how many times I was reading those same 20 letters over and over again. . We say it all the time. It’s a sweet, hallmark-like sentiment. It rests on the cusp of empathy and apathy. It often translates as, “I recognize you, but not enough to really do anything about it.” Now, please don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with that phrase inherently. There isn’t. I’ve said it myself. What I’m saying is that I don’t think that phrase is…enough.

But what if I actually mean that phrase? What if I really am thinking and praying about the victims and these horrible situations? What if I don’t have anything better to say? What can I actually do?

I hear you. 

However, if you would consider yourself a follower of Jesus, let me urge you to consider two things:
1) Prayer shouldn’t always stop at prayer; often it must move us to a decided action.
2) The Church should be the primary place where people not only feel noticed, but are actually seen. (To be explored in a subsequent blog post.)

I’m a huge fan of the Gospels. I love what they so intimately tell us about the character and person of Jesus. Take the first chapter of Mark for example. At the beginning of his ministry (a crucial time of action) after performing several miracles, Jesus “rises very early in the morning, while it was still dark…[departing]…to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (v 35). Understandably so, the disciples frantically search for their leader letting him know that everyone has been looking for him. Jesus’ reply? “Let us go on to the next towns that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” (v 37).

I don’t know what the disciples were thinking, but if I were them, I’m sure I would’ve been thinking something like Why on earth did Jesus take this time to pray? Doesn’t he know that we have so much work to do, so many people to meet? He called us to follow him and become fishers of men. We can’t do that if He’s off by himself praying all morning. We have to act!! I think what the disciples failed to understand is the beautiful partnership that prayer and action have. Prayer re-centers, re-grounds, reshapes, reorients, and realigns our actions. To act on behalf of the kingdom of God without prayer is pointless. We are too weak to move towards people, and see them with dignity aside from Lord’s help.

What we see Jesus doing in Mark 1 is carrying out an understanding of prayer and action. It’s not like Jesus doesn’t know what’s at stake–the literal souls of his beloved. To save them, he must act. He knows that. Jesus takes the time to pray so that he might act well.  And what happens next? Jesus’ heals a leper. One of the most dirty, outcast members of society comes to Jesus and asks to be made clean–“moved with pity, [Jesus] stretched out his hand and touched [the man with leprosy] and said to him…’be clean'” (v. 41).

Jesus noticed him. Jesus saw this man–broken, unwanted, dejected–and touched him.

We are not Jesus. We were not sent by the Father to save the world; but we have been commissioned to see people–to care for the sick, feed the poor, love the widow and orphan. I don’t know about you, but I don’t always want to do those things. I wish I did, but I’m usually “too busy.” Prayer changes that. Genuine prayer for the world around me won’t let me ignore the needs of others. I can’t always just think and pray about the tragedy that just happened, I won’t ever see anyone if that’s all I’m doing. I must pray because I must know how to act.

I don’t know what this means, exactly. What does prayerful, wise action look like in the case of senseless gunfire and death? I’m not sure. But I do know that it looks like far more than a pithy post from behind a computer screen.  There are people, created in the image of God, that are begging to be seen. Will we see them?

 

[picture found at nbcnews.com]

Here’s to you

Duck #108

In the back room of my Atlanta home, there are two walls that are made almost entirely of windows. It’s my absolute favorite room in the house (even if it is the coldest). My backyard is composed of trees big and tall, small and thin. Their branches create big shapes in the sky that canopy over the grass beneath my deck. During the summer, as the sun would set, streaks of yellow and pink would squirm their way through the leafy shapes. I thought to myself, “I can’t wait for winter, when the trees are bare and I can see the sun setting through their limbs.” I have a front row seat to one of the best shows nature has to offer, and I get to watch every evening from the comfort of my own home.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the future recently. And the past. And the present. I’ve spent moments dreaming of what I hope my life will look like in years to come, I’ve used moments dwelling on circumstances of the past that I cannot change, I’ve enjoyed moments of trying to soak up each day as it happens. There’s something about the beginning of a new year that does that to you, I think. Tomorrow I turn 24.

A piece of me begs to hang on to 23, to hang on to an age I won’t ever get back, a youthful bliss that only comes with being exactly 23, but tomorrow I will be 24. I don’t suppose that suddenly aged wisdom will descend upon me at the stroke of midnight, but something will change on November 30th. All year, I have been like the trees in my backyard. I have been going through seasons. Budding, then blooming, and finally laid bare. Bones exposed, through the shapes that my lungs create over my heart. I can feel the beating in my chest.

I like to think that sunsets tell stories. The brighter the colors, the more adventurous the day, perhaps. An invitation to laugh. Duller hues, a call to be quiet. To be thankful, to pray. These days my heartbeat is telling me a story, too. For so long I’ve been afraid to listen–it’s been loud, but I’ve chosen earplugs.

No longer.

Twenty -four, here’s to you. Here’s to my heart. Here’s to being comfortable bare. Here’s to listening. Here’s to praying more and laughing louder. Here’s to dancing in the kitchen. Here’s to tattoos. Here’s to memorizing Scripture. Here’s to the inevitable tears. Here’s to the sleepless nights. Here’s to long naps. Here’s to corporate worship.  Here’s to bold coffee. Here’s to loud concerts. Here’s to waffles.  Here’s to red wine. Here’s to crosswalks and cityscapes. Here’s to commuting to work. Here’s to friendship–new and old. Here’s to family. Here’s to you. Here’s to me. Here’s to hope. Here’s to love. Here’s to freedom.

[Dear Jesus,
Thank you for sunsets, for you love, and for my life.]
<3Amen

God is good. Period.

Duck #107

My sophomore year of college, I decided to get a minor in Social Work. My reason for doing so was ambitious (and a little spur of the moment). Nearly five years later I still grapple with whether or not I should’ve chosen a different subject. When I start peer down that thought spiral, I’m reminded of a skill I learned–one for which I will forever be thankful–active listening. I learned what it looked like to actually hear what people were saying, affirm their thoughts, and respond based upon what they said. It’s a skill that has served me well in all of the jobs I’ve had since then.  And like I said, I’m grateful. It’s funny though, when it comes to actively listening to the Lord, my skill set feels terribly unrefined.

In my last post, I wrote about freedom and how I’m essentially journeying to find it. My quest is far from finished (and praise God for that, honestly), but I had a realization last week that’s rocked me. It has genuinely shaken me to my core and I can’t be unshook. Here it is: God is good. Period. And He’s worthy to be praised. 

Uhm….Jayna? Duh. Where have you been?!
I know, I know. It’s obvious, but it really clicked last week.

Since moving to Atlanta, I’ve been talking to the Lord…a lot. If you know me well, you’ll know that change is really hard for me, as it is for most people. I have a bent towards anxiety and transition triggers everything I’ve ever been afraid of ever. Needless to say moving to a city where I didn’t really know anyone, starting a new job, and being financially independent of my parents has been a DoOoOoZy. So much of what I’ve said to the Lord has been said through tears, confusion, and worry. I’ve done a lot of talking and less listening because I’ve been (and often still am) so afraid of what He’s going to say. I have been in a posture of assuming things about Jesus in lieu of spending time getting to know him better.  Overwhelmingly, I have assumed the following: The Lord is out to get me. It’s only a matter of time before He realizes I’m a failure and ruins my life. Overwhelmingly, I have been wrong. Over and over and over again. You know what they say about assuming…

For years my M.O. has been to praise God because of what He’s done for me. Functionally, I understood that His character stays the same, but I believed that insomuch as what I could point back to in my life that’s benefitted me. If I couldn’t find something to be thankful for, I couldn’t truly praise Jesus. I didn’t have a right to do so.

Last week at church, I realized that an attractive guy I’d seen a handful of times was married. For whatever reason, this really upset me. I’ve never spoken to him. I don’t even know his name, but I was oddly disappointed. As the congregation worshiped, we sang songs about the matchless worth of Christ, about how good He is, about how He is worthy to be praised and a thought crossed my mind: I can’t sing these things. I’m sad  and would feel like a hypocrite for praising Jesus right now. Nevertheless, the songs continued and the Truth began to unpack and rip a part the lie I was believing.

I repented. I began to say out loud “Lord, you are good because you are good. You are good. You are good. You are good.” In that moment, something shifted. I realized that my circumstances didn’t dictate His goodness. The goodness of the Lord is self sufficient.
Believe me, I realize how silly this sounds. It’s a little embarrassing, honestly. I feel like a 16 year old girl who claims that “Daddy doesn’t love me because he didn’t buy me a convertible for my birthday.”  I mean, I more deeply believed in the goodness of God when two family members that I love dearly died. But when my “Crush From Afar” is married? God’s goodness = absent. Hahaha. Being human is funny.

As I repeatedly declared the goodness of the Lord to myself, and to Him, I started to believe what I was saying. I chose, in that moment, to listen to what He might be telling me instead of assuming. “Yes, I am good. Always. I love you.” is what I heard.

Yesterday morning on the way to church I prayed that Jesus would speak, that I would listen, and that I would have a deep encounter with Him. I tried to enter into worship mindful of the fact that Jesus is good. And in the middle of one of the songs, the Lord brought Colossians 1:19 to mind, “For in him the fullness of God is pleased to dwell.”

Jesus is holding the universe together and all of who God is is pleased to dwell within Him. Love. Mercy. Grace. Power. Kindness. Gentleness. Justice. Patience. The list goes on. He is worthy of praise, so so worthy. I was overwhelmed, and still am, honestly. It doesn’t matter how I feel; I can and get to praise the Lord because He’s worthy to be praised. There is rich, humbling freedom in that.

I can actively listen to Jesus, regardless of my circumstances (and how I feel about them), because my circumstances don’t mitigate the Truth that He will never, ever stop sharing with me: “Yes, I am good. Always. I love you.”

 

[Thank you, Jesus.]
<3Amen

My Battle for Freedom

Duck #106

“May you be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you…”

___
The temperature is beginning to change, I think. Well, today, as I walked from my house to my car, and then later from my car into my office, I said, “it’s getting chilly.” Initially, I was a little frustrated because I’d chosen to wear sandals to work–it’s been so warm that I didn’t even consider checking the temperature before I left the house. But then I smiled. 60 degree mornings are my favorite mornings; the air feels…free. In turn, so do I…

I’ve been thinking a lot about a lot of things recently. Nothing new. The issue is that for the past few months, I haven’t been able to write about what I’m thinking. I have draft after draft saved on my phone, my work computer, my personal computer, my journal, random scrap pieces of paper. As someone who is an external processor by nature, It has been endlessly frustrating to have my thoughts beg to escape my brain and be held captive by fear? Perhaps. I’m unsure, but it would seem that fear is an antithesis to freedom, so probably. And freedom is something I want, I’m wary of it, but I want it.

A few weeks ago I was driving home from work and decided to call my best friend. As I reached my destination she asked me how I was doing, how I was feeling. My emotions have chosen to create their own constellation with such varying directions, heights, and depths, brightly pointing out a picture of how much I hate change. So, her question was warranted. “I’m okay…”  is how I believe I started to respond. But I kept talking. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but my monologue culminated with this, “I’m afraid to fully trust the Lord because I feel like if I do, then He’s going to see me and think, “Oh, Jayna. Why did I choose her as my daughter?!” I’m afraid that if I let Him see me (even though I know He sees all of me) He’s going to run away like so many other people have once I reached a certain level of vulnerability…” And then I started to cry. My heart started to race. My vision blurred a bit, and for a brief moment it felt like my skin and bones separated from my heart. It was like a chasm was created in my chest, one that allowed me to breathe. So, I did. I took a deep breath in and slowly let it out. Yes, Jayna. That’s it. You’re a little bit closer. That was my next thought, but I also felt the thought? It’s hard to explain, but I’m pretty sure it was the Holy Spirit’s way of letting me know that He saw me, He heard me, He was there with me. Amidst my irrational fear.

Since then, I’ve been in this battle of sorts. I’m deciding to call it “My Battle for Freedom.” On the phone with my best friend, though I was admitting to a deep fear, I’d won a small victory in this battle. I knew I had. I shared this with a new friend I’ve made since moving to Atlanta and she said, “It’s sounds like you’re on the road to freedom. It’s a tough one, but you know where it leads? To more freedom.” I agreed. She was right and I knew that was the truth. But here’s the thing I’m learning, the road to freedom isn’t flat. It’s rugged and hot and hilly. Sometimes it’s grassy and cool and straight, but it’s mostly not. Of course, I want this road to only require a leisurely walk from me. Actually, I don’t want to walk at all. I want to be driven in a car with a sunroof and windows rolled down revealing mountains and sunsets and changing leaves.

I’m tired. I’m lethargic. And most days I don’t feel like fighting for freedom. “Is it worth it?” I often ask myself. “I’m comfortable here. I mean, it’s not ideal, but it’s familiar and I can sort of control things. Sort of.” I’ll say. But then I’ll think, “This isn’t what the Lord has for me. He doesn’t want me to be bound by fear and worry and lethargy.” My Battle for Freedom is just that, a battle. But I’m not battling alone, nor do I have to be afraid of the One who goes before me to prepare the way. Yes, Jayna. That’s it. You’re a little bit closer. 

Okay, then. Lord, give the energy me to fight for freedom. Okay, then. Lord, give me the courage to receive the joy that’s already mine. Okay, then. Lord, remind me of your perfect love that casts out fear. Okay, then. Lord, help me.

The temperature is changing, I think. It’s changing in my heart. It’s cooling and relaxing an exhausted soul that has worried itself warm. The smoke I’ve been struggling to breathe through is clearing. Oh, my lungs ache from coughing! And there He is. Jesus. King of Glory. My healer. My redeemer. My Savior. My love. He says, “Jayna, I delight in you. You are mine. I have chosen you and I am so glad I did. Come, dine with me. Taste the freedom that awaits you in my presence. I have so much to show you…”
___
“…He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” -Colossians 1:11-13

 

Black & Proud

Duck #105

 

“I am dripping melanin and honey…”
___

To Whom It May Concern:

When hate is spewed like venom from the mouths of serpents, the very skin I’m in is threatened. Words and actions pierce the dark color that protects my bones—I cry. My insides tremble and my blood boils. I am hurt and I am angry and I am sad, but I am proud.

When violence shoots forth from the hands of bears, the very skin I’m in becomes a target. Fists and bullets bruise the rich chocolate that covers my chest—I scream. My hands sweat and my heart races. I am hurt and I am angry and I am sad, but I am proud.

When ignorance spills from the minds of fools, the very skin I’m in is attacked. Idiocrasy and bigotry slip over the negro soul that holds my hopes and dreams—I pray. My thoughts run to the King of Kings, my Creator. I am hurt and I am angry and I am sad, but I am proud.

I am black and I am proud.
I am proud because I know to Whom I belong.
I come from a history of perseverance.

I am black and I am proud.
I am proud because my identity is engraved in the palms of my Creator.
I come from a history of resilience.

I am black and I am proud.
I am proud because I am of more value than many sparrows.
I come from a history of discovery.

I am black and I am proud.
I am proud because those who look to Jesus are radiant and their faces will never be ashamed.
I come from a history of invention.

I am black and I am proud.
I am proud because God made me who I am and who I am is BEAUTIFUL.
No qualifications.
No modifications.
No adjustments.
Dark skinned and curly haired.

I refuse to let the media tell me who I am.
I repel the notion that I am anything but beloved.
I reject voices that attempt to refute my dignity.
I rebel against the narrative that tells me I am still a slave.
I refute the racist lies that are antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

When love is poured out like water from a stream, the very skin I’m in will relax. Songs of charity warm the dark color that protects my bones—I cry. Anxiety subsides and worry flees. I am known and I am wanted and I am joyful and I am proud.

When peace grows strong like a tall oak tree, the very skin I’m in will be healed. Hands and arms embrace the rich chocolate that covers my chest—I laugh. My lips curve upward and my breathing steadies. I am known and I am wanted and I am joyful and I am proud.

When wisdom is sought after by the minds of the hungry, the very skin I’m in will not be feared. Understanding and empathy cover the negro soul that holds my hopes and dreams—I pray. My thoughts dance before the Maker of Heaven and earth, King Jesus. I am known and I am wanted and I am joyful and I am proud.

With all sincerity,

Jayna Duckenfield

___

“…I am black without apology.”

Quote by Upile Chisala

 

[Dear Jesus,
thank You for who You are and thank You for making me who I am.]
❤ Amen