Tag Archives: Faith

Looking for a Segregated House

I’ve been thinking a lot about going back to church. We essentially stopped going earlier this year. I wasn’t getting what I needed, so I just stopped going.

The UU church philosophy is a good for me, but the congregation we attended isn’t. I loved the pastor, who seemed to take a genuine interest in me and Hope after services on Sunday. Her homilies often cover topics that I’m passionate about like civil rights and racial reconciliation through a faith lens, but the congregation is not very diverse in terms of race or age–the mean age is well more than 10 years older than me. Additionally, our presence seemed to grow the congregation’s racial diversity by a third; on more than one occasion Hope and I were the only non-White folks in attendance.  I wish I could say I didn’t notice this, but not acknowledging that would be absurd. 

Then there was that one homily about Black Lives Matter that some of the congregants complained about at the little meet and greet right after the service. A gentleman asked me if I agreed with the pastor’s homily because he thought the pastor was getting way out of line with this BLM discussion. I was polite but firm that it was refreshing to be a part of a church with a leader who recognized the need to talk about race, injustice and how the fit in the practice of Unitarianism. He promptly excused himself to get some juice, and never rejoined the conversation he initiated. You can only imagine how welcomed I felt in that moment. #sarcasm

Shortly after the election of my discontent, I just became even warier of where I worshipped. Real talk: Honestly, it’s been a hard year trusting White folks. Yes, yes, I know #notall, but really as a larger block, White folks stayed disappointing me this year. The demographics that led to the election of the person currently occupying the American White House (I try to refrain from uttering his name, kinda like #Beetlejuice) undermined a lot of the interracial trust I’d worked hard to personally cultivate.  I found the number of ministers who spoke in his favor to undermine what little remaining faith I had in the clergy, and White clergy with national platforms that I held in reasonably high regard cosigning his foolery?? Don’t even get me started.  As we now ponder the upcoming Alabama election that includes a candidate who allegedly trolled for teenage girls at the local mall and thought this behavior was ok as long as he asked for permission from their parents, I am mystified by how many pastors have come to his defense. It’s hard to have faith in folks who are supposed to lead and counsel our moral compasses these days. #Istaydisappointed #whygotochurchanyway

So, yeah, I’m having a hard time reconciling what I believe and what I see in practice and how much I want to be associated with any of it and why on earth would I want Hope to be exposed. Seriously, this is a major thing when you ain’t sure you want your kid to go to church because the pastor and congregation may be publicly cosigning on some bullschnitt. 

After I was grown and owning a home of my own, I have cyclically gone to church. Every few years or so I would feel very strongly the desire to go and be in fellowship somewhere. And then that desire and/or need would fade and I would step down to couch worship and then no fellowship or formal worship anywhere. I’m starting to cycle back into wanting to be in fellowship somewhere, but everything feels very different now.

As an adult, I’ve been adamant about my desire to be in fellowship in spaces that were diverse and integrated. Sundays are the most segregated day of the week; I don’t want that for myself and I don’t want that for Hope either. I also want to be somewhere that was going to be progressive in its profession and practice of faith; I’m not checking for homophobic sermons, rants about liberals or a congregation that believes that American Christians are under attack, what with all the Christian privilege in this country. I’m also not checking for pastors advancing the prosperity gospel. I’m just not interested in these and a few other key things central to my faith, but that leaves A LOT of fertile ground to talk and teach about.

But there’s something else these days: I need to be in spaces that are spiritually, psychically and racially safe. I slug it out in very White spaces day in and day out talking about and promoting diversity, and it exhausts me. I love my job, but make no mistake facilitating discussions about diversity and inclusion is not easy work, and I don’t even think I’m on the real front lines of this work. I come home sometimes spiritually and psychically empty because it’s just that hard. And although I have constructed a life in which some of my closest ride or die friends are White (and I LOVE Y’ALL so much it hurts), the day to day grind this last year has worn on my racial identity more than any other period of my life. Sitting around watching young White folks carrying tiki torches at night talkin’ bout how threatened *they*  feel because some statues of Civil War losers erected purely to intimidate Black folks might come down will really mess with you. Hearing your mother, who integrated her high school 50 years ago, talk about having similar fears that she had during Jim Crow effs with you. Having a White House occupant who still believes in the guilt of the DNA exonerated Central Park Five and who will tweet nasty things at Black and brown folks who he doesn’t think are respectful or grateful enough just grates at you. Wondering what the worst case racial scenario when you’re brown or black in this country might look like in the coming years will keep you up watching the ceiling fan turn at night. These times…these times are or should be hard for the emotional and spiritually minded among us. 

In thinking about all of that and feeling the need to be in fellowship somewhere, I know that more than anything I want to be in a safe space on Sunday morning. I need to be in a safe space on Sunday morning. I need that safety so that I can manage the other 6 days of the week. And #notall churches are safe for people who look like me. #reallyrealtalk

So, for the first time in more than 20 years, I’m going to start looking for a Black church to attend. I realized this after a lot of thought. It kind of goes against all the things I believe in related to diversity, but I’m at this place where…I worry that this is the only way I will make it through this particular spiritual cycle. I need to be safe, I need Hope’s spiritual journey to be safe, and my trust factor has fallen such that my desire to worship in a broader community has taken a backseat to my need for safe spiritual food.

I mentioned it to Hope recently and found that my daughter wants that kind of safety too. If she goes, she wants to be in a space with people who look like us (which by itself should be the topic of another post since how she engages and identifies as a woman of color is fraught with some serious baggage). 

What does it say about the state of things when folks who really want to integrate must segregate for their own safety? Well, it doesn’t say anything new; it just says that this has been the way for so long and it’s just bubbling up and affecting more people.

And what else does it say when churches aren’t safe spaces for everyone?

Hope and I are making a list of local Black churches and will commence to visiting soon. 

I’ll say this…it will be good to hear some high-quality gospel choirs. I’ve appreciated the diversity of congregations I’ve joined or visited, but the music…um, it was just ok. Nobody does gospel like Black churches, so… yeah. We look forward to visiting.

There is no guarantee that we will find what we are looking for, but I’m hopeful. Still, I do really need to sit and reconcile how this diversity professional has been run off from worshipping in diverse spaces because it’s just potentially too painful. Looking for a segregated house of worship wasn’t a part of my plan.

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If You Voted for Him — john pavlovitz

I have always been a believer in voice. Your voice is who you are. How you use it is a demonstration of your personal power.

Wars have been waged over voice—who has it, who doesn’t, how it is used.

I was always taught and been taught that silence is assent.

And this year, that is true.

In fact, I can’t think of another time in my life when it has been truer.

Just under half of the voting electorate voted for someone who seems to share very few of my beliefs or values.

Half.

It’s kind of like those old sayings when you go to college: Look to your left. Now, look to your right. One of those folks won’t be there at graduation.

Instead, now, the ending goes: One of those folks voted for the guy openly praised and endorsed by hate groups and restrictive regimes around the world.

So, you say, that you don’t share those beliefs?

Tell me.

Show me.

Stand with me.

Tell me, show me and stand with me.

Reblogged…

If you voted for him, I really need you to hear something right now: I believe you. I believe you when you say that you’re not a racist. I believe you when you say that you’re not a bigot. I believe you when you say you’re not homophobic. I believe you when you say you’re……

via If You Voted for Him — john pavlovitz


It’s Been A Year

It’s been a year since we left our old church. And to be honest, it kinda feels like I’ve been wandering around the desert ever since then. We visited a number of churches over the last year, but in the end, we landed at the neighborhood Universal Unitarian church.

We are there because Hope likes it; there are a couple of kids from her school who attend and unlike our old church, she seamlessly slipped into the social scene at the UU church.

Me? I haven’t; but I’m realizing that I’m not much of a joiner. I’m constantly intrigued by how my neighbors all seem to know each other, but despite my living here for 15 years I don’t have to many close relationships with my condo neighbors. #IDigress

It’s cool though, this church thing isn’t about me, and my discomfort at not being at a distinctly Christian church isn’t really that big of a deal. I have been creative about making sure that we get Christianity infused throughout life.

In the midst of all of these developments, I kept getting mail from the old church.

Each flyer, giving statement, newsletter cut me like glass. It has taken every bit of this whole year to try to get past the heartbreak of feeling rejected by my church.

It’s taken the whole year for me to wrestle with the fury of anger and the tears of sadness. I felt like there was a mini setback every time I got something in the mail.

Shortly after I received the last giving statement for the year that I would use to finish my taxes, I received a “reminder” about the pledge I’d made at the beginning of the year on behalf of myself and Hope. I gave towards the pledge until we left.

Last fall, when I received a “reminder” I sent them an email about how we were not in fellowship there anymore and that I was allocating those funds to another house of faith.

And then I got the last “reminder.”

And I let it sit.

And sit.

And sit.

I called Grammy to ask about her opinion. Let’s just say she hasn’t worked as hard as I have to forgive. Lest we forget, not only did they hurt me and Hope, but they denied her and my father a public opportunity to embrace Hope and join me in committing to raise her faithfully.

There’s quite a bit of pain in that too. We all hurt.

So, today, I sat down and wrote my former pastor a long letter. I talked about how I came to attend that church, how my being in fellowship there definitely marked a major chapter in my life—starting and finishing my doctorate and becoming a mother. I shared how I felt all during the 7-8 months it took for them to grow a pair and say we just weren’t the cute adoptive family that everyone wants to see. I shared about the times the pastoral staff were condescending. I shared about how ironic it was to hear adoption used as a Christian metaphor so often and what that irony felt like. I shared about my last conversation with the family pastor who was dispatched to share the news that Hope and I didn’t fit the motif of the church. I shared how we were attending a UU church now and how Hope was thriving there.

I asked to be completely erased from the mailing list. It’s simply too hard to have stuff from them coming to my little crazy sanctuary.

I printed the letter. I printed an envelope. I peeled the stamp. I licked the enveloped. I dropped it in the mailbox.

And a burden was lifted.

Just in time for Easter.

I am grateful to totally close that chapter.

The Background on The Church Thing

An Amazing Dedication

Being Gracious

An Adoption Blessing

Radio Silence

About Face

About that Church Thing

Supporting You from the Back Room

Finding a House

 


Forget about Tomorrow

I used to love The Winans. When I was a kid they had this gospel song called Tomorrow; pretty famous song actually.  I have always loved that song. Last night after a meaningful conversation with Hope, I thought about that song a lot, like a lot a lot.

On the drive back to NoVa from Christmas celebrations down south, Hope and I got to talking about what a beeotch on wheels I’ve been for the last month or so. I tried to explain that this time of year is stressful and sad for me. There’s so much to do, and I also get to remembering all the people I miss so much.  I tend to be reflective this time of year and it takes me a long while to get to the good stuff in reflecting; it doesn’t usually happen until that very last week of the year when I consciously beginning looking forward as I put together my vision board for the next year.

I also really have a hard time with the minimal amount of available sunlight, and, well, I’m just grumpy.  

This year I’ve been thinking about how much life has changed for me, with an emphasis on the hard stuff and I’ve been feeling a little resentful about how hard it is.  It’s just been a really tough fall for me emotionally.

It’s always a tough time for Hope; she’s becoming more open with me about how that’s the case, all the time now. It makes me sad..or rather sad-der.

As she was telling me about her feelings  last night, I asked her what, besides me being less beeotchy, could I do to help her.

LOL, she said, basically be less beeotchy. I chuckled.

She pointed out that I seemed to understand that Yappy does dumb stuff and I don’t punish him harshly, that I understand that as a puppy dog that he’s going to do dumb stuff.  She said, but dogs just want to make their people happy. Why can’t you be more like that with me?

Just understand that she’s going to do dumb stuff that annoys the hell out of me and not flip out and think it’s going to ruin her future.

Well, damn.

Yeah, ok.

I explained to her, as best I could, that I just want so much for her, more than she is capable of wanting for herself right now. I’ve known for sometime that this was a dangerous path for me because It set me up to be critical of everything she does. And while I don’t comment or tell her that I judge everything, I’m sure I’m constantly giving off that energy and that’s not healthy for either of us.

I explained how those desires are rooted in my love for her, but I acknowledged that it meant I probably was rarely meeting her where she was.  I was so focused on “tomorrow” that I was just neglecting her immediate needs for just accepting her awkward-still-trying-to-figure-out-her-adoptive-teen-life.

So, I got to thinking that I’ve really been overthinking some things. Hope needs me to worry about her “today” not her “tomorrow.” She needs me to just zero in on helping her get through each day without worrying if she’s on the path to say, college.  She’s just trying to get through today and get to tomorrow.

As strong as I know she must be to have endured all that she has, she is incredibly fragile. She just can’t process thinking about more than today or maybe to the next weekend.

This is so radical to me because I have always plotted everything; I’m always looking at the macro-view of my life to plot my next steps. Hope is a micro-thinker who needs me to drill down with her to just help her stay on task day to day.

I get it. I admit, that this isn’t new; I heard it before, but I think I really get it this time. I’m really fortunate that Hope can break this down for me sometimes; I can’t imagine having to figure this out with the really little ones! [Bless y’all for home fostering and adopting the littles is a calling…I’m so not built for that!] #Idigress

So, I’ve got to do some rewiring of my own brain to figure out how to better meet her where she is.

[I wonder how many adoptive parents parenting kids with histories of trauma have had before and after PET scans to see whether/how our brains must change to adapt to therapeutic parenting…must hit Google Scholar later…] #Idigressagain

Anyway, Hope announced she was sleepy and drifted off mid-sentence, leaving me to my own thoughts.

Although I see so much talent and promise in my beautiful girl, she is still in survival mode. While I do an ok job at this mom thing, Hope still isn’t feeling safe enough to make the conversion to thinking longer term. We’re still white knuckling it. I mean, I knew I was struggling and I knew she was struggling, but I didn’t realize how my hopes for her wanting more was undermining her ability to just focus on getting through each day.  #boo #parentingfail

All of this got me to thinking about the Winans’ song Tomorrow.  It talks about how we shouldn’t put off salvation until tomorrow because, well, tomorrow isn’t promised to us. In fact, the Holy Homeboy is practically doing jumping jacks to get us to move today rather than waiting for the unpromised tomorrow. The last line of the song urges us to forget about tomorrow because tomorrow might be too late to get on the party train to the pearly gated club up yonder. 

I’m guessing the Holy Homeboy was stepping in to hip me to the fact that Hope needs me to just forget about tomorrow right now and help Hope just get through today.  These early teen years are such a mess for any kid, but I can only imagine what it must be like when you’re dragging an extra bucket of messiness around in your head. I gotta not sweat what things will be like 3 years from now; it will be what it will be. Hope needs me to stay present with her, right here, right now. 

It’s hard for me to put a lot of that desires on ice, but if I want any of that life to be within her grasp, I gotta adapt and help her just maneuver through today.

So, for now, tomorrow is going up on the top shelf in a pretty box with a note saying “Open when you get to tomorrow.”


Old Visions & New Identities

With the New Year, like many people, I often take time to take account of what happened the previous year, consider what I hope will happen the next year and just take a moment to breathe the present.  The last couple of years, I’ve also embarked on creating a vision board using Powerpoint.   I use pictures, words, clip art, etc to create a vision for what I want to happen in my life for the next year.  I print it out and post it somewhere in the house so I see it every day.  I’m not necessarily into the whole “Secret” thing, but I do believe in making sure I stay focused on moving things around in my life to make that vision a reality.

So, in 2013 my vision board tackled this adoption journey, a bathroom and bedroom renovation, some vacation time, health improvement, faith building, advancement towards graduation, seeing a group of girlfriends that I adore and finding love.

Well, you know how the adoption thing is going.  The dissertation is underway (Woot, starting chapter 5 this weekend!!).  I did some bathroom updates myself on the cheap, enough to get me by for now.  Hope’s bedroom is shaping up fabulously.  I saw my girlfriends when one got married. Vacations got subbed with trips to see Hope.   I grew in my faith and in my church.  I began 2014 weighing the same thing I weighed a year ago (eh, could be worse, shrug).  And then there was love; love was nowhere to be found in 2013.

Sigh.  For some reason in the last 24 hours, the lack of romantic love bothered me the most.  Never mind that my life is about to be turned upside down with the adoption; nope, last night I found myself crying out to God, “Hey, what about the brown chocolate dude I put on that vision board last year?  Huh?  What about him? Where is he?  I even put a pair of wedding rings on my vision board. Come on man!!  Holy Dude, what is up with that???  Well I’m putting it on the board again! ”  Then I cried.  Oh, good grief, these emotional landmines are ridiculous…Jeesch!

I haven’t cried about being single in a long time; honestly I can’t remember the last time I got emotional about being single.  Sure, there’ve been lonely moments, but I’ve dated a lot over the years, had good relationships, not so good ones, ones that I thought would lead to marriage and others where I just knew it was never going to work, but boy were they  fun <smirk>.

All this emotion came out of nowhere, and it annoys me.  I haven’t really had time to think about dating in months.  I saw someone off and on for a few months, a lingering relationship that was kind of comfortable, but we both knew it wasn’t going anywhere.  The upside is that it wasn’t a relationship that was threatening to my goals since I knew it wasn’t going to lead to anything permanent, and require me to navigate figuring out this parenting thing, this dissertation thing and then the whole real relationship thing.  We remain friends, but we’ve moved on.

I know that I’m not in a space to handle a serious relationship at the moment, but I suppose I didn’t realize that underneath it all there’s a loneliness I simply wasn’t cognizant of until I took a moment to take stock of life.   I don’t mind being alone, but I just didn’t know I was kind of lonely until I was putting another faceless Tyson Beckford-esque looking dude on my 2014 vision board.  I do wonder whether the loneliness is somewhat exacerbated by some of the isolation I feel on this adoption journey.   I don’t really know.

I also wonder whether it has to do with the identity shift that’s so imminent.  The day that Hope arrives I’ll officially be a Single Black Mom (SBM) in addition to ABM.  I’ll be a SABM.  Ugh, acronyms.

And since I don’t plan to go around announcing that Hope is adopted, the absence of a partner potentially puts me into an identity category rife with stereotypes and unpleasant narratives.  It also creates a narrative for the imaginary man that folks will assume passed through my life about 13 years ago, whether he was a husband or just a ‘baby daddy.’  Hear me clear, I have nothing against SBMs, but like most, I didn’t expect to be one.  I’m so excited about this chapter, but something about the looming new identity and the absence of even the imaginary dude has me mourning what I thought my life would be like at this point.

I’ve been thinking about that life a lot lately.  I didn’t think I was still mourning it, but the parallels and bittersweet episodes that put me on the path to adoption occasionally lead me to think about what might’ve been.  I’m a doer, so I resigned to change my life when things didn’t turn out the way I expected, but I guess I still think about that life.

I do wish I had a partner on this journey.  I wonder when I’ll have another date.  I wonder if I’ll end up as one of those moms on an afternoon talk show, desperately needing a makeover because I started wearing “mom jeans” and just stopped grooming because I accepted never going on another date because I was so devoted to my kid, and I just let myself go.  Yikes.  So dramatic.

I don’t want to be that person either, even though I intend to be devoted to Hope.  I still hope, in time, to go out with the hot single dad that I met when I forced her to play one season of county soccer, during which time she sulkily rode the bench, while looking forward to the after-game pizza party.  I want to be that SABM.  I want to still have a separate identity as a fun, sexy, desirable woman.  I’m a little afraid that the Single Black Female (SBF) that I’ve known all these years will just cease to exist for a while.  That makes me sad…and a bit lonely.   Sigh.

This life changing stuff is a messy, messy business….a business that, apparently, will keep my therapist in nice shoes for many years to come.


Grammy for the Win

Amazing how a week and a half makes a difference in this life.  Honestly, it is a testament to how much emotional upheaval is involved in this life change; the emotional swings are ridiculous.  I may not be hormonal from pregnancy, but I figure I’m just as emotional as any pregnant lady.

So, as I wait for the ICPC, prep for Hope’s upcoming 16 day visit, and plan for my adoption shower, new information is emerging about my daughter.  It is tough reading about what she’s been through.  During our visit a few weeks ago, Hope shared things that I hadn’t been told at that point.  I kept my negative reactions to a minimum because I didn’t want to do or say anything that would be perceived as rejection by Hope.  But I’ve stewed inside.

I’ve been angry that someone could treat a child the way Hope was treated.  I have vigilante fantasies about slowly hurting the people who have hurt her. Hey, just being honest, here.   I’m heartbroken that she’s struggled so much to cope and learn skills to deal with her trauma, loss and grief.  I feel guilty because I’m peeved that some of these details weren’t shared with me before hand or were just characterized quite differently; I hate that somewhere in the emotional swirl that I feel like I was duped.  It wouldn’t have made any difference in knowing that Hope and I were a match; I’ve known she was the one nearly from the first time I saw her picture.  I just wish that agency folks could be more transparent sometimes.

I have a lot of self-doubt about whether I can be the type of parent that I aspire to be.  I have confidence that I can draw on being a little older, a little wiser and a decent skill-tool box to be a good parent.  I’m relieved that even though much of this path seems so lonely—like echo in the darkness at Luray Caverns lonely—that I do have a loving family and friends who are eager to support me.  Even and especially the same Grammy last week that I wanted to banish to a remote island somewhere.

About a month ago I wrote a little bit about practicing grace during this transition.  It’s hard; it’s really hard because everything feels so important, so dramatic, so difficult, so deeply personal and so very emotional, and this is true for the very high, happy times and the heartbreaking, low times.  It takes a lot of deep reaching to consistently practice grace, and some days I simply fall short because I’ve just run out of capacity.

And this is where Grammy swoops in with her super cape this morning.  We’ve been trading emails for the last day or so about Hope, her visit, the registry and just stuff.  We’ve been pretty tender with each other since our fallout last week—we know that new, much needed barriers were created, but it’s almost like we still aren’t sure where those barriers are yet.  That’s probably because they are still in flux and the lines will move again over time.  This is the way of mothers and daughters sometimes, and the irony that Hope and I will likely soon be like this is not lost on me.  Anyhoo, I told her that I was just so angry and hurt reading about Hope’s history in these new documents and trying to think of strategies that will help Hope and me get through the transition.

Grammy writes back:

Hope will be a journey of the heart for all of us… I’m already praying mightily for the breaking of the familial curses in her family.  My uncle always prayed for a blessing over our family for the generations to come, not just those in his time, but those to come and that applies even to the adopted.  And how do I know that?  I’m adopted into God’s family.

I’m a believer, though sometimes the tenor of conversations about faith in the adoption community feel odd to me, maybe because they are often wrapped in a conservatism that I reject.  You can best believe I’ve spent a lot of knee time with God this year, and I know that my favorite associate pastor at my church probably thinks I should book an appointment at altar call on Sundays, given how many times I’ve sought her out to pray me through this dissertation and adoption.  But it was something about Grammy’s relating Hope’s adoption to our adoption into the kingdom that resonated with me and brought me great comfort today.

Hope and I will be ok; we’ll muddle through.  My family is blessed, and my own little family will be blessed. I imagine that the blessing will come with all the skills I need (I’ll still need to learn to use them) with a heaping side of grace.  God adopted me; I’ll be just fine.


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