Remembering Mama

As I lay in bed early this morning, trying fruitlessly to get back to sleep, I began to think about my grandmother, or Mama as I called her. For much of my childhood, Mama was on the trajectory of becoming an alcoholic. By the time I was in high school she was a full-fledged alcoholic and suffering from diagnosed senility. My aunt called it the ‘seeing eye.’ It took me some time to decode what she was saying. As it turns out, she hadn’t known the word ‘senile’ so she had simply misinterpreted what the doctor said. Anyone who has ever lived with an alcoholic, particularly a parent, knows the trauma this causes for children. There is a reason organizations such as Adult Children of Alcoholics exists. The pain is real.  

For much of my life, Mama’s alcoholism colored most of my memories of her. Thus, I was surprised at my reaction when Mama died. An adult with two small children of my own, her death shook me. When the news came, it wasn’t the alcoholic I remembered. Rather, memories of the Mama of my early childhood flowed.  Likewise, this morning as I thought of Mama I didn’t think of those long years when her erratic behaviors and poor choices endangered herself and me. I thought of things Mama taught me.

It occurs to me that Mama was an artist. There must have been some drawing skills though I do not recall ever seeing anything she drew. I can still draw a face using the word boy and draw a star using multiple techniques.  Her artistry extended beyond drawing. If I ever have a need to make a broom out of straw, I can do it. Mama taught me. I can crochet today because Mama taught me. She made the most beautiful, sophisticated doll dresses out of that tiny thread and a small crochet hook. She would starch them until they stood out from the porcelain body of the dolls she displayed. I can make a crocheted hat because Mama taught me. I’m not about to do it, but if I needed to, I could.

Mama inadvertently taught me to be independent. Before I could see over counters she was sending me into offices to pay bills for her or to the store to cash her check. She sent me to the bootleggers’ houses with my Aunt Jeanette so I could make sure she got back home safely.  Don’t hate on or judge my Grandma; she did the best she knew how and sometimes that best was… well, let’s just say I never sent my children to the bootlegger’s house.

Mama taught me to love to read. I don’t recall seeing her reading much and she didn’t read to me. Instead, I read to HER at night. And because I’ve been a teacher all my life, I quizzed her when she tried to go to sleep while I was reading. Those times remain precious to me.

Mama taught me how to do a slip stitch. She taught me that God don’t like ugly. She told me ‘two wrongs don’t make no right’ and not to ‘give a man the milk before he bought the cow.’ 

Mama taught me crazy stuff too: don’t comb your hair when it’s lightning; burn the hair you take out of your hairbrush or comb coz if birds use it to make a nest, you will get severe headaches; don’t buy shoes for men. If you do, they will walk away from you. The list goes on and on. 

When I sat talking with several of my cousins as we prepared to bury another, we talked about Mama’s love for dancing. I have (unfortunately) inherited Mama’s belly. Unlike Mama, though, I cannot make mine move, or pop. She didn’t try to hide her abdomen. She made it dance. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

No, not every memory of Mama is a pain-filled one. This little trip down a lane of good memories is a great reminder that, though some relationships may seem fraught with negativity, there are likely some pearls in there as well if I allow them to surface.


Excavating The Voices

This morning, as I was doing my morning pages, I came across a note I had made to myself based on an activity in a book I highly recommend, The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. I created an activity that I hope you might find useful. It encourages you to do some time travel though your life and intentionally excavating voices from your past – ouch! I keep finding myself wanting to avoid the hard work – just being transparent here. So I will be doing some excavating. Please join me and let’s chat about what we are discovering. If you’re interested, I can create a closed Facebook page for people who want to excavate and discuss only with those who are actually going through the process. Send me a message on Facebook.

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Click on the Time Travel link to download the process. Happy Digging.

Time Travel

I Am Not My Story

I am not my story. I emerge from it like a phoenix, rising from the ashes and residue of broken promises and unfulfilled dreams. I rise above the memories of my successes for they are only one page in the adventure drama called life. I rii-am-not-my-storyse, free to soar, to be fully me.

Scarred? Yes. Broken? No! Battle wounds remind me, not of the times I nearly died, but of the times I defeated death.

I’m grateful for my story because it gave me a glimpse of who I really am. It showed me strengths that may have gone undiscovered. And, every day I become more me, shedding the vestiges of ill-fitting, absolutely inaccurate, well-intentioned definitions of who God intended me to be.

I am not my story but I use it, not to keep myself captured in chapters where I was lost, alone, frightened, weary, wounded…. I tell it, not to play the role of victim or martyr or saint.  I speak so that some other person might know her story is ever unfolding, to help someone see he is a page turn away from overcoming.

I am not my story but it has value. And I’m grateful because I am strong enough to own the story and not let it own me.

Book Reading & Signing

Join Hezekiah and me at the Piano Preparatory School of Beavercreek on Saturday, October 1 at 10:30 for a reading and signing of our new book.

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Coloring In The Lines… Or Not

Why don’t I like coloring books? Because I can’t color within the lines.

IMG_0226When the adult coloring book craze hit, I purchased a few (not just one; I need diversity). I took out the new markers that Santa brought me and began to color. It didn’t take long before I realized that the lines were way too little — and I don’t like coloring in the lines. I mean, I want to color in the lines. It looks so fun, so fulfilling, so satisfying when I watch other people do it. When the lines are all filled in the picture is beautiful. But it seems that I’m not a color-in-the-lines kind of girl…. and that is just fine.

It occurs to me that I have spent a great deal of my life trying to color in the lines. I want people to look at my picture – my career, family, body, ministry, house, you name it – and think it’s beautiful. So, I’ve attempted to color in the lines in the ways other people make look easy.  I’ve tried and consistently get pulled to the edges. When I’ve strayed outside of the design or decided to ignore the ‘suggested lines’ and colored in entire blocks, my internal voice spoke louder than the external ones. Girl, you know this is a mess. Why can’t you color pretty like the other girls? Why are you trying to redraw the design? You’re always trying to change things.

On and on MY voice droned, often to the accompaniment of the external voices who seemed pleased to add their two cents worth. You really think you’re special but look at the mess you just made. You know you can’t really color (parent, teach, sing, lose weight, preach) so why are you even trying? I don’t care how many degrees you have, you are still messed up.

For weeks those coloring books taunted me. And every time I picked one up to color, I felt that sense of failure for not being ‘good enough.’ Eventually, I gave away my coloring books, bought blank pages and began teaching myself to draw my own designs and color where I want to. And that’s just fine. I follow multiple guidelines. I reinterpret what others have drawn. I learn from them and I create or recreate in my own style, in my own voice. I laugh at myself when my lines are crooked and my circles don’t even look like ovals. And that’s just fine.

As it turns out, I don’t like coloring books – for me – but I do like to color. And that’s just fine. And the voices – mine and theirs? I’m not listening to them nearly as much. Oh, they still speak and way too often I am tempted to accept their noxious advice, to allow them to speak into my future and over my life. But, I am learning, more slowly than I care to admit, to pause to see if there is another voice I should heed.

If I’m very, very quiet, I can hear my Heavenly Father say Donna, that’s beautiful coloring you’re doing there. I’m going to put it on the refrigerator of my heart.

And that’s just fine!!

To Die For

There are some absolutely beautiful songs on the market, many filled with timeless truths about God. I’m grateful to have easy access to music that can set my feet dancing, hands clapping, heart fluttering, lips singing, mind inspired or tears streaming. That’s a blessing. There is a song that does all of these and much more for me. It’s Anthony Brown’s single, Worth. This song is a sermon all by itself. It’s my anthem, especially for this period, as we contemplate the coming of Christ and the reason for His crucifixion, death and resurrection. It’s also my anthem as I walk deeper into God’s healing work and I gratefully walk through my house, arms raised, tears streaming down, the love of God washing internal wounds I cannot see and laughing like a loon from the joy that accompanies the truth.

There are so many walking wounded among us, people who desperately want to shrug off the grave clothes tossed carelessly over them by people who should have done better.

You ain’t ever going to be anything. Yo’ Daddy was a liar and you’re a liar, too. You think you are so much better than everybody else but your &@#* smells just like mine. You’re so ugly with that nappy hair and dark skin. You’re too skinny, too fat, too short, too tall. You are so stupid. Can’t you ever do anything right? I wouldn’t mess around with other people if you did what you were supposed to do. You know you wanted it so shut up. You need to be institutionalized. Don’t nobody want your crazy butt.

The list goes on and on. You probably have your own list. I’ve been the recipient of many of these poisonous verbal darts and, from my own pains, have shot some of my own and caused others to hurt. That’s truth. This song reminds me that no matter what I’ve done or where I’ve been, no matter what anybody else says about me, no matter what I have said about myself, before I was born, God said something very different. God, through His Son Jesus, thought I was ‘to die for’ and proved it in action.

Jesus thought I was worth SAVING so He came and changed my life!

He thought I was worth KEEPING so He cleaned me up inside.

There are many people who act like they want you. They may even say some of the right things. But, in action, they wrap you in grave clothes. Not so with Jesus. He saw you, broken and beaten down, and instead of dismissing you as worthless, He thought you were valuable enough to save! He thought you were worth keeping so He cleaned you up. Isn’t it wonderful that we don’t have to clean ourselves! Religion tells you that you need to look a certain way or act a certain way before God will value you. The honest truth is you were CREATED WITH VALUE. You have intrinsic value – no matter what you’ve done, who you are, how you were raised, or even what you think. I’m grateful that I do not have to be a religious person, trapped by religious thinking and the emptiness that religion brings. I lay claim to the promises associated with a love so great that it could only be manifest in sacrificial giving.

You thought I was to die for so You sacrificed Your Life

                     so I could be FREE

                                             so I could be WHOLE

                                                                so I could TELL EVERYONE I KNOW                                                                            you thought I was to die for!!

Singing in my best cheerleader voice: He did it. He did it.                                             Oh yes, He did it!

I’ve been listening to these words over and over and something really profound happened when I let the words move beyond my lips and seep into my spirit!

Jesus thought I was to die for! That’s huge. Jesus, the co-creator of the universe, the second in the Trinity, the Savior, thought Donna was to DIE FOR! Jesus was willing to sacrifice His life so I could be free and whole. It’s difficult to fully wrap your mind around it. That’s why I stopped trying to understand why Jesus would think I’m all that and simply accept it.

Jesus died to set the captives free. That’s me, and probably you. Jesus’ sacrifice was a free gift, the ultimate act of love. There are things we may never understand on this side of heaven. But there is a different between understanding and knowing. I have no clue how most of the appliances in my house work, but I know they do when I turn them on. Likewise, I can truly know that God loves me and wants me to be free and whole. So, I’m chasing it down, freeing my mind from old patterns, and walking out of the prisons where I’ve been in bondage. I’m casting down every imagination that rises against the knowledge of who God says I am. I’m doing the hard work of recognizing where I’m broken and what my part is in the healing process – and you will always have a part.

God loves you, my friend. He believes you are worth saving and keeping. Jesus believed- a long time ago – that you were to die for so He sacrificed His life so you could be free and whole. That’s why we have Easter. The egg hunts and candy are fun and yummy. Having a nice dinner with family is really cool. But the most significant thing about Easter is remembering and knowing!

Hallelujah! Glory to the God who changed and continues to change my life! I will praise you. I will worship you. I will give you glory because I am free. I am whole. I’ll tell everyone I know, You thought I was to die for!

It’s All About The Why Worksheet

Do you sometimes feel stuck in neutral, filled with dreams and longings but not quite sure how to get to them? Do you sometimes think your relationship with God is more perfunctory than from a deep place? Do you sense something in the atmosphere but aren’t quite sure how to interpret it or tap into what you see God doing in and through others?  If the answer to any of these questions is something like… maybe, um yes, Lawd YES then maybe it’s time for you to start thinking like Mama Odie, “you gotta dig a little deeper.”

We started a new series last week, Wide Awake that is so exciting. God doesn’t want us simply conscious. God wants us to have more LIFE in our lives. God desires that we would live life to the FULL – today, in the land of the living not just in some future, sweet by-and-by. Digging a little deeper may mean doing something you’ve never done before. It may mean doing familiar things in an unfamiliar way. It may mean returning to the the scene of your first love. No matter which, it will definitely mean identifying your hopes, dreams & vision and considering what you want to experience/do when you attain them. But between the hoping and experiencing, you have to visit the Chief cardiologist for a heart scan and possibly a heart transplant. It’s all about the Why.

The following worksheet was created to help you visualize that process.  Feel free to download the pdf by clicking the link below.

May God bless your journey!! Send me an email or a message on Facebook as you go through the process. I would love to hear from you and pray with you.
Rev. Donna

It's All About The Why WorksheetIt's All About The Why Worksheet2

Click this link: It’s All About The Why Worksheet updated

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