Following Wasps and Finding Hearts

I was sitting in my backyard an hour ago, clearing the clutter of the day from my mind, trying to feel human again–talking to God, listening for His voice, affirming His promise of peace.

As I was lost in thought, a wasp flew by and I absent-mindedly followed its path to a log I found interesting enough to photograph. As I poised to take the shot, the wasp changed its course and led me to this beautiful gift.

“Found Heart”

A found heart! The second one for the day!

My day started with a found heart my penfriend Christine posted on Instagram this morning.

Christine’s “Found Heart”

The hearts are reminders that no matter how utterly mired in the muck of life we find ourselves, love is the fundamental principle, the basis from which we should operate and the truth we must walk in. It is the thing we must cling to in the face of all the stuff tossed our way. It is what keeps us okay–sane and whole.

In the crazy rush of doing and getting it is easy to forget love, so I wish to remind you as I must remind myself from time to time:  You are indeed loved.  Be sure to take some time each day to bask in this knowledge and let it fill you to overflowing.

Hugs and hearts…

Soul Work: Making Art of Loving People

“Purple” Rose, Big Spring Park, Huntsville, Alabama. [Altered Photo]

As promised, here’s the “love post” I sent to family, friends, and swappers this year.  The card features an altered rose and a Van Gogh quote.

I found the rose last December showing off in Big Spring Park in Huntsville, Alabama. It was simply gorgeous and many people were pleasantly surprised to find its unexpected beauty.

Van Gogh offers more than a “quotable quote” here.  Instead of making a pithy statement about art, he uses art to challenge our notions of love.  Moving us beyond ideas of love as feelings and romance, he calls us to love in a way that an artist creates.  And that is anything but romantic or fleeting.

When we experience a finished work of art–visual, written or spoken, performed, musical composition–we respond with admiration or distaste without ever fully considering what the artist pours into the work or how gut-wrenchingly vulnerable it makes one to place the inner life on display.

When we truly love people, we are similarly crafting and creating, unveiling our most intimate self and making ourselves vulnerable to the scrutiny, judgement, and sometimes the disdain of others.  Our love for people doesn’t always mean they will love us back and though our natural inclination is to protect ourselves, we must learn to love them regardless…

This point was driven home for me and my little one last week, as he was present when someone disrespected me in a public forum.  Though angry, my little one emphasized that he “admired [my] restraint” because he knows that many people wouldn’t have taken it so calmly.  On our drive home we talked about where that “restraint” comes from.  I was honest with him. Some base part of me could have humiliated the man and “put him in his place,” perhaps deservedly so, but that this man could behave this way suggests that he needs my prayers, not my tongue.  In an instant during the exchange, I paused long enough to hear from God, check myself, and recognize in the offender the child of God who I am called to love.

Van Gogh is not speaking of simply loving people in our circles, those with whom we already share a heart connection, or those who are easy to love.  Nor is he simply speaking of a general, abstract love for humanity.  The artistry and mastery of love come as a result of loving through challenge and difficulty and loving people who aren’t loving, even people who can be mean and evil.  It comes as a result of seeing them as complex beings who, like a work of art, are more than what we immediately see.

Just as it takes more than a few strokes of the artist’s brush to create a masterpiece, it takes intense soul work and an intimate and constant connection with the Divine to make art of loving people.

love is a place…yes is a world

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Note: This is the “Love Post” we sent to family and friends last year.  As usual, this year’s post will be sent “late,” but I’ll be sure to share it after everyone receives it. 😉 For now, read slowly and savor every movement ofwith, and through love and life.

Microblog Mondays: Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Redemptive Power of Love

Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), From African Americans Book of Postcards, Pomegranate.

Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.

–Martin Luther King Jr., A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

microblog_mondays

Guest Post: “My New Song” by Takiyah Franklin/Takiyah Suhail

Today’s post was written by Takiyah Franklin/Takiyah Suhail, whom I usually refer to as “My Tk.” Takiyah is a former student, mentee, and research assistant with whom I’ve always shared a spiritual kinship.  During her undergraduate years we ministered together–she through song, I through biblical teachings.  Over the 10+ years since she graduated, our relationship has evolved and I consider her a spiritual sister.  In January, I posted about Takiyah’s single, “My New Song.”  Today, Takiyah, talks about the song, shares the recently released video, a little about herself, her music, and her faith journey.

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Takiyah Suhail aka Takiyah Franklin

Takiyah Suhail aka Takiyah Franklin.  Photo Credit: Denna Bendall

I am excited to introduce myself and share “My New Song,” my recent single release. I am a singer/songwriter from Oakland, California and I have the pleasure of working with Rev. Andriette Earl, the founding minister of an amazing spiritual community, Heart and Soul Center of Light, a world-class teaching and empowerment ministry located in Oakland, CA.

Theologian Howard Thurman’s essay entitled “I Will Sing a New Song” inspired Rev. Earl and Erika Luckett, a renowned Emmy Award winning singer/songwriter, to write “My New Song.”

Here’s an excerpt from Thurman’s essay:

The old song of my spirit has wearied itself out. It has long ago been learned by heart so that now it repeats itself over and over, bringing no added joy to my days or lift to my spirit. It is a good song, measured to a rhythm to which I am bound by ties of habit and timidity of mind. The words belong to old experiences which once sprang fresh as water from a mountain crevice fed by melting snows. But my life has passed beyond to other levels where the old songs are meaningless. I demand of the old song that it meet the need of present urgencies. Also, I know that the work of the old song, perfect in its place, is not for the new demand!

I am blessed to have been chosen to deliver such an incredible life-shifting and affirmative song.

You can listen to “My New Song” and/or watch the music video on my website, Takiyah. Feel free to post the YouTube link for the music video everywhere:  (https://youtu.be/m-hK_kvP010).  The song is also available for purchase on all digital distribution music outlets: Search Takiyah “My New Song.”

I am a radical advocate of the transformative power of Love and it is my intention to use my music to encourage the conscious spiritual practice of being a Love Light. When I allowed the healing, transformative power of God’s Love to lead, guide, and direct my life, everything outside of Love steadily faded away. This is not an easy practice: it is radical and requires a lot of internal work.

I invite you to listen to my latest EP, Unfolding I Affirma brief collection of songs born out of breakthroughs of practicing faith through my life’s most difficult times. In my lowest points of being alone and raising three beautiful children, my faith in the Highest Power guided me to perfect Peace.  I’m learning how to live a life filled with joy, love, and peace in the midst of mental and emotional challenges. I want to share my journey with you.

You can find me on Twitter or Instagram @blackstarworld.

Love and Peace…

Divine Rest…

Closed Bridge at Ditto Landing

Closed Bridge at Ditto Landing, Huntsville, Alabama, 2016.

The whole love of the “Law” has been lavished on and has cherished the Sabbath. As the day of rest, it gives life its balance and rhythm; it sustains the week. Rest is something entirely different from a mere recess, from a mere interruption of work, from not working. A recess is something essentially physical, part of the earthly everyday sphere. Rest, on the other hand, is essentially religious, part of the atmosphere of the divine; it leads us to the mystery, to the depth from which all commandments come, too. It is that which re-creates and reconciles, the recreation in which the soul, as it were, creates itself again and catches the breath of life–that in life which is sabbatical.”
― Leo Baeck, Judaism and Christianity

To My Colleague with Breast Cancer: You Have This Moment

faith

I read a little of your story today and it broke my heart. I see you wearing courage and faith openly, but I know you’re hurting, suffering, and perhaps afraid. I want to talk to you, but I don’t know what to say.  That I’m praying for you? I am.  But how many times a day do you hear that?

Whenever I see you, I think of Karlette, my little sister. The loss of her. The grief that still challenges every waking minute.  The sorrow that changed me. That changed all who really knew her in unspeakable ways.  Knowing this very real loss of her, I cannot offer you empty platitudes and mere words. I will not ever say to you what many cancer patients often hear:  “You’re a fighter. You will make it.  You will come through this.”

hope

I don’t know that. Neither of us do. Unless we are speaking of a future in the heavenly realms, earth offers no guarantees. Faith that can move mountains assures us that God is faithful. But. Faithful God allows grief, disappointment, and sorrow.  No matter how unfair or mean or downright unacceptable it seems to us—faithful God says, “some sicknesses are unto death, some for testimony.”  This can be a hard, hard pill to swallow.  But it is truth.

I wouldn’t say any of that to you either. You already know it.  You began this difficult line of thinking when you first heard the diagnosis or when the treatments did not bring desired results.

Then, I remember a conversation with Karlette on one of my visits.  In 2011 or 2012.  She had so many battles, so I’m not sure of the year.  She was weary of people seeing her as a cancer patient, as a cancer victim.  When people saw her, she felt, they saw cancer and not her.  She wanted to talk about MORE than that.  She was so much more than that, but when cancer takes over your body and your life and you can barely lift your head most days, even you begin to wonder.  I remember saying to her—you are not your cancer.  Or maybe, she said to me–I am not my cancer.

I say it to you–you are not your cancer.  You are more than this disease that disrupted your happiness and altered your life so completely that you are no longer who you were. I say to you–embrace the uncertainty.  Live and dance and love in beauty and in the sacredness of your being, and be everything you are in this moment.  Only this moment is sure.

love

“Just Like Your Dad,” or Happy Birthday, Daddy!

 

Daddy.

Daddy.

“Just like your dad,” some people say to me. Typically, this is in reference to some unwavering position I hold on a particular issue. I’m not always sure of their meaning, but I take it as a compliment. My father is an honest, hardworking man of his word. He has impeccable integrity. Is he perfect? No. Can he be stubborn and contrary? Indeed! But it is because of his strong opinions and my having to battle him throughout my childhood and adolescence for the right to my own, that I do not waver with every “change in the direction of the wind.” It is because of his (and my mother’s) sacrificing that I know my worth. And because of the fierceness of his commitment and service to our family that I know the character of genuine love.

Today is my dad’s 81st birthday. Eighty-one years is a long time to be blessed with life and good health and love on this earth. It is more meaningful because my dad is the first among his parents and siblings to live beyond the age of 60. I imagine that he spent his years up to that point a little anxious…holding his breath a little. So we celebrated 60.  We celebrated 70. And then, 80. And 80 was major because we had not gathered as a family since Karlette passed.  There was something in the celebration that was more than just another birthday–it was a celebration of “being alive” and with family and close friends. For some of us, we celebrated for Karlette, who loved (and never missed) these family gatherings, and who would have been right there with us making much over Daddy. For some of us, it was intense because our last celebration of this magnitude–for my dad’s 70th birthday–where family and friends gathered was just weeks before Hurricane Katrina scattered us in different directions. For those of us who suffered loss after loss after loss over the last few years, the celebration served as a welcome exorcism of the heaviness of the grief that weighed us down.

That was last year. This year the celebration is a little quieter–as we had a huge family reunion a few weeks ago. But the day is no less significant. As I celebrate my dad and his day, I’m not only looking at today. I am looking back to the warmth of yesterday, meditating on all the intangible and imperishable gifts my father bestowed on his 10 children. I also look to tomorrow, as I realize these gifts are being instilled in generation after generation of his progeny. Though I cannot tell all that he is and all that he’s accomplished in one blog post, this is what I celebrate.

Thank you, Daddy, for being unapologetically who you are and for passing a little of that on to me.

Happy Birthday, with all my love…

 

Mom and Dad with all their children at their 50th wedding anniversary, 2008.

Mom and Dad with all their children at their 50th wedding anniversary, 2008.

Happy Heart Mail!

My mailbox has had lots of fun this month, and while I can share some things later, I can’t put off sharing my “heart” mail any longer.  After all, talking about Valentine’s Day in March is pointless.

The image below is a handmade card I received from Diane, “Midteacher,” on swap-bot.  The card was designed for a “Valentine’s Day: Photo, Note, and a Quote” swap in the “A Thousand Words” group. Swappers had to share a photo and a quote that embraced the “Valentine’s Day” theme. They also had to include a note about the photo or anything else they wanted to talk about.

cactus heart card

“Prickly Heart,” Photo by Diane aka “Midteacher”

How lucky Diane was to find heart-shaped cacti!  Diane shot the photo at the Ann Arbor Arboretum last year on her birthday, which happens to fall on February 15, the day after Valentine’s Day. How sweet!

I like the pink and green as well as the combination of elements–photo, fabric, netting, kraft cardstock, paint, and words.

The quote on the inside reads:

Love is friendship that has caught fire.  It is quiet understanding and mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving.  It is loyalty through good and bad times.  It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.   –Ann Landers

Here are the other photos she included in the envelope–the original cactus and two others edited with iPhone apps.

What’s better than heart mail? Unexpected heart mail!

"Ace of Hearts," by RR (Beckra)

“Ace of Hearts,” by RR aka Beckra

I don’t usually receive V-Day mail, but I shouldn’t have been surprised to find a postcard from my faithful penfriend, Beckra.  Of course, I was indeed pleased to find her unique approach to the Valentine’s Day theme in my mailbox.  Trust me. This card is far more stunning in person.

February has been a tough month. I’ve spent more time sick than well this month, so I needed happy makers to provide buffers against the stress of navigating life while not feeling my best. It might seem like such a little thing, but finding thoughtful mail in the mailbox is good for the heart, soul, and body!

 

 

Leaves and Hearts

I realize Valentine’s Day was last weekend, but I was busy pouting because my family couldn’t  visit as we had planned. Winter weather–my enemy–prevented the visit. Sure, I appreciate delayed starts to the workday, but really this cold weather has.to.go.now!

I made V-day cards, as usual, and did not send them out on time, as usual. Who are we kidding? I still haven’t sent most of them out. But I know who I am so I designed the card to be given anytime.

Spread Love Postcard

See? No pink or flaming red hearts.

In case you can’t tell, the “hearts” are actually a leaf I was fortunate to find waiting in a puddle for me when I returned home from an errand. I almost stepped on the poor thing. It was raining, and I didn’t want to take my camera out, so I used my iPhone to snap a few shots. I altered the hearts with various apps. I can’t tell you which because I really don’t remember and I’m sure one or two of them went through more than one “process.” The individual hearts are “just okay” alone, but together they make more of an impact–in my opinion.

I like that I typically don’t get V-day cards delivered “on time.”  Perhaps, when they land in mailboxes “late,” they serve as a reminder that we should express love and appreciation every day, not just Valentine’s Day.

Hugs and hearts to you!