A Memory of My Father

My mom was telling me recently that dad was doing some recent advocacy work by calling the conference office and asking them to include the resources that the multicultural committee he serves with had worked on in their list of anti-racist resources. As a followup, he called the leaders of the committee, to let them know that their work was going to be included (and in fact, the bishop highlighted their work in a later communication). 

On the phone, the Black female leader told dad that she appreciated him for this specific act, and for his continued acton within the conference over the past three decades.

And said, yes, we’ve seen that work, and that’s why you were black-listed. 

It’s a heck of a thing to be recognized for, getting missed and skipped and excused and pushed to the back over and over and over again in a system of white cronyism. 

Fourteen years ago, dad and I went driving to a landscaping company and asked if we could have three hundred stones, and the person was like, these? That are super expensive? Or those, the run-of-the-mill river stones. And we said, those, can we have three hundred? How much will they cost? And the guy was like, oh, those? Those I’ll just give you. 

So dad and I bent over in the rain and picked out three hundred smooth stones so that members of his congregation could take them and put them as a foundation on the land where the church was building a new property. But then he was moved, and the new pastor that moved to that place listened to the guy that nearly gave dad a heart attack and that place that we prayed over is not united methodist anymore, even though it is a place where the people of God worship. 

I’ve lost count of the number of stories like that about my dad. 

But he doesn’t stop. He also makes it in the paper as the faster pastor, and the running community defacto chaplain. The savannah mayor knows who he is. The imam and the rabbi know who he is and are glad when he is with them. 

The work we do isn’t glorious. It is hard, and relentless, and never-ending and doesn’t earn us praise or a better salary or institutional recognition. But that doesn’t make it not worth it. It is worth it. We just gotta keep showing up. 

Apart, Not Alone

In the midst of the not knowing 

there is the waiting

But there is sunlight

And flowers, small and purple

Birds that swoop down to porches

Dance breaks for aunts 

half a world away

Giggles and hiding and laughs

Funny faces

Sweet pears and tangy apples

Gentle kisses from sticky lips

Faintly reminiscent of peanut butter

Hugs for just because you walked into the room

And colors of pink to declare and celebrate

Though we are apart

We are not alone. 

I Love You

I love you. 

We might not have met yet, but. 

I love you.

I love you because you are made in the image of God. 

God knit you together in the womb of your mother and loved you and said you were very good. Supremely good. God loves you and I am working on learning from God. 

And so, I love you.

God says you are worthy of love. God says you are worthy of friendship and welcome and grace. It is part of your intrinsic being, no matter what you do or say. God loves you and wants you to share that love with those around you, so that you can experience even more the way that God loves you. And I want to keep learning about how God loves. 

As I learn, I love you. 

God is the only one who is perfect. God is the one who gave a perfect son to show us how love can be perfected in life here on earth, and I am working each day to be made perfect in love. I don’t expect to get it right today, tomorrow, or next year, but that doesn’t give me a reason not to work at it right now. I’m trying to love the way God loves. 

Loved, I love you.

If we are strangers, if we have never had the chance to meet and share around a table and celebrate that God loves us the way we are, I hope and pray you would give me a chance to show you how much God loves you by loving you in my own imperfect way. I won’t always get it right. I will make mistakes. I have scars and wounds and memories of times when I didn’t feel loved. 

But, or even because of these things… 

I will love you. 

On the Eve of Your Sister’s Birth

Dear Rebel,

You have been making our lives a more wonderful experience for two and a half years now. (Or more, if you consider when you danced inside my womb while at concerts and kept me company when I felt lonely at church.) Thank you for your joy and laughter, tears and tantrums, bumps and owies, and hugs and kisses through these years. Thank you for teaching me to be a mother in your own special way. Thank you for “preaching” to your daycare classmates when you were ten months old, for your newly introduced spontaneous songs, for your gentle pats on the back when I look tired, and for handing me my shoes when you want me to follow you somewhere.

Thank you for praying for me, your father, your grandparents (Gemma-Poppa & Nana-Grampa), your aunt Beth and aunt Julie, and for baby E. Thank you for holding my hand while we bless our food at the table, as you learn our family blessing (half of which you now say with us; you began by learning “Amen”). Thank you for sitting with me in worship while we listen to your daddy preach, pray, and consecrate the elements of communion. Thank you for being excited each and every time about the bread that he offers as a symbol of Jesus’ love for you and the whole gathered faith community. Even before you could speak, you signed “more eat” showing that you understood at a basic level that something intrinsically good was being offered.

Thank you for showing me my capacity for patience. I have handled far more than I could have imagined. From early tongue-tie revisions through weeks of illness, times when you seemed to cry for no reason whatsoever and times when you cried for very good reasons, in the midst of snuggles and bites, sleepless nights and seemingly endless car rides, we’ve gotten through it all. You have shown me how to offer grace to you.

I will always remember the first time you said that you loved me, shortly before Thanksgiving this past year, as you hugged me and held me close. “I yove you, Mom.” (You don’t have your “L”s down yet.)

You have always enjoyed being outside. Even when you were a day old, going out into the dappled sunlight helped you calm down. You exult in going out to the field next to our house to explore. You are always picking up rocks. You love the beach and water, as you should since you are my daughter. When we arrived at St. Simons and went to look at the ocean at the pier, you walked out to the shore and in no uncertain terms made sure that we knew there was water there, extending both your arms straight out, excited that there was water before you, as far as you could see.

Thank you for going with me to a HB2 rally, a justice candlelight vigil, the DC women’s march, and a Black Lives Matter protest. You may not remember them when you are older, but your presence was important.

Thank you for all your firsts. You are our first born child, and you will always be special and precious because of that. Your first step, word, and laugh are yours, and yours alone.

And now it is the eve of your sister’s birth. Some day soon you will become a big sister, and our love will grow to hold her in our family, too. There will be days when her needs will come before yours, and you won’t understand why. There will be days when we have to compromise and slow down because she needs a nap but you are ready to play. Our love will change, but our love for you will never diminish. We already know you will be a good, caring, and loving big sister, and we can’t wait to see how you and your sister grow and learn from each other.

From one big sister to another, little sisters are amazing: they teach us and love us and play with us and fight with us and hug us and show us how to share and love others in return. It can be a wild ride, but the journey is always worth it.

Thank you for these first two and a half years with you alone. I am grateful for each moment that you have been my only child. Life will change soon, but we will change too, and it will be wonderful.

I love you,

Mom.

Cheering

Since before I was a year old, I have been a fan of the Duke Blue Devils and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Mom and Dad took me to a Blue Devil football game the fall I was still at Duke while Dad was in his last year, and I was so cute, they put me on the TV broadcast. I returned to the same stadium twenty-seven years later to see the Devils face off against the Tide. It was not an even match.

I know that parent’s preferences have a strong controlling factor on determining what teams kids will root for, and so I know that some of my childhood memories of rooting for a particular team are due in large part to the teams that my parents cheered for. But it is also interesting that I have not seen the need to shift my allegiances as I have become an adult. The teams that my parents cheered for were important because they had attended those schools, and I even was able to add my own education to my cheering influence when I went to Duke for Seminary.

While I am glad that both of the teams that I root for, the Tide and the Devils, are currently at the top of their respective fields (at least in football and basketball, respectively) I’ve stuck with them through times when they were not the national champions. Until recently, the Duke Football team wouldn’t have had a snowball’s chance in the Sahara at a winning season, but I still rooted for them.

Cheering for the Crimson Tide (and against Auburn) influenced my favorite and least favorite colors growing up. I still don’t really like orange all that much, and it was one of the most disappointing days while studying Art and Color to learn that orange and blue were opposites on the color wheel and so meant to be together. So I just avoid orange, still. (Though I have learned to cheer for anyone in the SEC when they’re playing against someone outside of conference, even Auburn.) And UNC blue is not Sky Blue, even though they try to claim it.

I will continue to share my love of celebrating sports and cheering for those who play them with my children. I don’t really think I have a choice, since my husband loves sports possibly more than I do. We each bring something different to our understanding of the joy of the game, but what we bring fills out our experience even more.