Grace, Growth and Grit — with a Dash of Everyday Joy
Author: Stacy Hawkins Adams
Through her fiction and nonfiction, author, journalist and writing coach Stacy Hawkins Adams inspires readers (and budding writers) to find meaning in their own stories, grow from life's lessons and thrive.
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We might enter this world alone, but we don’t live in it, and certainly can’t love in it, on an island. To get to your island, you may have to walk through my forest or cross her river or climb his hill. So keeping my forest fire-free, and her river waters clean, and his hill easy to navigate helps you safely reach your island – and enjoy the journey there all the more. 🤷🏽♀️ We are connected, and we must remember that.
I learned of Juneteenth when I was 21, during a summer internship in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A young black couple that befriended me took me to my first-ever Juneteenth celebration and opened my eyes to why it was significant.
I wondered then why I’d never heard of it, and it’s a reminder today of the truth that many of us “don’t know what we don’t know.”
Today is an excellent day to spend some extra time seeking information through Google or your favorite search engine; to buy some ebooks, audiobooks or print books that detail the rich history of African American dreamers and doers; to watch some of the documentaries that add context and revelation to the pandemic that is known as racial injustice, such as 13th or the classic Eyes on the Prize or others you discover through your own research.
Juneteenth is “a thing” because it took forever for freed slaves in part of these United States to learn that they’d been free for a while, yet were still treated and viewed as someone’s property.
Today, let’s loose shackles of every kind by pushing ourselves – whoever we are and whatever we look like – to learn something new, do something different, and become better and wiser comrades on this journey called life.
Nearly 15 years ago I penned a novel that still resonates with readers – and me – today. This nationally published book, Watercolored Pearls, shares the story of three women friends who find themselves relenting to the doubt, worry and fear that lurks in their daily lives – silent enemies that seek to overshadow their inner wisdom and beauty and mask their gifts and growth. Then an older woman comes along who sees herself in them, and remembers her own journey to wholeness. She tells them to take heart and be of good courage, and to keep going, because their individual paths are leading them to purpose, and even joy.
In the vein of the message I shared through those fictional characters, I share this poem with you. Aptly titled We Are Watercolored Pearls, I wrote it in 2014, for guests at a brunch I hosted to celebrate my 10th anniversary as a multi-published author. I share it with you now, during these turbulent times in our world, to remind you that it often takes shake ups and setbacks, twists and turns, pauses and pitstops to arrive at your destination whole and ready to thrive.
So stay the course, lean into life’s lessons and enjoy the journey as much as you can – with this poem serving up some inspiration.
Why talk? Talking is healing, even when the conversation might be uncomfortable. Healing leads to ideas; ideas can lead to personal responsibility, which can in turn yield action and hope.
Join me and Robert L. Dortch Jr., (my fellow creative artist who wears many other hats) from wherever you are in the nation for our virtual version of a fireside chat on Thursday, June 18 at 7 p.m. EST.
We’re no experts on policy or law, but our hearts bleed for humanity, and we want to connect with you on that level so that together, we can move past the overwhelm.
We’ll gather to hear each other and guide each other as best we can. Register for this candid conversation today and invite your friends.
My drive this past Saturday through downtown Richmond, Virginia, my longtime city of residence, was a reflective one – from thinking about the slave ships that docked here by the multitudes hundreds of years ago to seeing businesses on Broad Street and in Carytown boarded up due to recent protests to witnessing the peaceful gathering at the Arthur Ashe statue, and just a few miles away, the moving tributes to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many others at the base of the statue of Condeferate General Robert E. Lee, which is coming down.
I hope to always remember this juxtaposition of history, heartbreak and solemn efforts to heal, but not have to live through again what has brought us to this point.
The marathon to snuff out hate and brutality while building bridges of understanding and solidarity is just beginning (with generations of previous work serving as the foundation).
None of us who cares can let our weariness win or give up mid-race; for our basic humanity is at stake, and our children (many of whom are in the trenches and leading the way) are watching and counting on us. We must continue to #saytheirnames. We must find a way to #risetogether.
There’s no excuse for random violence or senseless looting; they aren’t the same as peaceful protests, which are a means of visibly showing pain and rising up together. As I take a few days away from social media to reset, I’ll leave you with the 5-minute video below as some form of explanation for what many citizens of this nation are feeling and fearing. Please watch and listen. More than once, if you need to. Let your heart break with ours. See us as the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, spouses, partners and friends that we are and summon your courage to empathize. For authentic caring does indeed take courage; and even if you don’t get it right at first and even if it feels uncomfortable, reach out and extend it to a colleague, friend, neighbor or relative who may be hurting. Then speak up, stand up and say their names with us. More importantly, help keep more names from being added to the list. Watching a man die on live TV/video broke our hearts – hearts that already had rips and tears. It was a form of secondary trauma. A tiny measure of healing may come (in time) by helping make real change, tangible and positive change, for the better. Can we all – every human being reading this – take on the challenge and do just that?
Do something today that reminds you of life’s goodness.
Dance like no one’s watching.
Perform a random act of kindness.
Tell those you care about how much you love them.
Laugh with others and at yourself.
Spend time embracing what makes you smile.
Say yes to one or two baby steps that move you closer to the vision in your heart.
Don’t have a vision? Say yes, then, to discovering what one could be, by spending more time with your thoughts and treasuring yourself for being the gem you are.
As Michelle Obama declares in her Becoming documentary on Netflix, there’s no “going back” to what our lives were yesterday. Our task – and opportunity – is to create a meaningful (and exciting) next chapter that allows us to evolve, impact others and enjoy ourselves along the way.
My husband and I have three boys. They are ‘all boy’ as the saying goes, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. They call each other “brothers of another mother.” They’re adopted, you see.
As a young married woman 20-plus years ago, adoption was the furthest thing from my mind. Both my husband and I were in school full time, working like Hebrew slaves on advanced engineering degrees. Between the two of us, we made $18,000 a year in stipends. Can you say “poor house?” I thank God for those years (and for that small vegetable patch). Those lean times taught me how to wait on God.
Growing up in the swamp lands of North Carolina, I played with trucks and climbed trees. Doll babies and tea sets were never on my gift wish list. After a few years of marriage, that changed. It happened one sunny afternoon while I babysat for a college friend. That precious little toddler stole my heart, with her sparkling brown eyes and chubby hands. When her mother picked her up two hours later, our one-bedroom apartment never felt so empty.
Knowing how much money my husband and I had (or rather, didn’t have) between us, I knew that having a child while we were both in school was not wise. So we maintained our ‘family plan’ (kids after college) and I clipped baby pictures from magazines, secretly claiming them as my own.
I soon graduated and tried to replace the yearning with a full-time job, community volunteering, church involvement and writing. But the emptiness persisted.
My husband was still in grad school, but he agreed that it was time to start a family. That was 1995; I was 29. One and a half years later and no baby, I hit a wall. I started each day in tears, crying in the darkness of my walk-in closet before work. The crying lasted for most of 1997.
On the outside I was doing good things in my church and community. I was a faithful wife. I was a productive engineer, managing a $2 million grant program for the state.
On the inside, I was dying. Longing for a child.
At one point, someone at church suggested that we consider adoption. I was tired of all the doctor’s visits, the fertility treatments, basal thermometers and all of the prayers to God. I wanted relief. I wanted to feel good again, to feel God again. Adoption seemed like an appealing option.
We did our research. We talked with counselors and social workers. We talked with our friends and parents. We prayed and fasted. We had so many questions about the process, the costs, and especially the kids. What if they’re not black like us, what if they’re developmentally challenged, what if they’re violent?
God answered all of those questions with peace. As Psalm 34:4 says: I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
As I internalized that scripture, I realized it didn’t matter what the child He gave us looked like or acted like. What God had for us, was for us. I had peace with His plan.
Adopting was not easy. In fact, in the beginning it was like pulling a scab from a wound I thought had healed. But today, I have three boys through three separate adoptions.
Not three rejects or three unwanted children. I have three sons.
Some people call them someone else’s children. I call them mine.
Linda Leigh Hargrove blends suspense, humor, and faith into compelling stories about race and class in America. Her 10 works of fiction include three novels, as well as several novellas and short stories. Linda has taught workshops on fiction writing to adults and teens. She is a native of Washington County, North Carolina and currently resides near Charlotte with her husband and three sons. Connect with Linda on the following social media platforms: Linda’s website, Linda’s Facebook page and Linda’s Instagram feed.
I’m what you call a rider. Not perfect by any means, but striving always to help those in my circle through thick and thin.
When you win, I’m celebrating the victory with you. When you suffer a loss, I’m holding your hand through the grief, even if only virtually.
It’s just Wednesday, and the losses are heavy this week in my family of friends, and (not that it really matters) none so far are COVID-related.
A loss is a loss. A life cut short cuts deep for those left behind to live with the void.
And in these times when we can’t drop by to sit and pray, to share a dish and kind word, or even attend a funeral or memorial service (except through livestream), many are feeling anchorless, and baffled about how to support others or find closure themselves.
What I’ve been leaning into is the truth of the only thing that endures: love. It is a river and a language and a bond that flows and speaks and connects us in ways we often don’t understand or can’t articulate.
Love leaves an imprint on our lives and in our hearts that, after a loss, grows into a powerful legacy.
When all else fails and nothing makes sense, we must hold onto the reality that love is the answer.
We must use our words to tell the hurting we love them, for words can be a healing force. That declaration can be followed by whatever acts of kindness we can muster in quarantine, whether a consistent text or call or sending a card, flowers or gift card, or adding the grief-stricken to our prayer list, or sitting on the phone and letting them talk.
As we go back to basics in so many ways during this pandemic, choose to make love your basic foundation, or increase its strength if it already is.
When you love yourself more, you’ll have a full well from which to give.
When you love others more, you’re helping fill their depleted tanks and shoring them up until they can stand again.
This week, I’m covering my dear friends grappling with deep loss in love and more love.
️And because love is neverending, I’ve got enough overflow to share with you, too.
Whatever you are facing today, know that I love you.
Lean on those closest to you and tell them if you need help. Focus on what is before you in this minute or this hour and just breathe. Trust God. And know that light eventually follows darkness. Always.