I snapped this photo on a drive Wednesday evening (from the passenger seat) and was awed by the beauty of this night sky and vivid moon. It was a subtle yet powerful reminder that even in times of darkness, beauty can abide. If we’ll pay attention to the simple and the signifinicant kindnesses we’ve experienced (yes, even in 2020), we’ll acknowledge the truth that the light still wins.
I awoke this morning reflecting again on the headlines surrounding the recent passing of renowned and beloved actor Chadwick Boseman and the powerful (and much needed) gifts he has given us, even in his passing, in this year that will be one for the history books.Here are my Wednesday Wisdom takeaways:
* Just because you don’t show it on social media or share it beyond your circle doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. There’s a certain blessing in enjoying some gifts off the world’s stage.
* It’s worth it to keep fighting for your dream even when it’s hard. You’ll treasure reaching your goals while gifting the world with your purpose along the way.
* We get to decide what it means to live with integrity and die with honor. These words sound so lofty, but take true courage, humility, grit and authenticity to achieve. Deciding to live in this way is the only power we possess in a world that’s out of our control. What will your choice be?
* Cherish everyone and everything that matter to you, everyday; because as you fill others’ wells with love, it can’t help but reverberate back to you.
Are you tired yet? I admit that I am. Tired of turning on the news each day to hear more bad news. Tired of carefully plotting trips to the grocery store or pick-up times for carryout meals so that I strategically encounter as few fellow humans as possible. Tired of wondering when this season of semi-isolation and racial unrest and economic uncertainty will ease.
Yet, what if…just what if this season has come to make us weary? To shake us up? To help us long for and actually create a new normal – a better world borne from the ashes of all that wasn’t working?
What if this darkness is the precursor to a brighter light and a better way – one that we can’t even imagine because it’s so powerfully positive? What if we do our part, in this present moment, individually and collectively, scared or brave, to make this so?
I humbly offer up my part, through the calling I’ve embraced since my elementary school days – my writing. For I know, that I know, that I know that there is beauty and hope and transformation available in and through the written and spoken word.
As you ponder your next steps and how you can somehow make this pandemic-laden season better for yourself and others, I invite you to bathe yourself in words that help you heal, cling to hope, find some measure of happiness and strengthen your heart.
I invite you to consume the words offered up here – in a few videos I recently recorded, in a recent blog post and in my on-sale book offerings (worthy reads or re-reads this summer). I also encourage you to explore and enjoy the many other options available from my fellow scribes. Challenge yourself to read at least two books this summer by authors who are new to you and whose work may not only entertain you, but also expand you in some way.
May what I share in this space be the start (or continuation) of your efforts to practice self-care and protect your spirit. You’ll need to do more and more of that during these uncertain times, and you should do so with gratitude and without guilt.
I am all about practicing self-care and being as gentle as we can with ourselves during this pandemic; but make no mistake – it’s just as important to honor our life’s calling day to day, so that when we’re on the other side of this darkness, we’ll appreciate both how we’ve grown and the tangible wins from having done our part to build a bridge for others.
Not sure what your purpose or calling may be? Sit with yourself and ask what truly brings you contentment or leaves you full.
Intentionally nurturing your kids or others? Leading from behind or having a seat at the table? Making people laugh?
Praying for and with someone? Baking to fill stomachs or to show others that they’re loved? Supporting someone’s dream in an administrative (wind beneath the wings) role?
Being a good listener or hand-holder? Standing up for the voiceless? Creating safe spaces for others to be themselves? Giving hope to those who have lost their way?
The list could go on and on, and your manner of execution could be simple or sophisticated. What matters is that you “do you” – which becomes an act of love to yourself that also graces the world, with powerful ripple effects that may extend far beyond your sphere, even unto future generations.
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.
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?
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.
Over the past two weeks several friends that I hold dear have lost loved ones to the coronavirus. My heart goes out to Helena, Robert, Pam, Gwen and Teresa. And also to other friends whose relatives are fighting to recover or to live.
While I pray for them and the millions who are suffering in some way due to this virus, I also pray for those of us whose impact has thus far been limited to having to shelter in place and sacrifice our norm. For let’s be real: This right here isn’t normal.
There’s the surrealness of it all. In may ways, it feels like we’re living out a sci-fi movie.
There’s the surrender required during it all. This is when the best place to be is at the center of the storm, wrapped in the Almighty’s embrace, due to what we can’t control.
And certainly, there’s the shifting of it all. Those of us who survive will come out of this indefinite period of disruption changed, no matter what.
If we’re intentional, perhaps this era will leave us wiser, more gracious, more authentically ourselves and more focused, connected and settled – ready to live our purpose or lean into discovering the next phase of our life’s unique calling. And many will be like my friends – forever touched by the losses this difficult season has wrought, fighting to forge ahead.
Wherever you land on this spectrum, be gentle with yourself, yet determined not to let this time of shutdown be a blur.
This doesn’t mean you must write that book, build a new business or “boss up” in some other way, although if you’re up to it, you can. What this season does offer is a chance to do the deep work to polish the gem your life already is.
Be courageous and love more deeply – yourself first, so you can truly love your neighbor.Look within and be real about the state of your soul. If you’re good, remain steady and firm and pour out from that full well. If you’re shaky, use this time to brutally self-examine, forgive yourself and others, and do whatever else it takes to transform into a person you’re proud of and gracious toward. We all have room to grow.
Challenge yourself to avoid self-numbing to the point of missing the lessons you’re meant to learn or the blessing you’re meant to be to others. Be okay with everything not being okay. And even so, still find a way to live, love and laugh your way through as much of this as you can.
That’s what the doctor’s and nurses on the front lines are doing with the dances and songs they’re flooding social media with, between their calls to loved ones of dying patients.That’s what so-called “ordinary” people around this nation and globe are doing as they find time to help a neighbor or stranger, or celebrate someone’s birthday while social distancing or make an extra phone call to say hello, or share a meal or buy someone’s groceries. That’s what every essential worker is doing every time he or she leaves home to do a job that could be putting him or her at risk; and every teleworker who is pouring into others online, via email and on calls, keeping systems in place and processes moving forward.
I heard on the news (which I watch sparingly) today that social distancing and sheltering in place is slowly but surely making an impact. Certainly, we’re not out of harm’s way. There are more waves of valley moments seemingly ahead. But what this proves is that the one thing we CAN control during this time is our choices.
Choose to continue being a ripple in the proverbial ocean. Your sacrifices and prayers, virtual hugs and words of encouragement, dollars and donations, and other acts of kindness, are making a difference. For those who are grieving, we grieve with you.For those who have something to celebrate (birthdays, anniversaries, new babies, end of cancer treatments) we celebrate with you.For those who are struggling, we see you and are helping however we can. If you feel unseen or unheard, don’t go it alone. Reach out to a friend or relative or even a stranger; for right now, we’re all family.
For those who took time to read all of this, please receive my virtual hug and smile. Know that I am praying for you, and for our world.
Also hug yourself and think about things that make you smile. Cry if you must; curse if that helps. Then, rise up and resolve to push through. Let your faith edge out the fear, and conquer the battle for your mind and your sense of hope.
Embrace this sober wisdom that my late mother shared with me in our last conversation in 2005: “Sometimes you have to lose to gain.” We don’t know when, we don’t know how, but If we’ll endure through this night, morning will come, beauty will replace ashes, and hope and healthiness will reign through the land once again.