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.
As you stay home and social distance on this Easter Sunday, continue to find creative ways to reach out and connect with your loved ones, express gratitude to those on the frontlines of the global Coronavirus crisis, and practice self-care.
Storm clouds may surround us and darkness may persist; but because the Easter story of Jesus’ death on the cross on a Friday and miraculous rising three days later, even in our weariness we can find hope in the fact that He rose, He is risen, and that ultimately, victory belongs to God. Even when don’t understand, we can trust that He weeps with us, He stands with us and He will see us through.
Remember that faith is a belief in that which you cannot yet see. Summon your faith and speak life over your life. Trust God to see you through, even if that simply means surrendering to the present and accepting your circumstances a day at a time. Cling to God’s promises in Psalm 23 and Psalm 91 and believe that just as Good Friday proved, better days are coming. 💜
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.
Sending a virtual hug and heartfelt encouragement your way today. Take a few minutes to sit quietly and breathe deeply. Take a walk or engage in some other type of exercise for just 15 minutes. Read or utter a prayer and an affirmation of hope and healthiness. Love and be kind to yourself. Love and be patient with others. Find a few reasons to laugh, if you can. We are going through a global traumatic event; but rather than give in to fear and panic, may we all more readily lean into the faith and the peace that come with trusting God. Through thick and thin, when we understand and when we don’t, He is there. Let us continue to be His hands and heart and listening ear in human form.
I started some early spring cleaning yesterday evening and look what I found??
A whole box full of custom-designed commas that I had specially made about 15 years ago, by the woodworker-husband of my dear friend, editor and late colleague Mary Goodwyn.
Rediscovering these treasures reminded me of Mary’s radiant smile and matching heart, and also of the reason I had them created: To distribute to every audience member when I gave speeches far and wide about the power of faith, focus and hope, as a tangible reminder to never put a period where our Divine Creator may have simply put a comma.
Seems like now more than ever is a good time to hold onto this belief.
So if you’re inclined, save one of these pics on your phone or desktop and reassure yourself when you view it that we are in a global “comma season” right now.
While we pause, retreat, watch, wait and pray, may we also use this time to rest, reflect, reset, renew and refocus, so that when we come out on the other side, our stories will have some meaningful and amazing comma moments in between.