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.
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.
Am I perfect? Nope – far from it.
Am I persistent? Yep – about the dreams and goals that fuel my purpose.
Am I mistake-proof? I wish! But the lessons learned through missteps are refining, and sometimes life-affirming.
Am I kind? Certainly not always; but I do my best to lead with love and follow the Golden Rule, because in the end all that really matters is somehow leaving others better than you found them.
What say you?
How would you answer the questions above?
If you can cut yourself some slack, yet still give , you can enjoy the journey to becoming your best self as much as reaching the destination.
And, perhaps, you’ll better appreciate the excellence-seekers on the path with you, as they stumble and stride forward, too.
The joy is indeed in the journey.
Research shows that most people dislike change so much that they’d rather stay in unfulfilling, stagnant or unstable circumstances rather than risk the unknown or stretch past what feels safe. It’s human nature, it seems, to “go with what you know.”
Over the course of my personal and professional journey, however, I’ve become convinced that the different or the uncomfortable (or even the heartbreaking) can sometimes be a sacred path to purpose.
For it is on this fresh course and in unfamiliar territory that we learn more about ourselves, discover strengths we might not have otherwise realized, and connect with ideas, skills and relationships that are meant to play pivotal roles in our destiny.
Yet, if we’re not open to change, or avoid accepting its unexpected arrival, how will we ever know our other (possibly wiser, stronger, happier) selves?
This is my sentiment as I bid farewell to readers of Life Notes, the parenting column I’ve had the pleasure of writing since July 2007 for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Yes- more than 10 years! (Read my farewell column, in today’s newspaper, here.)
Life Notes was actually my second venture as a columnist for this daily newspaper in Richmond, Virginia: From 2000 to 2006, I wrote a weekly column for the Saturday metro section called Inspirations, which acquainted readers far and wide with the uplifting and resilient journeys of metro Richmond residents and with their explorations of faith and personal growth. It had a tremendous following, and according to Times-Dispatch reader surveys, was a primary driver for Saturday newspaper sales during that time.
Both columns were meaningful to me, as was my connection to their readers.
I retired Inspirations, however, when I “retired” from my daily journalism career to focus on penning books and freelance writing. Not an easy decision since I loved my work, but an exciting and necessary one, in order to fulfill the other dreams on my To Do list. I never regretted the choice.
This time around, with changes abreast in newspaper column inches and editorial direction comes the opportunity to take another leap that has long been on my To Do list: expanding the genre of books I write to include more nonfiction (in addition to my women’s fiction) and perhaps some young adult reads. And while I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to blog for the Huffington Post, I look forward to penning more essays and profiles about the power of story and the relevance of our individual journeys for additional national publications. (Stay tuned!)
So yes, this is a goodbye of sorts to one platform for my writing, but a hello to all of the opportunities and open doors on my uncharted path. Will you celebrate with me?
I hope you’ll follow this blog to see where the written word takes me. Feel free to comment below and share ideas about what you’d like to learn about personal growth, matters of faith, living your best life, walking in purpose or writing your way to joy. I look forward to exploring these themes and more with you, and to growing with you.