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Preacher’s Kid to CME Christian

Preacher's Kid Title

 Trouble in the Water

    As a preacher’s kid I remember my baptism fondly. I was wearing this floral print dress, shower cap, and long white choir robe. I saw my father in the water speaking to the church on the symbolism of baptism. The opportunity for possibility. The promise of not being alone ever again. There were a few people who went before me who were much older. I thought about what made them take so long to come to such an obvious conclusion. What made them wait? I never asked myself why I was rushing. Maybe it was because I wanted to make my parents proud. My older sisters had been baptized around this age. Maybe it was for the attention. Maybe it was for the bright and shining “possibility.” Maybe it was because it was easier to believe in God when I hadn’t been introduced to the circumstances of sin. Maybe it was because the order it offered looked better than the chaos of life.

I dipped my foot in the water. My mom held on to me as stepped down into the pool. My dad was happy. She was happy. I was happy. But happiness is fleeting. Many things that are terrible for me make me happy. That shouldn’t be the sole reason a decision is made. But as a child, I had not yet learned to put away childish things. Jesus was the cute cartoon in all of my Sunday school booklets, he was the good guy. I understood him in theory but not in practice. I confused an emotional impulse as rationale to make this decision. As I held on to my dad’s forearm and listened to him speak I couldn’t have realized that what I was really doing was choosing God’s promises, not God. He dipped me and I faltered for a bit. I remember wondering if I could even come back up. Surfacing was painful. I gasped and flailed but my dad helped me up and onto the other side.

Learning Church

Those were good times. But after formally passing on church in 2012, my experience was fraught with more pain than happiness. As a preacher’s child you are looked to as an example. But how can you expect a child to be an example without experience? I struggled with that identity. A part of me liked the attention but not the isolation the position came with. In the very place I was supposed to be vulnerable and transparent, I never could be. Everything was a reflection of the family, not of my own personal walk. I didn’t learn how to be a congregant until college. My religion was religion.

My whole family was left with the burns that only a toxic church can leave. People didn’t want to change. Many of them showed up to serve themselves, to serve some dilapidated ego, but rarely was the occasion for God. It was a broken place filled with broken people pretending that they weren’t. Truth did not live in the pews. It was a living graveyard. In my own journey I wanted something that felt alive and vibrant, I wanted that possibility again. Like a junkie looking for a fix I wanted that spiritual high again. I visited several churches with my best friend before finding one I liked. But still, I felt the isolation. It was predominantly college students and predominantly white. It was advertised as non-denominational but had very deep Southern Baptist roots. Questions about the dearth of female leadership got dodged somehow. Questions in general got treated as hostilities. I made friends but something about it felt inauthentic. Something about me in that church felt inauthentic.

I was still putting on the show I learned as preacher’s child. Smile, nod, repeat verses, smile again. When I was younger I wasn’t myself because no one asked me to be Jordan, they expected the pastor’s daughter. Here I was doing it again, unwilling to fully participate and unable to fully connect. I was observing church, not participating in it. There was one place that I loved that I found a few years later. One place that had the love and light I was looking for. It felt real, I could tell that it was real and something beautiful was happening there but the problem wasn’t the church. It had everything I said I wanted. The problem was me.

I was unwilling to connect with a church and I was unwilling to connect with God. The burns I have run deep and are still healing. I could have chose to do that while in church but I didn’t want to go through the motions. I didn’t want to pretend. I had an anger in me, a resentment that I thought was completely uncommon and found out wasn’t. As a Christian woman I was expected to be demure, delicate. There was little written about women being human, being able to feel things other than joy, being able to do more than building a happy home. The conversations I needed to have about surviving sex abuse, about shame, about guilt, about dead things, I had to find those things outside of church. Those topics made people uncomfortable. Those topics made the same people who told me about the beauty of confession and openness hush me and advise me to seek God’s face on my own. I needed a community but I couldn’t find it inside the community I’d grown up in.

Communion, Elsewhere

I remember the female pastor of one church taking a group of the women to drop off toiletries and cookies to the local strip club. As awkward as you might think it’d be it was actually nice just to talk with the ladies there. We were in the front when a man burst through the door. He was well dressed but his eyes had a certain glaze to them. He seemed sad inside. It was only noon so I definitely had my judgments. How dare he? Doesn’t he have a job? What about his family? Abby, the pastor told me gently, “A lot of the people who come here are looking for community. Sure, it’s sexy, it’s racy. But these men eat dinner here, these men find friends here. They’re getting something here that they couldn’t find in a church.”

That always stuck with me. By no fault of our own some churches fail us miserably. Some churches forget about things as simple as making people feel comfortable. Some churches forget about people. I’ve visited plenty so I know them all too well.

  • The “radical” church that markets itself as the place for outcasts while simultaneously excluding everyone else.
  • The “cool” church that had more apple products on display than actual scripture.
  • The “real” church where ministers never studied themselves to be approved and assumed their experience with and their enthusiasm for God was the same as education.
  • The “we don’t pick and choose” church that picked and chose what scriptures to pay attention to and what scriptures to ignore all the time (psst we all do this).
  • The “traditional” church that confused reason with insubordination.
  • The “social” church that was just a meetup for people who didn’t want to get their hands dirty.
  • The “intellectual” church that was desperate to prove the connection between the mind and faith but lacked heart.

     I sat in many pews convincing myself that I had to put up with a lot of bullshit in order to find God. We all can joke about the horrendous choir selections, bad sermons, and dreadful fashions we’ve witnessed in church. It’s almost a rallying cry for people who’ve “survived.” But where we’re quick to talk about what was funny, we’re all but mum to speak on the things that really messed with us. Teenagers made to stand and admit their sexual activity, preacher’s searching for congregants to open their bibles and their legs, church leadership justifying their own sordid agendas with the word, children being abused, women being sexualized and then demonized, funds turning up missing, the list could go on. Many people’s resistance or hesitation to church has very little to do with God and everything to do with God’s people. Yet the church does very little to remedy that fact. I can’t tell you how many times my Christian brothers and sisters thought I should just suck it up and come to church anyway. They couldn’t imagine a legitimate excuse for being angry at God or being pissed at the church and maybe that’s the problem. When people have to form a support group because of the things they endured at church, something is wrong.

Breaking Away

     So how does a preacher’s kid who loved church end up leaving it and why did this one? Incompetent pastors. Women’s ministries that emphasized my uselessness without a man. Church leadership that loved female congregants to work but never let them lead. Sexuality being treated as shame and as a sexual assault survivor, more shame was not what I needed. Churches using words but never taking action. Notions about having “hearts for Africa,” while being heartless to their own damn communities. Lukewarm messages about God dying for “all of us” but only seeing unicultural congregations.  Churches obsessed with production quality instead of the quality of their own hearts.

Naturally it’s easier to say what’s wrong than to try and fix it. But how can I shoulder the burden of change if a congregation doesn’t want to or flat out refuses to acknowledge they have problems?  I tried finding a congregation that cares about and appreciates women. I tried finding a church that’s ethnically and racially inclusive. I tried finding a congregation that realizes the same laws banning homosexuality banned tattoos and how the pathology of our inconsistencies is more important than laws we no longer follow. I tried finding a church that engages its community instead of raising thousands to send people across the globe. I tried finding a church where people see people and meet people where they are. I tried finding a church that admits when it’s fucked up. I tried finding a church that’s honest in its examination of the word and in its examination of itself. I tried finding a church that understands holding women accountable for men’s inability to control themselves is bullshit. I tried finding a church that doesn’t have to be marketed as something because it simply is. I exhausted myself from searching. Maybe the task was impossible. Maybe you’re thinking that I was looking for a perfect church. Nope. God might be looking for a church without spots or blemishes but I’m not. I just want one that’s brave enough to admit that it has any. I’m asking for a church to be safe. Safe for my female body, safe for my black skin, safe for my mind, and safe for my heart. I hate that my quest for God required me to go outside of the very place I should have been able to find Him.

MM-Sincerely

If you’re burnt-out or angry I would highly suggest, “Angry Conversations With God.” It’s a refreshing read. 

Life Sucks (for now)

life sucksThis time last year I was closing a chapter of my life. After the summer, things got a little dark. I got reckless. I got scared. I got lost. Life sucked and feeling like Dorothy, I clicked my heels together, and drove my happy ass home.

Home was home. It was like pulling on a cozy sweater –extremely comfortable. There’s a reason every great adventure starts when the heroine leaves. Frodo couldn’t destroy the ring from his couch. Harry wouldn’t have become a wizard from underneath the stairs. Katniss couldn’t protect her sister by staying home. I’m a bit tiffed that my point of reference for adventure is overwhelmingly male but you get the point. Change doesn’t happen when you’re comfortable. It’s not a convenience but an inconvenience to the patterns we’ve created. Comfort and change can’t coexist and at some point in your life you’re going to have to choose which one you want. I understand the importance and need for comfort, trust me I do, but if you want to grow, if you want more, if your dreams are too big for the house comfort has afforded you, you’re going to have to get up and create the momentum for change to come into your life.

I was comfortable at home and it was what I needed at the time.  I’m not ungrateful that I have a place to stay, virtually no bills, and awesome parents who care about me. Not at all. It’s a frustration mainly with where I am or perceive myself to be. I’m surrounded by comfort but desperate for change. How do you fix that?

Discomfort isn’t something we should always hide from. Sometimes at the precise moment we feel most uncomfortable is exactly when we need to lean in and dig a little deeper. Sometimes feeling stuck is the exact thing we need to get moving.

I know I’m not alone in feeling that way. We’ve all been through shet and all of it leaves its mark . That’s why I did three things. I wrote “Life Sucks (for now),” a free ebook, designed Life Support, a bi-monthly newsletter, and created the Life Support Forum for y’all. We all need direction, motivation, and support to make the changes we need to live the lives we want. I’m hoping this will help you because it helped me. Sign up for the Life Support newsletter in the upper left bar and get the ebook for free ninety-nine. That’s literally all you gotta do! Who knew the first step to making a change could be so easy?!

MM-Sincerely

Super Tuesday with Neighbors

MM-Super Tuesday with NeighborsI was surprised by the turnout. The Super Tuesday voting line was extending down the street. I knew I had to get out of my car but I didn’t want to. I was scared. The small town I live in is majority conservative and majority white. It’s not like I was advertising who I was voting for but if the last few years have been testimony enough I know by  simply existing I could incite that crowd to violence. But I had to vote. Too many people paid for that right with their blood, sweat, and tears. I had to go.

I walked cautiously towards the end of the line and kept to myself. There was a black woman in front of me and a black man behind me. For a while we were the only ones there. The line slowly started to grow and I kept checking on my car…just in case I had to make a run for it. The strangest thing happened though. I watched as this elderly black couple left the building to get to their car and as they tried to back out, an older white man helped guide them out of the parking spot. Now you might not think this is a monumental deal but they had a Hillary sticker on the back of their van and I had overheard him talking about his admiration of Ted Cruz. He was helpful and the two parties exchanged a wave and a smile as the van sped off. He didn’t return to the line and start spewing hateful grumbles to the other similarly aged white men standing with him. They just talked about their grandkids as the line moved.

The couple two people in front of me took turns holding their newborn and talking about car payments. The dad in front of the woman in front of me was playing with his son. All of the vitriol and hate I had seen on television and social media wasn’t present. These were neighbors who I’m sure I didn’t agree with on everything but neighbors nontheless. I got stopped and complimented on my outfit by older white women who thought I was the cutest thing. One woman asked me to come to her Mary Kay party. A few highschoolers showed up in the lettermen jackets trying to pretend that they were cool, calm, and collected but were obviously excited that they had a chance to vote. I became less concerned with who the people standing around me were voting for and more interested in who they were.

We talked about shows, our families, our vocations, our travels, and more. We all shared and we all laughed. When the volunteers announced that they were doing a periodic count we collectively grumbled to ourselves but the weather was nice and we could feel the air conditioning. All the anxiety I had felt in the beginning had all but dissipated. But that changed as soon as we got inside the building. It was a meeting room used for small functions and baby showers. The little boy in front with his dad was asking him about dinner and going home.

“Why are we here? Are you going to vote for Barack Nobama?”

The energy dimmed and the father quickly shushed his son. He never turned around  to talk to anyone after that. The couple with the baby couldn’t stand in line because she was getting antsy.  When it was the mother’s turn,  one of the volunteers asked her what party she was voting for and she tried to whisper but was too far away.

“Republican,” she said audibly but she turned her back almost as soon as she said it. The woman in front of me went next and had the same reaction when she answered, “Democrat.” It was such an odd thing to witness, minutes beforehand we were all laughing with one another. As judgmental as it seems we could all tell who was voting for who but it didn’t seem to matter when we were sharing our lives. We stood, quite literally, as a community but we left scattered and divided.

It was my turn. When asked, I answered. I didn’t turn to see a response or reaction. My feet were too tired from standing in heels for over an hour. I didn’t feel fear the way I did when I got in line but this weird sense of disappointment. I went off to cast my ballot and then I walked out. The line was longer but people were still doing the same thing. They were talking to one another and they were listening. They were laughing. The were sharing. They were opening themselves up.  They were coexisting.

I walked across the street so I could discretely slip into my flats but an older couple saw me anyways. “Smart girls always have a plan b!” The sweet woman who said this was helped into the Ford-150 by her husband, a stern looking man with a Vietnam Vet cap on his head. He tilted his cap and went to the other side. As they pulled off she waved at me. It wasn’t til they turned the corner that I saw the Carson bumper sticker.

I went home with that still odd feeling. I let it sit overnight but I think I know what it was that I felt yesterday. It was optimism. Brilliant, unrelenting optimism. I don’t for a second think that Donald Trump is some benign force that we can laugh off or that his followers are to be taken lightly. We are living in dangerous and terrifying times. But so did our parents and our grandparents and their grandparents. They laid the foundation for the steps we are on now and it’s every generation’s duty to do the same. Go a little further and push a little harder in hopes that our future children and their children can look back in relief that they don’t have to live what we lived.

There have been many pieces written by much better writers than me with much better insight than me on the problems we face as a nation. We are approaching a time that was some of our ancestors’ dream and others’ a nightmare. We are all scared but for different reasons. For people of color, for the lgbt community, for immigrants, for the poor, we are in fear of our lives. We are in fear of our rights being stripped away. We are in fear of being further erased and silenced. I think the conservative white base would like to think they’re afraid of the same thing but without admitting one fatal thing. Their intangible fear is based on the very tangible actions their parents, grandparents, and millenia of ancestry profited from.  They’re afraid of receiving instead of delegating. They’re afraid of being us; of having to reap what generations have sowed. They’re afraid of being erased, of their privileges being stripped away, of their bigoted voices being silenced, without realizing there’s a good reason for those things to be left behind.

We are in a deep shift. Possibly the biggest our young country has ever experienced. The headlines that have come up in the news, the hashtags, the discussion of the history of racism in this country, these are not new things. These are all conversations that we overheard in our kitchens or at church. These sentiments aren’t new but our ability to publicly speak about them without getting dragged off and lynched is. So our voices are much louder but the very people who should be listening only seem to plunge their fingers farther into their ears. How can we change people’s minds if they aren’t willing to listen to ours?

It may be naive, hell I know it’s naive but I don’t believe you change a person’s mind without first changing their heart. People are hardly moved by data or facts, they’re moved by feelings. Effect always follows affect.  There are always going to be opportunists and hate-mongers. They are usually too far gone for anyone to effectively reach them. But the large majority of this country does not live in that world. Prejudice is inherited, it is taught but the only way it’s allowed to grow is with ignorance. The only solution is interaction. Every terribly ignorant thing I got taught in rigidly southern baptist bible studies got dismantled by my interactions with people. It starts with a question that needs answering, a question that sits in opposition to your idea, a question that will not move until you sit with and confront it. Truth always requires confrontation because along with being obvious, it’s also extremely difficult to accept. It’s a challenge but it’s always worth taking.

We are at that confrontation stage now. We’ve watched on in horror at people’s attempts to suppress it, to even kill it. But the truth always prevails. The truth always wins. Change is inevitable. The only option is to navigate how we get there.

We are a nation at war with ourselves because we are a nation in fear of one another. We are paranoid (some of us not without reason). We are reclusive and now more than ever we need to reach out. We can’t wait for it to be right, for someone to say what we want to hear, even for others to listen. We have to reach now, without inhibition and with love, simply because we must. Is it annoying to have to carry the burden of righting a wrong you didn’t create? Of course it is. Is it fair? Hell no. But if not us, who? If not now, when? 

MM-JonStewartQuote

 

SLAY…but first

MM-Slay21516I would hope at this point that I wouldn’t have to offer any further critique, analysis, or interpretation of Beyonce’s, “Formation.” As usual, Bey went wig hunting and did not return home to Blue Ivy empty-handed. She got ALL of us and the message was well received. Slay, in all things you do. My teeny addendum to that is to take care of yourself first.

I have friends all over the world who are killing it. Some are professors in Paris, graduate students, doctors, writers, filmmakers, actresses, musicians, activists, politicians, and mini moguls in the making. I like to think of myself as the Taraji to their Viola because I celebrate ALL of their wins. I’m proud of them, hell the world should be proud of them too. They’re pouring their lives into a craft or a public service and at the root of it all, uplifting people. It’s beautiful to witness. But I’ve seen the underside of ambition as well. The brushing off of mental health issues, the not sleeping or eating properly, the functioning on no sleep for days at a time, the crying, the loneliness. Not to say the end goal is not worth moving through those things but there’s a difference between suppressing them and moving past them. One is about management, the other avoidance.

As woman of color we are often taken for granted and written off. Good isn’t allowable because great is the only way we can get our foot in the door. We make a bevy of sacrifices but it’s time we stop sacrificing ourselves. Make yourself a priority. Turn off social media and turn on the bath. Read. Take a walk and clear your mind. Meditate. Find healthy ways to manage your stress. When the loneliness creeps up (and it always does), call your friends. Laugh, cry, emote, and cleanse your emotional palette so you can be the best you. You are your biggest advocate, ally, and tool but if you don’t take care of yourself you can become a self-directed weapon. Take the time, no, MAKE THE TIME to check in with yourself.

Although a lot of us were raised to grin and bare it for the sake of accommodating others’ needs, you don’t have to. If something is wrong, say so, even if it’s just to yourself. Invest in something therapeutic. Find a zen ritual that puts you at ease and don’t forget that you have people who love you or are probably going through the same shit. It’s easy to get lost in the need to prove yourself, the desire to prove a point, and uplift an entire community. Just make sure you can find your way back to center and if you feel you don’t have anyone to reach out to, reach out to me! You know I’m always happy to listen.
Part of feeling better, doing better, and being better is recognizing that your needs are just as important as anyone else’s. Don’t forget it. Until then, slay on queens.

MM-Sincerely