November 13

Favorite place to road trip

Waco, TX. Saturday, I completed my fifth trip to Waco, but my third this year. It makes no sense at all. Texas is home to some large and gorgeous cities, the Hill Country, lovely beaches, and some wonderful small towns, but there are none that I love as much as Waco.

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My Airbnb from my 02/18 trip

Interestingly, the Magnolia Silos that typically attract most people to the city has never compelled me. No disrespect to Joanna and Chip, but I’ve never seen an episode of Fixer Upper. I don’t have cable so I don’t plan on watching on either. Houston has the best food, I have ever eaten in life. Waco is home to a series of chain restaurants, but even their local food is not out of the park amazing. If you asked me what draws me to Waco as a city, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. I can tell you about everything I have come to love when I go.

The first time, I went to Waco, I had the luxury of being escorted by a local.

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The Alico at night.

Who as we pulled off of the I-35 began to tell me stories of his time as a child in Waco and all the mischief he and his friends created: setting forests on fire, the time the FBI came to his school and carving a styrofoam boat to shoot the Bosque River and ending up two miles away from his home. Nostalgia is contagious; I caught it. The life he described was something like the Hardy Boys, and I was mesmerized that what felt like fiction was actualized in the life of a man. As the afternoon progressed, I went to lunch at Kitok and met his parents. I don’t remember the food or the conversation. I remember two things. Being nervous as hell and his mom interjecting everytime someone her children had grown up with came into the restaurant. It was different from my upbringing. There are not many any people I have grown up with that I am still in contact with currently. I remember telling him on the drive back how much of a luxury it was that he had friends from childhood. He then offered some bullshit theory about female friendships that I was too feminist to ascribe too…cough, cough mansplaining.

The second time, I went was in March of 2017. I went with my friend Christeen to visit my friend Priscilla who went to Baylor at the time.

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Irish Coffee at Dichotomy

Most of the time, there I had my friend on the other line instructing us on where to go and what to do. He led me to two places, I have grown to love intensely. I will only share one of them right now. Dichotomy is my ideal coffee shop for a number of reasons. (1) It is good coffee. (2) It is good mixed drinks where the bartenders have ownership over their craft. (3) The aesthetics are good for socializing or studying. (4) They have a covered rooftop. (5) Parking is easy. Transparently, they may be my favorite coffee place in America…and I have been to Portland. I do like pretty subpar coffee though. I like a light roast that’s not going to put hair on my chest. I love going into a coffee shop and having the opportunity to be completely anonymous or known. Dichotomy is the exception to the “Waco has bad food” rule.

The three times, I have gone in 2018 have all been for concerts. Baylor University is a private Christian university which makes Waco a college town in my head. In walking distance from the campus is Common Grounds.

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King’s Kaleidoscope
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Propaganda
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Penny & Sparrow

A coffee shop, but more importantly a concert venue that attracts eclectic, obscure, and often minimally recognized musicians and artists who deal with Christian themes (implicitly or explicitly). It has been life-giving. It’s not even that the artists don’t come to Houston. For King Kaleidoscope and Propaganda both came to Houston, but the appeal of seeing them at Common Grounds was greater. The way they interact with the crowd is just different. It’s personal. I get to see them as people who generate art, not artists. I look forward to potentially seeing Gungor, The Brilliance, and Propaganda there next year. As I think more about it, the value for me in Common Grounds is that they continually bring artists that have created music or poetry that has resonated with me. How could I stay away?

What I have learned to love in my most recent trip to Waco is that it is the perfect place for me to escape and return to just being human. Fighting to exist in a big city makes me feel so small in all the ways that breed insecurity, doubt, and fear. I am entirely inadequate. When I spend the night in Waco it’s done away from the downtown area.

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The beautiful dog from the farm I stayed at in Waco

When I look outside, I am greeted by an array of stars hidden by city lights attempting to steal their grandeur. I feel small in all the best ways. My humanity restored to it’s incandescent and opalescent splendor in all the ways that make me feel hopeful and filled with wonder. The way children feel when overtaken by natural beauty.

Waco highlights every country song authored about the Texas sky. I have never attempted to capture the sunrise, sunset, or starscape. It feels rude to take candids of nature exposing herself to you. When something bares itself to you, appreciate it. Marvel at the complexity and the simplicity. Take it all in and create a memory.

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My view from my Tiny House 11/18

Don’t preemptively seize the moment, by taking a photo. You lose so much and remember less. This includes people who bare themselves emotionally or physically to you.

My last trip to Waco, I spent a significant amount of time in Cameron Park. Which was the second place, I was led to by my friend. Cameron Park is the 2nd largest park in the nation, only trailing behind Central Park in New York. When you drive through Cameron Park it is surreal. It is as if you are a romantic in a car commercial, with winding hills and overarching trees inviting you to steal a lovers kiss. I’m still waiting to have mine stolen…I digress.

Friday, I drove to Cameron Park and stood at Lover’s Leap. In a moment of true escape, I put my emotional guard down and just allowed myself to feel small in all the ways, I wish I had the luxury to be in daily life: weak, vulnerable, scared, tired, but cared for. I let the cool air whip my tears away into the Bosque River, trusting not one lament was wasted. Pluto played in the background recounting the heaviness that I have felt and may continually feel.

I’ve been worried all my life
A nervous wreck most of the time
I’ve always been afraid of heights
Of falling backward, falling backward
I’ve been worried all my life
Until one day I had enough
Of this exercise of trust
I leaned in and let it hurt
Let my body feel the dirt
When I break pattern, I break ground
I rebuild when I break down
I wake up more awake than I’ve ever been before
Still, I’m pinned under the weight
Of what I believed would keep me safe
So show me where my armor ends
Show me where my skin begins
Like a final puzzle piece
It all makes perfect sense to me…
The heaviness that I hold in my heart belongs to gravity
The heaviness that I hold in my heart’s been crushing me

I wept for twenty minutes. It felt so freeing to be weak, even if was in solitude. Nudity is precious even where there is no one to look on. I hope for more of those moments in Waco. I am grateful for the opportunity to have them.

Well, I guess I told you what draws me to Waco.

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Looking out from Circle Point at Cameron Park

 

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When Monday Makes You Cry

Social services can beat the energy out of you. It clearly did on Monday. Even before, I got into the office, I knew that there was a sad situation awaiting me including scared kids, a hidden parent, and many questions. Unrelenting questions. Questions I had to ask and answer, taking the lead, driving a situation, continual counseling, managing the emotions of children and adults, fear…overwhelming fear, a rush of blood to the head, finding facts, laughter and anger, and sadness. This is social services.

Monday makes you cry and you don’t actually shed a tear. You just feel like you have. It’s like the weight of the world crushing you and encouraging you to pick yourself up again. It is duking it out with CPS knowing they’re your ally and enemy. The all-around badness concerning my 40 is exhausting.

These are the moments crawling into bed are difficult. I am exhausted by the day. At night, I don’t know if I will get rest. A warm body next to mine would be a nice commodity. Yesterday, I needed the assurance that someone was there for the Mondays that make you cry. I didn’t, but I did go to sleep.

Disconnected Ramblings on Love’s Presence, Absence, & False Form

It seems that all my friends are in seasons, where love is raining down in giant drops of warmth and relief and joy. It is a time to dance in the rain; I feel like I am drowning in it. Most days, it is enough to keep me afloat, but lately watching love in its mysterious abundance has become painful. I could condemn myself for the exaltation of romantic love, but it would be a legalistic attempt to repress what feels entirely human and appropriate.


Flowers and weeds were planted in the desert, just in time for the skies to open and release what they were holding back. Time and weather allowed for waters to recede and flora to blossom. Flowers and weeds looked all the same and took over the terrain. How does the desert know a flower from a weed? It has seen nothing of either, it just knew it was covered. To be covered with life is wondrous, to be tended divine. You were once a desert. Nothing could have ever grown there. You never expected bloom. You never expected life. You never expected for weeds to take over and destroy you. If you don’t tend to a garden in the desert properly it is only a matter of time before weeds will bring it to ruin.

Faithful Desert Fathers and Sisters witnessed the wild takeover from afar. If the desert was to be saved every weed and flower needed to be uprooted. They were. Every pull took a bit of sand and water with it. It left the desert exposed, fragmented, and dry; it was a lesser desert. The weeds were taken and burned before her eyes, along with the flowers. It is better to be a desert than filled with weeds robbing you of life.

But the flowers left seeds, that the desert knew it could never bloom again. So when it rained in the desert the terrain wept as she remembered.


Anyone who would encourage me to be content in the love I have now is a fool. I don’t think of them actually as a fool, but how? In counseling, Dalia tells me, I feel things deeper and process quicker. I know my sorrow is a lack of specific love.

My closest friends are busy with their families. My most recent of question is “Where I fit into all of it?” I think in terrible analogies. It includes this one that has been running through my mind.

Our individual worlds are entire solar systems, with moons that revolve around planets and planets revolving around the sun. My friends feel like planets or moons, receiving priority in my solar system. Sometimes, I have to settle for being a meteor, brightly quickly passing by causing temporary interest to return to normal orbit once more. Love – if it has degrees of goodness – generates a new planet to add to the solar system. It may begin as Neptune, colder than ice, but in time it will draw near to the sun.

I was once Pluto. The appearance of a planet in orbit, but actually a moon. I was devasted to learn I could never be either. I would love to draw near a sun.


There are people in need of more than a handout or hand up
Litmus tests we give people have showed them what we are made of
If you choose to love, love well
If you find someone intriguing, don't caricaturize them
Give them space and time, let them be human
If you choose to love, love well
People will never show you pain until you see it was your hand
People that you hurt will still want to be your friend
If you choose to love, love well
A lion is leaving in the autumn leaves
Both lion and lamb are weeping sorrow and relief
If you choose to love, love well
Go to bed cold, sad, and alone
Remember your two hands are something you can hold
Love is more work and time than one could afford
After loss, I want to love once more
Love may kill you and bring about death
It's the one way to die with a heart still beating in your chest
I choose to love, so love well, so love well, so love well.

Lenten Prayer #5: Mothering

Father,

A sleeping desire was nestled today. Motherhood has always been a sure desire for me. I could not imagine a life without children to love and care for. Matrimony would be nice, motherhood is my heart. To care for, to love, to serve, to be silly, to run, to learn, to grow, to correct, to be humbled daily. While nestled by three children today, she was not awoken. Give me patience to wait for my children. It is hard to not know someone, but already love them so deeply and dearly.

In the Name of the Son, through the Power of the Spirit,

Amen

Race, Beauty, and Hope

The predominant culture suggests normative black features are not attractive. Because of this in the dating realm, black women finish dead last. OKCupid has a study affirming this. While, it is not explicitly stated: “men find black women unattractive”. My assumption is that they don’t. Rounded noses and darker skin are not particularly “in”. Full lips are currently “in” but as a trend. Like thick brows are “in”.

In the past seven days, I have had two conversations with a friend about race and beauty and attraction. They are hard conversations. Not only for the content, but we are distinguishable by both race and gender. Which is not bad, but often you have to explain things that may be inherent to a person who was black and/or a female. Though difficult, I find the conversations refreshing. I process things through them. This blog is not so much about the feelings of unattractiveness or the conversations had with my friend. However, both serve as a black drop to something significant that took place on a warm Saturday afternoon.

I was sitting my Houston mom’s hair salon playing with my cousins. Which is a sight. I’m an African-American and my mom and cousins are white. She takes a break from doing hair. I sit in the chair and my 12-year-old cousin begins pampering me with a massage. It was legit. My 9-year-old cousin comes over and begins to look at my hair. She politely asks if she can touch it.

“Yes. Thank you for asking.”

She continually says how soft and fluffy it is. Fascinated, she gets some Morrocan oil and places it on my hair. Over the course of the next 20 minutes, I have my shoulders and arms massaged, my hair oiled and brushed, and my looks affirmed in a really special way.

What makes this interaction so distinguishable from others, is that my sweet cousins whose skin is so much lighter than mine, think I am beautiful. Not for a black person, but as a person who God created. While, they are old enough to know we look different, there was not this elitism in them. I sit on the couch and my 9-year-old cousin snuggles up with me. She looks at my lips and calls them pretty.

I wish my lips were bigger like yours.” She pouts trying to make them bigger.

“I think your lips are perfect for the face God gave you.” 

The rest of our time is spent snuggling on the couch catching naps at 2 in the afternoon. I don’t know how these sweet children learned to love diversity at such a young age, but it gives me hope.

There is a coming day where there will be no narrative of black women being unattractive. Because our biased expressions and representations of beauty will disappear. Humanity will understand that our racial diversity, our various nose shapes and hair textures, our crooked smiles and pearly whites, our physical differences scream of a divine Creator who loves and revels in variety and in diversity. Who loves the porcelain skin of Scandinavians, the almond eyes of Asians, the raven black tresses of Native-Americans, the warm skin of Latinos, and the rounded noses of African people. I felt that hope today.

I felt that hope today.

It was beautiful.

Gracious to Me

In an instant, emotions billow over me. They consume me. It’s scary. A simple tugboat amid the crashing waves, I am jolted into a storm threatening to capsize my humble vessel. These storms persist over weeks and months. Lighter rain pours, but this is not relief. After a four month midnight, overcast comes. I welcome it. I welcome drab without dismal. It’s not luxury but livable.

The sun’s presence is felt before it appears. Warmth fills the damp air. Humidity has no place and evaporates like my sorrow. The flame casts out the clouds and resumes its shine with the radiant blue sky.

This happened today. What continuously runs through my mind are these thoughts.

Strangers are gracious to me.

Friends are gracious to me.

God’s gracious to me.

All of this is a gift, I have discounted. I have been well loved by a gracious handful of people who have born and been beaten by my billows. I am humbled to be a recipient of their love and grace. Thanks for giving it even when I wasn’t aware. It washed over me today, and was compelled to share.

Quasimodo is a Person!

There is a scene in the Hunchback of Notre Dame that has haunted me since I was six. The Festival of Fools is transpiring. They are revealing the distorted faces of participants. They get to Quasimodo. Esmeralda grips his face and realizes Quasi is not wearing a mask. With his distorted face, he is crowned the King of Fools. What is a moment of excitement turns to terror as he is tied down and is pelted with rotten produce. I cried at six; because I knew it was real. People were mistreated like that in real life. I cried again tonight at twenty-six.

The crowd turns so quickly. I mean he is animalized. He cries out for mercy, but he finds none. What happens in this scene is the same type of suffering I cannot bring myself to watch in Roots, 12 Years a Slave, Django Unchained, American History X, Hotel Rwanda, or any film about slavery or the Holocaust or genocide. It makes me sick. It’s not entertainment, but a snapshot of human history. Real people died. While, they are honored by their stories being told. It is still a hard story to listen to.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a children’s film. It speaks to the condition of general humanity, but also of Christians. I believe in a story about a man and woman in a garden. Who make a bad decision and suffer some serious repercussions. I believe one of the repercussions is this: while humanity has the propensity for good the same propensity for evil, and are more susceptible to evil. What makes the narrative more frightening is how it’s possible to choose “good”, but still have the potential for that to be corrupted by evil. As, I watch Frollo, I am reminded of men and women (historically and currently) who have utilized religion as a vehicle to control and hurt people. Rather than to love and serve.

I dunno. I have a lot of feelings about this movie, but it is 5AM. Maybe, I’ll edit it later.