Wednesday, December 26, 2012

It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp and a Writer Too

     There's a Grammy winning song by Three 6 Mafia called It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp that I'm about to make my theme song. Although the lyrics are about a man trying to get his hustle on at the expense of the women working for him, I'm beginning to see how the lyrics can apply to most of the people I know in this Game. It seems nowadays everyone has a hustle and they're trying to find a way to get over on the next person.
     Lately I've felt like a bit of a pimp myself. Thankfully I don't have a stable I have to take care of. I'm responsible for only one, and as an author I'm constantly having to pimp myself. Every now and then I have to hike up my skirt and parade across social media because that's what new authors are supposed to do. I hate it because I'm a private person by nature. I would rather exchange meaningful dialogue over cups of tea instead of  Tweets. I'm not a Twitch or a Twigger and I honestly have more to say than what can be condensed to 140 characters or less. Don't get me started on Facebook. Every time I type a status update I feel like I just got naked in a back alley.
    According to Pimpology: The 48 Laws of the Game by Pimpin' Ken, all pimps must Get a Name in the Game, so I do what I have to do even though it's not natural to me. I write, I edit, I push send. Another of Pimpin' Ken's rules is that Pimpin' is What You Do, Not Who You Are so I guess, maybe, I need to just grin and bare it.
     It really helps to think I'm the pimp, but honestly I'm probably not. When I think about how most new authors like myself are treated, I realize that we're getting played. We hustle all day and all night and then turn over most of our money to the man (or woman) in the suit. It doesn't really feel like prostitution as it's happening, but afterwards you realize you just got screwed.
    Earlier today I spoke with a very successful writer friend of mine. Thankfully he talked me off the ledge and reminded me that in this business no one is going to take care of me better than me. I've watched enough movies to know that once the pimpin' begins the friendship ends so I need to be about my business.
   So I'm waxing off the Caddy and putting on the flashy suit and the big hat with the feather. I'm selling me. I promise, though, if you look closely enough you will see that behind the pimp facade is a shy writer who only wants to share her stories.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holding On Too Long

     When I look back at my life, I see that I have a history of holding on too long. Normally I wouldn’t say this was a bad trait because it has actually served me well in many aspects of my life. For example, in my teaching career, there have been students who were struggling with the lessons and with life. I knew that I should just give them the failing grade they earned and move on, but something inside of me wouldn’t allow that, so I kept at them until they saw their own potential. Each time I see a former student and he or she says "thank you Dr. Thompson for believing in me" I realize that I did the right thing. 
     In my own academic career I have been extremely persistent.  When I was in graduate school, there was this one professor who said I was a pit bull because once I bit into something I wouldn’t let go. I've always  wanted to go a little farther and push a little harder until I could see progress. Maybe that’s why I’ve started marathon training. I like to push the limits and since there are no mountains in Florida I have to run. 
     While running last Saturday, my friend Natalie and I were on mile 11 and it was cold and dark and we were both ready to quit, but I reminded her that at that point it was all mental because our bodies had already proven that we could run long distances, we just needed to focus and push a little more to make it to the finish line. 
     Anyone married for as long as my husband Lynn and I knows that there are times when you want to quit but you realize that it would be best for everyone to try a little harder for a little longer because you don’t want to give up on what could have been.
     But as I watch the last of 2012 slip through my fingers, I know that there are some things I need to let go of. There is this one business relationship that I have held on to for far too long. I’ve listened to the empty promises and the flat out lies and I've kept hoping that things would get better. They haven’t, so it’s time to say goodbye. There are also some vampires who suck up all my time with their trifles. It’s time for me to begin guarding my time the same way I guard my energy.
     I promise not to give up on my students and others who I see have the potential for greatness and I’m sure as hell not going to give up on my own hopes and dreams, but I am going to begin charging a higher admission into my life. I am also going to do what my writer friend Karen suggested when she paraphrased Ronald Reagan “believe, but verify!” When a person makes a promise I’m going to believe them only until I can find out if what they're saying is true and if I discover it’s not I’m going to move on.  No more waiting around for them to try to make it right.
     So here it is December 2012 and I am releasing it all. I have no idea what God is about to do, but I am ready because I am no longer clutching tightly to things that should have been released a long time ago.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Roy's Miracle

Recently I was invited by my friend Sheila to speak at her husband Roy's graduation." Roy's the only graduate and it'll just be a small group of family and friends," she said.  "I know it's not what you're used to, but it would really mean a lot to us." I was already over scheduled, but everything else would have to wait because it's not everyday that I get to witness a miracle.

It all began in the late 1950s when Roy was unable to obtain his high school diploma. Growing up in the rural south in the late 1950s taught African Americans many life lessons, but the lessons Roy had to learn were bitterly hard. He fled his home at a young age in order to seek a better life, and a better life he did find. One that included a wife, Sheila, who loved and supported him, seven beautiful children, and more family and friends than he could have ever imagined. Although he knew that God had protected him and blessed him all of these years, there was still something missing:  his high school diploma.

Over forty years later Sheila began to make his dreams come true. Together they found an online program that would allow him to earn an actual high school diploma and not a GED. In the evenings after work, he would study and his entire family encouraged him during those times when he thought he could not go on.

It was only at the end of this story that I entered the picture and I played such a small part, but it touched me in a big way. I got to see first hand what faith, love and courage were all about.

Before the ceremony Roy was insistent that we practice, so I slowly donned my full academic regalia and waited for instructions. Sheila pressed a button and Pomp and Circumstance played from mini-speakers connected to her phone. Before marching around the small room, Roy said apologetically "I know you've done this a million times before." I listened to him and smiled and followed Sheila who had assumed the role of Commencement Marshal. In my peripheral vision I saw Roy wiping tears from his eyes as he took it all on.

Later when I got up to speak I was able to look into the faces of those who came to share this moment with Roy and Sheila and I saw how proud they were of him, but more importantly I saw how proud he was of himself. Not only was he about to receive his diploma forty-plus years after he should have received it; he was graduating with honors (he had earned a 3.6 grade point average)!

I work on a university campus and take for granted the degrees on my wall and the cap and gown that I have to wear twice a year during commencement. I barely even remember my own graduations-and I did it three times for three different degrees, but Roy's ceremony will stay with me forever as a cherished memory. I was humbled because I've taken my own experiences for granted and had failed to pay attention to how important every achievement was. Roy had accomplished something amazing and I wanted to pay attention this time. I wanted to honor him for never giving up on himself even when others had written him off. I wanted to bear witness to the love that Sheila had that made her put everything else on hold to help him achieve his dream, and  I wanted to acknowledge that something amazing had taken place.

After I spoke I sat down trying hard to fight back the tears. Then Sheila got up, this time as a devoted wife and not the person in charge, and showed the audience the class ring that she was able to design after learning that the high school Roy would have graduated from had closed many years ago and she explained the significance of the color of his cap and gown. A benediction was given and the ceremony was over.

But Roy's life was just beginning. He had achieved the one thing he wanted more than anything else and it was miraculous!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Choose Whether to Wither or to Grow

What would happen if for just one day we were to let the world see how incredible we really are? Would others shrink from our radiance and withdraw into their own chrysalis of insecurity and fear? Or would they lean into our brilliance the way flowers reach for the sun? Would our magnificence radiate for all to see?
It makes me wonder what it is about this human pilgrimage that makes us believe that this heavy suit of flesh must dull our experience? We beat ourselves down until we are merely an empty shell. We are spiritual beings and we are made in the image of the divine. Shouldn't that in itself be cause to celebrate?
I, for one, am tired of playing small. I've lost patience with trying to position myself just so in order not to offend. 
The truth is I'm ready to offend. I want to shake things up and push up against the edges. That is, after all, how the caterpillar becomes a butterfly. It's not my job to make people comfortable and I no longer assume that responsibility. Like the caterpillar, if I stay in this small, safe place I will eventually wither and die. Just as the butterfly was always within the caterpillar, my brilliance is deep within me yearning to come forward and so is yours.
It took a woman much younger than I (who is wise beyond her few years) to remind me that I have two choices: to wither or to grow. I choose to grow because I realize that she and so many others are looking to me to be all that I can be so that they know that it is safe for them to be who they are destined to be. 
As I write this I wonder who in your life is watching you play small? Who is it who knows all that you are capable of becoming yet watches you choose to be less than you really are? I know in my life it's Z and many others.
I have no idea whether or not it is painful for the caterpillar to molt into a butterfly, but I do know that it has been a painful process for me to cast aside other's opinions of me and feel comfortable being who I am without apologies. I also know that an important stage of this transformative process requires the caterpillar to completely dissolve away. All of its old self must disappear before the new self can emerge. 
That is what I think holds so many of us back. We hold onto things that are dead or are in the process of dying when we must release them in order to grow. I have not metamorphosed yet, but I am growing and I am learning to be okay with letting go and letting the process happen. I now understand that I don't have to do anything. I just have to be. And in this being-ness I become... 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I Don't Eat Shit

Why do people keep giving me their shit to eat and then call me ungrateful when I tell them that I don't eat shit?
They serve it up on beautiful plates and expect me not to notice that what they've given me is not what I've asked for? The flowers on the table and the soft music playing in the background do not disguise what's actually being offered. I'm too old to pretend that I don't notice the smell.

You see when I was younger, I was content with make believe. I enjoyed taking mud from the yard and pretending it was a pie. It was fun draping a towel around my shoulders and pretending I was  Wonder Woman. But I'm much too old for that now.

Maybe that's it. Maybe I'm just growing cantankerous as I age because I'm tired of half-baked, mammy-made, broke down, second-hand versions of the truth. I'm just sick of sorry.

More than that, I'm tired of being told that my expectations are too high and that there is something wrong with wanting. It is not that I lack gratitude because I appreciate all that I have, but I need for the charade to stop.
There's no need to promise me the moon if you don't own real estate there.
Please don't share a golden dream with me if when I hold it to the light I see where the color is chipping off.

Just tell me the truth. Tell me what you can do. Nothing more, nothing less. Let me know your limits and your capabilities. Stop pretending like you can fly because when I run along beside you I'm going to expect you to soar. Long ago I learned how to fly and if you were honest with me, I would spread my wings and carry you along, too.

I learned so much from eating dirt and pretending like I was Wonder Woman.
I learned that dirt isn't shit although sometimes it looks the same.
And I learned that it wasn't Wonder Woman's cape that made her a superhero, it was her Lasso of Truth. Don't you remember that anyone held by the Lasso had to tell the absolute truth?

That's what I want.
To wrap you in my Lasso of Truth and hear for once what you can really do.
Not what you would do if "this were that" or if somehow things were different.
I want to sit at the table and if it is shit let's not pretend it's anything but that. Instead of eating it, let's come up with a plan on how to turn it into what we desire and then we can feast upon that.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Following My Own North Star

Like so many women I know where I want to go, but the path that leads there is unfamiliar. As I look at all of my options spread before me like cards on a dealers table, I'm almost afraid to choose one because of the consequences of choosing wrongly. There are just no easy answers, so sometimes I don't bother asking the questions. What's comforting is that I know I am not alone in this dilemma because all too frequently I hear other women express the same concerns.

Although the sky appears dark, I can see my North Star twinkling if I focus and look in the right direction. I know if I gaze upon it long enough the way will become clear to me. The challenge, however, is that in order to follow where my North Star leads, I must leave all that I know behind. 

Although there may be things I don't like about where I am, it is familiar. I know the location, the players, and the game. What will happen when I set out on the new adventure and it leads me to perilous places? Do I have what it takes to wade through murky waters and cross large expanses of barren land? Will I know how to communicate with others who seemingly speak an unknown tongue and will they embrace me although I am a foreigner?

What happens if the world is really flat and I fall off? Will all of the people who warned me that my dreams were too big cluck their teeth and whisper behind my back "that's what happens to women who forget their place."

Right now I can only gaze up at the night sky and imagine the worlds that await me. One day soon I will walk naked into the night toward my shining star. When it’s time to travel, I must listen carefully to the wind for the whispered directions from those who’ve set out on the journey before me. Surely they will tell me what lies ahead. And when I arrive at the place where my North Star leads, I will lay stones to commemorate the lessons I’ve learned along the way and the parts of my self that needed to die. Then I will begin sending word back to the women who are waiting to follow. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

All My Ex's Live in Texas (Well, Actually Indiana But That Didn't Rhyme)

All my ex’s live in Texas
And Texas is the place I’d dearly love to be
But all my ex’s live in Texas
Therefore I reside in Tennessee

For the past few days my daughter has been walking through the house singing the George Strait country hit "All My Ex's Live in Texas." I think it might be because there is an AT&T commercial currently airing on TV featuring that song, but whatever the reason it has me thinking about my ex's. Although they are not living in Texas, they are out there somewhere and they are testament that I had to kiss a few toads before I found a prince.

Probably the funniest story that I have about an ex boyfriend is the one who went to the store and bought things for breakfast-a breakfast that he expected me to cook-and after we got into an argument, he took the bacon out my refrigerator presumably to have another woman cook it!

And then there was the ex who sold all of my stuff so he could get high, which was not funny at all. I was so naive that I didn't even realize he was using drugs. When I think about him, I realize how narrowly I escaped a bullet. He was tall and handsome and promised me the world, but thankfully I got away from him when I could. A handsome face and a sexy body aren’t worth spending a life in misery.

Oh, and there was the model who spent more time in the mirror than I did. He had the IQ of a pencil, but he was pretty to look at.  As long as we didn’t talk much things were good. I do have to admit he had an annoying habit of mentioning all of the women who were in love with him. Not! As far as I was concerned they could have him. Maybe they could help him moisturize, hi-light and wax. Maybe they could also help him get his GED because he was one french fry short of a Happy Meal.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some nice guys through the years but they became ex’s for a reason. Should our paths cross again I would  genuinely be happy to see them and hear about the direction their lives have taken, but I would also be happy to say goodbye knowing that we now live thousands of miles apart.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

"What's Up My Niggah? Oh My God That's So Ghetto!"

For the past few months my daughter has been embroiled in a cyber war with a group of girls who she used to cheer with. The drama began when my daughter was given an award at the Varsity Cheer Banquet that stated she would be the most likely to "convert the team into ghetto girls..." This probably could have been ignored if these same girls had not spent all season mocking everything that my daughter and the other African American cheerleader said. I ignored the times my daughter came home in tears because she couldn't make them understand that they made her feel different and apart from the group. I thought things would get better.

I have moved my daughter to a new school and explained to her what ignorance really is, yet it continues-as recently as today.

What troubles me the most is that these young ladies are unable to see how hurtful their words are. They actually think it is okay to make the word ghetto synonymous with African American culture and in the past they they haven't seen anything wrong with saying "What's up my niggah?"

It really troubles me that these young women break their necks to "get with" black athletes, but they snub their noses at the beautiful black girls who are these boys' sisters. They ask insulting questions like: "why is your hair like that?" and "you CAN'T be all black!" As if there is only one way for blacks to be.

Perhaps what irks me the most is that there continue to be people in the African American community who find this acceptable. They throw around "my niggah this" and "my niggah that" without understanding that we're nobody's niggers. Have we forgotten how hurtful this word is? What made us forget that black men would have their testicles cut and stuffed down their throats  before being tied up to the highest tree? Did they forget the shame that came with being called "niggah bitch" because you were born a Negro female?

 What's absolutely ignorant is that people say "well we mean  it affectionately when we call each other niggah." There was, is, and never can be anything affectionate about a word filled with so much hate. EVER.

And the word ghetto is NOT synonymous with Black. As a matter of fact, during the Holocaust Jews were rounded up and forced to live in ghettos. So when I see a young Jewish girl talking on her cell phone or doing something else that Jewish teenagers do should I say "That's so Ghetto." I think not.

What's ironic is that my daughter has never lived in the ghetto. My husband and I earned advanced degrees so that we could maximize our earning potential. We chose neighborhoods that were diverse so our children could learn about cultures. As a matter of fact the home we bought when our children were toddlers was a mini-United Nations. We had a Vietnamese family across the street, a white family to the left of us, a Korean family to the right, an Indian family two doors down, and a Middle Eastern Jewish family behind us. It was wonderful to watch the children grow up together and embrace their differences.

I am blessed by the differences of the people who I have met throughout my life. I am thankful for my first gay friend who loved me when I didn't love myself. He thought I was beautiful just the way I was. I am thankful for my friends of different faiths who have taught me that God is bigger than I was taught to believe. I am thankful for my White friends who have shown me that we humans are more alike than different.

I truly feel sorry for these young ladies because they don't seem to have this. At least not yet. And I fear that it may be too late before they realize that words are very, very powerful and that the childhood song "sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt" was absolutely a lie. Words don't hurt. They can destroy.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Surviving the Rip Currents in Life

“Enlightenment for a wave is the moment that wave realizes that it is water. At that moment, all fear of death disappears.“
                                                                        --Thich Nhat Hanh
With the grace of God I have accomplished a great deal in life, but when I tell my story I prefer to focus on the parts where I struggled. To me those moments when I felt  that I would forever be lost at sea can be a light house to another person. I truly believe it was through those difficult times that I realized exactly what I was made of. 
There was a time in my youth when I believed that I was unwanted. I thought my birth was a mistake and everywhere I looked I saw evidence to support that. Since my father only made three appearances in my life: at my conception, just after my birth and then again on my seventh birthday, I believed that I was unnecessary, irrelevant, immaterial.  Somehow I believed that the whole world would be better off without me and that I was taking up space that was needed by someone who was worth so much more than me.  Whenever someone would give me a compliment I would question the motive: Why did he say I was pretty? What did he want from me? She likes my shoes. Was that a veiled insult?
What’s ironic is that I found myself attracted to people who did not value me. People who put their needs before my own and who made me apologize whenever I dared utter that I needed more.  Often I contemplated death, actually welcomed it because I thought it would be a way out. But it was only when I realized that death wasn’t a promise. It is life that is the promise, that I surrendered.
Like the wave, I realized that I had originated from the very thing that I was about to crash into. I was made of something so much larger than me and although I didn’t understand it, it just felt right in my Spirit. But this realization didn’t come easy. There were currents along the way that hurled me so far away from where I wanted to be that I had no way of knowing how to cope with the heartaches and disappointments. My life felt like one big tsunami and the more things happened the more it confirmed that I was a mistake. There were unhealthy relationships, illnesses, deaths, rejections, disappointments and despair. I didn’t want to live, but I was too afraid to die.
Many of you who are familiar with my writing or who have heard me speak before know that as a child I nearly drowned. That experience, along with another one here on the World’s Most Famous Beach, taught me a lesson that has kept me a float all the days of my life: how to survive when caught in a current.
Funny how we are out in the waters of life enjoying the gentle rhythm when we feel something grab hold of us and we realize we are being pulled away from where we want to be. Instinctively we want to fight. We want to thrash against the current in order to return to the shore. When we get the diagnosis, when we lose the baby, when we learn that it was all a lie, when the promise wasn’t what we expected it to be and we’re left trying to make sense of it all we want to fight. We wear ourselves out fighting back in our own strength. We panic when we realize we're facing something that is pulling us away from where we think we ought to be.
Anyone who lives near the ocean knows that the last thing we should do when caught in a rip current is panic. We must relax and conserve our energy so that when it passes we can swim back to the shore. You see rip currents will never pull us under, only away from where we think we're supposed to be.  When we fight and try to swim against a rip current,  we are pulled out to the deep and we are too exhausted to make our way back. You see rip currents are not insurmountable and eventually we will get to the end if it and  can make our way back. Unfortunately sometimes we are so focused on where we want to be that we fight where the current is trying to take us. It may just be slightly up shore, but it’s a new destination yet we resist.
Perhaps what is so frustrating is that when we come crawling out of the water, we try to hurry and clean up in order to conceal what we've just experienced instead of warning others and sharing our triumphant stories. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I Would Have Been Burned at the Stake

I'm pretty sure that if I lived during any other time in history I would have been burned at the stake. Of course that's not something I'm proud of, but I realize that I've never been the one to sit demurely in a corner and let a man make decisions for me. I remember when my husband Lynn and I got married I struggled with the teachings from the pulpit suggesting that I had to submit. It was just something I could not do because I had an image of having to sit passively in the corner as he made all of the decisions for me. Boy did I have it wrong! I tried that for maybe five minutes and Lynn saw that I was about to bite my tongue off because I just had to say something. Finally with Lynn's help I realized that being submissive wasn't about giving my power away but it was about understanding that as the husband he covered this family and allowing him to do so.
As a young black girl raised by a single mom I was instructed to always use the intelligence God gave me and to never put myself in a position where I was dependent on anyone else. I shudder at the thought of what could have happened to me if I had not learned at any early age to speak up for myself (and others) and to question those things that just did not sit right with me. Although Lynn and I are raising our children together, I've paid special attention to the messages we've sent our daughters. I've told both Tai and Lyndsay to always speak their minds and to feel comfortable going against the grain. I've told them that their bodies belong to no one else and if they wish to tattoo and pierce every inch of it that is their right, but thankfully they have not chosen to do so. I've also told them that a marriage is supposed to be a partnership. Just because they are female doesn't mean that they have to wait around for someone to take care of them. They may or may not choose to work outside of the home when and if they marry but what I'm referring to is about so much more than an occupation. It's about living their lives and fulfilling their dreams and not waiting for the approval or permission of a man.
One of my favorite quotes is "well behaved women seldom make history." Throughout history it's been the bad-asses that have spoken up for equal rights. It is these women who gave the finger to the establishment who we remember.

"Ain't I woman?" asked Sojourner Truth.
"So what I'm poor and black.Watch me build a dream on a city dump, educate others and advise some of the most powerful men in our country," said Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune.
"I cant fly where?" inquired Amelia Earhart.
"I'm going to tell my story because I don't like the way you're trying to tell it," said Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and Terri McMillan.
"Heck no I'm not giving you my seat," proclaimed Rosa Parks.

When I'm gone, I want my girls (and my son) to remember me as fearless. I want them to know that I used every moment of my life trying to make a difference. Thankfully they won't have to watch me burning on a pyre to realize that I was like my mother, and her mother, and her mother before her. Women who weren't afraid to ignite a fire.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Take Me, Baby, Or Leave Me

The Broadway musical Rent is probably one of my favorites. Besides the musical score being absolutely one of the best, the themes in the play speak to acceptance of others and self and the acknowledgement that unconditional love can and does exist. There is one scene in the play where one of the characters is feeling jealous and unappreciated by her female lover. She confronts her and the accused says, "Take me, baby, or leave me." Her point is that all of the accusations thrown at her were true and she asked only that she be accepted as is or be left alone. Well, that is exactly how I feel lately.

Recently I had a conversation with a friend named Harry who is an actor in New York. We talked about the different personas I often feel I have: mom, wife, educator, writer. I explained to him that at the core of it all, I am, and have always been, Michelle Donice. Most of you know that Michelle Donice is my birth name, it is the name given to me by my mother when she first held me in her arms. Although there are several last names that I can be associated with-my father's which is Frazier, my maternal grandfather's  which is Dixon, and my husband's which is Thompson- I have always identified with my first two names.

There are some people who only want Michelle Dixon to show up, or Michelle Thompson, but I am all of these and I can only be who I am.

Yes, it is true. Michelle Donice is  opinionated, serious-minded, extremely competitive and goal oriented. She is an introvert who has learned to display extroverted characteristics and she is a nerd. She has a serious temper and once a person shows that he or she is untrustworthy, she has no problems cutting them loose- for good. Michelle Donice rarely makes U-turns in life  and once she's made up her mind it takes an act of God to change it. She is loyal to a fault and expects the same from her closest friends and family. Her expectations are high but she always gives her best. Michelle Donice is  far from perfect, but she is constantly trying to learn and grow.

I am Michelle Donice and I have my strengths, and I sure as hell have a lot of weaknesses. Yesterday when Harry and I talked, he  reminded me that as an artist I must always stay true to myself even when it makes others uncomfortable. He acknowledged that there may be times when I feel that I need to speak the truth when others would prefer my silence. He even told me to go "Lorraine Hansberry on people every now and then!" I am not wired to play the politics on my job and I will always call a spade a spade. My brutal honesty can get me in trouble, but the bottom line is this is who I am.

Harry and I spoke for several hours, and as usual, when I hung up from him I was encouraged to continue to tell the truth about what I see in life. The stories I want to tell are not churchy or academic and may make people uncomfortable because they are gritty. I may be an educator, but I am a writer first.

Like everyone I want to be affirmed. I want people to like me, love me, and cheer for me as I move forward in life, but maybe that's unrealistic. The only thing that I really ask is that if you choose to love me, then love all of me. If you want me in your life, then you get the rose and the thorns. Like Maureen in Rent, the only thing I ask is that if you want Michelle, then you need to take me, baby, or leave me.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Plan B

What happens when things don't go as planned? When everything you hoped for fails to materialize and you're left wondering what happened. How do you pick up the pieces of a broken life when you've done what you were supposed to do yet things still turn out badly? It's easy to get angry. To throw your fists up to the heavens and scream at God "How did you let this happen?" And it's even easier to get angry at the world because you didn't get what you hoped for and although you played by the rules, someone else did not and you got screwed over. So you put a protective barrier around your heart thinking that it will keep you from ever being dissapointed again.

But that never works. You hurt, but the rest of the world goes on and it seems that the world won't slow down long enough to acknowledge your pain. Why can't anyone else seem to see that you've been cheated and given a bum deal?

It doesn't work because no one ever promised that life would be easy or fair. Where did we ever get the idea that things would work out just because we wanted them to? Life is full of dissapointments and separations and the sooner we realize that, it's easier to pick up the pieces and begin working Plan B.

When I was a child, I would always tell people that I wanted to be a writer. Of course adults were concerned about my ability to take care of myself as a starving artist so they suggested I have a Plan B. Something to fall back on if things didn't work out the way I planned.

Plan B was the contingency plan. The What If Plan? The Plan that would keep me sane when my dreams were crushed and my heart broken. Like most of us, I never thought I would have to revert to Plan B. It was just there in case.

As an adult, I've found myself consulting Plan B more often than I ever planned to and from this I've learned that Plan B doesn't mean I've lost faith or given up on my dreams. Instead it's shown me that I'm a survivor. That I have faith to rebuild and though I may have been knocked down quite a few times, I've never been knocked out. Plan B has been the place I've gone to garner strength. Although I've had to sit there alone sometimes and lick my wounds, God has refreshed me time after time to go back and try again.

Plan B has been what I've turned to in order to refocus the direction of my life. To take stock of those things in my life in order to forge ahead, and to cut loose the dead weight of things that are holding me back. Plan B has allowed me to recalibrate and make sense of the detours and roadblocks that were in my way. It has also become a place for me to forgive those people who hurt me intentionally and unintentionally and to forgive myself for the bad choices I've made that hurt others and ultimatly hurt me. It's allowed me to forgive myself for not acnowleding how incredible I am and playing down my awesomeness in order to make others more comfortable. It didn't serve me, or others, and it was a slap in the face to my Creator.

If you're like me and you find yourself resorting to Plan B more often than you expected, rejoice! Take time to celebrate that you're still full in the fight and you're willing to take one more swing at it. Keep in mind that throughout history people have done their greatest works when things seemed the bleakest because it is during these times when we have clarity and begin to acquire skills we never would have during happier days and we become aware of resources we previously ignored.

At first Plan B may seem like a setback, but it is merely a setup for a comeback.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fork in the Road

I've always enjoyed teaching Robert Frost's poem "The Road Less Traveled" because I enjoy hearing students' thoughts on which path they feel they should take in life: the one that is obvious and that has been trod by so many others before them or the one which requires them to blaze a new trail. Although I've asked this question to many over the nearly twenty years I've been teaching, I never thought to ask myself. It was only recently when I was presented with an opportunity that I couldn't ignore that I realized that I could not stand at the fork in the road and merely gaze in opposite directions. 

My initial choice was not to choose. I thought if I could put off making a decision for as long as possible then the obvious choice would make itself known, but that was not realistic. Life demanded an answer and I couldn't drag the decision process out any longer. I prayed and meditated and asked my friends and mentors (professional and personal) their opinions and of course they were all over the place about what was best for me. I even joked that I needed a burning bush and that way I would know for sure what I was to do next. But still I had no clarity. One day Choice A was more attractive and the next day I preferred Choice B.

It was only after I had a meeting with a new friend who told me that if I looked deeply into my heart I would know what to do because the decision was already there. He explained that all of the clutter in life was keeping me from hearing my heart's true calling. Yea, yea, yea! All of that sounded good and really spiritual, I told him, but the problem was that I would have to leave the safety and security of what I knew to be true in order to go to a place of uncertainty and that's a huge problem for me. I further explained that I love security. I thrive on routine and I hate surprises! And you now what he said to me? He told me that He is waiting for me on the water. That I must leave the shore beyond my comfort zone in order to see the miracles because there is nothing miraculous about standing on the shore and watching someone divine walking on water. The miracle is when I can walk on water with Him, too!

I hate when people tell me stuff I should have known myself!

So I made the decision and although it is not the safe and easy option, I do believe it is the best decision for me. I feel that I'm being called to do something that is much bigger than I am and if I could just get out of the way, I might see that all I need is waiting out on the water with outstretched arms.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fat Meat is Greasy

When I was in elementary school I had a music teacher who often used the expression” Ya’ll forget fat meat’s greasy.” It took many years for me to finally understood what she meant.  The point that she was trying to make is that sometimes stuff just is and there’s not a whole lot you can do to change things. In the case of fat meat, you can season it and cook it as healthily as possible but in the end it’s still greasy.

I know in my own life I have had to learn (often the hard way) the truth of this statement. There have been many times when I wanted something to be a certain way and I failed to see the way it really was. Because I am persistent by nature, I tend to keep plowing away thinking that I can change things when in reality there is nothing I can do. It is what it is.
I’ve often heard that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I guess I’ve been guilty of insanity, too. Although I know I can’t change anyone but myself I’ve often tried to make someone into what I needed him or her to be. I now realize that’s crazy, but when I was doing it I thought I could get a different result. Never once did I stop to think about how difficult it is to change my own behavior so how in the hell was I going to change someone else’s?
There have also been those times when I wore rose colored glasses because it made me feel better to tell myself a different story about the situation. Had I just called it what it was: a dead-end job, a meaningless relationship, a bad choice, a guilt trip, etc…I would have had to accept that and make a decision whether or not to walk away. Aha! There is the problem.
When you or I stop and face the reality of the situation it forces us to make a decision and we are held accountable. We no longer have anyone else to blame because after all we made the choice. It’s so much easier to drift along and see where we land without taking a real look at reality. We move unconsciously because if we stopped and really looked at things we would often realize that “fat meat is greasy” and we aren’t going to get a different result with our same behavior because this kind of problem always yields this kind of solution.
Let me break it down for you. I have a friend who only dates a certain kind of woman: she’s flashy, high maintenance, and extremely materialistic. He never seems to understand why these women end up being gold diggers and breaking his heart. This is truly a perfect example of fat meat being greasy. The type of woman he is attracted to is looking for a sugar daddy and  no matter how much he spoils her and wishes things were different she’s not going to be the sweet, innocent, big-hearted girl he truly wants. If he took the time to really look at these women, he would see that they are opportunists. That’s neither good nor bad. It just is. If he wants that from a woman, there is no problem, but if he’s looking for a meaningful relationship that’s built on more than his ability to give cash and expensive gifts, he has to make some changes.
Lately I’ve been trying to suspend judgment by accepting what is. I have refrained from calling a thing good or bad and tried acknowledging that it simply is. Believe me, it’s harder than it sounds. What I’ve learned is that there are some things I need to either accept as is or eliminate.  No matter how much I may wish things were different, they are not and that’s neither good nor bad. It just is.

 I invite you to take some time to consciously look at the things in your life without labeling them good or bad. Just observe them for what they are.

 Next, if you’re willing, examine those things that you have been trying to change and see if you can just accept them.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

When Pigs Fly and Hell Freezes Over

There once was a time when if someone asked me if I would ever drag myself out of bed before dawn to go run I would have said, “Sure, when hell freezes over." Well, the devil must be wearing earmuffs and a mink coat because that's exactly what I’ve been doing for the last few weeks, dragging my aching, sore body out of bed and pulling my tennis shoes on. You first must understand that I am not a runner. Back in high school when the sadistic coaches would make the class run laps, I would be the one pulling up the rear as I walked at a leisurely pace. Unless something was chasing me, I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out why I should waste perfectly good energy running.
But things have changed. It wasn’t that I woke up one morning and thought: I think I’ll be a runner today. It was actually more subtle. I work on a college campus and because parking is a problem I decided to arrive earlier than normal in order to get a better parking space. When I arrived, the parking lot was empty except for a few cars. I grabbed my purse and began walking towards my office. On the walkway in front of me was a young man who moved slowly and painstakingly. On both arms he wore braces and his back was bent like a question mark. I watched him as he laboriously put one foot in front of the other and disappeared into the fitness center.  Every morning I arrived early and there he was. I was awed by his determination.
On the days I walked behind him I found myself wondering what were the things in my life that I put that much effort into, and I came up blank. I was embarrassed to admit that I had grown comfortable in so many ways.  My classes were going as planned and my writing was flowing. My family and I were healthy and happy and my life was pretty much on cruise control. I had achieved all of the goals I had set for myself and wasn’t really in any big hurry to set new goals. Then it hit me. I was growing comfortable and complacent. I needed something to push me out of my comfort zone.
Since there are no mountains to climb in Florida, I decided to run. I am not a fast runner and my only goal is to finish. There are days when I question my sanity in attempting this endeavor, yet I go out one more time. I've always heard that when the student is ready, the teacher will come and God has sent  Jane. She is an experienced marathoner who encourages me to stop thinking about it and just do it. I also have two new friends-Natalie and Robyn-who push me and encourage me to test my limits. We are training for a marathon and each week we get closer to our goal. There is no doubt in my mind that we will cross the finish line, our bodies sore but our spirits revived because we finished what we started.
Though the years I've heard that running is a metaphor for life and now I understand why. Both require a great deal from you, but in the end all of the pain is worth it. There are also people along the way who encourage you when you're unable to encourage yourself. More importantly, each of us has the potential to do something beyond what we think we can do if we just remember that the first step is to take the first step. 

Running may not be for you, but I would bet there is something that you want to do, but have gotten so comfortable that you've not bothered to attempt it. Take a moment to consider the following.

1. Are there any areas in your life where you feel there is room for growth? If so, what could you do to push yourself.
2. Many of us have things we would love to do but are too afraid to get started. What is the one thing you really would like to do? What little step could you take today towards making that dream a reality?
3. Having friends to encourage us along the way is a huge part of being successful. Name two or three people who you feel would encourage you as you began this new journey? Take a moment to call them and tell them what you're thinking about doing. How can they help hold you accountable?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Desperately Seeking Serenity

I live in a house where something is always broken. Right now it's the ice maker, the washer, and the dishwasher. It's very frustrating because I need to have order in my life, but I feel like I constantly live in chaos. At first I thought the house was haunted and then I realized that it's a much simpler problem. Regardless of the cause, it drives me crazy because I feel like everything around me is conspiring to drive me crazy. I don't remember actually praying for serenity, but I must have because everything around me seems to be trying to give me a crash course in Serenity 101. Isn't that the way it works? When you ask for a virtue, the universe gives you situations to test you. That's precisely why I never prayed for patience! I don't want the tests, but I guess they are just part of the process.

I'm pretty easy to please. At least I think so. All I want is to be able to go to any appliance and have it immediately turn on or to walk in a room and not have to pick up something off the floor or put a cup or dish in the sink. I've practiced deep breathing so much that I'm about to hyperventilate. I pray and meditate each morning and I do a daily devotional. I run and do yoga and on less evolved days I scream at my family. I've reminded my husband that said items aren't working properly until I'm blue in the face and I've pretty much done everything I know to do, but there is one thing I haven't tried. I haven't just accepted things. Yes, I want to live in an orderly home, but that's not my reality. My reality is I live in a chaotic world and I have a messy, but loving family. My life is not an organized, neatly ordered museum although I want it to be. I can't control anyone or anything other than myself. Tomorrow I can call a handyman and have him come and fix those things that are broken or I can just wait until my husband gets around to fixing them because eventually he will. I can also walk around the little messes my family leaves behind. My personality wants to immediately fix things, but isn't that what others expect? Why do they need to do their part when they know I'm going to do it for them?

As I sit here writing this, I see several items that need to be returned to the kitchen and the washer is leaking onto the freshly mopped floor, but I'm not going to get angry nor am I going to get up. I'm going to continue to write and sip Lady Gray tea from my favorite mug. I'm also going to enjoy these Chai cookies that are calling my name. If this house comes crashing down around me, so be it because I'll be at peace. Oh my, maybe I am actually learning serenity.

Just now my daughter Lyndsay came behind me and started braiding my hair. Feeling her fingers move deftly through my hair is relaxing and feeling her kiss on my cheek is priceless. I guess it doesn't really matter that she's left her dirty clothes on the bedroom floor and an empty carton of Chunky Monkey ice cream on the table. Maybe the lesson is finding little pockets of peace in the midst of the chaos.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Trying to Resuscitate a Dead Thing

There is probably nothing sadder than seeing a person trying to resuscitate something that is dead. I remember once seeing a mother leaned over her adult child begging and screaming for him to awaken, I, along with everyone else present, knew that his soul had already left to begin its journey home because all of the signs were there. Yet his mother held onto his lifeless body, wrapping her arms around him, hugging him to her bosom, and rocking him as she called out for a miracle, tears streaming down her face. This was a woman of faith who believed that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”, yet she wanted her dead son to come back to life. Although I hope to never experience her pain, I know in my own life I have tried to bring back to life those things that have died.
            There have been many instances when I have continued to pour out my time and energy hoping to regain the magic that once existed. All of the signs of death were present: I no longer felt joy, and subsequently, spent a great deal of time crying, the situation was not growing and moving forward, and I found myself dressing in dark, somber colors that reflected my mood. Although I knew deep inside it was dead, I kept hoping for a miracle that would somehow bring it back to life.

I am a persistent person by nature and I don’t give up easily. I once had a professor tell me that I was a bulldog because when I bite into something I refuse to let go. Instead I keep wrestling it until I feel that I have won. The problem with this is that sometimes some thing’s just aren’t worth fighting for. Too many times I have exhausted myself trying to make a situation work, when clearly it was over. Like the mother, I’ve tried to will life into something that is no longer living.
              I have done this with relationships and jobs, with projects and people. I find this surprising because as a writer I understand the importance of revision. Things only become better after eliminating those things that no longer work. It's not just with writing. I see it in other things, too. Although I’m not much of a gardener, I am trying to grow a few things in my backyard: flowers, tomatoes, strawberries, and herbs. Nonetheless, I completely get the idea that with nature sometimes you must prune in order to get new growth. But that has not been a philosophy I’ve lived by. Unfortunately, I have watched the dead choke out the new opportunities trying to bloom in my life.  I have been so afraid of what could come next that I desperately held on to what I knew, even though it no longer thrived.

This week’s questions revolve around those things that may need to be cut away in your life. Take a moment to answer these questions truthfully:
1. Is there anything in your life that you are holding onto although you know it is no longer growing?

 2. Why are you refusing to let go?

3. There is a great deal of talk about fright and flight but all too often fear paralyzes us      
and makes us stand still, too afraid to move forward in life. Do you think fear is preventing you from weeding out the dead things in order to make room for the new in 
order to move forward with your life?

4. If so, what exactly are you afraid of?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Reclaiming Our Identity

          As women we tend to give so much of ourselves away in relationships that at times we lose our identity. Because we are so nurturing, we naturally put others needs before our own. Day in and day out we wake up and pour ourselves out like libations to others and we forget that in order to thrive we must save something in reserve for ourselves. Why is it that we feel so guilty holding back just a little bit that’s off limits to everyone and everything else?
            As younger women we are so focused on creating a family or establishing ourselves in the work place (or both) that it’s easy to become consumed with creating order and joy in everyone else’s life, while neglecting our own inner world. We ask ourselves: Is our home clean and comfortable?  What new recipe can I try for dinner? What fun thing can I plan for everyone to do this weekend? Am I pulling my weight at work? But often we ignore those questions that tug at our souls: What would bring me joy today? When was the last time I really laughed?
            I write from the point of view of both a former participant and an observer. You see years ago I almost lost my identity. It was encouraged and in some perverted way expected. Let me explain. My husband’s name is Lynn and years ago when I first moved to his hometown people who, for whatever reason, couldn’t remember my name just called me by his. I was so enamored to be his wife that I didn’t complain, but one day I had an epiphany. I realized that I was a whole, complete person before I ever met him and that to name a thing is to give it power, so I took my name back. I only answered to my given name. I refused to be Lynn, sweetie, baby, honey or anything but Michelle.
            During this time I was working full-time and raising two small children and a teenage stepdaughter. On top of all these responsibilities, I was on several church, community and work committees. Needless to say I was exhausted. It felt like I never got a moment to myself. Even when I went into the bathroom someone would come knocking on the door trying to get my attention. Although I loved my family, all I wanted was to be left alone, and I felt guilty about it.
            I soon learned that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Once I was shopping with a teacher friend of mine who needed to pick up some shirts for her husband. As we walked through the department store she saw a pair of sandals that she really wanted, but she kept rationalizing why she couldn’t get them because they were so similar to a pair she already had at home. After going around and around with her, I finally grew weary and asked her the one question that ushered us to the checkout line: “Exactly how many white shirts does your husband have?”
            Take a moment to honestly answer these questions:
            1. Have you ever felt guilty taking time away from your responsibilities?  If
                 the answer is yes, why do you feel bad about taking care of yourself?
            2. If you could have one whole day where no one needed you to do anything
                for them, how would you spend that day?
            3.  Think back on your childhood, what one solitary activity did you enjoy
                  the most ? Was it reading, coloring, baking In an Easy Bake oven,                     
            4. Can you commit to spending an hour alone this week doing this favorite                      
                 childhood activity? Although it’s tempting, resist the urge to invite anyone
                  to join you.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Struggling to be the Proverbs Woman

Honoring Mothers for Their Many Virtues

Happy Mother’s Day!

When I was asked to be the speaker for today’s program, I prayed to God “Lord give me a scripture ‘cause the last thing I want to talk about is the Proverbs woman. It’s so overdone. All the time I hear single men say, “I’m gonna find me a Proverbs woman,” and I’ve heard more than enough references to this biblical woman in my life. Quite frankly I’m tired of hearing about her because she’s just so darn perfect!
A couple of weeks ago Sue Hawkins called me to share the theme that was selected for today: “Honoring Mothers for Their Virtues” and, of course, I wanted to be obedient and speak along those lines, but God kept redirecting me back to Proverbs 31. When I sat down to write out my talking points for today, God directed me to 2 Samuel 22:31 to remind me that His word is flawless and although I may have thought I had something to say, there is something else that God wishes me to say. And because obedience is better than sacrifice turn with me to Proverbs 31:10 .

Although the Book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon, the latter part, especially Proverbs 31 has been attributed to King Lemuel who learned many things from his very wise mother. It’s interesting that these two very successful men-they were kings afterall- chose to compile what they knew about the virtues of a mother and a Godly woman.
We don’t know anything about King Lemuel’s mother other than she taught her son well, but we do know about King Solomon’s mother. You’ll remember her. Her name was Bathsheba and she was that adulterous woman who was up on the rooftop bathing and submitted to the sexual advances of a powerful man while her husband was away defending their country. Yea, that Bathsheba, King David’s lover who became his wife after she got pregnant and the king killed her husband. But I’m not going there now. We’ll come back to her. Let’s talk about sistah girl here in Proverbs.

She’s a virtuous woman.
She gets up before day.

She brings home the bacon, fries it up in the pan, and never ever let’s you forget you are a man—remember that commercial?
Anyway, she invests in real estate.

She’s eats organically because she has a garden that she feeds her family from.

She works out—her arms are strong
She sews and decorates her home

 She holds down a full-time sales job and she even has time to volunteer feeding the poor and helping the needy.
She helps her husband so that he is successful with his career and held in good esteem in their community.

Oh yea, and she doesn’t gossip. Ugh oh!
Whew! She exhausts me. I’m intimidated just reading this and I know that there are some women in this room who feel the same way if we were completely honest. It’s hard to measure up to her because she is just so…PERFECT!

It’s bad enough that every time we turn on the TV or pick up a magazine we see this ideal image of beauty that none of us measures up to. The world tells us that we have to be this tall and this thin and we must use this makeup or face cream. Wear this designer to be considered beautiful. We’re either considered a helicopter or dragon mother if we’re involved in our children’s lives or an absentee parent if we’re not involved enough. It seems the world is always judging us and then we turn to God’s word and there it is.
Proof that our biggest fear is true.

We don’t quite measure up to his ideal after all, we think.

We’re not the woman described here. How can we be? That’s just too much pressure.

We know deep down in our hearts we’re not her, but we keep trying and we keep striving and that’s what I want to talk about today.
Yes, we honor mothers today, we honor mothers for their virtues, but let’s first address the elephant in the room. You know that big topic that nobody wants to talk about.

Pastor I bet if you had the ability to read minds you would be let in on a dirty little secret that every woman in this room shares. If you asked one question and every mother had to answer it honestly I would wager that every mother in here would say the same thing: “Pastor, I’m tired.”
“I’m tired of trying to be all things to all people.”

“I’m tired of trying to make ends meet.”

“I’m tired of being the designated driver in life.”

“I’m tired of trying to make a way out of no way.”

“Don’t ask me to serve on another committee or do another thing because I can barely hold it together.”

She might turn to you and open up her Bible and point to chapter 31 and say “Pastor, I can’t keep up. I can’t be this woman.”

For many mothers, the best Mother's Day present would be to be left a lone for a while so she can rest.

When I was a little girl I would see my mother worrying about money. She would tell me “Shell-belle, we gotta make ends meet.” For the longest I thought ends meat was something you could actually make like pot roast or meatloaf. I didn’t get the rope metaphor. She was trying to hold it down by herself and at times it got tough. There was this one time when it was almost time to go back to school and I needed clothes and supplies and she had more month than she had money.
 She was a teacher and she was off for the summer so it would be a while before she got another paycheck. What she did was answer an ad in the newspaper requesting workers to work in a hose factory. “How difficult could that be?” she thought to herself, and she left me with my grandparents and she went off to her part time job. What she didn’t realize was that she wasn’t packing pantyhose in little egg containers, but she was hired to wrestle large metal hoses, the kind that get hooked up to machines, into huge cardboard boxes for shipping..

I saw my mother last weekend when she drove from Indianapolis to Chicago to attend a book event that I had. She told this story to some of the women there and we laughed until there were tears in our eyes. But it wasn’t funny all those years ago when she came home bleeding from the places where the metal hose had cut into her hands. She wasn’t laughing when she had no idea how she was going to make ends meet and she was desperate to do just about anything to put food in my belly, a roof over my head and clothes on my back. She didn’t feel like the Proverbs woman then, and as a matter of fact, this Proverbs woman was just one more painful reminder of how she didn’t measure up to God’s ideal.
But isn’t it wonderful when we look again at this scripture and realize that this is not a snapshot of her life. This is not what she tried to do at one time-- say on a Tuesday. This was her life over a period of time. From her youth to her old age,  and it is her fear of the Lord that enables her to do all of this over her lifetime.

I don’t mean shaking in your boots fear. I mean an understanding that God’s word will not return void. Let me explain. As a child I was afraid of my grandfather. Not that he was a mean man. He was actually very kind, but I understood that there were expectations of me and if I did not follow them then I would have to answer to him. This is the fear our Proverbs woman has. The understanding that God has an expectation for her to live up to all that she was created to be over the many seasons of her life.

As a teacher and a writer many of my students get confused when I mark up their papers because they’ve used the wrong verb tense when writing about literature. You see whenever you write about a character in a literary work, it is important to use the present tense. Although you’ve already read the story in the past, it might seem that you should use past tense verbs but that is incorrect. The reason is that the character in the story is always performing the action no matter when it’s read. For example, when you were in school and read Romeo and Juliet they were star crossed lovers and when your great-great grandchildren read the same story they will still be star crossed lovers. Hence the need for the present tense because the action in the story is always happening right now.

When we look back at our Proverbs woman we see that this ode is written in the present tense. She is doing it now, but not right now. Whether it was the year 12 or 2012. She is doing all of these things, but not all at once. That’s an important distinction.
Remember I told you I that the book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon whose mother was Bathsheba and that I would come back to her. Turn with me to 2 Samuel 12:11.

We all know the story of King David and Bathsheba. Here she was a married woman who submitted to the charms of a powerful married man. She stood by as her husband was killed and she was pregnant with another man's baby. What she and David thought they had gotten away with was discovered when Nathan reported that God was angry and that the baby would die. Yes, this scripture is told with King David as the protagonist, but we have to look deeper and see that Bathsheba was suffering, too. Finally after the baby dies, the word says that David comforted his wife and she got pregnant with another child whom they named Solomon.

I tell my students it’s important to read the whole book and that’s what we have to do here. The famous black playwright Lorraine Hansberry has a quote in her drama A Raisin in the Sun that says “if you’re going to measure a man, measure him right”. I think this applies to how we measure ourselves in comparison to this Proverbs woman. We need to measure ourselves right. We can’t continue to hold ourselves to an ideal that’s just not realistic. It’s like determining who won the race before it’s over.
If we were to take a snapshot of Bathsheba at this moment in time she was hardly a virtuous woman. She was anything and everything but that, but it was her son after all who compiled this book of the Bible. 

When we look back at this Proverbs woman, the line that speaks to me is give her the reward she has earned. Look around. There are women in here with some stories. If we took a snap shot of their lives at just one point each of them may not have been a virtuous woman who felt she was worthy of honor. When we look at ourselves we may realize all of the things we don’t do right and we feel that there is no way that we should be honored. We know how we've failed. But our ways are not God’s ways and if we measure a woman by His standards than we must measure her right.

We measure mothers because of their virtues and it is for this reason we honor them. We must first, however, understand what this word means. Because of our Puritan upbringing we assume virtuous means chaste or virginal, but we know Bathsheba’s story and she was neither of these. So maybe this word means a little more. 
A quick glance in the dictionary will tell you that virtue means uprightness, rectitude, it also means inherent powers. For example, by the virtue invested in me, and lastly it means because of. So I say today we honor the virtues of mothers… because of.

We honor them because of them going on when they were tired.

We honor them because of them taking care of us when we were unable to take care of ourselves.

We honor them because of their faith.

We honor them because they moved beyond the circumstances of their lives and created the best life they could for each of us.

We honor them because of…
And we turn again to this Proverbs woman, instead of feeling inadequate next to her. We see that she is a promise of all we can be if we keep living. She is a reminder that we are just what God said we are, “fearfully and wonderfully made”.

In closing, I want to share a story with you about a large temple in Thailand. In this temple there stood an enormous,  ancient clay Buddha. It wasn’t beautiful or even well crafted, it was just old. For over 500 years it had been revered because of its longevity sheer longevity. Violent storms, changes of government, and invading armies had come and gone but this statue had endured.
At one point, however, the monks who tended the temple noticed that the statue had begun to crack and would need repair. After a while one of the cracks became so wide that a curious monk took his flashlight and peered inside. Imagine his surprise when he realized that inside this old, ugly, broken down clay statue was the largest pure gold image of Buddha that exists in the world. What happened was that this shining work of art had been covered in plaster and clay to protect it during times of conflict and unrest and after a time people had forgotten that it was actually gold inside. They thought that what they saw everyday-the old  broke down clay statue- was really what it was.

Isn’t that our story? We get mired by the much and mess of life that we forget that we could possibly be worth anything. We think we don’t measure up and we don’t believe God’s word about us. But we’re gold underneath all this because we are, after all, made in His image.
And it’s that goldness that goodness that we celebrate today. It is your virtue we honor. We honor you because of….Happy Mother’s Day,  Proverbs women!