Dear Rachel

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Dear Rachel,

I know you don’t know me, and everyone’s got an opinion, but allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Brandy and I’m a white woman who loves black people.  I mean really loves black people, like Tom Cruise’s character shouts in Jerry Maguire “I LOOOOVE BLACK PEOPLE!!!”  I love black people so much that I’ve never pretended to be one.  Love and admiration, are first and foremost, respectful.  And while some may say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, flattery is still, at its essence, fake, vain, and self-serving.

Let me tell you a bit more about who I am, because that’s one thing I do know, Dear Rachel, is Who. I. Am.  I was raised, my entire life, in a predominantly black, middle-class neighborhood.  I was typically one of only four or five white kids in my class.  I lived next door to, played with, and was nurtured by black people.  I was baptized at the age of thirteen in a screamin’, shoutin’, sanctified Missionary Baptist Church.  I was partially raised and taught “home training” and how not to be “trifling” by a black woman with a Master’s Degree in Special Education who was quick to tell you that she was a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta. Unlike your seemingly fake racial “hate crimes,”I actually was witness to a cross burning in my family’s front yard.  I have been called “nigger lover” by white men for simply being in a parked car at a gas station with a black, male study partner.  I studied at Tennessee State University, an HBCU.  I have a biracial son.  I have, aside from two short- lived, went nowhere, felt nothing relationships, dated and fallen for, only black men.  My list of things that make me more culturally aware than the average white person goes on and on. I feel blessed and fortunate to have had this as my experience and thankful to God for placing me in that environment to grow up with an open mind.  So, trust me, if anyone understands a white person’s love for black people and culture, it’s me.  I have often thought that many of our society’s racial ills could be solved by dropping white kids off in black neighborhoods for a few months. I’m only half-way joking, by the way.  So many people, on both sides of the race coin, never take real time and vested interest to get to know anyone on the opposite side of the coin as themselves.  I am a firm believer in the goodness in all people, even you.

I hope that this blog post finds you.  I hope it resonates with you.  This is the blog where I’m supposed to be writing about MY journey to my truest, best self, but I hope it helps you find that for YOU.  If you truly love black people, and respect black women, you will stop impersonating them and identifying yourself as one of them.  That is one thing, in all my life that I’ve never done.  I’ve never said that I was anything other than white.  It never even crossed my mind to say that I was black.  I will tell you that, back in the day, I imitated a couple of black hairstyles; I had a curly perm that was cut in an asymmetrical style (you couldn’t tell me nothin’), I had a curly perm that I would sometimes leave wet so people would think it was a jheri curl.  I remember getting on the bus once and feeling myself when I heard someone exclaim “Ooh, she got a fye curl!” (Yes, THAT really happened LOL) And once, when I was NINE, I got cornrows with clear and purple beads on them and I would shake my head to the right and left while I rode my bike just to hear them click-clack.  I used to watch my friend’s mom grease her head, so I used to take my blonde baby dolls, part their hair, and squirt lotion on their plastic scalps.  Rachel, I was a kid.  I was imitating what I saw and what I DID TRULY identify with.  You, not so much.  You grew up in Colorado and admitted that you were born in the woods.  How many black people did you really see in the woods of Colorado, for real though???  How could you POSSIBLY have drawn yourself with a brown crayon and identified with that?  What did you know about black culture that you didn’t read in a text book?

You have told so many lies, Dear Rachel, that you aren’t making a good name for yourself.  Are you trying to portray the black woman, since that’s what you say you are, as a liar?  Way to go!  Way to sway people to the black cause!!!  If this is the example you’re trying to set for society as a black woman, go back to the drawing board, and as a matter of fact, go back and draw yourself as “white Rachel.”  Make a difference, first in yourself, by telling the truth in ALL things!  The truth shall set you free, girl!  Back away from the bronzer and take out the curly weave and do you!  You are too smart to be so conniving, too important in your own right to be a fake anyone else. You could do so much good, more than you’ve already done in your work, but right now, no one can take you seriously. You have told lies on top of lies, stories on top of stories.  Do you think if you keep telling them, that we’ll eventually believe them? Or that, like Pinnochio became a real boy, you’ll eventually really be black?  No ma’am. It doesn’t work like that. You may have some success in the short term (I hear you’re shopping a reality show), but in the end, you will be remembered as a con-artist who very likely has a mental disorder.

In closing, Dear Rachel, if you respect black culture, and in particular, black women, stop pretending to be one.  It is not ok.  On behalf of white people who really have grown up in an African-American environment, I’m going to take a stand right now and say “Bye, Rachel. Quit Playin. You play too much.”  Seriously though…it’s not funny and enough is enough.  You cannot steal someone’s identity and call it your own.  Just like a leopard can’t change its spots, you can’t change the skin you’re in, and the skin you’re in happens to be white, no matter how much you run from it.

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When Life Gives You Lemons

“But this kind does not go out, but by prayer and fasting.” – Matthew 17:21

(This was written several months ago on a Sabbath evening, but I am just posting.  It was actually during the Christmas season, Dec. 26, 2014 to be exact.)

Tonight, I am fasting for the Sabbath.  I’ve never really “officially” fasted from solid food for more than a few hours, but I feel like I recently had a spiritual breakthrough and I want to seize this momentum and give all I have to God.  In this moment, this giving up of solid food, of sacrificing my desire for the Reece’s cups chilling in the fridge, or the funny meme’s on Facebook (did I mention that I’m giving that up until the New Year?) I am saying to God, “I love You more than food, snacks, and crass humor on a news feed. I am humbling myself before You and I’m chasing after Your heart.”  I’m telling God that against the hunger pangs and the habitual urge to pick up my phone, that I choose Him.  I’m trying to hear from Him.  I am asking God to create in me, in this moment, a clean heart.  I am tellng Him that I’m honoring His command to fast and pray, that I believe that certain things like breakthroughs, blessings, and deliverances only come through fasting and prayer.  I am asking Him to honor my obedience and sacrifice and continue to heal my heart, mind, body, and spirit.  I am asking Him to continue the work He is doing in my son, who is increasingly seeking His face.  I’m asking for healing in relationships, for reconciliations, and forgiveness.  I’m asking for 2015 to be my best year yet.  I’m telling Him that I want His will, His perfect will, and His best for me SO badly, that I want to spend twenty-four hours just focused on Him and His plans for my life.  I believe God is real and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

As I sit here in the still quietness of my apartment and drink my first warm cup of lemon water, I’m reminded by the bitter taste that life is sometimes bitter, but those bitter moments can make us better.  Those brief moments of a sour taste in my mouth are accompanied by numerous health benefits of the detoxifying lemon water.  In the same way, I’m learning to look for the lesson in the sour moments of my life, both past and present.  I’ve realized that I’m more bitter and angry that I thought.  That has harmed me, my relationships, and those people I want to relate to.  I no longer want to dwell on the negative or continue living in hurt, fear, or rejection.  Some of those moments may give strength, some may give peace, some may give wisdom, some may give all these things, but they all will give me something of value if I am open to see it.  I don’t want to be stagnant any longer.  I want to grow and it is my hope that this first fast will usher in that growth.  I pray that my fast finds favor with God and that I honor Him.  I pray that it yields spiritual growth and abundant life and that I form a new spiritual habit that becomes a tool in my arsenal to help me fight when my days seem weary or I feel afraid.  In just this one fast, this first time, I’ve already had the eyes of my heart opened to this very valuable lesson:

Be careful not to lose your hold on God’s grace by allowing bitterness to come into (to live, to dwell in, to unpack and stay in – my words added for emphasis) your hearts, for this will not only hurt you, but a lot of others.” – Hebrews 12:15, The Clear Word version

When life gives you lemons, don’t be afraid to taste the bitterness for a moment, but  learn the lesson and God will surely give you lemonade! 

Remember What You’re Made Of

What are little girls made of, made of?

What are little girls made of?

Sugar and spice,  and everything nice,

that’s what little girls are made of.

What are little boys made of, made of?

What are little boys made of?

Snips and snails, and puppy dog tails,

that’s what little boys are made of.

Last night I was sitting on my patio praying for God to cleanse me and to make me into what He wants me to be, to make me into who I know I am inside.  In that moment, the nursery rhyme above, one from my childhood, popped into my mind.  It speaks of all the good and innocence that we are born with.  Somehow the world changes us.  We learn of pain, loss, and betrayal.  We learn of lies, deceit, and unfairness.  And it robs us of our innocence, of our ability to dream, to hope, and to believe. We stop believing in people and ourselves.  But when I catch a glimpse of my childhood innocence, as I did tonight, I feel a sense of joy and warmth and I pray to reclaim it. When the beauty of art or song makes me cry, when a baby’s laugh or the sunset takes my breath away, I remember and celebrate the good in me and in the world; and I pray for it to stay.

Grace For My Mother

grace: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification; a virtue coming from God, mercy, pardon, disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency, reprieve

There’s a story behind everything…But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story…Because her’s is where your’s begins.” – Mitch Albom

When I was 15, I was a sophomore in high school, whose primary concerns were getting a marching band routine down pat, completing my English reading assignments, and deciding which boy I wanted to like that week.  When my mother was 15, she was also a sophomore in high school, but instead of football games, writing papers, and talking on the phone to boys, she was having me.  I’ve been told that I was conceived behind a skating rink…nice.  And I know that my father is at least 3 – 4 years older than her.  All of this leaves me feeling some kind of way…sad for her, a little angry at him…questions fill my head, did she feel obligated, afraid to say no, did she do it to feel loved?  What was he thinking, well, it’s easy to blame him and assume we know what he was thinking…he’s the older guy, right?  But nevertheless, whatever the circumstances, I am glad to be here and I am supposed to be here.

From this sketchy beginning, I was born on April 6, 1973, to a teenaged, unwed mother.  I was told that my aunt took me from her the minute she came home from the hospital, and that after that, my grandmother pretty much raised me, with my mother living in the house, but pretty much made all of the decisions and wouldn’t let my mother do too much with me or for me.  I am not sure to what extent my mother was ever “allowed” to actually “mother” me, but I do know that, growing up, I didn’t feel that she was very maternal.  Many times, I didn’t feel loved by her at all.  I remember times where I would beg for her to make me breakfast, literally cry and scream, while she laid in the bed, oblivious to my needs.  I remember her taking me to school, but when I tried to kiss her goodbye, she would turn her lips toward me, but not her face, as if she didn’t want to make much of an effort to show me any affection.  I remember, a lot of times, her absence.  She just wasn’t there.

My mother would randomly stay gone for weeks at a time, sometimes with different girlfriends, and more often, with different boyfriends.  She would call sometimes, crying, and apologize to me.  She’d sob and tell me how sorry she was for not being a better mother.  I’d forgive her, but she would just do it again and again.  I came to resent her and started to think of her as a liar who cared more about men than she did about me.  I grew up thinking that I never wanted to be like her.

Later in life, my mother became addicted to drugs and alcohol.  What little relationship we had got worse.  Again, I felt she had something else that she loved more than me.  I was always left wondering why I just wasn’t enough for her, why my love wasn’t enough to sustain her and fill whatever void she was feeling.  She told more lies, she became erratic, she cursed me and called me out of my name.  The woman who was supposed to love me the most, I felt hated me.  I felt like she was jealous that I was smart, and that I was “okay,” well-adjusted (for the most part) when it came to school and activities and having a normal teenaged life.  Instead of feeling that she loved me, I felt that she loathed me.

For nearly two years, I didn’t speak to my mother because she called me a bitch.  I was done. I had had enough.  I was now a mother myself and I set out to prove that I could do it better than she did.  I felt like my mother had no excuse for the way she treated me.  I didn’t care that she was just 15.  It didn’t matter to me.  She was supposed to be a mother to me, and in my mind, she failed.  And I hated her for it.

I have carried that anger, that hatred, but most of all, that feeling of being unloved and rejected by her for most of my life.  It has affected most of my adult relationships in one way or another.  I have spent a great deal of my adult life feeling unworthy of love.  When you feel that your own mother doesn’t love you, you feel like you’ve done something wrong, like you aren’t good enough.  I am only beginning to realize that I am good enough, I was good enough, and that she was just a child herself.

I’ve sat the past few days and tried to think of typical 15 year old behavior.  What did my 15 year old mind think about and act like?  I had pop stars on my walls, teddy bears on my shelves, and was just starting to wear make-up and like boys.  I was not thinking about babies and growing up and responsibilities.  I had big dreams of becoming a singer and travelling the world.  I knew I wanted children, but I imagined a husband to help me and to love me.

I opened this blog with several definitions of the word “grace.” God gives us grace to forgive us when we’ve done wrong. He gives us room to make mistakes.  The Bible admonishes us to “love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”  (1 Peter 4:8) Where was my grace for my mother?  Why have I demanded so much perfection from one who was so frail and innocent and immature when I came into this world?

It was not until my mother’s death a few years ago, a death from a drug overdose, that I started to feel empathy for her.  As she lay in a coma, I felt protective of her.  I felt angry at anyone and anything that had ever hurt her.  I felt responsible for her for the first time in my life.  I wanted to protect her, but instead, I had to let her go.  It was the most painful thing I’ve ever had to do.  I had to say goodbye, but we hadn’t fixed anything. We had spoken, briefly, about a week before when she had almost had another overdose. I remember arriving at the hospital and the nurse telling me that my mother was afraid to see me because she thought I hated her. I told her that day that I loved her. I hope she believed me.

Today is mother’s day.  I text my aunt to tell her Happy Mother’s Day, and she wrote back with this: “She loved you, ya know? I’m just sorry that she didn’t love herself.” And it hit me again: this was never about me.  My mother loved me, the best she could.  She never learned to love herself.  At a time in life, when a girl is just figuring out her way, and what’s important to her, and who she wants to be, she was thrust into parenthood, and then possibly, not even really allowed to parent.  I can’t imagine how she felt, and my heart breaks for her all over again, and I know, that now, I have grace for my mother…I give my mother grace to cover the times I felt wronged, or unloved, or just plain rejected.  I forgive my 15 year old mother.  I forgive my confused, scared, lonely, unsure of herself, mother.  I forgive my drug addicted mother.  I forgive my mother that loved me the best she knew howImage.  I know she loved me.  We did have good moments, and those are the times, that I’ll hold in my heart forever, and I’ll let grace and love cover the rest.  On this day, and every day, I love and miss you, mommy.

Becoming Brandy

Simply put: This blog is about ME.  More specifically, it’s about being the ME that God intended, some may call it “coming into my own,” I just call it “finding my way.” I believe I was born and created for a purpose (Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28) and part of that purpose is to become the best me that I can, to break old habits, to free myself of guilt, and shame, and walk with confidence and in love.  I’ve endured some pain and loss, and so far, my journey has been far less than perfect, but I am thankful for the lessons, and hope that, by sharing them, that you can learn something about yourself and find your way, too.  God bless you, and thank you for being a part of this journey.  I’m excited about my future!