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People are disappointing

Black Women Stand Alone

Disappointment as a faith-builder

Disappointments by family and friends can have life-altering and personality-changing impact. My most painful disappointments have helped refine my faith and how I view my abilities and capabilities. There is no level or area of human interaction that has not led to disappointment in my life. Still I would not trade any disappointment I’ve experienced for any amount of temporary satisfaction. Even being an orphaned aging single woman without children has its blessings on the long backend of life.

Without monumental disappointments throughout life – childhood rape, death of mother, inability to afford college, rejection by love interests, lack of corporate upward mobility, threatening racists neighbors – my faith would be nothing. Without adversity faith is only a whimsical word. Without the strengthening of my faith, I would be a flimsy woman.

Count it all joy, my brothers & sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. ~ James 1:2-4

It was because of my childhood abuse that I began writing regularly to God in my dairy. I wrote the prayers I cried myself to sleep with. My journaling remains a prayer and conversation with my Creator today.

My mother knew every shadowy and lit corner of my soul, yet she loved and stood with me. When she died it was truly akin to losing a part of myself. After four years of deep grief, I began looking for a way to gift her on the other side of life with all the pent up love I have for her.

It was through my conversation, prayers and journaling with my Creator that I received my first practical lesson on gifts of the spirit not being restricted to this temporal frame. I wanted to give my deceased mother a gift of love and the instruction I received was to forgive my rapists, one of whom was her husband and my dad. I put my forgiveness in action with a call to him, then spent a few years trying to build a relationship with him.

Please note: the instruction was to forgive, not to interact or build relationship. Interacting with my dad allowed for many disappointments.

Struggling to acquire a degree with the goal of accessing better employment opportunities kept me at odds with relatives who were content with the status quo of functional poverty.

As I healed my body, mind and spirit, through my teens and twenties, I thought a loving a relationship was only a matter of time. As time marched on, I blamed my inability to connect with men on the abuse I sustained as a child. Speaking with my dad after one disastrous date with an overly aggressive man, triggered me into realizing violators should not have a place of honor in my life. I could forgive him and be cordial but that didn’t mean he needed access to my intimate struggles, especially those rooted in his violence against me.

Looking for someone to love usually leads to overly accommodating users and abusers. Each time I go down the wrong road of attempting to love people unworthy of my devotion, I am reminded that I exposed myself because of my desire for the romanticized version of love the world revels in. However, what is for the world is not for me. Each rejection from a romantic interest had me burrowing deeper into God’s version of love.

The early idealism of economic freedom through education collided harshly with the American Dream of endless corporate opportunities. Even in one of the most freedom-loving cities in the United States, New York City, a Black Woman aspiring beyond a support role is not supported at all. After eleven years with the company and a newly minted master’s degree, being told that my credentials were worth less than a second-year intern for a role I applied for was a painfully stark reminder of the futility of chasing the world’s rewards.

Quitting was liberating. Being unemployed is scary. Having some resources, a great deal of experience, education, and most of all tried-and-tested-faith allows for some confidence in my ability to create my own opportunities.

In 2020, just as Covid-19 was making its way around the world, I was informed that some of my white neighbors in a semi-remote mountain neighborhood outside of Tucson, Arizona, were congregating to discuss “throwing rocks through my windows and burning my home.” Historically speaking, the neighbors were amassing a lynch mob – to terrorize me.

Disappointment as a fuel for rage

I would like to say nothing in my life prepared me for becoming a target for a lynch mob, but if you’ve read this far, you already know everything in my life prepared me for such an atrocious experience.

However, during that period, I battled most with myself. My pride demanded holding the plotting perpetrators accountable. Rage demanded I stand my ground and fight back. They burn me out, the same fire would burn them out. Sifting through such powerful emotions was hard. I knew Arizona was a transitional place for me. Staying only to fight seemed to violate my higher purpose. Ignoring the need to stand up for myself violated my personhood.

At some point I had to calm my rage enough to ask myself questions about the next steps for my life. Was I going to focus on the enemy’s latest distraction or double-down in the work God was performing in my life? What type of energy would be required to respond in kind to the ugly hatred of people who didn’t know me personally but chose to plot against me and my home? 

So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. ~ 1 Corinthians 10:12-13

I decided to sell my home and leave Arizona. The test in the process was giving all my rage and uncertainty to God – not allowing rage and fear to control my actions. Letting go – much quicker than in prior situations. Also surrendering all my hopes and plans for my future to my Creator.

I had been desperately trying to line up my next steps. I wanted to know where I was going before I left where I was. That’s what I had done before taking the leap to leave New York City where I had a home, employment with benefits and social outlets. I went from my home in New York to a newly built home in Arizona. Beyond that, nothing planned or hoped for came to fruition in my desert wilderness.

So in leaving Arizona for parts unknown, I was willing to set aside my thoughts for what would work for me. I admitted to not having the slightest idea beyond knowing God’s will for my life is far better than anything I can imagine.

Disappointment contours perspective

All of the major violations in my life have been by people who felt entitled to cause harm and violence against me because they considered me unworthy of my own autonomy. They thought they had controlling rights to my body, voice, time and future. They didn’t think I deserved what I had acquired or what I was reaching for. They held no value for my achievements or my personhood.

All the major non-violent disappointments result from the vagaries of life, things we don’t really have any say over – time of death, human chemistry and the overall impact of human interactions and relationships.

I share all this to say: every painful disappointment (outcome other than what was hoped or prayed for or expected) that has shaped my life (altered trajectory and reality) has driven the roots of my faith deeper into the Spirit of God. Not only am I strengthened with each attack on my life, I also increase in wisdom and confidence.

As Maya Angelou said, I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now. I wouldn’t trade in the hard knocks and near destructions, nor the rejections and betrayals. They may not yet be seen as opportunities for joy, but they certainly make the joy I have more unshakable. Having survived my life thus far, peace is not some quiet place outside of me. Peace has become an environment within me that I am committed to nurturing and protecting.

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We Are All Bound Up Together

America, I Matter!

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, 1866

I feel I am something of a novice upon this platform. Born of a race whose inheritance has been outrage and wrong, most of my life had been spent in battling against those wrongs. But I did not feel as keenly as others, that I had these rights, in common with other women, which are now demanded. About two years ago, I stood within the shadows of my home. A great sorrow had fallen upon my life. My husband had died suddenly, leaving me a widow, with four children, one my own, and the others stepchildren. I tried to keep my children together. But my husband died in debt; and before he had been in his grave three months, the administrator had swept the very milk-crocks and wash tubs from my hands. I was a farmer’s wife and made butter for the Columbus market; but what could I do, when they had swept all away? They left me one thing-and that was a looking glass! Had I died instead of my husband, how different would have been the result! By this time, he would have had another wife, it is likely; and no administrator would have gone into his house, broken up his home, and sold his bed, and taken away his means of support.

I took my children in my arms, and went out to seek my living. While I was gone, a neighbor to whom I had once lent five dollars, went before a magistrate and Swore that he believed I was a non-resident, and laid an attachment on my very bed. And I went back to Ohio with my orphan children in my arms, without a single feather bed in this wide world, that was not in the custody of the law. I say, then, that justice is not fulfilled so long as woman is unequal before the law.

We are all bound up together in one great bundle of humanity, and society cannot trample on the weakest and feeblest of its members without receiving the curse in its own soul. You tried that in the case of the Negro. You pressed him down for two centuries; and in so doing you crippled the moral strength and paralyzed the spiritual energies of the white men of the country. When the hands of the black were fettered, white men were deprived of the liberty of speech and the freedom of the press. Society cannot afford to neglect the enlightenment of any class of its members. At the South, the legislation of the country was in behalf of the rich slaveholders, while the poor white man was neglected. What is the consequence today? From that very class of neglected poor white men, comes the man who stands to-day, with his hand upon the helm of the nation. He fails to catch the watchword of the hour, and throws himself, the incarnation of meanness, across the pathway of the nation. My objection to Andrew Johnson is not that he has been a poor white man; my objection is that he keeps “poor whites” all the way through. That is the trouble with him.

This grand and glorious revolution which has commenced, will fail to reach its climax of success, until throughout the length and breadth of the American Republic, the nation shall be so color-blind, as to know no man by the color of his skin or the curl of his hair. It will then have no privileged class, trampling upon and outraging the unprivileged classes, but will be then one great privileged nation, whose privilege will be to produce the loftiest manhood and womanhood that humanity can attain.

I do not believe that giving the woman the ballot is immediately going to cure all the ills of life. I do not believe that white women are dew-drops just exhaled from the skies. I think that like men they may be divided into three classes, the good, the bad, and the indifferent. The good would vote according to their convictions and principles; the bad, as dictated by prejudice or malice; and the indifferent will vote on the strongest side of the question, with the winning party.

You white women speak here of rights. I speak of wrongs. I, as a colored woman, have had in this country an education which has made me feel as if I were in the situation of Ishmael, my hand against every man, and every man’s hand against me. Let me go to-morrow morning and take my seat in one of your street cars — I do not know that they will do it in New York, but they will in Philadelphia-and the conductor will put up his hand and stop the car rather than let me ride.

Going from Washington to Baltimore this Spring, they put me in the smoking car. Aye, in the capital of the nation, where the black man consecrated himself to the nation’s defense, faithful when the white man was faithless, they put me in the smoking car! They did it once; but the next time they tried it, they failed; for I would not go in. I felt the fight in me; but I don’t want to have to fight all the time. Today I am puzzled where to make my home. I would like to make it in Philadelphia, near my own friends and relations. But if I want to ride in the streets of Philadelphia, they send me to ride on the platform with the driver. Have women nothing to do with this? Not long since, a colored woman took her seat in an Eleventh Street car in Philadelphia, and the conductor stopped the car, and told the rest of the passengers to get out, and left the car with her in it alone, when they took it back to the station. One day I took my seat in a car, and the conductor came to me and told me to take another seat. I just screamed “murder.” The man said if I was black I ought to behave myself. I knew that if he was white he was not behaving himself. Are there not wrongs to be righted?

In advocating the cause of the colored man, since the Dred Scott decision, I have sometimes said I thought the nation had touched bottom. But let me tell you there is a depth of infamy lower than that. It is when the nation, standing upon the threshold of a great peril, reached out its hands to a feebler race, and asked that race to help it, and when the peril was over, said, “You are good enough for soldiers, but not good enough for citizens.”

We have a woman in our country who has received the name of “Moses,” not by lying about it, but by acting it out — a woman who has gone down into the Egypt of slavery and brought out hundreds of our people into liberty. The last time I saw that woman, her hands were swollen. That woman who had led one of Montgomery’s most successful expeditions, who was brave enough and secretive enough to act as a scout for the American army, had her hands all swollen from a conflict with a brutal conductor, who undertook to eject her from her place. That woman, whose courage and bravery won a recognition from our army and from every black man in the land, is excluded from every thoroughfare of travel. Talk of giving women the ballot-box? Go on. It is a normal school, and the white women of this country need it. While there exists this brutal element in society which tramples upon the feeble and treads down the weak, I tell you that if there is any class of people who need to be lifted out of their airy nothings and selfishness, it is the white women of America.

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Kingdom of Heaven (ACAD: Matthew 5)

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.

Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:1-48 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage?search=Matthew%205:1-48&version=NRSV

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Be Your Own Best Present

2020 year-end reflection and message for those of us used to putting everyone else first and feeding into situations that don’t nourish us. Just as we try to be available supportive and our best selves for others, we should be equally, if not more so, for ourselves.

 

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Advice to Young Women Artists

advice-to-young-women-artists-agnes-martin
Photo taken at Guggenheim Museum’s Agnes Martin exhibit.

“The life of an artist is inspired self-sufficient and independent (unrelated to society).

The direction of attention of an artist is toward mind in order to be aware of inspiration.

Following inspiration life unfolds free of any influence.

Finally the artist recognizes himself in the work and is happy.

Nothing else will satisfy an artist.

An artist’s life is an unconventional life. It leads away from the example of the past. It struggles painfully against its own conditioning.

It appears to rebel but in reality it is an inspired way of life.”

(Published [as Advice to Young Artists])

~ Agnes Martin

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Photo Challenge, Week 43: Spooky Halloween Infrared Animated GIF

Okay so this was a great learning opportunity! Actually, everything about photography is a learning experience for me still, but this challenge was intimidating – mostly because it included elements from Week 35: Translucent Outdoor Long Exposures that I didn’t have time to try, plus infrared photography which I was not familiar with. All that said, I think my first attempts with translucent long exposure in infrared came out okay.

What do you think?

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Remembering the Atrocities of Hiroshima

A couple of years ago, I saw Hiroshima, Mon Amour, a 1959 French film set in Hiroshima, Japan following the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945. I had learned a very sanitized version of the bombings in school, but I don’t recall ever seeing the effects of the bombing, i.e. the large-scale destruction of life and the desolation of the survivors. Prior to watching Hiroshima, Mon Amour, I had not heard of the bombings in any personalized way. Suffice it to say that the film left an impression.

A couple of months ago, I visited Montreal, Quebec and spent an afternoon at the Botanical Garden. I spent the majority of my time that afternoon in the Japanese Garden. I trailed through the meditation spaces, lingered over the bonsai trees and wept over the Hiroshima memorial of drawings by survivors. I’ve been wanting to share this for a while, but it’s been difficult to revisit my photographs and the personal stories they captured. However, the 70th anniversary of the murder of so many Japanese people seemed to be an appropriate time to share the images.

We should all work to eliminate the idea that we need to destroy others in order for some to live with their own ideas of freedom. Visit the City of Hiroshima web site for current information about the city.

Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Part of the Pacific War, World War II
Two aerial photos of atomic bomb mushroom clouds, over two Japanese cities in 1945.
Atomic bomb mushroom clouds over Hiroshima (left) and Nagasaki (right)
Date August 6 and August 9, 1945
Location Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan
Result Allied victory
Belligerents
 United States
 United Kingdom
 Japan
Commanders and leaders
United States William S. Parsons
United States Paul W. Tibbets, Jr.
Empire of Japan Shunroku Hata
Units involved
Manhattan District: 50 U.S., 2 British
509th Composite Group: 1,770 U.S.
Second General Army:
Hiroshima: 40,000
Nagasaki: 9,000
Casualties and losses
20 U.S., Dutch, British prisoners of warkilled Hiroshima:

  • 20,000+ soldiers killed
  • 70,000–146,000 civilians killed

Nagasaki:

  • 39,000–80,000 killed

Total: 129,000–246,000+ killed

from Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_bombings_of_Hiroshima_and_Nagasaki

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Portrait: Three Great-Aunts in Chicago

Over July Forth weekend, I was able to have a short visit with three of my paternal grandmother’s sisters. Shown in the below photos, left to right, are Aunt Gloria, Aunt Juanita and Aunt Faye. I first connected with each of them at the family memorial gathering for my Grandmother, their sister, Jurl in 2013. I friended them each on Facebook and Aunt Faye has proven to be a prolific Facebook gamer – she’s online a lot. 🙂  Last weekend was my first return since Grandma’s memorial service and I must say, I was quite looking forward to sharing time with my elder ladies.

This weekend I decided to begin Photoshop tutorials so I can become skilled at improving my finished photographic product. My self-learning course consisted of selection tools and background removal in Photoshop and experimenting with Topaz Impressions while using both as plugins to Lightroom CC 2015. The below edits are a combination of the techniques I’ve learned on YouTube and other tutorials as well as through trial and error.

There’s so much life and personality in these shots, it’s been a joy to sit with my lady aunts again as I learned editing techniques.

3 Great-Aunts by LaShawnda Jones for Spirit Harvest Edits in LightRoom, PhotoShop and Topaz Impressions/Georgia O'Keefe I 100%
3 Great-Aunts by LaShawnda Jones for Spirit Harvest
Edits in LightRoom, PhotoShop and Topaz Impressions/Georgia O’Keefe I 100%

3 Great-Aunts by LaShawnda Jones for Spirit Harvest Edits in LightRoom, PhotoShop and Topaz Impressions/Oil Painting by Jimmy LaSala 100%
3 Great-Aunts by LaShawnda Jones for Spirit Harvest
Edits in LightRoom, PhotoShop and Topaz Impressions/Oil Painting by Jimmy LaSala 100%

3 Great-Aunts by LaShawnda Jones for Spirit Harvest Edits in LightRoom, PhotoShop and Topaz Impressions/Georgia O'Keefe I  65%
3 Great-Aunts by LaShawnda Jones for Spirit Harvest
Edits in LightRoom, PhotoShop and Topaz Impressions/Georgia O’Keefe I 65%

3 Great-Aunts by LaShawnda Jones for Spirit Harvest Edits in LightRoom, PhotoShop and Topaz Impressions/Water Color IV 72%
3 Great-Aunts by LaShawnda Jones for Spirit Harvest
Edits in LightRoom, PhotoShop and Topaz Impressions/Water Color IV 72%