Posted on Leave a comment

Third Trimester: Stretching for Home

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling— if indeed, when we have taken it off, we will not be found naked.

~ 2 Corinthians 5:1-5

If life is a full term pregnancy processing us for birth into the afterlife, then I met Charlene B. Ware during her third trimester. Life is its own master course and we all become the product of our beliefs, choices, and actions while running our own great race.

When I met Charlene, she was nearing the end of several stages. Retirement was approaching, her second marriage was unraveling, and the West would soon be calling. Charlene was transitioning fully into her third trimester of life with all cylinders on change. So, I was blessed to meet a woman in the prime of her life who was embracing the unknown with joyful anticipation. She had been married, had divorced, and raised two children while working full-time.

Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

~ 2 Corinthians 5:6-9

When I make friends, I tend to befriend the whole family on some level. I met Cherre during my college internship twenty-three years ago. Shortly after she introduced me to her Mama, Charlene. I don’t remember a lot of our first conversation details, but I do remember her warmth, welcome, familiarity and a whole bunch of shared laughter. When we met, I was nearing the end of my first trimester of life and was gifted with a bird’s-eye view of Ms. Charlene as she was entering her home stretch.

Being able to witness her fearless, vivacious approach to life has been a beautiful experience. Nearly twenty years ago, Ms. Charlene spread her wings in preparation of exploring freedom – life after work, life after divorce and a technical empty nest, life as a full-time grandma, and life as a pensioned retiree in the Valley of the Sun. I met her when joy came easy, and laughter was free flowing. That’s how I know her. This is how she is remembered.

In the society we are formed in, life offers only three widely accepted stages for women: daughter, wife, mother. Though variations abound, they are rarely respected or appreciated. Women who don’t hit and hold all three marks are seen as lacking. This shortsightedness can prevent us from embracing our true selves and growing into our promise. Fortunately, some brave souls can free their minds and unchain their souls from societal conventions and allow their eternal light to manifest in their mortal lives.

The young woman who left home chose to hold on to close relationships throughout her life. Ms. Charlene’s sense of personal liberation allowed her to choose love and marriage again yet still not be broken by its heavy yoke. The self-knowledge and awareness needed to live her best life guided her. Not only did she decide to live in a completely different environment from her first and second trimesters, her secret to thriving as a transplant in the desert was being within close proximity of the true loves of her life, Napoleon and Cherre.

Love and relationship are the ties that bind all the stages of Charlene’s life together. You don’t get to live such a vibrantly full life without committing wholeheartedly to your choices and their harvests. This willingness to embrace life, come what may, made room for the people she met along way – friends who were embraced like family, neighbors who were embraced as friends, and of course the family she loved as extensions of herself.

She departed how she lived: surrounded and embraced by the love of her children.

If we truly believe that what we bind on earth will bind us in heaven then Charlene B Ware prepared her whole life for her life beyond (Matthew 18:18). May she rest well in the embrace of her Creator.

For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.

~ 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
Posted on Leave a comment

POEM: Elegy: Cousin Tish – Baby Woman Mother

In memory of my lil cuz, Tish.

Elegy: Cousin Tish – Baby Woman Mother

Playing house is different with baby
cousins, lil’ brothers and sisters and the
mannish boys in the neighborhood. Who needs
a fake baby with real baby cousins
in reach? Tish was a chubby, curly-haired
infant, rosy-cheeked girly-girl toddler
adorable, rambunctious, loved. Rolling
over, pushing up learning to walk, run
circles around folks from the house and yard
to Grandma’s vegetable garden; real life
cabbage patch doll blooming up and down the
street, burrowing roots, extending networks.

Too soon, I was no fun; just a boring
old cousin to a womanish girl who
preferred smokin’ weed as boys circled and
plotted in her haze. Though she grew up fast,
she was no fast-tail-gal. She met her love,
married young in paradise. Soon after,
my play baby was having babies in
wedded bliss. A homemaker happiest
making a home in the warm embrace of
family, next door to her mama, ‘cross
town from Grandma. A nurturing space for
herself, her husband and their one two three
four five bouncing bundles of joy. Later
expanding her shelter to make room to
comfort Grandma in her declining years.

A lifetime came and went. A final stealth
pregnancy shared with few. Heard in passing
near her due date. Her mom, my aunt, kept her
confidence; our uncle not so. She was
due on my long-deceased brother’s birthday.
A happy coincidence to be sure.
On December 16, my aunt called to
check on me. She asked, “Have you gotten your
diabetes under control?” “I thought
I did, but last week I spiked,” I replied.
On and on I rambled, before Cousin
Tish interrupted, “Should I let them give
Grandma the Covid-19 vaccine?” “No,”
my aunt said. “What do you think,” she asked me.
“No,” I agreed, “they don’t know what the side
effects are.” “Yeah,” my aunt said, “Mom has too
many illnesses and is taking too
many medications, that vaccine could
kill her. “Ok,” said the woman who was
once upon a time my play baby, as
she made arrangements for the grandmother
she was now mothering. Generations
are mere stair steps grape-vining across blurred
lines. We could’ve all been in the same room,
sharing the same space in momentary
unity. A rare consensus. Eighteen
hundred miles, forty years separated
us from oldest to youngest to farthest
away. “I have to go,” said Auntie. “Tish
needs to get ready for the hospital.
They’re inducing her tonight.”
“Goodness! How does she do it all,” I asked.
“What do you mean?” Intoned with a raised brow.
“She’s about to deliver her sixth child.
She’s on her feet to the end, taking care
of grandma, five kids and a husband. It’s
a lot.” With a quiet sense of affront,
my aunt said, “I help.” Indeed, she does, though
not immediately apparent from
eighteen hundred miles away. As neighbors,
mother and daughter have separate but
shared households. They see each other daily.
Tish stays home, her mom works. They share the days
and divide the responsibilities.
Mini-compound in an old industry
town. How can any of us do it all
without help? “Ok, talk to you later.
Good luck to Tish.” When was the last time I
told her I love her? She’s kept me at a
distance for decades; I stopped trying to
bridge it long ago. What would I have said
had I known it was my last chance to speak
to her through her mom? The next morning, her
brother called to say this vibrant woman
died in childbirth. Unbelievable, yet
true. That was not the call any of us
expected to receive. From good luck to
my God, may she rest in peace! We know she
held her blessings close in a well-lived life.

Of the ways we thought any of us would
go next, the ones we were “ready” for, Tish
dying giving birth was not a concern.

Gone. Thirty-eight years young. Healthy. Happy.
Living, loving fully. Present for life.
Woman, wife, mother, daughter, granddaughter,
sister, niece, cousin, friend. Being herself
was her favorite role. “I Am Woman.
I Am Me,” she shared with me when asked what
womanhood meant to her during my last
visit. “Everything about Woman
represents Me. Determination. Me
being focused. Being respectful and
making sure my children are respectful.
Having manners. Succeeding in life.” She
Will be remembered as my play baby
and a bonafide mommy-woman. She
leaves behind many impressed by all the
life in her years, her love of motherhood
all encompassing. For the little ones,
Tish’s babies, overwhelming sadness
for the void her physical absence leaves
in their lives. May God enrich their spirits
to receive all the comfort, guidance and
love they need to fill their years with good life.
Precious Layla, Erick, Karess, Remy,
Daymanie and dearest London whose first
breath struggled pass her mother’s last. As I
mourn Cousin Tish, I ache for the husband
she shared her life with, mother never more
than a hop away, father whose pride was
his first-born, and brother who could’ve been
her Siamese twin. Then there’s Grandma, who
has been sustained by Tish’s care and grace.

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Sermon: Favor Over Fear by Steven Furtick

This sermon is a gift.

For me, it encompasses two big projects I’m working on: a re-edit of my book, Desert of Solitude: Refreshed by Grace and the Marriage & Relationship: Modern Concepts vs. Biblical Principles Virtual Bible Study Series.

I’ve added so much to Desert of Solitude since it was published in 2018, that it’s more of a re-write at this point. One of the strongest themes in my book is the cycle of endings and beginnings aka life and death. This sermon has touched on a vein and exposed perspectives I hadn’t considered. It is also a great addition to the Marriage & Relationship discussion series. Pastor Steven Furtick gives an excellent perspective and understanding of Jacob, Rachel and Leah (covered in Part 1 of my study) and Mary (covered in Part 5).

“The relationship between fear and favor cannot be overstated. Choose favor over fear.” ~ Pastor Steven Furtick

Reference verses:

Related posts:

Related books:

Posted on

All Is Meaningless (ACAD: Ecclesiastes 12)

Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come, and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return with the rain; in the day when the guards of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the women who grind cease working because they are few, and those who look through the windows see dimly; when the doors on the street are shut, and the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low; when one is afraid of heights, and terrors are in the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along and desire fails; because all must go to their eternal home, and the mourners will go about the streets; before the silver cord is snapped, and the golden bowl is broken, and the pitcher is broken at the fountain, and the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the breath returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher; all is vanity.

Besides being wise, the Teacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs. The Teacher sought to find pleasing words, and he wrote words of truth plainly.

The sayings of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings that are given by one shepherd. Of anything beyond these, my child, beware. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.

Ecclesiastes 12:1-14 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage?search=Ecclesiastes%2012:1-14&version=NRSV

Posted on

All Is Meaningless (ACAD: Ecclesiastes 11)

Send out your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will get it back. Divide your means seven ways, or even eight, for you do not know what disaster may happen on earth. When clouds are full, they empty rain on the earth; whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie. Whoever observes the wind will not sow; and whoever regards the clouds will not reap.

Just as you do not know how the breath comes to the bones in the mother’s womb, so you do not know the work of God, who makes everything.

In the morning sow your seed, and at evening do not let your hands be idle; for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.

Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.

Even those who live many years should rejoice in them all; yet let them remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity.

Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Follow the inclination of your heart and the desire of your eyes, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.

Banish anxiety from your mind, and put away pain from your body; for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.

Ecclesiastes 11:1-10 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage?search=Ecclesiastes%2011:1-10&version=NRSV

Posted on Leave a comment

Sermon: Family Matters – Future

By Pastor Glenn Barteau

Family Matters – Future from Casas Church on Vimeo.

Family Matters, Part 1
Pastor Gary Barteau
April 8, 2018

Book of Ruth: Naomi and Ruth
Ruth 1:5 Naomi loss her husband and two sons.

Your family still has a future.
Grieve
Look
Dream
Choose

Grief
It is an healthy thing to be able to grieve.
It is an inside process.
It makes a declaration
Becomes a deep outside expression of how valuable the person was to you.
Its never too late to go back and grieve something you didn’t grieve before.
When we don’t grieve it’s difficult to move forward.

Ruth 1: 19-21
So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”

Look
Just because there is loss doesn’t mean all is loss.
Look for ehat isn’t loss.
For whats there. For God is bringing into the picture.
Naomi was gifted with two great daughters in law. She had a hometown to return to.

Ruth 2:11

Dream
Dream of what God has put in your heart that matters to you.
Those values and beliefs do not fo away. They remain.
They may manifest differently than you imagined.
Is iy grace? Acceptance? Family as a safe place?

Ruth 2:15-16
Boaz instructs workers to leave grain for Ruth yo glean/collect

As you look to whats loss and what is still present. Go build that family. You have a part in shaping what your family might be
Take steps.

 

Choose
We can choose to move forward.

Naomi’s grandchild is not the future she envision but she called herself blessed and Ruth better than seven sons.

We don’t get back what is loss from before but we are gifted with something beautiful and new. God remakes us and everything we need for life.

God my gift you with ife and joy that may be different that before but is a future for your family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Book Review: The Good Death: An Exploration of Dying in America

The Good Death: An Exploration of Dying in AmericaThe Good Death: An Exploration of Dying in America by Ann Neumann

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Good Death: An Exploration of Dying in America by Ann Neumann

One of the first phrases to stand out to me was part of a story Ann Neumann shared of a terminal man in the Midwest. He thought it was important to “participate in our own death.” (p 69)

There was a very strong sense that Ann Neumann was directing her words and somewhat undercover activism to a very distinct audience. Her audience was very much so white middle class, middle aged women. There were several times in the text when my neck snapped back in affront as if she assumed anyone outside of her preferred audience would have no interest in or understanding of a good death.

This was a book I was looking forward to reading when it was shared as the next selection for my book club. I read the first couple of chapters with great interest and anticipation. Somewhere approaching the center of the book, she got off topic or changed strategies that took away a great deal from the reading experience. By the end, I felt it was a fruitless book with a misleading title and subtitle.

One of the main things that was off-putting was the author’s off-handed handling of medical ethics. Neumann lost credibility with me on page 93 when she wrote one line on the Tuskegee Airmen experiments, which involved more than 600 black men, as being “observed but not treated for syphilis” when doctors knowingly misdiagnosed, lied and refused to treat the disease… and most likely gave the disease to those who did not have it. All because they reportedly wanted to watch the debilitating effects the disease has on black bodies as well as document their deaths from it. Neumann later spent twenty full pages on one woman in a coma. She exhausted the medical and personal ethics involved in keeping one young white woman on life support who may not have even wanted to be on life support had she been able to choose. Then there were the thirty pages she wrote pro-life conferences and how the conservative Christian right is a danger to the “right to die with dignity” movement. These fifty pages were followed by another thirty pages itemizing the online disputes with disabled bloggers who saw the terminally ill’s right to die with dignity as a threat to their own personal safety under the care of medical professionals.

I confess I remain unable to connect these tangents. More so because one of the last personal profiles in the book is of a terminally ill imprisoned Latino man who was either a dreamer or a braggart. Neumann was disgusted by him and didn’t understand why he would share elaborate stories with her about his former life or his supposedly non-existent future. She actually wrote how she had no compassion for him and his situation. Yet she began the book writing about being a hospice volunteer to better understand the process of dying.

How is Neumann an authority on death? She concluded, “There is no good death, I now know…. But there is a good enough death…. knowing death makes facing it bearable…. And there is really one kind of bad death, characterized by the same bad facts: pain, denial, prolongation, loneliness.” (p210)

I stalled on the last chapter for a couple of weeks. I ended up finishing it while on vacation during a day trip to Tombstone, AZ. It proved to be a good fit with the Tombstone aesthetic. Ann Neumann’s writing is reminiscent of Tombstone, a town that celebrates death and killing from a bygone age. The town’s tourism thrives on ghost stories, hauntings and remembering the wild viciousness of lawless times. Neumann celebrates the privilege of white middle-class, middle-aged Americans. She goes on a grotesque exploration of what she thinks are horror stories in bioethics and medical morality while exhibiting no curiosity or compunction whatsoever for atrocities against humanity on mass scales.

View all my reviews

Posted on Leave a comment

Don’t lead with your pain.

There’s been an unconscious mantra making rounds in my head for the last few months. Don’t lead with your pain. Simple enough as thoughts go. A complex algorithm as far as implementation goes. No matter where I begin my life story, death has a starring role… or at least a pivotal one. I’ve always thought so anyway. In recent months, I’ve been trying to figure out how to tell my story differently. What do I begin with? How do I punctuate or embellish? How do I include others in my current narrative?

In January, my company moved to a new location. The office space was shuffled like musical chairs and I was eager to meet and get to know new people – people I hadn’t been sitting near for the last five years. I’ve been making my rounds in the new office – chatting, dining, walking and cycling with people. Getting to know them from where I am now. Repeating to myself all along, don’t lead with your pain. Don’t mention Mom (dead). Don’t mention siblings (dead, dead, in prison, drug addict). Don’t mention dad (dead). Don’t mention singleness (lonely). Don’t mention friends (deserters). Don’t mention hopes (disappointment). Don’t mention dreams (deferred). Don’t mention ambition (dust). Don’t mention life (pointless).

It doesn’t sound as if I’m left with much, but I give thanks as often as I remember for the measure of joy, and faith God has blessed me with. These two things keep me going. They keep me moving. They add purpose to my days, my years, my life. I love conversation. There’s no pleasure like eating a good meal with good company and good company is revealed through good conversation. Walking in the fresh air brings peace and serenity even if for only the duration of the walk. And cycling has become the joy of my life. In sharing these activities, I have lead with my joy – simple everyday joy-filled moments. I have opened myself to begin new narratives with each new person I engage with.

I’m coming to embrace the idea that my story doesn’t have to be about me, ergo my pain. Perhaps my story is the prologue to our story. Our individual stories flow into the multiplicity of us. How do we begin? Where to do we start? What are we leading with?

Just a thought, but everything begins with death, darkness, or a void.

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. {Genesis 1:1-2}

Be blessed as you go.

Shawnda

Posted on Leave a comment

Thoughts on Granddaddy’s death

We are all dead, dying or coming to life.

The culture of the world fears death, but there is so much to learn from the dead and the dying. Life is not savored at all until it is viewed juxtaposed next to death.

It is only when we are confronted with loss that we truly appreciate what we’ve gained. Granddaddy closed his eyes at the end of a December and we bid our collective farewell at the beginning of January. It’s a different take on new beginnings. Beginning the year with a burial. Beginning with death and a seed. Beginning with the celebration of a well-lived life.

How appropriate that we should begin with a funeral.

In so doing, we are presented with the opportunity to release ourselves from all that’s past. All that’s gone. All that’s dead in our lives. We can begin again in new ground fertilized with all that came before. Enriched by lessons and experiences. Emboldened by memories. Invigorated by visions of all that can be harvested from the seed that died and became embraced again by the earth. New growth. New form. New direction.

Death is not the end. It is part of life. The blessing is in recognizing the great gift of everyone who has come before.

Rest well, Granddaddy.

Smile by Nat King Cole