I’m interested in writing within the tensions of our humanity with the both and: our joy and our grief, beauty and brokenness, courage and fear, celebration and rage, and everything in between.
My hope is that my writing has the ability to connect to what lies at the core of being human. Whether I am writing poetry, a newsletter, or an essay, my writing aims to be honest, attentive, and centered around connection. May these words housed here meet you and encourage you.
Over the past couple of years I have been asking people to write in response to various prompts. Often these prompts have been specific and geared towards a question or a specific word. This time around, I wanted to do something a little different. I wanted to do a prompt that would create a space for a wide variety of thoughts and writing pieces that may not be connected to the same topic. So, instead of choosing a word for people to write on, I asked people to write about a word they’ve been thinking of most recently. The only parameters to the prompt were that people had to use the word they were writing on as their title, other than that, people could write in whatever format they’d like and within whatever genre of writing the prefer. This felt more risky doing a writing prompt that was more open-ended because it can feel much more daunting to figure out what to even write on. Our minds run through a wide spectrum of thoughts each day and it hard to slow it all down and to focus on one idea or topic. However, I think when there are specific words that continue to come back to our thoughts, that’s where we lean in and pay attention. When we give more space to those very words we cannot stop thinking about, we often find there are words within waiting to be unlocked.
I started asking people to write at the beginning of February and it has been a slow stream of different writing pieces shared. This compilation is one I’d love to continue to expand upon.
Media can be really overwhelming right now. A lot of words and opinions are being shared and it can be exhausting to consume. But, here, in the space where we are each pressing in to write from places of humility, compassion, and deep thought something powerful happens. We can connect and listen in a new way. We can be freed in our own release of words and we can be connected in finding ourselves in someone else’s writing pieces. Or we can be encouraged by someone else’s courage to write what they’ve been thinking on.
With that being said, I hope you all enjoy these writing pieces. The writers share so many different streams-of-thought and I think many will be able to connect as well. I hope these spark some courage in you to write out your own stories and thoughts or that they simply give you some breath today. We are better and stronger as a community who listens and leans in together. Thank you all for reading and writing and for being willing to connect here.
Enjoy my friends!
It’s come to my attention
That I have a strange sense of what I do and do not deserve.
I deserve the ability to finish what I have started.
I deserve to look into my best friends eyes at the end, unified.
I deserve the ending everyone else has gotten before me, right?
To be thanked? Applauded? Remembered?
To lay my legacy
and bow in acceptance of my final performance.
Permanence is counterfeit.
We all knew it was coming.
But was it too much to ask for a little more time?
A few more moments in the sun.
I thought I was being present.
I tried to memorize the walk to class.
The trails worn through south campus between buildings.
The jingle of each of my roommates’ keys as they walked in my dear house.
The smiles of my people. The way their eyes spark and get all squinty.
I’ve tried holding onto every moment with all I can,
and for it I’m glad.
Because apparently that is all we’ve got.
Permanence is counterfeit.
I don’t deserve anything.
Procrastinating the change wouldn’t stop this desperate hurt.
Humbly remembering that the amount of pain
Is directly correlated to the amount of good.
Everything is changing. But can we stay like this?
United even if apart.
Isn’t life all about holding? Or to be held. Is there a difference?
We all begin life held. Held inside a place where everyone was and no one remembers.
The noise and the light and the cold doesn’t change that need really. Magnifies it maybe. We screamed to be held like we screamed to be fed, to be given life. In the beginning, at a breast, we needed to be held to be fed to be given life. I don’t think much changes.
Before we knew it, we were holding words in our mouths. That doesn’t last of course, maybe a minute. Syllabic ma mas rolling out of them because we could not bear them inside. Nothing’s new there either. Our selves and feelings and fears can’t be held so we make other people (people who can’t hold their own shit either mind you) hold them. And by that we bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill his law.
After that we learn to hold baseball bats, bike handles, friend’s shoulders, grudges and secrets. Tragically, someone somewhere decided we then had to learn to do the same with steering wheels and conversations and long, drawn out stares. Those probably come with holding clammy hands, tremulous bodies and the like. Like in the beginning.
There’s some variety tossed in here too in the way of holding.
Some carry wallets with cards to accounts that hold lots, and others don’t.
Some are given minds that carry more and others are given ones that carry less.
Someone decided that those folks don’t have to be one in the same.
Some folks holds cameras at graduations, and others bear palls two months before it.
Some skin holds no black pigment, and some does.
Some folks don’t care that these lines are in the same stanza.
Some girls hold the attention of the room, and other girls hold back their own hair purging.
Boys and men hold themselves watching real women held captive by boys who aren’t real men.
God, please damn it all to hell that these lines are next to each other too.
We hold that some truths are self-evidently endowed by a Creator.
I hate that we are holding kids in cages away from their parents.
Oh would the prayers of the vigils held by the Catholics reach you Lord.
But really, I hold all of this inside me.
The world beholds so much more tragedy because of me.
Hold us in Grace.
It’s not all bad. Most of it is pretty wonderful.
Every once in a while, we can hold in our lungs the air and smell of Autumn.
We can hold the look on a baby girl’s face when her pupils dilate to first focus on the sky.
We can hold pace because our legs feel strong and the air is cool and the trail isn’t too hilly.
We can hold our attention on one who receives so little of it. The dirty one who Jesus loves.
We can be held speechless by a nice red dress and a lingering smile, and
We can hold back tears when we see a white dress and a smile.
We can be held captivate by a good book. By the good book.
Look at your hands and think of all that they are and all they have been given and how they are used. It is too wonderful; it is too high I cannot obtain it.
I wrote this because of my grandparents, and a story nearly all lost to me but the end. It ends with him holding his old stethoscope to her still chest. Like she was holding her breath.
But it started there too. Before all that, they saw that the other was good and took. A young navy doc and a nurse. Just about when I was learning to remember, they got a crappy diagnosis and my grandfather started holding her differently. Probably not for the first time, but my grandfather starting holding my grandmother in the shower. She, too weak to stand; too tremulous to hold soap. So he held it and her, and he, after delicately holding her children and her dreams and her fears for a half century, washed her with water and with words, that he might present her in splendor. Love.
I bought me a little house plant the day I moved into college. It lived in the same blue pot for my first three years, until I transferred it to a bigger one about three times the size. And let me tell you, that sucker began to grow like I didn’t know possible.
All it needed was space.
I was stifling its growth by confining it’s environment. I guess sometimes we just need more space and maybe even a change of space to let ourselves grow.
But there’s more to learn from plants and I’m soaking that in here in Grady, Alabama. When transitioning plants from a pot into a new expanse, you need to loosen up the roots. Those roots got so used to living in a sort of way that they started to grow inward and around. If you don’t loosen the roots, then they won’t stretch out into the new space of soil, which then means the plant.won’t.grow.
Loosening those roots is a perceivably aggressive process. From the outside it can appear that I am breaking the roots, that I am tearing them apart. But what I’m really doing, is doing what it takes for the roots to reach deeper and wider than ever before.
Perhaps the times when I’m feeling shaken or tore up or a bit broken, those times, those are the times I’m actually being geared up for unthinkable growth.
Transitions pt. 2
I thought I was done with it. You know, my metaphor with transitions and plants. I thought my thoughts we finished, until last week. That’s when I transitioned my greenhouse plants into the garden.
It was time. They were ready, and so was I. Those little seeds had sprouted and grown to about 5 inches already, and some even more. They were ready to leave the black plastic confines of the pot and be introduced to the garden.
While transplanting, I thought God was going to talk to me more about breaking up and shaking up roots, and about the shaking up he’s doing inside of me.
But throughout the whole process I was feeling and experiencing something entirely different. I couldn’t help but think about how delicate the process of transitioning plants is.
Maybe it’s more gentle than I thought.
These little seedlings became all interwoven and intwined together. In order to plant them individually, I needed to separate them and get each one alone in my hand. But there was no aggression in this process. I didn’t tear each seedling away from the others. That would have ripped them out and ruined it all. Instead, I delicately took off my gloves to softly unravel each steam. Then, I very gently held each seedling in my palm as I made room for it in the row beneath me. I placed it down, and covered it with soil. But even then, I wouldn’t just mindless throw soil over it. No, I would lean it to one side and cover the empty space with soil and then lean to the other side to do the same.
I dealt with each seedling individually and gently.
There was no room for rushing through this process. The individual care wouldn’t allow for it. There was no mindless action. There was ceaseless attention.
With my knees in the soil, I stopped as it dawned on me. This is how you deal with me God. Gently and intimately. It’s you and me, God. It’s me in your palm with your gloves off and hands bare. It’s your very fingers that choose to delicately separate me from my entangles. It’s your very fingers that break up and shake up my roots, but while your fingers are doing this, I am resting securely in the palm of your hand. God, it’s you who places me; it’s you who plants me. It’s me and you. And this is transition.
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”
A moment exalted.
a moment taken away
in a moment. oh, the choice to take. when will we realize that it’s not the answer?
The world was ours to carry. Well, it was supposed to be, but it turns out we wanted to be exalted instead.
They took the fruit and that’s what started this whole idea. We see it, we take it. The food, the compliment, the prestige, the money. We take one another’s time and energy, thinking ours is salient. We take kids away from their families. We take breaths. We take control, by taking someone else’s breath. By taking their life.
God gave us his life. We still don’t get it.
So we take pills. To heal us, but then the pills take control of us instead. We take shots. To drown the pain of it all. The alcohol burns our throat as the bullet pierces our flesh. As her heart was taken by a man who was a boy. Because he thought he had the right to take her heart. And her body. He thought maybe by taking hers he could have a life for himself.
It didn’t work, in case you were wondering. Her dignity was taken along with everything else. And he was empty too. God took this brokenness on himself. We still don’t understand.
In the midst of it all, there are still some moments worthy to be exalted.
She walks into the room and takes his breath away. The soil takes in the rain and the sun and turns it into life. So he takes the new flowers from the ground to give to her. And she takes them graciously while she takes photos. Trying to capture the moments worthy. moments that are very good.
I wonder if we’ll ever learn to take the name.
“daughter. son. my beloved.”
The choice to take. I always take the wrong things. But today, I choose to take a stand. I choose not to take, but to give. Like my father did- when he took his life to give to me.
The giver of life itself- may He be the one who is exalted.
And please, let’s not take that away from Him.
“Unexpressed gratitude is received as ingratitude.”
I heard this quote 5 years ago and since then, it has been engraved in my mind. Along with the moment I heard it- sitting in Waffle House before school with Mike, Ann and Sarah- a group that I was very grateful for in high school. Three people that were by my side as I really began to want to know Jesus.
That morning, we talked about the story in Luke 17 when Jesus cleanses ten lepers. These 10 lepers came to Jesus, standing at a distance, begging Him to clean them. Jesus told them, “go and show yourselves to the priests.” How embarrassed they must have been. However, in His goodness, before they even got to the priest, Jesus healed them. BUT THEN, only ONE of the lepers, after being healed, came back to find Jesus,
“praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, ‘were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ And he said to him, ‘Rise and go your way, your faith has made you well.’” (Luke 17:11-19)
How often are we one of the nine? Who receive a miracle from the Lord, yet allow the distractions of this world to make us forget to thank Him. I don’t want to be one of the nine. Ever since that morning at Waffle House, I have set out to be a grateful person. To give thanks to Jesus, for everything comes from Him.
For the remainder of senior year, being grateful came easy. I got accepted into my dream college (GO DAWGS FOREVER!). I had an awesome group of friends that I had known since I was four. We had a new soccer coach, who made our soccer season the best ever. And the Lord continued to stir my heart and put people like the Kinnebrews and everyone else on 3C in my life.
High school was so good that I dreaded leaving for college, and even felt a little bit of anger towards the Lord for removing me from the things that I was so grateful for. Well, that quickly faded, as the Lord continued to show me His graciousness in the community He gave me in Athens. I had never had to say the words “thank you” to the people around me as much as I did those four years in college. I was constantly overwhelmed with gratitude- for my friends and wildlife and cohort and the overall sense of freedom that being a college student gave. Yet, don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t all easy- there were many setbacks and challenges and tears along the way. Yet, one of the most beautiful things occurred: Jesus taught me how to be grateful in the midst of such darkness. He taught me how through the moments of worshipping in a packed tin roof or feeling His presence while standing at a podium at my friend’s funeral. It was in those moments that I began to learn that unexpressed gratitude is not just received as ingratitude- it is also unhealthy for your own heart. I fully believe that gratitude is one of the greatest habits, and I am not alone in that- there are plenty of studies that say the same thing.
And now, here I am, a 22 year old, out of college, living in a new city, and in my first year of teaching. And for the first time in my life, I am being challenged to truly set the habit of gratitude into my everyday life choices. It doesn’t come as easy as it did when such strong community surrounded me. Does that mean that God is showing up less in my life? NO, absolutely not. I am just not disciplined in opening my eyes and seeing the goodness that CONSTANTLY surrounds me. So, the word gratitude has been on my heart a lot recently.
Let me be honest, teaching is definitely a hard job and there are a lot of moments throughout the day where I feel warn out and exhausted, moments when it is so easy to choose to be negative and complain. Yet, there is not a day that goes by that I do not laugh. That I do not have an interaction with a student that makes me smile. There are so many things to be grateful for throughout each day. May I continue to challenge myself to not be like the nine lepers. Be the one that returns, falling at Jesus’ feet to give thanks. Every day. Every moment.
What do I know about community?
I ask, alone on a Friday night, the fifth week in a row, as I set down the book I’ve been reading in the tub and lay my head back to almost touch the water.
What do I know about community? Right now it feels like something I’m trying to build and at the exact same time, draw out the plans, and at the exact same time life is still happening all around the construction zone. Sometimes I look up from my plans and it looks half-built! Sometimes I look up and wonder if the wind blew it all down while I wasn’t looking- structure gone, and all that’s left is word and desire.
And there I’m standing again, asking, what is community anyway?
Is it the small, sturdy buildings lining a country road that last forever and ever, no matter what changes around them (sturdy in the day-to-day… especially the day-to-day). They live and breathe in the small, almost forgettable moments of borrowing eggs, playing football in the yard, an unplanned movie and a shovel we forgot to return.
Shared. “It will all balance out in the end.” communal. Clothes borrowed, given, returned, kept. A coffee mug we can’t remember who had it last. A spirit cultivated between us that carries us closer than we could bring ourselves, a spirit with arms and legs that moves and acts and always has time for a favor.
Is it here too? This new space, the new thing I’m trying to build that is not new at all and in fact as old as time. Maybe my plans are all wrong, based on different areas, different supplies, different times, different people. Could this be enough, what’s right in front of me to build a community piece by piece? bike rides in the sunset after work. Wine everywhere, and no one remembers who bought it or brought it or is taking it home. Forgetting wallets and “brunch is on me” and dreams of living in the same apartment complex. Could this be enough to build a community?
I’ve seen this before, but I’m starting to think community can look like two different things at once. Like a cloud that looks different to everyone without compromising what it is, community is wholly everything that we’ve seen before and will see again. It isn’t sacrificing a single part of itself once it shifts into something new. Nothing is missing in it, all sides and possible ways it could happen in front of us with the people in front of us are perfect and enough, I tell myself. I hope that’s actually true. I tell myself, I will start believing that it’s true.
One word that has been most important to me is “timing.” God makes everything beautiful in His time. I have wishes that have yet to be fulfilled such as finding the right spouse, the right job, and the right place to live — sometimes, I can get impatient that they take longer than I was hoping for. God has been reminding me that when I didn’t get what I want, it may not be the right time for me. God’s timing never fails, and I’m sure that I’ll be ready when God gives things that I wasn’t expecting.
It lives within each of us.
And it looks different for each of us to tap into.
Courage is a part of each of our stories. Weekly. Even daily.
Courage is standing in the back of a classroom, with one friend and a teacher, practicing a speech you have written. It is choosing to include your own personal experiences with social anxieties and insecurities, despite your fear of what others may say, think, or respond. It is choosing to give a speech even though someone you love dearly told you to not even try because you won’t win. But, courage is still giving it. Still speaking the words that matter greatly to you and that you’ve spent so much time pouring yourself into.
Courage is sending an email to your child’s teacher to advocate for your kid. Vulnerability sharing your concerns and seeking support.
Courage is raising your hand in class to share, for the first time, your response to a journal prompt. Reading your own words because you are beginning to see that they matter
Courage is showing up to school, even though your world is crumbling back at home and you don’t want others to see the pain. But, courage is also not running from the tears when they come. It is letting them fall. Letting a friend wrap their arm around you as they ask another friend to go and grab tissues.
Courage is showing up to school, even though it isn’t the place you feel seen or safe and you’d rather be elsewhere.
Courage is speaking up for someone else when you see that what is being done and said is not okay. Even if it means you too are at risk for new words to be thrown your way.
Courage is naming what it is that you need.
Courage is saying no when you know you need to.
Courage is saying yes, even when it terrifies you.
Courage is sharing honest words with an old friend, Sending the text. Making the phone call. Sending the letter. Even though rejection can meet you on the other end. You share your words anyways.
Courage is going in for another interview, even when insecurities and lies want to keep you back.
Courage is letting your walls down for a moment in order to really be seen.
Courage is giving grace to yourself. It is seeing your humanness. Seeing that you are in process. And being patient with yourself.
Courage is forgiving someone who has hurt you.
Courage is living through the next day, even though your depression and anxiety may be telling you to give in. Courage is pushing through. Asking for others to be alongside you.
Courage is showing up to that first counseling appointment, despite everything within you trying to convince you that it is a bad idea.
Courage is admitting you are weak.
Courage is facing failure and moving forward.
and courage does
and courage moves
And courage lives inside and outside of every one of you.
Take courage my friends.
You already are far braver than you see.
You are not moving backwards.
You are courageously moving towards healing.
Take the steps. Share your words. Keep showing up. Keep putting yourself out there.
Your courage is not wasted.
I am so close but not quite.
A lot of almosts in my life.
I am scattered across different groups and identities
The feel of so many in-betweens;
Almost in post-grad,
About to be (in 6 months) married
Done with childhood, I guess, almost
Still wanting to be a child, almost all the time.
Almost sure of what I believe,
But almost always questioning and doubting
So close to feeling truly understood
But the words I say almost never tell what I want to say.
I wrote that about a month ago and never finished it or edited it. And now today is Tuesday, March 17 and usually I’d be at my internship at my desk with the familiar folders and questions from residents and documentation. But a lot of those almost’s got cut short as the rest of college was all but cancelled, along with graduation. This is still in-between, but a different kind, the social distancing, zoom call, wash your hands unexpectedness. We don’t know how long we’ll be here, in this almost but not yet.
I am, and we all are, learning to be okay with that. And so now, standing in the kitchen of my childhood house, I will not leave this piece of writing in the in-between limbo of so many other things. Some completeness is good.
In 2015, I packed one bag and moved from my home country to the US. It was nerve wracking moving to a place that is not my own, with no friends, no family at the time, no job and like the Haitian would say, zewo lajan (no money). I was engaged then and soon married my wife, Caroline, who has given me way more than anything I left behind at home, but being married meant I now have responsibilities, I needed to find a way to provide.
Though I was able to find a job soon after all my immigration papers were in place, I became very fearful that if I did not return to school and complete my degree, sooner or later I would no longer be able to provide for my family. This fear, coupled with my mother’s weekly “Whatsapp” messages reminding me of the greatest gifts that I could ever give to her, to serve God and to finish college, eventually got me to look into school options here in the US.
I love music and worship. It had always been my desire to obtain a degree in one or the other ever since I first laid hands on a guitar as a senior in highschool, and learned my first ever song, “More Love, More Power” by Michael W. Smith. It was reassuring to know my mother would have approved me going to school for music and most definitely worship. In fact, she could care less what I major in as long as I get a degree and give her *another* reason to boast to her friends. When it was time for me to choose my degree, I did not end up choosing music nor worship. I opted for Accounting, instead. I had to go with the discipline that could offer me the most job security because I like certainty. Turns out, I like being in control of even the most simple things. Like when I go places with my friends, it kills me if I am not the one turning the wheels. Don’t even get me started on things that are more serious. No matter what it is, Rudy wants to be in control.
To speak of being in control is a total joke today. We are all in the deep depth of uncertainty as Covid-19 sweeps across all nations. Even Haitians are concerned. You might not realize what a big deal this is but this nation often dismisses illnesses because they have Jesus. Everyone everywhere is worried about what tomorrow will bring, the world’s economy is consistently dwindling, people are getting laid off and furloughed left and right and my “certainty-loving” brain keeps having to recalculate as this climate has nothing to do with what I had planned.
We all love it when Siri says “recalculating” with its semi high-pitch voice when we are lost behind the wheels, when we had taken the wrong turn. We are all familiar with the purpose of her recalculating message; to let us know that we are going the wrong direction, but that she was working to provide us with a way out. This is what is happening to my brain right now; and in spite of the fact that Siri has found a new way, I don’t know that I like it. Because it is not my way.
I do not believe it is bad to have a brain that loves certainty though. The issue only lies within what and where you go to find this certainty. Up until recently, I was finding certainty about my future in a degree. I know it is my job to work hard and take care of my family and I will continue to do that. But I cannot ignore the signals that have been calling for a new direction. A direction that includes less of my logic and more counting the blessings of the Lord. What He has done for me and before me in the past. Where He took me from and where He has me now. This new direction includes the promises He has given me, His faithfulness which I have experienced time and time again. There’s never been a mountain too high for Him, no body of water too deep or wide for Him. He is who He says He is, nothing less.
So if you are like me and you are hearing this Siri-like voice saying “recalculating” in your heart, it may be the Lord’s voice giving you a reason not to worry, a reason not to live in fear, about what you will eat or drink or about how you will provide for your family. He tells you He is recalculating to let you know that He has a way out. So, come join me in counting the goodness of the Lord, in praising Him, in trusting that today’s troubles are not new nor too big for Him. He will get you to the destination He has for you.
Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders You have done, and the plans You have for us–none can compare to You–if I would proclaim and declare them, they are more than could be numbered. (Psalm 40:5)