Allowing Our Hurts to Inflict Hurt:

Preparing the Heart and Harvest:

We planted a garden during quarantine. Almost every day, we’d check the growth of our tiny seeds. In some of the beds, the weeds shot up before the seedling, preparing to choke it out once it emerged into the light. In some, we struggled identifying which was the seedling and which was the weed. In those planters we decided not to pull the weeds until we were sure which was which. Although, waiting had its consequences. Once the vegetation came up, the weed had already found the seeds root system and tangled itself around it. When we tugged the weed, out came our produce as well. 

            I’ll admit here…I’m a work in progress when it comes to keeping plants alive.

            In hindsight, we should have started our seeds in a smaller container at our home, where we could become familiar with what the leaves looked like, removing doubt which green thing we should pull up by the roots.

            Like our tiny plants, truth is hard to identify. These days, before truth finds its way into the light the lies are already in place. Our media tells us what to believe, and we buy into it. We’ve become followers of whatever’s current instead of followers of God. We follow a human movement rather than our spiritual Father. We are shamed if we don’t eat from the buffet of political correctness, while satan holds the fork to shovel it in. We allow our truth to grow not from the God’s Light and Living Water, but from our own limited experiences; but our truth is never absolute because it’s based on emotion and feelings.

 Feelings burn down restaurants, create violence, and shout vile things towards police officers. Emotions pull triggers, suffocate airways, and take lives. Where is truth? It’s not out there. 

 We should never allow a physical movement on the streets to conflict with the Spiritual movement within us. There are other ways to build bridges. Other ways to tear down walls.

            This is a spiritual battle that needs to be fed from God’s light.

            How do we do that? 

First we return to small containers, become familiar with God’s Word and voice, and allow the Father to tell you what to do. 

Secondly, go do it. Obey.

            The message of the gospel is the only thing that will heal hate and grow a harvest.

            God’s been speaking to me about truth lately in His word and in my life. He’s allowed me to be greatly humbled to free me of some weeds I’ve been holding onto in my heart. Sometimes this plucking process is painful. Hope you can see me cringing as I admit this. 

            Last week, I sent a text message to my best friend about my childhood friend Liz. I’m ashamed to admit the text was not nice in nature—it was downright ugly. Immediately, I received a text back.

            “Tam, I don’t think this text was meant for me, but it sounds like you’re talking about me. If it is me, we should have a talk and clear the air. Sounds like your upset with me.”

            My legs turned to jelly. I fumbled for a chair.

            I reached for the phone and called her. “Liz, my text was about you and I’m sorry.” 

            I put the text into context of what my friend and I were discussing, but it didn’t matter. There was no excuse for it. I told her it was me not her, my spirit was in a funk, and I’ll have to get it straight. 

Then, I hung up. Leaving her wondering what just happened.

Growing up, Liz and I went to the same Christian school. If you didn’t attend the church of that school you felt less than or excluded. Liz attended. I didn’t. That in itself wouldn’t be a big deal, but throughout my life Satan has built this distrust towards women assault by assault, hurt by hurt. A distrust that started in elementary school. 

 Throughout it, I’ve learned to question women’s motives and I’ve kept them from getting too close at times.  Even now, I’m more comfortable in a room talking with men than women. This is the mess I’ve become. 

Last year, Liz and I were reunited. I invited her to the farmhouse for a visit. I’d been writing a memoir and praying about publishing. God reassured me He’d provide the bridge for that to happen.

            One morning during Liz’s visit I’d just opened my eyes and heard clearly – not audibly- “She’s the bridge. I’m providing Liz to be your bridge.” 

            I shot up in bed and turned to my husband. “God just told me Liz is the bridge!”

            “That’s good.” Jay smiled. “I wonder how that’s going to happen.”

            “No, I don’t want Liz to be the bridge! Anyone but Liz!”

            I pleaded with God to be reasonable and send someone I was closer to, someone I trusted if it had to be a person—especially a woman. 

A day after I sent that biting text, God showed me I’d become the very woman I’d distrusted throughout my life. He’d allowed that embarrassment to provide me the opportunity to clear the air with Liz, and I didn’t take it. 

After a sleepless night of feeling the Father’s push for me to call her back, I did. I spilled the seeds (sort of speak). I told her everything what I felt as a child, what’s gone on in my life since, including that God told me she would be the bridge. (She probably thought I was crazy)

            When I finished Liz stated, “Maybe the bridge thing doesn’t have to do with your book, but your healing.” 

            While the enemy works hard to help us build walls of distrust, God will always provide the tools to tear it down. We need to ask ourselves who will we allow to influence our lives more. The wall builder or the freedom giver? 

It’s our choice.

            In my case, God has given me several close girlfriends that have chiseled away at my wall. For the last four years, He’s even plopped me in the position of leading a women’s Bible study. That’s just like Him isn’t it? He’s a good God and doesn’t want us to become enslaved to our own hurts and injustices we’ve had to bear. Those hurts only allow us to see through that peep hole of our point of view and can cause us to exhibit the very behavior and attitudes we resented from our inflictors. 

  

       If we don’t get rid of our walls, we will never effectively share the harvest from our own gardens. 

            I’ve been away from the farm for a bit. I imagine the garden needs tending. The weeds are growing up higher than the vegetables. Today, I’m so thankful we serve a Master Gardener who plucks the weeds in hearts and tears down the walls of minds to ensure the harvest He’d planned and planted. 

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” (Jesus speaking,  John 15:1,2, and 4 English Standard Version)

The Truth About White Lives

“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her.”

Proverbs 4:7-8 English Standard Version

I wandered around my happy place Friday evening. I haven’t been to my happy place in several months due to Covid 19, so when I walked through the doors of Barnes and Nobel and that aroma of brewed coffee greeted me…

I heard music.

I wanted to open my arms and swirl around in the aisle like Maria did on the mountaintop in The Sound of Music, but I was wearing a mask and already having trouble breathing.

I meandered over to the Christian aisle to see what new books had come out. There, a boy around my son’s age looked at the Bibles. He glanced back at me. I thought it was because I had gotten too close. I took a step back to adhere to social distancing. A few minutes later…

“Ma’am, do you know anything about Bibles?” he said. “What is this type called that has the original text side by side with a normal Bible?’

“Oh, that’s a Parallel,” I said. “It’s set up so you can see the exact wording from the original text.”

“I want to find a Bible that doesn’t have man’s interpretation,” he said. “The real thing.”

“The New American Standard and the English Standard Version are considered good literal translations.”

We discussed study Bibles and those with pastor’s notes. He claimed his grandma’s Bible which he’d been reading had Jimmy Swaggort’s commentaries in it.

I laughed. “I don’t know much about Swaggort, but Tony Evans has a good commentary Bible.”

“I don’t know who he is. I’m new at this.”

Later, while checking out, I found him behind me.

“Did you decide on a Bible?” I said.

“Yeah, I decided to get the parallel one. I want to be sure. You know?”

He wanted to be sure.

I’ve been under scrutiny. I suppose you will be when you are a blog writer and put your life out there as much as I do. Several young people have criticized the phrase I posted in a blog post written in 2016 “I chose to stand on the rock of my salvation for all lives matter, no matter what the color.” To be honest, I didn’t even remember it was there, and I’ve since deleted it. I would in no way want for a person to read my post pointing them to my Heavenly Father, and be distracted by one phrase.

But I’ll be honest, it really stung that one line written in 2016 would delete my whole testimony against racism and warrant criticism as if I was a racist myself. Furthermore, the criticisms came from white people.

In 2016 the Black Lives Matter movement exploded on the scene in car fires and looting. According to God’s word we are not to participate in lawlessness. Their message seemed interlaced with hate, and I being married to a black man and raising four bi-racial children steered clear of it and instructed my kids to do the same.

Time has passed and hearts broke when George Floyd begged for air. All hearts.

We need to be seekers of truth. Find it. Hold onto it. Want some truth?

The truth is white lives have always mattered. We as whites have never had to feel as if we don’t measure up because of the color of our skin; and that’s exactly why it infuriates people of color when our response to their message is “all lives matter.” They don’t need our correction on this issue when we’ve never walked in their skin. Besides, they know all lives matter. In order to move towards healing it starts by at least acknowledging the lives that have been treated unfairly matter. We also need to acknowledge the horrific injustices that have been administered to them, and, if we’ve held any hate in our hearts towards anyone of any color, class, or creed to repent of it.

Another truth, we need to stop dissecting people–trying to find something wrong as if we are the racist police. That’s not loving–it’s pride. We could all use a bit of humbling these days.

Another thing, we need to stop allowing the terrible deeds of some bad weeds to set fire to the entire crop.

Not all cops are bad.

Not all white people are racists.

Not all black people hate white people.

And yes, all of us matter to God who created white, black, and everything in between in His image. Maybe if we see ourselves through His eyes we’d treat each other a lot kinder.

How’s that for truth?

I neglected to mention the young man I met Friday evening in my happy place was black. I knew in that moment God plopped this southern blonde right there helping a young black man in which Bible to buy. At the same hour other young people his age protested in the streets, he was on the hunt for truth. He was new at it, but he wanted to be sure he got his hands on it. He was willing to pay his hard-earned $50 for it. He stated that.

We could all learn from him.

Just to make you smile. We could all use a little humor these days too.

Killing Racism

Scenes from Suffolk, Va.

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” Ellie Wiesel

I was raised to be a racist, not the type that wore a hood and burned crosses in front yards, but a quiet one. Racism slithered across the floors of our Christian home hissing “sshhh.” It taught me to be afraid of black people, when Momma gripped my hand on the sidewalk as we passed by people of color. It taught me black people committed most of the crime in our town, when I heard comments like “Do they know who did it? Probably a colored fella.” It taught me that looking like a black person is bad, when Daddy teased Momma that her eyes were as dark as an African, and she spat back his were the color of cow manure.

I was raised in a town recognized as the Peanut Capital of the world, Suffolk, Virginia. Although the city’s other claim to fame is providing the backdrop for a New York Times bestseller titled, The Color of Water by James McBride. (Great read by the way.) I mention my hometown to make the point my parents were a product of not only their ancestry, but their environment as well. Suffolk was the type of town that split white from the black with train tracks. Plopping the black population on the wrong side.

While we’re on my hometown…I think one of the first times I recognized racism in Suffolk, I stood in line for the diving board at our private swimming pool, while black boys stood outside shooting me with a water pistol through the fence. I glanced out over the sea of white bodies and realized for the first time, not one black person swam at our pool. I approached my Momma and sat on the edge of her chair. She lowered her super-sized sunglasses.

“Why aren’t the black boys allowed to swim?” I said.

“Well, because…” she batted her lashes. “To be honest, you have to be invited, but it’s for the best because their parents probably couldn’t afford it anyway.”

I’ve thought about those words a lot through the years. Funny, how one little snippet in your memory bank becomes so important later.

When I met my husband Jay (Jahmal) it was just as Momma had prophesied when she stated I’d have to be struck by lightning to recognize the man God intended me to marry. She never imagined I’d bring the storm home when I left a letter announcing I was to marry a black man. (You can read that story co-penned by my father here...Shades of Skin)

Today, as the white wife of a black husband and the mother of four bi-racial children it’s difficult to watch the news. To be honest, I haven’t slept well lately. I don’t want my children growing up in a world where they could be gunned down by two vigilantes in a pick-up truck, because their skin is brown, like what was done to Ahmaud Arbery. When the crazed white woman lied to the police by telling them she was being attacked by an African American, I saw my own son pleading with her to be reasonable. The video of George Floyd being killed made me so sick, I couldn’t watch it in its entirety without tears. For me, I saw my husband lying there begging to breathe.

I cannot express in words my hatred for racism. It has kept people down due to the color of their skin, making people haughty because they feel they were born with the “right” color. I write from having experience within it and from outside it. A racist is a person who’s enslaved, weak, filled with a toxic blend of arrogance, ignorance, and hatred. Racists are instruments of Satan–whether they realize it or not. There are racists in the black community as well as the white.

Two years ago, Jay and I walked into a West Indian restaurant in Orlando to purchase Curry Goat and Roti. Jay forgot his wallet in the car and went to get it, while all eyes in the restaurant turned to me. If looks could kill I would’ve died that day. It was as if I wore a t-shirt stamped with “White Lives Matter!” I smiled around the room but their expressions didn’t change, so I stared at my feet.

While we’re at it, I’ve been given hate looks from white men too. You see, those of us who marry outside our race are subjected to this type of treatment at times, but it’s not something we talk about much. We just take it.

Enough Sshhh!

It’s time for transparency.

But these experiences are minuscule compared to unjustified murder. A man’s skin color does not justify false accusations…beatings….killing.

Enough is enough!

Unfortunately, these images aren’t the only ones in the news that have made me angry lately. What could have been a peaceful march of raised voices has turned into setting fires, lotting, throwing glass bottles filled with pee at officers, destroying people’s livelihoods, turning cities into parking lots. You want to destroy your cities? Raise your unemployment rates? I’ve seen a black man crying while the mob destroyed his business. Why? You want to burn down the apartments in your own communities? What is this accomplishing except making you or your citizens homeless?

Violence never cures hatred; it only grows it.

If you’ve been raised a racist as I have, you only have to look to my parent’s example to find the cure. It took one person of color and a prayer to rid my parents of the racism that slithered down my family tree for hundreds of years. You kill racism with prayer and love. Marches may bring awareness to a problem. They may reveal anger. But, the only thing that will make any lasting change is prayer and love.

Ask God to rid your heart and mind of such evil and find one person that is a different color than you are and go love them. Get to know them. Find out what their struggles in life are. and help them. You may find you have different views because you came from different places and that’s okay. Life is more interesting when you’re around people who aren’t like you. Personally, I get sick of myself.

Several years ago in Suffolk, there was a Black Lives Matter march scheduled to occur. Seeing what was happening in other areas (looting and setting fires), the police went door to door to warn the local business owners, my father being one of them. That night, Daddy stayed at the store late, just in case he needed to protect his livelihood. The march met at the City Hall. A black minister approached a white preacher and I heard it was said, “There’s no problem here.” They prayed right there for the healing of our country and dispersed. I wish I could’ve been there, but this is what I was told.

Funny thing about Suffolk, the trains don’t run down those tracks like they used to. The tracks are dilapidated now, and green grass is growing over them. The neighborhoods have more color; and that swimming pool I swam in has been filled and turned into an apartment community. I’m not saying there is no racism, but it’s not as accepted anymore.

Whole towns can change too. It starts with one person willing to shake the hand of another. It starts with a group of protestors courageous enough to take a stand against violence. It starts with parents accepting a black son-in-law and bragging about him. it takes a prayer whispered by a bedside. It takes loving one person a different color than you.

I never know who my articles reach as they shoot off into the world, but I’ve prayed and I believe it will land in the hands of those that need to read it. Change starts with you. Change starts with me. Stop the “sshhh” and start praying for healed hearts and dilapidated tracks. Start praying God sends you that one person to get to know.

One prayer.

One person.

It’s time to heal.

“…For the Lord sees not as man sees: Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” I Samuel 16:7b English Standard Version

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34 ESV

Shades of Skin

“Momma if we end up in a race war whose side are we on?” His large dark eyes peered up at me. Eyes inherited from his paternal grandfather. His brown skin a perfect blend of my pale and his father’s dark. A color, many will risk skin cancer to obtain.

I glanced at the television. As a mother of four bi-racial children, I shuddered at the scene. What do I tell my twelve-year-old son? Whose side do we take?

My white heritage is layered with historical accolades in the building of this great nation. Some of the names sprouted on our Carter/Turner family tree are planted in historical references and textbooks. I’m proud of that. They risked their lives for their religious freedom and later freedom from the British. There is also a dark side of my ancestral history, one in which I’m not proud of. My ancestors were wealthy slave owners. One of those slaves born on an ancestral plantation was Nat Turner, who led the Nat Turner rebellion.

Through the limbs of our family, this racist ideology slithered down like a poisonous snake and I was raised within the snag of prejudice.

After I married, my father and I co-wrote a story to share his overcoming this generational sin. In light of all that is breaking on the news, I thought it applicable to re-post here.

He Said:

I was raised in an era when children were taught to respect their elders, saying yes sir” and no ma’am” to every adult…every adult, except black adults. As a small boy, I once addressed a black lady with,yes ma’am” and was scolded by my elders. They instructed me never say that to a colored person.” Upon asking why, they answered, You just don’t.”

Everything was segregated then from the black and white drinking fountains, to the restaurants and schools. Blacks sitting in the back of the bus were the norm. An age when congregations understood the words, “love thy neighbor” to mean, love thy white neighbor.” Hate, bigotry, and prejudice abounded. Our hearts from youth were ingrained with this ideology.

Like so many people at that time, I too was prejudiced, so much so, I refused sleeping in the same motel with a black family. Looking back, I’m not proud of this chapter in my life, but this is the reality of who I was.

She Said:

I knew the line we weren’t to cross, like the train tracks running through our small town, splitting colored town” from white town.” The gulf not only ran through town, but hung heavily in our churches as well. A dark veil prevented those who loved God, from feeling God’s unconditional love for others.

            One Sunday, a dark-skinned Indian man and his white wife visited our church. Once the service was over my father greeted them, and I took notice. When it was time to leave I jumped into the back seat, and leaned in between my parents.

            Daddy, you said black people can’t marry white people,” I said.

            My mother glanced back at me. Honey, he’s not black he’s Indian.”

           What’s the difference, he’s dark skinned?”

            She started to answer, but my father interjected. It’s wrong for anyone to marry outside their race,” he said. It’s not God’s plan or He would have made everyone the same color.”

           But you were nice to them,” I said.

           Once they’re married,” he shrugged, they’re married.”

He Said:

My oldest daughter Tammy moved to Florida for a job opportunity. One night in November, over the phone, she explained she ate Thanksgiving dinner with a black family, invited by their son Jay. I blew my top.

            “Don’t you ever see him again!” I yelled. No coffees, no lunch breaks, no contact at all. I forbid it! This is for the best.”

Months went by. I heard nothing more about Jay.

 She Said:

I’m ashamed to admit, I was unkind to Jay upon meeting him. His first attempt to invite me to dinner gained rejection. I tried to push him away. Where I come from you don’t date outside your race, religion, or political affiliation, but when alone in a strange town you begin to see outside the bubble you’re born in.

 He Said:

Tammy flew home for a visit and we had a wonderful time together. When it was time for her to leave, I sadly watched her plane veer down the runway back to Florida. When I returned from the airport, my wife informed me she found a letter my daughter left behind. A heavy dread came over me, as I backed into my chair. I examined the envelop in my hand. A father has an intuition when it comes to his daughter. I knew what was in the letter.

 She Said:

I left my engagement announcement in a letter. I remember the smell of my father’s shirt that day, when he hugged me goodbye. I didn’t know if he would ever speak to me again. As my plane turned onto the runway, I looked back to see his silhouette waving through the window, and I cried.

 He Said:

Every bitter emotion filled the fibers of my mind and body. An older family member advised me to disown her…count her as dead. He went on to say, Have you seen mixed children? They have yellow eyes.” That criticism was the last thing I needed to hear. My heart was broken and filling with disappointment, shame, and anger. Maybe he could disown his daughter, but I could not! I loved her, and needed time to work things out. Many sleepless nights followed. I spoke with my pastor and friends to no avail. I was still in turmoil.

 She Said:

I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I started to have abdominal pains landing me in the hospital one night. I repented for living a lie, while wearing down the carpet with my pacing. I waited and waited for the phone to ring.

 He Said:

Not long after the letter I purchased new tires, and while waiting for their installation I sat in the lobby. There I saw Mr. Goodman, a black man I’ve known for years. I looked over at him and prayed, Lord, can you show me how to love this man?” There was no vision or bolt of lightening, but He did answer my prayer, and I can testify God went to work on me. He cleansed my heart and lifted a heavy weight from my mind. If I had heeded the advice of family, I’d have missed many good times and so many blessings.

 She Said:

I made one mistake…I warned Daddy. I told him Jay planned to officially ask for his blessing.

            “You mean today?” He said.

            “Yes, today.” I nodded for emphasis.

Daddy started avoiding, and Jay started pursuing. Three days later, an exasperated Jay trapped him during a football game. Reluctantly, he gave his blessing, and it was like the heavens opened and the angels sung. We were blessed!

The wedding plans began the next day. Jay picked the date, the venue, and reserved the hotel rooms. In less than three months we were to be married, before Daddy changed his mind.

At our wedding, Daddy stood and gave me away with the words, Her mother and I.” I looked back at them and whispered my thanks. We were one flesh, no matter what the color.

 He Said:

Tammy and Jay have been married for 18 years. As her father, there is a deep satisfaction in watching the happiness of my daughter. She’s blessed with a good husband, who treats her like a queen. I am also blessed with three beautiful grandsons and a new granddaughter whose dark eyes light up, when they see their Granddad and Nana. They shower us with hugs and kisses.

 She Said:

After the birth of my first son, my father came to see him. He held him in his arms by our pool. The sunlight shimmered through his light newborn hair.

            You know, I can’t tell which one of you he looks like,” he said. I think my grandson’s Italian.

            He’s a mixture of us all,” Jay said.

Four children later, I recognize God’s handiwork. I imagine once we exchanged our vows, God released a sigh in His heavens and said, It is good,” just as He does any union He orchestrates. Still, what amazes me most is God loved my father so much; He took one of his biggest fears and made it a blessing. God is good.

He Said:

There are some who say nothing has changed between the races. I say they are wrong. I have changed, and I choose to believe I am not the only one. I believe God has erased bigotry from the hearts of millions across this nation. When I look back to how far I have come, I am slapped by the irony that I, the great, great, grandson of a plantation owner, who owned 99 slaves, has four grandchildren from a bi-racial marriage. Hate crime laws, race legislation, or the right politician in office will never change a man’s heart. There is only one who can alter the heart of man. All we need to do is allow it, by practicing what my daughter teaches her children- to truly love is to love with a colorblind heart.

 

I thought about this article today while reading everyone’s posts on Facebook. Many of the posts revealed which side of the line the writer stands on. My thoughts also returned to the night the Ferguson riots blared on the television…

“Momma?” Colin said again, tugging on my sleeve. “Whose side do we take black or white?” I glanced across the room at my husband holding my little girl, the palest of my children, who prefers her Daddy to me. Each member of my family beautiful and distinct in the color God created them. I imagine the Master added a dab more brown on my son Christian, and a smudge more white on Nick.

I wrapped my arms around him. “We are on God’s side,” I said.

I am the blessed wife of a loving black man and the mother of four bi-racial children. I was raised in a racist home. May my life be a testimony that it does take innocent blood to cleanse this country. Our Lord Jesus at Calvary shed the only blood capable of cleaning our land and our hearts many years ago. I refuse to stand with any group spewing hate or ranting chants inciting violence. I stand firmly on the rock of my salvation.  Every life is precious no matter the color and each holds a unique purpose under heaven. Where do you stand?