We can only imagine that glorious day
When we enter His joys and all of the pain
that plagued us and weighed us and crushed and dismayed us
will somehow ebb away
because of three gifts that He extended to us
that we might experience faith, hope and love
and focus so much more on Him and so much less on us
that our souls could be miraculously saved.
His faith gives us something in which we can believe
that fuels our hope for what our eyes cannot see
and it's anchored by love that flows incessantly
like the sacrifice that He gave.
If He had only died, those gifts would be locked in the tomb,
but because He's risen, He's removed the gloom
that was destined to haunt us with inevitable gloom.
For He could not be conquered by the grave.
His love is a balm that heals hearts and souls
and offers unfettered access to a Father Who knows
every fear, every flaw, every intimate secret untold
and yet, He still offers His grace.
No greater love than this, than a man lay down his life
for his friends. Even His death was sublime.
How grateful we are for the resurrection of Christ
that we will bow when we see His face.
At the age of 43, I am still amazed at the way wonderful words draw me into an ocean of amazement and intrigue. I sat down last night to begin the novel pictured above. I planned to read a few paragraphs. To get the gist; but the prose – pushed me to turn the pages. The puns played with my imagination. The poetry pulled me into places that I wanted to visit, explore and ponder. I was hooked and ultimately immersed in literacy love. So, saturated with the symphony of lyrical vignettes, I simply read the whole thing! Sigh.
While I’ve had my share of reads that were finished in a few days vs. a few months, they are rare. I find myself so swamped with to-do lists that I don’t always have opportunities to stop the world around me while I dive into the pages of a book. Nevertheless, I loved so many things about this selection! I felt like I was dancing with history. My memories of the star character, Cassius Clay, crossed with recollections of the boxing enthusiasts in my family. I could hear my grandmother’s fondness for him and his charismatic candor. I remembered my uncle’s fascination with his powerful fury and frequent references to his pretty face. I recalled my dad’s amusement with his cocky confidence and cool demeanor.
My dad. My dad…can I dote for a moment?
One of the beautiful things about the lyrics between the lines of reading is that they possess the uncanny magic of helping you to summon the sentiments of the ones you love the most. My father passed away roughly five years ago. I try with all my might to savor as many memories as possible; but, I love how reading can connect me to moments temporarily forgotten.
As I consumed the pages of this text, I remembered that my father was a boxer (among many other talents) who enjoyed narrating his bouts as he retold them. I recalled that one of my brothers was affectionately named with reference to one Sugar Ray Leonard, also named in the text – his favorite boxing icon. I realized why my father loved the sport and felt connected to him in yet another treasurable way. I could see him in my room, smiling with understanding as I relished every word on every page.
Writing has an inexplicable artistry of linking readers to people, places and worlds where face-to-face interaction is neither requisite nor mandated. In its stead is a meeting of minds and words. Words that work like tools, crafting, creating, sculpting, and at times, caressing the soul of the reader by bringing to life the ideas and experiences of people you feel like you know. Reading the work of James Patterson and Kwame Alexander and appreciating the artwork of Dawud Anyabwile, I peered into the life of a young boy whom I had only known as a focal point of media excerpts.
I’d seen him in some documentaries. I recalled him most in his latter years of life, with few words, big smiles and most often connected to his daughter, Laila Ali. Last night, I was invited into his childhood home, where I watched his personality grow larger than life. I was with him in the ring for knockouts handed and received. I heard his private thoughts, his desires to take care of his mom and shared his hopes and dreams. I felt his concern for his friends and his hunger for equality. I embraced his vision to transcend the ugliness of racism. I cringed at his failures and applauded his tenacity to turn obstacles into stepping stones of success.
The illustrative imagery was equally rich. With prose married to poetry, I was in a literacy love affair of my own. I’m enamored with the succinctness of writing that is replete with literary devices. Agonizing analogies, empowering epithets and comical clichés lovingly accent harsh realities and spirited survival. I was reminded of how powerful writing is! It affords us the coveted opportunity to relay motifs that are both ragged and regal. It exposes and uplifts. Writing gives voice to the stories that are otherwise unheard and creates an audience from one to one million in a single sitting. Isn’t that amazing?
I’ve vowed to increase my reading this year – and my writing – because among these realms I find my heart to be overwhelmed with enthusiasm. Not only can I share my thoughts and thunderings, the language of my heart can leap off of a page into the greatest adventures I’ve ever written. I think I have an idea…or a few. Stay tuned!
Silent sounds still bring music.
His Winter Wonderland
You cover the plains with snow.
I'm in awe of You.
No two are alike.
Snowflakes crafted with such care.
Seldom can I think of an occasion when people of every shape, size, color and creed didn’t appreciate a well selected gift. Now, what some may consider to be the perfect present may vary one to another. Nevertheless, gifts that are meaningful, thoughtful and timely, always seem to be the best of all. With this in mind, I began reflecting on the gifts that I’ve received. Initially, I considered gifts I’d received I’ve had in hand – tangible items, hand made cards from children, fragrances and frills; but, as I explored the idea more deeply, I thought about one of the greatest gifts of all – courage.
When I think of the phrase, “take heart,” I am reminded of the courage that is so essential to withstanding opposition, forging new pathways, answering questions that seem unanswerable, and standing up when it seems the world around you is perhaps sitting down. Having the courage to face the unthinkable is a gift that has no endpoint – because it fuels the tenacity to go against the grain, even if you feel you have nothing left to give.
In all honesty, I can’t say that I know the source of everyone’s courage; but, I can say that mine comes from a sole place. My faith. There are beliefs to which I adhere, though not everyone always agrees with me, because I have confidence in the One who is with me when I would otherwise feel alone. I need Him. Life here is filled with such confusion at times, I’d be foolish to think that I could handle all of my troubles on my own. Admittedly, I rely on Him.
One of my favorite passages of Scripture can be found in Proverbs 3:5. I memorized it in a version that says, “Lean on, trust, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind, and do not rely on your own insight or understanding; but, in all thy ways, know, recognize and acknowledge Him, and He shall direct and make straight and plain your path.“
I’m so grateful that I have Him to lean on. I’m so thankful, that when I can’t see out of so many proverbial dark tunnels, I know that His light will be their to guide me – give me direction – to give me confidence that He knows what is best and has the ability to hold (and protect) my heart in His hands.
There are more than a few occasions in life where we encounter situations that may inconceivable. I’ve experienced enough of them to write an entire book (and I did, entitled “The Power of Your Pain”). That being said, I can say with assurance that my greatest comfort comes from Him. He gives me courage when I would have none. My advice to others? If you haven’t tried having a personal relationship with Him, consider it. I can take heart and endure the most difficult of circumstances, because He promised, He’d be with me always – and that is a gift I will cherish forever.
Several months ago, when I was invited by a missionary to assist local students who had fallen behind amidst the pandemic, I could never have imagined the adventures in the immediate future. They were either refugees themselves or children of refugees. “They need more support; some are really struggling,” he said. “You don’t have to be a teacher, but you are. That’s a plus,” he noted. “And there are women, too. They need to learn English.” I was already interested and terribly intrigued; but, the journey was simply unfathomable.
I’ve been out of the classroom several years, though teaching fuels the energy in my veins. As I plunged deeper into the industry, I fell in love with coaching teachers in early childhood education, providing literacy consulting, offering professional development and pursuing a doctorate with an emphasis on Reading and Literacy; but, this was a classroom of a different type.
As I entered the home-turned office and learning center, I met women and children from Somalia, Iraq, Mexico, Central African Republic, Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, each with breathtaking stories, beautiful demeanors and uniquely endearing personalities. Nevertheless, I was most captivated by these women – who wanted to learn English.
Throughout the week, I am privileged to teach women several times my senior in a class for which there is no charge at a time intently set for their ease of access. Pulling from my experience teaching 2nd – 4th grade as an ESL certified educator, pouring into high school English students and working with teachers from Asia and South America, I began drawing from everything I could remember. Nevertheless, the most exciting thing upon my arrival, where we welcomed them with tea and fare indigenous to their countries, is that I was invited.
I was invited to step into their world. I was offered the opportunity to learn their philosophy and culture. To listen and learn from their laughter and their heartache, to contemplate and consider. I never dreamed of teaching “Consonant Vowel Consonant” patterns to adult women. Until recently, it was an objective I only associated with primary students; but, I was unprepared for the excitement I’d feel as I watched my new students who eagerly desired to learn our language enjoy the satisfaction of decoding a word that was otherwise unknown.
These women let me into their most vulnerable spaces – their hearts and their minds – allowing me to teach them. I worried, at first, that perhaps what I was sharing seemed too simple. I didn’t want to offend them by appearing to take them through “baby” steps; but, they were not offended at all. They rose to the challenge, often exceeding my expectations, and I was royally impressed.
After all, though we were practicing constructing conversations with “sight” words (those which occur most commonly in text, but don’t follow typical phonetic patterns, so they must be memorized by “sight”) and matching pictures to words to increase vocabulary, I was fully aware of their complexity and sophistication as women. Most of my students speak five – seven languages, fluently. Several have families that can include four – eight children. Some speak Arabic. Most speak French and traditionally tribal languages. Most are pre-literate. I still marvel at their ability to be multilingual in the absence of written words, but they are fascinating!
Suddenly, my own efforts at learning another language seemed infinitesimal! I’d been studying Spanish very casually on my own. When they asked me if I was bilingual, I told them I speak 1.2 languages. They laughed. It was all I could muster, but they inspire me deeply. They fill me with excitement and enthusiasm because their commitment to learning is unlike anything I’ve seen before. With the constructs of COVID, we were unable to house all of the students for our twice weekly hour and a half lessons all at once. So we met outside in the back of our facility with outdoor tables instead.
They came in the cold. Several of them walked. Sometimes (when warmer), they came with babies. Infants, toddlers, small children. Sometimes the eldest attendee would calm the baby of a young mother with effortless gentility. She’d ease her anxiety about a fussy child, intentionally creating the opportunity for her to to be able to study her materials better. On chillier days, they were aptly wrapped in layers, heavy coats, thick socks and their masks – because they wanted to learn. It was the first time I taught in 40 degree weather and gloves; but, I couldn’t help but be moved by their desire.
Today, I am enriched both by teaching and being taught (including my lessons from them in French, to add to my Spanish). I am elated with every milestone the women reach and deeply reflective of the things that I learn when theyare teaching me – not only as students, but as women. As human beings.
I am amazed that many of these women left war torn countries, unaware of the challenges that awaited them in a foreign land, but desirous of a better future and a hope for their families. I am devastated to know of the atrocities they experienced and hardships endured that are simply unfathomable. I am saddened by the struggles they experience because the language barrier can be so unsettling, but I’m excited to be the bridge between their desire and their learning.
I am heartbroken to have met a woman who was crossing a lion-inhabited savannah in Africa with her eleven children in unforgiving heat. She ran out of food and water despite her efforts to bring them along. She lost seven of those children during the arduous trek. Some were killed. Some died from hunger, and some died from thirst. I’ve yet to understand the depth of her grief. Nevertheless, she is a pillar in the community, making it here safely, and she is immensely thankful for the four children that survived.
I am honored to be these women’s teacher. I am privileged to learn to be more thankful for blessings that they remind me without saying, that I’ve taken for granted. I am determined to give them my best efforts, my sincerest thoughts, and my fervent prayers. Never have I been so delighted to be invited to such a grand affair – the language of literacy and love. I am confident that what we share between us can make the difference of a life time. For many years, I’ve loved being a teacher, but today, I feel this profession is priceless.
Flurries of powder cascaded in front of my window like the millions of thoughts dancing in my head. I’ve pondered and presumed. I’ve pouted and pontificated. I’ve perused the possibilities of what could be and wondered why it isn’t, and I’ve struggled to reconcile them all. They are faster than I can fathom.
Millions. So many of them.
I didn’t know that my heart would be wrenched as I listened to my 13 yr. old son, required to study in detail the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade for a homework assignment last night, unearth the ugliness of humanity gone awry. He was in disbelief. Disenchanted. Disappointed about its impact on his – grandparents. Disillusioned by its far reaching effects of racism, up close and personal, on him as a – descendant. Distressed about the many truths I already knew. I was hoping that this day would never come, though I knew it was inevitable.
I didn’t know that someone we’d grown to love, a family matriarch, would be admitted to the hospital on Sunday; pushed into the statistics; another vulnerable soul pelted by the pandemic. I didn’t know she’d code on Monday. I didn’t know she’d pass in the wee hours of this morning.
Millions. So many of them.
Though visions of the wintry wonderlands usually delight me when bringing an early morning surprise, today, it just felt…cold. Chilling memories of loved ones lost grayed my broken heart. Sadness of sundry stories, political upheaval and dire dilemmas left an icy edge in what should be my warmest space; but, there was no permanent place where these oxymorons could reside. And so I cried.
And then, I remembered.
I remembered that even on my darkest days, that my hope lies not in what I see, but what I don’t see. It’s in what I believe. I believe I am ultimately taken care of by the One who made the snowflakes that float so carelessly.
I believe there is One whose strength and insights reign supreme, far surpassing the frailties and fragilities of fickle man. He sometimes goes by the name of, “I Am that I Am.” And for me, He is my everything.
He brings me solace when I don’t understand the world around me. He comforts me with words that are ever at my fingertips, even more so when I’ve engraved them in my heart, which is an art. And He need not ascribe to a political party because ultimately, His decision making is the finest of its kind. He understands the human mind.
He understands me. With all of my personal shortcomings. He is patient and kind, thinking with me in mind. He teaches me how to live life in a way that is meaningful, making the most of my time. And when I feel like I’m about to lose it – in the blink of an eye, He is there. Reminding me that He never left, and still cares.
I’m so thankful.
He heals me from the inside out. He tramples my doubt with reminders that only He can guarantee. He is the best part of me. Though I’m saddened by many of the troubling things I see, He keeps my headspace in the right place. He replaces my cold face with hopeflakes – so that the millions of my thoughts circling in my head are no longer laden with that which would make me feel leery. It is leveled with the hopes, that assure me, I am loved.
Often in life we find ourselves in situations which we did not foresee nor prefer. We fight against it. We object to it. At some point, we may even loathe it. Nevertheless, I’m a firm believer that every cloud has a silver lining, and in the last 28 days, I’ve found several.
Recently choosing to become Vegan for personal and health reasons, I felt at a loss of where to begin with making my newly reformed meals. I savor cuisine far too much to sacrifice taste for health. So I began to go on an epic journey of creating (or recreating) things that I love through exploration, experimenting and discovery. It has been among the greatest quests of my life.
Documenting my journey on my social media through FaceBook (@Carla Turner Brown) and Instagram (@carlamichellebrown), I find myself sharing photos several times daily. I lie in bed dreaming of what to make next, immerse myself in photographs and food documentaries, dialogue with fellow vegans and non-vegans (whom I hope to intrigue with my novice dishes) and can’t wait to find the newest vegan recipes that I can put a spin on.
It was during this recent epiphany that I began to treasure my coerced quarantining. I was reminded of something that I’ve known unconsciously since my childhood – I love…good food. Not merely because of its tastes. Not just because it’s a necessity of life. I love food because it is a complex and comprehensive medium through which souls, bodies and spirits are interconnected.
Cuisine sings of culture and resonates with richness, irrespective of where persons live or their socioeconomic status. It is interwoven with terrain and science, history and politics, math and mayhem, literature, loyalty, family, focus, poverty, pain, mystery and magic – and so much more!
For me – food is lovethat transfers from heart to plate to palateto heart.
I’ve garnered more feedback and phenomenal experiences in my fledgling attempts at transforming my meals than I could have ever imagined, as I considered my efforts to be small in nature. I dream in cuisine, thinking about dishes that summon memories of matriarchs, heritage, legends and legacies. It pleasurably consumes me – and connects me to people in a way that social distancing could never contend.
Had I not been in isolation, I would never have had the foggiest idea to consider my new adventure. I’m thankful for such contemplation now. I’ve long been a “foodie,” but this thoughtful and immensive time to reflect has placed me on a path that fills my soul much more than an empty cavern in my stomach.
As one of my high school teachers, Shirley Rose, told us every day when asked how she was doing, I’m now feeling, “Just peachy,” about my latest passion. Cuisine that makes me dream – in new colors. Bon appetit.
Here are 11 more dishes I’ve added to my new repertoire rounding out my Top 12 favorites so far.
I still choose not to reiterate the name of the nemesis who has caused us so much panoramic pain of late. (Sigh)…because it grieves me. Nevertheless, pain is a familiar foe of mine. I’ve learned about it. Thought about it, and experienced it so much in my life that I penned my first book about it. However, pain and I have had such an intimate relationship that I was compelled get to know it better. I wanted to understand it better.
I begin to dig in to our relationship. I questioned the whys, the wheres, the hows, the whos and the whens, and I made a most interesting discovery. I realized that though pain was an uninvited guest, it also motivated me in the strangest of ways. The more I encountered a wide range of hurts, the more desperately I looked for solutions. The more I felt stung, singed, seared, and broken, the more thankful I was for the sunshine, the empathy, the daybreak, the breakthroughs.
Amidst the worst of the worst that have flooded the airwaves and soundwaves, I am so grateful for the positives that have been a byproduct of our globally unprecedented pain. I am proud as I see educators pushing past the realm of the unknown, seeking to provide as much normalcy for children and their parents as they can, even while contending with their own complexities. I am amazed by the healthcare workers who press daily to work, risking their own lives (and at times, those they love) in their efforts to save those whose health is at the brink.
I commend those who work incessantly to bind the ties that bind us with one of the greatest gifts of all – words. They cultivate the compassion of the heart in writing, in action, in deed – to offer comfort to so many who are crippled by confusion and catastrophe. They are present in blogs, on social media platforms, in coalitions, often meeting on-line, and even among some faithful politicians. It reminded me of this book that I introduced in my classroom many years ago: “Words and Your Heart.”
I remember being asked would I continue to participate in the “Slice of Life Challenge” that afforded us the opportunity to connect with writers across continents who share snippets of the most meaningful moments of their journeys. Never have I been more interested and compelled than in a time such as this, when our words have the ability to wrap hearts in a love that lends itself to the links of humanity.
Through our writing, we caress caregivers and soothe seniors. We sing the praises of our most valiant citizens and ensure our educators that sometimes, falling short is o.k. We pat parents on the back for doing the best they can in dire situations, and we are learning to leverage laughter in ways that three months ago, we never imagined.
Every post…is from the heart. These words inspire, encourage, imagine, warm, invoke, appeal and heal in ways that are most magical. It is the craft of cultivating caring that resonates from one soul to the next. While I am saddened by many things that have changed painfully during this pandemic, I am thankful that there is a greater abundance of words from the heart that are painting new pictures of humanity at its best.
Has your heart ever
ached for change?
You saw something sad,
were deeply pained
and wanted the world
to know your angst,
but it seemed
Had someone in your life
who needed help
and despite your pleas
couldn't help themselves
and you watched them
suffer days on end
and somehow felt intrusive?
I sometimes feel crushed
by life's harsh blows
more for others
than myself and those
bereft of an advocate.
Their agony's obtrusive.
I turn over and over
in my mind's eye
what could I do
with my limited time
to make their lives
seem more worth while
and make them feel
So I learned to love
with my heart and my soul
with my eyes and my words
and each story that's told.
My lyrical paint helps me embrace
So I can help move them.
I resolve to be kind,
a thoughtful listener,
when I can, a heart mender
May they one day thrive
and not be hindered.
With love as their only conclusion.
Many years ago, I wrote this poem for someone in my family whom I loved deeply. I watched them contend with internal struggles that I believe led to the ending of a precious life. As I recall those moments, I realized that seeing their pain then is in many ways like seeing the anguish of those who are suffering today in unprecedented manners. When tempted to complain about how uncomfortable, unfair and unjust we feel our personal situations currently seem – I hope that we can be ever mindful of those in the world around us whose extenuating circumstances far exceed our own – emotionally, physically, financially and otherwise.
My grandmother told me on my darkest days, “I don’t care how bad you feel your life is, when you’re looking at what you’re going through, there’s still somebody worse off than you.” May we be kind and compassionate to our fellow human beings, recognizing that we often have no idea how great is the suffering of others. Always show love.
I've always loved music,
but I didn't always sing.
I thought my voice
wasn't as good as theirs
and didn't want the stares
that said I was subpar.
So I listened from afar.
There were many days
when that was okay.
I listened, and often
enjoyed the tones
of the unknown.
something was missing.
There were too may days
when the songs they sang
didn't fit what I was searching for.
I just needed...more.
So I decided to write
means more to me
than the songs I hear
that someone else sings.
It belongs to me.
I learned to love
the sound of my voice.
Not in arrogance,
but in clarity.
are the clearest
when they come from my heart.
I can sing to my pain
and soothe my sorrow
fuel my passion
that can change my life
and the lives of others.
My melody - is me.
#lovingthelifeHesgivenme #beautifulsongs #Hispurposeforme #doinggreatthings #catchingmydreams #love #peace #happiness #grateful #blessed #priceless