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I was reminded in the silence this morning, that flowers don’t compete or compare themselves to what’s around them… they just bloom.
flowers lean into the light & bloom to their fullest potential.
joy is found in surrendering fully to your own blooming… the process… and remembering we each have our own unique way of becoming. allow the journey to awaken & strengthen the soul.
my heart is full after the past few weeks. so much goodness. to marry my best friend in a place my heart loves was one of the best experiences of my life.
settling back into routine and figuring out next steps without being totally overcome by fear has been a bit challenging for me at times. there is such a thin line between being paralyzed or being motivated by my fears. now that I am living life as a professional creative/artist solely, I find myself walking that line for a period of time each day.
yesterday was my first full day back in the studio. decided to get to work on some large abstract canvas paintings I have been adding layers to for a couple of months. it was good. it was exactly where I needed to be.
earlier last week I attended a panel conversation at the Menil, “The Influence of Gandhi & Dr. King on Hip Hop,” and a number of the ideas spoken stirred me to think more deeply about the work I do, as well as the life in which I live. the work I am creating now is my continuation of that conversation and the truths revealed regarding the complexity and beauty of the human experience. last night I finished one of the pieces.
each stroke on the canvas was a sentence about vulnerability, fear, need for communion & hope, each layer a chapter on the goodness & messiness of the soul fully alive.
today, I sabbath.
I remain still so I can know and listen for direction. I trust that no matter what is done today or left undone today, I am enough.
as for tomorrow though… I look forward to time with paint & canvas and returning to the grind necessary to turn my dreams into plans.
tomorrow I will…
I miss you when I am still and the earth is silent,
when my feet are covered by a blanket of wildflowers
and I delight in the view of the birds resting on city wires.
I miss you when the world is screaming and the clock refuses not to keep time,
when I find myself grinding for the future in spaces where we use to dwell
and move here-to-there, arms empty.
I miss you when I sit at a table for four, with only two seats occupied,
and when the music plays and I want us to dance.
I miss you when I sit in my art studio creating,
giving life to breathless things.
I miss you when all my head can hear is your faint cry
as you passed into this world from my womb,
as if you knew.
I miss you when I remember I am a childless mother,
and that no brush stroke from my hand can give
my greatest masterpiece life.
December 4, 2013 I gave birth prematurely to Annee Juredline Rouse Tinsley with my partner for life, Cleve, holding my hand. She lived 2 hours and died resting upon my chest.
A year ago today, love and grace kissed my brokenness through three of the most important people in my life… helping me to pull upon all the courage within me to fight through the shame and guilt to choose life. I will forever be grateful for their love and the opportunity to co-create a life that I will forever love. I am thankful. I am deeply sad. I am free.
Had my pregnancy with A.J. been full term, it is likely I would have had her by now or anxiously be awaiting her arrival with family & friends.
April 6 was the due date given to us by our doctor. I know had I carried her full term she most likely would not have been born today, but April 6 was the date we were told, the date we as new expecting parents were hoping for… praying for… were preparing our lives for.
But… Life would write another story for us, and today Cleve & I find ourselves living into this new storyline the best way we know how. Day by day… hour by hour… and sometimes minute by minute. As we journey through the grief and disappointment, each day brings its own joys, revelations, trials, triggers, questions, hopes and challenges.
Today has not been any different really, though it did start off in a unique way. I took a “mental health” day from work, to create space for me to be fully present to my heart, as well as get some rest. I needed alone time, quiet time.
To be honest, I also really needed to be in spaces and places where I had a very slim chance of encountering questions like I got just last week about the health and well being of the baby. Not everyone knows the story, how could they? I get it, understand and truly appreciate the love… I just knew having to tell someone that A. J. was born prematurely and died would have just been too much for me today.
On Friday I decided that a great way to enter into this day would be watching the sunrise at the beach. So, I woke up early this morning before daybreak and drove in the dark to Galveston to be by the water as the daylight approached, iphone/camera in hand.
Here are a few of the photographs created as I received time alone with God and the memory of a life that has forever changed mine for the better.
you call me out upon the waters
the great unknown where feet may fail
and there I find You in the mystery
in oceans deep my faith still stands (Oceans)… and that too is mystery to me
if i loved myself, I would…
a wise woman I know invited everyone on a team I am apart of to complete that sentence.
if i loved myself, I would…
she instructed us to say it 10 times in a row and write the first thoughts that came to mine. one, on my list of 30, was receive more time each week at the park. there are a few things on that list that will take some time and more courage to make a reality, but more time each week at the park… effective immediately.
each week i make my way to the park for some stillness and me time. yesterday i went to the park and had a series of firsts. for the first time since college, i rode a bike. i rented one of the b-cycle bikes and made my way around the park a time or two. it was such a fun adventure.
for the first time since starting my weekly visits to the park i got to feed the birds yesterday. not only did i feed the birds but i experienced the entire landscape and encountered the vast array of bird life that inhabits the space. i was there for hours.
beautiful… all of the birds were absolutely beautiful, and i am grateful i allowed myself to see them all. typically all of my part time is received with the pigeons/doves. i have a preference for pigeons/doves. i know where they hang, the best times to catch them and how to move amongst them.
however, this particular visit i was not alone. i was with a member from my church community, who asked me Sunday if I would meet her at the park to feed the birds. she had picked up some extra loaves from the day shelter that were going bad, and really wanted to take it to the birds at the park. and she was determined for each one of them to get an equal share of food. she kept reminding me, “all of the birds need food, pastor lanecia. you cannot just give to some of.“
so, we kept it moving. we would pause for some time to be present with each flock. we would love on the birds of in one area and then move on to the next hangout spot to spread the bread love around.
it was life-giving…really allowing myself to let go of my preferences for a while and take in the art of each winged creation freely there for my eyes to marvel in awe & wonder.
for the first time i got a glimpse of the unique characteristic of the different birds species co-existing at the park, the boundaries by which they live and the politics of the pond. i was totally captivated by all of their ways.
but i kept coming back to the pigeons.
my eyes were drawn to the them. i could not totally abandoned my preference. not sure why, but there is strange pull when it comes to pigeons. despite how bizarre or crazy it may seem, lately i just try to be present to whatever is pulling me and allow whatever it is to simply be.
here are a few of the insta-stories the pulling allowed me to create with my iPhone yesterday…
Mother Theresa was once asked about her prayer life.
The interviewer asked, “When you pray, what do you say to God?”
Mother Teresa replied, “I don’t talk, I simply listen.”
Believing he understood what she had just said, the interviewer next asked, “Ah, then what is it that God says to you when you pray?”
Mother Teresa replied, “He also doesn’t talk. He also simply listens.”
There was a long silence, with the interviewer seeming a bit confused and not knowing what to ask next.
Finally Mother Teresa breaks the silence by saying, “If you can’t understand the meaning of what I’ve just said, I’m sorry but there’s no way I can explain it any better.”
this well-known request made to Jesus by his disciples in the Gospel of Luke has come to me often over the past 2-months, in those moments that I feel invited into intimate, one-on-one conversation with God. It’s come to my mind because, really, right now I’m just finding it hard to pray, I’m wondering what I should say in prayer—is there a better formula?—and I’m wondering whether to pray at all…
it is not the first season in life I have struggled to pray. it is not the first time I have felt as though I really do not know what or how to pray. it is in these seasons I turn to sojourners of the faith, both dead and alive, for direction. I turn to coffee conversations, ancient words, art and books, seeking a word that resonates and makes sense in light of the journey I am on with God these days.
I think I am starting to understand what Mother Teresa meant when she spoke of prayer being a mutual listening between her and God.
I am starting to understand the words I found on the Work of the People website today:
Often our listening is at the surface of things – we hear what we want to hear. This practice of deep listening is what allows us to become aware of the patterns and shadows of our life. Deep listening is a disciplined mind and attentive. Deep listening is seeing that our emotions and our thoughts are not who we are. Deep listening leads to a liberated spirit.
I think I am starting to understand that silence in the midst of a chatter-filled world and mind can be a gift that offers rest, clarity, healing, and a deeper understanding of Love’s presence in the world… in my life.
I am definitely starting to understand and vibe with the thought that prayer is not asking or trying to convince God to create a world… my life is that of my own choosing… prayer is becoming a practice where I open my heart and mind to God, being honest about my doubts, pains and, even, my fears of entrusting my heart and mind to a Love beyond my understanding; it is listening to God’s voice that resides deep within.
yellows kept popping out at me. it was a 70 plus degree tuesday in february. most of it I received driving around houston getting supplies for a work event this weekend. I think that new pharrell song came on like every 30-minutes, along with beyoncé & jay Z.
happy & drunk in love.
pulled back into the parking lot at work an hour before heading home. decided to call someone back for work and then bam!, within seconds I was reminded me that the broken record still must play amongst the new tunes of these days, grief still has the power to surprise me and I am still tender enough for the wound to bleed.
“lanecia! Thanks for calling me back. So are we good and pregnant now?”
and it played… telling the easy on the listener story of Dec. 4 and throwing in words to ease her discomfort for the not knowing my new normal. it was kind for her to recognize the beauty of what was and want to celebrate with me before getting to business. I didn’t even curse in my head. I just turned the radio off, shared the news, worked to dispel the awkwardness for the remainder of the call and turned off the radio.
once I was back in the safety of my office, I picked up the phone and started calling. no tears, just a great need to connect with someone I could expose the wound to.
I needed to talk to someone who would simply acknowledge I was bleeding and that it sucked. As I dialed I literally starting praying that the person who picked up the phone would simply listen and say “that sucks, lanecia. sorry.” I did not need laughter, did not need a brush over, did not need discomfort that I would have to work to make more comfortable, did not need silence… I needed someone, other than Cleve, to say I know you are hurting, angry and I am sorry it just sucks.
the first conversation was a brush over, moving on.
the second conversation was met with silence, don’t think they could really hear or understand what I was saying.
I stopped and decided since it was obvious I could not control the responses of the hearer I needed to be still and really think through my phone list.
who had the most potential of giving me the response I needed in that particular moment?
called 3 people who did not answer. took yet another quick deep pause, and a name came to mind that was just right. I called, she answered and she loved me how I needed to be loved in that moment. each moment is different. I really feel for the people who love me these days, because I am sure at times they may feel like they are walking on egg shells not really sure what part of the grieving cycle I may be at in that minute.
but, my friend was just herself and that is what I needed. she helped me put the band-aid back on so I could finish up at work and call it a day. it was good. I hung up the phone, finished my work, packed up my stuff, headed home with a box of cookie heaven from my mother and settled in on my couch for the evening.
had every intention of going to the gym with Cleve for the first time since December 4 yesterday, but it did not happen. I just needed to sit by the open window as the sunlight began to fade away to dark, with my coffee and my little piece of heaven sent by my mother.
it didn’t hurt to see her. I must confess I thought it would, but it didn’t.
when kate, who is less than 1 month away from giving birth walked into Blacksmith Coffee, I exhaled the anxiety and inhaled gratitude that the flood gates did not break. I saw her unexpectedly exactly a week before coming out of a bookstore across the street as I sat at the Blacksmith Coffee bar with another dear friend, and it hurt. hit me fast and hard that day. right there in that coffee shop an emotional land mine went off. thankfully that time Cleve was only a couple of bar stools away. it is always easier to make it through the explosions when he is near. this time, however, he was not and I was going to have to receive these moments on my own.
good news though… no explosion.
God knows, I did not want to cry up in that coffee shop again. I had, with some doubt, sent out two S.O.S. prayer requests before entering into the space. I was determined not to privilege that space with my tears again… I did not want to appear weak or out of control. strange the responsibility I often feel these days to sound or act as though I am ok or not often overcome with sorrow.
but that day, I was ok. I even found myself a bit giddy when she came close, reaching for her oval belly almost forgetting how invasive the act of robbing a woman’s stomach without invitation can be.
dang… I almost forgot.
it was all good though, and for that I am relieved. Kate is super cool and I really needed time with her wise beautiful soul. she is one of the women whose bullshit radar is just as keen as my own, so our time was filled with moments of transparency and truth. I crave that.
to be honest, I have never been good with small talk. Lately though, even 2-minutes of small talk drains me and if it goes on too long I find myself getting angry or at best frustrated.
but no small talk at Blacksmith that afternoon. we talked about normal things… health, pregnancy, work, routines, dreams, longings, house renovations, college plans, our loves and weight.
oh yes, the weight…
I told her about an encounter with someone at work the week before. I had walked into the work and was greeted by a staff member with lots of love, “Hello! How are you? When is the baby due?”
she had not gotten the memo.
shit, I thought in my head, but out of my mouth came “Oh, I loss the baby on December 4. She was born and died shortly after. So, no future due date.”
I could see the compassion in her eyes, regret and loads of discomfort. I was able to filter through my hurt quickly to recognize she meant love. I was not surprised by the quick sting that came with the reminder that I once moved around the halls of the BOL bearing a life within me. that sting has become normal, though not any less painful.
but I was surprised by the embarrassment and discomfort that hit me at the thought that I must still look like a person who could be pregnant. yet another battle I need to conquer for more reasons than vanity and health.
anyway… I told Kate about that encounter and jokingly she suggested I might want to carry a placard around with me that states:
“Before you speak, I am not pregnant anymore and here are all the things I have learned are not really helpful or encouraging to me…”
I had been thinking about the need for a placard, a sign on my forehead or something letting people know “Take Caution, please!.” I have actually been keeping a journal list of things that, though the motivation is good, are just not that helpful. Here are a couple, in no particular order and no commentary:
Oh, so sorry to hear that. Well, at least you still have your husband.
God was just needed her to be home with Him.
Sorry to hear about your baby. But hey, make another one. Try again.
When is the baby due?
Don’t cry, God has a plan.
the list goes on and on. just yesterday I added a comment.
death and loss is just one of those realities of life where our words will for the most part fall short. I have accepted that and it helps me listen with grace and most time gratitude. I get it, but it still doesn’t make the comments sting, piss me off or even hurt sometimes. each one takes my mind down a rabbit hole, only to get back to it is the fact it is all apart of getting through.
one thing my time received with Kate made evident, is that I am indeed getting through. our coffee time was a gift and one more step on this life-long journey. I look forward to more time with her and their little one due to enter the world next month. I am thankful for that. I am also extremely thankful that when I saw her walk through the door Monday, it didn’t hurt.
I had gone to pray and be still by the waters for awhile. I sat in silence mostly not uttering a word, hoping Romans 8:26-27 to be true as well as knowing the things I don’t have the courage to yet risk speaking to God… I was still.
nothing is more beautiful than silence sometimes.
it was cleansing and before I knew it I became keenly aware of life around me, which was both a blessing and entry to a deep wound within my healing heart. I was not there long before a little girl on her new bike and her caregiver, came up the path. she saw the water and declared she would put her feet in the pond.
out of all the places she could sit along the pond, she chose to come very close to me. without verbal invitation, she chose to be present with me. I don’t know her name, but we had the best 15-minute visit.
we explored the wonders at the bottom of the pond and delighted in the dance of the birds as they bathed in the sunlight. one moment, just when I could feel grief creeping up in my eyes, out of the blue she pinched my arm and giggled with the kindest smile.
she brought giggles to my healing heart.
Love is patient, Love is kind.
1 Corinthians 13:4a