The Problem With Stereotypes

About a month ago I took a poetry workshop downtown. I love how my city offers these free opportunities to learn and grow in writing and I find it interesting that I have a gift of writing poetry. I never thought of myself as a poet. I never thought of myself as a writer either…

At the workshop I made note, it was a diverse group. A mixture of blacks and whites, young and old. Then the facilitator came. She was late and entered with her body mostly hidden behind an occupied stroller. She was dressed in jeans and an old Tee and I was surprised she was the teacher. There was a young man in the group who seemed to be “off” and I figured he had a mental illness. There was another woman in the group, older, black and talkative. She told a lot of jokes and seemed (in my opinion) a little “off” as well. I made a conscious decision to be open and receive because I know from experience God can use anyone. We shared our writings and our hearts and the man who I thought was “off” was actually pretty “on”. Turns out he had a syndrome that caused him to seem different but he was intelligent and articulate and his poem revealed the gift that he is to the world. The woman who was talkative brought me to tears with her heartfelt letter to the Lord and I feel myself tearing up right now at the memory.

And our instructor, who appeared to be uneducated (in my opinion) was very knowledgeable and skilled in her craft.

I recognized the Father showing me my own stereotypes in this group and how inaccurate they can be.

I too was being stereotyped. I was dressed in a collared shirt and showed up with my mac computer while everyone else had pen and paper. The instructor made comments about my preferences and social life. I knew that she thought I was “middle class” and did not really know my story. On paper I’m sure it would look the way she assumed…

I recently met a man who challenged more of my thinking. In this climate of racial tension and social injustice I thought those who would be most aware (or “woke”) and sympathetic to these issues would need to share the same color of my own skin. Certainly they would not come from “privileged families”. But then I met him and he did have that background but had a heart to help urban communities heal and transform. We spent 2 hours talking about such things and I realized I had misjudged him.

In my career I have always been favored. I have always been “seen” and valued for who I am eternally. But then I wasn’t. I was met with the stereotype and a picture was painted of me that couldn’t be further from the truth. I learned a valuable lesson that day, when someone doesn’t know you they can easily misjudge you.

The problem with stereotypes is that they keep us from getting to know the true identity of someone. We like to categorize and put people in boxes because it makes us feel more comfortable, but sometimes those boxes limit us in expanding our mindset and views. We miss out on opportunities to learn and evolve as a result of interacting with someone who is different.

It’s easy to fall into using stereotypes. It’s kind of our default. But the Father has intentionally made us all diverse because He is diverse. And I believe the only was to truly see Him is when we all express our diversity.

I look forward to that day of seeing every tribe and every tongue worship together the One Eternal Being who created them. It will surely be a sight to see.

Revelations7:9

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.

In other news, congratulations to my best friend who recently got engaged!!! More to come on that front😊😉. #newseasons…

SHALOM

Advertisements

The Process


Definition of process: a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.

Yesterday at fellowship (our weekly spiritual gathering) my pastor asked what the definition of process was. It is discussed in our latest lesson and the first word that came to me was “stages”. “It’s developmental stages,” I said. He nodded his head in fond agreement–because he is more of a father than a pastor–and proceeded to read the real definition (listed above). I  was close. We talked about the “means” of a process being a vehicle and it’s pretty clear to me God has used and continues to use processes in my life (and I’m sure in yours) to bring about an intended purpose.

Every month I go through a process at work. For almost a year now I have been battling in this process. It has been so intense it has felt like labor. But my personality is one that loves a good challenge so even though I get stressed out and overwhelmed I strive to complete the process. And do better next time. If you’ve read this blog for any amount of significant time you know my career has always been a process. Doors do not open easily and usually only after a lengthy waiting period. As a result I’ve probably valued them (open doors) a little more than I would have otherwise (and even do I dare to say a little more than those who get opportunities easily.) So I have tried and tried to endure this process and achieve success by my own terms. Not in comparison to someone else’s ability (who would probably find my process less difficult) but in comparison to my former self.

Then there is the process of my love life. Again, lots of waiting. I shared with my pastors yesterday my frustration/anger at the process. They nodded in understanding. They are good people. They have walked with God over 40 years and still are able to empathize with my little struggles.

I don’t know what my future holds concerning these current processes, I only know the Father has been faithful to order my steps. He knows me through and through. 

I trust Him to have mercy where I need mercy and grace where I need grace.

In other news, some good times lately…


Shalom.

Processing Singleness


Hello there!  I am so excited to share a piece I wrote this summer that has been featured on Permission To Write’s online journal!:

I walk in from the rain and glance inside the trendy restaurant to the table by the window.  It’s surprisingly busy for a weekday.  I’m playing hookie from work and I wonder what the heck everyone else is doing.  Instead of seeing the black couple engaging in conversation, I see my friend sitting across from me sometime last year. A fellow single woman in her mid 30s with brown hair and a kind heart. It was spring and we talked about the summer and what kind of outfits would flatter her pear-shaped figure. I offered my services because, for some reason, turning 30 made me a fashionista. Then we moved on to men. Where were they?

Please click on this link and turn to page 11 if you are interested in reading more!

Thank you!

 

SHALOM

An Open Letter to My Precious Jewel


I picked you up yesterday like I have so many times before. Still, it had been a while.  You’ve grown and I had flashbacks of when you were a baby: an aggressive round little brown girl.  I never had a brown girl of my own and even though I wasn’t chosen to be your godmother by your mother, you chose me.  And so did God.  

So we bonded.  An easy bond.  I loved you.  An easy love.  And somehow I ended up being a role model and praying for you constantly that you would break the generational curses.  You had a hard way from the start and I knew every prayer would count.  You’re smart, perceptive, resilient, and a survivor.  I can see easily how God has given you the gifts and talents to overcome the deficit of resources you were born into.

Yesterday we road on a hay ride, ate junk food, danced and I stood in a line for 40 minutes for you to get your face painted.  

You had never ridden on a hay ride and I love introducing you to new things.  It did not escape my notice that when I dipped my fries in bbq you did the same.  And when I took a chair in that 40 minute line, you did the same.  You follow me and that reminds me of the responsibility I was given.  The one I never asked for but couldn’t help but say yes to because of the fondness I have for you.

Pretty soon you’ll be 10 😮.  You’ll be a preteen.  I’m seeing the changes in you each time I see you.  Now you no longer make goofy faces at the camera, you actually smile at it.  You’ll be hitting some important milestones and I am in awe that I got to be a vital part of your story.  Without me even realizing it, I had a special assignment in your life.
And you have a special one in mine.  On mother’s day when I get those calls they warm my heart.  As a childless women in her mid 30s I recognize that God gave me a spiritual child.

I look forward to our continued journey together, watching you grow and praying for your wellbeing.

I know our connection is a confirmation that you will do great things.


Always cheering for you

Love,

Nicole

Life’s Suprises

Sometimes in life the unexpected happens.  Like you go to an event when you really don’t want to go because you have a cold and you’re tired but you go anyway because you care a lot about the person hosting it.  And you also have a special position on their campaign team and they could potentially be chosen to be Mayor of the city.  So you decide to go and after a nap you put on real clothes and even surprise yourself at how well you clean up.  The new gear puts an extra pep in your step and you think, “The night won’t be so bad after all.”  But still, you don’t know how true that statement will be.  Because your expectations are minimal that you would actually meet someone and have a good time and something normal like that would happen.  So you make it to the event and scan the crowd (which is sparse because its still early) and you see some familiar faces.  You make small talk with a few but its clear there’s no one there for you to really connect with.  But then this guy engages you in conversation with himself and another guy.  Then the night flies by with you and the one guy conversing, until all of a sudden you’re sitting at a table with him 2 hours later, enjoying the interaction.  And at the end of the evening you make your exit because the cold that you’ve been fighting for days is getting to you and you have to get up for work in the morning.  So even though you’re enjoying the convo, you leave, pausing a second to see if he will make a move.  But he doesn’t, so you leave, telling yourself, “It’s cool cuz that’s the norm.”  But to your surprise he exits behind you.  Runs after you, actually, just to get your phone number.

Sometimes in life you will actually meet someone face to face, not online (not that there’s anything wrong with that) or on social media (nothing wrong with that either) but in real life.  And the guy will get your number, actually follow up immediately and not play the 3-5 day rule (wait 3-5 days to call).  And he will keep following up.  Letting you know he’s interested.  Taking you out.  Giving you quality time and attention and respect.  And even introducing you to his friends.

Sometimes stuff that you think only happens in the movies actually happens in real life.  And even though its not perfect (far from it) and doesn’t look anything the way you thought it would (does anything ever?), you recognize–it is a blessing.

Because it’s hard to find quality people to connect with. And it’s wonderful if that connection happens organically.

When you least expect it.

Like it did with me.

Date Night 😊

SHALOM

Building Slowly

I admit I can be an impatient person.  Even after all these years and all the tests God has used to develop patience w/in me, it is not my preference to wait.  But in the world of getting to know new people and developing relationships, I have come to value a person that takes their time.


This summer has allotted me with several occasions to meet new people but no matter the person, the outcome was the same: things moved fast.  There were frequent phone calls and text messages and connections made, but always a tone of urgency and even insincerity.  This time however I am intrigued to have a different experience.  In the short time of our meeting, he takes his time.  There is careful balance of showing interest, but not diving in too deep.  It is nice when someone can correctly match the emotions and physical boundaries of a relationship with its developmental stage.  I have been in so many situations where that was not the case and for that reason I appreciate it all the more.

I heard it said recently that women lose their mystery quickly these days.  As Christian women that can be easy to fall into because many of us do not get pursued often so when it happens we can get so excited that we give away too much too fast (I have always struggled in that area).  Then afterwards, often the man does not feel the need to earn what has already been given.  He does not feel the need to rise to the occasion, because instead we lowered ourselves to it.

I’m trying to learn from my past mistakes.  All things are redeemable with God and He makes all things new.  I want to use this new opportunity to value myself better, stay true to my identity, and enjoy the slow building in the hopes that taking our time will produce something a little bit more longstanding.

SHALOM

 

Adjusting Expectations 


I’m in the midst of visiting longtime friends in a city I’ve been to so many times over the years, but it’s never really stood out to me in and of itself. Instead it’s been the people here–the women here– who have touched my soul in such a way that when I visit, they are all that matter. 


But on this particular visit the present collides with the past and as Hope and I sit in a church and listen to those old gospel songs I have flashbacks of our college choir that we warmly refer to as MUGS (Miami University Gospel Singers). I remember those early days when we sang and belted out our love for Jesus and I was on a high of the Holy Spirit.

We left that sanctuary of praise only to make a visit to the hospital. I watched her care and serve and do what I know would be difficult for me. I think of our dreams and hopes for a future that morphed into a present that wasn’t at all what we expected. I think, “So this was my life. To be with these women. To spend 15 years on a path of surrender with these women. To face hard things and difficult situations, but to face them together.”


My friends are amazing. Parents are ill though we are still young and life is fleeting. We make memories together. Some of these are painful, but others are joy, inspite of the pain.


I’m so grateful for their consistency and this gift of friendship. That as a 19 year old I developed covenant friendships that stayed with me even through my shortcomings and fallen nature.

My friends are worthy. They are go getters and dreamers and doers of those dreams. They are a multifaceted group of talent, love and hope. They are my cheerleaders and I am grateful to have that kind of support system in place when life is never what you expect it to be. When the naive hopefulness of the 20s gives way to the slow dawning realization of the 30s.

They are still there. And I know that is nothing short of the grace of Elohim.

SHALOM