Making A List, Checking It Twice…

Good morning, beautiful people!!

Earlier this week, while on vacation, I rolled over and grabbed my phone to find that the young lady that I used to mentor had sent me a DM. We started to chat, and the conversation turned to her significant other, which she was creating some distance from for a handful of reasons but has chosen to reconcile with. I informed her that it was hard for me to give her unbiased answers to the questions she was asking–I don’t care for him because of the ways he has treated her in the past and I probably won’t like him until I see an intentional change in his character. Basically, don’t ask me no questions, and I won’t tell you no lies, as the old folk used to say.

But anywho. My parting advice to this young lady before I got started with my vacation plans for the day was “sit down and make a list”.

A few years ago, someone that I know told me that she had an actual list written down with qualities of the person that she wanted to be with. Within that list, she’d checked off non-negotiables as well as things that she would really love him to have but could go without. Inspired, I made a list that night that is on my phone to this day. Her list had led her to marriage–mine has not, but it serves as an excellent litmus test when meeting new people. When you’ve taken the time to write down that you want to spend your life with someone who has stable employment, it’s a lot harder to reason with yourself when you fall head over heels in l…ove (😂) with someone who plays guitar like an angel but busks on the boardwalk downtown. You took the time to write it down, so it must be important. The Bible talks about writing a vision down on tablets so that it someone can take it and run with it. (Habakkuk 2:2-3)

Having the list also provides a editable definition of who we think we want. With the last person I dated, he checked off most of what I had written down–he loved God, used his talents for the kingdom, loved his family, was an active and present father (note: I’m not specifically seeking men with kids, but as the child of a father who to this day is absent more than anything else, I refuse to be with someone who isn’t taking care of their kids. I don’t understand how deadbeat dads have girlfriends.). And on and on—but he was also non-communicative. He wasn’t consistent. He didn’t pursue hard conversations, particularly about us. And he let his preconceived notions of “what women need” direct his behavior instead of checking with me. So now, I have new things to add.

As you can see, the conversation ended with me having an epiphany of my own. 2019 has been a difficult year for friends, over here. Almost every month, I’ve found myself rocked by issues and conflicts and ends that I could not have forecasted at this point last year…ranging from people that I didn’t chalk up to being good friends who thought they had more meaning to people that I thought would be around forever who won’t be. But as I sat and messaged my former mentee back and forth, the idea began to take shape that if we make lists for significant others, why not friends? For me, right now, my students and my friends ARE my greatest ministry. I don’t have a husbae or even a husbae in training (at least not that I know of—feel free to surprise me, Lord!) How I am in the classroom and the kind of person that I am with my friends is what determines what else I get to steward. These relationships are currently what define me, what refine me, and what teach me standards, patience, and new ways to love. This is of heavenly importance, so it is crucial that I have a list for them as well so that I know when someone fits the bill. This is the current iteration, and there’s nothing to say that this won’t change:

This list is born of good times, heartache, lessons, successes and trials. I’m excited to keep adding and removing and trusting the process. I’d encourage you to make a list for any area that you are casting vision and see what blooms! Share these lists if you like!!

-StephTheScribe

Poem: No Ordinary Worship

Hey beautiful people!

My new favorite worship song is “No Ordinary Worship” by Kelontae Gavin. This song got me thinking about the most dynamic form of worship: the lives we live. This poem was inspired by my life and by this song. Hope you enjoy!!

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My life is no ordinary worship.

It did not come sauntering in on the backs of

Dusty hymnals

Tried, true and marching toward glory

In doilies and sensible heels—no.

My life doesn’t always worship dutifully

On bowed knees beside my bed at night.

It doesn’t always remember to make Him first.

It tries to remember to be grateful for the hallelujah anyhow but sometimes it stutters

Tongue bitten and forced grace

Sometimes, my life’s worship is anything but ordinary.

My life’s worship doesn’t look like my grandmothers

Stately and dignified

With pantyhose, seams across the toes and a hat, always a hat

Lest the Lord see the Clairol Beeline Honey.

It doesn’t look like praying for the people who told me exactly where my 3/5ths of a person could sit

Though I wish my worship were that smooth, sometimes.

My life’s worship doesn’t look like my mother’s.

Childlike faith in the form of almost maddening contentment

Desire wrapped in fear presented with open arms.

It doesn’t look like serving the people who refuse to give me my just due with something like enthusiasm

Though I wish my worship were that open, sometimes.

This life of mine isn’t ordinary worship,

But it is testimony nonetheless

Testament to the power of a praying grandmother

And a resourceful mother too,

This worship is plan Bs that could survive the great flood

This worship is the cry of the sheep that strayed from the pack

The prodigal son

The one brought back

This worship is

Tattooed and pierced

Joyful and angry

Content and wanting.

This worship is asking why on the first day of college

And the answer becoming apparent 7 years and ; months later in the form of a BA blessing with my name on it.

My grandmothers sacrifice on it.

My mother’s tears on it.

This worship is depressed Eastern shore evenings

3 am with Oreos and BET After Dark

Wondering why I even bothered.

This worship is on Fulton just as much as it’s in Woodbourne

Worship enough for 5 year old boys and 13 year old girls

It is eminent on stages and forgotten behind scenes

This worship is so much deeper than it seems.

This worship is exhortation and corny jokes

Hugs and tears on shoulders.

It is “how did you even know” and “that kept me going today”…

This worship is love.

See, I keep meaning to type worship but my heart types a four letter word that my mind understood as a synonym for worship all along.

My life looks nothing like hers

And since my life IS my worship,

My song bops different.

It snaps on the 1 and 3 always

Still learning to stand proudly in the unordinary.

In the everyday

In the mundane and the special.

This life is no ordinary worship, y’all.

And that is ok by me.

Planted.

Image result for quotes about being where you are meant to be

Hey beautiful people,

I have spent a lot of time on pages and in whispers talking about the exercise in beautiful heartbreak that teaching can be. Don’t let the Pinterest boards and Youtube videos fool you–it isn’t always pockets full of posies. Teaching is sometimes funky classrooms, 76 personalized handshakes (DAB!) and fun activities, true…just today, I ran “de-escalation stations” with my sixth graders and it was fun to watch them explore stress relief activities such as making their own bath salts and doing a basic 7 minute yoga routine. Teaching IS this. But teaching (at least for me) is also looming deadlines, absent assistance, frustration and what feels like abundant lack–of resources, of good news, and of progress. Sounds sanctimonious, but I sometimes feel like I am running solo on a treadmill and I cannot catch up to save my life. I look at acquaintances that teach in other districts where the biggest headache is parents lingering in the carpool line, and though I’ve committed (at least this phase of) my life to urban education, I flirt with the idea of a richer district, less jaded kids, etc. Then, I feel like an ogre. Its tight, but it’s truthful.

On days like this, however, I remember something that this woman named Didi said to me yearssss ago. I don’t remember the context, but she said something like “your words are divinely structured to bring peace and joy to people around you.” That’s literally one of the nicest things anyone has ever said about me–and it’s also a charge to make sure that what comes out of my mouth builds up and doesn’t tear down. Teaching brings with it some “cuss applicable moments”, as Steve Harvey would say–I’d be lying if I said that every word out of my mouth is “joy to the world”…but as Steve also said “God ain’t done with me yet.”

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I don’t always feel planted–like I am divinely structured, firmly rooted in the thing I am supposed to be doing. Earlier this week, I sat in front of my Crew and ground out angry tears because they weren’t meeting expectations–it’s enough to make you question yourself sometimes. But today, I felt planted, twice. And when I feel God move, I have to share.

  1. A child at work had a medical emergency today, and it left a bunch of children feeling quite rattled and scared. I bent down to talk to a child who was in tears, and I heard another kid above me say “guys can we pray, because I’m worried!” Thus began a round robin of who was actually going to pray, since one kid turned into five…and finally one girl said “Ms. O, you pray, because we don’t know how.” Another said, “yeah, ’cause all I do is say grace!” So the five of us held hands and shoulders and we prayed for the young lady in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. My students know my beliefs, but I am careful not to dwell on them at school, lest I activate the church v state cries, but I’ve had students ask me to pray quietly with them before a test and now this–the fact that they know that they can ask this and I will respond means the world to me. Planted.
  2. A few teachers were sitting in my homeroom this afternoon, and we were talking-laughing-playing music–kinda lesson planning, etc. A friend FaceTimed me, so I alternated between talking to her, listening to my coworkers, sashaying in my seat to the tune of my music and answering emails. Suddenly, the one across from me said “I love your joy. You are so happy.” (or something like that)… It was so out of the blue and I was so taken by surprise that I pointed at myself and she affirmed that she was speaking to me. The funny thing is, I wasn’t doing anything in particular, but she saw something and called it out of me–it’s been bouncing around my head all evening. I can be joyful FOR others even when I don’t realize that I am. Planted.

The Bible says this about being planted–

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:1-3

I take this to mean that being planted doesn’t always feel great–there is digging and waiting and pruning involved, after all, but when you are planted in the right place and nourished by the right things, you will see rewards when rewards are meant to be seen. If the soil were completely wrong, then nothing would grow. That doesn’t mean that I’m supposed to stay in the same pot forever, but I have to trust that that Living Water hydrates even my dry seasons.

Basically, I bloom different.

Today, be thankful for being planted where you are–in the professions, the friendships, the places where you are. Search for the meaning. And recognize the divine structuring when you see it 🙂

 

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A “Bad B” Stream of Consciousness (31 Lines For Turning 31): POEM

1. Love them. Period. Plain and simple. 

2. Except for when it’s complicated. 

3. Love them through their stupid mistakes. 

4. But not if they keep making them. 

5. That’s a decision. 

6. A conscious incision into highly sensitive heart space. 

7. It is not fair and you are better. 

8. Insist upon your worth in action and pocket value. 

9. You keep on clearance rackin’ your sanity and now you can’t afford the operating costs. 

10. Your psyche is free to the highest bidder. 

11. Perfect peace passed like communion to the lies of pious n***as. 

12. Please, add tax. 

13. Scan all this. It can’t be copied. That’s fax. 

14. Hard conversations clear your mind like sativa. 

15. Saying how they hurt you wins you no fans but my God, the way it frees you. 

16. Insist upon not laying awake wondering how the vocal sleep. 

17. Never be ashamed about playing for keeps. 

18. Comfort is key. Heels are cute but I am sexiest when not twisting an ankle. 

19. Get healthy. But don’t attach pants sizes to your worth because you were always the prize. 

20. Worry most about facing the truth in your own eyes. People’s acceptance is a fickle thing. 

21. Don’t be a slave to fear like she is. Green hair and nose rings are little things that mean you went for it. 

22. Love the ones that loved you first. 

23. In Yoruba, they say that a river flows far but never forgets its source. 

24. Never regret it. Replace “it” with that decision you sweated. 

25. Never abandon a goal ‘til you get it. 

26. When the chacha slide asks how low can you go, go low. 

27. You won’t always be this flexible. 

28. Purdue professions that stretch you. You will perish when you become complacent. 

29. You can never relinquish holy once you’ve had the chance to taste it. 

30.  was good to you. Bad to you. Highs and lows, a taste of what’s to come. 

You are pure magic, baby. Here’s to 31. 

When It’s Finished

Hello beautiful people!

First off, can we shout a hooray plus a hallelujah to the fact that school is OV-AH?! Towards the end, I think I made it very clear whenever students groaned about the remaining time that I was just as excited as they were. (Side note: I think that students think that we are devastated to see them go. To kids everywhere, we get a little sad to see you go, but NO ONE is gnashing their teeth. Except maybe your parents. Your turn now…suckaaaaaa!)

Seriously though, this week was one of many endings. On Tuesday, the 8th graders showed up to Morgan State resplendent in their white for their evening farewell ceremony. I’d joked that I would be the one in the back of the room doing a praise dance, Image result for praise dancer but remarkably, I didn’t shed a tear. I really am proud of these girls and know they will go far. On Thursday, we had our awards ceremony and my Crew represented well: out of 11 girls, one received an attendance award, 2 girls were on honor roll, one girl is on principal’s honor roll, one received an award for Collaboration and one received a Mindset award. Thankfully, we bid them goodbye at 1pm, cleaned the room and tackled the updates on their files.

This brings us to Friday–for our staff retreat, we had a day of debriefing, planning, and learning at Art With A Heart‘s beautiful new office space. During one part of the day, we had to make word art on these little canvases that will eventually be combined into a mural in our school. The mural was the end result of us having to pare down a list of core values from its original state of probably 50, down to ten, five, and finally three. My three words that survived were Integrity, Belonging, and Joy. As we finished our murals and got ready for lunch, someone noted that my principal was still dutifully painting. Her response was “that’s ok. It will be beautiful when it’s done.” I immediately noted that that was an incredibly succinct way of summing up our approach as a school, but the more I think of it, isn’t that life?

Image result for beauty when finished quotes When Damia said that, I immediately grabbed my phone to write it down, because even in the moment, I realized that that quote was profound in it’s simplicity. It speaks of faith, belief, and a desire to do work because the end result will be something greater than it was to start with. While prepping to write a blog post surrounding her statement, I came across the above quote. Buckminster Fuller was a teacher and an architect, even though he only went to school for the former. He enjoyed lecturing to large groups in the classroom, particularly young ones. He was a poet, an inventor, and a philosopher, and he bucked (har har!) a lot of the traditions of his time and simply decided to make his mark differently. His website says that he believed that “Humans have a destiny to serve as “local problem solvers”, converting their experience to the highest advantage of others.”

Image result for buckminster fuller “Bucky’ here, also created the term “Spaceship Earth”, which meant that all of mankind needed to work together ‘like the crew of a ship’ in order to advance humanity as a whole. Expeditionary Learning’s (the system my school follows) motto is “crew not passengers”, because students are expected to take a large role in their own learning. Coincidence? I think not.

In the classroom, everything WILL NOT be pretty–and if we get caught up on that fact, we waste valuable time that could be spent teaching. Like my friend and colleague Amanda (you should read her blog here) said before, “this sh*t is urgent”. Matter of fact, if we are honest, if we put down the Pinterest boards, trainings, pep, pomp, and circumstance, teaching can honestly be eons of bull interspersed with magic moments, not the other way around. From the legislators who have never taught but make policies that affect educators, to teachers in other states (and probably this one too) who have to Uber and tend bar and waitress in addition to teaching in order to pay their bills. From kids who are overly exposed and underly (yes, I made that up) mature, to their parents who seem to care more about whether they look good than whether they ARE good. From schools that push ’em through, back to the legislation that makes it infinitely difficult to do anything but, regardless of whether they need it. From the “soft bigotry of low expectations” to the haughtiness of those that forget that grace and high standards walk this race together. And on and on and on.

Image result for teacher respect 1950 today comic

Still and even still, take a look at what Bucky said; when I am working on a problem, I never stop to think about beauty:

When I am up late racking my brain for another way to meet a kid’s accommodations;

When a parent is yelling at me for 57 minutes at 8pm because a teacher that is NOT ME didn’t let her child bring home makeup work,

When I sit through the 4th PD this month on what feels like the same thing,

When my incorrigible Crew member or student has given me their most perfectly practiced eye roll as I remind them that technically, the work was due already;

When I am JUST trying to get this group to June with no casualties as my patience is fraying;

But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know that it is wrong.” Beauty takes a multitude of forms. It could be 6 out of 11 of my Crew kids receiving school wide recognition. But it isn’t always that flashy, right? It could be a passing grade on that assignment that I had to nag about. It could be the teachers in another state’s school district who got the government to grant 11% increases (not enough, but still) because they got up and walked OUT of their classrooms wearing red—because they were tired of bringing home $34,730 a year in spite of their advanced degrees. It could honestly being committed to taking a mental health day–or walking away from the field entirely because as much as we believe in other people, our own mental health is most important.

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Little black girls–magical, imperfect, and most likely sick of my shh–tuff (lol)  cheering for each other as I call out awards, in a world that tells them that little black girls are catty at best and violent, overtly sexual, and statistics at worst. That’s beauty.

My partner in crime this year, on the last day of our officially working together as she moves on–taking a moment during our lunch hour to watch a coworker’s daughter show her super (shoeper?) lace-tying skills. That’s beauty.

A girl at the crossroads of SO MUCH taking time to squeeze the woman who has poured out her LIFE for her for the past three years at our school…can you imagine the love and tears and bitter sweetness in that embrace? That’s beauty.

A woman who has been a literal superhero to the City of Baltimore–healing, acknowledging, organizing, representing–speaking and pouring into a young girl who wants to heal her city just as much. That’s beauty.

A class of 42 newly minted ninth graders turning to look at the village that got them there. That’s beauty.

I don’t always know fully what “finished” is. On more grounded days, I have a vision so crazy that it takes my breath away. On others, I’m just trying to make it to finished without bill collectors on my tail and with some semblance of my sanity intact. I also don’t know what YOU are working towards; what blood, sweat and literal TEARS, you have invested in your purpose. I don’t know how many years are behind you, how many ahead. I don’t know if this is your barren season or if your fields are ripe for harvest. But I do know this: like my principal said, it WILL be beautiful when it’s done. Take heart, ok?

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Amen.

 

Love always,

Stephanie

Love Language # 6

So I am staring down the barrel of the end of a relationship. Side note: be careful when you date a writer, because pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) is one heck of a catharsis. I am honestly at peace with the whole idea, and honestly I am thankful that I kept this one pretty close to pocket…it minimizes the fall out. But I’d been struggling with how to explain when the few people that DID know about *him* ask what happened. He wasn’t disrespectful. He had a romantic bone somewhere in his body. He loved the Lord, which is always my line in the sand. He is a great dad. He works hard and knows how he wants to grow his passion project to eventually be his main source of income. On paper, he was everything that I’ve prayed for and everything that I think I deserved, so what on earth was the problem?

The problem is that I never saw him. And I spent a large amount of time rationalizing and asking and begging and questioning friends (I tend to bounce things off of people because I am highly sensitive and I know this–thank God for sisters who tell you to chill!) I never felt like he was being dishonest or unfaithful, but as someone who LOVES quality time, I struggled to foster a connection with someone who was never around. Even when I came to that conclusion, something still nagged inside of me, though….and then I came across this post on Instagram from @messinabottle:

lovelang  who would have thought that a social media post would be the thing that would click?

The 5 Love Languages is a theory by Dr. Gary Chapman that has been around since at least 1995, but maybe longer in some form or fashion. Dr. Chapman asserts that everyone in the world responds best to one of five “love languages”, and by learning which your partner appreciates most and which one you respond to, a couple can practically and effectively love each other at length. These five languages are:

WORDS OF AFFIRMATION: This language, according to the website “uses words to affirm other people”. In other words, I know that you love me when you tell me–in person, through a mushy text message, on a post it note in my lunchbox. Cards are as good as gold. Tell me so I know it’s real.

ACTS OF SERVICE: This can be summed up by these sage words from Migos:walkittalkit In other words, talk is cheap. I need to SEE that you love me. Make me lunch, offer to take me out, drive me to catch my flight. Serve me somehow.

PHYSICAL TOUCH: I know that I am loved when I can physically feel you next to me. This could be hugs, kisses or…sectionalceiling.PNG…heh.

RECEIVING GIFTS: Buy me stuff. Gets no simpler than that.

and finally…

QUALITY TIME: The important thing here is not just hours logged, but the fact that the time is meaningful, undistracted and undivided.

koality isn’t he cute? I can’t bear it. I’m here all week folks!!

One thing that Dr. Chapman also notes is that there can be different “dialects” of love languages, meaning that within the love language of Acts of Service, for example, there are fifty thousand ways for a partner to express his or her love. My primary love language will always be words of affirmation, however I have come to realize that quality time and physical touch are biggies as well.

Guess what, though? I think I have discovered a 6th love language–or maybe the one that makes all of the others possible. It all came from a conversation that I had today as I was driving to Philadelphia with one of my close friends. Her brother and a friend were asleep in the backseat and we were on I-95 for what felt like 200 miles…felt like the perfect time to talk. I mentioned to her that I wasn’t seeing *him* anymore, and how I wasn’t even all that upset about him specifically–and suddenly this popped out:

“I just really want someone to study me.”

I was taken aback by that thought, but it really does sum up what has bothered me about both platonic and romantic relationships in the past. Let me explain:

Scenario One: My grandmother is family famous for buying things at random throughout the year and designating them as Christmas gifts when the season hits. I am sure that this saves her the stress of a holiday rush, but it means that we sometimes (usually) get gifts that are random. In my case, this has meant the ENTIRE bath set of grapefruit scented Clinique (including talc) or 3 floral cardigans, size 3x.

Scenario Two: My grandfather got me a keyboard for Christmas. I have never played the keyboard. I have never mentioned wanting a keyboard. The keyboard is still in the box that it came in, and one friend has mentioned wanting to take it off of my hands but I haven’t regifted it yet for fear that my grandfather will ask me to play it randomly on a Tuesday.

Scenario Three: I told *him* at least eleventyseven times over the past 9 months that I wanted to spend more time with him. On each occasion, he agreed that this was a thing that needed to happen. It didn’t happen.

In each of these scenarios, there has been me, someone else, and a complete overshoot of how best to love me–and it boils down to being able to study the one you love like your favorite textbook and figure out how best to make them tick. That’s love language 6. The art of the study.

In my phone, I have lists with initials attached to them. These lists have favorite colors, scents, places, hobbies, musicians, etc. One list, titled S.M. has the color red, Boston Baked Beans, The Roots, anything sociology, superheroes and princesses, fo’ the kids. Another, marked MD, also has red–but it has Nas, blue, anything with elephants, sneakers, Skittles, earrings, etc. List TC has gospel music, vegan food and list AB has anime, a favorite brand of wine, nursing and dog paraphernalia. JUs list has Nigerian food,  macarons, recipe books, a favorite flower, and I just added a place in her town that she likes to get food from. There was a list that I’d started called DJC–that had the color blue, watches, music, certain cities, etc. None of the things on these lists were acquired through asking pointed questions. I have found that if you really listen when people talk, you will eventually get everything that you need to know–because everyone’s favorite topic of conversation is themselves 🙂 What I have also found is that people are used to not really being listened to–so when you take them to that local spot to eat or buy them an oil in a scent they love, they are shocked:

How did you know I liked this?”

You told me so.”

I think that what I am looking for–what I am missing– is people who compile lists about me–who love me enough to hear me and translate my love language. I am on a continual search for people that have SO lists and who go out of their way to show honor the way that I really try to be intentional about doing. That love language of studying people–their mannerisms, the songs they hum over and over, what makes their eyes light up–that is the one that makes the hugs and gift giving and rides to the store possible. It creates the “OMG I needed this!”s and the “How did you even guess?”s. It engineers the surprised reactions and the tears.

So yeah, I think that when I am in conversation with my Christian friends—my girlfriends–my searching for something real and we’ll know it when we find it friends–and the topic of love languages comes up, my answer from now on will be study. I feel that I am loved when the research spans pages and the results are tangible. I don’t think that this is too much to ask for, and I know that I love a God that goes above and beyond.

Yours in the waiting,

Steph ❤