Friday, February 26, 2010
When my daughter was about five years old I fell into a depression. I don't recall ever having a history of it. I know that sometimes we all have depressed moments or periods of time when we feel under a dark cloud. However this was so much more than that. I suffered bouts of darkness and sadness. Nothing usually horrible happened.
Times weren't any worse than that typical, but something within me caused a numbness. I would wake up in the morning and send my daughter off to HeadStart and spend the time she was gone crying. When I heard the bus pull up to drop her off I would turn off the water works and be business as usual. She'd be out side playing and I would be in the house with tears streaming down my face, frustrated with myself for not knowing what the hell was wrong. The phone would ring or someone would come visit and I would turn it off like a light switch.
I lost the desire to get on my knees each day and pray or to go to Sunday services. I lost the desire to go out and socialize. If it weren't for my sister that year there would have been no Christmas tree or decorations in the house at all. I didn't know what came over me and I couldn't shake it.
I remember waking up one Sunday thinking how tired I was. My thoughts urged me to get dressed and go to church.
"Naw, I don't feel like it," I told myself. "I just don't want to be bothered"
I began to do some housework, it had been days since I had vacuumed or mopped or did laundry. I began to catch up on house cleaning.
About an hour had passed and the stronger urge to get dressed and go to church came upon me. Again I shook it off and continued doing some other tasks that could certainly have waited for another time.
About 45 minutes after that as I was running dishwater I heard a voice in my house say "GO TO CHURCH, NOW!" It was so strong and so clear that I turned to see who was talking to me. I could not see the person speaking to me but the prompting was so clear and strong that I dropped what I was doing, Got dressed and walked over to the church. I would be getting there just in time for thenlast hour which was Relief Society.
I walked into the building in my "leave me the hell alone." armor When I got into the Relief Society room I sat in the 2nd to last row away from everyone sending a clear message that I DID NOT WANT TO BE BOTHERED. I crossed my legs, folded my arms and avoided eye contact with everyone. Even my choice of clothing reflected the fact that I didn't want to be there: University of Michigan Sweatshirt, Jean skirt, pair of Rebooks, hair pulled back in a ponytail. The Relief Society Sisters got the message loud and clear. Many thoughts raced in my mind: "Why am I here?" "What's the point?" I could be home doing dishes or laundry.
The sisters settled into their seats and the typical announcements were made.
The pianist began to play the opening song. I sat quietly and listened to the sisters around me sing:
"Our Savior’s love
Shines like the sun with perfect light,
As from above
It breaks thru clouds of strife.
Lighting our way,
It leads us back into his sight,
Where we may stay
To share eternal life...."
By the end of the first verse I felt tears rolling down my cheek.
The song continued:
"The Spirit, voice
Of goodness, whispers to our hearts
A better choice
Than evil’s anguished cries.
Loud may the sound
Of hope ring till all doubt departs,
And we are bound
To him by loving ties."
By the end of the second verse:
I was quietly sobbing and 2 sisters had moved to either side of me and a third sister behind me had draped their arms around me, literally holding me together(so I wouldn't fall apart) and without knowing what I was going through, they cried with me.
I had heard that hymn, sang the words so many times. Never before had the word penetrated so deeply into my soul then they did that day.
I knew my Heavenly Father loved me. I had heard it so many times and I believed it. I still believe it. My head knew it. In my heart I knew it too. On this day at that moment in time I felt it. I Felt it in my soul and the moment I did my heart overflowed with so much emotion I could not physically contain it. My body trembled as my Relief Society sisters held me together and sobbed with me.
Although my Heavenly Father could not physically wrapped his arms around me during that dark and depressing time he sent me to his house where
"Hope rang till all doubt departed."
And where I could feel that bond with him through the loving "ties" I have with the sisters in the congregation.
This was about 15 years ago and each time I recall the experience it feels as if it were just yesterday. I Still can't get through that song without choking up and blinking back tears.
It reminds of how important it is to be in places where the Lord can reach us. It is true that The Lord can and will reach us where we are. He has the ability to do that.
We have to remember to seek him. And even more importantly WHERE are we seeking him?
I had a friend once tell me she doesn't believe the Lord answers prayers. She prayed real hard one day about a problem she was having and then headed to the bar. Woke up the next day with a hangover and very ticked off that she didn't get an answer to her prayer. I suggested to her that sometimes where you look for answers has much to do with how you get them.
She angrily replied
"God has the ability to answer me no matter where I am and what I'm doing."
She's right. God DOES have the ability to answer us no matter where we are and what we're doing.
He also has the ability to stop world hunger, wars, tummy aches and poverty. If we were rescued by our carelessness and lack of desire to take responsibility we would never learn to be accountable for our choices.
We are encouraged to :"Stand Ye In Holy Places" And to humble ourselves, overcome the hardness of our hearts and our pride, and seek his help.
I'm willing to be wrong, but I would bet my tithing that very few prayers are answered down at "Cheers" over a brewski.
I'm not judging you. Say your prayers and have your beer. God speaks to us all in different ways. He just might show up, he DOES know how and where to find you. But do we know how and where to find HIM?
1 Kings 19:11-12
11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
I'm so blessed that "still small voice" knows how to reach me and I'm not so tuned out that I can't hear it.
It makes since to me for the Lord to speak to us when we're still, tired, broken down, exhausted, depressed... and have had enough and can't take it. I think it is in this state that we are less defensive, more ready to listen to it instead of battling it. We can hear better in this state. It's sad that we have to be down and out,tired, the end of our rope and broken to finally pay attention to it.
God is not going to shout above the Big Screen TV at Mo's to get our attention. When asking him questions the polite thing to do would be to listen. We give each other this courtesy but not our Father in Heaven.
This is NOT a hard concept, you do it on a daily basis with people. But I guarantee you most people will mistake NO answer for the answer they don't want to hear.
I'm grateful that at a time when I needed to feel that loving bond with my Father in Heaven I was lead to the place where it could and did happen.
My Grandma said to me once
"the only hands God has are ours."
He does use or tries to use us all to bless each other. To be blessed by the hands of God it would make sense to hang out where his people would likely be.And that's not JUST in a church building.
I don't always go to the right places and hang with the right people when I need to feel our Saviors Love. But it's never really failed me when I have.
And it's always in the back of my mind when I go lookin for love in all the wrong places.
Monday, February 8, 2010
"Our feet cracked open and bled until you could see the whole prints of our feet with blood on the ground."
Jane Elizabeth Manning James bore this testimony as part of her life story.
IF there is one defining moment I have as a Black LDS woman it would be the moment I found out there were Black LDS Pioneers. For years growing up on Pioneer Day or the Sundays where Pioneer day was talked about I would listen to the stories of the great great grand children of those who had relatives who lost their lives or, suffered great hardships walking across the plains to "Zion." I would sit and listen to the stories of how great great Grandpa Hezekiyah or Dear Aunt Levondia Young lost a toe or commanded their half dead ox to "RISE AND BE WHOLE" so it would continue the journey from Nauvoo to SLC. In the back of my mind was that little voice of one of my great-great ancestors saying
"man, what I sho wouldn't give to be free to walk off this plantation and walk across the plains with some pioneers."
The way I saw it, Hell, at least they were free to walk. They were free to stop walking, turn around and walk someplace else too. No matter how hard the trials, they were free.
So Imagine my surprise when I learned there was black LDS pioneers who came across the plains! Black pioneers became almost an obsession with me: Who were they, where did they come from, did they remain faithful, and WHY is this not shared knowledge in the history of the church? I WAS HOPPING MAD when I found out too. Do you know what kind of example and strength this could have been to me while growing up? Well I was gonna make sure I told the story of these pioneers any chance I could.
The first one I ever learned about was a Free Black Woman Named Jane Manning. She joined the church about the age of 19 and shortly after she and her family ( brothers, sister and mama) Set out the join the LDS Saints in Nauvoo, IL. She and her family walked over 800 miles to get there. That's right I Said 800 miles on foot.
"We walked until our shoes were worn out, and our feet became sore and cracked open and bled until you could see the whole print of our feet with blood on the ground. We stopped and united in prayer to the Lord; we asked God the Eternal Father to heal our feet. Our prayers were answered and our feet were healed forthwith."
She arrived in Nauvoo with her family and after all in her family found homes and employment of their own, she stayed in the home of the Prophet Joseph Smith. They employed her and gave her a home later asking her if she wanted to be adopted/sealed to them as one of their children, part of their family, to which she declined.
Through out her years she met and married Issac James and then later traveled from Nauvoo to Salt lake city with her husband and 2 sons in a Pioneer company. Although the journey was long and hard she remained strong and steadfast. Sharing all she could along the way.
Excerpts from the journal of a fellow pioneer woman express the Christlike example Jane was to so many.
From the journal of Eliza Partridge Lyman:
"April 13: Brother Lyman [Eliza’s husband] started on a mission to California with O. P Rockwell and others. May the Lord bless and prosper them and return them in safety. He left us . . . without anything to make bread, it not being in his power to get any.
April 25: Jane James, a colored woman, let me have two pounds of flour, it being about half she had."
To understand the depth of such giving, There were pioneer companies who at some point had to ration meals to four ounces of flour a day.
And there was no "BIGGIE SIZING" it. So to receive 2 lbs of flour was a GREAT sacrifice and blessing. 2 lbs of flour probably saved the life of that family.
Jane Manning James was the first free black woman to live in the Utah Territory. Her daughter Mary Ann was the first black child born in Utah.
I stand amazed at the power and faith she had in knowing she would be blessed and taken care of through all of her trials. To suffer the trials of being a black woman during those times as well as the trial of being a Mormon during those times was a two fold double punch in the gut. However in part of her life story she states:
“Oh how I suffered of cold and hunger,and the keenest of all was to hear my little ones crying for bread, and I had none to give them; but in all, the Lord was with us and gave us grace and faith to stand at all.”
Each time she shared her life story, the trials and tribulations, she never EVER forgot to give props and thanks to the man upstairs for her many blessings.
Her husband left her and her children for 20 years and then returned to her not wanting to die alone. She welcomed him back and took care of him until he passed aways.
Later in life she was interviewed about her life and she shared these words:
“I have seen my husband and all my children but two (of eight) laid away in the silent tomb but the Lord protects me and takes good care of me in my helpless condition.”
The life story of Jane's courage, strength, endurance, and faith is an example to all who read about her.
She ends her life story with the following testimony:
"[My) faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter‑day Saints is as strong today–nay it is, if possible, stronger–than it was the day I was first baptized. I pay my tithes and offerings, keep the Word of Wisdom. I go to bed early and arise early. I try in my feeble way to set a good example to all."
May we all be so "feeble."
A Monument of Jane Elizabeth Manning James was dedicated on June 5, 1999 in the Salt lake cemetery. This work was commissioned by the LDS Genesis Branch. Not only was I front and center at this dedication, Imagine my amazement when I was honored to be the voice of Jane and asked to read her biography at the dedication. What a humble honor I will always hold dear to my heart.
I am nothing like the strength and dedication that Jane Elizabeth Manning James was. I've buckled under less circumstances.
I remember the first time I told my mama about the black Mormon pioneers and how much I hated pioneer day and the story of the pioneers. She let me in on a little secret informing me that I, too was a pioneer. Having been a black LDS member since She and my father were baptized in 1973. 5 1/2 years before my father would be blessed with the Priesthood. There are many who will always turn their back away from the church because of previously practiced traditions and beliefs. The time will come when those will come to me and my siblings and look for those examples of strength and testimony that I look to Jane and many others for. I, too am a pioneer and never new it until the moment my mother informed me of it.
It is important to remember that at some point our whole country was in turmoil over racial prejudices. And those leading the government, churches and many other areas of leadership were products of time and circumstances. The Lord will only allow men to get so far in their own planning before he puts his ultimate plan in place. Being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is proof positive to me that The Lord Has a plan and he is working it. He knows when the timing is right and he knows when the children of the Earth are ready for it. We must accept progress and move it forward. We must know where we are going BECAUSE we know where we've been. I feel for anyone still holding grudges to those passed mistakes that the Lord has stepped in and correct for I am CERTAIN he is telling us.
"I have righted your wrongs, don't let passed injustices stop your progression. Move forward and make it better for those who walk behind you"
Thank you, Jane, I hope someday you'll look at me and say... "that's my sista, keep on keepin on!"
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
This post is mostly in Response to the recent comment left by one of my adoring fans ;)!
"I'm lost you say your LDS yet almost all the music in your player is from NONE LDS artists. They are Christian artist that will sing and believe in the trinity, sing about the cross and other things that the LDS faith does not. If you are so proud of your LDS faith why don't you have more LDS music on there? None of the music you have on your player would ever be played or sang in a LDS church."
Thanks for pointing out the music on my player. I'm not sure how many LDS church meetings or firesides (prayer meetings) you've been to but I, and many others have actually Sang some of those songs in or at LDS church meetings,programs, talent shows, funerals, etc.. It may not be what you might normally hear in a typical LDS Sunday Meeting however it's been done. I've personal done it. And because my singing is so bad I've had the pleasure of being with several other LDS Members who have done it with me. For me to try it solo would surely be a sin!
That being said, I don't have MOST of the spiritual music I enjoy on here. I'm very proud of the Grammy Award Winning Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Grammy Award Winning Saints Unified Voices... The Mormon "Gospel" Choir so to speak. I get to hear them ALL THE TIME! :) And They've both covered different arrangements of some of the songs in the playlist.
But I love your comment,because it's 1 example how people think Mormons are.
Because I'm LDS so I should only listen to LDS music, right?
And we can only sing Songs featured in our LDS Hymn books, right?
WRONG! That's just as wrong as thinking If I'm so proud to be black I should only listen to black music because no other kind of music would ever be played or sang at a black Family reunion, right? Meh, not so much. (Remind of to tell ya bout the time we busted out with Billy Idol's Mony Mony about 20 years ago. That was awesome!)
I like music of all kinds. And I pointedly didn't put much of what you might call Typical LDS arrangements of music on here in my first shift of songs because I do hear it all the time and because I put on what I'm in the mood for at the time. Also because just all one type of music doesn't reflect MY personality and this is MY blog. So it's all about me and MY point of view. :)
In the meantime my playlist will eventually be full. I've got 1/4th of the music on it that I like. I have 150 more songs to go. Trust that there will be Mo'tab and SUV, Divine Heritage, Alex Boye, Jericho Road, Janice and Stephen Capp Perry music on it when it's complete. But there will also be some Winans, Al Green, Statler Brothers, and probably some Amy Grant, Point of Light, Anointed, Mary Mary and many others ss well. When I'm moved to add them to the playlist, I will add them.
PS... in our 13th Article of Faith, The Last sentence states: "if there is ANYTHING Virtuous, lovely, or of good report or PRAISEWORTHY, we seek after these things."
Thanks, DezaRay, for taking an interest in my music selection!