Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Removing the Mask and Facing the Mirror

By Jaime Gill


Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who's the fairest of them all? Surely it cannot be me, because if I was those men wouldn't have raped me.

This revision from a line made familiar by the Disney movie Snow White, became the statement that I made to myself as I realized that I was a rape survivor. A survivor of rape.  A girl who was raped. No matter how you say it, the sting of the reality of what happened to me did not get any softer. How did this happen? Better yet, how did this happen to me? At the mere age of 17, I was reflecting that there was something very different about me.

 I was now a rape survivor. 

Raised in a single parent home, I was the baby girl of a family of five. I was very much loved by my family and neighbors, some would even say spoiled. I was protected, supported, and given every opportunity in the world to pursue all of my dreams.  I was the shadow to my older brothers and sisters. I cherished times with my grandparents and my mom and grandmothers were my heroes. My dad and grandfathers were the coolest people I knew.

Honor student, active in school. Former Girl Scout. Friendly to all that I met and knew. How did this happen to me? Why did this happen to me? This was not supposed to happen to me.

 But guess what? It did.

Raped. Three times. Baseball rules say three strikes and you are out and that is exactly how I felt.  I just wanted to go to the store; I just wanted to hang out with friends. How did these very separate days, very separate instances, involving very different people have so many similarities?

 Raped in the back of a record shop. Raped two apartments from my own home. Raped in my boyfriend’s home at a party by his roommates.  Am I cursed? Is God mad at me? This clearly cannot be what life is supposed to be.

So I hid behind a mask. Not a physical mask, but an emotional and spiritual mask. I smiled during the day and I plotted at night. I plotted how to get back at the men that did this to me. That scarred me. That hurt me. During the day, in the public I was one person, but privately I was a different person. I had to be. I had to protect myself from something so heinous and tragic ever happening again. One way one minute and another in the next, but the juggling began to make me tired and confused.  My moods and personalities began to switch at the wrong times in front of the wrong people. The mask became too heavy. I just wanted it all to end. And so I tried to end it.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Unfailing Love of the Father

By Katrinna Harris

By the time I was 13, I was living on my own, living from house to house with whoever would take me in. By the age of 16, I had been raped three times and had tried to commit suicide three times.

 Abandoned and abused, I still knew there was more to life than what I was living. But I could not find it.  I was still a giver and loved people.  I just could not understand why I was born. I often wondered why I was alive. As a matter of fact, I longed for death thinking it would be a relief. I hated living because I could not see a good reason to live in my circumstances.

 I was not raised in a church and didn’t know about God the Father, his son Jesus or the Holy Spirit. I did not have or know anyone I could call on. Manipulated by friends and betrayed constantly, I just thought this was the way of life. That is until God decided one day to pursue me.

Although my earthly father was not there, my heavenly father was always there. I consider it a miracle that God took the time to pursue me. I didn’t know what love was until I met the Father and experienced his love for me.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

These Three Words

By Felicia Bennett

Felicia Bennett and her father, Lavadus Coley, in the early '90s.
Life and death. Two defiant partners who chose to do a 24-hour contra dance on January 8 with the two most important men in my life.

Never in a million years would I expect my father to pass on the exact same day my husband received a cancerous biopsy result.  My emotions were thrust into a tailspin, running towards the Daddy's Little Girl who somehow lost grip of his hand (and her title) decades ago, while suiting up to be the steadfast partner to fight the battle of survival for my husband of nine months.  On this life-changing day, the three most important words that I needed to say to both men were different, yet equally profound. 

My father's emotional absence was a subtle riff my entire life that only grew into a crescendo after he remarried. The emotional detachment grew with every passing milestone.  I learned to love him from afar, and even when he left a trail of broken promises, I learned to step over them instead of scarring my soul.

 A debilitating stroke had me staring down at the shell of a man I once knew, void of all communication as he lay in his deathbed, drawing his last breath. A peaceful sight that erased all other memories.

It was at this moment, beneath that heaving chest I knew there was the heart of a man who once called me his Baby Girl.  I had to let him know that, on the dusk of a cold, January day and his transition, I was here. Bending down, I gently kissed his forehead and let him know what we both needed to hear.

I forgive you.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Lip Gloss, Hot Sauce and a Father's Loving Thoughts: An Open Letter to a Daughter

By John W. Fountain

The following is an excerpt from, Dear Dad, Reflections on Fatherhood.


n a snowy Virginia morning that November when the flakes were falling like white feathers from the blue sky, your mother lay on the sofa in our living room, the pains of early labor coming and going as I stood with a stopwatch, looking more like a nervous coach than an expectant father, making notes each time. And we knew: It was time. Music filled the room—Bobby Lyle’s “Christmas Song”—the sound of soft piano filling the spaces in between your mother’s moans from her contractions. And we knew: It was time.

For months, we had been awaiting your arrival. I had painted your bedroom a soft powder blue, bought a giant stuffed bear, and assembled your crib. We had decorated your room with an assortment of stuffed animals and knickknacks and all the accessories for a new baby, including a changing table laden with Pampers and powder. We had even picked out a name: Imani. It was for me a special name. It is Swahili for the word “faith.”

I needed faith. Years earlier, I had lost it. It is the kind of thing that sometimes happens to people on the road of life from childhood to adulthood, and even along the road from adulthood to the twilight years of life when we all eventually turn aged and gray and the light of life slowly dims in our eyes. Someone said life is what happens while you’re making other plans. And I guess life happened to me. I became a teenage parent. Soon after, I was married with three children, then eventually divorced. I had known poverty as a child, then poverty as an adult. And I had scars from having grown up as a little boy without my natural father. They were not physical scars, the kind that you can rub, touch, soothe, and fade with creams and Vaseline and cocoa butter. But they were scars no lessemotional scars, the kind of scars that do not so easily fade. The scars of rejection. Scars of disappointment. Of fear and hopelessness. I’m talking about the kinds of scars that I never want you to have because of a father’s unwillingness to be in your life. So just as we adults sometimes suffer scars as we stumble along the road of life, there are times when we must also find faith if we are to find hope for healing. And that’s where you come in.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Eating My Way to Healing

She was plagued by poor health until God healed her through her diet

By Rhonda J. Smith

In my primary school lunchroom I would stare at the poster that was screaming at me but I could not understand what it was saying. There were pictures of animals and foods representing the various food groups and a caption that read “You are what you eat.” My 7-year-old mind could only understand the caption to mean “If I ate a cow, I would be a cow.” “If I ate cheese, I would be cheese?” I shrugged, tucking away this early lesson in proper eating and only pulling it back out 27 years later, when the fullness of that message would come to me.

“You are what you eat”: You will be unhealthy if you eat unhealthy. You will be healthy if you eat healthy. After suffering for years with chronic constipation, yeast infections, acne, arthritis, abscesses, extra weight, lesions on my gums, poor circulation, inflammation in my chest and a depressed immune system, I came to understand that most of my health issues were directly related to what I ate. I received this revelation not from family members or health care providers but the Lord Himself after crying out to Him after my umpteenth yeast infection.

Being raised on and cooking fat-laden soul foods in addition to the Standard American Diet (SAD) of meat and potatoes, fried and processed foods with very little fresh fruits and vegetables, like many African Americans from the South, my parents just didn’t have the knowledge to help me. I didn’t have heart issues or “sugar” so they didn’t have a clue that my issues were food related. Even the host of primary care physicians and specialists I went to gave me little help. Of the half dozen or so doctors I saw, only two gave me a dietary plan but then told me I could return to my normal way of eating once my symptoms were gone. The others just gave me a prescription to relieve my symptoms. I never got knowledge on how to prevent the issue so I wouldn’t get any symptoms at all. They simply specialized in pain relief. But God specializes in root relief. He specializes in healing.

God said about Jerusalem: “Behold, I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth” (Jeremiah 33:6 KJV). God let them know that He was not just going to bandage their wounds (health) and give them a remedy to heal (cure) them. He was also going to heal (cure) them and then show them how to have a wealth of soundness (peace) in their bodies and His truth as opposed to the falsehood that they had been receiving. He did the same for me:

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