People get angry when I say things like, “If I get married,” and correct me–almost angrily–with the words, “WHEN! WHEN you get married!” This is a good post summing up my thoughts on the subject.
I recently returned back to the States after nearly three weeks in Western Africa. It was an absolutely amazing, life-changing time, and I’m still reeling from all that I learned and experienced there.
One of the places I visited was Elmina Slave Castle. Located right on the coast, the gorgeous scenery is sharply contrasted by the horrors of its history. Poems are not my strong suit, but I composed one, anyway, following part of my journal entry about it.
May 15, 2015:
I’m more than overwhelmed as I try to sum up my emotions and experience from today.
We got up at 4:30am to head to the slave castles, which was a long drive away; I’m not even sure how long because I ended up falling asleep on the bus, still tired from the bustle of the last few days. After a quick breakfast on the road, we arrived at Elmina Slave Castle. Dr. E had told us prior to the trip that visiting this place (as well as Cape Coast Castle, which we experienced later) would be on the same caliber as visiting concentration camps in Europe, and it was absolutely true. We stepped inside the fortress, admiring the beautiful structure and the waves crashing along the shore, but everything changed when our guide started telling us about the history. For nearly two hundred years in this beautiful castle, African men and women were captured, held against their wills in unspeakable conditions, beaten, starved, tortured, and shipped off as slaves to Europe and the Americas, with women left behind to serve as sex slaves.
There was a cannon ball on the ground, and our guide explained that “rebellious” women were forced to stand chained to that cannon ball for days in the beating sun, with no food or water, and sometimes ordered to pick up the cannon ball and hold it, a difficult task for a healthy man, but nearly impossible for a starved woman. Zarek picked it up and I extended my hands.
“You won’t be able to,” he warned.
“Let me try.”
He slowly placed it into my outstretched hands, supporting most of the weight still himself, and even then, my arms began to shake under the weight of it. I tried to imagine how these women could have done it, and felt a lump rise in my throat. “Take it back,” I whispered, and he did, setting it back on the ground.
As we stepped into the female slave dungeon, I immediately got goose bumps and felt the hair on my arms rise. I don’t know how to describe what I felt. It was as if I could hear the voices of all of the women who experienced the horrors here while the Portuguese and Dutch soldiers enjoyed clean, luxurious rooms and went to church—church! I’m embarrassed to be a Christian—above these hellholes. I could sense their souls crying out to me. Mariah walked over to me and whispered, “Can you feel their spirits, too?”
I nodded wordlessly.
Our guide then took us to a holding “room” (if it can even be called that) with a heavy wooden door and a foreboding skull and crossbones above it. We all stepped inside and then he shut the door, which closed with an echoing thud and left us all in complete darkness.
“This,” he said slowly, heavily, from the other side of the door, “is where the women who attempted to fight off their traffickers were sent, to be made as an example for the other female slaves. They would be shut up in here with no food or water until they died of thirst and starvation.”
My heart was pounding, and I fought against the panic rising in my chest as the voices grew louder and louder, calling out for mercy, for peace, for justice. Our guide unlocked and opened the door and I stumbled out into the blinding sunshine of the courtyard, gasping and utterly overwhelmed. The tears I’d been fighting against all morning spilled over, streaming hot and silently down my face.
Here in this place
where souls were extinguished
and humanity forgotten,
the sun’s warm embrace envelops me;
She is scorched and burned.
I run my hands along the cool stone wall
as she is thrown against it.
The ocean breeze gently kisses my face and caresses my hair;
soldiers strip away her clothes and dignity.
Waves beckon, inviting me to enjoy their frothy playground.
They carry her to her death.
“Akwaaba! You are most welcome here!”
And as her lost voice cries out to me,
I open my eyes and realize
the salt on my cheeks is not from the sea.
While the Bruce Jenner* controversy is at its peak, be very careful about what you are tempted to say about it on social media. Though your gut reaction might be to post a comment/article that articulates your disgust, I beg you to reconsider. Here’s a couple of reasons why.
- Many of you are either looking at porn, or something close to it. I know this because some of the pages and videos that you “like” on Facebook show up on my news feed. You probably don’t realize this, because you keep doing it, and I keep seeing it. Unfortunately, all sexual perversion is a result of human corruption. You have it, I have it too. But you might want to reconsider publicly shaming one perversion when you have another.
- Related to reason #1, you don’t understand the gospel. There is nothing wrong about outwardly expressing your disgust at sin. The…
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Wow, I can’t believe how long it’s been since I last wrote on here! It’s inexcusable, really, but since I last “talked” to you guys, I’ve finished my first semester of grad school with a 4.0 (thank You, Jesus), started my new job (which I love), spent New Year’s Eve in Spain (SUCH a gorgeous country), found out I was accepted to the study abroad program to Ghana this summer (Ahhhhh!!!) was awarded a scholarship that will pay for nearly half of my expenses for studying abroad in Ghana (thank You again, Jesus!!), and spent an amazing, anointed, life-changing week in Jamaica with Beckah Shae, my favorite music artist. Stay tuned for blog posts on that trip; words can’t express how INCREDIBLE it was.)
So, is it any wonder that I haven’t written?! It’s amazing even to me to look at that list of blessings. And I have SO many more to report…coming soon!
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” ~Numbers 6:24-26
My life is pretty crazy right now.
And I don’t just mean being-in-grad-school-while-working-70-hours-a-week crazy. (Although that’s crazy, too. End of the semester, I’m waiting for you.)
I mean crazy in the sense that I’m living an amazing life with all of these incredible opportunities popping up. Doors keep swinging open. Just like Jesus promised, I keep asking, and I keep receiving.
Exactly three weeks from today (WHAT?!) I’ll be taking off for Madrid, Spain, with my best friend of 20+ years, where we’ll close out 2014 and ring in 2015 in the city square. I’ve never been to Europe, so I’m beyond thrilled!
Six weeks to the day from when I get back, I’ll be on a plane again, this one headed to Montego Bay, Jamaica, to volunteer in an orphanage and refugee home for former trafficking victims. My heart has been aching to help again ever since my trip to the Dominican Republic last summer, and I’m so excited to have another opportunity to do so.
(There are more amazing, life-changing opportunities coming up in my life that I can’t share yet, but be on the look out!)
This crazy life has me gone more often than I’m home, facing new challenges and circumstances more than having a stable environment, and frequently leaves me unsure of what’s around the corner.
I wouldn’t change it for the world.
It was a crisp fall day where the warm sun caressed the golden leaves but the strong air still sent shivers through her, goosebumps slowly making their way to the surface of her flesh.
I’m leaving, she said.
The wind caught a strand of hair, dragging across her face. She pushed it away and faced him. He held her captive with his hard, dark eyes. How could she do this to him?
I’m leaving, she said again.
A gently urgent breeze whipped the hem of her skirt around her knees. She wrapped her sweater more tightly around her. He stood there so unrelenting and silent; a standoff in the driveway. He made no move towards her and she stood frozen with her hand on the car door handle.
I’m leaving, she said a third time, after a pause.
The wind wrapped around her completely, insistently, and she shivered. She watched his chest rise and fall with each somber breath.
I’m leaving. A whisper.
A final resigned breeze caught her filmy blue scarf and sent it fluttering down like a flag of surrender. Slowly, slowly, he bent down to pick it up and extended it towards her.
She placed her hand in his and followed him back into the house.
Violins play softly as I sit drumming my fingers on the red checked tablecloth with flickering candles as the only light in the whole room. This is a horrible spot to meet James for dinner. The candlelight, soft music, Italian food…it all spells out disaster. It’s the final piece of the puzzle, the last straw, the point of no return. It officially labels me as a romantic.
I’m independent, not romantic. It’s my thing. My older sister is the pretty one and I am the tough one, the daughter my Dad doesn’t need to worry about even though I don’t have a husband to take care of me. I’m a smart and strong and independent woman and then I have to go and meet James. Wonderful James, who gives me butterflies and makes me do stupid things like smile to myself at work while I dreamily braid my hair and send text messages with kissy faces and x’s and o’s. I even pretended the other day that I couldn’t open the jar of pickles so he would have to come and help me but it turned out the lid wasn’t even screwed on and so he saw right through what I was doing and laughed and kissed my forehead and called me adorable. How mortifying. No, I’ve never felt this way before.
Jeez, I’ve even gone to church with him the last three Sundays. I’ve never been a very religious person. The truth is, airports see more sincere kisses than wedding chapels. The walls of hospitals hear more prayers than the walls of churches. And then I meet James, and he turns everything I think upside down and I contemplate things like religion and heaven and angels and all other kinds of stuff. I start to enjoy going to his church services, and I like the God he tells me about and I start to wonder if maybe my view of God is messed up, not James’s. His God is different than mine. James talks about forgiveness and redemption and second chances and my God sits up on a dark thundercloud in heaven, angry and disapproving and ready to strike down the pathetic mortals for not living up to His expectations. Especially me.
I sip from my wine glass. It’s a wonder James still stays with me; not only stays, but wants to stay. I have a broken soul; I know that. I don’t pretend otherwise. It makes every one else run screaming but James wants to hear about it; he wants to talk with me about what gives me awful nightmares in the middle of the night and why I hate rainstorms. And so I tell, and he listens and just when I start to think that this story, this secret, this skeleton in my closet will be the end of us, will be too much for him to hear, he just holds me and sometimes I think his eyes are full of tears when he says he wants to protect me from ever being hurt again. And I start to believe that he can. And the scariest part is…I want him to. I don’t hide anything from him anymore. I expose it all, and then I wait for him to run, just like other guys did—not that there’d been a lot of them. But there’s something different about James. He doesn’t run. And I don’t want him to.
I wish I didn’t feel this way. We’re all immortal until that first kiss and second glass of wine. I met him when we were in line getting coffee. It was a Tuesday and he said something ridiculous and cheesy like he didn’t know angels flew so low and I got flustered and dropped my coffee all over his shoes and while we were cleaning up the mess he asked for my number and I gave it to him and ran away. So I thought that was the end of it and then that night my phone rang and I answered and then four hours later I was laughing more than I’d ever thought possible and we had made plans for a date the very next day. Eight months later I’m disgustingly head over heels in love, one of those annoying girls who constantly talk about how amazing her boyfriend is and sings “Crazy in Love” in the shower and looks at wedding dresses online. My family keeps asking when we’re getting married. They love him almost as much as I do and I’m just shocked because I’ve finally done something my older sister approves of.
I check the time as the waiter stops by for the fourth time to see if I need anything. It’s not like James to be late. I had actually been the one to plan this date, and he had been so excited. I don’t plan dates. I don’t get excited about them. I say things like, “I don’t care; wherever you want to eat,” and now look at me. I make myself sick. I’d bought a new red dress that was much more sensual than anything I’d ever owned before. Red! It made me feel like a fire engine but I bought it anyway because it was kind of sassy and James loves red and I curled my hair and I was wearing the pearls he’d bought me. I’d even put perfume behind my earlobes. Ugh. I know he’ll love it, though. And yeah, maybe the heart shaped pizza is a bit much, but I’ll just say I hope he doesn’t think I’m too cheesy and then he’ll throw his head back and laugh that wonderful laugh of his, the one that thrills me right down to my toes and then he’ll lean across the table and kiss me. He kisses better than anyone I’ve ever kissed, and my older sister says that I can’t say that because he’s the only man I’ve ever kissed but that’s not true because Billy Driscoll kissed me behind the librarian’s cart in 7th grade and one time this really drunk guy kissed me in a bar and I let him because I was tired of having only Billy on my list. Billy, who cut my lip with his braces and then tattled to Ms. Cambridge that I’d gotten blood all over Pride and Prejudice and I had to face her wrath. The drunk guy had reeked of whiskey and stopped slobbering on me long enough to throw up on the floor and then resume his ardor without even rinsing his mouth and so those were both such awful experiences that they better count for something. Third time’s definitely the charm. James is the best because I can feel the love and sincerity coming right through his lips and I don’t worry about if I’m a good kisser or not because all I can think is, dang, this guy really likes me a lot and so I just kiss him back and he doesn’t complain, so there, Tessa. I used to hate couples kissing in public before, but I don’t protest anymore.
My phone rings, James’s picture popping up on my screen. “Hello?”
“Hey, beautiful.” His warm voice makes my heart beat faster and I start to believe that I am what he always calls me.
“Hi.” I giggle, something I never do except around him. “Where are you?”
“Stuck at work.” He lets out a frustrated breath. “I feel awful, but we might have to postpone tonight. I just can’t get away.”
My heart stops beating. I force my lips to move. “Sure. That’s no problem.”
“You know I wouldn’t miss tonight if there were any other way. My boss—“
“Yeah. No, I know.”
“Tomorrow for sure; I promise. I can’t wait. I gotta go but I’ll call you later, okay, baby?”
“I love you.”
“Love you.” I hang up the phone and sit staring at the dark screen for a moment.
“Signora?” The waiter comes over. “Is your date coming?”
I sigh as I try to stand in the crazy high stilettos I had bought for that night. “No. He’s not.” That’s what happens when you follow your heart.
I leave James a voicemail that night, breaking up with him.