The Hope of Spring

Daffodils.jpg

Spring has always been a very special season for me. One reason, I am certain, is that my birthday falls in April. And, sometimes my birthday falls on Easter Sunday, a day which in my life carries the greatest significance—the day my Lord ascended into heaven, giving His life for me…how will I ever fully comprehend this? Simple—I won’t. But somehow knowing the Lord loves me unconditionally, knowing His unending grace and mercy towards me, gives me a peace that I will never fully comprehend.

I have such fond memories of white birthday cakes in the shape of an Easter basket, topped with yellow and pink floral icing…the sound and smell of a thunderstorm passing through…the smell of freshly-mowed grass…the chirping of birds creating beautiful melodies that echoed through the woods surrounding my home…the sound of the stream as I swung on vines crossing it…playing Tarzan and Jane with my brother…white dogwood trees…a cornucopia of flowers…tulips…daffodils…hyacinths…all filling every nook and cranny in the woods…such childhood memories I will always cherish…

Then there is the memory that lives with me every moment of my life…I have, yet, another birthday in April. It was twenty-one years ago this coming April 27 that I took my last alcoholic drink.  Yes, alcohol was taking over my life at the age of 43. But by God’s grace and the love of my daughter and son, an intervention was called on me by my family.  I knew I had a problem, but was embarrassed to ask for help for so long,..that afternoon my help came…within a few hours I entered the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, CA…my life was about to turn around…I had hope again…for thirty days I lived and studied and worked and fellowshipped with other women like me…I knew I was not alone, that alcohol can grab onto ANYONE when they least expect it…it is insidious…it destroys relationships…it destroys lives…

Today I live a sober life. but not a day goes by that I don’t thank the Lord for my sobriety or ask Him to keep me sober another day…and does this mean that my life is forever sunny?…absolutely not!…but it does mean I can always “smell the raindrops” along the way.

In Honor of MLK Day

Wednesday, April 4, marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. I remember that day all too well…Black History Month was celebrated/and continues to be celebrated in February— we use the month to remember the important contributions and achievements of African Americans throughout our nation's history. But for me Black History month is ever-present every month.

British portrait painter, John Simpson, painted “The Captive Slave” in 1827.  The slave trade was still a controversial moral and political issue.  Simpson portraying a heroic image of a manacled man was very bold at the time. Ironically, the model for his “slave” was the free-born son of a lay preacher in New York who would go on to have an  important career on the London stage. 

   John Simpson, “The Captive Slave”, 1827, Chicago Institute

John Simpson, “The Captive Slave”, 1827, Chicago Institute

The entire focus is on the sitter, robed in brilliant red attire, light radiating on his manacled wrists, large and powerful hands, his broad chest, his expressive upward gaze…his gaze tears me to my core…what is he thinking, praying?..is he looking for an answer for help from God?…maybe he is asking God why he has been forsaken?…or is he calmly, with no struggle, relinquishing his mortality, knowing his fate cannot be changed?…his entire being conveys a historical time, and yet transcends time…

This painting has special meaning to me for several reasons. Having grown up in Memphis, Tennessee in the 1960s, I knew all too well what prejudice and segregation was all about. I remember the separate water fountains, take-out windows, seating on buses, the mean, ignorant stares and comments made by my classmates, assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the curfew that was mandatory around the city…none of this sat well with me…I am grateful I had a mom and dad who were open and respectful to all people. They instilled this value in my brothers and me.

And then there was Karine, the Black women who raised me for 13 years as if I were her own. She was family.  She carried herself with great dignity, proud who she was.  She taught me all about heaven, God’s love for me. Most importantly, she simply and unconditionally loved me. Though Karine left this earth and entered those pearly gates she spoke about so often many years ago, she is my angel,  forever walking by my side.

 Karine and me, 1964.

Karine and me, 1964.