Each semester in my freshman Comp classes my students read How it Feels to be Colored Me by Zora Neale Hurston. We discuss this marvelous essay and then the students write their own. It’s a brilliant exercise in introspection that I am particularly fond of imposing on others. I rarely engage in it myself, you understand. I am the all-powerful professor with research to do, meetings to attend, and papers to grade. Besides, introspection is hard.Since I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for years, but never know where to begin, I decided to assign myself this first blog entry. As I sit here in my pajamas in front of the computer my hands are sweaty and shaky and my heart beats fast. This is probably a bad idea. But I tell myself no one will read it except my mother and Heathcliff (sister-in-law), and they won’t judge me. They already know it all and love me anyway.
I am a Christian and technically Southern Baptist, but those labels concern me because of what they’ve come to mean to a lot of people. I want them to mean that I love Jesus and gay people and everyone else, and that I’m here to be a problem solver, caretaker of the earth, and reliever of suffering. I want them to mean I’m Bible literate. Culture engaged. That I have no agenda—just grace. I want them to mean that I struggle with doubt and failure and that’s okay; it’s honest. But on the world stage I think those terms mean Mike Huckabee. At best, misguided; at worst delusional, ignorant, and arrogant.
I am from a small town in the south and I am white. I want that to mean that I love fried food, country music, and black people. I want it to mean that I’m friendly, hospitable, and kind. That I know the value of simple things like sitting in the porch swing with my husband, watching our kids chase lightning bugs. That I’m a hard worker. That I know how to garden and can tomatoes and make wild muscadine jelly. I want it to mean that I’m proud of Flannery O’Connor, Maya Angelou, and Johnny Cash, and ashamed of the south’s heritage of hate. I’d never live anywhere else but Arkansas and yet I’m so ashamed, and so sorry for the dark parts of our history that I’d like to burn every confederate flag I see (and that’s a lot of flags).
I’m also a mom. I think my kids are the most amazing humans on the planet and yet I worry every day that I’m messing them up. My home is on a farm called the Triple F Ranch. We have a sort of clan-style arrangement with my brother and Heathcliff’s house on one side of ours and my parents’ on the other. It’s the only place in the world where I really fit in. I teach English at a college, write books, and play the piano at my church; and I try to be healthy by exercising and eating mindfully because I was once very addicted to food. Actually, I still am. But I work at not letting that control me every day.
Which is why I must wrap this up. Gotta run.I have no agenda--just grace. Click To Tweet
Ps. Photo is my response to Heathcliff’s text asking what I am wearing today. Thought since I was baring my soul I might as well start with an honest picture too.