Her cupboards are almost bare
Not totally void of food
But not what she really wants to eat
All of the time.…
They have lots of pinto beans and black-eyed peas—
The kind of stuff mama bought
To stick to your bones—served with cornbread
“The stuff that could stretch”, she’d say.
The refrigerator shelves aren’t too full these days either
Lots of room to store those plastic bowls of homemade chili
And leftover vegetable stew.
Not a lot of sweets—
She seemed to have lost her taste for them
When she started making her dollars count.
Her gas bill has gone down a lot these days too!
Not always cooking on the stove but
She likes eating her greens raw.
Looks good on her too!
She’s not eating as much as she used to
A lot less throwing potato chips in her mouth.
Seems to be mostly fruit and nuts now.
The bruised ones don’t cost that much.
Her cupboards are almost bare—
Not totally void of food
But she’s stretching every dollar
And eating right
Her cupboards are almost bare
Mama’s hands are a symbol of strength and beauty—
Aged gracefully like fine vintage wine
Solid like a rock—a firm foundation
Constant like the sun rising in the East.
Mama’s hands are the ones that gently stroked across my cheek
As she wiped tears away and planted nurturing words of
“You can, “You are”, and “You will be Great”
Mama’s hands are the ones that firmly grasped my small hands.
They said, “You are safe”, “I got you”, and “Follow me as I follow Christ.”
Mama’s hands are the ones that spanked my butt
when I stole that piece of candy—
Testin’ her to see if I could get away with it or if she was payin’ attention.
Those firm whops said, “Baby you gotta learn discipline and self control…”
“And if I don’t whip you now—you gonna pay later”…
At the end of a billy club
Or with your life.
Mama’s hands are the ones that formed soft lathered white puffs of perfume,
Which she gently caressed across my back during bath time—singing ,
“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world—red and yellow black and white, they’re all precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
Mama’s hands are the one’s that created intricate details of fabrics, shapes and patterns—each sewn with miles of thread, woven in and out—in and out
Lace from auntie’s dress, curtains from a kitchen window
A denim square from big daddy’s overalls—
All formed into a quilt of many colors
That kept me warm through the coldest of winter nights.
A quilt of many colors like the coat of Joseph, the dreamer.
Mama’s hands are the ones with strong pointer fingers—
Not the kind that condemn but
The kind that lifted up a hung down head
And made you feel like you were on top of the world.
Like you were special—Truly the Greatest for real!
Mama’s hands are the ones that were clasped together as she knelt in prayer
Going before the throne in her secret closet—
The one that only she and God knew about.
Mama’s hands are the ones that were raised high in the air
In adoration to the Father—
In surrenderance to His will and His plan for her life—
Even going through, He gave her peace in the midst of her storm…
She proclaimed, “Thou art worthy to receive glory, thou art worthy oh Lord—worthy of glory, worthy of honor for thou art worthy oh Lord”…
Mama’s hands are the ones that turned each page of her weathered and torn bible—folding corners of pages that spoke to her spirit…
“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength…” “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart…” “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee” “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most high shall abide in the shadow of the Almighty”.
Mama’s hands are the ones that traveled the mixin’ bowl in spiraled motions,
Stirring the batter for pancakes awaiting the hot cast iron skillet.
Snapping and tearing collard greens and shelling beans, as she recounted stories of her youth—growing up in the country—working in the fields, factories, or sling mops so that life would be better for us.
Mama’s hands are the ones that I will always hold dear to my heart…
The praying hands
Lifted up hands
Kneading and knitting hands
Ointment rubbin’ hands
And strong beautiful hands of mama.
Four years ago on this day, I was nearing an end to my time in Kenya. We had received many invitations to come and eat and to bless the homes and schools of our various hosts. My team called me a trooper when it came to eating the food there in Kenya. I didn’t feel like a trooper, I honestly felt so much better since I had been eating over there…and I wasn’t eating as much. The food was very filling but not wasteful calories on junk.
Every home and school that we visited– they wanted to feed us. Quite honestly, the food was not much different than in the U.S., however it was healthier. The vegetables were always prepared fresh with less salt and sugar than we are accustomed to eating…..their spices were more than enough. I savored each bite like I was taking in a part of the country and part of my lost culture.
One day when we visited a village far outside of Nairobi, we went to the home of one of the pastors. His father and mother greeted us as his own. He said you are “my daughters” from America and when you come to Kenya, this is your home. So when it came time to eat, I realized that it was more than just an invitation to eat the meal that was prepared for us. Eating was my way of saying “thank you for embracing me as your daugthter”, “I am glad to be home” and “I accept your home as my home”.
I had eaten many of the traditional meals that included food prepared with rice, kale, carrots, onions, bananas, mangos, pineapple, greens beans, dried beans, corn (which they called maze), and various types of breads.
It was all organic, without chemicals…low in natural sugar and minimal sea salt.
So when my host offered me to eat some arrowroot, I said “yes”– I trusted them. The color of the arrowroot is purple. It looks like purple streaks inside of a potato type root. The cooking preparation was “lightly boiled”. To me it had the consistency of a fudge but it tasted slightly sweet. I had never tasted anything like it before but knowing that it was nutrituous and high in potassium made it more enjoyable with every bite.
Like an invitation to eat of the ‘bread of life’, we must always remember that although the taste may vary– we cannot always say “no” when given an invitation to eat.” Someone prepared the table for us… and our eating says “thank you”. Thank you for the sacrifice and so much more…
Before we left, our hosting team leader asked me to pray God’s blessings upon the house…so I did and I was truly grateful and blessed that they had extended an invitation for me to eat. Thought for today: What invitation to eat has been extended to you? What will your answer be?
When I was a little girl growing up in the early 60’s, I would always hear my mama singing an old spiritual/gospel hymn, “Walk with me, Lord, walk with me. Walk with me, Lord, walk with me | While I’m on this tedious journey, I want Jesus to walk with me. As I grew older those words became life for me. [I still sing them often, as I cry out to God. MY plea is for Him to be with me in everything– through it ALL. I want Him to lead the way.] I realized long ago that “Walk” is such a multidimensional word. It also epitomizes my life in action and how I always want to make sure that the Holy Spirit lives within me and saturates who I am. As I’ve been looking at how we, as a society, often inject our views and opinions into other people’s lives– How they do or don’t praise God. My gentle reminder is… It’s important that we take a little time and walk in our sister or brother’s shoes. (or at least try to). In the late 90’s I wrote this poem, “Walk a Little in My Shoes”, to remind myself about the many expressions of praising God in our walks… sometimes it’s quiet– sometimes it’s loud but whatever way that we express our praise let it be reflective of our true place– Our Walk– Our Hearts.
Walk a Little in My Shoes
You look at me in wonder
Oh it seems so strange
The way I lift up Jesus
And sing praises to His name.
I jump on many occasions
Sometimes I stomp my feet
When I think of all He’s done
So much in just one week.
He healed my afflicted body
Gave peace to my weary soul
Provided food and shelter
An entire family clothed.
Oh it seems so strange
The way I scream and shout
But walk a little in my shoes
See how He brought me out.
He’s my counselor, my protector–
A light at the tunnel’s end
And when I’m feeling lonely
In Him I have a friend.
Keep walking in my shoes
For this you need to see
My Savior’s been a constant source
Everything I need Him to be.
I shout because I remember
Just where He brought me from
A place of desolation
The bottom of life’s drum.
Oh I scream and shout with laughter
It rings from within my soul
No one knows from whence He brought me
It was a bitter cup to hold.
Keep walking in my shoes
See everything I see
Why I praise my Lord and Savior
Who died to set me free.
I don’t always have the answers
My search seems to have no end
I’m often doused with questions
The enemy seems to send
So at times I’m loud and noisy
Other times I sit quietly
But whatever way I praise Him
A freedom it always brings.
Walk a little in my shoes
Open your eyes and see
We have a right to praise our Savior
Who paid with Calvary
Copyright 1999 Annie Ruth, Reprinted from Reflection: A Collection of Straight Talk and Inspirational Narratives.
It warmed my heart to see so many young people at Dada Rafiki this past October. These young women in the photo made their outfits for that evening….Thank you again to the all of the committed youth leaders that brought young people out. I thought I’d share [A choral love letter to our little sisters… written during My Sista My Friend Young Women’s Conference 2016 by adult conference participants.] I think it’s an appropriate message of what we should be pouring into our young sisters.
What I want you to know sister… You are you, and that is beautiful. You are you and that is wonderful. When I look at you I see love, hope, and beauty that I had something to do with. Beautiful imperfections that make perfection Love, peace, wisdom and understanding. You were created for a purpose here on earth. You have to surround yourself with things and people who lift you up and direct you to pursue your purpose. Don’t be afraid to dream big. Be a role model. Smart, innocent, a sponge soaking up life how it is taught. Do your best at everything you do. No limit to where you can go. Flow. In the Spirit. Fly on His wings. Embrace the King my Queen. You are worth it. Speak life into each other. You can turn your dreams into reality. Show love to whoever you meet. Pass it on. When you think better, You do better…you are better. Our Creator, Great and Mighty poured His love into you. Wonderfully made. The essence of love is you. Beauty bounces all over you. Your eyes smile. God sees you and smiles. You are his Beloved.
My last note that I wrote about my trip to Kenya in 2014 was a reflection of how it transformed my life. I started the first day with a visit with the children at the Happy Life Orphanage and I ended my last day at the same place. But this time I just didn’t visit the children, although they were filled with “lots of jambos” (hellos). On this visit the team and I went to provide pampering for the many workers who care for the children.
I didn’t go with the intention of washing anyone’s feet but I did on this day. We had scheduled a beautiful sister who does hair to give the staff a manicure and pedicure but we ended up with more women sitting in the room than we had anticipated. They all came into the room and removed their shoes. I said to one of my team members, “I think these sisters are looking forward to a pedicure”. She replied, “no I just think it’s their custom to remove their shoes when entering the room”.
Well needless to say, it was their custom to remove their shoes but they were also looking forward to having a pedicure….so although I couldn’t give a pedicure, I did realize that I could serve them…. And serving was the main reason that I came to Kenya.
So I got the hot water and cold water, a bar of natural soap and a 6oz. bottle of Spearamint and Eucalyptus lotion and began to was the feet of the women. There were lots of women in the room and I didn’t know where to start so I started with the eldest woman and worked my way down by age.
The eldest woman, I called “mama”. Mama was the cook who prepared the meals for over 90 children on a daily basis. Although cooking may be the microwave and processed version in the United States. Mama didn’t cook like that. She prepared fresh vegetables, rice, porrage, fresh juice– all over a fire made with wood and large metal pots. (Mama– and the rest of these women stayed on their feet all day working and many walked to work to serve the children).
This was our day to serve them so I put all of my little feelings about touching other folks feet on the back burner and I washed those sister’s feet like I was washing the feet of my children. I washed in between the cracks and crevices; I rubbed the hard soles and massaged them as if I were washing my own feet.
As I knelt on the floor on my knees for over 2 hours, the sweat poured from my face but I put love and care ito every woman’s feet. Many of them asked me to bless them as Jesus had done for his disciples…..so I spoke goodness into their lives as I continued to wash.
I thought I had finished washing the sisters’ feet because I had used up all of the hot water and cold water in my basins and there wasn’t any water left except for the previous water washing. The sister came through the door a little later than the others. Shge had been caring for the children and then she asked, Will you wash my feet”… It didn’t matter to her that the water was used or dirty…. it was special that her feet were washed.
This trip taught me so much more than my first visit to Kenya almost 10 years ago. I learned for certain that God has called and chosen me to serve….first Him, then my famiy and then my community…. I am thankful to Our Creator and , most certainly my family, for sharing me with the world and I will never forget the lesson that I learned in “washing my sister’s feeet……..
I am simply the vessel
Which holds and releases the living water.
I am not the water
Nor do I have the ability to
Quench thirsty souls.
I am simply the vessel
Which allows the living water to flow freely.
I am not the source of the flow
Neither am I the source of
power that affects
Change in the hearts of men.
I am simply the vessel
Which was chosen for a specific purpose.
I am not the sustainer of life
For it is the living water which sustains me.
I am not the river of life
For it is in Him that I have abundant life.
It is His life that enables me.
I am simply the vessel which
God has chosen
To use at this particular time and place—
Simply the vessel which chooses to be
Copyright 1999 & 2006. Reprinted from This is Your Season and The Making of a Sista Friend by Annie Ruth