I needed to go through hell once to understand my worth. Hell helped me find my vision for the next years and decades of my life. From time to time, attacks will come your way, and they are like an obligation, a desire for you to know struggle. In my hell, I kept coming back to Psalm 23, kept reading and re-reading the words ‘deepest darkness.’ Looked it up in dictionary and all of this was my hell:

Extending inward, outer limits, considerable distance, difficult to comprehend, mysterious, grave, lamentable, intensely immersed, below level of consciousness, the most intense part.

Hell will make you go deep and there will be darkness all around. But then I remember the words, ‘even if and through.’ Darkness will come. Hell too. But even if they come, go through. When you find yourself extending inward, go through. At your outer limits, sail through. At a considerable distance, move through. Even if difficult to comprehend, or mysterious, grave or lamentable, still pull through. If intensely immersed, push through. Whether below the level of consciousness or at the most intense part, dig through this with the knowledge that he is with you. His rod and staff protect you.

My reasons always for going through. They me always not to be afraid.

All of them, all those that prefer you dwell in hell will see you. They will see how you remain an honored guest. See your cup overflowing. See the goodness and mercy all around you too. That’s what awaits you when you push through the darkness. I did recently and my cup continues to overflows.

Toni Morrison and her son Slade Morrison have a book about mean people I love to read to my kids. It’s my keep for today. To them, people are mean. They frown, they shout, even whisper behind peoples back. Family members are also mean. Fathers, mothers, grandparents, siblings, all of us have mean tendencies that can be confusing to children. I love this because it’s a delightful read and my kids get a kick out of it. But for all the meanness, the advice in the end is truly one to take on any life journey: smile through mean people and things. Smile through it all not matter how challenging everyday life may seem. I have been experiencing meanness lately and quite frankly, I will do as they suggested and smile anyway. Keep smiling. They dedicated this book to brave kids anywhere. Love it.

I am always mesmerized by an interview Chinua Achebe gave on NPR back in 1988. In it he told a story about a tortoise and a leopard. The leopard meets the tortoise on a lonely stretch of road. He had been trying to catch the tortoise for a long time. Tortoise, being a trickster, always found ways to escape. But on this day, he was cornered by the leopard. Even the leopard said to him, ah-ha, now I have got you. Prepare to die. Tortoise said to the leopard, can I ask for a favor, give me a short time to prepare for my death. Leopard, looked around and said, I don’t see why not. Go ahead. But instead of standing and thinking as the leopard had expected, tortoise began to dig a hole and scatter sand all over the road, throwing it in all directions. Leopard asked, what’s going on, why are you doing all of this. To which the tortoise replied: I am doing this because after I am dead, I want anyone passing by this spot and seeing all the sign of struggle on the road to say: a man and his match struggled here.

To Chinua Achebe, the moral of this is the importance of struggle. No one is going to guarantee us the outcome. Nobody is going to say if you struggle, you will succeed. It would be too simple. But if even we are not sure how it will end, whether we will succeed or not, we still have this obligation to struggle. It’s for this reason that I conclude with the following. I want my life, this blog, to be a living testimony of this struggle, whether I succeed or not.

So I see smoke everywhere.

As fire transforms to dust.

I see my people are everywhere.

These days my eyes are closed.

Finding God’s voice is all I know.

If Jabez can pray, I can do the same for blessings, for taking away pain and everything else that weighs me down.

I am a child that came for a journey.

He knows I walk miles he ordained.

Yet, I am restless these days. struggling to come up for air.

Knowing too where there is pain, there is life and dreams, and possibilities for tomorrow.

The story above was also from Chinua Achebe’s book: Anthills of the Savannah.

My son attends a school that was severely damaged by the floods that came through Saint Louis in July. Their entire basement was gutted and all the rooms they use for their sensory activities were destroyed. We started school a week later than most and had to readjust everything with classrooms now in a different location. Change is scary for us. Transitions too and the beginning of the school year is always fraught with anxiety for adjustment and routine and everything else that comes with living life on the spectrum.

Yesterday I picked my son up from school later than usual and I was struck by how calm he was. The old him would have been crying and freaking out wondering if I was coming to pick him up even if I was 5 minutes late. He hates not going home when everyone else is going home. Seeing him, calm made me feel reassured that we are going to have a great school year after all, floods, transitions and all. It’s these little things that matter for me these days. That and seeing the love the students gave back to their teachers for everything thing they have been doing for them especially now with all the change.

I am a proud mother of a child on the spectrum and seeing their humanity on display even as chalk drawing for their teachers car parking lot as a way to thank them for all they do, is my keep for today. Floods may come. Change, transitions, tossing out the old, adjusting to the new may coming along. But in all things, keep the love for the little things in mind, like chalk drawings to say thank you to others.

This is not for your feelings. Or mountains burning with fire. Or places dark and gloomy. Or unending winds and storms. Even if trembling or afraid. Smash those feelings against a rock. For this is not about you.

Rather, this is for those approaching Mount Zion. Those dwelling in the city of God. Those surrounded by thousands of angels. Those with harps singing. Those blazing like the setting sun.

This joyful gathering. This myriad of festivities. This celebration you feel cannot be shaken, cannot be moved. Not when he calls us by name.

I am in awe always of Hebrews 12: 18-24. I remember when a colleague of mine, Edmond Moukala read it at work (UNESCO days). He read it out loud with intensity. At that time, work was terrible and a group of us gathered over lunch to mediate on the word. These were some of the best moments of work. But of all our gathering, (his rendition of the Lord’s Prayer being another favorite of mine) this reading held a special place in my heart.

I still see him reading it with the conviction the words carry. You have not come with your heads bowed low. He didn’t say it this way of course, but that was always my take on it when he started. God did not create me to be small. Rather, like his child, I have approached his throne with the grace that he bestowed on me from the moment he called me. Again, my rendition but that’s what I truly feel whenever I hear this chapter and verses read. I had to make it my own in words that personify my mood these days at work.

This isn’t about you or your feelings. We live in a world full of mountains of egos. Your feelings are yours. Keep them to yourself. Rather, when you come near me, know that Mount Zion resides in me. God’s city and all that adorns it, is me. I hope you leave with the sprinkle of blessings that he showers around those he calls his own. My mood for this year. I pray this year is full of better things than the last. All because of where you have come to. Mount Zion. Those he calls by name.

Why do what we do? Why get in the game even if you don’t know how to play? My answer is simple. If your know your vision, nothing will ever get in your way. And my vision is bigger than me. What you think you see or know about what I do is only 30%. What you don’t see until time is another 70%. Sensible people keep quiet about what they know. I am learning that every day. I never start a journey because I expect it to be easy. I never start one unless the plans are bigger than me. If I am not dreaming, then I am not living. And even when it seems like a dream has come through, I am like a blue ocean that refuses to be still.

So what do I want out of this path I find myself in called public health, more. That’s it. The late Kobe Bryant in his commercial with Kanye West acted this best. I really want more. More grants and all that it takes to succeed or fail in them. More stories too about how you even begin to write them. Of what use is public health if you don’t master the oppressors language and use it for good. Grant writing is me doing what Lorraine Hansberry asked that those young, gifted and black do with all the gifts the have: Write to a point.

I am writing to a point with each grant I write and yea prepared to fail too. Of what use also is research or anything we do in public health without funding. Entrepreneurs never start a business without funding. Churches never go a Sunday service without asking for offerings. How much less public health? It is so much bigger than the papers we write. So much bigger than requests for papers or all the variants advertised about them these days. Which is why I am in the business of ensuring that everything I do in the field begins with the funds in mind.

My vision is to do great work that impacts lives and lasts. I am calling it an ILL (Impact Lives & Last) vision these days because it will need lots and lots of funding. That is why I always begin with grants. Begin to with the process of perfecting the art of writing one. The public deserves this. I will never underestimate the hard work it takes to write one. But when you remember your vision, you keep writing and perfecting the art to a point. Even when the public sees the 30% of the outputs of any grants I write, understand the remaining 70% you don’t and may never see is where dreams are made off.

I am dreaming in public health and doing so my way. Nearly all of academia doesn’t elevate dreams. Nearly all. But if you find yourself in a place or space where dreams are allowed, I hope you dream to a point and give people a reason to want to do more.

Yesterday, we gave an update on LIGHT to our steering committee and I can’t help but envision all the things we intend to do more off. LIGHT is leaders igniting generational healing and transformation with a vision to center the public in public health. The 30% you see of LIGHT keeps us humble. But the 70% you don’t see, is my keep for today. We don’t call ourselves LIGHT for nothing. The public in public health demands LIGHT and we will dream to a point to give it to them. So welcome to our more for LIGHT. Our goals and dreams are to give you more reasons to love poetry, stories, art, letter writing or whatever else the public deserves. Enough of the experts. No offense and yes, myself included. We want to also give more reason to include the public in writing for about their health and those of people they love or care for. More reason to increase demand about the public in public health. More reason to reorder realities in new ways. More reason to fundamentally shift perspectives. More reason to see for ourselves the times we didn’t see. More reasons to hear for ourselves all the times we didn’t hear or listen. More reason to paint pictures about health our ways too. More reason to build on our common values, however long it takes to include the public in public health. This is only our 30%. The 70% of LIGHT unknown to the public startles me. You can be part of this with our new open call below:

‘Like desire, language disrupts, refuses to be contained within boundaries.’ These opening lines of bell hooks essay on ‘Language’ in her book Teaching to Transgress is my muse for today. Not only for the meaning behind these words, but for the simplicity of the lines. I am in the final stages of prepping for my grant writing course for this Fall and beginnings are my muse.

I love grants with beginnings that are effortless. Beginnings that are open, inviting and quite simply refreshing. They usher you in like a wave. Force you to pay attention to the rise and fall, even the moments where you actually dive in to catch the wave. I am inspired by words that take root in my memory. Those that refuse to be forgotten. Their presence in a grant, especially in the beginning of a grant startle me.

If you want to really master the art of grant writing, invest deeply in beginnings that are unforgettable. Begin to with beginnings that disrupt. Those that force connections and spaces for alternative thinking and innovations. We touch one another in language. Excel too with our grants through language. Grant ideas like desire, with language that refuses to be contained are the core of well-written grants. Mastering beginnings of such grants is my muse this fall.

What a week. And we nearly missed posting yesterday. All I can say is there will be days like this when nothing will be done. On those days rest. What you maybe carrying maybe to heavy for you hence the need to rest. Put it down and take a break. It’s okay to do nothing. I did. Slept my afternoon and night away and woke up refreshed and ready to take on the world. Keep resting.

Lucile Clifton once shared, how our lives are a circular stair. It keeps turning through time. To know why, we circle the world and back, one year after the other, is to know light.

I am flooded by the brilliance of light. A majestic ray, that blooms, past the very speed of itself. The very speed of light. Something inside is open, and as present as the very air we breath. Something inside is on fire, it’s flames engulfing this air, I breathe. To know light, is to turn in circles. A never ending spiral of circles, that keeps turning and turning till no end. A spiral of light, that keeps shining and shining with no end. The reason I speak of light, is for you to see what happens when eyes are wide open. Depths too, are wide open. Brilliance is pouring in. Light is pouring out. I am becoming my wildest dreams. Seeing all this illumination within. Makes me look to the mountains above. The one who made heaven and earth. Helps me rise to a light above. I am like an eagle that soars, like an eagle that soars to the skies, an eagle that soars with words to the skies. And light is leading me all the way.

To see him. To see him high and exalted. To marvel at the throne, the robe, the really long robe filling up the temple. To see angels with wings, six wings, two covering their faces, two covering their feet, two for flying. To hear angels calling one another, singing holy, and the whole earth full of glory. To hear the shuffle of sound, doorposts, threshold shaking at their sound and temples full of smoke. To see all of this majestic beauty would leave me speechless. I too am unworthy. What will I do if my eyes sees God? If he asked whom he should send? With arms stretched out and voice crying out. Me. Here I am. Send me.

One of my favorite bible passages is Isaiah chapter 6 and the year King Uzziah died. To see the lord, to see him high and exalted, would give me chills. To even hear him ask whom he should send would cause my feet to shake. I am always his. I too would answer the call and ask for him to send me. When God calls, when you see him too, answer. Just keeping this here as a reminder to myself that I am always ready. You can send me Lord, send me.

I am not quick to describe for myself whether life is this or that.

There are so many different ways to live life. Many different ways to make it your own out of something much deeper than anything that you can describe.

Sometimes you will fail. Sometimes you will succeed.

But life keeps going, almost like the dew on grass which no one knows where it comes from or what to do with it except to cut it off.

To deal with life, to stand one day naked, and look at yourself in the mirror is the real challenge in life.

I have looked at myself, looked at my face, full of dark freckles and dimples that always know when to reappear. I have paid homage to the gap between my teeth, and the moles at the back of my neck where my daddy too once had the same. Deep are the roots between us.

I have seen the flow from my hair follicles to the sole of my feet. Marveled too at the body that birthed three kings and a queen.

I remain in awe of the excess fold, all of it in the right place, all the curves too, in a way I choose to never change.

I have seen too the large mole on the top of my breast, felt a lump once that made me cry, until it wasn’t what I thought it was.

I have known deep love in this skin again, bathed it too with pink rose and vanilla again and again, that it could only be love.

I love this skin I’m in. Love too the curves of my back, the scars on my back, one the shape of a crescent moon, whose pain I’ll never forget.

I seem to forget other scars though, like the one from a broken glass on my right arm, or the one nestled on the side of my left index finger. They call it a birthmark. I call it a kiss from God.

To me, every inch of my being is a miracle. Every fold, every curve, every dark spot here and there, is truly a miracle. My legs are thick and strong, bones too, strong as a bronze. If this is what it means to be made in his image, then I am truly loved, beyond these words I use to speak of life as this or that.

My mood this new school year!