Love, Longsuffering, and Loss

Happy Anniversary wishes from our daughter!

Happy Anniversary wishes from our daughter!

I've been taking a bit of a break from social media and internet for awhile, and so I missed my annual anniversary post this year. But I am happy to announce that we recently marked 18 years of marriage on September 11!! I could not be more thrilled!! I feel like every year for us is a miracle!! We have faced so many challenges as a couple, and yet God has been faithful to bring us through them all, and He continues to walk us through all of the challenges and joys of life...together.

I recently wrote a post listing 5 reasons I did not divorce my husband in the midst of his mental health challenges. I felt like it was an important post to write, because of the alarming statistic that marriages with a spouse with Bipolar Disorder have a 90% failure rate. I only listed 5, but of course I could come up with more. But the most obvious reason, and one I left off the list, is because...bottom line...I love my husband.

Now, I will be honest in saying that my love for my husband has been tested in more ways than I ever could have dreamed of. I think that one of the reasons that I left "love" off the list is because there comes a time, or many times, when love simply is not enough to sustain a long term commitment such as marriage. At least, not love in the way our culture describes it or thinks it is.

When we got married, we had 1 Corinthians 13 read at our wedding. Since much of my job involves playing violin for weddings, I can tell you that this is one of the most often quoted passages read from the Bible during the ceremony. But I can guarantee that young couple has NO clue what those verses actually MEAN!!! I know I sure didn't!

The very FIRST descriptor of love in this beautiful, poetic chapter, is this:

Love is PATIENT.

Or, I like what the Old King James version says: Love suffereth long.

Do people really know what that means?

It goes on to say, "love bears all things".

Do you know what else the Bible says love is? God is love. Jesus Christ is love. I am convinced that we are unable to love in our own strength, and in our own power. It takes a power far greater than ourselves to suffer long and bear all things. When my husband was gone, it was love in the form of Jesus that kept me and my daughter...it was His love through me that kept me waiting for my husband to come home.

And even after the triumph of his return to us, that theme of patient love has continued. I've mentioned that in March, my husband had to switch medications. The one he was on, that had worked SO well, was causing unpleasant and potentially dangerous side effects, so it was in his best interest, according to his provider, to switch. It can be a very long, tedious process to have to start completely over on new medication, and this time has been no different. I was told by his medical team that the rule in an outpatient setting is to "start low and go slow", when it comes to introducing new medications. It takes time to build up the medication in the body and watch for side effects, and it is easier to do in small increments when the person is not in an inpatient setting where they can be monitored 24/7. So it goes like this: start a dose. Wait a month. Monitor symptoms and reactions. Return to the caregiver and give a report. Make adjustments. Wait another month. Wash, rinse, repeat, until the medication gets to a therapeutic range for optimum maintenance and function. It's important to do it this way, because these medications are hard core...they can provide amazing relief of symptoms, but they can be hard, and even dangerous, on the body. In some cases, they might exacerbate symptoms. Unfortunately, it can be a crap shoot...it may or may not work, and it is only trial and error until you find out what works. This is one reason why people can get overwhelmed with treatment and give up. It's just HARD, and it takes so LONG.

So in March of this year, Scott started a new medication. And it has gone like this: 150mg-200mg-250mg-300mg-350mg-400mg. That is SIX adjustments, and it has taken SIX months. So far. And in these past 6 months, we've had to monitor symptoms and side effects. For myself and our daughter, we've had to live with my husband as his body and brain adjusts to these changes. Which has meant some breakthrough symptoms...and, well, let's just say it has been challenging at times. Especially when you throw anosognosia into the mix...in other words, my husband did not always have the insight to understand that he was symptomatic. So for him, nothing was ever wrong. Fortunately, there were no major crises or need for drastic interventions. But it has been something we've just had to wait out, while the meds and his caregivers do their thing. To my husband's credit, he has been faithful to take the meds as prescribed, he goes to all scheduled appointments, and he also allows me in on his appointments and lets me interact with his team. This would allow me, if need be, to call on his behalf to report any emergencies, or give insights to his team that he himself does not have. He does not have to do any of that, and yet he truly is being proactive in taking care of himself. For that, he is to be commended.

Still, I'm not going to lie...it has been a struggle. This new medication has been, at times, a point of contention between us, since he has liked it, and I have not been so sure it is a good fit.

So in the name of self-care, which I believe is important, I reached out for some support. I did something that, in 18 years of marriage believe it or not, I've never done...I joined a support group.

Not just any support group. I found an online Christian support group for people who have a mental health diagnosis, and their loved ones. It is part of an amazing ministry, founded by a pastor with a Bipolar Diagnosis, who himself went through some major challenges in his life and now God has redeemed his story and is using him to bring help and hope to others. Nothing like this existed when Scott and I first got married...but Praise the Lord, it's there now. I'll share more about this group in a future post. But I found the online group in June, and it was like a breath of fresh air for me as a loved one. They meet weekly in video conferencing format, and the members are from all over the world.

Most of the folks in the group have a diagnosis of some kind, but there are other loved ones like me. It is a safe place to share concerns, joys, advice, and prayer. I could share my struggles and they GET IT. Not only that, but they could give me insights into what my husband is going through, and encourage me in ways that I just could not get anywhere else. They've even been able to "meet" Scott, and he has sat in and listened in on a few meetings. Interacting with others like him has helped me to release some of my own anxieties, and has given me some healthy perspectives on this whole process of this recent medication change.

There was one gentleman in particular who attended this online group on a fairly regular basis. In fact, after my first time, he emailed me and welcomed me to the group. I shared with them all a little of our story, and he was inspired, and affirmed me in my position of standing by my husband. He even gave me some information about some resources I could look into. Unfortunately, this gentleman also battled with deep bipolar depression. He had attempted suicide twice within the past year, and had been hospitalized for it. The fact that he attended this group and reached out to others, shows that he was making an effort at getting help and hope. He had this illness for over 20 years, and yet it had brought a lot of pain into his life, but a string of recent unfortunate events apparently put him over the edge. Sadly, he was unable to overcome and find his way out of the darkness...I was informed last week that he ended his life.

Although I only "knew" him since June, I've had a hard time with this. My heart has hurt for him, his family and friends who are now left to cope, and for all those who struggle to find their way out of the dark. I wish I had emailed him more often. I wish I had prayed for him more...I wish I could have gotten to know him better. I wish...

suicide-prevention-awareness-banner.jpg

Sadly, this is the reality of mental illness. September is, ironically, suicide prevention and awareness month. Well, my friends, I am definitely more aware. I always had the awareness, just by nature of the proximity I have to living with someone with this illness that comes with a high suicide risk. But...I guess somehow it's hitting me in a different way this time, because of my involvement with a group that was actually designed to assist in preventing, or at least drastically reducing, outcomes such as these. Unfortunately, just like any other disease, sometimes lives are lost. I'm just so, so sorry...but I believe in my heart that neither his life, nor his death, will be in vain.

Of all the issues my husband has had to deal with in having this illness, he has not been suicidal. Not everyone with bipolar disorder is or will be suicidal. However, almost everyone with bipolar disorder (and other mental health issues) will most likely experience some kind of symptoms, from mild to severe, so it is SO very important to stay on top of treatments and manage this illness. It is SO important to be informed, aware, educated, and I also believe openness is an important component to health and healing. It doesn't necessarily mean going around telling everyone your business, but support in the form of safe groups, peer support, or even allowing a trusted loved one into your recovery...it can go a long way. And for those of us who love someone with this illness...patience. Lots and LOTS of patience.

I am happy to report that, as the dosages have increased and the medication settles in, Scott is doing much better. He reports feeling better (sometimes it's only easy to see how sick you were in hindsight), and continues to do everything he needs to do, to the best of his ability, to stay well and move forward in his life. I have to say, I am proud of him. He is definitely on the right track. As for me, I continue to learn how to love. The adventure continues...!

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

A Glimpse of Redemption

I love the way God turns unpleasant situations around to use for His glory and redemption. He has recently shown me a tangible example of that through my daughter’s life. He truly works ALL things together for His good, and the good of those who love Him!

When my husband was gone, I found myself in the position of being a “solo” parent. It was awkward, because we had absolutely no communication with him, and his departure was rather abrupt. There was radio silence for long periods of time. It’s difficult to know how that can impact a child. Jasmyne was 8 when her Dad left, and I did the best I could to create as normal a life as possible and to drive home the fact that her Dad’s departure had nothing to do with her. I think that on some level, she understood that, but still, I can only imagine that subconsciously, it was having an effect on her.

During the time Scott was gone, we went through some major changes. About a year after he left, we moved from North Carolina to Tennessee. That was huge for Jasmyne, as it meant saying goodbye to friends she’d known since kindergarten, saying goodbye to Grandma (my mother) who she had grown close to since she was 2.5, and changing schools. In fact, she had to change schools twice…after we moved here, they rezoned the district forcing her to change schools yet again! She took it like a trooper and enjoyed the adventure, but it was still a huge change. Then, a few months after we got to Tennessee, I went to graduate school for 2 years. My schedule was crazy, but thankfully we had amazing support through that, and the experience turned out to be another wonderful adventure for both of us. We met some new friends, and lots of neat doors opened up to us when I went back to school. The move to Tennessee proved to be the best thing for us, as it positioned us to receive some beautiful treasures in the darkness of my husband’s absence. Scott’s absence definitely left a hole in our lives. God’s grace filled that hole, and yet, we still didn’t have clear answers on what was to become of him or his position in our lives, or of us. Even in the midst of all the good we experienced in spite of his absence, it was like something was hanging over our heads.

In 2015, Jasmyne and I both reached a turning point. By early 2015, I was done with graduate school, Jasmyne was in 5th grade…and God began to shift some things in our lives. Relationships changed, (one in particular with a family member that was a painful but necessary change for both of us) my schedule changed, and little did I know that God was beginning to prepare my heart for Scott’s return. By the end of 2015, I was back in contact with him, making plans for his return home!! Whew!

Between the craziness of our lives and our schedules, and the unfinished business with Scott, both mine and Jasmyne’s health were suffering in ways we couldn’t really see. For me, it came in the form of severe anemia…my iron stores had become so low that the doctor told me I not only had low hemoglobin, but I had NO iron stored in my bone marrow! I thought I was just tired because I was so busy! Concerts, classes, papers, lessons, childcare, gigs…who wouldn’t be tired! He couldn’t believe I was walking around! I took tons of iron for months before my levels got back to close to being normal! Hormonal changes, perimenopause, and who knows what else contributed to the decrease in iron, but it boils down to one word: STRESS. It was literally sucking the life out of me!

I had noticed for some time that Jasmyne’s weight was steadily creeping up. I needed help, because I was trying my best to make sure we ate reasonably healthy, even with my crazy schedule…but clearly something was not right. So, I took to Google and discovered that our local children’s hospital had a program for children struggling with weight issues. It sounded perfect for us! So I signed Jasmyne up, and…well, you can read about it here:

 I could not be more proud as a mom, and I’m so happy for her! She was so excited about her progress that she wanted to return to the clinic and show her team what she had accomplished, and thank them for their help. They were so impressed, they invited her to share her story and be featured in their magazine!! Little did Jasmyne know that her triumph over her challenges would lead to being a “cover girl”, and being able to inspire other children all over our region! I especially love that this experience has helped her grow in her own relationship with the Lord, for herself! She recognizes His hand in turning this area of her life around for His glory!

 I am proud of her, not only for this amazing accomplishment of taking responsibility for her own health, but for the way she has handled herself in the midst of some serious challenges. I don’t think it is an accident that Jasmyne found her motivation to apply all she learned at the clinic AFTER her Dad returned home. In all honesty, I believe that his absence was every bit as much a part of her struggles as our lifestyle. It’s as if, when he came home, things became clearer for all of us in so many ways. Between that, going through puberty and a leap in her maturity and development, something inside of Jasmyne just clicked, and she took off. I marvel at the way God takes those areas in which we are weak, are major challenges, or seem hopeless and dark, and turns it around for a testimony, if we are brave enough to let Him do so, just like Jasmyne was brave to share her story.

I believe there is a lesson in this for our family, and a glimpse of some things to come. Just like Jasmyne adjusted her lifestyle to set her up for success, as a family we plug away at making adjustments, in the midst of continuously evolving circumstances, in order to achieve success in the long run.

In March, Scott’s care provider made the decision to change medications, and it has been several months of “touch and go” as we try to get the dosage right. Thankfully, he is not in any kind of crisis or danger and he is cooperative and agreeable with his care. Still, it has not been a fun journey, and there have been some discouraging moments with some breakthrough symptoms. It took so long to get the medication he had to discontinue right, and we had finally found a groove, and then BAM! Suddenly we found ourselves whipped in a whole new direction.

I will say this: since March, the Lord has taken me on a deeper journey of trust in Him, with new directions of fresh hope for our future that I may not otherwise have found if we had not had this setback. Scott is getting some of the best care he’s ever received, and new doors of support have opened that I’ve never had in nearly 18 years of marriage. As I have slowly opened up with more of our journey from a spouse’s perspective, people have marveled over the hand of God in our lives, and have gained hope in their situations. In other words, God is bringing redemption to our story.

 I don’t know what the future holds for our family, but I continue to hold on to the Father, who I know holds on to me, my daughter, and my husband. My daughter’s story inspires me. I hope it inspires you!!!

 

Motherhood, Cultural Celebrations, and Treasures in Darkness

One of the many facets of my life includes motherhood. Yes, I am the mom to a beautiful 13 year old daughter that has a parent who deals with serious mental illness. I also happen to be an African American mom raising a biracial child in 2017. As you can imagine, with all of these qualities there is never a dull moment when it comes to parenting! But I wouldn’t trade any of it. There is a richness to my life because of my daughter, and while we certainly have our moments, I am ever so grateful that the Lord blessed us with her. She has been a joy to raise!

When my daughter was little, I used to sing to her the song “You Are My Sunshine”. I meant every word of that song! Through the many challenges that we’ve faced as a family, and especially during the difficult times of my husband’s illness and absence, our daughter has been a bright spot in my life that has kept me going, and given me purpose and drive when at times I might rather have just given up. Because of her, I was able to keep going…to work, to school, etc. Making her life rich, in the midst of our difficulties, gave me focus.

One of the many things my daughter absolutely loves to do is dance. When she was really little, she took dance for several years. But with my husband’s illness and all the challenges and uncertainties that brought, it was very difficult for us to be able to continue giving her those opportunities. But during the season when my husband was gone, an opportunity presented itself to us that I just could not pass up…and I know it was God’s way of meeting us where we were at. I always marvel at the way God leads our steps, even in the midst of great trials, and meets us in the dark with treasures from His heart.

In early 2014, I took a teaching job at a performing arts academy that “just happened” to offer African dance and drumming as classes. From an early age, Jasmyne had a knack for rhythm, and I just KNEW that she would love learning how to play African drums, and then to dance on top of that? I had to sign her up. It worked out, because she could take the classes while I was teaching lessons, and even on my meager budget, I could make it work.

Kuumba Festival 2017

Kuumba Festival 2017

It “just so happened” that her dance and drum teachers were affiliated with an organization called African American Appalachian Arts (AAAA). Its purpose is to promote “positive social and community development by utilizing creative methods of education through cultural artistic programming and development.” One of the ways they fulfill this is through an annual festival that is unique to our area of Tennessee, called the Kuumba Festival. It is a 4 day festival that celebrates African and African-American culture through art, music, dance, food, and community engagement. It has been around for almost 30 years. The centerpiece of the festival is the Kuumba Watoto Drum and Dance Ensemble, made up of children from age 5 up to 18. They attend a camp for 3 weeks, learning authentic West African dance, drumming, culture, heritage, and history, self-discipline, and pride. During the festival, they present what they learned to the community.

Well…I could not pass up this amazing opportunity, so I signed my daughter right up, and she did not protest! It has been one of the highlights of our summers for the past 4 years. Not only that, but there have been other opportunities through the dance ensemble for Jasmyne to participate…even dancing for Ben Vereen, who played “Chicken George” in the 1970’s miniseries “Roots”!

Ben Vereen aka "Chicken George", Alex Haley Heritage Square May 2015.

Ben Vereen aka "Chicken George", Alex Haley Heritage Square May 2015.

Speaking of Chicken George…Part of the festival takes place in the vicinity of Alex Haley Heritage Square, under the watchful eye of a large bronze statue of Alex Haley, who, through his book and TV series “Roots”, brought an awareness of what our ancestors endured when they were forcibly brought here as slaves. That book means so much to me…I read it when I wasn’t too much older than my daughter is now, and I was captivated by the story, the history, and the grief of not knowing…Alex Haley filled in the gaps for so many African Americans whose history was stolen. His family’s story was ALL of our stories. I love attending Kuumba Festival every year because it gives me a sense of connection to something that was lost…and I’m so grateful to the visionary behind Kuumba who knew there was a need for this. Sadly, the founder of the Festival and AAAA passed away earlier this month, so this year’s festival was particularly special for the community.

But it is also special for us, for so many reasons. Having this outlet for my daughter was a gift the Lord gave us during a time of walking through some deep valleys. Her involvement with the Kuumba Festival has fulfilled not only her love of dancing, but it engages us in such a beautiful part of our rich cultural heritage and history. That is important to me as an African American woman, and I want it to be important to my child.  

It was hard on all of us when my husband was gone. He missed many years of my daughter’s life that he will never get back. My daughter didn’t have her Daddy to see her dance. But our Heavenly Father took care of us. He led our steps, and guided us to the right people who have brought so much enrichment to our lives.

Daddy's first Kuumba Festival 2016

Daddy's first Kuumba Festival 2016

And guess what!! God saw fit to bring her Daddy home, and now…he watches her dance.  Wow!! God is good!

The "D" Word...and 5 Reasons I Didn't

Did you know that marriages with a spouse that has bipolar disorder have a 90% failure rate?  NINETY PERCENT!!! I did not know this when I married my husband, and it’s probably a good thing. Our vows have certainly been tested since that fateful day in September 1999 when we got married. And yet, even with all we’ve been through, I never could bring myself to seriously pursue the idea of ending our marriage.

 Now, I won’t lie and say the thought didn’t cross my mind a time or two…or ten. Who wouldn’t in my situation? My husband was absent from us twice over the years. The first time was for a year, the second time was for almost five. Both times were because of his illness. The odds were not in our favor. Being in an interracial marriage probably pushes that statistic even higher, but that has been the least of our issues! After experiencing a few episodes, his leaving, and the endless road of recovery, I can see why relationships can be maxed out. Sure, he was legitimately sick, and not just irresponsible or a jerk. But gone is gone, and it still hurt.

Yet, I just could never bring myself to follow through with filing anything legal to end our marriage, and there are five reasons why.

1.     First and foremost, my faith in God.

As I prayed about it, (and I had many discussions with Jesus about it, trust me!) I did not feel the Lord’s peace. In my heart of hearts, I knew that, for me, divorcing my husband would do more damage to my relationship with God than it would my relationship with my husband, and that was not something I was willing to sacrifice.  Even though our marriage was broken, and there were some dark moments when I considered it, deep down I believed that divorce would make it worse, and I did not see it as an option.

That is not to say that I don’t believe divorce is an option, EVER. I know that especially in Christian circles, to be divorced or get divorced is like having the plague. (That’s another post for another day!) What I AM saying is that, as I pursued God’s will for MY life, and the life of MY child and MY family, I felt a clear leading from Him that divorcing my husband was not His will FOR ME. So it has nothing to do with my personal feelings about divorce in general. It just means that God had something else in mind for us. For me, it was a matter of obedience.

2.     I’m super loyal by nature, maybe to a fault.

My personality type is hardcore INFP. Otherwise known as the “idealist”, the “healer”, or the “peacemaker/mediator”, it is a personality that hates conflict and always looks for the good in others. Coming to an understanding about my personality has helped to explain so much about myself. I highly recommend taking an online personality test.   I don’t know who came up with them, or who decides the criteria, but it’s definitely a fascinating tool. Mine comes out INFP each and every time, so I’m pretty sure it’s on point.

One of the main characteristics that always jumps out at me is that my personality type is “fiercely loyal” when it comes to relationships:

Slow to trust others and cautious in the beginning of a relationship, an INFP will be fiercely loyal once they are committed.

Perhaps this characteristic of my personality is also a factor in my not ever seriously pursuing divorce. Not just in my loyalty to my husband, but also my commitment to follow the Lord’s will for my life.

3.     It was not just about who I am, but also about who my husband is.

People have said to me things like, what a good wife I am, what a selfless, amazing woman I am, etc. I don’t know about all that, but I can say this: The factors in me choosing NOT to divorce my husband, and to remain open to accepting him back, have as much to do with the kind of person HE is, as it does the kind of person I am.

The details of his absence is his story to tell. While he did fall prey to many of the pitfalls of serious mental illness, (including falling through the cracks of a flawed mental health system), I can tell you that at no time in our marriage, or during his time away from us, has adultery, addiction, abuse, violence, self-harm, harm to others, financial mismanagement or any kind of betrayal been an issue. What he was was very, very sick, and I knew that, even in the hurt. I also knew that underneath all that sickness and confusion, my husband's true spirit was committed to our family. Had he been in his right mind, he never would have left.

There were many times on his journey when people could see that he needed help, and bent over backwards to help him.  Even at his worst, he found favor. In fact, it was the impression he made on some folks in a position to help him, that ultimately led him back home. Somehow, even in the muck and mire of the ugliest parts of his illness, a certain character and integrity remained in him, that has miraculously kept him from serious harm. Not to mention, nothing short of the hand of God Himself. As difficult as things got for my husband, things could easily have been far, far worse for him.

Plus, one thing to remember is that my husband and I actually have a good relationship. We’ve always gotten along well, and we’ve always had a great friendship. I know who he “really” is, and he is NOT his illness.

So in all fairness, I really can’t say whether or not my decision to pursue divorce would have changed, if he was simply an abusive, narcissistic, adulterous, addicted jerk.  I have my limits, and if he was any other kind of person, I am certain that even my INFP loyalty would have been put to the test.

4.     What kind of message would divorcing my husband send to my daughter?

I did not want my daughter to see me giving up on her dad. She needed to see that he was worth fighting for because of who he is. So I always kept him as “part of the family.” We talked about him and why he was gone, and I assured her it had nothing to do with her. We talked about mental illness and how it can change a person. We kept his pictures up and kept him “alive”, so to speak, in conversation and memories. We prayed together, and believed God's Word. I made sure her father was still an active part of our lives, so that when he came home (which I firmly believed he would), it would be a fairly smooth transition. It got through to her, too, because while my faith wavered at times, hers never did. She ALWAYS knew her Daddy was coming home. That stand paid off, because when Jasmyne’s dad returned last year, in her mind it was if he was never gone.

5.     I wasn’t sure of the legal ramifications, so I just didn’t bother.

To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if I could legally divorce my husband without his consent, or in absentia. I never got that far into the process of investigating it. It just didn’t seem right to file for divorce without his knowledge. Plus, since he was only God knows where, and I had NO idea if he was dead, alive, hurt, or worse, remaining legally married to him made me automatically next of kin. If anything DID happen to him, if he was in a position where he was incapacitated in any way, I would be the one to make any decisions. So staying married to him, in a sense, protected him.

Here is the bottom line. If I had chosen to divorce my husband, I simply would not have been able to live with myself, and I definitely would not have had peace with God. I heard His voice clearly, and the Word was “restoration.” I held on to that, against all the odds. It’s called faith!! I was also blessed to be surrounded by amazing supportive people in my life who encouraged me not to give up on him. That can make a huge difference, and again, I believe it is a testimony of who my husband is, for people to see the good in him and hold on to that, and encourage ME to hold on to the same.

For people who find themselves in a tough situation where there’s no clear cut answer, or you feel like you’re in a strange, awkward limbo, the best thing to do is simply WAIT, and listen. I could not act in haste or in anxiety. I had to really quiet my spirit (again and again and again) and listen to the Father’s heart. I firmly believe that He could just as easily have released me from my marriage, and I would still be in His will. But how would I know that, without intimate relationship with Him? That was the key, and that is THE main reason why I did not divorce my husband.

And I’m so glad I didn’t!!!

Galatians 6:9

  "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."

 

Tribute to Loving

Mildred and Richard Loving (Photo: Getty Images)

Mildred and Richard Loving (Photo: Getty Images)

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court Decision that banned laws restricting interracial marriage. I am ashamed to say that this day probably would have passed by me if not for social media reminding me in my newsfeed. It just goes to show how much we take for granted the freedoms we enjoy in this country, and what others have had to go through in order to enjoy those freedoms.

I found this article which shared some of the experiences of other interracial couples in light of the Loving decision. Then I thought, “Oh, yeah…I’m a black woman married to a white man, perhaps I ought to throw in my two cents!”

After all, it seems everyone has something to say about race these days, and I am more than qualified to speak to these issues. I was born in Virginia, raised in North Carolina, and live in East Tennessee. My husband was born and raised in the part of Tennessee where we live. I work in a field that is predominantly white, traveled around the world with an organization that is predominantly white, and live in an area that is not known for its racial diversity. (In contrast to the military town I grew up in which is the exact opposite!) I’m raising a biracial child...which is actually more challenging in some ways than being a black woman married to a white man. But that’s another post for another day. The bottom line is this: I can testify to the fact that racism is real, white privilege is a thing, and yes, our country needs to be reminded that Black Lives do indeed matter. It shouldn’t have to be said, but yet, it does.

What could I say that hasn’t already been said?

Not much.

And why should I have to? If you take one look at us and our family, it pretty much says all you need to know.

Richard and Mildred Loving were not the ones that made race an issue. It was the state of Virginia, and the sordid history of our country. They were just a couple who loved each other and wanted to live and raise their family in peace, and not as criminals. They were willing to do what they had to do in order to have that right, even if it meant taking on the law of the land.

For my family, the bigger issue is not only to live and love in peace, but also with soundness of mind, wholeness of spirit, and above all, dignity.  So God has led me to share our story of navigating serious mental health issues in a time when mental illness is still misunderstood, feared, and sometimes even criminalized. There are few voices crying out for more understanding of mental illness, and advocating for compassion towards those who struggle with these issues. I’m grateful for Richard and Mildred Loving, who paved the way for my husband I to be able to meet, fall in love, and marry in peace. Perhaps in loving each other, we can be a beacon of hope for those who are dealing with serious mental health issues, and point people to the ultimate source of Love, God Himself, along the way.

  1 John 4:7
 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

Happy Loving Day!