November 16, 2020
My mother, a woman who would absolutely be defined as a ‘strong Black woman,’ raised me to be a fighter and an overcomer.
Born in the late 1940s, she was reared by a single and hardworking mother who’d mastered the art of grit.
grit/: courage and resolve; strength of character
From cleaning White folks’ homes to serving as a switchboard operator at an Army base, my grandmother singlehandedly created a modest life for her two children. She taught my mother how to fight hard and persevere at all costs, no matter how challenging the battle might be.
And that’s exactly what my mother did.
She married at age 20 and became a divorcee just four years later, a single mother of a young son. By 26, she’d remarried while serving in the U. S. Air Force and began the long journey to become a registered nurse and college professor. And with two children in tow by that point, she somehow managed to simultaneously juggle the roles of wife, mother, daughter, student, volunteer, and friend.
In her 50s, my mother experienced a slew of health challenges and a second divorce, all the while thriving and serving at church, work, and in her community.
Indeed, she personified grit.
With seeds watered throughout her childhood, coupled with a high level of self-determination, my mother walked through life’s fires without a hint of smoke until she took her last breath early on a Sunday morning — December 9, 2012.
She knew how to fight long and hard.
And just like her, I’ve fought — health issues, relationship challenges, financial battles, and significant loss.
My grit, however, welcomed a much-needed companion along the way: GRACE.
grace/grās/: simple elegance or refinement of movement; courteous goodwill
After experiencing my mother’s death in 2012, sheer grit wasn’t enough to hold me up or carry me through life’s rough and unpredictable terrain. No, grief was a different animal — one that forced me to more deeply seek favor and goodwill from God, as well as from myself.
Day after day, I quieted myself and prayed. When I couldn’t muster the strength to pray, I cried and moaned. And when I couldn’t even do this, I simply sat.
When my concentration was at its peak, sometimes I read. I journaled to try and make sense of my waxing and waning thoughts and feelings. On occasion, songs created in my mind flowed from my mouth onto pads of paper as well.
I realized the importance of pressing through — doing — AND allowing myself to just be.
Grace taught me that favor is neither merited nor earned. On the contrary, it is simply given without expectation. And its rhythm doesn’t necessarily coincide with my grit.
These days, I allow grit and grace to co-exist without competing with each other. In addition, I allow my body, mind, and spirit to determine which one needs to race ahead of the other at times.
Do I continue to strive and persist? Of course. Do I exercise my strength by doing? Of course. I know I can’t live life on the sidelines or concede 100% of the time. My beloved mother taught me that.
Friends, sometimes, grit is enough to keep you moving forward in life. At the same time, grace can help you put one foot in front of the other and ultimately, prevail. And still, the combination of grit and grace may be necessary to navigate life’s occasional turbulence.
What do you need today? More grit? More grace? Both?
Whatever it is, grab hold of it.
We’re not meant to live a life of never-ceasing struggle and pain. Though we may fall seven times, we must stand up eight.
I’m holding space for you today and every day.
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