Diaper Bags and Church Shoes

Today, we celebrate the debut of MyBrownBaby columnist Tracey Michael Lewis-Giggetts’ new book, Diaper Bags and Church Shoes: Living at the Intersection of Faith and Motherhood. Here, all the reasons you should download it here, right now.

I’ve always loved the solitude and peace of the sanctuary. There is something to be said of the ritual—the opening prayers, the hymns, the ushers with the white gloves and the fans, the deaconesses sitting up in the front row, their “Amen Choir” as harmonic and melodramatic as the sisters in the choir stands, laying down the gospel in song. The stories, the lessons, the crescendo of pastor’s sermon, that swell of the congregation’s praises—all of these things roused my spirit. Lifted me so high.

But these days, I’ve found it hard to find those lessons in the pews of the church. As our world has evolved, the way we share ideas and interact with and, yes, judge one another, particularly in the name of God and religion, has me feeling disconnected to that which I treasured when I was on the front pews at church. I’ve watched with great trepidation and a bit of anger as the people who are supposed to be the most compassionate, empathetic humans among us morph into hateful, intolerant people who use scripture and Sunday morning sermons to tear down others, all the while proclaiming that Jesus co-signs using his name to wield influence, power and politics over their fellow man.

Indeed, what’s most turned me off from church and religion is how some have used God’s word as license to feed on hate and fear—to go against every single, solitary ideal that I was taught Jesus stood for. The more men use God to avert their eyes from the plight of the hungry, the more they use the Bible to defend persecuting people who call their God by another name, the more they deny basic rights to people who do not fit neatly into the white, heterosexual, testosterone-laden ideals, the more they shroud politics in religion then use it to lie to, steal from and cheat the most vulnerable among us, the further I’ve moved away from religion and toward spirituality—the kind that I seek outside the four walls of a church on Sunday.

This is to say that I’ve gone from searching for a church home to becoming a soul simply in search.

And then came Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts, our Faith & Motherhood columnist.

Though we’ve never seen each other face-to-face, we found quite a few common bonds: art, writing and motherhood, chief among them. I happily accepted her pitch to write a column on the intersection of faith/spirituality and motherhood, my
enthusiasm buoyed by this one true thing: her writing, her insight, her truth, her love—of self, of motherhood, of God—is heartfelt, profound and vital. Particularly for women like me who love God but struggle with religion and faith, she is an elixir for troubled souls. Witness how Tracey counseled me when I confessed I’ve had a hard time finding both a church home and reconnecting with Christ:

I’ve been praying for you regarding finding a church home but here’s the thing. Church is great for fellowshipping with others that believe what you believe and to do the “work” of God as a collective (helping others, coalescing around an issue in the community, etc.), but at the end of the day, I think God wants an intimate relationship with us individually. He wants us to really seek him outside of the politics of church and church folk.

She went on to explain that though she is active in her church and writes mostly from a Christ-centric worldview, she still, at times, felt disconnected and unable to seek God. She told me how she pulls herself out of her own funk and suggested I give it a try:

I started to read the Bible regularly, starting with John, which reads like a love letter to me, and I take walks around my neighborhood and at various parks. Nature brings me closer to God for some reason. During these walks, I pray or just quiet my mind or, for real, for real, give God a piece of my mind. (He can take it.)

That’s it. And since I’ve been doing that, I’ve begun to feel refreshed and restored in my faith. Church didn’t do that for me. Sure, this experience does make my churchgoing richer, but it was the re-affirming of my relationship with God that actually filled me up… by myself, in these set-aside “dates” with Him.

I’m sure that she has no idea, but her encouragement—that simple message to find God in my own way, in my own time—opened a door for me that I didn’t know existed, much less how to access. Tracey was encouraging me to look for God all around me—in the sound of my daughters’ giggles, in the embrace of friends who fulfill me emotionally, in the caress of my favorite songs, in the colors of the sunset and the peace it brings each and every night when I watch it morph from that sky blue to the dramatic hot pinks and fiery oranges to, finally, that clear, perfect, only-God-can-duplicate it night heaven full of stars and the promise of joy in the morning. I haven’t experienced a bike ride, my children’s touch, my time with friends, or a glorious sunset the same again.

That inspiration—simple, beautiful, always on time—is the magic that Tracey brings to each and every one of her words. Her columns are part sermon, part heart-to-heart conversations between friends—the kind of real talk that’s relatable and affirming and full of teachable moments that I know I’ve applied in my own motherhood and self-reflection journey. Through her work, Tracey has instructed me on how to teach my daughters how to pray, how to share with them the good news of Jesus and how to encourage and instill faith, not just religion, into their lives. She’s encouraged me to embrace my daughters’ sneakiness, to talk candidly to them about how to use faith and wisdom in relationships, and the value of being an incredible role model.

My goodness, those words. Those thoughts. Those instructions. That testimony. People pay good money to lie on a therapists’ couch for this kind of practical insight. Many more sit in the front pews of the church, hoping the word will inspire the blessing they need to move forward. Some of us never, ever get it, and struggle with the confusion and agony and hopelessness that comes when one simply has no idea how to unravel life’s lessons to find God’s promise.

I am by no means perfect and my journey toward Him continues from week to week, day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute. I know this much is true, though: today, my walk is more confident. I stumble, but still, I’m moving forward. I am grateful that Tracey’s words are there—always there—to pick me up and propel me. As sure as rain is wet, as sure as snow is cold, as sure as I know God… is, I know that Tracey’s art, her words, will do the same for you.

Purchase Diaper Bags and Church Shoes: Living at the Intersection of Faith and Motherhood on Amazon.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

One Comment

  1. I also have come to love and respect Tracey’s work and Miss Denene showcasing her work here on My Brown Baby was a genius idea! Congratulations, Tracey

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