I married a gospel rapper, and we started our new life together by moving to Music City—Nashville, Tennessee—full of hopes and dreams. But then came the first in a series of unexpected curveballs: his group lost their record contract. Disappointed and disillusioned about living so far from our families, we settled into nine-to-five jobs while figuring out our next steps.
Then barely two years into our marriage, an unexpected positive pregnancy test detoured our five-year family plan. As I adjusted to being a mom, I found sweet joy in serving and learning from teen moms in our community while Chris grew relationships by mentoring young men through a faith-based, majority white community ministry. We joined the large Presbyterian church that funded the community work. Their practices were very different from our Baptist upbringing, but the leaders nurtured our young family. We started to see how our life was uniquely intersecting with people of different races, generations, denominations, and ways of life.
We began to have an unlikely vision for a diverse faith community that focused on loving people and championing justice. And that’s how I found myself trying on the hat of “First Lady.” Problem was, the only First Ladies I knew were my mom and her peers who wore suits with sequins, stockings, and—you know it—sharp hats! Yet here I was pregnant with our second child and wondering how I would navigate nursing a baby, handing her off to someone I could trust, and fulfilling the varied duties needed for a start-up church that was building leaders. I decided a dress hat was just not the right fit for me. I found comfort in my more casual dresses and, occasionally, jeans.
I leaned often on the treasure I had been given in my own upbringing as a preacher’s kid. Watching my parents’ loving example had prepared me for an unforeseen path, and I was determined that my kids would see me living that as well. Our family grew with three delightfully different kids. Then the fourth one brought a big curveball with her premature birth. And in the six weeks of hospital bedrest, followed by fourteen weeks of navigating NICU life, I gained some valuable lessons about being in need. I had to check my self-sufficiency at the door and humbly receive as our loving, generous village surrounded us and helped us make it from day to day.
Church life was a powerful bridge-building experience, but in one stormy season I thought we might drown in conflict and sorrow. During that thunderous roar, unexpected seeds of a story began growing in my heart. My degree was in psychology; I never aspired to write books, but I found an irresistible pull to help families navigate relevant topics with grace and truth. I had always loved reading to my children and saved many of the picture books that provided them mirrors of representation. Now a longing was growing within me to give other families books that they could treasure and enjoy together.
Getting in the door of traditional publishing is like a mission impossible (unless you’re already famous). For a year I timidly and quietly reached out to anyone I knew who might “know someone” in the Nashville publishing hub, but to no avail. I kept scribbling more and more ideas, unsure whether anyone but me would ever read them. Just as I was about to hang up the pursuit and put the story on the shelf, I got an unexpected invitation to lunch. I did not know this lady, but she had worked with a friend’s wife to build her own publishing career. During the same time as my year-long publishing pursuit, she took on the head position at her publisher. Turns out, she was looking for material like mine—and she wanted more than one book.
Who knew that a little Black girl who loved to read would grow up to raise four Black children of her own, lead all kinds of people in church, and get to share beneficial work with the whole world. Becoming First Lady of a church at the age of 24 was not on my vision board, neither was becoming an author, but nearly three decades later I marvel at the treasures discovered along the unexpected roads of life. Our sis Jill Scott put it like this:
Representing His glory—
Hope He’s proud of me.
Living my life like it’s golden.
Living my life like it’s golden.
Indeed, in my golden years, I’m looking for more treasures along the unexpected paths. I will collect and savor them all.Leave a Comment