Last weekend, Theo and I spent the extended weekend in Mississippi. As happened with Oregon just a couple of weeks before, my husband and I counted it as a chance to kill two birds with one stone – two birds encompassed by visiting family and getting the chance to share about my book.
So, we set up an event with my father-in-law, James Meredith, and a justice slinger I’m rather fond of, Jemar Tisby. We found a local bookstore to host a conversation between the three of us, and we prayed to sweet little baby Jesus that Theo and I would actually arrive in the state of Mississippi in a reasonable hour (for actually getting there was no easy feat, as our flight was twenty hours delayed).
But then, we arrived, greeted by the sweet smell of rain after a thunderstorm, of the greenest, richest soil in the United States, according to the man we call Granddaddy.
We walked through the familiar doors of their old Jackson abode, a place I not-so-secretly believe will be made an historic landmark one of these days. We hugged family – cousins and grandparents and a couple of twice-removed aunties of sorts – and said hello to Charlie the fluffy white dog. We ate pizza and salad, courtesy of Dominos, and we dreamed of Piccadilly’s (a meal we would share less than twenty-four hours later).
Then, before we knew it, after a visit to Starbucks when a not-so-friendly-Southern woman nearly ran over Theo, and we found ourselves rather consumed by the idea of a mud puddle-filled hike behind the local natural history museum, I slapped some toenail polish on my naked nails and prayed the humidity wouldn’t fluff my (already) marshmallow bangs, for it was time.
And our two hours together was a gift, something the stuff dreams are made of.
I oftentimes say that I’m an activist in training, that I’m still learning what it means to try on the phrase and really believe it for myself. It’s like I need someone else to actually call me an activist before I believe it for myself, that I don’t somehow realize that the story God’s planted on my life – the story that now exists in the form of a real, actual book – is also the story of an activist in the making.
It’s like I’m still learning how to believe in who I already am.
But when I sat on the stage beside two men I deeply admire, I couldn’t help but listen for whispers of truth: this is you, too.
I’ve no doubt that my father-in-law changed the course of history as we know it. I’ve no doubt that my new friend, Jemar, whose uncanny ability to not only remember but ramble off facts and truth and brilliance like nothing else, will continue to be used to impact thousands upon thousands of lives. But I’ve also no doubt that the stories written on my life count for something too, that Saturday’s pairing was not by accident.
So for now, I’ll lean into deep conversation with the woman who is my second mother, and with the children I count as my own – who can’t help but laugh and tickle and hold hands with the boy who is my flesh.
After all, at the end of the day, these people and these stories are what it’s all about. And I, for one, am honored to stand in the center, retelling the stories of my heart to anyone who’ll listen.
Thanks for listening, friends. And if you haven’t already, do consider pairing our three books – The Color of Compromise, The Color of Life and Three Years in Mississippi – together. They might just change you from the inside out.
*Amazon Affiliate links include